Data centers are changing, and fast. The servers that power them need to catch up just as quickly.
Think your customers’ data centers are just quietly running accounting applications? Think again. We’re in the middle of a data-center transformation, ushered in by a new era of data-centric computing. If your data-center customers aren’t already implementing the cloud, 5G, IoT edge devices and artificial intelligence, it’s likely they will soon.
This isn’t your father’s data center, and your father’s server processors aren’t going to cut it, either. That’s why Intel has introduced its second-generation Intel Xeon Scalable Processor family, code-named Cascade Lake.
New feature set
In the midrange, the new Intel Xeon processors offer performance improvements over the previous generation of 25% to 35%. (For more details, see this Intel product performance page.)
That’s a big jump, especially if your customers, like many, still run the previous generation of servers.
New features of the second-gen Intel Xeon SP processor family include:
> Higher performance: Improved Turbo frequencies of up to 4.4 GHz, yet on the same 14nm architecture as the first generation.
> Greater agility: Enhanced Intel Resource Director Technology to improve cache allocation and other infrastructure-management features.
> Enhanced memory support: with Intel Optane DC persistent memory for selected SKUs (more on this below) and enhanced DDR4 performance support of up to 16GB.
> Stronger security: with Intel Security Essentials, Intel Threat Detection Technology, and Intel Key Protection Technology.
> Accelerated AI: Intel Deep Learning Boost (also known as Vector Neural Network Instruction, or VNNI — pronounced “Vinnie” — for short) extends Intel AVX-512 to accelerate artificial intelligence and deep learning inference
Yet another cool feature of the new Intel Xeon SPs is called Speed Select. It lets developers chose from three options for frequency and core count. This gives cloud providers and other developers the ability to either test or deploy configurations on the same SKU for optimal speed and frequency.
New Optane support
Selected SKUs of the new Intel Xeon SP processor family also support Intel’s Optane DC persistent memory, code-named Apache Pass.
It’s a new type of memory that sits close to the CPU for faster processing. Intel Optane DC persistent memory offers a new level of price/performance, delivering near-DDR performance, yet at a lower-than-DDR price. And with a maximum capacity of 512GB, it’s also larger than DDR. But it’s pin-compatible, meaning you can drop the memory into a DDR slot for easy installation.
“Persistent” here means the device retains its data even is power is shut off. That can be handy during a power loss. It can also speed a server reboot after a patch is installed.
This new class of memory and storage added to the Intel Optane family will be supported on Gold and Platinum levels of the new Intel Xeon Scalable Processor family. SKUs for Platinum will be numbered 82xx. SKUs for Gold will be numbered 62xx and 52xx.
As for the Silver and Bronze SKUs — numbered 42xx and 32xx, respectively — with just one exception, they won’t support Intel Optane DC persistent memory, at least not yet. (That one exception is Silver 4215.)
Intel Select Solutions, too
Solutions offered by Intel partners in the Intel Select Solutions program have already upgraded to take advantage of the new Intel Xeon SP processors.
As you may already know, Intel Select Solutions offers workload-optimized software for data centers based on Intel Xeon processors. Current workloads include cloud, analytics and AI, storage, high-performance computing (HPC), and network transformation.
Put it all together, and you’ve got a next-gen set of processors, memory and solutions for your customers’ next-generation data centers.
Learn more & get sales resources: Intel Xeon Scalable Processor for Intel Technology Providers
IT departments are generally failing to provide the new capabilities their organizations are clamoring for.
Worse, they’re not planning to do much about it, either!
So finds a new report from The Hackett Group. The consulting firm’s report is based on its survey of senior IT executives at large and midsized organizations, conducted in late 2018. The survey sought to determine organizations’ strategic priorities and initiatives for this year.
5 painful points
So what’s wrong with IT? The Hackett Group has identified 5 main problems:
> Short on necessary skills: Most IT departments lack employees with important new skills, especially around data analytics and modeling.
> Not customer-oriented: IT’s heads-down, back-office approach worked fine in the past. But it’s no longer what organizations need as they sharpen their focus on customers.
> Not agile, either: IT departments typically take a full year to deliver most solutions. They’re also unable to quickly absorb changing requirements or priorities.
