NetApp’s Channel Connect Conference Did Not Disappoint

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NetApp held their third annual Channel Connect Conference (C3) from June 5-6, 2019 in San Diego, California.  I was fortunate enough to attend on behalf of the Evolving Solutions team.  This was also my third time attending, and I learn more every time regarding NetApp’s hybrid cloud strategy, key partnerships and technology advancements.

During the event, a lot of time was spent discussing NetApp’s data fabric solutions and message, and how this ties perfectly into a client’s cloud strategy.  From being able to leverage on-premise NetApp solutions, to extending the data fabric to public cloud providers like Azure and AWS, NetApp is “all in” on enabling a seamless experience.  This is a critical technological advantage, as the data suggests that by 2025, the majority of IT buyers will be Millennials and Gen Z buyers.  They are looking for a seamless, integrated, and cost-effective approach to managing their technology environments.

During the event, we heard from key alliance partners including Nvidia, Cisco, Microsoft (Azure) and Lenovo.  These partnerships are driving innovations in the areas of machine learning, artificial intelligence, converged platforms, public cloud, Kubernetes, etc.

The absolute highlight of the conference was hearing from Kate Swanborg, senior vice president of Technology Communications and Strategic Alliances at DreamWorks.  Kate shared an exciting and informative overview of the tight partnership between DreamWorks and NetApp.  Kate has been quoted as saying:  “NetApp is the leader in hybrid cloud data services.  Having used NetApp solutions on all of our CG animated feature films, DreamWorks trusts NetApp to deliver the data services our filmmakers rely on to innovate today and tomorrow, as they unleash creativity and dream new realities.”

Another highlight of the conference was seizing the opportunity to meet many of the NetApp local account executives, solution architects, subject matter experts, managers and executives.  Over 1,500 NetApp employees were also in San Diego for training.  It was a great opportunity to have both the NetApp and channel team members in one place hearing the same messages together.  Be on the lookout for announcements around new all-flash solutions, cloud enhancements, etc. in the coming days.

The best quote of the conference was originally said by Mark Twain over 100 years ago, but is extremely relevant in today’s constantly changing technology landscape:  “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  The Evolving Solutions team is well down our hybrid cloud journey, and we look forward to continuing to drive innovation with NetApp for our clients.


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.

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.

Weather (data) for all seasons

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By Doug Polen, Software Sales Specialist

Many people don’t know this, but Weather Underground was a part of The Weather Company, which was acquired by IBM a few years ago. They had been offering an API that many customers and weather junkies had been using for quite some time to gather weather data for a vast array of applications.

To accommodate Weather Underground’s rapidly growing customer base, The Weather Company made the decision to move the Weather Underground platform to IBM’s enterprise API infrastructure and set this popular API to be shut down this month.

There are several different flavors of the API that are being published. The scalability of IBM’s infrastructure will allow existing Weather Underground customers to continue to receive the consistent customer experience they are used to, as well as better serve the developers working on the next generation of weather data.

As a result of this change, I was called upon to help with the surplus of inbound inquiries this decision created. Little did I know when I agreed to help work with these folks, the wealth of information I would take in about weather data and its seemingly endless use cases.

So why is this something that’s worth writing about? The Weather Company continues to remain the world’s most accurate forecaster and IBM is committed to ensuring its customers receive precise and accurate weather data at rapid speed.

Weather is something that impacts everyone daily in their personal lives. It’s a lot like the 82,000 memes you’ve seen on social media around the January 2019 Polar Vortex here in Minnesota … this guy survived his first -30° day ever, and here I am writing a weather blog in the postmortem.

Is it going to be sunny today?
What’s the wind chill today?
Will I need an umbrella?

This information is invaluable from a business perspective.

Will a snow storm impact a shipment?
Does an electric utility require more power today because more people will be using their AC’s?
What is the historical sun/wind/rain pattern that could impact agricultural output?

You get the point, the bottom line for business is having the ability to access better weather information can really have an impact on how business decisions are made. Helping clients make their businesses better and more competitive through data, is what I do. These new IBM offerings are both cost effective and robust.

Truth be told, in my sales career, I’ve never enjoyed the customer conversations more than I am right now. These are really fun conversations to have. I’ve learned about vineyards and how weather affects wine production, how off-shore oil rigs rely on accurate weather information to make decisions on worker safety and asset protection, and the ways public safety uses weather to predict what’s coming so they can best plan and schedule the resources necessary to keep public utilities going during weather events.

