The Open Group digital practitioner effort eases the people path to digital business transformation


The next BriefingsDirect panel discussion explores the creation of new guidance on how digital business professionals should approach their expanding responsibilities.

Perhaps more than at any time in the history of business and IT, those tasked with planning, implementation, and best use of digital business tools are being transformed into a new breed of  digital practitioner.

This discussion focuses on how The Open Group is ambitiously seeking to close the gap between IT education, business methods, and what it will take to truly succeed at such work over the next decades.

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

Here to explain what it will take to prepare the next generation of enterprise leadership is our panel, Venkat Nambiyur, Director of Business Transformation, Enterprise, and Cloud Architecture at OracleSriram Sabesan, Consulting Partner and Digital Transformation Practice Lead at ConexiamMichael Fulton, Associate Vice President of IT Strategy and Innovation at Nationwide and Co-Chair of The Open Group IT4IT™ Forum, and David Lounsbury, Chief Technical Officer at The Open Group. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: David, why is this the right time to be defining new guidance on how IT and digital professionals should approach their responsibilities?

Lounsbury: We had a presentation by a couple of Forrester analysts about a year ago at a San Francisco meeting of The Open Group. They identified a change in the market.

Dave Lounsbury


We were seeing a convergence of forces around the success of Agile as a product management methodology at the edge, the increased importance of customer experience, and the fact that we have radically new and less expensive IT infrastructure and IT management approaches, which make this all happen more at the edge.

And they saw this change coming together into a new kind of person who’s ready to use digital tools to actually deliver value to their businesses. They saw this as a new part of transformation. The Open Group looked at that challenge and stepped up to define this activity, and we created the Digital Practitioners Work Group to bring together all of the necessary factors.

Those include an emphasis on customer experience, to manage digital delivery, to manage digital products, and the ability to manage digital delivery teams together. We want to build one body of knowledgefor how to actually be such a digital practitioner; what it means for individuals to do that. So the people on this podcast have been working in that group toward that objective since then.

Gardner: Is this digital practitioner position an expansion of an earlier category, such as enterprise architect, chief information officer (CIO), or chief technology officer (CTO)? Or is it something new? Are we transitioning, or are we starting fresh?

Sriram Sabesan


Sabesan: We are in the middle of transitioning, as well as creating something fresh. Through the last few decades of computing change, we had been chasing corporate-efficiency improvement, which brought in a level of rigidity. Now, we are chasing individual productivity.

Companies will have to rethink their products. That means a change will have to happen in the thinking of the CIO, the chief financial officer (CFO), the chief marketing officer (CMO), and across the full suite of chief executives. Many companies have dabbled with the new role of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Data Officer (CDO), but there has been a struggle of monetization and of connecting with customers because loyalties are not as [strong as] they used to be.

We are creating guidance to help people transition from old, typical CIO and CFO roles into thinking about connecting more with the customer, of improving the revenue potentials by associating closely with the productivity of the customers, and then improving their productivity levels.

Lead with experience

Nambiyur: This is about leadership. I work with Oracle Digital, and we have worked with a lot of companies focused on delivering products and services in what I call the digital market.

Venkat Nambiyur


They are all about experiences. That’s a fundamental shift from addressing specific process or a specific capability requirement in organizations. Most of the small- to medium-sized business (SMB) space is now focused on experiences, and that essentially changes the nature of the dialogue from holistic to, “Here’s what I can do for you.”

The nature of these roles has changed from a CIO, a developer, or a consumer to a digital practitioner of different interactions. So, from my perspective at Oracle, this practitioner work group becomes extremely important because now we are talking in a completely different language as the market evolves. There are different expectations in the market.

Fulton: There are a couple of key shifts going on here in the operating model that are driving the changes we’re seeing.

First and foremost is the rapid pace of change and what’s happening in organizations and the marketplace with this shift to a customer focus. Businesses require a lot more speed and agility.

Historically, businesses asked IT to provide efficiency and stability. But now we are undergoing the shift to more outcomes around speed and agility. We are seeing organizations fundamentally change their operating models, individual skills, and processes to keep up with this significant shift.

The other extremely interesting thing we’re seeing are the emerging technologies that are now coming to bear. We’re seeing brand-new what’s possiblescenarios that affect how we provide business benefits to our customers in new and interesting ways.

We are getting to a much higher bar in the context of user experience (UX). We call that the Apple- or Amazon-ification of UX. Organizations have to keep up with that.

The technologies that have come up over the last few years, such as cloud computing, as well as the near-term horizon technologies, things like quantum computing and 5G, are shifting from a world of technology scarcity to a world of technology abundance.

Dave has talked quite a bit about this shift. Maybe he can add how he thinks about this shift from scarcity to abundance when it comes to technology and how that impacts a digital practitioner.

From scarcity to abundance 

Lounsbury: We all see this, right? We all see the fact that you can get a cloud account, either with a credit card or for free. There has been this explosion in the number of tools and frameworks we have to produce new software.

The old model – of having to be very careful about aligning scarce, precious IT resources with business strategies — is less important these days. The bar to roll out IT value has migrated very close to the edge of the organization. That in turn has enabled this customer focus, with “software eating the world,” and an emphasis on digital-first experiences.

The result is all of these new business skills emerging. And the people who were previously in the business realm need to understand all of these digital skills in order to live in this new world. That is a very important point.

Dana, you introduced this podcast as being on what IT people need to know. I would broaden that out quite a bit. This is about what business people need to know about digital delivery. They are going to have to get some IT on their hands to do that. Fortunately, it’s much, much easier now due to the technology abundance that Michael noted.

Michael Fulton


Fulton: The shift we are undergoing — from a world of physical to information-based — has led to companies embedding technology into the products that they sell.

The importance of digital is, to Dave’s point, moving from an IT functional world to a world where digital practitioners are embedded into every part of the business, and into every part of the products that the vast majority of companies take to market.

This includes companies that historically have been very physical, like aircraft engines and GE, or oil refineries at Shell, or any number of areas where physical products are becoming digital. They now provide much more information to consume and much more technology rolls into the products that companies sell. It creates a new world that highlights the importance of the digital practitioner.

Limitless digital possibilities 

Nambiyur: The traditional sacred cows of the old are no longer sacred cows. Nobody is willing to just take a technologist’s word that something is doable or not. Nobody is willing to take a process expert’s word that something is doable or not.

In this new world, possibility is transparent, meaning everybody thinks that everything is possible. Michael said that businesses need to have a digital practitioner in their line of business or in many areas of work. My experience of the last four years of working here is that, every participant in any organization is a digital practitioner. They are both a service provider and a service consumer simultaneously, irrespective of where they stand in an organization.

It becomes critical that everybody recognizes the impact of this digital market force, and then recognize how their particular role has evolved or expanded to include a digital component, both when they deliver value and how they receive value.

In this new world, possibility is transparent, meaning everybody thinks that everything is possible. … The traditional sacred cows are no longer sacred.

That is the core of what they are accomplishing as practitioners, to allow people to define and expand their roles from the perspective of a digital practitioner. They need to ask, “What does that really mean? How do I recognize the market? How do I recognize my ecosystem? How do I evolve to deliver that?”

Sabesan: I will provide a couple of examples on how this impacts existing roles and new roles.

For example, we have intelligent refrigerators and intelligent cooking ovens and ranges that can provide insights to the manufacturer about the customers’ behaviors, which they never had before. The designers used to operate on a business-to-business (B2B) sales process, but now they have insights into the customer. They can directly get to the customer’s behaviors and can fine-tune the product accordingly.

Yet enterprises never had to build the skill sets to be able to use that data and create new innovative variations to the product set. So that’s one gap that we are seeing in the market. That’s what this digital practitioner guide book is trying to address, number one.

Number two, IT personnel are now having to deal with a much wider canvas of things to be brought together, of various data sets to be integrated.

Because of the sensors, what was thought of as an operational technology has become part of the network of the IT as well. The access to accelerometers, temperature sensors, pressure sensors, they are all now part of your same network.

A typical software developer now will have to understand the hardware behaviors happening in the field, so the mindset will have to change. The canvas is wider. And people will have to think about an integrated execution model.

That is fundamental for any digital practitioner, to be thinking about putting [an integrated execution model] into practice and having an architectural mindset to approach and deliver improved experiences to the customer. At the end of the day, if you don’t deliver experiences to the customer, there is no new revenue for the company. You’re thinking has to pivot-change from operation efficiency or performance milestones to the delivery of an experience and outcome for the customer.

Gardner: It certainly looks like the digital practitioner role is applicable to large enterprises, as well as SMBs, and cuts across industries and geographies.

In putting together a set of guidelines, is there a standardization effort under way? How important is it to make digital practitioners at all these different types of organizations standardized? Or is that not the goal? Is this role instead individual, organization by organization?

Setting the standards

Nambiyur: It’s a great question. In my view, before we begin creating standards, we need the body of knowledge and to define what the practitioner is looking to do. We have to collect all of the different experiences, different viewpoints, and define the things that work. That source of experience, if you will, can eventually evolve into standards.

Do I personally think that standards are coming? I believe so. What defines that standard? It depends on the amount of experiences we are able to collect. Are we able to agree on some of the best practices, and some of the standards that we need to follow so that any person functioning in the physical ecosystem can successfully deliver in repeatable outcomes?

I think this can potentially evolve into a standard, but the starting point is to first collect knowledge, collect experience from different folks, use cases, and points of use so that we are reasonably able to determine what needs to evolve further.

Gardner: What would a standard approach to be a digital practitioner look like?

Sabesan: There are certain things such as a basic analysis approach, and a decomposition and execution model that are proven as a repeatable. Those we can put as standards and start documenting right now.

We are looking for some sort of standardization of the analysis, decomposition, and execution models, yet providing guidance.

However, the way we play the analysis approach to a financial management problem versus a manufacturing problem, it’s a little different. Those differences will have to be highlighted. So when Venkat was talking about going to a body of knowledge, we are trying to paint the canvas. How you apply these analysis methods differently under different contexts is important.

If you think about Amazon, it is a banking company as well as a retail company as well as an IT service provider company. So, people who are operating within or delivering services within Amazon have to have multiple mindsets and multiple approaches to be presented to them so that they can be efficient in their jobs.

Right now, we are looking at some form of standardization of the analysis, decomposition, execution models, and yet providing guidance for the variances that are there for each of the domains. Can each of domains by itself standardize? Definitely, yes, and we are miles away from achieving that.

Lounsbury: This kind of digital delivery — that customer-focused, outside-in mindset — happens at organizations of all different scales. There are things that are necessary for a successful digital delivery, that decomposition that Sriram mentioned, that might not occur in a small organization but would occur in a large organization.

And as we think about standardization of skills, we want to focus on what’s relevant for an organization at various stages of growth, engagement, and moving to a digital-first view of their markets. We still want to provide that body of knowledge Venkat mentioned that says, “As you evolve in your organization contextually, as you grow, as your organization gets to be more complex in terms of the number of teams doing the delivery, here’s what you need to know at each stage along the way.”

The focus initially is on “what” and not “how.” Knowing what principles you have to have in order for your customer experiences to work, that you have to manage teams, that you have to treat your digital assets in certain ways, and those things are the leading practices. But the tools you will use to do them, the actual bits and the bytes, are going to evolve very quickly. We want to make sure we are at that right level of guidance to the practitioner, and not so much into the hard-core tools and techniques that you use to do that delivery.

Organizational practices that evolve 

Fulton: One of the interesting things that Dave mentions is the way that the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge™ (DPBoK) is constructed. There are a couple of key things worth noting there.

One, right now we are viewing it as a perspective on the leading practices, not necessarily of standards yet when it comes to how to be a digital practitioner. But number two, and this is a fairly unique one, is that the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge does not take a standard structure to the content. It’s a fairly unique approach that’s based on organizational evolution. I have been in the IT industry for longer than I would care to admit, and I have never seen a standard or a body of knowledge that has taken this kind of an approach.

