IBM Think 2020 Digital – Building Reliability and Resiliency in Uncertain Times

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  May 13, 2020

In the normal course of tech industry happenings, Spring is the season of Tier 1 vendor conferences for customers and partners. By this time last year, I had attended CES, IBM Think and PartnerWorld and Dell Tech World, and was preparing to fly to Orlando for Lenovo Accelerate. This year the COVID-19 pandemic has acted like a viral monkey wrench, causing chaos across global businesses and economies.

In these abnormal times, what can IT vendors do to address the fundamental challenges, concerns and fears that their customers and partners are suffering? We learned quite a bit about that at last week’s IBM Think 2020 Digital conference, an event in which the company shifted its annual conference to an online format. Let’s consider how IBM engaged and communicated with participants, as well as a few of the new and updated offerings the company introduced during Think 2020 Digital.

Arvind Krishna – Envisioning a post-COVID world

For experienced conference attendees, the host vendor’s CEO’s keynote is a must-see event? Why so? Because along with providing insights into the company he or she leads, these keynotes typically touch on all of the key themes and announcements that will be restated and reinforced in other keynotes and strategic presentations. In essence, the CEO keynote acts as a microcosm of the larger event.

But IBM Think 2020 was also the debut of new CEO Arvind Krishna. After having been chosen for the role on January 30th when the potential shape and impact of COVID-19 was just becoming widely known, Krishna’s first day on the job was April 6th. New chief executives often arrive at inopportune times, especially those leading organizations in distress. However, it is difficult to think of a case similar to Krishna becoming IBM’s CEO as the novel coronavirus was shaking governments, markets and companies everywhere to their foundations.

So how did Krishna do at Think 2020? Extremely well, overall. He began his keynote on a broadly personal note, acknowledging the extreme challenges and stress that IBM’s customers and partners are laboring under, and expressing his appreciation for their participation in the conference. But Krishna also stated that while COVID-19 “Is a powerful force of disruption and an unprecedented tragedy,” that it, “Is also a critical turning point … an opportunity to develop new solutions, new ways of working and new partnerships.”

In addition, he emphasized the value that his company’s long history and experience offers to customers and partners. “That IBM has been here before gives me perspective and confidence. This will be seen as the moment when the digital transformation of businesses and society accelerated, and together we laid the groundwork for a post-COVID-19 world. Let’s get to work.”

That focus on defining IBM’s roles as a reliable ally and model of business resiliency set a powerful tone for the rest of the keynote.

The imperatives of hybrid cloud and AI

Krishna continued with what he called the Four Imperatives of Hybrid Cloud (partly inspired, he said, by VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger’s Five Imperatives for Digital Business). They were:

  1. History – Companies rarely start from scratch. All carry years on IT decision-making in complex workloads, apps and systems integrated with operations and security. Hybrid cloud meets you in terms of the IT choices you’ve made and the places you do computing
  2. Choice – Relying on one cloud platform or operator automatically locks you in. Hybrid cloud breaks those shackles.
  3. Physics – No single solution does it all. Workloads are limited by the speed of light. In order to maximize performance, IT systems need to be physically close to data and systems.
  4. Law – Where you are located physically impacts the way you do business in terms of law, privacy and security regulations and compliance practices. Hybrid cloud solutions can be designed to fully address those issues.

Krishna noted another imperative—data sovereignty—whose evolution is still in process. But he also underscored how IBM’s efforts around hybrid cloud, including “big bold bets” like the Red Hat acquisition, are designed to deliver solutions that support, extend and enhance these imperatives and the customer value they represent.

Krishna’s discussion of AI was framed in practical terms related to one of the more shocking effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: the near wholesale failure of global supply chains to provide critically important goods, including personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals and other frontline personnel.

“How can businesses’ supply chains become more resilient to global shocks?” Krishna asked. In significant part by leveraging AI and automation technologies to handle everyday tasks, thus enabling IT management and staff to focus their energies on higher value efforts. AI and automation tools also have valuable roles to play in the deployment and management of secure infrastructures that support new business models and processes, such as working from home (WFH).

