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Converge Technology Solutions: Shaping a New World of Hybrid IT

Recently, Greg Berard, President of Converge East Region and Lighthouse Computer Services, a Converge Company, has been featured on the cover of IBM’s CIO Review March 2019 edition.

The cover story continues on page ten and describes how Converge is building a platform of regionally-focused hybrid IT solutions providers to enhance their ability to address the business and IT issues that public and private-sector organizations face today.

Converge’s innovation-driven business model is explained through customer success stories and a high overview of their evolving cloud platform capabilities. As a platinum partner in IBM’s PartnerWorld Program and a significant participant in IBM’s Partner Advisory Council, Converge is considered a leading innovator in the industry of hybrid cloud solutions.

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Converge Technology Solutions Corp.Converge Technology Solutions: Shaping a New World of Hybrid IT
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Ingram Micro Cloud Summit X

Ingram Micro Cloud Summit X, held March 12-14, in San Diego, attracted 1,500 attendees. The distributor shared its cloud vision, rolled out updates to the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace, debuted an IoT Marketplace, and displayed the cloud offers of some of its vendor partners and ISVs in the Cloud Showcase.

Conference attendees heard from a handful of Ingram Micro’s top-tier technology partners such as Microsoft, IBM, VMware, AWS and Cisco. Ingram Micro presented awards to more than a dozen partners in several categories, and attendees heard from Comet Competition finalists from Austin, Boston and Tel Aviv.

The conference schedule also included dozens of sessions for partners on emerging technologies, cloud awesomeness, the cloud marketplace, cloud products, CloudBlue, best practices, as well as ISV and service provider labs, and IaaS labs.

There was also networking, receptions, business meetings and the final evening celebration. 

 

 

Women in Cloud

Carla Harris (left), vice chairman, global wealth management and senior client advisor, Morgan Stanley, presented at the Women in Cloud  session. The motivational speaker and author of two books – Expect to Win and Strategize to Win – shared pearls of her success equation.

After Harris’ dynamic presentation, she was joined by panelists: Gina Mastantuono, chief financial officer, Ingram Micro; Dorothy Copeland, vice president, IBM Global Business Partners; Cindy Kennedy, president, western region, Converge Technology Partners; Siobhan Dullea, chief technology officer at MassChallenge; and Sophie Deleval, president, France, Ingram Micro.

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Top newsmaker #5: Shaun Maine, CEO of Converge Technology Solutions

The numbers suggest acquisitions are more likely than not to be expensive mistakes, but in the past two years, Toronto’s Converge Technology Solutions has played the acquisition game across North America with such surgical precision that it’s suddenly become IBM’s third largest partner. By 2020, the acquisition firm might be Big Blue’s number one. The immediate focus, according to Shaun Maine, CEO of Converge, is to establish themselves in at least 30 large cities in the U.S. and post revenues between $1 and $1.5 billion by next year.

Converge has bought eight resellers in strategic areas across the U.S. and Canada, with more planned for the future. Acquired businesses have been able to maintain existing management, the only change being the addition of new software and hybrid IT capabilities to their services portfolio. Maine suggests hybrid IT is the future for now and possibly the long-term when it comes to digital transformation, and the numbers once again concur. It also just makes sense; businesses have accumulated hardware and software from all over the known universe, the last thing they want to do now is unearth them and weave it all together. But the pace of business and customer buying habits have demanded it. Big vendors are responding by rolling out new software faster than ever, but selling, integration, and ongoing services for customers across a continent – that’s the channel’s job.

But many, including Maine, would describe the channel partner community as fragmented, and what’s available on one side of the country might not be on the other. Converge’s current mindset is refreshingly straightforward.

“What if we were to buy regionally focused players, who don’t have the size and scale but are winning on the technology and service levels of their business? We then turn a traditional VAR into a more hybrid IT provider,” explains Maine.

