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IBM Acquires SoftLayer: The Marriage of Private and Public Clouds

Listen to Podcast (mp3, 00:16:47)

Already one of the world’s leading cloud providers with cloud revenue expected to reach $7 billion by 2015, IBM is continuing its big push into the cloud. For the past six years, IBM has made more than a dozen strategic cloud acquisitions, not the least of which is this year’s purchase of SoftLayer Technologies, the world’s largest privately held cloud computing infrastructure provider. With its global cloud platform, SoftLayer enables IBM to marry the security, privacy and reliability of private clouds with the economy and speed of a public cloud.

What are IBM’s plans to incorporate SoftLayer into IBM Cloud? How will the combined offering impact small and midsize businesses? What do companies need to know? To try to answer these questions, ForwardView spoke to Tim Kounadis, Director of Cloud Services Marketing, Cloud Computing at IBM. Read excerpts from the interview below.

ForwardView:
What is IBM Cloud and how is it different from other cloud computing offerings in the marketplace?

Tim Kounadis:
IBM Cloud is really the full expanse of what IBM has to offer around cloud computing. When customers come to us and they want to understand cloud computing and how it can help them transform their business and drive down costs, what they quickly understand is that cloud is a journey, and on that journey you need a number of different cloud elements. You don’t just need virtualized cloud servers on a public cloud.

For example, you might need a private cloud where you need hardware and software to instantiate a private cloud inside of your data centers. You might need this because you have security considerations, compliance considerations or throughput considerations.

In other cases, you want virtualized servers delivered from a public cloud infrastructure. You want to be able to pay for them on an hourly basis or on a monthly basis, so you want infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, and you want those delivered from IBM.

And then finally, you might want solutions. Solutions that address very specific problems, whether those are around commerce, marketing or automation; there’s a variety of applications. So if you think about this cloud journey, we believe you'll need a number of different technologies, and what IBM Cloud represents is the full expanse of those capabilities. Everything from hardware to software, to managed cloud services, to turnkey solutions.

And one of the most important elements is expertise, because we know that cloud is a new technology for a lot of companies, and they’re trying to understand, “How do I deploy it inside of my company?” So within IBM, we have a lot of services that help you understand the opportunity around cloud, help you develop a cloud strategy, and help you migrate the right workloads to cloud.

ForwardView:
What does SoftLayer bring to IBM?

Tim Kounadis:
The SoftLayer acquisition is really exciting and transformational for IBM, and I think it provides a tremendous amount of value for our customers small and large.

Increasingly what we find is that customers want to put high performance workloads on the cloud. For example, they might be doing big data analysis or they might have mobile applications or social applications that they want to stand up on cloud.

What SoftLayer provides you is a full expanse of cloud capabilities so you can have what are known as bare metal dedicated servers which are ideal for IO-intensive workload applications. They don’t have virtualization so they can scale vertically, which is very important when you're doing big data analysis.

Then they have virtualized servers the way you would expect from many of the other providers out there. And they also have the ability to deliver this on a set of network options. So if you want a private cloud you can stand that up on SoftLayer. If you want public cloud, you can stand that up on SoftLayer. And, they give you a very high performance network as well.

So it’s the servers. It’s the security. It’s the other capabilities including firewalls, security devices, et cetera. It’s a high performance network. All of those are capabilities that SoftLayer delivers.


"The possibilities of cloud, as evidenced by Drivewyze, can do so much more than just shave costs"


ForwardView:
While other companies may focus on reducing prices for commodity technology and services, IBM is focused on providing its customers with higher value. Can you expand on this?

Tim Kounadis:
If you think about what a lot of providers are offering these days when it comes to cloud computing, they’re offering you commodity-based servers, usually x86 servers that give you a baseline of functionality at a very low price point. But as customers start using cloud computing, they’ll often start hitting barriers because of the whole concept of simple virtualized servers.

So the great thing about IBM is that we can offer our customers and partners a broad set of solutions. Not just commodity-based virtualized servers. We can offer you a broad set of architecture options, a broad set of virtualization options, a broad set of performance options, and also the expertise services that you need in order to build your cloud strategy.

We believe that offers a lot of value. It’s not just about the technology. It’s also about the expertise and the value that we can provide to our customers.

ForwardView:
IBM has worked with companies of all sizes on cloud deployments. For the small and midsize companies out there, what would you say from your perspective is the single most important thing they need to know about cloud?

Tim Kounadis:
When you think about what cloud can offer to small and medium-sized companies, cloud is really an enabler. Often small companies have felt constrained when it comes to their creativity because of their size. Cloud is very much of an equalizer for them because what cloud allows you to do is to deploy the infrastructure you need in order to execute the ideas that you have.

So cloud computing, especially cloud delivery from IBM, and especially delivered through the SoftLayer technology, really offers small and medium-sized customers the opportunity to execute on their dreams, their ideas, their vision, and we think that’s really exciting because it unleashes the potential of those ideas and doesn’t constrain the ideas just based on a company’s infrastructure or size.

ForwardView:
We often think of using cloud to achieve cost efficiencies, but can you talk about how cloud can drive innovation?

Tim Kounadis:
Often people are attracted to cloud because they say, “Wow. Look at how inexpensive it is to deploy a particular virtualized server.” So people come to cloud starting with a thought to drive down costs. But what they quickly understand is that cloud is so much more than that because cloud allows a company, regardless of size, to execute on innovation.

So for example, we all talk about agile development. How you go in and build something and test it, and try it. And then you learn from that and keep on building on it in order to release an offering. Well the same holds true for innovation.

Often what you need in a company that truly embraces innovation is an environment where you can try out ideas. So cloud gives you that. Cloud gives you the ability to very quickly stand up an infrastructure and test new ideas. Do development and test on the cloud. Launch mobile applications on the cloud. See what works. Learn from your mistakes and then ultimately deploy it.

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