Key Takeaways from IBM Think 2019

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By Bo Gebbie, Vice President, Sales, Services and Marketing

During the week of February 11, IBM hosted IBM Think 2019 in San Francisco, CA.  In addition to Think, the annual IBM PartnerWorld Conference was also held during the same time.  Hosting these events together saw almost 30,000 attendees descend on San Francisco for the week.

Evolving Solutions had several team members and clients attend the event.  It was an outstanding opportunity to learn about IBM’s 2019 strategic imperatives, new solution announcements and new channel program enhancements.  Additionally, the event afforded us the opportunity to network with hundreds of clients and IBMers from across the country.

As I reflect back on Think, there were several key take-aways for me.

  • Hybrid Cloud is where it’s at. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, clients are already using between two to 15 clouds.  These environments might be on-premise or in the public cloud.  As the number of cloud silos continue to grow, clients need an easier way to connect the applications, no matter where the data resides.  During Think, the IBM Cloud Integration Platform was announced.  This platform is “designed to securely connect applications, software and services from any vendor regardless of whether those systems are on-premises, in a public cloud or a private cloud,” according to IBM.
  • Data.  Data. Data.  According to IBM CEO Ginny Rometty, “only 20% of the world’s data is searchable.”  Applications such as Office365, CRM, expense management, etc. were the “easy apps” to get into the cloud.  There is 80% of data out there that is critical to an organization’s overall success.  Those core systems will be the focus of the next era.  How do clients utilize that data to make gather meaningful business insights, and make-real time decisions?  IBM is placing big bets on “the next 80%” to help grow its solution portfolio.
  • Artificial Intelligence will transform how we all work. Many people still think of AI as something you would see in a Sci-Fi movie.  But, according to Rometty and several executives we spoke with, AI will be embedded in applications or layered on top of them in the future.  AI will enable new or improved business processes.  AI will enable every single person to do their job in a more efficient or data-led way.  AI will not replace jobs; rather it will augment how we do work.  I like the theory, and look forward to seeing how this plays out over time.
  • Red Hat is key to IBM’s future. The IBM executives could not say a ton about the Red Hat acquisition, since the deal has not closed yet. But, every single IBMer was excited for what Red Hat can bring to IBM in terms of new client opportunity, innovating the product stack and keeping IBM relevant to the next generation of buyers.
  • Holy moly, the Moscone Center is huge. One of my non-business learnings is that the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco is enormous.  It is no small feat to fit tens of thousands of people into one place!

Over the next few months, we will have Evolving Solutions team members at several of our other strategic partners’ premier conferences.  We will share our insights from those events on our blog.

I am looking forward to returning to San Fran next May for Think 2020.  Hope to see you there!

Bo Gebbie joined Evolving Solutions in January, 2017 as the Vice President of Sales, Services and Marketing. In this role, he is responsible for the sales, pre-sales services, post-sales consulting and marketing pillars within the organization. He is a member of the Executive and Management Teams, and represents the organization externally on vendor and partner Advisory Councils.

Before joining Evolving Solutions, Bo was an IBM executive, serving last as Vice President of Server Solution Sales, North America. In that role, he had sales and profit responsibility for a $3B portfoilio across Power Systems, z Systems and the Server Linux brands. Prior to that, Bo was the Business Unit Executive, Power Systems Sales, North America.

Like what you read? Follow Bo on LinkedIn.

The Olympics in the Cloud

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With the 2016 Olympics in Rio fast approaching, today, let’s take a look at how cloud computing  is impacting athletes around the world and the fans who cheer them on.

First, staying steady is everything when it comes to archery and this summer fans will be able to see in real-time the archer’s heart rate as they take aim, according to the official news outlet for the Rio 2016 Games.  Wearables used for payment will also be part of Olympic venues. Visa is working with a Brazilian bank on not only a bracelet for fans but also a “payment ring” which will be given and used by 45 sponsored athletes. Finally, to support the technology needs of the games, the official IT partner of the Olympic games has been working to migrate many of its operations to the cloud to reduce its hardware needs.  For example, they expect to have 250 servers for Rio down from 719 servers used during the London 2012 games.