Typically, bodies of knowledge and standards are targeted at large enterprise, and they put in place what you need to do — all the things that you need to do when you do everything perfect at full scale. What the Digital Practitioner’s Body of Knowledge does is walk you through the organizational evolution, from starting at an individual or a founder of a startup — like two people in a garage — through when you have built that startup into a team, and you have to start to put some more capabilities around that team, up to when the team becomes a team of teams.

You are starting to get bigger and bigger, until you evolve into a full enterprise perspective, where you are a larger company that needs more of the full capabilities.

By taking this organizational maturity, evolution, and emergence approach to thinking about a leading practice, it allows an individual to learn and grow as they step through in a standard way. It helps us fit the content to you, where you are as an individual, and where your organization is in its level of maturity.

Taking this organizational maturity, evolution, and emergence approach to thinking about leading a practice allows an individual to learn and grow in a standard way.

It’s a unique approach, walking people through the content. The content is still full and comprehensive, but it’s an interesting way to help people understand how things are put together in that bigger picture. It helps people understand when you need to care about something and when you don’t.

If you are two people in a garage, you don’t need to care about enterprise architecture; you can do the enterprise architecture for your entire company in your head. You don’t need to write it down. You don’t need to do models. You don’t need to do all those things.

If you are a 500,000-person Amazon, you probably need to have some thought around the enterprise architecture for your company, because there’s no way anybody can keep that in their mind and keep that straight. You absolutely have to, as your company grows and matures, layer in additional capabilities. And this Body of Knowledge is a really good map on what to layer in and when.

Gardner: It sounds as if those taking advantage of the Body of Knowledge as digital practitioners are going to be essential at accelerating the maturity of organizations into fully digital businesses.

Given the importance of that undertaking, where do these people come from? What are some typical backgrounds and skill sets? Where do you find these folks?

Who runs the digital future?

Sabesan: You find them everywhere. Today’s Millennials, for example, let’s go with different categories of people. Kids who are out of school right now or still in school, they are dabbling with products and hardware. They are making things and connecting to the Internet and trying to give different experiences for people.

Those ideas should not be stifled; we need to expand them and help them try to convert these ideas and solutions into an operable, executable, sustainable business models. That’s one side.

On the other far end, we have very mature people who are running businesses right now, but who have been presented with a challenge of a newcomer into the market trying to threaten them, to question their fundamental business models. So, we need to be talking to both ends — and providing different perspectives.

As Mike was talking about, what this particular Body of Knowledge provides us is what can we do for the new kids, how do we help them think about the big picture, not just one product version out. In the industry right now, between V1 and V2, you could potentially see three different competitors for your own functionality and the product that you are bringing to market. These newcomers need to think of getting ahead of competition in a structured way.

And on the other hand, enterprises are sitting on loads of cash, but are not sure where to invest, and how to exploit, or how to thwart a disruption. So that’s the other spectrum we need to talk about. And the tone and the messaging are completely different. We find the practitioners everywhere, but the messaging is different.

Gardner: How is this then different from a cross-functional team; it sounds quite similar?

Beyond cross-functionality 

Sabesan: Even if you have a cross-functional team, the execution model is where most of them fail. When they talk about a simple challenge that Square is trying to become, they are no longer a payment tech company, they are a hardware company, and they are also a website development company trying to solve the problem for a small business.

So, unless you create a structure that is able to bring people from multiple business units together — multiple verticals together to focus on a single customer vertical problem – the current cross-functional teams will not be able to deliver. You need risk mitigation mindset. You need to remove a single team ownership mindset. Normally corporations have one person as accountable to be able to manage the spend; now we need to put one person accountable to manage experiences and outcomes. Unless you bring that shift together, the traditional cross-functional teams are not going to work in this new world.

Nambiyur: I agree with Sriram, and I have a perspective from where we are building our organization at Oracle, so that’s a good example.

Now, obviously, we have a huge program where we hire folks right out of college. They come in with a great understanding of — and they represent — this digital world. They represent the market forces. They are the folks who live it every single day. They have a very good understanding of what the different technologies bring to the table.

We have a huge program where we hire right out of college. They represent the digital world, the market forces, and they are living it every day.

But one key thing that they do — and I find more often – is they appreciate the context in which they are operating. Meaning, if I join Oracle, I need to understand what Oracle as a company is trying to accomplish at the end of the day, right? Adding that perspective cannot just be done by having a cross-functional team, because everybody comes and tries to stay in their comfort zone. If they bring in an experienced enterprise architect, the tendency is to stay in the comfort zone of models and structures, and how they have been doing things.

The way that we find the digital practitioners is to allow them to have a structure in place that tells them to add a particular perspective. Like just with the Millennials, you need to understand what the company is trying to accomplish so that you just can’t let your imagination run all over the place. Eventually and likewise, for a mature enterprise architect, “Hey, you know what? You need to incorporate these changes so that your experience becomes continuously relevant.”

I even look at some of the folks who are non-technologists, folks who are trying to understand why they should work with IT and why they need an enterprise architect. So to help them answer these questions, we give them the perspective of what value they can bring from the perspective of the market forces they face.

That’s the key way. Cross-functional teams work in certain conditions, but we have to set the change, as in organizational change and organizational mindset change, at every level. That allows folks to change from a developer to a digital practitioner, from an enterprise architect to a digital practitioner, from a CFO to a digital practitioner.

That’s really the huge value that the Body of Knowledge is going to bring to the table.

Fulton: It’s important to understand that today it’s not acceptable for business leaders or business members in an organization to simply write off technology and say that it’s for the IT people to take care of.

Technology is now embedded throughout everything that we do in our work lives. We all need to understand technology. We all need to be able to understand the new ways of working that that technology brings. We all need to understand these new opportunities for us to move more quickly and to react to customer wants and needs in new and exciting ways; ways that are going to add distinct value.

To me the exciting piece about this is it’s not just IT folks that have to change into digital practitioners. It’s business folks across every single organization that also have to change and bringing both sides closer together.

IT everywhere, all the time, for everyone

Lounsbury: Yes, that’s a really important point, because this word “digital” gets stuck to everything these days. You might call it digital washing, right?

In fact, you put your finger on the fundamental transformation. When an organization realizes that it’s going to interact with its customers through either of the digital twins — digital access to physical products and services or truly digital delivery — then you have pieces of information, or data, that they can present to the customer.

That customer’s interactions through that — the customer’s experience of that – which also then brings value to the business. A first focus, then is to shift from the old model of, “Well, we will figure out what our business is, and then we will throw some requirements down the IT channel, and sooner or later it will emerge.” As we have said, that’s not going to cut it anymore.

You need to have that ability to deliver through digital means right at the edge with your product decisions.

Gardner: David, you mentioned earlier the concept of an abundance of technology. And, Michael, you mentioned the gorilla in the room, which is the new tools around artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and more data-driven analysis.

To become savvier about how to take advantage of the abundance of technology and analytics requires a cultural and organizational shift that permeates the entire organization.

To what degree does a digital practitioner have to be responsible for changing the culture and character of their organization?

Lounsbury: I want to quote something I heard at the most recent Center for Information Systems Research Conference at the MIT Sloan School. The article is published by Jeanne Ross, who said, the time for digitization, for getting your digital processes in place, getting your data digitalized, that’s passed. What’s important now is that the people who understand the ability to use digital to deliver value actually begin acting as the agents of change in an organization.

To me, all of what Sriram said about strategy — of helping your organization realize what can happen, giving them through leading practices and a Body of Knowledge as a framework to make decisions and lower the barrier between the historical technologist and business people, and seeing them as an integrated team – that is the fundamental transition that we need to be leading people to in their organizations.

Sabesan: Earlier we said that the mindset has been, “This is some other team’s responsibility. We will wait for them to do their thing, and we will start from where they left off.”

Now, with the latest technology, we are able to permeate across organizational boundaries. The person to bring out that cultural change should simply ask the question, “Why should I wait for you? If you are not looking out for me, then I will take over, complete the job, and then let you manage and run with it.”

We want people to be able to question the status quo and show a sample of what could be a better way. Those will drive the cultural shifts.

There are two sides of the equation. We also have the DevOps model where, “I build, and I own.” The other one is, “I build it for you, you own, and keep pace with me.” So basically we want people to be able to question the status quo and show a sample of what could be a better way. Those will drive the cultural shifts and push leaders beyond their comfort zone, that Venkat was talking about, to be able to accept different ways of working: Show and then lead.

Talent, all ages, needed for cultural change 

Nambiyur: I can give a great example. There is nothing more effective than watching your own company go through that, and just building off on bringing Millennials into the organization. There is an organization we call a Solutions Hub at Oracle that is entirely staffed by college-plus-two folks. Ans they are working day-in and day-out on realizing the art of what’s possible with the technology. In a huge way, this complements the work of senior resources — both in the pre-sales and the product side. This has had a cumulative, multiplier effect on how Oracle is able to present what it can do for its customers.

We are able to see the native digital-generation folks understanding their role as a digital practitioner, bringing that strength into play. And that not only seamlessly complements the existing work, it elevates the nature of how the rest of the senior folks who have been in the business for 10 or 20 years are able to function. As an organization, we are now able to deliver more effectively a credible solution to the market, especially as Oracle is moving to cloud.

That’s a great example of how culturally each player – it doesn’t matter if they are a college-plus-two or a 20-year person — can be a huge part of changing the organizational culture. The digital practitioner is fundamental, and this is a great example of how an organization has accomplished that.

Fulton: This is hard work, right? Changing the culture of any organization is hard work. That’s why the guidance like what we are putting together with the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge is invaluable. It gives us as individuals a starting point to work from to lead the change. And it gives us a place to go back to and continue to learn and grow ourselves. We can point our peers to it as we try to change the culture of an organization.

It’s one of the reasons I like what’s being put together with the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge and its use in enterprises like Nationwide Insurance. It’s a really good tool to help us spend our time focused on what’s most important. In Nationwide’s case, being on our site for the members that we serve, but also being focused on how we transform the culture to better deliver against those business objectives more quickly and with agility.

Lounsbury: Culture change takes time. One thing everybody should do when you think about your digital practitioners is to go look at any app store. See the number of programming tutorials targeted at grade-school kids. Think about how you are going to be able to effectively manage that incoming generation of digitally savvy people. The organizations that can do that, that can manage that workforce effectively, are going to be the ones that succeed going forward.

Gardner: What stage within the Body of Knowledge process are we at? What and how should people be thinking about contributing? Is there a timeline and milestones for what comes next as you move toward your definitions and guidelines for bring a digital practitioner?

Contributions welcome

Lounsbury: This group has been tremendously productive. That Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge is, in fact, out and available for anyone to download at The Open Group Bookstore. If you look for the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge, publication S185, you will find it. We are very open about getting public comments on that snapshot as we then finish the Body of Knowledge.

Of course, the best way to contribute to any activity at The Open Group is come down and join us. If you go to, you will see ways to do that.

Gardner: What comes next, David, in the maturation of this digital practitioner effort, Body of Knowledge and then what?

Lounsbury: Long-term, we already began discussing both how we work with academia to bring this into curricula to train people who are entering the workforce. We are also thinking in these early days about how we identify Digital Practitioners with some sort of certification, badging, or something similar. Those will be things we discuss in 2019.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: The Open Group.

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Better management of multicloud IaaS proves accelerant to developer productivity for European gaming leader Magellan Robotech

Football2The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer use case discussion explores how a European gaming company adopted new cloud management and governance capabilities with developer productivity as the prime motivator.

We’ll now learn how Magellan Robotech puts an emphasis on cloud management and control as a means to best exploit hybrid cloud services to rapidly bring desired tools and app building resources to its developers.

