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IBM bets $1 billion on PaaS to boost Cloud apps

IBM bets $1 billion on PaaS to boost Cloud apps

IBM will become a major benefactor of the Cloud Foundry, an open source PaaS that is under the control of Pivotal

Unsatisfied with the rate of cloud application development, IBM announced on Monday that it is putting $1 billion behind its platform-as-a-service (PaaS) strategy in hopes of encouraging software makers to build many more apps for the Cloud and to migrate existing ones there.

As part of the announcement made at its Pulse event in Las Vegas, IBM will become a major benefactor of the Cloud Foundry, an open source PaaS that is under the control of Pivotal, which is itself a spinout from VMware and EMC. The moves represent a significant boost for the PaaS market and it underlines the emphasis big companies like IBM are putting on developing new applications for the cloud.

+ MORE FROM NETWORK WORLD: IBM begins moving software portfolio to the cloud +

IBM says that of the 18 million software developers in the applications industry, less than a quarter are crafting applications for the cloud. Apps need to not just be designed for the public cloud, IBM argues, but be flexible enough to run on premises too, in order to support hybrid set-ups.

The $1 billion will be spent on a variety of initiatives. To specifically increase the development of hybrid cloud-based applications, IBM announced BlueMix, which is a new application development platform that provides a continuous delivery framework. This DevOps model more closely aligns developers with operations professionals who provision resources to run applications.

Other initiatives to encourage cloud-based application development include offering the company's middleware portfolio, including its WebSphere product line, in the company's SoftLayer IaaS cloud. SoftLayer is getting a broader makeover too, with the addition of IBM's Power Systems platform running in its cloud, plus a new Systems Management platform. New software development kits and APIs also are being exposed to encourage developers to build cognitive apps around IBM's powerful Watson technology.

One big winner in today's announcement is Cloud Foundry (CF). The budding open source PaaS project has already gained notable attention in the cloud industry, with IaaS vendors like Verizon announcing that it will offer CF as a hosted application development platform, among other PaaSs. On the same day IBM committed to developing the project - this isn't the first time IBM has voiced its support for CF, by the way - Cloud Foundry launched a Foundation to run CF in an open governance model. HP, SAP and Rackspace have all signed on as supporters of the foundation. This led The Register to dub CF the early winner among PaaS projects, specifically compared to Red Hat's OpenShift, an open source competitor that has yet to woo any big corporate backers.

IBM's been talking up its hybrid cloud game. In recent weeks it has launched Jumpgate, which is an open source project developed by SoftLayer to allow connections between OpenStack-based clouds and SoftLayer's cloud. The idea is to make it easier to import applications running on OpenStack into the company's SoftLayer IaaS.

IBM is building up its cloud-based databases, too. In addition to the $1 billion PaaS investment, IBM announced that it acquired cloud-based database company Cloudant today. The company has a distributed database-as-a-service platform for NoSQL data, specifically those serving data for web and mobile apps.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.  

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