IBM Launches New Cloud Services Marketplace

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This week at IBM’s Impact Conference in Las Vegas, it announced a new cloud marketplace, a central place for customers to shop for IBM cloud services and those from third-party partners.

Over the last several years, IBM has been putting together a portfolio of cloud services from Softlayer for infrastructure, BlueMix for development and more than 100 cloud-based software services including recent purchases of Silverpop and Cloudant. IBM’s GM of platform services, Steve Robinson, says the marketplace is an attempt by the company to pull all of these pieces together.

“Many clients have been asking for a consistent way to explore what IBM has and ways to discuss [and understand] a fuller spectrum of what’s available,” he said.

Robinson says people can explore the marketplace in a similar way they do Salesforce.com’s App Exchange or more consumer-oriented offerings like the Apple App Store or Google Play. He says this represents an entirely new way of doing business for IBM, which has always been about a more traditional sales channel.

He said they are organizing the marketplace by role so that operations will be lead to the SoftLayer channel and developers to BlueMix and so forth.

Robinson said this is IBM recognizing that it’s not just IT making business decisions today. Individual users and business units are often involved now, sometimes trying the software before they buy then suggesting it to colleagues or eventually management. He said the new marketplace is an attempt to accommodate and recognize this new style of buying.

“Traditionally we have focused on IT and we are moving to other roles. This style of consumption [is making] technology a driving factor in every line of business and we need to make it accessible to those folks,” he said.

In fact, Robinson recognizes this as a great way to get a foothold in businesses. “Self-service is a great way to get started. Many times, [people] come into a technology through Shadow IT, and we need a mechanism to consume starter technology. [The marketplace] is a great way to get a foothold and from this offer larger subscriptions and more traditional enterprise deals.”

And it’s not just IBM services. Robinson says the company is inviting companies who have built apps on BlueMix or are running apps on SoftLayer to put their products into the marketplace too, which will make it richer and more heterogeneous.

Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO at the analysis firm Hurwitz and Associates, says this marketplace approach has become an important trend, and for partners, it offers them a way to more easily influence customers to try their applications and services, giving them exposure to the entire IBM customer base.

Hurwitz says, the concept is great for customers too because they can test and try before they buy. “The idea of a marketplace is the right one for IBM to be pursuing because it provides a more instant proof of concept for new initiatives. Customers can therefore try new services and applications with low risk. If an application or service provides value then customers are likely to continue to use those services and purchase more,” she said.

And that’s precisely what Robinson says IBM is hoping will happen.

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