Dell Technologies APEX and the Partner Ecosystem

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  June 9, 2021

Strategic adjustments are vital to any organization’s survival, especially in the IT industry where the pace of technological change can blindside even well-prepared companies. Bold or unconventional new initiatives require additional care since they often require workers and business units to adapt to unfamiliar processes and practices. The situation for a company’s channel and other partners can be even more unsettling, especially if they stand outside typical lines of communication.

Keeping partners well-informed about planned shifts is obviously smart from a business perspective, so it was not surprising that during the recent Dell Technologies World (DTW) conference, the company devoted considerable time to discussing how its new APEX as-a-Service will impact partners. Let’s look more closely at Dell’s plans.

Dell Technologies APEX: as-a-Service enhances customer experience

To begin, what exactly is APEX? Announced last October, APEX is designed to fundamentally shift Dell’s focus from selling commercial (business) hardware and software products to delivering as-a-Service (aaS) solutions.

At DTW, the company introduced APEX Infrastructure, Hybrid and Private Cloud, and Custom Solutions to enable and simplify digital transformations. APEX Custom Solutions include Flex on Demand, a consumption-based offering that was launched 5 years ago and is now available across Dell’s entire infrastructure portfolio.

APEX solutions are available directly through Dell Technologies and the company’s strategic partners can also offer their customers the flexibility of elastic capacity and the economy of paying only for the buffer capacity used each month. As a result, customers can align and scale the cost of their IT solutions with technology consumption requirements and budget availability.

APEX aims to extend that same model across all the company’s product portfolios, including servers, storage, networking and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offerings. Solutions designed for specific vertical industries and emerging use cases, like edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are also included. Customers can easily and rapidly access, update and manage their IT environments and contracts through the new Dell APEX Console.

Practically speaking, APEX alters IT acquisition, management and maintenance from a costly and often unpredictable CAPEX process to a predictable, dependable and highly flexible OPEX model. At the same time, it will essentially evolve Dell’s focus from developing and delivering physical products to ensuring the continuity and quality of clients’ experiences focused on outcomes That may seem to some like a mere rhetorical gambit, but it will require everyone involved to rethink the way they interact with and serve Dell’s customers.

APEX and partner evolution

Those necessary adjustments in customer engagements also apply to Dell’s partner communities, including business-focused channel partners. In fact, how and how well partners incorporate this new services-first approach will be vital to the success of APEX.

Why so? As noted by Chairman and CEO Michael Dell and other executives during DTW, partners helped drive over half of the company’s $94.224B revenues during FY2021. Just as importantly, Dell Technologies partners represent the company in their engagements with tens of thousands of businesses worldwide. Ensuring that partners, and through them customers are on the same page when it comes to APEX could not be more important.

How important? DTW featured a keynote focused entirely on the company’s partner community, hosted by Global Channel Chief, Rola Dagher and SVP of Global Alliances, Denise Millard. They and other company spokespersons discussed the value that Dell Technologies’ partners supply in terms of experience, expertise and insights into the businesses, industries and markets they serve.

Making certain that partners understand and are onboard with APEX is vital but so is ensuring that new as-as-Service solutions provide partners paths to and methodologies for achieving business security and financial success. Dell executives addressed those points during DTW keynotes and breakout sessions and plan to continue communicating with partners as the APEX evolution progresses.

APEX and strategic collaborations

Also worth considering is how APEX will impact the company’s relationships with its strategic partners. One DTW announcement highlighted an expanded collaboration with global digital infrastructure company Equinix to broaden the availability of APEX via Equinix’s International Business Exchange data centers. The goal of this effort pairs Dell-managed infrastructure and Platform Equinix, enabling organizations subscribing to APEX Data Storage Services at Equinix locations to effectively meet unpredictable IT and storage requirements.

Given Equinix’s global footprint, with over 220 data centers located across five continents and its digital ecosystem of more than 10,000 companies, it seems entirely likely that many of those businesses will investigate how they and their customers might benefit from the hybrid cloud environment and the ability to shift to an OpEx budget model supported by APEX.

Final analysis

While Dell Technologies APEX will eventually drive a substantial portion of the company’s business and revenues, Dell executives also noted that its as-a-Service plans will be executed over the long term, in tandem with delivering point products and solutions. Plus, the descriptions of APEX solutions and discussions around them clearly showed that it is keeping partners in mind and in discussions regarding how new offerings and services are evolving.

