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IBM today announced new services available from its public cloud, thanks to deeper partnerships with Apple, GitHub, and VMware. IBM is also launching a new cloud service called Bluemix OpenWhisk that represents an answer to Lambda event-driven computing service from public cloud market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Bluemix OpenWhisk isn’t just important for IBM because, more than a year after Lambda’s introduction, Big Blue’s cloud finally has its own tool for performing functions in response to certain rules being triggered — without making developers worry about infrastructure. OpenWhisk stands out from Lambda, and the recently unveiled Google Cloud Functions service on Google Cloud Platform, because the underlying code will be available on GitHub under an open-source license that allows anyone to inspect the code and build on it collaboratively.

OpenWhisk works with the Node.js server-side JavaScript framework, as well as Apple’s increasingly popular Swift programming language. It can draw on Watson’s “cognitive” smarts, which could help developers identify the best application programming interfaces (APIs) to use. And OpenWhisk can be highly customized, through a web service or the command line, in order to meet companies’ needs, rather than remaining tied to IBM cloud services.

“The endpoint for Whisk is fundamentally the Swagger-defined API,” Angel Diaz, vice president of cloud architecture and technology at IBM, told VentureBeat in an interview. “Because of that, it can tie into containers, it can tie into a Weather Channel feed — any services we’ve got or any service anyone else has.”

That sort of flexibility and the open-source nature of OpenWhisk could make the service stand out from the competition. And that’s good. The public cloud field has been narrowing — for instance, Rackspace started focusing much more on managed services in 2014 — but every little shred of strategic advantage counts as IBM takes on the likes of AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.

Also new from IBM are two Watson APIs: emotion analysis and visual recognition. These aren’t unprecedented — a few days ago, Google announced the beta of its Cloud Vision API, and Microsoft previously launched a beta of its Project Oxford emotion detection API.

In addition to its own internal development, IBM has looked to partners as it continues rounding out its cloud. Here are the new offerings:

  • A Swift runtime that builds on the Swift Sandbox that IBM launched in December. Now developers will be able to write applications in Swift in the cloud and then set up continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) pipelines to actually run applications written in Swift in production on the IBM public cloud. There’s also a new Swift package catalog, in addition to new documentation and code samples for Swift. Diaz noted that the tool doesn’t let developers configure Swift code to be deployed onto other clouds, like AWS.
  • A new option to deploy GitHub Enterprise — an enterprise-ready version of the GitHub source code repository software — on top of IBM Bluemix and even companies’ on-premises data center infrastructure. Earlier, GitHub Enterprise came to AWS and Azure. One interesting twist for the GitHub Enterprise offering through IBM is that Big Blue says it will offer “security scanning” technology that can discover vulnerabilities in source code.
  • The option to run VMware compute, storage, and networking workloads on top of the IBM cloud. The new level of integration applies to the following VMware products: vSphere, Virtual SAN, NSX, vCenter, and vRealize Automation. Further, the IBM cloud is now part of the vCloud Air Network from VMware. IBM and VMware will jointly sell hybrid cloud technologies as a result of this deeper partnership. Earlier, VMware started reselling certain Google cloud services.

The IBM newsroom has more detail on the GitHub and VMware news. The Bluemix blog has detail on the Swift news. The Bluemix OpenWhisk documentation is here.


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