In our conversations with many information and knowledge management professionals, it's clear that their distributed and multicompany teams need better extranet collaboration tools.
And they feel the problem is only getting worse as companies go virtual, global, distributed, outsourced, green, travel-less, and partnered, thus driving the need for ever-better collaboration tools that work outside the firewall.
Trouble is, the messaging and collaboration services that companies have implemented are designed primarily for internal teams.
For example, it's bloody difficult to set up a secure instant messaging connection with every partner you might want to work with. Such interoperability between IM platforms is technically possible, but operationally nightmarish.
So clever employees do what they must: Use public IM and calendaring services, cobble together conferences from piece parts, and fall back on endless scheduling and sharing emails and voice conferencing. Ugh. Ugly. And scary.
Well, the solution's just around the corner say vendors new and old. After all, many are on the cusp of major product releases that promise much better extranet connections and capabilities:
IBM Bluehouse promises a new extranet collaboration platform.
Google already offers an extranet collaboration toolkit in its Google Apps Premier Edition.
Cisco is adding extranet collaboration capabilities to WebEx.
Microsoft is moving its services into the cloud for easier extranet access.
IBM CEO Sam Palmisano gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York City on November 6, 2008. In the speech, he added his voice that that of Al Gore, Jeff Immelt, and Barack Obama to declare that the US can lead the world to prosperity (and out of this financial quagmire). He called his vision building a "smarter planet."
Here's how I see the smarter planet:
Intelligence and network connections are embedded in physical systems. Chips and bandwidth have helped optimize business processes and make information workers more productive. But information technology hasn't yet really helped optimize our physical systems. A company on a smarter planet will put computers and connections into every physical system so that machines can phone home, operating problems can telegraph themselves, and power grids and distribution systems can be monitored, controlled, and optimized. (Forrester first identified this trend of an extended "Internet of things" in 2001 with a report entitled "The X Internet.")
By Gil Yehuda Those who drink the Web 2.0 Kool-aid live in a idealistic world where we can mentally connect a great idea to a great implementation of that idea. We live on faith that the great implementation will come, since there are plenty of smart people out there who will eventually figure out how to make value out of technology building blocks. Sometimes our faith is tested when the killer-app does not show up for a long time. But evidence can restore our faith.
In a number of recent client interactions with both enterprise IT end users and vendors, the question of “Is the ‘green’ in Green IT dead?” has come up. Primarily driven by the current economic climate, IT end users want to understand how relevant the environmental benefits of Green IT should be to their strategic planning; likewise, vendors want to know how palatable green messaging of their products and services is to their customers.
The benefits of virtualization are quite obvious but when you start to really increase the density of virtual machines in order to maximize utilization suddenly it ain't such a simple proposition. The latest CPUs from AMD and Intel are more than up to the task of running 10-20 or more applications at a time. Most servers run out of memory and I/O bandwidth well before processing power. Recent announcements from the leading server vendors have been made to address the memory side by packing more DIMMs onto a single motherboard (including blade server boards), but you can only add so many Ethernet cards and Fibre Channel HBAs. Oh yeah, and then there's the switch ports to go with them (blade systems help a lot here).
With retail confidence and global cargo volumes at their lowest for 5 years, retailers face increased pressure to identify quick ways to minimize costs, reduce unplanned mark downs and avoid incidence of “out-of-stock”, while trying to stretch margins, improve the merchandizing mix and increase customer satisfaction.
One retail executive told Forrester “I have any number of proposals to engage in multi year, multi million IT projects. But we don’t have the luxury to indulge in those. My boss needs results now. I need to prove that we are making progress against our financial and strategic objectives in the next quarter or two.“
To help our readers, Forrester is currently exploring simple retail IT investments that can yield immediate results. Got ideas or input? Take our confidential survey on Retail IT Investment Priorities to help develop a framework that will help identify quick wins and self funding IT initiatives that are capable of generating returns for shareholders in six month or less.
Earlier this week, The Boston Globe reported that Egenera laid off short of 100 employees under the guise of the weakening economy, but there is more to this story. The reduction also reflects a shift in strategy to increase its focus on PAN Manager, its virtualization management software. Originally tied to its unique BladeFrame hardware products, PAN Manager was freed earlier this year and is currently distributed by Fujitsu-Siemens and Dell. As is often the case for hardware companies, Egenera's crown jewels are in this software and PAN Manager is one of the most mature, feature rich and enterprise tested of the virtualization software managers on the market.
I am experiencing Cloud fatigue already. If I hear anyone even come close to uttering the word "Cloud 2.0", I might be found hiding in the Forrester fitness room in a fetal position. I am a fan of Cloud computing and my colleague James Staten has a great report on cloud in the enterprise. I think that cloud computing such Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, IBM, Google AppEngine, and others are legitimate and have a great future in infrastructure. What I am not a fan of is the buzzword grab going on by many technology companies saying they work in the cloud, have a cloud strategy, or have a new cloud offering à la SOA, Web 2.0, and whatever is next. Vendor X can work in the cloud. Well, no kidding. You just spin up your platform in the cloud and run your app on it.
At Dreamforce today, here in San Francisco, Salesforce.com announced a significant, and seemingly long overdue, enhancement to its SaaS offering. They announced Facebook and Force.com for Amazon Web Services that are pre-integrations between their platform and these two other platforms. This new capability lets enterprise customers of their CRM solution (or any other AppExchange or Force.com) provide a public front-end to their instance of these services, directly from these services. The big deal with these additions is that they let you tie third party applications directly into your Force.com applications. In the case of the AWS integration, if you have applications or services built in Java, the LAMP stack or native C code, you can integrate them with your Force.com apps.
But there are new options emerging from governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) vendors. For example, Archer Technologies has added a business continuity management module to its GRC SmartSuite Framework. I recently saw a demo of the offering and I found it to be intuitive and comprehensive. It's also closely aligned with the British Standard for Business Continuity Management, BS 25999. I also recently met with MetricStream, they have also added a BCM module to their GRC platform. Provided that you've already purchased the core GRC platform from one of these vendors, buying the BCM module is significantly less expensive that buying or subscribing to a tier 1 stand-alone BCM offering. Tier 1 offerings start at US$100K and average sales prices can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The add-on modules to these GRC platforms will start between $30K-$50K.