IBM, Red Hat and the Value of Customer Comfort

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  July 17, 2019

In IBM’s recent announcement closing its $34B acquisition of Red Hat, the company said the deal:

  • Positions IBM as a leading hybrid cloud provider, accelerates its high-value business model and extends Red Hat’s open source innovation to a broader range of clients
  • Will preserve Red Hat’s independence and neutrality. Red Hat will operate as a distinct business unit within IBM, its current executive team (including CEO Jim Whitehurst) will lead the organization, and IBM will maintain Red Hat’s headquarters, facilities, brands and practices.
  • Will strengthen Red Hat’s existing partnerships to continue giving customers freedom, choice and flexibility. Those partners include major cloud providers, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba.
  • Leave unchanged Red Hat’s unwavering commitment to open source.
  • Empower IBM and Red Hat to deliver the next-generation hybrid multicloud platform based on open source technologies, such as Linux and Kubernetes. That will allow businesses to securely deploy, run and manage data and applications on-premises and on private and multiple public clouds.

Do these points make sense given the two companies’ history and relative strengths? If so, are there any challenges or barriers they face in pursuing these goals? Finally, what can customers and partners expect moving forward? Continue reading

Lenovo DCG: “Exascale for Everyone” Meets HPC for All

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  July 2, 2019

In past commentaries on supercomputing and high-performance computing (HPC), including the results of the latest Top500.org lists, I noted the benefits that dynamically flow from high-end systems to smaller businesses. In large part, that is due to the continuing upward evolution of computing technologies that drives costs down across the spectrum of IT solutions. But that process has also been hastened by specific trends, including the rise and performance of supercomputers leveraging industry standard components.

How that impacts commercial markets is evident in Lenovo’s standing in the most recent Top500 list where the company increased its leadership position in the total number of systems listed. But the nature of those listings is equally important, as was a recent blog posted by Matt Ziegler, director of HPC and AI Product Management and Marketing at Lenovo, entitled “Exascale for Everyone.” Let’s take a closer look at Lenovo’s recent Top500 listings, Ziegler’s blog and what they mean for commercial markets and businesses. Continue reading

VMware’s Past, Present and Future in Cloud Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  June 26, 2019

While the term “cloud computing” has been around since the mid-1990s and its underlying concepts for even longer, it is a mistake to think of cloud as something fully formed or entirely mature. Instead, cloud solutions continue to evolve and follow the rapid commercial transformation that began when Amazon relaunched AWS, including the Elastic Compute Cloud service in 2006.

Though VMware isn’t always at the top of cloud computing pioneer lists, its cloud roots and pedigree are as deep as any vendor’s can be. Why so? Because hardware virtualization technologies, like the company’s vSphere offerings, are central to cloud functionality. VMware launched its first formal cloud effort (the vCloud initiative) over a decade ago and since then has steadily delivered solutions and services that address the cloud computing needs of its enterprise clients.

A recent Cloud Analyst Event offered some intriguing insights into the current state and future direction of VMware’s cloud efforts and strategies.

VMware cloud emerges

VMware’s course to the cloud was guided in large part by the vision of its parent company EMC. In February 2008, five years after buying VMware for $635M, EMC purchased pioneering cloud start-up, Pi Corp and appointed its CEO Paul Maritz (a storied senior Microsoft exec) to lead its new Cloud Infrastructure and Services Division.

When VMware’s then CEO and co-founder Diane Greene left the company five months later, Maritz replaced her and, a few months after that, announced the first vCloud initiative which pointed VMware directly toward a future in cloud computing. Why did that make sense? Cloud’s value proposition rests on the ability to centrally control and seamlessly migrate workloads and data to the systems best suited to their requirements.

In the case of most public cloud providers, that meant managing hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of Intel-based servers in much the same way that workloads are managed on traditional scale-up systems, like IBM mainframes. In fact, Maritz initially used the phrase “the big mainframe or big computer” to describe VMware-enabled cloud datacenters (not too surprisingly, he dropped the mainframe reference after a couple of months).

