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IBM eyes hybrid cloud opportunity in ASEAN

The hybrid cloud message is resonating among Southeast Asian enterprises that are looking to modernise their applications and systems, says IBM’s general manager for the region

With major public cloud suppliers having set up cloud regions in just a few markets in Southeast Asia, the opportunities for hybrid cloud are stronger in the region than before.

That was the view of Martin Chee, IBM’s newly appointed general manager in ASEAN, whose 10 member states with a combined population of 650 million have accelerated their use of cloud services since the onset of the pandemic.

Noting that global cloud suppliers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud have set up datacentres mostly in Singapore and Indonesia for now, Chee said the hybrid cloud message resonates strongly with enterprises in countries such as Thailand and the Philippines.

“They don’t have a choice – they have to do it,” said Chee. “And many of them are existing IBM customers that have our mainframes, AS/400 systems and storage, and they all need to modernise.”

Chee said these enterprises would have to find a way to modernise their systems, rebuild applications and can do it through Red Hat OpenShift, an open-source container orchestration platform based on Kubernetes.

“And when the cloud comes, they will be ready as their applications have already been built for the cloud,” he said.

“Many countries will be ready and we’re here at the right time, helping them to go full-on with cloud.”

Portfolio

IBM has been touting the hybrid cloud message – along with others like VMware and Nutanix – in the market, since its $34bn buyout of Red Hat. The company has since made bold moves to underpin its cloud and software portfolio with Red Hat OpenShift.

In August 2019, it introduced Cloud Paks on Red Hat OpenShift, a set of pre-integrated and containerised software, including WebSphere and the Db2 database, across different platforms. About a year ago, it also made Red Hat OpenShift available for IBM Z mainframes.

Sensing a gap in the market where enterprises are looking to deploy cloud capabilities in on-premise and edge environments, IBM also launched Cloud Satellite yesterday to deliver cloud services in a distributed fashion.

Raymond Wong, cloud platform leader for IBM ASEAN, said Cloud Satellite is a major investment by Big Blue to offer cloud deployment options across different platforms and cloud providers, on-premise or off-premise. This includes bare metal servers and cloud instances.

“Hybrid cloud is about giving clients the flexibility to modernise and create innovative applications in a way that meets their business needs,” he added.

Cloud Satellite footprint

Using IBM Cloud as the control plane, enterprises can manage their Cloud Satellite footprint – though the public cloud link can be switched off in certain circumstances to meet regulatory and security requirements.

“You can also propagate a consistent security and access policy through your environments in a consistent manner, with a simplified management console and dashboard,” said Wong.

Asked about how Cloud Satellite differs from other hybrid cloud offerings, Wong said AWS Outposts, for example, is more of an integrated appliance while Microsoft’s Azure Stack has limitations in how it can be configured.

Other cloud service providers, he added, are also trying to bring their own cloud services to on-premise environments, whereas Cloud Satellite offers as many services as possible, not just those from IBM.

Read more about cloud in ASEAN

On VMware Tanzu, he said the Kubernetes-based platform only runs in vSphere, locking enterprises into VMware’s technology. “Tanzu is probably not a good example of something comparable…I don’t think it provides the openness that IBM Cloud Satellite provides.”

But Joe Beda, principal engineer at VMware and Kubernetes co-creator, told Computer Weekly last October that with Tanzu, VMware is also providing value to non-VMware customers.

“VMware has relationships with almost every large company, but those relationships could be with certain parts of a company,” he said.

“A big part of what we’re doing with Tanzu and related things like Kubernetes and the new APIs in vSphere is we’re creating new products that address a larger segment of our customers, such as application teams,” said Beda.

“We do this by connecting the dots between vSphere and application teams or providing value to application teams even if vSphere may not be in the picture.”

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