4 min read

5 Take-Aways From IBM Think 2019

By Craig Aston on 04-Mar-2019 14:15:47

IBM Think 2019

Having now been back from IBM Think in San Francisco I have had some time to digest the content and feeling of IBM Think 2019.

IBM Think 2019

San Francisco was wet, cold and windy, which caught a number of us out and I was struck by the huge disparity between the wealth and poverty in the city with more homeless on the streets than in any city I have come across. Even with the weather, IBM put on a great show, with a real direction set out by Ginny Rometty and her team, alongside a number of excellent speakers both from IBM and outside organisations, with highlights being Ashton Kutcher’s views on the Tech market, Tony Hawks telling his story and IBM showcasing the amazing research going on in IBM’s labs. My 5 takeaways, apart from the cost of the place, understanding that 4 pints of Guinness at 7am in an irish pub watching the England Rugby team beat France IS a great way to get over jet lag and the beauty of San Francisco bay are;

Hybrid cloud is going to be king for a number of years in the enterprise space

Hybrid cloud was a running theme through IBM Think 2019, all flowing from stats such as “over 80% of data for enterprises still resides behind corporate firewalls”, which shows that although public cloud has become important and prevalent in the marketplace, most medium and larger organisations will have a combination of on-premise and a number of public cloud providers. What does this mean; it means that legacy skills remain very important, and that on-premise solutions remain very relevant, but that offerings from the channel have to ensure that they support this Hybrid cloud proposition. For Celerity this supports the move we have made into offerings being “as a service”, which can be delivered on-premise, through the public cloud, or in most cases in a Hybrid Cloud.

Security in this Hybrid Cloud world is going to be the challenge of the next decade.

Cyber security is the top issue facing IT organisations currently. The discussion has moved on from point solutions to wide ranging Managed Security Services which secure an organisation as much as possible……….BUT one of the key messages is that all organisations at some point will probably be attacked, it is most definitely when not if, and having a resilient plan to deal with such an attack is all important. This also leads into the data protection message around backing up of files, as the final backstop (sorry, didn’t really want to use that word but if it works…..) is to completely restore the systems back to a point in time, where the backups have been segregated to enough of an extent to be able to get past an attack. The hybrid cloud nature of environments just make this more complicated, with the final challenge being the dearth of trained cyber security individuals. This really is the biggest challenge facing not only IT organisations but Boards of directors of companies around the world.


Every presentation that was done talked about AI. However it was made very clear that IBM’s version of AI is AUGMENTED rather than Artificial intelligence. This technology is becoming pervasive in all areas of the market, with different use cases being developed every day. IBM has a very strong story in this, with the big announcement being Watson’s availability under all public clouds. The presentations were very clear that these technologies are not replacing humans, they are just improving processes that are already being done to all people to do more interesting, value added tasks. The AI ecosystem provides a huge challenge for the traditional IT channel, with our role still becoming clear, but it is clear that in all areas of technology AI is becoming an essential part of all vendor’s strategies.

Disruption in the market can come from areas not seen before

One of the presentations given to the IBM Partnerworld Europe session, was around the premise that “disruption in the market is driven by grumpy teenagers”. Being a father of a 14 year old myself this did get my attention. The presenter went on to explain that an 18 year old student had been given a parking ticket that he was not happy about and that he wanted to appeal. He tried to do this through a lawyer but was told it would cost more than the ticket. So rather than giving up, he programmed Watson to ask all the questions required to appeal and to write the appeal for him, which was successful. Once he had done this, he turned it into a website, which now works in the UK, US, Australia and other countries. For the legal profession this is hugely disruptive, as it can very quickly be changed to address a number of the mundane items that lawyers deal with (and get well paid for). Next question, how much does his website charge for this service……NOTHING. Rather than making money, he wants to have an impact on moany people. So what do we learn from this, disruption in our markets can come from anywhere and any sized organisation……..and also Grumpy teenagers can be a force for good!

IBM remains a values driven organisation doing pioneering research that is trying to change the world.

A number of the sessions being presented were around innovations and inventions that can change the world. IBM’s 5 inventions that will change the world in 5 years were all focused around food, and the food supply chain. The presenters of their inventions, which ranged from a mobile phone based scanner to check food for dangerous microbes (with an aim to save lives through food borne diseases) to a new way of recycling previously unrecyclable plastics in a quick easy way (leading to 90% of plastics currently not able to be recycled being able to be) all had personal stories as to why this is important, and valuable to the world. When you put this alongside the Quantum computer which was on display, the focus that remains on diversity in IBM’s workforce and ecosystem and even the provision of recycled multi-use plastic water bottles at IBM Think 2019 and an amazing number of water fountains (to reduce the impact of the conference in plastic single use water bottles) for all participants, it is clear IBM continues to think about the wider world as well as it’s own bottom line, and I know both current and Ex IBMers are proud of this.


SO overall, now the jet lag has finally gone, I look back on an interesting week in San Francisco. IBM Think 2019 maybe does not have the pzazz of some of the newer vendors events, BUT if you want to find a quality group of individuals (a combination of IBM people, partners and customers) together in one place, all looking to do more business but in a way that impacts the world in a positive way, IBM Think 2019 was a good place to start. 

Craig Aston

Written by Craig Aston