Friday, October 16, 2009

What's on your watch list? Forrester identifies 15 key technologies for enterprise architects

Riding the right -- or wrong -- technology wave can help -- or really, really hurt -- your business. Moving at the right time can be the critical factor between the two outcomes.

Yet new technologies come down the pike at alarming speed. Deciding which will fizzle and which will sizzle -- and when -- can be a daunting and ongoing task. What’s an enterprise architect to do?

Forrester Research has tried to sort things out with a new report, “The Top 15 Technology Trends EA Should Watch.” And, if even limiting the selection to 15 sounds like a lot to keep your eye on, Forrester has grouped them into five major “themes,” and has ranked the technologies by their impact, newness and complexity.

Calling “impact” the most important criterion, the report says this considers whether the technology will deliver new business capabilities or allow IT to improve business performance.

“Newness” comes in second because it’s likely that enterprises will have to gear up to learn new processes and the processes themselves are prone to rapid evolution. “Complexity” places other demands on the business, requiring more time to learn operations that are more complex than others.

The five themes identified by Forrester, along with their associated technologies, are:
  • Social computing in and around the enterprise

    • Collaboration platforms become people-centric
    • Customer community platforms integrate with business apps
    • Telepresence gains widespread use

  • Process-centric data and intelligence

  • Restructured IT services platforms

  • Agile and fit-to-purpose applications

    • Business rules processing moves to the mainstream
    • BPM will be Web 2.0-enabled
    • Policy-based SOA becomes predominant
    • Security will be data- and content-based

  • Mobile as the new desktop

    • Apps and business processes go mobile
    • Mobile networks and devices gain more power
The technologies range from real-time business intelligence (BI) with a very high impact, high newness and high complexity to data- and content-based security, which scored a medium in all three categories. I guess that'll keep my friend Jim Koblielus busy for some time.

Forrester limited the report to a three-year horizon for two reasons. First, it represents the planning horizon for most firms and, second, any technology that won’t have an effect in less than three years may be interesting, but it’s not actionable.

The report also says that we're entering a new phase of technology innovation. This analysis is based on Forrester’s finding that technology change goes through two waves. The first involves innovation and growth. This features a rapid evolution of the technology and rapid uptake by businesses. The second phase is refinement and redesign, in which technologies are only incrementally improved.

I hear a lot these day about "inflection points" in the IT market. I hear folks point to the hockey stick growth effect coming for netbooks/thin clients/desktop virtualization/Windows 7. I like to add the smartphones and Android-phones to that category too.

And even if the cloud is a slow burn, rather than hockey stick, the importance of business processes supported by services supported by all the old and new suspects is huge. I call the ability to refine and adapt business processes as the big productivity maker of the next decade --- supported by IT as services.

Perhaps the new Moore's Law is less about systems, and more about what people do with the services those systems enable. What do you think?

Incidentally, the full report is available for download from Forrester.

BriefingsDirect contributor Carlton Vogt provided editorial assistance and research on this post.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Making the leap from virtualization to cloud computing: A roadmap and guide

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his latest BriefingsDirect podcast discussion focuses on enterprise IT architects making a leap from virtualization to cloud computing.

How should IT leaders scale virtualized environments so that they can be managed for elasticity payoffs? What should be taking place in virtualized environments now to get them ready for cloud efficiencies and capabilities later?

And how do service-oriented architecture (SOA), governance, and adaptive infrastructure approaches relate to this progression, or road map, from tactical virtualization to powerful and strategic cloud computing outcomes?

Here to help hammer out a typical road map for how to move from virtualization-enabled server, storage, and network utilization benefits to the larger class of cloud computing agility and efficiency values, we are joined by two thought leaders from HP: Rebecca Lawson, director of Worldwide Cloud Marketing, and Bob Meyer, the worldwide virtualization lead in HP’s Technology Solutions Group.

