Author Archives: Pund-IT

IBM Debuts POWER10 at Hot Chips

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  August 19, 2020

Upcoming products, advances and innovations are part and parcel of every technology conference, from the smallest vendor confab to massive events like CES and MWC. So, it was no surprise that at this week’s Hot Chips 2020, the annual IEEE symposium that focuses on high performance microprocessors, much of the spotlight focused on next generation microprocessors, including IBM’s upcoming POWER10.

Let’s take a look at IBM’s 10th gen POWER processors, the advances the company has achieved since it introduced POWER9 at Hot Chips 2016 and what that means for enterprise customers and partners.

IBM POWER10 from the inside

According to IBM, the development of POWER10 took over five years and resulted in hundreds of new and pending patents. The new solutions will deliver significant novel features and capabilities:

  • POWER10 is IBM’s first commercialized 7nm processor and is expected to deliver up to 3X better capacity and energy efficiency within the same power envelope as POWER9.
  • POWER10-based servers will be co-optimized for Red Hat Open Shift, making those systems ideal for supporting hybrid cloud implementations.
  • IBM developed a new technology – Memory Inception – that enables groups of POWER10-based systems to access and share their memory resources, enabling the creation of multi-Petabyte memory clusters.
  • On the security side, POWER10 will offer more AES encryptions than POWER9, enabling systems to support end-to-end encryption and faster encryption functions. POWER10 is also designed to deliver hardware-enforced container protection and isolation capabilities which can be used to prevent compromised containers in the same VM from being accessed or affected by the same intrusion. IBM also noted that POWER10 will support dynamic execution register control, enabling users to design applications that are more resistant to attacks but minimally impact system performance.
  • POWER10 processors will contain embedded Matrix Math Accelerator, enhancing in-core AI inferencing performance without requiring additional specialized hardware. As a result, POWER10 processors will improve AI inference up to 10X for FP32, 15X for BFloat16 and 20X for INT8 calculations as compared to POWER9. IBM believes these improvements will help infuse AI functions into typical enterprise applications and enable customers to gain greater insights from their data resources.
  • Samsung will manufacture the chips using IBM’s designs. IBM Power Systems solutions based on POWER10 silicon are expected to be available in 2H 2021.

POWER10 – Built for enterprise hybrid cloud

POWER10 will clearly offer significantly improved performance and energy efficiency over POWER9 chips, along with a raft of new capabilities resulting from unique or novel developments from IBM Research. But it is worth noting that the company is also embarking on a notably different go to market strategy with its new CPUs.

POWER9 was designed to deliver massively better compute than prior gen POWER chips. Plus, with the integration of technologies from partners, including NVIDIA and Mellanox, POWER9 could support unique hybrid system designs, including U.S. Department of Energy installations that led the list of global supercomputers for two years.

What is so different about POWER10? At Hot Chips 2020, IBM communicated a clear focus on maximally supporting enterprise hybrid cloud, including compute and energy efficiency capabilities that should appeal to cloud platform owners looking to enhance system performance while reducing or stabilizing energy costs.

Plus, the new memory, security and AI capabilities that POWER10 supports could enable cloud owners to implement services and features that provide them a competitive advantage. Finally, IBM’s plan to co-optimize its own POWER10-based Power Systems for Red Hat Open Shift should make those solutions highly intriguing and attractive options for public, private and hybrid cloud owners.

Final analysis

Why are these important points? First, because they highlight why IBM believes the future of innovative enterprise computing resides in hybrid cloud environments that blend the benefits of on premises datacenter infrastructures and public cloud services. In addition, IBM not only believes it has a singular role to play in that future—it is demonstrating that it has the insights, innovations and research capabilities to deliver the solutions and services that enterprises require for success.

In other words, with POWER10 IBM has its head fully in the hybrid cloud. For the company’s tens of thousands of global enterprise customers and partners, that’s a very good thing. But it is also excellent news for the health, welfare and future prospects of IBM.

© 2020 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

Dell’s Latitude Chromebook Enterprise – Extending and Enhancing Business Workplaces

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  August 12, 2020

Habits are hard to break in the best of times. Ingrained optimism recommends staying the course, no matter how ineffectual or even painful it might be. That is especially true when it comes to business technologies. Though numerous organizations regularly investigate various new hardware and software offerings, longstanding solutions are often unaccountably bulletproof.

But in the worst of times—say, during a global pandemic causing unfathomable damage to countless businesses and whole economies—thinking the unthinkable becomes considerably easier, even shifting away from deeply embedded business technologies. That point makes the arrival of Dell’s new Latitude Chromebook Enterprise laptops and 2-in-1s especially timely and intriguing.

