Interview #10: IBM technical news and cooperation
23 August 2021
Source: More on Soundcloud
Hello to all listeners of our channel. Welcome to today's episode, to which I invited gentlemen from IBM, Mr Lestina, Mr Mark and Mr Palinkas. Hello gentlemen.
Could you tell us how IBM cloud differs from other cloud services?
Well, our cloud is built on three strong pillars. The first pillar is openness, we work a lot with open source, about two years ago we bought Red Hat and it became the heart of our architecture. We also don't do any vendor-locking, so once a customer starts using our cloud, he's absolutely free and can leave at any time. We believe that this is the basic principle of any cloud. The second pillar is security. Security is provided at various levels, and many customers search for our cloud especially because of high security. The third pillar is the ability to address the requirements of larger organizations and large customers, such as enterprise-grade solutions. These are some basic principles and Peter can probably add something more.
I would definitely add that the future trends that we have implemented and are implementing in our cloud are also based on these basic principles, on which the IBM cloud is based. Today's time is multi cloud and hybrid, which means that none of the clients currently operates only the cloud of one supplier, as well as many clients use what they have historically invested in, which are their data centres or server rooms. That's why, from a cloud perspective, IBM is trying to replicate this trend and offer solutions that can leverage what the client has invested in.
Of course, we can also provide and operate several cloud technologies at competing providers and clouds. This is a trend that complements the openness and, of course, the open principles that David talked about. There are a number of these, and IBM has not only brought IBM-owned technologies to its cloud, such as hardware or DB2 Informix technologies, but also the open-source solutions we offer, so the client usually has an opportunity to choose. He can choose whether to go the way of open technology or technology that is provider-specific. The third thing I might point out here is the fact that IBM has brought third-party technology to the IBM cloud. So you can find products there that are neither open-source nor from IBM, but are from some reputable providers. In that, we see another spectrum of openness that we can offer our clients.
I believe that clients and partners will be interested in how pricing is made in the IBM cloud, can you explain that more?
Any service that the IBM cloud offers, be it a virtual or physical server, IoT, blockchain, or Middleware technology, each component that we offer in the cloud as a service has a clearly defined pricing model. Typically, we offer a number of services in the cloud available in a limited model for clients to try for free. Then, of course, there are other, already paid modes. The services are then available for different levels of usage from low to enterprise, and specific pricing is set for them.
For example, for a virtual server, it is according to the configuration, for IoT devices according to the number of sensors or the volume of processed data, for databases it is the amount of space that the database allocates or configuration, etc. This price list is available on the Internet, IBM does not hide any prices or services. The client is able to find on the website how much the service costs at any time and what is important to say is that if the client orders the service in the end and does not change its parameters, then the price for this service always remains the same. I usually call it the so-called price discrete model, which means the price is valid and will be valid if I ordered it like this and use the given configuration. If I change it, e.g. I upgrade the server, add storage, then, of course, there will be a so-called jump and the price will either increase if I add storage or decrease if I remove it. So there is a "jump model".
It has a benefit for clients who are looking for financial stability because I pay for the service as much as I ordered it for and I can predict in case of an increase or decrease in the capacity of the service, how much the price will change. That would be a brief description of the model. Then of course it depends on the specific architectures and solutions that we can charge our clients.
It sounds very transparent and I don't think clients have to worry about it at all. What does it look like with IBM cloud coverage around the world?
If you explicitly mean data centres because cloud services are operated from data centres, just like our competitors, we try to allocate key regions, which is America, Europe, Asia. On a European scale, we have data centres not in all of them, but in selected countries of the European Union. For us, as for Czechia and Slovakia, the geographically closest is the data centre in Frankfurt.
Of course, we have data centres in other locations and the client has the opportunity to determine where he will operate the service. This is a typical question of our customers: Do I know where my data is and am I able to influence its storage or where is it replicated to, etc.? It is a big advantage from our point of view that the client determines where his data is and what happens to it, whether it will be replicated, backed up and stored somewhere. This does not happen by itself, but it is always determined by our customers.
One of the modern technologies that we will be introducing from March 2021 allows us to be able to run some cloud services in the data centre of the client himself. So instead of building an IBM data centre in Czechia or Slovakia, we came up with Cloud Satellite technology, which allows you to use the client's data centre or even its hardware that meets the parameters. We are thus able to transfer several cloud services, to put it simply, and operate with them. The client is then sure that, for example, he operates the data or application component in his own data centre, but on IBM cloud technologies.
