February 12 – 15 was the week for Think 2019, according to some analysis the most important tech event of the year. IBM assembled together all major individual exhibitions and this was the second edition of Think, now the main annual IBM conference. This time the event took place in San Francisco. I attended the event as one of the speakers on the subject of Watson Machine Learning and Watson Studio, and in my session I also had as guest Anyline, AI company from Austria.
The conference was successful and it was huge. Not only based on the number of participants (around 30’000), or sessions (more than 3’000), but also on the quality of discussions and topics. IBM events are not so much about announcements, but I will list and describe the most important ones in this post, along with highlights of the most recent and interesting technologies.
But the most important were the speeches and discussions around the IBM strategy and intentions. CEO Ginni Rometti opened the conference with statements that this new Chapter Two (which starts now) in the digital transformation is all about scaling of digital and AI, and moving mission critical workloads of large organizations to the cloud. She said that the future is multicloud, that many workloads will never move to public cloud and that in less regulated industries the ratio (public/ private cloud) will be 60:40, and in more regulated 40:60. What I have seen later, made me confident that IBM is well prepared for this Chapter Two.
AI and Data
Let me start with what was the dominant subject of Think 2019: AI and Data. The breaking news from the conference was Watson Anywhere announcement. Watson AI platform is going to be available on AWS, Azure, Google clouds and on-premise. So, those users who already have their applications and data with these cloud providers will be able to benefit from the full portfolio of Watson tools. I remember several months ago the initiative “Bring AI to the Data” and this is just a logical extension of that approach. I think this is excellent news for our customers and for IBM.
Next, four flagship AI products received very high visibility during the conference:
- Watson Assistant
- Watson Studio
- ICP4Data, and
- Watson OpenScale
Watson Assistant is already very well-known tool , used by a large number of companies to improve their customer experience through modern and sophisticated conversation interface, together with other NLP and speech-related services. There are some new features that were already announced several months ago. What was showcased during Think 2019 are numerous examples of how different organizations from various industries implement and benefit from this tool. We have heard also that VMWare deployed Watson Assistant, together with NLC and NLU, to help their support professionals, and improve satisfaction of their hundreds of thousands of customers.
Watson Studio is integrated development platform for Data Scientists and ML developers that has received a lot of attention and visibility during the last 12 months. I remember of a recent Gartner report featuring Watson Studio as one of the most modern data science platforms. New version includes very nice visualizations tools based on Cognos, and features like NeuNets for neural network synthesis and AutoAI for automatic ML feature generation, algorithm selection, and view of the progress tree through hyperparameter optimization. There is also integration with Watson OpenScale,
Watson Studio is now available on Cloud, Local (on-prem) and in Desktop version (on PC)
ICP4Data platform is equivalent to Watson Studio, but it is installed on premise (you need a 16 core server). It has even more capabilities for data transformation, including for example data virtualization, so for some use cases, you don’t need to move the data to ICP4Data. The data can stay where it is, on remote systems. You get better performance this way for example if you will select only small portion of data for your analytics algorithms than if you move it over. There was a lot of interest in ICP4Data during the conference. This couple of tools : Watson Studio on Cloud and ICP4Data on-premise are actually the cornerstone of IBM AI and Data strategy. They allow the data to be processed where it is, and AI models to be trained in the proximity of data, and everything to be managed and deployed in a consistent manner.
Watson OpenScale is a new tool, just several months old. It has been created to address the need for trust and explainability of AI, especially of those models based on deep neural networks where machines learn themselves and it is very difficult to identify the logic of actually very accurate predictions. Bias in AI can come from various sources, either from the data itself, or from flawed models, or from the new data as it is coming during the production phase. OpenScale will monitor these models for bias while they are in production. When you start using it, you define the protected classes (gender, race, age etc). OpenScale will then perform what is called perturbation testing: it will withhold some data, and test to see if the model will show any abnormal predictions (gender predictions for example should always be 50-50%). If their are any deviations in this result, the model will alert for potential bias. OpenScale can identify bias even if some other features (like for example film preferences) can cause the model to generate gender bias. Very powerful tool.
