Author Archives: cking

Dell’s PowerOne: Tooling-Up for Next Gen, On Demand Computing

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

This week, I’m in Austin, Texas for Dell Technologies Summit, a media and analyst event that highlights the company’s plans and strategies for addressing what it calls The Next Data Decade. I’ll write more about that in next week’s Pund-IT Review but for now I’d like to focus on the new PowerONE platform and its attendant Technologies on Demand (ToD) services that Dell announced here, solutions that substantially up the company’s game in areas, including enterprise computing, multi-cloud environments and consumption-based IT services. Continue reading

Lenovo Rethinks Security for IoT Edge Devices and Infrastructures

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

Virtually all enterprises have experience with and understand the inherent challenges of managing and maintaining remote IT facilities and assets. However, the continuing momentum of Internet of Things initiatives and solutions at the edge of corporate networks is likely to stretch organizations’ knowledge and assumptions about remote IT to the limits.

Why so? Two points come immediately to mind. First, IoT assets, like edge gateway systems are designed to be deployed and to function in isolation. Sophisticated tools and autonomous features can help ease the management burden for IT but they do little, if anything, to secure devices against tampering or theft. Second, the pre-configured features and settings that enable IoT edge systems to operate on their own often exceed the capabilities of the staff tasked to maintain them. Any mistakes or accidental events may directly impact the success of owners’ IoT initiatives.

A recent blog by Doug Beloskur, IoT Product Manager for Lenovo’s Cloud and Software team discussed these issues and how the company is addressing them. Let’s consider Lenovo’s approach. Continue reading

GTI and Sensory: Making the IoT Edge Smarter and Faster

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  November 6, 2019

Internet of Things (IoT) edge computing is often discussed as a single entity, but it is more diverse and complex than many might assume. A sizable portion of edge computing offerings leverage gateway systems that collect, coalesce and analyze sensor data before sending it on for further analysis and decision making. But increasingly sophisticated processor and software technologies, and artificial intelligence (AI) functions and features are transforming edge computing in both business and consumer endpoint devices.

A good example of this is the recent partnership between AI accelerator chip and technology provider Gyrfalcon Technology Inc. (GTI) and AI solution provider Sensory to deliver low latency/high reliability embedded machine learning capabilities on edge devices. Let’s take a look at what GTI and Sensory provides individually, and what they’re planning to deliver via their partnership.

GTI and Sensory alone

GTI developed its first Edge AI chip in 2017 and has long focused on enabling high performance, low cost, energy efficient AI acceleration for mass market devices. Since its launch in 2017, the company has brought to production neural network acceleration technologies, including the Lightspeeur 2803S AI processor that delivers 24 TOPS/W for high performance at low power. Vendors have been developing mobile and edge AI devices that utilize GTI’s AI Accelerator solutions. In fact, last month LG announced that it will incorporate GTI chips in its new Q70 Smartphone to enable affordable premium image and video features.

Sensory has over two decades of experience developing biometric technologies, including machine learning technologies that support voice, vision and natural language processing. The company’s embedded speech recognition solution (including a well-engineered and patented codebase) has shipped in over 2 billion consumer products. Additionally, Sensory recently perfected an algorithm that can recognize legitimate user faces with the highest levels of accuracy and is central to the company’s TrulySecure authentication solution.

And together

That new algorithm can fully leverage the low latency and high reliability features in GTI’s AI Accelerator chip portfolio, enabling devices to recognize legitimate user faces quickly and accurately. Additionally, the companies’ technologies are particularly well-suited to one another. According to Sensory’s CEO Todd Mozer, “Our TrulySecure solution can run up to four times faster and provide a larger, more accurate model thanks to GTI’s AI accelerator chip.” As a result, endpoint devices such as smart phones that feature the GTI/Sensory offering should support safer and more secure transactions, and also enhance other authentication-focused solutions and services.

Final analysis

The far edges of the Internet of Things are more complex and diverse than many might assume. That’s partly because IoT edge environments continue to evolve as businesses and consumers consider the challenges, needs and use cases that IoT edge solutions can address. In turn, the potential of IoT edge offerings is being improved by the efforts of innovative vendors, like Gyrfalcon and Sensory.

The two companies have both achieved exceptional results individually but by working together, they appear ready to significantly enhance the quality, speed and security of authentication functions featured on smart phones and other mobile and edge computing devices. Those achievements should obviously benefit GTI and Sensory. But they will also measurably and positively impact the organizations and end users that depend on edge computing and IoT solutions.

