CIO Symmetry

October 24, 2011  4:27 PM

Why you need to care about trends in cloud computing

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Every week, we scour the Web and give you a rundown of the week’s best and brightest blog posts. This week we’re serving up some analysis about DevOps in networking, the brain’s preference in user interfaces, and the latest and greatest trends in cloud computing. Sit back and pick your pleasure.

Oracle has completed its sixth acquisition of 2011, purchasing cloud-based customer service provider RightNow Technologies for its motley crew of cloud services. We’ll see whether starts shaking in its boots, but it seems doubtful that this acquisition will affect trends in cloud computing.

If networks start to look like the cloud, does networking need its own DevOps movement? Stacey Higginbottom thinks so.

Something to consider for your next user-integration project: Computer voices are mostly female because our brains are wired to like them better. Unless, of course, it’s Morgan Freeman’s voice; then, all bets are off.

We’re all sick of those reports about the sky falling, but in this case, the sky is indeed falling. A German satellite has made an “uncontrolled re-entry,” crashing somewhere in Southeast Asia.

It’s been 10 years since Apple introduced the world to the iPod. The event was a new high-water mark for the company as it moved from being a boutique brand to a major player in the tech arena. IPods used to max out at 10 GB. They grow up so fast!

IT leaders should focus on simplicity, calculated risks and trends like cloud computing and desktop virtualization, advised analysts at last week’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.

Worried that the PC is dead? Rumors of its death seem to be greatly exaggerated. Even in a floundering economy, Intel’s quarterly results are better than those from Apple, which missed its Q4 earnings estimates.

Another major birthday: Ubuntu turned 7 this week. Mark Shuttleworth points out that the use of Ubuntu is one of the biggest trends in cloud computing.

October 20, 2011  8:25 PM

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo urges creative destruction

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Creative destruction. I’ve heard that term a lot this year, although it’s hardly a new concept. From what’s happening with the Occupy Wall Street madness to the pressure to innovate in the IT space. I always have a fanciful moment where I envision a CIO swinging a sledgehammer in the server room or maybe one of those Wile E. Coyote TNT push levers that blow everything sky high. If only it were that simple.

This week, writers Linda Tucci and Christina Torode are reporting from the annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla. Gartner’s top analysts are pushing creative destruction and urging IT leaders to “re-imagine IT.” CIOs need to take a step back and embrace a little imperfection, urges Gartner analysts. That’s easier said than done. Let’s face it: CIOs tend to be incredibly detail-oriented and precise. That’s part of what makes you so good at what you do. But creative destruction really embodies the notion that sometimes things get a little messy. And that’s OK.

“Most IT organizations have 70% or more of their time, money and mind share locked into reliability, keeping things going,” said Tina Nunno, vice president and distinguished analyst. “Yet demands for game-changing IT capabilities are growing every year. IT leaders must transform their businesses, products, services and value proposition to the external customer, and challenge traditional ways of thinking.”

Our editorial director, Scot Petersen, blogged about IT innovation and creative disruption this past March. In the post, he quoted Bryan Smith, CIO of Volvo Construction Equipment North America:

“I think of the process that either individuals or businesses go through of purposefully making the decision to do something in a different way, even though it might be disrupting a comfortable way of doing things,” Smith said. “Creative disruption is necessary, because it becomes so easy to say, well, we’ve always done it this way.”

Again, it comes back to serving the business and being a profitable business center. Gartner is pushing “people-centric design” to assist and enhance user experiences.

It’s difficult to really quantify those kinds of enhancements, though, so the other side of the innovation is also in figuring out a way to really show your CEO what a great job you’re doing.  Remember how IT is perceived as being the TSA of the company? Perception is key.

So tell me, how are you putting your own spin on creative destruction? Have you been inspired by this Gartner Symposium/ITxpo call to action? Who has led by example in tearing down old systems while making the users stand up and cheer? The comments are hanging on your every word.

October 18, 2011  3:50 PM

GARP Assessment takes records management to the next step

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Here at the ARMA International 56th Annual Conference and Expo, records information managers cringe a little when their Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles (GARP) get mentioned with the words “The World According to…” in the same sentence.

The reference to John Irving’s masterpiece novel is a bit tired, true, but more and more, GARP’s tenets are really becoming a worldwide practice.