The bottom line is that many organizations will create their own ML models, or download open-source models from internet to reuse them, and will eventually end up with many different non standard models. Management of these models then becomes very difficult, and that is where Watson OpenScale comes into play.
IBM AI portfolio is much deeper of course (don’t forget Discovery, Visual Recognition, Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech and numerous other vertical applications for health, compliance etc , but I selected these four tools based on their transformation potential in the context of new IBM’s strategy for Chapter Two.
There were also some other very interesting news and demonstrations:
AI Fairness 360 : This is another bias detection mechanism that can be embedded into your own ML algorithms. It includes 30 different bias metrics. You can check here for more information on how it works and how to implement it:
Adversarial Robustness Toolkit : This is excellent tool for the security hardening of your ML models. It applies different attacks and helps you to improve your model. You can check here on how it works and download the libraries:
This was a great show. IBM has showcased AI solution that can debate with humans on various topics and make arguments to persuade in a discussion. The show was actually a competition between Project Debater and a human, Harish Natarajan, the world champion in political and social debates. The debate was organized around a topic: “Should preschools be subsidized by government ?”. Project Debater argued for and Harish against. The audience votes for or against this issue before the debate and voted again after the debate, and the winner was one who managed to persuade more people to change their mind to his/ her side.
Project Debater lost. But capabilities that this machine demonstrated were amazing. There were three rounds in which each opponent was able to bring his/her points and refute the points of the other side. Project Debater started the first. All sentences were completely correct and relevant for the topic, the structure of the speech was natural and effective, the argument was exposed in a very rational, comprehensive and structured way. And not only that. After exposing why, Project Debator started bringing dozens of relevant scientific studies, statistics, research reports, hard data about this subject. Multitude of data to support the decision. It was simply amazing. And simply impossible for a human to argue with such a machine which knows everything that can be known on this subject.
The second and third rounds were less successful for Project Debater. Harish didn’t know so many statistical and scientific data about this topic, but his way of arguing was, well, like we humans do: using many contrasting parts of the speech, finding holes and exceptional cases. He began the speech with “Yes, I agree with one point, but I disagree about the others” and used similar rhetorical figures. Project Debater was not able to follow these subtle nuances in the human speech where people expand the subject, then change the subject, and make it looks like your arguments suddenly become irrelevant.
I don’t know what algorithms are behind Project Debater, but it looks like there is a lack of a sophisticated attention mechanism that could identify all these rhetorical constructions and prepare the right arguing strategies. And to argue with humans, you need very sophisticated algorithms. We are getting there, but it takes time.
But even though Project Debater didn’t win, it surprised everyone. It was an amazing achievement. Competitors had 4 minutes to prepare themselves for the next round. In these 4 minutes, Project Debator had to use speech-to-text to create transcription of what Harish said, analyze the text, find the new arguments and prepare the speech, and then synthesize the speech based on that text. And all that had to be delivered without any grammatical or semantic inconsistencies.
What are the potential use cases for this AI debating engine ?
Some analysts say : marketing and sales. It can sell products or services better than humans. Also other professional and consulting domains, as it can help justify the decision based on hard data and scientific results. If you have one hour of time and you like to watch , check here
But maybe we should be careful to whom we give such a tool, as it is really powerful.
As a conclusion about this section, AI was central topic during the Think 2019 conference. But it is becoming the central topic for most of IBM’s customers. This is actually where we want to deliver the most business value. And to do that, IBM needs first to resolve the biggest problem of this Chapter Two – migration of mission critical workloads to Cloud.
