How great was last night’s Super Bowl? I wasn’t particularly rooting for either team, but it was a heck of a game. Who else is feeling a little overtired and overstuffed this morning, though? I know I am. As you recover, check out the most recent stories from SearchCIO.com:
- Network access control (NAC): A hybrid approach – In this case study on NAC, the University of San Francisco deploys a hybrid in-line and out-of-band NAC solution from Cisco Systems Inc.
- Virtual desktops vs. fat clients: A review of the tradeoffs – Desktop virtualization has some real benefits but can’t replace fat clients in a number of ways. Here’s the latest on virtual desktops and where they can fit in your IT strategy in 2009.
- Tips for enhancing IT’s role in improving the current economy – What can IT accomplish during a recession? Just for starters, it can help improve the current economy by participating in a strategic planning process that includes cutting costs, measuring performance and prioritizing projects.
- Put your business intelligence software knowledge to the test – This quiz for enterprise CIOs will test your knowledge of business intelligence (BI) software, strategies, tools and technologies. Read the articles and test your BI skills. Best of luck!
This sure was a gloomy week. If you subscribe to any regular newsfeeds, your inbox has probably never seen anything like it. My WSJ News Alerts flowed in like a drumbeat of despair:
Japan’s NEC to Cut 20,000 Jobs, Posts Wider Loss ; (today, 5:34 a.m.);
Kodak to Cut [3,500 – 4,500] Jobs Amid Sales Slump (Thursday, 7:43 a.m.)
Ford Posts $5.88 Billion Loss (Thursday, 7:29 a.m.)
Starbucks to Close 300 Stores, Cut Nearly 7,000 Workers (Wednesday, 4:20 p.m.)
Wells Fargo Posts Loss; Wachovia Loses $11 Billion (Wednesday 8:53 a.m.)
Japan’s Nomura Posts $3.8 Billion Loss (Tuesday 1:51 a.m.)
Worst of all was Monday, which set the tone for the week with 35,000 layoffs announced before I’d had my second cup of coffee. By the time the day was over, the layoff total was something like 62,000, including:
Sprint Nextel to Cut 8,000 Positions (Monday, 8:17 a.m.)
Caterpillar to Cut 20,000 Jobs (Monday, 8:25 a.m.)
Home Depot to Cut 7,000 Jobs, Close Expo Home-Design Business (Monday, 9 a.m.)
Since the downturn-cum-recession began, tech companies have also been in the mix, as have companies of all sizes in many industries — supply chains for financial services, housing/construction, cars, consumer goods, media (especially newspapers) among them. Most of the layoff announcements don’t go into any detail about who’s being let go or why; we all know there’s probably restructuring involved (i.e., layoff survivors Joe and Mary can now do two jobs each, and Sid and Tom will be underemployed for a while) and that the cuts probably involved IT.
In one layoff where I knew some folks who were let go, the IT tally was almost 25% of the reduction in force. Why? Many projects were canceled. In fact, many organizations are finding that their project management office is busier than ever, helping to choose what’s still essential and, sadly, what must go under the guillotine.
How else are organizations hanging on? Recent research by our SearchCIO.com site found that more than 40% of 319 respondents have had budget cuts so far this year. Other organizations are resorting to the kind of outsourcing we saw in the ’90s, like Warner Brothers divesting IT to Cap Gemini, which will hire back a portion of the employees.
As the recession continues, as most experts now say it will through at least most of this year, many of us (layoff survivors and all) are simply hunkering down, making the best of sparse resources and finding creative ways to stay energized and hopeful for the projects that remain. The new administration in Washington may also have something to do with this. How are things at your organization? What are your survival techniques, innovative shortcuts, techniques for staying optimistic? If anything, community is one thing that will keep us all going, so let’s talk about it here.
I hope everybody had a good weekend! For those who might not have visited late last week, check out Mark Schlack’s post on Windows 7 vs. Vista features, and feel free to add your views. And, while you’re at it, don’t miss the most recent stories from SearchCIO.com:
- Appliance-based network access control keeps university network secure – In this case study, find out how an NAC system enforces security policy for 25,000-plus students, faculty and staff, replacing a sneakernet form of worm control.
- As SaaS model matures, complexity grows, but SaaS benefits hang tough – Partners offer the customization and business process improvements that enterprise apps require, but new complexity doesn’t override traditional SaaS benefits.
- IT outsourcing contracts merit review given scandal at Indian firm – You may have heard about the accounting scandal at Satyam; now learn some of the solutions. Satyam customers should weigh their options.
- Also, we included some action steps for non-Satyam customers, since this scandal will have ramifications across the industry if Satyam customers flee and take their business to other IT outsourcers.
