IBM Cloud has joined the competition. Big Blue's cloud business is launching availability zones, 18 of them to be exact, spread across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Amazon and Google clouds have had availability zones forever, so Big Blue is a little late to the fair, but not that much later than Microsoft Azure, which added them in March. This means that the big four are now marching in-step, and availability zones have become something of a standard.
IBM is defining its availability zones as "an isolated instance of cloud inside a data center region, with independent power, cooling and networking," which is pretty much what they are across clouds. According to IBM, customers will be able to deploy multi-zone Kubernetes clusters across availability zones using the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service.
Cloud users like availability zones because they're fault-tolerant and are typically designed with low-latency connections between zones. They can use multiple zones for something akin to guaranteed uptime by designing systems so that if one zone fails, another will pick up the slack.
"The world's biggest companies work with IBM to migrate them to the cloud because we know their technology and unique business needs as they bridge their past with the future," David Kenny, SVP of IBM Watson & Cloud Platform, said in a statement. "Our continued cloud investment and growing client roster reflect that companies are increasingly seeking hybrid cloud environments that offer cutting edge tools including AI, analytics, IoT and blockchain to maximize their benefits."
The company stressed that by utilizing IBM Cloud's global footprint, customers can better deal with data regulations such as the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). IBM pointed to the eye-health company Bausch + Lomb, which will run its next-generation cataract surgical system's network in IBM Cloud data centers in Dallas and Frankfurt, with the Frankfurt location helping it comply with GDPR requirements. Also, partly to meet regulatory requirements for data protection and privacy, Australian bank and financial service provider Westpac has migrated to a secure and dedicated IBM Cloud infrastructure.
With the addition of availability zones, IBM Cloud's infrastructure encompasses nearly 60 data centers, with six regions and 18 availability zones. The new availability zones will be located in the US, Germany, UK, Japan, and Australia.
The late arrival of availability zones to IBM's cloud might help explain the paradoxical game of catch-up Big Blue has been playing with its cloud. While its third-place ranking by market share might make it seem that it's working to catch up with second place Azure, it might instead be working to keep Google Cloud Platform behind it. Although GCP has half the market share as IBM, it garners much more media attention, despite IBM's highly visible Watson AI brand. Google's cloud also has a larger infrastructure, with 16 regions, 49 zones, and over 100 points of presence.
Much of IBM Cloud's business seems to be channelled from other IBM departments. ExxonMobil, for example, is using IBM Cloud as the foundation for its Speedpass+ mobile app, which was developed by IBM Services. In May, the French Bank Crédit Mutuel announced that it would combine multiple technologies from Big Blue, including Cloud, Security, and Watson.