Wow. Certain networking vendors have started to declare they are winners, while others say software defined network (SDN) is over. All I have to say (in my best George Takei voice) is, “Oh, my!” I’m lucky enough to spend most of my day interacting with many end users to know that those statements clearly show how out of touch some vendors are with customers. Let me make this clear: In today’s environment, only customers can make those statements, and this is probably why some vendors don’t get it. It is a foreign concept and vendors are in the denial stage of loss, losing power to customers.
There is always a tendency to regard the major players in large markets as being a static background against which the froth of smaller companies and the rapid dance of customer innovation plays out. But if we turn our lens toward the major server vendors (who are now also storage and networking as well as software vendors), we see that the relatively flat industry revenues hide almost continuous churn. Turn back the clock slightly more than five years ago, and the market was dominated by three vendors, HP, Dell and IBM. In slightly more than five years, IBM has divested itself of highest velocity portion of its server business, Dell is no longer a public company, Lenovo is now a major player in servers, Cisco has come out of nowhere to mount a serious challenge in the x86 server segment, and HP has announced that it intends to split itself into two companies.
And it hasn’t stopped. Two recent events, the fracturing of the VCE consortium and the formerly unthinkable hook-up of IBM and Cisco illustrate the urgency with which existing players are seeking differential advantage, and reinforce our contention that the whole segment of converged and integrated infrastructure remains one of the active and profitable segments of the industry.
EMC’s recent acquisition of Cisco’s interest in VCE effectively acknowledged what most customers have been telling us for a long time – that VCE had become essentially an EMC-driven sales vehicle to sell storage, supported by VMware (owned by EMC) and Cisco as a systems platform. EMC’s purchase of Cisco’s interest also tacitly acknowledges two underlying tensions in the converged infrastructure space:
Earlier today, we published a report that dissects global risk perceptions of business and technology management leaders. One of the most eye-popping observations from our analysis is how customer obsession dramatically alters the risk mindset of business decision-makers.
Out of seven strategic initiatives -- including “grow revenues,” “reduce costs,” and “better comply with regulations,” -- “improve the experience of our customers” is the most frequently cited priority for business and IT decision-makers over the next 12 months. When you compare those “customer-obsessed” decision-makers (i.e. those who believe customer experience is a critical priority) versus others who view customer experience as a lower priority, drastic differences appear in how they view, prioritize, and manage risk.
Customer obsession has the following effects on business decision-makers’ risk perceptions:
Risk concerns heighten dramatically across several risk types – especially reputational risk. Reputational risk concern more than doubles for customer-obsessed decision-makers, and other risks also see significant increases, including corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability risk, regulatory and compliance risk, and talent and human capital risk.
Do you remember the scene from The Empire Strikes Back where the Millennium Falcon is trying to escape an Imperial Star Destroyer? Han Solo says, “Let’s get out of here, ready for light-speed? One… two… three!” Han pulls back on the hyperspace throttle and nothing happens. He then says, “It’s not fair! It’s not my fault! It’s not my fault!”
Later in the movie when Lando and Leia are trying to escape Bespin, the hyperdrive fails yet again. Lando exclaimed, “They told me they fixed it. I trusted them to fix it. It's not my fault!” In first case transfer circuits were damaged, and in the second case, stormtroopers disabled the hyperdrive.
Ultimately they were at fault; they were the captains of the ship, and the buck stops with them. It doesn't matter what caused problems, they were responsible; excuses don't matter when a Sith Lord is in pursuit.
I am seeing a trend where breached companies might be heading down a similar “it’s not my fault” path. Consider these examples:
I’m getting inundated with briefing requests from vendors either coming out with their own white box offerings or somehow supporting the white box market. While white box network solutions provide great value for some industries, more than likely, they are not for your infrastructure but for specific industries such as web scale or high-frequency trading companies. The network world is fragmenting into industry-specific solutions, and the era of Swiss Army knife network hardware is over (see figure below). Mainstream vendors are freaking out because that was their bread and butter. Now they have to figure out who they want to serve. Some uncertain vendors are placing chips on all the squares of the network roulette table; this strategy is a losing proposition for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong. White boxes/bare-metal solutions have their place, but be cautious of the irrational exuberance over this new trend. Resources are finite. The vendors chasing tail lights will at some point have to give up and lock down on a particular path. Activist firm Elliott Management has rattled the cages of some high tech firms and has basically said, “You are killing investors’ return by not simplifying and focusing.” Personally, this might not mean much if you aren’t an investor. However, as an infrastructure and operations professional, you should be concerned about solutions existing a year or two down the road from shotgun-approach vendors; worse yet, you get the effects of a mile-wide, inch-deep investment, which means the solution lags on getting the investments needed to help your company succeed today.
