Did someone forget to tell the mainframe it was irrelevant?
For many years, the much lauded death of the mainframe has been espoused by many pundits. Many believed the end of the mainframe would be further accelerated with the rapid growth of cloud adoption. I am sorry to report to those naysayers, the mainframe didn’t get the message, and lives on, alive and well as the beating heart of many large businesses. For instance, the mainframe is leveraged by 92 of the top 100 banks worldwide, 23 of the top 25 US retailers, all 10 of the world’s 10 largest insurers, and 23 of the world’s 25 largest airlines.[i]
Mainframe is part of the digital business ecosystem
The drive for speed to counter competitors and deliver new and agile solutions has never been more evident. Successful digital businesses have found the secret to unleashing the data and business processes within their mainframe-based applications. Starting with “ad-hoc” integrations between systems of engagement and systems of record, they soon find the ability to define innovative products and services is limited by an inability to evolve and improve their mainframe applications. For instance, a simple mobile insurance application is actually just the gateway to a complex set of applications that must work seamlessly with the mobile application and with each other to provide customers and prospects with great experiences.
Private cloud can provide the speed-to-market and scalability of public cloud, yet with enhanced security. Improved IT infrastructure manageability and flexibility are the key drivers of private cloud adoption. Many regulated industries, such as financial services, will continue to use private cloud due to security and regulatory concerns.
In my stump speeches at partner conferences this year, I identify the No. 1 challenge that faces channel partners (and the tech vendors whose products they represent): partners’ inefficacy in reaching and resonating with line-of-business (LOB) decision-makers. It’s a disconcerting challenge indeed, due to the fact, of course (as Forrester’s Business Technographics® data repeatedly demonstrates), that LOB executives have strong influence over technology solution purchase decisions.
But that tide could be beginning to change. At Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference last week, Salesforce’s COO Keith Block lauded its channel partners, attributing much of Salesforce’s success in the past year to partners’ success in engaging C-level executives. Block specifically called out channel partners for their ability to empathize with CEOs’ goals of growth and shareholder gain. Block also claims that 40% of customers are insisting on channel partners’ strategic involvement in effecting solutions and business outcomes. And Salesforce tends to direct that business to its channel partners with proven business chops/acumen.
While Block’s partner callout may be considered more the exception than the rule today, it is still encouraging. Some channel partners are making the requisite investments and changes to regain relevance in the largely LOB-driven cloud era. And it shows in the data: Customers’ penchant for cloud channel sourcing has more than doubled, from fewer than 25% of cloud service/solution purchases via the channel in 2012 to more than 50% in 2016.
Which companies do you feel are the dominant players in the technology industry? Are they the names that have dominated for years, like Cisco, the newly merged Dell (plus EMC), the recently split HP, Inc. and HPE, IBM, Microsoft, or Oracle? Is it one of the newer cloud titans like AWS, Google, IBM, or Microsoft? Will cloud demolish the tech industry as we know it? Don't get lured into the hyperbole in the market, but do inform yourself about the realities. As with all things in business, follow the money to find the truth. That's what we do every day to seek answers to the big questions in Business Technology.
"Evolve or Crumble" is one of the most important things you will read this year!
The technology vendor landscape is in the midst of great change ... again! The powerhouses of technology are under assault by new and transforming players. My colleagues Sophia Vargas and Richard Fichera recently published a report that should be mandatory reading by everyone in the technology world! You may not agree with their points, but they painstakingly vetted the data and premise with fellow thought leaders within and outside of Forrester. The evidence is compelling. The Evolve Or Crumble: Prepare For The Fate Of The Hardware Incumbents report will make you think and prepare you to make what may be difficult, but necessary decisions about your own future!
Customers’ perception of a company depends on their experiences with the organization at every point of contact. Companies can try to change how customers view a brand in a number of ways, such as a new mobile app or an improved complaint-handling process. However, to really improve customer perception, every interaction at every touchpoint must answer questions, suggest new services, and deepen the relationship. Many firms fail to tap into business opportunities that their front-line employees encounter because their processes and technology are antiquated.
Enterprise architecture (EA) programs can lead the effort to address these limitations and deliver benefits to customers. British Gas, one of the winners of the 2015 Forrester/InfoWorld EA Awards, is a firm that seized its opportunity. My recent report, Enterprise Architects Transform Customer Engagement, analyzes the key practices enterprise architects at British Gas made to serve as brand ambassadors and to improve customer satisfaction levels and highlights key lessons for EA leaders. These practices include:
APIs, cloud, and big data technologies power the new engagement platform. To build an engagement platform that delivers customer insights to front-line engineers, the British Gas EA team developed a platform architecture that uses APIs and cloud and big data technologies to support a new engagement platform and the applications on top of it. The API mechanism simplifies digital connections to business applications; cloud infrastructure provides robustness and agility for business operations; big data technology arms field engineers with customer insights; and policies and multitenancy ensure flexibility and security.
Huawei Technologies started out nearly 30 years ago as a small private company with 14 employees and 140,000 yuan in capital. By 2015, its total revenue exceeded $60 billion. Huawei is already a global company, but its globalization journey has been a difficult one since the very beginning. Despite its continuous business growth in other regions, Huawei has faced critical censorship in the US since Day One — and last week the US government put Huawei under the microscope yet again.
National security is important, but using “national security” as an excuse for allowing unfair competition will only harm customers. It’s time for the governments of both countries to trust each other more. I’ve recently published a report focusing on Huawei’s continuous progress toward becoming a key enabler of digital transformation in the telco and enterprise spaces. Some of the key takeaways:
Huawei has holistic strategies for digital transformation. Huawei’s broad vision of digital strategy — which focuses on cloud enablement and readiness, partner enablement, and open source co-creation — has helped the firm sustain strong business growth in the telco and enterprise markets. For example, its partnerships with T-Systems on the Open Telekom Cloud in Germany and with Telefónica on public cloud in the Americas have helped carriers in local markets give cloud users on-demand, all-online, self-service experiences.
Customers today are hyper-connected and their connectivity is rewriting the rules of business. Access to mobility, social networks, wearable devices, connected cars and hotels managed by robots are rapidly changing the behaviors of how customers engage and purchase. Think how you watch a film, shop or order a taxi.
The disruptive power in the hands of newly tech-savvy customers is forcing every business to evolve into a digital business or perish.
Infrastructure is at the center of the Digital Transformation
The digital transformation requires that organizations evolve their underlying technology infrastructure investments to fuel a business technology (BT) agenda, with technology designed to win, serve, and retain customers. Infrastructure – whether it is managed internally or hidden behind some cloud service – is a big part of the digital in digital business. I&O leaders can no longer simply focus on the same old approach to infrastructure. Internal business operations, or systems of record will remain important, but the emphasis must shift more to systems powering the newer digital customer experience
We are all aware that software is at the center of transitioning every successful business today. This software focus fueled a rapid expansion of cloud services and many argue that there is no longer a necessity to own hardware. This has turned the infrastructure world upside down. Hardware speeds and feeds no longer dominate infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals' criteria. In some use cases, qualities like the fastest packet-processing chip or largest disk capacity are critical, but they matter less to many of the systems of engagement in the BT agenda. As you design your BT services, be aware of which solution is right for optimizing the customer experience.
The Background – Linux as a Fast Follower and the Need for Hot Patching
No doubt about it, Linux has made impressive strides in the last 15 years, gaining many features previously associated with high-end proprietary Unix as it made the transition from small system plaything to core enterprise processing resource and the engine of the extended web as we know it. Along the way it gained reliable and highly scalable schedulers, a multiplicity of efficient and scalable file systems, advanced RAS features, its own embedded virtualization and efficient thread support.
As Linux grew, so did supporting hardware, particularly the capabilities of the ubiquitous x86 CPU upon which the vast majority of Linux runs today. But the debate has always been about how close Linux could get to "the real OS", the core proprietary Unix variants that for two decades defined the limits of non-mainframe scalability and reliability. But "the times they are a changing", and the new narrative may be "when will Unix catch up to Linux on critical RAS features like hot patching".
Hot patching, the ability to apply updates to the OS kernel while it is running, is a long sought-after but elusive feature of a production OS. Long sought after because both developers and operations teams recognize that bringing down an OS instance that is doing critical high-volume work is at best disruptive and worst a logistical nightmare, and elusive because it is incredibly difficult. There have been several failed attempts, and several implementations that "almost worked" but were so fraught with exceptions that they were not really useful in production.[i]
Forrester defines Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) as the technologies that "allow organizations to share and replicate content across multiple devices, distributing files to employees and/or customers or partners outside the enterprise".
Two Forrester Waves on the EFSS market were published recently, segmenting this crowded market into two categories: cloud solutions and hybrid solutions. Forrester clients can access them here:
This year’s Microsoft Analyst Summit took place at the St. Regis hotel in Singapore, a prestigious place that hosted more than 90 analysts from the entire region. The Forrester team was impressed by Microsoft’s strategies in cloud, digital transformation and partnerships, and in particular, the main takeaway for us throughout the 2-day event was Microsoft’s innovation capabilities and ambition, especially in the APAC region.
HoloLens puts the spotlight on Mixed Reality. Unlike Augmented Reality, which is lightweight but has limited views and functionality, or Virtual Reality, which is very powerful but comes with bulkiness and dependence on a PC, Mixed Reality blends holograms with the real world to marry agility and powerfulness. HoloLens brings this concept to life, it is light enough for users to move around safely, and it is very powerful because it is a self-contained computer that doesn’t require tethering to another PC. There is even an emulator that allows developers to develop holographic apps for HoleLens without a device. HoloLens could drastically change the way people work, live or even think, we are all very eager to see if the first wave of HoleLens products will successfully establish an ecosystem that can sustain mass market deployments and future growth.