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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Vote For Forrester's 2011 IT Forum Theme

Are you ready for Forrester's IT Forum 2011? Mark your calendars for May 25-27 in Las Vegas and June 8-10 in Barcelona — and help us design an event that is as relevant and productive for you as possible. 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.

IT leaders have long struggled to deliver business and technology alignment.  But alignment implies a waterfall process: decide on a business strategy, and then build your technology on that foundation. Today, our businesses move too fast for the traditional IT model. Instead, Business Technology leaders must join the leaders of their lines of business to create business and technology strategy simultaneously. That means working with new business partners inside and outside your organization, operationalizing innovation through standards, and above all, saying, "yes, and..." instead of "yes, but..." This year, we'll dedicate IT Forum to building bridges to new business partners, scaling innovative solutions, and co-creating business and technology strategy.

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Vote For Forrester's IT Forum 2011 Theme

Are you ready for Forrester's IT Forum 2011? Mark your calendars for May 25-27 in Las Vegas and June 8-10 in Barcelona — and help us design an event that is as relevant and productive for you as possible. 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.

IT leaders have long struggled to deliver business and technology alignment. But alignment implies a waterfall process: decide on a business strategy, and then build your technology on that foundation. Today, our businesses move too fast for the traditional IT model. Instead, Business Technology leaders must join the leaders of their lines of business to create business and technology strategy simultaneously. That means working with new business partners inside and outside your organization, operationalizing innovation through standards, and above all, saying, "yes, and..." instead of "yes, but..." This year, we'll dedicate IT Forum to building bridges to new business partners, scaling innovative solutions, and co-creating business and technology strategy.

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IBM Doubles Down On B2B Integration

IBM recently announced its B2B integration solutions strategy in the wake of the finalization of its recent acquisition of Sterling Commerce. Here are the highlights:

  • Sterling Integrator (SI) was the flagship Sterling Commerce software solution, and it will now become the foundation of IBM’s B2B integration solutions strategy. In the process, Sterling Integrator will be combined with several key IBM integration tools, thereby extending the capability of the total solution even further. Specifically, IBM intends to integrate Sterling Integrator with its ESB solutions (WebSphere Message Broker and WebSphere ESB), WebSphere Transformation Extender (WTX), and WebSphere Service Registry and Repository.
  • The Sterling Collaboration Network (SCN) has also been designated as a strategic B2B integration solution for both IBM and Sterling Commerce customers. IBM is evaluating several possible enhancements including enhancement of existing value-added solutions (e-Invoicing, WebForms and Supply Chain Visibility apps, geographic expansion of the network, and enhanced disaster recovery capability).
  • IBM will also provide a portfolio of Managed File Transfer (MFT) solutions to cover a range of file transfer needs. The three MFT solutions that IBM will provide include the Sterling File Gateway (for trading partner file transfer management, multi-protocol support with a single administration, governance, visibility, and development environment), WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition (native MQ-based file transfers), and SterlingConnect: Direct (for high-volume file transfers in a peer-to-peer environment with assured data delivery).
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Use Advanced Analytics To Spotlight People Who Have The Biggest Impact On Customer Satisfaction

Community is an ideal toward which all social networks should aspire. In a true community, everybody is pulling for everybody else, sharing whatever assistance, expertise, and insight they possess with anybody who might benefit.

We all know that most communities are a bit more one-sided than that. In most communities, most people are essentially there for the ride, contributing little while benefiting from whatever resources the more generous among them have chosen to share. This is not necessarily a criticism of individuals or of society in general, but rather a recognition that as communities scale beyond close personal relationships, the bonds of reciprocity and altruism often grow weak.

This truism applies just as much to customer communities as to any other. Enterprises have avidly adopted social networks as virtual extensions to such customer relationship management (CRM) functions as call centers and user groups. In the new world of social-network customer communities leveraging blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other channels, it is not uncommon that a handful of individuals post most of the useful content and feedback while the majority simply consume without contributing. And that’s fine, as long as you keep encouraging and incentivizing these actively engaged individuals —whom Forrester refers to as CRM highly empowered and resourceful operatives (HEROes) — to keep the useful content coming. In the final analysis, these are the sorts of individuals — expert customer service professionals, longtime customers, or even highly enthusiastic hobbyists — who can spell all the difference between true community and a haphazard scattering of nominally affiliated strangers.

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Where Do *You* Find The Best Software Developers?

Here at Forrester, we’re beginning a new stream of research focused on where firms are finding the best software developers. And by best, I mean a few key attributes, including being innovative, productive, timely, and delivering high-quality results.

Our research methodology will be to survey a broad swath of firms that recruit software developers, to find out where they are finding the best developers. We want to not only identify the best university programs around the world for churning out great developers, but also assess the contribution of other sources, such as hiring experienced developers from other firms, bringing in contractors for staff augmentation, or sourcing developers from systems integrators.

