Archive for September, 2011

Consumerization of IT Comes to the Enterprise

Do people use their smartphones at work? That’s an example of the consumerization of IT. Does the company recruit employees or interact with customers through social media like Facebook? More consumerization of IT. How about invoicing and payment or procurement through cloud-based exchanges like Ariba? Same thing.

A Unisys study two years ago hinted at the consumerization of IT in the business. An online poll of more than 500 enterprise information workers showed a majority prefer using their own PC or a hosted virtual desktop to do their work and to access information resources. Only a minority continues to subscribe to the traditional model of using a PC provided and managed by their company.

 A more recent Unisys study in conjunction with IDC dubbed this trend Consumer-Powered IT, and already it is turning the traditional IT business model on its head. Unisys expects it will transform organizations over the next 3-5 years while bringing in a new wave of business productivity. The question become if and how IT should respond to this trend. Ignoring it, a favorite IT strategy of the past hasn’t worked then and won’t work now.

Last year Unisys described the consumerization of IT as “perhaps the most radical transformation sweeping the technology landscape and enterprise IT.” BottomlineIT wouldn’t go quite that far—early personal computers running a spreadsheet called VisiCalc (1979) drove modern desktop computing into the enterprise, which proved to be pretty radical at the time. The PC running VisiCalc might have been the first example of consumer-inspired IT.

By the mid 1980s workers expected arrive at work on their first day to find the company provided and supported desktop computer. Now workers are showing up with their own apps running on their own devices; a smartphone, iPad, or other tablet devices. They handle their own email, messaging, and social networking through their devices, and they expect their employer to let them connect to the corporate network as well. They expect to add their work apps to the personal apps already residing on their preferred device.

This represents a stunning turnaround. The organization, in effect, has lost control of its technology strategy.  Such consumer-powered IT, as Unisys notes, exposes a troubling gap between the activities and expectations of these workers and their employers’ abilities to manage, secure, and support what amounts to a blurring of personal and business communications and compute activity. The upside: greater productivity through new ways of connecting and collaborating and increased competitiveness through the workplace innovation that invariably follows.

The downside is loss of control and a need for new ways to reassert control. The IT group will need to interface with and support this disparate collection of devices. The company also needs to devise a layered security strategy and redefine its governance policies to encompass these new and varied ways of working so compliance mandates can be met. An investment in new management tools is likely.

When handled right, the consumerization of IT can spur valuable innovation. Take two newly hired workers who encountered a problem when inspecting a facility, pulled out a smartphone, snapped some photos, and emailed them to the appropriate people along with brief explanatory text. Suddenly the new hires had demonstrated how to streamline a vexing business process and bypassed tons of paperwork.

The Internet, the World Wide Web, Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Skype, even the cloud have been driven by consumers. It will become the way your organization receives and delivers services in the future. Start preparing now for the new connected smartphone, tablet, swipe-and-tap world of business computing.

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Low-Cost Money for Advanced IT

What will it take to get your business to take advantage of the cloud, business analytics, and other technology trends that have been sweeping the world?  Organizations everywhere are wrestling with how they are going to compete in the rapidly evolving cloud-centric, virtualized, data-driven business environment.

Tapping the cloud or ramping up business analytics, however, isn’t cheap. Industry experts promise that cloud computing, SaaS, virtualization, big data analytics, and other related technologies will save the organization money, drive efficiency, and help it make even more money. Sure, but getting started requires considerable money.

In September IBM announced that it will provide $1 billion in financing to help credit-qualified small and medium businesses (SMBs) over the next 18 months  take advantage of new advanced technologies, such as analytics and cloud. If money is slowing you down, this might help.

Financing, IBM notes, is one of the biggest challenges limiting the success of SMBs today. The  U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) consistently reports that well over 50% of small businesses fail within their first five years due to lack of capital. Since this segment is responsible for nearly 65% of global GDP, representing more than 90% of all businesses and employing more than 90% of the world’s workforce, SMBs play a critical role in a global economic recovery. The current jobless recovery in part may be due to the financial constraints felt by SMBs.

With this announcement, IBM is trying to address the capital constraints while providing the right financial and technology resources to support SMBs in this economy. IBM’s commitment of $1 billion in financing for SMBs is intended to eliminate some of the cost barriers to deploying advanced technology. IBM will offer simple, flexible lease and loan packages, some starting at as low as 0% for 12 months with no money down, allowing them to immediately acquire the IBM technology and services they need to begin to transform their businesses, while managing their cash flow more effectively.

