The Inexorable Rise Of Nginx And Why CIOs Should Care: It's About Mobile Engagement

The techologist in me loves getting the monthly Web server report from Netcraft.com. Astounding statistics like the number of registered public Web sites (673 million in June, up from 23,000 in 1995) and active Web sites (188 million) put into the context of history shows simply and directly just how penetrating the Internet has become in our lives over the last 18 years.

But I've also been noticing the steady rise of a relatively new open source Web server called nginx (pronounced engine-x) (see the figure below, complements of Netcraft). Nginx is now the number two Web server of active Web sites at 24.3 million sites. For reference, the open source Apache Web server has 101.9 million active sites and Microsoft has 20.9 million. (The numbers always wiggle around a little month to month, so track the trend rather than the monthly changes.)

Figure 1 Netcraft's June 2013 Web Server Report Shows The Steady Rise Of Nginx

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Should Companies Allow Employees To Use Cloud-Hosted File Sync/Share Solutions? Yes, With Precautions.

 

The Wall Street Journal published a point-counterpoint article on cloud-hosted file sync/share solutions like Dropbox, Google Docs, and myriad others. They chose a title I wouldn't have used myself, but there you have it.
 
I took the pro side. You can read the whole article here.
 
My side of the argument is here:
 
Yes: Employees Are Doing What's Best for the Company
By Ted Schadler
 
Why do employees use cloud-based solutions like Dropbox, Box and SugarSync to sync and share files? As well over 100 million Dropbox customers have learned, it's because these services make it a cinch to move files from a computer to a tablet to a smartphone to another computer and back again. And it's a much better solution than email for sharing a bucket of files with others.
 
These services began life with a focus on home scenarios. But it didn't take savvy employees long to realize that these services also solve three big productivity problems at work: 1) getting all your work files on every device you use for work; 2) sharing files with colleagues; and 3) sharing files with trusted partners and customers.
 
So, should IT organizations allow employees to use these cloud-based services? That question is patently absurd. Why should an IT organization dictate what employees do to get their work done? Who made IT responsible for policing employee behavior and tools?
 
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Enough Already With The "Death Of The PC Era" Garbage

(updated 10:10 ET 4/11/2013 for clarity)

The Death Of The PC Era. Pah.

As my friend John McCarthy is fond of saying, "that does not qualify as analysis." PCs, like cars and shoes and dishwashers, are here to stay. However, it is true that PC shipment numbers will decline or be stagnant as people fill out their multi-device toolkits. And some markets may never see the personal computer dominate as it has done in the industrial nations. But few people will abandon their computers altogether.

Let's start with some data and facts:

  • Two thirds of US consumers go online from 2 or more devices, including multiple computers in many cases.
  • 53% of global information workers use 3 or more devices for work. Computers (often two of them) are front and center in this statistic.
  • Computers wear out. Just as cars and shoes and dishwashers do. Intel & Microsoft brilliantly played a planned obsolescence game for decades: Bigger software needed bigger chips, which ran bigger software. Intel & Microsoft made billions. People got better tools. But even without this planned obsolescence, computers get tired.
  • People want the best tool for the job. Typing a blog, running a spreadsheet model, creating a presentation, closing the books, surfing the Internet are all (still) easier on a computer than a tablet, LapPhablet, smartphone, or TV. (Though checking for rain showers with Dark Skies or playing Words with Friends is better on a mobile device.)
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Enough Already With The LapPhablet Straddle -- The Future Is About Specialized Devices

Mature markets thrive because of specialization, not in spite of it. Think of shoes. How many pairs do you own? How many do you really need? Or kitchen pots. How many pots do you own? How many do you need? Or cars. How many different types are out there? How many do we really need?

The answer is, as many as they want to make. We want specialty shoes because there's a real difference between road biking shoes and mountain biking shoes. Between brown shoes and cordovan shoes and black shoes. Between dress shoes and party shoes. And those differences matter. Riding 35 miles in your dress shoes makes no sense.

And we want the best pot for the polenta or risotto or Bolognese we're making. We want the car that best suits the way we drive and live and schlep stuff. We want the right tool for the job. The same is true for computers or tablets or smartphones. We want the right tool for the job.

Source: Hallomall.com

When you show me a spork or a rubber soled dress shoe or an El Camino, I think, "that's neither spoon nor fork, neither practical nor dressy, neither car nor truck." So when you show me Windows 8 on the new Dell XPS 12, I think spork, not specialized. It's a straddle. And straddles don't win.

The future of devices (call it post-PC if you like; I just think of it as the right tool for the job) is specialized: the right tool for the job, and a steady evolution to the right tool. The logic is simple:

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What Is Your Mobile Engagement Communications Strategy? A List Of Symptoms & Request For Help.

In our research and in our work with clients on their mobile intiatives, one problem comes up again and again: the very people the app is designed for don't know what it does or why they should use it. Here are some symptoms of a communications gap -- and they show up just as frequently in employee projects as they do in customer initiatives:

  • Your target audience doesn't know why they should use the app you've given them.
  • Your call center or help desk is inundated with basic questions.
  • Your key stakeholders are forever pinging you to find out what's going on.
  • People in the company don't know what you've been up to.
  • You don't know what your target audience really needs from the app.
  • When people get a new or updated app, they don't use the new features.

If any of these ring true for you, then it's time to implement or re-evaluate your communications strategy. We'd like to help, which is why we are initiating a research project into communications strategy for your mobile initiatives. My colleague Simon Yates and I are diving into this important topic to publish new research findings to help you build the most effective communications strategy.

You can help us by completing a short survey on your own communications strategy. You'll get a summary of the results and can ask for a conversation if you want to dig deeper with us.

Thanks for filling out this 3-minute survey on your communications strategy!

