Updating a Classic: Dell’s New XPS 15 2-in-1

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  November 14 2018

There are two ways to screw-up classic or iconic products. First, a vendor can treat the device with the softest of kid gloves, timidly avoiding changes to the point that the thing loses its allure and drifts in irrelevance. Alternatively, a maker can confuse needed changes with ephemeral trends, eventually obscuring whatever made the product great in the first place.

Then there are vendors that handle the process seamlessly, somehow managing to maintain iconic elements while keeping great products scrupulously contemporary and up-to-date. With that in mind, let’s look at Dell’s new XPS 15 2-in-1, a laptop that extends the company’s classic XPS with compelling new aesthetic and technical features. Continue reading

Pund-IT Spotlight Interview: IBM’s Andy Walls

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  November 13, 2018

Data storage has an odd position within the IT continuum. Though widely recognized for the critical roles they play in computing infrastructures of every kind and size, storage solutions tend to receive less public attention than microprocessor and memory technologies. That is a serious oversight, especially when one considers how important storage is in crucial new use cases and workloads, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, Big Data, advanced analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In the following interview, Andy Walls, the CTO and chief architect of IBM’s Flash Systems storage organization, provides insights into how these and other developments fit into the current state of enterprise storage and IBM’s efforts. Walls is particularly well suited to that task since his remarkable 3+ decade-long IBM career spans key evolutions in modern enterprise storage, many of which were sparked or extended by his own achievements.

In 2014, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty named Walls an IBM Fellow, the company’s highest recognition for its technical leaders. In his statement, Walls noted that when hiring, “I look for people who don’t limit themselves. They have confidence in their abilities. They know they can do more than it appears. In my experience, there are the critics and there are the solvers. I don’t want to hire critics.” He couldn’t have described himself and his work any more clearly. Continue reading

Lenovo DCG: New Solutions for Modern SMBs and ROBOs

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  November 7, 2018

An interesting if little discussed sidelight on technology is how a rapidly maturing industry successfully serves increasingly sophisticated customers. This issue is present in numerous sectors and product classes, from automobiles to zippers. However, while the dynamic is clearly apparent in business-to-consumer (B2C) markets, it’s also a significant factor in business-to-business scenarios.

Why is that the case? Because like consumers, over time businesses have ready access to and become increasingly savvy about products and services they utilize. Consider how that has played out in IT over just the past decade or so with organizations rapidly transitioning from “bricks” to “clicks” business models leveraging IT resources. Not to mention companies adopting public cloud solutions, adapting to often opaque online advertising and contending with social media-enabled customers and ratings.

While scale is an obviously important point to consider here, these changes are impacting businesses of every kind and size. In other words, even small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) and use cases with relatively modest or specialized needs, such as remote and branch offices (ROBOs) require dependable, innovative computing solutions. Plus, they are also smarter and more demanding about what they buy today than ever before.

Those points are important to keep in mind when considering IT offerings, like Lenovo’s new single socket servers for SMBs and ROBOs. Continue reading

IBM Power Systems – The Road to Computational Longevity

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  November 7, 2018

Longevity is a trait seldom celebrated and less often achieved in IT. The former point is hardly surprising given the tech industry’s obsession with shiny new things. But the latter highlights how seldom even good solutions keep step with evolving technical trends and requirements, then lose the confidence of enterprise customers.

So how do long-lived technologies get and stay that way? By being innovative, dependable and adaptable, as the continuing success of IBM’s Power Systems attests. Since their introduction over two decades ago, Power Systems have been notable for their dynamic flexibility, resiliency and performance. Those characteristics made IBM Power solutions ideal for data-intensive workloads, including enterprise databases and associated applications.

They are also making IBM Power the platform of choice for newer and emerging use cases, such as in-memory databases, private cloud infrastructures and artificial intelligence (AI) deployments. In fact, those three areas helped Power Systems achieve 17% year over year (YoY) sales growth in IBM’s most recent (Q3 2018) quarter. How has IBM Power gotten from there to here? That’s a subject worth further discussion. Continue reading

IBM and Red Hat – A Match Made for Hybrid Cloud

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  October 31, 2018

That barn buster acquisitions are more common in IT than other industries says as much about the dynamism of the tech sector as it does about specific business circumstances. The fact is that most IT vendors are constantly on the hunt for a competitive edge, and in an industry that changes as rapidly as tech, acquiring external assets often delivers a bigger bang for the buck faster than internal development efforts.

That said, simply buying another company is anything but a slam dunk, even for large, well-funded deals. Critical issues can aid acquisitions from the get-go or contribute to eventual massive failures, like HP’s costly acquisitions of Compaq and EDS. The best deals are those in which the involved companies are well-aligned technologically, strategically and culturally.

IBM’s plan to acquire Linux and open source leader Red Hat for $190 per share ($34B in total value) qualifies as just that sort of plan. Let’s consider what makes a successful IT acquisition and why IBM and Red Hat seem likely to make their pairing work. Continue reading

Intel’s Earnings: The Importance of Diversification

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  October 31, 2018

The purported old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times” is occasionally apropos for the technology sector and some vendors. Over the past few months, the times have been particularly interesting and painful for Intel.

That began with the surprise exit of CEO Brian Krzanich whose resignation was requested by Intel’s board of directors after an internal probe found that he had engaged in a consensual relationship with a subordinate, which the company said violated its anti-fraternization policy. Since then, Intel shares have trended steadily downward until last week’s quarterly (Q3 2018) earnings report reenergized buyers.