This isn’t altruism on IBM’s part. The company, which already commands a big share of the IT business of large companies, needs to penetrate the SMB market if it wants to continue to grow. It can afford to throw money around to seed what it considers will become a valuable currently untapped market.

IBM clearly expects to move its technology products as part of this initiative. In conjunction with the announcement the company is offering a set of workload optimized systems and services focused on the cloud, analytics, collaboration, and security–all specifically designed to address key SMB needs. Through this program technologies once reserved for larger enterprises with big budgets can become more accessible to SMBs. To tap this program you have to work through authorized IBM business partners. You can find such partners here.

The current poster child for this program is Russell’s Convenience, a company with 24 stores spread across Colorado, Hawaii and California. It turned to IBM’s collaboration cloud to enable more transparent communications between its far-flung stores for the purpose of conducting day-to-day sales, marketing activities, and meetings. Probably saved a lot of money just on travel too.

So, is this a good deal for your business?  It might be. As CIO, figure out what you need and talk with your CFO.

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Mainframe Declared Dead Again

Since the early 1990s IT pundits have been declaring the mainframe dead. With almost every IT advance: x86 virtualization, multi-core x86 processors, cloud computing some IT analyst announces the end of the mainframe. Those declarations have slowed since IBM introduced the hybrid zEnterprise 196 in July 2010 and the mainframe experienced a series of impressive quarterly sales gains.

That’s what makes this latest mainframe obituary so surprising. A white paper from Micro Focus reports that “CIOs are increasingly questioning whether the mainframe will continue to be a strategic platform in the future. Written by Standish Group and based on its CIO survey that found 70% of respondents said the mainframe provides a central, strategic role currently. However, none of the CIOs consider the mainframe as a strategic platform in 5-10 years time.

None? Zero? Nada? That’s pretty astonishing. So, what are the CIOs’ complaints? The study isn’t exactly specific, but it seems to do with the cloud.

As Standish puts it: looming large on the CIO agenda is cloud. Cloud creates both challenge and opportunity for CIOs today. The opportunity lies in driving towards more flexible, cost-effective service provision for the business, enabling in-house IT resources to focus on much more strategic initiatives. At the same time, CIOs are managing a host of current technologies and applications, some applications duplicating others, some legacy applications for which there appears no easy modernization solution and entrenched solutions and applications that provide no clear journey to cloud-based services.

Whoa, let’s parse that sentence. As Standish sees it, CIOs will look to the cloud for flexibility and cost-effective service provisioning that frees IT to focus strategically. Based on that, you could just as easily build the case for the zEnterprise, starting with the entry z114 and the Unified Resource Manager.

But that’s not really the issue; IT modernization is.  The researchers note that the need to address legacy mainframe applications effectively is a critical success factor. Furthermore Standish observes: these applications are still used in the organization today [which] emphasizes their business importance, and often there is a high level of intellectual capital embedded within these systems.

OK, so the real complaint is around leveraging legacy applications as valuable software assets. Fortunately CIOs can do this without undertaking a rip-and-replace of the mainframe. SOA is one place to start. SOA provides way to extract business logic from mainframe apps and use it as services. The mainframe does SOA very well. Independent Assessment, the publisher of BottomlineIT, has written a number of case studies on mainframe SOA. Check it out here and here.

Standish digs up a few other complaints about the mainframe, such as the shortage of mainframe skills and the high cost of mainframe computing. These are old complaints and much is being done to address them. With the z114 and the System z Solution Edition Programs IBM even is putting a dent in the cost-of-acquisition issue.

Then the paper offers this intriguing complaint: Being forced into a decision to move from unsupported mainframe environments to continue operations and meet new performance levels. Huh? If you are seeking to meet a variety of new operational and performance levels while efficiently managing and supporting it all the hybrid zEnterprise seems made to order with z/OS, z/VM, Linux on z, specialty engines, AIX on Power blades, and soon x86 on a blade. Standish seems oblivious to all the changes the mainframe has undergone since the introduction of the zEnterprise over a year ago.

