Predictions for 2014: Computing Technologies In The Age Of The Customer

I've published a report for Forrester clients, "Predictions 2014: Mobility and Computing Technologies in the Age of the Customer." This blog post offers a sneak peak into the content.

With 2013 coming to an end, it’s time to bring out the crystal ball and make some predictions about 2014. Those who follow Forrester’s research will know that we’re living in the age of the customer, a period in which customer obsession will be the key to winning in all markets. Computing is a critical technology element in the age of the customer: The use of tablets by sales professionals creates richer experiences for prospects and customers, even as the use of wearable technologies by health professionals helps phlebotomists find the vein in a patient’s arm more quickly. Computing is a front-line, customer facing experience that helps companies win and serve customers more effectively.

With that context in mind, I present six meta-trends that will be critical for computing in 2014:

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Case Study: News UK Transformed Its Data Center To Become More Agile

Data center procurement approaches have significantly changed in the past five years. While many CIOs are following a cloud-first approach to commissioning new services, most enterprises struggle to move the majority of their infrastructure to public clouds due to application interdependencies and legacy infrastructure silos.

As profiled in my recently published case study, in 2008 News UK was one of a few news media companies embarking on infrastructure transformation. The firm’s data center transformation delivered a modern, agile, lean, and resilient infrastructure in a colocated data center with automated disaster recovery and business continuity. The case study highlights the significance of migration and consolidation as a step towards collocating your data center or migrating services to the cloud. Below are some highlights from the report:

  • Transformation areas: virtualization, compute, storage, and network. News UK had an aggressive timetable to review public cloud offerings and make strategic investments to help it smoothly transition to delivering IT infrastructure via the public cloud. The firm considered all aspects of IT infrastructure delivery and implemented the latest technologies to achieve its transformation goals. Key areas of focus included virtualization, compute and operating systems, and storage and networking.
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Overview of Healthcare.gov's Tech Challenges

Before jumping into the Healthcare.gov case study, I wanted to highlight an announcement that was overshadowed by the press surrounding the Healthcare.gov story: Verizon Compute Cloud & Verizon Storage Cloud. Verizon made a signifcant announcement regarding its new public cloud solution that veered away from its original "enterprise cloud" messaging and towards a commodity based approach. With this approach Verizon looks to compete more directly with the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) by providing the same low cost for baseline products but with higher levels of performance. Rackspace recently announced its Rackspace Cloud Servers product with this same goal, although this was likely motivated by CloudSpectator's report published earlier in 2013. Rackspace used this opportunity to step up to the plate. Performance is a rising complex issue that makes "Let's just move it to the cloud" beyond an overly simplified statement. With that said, here's the overview from what I've seen this far: 

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Cisco Is Bullish On The Midmarket For Growth In India

In the first week of December, Cisco India held its analyst summit to share its 2014 strategy. Given low market morale following the sharp decline in Cisco India’s Q1, FY 2014 revenues, the event was timed well to reinforce Cisco’s ongoing commitment to the Indian market. Amongst many forward-looking statements made at the event, one message stood out – target the rising midmarket (which Cisco defines as companies with 100-1000 employees) to drive growth in India. Following are the key initiatives that the company outlined to grow its mid-market business:

-          Expanding channel network in tier 2 and 3 cities. Cisco is focusing on expanding its channel ecosystem in two ways – working with independent software vendors (ISV) to jointly develop vertical-specific solutions aligned to midmarket needs; and promote Cisco’s cloud-based offerings through hosted collaboration services (HCS) partners. This is a solid strategy given the physical proximity and influence that these local partners have on firms in smaller cities.

-          Incentivizing partners and equipping them with tools to boost sales. Cisco is offering handsome incentives to its channel partners focused on midmarket. Cisco is also offering a mobile customer dashboard application to partners that provides key details regarding the account, such as organizational information, past purchase history, preferences, etc. to help ensure an effective sales engagement.

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Death To CMDB! Long Live The Dream!

I’m sitting on my sofa at home (Yes! Home!) on Sunday morning just before Christmas. I’m “shut down” for the holidays now, but of course, I’m watching Twitter and now listening to my brilliant friends Chris Dancy and Troy DuMoulin discussing CMDB (configuration management database) on the Practitioner Radio podcast. It’s a marvelous episode, covering the topic of CMDB in with impressive clarity! I highly recommend you listen to their conversation. It’s full of beautiful gems of wisdom from two people who have a lot of experience here – and it's pretty entertaining too!

I agree with everything these guys discussed. In particular, I love the part where they cover systems thinking and context as the key to linking everything conceptually. I only have one nit about this podcast, and the greater community discussion about CMDB, though. Let’s stop calling this “thing” a CMDB!

I coauthored a book with the great Carlos Casanova (his real name!) called The CMDB Imperative, but we both hate this CMDB term. This isn’t hypocritical. In fact, we make this point clear in the book. Like the vendors, we used CMDB to hit a nerve. We actually struggled with this decision, but we realized we needed to hit those exposed nerves if we were going to sell any books. Our goal is not to fund a new Aston Martin with book proceeds. If so, we failed miserably! We just wanted to get the word out to as many as possible. I hope we've been able to make even a small difference!

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A New Twist To Glenn’s Annual Analyst Relations Award

Late December is always a good time to reflect on the year gone by and think about the people that made the year special. Among the people who are special to analysts are the many people we work with in the vendor community. The key contacts we have with the vendors are in the field of Analyst Relations. It must be a tough job, since they probably find themselves in a constant game of tug-and-war between the analysts and their employers – they being the rope that’s getting pulled, of course. It is often a thankless job, so I want to say, “Thank you!” to them all!

For the past few years, I thought it would be a nice gesture to award a semi-formal recognition to the Analyst Relations professional of the past year. There is no trophy, plaque, or certificate, just my personal gesture of appreciation.

For the subset of AR pros I encounter, one name has appeared repeatedly on the winner’s list – Liz Kingof CA. In fact, she has won 3 of the four awards so far. Liz is amazing! She embodies all the qualities of greatness in this field! Another stellar professional won it in 2011, Linda Sanders of HP. This year, we have another name making this venerable list, but I have to also give special kudos to Liz, who was once again incredible in 2013.

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2014 Server and Data Center Predictions

As the new year looms, thoughts turn once again to our annual reading of the tea leaves, in this case focused on what I see coming in server land. We’ve just published the full report, Predictions for 2014: Servers & Data Centers, but as teaser, here are a few of the major highlights from the report:

1.      Increasing choices in form factor and packaging – I&O pros will have to cope with a proliferation of new form factors, some optimized for dense low-power cloud workloads, some for general purpose legacy IT, and some for horizontal VM clusters (or internal cloud if you prefer). These will continue to appear in an increasing number of variants.

2.      ARM – Make or break time is coming, depending on the success of coming 64-bit ARM CPU/SOC designs with full server feature sets including VM support.

3.      The beat goes on – Major turn of the great wheel coming for server CPUs in early 2014.

4.      Huge potential disruption in flash architecture – Introduction of flash in main memory DIMM slots has the potential to completely disrupt how flash is used in storage tiers, and potentially can break the current storage tiering model, initially physically with the potential to ripple through memory architectures.

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Networking Is A Hot Mess

A few weeks ago, Cisco announced plans for its “spin-in” investment, Insieme Networks: The newest next-generation data center network called, Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).This new offering includes hardware (the Cisco Nexus 9000 series), new firmware (enhanced version of NX-OS), and a new controller (Application Policing Infrastructure Controller).

Even though Cisco’s ACI launch indicates the magnitude of disruption software-defined networking (SDN) is causing in the industry, and Forrester has provided our quick take on this announcement, I think we have a much bigger story at play here. We are only at the beginning – not middle or end – of sorting out the hot mess that networking is in. And for good reason. The network is the only technology in the business that touches every person, device, and aspect of the business. With that said, networking professionals are trying to support the data center team’s request for a private cloud, employees bringing their own devices and applications to work, and the business circumventing infrastructure and operations for backup-as-a-service or software-as-a-service. Don’t even get me started about the Internet of Things shifting the ownership of the network to non-information technology (IT) personnel or the business opportunity it could bring.

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Forrester's Summit For Marketing & Strategy Professionals APAC 2014: Drive Digital Customer Experiences In A Slowing Economy

As the second largest economy in the world, China is moving toward digital faster than anyone can imagine. The number of online buyers in China alone will reach 356 million in 2014 — surpassing the total US population. In addition, the value of China’s online retail market reached $294 billion in 2013, the first time it’s ever taken over the US market, which is estimated at $262 billion. However, the experience that Chinese consumers are receiving in digital media, either on PC or mobile, is still far behind many mature markets.

At the same time, the Chinese economy is slowing down; annual GDP growth will slow from 10% in 2010 to a probable 7% in 2014. The slower economic growth is a challenge for multinational companies and local enterprises to win customers, be it in tier one or tier six cities. Under such circumstances, we believe that China has entered the “age of the customer,” which Forrester defines as “a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.”

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Google Apps For Business May Be Doomed In Mainland China

On December 10, Google announced that it is scrapping plans to build a data center in Hong Kong. Instead, it will double its planned investment in its Taiwan data center to $600 million. This undoubtedly worsens the already grave situation for about 32,000 Google Apps users in mainland China, as Google never officially launched Google Enterprise solutions for customers there.

Google Apps for Business users in mainland China have long faced challenges connecting to Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Sites. Previously, I predicted that Google would improve its relationship with the Chinese government and offer Google Enterprise (including Google Apps) from its new Hong Kong data center in 2014, improving customers’ access to the service. However, this week’s news has killed any hope of that happening.

This has a few implications for customers in mainland China and Hong Kong:

  • Uncertainty around Google’s Enterprise Business and Google Apps strategy will kill new business.When you don’t understand a vendor’s local sales and support strategy, you’re not likely to include it on your shortlist. Google faces losing new business from companies based in mainland China and Hong Kong companies with a mainland presence.
  • Enterprises planning to adopt cloud-based email and collaboration suites will look elsewhere.Google Apps isn’t the only suite option. Microsoft now offers Office 365 services in mainland China via a local data center in Shanghai. And local Chinese vendors like Tencent, Sina, and 163 provide more competitively priced hosted services.
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