Think Digital 2021: IBM brings AI to hybrid cloud

Integration of AI into open architecture positions IBM hybrid cloud as ideal platform for mission-critical workloads

Since acquiring Red Hat, IBM has undergone a major strategic shift to accommodate for hybrid cloud, abiding by the philosophy that the hybrid model — whether it consists of core or edge infrastructure and/or multiple public clouds — captures more value than a traditional cloud. Drawing on more than a decade of experience in traditional and cloud-ready infrastructure, IBM provides a foundation on which to run Red Hat OpenShift and deliver a common software layer designed to abstract the underlying complexities.

However, Red Hat’s prowess in containers and Linux only completed half the story as IBM built on top of the platform with a suite of software, including IBM Cloud Paks and partner SaaS, and services supported by the “advise, build, move, manage” methodology that trickles down the technology stack. Based on Red Hat OpenShift, which has grown to nearly 3,000 clients, this architecture gives credence to this statement from IBM Cloud & Data Platforms SVP Rob Thomas: “There is no AI without IA (information architecture).” A key theme at Think Digital 2021, AI is becoming more relevant in IBM’s overall strategy as CEO Arvind Krishna looks to define IBM as a “hybrid cloud and AI company.”

Unifying AI with hybrid cloud speaks to IBM’s attempts to gain share in “Chapter 2 of the Cloud,” or take large amounts of data, which can largely be accessed through AI, and extend it to the cloud. Given that operational AI is most successful running on containers and Kubernetes by allowing users to apply AI algorithms across architectures with consistency, IBM again benefits from Red Hat’s underlying platform and gains positioning to deliver AI to the enterprise with a degree of flexibility and vendor-agnosticism. For example, IBM Watson Studio is available as an add-on to the new Red Hat OpenShift Data Science service, to create and manage AI. With the support for Red Hat, applying AI to areas such as security and compliance, application modernization, IT support, and business process transformation could be the differentiating factor IBM needs to capture new cloud customers outside the IBM ecosystem.  

IBM tackles automation as it looks to democratize AI and bring all software back to the platform

IBM asserted itself in the AIOps market at Think Digital 2020 with the announcement of Watson AIOps, which is designed to automate how clients run their IT systems. However, in the last year, IBM has accelerated investments outside AIOps, making big bets on automation underscored by acquisitions in robotic process automation, process mining and business process automation. These investments were likely prompted by market changes stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, which Salesforce President Bret Taylor noted at the event brought a “decade’s worth of digital transformation into 13 months.”

Building on last year’s theme of solidifying a hybrid cloud architectural approach through Red Hat, at Think Digital 2021, IBM (Nasdaq: IBM) emphasized the importance of infusing AI into the platform to help enterprises make sense of data and achieve true insights in a digital economy. IBM again used the event to emphasize the power of adopting hybrid cloud architecture integrated with AI-driven cognitive services to help businesses adapt to change. Naturally, AI and automation were key themes of the one-day virtual event, and discussions with CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL), among other companies, highlighted how AI has supported IT and business transformation across industries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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