IBM’s bid for ‘winning the mobile app developers’

LAS VEGAS – When IBM Corp. announced it was unveiling updates to BlueMix, its cloud-based platform for building code quickly, developers took notice.

During its Impact conference on Monday, IBM said it is going to allow developers to use BlueMix to build their apps, do QA testing, get continuous feedback, and quickly release new iterations of their apps – all within one place.

The idea is to allow developers to move quickly and spend less time configuring their apps, and more time in production mode. IBM drove the point home in its keynote demonstration with Square Inc. developer Mark Jen, who quickly cobbled together an e-commerce app for Square, powered by BlueMix, in a matter of minutes on stage.

The updates to BlueMix are welcome news to Ali Shaikh, a mobility specialist and senior consultant with Streebo Inc., an automated solutions provider based in Texas.

“As a developer, I was really excited about BlueMix. It’s absolutely useful,” said Shaikh, speaking from the showfloor at IBM Impact. “I appreciate that with BlueMix, you don’t need to install anything like infrastructure. You don’t have to install a server first or a database. You just click a few buttons … and it automatically does the installation itself.”

BlueMix represents a play towards a space that Big Blue traditionally hasn’t really served – startups, or more specifically, the developers working at startups and other early stage tech companies.

In a press briefing on Monday, Robert LeBlanc, senior vice-president of IBM’s software and cloud solutions group, told media not to “underestimate the power of [developer operations].”

And beyond giving developers a new toolkit, IBM also plans to launch some data analytics features with Blue Insight and Catalyst Insight. While the company did not provide much detail, it said the features would allow developers to leverage business analytics, without requiring them to have much expertise in techniques like predictive modelling.

IBM’s outreach efforts haven’t been lost on Ray Wang, an analyst with Constellation Research Inc.

“IBM Impact is turning into the mobile and cloud show. I think the key takeaways are how focused IBM is on winning the mobile app developers, showcasing how mobile and cloud work together, and highlighting the core ecosystem in Blue Mix,” he said via email.

“Developers need the tools to write once and deploy on any device. This means app dev, testing, device management, security, performance, and upgrades all need to be unified. From the demos we’ve seen, IBM’s made it a lot easier to do this in BlueMix.”

However, as promising as BlueMix sounds, developers working in heavily regulated industries may need to be cautious about embracing it for everyday use, said Pavan Pendyala, an IT architect at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

“We have banking products, life insurance, retirement plans,” he said, speaking from IBM Impact. He added because his company deals with sensitive data, his IT department may not feel comfortable with using a cloud-based platform.

Yet the promise of quick and easy coding is definitely appealing, especially if a developer wanted to test drive something new, Pendyala added.

“We’ll still find opportunities to use it … We could use it for proof-of-concepts for new technology. If it makes sense, then we could take it back and install it in house,” he said.

“And we might actually use it in production, but we’d have to be watchful as we do it.”

IBM also announced on Tuesday that it is building 18 new MobileFirst Studios around the world, including one in Toronto. There, developers can access IBM solutions including BlueMix, according to IBM, and work with IBM mobile designers, developers, architects and consultants to design and build a working prototype.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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