GARP is practiced in about 15% of companies, according to Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Debra Logan, who spoke here on GARP this week. That’s small compared with GARP’s cousin, GAAP — the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles — upon which GARP is based, according to Diane Carlisle, deputy executive director and senior director of content development at ARMA International. But GARP use is growing.

This week ARMA took GARP a step further by announcing the GARP Assessment, a set of tools that will enable companies to measure themselves against GARP. It should go a long way to spread GARP around the world, just in time for the onslaught of data that companies are now dealing with.

October 17, 2011  7:53 PM

The fallout from the BlackBerry outage

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Here’s what you may have missed last week while you were standing in line to get your new iPhone 4S or waiting for your email during the cataclysmic BlackBerry outage:

• As anyone with a BlackBerry is already well aware, Research In Motion suffered a major BlackBerry outage, lasting most of last week. However, they’re very, very, very sorry, according to a video apology from co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.

• As Google continues to tweak its brand, it’s planning to put the kibosh on Google+’s predecessor, Google Buzz, which was really only ever used by that one weird person in your social group anyway.

• Still mystified by social media and how you can use it to protect the reputation of your company? Check out these four ways that CIOs can get involved — they’re all pretty painless.

• Add this to your DVR: The Mythbusters are going to explore the mythos of Steve Jobs this Sunday.

• Do you get so sick of hearing about cloud this and cloud that, and it all starts sounding the same? There certainly is one thing that practically all cloud computing has in common: They use almost identical cloud icons. No, really.

• After a one-two punch to Netflix’s consumer reputation followed by a slow death plunge of its stock price, Lance Ulanoff wonders if it’s time for Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to take the fall.

• Were you betting that the iPhone 4S would tank? The early adopters scooped up over 4 million iPhone 4S’s this weekend, breaking Apple iPhone records. Early stocking-stuffer shopping, perhaps?

• If you’re wondering why you can’t get Siri to work on your new iPhone 4S, it might be because you disabled it, accidentally. Whoops! Stephen Fosketts has the scoop on getting Siri back on the job.

• To make up for last week’s major BlackBerry outage, subscribers will be able to download $100 worth of premium BlackBerry apps for free. Can Bejeweled, Texas Hold’Em Poker and Sims 3 really soothe hurt feelings over a BlackBerry outage resulting in almost a week of lost productivity?

October 14, 2011  2:43 PM

Is your data center disaster recovery plan ready for a zombie attack?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

As any CIO knows, you must be prepared for just about anything. Hurricanes in Vermont? Sure. Earthquakes in Virginia? You bet. But many CIOs forget about one very obvious hole in their disaster mitigation strategies: an uprising of the undead. In the spirit of Halloween, let’s think about how your data center disaster recovery plan will stand up to the unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse.

Now that the CDC has updated its Zombie Apocalypse guidelines, CIOs are beholden to take the burgeoning waves of undead very seriously. (OK, maybe not that seriously.) Can you imagine trying to explain to your shareholders why your data center disaster recovery plan was foiled by the scourge from the grave? Or how your IT admin attacked and ate your user base? That’s a black mark on just about anyone’s resumé.

As all viewers of AMC’s The Walking Dead know, when zombies come into town, you almost certainly will lose electricity. Of course, because you’re a smart CIO, you’ve already installed an uninterruptible power supply that’s able to handle the load of keeping everything up and working. Your generator has been recently tested and is strong enough to power the data center. And if you’re really clever, you’ve had the forethought to make sure that the generator can start up automatically, since no one is going to want to brave the random zombies milling around in the office’s back parking lot (or wherever the generator is stored) just to get the servers moving. If anything, the undead event will be a great test of just how power hungry your data center really is. In fact, hindsight is always 20/20, and this just might be the push to move toward solar-power generation and green data center cooling techniques, like the oil-submerged servers we covered last month.

Assuming that your employees are hiding in their basements and attics, waiting out the ghoulish invasion, it would be nice if they could brave the hours by checking their email with their mobile devices or even get some work done by accessing their virtual remote desktops or with a thin client on their iPad. This, of course, will be possible because you’ve already taken the precaution of diligent remote data backups in case the invaders have already made it into the corporate offices (Probably through that door by the cafeteria. It never closes right.)  Of course, everyone who has ever watched a zombie movie knows that you can only count on the elements within your own control, so if you bank on cloud service providers, you also have a cloud backup and recovery plan for when their headquarters are overrun by creatures searching for braaaaaaains.