Laura Gargolinski for IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud writes, “even more interesting is the way cloud technology is revolutionizing the way athletes (whether they are Rio-bound, or just regular people like you and me) eat, sleep, and train to improve their overall health, eliminate injury, and achieve optimum performance.”  In her article she highlights Team USA Cycling which has developed an application that provides real-time data analytics to cyclists while they workout or train.  IBM’s application allows the cyclist to make “on-the-spot” adjustments so they can optimize performance.  Even “regular” athletes as she describes herself, an avid runner, can take advantage of cloud-powered apps that track and help plan your training regime.

Cloud technology not only supports apps and wearables that allow athletes to perform better but it also opens up new experiences for fans and helps to make supporting tech operations more efficient.

Why a Cloud Strategy is Important

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“Survey finds companies with cohesive cloud strategies have less trouble with cost overruns and staffing shortages,” reports Joe McKendrick on ZDNet.  Despite this finding, a recent survey by Softchoice of 500 executives also found that many companies lack a cohesive cloud strategy:

  • 54% reported their teams are struggling to form a cloud strategy
  • 52% reported that they lack any formalized strategy

Without a cohesive strategy and with the cloud “question” entering into so many functions, your organization could have little cloud plans forming right now across  many groups. Each with different goals, risks and needs, but you may not know until it is too late.  Once in the cloud, executives who report not having a strong strategy often find they struggle with:

  • Managing the cloud budget
  • Choosing and managing the cloud model
  • Keeping up with the cloud skills gap

Sure, pulling it all together may seem daunting, but whether you are still just talking about cloud or are currently testing cloud, take a step back now and make sure you pull the pieces together. Here are some tips to get started from Mr. McKendrick’s article:

  • Now where you are now. Review your current suite of applications and systems. What are their functions, dependencies, organizational alignments and service level and security needs. Talk with business groups to understand their needs and frustrations as well with current processes
  • Analyze the cloud you do have. Already in the cloud? Make sure you know what is going on within it, so you can manage service levels and most important budgets. Also, don’t forget to look into who is using it and how.  Cloud analytics tools will help you meet and forecast your budget needs as well as manage scale

Finally, don’t forget that the cloud can bring a learning curve. Invest in your employees as well as bring in outside expertise to ensure that your organization is choosing the right cloud to fit your needs.

The Language of IT

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James Keating IIIby James Keating III, Business Technology Architect, Evolving Solutions,

I recently had another eye opening moment with language and how vernacular for one group can and often is different to another group.  This can pose a huge challenge in the fast changing world of IT.  I have always been aware of this dilemma and for much of my career I have endeavored to use this awareness to help me be better at the job I am doing.  Primarily in my past this has been manifested in the fact that while I am a technical person by nature and have spent decades in the IT space as an administrator and technical manager, I always have come at the IT problem from a business perspective.  I was more likely in college to attend an Economics presentation than one on how to program in Pascal (yes they did teach Pascal when I was in college).  I had a few small businesses that I owned and managed during my early days and many of them were technical in nature, ranging from using computers to perform color separations for screen printing, to digital music and video production.  Granted they were completely in the dark ages by today’s standard as most of what I was selling can now be done on an iPhone (we are talking iPhone 3 not the latest and greatest even).  But what I learned there, I applied to working in IT and became a technical to business translator of sorts.  This is because the business often thinks in terms of risk, risk mitigation, investments and opportunity costs, while IT is firmly planted in megabits per second, disk and CPU performance and overall application performance.  This gap in perspective becomes easier to see the further down the IT stack one goes.  As a former data center manager, I found it the most difficult to get non-technical business folks to understand risks at the data center level than I did as a storage manager.  This was because the data center always looks tidy, was filled with chilled air and rows and rows of uniform looking racks.  It just didn’t look like it had much risk on the surface.

