Where Are You In Your Cloud Journey?

It’s no secret enterprises are using both private and public cloud. In fact, if you’re not, it’s hurting your business and IT organization because your competition is. In Forrester’s 2011 ForrSights Hardware Survey, 12% of respondents indicated that they had fully deployed private clouds, and 24% indicated that their business is using public cloud services. The real question today is, how mature are you in your overall cloud computing strategy? And are you holding back your company’s use of public cloud to get them to use your private cloud?

This is a mistake you can’t afford to make because as we detail in our latest report, “Assess Your Cloud Maturity,” your private and public cloud efforts should be separate, parallel paths. The numbers above show that the public cloud adoption path is moving at a rate of speed much faster than most companies' private cloud efforts —so you need to harness this, not try to restrain it. Your business is using public cloud services, regardless of whether your organization approves it or not. At this point, it’s in your best interest to embrace it and empower your business users.

Don’t worry that expanded use of the public cloud will obviate the need for a private cloud. Their values do not overlap. There are strong reasons for large enterprises to pursue both strategies.

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Who Owns Your Data?

We’ve been talking about the alignment between business and IT for some time now. Last week, I asked the question to some colleagues, “Who owns the data in an organization, the business or IT?” Several jumped into the fray and gave justifiable reasons as to why it was one or the other. After giving it much thought over a few days, I couldn’t really say either or. 

Why? Because the reality is that we ALL own the data. I wrote in my previous post about data tying many areas of the business together, and ultimately, IT is a PART OF THE BUSINESS.  It’s time to start realizing that, and stop making it a BUSINESS vs. IT issue, because that’s no longer the case. The common goal of any organization should be to make an enjoyable customer experience. Data=business intelligence=better customer offerings. It’s a simple equation and outcome that doesn’t care whether it belongs to business or IT. If the customer experience isn’t enjoyable, everyone suffers in the end. 

So how do I&O teams integrate more into the overall business? How does the business leverage more of IT?  By understanding what the end goal is and making it happen as a team. There’s a number of ways this can happen, including assembling project teams based on initiatives, bringing together the network, server, storage, apps, marketing, and sales team together. Everyone needs to learn and understand the value of data. This is not an easy feat, but one that must happen if we want to break down the wall that continues to stand as a divide between business and IT.

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Data Is The Key That Ties It All Together

I’ve always looked at technology not just for technology’s sake, but for what it can enable for the business across the board. While speeds and feeds are important to some extent, I need to understand how technology adds to the top line, plain and simple. In today’s enterprises, your technology platform is part of your competitive advantage. It’s been a challenge to link business and IT together, but we’re starting to see it happen. 

There’s no other place I’m starting to see it more and more than in the area of "Big Data." Although already a hyped term, whatever you want to call it, big data, small data, ANY data, the reality is that it’s exploding. Consumers are empowered by social media and sharing honest feedback.  Sales and marketing organizations are hungry to analyze, as close to real time as possible, all this sentiment and feedback, and other external data from blogs, wikis, online surveys, Twitter, Facebook and the tons of other consumer sites. This in turn allows them to re-iterate, revamp, revise and/or further tailor their products and offerings for a more targeted audience. Other areas, such as finance and HR, also want to analyze their own internal data from enterprise applications and internal collaboration tools, in order to better service their employees/customers and maintain employee satisfaction. The reality is that there is data coming from everywhere, in every way shape and form. 

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Virtualization And Storage Must Go Hand In Hand To Achieve Efficiencies

For the past few months, I’ve been heads down talking to our clients about storage refreshes. There have been some technology refreshes, primarily from some product coming up on end of life. However, for the most part, I’ve been consistently hearing the pain that I&O professionals have been suffering, which is from the storage capacity overload of server virtualization. Many today, however, are suffering even more, because not only do they have the server virtualization storage growth problems, but now it’s compounded with VDI, AND the overall private cloud initiatives many organizations have in place. Not only has their storage grown by 50% in the last 12 months, but it’s now projected to grow another 50% in the next 12 months. Before another million dollars plus investment is made, many are asking (as should you) the question: Is throwing more hardware going to really solve the problem? 

These three BIG initiatives have a significant impact on how storage architectures change. But the reality is that storage has been an afterthought for a long time, and today, there is much change that has to happen. Features such as thin provisioning, deduplication (for primary environments), and compression have all been available for some time now and must be a part of common practice and procedures for managing storage that is supporting virtualization environments.  And this is key.  Having tools and solutions in place that understand your virtualization environment are critical to the overall success of your private cloud initiative, because storage is one of the integrated foundational blocks of establishing a private cloud environment in your data center. Today, it’s difficult to manage your storage without understanding what’s happening in the network as well in your server virtualization environment.

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Don’t Think You Need to Know Your Organization’s Biz Requirements? Think Again.

This past month or so, I’ve been working with a number of Forrester clients who are either coming up on end of life storage hardware or are adding more capacity to their existing environment. In either case, the question always starts with “Who should we be using?” This situation comes up frequently, and I felt the need to point out some changes happening in organizations’ IT environments, and why this should be one of the last questions to ask.

  • Virtualization continues to move forward in most organizations. Although most environments are only 30% to 40% virtualized, there is an aggressive initiative to virtualize as much as possible. In Forrester surveys, virtualization was one of the top three initiatives for 2010, and I have no doubt it will be for 2011 as well. This means there is a great deal of responsibility (and budget) on the virtualization administrator to make this happen.
  • Teams are being assembled to think and design for a private cloud. This is no longer an abstract initiative but is actually happening, and rollouts may vary from one organization to another, but the reality is that business growth initiatives are forcing IT to evolve their overall environments to support these initiatives. And if they’re not, there’s a problem.
  • Businesses are moving at lightning speed. Today, the competitive landscape for any industry is aggressive. Organizations are looking to up their game, creating new growth initiatives, and leveraging technology platforms to do this. There are so many resources at their fingertips (public cloud services from AWS, etc.), that they can essentially bypass an IT department, and if savvy enough, use external resources for their needs. The bottom line is, if IT can’t do it fast enough, then IT becomes less relevant to the business. 
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Efficiency Requires A Different Way Of Managing Your Storage Environment

This past week, EMC had a record-breaking event in NYC, where they announced a number of new products and features. The announcements focused mainly around VNX and VNXe, as well as Symmetrix. However, the company also went into detail as to how some of the newer acquisitions would fit into their overall portfolio. The company’s plans for Isilon (acquisition discussed by @reichmanIT here:  http://bit.ly/bNrVKz) was perhaps more interesting. This was one of EMC’s best acquisitions, as it gave it the capabilities needed for scale-out NAS. In conjunction with the rest of its portfolio, EMC is positioned to capture new markets not traditionally recognized in, provided the portfolio is integrated seamlessly. It also points to many changes we see occurring in the data center today.

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Finally Settling Into The World Of Storage

I recently joined the Forrester Infrastructure and Operations team, and I'm excited to be working the team to further explore the changing world of storage.  I know... many said "Storage? How boring." But in fact, there have been some very exciting changes in storage that have emerged as the result of many other transformations happening in the IT environment, that directly or indirectly impact storage. Some of the larger changes include:

Converged infrastructure: Emerging solutions that tie networking, storage and compute together have impacted the way storage further interacts and integrates with the other components of this stack. As Andre Kindness (@andrekindness) addresses in his doc here, the convergence occurring in the network are impacting the way storage considerations must be made and deployed going forward.

Cloud: Although much hyped, cloud computing is real and happening. There's no need to delve deeper for now, my colleague James Staten (@staten7) covers this topic extensively and can find his blog here. Many components of this model have evolved, yet cloud storage in its infancy. Use cases are still limited, as Andrew Reichman (@reichmanIT) points out in his August doc. However, I do see the market evolving quickly, as enterprises begin to get more comfortable and realistic about their expectations. 

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