Everbody knows that AWS dominates in the cloud industry. Many serious players like HP, VMWare, Cisco and others have already left the market. There are still companies that are growing like Microsoft and Alibaba (with Aliyun about which I wrote already back in 2014). IBM is present in this market since the acquisition of Softlayer in 2014, with IaaS, PaaS and SaaS offerings. As I have already mentioned, Ginni Rometty stated that IBM is orienting itself towards the future where hybrid and multi-cloud will play even bigger role than it was the case until now. So, what are the main takeaways of Think 2019 regarding Cloud ?
First, I would highlight the joint keynote speech with Jum Whitehurst, CEO of RedHat. Several months ago, IBM and Red Hat have agreed the integration where IBM is buying Red Hat for $34B. Red Hat is bringing to IBM its portfolio of open source and cloud enabling tools and projects like RHEL, JBoss, Ansible, OpenShift, and many others. RedHat has very strong culture of open source development (which is not strange to IBM), and a large community of almost 8 million developers. IBM counts to be able to scale Red Hat business to a new level and provide this developer community the access to their deep industry expertise and large client base.
Next, showcasing IBM Cloud Private (ICP), which is based on Kubernetes. ICP aims to bring the cloud discussion on a new level, a layer above traditional VMs and a step in the future towards application microservices. ICP runs on top of ESX, bare metal machines, Power, mainframe, OpenShift and is as of now multicloud ready. ICP is the tool that will allow IBM and Red Hat to perform on-premise decomposition of customers’ legacy applications into containers, so that IBM clients can first manage their applications in cloud-like manner, and then eventually extend them into public cloud. This now becomes possible with the help of Red Hat and their developers communities.
Further, IBM Multicloud Manager. Multicloud Manager will help to manage Kubernetes contaners over multiple cloud providers in a consistent way. When you think about multicloud management, and most organizations even now use several (on average 5 different cloud providers), several issues become very important and difficult to manage:
- data transfer
- consistent management of these disparate environment.
Multicloud Manager helps to bridge these gaps and unify the whole environment. It is bundled with the new version ICP 2.1.3. When you install it on ICP, it becomes your hub cluster. It is enough to install agents (Klusterlets) on other ICP clusters (IBM Cloud, AWS, Azure etc) and they will become your managed clusters. You can then monitor the dashboard for the aggregated information across all your clusters, view the topology of resources within those clusters, or see more details by drilling down into individual clusters.
This tool is different from IBM Cloud Automation Manager, which is used for automation of IaaS (VMs) provisioning with Terraform templates and interface with Chef for configuration management. Multicloud Manager works with Kubernetes.
IBM has showcased another new platform meant for the multicloud managed services: Multicloud Management Platform (MCMP). This platform supersedes and replaces earlier Cloud Brokerage and covers platforms like IBM Cloud, AWS, Azure, Google, zCloud, VMWare etc. Optionally it is used together with IBM Services Platform with Watson (ISPW) for intelligent and automated operations. MCMP can be deployed by the client or provided as managed service. It can be shared or dedicated. It leverages the new extended partnership with ServiceNow (as of November 2018) so ServiceNow is the central component with integrated self-service portal to configure, buy, and deploy services from AWS, Azure, IBM Cloud, VMWare, Google etc.
A host of other tools for the DevOps, Operations, and Governance, for multicloud, IaaS private cloud (VMs) and containers (based on ICP). I have seen well-known tools like APM for the application and infrastructure monitoring and management, but also ScienceLogic for multicloud management, as ScienceLogic has some very nice plugins for all these here-mentioned public cloud providers. Cloud provisioning can be done through many channels like vRealize, IBM Cloud Automation Manager, OpenShift, and Ansible. ICPW gives AIOps capabilities for system optimization recommendations and ML-based anomaly detection.
Managed services for the multicloud that leverage this platform are called IBM Services for Multicloud Management. More information here:
Here below is chart describing the structure of MCMP. So, Multicloud Manager is tool that enables consistent management of multicloud Kubernetes environments, and MCMP is much larger. It includes container clusters, but has also governance, monitoring, compliance, backup, service management and everything else.
