Christmas 2011: The First Mass Customized Holiday Season

JP Gownder

Ah, Black Friday: What would the post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza be without a visit to the local mall? This year, I was keen to perform some gumshoe research on a theme I've been talking about all year long: mass customization, a product strategy that's ready for prime time across multiple industries.

A trip to the Natick Mall (yes, "Mall," no longer "Collection," New Englanders) reveals that mass customization isn't just the future; it's the present. In fact, it's hiding in plain sight. Build-a-Bear Workshop, Hallmark, Lego, and LensCrafters are all stores in the Natick Mall that offer significant customization for consumer products. Burberry is the latest Natick Mall vendor to offer mass customization; I am quoted in Time magazine this week (here, but subscription required to view the link; page 82 in the December 5 paper edition) discussing how luxury clothing and customization fit together well. As I've written before, one of the benefits of employing mass customization is that it empowers consumers to create products that express their personalities -- a particularly relevant feature for clothing and apparel products.

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HP Expands Its x86 Options With Mission-Critical Program – Defense And Offense Combined

Richard Fichera

Today HP announced a new set of technology programs and future products designed to move x86 server technology for both Windows and Linux more fully into the realm of truly mission-critical computing. My interpretation of these moves is that it is both a combined defensive and pro-active offensive action on HP’s part that will both protect them as their Itanium/HP-UX portfolio slowly declines as well as offer attractive and potentially unique options for both current and future customers who want to deploy increasingly critical services on x86 platforms.

What’s Coming?

Bearing in mind that the earliest of these elements will not be in place until approximately mid-2012, the key elements that HP is currently disclosing are:

ServiceGuard for Linux – This is a big win for Linux users on HP, and removes a major operational and architectural hurdle for HP-UX migrations. ServiceGuard is a highly regarded clustering and HA facility on HP-UX, and includes many features for local and geographically distributed HA. The lack of ServiceGuard is often cited as a risk in HP-UX migrations. The availability of ServiceGuard by mid-2012 will remove yet another barrier to smooth migration from HP-UX to Linux, and will help make sure that HP retains the business as it migrates from HP-UX.

Analysis engine for x86 – Analysis engine is internal software that provides system diagnostics, predictive failure analysis and self-repair on HP-UX systems. With an uncommitted delivery date, HP will port this to selected x86 servers. My guess is that since the analysis engine probably requires some level of hardware assist, the analysis engine will be paired with the next item on the list…

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Another Reason Not To Cloud Wash - Real Cloud Services Are Maturing Fast

James Staten

We know that enterprise infrastructure & operations (I&O) professionals are under tremendous executive pressure to get to yes on cloud computing and that this can be an uncomfortable proposition. Understanding the security, maturity and return on investment from cloud services can be challenging, and in many cases you might argue that you provide the same capabilities from your own data center. But there's no denying that enterprises are increasing their consumption of these services and that their value proposition is unique and compelling - if not to I&O directly.

Since cloud became a household word, vendors and enterprises alike have jumped to declare victory on cloud with services and infrastructure implementations that really don't deliver cloud value but have the same foundation - something we call "cloudwashing." This is a dangerous gambit as you claim legitimacy but don't activate the same economics, deliver the autonomy that cloud services offer to your internal users and aren't standardized or automated enough to deliver transformative agility. In other words you claim cloud but are achieving only incrementally better value. 

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HP Folio Ultrabook: A Happy Meal For The Road Warrior

David Johnson

Enterprise laptops are on the shopping list for many I&O professionals I speak with every week, with some asking if Netbooks are the antidote to the MacBook Air for their people. Well, on the menu of enterprise laptops, I think of Netbooks as an appetizer -- inexpensive, but after an hour my stomach is growling again. Garden-variety ultraportables on the other hand are like a turkey sandwich -- everything I need to keep me going, but they make me sleepy halfway through the afternoon.

Ultrabooks are a new class of notebook promoted by Intel and are supposed to be a little more like caviar and champagne -- light and powerful, but served on business-class china with real silverware and espresso. At least that's what I took away after being briefed by Intel on the topic. I had the chance to sample HP's new Ultrabook fare in San Francisco a few weeks ago while they were still in the test kitchen, and it seems they took a little different approach. Not bad, just different.

It struck me that rather than beluga and Dom Perignon , HP has created more of a Happy Meal -- a tasty cheeseburger and small fries with a Diet Coke, in a lightweight, easy to carry package for a bargain price. It has everything the road warrior needs to get things done, and like a Happy Meal, they can carry it on the plane and set it on the tray table…even if the clown in front of them reclines. Folio offers the Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB RAM, a 13.3" LED display and a 128GB SSD storage, a 9-hour battery and USB 3.0 + Ethernet ports as highlights, all for $900. It's a true bargain. I think I will call it the McUltrabook.

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Who In Your Company Is The Most Enthusiastic About Cloud? Nope, It's Not Your Developers

James Staten

It's not the business leaders or the rank employees either. While all of these choice make sense and all are, according to our Forrights surveys, more excited by it than infrastructure & operations professionals, it's the person who supposedly has the most to gain from it -- your CFO.

One of the things that truly differentiates Forrester Research from other analyst firms is the breadth of conversations we have with clients and the range of employees in an enterprise that we survey. We serve not only those in IT roles across the world but those in marketing, sales and strategy roles too. And our Forrsights surveys complete the picture by talking with CFOs, CEOs, workplace professionals and of course consumers. This breadth gives us the ability to present 360-degree views on certain key topics such as mobility and cloud computing. And it is through this holistic view that you get a real psychograph of the enterprise and can examine and respond to these differences in opinion and consumption. 