So what’s up with Windows 7 — does it have many new features? How does it compare with Vista?
I put up the latest version — Build 7000 — in a VM on Hyper-V. I wrote about my first impressions of how Windows 7 affects the decision to migrate from Windows XP to Vista or wait. But what about Windows 7 on its own merits?
I’m actually writing this now on it. It didn’t blow up, it did work right away, and it seems highly functional with one processor core and 1GB of RAM . This is with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Chess Titans, Performance Monitor, calculator and IE open — I’m using about 75% of my allocated memory. Aside from the occasional spike, CPU is hovering in the single digits. So we’ll have to wait and see what people who run the various benchmarks come up with, but there’s some reason to believe Windows 7 may also be more like XP than Vista on the performance front. Of course, by the time you have this in your shop, the average desktop will be about as powerful as your entire data center was in 1990, but that’s another story. …
Reading the Microsoft site, there’s some eye candy features that I can’t seem to get working. But that may well be because my VM doesn’t have the video chops for that — it’s on a server with a very average video card. The “biggest” thing I can’t get to work is a new feature that allows you to put your mouse in the right corner of the taskbar that then turns your windows clear so you can see your desktop. I’m not actually sure why you’d want to do that, but since I can’t, I can’t figure out how silly it really is.
On the other hand, I can get the automatic half-window resizing feature to work: You drag any window to the right or left margin, hold it there, and it will resize to occupy half the screen. Useful for working in two windows at once, but hardly the stuff of mandatory upgrades.
In general, they’ve tried to keep the silliness quotient lower than Vista. Rather than Vista 2, this is more like Vista 0.5 — as far as the UI goes, closer to XP. The sidebar seems to be gone, although gadgets are still possible (now you can put them anywhere on the desktop). The taskbar has actually been improved to accommodate today’s multi-multitasking workforce — doing email while writing a report while IM’ing friends while answering Facebook messages while shopping online while updating a spreadsheet while buying movie tickets for a date tonight while downloading iTunes while watching YouTube while updating a spreadsheet. You can make the icons bigger if you want, and hovering over each one gives a little thumbnail and text description (“Windows 7-Microsoft Word”).
Of course, as always, Microsoft has added a widget or two that is supposed to be helpful but could just as easily be confusing, like the little file older icon on the taskbar that’s NOT a running app, but there to trigger a window of your “library”– seemingly another name for My Documents, except that the folders are actually virtual ones that aggregate like content (.docs in Documents, .mp3s in Music and so on) from anywhere on your hard drive. And you can enable a little widget called “Desktop” on the taskbar that has a fly-away menu with some of the more important stuff you might go to the left-hand Start menu for. But it’s not really complete, so which one do you go to? Hmm….
The hated User Account Control (UAC) is now controllable, not just on or off. By default, it no longer queries you every time you make a change to the machine. It just does it when a program does, and it doesn’t black out the screen, it just makes a transparent black window. You can turn both user-generated and externally generated triggers either on or off. OK, so maybe some users won’t freak out because their screen blacks out, but still – this is one of those features that no one knows what to do with. I’ve been running Vista since it was a beta and I’ve never said “No” to a UAC prompt. When would I? I guess if some hacker was dumb enough to give me a prompt that said “Hacker trying to wreck your machine.”
There are some things I need to investigate more: Is Remote Assistance just a new name for Remote Desktop Connection? Are there any hidden self-healing or managing features that weren’t apparent at first blush?
I’ve already gotten feedback from my first post that performance will be a concern for some of you, and I’m going to start researching that.
How many of you have kicked Windows 7 tires or assigned someone in IT to do that? What are your first impressions?
Good morning! I hope many of you are enjoying the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and prepping to watch the inauguration festivities tomorrow — out of curiosity, is your company providing televisions on which to watch? Here are the latest stories for SearchCIO.com:
- Data protection tops CIO security agenda for 2009 — As security budgets persist despite the recession, IT security teams zero in on data protection, without much help from the business.
- Windows XP users weigh dwindling support vs. Windows 7 migration — Support for Windows XP won’t last forever, but some are willing to deal with the risks of not moving to a new OS for another five years.
- Business process improvement tops IT ‘09 agenda, say Gartner, IT execs — With funding tight, enterprise CIOs look to business process improvement to make the most of existing resources.
- BI tools vs. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets — In this podcast, our expert discusses the differences between BI tools and Excel spreadsheets and how they can be used together in the enterprise to gather and analyze data.
