Archive for November, 2012

Speed Time to Big Data with Appliances

Hadoop will be coming to enterprise data centers soon as the big data bandwagon picks up stream. Speed of deployment is crucial. How fast can you deploy Hadoop and deliver business value?

Big data refers to running analytics against large volumes of unstructured data of all sorts to get closer to the customer, combat fraud, mine new opportunities, and more. Published reports have companies spending $4.3 billion on big data technologies by the end of 2012. But big data begets more big data, triggering even more spending, estimated by Gartner to hit $34 billion for 2013 and over a 5-year period to reach as much as $232 billion.

Most enterprises deploy Hadoop on large farms of commodity Intel servers. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Any server capable of running Java and Linux can handle Hadoop. The mainframe, for instance, should make an ideal Hadoop host because of the sheer scalability of the machine. Same with IBM’s Power line or the big servers from Oracle/Sun and HP, including HP’s new top of the line Itanium server.

At its core, Hadoop is a Linux-based Java program and is usually deployed on x86-based systems. The Hadoop community has effectively disguised Hadoop to speed adoption by the mainstream IT community through tools like SQOOP, a tool for importing data from relational databases into Hadoop, and Hive, which enables you to query the data using a SQL-like language called HiveQL. Pig is a high-level platform for creating the MapReduce programs used with Hadoop. So any competent data center IT group could embark on Hadoop big data initiatives.

Big data analytics, however, doesn’t even require Hadoop.  Alternatives like Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP), MapR, IBM GPFS-SNC (Shared Nothing Cluster), Lustre, HPCC Systems, Backtype Storm (acquired by Twitter), and three from Microsoft (Azure Table, Project Daytona, LINQ) all promise big data analytics capabilities.

Appliances are shaping up as an increasingly popular way to get big data deployed fast. Appliances trade flexibility for speed and ease of deployment. By packaging hardware and software pre-configured and integrated they make it ready to run right out of the box. The appliance typically comes with built-in analytics software that effectively masks big data complexity.

For enterprise data centers, the three primary big data appliance players:

  • IBM—PureData, the newest member of its PureSystems family of expert systems. PureData is delivered as an appliance that promises to let organizations quickly analyze petabytes of data and then intelligently apply those insights in addressing business issues across their organization. The machines come as three workload-specific models optimized either for transactional, operational, and big data analytics.
  • Oracle—the Oracle Big Data Appliance is an engineered system optimized for acquiring, organizing, and loading unstructured data into Oracle Database 11g. It combines optimized hardware components with new software to deliver a big data solution. It incorporates Cloudera’s Apache Hadoop with Cloudera Manager. A set of connectors also are available to help with the integration of data.
  • EMC—the Greenplum modular data computing appliance includes Greenplum Database for structured data, Greenplum HD for unstructured data, and DIA Modules for Greenplum partner applications such as business intelligence (BI) and extract, transform, and load (ETL) applications configured into one appliance cluster via a high-speed, high-performance, low-latency interconnect.

 And there are more. HP offers HP AppSystem for Apache Hadoop, an enterprise-ready appliance that simplifies and speeds deployment while optimizing performance and analysis of extreme scale-out Hadoop workloads. NetApp offers an enterprise-class Hadoop appliance that may be the best bargain given NetApp’s inclusive storage pricing approach.

As much as enterprise data centers loathe deploying appliances, if you are under pressure to get on the big data bandwagon fast and start showing business value almost immediately appliances will be your best bet. And there are plenty to choose from.

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5 Things CIOs should be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

CIOs have a number of things from a technology standpoint to be thankful about. You have been reading about these technologies all year here and here.

These help you reduce costs, improve business processes, and boost your efficiency and the efficiency of your organization:

  1. Virtualization—increases the utilization and flexibility of IT resources
  2. Cloud computing—enables you to efficiently consume and deliver business capabilities as services
  3. Mobile devices (smartphones, tablets)—un-tethers you from the constraints of the office, location, and time
  4. Social business—enables new ways to get close to your customers and turn them into evangelists for your business
  5. Moore’s Law—ensures that the cost of IT capabilities continues to steadily drop on a per-unit-of-work basis as it has for decades.

Are all of these unqualified, 100% gains with no downsides? Probably not (with the exception of Moore’s Law), but no organization that has benefited from any of wants to go back.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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5 Ways to Build IT Strategic Business Value

“Today we still find that most IT organizations spend 70% of their time on operational tasks and just 30 of their time on IT innovation,” writes  HP Distinguished Technologist, E.G. Nadhan in an HP newsletter early this year.  As a result C-level managers often dismiss IT as a cost center to be minimized rather than view it as a potentially valuable strategic partner in the business.

Managing partners Gerry Mendelbaum and Mark Neibert at, Camber Advisors, a private equity consulting firm focusing on mid-market, often struggle with this perception as they work with their private equity investor clients when buying and selling business assets.  But don’t blame IT; it might not be its fault.