The sources of Intel’s good fortunes, along with some unexpected bad news from competitors, is worth further consideration. Continue reading

Intel, Rolls Royce and the Voyage to Autonomous Shipping

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  October 17, 2018

Over the past decade or so, the IT industry has been in the thrall of what might be called the iPhone Effect, where vendors promote new technologies to consumers first, no matter how well or badly suited they are to consumer and home use cases. The strategy makes a certain sense given the impact Apple’s iPhone made—creating an essentially new market for web-enabled apps and content that eventually forced businesses to contend with mobility-obsessed employees via Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives and other efforts.

The problem is that other promising technologies have had serious problems in trying to catch the iPhone’s lightning in a bottle. So, strategies centering on consumer-focused products, like IoT (through Smart Home devices and services) and virtual reality (for home entertainment), have often faltered, sullying the reputations of the technologies and players involved. Some others—self-driving consumer cars are a good example—are growing in fits and starts, with vendors vying for position in markets that are years away from being commercially sustainable.

On the other hand, business-focused solutions leveraging many of these same technologies are proceeding apace. Industry-specific IoT and VR solutions are readily available, and autonomous systems for commercial transportation are evolving quickly. Why is that the case? Partly because enterprises are willing to invest in a new technology when they believe it can offer significant, even profound business benefits.

A good example is this week’s announcement from Intel and Rolls-Royce concerning the latter’s Ship Intelligence platforms and Intelligent Awareness System solutions for commercial shipping. The solution uses AI-enabled sensor-fusion and decision-making capabilities powered by Intel’s Xeon and 3D NAND-technologies to increase the intelligence, efficiency and safety of commercial ships. The two companies also believe that the Intelligent Awareness System will provide the foundation for future autonomous shipping systems.

Let’s consider this further. Continue reading

IBM Deepens/Widens its Commitment to Open Technologies

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  October 17, 2018

That open technologies are still evolving and succeeding some two decades after the emergence of the pioneer Open Source Initiative and early commercial Linux distributions qualifies as, at the very least, a small miracle. Not only did open source products and standards challenge the orthodoxy of leading, seemingly indomitable vendors but many of those companies, including Microsoft, considered open source to be explicitly subversive and dangerous.

On the other hand, some vendors recognized and successfully exploited the potential value that open technologies offered to largely or entirely proprietary platforms. Those efforts were not without controversy. For example, IBM raised more than a few eyebrows by announcing that it would not just support Linux distributions but that the first platform to do so would be the company’s signature mainframe systems.

IBM’s open commitment didn’t begin and end with the mainframe. Over the past two decades, the company has continued to plow significant energy and billions of investment dollars into creating, developing and supporting a wide variety of open technology platforms and initiatives.

This week’s launch of IBM’s new AI OpenScale platform, its Multi-Cloud Manager and Security Connect services find the company breaking significant new ground while following a long familiar open technologies path. Let’s consider these new offerings and their implications for IBM and the broader market. Continue reading

How Lenovo’s Strategic Partnerships Help Data Center Customers Evolve

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  October 10, 2018

Strategic partnerships between IT vendors have existed for decades, and mostly followed conventional synergistic pitches: By combining the products/expertise of vendors A and B, you can get C, or even D or E.

Twenty years ago, those relationships mainly consisted of system vendors and specialty ISVs of various sizes and kinds. But the continuing rise of Intel x86-based servers changed the balance due to customers adopting Intel x86-based servers and their corresponding moves from proprietary operating environments, like HP’s HP-UX and Sun Microsystems’ Solaris to Microsoft Windows Server and Linux distributions.

Further shifts occurred with the appearance of once unimaginable (or, at least, unimaginably expensive), increasingly available and affordable technologies. Those included in-memory applications, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions, and hybrid cloud computing operating environments, like Nutanix’s Enterprise Cloud OS.

Those changes required and inspired strategic partnerships to evolve, as well. Recent announcements by Lenovo about its longstanding relationships with Microsoft and SAP show how one vendor is pursuing those developments to its own, its partners’ and its customers’ betterment. Continue reading

IBM Watson Sparks Agricultural Innovation

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  October 3, 2018

It’s no surprise that artificial Intelligence (AI) inspires reams of press releases and media coverage these days. The fact is that a confluence of IT trends and achievements have made AI more achievable and affordable than ever before.

At the same time, it’s wise to remember that companies’ announcements typically mirror their specific, if sometimes limited, talents and skills. So, in the case of AI, silicon vendors might focus on the importance of their products in machine learning performance. Or AI software vendors may tout the value their frameworks, algorithms and models bring to the AI table.

That’s all to the good since artificial intelligence is a very large pool with space for lots of talent. But keenly focusing on myriad, smaller elements often makes the AI market resemble the proverb of the blind men and the elephant. Do any vendors see, understand and effectively build out the bigger picture of AI? Absolutely, including IBM.

Broadly speaking, the company’s work in AI  goes back decades. But those efforts cover numerous of focus areas and specific vertical use cases. For example, IBM recently announced new Watson AI toolsets pretrained for nine industries and professions, including the Watson Decision Platform for Smarter Farms. Let’s look at that solution and consider how IBM’s work in global agriculture reflects its AI strategy and tactical plans. Continue reading