We had the opportunity to attend IBM’s Interconnect conference happening in Las Vegas this week. The conference is a combination of the former Interconnect, the developer conference Pulse and the former Rational user conference. With over 25k attendees the conference was high in demand, spanning across the Mandalay Bay and MGM properties. 


For the top takeaways – check out my video – take a look:

If you have no chance to watch – read on:

The ‘Connect’ Offering group – IBM – as many other vendors recently (see Microsoft and of course Oracle), want their customers to leverage existing investment on premises in products tool and know-how and connect (pun intended) with the cloud offerings. IBM has been re-using a number of existing capabilities (e.g. Dataworks) and building new ones to enable this strategy option. When one considers, as I learnt on my question to Robert LeBlanc, that there are over 200M WebSphere instances out there – there is a lot of investment to protect and tap into.

The VMware partnership – No surprising partnership, LeBlanc and Eschenbach laughed when I asked them what took them so long (likely VMware had to make some progress on the SDDC offerings) – but this is a win / win / win partnership for customers, and both vendors. Customers get (finally) a global, single SLA, single bill if they want to move VMware loads to the cloud, VMware gets that outlet beyond its fragmented partner system and IBM gets load (more below).

New programming model with Whisk – Next generation applications require new constructs in regards of how software is being built, key qualities being light weight, declarative, portable and not being charged for putting them in place, but only when they are used. Whisk is now IBM’s answer to similar programming models like AWS’ Lambda, though it deploys differently across products. But the qualities are the same – provide lightweight rules to cloud services at no cost, and only pay when they are being utilized. A key capability.

Analyst Tidbits

A lot of additional interesting areas of innovation:

Blockchain – IBM has been doing work (as featured also at the Open Technology Summit on Sunday – see a Storify here). IBM is early among all the technology vendors, but given the exposure to the financial sector – not really a surprises. IBM will also allow on premises WebSphere instances to utilize Blockchain implementations on the web, an interesting capability making Blockchain ‘hybrid’.

BlueMix and Github – Making it easier to publish, find and reuse code artefacts is a key capability for all PaaS platform, the partnership with Github gives BlueMix users now better access to Github, a good move.

Watson gets ‘human’ – Watson has received new APIs, which allow the cognitive platform to understand visual expressions, sense emotions and interpret the tone of a human voice. Important advances for making Watson interact with humans, something that IBM has always wanted and now finally – (earlier implementations have e.g. been Wipro Holmes) available.

Swift on the server / in the cloud - A lot of room was given to Swift, Apple’s new mobile development language in the Monday keynote. IBM is extending Swift to make it run on the server side, which was also called the ‘cloud’ side. And IBM is not totally naïve on this – as it is building its 100+ mobile applications with / for Apple. Enterprise applications usually need a server side and to be able to use one programming language is of value, though we need to see how the overall adoption of Swift will be. It makes sense for IBM given the Apple parnership - but in general I think the days of mobile OS centric development platforms are counted.

Object Storage – This form of storage is crucial for next generation applications and IBM has acquired Cleversafe with that capability. Now Cleversafe and enhancements run on the IBM Cloud (aka SoftLayer) with a number of useful enhancements.

Siemens choses Watson IoT – The large customer announcement on Monday was that Siemens Building Technologies has chosen IBM to build its IoT platform. Cognitive capabilities were key according to CEO Matthias Rebellius. Two mini take aways: It once again confirms Europe leads in IoT, high price and quality manufacturer there need an IoT strategy and are choosing North American technology vendors for it (who is left in Europe in that category?). And it’s key for IBM to get same and similar decisions with customers in order to create more load for IBM cloud.


Overall a good conference for IBM customers, who can clearly see how IBM is helping them to leverage the on premises assets, during their journey to more cloud. As we know cloud is no longer an If? but a When? question for enterprises, so it’s good to see IBM is there to assist... If executed right the Connect offerings will be of huge value helping enterprises to move to the cloud. The VMware partnership is synergistic and helps customers with VMware loads. And then there are the many, many other innovations a vendor like IBM churns out, all of them move IBM’s capabilities more into the direction of a partner to be chose for the business model change (mostly digital transformation) – lying ahead of enterprises in the next years.

On the concern side, IBM is moving so many areas that it has to make sure they all work together. The times where IBM could get away operating like 5 independent companies (like 10-15 and more years ago) are over. Products and offerings need to fit seamlessly and well together. It is good to see that IBM is aggressively putting both organization and talent in the right places. E.g. all database offerings (including DB2 (!)) are under a single CTO, outside-in perspectives are not only valued, but put in charge (e.g. the new head of Watson is from weather.com). Now the move to become a software company needs speedy execution, as IBM operates under the market scrutiny and pressure of a record number of consecutive quarters with revenue decline.

But overall a good Interconnect event for IBM, showing progress on all fronts. We will be watching through the year if it is enough. Stay tuned.