This, however, is a Micro Focus paper so Standish isn’t interested in looking at how mainframe shops can leverage what IBM has been building into the mainframe and zEnterprise over the last few years. Yet, to position themselves for cloud computing, private clouds, and to meet the CIOs’ reported  three 2014 top objectives—1) increasing enterprise growth, 2) improving operations, and 3) attracting and retaining new customers—the zEnterprise is exactly what they should be looking at. Instead, Standish recommends rehosting and migrating applications, and how best to do that is with, of course, Micro Focus.

Not every organization or workload should have a mainframe. Many don’t. Similarly, there are situations that can be best dealt with by migrating mainframe applications to a different platform, but cloud computing probably is not one of those because the mainframe can play very well in the cloud. It would have been nice if Standish had focused on those workloads and situations that make sense to rehost and migrate while at least acknowledging the new hybrid mainframe world.

Please note: DancingDinosaur will be unavailable next week and not able to moderate comments until 9/17.

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VMworld Triggers a Clash of Titans

If you believe the hype about VMworld 2011, the annual virtualization fest held by VMware, the leading distributed systems hypervisor company, you might think virtualization was poised to take over the world. OK, in some ways it is, at least the IT world anyway. Virtualization is important because it has the potential to save money and change much that is inefficient with conventional IT. It also forms the foundation of cloud computing

But VMworld wasn’t the only mega-event going on at the end of August. Salesforce.com, the 900 lbs. gorilla in the SaaS industry, staged its annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco the same week. Dreamforce expected 45,000 attendees, better than doubling VMworld’s 20,000. Salesforce is using Dreamforce to rebrand itself as the social enterprise company on the basis of its cloud platform and how it leverages social, mobile, and open cloud technologies to change companies’ relationships with their customers. Dreamforce sponsors include the big consulting firms but few of the big IT vendors.

Judging by the projected attendance at this year’s VMworld it clearly was one of the two places to be this final week of summer if you’re in IT.  The list of corporate participants includes all the big names in technology—the ones not at Dreamforce–Cisco, EMC, HP, NetApp, CA, IBM, Intel, Symantec, and more; a veritable clash of titans. Here’s a sampling:

IBM is using VMworld to promote its hybrid and private Smart Cloud initiatives. In this case it announced a hybrid cloud product based on its recent Cast Iron acquisition that promises to reduce the time it takes to connect, manage and secure public and private clouds. An integration and management tool, it aims to help organizations of all sizes gain better visibility and control while effectively easing the ability to integrate and manage all of an organization’s on-and-off premise IT resources. What once took several months to set up, according to IBM, can now be done in a few days.

NetApp, a storage vendor, joined with VMware to announce the VMware cloud infrastructure on NetApp, which will allow companies to migrate to a secure cloud computing model at their own pace while avoiding the need to rip and replace their existing infrastructure. The product combines NetApp’s flexible Unified Storage Architecture and comprehensive set of storage and data management capabilities built on NetApp’s Data ONTAP with VMware’s recently enhanced cloud infrastructure suite.

Cisco announced technology enhancements to its joint VMware virtualization product that help organizations accelerate their transition to the cloud. Sound familiar? The companies unveiled network virtualization that will broaden the mobility range of virtual machines across multiple datacenters and cloud environments.

Symantec Corp. joined VMware to announce an expansion of their joint effort to define and architect Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions with the goal to provide secure, pre-integrated, and well-managed enterprise-quality virtual desktop computing environments for both enterprises and IT service providers. This initiative will leverage VMware’s virtual desktop and cloud infrastructure products with Symantec products to deliver a secure, manageable and cost-effective DaaS solution.

Of course VMware made many announcements starting with VMware View, which enhances the company’s virtual desktop offerings and VMware Horizon, dubbed as a platform for the post PC era. Horizon handles a variety end user tasks for virtualized Windows applications and mobile users. It also used the event to launch vSphere 5, the latest enhancement to its vSphere virtualization platform for building cloud infrastructures. This will surely trigger a clash of titans as every major IT vendor brings out its cloud virtualization platform.

Not to be outdone or ignored, Microsoft, another IT titan, chose the VMworld kickoff to launch its counter initiative  through two executives who announced new reduced pricing. This was a pointed attack on VMware, which recently raised prices through a backdoor change in its pricing model that raised a howl from customers. Said the executives: This is “a great time to showcase the value of Microsoft’s cloud offerings versus those from competitors VMware and Salesforce.com.” They promise Microsoft customers 4-10 times savings over a period of one to three years. Ain’t competition great.

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