VMware alliance leads Big Blue cloud blitz at #IBMInterConnect

IBM Cloud senior vice president Robert LeBlanc, left and VMware president and chief operating officer Carl Eschenbach announced a strategic partnership to help companies easily extend their applications running on VMware’s software to the IBM Cloud at IBM’s InterConnect Conference on Monday, February 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev.

IBM kicks off its biggest-ever cloud computing conference in Las Vegas today with a fusillade of announcements intended to deliver a little shock and awe while underscoring the company’s commitment to hybrid cloud.

Along with more than new 50 cloud products and services that the company says will “make virtually any data set and app easy for developers to discover and use,” the company will announce a partnership with part-time cloud rival VMware Inc., hook up with Siemens AG’s Buildings Technologies Division on an Internet-of-things (IoT) partnership centered on Watson and announce that Bitly Inc. will move its 25-billion-link database entirely to the IBM cloud.

Two threads will run through the messages from the stage of IBM InterConnect 2016 this week: hybrid cloud and winning the hearts and minds of developers.

“We’re at the stage that people are saying ‘I’m sold on the cloud. Now how are we going to do it?’” said Adam Gunther, Big Blue’s director of cloud development services. “We understand customers’ data centers, we have a rich cloud portfolio and we’re in an ideal position to bridge them.”

The VMware partnership, which was announced by Robert LeBlanc, IBM Cloud senior vice president, and VMware President and Chief Operating Officer Carl Eschenbach (above), may be the most intriguing news to come out of the first day of the event. The virtualization giant’s customers include every Fortune 100 company, and its technology is used in an estimated 80 percent of the world’s data centers, according to IBM.

“VMware has selected IBM Cloud to help enterprise customers to easily and securely extend their existing workloads from their on-premises software-defined data center to the public cloud,” IBM said in a press release. “The two companies will jointly market and sell new offerings for hybrid cloud deployments.”

“Customers are telling us they want the freedom to mix and match technologies from both vendors,” Gunther said. “This is about using the VMware toolset to manage both your own cloud and the public cloud.”

What wasn’t said is how VMware will rationalize the partnership with its own vCloud Air product and its bigger overall hybrid cloud strategy. VMware wasn’t making officials available prior to today’s announcement. Given the confusion surrounding VMware’s approach to the cloud, the partnership may be a no-lose proposition.

Another new piece of the hybrid puzzle is IBM Cloud Connect, a platform that enables customers to use WebSphere Cloud Connect middleware to integrate cloud and on-premise applications more easily than was possible in the past. IBM said Websphere boasts more than 200 million global instances as well as the largest population of Java developers. “What’s new is what we’re doing to make it easier to connect from the on-premise portfolio into the cloud,” Gunther said. For example, developers can trigger cloud events from IBM MQ Series messages or expose a broad range of cloud applications as application program interfaces (APIs) through IBM’s Bluemix platform-as-a-service software.

Other developer goodies include a cloud-based runtime and package catalog for Swift, the Apple-developed programming language that Apple open-sourced in December. Calling itself the first cloud provider to enable the development of native applications in Swift, IBM said Swift developers can now write server-side code that integrates with on-premise software through APIs.

Also new on the development side is Bluemix OpenWhisk, an open-source platform for building event-driven applications. The growth of IoT is accelerating the need for such tools, since applications will increasingly need to respond to events such as database updates or sensor alerts, Gunther said. OpenWhisk can be used to create APIs that kick off applications on-premise or in the cloud to perform a specific purpose and then shut them down again. Because applications can fire in VMs or containers in a matter of seconds, the cost and overhead of running idle servers is minimized.

In addition to the open-source software, IBM is also announcing an OpenWhisk community where developers can use the routines others have created. “We envision a world where devices are emitting events that anybody can tap into,” Gunther said. “The only way to truly get everyone on board is to open-source it.”

Also on the docket are new and updated APIs for Watson cognitive computing that IBM said enhance the platform’s emotional and visual senses. The partnership with Siemens is intended to “help corporate real estate owners across multiple industries drive business results and meet energy efficiency goals,” the IBM press release said.

You can watch the keynote presentations and catch all the live webcasts and interviews on theCUBE at InterConnect on IBM Go.