The discussion is moderated by me, BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Lawson: We're seeing an acceleration of our customers to start to get their infrastructure in order -- to get it virtualized, standardized, and automated -- because they want to make the leap from being a technology provider to a service provider.

Many of our customers who are running an IT shop, whether it’s enterprise or small and mid-size, are starting to realize -- thanks to the cloud -- that they have to be service-centric in their orientation. That means they ultimately have to get to a place, where not only is their infrastructure available as a service, but all of their applications and their offerings are going in that direction as well.

Meyer: A couple of years ago, people were talking about virtualization. The focus was all on the server and hypervisor. The real positive trend now is to focus on the service.

How do I take this infrastructure, my servers, my storage, and my network and make sure that the plumbing is right and the connectivity is right between them to be agile enough to support the business? How do I manage this in a holistic manner, so that I don’t have multiple management tools or disconnected pools of data.

What’s really positive is that the top-down service perspective that says virtualization is great, but the end point is the service. On top of that virtualization, what do I need to do to take it to the next level? And, for many people now, that next level they are looking at is the cloud, because that is the services perspective.

Lawson: A lot of people are trying to make a link between virtualization and cloud computing. We think there is a link, but it’s not just a straight-line progression. In cloud computing, everything is delivered as a service.

What's really useful about cloud services like those is that they're not necessarily used inside the enterprise, but what they are doing is they are causing IT to focus on the end-game. Very specifically, what are those business services that we need to have and that business owners need to use in order to move our company forward?

... We're learning lesson from the big cloud service providers on how to standardize, where to standardize, how to automate, how to virtualize, and we're using the lessons that we are seeing from the big-cloud service providers and apply them back into the enterprise IT shop.

Meyer: The cloud discussion is important, because it looks at the way that you consume and deliver services. It really does have broader implications to say that now as a service provider to the business, you have options.

Your option is not just that you buy all the infrastructure components. You plumb them together, monitor them, manage them, make sure they're compliant, and deliver them. It really opens up the conversation to ask, "What’s the most efficient way to deliver the mix of services I have?"

The end result really is that there will be some that you build, manage, and manage the compliance on your own in the traditional way. Some of them might be outsourced to manage service providers. For some, you might source the infrastructure or the applications from the third-party provider.

... Then you start to understand the implications of shifting workloads, not losing specialty tools, and really getting to a point when you standardize. You could start to get to the point of managing a single infrastructure, understanding the costs better, and really be more effective at servicing and provisioning that. Standardizing has to happen in order to get there.

I'm not just talking about the server and hypervisor itself. You have to really look across your infrastructure, at the network, server, and storage, and get to that level of convergence. How do I get those things to work together when I have to provision a new service or provide a service?

... You're looking to source something for a service or you're looking to pull assets together. Everybody will have some combination of physical and virtual infrastructure. So how do I take action when I need a compute resource, be it physical or virtual?

Automation makes the transition possible

How do I know what’s available? How do I know how to provision it? How do I know to de-provision it? How do I see it if that’s in compliance?" All those things really only come through automation. From a bottom-up perspective, we look at the converged infrastructure, the automation capabilities, and the ability to standardize across that.

... When it’s gone beyond a server and hypervisor approach, and they've looked at the bigger picture, where the costs are actually being saved and pushed -- then the light goes on, and they say, "Okay, there is more to it than just virtualization and the server." You really do have to look, from an infrastructure perspective, at how you manage it, using holistic management, and how you connect them together.

Hopefully, at HP we can help make that progression faster, because we’ve worked with so many companies through this progression. But really it takes moving beyond the hypervisor approach, understanding what it needs to do in the context of the service, and then looking at the bigger picture.

Lawson: ... Most IT organizations want to be aware and help govern what actually gets consumed. That’s hard to do, because it’s easy to have rogue activity going on. It’s easy to have app developers, testers, or even business people go out and just start using cloud services.

