So far, it's been a banner year for Big Blue. In the second quarter of 2018, IBM posted better-than-expected revenue and earnings per share, marking a third consecutive quarter of growth. However, all this good news is in the wake of five straight years of disappointing results and shrinking revenue. Though it’s great for investors, yet there was something in the quarterly report that should make IBM's more technically-inclined followers take notice.
For the first time in its long history, the majority of revenue for IBM came from its strategic imperatives as compared to the old-line mainframe and hardware businesses. This is of particular significance because it is the first clear sign that IBM is succeeding in its quest to transform itself into a 21st-century tech powerhouse. In particular, the mobile and cloud initiatives have been gaining steam, and they’re going to be critically important in the times to come. Here's a look at some of the most vital recent developments in IBM's mobile and cloud businesses.
In an announcement at Google Next on July 24, IBM announced that they, alongside Google and the open source community have developed what they consider to be the next step in serverless computing. The project, known as Knative, aims to provide a unique unified architecture that bridges the divide between container-based applications and function-as-a-service components in the cloud. This essentially means that the developers would have the freedom to use both, to create true serverless applications without sacrificing control or functionality.
Knative also cements IBM's support for open-source development, complementing the IBM-developed OpenWhisk platform that they donated to the Apache foundation in 2016. Though their altruism in this is not without a certain self-interest. The moves they've made indicate that IBM recognizes that open-source development can serve as an effective on-ramp into commercial services like IBM Cloud Functions. Since they use the same codebase, moving between the two is wonderfully seamless, so that businesses may use a combination of open-source and proprietary architectures in a cost-effective manner.
Focusing on App Ecosystems
IBM has also shown signs lately that they are focusing their mobile initiatives on creating a one-stop-shop for high-end app development. On July 19th, IBM announced that ExxonMobil had begun using their cloud platform to develop a whole new customer-facing SpeedPass+ app. The new app allows for secure payments via the IBM cloud, Watson-powered marketing automation, and targeted customer rewards programs that create a unique experience for customers who purchase gasoline at any Exxon station around the globe.
IBM seems to have correctly surmised that their best play in the mobile space is to leave the self-service app realm to companies like Appy Pie and focus instead on high-end development that leverages their recent advances in AI and UX to create robust all-in-one solutions for their customers. With a backend powered by IBM's vast technology infrastructure, apps like Exxon's SpeedPass+ can evolve to include features that would be unmatched by anyone else.
The Turnaround Continues
So far, we've only seen the beginnings of a revival that is almost unheard of in the technology industry. So far, all signs point to an increasing likelihood that IBM will be able to complete a dramatic reinvention of itself that few observers thought possible as recently as a year ago. For the legions of customers, developers, and other IBM devotees around the world that have anxiously debated the company's ultimate fate recently, there's finally a reason to celebrate. For the technically inclined among us, it's also a strong indication that IBM is going to continue to innovate for years to come, and that's great news for the entire tech world.