March 16, 2011 11:52 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Leo Apotheker
The Cloud Bandwagon
New CEO Leo Apotheker made clear in a speech yesterday that HP plans to build a new cloud business where it will offer services for developers to build and host applications in the cloud. In fact, HP is going far beyond its current mission selling hardware to competing with services like Verizon, Rackspace and Amazon in the Infrastructure as a Service business (IaaS) business.Apotheker said his company would help customers build a hybrid cloud where part of the data and hardware remains behind the firewall and part of it in the cloud, and would also provide a full range of cloud services including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS – hosted server and storage) along with Platform as a Service (Paas – a Cloud service for building applications).
HP is already well behind the competition, especially IBM and the previously mentioned pure play cloud infrastructure providers. But Apotheker addressed that saying straight out, “I don’t think we’re playing catch up with anyone, certainly not when it comes to IBM.”
Of course he can put up a brave front for the world, but it doesn’t hide the fact the HP faces an uphill battle here. As Apotheker himself pointed out, they need to build to a huge scale to make this cost effective and that means building data centers around the world. It will involve a huge capital investment and it will take time and money.
And while HP builds out its Cloud business, the other are forging ahead with theirs. There’s no way to sugar coat that.
It’s all well and good for Apotheker to recognize that he has to move his company into the Cloud to be a strategic player moving forward, but getting them there is another matter, and the speech was short on details.
In fact, Forrester analyst Frank Gillett as quoted on SiliconValley.com said the Cloud announcement left him scratching his head because of the lack of substance.
But of course Apotheker wasn’t just announcing his company’s new cloud initiative, he also took the opportunity to talk about the new line of mobile phones and tablets running WebOS that will be coming out this year. And make no mistake, there is an obvious link between its mobile vision and its cloud one.
Apotheker left no doubt that he considered WebOS a world class mobile platoform (but then what you expect him to say?) and would be running every HP device including tablets, smart phones, PCs and printers by 2012.
Much like with Microsoft, HP is a big company with a lot of money and big microphone, but it takes more than words to build this kind of business. It takes a huge commitment of internal employee resources and capital expenditures.
This from a company, which under former CEOs Carly Fiorina and the disgraced Mark Hurd, made more news sucking up to Wall Street investors with cost cut-backs and layoffs instead of innovation and investment.
It will be interesting to see if Apotheker can take HP and return it to its glory days as an innovative company that’s not afraid to invest in R&D. One thing’s clear though: It will take more than a good speech to make HP a serious cloud player.
Photo by cpeachok on Flickr Used under Creative Commons License.
March 14, 2011 8:54 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud computing
, Steve Ballmer
, Windows Intune
, Windows Phone 7
You have to give Microsoft credit for one thing: they understand the future is in the Cloud and they want you to know it. They are almost literally screaming it from the rooftops just in case you aren’t clear. It’s in their speeches, press conferences and ads, but I still can’t help but feel there is a mixed message coming from Redmond.
When I was at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany a couple of weeks ago, I saw that dual personality on full display. Microsoft held a high-profile press conference where they were touting their cloud credentials with all the enthusiasm they could muster. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t help noticing it was always tied to their desktop mainstays Windows and Office.
Even though Microsoft clearly recognizes the value of cloud services, it seems incapable of weaning itself from its desktop darlings. Sure, you can use the cloud to accomplish all sorts of interesting things. Just don’t forget that it all comes back to Windows and Office.
Meanwhile, Forbes Magazine reports on a recent speech by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to oil and gas executives in which he predicted that Microsoft’s Kinect gaming tool would have a big role in Microsoft’s cloud computing platform in the future. Blogger Christopher Helman wrote:
“…Ballmer explained that the Kinect technology could eventually help bring oil reservoir engineers together from all over the world to study and manipulate a 3-d rendering of an oilfield. The sensors, said Ballmer, will eventually be integrated into PCs and smartphones and powered by the cloud-based Windows Azure platform. “
That sounds great, but when given the opportunity to demonstrate that kind of round-trip potential today between the cloud and connected devices (leaving Kinect out of it for now), Microsoft failed to do it. A case in point is the new Windows Intune system due out later this month.
It’s an interesting new cloud service aimed at IT Pros that lets you monitor your company’s Windows PCs from a web console. For instance, if a PC on the system needs an update (such as a Windows patch), you can distribute the update and the machine is updated via the cloud without having to be connected to the network.
