Social Coding: The Origins Of IBM’s Bluemix

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IBM’s Bluemix cloud application development platform came out of an IBM experiment known as social coding and is now the Bluemix Garage Method

This is a saga about IBM’s Bluemix Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Big Blue’s popular Cloud Foundry-based cloud application development program that started as a glimmer in a few IBM executives’ cloud-glazed eyes and now boasts more than one million developers and attracts nearly 20,000 new ones to the platform each week, IBM said.

According to Dr. Angel Luis Diaz, IBM’s vice president of Cloud Architecture and Technology, IBM initially began looking into what was to become Bluemix as far back as 2010, four years before the company officially launched it at its Pulse conference in February of 2014. When asked about the origins of the technology, Diaz waxed reminiscent, simply saying: “It’s a beautiful story.”

To Diaz, the beauty comes from both the purely developer focus involved in the planning and execution of the strategy, and the adherence to openness and open technology all along the process.

Bluemix itself came out of a concept within IBM known as “social coding,” Diaz said.

ibm“We started the transformation in how we develop many years ago and Bluemix grew out of something called social coding internally,” Diaz told eWEEK. “It was an organic project, so myself, Jerry Cuomo, now vice president of Blockchain Technologies at IBM, David Linquist, now an IBM Fellow and CTO of Cloud Platform Services at IBM and a bunch of us got together and said ‘let’s start creating a polyglot platform and a cloud operating environment.’ ”

This was back around 2010 or so and IBM was already working with OpenStack and trying to create a foundation around that, Diaz said. The company also had some internal technology doing Platform- as- a- Service. In fact, Jerry Cuomo had done quite a bit of that work with IBM’s PureApplication server, he recalled.

“But we asked how can we create a true open-source Platform- as- a- Service,” Diaz said. “So as we were looking at the different communities and looking at our own stuff, we said you know the best way to do this is to partner with the community – bring our IP to the community and open it up.”

Indeed, IBM had more than one PaaS-like prototype underway internally, as is typical for a large organization with multiple projects going on. But it wasn’t exactly the same idea of a true polyglot environment that Diaz and company sought.

“It was a way of provisioning and laying down a platform, but it wasn’t dynamic like Cloud Foundry is,” he said. “It had some very good principles that we use now in Cloud Foundry but it didn’t have everything we wanted. Nobody did. So the idea was to marry the best. And Danny Sabbah (now retired former cloud CTO at IBM) was at the top of all this.”

So IBM started a broader experiment and built it out. It started with a ragtag team of some of Diaz’s group in Silicon Valley–he had been tasked with splitting his time between the valley and IBM’s Software Group facilities in Somers, NY–doing the back end work and some of IBM Fellow Rod Smith’s team doing the UI work with IBM’s design thinking team. They took Cloud Foundry as the base and partnered with Pivotal. At that point they began talking about creating the Cloud Foundry Foundation because they believed if they were going to use open source technology, it needed to be openly governed.

“And then what happened was we ended up creating what we called a cloud operating environment,” Diaz said. “It wasn’t called Bluemix yet, but it gave people the ability to quickly build applications, which started as a small part-time thing with five to 15 people that literally grew into thousands of developers coding on their own time, building Bluemix. This is all organic and it’s because of social coding. We had structured the way we were building this. It started from these little pieces. Social coding occurred and, literally, we ran a hackathon and we had 1,000 IBMers show up at the same time to build apps on Bluemix.” That’s when they knew they had something special on their hands.


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