Many of these resellers are one trick ponies, he adds, and while customers have responded with loyalty, resellers are only tapping into one per cent of those customers’ IT needs. That’s why the cross-pollination of on-premises and cloud capabilities across Converge’s growing roster of partners is so important, he explains. Maine says they’re ensuring newly acquired partners become well-versed on new capabilities within 100 days.

And with Maine’s heightened focus on hybrid and multi-cloud moving forward, IBM’s Red Hat acquisition was a clear indication that he was on the right path. Last month, IBM even brought Converge execs on stage during a fireside chat with reporters at IBM PartnerWorld and Think, announcing its intentions to lean on Converge to try and align its own partners on the hybrid model. It’s also worth noting that Maine is very familiar to M&A activity. He was the chief operating officer of Pivot Technology Solutions, a $1.5 billion revenue VAR from the US listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and part of the founding group that acquired and integrated five VARs into the company.

“Things have been so much easier the second time around,” he said.

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Converge Technology Solutions Corp.Top newsmaker #5: Shaun Maine, CEO of Converge Technology Solutions
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Toronto acquisition firm plays big part in IBM’s hybrid IT strategy

By Alex Coop

IBM Corp. is leaning heavily on an acquisition firm from Toronto to help it build a network of hybrid cloud solution providers focused on its technologies.

Converge Technology Partners, IBM’s third largest partner – and quickly on its way to becoming the largest – began its quest to become North America’s largest player in the hybrid cloud market in 2017 when it acquired Corus360, a small software company from the U.S with a strong presence around Florida.

Converge didn’t stop there, and by 2019, acquired a total of eight software and hardware resellers, two of which are based in Canada. Converge is also trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and expects to be a $3 billion organization by 2021, according to Greg Berard, president of Converge’s east coast business, who participated in a fireside chat with IBM executives at Partnerworld Think last week.

“Multi cloud is the direction our clients are heading,” he said, noting it was also the direction he witnessed clients taking prior to his role with Converge when he was president of Lighthouse Computer Services, one of Converge’s earlier acquisitions that specialized primarily in IBM’s storage portfolio.

Five years ago Berard helped Lighthouse pivot more towards software through some strategic acquisitions that quickly helped meet the increased customer demand for analytics and cloud-based services. Berard said for the first time last year, Lighthouse made more money from software than hardware. It’s this quick turnaround that Converge is hoping to replicate by turning the small regional partners it acquires into multi-talented channel players that know how to add value to technology belonging to the biggest brands in the market, including Dell EMC, Cisco, VMware, Amazon, Pure Storage, and of course, IBM. Lighthouse, and Converge, recently made investments in Red Hat as well.

These moves inevitably caught the attention of IBM, since many of the partners involved with Converge’s rapid expansion were theirs. IBM, of course, has found itself in recent years building more products that play well with competitors’ technologies, and is relying more on its business partners to expand  the IBM footprint. Combine that with last year’s acquisition of Red Hat, and it’s clear IBM is serious about changing its priorities for the future. It’s a lot of change for the IBM and Red Hat partner communities to navigate, which is not easy when Big Blue – by its own admission – has been slow to adopt change.

From left, Teltsch, Berard, Maine, Johan Arts, worldwide channels and routes to market for IBM Security.

It made sense to lean on Converge’s success, explained John Teltsch, general manager of IBM Partner Ecosystem, and for IBM to insert itself into the equation. And while Converge’s ability to quickly acquire the right-minded organizations with surgical precision was impressive, it wasn’t the main reason IBM decided to leverage their expertise.

“We’re on this journey to get all of our IBMers re-skilled…re-educated about where we are going as a company,” said Teltsch. “We have to be sensitive to [Red Hat’s] client sets which are also some of our major competitors…you’re not gonna see us take the IBM and Red Hat channel and crush them together immediately.”

Shaun Maine, Converge’s CEO, had positive things to say about IBM’s partner programs.

