How SAP Ariba became a first-mover as Blockchain comes to B2B procurement

The next BriefingsDirect digital business thought leadership panel discussion examines the major opportunity from bringing Blockchain technology to business-to-business (B2B) procurement and supply chain management.

We will now explore how Blockchain’s unique capabilities can provide comprehensive visibility across global supply chains and drive simpler verification of authenticity, security, and ultimately control.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about how Blockchain is poised to impact and improve supply chain risk and management, we’re joined by Joe Fox, Senior Vice President for Business Development and Strategy at SAP Ariba, and Leanne Kemp, Founder and CEO of Everledger, based in London.

The panel was assembled and recorded at the recent 2017 SAP Ariba LIVE conference in Las Vegas. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Joe, Blockchain has emerged as a network methodology, running crypto currency Bitcoin, as most people are aware of it. It’s a digitally shared record of transactions maintained by a network of computers, not necessarily with centralized authority. What could this be used for powerfully when it comes to gaining supply chain integrity?

Fox: Blockchain did start in the Bitcoin area, as peer-to-peer consumer functionality. But a lot of the capabilities of Blockchain have been recognized as important for new areas of innovation in the enterprise software space.

Joe Fox

Fox

Those areas of innovation are around “trusted commerce.” Trusted commerce allows buyers and sellers, and third parties, to gain more visibility into asset-tracking. Not just asset tracking in the context of the buyer receiving and the seller shipping — but in the context of where is the good in transit? What do I need to do to protect that good? What is the transfer of funds associated with that important asset? There are even areas of other applications, such as an insurance aspect or some kind of ownership-proof.

Gardner: It sounds to me like we are adding lot of metadata to a business process. What’s different when you apply that through Blockchain than if you were doing it through a platform?

Inherit the trust

Fox: That’s a great question. Blockchain is like the cloud from the perspective of it’s an innovation at the platform layer. But the chain is only as valuable as the external trust that it inherits. That external trust that it inherits is the proof of what you have put on the chain digitally. And that includes that proof of who has taken it off and in what way they have control.

As we associate a chain transaction, or a posting to the ledger with its original transactions within the SAP Ariba Network, we are actually adding a lot of prominence to that single Blockchain record. That’s the real key, marrying the transactional world and the B2B world with this new trusted commerce capability that comes with Blockchain.

Gardner: Leanne, we have you here as a prime example of where Blockchain is being used outside of its original adoption. Tell us first about Everledger, and then what it was you saw in Blockchain that made you think it was applicable to a much wider businesscapability.

Kemp: Everledger is a fast-moving startup using the best of emerging technology to assist in the reduction of risk and fraud. We began in April of 2015, so it’s actually our birthday this week. We started in the world of diamonds where we apply blockchain technology to bring transparency to a once opaque market.

Leanne Kemp

Kemp

And what did I see in the technology? At the very core of cryptocurrency, they were solving the problem of double-spend. They were solving the problem of transfer of value, and we could translate those very two powerful concepts into the diamond industry.

At the heart of the diamond industry, beyond the physical object itself, is certification, and certificates in the diamond industry are the currency of trade. Diamonds are cited on web sites around the world, and they are mostly sold off the merit of the certification. We were able to see the potential of the cryptocurrency, but we could decouple the currency from the ledger and we were able to then use the synthesis of the currency as a way to transfer value, or transfer ownership or custody. And, of course, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, so we might as well start there.

Dealing with diamonds

Gardner: What was the problem in the diamond industry that you were solving? What was not possible that now is?

Kemp: The diamond industry boasts some pretty impressive numbers. First, it’s been around for 130 years. Most of the relationships among buyers and sellers have survived generation upon generation based on a gentleman’s handshake and trust.

The industry itself has been bound tightly with those relationships. As time has passed and generations have passed, what we are starting to see is a glacial melt. Some of the major players have sold off entities into other regions, and now that gentleman’s handshake needs to be transposed into an electronic form.

Some of the major players in the market, of course, still reside today. But most of the data under their control sits in a siloed environment. Even the machines that are on the pipeline that help provide identity to the physical object are also black-boxed in terms of data.

We are able to bring a business network to an existing market. It’s global. Some 81 countries around the world trade in rough diamonds. And, of course, the value of the diamonds increases as they pass through their evolutionary chain. We are able to bring an aggregated set of data. Not only that, we transpose the human element of trust — the gentleman’s handshake, the chit of paper and the promise to pay that’s largely existed and has built has built 130 years of trade.

We are now able to transpose that into a set of electronic-form technologies — Blockchain, smart contracts, cryptography, machine vision — and we are able to take forward a technology platform that will see transactional trust being embedded well beyond my lifetime — for generations to come.

Gardner: Joe, we have just heard how this is a problem-solution value in the diamond industry. But SAP Ariba has its eyes on many industries. What is it about the way things are done now in general business that isn’t good enough but that Blockchain can help improve?

Fox: As we have spent years at Ariba solving procurement problems, we identified some of the toughest. When I saw Everledger, it occurred to me that they may have cracked the nut on one of the toughest areas of B2B trade — and that is true understanding, visibility, and control of asset movement.

It dawned on me, too, that if you can track and trace diamonds, you can track and trace anything. I really felt like we could team up with this young company and leverage the unique way they figured out how to track and trace diamonds and apply that across a huge procurement problem. And that is, how do a supplier and a buyer manage the movement of any asset after they have purchased it? How do we actually associate that movement of the asset back to its original transactions that approved the commit-to-pay? How do you associate a digital purchase order (PO) with a digital movement of the asset, and then to the actual physical asset? That’s what we really are teaming up to do.

That receipt of the asset has been a dark space in the B2B world for a long time. Sure, you can get a shipping notice, but most businesses don’t do goods receipts. And as the asset flows through the supply chain — especially the more expensive the item is — that lack of visibility and control causes significant problems. Maybe the most important one is: overpaying for inventory to cover actual lost supply chain items in transit.

I talked to a really large UK-based telecom company and they told me that what we are going to do with Everledger, with just their fiber optics, they could cut their buying in half. Why? Because they overbuy their fiber optics to make sure they are never short on fiber optic inventory.

That precision of buying and delivery applies across the board to all merchants and all supply chains, even middle of the supply chain manufacturers. Whenever you have disruption to your inbound supply, that’s going to disrupt your profitability.

Gardner: It sounds as if what we are really doing here is getting a highly capable means — that’s highly extensible — to remove the margin of error from the tracking of goods, from cradle to grave.

Chain transactions

Fox: That’s exactly right. And the Internet is the enabler, because Blockchain is everywhere. Now, as the asset moves, you have the really cool stuff that Everledger has done, and other things we are going to do together – and that’s going to allow anybody from anywhere to post to the chain the asset receipt and asset movement.

For example, with a large container coming from overseas, you will have the chain record of every place that container has been. If it doesn’t show up at a dock, you now have visibility as the buyer that there is a supply chain disruption. That chain being out on the Internet, at a layer that’s accessible by everyone, is one of the keys to this technology.

We are going to be focusing on connecting the fabric of the chain together with Hyperledger. Everledger builds on the Hyperledger platform. The fabric that we are going to tie into is going to directly connect those block posts back to the original transactions, like the purchase order, the invoice, the ship notice. Then the companies can see not only where their asset is, but also view it in context of the transactions that resulted in the shipment.

Gardner: So the old adage — trust but verify — we can now put that to work and truly verify. There’s newstaking place here at SAP Ariba LIVE between Everledger and SAP Ariba. Tell us about that, and how the two companies — one quite small, one very large — are going to work together.

Fox: Ariba is all-in on transforming the procurement industry, the procurement space, the processes of procurement for our customers, buyers and sellers, and we are going to partner heavily with key players like Everledger.

Part of the announcement is this partnership with Everledger around track and trace, but it is not limited to track and trace. We will leverage what they have learned across our platform of $1 trillion a year in spend, with 2.5 million companies trading assets with each other. We are going to apply this partnership to many other capabilities within that.

Kemp: I am very excited. It’s a moment in time that I think I will remember for years to come. In March we also made an importantannouncement with IBM on some of the work that we have done beyond identifying objects. And that is to take the next step around ensuring that we have an ethical trade platform, meaning one that is grounded in cognitive compliance.

We will be able to identify the asset, but also know, for example in the diamond industry, that a diamond has passed through the right channels, paid the dutiful taxes that are due as a part of an international trade platform, and ensure all compliance is hardened within the chain.

I am hugely excited about the opportunity that sits before me. I am sincerely grateful that such a young company has been afforded the opportunity to really show how we are going to shine.

If you think about it, Blockchain is an evolution of the Internet.

Gardner: When it comes to open trade, removing friction from commerce, these have been goals for hundreds of years. But we really seem to be onto something that can make this highly scalable, very rich — almost an unlimited amount of data applied to any asset, connected to a ledger that’s a fluid, movable, yet tangible resource.

Fox: That’s right.

Gardner: So where do we go next, Joe? If the sky is the limit, describe the sky for me? How big is this, and where can you take it beyond individual industries? It sounds like there is more potential here.

Reduced friction costs

Fox: There is a lot of potential. If you think about it, Blockchain is an evolution of the Internet; we are going to be able to take advantage of that.

The new evolution is that it’s a structured capability across the Internet itself. It’s going to be open, and it’s going to be able to allow companies to ledger their interactions with each other. They are going to be able, in an immutable way, to track who owns which asset, where the assets are, and be able to then use that as an audit capability.

That’s all very important to businesses, and until now the Internet itself has not really had a structure for business. It’s been open, the Wild West. This structure for business is going to help with what I call trusted commerce because in the end businesses establish relationships because they want to do business with each other, not based on what technology they have.

Another key fact about Blockchain is that it’s going to reduce friction in global B2B. I always like to say if you just accelerated B2B payments by a few days globally, you would open up Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and economies would start growing dramatically. This friction around assets has a direct tie to how slowly money moves around the globe, and the overall cost and friction from that.

So how big could it go? Well, I think that we are going to innovate together with Everledger and other partners using the Hyperledger framework. We are going to add every buyer and seller on the Ariba Network onto the chain. They are just going to get it as part of our platform.

Then we are going to begin ledgering all the transactions that they think make sense between themselves. We are going to release a couple of key functions, such as smart contracts, so their contract business rules can be applicable in the flow of commerce — at the time commerce is happening, not locked up in some contract, or in some drawer or Portable Document Format (PDF) file. We are going to start with those things.

I don’t know what applications we are going to build beyond that, but that’s the excitement of it. I think the fact that we don’t know is the big play.

Gardner: From a business person’s perspective, they don’t probably care too much that it’s Blockchain that’s enabling this, just like a lot of people didn’t care 20 years ago that it was the Internet that was allowing them to shop online or send emails to anybody anywhere. What is it that we would tease out of this, rather than what the technology is, what’s the business benefit that people should be thinking about?

Fox: Everybody wants digital trust, right? Leanne, why don’t you share some of the things you guys have been exploring?

Making the opaque transparent

Kemp: In the diamond industry, there is fraud related to document tampering. Typically paper certificates exist across the backbone, so it’s very easy to be able to transpose those into a PDF and make appropriate changes for self-gain.

Double-financing of the pipeline is a very real problem; invoicing, of course accounts receivable, they have the ability to have banks finance those invoices two, three, four times.

We have issues with round-tripping of diamonds through countries, where transfer pricing isn’t declared correctly, along with the avoidance of tax and duties.

All of these issues are the dark side of the market. But, now we have the ability to bring transparency around any object, particularly in diamonds — the one commodity that’s yet to have true financial products wrapped around it. Now, what do I mean by that? It doesn’t have a futures market yet. It doesn’t have exchange traded funds (ETFs), but the performance of diamonds has outperformed gold, platinum and palladium.

Now, what does this mean? It means we can bring transparency to the once opaque, have the ability to know if an object has gone through an ethical chain, and then realize the true value of that asset. This process allows us to start and think about how new financial products can be formed around these assets.

We are hugely interested in rising asset classes beyond just the commodity section of the market. This platform shift is like going from the World Wide Web to the World Wide Ledger. Joe was absolutely correct when he mentioned that the Internet hasn’t been woven for transactional trust — but we have the ability to do this now.

So from a business perspective, you can begin to really innovate on top of this exponential set of technology stacks. A lot of companies quote Everledger as a Blockchain company. I have to correct them and I say that we are an emerging technology company. We use the very best of Blockchain and smart contracts, machine vision, sensorial data points, for us to be able to form the identity of objects.

Now, why is that important? Most financial services companies have really been focused on Know Your Customer (KYC), but we believe that it’s Know Your Object (KYO) that really creates an entirely new context around it.

