In today’s challenging economy, customer expectations are high, patience is low, and attention is at a premium. Your customers demand a seamless experience with your products and services, with easy access to detailed, helpful self-service support options. So how do you stay ahead of ever-increasing customer demands? Data. Harnessing numerous customer data points, often scattered across multiple departments, is the key to unlocking a proactive approach to customer satisfaction (and growth).

So your customer success organization is more integral to your brand than ever. And its job is significantly more complex, too. Your customer success team is tasked with ensuring that your customers have everything they need when they need it. And they must also offer a personalized experience that leads to increased product or service adoption and revenue growth.

Essentially, they need to act as a growth engine for your organization. So, instead of simply responding to customer requests, your teams should be proactive and prescriptive. Anticipate your customers’ needs, impressing and delighting them at every turn. The key to this transformation lies in intelligently using the data you’re already collecting.

Predictive insights. Self-service experiences. Highly satisfied customers.

Unifying data in the cloud to visualize it, analyze it, and apply tools like machine learning allows you to unlock new customer insights. Predict when they’ll need support. Better understand when they’re most likely to drop out of your lifecycle. Recognize when they’re most apt to increase their investment. And, of course, doing all this while carefully respecting privacy and adhering to laws regulating the use of data.

Armed with this information, and the right tech platform to glean insights from it, your teams can digitally engage with your customers at the right time with relevant content.

Like any business initiative, scalability is critical. You likely don’t have the workforce to connect with every customer personally. In an already overcrowded digital communication landscape, you’ll achieve greater success by putting the power back in your customers’ hands. Offer the self-service options they want, powered by elegant search experiences that deliver fast access to the information they need.

3 key customer experience drivers

There are three initiatives your customer success organization can implement now to ensure it proactively engages with your customers, offers a self-service experience, and generates continued and repeat business:

Ensure that a customer-first approach is baked into your organization’s DNA.

To position your customer success team as a growth engine, you must have alignment with sales, marketing, product, and other parts of your business.

Make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page about your data collection efforts. And, most importantly, evangelize how all your teams can use that data to set customers up for success and help them grow long-term relationships with your organization.

2. Identify and fill gaps.

What KPIs are important to your customer success team? Are you collecting the right data to report on them?

Ask the right questions of your data based on your KPIs, and you’re likely to uncover gaps or attrition points and identify ways to resolve them. Maybe your customers aren’t receiving enough training or information. Or your team is reaching out to them at the wrong times. Or not at all. When you understand the critical gaps, you can fill them to ensure a smooth road to customer loyalty.

Invest in documentation and metadata.

Your customers need to be able to search for, and quickly and easily find, tools and resources. Your metadata tagging strategy is vital to ensuring they can.

Many companies simply tag their content with internal or company-driven terms, but incorporating the language your customers use to search for information will help them find it faster. Continue to analyze your data over time to see if you’re missing additional content your customers need.

Your customers are at the heart of your organization’s success. And your data is what keeps it beating. When you leverage it strategically to delight your customers, you cultivate loyal customers who are eager to increase their investment in your products or services — a real win-win!

See how Elasticsearch helps foster a culture of customer success.

Rick Laner is the Chief Customer Officer at Elastic.

Data Management

With an ambitious 2030 sustainability agenda for its business as a whole, HP wanted to ensure its IT operations supported that larger goal. The company looked at its workforce of 70,000+ employees—and even more devices—and deployed a future-minded approach to managing its PC fleet.

To reach sustainable impact goals in its own internal products, processes, and systems, HP IT:  

Prioritised sustainability

Utilised telemetry data

Redefined device lifecycles

How HP achieved it

The company reinforced its model of refurbishing existing PCs to meet employee device demand, while repurposing or recycling those that no longer met performance parameters. IT used several of HP’s own services to make that transition by:  

Gathering data from HP Proactive Insights to gauge device health and performance in order to proactively address issues before they cause interruptions  

Using HP Device as a Service (DaaS) with Advanced Exchange and Repair to repair viable devices to extend the PC lifecycle  

Leveraging Device Recovery Services to refurbish existing devices and recycle or donate the remaining devices

Starting from a sustainable foundation

HP IT began working towards these ambitious goals by ordering devices through HP DaaS to ensure many devices and components were made with recycled materials. HP only engages with partners and suppliers who share their environmental and sustainability priorities, and even rates them via Supplier Sustainability Scorecards.

Redefining traditional lifecycles

Instead of basing replacement solely on the number of years in service, IT began using telemetry to evaluate performance and extend the life of employee devices. With HP Proactive Insights, IT can preemptively look at CPU, memory utilisation, and battery life to see when a device is having performance problems – enabling proactive fleet management targeted at real productivity issues.

Giving old devices new value

When a device’s condition warrants that it must be returned, HP Services now determines if it can be reconditioned and redeployed into the HP fleet. Devices that still have useful life but no longer meet company performance standards are donated for reuse to organisations such as schools with technology needs. PCs that are at absolute end of life are responsibly recycled, recovering as much precious material as possible and reducing negative impacts on ecosystems and communities.

Key accomplishments

HP IT engaged HP Device Recovery Services to give new life to HP-owned, employee-used devices:

Repair or refurbish 11,000+ devices, preventing them from being discarded while supporting employee demand

Support the technology needs of nearly 6,400 children by donating PCs via the HOPE Recycling Futures program

Bringing people and planet benefits

Beyond its own internal efforts, HP’s focus on sustainability continues to grow, encompassing customers and communities by:

Planting a tree for every page printed to set a new industry standard

Eliminating 75% of single-use plastic packaging by 2025

Creating better device experiences with refurbishment plans for new covers, batteries, software, boxes, and more

Lowering the overall cost per device

Ensuring fewer devices go to landfills, with an option to extend PC device useful life via refurbishment services for up to two years

Click here to read the full case study. And find out more about HP’s Sustainability Impact Report here.

