IBM focuses on second chapter of cloud story at Think – hybrid and open but secure

James has more than a decade of experience as a tech journalist, writer and editor, and served as Editor in Chief of TechForge Media between 2017 and 2021. James was named as one of the top 20 UK technology influencers by Tyto, and has also been cited by Onalytica, Feedspot and Zsah as an influential cloud computing writer.

It’s seconds out for round two of the cloud story – one which has hybrid and multi-cloud at its core, and is open but secured and managed properly.

That was the key message from IBM chief executive and chairman Ginni Rometty at IBM’s Think Conference in San Francisco earlier this week.

“I’ve often said we’re entering chapter two – it’s cloud and it’s hybrid,” Rometty told the audience. “In chapter one, 20% of your work has moved to the cloud, and it has mostly been driven by customer-facing apps, new apps being put in, or maybe some inexpensive compute. But the next 80%… is the core of your business. That means you’ve got to modernise apps to get there. We’re going from an era of cloud that was app-driven to ‘now we’re transforming mission critical.’

“It’s very clear to me that it’s hybrid,” Rometty added, “meaning you’ll have traditional IT, private clouds, [and] public clouds. On average, [if you] put your traditional aside, 40% will be private, 60% public. If you’re regulated it will be the other way around.

“The reason it’s so important to [have] open technologies is that skills are really scarce. But then you’ve got to have consistent security and management.”

Naturally, IBM has been reinforcing this strategic vision with action. The $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat announced in October, albeit not yet to close, is a clear marker of this. As this publication put it at the time, it plays nicely into containers and open technologies in general. Both sides needed each other; IBM gets the huge net of CIO and developers Red Hat provides, while Red Hat gets a sugar daddy as its open source revenues – albeit north of $3 billion a year – can’t compete with the big boys. It’s interesting to note that at the time Rometty said this move represented “the next chapter of the cloud…shifting business applications to hybrid cloud, extracting more data and optimising every part of the business.”

Rometty assured the audience at Think that IBM would continue to invest in this future journey. “This is going to be an era of co-creation,” she said. “It’s why we’ve put together the IBM Garage and the IBM Garage methodology. [It’s] design thinking, agile practices, prototype and DevOps… but with one switch – we do them all in a way that can immediately go from prototype and pilot to production scale.

“I think we are all standing at the beginning of chapter two of this digital reinvention,” Rometty added. “Chapter two will, in my mind, be enterprise driven.”

It is interesting to consider these remarks, along with those of Google Cloud’s new boss Thomas Kurian this week, and look back on what has previously happened in the process. Kurian told an audience at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference that Google was going to compete aggressively in the enterprise space through 2019 and beyond. This would presumably be music to the ears of Amir Hermelin, formerly product management lead at Google Cloud, who upon leaving in October opined the company spent too long dallying over its enterprise strategy.

If IBM and Google are advocating a new chapter in the cloud, it may be because the opening stanzas did not work out as well as hoped for either. As this publication has opined variously, the original ‘cloud wars’ have long since been won and lost. Amazon Web Services (AWS) won big time, with Microsoft Azure getting a distant second place and the rest playing for table stakes. Google’s abovementioned enterprise issues contributed, as well as IBM losing the key CIA cloud contract to AWS.

Today, with multi-cloud continuing to be a key theme, attention turns to the next wave of technologies which will run on the cloud, from blockchain, to quantum computing, to artificial intelligence (AI). Rometty noted some of the lessons learned with regards to AI initiatives, from putting in the correct information architecture, to whether you take an ‘inside out’ or ‘outside in’ approach to scale digital transformation.

There was one other key area Rometty discussed. “I think this chapter two of digital and AI is about scaling now, and embedding it everywhere in your business. I think this chapter two when it comes to the cloud is hybrid and is driven by mission critical apps now moving,” said Rometty. “But underpinning it for all of us is a chapter two in trust – and that’s going to be about responsible stewardship.”

The remark, which drew loud applause from the audience, is something we should expect to see a lot more of this year, if analyst firm CCS Insight is to be believed. At the company’s predictions event in October, the forecast was that the needle would move to trust as a key differentiator among cloud service providers in 2019. Vendors “recognise the importance of winning customers’ trust to set them apart from rivals, prompting a focus on greater transparency, compliance efforts and above all investment in the security,” CCS wrote.

You can watch the full presentation here. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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