Skype + Lync and Microsoft Skype President Tony Bates' Coming Out Party

Sadly, I'm not in San Diego this week to hear Tony Bates' keynote coming out speech in person. (Well, happily, actually, as I'm skiing with family in Vermont -- great snow today!)

But I do have context on this announcement as I've been analyzing both the consumerization brand, Skype, and the enterprise brand, Lync, for years now. When Microsoft did the Skype deal going on two years ago, I posted on Microsoft's opportunity to bring Skype values to Lync customers and deployments as it has acquired a consumerization brand, a cloud service to sell, and a chance to do B2B communications properly.

At a glance from afar, it looks as if almost two years later, Microsoft under Microsoft Skype president, Bates, has kept its eye on this prize. What I see from Vermont is that Microsoft is in fact:

  • Re-humanizing business communications, a good and much-needed thing. (Okay, I like the phrase re-humanizing. It must stem from having played rock n' roll fulltime in the Police-laden "rehumanize yourself"'80s.) If people can't easily use the tools, then they won't bother. This is the essense of consumerization: people using readily available and affordable technology on their own to get work done. Microsoft appears to be understanding and focusing on the consumerization values of Skype. We'll wait to see the Lync-meets-Skype experience, but it sounds good on paper, anyway.
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Why CIOs Must Care About New API Management Platforms. Hint, It's About Mobile Apps.

Thanks to the good work of my colleagues Eve Maler and Jeffrey Hammond, we have a new Forrester Wave on API Management Platforms, including evaluations of Layer 7, Mashery, WSO2, Intel, IBM, Vordel, and 3Scale. I won't spill the beans on the leaders, but I will share some of their analysis with my own interpretation to explain why you must care. First, let's define API management platforms as:

Middleware that developers use to publish and configure interfaces and that applications use at runtime to connect to the data services they need.

Here's why API management platforms matter:

  1. As you build mobile apps for customers, partners, and employees, you need apps that perform well over the last wireless mile. And that means you need a great, RESTful API that provides design-time and runtime access to data services hosted by your on-premises applications. Think of it as "cloud-connect" technology that lets the data inside your datacenter get out and back (securely) to the mobile app that needs it. As mobile apps get more and more transactional, the need for API management platforms will become even more critical.
     
  2. You are just getting going on the number, breadth, and complexity of the data service APIs you will need to build and operate. As mobile apps get interesting, with transactions, integrated applications, and more and better content and collaboration, you will need solutions that handle all those integration points. Think of it this way: RESTful interfaces give you the means, but now you need a system to handle the sheer number of APIs you are and will be building.
     
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BlackBerry Z10: Beautiful Phone, Good Experience, Missing Apps, Playing Serious Catchup . . .

The Z10 is a beautiful device: designers Todd Wood, Don Lindsay, and their teams have done a great job with the industrial design, the swipe-rich interaction gestures, and a whole lot more. The Z10 is a pleasure to hold, to swipe, and to carry around in a suit pants pocket.

Here are my favorite bits:

  • Thin, light, elegant, executive, with a holdable form factor and case.
  • The keyboard, with its predictive word look up and "flip into place" word completion is a pleasure for this thick-thumbed, fumble-finger typer.
  • Swipe gestures, including peeking into the inbox, the slow swipe to home position, and the pulldown configuration are a pleasure to use one-handed.
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7 Mobile Engagement Pitfalls To Avoid: And 7 Mobile-First Alternatives

Mobile apps have the thorny problem of needing to work spectacularly and safely on any device over the last wireless mile. Systems integrators, interactive agencies, software vendors, and your own infrastructure and application development teams will pitch you endlessly on technology to handle these problems. Some of these technology solutions will be great. But others carry traps for the unwary. In our new report, we call out 7 pitfalls and describe 7 mobile-first alternatives that are better.

One big trap lurking in most firms’ mobile strategy is using MDM to indiscriminately lock down devices. The temptation to replicate the BlackBerry era will backfire. Remember that RIM’s controls is partly what spurred employees and executives to defect to iPhones. If you lock mobile devices down too tightly, you will be pummeled for putting a theoretical concern for information security ahead of usability and the practical reality of a productive mobile workforce. If people can’t immediately get what they need, they’ll leave the phone in their pocket.

Figure 1: 7 Pitfalls To Avoid

Print out this list of pitfalls and their alternatives and tape it your monitor. Or blow it up and post it in your mobile center of excellence. Here are two pitfalls for everybody to avoid:

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The Mobile Power Shift Will Accelerate In 2013

Happy New Year! I love holidays because the fog of daily work lifts and important things become clearer. This year, over Christmas, what became suddenly and sparkingly clear is that mobile’s biggest impact is that it shifts power away from institutions and toward individuals. People have a huge advantage when they carry the full power of the Internet and Internet-delivered services in their pockets.

The only question is whether you shift power to customers and employees willingly (and to benefit your company) or whether a disrupter or competitor does it for you. To develop your intution of just how powerful mobile apps make you — and just how much you’ve come to take them for granted — imagine yourself in a room with 30 strangers listening to my colleague Thomas Husson.

Thomas opens the presentation with these words: “Pull your smartphone out of your pocket. [Pause.] Now unlock it. [Pause.] Now hand it to the person next to you.” You immediately feel tense and uncomfortable as you wonder if you should really hand your unlocked phone to a stranger . . . or even a friend or family member. A few people actually do hand their phones over, albeit reluctantly. Thomas then breaks the tension with a chuckle and the room titters with nervous laughter. Two things just happened:

  • First, you realized that you were being asked to hand everything that defines you to a total stranger. Your most intimate and empowering things would be someone else’s. Your bank accounts, your friends, your photos, your shopping list, your email, your documents, your sense of self. You would be handing your identity to a stranger.
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