August 2, 2011 10:33 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud computing
, Data Centers
When you think of cloud computing, especially large public cloud vendors such as Google, Yahoo! and Amazon, you probably picture massive data centers, sucking resources as they use tons of electricity to power their server farms and even more air conditioning systems to keep these monsters from overheating.
But a recent article in the New York Times suggests that this picture might not be completely accurate. In fact, due to a number of factors, data centers are using less power than they were projected to back in 2007 in spite of predictions at the time to the contrary.
This information comes from a report by Jonathan G. Koomey, a consulting professor in the civil and environmental engineering department at Stanford University. The report was commissioned by the New York Times.
Koomey found that the world financial crisis in 2008 decreased demand for cloud services, which meant fewer data centers and that technological innovation produced systems that used less power.
“Mostly because of the recession, but also because of a few changes in the way these facilities are designed and operated, data center electricity consumption is clearly much lower than what was expected, and that’s really the big story,” said Mr. Koomey in the New York Times article.
Koomey was comparing the results of his study to a 2007 Environmental Protection Agency report which predicted the situation would be much worse at this point than it actually is.
Whether a data center is efficient, however, has to do with a lot of factors including where it’s located. A data center in Germany that is powered by a near-by wind farm is going to have a much smaller environmental impact, then one located in Ohio near a plant that burns coal to generate electricity.
Over the last several years, companies like Amazon, Google and Yahoo! have been working hard to generate greener data centers, and it’s probably not because these companies are concerned about the environment (although they may very well be), but more because the cost of generating electricity at these data centers is in fact, a substantial part of their cost of doing business.
If these companies can find ways to generate electricity and cool these centers more efficiently, it’s not only going to help keep the environment cleaner, it’s going to have a positive impact on their bottom line.
Even though this report paints a rosier picture than believed, the amount of consumption is bound to go up, and over the next several years, these companies and many others are going to be looking for other ways to innovate — whether it’s through greener energy production, more efficient chip technologies that use less electricity or innovative cooling techniques — because as more companies shift to the cloud, finding ways to run data centers more efficiently is going to be increasingly necessary.
Companies that can come up with ways to help achieve this will be helping maintain a cleaner planet for future generations, while providing the cloud services we demand.
Photo by nortinirt on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.
July 27, 2011 3:39 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Stephen Elop
As though Nokia needed any more bad news, its latest quarterly figures reveal that it has lost substantial market share in China, a market it has dominated over the years.
In fact, it was reported that Android passed Nokia’s Symbian OS for the first time, and Reuters was quoting a Gartner analyst who was predicting that Android would control 50 percent of the Asian market by 2015.
If that weren’t enough, Apple passed Nokia in worldwide market share for the first time. It’s all part of a continuing decline for a mobile phone maker that once controlled the market, particularly in areas like China where its lower end phones sold extremely well.
But as you are no doubt aware, Nokia made the decision earlier this year to abandon the Symbian and MeeGo phone operating systems in favor of a Windows Phone 7 strategy. The announcement came long before any Nokia phone running Windows was close to ready. leaving the company effectively in limbo.
The results have been exceedingly ugly as Nokia has jettisoned market share in huge numbers, even in markets like China in which it was traditionally strong. In fact, Bloomberg reported that Nokia’s sales in China dropped a whopping 41 percent from last year, while European sales dropped by 30 percent.
Meanwhile Nokia reported selling 16.7 million phones in the most recent quarter compared with over 20 million iPhones That’s astonishing really when you consider there are many, many Nokia phones across a range of price points, while Apple just has just a few iPhones, all sold at a much higher price that probably won’t do as well in Asia.
It’s easy to criticize CEO Stephen Elop’s strategy, but the fact is that Nokia was stuck with an old OS nobody really wanted anymore, and while MeeGo looked promising, as Sarah Perez pointed out on ReadWriteWeb, it would not likely have been enough to be competitive with Android and Apple.
This leaves Nokia in the unenviable position of trying to find a way to sustain its market presence in the midst of transitioning to an entirely new line of phones running Windows..
It seems clear at this point that Android and iOS will control the top two spots moving forward, and the remaining battle will be for third place. Microsoft is betting that by affiliating itself with Nokia, it can help cement that third place position, while Nokia is hoping that Windows can revive its flagging phone sales
It still remains to be seen if this approach can work for either company, but it is clear that in the short term, Nokia continues to take it on the chin in China, as well in other markets it once dominated, and it has to hang on until those Windows phones are ready and see where the chips fall.
