Engaging Customers In The World's Largest Mobile Market

Consumers and businesses around the globe have entered the mobile era, and technology management leaders are shifting their organizations’ business applications toward mobile. In order to effectively make this shift, mobile teams must change their practices to simultaneously improve agility and ensure a good customer experience. This is even more critical in China — a market with unique business scenarios, technology landscapes, and competitive environments.

I’ve recently published two reports focusing on using the mobile IDEA cycle for customer engagement, including part one and part two. In these reports, I assess the current state of mobile application development planning in China and highlight four key areas that enterprise architecture (EA) professionals should focus on in each stage, namely “Identify”, “Design”, “Engineer” and “Analyze”, to enable the success of the mobile IDEA cycle. I also provide examples of how to unleash the power of digital business by analyzing the strategic mobile practices of visionary Chinese firms and highlighting how they use systems of engagement. Some of the key takeaways:

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Red Hat Takes The Lead In Enterprise-Class Container Solutions — For Now

Red Hat held its 2015 summit last week in Boston. One of the most important announcements was the general availability of version 3 of OpenShift. After my discussion with Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, as well as other executives, partners and, clients, I believe that Red Hat has made a strategic move and is taking the lead in enterprise-class container solutions for hybrid cloud enablement. This is because:

  • Red Hat has an early-mover advantage in platform refactoring.OpenShift and Cloud Foundry, two major open source PaaS platforms, both started refactoring with container technology last year. The developers of Cloud Foundry are still working hard to complete the platform’s framework after implementing Diego, the rewrite of its runtime. But OpenShift has already completed its commercial release, with two major replacements around containers: It replaced Gears, its original homegrown container model, with Docker and replaced Broker, its old orchestration engine, with Kubernetes.
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OpenStack Is Moving To A New Stage

Unfortunately, visa issues prevented me from attending the OpenStack summit in Vancouver last week — despite submitting my application to the Canadian embassy in Beijing 40 days in advance! However after following extensive online discussions of the event and discussing it with vendors and peers, I would say that OpenStack is moving to a new phase, for two reasons:

  • The rise of containers is laying the foundation for the next level of enterprise readiness. Docker’s container technology has become a major factor in the evolution of OpenStack components. Docker drivers have been implemented for the key components of Nova and Heat for extended computing and orchestration capabilities, respectively. The Magnum project aiming at container services allows OpenStack to create clusters with Kubernetes (k8s) by Google and Swarm by Docker.com. The Murano project contributed by Mirantis aiming at application catalog services is also integrated with k8s.
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Cloud Foundry Is Evolving Toward Agility Via Container-Empowered Micro-services

The Cloud Foundry Foundation held its 2015 Summit recently in Santa Clara, attracting 1,500 application developers, operation experts, technical and business managers, service providers, and community contributors. After listening to the presentations and discussions, I believe that Cloud Foundry —one of the major platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings —is making a strategic shift from its traditional focus on application staging and execution to a new emphasis on micro-service composition. This is a key factor that will help companies gain the agility they need for both technology management and business transformation. Here’s what I learned:

  • Containers are critical for micro-service-based agility. Container based micro-services are getting momentum: IBM presented their latest Bluemix UI micro-services architecture; while SAP introduced their latest practice on Docker. Containers can encapsulate fine-grained business logic as micro-services for dynamic composition, which will greatly simplify development and deployment of applications, helping firms achieve continuous delivery to meet dynamic business requirements. This is why Forrester believes that the combination of containers and micro-services will prove irresistible for developers.
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What We Talk About When We Talk About Microsoft Azure In China

Have you seen the movie Birdman — the one that just won the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars? It’s about a middle-aged man who was once a popular movie star but has been criticized throughout his career and how he finally achieved a breakthrough performance and found great success in a Broadway production of the play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

The story of Microsoft Azure is similar. Microsoft was hugely popular in the age of the PC but has sailed into troubled waters in the cloud era. But now — a year after Azure’s commercial launch in China — CIOs and EA professionals must understand how and where Azure might impact their existing MSFT technology investments to achieve business transformation. Azure is one of the leading forces driving cloud adoption in China. We attribute this to the progress that Microsoft has made by:

  • Expanding product offerings.Microsoft Azure now has local products in four key categories: compute, network, data, and application. Beyond basic components like virtual machines, websites, storage, and content delivery networks, Azure also has advanced features that are important for Chinese customers to address their unique challenges, including mobile services for the rapid development of mobile apps to accommodate the massive shift to mobile; a service bus for integration to eliminate information silos in the cloud; and HDInsight for big data capabilities to gain the customer insights necessary to compete with digital disruption from local Internet companies.
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SAP Is On The Right Track To Address The Pain Points Of Chinese Customers, But It Is Not On The Finish Line Yet

On February 9, SAP announced the launch of its next-generation enterprise process application, SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (S/4HANA), in China. This is the third product launch event of SAP globally but it’s the first event during which the product is being launched with customer together.

