The idea of BlueMix is that a developer can create an application very quickly and get it deployed without having to go through the usual rigmarole of enterprise app deployment which can take weeks or months. From that point of view BlueMix is very interesting; the developer can choose their preferred language (basically node.js, Java or Ruby), their preferred database (DB2, MongoDB, MySQL, Postrgresql) and various other add ons such as integration with the Internet of Things, big data analysis, even fitness trackers.
The day itself covered the basics of the infrastructure running on Cloud Foundry on Softlayer, and the various different ways to deploy apps. We looked at using the command line, the Bluemix website, Jazz.net (the IBM Devops tools for continuous integration) and also briefly integration with Git. So from the point of view of actually pushing code up to the service it’s very simple, or at least as simple as any of the other cloud services out there.
Unfortunately the day was rather plagued with technical issues thanks to the IBM Impact conference running in Las Vegas. The BlueMix team were busy pushing up new code for Impact during the night over there, but it was the middle of the day here and so the BlueMix services were like the proverbial nun’s drawers.
And due to the down time it gave plenty of time to think about the offering. We’re doing some Node.js / MongoDB development at the moment and deploying it to the cloud has been incredibly simple, we use Heroku for the application, MongoLab for the database and Search.ly for the full text searching. We could equally run all three elements on a single box and run that in the cloud ourselves. Or we could use Bluemix to host all three elements.
Using multiple services is probably dangerous, there’s multiple points of failure etc, but for dev at least I like it, I can understand exactly what is running where, I can see application logs and so on. If I run them locally, likewise I can see everything running. But BlueMix is very much a black box, I couldn’t see any simple way to watch my application console ticking over for example. The MongoDB has no interface to it, no facility to control sharding and there was no integration of ElasticSearch at all so we’d need to re-think how we handle those elements of our projects. The point being, by creating one big, black box, it makes deployment very simple, but it takes control away from me, and I like control over the applications that I write.
The mantra for the day seemed to be “as a developer you don’t need to know this stuff”. From my point of view, not knowing “this stuff” is very dangerous and it’s not a road I want to go too far down.
The problem for IBM is that the only differentiator they can offer for this type of project is on price or SLA. I find it very hard to believe that either will be better than the existing cloud service providers as this sort of thing is basically commodity at this point. So the target for IBM seems to be the add-ons. Data and analytics, and other services which are being written by third parties (i.e. Business Partners) that can then be added to other applications as required. A very similar proposition to the add-ons that Heroku offers but more targeted towards the enterprise than SaaS. It seems like BPs will be able to provide services into BlueMix but there were no details on how that would work in terms of certification or earning money from it.
Overall it was a good day in the sense that I realised that BlueMix is not something I need to spend any further time with at least until pricing has been announced. For the purposes of LDC and Elguji, we can achieve everything we need with existing services such as Heroku or EC2.
Hi Matt, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
/Finn L. Knudsen
Hey Matt, thanks for the feedback. I think it is important to keep in mind that BlueMix is still in beta and that there are many details that will become more clear over the coming months. Things like pricing, SLAs, and integration into the catalog will be clearly documented when we move out of beta 🙂 (If you have a service you would like to provide and surface in the BlueMix catalog we can certainly work with you before GA if you want.)
A couple of clarifications on some things…
We don’t assume critical services we or our partners provide to your application will be "black boxes". We know developers want to have control and insight into them just like they would if they were on premise. There are some services in the catalog right now (essentially all the ones labeled community) that do not provide the level of insight you would like. As we move towards GA there will be alternatives made available that do. In fact some already have alternatives. Take the community Redis service. As of this week there is now a RedisCloud service which provides the same functionality to your app that the community Redis service does but also allows you to go to the RedisCloud dashboard to manage your Redis instance. You can do things like flush the cash or import data into your Redis instance. You can also see important statistics about your Redis instance. The community Redis instance does not let you do any of this and is a "black box". It seems like you are specifically interested in the Mongo DB service. Over the coming weeks we hope to add MongoLab to the catalog (it is already in the IBM Cloud Marketplace https://marketplace.ibmcloud.com/apps/511#!overview). Once this is there it will provide the extra functionality you are looking for.
I agree with your that the PaaS functionality provided by BlueMix is commodity. You can get similar functionality from Heroku or Pivotal for example. However the real value to BlueMix comes from 3 areas.
1. The services. In particular the IBM services. These are enterprise grade services that only IBM can offer and can only be found in an IBM PaaS offering. (Think Watson as a service for example, not that I am saying this will happen, but just a well known example.)
2. Softlayer. BlueMix is running ontop of SoftLayer, meaning we can take advantage of all SoftLayer offers and most importantly its data centers. Heroku, for example, only supports AWS data centers in the US and EU. The plan is to have BlueMix support many of the Softlayer data centers around the globe.
3. Dev Ops services with JazzHub. The integration between BlueMix and IBM’s dev ops services is something I have not seen from other PaaS providers and we have just gotten started in this space. I think you will see a lot more to come from here in the future.
With that said I welcome the challenge of getting your app that currently runs on Heroku deployed on BlueMix. It should be possible to do TODAY even if we don’t offer the services you use on Heroku. Feel free to reach out to me any time Skype: ryanjbaxter Twitter: @ryanjbaxter
Thanks Ryan, and yes I got our app deployed in about five minutes, it’s a very simple process.
Great! The offer still stands, questions comments and complaints are welcome, send them my way!