Think 2019 showcased and emphasized very strong and visible partnership with VMWare. I mentioned that VMWare uses Watson technology for their customer experience improvement, but the partnership goes very far. IBM Cloud for VMWare Solutions (IC4V) is a new service, which actually means the IBM hosting services and full VMWare stack on top of IBM Cloud bare metal servers.
In this context, VMWare spoke about three step approach how the clients can move to IC4V:
- Use VMWare HCX to easily migrate VMs from customers’ own data center to IBM Cloud. The existing customer’s network is extended to the IBM Cloud
- Once migrated to IBM Cloud, augment the existing applications with other complementary IBM Cloud services
- Install and leverage ICP / Kubernetes. Keep your databases on traditional VMs, and use containers for web servers and other application modules
VMWare showcased NSX-T : This is a new protocol for network micro-segmentation that supports containers, VMs and bare metals. NSX-V is for VMWare only, while NSX-T supports VMWare and other hypervisors and multicloud environments, and it enables unified security policy model. NSX-V and NSX-T are not compatible, as the underlying encapsulation is not the same (NSX-V uses VXLANs, and NSX-T is based on new protocol Geneve). You can check here for more information.
Veeam : Popular third-party solution for VMWare backup and restore. Veeam is IBM’s partner and it was announced during the conference that the new version of Veeam will have better integration with IBM Cloud Object Storage (ICOS), sot that unused backups can be offloaded to cheaper ICOS. This new enhanced version of Veeam also supports backups of SAP HANA and integrates nicely with Oracle RMAN.
Cloud Security was a big topic at Think 2019. Here are some new products:
IBM Cloud Key Protect: It helps provision and manage encryption keys for IBM cloud services and your cloud applications. The keys are secured by hardware security modules (HSM) based on FIPS 140-2 Level 2 encryption. There is no way the keys can be stolen. Even if the IBM cloud system admins try to intercept them or access them, the system stops any access to the keys or the data. This is suitable for Bring-Your-Own-Key (BYOK). Key Protect integrates also with IC4V for vSAN and vSphere encryption
IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Crypto Services: This is your own dedicated HSM encryption management solution for Keep-Your-Own-Key (KYOK) use cases. It is single-tenant
IBM Cloud Data Shield: This is solution for application developers, which allows to create secure enclaves where sensitive data can be visible only to the application and not to the underlying OS. Enclave Manager is also available as management console with reporting functionalities.
Overall, Hybrid Cloud and Multicloud were the key topics of discussion during Think 2019. IBM’s strategy that involves Red Hat in a very powerful way is all around hybrid cloud. But another key component enabling this strategy is the infrastructure.
This part was very rich with demonstrations
IBM showed new and improved Power S922 server. In the standard edition, it works in similar ways like previous Power machines. But as of now, it will also be available in IBM Cloud, not only on-premise. General availability is as of now in the US , and starting from Q3 also in Europe. The big news is that the customers who use Power on-premise in their own data centers, can also benefit from new consumption-based subscription model, similar like being in the public cloud. This is very interesting for companies that prefer a lower upfront payment and shorter time commitment. The prerequisite is Power S922 model with minimum 12 months commitment.
Power S922 is much more powerful when used with GPUs. It is actually the best machine in the market for deep learning workloads. It features NVLink between the CPUs and GPUs with 100GB/s bandwith for 6 GPUs and unified memory space for all CPUs and GPUs. Ideal use case is as an accelerator of deep learning algorithms. And together with Power AI (set of libraries for machine learning), Power S922 will be also available in IBM Cloud as Watson Machine Learning Accelerator. Watson ML users will be able to select it as one of the training environments. This is an amazing machine, which is also used as building block for IBM Summit , the fastest supercomputer in the world
IBM Summit has been installed in Oak Ridge National Lab, and is the only machine in the world that can reach 1 Exaflop per second. It is consisted of 256 racks full of Power S922 with 200’000 cores and 27’000 GPUs. It is currently used for medicine, astronomy and climate change related research. It is a master piece of system design. You can see here how one rack looks like.