Now, that transformation and the relationship of the object have already started to move. When you think about Internet of Things (IoT), mobile phones, and autonomous cars — these are largely devices to the fabric of the web. But are they connected to the fabric of the transactions and the identity around those objects?

Insurance companies have begun to understand this. My work in the last 10 years has been deeply involved in insurance. As you begin to build and understand the chain of trust and the chain of risk, then tectonic plate shifts in financial services begin to unfold.

Apps and assets, on and off the chain

Fox: It’s not just about the chain, it’s about the apps we build on top, and it’s really about what is the value to the buyer and the seller as we build those apps on top.

To Leanne’s point, it’s first going to be about the object. The funny thing is we have struggled to be able to, in a digital way, provide visibility and control of an object and this is going to fix that. In the end, B2B, which is where SAP Ariba is, is about somebody getting something and paying for it. And that physical asset that they are getting is being paid for with another asset. They are just two different forms. By digitizing both and keeping that in a ledger that really cannot be altered — it will be the truth, but it’s open to everyone, buyers and sellers.

Businesses will have to invent ways to control how frictionless this is going to be. I will give you a perfect example. In the past if I told you I could do an international payment of $1 million to somebody in two minutes, you would have told me I was crazy. With Blockchain, one corporation can pay another corporation $1 million in two minutes, internationally.

And on the chain companies like Everledger can build capabilities that do the currency translation on the fly, as it’s passing through, and that doesn’t dis-remediate the banks because how did the $1 million get onto the chain in the first place? Someone put it on the chain through a bank. The bank is backing that digital version. How does it get off the chain so you can actually do something with it? It goes through another bank. It’s actually going to make the banks more important. Again, Blockchain is only as good as the external trust that it inherits.

I really think we have to focus on getting the chain out there and really building these applications on top.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile appRead a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: SAP Ariba.

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Inside story of building a global security operations center for cyber defense

The next BriefingsDirect inside story examination of security best practices focuses on the building of a global security operations center (SOC) for cyber defense.

Learn here how Zayo Group in Boulder, Colorado built a state-of-the-art SOC as it expanded its international managed security service provider practice.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Download the transcript.

Hear directly from Mike Vamvakaris, Vice President of Managed Cyber Security at Zayo Group, on the build-out, best practices, and end-results from this impressive project. The moderator is Serge Bertini, Vice President of Sales and General Manager of the Canada Security Division at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

Serge Bertini: Mike, you and I have talked many times about the importance of managed security service providers (MSSPs), global SOCs, but for our readers, I want to take them back on the journey that you and I went through to get into the SOC business, and what it took from you to build this up.

So if you could, please describe Zayo’s business and what made you decide to jump into the MSSP field.

Mike Vamvakaris: Thanks for the opportunity. Zayo Group is a global communications and infrastructure provider. We serve more than 365 markets. We have 61 international data centers on-net, off-net, and more than 3,000 employees.

Mike Vamvakaris copy

Vamvakaris

Zayo Canada required a SOC to serve a large government client that required really strict compliance, encryption, and correlational analysis.

Upon further expansion, the SOC we built in Canada became a global SOC, and now it can serve international customers as well. Inside the SOC, you will find things such as US Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 security standards compliance. We do threat hunting, threat intelligence. We are also doing machine learning, all in a protected facility via five-zone SOC.

This facility was not easy to build; it was a journey, as we have talked about many times in person, Serge.

Holistic Security

Bertini: What you guys have built is a state-of-the-art facility. I am seeing how it helps you attract more customers, because not only do you have critical infrastructure in your MSSP, but also you can attract customers whose stringent security and privacy concerns can be met.

Vamvakaris: Zayo is in a unique position now. We have grown the brand aggressively through organic and inorganic activities, and we are able to offer holistic and end-to-end security services to our customers, both via connectivity and non-connectivity.

For example, within our facility, we will have multiple firewalling and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) technologies — now all being protected and correlated by our state-of-the-art SOC, as you described. So this is a really exciting and new opportunity that began more than two years ago with what you at HPE have done for us. Now we have the opportunity to turn and pivot what we built here and take that out globally.

Bertini: What made you decide on HPE ArcSight, and what did you see in ArcSight that was able to meet your long-term vision and requirements?

Turnkey Solutions

Vamvakaris: That’s a good question. It wasn’t an easy decision. We have talked about this openly and candidly. We did a lot of benchmarking exercises, and obviously selected HPE ArcSight in the end. We looked at everyone, without going into detail. Your listeners will know who they are.

But we needed something that supported multi-tenancy, so the single pane of window view. We are serving multiple customers all over the world, and ArcSight allowed us to scale without applying tremendous amount of capital expenditure (CAPEX) investment and ongoing operational expenditure (OPEX) to support infrastructure and the resources inside the SOC. It was key for me on the business side that the business-case was well supported.

We had a very strict industry regulation in working with a large government customer, to be FIPS-compliant. So out of the box, a lot of the vendors that we were looking at didn’t even meet those requirements.

Another thing I really liked about ArcSight, when we did our benchmarking, is the event log filtration. There really wasn’t anyone else that could actually do the filtration at the throughput and the capacity we needed. So that really lent itself very well. Just making sure that you are getting the salient events and kind of filtering out the noncritical alerts that we still need to be looking at was key for us.

Something that you and I have talked about is the strategic information and operations center (SIOC) service. As a company that knew we needed to build around SOC, to protect our own backbone, and offer those services to our extended connectivity customers, we enlisted SIOC services very early to help us with everything from instant response management, building up the Wiki, even hiring and helping us retain critical skill sets in the SOC.

From an end-to-end perspective, this is why we went with ArcSight and HPE. They offered us a turnkey solution, to really get us something that was running.

The Trifecta: People, Process, Technology

Bertini: In this market, what a lot of our customers see is that their biggest challenge is people. There are a lot of people when it comes to setting up MSSPs. The investment that you made is the big differentiator, because it’s not just the technology, it’s the people and process. When I look at the market and the need in this market, there is a lack of talented people.

Serge Bertini (1)

Bertini

How did you build your process and the people? What did you have to do yourself to build the strength of your bench? Later on we can talk a little bit more about Zayo and how HPE can help put all of this together.

Vamvakaris: We were the single tenant, if you will. Ultimately we needed to go international very quickly. So we went from humble beginnings to an international capability. It’s a great story.

For us, you nailed it on the head. SOC, the technology obviously is pertinent, you have to understand your use cases, your policies that you are trying to use and protect your customers with those. We needed something very modular and ArcSight worked for that.

But within the SOC, our customers require things like customized reporting and even customized instant-response plans that are tailored to meet their unique audits or industry regulations. It’s people, process and tools or technology, as they say. I mean, that is the lifeline of your SOC.

One of the things we realized early on, you have to focus on everything from your triage, to instant response, to your kill-chain processes. This is something we have invested significantly in, and this is where we believe we actually add a lot of value to our customers.

Bertini: So it’s not just a logging capability, you guys went way beyond providing just the eyes on the glass to the red team and the tiger team and everything else in between.

Vamvakaris: Let me give you an example. Within the SOC, we have SOC Level 1, all the way to Level 3, and then we have threat hunting. So inside we do threat intelligence. We are now using machine-learning technologies. We have threat hunting, predictive analytics, and we are moving into user behavior analysis.

Remember the way I talked about SOC Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, this is a 24×7, 365-day facility. This is a five-zone SOC for enhanced access control, mantraps inside to factor biometric access control. It’s a facility that we are very proud of and that we love showcasing.

Bertini: You are a very modest person, but in the span of two years you have done a lot. You started with probably one of the largest mammoth customers, but one thing that you didn’t really talk about is, you are also drinking your own champagne.

Tell us a little bit more about, Zayo. It’s a large corporation, diverse and global. Tell us about the integration of Zayo into your own SOC, too.

Drinking your own Champagne

Vamvakaris: Customers always ask us about this. We have all kinds of fiber or Ethernet, large super highway customers I call them, massive data connectivity, and Zayo is well-known in the industry for that; obviously one of the leaders.

The interesting part is that we are able to turn and pivot, not only to our customers, but we are also now securing our own assets — not just the enterprise, but on the backbone.

So you are right, we sip our own champagne. We protect our customers from threats and unauthorized data exfiltration, and we also do that for ourselves. So we are talking about a global multinational backbone environment.

Bertini: That’s pretty neat. What sort of threats are you starting to see in the market and how are you preventing those attacks, or at least how can you be aware in advance of what is coming down the pipe?

Vamvakaris: It’s a perpetual problem. We are invested in what’s called an ethical hacking team, which is the whole white hat/black hat piece.

In practice, we’re trying to — I won’t say break into networks, but certainly testing the policies, the cyber frameworks that companies think they have, and we go out of our way to make sure that that is actually the case, and we will go back and do an analysis for them.

If you don’t know who is knocking at the door, how are you going to protect yourself, right?

So where do I see the market going? Well, we see a lot of ransomware; we see a lot of targeted spear phishing. Things are just getting worse, and I always talk about how this is no longer an IT issue, but it’s a business problem.

People now are using very crafty organizational and behavior-style tactics of acquiring identities and mapping them back to individuals in a company. They can have targeted data exfiltration by fooling or tricking users into giving up passwords or access and sign all types of waivers. You hear about this everyday somewhere that someone accidentally clicked on something, and the next thing you know they have wired money across the world to someone.

So we actually see things like that. Obviously we’re very private in terms of where we see them and how we see them, but we protect against those types of scenarios.

Gone are the days where companies are just worried about their customer provided equipment or even cloud firewalls. The analogy I say, Serge, is if you don’t know who is knocking at the door, how are you going to protect yourself, right?

You need to be able to understand who is out there, what they are trying to do, to be able to mitigate that. That’s why I talk about threat hunting and threat intelligence.

Partners in Avoiding Crime

Bertini: I couldn’t agree more with you. To me, what I see is the partnership that we built between Zayo and HPE and that’s a testament of how the business needs to evolve. What we have done is pretty unique in this market, and we truly act as a partner, it’s not a vendor-relationship type of situation.

Can you describe how our SIOC was able to help you get to the next level, because it’s about time-to-market, at the end of the day. Talk about best practices that you have learned, and what you have implemented.

Vamvakaris: We grew out to be an international SOC, and that practice began with one large request for proposal (RFP) customer. So we had a time-to-market issue compressed. We needed to be up and running, and that’s fully turnkey, everything.

When we began this journey, we knew we couldn’t do it ourselves. We selected the technology, we benchmarked that, and we went for the Gartner Magic Quadrant. We were always impressed at HPE ArcSight, over the years, if not a decade, that it’s been in that magic quadrant. That was very impressive for us.

But what really stood out is the HPE SIOC.

We enlisted the SIOC services, essentially the consulting arm of HPE, to help us build out our world-class multizone SOC. That really did help us get to market. In this case, we would have been paying penalties if we weren’t up and running. That did not happen.

The SIOC came in and assessed everything that we talked about earlier, they stress-tested our triage model and instant response plan. They helped us on the kill chain; they helped us with the Wiki. What was really nice and refreshing was that they helped us find talent where our SOC is located. That for me was critical. Frankly, that was a differentiator. No one else was offering those types of services.

Bertini: How is all of this benefitting you at the end of the day? And where do you see the growth in your business coming for the next few years?

Ahead in the Cloud

Vamvakaris: We could not have done this on our own. We are fortunate enough that we have learned so much now in-house.

But we are living in an interconnected world. Like it or not, we are about to automate that world with the Internet of things (IoT), and always-on mobile technologies, and everyone talks about pushing things to the cloud.

The opportunity for us is exciting. I believe in a complete, free, open digital world, which means we are going to need — for a long time — to protect the companies as they move their assets to the cloud, and as they continue to do mobile workforce strategies — and we are excited about that. We get to be a partner in this ecosystem of a new digital era. I think we are just getting started.

The timing then is perfect, it’s exciting, and I think that we are going to see a lot of explosive growth. We have already started to see that, and now I think it’s just going to get even more-and-more exciting as we go on.

It’s not just about having the human capabilities, but it’s also augmenting them with the right technologies and tools so they can respond faster, they can get to the issues.

Bertini: You have talked about automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. How are those helping you to optimize your operations and then ultimately benefitting you financially?

Vamvakaris: As anyone out there who has built a SOC knows, you’re only as good as your people, processes, and tools. So we have our tools, we have our processes — but the people, that cyber security talent is not cheap. The SOC analysts have a tough job. So the more we can automate, and the more we can give them help, the better. A big push now is for AI, which really is machine learning, and automating and creating a baseline of things from which you can create a pattern, if you will, of repeatable incidents, and then understanding that all ahead of time.

We are working with that technology. Obviously HPE ArcSight is the engine to the SOC, for correlational analysis, experience-sampling methods specifically, but outside there are peripherals that tie into that.

