Why IBM is phasing out SmartCloud Enterprise in favor of SoftLayer

It's just better technology

News broke today that IBM will be phasing out SmartCloud Enterprise and migrating customers over to SoftLayer, which is an IaaS company Big Blue purchased over the summer.

[READ MORE: IBM to nix SmartCloud Enterprise, migrate customers to SoftLayer ] 

IBM's VP of Cloud Infrastructure Dennis Quan explained today that SoftLayer gives IBM and its customers a more flexible platform than what SmartCloud Enterprise has. In the simplest terms, SoftLayer is just better technology. Going forward, SoftLayer will be the basis for the company's IaaS, SaaS and PaaS offerings, Quan said.

While some in the industry believe that the IaaS cloud market is commoditizing, meaning that there are just vanilla compute and storage offerings from a handful of big-name providers, like Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon and others. Quan says by using SoftLayer, IBM has the opportunity to differentiate on that IaaS layer though. SoftLayer is perhaps best known for being one of the best bare-metal offerings in the market today, in addition to virtualized offerings. Pay-by-the-hour non-virtualized servers are a good fit for compute intensive workloads, like databases that handle massive-scale workloads. Integrating SoftLayer's services in with IBM's global outreach of data centers and network connections give the company an international footprint that allows customers to distribute resources across the globe without going through the public Internet, Quan says.

One question will be how that migration from SmartCloud to SoftLayer will go. IBM will give customers free access to Racemi software, which specializes in migrations across disparate platforms, including virtualized to bare-metal.

One thing that will be worth watching is how SoftLayer transforms into an enterprise company. In the future, he hinted at new offerings like managed services, more database options, and OpenStack components being integrated into the platform. IBM may also offer a Cloud Foundry PaaS through SoftLayer. "We knew that SoftLayer was the right platform for us," Quan said. "As we build out SoftLayer as the base of our infrastructure offering, we'll bring into it elements of our SmartCloud Enterprise platform that will get rolled out on top of SoftLayer and add new features too."

The news that IBM is folding SmartCloud has been welcomed by analysts. "Kudos to IBM for moving fast, moving customers to the better offering and communicating this with an appropriate transition time frame," says Holger Mueller of Constallation Research, who notes that it was less than 100 days ago that IBM bougth SoftLayer. "We will have to see how significant a move this is going to be - but it certainly establishes a precedence for the industry - on good and acceptable standards for customers."

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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