LAS VEGAS – The cloud is the centre of attention at IBM’s annual Pulse conference, which highlights its latest products and strategies for making everything-as-a-service.
Interestingly, there’s only a little light being shone on a IBM product that 40 per cent of attendee organizations have bought and which just became available as a software as a service version – the Maximo Asset Management suite.
The SaaS version was quietly announced Feb. 11. In an interview here Dave Gasdia, senior manager of Maximo product management acknowledged that this conference is being used to introduce customers to the online version.
Maximo is used by companies with lots of physical assets to oversee, include those in the energy, transportation and manufacturing sectors. IBM offers five industry-specific solutions built on top of Maximo, and a number of IBM partners – including several Canadian independent software vendors here – make plug-ins that offer extended functions, such as managing the time of trades people who look after assets.
“Maximo helps organizations put processes in place to ensure asset uptime, and, ideally, help reduce costs, says Gasdia.
Maximo comes under what used to be called the Tivoli Software division of IBM, now branded Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure products (CSI).
Gradually these on-premise software applications like Application Performance Management (APM) and IT service management are being made into SaaS offerings, part of IBM’s strategy to put as many as its products into the cloud as possible.
The difference is that unlike most other CSI products, which are IT infrastructure management apps, Maximo is an enterprise suite.
Maximo Asset Management SaaS is the first step into the cloud for the application, offering base functionality plus mobile connectivity that users of the on-premise version pay extra for. Hosted by IBM’s recently acquired SoftLayer infrastructure as a service division, organizations pay a per user per month fee. There is an optional scheduling tool add-on.
However the industry solutions IBM makes aren’t yet offered in the cloud. Gasdia suggests that may not be a problem because most customers use the base version because it meets the bulk of their requirements.
As a new offering, Gasdia said his until still has a lot to learn about running Massimo as a SaaS model, including onboarding customers smoothly and meeting service level agreements of 99.8 uptime before looking how far they can take it.
A hybrid hosted version called Maximo Inventory Insights which will work with the on-prem version of the suite, will be launched shortly.
One question is whether customers want it. Gasdia notes that while there’s been “a ton of interest” in it most at the conference have invested in the on-prem version. However IBM will be offering “step-up” pricing as a lure. And it will suggest that the SaaS version will appeal to companies who gain new branches or divisions through acquisition and would find it cost-effective to go cloud than buy more licences.
Mario Boileau, CEO of Ottawa’s Solufy Information Technologies, which makes the AKwire planning and scheduling plug-in for the on-prem version of Maximo, said in an interview here that “it’s not about the cloud –yet,” he said.
Customers don’t talk to him about cloud-enabling his solution, he said, or about the SaaS version of the suite. On the other hand he admitted that might be because Solufy doesn’t resell the on-prem version.
On the other hand, John Simich, channel manager of Hamilton, Ont.’s Viziya, which makes a number of Maximo add-ons, said in an interview here the company offers an analytics module as a cloud service. A number of companies don’t want to pay for the servers and software needed to run business intelligence applications, he explained.
One enthusiast here for Maximo SaaS is Mike Popovic, general manager of asset management solutions at Bell Canada’s Createch solutions division, which offers Maximo as a hosted service in addition to offering several plug-ins.
He said there is “lots of interest” in the SasS version. Last year a few customers were “kicking the tires” on the idea, while this year Createch is talking to three companies about Maximo who are “leaning” towards the cloud version.