It’s not just about having the human capabilities, but it’s also augmenting them with the right technologies and tools so they can respond faster, they can get to the issues; they can do a kill chain process quickly. From an OPEX perspective, we can free up the Level 1 and Level 2 talent and move them into the forensic space. That’s really the vision of Zayo.

We are working with technologies including HPE ArcSight to plug into that engine that actually helps us free up the incident-response and move that into forensics. The proactive threat hunting and threat intelligence — that’s where I see the future for us, and that’s where we’re going.

Bertini: Amazing. Mike, with what you have learned over the last few years, if you had to do this all over again, what would you do differently?

Practice makes perfect

Vamvakaris: I would beg for more time, but I can’t do that. It was tough, it was tough. There were days when we didn’t think we were going to make it. We are very proud and we love showcasing what we built — it’s an amazing, world-class facility.

But what would I do differently? We probably spent too much time second-guessing ourselves, trying to get everything perfect. Yet it’s never going to be perfect. A SOC is a living, breathing thing — it’s all about the people inside and the processes they use. The technologies work, and getting the right technology, and understanding your use cases and what you are trying to achieve, is key. Not trying to make it perfect and just getting it out there and then being more flexible in making corrections, [that would have been better].

In our case, because it was a large government customer, the regulations that we had to meet, we built that capability the first time, we built this from the ground up properly — as painful as that was, we can now learn from that.

In hindsight, did we have to have everything perfect? Probably not. Looking back at the compressed schedule, being audited every quarter, that capability has nonetheless put us in a better place for the future.

Bertini: Mike, kudos to you and your team. I have worked with your team for the last two to three years, and what you have done has showed us a miracle. What you built is a top-class MSSP, with some of the most stringent requirements from the government, and it shows.

Now, when you guys talk, when you present to a customer, and when we do joint-calls with the customers — we are an extension of each other. We at HPE are just feeding you the technology, but how you have implemented it and built it together with your people, process, and technology — it’s fantastic.

So with that, I really thank you. I’m looking forward to the next few years together, to being successful, and bringing all our customers under your roof.

Vamvakaris: This is the partnership that we talked about. I think that’s probably the most important thing. If you do endeavor to do this, you really do need to bring a partner to the table. HPE helped us scale globally, with cost savings and an accelerated launch. That actually can happen with a world-class partnership. So I also look forward to working with you, and serving both of our customer bases, and bringing this great capability out into the market.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Diversity spend: When doing good leads to doing well

The next BriefingsDirect digital business thought leadership panel discussion focuses on the latest path to gaining improved diversity across inclusive supply chains.

The panel examines why companies are seeking to improve supplier diversity, the business and societal benefits, and the new tools and technologies that are making attaining inclusive suppliers easier than ever.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about the increasingly data-driven path to identifying and achieving the workforce that meets all requirements, please welcome Rod Robinson, Founder and CEO of ConnXus; Jon Stevens, Global Senior Vice President of B2B Commerce and Payments at SAP Ariba, and Quentin McCorvey, Sr., President of M and R Distribution Services.

The panel was assembled and recorded at the recent 2017 SAP Ariba LIVE conference in Las Vegas. The discussion was moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Jon, why is it important to seek diversity in procurement and across supply chains? What are the reasons for doing this?

Stevens: It’s a very good question. It’s for few reasons. Number one, there is a global war for talent, and when you can get a diverse point of view, when you can include multiple different perspectives, that usually helps drive several other benefits, one of which could even be innovation.

We often see companies investing deeply inside their supply chain, working with a diverse set of suppliers, and they are gaining huge rewards from an innovation standpoint. When you look at the leading companies that leverage their suppliers to help drive new product innovation, it usually comes from these areas.

We also see companies more focused on longer-term relationships with their suppliers. Having a diverse perspective — and having a set of diverse suppliers — helps with those longer-term relationships, as both companies continue to grow in the process.

Gardner: Rod, what are you seeing in the marketplace as the major trends and drivers that have more businesses seeking more inclusivity and diversity in their suppliers?

Diversity benefits business

Robinson: As a former chief procurement officer (CPO), the one thing that I can definitely say that I have witnessed is that more diverse and inclusive supply chains are more innovative and deliver high value.

rod-robinson-400x266-300x200 (1)

Robinson

I recently wrote a blog where I highlighted some statistics that I think every procurement professional should know: One is that 99.9% of all US firms are in a small business category. Women- and minority-owned businesses represent more than 50% of the total, which is responsible for employing around 140 million people.

This represents a significant portion of the workforce. As we all know, small businesses really are the economic engine of the economy – small businesses are responsible for 65% of net new jobs.

At the end of the day, women and minorities represent more than 50% of all businesses, but they only represent about 6% of the total revenue generated.

The only thing that I would add is that diversity is vitally important as an economic driver for our economy.

Gardner: Rod points out a rich new wellspring of skills, talent and energy coming up organically from the small to medium-sized businesses. On the other hand, major national and international brands are demanding more inclusivity and diversity from their suppliers. If you are in the middle of that supply chain, is this something that should interest you?

Targeting talent worldwide

Stevens: You are spot-on. We definitely see our leading customers looking across that landscape, whether they are a large- or medium-sized company. The war for talent is only going to increase. Companies will need to seek even more diverse sources of talent. They are really going to have to stretch themselves to look outside the walls of their country to find talent, whereas other companies may not be doing so. So you’re going to see rising diversity programs.

Jon Stevens

Stevens

We have several customers in emerging parts of the world; let’s take South Africa for example. I spend a lot of time in South Africa, and one of our customers there, Nedbank, invests a lot of time and a lot of money in the growth and development of the small businesses. In South Africa, the statistics that Rod talked about are even greater as far as the portion of small companies. So we are seeing that trend grow even faster outside of the US, and it’s definitely going to continue.

Gardner: Rod, you mentioned that there are statistics, studies and research out there that indicate that this isn’t just a requirement, it’s really good business. I think McKinsey came out with a study, too, that found the top quarter of those companies seeking and gaining gender, racial and ethnic diversity were more likely to have a better financial return. So this isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s also apparently demonstrated as being good business, too. Do you have any other insights into why the business case for this is so strong?

Diversity delivers innovation

Robinson: Speaking from first-hand experience, having been responsible for procurement and supplier diversity within a large company, there were many drivers. We had federal contracts that required us to commit to a certain level of engagement (and spending) with diverse suppliers.  We had to report on those stats and report our progress on a monthly and/or quarterly basis. It was interesting that while we were required by these contractual mandates — not only from the government but also customers like Procter and Gamble, Macy’s, and others — we started to realize that this is really creating more competition within categories that we were taking to market. It was bringing value to the organizations.

We had situations where we were subcontracting to diverse suppliers that were providing us with access to markets that we didn’t even realize that we were missing. So again, to Jon’s point, it’s more than just checking a box. We began to realize that this is really a market-imperative. This is something that is creating value for the organization.

We began to realize that this is really a market-imperative. This is something that is creating value for the organization.

The whole concept of supplier diversity started with the US government back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. That was the catalyst, but companies realized that it was delivering significant value to the organization, and it’s helped to introduce new, innovative companies across the supply chain.

At ConnXus, our big break came when McDonald’s gave us an opportunity five years ago. They took a chance on us when we were a start-up company of four.  We are now a company of 25. Obviously, revenues have grown significantly and we’ve been able to attract partners like SAP Ariba. That’s the way it should work. You always want to look for opportunities to identify new, innovative suppliers to introduce into a supply chain; otherwise we get stagnant.

Small but mighty

Stevens: I’ll add to what Rod said. This is just the sort of feedback we hear from our customers, the fact that a lot of the companies that are in this inclusive space are small — and we think that’s a big advantage.

Speed, quickness and flexibility are something you often see from diverse suppliers, or certainly smaller businesses, so a company that can have that in its portfolio has better responsiveness to their customer needs, versus a supply chain with very large processes or large organizations where it takes a while to respond to market needs. The quick in today’s world will be far more successful, and having a diverse set of suppliers allows you to respond incredibly quickly. There is obviously a financial benefit in doing so.

Gardner: A big item of conversation here at SAP Ariba LIVE is how to reduce risk across your supply chain. Just like any economic activity, if you have a diversified portfolio, with different sizes of companies, different geographic locations, and different workforce components — that can be a real advantage.

Now that we’ve established that there is a strong business case and rationale for seeking diversity, why do procurement professionals have trouble finding that diversity? Let’s go to Quentin. What’s holding back procurement professionals from finding the companies that they want?

McCorvey: Probably the biggest challenge is that the whole trend of supply chain optimization, of driving cost out of the supply chain, seems to be at odds with being inclusive, responsive, and in bringing in your own diverse suppliers. A company may have had 20 to 30 suppliers of a product, and then they look to drive that down with to just one or two suppliers. They negotiate contract prices for three-year contracts. That tends to weed out some of the smaller, more diverse organizations for several reasons.

Quentin McCorvey Sr.

McCorvey

For example, Rod talked about McDonald’s taking a chance on him. Well, they took a chance on him being a four-person organization; if he had to [grow first] he never would have had the opportunity.

For a company that requires a product in the market for every location nationally — as opposed to regionally — at a certain price, that tends to challenge a lot of the inclusion or the diversity in the supply chain.

Gardner: Right. Some companies have rules in place that don’t provide the flexibility to attract a richer supplier environment. What is being done from your perspective at SAP Ariba, Jon, to go after such a calcification of rules that leads to somewhat limited thinking in terms of where they can find choices?

Power through partnerships

Stevens: That short-term thinking that Quentin talked about is absolutely one of the big barriers, and that generally comes down to metrics. What are they trying to measure? What are they trying to accomplish?

The more thought-leading companies are able to look past something in the first year or two, and focus on not just driving cost out, as Quentin talked about, but discovering what else their suppliers can help with, whether it’s something from a regulatory standpoint or something from a product and innovation perspective.

Certainly, one challenge is that short-term thinking, the other is access to information. We see far too many procurement organizations that just aren’t thinking on a broader scale, whether it’s a diverse scale or a global scale. What SAP Ariba is now bringing to the table with our solutions is being able to include information about where to find diverse suppliers, where to search and locate suppliers, and we do that through many partnerships.

We have a solution in South Africa called Tradeworld, which addresses this very topic for that market. We have a solution called SAP Ariba Spot Buy, which allows us to bring diverse suppliers automatically into a catalog for procurement organizations to leverage. And at SAP Ariba LIVE 2017 we announced that we are partnering with Rod and his firm, ConnXus, to expand the diversity marketplace by linking the ConnXus database and the SAP Ariba Network, which opens the door to more opportunities for all of our customers.

Robinson: If I could add to Jon’s point, one thing I also look forward to as a part of our partnership with SAP Ariba is thought leadership. There are opportunities for us to share best practices. We know companies who are doing it really well, we know the companies that maybe struggling with it, but within our joint customer portfolios, we will be able to share some of those best practices.

For example, there may be situations where a company is doing a big maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) bid and you have some large players involved, such as W.W. Grainger. There may be opportunities to introduce Grainger to smaller suppliers that maybe provide fewer stock keeping units (SKUs) that they can leverage strategically across their accounts. I have been involved in a number of initiatives like that. Those are the types of insights that we will be able to bring to the table, and that really excites me about this partnership.

Gardner: Those insights, that data, and the ability to leverage a business network to automate and facilitate that all at scale is key. From what we are hearing here at SAP Ariba LIVE, leveraging that business network is essential. Rod, tell us aboutConnXus? What’s being announced here?

Seek and ye shall find in the connected cloud

Robinson: ConnXus is a next-generation procurement platform that specializes in making corporate supply chains more inclusive, transparent, and compliant. As I mentioned, we serve several global companies, many of which we share relationships with SAP Ariba.  Our cloud-based platform makes it easy for companies to track, monitor, and report against their supplier diversity objectives.

One of the major features is our supplier database, which provides real-time searchable access to nearly two million vetted women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses across hundreds of categories. We integrate with the SAP Ariba Network. That makes it simple for companies to identify vetted, diverse suppliers. They can also search on various criteria including certifications, category, and geography. We have local, national and global capabilities.  SAP Ariba already is in a number of markets that we are looking to penetrate.

Gardner: I was really impressed when I looked at the ConnXus database, how rich and detailed it is, and not just ownership of companies but also the composition of those companies, where those people are located. So you would actually know where your inclusive supply chain is going to be, where the rubber hits the road on that, so to speak.

Jon, tell us about the news here on March 21, 2017, a marriage between SAP Ariba and ConnXus.

