Benchmark Your Job Responsibilities Against Peers

JP Gownder

Consumer product strategists hold a wide variety of job titles: product manager, product development manager, services manager, or a variation of general manager, vice president, or even, sometimes, CEO or other C-level title. Despite these varying titles, many of you share a great number of job responsibilities with one another.

We recently fielded our Q4 Global Consumer Product Strategy Research Panel Online Survey to 256 consumer product strategy professionals from a wide variety of industries. Why do this? One reason was to better understand the job responsibilities that you, in your role, take on every day. But the other reason was to help you succeed: By benchmarking yourself against peers, you can identify new job responsibilities for growth, improve your effectiveness, and ultimately advance your career.

What did we find out? The bottom line is that consumer product strategy jobs are pretty tough. We found a wide range of skills are required to do the job well, since consumer product strategists are expected to:

  • Drive innovation. Consumer product strategists are front-and-center in driving innovation, which ideally suffuses the entire product life cycle. Being innovative is a tall task, but all of you are expected to be leaders here.
  • Think strategically... You've got to have a strategic view of your markets, identifying new concepts and business models and taking a long-term view of tomorrow's products.
  • ...but execute as a business person. While thinking strategically, you generally have to execute tactically as well. You're business unit owners. At the senior-most levels, you hold the P&L for the product or portfolio of products.
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Apply A “Startup” Mentality To Your IT Infrastructure And Operations

Doug Washburn

Cash-starved. Fast-paced. Understaffed. Late nights. T-shirts. Jeans.

These descriptors are just as relevant to emerging tech startups as they are to the typical enterprise IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) department. And to improve customer focus and develop new skills, I&O professionals should apply a “startup” mentality.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend time with Locately, a four-person Boston-based startup putting a unique spin on customer insights and analytics: Location. By having consumers opt-in to Locately’s mobile application, media companies and brands can understand how their customers spend their time and where they go. Layered with other contextual information – such as purchases, time, and property identifiers (e.g. store names, train stops) – marketers and strategists can drive revenues and awareness, for example, by optimizing their marketing and advertising tactics or retail store placement.

The purpose of my visit to Locately was not to write this blog post, at least not initially. It was to give the team of five Research Associates that I manage exposure to a different type of technology organization than they usually have access to – the emerging tech startup. Throughout our discussion with Locately, it struck me that I&O organizations share a number of similarities with startups. In particular, here are two entrepreneurial characteristics that I&O professionals should embody in their own organizations:

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ScaleMP – Interesting Twist On Systems Scalability And Virtualization

Richard Fichera

I just spent some time talking to ScaleMP, an interesting niche player that provides a server virtualization solution. What is interesting about ScaleMP is that rather than splitting a single physical server into multiple VMs, they are the only successful offering (to the best of my knowledge) that allows I&O groups to scale up a collection of smaller servers to work as a larger SMP.

Others have tried and failed to deliver this kind of solution, but ScaleMP seems to have actually succeeded, with a claimed 200 customers and expectations of somewhere between 250 and 300 next year.

Their vSMP product comes in two flavors, one that allows a cluster of machines to look like a single system for purposes of management and maintenance while still running as independent cluster nodes, and one that glues the member systems together to appear as a single monolithic SMP.

Does it work? I haven’t been able to verify their claims with actual customers, but they have been selling for about five years, claim over 200 accounts, with a couple of dozen publicly referenced. All in all, probably too elaborate a front to maintain if there was really nothing there. The background of the principals and the technical details they were willing to share convinced me that they have a deep understanding of the low-level memory management, prefectching, and caching that would be needed to make a collection of systems function effectively as a single system image. Their smaller scale benchmarks displayed good scalability in the range of 4 – 8 systems, well short of their theoretical limits.

My quick take is that the software works, and bears investigation if you have an application that:

  1. Either is certified to run with ScaleMP (not many), or one where that you control the code.
  2. You understand the memory reference patterns of the application, and
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Consider The Cloud As A Solution, Not A Problem

Jean-Pierre Garbani

It’s rumored that the Ford Model T’s track dimension (the distance between the wheels of the same axle) could be traced from the Conestoga wagon to the Roman chariot by the ruts they created. Roman roads forced European coachbuilders to adapt their wagons to the Roman chariot track, a measurement they carried over when building wagons in America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s said that Ford had no choice but to adapt his cars to the rural environment created by these wagons. This cycle was finally broken by paving the roads and freeing the car from the chariot legacy.

