IBM drops SoftLayer brand, moves cloud offerings to Bluemix

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With surprisingly little fanfare, IBM Corp. has decided to do away with its SoftLayer brand and reorganize all of its Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings under the Bluemix moniker.

“Today, we’re excited to share the next big step in SoftLayer’s evolution as part of the IBM Cloud portfolio: IBM Bluemix is integrating SoftLayer products and services into its vast catalog of infrastructure, platform, and application services!” the company said in an Oct. 22 statement.

SoftLayer customers will be pleased to know that nonetheless, there will be no other major changes on their end. IBM assures us that Softlayer “will remain in place as fundamental building blocks upon which the broader Bluemix catalog will be built.” What that means is that SoftLayer’s portal and other sites will all remain in place, as they were, though customers may see some cross-pollination between it and Bluemix’s Platform-as-a-Service offerings, so users can tap into services from both brands on the site they’re most familiar with.

“Making the push of BlueMix and leveraging all of the Watson, analytics, and other resources is a good play,” said Stu Miniman, an analyst with Wikibon, owned by the same company as SiliconANGLE.

In essence, you’re probably going to see the Bluemix logo a lot more, and the SoftLayer logo will slowly disappear, but everything else will remain as is, for now at least. IBM’s cloud offerings can now be seen, all in one place at ibm.com/bluemix.

One interesting change, though: It’s now possible to sign into Bluemix with an IBM ID, which means users will have a single user interface to order and manage app runtimes, services and infrastructure. IBM said it made the change due to requests from customers, and adds that other benefits include being able to consolidate payments for cloud services under a single invoice, using a single payment method. To sweeten the deal, IBM is giving existing SoftLayer customers $200 in free credits for Bluemix applications or services.

IBM bought SoftLayer for about $2 billion back in 2013, and quickly transformed the platform into the foundation of its IaaS offerings, but separate from its PaaS offerings on Bluemix.

With the rebranding, IBM is clearly hoping to unify the operator and developer experience in its cloud, said Al Hilwa, program director for software development research at IDC. “Softlayer was the brand they acquired, but the Bluemix brand is a lot more meaningful to the more sought-after developer population. It also makes sense to invest and concentrate equity in a single brand going forward,” Hilwa said.

IBM’s thinking is that it can enhance the experience for SoftLayer users by offering easy access to new services from Bluemix, like being able to spin up servers and stacks that span across infrastructures and apps, and not least present a more united face versus cloud leaders Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Whether or not that will actually appeal to customers remains to be seen, however. Holger Mueller, principal analyst and vice president at Constellation Research Inc., said that while the simplification might useful against AWS, and also welcomed by some customers, he’s not convinced that the move is such a smart one. He said that IaaS and PaaS are very distinctive value propositions, and that some enterprises likely appreciate that distinction.

“Yes, there are enterprises who want and need both as they build next gen apps, but some enterprises may only need IaaS to switch their data center over, and have no interest in PaaS,” Mueller said.