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“We are a Cognitive Solutions Company Delivered over Cloud”

Mukul Mathur, Vice-President, Global Business Partners and System Integrators, IBM India and South Asia, spoke to Amit Singh on the winning opportunities for channel partners with IBM cloud and how channels can leverage on IBM’s IoT, cognitive and machine learning platforms

Mukul Mathur, Vice-President, Global Business Partners and System Integrators, IBM India

IBM has always been strong in private cloud; so how is your IBM Cloud Private different from your other offerings as well as private cloud solutions from other vendors?

IBM Cloud Private allows customers to seamlessly integrate their applications across public and private cloud. It is designed to enable companies create on-premises cloud capabilities similar to public clouds to accelerate app development. The new platform is built on the open source Kubernetes-based container architecture and supports both Docker containers and Cloud Foundry. This facilitates integration and portability of workloads as they evolve to any cloud environment, including the public IBM Cloud.

Putting this in simple terms, IBM Cloud Private enables to run applications inside the firewall offering the flexibility, DevOps environment and the same ability to innovate as offered from the applications on public cloud.

In fact, IBM Cloud Private is the only offering of its kind which allows to choose between the private (behind the firewall applications and data) and public applications and data, and offers seamless integration across the public and private clouds. That’s the huge differentiation that we offer with IBM Cloud Private.

An airline, for example, could use IBM Cloud Private to bring a core application that tracks frequent flyer miles into a private cloud environment and connect it to a new mobile app in the public cloud. A financial services firm could use it to keep customer data in-house as it works to meet its security and regulatory requirements while taking advantage of new analytic tools and machine learning in the public cloud to quickly identify investment trends and opportunities.

With the ever-growing competition, businesses will need applications which reside inside their firewall but access data from public cloud, and put analytics on the top to offer some intelligence. That’s where we are positioning our IBM Cloud Private. It will be a game-changer.

What is the role and opportunities you see for partners with IBM Cloud Private?

Partners have a large role to play in the success of IBM Cloud Private. Customers will require partners with expertise to understand their workload and help them decide what workloads (based on regulations, flexibility and their requirements) reside where. They will need partners to implement the solution so that they can connect their behind-the-firewall applications and data to the applications that they will build on IBM Cloud Private. In addition, there will be huge amount of service opportunity for partners, right from the design and workload distribution to the integration of applications.

The beauty of IBM Cloud Private is that it runs across hardware and database platforms, and has IBM analytics engine on the top as value-add. Hence for partners it’s a great opportunity to help customers make applications and systems cloud-ready.

Many consider IBM as a late entrant in the public cloud space. What are you doing to grab this space in India, which is led by players like AWS, Microsoft and Google?

IBM has always been strongly positioned among the enterprise customers and that has been our focus area. In fact, enterprises have quite high expectations on availability, reliability and security when it comes to cloud. While consuming the public cloud they have the same expectations of enterprise-class data management. That’s the space where IBM puts forward very strong portfolio of security solutions and performance parameters by virtue of the services experience that we have. We may not be there with every single application available across the board, but we do have a strong portfolio of enterprise-class applications and offerings on public cloud.

In India, IBM is the first company to establish a public cloud datacenter, (in Chennai) two years back. We have about 50 cloud pods across the globe and the latest one was in India. Apart from this, we have a huge datacenter in Mumbai for private cloud services.

In addition, we have a large set of cloud partners in India. We have added over 300 partners over the last 1.5 years to build on our SaaS portfolio. There are over 1000 start-ups who use our platform for development; this is in addition to ISVs and large SIs who develop their software/applications on IBM cloud platform.

In fact, many partners who have been on the infrastructure side of the business are now using our cloud assets to build private cloud services for their customers.

Moreover, in the beginning of 2017, we announced strategic partnership with VMware where we offer server, storage and network virtualization on the IBM cloud. We also have offerings around SAP HANA on IBM cloud. And, IBM Cloud Private has further strengthened our offerings on cloud.

Please elaborate on your achievement highlights in cloud space over the last 12-18 months.

