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When to Mix the Blue: @IBMBluemix and @Azure | @DevOpsSummit [#DevOps]

Future direction of most enterprises is to build and/or consume the services of smart machines as part of business operations

PaaS Will Rule
While the initial usage of the cloud platform was clearly for the IaaS offerings, the trend is shifting and the PaaS delivery model is gaining a lot of attention. Most of the analysts like IDC and Gartner have predicted huge growth for PaaS in the coming years. IDC predicts Platform as a Service (PaaS) and cloud storage services will be the fastest-growing categories, driven by major upticks in developer cloud services adoption and Big Data-driven solutions, respectively.

Enterprise software services during the last decade are mainly split between the major players, such as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and SAP. Out of these, both Microsoft and IBM have come up with a PaaS offering: Azure from Microsoft and more recently Bluemix from IBM.

Nearly 40% of the enterprise software market share lies with the top four software vendors - Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP, and out of which IBM and Microsoft have further consolidated with PaaS offerings. It would be wise for enterprises to think about how to utilize both of these offerings to improve the enterprise.

The following are some of the typical use cases where both these offerings can be utilized, complimenting each other.

IBM Bluemix and Microsoft Azure in the Enterprise

1. Heterogenous Shops
Most enterprises have a mix of .NET, Java EE, Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, WebSphere, IIS and other open source products as part of their enterprise IT bill of materials, and in those cases both BlueMix and Azure provide you with options.

Services from Azure: Cloud services, websites, SQL Database Services, Biztalk Services, Active Directory Services make a perfect combination of those units and departments within the enterprise that have invested in .NET-based applications and can utilize the PaaS offerings from Azure.

Services from Bluemix: Liberty for Java facilitates development and deployment of Java EE applications. This PaaS environment is powered by WebSphere Application Server and support for Java EE applications. For non-Microsoft database support, the SQL Database adds an on-demand relational database to your application. Powered by DB2, it provides a managed database service to handle web and transactional workloads. There is support for various NoSQL databases like, MongoDB, Cloundant.

2. Next-Generation Smart Machines
The future direction of most enterprises is to build and / or consume the services of smart machines as part of business operations. Smart machines are all about machines understanding Human behaviors and extending them quick decisions. Smart machines are built by combining multiple services that are available from both Azure and BlueMix.

Services from Bluemix: IBM has plugged in their Watson system as part of the  Bluemix offering, which is quite unique when compared to other PaaS offerings. Watson can perform lot of tasks that will act as the building blocks of smart machines. Some of the typical services are:

  • Language Identification
  • Machine Transalation
  • Concept Expansion
  • Relationship Extraction
  • Question & Answer
  • Message Resonance
  • User Modeling

Services from Azure: Smart machines are better built if the output from the services like concept expansion and relationship extraction is fed into machine learning models such that the machines become as intelligent as humans, if not better than humans. Azure Machine Learning is a fully managed cloud service for predictive analytics. By leveraging the cloud, Azure Machine Learning makes machine learning more accessible to a much broader audience. Predicting future outcomes is now attainable.

3. Internet of Things
The explosion of devices that are interconnected with each other and through which the various disconnected parts of the world can be connected and decisions made on those events is the direction the world is moving in. Both Bluemix and Azure support several services to support the IoT model. Surprisingly there is an element of co-existence there too.

Services from Bluemix: Internet of Things Foundation provides simple but powerful application access to IoT devices and data. With this service, we can register devices, securely receive data and send commands to those devices. Additionally we can access historic device data.

Services from Azure: Event Hubs is a highly scalable publish-subscribe ingestor that can intake millions of events per second so that you can process and analyze the massive amounts of data produced by your connected devices and applications. Once collected into Event Hubs you can transform and store data using any real-time analytics provider or with batching/storage adapters.

Stream Analytics is an event-processing engine that helps uncover real-time insights from devices. Together, Event Hubs and Stream Analytics let you process massive amounts of real-time data so you can make business decisions in real-time.

As per the documentation, the devices that can be registered using Blue Mix Internet Of Things Foundation can either be consumers or producers of messages which can be processed by the services from Azure like Event Hubs and Stream Analytics.

4. Vendor Lock In & IT Policies
As Microsoft and IBM have several competing products even in the traditional enterprise IT space, there are a list of services where there is an overlapping of functionalities apart from the co-existence scenarios mentioned above. But in most enterprises, especially large ones, where there are strategic IT decisions against a single vendor, they may likely have two vendors for their IT operations. Even in that context IBM Bluemix and Microsoft Azure provide good options for enterprises.

Integration Options
If an enterprise wanted to utilize both Bluemix and Azure naturally they need some good integration options. Here are some options provided by both of them.

Bluemix Cloud Integration enables users to quickly integrate cloud services with enterprise systems of record. Cloud Integration for Bluemix enables secure communication with on-premises Secure Connectors. This means that with appropriate network support, Bluemix can connect with the end points exposed by Windows Azure also. It is built using the CastIron product suite.

Azure Service Bus is a generic, cloud-based messaging system for connecting just about anything - applications, services, and devices - wherever they are. Connect apps running on Azure, on-premises-or both. You can even use Service Bus to connect household appliances, sensors, and other devices like tablets or phones to a central application or to each other.

While the case studies or live implementations of integration between Azure and Bluemix are missing from the above options, it is clearly possible to do them.

We should also wait for initiatives like InterCloud that are all about cloud interoperability. For example, Cisco Intercloud Fabric is a highly secure, open, and flexible solution that gives you complete freedom in workload placement, based on business needs. It applies the same network security, quality of service (QoS), and access control policies in public clouds that you enforce in the data center. And as capacity is added, there is no demarcation between internal and external clouds.

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