How Successfully Is Your Organization Using Social Technologies?

Let's face it, there are plenty of examples emerging of organizations doing great things with social technologies -- but just how many are having a measurable impact on their organization's goals?

If you think your organization is already doing great things with social technology you may be right. If you are seeing measurable results, I encourage you to nominate your organization for a Groundswell award.

What's a Groundswell award? Josh Bernoff, one of the authors of Groundswell, explains the history of the award in his blog here. Each year we review multiple nominations across various categories of social technology use; we identify the examples we believe best demonstrate the criteria for winning each award. We have categories that include internal and external uses of social technologies, and we're especially interested to see examples of strong collaboration between IT and Marketing. This is the fifth year we are running these awards (you can see past winners here and a full list of award categories below).

The 2011 award categories include:
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Measure Software Development By Predictability, Not Just Speed

It feels as though the word "value" has appeared in more discussions about software development and delivery than in the previous two decades. We see this increased demand for immediate, tangible value across the entire range of technology producers and consumers. The dubious value of legacy applications, which have grown like kudzu, is the impetus for many painfully difficult cutting and pruning jobs within IT departments. Faster realization of value is driving more applications and infrastructure into the cloud. Software vendors are realizing that, while revenue is vital, the long-term relationship with the customer depends on the mutual value that both parties think they're getting from the relationship.

If we measure software by value, instead of cost, revenue, completeness, or other possible measures, we have to measure the software development process in a complementary way. What characteristic of software development is most likely to generate a valuable result? If your answer is "speed," think again. Predictability is a much better measure.

At the IBM Innovate conference last month, Walker Royce made a very plausible case for valuing predictability over velocity. Here's his keynote address, which is definitely worth watching.

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Stop Wasting Money On WebLogic, WebSphere, And JBoss Application Servers

Use Apache Tomcat. It is free.

I don’t understand why firms spend millions of dollars on Java application servers like Oracle Weblogic or IBM WebSphere Application Server. I get why firms spend money on Red Hat JBoss -- they want to spend less on application servers. But, why spend anything at all? Apache Tomcat will satisfy the deployment requirements of most Java web applications.

Your Java Web Applications Need A Safe, Fast Place To Run

Most Java applications don’t need a fancy container that has umpteen features. Do you want to pay for a car that has windshield wipers on the headlights? (I wish I could afford it.) Most Java applications do not need these luxuriant features or can be designed not to need them. Many firms do, in fact, deploy enterprise-class Java web applications on Apache Tomcat. It works. It is cheap. It can save tons of dough.

Expensive Java Application Servers Sometimes Add Value

There is a need for luxury. But, you probably don’t need it to provide reliable, performant, and scalable Java web applications. Application server vendors will argue that:

  • You need an application container that supports EJBs. EJB3 fixed the original EJB debacle, but why bother? Use Spring, and you don’t need an EJB-compliant container. Many applications don’t even need Spring. EJBs are not needed to create scalable or reliable applications.
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In Cloud-Friendly Web Services Security, "There Is No Enterprise." Wait. What?

“There is no enterprise — the work we do is a collection of people that dynamically changes through a mix of organization control.” That’s what I heard from one venerable old construction company while working on my new research report, Protecting Enterprise APIs With A Light Touch. I wanted to investigate how enterprises are using and securing lightweight RESTful web services, and in particular to figure out the problems for which OAuth is well suited. (You might recall my request for feedback in a prior post.)

 What I found was that forward-thinking enterprises of many types – not just hip-happenin’ Web 2.0 companies – are pushing service security and access management to the limit in environments that can truly be called “Zero Trust,” to use John Kindervag’s excellent formulation. This particular firm dynamically manipulates authorizations to control access to a variety of innovative lightweight APIs on which the whole company is being run, not actually distinguishing between “internal” and “external” users. They’ve kind of turned themselves inside-out.

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First Sign Of A Cloud Bubble Ready To Pop - An ETF

On July 5th, First Trust launched an exchange traded fund (ETF) designed to help investors capitalize on the growing market for cloud computing. I'd be excited about this sign of maturity for the market if the fund let you invest in the companies that are truly driving cloud computing, but most of them aren't publicly traded. Now don't get me wrong, there are clearly some cloud leaders in the ISE Cloud Index, such as Amazon, saleforce.com and Netflix, but many of the stocks in this fund are traditional infrastructure players who get a fraction (at most) of their revenues from cloud computing, such as Polycom, Teradata and Iron Mountain. The fund is a mix of cloud leaders, arms dealers and companies who are directionally heading toward the cloud - dare I say "cloudwashing" their traditional revenue streams. 

The bigger question, though, is should anyone invest in this fund? Ignore the name and why not. Many of these stocks are market leaders in their respective areas, so if you are looking for a good technology fund, this is probably as good as any. 

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OpenText: On A BPM Tear And Now Rolling Up a Roll-Up

OpenText is at it again — and another independent BPM provider is gone. This time it’s Global 360. But Global 360 was more than BPM; it had done a good — no, great — job revitalizing what was at its core an ECM rollup of midrange and questionable solutions (remember Kodak, Keyfile — I actually met an original Keyfile developer there — and ViewStar?). But it nurtured this account base well and  built a fast-growing BPM and case management business. It’s now been purchased by the ultimate ECM rollup, OpenText. (It would be interesting, although not partcularly productive, to count the number of original products that OpenText now has — perhaps 500?) Global 360 also created a strong case management platform (you may want to consult our Forrester Wave™ on the subject, where Global 360 was a Leader), with an integrated suite to address the mix of complex unstructured and structured processes that organizations face. Global 360 continued to focus on content-centric case management applications — a strong fit with OpenText’s transaction management assets — and provided an innovative process vision based on a “persona” approach that focuses on the needs of case workers and stakeholders and leveraging emergent design principles. In short, this should really help OpenText in the emerging case management market, and OpenText will be able to put more meat behind Global 360’s  focus on the SharePoint ecosystem.