> Resources in wrong places: IT staff and funding are still concentrated in the central data center. Instead, resources are now needed closer to business units, functions and customers.
> Siloed data: Data warehouses remain disparate and disconnected. The result: No one can find the data they need.
Serious as these problems are, it gets worse:
> Only 17% of respondents say they plan to do anything about them this year.
> Only 1 in 4 is addressing talent gaps and alignment issues.
> Fewer than 1 in 10 plan to modernize their data architecture.
“IT leaders don’t know how to fix their shortcomings systematically, or are overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the challenge,” write the Hackett Group report’s authors. “Either way, the survey results cast doubt on IT’s ability to effectively partner with stakeholders in the business’s digital transformation.”
What’s all this mean for tech providers? Well, a customer’s problem could be your business opportunity. Hackett Group helpfully suggests 5 areas where your data-center customers need to take action:
> Add skills: With help from HR, IT needs to figure out what new tech skills are needed. Then it needs to figure out ways to either train or recruit workers with these skills.
> Marshall analytics: Assuming some workers do have data-analytics skills, consider creating an analytics center of excellence. This is a powerful way of pooling resources.
> Modernize the data architecture: Data analytics can’t work without a foundation of data blending, data lakes, and integration among data warehouses. Simple data-visualization tools are helpful, too.
> Get more agile: IT needs to become more responsive. New technologies can help, including robotic process automation (RPA) and self-service tools.
> Focus on customers: New role models can show IT how to shift its priorities from delivering projects to satisfying customers. Ideally, IT’s new culture will also make room for experimentation and calculated risk-taking.
Thanks to digital transformation, the IT department has never been more important. But due to its own legacy, IT has never been so challenged, either.
Tech providers have a valuable role to play. Those who can help their IT customers get with the program should be rewarded richly.
The cybersecurity scene is shifting once again. And ear-worn devices are the hot new sector of the wearables business.
These are some of the latest findings from leading market watchers. Here’s your tech provider’s summary.
Top security trends
The big RSA Conference 2019 for cybersecurity pros is underway this week in San Francisco. That’s perfect timing for Gartner’s new list of the 7 emerging security and risk-management trends that will impact privacy, security and risk.
Gartner says these 7 strategic shifts in the security ecosystem are not yet widely recognized. But it expects them to have broad industry impact and significant potential for disruption. Here they are:
> Risk-appetite statements linked to business outcomes: IT increasingly is the business. So business leaders must get increasingly involved with cybersecurity.
> SOCs focus on threat-detection and response: Breaches have become a matter of when, not if. In response, security operations centers are shifting their attention from threat prevention to threat detection and incident response.
> Security-governance frameworks prioritize investments: Organizations are starting to address data security through data-security governance frameworks. These frameworks can provide data-centric blueprints that help organizations identify and classify their data assets and define data-security policies.
> Password-less authentication: Bye-bye, passwords; hello, new approaches such as touch ID on smartphones. They’re both easier for users to employ and harder for hackers to crack.
> Vendors offer skills and training: With an estimated 1 million security jobs unfilled, vendors are attempting to help organizations fill the gap with AI and automation.
> Cloud gains investment: As organizations shift to the public cloud, they’re stretching their security teams thin. They’re going to need to bite the bullet and invest more in security skills and governance.
> CARTA comes on strong: This one’s a bit of a plug on Gartner’s part. It has created a strategy, Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust Assessment. The company says others are using CARTA for email and network security.
Say “wearables” and you probably think of wristbands such as Fitbit. But much of the growth is coming in another sub-sector: ear-worn devices. These include wireless headphones capable of engaging smart assistants, such as Apple’s AirPods and Google’s Pixel Buds.
These types of headphones are becoming a necessity for many, as many new devices lack headphone jacks. They now represent nearly a quarter of the worldwide market for wearables.
Google Pixel Buds: loud, proud and wireless
The overall wearables market grew over 30% in the last quarter of 2018, according to a new report from market watcher IDC, when 59.3 million wearable devices were shipped worldwide. For the full year 2018, wearables shipments increased nearly as fast, 28%, for worldwide shipments of 172.2 million devices.
