The Covid-19 pandemic has been a turning point for many companies, as the disruption and uncertainty caused by the crisis has accelerated the digital transformation that for many was already underway. That was the message from IBM CEO Arvind Krishna in his keynote presentation that kicked off the company’s Think Digital conference. Krishna spoke in an online presentation at Think. The annual IBM conference had originally been scheduled as an in-person event in San Francisco. But in response to the pandemic, this year it is a two-day virtual conference, with more than 90,000 registrants.
The Covid-19 crisis has exposed many enterprises’ vulnerabilities, Krishna said. In response, companies are fast adopting artificial intelligence and hybrid cloud-based IT architectures. That is both enabling them to build agility and resiliency into their networks now, and preparing them to embrace emerging technologies like 5G and edge computing, he said.
Why digital transformation matters
For enterprises, Krishna explained, digital transformation means putting artificial intelligence at the centre of workflows, and using the insights generated from that process to constantly improve products and services. This transformation is powered by a hybrid cloud architecture using open source software that makes companies more secure, and enables them to quickly adapt to shifting customer demands and changing market conditions.
Krishna cited the giant health insurer Anthem, Inc. as a company successfully making the transition. He was joined by Rajeev Ronanki, Anthem’s Senior Vice President and Chief Data Officer, who described how AI and hybrid cloud is helping Anthem transform U.S. healthcare.
Ronanki said the pandemic has revealed the significant shortcomings of the current system. He explained how Anthem is using data and AI to make healthcare more forward thinking and less reactive.
The hybrid imperative and new IBM offerings
Krishna said the hybrid cloud model has distinct advantages over other IT architecture, advantages he called the hybrid cloud imperative.
Unlike existing IT networks, he said, hybrid cloud adapts to the infrastructure that enterprises already have, while also freeing them from being locked into any one vendor’s offerings. Hybrid architectures, which can involve a combination of public and private clouds and on-premises networks, have the flexibility to process workloads closest to where the data is generated, a necessity in high-tech factories, and also make it easier to comply with different regional regulations on data use, Krishna said.
He also unveiled a number of new IBM offerings designed to help companies accelerate their digital transformations. The first, AI for IT, gives CIOs the ability to automate IT infrastructures, which immediately reduces cost and makes the network more resilient, he said. It uses Watson AIOps to diagnose and respond to IT anomalies in real time. The second new offering he announced is a programme for independent software vendors and SaaS providers to help them demonstrate they meet the compliance, security and technical requirements to operate on IBM’s financial services-ready public cloud.
Krishna also said IBM would reveal a technical preview of IBM Cloud Satellite, which extends IBM Cloud services anywhere a client needs them, as well as a new set of services to help businesses and telcos make the most of the opportunities presented by 5G and Edge.
Krishna also said that IBM during Think Digital would announce the top three initial solutions for this year’s Call for Code challenge that have the potential to contribute to Covid-19 response efforts. This year’s competition, which continues through July 31, is focused on developing solutions for climate change and Covid-19, and developers who wish to participate should visit Callforcode.org, he said.
“History will look back on this,’’ Krishna said, “as the moment when the digital transformation of business and society suddenly accelerated.”