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IBM multi-cloud portfolio grows with more tools, acquisitions

IBM continues to build out its multi-cloud management portfolio, but it's still far from alone in a highly competitive market.

Many companies today deploy, or plan to deploy, more than one cloud infrastructure platform. In fact, a recent IDC study stated that more than 85% of enterprises will have committed to a multi-cloud strategy by 2018.

And with that shift comes the need for a tool that helps IT teams provision and manage resources across disparate cloud platforms. IBM is one of many IT vendors trying to meet that need. But since there are several IBM multi-cloud management tools available, it's important for potential buyers to understand the differences between them, and how they compare to those from other providers.

IBM Cloud Automation Manager

Introduced in 2017, IBM Cloud Automation Manager enables companies to control multi-cloud infrastructure though a single, centralized dashboard. The software runs on IBM Cloud Private, a Kubernetes-based cloud platform that enterprises install within their own data centers. 

IBM Cloud Automation Manager uses Terraform, an open source infrastructure as code tool from HashiCorp, for multi-cloud automation. Using Terraform templates, admins can provision and manage resources across a number of environments, including IBM Cloud, VMware vSphere, AWS, Azure and Google. DevOps teams can use API calls to request their development environments from Cloud Automation Manager, without having to worry about the differences between the underlying infrastructures.

The tool also integrates with IBM Watson, which uses machine learning to help teams optimize their workloads and determine the best set of resources on which to run them.  

IBM multi-cloud toolset grows

In October, IBM expanded its portfolio with the launch of Multicloud Manager -- a tool that's intended to complement, not replace, Cloud Automation Manager.

IBM's multi-cloud portfolio is set to expand further via its acquisition of Red Hat.

IBM Multicloud Manager actually uses Cloud Automation Manager's multi-cloud automation to provision Kubernetes clusters in supported cloud platforms. Among other features, Multicloud Manager can help automate application backups and disaster recovery across multiple clouds, including AWS and Azure. It also helps users enforce compliance and governance policies in these multi-platform environments.

Like IBM Cloud Automation Manager, Multicloud Manager runs on Cloud Private.  

IBM's multi-cloud portfolio is set to expand further via its acquisition of Red Hat. Through the $34 billion deal, for example, IBM will gain access to Red Hat OpenShift, an open source container platform that integrates with a number of public cloud platforms. How, exactly, the two companies will integrate their products remains to be seen.

In the face of competition

Of course, IBM is not the only vendor in the multi-cloud management game. There are many smaller, third-party vendors who offer multi-cloud management tools, some of which -- like RightScale and CloudHealth -- have been acquired. In addition, other major or legacy tech vendors, including Cisco and BMC, target this market.

Cisco CloudCenter, based on the CliQr technology Cisco acquired in 2016, lets users deploy and manage workloads across on-premises and various public cloud environments. With the release of Cisco CloudCenter 4.9, the tool also offers native support for Kubernetes, and lets development and IT teams deploy workloads to both container- and VM-based environments. CloudCenter supports AWS, Azure, Google, IBM, VMware and Alibaba.

BMC is another major IT vendor that has built out a multi-cloud management portfolio, which includes its TrueSight Server Automation and Helix Multi-Cloud Service Management tools. The latter is an add-on to BMC's Remedy product suite, and helps admins manage tickets across multiple cloud platforms via an integrated service desk.

BMC struck a deal with IBM last year to integrate IBM Watson's cognitive computing capabilities into its Remedy suite. The move, according to BMC, will enable the use of chatbots to streamline employee self-service, as well as helpdesk ticket classification and resolution.

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