IBM Consulting + AWS: From Better Together to Innovation Together – The Six Five In the Booth

The Six Five In The Booth at AWS reInvent 2022. Patrick Moorhead and Daniel Newman sit down with Mahmoud Elmashni, Managing Partner, IBM Consulting, and Atul Sharma, Senior Director, ERP Platforms, Johnson & Johnson. Their discussion covers:

  • How the IBM – AWS consulting partnership has developed over the last year
  • IBM Consulting and AWS announcement and how this helps their customers
  • Why Johnson & Johnson was interested in IBM’s Platform Services on AWS
  • How Johnson & Johnson leverages the platform
  • The future of the IBM Consulting-AWS partnership

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Patrick Moorhead: Hi, this is Pat Moorhead, and we are live in Las Vegas at AWS re:Invent 2022, in the IBM Suite, having a good time. Daniel, this event has been amazing, and it’s just great to see the… I like to call it, the maturation of the cloud. And sometimes I like to repeat myself, but I think it’s important to reflect back and look at the cloud… It’s only 15 years old here… and the partnerships that are required to pull it off, the technology, hybrid, multi-cloud. All these great things is really making it interesting.

Daniel Newman: You’re a little older than me, so I guess it all depends. As a percentage of our lifespan, the cloud has been around pretty much since I got out of high school. So we’re in different stages of our lives. But in all serious, every time we get to AWS re:Invent, you always get a really good sense of what the appetite is for cloud and this shifting demand. We’ve seen hybrid at scale. We’ve seen AI picking up in a big way. We’re seeing sustainability being talked about and hopefully being measured. And these are some of the big focus areas I’ve noticed here at this year’s event. But…

Patrick Moorhead: Hey, let’s talk about another focus here, and that’s consulting. And that’s a great intro for our guests here, Mahmoud and Atul. Great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Mahmoud Elmashni: Thank you for having us.

Patrick Moorhead: First time Six Five guests. This is wonderful.

Mahmoud Elmashni: It’s exciting to be here.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. Maybe the first place to start, maybe introduce yourself. Maybe talk about what you do, Mahmoud. Let’s start with you.

Mahmoud Elmashni: Yeah, so I’m Mahmoud Elmashni, and I can assure you that I’ve been out of high school a lot longer than the cloud’s been around. So let’s get that out of the way. So…

Daniel Newman: It’s good to be young.

Mahmoud Elmashni: Yeah, right? I run our AWS business for IBM Consulting, and really took on this role middle of last year. So, second big re:Invent show in terms of us being here in a big way.

Daniel Newman: Welcome.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s great. How about you? I hear… We talked in the green room. They’re really working you, but you’re the customer, right?

Atul Sharma: That’s not true. It doesn’t feel like that way. I manage the ERP platforms and application at Johnson & Johnson. And as you know, Johnson & Johnson is one of the leading healthcare company. It operates in pharmaceutical medical devices and consumer divisions, and shifts products in 175 countries. So you can really imagine what kind of supply chain we might be operating. So just to let you know the scale, the service which I manage spans across 4,000 plus servers, 20,000 plus changes, which we perform every year, and 10,000 plus integrations, and 95,000 jobs, which we run every day to deliver products to our patients.

Daniel Newman: Kind of makes our jobs sound easy, right? Our jobs are fun.

Patrick Moorhead: Not if they’re having fun. But in serious, I always love when the customers come on, because we talk to the vendors a lot. Because that’s our work as analysts, we tend to talk to the tech industry. Customers are such terrific proof points for how complex this really is, and they can always provide-

Daniel Newman: It’s a reality check.

Patrick Moorhead: … kind of that ground truth of the analyst talking to the tech about what we can do. And then the customer comes on and says, “Well, this is what it actually looks like.” And so that’s great. We’re going to get to you in just a minute.

But Mahmoud, I want to start with you. Being on the ground, leading this business with AWS, talk a little bit through your lens about this IBM, AWS partnership and how it’s progressing.

Mahmoud Elmashni: Yeah, so we embarked on it in 2017. And I would say we kicked it into gear in 2020, when our CEO, Arvin Krishna, took over, right. And that’s when he said, “We’re going to lay out, go at this, meet our clients where they are, and really annoy 10 strategic partners to launch into with.” And one of them was AWS. So that meant investment in the millions in terms of capability, in terms of clients making lighthouse accounts, et cetera.

So now, fast forward a little bit. Last year we were named the Rising Star partner of the year, here at re:Invent for the Americas. This year we actually picked up another couple awards. Last night, the Global Innovator Award was awarded to IBM, also, the GSI partner of the year in Latin America, one of the fastest growing regions globally. And now we’re over 15,000 certified individuals. We’ve got 14 competencies. So we’ve really established that question of the capability up front, right, can IBM work with AWS? We’re one of the fastest growing GSIs for AWS. And in turn, AWS will tell you that we’re one of the fastest growing SIs for them.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s really exciting. And it just goes to show how much can change so quickly. And Daniel and I, we just stand back kind of in awe of how much change, how quickly has transpired inside of IBM. So a lot of announcements this week from IBM, here at re:Invent. We saw software. And IBM Consulting had some announcements as well. And I’m sure you love all your children the same, but what was the biggest announcement? And maybe talk about how, in the end, it benefits clients.

Mahmoud Elmashni: So one of the biggest announcements for us from an IBM Consulting perspective is our platform services capability on AWS that we’re launching here, right?. And [inaudible 00:05:33] and J&J was nice enough to almost be our Guinea pigs and work it out there for us, because it’s a major proof point. You want to make sure it works for the client. And in a nutshell, this journey to the cloud, as you guys were talking about front, it’s not a drive to the neighborhood grocery store, right. It takes years, the complexity, hybrid cloud environments, on-prem, in the cloud, et cetera. So there’s a lot of nuances that come with that, right, applications being the backbone of any digital business. So you need to make sure you monitor that.

