Delivering enterprise tech through a lockdown
By Dzof Azmi August 24, 2020
- Companies would consider novel implementation strategies during Covid lockdown
- Lenovo pushed a ‘pay as you grow’ financing model to help company budget's
"If I look back at the IT teams I've dealt with, I'd say the vast majority of them should pat themselves on the back," reflects Kumara Raghavan (pic), the Lenovo Asia Pacific Director for Software Defined Infrastructure, High Performance Computing and AI. "They've managed to largely deliver."
Kumara is recounting the topsy-turvy year that Covid-19 has presented us so far. In his view, technology has worked pretty much as expected, the obstacles while implementing them had more to do practical issues like the existing infrastructure, budgeting and training.
What did change was that companies were very open to implementing new technologies – because there was no choice.
Take for example the increase in demand for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) installations as companies scrambled to enable work from home. "They've got to have extra bandwidth, extra computing capacity, and storage that they previously didn't budget for.”
However, under normal circumstance, delivery and installations would take many weeks. "And obviously they want it 'today', rather than five weeks from now."
What companies did under these trying circumstances ranged, from buying additional VPN licenses on the fly, to buying into the public cloud, even if this extra capacity wasn't planned for even in the foreseeable future.
"Those are the decisions that they would not have considered before,” he said. “Now they are.”
Lenovo too had to figure out how to present companies value for their solutions. Kumara says whether companies chose to invest in new technology depended on their particular fiscal situation. "It boils down to access to finance. It's not so much the technology but how can we prioritise our spend," he explains, adding, "that is where some of the 'capex changing into opex' discussions are coming from."
Right now, he thinks, “every organisation is allowing customers to look at a 'pay as you grow' or an opex lease-based model.”
This sort of feedback from customers prompted Lenovo to push to their TruScale programme. "We (Lenovo) can solve the technology part," Kumara shares. "What TruScale does is to also solve the expense part."
When TruScale was launched in February this year, it was originally designed to solve the problem of managing unpredictable demand. For example, you may have peak seasons (e.g. end of year sales) when you need more resources compared to the rest of the year. So what TruScale allows is for the full maximum capacity to be installed on-site, but you are only charged for the actual measured load from month to month.
"We mimic the public cloud instance in terms of the monthly billing and usage," he says. "You're paying monthly rentals instead of upfront capital expenditure."
Kumara admits that pre-Covid, customers were not originally looking for a "pay as you grow" option. But things changed quickly. "Now customers are asking us point blank if we have such an option. They want to know if we have different payment options or monthly billing options. So I'd say the situation is somewhat reversed today."
Keeping employees secure and in communication
Kumara is cognisant that problems that held up rollout had less to do with implementing technology, but rather shortcomings in physical and virtual infrastructure brought on by Covid-19. "What we find is that the last mile connectivity, for example now here in India, you (couldn’t) move goods between states that easily," he says, referring to limitations on cross-border travel in the country imposed by the government in April and May this year.
There were also issues in training users to work safely from home, as the number of cyber attacks grew during the first few weeks of lockdown. (Kumara shared that his chief security officer observed an increase of 50 percent in attacks over the first six weeks.)
Nevertheless, companies were willing to consider innovative solutions to keep their businesses running. "I think now the C suite has their ears more to their CIO than before," said Kumara. "There's probably a good opportunity for the CIO to push through many of these projects which might have seemed very far away at one point."
Raghavan said that companies had a clear short-term focus, in contrast to high-level strategic thinking that usually accompanies investment in innovation. "It's been one of keeping their employees secure, making sure that they're all well communicated with, that morale is high, and they're getting all that they need to you."
As to whether companies will continue to work remotely, Raghavan is not entirely certain. "I think it's still a little early to say, I think many of the companies still are trying to think through what this might mean."
One positive he takes from the experience is that perhaps people can work unsupervised. "I think, at least our own experience with the customers that we have spoken to and what we see within Lenovo itself, is that people are working harder than ever before."
"What people previously thought was not possible, now I think it's opened up are the possibility to them," he said. "And so now they're finding that a lot of things can be done."
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