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Atos at the edge of technology

With the launch of BullSequana Edge and investments in quantum computing, Atos takes a pragmatic approach to executing digital transformation initiatives

For a few years, the impact of big data has created ebbs and flows in buyers’ behavior in end-consumer interactions and IT purchasing patterns, as is typical with any technology. Consumerization of business applications, demand for data quality and governance, and the adoption of connected technologies compel vendors such as Atos to explore opportunities around managing customer data and to invest in solutions that can help them protect their competitive edge.

During the Atos Technology Days 2019 opening keynote, Atos CEO Thierry Breton announced BullSequana Edge, the company’s first edge server to power AI everywhere. Built with the goal of delivering lots of power, including 165-teraflop capacity, that is stored locally, the appliance enables Atos to address the upcoming shift in data localization. Breton stated that while 80% of data globally is stored in data centers and in the cloud, that percentage is expected to shrink to 20% by 2025 as clients seek ways to analyze data in real time at the edge, where it is created. The addition of AI capabilities amplifies Atos’ position as an end-to-end services provider within the IoT space and closes gaps in the asymmetrical relationship between IT and operational technology (OT) departments.

Additionally, BullSequana Edge helps Atos address challenges of exponential data volumes and heterogenous data complexities due to the advent of AI and machine learning (ML), necessary blocks supporting the data economy foundation. With optimized security capabilities including infusion detection, disc encryption and secure boot, the BullSequana server enables Atos to alleviate common pain points of IT and OT, especially as the company builds and offers vertical-centric solutions with the hardware. Although offering a hardware appliance drifts Atos further from pure systems integrators (SIs), which typically manage asset-light portfolios, it brings Atos closer to key IT buyers, which remain the centralized governing body of the final IT purchases, even in discussions that include the C-Suite.

Atos also continues to enhance its quantum computing capabilities. As TBR wrote in its May 2019 Digital Transformation Insights Report, which focused on quantum, “Atos took its strengths in design computing for appliances and programming and emulation environments and announced several quantum research initiatives, including the opening of a global R&D lab in Yvelines, France, and Atos Quantum Learning Machine (QLM) implementations in Europe and the U.S. to enable clients to experiment with disruptive technologies, tackle the explosion of data and accelerate the number of practical use cases across industries. Additionally, about a year ago, Atos developed a consulting practice around quantum computing to educate and advise clients on whether it is possible to use quantum to accelerate business applications. During Atos Technology Days 2019, Atos announced myQLM, a light version of a QLM, which is an on-premises environment designed for quantum software developers. Users can download myQLM on their desktops and use a set of algorithms to train remotely, at home, at universities and research centers, and simulate the actual QLM. A Phyton-based language, QLM allows students and researchers to develop and share code within the community, creating additional entry points for Atos’ broader services portfolio. With customers ranging from universities and research centers to high-performing computer ecosystems and commercial clients, Atos, is building one use case at a time. For France-based oil and gas company Total, Atos is using a QLM simulator to accelerate the analysis of seismic activities, helping Total stay ahead of competitors. Atos is also working with Bayer and RWTH Aachen University in Germany to evaluate the use of quantum computing to research and analyze human disease patterns.“

Our analysis further states that we expect Atos to “monitor the underlying scientific and engineering breakthroughs of the competing architectural investments and accelerate the commercial utility through its development of leading-edge use case applications” in concert with its business partners as it looks to quantum to gain a competitive advantage. For Atos, partner ecosystems, such as with Fujitsu, 1QBit, Rigetti, IBM Q and D-Wave, will play a critical role in its ability to accelerate the development of business use cases.

Navigating the dynamics of the IT services markets demands vendors demonstrate innovation, which allows them to gain trust with new buyer personas. While many of Atos’ SI peers have invested heavily in areas such as marketing services to better appeal to the CMO buyer for customer experience opportunities, the company relies on its full technology stack to expand its addressable market. While some investments, such as in quantum, may not have sizable, tangible impact on its performance, Atos will benefit from being first to market once economic advantage is achieved.

According to a TBR special report on quantum and economic advantage, “What we do not know is how fast quantum computing will take off and what impact it will have on our knowledge as a society. What we do know is that it will take off — algorithm by algorithm, as economic advantage is achieved incrementally — and fundamentally change what we know.” TBR’s Digital Transformation Insights Report further states, “As vendors continue to battle business process and technological hurdles across all three phases of digital transformation — substitution, extension and transformation — quantum will be the one technology that will fundamentally transform enterprises and the way they go to market and sell products and services,” placing Atos in the spotlight through its innovation investments.

Atos Technology Days 2019, held in Paris on May 16 and 17, displayed myriad practical applications of emerging technologies. Held alongside one of the largest events centered on startups in Europe — Viva Technology, with 124,000 attendees, 13,000 startups and 3,300 investors — Atos Technology Days presented an excellent platform for Atos to showcase its innovation capabilities across its entire portfolio stack, including hardware, applications and services. Running under the theme Welcome to the Post-cloud Era, the presentations walked over 200 clients, partners, executives and industry analysts through Atos’ vision of the IT of tomorrow, centered on the edge, quantum, IoT and cybersecurity as well as Atos’ ability to stitch it all together to deliver business outcomes to its customers. Data is exploding, and Atos is preparing to accommodate this phenomenon by effectively managing, storing, securing and analyzing data.

Aggregated lateral movement and more: EY’s latest SOC serves the GCC

Covering the evolution of digital transformation centers over the last few years, we’ve frequently noted that new ways of working have infected many traditionally structured and operated organizations, often through nontypical talent and specially designed workspaces (yes, we’re talking about “funky chairs”). The latest development may be the most surprising as it comes from EY, a long-established and traditional firm in one of the most conservative services lines. EY’s newest security operation center (SOC), which services the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, opened its doors in Oman at the end of 2017 and serves local and regional clients with cybersecurity and analytics offerings. According to EY, the center was designed to attract and retain talent, while also reinforcing EY’s strengths around industry expertise and creating opportunities for new EY clients, with layers of activity that call to mind the aggregated lateral movement of security threats (but in a good way).

Constant challenges: Managing talent and clients while delivering security

To tackle the challenge of attracting and retaining talent in the GCC, EY has relied on a staff that is a mix of local nationals and expatriates, acknowledging that increasing the local talent pool will remain a strategic priority over the next decade. While local governments and universities have invested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies and even cybersecurity specifically, the number of graduates needed to meet local demand will not reach scale for four to five more years, with maturity in security talent coming another five years after that. An additional way EY has addressed this shortfall has been to make the local security work as appealing as possible — the Level One employee staring at a screen identifying false positives has been replaced with analytics and automation in a mixture heavily reliant on EY’s developing security capabilities and enhanced by analytical models, rather than use cases. In the GCC SOC, the entry-level talent begins at Level Two and is investigating all the time, according to EY’s local leadership. Notably, for a region not known for its gender-diverse workforce, roughly half the professional security staff is women in some GCC locations, proving the local governments’ STEM investments are paying off.

While solving for the talent problem, EY must also address client needs, specifically around an operating model that accommodates regional legal structures and plays to EY’s industry expertise strengths. Not surprisingly, Oman as a generally neutral, trusted and respected member of the GCC provides a solid base for a regional security center. Also not surprisingly, EY’s current SOC clients come from government entities, oil and gas companies, and the financial services industry. Quite surprising to TBR was EY’s ability to draw new clients to its new SOC. Typically consultancies have sold security services to existing clients, and almost all clients brought through the new digital transformation centers have already had well-established relationships, making this GCC SOC doubly unique.