Let’s take a closer look at what Dell aims to achieve with its new Chromebook solutions. Continue reading

Intel Reorgs/Regroups in the Wake of 7nm Delays

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

Reorganizations are a fact of life in business and can reflect any number of issues or events, including financial issues or concerns, decisions to refocus the business and missteps in leadership or execution. But a fundamental reordering of core strategies and the departure of the executive responsible is far less common.

That’s exactly what happened this week at Intel when, in the wake of the less than happy news about 7nm manufacturing processes the company revealed during its recent earnings call. CEO Bob Swan announced the departure of Intel EVP Murthy Renduchintala and the separation of his Technology, Systems Architecture and Client Group (TSCG) into five individual teams.

Let’s consider why this happened and what it means for Intel, its customers and shareholders, and the IT industry. Continue reading

How IBM Is Bringing Confidential Computing to the Mainstream

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

It’s often said that “data is the new oil,” and considering the accelerating rate at which organizations are creating and using digital information to further their business efforts, it’s hard to disagree. But its fundamental value has also resulted in data and its owners coming under regular attack by bad actors ranging from kids on a lark to sophisticated cybercriminals to state-sponsored thieves and terrorists.

That requires organizations to be extra vigilant lest their substantial data investments are eroded or syphoned-off. However, vigilance is never enough when the potential attack vectors and access points to corporate information are nearly limitless. As a result, technology vendors such as IBM are actively working on new, muscular technologies to keep customers’ precious data assets secure and confidential.

This week, Rohit Badlaney, VP of IBM Z Hybrid Cloud, and Hillary Hunter, VP and CTO of IBM Cloud published a blog that discussed the company’s efforts in confidential computing – an area they call “the next frontier in security.” Let’s consider what they had to say. Continue reading

IBM Storage – Speeding and Simplifying the AI Journey

By Charles King, Pund-IT Inc.  July 15, 2020

Artificial intelligence (AI) projects can incorporate a wide variety of computing and data storage technologies and services. However, enterprises hoping to use AI to gain or add value to their businesses must be especially vigilant when it comes to planning and enabling these projects. Commercial solutions vary significantly in terms of quality and performance. More importantly, however, decision makers are often uncertain about what is required to ensure the success of AI projects.

The recent announcement by IBM about its new and updated storage solutions optimized for AI underscores this point by citing a recent Forrester survey of global IT, data and line-of-business decision makers which found that over half of the respondents didn’t know what their AI data requirements are. IBM has addressed this challenge by developing an information architecture (IA) that is designed to help customers effectively collect and organize data, gain deeper insights via AI-enabled data analysis and then use those insights to enhance business outcomes.

The company calls the process by which companies leverage the power of AI the “AI journey,” and IBM’s new storage solutions are clearly designed to help customers embark on and complete that journey. Let’s take a closer look at them. Continue reading

IBM: Looking and Working Toward the Future of Supercomputing

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  June 24, 2020

That computing technologies are constantly evolving is indisputable but an associated issue that is seldom discussed is that the terms we use to describe technology solutions are largely calcified. Personal computers (PCs) once denoted cumbersome desktop products that almost entirely leveraged Intel silicon, ran some version of Microsoft Windows and utilized packaged software applications.

Comparing those form factors to what is available today would be akin to setting a pterodactyl and hummingbird side by side. But consider also that modern personal computing devices span a wide variety of form factors, including smart phones, handheld devices, tablets, notebooks, 2-in-1s, mobile workstations, and a plethora of desktop systems that are massively more powerful than old school PCs.

Along with Windows users have a wide range of operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Chrome, Android, iOS and Linux variants) and user interfaces to choose from. Most importantly, these devices can utilize tens of thousands of applications, millions of apps and tools and countless cloud services and solutions that provide massive value to organizations and consumers alike.

The same can be said about nearly any IT platform but is particularly striking when it comes to the supercomputing and high-performance computing (HPC), especially solutions developed by IBM. Why so? IBM, long a leader in creating some of the industry’s fastest and most powerful supercomputers is developing new innovations that will make world-class HPC more accessible, effective and affordable than ever before. Let’s consider that more closely. Continue reading

Lenovo, Cellnex and Nearby Computing Deliver Edge Solutions for Mobile Operators

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  June 17, 2020

Edge computing is evolving rapidly, partly because of ongoing improvements in the underlying technologies and partly because our understanding of what it takes to develop and deliver successful solutions continues to mature. That is especially true in the case of emerging commercial applications, like the next gen video processing that is central to emerging 5G mobile applications, like those that support entertainment events and initiatives for smart cities and communities.

