Over the past few months a flurry of announcements have begun swirling around the cloud computing space, which remains a nascent market in the overall IT realm. Do these announcements portend a fast maturity for the concept or just the typical "me too" that comes with a hyped market?
In June, RightScale, a cloud management software and consulting company that has become a bit of a poster child as a cloud integrator, announced a partnership with GigaSpaces that integrates their eXtreme Application Platform (XAP) clustering and cache solution with the RightScale automated cloud management platform for Amazon EC2 clients. The value of this partnership comes from the fact that EC2 simply provides you with a VM you can populate but no availability or scalability services. XAP is a cluster architecture that delivers these values and can be quickly and easily deployed via the RightScale tool.
Next came Elastra, a San Francisco startup building a Cloud Server, a middleware layer that turns a commodity infrastructure into a cloud (similar value to what 3Tera provides today). The first iteration deploys similarly to XAP -- as a software layer you load into EC2 VMs, that enables scale and availability to the apps you lay on top of it.
Earlier this week, if you happened to read any of my research on our site, you might have been scratching your head at my "new" photo, as seen below:
You might have asked yourself, "What has happened to one of my favorite Forrester analysts?" Was it the result of a) a face lift; b) gender reassignment surgery; c) successful prayers to the patron saint of the un-photogenic (when a good friend first saw my original photo last year, she asked in her typical blunt fashion, "Why do you look so puffy and awful?")
I’ve recently returned from SAS Institute’s Annual Analyst Event held June 23-24, 2008 in Monte Carlo. At this event, SAS leadership revealed a roadmap to amplify, with the most effective decision science yet developed, the judgment of professionals in a wide range of industries including retail and consumer goods. Forrester noted specific new science based processes, deployable without restrictions about legacy transaction applications for:
Merchandise planning. The most critical decision in any consumer goods value chain is which merchandise to stock. But this decision, although ultimately driven in retail by the buyer’s judgment, must draw on data and analytics that evaluate, based on historic demand) the relative likely revenue and margin resulting from different merchandise portfolios, and test the feasibility of the portfolios against constraints such as store space or labor availability or the firm’s available working capital.
Size optimization. For retailers selling footwear or apparel a statistical understanding of the distribution of sales by size by store is vital in order to meet consumers’ needs and avoid mark downs and stock outs. It’s well known that consumers’ sizes vary from one region or country to another, with Norwegians for example in general being taller for example than Greeks but retailers need powerful sparse data analytics to plan for the differences in populations that visit urban and out of town stores.
Space optimization. Retailers provide space in stores in proportion to their expect sales and margin for each merchandise item. But the complex tradeoffs between affinity items, with different margins and attracting different promotional funds simply demand an enterprise analytic approach rather than single user planning tools.
In the beginning of the year, Harvard Business Publishing launched a collection of online simulations as part of its curriculum that expose learners to real business situations and enforce essential corporate skills. Learning simulations are interactive models of real-life processes, events, or interactions that have distinctive learning outcomes. Users can manipulate variables that change the state of the model — they can make mistakes, learn from them, and try again — emulating a real "learning by doing" approach. With these online simulations, learners can engage in common business situations within realistic scenarios, and learn how to fine-tune their communication, analytical, and decision-making skills.
The first simulation, Universal Rental Car is a pricing simulation focused on teaching employees pricing skills in a managerial environment, as learners take on the role of regional marketing manager at a rental car agency, and are tasked with pricing rental cars in cities across Florida. Sample the Universal Rental Car simulation (login = user, password = user) for three rounds, and explore the Prepare, Analyze, and Decide tabs.
Well, actually vice-versa! The configuration management database (CMDB) is a hot topic these days in IT. With my arrival at Forrester, I am ambitiously building upon the solid foundation of thought leadership my colleagues have built on CMDB. One topic I wish to address is the notion that people (yes, you and me) are configuration items within the whole CMDB discussion.
When people talk about CMDB, they usually refer to infrastructure components as CIs. In some more enlightened cases, they accept that applications and business services are also CIs. As we assemble all of these CIs into cohesive views of our world, we need to include another critical domain -- us.
That’s right, no view of the IT or business landscape is complete without considering the roles of the people. Some of us are technology support, some are users, some are external customers, some are executives, and some are outsourced service providers. In the context of business services, we are integral elements to the service definition.
Some will interpret this concept of relegating people to CIs as cold and demeaning. This is certainly not my intent, but when you realize that we are all cogs in the greater business machinery, it quickly becomes apparent that we are normalized at some structural level to business impact strikingly similar to infrastructure. That’s not cold, it’s just the way it is in a sound service model. It doesn’t mean anyone is any less witty, charming, or warm.
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 June 24, 2008, Oracle announced its intent to purchase Skywire Software. This potential acquisition has three very strong positives:
Skywire enhances Oracle's ECM offering. Skywire Software has a document output management arsenal that includes Whitehill Technologies (InSystems) and Docucorp International, both of which the company acquired in 2007. Skywire's customer communication solution fills gaps and creates opportunities in Oracle's overall ECM suite. Universal Content Manager and Imaging and Process Manager can now provide complete structured solutions -- built for statements and bills for the print channel, and interactive output management -- creating direct marketing material, or collaboration and workflow for creating enrollment kits. In addition, pain points in customer communication can be addressed more broadly when Skywire's DOM solution is combined with Oracle's web content management products to provide a more complete multi-channel solution.
We've established that 10 GbE is now ready for the enterprise, which means it is time to start worrying about whether your Internet service provider (ISP) is adopting 100 gigabit Ethernet (100 GbE). ISPs aggregate enterprise traffic and connect you to the Internet over high speed optical networks that must ensure the adequate bandwidth and quality of service (QoS) you require.
While the majority of customers won’t fill their 10 GbE pipes this year or next, many will; advanced applications such as high definition video streaming, video conferencing, data replication, and wide area clustering for business continuity will tax bandwidth. Moreover, corporate networks will take advantage of the better bandwidth of 10 GbE to shift to IP-based Unified Communications (UC.) Forrester Research found that 36% of enterprises in North America and Europe have deployed or are rolling out UC this year with another 36% evaluating it. All these high-bandwidth services require strong QoS to meet enterprise needs and drive adoption.
Remember my blog dated January 16, 2008 where I said that everything that happens in the software market is somehow related to Business Intelligence? I am now expanding that conjecture to include all other market segments. Specifically, the airline industry. And not just Business Intelligence. Just plain old intelligence.