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

Here to reveal the journey to responsible cloud adoption with impressive payoffs is Graham Banner, Head of IT Operations at Magellan Robotech in Liverpool, England, and Raj Mistry, Go-to-Market Lead for OneSphere at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), based in Manchester, England. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are the drivers in your organization for attaining faster cloud adoption, and how do you keep that from spinning out of control, Graham?

Graham Banner

Enter a caption

Banner: That’s a great question. It’s been a challenge for us. One of the main problems we have as a business is the aggressive marketplace in Europe. It’s essential that we deliver services rapidly. Now some of our competitors might be able to deliver something in a month. We need to undercut them because the competition is so fierce.

Going from on premises into virtualization and on-premises cloud was our first step, but it wasn’t enough. We needed to do more.

Gardner: Speed is essential, but if you move too fast there can be risks. What are some of the risks that you try to avoid?

Banner: We want to avoid shadow IT. We’ve adopted capabilities before where the infrastructure team wasn’t able to provision services that supported our developers fast enough. We learned that the developers were then doing their own thing: There was no governance, there was no control over what they were doing, and that was a risk for us.

Gardner: Given that speed is essential, how do you bring quality control issues to bear when faced with hybrid cloud activities?

Banner: That’s been a challenge for us as well. There hasn’t traditionally been central payment management from across multiple cloud interfaces so that we could ensure that the correct policies are being applied to those services.

We needed a product that ensures that we deliver quality services to all of our customs across Europe.

Gardner: Raj, is this developer focus for cloud adoption maturity a main driver as HPE OneSphere is being evaluated?

Raj Mistry

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Mistry: Yes, absolutely. The reason OneSphere is so good for the developers is we enable them to use the tools and frameworks they are accustomed to — but under the safety and governance of IT operations. They can deploy with speed and have safe, secure access to the resources they need when they need them.

Gardner: Developers probably want self-service more than anyone. Is it possible to give them self-service but using tools that keep them under a governance model?

Mistry: Some developers like the self-service element, and some developers might use APIs. That’s the beauty of HPE OneSphere, it addresses both of those requirements for the developers. So they can use native tools or the self-service capabilities.

Gardner: We also have to consider the IT operators. When we think about where those new applications end up — it could be on-premises or in some number of clouds, even multiple clouds.

Learn More About

Simplified Hybrid Cloud Management

Mistry: HPE OneSphere is very much application-centric, with the capability to manage the right workload, in the right cloud, at the right cost. Through the ability to understand what the workload is doing — and based on the data and insights we collect — we can then make informed decisions on what best to do next.

Gardner: Graham, you are on the operations’ side and you have to keep your developers happy. What is it about HPE OneSphere that’s been beneficial for both?

Effective feedback 

Banner: It provides great insights and reporting features into our state. When we deployed it, the feedback was almost instantaneous. We could see where our environments were, we could see the workloads, we could see the costs, and this is something that we did not have before. We didn’t have this visibility function.

And this was a very simple install procedure. Once it was up and running, everything rolled out smoothly in a matter of hours. We have never seen a product do this before.

Gardner: Has having this management and monitoring capability given you the confidence to adopt multicloud in ways that you may not have been willing to before?

Banner: Yes, absolutely. One of the challenges we faced before was we were traditionally on-premises for the entire state. The developers had wanted to use and leverage functions that were available only in public clouds.

One of the challenges we faced before was we were traditionally on-premises for the entire state. But the developers wanted to use and leverage functions only available in the public clouds.

But we have a small operations team. We were wary about spending too much training our staff across the multiple public cloud platforms. HPE OneSphere enabled us to onboard multiple clouds in a very smooth way. And people could use it with very little training. The user interface (UI) was fantastic to use, it was very intuitive. Line of business, stack managers, compliance and directors, they all could go on and run reports straight away. It ticked off all the boxes that we needed for it to do.


Gardner: Getting the trains to run on time is important, but the cost of the trip is also important. Have you been able to gain better control over your own destiny when it comes to the comparative costs across these different cloud providers?

Banner: One of the great features that OneSphere has is the capability to input values about how much your on-premise resources cost. Now, we have had OPEX and CAPEX models for our spend, but we didn’t have real-time feedback on what the different environments we are using cost across our shared infrastructures.

Getting this information back from HPE OneSphere was essential for us. We can now look at some products and say, “You know what? This is actually costing x amount of money. If we move it onto another platform, or to another service provider, we’d actually save costs.” These are the kind of insights that are generated now that we did not have before.

Gardner: I think that economics trumps technology, because ultimately, it’s the people paying the bills who have the final say. If economics trumps technology, are you demonstrating a return on investment (ROI) with HPE OneSphere?

Mistry: One of the aims for OneSphere is the “what-if” analysis. If I have a cloud workload, what are its characteristics, its requirements, and where should I best place it? What’s best for that actual thing? And then having the capability to determine which hyperscale cloud provider — or even the private cloud — has the correct set of features for that application. So that will come in the not too distant future.

Gardner: Tell us more about Magellan Robotech and why application quality, speed, and operational integrity are so important.

Game On

Banner: We operate across Europe. We offer virtual gaming, sports, terminals, and casino products, and we have integration to other providers, which is unique for a bookmaking company. A lot of gaming providers operate just retail platforms, or maybe have an online presence. We do everything.

Because we compete with so many others, it’s essential that our applications are stable, scalable, and have zero downtime. If we don’t meet these requirements, we’re not going to be able to compete and our customers are going to move elsewhere.

As a service provider we sell all of these products to other vendors. We have to make sure that our customers are pleasing their own customers. We want to make sure that our customers have these value-adds as well. And this is where HPE OneSphere comes into play for us.

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Gardner: As the third largest gaming enterprise in Europe, you’re in multiple markets, but that means multiple jurisdictions, with multiple laws about privacy. Tell us about your security and compliance needs and how HPE OneSphere helps manage complexity across these different jurisdictions?

Banner: We deal with several regulatory bodies across Europe. Nearly all of them have different compliance standards that have to be applied to products. It’s unreasonable for us to expect the developers to know which standards have to be applied.

The current process is manual. We have to submit applications and spin-up machines on-premises. They have to be audited by a third-party, and by a government body from each country. This process can take months. It’s a long, arduous process for us to just release a product.

We needed a tool that provides us an overview of what is available out there, and what policies need to be applied to all of our services. We need to know how long it’s going to take to solve the problems before we can release services.

With HPE OneSphere, we are gaining great insights into what’s coming with regards to better managing compliance and policies. There will be governance panes, and the capability for line-of-business staff members to come in and assign policies to various different cloud providers.

And we can take this information to the developers and they can decide, “You know what? For us to go live in this particular country, we have to assign these various policies, and so we are going to need to change our code.” And this means that our time-to-market and time-to-value are going to be much higher.

Gardner: Raj, how important is this capability to go into different jurisdictions? I know there is another part of HPE called Cloud28+ and they are getting into different discrete markets and working with an ecosystem of providers. How much of a requirement is it to deal with multiple jurisdictions?

Guided compliance, vigilance

Mistry: It’s very complex. One of the evolving challenges that customers face as they adopt a hybrid or a multicloud strategy is how do I maintain my risk posture and compliance. So the intellectual property (IP) that we have built into OneSphere, which has been available from August 2018 onward, allows customers to look at the typical frameworks: FIPS, HIPAA,  GDPR, FCA, etc.

They will be able to understand, not just from a process perspective, but from a coding perspective, what needs to occur. Guidelines are provided to the developers. Applications can be deployed based on those, and then we will continually monitor the application.

If there is a change in the framework that they need to comply with, the line-of-business teams and the IT operations teams will get a note from the system saying, “Something has happened here, and if you are okay, please continue.” Or, “There is a risk, you have been made aware of it and now you need to take some action to resolve it.” And that’s really key. I don’t think anybody else in the market can do that.

Gardner: Graham, it sounds like you are going to be moving to wider adoption for HPE OneSphere. Is it too soon to get a sense of some of the paybacks, some of the metrics of success?

Guidelines are provided to the developers. Applications can only be deployed based on those, and we will continuously monitor the applications in production.

Banner: Fortunately, during the proof of concept we managed to get some metrics back. We had set some guidelines, and some aims for us to achieve during this process. I can give you an example. Traditionally we had a very old-fashioned ticket system for developers and our other customers.

They turned in a ticket, and they could wait for up to five days for that service to become available, so the developer or the customer could begin using that particular service.

With HPE OneSphere, and the self-service function which we provided, we found out that the time was no longer measured in days, it was no longer hours — it was minutes. This enabled the developers to quickly spin up machines. They can do iterative testing and get their products live, functioning, and bug-free faster. It frees up operational time so that we can concentrate on upgrading our platform and focus on various other projects.

We have already seen massive value in this product. When we spoke to the line of business about this, they have been pleased. They have already seen the benefits.

Gardner: Raj, what gets the most traction in the market? What is it that people perk up to when it comes to what OneSphere can do?

The data-insight advantage

Mistry: It’s the cost analytics and governance element. Deployment is a thing of the past. But once you have deployed it, how do you know what’s going on? How do you know what to do next? That’s the challenge we are trying to resolve. And that’s what’s resonating well with customers. It’s about, “Let me give you insights. Let’s get you the data so you can do something about it and take action.” That’s the biggest thing about it.

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Gardner: What is it about the combination of product and support services and methodologies that are also helping to bring this to market?

Mistry: It’s about the guidance on application transformation. As people go digital, writing the new cloud-native stuff is easy. But like with Graham’s organization, and many organizations we talk to, they have a cloud-hosted, cloud-aware application that they need to be able to transform to make it more digitally friendly.

From a services perspective, we can guide customers in terms of what they should do and how they should introduce microservices and more cloud-native ways of working. Beyond that, it’s helping with cultural stuff. So, the beginnings of Agile development, leading to DevOps in the not too distant future.

The other side of it is the capability to build minimum viable clouds, both in the private and the public clouds with the IP that we have. So, the cloud thing can be had, but our effort is really to make it very easy.

Gardner: That strikes me as a huge next chapter, the minimum viable cloud. Is that attractive to you at Magellan Robotech?

Banner: Absolutely, yes. From an on-premise perspective, we want to go forward into the public cloud. We know we can leverage its services. But one thing we are very wary of is the cost. Traditionally, it has been expensive. Things have changed. We want to make sure we are not provisioning services that aren’t being used. Having these metrics is going to allow us to make the right choices in the future.

Gardner: Let’s look into the crystal ball. Going to the future, Graham, as a consumer, what would you like to see in HPE OneSphere next?

Public core and private cloud together

Banner: We already have the single pane of glass with OneSphere, so we can look at all our different clouds at once. We don’t have to go in multiple consoles and spend time learning and training on how to get to these reports from three or four different providers. So, we have the core, the core is there. We know that the public cloud and private cloud have different functionalities.

Onpremises can do certain things extremely well; it can handle all our current workloads. Public cloud can do this, too, and there are loads of additional features available. What we would like to see is a transition where some of these core functionalities of the public cloud are taken, managed, and applied to our private cloud as well.

There are compliance reasons why we can’t move all of our products into the public cloud. But by merging them together, you get a much more agnostic point of view of where are you going to best deploy your services and what features you should have.

Gardner: Ultimately, it may even be invisible to you as to whether it’s in a public or private cloud architecture. You want your requirements met, you want your compliance and security issues met, and let the automation of the underlying tool to take over.

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Banner: Absolutely, yes. We would like to abstract away the location completely from our developers and our application guys. So, when they deploy, it gets put in the right place automatically, it has the right policies assigned to it. It’s in the right location. It can provide the services needed. It can scale. It can auto-bounce — all of this stuff. The end-user, our applications team, they won’t need to know which cloud it’s in. They just want to be able to use it and use the best available services.

Gardner: Raj, you just heard what the market is asking for. What do you see next for providers of cloud monitoring and management capabilities?