... [But] if IT is willing and able to step back and provide a catalog of all services that the business can access, that might include some cloud services. We try to encourage our customers to use the tools, techniques, and the approach that says, "Let’s embrace all these different kinds of services, understand what they are, and help our lines of business and our constituents make the right choice, so that they're using services that are secure, governed, that perform to their expectations, and that don’t get them into trouble."

We encourage our customers to start immediately working on a service catalog. Because when you have a service catalog, you're forced into the right cultural and political behaviors that allow IT and lines of business to kind of sync up, because you sync up around what’s in the catalog.

There's no excuse not to do that these days, because the tools and technologies exist to allow you to do that. At HP, we’ve been doing that for many years. It’s not really brand new stuff. It’s new to a lot of organization that haven’t used it.

You can start to control, manage, and measure across that hybrid ecosystem with standard IT management tools. ... The organizing principle is the technology-enabled service. Then you can be consistent. You can say, "This external email service that we're using is really performing well. Maybe we should look at some other productivity services from that same vendor." You can start to make good decisions based on quantitative information about performance availability and security.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

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Oracle's Fusion Apps finally come out from behind the OpenWorld curtain

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.

By Tony Baer

Like almost every attendee at just-concluded Oracle OpenWorld, the suspense on when Oracle would finally lift the wraps on Fusion Apps was palpable. Staying cool with minimizing our carbon footprint, we weren’t physically at Moscone, but instead watching the webcasts and monitoring the Twitter stream from our home office.

The level of anticipation over Fusion apps was palpable. But it was hardly suspense as it seemed that a good cross-section of Twitterati were either analysts, reference customers, consultants or other business partners who have had their NDA sneak peaks (we had ours back in June), but had to keep our lips sealed until last night.

There was also plenty of impatience for Oracle to finally get on with a message that was being drowned out by its sudden obsession with hardware. Ellison spent most of his keynote time pumping up its Exadata cache memory database storage appliance and issuing a $10 million challenge to IBM that it can’t match Oracle’s database benchmarks on Sun.

Yup, if the Sun acquisition goes trough, Oracle’s no longer strictly a software company, and although the Twiterati counted its share of big iron groupies, the predominant mood was that hardware was a distraction.

“This conference has been hardware heavy from the start. Odd for a software conference,” tweeted Forrester analyst Paul Hamerman. “90 minutes into the keynote, nothing yet on Fusion apps.”

“Larry clearly stalling with all this compression mumbo jumbo,” “Larry please hurry up and tell the world about Fusion Apps, fed up of saying YES it does exist to your skeptics,” and so on read the Twitter stream.

There was fear that Oracle would simply tease us in a manner akin to Jon Stewart’s we’ll have to leave it there dig at CNN: “I am afraid that Larry soon will tell that as time has run out he will tell about Fusion applications in next OOW.” A 20-minute rousing speech from Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger served as a welcome relief from Ellison’s newly found affection for big iron toys.

Ellison came back after the Governator pleaded with the audience to stick around awhile and drop some change around California as the state is broke. The break gave him the chance to drift over to Oracle Enterprise Manager, which at least got the conversation off hardware.

Ellison described some evolutionary enhancements where Oracle can track your configurations trough Enterprise Manager and automatically manage patching. As we’ve noted previously, Oracle has compelling solutions for all-Oracle environments, among them being a declarative framework for developing apps and specifying what to monitor and auto-patch.

The main topic

But the spiel on Enterprise Manager provided a useful back door to the main topic, as Ellison showed how it could automate management of the next generation of Oracle apps. Ellison got the audience’s attention with the words, “We are code complete for all of this.”

Well almost everything. Oracle has completed work on all modules except manufacturing.

Ellison then gave a demo that was quite similar to one that we saw under NDA back in the summer. While ERP emerged with and was designed for client/server architectures, Fusion has emerged with a full Java EE and SOA architecture; it is built around Oracle Fusion middleware 11g and uses Oracle BPEL Process Manager to run processes as orchestrations of processes exposed from the Fusion Apps or other legacy applications. That makes the architecture of Fusion Apps clean and flexible.