IT has also carried over a long legacy of habits and processes that contrast with the advanced technology that it uses. While many IT organizations are happy to manage 20 servers per administrator, some Internet service providers are managing 1 or 2 million servers and achieving ratios of 1 administrator per 2000 servers. The problem is not how to use the cloud to gain 80% savings in data center costs, the problem is how to multiply IT organizations’ productivity by a factor of 100. In other words, don’t try the Model T approach of adapting the car to the old roads; think about building new roads so you can take full advantage of the new technology.

Gains in productivity come from technology improvements and economy of scale. The economy of scale is what the cloud is all about: cookie cutter servers using virtualization as a computing platform, for example. The technology advancement that paves the road to economy of scale is automation. Automation is what will abstract diversity and mask the management differences between proprietary and commodity platforms and eventually make the economy of scale possible.

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The Cloud Technology Challenge

Jean-Pierre Garbani

Most, if not all, technology improvements need what is commonly referred to as “complementary inputs” to yield their full potential. For example, Gutenberg's invention of movable type wouldn't have been viable without progress in ink, paper, and printing press technology. IT innovations depend on complements to take hold. The use of internal cloud differences will affect applications, configuration, monitoring, and capacity management. External clouds will need attention to security and performance issues related to network latency. Financial data availability is also one important cloud adoption criteria and must be addressed. Without progress in these complementary technologies, the benefits of using cloud computing cannot be fully developed.

Internal cloud technology is going to offer embedded physical/virtual configuration management, VM provisioning, orchestration of resources, and most probably, basic monitoring or data collection in an automated environment, with a highly abstracted administration interface. This has the following impact:

More than ever, we need to know where things are. Discovery and tracking of assets and applications in real time is more important than ever: As configurations can be easily changed and applications easily moved, control of the data center requires complete visibility. Configuration management systems must adapt to this new environment.

Applications must be easily movable. To take advantage of the flexibility offered by orchestration, provisioning, and configuration automation, applications must be easily loaded and configured. This assumes that there is, upstream of the application release, an automated process that will “containerize” the applications, its dependencies, and its configuration elements. This will affect the application life cycle (see figure).

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Oracle Rolls Out Private Cloud Architecture And World-Record Transaction Performance

Richard Fichera

On Dec. 2, Oracle announced the next move in its program to integrate its hardware and software assets, with the introduction of Oracle Private Cloud Architecture, an integrated infrastructure stack with Infiniband and/or 10G Ethernet fabric, integrated virtualization, management and servers along with software content, both Oracle’s and customer-supplied. Oracle has rolled out the architecture as a general platform for a variety of cloud environments, along with three specific implementations, Exadata, Exalogic and the new Sunrise Supercluster, as proof points for the architecture.

Exadata has been dealt with extensively in other venues, both inside Forrester and externally, and appears to deliver the goods for I&O groups who require efficient consolidation and maximum performance from an Oracle database environment.

Exalogic is a middleware-targeted companion to the Exadata hardware architecture (or another instantiation of Oracle’s private cloud architecture, depending on how you look at it), presenting an integrated infrastructure stack ready to run either Oracle or third-party apps, although Oracle is positioning it as a Java middleware platform. It consists of the following major components integrated into a single rack:

  1. Oracle x86 or T3-based servers and storage.
  2. Oracle Quad-rate Infiniband switches and the Oracle Solaris gateway, which makes the Infiniband network look like an extension of the enterprise 10G Ethernet environment.
  3. Oracle Linux or Solaris.
  4. Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center for management.
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Service Oriented Organizations

Jean-Pierre Garbani

A few days ago I read an interesting article about how organizations need to adapt to virtualization to take full advantage of it.

If we consider that this is, in fact, the first step toward the industrialization of IT, we should consider how the organization of industry evolved over time, from the beginning to the mass-production era. In fact, I think IT will reach the mass-production stage within a few years. If we replicate this evolution in IT, it will go through these phases:

