I have just returned from the Annual International Nortel Networks Users Association (INNUA) Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA. At the event, I was again struck by the loyalty of the Nortel customer base. There were 1,500 some in attendance. I saw Nortel customers and partners who hailed from Boston to San Francisco and as far away as Denmark, India, and Brazil. Nortel had a group of nearly 250 partners from the Carribean and Latin America in town for training as well. Attendance was down considerably (nearly cut in half) compared to last year, but those who were in attendance were serious – considering their options and Nortel’s future. While Nortel compared their history to Pittsburgh’s – a gritty town with staying power that has reinvented itself for the new economy – customers really wanted to know about the future. Nortel preferred to focus on comparisons to the six time World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers – customers wanted to compare then to the Pittsburgh Penguins wondering whether they could pull off one more win to take the Cup.
EMC continues to tease the market with its management software ambitions, taking another step this week to build on its portfolio. On May 27, EMC announced its intent to acquire Configuresoft, a vendor of server configuration and change management (CCM) software. Forrester views this as a positive development for both companies but we eagerly await more.
While EMC must still make additional developmental moves to graduate into the “anchor” class of management vendors, its M&A activity has proven it is a formidable player in configuration and change management across a number of technology domains. Obviously, EMC has strength in storage, but it has also become a key vendor in the network domain with its Smarts (2005) and Voyence (2007) acquisitions, and its purchase of nLayers (2006) gives it some of the best visibility into the application domain. Servers have been a notable gap even though some good “skunk works” monitoring technology was developed within its Smarts team. Server CCM was one big domain missing from the portfolio.
I just received preliminary results back from my 2009 strategy professional survey, which is an annual survey of senior level technology marketers, strategists (people with “strategy” in their title) and C-level executives. This year, I decided to focus a good portion of the survey on the effects of the recession…My sense is that after the tech industry underwent a period of shock at the beginning of the year, conditions have stabilized, and tech companies have incorporated the marco-economic conditions into their strategy.We have 112 responses so far, but this may increase if we keep it in the field.
Following my papers on the future of software and the most recent one on the acquisition of SUN by Oracle, I continue to see signs that point in the direction of reducing the costs of application deployment. The first company that I talked to recently is Phurnace Software. Phurnace is specialized in the deployment of Java EE applications. The solution includes a discovery of the target environment, including the typical configuration settings. Then it does a validity check of all the settings, provide a "what if" sandbox to see the impact of setting changes, deploys automatically the application and finally provide a complete report on what was done. This is already very close to the complete "life cycle automation" concept that I think is the future of software applications. Then I talked to rPath: This is a very similar solution, but the end result is a run-time version of the application that can be deployed as an image on different platforms, from bare metal to virtual environments. rPath has already a number of followers in the ISV world, and is now looking at the enterprise one. Finally I also had a briefing with XebiaLabs in Holland, which appears as a direct competitor to Phurnace.
This week, IBM introduced its first two IT management appliances targeted at small and medium businesses. These first two solutions are part of a family that will eventually cover all the IT management needs of an enterprise, and cover availability and performance (IBM Tivoli Foundations Application Manager) and service desk IT services (IBM Tivoli Foundations Service Manager). The benefits expected are a rapid deployment at a lower cost due to the inclusion of automated configuration and deployment solutions. by itself, this is not really new and neither is it a complete revolution. Years ago, Oculan (now part of Raritan) and off shout of the Open NMS effort, presented a network management appliance for SMBs, with a similar strategy: sell exclusively through partners who can add their own flavor of services to the solution.
Recently, I was invited to attend an analyst briefing event at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center in Hawthorne, NY to hear about their new Business Analytics and Optimization service line. The company is quite excited about this new service line, which they describe as one designed to use analytics to help companies “improve the speed and quality of business decisions.” They cite some underlying drivers of demand – like the fact that many business leaders say they don’t have enough information to make business decisions, or that many business decisions are based on gut feel – as pointing to the fact that more customers will look to IBM for a quantitative, data-driven analysis of their business situation and options.
Overall, I was impressed. I had a very nice lunch with Fred Balboni (the service line leader) in which, in addition to discussing his ambitious cycling regimen, he explained why the new service line is both important to the market, and consistent with IBMs existing capabilities. The company claims that while the service line is new, they have been doing projects in this area for quite a while as part of their services work.
I get this question all the time because, let’s face it, it’s a significant decision. For example, an Enterprise Agreement (EA) renewal for an enterprise with the main desktop suite on, say, 10,000 PCs could cost around $1,500,000 per year. So what do you get for this outlay? You’ve already purchased a perpetual license for the relevant Microsoft products via your original EA, so the renewal is merely an extension of the maintenance element, which Microsoft calls Software Assurance (SA). Like most terms in Microsoft licensing, SA looks like an industry standard concept, but has sufficient Microsoft-specific nuances that confuses customers. The key differences from most vendors’ software maintenance offerings are that SA:
Is not tied to product support. Customers that aren’t paying SA still get access to patches, and can purchase additional support services from Microsoft or its partners on a time & materials basis.
Delivers upgrade rights that live on after the agreement expires. Customers earn rights to any version that Microsoft releases while they are on SA. So, for example, a customer paying SA on Microsoft Office for the next 12 months will earn the right to the next version, Office 14, due out at the end of 2009, even if it doesn’t intend to actually upgrade to that version for another 3 or 4 years
Includes many additional benefits that, though hard to value, are far from worthless. For example, the extra training, online e-learning and rights to use the same version on a home PC will certainly translate to more effective use of the software and enhanced user productivity, but it's very hard to give that a dollar value.