IBM SaaS: Heavy On Choice – But Light On “Plug and Play”

IBM is making a big push into the SaaS space – boasting 100+ SaaS offerings and $1 billion plus in targeted investments. The good news for buyers is that the strategy is broad, flexible, and open. But, the downside is that the current landscape is fragmented and inconsistent across its different offerings; buyers do not today have a simple “cloud store” where they can go and download all of these different solutions with instant provisioning and pre-built integration. So, what should buyers expect?
 
What you will get:
  • More than 100 SaaS apps. From acquired solutions like Maximo, Coremetrics, DemandTec, and Kenexa to homegrown solutions like Watson Engagement Advisor, IBM has a broad range of SaaS solutions ready to go for both business and IT needs. Additionally, GBS has strong capabilities to extend and customize these SaaS applications (including SaaS integration and support).
  • A new PaaS solution (BlueMix) that lets you extend, customize, and create your own SaaS.IBM will provide numerous prebuilt services (including mobility, data, etc) and a robust platform for development. Already this solution is available in beta at www.bluemix.net.
  • Interoperability with any language or third-party technology. IBM SaaS (and IBM generally) is a heavy supporter of open standards and interoperability. It is a key supporter of CloudFoundry, TOSCA, and OpenStack.
  • Support for hybrid deployment – where SaaS co-exists with on-prem. IBM SaaS works in hybrid scenarios – where SaaS solutions co-exist with on-premise (which is the reality for most firms). The provider is laser focused on publishing (and governing) APIs and supporting developers to make this easier.
What you won’t get…today:
  • A standard platform. Today, IBM SaaS solutions are built on a variety of different technologies and platforms. While these will likely move to a standard platform (SoftLayer and BlueMix) in the future, today it is still a hodgepodge landscape. (This means that today the products coming from acquisitions such as Maximo and Sterling Commerce and Demandtec, as examples, are not on the same platforms or using the same tools to customize and extend.) Some key impacts of this current state are that the solutions are not pre-integrated and that different IBM SaaS offerings require different developer and support skills from your organization.
  • Multi-tenancy across the portfolio. Some IBM SaaS is not available as a multi-tenant solution, which means that a certain level of commitment is required to get started. For example, Watson cloud solutions today are not multi-tenant. Lack of multi-tenancy could inhibit adoption for certain smaller or seasonal work loads; it will also impact the economics of the model (price) and the pace of delivery (automatic upgrades).
  • Support for multiple deployment modes of the same solution. The dream for IBM will be to offer its products in any way the customer wants to buy: SaaS, hosted, or on-prem. But – the reality today across its 100+ SaaS offerings is that they are not all available to buy in every flavor of deployment that the buyer might want.
Overall, like a lot of things IBM, one of the greatest elements to the vendor’s SaaS strategy is its breadth (and therefore, choice). But, with that breadth comes complexity, which means buyers will need to use their own IT resources or third-party services for some of the integration, customization, and ongoing support.