That was what Amazon had accomplished, enabling its IT infrastructure to be cost-effectively repurposed to support AWS services. What Maritz and cloud proponents at VMware and elsewhere envisioned was leveraging the company’s technologies in the form of commercial cloud solutions that could be sold to enterprise customers and service providers. That central point underscored Maritz’s efforts until he left the company for Pivotal in 2012 and continues today as VMware executes against CEO Pat Gelsinger’s sure-handed, cloud-focused strategy.

A decade of VMware cloud progress

In the decade after VMware first announced vCloud, the company developed and released a steady stream of related solutions, including:

  • vCloud APIs and vCloud Express (2009)
  • Cloud Foundry (2011, an open-source platform-as-a-service system eventually folded into Pivotal)
  • vCloud Suite (2012)
  • vCloud Hybrid Service (2013 to support IaaS, then rebranded vCloud Air in 2014), the VMware Cloud Provider program and web site (for cloud service providers – CSPs)
  • Cloud Foundation (2016, for managing private cloud environments deployed on integrated SDDC systems)
  • vRealize Suite (2017, a comprehensive cloud management platform).

Not all of the company’s efforts were entirely successful. Notably, vCloud Air was sold to French cloud provider OVH in 1H 2017. Afterwards VMware shifted focus to agnostically providing solutions and services to its global Cloud Provider CSP partners and moved to developing hybrid cloud solutions and supporting emerging multi-cloud trends.

In fact, a close reading of VMware’s decade of cloud exploration and development finds the company’s evolution mirroring the larger industry. The fact is that early evangelists, such as Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, extolled their platforms and public clouds, including Amazon as the ultimate future of all IT. That was a conventional extension of the highly-centralized, “on demand” “utility” computing models that had been around since the mid-1990s.

But as businesses’ needs for and views of cloud evolved, a more complex situation emerged. First, for reasons including security and privacy concerns, most organizations possessed applications and data resources that they would never entrust to public clouds. In addition, rather than engaging with single, massive public clouds, they preferred to work with multiple CSPs according to the quality and strength of available offerings. Finally, companies wanted to capture cloud ease and efficiencies for their own on-premises IT infrastructures.

VMware cloud today and in the future

Those continuing trends in hybrid- (blending on- and off-premises cloud services and assets) and multi-cloud adoption and use cases are central to VMware’s efforts, but the company’s strategy focuses on practical issues its customers consider mission-critical. As Chris Wolf, VMware’s VP and CTO Global Field and Industry, noted in his presentation, application needs are driving cloud evolution, as well as broader IT initiatives, such as IT modernization, SaaS, DevOps, cloud-native apps and operations automation.

Where does VMware fit into this picture? In essence, the company believes it is ideally positioned to support and deliver the same levels of IT service, availability, security and compliance in public cloud-based workloads as it has long done in on-premises data centers. That, in turn, will simplify its enterprise customers’ cloud migration plans and initiatives, and help them dependably meet application performance goals and governance requirements.

In addition, these solutions, services and efforts maximize the value that VMware provides to its public cloud partners. Those include highly visible players, including AWS, Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud, along with the other 4,200+ CSPs in the Cloud Provider ecosystem. Together those vendors support over 200k business customers by managing 10M+ VMware VMs.

The Cloud Analyst Event provided deep dives into VMware Cloud and Cloud Foundation, along with related, newer multi-cloud technologies and services, as well as testimonials by the company’s cloud customers, including Connectwise (service delivery automation), Robert Half (human resource consulting) and Trend Micro (cyber security and defense). Company executives also offered insights into more recent focus areas, such as VMware’s support for “Kubernetes everywhere” and related investments, including the recent acquisition of Heptio.

Finally, significant attention was paid to the VMware Cloud on Dell EMC offerings highlighted at Dell Technologies World 2019 in April. Those include Dell Technologies’ Cloud Platforms – based on Dell EMC hardware and VMware Cloud Foundation, plus optional solutions from RSA, SecureWorks, Boomi, VirtuStream and Pivotal. The VMware Cloud on Dell EMC offering provides customers a variety of consumption options managed by Dell, along with additional VMware management capabilities.