Stevens: The SAP Ariba Network has a community of over 2.5 million companies, and it’s companies like M and R Distribution Services that we have been able to help grow and foster over time, using some of the solutions I talked about and Ariba Discovery.

Adding to the information that Rod just talked about, we are greatly expanding that. We have the world’s largest, most global business network and now we have the world’s most diverse business network, due to the partnership with ConnXus being able to provide that information through various processes.

The partnership with ConnXus will allow us to provide a lot more education, a lot more awareness.

Fortune 2000 companies are looking all the time through requests for proposal (RFPs), through sourcing events, and analyzing supplier performance on the SAP Ariba Network. The partnership with ConnXus will allow us to provide a lot more education, a lot more awareness to them.

For the suppliers that are on our network and those who will be joining us as a part of being in ConnXus, we expect to drive a lot more business.

Gardner: If I am a purchasing agent or a procurement officer and I want to improve my supplier inclusion program, how would something like, say, SAP Ariba Spot Buy using the ConnXus database, benefit me?

Stevens: As you decide to search for a category, we will return to you several things, one of which is now the diverse supplier list that ConnXus has. One of the things we are going to be doing with SAP Ariba Spot Buy is to have a section that highlights the diversity category so that it’s front and center for a purchasing agent to use and to take advantage of.

Gardner: Clearly there is strong value and benefit here if you are a procurement officer to get involved with the ConnXus database and Ariba Network. Quentin, at M and R Distribution Services, tell us from the perspective of a small supplier like yourself, what you’re hearing about Ariba and ConnXus that interests you?

Be fruitful and multiply business opportunities 

McCorvey: You referenced a marriage between SAP Ariba and ConnXus, and part of a marriage is to be fruitful and multiply. So I want them to be fruitful so I can multiply my business opportunities. What that does for a company like ours is, we are looking for opportunities. It’s tougher for me to compete as a small business against a Grainger, or against a Fastenal, or against other larger companies like that.

So when I am going after opportunities like that, it’s going to be tough for me to win those large-scale RFPs. But if there is a target spot opportunity that I am looking for or within a region, it’s something that I can begin to do if a company is looking for someone like me.

We’ve talked a lot about corporations and the benefit of corporations, but there is also a consumer benefit, too, because we are in an age where the consumer is socially responsible and really wants to have a company that they are either investing in or they’re buying products from and they look for inclusion in their supply chains.

Folks are looking at that when they are make their investment and consumer decisions. Every company has an extremely diverse consumer base, so why should they not have a diverse supplier base? When companies look at that business ethic and corporate social responsibility as a driving tool for their organization, I want them to be able to find me among the Fortune top 20 companies. The relationship that ConnXus and SAP Ariba are driving really catalyzes these opportunities for me.

Gardner: Rod, if a company like M and R Distribution Services is not yet in your database and they want to be, how might they get going on that process and become vetted and be available to a global environment like the Ariba Network?

Robinson: It’s really simple. One of the things that we have striven to provide is a fantastic, simple user experience. It takes about six minutes to complete the initial supplier profile. Any supplier can complete a profile at no cost.

Many suppliers actually get into our database because of the services that we already provide to large enterprise customers. So if you are a McDonald’s supplier, for example, you are already going to be in our database because we scrub their vendor data on an annual basis. I think Quentin is already in because he happens to be a vendor of one of our customers, or of multiple customers.

There is a vetting process where we integrate with other third-parties to pull in data, and then you become discoverable by all of the buyers on our platform.

Gardner: Before we close out, let’s look to the future. Jon, when we think about getting this rich data, putting it in the hands of the people who can use it, we also are putting it in the hands of the machines that can use it, right?

So when we think about bots and artificial intelligence (AI) trends, what are some of your predictions for how the future will come about when it comes to procurement and inclusive supply chains?

The future is now

Stevens: You talked about trends. One is certainly around transparency and visibility; another one is around predictive analytics and intelligence. We believe that a third is around partnerships like this to drive more collaboration.

But predictive analytics, that’s not a future thing, that’s something we do today and some of the leading procurement companies are figuring out how to take advantage of it. So, for example, when a machine breaks down, you are not waiting for it. Instead, the machine is telling our systems, “Hey, wait a minute, I’ve got a problem.”

Not only that, but they are producing for the buyer the intelligence that they need to order something. We already know who the suppliers are, we already know what potentially should be done, and we are providing these decisions to procurement organizations.

The future, it’s here, you see it in our personal lives, on our phones, when you get recommendations in the morning, on the news, and everything else. It’s here today through some of our solutions.

We began to realize that this is really a market-imperative. This is something that is creating value for the organization.

And this trend around diversity, it’s also here. You mentioned SAP Ariba Spot Buy and we also have some of these other solutions like SAP Ariba Discovery where a procurement person is starting to create a sourcing event. We have the ability in our solutions to automatically recommend suppliers and based off of the goals that that procurement organization has, we can pre-populate and recommend the diverse MRO suppliers that you might want to consider for your program.

You’re seeing that today through the Ariba Network and through things like Guided Buying, where we are helping facilitate many of those steps for procurement organizations. So it’s really fun and the future in many respects is here right now.

Value-driven supply chains

Robinson: I envision a future in procurement of being able to make informed decisions on supplier selection. Procurement professionals are in a great position to change the world, and the CPO of the future; they are going to be Millennials. They want more control, and they want more transparency, and, to Quentin’s point, they want to buy from organizations that share their same values.

Our partnership with SAP Ariba will create this environment where we can move closer to fulfilling this vision of whenever you have a specification that you’ve put into the system, you’ll be pushed supplier options, and you can actually configure your criteria such that you create this optimal supplier mix – whether diversity is important to you, green/environmental issues are important you, if ethical practices are important to you. All of this can be built-in and weighted within your selection. You will create an optimal supplier portfolio that balances all of the things that are important to you and your organization.

McCorvey: Why I am excited? This conversation has come full circle for me. I started off taking about supply optimizations and some of the challenges that they pose for businesses like me. We know that people do business most often with people they know, like and appreciate. What I want to do is turn a digital connection into a digital handshake and use predictive analytics and the connections between Jon and Rod that propose an opportunity for folks to know me, for me to grow as a new organization, and for me to be in the forefront of their minds. That is a challenge that this kind of supply chain optimization helps to overcome.

I’m really happy for where this is going to go in the future. In the end, there are going to be a lot of organizations both large and small that are going to benefit from this partnership. I look forward to the great things that are going to come from it, for not only both organizations — but for people like me across the country.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: SAP Ariba.

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How AI, IoT and blockchain will shake up procurement and supply chains

The next BriefingsDirect digital business thought leadership panel discussion focuses on how artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things (IoT), machine learning (ML), and blockchain will shake up procurement and supply chain optimization.

Stay with us now as we develop a new vision for how today’s cutting-edge technologies will usher in tomorrow’s most powerful business tools and processes. The panel was assembled and recorded at the recent 2017 SAP Ariba LIVE conference in Las Vegas. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about the data-driven, predictive analytics, and augmented intelligence approach to supply chain management and procurement, please welcome the executives from SAP Ariba:

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: It seems like only yesterday we were confident to have a single view of a customer, or clean data, or maybe a single business process end–to-end value. But now, we are poised to leapfrog the status quo by using words like predictive and proactive for many business functions.

Why are AI and ML such disrupters to how we’ve been doing business processes?

Shahane: If you look back, some of the technological impact  in our private lives, is impacting our public life. Think about the amount of data and signals that we are gathering; we call it big data.

We not only do transactions in our personal life, we also have a lot of content that gets pushed at us. Our phone records, our location as we move, so we are wired and we are hyper-connected.

Dinesh Shahane

Shahane

Similar things are happening to businesses. Since we are so connected, a lot of data is created. Having all that big data – and it could be a problem from the privacy perspective — gives you an opportunity to harness that data, to optimize it and make your processes much more efficient, much more engaged.

If you think about dealing with big data, you try and find patterns in that data, instead of looking at just the raw data. Finding those patterns collectively as a discipline is called machine learning. There are various techniques, and you can find a regression pattern, or you can find a recommendation pattern — you can find all kinds of patterns that will optimize things, and make your experience a lot more engaging.

If you combine all these machine learning techniques with tools such as natural language processing (NLP), higher-level tools such as inference engines, and text-to-speech processing — you get things like Siri and Alexa. It was created for the consumer space, but the same thing could be available for your businesses, and you can train that for your business processes. Overall, these improve efficiency, give delight, and provide a very engaging user experience.

Gardner: Sanjay, from the network perspective it seems like we are able to take advantage of really advanced cloud services, put that into a user experience that could be conversational, like we do with our personal consumer devices.

What is it about the cloud services in the network, however, that are game-changers when it comes to applying AI and ML to just good old business processes?

Multiple intelligence recommended

Almeida: Building on Dinesh’s comment, we have a lot of intelligent devices in our homes. When we watch Netflix, there are a lot of recommendations that happen. We control devices through voice. When we get home the lights are on. There is a lot of intelligence built into our personal lives. And when we go to work, especially in an enterprise, the experience is far different. How do we make sure that your experience at home carries forward to when you are at work?

Sanjay Almeida

Almeida

From the enterprise and business networks perspective, we have a lot of data; a lot of business data about the purchases, the behaviors, the commodities. We can use that data to make the business processes a lot more efficient, using some of the models that Dinesh talked about.

How do we actually do a recommendation so that we move away from traditional search, and take action on rows and columns, and drive that through a voice interface? How do we bring that intelligence together, and recommend the next actions or the next business process? How do we use the data that we have and make it a more recommended-based interaction versus the traditional forms-based interaction?

Gardner: Sudhir, when we go out to the marketplace with these technologies, and people begin to use them for making better decisions, what will that bring to procurement and supply chain activities? Are we really talking about letting the machines make the decisions? Where does the best of what machines do and the best of what people do meet?

Bhojwani: Quite often I get this question, What will be the role of procurement in 2025? Are the machines going to be able to make all the decisions and we will have no role to play? You can say the same thing about all aspects of life, so why only procurement?

I think human intelligence is still here to stay. I believe, personally, it can be augmented. Let’s take a concrete example to see what it means. At SAP Ariba, we are working on a product called product sourcing. Essentially this product takes a bill of material (BOM), and

Sudhir Bhojwani

Bhojwani

it tells you the impact. So what is so cool about it?

One of our customers has a BOM, which is an eight-level deep tree with 10 million nodes in it. In this 10 million-node commodity tree, or BOM, a person is responsible for managing all the items. But how does he or she know what is the impact of a delay on the entire tree? How do you visualize that?I think humans are very poor at visualizing a 10-million node tree; machines are really good at it. Well, where the human is still going to be required is that eventually you have to make a decision. Are we comfortable that the machine alone makes a decision? Only time will tell. I continue to think that this kind of augmented intelligence is what we are looking for, not some machine making complete decisions on our behalf.

Gardner: Dinesh, in order to make this more than what we get in our personal consumer space, which in some cases is nice to have, it doesn’t really change the game. But we are looking for a higher productivity in business. The C-Suite is looking for increased margins; they are looking for big efficiencies. What is it from a business point of view that these technologies can bring? Is this going to be just a lipstick on a pig, so to speak, or do we really get to change how business productivity comes about?

Humans and machines working together

Shahane: I truly believe it will change the productivity. The whole intelligence advantage — if you look at it from a highest perspective like enhanced user experience — provides an ability to help you make your decisions.

When you make decisions having this augmented assistant helping you along the way — and at the same time dealing with large amount of data combined in a business benefit — I think it will make a huge impact.

Let me give you an example. Think about supplier risk. Today, at first you look at risk as the people on the network, and how you are directly doing business with them. You want to know everything about them, their profile, and you care about them being a good business partner to you.

But think about the second, third and fourth years, and some things become not so interesting for your business. All that information for those next years is not directly available on the network; that is distant. But if those signals can be captured and somehow surface in your decision-making, it can really reduce risk.

Reducing risk means more productivity, more benefits to your businesses. So that is one advantage I could see, but there will be a number of advantages. I think we’ll run out of time if we start talking about all of those.

Gardner: Sanjay, help us better understand. When we take these technologies and apply them to procurement, what does that mean for the procurement people themselves?

Almeida: There are two inputs that you need to make strategic decisions, and one is the data. You look at that data and you try to make sense out of it. As Sudhir mentioned, there is a limit to human beings in terms of how much data processing that they can do — and that’s where some of these technologies will help quite a bit to make better decisions.

The other part is personal biases, and eliminating personal biases by using the data. It will improve the accuracy of your strategic decisions. A combination of those two will help make better decisions, faster decisions, and procurement groups can focus on the right stuff, versus being busy with the day-to-day tasks.

Using these technologies, the data, and the power of the data from computational excellence — that’s taking the personal biases out of making decisions. That combination will really help them make better strategic decisions.

