IBM Advances Cloud Container Strategy

This week at the IBM Think 2018 conference IBM expanded the scope of its support for containers by making additional middleware tools available as containers and revealing that it will add support Windows containers running applications to IBM Cloud Private platform later this year.

Denis Kennelly, general manager for cloud integration at IBM, says the same capabilities also will be extended to the public cloud IBM makes available.

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IBM announced that API Connect, UrbanCode and Netcool middleware are joining other IBM offerings such as IBM Db2 and MQ Series that have already been made available as containers. It’s not clear to what degree IBM will eventually transform its middleware portfolio into a series of microservices based on containers, but Kennelly says developers want to be able to build their own custom stacks of software and services as they see fit rather than always being required to consume large instances of monolithic middleware. By way of example, IBM last week unfurled an analytics service based on microservices running on Kubernetes on the IBM Cloud Private.

This latest expansion of the IBM cloud platform also comes on the heels of a move to make a bare-metal instance of Kubernetes available on IBM Cloud in addition to a version hosted on top of a virtual machine. Kennelly says that the end game is to replace virtual machines with more flexible and efficient containers deployed on bare-metal servers. But that may take several years to accomplish. In the meantime, IT organizations are deploying containers on virtual machines both on-premises and in the cloud primarily to take advantage of existing tooling.

At the IBM Think conference this week, John LaFreniere, vice president of global IT architecture for Hertz, described how a rental rates application built using Docker containers and Kubernetes container orchestration software enables the company to simultaneously invoke both IBM public and private cloud services. While there has been a lot of experimentation with Docker containers, Kennelly says the Hertz application shows that containerized applications are now being deployed more aggressively in production environments.

To facilitate the building of hybrid cloud applications, IBM this week also unveiled a cloud integration platform that provides a single control plane for messaging, API management, app integration, high-speed file transfer and the management of a secure gateway. IBM is also adding a high-speed data transfer option based on Aspera software it acquired in 2014 to the IBM Cloud Object Storage service.

IBM claims to have more than 150 customers using IBM Cloud Private. Kennelly says IBM expects that number to grow considerably as IT organization move to embrace Docker containers that make it much simpler to lift and shift on-premises applications into the cloud. In fact, a new generation of cloud applications based on Docker containers will provide IBM with an opportunity to close the cloud gap with rivals such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, says Kennelly, noting IBM has already made significant investments in open source serverless computing frameworks and associated event-driven software that will drive the next era of cloud computing.

It’s too early to say with certainty how containers will transform cloud computing. But the battle for control of the future of cloud computing is now on in earnest.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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