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The shift to SDx: have we all become software companies?

Eric Lai
Eric LaiExecutive Director and General Manager of Asia Pacific
I have over two decades of experience with leading technology companies, a decade each with IBM and Lenovo. In my current role, I am the Executive Director and General Manager of Lenovo Asia Pacific. I focus on the global account business for Lenovo. This makes me responsible for Lenovo’s Top Global 500 corporate customers across China, ANZ, ASEAN, HTK (Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea), India and Japan. I drive growth for Lenovo’s global customer segments in this region by ensuring the delivery of a consistent customer experience across Asia Pacific. One of my key initiatives has been to enable Asia Pacific Headquartered customers to implement standardised IT equipment (from PC and smart device to data centre equipment) across the world.

Follow me on Twitter @EricLaiMail

It’s not an understatement to say that technology is literally reshaping the world.

The innovations and disruptive trends within the sector have exciting and profound implications – not just for industry participants, but for every organisation and individual customer along the value chain. Of course, there is no end point – innovation is a journey and series of breakthroughs, some more meaningful than others.

One of the more significant recent trends I’m passionate about is the shift to software-defined everything (let’s call it SDx).

Its potential is so pervasive. It has turned new startups in just about any industry into software-first companies, while forcing organisations with legacy infrastructure to reimagine their own relationship with software, yielding to its promise to better define (and deliver) efficiency and agility at both the data centre and go-to market product level.

In short, we are all becoming software companies whether we want to or not.


What is software-defined everything, and why is it useful?

The most compelling aspects of SDx is that, eventually, it can deliver so much value, it allows organisations to elevate the conversation above infrastructure into new business strategies and revenue streams.

We’ll get to that in a moment, but by way of definition, SDx has its roots as a new paradigm in the data centre. When the term first emerged a few years ago as an extension of the virtualisation revolution, consultants like Ranjit Bawa from Deloitte talked about how the entire technology stack – from computing and storage to networking and security – could now all be virtualised and managed by software – with software defining everything in the DC ecosystem.

What does that mean for business? SDx can lead to a host of benefits such as automated management functions, better efficiency and usage of equipment, plus greater productivity for the organisation and its people.

But while all this delivers associated cost savings (meeting that ever present need for organisations to do more with less), perhaps the biggest win for companies is the ability to gain speed. That’s because organisations want greater agility in the way they deliver IT services internally and externally – and they also want to get to market faster with new ideas and products. So from a foundational infrastructure perspective, SDx will give companies the platform – or perhaps more relevant the springboard – to do just that.


Every business is becoming a software company

Consider the success stories of the new economy. As newer operations, businesses like Airbnb, Google, Deliveroo, Uber and Facebook have had the luxury of being able to design their entire infrastructure in a software-driven fashion. For these businesses, and others like them, that has heralded a veritable revolution in terms of mass efficiencies and economies of scale that would literally not have been conceivable only a decade ago. The services and products offered by new companies of the digital economy are expressed via mobile apps and processes or items that can be performed or automated by software – and the scale and global business potential that affords is huge. And it is not simply companies who use mobile apps at the core of their business model. Organisations like Tesla, while selling hardware or physical products, have used software to differentiate their user experience over the competition.

In this respect, every organisation needs to become a “software company”.


Why? This is why every CxO should strongly consider a software defined infrastructure:


  1. A software centric world – If you use technology at all (and who doesn’t?), it will increasingly be software that helps defines your very offerings, customer experience, and competitive edge.
  2. Total interconnectedness – The apps and software we all use, the myriad of devices connecting to the internet as the IoT grows, the development of self-driving cars, the proliferation of public and private cloud – all of these things are managed, automated and streamlined via a software-defined infrastructure which connects devices and applications to each other, and ultimately to businesses and consumers.
  3. Cost & speed – At the C-level, SDx means two core things: internal cost efficiencies and speed to market. Managing vice president at Gartner, David Coyne, has a very clear take on these two twin drivers. He says: “Software-defined allows for full utilization of resources, more automation and the ability to purchase lower-cost hardware.” And…“Software-defined allows the faster re-provisioning of resources, and allows IT organizations and service providers to respond quicker to business demands.”
  4. Agility = customer experience – SDx goes far beyond tactical IT. It has emerged as a key business value differentiator, especially in today’s environment where agile, digital firms have reshaped what the customer experience means. And we’re only at the beginning of the potential experiences which lay ahead.
  5. A springboard for new revenue – SDx makes for a modern and agile infrastructure foundation to act as a springboard for new business initiatives and revenue streams. Infrastructures can be costly bottlenecks, or they can be a powerful instrument for succeeding against competitors.  By modernising their data centres with SDx as a guiding principle, organisations can optimise expenditure while laying the foundation for strong offerings built on digital, cloud, analytics and AI.

Nothing is certain without a sound business strategy. But if organisations are confident about strategy, then SDx has remarkable potential to reimagine how technology is developed as a platform for growth, customer engagement, and of course product and service offerings.

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