IBM white label services: A hiding game where everyone’s a winner

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By Andrew Hoppe, Ph.D.

In the classic children’s game of hide and seek, the seeker loses if all hidden participants aren’t found by the end of the game. When reselling services and products, providers may play hide and seek by making their offerings available under a white label that is different from the original service provider’s brand. In the case of white labeling, everyone wins when some of the participants remain hidden.

The term white label is rooted in the music industry. DJs would tear the labels off of their vinyl records so their competition wouldn’t be able to discover their secret weapon tracks. It was also used to hide the identity of an artist so the DJ wouldn’t be prejudiced against the music based on who created it. In today’s marketing terms, white label enables providers to make their offerings available to individuals and companies that can’t make big investments in technology or infrastructure. An alternative marketing term for white labeling is rebranding.

White label providers buy services such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS) from original service providers, often at a volume discount. The services are then resold under the white label providers’ own brand, hiding the brand of original providers. In cloud computing, Jamcracker, Parallels and Nervogrid in Europe are just a few examples of white label service providers. IBM offers its many Business Partners opportunities to resell white label cloud services as well.

Cloud computing companies, acting as cloud brokers, often resell cloud services from established cloud providers under their own brand. In many cases the cloud brokers provide extra cloud management services for multiple clouds. These practices give customers a single point of ordering and managing hybrid clouds from several providers as well as private on-premises and off-premises cloud environments. The ordering and managing of environments is made possible by the fact that original cloud providers make their services available programmatically through application programming interface (API) libraries. The APIs can be called by various scripts and programs running in support of the cloud brokers’ web portals.

To implement a white label portal, two elements are necessary. First, the GUI needs to be implemented. It makes provisioning and managing the cloud environments available to customers. Many web GUI toolkits and platforms, such as WebGUI, Ember or various flavors of JavaScript-based packages such as Ext4JS, exist to support white label vendors in this respect.

Second, the cloud functionality must be invoked. The APIs of the original cloud providers may be called from web thin clients on customer’s machines. In most cases, though, the APIs are called from the web servers handling the browser requests of white label providers’ web GUIs. Recently, the Representational State Transfer (REST) paradigm became a popular way of implementing various APIs, including cloud services. The paradigm advocates using HTTP-like commands to invoke stateless services on resources made available on the Internet. In addition, cloud providers often offer wrapper libraries in popular scripting or programming languages (PHP, Python, Ruby, Java and so on). Wrapper libraries make it possible to invoke cloud APIs from server-side software packages written in these languages.

Providing white label services is a popular offering among many IBM Business Partners. With the SoftLayer acquisition, opportunities to resell IBM cloud services under the white label convention have multiplied. The breadth of SoftLayer’s cloud offering and the size and scope of its APIs dwarf the API offerings of other competing cloud providers. With over 2,000 API calls grouped into 260 services, IBM and SoftLayer have become a white label provider’s secret weapon, playing a hiding game where everyone’s a winner.

Use Internet Explorer and the below link to learn more about getting started with SoftLayer and setting up a rebranded portal:

Andrew Hoppe, Ph.D., is a Technical Architect with the IBM Global Technology Services (GTS) Global Cloud Ecosystem team.

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