© 2019 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

Answering IBM’s 2019 Call for Code – Prometeo Wins $200k Global Prize

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  October 16, 2019

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area comes with requisite baggage, including usually lousy traffic, often stifling crowds and suffering both the scorn of folks in other places and the continuing inflow of folks from other places who can’t wait to live here.

Then there are the natural disasters California is prone to. Earthquakes top the list, of course. In fact, it seems like there’s an entire sector of the movie industry devoted to depicting California sliding seismically into the Pacific despite Dwayne Johnson’s best efforts. Add in regular droughts, occasional torrential rains and suffocating winter snows and 800+ miles of eroding coast and you have the making of a apocalyptic lottery waiting for a lucky winner.

And then there are the wildfires, including the surreally destructive 2017 Tubbs Fire and the 2018 Camp Fire which have made fire dangers a top of mind consideration for everyone from homeowners to businesspeople to first responders. Which is why IBM’s announcement of the winner of the 2019 Call for Code Global Challenge and $200,000.00 prize—Prometeo, a system that uses IBM artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing solutions and resources to monitor the safety of firefighters—is particularly intriguing.

Let’s take a closer look at Prometeo and consider how IBM and its Call for Code partners are working to reduce the effects of natural disasters. Continue reading

Dell’s New XPS 15 – Premium Performance in a Mobile Package

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

As consumers and businesses increasingly adopt mobile computing solutions and services, it’s easy to forget how limited mobile (or portable) PCs once were. Early systems were hefty beasts packed into suitcase-sized enclosures. While the Osbourne 1 arrived in a briefcase-sized form factor, it still clocked in at over 25 pounds making its portability nominal, at best.

What changed things, of course, was the evolution and miniaturization of PC components. Moore’s Law describes the steady improvements silicon vendors achieved in CPU performance, but equal or better innovations were occurring in storage, memory, battery, display and materials technologies. As a result, PC vendors have been able to pack more compute power, greater energy efficiency and better displays into ever slimmer and lighter mobile PCs.

Like most such advances, these developments first appear in high margin business-focused products, including mobile workstations and ruggedized notebooks and tablets designed for industrial applications. But eventually they find their way into “performance”-focused consumer solutions, like the new generation XPS 15 (7590) that Dell introduced at Computex in May. Now that it’s available for purchase, it’s worth considering the impact Dell’s new XPS 15 is likely to have on both consumers and commercial users. Continue reading

Dell OEM and ENTOUCH – Increasing the Intelligence of Smart Building Solutions

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  September 25, 2019

Since the earliest manifestations of the Internet of Things (IoT), managing individual buildings or multiple sites and facilities has been a key use case. Why so? In a nutshell, effectively monitoring and improving the efficiency of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), lighting and other systems and equipment can pay real dividends to owners of those facilities. Plus, centrally managing numerous sites makes great practical and financial sense.

That’s been central to the value proposition of ENTOUCH and its Smart Buildings offerings, including the smart building platform and the ENTOUCH.360 managed services solution. Shortly after the company’s launch in 2008, it partnered with Intel to develop ENTOUCH-branded platforms that could be used onsite to gather and upload data from customers’ core facilities systems. But over time, the company began looking for ways to extend its solutions’ capabilities to clients’ other onsite equipment, leading ENTOUCH to contact Dell Technologies’ OEM organization.

Let’s consider the results of ENTOUCH and Dell OEM’s collaboration and what it says about the state of IoT and the value of OEM-style solutions. Continue reading

IBM’s z15 – Extending Mainframe Value Via New Business Innovations

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

Follow technology news long enough and you often see an odd discrepancy—press releases that minimally address or largely skip over the businesses and use cases that new IT solutions are supposedly designed to support. Instead of illuminating their practical business benefits, these announcements focus largely or entirely on abstract new features and “speeds/feeds” technical achievements.

The tech industry certainly isn’t the only place where this occurs. The promotional focus on “shiny new things” is even more commonplace in consumer goods. But in business IT, such inclinations can signal especially dangerous or fatal flaws. Look closely at any floundering IT vendor or solution—there are plenty to choose from—and you’ll usually find a failure of relevance to end customers.

That said, the obverse is also true—that vendors and solutions which focus intently on customers’ current and emerging needs remain relevant and successful long after competitors have fallen away. IBM’s flagship Z mainframe solutions are a terrific example of this, and the company’s next gen z15 system should continue IBM’s longstanding leadership in enterprise computing. Let’s examine the new z15 and consider why that’s the case.

