Management Software Sleeping Giants Awaken

Many industry watchers, including me and my Forrester Research colleagues, often highlight an elite group of management software megavendors commonly known as the “Big Four” that consists of BMC Software, CA Technologies (as it is now called), HP Software, and IBM Tivoli. These four have dominated the management software business for well over a decade. They are big by just about any measure, each with a broad array of product families and annual revenues exceeding one billion US dollars. Because of their stature, they are generally positioned as anchors in most enterprises' management software portfolios. An anchor vendor becomes a strategic partner to the enterprise and is usually the default first choice for a particular need.

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Why Windows 7 Needs A Hit Tablet

Sarah Rotman Epps and I have just published a new report: “The Windows 7 Tablet Imperative.” Dell gained some publicity this week with its release of the 5-inch, Android-based Dell Streak device – but that device has more in common with mobile Smartphones (or even the iPod Touch) than it does with the iPad.

What we’re watching closely is the next generation of tablet PCs – larger form factor devices that make up a fourth PC form factor. Regardless of OS – the iPad itself runs iPhone OS, but we see it as a PC – these tablets will be used by consumers for media, gaming, light communications, and casual computing in new rooms in the home.   

To compete with the iPad, these devices must embrace Curated Computing as their design approach – tablets that work exactly like laptops don’t make sense.  Without Curated Computing, a tablet would take away features (keyboard, mouse) while not fundamentally tailoring the user experience to the tablet form factor.

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Contact Center Managers Embrace Home Agents As Smart Move

Propelled by the adoption of IP telephony, more contact center managers are getting serious about ramping up their home agent program. Many pilots for home agents are now expanding into larger agent populations and compelling companies to take a closer look at its benefits and risks. Forrester’s 2010 survey of contact center decision makers found that 35% of companies had plans for expanding their home agent program during the next 12 months.

I think to successfully augment contact center operations with home based agents you need to take the proper precautionary steps to ensure a secure environment for both workers’ and customers’ data, have adequate help desk support available during all shifts and establish clear guidelines for managers of remote agents. Forrester clients with home agents report positive benefits, such as improving their recruitment opportunities, attracting higher educated and more experienced workers, and lowering their absenteeism and attrition rates. However, there are also concerns regarding the management of home agents, such as more time troubleshooting for PC problems and less visibility on their after call work activities. I believe these factors can be reduced by appointing a virtual support team to supervise remote agents and providing them with easy access during working hours to subject matter and technical experts who can deliver immediate support for the more complex issues.

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The Evolution Of Green IT: A Forrester Video Series, Part 1

[Scroll down to view Forrester’s “The Evolution Of Green IT” video… don’t worry, it’s only 3:30 minutes.]

At Forrester, we’re always exploring new ways to connect with our clients and fit into their busy schedules. And as an analyst on Forrester’s IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) research team, I’m well aware of how time-pressed our clients can be. The I&O professional is oftentimes characterized as the “fire fighter” of the IT organization, dropping everything at any hour of the day to ensure their business’s critical IT infrastructure – from servers to PCs to mobile devices – is running without a hitch… and on-time and on-budget.

With that said, I’m particularly interested in “testing” out video to supplement my published research and my blogs on the Forrester.com website. To that end, below is part one of a two part video series on “The Evolution Of Green IT” – a topic I am increasingly receiving client inquiries on as organizations try to determine their green IT maturity and future trajectory.

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Could Cloud Computing Get Any More Confusing?

 

As someone who has been covering cloud computing since the dawn of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) I’m constantly in education mode about what is and isn’t cloud computing. To borrow an analogy from my Forrester colleague Ted Schadler’s keynote at last year’s IT Forum, the challenge is a lot like helping blind men discern an elephant through just the parts of the animal they can reach. One feels the trunk and declares it a cylindrical, yet hairy and warm snake. Blind monks discerning an elephant - WikipediaThe other calls it a strong, tough and deeply rooted tree upon feeling its hind leg. Each examiner brings their own experience and context to the challenge as well as their own judgments, then leaps to the conclusion that best fits their desires.

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Cloud Communication Services Stir Buyers' Interest

Although it has taken awhile for this sector of the market to heat up, communications-as-a-service (CaaS) is generating serious attention. Currently, it is a small market, with few vendors offering complete product offerings in the area of unified communications and contact centers but this will most likely change, as Forrester’s recent survey of decision makers in NA and Europe indicate a major interest in buying communications-as-a-service (CaaS) in the future. I believe that current budget restraints, limited IT expertise and unwillingness to undertake large capital expenditures is a driving force for this shift in buying behaviors.

