IBM InterConnect 2016: IBM and IBM Customers “All In” on Hybrid Cloud

By Jane Clabby, Clabby Analytics

This year’s theme at IBM InterConnect was “Outthink Limits” and business transformation — with hybrid cloud as the innovation platform. According to IBM, 85% of business leaders believe that hybrid cloud is accelerating digital transformation, with hybrid cloud growing faster than the public cloud. The hybrid model allows customers to integrate rather than migrate, extending current investments to extract value. IBM has made significant progress this year, with 100% of relevant software now available in the cloud, 200 new and enhanced cloud services, and eight new SoftLayer data centers.

One of the other messages was “Customer Focus”. Robert LeBlanc described InterConnect 2016 as a conference “for customers and by customers” where attendees had many opportunities to share information and experiences with peers. To that end, each day’s General Session was introduced by a customer. On Day One, Richard Holmes, General Manager Infrastructure and Operations at Westpac (a leading Australian bank) started things off. He shared Westpac’s experience with hybrid cloud (now deployed across 70% of the organization) reporting that he has reduced provisioning times from 84 days to minutes. On Day Two, we heard from MarK Keller, Principal Solutions & Enterprise Architect at WPP Coretech, who described his experience with IBM’s recent acquisition, Cleversafe object storage (more on this later). In addition, half of IBM’s 1500 break-out sessions were led by customers.

At this year’s conference I chose to focus on:

  • Hybrid Cloud
  • IBM Cloud Object Storage (Cleversafe)
  • Application Performance Management

IBM Hybrid Cloud Strategy

According to LeBlanc, IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy offers customer more flexibility. Rather than a “move to cloud”, customers can embrace a cloud strategy in several different ways based on where applications run best, as well as individual business requirements:

  1. Create new cloud applications that may or may not connect to on-premise applications and data
  2. Extend existing applications with cloud-based services
  3. Move existing applications to the cloud using VMs or containers

Across this hybrid cloud infrastructure these are IBM’s guiding principles:

  1. Choice with consistency so that workloads can be matched to the correct platform while still maintaining a common management model;
  2. Hybrid integration so that an application looks and works the same—and in an integrated fashion— regardless of whether it is cloud native or cloud-enabled and/or runs on public or private cloud;
  3. DevOps productivity enabled by tools such as OpenWhisk, Swift, Blockchain and GitHub
  4. Powerful Accessible Data Analytics across the product line to provide business insight
  5. Cognitive Capabilities including self-learning to automate processes and provide proactive management.

IBM announced a new set of services called Cloud Connectors which help developers more easily connect applications and data to the Cloud. These include WebSphere Connect, API Connect, MQ Connect, DataWorks, z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition, and WebSphere Blockchain Connect.

IBM also had several cloud-related partnership announcements:

  • VMwareConsistent with IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy the partnership will enable customers to extend existing workloads, as they are, from an on-premise software-defined data center to the cloud. The jointly designed architecture will enable customers to automatically provision pre-configured VMware SDDC environments including VMware vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN. The solutions will be available as-a-service on the IBM SoftLayer cloud encompassing 45 global IBM Cloud Data Centers globally.
  • Apple – IBM is extending its existing partnership with Apple to bring Swift to the Cloud with a preview of a Swift runtime and a Swift Package Catalog to help enable developers to create apps for the enterprise.
  • GitHub
  • Siemens – Siemens is integrating software from IBM’s Watson IoT Business Unit, including analytics and asset management, into its cloud-based Navigator energy and sustainability management platform in order to jointly develop energy efficiency solutions.




IBM Cloud Object Storage

One of the most exciting announcements at InterConnect 2016 was the new hybrid cloud object storage offering, IBM Cloud Object Storage, that combine Cleversafe technology with the IBM cloud to offer customers hybrid cloud storage-as-a-service through IBM’s SoftLayer data centers. You may recall IBM announced the acquisition of Cleversafe, an object storage and erasure coding vendor, back in October 2015.

IDC estimates that object storage will reach $28 billion in annual revenue by 2018. IDC also predicts that 80% of cloud applications will be big-data intensive. With so many of today’s applications including big data sources such as IoT, multi-media, social, analytics, and cognitive data—managing this data has become a significant challenge for customers in terms of scale, capacity, accessibility and data protection. These new offerings will give customers choice and flexibility— enabling data storage on-premise, in the IBM cloud or in a hybrid fashion. As a result, customers can choose based on cost, location, compliance issues and other considerations, while still having consistency and easy portability across delivery models. The solution is ideal for a range of use cases including video and other multi-media applications, medical imaging, genomic data, and analytics— where large volumes of archive data must be quickly and easily retrieved.

IBM Cloud Object Storage supports both file (through a third-party gateway) and object APIs/interfaces so that businesses can utilize one storage hub for both traditional and web-based applications. The solution is compatible with OpenStack Swift and Amazon Web Services S3 and delivers a full set of RESTful APIs for new application development and integration with cloud services. The Cleversafe software encrypts, expands, slices and disperses data using Information Dispersal Algorithms providing cost-effective advanced data protection.

Integration with IBM Spectrum Scale provides transparent cloud tiering (one use case is as a lower-cost tier that is ideal for high capacity archive data).

IBM Cloud Object Storage services will be available on the IBM Cloud in Q2 in three configurations through a variety of license models including perpetual, subscription or consumption:

  • Nearline provides a cloud infrastructure for infrequently accessed data at a lower cost than other off-premise options making it ideal for archive backup and other cloud-based workloads.
  • Standard provides a higher performance public cloud offering with Amazon S3 API interfaces to be used with applications written to the S3 object storage API
  • Dedicated provides a single tenant IBM Object Storage system running on dedicated servers in IBM data centers and is available as an IBM managed service or as a self-managed cloud solution running on the IBM Cloud. Cloud=based services integrate transparently with on-premise storage.

