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IBM and Microsoft’s Curious Endorsements of Each Other’s Clouds

Oct 22nd, 2014 7:53am by
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IBM and Microsoft this morning announced that they’ll be supporting each other’s enterprise software on some of their respective cloud services.

It’s a curious move. The result is that the companies are making it easy for customers to use their products on the other company’s cloud services.

For instance, IBM middleware products like WebSphere Liberty, MQ and DB2 will work on Azure. Likewise, Windows Server and SQL Server will be supported in SoftLayer. The companies also say they’ll also make .Net supported in Bluemix.

In addition, they vaguely said that IBM will “expand support of its software running on” Microsoft’s Windows Server Hyper-V. And, IBM’s Pure Application Service will become available on Azure.

The Bluemix part of the partnership is particularly interesting. It will allow .Net developers to build applications on IBM’s Cloud Foundry platform as a service, which competes directly with Azure. The move is good for developers but is a bit counterintuitive from Microsoft’s perspective, since surely the company would prefer to funnel .Net users to Azure.

Making IBM’s middleware products available in Azure makes more sense, since IBM continues to benefit from use of its middleware and Microsoft gains new uses for Azure.

The companies also say they’re working to help customers with licensing. For instance, Microsoft will offer IBM licenses for products like WebSphere Liberty, MQ and DB2 on Azure with pay-per-use pricing. Licensing is a big headache for businesses since in some cases licensing models haven’t caught up to the cloud model.

IBM isn’t the first enterprise software that Microsoft has announced support for in Azure. Oracle is among the others also supported in Azure.

The SoftLayer support for Microsoft products could have some wider implications once SoftLayer fully supports OpenStack, if it means that Microsoft products will get supported across OpenStack clouds. However, there’s already been some work in that direction.

The takeaway from this announcement is that both companies seem to be acknowledging that it’s inevitable there will be multiple successful cloud providers. Enabling their own products to work on a competitor’s cloud is better than preventing users of competitive clouds from using your products at all.

But also, the deal seems also be an endorsement that each company thinks the other’s cloud services will be around for the long haul. Otherwise, they wouldn’t put the work into these kinds of integrations.

In addition, it’s impossible to ignore how this arrangement is relative to Amazon Web Services, still by far the largest cloud player in the market. While AWS has for the past couple of years been pushing hard about its enterprise chops, it’s still not seen as an enterprise company. Rightly or not, businesses don’t see AWS as a company that can cater to the needs of enterprises. The IBM/Microsoft partnering bolsters both company’s enterprise chops. IBM and Microsoft are built on enterprise business and by supporting customers on each other’s cloud services, they, at the very least, keep those customers away from AWS.

The arrangement also strengthens Microsoft’s and IBM’s enterprise game against Google. Like AWS, Google tries to cater to enterprises but hasn’t been able to shake its reputation as a consumer company. While Google’s cloud business is still fledgling, most everyone acknowledges that the company, because of its resources and technology chops, is a threat.

 Image via Flickr Creative Commons

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