IBM Think 2021- All In On Hybrid Cloud And AI

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna IBM & TWITTER

IBM is in the middle of a company transformation. With CEO Arvind Krishna and President Jim Whitehurst at the helm for a year, the company is going all-in on the cloud with its Red Hat and other investments and getting in a better posture for growth and focus with its recent Kyndryl spin-out. At the same time, the company continues to create leading edge research output in hardware, software and the cloud and creating some very innovative products simultaneously.

IBM made many announcements prior to THINK. The company announced the world’s first 2nm nanosheet device here, check out an interview I had with IBM Cloud leader Howard Boville here, see Z mainframe as a service here, check out Steve McDowell’s analysis of Spectrum Fusion here, and see Paul Smith Goodson’s coverage of Qiskit Metal for quantum computing here.

This week, I attended the IBM Think 2021 event which is the premier hybrid cloud and AI event for IBM as well as the company’s annual flagship event for customers and partners. Last year, the Think event had almost 120,000 people attend the event from all over the globe for the second year in a row, the event has gone virtual with some on-demand options. Think consisted of three different times or airings so that the globe can experience the event in different time zones. IBM made several key announcements here and let’s take a closer look at what CEO Arvind Krishna had to say in his keynote.

CEO Arvind Krishna sets the stage 

The annual THINK conference kicked off with some great news and announcements on hybrid cloud, AI, and quantum computing. First, Arvind Krishna, IBM Chairman and CEO, kicked off his keynote talking about how the pandemic has caused a great deal of disruption but that, in turn, digital transformation accelerated. Arvind stated, “everywhere you look, the forces of digital technology are turning our economies on its head. As the world recovers, there is no going back. We’ll reflect on this past year as the moment when the world entered the digital century in full force”. While I have heard many other tech CEOs talk about this on-stage, you need to realize that with IBM at the heart of most of banking, healthcare, transportation, and retail industries, they will have seen a unique view.

With digital transformation in full force, collaboration, security, and modernization are more critical than ever. I believe IBM is all in for hybrid cloud and AI in its mission to modernize systems and businesses. These innovations show IBM’s goal of helping its customers and partners accelerate its digital transformation, automate time-consuming work, and make collaboration easier. According to a report developed by IBM last year, 43% of IT professionals say its company has accelerated its rollout of AI, and half are evaluating.

Arvind introduced many guests on stage to share some significant partnerships with Siemens, CVS Health, and Salesforce. President and COO of Salesforce, Bret Taylor, touted that a few big things are to come out of this year of disruption: real urgency and speed, breaking down silos, and the importance of creating a single unified experience. The great partnership examples from the keynote show the importance of modernizing technology in a digital transformation era. Karen Lynch, President and CEO of CVS Health, tells how hybrid cloud and AI have impacted the future of healthcare – “technology will be the backbone of how consumers interface with the healthcare system, the health care system will change dramatically. And I think the partnership that we have, we will be the leader”.

I appreciated the increased depth of conversations Arvind had with his clients as these are many times just content-less CEO fly-bys. It would have been even better had a few more products been name-dropped. I get that this is a CEO to CEO/President conversations, but IBM needs people to love its products, too.

Product Announcements

IBM made five key announcements. 

IBM announced a breakthrough capability in Cloud Pak for data that uses “AI to get answers to queries 8x faster” and at half the cost of competitors (IBM). AutoSQL integration can help eliminate the high cost of moving data while using AI-driven predictions. This new tool should help with the automation of data and run across any hybrid multi-cloud environment. IBM describes AutoSQL as a universal query engine and many have described it as IBM’s take on the data lake which means that data may reside in Cloud Pak for Data’s own data lake. 

IBM also announced Watson Orchestrate, a new AI capability. According to the IBM newsroom and pre-briefs, Watson Orchestrate uses AI to improve and maintain context-based off on prior interactions. IBM developed this tool to help business professionals with productivity in its work environments – working to solve a big pain point that arose for business owners amidst the pandemic. Watson Orchestrate claims to help professionals reclaim 50% of its time to focus on strategic work.  The tool uses AI to sequence the prepackaged skills that are needed to perform a task for sales, HR, or operational functions. It is compatible with Slack Technologies, Salesforce, SAP SE, and Workday. Watson Orchestrate also allows regular professionals to have access to big pools of data that many companies have. 

IBM announced the launch of Maximo Mobile, a mobile asset management solution that is a part of the IBM Maximo Application Suite for intelligent mobile EAMIBM developed this solution to aid field technicians and equip them with an AI tool to solve complex problems in remote locations. Maximo Mobile allows the customer to keep track of their assets regardless of location or network connectivity. IBM has been helping companies move sustainability forward by providing technicians with more sustainable maintenance. Maximo completely changes the way that field technicians work by equipping them with the best information and knowledge to solve problems more efficiently. IBM gives a great real life technician example on their website, “often, when major assets break down, a technician must travel back and forth to the site to research solutions and analyze data before making any repairs. Slowing them down even more – many of the assets that they help maintain are also located in places that are difficult to reach and potentially dangerous, like gas or electrical transmission lines, offshore wind turbines or scaffolding on buildings and bridges” (IBM). Maximo mobile allows the technician to access a more powerful solution, including the ability to remotely collaborate with experts and diagnose problems and identify the likeliest fixes.

Fourth, IBM announced a preview of Project Codenet, a “largescale opensource dataset comprised of 14 million code samples, 500 million lines of code and 55 programming languages” to help with AI’s understand of translating code (IBM). Codenet focuses on solving problems of code translation, similarity, and constraints. According to a studyfrom the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, programmers spend 50.1% of their work time not programming; half of the rest of their time is spent debugging. And the total estimated cost of debugging is $312 billion per year per Venture Beat. This AI code suggestion helps to cut development costs while allowing them to focus on more creative tasks. 

Lastly, IBM announced a new quantum computing breakthrough. Qiskit Runtime Software Boosts have a 120X increase in quantum circuit processing speed that works with IBM’s hybrid cloud solutions (IBM). This software allows customers to run complicated calculations and modeling in a matter of hours vs. weeks. If you want to learn more, one of my analysts, Paul Smith-Goodson, wrote a great article on IBM’s descriptive quantum roadmap here

IBM made many announcements prior to THINK. The company announced the world’s first 2nm nanosheet device here, check out an interview I had with IBM Cloud leader Howard Boville here, see Z mainframe as a service here, check out Steve McDowell’s analysis of Spectrum Fusion here, and see Paul Smith Goodson’s coverage of Qiskit Metal for quantum computing here.

Wrapping up 

In summary, IBM made clear that it is all in on the hybrid cloud and enterprise AI. It made some significant new announcements that give an optimistic outlook on a year that has not been so. Many of IBM’s product announcements have many commonalities in the problems that it aims to solve. Cloud Pak, Watson Orchestrate, Maximo Mobile, CodeNet, and Qiskit Runtime Software boost all work to streamline processes, aid productivity, cut costs, and modernize the business. All in all I am enthusiastically optimistic to see how these products play out in the next few months. IBM appears to be transforming in front of my eyes and it’s exciting. 

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.