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IBM Puts All Its Cloud Apps in One Place

Big Blue aims to go big in the cloud, so it must sell its software the same way other cloud companies do.

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In its ongoing quest to convince you that it really is morphing into a cloud services and software company, computing giant IBM is set to make a big announcement today: It will make several of its cloud-ready software applications available from a single Web marketplace, creating sort of an Enterprise App store for businesses.

IBM says the software that will be available in what it calls IBM Cloud Marketplace will include some 100 applications it offers on a software-as-a-service basis, its BlueMix platform-as-a-service, and SoftLayer, the cloud computing infrastructure service that competes with Amazon Web Services and which IBM acquired last year.

“Most app marketplaces are aimed at software developers, but ours will be aimed directly at the company’s line of business,” said Steve Mills, an IBM senior VP heading up the effort. “We’ve tried to segment it by what’s relevant to people with different roles in a company.” There are apps for marketing, running a supply chain, finance and legal services, and several other business-specific apps will be there. So will all of its apps aimed at building software as well as running IT operations.

Another important fact about the marketplace is that it gives IBM customers a self-service method of picking and choosing and testing what IBM tools they want to use with minimal fuss. It’s similar to what they expect from other vendors like Amazon or, whose App Exchange contains 1,800 cloud business apps, many made by third parties. “It’s a way to reach new customers — and existing customers — and help them understand what IBM brings to the table,” Mills said. “We’ve always sold things face to face, but as we’ve moved toward the public cloud, customers get what they need, swipe the credit card and get to work.”

IBM’s marketplace will contain software from third parties, too, among them New Relic, the fast-growing software performance service; SendGrid, the cloud-based email delivery service; Twilio for phone-based apps; and MongoDB for databases in the cloud.

It’s the latest step in IBM’s pivot away from its traditional business of selling hardware and software to customers, and toward selling them cloud-based applications and services. Big Blue has recently sought to argue — not quite convincingly — that it is the biggest cloud company when compared to Amazon, though it’s a tricky comparison. It has consistently promised that it will deliver $7 billion in revenue derived from the cloud by the end of 2015, and as of 2013 said it was more than halfway there at $4.4 billion.

It first announced the BlueMix effort in February with a $1 billion investment, and said it would build out the service on SoftLayer, the cloud computing company it acquired last year and has committed to expand. It also announced plans to invest $1 billion in companies working with its Watson cognitive computing technology, which also moved to the cloud.

The shift is an important one for IBM, and it will for better or worse define IBM’s years under CEO Ginni Rometty. But she has had a tough ride. Earlier this month, IBM reported disappointing earnings on hardware sales that have been persistently weak. It has also been divesting assets, selling its low-end server division to China’s Lenovo for $2.3 billion. It has also explored selling its chip-building as well as its software-defined networking units. IBM shares have risen one percent this year.

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