IBM's cloud surge: Can 18 new availability zones close gap on AWS, Microsoft?

IBM has announced new cloud availability zones to boost its capacity in several key regions around the world.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Video: How major cloud vendors stack up in 2018.

IBM has created 18 new availability zones in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific to bolster its IBM Cloud business.

The availability zones are spread across six IBM Cloud regions, including Dallas and Washington DC in the US, Germany and the UK in Europe, and Tokyo and Sydney in Asia Pacific.

IBM defines an availability zone as a logically and physically isolated location in a cloud region with independent power, cooling and network infrastructure.

Each region is a geographically and physically separate group of one or more availability zones with their own electrical and network infrastructure that's isolated from other regions.

The new zones are intended to expand IBM's cloud footprint but also boost capacity, availability, redundancy, and fault tolerance. The new regions add to 60 locations IBM Cloud previously operated out of.

The new zones are also aimed to cater to businesses responding to the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

See: Special report: The future of Everything as a Service (free PDF)

In March IBM CEO Ginni Rometty outlined a range of new 'multi-cloud' services and technologies aimed at enterprise customers with mixed IT environments, including on-premise equipment, and private and public cloud deployments.

And to one-up the managed Kubernetes container services offered by AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google, IBM announced it was the first cloud provider to let developers run managed Kubernetes containers directly on bare metal with direct access to GPUs to improve the performance of machine-learning applications.

IBM customers will also be able to deploy multi-zone Kubernetes clusters across the availability zones using the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service, the company said.

To support the announcement, IBM revealed that ExxonMobil, Bausch and Lomb, and Westpac are migrating core workloads to the IBM cloud.

"The world's biggest companies work with IBM to migrate them to the cloud because we know their technology and unique business needs as they bridge their past with the future," David Kenny, senior vice president or IBM Watson & Cloud Platform, said in a statement.

"Our continued cloud investment and growing client roster reflect that companies are increasingly seeking hybrid cloud environments that offer cutting-edge tools including AI, analytics, IoT, and blockchain to maximize their benefits."

If the new availability zones can improve customer uptake of IBM Cloud services, it may help the company accelerate increasingly important cloud revenues, which haven't kept pace with those of AWS and Microsoft.

At its Q1 earnings IBM reported cloud revenue of $17.7bn over the past year, which was up 22 percent on the previous year.

However, as Jack Schofield pointed out, part of that figure includes mainframe sales, which had two bumper quarters that aren't likely to be repeated.

AWS meanwhile grew its quarterly revenues by 49 percent to $5.4 billion, while Microsoft recently reported 93 percent growth for Azure revenues.

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