For those reasons, the recent edge computing announcement from Lenovo, Cellnex and Nearby Computing is well-worth considering. The trio’s new offering maximizes the experience and contributions of all three companies, resulting in a valuable solution for mobile operators and enterprises leveraging mobile infrastructures. Let’s look at what Lenovo and its partners are up to. Continue reading

Dell’s XPS 13 9300 – Successfully Evolving a Classic

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  June 10, 2020

Successful commercial products don’t exist in a vacuum. The best ones incorporate the latest technologies and materials offerings, and either mirror or push the boundaries of contemporary design aesthetics. However, successfully evolving those products is more hit and miss.

Product development teams break apart and re-form. What makes eminent sense to one generation of consumers is wasted on the next. Making long term bets on any technology is inherently risky. In other words, maintaining a clear vision and purpose developing a product that spans multiple generations is harder than it looks but it’s not impossible.

In fact, Dell’s newest generation XPS 13 notebook is an excellent example of how a vendor can take an exceptional product and make it even better. Let’s consider the details behind that statement. Continue reading

IBM Solutions for Financial Services: Banking Tradition Meets Hybrid Cloud Transformation

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  June 10, 2020

It is difficult to think of an industry that has been more deeply involved with and fundamentally transformed by computing technologies than financial services, especially via their engagements with IBM. After all, some of the earliest workplace solutions that banks employed were mechanical calculators (literally the “Business Machines” in IBM’s acronym).

Those devices were eventually replaced by digital transaction solutions, including multiple generations of IBM mainframe systems. Over time, those and complementary technologies enabled companies to extend their operations globally and massively scale business services including checking, savings, loans and credit cards into billions of secure daily transactions.

But along with serving the traditional needs of their customers and partners, successful banks constantly, proactively seek new ways to assist their clientele. In some ways this is simply a matter of self-preservation, but it also reflects a simple truth about the industry: Since financial challenges and needs are constantly evolving, solutions must also evolve.

So, it isn’t surprising that banks are often leading-edge adopters of the latest technological solutions, such as hybrid cloud, digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI). Recently, IBM detailed the work it is doing with two enterprise customers, CaixaBank in Spain and Lotte Card in Korea, that highlight how the company is helping financial services vendors adapt to new opportunities and challenges. Let’s consider these examples. Continue reading

Considering the “New Normal” – Dell’s Jeff Clarke on Emerging Behaviors and Opportunities

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  June 3, 2020

A singular challenge during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is a tendency to focus on current problems while letting longer term issues take care of themselves. That point is entirely understandable—it’s clearly wise to focus on doing all you can today to stay healthy and alive—but doing so risks missing or slighting future opportunities.

In addition, focusing on returning to a “normal” that looks pretty much like the world did before COVID-19 turned the world upside down is shortsighted. Why? Besides the dangers of igniting a second wave of infections, the longer the dislocation of the pandemic continues the more likely that processes, practices, services and behaviors will be considerably different than they used to be.

There is still time to meaningfully consider what the world might or will look like after the crisis passes. In fact, Jeff Clarke, Dell Technologies COO and vice chairman, recently posted a blog that captures his perspectives on the “new normal” and how people and organizations can adapt to those challenges and opportunities.

Four acceleration points

Clarke’s entire post is worth reading and considering, but for the sake of brevity, these are the four major acceleration points that he believes the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked:

  1. We’ll have a larger remote workforce, expanding talent pools and reducing environmental impact: The debate on whether a large remote workforce can be productive is over – we’re learning that it’s not only possible, it’s successful. This will vary across organizations and industries, notably in jobs where being on-site and on the front lines is a requirement, but post-pandemic, upwards of 50% of the professional workforce will work remotely.
  2. Global supply chains will undergo rapid transformation – diverse, resilient and digital: Over the last couple of months companies found their supply chains weren’t as global and local as they needed to be. As importantly, there was a wakeup call on how transparent and secure the end-to-end supply chain truly is.
  3. The 4th industrial revolution will arrive faster and gives us a path to economic recovery: The fourth industrial revolution – where data enables breakthroughs in AI and automation to deliver autonomous machines, connected cities – has been discussed for a while. Now, we’re on an accelerated timeline. Organizations able to adapt and evolve will survive and come out stronger. I see technology as a key path to economic recovery.
  4. Healthcare and education will transform to have the greatest impact on society if we get it right: Digital transformation means positive changes for healthcare and education, creating the ability to reach everyone to close skills gaps and prepare the workforce of the future. The challenge? There are still parts of our country and the world that are in need of network bandwidth and support at scale.

