• April 23, 2013
  • I saw an ad for a webcast the other day and it said in part:

    “The scope, scale and complexity of enterprise data centers is rapidly rising due to increased use of virtualization, cloud, big data and mobility. Applications and workloads are becoming more dynamic and volatile and IT staff are being asked to become more efficient and responsive. Automation across physical, virtual and cloud data centers is vital for effective operations and consistent service levels.”

    Did you catch the change?  Today it’s virtualization, cloud, big data and mobility the new four horsemen of business advance.  In case you’re wondering they replace social, SaaS, mobile and cloud.  Small difference?  Yeah, but big change.  If you were hip over the last five or so years you did the social, SaaS, etc. thing but if you missed the onramp, virtualization and big data give you a chance to save face.  You weren’t being overly conservative. No, no, NO! You were being prudent, waiting for the technologies to mature into a coherent whole.

    Really?  After all this time and all the disruptive innovation cycles, you were waiting?  Coherent?

    In case you were wondering, virtualization and cloud made SaaS acceptable to those who worried obsessively that their data, the same data they couldn’t find an elephant hiding in would suddenly reveal golden nuggets to hackers.  Big Data gives us all a way to accept social without ever for one minute admitting that our employees were not simply “playing” with social media at work — you can and should thank analytics for that.  And mobility is mobility because your customers and employees are walking — some away from you and some towards you and you need to know and use it.

    I was in The Valley the other day talking with a guy who is sometimes a client but always a friend.  He’s a young guy who has already worked at Salesforce back in the day, did another startup with a Salesforce alumnus and is on his third company, this time running the whole marketing shebang.  His take?  Companies are looking to form data centers of excellence around analytics.

    My take?  It’s IT’s way of preserving itself.  Remember Gartner’s forecast that the CMO would soon be spending more on technology than the CIO?  This is IT’s response and I think it’s a good one because it potentially shows both groups reaching out to create greater value for the enterprise.

    As commodity servers take hold of the world, it becomes less and less rational for a company to run its own IT so virtualization and cloud here we come.  But what’s left behind is very interesting.  IT might be buying the commodity farm but the secret sauce is still information and how you use it.  So the IT data center of excellence is both a way to keep IT employed and more or less in house and an important way for IT to save some serious coin on commodity processing.

    Larry Dignon of ZDNet put his finger on it about a week ago when he examined the possibility that IBM might sell off its x86 server business to new pal Lenovo.  Servers are not going away but they are going to the farm and with that change comes greater focus on management systems overlaying everything because server farms are becoming quite huge.  This opens up opportunities for companies like Oracle/Sun.  Despite the catcalls from critics calling advanced servers the new mainframes, they have an important purpose and a growing niche, not to mention a new and as yet unstated goal of nine nines of reliability to achieve the promise of true utility computing.

    So, yes, the scope, scale and complexity of data centers, wherever they’re located and whatever they’re called, is rapidly increasing and as the economy continues its rebound I will remain interested in finding

    Published: 11 years ago

    I am indebted to my friends at the Enterprise Irregulars, for the links in this piece.  The IE’s, if you didn’t know, are a rag tag group of certified smarties who know all kinds of stuff about the greater tech industry and I am flattered that they let me hang out with them.

    The aftermath of the verdict from the patent infringement lawsuit between Apple and Samsung initially generated more heat than light.  But the last few days have made up for the light that failed to emanate from the weekend’s id fest and Armageddon prediction Internet confab.

    Reuters is running an interesting story  about Apple CEO Tim Cook and Larry Page of Google keeping the hotline open — you really need to be a child of the 1960’s to fully appreciate this metaphor.  Suffice it to say that it is the origin of the little red phone.  But also, there was this really interesting post at ZDNet by Jason Perlow about Samsung and Google’s collective need for a new dress.

    I particularly recommend Perlow’s article because, while the idea of product dress might seem weird to some people — especially those who take issue with the look and feel aspects of the Apple suit — it might interest you to know that product dress is a legal term.

    Without giving away Perlow’s point, let’s just make the observation that the classic Coke Bottle, which has nothing to do with how the stuff tastes, is part of Coke’s dress and its IP, as much as its secret recipe.  Only Coke has Coke Bottles, for a good reason.  So go read that article.

    My point here, other than giving a shout out to the IE’s and trying to enlighten others, is that Apple might have, at least momentarily, hit on the only look and feel for mobile devices that will ever be widely accepted.  Tapping, swiping, pinching — things that come natural not only to the members of our Genus but also our Family and, who knows, maybe even our Order — might be so hardwired into our beings that coming up with an alternative might be a waste of time.  Holy $%^& Batman that might mean that Apple could end up owning the mobile UI and someday soon be in a position to make a few pennies on every Samsung or HTC device running Andriod for ever.

