Rethinking IBM: The Company as a Service

By Robert LeBlanc

Robert LeBlanc, Sr. Vice President, IBM
Robert LeBlanc, Sr. Vice President, IBM

As companies evolve, they sometimes struggle with lagging perceptions. Their customers and the public think of them as one thing long after they have morphed into something else. There are some who still think of IBM as purely a computer hardware company even though, for many years, it has been steadily building a broad portfolio of software and services. Now it’s time for yet another reassessment: IBM as a cloud company.

This shift to cloud– where hardware, software, and services meld into one, represents the most significant change in IBM’s go-to-market strategy since it built a large blue-suited sales force to cater to businesses in the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s a fundamental reinvention of the company—how IBM operates and how it delivers value to clients and society.

The shift has been underway for several years. IBM has built up a large array of cloud services and software applications delivered via the cloud. It’s already the global leader in making cloud services available to large businesses. Today, however, marks a major advance. We’re announcing a set of initiatives that signal the emergence of an expanded cloud strategy. Put simply, we’re offering “IBM as a Service.”

Here’s what’s new:

  • A Cloud Ecosystem: We’re creating a destination on the Web where application developers, line-of-business executives and IT leaders can collaborate and work in ways that are tailored to their roles in their organizations. Developers can build new applications. Line of business executives can sign up for cloud services. And IT leaders can build, purchase and manage services. The destination will include a marketplace where IBM and third-party developers will offer a wide variety of services for sale. Customers will be able to select services off a virtual shelf and snap them together to create powerful new applications and business processes. We call it “composable business.”
  • A Cloud Platform: In the Internet era, IBM built a platform of technologies upon which clients and independent developers could create their own applications. The platform made it easier for them to integrate the new applications with existing IT systems and stores of data. Now we’re doing the same thing for cloud services. This platform-as-a-service offering, Codename: BlueMix, will make it easier for enterprises and independent developers to quickly build new applications, test them, and then deploy them at massive scale.
  • A Cloud Business Model: It’s one thing for an established technology company to expand on its traditional offerings with new cloud services, but quite another to reinvent the way it creates value by radically transforming its business model. That’s the path that IBM is on. Our process of advancing science, developing services and engaging with customers is evolving into a loop of interactions, learning and continuous improvements. Research, development, marketing, sales and customer service are all becoming one integrated series of activities—all conducted in the cloud.

For companies born in the cloud, this way of viewing the world and operating in it is second nature. Not for IBM.  Like other long-successful companies, we have to change our existing mindset and adapt to a fast-changing environment. We have done this many times before. IBM started off as a tabulating machine company before becoming a leader in programmable computing, and, later, bringing the personal computer to the enterprise and helping corporations capitalize on the Internet. And we’re making the transition again.

We’re learning to live in the cloud. And we’re doing it in a way that will enable a host of business partners and clients to comfortably live there, too. Codename: BlueMix and the ecosystem pave the way for enterprises to adopt cloud technologies and the cloud mindset at the pace that works for them, and with little risk. Enterprises of all sizes – from startups and small shops to mid-size and big business–can quickly tap into big data analytics and Watson-style cognitive computing, all on equal footing.

We’ll offer a dynamic cloud environment where all of the technology resources and data assets of an enterprise are readily available, integrated with one another, and deliverable in the way that suits the organization’s needs—whether in on-premises systems, or private or public clouds.

The way I see things, we’re taking the best of IBM—all of our innovations, knowledge and aspirations—and building services around them, and delivering all that value via the cloud. That’s IBM as a service. It’s the future of IBM. And it’s the future of computing.

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