I just spent most of this week at the annual itSMF conference called Fusion, held this year at the sprawling Gaylord National Resort below Washington DC. As always, it was a wonderful gathering of some of the finest people I know. When you’ve been involved in the IT service management field as long as I have, you get to know a LOT of these people very well. In fact, when I delivered the closing keynote of Fusion in 2009, I opened by saying, “This feels like a family reunion … except I like you more!” I was only half joking because many of these people ARE like family and I do indeed like them.
As Forrester’s “automation guy” I often make statements about the flaws of the people in IT. I always try to inject some comedy into these statements because we have to be able to laugh at ourselves. There is a serious side to this position, however. There are now just under 7 billion idiots on this planet and none of us is exempt from that characterization. People do dumb things. We all do. Hopefully, we do more start things than dumb things. Since we do dumb things, we need to protect ourselves from ourselves.
ITSM is one of many mechanisms that offers such protection. We need ITSM because IT has rightfully earned an awful reputation for chaotic execution. It seems that IT is one of the most egregious demographic groups exemplifying human error and sloppiness. It is full of smart people doing dumb things. We in IT have a very serious problem.
I recently published an update on power and cooling in the data center (http://www.forrester.com/go?docid=60817), and as I review it online, I am struck by the combination of old and new. The old – the evolution of semiconductor technology, the increasingly elegant attempts to design systems and components that can be incrementally throttled, and the increasingly sophisticated construction of the actual data centers themselves, with increasing modularity and physical efficiency of power and cooling.
The new is the incredible momentum I see behind Data Center Infrastructure Management software. In a few short years, DCIM solutions have gone from simple aggregated viewing dashboards to complex software that understands tens of thousands of components, collects, filters and analyzes data from thousands of sensors in a data center (a single CRAC may have in excess of 20 sensors, a server over a dozen, etc.) and understands the relationships between components well enough to proactively raise alarms, model potential workload placement and make recommendations about prospective changes.
Of all the technologies reviewed in the document, DCIM offers one of the highest potentials for improving overall efficiency without sacrificing reliability or scalability of the enterprise data center. While the various DCIM suppliers are still experimenting with business models, I think that it is almost essential for any data center operations group that expects significant change, be it growth, shrinkage, migration or a major consolidation or cloud project, to invest in DCIM software. DCIM consumers can expect to see major competitive action among the current suppliers, and there is a strong potential for additional consolidation.
Yes, but you must adapt by demonstrating your ability to drive business growth and differentiation, not just cost savings and uptime. Here’s a personal example of a much broader trend as to why this is so important to your business and your role as an I&O professional:
It’s a cool Autumn day, which reminds me I need a new jacket. I walk into Patagonia. I evaluate several models and then buy one – but not from Patagonia. It turns out a competitor located two miles away is offering the jacket at a discount. How did I know this? I scanned the product's bar code using the RedLaser app on my iPhone, which displayed several local retailers with lower prices. If I had been willing to wait three days for shipping, I could have purchased that same jacket while standing in Patagonia from an online retailer with an even better deal. [Truth be told: I actually bought the jacket from Patagonia's store after validating no better deals existed… but The Home Depot wasn’t so lucky this summer when I bought the same, but cheaper air conditioner from Amazon while standing in aisle 4.]
This is a prime example of what Forrester calls the “The Age Of The Customer” where empowered buyers have information at their fingertips to check a price, read a product review, or ask for advice from a friend right from the screen of their smartphone. This type of technology-led disruption is eroding traditional competitive barriers across all industries; manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery can't save you.
Amazon’s product strategists shocked some constituencies with their $199 price point for the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet announced today. But there’s a fundamental product strategy lesson to this pricing, and it’s an old product strategy model: The so-called Razor-Razorblade Pricing model.
We all know this model well, as consumers: your initial purchase of razor is relatively cheap, but the cost of replacement razorblades really adds up over time. If you don’t buy razors, perhaps you’re familiar with this scenario from your inkjet printer. Remember how cheap that scanner/printer was -- but have you ever seen the price of refill inkjet cartridges?
The Razor-Razorblade model works when “dependent goods” – the refills, the stuff you need to keep buying to use the product – are closely related to the anchor product. In the case of the Amazon Fire Tablet, the dependent goods are content and services – MP3s, streaming videos, and of course books, magazines, newspapers, etc. and cloud services that allow you to store and synchronize your content across devices. Amazon’s product strategists can afford to charge a low entry price to raise adoption of the device, and then (they hope) deliver an experience that’s attractive enough for Kindle Fire owners to pay for as a service.
Hence Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ portrayal of the Kindle Fire product strategy: “What we are doing is offering premium products at non- premium prices,” Bezos says. Other tablet contenders “have not been competitive on price” and “have just sold a piece of hardware. We don’t think of the Kindle Fire as a tablet. We think of it as a service.”
Much of the discussion around integrating applications with the Internet has centered on mobile applications connected to web backends that deliver greater customer experiences than mobile apps or web sites could by themselves. But the real power of this concept comes when a full ecosystem can be delivered that leverages the true power and appropriateness of mobile, desktop and cloud-based compute power. And if you want to see this in action, just look to Autodesk. The company, we highlighted in this blog last year for its early experimentation with cloud-based rendering, has moved that work substantially forward and aims to change the way architects, engineers and designers get their jobs done and dramatically improve how they interact with clients.