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InfoSec In The Supply Chain

The importance of data security throughout the supply chain is something we have all considered, but Greg Schaffer, acting deputy undersecretary of the Homeland Security Department of the National Protection and Programs directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, recently acknowledged finding instances where vulnerabilities and backdoors have been deliberately placed into hardware and software. This is not a risk that hasn’t been previously pondered as, in 1995, we watched Sandra Bullock star in ‘The Net," and address this very issue. However the startling realism of Mr. Schaffer’s admission means that it can no longer be categorized as a "hollywood hacking" or a future risk.

The potential impact of such backdoors here is terrifying and it is easy to imagine crucial response systems being remotely disabled at critical points in the name of financial or political advantage.

If we are dedicated to the security of our data, we must consider how to transform our due diligence process for any new product or service. How much trust can we put in any technology solution where many of the components originate from lowest cost providers situated in territories recognized to have an interest in overseas corporate secrets? We stand a chance of finding a keylogger when it’s inserted as malware, but if it’s built into the chipset on your laptop, that’s an entirely different challenge… Do we, as a security community, react to this and change our behavior now? Or do we wait until the risk becomes more apparent and widely documented? Even then, how do we counter this threat without blowing our whole annual budget on penetration testing for every tiny component and sub-routine? Where is the pragmatic line here?

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Cisco Tweaks UCS - New Interfaces, Management Software Expand Capabilities

Not to be left out of the announcement fever that has gripped vendors recently, Cisco today announced several updates to their UCS product line aimed at easing potential system bottlenecks by improving the whole I/O chain between the network and the servers, and improving management, including:

  • Improved Fabric Interconnect (FI) – The FI is the top of the UCS hardware hierarchy, a thinly disguised Nexus 5xxx series switch that connects the UCS hierarchy to the enterprise network and runs the UCS Manager (UCSM) software. Previously the highest end FI had 40 ports, each of which had to be specifically configured as Ethernet, FCoE, or FC. The new FI, the model 6248UP has 48 ports, each one of which can be flexibly assigned as up toa 10G port for any of the supported protocols. In addition to modestly raising the bandwidth, the 6248UP brings increased flexibility and a claimed 40% reduction in latency.
  • New Fabric Extender (FEX) – The FEXC connects the individual UCS chassis with the FI. With the new 2208 FEX, Cisco doubles the bandwidth between the chassis and the FI.
  • VIC1280 Virtual Interface Card (VIC) – At the bottom of the management hierarchy the new VIC1280 quadruples the bandwidth to each individual server to a total of 80 GB. The 80 GB can be presented as up to 8 10 GB physical NICs or teamed into a pair fo 40 Gb NICS, with up to 256 virtual devices (vNIC, vHBA, etc presented to the software running on the servers.
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The Cloud Computing Market Grows Up

Mark this date. While it isn't an anniversary of anything significant in the past, it is a day where our beloved cloud computing market showed significant signs of maturing. Major announcements by VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft all signaled significant progress in making cloud platforms (infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS] and platform-as-a-service [PaaS]) more enterprise ready and consumable by I&O professionals.

* VMware updates its cloud stack. The server virtualization leader announced version 5 of its venerable hypervisor and version 1.5 of vCloud Director, its IaaS platform atop vSphere. Key enhancements to vCloud include more hardening of its security and resource allocation policy capabilities that address secure multitenancy concerns and elimination of the "noisy neighbor" problem, respectively. It also doubled the total capacity of VMs service providers can put in a single cloud to 20,000. VMware also resurrected a key feature from its now defunct Lab Manager — linked clones. This key capability for driving operational efficiency lets you deploy new VMs from the image library and the system will maintain the relationship between the golden image and the deployed VM. This does two things; it minimizes the storage footprint of the VM, much as similar technology does in virtual desktops, and second it uses the link to ensure clones maintain the patch level and integrity of the golden master. This alone is reason enough to consider vCloud Director.

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VMware Pushes Hypervisor And Management Features With vSphere 5 Announcement

After considerable speculation and anticipation, VMware has finally announced vSphere 5 as part of a major cloud infrastructure launch, including vCloud Director 1.5, SRM 5 and vShield 5. From our first impressions, it is both well worth the wait and merits immediate serious consideration as an enterprise virtualization platform, particularly for existing VMware customers.

The list of features is voluminous, with at least 100 improvements, large and small, but among the features, several stand out as particularly significant as I&O professionals continue their efforts to virtualize the data center, primarily dealing with and support for both larger VMs and physical host systems, and also with the improved manageability of storage and improvements Site Recovery Manager (SRM), the remote-site HA components:

  • Replication improvements for Site Recovery Manager, allowing replication without SANs
  • Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS) for Storage
  • Support for up to 1 TB of memory per VM
  • Support for 32 vCPUs per VM
  • Support for up to 160 Logical CPUs and 2 TB or RAM
  • New GUI to configure multicore vCPUs
  • Storage driven storage delivery based on the VMware-Aware Storage APIs
  • Improved version of the Cluster File System, VMFS5
  • Storage APIs – Array Integration: Thin Provisioning enabling reclaiming blocks of a thin provisioned LUN on the array when a virtual disk is deleted
  • Swap to SSD
  • 2TB+ LUN support
  • Storage vMotion snapshot support
  • vNetwork Distributed Switch improvements providing improved visibility in VM traffic
  • vCenter Server Appliance
  • vCenter Solutions Manager, providing a consistent interface to configure and monitor vCenter-integrated solutions developed by VMware and third parties
  • Revamped VMware High Availability (HA) with Fault Domain Manager
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