Gartner VP and cloud analyst Lydia Leong tweeted the news Thursday morning after being briefed by IBM. She was traveling at the time and said she would comment further as soon as she was able. In a follow-up tweet, she said IBM had already started migrating customers to SoftLayer, prior to making any public announcement. Leong can be found on Twitter at @cloudpundit.
IBM only finished acquiring SoftLayer on July 8. The Dallas-based, formerly independent cloud service specializes in offering bare-metal servers, so that applications that require rapid scale-up, such as database servers, function much as they do in the data center. Bare-metal servers are also sometimes used as the new host of a legacy system that doesn't lend itself otherwise to migration into the cloud.
IBM operates SmartCloud Enterprise services out of 10 data centers around the world. It has made no statement on what their future will be. SoftLayer operates 13 data centers with 115,000 servers in wholesale data center space. Many of its facilities are located in space built by Digital Realty Trust, a wholesale space builder where customers place and operate their equipment.
[ Read more about how IBM brought SoftLayer into its fold: IBM Lets SoftLayer Keep Its Hardware Edge. ]
IBM has confirmed the closing of its SmartCloud operations in a statement to The Register.
"IBM can confirm that clients using its public cloud platform will be transitioned to the Softlayer (an IBM company) public cloud platform, providing clients with a higher performing public cloud solution with advanced functionality," IBM said through a public relations spokesman.
Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller also confirmed he had been briefed on the closing close on the heels of Leong's tweet. His tweeted comment said: "Today [email protected] informed it's #SmartCloud customers to move to #Softlayer data centers - probably largest move of #cloud on record so far."
The IBM SmartCloud was distinct from other cloud offerings in that it offered an exception to the uniform x86 commodity hardware found in Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine. It also offered IBM Power servers to run applications in AIX, IBM's version of Unix, as well.
In an interview with SoftLayer CTO Duke Skarda in September, he said his cloud data centers had no plans at that point of adding AIX servers to their line-up. IBM has announced support of the OpenStack open source project, and Skarda said at the time SoftLayer will eventually transform into an OpenStack operation.
To close SmartCloud and move to the all-x86 infrastructure of SoftLayer means customers of IBM proprietary servers will have one fewer place to go if they tire of running their proprietary systems in their own data centers. On the other hand, IBM probably found limited interest among such legacy system users in its SmartCloud service offerings.
The closing also shows the difficulty of any cloud provider in departing from lowest-common-denominator systems and efficiencies in cloud services. Amazon has driven down pricing on key services, such as basic compute and storage, to maintain its market leader position and make it difficult for higher margin players to enter the field.