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IBM’s Patterns and Its Impact on IT Services Purchasing

Development of reusable assets from domain knowledge leveraging cloud computing technology can be very useful

Cloud computing is fundamentally changing the IT ecosystem in many ways, forcing related changes in business models.  Other than customers (who are always “king” and make buying decisions), the IT ecosystem players being affected by cloud includes technology providers, independent software vendors (ISVs) and systems integrators (SIs).   One of the battles being fought right now by technology providers is to develop end-to-end cloud platform stacks attractive to ISVs.  IBM announced additions to their recently launched PureSystems family at Impact 2012 with more than 125 ISVs supporting this family with patterns. Although the primary focus of this cloud platform stack is on ISVs, there is also a need for SIs to adapt to these changes, especially as it relates to custom software development and maintenance capabilities.

Similar to what is happening in the IT ecosystem around cloud, marketing is being transformed by social media. One of the new questions that marketing managers are asked during a job interview is their Klout scores (which are designed to measure/portray your influence in community interactions) and the hiring decisions which are often based on them.  A 40+ Klout score also allows you perks, such as entrance into Cathay Pacific airport lounges.

What does this have to do with custom software development/maintenance and systems integrators?  During my days as a principal consultant at systems integration firms, customers primarily looked for experience and cost as a measure to award contracts.  Just as a Klout score measures influence of a person, a systems integrator’s portfolio of “patterns” provides a measure of the SIs ability to deliver the goods.

Patterns are not only assets to do with processes, best practices, methodologies but include technology capabilities that eventually have to lead to lower cost of maintenance.  Integrated stacks provide the ability to package domain knowledge with the technical capabilities enabled by cloud computing technologies.  In contrast, building software on traditional platforms can lead to a continuous drain of costs focused on maintenance after the application is built and deployed.

In addition, numerous technology companies are building out their patent portfolios these days to help defend against potential patent lawsuits. Just as patent portfolios are an important line of defense for technology vendors, systems integrators can use their pattern portfolios to differentiate themselves from competitors and provide a unique value proposition to their customers.

At IBM’s conference in Las Vegas, I had an interesting conversation with a SI on how cloud computing is changing the way custom software is being developed and delivered.  We talked about how cloud shifts the focus to include not just the cost of development but also how well the solution can be maintained and upgraded with least effort resulting in lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

As a result, the ability to leverage patterns can help take software development into a paradigm shift for both SIs and their customers and is something no one can afford to ignore.  SIs are looking to expand their businesses, while customers are looking for speed in delivery as well as cost of maintenance.  As a result, the focus has shifted from cost of development to the ownership of patterns that help customers address challenges of reducing cost of operations and maintenance.

IBM’s new PureSystems solutions family, with PureFlex (infrastructure) and PureApplication (platform) as the first members, provide significant value in reducing time for deployment, development and operational effort.  Organizations hobbled with maintenance costs that lower their ability to innovate are paying increased attention to reducing those costs.   Systems integrators can play a role in migrating applications onto platforms to take advantage of these capabilities as well as developing a repertoire of patterns to enable their customers to take advantage of these platforms.

While IBM ships PureApplication System with its own middleware products (WebSphere Application Server and DB2), the benefits of openness are accessible by ISVs and SIs through certifying and optimizing their own patterns to run on PureApplication System (possibly built with emerging frameworks and languages). This provides customers and systems integrators with a toolbox to meet varied requirements. Other companies that have the end-to-end capabilities and products to build similar offerings are Cisco, Dell, HP and Oracle.  All these companies have a common goal of reducing complexity to their customers. However, only time will tell how well they will provide a platform attractive enough to draw ISVs and SIs to their platform.

As a conclusion, cloud computing benefits are only now beginning to show their true colors with this IBM Impact announcement of patterns.  Customers will ultimately benefit when SIs leverage these capabilities to provide a value proposition that improves business outcomes.

Disclosure: IBM paid for my stay at Las Vegas during Impact 2012

More Stories By Larry Carvalho

Larry Carvalho runs Robust Cloud LLC, an advisory services company helping various ecosystem players develop a strategy to take advantage of cloud computing. As the 2010-12 Instructor of Cloud Expo's popular Cloud Computing Bootcamp, he has already led the bootcamp in New York, Silicon Valley, and Prague, receiving strong positive feedback from attendees about the value gained at these events. Carvalho has facilitated all-day sessions at customer locations to set a clear roadmap and gain consensus among attendees on strategy and product direction. He has participated in multiple discussion panels focused on cloud computing trends at information technology events, and he has delivered all-day cloud computing training to customers in conjunction with CloudCamps. To date, his role has taken him to clients in three continents.

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