Cleversafe at Hogarth Worldwide

MarK Keller, Principal Solutions & Enterprise Architect at WPP Coretech selected Cleversafe when he launched Hogarth Worldwide (now owned by WPP) seven years ago. Hogarth provides marketing Implementation services, including all-channel production and language services that localize and deliver broadcast campaigns worldwide. Since all campaigns must be localized across many countries and archived, lots of unstructured data is generated. In fact, Cleversafe has archived all seven years worth of archived broadcast data for its customers.

Hogarth selected Cleversafe because they wanted a non-tape, cost-effective archiving solution. Beyond that, the Cleversafe encryption algorithms enable the company to provide long-term data protection without storing multiple copies of data in multiple locations. Keller estimates that this approach costs 80% less than using traditional storage. In the future, Keller is considering offering storage services to its customers (rather than storing all customer data free-of-charge), using the cloud model to generate new services and additional revenue streams. An analytics-based service is another area the company is evaluating—for example, providing a service to query and analyze data based on certain criteria.

Application Performance Management (APM)

While at InterConnect 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the APM track kick-off, participate in a 1:1 meeting with Arun Biligiri (IBM APM Offering Manager), and attend an APM session hosted by an APM customer. As with the rest of the product line, IBM’s APM strategy is driven by the hybrid cloud guiding principles discussed earlier (choice with consistency, hybrid integration etc.). Seamless portability across the IT landscape using containers has fueled growth in hybrid applications and workloads. IBM APM is able to manage hybrid applications across hybrid cloud infrastructure including on-premise, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

IBM’s philosophy with its performance management suite is to provide the entire range of capabilities including monitoring, transaction tracking, application diagnostics, and real user and synthetic monitoring to serve Development, Operations, and Line-of-Business Managers in mainframe, distributed and public cloud environments.

Self-learning operational analytics— capable of correlating multiple metrics in the context of each other as well as business requirements—generate alerts that enable administrators to provide proactive problem resolution. When problems are identified, recommendations are provided to help the administrator quickly address the issue. In the future, resolution of common problems will be automated based on recommendations. The goal is a seamless user experience across capabilities and environments.

IBM APM highlights:

  1. Middleware monitoring– IBM customers can monitor and manage all IBM middleware environments including IBM MQ, IIB, DataPower, and WebSphere Application Server. IBM APM also monitors and manages a wide range of environments – .NET, LAMP stack, MEAN stack, and more;
  2. z Systems support for APM (beta)- existing investments in OMEGAMON will be integrated into z Systems and middleware into a single hybrid application view
  3. Customizable dashboards– IBM Dashboard Application Services Hub (DASH) provides a set of features to customize the console and build custom dashboards. Dashboards can be easily tailored to present relevant information for specific individuals and organizational roles using DASH ; and
  4. IBM Cloud Marketplace – the IBM Cloud marketplace is a central hub for learning about and purchasing all IBM and partner cloud services (including IBM Performance Management solutions) and will replace IBM Service Engage; and
  5. Easy Upgrade from v6/v7 to v8 – IBM is offering a “business as usual” pathway to v8 APM including (1) Use v8 to monitor new apps while coexisting with existing ITM environments (2)Upgrade server infrastructure to v8 and continue to use ITM v6 (3)Leverage APM v8 with gradual upgrade and complete transition
  6. IBM Monitoring on Bluemix – A Bluemix integrated monitoring solution to manage applications was introduced as an experimental service with the expectation that this service will manage all Bluemix workloads out of the box during this year.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Deepam Shah, Systems Management Specialist, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank shared his experience with IBM APM. As “Australia’s Customers Connected Bank”, Shah is focused on providing the best possible customer experience through highly available, high performing applications. IBM APM is a key part of the company’s digital transformation and a move to the hybrid cloud. Today, the bank is using IBM Tivoli Monitoring and Netcool but they are moving toward IBM APM, IBM Netcool Operations Insights and IBM Operations Analytics Log Analysis, both on-premise and in the cloud. They plan use IBM DASH to create a dashboard console that will enable them to monitor any bank service form a single console and display both real-time and historical information.

Summary Observations

I was particularly pleased to see that IBM’s messages around hybrid cloud were consistent across General Sessions, Thought Leadership sessions, analyst one-on-ones and break-out sessions—including those led by customers. This year I think IBM did a particularly good job articulating both the high-level strategy as well as the specifics across product lines.

With the announcement of IBM Object Cloud Storage, IBM has strengthened its hybrid cloud offering in a direction where the market is experiencing rapid growth—Big Data. This announcement enables IBM to compete in a differentiated way with Amazon and Google public clouds. The hybrid approach offers customers flexibility and choice, and provides the ability to garner more value from existing applications and infrastructure. Hogarth Worldwide is a great example of a Cleversafe customer who is considering hybrid cloud and IBM analytics as a way to provide new services to its customers through new business models.

IBM’s APM is another great “hybrid” example, with its ability to be purchased on-premise or as-a-service with unified management through a single console, while managing applications across end-to-end hybrid cloud infrastructure. New features and enhancements (middleware support, synthetic monitoring) fill gaps so customers have no need to adopt multiple APM solutions.

Last but not least Watson analytics and Cognitive Computing continue to be a differentiator for IBM, with capabilities “baked in” to many solutions across the product line— from BlueMix to Storage to IoT to IT Service Management.

InterConnect is billed as the “The Premier Cloud and Mobile Conference”, but with IBM infusing the entire product line with hybrid cloud, the 23,000 attendees had an opportunity to focus on a wide variety of topics and tracks —as well as hear from many IBM customers across the globe. I look forward to the IBM Edge event in Las Vegas in September 2016.




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