To learn more about HP Sustainable Impact, click here

HP has several exciting events coming up this year – click on each to learn more. 

The CIO Digital Enterprise Forum in May presents ideas from UK CIOs and IT leaders planning the next stage of their cloud journey.

The Official CIO Summit UK presents the best opportunity to hear how your peers are tacking the biggest challenges in the UK IT industry. (This event takes place in September).

The CSO Security Summit, scheduled for November, is the best place to hear what novel approaches and innovative technologies your security peers are taking to enhance and futureproof their security strategies.

Green IT, IT Management

AMD CIO Hasmukh Ranjan sits at the cloud’s crossroads. As a chipmaker, AMD is a vital supplier for the public cloud’s compute engine, and among Ranjan’s key remits is to support the engineering of semiconductors that power the cloud. But as a consumer, Ranjan, like all CIOs, must decide where best to place his company’s workload bets. And for AMD’s most critical engineering applications, the answer remains its own data centers — not the cloud.

That’s because chipmakers like AMD require mega cores of compute power and memory, as well as petabytes of storage, to run their design applications. Still, one year into his post, Ranjan says nearly 95% of AMD’s business applications run on public clouds.  It’s just that the mammoth engineering applications AMD creates for making the processors won’t run on the cloud, Ranjan says.  

“For engineering, for our sweet spot, cloud providers don’t have those high-end machines we’re looking for,” he says, noting that AMD’s design applications require up to 64GB per core “and we stretch up to 2 to 4 terabyte systems as well.”

And those massive requirements continue to grow in three vectors — “variety, velocity, and volume,” Ranjan says, alluding to AMD’s broadening product portfolio, the high speed of AMD’s design work, and the vast amount of data generated in the chip design process. 

Because of this, Ranjan expects AMD’s digital infrastructure will remain hybrid for some time, with business processes in the cloud and engineering on-premises until massive HPC workloads are widely supported on the public cloud. Gartner analyst Sid Nag, however, points out that cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services offer instances that go up to 224 cores, with companies already running HPC workloads in the cloud.

The shifting nature of chip design

Not all of AMD’s chip engineering process is performed on-premises, Ranjan says, noting that between 10% and 15% of AMD’s computations occur on the cloud, typical for the industry.

Because of the engineering requirements, most chipmakers work with electronic design automation (EDA) vendors such as Cadence Design Systems, Synopsys, and Siemens on-premises from start to finish — serving the final blueprints of the designs directly from the data center to the manufacturing partners and fabs. This tightly integrated process also guarantees data integrity and security.

But that is changing. AMD’s Ranjan points to Marvell Semiconductor’s partnership with AWS, announced in February, as an indicator that semiconductor companies want to use the cloud more in all aspects of their production. According to the announcement, Marvell selected AWS as its cloud provider for EDA in order to take a cloud-first approach to chip design.

“But this industry has been a bit slow in adopting the public cloud for technical reasons, and commercial ones, too,” Ranjan says. “For high-end systems, the pricing difference between ground and cloud can be very, very steep.”

While chip design and manufacturing have not changed much, analysts say that all semiconductor companies have tight partnerships with cloud providers. Together, for instance, they have designed and built specialized HPC cloud services to accommodate some workloads for this very important vertical.

George Westerman, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and founder of the Global Opportunity Initiative, notes that the decision process to run engineering designs on-premises or on HPC clouds is the same for any enterprise: cost of access, cost of delays to data transmission, and cybersecurity concerns.

HPC clouds from mainstream providers and chip design services such as Cadence, Synopsis, and Marvell are in essence industry clouds for the semiconductor industry. The only distinction is that chipmakers work directly with their manufacturing partners or fabs to move on-premises engineering designs for producing product.

“The semiconductor side is larger than what the cloud side can handle today,” says Risto Puhakka, director of products at TechInsights, a technology manufacturing consulting firm in San Jose, Calif. “Those data flows are incredibly massive and they create a dedicated pipeline to move that data to TSMC to make the masks for their wafer processing.”

Transforming IT

Meanwhile, as Ranjan acquires and nurtures more engineering talent to produce the best products, he is also transforming the digital infrastructure of the company to meet business goals — using the cloud as much as possible. For example, Ranjan says, AMD recently moved its SAP applications to a public cloud.

The CIO is also tasked with ensuring AMD has a massive data repository and analytics to extend sufficient resources to his engineering team. Here, AMD has implemented a leading data lakehouse, automated applications, and AI algorithms on AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Oracle Cloud. All this to align with AMD’s C-suite aspirations to better enable HPC workloads for all cloud customers through chip advancements, something Ranjan is tackling by providing his engineers with state-of-the-art hybrid platforms on which to design the chips.

All seems to be flowing in a positive direction, Ranjan says.

“The bulk of computations happen from our large data centers in the US — one in Atlanta and the rest sprinkled around the world,” he says, adding that 54% of AMD’s server fleet is less than two years old. “We are very current. That enables not only very efficient computing but that’s a sweet spot for sustainability as well.”

The value of AI

As for business, the semiconductor industry has been on a roller coaster ride of supply and demand over the past decade. Most recently, the pandemic slowed the supply of materials, which in turn slowed the manufacturing process and led to a significant chip shortage. That shortage has abated as of late (except in automotive industry) as possible recession has slowed demand for consumer devices, PCs, and servers, Ranjan says.

