Partnerships Solidify IBM’s Cloud Ecosystem

IBM inks recent deals with VMware, SugarCRM and Acxiom, among others, to bolster Big Blue’s cloud ecosystem and offer new solutions to customers.

IBM recently launched and expanded a series of cloud computing partnerships aimed at helping customers transition their operations for the digital age. IBM expanded partnerships with VMware and SugarCRM and entered into a new partnership with Acxiom around the IBM Cloud. IBM and VMware also announced an expansion of the partnership they initially launched at IBM InterConnect 2016 in February. The relationship between IBM and VMware enables the companies’ enterprise customers to easily extend their existing workloads from on-premise software-defined data centers to the cloud, Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, said in a video about the expanded partnership. The expansion comes as the companies are now enabling VMware Horizon Air customers to take advantage of cloud-hosted desktop and application services via the IBM Cloud. Gelsinger said the two companies will offer the VMware Horizon Air Portfolio to enterprises globally in the cloud. “We’ve announced a digital workspace cloud service that will help customers and partners transform the way they deliver Windows apps and virtual desktops in the cloud, allowing employees to embrace the business mobility evolution anywhere, anyplace, anytime,” he said.

IBM officials said this announcement reinforces IBM Cloud as a strategic cloud partner for VMware. VMware Horizon Air cloud services delivers full Windows desktops or published applications to desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. The solution enables organizations to deliver virtual desktops and applications to a broad range of end users across devices and locations without the cost or hassle of owning or managing the required infrastructure.

“Provisioning secure digital workspaces using VMware Horizon Air services from IBM Cloud will assist customers with their journey to embrace business mobility and accelerate their transformation to become true digital enterprises,” said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM Cloud, in the video with Gelsinger. Combining VMware Horizon Air with IBM Cloud will provide enterprise-grade cloud infrastructure to support deployments at cloud scale and speed and enable users to start locally and scale globally to new sites while delivering services that meet regional regulatory mandates. “Our strategic partnership with IBM continues to grow and evolve as we look to enable customers to access corporate applications and data through a secure digital workspace,” Sanjay Poonen, executive vice president and general manager of end-user computing, and head of global marketing and communications at VMware, said in a statement. “Customers are asking for choice and innovation, while protecting existing IT investments.” When VMware Horizon Air on IBM Cloud becomes available in the third quarter of 2016, it will be available with flexible monthly subscription pricing for cost-effective provisioning of cloud-hosted desktops and applications. VMware and IBM have been partners for more than 14 years. “IBM has the global market reach that will help us drive this solution to our mutual customer base,” Gelsinger said. Among IBM’s recent cloud deals, the VMware one stands out the most because it is part of the huge Dell/EMC merger, and this will be a good test to see if they can continue to remain independent, said Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group. “This should be an excellent showcase of whether VMware changes post-merger,” Enderle told eWEEK. “In the end, IBM has always been a partnering machine, but all partnerships are not equal and you really have to figure out which ones have the most executive support. Here too VMware stands out largely because they are a significant part of system architecture while the others are more applications-based so the VMware partnership should be the strongest of the bunch.” Meanwhile, IBM and SugarCRM recently announced that organizations can deploy the Sugar customer relationship management (CRM) platform on-premises or across IBM’s global network of 46 cloud data centers. This announcement builds on IBM and SugarCRM’s long-standing, strategic relationship. Last September, the two companies announced the IBM Marketing Cloud for SugarCRM, helping to break down silos between marketing, sales and service departments. That solution was named the Outstanding Commerce Solution at the 2016 IBM Beacon Awards. Many customers, including Rodobens in Brazil, and Henry Wurst Inc., have successfully deployed the offering.
IBM officials said this SugarCRM deal is significant for organizations in regulated industries, such as banking, health care and financial services, which must follow strict mandates and internal policies for how security, compliance and sensitive customer data is handled outside their corporate networks. On IBM Cloud, Sugar can be deployed across bare-metal cloud servers, dedicated off-premises clouds or private cloud environments behind the firewall. “IT strategy should not be held hostage by vendors who offer a proprietary, multi-tenant cloud configuration as the only option,” Clint Oram, co-founder and CTO at SugarCRM, said in a statement. “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. 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.” Chicago-based SugarCRM partner Highland Solutions is already using Sugar on IBM Cloud for several clients. For one university, it has deployed a HIPAA-enabled solution that allows the organization to manage a self-administered health care plan combining data from multiple systems. “The most valued type of data that organizations have in the enterprise is their customer data,” Bill Karpovich, general manager of IBM Cloud Platform, said in a statement. “Having the right deployment options that meet security concerns, regulatory requirements and risk mitigation [is] top-of-mind for any business choosing a cloud infrastructure.”
Also, by using IBM Cloud’s bare-metal cloud servers, Sugar customers can eliminate any issues with multi-tenant “noisy neighbors” cloud environments or the performance lag of a hypervisor.

“These announcements build on a much broader trend where companies are turning to the IBM Cloud for choice and consistency across public, private and hybrid environments,” Jim Comfort, CTO of IBM Cloud, told eWEEK. “We’re the backbone enabling these new cloud services because we can give customers the global reach, capacity and scale they need. And it runs the gamut, from providing mobile users with access to apps and data from any device to running open-source CRM applications on secure bare-metal servers. Our cloud is incredibly versatile.” Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, said IBM is intent on firmly establishing an ecosystem to support its cloud platform. “It is also focused on partnering with enterprise vendors who provide services to large corporations,” she said. “That is IBM’s sweet spot. It is clear that a lot of the cloud companies are trying to find their way into the enterprise. IBM is already there and building an ecosystem of enterprise software customers.” Moreover, in a slightly different kind of deal, IBM and Acxiom recently announced a new partnership to empower data scientists to make faster and more accurate predictions by providing analytics tools and curated data on IBM Cloud. IBM said data scientists typically spend up to 80 percent of their time and effort on data preparation, which leaves them little time to derive insights from their data. However, this alliance is expected to bring together capabilities, such as curated data sets, a client’s customer data and IBM configurable predictive models to reduce the time to action for data scientists. IBM recently announced a cloud-based development environment for near-real-time, high-performance analytics. Available on IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform, the Data Science Experience provides 250 curated data sets, open-source tools and a collaborative workspace to help data scientists uncover insights. “As clients look for speed and accuracy to improve outcomes, the journey is not just about rich, curated customer profile data but how you can predict customer behavior and engage them in interactions relevant to them,” Alistair Rennie, general manager of solutions for IBM Analytics, said in a statement. “In order to drive faster time to value, it is necessary to develop ecosystems that provide data and analytics solutions to deliver the best possible decision making in the face of a dynamic marketplace. Our customer analytics strategy is to help clients with their data, analytics, actions and outcomes.” Combining the benefits of IBM’s and Acxiom’s solutions will help data scientists better understand their customers and predict future behaviors.

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