Azure Stack Preview – Microsoft-s End-Game for On-Premise IT?

Richard Fichera

What’s Happening?

In 2014 I wrote about Microsoft and Dell’s joint Cloud Platform System offering, Microsoft’s initial foray into an “Azure-Like” experience in the enterprise data center. While not a complete or totally transparent Azure experience, it was a definite stake in the ground around Microsoft’s intentions to provide enterprise Azure with hybrid on-premise and public cloud (Azure) interoperability.

I got it wrong about other partners – as far as I know, Dell is the only hardware partner to offer Microsoft CPS – but it looks like my idiot-proof guess that CPS was a stepping stone toward a true on premise Azure was correct, with Microsoft today announcing its technology preview of Azure Stack, the first iteration of a true enterprise Azure offering with hybrid on-prem and public cloud interoperability.

Azure Stack is in some ways a parallel offering to the existing Windows Server/Systems Center and Azure Pack offering, and I believe it represents Microsoft’s long-term vision for enterprise IT, although Microsoft will do nothing to compromise the millions of legacy environments who want to incremental enhance their Windows environment. But for those looking to embrace a more complete cloud experience, Azure Stack is just what the doctor ordered – an Azure environment that can run in the enterprise that has seamless access to the immense Azure public cloud environment.

On the partner front, this time Microsoft will be introducing this as a pure software that can run on one or more standard x86 servers, no special integration required, although I’m sure there will be many bundled offerings of Azure Stack and integration services from partners.

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Forrester’s Security & Risk Spotlight: CISO Expertise From Across The Pond

Stephanie Balaouras

2015 was a tumultuous year for CISOs. Breaches affecting The Home Depot, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, and T-Mobile dominated the headlines worldwide and left no industry, region, or CISO unscathed. These unfortunate spotlights created a slew of negative infosec publicity along with panicked demands from business leaders and customers alike. How secure are we? Ask the CISO. How did this breach occur? Ask the CISO. Why did this breach occur? Ask the CISO. Could we have prevented it? Ask the CISO. How could we let this happen? Ask the CISO.

Yet, CISOs continue to struggle to gain clout and influence with the rest of the C-suite and sometimes it can feel like a thankless role. There is little recognition when you’re doing your job right, but you face a whirlwind of pain and blame the second something goes wrong. The world’s growing emphasis and focus on cybersecurity should be running parallel with the capabilities and reputation of the CISO. Instead, CISOs see their responsibilities increasing with only modest funding increases, recognition, or support from their fellow colleagues.

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Hadoop Is Data's Darling For A Reason

Mike Gualtieri

Hadoop thoroughly disrupts the economics of data, analytics, and data-driven applications. That's cool because the unfortunate truth has been that the potential of most data lies dormant. On average, between 60% and 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics. That's unacceptable in an age where deeper, actionable insights, especially about customers, are a competitive necessity. Enterprises are responding by adopting what Forrester calls "Hadoop and friends" (friends such as Spark and Kafka and others). Get Hadoop, but choose the distribution that is right for your enterprise.

Solid Choices All Around Make For Tough Choices

Forrester's evaluated five key Hadoop distributions from vendors: Cloudera, Hortonworks, IBM, MapR Technologies, and Pivotal Software. Forrester's evaluation of big data Hadoop distributions uncovered a market with four Leaders and one Strong Performer:

  • Cloudera, MapR Technologies, IBM, and Hortonworks are Leaders. Enterprise Hadoop is a market that is not even 10 years old, but Forrester estimates that 100% of all large enterprises will adopt it (Hadoop and related technologies such as Spark) for big data analytics within the next two years. The stakes are exceedingly high for the pure-play distribution vendors Cloudera, Hortonworks, and MapR Technologies, which have all of their eggs in the Hadoop basket. Currently, there is no absolute winner in the market; each of the vendors focuses on key features such as security, scale, integration, governance, and performance critical for enterprise adoption.

