Vodafone Business and IBM teamed up to launch a $550 million multi-cloud venture to provide European companies with technologies that integrate and manage multiple clouds.
Initially, the new organization will provide optimization and management services for Vodafone’s existing cloud offerings. The telecommunications provider supports Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud.
“So those will be the first multi-cloud environments that we will work together with Vodafone on enhancing their offerings across those,” said Bill Lambertson, director of cloud industry solutions at IBM. “It is a very unique venture in that we will be deploying multi-cloud services and technologies to their customers.”
This includes IBM’s optimization, automation, and cognitive capabilities as well as management tools like IBM’s Multicloud Manager, which allows customer to manage and move their Kubernetes clusters across different clouds and data centers.
“As we move forward we will be developing sets of industry offerings focusing on role-based types of applications — either IoT or data or mobile or AI,” Lambertson said, adding that these will be services customers can “access anywhere and deploy anywhere. As 5G and edge computing starts to role out, we will enable these capabilities at the edge.”
Side note: IBM is also working with Vodafone on its 5G rollout in Milan. That project, however, is unrelated to this new venture, Lambertson said.
The partners agreed to an eight-year deal, and the venture will be operational in the first half of this year. The new organization will have its own facility, separate from IBM and Vodafone, with its own executive team. Vodafone Director of Cloud and Hosting Services Greg Hyttenrauch and Michael Valocchi, global leader for client centricity at IBM Services, will be co-leaders.
The companies want the new venture to act like a startup and use agile methodologies to develop new services, Lambertson said.
“What makes this different than just a partnership, first of all, is that we established co-leadership from both sides,” Lambertson said. “It will have resources dedicated to it, it will be housed in a separate organization, and we will establish an agile development culture across the organization to create offerings together.”
But just 12 months ago, it may not have been possible. “If we were doing this project a year ago, I think it would have been a little different because Vodafone wanted a partner that was truly multi-cloud,” he admitted.
IBM’s 2018 investments in multi-cloud show it’s willing to do more than just talk, Lambertson said.
“In the fourth quarter alone we made a significant announcement around MCM [multi-cloud manager] cloud platform, which was a real feather in our cap,” he said. “And then on the heels of that we announced the Red Hat acquisition.”
IBM is paying $34 billion for Red Hat as part of its push into open source and hybrid cloud. “Certainly Vodafone has some insight as to how they would benefit from that as a testament to our open, multi-cloud support capabilities,” said Lambertson.
Just yesterday Red Hat shareholders voted to approved the deal with IBM, which is slated to close in the second half of 2019.
The Vodafone and IBM venture also comes just a day after IBM announced a $325 million deal with Juniper Networks that will see IBM help manage Juniper’s on-premises and cloud infrastructure and workloads.