Hyperconverged: The Infrastructure of Choice for Ultralow-Latency IoT Use Cases

Marcelo Lecocq (Research Director, European Enterprise Networks)
Marina Kostova (Research Manager, SIS, CEMA)
Marina Kostova (Research Manager, SIS, CEMA)

Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) are one of the most recognisable technologies to have emerged in recent years, and one of the fastest-growing areas of the Internet of Things (IoT). They’re so popular, you can even find them on Mars.

The Mars Perseverance Mission Autonomous Flying Drone

Ingenuity is a small flying drone that is part of the successful Perseverance mission to Mars. Flight controllers on Earth can’t control the drone with a joystick. It takes 5–20 minutes for a signal to reach Earth and another 5–20 minutes to reach Mars with a decision. Communication delays are an inherent part of working across interplanetary distances and therefore Ingenuity has been built with significant autonomy to make its own flying decisions.

Ingenuity Takes Hyperconvergence to New Heights

Though Ingenuity is a long fetch interplanetary IoT use case, there are plenty of IoT use cases where even a decision in the public cloud or enterprise datacentre is not fast or reliable enough. Industry-specific use cases will rocket boost edge computing and break the gravity barrier to take it to new heights.

Rocket Launchpad for Edge Infrastructure

IDC defines edge as the technology-related actions that are performed outside of the centralised datacentre, where edge is the intermediary between the connected endpoints and the core IT environment. Edge is distributed, software defined and flexible.

Compute and storage need to be close to IoT devices (at the edge) to ensure fast data processing, real-time analytics and scalability while maintaining ultra-low latency and availability. When combined with AI it enables fast decisions in processes that cannot be interrupted.

According to IDC research, a quarter of storage and server spending in Europe will be outside the core datacentre by 2025. The most important domain for edge solutions is IoT, accounting for over 50% of edge-related spending. At the same time, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is the fastest-growing technology in the enterprise infrastructure market (at a CAGR of +16%) (see Figure 1) and it’s no surprise that IoT is fuelling some of this growth.

Figure 1

Source: Worldwide Quarterly Enterprise Infrastructure Tracker, Forecast 3Q21

Though not the only edge technology available, HCI is becoming a prime candidate for some of the vertical solutions needed for OT/IT convergence, with a strong case in the IoT arena.

Digital Agendas Drive IoT Industry Use Cases

According to IDC’s Worldwide Internet of Things Spending Guide, Forecast 2021, manufacturing, retail, transportation and public sector are not only the most popular industry verticals for IoT in Europe but also the fastest-growing spenders in compute and storage for emerging workloads.

Some IoT use cases rely heavily on edge infrastructure (server and storage) such as smart factory asset management, predictive maintenance, process automation and energy consumption optimisation. IoT is becoming mainstream, and it’s now virtually everywhere — from autonomous vehicles like Ingenuity to smart agriculture.

Smart city projects driven by public sector digital agendas include video surveillance, traffic control and resource management, while sustainably connecting and securing their public spending.

Retail IoT use cases are focused on customer experience such as personalised accounts and in-store layout optimisation or improvement of processes (smart shelves, supply chain optimisation).

Though HCI is not new to the edge, it’s getting optimised and is being quickly deployed with a number of connected devices needing ultra-low latency, specifically for real-time AI decision making and analytics.

While many enterprises have still not discovered the full potential of HCI for edge use cases, the highest number (54%) believe the technology is moderately important for supporting such workloads. Even though most users believe it is not crucial at this stage, they recognise HCI’s potential for edge deployments in the future, especially the digital leaders that set the market trends.

Figure 2

Source: European Enterprise Infrastructure Survey, 2021

The Vendor Edge (Space) Race

Infrastructure vendors and industrial solutions leaders alike see HCI as an excellent fit for edge and IoT use cases, and are positioning their HCI product lines to respond to these growing workloads. Cisco HyperFlex, HPE Simplivity, Nutanix and Dell VxRail, to name a few, are examples of such hyperconverged solutions. IBM has just entered the hyperconverged space too. Siemens’ industrial IoT solutions rely entirely on HCI from infrastructure vendors to offer IoT solutions such as Schneider’s EcoStruxure Micro Data Centers.

