All posts by Jane McCallion

Why IBM is splitting its business in two


Jane McCallion

14 Oct, 2020

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A giant of the tech industry with a history stretching back many decades and a footprint in most large organisations – and many smaller ones – finds itself struggling against the tide of digital transformation and the shift to cloud.

Despite its best efforts to reform its business over a number of years, IBM has taken the decision to split its company in two in the hope that, as separate entities, they can pursue more successful growth strategies than they could under one umbrella – but they will maintain close ties.

To be fair to IBM, the split it announced yesterday, which will see its managed infrastructure services unit spun off into a separate entity, is less fundamental than that of HP in 2015, which saw the creation of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and… HP. Nevertheless, it is meaningful.

It’s clear from the announcement that the centenarian company does very much want to capitalise on its strengths in AI and cloud, with Red Hat taking centre stage as an example of its excellence in the latter and talk of being “laser-focused on the $1 trillion hybrid cloud opportunity”.

Reading between the lines, however, it’s also clear that IBM has no intention of letting go of its core infrastructure heritage, either. While the paragraph on its Systems business is coated in a sweet layer of hybrid cloud, if you were to bite down you would find there’s a traditional hardware business still sitting at the core.

And why not? One of IBMs strengths is its enterprise hardware products and, when it comes to things like mainframe, it has very few competitors. While it may not be quite as sexy to talk about as more modern technologies, it’s still fundamental to many large organisations in lucrative areas like financial services.

What it won’t be doing any more, however, is managing that hardware. This new company will be fundamentally IBM’s managed infrastructure services business, packing up its belongings and striking out on its own. It makes sense for this business unit to become independent, too – multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are all about flexibility and choice and, while it’s promised the company will maintain “a strong strategic partnership with IBM”, it will be able to work more freely across all cloud vendors.

The split is expected to be complete by the end of next year, which gives the branding teams and consultants 12 months to come up with an inspiring name for the new venture. Infrastructure Business Management Corporation, perhaps?

VMware talks up multi-cloud and Kubernetes at VMworld 2020


Jane McCallion

1 Oct, 2020

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger last year said “multi-cloud is the new model for enterprise IT” while explaining the company’s acquisition of Pivotal just before the kickoff of its annual VMworld conference in California.

Since then, a lot has changed. Like many companies’ big annual conferences, VMworld has gone virtual in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and attendees are watching from the comfort of their own homes rather than the expansive Moscone Center.

But there are many things that haven’t and for VMware that includes its focus on multi-cloud – using services from multiple public cloud vendors – as a key strategic direction for enterprise IT.

“There’s a big shift in mindset among CIOs I talk to when it comes to multi-cloud,” Gelsinger told his audience. “Old view: Multi-cloud is a confusing mix of different services. It’s a mess I need to clean up. Today, they have a different view: Multi-cloud is the strategic platform to move my business forward, multi-cloud allows you to innovate by leveraging the strengths of different cloud services. But how do I make sure my multi-cloud strategy does not turn into a multi-silo story.”

The answer, at least according to VMware, is the company’s very own VMware Cloud product: “We are the unifying layer for today’s multi-cloud world,” Gelsinger said. “The cornerstone of VMware cloud is VMware Cloud Foundation, bringing together market leading compute, storage networking and the management, all in a single integrated stack.”

It’s not just about using multiple clouds and bridging them with VMware cloud, though. Gelsinger also took time to highlight Kubernetes, describing it as “the de facto API for today’s multi-cloud world”.

“Much like Java, two decades ago, Kubernetes is a rare technology that brings everyone together,” said Gelsinger. Indeed, like multicloud, Kubernetes was a highlight of last year’s VMworld with the launch of VMware’s management portfolio, Tanzu.

Touching on the updates announced for Tanzu this week, Gelsinger said “the best way for [VMware] to demonstrate [its] belief in the power of Kubernetes … [is to] re-architect vSphere to put Kubernetes at the core. And that’s exactly what we’ve done”.

“What we called Project Pacific is now fully available; vSphere today is the best platform to run your virtualized apps and the best platform to run your containerized apps,” he continued. “We’re putting enterprise grade Kubernetes directly into the hands of millions of mighty operators, no training required.”

Gelsinger concluded by alluding to the idea of the “new normal” that’s emerging in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and what that means for the IT community.

“If you are a technologist, this is your time. We have the will to drive change, plus the environment for change. And we have the platform we need – the digital foundation – for an unpredictable world.

