Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Kevin Benedict, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Craig Lowell, AppNeta Blog

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

SoftLayer – IBM's New Quarterback for the Cloud

SoftLayer has a lot to offer for IBM and IBM seems to appreciate the new capabilities and innovations

What typically happens to smaller firms when they are being eaten up by mega-companies like IBM seems pretty obvious - they go to the dogs. Key executives will leave the team, product roadmaps will lose their binding character and strategy will get fuzzy due to the sheer magnitude of the organization and its inherent complexity. But not so with SoftLayer / IBM.

It has become obvious over the past 6 months that IBM's senior management had more in mind than a pure opportunistic acquisition when they bought hosting firm SoftLayer in the summer of 2013 for 2 billion USD. Eric Clementi who was among the early cloud advocates within IBM has made a strategic bet that will enable IBM to regain its position as one of the key cloud leaders in the market over the next 2-3 years.

SoftLayer - IBM´s New Strategic Asset
IBM has officially dedicated over 1.2 billion USD in additional investments to its new cloud data center infrastructure. That makes roughly 80-100 million USD for each of the 15 newly planned data center locations (15 new DCs adding to 13 SoftLayer and 15 IBM data centers) that will cover all geographic regions. Although IBM has tremendous in-house expertise when it comes to building and operating data center facilities, the new cloud data centers will follow the blueprint of SoftLayer. Why's that?

As a typical hosting provider SoftLayer not only commands a highly scalable data center architecture with over 80,000 running servers, it is foremost a highly cost-efficient data center operations and broad set of services that makes it attractive for IBM to switch platforms from its own IBM SmartCloud to the SoftLayer platform. What SoftLayer also brings to the table is a substantial revenue share. Crisp Research estimates the annual revenue for 2013 to be around 520 million USD. Given the new investments and the IBM brand as a backing for enterprise deals - 2014 revenue can easily be around 600 million up to 1 billion USD.

Within a positive market scenario the new IBM/SoftLayer business unit is likely to surpass 4 billion USD in revenue within the next 5 years and thereby contributing up to 10% of IBM GTS revenue by the end of 2018.

SoftLayer to Become IBM's Prime Cloud Delivery Platform
But this is only possible if IBM will stick to its current roadmap and make SoftLayer the prime cloud delivery platform for its new SaaS and PaaS offerings. As of today IBM plans to make most of its software portfolio accessible as cloud services - within shared, hybrid and private cloud environments. For example, the CloudFoundry-based IBM Bluemix-offerings (PaaS) is already being hosted on the SoftLayer platform. The same will happen to new collaboration services (e.g., Connect), infrastructure management solutions and even "Watson"-based analytics services.

There is even more evidence that IBM is getting down to business with SoftLayer. Relatively unnoticed IBM has migrated hundreds of customers from its SmartCloud to the SoftLayer platform over the past 5 months. It could be said that this was one of the largest cloud migrations (vendor-to-vendor) - by the number of clients - but not in terms of capacity. Most of the workloads were "under the radar" applications.

The IBM SmartCloud has been never been more than a stepchild in IBM's overall strategy. The platform was not capable of handling thousands of agile and scalable web workloads in a competitive operations model. Thereby the IBM senior management team has come to the right decision - let SoftLayer grow - shut SmartCloud down.

Bare Metal Cloud Hosting - The Secret Sauce in the IaaS Market?

Over the past 5 years the cloud market has come a long way in terms of technical maturity and overall adoption. What vendors and CIOs both learned alike is that there is a clear demand for different types of cloud infrastructure services. One-size-fits all virtual machines are not the right solution for all customers. Workloads have highly differentiated characteristics. Especially for advanced workloads "dedicated performance" instead of mellow SLAs can help customers sleep better. Business cases vary in terms of flexibility and cost. As more and more workloads are migrated toward the cloud, "cost prediction" becomes key to numerous CIOs and CTOs. To cover baseline infrastructure capacity, reserved resources (e.g., bare metal or dedicated VMs) help to save budget. These savings can be allocated to innovative projects or to cover "peak" capacity.

The market for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is still under development and covers a large spectrum of providers and delivery models. It ranges from the large public cloud platform providers AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure, which offer mainly standardized services, to the classical managed service providers with their private cloud offerings. That gap is being bridged by a small number of hosting firms that have transformed their portfolio in the direction of cloud. SoftLayer is among the group of Host Europe Group, OVH, Rackspace, et al, that combines agility, dedicated performance and cost predictability in the right balance with solid support operations. Looking at the growth numbers delivered by this peer group over the last few years we can reason that the "cloud hosting" model has a huge fan base in the market. This is mainly true for SMB customers, eCommerce firms and part of the startup world.

Remaining Questions and Outlook
SoftLayer has a lot to offer for IBM and IBM seems to appreciate the new capabilities and innovations. But some strategic questions are not answered yet. For example: How does the SoftLayer hosting business fits with the IBM high-margin model in the long run? Even when IBM is able to drag enterprise customers (who are willing to pay more for dedicated compute power then for virtual compute power) onto its new platform the IaaS business will not have the same margins like the mainframe business.

One next question relates to IBM´s plan to migrate its entire software portfolio to the cloud ("SaaS First"). The ambitious growth plan for SoftLayer will only pay off if the migration and go-to-market for the different software solutions is successful and well communicated. Currently it is not quite clear which of the hundreds of software solutions are able to run in the cloud and which of them will be migrated first.

But the most important question is: Will IBM stick to its plan? From the perspective of Crisp Research there is no way out. After the current announcements customers are betting on IBM SoftLayer. SmartCloud is not a trusted platform any longer and will go to the dead pool. IBM´s current activities look very promising. But competition is fierce. Rich Miller estimated a whopping 7.3 billion USD that were spend by Google in 2013 to expand its data center and network capacity (up from 3.2 billion USD in 2012).

With SoftLayer as its new cloud quarterback IBM is back in the game. The next 12-18 month will show, if AWS, Microsoft and Google will get serious competition in the cloud capacity game where "economies of scale" dictate the rules.

More Stories By Carlo Velten

Dr. Carlo Velten is founding partner and managing director of ITresearch and advisory firm Crisp Research. As senior analyst Carlo oversees the research and advisory initiatives at Crisp Research. Carlo is a seasoned industry expert with over 15 years of working experience as IT analyst. He helped numerous leading companies to transform their enterprise IT-platforms into agile cloud-based environments. He also advises large tech vendors regarding strategy, business model transformation and marketing excellence.

Before starting Crisp Research he was senior advisor and board member at European IT research firm Experton Group where he co-led the “Cloud Computing & Innovation Practice“. Prior to that he was the senior analyst at German research firm TechConsult. Carlo is a well-known speaker and moderator at industry events and contributing editor at Computerwoche and CIO magazine. He is a judging panel member for the “Best in Cloud Awards” of IDG and long-term research partner of tech association BITKOM.

Carlo holds a M.Sc. and PhD. in venture capital. He was research fellow at San José State University, CA. and partner at transatlantic venture firm GENES Ventures. Carlo serves as board member for the Managerkreis - a well-known think tank of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation based in Berlin.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web ...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, will share examples from a wide range of industries – includin...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effici...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, provided an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data professionals...
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Onalytica. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.