Currently 3% of Network and Telecom decision makers deploy UC as a service. Additionally, for contact centers only 2% use the CaaS model today (with IVR as a major exception). However, 23% of decision makers stated they would consider both UC and contact centers as a cloud based service in the future.  This uptake in interest to use cloud services for communications may be a response to the general market acceptance of cloud services for other cloud services such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a service (IaaS) solutions that help companies better manage their IT expenses.

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How Much Infrastructure Integration Should You Allow?

There’s an old adage that the worst running car in the neighborhood belongs to the auto mechanic. Why? Because they like to tinker with it. We as IT pros love building and tinkering with things, too, and at one point we all built our own PC and it probably ran about as well as the mechanic's car down the street.

While the mechanic’s car never ran that well, it wasn’t a reflection on the quality of his work on your car because he drew the line between what he can tinker with and what can sink him as a professional (well, most of the time). IT pros do the same thing. We try not to tinker with computers that will affect our clients or risk the service level agreement we have with them. Yet there is a tinkerer’s mentality in all of us. This mentality is evidenced in our data centers, where the desire to configure our own infrastructure and build out our own best-of-breed solutions has resulted in an overly complex mish-mash of technologies, products and management tools. There’s lots of history behind this mess and lots of good intentions, but nearly everyone wants a cleaner way forward.

In the vendors’ minds, this way forward is clearly one that has more of their stuff inside and the latest thinking here is the new converged infrastructure solutions they are marketing, such as HP’s BladeSystem Matrix and IBM’s CloudBurst. Each of these products is the vendor’s vision of a cleaner, more integrated and more efficient data center. And there’s a lot of truth to this in what they have engineered. The big question is whether you should buy into this vision.

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As The Economy Recovers, Spend Your Time On “PPT” (And I’m Not Just Talking About Fancy Presentations)

Whether you love it or hate it, Microsoft PowerPoint — aka slides, deck, .ppt or PPT (which I prefer) — is arguably the de facto medium for communicating complex information using charts, graphics and bullet points. And we’ve all been the victims and perpetrators of PPT eye charts and spaghetti diagrams … this of course excludes Forrester analysts (wink).

But this over reliance on PPT is a rising cause for concern — not just from the good people of BOTOX® warning us about the wrinkle damage caused by squinting to read small text — but from our armed forces. In a recent article in The New York Times, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, explained that PPT is “dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control.” He banned the presentations when securing the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, and even likened them to an internal threat. The most infamous of these “spaghetti” diagrams depicts the complexity of American strategy in Afghanistan, which General McChrystal remarked, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”

So what does PPT have to do with making IT infrastructure and operations investments (I&O)? Everything. But in this case, the PPT I’m referring to is People, Process, and Technology – and excess is encouraged.

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Wait! Don't Throw Out Those Sun STK Libraries Yet . . . Oracle Lays Out Their Tape Roadmap

It's been a little over a year now since it was announced that Oracle would buy Sun, and in the intervening time, there has been a great deal of speculation over what would happen to Sun's storage division. I know I've been waiting with bated breath (ok, that might be a BIT strong) to find out what the future of Sun storage would be, and now we have at least a small nugget of information (Oracle has been frustratingly mum on the topic since the acquisition). As you might have guessed, there is good news and there is bad news for Sun storage customers:

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CMS Pockets Of The Truth Or CMDB Unified Ambiguity?

I've had many discussions with clients and others about CMDB (configuration management database), not surprising as I am coauthor of a book called The CMDB Imperative. These discussions almost always come back to questions about how this thing called a CMDB looks. How is it built? What tool(s) do I use? Which "database" is best? There are many more.

My first response is usually, "I hate the term CMDB, so let's try to kill it off in favor of the ITIL v3 notion of a CMS." If you pursue a CMS (configuration management system) as opposed to a CMDB, a few things become evident:

  • The CMS implies a distributed (federated) model consisting of many management data repositories (MDRs). Each of these MDRs hold data relevant to the scope of coverage for the tool that encompasses that MDR (e.g., a network discovery tool is a network domain MDR and an application dependency mapping tool is the key MDR for the application domain).
  • While a CMDB can certainly be formed in a similar federated fashion, the term "CMDB" has become tainted by the implication that it is a database. The natural assumption here is that this database is one big monolith that holds every detail being tracked. This is unwieldy at best and almost always destructive.
  • The CMS has a more complex structure, but because it enables a divide-and-conquer approach to the overall system, it is a more pragmatic approach. You can bite off each piece and gradually build out your CMS. A "big bang" is not needed and certainly not recommended.
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