As technology and society intersect, consumers and enterprises are advancing, adapting and propelling dramatic market changes in every aspect of people’s professional and personal lives, says IBM vice president telecommunications, media & entertainment Mario Cavestany.

Mario Cavestany

Mario Cavestany

Europe’s telecommunications and media industries have seen some phenomenal developments during the 3.5 decades you have been at IBM. But do you think the current period is the most dramatic in terms of the accelerating rate of change?
Yes, the rapid rate and pace of change is creating both disruption and opportunity. In fact, the world is global and exponential; things are changing not over years but month to month. As technology and society intersect, consumers and enterprises are advancing, adapting and propelling dramatic market changes in every aspect of people’s professional and personal lives.

The challenge is that human brains are not designed to process this exponential environment. We haven’t had a software or hardware upgrade in two million years! Understanding how to harness this power to deliver exponential growth is the challenge and the opportunity.

You have been in your role at IBM for many years. In what primary ways have your responsibilities in that position evolved over time?
I have accompanied the telecom and media industries for many years, always bridging technology with business needs. My responsibilities have evolved as the company has changed, both following the market and innovating ahead of it. It is necessary to keep pace with consumer and enterprise advancement.

The need to nimbly create, store, distribute and access content has accelerated… and why not? This has fuelled purposeful innovation and transformational change across the industry.

In the era of hybrid cloud and AI, we’re seeing companies drive their digital reinventions – creating new product and services, new ways of working, and perhaps most importantly, demand for developing new skills. Those three demands have naturally propelled changes in my responsibilities and approach. What do they say… adapt or die?

The cloud solutions sector, in particular, has become especially competitive lately. In what ways is IBM working to retain its competitiveness for all things cloud?
Well, we have just closed IBM’s largest acquisition, specifically to advance cloud computing. The purchase of Red Hat indicates our determination to provide the integration of innovation and technical capabilities that clients demand. Our industry recognises Red Hat as the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source solutions.

The community-powered approach to deliver high-performing Linux, cloud, container and Kubernetes technologies is critical. It helps to standardise across environments, develop cloud-native applications, and integrate, automate, secure and manage complex environments. IBM has a long-standing commitment to open source, and we amplify deployment with expert support, training and consulting services.

For example, online, on-demand and personalised streaming allows millions of connected customers use of services with their DTH set top boxes, with content coming from broadcast signals which have to be transcoded for different devices. This requires unique capabilities, and high performance, parallelism and high availability are the main challenges.

Red Hat’s Container Platform is a great fit, satisfying all of these requirements, as well as adding further value [with regard to] environment isolation, rapid prototyping and testing, controlled rolling updates and parameterisation. This helps provide media and content firms with the ability to be fast and best to market.

Media companies are in the process of shifting legacy applications and infrastructure to cloud-enabled architectures. The next-gen technical platforms that support new business platforms will be deployed across multiple data centres, multiple availability zones and multiple public clouds.

The resulting hybrid, multi-cloud environment will require microservices, containers and server-less computing techniques to facilitate, among other things, the continuous delivery and deployment of new workflows. Cloud deployment is the necessary ‘new normal’, and IBM is all-in.

As media enterprises transition to the cloud, the ability to manage across hybrid and multiple public and private clouds will be a critical success factor, and not all cloud providers can provide a true multicloud, hybrid and open environment. Visibility, security, governance and automation are required to manage these complex environments, managing numerous clusters across multiple clouds from more than one provider. Most critical is the ability to move workloads with speed and assurance, and that’s what we’re up to.

It seems fairly certain that AI and cognitive-related services will be a core theme of the show. How far along the trajectory do you think we are in terms of broadcast media as a whole feeling comfortable with AI as an integral part of its workflows?
To drive competitive advantage, media companies must realign their organisation around their data, business and content workflows, and leverage their expertise to differentiate their offerings. We refer to this as a platform-centric business model. Business platforms will be underpinned by a combination of technology and mass consumer platforms. With data at the centre, the ability to glean unique insights will determine the winners and losers.

At IBM, we view the market as being ready to move from what we call Chapter 1 (let us assume the last 5-7 years) to what we call Chapter 2. Simply, the media industry is moving from a stage of experimentation in AI to business critical or enterprise grade deployment. An example would be the advancement from chatbots to AI embedded into mission critical business processes.

We believe that an ‘outside-in’ digital transformation, driven by forces external to the organisation, is moving to an ‘inside-out’ model from navigating changing customer expectations and omni-channel access. In other words, data the media firms can utilise can inform business decisions, helping them become proactive and agenda-setting vs. reactive.

This new model is driven by the potential of exploiting data using AI, automation and blockchain to deliver new outcomes and remain competitive. At IBM, we call this next generation business model the Cognitive Enterprise for Media. 

Finally, can you shed some light on IBM’s specific plans for IBC2019?
At IBC this year, IBM will be demonstrating tools and solutions that can help you become a cognitive enterprise. We will demonstrate solutions that are activated by insight-enabled workflows, utilising leading technologies such as IoT and blockchain that are fuelled by data – all on a secure, hybrid, open and multi-cloud platform.

Demonstrations include solutions from Aspera, The Weather Company, Watson Media (IBM’s AI platform for media) and Red Hat, coupled with the digital design capabilities of IBM iX, which has been recognised as one of the top digital agencies in the world.

In addition IBM is the sponsor of this year’s IBC Executive Forums, encompassing the Leaders’, Telco & Media Innovation and Cyber Security Forums.