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Q&A: The state of enterprise storage

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Scanrail1)

We caught up with Ivo Koerner of IBM Europe to find out a little more about him, his views on enterprise storage when it comes to the multi-cloud environment, infrastructure, data centers and IBM’s partnership with SAP.

1) Tell us about your current role and view on the state of enterprise storage

Now based in Madrid, I have worked at IBM for nearly 20 years in several different roles before embarking on my current challenge leading IBM System’s hardware business in Europe. I am responsible for helping our clients transform their businesses through technology and drive innovation in order to succeed. Whether that transformation comes through adopting AI, cloud or blockchain – the amount of data created has accelerated enormously and the need to be able to store and utilize this data securely and speedily has become vital to business success.

2) What does the evolution of hybrid / multi-cloud environments mean for storage solutions?

Every cloud journey is different, but the common thread is that the business needs to continue to operate without a glitch. At the end of the day, it’s important to find the right environment for the workload.  A hybrid approach often represents a solution that allows the IT team to work with a known system while gaining the scaling and flexibility that adding cloud services can bring. 

Lack of vision when it comes to hybrid cloud strategy and lack of spend when it comes to the infrastructure has a cascading effect not only for the infrastructure but also for the organization’s health and well-being. Storage needs to be a priority, as without it the business won’t be able to harness the agility and flexibility offered by employing cloud services in the first place.

3) Are businesses neglecting their basic infrastructure needs in order to quickly implement new technologies?

In short, if the application matters – the infrastructure matters. Around the world, organizations across a range of different industries are leveraging software-defined infrastructure for big data analytics, AI, high-performance computing (HPC) and cloud storage. This approach enables users to efficiently deliver IT-dependent services by optimizing workload processing, storage and networking architecture. It also ensures that organizations can quickly adapt to changing business requirements. But - making sure the infrastructure is correct from the offset is vital. It saves headaches and even future investment in the short to midterm. The pandemic has shown that infrastructure is not that easy to fix if you underestimated its crucial role previously.

4) With the recent news that SAP is to run on IBM Power System - how are particular industries benefiting from partnership? (Financial, healthcare etc.)

SAP is offering access to IBM Power Systems in the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. 

To enable this, SAP will place IBM POWER9 servers in HANA Enterprise Cloud data centers to give clients the flexibility to run their workloads where they want to across the hybrid cloud. This will accelerate digital transformation on the IBM Power Systems E980 service, which provide the industry’s largest virtualized server for scalability for SAP HANA workloads.

5) How do you believe AI is going to change the data center?

In the data center, AI is predominantly utilized to tackle how to increase capacity while reducing the demand for energy. The investment you need to drive in a data center is similar to all AI projects – you need to ensure you are collecting the right data, you have it, and you potentially find ways to enrich that data with external data to get better insight.

AI allows you to automate higher complexity tasks because you leave rules-based process optimization and enter an optimization level where you really need to have knowledge and skills. We see that in data center operations, but also in different industries where clients augment operations with AI; those are very complex scenarios and operating environments.

This work isn’t without challenge. The tools and skills needed to build an AI solution aren’t easily found in the marketplace, meaning data center operators have three choices: build on-premise, purchase infrastructure, or utilize a cloud offering. It starts with building the right technology by sourcing the right skills. You need to find the right way to apply AI but you should never forget that it’s also going to create a cultural change in your organization. Of course, you then need to think how you can inject AI into the decision process of the business, because that is the ultimate goal.

6) What do you see as the main security concerns affecting businesses when it comes to data storage?

Protecting against cyber security threats has grown in importance and now sits at the very heart of any fully featured storage solution. And that can be complicated so it’s little wonder that not all service providers are capable of compiling a total offer. Ensuring that businesses have access to issue-free data storage that is secure, flexible and efficient requires both experience and resources. Offering a full range of components that enable customers to assemble their own storage solution, tailored to meet their specific needs can only be achieved if your technology partner is prepared to work side-by-side with you in a truly collaborative partnership.

7) Can data storage solutions ever become a source of competitive differentiation for business in Europe today?

Data storage is undergoing a root and branch revolution – a transformation that is fundamentally changing its form and function. The evolving role of data and the need for secure, flexible, reliable and dynamic storage options is pushing the technology and its providers to new limits. To keep up with the latest trends businesses need bespoke, scalable, hybrid solutions - backed up with a range of next generation services.

This is being driven by a convergence of technology developments and business trends, in particular companies becoming aware of the need to free their data from the digital filing cabinet in order to extract the maximum possible value. And all this has to be achieved safely and securely. Balancing the two requirements is an IT high wire act where failure isn’t option. As a result, a range of approaches have evolved to provide the adaptability needed in today’s fast-paced business environment and these can be a source of competitive differentiation.

Ivo Koerner, VP of Systems Hardware, IBM Europe