For its first-quarter revenue, reported Monday afternoon, IBM fell $50 million short of Wall Street's expectations. The company also said it wouldn't be providing financial guidance due to the complications of predicting anything while entire industries are locked down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
IBM's new CEO, Arvind Krishna, told analysts during the conference call that, thanks to the uncertainty of business life during a pandemic, "this quarter is not the time to declare we have clarity." The stock fell about 3% in after-hours trading.
But the company can take comfort in its expanding cloud business, led by its recently acquired cloud champions at Red Hat. Big Blue's Red Hat unit, one of the leading providers of open source software systems for telco cloud deployments, reported a revenue gain of 18% for the quarter.
Red Hat is now part of IBM's Cloud & Cognitive Software group, which also includes its cloud and data platforms, cognitive applications and transaction processing platforms. That entire group reported revenue of $5.2 billion, up 5%, during a quarter where IBM's total revenue was $17.6 billion (which was down 3.4%).
IBM said it has pulled in $22 billion in cloud-related revenue over the last 12 months. Revenues are hard to predict right now, but IBM's execs do have clarity about the importance of the cloud.
IBM has acquired over 150 firms in the last 20 years, but none of them have arguably represented a bigger bet on its future than its $34 billion Red Hat buy. For that deal to pay for itself, the cloud must continue to become a catalyst for every part of IBM – and a return to long-term, predictable growth.
Looking just through that lens, IBM's cloud revenue as a percentage of total revenue has increased from 4% in 2013 to 25% in 2019, according to Zack's Investment Research. In the figures announced on Monday, IBM's cloud business is nearing 30% of its total revenue for the quarter.