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With the end of the quarter closing in, I wanted to take a step back and fill you all in on new research we have on the way. This quarter we looked at the evolution of Social Enterprise Apps, and their effect on the enterprise collaboration landscape. In today’s globally dispersed, fast-paced, highly mobile workplace, high performance teams need new tools — and social appears to fit the bill.
What exactly is a Social Enterprise App? At a high level, Social Enterprise Apps enable info workers to establish and view groups of people, information, and processes. With embedded peer rating and information feeds about employee skills, team member profiles, team objectives, and project progress, info workers gain a deeper understanding of team performance goals and results.
What features do they have, and how do they affect business processes?
Personal profiling identifies team members with the right skills.
Activity streams increase awareness of achievements and status.
Rating/voting enables learning from the accumulated knowledge of the team.
Last week Verizon held its Verizon Developer Community (VDC) Conference in Las Vegas, where the company unveiled an updated and newly branded Verizon Apps store, which replaces the VCast app store. The Verizon Apps store includes improved search capabilities through a partnership with Chomp. Verizon certifies the apps in the store and is reducing the time necessary to test and install new applications to within two weeks. The Verizon Apps store will be accessible on Droid smartphones, and users can purchase apps and pay for them through their Verizon phone bill. Verizon is also creating a new private application store for businesses, which will include applications built by enterprises and third parties to address the specific needs of line of business workers within the organization. These enterprise app stores will provide yet another distribution channel for developers.
It is important to recognize that mobile application developers have a lot of choices regarding which mobile storefronts they use to distribute their applications, including the Android Market, the Apple App Store, and app stores from many other telecom operators and mobile device manufacturers. To capture the mindshare of developers and facilitate the success of the store, it is important to:
1) Provide marketing opportunities for developers. Competitive application stores include hundreds of thousands of applications, making it difficult for developers to get visibility for their applications. Developers also want to ensure their applications are seen by the correct user segments. Offering segmented marketing programs to ensure relevant users have visibility into the appropriate applications is a way to address this issue.
An important prerequisite for a full cloud broker model is the technical capability of cloud bursting:
Cloud bursting is the dynamic relocation of workloads from private environments to cloud providers and vice versa. A workload can represent IT infrastructure or end-to-end business processes.
The initial meaning of cloud bursting was relatively simple. Consider this scenario: An enterprise with traditional, non-cloud infrastructure is running out of infrastructure and temporarily gets additional compute power from a cloud service provider. Many enterprises have now established private clouds, and cloud bursting fits even better here, with dynamic workload relocation between private clouds, public clouds, and the more private provider models in the middle; Forrester calls these virtual private clouds. The private cloud is literally bursting into the next cloud level at peak times.
An essential step before leveraging cloud bursting is properly classifying workloads. This involves describing the most public cloud level possible, based on technical restrictions and data privacy needs (including compliance concerns). A conservative enterprise could structure their workloads into three classes of cloud:
Productive workloads of back-office data and processes, such as financial applications or customer-related transactions:These need to remain on-premises. An example is the trading system of an investment bank.
Commoditization and economies of scale drive cloud computing. We've seen before what commoditization means to the IT industry: It stimulates standardization and consolidation to serve a volume market. The success of x86-based CPUs, which dominate everything from data centers to high-performance computing, is a common example. In the software industry, commoditization raised standards and led to the commercial adoption of open source.
It is impossible to imagine a corporate data center without Linux. Even if it’s not used under the core applications, Linux is present in web servers, routers, firewalls, and storage appliances. Upcoming cloud computing providers face increasing price pressures and must therefore provide greater economies of scale than the majority of corporate data centers. They use Linux heavily as an operating system today.
But open source goes beyond Linux for cloud providers. Many providers of public cloud services (or the more local flavor of virtual private clouds) have realized that developing a full cloud computing management stack requires significant software development efforts. Some of the leading midrange cloud providers, such as Rackspace, as well as several cloud component vendors (such as cloud billing systems) support an open source initiative called OpenStack. The goal is to provide a full cloud management stack based on open source for cloud providers and large-scale corporate data centers, such as NASA. What a Linux distribution was for a traditional server, OpenStack is for a full cloud provider business model, regardless of privacy level — public, private, or virtual private.
The Nebula appliance announced today jumps right into this space and provides a standardized hardware configuration for OpenStack implementations. It offers scaled-out compute power based on commoditized x86 CPUs and standardizes a configuration of switches and other components to glue a large number of these CPUs together. The new VC-backed startup will thus compete head to head with EMC’s Vblock and Microsoft’s Azure appliance; neither of these are based on open source, and the latter isn’t really on the market yet.