  • The craftsperson era. At the early stage of any industry, we find a solitary figure in a shop soon complemented by similarly minded associates (this is me, 43 years ago). They create valuable and innovative products, but productivity and cost per unit of production is usually through the roof. This is where IT was at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. The organization landscape was dominated by “gurus” who seemed to know everything and were loosely coupled within some kind of primitive structure.
  • The bureaucratic era. As IT was getting more complex, an organizational structure started to appear that tended to “rationalize” IT into a formal, hierarchical structure. In concept, it is very similar to what Max Weber described in 1910: a structure that emphasizes specialization and standardization in pursuit of a common goal. Tasks are split into small increments, mated to skills, and coordinated by a strong hierarchical protocol. The coordination within the organization is primarily achieved through bureaucratic controls. This is the “silo” concept.
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IPv6: Drive Innovation With Rewards, Not Fear

Andre Kindness

I’m a sucker for good, biting humor, and in the spirit of Stephen Colbert’s Medals of Fear that he gave to a few distinguished souls (the press, Mark Zuckerberg, Anderson Cooper) at the rally in Washington D.C., I would like to hand a medal to the U.S. State Department for its 1999 publication of a country-by-country set of "Y2K" warnings — “End of Days” scenarios and solutions — for Americans doing business in 194 nations. I would give another medal to IPv6, the most drawn-out killer technology to date — and one that has had the longest run at trying to scare everyone about the end of IPv4. At Forrester, we are starting to see the adoption freighter slowly turning via the number of inquiries rolling in; governments accelerating their adoption with new mandates; vendors including IPv6 in their solutions; and the Number Resource Organization escalating its announcements about the depletion of IPv4 addresses (only 5% left!). To add to the drama, vendors are in the process of creating IPv4 address countdown clocks to generate buzz and differentiation. These scare tactics haven’t worked because technology pundits haven’t spoken about IPv6 in business terms. There is enormous business value in IPv6; those who embrace it will be the new leaders in their space.

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Open Data Center Alliance – Lap Dog Or Watch Dog?

Richard Fichera

In October, with great fanfare, the Open Data Center Alliance unfurled its banners. The ODCA is a consortium of approximately 50 large IT consumers, including large manufacturing, hosting and telecomm providers, with the avowed intent of developing standards for interoperable cloud computing. In addition to the roster of users, the announcement highlighted Intel with an ambiguous role as a technology advisor to the group. The ODCA believes that it will achieve some weight in the industry due to its estimated $50 billion per year of cumulative IT purchasing power, and the trade press was full of praises for influential users driving technology as opposed to allowing rapacious vendors such as HP and IBM to drive users down proprietary paths that lead to vendor lock-in.

Now that we’ve had a month or more to allow the purple prose to settle a bit, let’s look at the underlying claims, potential impact of the ODCA and the shifting roles of vendors and consumers of technology. And let’s not forget about the role of Intel.

First, let me state unambiguously that one of the core intentions of the ODCA, the desire to develop common use case models that will in turn drive vendors to develop products that comply with the models based on the economic clout of the ODCA members (and hopefully there will be a correlation between ODCA member requirements and those of a wider set of consumers), is a good idea. Vendors spend a lot of time talking to users and trying to understand their requirements, and having the ODCA as a proxy for the requirements of a lot of very influential customers will be a benefit to all concerned.

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What Will Be The Fate Of SUSE Linux?

Richard Fichera

As an immediate reaction to the recent announcement of Attachmate’s intention to acquire Novell, covered in depth by my colleagues and synthesized by Chris Voce in his recent blog post, I have received a string of inquiries about the probable fate of SUSE LINUX. Should we continue to invest? Will Attachmate kill it? Will it be sold?

Reduced to its essentials the answer is that we cannot predict the eventual ownership of SUSE Linux, but it is almost certain to remain a viable and widely available Linux distribution. SUSE is one of the crown jewels of Novell’s portfolio, with steady growth, gaining market share, generating increasing revenues, and from the outside at least, a profitable business.

Attachmate has two choices with SUSE – retain it as a profitable growth engine and attachment point for other Attachmate software and services, or package it up for sale. In either case they have to continue to invest in the product and its marketing. If Attachmate chooses to keep it, SUSE Linux will behave as it did with Novell. If they sell it, its acquirer will be foolish to do anything else. Speculation about potential acquirers has included HP, IBM, Cisco and Oracle, all of whom could make use of a Linux distribution as an internal product component in addition to the software and service revenues it could engender. But aside from an internal platform, for SUSE to have value as an industry alternative to Red Hat, it would have to remain vendor agnostic and widely available.

With the inescapable caveat that this is a developing situation, my current take on SUSE Linux is that there is no reason to back away from it or to fear that it will disappear into the maw of some giant IT company.

SUSE users, please weigh in.