How Cloud Computing Will Change Application Platforms

Cloud computing will bring demand for elastic application platforms.

Promises that cloud computing can save money and reduce time-to-market by automatically scaling applications (either up or down) oversimplify what it takes to develop application architectures to achieve these benefits of elastic scaling. Few of today's business applications are designed for elastic scaling, and most of those few involve complex coding unfamiliar to most enterprise developers. A new generation of application platforms for elastic applications is arriving to help remove this barrier to realizing cloud's benefits. Elastic application platforms (EAPs) will reduce the art of elastic architectures to the science of a platform. 

EAPs provide tools, frameworks, and services that automate many of the more complex aspects of elasticity. These include all the runtime services needed to manage elastic applications, full instrumentation for monitoring workloads and maintaining agreed-upon service levels, cloud provisioning, and, as appropriate, metering and billing systems. EAPs will make it normal for enterprise developers to deliver elastic applications — something that is decidedly not the norm today.

Forrester defines an elastic application platform as:

An application platform that automates elasticity of application transactions, services, and data, delivering high availability and performance using elastic resources.

We see organizations moving toward EAPs by extending their current web architectures, following one or more of four paths:

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Empowered BT: A Road Map For CIOs

As you may know, I recently was named the Research Director for our CIO team — a team of highly accomplished and experienced analysts at Forrester. One of our first tasks as a team was to define the current changes in the technology and business landscape and develop a cohesive view of what this means for the role of CIO. What will it mean to be a CIO in the “empowered” world? As you can imagine, this led to a healthy debate and many different perspectives on what the future CIO role would look like. Here are some highlights from our discussion so far.

What is changing for the CIO?

  • Technology plays an increasingly critical role in business success. In Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets And Priorities Tracker Survey, Q4 2010, 52% of the business decision-makers strongly agreed with the statement “Technology is fundamental element of our business model.” Many companies are starting to use technology as a business differentiator, and many businesses rely on technology to provide critical information for making strategic business decisions.
  • Empowered technologies make it easy to bypass IT. The empowered technologies — social, mobile, video, and cloud — are rapidly transforming the information landscape. Increasingly, these technologies are easy to acquire and bring into the corporate environment, and many can be sourced and managed outside of IT’s control — making it easy for the business and employees to bypass IT.
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How To Make The CFO A Buyer For Sustainability Solutions

Most of the suppliers of IT-for-sustainability (ITfS) solutions that we work with have one path to finding a buyer in their customer organizations: through the IT organization. Whether giants, such as SAP and HP, or newcomers, such as Hara and ENXSuite, vendors of energy management, carbon reporting and other ITfS products are typically starting their sales motion with customers' traditional buyers of software sytems: IT.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. We have long maintained that IT organizations and the CIOs that lead them will increasingly be the owner and operator of environmental systems of record, just as they are for financial, HR, and customer data systems, among others. But, ITfS suppliers will want to develop multiple pathways into customer organizations. For most, decision-making around sustainability processes and technologies is diffuse, spread across IT, facilities, operations and CSR. Finding the buyer for sustainability is oft-times the proverbial needle in the haystack.

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"Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch"

A couple of weeks ago I saw an amazing presentation by the CIO of Caterpillar, who keynoted at IBM’s Impact event. His presentation was riveting because you could see glimpses into the company’s manufacturing-focused, earth moving/engineering, “git ’er done” culture.

He also talked about business and IT transformation, and the depth of Caterpillar’s partnership with IBM. When he finished, I thought, wow, customers like that are worth their weight in gold.

But the most striking thing I heard is that one Caterpillar exec has a framed copy of this sign in his office: Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch.

Wow! This truism grabbed my attention because Claire Schooley and I have just completed a signature research report on business change management, titled “Effective Business Change Management Requires More Than A Wait-And-See Attitude,” to be published next month. We will also present this topic at Forrester’s IT Forum 2011. The full title of our presentation is “Cut Through The BS To Tackle Change Management For Customer-Centric BPM,” and we are currently planning a business change management keynote panel for Forrester’s Business Process Forum 2011 in Boston on September 22 and 23. I guess this means we are really taking business change management seriously!

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Software Development And The Transparent Company (Part I)

A new business model is emerging, and it depends heavily on software development. Many companies are dropping many of the traditional barriers between product development and customers. Without investing in software development, these efforts, no matter how well-intentioned, will have a better chance of failing than succeeding. 

The simplest term I can concoct for this business model is "the transparent company." There are other defining characteristics of this corporate strategy, such as confidence in the ability to execute, and a very different sort of relationship with customers. However, as companies have been decidedly opaque to their customers, any transparency is a striking detail in itself. Hence the term "transparent company."

Wave Hello To The Engineer Fixing Your Bug 
Here's an example of what I mean. I don't have to be a customer of Atlassian to know what issues Atlassian's engineers will fix in the next release of their wiki product, Confluence. That information is publicly available at this link. Diving into an issue at random — I chose "Database deadlock during initialisation of plugins in sql server" because it sounded fairly dire — I can see which engineer is working on this issue, Don Willis. I can even see the daily activity stream for Don Willis as he works on this issue and other projects.

