Some Factors that are Making IBM Cool Again in the Enterprise

Last week I was watching IBM CEO Gini Rometty interview at the Code Conference and I couldn’t avoid thinking how different she sounded compared to her predecessors. If we removed the references to IBM technologies you could hardly tell that this was the CEO of IBM as the conversation centered around modern enterprise technology trends such as artificial intelligence, IOT or the blockchain.

That’s the new IBM…

Under Rometty’s leadership, IBM has started a very aggressive transformation process moving from a traditional services and on-premise software model into new and exciting areas. This transformation process is even more impressive if you consider that has done in the eye of the public markets reporting earnings that Wall Street considers disappointing as revenue shifts from the old model to the new technologies. Recently, in an interview in CNBC, a prominent venture capitalist in Silicon Valley even mentioned that buying IBM was “betting against the future of America”.

Despite the doubters (myself included), the IBM transformation process seems to be working. What is even more impressive, IBM is once again becoming a cool vendor in the enterprise capturing the hearts and minds of developers and customers. There are many factors that are contributing to IBM’s successful transformation but here are some that I think are worth highlighting.

Bridging the Gap in Established Areas: Cloud and Big Data

Cloud and big data are areas in which IBM has been aggressively closing the gap with the market leaders. The Bluemix cloud platform is typically placed right next to Google Cloud as a third place in the market following AWS and Azure. IBM’s Open Platform and Big Insights have become very compelling big data distributions embraced by thousands of customers all over the world. This picture was unconceivably a few years ago when IBM wasn’t anywhere close to relevant in those markets.

Leading in New Technology Trends: IOT, Cognitive, Blockchain

IBM is not particularly well-known for jumping first in new technology trends. However, that seems to be changing. The software giant seems is leading the charge in transformational movements in the enterprise such as IOT, cognitive computing and even the blockchain. In those markets, IBM’s is not only leading many of the enterprise software incumbents but also holding its ground against innovative startups that are trying to become leaders in those segments.

Investing in Open Source

IBM’s commitment to open source technologies has increased dramatically over the last few years. From aggressively contributing to lead open source technologies such as Apache Spark to starting popular open source projects like Node-Red or Hyperledger, IBM is leveraging open source to attract millions of developers to its technology offerings.

Smart Acquisitions

Being smart about acquisitions is also been a key element of IBM’s recent transformation in the enterprise. The acquisitions of popular PaaS technology providers like Strongloop and Compose has drastically helped to improve the adoption of Bluemix within enterprise developers. The high profile acquisition of the The Wheather Company provides IBM with a unique asset in the IOT space. More recently, IBM acquired cloud professional services leader Blue Wolf to bring fresh talent to the implementation of its cloud offerings.

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.

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