But what has kept demand strong for companies such as AMD, Intel, and Nvidia is the ongoing growth of cloud hypervisors and, more recently, increasing desire for machine learning models and platforms such as ChatGPT.  

Ranjan’s designers are also big consumers of AI and those tools are steadily becoming integrated into AMD’s design process. In addition to highly specialized EDA tools from Cadence, Synopsis, and Siemens, the semiconductor workflow requires source code management systems and increasingly, AI.

“We are trying to supplement that environment with new AI technologies and tools that are available,” he says. “They are in different stages of deployment and some are developed internally and some partner with different AI vendors.”

Rising to the occasion

While Ranjan’s relationship with the cloud may be atypical, his core job is the same as CIOs at all enterprises, he says: aligning IT investment with the business needs and goals of the organization at large.

To do so, Ranjan believes CIOs needs to be a half step ahead of the business side in order to scale and support the company’s evolving directives and to provide the infrastructure needed by the various constituencies of their companies, both business and technical.

It’s a balancing act, but the role of the CIO in the C-suite has evolved in step with the industry’s overall digital transformation. The IT department is not just a cost center anymore; quite the contrary, he says.

“The dream is that you create value for your company and you are aligned with your company’s business,” Ranjan says. “The first thing I look for is whether the solutions that I’m creating are 100% aligned with the changing business needs of the company. I aspire to be in that mode on a daily basis.”

Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, High-Performance Computing, Technology Industry

A shift toward hybrid IT infrastructure has accelerated as a result of the pandemic, along with an increased demand for ultra-low latency, high-bandwidth networks and, by extension, edge computing.

However, many organizations simply don’t have the resources or the expertise to build or manage the complex distributed systems required for effective edge computing delivery, a distributed computing paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to the sources of data.

The open architecture, which is sometimes referred to as fog computing, drives storage and data processing towards a location where it’s needed. Next-generation technologies such as private 5G enable this edge connectivity, while IoT technologies deliver connected devices.

For these companies, an edge-as-a-service (EaaS) solution — which combines hardware, edge connectivity services, and cloud platforms — provides a one-stop solution to accelerate their path to effective edge computing. It offloads the complexities associated with moving applications to the edge and helps businesses confronting a lack of skills within their internal IT teams to achieve greater operational efficiency, security and growth.

For certain industries, such as manufacturing, healthcare and logistics, innovations at the edge such as private 5G and IoT are delivering an even greater seismic shift, enabling them to embark on transformation journeys that were not possible before. 

NTT’s Edge as a Service is the first globally available, fully managed hyper-converged edge computing infrastructure, IoT and private 5G network offering, delivering near-zero latency for enterprise applications at the network edge, boosting user experiences in a secure environment, optimizing costs, and enabling organizations to get closer to their sustainability goals.

“NTT’s managed edge computing enables applications and data to be placed closer to the sources and users of that data and content without the need for dedicated on-site IT resources,” said Parm Sandhu, Vice President of Enterprise 5G Products and Services at NTT. “NTT manages the hardware, application deployment, security and software patching. By processing the data on-site, companies can save on expensive backhaul transport costs required to deliver large amounts of data for traditional cloud processes.”

Embracing EaaS also enables organizations to overcome other challenges they may be facing. For some, latency is a problem due to the absence of on-premises centralized processing. Edge computing enables processing at greater speeds and volumes, leading to greater action-led results in real-time.

For others, security may be even more of an issue due to data at the edge (which can include facial recognition and personal health data), including personal details which are subject to more regulatory scrutiny. Edge computing helps protect data stored at the edge and can be used to help organizations facing growing regulatory requirements.

By embracing NTT’s unique EaaS solution, organizations can also expand their reach and pursue opportunities enabled by next-generation technology. For example, industrial firms can benefit from smart factories, precision monitoring and control, and predictive maintenance enabled by computer vision. The healthcare industry can streamline operations with remote patient monitoring, virtual consultations and robotic surgery.

NTT’s EaaS solution is also key to enabling next-generation technologies such as digital twin models, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and autonomous vehicles.

“These technologies require features that are enabled through NTT’s Edge as a Service,” says Sandhu. “For example, the adaptive control of operational assets through AI/ML-enabled applications that learn operational patterns and enact automated self-correction, and mass data virtualization and analysis that bring together disparate data streams into one comprehensive enterprise view.”

Delivering distributed systems from the edge is highly complex and unlikely to be subsumed as a core business capability except within the very largest of enterprises. Using EaaS can help organizations stay hyperfocused on their core business while recognizing new use cases to help them scale.

NTT is working with the City of Las Vegas to transform it with Private 5G. With over 40 million visitors each year and 600,000 residents, the city is faced with immense pressure on their infrastructure as they strive to deliver high-quality services. Watch the NTT keynote address at Mobile World Congress 2022.

Edge Computing

By Milan Shetti, CEO Rocket Software

In today’s digitalized world, customers value transparency and accessibility above all else. As a result, organizations are taking a proactive approach to provide critical content to end users at the click of a button.

For over 130 years, Hastings Mutual Insurance Company has served and protected its clients throughout the Midwest. The regional insurance agency, with nearly 600 offices and 500 employees, has provided security and peace of mind to customers of all shapes and sizes, from small personal family policies to larger insurance packages that have helped to protect farmers and businesses from the unexpected. With over $1 billion in total assets, the company has grown significantly since its humble beginnings in 1885. Still, Hastings continues to pride itself on its relationships and the care it provides its customers. That is why Hastings Mutual decided to look closely at how it managed and distributed its content to its clients.