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Announcing the Forrester Wave: Private Cloud Software Suites, Q1 2016

Lauren Nelson

Anyone familiar to Forrester knows the Wave drill: 1) we take the top vendors in a space, 2) do a massive data collection process, 3) evaluate each, and 4) share our findings. We've been evaluating this market since Q2 2011. For our 2016 evaluation, we used 40-criteria to evaluate the following vendors -- BMC, Cisco, Citrix, HPE, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware.

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I'm Shocked, Shocked That GoPro Missed Its Number

Ted Schadler

GoPro's stock, the gadget darling IPO of 2014, laid off 7% of its workforce and took a big hit in the stock market when it announced it had missed its revenue projection.

All I have to say about that is, "duh."

How big did you think they would get last year? GoPro is now in the very tough early majority phase of adoption, where fewer people in that cohort are interested in the product.

And you can't forecast early majority adoption based on early adopter purchases. Early adopters are a breed apart. They love tech. They take more risks. They try things out and abandon them with ease. Early majority customers are none of those things. And mainstream customers are even less so. 

If you want to play armchair prognosticor about a new technology (Apple Watch, anyone?), start with 15 points and take away points by asking four questions:

  1. If you own a GoPro, when was the last time you used it? If it wasn't in the last month, then take away a point. If it wasn't in the last year, then two points. If you don't own one and don't plan to, then take away three points.
  2. Could you imagine your neighbor using a GoPro? If not, then take away two points.
  3. Could you imagine a lot of people at the airport, truck stop, Starbucks, and Disneyworld using a GoPro? Take a point away for each venue where most people won't.
  4. Would your mother, father, and baby brother or child want to use a GoPro? Take away one point for each that won't.
  5. Could you imagine a lotta lotta people in China or India or Brazil using a GoPro? If not, then take away three points.
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Welcome To The Age Of Innovation - Perspectives On CES 2016

Nigel Fenwick

Presenting and hosting a panel on digital transformation at this year's CES gave me the opportunity to wander the 2 million square feet of exhibit space and assimilate some of the changes coming our way:

Welcome To The Age Of Invention. For me, the most exciting aspect of CES is the sheer volume of innovative, inventive startups that are tapping into the power of sensor-enabled technology to create new products and services. Many of these companies are funded through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstartergofundme and indiegogo. The pace of innovation will accelerate as high-school kids use their fertile imaginations to tap into the technology that’s now second nature to them.

The Internet Of Things Will Fuel Rapid Digital Transformation. Based on the sheer volume of internet connected devices coming on the market this year, we’re going to see an explosion in the Internet Of Things (IoT). Everything – from wearables that track everything from your health and fitness to the temperature of a newborn child, and in-home appliances that interconnect to create a home environment tailored to your preferences – everything is now designed with sensors that collect data that's used to deliver better customer outcomes. Or at least that’s the promise. Sensors can and will improve our lives – giving us more data and insight about our environment and allowing us to tailor experiences to be more finely tuned to our personal desires. The data provided by the sensors in the Internet Of Things is the fuel for further digital transformation.

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How Do You Set Your Company Up For Success With Data Classification?

Heidi Shey

Defining your data via data discovery and classification is the foundation for data security strategy. The idea that you must understand what data you have, where it is, and if it is sensitive data or not is one that makes sense at a conceptual level. The challenge, as usual, is with execution. Too often, data classification is reduced to an academic exercise rather than a practical implementation. The basics aren’t necessarily simple, and the existing tools and capabilities for data classification continue to evolve.* Still, there are several best practices that can help to put you on the road to success:

  • Keep labels simple. At a high level, stick to no more than 3 or 4 levels of classification. This reduces ambiguity about what each classification label means. Lots of classification labels increases confusion and the chance for opportunistic data classification (where users may default to classifying data at a lower level for ease of access and use).
  • Recognize that there are two types of data classification projects: new data and legacy data. This will help to focus the scope of your efforts. Commit to tackling new data first for maximum visibility and impact for your classification initiative. 
  • Identify roles and responsibilities for data classification. Consider data creators, owners, users, auditors (like privacy officers, or a risk and compliance manager), champions (who’s leading the classification initiative?). Data is a living thing and all employees have a role in classification. Classification levels may change over time as data progresses through its lifecycle or as regulatory requirements evolve. 
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The Internet Of Things Will Drive Customer Relationships, And The Industrial Sector Is Realising The Opportunity

