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It's likely SoftLayer won't ever be fully absorbed into IBM, execs say

It’s likely SoftLayer won’t ever be fully absorbed into IBM, execs say

IBM’s acquisition of SoftLayer has helped the firm refocus its efforts on infrastructure as a service, with IBM filling the professional services and legacy enterprise IT gap, said SoftLayer chief technology officer Marc Jones. According to Doug Clark, cloud leader for IBM UK and Ireland, the two firms are likely to continue remaining at arm’s length.

Jones and Clark, who were speaking to journalists at one of the company’s newest UK datacentres, hosted in Digital Reality’s Chessington facility just outside of London, said that for the most part SoftLayer and IBM play to one another’s strengths, but are keeping true to their core audiences – which tend to be quite distinct.

Jones said SoftLayer, which began as a supplier of bare-metal cloud for cloud-native, tech-savvy firms, has a large customer base that generally doesn’t need much hand holding or help with managing their environments. But the company has started to cater to many IBM’s core clients, adding virtual public and private cloud services.

“We definitely see the enterprise trend continuing to grow,” Jones said. “From an experience standpoint, it’s one of the greatest benefits of the acquisition. IBM has a long history of experience with the enterprise, longstanding relationships with enterprises all around the world.”

“It allows us to focus on the technology platform, and to a degree, the internet-centric companies, and IBM is able to leverage that platform and work with their enterprise customers as well as attract new enterprise customers,” Jones added.

The comments come as IBM undergoes one of its largest reorganisations ever (including a massive round of redundancies that kicked off this week), which has raised questions about among other things the degree to which the IBM and SoftLayer will be integrated moving forward.

Earlier this week it emerged that Lance Crosby, SoftLayer’s chief executive officer, has left the company, less than a month after Robert LeBlanc assumed the role of senior vice president of cloud.

“Infrastructure platforms like SoftLayer are absolutely perfect for born-in-the-cloud organisations,” Clark said. “But the reality is a lot of the clients we work with in IBM, a lot of the clients that we want to continue working with, actually have got… baggage, in blunt terms,” and require more help on-boarding their workloads to a cloud-based environment. He also said IBM datacentres – which are distinct from SoftLayer datacentres – provide a more “service wrapped” set of infrastructure services.

Clark explained that while SoftLayer is the foundation of the company’s overall cloud portfolio – it hosts IBM’s cloud marketplace, as well as the company’s PaaS offering Bluemix, and has Power-based architecture in place to support Watson as a Service – he suggests the two might benefit from remaining at arm’s length.

“I’ve had various people asking ‘why hasn’t [SoftLayer] been fully absorbed into IBM yet?’,” Clark said. “Actually SoftLayer’s got so much value that it doesn’t necessarily need to be fully absorbed in terms of what we’ve done with other [companies]. It’s possibly even the opposite way, in terms of what we’re trying to do.”

“We’re trying to get the very best out of SoftLayer rather than just absorb it,” Clark added.

  • Tina Williams February 1, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Keeping SoftLayer distinct from the IBM brand acknowledges that we don’t want to lose site of the reputatoin and relationships they have developed through a miniacle focus on infrastructrue, virtual and bare metal environments. Instead, we are extending SoftLayer deployments through a growing partner porfolio, direct connections to IBM Bluemix for development, and hundresd of IBM business appliatons that run on SoftLayer.

    The IBM Cloud marketplace ( provides a single source to find, learn about and try SoftLayer services and our full IBM and partner cloud portfilo.

    We are a self-service experience, but a knowledgable IBMer is a click aways to answer you requests and help guide you in your investigation and buying journey.
    Give it a try!

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