In late February 2015, IBM held their first global Interconnect event in Las Vegas. All major software brands were bought together (with analytics in a support role) to highlight the future of IBM from a software perspective. Clearly given the difficult nature of key aspects of the overall business for IBM, Interconnect represented the future if IBM is to be successful, not just software products.
The key strategic take away from capioIT’s perspective was the level to which IBM has embedded cloud, and analytics into every software product and solution that IBM and its (still) often overlooked partners will take to market.
It is clear that when talking cloud, IBM is heavily betting on the hybrid cloud model as the future. Alongside cloud and analytics, mobility (both with, and without, the benefit of the Apple relationship) and security is increasingly embedded in all that IBM will do.
A note on security, IBM needs to make more noise about security. Clearly the overall IBM portfolio is so vast (and often can be cumbersome) that it is not hard for even an offering as deep as security to get overlooked. Expect more attention from IBM towards promoting security capability through 2015 and into 2016.
The most critical enabler for the IBM shift to embed traditional definitions of digital into all that it offers is the acquisition in June, 2013 of SoftLayer. Without underestimating the billions that IBM has historically spent on acquisitions, or more recently, earned through asset disposal, this was the best $2 billion that IBM has invested in several years.
As part of the $1.2B investment in cloud capabilities IBM has significantly increased the number of data centre locations in the 20 months since the acquisition to approximately 40. These have included new nodes in Australia, Canada, India and Italy in 2015. Clearly the IBM localised approach is designed to differentiate from other IaaS and PaaS providers who have taken a more centralised location approach. Despite IBM’s recent struggles with internal scale and complexity, the localised data centre location ability is one area where the scale of IBM provides clear benefits.
The other key investment that IBM is integrating to drive support clients efforts with digital disruption is Bluemix. Bluemix is the IBM PaaS that it has been positioned as “The Digital Innovation Platform”. With a strong IBM focus and investment in the Cloud Foundry, it is driving the Bluemix platform to attract enterprise alignment and developer support
The Bluemix centred engagement between IBM and Citibank has been designed to accelerate Citibank’s ability to compete with new disruptive banking platforms. Citibank also gains the ability to augment an innovative culture within its digital and competitive ecosystem.
The innovation on show from IBM at Interconnect is not a panacea to the ills that have impacted IBM for the past couple of years. Whilst it is arguable that IBM has been countering the decline of the legacy vendor better than cross country rival HP, it is still a company with several challenging elements that will take time to unwind at a level that satisfies the market. For every Watson, (the IBM innovation benchmark) there is a heavily burdened legacy infrastructure outsourcing business and a limitations provided by the failure to address emerging market opportunities eg salesforce.com solutions.
Unfortunately, IBM has still not nailed the partner ecosystem. This aspect needs to be genuinely and mutually enhanced particularly from the software point of view.
Whilst IBM still has to deal with internal and external issues, it is clear that IBM will innovate to drive success. That is the approach that IBM has always attempted and it rarely knows any other way. All it has to go now is to get customers, clients and the ecosystem on board to provide the market with the tools to drive the digital disruption that is the new normal.