Recently I had the opportunity to take a deep-dive on IBM Cloud to get a sense of it's current capabilities. My takeaway is that the platform has matured well and has come a long way since its early days, when it was known as Bluemix, and was a scrappy contender among the fast-growing hyperscalers.

Somewhere along the way, IBM Cloud continued its journey but didn't quite get the same attention from developers and organizations as the dazzling new Internet cloud firms. That's unfortunate, because IBM Cloud has evolved considerably into an enterprise cloud contender of significance. I make the case below that it's appropriate for most CIOs and IT execs to conduct a revisit of the platform and its current capabilities.

Before we take a deeper dive into its differentiation and potential, no re-introduction and catch-up on IBM Cloud would be complete without noting that IBM brings modern cloud services to organizations with the fully expected set of IBM's most-renowned and best classic product sensibilities. These are deep industry-expertise, overall stability, an understanding of the unique needs of large enterprises, and a profound respect for security and compliance. In fact, IBM Cloud has some of the most extensive cloud compliance certifications in the industry.

A Modern Take on IBM Cloud Platform for the CIO in 2023

Sizing Up IBM Cloud Today

Here are some of the more notable achievements of IBM Cloud over the last few years:

IBM Cloud has also grown quite a bit in the last decade, currently sporting a number of vital proof points of its evolving and maturing footprint:

  • IBM Cloud has 17 major cloud service categories, with almost 200 individual services across AI/ML, analytics, blockchain, compute, databases, integration, IoT, networking, quantum computing, storage, security, and storage
  • Customers of IBM Cloud can now run their workloads in over 46 data centers across 9 regions and 27 availability zones on 5 continents
  • IBM Cloud's customer base now includes tens of thousands of businesses from startups to Fortune 500 firms, with extensive adoption notably in financial services, manufacturing, travel, hospitality, construction, healthcare, and education

Comparing IBM Cloud to the Hyperscalers

When comparing IBM Cloud with the big cloud hyperscalers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, there are several important differentiations to consider. One of the most significant differentiators is IBM's focus on hybrid cloud solutions. IBM has a long history of providing enterprise-grade IT solutions, and their cloud offerings are no exception. IBM Cloud is designed to work seamlessly with on-premises infrastructure, providing a consistent experience across the entire IT environment. This is particularly important for businesses that have invested heavily in on-premises hardware and software, up to and including mainframes, and are looking to leverage the cloud for additional capacity or functionality. IBM's hybrid cloud approach enables businesses to move workloads between their on-premises infrastructure and the cloud without having to completely overhaul their IT infrastructure, especially if they are significant IBM customers already.

Another differentiation of IBM Cloud is their focus on data security and compliance. IBM has a wealth of experience in providing enterprise-grade security solutions, and this expertise is evident in their cloud offering. IBM Cloud provides robust security features, including identity and access management, network security, and data encryption. Additionally, IBM Cloud complies with a wide range of industry-specific regulations and standards, such as HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI DSS, making it an ideal choice for businesses operating in heavily regulated industries as well as the public sector. It also has many national and regional certifications as well.

IBM Cloud also offers a range of industry-specific solutions, including Watson Discovery and IBM Cloud Financial Services. These solutions leverage IBM's expertise in financial domains and regulated industry to provide businesses with powerful tools for analyzing data, making informed decisions, and running the business in the cloud. IBM Cloud also has solutions for retail, government, health, academia, and gaming.

Finally, IBM Cloud's pricing model is another differentiation from the cloud hyperscalers. While the hyperscalers typically offer a pay-as-you-go pricing model, IBM Cloud offers more flexible pricing options, including reserved instances and dedicated hosts. This can be particularly advantageous for businesses that have predictable workloads or that require dedicated infrastructure. This options can be particularly appealing to CIOs as the operational costs of cloud have been growing considerably in recent years.

Enterprise Developer Attraction

Much is made of the developer interest in the hyperscalers, but IBM Cloud is unique in that IBM has one of the largest and most engaged developer communities in enterprise IT in my long experience. There are a great many business developers on the "IBM track" around the world, and they remain interested in developing new skills to stay caught up the evolving IBM Cloud story.

ISVs and VARs also have experienced developers who want access to IBM's global customer base and can use their experience in both legacy IBM technology and the latest IBM Cloud developments to create compelling new solutions in the market. I still attend enthusiastic developer conferences for IBM legacy tech, like DB2, which remains very popular in many quarters around the world. For organizations that have these developers, IBM Cloud can propel them to do adopt, build skills, and innovate. Then there are developers that actually prefer alternatives other than the main ones, especially when they might have capabilities or engineering qualities not found in the other clouds. 

IBM Cloud and the CIO Perspective

These days I run into CIOs fairly often that have signed large all-in cloud contracts with one of the Big Three, who then soon find they are completely beholden to a cloud giant, with all their eggs in one basket, with little flexibility in pricing or control over putting workloads where they might most make overall sense. IBM Cloud can serve as a strong and capable fourth alternative that can act both as a hedge to the hyperscalers and as a strong core cloud partner with the many unique strengths and characteristics explored above.

In short, IBM Cloud isn't just for IBM customers, but orgs that need serious enterprise-class cloud with most flexibility, deep understanding of the needs of large and sophisticated organizations, modern cloud-native features, and the global footprint they need for education, support, and compliance. In short, I find that IBM Cloud is the most significant enterprise cloud that many CIOs still don't put on their shortlist, when they probably should keep their options open to more qualified cloud alternatives. In my analysis, IBM Cloud is a capable option for IT departments as a cloud provider as well as for maximizing their cloud options, choices, and needed capability/vendor mix.

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