Jim Whitehurst: Open Architecture Is Key to Business Readiness

By Jim Daly
May 5, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an extreme stress test to organizations everywhere, underscoring the critical need for open technology architectures to help manage through even the most challenging business environments.

“We’ve talked for years about the need for agility and resilience in the face of uncertainty and constant change, and COVID-19 is a stark illustration of how important it is for us to build these traits deeply into our organizations,” said Jim Whitehurst, President of IBM, during his keynote presentation at IBM’s Think Digital conference. “Now, more than ever, we see a dire need for speed, agility and flexibility.” 

→ Watch a replay of Jim Whitehurst's Think Digital keynote

The disruption caused by the global health crisis has demonstrated why it’s so important for businesses to be capable of moving  IT workloads whenever, wherever they're needed, Whitehurst said. It’s not enough to have multiple cloud services—many companies have five or more cloud services, he added. Without “strategic intent” in design and architecture, these environments are often fragmented and siloed.

“There's only one way to prepare your company for a future you can’t predict—a single, open IT architecture that extends from the heart of your data center to the farthest edges of your network, an architecture that allows you to build applications once and run them anywhere, and a source innovation from any part of your ecosystem,” Whitehurst said.

Guidance from Jim Whitehurst's Think Digital session

The only way to unleash the full potential of the cloud is through a hybrid cloud strategy that aligns with a company’s business strategy. IBM’s investment in a hybrid cloud platform based on Red Hat technologies—including Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat OpenShift—provides the infrastructure that enables that. (Prior to becoming President of IBM in April 2020, Whitehurst served as the CEO of Red Hat. IBM acquired Red Hat in 2019.)

Technology partners are vital to making it easier for organizations to build and consume software, Whitehurst added. To that end, he introduced Red Hat Marketplace, available now as a technology preview, where clients can buy, deploy and manage certified software on Red Hat OpenShift. “It's a transparent and dramatically easier way to consume software, and it reduces the red tape that slows developers down,” said Whitehurst.

Workloads on the Edge

As more technologies extend beyond the data center, small “edge” devices on factory floors and elsewhere are pushing workloads to the edge of the network. Edge computing “requires the same interoperability and the same open standards” that are integral to hybrid cloud environments, Whitehurst said.

In support of edge computing and 5G, IBM announced two new capabilities: IBM Edge Application Manager, which enables management of up to 10,000 edge nodes by a single administrator, and IBM Telco Network Cloud Manager, which delivers intelligent automation to orchestrate virtual and container network functions in minutes.

Whitehurst was joined by Vishant Vora, chief technology officer of Vodafone Idea Ltd., India’s leading telecommunications provider with more than 300 million subscribers. Vora described how Vodafone Idea used a hybrid cloud platform, based on Red Hat OpenStack, to create a “universal cloud” capable of running a variety of workloads.

And Hillery Hunter, CTO of IBM Cloud, introduced a distributed cloud service—called IBM Cloud Satellite—that extends IBM Cloud services anywhere a client needs them, on premises or at the edge. IBM Cloud Satellite enables access to a catalog of cloud services and brings together the ability to use a single dashboard with common identity and access management across IBM Cloud satellite locations.

Whitehurst ended by noting that most new workloads are infused with artificial intelligence, and the move to cloud and AI should be orchestrated: “There are two parts of a single, integrated innovation strategy,” he said.