Those ear-worn devices? Unit shipments grew 66% in Q4:18, capturing 22% of the global wearables market.
That's led IDC researcher Jitesh Ubrani to call ear-worn devices “the next battleground.” Are you and your customers armed (or eared) for combat?
The popular USB standard — the U doesn’t stand for “ubiquitous,” but it might as well — is about to get a whole lot faster. Twice as fast, to be exact, with the new USB4 protocol pre-announced today.
The USB Promoter Group, an industry-led body that developers USB specs, says the USB 4 protocol doubles the bandwidth of USB. It will also enable multiple, simultaneous data and display protocols.
In other words, a PC will be able to use a single high-speed link to dynamically share multiple device types, such as SSD storage, graphics processors and high-resolution displays.
For now, USB4 is only a “pending release.” The Promoter Group expects final publication by mid-year. More than 50 companies are said to be now helping with a review of the final spec.
At the same time USB4 is published, an updated release of the USB-C spec is also expected. It will let the C standard “comprehend” USB4 bus discovery, configuration and performance requirements.
USB4 is based on Intel’s Thunderbolt protocol. In fact, Intel is now letting other chipmakers build Thunderbolt-compatible silicon, royalty-free.
Thunderbolt 3, the latest version, moves data at up to 40 Gbps when using active cables. That’s the promised speed of the new USB4 protocol, too.
Thunderbolt is already compatible with USB-C, meaning Thunderbolt cables fit USB ports. It sounds like the new USB4 protocol will keep the same size, so users will get 2-lane operation over existing USB-C cables. The USB Promoter Group says USB4 will also be backwards compatible with USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3.
Ice Lake the first
Intel, which is a member of the USB Promoter Group, has said it will integrate Thunderbolt 3 into future CPUs. More recently, at CES 2019, Intel said the first to integrate Thunderbolt 3 will be its upcoming “Ice Lake” 10nm processor.
More than 400 PC models and 450 devices from a wide range of suppliers work with Thunderbolt 3, according to Intel. These include devices running on Windows 10, macOS and Linux.
Do your customers long to bolster thin PCs with additional SSD storage, external graphics processors and ultra-HD displays? With the new USB4 protocol, it should get a whole lot simpler and faster.
What’s the current state of the PC business? Dell and HP, two of the biggest PC suppliers, just gave tech providers a glimpse. Both suppliers this week reported quarterly financial results that reveal how the PC market is changing.
For both vendors, PC sales are growing. But in HP’s case, that’s despite a drop in the number of unit shipments. And for Dell, the growth is only in systems for business and a few high-end consumers.
HP — currently the No. 2 PC supplier worldwide by market share, according to IDC — this week reported financial results for the first quarter of its fiscal 2019.
Overall, HP’s Personal Systems group (that’s what HP calls its PC business) saw Q1 revenue rise 2.3% year-on-year, even though the total number of PCs it sold declined by 3%.
More specifically, Q1 revenue for HP Personal Systems totaled $9.66 billion. The group’s operating profit for the quarter was $410 million, or 4.2% of revenue.
By product type, the story was the same — a big gap between revenue and the number of units shipped.
For notebooks, HP’s revenue in Q1 rose 6%, even though the number of units fell by 1%.
Similarly, HP’s desktop revenue in Q1 fell 3% for the quarter, but the number of units sold fell by an even greater 8%.
How does HP do it? With higher average selling prices. Sell 10 PCs for $1K each and you bring in a total of $10K. Sell only 8 PCs, but this time for $1,500 each, and you have a higher total of $12K.
Do that a whole bunch of times, and you too can have a profitable, multi-billion-dollar business!
Dell — the No. 3 PC vendor by worldwide market share, according to IDC — yesterday reported financial results for both its fourth quarter and full fiscal year of 2019.
Dell’s PC business, known as the Client Solutions Group, had Q4 revenue of $10.9 billion, a year-on-year increase of 4%. For the full fiscal year, CSG revenue grew by an even stronger 10%, reaching $43.2 billion.
Yet look a bit closer, and a more complex picture emerges.
For the fourth quarter, Dell’s sales of consumer PCs actually declined by 6%, dropping to $3.1 billion. However, that was more than made up by a 9% rise in commercial PC revenue, hitting $7.8 billion.