Bhojwani: Let me add something to what Sanjay said. One of the biggest things we’re seeing now in procurement, especially in enterprise software in general, is people’s expectations have clearly gone up based on their personal experience outside. I mean, 10 years back I could not have imagined that I would never go to a store to buy shoes. I thought, who buys shoes online? Now, I never go to stores. I don’t know when was the last time I bought shoes anywhere but online? It’s been few years, in fact. Now, think about that expectation on procurement software.

Currently procurement has been looked upon as a gatekeeper; they ensure that nobody does anything wrong. The problem with that approach is it is a “stick” model, there is no “carrot” behind it. What users want is, “Hey, show me the benefit and I will follow the rules.” We can’t punish the entire company because of a couple of bad apples.

By and large, most people want to follow the rules. They just don’t know what the rules are; they don’t have a platform that makes that decision-making easy, that enables them to get the job done sooner, faster, better. And that happens when the user experience is acceptable and where procurement is no longer looked down upon as a gatekeeper. That is the fundamental shift that has to happen, procurement has to start thinking about themselves as an enabler, not a gatekeeper. That’s the fundamental shift.

Gardner: Here at SAP Ariba LIVE 2017, we’re hearing about new products and services. Are there any of the new products and services that we could point to that say, aha, this is a harbinger of things to come?

In blockchain we trust

Shahane: The conversational interfaces and bots, they are a fairly easy technology for anyone to adopt nowadays, especially because some of these algorithms are available so easily. But — from my perspective — I think one of the technologies that will have a huge impact on our life will be advent of IoT devices, 3D printing, and blockchain.

To me, blockchain is themost exciting one. That will have huge impact on the way people look at the business network. Some people think about blockchain as a complementary idea to the network. Other people think that it is contradictory to the network. We believe it is complementary to the network.

Blockchain reaches out to the boundary of your network, to faraway places that we are not even connected to, and brings that into a governance model where all of your processes and all your transactions are captured in the central network.

I believe that a trusted transactional model combined with other innovations like IoT, where a machine could order by itself … My favorite example is when a washing machine starts working when the energy is cheaper … it’s a pretty exciting use-case.

This is a combination of open platforms and IoT combining with blockchain-based energy-rate brokering. These are the kind of use cases that will become possible in the future. I see a platform sitting in the center of all these innovations.

Gardner: Sanjay, let’s look at blockchain from your perspective. How do you see that ability of a distributed network authority fitting into business processes? Maybe people hadn’t quite put those two together.

Almeida: The core concept of blockchain is distributed trust and transparency. When we look at business networks, we obviously have the largest network in the world. We have more than 2.5 million buyers and suppliers transacting on the SAP Ariba Network — but there are hundreds of millions of others who are not on the network. Obviously we would like to get them.

If you use the blockchain technology to bring that trust together, it’s a federated trust model. Then our supply chain would be lot more efficient, a lot more trustworthy. It will improve the efficiency, and all the risk that’s associated with managing suppliers will be managed better by using that technology.

Gardner: So this isn’t a “maybe,” or an “if.” It’s “definitely,” blockchain will be a significant technology for advancing productivity in business processes and business platforms?

Almeida: Absolutely. And you have to have the scale of an SAP Ariba, have the scale from the number of suppliers, the amount of business that happens on the network. So you have to have a scale and technology together to make that happen. We want to be a center of a blockchain, we want to be a blockchain provider, and so that other third-party ecosystem partners can be part of this trusted network and make this process a lot more efficient.

Gardner: Sudhir, for those who are listening and reading this information and are interested in taking advantage of ML and better data, of what the IoT will bring, and AI where it makes sense — what in your estimation should they be doing now in order to prepare themselves as an organization to best take advantage of these? What would you advise them to be doing now in order to better take advantage of these technologies and the services that folks like SAP Ariba can provide so that they can stand out in their industry?

Bhojwani: That’s a very good question, and that’s one of our central themes. At the core of it, I fundamentally believe the tool cannot solve the problem completely on its own, you have to change as well. If the companies continue to want to stick to the old processes — but try to apply the new technology — it doesn’t solve the problem. We have seen that movie played before. People get our tool, they say, hey, we were sold very good visions, so we bought the SAP Ariba tool. We tried to implement it and it didn’t work for us.

When you question that, generally the answer is, we just tried to use the tool — tried to change the tool to fit our model, to fit our process. We didn’t try to change the processes. As for blockchain, enterprises are not used to being for track and trace, they are not really exposing that kind of information in any shape or form – or they are very secretive about it.

So for them to suddenly participate in this requires a change on their side. It requires seeing what is the benefit for me, what is the value that it offers me? Slowly but surely that value is starting to become very, very clear. You hear more companies — especially on the payment side — starting to participate in blockchain. A general ledger will be available on blockchain some day. This is one of the big ideas for SAP.

If you think about SAP, they run more general ledgers in the world than any other company. They are probably the biggest general ledger company that connects all of that. Those things are possible, but it’s still a technology only until the companies want to say, “Hey, this is the value … but I have to change myself as well.”

This changing yourself part, even though it sounds so simple, is what we are seeing in the consumer world. There, change happens a little bit faster than in the enterprise world. But, even that is actually changing, because of the demands that the end-user, the Millennials, when they come into the workforce; the force that they have and the expectations that they have. Enterprises, if they continue to resist, won’t be sustainable.

They will be forced to change. So I personally believe in next three to five years when there are more-and-more Millennials in the workforce, you will see people adopting blockchain and new ledgers at a much faster pace.

A change on both sides

Shahane: I think Sudhir put it very nicely. I think enterprises need to be open to change. You can achieve transformation if the value is clearly articulated. One of the big changes for procurement is you need to transition yourself from being a spend controller into a value creator. There is a lot of technology that will benefit you, and some of the technology vendors like us, we cannot just throw a major change at our users. We have to do it gradually. For example, with AI it will start as augmented first, before it starts making algorithmic decisions.

So it is a change on both sides, and once that happens — and once we trust each other on the system — nice things will happen.

Almeida: One thing I would add to that is organizations need to think about what they want to achieve in the future and adopt the tool and technology and business processes for their future business goals. It’s not about living in the past because the past is going to be gone. So how do you differentiate yourself, your business with the rest of the competition that you have?

The past business processes and people and technology many not necessarily get you over there. So how do you leverage the technology that companies like SAP and Ariba provide? Think about what should be your future business processes. The people that you will have, as Sudhir mentioned, the Millennials, they have different expectations and they won’t accept the status quo.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: SAP Ariba.

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Why effective IoT adoption is a team sport, and how to become a player

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer discussion highlights how Internet of things (IoT) adoption means more than just scaling-up networks. The complexity and novel architectural demands of IoT require a rethinking of the edge of nearly any enterprise.

We’ll explore here how implementing IoT strategies is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor — nor can it be bought off the shelf. What’s more, those new to the computational hive and analytical edge attributes of IoT are discovering that it takes a team approach.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. 

To explain how many disparate threads of an effective IoT fabric come together, we’re joined by Tushar Halgali, Senior Manager in the Technology Strategy and Architecture Practice at Deloitte Consulting in San Francisco, and Jeff Carlat, Senior Director of Technology Solutions at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Strategic Alliances. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What the top trends making organizations recognize the importance of IoT?

Carlat: We’re at the cusp of a very large movement of digitizing entire value chains. Organizations have more and more things connected to the Internet. Look at your Nest thermostats and the sensors that are on everything. The connectivity of that back to the data center to do analytics in real-time is critical for businesses to reach the next level of efficiencies — and to maintain their competitiveness in the market.

Gardner: Tushar, this is a different type of network requirement set. We’re dealing with varied data types, speeds, and volumes in places that we haven’t seen before. What are the obstacles that organizations face as they look at their current infrastructure and the need to adapt?

Halgali: One of the really interesting things we’ve seen is that traditionally organizations have been solving technology-related problems as all information technology (IT)-related problems. There was this whole concept of machine to machine (M2M) a while back. It connected machines to the Internet, but it was a very small segment.

Now, we’re trying to get machines to connect to the Internet and have them communicate with each other. There are a lot of complexities involved. It’s not just the IT pieces, but having the operational technology (OT) connect to the IT world, too. It creates a very complex ecosystem of components.

Gardner: Let’s parse out the differences between OT in the IT. How do you describe those? Why should we understand and appreciate how different they are?

Jeff CarlatCarlat: When we think of OT, you think of long-standing companies out there, Bosch, National Instruments (NI), and many other companies that have been instrumenting sensors for operations, shop floors, oil and gas, and with every pump being sensed. The problem is that humans would have to interact a lot around those sensors, to remediate or to understand when something like a bearing on a pump has failed. [Learn more on OT and IoT.]

What’s key here is that IT, those core data-center technologies that HPE is leading the market in, has the ability of run analytics and to provide intelligence and insights from all of that sensor data. When you can connect the OT devices with the IT — whether in the data center or delivering that IT to the edge, which we call the Intelligent Edge — you can actually do your insights, create your feedback, and provide corrective actions even before things fail, rather than waiting.

Gardner: That failed ball bearing on some device isn’t just alerting the shop floor of a failure, it’s additionally automating a process where the inventory is checked. If it’s not there, the supply chain is checked, the order is put in place, it’s delivered and ready to install before any kind of breakdown — or did I oversimplify that?

End of Downtime

Carlat: That’s a fair representation. We’re working closely with a company called Flowserve. We’re building the telemetry within the pumps so that when a cavitation happens or a bearing is starting to wear out, it will predict the mean time for failure and alert them immediately. It’s all truly connected. It will tell you when it’s going to fail. It provides the access to fix it ahead of time, or as part of a scheduled maintenance plan, rather than during downtime, because downtime in an oil production facility or any business can cost millions of dollars.

Gardner: Tushar, are there any other examples you can think of to illustrate the power and importance of OT and IT together?

How to Gain Business Insights

From the Intelligent IoT Edge

Halgali: If our readers ever get a chance to check out one of the keynote speakers [at HPEDiscover London 2016] on the Intelligent Edge, there’s a good presentation by PTC ThingWorx software, which is an IoT platform and the HPE Edgeline servers in a manufacturing facility. You have conveyor belts that need certain improvements, they’re constantly producing things, and they’re part of the production facility. It’s all tied to the revenue of the organization, and the minute it shuts down, there are problems.

Tushar HalgaliMaintenance needs to be done on those machines, but you don’t want to do it too soon because you’re just spending money unnecessarily and it’s not efficient. You don’t want it too late, because then there’s downtime. So, you want to find the equilibrium between the two.

IoT determines the right window for when that maintenance needs to be done. If there’s a valve problem, and something goes down quickly, sensors track the data and we analyze the information. The minute that data goes off a certain baseline, it will tell you about this problem — and then it will say that there’s the potential in the future for a major problem.

It will actually generate a work order, which then feeds from the OT systems into the IT systems, and it’s all automatic. Then, when mechanics come in to try to solve these problems, they can use augmented reality or virtual reality to look at the machine and then fix the problem.

It’s actually a closed-loop ecosystem that would not have happened in the M2M base. It’s the next layer of maturity or advancement that IoT brings up.

Gardner: We can measure, we can analyze, and we can communicate. That gives us a lot of power. We can move toward minimum viable operations, where we’re not putting parts in place when they’re not needed, but we’re not going down either.

It reminds me of what happened on the financial side of businesses a decade or two ago, where you wanted to have spend management. You couldn’t do it until you knew where all your money was, where all the bills had to be paid, but then doing so, you could really manage things precisely. Those were back office apps, digital ledgers.

So, it’s a maturity coming to devices — analog, digital, what have you, and it’s pretty exciting. What’s the impact here financially, Jeff?

Carlat: Well, huge. Right now, IDC predicts IoT to represent about a $1.3 trillion opportunity by2020. It’s a huge opportunity, not only for incremental revenue for businesses, but increased efficiencies, reducing cost, reducing downtime, reducing risk; so, a tremendous benefit. Companies need to strongly consider a movement for digitizing the value chains to remain competitive in the future.

Bigger and Better Data at the Edge

Gardner: Okay. We understand why it’s important and we have a pretty good idea of what you need to do. Now, how do you get there? Is this big data at the edge? I heard a comment just the other day that there’s no bigger data than edge data and IoT data. We’re going to have to manage scales here that we haven’t seen before.

Carlat: It’s an excellent point. Jet engines that are being used today are generating 5 TB of data every time they land or take off. Imagine that for every plane, every engine that’s flying in the sky, every day, every year. The amount of data is huge. This brings me to the unique way that HPE is approaching this, and we truly believe we are leaders in the data center now and are leaders within IT.

