Having started my career as an IBM’er in the days when Mainframe was king and OS/2 was the future it is exciting to revisit and explore how IBM has revitalised and aligned itself to the Cloudified world and set the foundation to lead as a powerhouse in this new world order. At Think London, IBM enthused the audience with its positioning of Cloud Chapter 2 of the digital transformation industry lifecycle.
It was not so long ago that cloud for many represented hosting an application as a co-locate in someone else’s data centre, which rapidly accelerated to lift and shift to the many public cloud offering. This advanced to realisation that the maximum benefit would come from a true re-platforming to the public cloud to maximise compute capabilities at scale. Compounding this are technology vendors who themselves are re-platforming, moving their SaaS offerings from their own hosted data centres to the public cloud platforms available to them with greater more affordable compute.
Multi-cloud is not a new phrase but is one that many either play lip service to in delivery or have found their current approaches limiting the flexibility they once expected of a true Multi-cloud environment. Where is the promised land of easy to shift when required and to mix cloud platforms freely without limitations of cost and development. The Multi-cloud enables an organisation to distribute workloads across multiple cloud environments, mitigating single cloud risks and gaining a bigger return for investment.
We are now at the stage where the easy workloads have in the majority been shifted, representing an estimated 20% of compute having been moved across. We now enter the next phase. where the harder workloads will be migrated, those that will likely bring the most advantage to the business and the customer in being cloudified. This shift represents more than a simple technology change and will lead to new ways of working, the time when we shall see the reaping of the optimal benefits of cloud compute.
IDC stated that by 2020 50% of organisations will be digitally determined or digitally destressed. We have seen a continued disruption of the traditional organisations with many large brand names struggling, restricting, being acquired or simply going out of business through digital distress. They simply have not adjusted to the persona needs of their customer in delivering an omni-channel digital experience. Those lacking effective digitisation with speed will risk their business legacy being marginalised or totally disrupted. Technology and its affordability is no longer the barrier; the willingness, capability and effectiveness of the change journey will be the determining factors for future success. The challenge facing most businesses now, comes from selection of the right cloud for the right compute need and reducing the risk that a selection now will provide a restrictive future lock in commitment!
We have already seen the enterprise business customers realisation of the challenges of public cloud; sometimes hidden costs, errors in platform selection and the real-world challenges of attempting to standardise on a single cloud brand despite intentions. Many set their stalls for example to be an Azure house, to latter discover instances of other cloud compute such as AWS appearing through the ’Bring Your Own Cloud’ Shadow IT effect. Dispersed departments with departmental needs and localised budgets taking their own action and spins ups, because they now can! The flexibility, affordability and speed of cloud provisioning delivering its own problem of a hidden cloud of compute power across a dispersed organisation.
Supplementing this is the driver of application level compute demands, application selections driving the underlying platform, much like we experienced in the good ole’ days when organisations found themselves with mixed UNIX, Novell Netware, Lan Manager, NT, VM etc environments, driven by the applications selected and the operating systems required to run them. Mixed Hybrid and Multi-cloud environments have become the norm, not by design, but by osmosis. We must accept that it is a multi-cloud world that we will exist in and that the luxury to select one singular public cloud platform now and for the future is an assumed expectation, that perhaps we do not need to or can contend with.
The right cloud for a specific application is determined by individual discrete metrics for that app with different app vendors offering varying integration levels for different platforms with different capabilities. This makes it near impossible to utilise one cloud platform across applications and not be restricted in the app choice available to you not to predict which platform will be most appropriate down the line.
Multi-cloud is a must as we progress forwards in a world where digital and 1st to market will increasingly distance the have and have nots. The digital customer is demanding more of all providers and the consumer will expect agility from their provider or simply have freedom of choice of those who deliver. Multi-clouds have the ability to offer great flexibility however challenges of compliance, skill sets, development specifics, monitoring and security still remain as factors to overcome.
The Cloud, the network and IT services are converging, Hybrid / Multi-cloud is becoming the norm and a high % of workloads are still on premise. With these in mind it is critical that any cloud transformation accommodates co-existence, flexibility and portability. Taking that many customers have already experienced false starts to cloud transformations, been challenged with platform decisions and discovered their place in a multi-cloud world what is IBM positioning as different particularly and around its acquisition of Red Hat?
