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TECHNOLOGY

Keys for digital transformation success

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James Bourne

Lenovo is betting on ‘everything-as-a-service’ (XaaS) to help organisations navigate their digital transformation journeys – and the stars now appear to be aligning to an end-to-end landscape. 

The value proposition is straightforward: one provider to plan, procure and manage a customer’s IT environment from a single source, offering full maintenance, support and management, real-time insights, and constant ROI through a cloud-like consumption model. Under the TruScale umbrella brand, better known as Lenovo’s infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering, myriad capabilities are covered, from infrastructure, to device, to platform, as well as vertical solutions.

At a Budapest analyst summit in June, where Craig Routledge, Lenovo’s executive director for hybrid cloud, outlined the TruScale strategy, progress was noted. Matt Kimball, of Moor Insights and Strategy, wrote: “The company is making suitable investments and focusing on the right solutions to stand up TruScale as an effective service.”

The hard work with the analysts and consultants has therefore paid dividends, as Routledge explains. “It’s interesting – a year ago, awareness [of TruScale] was pretty low,” he says. “We are interested in [industry] recognition and what I would call competitor recognition. They know we’re here now.”

What’s more, Routledge feels Lenovo has also benefited from what he calls competitors’ ‘missteps’. “Some companies have grown some of their services capability very quickly and tried to diversify from OEM-type products into services, then into solutions, then into software, and tried to do that over a very short period of time,” he explains. “Certainly, becoming a software company at scale is a massive, hugely different challenge.”

This is where a longer haul strategy comes into play. In Lenovo’s solutions and services group (SSG), Routledge notes that his customer base is growing consistently with each quarter, a mix of long-term customers who have bought PCs and have agreed to let Lenovo handle their infrastructure and applications, to customers used to buying infrastructure, to those simply looking past their current OEM. He describes it as a ‘continual evolution’ of sales, pre-sales, and design and delivery capability to take account of these varied conversations. “That’s ongoing,” he adds. “We haven’t got to the end of that journey by any means.”

One example of a customer XaaS story is US retailer Kroger. Kroger uses Lenovo’s edge AI servers, wrapped up with warranty services, to help fortify its self-service checkouts, handling hundreds of hours of video each day from tens of thousands of transactions. There are various benefits, from stock placement based on store traffic, to reducing shrinkage; making sure customers can scan items correctly and creating more efficient processes not just for the customers but for the wider store.

“[These customers] view the ‘everything as a service’ concept, where we wrap around a software layer, a service layer, a support layer, and bundle that together as a complete solution for the customer, as very exciting,” Routledge adds.

This wide-ranging process gets to the heart of how Routledge defines digital transformation as a term. “I would say digital transformation is taking existing business requirements and digitising them end-to-end – and that to me is the difference,” he says. “For a long time, organisations have digitised pieces of processes, [such as] putting up ways to fill in smart PDFs and [digitally] sign them, which is all well and good [until] you’ve then got to transcribe that document into something else.

“Unless it flows all the way through, enabling that flow all the way through in a complete environment, it doesn’t really add enough value. It doesn’t help the customer leave the old ways of working behind.”  

Often, companies are aware of the capability of digital transformation. They just want the consistency to go with it. Kroger, for example, was also using a visual AI application from Everseen, running on Lenovo servers. “Quite often, customers already have the software that they want, and they know what they want,” explains Routledge. “What they need is a super-high performing, consistently priced infrastructure.

“That’s at the other end of the ‘everything as a service’ infrastructure; consistent price per terabyte, per gigabyte of virtual memory; the consistent price per hour of running it, combined with the managed services and professional services to operate it,” he adds.

This consistency is especially important when you’re operating at speed. When Lenovo launched its global XaaS strategy in 2021, a stat attributed to Ken Wong, SSG president, stood out: CIOs were saying that their organisation’s technology needs were evolving every 12 to 18 months. Routledge says this is still the case, but emphasises the need for security – in a financial sense – when undergoing such churn.

“Their needs are probably revolving even quicker, though the ability to implement is still at the 12 to 18 month window,” notes Routledge. “But the other issue is: how do you finance that? If you suddenly have to abandon your old IT architecture after 12 to 18 months, many IT organisations take a massive write off and the corporations just can’t afford that.

“That’s part of the reason why, both for our device as a service and our infrastructure as a service, we try and embed financing and asset control into that model,” Routledge adds. “If the customer needs to make a change, we can migrate some of the assets that are maybe a year, or two years old, use them for less strenuous applications that are not as demanding in terms of processing and memory, and put new systems in. That helps mitigate the financial pain for the customer.”   

Another aspect which is very important to Lenovo across this digital transformation process is sustainability. Kimball described the company as ‘manically focused’ in this regard, and Lenovo is cited as the best rated IT company in the Hang Seng Corporate Sustainability Index.

The company has a liquid data centre cooling technology called Neptune which aims to ‘go beyond simply cooling the CPUs’ and not sacrifice energy efficiency for higher performance. “Part of this digital transformation is making sure that we have a minimal impact on the environment, because data centres are pretty hot places to be,” notes Routledge.

Routledge is speaking at the Digital Transformation Week Europe event in Amsterdam on 26-27 September on key considerations for technology investment in this landscape – and expect many of these themes to feature. “Don’t think ‘I need to transform this little piece of my data centre’,” he explains. “Look at ‘can I get the power from this somewhere differently?’, or ‘can I design the platform differently, so it gives the business outcome quicker?’

“The key theme is – don’t think in narrow silos.”

Picture credit: Lenovo

Want to learn more about how to power your digital transformation journeys from industry leaders? The Digital Transformation Week event series takes place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

  • James has a passion for how technologies influence business and has several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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Cloud Computing News

AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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TECHNOLOGY

HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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TECHNOLOGY

Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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