July 18, 2011 12:39 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
It’s not exactly a secret that RIM has been losing North American market share in bunches over the last couple of years, but in environments where security is paramount, RIM still has a strong case to make.
As the consumerization trend has swept the enterprise, IT has been reduced to overseers, rather than dictators of technology choices. And users don’t want Blackberries. They want Apple and Android phones, But in highly secure environments, total freedom to choose your cell phone just isn’t practical and IT must maintain control.
Take the government for instance. My sister-in-law works for the Australian government and she has been issued a Blackberry for government business. When I asked her why, she indicated because communication was forced through a secure server helping ensure that the messages she exchanged with politicians and colleagues remained confidential.
The implication was clear, the other choices while more fun to use were not nearly as secure and that could be the focus of RIM’s strategy moving forward.
I also noticed that when I was in Germany last year for the CeBIT conference, the organizers were also issued Blackberries. Security was tightly controlled and German users were not even allowed to download Blackberry-approved apps. Perhaps RIM can use this conservative approach to IT to its advantage in overseas markets.
At one time, as recently as Fall, 2009, RIM was the most dominant cell phone maker in North America with 40 percent of market share. Today that’s all changed and with each passing quarter, RIM loses more and more of this market. In fact, the April Comscore market share statistics have RIM in third place with 25.7 percent down 4.7 points from the previous quarter.
What’s worse, it feels like a company in disarray. As its market share numbers slip, the strategy has been to release a the Blackberry PlayBook tablet, which by all reports was an admirable try, but one which was clearly released too soon — and RIM is not a company that can afford at this point to make many missteps. Meanwhile, its two-headed CEO approach seems like a strange idea at best, and one that shows a clear lack of leadership at worst.
But RIM has always been the enterprise choice for cell phones. As Apple and Android have developed far more sexy choices, and users have grown tired of carrying two phones–one for work and one for themselves, Blackberry’s domination has disappeared. Yet RIM remains a secure choice in environments whose work demands it, as my sister-in-law’s case clearly shows.
What’s not clear, however, is if in most enterprises, IT has lost control of these choices. And if that’s the case, RIM’s road is going to continue to be rough. Unless the upcoming series of phones provides both the sex appeal users want and the security IT requires (at least in some cases), as we’ve written here before, RIM could be in serious trouble.
If, however, it can use its security to its advantage, especially in overseas markets, it could continue to do reasonably well outside of North America, and that might be enough to keep it going, or at least make it a reasonable take-over target for another company.
July 6, 2011 9:16 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud computing
With all of the high profile hacks lately, conventional wisdom suggests that it might be bad for cloud computing, but as hackers like Anonymous and LulzSec have proven, nobody is really safe from a hacker hell bent on getting inside your systems.
While it’s frightening, it doesn’t really damn cloud computing any more than the private data center. When these hackers can go after companies, law enforcement even the CIA, for goodness sakes, if you’re sitting there thinking you’re somehow more secure because you control the data center, you are sadly mistaken.
The fact is it’s a systemic problem to which nobody is immune, regardless of where you store your data or who you are. It’s clear that the people charged with architecting the Internet have to take a long look at what they’ve been doing because it’s clearly no longer working, not when these hackers can take down sites or get inside systems with impunity virtually at will.
It’s easy to point to cloud computing in times like these and suggest that these companies are somehow more vulnerable than a private data center, but as these hackers have shown, they are equal opportunity disruptors and until we find a way to secure the internet, these guys are going to continue to attack simply because they can.
If the Internet establishment needed a bigger wake up call, I’m not sure what its. Companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and so forth should be working together to create a more secure environment. In the current atmosphere, everyone loses, and it gives more credence to the purveyors of good old-fashion cloud FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).
Chances are, when you sit in a conference, you’ll hear the anti-cloud arguments and the anti-cloud crowd almost always plays the security card. They won’t come out and just say it of course, but they’ll hint at a lack of security and suggest that on-premises software might be (in hushed tone) “the safer choice.”
But the fact is that unless you want to shut down the Internet and have no contact whatsoever with the outside world–and even then I’m not sure you’re safe–you are going to have to live with the possibility of being hacked along with every other organization on the planet.
