On June 15, IBM announced significant backing for Apache Spark, the open source framework for Hadoop-based analytics. Apache Spark facilitates the development of Hadoop-based applications that specialize in interactive analytics, real-time analytics, machine learning and stream processing. IBM intends to integrate Spark into its analytics and commerce platforms as well as the IBM Watson Health Cloud and its IBM System ML machine learning technology. Moreover, Big Blue plans to offer Spark as a Service as part of its IBM BlueMix Platform as a Service, and commit 3500 developers to work on Spark-related projects. IBM also announced plans to open a Spark Technology Center in San Francisco to facilitate the development of innovative, data-centric, intelligent applications. IBM’s support of Apache Spark represents a huge coup for Spark and startups that rely heavily on its analytics framework to build analytics applications. That said, IBM’s backing of Spark also bolsters the industry of analytics frameworks built for Hadoop more generally such as the recently open sourced DataTorrent platform that offers a production-grade alternative to Apache Spark and Apache Storm. IBM’s support for Apache Spark comes in tandem with the announcement of the general availability of the Databricks cloud platform for Apache Spark that simplifies the application of Spark to Big Data use cases. Revealed roughly a year ago, the Databricks platform supports the automation of job processes and pipelines that leverage Spark as well as the use of the popular programming language R on Spark clusters. While IBM BlueMix’s Spark offering may well compete directly with the DataBricks cloud, the larger momentum for the open source Apache Spark project has swung hugely in Apache Spark’s direction and promises to continue doing so, assuming IBM can capitalize on its early investment in Spark integration into its array of platforms and use cases. IBM’s support of Spark also serves to differentiate its cloud platform from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft as the race for differentiation in the IaaS space intensifies.
IBM recently announced the opening of its first SoftLayer datacenter in Tokyo, Japan. The Tokyo-based SoftLayer datacenter complements existing IBM SoftLayer data centers in the Asia Pacific region that include locations in Singapore, Melbourne and Hong Kong. As such, the Tokyo-based site delivers increased redundancy, improved performance and lower latency for customers in the Asia-Pacific region. IBM’s CEO of SoftLayer, Lance Crosby, remarked on the launch of the SoftLayer datacenter in Tokyo as follows:
Since we established a Singapore cloud data center in September 2011, SoftLayer has seen tremendous growth in the Asia-Pacific market. Our new cloud data center in Tokyo will support this evolving market by offering locally the security, resiliency, and efficiency that customers are demanding around the world.
As noted in a press release, the Tokyo-based datacenter has the capacity to house thousands of physical servers. Meanwhile, IBM’s SoftLayer IaaS platform now boasts more than 1000 customers in Japan featuring an increase in customers by over 600% between Q3 2013 and Q3 2014. IBM’s enhanced presence in the Asia-Pacific region illustrates the growing importance of East Asia and the Pacific Rim to the global market share of IaaS products and services. Microsoft Azure, for example, operates Regions in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore while Amazon Web Services Regions include Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and China. The launch of IBM’s SoftLayer datacenter in Tokyo marks a pivotal moment in SoftLayer’s global expansion as it challenges the dominance of VMware, AWS and Azure in Asia-Pacific-based IaaS services. Moreover, as IBM’s integration of OpenStack with SoftLayer deepens, SoftLayer’s expansion in the Asia-Pacific testifies to the global penetration of commercial, enterprise-grade OpenStack technologies to geographies that include some of the world’s most renowned personal computing, automative and telecommunication companies in the vein of Sony, Samsung, Toyota, Hyundai and NTT Docomo.
IBM has won a contract with China’s Shanghai Airport Authority to use cloud computing to help the airport manage day to day operations such as airplane taxi times and passengers moving through airport concourses. The agreement represents the second phase of a collaboration between IBM and the Shanghai Airport Authority that finished in March that reportedly reduced delays related to air travel. The collaboration between IBM and the Shanghai Airport Authority aspires to track data about incoming air traffic for Hongqiao International airport as well as automobile traffic in and around the airport such as taxis. IBM’s finalization of a deal with China’s state-owned Shanghai Airport Authority comes amidst rising tensions between the U.S. and China related to U.S. charges against five Chinese military personnel related to cyberespionage. The U.S. charges of Chinese cyberespionage come amidst increased tension between the U.S. and China subsequent to Edward Snowden’s revelation that the NSA was spying on China. Financial details of the contract were not disclosed.
