IBM Pushing OpenStack Services To SoftLayer Public Cloud

IBM, once the king of proprietary IT vendors, has been pushing its open-cloud initiatives hard for several years now, leveraging open-source technologies to create a cloud that seamlessly stretches from its global network of data centers to on-premise enterprise computing facilities.

In that spirit, IBM told attendees of the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver on Tuesday that it was introducing all core capabilities from the OpenStack ecosystem to its SoftLayer public cloud to further increase interoperability within those hybrid environments.

The range of capabilities, productized as IBM Cloud OpenStack Services, were previously available only to IBM's private and hosted cloud customers. They will be cheaper for users to access in the multi-tenant public cloud environment, according to Doug Vardakas, IBM's program manager for SmartCloud Infrastructure Services.

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IBM is "exposing all the accoutrements" from OpenStack to its public cloud -- services like the Horizon Portal, OpenStack API, auto-scaling and automation templates, said Vardakas.

"If it's available on OpenStack, it will be available on the service," he told CRN.

Those OpenStack capabilities, in beta until later this summer, will help IBM's enterprise partners and customers build, deliver, secure and scale workloads, especially those with fluctuating resource demands, Angel Diaz, vice president of cloud architecture and technology at IBM, told CRN.

IBM's cloud strategy follows a sort of trinity approach: public, private and managed services. Across all those topologies, Big Blue is the industry's dominant force.

IBM's SoftLayer is the third-largest public cloud in the market, according to Synergy Research. And a Forrester Research survey just found that twice as many firms use IBM as their hosted private cloud platform as use the next closest competitor.

"Our strategy since we've been working on cloud, data and mobile for the last five years was to create open technologies that serve as linchpins -- points of rotation," Diaz said. "We've been working very hard to create these points of interoperability around a consistent architecture."

IBM is playing that strategy out on multiple levels of the stack.

Big Blue was one of the first software powerhouses to throw its heft behind OpenStack, which now powers the dozens of SoftLayer data centers around the world.

IBM has also played a significant role driving the progress of Cloud Foundry, the popular open-source Platform-as-a-Service technology that underlies its Bluemix service. It's also a founding member of the Open Data Platform project.

IBM is so committed to those open-source technologies because they are vital to delivering that consistent architecture necessary for interoperability, Diaz said, solving the problem of lock-in between vendors and environments.

And in today's highly interconnected world, the best way for vendors to nurture large markets is to offer interoperable solutions, Diaz told CRN.

As a longtime open source advocate, Diaz has an extensive history with OpenStack, Cloud Foundry and the Hadoop big data platform. He's been a fan of OpenStack since it was "a little project at Rackspace" and worked with Rackspace execs to create a foundation around the cloud operating system born in NASA research facilities.

"When we started this, no one really cared," he reminisced from the Vancouver summit. The first OpenStack conference was attended by 74 people and a dog, he said.

In the five years since, IBM's been laser-focused on helping a vibrant developer community build around OpenStack and other innovative open-source projects, backing those efforts with its massive influence, Diaz said.

"Because the OpenStack community has over 90 thousand participants, the amount of skill, the amount of companies that provide that skill, means the market is rapidly expanding," Diaz told CRN. "Which means more revenue for IBM."