    Believe it or not, such an outcome would not be unique in the annals of business or manufacturing.  It might have something to do with cross licensing (I know, but don’t confuse it with dressing mentioned above).  That’s when more than one company asserts ownership rights to an invention that each came up with the old fashioned way (you know, R&D?).  But rather than fighting about it for years, the two (or more) companies come to terms, some money and possibly other patents are traded and then it’s back to business.

    The best example of this is the car industry.  Car radios, V-8 engines, automatic transmissions, how heating and air conditioning systems work, how the controls are set up and lots more, all have patents and if all cars look more or less alike in some basic features and functions, it might be because their makers went to the same patent swap meet.  Yes, patents expire so don’t go looking to fund the fifth generation grand kids college even if you have lot of patents.

    So this brings us back to Larry and Tim and the hotline.  May we be informal for a moment and simply refer to each other using first names like they do in the music biz (Elvis, John, Paul, George, and especially Ringo; but also Bono, Sting, Eric and many others)?  So, Larry bought Motorola (early car radio patents, BTW) at least in part for its stable of patents to ward off just the kind of suit that Tim’s company is making famous in the mobile industry (Tim should file a patent! hahaha!).  And Larry, Tim and their minions are keeping the lines of communication open as they say.

    What are the odds that the verdict put the discussions into high gear and that there’s an informal-formal patent swap meet happening out in the Valley between these principals?  Nothing would surprise me but I think that if both sides remain reasonable and use their inside voices and big words, that there will be an announcement in the not too distant future that they’ve struck a deal.

    If so, the deal would create the stack of the decade.  Just as Wintel described a stack of Windows OS and Intel chips that made the personal computer; or as LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP for cloud application servers, some standard that combines Mobile/Google/Android/Motorola/Apple might emerge from all this chaos for mobile devices.

    Let’s see, MOGAM? MOGA? GAAMMO? AGAMO? AAM? AA?  Who knows, naming might be the stickiest part of the negotiations that aren’t happening on the hot line at the moment.

    Published: 11 years ago

    Or is it just the corporations who will lose out?

    Nice job by Phil Wainwright over at ZDNet today.  In “Cloud computing: do you have a clue?” he exposes much of the fear, uncertainty and doubt still percolating throughout the IT vendor community over the threat of cloud computing to their franchises.

    That’s right, I said, “threat”.  The old order is unprepared for what happens next and for a decade has been fighting a rear guard battle to stifle cloud and its predecessors.  There’s less money in cloud for the vendors.  There’s less hardware to buy and less consulting to get just to see al those pretty green lights glowing in your data center so it must be bad.  And if you read the article, you’ll see all those points designed to scare people like co-mingling data.

    To his credit Wainwright makes short work of most of this FUD at one point saying that co-mingling data is about as dangerous as sending your mail through the same post office as your competitors.

    So good on you Phil.  You said what needed to be said.  And the corporations you write about?  Is it any wonder people have such low opinions of corporations today?

    Published: 12 years ago

    Re: Larry Dignan’s ZDNet Piece “Apple’s supply chain flap: It’s really about us”

    When he died, the cover of the New Yorker had a cartoon of him checking into heaven and St. Peter looking him up on, what else?  An iPad.  So began the mythologization of Steve Jobs.

    There was a lot to like about Jobs along with some of the same lifetime baggage that we all accumulate, which was amplified by great wealth.  But for all the wonderful products and his habit of thinking outside the box—and daring us to follow—Jobs was also the creator of a company that built itself on the backs of plantation workers in China.

    We can disagree whether this makes him merely mortal or something else but let’s dispense right away with the mollifying assurances that everyone was doing it.  That hasn’t worked since Nuremburg.  Nor can we say that the globalized workplaces in China’s fastest growing cities are by far better than the rural poverty many Chinese peasants escaped in going to the cities.  In poverty these people had a modicum of human dignity, in the cities, not so much.

    What Apple and the rest of the global manufacturing community has replicated in China is not a worker’s paradise.  It might be the bottom rung on a global economic ladder and it is certainly a replay of nineteenth century Dickensian Britain right down to the air fouled from burning coal.  Articles in Wired, The New York Times and elsewhere have documented beyond a doubt the harsh working conditions that lead to glitzy and “insanely great” products.

    But behind the insanely great is a brutal totalitarian economics—mercantilism—that shakes workers out of their beds in the corporate dormitory to go to work in the middle of the night.  Thought leaders like Thomas Friedman, also of the Times, and other people who ought to know better, marvel at a workforce so, so, so, what?  Dedicated?  Give me a break.

