On Tuesday, September 4, Microsoft made the official announcement of Windows Server 2012, ending what has seemed like an interminable sequence of rumors, Beta releases, and endless speculation about this successor to Windows Server 2008.
So, is it worth the wait and does it live up to its hype? All omens point to a resounding “YES.”
Make no mistake, this is a really major restructuring of the OS, and a major step-function in capabilities aligned with several major strategic trends for both Microsoft and the rest of the industry. While Microsoft’s high level message is centered on the cloud, and on the Windows Server 2012 features that make it a productive platform upon which both enterprises and service providers can build a cost-effective cloud, its features will be immensely valuable to a wide range of businesses.
What It Does
The reviewers guide for Windows Server 2012 is over 220 pages long, and the OS has at least 100 features that are worth noting, so a real exploration of the features of this OS is way beyond what I can do here. Nonetheless, we can look at several buckets of technology to get an understanding of the general capabilities. Also important to note is that while Microsoft has positioned this as a very cloud-friendly OS, almost all of these cloud-related features are also very useful to an enterprise IT environment.
New file system — Included in WS2012 is ReFS, a new file system designed to survive failures that would bring down or corrupt the previous NTFS file system (which is still available). Combined with improvements in cluster management and failover, this is a capability that will play across the entire user spectrum.
The most notable news to come out of the VMworld conference last week was the coronation of Pat Gelsinger as the new CEO of VMware. His tenure officially started over the weekend, on September 1, to be exact.
For those who don’t know Pat’s career, he gained fame at Intel as the personification of the x86 processor family. It’s unfair to pick a single person as the father of the modern x86 architecture, but if you had to pick just one person, it’s probably Pat. He then grew to become CTO, and eventually ran the Digital Enterprise Group. This group accounted for 55% of Intel’s US$37.586B in revenue according to its 2008 annual report, the last full year of Pat’s tenure. EMC poached him from Intel in 2009, naming him president of the Information Infrastructure Products group. EMC’s performance since then has been very strong, with a 17.5% YoY revenue increase in its latest annual report. Pat’s group contributed 53.7% of that revenue. While he’s a geek at heart (his early work), he proved without a doubt that he also has the business execution chops (his later work). Both will serve him well at VMware, especially the latter.
In mid-July, my colleagues and I attended Orange’s annual analyst event in Paris. There were no major announcements, but we made several observations:
ORANGE is one of the few carriers with true delivery capabilities. Its global footprint is a real advantage vis-a-vis carrier competitors, in particular in Africa and Asia. At the recent event, Vale, the Brazilian metals and mining corporation, presented a customer case study in which Vale emphasized the importance of ORANGE’s global network infrastructure for its decision to go with ORANGE as UCC and network provider. ORANGE’s global reach positions it well to address the opportunity in emerging markets, both for Western MNCs going into these markets and also to address intra-regional business in Africa and Asia. Another customer case study with the Chinese online retailer 360buy, focusing on a contact center solution, demonstrated ORANGE’s ability to win against local competitors in Asia.
Cloud Services Offer New Opportunities For Big Data Solutions
What’s better than writing about one hot topic? Well, writing about two hot topics in one blog post — and here you go:
The State Of BI In The Cloud
Over the past few years, BI business intelligence (BI) was the overlooked stepchild of cloud solutions and market adoption. Sure, some BI software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors have been pretty successful in this space, but it was success in a niche compared with the four main SaaS applications: customer relationship management (CRM), collaboration, human capital management (HCM), and eProcurement. While those four applications each reached cloud adoption of 25% and more in North America and Western Europe, BI was leading the field of second-tier SaaS solutions used by 17% of all companies in our Forrester Software Survey, Q4 2011. Considering that the main challenges of cloud computing are data security and integration efforts (yes, the story of simply swiping your credit card to get a full operational cloud solution in place is a fairy tale), 17% cloud adoption is actually not bad at all; BI is all about data integration, data analysis, and security. With BI there is of course the flexibility to choose which data a company considers to run in a cloud deployment and what data sources to integrate — a choice that is very limited when implementing, e.g., a CRM or eProcurement cloud solution.
“38% of all companies are planning a BI SaaS project before the end of 2013.”
At a CIO roundtable that Forrester held recently in Sydney, I presented one of my favourite slides (originally seen in a deck from my colleague Ted Schadler) about what has happened r.e. technology since January 2007 (a little over five years ago). The slide goes like this:
Source: Forrester Research, 2012
This makes me wonder: what the next five years will hold for us? Forecasts tend to be made assuming most things remain the same – and I bet in 2007 few people saw all of these changes coming… What unforeseen changes might we see?
Will the whole concept of the enterprise disappear as barriers to entry disappear across many market segments?
Will the next generation reject the “public persona” that is typical in the Facebook generation and perhaps return to “traditional values”?
How will markets respond to the aging consumer in nearly every economy?
How will environmental concerns play out in consumer and business technology purchases and deployments?
How will the changing face of cities change consumer behaviors and demands?
Will artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and capabilities completely redefine business?
Last year, my colleague, James Staten, and I published evaluations of the (internal) private cloud and public cloud markets — this year we’re going to fill in the remaining gap in the IaaS space, by publishing a Forrester Wave evaluation on Hosted Private Cloud Solutions. Vendors participating in this report will be evaluated on key criteria, a demo following a mandatory script, and customer references for validation of the solution. Throughout the research process I’ll be providing some updates and interesting findings before it goes live in early Q4 2012.
So, what is hosted private cloud? Like almost every product in the cloud space, there’s a lot of ambiguity about what you’ll be getting if you sign on to use a hosted private cloud solution. Today, NIST defines private cloud as:
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
Hosted private cloud refers to a variation of this where the solution lives off-premises in a hosted environment while still incorporating NIST's IaaS service definition, particularly where “[t]he consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications.” But there’s a great deal of variation in today’s hosted private cloud arena. Usually solutions differ in the following ways:
B2B communication, with its original form of EDI messages, is the oldest and unfortunately the least flexible form of integration between systems and different enterprises. Many enterprises run B2B gateways on-premises or have managed service contracts for “their instance of their B2B Hub.”
I’ve received over the past months an increasing number of inquiries from Forrester clients asking for the future of this approach and the market trend. This is what I usually explain:
Your future cloud/legacy integration should cover your business partner and your SaaS applications. Cloud computing is disrupting the integration space! Why? Traditionally, you had two very distinguished integration scenarios. Either, it was about the integration between multiple systems within your enterprise — middleware software, with product categories like EAI, ESB, CIS, and BPM, was the matching solution, as all systems have been on premises in the past. Or, it was about the integration with your business partners — the well-established B2B/EDI gateways and managed services were the matching solution over the Internet (or VANs). However, cloud computing disrupted the space already: Suddenly parts of your business unit’s applications are in the cloud on packaged SaaS applications, and they needed to be integrated with your on-premises legacy. Or, you and your business partners even use the same SaaS applications, and B2B traffic is as simple as moving data from one tenant to the other tenant on the same cloud platform. To face this trend of an increasing variety of integration, a good cloud integration strategy should look at synergies between the cloud/legacy integration scenarios with your business partners and the SaaS tenants of your own enterprise holistically!
While working on my recently published report, The Cloud-Driven Evolution Of Asian Tech Distributors, the tech vendors and distributors I interviewed drew parallels between telcos and tech distributors, both of which sell cloud-based solutions. However, during further discussion, the friction and competitiveness between the two quickly became apparent. So why should they compete when they can exploit each other’s resources and pursue joint go-to-market initiatives? By partnering, each can focus on doing what it does best to meet customer needs.
Telcos’ reach, ready infrastructure and existing customer bases provide a solid cloud foundation:
Back-end infrastructure. Telcos’ robust network and data center infrastructure is critical to setting up and delivering cloud-based services swiftly and without massive additional investment. Moreover, their businesses are well-suited to annuity models.
An existing base of enterprise customers. Although telcos aren’t considered a strategic enterprise provider in most instances, their access to a large base of qualified enterprise accounts and existing relationships potentially provides a very good foundation for cloud solution sales.
Bridgekeeper: "What ... is your name?"
Traveler: "John Swainson of Dell."
Bridgekeeper: "What ... is your quest?"
Traveler: "Hey! That's not a bad idea!"
We suspect Dell's process was more methodical than that!
This acquisition was not a surprise, of course. All along, it has been obvious that Dell needed stronger assets in software as it continues on its quest to avoid the Gorge of Eternal Peril that is spanned by the Bridge of Death. When the company announced that John Swainson was joining to lead the newly formed software group, astute industry watchers knew the next steps would include an ambitious acquisition. We predicted such an acquisition would be one of Swainson's first moves, and after only four months on the job, indeed it was.
In the Business Apps Casino, change is afoot. For a long time, one table – software-as-a-service ERP – attracted a limited number of players and fans. However, over the past 12 months, an increasing number of ERP vendors have lined up to place sizeable SaaS bets, while more potential customers are paying close attention to the gambles those vendors are making.
In Forrester ERP inquiries, it’s now the norm for clients to ask us about SaaS ERP. In fact, it’s unusual to field a call where SaaS isn’t mentioned. Firms may be actively considering a future change in deployment model or simply wanting to kick the tires on SaaS ERP adoption, pros and cons, and comparisons with on-premises ERP. They also seek more information about SaaS ERP market players and likely future entrants. In general, what’s changed since a year ago is that companies want to include SaaS ERP options in their assessments.
Each ERP vendor’s SaaS bet differs somewhat from those of its peers, determined both by the type of customers it’s aiming at and architectural concerns. However, there are some shared themes:
Repurposing existing apps. Some ERP vendors began their SaaS endeavors with apps targeted at small and midsize businesses. They’re now working to deepen the functionality of those apps to appeal to a broader, more enterprise audience. There are two key approaches: 1) expand the scope of an existing SMB product and aim it up market; or 2) carve off functionality from a SaaS midmarket apps suite (while retaining that suite) and create a new enterprise app.