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Packaged Versus Custom Apps: The Debate Rages On

It wasn’t that long ago that packaged apps ruled the application delivery landscape and custom development was decidedly the second choice. Today, the decision is not so cut and dried, as firms struggle to find the right balance between the quick time-to-market of packages and the competitive distinction custom development can create. In the midst of this shift, a new option — rent (SaaS) — is gaining traction. Most enterprises already support a mix of packaged and custom applications — but with fast adaptation, customer experience, and process integration the top priority for most enterprises, do firms need a different mix of custom, packaged, and SaaS apps to maximize customer value?

Next month at Forrester’s IT Forum in Las Vegas, a panel of experts will debate the pros and cons of custom-developed applications and packaged applications in our Application Development & Delivery track. Attendees will have a chance to vote on the future of applications. But we decided the debate was too juicy to sit on it for another month. So, on April 25, from 2 to 3 p.m. ET, Forrester will host a Tweet Jam — using the hashtag #ITF11 — to answer the question:

“Which is better at delivering customer value: packaged or custom applications? Why?”

We asked our panelists to get the discussion started, and here is what they had to say:

Dr. John Bates, CTO, Progress Software

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Application Performance Trumps User Experience

I am not talking about The Donald here, thankfully. I am talking about how fervently impatient users are when it comes to website and mobile app response time. You can design a brilliant, luxurious, and intuitively interactive user experience, but if it doesn't perform well — as in response time — then the users will hate it. They don't want to wait. Why should they? They will just go somewhere else. Your job is to design and implement user experiences that are lovable and that performance spectacularly. 

Application Performance Management Starts During UX Design

Forrester defines performance as:

The speed with which an application performs a function that meets business requirements and user expectations.

To insure speedy application performance, organizations should start application performance management (APM) during the application design process. Too few user experience (UX) designers understand the performance implications of their designs. But, application architects must also help UX design professionals by finding clever ways to:

  • Boost performance.
  • Mitigate the effects of scale on performance.
  • Insure high availability.
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HP And Oracle Customers React – Not Happy, But Coping

Since Oracle dropped their bombshell on HP and Itanium, I have fielded multiple emails and about a dozen inquiries from HP and Oracle customers wanting to discuss their options and plans. So far, there has been no general sense of panic, and the scenarios seem to be falling into several buckets:

  • The majority of Oracle DB/HP customers are not at the latest revision of Oracle, so they have a window within which to make any decisions, bounded on the high end by the time it will take them to make a required upgrade of their application plus DB stack past the current 11.2 supported Itanium release. For those customers still on Oracle release 9, this can be many years, while for those currently on 11.2, the next upgrade cycle will cause a dislocation. The most common application that has come up in inquiries is SAP, with Oracle’s own apps second.
  • Customers with other Oracle software, such as Hyperion, Peoplesoft, Oracle’s eBusiness Suite, etc., and other ISV software are often facing complicated constraints on their upgrades. In some cases decisions by the ISVs will drive the users toward upgrades they do not want to make. Several clients told me they will defer ISV upgrades to avoid being pushed into an unsupported version of the DB.
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Enterprise Information Security Architecture

I always have been interested in Enterprise Architecture.  Enterprise Architecture is one of those terms that security professionals hear about but do not always know how it can benefit what they do. Recently a client asked Forrester to review their information security enterprise architecture. I was both excited and pleased to do so.  One of my accomplishments is I hold a patent in software engineering for the traceability in software systems, supporting business  and IT alignment. Several colleagues and I developed an approach to use different types of models, both business and technical, to model the enterprise.  The Object Management Group at about the same time championed the notion of "Model Driven Architecture."  The premise of theses ideas is that the enterprise can be modeled and the relationships between business processes and underlying systems identifed.

Information security, focused at people, process and technology can leverage many of the techniques of the enterprise architect to evolve the security posture of the organization from its current state to a more optimized state over time.  This presents interesting opportunities for security professionals to look at their security processes and tools to determine if they are really meeting the needs of their organization.

Add to the discussion. I would like to know your thoughts on this topic.  I will be posting more over the next several weeks.

Join me at: Forrester's IT Forum 2011

Accelerate At The Intersection Of Business And Technology
North America: May 25-27, Las Vegas
EMEA: June 8-10, Barcelona 

I'm back...

I am very excited to be back at Forrester. After 2 years of being immersed in the customer experience, I can’t wait to share new insights and advice with both Sourcing and Vendor Management (SVM) clients and the vendors that service those clients.  Together we can watch as the consulting and outsourcing market faces yet another tipping point driven by:

·         The increasing sophistication of the Sourcing and Vendor Management executive.

·         The expanding “cloud “and the need for service aggregation and integration.

·         The democratization or consumerization of technology (if users can buy an application for 99 cents to optimize their commute to work, why can’t internal IT build an effective claims processing system with a million times that budget?)

·         The increasing importance of contextual knowledge in the building and maintaining of enterprise IT systems.

·         The need to expand the idea of global sourcing beyond India and China in order to efficiently harness the requisite contextual knowledge.

In returning to the analyst role, I plan to devote my energies to exploring this transformation and helping clients to exploit newly emerging global sourcing benefits.

Starting next week, I’ll do a weekly wrap up of the interesting things I learned/saw/analyzed during the previous week. This could include vendor briefings, conversations with clients and industry experts, industry events, earnings announcements and/or consulting assignments. On a more frequent basis, I’ll also try to blog specifically about inquiries that I answered during the day or week.

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