So we brought together a platform made up of AWS services, IBM consulting assets, IBM software, AI based leverages the database of over a thousand implementations to kind of take care of some of the alert fatigue, take care of proactively identifying problems on the system, et cetera, so that this way people can actually focus on that journey to the cloud and not just getting tagged every time there might be every little situation that needs to get addressed. And it really goes a long way to avoiding downtime for our clients, which is the biggest things in this journey. They all want do the journey, they all want to do it faster, but everybody reminds us, “I can’t afford the downtime,” which is understandable.

Patrick Moorhead: So this gives us an opportune moment to kind of turn to Atul. So the IBM platform services on AWS, I think he said you’re the Guinea pig. I think that’s what Mahmoud said. So talk a little bit about that. Talk a little bit about why you opted to take that early, that beta alpha, and kind of how you’re seeing that become a bigger opportunity for Johnson & Johnson.

Atul Sharma: So, my job, like I just said, we do so many changes. It’s a complex technology stack, which we manage. And generally I try to break it into three parts, core infrastructure, platform and applications, all right. And observability in each one of these areas is the key point, and the right information at the right time to be available, especially to our teams, is very important. Because if they don’t have the right insight, they will be making wrong decision in process, making human errors, and ultimately our customers will be impacted. So what we did with IBM, we already have them as a strategy partner in an application management business. We started looking at the problem which we were facing, and started designing… Actually did a lot of POCs. And one of them, we just put it in production, the version one of that, which is called Mobius, which is actually correlating all the events at these technology stacks, so that our teams have right information at the right time and can make the right decision, so that we are not having so many disruptions and outages, and customers are not impacted.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, observability is really… In the analyst… It keeps us really busy. We’ve seen this fractalization of not only the infrastructure, but a fractalization of even applications. Applications used to be very monolithic stove piped, but now you might be hitting four, five, six APIs at the same time, and they all have to be orchestrated together. There’s just a lot more that can go wrong now. So, question for you. You talked a little bit about the benefits, but you extrapolate a little bit more. What are the benefits that this solution is bringing to you?

Atul Sharma: So I actually joke with my team, whenever I try to ask for the data, what is actually impacting us? And actually, it takes almost a month to correlate the data and actually make sense out of it, even to devize a service improvement plan. Just imagine if that is available to you right at the click of the button. Your root cause analysis capabilities goes to a totally different level, so your chances of committing errors also go down substantially. And we are seeing the impact of that. Our outages are actually going down. So as we mature with these capabilities we have built, I think opportunities are endless.

Patrick Moorhead: It’s a great example of the power of observability. You and I have talked a lot about it on our show. We’ve been really following closely across the landscape and watching IBM, among several other companies, have really entered in a big way into the observability space. And you’re seeing like, “Hey, we’ve got all this data, all these applications, this environment. We’ve got to make sure it’s all being managed, run. And then of course, you want to layer in AI, automate as many things as possible.” Your infrastructure’s just massive and you’re a great example of the real challenge that companies have. And so, by the way, thanks for giving us that background.

But, Mahmoud, I want to pivot back to you to kind of give us one last thing. Since we’re here at re:Invent, the IBM, AWS partnership is clearly moving in the right direction. But give us… Can you glean any look into the future. Where is this going to head? What kind of advancements? What’s next?

Mahmoud Elmashni: Yeah, we actually just wrapped up an exercise on a joint three year plan together, going forward. So, how are we going to continue this rocket growth through 2025, right? And now that we’ve got our base capabilities, if you will, out of the way, and establish that in the marketplace, we’re really looking at bringing forward those industry specific offerings with AWS. If you ask AWS, they’ll tell you, “Why do you look to a GSI?” We look to a GSI to bring us industry expertise, right. From our perspective, we go to market by industry, so it’s perfect. As we’re looking to scale, it’s going to be both in terms of personnel as well as asset-based capabilities. So, focusing on bringing solutions to healthcare, life sciences, financial services, manufacturing, travel and hospitality. So that’s where we’re really going to be focused on over the next couple of years. And hopefully we’ll have more announcements throughout next year and even again here at re:Invent next year.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it’s interesting. Us analysts sometimes want to look at everything in a horizontal. But in the end, there’s no business out there that’s horizontal. And they want vertical solutions. And I do understand the economies of scale that you get from having horizontal solutions and vertical solutions, but in the end, that’s really where they want their help.

I just want to end. Thank you both for coming on the show, Mahmoud and Atul. Congratulations on the awards you’ve won. I almost ran into them on the way in here. I was aware of them. But that’s great. And I know you just want to keep pushing the puck forward. And I’m really impressed at the speed at which the company has changed. And good to see the rewards that the market is providing you, and just focusing on those clients. Thanks for keeping all of us honest…

Atul Sharma: Yeah, thank you.

Patrick Moorhead: … IBM, industry analysts and just rolling your sleeves up and making it happen. I’ll tell you what, you have a role in shaping this industry. You’re not just a statistic and a revenue number. You help shape the direction that these trillion dollar market cap companies… I think it’s 50 trillion, if I look across all of them… and where they put their investments in, at the end of the day, and how you help them help you. So thanks coming on the show.

Atul Sharma: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Daniel Newman: Well, that’s whole process of the cloud, growing up from being a teenager to an adult.

All right everybody. Well, thanks so much for tuning into The Six Five here in the IBM suite at AWS re:Invent 2022, from Patrick, from myself, our awesome guests. Tune into all those other episodes. Hit the subscribe button. But we’re saying goodbye. We’ll see you later.


Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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