Last year I wrote about Oracle’s new plans for SPARC, anchored by a new line of SPARC CPUs engineered in conjunction with Fujitsu (Does SPARC have a Future?), and commented that the first deliveries of this new technology would probably be in early 2012, and until we saw this tangible evidence of Oracle’s actual execution of this road map we could not predict with any confidence the future viability of SPARC.
The T4 CPU
Fast forward a year and Oracle has delivered the first of the new CPUs, ahead of schedule and with impressive gains in performance that make it look like SPARC will remain a viable platform for years. Specifically, Oracle has introduced the T4 CPU and systems based on them. The T4, an evolution of Oracle’s highly threaded T-Series architecture, is implemented with an entirely new core that will form the basis, with variations in number of threads versus cores and cache designs, of the future M and T series systems. The M series will have fewer threads and more performance per thread, while the T CPUs will, like their predecessors, emphasize throughput for highly threaded workloads. The new T4 will have 8 cores, and each core will have 8 threads. While the T4 emphasizes highly threaded workload performance, it is important to note that Oracles has radically improved single-thread performance over its predecessors, with Oracle claiming performance per thread improvements of 5X over its predecessors, greatly improving its utility as a CPU to power less thread-intensive workloads as well.
In April and May of this year, Forrester and the IT Service Management Forum’s US chapter (itSMF-USA) conducted a joint study to assess the state of ITSM. We collected data from 491 qualified subjects that are heavily involved in ITSM efforts (69% have two or more years of ITSM experience and 95% hold some level of ITIL certification; 50% at an advanced level). Since it was in conjunction with the US chapter, the responses were heavily US-centric.
The results offer empirical evidence of something ITSM professionals already know: ITSM offers significant benefits to the organization and to the professionals themselves. The full report is now in the final editing stages and will be available soon to all Forrester clients, all itSMF-USA members, and all participants who do not already fall into one of those groups. Forrester clients and itSMF USA members will receive email notifications when it is ready. Others will be contacted directly by itSMF.
This morning (Monday, September 26, 2011), I presented the results at the itSMF-USA’s national conference known as Fusion 11. Here are a few key insights from the study:
51% of ITSM efforts are driven primarily by IT or business executives
ITIL has had an overwhelming positive impact on:
Organizational productivity: 85% positive and 2% negative
Service quality: 83% positive and 1% negative
IT’s reputation with the business: 65% positive and 3% negative
Security & Risk (S&R) chiefs and Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) leaders have a lot in common, and in great companies, we work in concert to run an efficient, reliable technology infrastructure that keeps critical business assets safe. Much has changed in the world of technology since I pulled my first all-nighter in a data center (falling asleep next to the EMC Symmetrix array was not one of my better ideas – those corners were sharp!), but that partnership is still the same – it takes security engineers and network/server engineers working together to solve really thorny problems.
We have our frictions, of course – I&O pros prioritize operational stability and continuity of service, while S&R pros must occasionally interrupt that continuity to contain security breaches. But when a serious incident (whether security breach or system failure) threatens to sideline our business systems, it falls to us to find and fix the problems – together. We may be organizationally separate now, with I&O reporting into the CIO and the CISO reporting into a COO or Head of Operational Risk, but we share a set of fundamental challenges. We must excel in our own domains (not exactly a cakewalk) but also anticipate and deliver on what our businesses need (much harder).
And what our businesses seek today is growth – in Forrester’s most recent survey of business decision-makers, the top two priorities were growing overall company revenue and acquiring and retaining customers. S&R pros have already worked hard to escape their “Department of No” reputations, and I&O pros have labored tirelessly to get out of the data center and into the business.
The Politburo is making a comeback
Winston Churchill described Soviet-era politics as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. It came to mind recently as I was engaged in a conversation with an I&O professional who works for a US-based company, and he needed help. Seems his executives had decided that due to two data breaches over the past year from stolen hard drives, that the new Central Committee policy should be to have everyone use a locked down virtual desktop, no matter their role or workstyle. It was hard for me to conjure up a picture of the profound lack of understanding that led to such a misguided policy, though images of nondescript buildings, row after row of undifferentiated cubicles, and Gulag-style productivity quotas came quickly to mind. Had he not been on the other end of a telephone line, he could've knocked me over with a feather.
Big vendors are using top party relationships to push huge pork-barrel deals under the banner of security and mobility
Within far too many organizations, problem management can be considered somewhat of a “poor-relation” to its “sister” service desk and incident management activities. While the service desk and incident management processes often receive adequate investment in terms of staff, definition, training, and ongoing operation, problem management is often “something to be done later (when we have more time)”.
A common issue is that organizations think that they “do” problem management when in fact all they do is react to major incidents – they don’t do proactive problem management, that is investing in IT operations to prevent future issues, the proverbial “spending a penny to save a pound.” One possible cause of this all-too-common scenario is that problems are often confused with incidents (with the terminology often interchanged), or are seen as an incident state rather than a separate entity requiring a different type of response. However, of the major ITIL processes, truly effective problem management activity can provide some of the highest returns to an organization.
I recently participated in a BrightTalk problem management panel session with Barclay Rae (an independent management consultant with 25 years experience in the ITSM industry), Roger Bennett (MD of NGFF and winner of the itSMF USA Project of the Year award in 2008 while at Thomson Reuters), and Craig McDonogh (Director of Product Marketing for Service Now). Given my opening paragraph, we had a high attendance during what was a day filled with problem management-related webinars on BrightTalk … so maybe things are looking up for problem management. I hope so.