IBM's hybrid cloud plan: Many clouds working as one

IBM cloud data center
It's becoming clear many customers want a multi-cloud environment but one operational approach, IBM says. (Credit: Connie Zhou for IBM)

The notion of hybrid cloud environments, in which enterprise customers move their data, resources and applications to a mix of public and private clouds and software-as-a-service platforms, has been gaining traction, but that doesn’t mean the industry should stop talking about “the cloud” in the singular.

Rob Thomas, senior vice president, cloud and data platforms at IBM, said that is exactly what those customers want — a multi-cloud environment that is a unified entity. “We think the value is going to be how do you integrate all these pieces and get it operating as a single cloud,” he said at this week’s Evercore ISI TMT Conference, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript from the event.

He added that IBM’s 2018 Red Hat acquisition and Red Hat’s Linux operating platform for hybrid cloud environments have well-positioned IBM for a time when customers are bypassing the option to move everything they have to a single public cloud, and instead decide they “are going to have multiple public clouds, multiple private clouds, many different SaaS applications.” He continued, “Now, where are we? Analysts say probably 25% has moved to public cloud now. I think there was a time when people said, hey, 100% is going to be on public cloud. I don’t think anybody really believes that anymore.”

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In the three years or so since the Red Hat deal, IBM has made many announcements regarding how it is adapting hardware and software to better operate in hybrid cloud environments. For example, late last year, it updated its hybrid cloud software portfolio, called Cloud Paks, with new automation and data capabilities. Thomas said Cloud Paks is an example of an area where IBM had hundreds of different software products that addressed different cloud needs, but pulled it all into a single platform approach.

IBM’s positioning to lead the hybrid cloud charge does not necessarily mean it disdains public cloud strategies or will look to topple public cloud giants like Amazon Web Services. He noted that Red Hat provides solutions to many public cloud providers. “So I don’t think it’s something that we need to battle for with them [public cloud providers] per se. I think they will do public cloud. That’s great. We see a big opportunity for IBM doing hybrid cloud.”