Mistry: Our focus will be around customizable cloud reporting, so the capability to report back on specific things from across all of the providers. Moving forward, we will have trending capabilities, the what-if forecasting capability from an analytics and insights perspective. Then we will build more on the compliance and governance. That’s where we are heading in the not-too-distant future. If our own developers do well, we will have that by the end of the year.

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

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How Norway’s Fatland beat back ransomware thanks to a rapid backup and recovery data protection stack

FreshMeatSupermarket (1)The next BriefingsDirect strategic storage and business continuity case study discussion explores how Norway’s venerable meat processing business, Fatland, relied on rapid backup and recovery solutions to successfully defended against a nasty ransomware attack.

The comprehensive backup and recovery stack allowed Fatland’s production processing systems to snap back to use after only a few hours, but the value of intelligent and increasingly hybrid storage approaches go much further to assure the ongoing integrity of both systems — and business outcomes.

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

Here to explain how vertically integrated IT infrastructure and mirrored data strategies can prevent data loss and business downtime are Terje Wester, the CEO at Fatland, based in Norway, and Patrick Osborne, Vice President and General Manager of Big Data and Secondary Storage at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Terje, getting all of your systems back up in a few hours after an aggressive ransomware attack in 2017 probably wasn’t what first drove you to have a comprehensive backup and recovery capability. What were the early drivers that led you to put in a more modern approach to data lifecycle management?

Terje Wester


Wester: First of all, we have HPE end-to-end at Fatland. We have four production sites. At one production site we have our servers. We are running a meat business, doing everything from slaughtering to processing and packing. We deal with the farmers; we deal with the end customers. It’s really important to have good IT systems, also safe systems.

When we last invested in these HPE systems, we wanted something that was in front of the line, which was safe, because the uptime in the company is so important. Our IT people had the freedom to choose what they thought was the best solution for us. And HPE was the answer. We tested that really hard on this ransomware episode we had in September.

Gardner: Patrick, are you finding in the marketplace that people have primary reasons for getting into a comprehensive data protection mode? It can become a gift that keeps giving.

Osborne: A lot of our customers are now focusing on security. It’s definitely top of mind. What we are trying to provide is more of an integrated approach, so it’s not a secondary or an afterthought that you bolt on.

Patrick Osborne


Whether it’s our server products, with silicon root of trust, or our storage products, with things like we have done for Fatland such as Recovery Manager Central (RMC), or with our integrated offerings such as our hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) product line — the theme is the same. What we are trying to weave through this is that data protection and availability are an endemic piece of the architecture. You get it on day one when you move to a modernized architecture, as opposed to running into a ransomware or an availability issue and then having to re-architect after-the-fact.

What we are trying to do with a number of customers is, from day one, when you renew your infrastructure, it has all of this availability and security built in. That’s one of the biggest things that we see, that’s helpful for customers these days.

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Gardner: Data and security integration are, in fact, part of the architecture. Security is not a separate category or a chunk that you bolt on later.

Osborne: Exactly.

Gardner:T erje, tell us a about the .NM4 crypto virus. In 2017, this hit a lot of people. Some were out for days. What happened when this hit your organization?

Rapid response, recovery

Wester: These people were trying to attack us. They started to visit our servers and got in on a Thursday. They worked until that Friday night and found an opening. This was something that happened in the middle of the night and they closed down the servers. They put in this ransomware, so that closed down everything.

On Saturday, we had no production. So, Saturday and Sunday for us were the days to work on and solve the problem. We contacted HPE for consultants, to determine what to do. They came over from Oslo on Sunday, and from Sunday afternoon to early Monday morning we recovered everything.

On Monday morning we started up, I think, only about 30 minutes behind schedule and the business was running. That was extremely important for us. We have live animals coming in on Sunday to be slaughtered on Monday. We have rapid processing. Christmas was around the corner and everything that we produce is important every day. The quick recovery was really important for us.

Gardner: You are an older, family-run organization, dating back to 1892. So, you have a very strong brand to protect.

On Monday morning we started up only 30 minutes behind schedule and the business was running. That was extremely important to us. The quick recovery was really important.

Wester: That’s right, yes.

Gardner: You don’t want to erode that brand. People want to continue to hold the trust they have had in you for 125 years.

Wester: They do. The farmers have been calling us for slaughtering of their cattle for generations. We have the typical supermarket chains in Norway as our main customers. We have a big daily turnover, especially in September through October, when all the lambs are coming in. It’s just a busy period and everybody trusts that we should work for them every day, and that’s our goal, too.

Gardner: Patrick, what was it about the HPE approach, the Recovery Manager Central and StoreOnce, that prevented the ransomware attack, in this case, from causing the significant downtime that we saw in other organizations?

Osborne: One of the important things to focus on is that in the case of Fatland it’s not so much the money that you would have had to pay for the ransomware, it’s the downtime. That is key.

Using our architecture, you can take application or data-specific point-in-time copies of the data that’s critical — either mission-critical or business-critical — at a very granular level. You can orchestrate that, and then send that all off to a secondary system. That way you have an additional layer of security.

What we announced in November 2017 at Discover in Madrid is the ability to go even further beyond that and send an additional copy to the cloud. At all layers of the infrastructure, you will be able to encrypt that data. We designed the system around not so much backup — but to be able to restore quickly.

The goal is to provide a very aggressive recovery time objective (RTO) in a very granular recovery point objective. So, when a team like Terje’s at Fatland recognizes that they have a breach, you can mitigate that, essentially staunch the issue, and be able to rapidly recover from a well-known set of data that wasn’t compromised.

For us it’s all about architecting to rapidly recover, of making that RTO as quickly as possible. And we see a lot of older architectures where you have a primary storage solution that has all of your data on it and then not a really good backup infrastructure.

What turned into two days of disruption for Fatland could have been many more days, if not weeks, in older infrastructure. We really just are focused on mitigation of RTO.

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Gardner: In the case of the cryptovirus, did the virus not encrypt the data at all, or was it encrypted but you were able to snap back to the encryption-free copies of the data fast?

Osborne: When we do this at the storage layer, we are able to take copies of that data and then move it off to a secondary system, or even a tertiary system. You then have a well-known copy of that data before it’s been encrypted. You are able to roll back to a point in time in your infrastructure before that data has been compromised, and then we can actually go a step further.

Some of the techniques allow you to have encryption on your primary storage. That usually helps if you are changing disk drives and whatnot. It’s from a security perspective. Then we are actually able to encrypt again at the data level on secondary storage. In that case, you have a secure piece of the infrastructure with data that’s already been encrypted at a well-known point in time, and you are able to recover. That really helps out a lot.

Gardner: So, their encryption couldn’t get past your encryption?

Osborne: Yes.

Gardner: The other nice thing about this rapid recovery approach is that it doesn’t have to be a ransomware or a virus or even a security issue. It could be a natural disaster; it could be some human error. What’s important is the business continuity.

Now that you have been through the ransomware attack, how is your confidence in always being up and running and staying in business in general, Terje?

Business continuity bonus

Wester: We had been discussing this quite a lot before this ransomware issue. We established better backup systems, but now we are looking into extending them even more, to have another system that can run from the minute the main servers are down. We have a robotized system picking out meat for the supermarket chains 24×7, and when their main server stops, something should be able to take over and run the business. So, within a very short time we will also have that solution in place, with good help from HPE.

Gardner: Patrick, not that long ago the technology to do this may have been there, but the costs were prohibitive. The network and latency and issues were prohibitive. What’s happened in the past several years that allows you to go to a company such as Fatland and basically get them close to 99.9999 percent availability across the board?

Osborne: In the past, you had customers with a preferred vendor for servers, a preferred vendor for networking, and another preferred vendor for storage. That azimuth is changing to a vertically oriented stack. So, when Terje has a set of applications or business needs, we are able to, as a portfolio company, bring together that whole stack.

In the past, the customer was the integrator, and the cost was in bringing many, many different disparate solutions together. They would act as the integrator. That was probably the largest cost back in the day.

We’re now bringing together something that’s vertically oriented and has security and data protection availability throughout the stack. At the end of the day it’s a business enabler for a business of any size.

Now, we’re bringing together something that’s more vertically oriented and that has security and data protection availability throughout the stack. We’re making these techniques and levels of availability for customers of any size, where IT is not really their core competency. At the end of day, it’s a business enabler, right?

Wester: Right, absolutely.

Osborne: The second piece from a networking perspective is that very large and low-cost bandwidth has definitely changed the game in terms of being able to move data, replicate data from on-premise, even off-premise to the cloud, that’s certainly been an enabler as well.

Gardner: We are seeing mirroring of entire data centers in amazing amounts of time.

Also, you have an integrated stack approach, with HPE focused on security engineered in, across the board, from the silicon up. What are some of the newer technologies that we can expect to see that further increases higher availability, lower risk and lower cost?

Shared signature knowledge 

Osborne: Terje’s team had cryptovirus on-premise, a breach with a number of different signatures. We are now focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) for the data center. So, taking the human factor out of it to help recognize the problems faster.

So, if they have a breach, and that has certain signatures found in the infrastructure, we can take that and apply that knowledge to other customers. And likewise, they may have some things that happened to them that can benefit Fatland as well.

Using machine learning techniques, we have a number of things that we have brought to the table for what we call predictive analytics in the data center. So HPE Aruba on the networking side has a number of capabilities, too.

We are bringing InfoSight, which is our predictive analytics for storage, and extending that to other parts of the infrastructure. So, servers, networking, and storage. You can start to see signatures in more places.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been implemented, and there are some high fines. You have to report within 72 hours. So, anything you can do to take the human factor out of this, from a technology perspective is a win for everyone, and we have a big investment in that.

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Speeds Delivery of Business Outcomes 

Gardner: And that gets back to the idea that strategic data protection is the gift that keeps giving. As more systems are integrated, the more data analysis can be done, signatures patterns shared with other organizations, and you can ultimately become predictive rather than reactive.

Terje, the level of confidence that you have seems to be high, it’s perhaps going to get higher. What other recommendations might you have for other organizations that are thinking about this? Did it turn out to be a good investment, and what sort of precautions might you have for others if they haven’t done this already?

Communication is key

Wester: Data itself is not part of our core business. But communication is. It is extremely important for us to communicate internally and externally all the time.

In every organization, IT people need to talk to the management and the board about these safety issues. I think that should be brought to the table before these problems come up.

We have good systems, HPE end-to-end. Of course, one thing that is important is to have modern technology in place, so we could have a quick recovery, and that was a good thing.

Most important for us was that the IT management had the trust from us — the management and the board — to invest in what they thought was the best solution. We still saw some operational breaches and we need to do better. This is a big focus with us. Every organization should invest time to look into the infrastructure to see what to do to make it safer for quick recovery, which is important for any company. Bring it on to the table for the board, for the management, for a really good discussion — it’s worth that.

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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How hybrid cloud deployments gain traction via Equinix datacenter adjacency coupled with the Cloud28+ ecosystem


The next BriefingsDirect hybrid cloud advancement interview explores how the triumvirate of a global data center hosting company, a hybrid cloud platform provider, and a global cloud community are solving some of the most vexing problems for bringing high-performance clouds to more regions around the globe.

We will now explore how EquinixMicrosoft Azure Stack, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)’s Cloud28+ are helping managed service providers (MSPs) and businesses alike obtain world-class hybrid cloud services.

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

Here to explain more about new breeds of hybrid cloud solutions are David Anderson, Global Alliance Director at Equinix for its Microsoft alliance, and Xavier Poisson, Vice-President of Worldwide Services Providers Business and Cloud28+ at HPE. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: There seems to be a paradox when it comes to hybrid cloud — that it works best in close proximity technologically yet has the most business payoff when you distribute it far and wide. So how are Equinix, Microsoft, and HPE together helping to solve this paradox of proximity and distribution?

David Anderson


Anderson: That’s a great question. You are right that hybrid cloud does tend to work better when there is proximity between the hybrid installation and the actual public cloud you are connecting to. That proximity can actually be lengthened with what we call interconnectedness.