Dell says it enjoyed double-digit revenue growth during the quarter in two main segments: commercial notebooks and workstations, and high-end consumer notebooks and displays.
So what’s it all mean for tech providers?
One, if you’re concerned about a decline in unit sales, take a lesson from HP and try raising your average selling price.
Two, take a lesson from Dell and steer clear of low-end consumer systems. The growth is elsewhere, most specifically business notebooks and gaming systems.
As these two suppliers show, your PC business can grow and be profitable — but only if done right. The market is changing, and what worked in the past may not work now or in the future.
So take some lessons from the big guns of the PC business, and prosper.
Small and medium businesses use the cloud, but they use it differently than big enterprises, right? Actually, not so much.
A new survey report finds SMBs use the cloud in ways that are surprisingly similar to those of large enterprises.
The survey was conducted last month by RightScale, a cloud-management company recently acquired by Flexera. The company released its report, RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud, earlier this week.
RightScale’s survey garnered responses from 786 technology professionals around the world, working in a range of industries. About 60% of the respondents are employed by enterprises (defined here as organizations with over 1,000 employees), and 40% by SMBs.
Here are some of RightScale’s key findings for tech providers serving the SMB market:
> Small biz, big workload: SMBs run a majority (78%) of their workloads in the cloud. More specifically, they run 43% of workloads in the public cloud, and 35% in private clouds. That’s very close to the mix among large enterprises.
> Cloud maturity: Nearly a third (30%) of SMBs describe themselves as advanced users of cloud. Nearly the same percentage (27%) describe themselves as intermediate. That’s only slightly below enterprises; 34% describe themselves as advanced, and another 34% describe themselves as intermediate.
> Favorite public clouds: Among SMBs, the most commonly implemented public clouds are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. That’s very similar to the preferences of large enterprises. The following chart shows the SMB breakdown:
> Favorite private clouds: When it comes to private cloud use at SMBs, there are no big leaders. Instead, users opt for a variety of tools, including VMware vSphere, OpenStack and Microsoft System Center. Large enterprises also like VMware tools and OpenStack, but they're more likely than SMBs to use a bare-metal cloud. Here’s the SMB breakdown:
That said, the RightScale survey did find 2 cloud areas where SMBs differ from enterprises:
> Cloud spend: Only about one in 10 (11%) SMBs spend more than $1.2 million a year on cloud computing. Among enterprises, fully half (50%) spend that much on cloud. No surprise there; bigger companies spend more on everything, not just cloud.
> Central cloud team: Fewer than a third (31%) of SMBs have one. But among big enterprises, fully two-thirds (66%) have a central cloud team or cloud center of excellence.
Other key findings
These pertain to organizations of all sizes, not just SMBs:
> Cloud everywhere: Nearly all (94%) organizations use some form of cloud computing.
> Multi-cloud rules: An overwhelming majority (84%) of organizations have a multi-cloud strategy. That is, they use more than just one cloud.
> Hybrid cloud rising: Nearly six in 10 (58%) organizations combine public and private clouds, up from about half (51%) a year before.
> Costly clouds: Cloud computing is sold as a cost-saver, but achieving those savings isn’t always easy. A large majority (84%) of organizations say their top growing challenge is optimizing cloud costs.
There are opportunities to fix this. RightScale estimates that as much as 35% of the total cloud spend is wasted. The company also points out that many users fail to take advantage of their cloud providers’ discounts.
The cloud isn’t a special application anymore. As the RightScale survey shows, cloud has become part of the computing mainstream.
And SMBs? When it comes to using the cloud, they aren’t so different after all.
Mixed reality is moving quickly from science fiction to science fact.
The technology got a boost this week from Microsoft. The company introduced the HoloLens 2, an update on its mixed-reality headset that it calls the “ultimate intelligent edge device.”
Microsoft’s HoloLens 2: mixed reality for the intelligent edge
Microsoft also introduced a mixed-reality app, Dynamics 365 Guides, that helps workers learn by doing with step-by-step instructions. The app works with the new HoloLens 2 headset and also augmented-reality-compatible smartphones and tablets.