Final analysis

So how convincing and compelling was the case for VMware’s cloud computing innovation and leadership? In his wrap-up at the end of the cloud analyst event, Muneyb Minhazuddin, VP of product marketing for VMware’s Cloud, Security and Workspace Solutions, noted that, “Increasing complexity is a natural outcome of evolution.” The central question for VMware has long been, and remains, “How can we remove complexity for our customers?”

In fact, the strategy of engineering-out the complexities of disruptive, potentially revolutionary business technologies and engineering-in stability, consistency and security has long been a central VMware principle. That offers obvious value to the enterprises and other organizations that depend on the company’s solutions and services. But it also reflects deeper issues: At a certain point, disruption becomes commonplace. At a certain point, the revolution morphs into conventional wisdom.

In a welcoming video that kicked off the cloud analyst event, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger noted that, “We are still in the infancy of the cloud journey.” Many would probably disagree with that view, arguing that the size and continuing growth of AWS, Azure and other public CSPs instead reflects a stable, more rapidly maturing market.

Is that view reasonable, and do any potential barriers stand in the way of VMware’s road to hybrid- multi-cloud? Possibly. It is often difficult to gauge the maturity of technologies, especially those, like cloud, that are evolving rapidly on disparate fronts. There are also companies whose names are more closely and clearly associated with cloud computing than VMware, a point to consider since customers often choose vendors according to their recognizability more than their relevance.

But at the same time, it is difficult to think of a chief executive with a greater understanding of cloud architectures than Pat Gelsinger, or a vendor with a deeper bench of applicable engineering talent than VMware. In other words, the company has what it takes in terms of experience, knowledge and resources to go where it chooses, including a future in hybrid multi-cloud computing.

In addition, VMware has sparked and driven numerous revolutions in the past two decades. By removing complexity and building in the features and qualities that businesses need, the company has become a vendor that organizations trust and partners value. While leading the revolution, VMware has also found ways to succeed in more peaceful and prosperous times.

Overall, Pat Gelsinger and company have as clear a view of the future of hybrid multi-cloud computing as anyone and a clearer understanding of what it will take to get there than most other vendors. There is every reason to believe that enterprise customers and partners will continue to follow VMware on that journey.

© 2019 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.

IBM Powers its Way to a Top500.org Trifecta

By Charles King. Pund-IT, Inc.  June 19, 2019

There are numerous ways to quantify the performance of supercomputers. In fact, Top500.org, the organization that publishes semi-annual lists ranking the world’s most powerful supercomputing installations, includes data ranging from architectures to processors to accelerators to interconnects. Vendors’ contributions to specific systems are provided, as well as how their solutions fared in terms of overall performance and share of the list. The group also ranks systems by energy efficiency (the Green500) and High Performance Conjugate Gradients (HPCG).

While it is common for specific vendors and systems to enjoy relatively stable positions at the high end of the Top500, the Green500 list tends to be more diverse and fluid. In addition, supercomputers owned by businesses are seldom seen among the 20 or 30 highest ranked Top500 installations. That’s mainly due to high-end supercomputers’ costs and complexities which are far easier to manage in universities and government research facilities than in real world business settings.

These points are worth considering in light of the new Top500 and Green500 lists published this week. IBM announced that it is the only vendor to have multiple supercomputers in the top 10 of both lists – the Summit, Sierra, and Lassen systems deployed at U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) labs. Plus, IBM announced that the new Pangea III supercomputer the company built for Total Exploration, an oil and gas company with operations in 130 countries, was ranked #11 on the Top500 list and #8 on the Green500.

Let’s take a closer look at this trifecta of announcements and consider what IBM’s top ranked systems portend for supercomputing applications and customers. Continue reading

Dell Precision at Computex – How Innovation Enables Business Evolution

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  June 12, 2019

A common view of evolutionary process imagines continual upward motion—graphics of “the ascent of man” depicting the development of early hominids into modern humans is a classic example. But in the IT industry, computational evolution or at least the spark of evolution can be said to move both upward and downward.

That’s due in large part to the ongoing efforts among PC, workstation and server vendors to improve their products with the latest, greatest CPUs, GPUs, memory, storage, networking and display technologies. Those enhancements result in high-end solutions designed for enterprises and other well-funded organizations. But at the same time, they can also be used to develop products suitable for individuals and companies with more modest budgets, enabling them to continue their own evolutionary journeys.

