A Big Blue Cloud is Coming

One of the weirdest ideas about the ‘cloud’ is that it is becoming increasingly hard to know what is behind every curtain. Before IBM acquired the IaaS provider SoftLayer in June of last year, we were hard-pressed to conclude exactly what kind of IaaS Big Blue had to offer. The company did have a virtual server configurator that was similar to Amazon’s, but it seems the self-service idea stopped there. You would just add up your config, and then submit it, and finally IBM would get back to you.


Then there was the trouble in July with the SEC investigating IBM to uncover exactly how Big Blue was able to calculate that 70% increase in cloud revenue that it had reported for the first 6 months of 2013.

IBM then obtained a large chunk of cloud validity with the $2 billion that it paid for SoftLayer. So, according to SoftLayer CEO Lance Crosby, SoftLayer has at least 120,000 physical nodes in 13 data centers. So, thanks to IBM, the cloud footprint is poised to get a whole lot bigger. “We are going to have massive expansion in the next 24 months,” Crosby says.

The Quiet Cloud Company

SoftLayer, which was founded in Dallas in 2005, was the biggest privately held IaaS provider until it became part of IBM. “We were cloud before cloud was cool,” says Crosby, who offered both multi-tenanted and single-tenanted IaaS. Self-service had always been part of the deal, at least right up until the acquisition. “We were at $500 million in revenue without an outbound salesperson, so it’s all self-service.”

Big Blue Cloud Clarity

Contrary to the plan of attack of Amazon Web Services, Crosby has believed in giving customers complete clarity into the hardware infrastructure that is behind the cloud. “The concept of creating this fungible machine where you don’t have to worry about the underlying infrastructure — its nonsense,” says Crosby. “In SoftLayer, you can drill down to the server, the rack, the network board, the serial numbers … everything down to the encryption level on the drive”, even in multitenant systems.

All this may not seem quite ‘cloud’ to those skeptical individuals out there. But according to Crosby, offering such transparency — and in single-tenanted systems, granular control over configuration — delivers special benefit to SoftLayer customers.

A lot remains to be seen when it comes to SoftLayer, IBM and other cloud services that are available now. What is certain is that the ‘cloud’ is here to stay.

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To read more about the cloud, visit Cloud Computing.