IBM and Cloudflare Join Forces to Take on Amazon

IBM is teaming up with Cloudflare, a billion-dollar tech startup headquartered in San Francisco, to provide a new set of cybersecurity offerings to its cloud computing customers.

Big Blue’s executives no doubt hope the partnership will make IBM Cloud a more compelling alternative to Amazon Web Services, the present-day cloud computing king. The deal will enable IBM to outsource various IT security functions while granting Cloudflare access to IBM’s network of customers through a reseller agreement.

John Considine, IBM’s general manager for cloud infrastructure, tells Fortune that the product bundling will “hugely simplify things for end users.” The integration, he says, will let IBM customers easily add Cloudflare’s defenses, including shields against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and firewalls for filtering out malicious Internet traffic.

IBM customers will be able to use Cloudflare’s services, branded under IBM Cloud Internet Services, by “most of the time just clicking a button in the dashboard,” says Matthew Prince, Cloudflare’s co-founder and CEO. Access to the features is set to open on March 19.

For Cloudflare, the deal represents the third reseller agreement it has inked with big cloud providers in recent years. The company already has similar relationships in place with Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. (Note Amazon’s absence.)

“The easiest way to bring a product to market,” says Chris Merritt, Cloudflare’s chief revenue officer, describing the reasoning behind the deal, is to have customers “buy through existing relationships, as they’ve had with IBM for long time.”

Inside an IBM Cloud data center in Dallas, Texas. Courtesy of IBM
Courtesy of IBM

IBM was the third biggest cloud provider with about 8% market share at the end of 2017, according to February report by Synergy Research Group, a Reno, Nevada-based market research firm. Amazon claimed the top spot with roughly one-third of the cloud computing market, while Microsoft held about 13%.

The IBM-Cloudflare alliance comes shortly after IBM posted its first revenue growth in long while, reversing a downward trend that afflicted the company for 22 quarters. The deal also comes in the wake of a spate of record-shattering DDoS attacks that targeted businesses with massive floods of bogus Internet traffic aimed at web servers.

Prince says that defending businesses against those types of attacks is an “anchor feature” for Cloudflare, which was one of the first companies to call attention to the new, force-amplifying DDoS attack method last month.

“That’s something that is right in our wheelhouse of being able to stop,” he says.

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