All fun aside, there’s still time in 2011 to test your disaster recovery plans and make sure that you’re shipshape and can withstand anything.  Whether it’s a disaster of movie monsters or something as natural as a flood or an earthquake, George A. Romero taught us an important lesson: it’s that only the lucky and the prepared truly come out of a disaster unscathed.

October 11, 2011  4:19 PM

What can we learn from the Steve Jobs Way?

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

There have been many timelines, retrospectives and other examinations of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ career, aka the Steve Jobs Way, and it would be a waste if we don’t learn lessons from him about how to run businesses going forward.

Jobs’ legacies include the company itself, its products and its loyal user base. Along the way, Jobs and Apple also developed a strong hater community. One of my friends, a devout PC user and administrator, had a simple reason why he didn’t like Apple: “They tell you how you’re supposed to work with your computer,” he said.

That’s true. The closed paradigm of the Mac shut out three quarters of Apple’s potential users, developers and other partners. No one will get through business school if they espouse the idea of not giving customers what they want.

Yet, the Steve Jobs Way embodied that philosophy and built it into one of the most successful and influential companies in history. He avoided market research, saying, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Jobs took risks and trusted his gut more than anything else, then saw his vision through to completion.

This worked because the user community built around Apple wanted what Steve Jobs wanted them to have, and trusted him to deliver (yes, there have been misses, but many more hits, especially in the past decade). Still, what are we to learn from this?

It would be dangerous to try to emulate Jobs to the letter, because the one thing that really separated Jobs from the rest was unique to him: his intuition. Yet, true innovators will have to try in their own way, or else, without taking risks, disruptive innovation will never happen.

October 10, 2011  9:58 PM

Be more effective by increasing your business storytelling

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

It’s been a busy week around the Web, and chances are you missed some things. Between the news of the iPhone 4S and Steve Jobs’ death, it seems like the Web was absolutely sticky with Apple juice — so you might have missed the latest RAMCloud buzz and a handy-dandy little crib sheet to help you increase your business storytelling. It’s all right here, for quick and easy surfing in those few moments of downtime.

• We’ve all heard that the most important component for communicating to the business is finding a way to tell them a story. CEO Patrick Hanlon arms you with the eight primary strategies for business storytelling and creating a compelling narrative.

• Storage blogger Robin Harris predicts that RAMCloud is the new Flash. Is it really? We’re not convinced.

• Does your management team complain about spending too much time “fighting fires?” Maybe you should point out that real firefighters actually spend most of their time in prevention.

• In what must be the shortest product lifecycle ever, Netflix has now abandoned Qwikster. Hey guys, thanks for being a great example in how not to manage a corporate reputation.

• Steve Jobs was a master of business storytelling and his untimely passing was hard to miss and hard to take. The outpouring of sympathy and grief even created a measurable surge on Twitter.

October 7, 2011  1:59 PM

How employees’ perceptions make the difference

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nontangible things that drive employee perceptions of a company and how they connect to job satisfaction. For instance, I have a friend who stayed at a low-paying, high-stress tech job because his boss took him out to lunch every Friday at a wood-paneled fancy restaurant and filled him in on all the corporate gossip. That lunch couldn’t have cost more than $30 a week, but it was enough to keep my friend content and pulling 65-hour workweeks for peanuts.

It’s not just my friend. Once, I was interviewing for a job that I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to take. It was one of those situations where you kind of owe it to someone in your personal network to go to the interview, even though you know that you don’t want the position. What’s more, they couldn’t afford me — they knew it and I knew it. But the thing that gave me true anguish about turning them down? They had these great chairs. They were perfect: They contoured and supported, and made you want to be creative. Man, it’s been four years and I still think about those chairs!

On the flip side, I have another friend who quit a job because of Facebook, of all things. You see, her company’s network was aggressively locked down and she had put up with it for years (not to mention finding elaborate and innovative ways to get around its blockades). But then the company blocked Facebook at the API. It might have had valuable reasons for blocking the social media site, but that was the straw that broke this apathetic employee’s back: She felt that if she couldn’t be trusted to maintain her virus protection; not click on stupid, obvious Trojans; and maintain her Facebook usage to breaks and lunchtimes — well, it was clear that her company no longer respected her as a thinking adult.

As we face a possible double-dip recession, the greatest fear for many CIOs is that they have apathetic employees who are simply biding their time, waiting to leave. No one wants a dead-weight employee. You know what the guy with the steak lunch and the lady with the banned Facebook had in common with my coveted chairs? They’re all examples of employee perceptions of how much they are valued by the company. Whether justified or not, sometimes tangible gestures get translated into employee job satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).

