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IBM’s announcement that it is acquiring Blue Box Group, a Seattle company that leverages OpenStack for private cloud deployments, fits neatly into IBM’s portfolio for hybrid clouds.

Hybrid clouds are top-of-mind for systems companies today, given their potential to link on-premise enterprise datacenters with in-cloud datacenters that offer public-cloud support for application development, hosting and HA/DR solutions.

It’s the combination of on-premise private cloud computing and enterprise considerations for service level agreements (SLAs), quality of service (QoS) and security that are causing an acceleration in hybrid cloud adoption in 2015. It’s not possible to re-host everything on the public cloud, but there is a benefit in applying cloud technology across-the-board, supporting end-to-end applications.

Competition in the Marketplace

This is feeding an intense competition between top IT vendors to build out a complete product line of cloud offerings, including support for OpenStack and software-defined infrastructure, for hybrid clouds.  Using OpenStack gives IT a way to manage large groups of servers more easily – and to view datacenters as a single entity to be managed in a unified way.

The challenge has been that many enterprise workloads being considered for cloud deployments must stay on-premises, in enterprise datacenters, for security and compliance reasons.

It’s clear that these customers can leverage advanced cloud computing technology, especially for rapidly building new cloud-enabled applications responsive to changing business conditions.

Following a build-out of hybrid cloud capabilities, it’s the ability to give IT – and thus the business – central oversight over workload spanning the hybrid cloud that are key to senior-management approval for use and future purchases.

Speeding Adoption at Customer Sites

Importantly, IBM consulting services can now leverage Blue Box in hybrid-cloud customer engagements, which has the potential to speed adoption of IBM technology in private cloud projects. This is vital because many IT organizations cannot deploy some of their planned cloud-computing projects to public clouds due to regulatory compliance restrictions, privacy concerns or security concerns.

Blue Box capabilities that support workloads at remote sites, including enterprise datacenters, will speed up hybrid cloud-building where these restrictions on public clouds have been a concern.

IBM is highly aware of these pragmatic considerations in leveraging cloud infrastructure – as it has been since it embarked on its private cloud initiatives several years ago. It will find the Blue Box management tools useful in addressing customer concerns regarding hybrid cloud engagements, and oversight by IT, and getting those hybrid cloud deployments online more quickly.

Magnifying Blue Box’s Reach

Neuralytix believes the Blue Box Group offerings will be additive to IBM’s Soft Layer IaaS capabilities for IBM-delivered cloud services. Blue Box will be synergistic to IBM Bluemix, IBM’s Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution for applications building on the cloud. Previously, IBM has also invested deeply in Cloud Foundry as part of its work to extend the Bluemix PaaS platform.

Importantly, the acquisition will bring Blue Box technology to a much wider audience. Blue Box Group has four datacenters worldwide, supporting 300 customers. Its capabilities will likely be magnified through further IBM investments – spreading the technology throughout IBM’s 40+ cloud datacenters worldwide, and reaching many thousands of clients.

IBM said the Blue Box technology will “help businesses rapidly integrate their cloud-based applications and on-premises systems into OpenStack-managed cloud.” IBM disclosed that its total cloud revenue – including public, private and hybrid cloud engagements – generated $7.7 billion over the 12 months ending March 31, 2015.

IBM identified one key aspect of functionality it will gain, “with the introduction of a remotely managed OpenStack offering to provide clients with a local cloud and increased visibility control and security.” This is the remote management capability that allows end-to-end applications to tap into on-site private clouds and hosted off-prem clouds managed by cloud services providers.

Linked to this is the use of Blue Box technology to provide a single management tool – or a single-pane-of-glass approach – to private clouds, across locations. Neuralytix notes that this is highly relevant to many of IBM’s customers, which are large enterprises with global operations, and increasing levels of cloud adoption – for private, public and hybrid clouds. These customers need a way to manage their distributed enterprises in an aggregate, automated, centralized, policy-driven way that allows the IT teams to focus on delivering SLAs to its internal customers rather than spending time on up-keeping infrastructure.

IBM’s size and scope will bring this remote-site support for private cloud to a much larger audience, building on IBM’s base of cloud computing customers worldwide, attracting new business – and attracting deeper levels of engagement for customers already working with IBM’s portfolio of cloud products and services.