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How to Get the Most out of IBM Bluemix

IBM Bluemix

As you should know, IBM offers many cloud-based services. This article will discuss IBM’s Bluemix—specifically what it is, the platform technology behind it and what it has to offer.

Bluemix evolution and PaaS

IBM Bluemix is a cloud-based Platform as a Service (PaaS). A PaaS is a type of cloud computing, which provides the environment to allow developers to build applications over the Internet. Bluemix, IBM’s newest Cloud offering, is based on Cloud Foundry’s (an open-source project that’s licensed under Apache) open technology and runs on IBM’s SoftLayer technology. IBM Bluemix has evolved from SoftLayer, which started in 2005. It was first made available in June of 2014. The services are hosted in a Cloud and users access them via a web browser. What is the difference between Bluemix and Softlayer? Softlayer is an example of an Infrastructure as a Service (laaS) and offers you the hardware/server-based infrastructure only. It does not provide for the underlying software infrastructure. That is what PaaS is all about. It is a complete end-to-end solution, encompassing the hardware, as well as web and database services—including environments to develop your applications.

With PaaS, the corporate IT department doesn’t have to install hardware or software to run these applications. The application servers and databases are also provisioned on top of the infrastructure. Bluemix provides the infrastructure needed to allow you to run your applications on a cloud and focus on building cloud applications, rather than your infrastructure. The infrastructure is available on demand and can be billed on a monthly or hourly basis. A recent Gartner report shows that PaaS market share is expected reach 8.85 billion by the end of 2017, a 23.5-percent growth from the prior year. By 2021, this is expected to increase by approximately 20 percent to a total market size of almost $15 billion. It’s time to jump on this bandwagon.

Cloud Options

With Bluemix, there seems to be something for everyone. It’s available as both a public and private service, which makes this offering different than other popular offerings. Using the public model, you can use different types of pre-built services, all of which are managed by IBM. You can build out your runtime, including Java, PHP, Ruby and Node.js.

With the private cloud, you have two options.

  1. Have your hardware reside in an IBM Softlayer facility. In this case, your Bluemix environment is dedicated to both the public environment and your own network. It provides you VPN, firewall connectivity, enhanced security and dedicated hardware. It’s currently available in more than 25 data centers throughout the world—which is important because you can put your data and servers wherever you feel is best. It’s also very scalable—IBM allows you to start really small and add capacity as is needed. Because all the services available in this dedicated environment are also available in the public cloud, you can test out the services before making a significant investment.
  2. The other option is to have the private cloud hosted within your data center. With this option, you get the benefits of a cloud environment while utilizing existing infrastructure. IBM uses their cloud operations to support your environment, while also handling updates, patches, etc., allowing you to focus your energy on building the services that run on top of the infrastructure. IBM also offers DevOps tools to help manage you environment and keep it resilient. I like that security is inherently built into this option because you’re hosting Bluemix behind your company’s firewall in your own data center. This is possible via IBM’s Relay service, which is a delivery capability that is included with this option. Relay provides the ability to connect securely, with certificates to each of your local instances. This gives you the best of both worlds: It brings in the power of Bluemix and cloud computing, but because data still resides behind your corporate firewall, you still retain optimum security. Some companies will simply not conduct business with you if you’re hosting their data on public clouds. This is where Bluemix sets itself apart from its competitors: Most offerings are available only on public clouds, and even the ones that have private clouds don’t let you house your own infrastructure. From an operational standpoint, IBM provides the same security standards as it does for its public cloud, butyou provide the hardware and infrastructure. What that means to you, is that your company has control over the infrastructure and physical security. Developer access to Blumix can also be controlled by your own LDAP policies, which can also be configured by the Bluemix team when your environment is set up.

Ken Milberg, CATE, PMP, is a diverse IT Professional with 20+ years of experience. He is a Power Systems Champion. Ken is a technology writer and site expert for techtarget and has also been a frequent contributor of content for IBM developerWorks. Ken has also been a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine and is a former technical editor. He can be reached at

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