Sometimes, when times are tight and we can’t reward our employees with salary increases and are asking them to put up with five-year-old hoopty laptops, it’s up to the leadership team to keep thinking of employee retention strategies and ways to make it magical.

Arm those crappy laptop users with some cheap SSD drives so your IT workers aren’t constantly running out of storage space. Pillage those leftover monitors sitting in the empty cubicles from the last workforce reduction, and give your employees two or three if they want. It seems silly, but it really is the little things that keep your employees pleased with their decision to partner with your company. And it’s the little things that make them decide to break that partnership, either by leaving completely or by simply checking out while still gathering a paycheck.

The fabled dot-com boom days weren’t entirely off-base. We don’t have to buy everyone an Aeron chair, but concern for workers’ creature comforts can go a long way toward keeping them happy, without necessarily tapping a salary budget item. It all comes down to being creative about how you razzle-dazzle your workers and manage employee perceptions.

Speaking of salaries, we want to hear from you! How’s your personal bottom line this year? We’re conducting a salary and job satisfaction survey of CIOs and IT professionals. Your responses are completely confidential and will be only part of an accumulation of responses in the reporting. Not only will we send you a copy of our survey results, but you’ll also be able to download a copy of our latest research report on the changing role of the CIO. And as if that’s not enough, you can also enter to win our prize giveaway.

Take the survey!

October 4, 2011  5:44 PM

Strong passwords are more important than ever

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

I recently asked one of my sons for passwords to his online accounts, for gaming, email, etc. Not because I’m nosy but because I’m trying to be a responsible parent and home IT administrator, and having strong passwords is a good thing. One I got back was “QWERTY1234.” I made him change it.

It may not matter, though. Passwords are getting even easier to crack, thanks to dedicated graphics card processing, according to our U.K. affiliate, ComputerWeekly. But you already know it: The vast majority of passwords in the enterprise are easily guessable, and many companies still do not require strong passwords, or even new passwords every month or quarter or so.

Cloud computing, big data and consumerization are hot topics now, but the bottom line is that none of it matters without good security policies. But that does not seem to be the priority.

ComputerWeekly also reported on a Xantus survey of CIOs on cloud computing that ranked security fifth on a list of cloud computing concerns. The national SIM organization’s recent survey on the future of IT had security ranked eighth out of 10 on top management concerns this year.

This needs to change. Watch for’s IT priorities survey later this fall, and for a virtual seminar on cloud computing security, produced with and ISACA, in December.

October 3, 2011  7:24 PM

Whatever happened to last year’s promising iPad clones?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Things getting hectic as you enter Q4? It seems like no matter what you do, you still just keep feeling like you’re two steps behind. We know how it feels, and we’re here to make it better. We’ve chased down the best commentary and news tidbits from all around the Web to provide you with optimized reading material during your few snippets of free time. We’ve got the scoop on the Amazon Kindle Fire, why the smart grid has failed to come to fruition and the sad story behind so many promised 2010 iPad clones, all in tasty, bite-sized morsels.

• Is Jeff Bezos the new Steve Jobs? While we’re not as lavish with the praise as some bloggers, there is some credence to this prediction. Barnes & Noble stock fell a whopping 9% immediately after Amazon announced its contribution to the host of iPad clones. Perhaps Bezos is onto something?

• With green technology being the hottest trend of the 2010s, why has the concept of the smart grid failed to thrive in the U.S.? Boyd Cohen thinks it all points back to the shareholders.

• Juggling a desktop and a laptop computer along with your host of mobile gadgets? Here’s how to share a mouse and a keyboard across multiple computers. There’s a catch, though — it only works with Windows. Now if only it worked for tablets, too.

• What’s the sweet spot for optimal productivity with multiple monitors? Is two enough? Do you prefer five for a Mission Control spread, or nine for the full NORAD experience? Scott Hanselman makes the case for three monitors on a workstation.

• You’ve banged out a contract with your managed service provider, but how do you erase those nagging feelings that you missed something? Tam Harbert has a list of seven vendor contract imperatives that may surprise you.

• Remember the heady days of 2010, when you couldn’t swing a bat without hitting the news of yet another promised round of iPad clones? The brilliant Harry McCracken plays “whatever happened to” with a host of promising tablet devices, and guess what? Many of them never saw the light of day.

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