Since the early 1980s, the company has used an in-house Policy Administration System (PAS) with what is today Rocket Software’s Mobius Content Services Platform to classify, manage, and grant access along its mainframe to more than 4,000 unique document types. Although current operations were running optimally, Hastings understood that its PAS’s lack of integration with modern technologies would eventually create issues. Hastings management decided on a proactive approach, taking on the challenge of modernizing its existing mainframe operations to an open-source environment to remain competitive in future markets. In its push to modernize, the regional insurance provider also believed updating its client viewing system to provide a more intuitive, user-friendly experience would benefit its customers and employees alike.

The challenges of preserving historical data

While migrating information from the mainframe to open source comes with its own obstacles, Hastings Mutual faced even greater challenges. The company had been developing and storing mission-critical documents and information on its old infrastructure for over three decades — including regulatory, accounting, and workflow documents. Not only would Hastings need to find a way to continue generating these documents throughout the migration process, but it was also essential to maintain the integrity of its historical documents and information during its transfer onto open-source systems. Failure to do so could lead to regulatory sanctions and even legal implications.

With limited resources and a lack of experience with mainframe migration, Hastings realized it needed help to clean up its Logical Partition (LPAR), preserve the integrity of its historical documents, and successfully downsize its mainframe operations — all while maintaining fluid operations.

Finding the right support for mainframe migration

Hastings turned to Rocket Software, whose Professional Services team got to work immediately to assist Hastings’ operational team in the clean-up of its existing LPAR environment. Together, the teams went through each historical document within the LPAR to rename and properly segment it for migration to the correct open-source system. 

Once documents were properly classified and stored within the LPAR ecosystem, Hastings turned its attention to mainframe migration. Hastings was able to modernize its mainframe operations while still utilizing its PAS in conjunction with Mobius Content Services to generate critical documents on its mainframe. After generation, the documents were automatically duplicated and safely transferred to the proper open-source environment. And Hastings was able to begin the migration of its historical documents safely and securely from the mainframe to its open-source systems. 

Improving customer experience

Hastings’ pivot to a more innovative web client has also been essential to the migration’s success and the company’s growing customer satisfaction. Now, end users can access Hastings’ digitized documents with the click of a button — reducing document latency and making high-priority documents available within seconds rather than minutes. And having an intuitive open-source viewing system has empowered Hastings’ end users to find critical information faster and without the hassle of asking for assistance.

The benefits of great partnership

As a result of the project, Hastings Mutual continues to successfully move toward a hybrid open-source infrastructure. The company was able to modernize its operations to produce, store, and distribute documents to its clients faster, more securely, and at a lower cost.

Throughout the migration process, Hastings has not missed a beat. As a regional insurance provider, the ability to continue to provide outstanding service to clients when they need it the most has been pivotal.

As Mainframe experts, Rocket Software helps businesses avoid complications and enhance the management and security of their most critical information. To learn more about our suite of Mobius products, click here.

Digital Transformation

By Milan Shetti, CEO Rocket Software

In today’s fast-paced digital business world, organizations have become highly adaptive and agile to keep up with the ever-evolving demands of consumers and the market. This has pushed many organizations to accelerate their digital transformation efforts in order to remain competitive and better serve their constituents — and there is no sign of slowing down. Statista estimates that global investment in digital transformation is expected to increase significantly between 2022 and 2025, from $1.8 trillion to $2.8 trillion. While a recent Rocket survey on the  state of the mainframe showed that the mainframe — due to its reliability and superior security — is here to stay, many organizations are moving to hybrid infrastructure with a “cloud-first approach” to operations. A key component to the appeal of cloud-first business models is cloud technologies’ ability to simplify processes and streamline workflows through integration and automation.

This is especially true for content management operations looking to navigate the complexities of data compliance while getting the most from their data. According to IBM, every day people create an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (that’s 2.5 followed by 18 zeros!). IT professionals tasked with managing, storing, and governing the vast amount of incoming information need help. Content management solutions can simplify data governance and provide the tools needed to simplify data migration and facilitate a cloud-first approach to content management.

Let’s take a closer look at the essential features cloud-first businesses should look for in a content management software.

Enhanced content-rich automation

Data analysts looking to streamline content processes need a content-rich automation software that allows them to easily design and deploy workflows, integrated processes and customize applications. The best modern content solutions leverage low-code/no-code process and presentation services to streamline the construction of business applications and provide a secure and collaborative platform for execution. This gives companies the ability to quickly adapt software and processes and implement innovative methodologies — like DevOps and Continuous Integration Continuous Development (CI/CD) testing — to continually improve operations, bring products and services to market faster, and develop better customer outcomes.

Expanded collaboration support

Digital transformation brings about a lot of change — in technology, processes, communication channels, and so on. To minimize business disruptions and avoid misunderstandings or important information being overlooked, it is critical for teams to maintain healthy communication and collaboration throughout transformation. Nothing can hinder digital team collaboration more than a lack of connectivity. As much as content management teams need to stay connected in order to maintain data integrity and compliance, so too does their content software. Teams need a highly integrative content management technology that can connect them across third-party vendors and popular communication (Slack, Microsoft Teams) and management tools (Microsoft Sharepoint® and 365) to centralize internal communications and shared information.  

Extended cloud governance

The move to cloud-first operations brings both positives and negatives for content management teams. Implementing a cloud data management operation provides teams with unparalleled data availability, mobility, and visibility. However, cloud applications are less secure than mainframe environments and increase vulnerabilities to data breaches. To combat these cloud-based challenges, businesses must look for content management solutions that support immutable cloud storage technologies, like AWS Object Lock, which allows users to store data using a write-once-read-many (WORM) model that mitigates tampering by disabling the ability to edit content once it is stored.

