My top takeaways from IBM Think 2018

My Top 5 Takeaways from IBM Think 2018


As you probably know, IBM had is inaugural Think event this week in Las Vegas. I’ve been to quite a few tech events in my career, and as tech events go, this one was pretty spectacular. The production value! 3 concerts! The speakers! I definitely walked away in awe.

So what are my top takeaways? Well let me count them:

  1. IBM is Huge!


Ok, I know this statement is stating the obvious, but it’s all about perspective. With my previous employer, I thought we were huge and our events were huge, but it definitely pales in comparison to what I saw this week. 40 thousand people is just an abstract number, but what really brings it home is when I went to the keynote, 20+ thousand of us were swimming up the stream like salmon, finally reaching the giant arena rock stage after what seemed like forever, struggle to find a seat (I thought getting there 30 min early was plenty of time, boy was I wrong), it was a 360 degree stage and Ginny has to shift her orientation 4 different times in order to address the entire audience. It was just, wow! The scale of IBM of course also shows on the show floor, all the mega glitz exhibits, giant theatre spaces, and seemingly never ending lines for food, 😛

2. This changes… everything?

A big theme from Ginny’s keynote and something that’s pervasive in all the sessions is this idea of reaching a new inflection point. The way Ginny explained it, the 1st one was driven by Moore’s law – that led to the doubling of computing power 18 months, the 2nd inflection point was driven by Metcalf’s law – namely the power of the network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes – which made it possible for the success of platform companies like Facebook. And now, according to Ginny, is time for the 3rd inflection point, driven by Big Data + Artificial Intelligence that will change everything. Every business will change, society will change, and technologies will too, as will technology companies like IBM. The surest way to succeed, and indeed the only way is to lean in, take the reins, and be that “incumbent disruptor”. Makes sense, the best defense is offense, instead of being fearful of any upstart that might show up and disrupt your entire market, you might as well do it yourself and define the new playing ground on your own terms. One of Ginny’s guest speakers, the CEO of the IBM/Maersk Blockchain JV perhaps said it best “someone’s going to digitize global shipping, why not us?” Oh, did I mention that Ginny hoped one day this inflection point will be known as “Watson’s Law?” 😛

3. Steady Drumbeat

IBM has been on this journey for a few years, transforming itself into a “cloud and cognitive” company. The christening of this new mega customer event gave them an opportunity to unveil some new messaging, but it was all building steadily on what has been in the market place for 5 years. Remember Smarter Planet? Well this year it’s about “Putting Smart to Work”. Glossing over actual product announcements, Ginny focused her product pitch on the Cloud and Cognitive, hammering home IBM’s strategy and transformation trajectory. Even when mentioning today’s Power 9 announcements, she couched it in the terms of cognitive – “New hardware, why does it matter? Well it allows you to do machine learning 4 times as fast as any other platform”. This discipline around messaging is also impressive.

Oh speaking of Power 9, impressive, now supporting the world’s largest HANA database, and of course will run SUSE – as we are still the gold standard for SAP on IBM Power.

4. Customers are so so Smart!

I don’t know if it’s IBM’s size, or reputation, or just owing to smart account executives that built a lot of very good high level client relations, this event was star studded with executive level speakers! CEO of Verizon, CEO of RBC, CIO of American Airlines, the list goes on and on and on. And each of them are doing amazing things! The Verizon guy outlined their 5G vision. A lot of people didn’t really understand 5G before he walked on stage (I know a tad more than the average bear due to some personal research), but he painted a very compelling picture, hundreds of times the throughput, latency from 200 ms to 1 ms, but what really got the biggest applause was you’d only have to charge once a month! Lol, yes the frustration of looking around for an electric outlet may finally be a thing of the past for us smart phone addicts. This is just 1 example, but every customer presentation, every customer speaker, I can see that these smart companies are certainly not standing still, but instead are innovating at the very cutting edge, with AI, machine learning, IoT, predictive analytics, envisioning from the ground up every customer interaction, every customer experience. Honestly it’s quite awe inspiring. I often think that as technology companies, we’re selling the tools, the picks and shovels if you will. I can’t possibly imagine what our customers can do with these tools, but so many of them leverage our tools and weave them into these magical tapestries that literally changes our everyday world, they are the ones out there changing history, every day, I’m just glad we get to be a part of it, and enable them during this process. J

5.SUSE Plays a Part

SUSE’s motto is “We Adapt, You Succeed”. We have worked with IBM for over 20 years on the success of our mutual customers. We work with IBM Power and Z for Mission Critical Computing, we work with Technology Support Services on Software Defined Storage, we work with Power and IBM Cloud on SAP HANA, and new features like Live Patching for IBM Power keeps getting added to our shared portfolio – kicking ass and getting rave reviews from customers.

We celebrated that shared success in a small way – with our own customer appreciation event Monday night at Top Golf, gotta say, what a fabulous settings. Customers all had a great time, and the conversations were very interesting, always fun to hear exactly what our customers are doing with our products. Not to single them out, but a big thumbs up to FIT – 4000 SUSE instances WW, running hosted SAP HANA, now that’s impressive!

Thanks to all the other customers and partners that showed up to our event as well, our success would not have been possible without the help of all of you, everyone from our ecosystem, 🙂


Finally, some random thoughts:

  • I know I mentioned speakers – but Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku back to back? What a line up for Tuesday!
  • Lots of women and diversity at this conference. IBM’s CEO is obviously female, but there were a lot of other female speakers, for example, I randomly walked into a customer session, 3 customer CIOs talking about their use of Watson and AI – and all 3 happened to be female! We also had a number of meetings with IBM executives this week, quite a few are strong, powerful women – definitely role models!
  • The event app could be better, just a bazillion sessions for any one timeslot and you can’t even filter it by say just 2pm, so you had to scroll through a giant list, and it can be pretty hard choosing the best session during any given session slot

And a quick shout out to my homies: my new favorite Canadian Sean- the fantastic SE that you are! Alexia – best event manager ever, you are truly the wind beneath my wings, 🙂



  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Avatar photo
    Helen Tang Helen Tang is a worldwide evangelist and runs alliances marketing at SUSE. In this role, Helen focuses on helping customers launch digital transformations in their own data centers or in the cloud. Her team helps customers adapt new infrastructure, modernize applications and implement mission critical workloads with our partner solutions.