We’re taking that design, that implementation, that knowledge, and we’re designing infrastructure, data center quality infrastructure, that’s put on the edge, ruggedized compute or analytics, and providing the ability to do that analysis, the machine learning, and doing it all locally, rather than sending all that data to the cloud for analytics. Imagine how expensive that would be.

That’s one approach we’re taking on within HPE. But, it’s not just about HPE tackling this. Customers are asking where to start. “This is overwhelming, this is complex. How do we do this?” We’re coming together to do advisory services, talking our customers through this, hand-holding, building a journey for them to do that digitization according to their plans and without disrupting their current environment.

Gardner: Tushar, when you have a small data center at the edge, you’re going to eke out some obvious efficiencies, but this portends unforeseen circumstances that could be very positive. What can you do when you have this level of analytics, and you take it to a macro level? You can begin to analyze things on an industry-level, and then have the opportunity to drill down and find new patterns, new associations, perhaps even new ways to design processes, factory floors, retail environments? What are we talking about in terms of the potential for the analytics when we capture and manage this larger amount of data?

Halgali: We’ve noted there are a lot of IoT use cases, and the value that generates so far has been around cost optimization, efficiencies, risk management, and those kinds of things. But by doing things on the edge, not only can you do all of those, you can start getting into the higher-value areas, such as revenue growth and innovation.

A classic example is remote monitoring. Think of yourself as a healthcare provider who would not be able to get into the business of managing people’s health if they’re all located remotely. If we have certain devices in homes through sensors and everything, you can start tracking their behaviors and their patterns. When they’re taking medicine and those kinds of things, and have all the information created through profiles of those people. You have now distributed the power of taking care of all the constituents in your base, without having to have them physically be in a hospital.

Gardner: Those feedback loops are not just one way where you can analyze, but you can start to apply the results, the benefits of the analysis, right back into the edge.

Carlat: Health and life sciences are great examples of using IoT as a way of more efficiently managing the hospital beds. It costs a lot of money to have people sit in a hospital when they don’t need to be there. To be able provide patient access remotely, to be able monitor them, to be able to intervene on an as-needed basis, drives much greater efficiencies.

We’ve talked a little bit about industrial IoT, we’ve talked a little bit about health and life sciences, but this extends into retail and smart stores, too. We’re doing a lot with Home Depot to deliver the store of the future, bridging the digital with the brick-and-mortar across 2,200 stores in North America.

It also has to do with the experience around campus and branch networks. At Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, HPE built that out with indoor Global Positioning System (GPS) and built out a mobile app that allows indoor wayfinding. It allows the patrons visiting the game to have a totally new, immersive experience.

They found uploads and downloads of photos, and they found hotspots by mapping out in the stadium. The hotspots had a great unobstructed view of the field, so there were a lot of people there taking pictures. They installed a food stand nearby and they have increased revenues because of strategic placement based on this IoT data. Levi’s Stadium recognized $1 million in additional revenue in the first season and 10 times the growth in the number of contacts that they have in their repository now.

Gardner: So, it’s safe to say that edge computing and intelligence is a gift that will keep giving, at levels organizations haven’t even conceived of yet.

Carlat: I believe it’s a necessity to stay competitive in the world of tomorrow.

How to Gain Business Insights

From the Intelligent IoT Edge

Gardner: If your competitor does this, and you don’t, that’s going to be a big question mark for your customers to mull over.

While we are still on the subject of the edge technical capabilities, by being able to analyze and not just pass along data, it seems to me it’s also a big help when it comes to compliance and security, which are big concerns.

Not only does security get mitigated by hardening or putting up a wall, probably the safest bet is to be able to analyze when something is breached or something is going wrong, and then to control or contain that. Tell me why the HPE Edgeline approach of analyzing data fast and on the edge can also be a big boost to security risk containment and other compliance issues.

Carlat: We do a lot around asset tracking. Typically, you need to send someone out there to remediate. By using Edgeline, using our sensor data, and using asset tagging, you can ensure that the right person can be identified as the service person physically at the pump to replace it, rather than just saying that they did it, writing on paper, and actually being off doing something else. You have security, you have the appropriate compliance levels with the right people fixing the right things in the right manner, and it’s all traceable and trackable.

Halgali: When you begin using edge devices, as well as geolocation services, you have this ability to do fine-grained policy management and access control for not just the people, but also devices. The surface area for IoT is so huge there are many ad-hoc points into the network. By having a security layer, you can control that and edge devices certainly help with that.

A classic example would be if you have a camera in a certain place. The camera is taking constant feeds of things that are going on that are wrong or right; it’s constantly recording the data. But the algorithms that have been fed into the edge device allow it to capture things that are normal, so it can not only alert authorities at the right time, but also store feed only for that. Why store days and day’s worth of images, when you can pick only the ones that truly matter?

As Jeff said, it allows workplace restrictions and compliance, but also in an open area, it allows you to track events that are specific.

In other cases, let’s say the mining industry or the oil and gas industry, where you have workers that are going to be in very remote locations and it’s very hard to track each one of them. When you have the ability to track the assets over time, if things go wrong, then it’s easier to intervene and help out.

Carlat: Here is a great personal example. I went to my auto dealership and I pulled into the garage. Immediately, I was greeted at my door by name, “Hello Mr. Carlat. Are you in for your service?”

I thought, “How do you know I came in? Are you tracking me? How are you doing that?” It turns out, they have radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. When you come in for service, they apply these tags. As soon as you pull in, they provide a personalized experience.

Also, it yields a net benefit of location tracking. They know exactly where my car is at all stages. If I moved to a rental car that they have there, my profile is automatically transferred over there. It starts their cycle time metrics, too, the traceability of how they’re doing on remediating whatever my service level may be. It’s a whole new experience. I’m now a lifetime-loyal customer of this auto dealer because of that personalization; it’s all coming from implementation of IoT.

Gardner: The implications are vast; whether it’s user experience, operational efficiency, risk reduction, or insights and analysis at different levels of an industry and even a company.

It’s very impressive stuff, when you can measure everything and you can gather as much data as you want and then you can triage, and analyze that data and put the metadata out to the cloud; so much is possible.

We’ve established why this is of interest. Now, let’s think a little bit about how you get there for organizations that are thinking more about re-architecting their edge in order to avail themselves of some of these benefits. What is it about the HPE and Deloitte alliance that allows for a pathway to get on board and start doing things in a proper order to make this happen in the best fashion?

Transformation Journey, One Step at a Time

Halgali: Dana, anytime you do an IoT initiative, the key thing to realize that it should be part of a major digital transformation initiative. Like any other transformation story, there are the people, process, and the technology components of it. Jeff and I can talk about these three at a very high level when you begin talking about the process and the business model.

Deloitte has a huge practice in the strategy and the process space. What we’re looking at is digital industrial value-chain transformation. Let’s look at something like a smart factory.

What’s the value chain for an organization that’s making heavy machinery, end-to-end, all the way from R and D and planning, to procurement and development and shipment, and after-sale repairs, the entire value chain? What does that look like in the new IoT era? Then, decompose that into processes and use cases, and then identify which are the most high-value use cases, quantifying them, because that’s important.

Identifying the use cases that will deliver immediate tangible value in the near term provides the map of where to begin the IoT journey. If you can’t quantify concrete ROI, then what’s the point of investing? That addresses the reason of what IoT can do for the organization and why to leverage this capability. And then, it’s about helping our clients build out the business cases, so that they can justify the investments needed from the shareholders and the board — and can start implementing.

At a very high level, what’s the transformation story? What’s the impact on the business model for the organization? Once you have those strategy questions answered, then you get into the tactical aspects, which is how we execute on it.

From an execution standpoint, let’s look at enablement via technology. Once you have identified which use-cases to implement, you can utilize the pre-integrated, pre-configured IoT offerings that Deloitte and HPE have co-developed. These offerings address use cases such as asset monitoring and maintenance (in oil and gas, manufacturing, and smart cities), and intelligent spaces (in public venues such as malls, retail stores, and stadiums), and digital workplaces (in office buildings). One must also factor in organization, change and communication management as addressing cultural shifts as one of the most challenging aspects of an IoT-enabled digital transformation. Such a holistic approach helps our clients to think big, start small, and scale fast.

Gardner: Tushar just outlined a very nice on-ramp process. What about some places to go for information or calls for action? Where should people get started as they learn how to implement on the process that Tushar just described?

How to Gain Business Insights

From the Intelligent IoT Edge

Carlat: We’re working as one with Deloitte to deliver these transformations. Customers with interest can come to either Deloitte or HPE. We at HPE have a strong group of technology services consultants who can step in and help in partnership with Deloitte as well.

So, come to either company. Any of our partner representatives can get all of this and our websites are loaded with information. We’re here to help. We’re here to hold the hand and lead our customers to digitize and achieve these promised efficiencies that can be garnered from digital value chains.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: HewlettPackard Enterprise.

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Posted in big data, Cloud computing, Data center transformation, Enterprise architect, Enterprise transformation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Internet of Things, Mobile apps, mobile computing, Platform 3.0 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TasmaNet ups its cloud game to deliver a regional digital services provider solution

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer cloud adoption patterns discussion explores how integration of the latest cloud tools and methods help smooth out the difficult task of creating and maintaining cloud-infrastructure services contracts.

The results are more flexible digital services that both save cloud consumers money and provide the proper service levels and performance characteristics for each unique enterprise and small business.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Stay with us now as we hear from a Tasmanian digital services provider, TasmaNet, about their solution-level approach to cloud services attainment, especially from mid-market enterprises. To share how proper cloud procurement leads to new digital business innovations, we’re joined by Joel Harris, Managing Director of TasmaNet in Hobart, Tasmania. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Let’s start at a high level, looking at the trends that are driving how cloud services are affecting how procurement is going to be done in 2017. What has changed, in your opinion, in how enterprises are reacting to and leveraging the cloud services nowadays? 

Harris: We’re seeing a real shift in markets, particularly with the small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in their approach and adoption of cloud services. More and more, there is an acceptance that it’s okay to buy products off the Internet. We see it  every day within personal cloud, iPhones, the Apple Store, and Google Play to buy movies. So, there is now the idea in the workplace that it’s acceptable to procure business services online through cloud providers. 

Because of the success of personal cloud with companies such as Apple, there’s a carry-over in that there is an assumed equivalent success in the commercial sense, and unfortunately, that can cause some problems. What we’re seeing is a willingness to start procuring from public, and also some private cloud as well, which is really good. What we’re finding, though, is a lack of awareness about what it means for businesses to buy from a cloud provider.

Gardner: What is it that the people might have wrong? What is it that they’ve not seen in terms of where the real basis for value comes when you create a proper cloud relationship? 

Solutions for
Hybrid and Private Cloud

IT Infrastructure

Harris: Look at the way personal cloud is procured, a simple click, a simple install, and you have the application. If you don’t like it, you can delete it. 

When you come into a commercial environment, it’s not that simple, although there can a perception that it is. When you’re looking at your application, the glossy picture, it may talk about functionality, business improvement, future savings, and things like that. But when you come to the implementation of a cloud product or a cloud service into a business, the business needs to make sure that it has met its service levels, from internal business requirements or external business requirements, and from customers and markets. 

Harris

But you also need to make sure that it has also married up the skills of your workforce. Cloud services are really just a tool for a business to achieve an outcome. So, you’re either arming someone in the workforce with the tool and skills to achieve an outcome or you’re going to use a service from a third-party to achieve an outcome. 

Because we’re still very early in the days of cloud being adopted by SMBs, the amount of work being put into the marrying up of the capabilities of a product, or the imagined capabilities of a product, for future benefits to internal business processes and systems is clearly not as mature as we would like. Certainly, if you look into the marketplace, the availability of partners and skills to help companies with this is also lacking at the moment. 

Cloud Costs

Then, comes the last part that we talked about, which is removing or changing the application. At the moment, a lot of SMBs are still using traditional procurement. Maybe they want a white car. Well, in cloud services there’s always the ability to change the color, but it does come at a cost. There’s traditionally a variation fee or similar charge.

SMBs are getting themselves in a bit of trouble when they say they would like a white car with four seats, and then, later on, find that they actually needed five seats and a utility. How do they go about changing that? 

The cost of change is something that sometimes gets forgotten in those scenarios. Our experience over the last two years is companies overlooking the cost of change when under a cloud-services contract. 

Gardner: I’ve also heard you say, Joel, that cloud isn’t for everyone, what do you mean by that? How would a company know whether cloud is the right fit for it or not?

Harris: Simply look for real, deep understanding of your business. Coming back to the ability to link up service levels, it’s the ability to have a clear view into the future of what a company needs to achieve its outcomes. If you can’t answer those questions for your customer, or the customer can’t answer the questions for you as a cloud provider, then I would advise you to take a step back and really start a new process of understanding what it is the customer wants out of the cloud product. 