So far so good, but even though it lets you receive email alerts when the system detects a problem, it lacks a Windows Phone 7 app that mimics the web console. It seems this would be a perfect scenario to connect the desktop, web and smart phone via the Cloud, but they didn’t take advantage.
And even as they tout the Cloud, some of their blog posts seem to question its value. Take for example, the Success is a Marathon, Not a Sprint piece posted by Tom Rizzo on the Why Microsoft blog last month. While seeming to support the cloud, and of course Microsoft’s approach to it, the post recycles many standard cloud fears.
I’m not sure how you can be all in with the Cloud while reciting tired arguments against it (even if it’s to build up a case for your cloud services). If you need further proof of Microsoft’s cloud angst, look to the fact that the man hired to be the company’s chief cloud architect, Ray Ozzie, quit long before the Cloud strategy had a chance to develop fully.
I know I’m confused by all of this. Seems that Microsoft wants it every which way. They want to say they are in the cloud all the way, while protecting their lucrative desktop market. As long as they play it this way, they will be telling two stories and they can’t be surprised when that creates confusion in the marketplace.
March 10, 2011 10:41 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, enterprise IT
, Fujitsu Technology Solutions
There was no shortage of tablets on display this year at the CeBIT Technology Fair, held last week in Hannover, Germany. Each one was trying in its own way to find an audience and differentiate itself from the mighty iPad.
At the iPad 2 release party last Wednesday in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs explained that it would be a mistake for competitors to see the tablet form factor as another kind of PC. In his view, it is much more than a laptop without a keyboard. Yet that’s precisely how some manufacturers here seemed to see it.
Many tablet designs are trying to find their niche by being more enterprise-friendly and that means coming equipped with Microsoft software just like on the desktop and laptop. Fujitsu for instance showed off a prototype of a new tablet due for release in April running Windows 7 with a stylus for pen and mouse input (shown below).
It also boasted a finger print reader and a PC Card slot along with USB ports. The idea is to make it secure and IT-friendly. It’s immensely practical, but it certainly doesn’t have the sex appeal of the iPad 2 and that could be a problem (especially for status conscious executives).
As I watched several presentations throughout the week from high-profile technology company executives, I couldn’t help but notice that speakers repeatedly referred to the iPad and iPhone as examples of disruptive technology. Several indicated they owned both devices themselves. The fact is that if CEOs at major corporations own Apple devices, then chances are IT is finding a way to deal with the security issues associated with using Apple technology in the enterprise.
Asus took a different tact, offering a variety of enterprise-friendly tablets including one running Google Honeycomb with a slide-out keyboard, sensing perhaps that people want to have keyboard input to be a truly useful business device. Indeed, one executive speaking a the conference last week indicated that he carried an iPhone, iPad and laptop because he preferred to do his writing work with a keyboard.
Asus also had models that had bluetooth keyboard stands and a monster 12 inch tablet running Windows 7 they were marketing as an executive tablet.
Yet as interesting and attractive as these devices were (and each one did have some great features), they fell into that trap that Jobs warned about by trying to be a PC instead of a tablet. Sure, it’s great that you can run Microsoft Office on your tablet and use a finger print identifier for security purposes, but is that really what the tablet is all about?
What separates Apple from the pack in my view is its design, its app store and its crystal clear understanding that this is a very different device where, as Jobs said, “the hardware and software intertwine.”
Undoubtedly there are IT shops out there who want to provide tablets for their users, running their standard business software and who fear using external apps such as those found in the Apple App Store, for many reasons including productivity and security concerns. In Germany, for instance, from what I heard, IT tends to be extremely conservative in this regard and these tablets are being developed precisely for this type of market.
There will be organizations around the world that demand a high level of security and familiarity, and these tablets should provide that for them, but it might be at the cost of what makes the tablet special. If you are truly that concerned about these issues, a nice laptop might be money better spent.
Full Disclosure Department: CeBIT paid my travel expenses to attend the conference.
Photo Credit: Ron Miller
March 7, 2011 5:16 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, public cloud
Last week, GMail had a serious outage. It was bad for the users affected, no doubt, but in the end it appears no data was lost. The backup systems worked and the system recovered. Yet we still have article after article pointing to the fact that this is precisely why the cloud is risky. I would say, it ultimately proved why the cloud works as designed.
