Services Spotlight E01: IBM Cloud Satellite

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The past few quarters have been busy for us at Greyhound Research. At one end, our team of analysts and consultants have been working closely with some of the world’s biggest companies and helping them with their digital transformation strategy. At the other end, our team has been busy planning for and launching a series of new research content types to better cater to the needs of our audience. As part of this change, we recently launched Product Spotlight and Industry Spotlight, research content formats with insights that go beyond the usual 30,000 feet conversations and focus on offerings/services that IT teams are currently exploring or using. We are happy to report that our first product spotlight has been read more than 5,000 times from over 30 countries (at the time of publishing this post), and we’ve received some brilliant reviews about the format and the insights from the IT Decision Maker audience.

To build on the success of Product Spotlight, we are now happy to launch Services Spotlight, a dialogue series focused on a service line/offering wherein we host a relevant executive from a technology vendor and quiz them on their service offerings, experience and more.

In this 1st exchange (E01) of Services Spotlight, we host Briana Frank, Director of Product Management, IBM Cloud. In her current role, Briana directs the product management teams within IBM Cloud Developer Services. She leads the offering management and design teams that built the IBM Cloud Kubernetes service in five months and now manages tens of thousands of clusters worldwide.


Greyhound Research:Firstly, thanks for your time; I appreciate you taking the time to speak with Greyhound Research. Before we get into details and specifics, can you please give a background about Cloud Satellite and what was the genesis of this product? More importantly, can you please elaborate on the role and value you expect Cloud Satellite to play in an end-user org’s journey to the Cloud and broader pursuit of a hybrid, distributed computing architecture?

IBM: Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the market decide that a hybrid multi-cloud approach is a winning architecture, but this presents a few challenges for enterprises. For example, how do you address security and operational complexity across all locations? How can you get the flexibility of running workloads wherever it makes sense—on-premises, on other clouds, at the edge—in a consistent way?

IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that 85% of enterprises cite cloud operations across public, private, and legacy environments managed from a single pane of glass as one of the most important cloud capabilities.

At the end of the day, what bubbled up from our clients was clear: they want an agile public cloud consumption model, a consistent operations experience, governance, and flexibility. IBM Cloud Satellite was created to address these client needs. 

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Greyhound Research:Let’s talk about the roll-out, launch, and IBM Cloud Satellite’s current status. We know that the product was made GA in March 2021. Firstly, can you please share some of the early successes you’ve had so far? Also, can you please walk us through the product development journey and how has IBM ensured it has baked in some of the key asks from its top clients while building the product? If you can share more details on some of these key asks, that will help lay good context for us.

IBM:From the beginning, it was critical to work with clients to inform IBM Cloud Satellite’s evolution, including during the beta stage to pressure test the product before bringing it to market in March. And, of course, the pandemic presented a whole new set of challenges to solve.

The Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz Hospital is a good example of this.

They’re a German hospital network with a hub-and-spoke network—a large central university hospital and then hundreds of smaller associated hospitals and clinics. So the pandemic surged and brought with it a sense of urgency that needed to be balanced with data privacy. This is where we came in, in collaboration with IBM Consulting, to develop four apps: a chatbot to answer patient questions, COVID-19 testing and vaccination logistics solution, a secure solution that allows healthcare workers to communicate via mobile devices, and a platform for research studies. With Satellite, they were able to balance speed with data privacy and deploy securely and consistently across locations to support healthcare staff and improve the patient experience. In fact, we just published a great case study on this.

Greyhound Research:From what we know, the intent is to ensure the availability of the entire suite of IBM Cloud capabilities via Cloud Satellite spanning Infrastructure, DevOps, Database, and more. Can you please highlight some of the key services currently that are available, and more importantly, the plan for further roll-out in the coming quarters.

IBM:That’s right, and we’re proud of the breadth of services both enabled today and on the roadmap. Some of the key services available today are Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud, IBM Cloud Databases—including PostgreSQL and Redis—eventing and queuing services like RabbitMQ, and IBM software, including Cloud Paks. The Red Hat Marketplace is also available on Satellite.

One really exciting service on the Satellite roadmap is Code Engine, which is a testament to your previous question about how we ensure key client asks are baked into our roadmap. We are focused on adding more cloud services and support for virtual machines and disconnected locations planned for 2022, among other solutions and enhancements. The best way to see the latest and greatest Satellite-enabled services are in the IBM Cloud console.

Greyhound Research:While it’s clear that Cloud Satellite is an almost natural fit in a customer’s hybrid, distributed architecture, from experience, we know that the success with such an architecture has been patchy so far. The degree of success is primarily connected with a customer’s appetite to invest in, and be prepared for, such a transformation. Would you mind talking about customers’ options for Cloud Satellite in terms of deployment models? More importantly, what are some considerations to ensure they can be prepared for this product?

IBM:We want to give customers a managed cloud region wherever they want to run it–on public clouds, on-prem, or at the edge. This allows clients to leverage the best practices across all, have data where it makes sense, all with a fully managed location.

The great thing here is we don’t see IBM Cloud Satellite as something the client has to be prepared for, but rather the reverse—their architecture is the reality, and we are meeting that reality.

That’s not to say there aren’t minimum hardware requirements; there are. What I mean is we will meet clients where they are on infrastructure—we are agnostic that way, which makes us the best option to support hybrid multi-cloud environments truly. For example, perhaps you’re using AWS for some workloads, you’ve got some data colocated in a partner’s datacenter, and you have some workloads in your on-prem datacenter for privacy reasons.

