IBM is moving as fast as it can into cloud computing, trying to woo startups from Silicon Valley to London in the hope that young born-to-cloud companies will use its technology as opposed to it’s competitors like Amazon Web Services.
Last week, the company launched BlueMix Garage at London’s Level39 accelerator to foster collaboration between startups and IBM tech engineers. IBM launched the inaugural BlueMix Garage in San Francisco in April. BlueMix is the company’s Cloud Foundry-based Platform. IBM revealed under a new program that qualifying startups could get up to $120,000 in credits towards the use of IBM SoftLayer, BlueMix PaaS and associated products. That amount is $20,000 more than Google has put up; and significantly higher than the $25,000 in credits AWS offers. IBM has to offer more because it still lacks the mind share and market share of market leader AWS. IBM is in virtually every enterprise account in the universe in some form — so those companies will likely at least give SoftLayer/BlueMix a look. But even those companies have developers who know about AWS and many of those new corporate applications are being tested out there by default.
In my opinion, the biggest worry that I would worry about as a startup founder evaluating IBM would be about SoftLayer. It is great as long as its management — IBM cloud chief and former SoftLayer CEO Lance Crosby et al — are still steering the ship. And provided they have the full commitment of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. The worries start to creep in when you start thinking long term. Given how important cloud is to IBM I would assume that group — as opposed to IBM’s old guard — will get what it needs. But how long will those people who are accustomed to the fast pace of cloud be willing to stick around IBM, is something we can’t really be sure about.
Analysts are bullish about this venture, which they’ve characterized as a genuine PaaS — OEM’d Cloud Foundry; integrated with other IBM products and running on SoftLayer. “There is a huge SoftLayer startup system and IBM is loving on it,” say Carl Brooks.
Free cloud is always a good incentive for startups. The road ahead seems rocky and unlear for IBM. Amazon is showing no sign of slowing down. Google and Microsoft are burning money on their cloud facilities to make them better. It’s unclear if IBM has that luxury.
To get a clearer picture of IBM’s cloud picture and plans, here’s Lance Crosby’s talk on the same at Structure 2014.