Speaking of fun, I’m positioning the Weather Company for Enterprise use, but I’ve got a new app on my phone that I simply love. WTForecast is a great app that I recently discovered (not affiliated with IBM). If you want a little humor (and let’s face it, when it’s -30° you need to laugh, albeit carefully, so as not to crack your face), be sure to give this one a try.

The point is, take a look at how decisions are made in your organization. Could better weather data help your company to make better choices to enhance profitability, make a more enjoyable workplace, or maybe even save an employee’s life? Let’s get to work today and uncover what we can do for your future.

#ISurvivedThePolarVortex

Doug Polen is a Software Sales Specialist at Evolving Solutions.  He has been with Evolving Solutions since 2015, after spending 16 years at IBM as a Software Client Leader and Client Executive.

He specializes in IBM PassPort Advantage, Software as a Service, Analytics, Cloud, Cognitive, IoT, Security, Social & Weather solutions and holds numerous IBM software certifications.

Like what you read? Follow Doug on LinkedIn.

Emerging Technology Trends to Watch in 2019

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By Liz Young, Marketing Coordinator

I recently hit up one of our visionaries here at Evolving Solutions, our CTO, Michael Downs, to get his take on the technological trends we can expect to see in the coming year.  Michael evaluates emerging and disruptive technologies.  He brings together the real-world experience our team possesses to help our clients implement solutions that are agile, offering as much longevity as technology allows.

He offered some really great insight on some pretty cool emerging technologies and I had to share three of them because I think they are something to look forward to.

Automation

IT Automation is the trend that keeps coming back. We’ve been talking about IT automation for decades, but it has taken on increasing relevance with most infrastructure now able to be treated as code for deployment and changes. This has allowed developers to integrate the development automation they already created with deployment automation for infrastructure.

The rise of both containers and “server-less” application development models have made automation required. Managing a container that might only run for less than 30 seconds before it’s deleted simply can’t be managed with more traditional manual processes.

Blockchain

After several years of crypto currency hype and over-promise for solving every enterprise problem, some practical and realistic implementations are starting to emerge.

In spite of the reputation for Blockchain supporting interactions between completely untrusting, anonymous parties, the “permissioned Blockchain” model, where the participants are known is showing significant promise for enterprise use cases.

Deriving value from enterprise Blockchain implementations usually necessitates a consortium. We recommend you identify others in your industry or value chain who would also benefit from a shared ledger and work with them on use cases.

Quantum Computing

Undoubtedly the most futuristic and uncertain area of emerging technology. Tremendous energy and time is being spent on Quantum Computing research by companies with the resources, capabilities and interests to achieve breakthroughs. IBM (https://quantumexperience.ng.bluemix.net/qx/experience)  and Google (https://ai.google/research/teams/applied-science/quantum-ai/) both have significant efforts and are  enlisting developers to experiment with algorithms and programming models through their respective portals and cloud based offerings.

In addition to the technical challenges related to making a commercially viable Quantum Computer, use cases that truly take advantage of the unique computational paradigm of Quantum Computing are still being developed. Physical Chemistry, cryptography and certain artificial intelligence use cases seem the most promising, but until more people outside of research laboratories begin to understand the true nature of Quantum Computing, it’s potential will remain limited.

Automation, Blockchain and Quantum Computing are just a few of the technologies that should make 2019 interesting.   I know Evolving Solutions will be watching these technologies for their potential in helping our clients solve their organizational challenges so stay tuned to our blog and social media for more!


Liz Young - Evolving Solutions

Liz is the Marketing Coordinator and is responsible for the digital/social strategy, content creation and campaign execution for Evolving Solutions. She handles all online platforms including the Evolving Solutions website, blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Liz works with the incredibly talented sales, consultant, and architect teams to ensure we offer the best support to our clients. From creating collateral, to planning world-class events, Liz works to ensure our best foot is always forward.

With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Liz is also pursuing a journalism degree at the University of Minnesota.

Like what you read? Follow Liz on LinkedIn.


Michael joined Evolving Solutions in 2014 to develop solutions for our clients across hardware and software, both on and off premise. He brings over 18 years of creating architectures to solve complex business problems including big data, high performance computing, integration, automation and end user computing.

His broad technology, business and industry experience provides valuable perspective to our clients working to implement innovative technologies to support their success.

Like what you read? Follow Michael on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mldowns/

Gartner: Outlook on IT Operations Management

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IT operations leaders face constant change in today’s dynamic business environment. IT leaders must provide faster and more varied IT solutions while also balancing the need to keep infrastructure costs low and stable.  Today let’s look at key IT operations management trends from Gartner.