But at this point, Oracle is not being any more specific about rollout other than to say it would happen sometime next year.

It uses SOA to loosely couple, rather than tightly integrate with other Fusion processes or processes exposed by existing back end applications, which should make Fusion apps more pliant and less prone to outage.

That allows workflows in Fusion to be dynamic and flexible. If an order in the supply chain is held up, the process can be dynamically changed without bringing down order fulfillment processes for orders that are working correctly. It also allows Oracle to embed business intelligence throughout the suite, so that you don’t have to leave the application to perform analytics.

For instance, in an HR process used for locating the right person for a job, you can dig up an employee’s salary history, and instead switching to a separate dashboard, you can instead retrieve and display relevant pieces of information necessary to see comparisons and make a decision.

Fusion’s SOA architecture also allows Oracle to abstract security and access control by relying on its separate, Fusion middleware-based Identity Manager product. The same goes with communications, where instant messaging systems can be pulled in (we didn’t see any integration with Wikis or other Web 2.0 social computing mechanisms, but we assume that they can be integrated as services.). It also applies to user interfaces, where you can use different rich internet clients by taking advantage of Oracle’s ADF framework in JDeveloper.

Oracle concedes the obvious: Outside of the mid-market, there is no greenfield market for ERP, and therefore, Fusion Apps are intended to supplement what you already have, not necessarily replace it.

That includes Oracle’s existing applications, for which it currently promises at least a decade of more support. But at this point, Oracle is not being any more specific about rollouts other than to say it would happen "sometime next year."

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CEO interview: Workday’s Aneel Bhusri on advancing SaaS and cloud models for improved ERP

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Workday.

he latest BriefingsDirect podcast is an executive interview with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) upstart Workday, a human capital management (HCM), financial management, payroll, worker spend management, and workday benefits network provider.

I had the pleasure to recently sit down with Workday’s co-founder and co-CEO, Aneel Bhusri, who is responsible for the company’s overall strategy and day-to-day operations.

Bhusri, who also helped bring PeopleSoft to huge success, explains how Workday is raising the bar on employee life-cycle productivity by lowering IT costs through the SaaS model for full enterprise resource planning (ERP).

More than that, Workday is also demonstrating what I consider a roadmap to the future advantages in cloud computing. The interview is conducted by me, BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Bhusri: We're very similar to PeopleSoft in some areas, and in other areas, quite different. We have the same culture -- focused on employees first and customers second. We focus on integrity. We focus on innovation. We brought that same culture to Workday, and our customers are very happy.

The pedigree of the team starts with my co-founder, Dave Duffield. He's an icon in the software industry. He's known for high integrity, innovation, and customer service. Many of us, like me, have been with him for 17 years now and we share that vision and that culture with him. We have set out to build the next great software company.

Much like PeopleSoft, we are taking advantage of a technology shift. PeopleSoft benefited from the shift from mainframe to client-server. When Workday started, people weren’t as focused on how big the shift was from client-server or on-premise computing to what is now called cloud computing or, back then, SaaS.

It now seems like it's even bigger than the shift from mainframe to client-server. This is a massive shift and you see it all across. That's the big difference. We are obviously leveraging a very different technology base.

The thing that Dave and I both took away from PeopleSoft is that you have to stay on top of innovation, and that's what Workday is doing. We are innovating where the large ERP vendors have stopped.

One of the reasons why the margins are so high for the [legacy ERP vendors] is that they are at the tail end of the technology life cycle. They are not really innovating.

... One of the reasons why the margins are so high for the [legacy ERP vendors] is that they are at the tail end of the technology life cycle. They are not really innovating. They are collecting maintenance payments. We all know that maintenance is very, very profitable. Well, when you start in a new technology, it's mostly investing. Usually, when the profitability rates get that high, it means that there is a new technology around the corner that will start cutting into those profitability rates.