“I think about all the students around the world, whose lives have been disrupted. We owe it to them to act with empathy and urgency right now. We owe it to them to chart a path forward by unlocking the power of software. Each of us must play our part, by building a better and more resilient future for all.”

HPE continues cloud push with new GreenLake services


Jane McCallion

24 Jun, 2020

HPE’s edge-to-cloud mantra continues to permeate its products, with the company announcing new cloud offerings available through its GreenLake “as a service” platform at its HPE Discover 2020 virtual event.

Machine learning, operations, containers, virtual machines (VMs), storage, compute, data protection, and networking are now all available through the GreenLake Central self-service console

This, the company says, allows users to choose a configuration that suits them, and manage it, scaling up or down, as they need.

With these new GreenLake services, however, the company is offering customers a choice of 17 pre-defined configurations, delivered in three sizes – described by HPE as small, medium and large “t-shirt sizes” – rather than full customisability. This mode of delivery speeds up the order-to-run process to as little as 14 days, the company claims.

“[This is] a new generation of cloud services from GreenLake, bringing a new level of speed and agility to the on-prem cloud services market,” said Keith White, SVP and GM of HPE GreenLake Cloud Services, during a press and analyst briefing.

White said the use of pre-configuration as a way to bring “a whole new level of automation and simplicity” to HPE’s customers.

“I think the easiest way to think about these building blocks is kind of like Lego bricks,” he explained. “With Legos, you can build almost anything with a few standard blocks. 

“These can look and feel like custom offerings, but as we do it through these standard blocks and ‘t-shirt sizes’, this really accelerates time to customer, accelerates time to market for the customer’s solution and more importantly accelerates time to value for the customer.”

The service is then installed and connected by the company’s Pointnext services division, as well as through channel partners.

“Think of it as leveraging our whole HPE portfolio – hardware, software, Pointnext Services and the power of HPE FS. With third parties, we can provide complete secure and integrated services for our customers,” White added

GreenLake cloud services for VMs, compute, storage, data protection, and intelligent edge are available immediately worldwide. GreenLake cloud services for the newly announced HPE Ezmeral software portfolio, consisting of ML Ops and Containers, is currently in beta, with general availability expected for the company’s fiscal fourth quarter of the year, which ends on 31 October.

HPE launches Ezmeral software portfolio – but is it just SBS in disguise?


Jane McCallion

24 Jun, 2020

Not three years since it spun out its Software Business Segment to Micro Focus in an $8.8 billion deal, HPE has launched a new overarching software portfolio called HPE Ezmeral.

The name is inspired by the Spanish word for emerald – esmeralda – giving it a touch of the green-coloured branding that permeates the company now, from its logo to GreenLake “as a service” platform.

Ezmeral is, according to the company, a brand new software portfolio designed to help organisations make the most of their computing with an edge-to-cloud strategy. It includes two products, currently: Ezmeral ML Ops and Ezmeral Container Platform.

Ezmeral Container Platform, as the name suggests, allows organisations to deploy and manage containerised applications, be they cloud-native or cloud non-native, at scale on any infrastructure, be that in the cloud, a colocation facility, on-premises data centre or at the edge.

Ezmeral ML Ops, meanwhile, is focused on machine learning. It uses containerisation to manage the machine learning lifecycle in its entirety across edge, cloud, and on-premises infrastructure, allowing users to standardise workflows and, the company claims, reduce the time taken for AI deployments from months to days.

But is Ezmeral just SBS by another name? When asked by IT Pro, HPE CEO Antonio Neri said this was not the case.

“We made the decision to spin the software business [in 2016] because we felt there was not a cohesive strategy to begin [with]. You know, it was a very good portfolio of assets, in the wrong domains but not architected for the cloud reality [in which] we all live – and AI reality,” Neri said

“So not only did we do the right thing by spinning them and combining with a company which was way more focused on that space, but it also freed us up to really pivot harder to this new way to deploy software. And obviously it’s taken us a little bit of time, but I’m super excited about what we’re doing with HPE Ezmeral, with our Container Platform, with the integration of the acquisitions we’ve done, with the utilisation of AI in the form of HPE Infosight, and also the security aspect.”

It also, he said, allows the company to make the best use of assets from recent acquisitions including MapR and BlueData

Both of the current elements of Container Platform and ML Ops will be available on a consumption-based pricing model via the company’s GreenLake “as a service” platform, and as traditional software, too. It’s open in beta currently and HPE is taking applications to join the beta platform, with general availability expected in Q4 this year.