Huge interest around the booth with quantum computer and for quantum presentations. Visitors could see super-conducting quantum system with the real chip and wiring for microwave controls. No new announcements for Think 2019, the new machine with 50 qubits is still cooking, nothing is known about its performance, the architecture or general availability. There was a number of noteworthy sessions around quantum computing and its impact on the future IT and various potential use cases.
But we’ve learned that IBM Research is very busy with working on new quantum-safe lattice-based encryption algorithms. It will not rely on the product of two numbers (like RSA), but on proximity function in n-dimensional space. First offering is expected for zSystems, followed by HW appliances. Here below is how it looked like. While waiting for new 50 qubits machine, practice on the smaller one : https://quantumexperience.ng.bluemix.net/qx . You can also play a quantum video game on your smartphone : https://helloquantum.mybluemix.net/ . Quantum is fun, and you will learn a lot about quantum physics (even more than you ever planned 😉
Mainframe is continuously being updated and prepared for the hybrid cloud. IBM showcased several new features :
- zDevOps with UrbanCode Deploy for z Systems
- Containers for z System through ICP for LinuxONE
- z/OS Cloud Broker for ICP, which exposes and integrates z/OS based services into ICP for modern, container-based application development.
Big idea is actually that external, open-source developers’ communities will have better and easier access to deep IBM resources when modernizing these mission critical applications. Don’t forget that 90% of big banking transactional systems run on IBM mainframes.
No big news here. IBM showcased some of the existing technologies like FlashSystem 9100, Storewize V7000, and IBM Spectrum Scale which is used in IBM Summit supercomputer. There is a new and interesting product Spectrum Discoverer that creates metadata of the existing data, and emphasis on hwo IBM performs HW-based storage encryption of the files that need to be stored off-chain for Blockchain applications.
A lot of talk and some interesting announcements :
- Db2 AI database. This is very powerful database for ML. It includes data virtualization so that no ETL is needed, open-source drivers for Python, Jupyter Notebooks, Node-Red, and it comes now with self-tuning and ML-based SQL optimizer. The objective is to accelerate AI development.
- Support for multi-cloud. Db2 Datawarehouse is also available on AWS
- This is part of larger portfolio named IBM Hybrid Data Management Platform, which includes Db2 Database, Db2 Datawarehouse, and can be consumed as service either on Cloud or on-prem
All in all, the infrastructure, whether standard, high-end, or extreme gives IBM absolute advantage when it is about private portion of the hybrid cloud, in terms of performance, reliability, scalability and flexibility.
Here is another transformative and disruptive technology where IBM is very much invested with a range of projects. Despite the significant decline of cryptocurrency market, it is expected that by 2030 blockchain technologies will create $3.1T of business value.
IBM announced availability of IBM Blockchain Platform 2.0 Beta. It is based on Kubernetes architecture, available also on-prem installation on top of ICP. It is also available on AWS platform. Composer is no longer there and smart contracts are developed with Visual Studio Code with SDK for Node.js, Java and Go. For more information, you can check here.
IBM has also announced Blockchain Health Utility Network. Several companies in the health industry have already joined this network, and the idea is to enable organizations to build, share and deploy blockchain-based solutions in healthcare. Two groups of use cases are planned : sharing health-related data and patients records, where the patients will be able to control with whom and how they will share their personal data. Another is related to payments and reimbursements based on smart contracts and real-time execution.
IBM Food Trust was highlighted in one of the presentations. It is a network of companies like Walmart, Carrefour and 50+ their suppliers, based on permissioned ledger. The idea is to improve trust and transparency in the food supply chain, and reduce inefficiencies created from them.
