Despite its networking roots, today’s Interop events have evolved to address an expansive range of IT roles, responsibilities and topics. While networking managers will still feel at home in the networking track, Interop addresses a variety of themes very relevant to the broader interests of IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals, like cloud computing, virtualization, storage, wireless and mobility, and IT management.
IT professionals responsible for the “I” (or Infrastructure) in I&O will find the event particularly relevant. So much so that Forrester has partnered with Interop to develop track agendas, identify speakers, moderate panels, and even present. For the last two years, I have chaired the Data Center and Green IT tracks at Interop’s Las Vegas and New York events. And I am doing the same this year at Interop New York 2010 from October 18th to 22nd.
Last week, I attended the ONS (Offshore North Sea) 2010 conference, one of the world’s largest energy conferences, with more than 49,000 participants, in Stavanger, Norway. The conference theme was “energy for more people,” an important goal, not only to keep pace with the growth of the world’s population (expected to hit 9-plus billion people by 2050) but to fight poverty and increase living standards around the globe. However, soon after the opening ceremony by King Harald V, it became very clear from the first panel discussion that the path forward to achieve this goal has many facets and that the leaders of the world, including politicians, academics, business people, and other authorities, are far from reaching consensus on the right path today.
Conventional Energy Resources
Global energy demand will increase by ~45% within the next 20 years (according to the International Energy Agency), but what will the distribution of energy resources look like by 2030? Most scenarios predict that fossil fuels will continue to be the primary energy source, with oil and gas making up 65% of the total demand. To no one’s surprise, most of the presentations and exhibitions at ONS 2010 were therefore dedicated to the future of fossil fuels that can be combined into the following themes to satisfy the energy demand of tomorrow:
Unlocking new oil and gas reserves in the world. The concept seems to be straightforward: Overcome technical and political hurdles and drill deeper, faster, and more efficiently to carry exploration into new territories such as the Arctic or ultra-deep sea.
I get many questions from clients interested in evaluating different in-memory technologies. My first advice is not to mix apples and oranges and clearly understand the differences between in-memory indexes, in-memory OLAP, in-memory ROLAP, in-memory spreadsheets, and other approaches. See more details in my recent blog entry "I forget: what's in-memory?" to understand the differences. Then once you zero in on a particular segment, you can indeed do an apples-to-apples comparison. Let's say we pick the category of in-memory associative indexes, which would include Microsoft PowerPivot, QlikTech, and TIBCO Spotfire. We also sometimes run across Advizor Solutions, but typically in smaller clients (and we do not include them in The Forrester Wave™ process). I recommend a three-step approach to compare these four tools:
First, compare all of the commodity features of the vendors and tools like data integration and portal integration, operational features like administration, security, and others. You can leverage the detailed evaluation behind our slightly outdated 2008 BI Forrester Wave, if you are in a hurry, or you can wait for another month or so and the 2010 update will be published (it's in the last stages of editing at this point). Or if you are a Forrester IT client — not a vendor — client, send me a note and I'll share a draft preview with you.
How Authentication-as-a-Service becomes a part of leading IAM stacks and why virtualization is no longer a viable technology without identity and access management.
CA’s acquisition of Arcot signals that partnering with an adaptive authentication vendor is no longer enough to offer a comprehensive access management strategy: you’d also have to have an adaptive authentication product to allow your customers to retire costly physical tokens. But this is not the primary reason CA picked up Arcot. It is Arcot’s thriving hosted authentication and fraud management services that were the most lucrative assets to CA. Adaptive authentication is part of any organization’s fraud management strategy — however, CA’s inexperience here leaves a few questions to be answered. Will CA keep and grow Arcot’s fraud prevention service? If so, how will it integrate fraud management with IAM? The requirement for integration is clearly highlighted by Forrester’s conversations with its FinServ and other verticals’ customers.
I recently had an opportunity to spend a day in three separate meetings with infrastructure & operations professionals from three of the top six financial service firms in the country, and discuss topics ranging from long-term business and infrastructure strategy to specific likes and dislikes regarding their Tier-1 vendors and their challengers. The day’s meetings were neither classic consulting nor classic briefings, but rather a free-form discussion, guided only loosely by an agenda and, despite possible Federal regulations to the contrary, completely devoid of PowerPoint presentations. As in the past, these in-depth meetings provided a wealth of food for thought, interesting and sometimes contradictory indicators from the three groups. There was a lot of material to ponder, but I’ll try and summarize some of the high-level takeaways in this post.