Krishna pointed out that though COVID-19 is causing enormous challenges, “It is also underscoring the need for IT platforms and solutions that enable speed, flexibility, insight and innovation.” In addition, he noted how the pandemic has highlighted, “Why choosing which IT platforms to work with is the most consequential decision businesspeople can make.”

Think 2020 Digital Announcements

IBM made a number of significant announcements at Think 2020 Digital, but I found two particularly notable: the company’s new solutions and initiatives for edge computing in the 5G era and the new enhancements and features in its Cloud Pak for Data v 3.0 portfolio.

  • IBM’s edge computing offerings combine the company’s cloud expertise and experience crafting vertical industry solutions and services with Red Hat’s OpenShift platform for hybrid multi-cloud deployments. Solutions include the IBM Edge Application Manager capable of enabling the management of up to 10,000 edge nodes by a single administrator, the IBM Telco Network Cloud Manager which enables service providers (SPs) to manage workloads on both Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat OpenStack, and edge-enabled versions of IBM Visual Insights, IBM Maximo Production Optimization, IBM Connected Manufacturing, IBM Asset Optimization, IBM Maximo Worker Insights and IBM Visual Inspector. The company also announced a new dedicated IBM Services team for edge computing deployments. In addition, the company announced the IBM Edge Ecosystem and Telco Network Cloud Ecosystem, groups of like-minded vendors who will work together to help customers in edge computing deployments. The Ecosystems are made up of equipment manufacturers, IT and networking vendors and software providers, including Cisco, Dell Technologies, Intel, Juniper, NVIDIA, Samsung and many others. Finally, the announcement provided testimonials by three early adopters of IBM’s edge solutions and services: Vodafone, Samsung and G-Evolution.
  • IBM’s Cloud Pak for Data is a fully integrated data and AI platform that modernizes and simplifies how businesses collect, organize and analyze data in order to infuse AI functions into their businesses. Since it was launched in 2H 2018, Cloud Pak for Data has steadily evolved via new and enhanced features. During Think 2020 Digital, IBM announced new additions to CloudPak for Data 3.0, including a revamped Unified User Interface that makes navigating and scaling the platform easier and more intuitive, IBM Planning Analytics and IBM InfoSphere Master Data Connect service extensions, the ability to pull in data from The Weather Company, and the addition of IBM InfoSphere Virtual Data Pipeline (for an extra layer of security and control) and Watson OpenScale’s Model Risk Management (for automating the active testing of AI models throughout their lifecycle). The new 3.0 version of CloudPak for Data also includes the ability to run on IBM’s Power Systems servers (in addition to x86-based systems) which should be welcomed by a substantial number of the company’s Power System customers.

In addition to the edge computing platform for 5G and the new/enhanced CloudPak for Data features, IBM announced Watson AIOps, which uses AI to automate the detection and diagnosis of and response to IT anomalies in real time, as well as a new cloud platform that supports the stringent security and privacy requirements of financial services companies. Finally, IBM revealed revisions to PartnerWorld, its business partner network, that includes clear pathways for creating applications, developing code, integrating intellectual property (IP) or delivering services with the IBM Cloud.

Final analysis

So, what’s the final takeaway from IBM Think 2020 Digital? The company deserves congratulations for a conference that offered support to distressed customers and partners while providing a nuanced view of the roles it can play as both a vendor and ally.

The new and enhanced solutions announced during the conference all reflected or clarified an essential point about IBM: that few if any IT vendors can claim greater understanding of or deeper insights into so wide a range of enterprise businesses, vertical industries and global markets.

It is also worth noting that at the same time IBM was discussing how customers and partners could successfully face the challenges before them and successfully adapt to changing circumstances, Arvind Krishna described how IBM itself intends to evolve.

At the end of his keynote, Krishna stated IBM’s commitment to four essential goals: 1) continuing to apply and deepen its understanding of business and industry needs, requirements and opportunities, 2) furthering its leadership in developing and delivering good, trustworthy technologies, 3) fostering a more entrepreneurial culture that is easier for customers to work with, and 4) remaining obsessed with listening to clients’ needs, preparing them for an uncertain future and supporting their journeys to hybrid cloud and AI.

By the conclusion of Think 2020 Digital it was clear that IBM understands the challenges that businesses face in these far-from-normal times. It is also clear that the company plans to use its historical and business perspective to be a reliable ally and help customers and partners develop the resiliency they need for what will be, at best, a difficult journey.