OK, there’s no getting around it. This year is going to be the Year of Reading Endless Speculation and Lightly Informed Commentary About Windows 7. Feature Bingo, Shipping Date Roulette – you’re undoubtedly familiar with the pattern and patter around Microsoft OS releases. I confess, I felt professionally obliged to fire the beta up, and in my next post I’ll give you a quick review – hopefully saving you or your staff from wasting hours of time with a Windows 7 migration. But for now, let’s talk about the big question: Which version of Windows — XP, Vista or Windows 7 — are you going to standardize on when? How many migrations do you want to make in the next year?
IT shops have been much more resistant to upgrading from XP than any other version of Windows I can recall. Vista just didn’t excite many people, and relatively few shops planned mass migrations. Count me among those who think Vista was largely Microsoft’s fear and paranoia response to the then-yet-unreleased but highly rumored Mac OS X and its accompanying update of the modern GUI. Aero, transparent windows, etc. – it was all about the consumer glitz factor. Microsoft was clearly worried that Joe Cool would tell his friends, “Windows is so 20th century. I’m going Mac.” As for businesses migrating to Vista, Microsoft seemed to take that for granted.
In interviews I participated in with head Windows dude Jim Allchin and other responsible parties in Redmond prior to the release, the mantra about why IT shops would love Vista was always “Security.” Namely, User Account Control and Network Access Protection (NAP). The first would protect against malicious code and the second against malicious people. The first was a nonstarter with end users and the second had to await Windows Server 2008. For all its potential to improve security, how many of you are willing to delegate your shrinking staffs to implement NAP? I’d be interested to hear from you on that.
So, in short, from most corporate perspectives, nothing much in Vista worth migrating for. Even for those who tend to upgrade when told to, a lot of old hardware wouldn’t work with Vista. And “upgrading” from XP was problematic, not only because of the hardware compatibility issue, but also because of Windows’ inability to nondestructively resize boot drives when necessary for upgrades, forcing complete re-installs. Not to mention some people found it noticeably slower.
So what’s Windows 7’s compelling new feature? Gee, there’s a new “Connect to a network projector” feature, but I’m just not that moved by it. I’m still looking – have you found any? On SearchCIO.com, Christina Torode reports that there are some nice-to-have Windows 7 features for business around security and networking, but I don’t know if I’d call them compelling.
As far as compulsion goes, Christina notes that many people are assuming they can run XP for years, but you may run into trouble with ISVs, or for that matter, peripheral vendors who won’t bother to write old drivers or driver install routines. The hardware incompatibility issue with Vista shouldn’t be as serious with Windows 7, since by the time it ships you probably will mostly have Win7-ready inventory. With some of the freak-out factors gone, it’ll just be mostly another migration.
It’s all so wearying somehow, this hype cycle of nonimproving improvements.
So what would be compelling? How about:
Can we get a bare-metal hypervisor for the desktop? There’s been a lot of buzz about “native VHD support” but not much detail. I’ll be trying to figure out how close that comes to allowing you to create and distribute installs and upgrades as simple VHD files, which would be a killer differentiator. However, I suspect VMware or Citrix or somebody will actually beat them to it and go all the way to bare metal with their solution.
Now that you have Windows Live SkySpaces, why don’t you figure out a way IT shops can rent space real cheap (or free with certain licenses) for end users to at least automatically back up their My Documents folders up there? Ninety-nine percent of IT shops do nothing about end-user backup, and really, how many end users save only important documents to the network? And so far, you can neither target Windows Live from the minimal backup app in Windows or copy more than a file at a time (you can’t copy an entire folder). Hey, Steve B. and the other paranoids up in Redmond, don’t you think that would help you in your self-proclaimed war with Google? I think at least it would help your corporate customers.
Instead of adding new mini-games to each version, can you recognize that more and more office workers have to work in sound and video? Yes, copy Apple and give them some reasonable basic sound and video editor program. And that would also appeal to consumers, who still seem to be whom you worry about most.
Lastly, can you finally put some of that 90% unused CPU capacity to work checking and healing the system? This has been on my list since 1995. What few efforts Microsoft has made in this arena seem pretty tokenistic to me.
OK, that’s my wish list. How about you? What would make you feel proud to recommend upgrading and ask for the budget for it? And absent that, how are you thinking about playing this? If upgraded to Vista, will you skip Win7? If you didn’t, how are you going to proceed going forward?
Post-holidays, we’re back in full swing here at SearchCIO.com. Here are our latest stories and briefings:
- Looking forward: Trends in IT management and budgeting for 2009 – Consider this your one-stop shop for IT trends in budgeting, cost saving, corporate restructuring and more.
- Network access control: Evaluation tips for CIOs — Network access control is hot for 2009, but — as with most IT cure-alls — this form of asset protection is not without faults. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind
- Corporate performance management gets real in 2009 — Enterprises are under the gun more than ever to get results from their corporate performance management technology. Read the story for some advances that could help.