Servers and Vendors
These companies between them own in the neighborhood of 180,000 servers, and probably purchase 30,000 - 50,000 servers per year in various cycles of procurements. In short, these are heavyweight users. One thing that struck me in the course of the conversations was the Machiavellian view of their Tier-1 server vendors. Viewed as key partners, at the same time the majority of this group of users devoted a substantial amount of time to keeping their key vendors at arm’s length through aggressive vendor management techniques like deliberate splitting of procurements between competitors. They understand their suppliers' margins and cost structures well, and are committed to driving hardware supplier margins to “as close to zero as we can,” in the words of one participant.
The new book Empowered highlights the benefits of empowering HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives) within the workforce. As we approach our first-ever CIO Forum in October, I’m looking around for great examples of how governments are using social technologies to empower employees to serve empowered citizens.
When I think of government IT projects, I often think of multimillion-dollar projects lasting years before going live. But it doesn’t always have to be that way, as the following example illustrates.
Peter Koht is a HERO working for the City of Santa Cruz Redevelopment Office. In 2009, the city was facing its worst budget crisis (a problem familiar to many city officials). Running out of options, the city had already shut down civic services such as the community pool, museums, and a family resource center when it faced up to the reality that the people of the city needed to be involved in the decisions about what services to cut. Unfortunately, the voices too often heard at civic meetings were representatives of the extreme viewpoints at either end of the political spectrum. In an effort to collect more ideas from the silent majority, Peter suggested the city could tap into social media to connect with its citizens. Lacking any kind of budget or resources, Peter had to rely on the help of three volunteers to get a community site up and running in a week.
Peter Hambling, CIO of Lloyd’s of London, the venerable insurer, has made Facebook a priority for customer communications that required board approval. But more on that later. First, some background . . .
It's the nature of things. Some people look for ways to do things better — and that includes your employees. Some of your employees are questing for a better way to get things done. If there's a better way out there, they'll find it. That's a good thing because the thing they're trying to do better is their job. Serve your customers. Solve your business problems. Improve your operations.
It's always been true: Incremental innovation and process improvements have always come from those closest to the problem. It's the basis of kaizen, a system where employees continually improve manufacturing processes. It's also a founding principle of Six Sigma — tap employees' relentless, incremental quality improvements.
Product strategists should check out this article in today’s New York Times about online borrowing. Think of it as a Web-empowered peer-to-peer product rental program. The article describes how Web sites like SnapGoods allow private owners of products to rent them out for temporary periods of time to consumers who want to use – but do not (or cannot) own – those same products. It’s a product rental marketplace, smaller than but resembling a product sales marketplace (like eBay).
This peer-to-peer product rental approach to sharing complements another sharing technique that has been around for a while: timesharing. Vacationers who own 1/8 of a condominium in the Bahamas get to use it part of the time, as do their fellow timeshare partners. More recently, the Web enabled Zipcar to grow to over 275,000 users by 2009. Zipcar users make reservations to use vehicles in their neighborhoods on an hourly basis.
There has been turmoil and angst recently in the 0pen source community of late over Oracle’s decision to cancel OpenSolaris. Since this community can be expected to react violently anytime something is taken out of open source, the real question is whether this action has any impact on real-world IT and operations professionals. The short answer is no.
Enterprise Solaris users, be they small, medium or large, are using it to run critical applications; and as far as we can tell, the uptake of OpenSolaris as opposed to Solaris supplied and sold by Sun was very low in commercial accounts, other than possibly a surge in test and dev environments. The decision to take Solaris into the open source arena was, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed, and Oracle’s subsequent decision to change this is eminently rational – Oracle’s customers almost certainly are not going to run their companies on an OS that is built and maintained by any open source community (even the vast majority of corporate Linux use is via a distribution supported by a major vendor and under a paid subscription model), and Oracle cannot continue to develop Solaris unless they have absolute control over it, just as is the case with every other enterprise OS. In the same vein, unless Oracle can also have an expectation of being compensated for their investments in future Solaris development, there is little motivation for them to continue to invest heavily in Solaris.
Recently, I published a report about a small software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor, Dimdim, which is having success in the crowded Web conferencing market. Like many small vendors, Dimdim provides a free service tier, generously allowing up to 20 participants into the free meeting, to help drum up business. The report, though, did not simply highlight the number of users that Dimdim has captured in four short years of existence -- over 5 million -- but also its success in attracting partners like Intuit, Novell and Nortel CVAS. Why? For new vendors entering crowded markets, attracting partners is vital for two reasons:
Partners open doors to new markets. In crowded markets, incumbent vendors and new entrants jostle to serve customer needs. For the new entrants, the customers that can be wrangled through media hype and analyst buzz is minimal. Mass appeal comes from firms with strong working relationships with a range of buyers in a number of markets -- e.g., oil & gas, healthcare, government -- embracing a small vendor's offering and introducing it to their clients.