© 2020 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

Lenovo’s EPYC Journey – Doubling-Up on AMD-based ThinkSystem Solutions

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  May 6, 2020

Most of the time, the enterprise server market moves at glacial speed with changes occurring so incrementally that they are barely visible to the naked eye. But occasionally a technological advancement or a market rebalancing sparks a massive shift that causes people to rethink long-held assumptions. This dynamic is especially apparent in x86-based systems where Intel’s market dominance has been so overwhelming that effective challenges seldom arise.

But “seldom” never means “never,” even for Intel with AMD being its most legitimate challenger. Under the leadership of CEO and president Dr. Lisa Su, the company has revitalized its data center ambitions and efforts via its EPYC chips which have been adopted by numerous system vendors, including Lenovo. The new Lenovo two-socket ThinkSystem SR645 and SR665 solutions announced this week illustrate how the company, with AMD’s assistance, is making the server market more dynamic, interesting and unpredictable than it has been for some time. Continue reading

Dell Technologies – Policies and Solutions that Put Partners First

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 29, 2020

The connections between IT vendors and their channel partners, including value-added resellers (VARs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), systems integrators (Sis) and managed service providers (MSPs), aren’t always clear to outsiders. In one sense, these are purely business relationships determined and defined by contractual and service agreements.

But closer examination reveals critical links where success depends on everyone involved doing right by one another and their common customers. That point is true in the best of circumstances but even clearer when times get hard. How so? Because channel players are mostly small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) that have neither the deep resources nor the long reach that Tier 1 IT vendors enjoy.

The extraordinary events playing out around the COVID-19 pandemic have created difficulties for all sorts of businesses. However, they have also sparked innovative new policies and solutions for channel partners, such as those recently discussed in a blog by Joyce Mullen, president of Dell’s Global Channel, OEM, Embedded and Edge Solutions organizations. Let’s take a closer look at what the company is doing. Continue reading

Earth Day 2020 and the Case for Sustainable IT

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 22, 2020

Earth Day 2020 arrives at a strangely terrible and terribly strange juncture of events. With COVID-19 shuttering businesses and stunning large swathes of global economies, the Internet, service providers and cloud computing platforms are playing key roles in everything from streaming entertainment to social networking to educational programming to enabling thousands of companies’ work from home (WFH) policies. In addition, high performance systems and supercomputers are being used to explore key issues around the pandemic and chart the path to a vaccine.

But at the same time, large scale cloud data centers and supercomputing installations are among the world’s biggest consumers of electrical power, much of it produced by means of unsustainable fossil fuel resources. Are IT vendors and their customers doing anything to address these issues? Actually, yes, with efforts that seem appropriate to discuss on Earth Day 2020. Continue reading

IBM and the Enduring Value of Mainframe Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 15, 2020

There has never been a time when the values of IBM’s Z mainframe solutions were clearer. As millions of organizations and billions of workers worldwide grapple with often unimaginable uncertainties, the remarkable resiliency, continuity, data privacy and security capabilities that define mainframe computing help ensure that companies can and will remain open for business.

Those same qualities are present, along with some notable new features, in IBM’s newest Z solutions—the z15 Model T02 and LinuxONE III Model LT2. Those and other points highlight why mainframe systems have played central roles in successful businesses for decades, as well as why they are likely to be around for a good long time to come. Let’s consider why that’s the case. Continue reading

IBM and the Value of Succession Planning

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 8, 2020

It’s easy to define successful business leaders by one or two characteristics—resolution, imagination, compassion—and by the successes or failures for which they are best remembered. However, it’s also futile to consider these points without keeping broader context in mind. After all, companies and their leaderships don’t operate in a vacuum. Like individuals and families, they are swayed and buffeted by events and chance.

