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IBM Garage tunes up clients for multi-cloud projects

IBM's Garage methodology, which has helped more than 500 customers move to the cloud, modernize legacy apps and create new ones, has expanded its language support and internal use.

Big Blue continues to enhance its IBM Garage method to help organizations move to the cloud and implement a variety of services, from AI and machine learning to IoT and blockchain, as part of their digital transformation strategies.

The five year-old IBM Garage methodology combines Agile techniques and DevOps expertise, architectures and toolchains, to help both startups and enterprise customers launch new cloud projects that relate to digital transformation. It takes customers through the entire software development lifecycle, from generation of the idea for the project, to development, to deployment, to production and scaling the deployed system to meet enterprise needs.

The Garage method encourages users to build in one-week iterations using test-driven development, continuous integration, pair programming, and refactoring. Using three lifecycle phases now known as Co-Create, Co-Execute and Co-Operate, IBM takes its Garage clients from an idea to a production pilot in four to eight weeks, said Rachel Reinitz, an IBM Fellow and CTO of the IBM Garage. Companies from four-person startups to multinational enterprises have come through the IBM Garage for help with their cloud deployments, she said.

The IBM Garage has expanded in multiple dimensions since the company opened the first Garage in San Francisco in April 2014. One of the most recent tweaks to the IBM Garage method is expanded support for popular languages and frameworks, including Angular, React, Node.js and, of course, Java.

IBM teams throughout the company also have adopted the Garage method. Development teams widely use Garage method practices, particularly in IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software areas and the IBM CIO office, Reinitz said. This includes concepts such as Enterprise Design Thinking, Lean Startup, eXtreme Programming, Agile and many DevOps practices.

Rachel Reinitz, CTO of the IBM GarageRachel Reinitz

The Garage method is also shaped by and harvests from the IBM development teams, Reinitz said. For example, many of the CI/CD, operations, management and site reliability engineering practices are based on IBM's experiences running scalable cloud services. The Enterprise Design Thinking practices, which focus on applying Design Thinking to an enterprise, come from IBM's experience transforming IBM to be a design-led company, she said.

IBM's Garage Methodology also has spread throughout IBM Services, to combine cloud adoption and transformation best practices. This involves expanding Garage methodology training from hundreds to thousands of consultants, and to cover a broader variety of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud technologies, Reinitz said.

"IBM Garage is an interesting example of something the company is especially good at doing: developing services based on what were once internal IBM projects and processes," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT in Hayward, Calif. "IBM has taken the lessons and benefits gained from its own Garage-like efforts and repackaged them for commercial use."

IBM now has 16 purpose-built Garage spaces across the globe, with the newest ones in Raleigh, N.C., and Milan, Italy. The Garage capability is available in many IBM locations across the world, particularly in IBM Studios, and IBM also has set up Garages at some client locations, Reinitz said. IBM Garage Method boot camps are specialized for different audiences from executives to designers to developers, and from IBMers to business partners and clients.

IBM Garage customers scale cloud-native projects

More than 500 customers have come through IBM Garage doors in the last 18 months to tap into IBM's Agile and DevOps expertise. ADP, for example, uses the IBM Garage method to help infuse AI into its enterprise systems, according to IBM. The two companies jointly developed an AI-powered digital agent that handles over 20% of ADP's chat traffic, and they're also working to improve ADP's digital on-boarding process.

Merlin International, a cybersecurity and IT systems provider based in Vienna, Va., has run seven different projects through the IBM Garage method, which has helped them more rapidly build software while teams work at different speeds, said Tej Luthra, CTO of the company.

"I think that if we didn't use the Garage to help us, we would be maybe three quarters to possibly four quarters behind where we are now," Luthra said. He declined to translate that into a dollar figure, but said Merlin has seen "substantial cost savings and faster go-to-market."

Luthra also likes how the IBM Garage method focuses on creation of a minimum viable product (MVP) to prove the technology, and then advance that MVP into a finished product through testing and iteration. "It makes everybody think like a product owner," he said.

Merlin is cloud-agnostic with its software, and most of what it adopted from IBM is open-source. However, some of its clients, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, have infrastructure that requires more IBM technology, Luthra said.

Part of the IBM Garage method, of course, is a focus on IBM Cloud, but IBM's multicloud and hybrid cloud strategy means that customers can deploy various IBM services, such as blockchain, onto Microsoft Azure, AWS and Red Hat technology, Reinitz said.

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