CAMSS in Conversation: Overview

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Your business may be benefitting from CAMSS without even knowing it.


In my upcoming "In the Wheelhouse" articles for the rest of this year, I'll be digging into what much of IBM has been investing its time on: Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social, and Security, also known as CAMSS.


I recently sat down with IBM's Terri Vernig, Vice President of POWER Strategy and Ecosystem, and Steve Will, Chief Architect for the IBM i operating system, in order to set the stage about what CAMSS is, why it's IBM's focus, and what it means to Power Systems, the IBM i operating system, and their respective communities.


Steve Pitcher: Terri, can you explain a little about IBM's CAMSS strategy from a Power Systems perspective?


Terri Vernig: Five or six years ago, we began to double down and discuss what was our role in cloud and how we can be enabling it with technology services. Analytics we've had a long history of it, but we refined our focus, building out our portfolio. Mobile has been hotter and hotter because people had more mobile devices and wanted to do things like mobile payments or mobile transactions. Social started with some of our heritage products like Lotus but expanded into Connections. The original IBM focus was really on those four core things. We added in security because security is really an underpinning for all those elements. If you're doing mobile payments, you want to do it as securely as possible. You don't want other people to steal your information. We began to really measure ourselves and restructured the company at the beginning of this year to better align with the focus. There are elements in that strategy in all the parts of the IBM business. From a POWER perspective, we've doubled down on cloud, big data, and analytics. For mobile, we absolutely support it, especially for clients for the solutions we have now for AIX and IBM i. Social we tend to be more focused on the big data that social produces as our underlying capabilities for analytics and big data are tied with social. Security has always been a core focus and part of the stack. The strategy is very much aligned on where we've driven POWER and where we're driving POWER.


SP: In terms of POWER uptake, I noticed the first-half earnings were not the strongest in software but what appeared to be growth in Power Systems and mainframe. From a cloud or mobile perspective, because the margins are not as great as hardware like storage, Power Systems, or System z, do you see revenue growing in that area or evening off?


TV: IBM has grown as a company in cloud, big data, and analytics, and it definitely underpins a lot of other parts of the company. We've seen a lot of growth there and a lot of acquisitions. Different parts of the business go in cycles. With Power Systems, we've returned to growth in the first half, and it was a combination of AIX and IBM i growth in addition to the POWER8 servers. We're beginning to see the results of our focus of Linux on POWER.


SP: Can you talk about Linux on Power a little bit and where it fits under the CAMSS strategy? Google fits in the cloud realm by using POWER8 chips in their boards. Can you tell me a bit about how new business is coming along?


TV: Well, the Linux on POWER strategy, you've heard our terms of systems of record, systems of engagement, and systems of insight, then clearly the systems of record are the AIX and IBM i environments. With Linux we're looking at systems of engagement where you see a lot of cloud and mobile. The systems of insight are kinda the big data and analytics. Linux is very complementary with the existing businesses in Power. POWER8 is architected with big data in mind, so we have a competitive differentiation. Linux is by nature open. There's a lot of open source software and communities and we're integrating ourselves in those. I think OpenPOWER has been great where you're opening the platform from the chip on up. You've got all these different players who add their technology on top, and we work with them to more rapidly iterate ideas. OpenPOWER has really given us a strong community, especially for public cloud deployments. Instead of being all things for all people, we're focused on those systems.


SP: Does that translate into decent revenue in terms of competition vs. x86? Essentially, that's what the very low-level POWER8 systems were designed to do.


TV: We're seeing uptake and growth in this space. Clearly, we started with a small base and building out our capabilities. We've had a history with Linux, but it wasn't a primary focus, but a few years ago we declared Linux is a primary focus and supplied little Endian support. We have done very well since then, growing out with 1600 ISVs for Linux on POWER, building out open source packages, and it's been a pretty strong growth. Clients are building solutions for Linux on POWER in the areas of big data and analytics. We've had people all over the world creating solutions for big data on Linux on POWER and creating value for companies. If you've seen the OpenPOWER announcements, you'll notice the membership has grown quickly. Last year, we had 145, and I'm sure the number has grown since then. We're working with all major cloud providers, and there's a lot of activity going on to help drive Linux revenue and growth. And of course you're aware that players like Rackspace and Google have joined OpenPOWER. We want to see a good balance between customers, ISVs, and public cloud providers, and we're getting that.


SP: Most of our readership is the IBM i and Power Systems community. Power Systems is primarily IBM i, or at least from what I understand the majority share, and the majority of IBM i customers are small to medium businesses. To a layman, I think CAMSS appears to be more aligned with service providers and large companies wanting to tap things like big data. With regards to CAMSS, why should small businesses be interested and aware of what IBM is doing? For instance, when we're talking cloud, I pick my spots as a customer. Yes, we use some cloud services in an a la carte fashion, but the majority of my computing needs are handled by IBM i on-premises. Mobile and social is what I care about personally.


TV: IBM i is a significant part of our revenue. AIX does have a good piece of it as well. On the IBM i platform, there's been a significant number of innovations in the last few years specifically with CAMSS in mind. For example, for the cloud space, a number of our clients are working with service providers with IBM i in the cloud as a managed service. We've been enhancing a lot of the IBM i architecture specifically to participate in the analytics space. Mobile has been a space where we've really helped clients build out solutions on IBM I, especially if you look at the new language support where you can build solid mobile solutions with PHP and Ruby. We've been doing social on IBM i with updates to Domino, Traveler, Sametime, Connections, and more. On all these aspects, you'll find there's a lot going on that you may not think is CAMSS, but it really is.


Steve Will: Steve, one of the things I've been trying to point out to clients when they ask me, "If I'm a small to medium business, why do these things matter?" The average small business may only look at a piece or a couple of pieces, but we as a platform have been investing so that whatever your next focus area is, we're enabling that technology for you. As you're probably aware, when the 7.1 release came out, the IBM i platform couldn't really be a true cloud system, but over the next two years, we delivered Technology Refreshes and we've given you all the same cloud capabilities that you can get with our Linux and AIX environment. If you wanted to build a cloud, we delivered the capability to do that, which some are, and many clients are taking advantages of managed service providers who are now able to do that.


Where does it matter? Many of the new things a SMB wants to do may be in the social space or mobile space. They may not be looking at cloud, but they want to analyze data that's going on in social media that affect how they market their product. We want to make sure you can do those things because many SMBs may want to go in any and all directions. Sure, many continue to use IBM i a system of record. Just driving their businesses. What they're going to discover, and I think many already are, is to remain competitive they're going to have to think of questions like, "How do I apply mobile to take on competitors?"


SP: Maybe a year or two ago, you and I were talking about numbers of Power Systems installations and numbers of machines sold, and the perception that it was on the decline. Not everyone realizes that there's MSPs out there with hundreds or perhaps thousands of IBM i instances set up in a cloud scenario. I can't remember the provider's name offhand but it was a great story.


SW: That's just one story of several, but there's an ISV in Great Britain called Moorepay who has grown their business just in the last two years from 7,000 systems-based customers to now over 10,000, and those new customers are directly from a cloud version of their software. So they can sell now, instead of just selling systems, they can buy big systems themselves and host these 3,000 new clients on those boxes. That is a growth area for us. When we talk cloud and IBM i, that's one of the areas that we have to recognize.


Stay tuned for more talk about the different areas of CAMSS, where we will go in depth and understand where IBM is going and why you need to know about it.