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IBM Expands Enterprise Cloud Options with SoftLayer Acquisition

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When it comes to enterprise adoption of the cloud, what’s the key barrier?

In IBM’s view, one of the key barriers is deployment options, which is why today Big Blue announced the acquisition of privately-held SoftLayer. Financial terms of the deal are not being publicly disclosed.

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SoftLayer provides public, private and hybrid cloud solutions.

“SoftLayer enables IBM to marry the security and privacy of private cloud with the economy and speed of the public cloud,” Ric Telford, VP of IBM Cloud Services said during a press conference discussing the deal. “SoftLayer lets customers select bare metal servers, rather than just virtual ones.”

Telford added that SoftLayer enables a variety of different deployment methods, though the bare metal approach is of particular interest to some enterprises. According to Telford, by building on a dedicated server, an enterprise cloud deployment doesn’t have to share resources. Additionally, with a bare metal deployment option, an enterprise can improve privacy, security and overall performance.

“This acquisition is a milestone in changing the cloud discussion from being about reducing cost to being about impacting the business value,” Telford said.

Erich Clementi, SVP, IBM Global Technology Service, stressed during the call that IBM is very committed to the enterprise cloud market. Clementi said that it is very important for IBM to offer choice and a point of integration for cloud services and that’s where SoftLayer will fit in.

“With the addition of SoftLayer to our portfolio of Smart Cloud services, we are trying to eliminate the barriers to cloud adoption for the enterprise,” Clementi said.


IBM is a strong back of the open source OpenStack cloud platform and the acquisition of SoftLayer will only help to strengthen that position. SoftLayer is currently also active in the rival CloudStack cloud platform.

Jim Comfort, General Manager of IBM Cloud Services, said that the beauty of the SoftLayer platform is that it enables client choice. Comfort noted that SoftLayer today already uses some element of OpenStack including the object storage component.

“If a client prefers OpenStack that’s fine, if they prefer CloudStack that’s fine,” Comfort said. “IBM has always been agnostic in terms of technology choices, the point around OpenStack is portability and we will continue to embrace that.”

Bare Metal

The SoftLayer technology might also be able to benefit from being more tightly integrated with IBM’s server portfolio, including IBM’s Power architecture.

Comfort told Datamation that the SoftLayer platform is already quite powerful and IBM’s primary interest is in growing the existing platform. “Given that, as we extend into our data centers and enterprise client needs, the two areas where I would expect to see additions are in tier one storage and in Power systems,” Comfort said.

Overall, the idea with SoftLayer is to further accelerate IBM’s push into the cloud.

“We certainly don’t buy a company to grow slower than the market,” Clementi said. “This is a big thing for us and we think it’s pervasive enough to make a material difference to us and to our customers.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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