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 Some interesting statistics (that are probably out of date by the time this is read):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.

ByoBP

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.

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4 Reasons Bluemix Supports Lean Start-up Principles

The Lean Startup (by Eric Ries) model has been widely adopted by startups and has had a tremendous impact on shaping the way these startups build prototypes from scratch. Bluemix facilitates the ‘entrepreneurs everywhere’ principle for small and agile teams that want to create a new product to test out in the marketplace. Bluemix enables developers to build applications quickly without purchasing expensive hardware, installing the middleware, and on scaling their solutions out as they grow. First, let’s analyze how Bluemix supports start-ups who want to create a minimum-viable-product (MVP) by digging deeper into some of the lean startup principles:

Entrepreneurship is Management

The act of managing a team cannot be left to the mantra, “we will deal with it as we go”. It requires a conscious act and effort to set up a management process. Bluemix enables the management of agile teams with a variety of tools.

First, Bluemix allows organizations to create ‘spaces’ and define ‘users’. This gives management the power to authorize the development team. In terms, of managing the product development team, the DevOps services offered by IBM Bluemix are second to no other platform-as-a-service. Although Bluemix takes the approach of allowing users to program in a comfortable  environment with any IDE they choose, Bluemix is also integrated into JazzHub. The JazzHub DevOps tools allow for:

  • Git Hosting (and integration with GitHub)
  • Web Integrated Development Environment
  • Agile Tracking & Planning
  • Continuous Integration for building, scanning, and testing (supported by Jenkins)
  • Deployment Automation (supported by uDeploy)
  • Performance Monitoring

When building your next startup team, ask the question: how will you manage your developers?

Validated Learning

The entire premise around Bluemix is to help you build and test your ideas. When creating a web application on Bluemix, the domain name of yourapplicationname.mybluemix.net is created in less than one minute. Therefore, you can start sending your link out to potential customers to start learning what you have set out to learn.

You can’t learn without communicating with your customers. Bluemix enables this communication between your product and the customers in a seamless and quick fashion.

Innovation Accounting

Eric Ries notes that startups cannot be measured on traditional metrics such as revenue, customer acquisition costs, lifetime value of the customer, etc. It is up to you to define your own metrics. However, the built-in monitoring tools in Bluemix can help you track what matters most to you. If that isn’t enough for you, Bluemix contains several services that help you monitor and track your key metrics with analytics. Still if you aren’t satisfied with these solutions, you can use any other monitoring service so long as it can be accessed through RESTful APIs.

Build-Measure-Learn

The entire motivation and life-blood of Bluemix is to help developers rapidly build applications, gain validated learning, fail fast, and build the next MVP. With Bluemix, you will be able to push an application to the cloud in a minute, send the link out to your customers immediately, and use agile development to make the necessary changes.

The pay-as-you-go model with a monthly free tier (yes, every month) will enable you to test and build applications for free or a small amount of money. By using Bluemix, you will be able to keep costs low while you are learning. This is exactly what Ries meant when he created the ‘lean startup’ model.

In Bluemix, the free tier for services and run-times (in GB-Hour) is substantial. The diagram above lists a few selected services to give you a flavor for how much free stuff you actually receive. If you are a lean startup, then you should be able to easily build a proof of concept within the free tier, and will only begin paying once you see your customers beginning to adopt your product and use your web or mobile application.

 

The lean startup is a game changer. So, is Bluemix. Check out Bluemix, try out a sample application, and leave a comment or response about what you think about Bluemix. I love to hear readers feedback, thoughts, opinions, and suggestions. Thank you.