Modernized infrastructure deployment

Manual data migration can be a heavy lift for content management teams. Each piece of valuable information must be manually pulled, copied, reformatted, and moved to the new cloud system. While these tasks are not difficult, they are tedious and vulnerable to mistakes that can delay operations or jeopardize valuable information. Also, these tasks pull employees away from more important content governance tasks, which can leave an organization vulnerable to missed opportunities and regulatory infractions. Organizations need content management tools to facilitate migration efforts, streamline processes, and mitigate business disruptions. Teams need software that can automate the tedious manual processes involved in deploying, managing, and scaling containerized applications while maintaining the integrity and security of essential documents throughout cloud migration. By eliminating the potential for human error employees will be free to focus on more business-critical content management tasks.

Organizations looking to optimize their content management operations throughout data migration must leverage content management technology. Tools like Rocket Software’s Mobius Content Services Suite of technologies deliver the agility and adaptability needed to make the most of your content while maintaining compliance. Mobius Content Services provides content-rich automation, modernization deployment and connectivity to streamline processes, facilitate collaboration, and support a business’s transition to a cloud-first approach.

To learn more about Rocket Software’s Mobius Content Services Suite, click here.

Digital Transformation

“The barriers confronting organizations in South Africa that want to achieve carbon neutral status by 2030 are significant. Among them is the simple reality that most of the nation’s power production originates from coal-fired plants located in the northeastern part of the country while the greatest potential impact for sustainable approaches like solar and wind lie in the south. We can’t immediately upend the entire power grid structure, but together with a willing and enthusiastic government and strong partners like VMware, we can make a difference. We now have a framework in place to support Africa’s nascent efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions and support providers intent to achieve and apply the tenets of VMware Zero Carbon Committed program to their operations.” 

Bryce Allan, head of sustainability at Teraco Data Environments

Sumeeth Singh, head of VMware’s Cloud Provider Business in sub-Saharan Africa, was not surprised when the region’s leading cloud solutions and services companies enthusiastically embraced the VMware Cloud Verified initiative. With an established track record of success and extensive experience with the full VMware stack, many were ideally prepared to complete the rigorous process to apply for and receive the distinction.

The VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative was, however, a different story. Singh knew that among providers the intent and desire to decrease their carbon footprints was strong. But the requirements, difficult in areas with an already mature sustainable energy infrastructure in place, were overwhelming in sub-Saharan Africa.

Specifically, partners would be required to commit that their data centers achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030, an effort that would require the use of 100% renewable energy. For partners in Europe where significant renewable energy sources exist in conjunction with a mature regulatory system of carbon offsets and credits, the process is still difficult.

“Like their counterparts in Europe, South African companies are increasingly mindful of resource constraints and the impact of fossil fuels on climate change,” said Singh. “They are also becoming more and more aware that their data center operations are a very large contributor to their overall carbon footprint. They also know that electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is primarily sourced from coal-fired plants. They want to do the right thing and minimize their emissions, but they are also seeing a dramatic increase in demand for hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and services – a reality that means they need more power, not less.”

Singh notes that for most partners, the resulting reality is that it would simply be unrealistic to pledge to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030 because there are not enough renewable sources of energy in place to make it feasible. When no partners signed up for the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative, it was both a disappointment and a validation.

“Partners here didn’t sign up for this initiative not because they didn’t want to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030, but because they didn’t think it was a realistic goal,” he says. More to the point, they didn’t view VMware Zero Carbon Committed as a marketing effort, but rather as a genuine commitment that should only be made if they believed they could achieve what they signed up for.”

Singh had a choice. He could either accept that the requirements for VMware Zero Carbon Committed were too challenging for the region, or he could find an alternative.

“We don’t have the luxury to postpone taking action when it comes to climate change,” he adds. “We have to do something now. In our case, we could either wait to ramp up the Zero Carbon Committed initiative until South Africa’s sustainability efforts are more mature – in other words do nothing now – or we could modify the requirements to find a more manageable solution.”

That solution came in the form of Teraco, South Africa’s largest and most interconnected data center platform. With four ultra high-performance data centers in South Africa – including facilities in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg – the company forms the core of the nation’s internet backbone, and serves as the interconnection for both local and global cloud services. Providing the connectivity for the Africa Cloud Exchange, Teraco’s carrier and cloud neutral platform is also Africa’s largest hub for AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

In addition, it serves as the direct access point for more than 300 network providers, including telecommunications, terrestrial fiber, satellite connectivity, and submarine cable carriers; as well as more than 130 IT service providers, leading enterprises and financial services companies, and innumerable Internet eXchange points. Recently acquired by Digital Reality – the world’s largest provider of cloud and carrier neutral data center, colocation, and interconnection solutions – the company’s role connecting Africa to the world’s IT infrastructure will only increase.

Teraco is also the co-location provider of choice for most VMware Cloud Verified partners. But perhaps most importantly for those organizations that want to embrace VMware Zero Carbon committed, it is also no stranger to efforts to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, it was already in the midst of Africa’s most ambitious effort to produce 100% sustainable power.

Singh saw an opportunity. If VMware Cloud Verified partners could engage Teraco for data center services that use the company’s renewable energy, they could offset their own power usage and realistically commit to significantly decrease their own carbon footprint.

It was an effort Bryce Allan, head of sustainability at Teraco Data Environments, immediately embraced.

