Rishidot Research was represented in IBM Think 2018 conference and this is a conference trip report on what we observed from the conference. This is the first time, IBM has united many of their conferences under one title and have a more unified messaging as a company. Not only they have streamlined their messaging, they have also brought their services teams under one banner, IBM Services. In this blog post, we are going to offer our quick analysis based on the content in the conference.
IBM Services driving Multi Cloud
The biggest shift I observed, probably due to the fact that I had a chance to talk to executives from IBM services in this event, is IBM talking about multi cloud. Well, IBM Cloud is not going away anywhere and it is still the only push from their product side but IBM Services division is going beyond IBM cloud to support other clouds such as AWS, Azure, etc., along with IBM Cloud. It is a strategic move to make IBM Services more relevant as AWS and Azure are gaining significant traction among the enterprises. It is too early to predict if this will impact IBM Cloud sales or help them sneak more IBM Cloud into their customers but, at this point, IBM Services is talking multi cloud.
Finally, an unified story across Modern Enterprise stack
IBM is pushing their cloud hard than ever before. Even though it is mostly IBM Cloud Private, this is the first time I heard a more consistent hybrid cloud story. They have moved away from OpenStack (completely) and CloudFoundry (for the most part) and building a good hybrid cloud story using Kubernetes. Both he product team and services team seem to be quite excited about the opportunity Kubernetes offers them. Kubernetes on Bare Metal as a service is a step in the right direction. Unlike OpenStack and, to some extent, CloudFoundry, Kubernetes gives IBM a chance to have a more unified story from their infrastructure assets to middleware assets. Their “One Cloud Architecture” push is directed in this direction and helps IBM tell a consistent story across their entire portfolio.
IBM is using their cloud as a canvas to weave Watson more naturally than what they have done in the past. Instead of pushing Watson as a standalone investment to get AI magical powers, they are weaving Watson in such a way that AI transcends many layers of the stack and goes all the way to their Services division. This is a more coherent AI story than anytime in the past.
They also showcased customers using Blockchain and it is very easy to see how hyper ledgers are going to transform business processes across multiple verticals. Blockchain as a protocol is critical to absorb many of the business processes into our software driven everything mantra. From that angle, IBM, as a leader in the legacy world with insights into business across multiple verticals, is well positioned to bring Blockchain into the Modern Enterprise stack. But it is still early stages and the noise around Blockchain is heavily corrupted due to Bitcoin and other crypto currency. Instead of marketing the distributed nature of Blockchain, if vendors talk about how Blockchain enables the digitization of many (otherwise physical and human) business processes, we can have better conversations around Blockchain. Let us see how IBM takes it forward.
Having said that, I would say that IBM has to execute on this. They finally managed to get their act together on messaging and now it is execution time. Here are some of my expectations with IBM as they try to keep themselves relevant in the Modern Enterprise era.
- Understand that that developers drive the innovation and make their products and services developer friendly. I still see more suits in IBM conference than the kind of attire you get used in developer centric conferences including AWS Reinvent. Unless IBM gets into the heart of developers, it is going to be tough for them. Sales has limited hold in the modern enterprise era and IBM cannot (and should not) rely only on their sales as they transform themselves for the new economy
- They need to double down on their public cloud investments. With a proper container strategy and a reasonably good Serverless offerings, they can use public cloud as a way to lure next-gen developers. I get a feeling that IBM Cloud Public is a second class citizen in front of IBM Cloud Private
- IBM has to spend marketing resources getting developers excited about Blockchain. Unless there is a large-scale developer attention, Blockchain will continue to be in the sidelines. IBM should show the world that Blockchain arms software driven world with a software based trust relationship and showcase interesting developer centric use cases
As a part of my research on Serverless, I talked with IBM Functions team and I have to say that IBM Functions is one of the under appreciated services in the Functions as a Service category. Not only their service is more flexible to meet developer needs than, say, AWS Lambda, it is a production use case for OpenWhisk. IBM Functions team takes the code from OpenWhisk master repository and pushes into their pipeline before it is deployed into the production. I find this exciting because this is a good way to showcase any open source software. If your public cloud service is built directly from the master repo of the underlying OSS, it will serve as a great validation for the open source project.
Disclosure: IBM paid for my travel and stay