This is by no means an ideal situation, but it absolutely is a level playing field. If a hacker can penetrate the CIA with all of the security fail-safes I’m imagining it must have in place, it tells you that the system as currently constructed needs a complete overhaul.
So if we are going to have a conversation about the issues we are having these days, let’s agree that whether you’re a cloud vendor or the CIA doesn’t really matter. What we need to do is find a solution to the larger security problem affecting everyone instead of creating a false argument that one approach is safer. The fact is that your data is probably vulnerable no matter where it is, and until we address that issue, we are going to continue to have these problems.
Photo by gwire on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
July 4, 2011 5:15 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, smart phones
It hasn’t been a great time for RIM. Just last week an anonymous executive published a letter of complaint about the inner turmoil at the company, embarrassing the organization and forcing it to write a response on the company blog. Meanwhile, developers are reportedly abandoning Blackberry support and that could be the most devastating blow of all.
The letter outlined a series of problems inside the company including management and organizational problems that in the writer’s opinion were holding the company back. In the company’s response, it complained about the difficulty in responding to anonymous attacks, but acknowledged there were problems and they were taking steps to address them.
The response also indicated that RIM has a road map for a way back and is simply in an awkward space between its old systems and its upcoming one. Sounds like the same position Nokia finds itself in.
Fair enough, they are working to resolve the problem, even while they continue to lose market share in bunches. But what’s most troubling is a story last week on IT World that RIM is starting to experience developer defections. That means that companies that develop phone apps are beginning to conclude that it’s not worth the development resources to continue to develop apps for RIM phones.
And one thing is crystal clear into today’s mobile marketplace, companies will live and die by the success of the apps that each phone supports.
But is the story as bleak as it appears? RIM will you tell you it’s not. They have $3 billion in cash after all, and even though the Blackberry sales continue to be in free fall in North America, the company claims that it is selling phones in overseas markets.
This seems to me puts it in a better short-term position than Nokia, which needs to wait for Windows Phone 7 phones later this year before it can go anywhere. RIM is also waiting for phones running its next generation OS, but it’s not living in limbo in the same way Nokia has been.
And in that same response post, RIM pointed out it made $695 million in net income last quarter. This is in stark contrast to Nokia, which recently reported, it went from a projected $6 billion quarter to what they called “breaking even.”
Even though RIM is probably in far better shape, what was once, *the* choice for corporate phones is being replaced by iOS and Android alternatives. Much like Nokia, it feels like a company that has at best one more chance to find its way back before it gets sold and folded into another manufacturer’s portfolio.
While the anonymous letter might have been a wake-up call, RIM had to know where it stood before that, and that the stakes are extremely high. Whether it succeeds or fails won’t hinge on one embarrassing open letter. It will come down to product and marketing execution. And it had better make this one count.
Photo by quinn.anya on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
July 1, 2011 9:44 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud computing
, Enterprise 2.0
, Enterprise Social Software
These are clearly good times for VMware. As Cloud Ave reported earlier this week, profits are up — way up. And even as they make money, VMware has quietly taken a distinctly social stance. In fact, over the last 18 months, the company has purchased three important social pieces.
It started with the purchase of Zimbra in January 2010. At the time, as with many purchases when the overall strategy is not clear, Zimbra might have seemed an odd fit. After all, what did VMware need with an email/collaboration vendor?
Then last April, the next target was SlideRocket, a cloud-based slide creation vendor. You could sort of see how buying a cloud vendor might fit in with VMware, but up to now they’ve had a distinct focus on the back end, so on its own, SlideRocket didn’t necessarily seem like a VMware kind of target.
Finally, earlier this month, VMware completed the social purchase trifecta when they announced the purchase of Enterprise 2.0 software firm, Socialcast. And with that you could see that that all of these purchases were about building enterprise social networking into the VMware software stack.
Yet VMware did not have a presence last week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. It could be because, it purchased Socialcast so close to the conference, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they show up in the Fall at the west coast version of the show in Santa Clara.
VMware has some nice pieces here, but it’s unclear if it can take these parts and put them together into a coherent social software package and relate it back to its cloud-virtualization core mission.
And it’s not exactly alone in the social space.