Change later on can cost, and small businesses don’t have an amount of money to go in there and continue funding a third party to change the implementation of what, in most cases, becomes a core piece of software in an organization.

Gardner: For the organizations that you work with that are exploring deeper relationships to private cloud, do you find that they’re thinking of the future direction as well or thinking of the strategy that they’d like to go hybrid and ultimately perhaps more public cloud? Is that the common view for those that are ready for cloud now?

Harris: In the enterprise, yes. We’re definitely seeing a huge push by organizations that understand the breakdown of applications between suitable for private cloud and suitable for public cloud. 

As you come down into the SMB market, that line blurs a little bit. We have some companies that wish to put everything in the cloud because it’s easy and that’s the advice they were given. Or, you have people who think they have everything in the cloud, but it’s really a systems integrator that has now taken their servers, put them in a data center, and is managing them as more of a hosted, managed solution. 

Unfortunately, what we are seeing is that a lot of companies don’t know the difference between moving into the cloud and having a systems integrator manage their hardware for them in a data center where they don’t see it.

There’s definitely a large appetite for moving to the as-a-service model in companies that have a C-suite or some level of senior management with ownership of business process. So, if there is a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or some sort of very senior Information Technology (IT) person that has a business focus on the use of technology, we’re seeing a very strong review of what the company does and why and how things should be moved to either hybrid or 100 percent in either direction.

Gardner: So, clearly the choices you make around cloud affect the choices you make as a business; there really is a transformational aspect to this. Therefore, the contract, that decision document of how you proceed with your cloud relationship, is not just an IT document; it’s really a business document. Tell us why getting the contract right is so important.

Harris: It’s very, very important to involve all the areas of a business when going into a cloud services contract.

Ecosystems of Scale

Gardner: And it’s no longer really one relationship. That is to say that a contract isn’t often just between one party and another. As we’re finding out, this is an ecosystem, a team sport, if you will. How does the contract incorporate the need for an ecosystem and how does TasmaNet help solve that problem of relationship among multiple parties?

Harris: Traditionally, if we look at the procurement department of a company, the procurement department would draft a tender, negotiate a contract between the supplier and the company, and then services would begin to flow, or whatever product was purchased would be delivered. 

More and more, though, in the cloud services contract, the procurement department has little knowledge of the value of the information or the transaction that’s happening between the company and the supplier, and that can be quite dangerous. Even though cloud can be seen as a commodity item, the value of the services that come over the top is very much not a commodity item. It’s actually a high-value item that, in most cases, is something relevant to keeping the company operating.

What we found at TasmaNet was that a lot of the companies moving to cloud don’t have the tools to manage the contract. They’re familiar with traditional procurement arrangements, but in managing a services contract or a cloud services contract, if we want to focus on what TasmaNet provides, you need to know a number of different aspects. 

We created an ecosystem and we said that we were going to create this ecosystem with all of the tools required for our customers. We put in a portal, so that the finance manager can look at the financial performance of the services. Does it meet budget expectations, is it behaving correctly, are we achieving the business outcomes for the dollars that we said it was going to cost?

Then, on the other side, we have a different portal that’s more for the technology administrator about ensuring that the system is performing within the service-level agreements (SLAs) that have been documented either between the company and the service provider or the IT department and the big internal business units. 

It’s important to understand there are probably going to be multiple service levels here, not only between the service provider and the customer, but also the customer and their internal customers. So, it’s important to make sure that they’re managed all the way through. 

We provide a platform so that people can monitor end to end from the customers using, all the way through to the financial manager on the other side.

Gardner: We’ve seen the importance of the contract. We understand that this is a complex transaction that can involve multiple players. But I think there is also another shift when we move from a traditional IT environment to a cloud environment and then ultimately to a hybrid cloud environment, and that’s around skills. What are you seeing that might be some dissonance between what was the skill set before and what we can expect the new skill set for cloud computing success to be?

Sea Change

Harris: We are seeing a huge change, and sometimes this change is very difficult for the people involved. We see that with cloud services coming along, the nature of the tool is changing. A lot of people traditionally have been trained in a single skill set, such as storage or virtualization. Once you start to bring in cloud services, you’re actually bundling a bunch of individual tools and infrastructure together to become one, and all of a sudden, that worker or that individual now has a tool that is made up of an ecosystem of tools. Therefore, their understanding of those different tools and how they report on it and the related elements change.

We see a change from people doing to controlling. We might see a lot of planning to try to avoid events, rather than responding to them. It really does change the ecosystem in your workforce, and it’s probably one of the biggest areas where we see risk arise when people are moving to a cloud-services contract.

Gardner: Is there something also in the realm of digital services, rather than just technology, that larger category of digital services, business-focused outcomes? Is that another thing that we need to take into consideration as organizations are thinking about the right way to transform to be of, for, and by the cloud?

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Harris: It comes back to a business understanding. It’s being able to put a circle around something that’s a process or something we could buy from someone else. We know how important it is to the company, we know what it costs the company, and we know the service levels needed around that particular function. Therefore, we can put it out to the market to evaluate. Should we be looking to buy this as a digital service, should we be looking to outsource the process, or should we be looking to have it internally on our own infrastructure and continue running it?

Those questions and the fact-finding that goes into that at the moment is one of the most important things I encourage a customer looking at cloud services to spend a lot of time on. It’s actually one of the key reasons why we have such a strong partnership at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The hardware and infrastructure is so strong and good, the skill set and the programs that we can access to work with our customers to pull out information and put it up into things like enterprise nets to understand what the landscape looks like in a customer is just as important as the infrastructure itself.

Gardner: So, the customer needs to know themselves and see how they fit into these new patterns of business, but as you are a technologist, you also have to have a great deal of visibility into what’s going on within your systems, whether they’re on your premises, or within a public-private cloud continuum of some kind. Tell me about the TasmaNet approach and how you’re using HPE products and solutions to gain that visibility to know yourself even as you are transforming.

Harris: Sure, so a couple of the functions that we use with HPE … They have a very good [cloud workload suitability] capability set called HPE Aura with which they can sit down with us and work through the total cost of ownership for an organization. That’s not just at an IT level, but it’s for almost anything, to look at the work with the accounting team, to look at the total cost, from the electricity, through to dealing with resources, the third party contractors in construction teams. That gives us a very good baseline and understanding of how much it costs today, which is really important for people to understand. 

Then, we also have other capabilities. We work with HPE to model data about the what-if. It’s very important to have that capability when working with a third-party on understanding whether or not you should move to cloud. 

Gardner: Your comments, Joel, bring me back to a better understanding of why a static cloud services contract really might be a shackle on your ability to innovate. So how do you recognize that you need to know what you don’t know going into cloud, and therefore put in place the ability to react in some sort of a short-term basis iterate, what kind of contract allows for that dynamic ability to change? How do you begin to think about a contract that is not static?

Harris: We don’t know the answer yet. We’re doing a lot of work with our current customers and with HPE to look at that. Some of the early options we are looking at is that when we create a master services agreement with a company, even for something that may be considered a commodity, we ensure that we put in a great plan around innovation, risk management framework side, and continuous service improvement. Then there’s a conduit for information to flow between the two parties around business information, which can then feed into the use of the services that we provided.

I think we still have a long way to go, because there’s a certain maturity required. We’re essentially becoming a part of another company, and that’s difficult for people to swallow, even though they accept using a cloud services contract. We’re essentially saying, “Can we have a key to your data center, or the physical front door of your office?”

If that’s disconcerting for someone, well, it should be equally disconcerting that they’re moving to cloud, because we need access to those physical environments, the people face-to-face, the business plan, the innovation plan, and to how they manage risk in order to ensure that there is a successful adoption of cloud not just today, but also going forward.

Gardner: Clearly, the destiny of you and your clients is tied closely together. You need to make them successful, they need to let you show them the tools and the new flexible nature and you need to then rely on HPE to give you the means to create those dashboards and have that visibility. It really is a different kind of relationship, co-dependence, you might say.

Harris: The strength that TasmaNet will have going forward is the fact that we’re operating under a decentralized model. We work with HPE, so that we can have a workforce on the ground closer to the customer. The model of having all of your cloud services in one location, a thousand kilometers away from the customer, while technically capable, we don’t believe is the right mix in client-supplier relationships. We need to make sure that physically there are people on the ground to work hand-in-hand with the business management and others to ensure that we have a successful outcome. 

That’s one of the strong key parts to the relationship between HPE and TasmaNet. TasmaNet is now a certified services provider with HPE, which lets us use their workforce anywhere around Australia and work with companies that want to utilize TasmaNet services.

Gardner: Help our readers and listeners understand that your regional reach is primarily in Tasmania but you’re also in Australia and you have some designs and plans for an even  larger expansion. Tell us about your roadmap?

No Net is an Island – Tasmania and Beyond

Harris: Over the last few years, we’ve really been spending time gathering information from a couple of early contracts to understand the relationship between a cloud provider and a customer. In the last six months, we put that into a product that we actually call  TasmaNet Core, which is our new system for delivering digital services.

During the next 18 months we are working with some large contracts that we have won down here in Tasmania, having just signed one for the state government. We certainly have a number of opportunities and pathways to start deploying services and working with the state government on how cloud can deliver better business outcomes for them. We need to make sure we really understand and document clearly how we achieve success here in Tasmania.

Then, our plan is, as a company, to push this out to the national level. There are a lot of regional places throughout Australia that require cloud services, and more and more companies like TasmaNet will move into those regional areas. We think it’s important that they aren’t forgotten and we also think that for any business that can be developed in Tasmania and operate successfully, there is no reason why it can’t be replicated to regional areas around Asia-Pacific as required.

Gardner: Joel, let’s step back a moment and look at how to show, rather than tell, what we mean, in the new era of cloud, by a proper cloud adoption. Do you have any examples, either named or generic, where we can look at how this unfolded and what the business  benefits have been when it’s done well?

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Harris: One of our customers, about three years ago, moved into a cloud services environment, which was very successful for the company. But what we found was that some of the contracts with their software services, while they enabled them to move into a cloud provider, added a level of complexity that make the platform very difficult to manage ongoing. 

Over a number of years, we worked with them to remove that key application from the cloud environment. It’s really important that, as a cloud provider, we understand what’s right for the customer. At the end of the day, if there’s something that’s not working for the customer, we must work with them to get results.

It worked out successfully. We have a very strong relationship with the company. There’s a local company down here called TT-Line, which operates some boat vessels for shipping between Tasmania and Mainland Australia, and because of the platform, we had to find the right mix. That’s really important and I know HPE uses it as a catch phrase. 

This is a real-world example of where it’s important to find the right mix between putting your workloads in the appropriate place. It has to work both ways. It’s easy to come in to a cloud provider. We need to make sure it’s also easy to step back out as well, if it doesn’t work.

Now, we’re working with that company to deeply understand the rest of the business to see what are the workloads that can come out of TasmaNet, and what are the workloads that need to even move internally or actually move to an application-specific hosting environment?

Gardner: Before we close out, Joel, I’d like to look a bit to the future. We spoke earlier about how private cloud and adjusting your business appropriately to the hosting models that we’ve described is a huge step, but of course, the continuum is beyond that. It goes to hybrid. There are public cloud options, data placement, and privacy concerns that people are adjusting to in terms of location of data, jurisdictions, and so forth. Tell me about where you see it going and how an organization like yours adjusts to companies as they start to further explore that hybrid-cloud continuum?

Hybrid Offspring

Harris: Going forward, the network will play probably one of the biggest roles in cloud services in the coming 10 years. More and more, we’re seeing software-defined network suppliers come into the marketplace. In Australia, we have a large data center, NEXTDC, which started up their own network to connect all of the data centers. We have Megaport, which is 100 percent software-defined, where you can buy a capacity for up to one hour or long term. As these types of networks become common, it enables more and more the fluid movement of the services on top.

When we start to cross over two of the other really big things happening, which are the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G, you have, all of a sudden, this connectivity that means data services can be delivered anywhere and that means cloud services can be delivered anywhere.

More and more, you’re going to see the collection of data lakes, the collection of information even by small businesses that understand that they want to keep all the information, and analyze it. As they go to cloud service providers, they will demand these data services there, too, and the analysis capabilities will become very, very powerful.

In the short term, the network is going to be the key enabler for things such as IoT, which will then flow on to support a distributed model for cloud providers in the next 10 years, whereas traditionally we are seeing them centralized into key larger cities. That will change over in the coming years, because there is just too much data to centralize as people start gathering all of this information.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Logicalis chief technologist defines the new ideology of hybrid IT

The next BriefingsDirect thought leader interview explores how digital disruption demands that businesses develop a new ideology of hybrid IT.

We’ll hear how such trends as Internet of things (IoT), distributed IT, data sovereignty requirements, and pervasive security concerns are combining to challenge how IT operates. And we’ll learn how IT organizations are shifting to become strategists and internal service providers, and how that supports adoption of hybrid IT. We will also delve into how converged and hyper-converged infrastructures (HCI) provide an on-ramp to hybrid cloud strategies and adoption. 

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or Download a copy. 

To help us define a new ideology for hybrid IT, we’re joined by Neil Thurston, Chief Technologist for the Hybrid IT Practice at Logicalis Group in the UK. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Why don’t we start at this notion of a new ideology? What’s wrong with the old ideology of IT?

Thurston: Good question. What we are facing now is what we’ve done for an awfully long time versus what the emerging large hyper-scale providers with cloud, for example, have been developing. 

Thurston

The two clashing ideologies that we have are: Either we continue with the technologies that we’ve been developing (and the skills and processes that we’ve developed in-house) and push those out to the cloud, or we adopt the alternative ideology. If we think about things such as Microsoft Azure and the forthcoming Azure Stack, which means that those technologies are pulled from the cloud into our on-premise environments. The two opposing ideologies we have are: Do we push out or do we pull in?

The technologies allow us to operate in a true hybrid environment. By that we mean not having isolated islands of innovation anymore. It’s not just standing things up in hybrid hyper-scale environments, or clouds, where you have specific skills, resources, teams and tools to manage those things. Moving forward, we want to have consistency in operations, security, and automation. We want to have a single toolset or control plane that we can put across all of our workloads and data, regardless of where they happen to reside.

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Gardner: One of the things I encounter, Neil, when I talk to Chief information officers (CIO)s, is their concern that as we move to a hybrid environment, they’re going to be left with having the responsibility — but without the authority to control those different elements. Is there some truth to that?

Thurston: I can certainly see where that viewpoint comes from. A lot of our own customers reflect that viewpoint. We’re seeing a lot of organizations, where they may have dabbled and cherry-picked from service management and from practices such as ITIL. We’re now seeing more pragmatic IT service management (ITSM) frameworks, such as IT4IT, coming to the fore. These are really more about pushing that responsibility level up the stack. 

You’re right in that people are becoming more of a supply-chain manager than the actual manager of the hardware, facilities, and everything else within IT. There definitely is a shift toward that, but there are also frameworks coming into play that allow you to deal with that as well. 

Gardner: The notion of shadow IT becoming distributed IT was once a very dangerous and worrisome thing. Now, it has to be embraced and perhaps is positive. Why should we view it as positive?

Out of the shadow

Thurston: The term shadow IT is controversial. Within our organization, we prefer to say that the shadow IT users are the digital users of the business. You have traditional IT users, but you also have digital users. I don’t really think it’s a shadow IT thing; it’s that they’re a totally different use-case for service consumption. 

But you’re right. They definitely need to be serviced by the organizations. They deserve to have the same level of services applied, the same governance, security, and everything else applied to them. 

Gardner: It seems that the new ideology of hybrid IT is about getting the right mix and keeping that mix of elements under some sort of control. Maybe it’s simply on the basis of management, or an automation framework of some sort, but you allow that to evolve and see what happens. We don’t know what this is going to be like in five years. 

Thurston: There are two pieces of the puzzle. There’s the workload, the actual applications and services, and then there’s the data. There is more importance placed on the data. Data is the new commodity, the new cash, in our industry. Data is the thing you want to protect. 

The actual workload and service consumption piece is the commodity piece that could be worked out. What you have to do moving forward is protect your data, but you can take more of a brokering approach to the actual workloads. If you can reach that abstraction, then you’re fit-for-purpose and moving forward into the hybrid IT world.

Gardner: It’s almost like we’re controlling the meta-processes over that abstraction without necessarily having full control of what goes on at those lower abstractions, but that might not be a bad thing. 

Thurston: I have a very quick use-case. A customer of ours for the last five years has been using Amazon Web Services (AWS), and they were getting the feeling they were getting tied into the platform. Their developers over the years had been using more and more of the platform services and they weren’t able to make all that code portable and take it elsewhere. 

This year, they made the transformation and they’ve decided to develop against Cloud Foundry, an open Platform as a Service (PaaS). They have instances of Cloud Foundry across Pivotal on AWS, also across IBM Bluemix, and across other cloud providers. So, they’re now coding once — and deploying anywhere for the compute workload side. Then, they have a separate data fabric that regulates the data underneath. There are emerging new architectures that help you to deal with this.

Gardner: It’s interesting that you just described an ecosystem approach. You’re no longer seeing as many organizations that are supplier “XYZ” shops, where 80 or 90 percent of everything would be one brand name. You just described a highly heterogeneous environment. 

Thurston: People have used cloud services, and hyper-scale of cloud services, and have specific use-cases, typically the more temporary types of workloads. Even companies born in the cloud, such as Uber and Netflix, reach those inflection points, where actually going to on-premise was far cheaper. It made compliance to regulations far easier. People are slowly realizing, through what other people are doing — and also from their own good or bad experiences — that hybrid IT really is the way forward.

Gardner: And the good news is that if you do bring it back from the cloud or re-factor what you’re doing on-premises, there are some fantastic new infrastructure technologies. We are talking about converged infrastructure, hyper-converged infrastructure, software-defined data center (SDDC). At recent HPE Discover events, we’ve seen more  memory-driven computing, and we’re seeing some interesting new powerful speeds and feeds along those lines. 

So, on the economics and the price-performance equation, the public cloud is good for certain things, but there’s some great attraction to some of these new technologies on-premises. Is that the mix that you are trying to help your clients factor?

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Thurston: Absolutely. We’re pretty much in parallel with the way that HPE approaches things, with the right mix. We see that in certain industries there’s always going to be things like regulated data. Regulated data is really hard to control in a public-cloud space, where you have no real idea where things are. You can’t easily order them physically. 

Having on-premise provides you with that far easier route to regulation, and today’s technologies, the hyper-converged platforms, for example, allow us to really condense the footprint. We don’t need these massive data centers anymore.

We’re working with customers where we have taken 10 or 12 racks worth of legacy classic equipment and with a new hyper-converged, we put in less than two racks worth of equipment. So, the actual operational footprint of facilities cost is much less. It makes it a far more compelling argument for those types of use-cases than using public cloud.

Gardner: Then you can mirror that small footprint data center into a geography, if you need it for compliance requirements, or you could mirror it for reasons of business continuity and backup and recovery. So, there are lots of very interesting choices. 

Neil, tell us a little bit about Logicalis. I want to make sure all of our listeners and readers understand who you are and how you fit into helping organizations make these very large strategic decisions.

Cloud-first is not cloud-only 

Thurston: Logicalis is essentially a digital business enabler. We take technologies across multiple areas and help our customers become digital-ready. We cover a whole breadth of technologies. 

I look at the hybrid IT practice, but we also have the more digital-focused parts of our business, such as collaboration and analytics. The hybrid IT side is where we’re working with our customers through the pains that they have, through the decisions that they have to make, and very often board-level decisions are made where you have to have a “cloud-first” strategy.

It’s unfortunate when that gets interpreted as “cloud-only.” There is some process to go through for cloud readiness, because some applications are not going to be fit for the cloud. Some cannot be virtualized; most can, but there are always regulations. Certainly, in Europe at present there is a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) in the market, and there is a lot of uncertainty around European Union General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR), for example, and overall data protection.

There are a lot of reasons why we have to take a bit more of a factored, measured approach to looking at where workloads and data are best placed moving forward, and the models are that you want to operate in.

Gardner: I think HPE agrees with you. Their strategy is to put more emphasis on things like high performance computing (HPC), the workloads of which won’t likely be virtualized, that won’t work well in a public cloud, one-size-fits-all environment. It’s also factoring in the importance of the edge, even thinking about putting the equivalent of a data center on the edge for demands around information for IoT, and analytics and data requirements there as well as the compute requirements.

What’s the relationship between HPE and Logicalis? How do you operate as an alliance or as a partnership?

Thurston: We have a very strong partnership. We have a 15- or 16-year relationship with HPE in the UK. As everyone else did, we started out selling service and storage, but we’ve taken the journey with HPE and with our customers. The great thing about HPE is that they’ve always managed to innovate, they have always managed to keep up with the curve, and that’s really enabled us to work with our customers and decide what the right technologies are. Today, this allows us to work out the right mix for our customers of on-premise and off-premise equipment,

HPE is ahead of the curve in various technologies in our area, and one of those includes HPE Synergy. We’re now talking with a lot of our customers about the next curve that’s coming with infrastructure-as-code, and how we can leverage what the possible benefits and outcomes will be of enabling that technology.

The on-ramp to that is that we’re using hyper-converged technologies to virtualize all the workloads and make them portable, so that we can then abstract them and place them either within platform services or within cloud platforms, as necessary, as dictated by whatever our security policies dictate.

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Gardner: Getting back to this ideology of hybrid IT, when you have disparate workloads and you’re taking advantage of these benefits of platform choice, location, model and so forth, it seems that we’re still confronted with that issue of having the responsibility without the authority. Is there an approach that HPE is taking with management, perhaps thinking about HPE OneView that is anticipating that need and maybe adding some value there?

Thurston: With the HPE toolsets, we’re able to set things such as policies. Today, we’re at Platform 2.5 really, and the inflection that takes us on to the third platform is the policy automation. This is one part that HPE OneView allows us to do across the board. 

It’s policies on our storage resources, policies on our compute resources, and again, policies on non-technology, so quotas on public cloud, and those types of things. It enables us to leverage the software-defined infrastructure that we have underneath to set the policies that define the operational windows that we want our infrastructure to work in, the decisions it’s allowed to make itself within that, and we’ll just let it go. We really want to take IT from “high touch” to “low touch,” that we can do today with policy, and potentially, in the future with infrastructure as code, to “no touch.” 

Gardner: As you say, we are at Platform 2.5, heading rapidly towards Platform 3. Do you have some examples you can point to, customers of yours and HPE’s, and describe how a hybrid IT environment translates into enablement and business benefits and perhaps even economic benefits? 

Time is money

Thurston: The University of Wolverhampton is one of our customers, where we’ve taken this journey with them with HPE, with hyper-converged platforms, and created a hybrid environment for them. 

Today, the hybrid environment means that we’re wholly virtualized on HPE hyper-converged platform. We’ve rolled the solutions out across their campus. Where we normally would have had disparate clouds, we now have a single plane controlled by OneView that enables them to balance all the workloads across the whole campus, all of their departments. It’s bringing them new capabilities, such as agility, so they can now react a lot quicker. 

Before, a lot of the departments were coming to them with requirements, but those requirements were taking 12 to 16 weeks to actually fulfill. Now, we can do these things from the technology perspective within hours, and the whole process within days. We’re talking a factor of 10 here in reduction of time to actually produce services. 

As they say, success breeds success. Once someone sees what the other department is able to do, that generates more questions, more requests, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

We’re working with them to enable the next phase of this project. That is to leverage the hyper-scale of public clouds, but again, in a more controlled environment. Today, they’re used to the platform. That’s all embedded in. They are reaping the benefits of that from mainly an agility perspective. From an operational perspective, they are reaping the benefits of vastly reduced system, and more importantly, storage administration. 

Storage administrations have had 85 percent savings on their time required to administer the storage by having it wholly virtualized, which is fantastic from their perspective. It means they can concentrate more on developing the next phase, which is embracing or taking this ideology out to the public cloud.

Gardner: Let’s look to the future before we wrap this up. What would you like to see, not necessarily from HPE, but what can the vendors, the suppliers, or the public-cloud providers do to help you make that hybrid IT equation work better? 

Thurston: A lot of our mainstream customers always think that they’re late into adoption, but typically, they’re late into adoption because they’re waiting to see what becomes either a de-facto standard that is winning in the market, or they’re looking for bodies to create standards. Interoperability between platforms and standards is really the key to driving better adoption.

Today with AWS, Azure, etc., there’s no real compatibility that we can take from them. We can only abstract things further up. This is why I think platform as a service, things like Cloud Foundry and open platforms will, for those forward thinkers who want to adopt the hybrid IT, become the future platforms of choice.

Gardner: It sounds like what you are asking for is a multi-cloud set of options that actually works and is attainable. 

Thurston: It’s like networking, with Ethernet. We have had a standard, everyone adheres to it, and it’s a commodity. Everyone says public cloud is a commodity. It is, but unfortunately what we don’t have is the interoperability of the other standards, such as we find in networking. That’s what we need to drive better adoption, moving forward.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or Download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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