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AMD Releases Interlagos And Valencia – Bulldozers In The Cloud

Richard Fichera

This week AMD finally released their AMD 6200 and 4200 series CPUs. These are the long-awaited server-oriented Interlagos and Valencia CPUs, based on their new “Bulldozer” core, offering up to 16 x86 cores in a single socket. The announcement was targeted at (drum roll, one guess per customer only) … “The Cloud.” AMD appears to be positioning its new architectures as the platform of choice for cloud-oriented workloads, focusing on highly threaded throughput oriented benchmarks that take full advantage of its high core count and unique floating point architecture, along with what look like excellent throughput per Watt metrics.

At the same time it is pushing the now seemingly mandatory “cloud” message, AMD is not ignoring the meat-and-potatoes enterprise workloads that have been the mainstay of server CPUs sales –virtualization, database, and HPC, where the combination of many cores, excellent memory bandwidth and large memory configurations should yield excellent results. In its competitive comparisons, AMD targets Intel’s 5640 CPU, which it claims represents Intel’s most widely used Xeon CPU, and shows very favorable comparisons in regards to performance, price and power consumption. Among the features that AMD cites as contributing to these results are:

  • Advanced power and thermal management, including the ability to power off inactive cores contributing to an idle power of less than 4.4W per core. Interlagos offers a unique capability called TDP, which allows I&O groups to set the total power threshold of the CPU in 1W increments to allow fine-grained tailoring of power in the server racks.
  • Turbo CORE, which allows boosting the clock speed of cores by up to 1 GHz for half the cores or 500 MHz for all the cores, depending on workload.
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Welcome To The Nook Signing

JP Gownder

 It’s a tried-and-true in-store promotional tactic: the book signing. Authors tour bookstores, meet their fans, and sign copies of a book that was bought in the store that day.

How can book signings be updated for the 21st century? Barnes and Noble, with its Nook devices and its rapidly expanding Nook Boutiques, has an opportunity to create a total product experience around its Nook devices and digital books. Let's call it a Nook Signing, a theoretical Forrester product idea for Barnes and Noble to consider.

Leveraging its in-store Wi-Fi, Barnes and Noble could host a series of Nook Signing events – special book signing events only for owners of Nook devices (or those willing to buy them in store that day).

The event would feature marquee bestselling authors like George RR Martin or other authors with vociferous, loyal fans. (Barnes and Noble would have to incentivize these authors).

Attendees would get to meet the author, but more importantly, would receive an in-store download over Barnes and Noble’s Wi-Fi, receiving unique, brand-new content on their Nooks. For example, Nook Tablet and Nook color devices could receive a video from George R.R. Martin offering up an exclusive tidbit about his next book.

What happens next? Nook Signing attendees use their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts to tell the world the news about George R.R. Martin’s next book ... which they learned about at the Nook Signing.

What does this event accomplish?

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Scoring Our 2011 Cloud Predictions

James Staten

Around this time last year, Forrester published its predictions for what we expected to happen in the cloud computing market in 2011. While some of those prognostications were on the mark, in general we learned once again that markets move much slower than any of us would like.

It might be best to think of last year’s predictions as less about what would happen in a twelve month period and more about trends we identified that we felt would have lasting impact on the infrastructure & operations (I&O) professional and the market in general. Thus we felt progress was made along most of these lines. Here's a quick look at what we predicted and where we went astray:

1.       And The Empowered Shall Lead Us. Correct. Forrsights surveys and discussions with clients continue to show that the early adopters of cloud services are not I&O, and this gap rose in 2011. And the trend of Empowered employees and developers not telling I&O about their use of cloud continued in 2011. Thankfully we saw more I&O leaders begin to proactively engage these leaders by demonstrating how I&O can make their use of these services more predictable and productive. Far more of this type of engagement is still needed as the pressure on business to move more quickly and autonomously grows as the risk of a double-dip recession rises.

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Did Hell Freeze Over? Not Yet, But It's Getting Cold!

David Johnson

A couple of weeks ago, I proposed that I&O Professionals should repeal Mac prohibition and find ways to empower employees who are choosing Macs in increasing numbers and bringing them to the office. This was based on fresh 2011 research with Forrester clients, vendors and survey respondents, and concluded that not only were the numbers of Macs in enterprises increasing rapidly, but that the people choosing their own technology for the office, are often the highest performers.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune's Apple 2.0 picked it up right away and made a very astute observation: that Forrester's stance on Macs in the enterprise had seemingly flip-flopped. His conclusion was based on a 2007 Forrester report on enterprise desktop trends in which Forrester observed: "Macs can be ignored for all but niche business groups." The conclusion was based on the data of the time, which showed Microsoft's enterprise desktop market share at 95%, but also noted that Apple's had doubled. We also observed in the same report that "Microsoft is not innovating," and "Vista is having a tough time in enterprises," based on data which showed slow uptake of Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7.

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Extending The Best Practices From The Data Center To The Campus

Andre Kindness

Last week Vendor X was briefing me on a set of new switches. The projector started rolling with a nice webconference slide deck and a voiceover highlighting customer requirements. It wasn’t long before I felt like Phil Connors (Bill Murray) from the movie Groundhog Day, listening to a radio DJ ask listeners if Punxsutawney Phil was going to see his shadow. This déjà vu moment wasn’t another data center networking briefing but, surprisingly, one about network campus switches.

The past five years have been an era of contraction. Businesses put cost-cutting on the top of their lists and virtualization and consolidation were the panacea for efficiency gains, becoming the shiny ball vendors used to lure customers into buying new solutions. As a result, every networking vendor has been rolling out solutions to address virtual machine (VM) mobility and storage convergence. However, priorities are changing: Revenue growth has just outranked cost-cutting in a Forrester survey of IT executives. I&O teams are altering their focus from where the VMs connect to the other edge where users hook in.

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