“It is hard to make a strategic IT contribution if the business itself doesn’t have a strategy,” says Mendelbaum. Or, Neibert continues, “they may have various strategies.” Either way—no business strategy or multiple strategies leaves IT with little to go on if they want to make a dent in the operational-innovation imbalance.

Especially now, with a wave of new technologies—mobile, cloud, social networking, big data analytics—dramatically changing the way companies conduct business IT should a priority item. If nothing else, the Camber partners note, IT often is among the business’ largest capital and operational expenditures, which makes it imperative managers find better ways of deriving value and leverage from the IT assets.

In the past “many business managers considered IT a necessary evil, but that now is changing,” observed Mendelbaum. Of particular interest and value, adds Neibert, “is how software supports business processes.”

The challenge is to elevate IT from a cost center charged only with keeping the systems running to a strategic business partner that helps to contribute to the bottom line. This is not something the business or IT can change overnight but Mendelbaum and Neibert have five suggestions to get a CIO started:

1) Spend money wisely—IT must be guided by a roadmap or a strategy or something that channels its spending into areas important to the business. Tight business-IT alignment is hard to achieve but some measure of coordination would be valuable.

2) Don’t let inertia rule—technology changes rapidly yet many IT groups, especially in small and midsize organizations, are happy to cruise along doing what they have always done. Technology changes and the business changes while inertia just drags you down. Put another way: IT must become proactive in using technology to meet business challenges.

3) Pay attention to IT trends—Mobile, cloud, social networking, big data analytics are just the latest. Some is driven by the consumerization of IT and much by Moore’s Law, in which IT capabilities increasingly cost less than they did before. Other trends, like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), are driving up the potential strategic value of IT by delivering the latest, most advanced software as a shared service.

4) Assess your IT staff—that’s where the biggest chunk of IT spend goes. When was the last time you talked with your IT staff? Are they passionate about IT, about the business, and about opportunities to advance business objectives using technology or are they struggling to simply keep the systems running as is?

5) Are there accepted processes—in large companies IT usually is directly tied to and governed by recognized processes. This is less so the case in smaller and midsize organizations where there may be no formal processes or only ad hoc processes and even these probably are not documented. Processes don’t have to entail much; process can start with nothing more than a list of priorities or a project work schedule.

In the end, if the CIO wants to change IT into a business contributor it must get involved in business process and strategy. Be warned: not every IT team is willing or capable of doing this.

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IBM Brings MEAP to All its Platforms

Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms (MEAP) are increasingly popular. With mobile as a strategic initiative IBM  is making its Mobile Development Lifecycle Solution v4.0 available on each of its platforms, from A (AIX) to Z (z/OS) and everything in-between (mainly Power and System x), including non-IBM platforms like HP, Mac, and Oracle (Sun/Solaris)

And IBM isn’t the only vendor to try to capture the mobile platform wave. The HP Enterprise Mobility Platform is intended to communication service providers. Of course, Oracle is there with its Mobile Rapid Application Development Platform that works on every platform by using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript for a true device agnostic solution. A smaller, lower cost player is Vervivo. An early, open standards-based player is KonyOne.

The IBM Mobile Development Lifecycle product, however, enables collaborative, mobile lifecycle management capabilities integrated with an enterprise-grade, standards-based, mobile application platform that is based on IBM Worklight for effective team development of mobile applications.

As mobile usage continues to grow worldwide—by the end of this year mobile transactions will have increased 50%–developing for mobile usage becomes an increasingly important consideration for organizations. Companies need to move beyond the initial one-off mobile projects that started them down the mobile path. Going forward they require a strategic approach that encompasses more than mobile device application coding and testing, just two aspects of the overall mobile app dev lifecycle.

Now the challenge is to ensure mobile apps are delivered on-time, with high quality, and meet business objectives. For this organizations need an approach that goes beyond the device SDKs. They need a comprehensive, team-based mobile app dev approach that provides not just a runtime infrastructure for deploying and running mobile applications for myriad devices but also an infrastructure to support rapid change, development, and delivery of quickly evolving mobile applications for business-critical data and transactions.

The mainframe, for its massive scalability and extreme high availability, can play a particularly important role in an organization’s mobile initiative, especially as the volume and value of mobile transactions increase. Already the System z mainframe is a leading platform for secure data serving and, according to IBM, the only commercial server to achieve Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 5+ security classification, providing the confidence to run many different applications containing confidential data on the mainframe. And the mainframe is where much of the data users want to access from mobile devices will reside.

In particular, the newest mainframe, the new zEC12 builds on this with innovative security and privacy features to help protect data .Specifically, the zEC12 includes a state-of-the-art, tamper-resistant cryptographic co-processor, the Crypto Express4S, which provides privacy for transactions and sensitive data. It also incorporates transactional memory technology that IBM adapted to better support concurrent operations among a shared set of data, such as financial institutions processing transactions against the same set of accounts.

