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

Dell’s Latitude 7400 2-in-1: At the Topline of Enterprise Client PCs

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  August 7, 2019

For many years, durability was the defining point for business notebooks. Products were designed and built for constant use, to stand up to literal knocks and accidental drops, to easily connect to networks and peripheral devices. That situation changed significantly in 2006 and, again, in 2008 when Apple introduced the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. The company’s design aesthetic helped breathe new life into Apple’s Mac business and, for a time, made it look like a serious challenger to mainstream PC vendors.

But that situation shifted at CES 2012 when Dell introduced its XPS 13, a notebook that fundamentally changed the company’s reputation as a maker of solid if unsurprising PCs. Along with stylish good looks, the XPS 13 utilized Dell-developed materials, including a light yet rigid and strong carbon fiber composite. Later XPS 13 iterations introduced other notable features and materials, including Dell’s near bezel-less InfinityEdge display, NASA’s Silicon Aerogel (for heat insulation), Dell Cinema for optimized multimedia performance and continually improving battery life.

Over time, the XPS 13 became Dell’s most successful notebook product so it’s not surprising that many of the XPS line’s features and innovations were seeded into the company’s other notebooks, including the new Latitude 7400 2-in-1 convertible. The company recently sent me a 7400 2-in-1 evaluation unit so let me tell you about my hands-on experience with the product that occupies the high end of Dell’s commercial notebook portfolio. Continue reading

Pivot3’s Virtual SOC: Improving the Security, Performance and Cost of Video Operations

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  July 31, 2019

The high-tech industry has more than its share of products that qualify as “solutions in search of problems.” But there are also hundreds of practical issues and challenges that have inspired vendors to develop powerful, continually evolving technology products and services. Pivot3’s digital video security and surveillance offerings are an excellent example.

How so? Founded in 2003 by veteran executives from VMware, Compaq and Adaptec, the company was an early pioneer in hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions, including digital video offerings. Pivot3’s sophisticated software and its skills at leveraging powerful technologies, including enterprise virtualization, PCIe NVMe flash and scale-out storage systems have enabled it to capture business in other markets, including virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), hybrid cloud, datacenter modernization and Internet of Things (IoT).

Today, Pivot3’s video security and surveillance solutions play vital roles in scores of global “Smart” (Cities, Casinos) and “Safe” (Transit, Campus, Airport) deployments. In fact, Gartner has called Pivot3 a leader in large scale (multi-petabyte) digital video installations. The company recently announced a new offering – the Virtual Security Operations Center (Virtual SOC) – that is designed to significantly enhance video security and surveillance deployments.

Let’s take a look at Virtual SOC and consider how Pivot3 is, yet again, positioned to fundamentally change digital video customers’ lives for the better. Continue reading

IBM’s Chief Data Officer Summit – Making Cognitive Enterprises a Reality

By Charles King, Pund-IT®

Over the past two decades, the Chief Data Officer position has become increasingly commonplace in enterprises and other organizations. Capital One and Yahoo! both appointed CDOs around 2002. A2013 Gartner study found that over 100 companies employed CDOs—more than double the number in 2012, and in a recent update to the study 257 CDOs and other high-level data and analytics leaders shared their thoughts.

Moreover, the critical importance of data analytics to businesses, industries and government agencies of every kind have led organizations to recognize the need to better control and fully leverage the information they create, collect and manage. But what are the best strategies and approaches for achieving those goals? In addition, how can organizations ensure that they are employing the right people and practices?

Answers to those questions can be hard to ascertain due to rapid technological shifts, including massive upticks in the volume of information that businesses create, collect and manage. Not surprisingly, these and other relevant subjects were central to the presentations and discussions at the recent “tenth edition” of IBM’s bi-annual Chief Data Officer (CDO) Summit that the company hosted in San Francisco.

Let’s take a look at the key focal points of IBM’s CDO Summit and how the company plans to help customers deal with these issues. Continue reading

IBM, Red Hat and the Value of Customer Comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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