The new HoloLens 2 won’t come cheap. When the headset ships later this year in the U.S. and 9 other countries, its retail price will start at $3,500. That’s slightly more than the original HoloLens, introduced by Microsoft in 2016, which retailed for about $3K.
But for that money, Microsoft has enhanced the HoloLens 2 in three areas it says customers have requested:
> More immersive: The field of view has been more than doubled, thanks to a new display system. Also, holograms can be directly manipulated, including with movements of the eye.
> More comfortable: The headset’s balance has been improved, in part thanks to the use of a light carbon-fiber material. There’s also a new device for putting on the device without needing a readjustment.
The headset also stays cooler and more comfortable, thanks to the addition of vapor channel tech. And the visor flips up and down, so the user can toggle between mixed reality and the real-world without having to remove the entire headset.
> Faster time-to-value: Microsoft and its partners are offering new software to make the headset more useful. That includes Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and Layout, two mixed-reality apps the company introduced last year. New this week is a third app, Dynamics 365 Guides. It’s a mixed-reality app that helps users learn new skills with step-by-step instructions.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides: learn by doing in mixed reality
To help with the financing, Microsoft is also offering a bundle that combines the new HoloLens 2 headset with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist. It will be available starting at $125 a month.
If you or your customers are eager to buy and try, the HoloLens 2 can be pre-ordered from Microsoft now.
Microsoft, with its new HoloLens 2 and associated apps, is helping make mixed reality a valuable tool for the real world.
And that’s not fiction, that’s a fact.
In a world where small and midsized business customers can buy tech directly from vendor sites, Amazon and the local Best Buy, it’s nice to know they still need your help.
A new survey finds that many SMBs buy technology from resellers, consultants and tech providers, use a managed services provider, work with a reseller or consultant on a regular basis, and outsource many of their key IT tasks.
The survey was conducted by IT trade association CompTIA. Fielded in November, the survey received responses from 650 U.S. SMB managers on both the IT and business side.
CompTIA released the full survey report, “Tech Buying Trends Among SMBs,” today. The group says the report's margin of error is plus or minus 3.8%, so keep that in mind when you see results that are close.
SMBs still like you
Here are some of the key findings of the SMB survey:
> Where they buy: More than half (58%) of SMBs buy tech directly from a vendor or manufacturer; half (51%) buy from online retailers including Amazon; half (50%) buy from local tech retailers including Best Buy; and more than a quarter (28%) buy from resellers, consultants, tech providers and others. (Multiple replies were permitted.)
> MSPs in the house: Just over half (53%) the SMBs use a managed IT-services provider. A third (34%) don’t use an MSP, but say it’s something they’ve considered.
> Channel time: Half the SMBs say they’ve worked with a reseller or solution provider either frequently or regularly in the past year. Nearly a third (31%) said they do, too, but only occasionally.
> Outsourcing tasks: The tech services most commonly outsourced by SMBs are: hardware repairs/troubleshooting (36%), general consulting (33%), web design/ecommerce (31%), cybersecurity (29%), and deployment/installation/integration (28%).
SMBs don’t go in for technology for technology’s sake. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of SMBs say technology is a primary factor in pursuing their business objectives, the CompTIA survey finds. Among just mid-sized companies, it’s closer to three-quarters (73%). Even among small companies — those with fewer than 20 employees — more than half (56%) say tech is important to the business.
However, SMBs worry that they lack the skills. As the chart below (courtesy of CompTIA) shows, only 18% say they excel at tech vision and strategy, only 22% think they excel at execution and implementation, and only 29% think they excel at ongoing operations:
On the question of technology budgets, SMBs are divided, CompTIA finds. More than a third (39%) say their annual IT spend is too low. Nearly half (44%) think it’s about right. And the remainder (17%) think their IT spend is too high.
Looking ahead, one in three (35%) SMBs say they plan to spend more on IT this year than last. Nearly half (45%) say IT spending will be about the same. And one in five (20%) say their tech spending this year will be lower.
That leaves plenty of SMBs planning to spend more on tech, work with tech providers, and use IT to reach their business goals.
Leaving you with plenty of prospects to pursue.
The big MWC 2019 show got started today in Barcelona, Spain, with exhibits and presentations by some 2,400 participating tech companies.