But just as important as acting and reacting to present circumstances is the ability to sufficiently plan for upcoming challenges. Clearly, no one can see the future but as Mark Twain once noted, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” So, understanding the past while evaluating current events and emerging trends can help to prepare organizations for what’s ahead, including choosing the executives and managers best suited to those tasks. These points are worth considering this week as Arvind Krishna succeeds Virginia “Ginni” Rometty as CEO of IBM. Continue reading

Lenovo Empowers Edge Computing Now, and in the Future

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 1, 2020

Edge of network computing has been a topic of growing interest, mainly due to the emergence of promising Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and next gen 5G mobile technologies. But it would be a mistake to consider computing at the edge to be entirely new or only about IoT. For decades, enterprises of all kinds have deployed and often struggled to support computing processes at the far edges of their networks in locations, including retail outlets, manufacturing facilities, healthcare clinics and remote and branch offices (ROBOs).

Why have they struggled? Solutions for edge of network computing varied widely in quality and performance, required complex integration to be compatible with primary data centers and were difficult to manage and maintain. In addition, moving substantial quantities of data across networks for further analysis in primary data centers was costly and time consuming. That negatively impacted solutions’ total cost of ownership (TCO) and the business value organizations hoped to gain from their investments.

Thankfully, the appearance of new solutions, including hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and integrated public cloud solutions have improved the situation considerably. Lenovo’s new and updated edge-to-cloud ThinkAgile HCI and ThinkSystem storage solutions which optimally leverage Microsoft Azure’s cloud services are good examples of how vendors are helping their customers gain the full advantage of enterprise edge computing. Continue reading

The Tech Industry’s Roles in the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 1, 2020

It doesn’t take long for the world to be turned upside down. Three months ago, despite dire reports of a new coronavirus and growing epidemic in China’s city of Wuhan, work and leisure elsewhere was preceding pretty much as normal, especially in the tech industry. The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) attracted over 175k attendees to Las Vegas, including more than 61k from overseas. Despite some warnings from vendors with significant investments in Wuhan, planning continued apace for a host of Spring IT customer and partner events. Calendar dates were locked down, and flights and hotels were booked.

Then things began to go sideways. In mid-January, the first case of COVID-19 occurred outside of China, and a few days later the country’s National Health Commission confirmed that human-to-human transmission was occurring. By the end of the month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the outbreak was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Less than six weeks later, on 11 March, the WHO declared the outbreak to be a pandemic with the bulk of new cases occurring in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.

Like other businesses, the actions of IT vendors regarding the coronavirus have not been uniform. However, many in the tech industry are taking active leadership roles in responding to and, with luck and hard work, quelling COVID-19. Let’s consider what some vendors are doing and how they may impact the pandemic. Continue reading

Tech in the Time of COVID-19: What IT Vendors are Doing to Protect Communities, Customers and Partners

By Charles King, Pund-IT®

While events of the past month have been surreal by nearly any measure, the appearance of the novel coronavirus and resulting COVID-19 pandemic are not unprecedented. By historical standards, the deadly 1918 influenza pandemic wasn’t all that long ago and resulted from the same H1N1 virus that sparked the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Not surprisingly, these and other pandemics are being used to provide “lessons learned” for people suffering the continuing events of COVID-19. But I believe other efforts, including projects supported by technology vendors are worth highlighting and provide insights into what people and organizations can do to reduce human suffering and bring COVID-19 to a swifter conclusion.

Let’s consider some of those efforts this week. Continue reading

Lenovo’s LOC-A: Easing the Headaches of Edge Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  March 4, 2020

Whenever something new in the tech industry comes along, the public focus tends to be on the results, not what it takes to deliver them. That’s hardly a surprise since it’s easier to extol the rosy pleasures of the Promised Land than to detail the sometimes-arduous path required to get there. But the IT vendors responsible for delivering those goods and services don’t have that luxury. Despite the migraine-worthy costs and complexities involved in building novel technologies, they’ll be simplistically judged according to whether or how well that shiny new thing works.

That’s certainly the case with emerging 5G solutions. The potential of these offerings is jaw-dropping with massive upticks in bandwidth and devices supporting data-intensive services and processes, including those at the far edges of networks. Those range from UHD content distribution to sophisticated video conferencing to augmented reality to Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications. But how will Communications Service Providers (CoSPs) realistically support those offerings?

The folks in Lenovo’s Data Center Group (DCG) have given these challenges considerable thought as evidenced by the company’s new Open Cloud Automation (LOC-A) solution for CoSPs. Let’s take a look at the problems involved and how Lenovo aims to solve them. Continue reading