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IBM cloud tools aim to woo the unconvinced

IBM's latest batch of cloud tools aims to help customers deploy and manage workloads on private and public clouds and keep the company at the center of their cloud strategies.

LAS VEGAS -- IBM wants to be the hub for its customers' cloud usage, and it has added tools to its cloud platform to woo those still uncertain about making that transition.

Big Blue has lagged behind in the cloud market, but it has bet on the enterprise market's emerging use of multiple clouds to grow its stature. Its biggest move to date was the release of IBM Cloud Private in November 2017, and it continued that push at its Think conference here this week with several additional tools to manage and deploy workloads on premises and in the public cloud.

Cloud Automation Manager integrates with IBM Cloud Private to build and manage applications across multiple clouds, while Transformation Advisor scans traditional workloads to identify workloads that could benefit from being rearchitected for cloud. Transformation Advisor also gives advice on how to make that transition.

AWS and other cloud providers offer similar capabilities, but this could be particularly attractive for IBM customers who don't want to move their data to a completely new environment. And that's a market with huge potential, as IBM said it manages 70% of the world's data.

Another platform, Cloud Integration, connects data and applications that are hosted in different environments. It acts as a central point for a range of tools: messaging, API management, application integration, file transfer and gateways.

IBM also added tools to address a major limitation of multi-cloud strategies. With the exception of data residency issues that drive the use of multiple clouds, organizations rarely share data between clouds because of the cost and time associated with those transfers. To that end, IBM has integrated its Cloud Object Storage with its Aspera data transfer tool to move data hundreds of times faster than across the public internet with HTTP or FTP protocols.

IBM finds a better cloud strategy

Dave Bartoletti, analyst, Forrester ResearchDave Bartoletti

While there was plenty of talk of next-generation technologies, such as blockchain and AI, the event didn't feature the flurry of expanded services that are typical of most cloud vendor conferences.

Instead, IBM sought to convince its customers that although it needs to adopt modern IT practices to remain relevant, they need not go all-in on the public cloud. And that path to the cloud is IBM Cloud Private, which is more of a modernization platform than the previous iterations of private cloud, said Dave Bartoletti, an analyst with Forrester Research.

IBM seeks to convince customers that IBM should be the center of gravity for their cloud strategy. "It's a lot less about having all the features AWS has or slightly better performance than Oracle," Bartoletti said. "It's about being a safe place to bring your data."

Security for the most sensitive data

It's a lot less about having all the features AWS has or slightly better performance than Oracle. It's about being a safe place to bring your data.
Dave Bartolettian analyst with Forrester Research

IBM also added a set of features for "mainframe-level" security, with an emphasis on protections against internal threats. The IBM Cloud Hyper Protect family of services, which extends IBM Z to the vendor's public cloud, includes a hardware security module -- the same one that underpins its blockchain platform -- as well as protections for database as a service, containers and a developer toolkit to protect the back end for iOS developers.

IBM Cloud Security Advisor offers a centralized dashboard to track applications, while IBM also touted its Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certification for cryptographic modules to protect data. IBM Cloud has achieved the highest standard at Level 4.

IBM Cloud Internet Service, a partnership with Cloudflare, brings edge network services through IBM Cloud to secure public-facing content. Currently in early access, the program focuses on domain name service, distributed denial-of-service protection, web application firewall, global load balancing and transport layer security.

Next-gen services to make use of existing data

In addition to services intended to make cloud less scary, IBM continued to push some of its newer cloud services and capabilities to utilize existing data streams. PowerAI incorporates deep learning frameworks such as TensorFlow, Torch and Caffe to help data scientists more quickly and easily train models on IBM Cloud. IBM also added its compute-intensive Power9-based Power Servers, tailored to AI, to its public cloud.

IBM Cloud Private added container support to operate across multiple platforms, such as support for Windows containers and the containerization of IBM application development and management software, such as API Connect, UrbanCode and Netcool.

IBM Cloud Container Service was added last week, making it the first cloud-based managed Kubernetes service that runs on bare metal. IBM's cloud has a lineage of bare-metal infrastructure going back to its SoftLayer acquisition. But because Cloud Container Service is fully managed, it's unclear how much of a difference that bare metal will make, compared to what IT shops could get from other cloud providers.

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