IBM is going after Google and Amazon’s mobile and Web app development strategies

LAS VEGAS — For many organizations, cloud computing means software or infrastructure as a service

IBM Corp. wants to add a new category: application development in the cloud. In doing so it is going after Google and Amazon’s mobile and Web app development strategies.

At its Pulse conference here, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced a number of new services to make it easier for IT departments to develop and manage applications in the cloud which can tie into on-premise data sources. The announcements are part of IBM’s continuing strategy to bring most of its cloud and services products to the cloud.

They include:

– BlueMix, a cloud platform for developers to reduce the time to create and provision – applications. It’s built on the Cloud Foundry platform, which until now had been a private project headed by EMC spinoff Pivotal, but has become run by the new open source Cloud Foundry Foundation, backed by IBM, HP, SAP and others. IBM has added its own technology to BlueMix to create a set of comprehensive DevOs services that makes programmers more efficient.

Line of businesses could also create apps without technical know-how, says IBM, because developers can use any programming language.

Mobile services available include access to big data, analytics, in-memory services and Hadoop.

Apps created in BlueMix can tie into an organization’s on-premise data.

– To augment BlueMix IBM is buying Cloudant, a privately held NoSQL database-as-a-service (DBaaS) provider that enables developers to easily create mobile and web apps. It stores data of any structure as self-describing JSON documents,

It includes built in replication and synchronization for disaster recovery and high availability for pushing data;

– $1 billion to expand IBM’s SoftLayer divison, a cloud infrastructure as a service platform for deploying applications and used to host services as varied as DropBox, What’sApp and Tumblr. The money will be used to expand SoftLayer’s data centers around the world to 40 from 13 to make it easier for customers to access the service.

In an interview SoftLayer CEO Lance Crosby said that IBM’s cloud strategy has to be thought of in layers, with his company offering IaaS, BlueMix as PaaS, plus IBM’s software as a service products. The idea is to tie them together.

SoftLayer is the foundation, BlueMix allows middleware and enterprise apps to be brought to SoftLayer, and the IBM SaaS apps will soon run on SoftLayer as well. “The goal is by the end of the year an IBM customer will be able to see a cloud services portfolio of infrastructure, SaaS and PaaS (offered by us), and that includes hundreds of properties. It will all be consumable, API-driven, by the month, by the hour, by the seat worldwide, and they’ll be able to pick and choose whatever you want and put it together.”

“You can buy solutions directly from us that we create or you can build your own solutions.”

The BlueMix platform – still in beta — is a big move, Stuart Williams, vice-president of research at Technogy Business Research of Hampton, N.H., said in an interview. “It’s an extremely significant broadening of the open source horizon for the developer. Now we have a solid tool that has been used in the market place and been open sourced.”

IBM has also added its Systems Management as a service, will allows IT departments to manage workloads at the same time. So, Williams said, organizations can develop quickly, deploy in a scalable way on IBM cloud assets, and then manage those assets in a hybrid cloud environment.

“Amazon is the gold standard with developers,” he said, because of its tools and APIs for cloud developers, who are building apps for Amazon Web Services (AWS). Google App Engine is also being used to embed Google APIs in apps.“But IBM is making a serious challenge to that with these new tools and integrations. They are courting that (developer) community very, very powerfully with events like this.”

The Cloudant acquisition is important because data and data management is a big component is what is needed to have an app run in the cloud, he said. “This is a stepping stone for IBM to add that type of a service.”

Wayne Pauley, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, noted that IBM is attacking IaaS, PaaS and SaaS with the announcements. “With BlueMix the PaaS story has gotten much stronger. I like the notion of it being a service catalogue-like experience but still delivering an app marketplace. So it builds that bridge between infrastructure and software as a service.”

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