Ingenuity Inspires Datacentre Infrastructure on Wheels

Datacentre infrastructure and in particular HCI is mobilising where the workload is needed and it’s fast moving to the edge, bringing ultra-low latency, high availability, effectiveness, mobility and ease of use. The concept of “datacentres on wheels”, or on rotor blades for self-driving drones already deployed on Mars, will continue to evolve as outer space technologies are exploited here on Earth and HCI enables similarly advanced solutions.

 

To learn more about our upcoming research, please contact Marcelo Lecocq or Marina Kostova, or head over to https://www.idc.com/eu and drop your details in the form on the top right.


Do You Know the Things You Must do to Be an Effective Future Digital Leader?

Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)
Chris Weston
Chris Weston (Principal, European Client Advisory)

It may seem to you that the world after the pandemic is much the same as before — only with more stress and shorter timescales. I disagree. Our research shows that you need to focus on different things and adopt them at speed.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

“Successful future CIOs will orchestrate tightly coupled investments that optimise both pace and sequence of DX [digital transformation] investments.”

Alizabeth Calder

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

It’s true that the work of the CIO and the IT department does not stop. Almost everything that was done before needs to continue. On top of this, new demands presented by the environment and new opportunities need to be addressed. The question is often how to do that.

What we see at IDC is that some IT leaders are doing things differently than others. Our research shows that the IT leaders in highly successful companies are doing the same things — they are focusing on common areas. In her paper The Future CIO: A Leadership Model for Today, Alizabeth Calder gave an IDC perspective that outlines specific areas of focus and investment for “future IT” that supports and enables the highest value of digital disruption.

From the IDC Advisory perspective, these specific areas map onto the detailed areas that we help our customers with. We have identified the areas where we support the decision making of our customers. We have developed tools to help them make decisions that have the correct scope and answer the important requirements of their businesses.

We don’t believe that any leader willingly wants to be a digital resistor. Unfortunately, many are stuck in the opportunistic level of maturity: the digital explorer. In many cases, this is because they lack a map of what investments are best.

We believe that future leaders need to be positioned to do the right things, at the right time, in the right way. This means stopping doing some things altogether. It means automating at the correct cadence. It means finding better ways of doing things — be that a language to use, a methodology or specific tools.

The advantage of working in a research organisation is that we speak to lots of leaders in detail and learn what works for them. And what to avoid. Some might say this is too generalised to be really useful, and I disagree because of our approach.

In IDC Advisory in Europe, we have found that reading about best practices is not enough. The decisions that leaders need to make are not binary; they are nuanced and must fit their specific business environment.

For that reason, we work closely as part of the leadership team under the technology leader. We use our holistic view to identify the blind spots and call them out. We question activities or decisions that our experience and research show are ineffective.

Beyond that, we aim to be part of the solution. We work with the teams — IT or end user — to help spread the knowledge and methods that work. We get hands-on with changing perceptions and making sure the best decisions are made and understood.

This sounds very bespoke — and it is. However, we have developed tools to aid thinking and decision making. We provide workshops as part of the service, but these use standard tools based on IDC’s Planning Guides.

In the IDC Digital Leadership Community meeting, we did a sense check of the tools and topics we believe to be useful. The discussion helped the leaders participating to discuss what they thought was most valuable.

CIO tools
Source: IDC

As well as offering further elements to add to the toolset, the CIOs involved helped to rank and discuss the relevance of the areas. They tagged them according to the following:

  • Valuable
  • Hard
  • Easy
  • Expensive
  • Expired

If you would like to see the tools and the rankings and add your voice, please consider joining the IDC Digital Leadership Community (as long as you are a leader of technology and a peer to the other 250+ members). You can apply here. It’s free of charge and we meet regularly for member-led discussion.

The conclusion is that there are repeatable things that can and should be implemented by every CIO. These have changed. Where you place your investments and the decisions you make now will be vital over the midterm.

My question is how do you know you have the right bases covered adequately and do you have the time and the tools to make the changes efficiently? I would love to discuss this with you directly. You can reach me at mdowd@idc.com.


COP26: How Technology Helps to Create Sustainable Industries

Galina Spasova (Senior Research Analyst)

COP26 ended on November 13, 2021, with many promises but few actionable plans in place. Several economies face stronger pressure for results, including the UK, the US, China, India, and Brazil. The final agreement barely kept 1.5C of climate heating within reach, with the hopes that the biggest polluters will present more ambitious plans next year.