“At Teraco we are aggressively pushing to increase our use of renewable energy sources,” he says. One of our two newest and most significant solar projects is already under construction and we’ve set aside nearly $250 million over the next five years for the development of renewable energy sources and facilities. We also entered into a development service agreement with an experienced renewable energy developer and are already working with them to build two 100 megawatt solar facilities in Cape Town.” 

Allan expects the first of those to go online early in 2023 and to produce 500 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Notably, this is in addition to the company’s extensive solar projects at its data centers, with the facility in Johannesburg already including a high-output solar system that is the first of its kind on the continent. Similar systems are being constructed for each of the company’s data centers, with those expected to be operational by the end of this year.

“We’re really excited to start building big solar plants that make a real impact on the region’s use of fossil fuels,” says Allan. “The fact that we can simultaneously provide motivated VMware Cloud Verified partners with the access to the power they need to make zero carbon emissions a realistic goal is another great benefit.”

Notably, Teraco committed to achieving the use of 50% renewable energy sources by 2027 and 100% renewable energy sources by 2035. Given the difficulty of achieving both goals in Africa, the decision was made to allow VMware Cloud Verified Partners who want to achieve the VMware Zero Carbon Committed distinction to pursue it in conjunction with Teraco and those metrics.

“We are years behind our partners in other areas of the world in our efforts to lower emissions,” adds Singh. “But if we can work together to achieve the use of 50% renewable sources of energy in five years, we will have accomplished something truly significant while simultaneously enabling Africa’s cloud solutions and services providers to pursue contracts that reward and encourage additional efforts to decrease emissions. That is a win for all involved.”

Within days of the partnership with Teraco being announced, five companies in South Africa joined the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative.

The inaugural partners in Africa’s VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative

The first five VMware Cloud Verified partners to embrace the tenets of the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative – and to make the transition to renewable sources of energy a key focus with the goal of using only renewable sources of energy by 2035 –  include Network Platforms, Routed, Saicom, Silicon Sky, and Strategix. We recently asked senior leaders at each company to share why they believe it’s crucial to radically decrease carbon emissions.

Network Platforms – Servicing businesses since 2003, Network Platforms provides a host of solutions to create effective ICT business environments. Its services are tailored to help businesses grow through increased productivity, profitability, and peace of mind. Its range of world-class, innovative products and services enables businesses to connect, communicate, and collaborate.

“It is imperative for all companies in Africa to look at the big picture and how we can collectively transition to renewable sources of energy. By transitioning to the cloud and software-defined data centers enterprises are taking a positive step for the environment. If we can run the hardware required for those endeavors with renewable sources of energy, we can collectively make a huge difference.”

– Bradley Love, founder and CEO of Network Platforms.

Routed – Routed is an experienced South African specialist VMware Cloud Operator offering scalable – full or hybrid cloud – vendor neutral hosting solutions. As a VMware Principal Partner, Routed proudly boast many “firsts”: first VMware Cloud Verified provider in Africa; first Validated VMware DRaaS provider in Africa; and now also a VMware Zero Carbon Committed partner, backed by the highest levels of sales, service, and support for its partners and customers.

“Routed empowers its partners and its customers to prosper and grow, grounded by solid and secure cloud infrastructure foundations. In much the same way, the baobob tree, our company symbol, provides for people in Africa’s savannah regions – serving as the tree of life and giving them the materials they need for shelter, clothing, food, and water – all while providing the roots that serve as a strong foundation. We like to think of ourselves as the baobob of cloud infrastructure providers. That means we must safeguard our environment here in Africa and that starts with a commitment to decrease emissions.”

– Andrew Cruise, managing director of Routed

Saicom – Saicom is a leading service provider in the local market delivering a host of solutions designed to help organizations move to the cloud, improve their collaboration and deliver an unsurpassed customer experience. Saicom understands that what businesses need most, as they navigate the move to the cloud, is choice, support, and flexible solution architecture.

“The environment in Africa is one of the world’s richest and most beautiful. We must take action to ensure that we can pass it on to future generations. Climate change is a horrific danger, but it’s also a wakeup call that we cannot continue to build our businesses and our lives around sources of energy that are finite and that once used cannot be replaced. As an ICT leader, we have an opportunity to help our customers do more with less impact on the environment by embracing a software-defined approach that simultaneously delivers unprecedented computing power and potential.”

– Kyle Woolf, CEO of Saicom

Silicon Sky – Silicon Sky is a specialist IT infrastructure service provider. Silicon Sky specializes in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Silicon Sky has a vast IaaS portfolio including compute, network, storage, security, backup, recovery and disaster recovery. Silicon Sky has enterprise grade managed cloud platforms co-located in multiple carrier natural data centers in South Africa and the USA.

“ICT has transformed how companies do business and so many aspects of how we live our lives. As a cloud services and solutions leaders, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to demonstrate in our words and more importantly in our actions, how technology can combat climate change and make a difference. VMware Zero Carbon Committed presents us with an exceptional opportunity to do just that.”

– Brenton Halsted, CEO of Silicon Sky

Strategix – Strategix Cloud Services provides flexible, scalable, secure, simplified costings easy to scale. Strategix is the only certified cloud provider as well as VMware PSO certified (Professional Services Organization), thereby offering assurances to assist customers in their digital evolution including, application modernization and digital workspace in public, private, or hybrid Clouds.

“We strive to always make an impact in a positive manner in our work with customers and our interactions with each other. That same philosophy applies to imperatives like sustainability and efforts to address climate change. Action and positive impact begin with making a commitment. For Strategix, that begins with pursuing the VMware Zero Carbon Committed distinction.”