Interconnectedness is really business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-cloud private network Ethernet connections. Equinix is positioned with more than 200 data centers worldwide, the most interconnections by far around the world. Every network provider is in our data centers. We also work with cloud providers like Microsoft. The Equinix Cloud Exchange connects businesses and enterprises to those clouds through our Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric. It’s a simple one-port virtual connection, using software-defined networking (SDN), up to the public clouds.

That provides low-latency and high-performance connections — up to 10 Gigabit network links. So you can now run a hybrid application and it’s performing as if it’s sitting in your corporate data center not far away.

The idea is to be hybrid and to be more dispersed. That dispersion takes place through the breadth of our reach at Equinix with more than 200 data centers in 45 metro areas all over the world — and so, interconnected all over.

Plus, there are more than 50 Microsoft Azure regions. We’re working closely with Microsoft so that we can get the cloud out to the customers fairly easily using the network service providers in our facilities. There are very few places on Earth where a customer can’t get from where they are to where we are, to a cloud – and with a really high-quality network link.

Gardner: Xavier, why is what we just heard a good fit for Cloud28+? How do you fit in to make hybrid clouds possible across different many regions?

Xavier Poisson Gouyou Beauchamps


Poisson: HPE has invested a lot in intellectual property in building our own HPE and Microsoft Azure Stack solution. It’s designed to provide the experience of a private cloud while using Microsoft as your technology’s tool.

Our customers want two things. The first is to be able to execute clouds on-premises, but also to connect to wider public clouds. This is enabled by what we are doing with a partner like Equinix. We can jump from on-premises to off-premises for an end-user customer.

The second is, when a customer decides to go to a new architecture around hybrid cloud, they may need to get reach and this reach is difficult now.

So, how we can support partners to find the right place, the right partners at the right moment in the right geographies with the right service level agreements (SLAs) for them to meet their business needs?

The fact that we have Equinix inside of Cloud28+ as a very solid partner is helping our customers and partners to find the right route. If I am an enterprise customer in Australia and I want to reach into Europe, or reach into Japan, I can, through Cloud28+, find the right service providers to operate the service for me. But I will also be hosted by a very compelling co-location company like Equinix, with the right SLAs. And this is the benefit for every single customer.

This has a lot of benefits for our MSPs. Why? Because our MSPs are evolving their technologies, evolving their go-to-market strategies, and they need to adapt. They need to jump from one country to another country, and they need to have a sustainable network to make it all happen. That’s what Equinix is providing.

Learn How Cloud28+ Accelerates

Cloud Adoption Around the Globe

We not only help the end-user customers, but we also help our MSPs to build out their capabilities. Why? We know that with interconnectedness, as was just mentioned, that they can deliver direct cloud connectivity to all of their end users.

Together we can provide choice for partners and end-user customers in one place, which is Cloud28+. It’s really amazing.

Gardner: What are some of the compelling new use cases, David? What are you seeing that demonstrates where this works best? Who should be thinking about this now as a solution?

Data distribution solutions 

Anderson: The solution — especially combined with Microsoft Azure Stack — is suited to those regions that have had data sovereignty and regulatory compliance issues. In other words, they can’t actually put their data into the public cloud, but they want to be able to use the power, elasticity, and the compute potential of the public cloud for big data analytics, or whatever else they want to do with that data. And so they need to have that data adjacent to the cloud.

Same for an Azure Stack solution. Oftentimes it will be in situations where they want to do DevOps. The developers might want to develop in the cloud, but they are going to bring it down to a private Azure Stack installation because they want to manage the hardware themselves. Or they actually might want to run that cloud in a place where public Azure may not yet have an availability zone. That could be sub-Saharan Africa, or wherever it might be — even on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean.

There’s a lot of legacy hardware out there. The need is for applications to run on a cloud, but the hardware can’t be virtualized. These workloads could be moved to Equinix and then connect to a cloud.

Another use case that we are driving hard right now with Microsoft, HPE, and Cloud28+ is on the idea of an enterprise cage, where there is a lot of legacy hardware out there. The need is for applications to run to some degree on a cloud, but the hardware can’t be virtualized. But these workloads could be moved to an Equinix data center and connected to the cloud. They can then use the cloud for the compute part, and all of a sudden they are still getting value out of that legacy hardware, in a cloud environment, in a distributed environment.

Other areas where this is of value include a [data migration] appliance that is shipped out to a customer. We’ve worked a lot with Microsoft on this. The customer will put up to 100 TB of data on the appliance. It then gets shipped to one of our data centers where it’s hooked up through high-speed connection to Azure and the data can be ingested into Azure.

Now, that’s a onetime thing, but it gives us and our service providers on Cloud28+ the opportunity to talk to customers about what they are going to do in the cloud and what sort of help might you need.

Scenarios like that provide an opportunity to learn more about what enterprises are actually trying to do in the cloud. It allows us then to match up the service providers in our ecosystem, which is what we use Cloud28+ for with enterprise customers who need help.

Gardner: Xavier, it seems like this solution democratizes the use of hybrid clouds. Smaller organizations, smaller MSPs with a niche, with geographic focus, or in a vertical industry. How does this go down market to allow more types of organizations to take advantage of the greatest power of hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud power packaged

Poisson:We have packaged the solutions together with Equinix by default. That means that MSPs can just cherry pick to provide new cloud offerings very quickly.

Also, as I often say, the IT value chain has not changed that much. It means that if you are a small enterprise, let’s say in the United States, and you want to shape your new generation of IT, do you go directly to a big cloud provider? No, because you still believe in your systems integrator (SI), and in your value-added reseller (VAR).

Interestingly, when we package this with Equinix and Microsoft, having this enterprise cage, the VARs can take the bull by the horns. Because, when the customer comes to them and says, “Okay, what should I do, where should put my data, how can I do the public cloud but also a private cloud?” The VAR can guide them because they have an answer immediately — even for small- to medium-sized (SMB) businesses.

Learn How Cloud28+ Accelerates

Cloud Adoption Around the Globe

Our purpose at Cloud28+ is to explain all of this through thought leadership articles that we publish — explaining the trends in the market, explaining that the solutions are there. You know, not a lot of people know about Equinix. There are still people who don’t know that they can have global reach.

If you are a start-up, for example, you have a new business, and you need to find MSPs everywhere on the globe. How you do that? If you go to Cloud28+ you can see that there are networks of service providers or learn what we have done with Equinix. That can empower you in just a few clicks.

We give the access to partners who have been publishing more than 900 articles in less than six months on various topics such as security, big data, interconnection, globalization, artificial intelligence (AI), and even the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They learn and they find offerings because the articles are connected directly to those offering services, and they can get in touch.

We are easing the process — from the thought leadership, to the offerings with explanations. What we are seeing is that the VARs and the SIs are still playing an enormous role.

So, it’s not only Microsoft, with HPE, and with the data centers of Equinix, but we put the VARs into the middle of the conversation. Why? Because they are near the SMBs. We want to make everything as simple as you just put in your credit card and you go. That’s fair enough for some kinds of workloads.

But in most cases, enterprises still go to their SIs and their VARs because they are all part of the ecosystem. And then, when they have the discussion with their customers, they can have the solution very, very quickly.

Gardner: Seems to me that for VARs and SIs, the cloud was very disruptive. This gives them a new lease on life. A middle ground to take advantage of cloud, but also preserve the value that they had already been giving.

Take the middle path 

Poisson: Absolutely. Integration services are key, application migrations are key, and security topics are very, very important. You also have new areas such as AI and blockchain technologies.

For example, in Asia-Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA), we have more-and-more tier-two service providers that are not only delivering their best services but are now investing in practices around AI or blockchain — or combine them with security — to upgrade their value propositions in the market.

For VARs and for Sis, it is all benefit because they know that solutions exist, and they can accompany their customers to the transition. For them, this is all also a new flow of revenue.

Gardner: As we get the word out that these distributed hybrid cloud solutions are possible and available, we should help people understand which applications are the right fit. What are the applications that work well in this solution?

The hybrid solution gives SIs, service providers, and enterprises more flexibility than if they try and move an application completely into the cloud.

Anderson: The interesting thing is that applications don’t have to be architected in a specific way, based on the way we do hybrid solutions. Obviously, the apps have to be modern.

I go back to my engineering days 25 years ago, when we were separating data and compute and things like that. If they want to write a front-end and everything in platform-as-a-service (PaaS) on Azure and then connect that down to legacy data, it will work. It just works.

The hybrid situation gives SIs, service providers, and enterprises more flexibility than if they try and move an application, whatever it is, completely into the cloud, because that actually takes a lot more work.

Some service providers believe that hybrid is a transitory stage, that enterprises would go to hybrid just to buy them time till they go fully public cloud. I don’t believe Microsoft thinks that way, and we certainly don’t think that way. I think there is a permanent place for hybrid cloud.

In fact, one of the interesting things when I first got to Equinix was that we had our own sellers saying, “I don’t want to talk to the cloud guys. I don’t want them in our data centers because they are just going to take my customers and move them to the cloud.”

The truth of the matter is that demand for our data centers has increased right along with the increase in public cloud consumption. So it’s a complementary thing, not a substitution thing. They need our data centers. What they are trying to do now is to close their own enterprise data centers.

And they are getting into Equinix and finding out that the connectivity possibilities and — especially in the Global 2000 enterprises — nobody wants cloud vendor lock-in. They are all multicloud. Our Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric solution is a great way to get in at one point and be able to connect to multiple cloud providers from right there.

It gives them more flexibility in how they design their apps, and also more flexibility in where they run their apps.

Gardner: Do you have any examples of organizations that have already done this? What demonstrates the payoffs? When you do this well, what do you get for it?

Cloudify your networks

Anderson: We have worked with customers in these situations where they have come in initially for a connection to Microsoft, let’s say. Then we brought them together with a service provider and worked with them on network transformations to the point where they have taken their old networks – a lot of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and everything else that were really very costly and didn’t perform that well — and ended up being able to rework their networks. We like to say they cloudifytheir networks, because a lot of enterprise networks aren’t really ready for the heavy load of getting out to the cloud.

And we ended up increasing their performance by up to 10, 15, 20 times — and at the same time cut their networking costs in half. Then they can turn around and reinvest that in applications. They can also then begin to spin up cloud apps, and just provision them, and not have to worry about managing the infrastructure.

They want the same thing in a hybrid world, which is where those service providers that we find on Cloud28+ and that we amplify, come in. They can build those managed services, whether it’s a managed Azure Stack offering or anything else. That enables the enterprise IT shops to essentially do the same thing with hybrid that they are doing with public cloud – they can buy it on a consumption model. They are not managing the hardware because they are offloading that to someone else.

Learn How Cloud28+ Accelerates

Cloud Adoption Around the Globe

Because they are buying all of their stuff in the same model — whether it’s considered on-premises or a third-party facility like ours, or a totally public cloud. It’s the same purchasing model, which is making their procurement departments happy, too.

Gardner: Xavier, we have talked about SIs, VARs, and MSPs. It seems to me that for who we used to call independent software vendors (ISVs), the former packaged software providers, that this hybrid cloud model also offers a new lease on life. Does this work for the applications providers, too?

Extend your reach 

Poisson: Yes, absolutely. And we have many, many examples in the past 12 months of ISVs, software companies, coming to Cloud28+ because we give them the reach.

Lequa AB, a Swedish company, for example, has been doing identity management, which is a very hot topic in digital transformation. In the digital transformation you have your role when you speak to me, but in your other associations you have another role. The digital transformation of these roles needs to be handled, and Lequa has done that.

And by partnering with Cloud28+, they have been able to extend their reach in ways they wouldn’t ever have otherwise. Only in the past six months, they have been in touch with more than 30 service providers across the world. They have already closed deals.

If I am only providing baseline managed information services, how can I differentiate from the hyperscale cloud providers? MSPs now care more about the applications to differentiate themselves in the market.

