Microsoft's Office 365 Release Marks More Than Just The Delivery Of A New Platform

Christopher Voce

Microsoft is in a very critical period with their fiscal year ending this week, as my colleague Duncan Jones recently wrote. But today, Steve Ballmer is announcing one of Microsoft’s most important products in the company’s history – Office 365. Sound like an embellishment? It’s not – and it’s because Office 365’s release is not just the launch of a new technical solution for customers, but also a change in the relationship with their customers. Microsoft’s Office 365 is the single biggest change to the Microsoft customer relationship since the introduction of Software Assurance and the modern Enterprise Agreement in 2001.

For those that are blissfully unaware of Microsoft licensing, Software Assurance is Microsoft’s software maintenance relationship with customers and represents a large part of Microsoft’s predictable annual income. I wrote earlier about how cloud services like Windows Intune change the nature of this relationship – from one based on rights to upgrades and later releases of software, which for some customers had questionable predictable value – to one where a customer sees more predictable value by delivering benefits and services that truly offset internal costs. We know that we sink large sums of time and money into running email and collaboration services ourselves. Microsoft takes on far more responsibility and Office 365 exemplifies that motion. Cloud services solve Microsoft’s greatest challenge, building an annuity relationship with a customer that will be less risky to continue to deliver.

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Tablets And Mass Customization: A Match Made In Heaven

JP Gownder

With a hat tip to the mass-customization.info blog, a screen shot showing that the latest Blackberry Playbook commercial depicts a mass customization experience – the Converse Design Your Own collection. (See the entire video here).

Sarah Rotman Epps is the senior analyst on my team who leads our research on tablets (and consumer computing) for product strategy professionals. She’s written extensively about the future of tablets but also about the characteristics of software and media experiences that succeed on tablets. (Forrester clients can read “Best Practices for Media Apps,” for instance). At the same time, I have written about how mass customization is finally the future of products in an age when customer-centricity reigns.

Tablets and configurators – the typical tool that consumers use to co-design customized products – are a match made in heaven. They share a number of characteristics that product strategists should consider when developing mass-customized product interfaces. For example, they both:

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HP Versus Oracle -- From Ugly To Uglier As HP Takes To The Courts

Richard Fichera

On June 15, HP announced that it had filed suit against Oracle, saying in a statement:

“HP is seeking the court’s assistance to compel Oracle to:

  • Reverse its decision to discontinue all software development on the Itanium platform

  • Reaffirm its commitment to offer its product suite on HP platforms, including Itanium;

  • Immediately reset the Itanium core processor licensing factor consistent with the model prior to December 1, 2010 for RISC/EPIC systems

 HP also seeks:

  • Injunctive relief, including an order prohibiting Oracle from making false and misleading statements regarding the Itanium microprocessor or HP’s Itanium-based servers and remedying the harm caused by Oracle’s conduct.

  • Damages and fees and other standard remedies available in cases of this nature.”

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HP Stirs The Pot With New Converged Infrastructure Offerings

Richard Fichera

HP this week really stirred up the Converged Infrastructure world by introducing three new solution offerings, one an incremental evolution of an existing offering and the other two representing new options which will put increased pressure on competitors. The trio includes:

  • HP VirtualSystem - HP’s answer to vStart, Flex Pod and vBlocks, VirtualSystem is a pre-integrated stack of servers (blade and racked options), HP network switches and HP Converged Storage (3Par and Left Hand Networks iSCSI) along with software, including the relevant OS and virtualization software. Clients can choose from four scalable deployment options that support up to 750, 2500 or 6000 virtual servers or up to 3000 virtual clients. It supports Microsoft and Linux along with VMware and Citrix. Since this product is new, announced within weeks of the publication of this document, we have had limited exposure it, but HP claims that they have added significant value in terms of optimized infrastructure, automation of VM deployment, management and security. In addition, HP will be offering a variety of services and hosting options along with VirtualSystem. Forrester expects that VirtualSystem will change the existing competitive dynamics and will result in a general uptick of interest it similar solutions. HP is positioning VirtualSystem as a growth path to CloudSystem, with what they describe as a “streamlined” upgrade path to a hybrid cloud environment.
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Are Banks Using Cloud Computing? A Definitive Yes.

James Staten

Ever since 2009 when NIST published its first definition of cloud computing there has been a promise of community clouds, and now we finally have a second one in the financial services market, thanks to NYSE Technologies. The IT arm of NYSE Euronext announced beta of Capital Markets Community Platform, its cloud computing offering this week, and the effort, on the surface, is a good example for other vertical markets to follow.

For years, financial services firms such as investment banks and hedge funds have been competing on trade execution speed and volume -- where milliseconds per trade can translate into billions of dollars in competitive advantage. And in doing so, they have found that you can't beat the speed of light. Thus if you want very, very fast connections to the stock market, you need to be as close to the servers used by the market as possible. The way to do this prior was to find out where the data center for an exchange was located and put your servers as close as possible and hopefully on the same network backbone. If the exchange was in a colocation facility, then you wanted the cage right next door. This method gave larger investment banks a distinct advantage as you had to be able to afford a full cage and have priority access.

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SMARTnet Is Dead! Long Live The Lifetime Warranty!

Andre Kindness

Just kidding, Cisco’s SMARTnet isn’t dead, but I&O managers have a new warranty for networking hardware: free hardware replacement, bug fixes, and tech support. Basically, enterprises can expect to get a basic break-and-fix solution free from most vendors on edge and distribution switches or switch/routers. Hallelujah!