– Jaco Stoltz, CEO of Strategix

For more information on VMware’s partnership with Teraco, view VMware’s “Feature Friday” video podcast here.                                                                                                                                                               

Green IT, IT Leadership, VMware

The shift to e-learning has changed education for good. Students and educators now expect anytime, anywhere access to their learning environments and are increasingly demanding access to modern, cloud-based technologies that enable them to work flexibly, cut down their workloads, and reach their full academic potential.

This means that institutions need to take a holistic approach to education technology (EdTech), including platforms used for teaching and learning, to not only meet these demands but to address ever-present challenges such as student success, retention, accessibility, and educational integrity.

However, for many embarking on this digital transformation journey and looking to more fully embrace EdTech, it can be daunting. Not only are IT leaders often faced with issues related to cost, infrastructure and security, but some solutions can make it challenging for schools to deliver inclusive, consistent educational experiences to all of their students. 

For example, some solutions may require an upheaval of existing tools and infrastructure, placing a strain on already-busy IT teams. Technology leaders are also looking to ensure the security of their schools’ digital ecosystem and that educators and students receive sufficient training in order to use these tools in the classroom.

Other EdTech solutions offer a one-size-fits-all approach to education, making it difficult for some students to keep up with online learning and for educators to adapt to pupils’ different needs. Similarly, while some solutions enable teachers and students to work and learn remotely, they struggle to adapt to hybrid teaching models.

Anthology’s learning management system (LMS), Blackboard Learn, takes a different approach. Designed to make the lives of educators and learners easier, Blackboard Learn creates experiences that are informed and personalised to support learning, teaching, and leading more effectively.

With students and teachers alike demanding more flexibility, Blackboard Learn can be used to replace or to supplement traditional face-to-face classes, enabling institutions to recognise the full benefits of a hybrid environment while ensuring nobody is left behind. For example, by providing personalised learning experiences, students are empowered to learn on-the-go and in ways that best meet their individual needs, ensuring educators can deliver inclusive, consistent experiences for learners of all abilities.

It also allows students to gain independence and become more autonomous. By providing real-time, data-driven insights, learners can keep track of their own progress, identify next steps, and get the support they need when they need it. These insights also enable educators to identify disengaged or struggling learners sooner to help promote more positive outcomes for students, while Blackboard’s customisable feedback ensures all students are on track for assessment success.

Anthology’s LMS can make life easier for IT leaders, too. The SaaS application code was built with security and privacy in mind and is LMS agnostic, ensuring seamless integration into the learning management system and existing workflows. What’s more, by using Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud, institutions benefit from continuous deliverability of smaller updates – which require zero downtime.

This also means that Anthology has the agility to develop capabilities and features quickly, such as its built-in accessibility and plagiarism tools. Because these features are out-of-the-box, institutions can save money while benefitting from a streamlined, scalable EdTech stack that can continue to evolve as they do.

With Blackboard Learn by Anthology, educators can rest assured they have the foundation of an EdTech ecosystem that equips all students and teachers with the flexibility to create more personalised learning experiences that support student success, while improving efficiency and setting their institution up for what’s to come in higher education.

For more insights into understanding student expectations, click here to read Anthology’s whitepaper.

Artificial Intelligence, Education and Training Software

Like many insights-driven organizations, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) leverages data analytics and technologies such as AI and machine learning (ML) to increase the efficiency and performance of its operations and to improve the quality of systems and processes.

While AI and ML algorithms are critical to the agency’s endeavors, the government agency’s guiding principle is to take a human-first approach in developing and using these technologies to refine and scale its initiatives. AI and ML tools help empower the work of human experts and augment their ingenuity in the work they do, but at this point they can’t match the subtle nuances or reasoning capabilities of the human mind, notes USPTO CIO Jamie Holcombe.

To supplement the technology, the agency relies on input from thousands of experienced workers, captured passively and actively, to train and refine AI-driven models to ensure the technology delivers expected outcomes. The agency has awarded over 11 million patents since its founding and employs more than 12,000 people, including engineers, attorneys, analysts, and computer specialists. A continuous flow of feedback from its patent examiners on the front lines is also used to improve AI/ML models to fuel the development of new products and support activities in two key areas: patent search and classification.

Doing a comprehensive patent search can be challenging given the explosion in the volume of data and possible sources of “prior art,” notes Holcombe. To meet the challenge, technology teams are rolling out an AI component in a new patent search tool to help examiners find the most relevant sources they need as they scrutinize applications. This is important because each one of the more than 600,000 applications received yearly by the USPTO on average contains approximately 20 pages of text and figures, or roughly 10,000 words describing the claimed innovations. The agency’s IT organization also developed and deployed a classification tool that identifies and matches the classification symbols associated with an invention from over 250,000 possible categories.

In both cases, the models were developed and are continually enhanced by input from human experts who provide a human touch to determine whether something is truly new or novel, and then apply law, facts, and expertise to reach a decision.

Exploring human channels in the information stream

Having a constant flow of feedback from examiner experts and others may be an asset, but it is not the only route the USPTO is taking to identify new channels for innovation and global expertise to help solve important challenges and scale AI. Earlier this year, the agency turned to the AI research community and Google Kaggle, a preeminent technical and social platform used by data scientists and others to exchange thoughts and ideas. It launched a worldwide global coding competition in March, offering $25K in prize money and calling upon AI researchers and data scientists to write code for evaluating the semantic similarity of phrases.

The competition attracted more than 42,900 entries before closing on June 30 and involved 1,800-plus global teams working together and leveraging publicly available patent data sources. The goal of the competition was to move the needle on understanding patent language with AI for the agency and for the patent community, explains Holcombe. “The result will not only be better phrase algorithms for patent search, but the winning models will become part of the public domain,” he says.