- Business intelligence (BI) strategies for enterprise CIOs — This month’s CIO Briefing includes news, resources and advice on how to create or update a strategic BI roadmap and make the right choices for your BI and data architecture, including whether you should consider an on-demand BI solution.
I just read an article about breaking down the silos in IT. This piece focused on the application development process and the fact that each group does its thing and then tosses the application over the wall to the next group, from developers to QA engineers to performance test engineers. The problem comes in if all this testing is performed on a “utopian network” on the LAN, so nobody sees how it will perform on a WAN. So when users experience problems due to latency or packet loss, they blame the networking guys.
This is classic siloed, need I say territorial, behavior. The irony is, everyone in IT bemoans the fact that so much of the enterprise functions in stovepipes that it’s a huge effort to lead projects that should be joint efforts across departments or functions. Departmental interests, power struggles and personalities get in the way of effective enterprise IT projects so they don’t get off the ground or the end result fails to meet expectations or isn’t strategic after all. In fact, IT could figure out how to break down silos by starting at home.
It’s really not that hard. The next time you have a brainstorming session or launch a project, seek out representatives from across IT. Get their input throughout the process. Figure out what new processes you may need to create to consider their (and in the end, everyone’s) interests so that your outcome is solid and thoroughly represents the best you can do. If it’s an application you’re building, your project committee will include people from the user community; add an IT subcommittee with people from every part of IT that the application will eventually touch.
Inclusion is a management philosophy, and it gets conflict out on the table early on. Better to hash out your differences before spending the company’s money and then needing to spend more to patch something later on. Any eye-rolling or “but…”s around the room will turn into greater pride and less maintenance at the end.
Welcome back! I hope everybody had a merry holiday season. We here at SearchCIO.com took a bit of time off, as I hope you did, too. In case you missed anything, here are some of the pieces we’ve been working on, dealing with security tools, tech gifts and enterprise apps:
- Virtual security tools fill gap in virtual data center — Have the benefits of data center virtualization — streamlined infrastructure, big costs savings — blinded you to computer network security gaps? A virtual firewall promises insight.
- Holiday gifts for the tech savvy — and not – Yes, technically the holidays are over – but now you might have a better chance of getting some of these presents — for the tech savvy and fearful alike – on sale!
- Tough choices ahead in 2009 for enterprise applications — CIOs will face a lot of tough choices with ERP and other enterprise-level application upgrades, SOA projects and BPM initiatives in 2009. Read the full blog and feel free to leave your comments!
CIOs will face a lot of tough choices with ERP and other enterprise-level application upgrades, SOA projects and BPM initiatives in the coming year. If you have to keep a lot of balls in the air most years, this year will be more like juggling flaming clubs while standing on a high wire.
In such a circus, sometimes you just want to put off tough choices. “Just get through it and move on” sounds pretty good, right? Well, the buck may only be worth 79 cents these days, but it still stops on your desk. I think CIOs are going to have to figure a few things out this year besides how to keep the lights on.
And application software is one of those things. SOA, SaaS, cloud, agile development, rich clients – where’s it all headed? The large application vendors, such as SAP, that dominate the major enterprise categories have been rolling out their own SOA-based architectures in upgrades, and the same is true on the dev tools side. It’s likely that you’ll have to make some kind of move in the direction of service-based software well before the Dow returns to 12,000 or risk waking up, like Rip Van Winkle, to a world that makes no sense to you at all.
It’s a confusing mess, and it’s easy to see you could wind up in endless sterile SOA debates about how many software angels can dance on the head of a framework and still have nothing workable. The key to deciphering it may well be to insist on thinking of services as automated business processes instead of abstract technical tasks. At least then you know there’s an intrinsic business value to what you produce. Of course, you really do have to build abstract technical services, too, but making that a focal point is more likely to lead to the dreaded “technology for technology’s sake” dead end.
Many of you are hearing from the CEO and CFO that they’d like IT to pick up the slack from reduced office and factory staffs. That sounds a lot like business process automation. IT has automated many business silos, and now it’s on to the really tough job of automating the transfer of information and decision making between those corporate departments and their disparate applications. Times are right, though, to finally get a mandate to rationalize a lot of redundancy across those different application silos now tightly in the grasp of business owners. If your governance projects don’t include that, don’t expect much in return. Hopefully you can do for software in the coming years what you’ve done with consolidation and virtualization for servers and floor space in the last few years.
Speaking of virtualization, that’s another area where standing still could mean getting left behind, but I’ll leave that for another post.