Today, everyone is a content publisher. This is due to lower content creation costs (consider the cost of creating HD videos now versus five years ago) and the increasing need to deliver engaging, rich-media-driven experiences. As organizations across verticals morph to become content publishers, best-of-breed digital asset management (DAM) solutions are garnering increasing amounts of interest. Why the fuss? These solutions can help manage the content creation process, manage finalized rich media content, and prepare content for delivery across channels.
As organizations begin placing a premium on DAM technology, they need the technology to do more than serve as a static, siloed content repository. Instead, solutions now must support two key business imperatives:
Digital experience delivery. DAM solutions must provide deeper functionality to prepare rich media content to be delivered globally and across channels. To do this, solutions must support vision and functionality to support greater automation in managing global/local versions of content, various renditions of content across channels, and integration with key systems of engagement (e.g. eCommerce, web content management, campaign management).
Marketing and business agility. DAM solutions must allow marketers and other business users to work with greater agility as well as operational efficiency and effectiveness. To do this, DAM solutions must support greater business process management, automation for key content management tasks (e.g. tagging, rights management, version control), and integration with a greater enterprise marketing technology ecosystem to fuel greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Last week I participated in the 4th annual Smart City Expo – my 4th Smart City Expo. I’ve always enjoyed the event as it is a well-balanced mix of technology vendors, academics across various disciplines, and government practitioners — a refreshing change from many tech industry trade shows. In the conference sessions, panels reflect that mix with academics sharing their research on urban studies, vendors promoting their wares, and government leaders discussing their pain points and efforts to address them — oh, and an occasional industry analyst sharing observations on best practices. This year, however, the exhibitors reflected a different mix.
In the first years of the Expo, the exhibition hall featured technology vendors preaching salvation through connected and intelligent city systems —classic “vendor push.” City leaders were eager to see the light, but their conversion was not so straightforward. Most city systems were not ready to be connected, and many were far from intelligent. This year, cities are ready — or significantly closer. As the CIO of Madrid acknowledged at an IBM-sponsored lunch, two years was the time needed just to transform the thinking of the city council. Now work on their technology platform, called Madrid iNTeligente (MiNT) — which addresses urban mobility, public facilities, road infrastructure, waste, and parks — is well under way. Evidence of that shift was plentiful on the exhibition floor as cities — often sponsored by economic development and investment boards or vendor partners — demonstrated their progress in:
By now you have at least seen the cute little elephant logo or you may have spent serious time with the basic components of Hadoop like HDFS, MapReduce, Hive, Pig and most recently YARN. But do you have a handle on Kafka, Rhino, Sentry, Impala, Oozie, Spark, Storm, Tez… Giraph? Do you need a Zookeeper? Apache has one of those too! For example, the latest version of Hortonworks Data Platform has over 20 Apache packages and reflects the chaos of the open source ecosystem. Cloudera, MapR, Pivotal, Microsoft and IBM all have their own products and open source additions while supporting various combinations of the Apache projects.
After hearing the confusion between Spark and Hadoop one too many times, I was inspired to write a report, The Hadoop Ecosystem Overview, Q4 2104. For those that have day jobs that don’t include constantly tracking Hadoop evolution, I dove in and worked with Hadoop vendors and trusted consultants to create a framework. We divided the complex Hadoop ecosystem into a core set of tools that all work closely with data stored in Hadoop File System and extended group of components that leverage but do not require it.
In the past, enterprise architects could afford to think big picture and that meant treating Hadoop as a single package of tools. Not any more – you need to understand the details to keep up in the age of the customer. Use our framework to help, but please read the report if you can as I include a lot more there.
Early this year a host of inquires were coming in about data quality challenges in CRM systems. This led to a number of joint inquires between myself and CRM expert Kate Legget, VP and Principal Analyst in our application development and delivery team. Seems that the expectations that CRM systems could provide a single trusted view of the customer was starting to hit a reality check. There is more to collecting customer data and activities, you need validation, cleansing, standardization, consolidation, enrichment and hierarchies. CRM applications only get you so far, even with more and more functionality being added to reduce duplicate records and enforce classifications and groups. So, what should companies do?
In case you missed it, Forrester recently published its predictions on what and how I&O organizations must prioritize in 2015 to pursue the Business Technology agenda. The predictions are focused on how to innovate so that you can meet the speed, quality and agility your business demands. It also discusses the transformation needs I&O organizations are facing across people, processes and technology -- in particular how you must focus much of your efforts on enabling your workforce to be productive.
As I have been in I&O since the beginning of my professional career (which means forever), I see 2015 as a year to transform our I&O profession and organizations. The opportunities are spanning from partnering with your Application Development & Design team in a new way of operations -- we call this Modern Service Delivery (you might have seen this as DevOps); explore new ways to enable your workforce and how to change your approach to the technology supply chain and ecosystem. See for yourself what our predictions are. The full details can be found here in the November 20, 2014 report, "Predictions 2015: Infrastructure & Operations Prioritizes Pursuing The BT Agenda".