On one side of the equation for ISVs, there is a very big benefit — to be able to reach ready-to-be-used service providers, powered by Equinix in many cases. For the service providers, there is also an enormous benefit.

If I am only providing baseline managed information services, how can I differentiate from the hyperscale cloud providers? How can I differentiate from even my own competitors? What we have seen is that the MSPs are now caring more about the application makers, the former ISVs, in order for them to differentiate in the market.

So, yes, this is a big trend and we welcome into Cloud28+ more and more ISVs every week, yes.

Gardner: David, another concern that organizations have is as they are distributing globally, as there are more moving parts in a hybrid environment, things become more complex. Is there something that HPE is doing with new products like OneSphere that will help? How do we allow people to gain confidence that they can manage even something that’s a globally distributed hybrid set of applications?

Confident connections in global clouds 

Anderson: There are a number of ways we are partnering with HPE, Microsoft, and others to do that. But one of the keys is the Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric, where now they only have to manage one wire or fiber connection in a switching fabric. That allows them to spin up connections to virtually all of the cloud providers, and span those connections across multiple locations. And so that makes it easier to manage.

The APIs that drive the Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric can be consumed and viewed with tools such as HPE OneSphere to be able to manage everything across the solution. The MSPs are also having to take on more and be the ones that provide management.

As the huge, multinational enterprises disperse their hybrid clouds, they will tend to view those in silos. But they will need one place to go, one view to look at, to know what’s in each set of data centers.

At Equinix, our three pillars are the ideas of being able to reach everywhere, interconnect everything, and integrate everything. That idea says we need to be the place to put that on top of HPE with the service providers because then that gives you that one place that reaches those multiple clouds, that one set of solid, known, trusted advisors in HPE and the service providers that are really certified through Cloud28+. So now we have built this trusted community to really serve the enterprises in a new world.

Gardner: Before we close out, let’s take a look into the crystal ball. Xavier, what should we expect next? Is this going to extend to the edge with the Internet of Things (IoT), more machine learning (ML)-as-a-service built into the data cloud? What comes next?

The future is at the Edge

Poisson: Today we are 810 partners in Cloud28+. We cover more than 560 data centers in more than 34 countries. We have been publishing nearly 30,000 cloud services in only two years. You see how fast it has been growing

What do we expect in the future? You named it: Edge is a very hot topic for us and for Equinix. We plan to develop new offering in this area, even new data center technology. It will be necessary to have new findings around what a data center of tomorrow is, how it will consume energy, and what we can do with it together.

We are already engaged in conversations between Equinix, ourselves, and another company within the Cloud28+ community to discuss what the future data center could be.

A huge benefit of having this community is that by default we innovate. We have new ideas because it’s coming through all of the partners. Yes, edge computing is definitely a very hot spot.

For the platform itself, I believe that even though we do not monetize in the data center, which is one of the definitions of Cloud28+, the revenues at the edge are for the partners, and this is also by design.

Nonetheless, we are thinking of new things such as a smart contracting around IoT and other topics, too. You need to have a combination of offerings to make a project. You need to have confidentiality between players. At the same time, you need to deliver one solution. So next it may be solutions on best ways for contracting. And we believe that blockchain can add a lot of value in that, too.

Cloud28+ is a community and a digital business platform. We are thinking of such things as smart contracting for IoT and using blockchain in many solutions.

Cloud28+ is a community and a digital business platform. By the way, we are very happy to have been recognized as such by Gartner in several research notes since September 2017. We want to start to include these new functions around smart contracting and blockchain.

The other part of the equation is how we help our members to generate more business. Today we have a module that is integrated into the platform to amplify partner articles and their offerings through social media. We also have a lead-generation engine, which is working quite well.

We want to launch an electronic lead-generation capability through our thought leadership articles. We believe that if we can give the feedback to the people filling in these forms, with how they position versus all of their peers, on how they position versus the industry analysts, they will be very eager to engage with us.

And the last piece is we need to examine more around using ML across all of these services and interactions between people. We need to deep dive on this to find what value we can bring from out of all this traffic, because we have such traffic now inside Cloud28+ that trends are becoming clear.

Learn How Cloud28+ Accelerates

Cloud Adoption Around the Globe

For instance, I can say to any partner that if they publish an article on what is happening in the public sector today, it will have a yield that is x-times the one that has been published at an earlier date. All this intelligence, we have it. So what we are packaging now is how to give intelligence back to our members so they can capture trends very quickly and publish more of what is most interesting to the people.

But in a nutshell, these are the different things that we see.

Gardner: And I know that evangelism and education are a big part of what you do at Cloud28+. What are some great places that people can go to learn more?

Poisson: Absolutely. You can read not only what the partners publish, but examine how they think, which gives you the direction on how they operate. So this is building trust.

For me, at the end of the day, for an end-user customer, they need to have that trust to know what they will get out of their investments.

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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How data analytics-rich business networks help close the digital transformation gap

Digital-transformationThe next BriefingsDirect thought leadership discussion explores how intelligence gleaned from business applications, data, and networks provides the best new hope for closing the digital transformation gap at many companies.

A recent global survey of procurement officers shows a major gap between where companies are and where they want to be when it comes to digital transformation. While 82 percent surveyed see digital transformation as having a major impact on processes — only five percent so far see significant automation across their processes.

How can business networks and the cloud-based applications underlying them better help companies reach a more strategic level of business intelligence and automation?

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

To find out, BriefingsDirect recently visited SAP in Palo Alto, Calif. to sit down with Darren Koch, Chief Product Officer at SAP Ariba. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What’s holding companies back when it comes to becoming more strategic in their processes? They don’t seem to be able to leverage intelligence and automation to allow people to rise to a higher breed of productivity.

Darren Koch, Chief Product Officer at SAP Ariba


Koch: I think a lot of it is inertia. The ingrained systems and processes that exist at companies impact a lot of people. The ability for those companies to run their core operations relies on people andtechnology working together. The change management required by our customers as they deploy solutions — particularly in the move from on-premises to the cloud — is a major inhibitor.

But it’s not just the capabilities and the change in the new technology. It’s really re-looking at — and reimagining — the processes, the things that existed in the highly customized on-premises world, and the way those things change in a digital-centric cloud world. They are fundamentally different.

Gardner: It’s always hard to change behavior. It seems like you have to give people a huge incentive to move past that inertia. Maybe that’s what we are all thinking about when we bring new data analytics capabilities to bear. Is that what you looking at, incentivization — or how do we get that gap closed? 

Reimagining change in the cloud

Koch: You are seeing more thought leadership on the executive side. You are seeing companies more willing to look holistically at their processes and saying, “Is this something that truly differentiates my company and adds sustainable competitive advantage?” And the answer on some processes is, “No.”

And so, we see more moving away from the complex, on-premises deployments that were built in a world where a truckload of consultants would show up and configure your software to do exactly what you wanted. Instead, we’re moving to a data-centric best-practices type of world that gives scale, where everybody operates in the same general business fabric. You see the emergence of things like business networks.

Gardner: And why the procurement and supply chain management folks? Why are they in an advantageous position to leverage these holistic benefits, and then evangelize them?

Koch: There’sbeen a ton of talk and innovation on the selling side, on the customer resource management (CRM) side, such as our announcement of C/4HANA at Sapphire 2018 and the success in the cloud generally in the CRM space. What most people stop at is, for every seller there’s a buyer. We represent the buy-side, the supply chain, the purchasing departments. And now from that buy-side we have the opportunity to follow the same thought processes on the sell-side.

The beauty at SAP Ariba is that we have the world’s biggest business network. We have over $2 trillion of buy-side spend and our ability to take that spend and find real insights and real actionable change to drive value at the intersection of buyers and sellers. This is where we’re headed.

Gardner: It seems like we are moving rapidly beyond the buy and sell being just transactional and moving more to deeper partnerships, visibility, of understanding the processes on both sides of the equation. That can then bring about a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Understanding partners 

Koch: Exactly. I spent 10 years working in the consumer travel space, and my team in particular was working on how consumers choose hotels. It’s a very complex purchasing decision.

There are location aspects, there are quality aspects, there are amenities, room size, obviously price, and there are a lot of non-price actors that go into the purchase decision, too. When you look at what a procurement audience is doing, what a company is doing, there are a lot of such non-price factors. It’s exactly the same problem.

The investments that we are making inside of SAP Ariba get at allowing you to see things like supplier risk. You are seeing things like the Ariba Network handling direct materials. You are seeing time, quality, and risk factors — and these other non-price dimensions — coming in, in the same way that consumers do when choosing a hotel. Nobody chooses the cheapest one, or very few people do. Usually it’s a proper balance of all of these factors and how they best meet the total needs. We are seeing the same thing on the business procurement side.

When you look at what a procurement audience is doing, what a company is doing, there are now a lot of non-price factors.

Gardner: As consumers we have information at our fingertips — so we can be savvy and smart – probably better than at any other time in history. But that doesn’t always translate to a larger business-to-business (B2B) decisions.

What sort of insights do you think businesses will want when it comes that broader visibility?

Koch: It starts with the basics. It starts with, “How do I know my suppliers? How do I add scale? Is this supplier General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)-compliant? Do they have slavery or forced labor in their supply chain? Where are they sourcing their materials?” All of these aspects around supplier risk are the basics; knowing your supplier well is the basic element.

Then when you go beyond that, it’s about things like, “Well how do I weigh geographic risk? How do I weigh supply chain risk?” And all the things that the practitioners of those disciplines have been screaming about for the rest of their companies to pay attention to.

That’s the new value they are providing. It’s that progression and looking at the huge opportunity to see the way companies collaborate and share data strategically to drive efficiency into processes. That can drive efficiency ultimately into the whole value chain that leads to a better customer experience at the end.

Gardner: Customer experience is so important across the board. It must be a big challenge for you on the product side to be able to contextually bring the right information and options to the end-user at the right time. Otherwise they are overwhelmed, or they don’t get the benefit of what the technology and the business networks can do.

What are you doing at SAP Ariba to help bring that right decision-making — almost anticipating where the user needs to go — into the actual applications and services?

Intelligent enterprise

Koch: That begins with our investments in re-platforming to SAP HANA. That feeds into the broader story about the intelligent enterprise. Purchasing is one facet, supply-chain management is a facet, sales is a facet, and production — all of these components are elements of a broader story of how you synthesize data into a means where you have a digital twin of the whole enterprise.

Then you can start doing things like leveraging the in-memory capabilities of HANA around scenario planning, and around, “What are the implications of making this decision?”

What happens when a hurricane hits Puerto Rico and your supply chain is dramatically disrupted? Does that extend to my suppliers’ suppliers?  Who are my people on the ground there, and how are they disrupted? How should my business respond in an intelligent way to these world events that happen all the time?

Gardner: We have talked about the intelligent enterprise. Let’s hypothetically say that when one or two — or a dozen — enterprises become intelligent that they gain certain advantages, which compels the rest of their marketplace to follow suit.

When we get to the point where we have a critical mass of intelligent enterprises, how does that elevate to an intelligent economy? What can we do when everyone is behaving with this insight, of having tools like SAP Ariba at their disposal?

Koch: You hit on a really valuable and important point. Way back, I was an economics major and there was a core thing that I took away 20 years ago from my intro to macroeconomics class. The core of it was that everything is either value or waste. Every bit of effort, everything that’s produced around the world, all goods or services are either valuable or a waste. There is nothing in between.

The question then as we look at value chains, when we look at these webs of value, is how much of that is transaction cost? How much of that is information asymmetry? How much of that is basic barriers that get in the way of ultimately providing value to the end consumer? Where is all of that waste?

When you look at complex value chains, at all of the inventory sitting in warehouses, the things that go unsold, the mismatches between supply and demand across a value chain — whether you are talking about direct materials or about pens and paper sitting in a supply closet — it really doesn’t matter.

When you look at complex value chains … how much of that goes into actually delivering on what your customers and employees value — and how much of it is waste?

