Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ariba, IBM deal shows emerging prominence of cloud ecosystem-based collaboration and commerce

The more you delve into how cloud computing can reshape business, the more clear becomes the importance of ecosystems.

No one cloud provider is likely to forecast and deliver all that any business needs or wants. More importantly, the role of the cloud provider is less about providing complete services than in enabling the ease and adaptability of acquiring, delivering and monetizing a variety of services in dynamic combination.

We're now seeing that the marketplace of cloud-hosted APIs is rich and exploding. But it's a self-service, organic market model that's emerging-- not a top-down ERP-like affair. And that is likely to make all the difference in terms of fast adoption.

Do providers like Apple, Google and Amazon produce the lion's share of services themselves -- or do they provide a fertile garden in which others create services and APIs that make the garden most valuable to all participants, inviting more guests, more development, more collaboration?

The organic model is also likely to repeat in ecosystems that allow buyers and sellers to align, and business processes between and among them to flourish. The business-to-business (B2B) commerce cloud is now being built. Recent acquisitions, like IBM's buy of Cast Iron and intent to buy Sterling Commerce, point up the "business garden" goals of Big Blue. Cast Iron allows the cultivation of hybrid clouds, clouds of clouds and rich services integration. Sterling brings EDI-based networks into the fold.

IBM clearly likes the idea of playing match-maker between traditional and new business models.

IBM clearly likes the idea of playing match-maker between traditional and new business models. And this cloud garden party effect aligns perfectly with IBM's tendency to avoid providing packaged business applications in favor of the platforms, middleware, process enablement and collaboration capabilities that support others' discrete applications.

Last week's announcement then of a cloud collaboration partnership between IBM and Ariba furthers the emerging prominence of cloud commerce ecosystems. To encourage more ecommerce, the IBM-Ariba deal matches B2B buyers and sellers via LotusLive collaboration and social networking services, all through cloud delivery models.

Conference capstone

The announcement came as a capstone to the Ariba Live 2010 conference in Orlando. [Disclosure: Ariba is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.] I had fun at the conference spouting off on cloud benefits, and tweeting up some of the mainstage events under #AribaLive.

Ariba plans to integrate its Ariba Commerce Cloud with IBM LotusLive to help buyers and sellers communicate and share information more fluidly and effectively, leading to faster, more confident business decisions, the companies said. Ariba plans to integrate IBM’s LotusLive with Ariba Discovery, a web-based service that helps buyers and sellers find each other quickly and automatically helps match buyers’ requirements to seller capabilities.

Both Ariba and IBM are recognizing the power and huge opportunity of being at the center of cloud-based commerce. And being at the center means allowing the participants to do the actual driving, to enable the community to seek and find natural partners via social interactions. We're likely to see the equivalent of app stores and social networks well up for B2B commerce, scaling both down and up, in the coming months and years.

What's now good for consumer commerce is soon to be good for the business side of the equation. It's simply the most efficient.

“The successful combination of LotusLive and the Ariba Commerce Cloud will provide such a matchmaking comfort zone in which networks of partners, suppliers and customers can easily work together across company boundaries to help do their jobs more efficiently and cost-effectively, and perhaps even develop lasting relationships," said Sean Poulley, Vice President, IBM Cloud Collaboration, in a release.

As Ariba Chairman and CEO Bob Calderoni says, what's now good for consumer commerce is soon to be good for the business side of the equation. It's simply the most efficient.

After IBM set its sights on Sterling, I at first wondered if IBM and Ariba might find themselves competing. But last Wednesday's deal shows that ecosystems rule. One-in-all cloud provider aspirants should take note. The way to making the network most valuable is by empowering the business (both sellers and buyers) to carve out what they want to do themselves.

IBM Lotus collaboration services plus Ariba's cloud and commerce network services seem to be striving to reach the right balance between providing a fertile arena and then getting out of the gardeners' way.

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