I’m sure it was no fun for the users who logged onto their Gmail accounts last week and found everything gone. I know I would have panicked if it were me, so I’m not minimizing it by any means. But Google did what it needed to do. It found the nature of the problem, it went to its backups and its backups of backups and it recovered the data. As Seth Weintraub wrote on Fortune, tape might be somewhat archaic, but it proved the extent to which Google has gone to protect its data.
The outage appears to have been caused by a bug. As Ben Traynor of Google pointed out, they use tape precisely because it is immune to software bugs. As the old commercial used to say, “The garlic worked.”
But not everyone was convinced that this worked out well in the end. Michael Hickins wrote in a Wall Street Journal article, that this was a black eye for cloud computing in general.
“This is a black eye for companies like Google, which is actively trying to convince businesses and governments to switch their on-premise email systems to online services, which it promotes as less expensive and more reliable.”
I agree to the extent that it plays into the hands of the naysayers and the anti-cloud crowd, but as I’ve asked here before, how many times has your Exchange server gone down in your company? Just because you have an email server behind the firewall doesn’t mean you are immune to problems like the one Google experienced last week during an upgrade.
It was by no means Google’s finest hour, but neither was it an unmitigated disaster because they did what they had to do. In the end, Google recovered the data, and that’s the lesson people should be taking from this incident.
It’s not that Google lost data for a short period of time, it’s that software glitches happen to everyone, even the mighty Google, and we should not be judging them by the fact that they had a problem–because no technology, no matter where it lives is infallible–but by how well they dealt with the problem.
Looking at it from that perspective, we learned that cloud computing works as it should in a crisis situation and Google actually proved the power of the notion.
March 1, 2011 2:15 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud computing
, enterprise IT
I’m at the CeBIT technology fair in Germany this week and a big theme of the conference is cloud computing. What else is new? At a press conference held by German IT industry group BITKOM, which is hosting a series of cloud-related events throughout the week, one journalist asked why they were even talking about the Cloud as a special category. Maybe I’m jaded because I’ve been writing about the Cloud for a long time, but I was wondering the same thing.
It also got me thinking about when we would get to the point where the debate is finally going to stop and we accept cloud computing like we do any other type of computing. We have to get to the a place (wherever that is) where we aren’t having the same old tired discussions about security and reliability and just simply accept cloud computing at face value.
That said, many of the German journalists at the press conference still had questions about the security of putting data in the cloud and they seemed especially concerned about how data stored in the Cloud could still adhere to strict German and EU privacy laws when it was sometimes stored on servers in countries that had much less restrictive privacy rules.
It’s a good question, but BITKOM Chairman, Dr. August-Wilhelm Scheer, who gave a presentation on the state of Cloud Computing, said “An Ivory Tower policy won’t get you very far.” He also pointed out that there are many applications we are using today that cross international boundaries and live on international servers and it happens every day. And we aren’t analyzing our navels over this.
In a separate presentation, Fujitsu CTO Dr. Joseph Reger,looked at it a little bit differently. Yes, the conversation has been on-going, but it has shifted from early conversations about what we mean by the cloud to questioning the benefits of the cloud to today when the conversation is about how companies can implement cloud projects. Of course his company is trying to sell cloud services, so he has a stake in defining it in these terms, but his timeline makes sense.
Reger also pointed out that progress tends to happen more slowly inside the enterprise. Although we’ve been talking about it for quite some time, that doesn’t mean that most enterprise IT departments are going to be rapid adopters.
That could be why the journalist at the BITKOM presentation felt compelled to suggest that a cloud themed conference was getting old, and perhaps he’s right.
But those of us who follow the subject so closely are probably not the ones to ask. I’m sure that once you take a few steps back from the bleeding edge, you’ll find many IT pros and key decision makers inside organizations who are more like Reger described.They haven’t considered all of the implications or studied this chapter and verse, and they are very likely at some point along Reger’s spectrum of cloud understanding.
So maybe it’s OK to continue the conversation, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t long for the day when we can go to a major conference and the Cloud will have achieved a higher status, allowing us to deal with the more complex issues associated with a more mature technology.
Full Disclosure Department: CeBIT paid my expenses for me to attend this conference.
February 23, 2011 12:43 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Windows Phone 7
More bad news for Microsoft, which can’t seem to get out of its own way when it comes to getting its mobile business untracked. Just yesterday came word that the first update for Windows Phone 7 ran into some major issues, going so far as locking up some phones.
The Telegraph described it as follows:
The update, the firm’s first for Windows Phone 7, was itself designed to improve the updating process, but instead caused crashes and made some devices completely unusable.
