Amazon’s Cloud Drive Is The First Step To Being A Personal Cloud Ecosystem Player

Today, Amazon announced the Amazon Cloud Drive. I think it is the first salvo in a series of steps that will lead Amazon to compete directly for the primary computing platform for individuals, as an online platform, as a device operating system, and as a maker of branded tablets.

Amazon Cloud Drive logo, with puffy arc behind the words

Much of the attention is going to the Amazon Cloud Player, announced at the same time, which enables customers to stream music stored in Cloud Drive – Forrester’s Mark Mulligan blogged about that for Consumer Product Strategists (Amazon Beats Apple and Google to the Locker Room). But the general purpose design of Cloud Drive, combined with the long-term opportunities for personal cloud services, lead to a really interesting set of possibilities and insights into Amazon’s long-term strategy for Vendor Strategists trying to sort out the technologies and players of next-generation personal computing platforms.

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Q1 2011 Results For Accenture And Oracle Point To Strong 2011 For IT Services And Software

On March 24, 2011, both Accenture and Oracle released better-than-expected financial results for their fiscal quarters ending in February 2011.  In both cases, revenue growth was stronger than expected, with Accenture's revenues up 17% and Oracle's reported revenues up 37%.  Note, though, that Oracle's reported revenues were measured against a period in which it recorded only one month's of Sun Microsystems' revenues following the completion of that acquisition; adjusting the base period to show a more complete picture of the Sun revenues (which we estimate at about $1.8 billion in the three months ending in February 2010, compared with the reported $458 million), Oracle's revenues were 13% higher.  Still, its software and services revenues were up a strong 19%.

Because their fiscal quarters end one month earlier than most other vendors, Accenture and Oracle serve as early indicators of how the IT services and software segments of the tech market do each quarter.  The 27% increase in license revenues for Oracle's database and middleware products and the even stronger 34% growth in its application license revenues are signs of growing demand for software products -- not just SaaS products, but also classic licensed software products.  Purchases of those products typically lead to purchases of systems integration consulting services from IT services vendors like Accenture.  And indeed Accenture reported 20% growth in revenues from consulting services, compared with more modest (but still good) 13% growth in its outsourcing businesses.  So, my expectations that software and IT services will be the leading tech market growth categories in 2011 are supported by these results.    

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Informal Buyers Of IaaS Cloud Computing Are Driving The Market, Not Formal IT Buyers – Vendor Strategists Need Two Strategies

Cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is a hot market. Amazon Web Services, now five years old, drives a lot of attention and customer volume, but the vendor strategists at enterprise-facing providers such as IBM, HP, AT&T and Verizon have been building and delivering IaaS offerings. As I’ve studied the market, I’ve heard wildly different types of requirements from buyers and quite a range of offerings from service providers. Yet much of the industry dialogue is about one central idea of what IaaS is – think that’s wrong headed. I found that there were really two buyer types: 1) informal buyers outside of the IT operations/data center manager organizations, such as engineers, scientists, marketing executives, and developers, and 2) formal buyers, the IT operations and data center managers responsible for operating applications and maintaining infrastructure.

With this idea in mind, I set out to test the views of IT infrastructure buyers in the Forrsights Hardware Survey, Q3 2010 and learned that:

  • After 2+ years of cloud hype, only 6% of enterprises IT infrastructure respondents report using IaaS, with another 7% planning to implement by Q3, 2012. After flat adoption from 2008 to 2009, this represents an approximate doubling from 2009, off a very small base.
  • Almost two thirds of IT infrastructure buyers themselves don’t believe they are the primary buyer of cloud IaaS! We asked them which groups in their company are using or most interested in cloud IaaS. Only 36% of IT infrastructure buyers listed themselves, while 7% didn’t know. The rest, 58% said that IT developers, Web site owners, business unit owners of batch compute intensive apps, and other business unit developers were more interested in using IaaS than themselves.
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The Consumerization Of IT Proceeds Unevenly, From Growth In Tablets To Anemic BYOPC Adoption

Tablets are a red hot topic since the launch of Apple’s iPad more than a year ago. Tablets are the most visible aspect of a broader topic on the minds of vendor strategists – the consumerization of IT. Consumerization is defined variously as using personal devices for work, pay-per-use payment models, spending personal money for work-related cloud services, and employee self-provisioning of IT capacity outside the oversight of IT. In our annual Forrsights Hardware Survey, Q3 2010, we asked IT infrastructure buyers responsible for supporting end user computing about a variety of topics related to consumerization of IT and learned that:

