Our Collaborative Computing Future: Oblong’s Mezzanine

JP Gownder

When people think of futuristic user interfaces (Forrester analysts included), they often invoke the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. The imagery in the movie offers a compelling vision of how next-generation technologies – gestural control, voice command, 3D visuals, multi-screen interactions – can empower computing experiences.

Where did Minority Report get this vision? From a man named John Underkoffler, Chief Scientist at a company called Oblong. He designed the computer interfaces in the film.

I had the pleasure of visiting Oblong’s Boston office recently, where I saw demonstrations of several technologies. Most interesting to me was the company’s Mezzanine offering, an “infopresence” conference room that the company sells to enterprises today.

The solution involves equipping a conference room (or multiples – it works as a long distance telepresence location) with a number of monitors (5 in the room I visited), teleconferencing equipment (industry standard products work well), and ceiling-mounted sensors (for interpreting gestural controls), and a whiteboard (a physical one, but visible to a camera). Workers control the room with a wand, which works via both gestural controls and a button.

Putting all of these things together, workers can collaborate both within the room itself and with remote teams (or remote individual team members). The resulting experience, in my view, offers two sets of benefits:

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Global Business And Consumer Tablet Forecast Update, 2013 To 2017

JP Gownder

In our new reportMichael O'Grady and I outline our latest update of the tablet forecast. While in previous years we focused on the North American consumer market, this year’s report expands the analysis to include our viewpoint on the global market for both consumers and businesses

Forrester Research ForecastView Trends

Fundamentally, as we have been writing about for some time, we believe tablet sales and penetration will continue to grow rapidly. In developed markets, they will streak past “mass market” status to become what we term “mainstay” devices – a third form factor carried by most online consumers. Our forecast indicates that tablets have hit hyper-growth. By 2017, we find that:

  • In North America (US/Canada), 60% of online consumers will own a tablet by 2017, making it a majority device. In Europe, 42% of online consumers will own one. While penetration rates won’t reach even 25% in aggregate in the developing world by that date, tablets will reach majority status in leading Asian markets like Singapore and South Korea.
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Cloud Management In A Hybrid Cloud World

Dave Bartoletti

It's inevitable that the future look of enterprise IT will be a hybrid mix of on- and off-premises services. 45% of companies rely on at least one Software-as-a-Service application today, and a third of companies are already using some form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service at Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, GoGrid, and the like.

While your particular mix of cloud and cloud-like services will vary, it's unlikely that any I&O pro will be primarily focused on configuring server, storage, and network devices as a core competency in the long run. The hybrid IT infrastructure is well underway, so you can either ignore it, try to contain it, or embrace it.

Those first two options are off the table – the cloud ship has sailed. So how do you embrace it? First, don’t be thrown off by that “hybrid” moniker. Forrester defines hybrid cloud as a cloud service connected to any other corporate resource. That means most companies are actually hybrid today; if you have at least one SaaS app connected to anything in your data center, you're hybrid.

Second, you should start to plan for the impact of hybrid cloud on your role and on your current IT operations. In a hybrid world, you’ll still own some of your IT resources but you won’t own a growing portion of them. You might not even be the person responsible for sourcing cloud services, but whether it’s your business units or developers bringing cloud services into your company, I&O will ultimately be responsible for managing them. No matter where it runs, your application is yours after all.

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It’s Time For Enterprises To Consider Chromebooks

JP Gownder

Since their introduction over two years ago, the buzz around Chromebooks hasn't always been positive. Although recent news about Chromebook growth in the consumer market has improved this picture, negative press still hasn't been hard to come by this year.

Infrastructure & Operations professionals with responsibility for end user computing and device portfolios should ignore the naysayers. In fact, it’s time to take a fresh look at whether Chromebooks might fill a legitimate computing niche for your company.

In a major new Forrester report, we present an analysis of the enterprise Chromebook space. Let me first be clear that Chromebooks won’t replace all or even most Windows PCs, Macs, and tablets. But for companies that are (1) willing to segment their workforces (offering Chromebooks to specific classes of workers in a mixed environment with PCs and tablets), (2) adopting Gmail and/or Google Apps, or who are (3) deploying the devices in a customer-facing (think kiosk) scenario, Chromebooks are definitely worth investigating.

Moving workers to Chromebooks generates these benefits (plus others covered in the full report):

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What the CIA Cloud Does and Doesn't Tell Us

James Staten

Much has been written about the US Government Central Intelligence Agency's award of its private cloud business to Amazon Web Services and the subsequent protest and government ruling on this award, but much of the coverage leaves out a few pertinent and key facts. Let's look at the key questions being debated about this proposed contract:

Q: Is this a private cloud? AWS said it doesn't believe in private clouds.

A: Yes, despite AWS' protests to the contrary, this is a private cloud. According to the documents that have thus far been made public from this proposal, the CIA is looking for a cloud service (an Infrastructure as a Service) offered on a dedicated set of resources isolated to a specific customer and deployed on CIA-owned resources from within a government owned and operated facility. 

Q: Would this be AWS' first private cloud?

A: Yes and no. Yes, it would be the first implementation of the AWS services atop a customer-owned infrastructure and facility asset base. But no, it would not be the first time AWS has delivered an isolated environment offering its services. AWS's GovCloud is also a private cloud for the greater US Government. FedCloud is operated from an AWS-owned facility on AWS owned assets.

Q: Is this a community cloud? What's the difference between that and a private cloud?

