IBM Cloud Satellite goes GA

The private and multi-cloud extension of IBM Public Cloud is now becoming available. What will differentiate it will be the IBM Cloud PaaS services that come to this platform.


Almost a year after announcing the preview of IBM Cloud Satellite, the platform is now becoming generally available. IBM Cloud Satellite extends the IBM Cloud control plane to run virtually anywhere, whether that be on commodity hardware, some edge device, or inside another public cloud.

We provided a deeper dive description of Cloud Satellite in our original post. To recap, it adds a Location construct to represent external deployments of IBM Cloud (much like federated queries for databases treat outside sources as external tables), along with a Link that provides the tether to the control plane, based in the IBM public cloud. Importantly, IBM does manage Cloud Satellite deployments; that's a departure from most other software-defined hybrid cloud platforms that run on any hardware. It provides  an administrative control plane and as-a-service operation of IBM cloud services. And this being a Kubernetes (K8s) cluster, there is an Istio service mesh.

IBM's hybrid cloud strategy reflects several realities. In a landscape where three public clouds have carved overwhelming market share, and more importantly, where much of IBM's core client base (in sectors like financial services and healthcare) are heavily regulated and therefore face limits on what they can run in a public cloud, IBM views hybrid, private, and vertical industry-focused clouds as its sweet spots. As noted above, IBM has several offerings that position its hybrid and public cloud offerings as a continuum.

Naturally, IBM's hybrid play is hardly coming in a vacuum. Each major cloud player, and numerous third parties from VMware to Nutanix, HPE, and others are offering a spectrum of approaches with the goal of extending the cloud control plane anywhere. As we discovered in our research last year, when it comes to the hybrid cloud market landscape, it's a jungle out there. But there are stark differences, as we found.

With apologies to Guster, IBM Cloud Satellite is aptly named. It's an extension of the IBM Public Cloud control plane, for which the closest equivalent on the market is Microsoft Azure Arc. There are several key differences. For instance, while Satellite runs only on K8s, Azure Arc offers K8s as one of its virtualization options. Also, IBM Cloud Satellite is a fully vendor-managed hybrid cloud, while Azure Arc is managed by the customer.

On the horizon, a clear differentiator will be the degree to which IBM makes higher level PaaS services available on Satellite. This is an issue for all hybrid cloud platforms. With Dedicated Region Cloud@Customer, Oracle is so far the only cloud provider that makes all of its SaaS and PaaS services available for running within the customer's environment. Of course, Oracle can do that because with Cloud@Customer, it controls the hardware. AWS takes a similar approach with Outposts, but as yet only provides a small subset of its broad SaaS and PaaS services on its hybrid system.

For IBM Cloud Satellite, the first two services to be supported will be Cloud Pak for Data and OpenShift as a Service. IBM's not alone in looking to data as one of the first services to be offered on hybrid. Amazon Outposts offers RDS for MySQL and PostgreSQL; Azure Arc data services include SQL Managed Instance and PostgreSQL Hyperscale; while Google recently added BigQuery Omni to its Anthos software-defined hybrid cloud as part of a multi-cloud and edge play. The rationale as to why data services are so elemental to hybrid cloud is that, for many organizations or use cases, data needs to stay local for reasons ranging from latency issues to data residency requirements. In turn, OpenShift as a service will provide a route for customers seeking to build their own private cloud K8s environments; IBM is announcing that this will also be early on the list.

For IBM, a key differentiator will be third party ecosystem as it will allow Cloud Satellite to support highly specialized solutions currently absent from other hybrid platforms. IBM already counts 65 hybrid cloud partners. In an analyst briefing last week, IBM highlighted three partners, among them Lumen Technologies and Portworx, that are both heavily leveraging 5G to deliver PaaS services for edge computing, and F5, which is developing vertical solutions for banking institutions.

IBM Cloud Satellite is available now, but watch this space for the services that IBM is planning to add.

Disclosure: AWS, HPE, Microsoft, Nutanix, and Oracle are dbInsight clients.