Final analysis

These are all intriguing issues so let’s consider them in order.

Clarke’s comments about the expansion of remote workforce options and policies are spot-on, both in terms of its value and the requirements necessary for successful execution. Dell has been a bellwether for such practices—prior to the pandemic, nearly two thirds of the company’s employees were taking advantage of its flexible work policies with about 30% working from home (WFH) on any given day. Currently, over 90% of Dell employees are doing so.

But the company has been an exception. While much of the tech industry has long touted flexible working practices, few have adopted them as forcefully or successfully as Dell. Clarke says that for most companies, about 20% of employees work remotely, but it’s important to note that many organizations have few if any provisions for these policies and that some actively discourage remote workers.

I agree with Clarke about the benefits WFH policies provide, as well as his points about best methodologies for achieving them. However, pursuing and gaining those benefits also require companies to examine and actively evolve their cultures—a process that many will find challenging in the extreme.

How about Clarke’s thoughts on global supply chain resiliency? Again, I find his arguments compelling. That may be because Dell’s remarkable success has, since its beginnings, been predicated on building and maintaining one of the industry’s most effective supply chains, efficient manufacturing organizations and dynamic partner ecosystems. His points about the value of leveraging data points and predictive analytics to enhance planning, delivery, procurement, manufacturing and warehousing were also insightful.

Overall, I agree with Clarke’s conclusion about the core importance of resiliency in meeting customer needs. But it’s also worth noting the degree to which global commerce and business partnerships have become political footballs during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s likely related to the US presidential campaign, in which case the rhetoric may ratchet down in 2021. Let’s hope so. If not, the post-pandemic recovery is apt to be far harder than it might be otherwise since it would require countless companies to rethink and retool the ways that they develop, source, make and deliver goods.

How about the faster arrival and accelerated value proposition of the 4th industrial revolution? Clarke makes strong points about companies investing in secure, scalable IT resources to support high volumes of virtual online business. In fact, that generally describes the approach that retailers, including Amazon, Wal-Mart, Costco and others have taken to adapt to the pandemic. It’s hardly a surprise that many other businesses are attempting to follow the path those market leaders have taken.

However, it’s worth mentioning that the benefits of the 4th industrial revolution are accruing more quickly and readily among enterprises than they are in small to medium sized businesses (SMBs). That mirrors historic trends since enterprises are generally more able to plan and invest in digital business initiatives and equipment. We’re seeing a similar dynamic in the deployment of machine learning and artificial intelligence pilots and projects.

But a troubling point in our current crisis is in how SMBs are disproportionately suffering, with some analysts predicting that massive numbers of them will be crippled or fail outright as the pandemic continues. Considering the role of SMBs in creating new jobs and markets, that would be a critical loss. Like Clarke, I am “an optimist grounded in the realities of how (business) customers are thinking about what’s next.” But I also hope that Dell and other vendors are considering how to ensure that the 4th industrial revolution benefits SMBs.

Finally, I agree with much of what Clarke has to say about the potential of evolutionary technologies in both healthcare and education, as well as his point that “gaps in the digital divide need to close” in order for that to happen. But at the same time, capturing those opportunities is likely to be difficult, at best.

Why so? First, because healthcare and education are extraordinarily complex, highly regulated sectors that are resistant to systemic change. This is not surprising since the ecosystems of both span public and private sectors, local, state, and Federal government agencies, numerous professional organizations and thousands of goods and service suppliers. Building consensus among such diverse stakeholders has always been challenging in the extreme.

In addition, the “digital divide” separating urban and suburban areas from rural and poorer communities – which people have been discussing in one way or another since the mid-1990s – seems likely to continue, at least in the U.S. Why so? Because providing the solutions needed to deliver consistent, high-quality online and telecom services for all would require significant infrastructure investments and government stimulus efforts that the current administration and many in Congress will not support or even seriously consider.

However, it seems to me that there is room for optimism. COVID-19 has inspired tens of thousands of individuals and organizations in healthcare and education to successfully experiment with new and often unfamiliar tools to support the students and patients under their care. Though the current impasse and lack of will at the Federal level is disheartening, it is hardly written in stone, especially in an election year where anything can happen (and seems to, on a daily or even hourly basis).

Overall, Jeff Clarke’s blog and the “acceleration points” he calls out point to massive benefits that might be captured and opportunities that may be achieved. No one says it will be easy, but if we can find a way forward, the New Normal could inspire a far better future for millions of organizations and billions of people.

© 2020 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.