We also plan to assess university programs based on their coursework and other attributes, to see if we can correlate the nature of their programs with the results their graduates achieve.

What do you think? What universities do you suggest we assess? We will certainly look at the usual suspects like MIT, Stanford, WPI, RPI, Rice, and so on. But what about Texas A&M, the University of Mississippi, or the University of Brighton? Back when I was hiring developers they had great programs — do they still have what it takes? You may be partial to your alma mater, but… really, would you recruit there today? There’s been much prognosticator pontification about the sad state of affairs in the US today for education of software engineers and other high-tech resources — what are you seeing?

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Software AG buys Data Foundations: Business Acumen Meets Data Competency

Co-authored with Forrester's Rob Karel.

On September 18, 2010, Software AG (SAG) — best known for its business process management, B2B, and SOA-based integration solutions — announced its acquisition of Data Foundations, a master data management (MDM) vendor based in Hackensack, New Jersey. Data Foundations is smaller and less well known than the more mature and comprehensive MDM solutions from Initiate Systems and Siperian, both of which were acquired earlier this year by IBM and Informatica, respectively. Once Initiate and Siperian were taken off the market, no tier one MDM vendors remained for potential suitors to consider — especially those that could support both analytical and operational use cases. Having missed out on the opportunity to snag one of those leaders, we believe Software AG made the right technology choice in selecting Data Foundations. 

Who is Data Foundations?

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The Vasa Effect

A few days ago, I “rediscovered” a brochure from a museum in Stockholm. It reminded me of an early 17th century warship: The Vasa. She was the most powerful warship of her time — albeit for less than half an hour, as she sank during her maiden voyage. The reasons for this disaster include top management interference, overly sophisticated requirements, weak communication, and overengineering. Why is this relevant today? Because projects have not changed that much: The Vasa story reminds me of a number of interactions I had with Forrester clients about banking platform transformation projects that ran well — or not so well.

A large share of the less-successful projects showed a number of the ingredients of the Vasa story, causing what I like to call the Vasa effect: predictable failure. Examples include:

  • Off-the-shelf projects that had to manage a burden of business requirements that were so sophisticated that no off-the-shelf system could ever hope to cope with all of them in a cost-effective way. In parallel with the Vasa story, in these cases nobody dared discuss whether the last 15% or even 5% of the requirements were really important enough to justify the additional cost — or whether delivering 85% of the requirements would be good enough.
  • So-called off-the-shelf solutions that were more custom-built than a real custom-built solution. They had to align with a bank’s off-the-shelf strategy while living up to concretely defined, highly sophisticated, and very individual business requirements, including solitaire business process definitions.
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Some Specifics On Those Top 15 Tech Trends

I've taken some heat in comments at the ZDNET version of my post about the top 15 tech trends research piece. Apparently, to non-Forrester clients who don't have access to the research on the website (except for a rather steep by-the-drink price), the blog post comes off as a teaser with no payoff. Mea culpa. Here's the deal: My process, like that of many analysts these days, is to do research, publish it on our website, and then yak about it via social media. While I'm very careful in Twitter to point out when links will take you to something that's free versus something that's for Forrester clients, I wrote the blog post that found its way to ZDNET's site mostly with Forrester clients in mind. It mostly says "Hey, check out this research doc. Here's what I was thinking when I set out to publish it."

What happens next is that the various analysts who contributed to the trends doc will post blog entries about their areas of expertise, specifically about the topics we talked about in the trends doc. So, in a few weeks, there will be lots of info for non-Forrester clients to read to dig into what we're talking about in this trends piece.

But for now, the social media campaign is looking too much like we're withholding the bottom line just to squeeze some bucks out of the public. Not so. In the interest of addressing that issue, here is a table of the tech trends in that piece, sorted by highest impact (over the next 3 years).

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IBM Makes A Good Catch With Clarity Systems Acquisition

Today, IBM announced the acquisition of privately-held Clarity Systems for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition bolsters IBM’s solution set for the CFO, and complements its recent acquisition of OpenPages, a governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) vendor. Clarity, based in Toronto, had approximately 390 employees and 600 customers at the time of this deal.

Clarity Systems is a Strong Performer in "The Forrester Wave™: Business Performance Solutions, Q4 2009", offering a very good planning, budgeting, and forecasting solution as part of its flagship product, Clarity 7, along with an improved financial consolidations component. During the past few years, Clarity developed a market-leading regulatory reporting solution, Clarity FSR, which supports the process of creating full SEC filings and also embeds technology for XBRL reporting. IBM Cognos is ranked as a Leader in the same comparative evalution.

The success of FSR alone during the past two years made the large BPS vendors, IBM, SAP, and Oracle, envious of Clarity’s success. Oracle made a competitive response early this year with the release of Oracle Hyperion Disclosure Management. It seemed to this observer that SAP would make the next move by doing a deal to acquire Clarity, but IBM beat them to the punch.

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