IBM Weaves Cloud, Appliance, BPM, CEP and SOA Into One Fabric
It looks as though IBM has figured out how to walk that fine line between integrating all of a corporation's core processes and assets into a cloud-services framework and allowing the business to maintain control of its own governance and process models. Key to the endeavor is bringing business process modeling to the cloud.
Wasting no time in bringing a needed cohesion across its products and solutions, IBM on Monday at its IMPACT 2009 event in Las Vegas unveiled a cloud-based business process modeling (BPM) service, tighter alignment with Amazon, better complex event processing (CEP) integration, reintroduced a WebSphere private cloud appliance and double-downed on a slew of its industry framework solutions.
Under the umbrella of spurring on a smarter planet, the IBM push combines many of Big Blue's strengths with the goal of taking out complexity and cutting costs as its customers seek much greater business efficiency in a recession-wracked world. The moves also further IBM's embrace and commitment to services oriented architecture (SOA), but spread its benefits both deeper and wider than the earlier infrastructure push alone.
In a nutshell, IBM is helping enterprises create private clouds as either appliances or built on Z Series mainframes, with better connections to CEP, and managed from BPM in public cloud. It provides an excellent story for IBM, and places it at an early competitive advantage against Microsoft, Oracle/Sun, and HP in the ramp up to SOA-enabled hybrid cloud approaches that tackle tough business problems. IBM is going to the cloud with collaboration, too.
BPM and Governance
The pizza box-size WebSphere CloudBurst appliance, announced only recently, had its coming out party at Monday's keynote session, moderated by a hilarious Billy Crystal. See Twitter #IBMIMPACT by searching on the tag in Twitter for more on the live event.
This appliance approach to private clouds will be a big trend in the industry, with Oracle (using acquired Sun technology), HP and perhaps Cisco sure to follow. One has to wonder how Microsoft does appliances, with one or some partners? Will be curious to watch. (Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.)
To me, though, the biggest news of IMPACT is the move of IBM to provide its own BPM cloud services, called "BPM BlueWorks," beginning in Q2 this year. IBM continues to be chummy with Amazon Web Services, and there's no reason to believe that Google will also be an IBM cloud partner.
Indeed, the shift of BPM to a separate, elevated, cloud-based service makes sense, because many services and processes will increasingly come from a variety of sources and source types. Allowing the business process and workflow architects to design, manage and implement extended business processes as a cloud service allows for leverage of more services by more businesses, with control and ability to cut costs and reduce complexity.
What's more, if BPM goes in the cloud, then it takes only a small step for IT and SOA governance to stay in the cloud, too. Will SOA, CEP and extended enterprise business processes come together better as a cloud-based management and governance model takes place? Could be.
No Big Brother
The only rub is that IBM or some other cloud provider is host to your core control centers. Yet if enterprises grow comfortable with more IT functions and assets in a third-party cloud, well, then the model way well offer a lot of advantages. Of course, the BPM, SOA and governance controls will also likely become hybrids.
IBM and others, like Microsoft, Oracle and HP, will also want to be in the managed management business, so the competition to do this well and right will be intense -- and that will be good for users and probably (hopefully) keep the options, standards and portability largely open.
However, users should still look out -- as with any cloud services -- for lock-in, and seek contracts that protect their assets and business property. I'd say that the governance and process models that dictate how your business works should always be considered an enterprise's property. The cloud provider needs to be a value-added provider, not a Big Brother.
IBM is also pumping up its industry frameworks solutions of applications and expertise for retail, traffic management, and healthcare. Look for these too to emerge as cloud-based hybrid solutions over time. The goal, of source, is to make IBM the total supplier on these vertical industry solutions, with cost and convenience being the drivers on how they are implemented. IBM has done quite well by this so far, and the cloud moves will help it further.
IBM in the cloud, in a lot of ways, is a very smart move. Getting BPM there first -- in the middle of processes, solutions, and moving to governance -- will be hard to resist for users and tough to beat by competitors.
Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter.