Walking The Walk – Mobile Devices And The Infrastructure & Operations Group

Recently I’ve been living a double life. By day a mild-mannered functionary for Forrester Research, helping I&O professionals cope with the hurly-burly of our rapid-paced world. By night I have been equipping myself with an iPhone, iPad and trying out any other mobile devices I can get my hands on, including Dell Stream, Android phones, and the incredibly appealing new Apple Macbook Air. While my colleague Ted Schadler has been writing on these devices from a more strategic perspective, I wanted to see what the daily experience felt like and simultaneously get a perspective from our I&O customers about their experiences.

So, the first question, is the mobile phenomenon real? The answer is absolutely yes. While the rise of mobile devices is a staple of every vendor’s strategic pitch, it also seems to be a real trend. In conversations with I&O groups, I have been polling them on mobile devices in their company, and the feedback has been largely the same – employees are buying their own consumer devices and using them for work, forcing I&O, security and email/collaboration application owners, often well outside of plan, to support them. Why can’t IT groups “just say no”? The answer is that IT in rational companies is fundamentally in the fundamental business of enabling business, and the value and productivity unlocked by these devices is too much to pass up.

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Windows Azure Crosses Over To IaaS

At its Professional Developers Conference this week, Microsoft made the long-awaited debut of its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution, under the guise of the “VM-role” putting the service in direct competition with Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and other IaaS competitors. But before you paint its offering as a "me too," (and yes, there is plenty of fast-follower behavior in today’s announcements), this move is a differentiator for Microsoft as much of its platform as a service (PaaS) value carries down to this new role, resulting in more of a blended offering that may be a better fit with many modern applications.

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Why Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) Can Be Misleading

“Are you on the business side or the IT side?” was a question I received maybe a half dozen times last month while I was attending the Disaster Recovery Journal Fall World in San Diego.  This question really got me thinking—everyone at the conference worked in business continuity (BC) and/or disaster recovery (DR), but there was a definite divide between those who reported into IT departments and those who reported into the business. For the most part, these divisions fell along the lines of those who reported into IT had a DR focus and those who reported into the business (or perhaps into security and risk) had a BC focus. Attending the different breakout sessions across both domains I noted the good news: both groups speak the same language: RTO, RPO, availability, downtime, resilience, etc. The bad news is that I’m not sure we’re all using the same dictionary.

Two of the business-focused sessions I attended pointed out a troubling difference in the way IT and the business interpret one of the simplest of BC/DR terms: RTO. What is RTO? Simply put, it is the time to recover a service after an outage. This seems straightforward enough, but let’s breaks out how a business and an IT professional might understand RTO:

  • Business: The maximum amount of time that my service can be unavailable.
  • IT: The amount of time it takes to recover that service.
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Vote For Forrester's IT Forum 2011 Theme

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Update: The polls are officially closed. We're now in the process of tallying the votes, so stay tuned for the winning theme. Thanks to everyone that voted and participated in making sure we put on the best, more relevant forum.

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It's that time of the year again. Time to start planning our spring forums. There are two in particular that are relevant for Infrastructure and Operations professionals: Our I&O Forum and our IT Forum. But it's the IT Forum that I want to talk about today. Why? Because we're asking for you to help craft its theme. In fact, you may have already seen several of my colleagues posting on this. We want to make sure we collect as much input as possible to make this as relevant to you and your challenges.

We've come up with three potential draft themes and need your vote for the best IT Forum 2011 theme:

1. Unleash your empowered enterprise.

As technology becomes more accessible through mediums beyond IT's control, you have but one choice: Get proactive by empowering employees, or swim against the current. Successful BT leaders will react not by blocking access but by lending their expertise to increase the chances of technology success and empowering the users to solve customer and business problems. This year's IT Forum will provide a blueprint for reaping the benefits of your empowered organization — complete with case studies, methodologies, and step-by-step advice tailored to each IT role.

2. Capitalize on the intersection of business and technology.

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Free Isn't The Half Of It. AWS Pushes Cloud Economics Further

This week Amazon Web Services announced a new pricing tier for its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service and in doing so has differentiated its offering even further. At first blush the free tier sounds like a free trial, which isn't anything new in cloud computing. True, the free tier is time-limited, but you get 12 months, and capacity limited, along multiple dimensions. But it's also a new pricing band. And for three of its services, SimpleDB, Simple Queueing Service (SQS), and Simple Notification Service (SNS) the free tier is indefinite. Look for Amazon to lift the 12 month limit on this service next October, because the free tier will drive revenues for AWS long term. Here's why:

A few weeks back I posted a story about how one of our clients has been turning cloud economics to their advantage by flipping the concept of capacity planning on its head. Their strategy was to concentrate not on how much capacity they would need when their application got hot, but on how they could reduce its capacity footprint when it wasn't. As small as they could get it, they couldn't shrink it to the point where they incurred no cost at all; they were left with at least a storage and a caching bill. Now with the free tier, they can achieve a no-cost footprint. 

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IBM Acquires BNT – Nuclear War In The Converged Infrastructure World?

There has been a lot of press about IBM’s acquisition of BNT (Blade Network Technologies) focusing on the economics and market share of BNT as a competitor to Cisco and HP’s ProCurve/3Com franchise. But at its heart the acquisition is more about defending and expanding a position in the emerging converged server, networking, and storage infrastructure segment than it is about raw switch port market share. It is also a powerful vindication of the proposition that infrastructure convergence is driving major realignment in the vendor industry.

Starting with HP’s success with its c-Class blade servers and Virtual Connect technology, and escalating with Cisco’s entrance into the server market, IBM continued its investment in its Virtual Fabric and Open Fabric Manager technology, heavily leveraging BNT’s switch platforms. At some point it became clear that BNT was a critical element of IBM’s convergence strategy, with IBM’s plans now heavily dependent on a vendor with whom they had an excellent, but non-exclusive relationship, and one whose acquisition by another player could severely compromise their product plans. Hence the acquisition. Now that it owns BNT, IBM can capitalize on its excellent edge network technology for further development of its converged infrastructure strategy without hesitation about further leveraging BNT’s technology.

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Oracle Open World -- Fireworks And Focus

It’s been a few weeks since the extravaganza that was Oracle Open World 2010, and I wanted to post a few words about what I came away thinking.  Aside from the genuine America's Cup guarded by large men with earphones and white gloves, BMX stunts on closed San Francisco streets, Oktoberfest and the Black Eyed Peas, Don Henley and The Steve Miller Band, I’d have to call the event, well, slightly understated. Admittedly, I don’t know much about the world of middleware, so the big ticket product launch of Exalogic was largely lost on me, although it may well be a huge deal to those in the know. There was drama with Mark Hurd’s appearance after his recent hiring; Larry’s never been one to avoid stepping on toes so he was willing to antagonize a huge partner that shared the stage on his keynote. This Oracle/HP friction is an unavoidable reality of the era of co-opetition as Oracle transitions from being a software company that partners with hardware companies to becoming a one stop shop and a competitor to those partners. In fact it’s pretty similar to the dissing of NetApp, EMC and HDS that Larry doled out last year when he announced Exadata, but HP looked better in that round as they were the hardware partner before the Sun acquisition. Did you think Larry was going to become a hardware vendor without burning (or at least heating up) some bridges with partners?

Look past the hoopla and what struck me was the laser focus that Oracle is showing as they transform themselves into a true IT mega-vendor with the world’s leading database at its core. Here are some of the most striking elements of this as I see it:

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IBM – Ramping Up x86 Investment

I recently spent a day with IBM’s x86 team, primarily to get back up to speed on their entire x86 product line, and partially to realign my views of them after spending almost five years as a direct competitor. All in all, time well spent, with some key takeaways:

  • IBM has fixed some major structural problems with the entire x86 program and it perception in the company – As recently as two years ago, it appeared to the outside world that IBM was not really serious about x86 servers. Between licensing its low-end server designs to Lenovo (although IBM continued to sell its own versions) and an apparent retreat to the upper-end of the segment, it appeared that IBM was not serious about x86 severs. New management, new alignment with sales, and a higher internal profile for x86 seems to have moved the division back into IBM’s mainstream.
  • Increased investment – It looks like IBM significantly ramped up investments in x86 products about three years ago. The result has been a relatively steady flow of new products into the marketplace, some of which, such as the HS22 blade, significantly reversed deficits versus equivalent HP products. Others followed in high-end servers, virtualization and systems management, and increased velocity of innovation in low-end systems.
  • Established leadership in new niches such as dense modular server deployments – IBM’s iDataplex, while representing a small footprint in terms of their total volume, gave them immediate visibility as an innovator in the rapidly growing niche for hyper scale dense deployments. Along the way, IBM has also apparently become the leader in GPU deployments as well, another low-volume but high-visibility niche.
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Join Forrester’s New Online Community For Infrastructure & Operations Professionals

Being an infrastructure & operations (I&O) professional is tough. How do we know? Because you tell us in the nearly 5,000 inquiries the I&O team does each year. We hear your challenges on server, storage, and network technologies. We field concerns on whether you should buy, build, lease, or forgo a datacenter altogether. We get tough questions on mobile devices and how to empower your users. Not to mention all of the “O” challenges around IT service management, asset management, ITIL adoption. The list literally goes on and on. I&O consumes nearly half of the overall IT operating budget – so it comes with a broad set of responsibilities.

That’s why I’m excited to announce a new way for you to get your tough I&O challenges solved: Your peers. Starting today, Forrester is launching an online community for infrastructure & operations professionals. It’s a premier destination for leaders to exchange ideas, opinions, and real-world solutions to the myriad of I&O responsibilities. Of course, Forrester analysts will be part of the community as well. But our goal is to facilitate the discussion and share our views. This is the place for you to hear from your peers, not just Forrester.

We’re also committed to connecting you with as many I&O pros as possible, so the community is open to all I&O readers — not just clients.

Here’s what you’ll find:

  • A simple platform on which you can pose your questions and get advice from peers who face the same business or technology challenges.
  • Insight from our analysts, who weigh in frequently on the issues and point to relevant research. 
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Join Forrester's New Community For Consumer Product Strategists!

I'd like to invite you to participate in an exciting new forum for discussion: our community for Consumer Product Strategy professionals!

The community is a place for product strategists to exchange ideas, opinions, and real-world solutions with each other. Forrester analysts will also be part of the community, helping facilitate the discussions and sharing their views.

Right now, we already have discussions going on the topics of product co-creation, creating video content for your product or brand, and the effects disruptive technologies like the iPad have on product strategies. These vibrant conversations are just getting started, but they're already pretty exciting discussions.

In general, here's what you’ll find

  • A simple platform on which you can pose your questions and get advice from peers who face the same business challenges.
  • Insight from our analysts, who weigh in frequently on the issues. 
  • Fresh perspective from peers, who share their real-world success stories and best practices.
  • Content on the latest technologies and trends affecting your business — from Forrester and other thought leaders

I encourage you to become part of the community:

  • Ask a question about a complex business problem.
  • Start a discussion on an emerging trend that’s having an impact on your work.
  • Contribute to an existing discussion thread from a community member.
  • Suggest topics for upcoming Forrester research reports.
  • Create a community profile.
  • Share your perspective with others.

The community is open to both Forrester clients AND to non-clients.  Why not visit today? 

http://community.forrester.com/community/cps