HPE announces new services from Pointnext to help businesses get back to work


Jane McCallion

23 Jun, 2020

As it gears up for its first virtual Discover conference, HPE has announced five new offerings to help businesses in their efforts to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Delivered through the company’s Pointnext Technology Services division, the “return-to-work as a Service solutions” use HPE Proliant Servers, EdgeLine Converged Edge Systems and Aruba AI-powered network infrastructure, as well as technology from partners like Kognition and Venzo Secure, to enable organisations to safely bring workers back into the office as they reopen.

This includes a fever detection system, touchless entry, social distancing enforcement and tracking, augmented reality for more effective communication with remote workers – of which there will likely be many even once offices reopen – and workplace alerts.

For contactless building entry, the system uses biometrics – facial recognition in particular – multi-factor access control, and identity verification. This will reduce or eliminate the amount that workers are touching shared access points like doors, ensuring a more hygienic workplace, the company said.

The fever detection system, meanwhile, uses thermal cameras, machine learning and video analytics to pick out and alert anyone with a high temperature in the office, and the social distancing pillar uses Bluetooth technology to alert workers if they’re getting too close to each other, track the location of specific employees and facilitate contact tracing.

While the technical element of the AR/VR system is relatively well defined – an AR system provided in partnership with PTC and HPE’s Visual Remote Guidance (VRG) product – the use case is a little fuzzier, although the company says it can provide better learning and collaborative experiences, as well as allowing users to be guided through a complex procedure like replacing a gas valve remotely.

Finally, there’s the workplace alert system. This is already part of the company’s Intelligent Workplace offering, which the company said this initiative builds on, and allows organisations to push notifications to workers using dashboards and apps. This could be particularly useful to notify those in a particular building if someone there had tested positive for COVID-19 and that they should begin isolation, rather than sending a company-wide message incorporating people working at sites that are unaffected, for example.

Saadat Malik, vice president of IoT and Intelligent Edge Services, at HPE, said: “Since the COVID-19 outbreak, our customers have turned to HPE to help them adapt to unique challenges presented by the pandemic to maintain business continuity. 

“We have been there for them throughout these difficult times, on everything from supporting a transition to a remote workforce with our comprehensive virtual desktop interface (VDI) solutions, to now helping them return back to work and to a new normal.

“As businesses are reopening and returning employees onsite, our new robust solutions, featuring a range of HPE technologies and partner capabilities, are helping them make this transition safely while building on a highly differentiated, long term workplace digitization strategy.”

All five services are available worldwide from HPE’s Pointnext professional services business and use Greenlake’s as a service subscription consumption model starting today.

Dell Technologies heads for the edge with PowerScale


Jane McCallion

16 Jun, 2020

Dell Technologies has unveiled Dell EMC PowerScale, a new family of storage appliances designed to deal with the “onslaught of data” being faced by organisations today.

The product range is designed for object storage and is underpinned by the company’s OneFS operating system, which is best known from its Isilon range. 

The family forms part of Dell Technologies’ “edge-to-core” strategy, where it seeks to have hardware that can be deployed across an organisation’s estate, whether that’s at remote locations such as commercial or industrial sites or branch offices, as well as primary the data centre.

As such, PowerScale currently features two appliances, the all-flash f200 and the f600, which is an NVMe appliance.

As well as allowing customers to have high-performance storage appliances available at the edge, this diversity allows Dell Technologies to access a new type of client that it couldn’t with the previous Dell EMC Isilon range, the company claims.

Speaking to IT Pro, Stephen Gilderdale, senior director of EMEA presales, said: “In the past, the way in which Isilon started it simply couldn’t start small enough for some of our small-to-medium customers, so therefore they may have needed to take advantage of the services that Isilon would offer, however the starting point was a little bit too high.

“That’s why we’ve got the introduction of the f200, which really helps that smaller starting point. The f600 we expect the media houses, for example, to be using to create the blockbuster movies that we all hope to be able to get to the cinema and watch one day, and the large Isilon all-flash nodes have been used for that in the past.”

PowerScale also features CloudIQ, which can help organisations connect multiple cloud environments to their on-premise systems, be that in the data centre or at the edge, and DataIQ, which offers intelligent data management.

The launch follows on from another big storage announcement from the company in May, PowerStore.

Indeed, this is normally the time of year when CEO Michael Dell would be making all sorts of product announcements live from a stage in Las Vegas during the company’s annual Dell Technologies World conference.

As with so many other organisations, however, the company has turned this into a virtual conference and rescheduled it for this autumn.

