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IBM Reaffirms Commitment to Hybrid Cloud, AI and Security Initiatives

Insights from IBM’s Roger Premo on IBM’s business strategy and how it influenced the Think 2022 conference

IBM is doubling down on its oft-stated immediate and long-term strategic commitment to leverage hybrid cloud, AI and advanced cyber security technologies to accelerate and drive digital reinvention and sustainability.

Ahead of the Think 2022 Conference, which kicked off on May 9 in Boston, IBM executives held an online pre-briefing for industry analysts to provide an overview of IBM’s upcoming initiatives and detail how customers can leverage IBM’s new technologies and capabilities to achieve desired business outcomes.

The briefing led by Roger Premo, IBM senior vice president and general manager of strategy and corporate development, showcased how real-world use cases are already leveraging IBM’s hybrid cloud, AI and security technologies and custom consulting services to achieve tangibly better business outcomes, improve economies of scale, and derive greater value.

During the Think 2022 analyst pre-briefing, Premo described how hybrid cloud, AI and quantum technologies are transforming industries, helping build businesses of the future and using IBM solutions to bolster automation, supply chain, advanced data, and cybersecurity.

IBM is basing its technologies and business strategies on the aforementioned tenets, Premo says.

“IBM is focusing on a hybrid cloud architecture that delivers more value. We’re also taking full advantage of the open-source community; the Red Hat platform is core to our strategy and our business and we’re working with everyone,” Premo says. “Our goal is security everywhere. IBM is making the entire digital information space secure. This is what IBM is about and this transcends everything across the business.”

This year’s Think Conference is a hybrid event after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. Rather than host a single, large, in-person conference as in years past, IBM is enabling participants to attend smaller conferences—billed as Think on Tour—in various cities throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. Attendees can also participate virtually. At the conference, attendees hear from IBM executives, including CEO Arvind Krisha.

Digital Transformation Turns to Reinvention

Premo says enterprises urgently need to build new businesses that create advantages like technological innovation, customer-centricity, ecosystem co-creation and sustainability.

“Building new business is a top priority for six-in-10 enterprises, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which disrupted sales and supply chains,” Premo says. To do so, corporations must overcome a variety of challenges, including heterogeneity-driven complexity in data centers and cloud environments, acute cybercrime—which continues to rise exponentially—and addressing sustainability.

IBM’s own internal research indicates 75% of customers are utilizing two or more public clouds; however, 70% of workloads are not on public clouds. Further complicating matters is that already overburdened IT and security administrators will have to manage an estimated 20 billion internet-connected devices by 2024, with two to three times growth in total data by 2025.

“Heterogeneity is growing rapidly but it can create friction,” Premo says. Adding to that, “an explosion of data is happening right now but few clients are getting the full value of their data.” The embedded analytics and AI on-chip inferencing will enable customers to parse and analyze data more quickly to immediately spot trends and take action. Additionally, he says the number and creativity of cyber attacks continues to grow and cybercrime is a “CEO level of concern along with sustainability as companies want to understand their ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) footprint.”

Hybrid Cloud, AI and Security Are Central to IBM Strategy

From a technology standpoint, Premo underscored IBM’s advances in hybrid cloud, AI and quantum-safe cryptography services and capabilities introduced over the past 18 months, and most recently, in the latest IBM z16 mainframe, which was unveiled in April.

Pioneered in-house by IBM Research scientists, IBM’s quantum-safe cryptography supports crucial management and application transactions in IBM Cloud across a variety of key vertical industries like banking and finance, government, healthcare, retail, transportation and others. Premo says IBM’s quantum-safe cryptography uses open standards and open-source technology, thus enhancing the standards used to transmit data between enterprise and cloud, helping to secure data by deploying a quantum-safe algorithm.

Another security capability that the Think 2022 conference is highlighting is IBM Key Protect, a cloud-based service that provides lifecycle management for encryption keys that are used in IBM Cloud services or client-built applications. It incorporates the ability to use a quantum-safe cryptography enabled Transport Layer Security (TLS) connection, which enables enterprises to safeguard data during the key lifecycle management.

IBM also offers quantum-safe cryptography support capabilities for application transactions. For example, when cloud-native containerized applications run on Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud or IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service, secured TLS connections can help application transactions with quantum-safe cryptography support during data-in-transit and protect from potential breaches.

Additionally, the IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Crypto Services extends and enhances data privacy in cloud applications, where data is sent over the network to cloud applications. Sensitive data elements like credit card numbers or healthcare data like prescriptions are stored in a database that can be encrypted at application-level, supported by the industry’s highest level of cryptographic key encryption protection with Keep Your Own Key (KYOK) capability. It is built on FIPS-140-2 Level 4-certified hardware; this is the highest level of security offered by any cloud provider in the industry for cryptographic modules. It enables businesses to have exclusive key control and authority over the data and workloads protected by the keys.

Individually and collectively, Premo says, IBM’s quantum-safe cryptography capabilities help enterprises mitigate risks from external and internal threats, as well as address regulatory compliance issues. In the past several years, there has been a near-constant proliferation of federal, state and local compliance regulations. IBM helps customers stay ahead of these and be prepared for audits—reducing administrative time from one month to one week or less and mitigating the risk of expensive and damaging compliance violations.

Premo also touted IBM’s AI solutions, such as the AI on-chip inferencing, which is available at no extra cost on the IBM z16 mainframe. It can deliver up to 300 billion deep learning inference operations per day with 1ms response time. IBM executives say the z16’s accelerated on-chip AI “effectively eliminates” latency in inferencing. The result: businesses can cut through the data deluge and predict and automate for “increased decision velocity,” Premo says. The ability to leverage AI in routine daily operational processes allows businesses to take preventive actions like identifying and stopping outages before they occur.

IBM’s Business Strategy: Openness and Partnership With Cloud Competitors

IBM is also partnering with rival cloud providers like Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure via the use of open-source technology and in custom consulting engagements worldwide.

Premo says IBM will “partner and compete at various layers of the stack and where it provides a business and technology advantage to clients.” For example, “IBM works with external consultants on digital innovation and using open-source technologies to run across heterogeneous cloud environments,” Premo notes. “This delivers 2.5 times the value and it accelerates business transformation.”

Analysts Applaud IBM Initiatives

Analysts say the combination of IBM’s superior security and AI technologies, combined with its willingness to embrace partnerships with rival cloud vendors, is an excellent strategy.

“IBM is very focused and when IBM focuses it can do amazing things,” observes Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, a research and consulting firm that provides customized advisory services to vendors and corporate customers. From a technology perspective, Enderle rates the AI and quantum cryptography security as “well ahead of the curve,” adding, “It’s brilliant and so is the AI on-chip inferencing. None of the other cloud providers can touch it at this point.”

Enderle also applauds IBM’s open cloud strategy. “Rather than trying to create a clone of AWS or Azure, they’ve created the IBM Cloud; its advantage is security, allowing IBM to go in with a multi-cloud strategy. Using this approach, IBM gains traction and new customers without rivals like Microsoft, Amazon and Google losing customers,” Enderle says.

Overall, Think 2022 is showcasing IBM at its best.

“IBM is pivoting,” Enderle says. “They’re partnering and avoiding conflict. It’s a very measured, smart strategy. They’re putting boots on the ground. This should make them more agile and successful in the cloud.”