There was an interesting application that combines AI and Blockchain: Crypto Anchor Verifier that uses visual recognition to identify authenticity of various products (already used for diamonds for example) and can write the authenticated records in blockchain. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2018/05/ai-authentication-verifier/
First cryptocurrency has been created on Hyperledger mainnet. It is Metacoin, actually a utility coin. No mining, no transaction fees, and hyperledger nodes are installed on LinuxONE to ensure security and reliability. A nice combination of Blockchain and Mainframe technologies.
IBM Blockchain World Wire attracted a lot of attention. Jesse Lund answered to a lot of questions, but no new announcements he said, watch out on March 19 at Money 20/20 Asia in Singapore where there will be a special product announcement. IBM Blockchain World Wire is a new system for cross-border payments, where payment messaging and instructions for settlements can happen in real time. It is not Hyperledger-based, but uses Stellar platform (https://www.stellar.org/). Lumens (XLM) tokens are used to transfer the value from one currency to another during the money transfer. Stellar is public permissioned network (Hyperledger is private), which was forked from Ripple and is very fast , supports thousands TPS. There are no plans to convert Lumens into security tokens.
It is interesting to see that IBM makes a step aside from Hyperledger and invests in a different platform, but it makes sense as we remember that IBM mainframes run 60% of the world transactional systems. These mainframes can easily be connected to this new international payment system, if it starts gaining traction. And this should happen, as SWIFT is expensive, slow and according to some specialists creates a lot of errors (up to 10% of transactions). Another point is that Hyperledger-based networks can also be connected to World Wire, as these are different but complementary technologies and use cases. Check here for more information: https://www.ibm.com/blockchain/solutions/world-wire
Blockchain is a promising technology that will transform our lives in the future. It brings transparency, trust and associated efficiencies. But to reap the full benefits of it, new kind of applications needs to be built and the existing systems have to be adapted to be able to interface with Blockchain.
DevOps, Microservices and Applications
There was quite a lot of sessions around these topics, which was expected, as the application development is actually the main battlefield. I mentioned millions of developers currently participating in Red Hat projects, but in addition to this, there is also quite a lot of developers working for IBM’s clients on the maintenance and other app improvement projects. Ideally, they should join forces and create new AI and data powered applications that will move complete industries and the whole society to the new level. This is the big idea and it was reflected in the lineup of the speakers and technologies presented.
First, featuring UrbanCode. UrbanCode Deploy is the tool used for the deployment of microservices to private cloud, public cloud, multicloud etc. There is now also UrbanCode Deploy for zSystems, enabling zDevOps. Read here for more details. It is tightly integrated with Kubernetes, has more than 200 plugins, many application templates and support for Terraform.
IBM UrbanCode Velocity is a new component. It is enabler of DevOps analytics, where you can monitor the deployment frequency and compare it with the baselines. It allows pipeline aggregation and orchestration of complex application releases, automation (through tempaltes and calendars), so one can schedule daily and weekly application releases, and can also automatically create and delete the environments when necessary.
Istio Service Mesh : This is joint and open-sourced project with Google. It helps manage, interconnect and secure microservices. Service Mesh is a network of your microservices. When you have a lot of microservices, it becomes difficult to manage how they talk to each other. This is actually where Istio comes into play. Istio is built on top of ICP and IBM announced that Istio is now available oas managed service on IBM Cloud Kubernetes service. Main features of Istio are load balancing for microservices, fine-grain control, visualizations of the microservices communications. It works through three components:
- Pilot (controller),
- Citadel (for the encryption of the communications between microservices), which is very useful when you have service mesh over internet, in case of multiple Kubernetes clusters
- Mixer (providing telemetry and logging)
For more information, check here
This is a large subject and IBM talked a lot of it from different angles.
IBM Cloud App Management (ICAM) : ICAM is solution for application management of microservice-based aplications. If we say that UrbanCode Deploy is rather for the Dev, ICAM is actually for the Ops part of the DevOps team. It provides end to end monitoring of applications, underlying middleware and infrastructure. With it, you can also monitor Kubernetes-managed resources. There were no new announcements, but one very good presentation on ICAM Adoption and Deployment Strategies.