HPE says the future of 5G is enterprise services


Jane McCallion

16 Jun, 2020

HPE has launched a new product to help communications services providers (CSPs) get more value from 5G by offering edge services to enterprises.

Edge Orchestrator is a SaaS-based offering that focuses on situations where low latency is key.

During a press conference, Phil Mottram, vice president and general manager of the HPE’s Communications and Media Solutions business, told reporters that the company believes “the value proposition for 5G will all be firmly rooted in the enterprise space”.

“We believe that consumer customers won’t be paying any more for [telcos’] services just to get a faster download of a video – there’s only so fast you can watch a video,” Mottram said. “But all of the revenue opportunities and upside opportunities for  carriers will firmly come in the enterprise new services space.”

This is far from a unique position – indeed, even before 5G standards were set, many future-gazers predicted it would be more useful in Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios in particular where low latency is key, such as in fully-autonomous cars.

While we wait for such futuristic technology to arrive, however, HPE has decided to make use of existing and emerging technology and needs. Edge Orchestrator, the company says, allows telcos to deliver new services in the form of apps at the edge of the network to enterprise customers and in doing so effectively monetise apps.

Specifically, Edge Orchestrator brings together edge compute, edge communications and edge applications and allows carriers to offer them as a single, self-service proposition to enterprise customers and other service providers that might want to deploy them.

“HPE Edge Orchestrator will be the functionality which actually takes all these components, wraps it up together and makes it available to the enterprises,” said Rolf Eberhardt, head of orchestration at HPE.

“We want to make the CSP able to efficiently allow enterprises to deploy their own applications at their own locations and connect them over connectivity services provided by the CSP back to their … data centres and to deploy these applications close to the end customers,” he continued. 

“We believe there are two benefits to this. First of all, the CSPs have the trust of the customers [and] they provide also the connectivity at the location, and second for the enterprise customers, they are able to, on the one hand, deploy quickly and efficiently in the edge space without having to do a major investment on their own and they can being all the functionality together into a one-stop.”

As it stands, Edge Orchestrator, which will be available from 31 July,  is only being sold to telcos and only as a service – there are no plans to sell through the channel or direct to customers. And while it may be 5G-focused on the surface, for now HPE proposes telcos offer these additional services through more established network technologies like 4G, LTE and Wi-Fi, then introducing 5G later as part of its portfolio.

The announcement, which comes just before the start of the company’s virtual HPE Discover 2020 conference, builds on an earlier announcement, made in March, where the company added “5G as a service” to its GreenLake portfolio. 

It also follows an announcement from the company’s networking business, Aruba, that it’s pivoting towards a more edge-focused approach to business.

HPE says the future of 5G is enterprise services


Jane McCallion

16 Jun, 2020

HPE has launched a new product to help communications services providers (CSPs) get more value from 5G by offering edge services to enterprises.

Edge Orchestrator is a SaaS-based offering that focuses on situations where low latency is key.

During a press conference, Phil Mottram, vice president and general manager of the HPE’s Communications and Media Solutions business, told reporters that the company believes “the value proposition for 5G will all be firmly rooted in the enterprise space”.

“We believe that consumer customers won’t be paying any more for [telcos’] services just to get a faster download of a video – there’s only so fast you can watch a video,” Mottram said. “But all of the revenue opportunities and upside opportunities for  carriers will firmly come in the enterprise new services space.”

This is far from a unique position – indeed, even before 5G standards were set, many future-gazers predicted it would be more useful in Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios in particular where low latency is key, such as in fully-autonomous cars.

While we wait for such futuristic technology to arrive, however, HPE has decided to make use of existing and emerging technology and needs. Edge Orchestrator, the company says, allows telcos to deliver new services in the form of apps at the edge of the network to enterprise customers and in doing so effectively monetise apps.

Specifically, Edge Orchestrator brings together edge compute, edge communications and edge applications and allows carriers to offer them as a single, self-service proposition to enterprise customers and other service providers that might want to deploy them.

“HPE Edge Orchestrator will be the functionality which actually takes all these components, wraps it up together and makes it available to the enterprises,” said Rolf Eberhardt, head of orchestration at HPE.

“We want to make the CSP able to efficiently allow enterprises to deploy their own applications at their own locations and connect them over connectivity services provided by the CSP back to their … data centres and to deploy these applications close to the end customers,” he continued. 

“We believe there are two benefits to this. First of all, the CSPs have the trust of the customers [and] they provide also the connectivity at the location, and second for the enterprise customers, they are able to, on the one hand, deploy quickly and efficiently in the edge space without having to do a major investment on their own and they can being all the functionality together into a one-stop.”