I have heard about the IBM Partner Ecosystem, can you explain to the audience what the Partner Ecosystem means to IBM?
From IBM's perspective, the general Partner Ecosystem means companies that operate in the IT industry and at the same time have built various solutions for which they use any IT elements, or are looking for some technologies or platforms for solution planning. Companies that use IBM technology solutions or platforms in some way are called IBM Partner Ecosystem.
Here are a few typical cases. Some partners build their applications and use the IBM Hybrid Cloud platform, i.e. IBM software and IBM hardware as a component, which they then integrate into their solutions. That is one possibility. We also have partners who only sell our portfolio, which largely happens mainly in the case of hardware components. As for the formal relationship with IBM, the partners have two ways to formalize this relationship. Either they have the opportunity to obtain authorization for a specific IBM portfolio, so we recognize IBM authorized business partners or, of course, we also have partners who do not have to or do not want to authorize, but they can sell certain products in open distribution without confirmed authorization anyway. In this case, we are talking about IBM registered business partners.
Why is Partner Ecosystem so important to IBM?
That is a very good question. IBM is undergoing a fundamental transformation, which the audience must have read about in the daily press. This transformation has several elements, one element being that IBM is accelerating the speed of the hybrid cloud platform, which is built on Red Hat technologies. It also includes further development in the field of artificial intelligence. As independent analysts say, IBM expects rapid increases in customer needs in this area over the next decade. Without the existence of a strong partner ecosystem, which is of course important to support the transformation, our investments in this direction would remain largely unproductive.
In other words, IBM is investing in the development of the technology platform I mentioned, moreover, take into account the intellectual capital or expertise that the partners in our ecosystem have. Together, we continue to connect platform and intellectual capital to further develop partner competencies, which enables customers to productively leverage applications on our IBM platforms, artificial intelligence applications or any other application that makes sense to our partners and customers.
The importance of partners is also from a slightly different point of view, the partner ecosystem serves as a long-term source of inspiration for us, whether from the point of view of further development of customer needs or the point of view of the necessary development of the ecosystem itself. I will give an example, which is the second element of the transformation that IBM is going through. In recent years, partners have been a strong element that has significantly influenced IBM's decision to change its go-to-market model. This means, firstly, bringing a deeper knowledge of IBM technology to the partner level, as has been the case so far, and secondly, covering customer needs in the field of information technology much more purposefully. This new go-to-market model is another element in the field of IBM transformation, which from my point of view provides new opportunities for our partners in the field of technology and further development.
Summarized in one sentence: An investment is very important and a nice thing for the company to have, but without an efficient and strong, good partner ecosystem, such as we have in Czechia and Slovakia, the investment would not be used effectively. This is in a way underlining why the IBM Partner Ecosystem is important to us.
Maybe some companies that would like to join the partner ecosystem from IBM are listening to us right now. What does IBM offer to support partners' business?
Regardless of whether our partners are building their solutions or considering IBM technologies, or are planning to resale our technologies in some way, we have recognized the following requirements in recent times. One of the first requirements of future business partners who do not know our technologies so much is to test the portfolio in some way. We have various partner packages available, which means that partners have access to a complete IBM software portfolio that they can try out. In addition, partners have access to the IBM Public Cloud platform, receive credits and again can test everything. They also have access to our hardware technologies. Of course, they have access to all of this before they finally decide to invest in this direction.
The second thing we consider very important is that the partners who test the technology need to learn it in some way. We have built a platform for this called Seismic. This platform, combined with IBM instructors, provides a much more effective understanding of the details of the IBM portfolio that are needed for future business partners.
Third, partners sometimes need help orienting in the IBM environment, whether internally or externally. There is a specific representative dedicated to that who covers any partnership requirements in this regard. Of course, our distributors also help us a lot. Then we have various co-marketing funds available for authorized partners, which allow them to build a market presence, or identify business opportunities, etc. So these are in short three, four key factors that we consider important to our business partners.
Do you provide any support for startups?