The USPTO also made use of other public information resources such as Golden, a free ‘Wiki-style’ AI/ML-driven platform launched in 2019 that scours the Web to match topics with relevant and available data, pulling it together into a stream of information. An AI algorithm, working behind the scenes, continues to add related data whenever it becomes available. Anyone can seek information on companies, their patents, and funding sources such as venture capital.

The A, B, C’s of an AI/human alliance

While volumes are written about technology convergence, taking a ‘human-centric’ approach to AI and ML development can be challenging given the diverse and complex distinctions of human nature. To keep efforts on track, the USPTO, under Holcombe’s direction, developed a guide for progressing from pilots to prototypes to production. The alphabetical basics of that guide are the following:

A is for alignment: There must be a strong nexus between the business and IT staff, says the USPTO’s IT chief. “The best cross-functional teams are composed of technical staff working side by side with business representatives, all within an agile environment that promoted planning, doing, checking, and adjusting.” Agile, and/or “DevSecOps” practices rely on swift moves, transparency, and a product mindset. To maximize progress, leaders engage early and often with their teams and stakeholders.

B is for business value: Start with a business case that has obvious value for a core, strategic operation. Such a use case should address a challenge where AI and ML can logically help. “As a 100% fee-funded agency, our teams approach technical challenges though a rigorous business and ROI lens,” Holcombe points out.

C is for customers (and employees): AI/ML solutions are designed to augment examiners and other subject matter experts, rather than to replace them. So, emerging tech teams test and adjust concepts with internal customers before, during, and after any launch. Examiners who use the products help drive AI innovation, with some of them “on detail” and working side-by-side in the Office of the CIO to provide critical input. “Because we weave our customers into the process early, we get powerful feedback which helps drive adoption,” Holcombe notes. “Also, customers keep us honest in deploying AI that is accountable to agency experts and the public we serve.”

Artificial Intelligence, Government IT, Machine Learning

Even the international pandemic couldn’t slow the world’s fascination with electric vehicles (EVs).

In 2020, a Consumer Reports study found that 31% of drivers were considering an EV as their next auto purchase. When it came to millennials, an astounding 78% expressed interest.

Looking into the future, Ernst & Young predicted that, by 2036, more than half of all new cars sold in the United States would be zero-emission battery EVs.

Through it all, the ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corporation was listening and planning. 

With the environmentally conscious consumer in mind, the Vancouver-based designer and manufacturer had been developing a three-wheeled, single-passenger EV called the SOLO since 2015. As interest built, the company went on an aggressive growth trajectory, extending manufacturing operations in China, breaking ground for an American plant, increasing its trade show, test drive and pop-up presence, and launching a service repair network.

But there were going to be complications, and ElectraMeccanica knew it.

The enterprise architecture needed to identify and analyze the elements needed for execution were not yet integrated. Business processes had to be standardized.

There was no sales or delivery system yet. Potential drivers were required to call customer service for a test drive or reservation, rather than scheduling those services online. Make-to-order processes were manual.

But unlike other companies that had been forced to convert operations from the time-worn, inefficient processes of the past, ElectraMeccanica was brand new, and grasped the urgent need for supporting technology to accommodate its rapid growth ambitions.

As a result, ElectraMeccanica opted to be “digital from the start” – before the first EV rolled off the assembly line in 2021.

Cruise control

As its name implies, the company’s flagship vehicle, the SOLO was engineered for a single occupant. The electric sports car was designed specifically for living in the city, where drivers tend to just pick up a few groceries at a time and navigate their vehicles into small spaces.

Still, the guiding force behind the SOLO’s development was sustainability. Although it was safe to drive on the highway, with a top speed of 80 mph and a range of 100 miles, the primary appeal was that the SOLO would emit zero emissions.

The year 2021 would prove to be the most transformative one in the company’s short existence. But first, it had to create a solid, digital foundation for its operations, including finance, sale, distribution, service, and supply chain.

Digital roadmap

With the assistance of PwC Canada, a member of the global professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), ElectraMeccanica was able to develop its digital-first strategy and roadmap.

The technology that would shepherd the company through this crucial period came from a suite of products from SAP, including SAP S/4HANA as ElectraMeccanica’s core enterprise resource planning system.

With this base, the company was positioned to create user-friendly, real-time business-to-consumer processes, along with an effective finance system, reliable supply chain, and integrated vehicle tracking.

The digital framework ensured that repetitive work tasks were eliminated – and the company now had a strong foundation to launch future projects.

Rolling down the highway

Confident that all contingencies were covered, ElectraMeccanica began serial production of the SOLO and the first-ever commercial deliveries. By the fourth quarter of 2021, 61 customers were driving their EVs.

Reservations and test drives were easily scheduled via ElectraMeccanica’s homepage, while order management was automated.

The company not only produced a world-class digital customer experience in record time but exceeded its own expectations.

For its “digital from the start” approach toward shaping the future of transportation, ElectraMeccanica was honored as a finalist at the 2022 SAP Innovation Awards, a yearly event that highlights organizations using SAP products to change both business and society. You can check out ElectraMeccanica’s Innovation Awards pitch deck here.

Before the end of 2022, the company plans to release a fleet of cargo EVs, each with enough room to run an effective delivery operation.

Looking beyond what’s being developed, CEO Kevin Pavlov noted that the comprehensive system it created to handle its launch will enable ElectraMeccanica to “future-proof our business and empower more informed operational decisions” as the history of EVs continues to be written.

View ElectraMeccanica’s Innovation Awards pitch deck here.

Digital Transformation