From my discussions with Chinese customers during the event, I believe that SAP is on the right track to address their major concerns. However, enterprise architecture (EA) professionals in China should take a realistic approach when evaluating the feasibility of the architectural evolution of their enterprise process applications.

  • Chinese clients have suffered from complexity for a long time.As mentioned in my previous report, complexity is one of the key challenges that Chinese companies have faced in their drive to achieve business growth and product innovation, and product innovation must focus on simplicity to enhance customer experiences. This is particularly true when it comes to adopting mission-critical management software. It’s quite normal to hear complaints about the complex user interface, long implementation times, and the significant effort required to maintain and customize software; customization is much more popular and necessary in China than elsewhere due to the need for various types of localization.
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Time To Reset Your Knowledge Of Big Data Ecosystems In China

At the China Hadoop Summit 2015 in Beijing this past weekend, I talked with various big data players, including large consumers of big data China Unicom, Baidu.com, JD.com, and Ctrip.com; Hadoop platform solution providers Hortonworks, RedHadoop, BeagleData, and Transwarp; infrastructure software vendors like Sequotia.com; and Agile BI software vendors like Yonghong Tech.

The summit was well-attended — organizers planned for 1,000 attendees and double that number attended — and from the presentations and conversations it’s clear that big data ecosystems are making substantial progress. Here are some of my key takeaways:

  • Telcos are focusing on optimizing internal operations with big data.Take China Unicom, one of China’s three major telcos, for example. China Unicom has completed a comprehensive business scenario analysis of related data across each segment of internal business operations, including business and operations support systems, Internet data centers, and networks (fixed, mobile, and broadband). It has built a Hadoop-based big data platform to process trillions of mobile access records every day within the mobile network to provide practical guidelines and progress monitoring on the construction of base stations.
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Episode Three Of The China Cloud War: The Rise Of AWS And Azure’s Critical Moment

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.
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The Cloud Foundry Foundation: The Key Driver Of A Breakthrough In PaaS Adoption

The rise of the DevOps role in the enterprise and the increasing requirements of agility beyond infrastructure and applications make the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market one to watch for both CIOs and enterprise architecture professionals. On December 9, the membership of Cloud Foundry, a major PaaS open source project, announced the formation of the Cloud Foundry Foundation.

In my view, this is as important as the establishment of OpenStack foundation in 2012, which was a game-changing move for the cloud industry. Here’s why:

  • PaaS is becoming an important alternative to middleware stacks. Forrester defines PaaS as a complete application platform for multitenant cloud environments that includes development tools, runtime, and administration and management tools and services. (See our Forrester Wave evaluation for more detail on the space and its vendors.) In the cloud era, it’s a transformational alternative to established middleware stacks for the development, deployment, and administration of custom applications in a modern application platform, serving as a strategic layer between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) with innovative tools.
  • Cloud Foundry is one major open source PaaS software. Cloud Foundry as a technology was designed and architected by Derek Collison and built in the Ruby and Go programming languages by Derek and Vadim Spivak (wiki is wrong!). VMware released it as open source in 2011 after Derek joined the company. Early adopters of Cloud Foundry include large multinationals like Verizon, SAP, NTT, and SAS, as well as Chinese Internet giants like Baidu.
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The IBM/Tencent China Partnership: The New Dance Of The Elephants

On October 31, IBM and Tencent announced that they will work together to extend Tencent’s public cloud platform to the enterprise by building and marketing an industry-oriented public cloud.

Don’t be fooled into looking at this move in isolation. With this partnership, IBM is turning to a new page of its transformation in China, responding to the challenges of a stricter regulatory environment, an increasingly consumerized technology landscape, and newly empowered customers. The move is a crucial milestone in IBM’s strategy to localize its vision for cloud, analytics, mobile, and social (CAMS). IBM has had a strategic focus on CAMS solutions and is systematically building an ecosystem on four pillars:

  • Cloud and social. This is where IBM and Tencent are a perfect match. IBM’s cloud managed service, operated by its partner 21ViaNet, officially went live on September 23. It can support mission-critical applications like ERP and CRM solutions from SAP and Oracle from both the IaaS and SaaS perspective. This could help Tencent target large enterprise customers beyond its traditional base of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) and startups by adding social value to ERP, CRM, and EAM applications.
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