Yes, we have a support program for startups and potential customers or partners can enroll into this program through the IBM website. Currently, this program is called Startup in IBM. Customers have the opportunity to draw $ 1,000 a month from this package for one year, after which they can decide what to do next. In addition to financial support, they also receive technical support, when our team of specialists takes care of them and helps them build their own solutions on our cloud. We have more of these programs. Access to the cloud catalogue is free, you just need to register and you don't even need to enter your credit card info. There you can see all the offers we offer via the cloud catalogue. As Petr mentioned, some offers are free here, such as Chatbot in some light mode or IoT platform with up to 500 sensors.
As Miroslav mentioned, our partners can draw so-called cloud credits, which we add to their account if the conditions are met. As for the specific project we are working on, we can offer a POC account (proof of concept) to build a project and test that all things on our cloud work as they should.
What are IBM's priorities for Partner Ecosystem in 2021?
Regarding the priorities for 2021, we have the following key priorities. The first is to invest in building those partner competencies that make sense to our partners, customers and us in this area. Together with the partners there are various discussions already ongoing to choose the technological direction that makes sense from the perspective of the Czech and Slovak markets. This is one of the priorities we discuss with every single partner. We have teams of experts ready for our partners, who will help them, for example, to build a hybrid cloud environment. We have three specific cases where we help build hybrid cloud spaces for specific business partners. We can also help partners who will need help identifying new business opportunities for the new competencies they have built. This is the work we want to focus on this year.
To sum it up, it's basically an implementation of a new go-to-market model that I talked about a while ago. We have one long-term goal that we work on a little bit every year, and that is to improve the way we work with partners. Partners who are more familiar with us know that some activities are a little more complicated to coordinate, so our goal is to make working with partners easier.
An example is that we have now greatly simplified and accelerated the process of authorizing new partners, and we have also simplified the acquisition and approval of marketing funds to support our partners' business activities. These are, in short, the priorities we want to work on this year.
And what about the long-term future?
When we look at the development of events in the future, it is obviously more of speculation. In any case, we at IBM think that lot of the companies that will survive the next decade are likely to be different from most companies today.
These so-called next-generation companies are re-evaluating and redesigning their business model, in which we at IBM perceive a few interesting trends. For example, we see a shift in society in building digital platforms or the use of third-party platforms and third-party products among the participants in the platforms. The activities and processes of these companies cause new knowledge to be generated and this knowledge is subsequently used to develop and deploy new processes and applications in these companies. This is where the IT architecture built on an open hybrid cloud platform, which allows clients to perform transactions anytime and anywhere, plays a key role. It was already mentioned in our introductory discussion that this is one of IBM's strategic directions.
Now compare this development with traditional companies that build and operate their own IT units to support the development, production and sale of their own products. A growing number of companies are realizing that their operating model, built on purely their own IT environment, is more harmful rather than beneficial. This is another sign of changes in the behaviour of companies. Another interesting thing that we observe is the rapid increase in the degree of automation and the increase in the use of algorithms that gradually take over the performance of the tasks that people perform today.
Overall, the use of IoT technologies, which can for example serve as a form of automated response to customer needs, is growing. Alternatively, automation to various responses that occur from the perspective of various problem states in the environment of companies, etc. When we move to the field of artificial intelligence, we observe a gradual shift from experimentation at the level of data scientists to the use of applications in the operational activities of companies. The same goes for applications based on blockchain technology. In terms of hardware development, i.e. high computational performances, in IBM we can already talk about the commercial use of IBM quantum computer for processing complex computational models, for example in cryptography or research of new drugs.
We think that these examples indicate a relatively strong potential for new business opportunities for partners in our ecosystem, whether in the near or distant future. At the same time, they point to the need to acquire technological skills, which partners must learn if they have ambitions to achieve these opportunities. IBM invests in these technologies, but more importantly, it commits to address partner demands in Czechia and Slovakia for these technology skills and help build them, whether through IBM community technology experts or the existence of partner programs that support building these competencies designed for existing partners and also for new partners who are interested in being a member of the Partner Ecosystem.
Can you direct the listeners somewhere where they can learn more?
I would like to draw attention to a technical seminar that we are preparing. It is called Cloud and AI and is scheduled for March 23th 2021, this seminar will discuss and present the content capabilities of IBM's technical community and take a closer look at the programs IBM has available to build the competencies that will be needed during the near future. This seminar will be online like most seminars today.
Thanks for the invitation.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this discussion and I would like to wish you and the listeners the near end of the current covid situation, good health and a lot of business success.