Whether this is in fact the case would be difficult to assert for some countries, such as the UK, where surveys reveal that 65% of businesses lack the reporting mechanisms to support delivery against this target, while only 12% obtain third-party verification on their data.

If you missed our blog from last week, we covered a number of important announcements related to technology and sustainability.

Creating Sustainable Industries

Fuel, Transport, and Infrastructure

Prior to the COP26 final agreement, we observed several initiatives aimed at improving international cooperation around the impactful topics of carbon dioxide, methane, and above all helping developing countries through their investments related to climate change. The US-China agreement on climate cooperation surprised audiences by revealing a commitment between the two countries to hold regular meetings on the issue over the next decade.

The second week of COP26 also focused on phasing out fossil fuel vehicles by 2040. But this commitment between 24 countries was marred by the absence of some of the major carmakers (e.g., BMW, Volkswagen) and the countries with the biggest automotive industries, including the US, China, France, and Germany. While they acknowledge their determination to meet this goal, major automotive players noted “considerable uncertainty about the development of global infrastructure to support a complete shift to zero-emissions vehicles”.

The ICT industry will be impacted in similar ways as the rest of the markets, with looming changes in the way international travel is conducted, as well as changes rippling throughout logistics and the supply chain. However, technological solutions can be implemented to optimise transport fleets in terms of lowering environmental impact and improving efficiency, which means that vendors whose offerings include similar propositions will benefit from increasing demand.

Energy, Oil and Gas

The second week of COP26 was marked by the launch of the Beyond oil and gas alliance (BOGA), an international coalition of governments and stakeholders working together to facilitate the managed phase-out of oil and gas production. Announced in September 2021 and officially launched at the end of the second week of COP26, the coalition was born from an initiative of Denmark and Costa Rica and has received immediate acclaim from a number of countries and regions. The ambition is to align oil and gas production with the Paris Agreement goal, keeping emissions below 1.5° C as well as creating an international community to support governments in delivering their commitment to reduce oil and gas production.

In 2017, for example, France announced it would stop the extraction of oil and gas starting from 2040, while last summer, Greenland suspended all hydrocarbon exploration activities. Italy announced plans to reach 70% of renewable energy usage by 2030. The alliance will have a huge impact on the industry as members will need to reduce oil and gas production, not only in their countries, but in all their territories of jurisdiction, thus, including both leasing and licenses. When it comes to IT providers, they will have to pay closer attention to their ratio of energy sources used for operations and manufacturing, and ramp up investments in renewables.

Public Sector, Cities and Buildings

For the first time, the climate change summit held a day dedicated to cities, regions, and the built environment in recognition of the fact that these account for 40% of carbon emissions. A group of public and private sector organisations came together under the #BuildingToCOP26 consortium to set the agenda for the inaugural built environment day and to promote three core objectives:

  1. For all countries to include full building decarbonisation target policies and measures in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) (To date, 136 countries have included buildings in their NDCs).
  2. To have 1,000 cities and at least 20% of the largest built environment businesses by revenue committed to the UN’s Race to Zero.
  3. To unite the sector’s stakeholders behind a shared goal: that by 2030, 100% of new buildings must be net-zero in operation and embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40%; and, by 2050 all new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole life cycle.

There was strong representation from many large and small players from the real estate industry, including architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC firms), technology companies, asset managers, research organisations, and public sector entities, albeit with a few notable absences. One of the key announcements included 44 additional businesses representing $85 billion annual turnover signing up to the market-leading whole-life carbon requirements of the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Commitment.

This is an emerging opportunity for smart building solutions providers, and several companies already promoted their new products, including Johnson Control’s OpenBlue Net Zero Buildings as a Service. The direction of travel in the industry is clear and is backed up by a significant amount of public sector investment, including through COVID-19 recovery funds such as the NextGenEU recovery plan and the US Infrastructure Bill.

Chemicals, Construction and Manufacturing

Science and innovation become critical factors in the race to 1.5C, as 23 governments banded together under the name Mission Innovation. Countries have pledged to work closely for faster development of clean tech, CO2 removal, production of renewable energy sources, chemicals and materials. Heavy industries, such as steel, cement, and chemicals, which require enormous amounts of energy and extremely high temperatures, are at the core of these projects. Sectors targeted by Mission Innovation account for over 50% of the world’s emissions.

