IBM Corp. is trying to grab more share of the lucrative cloud and mobile markets by merging its software and hardware platforms and providing new turnkey developer tools.
On Monday at IBM Impact 2012 in Las Vegas, the company announced updates to its WebSphere platform, along with the new Virtual Pattern Kit, which allows PureSystems
customers to create their own IT administration and automation patterns to run their data centres or clouds. These patterns are used as schematics to manage IT procedures more efficiently and thus reduce overhead costs.
IBM, along with various ISV partners, already provides more than 125 downloadable patterns for PureSystems. Now its clients will be able to build their own and give them a test run in IBM's SmartCloud.
Marie Wieck, general manager for application and integration middleware at IBM, describes the process as getting "a sandbox on our SmartCloud so that you can explore some of these capabilities directly."
IBM is also providing better links to mobile devices from cloud environments in the form of a new umbrella of software and services it calls the Mobile Foundation. Using a series of upgraded tools, including IBM WebSphere Cast Iron, IBM Worklight and IBM Endpoint Manager, organizations will be able to deliver mobile applications seamlessly in the cloud, IBM says.
"Core applications have been changing," said Wieck, adding that the connection between front-end and back-end is becoming increasingly critical for businesses with cloud platforms that support mobile devices.
"It's not just about creating a sexy mobile app. If you can't connect that app with the rest of your organization, with the rest of your business, and do it at Internet scale and deliver them quickly through the cloud, then you may be left behind."
She said the huge demand from customers for mobile platform development tools was key in convincing IBM to work on creating more user friendly developer tools.
"There isn't a customer or partner that I've talked to today that isn't interested in either extending existing services and capabilities that they have to mobile or creating new, transformative applications and [deploying them] to mobile devices," she said.
The linchpin of IBM's cloud strategy is the new PureSystems platform, and its physical incarnation, the Pure Application System, which the company displayed on stage at Impact. The fridge-sized box combines server blades and storage under one roof. It's designed to be up and running within hours once plugged in, with fully integrated hardware, software and firmware. IBM is touting it as an all-in-one cloud machine for medium to large enterprises.
Andrew Bisson, vice-president of consulting services at Ottawa-based Branham Group Inc., says that the appliance will certainly have appeal for cash- and time-strapped organizations.
"Time to implement is huge," Bisson said. "You see a lot more people talking about that, getting things up and running quicker without huge requirements on IT to get it there."
Meanwhile, Steve Mills, senior vice-president and group executive for software and systems at IBM, dismissed comparisons between PureSystems and appliances built by the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. and Oracle
"The design point" of PureSystems, he said, is "profoundly different" than that of other of competing vendors because of its flexibility. "It is a design point that provides pluggable hardware capability, it's multi-operating system, multi-hypervisor. Customers can customize it to their particular configuration requirements. Vendors can customize it to their configuration requirements," Mills said.
Paul Brunet, vice-president of IBM application and integration middleware, said PureSystems is tailor-made for cloud services.
"When you take a look at what are the attributes that organizations look for when they're trying to look at building a cloud — highly virtualized, standardized, elastic — all those attributes are available within PureSystems," he said.
An analyst at Noel and Associates LLC, Richard Ptak, said PureSystems is a reflection of an era in which "technology fades into the background."
Software, he said, was seen in the past as something that had to be "enslaved" by its underlying hardware. But now, he said, "I think of it more in terms of hardware being controlled by software. And you can now develop your application, and be as creative as you want, as innovative as you want ... and then define hardware automatically to be able to support that application."