I’ve participated in cloud events in four different countries over the past two weeks. Attendees were primarily senior and mid-level IT decision-makers seeking guidance and best practices for implementing private clouds within their organizations. Regardless of the country of origin, industry focus or level of cloud-related experience, one common theme stood out above all others during both formal and informal discussions – the importance of effective communication.
The key takeaway – don’t get dogmatic about terminology. In fact, when it comes to cloud-related initiatives, choose your words carefully and be prepared for the reaction you’re likely to get.
‘Cloud computing’ as a term remains over-hyped, over-used, and still often poorly understood – because of this, typical reactions to the term are likely to range from cynicism and doubt to defensiveness and derision and all the way to outright hostility. Ironically, the fact that it’s not a technical term actually creates more confusion in many instances since its meaning is so general as to apply to practically anything (or nothing, depending on your point of view or perhaps your level of cynicism).
At all four events over the past two weeks – and in fact in nearly all discussions of IT priorities I’ve had over the past six months – CIOs and other senior IT decision-makers have consistently made clear that ‘cloud computing’ as a general objective or direction isn’t a top priority per se. However, they are unanimous in their belief that data center transformation is essential to supporting business requirements and expectations.
On July 11, 2012, SingTel launched its PowerON Compute cloud service in Hong Kong. While certainly interesting on its own, I believe this announcement is particularly noteworthy as a harbinger of things to come.
Some key points to consider:
As a hybrid offering, PowerON Compute is a dynamic infrastructure services solution hosted in SingTel’s data centers in Singapore, Australia, and now Hong Kong. The computing resources (e.g., CPU, memory, storage) can be accessed either via a public Internet connection or a private secured network.
This announcement confirms the findings of my February 2012 report, “Sizing the Cloud Markets in Asia Pacific”: that market demand for cloud-based computing resources in Asia Pacific (AP) will rapidly shift from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) to dynamic infrastructure services.
Demand for mobility is rising dramatically, but IT support is not keeping up. Over the next 12-18 months, we expect a majority of Asia Pacific (AP) organizations to begin to feel the pain of poor mobility strategies. Now is the time to define and manage mobility as part of a broader end-user computing strategy – this must include desktop virtualization initiatives, including (but not limited to) virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). But while server virtualization is now accepted as a fundamental design principle and part of any data center implementation or refresh, that doesn’t mean desktop virtualization will follow suit. Long touted as a means to simplify desktop provisioning and management – and hence improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organizations’ end-user computing strategy – over the past decade desktop virtualization has been driven primarily by CIO’s desire to lower hardware costs – by delaying or skipping PC refresh cycles – simplify application provisioning, and increase compliance and control of desktop infrastructure in areas like data security and patch management. Desktop virtualization doesn’t adequately address all end-user computing requirements since it’s essentially focused on eliminating the client device from the equation. This is particularly true for VDI. Thin (e.g. ‘dumb’) clients won’t work in a world where a growing percentage of users – not just information workers – are mobile and expect access to key resources but also expect those resources to be optimized for the particular device they’re using. With the explosion in device usage and changes in end-user expectations, IT is being forced to expand its focus around end-user computing from ‘control’ to ‘engagement’. Desktop virtualization will remain a key component of many organizatons’ end-user computing strategies, but its role will remain
Through a combination of analyst briefings and customer events, Cisco has ramped up outbound communication and marketing of its collaboration strategy in Asia Pacific over the past several months. The foundation remains video (TelePresence), webconferencing (WebEx), and IP telephony, areas where Cisco is a leader. But Cisco understands that to drive growth and expand its customer footprint within enterprise accounts, it must move further up the stack and increasingly compete with both traditional collaboration vendors like Microsoft and IBM and cloud-based alternatives like Google and salesforce.com.
While the strategy still plays to the company’s core networking strength, I question whether Cisco can position itself as a “go-to” vendor in the traditional collaboration space. As our research shows, senior IT and business decision-makers in Asia Pacific don’t currently equate Cisco with collaboration.
To address this challenge, Cisco is pursuing multiple initiatives/approaches:
Leveraging its core strengths. Cisco is focused on expanding from existing unified communications (UC) initiatives within customer accounts by leveraging the combination of networking and video to drive value. Cisco is pushing “control” via intelligent networking capabilities (e.g., security, identity management, authentication, access), all delivered through Cisco networking hardware. Simultaneously, Cisco is pushing “flexibility” via device- and platform-independent collaboration capabilities like content, video, instant messaging, and social computing.
Demand for business intelligence (BI) tools, technologies, and approaches is increasing across Asia Pacific (AP). Competitive pressures are driving investments in reporting and decision support to improve operational insights and efficiency. Widespread adoption of mobile technology and social computing has driven interest in visualization capabilities and real-time analytics. Finally, rapidly changing data privacy laws and regulations have forced organizations to implement more stringent information governance capabilities and processes.
Despite growing demand, BI strategies and execution remain immature — poorly implemented and poorly managed — across most of AP. This extends well beyond BI projects to include broader analytics-related investments in areas like information management, data warehousing (DW), and decision support. But while the ROI of BI is consistently underwhelming and the technology often delivers less value to the business than expected, BI-related spending is still set to increase across the region.
Specific BI drivers vary by country, vertical, and organization size in AP, but some drivers are consistent across the region. Users are increasingly demanding the ability to make informed decisions, and there’s a growing understanding across AP that companies need to measure and value assets, processes, and decisions analytically and infuse business processes with added insight, often in real time. With clear, consistent demand, why do most organizations still struggle to deliver value from BI-related investments?
As of late 2011, more than half the organizations we surveyed in Asia Pacific excluding Japan (APEJ) are either currently using or actively planning cloud initiatives — 52% in fact. This number has nearly tripled since 2009.
But adoption rates alone don’t tell the whole story. Vendor strategists should also be closely tracking how organizations evolve from ad hoc, disjointed cloud projects to well-defined, effectively managed cloud procurement. Our recent survey results indicate a surprising degree of maturity across the region — along with some clear areas for growth.
Centralized IT procurement of cloud services varies widely across the region. Australia (82%) and India (83%) currently lead in driving centralized procurement and management of cloud services through IT. Both markets are well above the regional average of 74%. This is no surprise for Australia, which is the most mature market for cloud computing in the region. But the strong results for India are surprising, and indicate the strong potential for a sharp increase in demand for cloud services over the next six to 12 months as early projects begin delivering positive returns. Only 66% of respondents in China are currently centralizing cloud procurement and management — not unexpected given the relative lag in cloud adoption in China relative to other APEJ markets.
Organizations in China are least likely to have a formal cloud strategy in place. Fifty-six percent of respondents in China currently see unsanctioned buying by the business outside of IT. This is the highest rate in APEJ by far, where the average is 35% and there are lows of 23% in Australia and 25% in Singapore.
So I made the trek from Singapore to Orlando for Lotusphere the week of January 15th and it proved well worth the time and effort. It was actually one of the best events of its kind I’ve attended in years — and I’ve attended loads. IBM expanded the focus well beyond the “legacy” Lotus brand. In fact, this was a social business event from start to finish, with IBM linking its much broader social computing portfolio to business process improvement and value creation.
The focus and scope has clearly grown beyond the current event branding. But putting event naming issues aside for the moment, below are some key takeaways:
Evolving into a social business applies to all organizations — any process that relies on people will fundamentally change. IBM made a solid case that business transformation is not only possible but mandatory. A social business excels at discovering and sharing new ideas — fundamentally changing how people work and therefore how companies operate. Companies not embracing this change will get left behind.
IBM’s vision for social business — business process disruption is inevitable. Focusing heavily on a process-centric view, IBM downplayed tools and technology. Per IBM, social business is the intersection of social technologies and front-office business processes — as significant to top-line revenue growth over the next decade as SOA has been to back-office business processes and bottom-line cost savings over the last decade.
Several months ago I hosted a roundtable discussion with public-sector CIOs from multiple Singapore government agencies. We focused specifically on social computing — how it will alter the way public-sector agencies interact with constituents and each other. While the focus was on Singapore, the key takeaways are universal, hence my interest in sharing the findings here.
In the midst of discussing the usual suspects — concerns about security, privacy, risk management, audit, and compliance — we came to a consensus on some key points:
Clearly identify what services or information constituents actually want, not what the agency wants to deliver. A poorly implemented social computing app risks becoming a glorified suggestion box, or worse — “next-generation knowledge management.” In other words, a costly solution looking for a problem. Focus instead on how to actively engage users — using advanced analytics and business intelligence (BI) to deliver value. In some cases, it is as simple as asking instead of assuming.
Combining formal and informal data will be a major challenge.The more effective agencies are at encouraging voluntary, “opt-in” style usage, the more challenging it will be to segregate user-provided information and data from more formal, agency-provided data that must be rigorously maintained and secured. Take this information “sourcing” issue into account when documenting data management policies.