As it stands, Edge Orchestrator, which will be available from 31 July,  is only being sold to telcos and only as a service – there are no plans to sell through the channel or direct to customers. And while it may be 5G-focused on the surface, for now HPE proposes telcos offer these additional services through more established network technologies like 4G, LTE and Wi-Fi, then introducing 5G later as part of its portfolio.

The announcement, which comes just before the start of the company’s virtual HPE Discover 2020 conference, builds on an earlier announcement, made in March, where the company added “5G as a service” to its GreenLake portfolio. 

It also follows an announcement from the company’s networking business, Aruba, that it’s pivoting towards a more edge-focused approach to business.

Appian releases apps to help organisations manage coronavirus response


Jane McCallion

13 May, 2020

Appian has unveiled three new apps intended to help organisations better weather the storm created by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The three apps, COVID-19 Response, Paycheck Protection Program and Workforce Safety & Readiness, were all built and released over the course of the fast two months and address different aspects of the challenges businesses are facing right now.

Speaking at the opening day keynote of the company’s now virtual annual conference, CEO Matt Caulkins said COVID-19 Response, which was launched in March, “is about responding to [the disease] and tracking the health of an employer’s workforce”.

“Everything about this application is free – the software is free, the intellectual property is free, the installation, the web hosting, the support and services, everything is completely free,” said Calkins, adding that it quickly became the most popular launch in the history of the company.

“It was taken up really well by our customer base, we had 500 downloads in the first few days, and then soon it was over 1,000,” he said.

Paycheck Protection Program, launched in April, focuses on helping banks process one the US government’s key financial responses to the coronavirus pandemic: small business loans.

“My favourite thing about this application is the way it showcases the power of automation. It uses artificial intelligence to read loan applications and then it uses robotic process automation to upload them to a government portal and it uses people to manage compliance,” said Calkins.

“This is the North Star of automation, it’s the combination of human workers and digital workers in the same workflow. It’s exactly what the automation industry is aiming for.”

Finally, Workforce Safety & Readiness helps organisations prepare for the reopening of their offices as the pandemic starts to subside.

“The purpose of the application is to get your employees back to work safely, carefully, and cautiously and we do that by considering more information than we would have if you just told people to come back if they met CDC (Centres for Disease Control) guidelines,” explained Calkins. 

“Instead, we’re going to take a lot of things into account – how many workers should really be in each facility in your organisation and which workers should they be on day one? And on day 10? And on day 50?” he continued.

“We’re going to take into account a lot of additional factors in the name of safety, such as how many people live in their household and how old are those people? Who do they come to work in the same office with, to be sure that we don’t have them both come in on the same day? Can their job be done at a distance effectively?

“All this information is stored in a HIPAA-certified cloud and it’s exceptionally easy to use. Users log in every morning  on any device to update their health, answer a few questions  and then they’re told whether they should come to work today and what days they should plan to come to work.”

All three apps are available immediately.

Nvidia set to acquire data centre outfit Cumulus Networks


Jane McCallion

5 May, 2020

Tech giant Nvidia is set to gobble up networking software firm Cumulus Networks in a bid to further enhance its data centre credentials.

Cumulus, which was founded in 2010, is an open source-focused firm that specialises in helping organisations optimise their data centre networking stack through its Linux distribution for network switches, as well as various network management tools.

While its bread and butter is software, it does also have its own hardware offering in the shape of the Cumulus Express data centre switch.

The acquisition is part of Nvidia’s continued drive into the enterprise and cloud market. While the company is probably best known for its graphics processing units (GPUs), initiatives like its EGX edge computing platform and its collaboration with King’s College London to develop AI technology that can detect cancer in scan images have seen it become a serious data centre player as well.

Further smoothing the way to this purchase is the fact Cumulus already had a partnership with high-performance networking firm Mellanox, which Nvidia formally acquired last month after announcing the merger in March last year. 

Underlining the importance of this partnership in Nvidia’s decision to make the acquisition, Amit Katz, VP of Ethernet Switch at Mellanox, said: “In March 2016, Mellanox announced a partnership with Cumulus and started shipping combined offerings.

“Today, the ONIE environment Cumulus created is a software foundation for Mellanox’s bare-metal switches. Together, we built DENT, a distributed Linux software framework for retail and other enterprises at the edge of the network. And our Onyx operating system continues to expand, especially in Ethernet Storage Fabrics (ESF).”

No financial details of the deal have been announced, although it’s likely to be significant, given Cumulus has raised $134 million in funding over the past 10 years.