Public cloud adoption is an enabler for digital transformation (DX). Public cloud offers organizations an IT platform that enables flexibility, scalability, and access to emerging new technologies — all of which are key components to empower the IT organization and facilitate digital transformation initiatives. But adoption of public cloud also presents challenges to large enterprises with existing infrastructure investments and processes. These are typically due to changes and disruptions introduced in tools, processes, and skill sets when moving to a public cloud environment.
The IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions portfolio offers a suite of VMware-based infrastructure environments within the broader IBM Cloud, bringing to enterprises the benefits of public cloud with minimal disruption, risk, and change. These are enabled through:
- Offering a range of VMware options, allowing customers to select their preferred level of automation and flexibility with their VMware environment automation.
- Providing customers complete access to the VMware stack including administrative and root access to vCenter Server, configuration options to optimize the server hardware for the workload, and optional visibility down to the Intel chipset.
- Providing customers access to an integrated set of software solutions from partners, covering commonly needed enterprise IT use cases like disaster recovery, backup, and security
- Enabling access to the broader IBM Cloud services including Watson for artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive services and GPU-integrated servers and rich services for emerging cloud-native architectures.
- Ensuring a secure and compliant IT environment enabled by deep expertise and investments with IT security and compliance needs at enterprises.
These are complemented by IBM’s global availability and broader IBM offerings, providing enterprise IT organizations a full toolbox of products and services as they invest in IT modernization and lead digital transformation at their enterprises.
Modernization of the underlying IT platform is a critical early step in the digital transformation journey. This includes removing traditional constraints around infrastructure operations and transforming the platform into one that enables agility, flexibility, and speed, which are necessary to be responsive in today’s business environment. Public cloud infrastructure has long promised to deliver these to enterprises.
Over the past two years, public cloud has crossed the chasm in terms of enterprise acceptance, and public cloud is increasingly seen as the preferred platform for existing and new enterprise IT applications. Public cloud also accelerates the access to emerging new technology areas such as AI, Big Data and analytics, and cloud-native application development platforms — all of which are increasingly seen as key components of the information and operations modernization process. These trends can be seen across the globe, and the rate of global expansion by hyper scalers is an acknowledgement of the global nature of this focus.
Challenges with Public Cloud Adoption — The Need for Consistency and Hybrid
Public cloud adoption is not without its challenges, particularly for IT organizations with existing technologies, processes, and skill set investments. Movement into public cloud typically introduces changes in skill set needs, management tools, and processes. IDC surveys of enterprises moving to public cloud infrastructure have consistently highlighted the lack of internal skill sets and the challenges with application migration and management in the cloud as top challenges faced by these enterprises. These introduce risk and cost in the cloud adoption journey, making it difficult to move business-critical applications and data sets into public cloud.
As the dominant virtualization environment used in the enterprise IT world, VMware environments represent a large segment affected by these challenges. Organizations that build their IT environments using VMware typically have a deep integration with the VMware stack, with processes, tooling, and internal skill sets being built around VMware software and API. Providers have responded to this with hybrid solutions built around VMware, allowing customers to have a consistent experience both on-premises and in public cloud. But most are limited in production applicability due to one or more of the following:
- Limited formal backing from VMware in terms of support and certification
- Limited flexibility in hardware selection and software configuration
- Limited regional availability from a global perspective
IBM Services Can Bring Expertise to Accelerate Transformation and Delivery
With growth of focus and momentum in digital transformation, skill set and expertise scarcity have rapidly grown to become crucial bottlenecks in the transformation. IBM Services complements the technology portfolio available from IBM and its partners, with professional expertise across containerization, micro services, DevOps, Agile principles, and enterprise IT transformation. This can help bridge skill set gaps at enterprises and speed up application delivery.
This is particularly valuable in the early phase where design choices have a disproportionate impact on outcome and success. The American Airlines case study highlights this, where the IBM team worked alongside the customer engineering and planning team to execute on the new application delivery. The partnership with the IBM team enabled cutting the project timeline from the initial forecast 12 months down to 4.5 months.
The past three years witnessed an acceleration in public cloud adoption and acceptance by enterprise IT organizations. IBM’s early mover advantage in the public cloud market, through the company’s 2013 SoftLayer acquisition and early presence as a public cloud IaaS provider, was eroded during this period — partly because of constant branding changes and limited holistic focus on the public cloud market and partly because of strong investment and focus on this market during this period from other public cloud providers.
Since the unification of its cloud offerings under the IBM Cloud umbrella, there has been a renewed focus on public cloud from IBM. This has had a perceivable effect on momentum over the past year. 2017 saw IBM Cloud launch the new free tier “IBM Cloud Lite,” introduce new flexible storage pricing tiers with IBM Cloud Object Storage, and release the Kubernetes-based IBM Cloud Private. 2018 has so far seen announcement of 18 new availability zones as part of its geographic expansion and infrastructure evolution. Alongside its investments to enable enterprise environments move to public cloud, IBM Cloud will need to maintain this renewed focus and continue the current feature momentum in order to recapture customer mindshare in this market.
Customer needs vary, and different customers are at different points of their cloud journey. In several cases, IT organizations are in multiple phases at the same time — moving certain applications directly into public cloud while building new next-generation applications on cloud-native technologies. Addressing these needs requires flexibility in the core offering as well as a rich and growing set of technologies on the public cloud platform such as analytics, AI and cognitive services, and cloudnative platforms.
IBM Cloud has been designed keeping this variance of enterprise IT needs as a key consideration to meet customers where they are, while enabling a comprehensive path to public cloud adoption, new technologies, and transformation. The IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions brings these same principles to the VMware environment, bringing VMware customers a flexible and nondisruptive path into public cloud and access to the rich and fast-growing IBM Cloud ecosystem.