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IBM and VMware Make Their Mark with One of a Kind Joint Innovation Lab

This blog was co authored by Simon Kofkin-Hansen

On their journey to transform enterprise IT, IBM and VMware have created a Joint Innovation Lab to streamline engineering across both technology portfolios. Take a deep dive into the four big cloud ideas to emerge from the labs: Enterprise-Grade, Hybrid/Developer-Ready, Secure to the Core, and AI-Powered.

IBM is VMware’s leading cloud partner with nearly 2000 enterprises deployed across a global network of 35+ data centers. Whether you’re a developer, or a global enterprise, IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions offers the most comprehensive platform for VMware workloads. VMware and IBM have made significant investments in the partnership, and these investments are starting to pay rich dividends in terms of market traction and success. For example – IBM and AT&T recently announced a multi-year strategic alliance to enable moving AT&T Business applications to IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions.

In November 2018, VMware and IBM expanded the scope of their decades-long partnership by jointly embarking on an ambitious and far-reaching journey to transform enterprise IT. A cornerstone of our expanded partnership is the newly established Joint Innovation Lab. This added focus is streamlining joint engineering and development across each other’s deep technology portfolios, bringing new offerings to market that are truly differentiated.

The Joint Innovation Lab is driving the development of these differentiated offerings by focusing on four big ideas – Enterprise-Grade, Hybrid / Developer-Ready, Secure to the Core, and AI-Powered.

Big Idea #1 – IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions is Enterprise-Grade

While there are many VMware Cloud Provider partners and hyperscale cloud providers that offer the VMware SDDC technology stack (vSphere, NSX, vSAN) in various form factors, IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions is recognized as a premier “Enterprise-Grade” VMware Cloud, and that leads us into our first big idea.

We believe an “Enterprise-Grade” cloud has to possess certain key attributes:

  • Offer the highest levels of application uptime/availability without requiring modification
  • Ability to host production-grade environments of business-critical applications (like SAP)
  • Provide a global network of low-latency, high-speed, interconnected data centers to meet enterprises’ data locality and sovereignty requirements

The Joint Innovation Lab is extremely proud to announce the launch of two solutions under this big idea.

Solution #1 – IBM Cloud for VMware Mission-Critical Workloads

Last year at VMworld Europe, IBM announced a highly available and fully managed global cloud reference architecture for VMware workloads, to help enterprises avoid unexpected downtime for applications and automate failovers within an IBM Cloud multi-zone region. This cloud service is fully managed by IBM Services and can be deployed across IBM Cloud’s 6 multi-zone availability regions in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Mission-critical workloads are defined as workloads that are essential to the survival of the business. These workloads are so critical that outages can negatively impact brand integrity. IBM Cloud for VMware Mission-Critical Workloads supports workloads at a targeted aggregate availability of 99.99%, higher than many clients can currently achieve with on-premises environments. And the solution is delivered in an automated fashion so that zero admin or recovery action is required. The solution includes:

  • IBM Cloud infrastructure
  • VMware Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) technologies
  • Intel® Optane™ SSD
  • IBM Services that cover enterprise needs including networks, storage, resiliency and other tools built for monitoring and troubleshooting applications

Today, we are pleased to announce more granularity in node sizes for this solution. In addition to the 28-node reference architecture, we will now offer 12 and 16/18 compute node versions as well the corresponding appliance cluster per site vRealize Suite (vRLI/vRNI/vROPS). This provides more cost effective on-ramp for enterprises desiring this capability in the IBM Cloud.

Solution #2 – VMware-Powered Supermicro-Provided SAP HANA HCI Solution

VMware and Supermicro are currently testing SAP on an HCI configuration, powered by vSAN, that features compute, storage and networking delivered together as a Supermicro-specific VMware-powered SAP HANA HCI solution. This HCI solution is being tested and validated against SAP defined KPIs and test cases.

Once the HCI certification has been successfully completed, this HCI solution will be listed in the SAP directory of certified HCI offerings.

This testing is being performed on the IBM Cloud leveraging Joint Innovation Lab infrastructure and engineering resources. IBM and VMware are jointly committed to making VMWare on IBM Cloud the best HCI/cloud solution for SAP HANA, furthering IBM’s leadership position in this space.

This joint solution will enable SAP on IBM Cloud to leverage VMware’s HCI platform, powered by vSAN, the planet’s #1 platform for HCI with a 41.1% market share according to IDC’s 1Q2019 Worldwide Quarterly Converged Systems Tracker, June 26, 2019. Not only does VMware boast over 20,000 vSAN installations, these can also span public, private and hybrid clouds as well as edge deployments.

Big Idea #2 – IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions is Hybrid / Developer Ready

Our second big idea is that IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions is a leading Hybrid / Developer-Ready cloud.

We have identified some key usage patterns on how our joint customers are looking to leverage a hybrid cloud. For example – enabling workload mobility is crucial to the modern hybrid cloud. Our joint customers leverage VMware HCX’s unique capabilities to enable VMware SDDC technology stacks to quickly and securely interconnect across multiple data centers and clouds. These secure pathways, backed by VMware NSX Data Center, enable a true hybrid cloud, across VM-based heritage and Kubernetes-based cloud-native workloads.