While this move may come as a disruption to heavy industries, this shift has the potential to greatly benefit the global agenda of reducing CO2 emissions. Organisations can ensure a smoother transition to these new operational models by incorporating the sustainability agenda at the core of their business processes.

Social Justice

A 3.5m puppet, called Little Amal, travelled on foot for 8,000km (part of the project The Walk) from Turkey to the UK, and joined COP26 to raise awareness on the disproportionate impact of climate change on young women and girls. The puppet, whose original purpose was to “rewrite the narrative about refugees”, has now become a symbol for “stronger and more meaningful participation of women and girls in climate action”.

On this note, the UK pledged £165m to fund progress towards achieving gender equality and climate action in developing nations. This comprises of up to £45m to help local communities and women’s groups in Asia and the Pacific to address gender inequalities and climate adaptation, and £120m to boost resilience, biodiversity, gender equality, and other green projects in Bangladesh.

IT vendors have a dual role in the issue of social justice — on the one hand as employers that need to ensure the provision of equal opportunities to women, but also by instituting STEM programmes (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education targeted at young women and girls, to reduce the skills gap in ICT.

Achieving Sustainability Through Cooperation

The mixed reaction with which the COP26 final agreement was received was not unexpected. Collective action is only successful when the parties involved have sufficient opportunity to influence change. Greater cooperation is needed between all sectors and governments towards the common goal of mitigating climate risks.

As public awareness on these issues becomes stronger, consumer sentiment is also shifting towards choosing a lifestyle and products that are less harmful to the planet from providers that actively demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. For businesses, backpedalling on collective actions due to fear of loss of competitive advantage in the short term will result in greater losses in the long term due to eroding customer trust. Meanwhile, trailblazers that commit to reaching 1.5C early on will reap the benefits of being at the forefront of change.

The underlying common variable between all these upcoming changes is that measuring progress is essential to achieving climate-related goals. This can only be implemented through streamlined data collection processes, with thorough data management, analysis, and reporting tools. This brings technology yet again into the spotlight, with automated IT processes being capable to meet increasing requirements of processing large volumes of data. In addition, further implementation of processes that replicate these efficiencies will be necessary.

Find out more about how the agreements achieved during COP26 will affect the IT industry in our free webcast on November 30, 2021, at 14:00 GMT

Meet the team:

Galina SpasovaLouisa BarkerRemi LetempleFilippo VanaraMarcelo LecocqPhil SargeantMarta Muñoz


COP26: Technology for Sustainability

Galina Spasova (Senior Research Analyst)

Technology was not explicitly mentioned in the COP26 Presidency Program and yet it remains implicitly embedded across the entire agenda as it plays a central role when we talk about measuring impacts, analysing the emissions data, and facilitating collaboration between governments and private companies.

It’s been over a week since the world’s leaders joined the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (a.k.a., COP26). Throughout these seven days, which started with a display of cautious optimism from politicians and ended with mass protests by eco-anxious youth activists, we scanned through hundreds of messages and announcements to isolate those most relevant to the IT industry.

Sustainable Products from Technology Vendors

Ahead of COP26 many tech companies took the opportunity to announce new features and products or demonstrate their commitment to tackling environmental issues.

Major DX actors such as Capgemini and Atos took part in keynotes, proving that technology is well embedded in many environmental aspects. SAP is also an active participant in COP26, with corporate sponsorship and representation in key sessions and forums focused on digital solutions for environmental action. The OECD hosted a session focused on data tools to track governments’ efforts to phase out fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Xerox took on the support of the conference’s printing needs with devices that have mostly, in the spirit of COP26, been remanufactured and awarded numerous ecolabels.

Among other announcements, Salesforce pledged $300 million in investments for climate justice and ecosystem restoration. This seems dwarfed by Mark Carney $130 trillion Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), making it sound like green private funding is widely available, while less than 50% of European financial institutions have pledged membership to it.

Amazon started powering its UK operational centres with green power from a new 50MW onshore wind farm in Scotland as world leaders plan to make green tech cheaper than alternatives. The UK launched a new initiative to take the Green Industrial Revolution global and UK tech companies commit to playing a part in tackling the climate crisis, including the unveiling of technology for zero-carbon-emission flights.