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Intel Lays Out Future Data Center Strategy - Serious Focus on Emerging Opportunities

Richard Fichera

Yesterday Intel had a major press and analyst event in San Francisco to talk about their vision for the future of the data center, anchored on what has become in many eyes the virtuous cycle of future infrastructure demand – mobile devices and “the Internet of things” driving cloud resource consumption, which in turn spews out big data which spawns storage and the requirement for yet more computing to analyze it. As usual with these kinds of events from Intel, it was long on serious vision, and strong on strategic positioning but a bit parsimonious on actual future product information with a couple of interesting exceptions.

Content and Core Topics:

No major surprises on the underlying demand-side drivers. The the proliferation of mobile device, the impending Internet of Things and the mountains of big data that they generate will combine to continue to increase demand for cloud-resident infrastructure, particularly servers and storage, both of which present Intel with an opportunity to sell semiconductors. Needless to say, Intel laced their presentations with frequent reminders about who was the king of semiconductor manufacturingJ

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Our Gesture Controlled 3D Computing Future: Beyond Leap Motion

JP Gownder

Today saw the release of Leap Motion, the 3D gestural navigation controller for PCs and Macs. Like its cousin the Xbox Kinect, Leap Motion uses sensors to track physical gestures. Where Kinect tracks your entire body, Leap Motion tracks fine movements of the arms, hands, and fingers. In turn, this allows users to input information, enabling touch-free 3D gestural navigation control.

Leap Motion can be used to navigate operating systems (Windows, Mac), to cruise through Google Earth,  to draw a digital picture, to generate experimental music, or to dissect a virtual frog, as seen in the AirSpace Leap Motion app store. In the future, surgeons could perform surgeries and airline pilots could control their plans with this solution, according to the vendor.

The success or failure of Leap Motion will derive from the strength of the app ecosystem that grows up around it:

  • As with touch screen, ground-up applications work best... “Touch-first” applications – those reimagined from the ground up with touch as the primary navigational method – generally appeal to users better than “touch-second” experiences where touch was added to an existing application. Similarly, gesture-controlled experiences need to be rethought from the ground up.The same is true for voice-controlled apps. Developers will need to change the way they work in coming years, collaborating with designers and experts in human anatomy, for all of this to work. Until that happens, the technology will remain marginal.
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With Windows RT Struggling, Microsoft Should Bring Office To iPad

JP Gownder

One noteworthy detail emerged from Microsoft’s quarterly earnings call yesterday: A $900 million write-down for “inventory adjustments” related to the underperformance of Windows RT. This result didn’t come as a surprise because:

  • Microsoft’s Windows RT strategy has long been puzzling. Launching the Surface RT device before the Windows 8-based Surface Pro offering never made sense – an insufficient number of Modern UI apps made the Surface RT hard to position and sell from the beginning. Samsung recognized the shortcomings of RT early on, exiting the market a mere three months after RT’s release.
  • Microsoft still hasn’t convinced developers that Windows RT should be a top priority. Our survey of 2,038 global software developers revealed that developer support for Windows RT trails Windows 7, Windows 8, Apple iOS, Google Android, and even Apple OS X. For example, while 21% of global developers support or plan to support Windows RT, 64% say the same for “Windows 7 and earlier versions.”
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Microsoft’s Surface Promotion Signals the Growing Importance of Tablets in Chinese Schools

Bryan Wang

Microsoft recently announced an education promotion for its Surface RT tablets that offers deep discounts to schools and universities.  Under the program, Microsoft will offer Chinese students the 10.6” Surface RT tablet at $199 (versus a list price of $499), with official Office applications standard.  With e-education a critical part of education reform, Forrester sees two key trends driving strong tablet adoption in the education sector:

·       Continuous government investments in e-learning.  At both the central and local government levels, e-learning programs are underway to improve students’ information literacy as well as narrow the education resource gaps across the different regions in China.  For example, the “Digital Education Resources Full Coverage Project" was launched in November 2012 by the central government with funding of RMB 308 million ($49 million) to equip digital education devices for teaching venues across China.

·       Explosive growth in tablet adoption.Forrester forecasts the number of tablets for business, government or educational use to increase from about 19 million in 2012 to more than 83 million in 2016 in APJ, with China as one of the key growth engines. Noticing this growing opportunity, multiple city governments (e.g. Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou, etc.) have announced projects to purchase tablets for students’ usage in class.

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Systems of Engagement vs Systems of Reference – Core Concept for Infrastructure Architecture

Richard Fichera

My Forrester colleagues Ted Schadler and John McCarthy have written about the differences between Systems of Reference (SoR) and Systems of Engagement (SoE) in the customer-facing systems and mobility, but after further conversations with some very smart people at IBM, I think there are also important reasons for infrastructure architects to understand this dichotomy. Scalable and flexible systems of engagement, engagement, built with the latest in dynamic web technology and the back-end systems of record, highly stateful usually transactional systems designed to keep track of the “true” state of corporate assets are very different animals from an infrastructure standpoint in two fundamental areas:

Suitability to cloud (private or public) deployment – SoE environments, by their nature, are generally constructed using horizontally scalable technologies, generally based on some level of standards including web standards, Linux or Windows OS, and some scalalable middleware that hides the messy details of horizontally scaling a complex application. In addition, the workloads are generally highly parallel, with each individual interaction being of low value. This characteristic leads to very different demands on the necessity for consistency and resiliency.

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