I believe the emergence of cloud computing has amplified this problem of business and IT not speaking the same language.  I will demonstrate this by the fact that if I were to take 10 people (5 business types and 5 technical types) and asked them for what they believe the cloud could do for the company they worked for and what it really meant as a concept, I would get at least 10 different definitions  and you would not always be able to tell which perspective was from a technical person and which was from a business person.  This is because much of the IT landscape has become charged with buzzwords that evoke emotional responses that are not always based upon confirmed fact, but often times hearsay and conjecture.  My point is if we as stewards of IT are going to be successful in leading the IT operations into the future using all of the available tools and advances, we are going to need to be able to work from a known good set of facts.  In the past when I found myself in situations like this I would level-set and look at what the desired results are before I would even allow myself to think technically.  Basically don’t even attempt to solve the problem until the goals, issues and requirements are all out on the table.

In today’s fast changing IT world, it is time more than ever to work on defining the desired outcomes before working to solve or build anything.  Since nobody can be an expert in everything, it is also more critical than ever, in my opinion, to use partners to help define goals, requirements and then work with the best minds to define, architect and build that next level of IT that all businesses want to see happen now that they have been hearing about the great abilities and promise that cloud computing holds.   To that end, I have been working the last 3 years to create a solid process to enable what I have been talking about in terms of IT design based upon goals and outcomes rather than created around features and feature sets of various software or cloud services.  I call these Cloud Potential Studies and Evolving Solutions offers them.  If you would like to learn more about Cloud Potential Studies and how they could help create a more cohesive IT strategy feel free to contact Evolving Solutions.

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James Keating III is a Business Technology Architect for Evolving Solutions. James is a technology leader in the IT community and brings a combination of excellent technical skills and business acumen which allows him to guide customers in developing IT solutions to meet business requirements.

Operations vs Project: The Secret Innovation Killer

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James Keatingby James Keating III, Business Technology Architect, Evolving Solutions

Over the years I have worked for both large enterprises and also small businesses and all of them had an IT dilemma that was rarely spoken about, but was just a fact of life. The dilemma I am talking about is the operations vs project that all IT teams face. This is the concept of doing operations well (which is required to maintain the current business) but also being able to get new project work done which is the place that innovation and business growth happens. The issue is many IT shops have many of the technical teams splitting time between both sides (operations and project), however this setup often leads to either operational corners being cut to meet project demand, or projects not happening which means a loss of innovation and improvement. A side effect of this type of setup is it is difficult to really know how much innovation is being lost, or how much risk is being put onto operations as true accounting for either side of the equation is difficult at best in this blended model.

To make this concept more easily seen if you will, let’s take a small business that has an IT team of 3 people.  This team of three is responsible for all of the following operational areas:

  • System administration (Operating System and Hypervisor)
  • Storage administration
  • Backup and archive administration
  • On-call support frontline
  • On-call support backline
  • Data center operations
  • Back office software support
  • Data security (firewall and virus etc)
  • Compliance and change control
  • Mobility and support
  • All project work requiring IT assistance
  • Constant improvement of IT process

When you list it out like this you can quickly see that a team of 3 will find it difficult even with a very small and relatively static environment to be able to do all of those functions at a high level. I would argue it would be difficult for them to even do the majority of those functions at an adequate level. So the outcome is many things that could drive more business, improve operations and reduce risk or things that could contribute directly to the bottom line of the business don’t get done in favor of the fire of the moment so to speak. It is like the old saying “It is hard to remember the goal is to drain the swamp when you are up to your ears in alligators.”

So how can a business help this situation out without a lot of change in process and tons of additional headcount? I would suggest looking at taking two or three of the items off the list in a manner of speaking by using cloud or as a service offerings. The easiest of these is likely hosted Exchange. It is tried and true, relatively inexpensive and can free up time from an employee to work on other areas, and further provides some risk mitigation to operations as hosted Exchange comes with a 99.9% uptime SLA. Integration and implementation of a service like Exchange is something that Evolving Solutions can help you with and free up those cycles near instantly for your administrators.

For more details on what an engagement would look like and pricing contact Evolving Solutions today.

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James Keating III is a Business Technology Architect for Evolving Solutions. James is a technology leader in the IT community and brings a combination of excellent technical skills and business acumen which allows him to guide customers in developing IT solutions to meet business requirements.