IBM BlueMix: Changing the game of cloud development

We look at how IBM’s BlueMix platform will make it easier for businesses to create apps for the world of cloud...

This might sound familiar. You've come up with a great idea for a new app or service that will dramatically increase business value or boost end user satisfaction. Yet you lack the budget or authorisation to move things forward and prove the necessary business case. BlueMix changes this.

Instant is the watchword of this platform. All the runtime, infrastructure and more are there at your fingertips you no longer have to explain what the future will look like, you can build it.

IBM's BlueMix PaaS environment was launched as an open beta back in February this year and it has proved extremely popular. The basic premise is to enable DevOps, businesses and IT departments to build enterprise apps more quickly and effectively than ever before.

At the same time of unveiling BlueMix, IBM announced the acquisition of DBaaS firm Cloudant, which will become a core component of the cloud development offering.

"IBM is ushering in a bold new era of innovation by partnering with developers in an open environment to accelerate the emerging world of hybrid cloud computing," Robert LeBlanc, IBM's senior vice president of software and cloud Solutions, said at the time. 

"We are combining the strength of our developer ecosystem with the depth of subject matter expertise in domains such as mobile, Big Data and DevOps, to build a scalable model that easily spans from a single developer to global teams. Today's announcement is another significant move in extending true cloud integration - not just to existing data and transaction services but to a new class of emerging applications." 

IBM's own BlueMix website suggests using this platform will allow you to "create apps with the efficiency of a cold-blooded cyborg." And those words aren't used lightly. Indeed, the BlueMix environment has everything developers need from IBM built services to third-party offerings to conceive, create and develop from the ground up.

Pre-configured service sets, runtimes and sample code are all there ready for quick and instant deployment. It's like the LEGO of enterprise infrastructure except much more valuable. What's more, the fact BlueMix is based on open standards IBM is now a Cloud Foundry member makes for an even more attractive proposition. No-one likes to feel trapped or locked in and that's exactly why developers can feel comfortable developing using the BlueMix platform.

None of this though has come about as a matter of co-incidence. IBM has invested heavily ($1 billion and counting) and regularly in making cloud come to life for developers and end users alike.

The untapped development potential of the cloud is no laughing matter as it means businesses are missing out on ways to provide added value to customers and partners alike. Evans Data reckons that there are more than 18 million software developers globally, but less than a quarter of them are actively developing for the cloud. That, for those who understand the value of cloud, is more than a massive shame.

To that end, IBM is powering ahead by expanding what it offers to those wishing to develop on the BlueMix platform. Indeed, in April 2014, just a few months after announcing the beta, IBM revealed that more than 30 new cloud services were available on BlueMix.

To recap what BlueMix has to offer, it delivers the following:

  • Cloud integration services that provide a secure connection between public applications used by organisations and their own private data;
  • Fast and secure connections, via the cloud, between IoT and M2M devices to store, query and visualise data;
  • Data and analytics-as-a-service enabling applications that take advantage of the power of big data to be quickly and easily designed and scaled;
  • DevOps services to fully support the end-to-end developer lifecycle.

"The adoption rate of BlueMix has been nothing short of phenomenal since being announced only a few short weeks ago," said Steve Robinson, general manager of IBM Cloud Platform Services, at the time.

"Rapidly growing numbers of beta participants are embracing our model of extending their existing assets and services into a cloud-based, open-source development platform, allowing our clients to bridge between the tools they are planning for the future and the workloads and services they use today to get them to market faster."  

A number of businesses are already enjoying the benefits BlueMix delivers, including Continental Automotive, EyeQ, GameStop and Pitney Bowes.

Indeed, by utilising the BlueMix environment, EyeQ has been able to reduce its monthly server maintenance times by 85 per cent, freeing up resources to spend time innovating for the greater good of the organisation.

Other customer successes include FIMC, which was also able to unleash the power of mobile thanks to BlueMix, resulting in an app that has increased renewal rates by 30 per cent. While BART created a mobile app pilot in a matter of weeks rather than months thanks to BlueMix.

Using BlueMix DevOps BART will be able to delve into the data related to some 44 stations and 104 miles of track as well as sensors, systems, trains and more, to track movements in real-time.

"BART has a huge volume of incredibly valuable information living in its infrastructure: from trains to tracks to maintenance reports," said Slavik Zorin, CEO of Synchrony Systems. 

"We are looking to the DevOps model to give us the tools we need to rapidly tap all of this important data into a new, interactive mobile platform for BART to roll out to its mobile workforce improving maintenance response and providing better service."

Although developers largely work in isolation, sometimes there is power in numbers. To this end, IBM created the BlueMix Garage a series of collaborative locations that bring developers using BlueMix together under one roof.

The first such BlueMix Garage was located in a place that is home to more start-ups per square foot than anywhere else on the planet South of Market in San Francisco. More specifically, it is placed in the start-up hub Galvanize, which is touted to have more than 200 start-ups housed there by the end of the year.

"We're trying to shape the ingredients for a learning environment to create the next great tech leaders. That involves putting them in close proximity of one another. There is no manual for creating a great company," said Jim Deters, co-founder and CEO of Galvanize. 

"We're incredibly excited to bring the capabilities, the mentorship, the technology, the ecosystem and global reach of the enterprise that comes from IBM and start to intersect that and layer it in where start-ups are. That is a hugely beneficial relationship." 

As of June 2014, more than 50 BlueMix services were available as the platform moved out of beta and into general availability. Internally, IBM has trained more than 80,000 developers to take advantage of the platform, while the number of developers externally continues to grow.

"BlueMix represents the next step in the transformation of IBM's cloud offering. One of the most important factors is the breadth of technology IBM can offer when it comes to cloud, coupled with clear intention to ensure its different product groups work together more closely than ever before," said Gary Barrett, principal software analyst at Ovum.

"If IBM continues to enhance the platform and can bring on enough partners, BlueMix could transform the Platform-as-a-Service market."

The recent Apple/IBM partnership looks set to expand the reach of developers using BlueMix further still.

The partnership will result in IBM selling iOS devices to its customers pre-loaded with industry specific apps. Given the appetite for apps in the enterprise, this will likely fuel further growth and further demand.

"iPhone and iPad are the best mobile devices in the world and have transformed the way people work with over 98 percent of the Fortune 500 and over 92 per cent of the Global 500 using iOS devices in their business today," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. 

"For the first time ever we're putting IBM's renowned big data analytics at iOS users' fingertips, which opens up a large market opportunity for Apple. This is a radical step for enterprise and something that only Apple and IBM can deliver."

Ginni Rometty, IBM's chairman, president and CEO, added: "Mobility - combined with the phenomena of data and cloud - is transforming business and our industry in historic ways, allowing people to re-imagine work, industries and professions.

"This alliance with Apple will build on our momentum in bringing these innovations to our clients globally, and leverages IBM's leadership in analytics, cloud, software and services. We are delighted to be teaming with Apple, whose innovations have transformed our lives in ways we take for granted, but can't imagine living without. Our alliance will bring the same kind of transformation to the way people work, industries operate and companies perform."

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