IBM Relay Sets Big Blue Apart in Hybrid Cloud Race

IBM’s Relay technology, which syncs updates across distinct cloud environments, is one of the company’s secret weapons in the hybrid cloud space.

NEW YORK – IBM today hosted its Relay 2015 event here, a celebration of the company’s diverse IBM Cloud offerings and an opportunity to demonstrate how IBM is helping customers take advantage of the cloud and cognitive computing to build a new generation of apps and services. The event, attended by IBM customers, partners and other members of Big Blue’s cloud ecosystem, highlighted key technologies organizations are adopting in their quest to reach hybrid cloud nirvana. In addition to IBM’s SoftLayer Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), its Bluemix Platform as a Service (PaaS) and the company’s many SaaS offerings, one of the key technologies IBM has delivered for its customers moving to hybrid cloud is its Relay technology. The company’s Relay technology, created by IBM cloud development teams, ensures all cloud environments remain current. Relay can instantly sync updates across environments, allowing enterprises to experience the same cloud content and visibility, regardless of location. The Relay 2015 event took its name from IBM’s Relay technology. “Relay is one of the very unique technologies IBM is bringing to the cloud discussion,” said Steve Robinson, general manager of Cloud Platform Services for IBM Cloud.

Robinson told eWEEK one of the challenges his group faced early in working with cloud customers was that when they tried to stand up their own OpenStack or Cloud Foundry implementations they often ran into problems because of the speed and complexity of the processes.

“These projects update so readily and when you start adding new services on top of it you have to start adding more and more people to keep it up and running,” Robinson said. “There’s a critical mass and once you reach about 10 people trying to run one of these environments on your own it gets pretty hard. So we took the concept of using our public cloud image as kind of a master image. That’s the one that we’ll keep up to date, where we’ve got the largest DevOps team of about 200 people and we apply all the security patches.” That master public cloud image has been battle-tested with thousands upon thousands of users. “Then when we do the Dedicated and Local environments; we trickle the changes down to those other environments,” he said. “So Relay is the process of doing all the updates in the master and then relaying everything back down to the other environments. We set up a beacon between the two so they are kind of passively connecting. So we use our Urban Code Deploy to package up the changes and send them down to the environment to digest that change, do the update and then roll out. We’ve been doing a lot of work on the Bluemix Local environment. A lot of customers said they were not going to let anybody behind their firewall, so a lot of thought has been put into how to deliver a patch down.” Robinson noted that customers view Relay as not just a managed service, but as a managed update capability as well. IBM started out with Cloud Foundry with the Bluemix Local piece and then the company acquired Blue Box, and Blue Box will be delivering the same Relay technology for OpenStack. “We’re going to have both OpenStack and Cloud Foundry public, dedicated and local and they will have this same Relay technology providing these updates as well,” Robinson said. IBM acquired Blue Box in June as a privately held, Seattle-based company that provides businesses with a simple, private cloud as a service platform, based on OpenStack. Through Blue Box, IBM is helping businesses rapidly integrate their cloud-based applications and on-premises systems into OpenStack-based managed cloud. Blue Box also strengthens IBM Cloud’s existing OpenStack portfolio, with the introduction of a remotely managed OpenStack offering to provide clients with a local cloud and increased visibility, control and security.

“No brand is more respected in IT than IBM,” said Blue Box founder and CTO Jesse Proudman, in a statement at the time IBM acquired the company. “Blue Box is building a similarly respected brand in OpenStack. Together, we will deliver the technology and products businesses need to give their application developers an agile, responsive infrastructure across public and private clouds. This acquisition signals the beginning of new OpenStack options delivered by IBM. Now is the time to arm customers with more efficient development, delivery and lower cost solutions than they’ve seen thus far in the market.” Meanwhile, Bluemix Dedicated provides access to a collaborative, cloud-based platform in a single tenant environment, hosted in an IBM cloud center of an organization’s choice to allow for maximum control over where data resides. Supported with dedicated hardware from within a SoftLayer cloud center and direct network connectivity to the enterprise, Bluemix Dedicated gives users the unique benefits of SoftLayer – including a built-in private network and control and workload visibility – and offers runtime capability along with a core set of services. However, the delivery of Bluemix Local last month brought the speed and ease of app development on Bluemix behind an organization’s firewall. With its write once, run anywhere feature, enterprises can now swiftly build and run apps in the cloud that stitch together existing systems and connect data and APIs into a single environment, while keeping apps current across all platforms. IBM said the capabilities of Bluemix Local are particularly significant for organizations in regulated industries such as banking, healthcare and financial services, who must follow strict mandates and internal policies for how security, compliance and sensitive customer data is handled outside of their corporate network.

“With the delivery of Bluemix Local, IBM now has the broadest spectrum of hybrid cloud capability in the industry,” IBM’s Robinson said in a statement. “Developers are using APIs and building data-intensive apps at an explosive rate, but many, particularly those in heavily regulated industries, want the choice to keep sensitive workloads within their own data center. Clients want options. Now, we are empowering developers to build, deploy and run next-generation apps in the environment they need, with the flexibility to shift across hybrid clouds in a simple click.”

For instance, using the syndicated catalog through Bluemix Local, a wealth manager at a financial services organization could leverage the Watson Personality Insights API to better understand and service their customer, IBM said. By analyzing communication between the wealth manager and the customer, a company could build an individual personality index to determine if that person is a risk-taker or more cautious in their investment approach. By narrowing down these personality traits, financial services organizations can provide more insightful recommendations, resulting in highly satisfied customers. “Bluemix Local qualifies as yet another solution that IBM has crafted to meet the discreet requirements of enterprise customers,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “As such, it should help the company’s efforts around Cloud Foundry-based PaaS — which research firm Enterprise Strategy Group says are growing 10 times faster than the overall PaaS market. Frankly, not every business requires the levels of security and control offered by Bluemix Local but those that do will be hard pressed to find solutions that offer as rich a set of tools and features as IBM’s new Bluemix Local.”


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