ICAM has several levels : App Management Base manages traditional VMS, while App Management Advanced is adapted for Kubernetes environments on ICP and OpenShift. It requires ICP for the installation, and during the setup, one can also enable Istio Service Mesh, which becomes very important if we want to tightly control the communications between microservices or we have multicloud environment.
ICAM can show the topology of an application and its components, and you go back in time to identify eventual changes of the topology. This facilitates the discovery of changes that might have led to the performance or availability problems of the applacation. To correct the problem, one can define and use runbooks (manual or completely automated)
Next, announcement of a new product: IBM Cloud Application Platform (ICAP)
ICAP is targeted at 6000+ WAS clients looking to modernize their applications. It helps the smooth transition from the WebSphere Application Server to the next generation IBM Cloud Private (ICP) cloud application platform. It includes ICP, WAS, Transformation Advisor and IBM Cloud Garage services to help accelerate the modernization of the applications.
Trasanformation Advisor is deployed on ICP, It introspects existing WebSphere deployments (it creates application inventory and assesses modernization effort, classifying it as simple, moderate or complex) and provides recommendations, guidance and artifacts for deployment in Liberty containers and Kubernetes clouds
There is another product that was featured in one of the sessions: Microclimate. It is a beautiful tool aimed at developers for the rapid onboarding and creation of apps based on microservices. It includes its own IDE, but one can bring his/her own (VS Code, Eclipse, Atom etc). Here is the link: https://microclimate-dev2ops.github.io/
Overall, I’ve heard several approaches from different parties how applications can be migrated:
- Example of a large UK bank:
- Migrate the VMs to cloud
- Convert into cloud-native
- Mainframe applications:
- Install ICP
- On-premise decomposition of legacy applications into containers
- Modernize in cloud-like manner
- Extend them into public cloud
- Another approach:
- Use Transformation Advisor
- Containerize them with Microclimate
- Deploy the containers with UrbanCode Deploy
- Monitor the deployments with UrbanCode Velocity
One of the key sessions was devoted to application developers and open source. CEO Ginni Rometty lead the panel discussion with lead developers from several organizations. Developers and open source play a key role in the new Chapter Two phase of the scaling of digital and AI. As Bob Lord, Senior Vice President of IBM said: “Growth and innovation today starts with developers and data scientists”. IBM wants to help containerize mission-critical workloads, and bring them to the ML, and post-ML world where reasoning and cognition will play even larger role. That is why developers engagement is so important. This engagement requires a lot of ground level work where Red Hat was very successful at.
We’ve heard from the panelists that the developers want two things: to be on the right wave and monetization of their work. We’ll see how the things will develop in this new triangle between IBM and its clients with legacy applications, Red Hat with open source and developer’s communities, and the external market where AI is expected to generate enormous value.
Not less important, but simply I was not able to follow everything. I’ve hear about interesting IOT use cases at KONE elevator company and L’Oreal, and synergies with machine learning algorithms to streamline the manufacturing and operations, Security with QRadar products, Networking around Cisco and VMWare NSX-T
I have listed here below what words were the most used at Think 2019, This is my personal perception, maybe some other participants will disagree with it.
- AI (including Watson and Data)
- Microservices (including DevOps)
A lot of exhibitors, and companies that work together with IBM.
The most prominent was of course Red Hat. No new information about pending merger, Red Hat executives were talking about hybrid cloud, Linux, OpenShift, Kubernetes, and other technical topics.
VMWare was talking about hybrid cloud as definitely the way how the compnting will work in the future, due to laws of physics (latency), laws of economics (where it is cheaper) and laws of countries (where you need to keep your data). I mentioned about IC4V and other interesting technologies for the hybrid cloud.
