Jim Comfort is the right guy to talk to about IBM Cloud, not just because he’s general manager of IBM GTS Cloud Services. By his own account, Comfort was responsible for the 2013 acquisition of SoftLayer, whose 13 cloud datacenters immediately got IBM in the public cloud game.
At the time, IBM seemed ready to battle it out with Amazon Web Services, aggressively expanding points of presence around the world, atop which IBM’s promising Bluemix PaaS—and Watson analytics capabilities—would mount a formidable challenge. But Bluemix was slow to propagate across SoftLayer infrastructure and the prospect of IBM as a vigorous public cloud competitor to Amazon, Microsoft, and Google faded.
I spoke with Comfort in advance of the IBM Think conference in San Francisco this week, where the main announcement is the availability of containerized Watson AI services ready to be deployed on any cloud. The conference plays out against a backdrop of gigantic news—IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat—about which Comfort could say little, because the deal hasn’t closed yet. Too bad, because as InfoWorld’s Matt Asay says, the merger raises the possibility that IBM might finally succeed in becoming a cloud powerhouse.
Yet Comfort still made clear that IBM was committed to playing at the container layer where Red Hat shines, rationalizing Kubernetes management and orchestration and offering services that will differentiate IBM on public, hybrid, and private clouds. The following interview with Comfort has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Eric Knorr: I know you can’t talk specifics, but in broad strokes, how do you think the Red Hat acquisition will fit into your cloud strategy?