IBM Satellite is purpose-built to make that inherent complexity less complex so clients can focus on innovation and quickly add value to the business.

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Greyhound Research:Fact is, not all workloads have moved to the Cloud and even those that have, many are now exploring a new operating model for their workloads to reduce cost or improve performance or both. What key workloads do you expect IBM Cloud satellite to be of most value in client situations?

IBM:We are doing a lot of work right now with clients who want to bring AI to their data on-prem for a number of reasons. Data privacy is one, as well as data gravity—in those cases, the data is simply not going to move, and clients need Watson capabilities, for example, to come to them. Another use case we’re encountering quite a bit is around data processing at the edge because of low-latency requirements; Satellite is a way to maximize performance in that type of scenario. 

Greyhound Research:Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the entire rationale behind IBM Cloud Satellite was to combine the power of the public cloud consumption model at any and every client irrespective of the location and architecture? If so, can you share some real-life impact on the overall TCO for such an arrangement and, more importantly, how does it impact the cost of the network that will play a key role in any such strategy.

IBM:That’s right—our aim is to help clients build faster, securely, anywhere. Using a TCO model, we estimate a 4.8x ROI for projects deployed on IBM Cloud Satellite. 

The University of Mainz case study I mentioned earlier is a great example of real-life impact. From start to finish, we were able to conceive, design, build, and launch four applications in the span of four months during the pandemic.

We are also doing a lot of work with partners for interesting use cases. For example, we are working with Lumen Technologies to bring cloud-native capabilities to the edge and with Travelping to address latency and data sovereignty requirements in 5G and edge scenarios. 

Greyhound Research:Given IBM’s extensive customer spread across compliance-driven industries, and it being the company’s strongest value proposition, can you please elaborate the efforts being made to ensure compliance protocols that are being followed in the more traditional on-premises environments will also be made available at edge locations via Cloud Satellite?

IBM:Absolutely—we hear this a ton as a key priority from clients. All IBM services go through a roadmap to deliver compliance and certification for key regulatory bodies, such as HIPAA, SOC2, etc. Satellite is no exception to this process. Additionally, we recently announced that we are bringing benchmark Financial Services-level controls to any environment. What this allows for is a reliable set of security, compliance and risk management controls extended to any Satellite location, which is a great differentiator for us.

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Greyhound Research:Traditionally, orgs have dealt well with traditional networks and with data at rest. However, data in motion is still where most orgs either have very little understanding and investments. This spans their ability to encrypt this data in motion, keep it secure at the edge and also their ability to replicate and back up on a need basis to ensure the least stress on the network. So how does Cloud Satellite help navigate issues that we believe will be witnessed in abundance across client orgs?

IBM:This is a great question and a great benefit of IBM Cloud Satellite, which is already secure by default with a zero trust model, client’s own encryption, and IAM, for example. We want to keep the data local to the Satellite location to the extent we can. There’s vigorous data movement control between and within client environments and IBM Cloud Satellite; it’s all encrypted.

Satellite Link is really the mechanism to ensure the least stress on the network because it’s really a two-way tunnel with no special network configuration required. It works with the client’s existing network configuration and security posture.

Greyhound Research:One of the ways to increase adoption and ensure success for a product like Cloud Satellite is to offer pre-baked frameworks and reference architectures. Is that something that IBM offers currently or plans to? Also, can you talk about the investments IBM is making in helping clients with exploratory exercises that will eventually help them find use-cases for Cloud Satellite?

IBM:IBM Consulting is building out industry solutions that are repeatable. One great example of that is the Mainz use case. And the short answer is yes, reference architectures and frameworks are definitely one quick path to adoption, but what we are actually more often encountering is clients have use cases—they don’t need to find them as you suggested—and because distributed Cloud is relatively nascent in the market, clients are wanting to work shoulder-to-shoulder with us to solution versus taking a reference architecture and running with it. We have some great resources to do this. I mentioned IBM Consulting.

Another great option is IBM Garage. We have a no-cost IBM Garage session offer for clients who aren’t sure where to start, what questions to ask, etc. They know there’s a problem to solve but are not sure how to approach it. We love to help them with that.

Greyhound Research:Competition from the likes of AWS via Outposts is heating up. Every OEM that works with edge networks and infrastructure is both competition and virtually an alliance partner. Would you mind elaborating how you work with other partners to ensure a true seamless environment for the customer that may not be keen to go all-in with IBM? Also, how do you translate this to real-life sales practices?

IBM:Unlike AWS, our solution with Satellite is to offer clients a choice when it comes to hardware; they can use our hardware solutions–Spectrum Fusion or Satellite Infrastructure Service–or buy hardware from one of our partners, like Lenovo, Dell, etc. The same is true for network function, software-defined storage, and other ISV capabilities that exist in the IBM catalog and RedHat Marketplace. An example of this is the mesh networking partnership with F5 and their VoltMesh product.

So, the answer here is embedded in IBM’s culture and mission.

Our approach is not for clients to “go all-in with IBM.” We’re here to solve problems, and sometimes those solutions have to account for the reality that clients have a preferred hardware partner or are already locked in with other cloud vendors. So, when I said we are agnostic and will meet clients where they are, I meant it.

Regarding sales practices, IBM has embraced that clients are using competitive hyperscalers, and I believe the strategy reflects that–from business to product to marketing and in-between.

Greyhound Research: Thanks again for your time. This has truly been a wonderful conversation.

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