In the first week of December, Cisco India held its analyst summit to share its 2014 strategy. Given low market morale following the sharp decline in Cisco India’s Q1, FY 2014 revenues, the event was timed well to reinforce Cisco’s ongoing commitment to the Indian market. Amongst many forward-looking statements made at the event, one message stood out – target the rising midmarket (which Cisco defines as companies with 100-1000 employees) to drive growth in India. Following are the key initiatives that the company outlined to grow its mid-market business:
- Expanding channel network in tier 2 and 3 cities. Cisco is focusing on expanding its channel ecosystem in two ways – working with independent software vendors (ISV) to jointly develop vertical-specific solutions aligned to midmarket needs; and promote Cisco’s cloud-based offerings through hosted collaboration services (HCS) partners. This is a solid strategy given the physical proximity and influence that these local partners have on firms in smaller cities.
- Incentivizing partners and equipping them with tools to boost sales. Cisco is offering handsome incentives to its channel partners focused on midmarket. Cisco is also offering a mobile customer dashboard application to partners that provides key details regarding the account, such as organizational information, past purchase history, preferences, etc. to help ensure an effective sales engagement.
I’m sitting on my sofa at home (Yes! Home!) on Sunday morning just before Christmas. I’m “shut down” for the holidays now, but of course, I’m watching Twitter and now listening to my brilliant friends Chris Dancy and Troy DuMoulin discussing CMDB (configuration management database) on the Practitioner Radio podcast. It’s a marvelous episode, covering the topic of CMDB in with impressive clarity! I highly recommend you listen to their conversation. It’s full of beautiful gems of wisdom from two people who have a lot of experience here – and it's pretty entertaining too!
I agree with everything these guys discussed. In particular, I love the part where they cover systems thinking and context as the key to linking everything conceptually. I only have one nit about this podcast, and the greater community discussion about CMDB, though. Let’s stop calling this “thing” a CMDB!
I coauthored a book with the great Carlos Casanova (his real name!) called The CMDB Imperative, but we both hate this CMDB term. This isn’t hypocritical. In fact, we make this point clear in the book. Like the vendors, we used CMDB to hit a nerve. We actually struggled with this decision, but we realized we needed to hit those exposed nerves if we were going to sell any books. Our goal is not to fund a new Aston Martin with book proceeds. If so, we failed miserably! We just wanted to get the word out to as many as possible. I hope we've been able to make even a small difference!
I attended Dell’s third annual global summit last week at the company’s headquarters in Austin, Texas to get an update on the company’s progress since it went private. The event demonstrated Michael Dell’s passion to transform a hardware company into an end-to-end solution provider. Dell highlighted five key investment priorities in 2014, including expanding its sales coverage and enhancing its relationship with partners; it also wants to increase its investments in emerging markets, with China atop the list.
The success of these investment plans hinges upon highly efficient execution across the organization. We’ve already seen one example that Dell has increased its executive capability since it went private: Its partnership with open source software provider Eucalyptus to put preinstalled and pretested Eucalyptus software on Dell VRTX servers. This project was ready just three weeks after CEOs of Dell and Eucalyptus decided to go forward with the partnership.
On one hand, the improved execution capability and more flexible service delivery model will strengthen the competitive position of Dell’s services. On the other hand, these changes will also provide benefits to end user organizations, including:
Late December is always a good time to reflect on the year gone by and think about the people that made the year special. Among the people who are special to analysts are the many people we work with in the vendor community. The key contacts we have with the vendors are in the field of Analyst Relations. It must be a tough job, since they probably find themselves in a constant game of tug-and-war between the analysts and their employers – they being the rope that’s getting pulled, of course. It is often a thankless job, so I want to say, “Thank you!” to them all!
For the past few years, I thought it would be a nice gesture to award a semi-formal recognition to the Analyst Relations professional of the past year. There is no trophy, plaque, or certificate, just my personal gesture of appreciation.
For the subset of AR pros I encounter, one name has appeared repeatedly on the winner’s list – Liz Kingof CA. In fact, she has won 3 of the four awards so far. Liz is amazing! She embodies all the qualities of greatness in this field! Another stellar professional won it in 2011, Linda Sanders of HP. This year, we have another name making this venerable list, but I have to also give special kudos to Liz, who was once again incredible in 2013.
Holiday season musings: One of the biggest differences between the US and Britain is the great British pub. And recently I’ve been wondering about the connection between the pub and innovation.
It seems to me that Britain produces a surprising amount of innovation per capita (no doubt someone can point me to some research on this). Why do so many great innovations come from this small island?
Could it be that the great British pub has something to do with it? It’s clear that a great many innovations are nurtured and developed through the interactions between people. And the pub has always been place for social interaction. For me, one of the facets that distinguishes a great UK pub from an American bar is that it’s relatively easy to sit next to a complete stranger in a pub and strike up a deeply philosophical conversation about something of great import; in a bar, it’s almost impossible to strike up a conversation with anyone you don’t already know unless it’s related to the local sports team.