In fact, there are several key players shooting for the same enterprise customers as VMware including Cisco, IBM, SAP and of course Microsoft. And that doesn’t include up and coming companies like Jive and Yammer, which are making a big impact in the enterprise social space.
But VMware is coming at this from a cloud-virtualization angle, which makes it a bit of a different animal from the other competitors in this space.
Perhaps, VMware is in a position to understand better how cloud-based services like these recent purchases can be folded into the enterprise than these other vendors, which tend to be focused on-premise. To be fair Microsoft does offer a cloud-based version of SharePoint, but Microsoft is still very much a traditional enterprise software vendor at heart. For the record, Yammer is a pure play cloud vendor and Jive offers cloud or on-premise options.
It will be interesting moving forward to see how VMware decides to use its social pieces and if it will continue to buy other companies.
For now, VMware is in a good position, leading the way for virtualization and cloud computing, while buying other pieces to fill in holes. And they are making money hand over fist along the way. It seems social is just a small piece in their ever-growing cloud-virtualization strategy and they want to be in it every which way they can.
Photo by FHKE on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
June 29, 2011 1:34 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, HP TouchPad
, Operating Systems
Bloomberg reported today that HP is talking to companies about licensing its WebOS operating system. What this means, essentially is that instead of just running exclusively on HP products, it would run on other company’s products — possibly competing products — as well. Is this a good strategy for HP and does it matter?
HP certainly thinks that mobile is still in play. In a Fast Company article earlier this week, Phil McKinney, president and CTO of HP’s personal systems group had this to say about the mobile competition. “Everyone’s trying to make it seem the conclusion has been decided. We’re still in the top of the first inning.”
What would you expect him to say — that he’s giving up? Not likely. Like any good baseball manager, HP is going to keep pulling strings until the last pitch and see what happens — as they should.
Licensing WebOS could be a double-edged sword for HP though. When you look at the tablet and phone market, as of this moment, Apple and Google are clearly dominating. When it comes to the tablet, the iPad continues to blow away the field. HP gets it turn at bat on Friday when the HP Touchpad hits stores.
If the other competitors from Samsung to Motorola to RIM are any indication, HP’s prospects are not terribly bright. So far, when people buy a tablet, in overwhelming numbers they are choosing the iPad. Back in March, admittedly a life-time ago in tablet time, Apple Insider reported that 82 percent of potential tablet buyers said they would choose iPad. Those kind of numbers don’t bode well for HP, no matter what inning it is.
Licensing could end up fragmenting the tablet market even further. HP is not the first company to face this conundrum, but I’m willing to bet they are thinking that it’s better to have a larger total WebOS user system in place than it is to worry about protecting the company’s own hardware sales because the more companies building hardware running WebOS, the more developers have to pay attention.
It’s not without merit, but HP isn’t Google. It’s a hardware company first and foremost and as such it needs to sell HP branded tablets and phones. Let’s say a company like Asus licenses the WebOS technology and releases a nifty little tablet that is nicer and cheaper than the one from HP. Would the licensing money (and the fact they were spreading the WebOS love) make up for the fact that they were also possibly undercutting their own market?
It’s not easy to say. Nor is it clear how many vendors would want to run WebOS, adding yet another OS to the already murky mix. Android has the advantage of being open source and therefore free. Companies licensing WebOS would have to figure in operating system costs as they do when running Windows Phone 7. The question is can they price it attractively enough to make it worthwhile for companies to choose WebOS without making it so cheap they don’t make any money.
This is not a market for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. HP is late to the game and as such is going to have to get creative to force its way in. I’m just not sure if licensing is going to help them or hurt them.
Photo by Tom Raftery on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
June 24, 2011 10:14 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Social Media
, Stephen Elop
, Windows Phone 7
Nokia’s Global Digital Marketing Manager Ming Kwan spoke earlier this week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston and outlined the company’s social media marketing vision to help sell phones running Windows Phone 7 when they emerge later this year, and perhaps revive the company in the process — but will it be enough?
As I wrote here earlier this month, Nokia is stuck in limbo waiting for those Windows cell phones later this year, so it’s running just as fast as it can to try and stay in the media spotlight.
To that end, it has dispatched employees like Kwan to speak about the company’s vision. You have to give Kwan credit, she didn’t try to sugar coat the current situation admitting the company is facing challenging times and stating outright that Nokia hasn’t been competitive in the North American market for the last few years. Of course, she would have sounded silly if she suggested otherwise.