“A lot of your partner programs make it easier for me to buy companies and have them interact with each other,” explained Maine, while applauding IBM’s latest announcements around Software Deal Registration and IBM Business Partner Connect.

When it comes to aligning IBM and Red Hat channel partner communities, IBM is placing a lot of its hopes on Dorothy Copeland, formerly AWS’ global channel boss, now IBM’s channel lead in North America. Teltsch joked that Copeland wasn’t as “blue-washed” as the rest of IBM, and was able to bring a fresh perspective to the organization.

Dorothy told CDN it’s unclear how many new partners IBM gets as part of the $34 billion acquisition, and while the challenges are aplenty when it comes to creating synergy between the two – an IBM task force called the Synergy Team aims to accomplish just that – Dorothy stressed that the added hybrid cloud expertise Red Hat brings to the table can be applied by partners of any size.

“I see a lot of opportunities for our partners … and there will be a lot of announcements around training and enablement to support them,” she said.


Speaking of that Red Hat deal …

There was a notable absence of Red Hat at IBM PartnerWorld and Think 2019, but a brief 15-minute discussion between Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty shed some additional light on the reason why the two decided to tie the knot after years of strategic partnerships.

“We hear from our customers, ‘Well, we really like Red Hat and how you help us co-create solutions, but you don’t understand our business very well frankly… and you don’t bring the full technology stack, you’re only exposing the byproduct from user-driven innovation,’” Whitehurst said, citing customer feedback. “Combined with IBM both in your industry vertical expertise…and your IT stack that fits really well with what we’re doing, I think it leads to exciting opportunities for businesses transform.”

The acquisition, according to IBM, has received the green light from shareholders and will be finalized in the second half of 2019.

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Converge Technology Solutions Corp.Toronto acquisition firm plays big part in IBM’s hybrid IT strategy
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Pure Storage Pushes All-flash Performance With NVMe-oF RoCE, Intros Flash Storage For Cloud Backups

By Joseph F. Kovar

The two new offerings–DirectFlash Fabric to replace legacy iSCSI connectivity with RDMA over converged Ethernet, and ObjectEngine for flash storage-based data protection to the cloud, are aimed at accelerating existing and new workloads.

All-flash storage technology developer Pure Storage on Tuesday said it is significantly increasing performance of its FlashArray//X line by replacing its traditional iSCSI connectivity with its new DirectFlash Fabric technology.

With DirectFlash Fabric, Pure Storage becomes the first to implement NVMe-oF RoCE, or NVMe over Fabric with RDMM over converged Ethernet, said Chadd Kenney, vice president of products and solutions for the Mountain View, Calif.-based vendor.

Pure Storage also aims to add all-flash storage performance to customers’ data protection environments with the introduction of ObjectEngine, which it termed the industry’s first data protection platform purpose-built for flash and cloud.

FlashArray//X, which was introduced about two years ago, was one of the first mainstream enterprise flash storage arrays to feature high-performance, high-density NVMe technology.

FlashArray//X featured Pure Storage’s DirectFlash software to squeeze as much performance as possible out of the array, especially in direct-attach storage (DAS) environments. However, the performance in shared storage and cloud environments was constrained by the iSCSI connectivity, Kennedy told CRN. 

“DirectFlash Fabric takes out iSCSI, and replaces it with RDMA over converged Ethernet,” he said. “That provides up to a 50-percent reduction in latency over iSCSI, and a 20-percent performance gain over Fibre Channel.”

The performance improvement stems from RDMA, or remote direct memory access, which offloads many of the storage operations from the arrays’ processors, he said.

FlashArray//X supports end-to-end NVMe with 25-Gbit and 50-Gbit Ethernet. Network interface cards interoperable with NVMe-oF are available or planned from Broadcom, Cisco, Marvell, and Mellanox, Kenney said.

