IBM's cloud marketplace finally went live this morning, giving users the ability to buy cloud offerings and third-party products that work on the SoftLayer platform with the swish of a credit card.
While the site has only been live for a few hours, it already has a few hundred hosted IBM applications as well as a range of middleware products from its BlueMix platform. About a quarter of those applications can be purchased by credit card directly from the online store.
IBM said the new store is a response to demand by customers for a way to build and rapidly deploy new cloud-based front-end systems that can be tied into the overall cloud infrastructure.
IBM noted that the new marketplace is an open platform and supports all the best known application development tools and offerings by partners like Zend, SendGrid, MongoDB, NewRelic, Redis Labs and Sonian. But the fact that it is only offering support for SoftLayer and its BlueMix platform is going to be a limiting feature.
While this makes accessing IBM cloud products a lot easier than it has been, there are a number of things that will make IT administrators and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) a little nervous.
The marketplace doesn’t, for example, offer visibility over what workers are buying, nor does it offer control over what kind of apps workers can purchase. In its current form, workers can get 30-day trials of apps without ever having to go near the IT department.
On top of this, it doesn’t offer IT the ability to manage new assets that have been brought in from the marketplace. It is also only accessible through a web browser and in a web-based environment, as opposed to the marketplaces that are available directly through screen icons like the Apple or Google marketplaces.
It is also likely to find that growth will be constrained because it is limiting it to apps that already work with SoftLayer. There are many apps established on Amazon Webs Services, for example, that don’t work with SoftLayer and are unlikely to move to IBM.
The marketplace is just another step in the evolution of IBM’s cloud business, which is really picking up steam after the company dumped of some of its hardware business, like the recent sale of its x86 servers to Lenovo.
It also underlined its cloud business commitment that earlier this year saw it pumping $1.2 billion into the development of a new set of data centers around the world, as well as $1 billion to set up its BlueMix Platform — and then there were the 17 cloud acquisitions it has made over the past few years.
Ultimately, this version of the marketplace is a way to show off its software and IT management applications, but it is only the beginning. IBM already has plans to upgrade the marketplace later in the year.