Challenges for today’s enterprises

Let’s begin by looking at challenges enterprises face that can be assuaged or solved with business computing solutions. Three come quickly to mind:

  1. Secure data on/off prem – Modern business processes rely heavily on seamless exchanges of information between organizations and their partners and customers. But as the threat landscape grows in both size and complexity, the free flow of data can also increase the risk of data breaches and the theft of sensitive information. Those issues are further exacerbated by companies adopting cloud-based solutions and storing valuable data in both on-premises and in multiple public cloud infrastructures.
  2. Support hybrid multi-cloud environments and cloud-native devops – That hybrid multi-cloud is becoming standard operating procedure for more and more enterprise computing is hardly unexpected. Why so? Because it’s the only approach that enables companies to capture the benefits of cloud while exerting maximum oversight and control of mission critical data assets. But fully leveraging those benefits by modernizing existing applications and building new cloud-native apps is still a work in progress for many or most organizations.
  3. Ensure “always on” business processes – IT downtime, both planned and unplanned, is a bane for large organizations that carries significant bottom line impacts. If there are better, more effective ways to manage planned downtime and to recover more quickly from unplanned outages, enterprises want to know all about them.

IBM’s z15 and modern enterprise computing

IBM’s Z mainframe solutions have long stood at the pinnacle of “enterprise-class” computing due to their exceptional performance, scalability, reliability and security features. But with the new next generation z15 platforms, IBM has incorporated features which allow customers to extend the capabilities and benefits of IBM Z beyond the system to incorporate mainframe applications and data residing in off-premises hybrid multi-cloud infrastructures.

How has IBM accomplished this? First and foremost, through a collaborative development effort incorporating IBM Systems and IBM Research (which generated 3,000+ issued or in-process IBM Z patents), along with input from more than 100 enterprises and over 300 mainframe customers. As a result, the new z15 systems support some remarkable new features tailored for the needs of modern enterprises.

  • Data Privacy Passports – In order to address the need for stringent security both inside and outside an organization, IBM has extended the pervasive “encryption everywhere” features introduced with the z14 mainframes. The new solution – Data Privacy Passports – leverages what IBM calls Trusted Data Objects (TDO) which allow an organization’s data protection policies to be enforced for individual files and specific users. Auditing and compliance are centrally managed, as are key creation and management processes. TDO files are encrypted prior to distribution and cannot be decrypted until recipients sign in and are approved. Since keys are embedded, files can’t be opened without approval. In other words, with IBM’s Data Privacy Passports, z15 owners can secure files and ensure that they are used appropriately, even if they have lost custody of those files.
  • Easing the next phase of hybrid multi-cloud computing – According to IBM, most enterprises have completed the “easy lifting” phases of the cloud journeys but will need assistance in the next stage – supporting mission-critical applications and data in hybrid multi-cloud environments. The new z15 systems are designed to drive these efforts through a combination of robust performance improvements and upcoming cloud-native development features. On the performance side, a single z15 system can process up to 1 trillion web transactions per day, scale-out to 2.4 million Docker instances and support massive (20TB+) databases. Mission-critical latency issues can be aided by compressing web transactions prior to encryption. Using the z15’s Integrated Accelerator can lower latency by up to 30X and CPU utilization by up to 28X less than software-based compression solutions. IBM also emphasized its plans to support Red Hat OpenShift for IBM Z and LinuxONE solutions, including the z15. The company will also deliver its Cloud Pak offerings for Z and LinuxONE which complement the IBM software offerings that are central to hybrid multi-cloud deployments.
  • IBM Instant Recovery – The substantial costs enterprises suffer due to unplanned downtime are well understood, but even planned downtime can impact a company’s ability to perform effectively. IBM’s new Instant Recovery is designed to address these issues by leveraging a z15’s extra capacity (12% more cores and 25% more memory than the z14) to take up the slack and process delayed transactions. As a result, z15 customers can restart systems and return to steady state business in up to 50% less time than previously required and complete their transactional backlogs up to twice as fast.
  • IBM Storage and hybrid cloud – IBM also announced a new enterprise storage system, the IBM DS8900F, designed for mission critical hybrid multi-clouds. The new solution offers customers up to “seven 9s” (99.99999%) of uptime (that is, just over 3 seconds of downtime per year) and several disaster recovery options with near-instant recovery time requirements. The DS8900F also offers twice the capacity of prior generation solutions (via 30TB flash drives) along with AI-driven support and management features.

