Enterprise Cloud: IBM to get into position

Last week IBM announced to invest more than 1.2 billion dollar for improving its global cloud offering. For this, cloud services are delivered from 40 data centers and 15 countries world wide. The German data center is based in Ehningen. Softlayer, IBM acquired in 2013, will play a key role. Therefore its resource capacities will be doubled.

Investments are a clear sign

The 1.2 billion dollar is not the first investment IBM let flew into its cloud business in the last couple of years. Since 2007 over 7 billion dollar IBM invested for the expansion of this business area. Among others 2 billion dollar for acquiring Softlayer. In addition more than 15 other acquisitions, which brought more cloud computing solutions and know-how into the company. The last big announcement was the amount of 1 billion dollar, IBM will invest into its cognitive computing system Watson, to make it available as a service for the masses.

These investments show that IBM is serious with the cloud and sees it as one pillar for the prospective company strategy. This is also seen in the expectations. IBM assumes that the worldwide cloud market growth up to 200 billion dollar in 2020. Until 2015, IBM wants to earn seven billion dollar per year worldwide with its cloud solutions.

Softlayer positioning is of crucial importance

A special attention IBM will pay to the Softlayer cloud. Therefore the capacities will be doubled in 2014. According to IBM, due to the acquisition of the cloud computing provider in 2013, about 2.400 new customers had been obtained. With Softlayer the important markets and financial centers should be strengthen. In addition, the Softlayer cloud should profit from Watson’s technologies in the future.

The Softlayer acquisition was an important step for IBM’s cloud strategy, to get a better cloud DNA. The IBM SmartCloud disappointed until today. These are not only the results of conversations with potential customers who, for the most part, comment negative on the offering and its usage.

The expansion of the Softlayer cloud will be interesting to watch. According to the official Softlayer website at the moment 191.500 servers are operated at seven locations worldwide.

  • Dallas: 104,500+ Servers
  • Seattle: 10,000+ Servers
  • Washington: 16,000+ Servers
  • Houston: 25,000+ Servers
  • San Jose: 12,000+ Servers
  • Amsterdam: 8,000+ Servers
  • Singapore: 16,000+ Servers

Compared to cloud players like Amazon Web Services (more than 450.000), Microsoft (about 1.000.000) and Google these are indeed peanuts. Even after doubling to 383,300 servers in 2014.

IBM’s worldwide cloud data centers

One part of the mentioned 1.2 billion dollar IBM will invest in 2014 to open 15 new data centers. In total, 40 data centers distributed over 15 countries will build the basis of the IBM cloud. The new cloud data centers will be located in China, Hongkong, Japan, India, London, Canada, Mexiko City, Washington D.C. and Dallas. The German data center is located in Ehningen near Stuttgart, the Swiss in Winterthur.

On the technical side, each cloud data center consists of at least for PODs (Points of Distribution). One single unit consist of 4.000 servers. Each POD works independently from another POD to provide the services and should have a guaranteed availability of 99.9 percent. Customers can decide for a single POD with 99.9 percent availability or a distribution over several PODs to increase the availability ratio.

The footprint within the enterprise

With its investments IBM wants to clearly position against the Amazon Web Services. However, one must distinguish one thing. Amazon AWS (AWS) is solely represented in the public cloud and this, according to a statement from Andy Jassy at last re:Invent, should remain. AWS believes in the public cloud and there is no interest to invest in (hosted) private cloud infrastructures. However, a company who brings the wherewithal get there quite its own private region, which is managed by AWS (similar to AWS GovCloud).

In the competition between IBM and AWS it is not primarily about the advance in the public, private, or else a kind of cloud shape. It is about the supremacy for corporate customers. AWS has grown up with startups and developers and tries to increase the attractiveness at companies for some time. This they have shown with several new services at the past re:Invent. This, however, is a market in which IBM has been present for decades and has a good and broad customer base and valuable contacts with the decision makers. This is an advantage, in spite of AWS’s current technical lead, should not be underestimated. Another advantage for IBM is the large base of partners in terms of technical support and sales. Because the pure self-service, a public cloud offers, does not fit the majority of enterprise customers. However, along with the Softlayer cloud IBM has yet to convince the companies technically and show customers a concrete benefit for the value to be successful.

What will prove to be an advantage for IBM over other cloud providers such as AWS, is the local presence with data centers in several countries. In particular, the German market will be appreciating this, when the offering fits the needs. It will be exciting to see if other U.S. cloud providers will follow and open a data center in Germany, to meet the concerns of German companies.

IBM’s investments indicate that the provider sees the cloud as a future supporting pillar and want to build a viable business in this area.