Making this all the more important is the anticipated growth of mobile transactions. According to Juniper Research, the value of remote transactions conducted via mobile devices is expected to exceed $730 billion annually by 2017. While Juniper sees major brands and retailers driving mobile transaction activity, IBM sees other types of transactions, such as flight check-in, client loyalty programs, employee self-service, the signing of legal documents, and other kinds of transactions that will drive the demand for mobile transaction security. Transactions, mobile and otherwise, are where the z excels.

IBM has pulled together a diverse set of capabilities to support the entire mobile lifecycle. The main pieces include IBM Worklight, IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, and IBM WebSphere Cast Iron (Hypervisor edition). It is supplementing the core with tools like Tealeaf CXMobile, support for mobile app testing, support for mobile agile methodologies, and more.

Worldwide smartphone sales grew by 47% last year to 147 million units during the final quarter of 2011, according to Gartner. IDC estimates global downloads of mobile apps will reach 76.9 billion by 2014. It’s apparent the mobile wave is not diminishing anytime soon.

Enterprise data centers should expect to support an increasing amount of mobile traffic from new and different devices. This will present, at the least, significant new security and capacity challenges.  The z, and especially the zEC12with its recently updated software, previously covered by DancingDinosaur here, and enhancements like the Crypto Express4S, should be able to handle the challenges in stride, maybe with nothing more than some rethinking of MIPS consumption and assist processor usage.

Finally, one favor: Please take a moment to fill out this short survey. It is from Waterstone Management Group, a tech-focused management consulting firm that is attempting to gather a unique set of benchmarks and insights from a broad group of software industry professionals with the goal of sharing the summary with everyone who participates.  The scope of the survey is enterprise-wide but the respondent self-selects the areas they have responsibility for (one or more) and only answers questions specific to their area.  Each section contains 15-16 questions and should take no more than 10 min. Again, please click here for the survey.

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Building Bridges between Users and IT

You’ve probably experienced it many time—the adversarial relationship between IT and the end user community.  Forrester Research reports that just 35% of business decision-makers say IT provides high quality, timely end user support.   That means as much as 65% of employees increasingly are circumventing their IT organizations in search of faster support and problem resolution.

IDC too has looked at the problem, which it calls IT friction. This results from the rising cost in both hard dollars and lost productivity as individuals struggle to use a combination of corporate, third-party and personal IT platforms across offices, homes, planes, trains and hotels.

This is not exactly new but the latest trend, part of the consumerization of IT that this blog covered a little over a year ago, exacerbating the situation. Social business, mobile web, BYOD, the proliferation of app stores, cloud-based anything, and more demand a solution before end users render IT irrelevant.

To that end software provider BMC launched MyIT, enterprise software that empowers employees to take personal control over the delivery of the IT services and information they need. The goal is to let users access and manage their use of IT services anytime, anywhere, and from any device.

A couple of organizations already are adopting MyIT.  PEMEX, a large energy company, will adopt the BMC tool for its more than 75,000 IT users. PEMEX expects that the use of MyIT will reduce the company’s cost of service delivery and enable it to compete more effectively, both for markets and for talent.

That also is the expectation at Carfax, another early adopter.  The problem, as Robert Stinnett, senior analyst at Carfax, sees it is that “IT people and non-IT people sometimes talk two different languages, and it’s hard to cross that barrier. In fact, a lot of times there’s this unfounded fear of IT because the users typically don’t get the information they need, or don’t understand it when it is given to them.” He expects MyIT to resolve what is a universal problem.

How universal?   A recent online search using Radian 6 showed more than 3.8 million posts emanating from individuals seeking help or expressing frustration regarding corporate IT issues they were experiencing — in just one week, BMC reports.

MyIT clearly hits the right end user buttons. IT proactively notifies users of the status of services via any form the user prefers—text message, email, phone. It recognizes the user and even knows where the user is located, incorporating location awareness into its response. For instance, it could direct a user visiting a different facility to a printer, if requested. It also recognizes the user’s role and makes services and data available based on that.

It enables users to request help desk support, make service appointments, and get status updates of service requests. BMC built MyIT on its Remedy product and to work with the company’s mobile device management tools. An open interface, however, enables you to connect it to other systems. It is priced based on the number of users and is available either as on-premise software or through the SaaS model.

The consumerization of IT finally may be ending IT’s unquestioned control of and access to systems and data. According to IDC, “the best consumer IT companies have taught people to expect a lot from their IT experience.  In their lives people experience IT in intensely personal, highly mobile, very productive ways.  But as they cross the bridge from personal IT to enterprise IT, much of that is lost as companies strive to balance access with risk — often without adequate resources.  What employees receive instead is often compromised in comparison to what they have in their personal lives.”

IDC calls this IT friction and calculates it adds as much as 20% to the employee workload – that’s a material fraction of a typical work week lost.

Given the cost of IT friction this is not just an end user relationship management issue but a significant business issue that can impact the bottom line.  Tools like MyIT and competitive tools that likely will follow can help mitigate the problem.

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