Assuming my premise is correct that there is some causative effect between the traditional local pub and innovation, what will happen to innovation in Britain with the demise of the local pub. Will we see a reduction in great innovation from the UK?
Way back in September, I promised a series of blogs addressing this subject. I had high hopes of delivering a post a week for five weeks on the topic. Needless to say . . . life interjected!
So here, a little later than planned, is the second post in the series.
Step 1 - Change where you work
If I had a thousand bucks for each time I’ve heard someone in technology management say “IT and the business,” I’d have retired long ago. And it’s not just something we hear in technology circles either. The plain truth is technology professionals have been using isolationist language for decades. I say isolationist because any time we refer to "IT and the business” as if they were two different entities, we are creating an artificial divide. As a department of the business, IT is very much part of “the business.”
When technology leaders create this divide between the technology group and the rest of the business, it separates their actions from the purpose of the business. Technology professionals start to see themselves as some sort of technology service provider to the business. But the truth is that the technology team should be integral to delivering value to the customer. If “the business” wanted a technology service provider, the leadership team would outsource IT. Unfortunately, one consequence of managing IT like a vendor is that it becomes much easier for the leadership team to make that outsourcing decision.
As the new year looms, thoughts turn once again to our annual reading of the tea leaves, in this case focused on what I see coming in server land. We’ve just published the full report, Predictions for 2014: Servers & Data Centers, but as teaser, here are a few of the major highlights from the report:
1. Increasing choices in form factor and packaging – I&O pros will have to cope with a proliferation of new form factors, some optimized for dense low-power cloud workloads, some for general purpose legacy IT, and some for horizontal VM clusters (or internal cloud if you prefer). These will continue to appear in an increasing number of variants.
2. ARM – Make or break time is coming, depending on the success of coming 64-bit ARM CPU/SOC designs with full server feature sets including VM support.
3. The beat goes on – Major turn of the great wheel coming for server CPUs in early 2014.
4. Huge potential disruption in flash architecture – Introduction of flash in main memory DIMM slots has the potential to completely disrupt how flash is used in storage tiers, and potentially can break the current storage tiering model, initially physically with the potential to ripple through memory architectures.
A few weeks ago, Cisco announced plans for its “spin-in” investment, Insieme Networks: The newest next-generation data center network called, Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).This new offering includes hardware (the Cisco Nexus 9000 series), new firmware (enhanced version of NX-OS), and a new controller (Application Policing Infrastructure Controller).
Even though Cisco’s ACI launch indicates the magnitude of disruption software-defined networking (SDN) is causing in the industry, and Forrester has provided our quick takeon this announcement, I think we have a much bigger story at play here. We are only at the beginning – not middle or end – of sorting out the hot mess that networking is in. And for good reason. The network is the only technology in the business that touches every person, device, and aspect of the business. With that said, networking professionals are trying to support the data center team’s request for a private cloud, employees bringing their own devices and applications to work, and the business circumventing infrastructure and operations for backup-as-a-service or software-as-a-service. Don’t even get me started about the Internet of Things shifting the ownership of the network to non-information technology (IT) personnel or the business opportunity it could bring.
I’ve been experimenting for the past year or so with several proactive assistant apps to guide my day — they remind me to get on conference calls with clients, offer to text participants if I'm running late to an in-person lunch, and keep me in touch with friends and colleagues. Some of these apps also integrate Salesforce, Yammer, and BaseCamp for job-specific context and assistance.
Among the most popular apps, Google Now personalizes recommendations and assistance by applying predictive analytics to data stored in email, contacts, calendar, social, docs, and other types of online services users opt in. Other examples include Tipbit applying predictive analytics to make a more intelligent inbox, and EasilyDo using the notification system to recommend ways to automate common everyday tasks. Expect Labs is tackling this space from the other end of the spectrum, offering an intelligent assistance engine for enterprises to plug into and add proactive features to their own apps.
Here’s what we think:
• Vendors will experience burnouts and early customer frustration, much like in voice recognition. In the music industry, it’s said that an artist is only as good as her last hit. We saw that analogy apply to voice recognition when users got frustrated at Siri as soon as she failed once on them. Expect a similar dynamic with all types of predictive apps.
Symantec held its EMEA Industry Analyst Conference in the UK recently. Symantec saw targeted attacks increase by 42% during 2013. Although it’s always mentioned among the top concerns by businesses in surveys, security is still often treated in a somewhat blasé way by many of those businesses in reality. We took several messages away from Symantec’s conference:
Security is not just a simple IT issue but has wider business implications. Digital security has many facets, including cybercrime and online privacy. Security is an economic and societal dimension for the digital ecosystem. Just think of privacy legislation -- customers expect the businesses with which they interact to adhere to it. This also means that the future security manager will be someone who understands business requirements and employee wishes well enough to balance them against specific security threats and compliance obligations. The security officer who just “shuts the gates” and says “no” to requests like accessing video websites or installing software is damaging to what we call the connected business.