... ERP is now 15 years old and just needs to be rewritten. The world has changed so dramatically since the original ERPs were written.

Back then, companies were thinking about being global. Now, they are global. People were not even thinking about the Internet, and now the Internet exists. That was before Sarbanes-Oxley and before the emergence of the iPhone and BlackBerry. All these things pile together to say that it's time to go back and rewrite core ERP. It's no longer valid in today’s world.

... These last nine months have been challenging for everyone. We, as a system-of-record vendor, saw fewer projects out there. At the same time, because of our new model and the cost benefits of the SaaS solutions, we were probably more relevant than we might have been without the economic downturn.

... As the Workday system has gotten more robust, we've really focused on the Fortune 1000 companies, our biggest being Flextronics. Those large, complex organizations with global requirements have a great opportunity for cost savings.

When you add it altogether . . . it averages out consistently to about a 50 percent cost saving over a five-year period.

We had companies that were planning on implementing the traditional legacy systems, but could not afford it. A great example is Sony Pictures Entertainment. They already own the licenses to the SAP HR system, and yet, after careful consideration, determined they didn't have the budget to implement it.

... They will be live in five months, and they will get the benefit of about a 50 percent cost savings, if not more. They basically quoted it as one-half the time at one-third the cost.

... When you add it altogether, really do it on an apples-to-apples basis, and look at what we have taken over for the customers, it averages out consistently to about a 50 percent cost saving over a five-year period.

... The data we have now is not theoretical. It's now based on 60 of our 100-plus customers. Being in production, we have been able to go back and monitor it. The good news about our cost is that it's all-in-one subscription cost, so we know exactly what the costs were for running the Workday system.

... [Many customers] decided that they were not going to take the major upgrade from one of those ERP vendors. A major upgrade is much like a new implementation and it's cost prohibitive.

With our focus on continuing innovation, they are not stuck in time. Every customer gets upgraded every four months to the most current version of the system. So as we are innovating, they are all taking the advantage of that innovation, whether it's in usability, functionality, or a new business model.

I like to think about it as building at web speed, and that's how Google, Amazon, and eBay think about it. New features come out very quickly. There are no old versions of Amazon and eBay that they have to worry about supporting. It's one system for all users. We're able to leverage those same principles that they are and bring out capabilities very quickly, so a customer can identify something that's important to them.

If you can get your administrative applications, your non-mission critical applications . . . delivered from a vendor . . . why not focus your resources on the core enterprise apps you have?

... I think we are a lot like Salesforce. Dave and I have a very good relationship with Marc Benioff. They're focused on CRM, and we're focused on ERP. I think the big difference is that they are focused on becoming a platform vendor, and we are really very focused on staying as an application vendor.

... If you can get your administrative applications, your non-mission critical applications -- CRM, HR, payroll, and accounting -- delivered from a vendor, and you can manage them to service-level agreements (SLAs), why not focus your resources on the core enterprise apps you have?

More and more CIOs are getting that. It does free up data-center space. It also frees up human resources and IT to focus in on what's core to their business. HR and accounting don't have to be specialized in running that system. They have to know HR and accounting, but they don't have to be specialized in running those systems.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Workday.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Engine Yard draws funding as it ushers more developers onto the Ruby services train

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.

Developers are a mighty stubborn bunch. Unlike the rest of the enterprise IT market, where a convergence of forces have favored a nobody gets fired for buying IBM, Oracle, SAP, or Microsoft, developers have no such herding instincts. Developers do not always get with the [enterprise] program.

For evidence, recall what happened the last time that the development market faced such consolidation. In the wake of web 1.0, the formerly fragmented development market – which used to revolve around dozens of languages and frameworks – congealed down to Java vs .NET camps. That was so 2002, however, as in the interim, developers have gravitated toward choosing their own alternatives.