That is great news for the company’s partners and their customers and prospects. Overall, APEX appears well-considered and well-positioned to deliver the substantial benefits underscored by Michael Dell and others in the company’s leadership. Those goals seem entirely achievable so long as Dell Technologies’ employees, partners and customers have time to adapt to the substantial and subtle changes these new as-a-Service solutions will require.

© 2021 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

IBM Extends “Tailored Fit” Pricing to Z Hardware

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  May 26, 2021

Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about the longevity and durability of IBM’s mainframe solutions, especially regarding the company’s ongoing efforts to keep its IBM Z platform current with enterprise computing trends and practices. However, it’s also worth considering how IBM has adapted mainframe offerings (and adjusted its own attitude) to stay aligned with other external forces.

That’s especially true in terms of hybrid cloud computing—an area where, as CEO Arvind Krishna noted in his recent IBM Think keynote, the company is “all in.” IBM has essentially realigned its business model to support customers and partners in maximizing the value of cloud computing. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that those efforts are tangibly influencing and impacting its system portfolio. The recent announcement of Tailored Fit Pricing for IBM Z hardware highlights that strategy. Continue reading

IBM Think 2021 – AI, Automation, Hybrid Cloud and Practical Innovation

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  May 19, 2021

For the past year and a half, life has been both massively challenging and exhilarating for business technology vendors and their customers and partners. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to fundamentally rethink the way workers, managers and executives performed essential tasks, vendors responded with innovative new solutions and services.

Organizations adopted and deployed those offerings at unheard of speeds, accomplishing in weeks or months what once would have taken years. The result led to unusual or unique accomplishments. As IBM CEO Arvind Krishna pointed out during his IBM Think 2021 keynote address last week, “I venture to say that 2020 was the first time in history that digital transformation spending accelerated despite GDP declining.”

As vaccinations bring the pandemic under control and things return slowly to normal, how will businesses preserve or extend the transformational solutions they adopted? At IBM Think, Krishna and his leadership team offered valuable insights and new solutions to consider.

Practical AI innovations

The announcements at Think 2021 mostly centered on areas that have long been focal points for IBM (and some of its competitors): hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. What was different this time around was the practical and business value offered by new solutions and features.

Take AI, for one. Many if not most AI projects and efforts center on or have been designed to support large-scale “moonshot” efforts that underscore their owners’ far-sighted vision and willingness to take on big challenges. That can be both dramatic and problematic given how often these projects’ complexities lead to setbacks, delays and failure. There is also a tendency toward “forest for the trees” confusion manifested by mistaking the results of complementary efforts, like machine learning for AI itself.

During its decades-long involvement in AI R&D, IBM has been involved in its own share of moonshot projects. However, the AI solutions announced at Think were more in the line of practical innovations designed to maximize dependable business benefits. For example, AI enhancements drive the new AutoSQL function in IBM’s Cloud Pak for Data that enables customers to receive queries to data in hybrid multi-cloud environments (on-premises, private clouds or any public cloud) up to 8X faster and at half the cost of prior solutions. The new intelligent data fabric in Cloud Pak for Data will automate complex management functions by using AI to discover, understand, access and protect information in distributed environments.

Another new AI-powered IBM solution is Watson Orchestrate which is designed to increase the personal productivity of employees in sales, human resources, operations and other business functions by automating and simplifying business processes. The AI engine in Watson Orchestrate automatically selects and sequences pre-packaged skills required to perform tasks, and connects them with associated applications, tools, data and historical details. There are no IT skills required for users. Instead, they can use natural language collaboration tools, like Slack and email to initiate work. Watson Orchestrate also connects to popular applications, including Salesforce, SAP and Workday.

Similarly, the new Maximo Mobile solution uses Watson AI to enhance the performance and productivity of field technicians who work on bridges, roads, production lines, power plants, refineries and other physical industrial and infrastructure assets. Users can use Maximo Mobile virtually anywhere, even remote locations to access operational data, human assistance and digital twins (virtual representations that act as real-time digital counterparts of physical objects or processes) to complete vital tasks.

AI complementarity

The practical melding on AI and automation to better manage or perform complex processes was one of the most profound themes at IBM Think. In his keynote, CEO Krishna noted that automation is nothing new, “It’s been around for centuries. Industrial automation gave manufacturing companies economies of scale and a cost advantage in making things like cars and household appliances. The most profound economies of scale are no longer just about manufacturing. They’re about producing breakthrough ideas by people leveraging technology automation to tap into their knowledge.”

