IBM builds cloud marketplace, hopes cloud buyers will come

IBM offers a one-stop shop for cloud buyers, but its cloud marketplace is less convenient than those from Azure or AWS.

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IBM is the latest IT vendor to open a cloud marketplace, but IT pros expecting to find an enterprise app store similar to the click-and-buy AWS or Azure markets will be a bit disappointed.

The company also launched services around data analytics, cloud integration and the Internet of Things this week.

The new IBM Cloud marketplace gives IT managers, as well as their internal developers, access to information and free trials for 100 software as a service-based applications, including its SoftLayer infrastructure as a service and BlueMix platform as a service. The self-service website also makes available non-IBM products including MongoDB.

But IBM's version of a cloud market doesn't appear to offer a straight-forward process to select, buy and download products and services compared to Amazon Web Services Marketplace and Microsoft's Windows Azure Marketplace.

They realize now if they try to stand alone in this market, they could go down in flames, so they are willing to compete and cooperate with other vendors.

Walter Burton, systems engineer, Indiana-based systems integrator

Many of the available apps, for instance, require a call or email to an IBM sales representative to find out details like application price or service. Instead of a click-to-buy button and visible prices shown on other cloud marketplaces, shoppers have to click on a "learn more" button, which provides largely promotional materials. 

One analyst however thinks IBM's "higher touch" approach to selling cloud apps through an online marketplace is the way some of its competitors are slowly headed.

"Even AWS and the hands-off automated cloud players are moving to a higher touch model," said Allan Krans, cloud practice manager with TBR in Hampton, N.H. “It is good for customers starting put on a new platform; the evolution we are seeing is to have some direct interaction with sales reps. It seems to be the logical progression,” he said.

Still, some believe the enterprise app store is a sensible, if not overdue, move by IBM -- given the spreading popularity of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) among even IBM’s largest, straight-laced corporate accounts. Also, some of the higher-end products offered through the site should yield higher profit margins than they do when sold through other IBM distribution channels, industry observers said.

"[IBM] realizes now if they try to stand alone in this market, they could go down in flames, so they are willing to compete and cooperate with other vendors," said Walter Burton, a systems engineer with an Indiana-based systems integrator. "But this could also be a hard sell. Look how long it took for client-server computing to really take when people back then didn't think mixing and matching very different technologies would actually work."

"This fits in nicely with SoftLayer and BlueMix, as well as their software as a service play, which is where they can make some higher-margin profits,'' said Frank Dzubeck, president of communications at Network Architects Inc., a consultancy in Washington, D.C.

IBM meanwhile said it doesn't anticipate the marketplace to negatively affect sales of cloud-based products through its traditional distribution channels.

"Marketplace is a way to aggregate all of our public cloud components as well as a new way for us to connect with users," said Steve Robinson, general manager of IBM's cloud platform services. "A lot of organizations said they want a way to see our complete set of offerings and to more easily experiment with certain products that might fit into their overall strategy, and they can do this with tablets and smart phones and by swiping a credit card."

IBM sees the cloud marketplace playing a key role in establishing a foothold in existing accounts or brand new ones, where a single department just wants to try a new app or build one with BlueMix, Robinson said.

IBM adds data analytics and Internet of Things services

IBM also rolled out a set of new services to help IT shops better integrate and deploy services for data analytics, cloud integration and the Internet of Things. These services should help those IT shops adopting mobile, social and cloud-based platforms with their legacy infrastructures and private systems of record that serve as the backbone of businesses, Robinson said.

"With cloud there is a better opportunity to bridge cloud services with those corporate assets and make them a system of engagement," Robinson said.

The new services, which ascribe to open standards, include cloud integration that connects an organization’s public applications and private data, a number of DevOps services that help build a DevOps lifecycle as well as data an analytics as a service to quickly design and scale applications for big data.

Ed Scannell is senior executive editor for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization media group. He can be reached at escannell@techtarget.com.

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