An area of focus within this big idea is our Joint Container Strategy. As most recently reiterated by VMware CTO Chris Wolf “VMware has always been about empowering customer choice: choice of hardware servers and traditional applications as the ESX hypervisor became mainstream; choice of networking hardware with VMware NSX; and in today’s hybrid-cloud era, a choice of clouds and consumption interfaces for modern applications.” VMware SDDC will continue to be entirely open, and we’ll provide common open Kubernetes infrastructure as foundation for VMware-native and third-party PaaS platforms. As part of this commitment, VMware and IBM/RedHat recently announced a fully certified reference architecture for IBM OpenShift Container Platform on VMware SDDC.

Through the Joint Innovation Lab, we are currently building on this foundation to further optimize the deployment and usage of IBM Kubernetes-based PaaS solutions (OpenShift Container Platform and IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service) on top of VMware SDDC across the hybrid cloud. Stay tuned for more updates.

Big Idea #3 – IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions is Secure to the Core

Security is a big area of focus and differentiation for the IBM Cloud, at both a deployment and operational level. We have embedded security within the VMware SDDC stack deployment, from the core all the way through to the Kubernetes and heritage VM-based applications that run on top.

IBM Cloud provides the highest-level key management encryption with FIPS 140-2 level 4 for data encryption at rest and in-flight with the option to bring your own key.

Currently, IBM, VMware, Intel and HyTrust offer the industry-first and differentiated IBM Cloud Secure Virtualization solution. The automation-deployed solution leverages hardware-enforced security technology to help protect workloads, as well as support policy-enforced data access controls to govern processing and administrative actions. For example, this innovative data protection technology ensures decryption occurs only at trusted locations on authorized servers, providing confidence that workloads always boot up on uncompromised and trusted hardware/software.

Building on these capabilities, IBM is excited to announce that it has helped to drive collaboration and development across its partner ecosystem to deliver further integration with Caveonix and Fortinet’s respective platforms in a new validated architecture. Caveonix RiskForesight continuously detects, predicts and acts on full-stack visibility into cloud infrastructure, platforms, applications and workloads to ensure compliance. Fortinet FortiGate Virtual Appliances provide advanced threat protection with logical firewall services and persistent connection inspection between private and public clouds to mitigate threats. IBM and its partners are confident this solution approach will allow your business to tackle the toughest risk mitigation and compliance readiness use cases.

We are continuing to evolve and bring more security focused solutions to our clients, delivering the control required and indeed demanded, by our most highly-regulated and security-conscious clients.

Big Idea #4 – IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions is AI Powered

IBM provides one of the most sought after AI/ML solutions today. Infusing IBM ML into VMware SDDC to enable “Smart Operations” is an area of focus and innovation for the Joint Innovation Lab, and our fourth big idea.

Our initial project “AI-powered Cloud Migration (AIM)” is intended to infuse AI capabilities into IBM Cloud Migration Factory tooling and processes used by IBM Global Technology Services (GTS) and Global Business Services (GBS), for accelerating migration of workloads to IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions. This capability will help Cloud Migration teams, Cloud Advisory teams and Cloud Solutioning teams categorize cloud workloads for migration, optimize discovery and affinity processes, and develop migration plan recommendations.

The AIM solution will optimize discover, design and migrate phases of the cloud migration lifecycle. The current AIM solution assists IBM Cloud Migration Factory practitioners to:

  1. Identify shared services and multiple logical application groups from discovery data, using AI Community algorithms
  2. Generate contextual questions based on the identification of shared services and logical application groups to assist the CMF practitioner in asking relevant questions to the application owners in the client’s organization, therefore optimizing the interview process
  3. Optimize and automate the creation of workload bundles and migration wave plans
  4. Optimize disposition recommendation engines using active learning, where the model training can be optimized with minimal labelled data sets. Workload classification uses machine learning techniques to automatically categorize workloads into migration bundles, such as rehost, rearchitect, retire, re-platform etc

Future capabilities will assist IBM Cloud Advisory Services, using workload classifier along with business-application level information and application, to determine infrastructure dependencies for migration plan recommendation and advisory. Prioritization and bundling of workloads using machine learning, which considers various parameters such as availability, performance and risk factor will help overall wave planning and can later be used for the automated creation of migration plans and runbooks. Additionally, risk-based assessment at each level can drive what-if analysis and enable AI-based decision making. Finally, an AI-based recommendation advisor will report on likely candidates for migration and will provide classification of workloads from a complexity and migration-readiness perspective.

Partnerships are critical to our ability to innovate. It’s not just about having an ecosystem, but about creating deep, lasting, and substantive partnerships within that ecosystem, like what we’re doing with IBM. To do that, we have to focus on the customer problem and work together – inside and outside of VMware – to solve it. The formation of this one-of-a-kind Joint Innovation Lab between companies fosters that very culture of innovation and customer problem solving, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with some of our latest advancements.

Find Out More

Join us Thursday, September 12th at 10am PDT for a VMware Cloud webinar where we will cover Big Idea #1, and why IBM has the best VMware-based cloud for your mission and business-critical workloads.


The authors would like to thank the following people across IBM and VMware for their contributions to this blogpost – Dale Hoffman, Chris Kibler, Amol Mahamuni, Rithisha Padmanabh, Jon Schulz and Dominic Uliano.