We see IBM as a cognitive solutions company delivered over cloud. In fact, we realized 3-4 years back that there will be a rapid migration of workload on to the cloud. Not because the cloud is cheaper but because it enables a huge amount of transformation and flexibility that enterprises need.

Hence for IBM, cloud has been an enabler of transformation and we have looked at it as both private and public. We built our public cloud offering on the SoftLayer platform, which we acquired a couple of years ago. We further built on our IaaS and PaaS platforms, and are currently offering all of IBM’s software and solutions portfolio as SaaS.

On the other hand, we built on our private cloud offerings. Today, the businesses are moving toward hybrid cloud. As per IDC estimates, private cloud market will reach $28 billion by 2021, globally. This is 70 percent higher than it was in 2016. So companies are investing in private as well as public cloud.

For IBM, cloud has been one of the fastest growing areas. During the last quarter, our global revenues from cloud grew by 20 percent YoY. In fact, over the last 12 months cloud has contributed $15.8 billion, which is close to 20 percent of the overall IBM revenues, globally. In fact, this is the highest cloud revenue for any company across the globe. Hence, cloud is very large part of the solutions that IBM offers.

However, we would not have been successful had our partners not transformed with us. Many of our existing partners resolved to undertake transformation with us and acquired new skills and built services portfolio on cloud, security, analytics and cognitive. At the same time lot of new partners tied up with IBM with very strong ecosystem around Watson, IoT, security, analytics and SaaS.

Further, we complemented them by constant innovations and new offerings for customers. IBM Cloud Private is one of them. We also recently introduced Z series systems which introduced pervasive encryption as the new standard with 100 percent of the data encrypted at-rest and in-motion, which makes it fully secure. We also have very strong references in security, cognitive, IoT and machine learning.

What is the role channel partners are playing in the IoT, cognitive and machine learning spaces?

In India and South Asia, we have over 300 platinum, gold and silver partners which are deeply engaged with IBM’s IoT, cognitive, security and cloud platforms.

The interest of channels reflects in the tremendous response we received from partners during our recent flagship event, Genius of Things, on IoT and Watson in Mumbai. In fact, we had 5-6 partners showcasing their solutions on IBM IoT and analytics platform.

Many of our partners are utilizing our IoT platform for surveillance solutions. While IoT and analytics go hand-in-hand, we have partners leveraging preventive, predictive and cognitive analytics for security and e-commerce applications. We offer lot of IBM products as building blocks and enable our partners build innovative solutions for their customers.

Please elaborate on your recent channel initiatives?

We have revamped our channel strategy to align partners with emerging technology trends such as cloud, IoT, analytics, mobile and social. We have coined a very conscious methodology which we call 3E framework: Enrich, Enable and Engage.

Under our enrich strategy, we constantly strive to enhance our portfolio in a way that partners can leverage it, whether it is alliance with VMware, new products or SaaS offering or our recent IBM Cloud Private. These developments are to enable partners deeply engage with IBM and to have more new partners with unique skills.

In addition, we believe that no amount of enablement is absolute. In a rapid transformation world, we need to be on a constant journey of enablement. We have tremendous assets for partners to get online enablement, trainings and forums; the same kind of assets that IBM technical teams have access to.

Further, we understand that partners need engagement with clients. Hence, for engagement, we have created joint forums and events like Genius of Things, where we invite partners to showcase their solutions and expertise as well as to engage with customers.

Moreover, we will go deeper with partners as well as expand our overall base in domains like cloud, cognitive and security. For instance, we will go deeper with our existing partners for IBM Cloud Private as well as seek new partnerships. There will also be a constant re-invention of the landscape where we will analyse partners with expanding portfolio and changing priorities.

What are your priorities for the next 12-18 months?

We see tremendous opportunities with government initiatives like Digital India and Make in India, and in the BFSI and manufacturing sectors.

Our focus is to grow in each of these verticals with solutions including cognitive, cloud and security. We believe that analytics and cognitive is part of every decision making and is inherent to how line-of-businesses operate. And, that’s an area where we are particularly strong.

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