Among them: Lenovo, which today introduced new models in its ThinkPad PC line and a smartphone-tablet combination device. Here’s your tech provider’s update.
Lenovo at MWC added 5 new members to its ThinkPad family, 2 stripped-down notebooks for “frontline workers,” and a mobile display.
The new ThinkPads share a new and improved BIOS. One nice feature is a graphical user interface (GUI) aimed at easing navigation. In addition, admins can now set remote supervisor or privileged-access passwords for better security. And a new self-healing feature lets the BIOS revert to a known good copy if it’s corrupted or attacked.
The new Lenovo ThinkPad also feature ThinkShield security, which includes webcam protection; high-speed WAN with up to gigabit speeds; dual mics for far-field performance from up to 4 meters (about 13 feet); and 8th Gen Intel Core processors.
The 5 new models are the ThinkPad T490s and T490, (retailing for $1,280 and $1,000, respectively); the ThinkPad T590 ($1,030); ThinkPad X390 ($1,100); and ThinkPad X390 Yoga ($1,360). All 5 are set to ship in May.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X390 Yoga assumes its 4 positions
Two other new Lenovo notebook devices, the 14w and 14e Chromebook, are aimed at what Lenovo calls “frontline workers” in retail, hospitality, travel and manufacturing. Designed to handle the wear and tear of a shop or factory floor, the devices weigh about 3.4 lb, feature 14-inch displays and spillproof keyboards, and promise a full workday of battery life.
The difference is in the OS. The Lenovo 14w runs on Windows 10; the 14e, on Chrome. Though they're both inexpensive, the Windows-based 14w costs slightly more: $300 compared with the 14e’s $280. Lenovo says the 14w and 14e are both set to ship in March.
Lenovo doesn’t call it a phablet, but the company’s new Tab V7 sure looks like one. Running on the Android Pie OS, the device features a 6.9-inch full HD screen, yet can also be used like a regular smartphone.
Lenovo Tab V7: Android tablet, phone -- or bit of both?
The device carries 2 cameras, one on the front, the other in the rear. Also on the rear is a built-in fingerprint reader for security.
Battery life on the Lenovo Tab V7 is promised at up to 10 hours for video viewing and web browsing, or up to 30 hours of plain old talk time.
Shipments are set to begin in April, with a starting retail price of €249 (about $282).
Lenovo also introduced the M14 mobile display. It’s a 14-inch, full HD, ultra-slim (4.6 mm) display to give any laptop some extra screen real estate. Shipments are set to begin in May, with a retail price of about $250.
Lenovo, seeing a big opportunity in the Internet of Things, will use MWC19 to introduce the ThinkSystem SE350. The system is the first in what Lenovo says will be its new family of edge servers.
The market could be huge. Lenovo cites Gartner’s forecast that edge computing will represent 75% of all enterprise data by 2022, up from just 10% now.
Lenovo’s ThinkSystem SE350: a server for the edge
Lenovo’s new purpose-built edge server is compact, only slightly larger than a ThinkPad PC and half the width of a traditional server. Lenovo says it can be deployed just about anywhere — on a wall or shelf, in a rack, even on the floor. Lenovo aimed for a “zero touch” deployment, meaning installation should be easy enough for a nontechnical employee to handle.
Power, connectivity, security
Under the hood you’ll find an Intel Xeon-D processor with up to 16 cores, 256GB of memory and 16TB of SSD storage.
An unusual range of networking connectivity options will be included, to accomodate the edge. That includes regular enterprise data networks, of course, but also Wi-Fi and even cellular LTE networks.
Security is an important feature, as most edge servers are installed outside traditional data centers. Lenovo says the new ThinkSystem server is tamper-resistant, and it will encrypt all its stored data, giving access only to authorized users. It’s rugged, too, able to handle temperatures down to 0̊ C.
The Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 is set to ship this summer. Prices haven’t been announced yet.
Lenovo has also pre-announced several IoT-related partnerships. These include a partnership with Orange, the big telecom provider, to work on hardware composability; another with VMware to simplify the delivery of Infrastructure as a Service; and yet another with Pivot3 to drive smart-city solutions.