The mobile, desktop and rack-enabled Precision workstations recently introduced by Dell Technologies at Computex offer great examples of this process and its potential benefits. Let’s dig into the details. Continue reading

How Dell Technologies OEM & IoT Division is Addressing Clients’ Current and Future Needs

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  June 5, 2019

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been so central to the tech industry for so long that’s it’s easy to think you know everything about them. Mainly, people associate OEM functions and processes with the hardware vendors that make products which run popular commercial operating systems, like Microsoft Windows and Windows Server, along with thousands of business and consumer applications, toolsets, apps and utilities.

That’s a fair if generalized view of the subject, but it ignores the services that many of those same vendors offer to numerous companies, from tiny start-ups to multi-national enterprises. In essence, OEM organizations provide the computing “brains” that power everything from set-top cable boxes to bank ATMs to smart TVs and other home appliances to manufacturing and automation solutions to medical testing and imaging equipment to telco switching systems.

How OEMs contribute to the development, design and manufacturing of these products varies widely. That said, the notable success and continuing growth of Dell Technologies’ OEM organization over the past decade makes it a subject worth examining. Continue reading

HPE Buys Cray – Seeks to Return to HPC Relevance. Again.

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  May 29, 2019

The success of corporate acquisitions is never guaranteed. Too many things can go wrong. Deals look better on paper than they do in real life. Planned strategies falter. Hoped for synergies are DOA. Executive power plays cause long range damage. Key employees feel unloved and seek greener pastures.

Plus, there’s simple poor planning or execution. An acquiring company may believe that the object of its attentions offers assets, people and capital that can aid its own endeavors. But, after the deal is done, it never properly or fully does what’s necessary to gain the full benefits of the investment. The practical effect is the business equivalent of a sugar rush. A few months of “Whoa, mama! How fast can this sucker go?” ending with a Thelma and Louise-style flameout.

It happens to even highly successful companies, often time and again, with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) being a notable example. Though its recent purchase of legendary supercomputing leader Cray has been widely lauded, the history of HPE’s acquisitions suggests a more cautious approach is warranted, especially when it comes to supercomputing. Let’s consider that more closely. Continue reading

Lenovo Accelerate 2019 – Transformation Comes from Within

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  May 21, 2019

“Transformation” is a commonplace concept in the tech industry, and for good reason. Since the very beginning of computing, servers, personal computers, storage and networking systems and other technology products and services have been employed to fundamentally alter the ways that people live and work. Transformational IT tools and solutions have helped organizations achieve goals and successes that would have been unthinkable a generation or two ago.

But while these business transformations are compelling and even inspiring, how exactly does the process work? That subject was in the spotlight at last week’s Lenovo Accelerate 2019 partner conference in Orlando, Florida, and central to the Transform 3.0 event and industry analyst council hosted by its Data Center Group (DCG). Let’s consider what transformation means to the company and its partners, and how it is helping Lenovo DCG shift the competitive balance in numerous markets. Continue reading

IBM Reinvents the Z Mainframe, Again

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  May 14, 2019

Reports of the imminent demise of IBM’s Z mainframes, the company’s flagship enterprise system platform, have been floated – only to plummet ignominiously earthward – for over a quarter century or nearly half of the time the mainframe has been commercially available. Such rumors initially arose among IBM’s competitors in the early 1990s when the company was on the ropes, reeling like a punch-drunk boxer past his prime, until Lou Gerstner’s sober management got it back in fighting trim.

You can understand why some vendors would willingly spread garden variety fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), attempting to undermine faith in a platform they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of besting. But how and why has IBM proved them, along with countless numbers of doubtful analysts, reporters and industry experts so wrong, so regularly for so long? The answer is fairly simple: Along with being the industry’s most stable, resilient and secure enterprise system, the IBM Z is also more flexible and adaptable than other platforms.

