IBM expands its cloud with SugarCRM platform integration and VMware Horizon Air deal

IBM has been trying to carve out a place for itself as a go-to cloud repository for all enterprise software services — not just those IBM builds itself. And today, two of its earliest partners in that realm announced new services that take their relationships to the next phase. VMware, a big player in desktop virtualization, will now offer its Horizon Air cloud-hosted desktops and apps globally via the IBM Cloud. And SugarCRM will now offer customers an option of running the whole of its platform on IBM’s cloud.

The news not only points to IBM’s growing interest in working with more third-parties to build out its footprint, but also to ways that it might better compete against the likes of Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon’s AWS, who are also making headway in the area of partnering with third-party enterprise software providers, including those that compete with the likes of VMware and SugarCRM.

“IT strategy should not be held hostage by vendors who offer a proprietary, multi-tenant cloud configuration as the only option. Instead, choice should be the rule of the day for cloud deployments, so organizations can implement systems in a way that fits their business and IT needs,” said Clint Oram, co-founder and CTO at SugarCRM, in a statement. “SugarCRM customers who are looking for greater control over their data, more deployment options and a reliable infrastructure should consider IBM Cloud as their platform of choice.”

The financial terms of the deals are not being disclosed, Jim Comfort, CTO, IBM Cloud, said in response to our questions about them. In any case, the hope is that deals like these will expand business both for IBM as well as SugarCRM and VMware.

Both VMware and SugarCRM have been working with IBM prior to this announcement. VMware has been a partner of IBM’s for 14 years in a reseller arrangement.

Then, in February of this year, at the same time that IBM announced deals with GitHub, Bitly and an extended deal with Apple, VMware and IBM announced a strategic partnership.

The two companies would market and sell services together; and a number of services — pre-configured VMware SDDC environments for VMware vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN — along with new hybrid cloud services developed by IBM (workload migrations, disaster recovery, capacity expansion and data center consolidation) could all be configured to run on IBM’s 45 Cloud Data Centers globally. Pointedly, the Horizon Air portfolio was not a part of that; now it is. 

The deal is also notable because of the wider developments at VMware on a corporate level: with the merger of Dell and EMC, it looks like VMware could have a compelling data center offering behind it. In that regard, IBM appears to be filling a niche on the cloud side of the spectrum.

SugarCRM, meanwhile, has also been a longstanding partner of IBM’s both integrating and reselling its CRM solution, but also by virtue of IBM being a key customer. “Today’s news expands the relationship significantly by … giving clients greater security, data isolation and performance,” Comfort says. “Uniquely, SugarCRM can be deployed across bare metal cloud servers, dedicated off-premises clouds or private cloud environments behind the firewall — something only possible with IBM.” The deal will mean that, as with VMware, Sugar’s platform will be available across IBM’s 46 Cloud Data Centers.

SugarCRM is a smaller rival to the likes of Salesforce, and it has been gradually building up its platform (and making acquisitions) to provide more intelligent and predictive sales tools and features to be more competitive with it. Inking deals like this one with IBM is one way not just of widening its sales funnel for more clients, but also a way to move away from needing to address cloud needs directly and channel resources more into its own software and platform development.

Since IBM’s deal with VMware was first announced in February, Comfort tells me that both companies are seeing “very positive customer interest and momentum with our enterprise hybrid cloud offering,” — although no specific company wins to report. Comfort says its target verticals include education, government and healthcare, “as well as employees wanting to bring their own desktop/laptop to work.”

For SugarCRM, the target end user will be a company in a regulated industry like banking, healthcare and financial services.

“Today’s announcement will ensure that these types of organizations — the ones who must follow strict mandates and internal policies for how security, compliance and sensitive customer data is handled outside of their corporate network — will have a variety of options to deploy Sugar in dedicated off-premises clouds or private cloud environments behind the firewall.”

One customer already signed on is Highland Solutions, which is using Sugar on IBM Cloud for several major clients; and a university has already deployed a HIPAA-enabled solution that allows the organization to manage a self-administered health care plan, “giving it a 360-degree view of each participating member while combining data from multiple systems,” he added.