As Application Rationalization Grows Hotter In 2011 - Vendors Will Play Catch-Up

In his report on the top technology trends to watch in 2011 to 2013, my colleague Gene Leganza called out application portfolio management (APM) as one of a number of "planning and analysis tools to manage the future." Forrester clients seem to agree with Gene; in fact they aren't even waiting until 2011 - their interest has been building steadily throughout the second half of 2010.

One case in point: thousands of unique client hits in Q3 alone on a new report entitled Assessing Your Applications - Metrics That Matter Drive Better Rationalization Decisions. I noted similar levels of interest in the companion workbook, Forrester's Application Scoring Workbook, in Q3. Together they indicate that clients have a strong interest in educating themselves on how to streamline and rationalize their application portfolios.

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IBM's zEnterprise Is A Game Changer For Application-Platform Choice

A quick note on a big announcement today by IBM that is being rolled out as I write this. No, I don't have a crystal ball - my colleague Brad Day and I spent a day in Poughkeepsie in late June for the full scoop - provided under NDA. The announcement is massive, so I'll just lay out the high points and a few of my thoughts on what it means to apps folks. I'll leave the deeper I&O/technical details to Brad and others in subsequent posts and research. My goal here is to get a conversation going here on what it may mean to apps people in your IT shops.

What's in the zEnterprise announcement?

  • It's a new computing environment that unifies Linux, AIX, and z/OS on a new server complex that includes mainframe servers, x86, and Power7 blades under a single set of management software: the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager (URM).
  • A 10 Gb private data network joins the new z server (z196) and zBX - an ensemble that houses racks of x86 and Power7 blades. It also includes an intra-ensemble network that is physically isolated from all networks, switches, and routers - permitting removal of blade firewalls.
    • One client claims a 12-to-1 reduction in network hops by eliminating blade firewalls.
  • The z196 permits up to 96 Quad-core 5.02 ghz processors, 80 available for customer use, and 112 blades.

What is the impact on applications people and application-platform choice?

zEnterprise is a monster announcement that heralds a long laundry list of improvements - it would be impossible to cover all of the ramifications in a single blog post; however, a brief glimpse of some of the most notable improvements that affect applications folks include (zEnterprise as compared to z10):

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DevOps Conflict - Do You Feel It?

Applications development people can't stand the Luddites in the operations group, and ops people hate those prima donas in apps dev - at least that's what we are led to believe. To explore the issue, two of my colleagues who write to the infrastructure and operations (I&O) role - Glenn O'Donnell and Evelyn (Hubbert) Oehrlich - invited me to participate in an experiment of sorts. They arranged a joint session for the I&O Forrester Leadership Board (FLB) meeting, and I was the sole applications guy in the room - a conduit for I&O FLB members to vent their frustration at their apps dev peers. For those who aren't aware, FLBs are communities of like-minded folks in the same role who meet several times a year to network, share their experiences, guide research, and address the issues that affect their role.

We infused the session with equal parts education, calls for joint strategic planning across all IT work, and a bit of stand-up comedy - Glenn noted that as representatives of our respective roles, he and I were actually twin sons of different mothers. I noted that in that context that our parents must have been really ugly. Once we opened the session for discussion, the good folks in the room wasted no time in launching verbal stones my way. Now, I'm no IT neophyte: I've been in the industry since 1982, and I'm no stranger to conflict - I grew up with 3 older brothers, and we all exchanged our fair share of abuse as siblings will. Still, I wasn't quite prepared for the venting that followed. To summarize a few of the main points, I&O sees apps folks as:

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Application Assessments -- How Do You Decide What Matters?

So you need to formulate an application modernization decision -- what to do with a given application -- how do you begin that decision making process? In the past, modernization decisions were often simply declared -- "We are moving to this technology" -- for a number of reasons, such as, it:

  • Keeps us current on technology.
  • Provides a more acceptable user-interface or integration capability.
  • Increases our exposure to access by external customers.
  • Increases the volume of business transaction we can process.
  • Trades custom/bespoke applications for standardized application packages such as ERP, payroll, human resources, etc.

Fast-forward to today -- you could simply go with your gut -- declare a solution based on what you currently know (or think you know) about the application in question. But it's a new day baby -- a proposal like that, without proper justification, is likely to be met with one of two responses from management:

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Staffing, Skills And Workforce Planning Survey - How Are You Coping?

How successful is your firm at attracting and retaining people with the skills you need to develop, deploy, and maintain your applications? Do you believe we're headed for much tougher times trying to hire and retain skills or do you think some of the hype is overblown? We have fielded a survey on staffing and skills issues and I'd like to encourage you to participate as we dig into many of the issues.

General issues:

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How Will Cloud Impact Your Existing Application Portfolio?

In a conversation with a vendor in the application portfolio management space the other day, we got on the subject of what "Cloud" means to them and by extension to their current and future customer base. My colleagues have written extensively on what it may mean to Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, HP and others, and our conversation began discussing the potential of cloud-computing from a vendor perspective - for instance:

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Apps Modernization - What are Your Top Priorities in 2010/11?

OK, so the holidays are over, you've either closed, or are in the process of closing out 2009 year-end processing. The 2010 decade has begun, and it promises momentous change before we see the end of it: Leading edge technologies will become commonplace; Still newer technologies will emerge; New business threats and opportunities will arise; And the impact of the Baby Boomer phenomenon will finally arrive.

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Is COBOL The Root Of All (Technical) Evil?

OK, so I used a tongue-in-cheek title to attract your attention, forgive me. A recent blog about the Boomer retirement phenomenon provoked some comments by a colleague with strong opinions about COBOL's useful life. I felt that his comments raised a topic that is substantial enough to warrant its own place in the blogosphere. The comments read, in part:

" I am a boomer myself ... But as a software architect who has to look ahead and figure out what customers and users want I can't wait for the 3270 green screen boomer generation to retire.  It will allow for the acceptance of a new application paradigm. Those stepping up to the plate will not hesite to dump the COBOL garbage and use modern tools to create modern mobile apps that will finally end the drama of IT as today's business disabler. ..."

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Boomer Retirement And IT - Are You An Ostrich, Chicken-little, Or an Owl?

The rock-band R.E.M. sang a song about the "end of the world as we know it" and to hear some people talk - the end is near! 

The Chicken-littles of the world would have us believe that retiring Baby Boomers will wreak untold havoc. Half the world's population will suddenly disappear from the workforce - collapsing world markets, straining national pension systems to the breaking point, and burdening younger generations with unmanageable national debt.

Other folks are at the opposite end of the spectrum - they're in denial, like ostriches with their heads deep in the sand - if they don't look at how bad the problem is, it can't hurt them, right? No staffing problems here - look we can still hire people, let's deal with today's problems and not go looking for tomorrow's troubles!

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Is application consolidation keeping you up at night?

Murphy_p_small I've written a lot of research around the topic of application portfolio management (APM), and how the tools are slowly maturing from their application mining roots. Although the process of APM applies equally across packaged and custom-appls, the mining tools, until recently anyway, have excluded packaged applications.

Our application development team recently expanded with some new colleagues, and one of the topics a new colleague - George Lawrie - and I intend to take on as a joint effort is application consolidation across custom and packaged applications.

We'd like to know - how important is this topic to you - what are the nuances of it that keep you awake at night, or is it a non-issue? If it is a non-issue, why? Have you done such a good job of staving off redundant and obsolete technology, or is it someone else's responsibility? Please chime in, we'd love to hear about your application environments.