In essence, the reason that the mainframe has thrived for well over a half century is because IBM has reinvented it time and again to support the evolving needs and business requirements of its enterprise customers. That ability to evolve in order to support the evolution of others is clear in the Tailored Fit Pricing for IBM Z offerings that the company announced this week. Continue reading

Dell Technologies World 2019 – Putting Customers’ Workplaces #1

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  May 8, 2019

There was a time when most personal computers (PCs) for business had a specifically utilitarian look and feel: clunky, durable, built for the long haul—not for speed. It was more about practicality than a dedication to any specific design aesthetic. While consumers tended to replace their PCs every 3 to 4 years, it wasn’t unusual to see commercial organizations squeezing 4 to 5 or even six years out of workplace PCs.

Things began to change in the mid-2000s with the advent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trends among younger workers who preferred highly mobile solutions to tethered office PCs and phones. Their employers and IT vendors followed close behind with generations of ever more powerful, sleek client devices, including notebooks, tablets and smart phones. But it would be a mistake to think that client devices alone define workplace computing. Equally or even more important are the related deployment and PC lifecycle management (PCLM) services vendors offer commercial customers.

Last week at Dell Technologies World 2019, the company showed off the 10th generation of its venerable Latitude mobile PCs for business. In addition, it introduced the new Dell Technologies Unified Workspace, a suite of services that it offers businesses for deploying, managing, maintaining and securing client devices of every kind. Let’s take a closer look at what Dell announced and what it means for the company’s tens of thousands of commercial customers.

Dell Latitude – a longitudinal view

With over two decades of successful mobile PCs under its belt, Dell has a deep understanding of what businesses need from commercial notebooks. This longitudinal viewpoint has allowed the company to both respond to and to anticipate customers’ requirements as it develops new Latitude notebooks, including those announced last week. So, what are customers looking for in mobile PCs?

  • Ever lighter notebooks that still deliver maximum performance in a range of form factors and price points
  • Longer battery life, faster charging times and wireless features that enable workers to stay fully productive wherever they happen to be
  • Integrated security features and services that keep notebooks and business data secure from increasing numbers and kinds of threats
  • Durable and functional, yet stylish designs

In essence, organizations want mobile PCs to deliver maximum business value, enabling employees to be fully productive. But they also want the latest, greatest features in terms of performance, security and good looks.

Dell’s response: Not a problem.

Dell’s 10th gen Latitude features and models

The new Dell Latitudes offer numerous new features and technology options. All support the latest 8th gen Intel Core processors, as well as optional Intel Core vPro chips and Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) solutions. The new systems also feature Dell’s ExpressCharge (providing up to 80% battery charge in one hour), ExpressCharge Boost (up to 35% charge in 20 minutes) and ExpressConnect (intelligently chooses and connects to the strongest available WiFi network) technologies.

Security features include optional (for some models) fingerprint readers built into the power buttons and Windows Hello-capable IR cameras for biometric authentication. Many systems can be equipped with Dell SafeScreen (which allows more privacy in public settings), new camera privacy shutters, FIPS 201 contacted Smart Card readers or contactless Smart Card Readers with SafeID to protect user credentials. New Latitudes also support Dell’s new SafeBIOS utility which verifies systems’ firmware integrity via a cloud-based service.

Finally, the 10th gen Latitude portfolio is optimized for Dell’s new Unified Workspace service. More on that in a bit.

The new systems include:

  • Latitude 7000 series – These include the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 Dell announced at CES in January, new 13- and 14-inch Latitude notebooks and the Latitude 7200, a 12-inch detachable 2-in-1. All can be equipped with up to 32GB of memory. Select configurations deliver up to 20 hours of battery run time—up to 25% more than previous systems. The 7000 series also offers the industry’s first narrow border 4X4, CAT16 cellular antenna for gigabit LTE connectivity.
  • Latitude 5000 series – According to Dell, its new 5000 series offers the smallest mainstream business notebooks in its class. Systems are available in 13-, 14- and 15-inch configurations and offer up to 20 hours of battery run time. Available displays include narrow border HD, Full HD and touch screen configurations. Dell is also introducing the new Latitude 5300 2-in-1 which features a 360° hinge and a Corning Gorilla Glass touch screen with anti-glare coating. The 5300 can be configured with up to 32GB or memory and up to 1TB of storage.
  • The Latitude 3000 series – These are entry-level notebooks with enterprise capabilities. The 3000 series is available in updated 14- and 15-inch models, along with a new 13-inch solution that Dell calls “the world’s smallest and lightest essential business notebook.”
  • Three new commercial modular docking stations that offer upgradeable connectivity options, including Thunderbolt 3, dual USB-C or single USB-C. The new solutions support Dell’s new ExpressCharge and ExpressCharge Boost technologies. The upgradable power and connectivity options are designed to enable customers to adapt to and support the changing needs of their workforce for several generations of Latitude systems.

