IBM Teams With Partners On New Cloud Marketplace

IBM said Monday that it's teaming with more than 50 Big Blue partners to open a cloud marketplace aimed at consolidating its cloud services under one roof. IBM's Cloud Marketplace is meant to bring the simplicity of an app store to IT managers and businesses shopping for SaaS, PaaS and IaaS services.

Steve Robinson, general manager for Cloud Platform Service at IBM, said the Cloud Marketplace is open to any partner with a cloud service interested in hanging a shingle with Big Blue. "The sky is the limit for a partner with a cloud service that resonates with our key strategy. We are happy to bring them in and share shelf space with them."

Robinson said IBM's cloud marketplace corrals a number of recent cloud acquisitions from the past few years, including SoftLayer, BlueMix and Cloudant, and investments in firms such as Silverpop. The marketplace is IBM's most aggressive attempt yet to compete with cloud computing infrastructure services from Amazon Web Services, Google's cloud platform and Microsoft Azure.

[Related: Ingram Micro's Cloud Marketplace Goes Global ]

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IBM has been investing heavily in cloud services. Last year it spent $2 billion on SoftLayer, a company that earned $500 million in revenue in 2013 with 30 percent of sales driven through the channel. IBM, for its part, said it drives 20 percent of its revenue through the channel.

"IBM solves a key problem with its Cloud Marketplace. It's so big, it's hard to keep tabs on all its product catalogs," said Debbie Fitzerman, president of DFC International Computing, a small Toronto-based SaaS provider and IBM partner. "Self service is a growing style of buying cloud services. This puts IBM in the game. But I'm still skeptical an average IT manager will have the patience or know-how to find what they need unassisted."

Robinson said it has already lined up 50 partners such as Twilio, Redis Labs and New Relic, which will make up its "global partner ecosystem." Part of the marketplace will include middleware components from IBM's BlueMix Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), IBM's SoftLayer Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), along with 100 SaaS applications and partner offerings.

"There are a lot of competitive services that just focus on one part of the cloud," Robinson said. "We are offering the most complete solution from architecture and infrastructure targeting managers, developers and IT administrators."

Fitzerman said she is excited about the opportunity and hungry to learn more about pricing and referral fees. Those questions will have to go unanswered for now. Robinson said pricing details aren't yet known but are expected this summer when the marketplace formally launches.

Robinson said IT departments will be able to buy their own disaster-recovery and security services. Developers, he said, will be able to build, mix and match, test and deploy cloud services from the Cloud Marketplace.

But will IBM's Cloud Marketplace be an end-run around the channel helping customers procure cloud services directly from IBM?

"This isn't about going direct. It's about leveraging big opportunities for those partners that have the right mix of expertise and cloud apps and services," Robinson said.