But Nebula is more than just a hardware deliverable. Its mission is to transparently standardize the cloud hardware stack. Basically, it’s nothing more than the complex specification Microsoft worked out with its hardware partners (Dell, Fujitsu, and HP) to deliver the Azure appliance to local cloud providers and large-scale private clouds. However, Nebula’s openness is the differentiator; it reminds me a bit of IBM’s approach around the original personal computer back in the 1970s. Sure, it enabled hardware competitors to produce compatible PCs — but it also brought mass adoption of the PC, outperforming Apple over four decades.
If Nebula delivers a compelling price point, it has an appealing approach that could gain significant share in the growing cloud hardware market. If the new company aims to spur a revolution similar to that of the PC, its founders need to tweak their strategy soon:
What does this mean? Mobile, video-communicating, iWorkers will be able stay connected easily and affordably later this quarter when all of these components are generally available. Using the PC client, a very portable codec (about the size of a half-notebook at 8” x 5” x 1”) and camera, and a hosted bridging service, these iWorkers can connect to many standards-based, open video endpoints at HD resolutions. The required components are:
LifeSize Connections service - $360/year.
LifeSize Passport Connect codec and camera - $1,000 up front.
Mirial ClearSea client account - $480/year (this is available today, and it worked well when I tried it).
I just returned from Las Vegas where my meetings with Cisco executives, including John Chambers, Gary Moore, David Hsieh, Murali Sitaram, Kara Wilson, and OJ Winge, clearly demonstrated that Cisco is still moving forward. John Chambers and his team were in lockstep talking about two things: corporate strategic imperatives and organizational foundations for success
I believe that Cisco is sounding very much like a mature market leader as it balances risks and rewards in the rapidly changing markets for networking and collaboration. Precise financial measures got little talk time, but there were plenty of mentions that forward-looking statements do not supersede financial guidance given at regular updates — the team was focused on Cisco's plans to fuel future innovation, maintain its market position, and continue working on strategic relationship development with its most important customers.
John and the entire Cisco management team are focused on five corporate strategic imperatives:
Core routing/switching innovation and optimization.
Virtualization (including data center and cloud) technologies.
Video as a primary communication medium and IT task.
Architecture — defining and delivering IT architecture for businesses and service providers.
I am starting a report looking at the social capabilities that will be of use to business and how those integrate (or don’t) with existing unified communications and collaborations solutions (UC&C). One truism that I am incorporating into my thinking is that engagement — users want to come back and use a tool because it was easy, useful, and (gasp) fun — will drive adoption, and thus penetration and ultimately business value. This seems to be the way that Mark Zuckerberg is thinking about Facebook growth as well. In his discussion of the integration with Skype yesterday, he posited that user volume is not the metric to watch for Facebook right now — despite its attainment of 750 million users. So what does Facebook see as its strategic imperative, and how does Skype help it attain that?
It’s not the absolute number — it’s the ubiquity. If it is reasonable for people to find information or people on Skype, it will accelerate the momentum of adoption. Something Forrester has been saying since 2008.
It’s not the people — it’s the activities you do jointly with the people. “Farmville,” “Friend,” “Group,” “Like,” “Stalk,” “Status,” and “Wall” are all words with new or special meaning to users because they describe what they do on Facebook. This is the engagement point from above — it’s not who you connect with, but what that connection enables you to do with them.
Yesterday, Amdocs, a leading provider of customer experience systems, agreed to acquire Bridgewater Systems, a provider of policy, subscriber management, and network control solutions for mobile and convergent service providers, for US$215 million. The combined solution resulting from this acquisition will combine Amdocs’ existing BSS/OSS and customer experience solutions with network level information from Bridgewater’s solution. The integrated organization will provide service providers with an enhanced ability to monetize data services and to support complex pricing strategies across multiple devices, users, and networks. From a customer perspective, Amdocs and Bridgewater share some key service provider customers including Bell Mobility, Sprint, and Telstra.
During the recent AT&T Analyst Conference, we analysts were all treated to 2 great shows - a tour of Yankee Stadium’s ICT systems (followed by an opportunity to watch the Yankees beat the Royals) and Kevin Peter’s annual spectacle of spherical geodesic references to make sure we all got one thing straight - AT&T’s network delivers value.
Following last year’s event, I referred to the clear presence of AT&T Labs innovations (http://blogs.forrester.com/henry_dewing/10-05-24-att_business_solutions_drives_technological_innovation_practical_use) delivering value to customers. Keith Cambron, President and CEO of AT&T Labs, focused more this year on the importance, value, and urgency of the IPV6 transition, before Kevin delivered another rousing speech declaring “IT’S THE NETWORK!” more frequently and more emphatically as he went. While Kevin’s presentation was all style, he is a serious technology executive having received a master's degree in Information and Technology Management from the Stevens Institute of Technology. Kevin’s stump speech was followed by technical topics and serious presentation styles that illuminated his points.
John Donovan, AT&T’s CTO, settled the audience down describing AT&T plans to deliver solutions using
AT&T’s Network as a ubiquitous, reliable, intelligent platform.