On Monday, IBM opened a new SoftLayer datacenter in Hong Kong as part of a $1.2 billion investment to strengthen its cloud services in Asia and all over the world. The Hong datacenter represents the first of 15 datacenters that IBM plans to open worldwide this year, bringing its total fleet of centers to 40 by the end of the year. Separate from the Hong Kong datacenter, IBM currently has 13 SoftLayer data centers and 12 from IBM. The Hong Kong data center has capacity for over 15,000 servers and complements IBM’s presence in Asia by way of the Singapore datacenter and “network points of presence” in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Moreover, it positions SoftLayer to serve the entrepreneurial community’s cloud services needs in Hong Kong. IBM intends to deploy data centers in all major geographic regions and financial centers worldwide, including plans to extend its cloud services presence to Africa and the Middle East in 2015.
A recent IDC survey ranks IBM as the top IaaS cloud computing provider as measured by responses provided by over 400 companies and 1000 employees. IDC’s survey asked respondents which vendor is most capable of providing Infrastructure as a Service for public and private clouds. Survey results ranked Cisco second, HP third, AT&T fourth, Google fifth, Microsoft Azure sixth and Amazon Web Services seventh. Whereas IBM captured 35% of votes, Microsoft and Google claimed 16 percent and Amazon Web Services garnered 13%. According to IBM’s press release, factors used in IBM’s survey include cost, simplicity, provisioning speed and quality of service with respect to availability. Building on its July 2013 acquisition of the SoftLayer IaaS platform, Big Blue has launched a multitude of recent investments in its portfolio of cloud products and services including the IBM BlueMix Platform as a Service in February, the first BlueMix garage based in San Francisco’s Galvanize start-up community and the IBM Cloud Marketplace. While all available data suggests that IBM lags far behind Amazon Web Services in terms of IaaS cloud market share whether it be measured in revenue or installations, IDC’s recent survey underscores the positive perception had by IBM as a trusted provider of enterprise software and professional services. IDC’s report notes that “buyers selected IBM as their overall top preference among providers they believe can most effectively provision IaaS, whether private or public,”. Although the IDC report reinforces analyst concerns about the ability of vendors such as Amazon and Google to gain credibility amongst enterprise customers, its precise significance remains difficult to evaluate without more details regarding the 400 participants involved. What seems certain, however, is that IBM is progressively establishing its credibility with respect to cloud-based products and services and that its long history of collaboration with the open source community and developers, in conjunction with its infrastructure business, means that it will be a force to be reckoned with as the battle for cloud market share unfolds.
IBM recently announced the launch of its first BlueMix garage composed of a “physical location where developers, product managers and designers can collaborate with IBM experts” based in San Francisco’s “Galvanize” startup incubator and workspace located in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood. The BlueMix garage will enable Galvanize developers to collaborate with BlueMix experts to determine how best to utilize BlueMix, the Cloud Foundry-based Platform as a Service to accelerate application development and integrate applications with cloud-based infrastructures. Densely populated by startups, investors and students, the Galvanize entrepreneurial community is expected to house more than 200 startups by the end of 2014. Jim Deters, co-founder and CEO of Galvanize, commented on the significance of the proximity of the first BlueMix Garage to the Galvanize community as follows:
Galvanize is a co-learning campus, providing digital startups with the industry-critical tools, mentoring and connections they need to learn, grow and launch. The inclusion of IBM’s first BlueMix Garage within the Galvanize community will equip our strong network of developers with the ability to competitively innovate apps with speed, using the power of cloud and open standards.
The partnership between Galvanize and IBM includes the addition of educational content about BlueMix to Galvanize coursework such as its developer training program. IBM’s launch of its first BlueMix garage coincides with its announcement of over 30 new services on the BlueMix platform focused around Cloud Integration, The Internet Of Things, Data and Analytics and DevOps. Since its inception in February, BlueMix has witnessed impressive traction marked by clients such as GameStop, Pitney Bowes and Continental Automotive. Michael Garel, CEO of EyeQ, another of BlueMix’s clients, noted that, “With BlueMix, we are able to reduce the amount of time spent on monthly server maintenance by 85 percent, and turn our attentions back to greater innovation.” The garage in San Francisco is expected to be fully operational in June with an emphasis on providing mentorship focused on agile application development and deployment in the context of cloud-based infrastructures.
