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The Why, What and How of the IBM Bluemix Garage

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garage-method-outlines I often find myself in discussions to help people better understand what the IBM Bluemix Garage does. I am regularly asked what we actually do with clients and frequently have to dispel misconceptions (which could easily make for their own amusing blog post). In short, we consult in a variety of ways, always focused on our core mission and leveraging our method.

Since I get asked this so often, I figured it would be a good topic for a blog.

What we do at the IBM Bluemix Garage

The ‘what’ we do with clients starts with our mission, and the ‘how’ we work with clients is codified and continues to evolve in the IBM Bluemix Garage Method.

The IBM Bluemix Garage mission has remained unchanged from the day Steve Robinson, General Manager of Cloud Technical Engagement, and I founded the Garage: “Make clients of all sizes successful deploying applications on IBM Bluemix.” The vision of the Garage is a collaborative environment staffed with a diverse group of experts who work as one team with clients to rapidly define, design, develop, validate, analyze, operate, and maintain successful applications on IBM Bluemix using the IBM Bluemix Garage Method. Our approach melds industry best practices, startup culture, and IBM’s expertise, and adapts these for the needs of our clients, large or small.

An aspect of the Garage has been to work with startup and small businesses on adopting Bluemix and ensure that IBM Bluemix meets their needs. We posed the question to Jim Deters, CEO & Founder of Galvanize, “how can IBM engage deeply with startups?” Jim’s advice was that we needed to be residents in startup communities to interact with startups on a daily basis in a shared physical space. Jim and I talk about our vision for collaboration when we launched the first IBM Bluemix Garage in Galvanize San Francisco.

Since then, we have opened Garages in various startup communities in London, Toronto, Nice, NYC and (opening next week) Melbourne. Being in startup communities adds to our creative energy and influences the startup side of our culture. We learn from the hallway discussions and participation in community events such as meetups. We engage with startups to assist them in using Bluemix and also, at times, build connections with our enterprise clients. Providing a physically collaborative environment in startup communities significantly helps our enterprise clients to embrace new, different ways of doing design and DevOps.

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The London Garage team works through a Design Thinking Workshop.

Why clients come to the IBM Bluemix Garage

When we started in 2014, Garage clients were typically focused on building a single innovation app, trying out Bluemix as an innovation platform and the Bluemix Garage Method for design and DevOps. In 2015, we found many of the clients coming in were focused on establishing new innovation programs, or they were embarking on adoption of DevOps and IBM Bluemix. In 2016, we still work with clients of all sizes to build specific apps and help them create innovation centers. Many enterprise clients now engage with the Garage to help with organizational and technology transformation for parts of their businesses, often with the intention of overall organizational and digital transformations. Since then, we have opened Garages in various startup communities in London, Toronto, Nice and NYC, with a presence in Tokyo and Singapore as well. This week we are officially launching the Melbourne Bluemix Garage — congratulations Australia Bluemix team!

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Getting ready for Melbourne Garage launch.

Our clients typically come to the Garage with some combination of objectives:

  1. Clients want to learn our Method.
    They want to learn a new way to develop innovative applications. They want to experience the IBM Bluemix Garage Method to understand how it can be used to transform either an area of the business, an innovation center, or development (with or without the business changing) holistically.
  2. Clients want to learn Bluemix.
    They are adopting IBM Bluemix and want the Garage to teach them best practices for using and operating Bluemix. This can include developing cloud-native applications and migrating existing applications onto Bluemix from on-premises systems (such as IBM or other middleware/PaaS providers). Also given the hybrid nature of many applications, it includes integrating the Bluemix apps to on-premises apps and data; to other cloud providers; and to existing management and security systems.
  3. Clients want an app built.
    They simply want a creative app designed and built quickly, with an end-user-centric design approach. They frequently want guidance in creating and validating a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). They are delighted that Bluemix provides a managed platform with a broad range of services supporting rapid building of innovative apps. These applications range from small apps built in a few weeks to rewrites of mission critical, complex apps that are delivered in phases over 9 to 12 months.
  4. Clients want agile/DevOps transformation.
    Increasingly we are working with clients, typically enterprises, on performing holistic IT transformations for DevOps, improving business/IT alignment, transforming operations, and modernizing security and APIs as part of their overall adoption of IBM Cloud.
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The Toronto Garage team hard at work on developing a client’s MVP.

What the IBM Bluemix Garage Provides

The Garage has talented and highly skilled designers, developers, and architects who apply a set of practices from IBM Design Thinking, lean startups, DevOps, and agile methods in distinct combinations to address the client’s needs. As our offerings evolve, we make them a part of the IBM Bluemix Garage Method, and apply them in future tracks, practices, tool chains, and architectures.

In our work with clients, we take a collaborative approach to:

  • garage-method-outlines Understand the target end-user and the problem or opportunity space for an application
  • Define target states, hypotheses to be validated, and one or more MVPs
  • Provide expertise on best practices for cloud adoption – DevOps, cloud native apps, APIs, data integration, app migration, monitoring & operations, analytics, MVP validated learning, etc.
  • Rapidly get started and deliver results
  • Educate and transform the client teams with whom we work

We are continually evolving our method based on our client experiences. Let me tell you about one example: while working with a large enterprise who wants to adopt DevOps and Bluemix, my colleagues Ingo Averdunk, IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of Cloud Service Management, and Kyle Brown, IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of Cloud Architecture, saw that in order to be successful in adopting Bluemix and DevOps that the enterprise’s operations organization, processes, and tools needed to change. Ingo, Kyle, and Rick Goldberg, lead designer for the Toronto Garage, did breakthrough work applying IBM Design Thinking to deeply engage a wide variety of operations’ engineers to layout how key processes work today. Then, Ingo and Kyle showed how these processes and roles change for Bluemix adoption. Ingo and his team then recommended the tools, phases of change, training, etc. needed for cloud operations transformation. They have now applied and honed this new approach, and it is being added to the IBM Bluemix Garage Method and Cloud Architecture Center. It is also a new consulting offering for the IBM Bluemix Garage.

How the IBM Bluemix Garage sets itself apart

This is how we grow at the Garage – we listen to client needs; we innovate and experiment with experts leading the way; we validate and refine; and we codify what we learn and bring it to clients digitally and through consulting. Other focus areas we are applying this approach on include migration of apps, DevOps adoption encompassing many systems, cloud native architecture training, blockchain, Internet of Things, and analytics.

The Garage team also provides feature and defect maintenance support for apps we build and, with services such as API Connect and VPN in Bluemix, we do backend integration and API creation as well. The Garage doesn’t do 24/7 operations for apps, but we have partners within IBM that can provide application support. We partner to cover as much of the application lifecycle as a client desires. We also have a group in the Garage focused on client education for Bluemix, cloud, and IBM Bluemix Garage Method.

I’m delighted that the Garage has a strong reputation and established methodology for creating innovative apps using cloud native architecture on IBM Bluemix. Often clients (and sometimes even visiting IBMers) don’t know the breadth of consulting offerings we provide and my hope is that after reading this blog, you now have a better understanding of what we do in the IBM Bluemix Garage. And we aren’t done yet! We have some exciting things planned this year!


Rachel Reinitz is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of IBM Bluemix Garage. She leads clients on adoption of new technologies and is currently focused applying agile methods to building cloud applications with clients. She is a frequent conference presenter and blog contributor. Outside of her work at the Garage, Rachel enjoys hiking, socializing, and international travel. You can connect with her via Twitter @rreinitz.

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