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InterConnect 2016: Accelerating Digital Business

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In today’s open general session, Robert closed with a reminder followed by a challenge:

The cloud isn’t the destination, it’s the platform. How are you going to innovate?Robert Leblanc, IBM Senior VP

Playing off the same theme, the afternoon session 6346A “Accelerating Digital Business” elaborated on this point with presentations from two speakers.

The first speaker, Daryl Puller, VP & Gartner Fellow, presented findings from their cloud survey last year, followed by his view of how industry should address cloud offerings. The second speaker, Bill Karopovich, IBM General Manager of Cloud Platform, continued the same theme, explaining how IBM offerings meet the needs of businesses in today’s digital economy.

The Cloud Becomes Less Cloudy

Leveraging the results of Gartner’s study last year, Daryl asserted that adopting the cloud is no longer a question, it’s an expectation. Among their survey participants, 58% were already using cloud platforms or had deployments in progress. The trend is clear:

The chart above depicts spending on public clouds; while IaaS has the greatest growth, Daryl argued that PaaS and SaaS cloud solutions are where future growth lies. That is, the “I” in IaaS stands for infrastructure and much like infrastructure in the physical world, a relatively small number of providers cover demand.

Though some cloud platform watchers may envision all industries moving to an all-cloud strategy, Puller said cloud-first is a more prudent approach, especially for medium-large companies. Instead, they will combine the best of the old and new:

Daryl advised private (local) cloud as a first step, but it would be a bad first step. Instead, you should mix and match as the requirements dictate. For example, handle “burst mode” scalability by moving the load outside the private cloud. Of course, flexibility doesn’t come cheaply: Multi-cloud management is a clear requirement for your I/T organization.

This was a theme Daryl touched on several times—cloud is not a cost savings play. It’s about enabling innovation, speed, and agility. The first step is inventorying your existing cloud-based assets. Don’t forget to include those resources your I/T group may consider unsanctioned but your business group deems critical (e.g., Gmail, Dropbox). Where are you on the spectrum below?

Be prepared for resistance. For example, security of a public cloud is frequently cited as a barrier to adoption. But cloud providers have invested in security beyond the means of most companies. Focus on your people, not infrastructure. Cloud may not save money, especially if you don’t manage usage. Daryl joked that cloud resources are like teenagers with a mobile phone. If you don’t track usage, they invariably blow the data plan limits. When people can use more, they will. You will need to find the right cost/value balance.

Cloud adoption represents a business tipping point

The means of delivering applications is reaching a tipping point, but it’s hardly unexpected given that top industry players are regularly disrupted and must react if they’re to remain on top. While disruption can be unsettling, Karopovich pointed out that IBM has been around for 104 years and has had to reinvent the business several times.

Bill opened by noting that while Garter’s and IBM’s viewpoints were not identical, they are closely compatible. For example, this slide presented by IBM echoed a similar sentiment that Gartner had presented earlier:

Evaluating the future of cloud deployments in light of current investments in legacy infrastructure is an unavoidable cloudiness. But if you don’t change, you’ll eventually be passed by those who embrace innovation. Hybrid integration offers an alternative where you can selectively decide what resources merit rewriting to exploit innovations and which
can stay as-is:

Bill agreed with Daryl that cloud evolution today isn’t about saving money—it’s dealing with business innovation. Not infrastructure, but application and speed of innovations. Reimagining you business. One of the best examples is IBM’s ready-to-use cognitive and advanced analytic services (Watson, Spark, Hadoop). But going to the cloud isn’t just about services you can leverage; IBM makes this clearer by organizing their cloud portfolio along guiding principles:

This gives you choice with consistency. The ability to run the right workload on the right platform. Simply stated, the goal is to change less while doing more. To help customers along this pathway, IBM introduced the Bluemix Garage Method that encompasses the tools, education, and even cultural changes brought by accelerating your digital business.

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