In 2014 I wrote about Microsoft and Dell’s joint Cloud Platform System offering, Microsoft’s initial foray into an “Azure-Like” experience in the enterprise data center. While not a complete or totally transparent Azure experience, it was a definite stake in the ground around Microsoft’s intentions to provide enterprise Azure with hybrid on-premise and public cloud (Azure) interoperability.
I got it wrong about other partners – as far as I know, Dell is the only hardware partner to offer Microsoft CPS – but it looks like my idiot-proof guess that CPS was a stepping stone toward a true on premise Azure was correct, with Microsoft today announcing its technology preview of Azure Stack, the first iteration of a true enterprise Azure offering with hybrid on-prem and public cloud interoperability.
Azure Stack is in some ways a parallel offering to the existing Windows Server/Systems Center and Azure Pack offering, and I believe it represents Microsoft’s long-term vision for enterprise IT, although Microsoft will do nothing to compromise the millions of legacy environments who want to incremental enhance their Windows environment. But for those looking to embrace a more complete cloud experience, Azure Stack is just what the doctor ordered – an Azure environment that can run in the enterprise that has seamless access to the immense Azure public cloud environment.
On the partner front, this time Microsoft will be introducing this as a pure software that can run on one or more standard x86 servers, no special integration required, although I’m sure there will be many bundled offerings of Azure Stack and integration services from partners.
Predictive analytics has become the key to helping businesses — especially those in the highly dynamic Chinese market — create differentiated, individualized customer experiences and make better decisions. Enterprise architecture professionals must take a customer-oriented approach to developing their predictive analytics strategy and architecture.
I’ve recently published tworeports focusing on how to architect predictive analytics capability. These reports analyze the trends around predictive analytics adoption in China and discuss four key areas that EA pros must focus on to accelerate digital transformation. They also show EA pros how to unleash the power of digital business by analyzing the predictive analytics practices of visionary Chinese firms. Some of the key takeaways:
Predictive analytics must cover the full customer life cycle and leverage business insights. Organizations require predictable insights into customer behaviors and business operations. Youmust implement predictive analytics solutions and deliver value to customers throughout their life cycle to differentiate your customer experience and sustain business growth.You should also realize the importance of business stakeholders and define effective mechanisms for translating their business knowledge into predictive algorithm inputs to optimize predictive models faster and generate deeper customer insights.
The big public cloud providers, most of which are still from the United States, sometimes have a hard time finding ways to balance their legal obligations at home with the quite different sensitivities they encounter amongst their new international customers. For a long time, the toolkit has been pretty consistent: site data centres as close to the customer as possible, vehemently support political efforts to harmonize laws, and ocassionally be seen to stand up to the worst execesses of Government over-reach.
(Source: Flickr user Luigi Rosa. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License)
Microsoft's announcements in Germany today appear, on the surface, to follow that model pretty closely. But there's a twist that's potentially very important as we move forward.
First, the standard bit. Microsoft, yesterday, announced new data centres will be operational in the UK next year, joining existing European facilities in Dublin and Amsterdam. Big competitor Amazon did much the same last week, announcing that a new UK data centre will be online in the UK by "2016 or 2017." Given the vague timescales, it might be easy to assume that Amazon was trying to steal a little of Microsoft's thunder with a half-baked pre-announcement. And then, today, Microsoft announced two new data centres in Germany. Amazon already has a facility there, of course.
On 6th October, 2015 Microsoft launched a number of new devices into the market, including the Microsoft Surface 4, Surface Book, and a number of new Lumia smartphones. While the hardware is certainly attractive, that is not enough to peak my interest, nor that of my clients. What is interesting, however, is the introduction of the Microsoft Display Dock and Continuum for phones. This new technology allows users to connect their smartphone to a screen, keyboard, and mouse and use the smartphone on a large screen – running universal Windows apps designed for the PC and phone. Suddenly the power of Windows 10 as a universal operating system can be realized.
While not a complete PC experience, it will be enough for a lot of users within your business. Most firms have employees that only require casual PC access (think site staff in construction firms, store management in retail, traveling sales staff, factory floor management teams etc). At present we spend more than we need to in order to serve these employees – often providing a dedicated PC or laptop for them – along with their smartphone. In a world where universal Windows apps are readily available, many or all of these users could be given a smartphone and a Display Dock to use with a screen on-site or at home – helping you save money and direct this spending perhaps to rewriting your internal applications as universal Windows apps. Even a communal screen and dock would be enough in some workplaces.
AR and VR technologies aren't new. Virtual reality first experienced a boom of interest in the early 1990s, spurred by the 1991 book Virtual Reality by Howard Rheingold. In 1995, Angelina Jolie starred in the movie Hackers, which introduced mass audiences to head-mounted VR display technology. But the early promise of the technology fell apart due to underperforming graphics, attention-jarring lag times, outlandish hardware requirements, and the lack of an application ecosystem. No VR market emerged (outside of niche categories like military usage) until Facebook acquired the Kickstarter startup Oculus for $2 billion in March, 2014.
A few months ago, I blogged about testing quality@speed in the same way that F1 racing teams do to win races and fans. Last week, I published my F(TA)1 Forrester Wave! It examines the capabilities of nine vendors to evaluate how they support Agile development and continuous delivery teams when it comes to continuous testing: Borland, CA Technologies, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Parasoft, SmartBear, TestPlant, and Tricentis. However, only Forrester clients can attend “the race” to see the leaders.
The market overview section of our evaluation complements the analysis in the underlying model by looking at other providers that either augment FTA capabilities, play in a different market segment, or did not meet one of the criteria for inclusion in the Forrester Wave. These include: 1) open source tools like Selenium and Sahi, 2) test case design and automation tools like Grid-Tools Agile Designer, and 3) other tools, such as Original Software, which mostly focuses on graphical user interface (GUI) and packaged apps testing, and Qualitia and Applitools, which focus on GUI and visualization testing.
We deliberately weighted the Forrester Wave criteria more heavily towards “beyond GUI” and API testing approaches. Why? Because:
Windows 10 comes with holographic computing built into it. And to prove that it’s serious about holography, the company announced Microsoft HoloLens, a headset that lets people interact with holograms in the real world.
I know what you’re thinking. Microsoft has a credibility problem when it comes to launches of future tech. Remember that this is the company that tried to launch touch-based tablet computing in 2000. Microsoft launched a smartwatch years before anybody else that also came to naught. I’ll spare you a longer list of Microsoft’s mislaunches. It all adds up to a fair bit of earned skepticism. Surely Microsoft can’t be expected to create the computing interface that will do to graphical user interfaces what the mouse did to the text-based user interface.
It’s not often that a new product release has the potential to reshape the way people work and play. The PC, the browser, the smartphone – all of these products fell into that category.
Microsoft’s new HoloLens has the potential to do the same. (Check out some photos from Gizmodo here -- they don't live up to the actual experience even a little bit -- and this video, which doesn't do it justice, either).
Yes, that’s a big claim. But I’m here to challenge your thinking with this assertion: Over the next few years, HoloLens will set the bar for a new type of computing experience that suffuses our jobs, our shopping experiences, our methods for learning, and how we experience media, among other life vectors. And other vendors will have to respond to this innovation in holographic, mixed reality computing.
Microsoft’s event, Windows 10: The Next Chapter, showcased an impressive vision and plan for: 1) transforming Windows, including free upgrades; 2) gaining relevance in mobile; 3) launching a new computing experience with HoloLens; and 4) reinventing group collaboration with Surface Hub.
Based on what we saw today and on background conversations, Forrester believes that Microsoft’s Windows 10 will persuade enterprises and consumers to upgrade from Windows 7 (something Windows 8 didn’t do) and be an easy upgrade from Windows 8. Getting the world’s 1.5 billion Windows PCs on this new software platform will re-establish Microsoft’s dominance in personal computing with a mobile extension.
The technology advances in Windows 10 include a single and integrated experience across PCs and tablets with a single platform and app store; continuous software improvements, and big security improvements, and a new set of enterprise features. (Forrester clients can get our enterprise perspective in our new report, ‘Microsoft Gets Its Flagship OS Back On Track With Windows 10.) Windows 10 even brings together Windows and Xbox -- giving gamers and game developers access to Xbox experiences on the PC.
HoloLens Is A Powerful New Technology To Deliver Mixed Reality Experiences
The cloud market in China is changing fast. The official launch of the commercial operations of Microsoft Azure (Azure) earlier this year started a new chapter (as detailed in my March blog post), while last weekend’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) summit was held in China for the first time and announced the third episode of this war. AWS is speeding up building its ecosystem and starting to challenge both Microsoft’s early-mover advantage and the market share of other global and local players.
To help CIOs and enterprise architects set up their hybrid cloud strategy in the region, we’ve put together a brief comparison of the Azure and AWS offerings and ecosystems in China:
Operations.Microsoft made Azure available for preview in China on June 6, 2013 and announced its commercial launch on March 25, 2014, stating that it would be operated by 21ViaNet and have a service-level agreement (SLA) of 99.95%. It has two dedicated data centers in Beijing and Shanghai. AWS announced the availability of its “Beijing region” in China on December 18, 2013, but it still hasn’t announced its official commercial launch, other than a partnership with Cloud Valley. Currently, AWS has only one data center in Ningxia province.
Offerings.Azure offerings cover services for compute (VM, websites, cloud services, etc.); data (storage, SQL database, HDInsight, backup, etc.); applications (service bus, Active Directory, CDN, media services, notification services, etc.); and networking (virtual network, Traffic Manager, etc.). Azure also provides other solutions, such as infrastructure services, data management, and application development and deployment.