What is the “Secret” Sauce of Bluemix?

In the platform-as-a-service space, many different providers exist and each contain their own benefits for solving different use cases. The platforms that are backed by large enterprises, and most similar to Bluemix are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Heroku.

How does Bluemix differentiate itself and stick out from the rest? The long answer is “it depends”. The short answer is the one main reason that Bluemix is so powerful. Openness. Bluemix’s not so secret sauce is being an open PaaS in which developers could build an entire application without any IBM services found in the marketplace.

The movement towards openness is one that IBM is embracing. Rather than fight the crowd, it is better to join the crowd and build with them. The three key features that make Bluemix open are the following: (1) is built on the open source Cloud Foundry, (2) embraces third party services, and (3) utilizes the API economy to connect to other services.

1. Cloud Foundry

Cloud Foundry is the industry’s open platform-as-a-service that provides a choice of clouds, frameworks, and application services. The open source movement fosters contributions from a broad community and moves as quickly as possible by embracing a “co-opertition” among the community members.

Cloud Foundry 40 of the industry’s largest contributors that help govern the movement of the community. Some interesting statistics (that are probably out of date by the time this is read):

  • 1,100+ total contributors
  • 650k+ lines of code
  • 1000+ pull requests
  • 130+ public repositories

In essence, Cloud Foundry provides a cloud standard that connects front end applications to back end systems on the cloud. This is made possible by the partnership of Cloud Foundry and OpenStack.

Furthermore, Cloud Foundry supports polyglot programming by allowing you to bring your own buildpack which is a convenient way of packing your own runtimes and frameworks. Cloud Foundry is not a black box PaaS like others in the marketplace. It allows you to download the open source code, and fork your own edits and changes.


The key aspect of Cloud Foundry is that it is open and Bluemix is built on top of Cloud Foundry. This openness to adopt a community wide standard gives Bluemix tremendous amounts of flexibility and power.

If you still need more convincing of why Cloud Foundry matters to developers, check out this video.

2. Third Party Services

Bluemix embraces third party services in Bluemix. This means that developers have the option to choose between IBM services or third party services when building their application. Bluemix even supports community and open source services as well. The approach that Bluemix is taking tells the developer to use whatever tools or services you are most comfortable with – even if it isn’t IBM.

While IBM is just getting started with including third party services in the catalog, here are some of the top ones currently.

  • Twilio – enables application communication by integrating voice, messaging, and voice over IP
  • MongoLab – a fully managed cloud database featuring automated backups, web-based tools, and 24/7 monitoring
  • LoadImpact – unlimited load testing and on-demand from multiple geographic locations featuring a simple GUI and API interface
  • Redis Cloud – A fully-managed cloud service for hosting and running your Redis dataset in a highly-available and scalable manner, with predictable and stable top performance
  • New Relic – performance tool that lets you see performance from the end user experience, through servers, and down to the line of code

Third party services also has another huge implication for developers. If you are building an application for other developers, then Bluemix is a great way to promote your service. All you have to do is build something cool with a faithful user base and look into the on-boarding process for third parties on Bluemix.

Check out the rest in the catalog. Build your application with confidence knowing that you will not experience vendor lock-in on Bluemix.

3. API Ecosystem and Management

The easy adoption of API management in Bluemix has enabled it to become a tremendous platform to accomplish diverse tasks. Clients can use REST or HTTP APIs to route requests through the Bluemix architecture in order to connect with other cloud based applications. To developers, this means that you can consume REST service easily, and expose your APIs to the rest of the world. Never before has it been so easy to create a product and expose it to customers around the globe instantly.

APIs are what allow developers and new projects to make money. Anytime your application is being used by other people, you are taking steps in the right direction. APIs are the best way to get others to use your application.

There are numerous ways to get started. This guide on building and deploying a REST API with PHP and MySQL is a good place to start. The guide uses Swagger, a simple and powerful representation of RESTful APIs. Swagger is a wonderful tool with the largest ecosystem of API tooling on the planet, interactive documentation, client SDK generation, and discoverability.

Bluemix even enables you to create a REST API to link to existing on-premise APIs. The power of the API ecosystem on Bluemix cannot be understated. I hope you buy into this way of thinking. If you want some more documentation on cloud integration, check out the user guide.

Do you disagree that the main power of Bluemix is enabled through openness? Do you have other opinions on this topic? I would love to hear your comments and thoughts.

2 thoughts on “What is the “Secret” Sauce of Bluemix?

  1. Juan Salazar July 1, 2015 / 3:17 pm

    Excellent article, Erik!


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