  • The IT organizations in 26% of enterprises (firms with 1000 employees or more) were planning to implement or had implemented general purpose touchscreen tablets such as the Apple iPad. Of that total, 4% reported they’d already implemented, and 17% were already piloting by Q3, 2010, approximately 6 months after the launch of this brand new category. SMBs, firms with 999 employees or less, were lower at 18% planning or implemented.
  • Only 2% of firms, large and small, reported implementing or piloting bring-your-own-PC models, despite several years of hype among the desktop virtualization software vendors about this model. We expect this PC deployment model to grow, but it’s not a broad trend yet.
  • Firms are using more consumer-style Web applications on PCs, with 84% firms increasing their use of Web applications. But they’re not abandoning locally installed applications. 55% of firms are increasing or staying the same on their use of installed applications, while only 4% are seriously reducing use.
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Are Businesses Missing The Benefits Of Collaboration Technology?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a customer case study session hosted by Cisco. Representatives from two clients -- SmithAmundsen (a law firm) and Republic Services (a waste management company) -- discussed how they were deploying Cisco unified communication and collaboration technology within their businesses. While the two speakers presented compelling stories about the need for collaboration within business, what caught my attention was where their companies received value. The constant refrain was these technologies saved money on travel, office space and IT expenditures. This isn't a new story: last year at Cisco's Collaboration Summit, Vid Byanna of Accenture mentioned that travel cost reduction was a big driver for his firm adopting desktop video technology for its remote workforce. Nor is this a Cisco-specific story: I recently published a report that shows the majority of content and collaboration professionals say travel reductions is the #1 benefit of collaboration software. But does it teach us the right lesson about the value of collaboration software?

In general, when we think about finding ways to let employees come together in groups to do work, we assume some type of business benefit: faster problem resolution, more innovative ideas and quicker time to market are a few examples. So why, in a business world where 42% of the workforce is mobile, do just 19% and 9% of content and collaboration professionals see improved innovation and faster time to market, respectively, as outcomes of using collaboration software? I have a couple of ideas that I'll be testing in my research going forward. I think this disconnect springs from one of three places:

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Japan's Troubles Raise A Red Flag But Don't (Yet) Alter Our Global Tech Market Outlook

With Japan's triple hit of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant dominating newspaper headlines and TV news, I have gotten some questions from clients about the impact of the disaster on the overall tech market.  In general, I think the effects of these disasters on the total 2011 outlook will be small -- at worst, they will hurt tech market growth in Q2 2011 while strengthening growth in Q3 and Q4.  However, that outlook assumes that the problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex improve or don't worsen.  If that situation turns into a Chernobyl-type disaster that causes permanent evacuations from a multi-mile radius around the plant and possible shutdowns of other nuclear power plants, the impacts on the Japanese economy and on the Japanese tech industry -- not to mention for the people of Japan -- would be very negative, and cause a downward adjustment in our tech market forecast.

The potential impacts of the Japanese disasters show up on both the tech supply side and on the tech demand side, so let's look at both angles. 

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AT&T Aims To Once Again Leapfrog Verizon And Reclaim The #1 US Wireless Position

On Sunday AT&T announced its intent to spend $39 billion in cash and stock to purchase T-Mobile USA, the #4 wireless operator in the US. The move, much like Cingular’s 2004 acquisition of AT&T Wireless, would vault the #2 provider over Verizon Wireless into a dominant leadership position. Our clients can read Forrester’s take from a product strategy perspective shortly; here’s a summary:

  • For AT&T, this is all about scale. The acquisition, were it to pass regulatory muster (no slam dunk that), addresses a number of scale challenges for AT&T. Most importantly, it delivers the precious spectrum assets needed to deploy a robust, nationwide LTE network; AT&T says that network will, as a result, ultimately be available to 95% of Americans, 46.5 million more than currently planned. It also delivers a boatload of extant base stations, many fed by Ethernet or fiber backhaul, which will help AT&T bolster its service quality (iPhone owners please don’t hold your breath). And it delivers a skilled radio frequency team that will help the company plan and deploy its next-generation network.
  • Those supplying products need also scale. This new customer base of nearly 130 million subscriptions (again, assuming regulatory approval and the unlikely case of no divestitures) represents a huge opportunity for product strategists at device makers, platform owners, and application providers. But meeting that opportunity will, for device makers, mean taking a haircut on margins in light of AT&T’s purchasing power. We think platform providers like Microsoft ought to consider the upside of an exclusive to tap into AT&T’s rich marketing budget — provided they can get a partner to bring a decent tablet to the market at the same time.
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Forrester's IT Forum 2011 Puts You In The Driver Seat

IT leaders are at a crossroads. To thrive in today's -- and tomorrow's -- rapidly changing digital world, they must move beyond the elusive idea of business and IT alignment, where business leaders are in the driver seat and IT leaders play a supporting and lagging role. Rather than plodding along in alignment, it's time to jump in the copilot seat. It's time to lock arms with their business peers to better serve customers, bring new products to market, and ultimately grow the top line. Our charter for Forrester’s IT Forum 2011 is to help you do just that -- build bridges to new business partners, scale innovative solutions, co-create business and technology strategy, and ultimately help your organization accelerate at the intersection of business and technology.

Forrester's IT Forum 2011But let's be honest. All this talk of linking arms and co-creation may sound good and may be the ticket to your organization's success. But it's hard. Who's to say it will work? And by the way, what's in it for you? That's why Marc Cecere will dedicate IT Forum's opening keynote to exploring future models for IT that will fundamentally change current roles in IT. These models will support greater end user involvement, a larger variety of external suppliers, and the need to break down internal organizational and system silos. He'll also relate that back to what we've learned over the years about why certain IT roles -- like architecture, planning, vendor management, PMO, and security -- often fail (or at least struggle mightily) to arm you with clear steps that will help accelerate your personal career over the next decade.

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How Can I Generate More Business Value From IT?

One of our clients recently asked us: “If I pay €100 million for IT, how can I generate more value?”

I am going to answer this question in detail during the upcoming Forrester Teleconference “Managing Portfolios Of Business-Process-Oriented IT Services”, on March 23, at 11 am ET. This blog post is an invitation for you to register. Here are the key takeaways and a few supporting arguments:

  1. Many IT organizations are not well-positioned to generate more business value. Forrester survey data suggest that IT organizations have not managed to improve their levels of business/IT alignment during the past three years. A majority of IT executives view the deployment of business-process-oriented models as the future of IT. But unfortunately, there are only few organizations that have implemented business-process-oriented models in IT. Most concerning: Many of the existing business process management (BPM) initiatives run outside IT. And, ironically, they look just like IT because they focus on deploying BPM tools such as application suites rather than optimizing business processes.  
     
  2. IT and BPM need a common demand framework to get business technology’s (BT’s) complexity under control and generate more business value. Many IT organizations have implemented business/enterprise architecture (EA) programs to get BT’s complexity under control and generate more value from IT and BPM investments. We assert, however, that these EA programs are necessary but not sufficient. BPM and IT need a common framework, which Forrester calls demand management (DM), that takes care of five additional processes: governance, investment, performance, and risk and portfolio management.
     
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Solving The Duplicate Address Book Problem Is One Of The Drivers For Development Of Personal Cloud

At yesterday’s HP Summit 2011, CEO Leo Apotheker made a public case for personal cloud — online services that work together to orchestrate and deliver work and personal information across personal digital devices (such as PCs, smartphones, and tablets). For people planning strategy at vendors, what are the implications of personal cloud? End users will need help getting access to their information across their devices seamlessly.

One type of information ripe for help from personal cloud services is contacts or address books. Every person using a mobile phone (251 million in the US, most of which can do email) confronts the issue of how to get all their work and personal contacts into a new mobile phone. Can they simply sync with an existing source? Do they have to export? Or <shudder> re-key them?

We’ve been researching how many people are actually using a sync service or would be interested in using one. The market for contact or calendar sync is vastly underserved today: Only 4% of North American and European information worker respondents (those using a computer 1 hour or more per day) report that they used a website or Internet service that required a login for contact and calendar synchronization, integration, or enhancement for work (Source: Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q3 2010).

Yet, when Forrester asked US consumers whether they identified with the statement, “I have several electronic address books and can't always find the contact I want when I want it,” only 4% chose that as a frustration or concern that they experience with the information they’ve stored in their PCs, devices, online services, or mobile phones (Source: North American Technographics® Omnibus Online Survey, Q4 2010 [US]).

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