The launch of IBM’s first BlueMix garage represents a highly original, bold attempt to render its Cloud Foundry-based PaaS more amenable to the developer community both as a means of increasing its adoption as well as obtaining feedback on its platform in order to accelerate product development. BlueMix is also available on IBM’s recently launched cloud marketplace, along with 100 SaaS applications and the SoftLayer IaaS platform. The larger point here is that IBM is pushing its cloud strategy on multiple fronts by making an aggressive push into the PaaS space with a platform built on the Cloud Foundry infrastructure. The launch of its first BlueMix garage constitutes a “high-touch” attempt to woo developers in Silicon Valley’s startup community that illustrates the seriousness of Big Blue’s interest in the cloud as part of its overall business strategy. Given IDC’s recent survey that claims U.S. companies ranked IBM #1 as a cloud computing provider over Google, Microsoft and Amazon, which placed 5th, 6th and 7th, respectively, IBM’s cloud strategy appears to be bearing fruit, although Big Blue is set to receive stiff competition from the likes of Microsoft, Google and Amazon as the battle for cloud market share matures.
Marketing automation vendor Act-On Software today announced the finalization of $42 million in venture financing in a round led by Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) with additional participation from Norwest Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures, US Venture Partners, and Voyager Capital. As a result of the funding raise, David Yuan, general partner at TCV, joins Act-On’s board of directors. Act-On intends to use the funding for all aspects of its business operations, including product development, sales, marketing and operations. The announcement of Act-On’s funding raise comes in the wake of IBM’s announcement of its agreement to acquire marketing automation firm Silverpop on April 10.
IBM’s acquisition of Silverpop for an undisclosed sum builds upon Oracle’s acquisition of Eloqua and Responsys, Salesforce.com’s acquisition of ExactTarget and Marketo’s IPO in May 2013. Silverpop specializes in the personalization of marketing content based on the creation of customized audience profiles derived from email, social media and web and mobile activity and boasts 8000 customers in over 50 countries including the likes of Mazda, Stonyfield Farm and Advanced Micro Devices. Atri Chatterjee, CMO of Act-On, commented on the significance of IBM’s acquisition of Silverpop as follows:
The marketing automation industry has been heating up and Act-On is playing in one of the hottest markets right now…IBM acquiring Silverpop further validates the rapidly growing market and substantiates the industry as a whole. We are seeing an increasingly growing demand for marketing automation as companies are doing more online multi-channel marketing and moving beyond email. Corporate Darwinism is at work here in a fast evolving market. The companies that remain standing are the hyper-growth ones with leading edge technology, or the behemoths that are scrambling to enter the market.
Here, Chatterjee notes that the marketing automation landscape is rapidly bifurcating into two spaces marked by “behemoths” like IBM and Oracle that elected to scoop up attractive platforms such as Silverpop, and a selection of standalone vendors that differentiate themselves by consistently demonstrating their ability to innovate and respond nimbly to customer needs and the changing technology horizon in which all marketing vendors operate. Act-On definitively stands in the category of the “hyper-growth” vendors “with leading edge technology” as evinced by its growth to over 2000 customers and accolades such as the designation of leader in the Forrester Wave report on lead-to-revenue management platform vendors for Q1 of 2014. Today’s funding raise brings the total capital raised by Act-On to $74 million since it was founded in 2008. Act-On now has the luxury of innovating upon its integrated marketing platform to develop more accurate analytics and predictive modeling algorithms to drive the personalization of marketing content at both a population and individual customer level. Key challenges for the Beaverton, Oregon-based company will involve the platform’s ability to incorporate real-time analytics into its prescriptive marketing campaigns, the refinement of customer profiles as they evolve in the specific context of the customer’s relationship with specific brands and the ability to generate effective outbound content such as text messages that match the needs and predispositions of targeted consumers. With an extra $42 million in cash in hand, however, Act-On may well end up becoming one of the vendors scooped up by the “behemoths which are scrambling to enter the market,” particularly if it can consolidate its impressive traction to date and enhance its platform to the point where it becomes the undisputed leader in the marketing automation space.