IT and Business

IT and business leaders are engaging differently and more directly than ever before. No longer is it as simple as building a “tool to fix the problem.” Instead, IT is at the table as a true partner designing IT solutions that innovate and drive business value.   IT teams today are also learning to handle and integrate business-driven IT spending. This has been a challenge, but IT leaders are working hard to build relationships with business stakeholders and update processes to stay central to technology conversations and integration. Finally, Gartner also sees modern IT becoming  a “broker of services” especially in the data center.  IT teams may see their delivery model more “cloud like” where services are delivered more on-demand fulfilling a specific need at that time.

Agility

Becoming more agile is also an IT challenge.  IT operations leaders must be able to respond to business needs while still maintaining stable IT infrastructure.  Gartner’s findings see a shift in the traditional IT operations model. Successful IT teams of the future will allocate resources for analytics and innovation that allow their current IT solutions to improve and evolve as needs change.

Managing Costs

Gartner also predicts that IT operations leaders will move to optimize costs not just manage costs. Gartner defines cost optimization as a continuous exploration of technology and approaches that add business value.  Optimizing IT costs is about finding better ways to automate and create efficiencies that ultimately free up funds for further innovation.

Share how your team has evolved to better manage today’s demands.

Key Trends Shaping Big Data Analytics

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We continue to see more and more businesses leverage the power of big data analytics to make decisions, grow their customer base and expand into new products and services. Today, let’s look at some of the trends driving this technology. If you are not yet using big data, at the end of this post we also outline how to get started.

Thor Olavsrud of CIO reports the following trends taking shape in the marketplace:

  • AI will continue to shape processing. Mr. Olavsrud points out that AI or Artificial Intelligence is the umbrella word for machine learning, machine intelligence and cognitive computing and is proving to be a good choice to provide better scale and processing efficiencies for high volume repetitive tasks
  • Silos of data will be replaced by clouds of data
  • Data governance will continue to be a top discussion point for companies as their data stores grow
  • IT will focus more on developing business-driven big data applications to ensure that big data analytics are being applied to real situations in real-time from back office processing to front office operations
  • Analytics decisions will continue to move from post-event and real-time to preemptive decisions based on analytics. More embedded analytics in applications and systems will help decision makers drive better business outcomes
  • “Data agility” will provide a clear competitive advantage. Big data analytics tools will continue to evolve to provide users the ability to understand data in context to take a business action
  • Hybrid data center architectures will continue to advance

How to get started with big data?

Big data analytics can bring more decision making power to your company to drive better outcomes, but your data center must be prepared to take advantage. Start with a review of your data center architecture. Evolving Solutions can help you take this initial step and partner with you to review your workloads, data needs and capabilities.

What can you do to protect your data?

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Data security is important not just for large enterprises but also for small and medium-sized businesses. Data can be the life blood of an organization and is critical to operations. It is important for businesses large and small to create a data security solution.

A recent Network World article highlighted these steps to take:

  • Start with your network. Don’t leave data security to systems run on employee devices. Create a front line defense and secure your network
  • Manage passwords. How are employees choosing passwords to enter your network and access data? Is it the same password used across countless personal accounts? Password management is another font line defense to protect your data
  • Encryption. From computer hard drives to emails to attachments, encryption is an often overlooked form of data security
  • Lock your devices. What is your company policy on using PINs and passwords not just for laptops and computers but also for mobile phones and tablets. For devices that can access your network, there should be a policy of using passwords and PINs required. You should even review your physical in-office devices to ensure they are locked in place to make theft more difficult
  • Make sure you can remote wipe. Make sure you have processes and systems in place to remove applications and data from devices that are lost or stolen
  • Backs up are important to data security. Not only is backing up your data important to operations, but in the event of a security breach, a backup can allow you to restore your data more quickly and reduce downtime
  • Monitor and review. Also often overlooked is the importance of monitoring and reviewing your network. Who has access and what is usual activity and what is not. There are a number of networking solutions that can give you the visibility you need to monitor

Finally, employee awareness and training is also critical for data security success. Employees should know the steps to take to properly access the network, policies for data use, understand common threats and know how to report suspicious activity. In today’s world data security is not just the function of the IT solution; instead, employees at all levels need to play an active role in keeping company data secure.

CIOs Share Network Improvement Tips

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Improving your networking solution can enhance performance and make data and applications more secure. A recent Forbes article gathered the following network improvement tips from leading CIOs.

