Last month I had the pleasure of keynoting the "International IT Convergence Conference" in Seoul, sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy. It was a fascinating combination of academic conference, government policy discussion, and technology trade show. And also my first opportunity to visit Korea.
The theme of the conference, and topic of the panel discussion I participated in, was "IT convergence." Convergence means many things to different people; in this case, convergence means the collision or combination of information technology and other industries, i.e., embedding IT capabilities in transportation, healthcare, construction, and etc. The case was well-argued by a number of speakers, and the example stories were compelling: phones becoming pocket computers, ships becoming floating computers, buildings becoming hi-rise computers, and the like. And we didn't have to stretch too far to imagine that big parts of the IT industry itself will eventually be subsumed into these other industries, becoming as important and ubiquitous -- and invisible -- as, say, electric motors.
Big opportunities for IT hardware, software, and services. But I felt it important to point out that such embedding or tailoring of IT systems into industrial and consumer systems will come with risks and challenges for IT suppliers, including:
Sourcing executives are setting their strategic direction for 2010 and beyond and increasingly asking: “What role should we play in SaaS buying decisions?”
Many sourcing executives see SaaS coming into their firms under the radar screen, through divisional, try-and-buy style purchases, often low-cost enough to go largely undetected – at least in their initial phases. However, they also see SaaS’ growing importance as a key strategic initiative in their firms and the trend towards SaaS becoming ubiquitous in the larger software market. Therefore, they want to better understand existing SaaS solutions that are being used in their firms today – where, when, why – and also understand when it makes sense to proactively push SaaS as the best overall solution based on factors such as TCO, flexibility, usability, IT staffing considerations, and upgrades.
Novell collaboration has been in the process of an extreme makeover for a while now. It started with the acquisition and subsequest integration of SiteScape. It continued with new releases of their email offering GroupWise. But, all along they were working on something that would really differentiate their offering in the market. On Wednesday morning they announced Novell Pulse at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. I've been watching Pulse move from concept to what is now an announced product with an H1 2010 announced ship date for the better part of two years now. It represents an interesting blend of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration and content generation capabilities. If that sounds a bit familiar, think Google Wave. In fact, at the time Wave was announced, I was holding my tongue when folks would ask me if I'd seen anything like it before. I had, the product that became Novell Pulse. I just couldn't say because of a pesky NDA!
Thus it was interesting that Novell became the first vendor in the collaboration space to announce a significant partnership and integration with Google around the upcoming Wave offering. The premise is actually pretty cool. A user in Novell Pulse can work in real-time on a document simultaneously with a user on Google Wave. From the Novell side, all security is managed and maintained by Novell.
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.
Yesterday evening, Microsoft announced at the 2009 Annual Educause Conference that they would be rolling out SharePoint-based collaboration and productivity services for universities via Live@edu. While this news arrived quietly at a conference to which collaboration software vendor strategists rarely pay attention, it is potentially game changing in the collaboration platform space. Let me say that again: the fact that Microsoft is getting SharePoint in the hands of the future business leaders of America (and beyond) during their formative years is potentially HUGE. But let’s back up for a second and bring everyone up to speed. For those unfamiliar, Live@edu is Microsoft’s hosted email and collaboration suite targeted at universities. It’s a free service that in the last four months saw over 5,000 schools sign up. One of the underlying goals of Live@edu is to get college students ready for the real world by letting them play with Microsoft tools in college.
It had to happen eventually. The success of iPhone (now used by 14% of US, UK, and Canadian smartphone-using information workers) is driven signficantly by "there's an app for that." So that while a huge congratulations! is in order, getting to 100,000 applications available was just a matter of time. Mostly consumer apps, of course, but a growing number of business applications, including Cisco WebEx, Oracle Business Indicators, Roambi's Visualizer data dashboard toolkit, and Salesforce Mobile.
But what IT professionals need, particularly those focused on making information workers productive with smartphones, is much better support for managing custom and prepackaged business applications. (That along with a bunch of things like more robust security, easier device management, stronger encryption, more policy-based control over the device, things that RIM does but the largely Microsoft-controlled ActiveSync solution doesn't. But more on that another time).
Focusing here on applications, it's time for us all to insist that Apple make it easy for IT professionals to:
Support wireless application downloads.The current iTunes or iPhone Desktop Configurator solution just doesn't cut it for businesses. They need over-the-air download and update capability.
Push application updates. How else can IT feel confident that a business application will work?
Configure applications remotely. How else can in-field changes be supported?
One of my favorite Forrester survey statistics to quote about SOA is the proportion of service-oriented architecture (SOA) users that see how important SOA can be for changing their business. In our Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2008 (taken after the start of the current economic crisis), 38% of Global 2000 SOA adopters said they are using SOA for strategic business transformation. This is a very high level of business impact — and far more value than was ever credited to object-oriented or component-based development. Why is this important to note? Many think of SOA first as a technology for reuse, like objects and components, and miss the reality that SOA is much more about business design and flexibility. By missing the business perspective on SOA, they miss the fact that SOA is the foundation for a much broader shift in application architecture and its relationship to the design, monitoring, and optimization of business processes.