IBM Cloud Marketplace one-stop shop for every XaaS need

IBM's SoftLayer acquisition and BlueMix PaaS helped launch its cloud marketplace, where the vendor hopes to meet any enterprise demand.

The IBM Cloud Marketplace serves as a gateway for enterprises to explore a full range of services that include everything from business analytics to a hosted build-system to support continuous integration.

In April 2014, IBM launched its cloud marketplace to provide a centralized location for showcasing its own cloud services alongside those of its partners. The launch represents the culmination of IBM's efforts to assemble a comprehensive cloud portfolio. In 2013, the company acquired SoftLayer for $2 billion and also recently acquired Aspera, Cloudant and Silverpop. In all, IBM has invested over $7 billion in cloud-related acquisitions since 2007.

IBM also pumped in another $1.2 billion to expand the SoftLayer platform this year, in addition to investing $1 billion in adapting its middleware software as cloud services for the BlueMix platform. Plus, the company spent another $1 billion to form the Watson Group business unit for developing and commercializing cloud-delivered cognitive innovations. Add to this mix IBM's ongoing investments in SaaS and you can see that the company is quite serious about its cloud strategy.

IBM Cloud Marketplace ties together the various initiatives into a single portal and serves as a digital passageway into the full spectrum of IBM's cloud offerings and those of its partners. Clearly, IBM has recognized the shift in enterprise computing and is responding to that change by partly redefining itself as a cloud vendor selling software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

The marketplace already boasts over a hundred SaaS options from both IBM and third-party companies, such as Zend, SendGrid, Redis Labs, Deep DB and MongoLab. It provides enterprise customers with a single online destination that serves as an innovation hub for cloud technologies. There, customers can learn about the services, try them out to see how they work and eventually implement them. It also serves as a central repository for videos, white papers, case studies, code samples and other information relevant to cloud computing.

IBM Cloud Marketplace targets three customer types: line-of-business (LOB) professionals, developers and IT decision makers.

Line-of-business professionals

IBM Cloud Marketplace ties together the various initiatives into a single portal and serves as a digital passageway into the full spectrum of IBM's cloud offerings and those of its partners.

IBM is hoping to peddle its SaaS wares to LOB professionals looking for secure and scalable services that can meet a wide range of business needs. The marketplace offers a centralized resource to business and IT professionals in such areas as marketing, finance, legal, procurement or sales.

When customers visit the IBM Cloud Marketplace, they can filter services by category -- such as analytics or security -- then sort the results by relevance, popularity or ratings. For each service, they can view a product page that provides an overview of the service, a list of features, customer reviews and details about editions and pricing. Some product pages also provide information about submitting questions or contacting support.

Developers

Developers strolling through the IBM Cloud Marketplace will discover an assortment of tools that enable them to create cloud-based platforms within a secure, integrated development environment. Here they'll find services to address such issues as managing data caches, implementing analytics or tracking agile development processes. Developers can quickly and easily build hybrid cloud systems based on open source and third-party tools within the IBM infrastructure.

At the heart of that infrastructure is the BlueMix open PaaS for developing Web and mobile applications. The platform supports a variety of Java, database and integration technologies and provides an extensive set of predefined services that developers can incorporate into their applications. The services enable them to easily implement specific types of functionality, such as elastic caching in a Web app or push notification in a mobile app. In addition, developers can create their own services within BlueMix to meet their specific application needs.

IT decision makers

The IBM Cloud Marketplace also includes plenty of offerings to keep the IT folks happy, providing the services necessary to quickly implement private and public clouds, either as virtual environments or on bare metal. The driving force behind these services is IBM's SoftLayer IaaS technology, which gives IT professionals the tools they need to deploy cloud services that support their enterprise applications. Customers can choose the environments that best suit their needs whether or not they're implementing a hybrid cloud, while controlling where data resides, how security is applied, the services to deploy, and when to scale up or scale down their infrastructure.

The marketplace offers IT customers a wide variety of services to augment their cloud environments, ranging from performance management to security services to disaster recovery. In addition, IBM recently added two important services to its big data and analytics portfolio. InfoSphere Streams lets organizations analyze and share data in motion, and InfoSphere BigInsights enables developers to more easily incorporate Hadoop into their big data applications. The SoftLayer platform provides the foundation necessary to implement these services, offering a flexible and modular infrastructure for automating the implementation of customized clouds.

Where does IBM Cloud Marketplace fit?

On the surface, the IBM Cloud Marketplace might appear to be a variation on the Apple Store theme, offering products to serve its customers' needs. But the marketplace takes the idea of the app store a step further. Not only does it showcase IBM's cloud-related services and those of its partners, but it also helps to establish IBM as an aggregator and provider of cloud-related services.

From the beginning, the marketplace has targeted enterprise customers, unlike the typical app store that goes after the consumer. In that sense, the marketplace is more comparable to Salesforce AppExchange, which not only serves as a catalog for business apps, but also helps customers find system integrators and app developers to build custom platforms.

Even so, the IBM Cloud Marketplace appears to have carved out its own niche for offering enterprise customers cloud-related services from IBM and its partners, providing the enterprise with a quick and seamless method for transitioning to the cloud. It's not just to IT types that the marketplace appeals, either: Any enterprise business user can poke around and see what's available. IBM might not have been the first to jump onto the cloud bandwagon, but the company seems intent on making up for lost time, and the marketplace could be just the tool to help them get there.

This was first published in July 2014

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