Kwan recognizes that there is lots of valuable data both in the internal and external social streams, and the challenge is to break down the social media silos, bring information together into one place and figure out how to take meaningful action.
She said Nokia has developed three tools to help employees do this: a visualization tool to help make sense of conversations on internal social networking tools, a social command center to build an understanding about what people are saying about Nokia on external social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and yes, blogs; and finally a crowd sourcing platform where customers and interested parties can contribute ideas to improve Nokia products.
All sounds great in theory, but tools are tools and it’s really going to come down to the phones themselves and if people want to buy them. I’m a fan of using social media in this fashion, but Nokia already knows people are down on their brand right now. They can try to deal with customer problems in real time, which is certainly a worthy goal, but they can’t do much to change phones in the short term based on marketplace perception if it turns out to be negative.
Meanwhile, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was trying a little social media magic of his own this week when he “leaked” a prototype of one the company’s early Windows Phone 7 entries. He even went so far as to suggest that people should shut off their cameras in a public forum. Of course, not everyone did and it “leaked.”
If you follow the link above, you can see a detailed demo of the phone, but beyond the design, what you’re seeing is pretty standard Window phone fare. Sure, they’ll add some Nokia-centric tools on there, but it’s hard to establish some serious differentiation in the market at this point, regardless of the OS your phone is running.
What’s clear, however, is that Nokia is doing everything it can to stay in the news and stay relevant. Elop is trying to build enthusiasm in the market and trying to use social media channels to drive that. The company is also hoping to manage customer experience with their social media tools and leverage internal knowledge hiding in internal social chatter.
Ultimately social media might not save Nokia, but it might keep the brand alive long enough for the new phones to emerge in the marketplace and let the chips fall where they may.
Photo by pro1pr on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
June 23, 2011 7:14 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, enterprise IT
When Box.net announced this week that it was partnering with Google to embed Google Docs functionality directly in their product, it drove home how nicely cloud vendors play with one another and it got me thinking about why that is.
While this integration certainly benefits vendors like Box because it makes their products more attractive to the enterprise buyers they crave, more importantly it benefits IT because it provides easy integration across cloud products, saving you from building that integration yourself.
Levie believes that by providing cross-product pollination like the the deal with Google, it takes the pressure off of IT and could result in better products without relying on a single vendor. “By building seamless connections with other web services, rather than trying to be everything to everyone, we can avoid some of the historical pitfalls of legacy enterprise solutions, like feature-bloat and incoherent vision,” Levie wrote in an email.
In the case of the Google-Box deal, Box users can now create and edit documents directly in the Box interface. This is in stark contrast to conventional enterprise vendors who tend to shy away from this type of integration.
Sure, many build APIs and these provide a means to connect to other enterprise systems from different vendors, but the onus is often on customers to build those connection themselves.
Larger enterprise software vendors also want to be all things to all people, so they tend to try to build as much functionality into their products as possible with the end result being it’s not really in their best interest to undermine their own product strategy by partnering in the way cloud vendors have.
Even though it’s obviously self-serving for him to say it, Levie believes that these partnerships make more sense for customers and vendors alike. “The low barrier for businesses to adopt cloud solutions creates an opportunity for enterprises to mix and match solutions with greater ease than ever before. This is advantageous for customers because it means they can pick the best provider in each software category rather than being stuck with bundled services (where some products are clearly propping up others) — it’s also beneficial to cloud vendors, because it means we can be laser focused on solving a specific business problem…,” Levie wrote in an email interview.
This is in contrast with Microsoft, for example which has paid lip service to the cloud, but which up to this point has not provided third party developers with hooks into its cloud offering, Office 360 (due to come out of Beta next week) in the same fashion that Google has allowed Google Docs integration in Box. And as Levie wrote in a blog post announcing the Google Docs integration, he believes if history is any indication, Microsoft won’t be providing these hooks any time soon.
Time will tell if Levie’s prediction is true, but the fact that cloud vendors work together to promote cloud computing and to work across different products is a departure from the way enterprise software has been traditionally sold and packaged.
For IT pros who may be looking for reasons to buy cloud services, this kind of integration across products certainly provides an argument for going with the cloud, or at the very least pressuring traditional enterprise software vendors to do the same.
Photo by tallmariah on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.