Oops. You have to think that Microsoft’s engineers were told this update needed to be rock solid. And it has to make you wonder how something like this could happen in a company with Microsoft’s resources at a time when it’s so crucial to make sure they get mobile right. There’s really no excuse for this kind of mistake at this point in time.
Ars Technica reported that the update was being rolled out in a staggered fashion across different phones. Probably a good thing too because Samsung models in particular were running into big problems.
Wisely, Microsoft pulled the update after the Samsung reports, but it was a case of too little too late. It’s seems only Microsoft can do an update to improve its updating feature and find it crashes the first phones on which people attempt to download it.
Every company has mobile update glitches. Apple had issues with iOS 4 last June. If you do a search for Android update problems, you’ll find similar tales of woe, but the timing was particularly poor because of Microsoft’s previously abysmal mobile track record. Not only that, but Microsoft just had some positive mobile news earlier this month when former Microsoft executive and current Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop decided to go with Windows Phone 7 across the Nokia line moving forward. It seems that whenever Microsoft manages to get some forward momentum for its mobile strategy, something like yesterday’s upgrade debacle comes along and messes it up.
Let’s face it, Microsoft is only going to get so many chances with its mobile offering. With every glitch, it makes people wonder if a Windows phone is the right choice. If you’re an IT Pro, you too have to be questioning the wisdom of a Microsoft mobile strategy. The last thing you need is angry calls from users because their phones locked up in the middle of what should have been a standard update.
Microsoft is clearly going to have to do better than this in the future because it’s running of chances to prove it has a viable mobile product in the enterprise.
February 21, 2011 7:07 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, enterprise IT
, public cloud
As the old joke goes, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that IDC says public cloud services are growing at a high rate. The bad news is that Computerworld reports that IT jobs don’t appear to be growing with it. But as corporations and the US government show a strong desire to shift to cloud services, it makes sense that as those public cloud data centers grow, the jobs will shift there.
Another recent report by Forrester Research found that while enterprise IT spending was up for the most part, jobs numbers were down. That means that companies were apparently investing in IT infrastructure, but not people to maintain that infrastructure, a situation that could be sustainable short-term through a down cycle like we’ve been in, but not necessarily over the long term.
The fact that IT jobs are reportedly lagging can’t make IT pros who question Cloud strategies very happy. It could be an underlying reason why so many don’t trust the move to the cloud — because they see it as an attack on what they do for the Enterprise. But it doesn’t have to be that way for several reasons.
First of all look no further than the Federal Government. As I wrote last week, US CIO Vivek Kundra wants to cut inefficiencies, close more than 800 data centers and shift $20 billion of the $80 billion of the federal IT budget to cloud services. That means that short term, some federal sector IT jobs will disappear with this shift and the data center closings.
But let’s look at the big picture. Even as the private sector and the federal government shift some resources to the Cloud, at least some of those jobs should should move to those Cloud companies who logically will need more personnel to deal with the increasing volume of business. What’s more, the shift requires IT to monitor and deal with different types of problems — like negotiating and holding the cloud companies to their service level agreements.
It’s also likely that we will see a corresponding internal enterprise shift to private cloud services, which means more efficient use of the hardware and software licenses, but which still requires humans to build, monitor and maintain. In addition, it requires people to deal with requests outside of the standard private cloud service offerings.
If you figure that most users will get by with standard private service offerings, there will always be a percentage who need customized services to meet the unique demands some projects will always have. That means staffs of programmers, IT Pros and consultants will still have plenty of work.
What’s more, enterprise class systems still require a great deal of leg work to select, test, set up and maintain, and there will always be a need for IT pros to fill that role.
While it’s easy to look at the short-term IT jobs picture and get discouraged, there seems to be a longer lag between recovery and jobs growth in this economic cycle. But as the economy gets stronger, even with shifting IT budgets, the jobs should come back too — even if they end up being with the service providers instead of the customers.
Photo by The Planet on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
February 17, 2011 12:55 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, enterprise IT
, US Government IT
, Vivek Kundra
Under the leadership of US CIO, Vivek Kundra, the US government has decided to go full bore into the Cloud with what Kundra has termed a “Cloud First Policy.” Yet many private-sector IT Pros still don’t trust the Cloud in theory or practice. Some see it as nothing more than a throw-back to mainframe time sharing or worse, a marketing term with no meaning whatsoever. Many have security issues, but those hardened veterans who still don’t want to see the advantages of the Cloud should at least consider the path of the US government IT apparatus, an amazingly large bureaucracy with a Cloud mandate.
