IBM aims to attract startup customers with BlueMix

LAS VEGASIBM Corp. is in a race to appeal to startups – and on Monday, it made a slew of announcements about its updates to its cloud and mobile development products to bring startup developers on board.

During the IBM Impact conference here the company — traditionally known for catering to the enterprise — showed it is now focusing on bringing startups into the fold. It announced an update to BlueMix, a cloud platform allowing developers to code apps, QA test them, get feedback on their performance, and tweak them accordingly.

First announced at IBM Pulse in February, the updates to BlueMix should help developers dramatically speed up their programming time, said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice-president of IBM’s software and cloud solutions group.

“Don’t underestimate the power of [developer operations] and the ability to control the development process from end to end. So I can build, I can iterate and I can push out these new capabilities very, very quickly,” he said during a press conference.

“When you go into some of the other cloud providers, you’re having to stitch all of that together. And what we’ve been focusing in on is doing that stitching for the developer … If the developer spends time just configuring, that’s not time they’re spending innovating.”

To kick off the updates to its platform, IBM will also be launching a series of BlueMix garages to train developers on using the platform to build their businesses, with the first one based in San Francisco.

Along with BlueMix, IBM has also updated its Worklight platform, integrating it with BlueMix to help developers scale up their solutions. IBM recently helped a Chinese customer with selling millions of tickets online during a festival – a task that has traditionally put too much of a strain on event and ticketing startups used to dealing with a much smaller number of customers visiting their site at one time.

“This is a mobile-first world. Developers need the tools to write once and deploy on any device,” said Ray Wang, an analyst with Constellation Research Inc., in an email.

“This means app [development], testing, device management, security, performance, and upgrades all need to be unified. From the demos we’ve seen, IBM’s made it a lot easier to do this in BlueMix.”

Besides BlueMix, IBM also a Cloud Marketplace, which pulls information for software-as-a-service or infrastructure-as-a-service solutions into one set of pages. However, the information isn’t limited to IBM’s products. It also shows third-party solutions, giving buyers the information they need based on the area they work in – line of business, development, or IT administration.

However, IBM was careful to stress it’s not trying to silo its toolsets. Instead, it’s pushing BlueMix, Cloud Marketplace, and its other products and services as leveraging mobile, big data, and the cloud all at the same time.

That being said, in its bid to attract startups to its platform, IBM is facing some stiff competition in the form of Amazon Web Services and other cloud providers. And while spokespeople said it doesn’t aim to compete based on pricing, it will be pushing its reputation for security and privacy – and time will tell if that gets startups interested.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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