On Monday, February 13, HP announced its next turn of the great wheel for servers with the announcement of its Gen8 family of servers. Interestingly, since the announcement was ahead of Intel’s official announcement of the supporting E5 server CPUs, HP had absolutely nothing to say about the CPUs or performance of these systems. But even if the CPU information had been available, it would have been a sideshow to the main thrust of the Gen8 launch — improving the overall TCO (particularly Opex) of servers by making them more automated, more manageable, and easier to remediate when there is a problem, along with enhancements to storage, data center infrastructure management (DCIM) capabilities, and a fundamental change in the way that services and support are delivered.
With a little more granularity, the major components of the Gen8 server technology announcement included:
Onboard Automation – A suite of capabilities and tools that provide improved agentless local intelligence to allow quicker and lower labor cost provisioning, including faster boot cycles, “one click” firmware updates of single or multiple systems, intelligent and greatly improved boot-time diagnostics, and run-time diagnostics. This is apparently implemented by more powerful onboard management controllers and pre-provisioning a lot of software on built-in flash memory, which is used by the onboard controller. HP claims that the combination of these tools can increase operator productivity by up to 65%. One of the eye-catching features is an iPhone app that will scan a code printed on the server and go back through the Insight Management Environment stack and trigger the appropriate script to provision the server.[i]Possibly a bit of a gimmick, but a cool-looking one.
Cloud is the latest buzz in the IT market, and we at Forrester have covered this quite extensively. As I reflect on 2011, this is a theme that has also played prominently in many collaboration vendor discussions — because it is a fundamentally better business model to deliver collaboration technology to users. Faster version cycle times, simplified management of deployed software, reduced TCO of a shared pool of cloud resources, and serving information workers directly are just some of the varied benefits for users, buyers, and vendors. The direct connection to end users is a key to accelerating adoption in the collaboration and growing social markets.
At their Collaboration Summit, Cisco affirmed their commitment to delivering cloud services. They described Cisco WebEx (web conferencing and meeting) and Cisco CallWay (video conferencing) as part of the Cisco Collaboration Cloud — and having used both of these, I can say with certainty that they are usable, simple, and appealing.
I believe that Cisco’s secret to success will be their robust channels approach. Richard McLeod, senior director handling worldwide channels for collaboration sales, runs programs for traditional channel partners helping to install and run collaboration solutions on premise. Others at Cisco, such as Amanda Jobbins, VP global partner marketing, spend a lot of their time thinking about service providers as channels and how Cisco can help them succeed. These leaders look for products Cisco has designed to deliver collaboration capable clouds — and is working to advance the adoption of them — for example:
Cisco VideoScape — a new video networking solution allowing combinations of video and collaboration content from multiple sources and to be delivered to multiple endpoints.
Based on the very high interest in this blog and its cloud predictions we are planning to host a Forrester Teleconference entiteled "2012 — The Year The Cloud Matures: A Deeper Dive Into 10 Cloud Predictions For The Upcoming Year" on February 28th, 1-2pm EST/6-7pm UK time, where we will highlight and go through the 10 below predictions one by one. For more details and registration please follow the link to the: teleconference web page.
1. Multicloud becomes the norm
As companies quickly adopt a variety of cloud resources, they’ll increasingly have to address working with several different cloud solutions, often from different providers. By the end of 2012, cloud customers will already be using more than 10 different cloud apps on average. Cloud orchestration will become a big topic and an opportunity for service providers.
2. The Wild West of cloud procurement is over
While 2011 still witnessed different stakeholders within a company brokering (sometimes unsanctioned by IT) a lot of cloud deals, most companies will have established their formal cloud strategy by the end 2012, including the business models between IT and lines of business for their own, private cloud resources.
My colleague James Staten recently wrote about AutoDesk Cloud as an exemplar of the move toward App Internet, the concept of implementing applications that are distributed between local and cloud resources in a fashion that is transparent to the user except for the improved experience. His analysis is 100% correct, and AutoDesk Cloud represents a major leap in CAD functionality, intelligently offloading the inherently parallel and intensive rendering tasks and facilitating some aspects of collaboration.
But (and there’s always a “but”), having been involved in graphics technology on and off since the '80s, I would say that “cloud” implementation of rendering and analysis is something that has been incrementally evolving for decades, with hundreds of well-documented distributed environments with desktops fluidly shipping their renderings to local rendering and analysis farms that would today be called private clouds, with the results shipped back to the creating workstations. This work was largely developed and paid for either by universities and by media companies as part of major movie production projects. Some of them were of significant scale, such as “Massive,” the rendering and animation farm for "Lord of the Rings" that had approximately 1,500 compute nodes, and a subsequent installation at Weta that may have up to 7,000 nodes. In my, admittedly arguable, opinion, the move to AutoDesk Cloud, while representing a major jump in capabilities by making the cloud accessible to a huge number of users, does not represent a major architectural innovation, but rather an incremental step.
One of the many interesting topics of discussion we get into in our Social Business Strategy workshops is around the social ecosystem. This is the name I have given the collection of business capabilities potentially enhanced by one or more social technologies.
First let me define social technologies. Note I’m using the word “technology” quite deliberately in place of the more common term “social media” because social media is too often associated with consumer-facing technology as deployed in support of marketing. In defining the entire social ecosystem I prefer the more generic “technology”. I define social technology as “any technology that enables one-to-many communications in a public forum (or semi-public if behind a security firewall)”.
Marketers, how are you getting along with IT these days? It matters more than it used to. The job your company expects you to do is more and more entwined with technology. And so are the people in your target market.
Our research at Forrester shows almost half of US adults say technology is important to them. And the ecosystem of suppliers of marketing-centric technologies and services is ballooning. So whatever your aim as a marketer — whether it’s listening to the market, engaging with potential customers, or measuring the results of those efforts — you can’t do your job without these many technologies of new channels, new services, and new products.
This technology entwinement is especially tight when your company tackles the challenge of mastering the flow of customer data throughout the organization, from inputs across customer touchpoints, to the many ways you subsequently engage those customers. The struggle is not only in how to do this but also in how to do it sustainably: How to remember what data’s been collected, how it’s been used, what the outcomes have been, and on and on.
Where it gets messy is that marketers and IT often sing from different hymnals when it comes to making the most of all the relevant technologies. You’re eager to get to market with exciting new tools for engaging with potential customers, and you’re willing to experiment. But your IT colleagues often seem to be focused above all on cutting costs and avoiding risk — goals that rarely mesh well with what you’re trying to get done as a marketer. Not surprisingly, one marketing exec that Forrester interviewed recently called IT the “Department of No.”
Whereas in the past it may have been possible (even expected!) for marketing and IT to work at arm’s length, it’s not an option anymore.
With the increasing richness and complexity that digital channels and social media bring to the marketing equation, senior marketers increasingly realize that, to be relevant in shaping their brands’ interaction with customers, their teams need to embrace new technologies with the help of the IT group.
In my latest joint research effort with my fellow analyst Nigel Fenwick from Forrester’s CIO role, I explore how marketing and IT can successfully work together in enabling organizations to master the customer data flow.
Our early findings were not very promising . . . What clearly emerged from our interviews with CMOs and CIOs was how deeply ingrained the stereotypes about the two teams are. We heard that:
IT is the department of “no” and does not care about customers or what’s happening in the market.
Marketing is having all of the fun and spending money without rhyme or reason.
I just returned from Las Vegas where my meetings with Cisco executives, including John Chambers, Gary Moore, David Hsieh, Murali Sitaram, Kara Wilson, and OJ Winge, clearly demonstrated that Cisco is still moving forward. John Chambers and his team were in lockstep talking about two things: corporate strategic imperatives and organizational foundations for success
I believe that Cisco is sounding very much like a mature market leader as it balances risks and rewards in the rapidly changing markets for networking and collaboration. Precise financial measures got little talk time, but there were plenty of mentions that forward-looking statements do not supersede financial guidance given at regular updates — the team was focused on Cisco's plans to fuel future innovation, maintain its market position, and continue working on strategic relationship development with its most important customers.
John and the entire Cisco management team are focused on five corporate strategic imperatives:
Core routing/switching innovation and optimization.
Virtualization (including data center and cloud) technologies.
Video as a primary communication medium and IT task.
Architecture — defining and delivering IT architecture for businesses and service providers.
I'm not going to comment on the $8.5B purchase price, though I'm sure Marc Andreesen's investment company is happy with their return. And I'm not going to comment on the impact on Xbox, Hotmail, and Live.com. And I don't think this has anything to do with Windows Mobile.
But I am going to comment on the impact of the deal on the enterprise, and specifically on content and collaboration professionals responsible for workforce productivity and collaboration. When you strip it down to its essence -- Skype operating as a separate business unit reporting to Steve Ballmer -- here's what you need to know about the Skype deal:
First, Microsoft gets an important consumerization brand. Skype is a powerful consumer brand with a reported 600+ million subscribers. But it's also a "consumerization brand," meaning that it's a valuable brand for people who use Skype to get their jobs done. Consumerization of IT is just people using familiar consumer tools to get work done. It's a force of technology-based innovation as we wrote about in our book, Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business. Google and Apple and Skype have dominant consumerization brands. Microsoft does not. Until now. And as a bonus, Google doesn't get to buy Skype. And more importantly, neither does Cisco.
Last night I had the pleasure of attending a customer case study session hosted by Cisco. Representatives from two clients -- SmithAmundsen (a law firm) and Republic Services (a waste management company) -- discussed how they were deploying Cisco unified communication and collaboration technology within their businesses. While the two speakers presented compelling stories about the need for collaboration within business, what caught my attention was where their companies received value. The constant refrain was these technologies saved money on travel, office space and IT expenditures. This isn't a new story: last year at Cisco's Collaboration Summit, Vid Byanna of Accenture mentioned that travel cost reduction was a big driver for his firm adopting desktop video technology for its remote workforce. Nor is this a Cisco-specific story: I recently published a report that shows the majority of content and collaboration professionals say travel reductions is the #1 benefit of collaboration software. But does it teach us the right lesson about the value of collaboration software?
In general, when we think about finding ways to let employees come together in groups to do work, we assume some type of business benefit: faster problem resolution, more innovative ideas and quicker time to market are a few examples. So why, in a business world where 42% of the workforce is mobile, do just 19% and 9% of content and collaboration professionals see improved innovation and faster time to market, respectively, as outcomes of using collaboration software? I have a couple of ideas that I'll be testing in my research going forward. I think this disconnect springs from one of three places: