IBM Partners with Amazon to Make It Easier to Develop SaaS Solutions

Managed Services / SaaS / PaaS / IaaS
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In a major announcement that follows years of developers' taunting requests to deploy IBM middleware on Amazon's EC2 cloud infrastructure, the companies finally get it done.


In a move intended to make it easier for developers and ISVs to develop SaaS solutions, IBM announced this week that it has agreed to let Amazon Web Services host several major IBM middleware packages in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, EC2.


Developers initially will have access to development instances of IBM DB2, Informix Dynamic Server, WebSphere Portal Server, Lotus Web Content Management, and WebSphere sMash. Also available will be Novell's SUSE Linux operating system. The best part is it's free! At least IBM is not charging for use of the development images; Amazon will charge small registration and usage fees starting at 10 cents per hour per instance of the IBM Development Amazon Machine Images (AMIs).


Full production images of IBM software will be launched as a beta release this year, and the idea is for developers to be able to seamlessly move their SaaS applications from development to production on the Amazon cloud. IBM set no date for when the production instances will be available, but Dave Mitchell, IBM director of strategy and emerging business, IBM Software Group, said in a podcast that it would be coming "in the next few months." These production images can be used by "all developers and customers" for "revenue-generating activities," according to IBM. The production environment will be hosted by Amazon Web Services, a division of When ready, Amazon will announce the availability of the production images. The price for use of the production software images on EC2 has not yet been established. IBM did say, however, that customers will pay a single hourly charge per instance for the combined IBM software, Novell SUSE Linux operating system, and Amazon EC2 service. Following the production AMIs introduction as a beta service, plans call for offering optional premium support later in the year. The production AMIs must remain on the Amazon EC2 service, however, and developers cannot download them for running in their own environments.


IBM also said that it will introduce new licensing guidelines that will enable customers to run purchased IBM software on the Amazon EC2 cloud as another deployment model. It wasn't immediately evident what software would qualify or what the limitations would be, but the implication was that if you are pleased with the software available on the pay-as-you-go Amazon service, you could purchase it if that were preferable. Also, there are no credits given in switching between deployment models.


Developers can start immediately to use the development instances and, according to Mitchell, can be up and running within a matter of minutes. They can access the development area either through Amazon Web Services or through IBM developerWorks, which is launching a special new space called Cloud Computing for Developers, a focal point for developers to access the development AMIs, resources, and tools to build cloud services. The site will have an extensive collection of user guides, among other support services.


IBM said the announcement fits into its overall cloud strategy by helping ISVs and developers to design, build, deliver, and market cloud services. The other aspects of the company's strategy include delivering its own cloud services portfolio, helping clients integrate cloud services into their businesses, and providing businesses with cloud computing environments.


What does the future with Amazon promise? IBM said that, based on the reception to making the software AMIs available, the plan is for the two companies to "roll out additional development and production AMIs and support options for developers and customers."


"IBM is offering yet another way for our partners and customers to build solutions that can help them meet their business goals," says Mitchell. "This relationship with Amazon Web Services provides our customers with a new way to use IBM software and broadens our distribution channels."


Terry Wise, Amazon Web Services' director of business development, called the approach a "new model for building and deploying applications to companies of all sizes." Extending IBM software to the cloud, where a greater number of businesses can take advantage of its benefits, will show users how reliable, scalable, and cost-efficient the cloud infrastructure actually is, Wise said.


Both companies said the initiative is the result of developers working with both firms clamoring, in effect, for an easy and cost-efficient way to develop SaaS services. Mitchell said he thinks developers will be truly excited by the announcement that will allow more people to develop solutions on IBM middleware.


Marshall Lamb, a senior technical staff member and architect with WebSphere Portal development, whose primary focus on the product has been in the area of deployment and operations, including clustering, large-scale deployments, and performance tuning, said he sees the development as a "huge opportunity to lower cost of ownership of the portal platform." He suggested several ways that developers could leverage a portal in the cloud, including the following:


•                     "Host a demo portal that external users can access with a password.

•                     "Augment your development environment with additional portal test instances.

•                     "Provide customers with a customized portal instance for a trial period before downloading the configuration in-house.

•                     "Host your own Portal/Web Content Management (WCM)-based applications and sites in a Software as a Service delivery model..."


Lamb noted that the images launched in EC2 are fully configured portal/WCM installations that are ready to go. They are HTTP server-enabled, have an installed external DB2 database, are preconfigured with two sample virtual portals, and have enabled "developer mode" so that the start time for WebSphere Portal is speeded up by deferring the start of individual Web applications and portlets until they are requested.


Given the economic conditions and the reluctance that businesses have today to part with any cold, hard cash, we're betting that SaaS-delivered services will accelerate, and developers and ISVs using IBM software soon will have an affordable way to create and deploy them through Amazon Web Services.