IBM SoftLayer CEO: APIs Put Developers in Control of the Cloud

Michael Vizard
Feb. 10 2014, 09:00AM EST

While there’s a lot of chest-thumping going on over who has the biggest cloud, there’s no doubt that IBM suddenly has a lot of momentum following its acquisition of SoftLayer. Amazon Web Services (AWS) remains the largest public cloud service by far in terms of the pure number of virtual machines. But when you consider more than just infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) in the cloud, IBM claims to have generated $4.4 billion in revenue across a cloud ecosystem that includes SoftLayer, 150 software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and a vast array of cloud consulting services.

IBM SoftLayer CEO Lance Crosby says much of the momentum that IBM is seeing in the IaaS space is being driven by the APIs that SoftLayer exposes to developers. In contrast to other cloud services, SoftLayer has exposed more than 2,000 APIs that give developers more control over a public cloud service than they would probably see on any private cloud, Crosby notes.

The latest convert to be attracted to that capability is Tokyo-based DataHotel Co. Ltd., a managed hosting service provider for mobile and smartphone application developers. DataHotel has selected SoftLayer to expand overseas delivery of DATAHOTEL for App, which is used by developers to host gaming and smartphone applications. As a result, DataHotel gains access to 13 global data centers, a number that IBM plans to grow to 28 by the end of 2014.

One of biggest misconceptions about public cloud is that moving to a public cloud results in a loss of control over IT infrastructure. On the contrary, Crosby says, those APIs make it possible for developers to build anything they want.

Going forward IBM SoftLayer will add support for OpenStack APIs that will give developers to access to APIs that will be supported by multiple cloud service providers, Crosby says. In fact, IBM has already committed to investing another $1.2 billion in cloud services, which includes a service based on the Watson artificial intelligence platform that will be exposed to developers via RESTful APIs.

IBM is clearly engaged in a battle for control of the cloud that will be won or lost at the API layer. IBM and its OpenStack allies are trying to position AWS in particular as a cloud platform based on proprietary APIs that lock developers into one platform. The degree to which developers are concerned about that issue is yet to be determined. But if IBM has its way, open APIs will be the defining cloud computing issue of 2014.

Michael Vizard

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