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.

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. Continue reading

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