Krishna addressed a common concern – that technologically-enabled automation will damage or eliminate traditional jobs. “The future is not about how AI is going to replace jobs but how it will change jobs by bringing in what I call ‘AI complementarity.’ What I mean by that is that AI is very good at accomplishing things that we don’t particularly like doing and vice versa.”

Krishna also noted that AI-enabled automation can have a remarkable impact on workers and businesses alike. “Research shows that a high-powered automation can help you reclaim up to 50% of your time to focus on what matters most. IDC predicts that by 2025 AI-powered enterprises will see a major increase in customer satisfaction. Let me put a number on it, up to 1.5 x higher net promoter scores compared to the competition. Human Ingenuity leveraging technology is what is going to drive competitive advantage today.”

This is a profound message for IBM’s customers and partners, many of whom have been significantly, negatively impacted by Covid-19. As the pandemic eases and businesses work to regain forward momentum, significantly improving both process efficiency and customer satisfaction would be hugely beneficial.

Other Think 2021 announcements

Of course, AI-infused automation wasn’t the only subject highlighted at IBM Think. The company also announced other new solutions focused on making life easier for enterprise IT professionals, including Project CodeNet, a large-scale, opensource dataset comprised of 14 million code samples, 500 million lines of code and 55 programming languages. Project CodeNet is designed to enable the understanding and translation of code by AIs and includes tools for source-to-source translation and transitioning legacy codebases to modern code languages. Another new AI-enabled solution, Mono2Micro, is a capability in WebSphere Hybrid Edition that is designed to help enterprises optimize and modernize applications for hybrid cloud.

Not surprisingly, IBM announced significant advancements in its Quantum computing efforts. Qiskit Runtime is a new software solution containerized and hosted in the hybrid cloud. In concert with improvements in both the software and processor performance of IBM Q quantum systems, Qiskit Runtime can boost the speed of quantum circuits, the building blocks of quantum algorithms, by 120X, vastly reducing the time required for running complex calculations, like chemical modeling and financial risk analysis.

Think 2021 featured testimonials by numerous enterprise customers, including Johnson & Johnson, Mission Healthcare, NatWest Bank and CVS Health that underscored the benefits they are achieving with IBM solutions, including hybrid cloud, Watson AI and IT modernization. IBM also unveiled new competencies and skills training in areas, including hybrid cloud infrastructure, automation and security developed as part of the $1B investment the company has committed to support its partner ecosystem.

Final analysis

So, what were the final takeaways from IBM Think 2021? First and foremost, the company and its leadership are focused on helping enterprise customers and partners survive the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and preparing them to thrive as business and daily life resume.

In some cases, companies will hope to return to and regain their past trajectories and IBM’s portfolio of solutions should serve them well. But in many other instances, businesses will be pushing toward a “new normal” by adopting new and emerging innovations, including AI, advanced automation and hybrid cloud computing. Those organizations should have come away from Think 2021 knowing that IBM has their back whether it is by providing the offerings they need immediately or investing in new solutions and services that will support future growth.

A final point about IBM’s efforts in AI: The messaging at Think 2021 does not mean that the company is abandoning large scale projects or long-term goals. But rather than focusing mostly or entirely on moonshot projects, the new IBM solutions infused with ‘AI complementarity’ show that the company has its feet firmly on the ground. That business-focused message should and will sit well with IBM’s enterprise customers and partners.

© 2020 Pund-IT®. All rights reserved.

Dell Technologies APEX – Driving a Company-Wide Transformation

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  May 12, 2021

Virtually all large-scale tech conferences highlight broadly focused strategic initiatives and objectives. Many are described by vendors as “transformational” but more than a few of those are overblown and eventually buried or superseded by new initiatives announced at following events. However, a few carry the potential to significantly transform the companies launching them, along with the customers, partners and markets they serve.

Dell Technologies APEX, which was formally launched at last week’s Dell Technologies World conference, is among this latter group. Let’s consider APEX, what Dell aims to achieve and how that is likely to impact the company and how it does business. Continue reading

IBM’s LinuxONE III Express – An Off the Shelf Solution with Mainframe-Class Features

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  May 5, 2021

The IBM mainframe endures as both a concept and commercial system for several factors but chief among them is the architecture’s inherent flexibility. That has allowed IBM to craft new offerings that offer the modern’s mainframe’s essential availability, scalability, performance and security features, and support for open technologies in often highly variable packages.