The government spends a ridiculous amount of money on IT. According to a chart supplied by Kundra at a recent press event on the fiscal 2012 IT budget, US IT costs have been steadily rising since 2001 when the cost was in the neighborhood of $45 billion. This went up each year until it plateaued in 2009 at just under $80 billion.
That coincides to when Kundra came on board and began instituting plans to slash inefficient programs, but over the long term, Kundra is looking to the Cloud to help generate sustained savings. In fact, he hopes to shift $20 billion of the total federal IT budget to the Cloud over the next several years.
As part of his cost-cutting plans, Kundra is hoping to close at a minimum (he stated specifically this was the floor) 800 data centers by 2015. Part of the way he hopes to do this this is by shifting resources to the cloud.
He also sees the move to the cloud as part of the budget cutting process, not as a parallel track, so that cloud initiatives should be funded by savings being generating by other cuts. If you think about that, it’s not unlike the situation that IT departments have found themselves in over the last couple of years, being asked to cut costs while looking for new ways to do the same for thing for less.
Kundra sees cloud computing and virtualization as a way to use resources more efficiently. The government has never been an entity that moves very quickly, and that’s why their plans stretch out over years, yet OMB has mandated that each agency adopt at least three cloud services by June, 2012. Large enterprise IT shops can be similarly bureaucratic, but very few (if any) approach the scale of the U.S. federal government. If the government can make the shift this quickly, your company should be able to as well.
Despite the fact that the federal government is just at the beginning of its cloud journey, Kundra cited many ideas already under way for moving services to the cloud — many of which are familiar such as email, Web hosting and CRM, and several which aren’t such as grant management and security management.
It seems to me if the US government, which has much greater concerns than your company about ensuring the security of information, is looking to the Cloud, you have to be as well. If you haven’t started exploring the Cloud, the time has come. You have to figure that the concerns and costs of the US IT infrastructure are at much greater scale than yours, and the possible benefits and payback are simply too good to ignore.
Special thanks go out to FierceGovernmentIT reporter Molly Bernhart Walker who patiently answered all of my questions while writing this post.
Photo by The Planet. Used under Creative Commons License.
February 11, 2011 9:05 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, smart phones
If you’re an IT professional, last week you probably were feeling pretty good about your mobile strategy. You knew which platforms you were supporting, and it was all good. Then it all blew up this week and all your careful plans with it, in a string of moves which illustrates just how quickly the mobile landscape can change.
The big news of course broke this morning when Nokia announced it was abandoning Symbian and MeeGo and going full bore with Microsoft Windows Phone 7. In case you’re wondering, yes, that was Steve Ballmer you saw doing a Happy Dance because his mobile OS just got a huge boost.
In one stroke of the pen (so to speak), Nokia CEO Stephen Elop suddenly made Windows Phone 7 a major mobile player and majorly screwed anyone who had made big plans for Symbian or MeeGo. Oh, and he had your team scrambling to figure out if this was going to have a major impact on that carefully planned mobile strategy of yours.
Let’s not forget folks, as I wrote in my post on Wednesday, Looks Like You Might Not Have to Support Symbian, IDC reported that Nokia shipped 5 million phones last quarter. That was still good enough for first place in mobile phone shipments, but it apparently wasn’t enough for Elop. He saw a fading North American market, and no sustainability.
And of course, Nokia won’t just go from Symbian to Windows Phone 7 over night, there will be a period of transition, which could make things even more interesting for you.
Meanwhile, Verizon launched the iPhone this week and a survey of existing Verizon customers suggested that folks using RIM and Android phones want to switch to an iPhone in a bad way, and will jump as soon as they get the chance. Again, you have to be wondering what impact this is going to have on your IT strategy.
It’s all enough for an IT pro to throw up his/her arms in despair. How this news will affect your company’s mobile approach moving forward? Will a Nokia-Microsoft partnership change the market dynamics? Will Europeans, who buy Nokia phones in large numbers, embrace a Windows mobile OS? And if you’ve been supporting Symbian what does it mean for that aspect of your business moving forward?
There are no simple answers to any of these questions and you have to watch the market shifts with the rest of us to see what happens. It could be that what we witnessed this week was much ado about nothing, but it also could be the week everything changed in the mobile marketplace. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for now and that has to be making you a little crazy as you look for ways to define a concrete mobile approach at your organization.
Photo by jeffwilcox on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.