While a large part of the mobile industry swirls around the streets of Barcelona, IBM is playing host at its own big InterConnect event in Las Vegas, where it unveiled a rush of deals that underscore another major aspect of the growth of mobile: the rise of cloud services. Today, IBM unveiled deeper partnerships with Apple, VMware, GitHub, Bitly and Siemens.
Separately, IBM also made some major cloud announcements of its own covering software, Watson APIs and app development by way of a new platform, Bluemix OpenWhisk, as Big Blue continues to reach for new-wave revenues to offset declines in its legacy business.
Apple: IBM has been collaborating with Apple since 2014 on developing enterprise mobility solutions together, but today’s news focuses more on developer tools, specifically Apple’s programming language Swift and IBM’s role in making it accessible in the cloud. This first kicked off in December, when IBM announced its Swift Sandbox after Apple open sourced Swift, making it the first cloud provider to enable app development in Swift. That Sandbox is now used by over 100,000 developers and over half a million code runs, IBM said today. And now IBM is bringing this together with its larger enterprise play with Apple, with preview of a Swift runtime and a Swift Package Catalog to create enterprise apps.
“By bringing Swift beyond the client to the server, IBM is breaking down barriers between front-end and back-end development, which can provide enterprises a single language to build rich experiences and back-end business logic,” the company says. This, IBM continues, increases development speed and provides a more secure toolchain for end-to-end application development.
VMware. This deal is a move by IBM to extend into more hybrid cloud services, but also perhaps a move by VMware to extend further in its cloud services partnerships with other parties in the wake of other developments, specifically regarding EMC.
IBM says that enterprises that use VMware technologies — which covers nearly 100% of the Fortune 100 — can now run services on 45 IBM Cloud Data Centers globally in a seamless manner. Services covered, IBM says, include pre-configured VMware SDDC environments — VMware vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN on the IBM Cloud, and IBM will also now develop and market new hybrid cloud services covering workload migrations, disaster recovery, capacity expansion and data center consolidation.
As with Apple, IBM working with VMware is not entirely new. “This partnership, an extension of our 14-year plus relationship with IBM, demonstrates a shared vision that will help enterprise customers more quickly and easily embrace the hybrid cloud,” said Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware.
However, this was mainly a reseller agreement up to now. Today’s news is the first strategic partnership between VMware and IBM Cloud. “This partnership allows both sides to sell and go to market together with a combined solution. On the product side, this partnership allows us to deliver the full stack of management tooling as a service in SoftLayer. We’ve had tactical relationships around reselling VMWare software for years. This is a strategic partnership with joint development and go-to-market globally,” Damion Heredia, VP of Cloud Platform & Product Management at IBM, told TechCrunch.
Other partnerships announced today include a GitHub deal, in which IBM will offer a dedicated GitHub Enterprise experience via its Bluemix cloud platform, laying the groundwork for collaborative coding. And Bitly said that it would be migrating 25 billion links made by way of its link shortening service to IBM’s cloud. And finally, Siemens and IBM said they will work together on energy efficiency solutions that will bring together IBM’s IoT expertise with Siemens energy and sustainability platform.
Aside from these partnerships, IBM today also unveiled some developments of its own on the cloud front.
This included a new set of services that IBM is calling its Cloud Connectors, allowing developers to more easily link up services in the cloud, “whether they are on the cloud or not.” These include WebSphere Connect, API Connect, MQ Connect, DataWorks, z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition, and WebSphere Blockchain Connect.
The company also put three new Watson artificial intelligence APIs into beta — Tone Analyzer, Emotion Analysis and Visual Recognition — are now available in beta, and it has expanded the existing Text to Speech API with emotion and re-releasing it as “Expressive TTS”. If you’ve seen demonstrations of IBM’s Pepper robot, you can see some of the company’s ambitions to add more empathy and emotion to machines to make them more human-like, and this is a continuing development on that front.
Finally, IBM is also trying to create a more simplified environment for application development — and specifically event responses — with the launch of IBM Bluemix OpenWhisk. This is very much a part of IBM’s Internet of Things play: examples of microservices that would be included on this platform include mouse clicks or sensor data from a camera: when an event occurs, IBM says, the code is executed. “Developers need not worry about things like pre-provisioning infrastructure, such as servers or operations – they can simply focus on code, dramatically speeding up the process.” IBM says any custom code put in a Docker container can be run.
None of the above news came with details about pricing. As we have pointed out before, the company has seen 15 straight quarters of revenue decline now, and while sales in new areas like cloud continue to grow, it’s not yet enough to offset declines in its bigger legacy business around servers and on-premise services. Whether that means that longer term, Big Blue may turn out to be more of, well, a Medium Blue, for now the company is much too big not to matter. It’s partnering with so many other companies and launching services of its own are signs of how it is firing on all cylinders to turn the ship and bring its IT dealflow with it.