Pure Storage released the firmware upgrade to its Purity 5.2 storage operating system in January, Kennedy said. Customers can upgrade their arrays to NVMe-oF RoCE by replacing their DirectFlash module with the updated software, he said.

Pure Storage’s ability to increase the performance of its FlashArray//X bodes well for clients, said Mark Galyardt, executive vice president of XIOSS, an Atlanta-based solution provider and Pure Storage channel partner.

“They have a great track record,” Galyardt told CRN. “Customers want increased performance. Media and entertainment, biotech, and more all need to process files as fast as possible.” Pure Storage has been leading the charge when it comes to all-flash storage, said Cindy Kennedy, president of the western region of Converge Technology Solutions, a Toronto-based solution provider and Pure Storage channel partner.

“Pure Storage has changed the industry in the kinds of performance and applications that can be offered to customers,” Kennedy told CRN. “But other vendors are catching up. Pure Storage needs to do even better.”

Pure Storage’s new ObjectEngine all-flash data protection platform is aimed at bringing flash storage to the data protection market which until now has been dominated by disk-to-disk-to-tape architectures, said Brian Schwarz, vice president of product management.

“We’re now taking data protection to flash-to-flash-to-cloud,” Schwarz told CRN.

ObjectEngine is based heavily on technology Pure Storage received with its 2018 acquisition of StorReduce, Schwarz said.

The use of flash storage to replace spinning disk for data protection is important in terms of reducing restore times, which currently can take one or more days, Schwarz said. “Restores take much more longer than people realize,” he said. “But downtime today are unacceptable.”

ObjectEngine creates Amazon Web Services S3-compatible data sets that can be copied to an on-premises ObjectEngine for fast local restores, and also on an S3-compatible cloud for longer-term, lower-cost protection, Schwarz said.

The data can be restored from the cloud to on-premises storage or to another cloud either for restores or as copies of production data for use in security, compliance, or analytics, he said.

ObjectEngine will work with most customers’ existing data protection software, including Veritas, Commvault, and Veeam, all of which write data to S3, Schwarz said.

It is available in two versions.

The first is ObjectEngine//A, an appliance version that delivers 25 TBs per hour backup performance and 15 TBs per hour restore performance. The included StorReduce deduplication technology can reduce storage and bandwidth costs by up to 97 percent. It is slated to be available in March, with the CloudDirect cloud integration slated to be available in May.

The second, the software-defined ObjectEngine//Cloud, is a cloud-native, AWS S3-compatible cloud object storage platform which offers an internally replicated global namespace with a single pane of glass for data across hybrid cloud. It scales to over 100 Tb per hour backup performance, and protects over 100 petabytes of data in the cloud. It is slated to be available in the second half of 2019.

There are definitely a lot of enterprise customers looking for ways to better handle high-performance workloads, including how to replicate them in the cloud, Kennedy said. However, she said, it will take time before the market at large is ready for flash-to-flash-to-cloud data protection.

“All things considered, if the price is equal to other data protection platforms, it’s a no-brainer,” she said. “But price is not equal. It will be a long journey to get customers to use flash for backups. but there will be use cases. If customers want to do analytics against their data, this may be the economical way. Customers may not want to use their production data for such cases.”

Even so, for customers who need accelerated restores of data from the cloud, ObjectEngine could be the next revolution and Pure Storage the next disrupter, Kennedy said.

“In the next three to five years, we could see no more spinning disk in the data center,” she said. “This could be the start of that evolution.”

S3-compatibility is table stakes for data protection on-premises or in the cloud, and ObjectEngine is providing a path for flash-to-flash data protection, Galyardt said.

“It’s a good move for Pure Storage,” he said. “Everybody likes flexibility and no one likes vendor lock-in. This opens new use cases for clients. We’re having more and more conversations with clients about tiering data to less expensive media like the cloud.”

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Converge Technology Solutions Corp.Pure Storage Pushes All-flash Performance With NVMe-oF RoCE, Intros Flash Storage For Cloud Backups