Final analysis

What’s the final takeaway from all this? In essence, with its new z15 and LinuxONE solutions, IBM is not only continuing to refine the capabilities of its flagship mainframe platforms but to redefine the meaning of enterprise-class computing. It is also significantly extending the areas where these systems can impact and improve mission-critical business applications and processes to include hybrid multi-cloud deployments and environments.

In other words, with the help of hundreds of enterprises and clients, IBM has fashioned the z15 into a solution that offers benefits customers can immediately enjoy, as well as features that will help them achieve the future initiatives they are planning. It should also be noted that this approach is no new thing. For decades, IBM has put business and businesses first in its solution and services planning efforts.

The new IBM z15 and LinuxONE platforms are simply the latest examples of the company’s customer-centric approach. However, they also highlight why, after occupying enterprise data centers for over a half century, the IBM mainframe remains the industry’s preeminent enterprise computing platform.

© 2019 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

Dell’s Latitude Chromebook Enterprise: Reflecting Fundamental Shifts in Business Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  August 28, 2019

It’s no surprise that personal computers and personal computing have continuously evolved over the past four decades. But due to the new innovations Microsoft and Intel continuously delivered, the dominance of Wintel PCs among businesses and their employees has never been seriously challenged. Sure, a handful of alternative vendors and compute models have successfully found places in targeted applications and settings, notably Apple’s Macs in high end graphics applications and zero/thin clients in call centers and school labs.

But significant threats to Wintel? Not really, at least until recently as desktops, notebooks, tablets, convertibles and other devices leveraging Google’s Chrome OS increasingly find happy homes among large, high-profile enterprise customers. That’s made PC vendors, including Dell, sit up and take notice. The new Latitude Chromebook Enterprise solutions and Unified Workspace offerings that the company announced this week at VMworld 2019 are designed to help businesses garner the notable value of Chrome while seamlessly supporting business-class endpoint computing, deployment, security, management and support processes.

Let’s take a closer look at Dell’s new Latitude Chromebooks and Unified Workspace and consider how they might impact enterprise computing customers and markets.

Google Chrome shines a light on Windows

Though Chrome-based devices have achieved their best results in primary and secondary schools, past attempts to promote them for business use have never caught fire. So, what’s different this time around? Call it a generational shift in the ways that organizations and workers are approaching personal computing.

First and foremost, operating system (OS) and user interface (UI) heterogeneity is now the rule rather than the exception. For decades, vendors emphasized, and commercial customers believed, that supporting a single, homogenous OS and UI was good business. But as smart phones and other mobile devices came to the fore, it was clear that end users were easily and effectively adapting to multiple devices and platforms, so why not their employers? The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs that arose a decade ago formalized that point, and vendors rushed in to help businesses cope with the inevitable complexities of managing and supporting multiple platforms.

In addition, vendors increasingly came around to Google’s longstanding strategy of distributing, managing and supporting software via the Internet. That had long been the case for operating system updates and niche applications, like antivirus and other security software. But in 2011, Microsoft’s launch of Office 365—the online version of its ubiquitous business productivity suite—marked an essential shift in both the company’s software strategy and how customers’ IT departments worked.

Finally, the popularity of cloud computing and cloud-based services highlights the degree to which companies and business processes have become both Internet-enabled and dependent. “The network is the computer” is an IT industry chestnut often attributed to Sun Microsystems founder and CEO Scott McNealy (it was really coined in the mid-1990s by John Gage, VP, Chief Researcher and Director of the Science Office for Sun).

Today, it would be more accurate to say that “the network is the business” and Internet-enabled desktops, notebooks, smart phones and other devices, along with operating systems and applications are critical tools workers need to do their jobs. That means that companies must choose the solutions that best fit their own and their employees’ needs, including business-class Chromebooks.

Dell’s Latitude Chromebooks

How well are Dell’s new Chromebooks positioned to take advantage of these trends? Overall, very well. By leveraging the Latitude brand and ecosystem for its new solutions, the company is emphasizing that the new notebooks are designed and intended for global enterprise environments. The new solutions are immediately available in 50 countries and are configurable with 10 localized language keyboards.