It’s all about how much of that goes to actually delivering on what your customers, your employees, and your stakeholders’ value — and how much of it is waste? As we link these data sets together — the real production planning, understanding end-user demand, and all the way back through the supply chain – we can develop new transparency that brings a ton of value. And by ultimately everyone in the value chain understanding what the consumers’ actually value, then they can innovate in the right ways.

So, I see this all dramatically changing as you link these intelligent companies together. As companies move in the same way — into a sharing mindset – then the sharing economy uses resources in a far more efficient way, in the exact same way as we use our data resources in a more efficient way.

Gardner: This also dovetails well with being purposeful as a business. If many organizations are encouraging higher productivity, which reduces inefficiencies and helps raise wages, it can lead to better standards of life. So, the stakes here are pretty high.

We’re not just talking about adding some dollars to the bottom and top lines. We’re also talking about a better economy that raises all boats.

Purposeful interconnections

Koch: Yes, absolutely. You see companies like Johnson and Johnson, who at their core, from their founding principles, have the importance of their community as one of the core founding principles. You see it in companies like Ford and their long heritage. Those ideals are really coming back from the decade of the 1980s where greed was good and now back to a more holistic understanding of the interconnectedness of all of this.

And it’s good as humans. It’s also good from the business perspective because of the need to attract and retain the talent required to run a modern enterprise. And building the brands that our consumers are demanding, and holding companies accountable, they all go hand-in-hand.

And so, the purpose aspect really addresses the broader stakeholder aspects of creating a sustainable planet, a sustainable business, sustainable employment, and things like that.

Gardner: When we think about attaining this level of efficiency through insights and predictive analytics — taking advantage of business networks and applications and services — we are also on the cusp of getting even better tools.

We’re seeing a lot more information about machine learning (ML). We’re starting to tease out the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI). When these technologies are maturing and available, you need to be in a position to take advantage of them.

So, moving toward the intelligent enterprise and digital transformation are not just good or nice to have, they are essential because of what’s going to come next in just a few years.

Efficiency in the digital future 

Koch: Yes, you see this very tactically in the chief procurement officers (CPOs) that I’ve talked with as I’ve entered this role. I have yet to run across any business leader who says, “I have so many resources, I don’t know what to do.” That’s not usually what I hear. Usually, it’s the opposite. It’s, “I’m being asked to do more with less.”

When you look at the core of AI, and the core of ML, it’s how do you increase efficiency? And that’s whether it’s all the way on the full process automation side, or it’s along the spectrum of bringing the right intelligence and insights to streamline processes to make better decisions.

All of that is an effort to up-level the work that people do, so that raises wages, it raises productivity, all of those things. We have an example inside of our team. I was meeting with the head of our customer value organization, Chris Haydon, over dinner last night.  Chris was talking about how we were applying ML to enhance our capability to onboard new customers.

And he said the work that we’ve done has allowed him to redeploy 80 people in his team on to higher productivity use cases. All of those people became more valuable in the company because they were working on things that were at the next level of creating new solutions and better customer experiences, instead of turning the crank in the proverbial factory of deploying software.

Gardner: I happen to personally believe that a lot of the talk about robots taking over people’s jobs is hooey. And that, in fact, what’s more likely is this elevation of people to do what they can do best and uniquely. Then let the machines do what they do best and uniquely.

How is that translating both into SAP Ariba products and services, and also into the synergy between SAP and SAP Ariba?

We’re just getting through a major re-platforming to S/4 HANA and that’s really exciting because of HANA’s maturity and scale. We’re using ML algorithms and applying them.

Koch: We are at a really exciting time inside of our products and services. We’re just getting through a major re-platforming to S/4 HANA, and that’s really exciting because of HANA’s maturity and scale. It’s moving beyond basic infrastructure in the way that [SAP Co-Founder] Hasso Plattner had envisioned it.

We’re really getting to the point of not replicating data. We are using the ML algorithms and applying them, building them once and applying them at large. And so, the company’s investments in HANA and in Leonardo are helping to create a toolkit of capabilities that applications like SAP Ariba can leverage. Like with any good infrastructure investment, when you have the right foundation you see scale and innovation happen quickly.

You’ll see a lot more of how we leverage the data that we have both inside the company as well as across the network to drive intelligence into our process. You will just see that come through more as we move from the infrastructure foundation setting stage to building the capabilities on top of that.

Gardner: Getting back to that concept of closing the transformation gap for companies, what is it they should be thinking about when these services and technologies become available? How can they help close their own technology gap by becoming acquainted in advances and taking some initiative to best use these new tools?

Digital transformation leadership 

Koch: The companies that are forward-leading on digital transformation are the ones that made the cloud move early. The next big move for them is to tap into business networks. How can they start sharing across their value chains and drive higher efficiency? I think you’ll see from that the shift from tactical procurement to strategic procurement.

The relationships need to move from transactional to a true partnership, of how do we create value together? That change involves rethinking the ways you look at data and of how you share data across value chains.

Gardner: Let’s also think about spend management conceptually. Congratulations, by the way, on your recent Gartner Magic Quadrant positioning on pay-to-procure processes. How does spend management also become more strategic?

Koch: The building blocks for spend management always come down to what is our tactical spend and where should we focus our efforts for strategic spend? Whether that is in the services area, travel, direct materials, or indirect, what customers are asking SAP for is, how do all of these pieces fit together?

What’s the difference between a request for proposal (RFP) for a hotel in New York City versus an RFP for chemicals in Southeast Asia? They’re both a series of business processes of selecting the right vendor that balances all of the critical dimensions: Price and everything else that makes for a good decision and that has longevity.

We see a lot of shared elements in the way you interact with your suppliers. We see a lot of shared elements in the way that you deploy applications inside of your company. We’re exploring how well the different facets of the applications can work together, how seamless the user experience is, and how well all of these tie together for all the stakeholders.

Ultimately, each element of the team, each element of the company, has a role to play. That includes the finance organization’s desire to ensure that value is being created in a way that the company can afford. It means that the shareholders, employees, management, and end-users are all on the same page.

This is the core of spend management – and the intelligent enterprise as a whole. It means being able to see everything, by bringing it all together, so the company can manage its full operations and how they create value.

Gardner: The vision is very compelling. I can certainly see where this is not going to be just a small change — but a step-change — in terms of how companies can benefit in productivity.

As you were alluding to earlier, architecture is destiny when it comes to making this possible. By re-architecting around, as for S/4 HANA, by taking advantage of business networks, you are well on the way to delivering this. Let’s talk about the platform changes that grease the skids toward the larger holistic benefits.

Shifting to the cloud 

Koch: It’s firmly our belief that the world is moving to mega-platforms. SAP has a long history of bringing the ecosystem along, whether the ecosystem is delivering process innovation or is building capabilities on top of other capabilities embedded deeply into the products.

What we’re now seeing is the shift from the on-premises world to a cloud world where it’s API-first, business events driven, and where you see a decoupling of the various components. Underneath the covers it doesn’t matter what technology stack things are built on. It doesn’t matter how quickly they evolve. It’s the assumption that we have this API contract between two different pieces of technology: An SAP Ariba piece of technology, an SAP S/4 Cloud piece of technology, or a partner ecosystem piece of technology.

For example, a company like Solenis was recently up on stage with us at Ariba Live in Amsterdam. That’s one of the fastest-growing companies. They have raised a B round at $1 billion valuation. Having companies that are driving innovation like that in partnership with an SAP platform brings not just near-term value for us and our customers, it brings future-proofing. It brings extensibility when there is a specific requirement that comes in for a specific industry or geography. It provides a way a customer can differentiate. You can just plug-in.

We’re now seeing the shift from on-premises to cloud where you see a decoupling of the components. It doesn’t matter what the technology stack is. … It’s now about API-first business events.

[SAP business unit] Concur has been down this path for a long time. The president of SAP Ariba, Barry Padgett, actually started the initiative of opening up the Concur platform. So deep at our core — in our roots — we believe that networks, ecosystems, and openness will ensure that our customers get the most value out of their solutions.

Gardner: Because SAP is an early adopter of multicloud, SAP can be everywhere at the most efficient level given what the hyperscale cloud providers are providing with global reach and efficiency. This approach also allows you to service small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), for example, essentially anywhere in the world.

Tell me why this long-term vision of a hyperscale-, multicloud-supported future benefits SAP, SAP Ariba, and its customers.

A hyperscale, multicloud landscape

Koch: When you look across the landscape of the hyperscalers and you look at the pace of innovation and the level of scale that that they are able to deliver, our lead time is slashed. We can also scale up and down as required. The cloud benefits apply to speed compared to having boxes installed in data centers, as well as ease in workload variability — whether it’s test variability or our ability to run ML-training models.

The idea that we still suffer multi-month lead times to get our physical boxes installed in our data centers is something that we just can’t afford. Our customers demand more.

Thankfully there are multiple solutions around the world that solve these problems while at the same time giving us things like world-class security, geographic footprints, and localized expertise. When a server fails halfway around the world and the expert is somewhere else, the hyperscalers provide a solution to that problem.

They have somebody who walks through every data center and makes sure that the routers are upgraded, and the switches and load balancers are working the way they should. They determine whether data correctly rests inside of a Chinese firewall or inside of Europe [due to compliance requirements]. They are responsible for how those systems interact.

We still need to do our investment on the applications tier and in working with our customers to handle all of the needed changes in the landscape around data and security.

But the hyperscalers give us a base-level of infrastructure so we don’t need to think about things like, “Is our air conditioner capacity inside of the data center sufficient to run the latest technology for the computing power?” We don’t worry about that. We worry about delivering value on top of that base-level of infrastructure and so that takes our applications to the next level.

In the same way we were talking earlier about ML and AI freeing up our resources to work on higher-value things, [the multicloud approach] allows us to stop thinking about these base-level things that are still critical for the delivery of our service. It allows us to focus on the innovation aspects of what we need to do.

Gardner: It really is about driving value higher and higher and then making use of that in a way that’s a most impactful to the consumers — and ultimately the whole economy.

Koch: You got it.

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 Data-Driven Business Networks Help Close the Digital Transformation Gap

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The next BriefingsDirect thought leadership discussion explores how intelligence gleaned from business applications, data, and networks provides the best new hope for closing the digital transformation gap at many companies.

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

A recent global survey of procurement officers shows a major gap between where companies are and where they want to be when it comes to digital transformation. While 82 percent surveyed see digital transformation as having a major impact on processes — only five percent so far see significant automation across their processes.

How can business networks and the cloud-based applications underlying them better help companies reach a more strategic level of business intelligence and automation?

To find out, BriefingsDirect recently visited SAP in Palo Alto, Calif. to sit down with Darren Koch, Chief Product Officer at SAP Ariba. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

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

Check out this episode!

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Ryder Cup provides extreme use case for managing the digital edge for 250K mobile golf fans


The next BriefingsDirect extreme IT-in-sports use case examines how an edge-computing Gordian Knot is being sliced through innovation and pluck at a prestigious live golfing event.

We will now explore how the 2018 Ryder Cup match between European and US golf players places a unique combination of requirements on its operators and suppliers. As a result, the IT solutions needed to make the Ryder Cup better than ever for its 250,000 live spectators and sponsors will set a new benchmark for future mobile sports events.

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

Here to describe the challenges and solutions for making the latest networks and applications operate in a highly distributed environment is Michael Cole, Chief Technology Officer for the European Tour and Ryder Cup. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What is the Ryder Cup, set for September 2018 near Paris, for those who might not know?

Michael Cole 2


Cole: The Ryder Cup is a biannual golf event, contested by teams representing Europe and the United States. It is without doubt the most prestigious team event in golf and arguably the world’s most compelling sporting contest in the world.

As such, it really is our blue-ribbon event and requires a huge temporary infrastructure to serve 250,000 spectators — over 50,000 super fans every day of the event — but also media, journalists, players, and their entourages.