Paul Miller

The Internet of Things, or IoT, finds its way into a lot of conversations these days. CES in Las Vegas last week was awash with internet-connected doo-dahs, including cars, fridges, televisions, and more. Moving away from the home and into the world of business, the IoT furore continues unabated. Instead of connecting cars to Netflix or a teen-tracking insurance company, we connect entire fleets of trucks to warehouses, delivery locations, and driver monitoring systems. Instead of connecting the domestic fridge to Carrefour or Tesco or Walmart in order to automatically order another litre of milk, we connect entire banks of chiller units to stock control systems, backup generators, and municipal environmental health officers. And then we connect the really big things; a locomotive, a jet engine, a mountainside covered in wind turbines, a valley bursting with crops, a city teeming with people.

A picture of wind turbines in Scotland
Wind turbines in Ayrshire. (Source: Paul Miller)

The IoT hype is compelling, pervasive, and full of bold promises and eye-watering valuations. And yet, despite talking about connected cars or smarter cities for decades, the all-encompassing vision remains distant. The reality, mostly, is one in which incompatible standards, immature implementations, and patchy network connectivity ensure that each project or procurement delivers an isolated little bubble of partially connected intelligence. Stitching these together, to deliver meaningful views — and control — across all of the supposedly connected systems within a factory, a company, a power network, a city, or a watershed often remains more hope than dependable reality. 

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Benchmark Against Your Biggest Competitor — Yourself!

Diego Lo Giudice

As firms face growing competition for customers, they naturally seek to compare themselves with their peers and competitors, but there is a trap: Leaders don’t compare themselves with competitors anymore. Instead, they compare their current performance with where they need to be as a leader, and that’s what the business expects.

In the past, it was common to benchmark organizational performance against “industry averages,” and being “above average” was considered good. Today, “above average” is no longer good enough; fickle customers demand exceptional experiences. Delivering those experiences requires exceptional performance; anything less means that another company may steal your customers.

When we talk with leading modern application delivery organizations, we find that new benchmarking trends are emerging, making traditional benchmarking less attractive. Why?

  • Benchmarking is for followers, not leaders. Organizations want to be “unicorns,” like the Etsys, Netflixes, Googles, and Salesforces of the world. They don’t want to be losing “horses.”  


  • Most benchmarking approaches target the IT of the past, not BT. Benchmark methodologies and data were created and heavily used when software delivery capability was considered a cost, not a differentiator. In business technology, software is a key differentiator, and BT leaders want to be the best and continuously improve.
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Refinance And Refocus: Verizon, CenturyLink and Windstream Enter 2016 With Leaner Strategies

Sophia Vargas

While mergers and acquisitions have proliferated in the colocation industry - each positioned to increase geographic coverage or higher order capabilities – in the last 6 months, a new trend has emerged: strategic divestitures, most prominently observed in the telecommunications space. Following the complete cycle, in 2010 and 2011, Centurylink, Verizon and Windstream made strategic acquisitions to increase their data center services portfolios, acquiring Savvis, Terremark and Hosting Solutions respectively. 5 years later, each firm has announced its intent to sell of some or all of these assets. 

So, what went wrong?

While telcos had arguably given birth to colocation, the fact remains that network and carrier providers have had troubling competing against pure play colocation and data center service providers like Equinix and Digital Realty. In the past, telecom providers described colocation and data center services as a way to enrich existing customer contracts. In an interesting twist, these new intended divestitures have been presented as a way to refinance core assets, focus on what drives their business, and move away from standardized services with high overhead and lower margins.  While vendors may keep their skeletons in the closet, I had some speculation as to what might be fueling these decisions:

-          Buyers want carrier density and diversity.  Even though all of these facilities support multiple connections into other carriers, customers tend to evaluate facilities by connectivity options instead of looking for carriers to provide data center capacity on top of network services. Additionally, many geographically dispersed companies are considering blended IP solutions to improve latency and performance across the globe.

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