Dell’s Latitude Chromebook 5300 2-in-1 and 5400 are highly configurable, meaning that systems can be ordered to meet the requirements of specific individuals, work groups or business processes and applications. Options include:

  • 8th gen Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs (up to i7)
  • Up to 32GB of DDR4 memory
  • Up to 1TB SSD storage
  • 3- and 4-cell battery options (including optional fast charge capabilities), and
  • Standard Ethernet, wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity technologies, as well as optional mobile broadband (up to 450 Mbps)

The new Latitude Chromebooks are also optimized for Dell’s Unified Workspace and ProSupport solutions for automating the deployment, security, management and support functions for business endpoint environments. That’s a critical point for enterprises that need to support secure, manageable and reliable endpoints for employees. Dell’s Unified Workspace also helps IT organizations to more effectively focus on strategic priorities rather than being overwhelmed with support requests.

Customers can upgrade to Google Drive Enterprise to take advantage of collaboration features and access to productivity tools, including Docs, Sheets and Slides. Or, upgrading to Google G-Suite offers access to additional apps, including Gmail and Hangouts.

Final analysis

What’s the takeaway from all this? First and foremost, Chromebooks are entirely suitable for enterprises and other businesses, and are especially compelling for organizations that need the benefits of integrated, cloud-based productivity applications but are seeking lower costs and less complexity than Microsoft Office offers. Over time, Google has made the investments needed to make Drive and G-Suite a suitable choice for businesses and employees.

That’s not to say that adopting Chromebook devices will be headache-free. For many organizations, choosing Chromebooks over Wintel PCs will involve the impediments and headaches that are common in most IT migrations. However, those challenges aren’t inhibiting Chromebook adoption by large, name brand enterprises. Google notes that Verizon has migrated 150k users to G-Suite and Colgate Palmolive has deployed 28k G-Suite seats. Plus, Netflix, Starbucks and Sanmina have adopted Chromebooks as their endpoint platform of choice, and Salesforce purchased 10k business-class Chromebooks and signed a strategic partnership with Google to integrate the devices in the company’s ecosystem.

So, what unique elements and benefits does Dell bring to the table? By developing the new offerings through its Latitude organization, Dell is signaling that its Chromebook notebook and 2-in-1 solutions are made to meet the robust needs and discrete requirements of businesses. That is further highlighted by the Unified Workspace and ProSupport services the company is offering in concert with the new systems. Some may consider that to be little more than Dell marketing-speak but one look at the Latitude Chromebooks’ spec sheet and available options should make believers out of most doubters.

Those are key practical points, but to my mind, the new solutions also signal how deeply Dell understands the evolution away from homogeneous business endpoint computing and how committed the company is to supporting customers making that transition. I expect that over time, Dell’s Latitude Chromebooks will help enterprises and other organizations continue and accelerate their endpoint computing evolution.

© 2019 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

Lenovo’s ThinkSystem SR635 and SR655 – Making the Most of EPYC Technologies

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  August 14, 2019

Surprises are generally frowned upon in business technology, mainly because the unexpected usually portends bad news for IT staff and data center owners. But occasionally surprises are harbingers of positive news or progressive developments that benefit businesses and the vendors they rely on.

AMD’s new 2nd generation EPYC 7002 series processors fit comfortably into that category, as do the new Lenovo ThinkSystem SR635 and ThinkSystem SR655 servers that leverage AMD’s silicon. Let’s take a closer look at Lenovo’s latest data center solutions and how they make the most out of AMD’s new EPYC silicon. Continue reading

IBM and the Past, Present and Future of Supercomputing

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  August 14, 2019

Contrary to the opinions of some commentators, it’s hardly a disaster for IBM that Cray was chosen by the Department of Energy (DOE) to build its next-gen “El Capitan” supercomputer at the agency’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Nor was the DOE’s choosing Cray the develop the “Frontier” system for the Oak Ridge National Lab and the “Shasta” exascale system for the Argonne National Lab.

Disappointing? Sure. It would have been nice for IBM to follow the triumphs of its CORAL-class Summit and Sierra systems with another DOE win. But in supercomputing, as in most things, it’s wiser to look forward and plan for future opportunities than it is to waste time dwelling on minor setbacks. And you should believe that there will be opportunities in the future for IBM to build more world-class supercomputers.

Why do I say that? First and foremost, the journey up to and down from peak supercomputing performance follows a notoriously slippery slope. Once you reach the top be sure to enjoy the view while you can, because it won’t last for long. This is a reality that IBM knows and understands far better than most vendors. In addition, there are technologies under development or on the horizon that are likely to take supercomputers to whole new levels.

Not surprisingly, IBM is working to develop and evolve those new technologies and appears to be well-ahead of much of the competition. Let’s consider these points and what they mean to IBM, its customers and the supercomputing industry. Continue reading