IBM: “The level of innovation is being accelerated”

Angel DiazDr. Angel Diaz joined the research division of IBM in the late nineties, where he helped co-author many of the web standards we enjoy today. Nowadays, he’s responsible for all of IBM’s cloud and mobile technology, as well as architecture for its ambient cloud. Here, ahead of his appearance at Container World (February 16 – 18,  Santa Clara Convention Center, CA,) later this month, BCN caught up with him to find out more about the tech giant’s evolving cloud strategy.

BCN: How would you compare your early days at IBM, working with the likes of Tim Berners-Lee, with the present?

Dr. Angel Diaz: Back then, the industry was focused on developing web standards for a very academic purpose, in particular the sharing of technical information. IBM had a strategy around accelerating adoption and increasing skill. This resulted in a democratization of technology, by getting developers to work together in open source and standards.If you fast forward to where we are now with cloud, mobile, data, analytics and cognitive you see a clear evolution of open source.

The aperture of open source development and ecosystems has grown to include users and is now grounded on solid open governance and meritocracy models. What we have built is an open cloud architecture, starting with an open IaaS based on Open Stack, open PaaS with Cloud Foundry and an open container model with the Open Container Initiative and Cloud Native Computing Foundation. When you combine an open cloud architecture with open APIs defined by the Open API Initiative, applications break free. I have always said that no application is an island – these technologies make it so.

What’s the ongoing strategy at IBM, and where do containers come into it?

It’s very much hybrid cloud. We’ve been leveraging containers to help deliver hybrid applications and accelerate development through devOps, so that people can transform and improve their business processes. This is very similar to what we did in the early days of the web – better business processes means better business. At the end of the day – the individual benefits. Applications can be tailored to the way we like to work, and the way that we like to behave.

A lot of people in the container space, say, wow, containers have been around a long time, why are we all interested in this now? Well, it’s gotten easier to use, and open communities have rallied around it, and it provides a very nice way of marrying concepts of operations and service oriented architecture, which the industry missed in the 2000s.

What does all this innovation ultimately mean for the ‘real world’?

It’s not an exact analogy, but if we remember the impact of HTML, JavaScript – they allowed almost anyone to become a webmaster. That led to the Internet explosion. If you look at where we are now, what we’re doing with cloud: that stack of books you need to go buy has been reduced, the concept count of things you need to know to develop an application, the level of sophistication of what you need to know in order to build an application, scale an application, secure an application, is being reduced.

So what does that do? It increases participation in the business process, in what you end up delivering. Whether it’s human facing or whether it’s an internal business process, it reduces that friction and it allows you to move faster. What’s starting to happen is the level of innovation is being accelerated.

And how do containers fit into this process? 

Previously there was this strict line: you develop software and then operate it and make tweaks, but you never really fundamentally changed the architecture of the application. Because of the ability to quickly stand up containers, to quickly iterate, etc., people are changing their architectures because of operations and getting better operations because of it. That’s where the microservices notion comes in.

And you’ll be talking at Container World. What message are you bringing to the event?

My goal is to help people take a step back and understand the moment we’re in, because sometimes we all forget that. Whether you’re struggling with security in a Linux kernel or trying to define a micro service, you can forget what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

We are in a very special moment where it’s about the digital disruption that’s occurring, and the container technology we’re building here, allow much quicker iteration on the business process. That’s one dimension. The second is that, what IBM’s doing, in not just our own implementation of containers, but in the open source world, to help democratize the technology, so that the level of skill and the number of people who build on this grows.