Gardner: Why do you refer this as blue-ribbon? What is it about the US versus Europe aspect that makes it so special?

Cole: It’s special for the players, really. These professionals play the majority of their schedule in the season as individuals. The Ryder Cup gives them the opportunity to play as a team — and that is special for the players. You can see that in the passion of representing either the United States or Europe.

Gardner: What makes the Ryder Cup such a difficult problem from this digital delivery and support perspective? Why are the requirements for a tournament-wide digital architecture so extreme?

Cole: Technology deployment in golf is very challenging. We have to bear in mind that every course essentially is a greenfield site. We very rarely return to the same course on two occasions. Therefore, how you deploy technology in an environment that is 150 acres large – or the equivalent of 85 football pitches — is challenging. And we must do that as a temporary overlay for four days of operation, or three days for the Ryder Cup, operationally leading in, deploying our technology, and then bumping out very quickly onto the next event.

We typically deploy up to five different infrastructures: one for television; another for the tournament television big digital screens in the fan zones on the course; the scoring network has its own infrastructure; the public Wi-Fi, and, of course, we have the back-of-house operational IT infrastructure as well. It’s a unique challenge in terms of scale and complexity.

Gardner: It also exemplifies the need for core data capabilities that are deeply integrated with two-way, high-volume networks and edge devices. How do you tie the edge and the core together effectively?

Data delivery leads the way

Cole: The technology has a critical role to play for us. We at the European Tour lead the transformation in global golf — very much putting in data at the heart of our sports to create the right level of content and insight for our key stakeholders. This is critical.

For us this is about adopting the Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Intelligent Edge network and approach, which ensures the processing of data, location-based services, and the distribution of content that all takes place at the point of interaction with our key stakeholders, i.e., at the edge and on the golf course.

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Gardner: What do you mean by location services as pertains to the Ryder Cup? How challenging is that to manage?

Cole: One of the key benefits that the infrastructure will provide is an understanding of people and their behavior. So, we will be able to track the crowds around the course. We will be able to use that insight in terms of behaviors to create value — both for ourselves in terms of operational delivery, but also for our sponsors by delivering a better understanding of spectators and how they can convert those spectators into customers.

Big BYOD challenges 

Gardner: This is also a great example of how to support a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) challenge. Spectators may prefer to use their cellular networks, but those aren’t always available in these particular locations. What is it about the types of devices that these fans are using that also provides a challenge?

Cole: One of the interesting things that we recently found is the correlation between devices and people. So whilst we are expecting more than 51,000 people per day at the Ryder Cup, the number of devices could easily be double or triple that.

Typically, people these days will have two to three devices. So when we consider the Ryder Cup week [in September] and the fact that we will have more than 250,000 people attending – it’s even more devices. This is arguably the biggest BYOD environment on the planet this year, and that’s a challenge.

Gardner: What are you putting in place so that the end user experience is what they expect?

Cole: I use the term frictionless. I want the experience to be frictionless. The way they on-board, the way they access the Wi-Fi — I want it to be seamless and easy. It’s critical for us to maximize the number of spectators using the Wi-Fi infrastructure. It equally becomes a source of data andis useful for marketing purposes. So the more people that we can get onto the Wi-Fi, convert them into registering, and then receiving promotional activity – for both us and our partners — that’s a key measure of success.

It is critical for us to maximize the number of spectators using the WiFi infrastructure. It becomes a source of data and is useful for marketing. Iwant the experience to be frictionless.

Gardner: What you accomplish at the Ryder Cup will set the standard for going further for the broader European Tour. Tell us about the European Tour and how this sets the stage for extending your success across a greater distribution of golfing events.

Cole: This is without doubt the biggest investment that the European Tour has made in technology, and particularly for the Ryder Cup. So it is critical for us that the investment becomes our legacy as well. I am very much looking forward to having an adoption of technology that will serve our purposes, not only for the Ryder Cup, not only for this year, but in fact for the next four years, until the next Ryder Cup cycle.

For me it’s about an investment in a quadrennial period, and serving those 47 tournaments each year, and making sure that we can provide a consistency and quality beyond the Ryder Cup for each of our tournaments across the European Tour schedule.

Gardner: And how many are there?

Cole: We will run 47 tournaments in 30 countries, across five continents. Our down season is just three days. So we are operationally on the go every day, every week of the year.

Gardner: Many of our listeners and readers tend to be technologists, so let’s dig into the geek stuff. Tell us about the solution. How do you solve these scale problems?

Golf in a private cloud 

Cole: One of the critical aspects is to ensure that data is very much at the heart of everything we do. We need to make sure that we have the topology right, and that topology clearly is underpinned by the technological platform. We will be adopting a classic core distribution and access approach.

For the Ryder Cup, we will have more than 130 switches. In order to provide network ubiquity and overcome one of our greatest challenges of near 100 percent Wi-Fi coverage across the course, we will need 700 access switches. So this has scale and scope, but it doesn’t stop there.

We will essentially be creating our own private cloud. We will be utilizing the VMware virtual platform. We will have a number of on-premises servers and that will be configured across two network corporation centers, with full resiliency and duplicity between the two.

Having 100 percent availability is critical for my industry and delivery of golf across the operational period of three days for Ryder Cup or four days of a traditional golf tournament. We cannot afford any downtime — even five minutes is five minutes too much.

Gardner: Just to dwell on the edge technology, what is it about the Aruba technology from HPE that is satisfying your needs, given this extreme situation of hundreds of acres and hilly terrain and lots of obstacles?

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Cole: Golf is unique because it’s a greenfield site, with a unique set of challenges. No two golf courses are the same in the world. The technology platform gives us a modular approach. It gives us the agility to deploy what is necessary where and when we need.

And we can do this with the HPE Aruba platform in a way that gives us true integration, true service management, and a stack of applications that can better enable us to manage that entire environment. That includes through the basic management of the infrastructure to security and on-boarding for the largest BYOD requirements on the planet this year. And it’s for a range of services that we will integrate into our spectator app to deliver better value and smarter insights for our commercial family.

Gardner: Tell us about Michael Cole. How did your background prepare you for such a daunting undertaking?

Cole: My background has always been in technology. I spent some 20 years with British Telecom (BT). More recently I moved into the area of sports and technology, following the London 2012 Olympics. I then worked for technology companies for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. I have supported technology companies for the PyeongChang [South Korea] 2018 Winter Games, and also for the up and coming 2020 Tokyo Games, as well as the Pan American Games.

So I have always been passionate about technology, but increasingly passionate about the use of technology in sports. What I bring to the European Tour is the broader insight around multinational global sports and events and bringing that insight into golf.

Gardner: Where is the Ryder Cup this year?

Cole: It’s being held just outside Paris at Versailles, at Le Golf National. And there’s a couple of things I want to say on this. It’s the first time that the European Tour has been held in Europe outside of United Kingdom since 1997 at Valderrama in Spain.

The other interesting aspect, thinking about my background around the Olympics, is actually Le Golf National is the venue for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games; in fact, where the event of golf will be held. So, one of my key objectives is to create a compelling and sustainable legacy for those games in 2024.

Gardner: Let’s fast-forward to the third week of September 2018. What will a typical day in the life of Michael Cole be like as you are preparing and then actually executing on this?

Test-driven tech performance 

Cole: Well, there is no typical day. Every day is very different, and we still have a heavy schedule on our European Tour, but what is critical is the implementation phase and the run in to the Ryder Cup.

My team was on site to start the planning and early deployment some six months ago, in February. The activity now increases significantly. In the month of June, we took delivery of the equipment on site and initiated the Technology Operations Center, and in fact, the Wi-Fi is now live.

We also will adopt one of the principles from the Olympics in terms of test events, so we will utilize the French Open as a test event for the Ryder Cup. And this is an important aspect to the methodology.

I am very pleased with the way we are working with our partner, HPE, and its range of technology partners.

But equally, I am very pleased in the way that we are working with our partner, HPE, and its range of technology partners. In fact, we have adopted an eight-phase approach through staging, through design, and through configuration off site, on site. We do tech rehearsals.

So, the whole thing is very structured and methodical in terms of the approach as we get closer to the Ryder Cup in September.

Gardner: We have looked at this through the lens of technology uniqueness and challenge. Let’s look at this through the lens of business. How will you know you have succeeded through the eyes of your sponsors and your organization? It seems to me that you are going to be charting new ground when it comes to business models around location, sporting, spectators. What are some of the new opportunities you hope to uncover from a business model perspective?

Connect, capture, create

Cole: The platform has three key aspects to it, in my mind. The first one is the ability to create the concept of a connected golf course, a truly connected course, with near 100 percent connectivity at all times.

The second element is the ability to capture data, and that data will drive insights and help us to understand behavioral patterns of spectators on the course.

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The third aspect, which is really the answer to your question, is how we utilize that intelligence and that insight to create real value for our sponsors. The days of sponsors thinking activation was branding and the hospitality program are long gone. They are now far more sophisticated in their approach and their expectations are taken to a new level. And as a rights holder we have an obligation to help them be successful in that activation and achieve their return on investment (ROI).

Moving from a spectator to a lead, to a lead to a customer, from customer to an advocate is critical for them. I believe that our choice of technology for the Ryder Cup and for the European Tour will help in that journey. So it’s critical in terms of the value that we can now deliver to those sponsors and not just meet their expectations — but exceed their expectations.

Gardner Being a New Englander, I remember well in 1999 when the Ryder Cup was in Brookline, Massachusetts at The Country Club. I was impressed not only by the teams from each continent competing, but it also seemed like the corporations were competing for prestige, trying to outdo one another from either side of the pond in how they could demonstrate their value and be part of the pageantry.

Are the corporations also competing, and does that give them a great platform to take advantage of your technology?

Collaborate and compete

Cole: Well, healthy competition is good, and if they all want to exceed and compete with each other that can only be good news for us in terms of the experience that we create. But it has to be exceptional for the fans as well.

So collaboration and competition, I think, are critical. I believe that any suite of sponsors needs to operate both as a family, but also in terms of that healthy competition.

Gardner: When you do your postmortem on the platform and the technology, what will be the metrics that you will examine to determine how well you succeeded in reaching and exceeding their expectations? What are those key metrics that you are going to look for when it’s over?

The technology platform now gives us the capability to go far. Critical to the success will be the satisfaction of the spectators, players, and our commercial family.

Cole: As you would expect, we have a series of financial measurements around merchandizing, ticket revenues, sponsorship revenue, et cetera. But the technology platform now gives us the capability to go far beyond that. Critical to success will be the satisfaction; the satisfaction of spectators, the satisfaction of players, and the satisfaction of our commercial family.

Statistical scorecard

Gardner: Let’s look to the future. Four years from now, as we know the march of technology continues — and it’s a rapid pace — more is being done with machine learning (ML), with utilizing data to its extreme. What might be different in four years at the next Ryder Cup technologically that will even further the goals in terms of the user experience for the players, for the spectators, and for the sponsors?

Cole: Every Ryder Cup brings new opportunities, and technology is moving at a rapid pace. It’s very difficult for me to sit here and have a crystal ball in terms of the future and what it may bring, but what I do know is that data is becoming increasingly more fundamental to us.

Historically, we have always captured scoring for an event, and that equates to about 20,000 data points for a given tournament. We have recently extended it. We now capture seven times the amount of data – including for weather conditions, for golf club types, through lie of the ball, and yardage to the hole. That all equates to 140,000 data points per tournament.

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Over a schedule, that’s 5.5 million data points. When we look at the statistical derivatives, we are looking at more than 2 billion statistics from a given tournament. And this is changing all of the time. We can now utilize Internet of things (IoT) technologies to put sensors in anything that moves. If it moves, it can be tracked. If everything is connected, then anything is possible.

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

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Posted in artificial intelligence, big data, Business networks, Cloud computing, data analysis, data center, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Information management, Internet of Things, machine learning, User experience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment