What do autumn’s cool breeze and changing leaves signal for market researchers (especially those who live up north)? The beginning of the fall market research conference season. This is where we move past our virtual conversations via blogs and Twitter and meet face to face to talk about what really matters to us. For me, it is all about the benefits of emerging and innovative methodologies and what place they will have in our immediate future. Looking over my conference schedule, my conference season “theme” has primarily shaped up to be all about mobile, which doesn’t surprise me. As I wrote back in July, we need to wake up and start thinking about mobile. Mobile offers us the unique opportunity to close the distance between the consumer’s experience and our assessment of that experience. As such, I firmly believe that mobile research will be one of the most critical methods we have at our disposal to help us understand the empowered consumer in this new Age of the Customer.
Where will my “mobile-themed” road show take me this conference season? Here is where I will be in the next month or two.
First, I will be speaking at CASRO’s Annual Conference in Palm Beach, October 19-21. Here, I’ll be joined by some great colleagues on a panel discussing how firms can identify which emerging methodologies to invest in and what the process entails. Mobile will definitely be highlighted here as an example of a methodology that delivers a significant ROI.
With today’s announcement of the PlayBook tablet PC, BlackBerry is launching a huge bid to try to retain any customers who have not yet fled to the iPhone and iPad.
Due to be released in early 2011, there is a lot for CIOs to like about the new PlayBook. BlackBerry is hoping that by making the PlayBook easy to integrate into the enterprise, and leveraging its much touted encryption security so much in the news lately, CIOs will back the PlayBook over the iPad.
The PlayBook will be compatible with BlackBerry Enterprise Server and, when paired through Bluetooth to an existing BlackBerry Smartphone, will use the phone as a data transport, only temporarily caching content on the PlayBook.
Some features of the new PlayBook make it very desirable when compared to today’s iPad, such as support for Adobe Flash, Mobile AIR and HTML5; symmetric multiprocessing; built-in HD cameras front and back (think HD video-conferencing); microUSB connection and HDMI output. To control all of this the PlayBook will use a new operating system based on the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture. What we don’t know: how long the battery will last (a big selling feature for iPads is its long battery life); and what price the PlayBook will sell for. Without seeing a PlayBook up close, it’s hard to say how these features compare to an iPad. After all, one of the most elegant things about an iPad is how it feels - you feel an almost instant connection to the device.
As you probably know by now, I really enjoy engaging with all of you through social media like this blog or via Twitter. Of course, I like doing research and writing reports, but that's very much an academic exercise. The blog and Twitter are about direct communication and instant feedback (and, in a way, instant gratification). However, these are still all virtual contacts. So, I thought I would share with you where you can find me, and my team, in the next couple of months so that you can meet us in person.
I will be speaking at Forrester’s upcoming Consumer Forum in Chicago, October 28-29, and our Marketing & Strategy Forum EMEA in London, November 18-19. The theme of Forrester’s Consumer Forum 2010 is “Unleash Your Organization To Serve Empowered Customers.” Lots of the content will be related to the new book Empowered, by Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler.
The market research track will show why the ability to understand customers’ needs and wants from several data sources is the key to supporting the organization with actionable insights. It will include the following presentations:
“If The Company Only Knew What The Company Knows: How The Introduction Of A Knowledge Center Can Empower Market Research Professionals,” Reineke Reitsma.
“Trends And Best Practices In Social Market Research,” Tamara Barber.
“Understand Influential Young Online Consumers: A Global Perspective,” Jacqueline Anderson.
I was traveling for the past couple weeks in the United Kingdom to meet with clients. Following a set of very successful meetings I ran into a bit of trouble. Just as I was planning to return home a volcano in Iceland erupted and brought air travel in Europe to a standing halt. I had to spend an additional 6 days in London. I never thought I would utter that combination of words, it just goes to show that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
(picture credited to AP Photo/Icelandic Coast Guard)
All things considered I can't complain too much. Obviously it is never fun to have travel plans disrupted or to be away from family longer than anticipated. But there are far worse places to be stranded than London! It's a wonderful city. And I have many clients, colleagues and friends there, so I kept quite busy, and was able to work from Forrester's London office while awaiting the green light to come home. About a dozen Forrester employees were in a similar situation, and the company did a great job of making sure we were ok and provided much needed support; I'm sure many travelers were not so fortunate.
It is interesting how the web became my constant companion as I made my best efforts to stay productive during the crisis and find my way home. I frequented the travel websites (American Airlines, Marriott), the UK and EU air transport authorities (NATS), news sites (BBC and Sky), and most of all Twitter (#ashtag) to stay up to date on the volcano news and ensure that I had a place to sleep every night, and a seat reserved on the earliest flight home. Turning to Twitter for real-time, crowdsourced news was a real revelation: they often scooped the big news websites; and it provided a sense of community, a lot of us were stuck in this mess together!
The IT management software and operations communities have been buzzing this week about reports that Microsoft acquired IT process automation vendor Opalis Software. We have unequivocally confirmed that this rumor is incorrect. Opalis has NOT been acquired by Microsoft. It remains an independent entity, at least for now.
Opalis, based outside of Toronto, has repeatedly reported impressive revenue growth over its short history. For the past few years, it has been a desirable morsel for larger vendors seeking to add strong process automation to their portfolios. Many have expressed interest, but its success allows Opalis to command a high premium that no suitor has yet been willing to pay.
Bottom line for IT Infrastructure and Operations professionals? Your next purchase of a backup-to-disk appliance or backup software will have integrated deduplication functionality, given the slew of announcements from all the major storage players. It’s no longer just pioneering vendors Data Domain and Diligent beating the deduplication drum — it’s all the major storage vendors.
In addition, based on the direction of NetApp, you need to start thinking about how the rest of your storage environment would benefit from integrated deduplication functionality like your VMware environment (server and desktop) or end-user home directories.
NetApp plans to introduce integrated deduplication technology in its NearStore VTL some time this year. In the meantime, the company is promoting the availability of deduplication on its production FAS storage systems and touting the huge benefits of deduplication in VMware environments.
On May 12th, 2008 VMware announced that nine storage replication vendors have tested and certified their technology with VMware’s long awaited Site Recovery Manager (SRM) offering. SRM is an important step forward in DR (DR) preparedness because it automates the process of restarting virtual machines (VM) at an alternate data center. Of course, your data and your VM configuration files must be present at the alternate site, hence the necessary integration with replication vendors. SRM not only automates the restart of VMs at an alternate data center, it can automate other aspects of DR. For example, it can shutdown other VMs before it recovers others. You can also integrate scripts for other tasks and insert checkpoints where a manual procedure is required. This is useful if you are using the redundant infrastructure at the alternate data center for other workloads such as application development and testing (a very common scenario). When you recover an application to an alternate site, especially if your redundant infrastructure supports other workloads, you have to think about how you will repurpose between secondary and production workloads. You also have to think about the entire ecosystem, such as network and storage settings, not just simply recovering a VM.
Essentially, VMware wants you to replace manual DR runbook with the automated recovery plans in SRM. It might not completely replace your DR runbook but it can automate enough of it. So much so that DR service providers such as SunGard are productizing new service offerings based on SRM.
On April 18th, IBM announced its intent to acquire virtual tape library (VTL) and deduplication vendor Diligent Technologies. For IBM, Diligent is a good fit. The company offers both mainframe and open systems virtual tape libraries and they are a pioneer of deduplication. However, IBM already offers a market leading mainframe VTL based on its own intellectual property and an open systems VTL based on FalconStor technology — although the open systems VTL has very limited adoption — so there is also a lot of overlap. Because Diligent is a software solution, IBM can quickly integrate Diligent with any of its storage systems and bring new VTLs to market relatively quickly. It’s very likely that IBM will in fact pursue this route so it can bring an inline deduplicating VTL to market as quickly as possible.
On April 10, 2008, IBM announced its intent to acquire FilesX, a small startup that offers server-based replication and continuous data protection technology. The acquisition will become part of the Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) family of products.
This acquisition will help IBM Tivoli fill a gap in their current portfolio of offerings for data protection. The vendor currently offers Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), which is one of the leading enterprise-class backup software applications, and Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files, a product mostly used to protect PCs. In addition to traditional backup to tape or disk, TSM can also manage Microsoft Virtual Snapshots (VSS) and its own IBM storage-based snapshot technology in support of instant restore or snapshot assisted backup. But the company didn’t really have an offering for customers who wanted something that was better than backup but not as expensive as storage-based replication, this is where FilesX comes in. With FilesX, IBM can now address the recovery requirements of small enterprises that can’t afford storage-based replication. They can also meet the recovery requirements of large enterprises that want to protect more servers within their company with a more affordable replication offering as well as servers at the remote office.
Backup is a struggle for both enterprises and small and medium businesses. It’s a complex ecosystem of backup software, networks, servers, disk arrays, and tape systems. Most companies report they are having difficulty completing backups in the time available and when backups fail or complete with errors, it’s often very difficult to discover the root cause. Couple those troubles with the fact that the amount of data that you need backed up is growing conservatively at 30% to 50% per year. Aside from these challenges, most companies are also interested in keeping backups longer for version history and companies are interested in the ability to perform much faster restores if they could.
Given the headaches associated with backup, many small and medium business and even some enterprises are choosing to outsource their backups all together to a service provider. There are already numerous players in the marketplace from Evault (which is resold by a number of different service providers) to Iron Mountain, to your telecommunication provider, and to emerging entrants such as Berkeley Data Systems and its Mozy service offering. This opportunity is so huge that even Symantec (which acquired Veritas) launched a beta of its own online backup service called the Symantec Protection Network. EMC’s acquisition of Berkeley Data Systems is just further proof that the online backup market is a huge opportunity.