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IBM guns for the hybrid cloud market -- again

IBM is going after the hybrid computing market -- again -- but this time it is armed for bear. Will IT pros actually take notice?

LAS VEGAS -- IBM, yet again, redoubled its efforts to boost its hybrid cloud strategy -- and IT has taken notice. 

This time it has done so through a multi-pronged initiative with new technologies to help IT pros integrate private and public cloud to prevent big data sprawl. The company will invest in  new cloud data centers and portability services that move workloads across the enterprise to bring applications and data closer together.

Delivering the keynote address at this week's IBM InterConnect 2015 conference here, Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president, IBM Cloud, said he is quite aware it's not the first time IBM has made its hybrid cloud ambitions known.

"It's not like we just woke up and started talking about hybrid clouds today," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc cited IBM's investment in BlueMix, partnership with Apple and its commitment to SoftLayer as hybrid initiatives the company has taken.

The time and money spent on IBM's newly energized hybrid cloud initiative may be justified. In 2015, some 72% of enterprises will pursue a hybrid cloud strategy, and the hybrid cloud market as a whole will reach $80 billion by 2018, according to Gartner Inc., a research firm in Stamford, Conn.

It's not like we just woke up and started talking about hybrid clouds today.
Robert LeBlancsenior vice president, IBM Cloud

IBM certainly isn't the only vendor trying to grab those dollars. Microsoft has long touted hybrid cloud on Azure, and VMware's focus is on the hybrid cloud market.

One IT pro here was encouraged by the different points of attack IBM made this time around with hybrid cloud.

"I am impressed with the improvements made to BlueMix for things like hybrid and the amount of money they are putting into future development for that and other hybrid services," said Jeff Johnson, an IT purchasing agent with a west coast-based transportation company. "I have heard that a couple of times before, but they do appear to be pretty serious this time around."

And serious IBM appears to be, at least from a human resources standpoint. IBM will devote half of its development team's efforts to hybrid cloud development, according to LeBlanc's keynote. And much of that time will be spent focused on hybrid products that can extend open standards capabilities for the enterprise.

This will help break down the barriers between clouds and on-premises IT systems, which can give users more control and visibility, LeBlanc said.

The open source conundrum

Some developers were happy to hear about IBM's efforts to make it easier to bridge the cloud with their existing on-premises systems. However, they also worry how much money and time it will take to train  their IT staff on new open source or open standards products.

"I have significant investments in [IBM] hardware and software that I want to connect with the cloud, but we are pretty inexperienced with integrating and supporting open source products that might be doing some of this integration," said one IT professional who requested anonymity. "Not saying we aren't interested, but it isn't something we will be spending money on this year."

IBM also expanded SoftLayer's compute capacity by adding four more cloud data centers, including ones in Sydney and Montreal, bringing the total to 40 worldwide. The new data centers are expected to be online by the end of next month.

Part of the company's plan to accelerate adoption of its hybrid cloud initiative is  through partnerships such as one with Tech Mahindra. The new deal calls for the two companies to jointly build a platform for developing cloud applications for those using BlueMix Dedicated, which is a single tenant version of BlueMix.

IBM will supply the cloud environment that lets Tech Mahindra's developers create native cloud applications using a highly scalable model. Tech Mahindra will train up to 5,000 of its own developers on how to build applications using BlueMix for hybrid clouds.

IBM also debuted BlueMix Local, a tool which helps the product reach deeper into the company's data center offering expanded visibility and management across a variety of BlueMix environments.  Also new is API Harmony, a tool that allows corporate developers to find the right API match for a user's application by searching large IBM-controlled data bases of APIs.

Ed Scannell is senior executive editor for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization media group. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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