  • Look to software not just hardware. CIOs are finding that hardware only improves bandwidth so far and are now leveraging software-defined network (SDN) solutions and network functions virtualization (NFV) to simplify administration and improve visibility.
  • Conquer latency. Latency is always an IT concern. Leading CIOs are moving to several new methods to combat such as, using file transfer acceleration technologies vs. TCP/IP protocol, implementing network monitoring tools and by breaking down large packets.
  • Understand application network usage. Many companies do not know how much capacity applications eat up. Mapping the impact of application use with other network factors helps IT gain a more complete picture of performance.
  • Prepare your network for the cloud. Cloud can change not only network management but also architecture. As cloud continues to enter our everyday operations, your network needs to be able to handle future public or private traffic and X-as-a-Service solutions.

Network performance is one piece of the puzzle. Network security is the other piece. A secure networking solution is fundamental to overall IT operations health. Here are several tips to consider for improving network security:

  • Micro-segmentation sets limitations and “zones of trust” to manage how far a group or individual can move within your network and access data
  • Many companies do not have a log or inventory of what devices access the network and when and where. Creating an inventory of network-connected devices can be key to improving visibility
  • Does your company utilize IoT technology? IoT devices are new entry and access points to your network and it is essential to think through access and security just as you would any other device or user

In today’s world, network performance is essential to keeping business users and customers happy and network security is crucial to keeping company data safe. Take the time to assess your networking solution and determine what improvements it may need.

How Artificial Intelligence is Boosting Productivity

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“Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly moving from nice-to-have into must-have territory for organizations. In fact, nearly six in ten AI early adopters think it will be a necessary element to remain competitive within the next few years. Two-thirds say AI is very important to their organization’s strategy and success”, reports Susan Hupfer for IBM. In fact, 62% of early adopters are reporting that their AI initiatives are exceeding their expectations.

What can AI systems do? AI technologies augment human intelligence to help improve decision making by crunching large amounts of data quickly and being able to generate predictions, relations and recommendations.  This helps managers make more informed decisions faster. Here are some examples of how AI is helping companies boost their productivity:

  • Search. For many companies offering an intelligent search option for employees and customers across fragmented systems and data sources is difficult.  AI search platforms have enabled companies to improve search offerings for both structured and unstructured data
  • Customer care. AI systems are working in a number of ways for customer care departments. In some case, AI evaluates natural language questions submitted via text, web chats or instant messaging platforms. In other cases, AI  allows customer care employees to find faster the right answers to customer questions
  • Workflows. Some companies are also using AI systems to compile “organizational wisdom” to cut down on the bottlenecks that can happen when the same subject matter experts are repeatedly sought out for information
  • Operations.  Equipment and operational based businesses are using the predictive powers of AI systems to identify potential risks for downtime and to better plan for equipment maintenance. These businesses can also use these predictive elements to better manage inventory and supply chains to save money

According to IBM, half of early adopters are already reporting workplace productivity and efficiency.  Think about how AI technology could combine with your business  strengths to improve operations, employee performance and ultimately customer satisfaction.

Data Center Infrastructure Trends in 2017

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Your data center infrastructure keeps your business operating day-in and day-out.  Our data centers need to be fast, flexible and efficient.  Security is also a top concern for IT managers.  Facility Executive highlights several infrastructure trends for 2017 that help IT meet these growing demands.

Micro data centers – Data center resources are being pushed closer to users and to processes to provide faster processing and delivery and to better analyze data collected by sensors and devices in real-time.  Micro data center use is growing and will continue to grow in 2017. IT teams are looking for solutions that support fast deployment, standardization and remote management to better handle a more distributed IT landscape.

Data center cooling – Important to data center infrastructure management is the cooling process. Thermal management strategies continue to change and new technologies provide more sustainable solutions.   Expect to see more use of evaporative and adiabatic cooling techniques that use water more efficiently to cool, and in some locations where water supplies are limited, companies will turn to waterless cooling systems.

Data center security – Security continues to be top of mind in 2017.  As more devices become connected, the data center is exposed to more security threats.  Managers are investing in tools and processes that help identify network weaknesses, increase visibility and provide early warning notifications to create more secure environments.

DCIM as a key discipline – In 2017, Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) principles will continue to prove their value as data centers become more complex. DCIM will grow in importance as more IT teams tackle automation and manage hybrid operating environments.

Data center development – Data center design and deployment become more integrated in 2017. Markets change fast and the ability to quickly deploy a new data center and scale are important to staying competitive.  Combining design and development is helping to increase speed-to-market.

2017 will be the year of ensuring our data center infrastructure is up to the task of tackling today’s business and customer needs.