ServiceNow had an interesting presentation on how to deal with complexity of IT Management tasks. Most of organizations have multiple tools for infra and app management. Why not have something like Tools-as-a-Service , a cloud with these tools where the onboarding of new systems will be simplified. Based of course on ServiceNow. Interesting idea, hopefully this will translate into more concrete solutions.
ScienceLogic has a very important role in the world of multicloud, and partner with IBM for the monitoring and event management solutions. They have created toolset for AIOps based on data lake, and they support containers.
Cisco is specialist for multicloud. There was a presentation on security where IBM QRadar imports threat related data from Cisco devices
Chinese company Inspur (large technology provider, I wrote about them back in 2014) presented servers based on OpenPower architecture, jointly developed with IBM.
I didn’t see Lenovo, which is strange for me. I don’t know why they were not more visible.
Business Partner Program
This was an important topic. IBM has deployed a new platform for the business partners based on Watson to match the partners with clients, and other partners, and with IBM offerings. This should streamline go-to-market approach.
We’ve heard that IBM needs industry-specific, and domain-specific software providers to run their applications on ICP4Data and collaborate with IBM.
Support Organization and Education
It was interesting to speak with people involved in these teams and learn about how IBM wants to help clients modernize and adapt to this new, cloud and AI-driven world
IBM Cloud Garage : this geographically distributed team organizes design thinking workshops, architecture workshops, solution build-ups and helps the clients from discovery, design, to development and deployment. These guys and girls accompany the businesses throughout the whole cloud journey. They use IBM Cloud Garage Method – agile approach to build applications and solutions with cloud in mind.
There are IBM Cloud Garages in multiple locations: San Francisco, New York, Toronto, Melbourne, London, Madrid, Nice, Copenhagen, Münich, Sao Paolo, Singapore and Tokyo. Interesting concept also of pop-up garage where the team can come to physically closer or customer location for some limited time.
IBM Garage : it has larger scope. It is based on collaboration between different teams within IBM and can include AI, Quantum, Blockchain and other solution lines. But the underlying method is the same.
IBM Studio exists also in many locations (one of them is Zürich in Switzerland). The only difference is that it normally doesn’t cover the development phase of the digital transformation.
IBM announced IBM AI Certification and Learning program. This education program focuses on training and certifying professionals of our customers, not only in technical expertise, but how to evaluate business potential of an idea, design a solution based on microservices and AI, and implemented it using open-source and other IBM frameworks.
I spoke also with people from IBM Global University Program, partnership between IBM and some well-known universities. The idea is to alleviate the problem of shortage of skilled professionals through blended on-line and classroom programs in different domains like data and AI, Blockchain and others. Check here for more information.
Certification was also organized during the conference. Pearson Vue gave a discount to those who wanted to test their knowledge in one of IBM technologies. I prepared and passed the exam Watson Certified Application Developer. I’ve seen quite a lot of people in the room concentrated in front of computer screens. Please check this page to prepare for your own exam: https://www.ibm.com/certify/
Few deals and investments worth mentioning:
- 5-year contract with Santander worth $700M for the busienss and digital transformation of this Spanish bank towards hybrid cloud, AI for customer experience, big data for productivity and security,
- Deal with ICBC Argentina worth $63M to transform customer services using AI and Cloud. This is Argentinian subsidiary of the biggest bank in the world, Chinese ICBC
- I would highlight here also an announcement from the week before Think, the investment of $2B in a new AI research lab in New York for the computer-chip R&D
Tech event of the year, Think 2019. I was able to meet very interesting people, learn a lot , share my knowledge, get certified, and above all, get inspired. I saw good organization and good atmosphere (despite the rain). Now I understand better where this world of technology is heading, and where IBM and our customers are going. There are quite a lot of challenges on that road, and people are those who will resolve them. And people who are inspired and who Think are a very powerful force.
Think (about) 2019 !
Sasha Lazarevic, Switzerland