Among these is IBM’s LinuxONE – an enterprise-grade platform with mainframe-class features built for hybrid cloud environments and modern businesses. LinuxONE solutions are optimized for open-source architectures, including Red Hat OpenShift, Kubernetes and IBM Cloud Pak. The new LinuxONE III Express that IBM announced this week delivers on all of these points but also takes the platform in a considerably different, even radical direction in terms of configurations and focus markets. Let’s look at that more closely. Continue reading

IBM’s New Storage Solutions Ease/Speed Data Access and Management

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  May 5, 2021

Data storage stands at an odd crossroads today. From a technological perspective, storage vendors continue to deliver the goods in terms of solutions becoming increasingly speedy, capacious, and flexible. That is vital since modern businesses are creating and managing information in volumes that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

At the same time, most storage media and systems have become thoroughly commoditized, driving prices and margins ever downward and bleeding dry many once-stalwart vendors. There are ways out of this blind alleyway, but they typically require proactive development and strategic efforts. The new Spectrum Fusion and updated Elastic Storage Systems announced last week by IBM offer insights into how one vendor is coping with these challenges. Continue reading

Dell’s New Latitude 7320 Detachable – Highly Flexible and Fully Connected

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 27, 2021

Mobility innovations have inspired devices, including notebooks, tablets and smart phones for over a decade. However, while easy portability and long battery life were once be all/end all must-haves, modern organizations and users need something more when it comes to supporting secure use cases, modern communications, remote management and reliable performance.

In other words, flexibility now defines the leading edge of personal computing, especially in the case of commercial business solutions. That is a key factor that Dell has addressed in its new Latitude 7320 Detachable which the company introduced in January at CES 2021. Let’s consider how this new solution reflects Dell’s approach to modern business computing. Continue reading

Lenovo’s New/Updated Server Portfolio Defines Edge-to-Cloud Innovation

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 21, 2021

Creating a full portfolio of enterprise-ready servers does not happen overnight. Even when a substantial acquisition of products and intellectual property (IP) is involved, as occurred when Lenovo bought IBM’s System x (x86-based) solutions in 2014, it takes considerable time to successfully absorb, optimize and promote those offerings. Plus, businesses and business computing are constantly on the move, creating further challenges for solution development.

For those reasons and others, the new and updated servers recently announced by Lenovo’s Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) are particularly impressive. The announcements underscore that Lenovo ISG is more than the legacy System x assets and they are now providing Edge to Cloud solutions for all sizes of Lenovo customers. Let’s take a look at those offerings, where they stand in marketplace terms and what the company has accomplished. Continue reading

With Virtustream’s Help, Franciscan Health is Trading the Data Center for the Cloud

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 14, 2021

In enterprise IT, it is difficult to find a larger or more pervasive subject than the continuing rise of cloud computing. Most of those narratives focus on the prevalence of hybrid cloud as the solution that many, if not most businesses prefer.

But what about companies that want to consider, instead, shifting most or all their data center-based assets and processes to the cloud? What drives those decisions, what challenges do they face, what benefits do they hope to capture, and which trusted partners can help them achieve their goals? A recently published customer success story concerning the cloud migration that Virtustream implemented for Franciscan Health offers deep insights into this process. Continue reading

Pund-IT Executive Spotlight: Wilfredo Sotolongo, Chief Customer Officer, Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG)

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  April 7, 2021

Like many IT industry sales executives, Wilfredo Sotolongo has a deep and practical understanding of computing and related technologies. After earning BS (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) and MS (Georgia Institute of Technology) degrees in aeronautical and mechanical engineering, Sotolongo began his professional career at IBM as a robotics product developer in 1985, then joined the company’s field sales organization to bolster IBM’s customer-facing technical expertise.

Over the following three decades, Sotolongo held numerous IBM sales leadership roles, advancing to become VP Global Sales for the company’s System x and Pure Systems solutions. In that position, he was part of the executive team that oversaw the sale of the System x organization to Lenovo in 2014 and occupied key sales leadership roles in Lenovo’s Data Center Group (now Infrastructure Solutions Group or ISG) afterward. In Mach 2019, Sotolongo became ISG’s Chief Customer Officer where he leads ISG’s global sales and marketing teams.

In the following Spotlight interview, Wilfredo Sotolongo focuses on the evolution of Lenovo ISG, what sets the company apart from other datacenter solutions vendors and the vital roles that strategic Alliance Partners play in Lenovo ISG’s solutions and services. Continue reading