The result was an explosion of what former Burton Group analyst Richard Monson Haefel termed the Rebel Frameworks (that was back in 2004), and more recently in the resurgence of scripting languages. In essence, developers didn’t take the future as inevitable, and for good reason: the so-called future of development circa 2002 was built on the assumption that everyone would gravitate to enterprise-class frameworks.

Java and .NET were engineered on the assumption that the future of enterprise and Internet computing would be based on complex, multitier distributed transactional systems. It was accompanied by a growing risk-aversion: Buy only from vendors that you expect will remain viable. Not surprisingly, enterprise computing procurements narrowed to IOSM (IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft).

Different dynamic

But the developer community lives to a different dynamic. In an age of open source, expertise for development frameworks and languages get dispersed; vendor viability becomes less of a concern. More importantly, developers only want to get the job done, and anyway, the tasks that they perform typically fall under the enterprise radar.

Whereas a CFO may be concerned over the approach an ERP system may employ to managing financial system or supply chain processes, they are not going to care about development languages or frameworks.

The result is that developers remain independent minded, and that independence accounts for the popularity of alternatives to enterprise development platforms, with Ruby on Rails being the latest to enter the spotlight.

In one sense, Ruby’s path to prominence parallels Java in that the language was originally invented for another purpose. But there the similarity ends as, in Ruby’s case, no corporate entity really owned it. Ruby is a simple scripting language that became a viable alternative for web developers once David Heinemeier Hansson invented the Rails framework. The good news, Rails makes it easy to use Ruby to write relatively simple web database applications. Examples of Rails’ simplicity include:
  • Eliminating the need to write configuration files for mapping requests to actions

  • Avoiding multi-threading issues because Rails will not pool controller (logic) instances

  • Dispensing with object-relational mapping files; instead, Rails automates much of this and tends to use very simplified naming conventions.
The bad news is that there are performance limitations and difficulties in handling more complex distributed transaction applications. But the good news is that when it comes to web apps, the vast majority are quite rudimentary, thank you.

The result has propelled a wave of alternative stacks, such as LAMP (Linux-Apache web server-MySQL-and either PHP, Python, or Perl) or, more recently, Ruby on Rails. At the other end of the spectrum, the Spring Framework takes the same principle – simplification – to ease the pain of writing complex Java EE applications – but that’s not the segment addressed by PHP, MySQL, or Ruby on Rails. It reinforces the fact that, unlike the rest of the enterprise software market, developers don’t necessarily take orders from up top. Nobody told them to implement these alternative frameworks and languages.

Although hardly the only cloud provider out there that supports RoR development, Engine Yard’s business is currently on a 2x growth streak. Funding stages the company either for IPO or buy out.

The latest reminder of the strength of grassroots markets in the developer sector is Engine Yard’s securing of $19 million in C funding last week. The backing comes from some of the same players that also funded SpringSource (which was recently acquired by VMware). Some of the backing also comes from Amazon, whose Jeff Bezos owns outright 37Signals, the Chicago-based provider of project management software that employs Heinemeier Hansson. For the record, there is plenty of RoR presence in Amazon Web Services.

Engine Yard is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider that has optimized the RoR stack for runtime. Although hardly the only cloud provider out there that supports RoR development, Engine Yard’s business is currently on a 2x growth streak. Funding stages the company either for IPO or buy out.

At this point the script sounds similar to SpringSource whose new owner, VMware, is launching a development and runtime cloud that will eventually become VMware’s Java counterpart to Microsoft Azure.

It’s tempting to wonder whether a similar path will become reality for Engine Yard. The answer is that the question itself is too narrow. It is inevitable that a development and runtime cloud paired with enterprise plumbing (e.g., OS, hypervisor) will materialize for Ruby on Rails. With its $19 million funding, Engine Yard has the chance to gain critical mass mindshare in the RoR community – but don’t rule out rivals like Joyent yet.

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.