Every year, IBM hosts multiple customer conferences and technical events worldwide. In past years, IBM Pulse, Impact, and Innovate have attracted thousands of IT professionals as separate events focusing on application delivery, middleware, and Dev/Ops respectively.

Over time, however, it has become increasingly difficult to divide the IT Pie into such neatly-delineated slices. Application delivery has become an ecosystem story versus an infrastructure story and application support has become far more collaborative than silo-based.  In combining three conferences into one massive event, IBM’s 2015 InterConnect event reflects this change, while adding a healthy dose of cloud computing to the mix.

With more than 20,000 people attending, the event featured industry luminaries such as “Shark Tank” hosts Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec. From Day 1, however, it was clear that the stars of the show were analytics and “the cloud”. Via a mix of the two, IBM and its customers have created very compelling solutions, as executives from Citi, Mayo Clinic, CEMEX, and Mercy Health all showcased at keynote presentations.

With a host of topics relevant to my coverage areas and not enough time to cover them all, I narrowed down my focus this year and spent a substantial amount of time delving deeper into the IBM PureApplication story. Why? In a way, this line embodies IBM’s shift to the cloud. It melds IBM’s traditional focus on turnkey systems with a new direction encompassing a broad range of cloud entry points and options.

PureApplication is a cloud delivery system which has continued to evolve since IBM first introduced it in 2012. For those who haven’t been following the evolution, here is a timeline:

  • 2012: IBM introduces PureApplication System, a pre-cabled, pre-integrated hardware/software system delivered on POWER or x86-based hardware. IBM cites the fact that it can be rolled into the data center and up and running within four hours. Delivered in configurations supporting small, medium, or large workloads, the system requires little setup other than “plugging in four cables” and applying patterns.
  • 2014: PureApplication Service on SoftLayer offers an isolated enterprise-grade cloud, set up and managed by IBM and hosted on SoftLayer clouds worldwide. It delivers 99.9% uptime with higher levels available via clustering. One important feature cited by customers is the fact that they did not have to move data into the cloud to use SoftLayer-hosted services—data can remain on-premise with computing resources residing in the cloud.
  • 2015: IBM introduces PureApplication Software at InterConnect 2015. This is a software version of PureApplication which is hosted and supported by the customer. This is a good option for customers seeking the portability and rapid delivery of a private cloud, particularly those with strong technical teams capable of setting up and supporting an internal cloud delivery system.

Although the event was extremely content-rich, there are some key takeaways which clearly distinguish the PureApplication line from an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution such as Amazon AWS:

  • Patterns as assets supporting rapid cloud delivery: Patterns are a key part of the PureApplication message. These are reusable assets bundling deployment instructions, configurations, and best practices from industry experts. Covering both technical and industry vertical implementations, they support rapid delivery of production-grade application ecosystems. Applied to PureApplication platforms, they enable users to speed application delivery, with deployment times reduced from “eight weeks to eight hours” in one customer example. Patterns can be created by IBM, by partners, or by customers to encapsulate organizational know-how into standard packages. They are the “secret sauce” behind the deluge of success stories reported by customers.  One of many, the “IBM PureApplication with DB2” pattern enables customers to deploy, configure, AND replicate high-end database processing for enterprise or Business Intelligence (BI) applications.
  • Pre-configured to be application-ready: Unlike IaaS instances, the PureApplication offerings are not simply stand-alone infrastructure. They also include pre-configured management, integration, networking, and storage functionality designed to support “real” applications. Monitoring, caching, load-balancing, etc. are built in. As one customer stated, “It’s not like we just stood up an application— it’s completely integrated with the data center.”
  • Workload and license portability: Customers can make use of a mix of form factors, hosting applications in public, private, or IBM-supported clouds. Workloads can be effortlessly moved from one platform to another to support changing compliance or capacity requirements over time. In addition, any relevant existing IBM licenses or support contracts can be rolled over to PureApplication as well.
  • Value propositions for multiple industry verticals: For example, insurance industry consultants discussed the benefits of a life insurance application pattern that “increased actuarial innovation, flexibility, and cost savings while introducing a modern architecture.” A complete list of PureApplication patterns supporting a wide variety of industry verticals is available at: www.ibm.com/software/brandcatalog/PureSystems/centre/browse.

Customers using PureApplication implementations were very complimentary. A few examples of comments I heard included:

  • “Patterns are great magic things. We encapsulated our entire topology in a pattern, and can now replicate or host it wherever and whenever we need it.”
  • “We see PureApplication as PaaS in a box with complete failover and full data center integration.”
  • “We needed to extend legacy systems to new types of applications, such as mobile. PureApplication is ideal for this.”

It’s clear that PureApplication has been a hit with customers and with System Integrators working across multiple industries. As IBM continues its transition to the cloud, it is also clear that the company’s commitment to the cloud is not simply a matter of “cloudwashing” existing solutions. A significant portion of the software portfolio is now available in both on-premise and cloud-hosted form factors. PureApplication extends the cloud value proposition with a choice of on-premise or SoftLayer-hosted options.

In short, the new InterConnect conference parallels what appears to be a new IBM, successfully navigating the rocky waters of cloud delivery in a new millennium. Readers seeking additional information on PureApplication can find it here: www.ibm.com/ibm/PureApplications/us/en/pf_pureapplication.html.