    For all the praise and prowess of global manufacturing Chinese style, there is devastation back here at home.  The price of nicely manufactured devices from the plantation in China is structural unemployment.  It is no wonder that the recession drags on with high unemployment.  In the first ten years of Chinese membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) 42,400 factories—not jobs—decamped the U.S. and reappeared where labor rates of around $22 per day were considered good.  You can trace today’s unemployment rate to the factory-exporting regime of the last decade.

    Steve Jobs is not responsible for all this.  Though Apple today is one of the world’s more admired and emulated companies, Jobs was only a part of a global movement of capital to China.  But the results in the factories reflect on Jobs as sure as do the iProducts and the Macs before them.

    Forget the jobs that went to China, they aren’t coming back.  Ask for more humane treatment of the workers there.  We also lag at creating jobs for the new economy and that’s a serious problem because others can create those jobs elsewhere.  We can’t be a country where everyone goes to college.  Someone needs to bake the bread and we need to make those jobs rewarding.

    There would be nothing wrong with making much greater efforts to redress the inequalities in the global manufacturing system.  Making manufacturing more humane by, say, eliminating the 16-hour day could be a great start as would making workplaces safer and keeping fifteen year olds out of factories altogether. That might serve to help level the playing field and with that we could even rediscover the virtues of Made in America.  While Apple still has the spotlight, we could do it all in Steve’s name as a way to perfect what he left unfinished.

    Published: 12 years ago

    Uber analyst Dennis Howlett over at ZDNet wrote a piece ruminating on the Gartner Symposium and colleague Larry Dignan’s summary of the meeting, “Enterprise IT: Here comes that deer in the headlights look again” that is well worth reading.  Together the articles wonder aloud how much time there is between now and the paradigm shift that will make so much of enterprise computing obsolete and even risky for enterprises to invest in.  Mixing metaphors, another way to put it — how long before the cloud vendors inherit the earth?

    Speaking of Dignan’s effort, Howlett writes:

    He opens the analysis with:

    While Gartner is urging creative destruction, I can’t help but be skeptical. If everyone could re-imagine IT and blow up old systems to delight customers, there would be no losers in the corporate world. As we know, there are plenty of losers and there will be thousands of companies that flop at people-centric system design.

    I can imagine similar thoughts coming from many colleagues. How many times have I crapped on the idea of Enterprise 2.0 aka social enterprise?

    But in the real world, IBM can’t find enough bodies. Accenture can’t keep up, Deloitte and Capgemini are both very busy. And that’s just in their SAP practices. SAP is about to confound the market with a great Q3. I’m betting Q4 will be a blowout. Oracle got Fusion out the door this month. Who says the incumbents are in trouble?”

    Add to this the Workday-Zuora announcement this week from Workday Rising, a user conference, that the two companies would deliver an integrated and cloud based billing, payments and financials solution that will run circles around Oracle and SAP financials in the subscription business and you don’t need Tom Hanks to tell you, “We have a problem.”  Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, did the honors when he said that conventional ERP was dead.

    So why the upbeat financial results from the likes of SAP?  To answer this we need to take a small detour to the clouds.  Let’s look at airplanes, specifically the Lockheed Constellation.

    The Constellation was/is a gorgeous aircraft with beautifully sculpted lines.  It’s design dates to the post-war period and its heyday was the 1950s.  The Constellation was something of an apex of aeronautical engineering offering speed, range, and the ability to carry lots of passengers.  It also had the most advanced engines in the business at the time — piston engines and those power plants made it the end of the line.  It was the last iteration of piston-propelled aircraft soon to be over taken by jets — the new paradigm.

    It is no surprise that SAP posted good numbers in Q3 and, as Howlett says, it will probably do so again.  But SAP and Oracle are building Constellations and the strain in the implementation system he alludes to in referencing IBM, Accenture, Deloitte and the rest, exposes one of the Achilles heels of on premise computing.  It is as damaging as the workload and expense of keeping a piston aircraft flying.  Add to all this the other major deficit exposed by Workday and Zuora and you realize that the dominant positions SAP and Oracle have held are disintegrating.

    The on-premise paradigm is effectively over.  It will stick around for a long time but we will only see it shrink.  The businesses with the smart money are getting out of on premise and trying to figure out the models they need to survive as cloud companies.

    The paradigm has been under attack for the last ten years but the incumbents have always been able to fend off the competition, mostly because the attacks were one-dimensional.  Incumbents could deal with arguments that cloud solutions were less costly, easier to maintain or better to customize or integrate, but when all that comes together with the complaint that the on-premise solutions were made for a manufacturing rather than a services and subscription market, all bets are off.

    Tien Tzuo was right, the on-premise paradigm is effectively dead.  Yes, it will take time to convert and yes, the technology conversion comes with a business model conversion or at the very least a big modification.  It’s also mandatory.  We’re moving into the jet age.

    Published: 12 years ago