Faced with public criticism, the Big Five (GAFAM — Google, Amazon, Facebook/Meta, Apple and Microsoft) swiftly amplified messaging about their own carbon neutrality — Apple joined the “First Movers Coalition” pledging to become carbon neutral by 2030 and Google introduced ecofriendly routes on Google Maps.

Meanwhile, Meta came under scrutiny for failing to tackle climate denial on Facebook. Microsoft, positioned as one of COP26’s key sponsors, announced its cloud for sustainability and other datacentre cooling innovations, as well as an updated policy shifting from simply preventing deforestation to planting more trees with a focus on active carbon removal. Amazon, along with the governments of Norway, the UK and the US, as well as other companies, will invest $1 billion to reduce tropical deforestation while protecting tropical rainforests.

The challenge is made possible through the public-private initiative Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance (LEAF) Coalition. Other companies are also joining this cause, such as cloud vendor VMware, which has pledged to plant and protect a million trees as part of its mission to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Ending Deforestation by 2030

Ambitions to end deforestation within less than a decade will have significant implications on all IT vendors providing supply chain solutions, with commercial agriculture one of the key offenders in terms of forest depletion.

Another market that comes to mind is print. After all, paper is derived from the very trees that COP26 pledges to protect. Despite the accelerated shift to digital, paper remains an important asset for many businesses. However, it is likely that there will be a stronger push to use sustainable paper sources, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified schemes.

Contrary to widespread belief, the print industry has always been at the forefront of sustainability with hardware, supplies and packaging already increasingly recycled or remanufactured. The next step is to place more emphasis on the paper itself: FSC-certified paper comes from responsible ecosystems around the world and is widely available and identical to standard paper. The only question is, why isn’t it being widely used in the first place?

Policy Updates Bring Challenges and Opportunities for IT Suppliers

In the lead up to COP26, over 140 countries — accounting for 57% of global emissions — had submitted new or updated climate commitments, known as National Determined Contributions (NDCs). China’s and India’s release of their new NDC targets last week — aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060 and 2070 respectively — gained international attention, albeit with a mixed reception.

These national commitments have also been augmented by a series of pledges, ranging from a global methane pledge (the effects of which will ripple through all industries) to a declaration on forests and land use. What does this mean for national and local governments?

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” — Peter Drucker

When the rubber hits the road and national and local governments need to deliver on these emission and deforestation targets, accurate and transparent measurement of progress will be critical to success. In the lead up to COP26, a number of technology vendors such as Microsoft and Google launched new carbon accounting tools to help organisations with the complex process of recording, reporting and, ultimately, reducing emissions.

Tech solutions have also been discussed in side events related to monitoring deforestation, from Google’s collaboration with the University of Maryland and Nasa to monitor deforestation through Earth Observation Data to Hitachi Vantara’s solution using eco-acoustic data to monitor and predict illegal logging, developed in collaboration with the Rainforest Connection.

Reaching Net-Zero Emissions

The role of cities in reaching net-zero was also an important point of discussion during the first week of COP26. In the words of Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, “Nation states pledge, cities deliver.” On November 2, 2021, more than 1,000 world cities committed to halve their emissions by the end of the decade and go carbon neutral by 2050. This will require the implementation of a wide range of investments ranging across energy, transport and housing: there is a significant opportunity for governments to leverage digital technologies to help cut emissions across these sectors.

Initiatives such as the Breakthrough Agenda, designed to support the development and deployment of clean, affordable and accessible technologies and sustainable solutions, are set to be important drivers to scale sustainable city solutions, underpinned by new policy and investment partnerships between government, tech vendors and academia.

Technology Can Help Reach Carbon Neutrality Sooner

Research from WEF highlights that digital technologies could already help reduce emissions by 15%. The challenge is not the availability of technology solutions, rather the gap between understanding and acting. IT professional services providers focusing on building sustainable portfolios to help their customers achieve their carbon-neutrality goals faster can not only benefit from greater demand but also help translate COP26 pledges and agreements into action.

To find out more about the implications of COP26 on the IT industry, register for our free webcast on November 30, 2021, at 14:00 GMT

Meet the team:

Galina SpasovaLouisa BarkerRemi LetempleFilippo VanaraMarcelo LecocqPhil SargeantMarta Muñoz