SoftLayer users say choice over IBM SmartCloud Enterprise was easy

The writing was on the wall before IBM shut down its SmartCloud Enterprise service in favor of SoftLayer.

IBM SoftLayer customers who have evaluated SmartCloud Enterprise say it's no surprise IBM will make the same choice they did.

Big Blue has confirmed it will shut down the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise service as of January 31 in favor of SoftLayer, which it acquired July 8.

It sent a notification to customers Oct. 30 in which it offered free migration services through Racemi onto SoftLayer from IBM SmartCloud Enterprise. The SmartCloud Enterprise+ managed service will continue running and be unaffected, according to IBM officials.

IBM has posted a list of 10 steps that are required to migrate from IBM SmartCloud Enterprise to SoftLayer. The first is to run a full analysis of current usage, including operating systems, virtual machine sizes, persistent storage requirements, reserved IP addresses, applications and services used.

It's then up to the customer to create accounts with SoftLayer and Racemi and perform the migration themselves using Racemi's Software as a Service. SoftLayer offers a Data Transfer Service that allows users to ship large amounts of data on USB 2.0 devices, as well as a one month free trial on its public cloud instances.

Given the do-it-yourself nature of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), this migration process will probably be tolerable for most customers, according to Carl Brooks, analyst with 451 Research based in Boston.

"Given [the fact that] you're getting access to a very sophisticated online platform, as well as a very sophisticated online migration service, it's not that much heavy lifting," he said. "Although it's definitely not full-service; I will say that."

IBM did not respond to the question of how many customers will be facing down these migration hurdles as of press time.

Customers say SoftLayer choice was clear

SmartCloud Enterprise seemed like an offering meant for only the largest enterprises when Green Status Pro, a startup based in Cambridge, Mass. that advises corporations on regulations regarding conflict minerals, evaluated it this year.

The company was torn between Amazon Web Services and IBM SmartCloud Enterprise before IBM acquired SoftLayer, according to Green Status Pro President Rob Kasameyer.

The sticking point at the time was that IBM communicated it strongly preferred the company hire its professional services to run SmartCloud Enterprise for the company.

"We didn't need that," Kasameyer said. "It seemed like something meant for bigger corporations."

SoftLayer, conversely, was quick to set up and use. Green Status Pro now has eight servers running in SoftLayer's Dallas data center. SoftLayer offered the public cloud accessibility of Amazon Web Services with a somewhat toned-down support agreement from IBM as compared with SmartCloud Enterprise, Kasameyer said.

"It had all the advantages of both without the downsides," Kasameyer said. As for IBM's decision to shutter SmartCloud Enterprise; it doesn't come as a shock.

"SoftLayer is easier to use -- [SmartCloud Enterprise] customers have everything to gain with this move," he said.

The question everyone will be asking is, is SoftLayer really that much better than what they were doing? said one vice president of IT for a customs broker and trade consultancy who uses IBM and requested anonymity. He evaluated SmartCloud and had decided his company wasn't ready to make the move.

"I guess they wanted to go from zero to hero really quick, huh? Rather than building it," he said about the SoftLayer acquisition. "I would assume that if this is what they are doing to their larger customers, who have already started to adopt [SmartCloud], there has to be some major advantage for them to switch people off what they have started."

Eric Alterman, CEO of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based information-streaming company Flow Search Corp., didn't closely evaluate SmartCloud Enterprise because after testing out SoftLayer, he didn't see the need.

"IBM's services seemed to have more of a learning curve," he said. (Alterman's evaluation came before IBM acquired SoftLayer.)

IBM's decision to move customers to SoftLayer is "smart all around" and doesn't surprise him, Alterman said.

The writing was on the wall when IBM acquired SoftLayer; the company couldn't sustain two IaaS offerings, so it became a matter of which service would defer to the other.

More writing on the wall came in August with a stinging evaluation of IBM's services on the Gartner Magic Quadrant, which placed IBM SmartCloud Enterprise dead last among 15 companies evaluated.

"Its feature set still lags significantly behind those of its competitors," according to the Magic Quadrant report, citing weaknesses in security and an inability to meet regulatory compliance requirements.

"IBM's SLA [service-level agreement] is weak and it excludes maintenance," the report continued, adding that IBM typically had more maintenance-related downtime than its competitors.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Ed Scannell contributed to this report.

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