Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @DXWorldExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

SoftLayer – IBM's New Quarterback for the Cloud

SoftLayer has a lot to offer for IBM and IBM seems to appreciate the new capabilities and innovations

What typically happens to smaller firms when they are being eaten up by mega-companies like IBM seems pretty obvious - they go to the dogs. Key executives will leave the team, product roadmaps will lose their binding character and strategy will get fuzzy due to the sheer magnitude of the organization and its inherent complexity. But not so with SoftLayer / IBM.

It has become obvious over the past 6 months that IBM's senior management had more in mind than a pure opportunistic acquisition when they bought hosting firm SoftLayer in the summer of 2013 for 2 billion USD. Eric Clementi who was among the early cloud advocates within IBM has made a strategic bet that will enable IBM to regain its position as one of the key cloud leaders in the market over the next 2-3 years.

SoftLayer - IBM´s New Strategic Asset
IBM has officially dedicated over 1.2 billion USD in additional investments to its new cloud data center infrastructure. That makes roughly 80-100 million USD for each of the 15 newly planned data center locations (15 new DCs adding to 13 SoftLayer and 15 IBM data centers) that will cover all geographic regions. Although IBM has tremendous in-house expertise when it comes to building and operating data center facilities, the new cloud data centers will follow the blueprint of SoftLayer. Why's that?

As a typical hosting provider SoftLayer not only commands a highly scalable data center architecture with over 80,000 running servers, it is foremost a highly cost-efficient data center operations and broad set of services that makes it attractive for IBM to switch platforms from its own IBM SmartCloud to the SoftLayer platform. What SoftLayer also brings to the table is a substantial revenue share. Crisp Research estimates the annual revenue for 2013 to be around 520 million USD. Given the new investments and the IBM brand as a backing for enterprise deals - 2014 revenue can easily be around 600 million up to 1 billion USD.

Within a positive market scenario the new IBM/SoftLayer business unit is likely to surpass 4 billion USD in revenue within the next 5 years and thereby contributing up to 10% of IBM GTS revenue by the end of 2018.

SoftLayer to Become IBM's Prime Cloud Delivery Platform
But this is only possible if IBM will stick to its current roadmap and make SoftLayer the prime cloud delivery platform for its new SaaS and PaaS offerings. As of today IBM plans to make most of its software portfolio accessible as cloud services - within shared, hybrid and private cloud environments. For example, the CloudFoundry-based IBM Bluemix-offerings (PaaS) is already being hosted on the SoftLayer platform. The same will happen to new collaboration services (e.g., Connect), infrastructure management solutions and even "Watson"-based analytics services.

There is even more evidence that IBM is getting down to business with SoftLayer. Relatively unnoticed IBM has migrated hundreds of customers from its SmartCloud to the SoftLayer platform over the past 5 months. It could be said that this was one of the largest cloud migrations (vendor-to-vendor) - by the number of clients - but not in terms of capacity. Most of the workloads were "under the radar" applications.

The IBM SmartCloud has been never been more than a stepchild in IBM's overall strategy. The platform was not capable of handling thousands of agile and scalable web workloads in a competitive operations model. Thereby the IBM senior management team has come to the right decision - let SoftLayer grow - shut SmartCloud down.

Bare Metal Cloud Hosting - The Secret Sauce in the IaaS Market?

Over the past 5 years the cloud market has come a long way in terms of technical maturity and overall adoption. What vendors and CIOs both learned alike is that there is a clear demand for different types of cloud infrastructure services. One-size-fits all virtual machines are not the right solution for all customers. Workloads have highly differentiated characteristics. Especially for advanced workloads "dedicated performance" instead of mellow SLAs can help customers sleep better. Business cases vary in terms of flexibility and cost. As more and more workloads are migrated toward the cloud, "cost prediction" becomes key to numerous CIOs and CTOs. To cover baseline infrastructure capacity, reserved resources (e.g., bare metal or dedicated VMs) help to save budget. These savings can be allocated to innovative projects or to cover "peak" capacity.

The market for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is still under development and covers a large spectrum of providers and delivery models. It ranges from the large public cloud platform providers AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure, which offer mainly standardized services, to the classical managed service providers with their private cloud offerings. That gap is being bridged by a small number of hosting firms that have transformed their portfolio in the direction of cloud. SoftLayer is among the group of Host Europe Group, OVH, Rackspace, et al, that combines agility, dedicated performance and cost predictability in the right balance with solid support operations. Looking at the growth numbers delivered by this peer group over the last few years we can reason that the "cloud hosting" model has a huge fan base in the market. This is mainly true for SMB customers, eCommerce firms and part of the startup world.

Remaining Questions and Outlook
SoftLayer has a lot to offer for IBM and IBM seems to appreciate the new capabilities and innovations. But some strategic questions are not answered yet. For example: How does the SoftLayer hosting business fits with the IBM high-margin model in the long run? Even when IBM is able to drag enterprise customers (who are willing to pay more for dedicated compute power then for virtual compute power) onto its new platform the IaaS business will not have the same margins like the mainframe business.