Everyone owes a big thank-you to HP. Over the past 10 years, while holding less than 5% of the market, HP’s ProCurve line forced its competitors’ hands, reset the industry’s warranty choices, and revolutionized what customers should expect from their networking vendors. By leveraging the lifetime warranty to separate themselves from the other seven dwarfs and Gigantor while trying to offset “you get what you pay for,” HP went to market offering next business day replacement on the hardware, phone and email support, along with software bug fixes and updates. They wanted customers to understand that only companies that delivered quality products could sustain this type of service model. HP extended the warranty out to some of the 3Com/H3C products -- after the acquisition -- too.

Within the past two years, most vendors have followed suit and offered their version of a lifetime warranty:

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Getting Private Cloud Right Takes Unconventional Thinking

James Staten

Recent Forrester inquiries from enterprise infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals show that there's still significant confusion between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) private clouds and server virtualization environments. As a result, there are a lot of misperceptions about what it takes to get your private cloud investments right and drive adoption by your developers. The answers may surprise you; they may even be the opposite of what you're thinking.

From speaking with Forrester clients who have deployed successful private clouds, we've found that your cloud should be smaller than you think, priced cheaper than the ROI math would justify and actively marketed internally - no, private clouds are not a Field of Dreams. Our latest report, "Q&A: How to Get Private Cloud Right," details this unconventional thinking, and you may find that internal clouds are much easier than you think.

First and foremost, if you think the way you operate your server virtualization environment today is good enough to call a cloud, you are probably lying to yourself. Per the Forrester definition of cloud computing, your internal cloud must be:

  1. Highly standardized - meaning that the key operational procedures of your internal IaaS environment (provisioning, placement, patching, migration, parking and destroying) should all be documented and conducted the same way every time.
  2. Highly automated - and to make sure the above standardized procedures are done the same time every time, you need to take these tasks out of human error and hand them over to automation software.
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A Key Decision Is Often Clouded By Emotion

James Staten

What is one of the most important decisions infrastructure & operations (I&O) professionals face today? It's not whether to leverage the cloud or build a private cloud or even which cloud to use. The more important decision is which applications to place in the cloud, and sadly this decision isn't often made objectively. Application development & delivery professionals often decide on their own by bypassing IT. When the decision is made in the open with all parts of IT and the business invited to collaborate, emotion and bravado often rule the day. "SAP's a total pain and a bloated beast, let's move that to the cloud," one CIO said to his staff recently. His belief was if we can do that in the cloud it will prove to the organization that we can move anything to the cloud. Sadly, while a big bang certainly would garner a lot of attention, the likelihood that this transition would be successful is extremely low, and a big bang effort that becomes a big disaster could sour your organization on the cloud and destroy IT's credibility. Instead, organizations should start with low risk applications that let you learn safely how to best leverage the cloud — whether public or private.

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Cisco Makes The Charts – Now No. 3 In Blades

Richard Fichera

When Cisco began shipping UCS slightly over two years ago, competitor reaction ranged the gamut from concerned to gleefully dismissive of their chances at success in the server market. The reasons given for their guaranteed lack of success were a combination of technical (the product won’t really work), the economics (Cisco can’t live on server margins) to cultural (Cisco doesn’t know servers and can’t succeed in a market where they are not the quasi-monopolistic dominating player). Some ignored them, and some attempted to preemptively introduce products that delivered similar functionality, and in the two years following introduction, competitive reaction was very similar – yes they are selling, but we don’t think they are a significant threat.

Any lingering doubt about whether Cisco can become a credible supplier has been laid to rest with Cisco’s recent quarterly financial disclosures and IDC’s revelation that Cisco is now the No. 3 worldwide blade vendor, with slightly over 10% of worldwide (and close to 20% in North America) blade server shipments. In their quarterly call, Cisco revealed Q1 revenues of $171 million, for a $684 million revenue run rate, and claimed a booking run rate of $900 million annually. In addition, they placed their total customer count at 5,400. While actual customer count is hard to verify, Cisco has been reporting a steady and impressive growth in customers since initial shipment, and Forrester’s anecdotal data confirms both the significant interest and installed UCS systems among Forrester’s clients.

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Market Shares And Forecasts – Who Cares?

Richard Fichera

A recent RFP for consulting services regarding strategic platforms for SAP from a major European company which included, among other things, a request for historical and forecast data for all the relevant platforms broken down by region and a couple of other factors, got me thinking about the whole subject of the use and abuse of market share histories and forecasts.

The merry crew of I&O elves here at Forrester do a lot of consulting for companies all over the world on major strategic technology platform decisions – management software, DR and HA, server platforms for major applications, OS and data center migrations, etc. As you can imagine, these are serious decisions for the client companies, and we always approach these projects with an awareness of the fact that real people will make real decisions and spend real money based on our recommendations.

The client companies themselves usually approach these as serious diligences, and usually have very specific items they want us to consider, almost always very much centered on things that matter to them and are germane to their decision.

The one exception is market share history and forecasts for the relevant vendors under consideration. For some reason, some companies (my probably not statistically defensible impression is that it is primarily European and Japanese companies) think that there is some magic implied by these numbers. As you can probably guess from this elaborate lead-in, I have a very different take on their utility.

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