The panacea would be an agnostic public cloud capability, openness and portability at the platform level with secure and easy to manage and integrate building blocks. This is where the RedHat Openshift strategy unlocks a customer’s cloud journey. Excitingly it promises the Chapter 2 of cloud; to deliver on the original promises and expectations that most had of these cloud platforms. The IaaS and PaaS worlds are dominated by the MAGic three (Microsoft, Amazon, Google) in terms of scale and all deliver different values, datacentre locations and reasons for selection. With this in mind for the customer having the capability to re-platform an application in a manner that enables easy choice of portability between these compute offerings now or in the future makes complete sense.
This is where I learnt of the smart and obvious reasoning behind the IBM acquisition and strategy to progress Red Hat as a separate market entity. RedHat Openshift is focused on those valuing future agnosticism as an advantage. It allows containerisation of applications, a build once run anywhere mantra, allowing an organisation to remain neutral from any lock in to a specific public cloud offering.; to go all in on one knowing an easy change in the future is reserved or to approach now with neutrality and mix environments safely. Taking that 44% of global cloud containers are currently already in Openshift this is not a new unproven concept, but one coming from a proven and strong foundation.
IBM has a strategy underpinning this to deliver Cloud Paks, pre-containerised packages designed to fast track applications to the Openshift world. Giving a customer an application that can take the benefit of any of the public cloud offerings rapidly and allow switching when/if required. With the range of these Cloud Paks extending rapidly and support for Openshift itself coming from an ever-expansive world of open developers are we set to see the cloud panacea come to fruition, not from a specific big brand public cloud offering, but from a stable of Neutrality being RedHat under the IBM banner.
These cloud Paks empower applications to benefit from multi-cloud openness, hybridity whilst being easily managed and secure. They deliver a middle-ware layer to remove the pain normally expected from building and orchestrating workloads across multiple containers. The outcome being that you benefit from a consistency for management of application, event, security and infrastructure across multi-cloud environments. These Paks are an important part of the value IBM is bringing to the multi-cloud customer, with a range already available and more on the way, think of it as IBM doing the heavy lifting for you to get your applications into a multiload world without traditional vendor lock in.
You as the client can now decide where you want the application to go in the cloud knowing you can change your mind if/when needed. This choice and future proofing will provide an attractive offering to those who have already experienced or have concern about platform vendor lock in. An irony that the historic brand known for tie in’s of the 70’, IBM, will in the cloud world be the conduit to protect the customer from tie in to 3rd party public cloud offerings.
Another hidden Gem from the IBM cloud stable is IBM Multi-cloud manager, a way to manage your plethora of openshift world applications, being to OpenShift what Vcentre was to VMware. Combine this technology stack offering that positions customers as the winners and the big cloud compute providers as ongoing optional servants with IBM’s transformation services such as IBM Garage offering the transforming methodology and partnership shall we see IBM refreshing its client value and how it
Speaking to the team at IBM Garage it was interesting to hear stories of how they are helping customers already progressed on their cloud journeys to revitalise and re-align what a good transformation looks like and to maximise the investment and design the future of their infrastructure. I have been engaged with many clients over my 13+ years in cloud who have had to backtrack from lessons learnt, who have come to realisations of true costs, complexities and tie-ins of public cloud platforms only when already progressed down the journey. IBM Garage alongside Openshift is set to help such clients to progress quickly, containerising and protecting from going down the rabbit hole of many a cloud project whilst remaining agile to change and corrective paths as needs and technologies change.
In an era where time to market and achieving agility are determinations of value, building for these by design is a smart move and sets the foundation for the cloud path IBM has laid out. This smart approach allows a business to exploit the best of breed public cloud offerings from the driving seat. We have moved beyond how to do cloud to a time of how to maximise short- and long-term value from selecting the right cloud at the right time.
For many the promise of cloud was openness, portability, freedom of choice, removed lock-in, easy to switch and decreasing compute costs. IBM with RedHat Openshift promises to open this promised land up to the masses as public cloud compute continues to grow exponentially from the big 3.