IBM might have taken its time getting to the cloud, but it's already there. IBM announced Monday, April 28, at the IBM Impact conference in Las Vegas, the official launch of IBM Cloud Marketplace, an online marketplace for hosted cloud services for enterprise clients.

The marketplace targets three kinds of customers: business leaders, developers and IT administrators.

Customers can now visit the IBM cloud to view more than a hundred hosted cloud services, including middleware components from IBM's Foundry-based BlueMix platform as a service (PaaS), which provides a sandbox environment for developers to test their applications before selling them in the marketplace. More than 30 services are available in BlueMix, including services in big data and analytics, cloud integration and Internet of Things.

The marketplace also offers SoftLayer Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) as well as services from third-party vendors, including Zend, SendGrid, NewRelic, Redis Labs, MongoDB, Twilio, Ustream and Flow Search Crop.

IBM, however, only accepts vendors who run their services on SoftLayer.

"It's an open platform. It supports all the popular application development tools and structures. So it's not uniquely IBM. There's a lot of open source and partners," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive for software and systems for IBM.

Customers can easily purchase from the IBM Cloud Marketplace on their computers, tablets or smartphones with the click of a mouse or a tap on the screen.

With hardware sales on a constant decline, Big Blue is laying its money on the cloud. IBM president and chief executive officer Virginia Rometty assured [pdf] its investors during its first-quarter conference call that IBM will "take actions to transform parts of the business and to shift aggressively to our strategic growth areas." 

Although the SoftLayer-only restriction is likely to turn off vendors whose products do not run on IBM's newly-acquired platform, the cloud is likely a strategic tool to drive earnings, as research firm Gartner estimates that demand for cloud-based services will reach up to $250 million this year. By the end of 2014, Gartner believes at least 80% of all enterprises will use cloud services in one way or another.

IBM earned $4.4 billion in cloud-based revenue in 2013 and has made big investments in the cloud. Last year, the company acquired SoftLayer for $2 billion and invested another $1.2 billion expanding the service. It also spent $7 billion in the acquisitions of Cloudant, Silverpop and Aspera.

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