One next question relates to IBM´s plan to migrate its entire software portfolio to the cloud ("SaaS First"). The ambitious growth plan for SoftLayer will only pay off if the migration and go-to-market for the different software solutions is successful and well communicated. Currently it is not quite clear which of the hundreds of software solutions are able to run in the cloud and which of them will be migrated first.

But the most important question is: Will IBM stick to its plan? From the perspective of Crisp Research there is no way out. After the current announcements customers are betting on IBM SoftLayer. SmartCloud is not a trusted platform any longer and will go to the dead pool. IBM´s current activities look very promising. But competition is fierce. Rich Miller estimated a whopping 7.3 billion USD that were spend by Google in 2013 to expand its data center and network capacity (up from 3.2 billion USD in 2012).

With SoftLayer as its new cloud quarterback IBM is back in the game. The next 12-18 month will show, if AWS, Microsoft and Google will get serious competition in the cloud capacity game where "economies of scale" dictate the rules.

More Stories By Carlo Velten

Dr. Carlo Velten is founding partner and managing director of ITresearch and advisory firm Crisp Research. As senior analyst Carlo oversees the research and advisory initiatives at Crisp Research. Carlo is a seasoned industry expert with over 15 years of working experience as IT analyst. He helped numerous leading companies to transform their enterprise IT-platforms into agile cloud-based environments. He also advises large tech vendors regarding strategy, business model transformation and marketing excellence.

Before starting Crisp Research he was senior advisor and board member at European IT research firm Experton Group where he co-led the “Cloud Computing & Innovation Practice“. Prior to that he was the senior analyst at German research firm TechConsult. Carlo is a well-known speaker and moderator at industry events and contributing editor at Computerwoche and CIO magazine. He is a judging panel member for the “Best in Cloud Awards” of IDG and long-term research partner of tech association BITKOM.

Carlo holds a M.Sc. and PhD. in venture capital. He was research fellow at San José State University, CA. and partner at transatlantic venture firm GENES Ventures. Carlo serves as board member for the Managerkreis - a well-known think tank of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation based in Berlin.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
In this presentation, you will learn first hand what works and what doesn't while architecting and deploying OpenStack. Some of the topics will include:- best practices for creating repeatable deployments of OpenStack- multi-site considerations- how to customize OpenStack to integrate with your existing systems and security best practices.
"DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited to help the great team at @DevOpsSUMMIT and CloudEXPO tell the world how they can leverage this emerging disruptive trend."
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
You want to start your DevOps journey but where do you begin? Do you say DevOps loudly 5 times while looking in the mirror and it suddenly appears? Do you hire someone? Do you upskill your existing team? Here are some tips to help support your DevOps transformation. Conor Delanbanque has been involved with building & scaling teams in the DevOps space globally. He is the Head of DevOps Practice at MThree Consulting, a global technology consultancy. Conor founded the Future of DevOps Thought Leade...
Everyone wants the rainbow - reduced IT costs, scalability, continuity, flexibility, manageability, and innovation. But in order to get to that collaboration rainbow, you need the cloud! In this presentation, we'll cover three areas: First - the rainbow of benefits from cloud collaboration. There are many different reasons why more and more companies and institutions are moving to the cloud. Benefits include: cost savings (reducing on-prem infrastructure, reducing data center foot print, redu...
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Mike Johnston, an infrastructure engineer at Supergiant.io, discussed how to use Kubernetes to set up a SaaS infrastructure for your business. Mike Johnston is an infrastructure engineer at Supergiant.io with over 12 years of experience designing, deploying, and maintaining server and workstation infrastructure at all scales. He has experience with brick and mortar data centers as well as cloud providers like Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services, and Rackspace. H...
The technologies behind big data and cloud computing are converging quickly, offering businesses new capabilities for fast, easy, wide-ranging access to data. However, to capitalize on the cost-efficiencies and time-to-value opportunities of analytics in the cloud, big data and cloud technologies must be integrated and managed properly. Pythian's Director of Big Data and Data Science, Danil Zburivsky will explore: The main technology components and best practices being deployed to take advantage...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
Most DevOps journeys involve several phases of maturity. Research shows that the inflection point where organizations begin to see maximum value is when they implement tight integration deploying their code to their infrastructure. Success at this level is the last barrier to at-will deployment. Storage, for instance, is more capable than where we read and write data. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Josh Atwell, a Developer Advocate for NetApp, will discuss the role and value...
"When you think about the data center today, there's constant evolution, The evolution of the data center and the needs of the consumer of technology change, and they change constantly," stated Matt Kalmenson, VP of Sales, Service and Cloud Providers at Veeam Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Today, we have more data to manage than ever. We also have better algorithms that help us access our data faster. Cloud is the driving force behind many of the data warehouse advancements we have enjoyed in recent years. But what are the best practices for storing data in the cloud for machine learning and data science applications?
Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, is an accomplished digital business executive with extensive global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. For over 30 years across five continents, he has built success with Fortune 500 corporations, vendors, governments, and as a leading research analyst and consultant.