Dell Technologies Unified Workspace

Dell’s Unified Workspace offering integrates solutions across Dell’s device and service offerings, as well as solutions provided by VMware, Secureworks and CrowdStrike to provide workers highly personalized and secure endpoint devices and services while also simplifying device lifecycle processes. In other words, Dell’s new offering is designed to take traditional PCLM processes to an entirely new level.

Unified Workspace qualifies as a significant expansion and enhancement of the Provisioning for VMware Workspace ONE services that Dell announced last fall. That solution enabled customers to have Dell notebooks, desktop PCs and workstations preconfigured at the factory with specific applications and settings so that systems are ready to be put to work as soon as they are unboxed with minimal effort required by a company’s IT staff.

How is Unified Workspace different? It starts in the planning stage with Dell analytics providing insights on how individual employees are using PCs to help customers choose the right systems and applications. After PCs are deployed, an array of new Dell solutions can be implemented to help secure them and the customers’ data resources.

These include, Dell SafeBIOS – an off-host BIOS verification utility integrated with VMware Workspace ONE, Secureworks and CrowdStrike (and also available as a standalone download). The solution stores untampered BIOS information away from devices so that security operations can compare settings and quickly detect and defend against BIOS attacks.

Dell SafeBIOS also complements Dell SafeGuard and Response, a comprehensive threat management and response portfolio built on Secureworks’ threat analytics engine and integrated with CrowdStrike’s endpoint protection platform. In addition, customers can choose Dell’s ProSupport Plus with SupportAssist to quickly detect and resolve endpoint problems and component failures.

Finally, Dell Unified Workspace deployment, management, security and support solutions can be extended across and integrated with business environments regardless of the devices, operating systems and cloud providers that customers prefer. Just as importantly, customers can freely choose which Unified Workspace elements and services they prefer, as well as when and how to implement them.

Final analysis

So, what are we to make of all this? There are several points worth considering. First, Dell’s Latitude announcements demonstrate how fully its commercial client organization continues to develop and drive innovations that matter deeply to the company’s business customers. As workers and workplaces evolve, vendors need to provide PC offerings that help their commercial customers adapt to and profit from those changes.

Dell’s new solutions clearly fit into this mold with notebooks that are considerably more powerful and more power-efficient than the previous nine generations of Latitude systems. With three levels of offerings—the 7000, 5000 and 3000 series—the company has produced a unified portfolio of mobile PC endpoints and docking solutions that can address, support and fulfill virtually any business process or challenge.

An associated but little discussed issue is the degree to which Dell’s consumer PC division has become an engine of innovation that also drives the company’s commercial PCs. How so?

The aesthetic and materials innovations that have been central to the XPS line’s notable success have steadily found their way into Dell’s Latitude and Inspiron solutions, resulting in client portfolios that reflect broader trends in business and consumer PCs, and resonate with the people who use them at work and at home. I hope to write more on this topic at a future date.

Finally, Dell’s new Unified Workspace shows how the company is driving workplace innovations whose impact extends well beyond individual endpoints. By vastly simplifying PC lifecycle management, personalizing worker endpoints and ensuring that PCs and the data they contain are secured against external attack, the company is helping its business customers efficiently address and effectively manage their top-of-mind issues and concerns.

Moreover, the ability of Dell’s Unified Workspace to agnostically support heterogeneous devices and cloud platforms demonstrates the depth of Dell’s understanding of modern work environments and its dedication to putting its customers and their workplaces #1. That customer-focused approach is central to Dell’s new Latitude and Unified Workspace solutions and was a core message that reverberated throughout Dell Technologies World 2019.

© 2019 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.