Friday, December 18, 2009

Careful advance planning averts costly snafus in data center migration projects

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript of the podcast, or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

The crucial migration phase when moving or modernizing data centers can make or break the success of these complex undertakings. Much planning and expensive effort goes into building new data centers, or in conducting major improvements to existing ones. But too often there's short shrift in the actual "throwing of the switch" -- in the moving and migrating of existing applications and data.

But, as new data center transformations pick up -- due to the financial pressures to boost overall IT efficiency -- so too should the early-and-often planning and thoughtful execution of the migration itself get proper attention. This podcast examines the best practices, risk mitigation tools, and requirements for conducting data center migrations properly.

To help pave the way to making data center migrations come off effectively, we're joined by three thought leaders from Hewlett-Packard (HP): Peter Gilis, data center transformation architect for HP Technology Services; John Bennett, worldwide director, Data Center Transformation Solutions at HP, and Arnie McKinnis, worldwide product marketing manager for Data Center Modernization at HP Enterprise Services.

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

Here are some excerpts:
Bennett: We see a great deal of activity in the marketplace right now of people designing and building new data centers. They have this wonderful new showcase site, and they have to move into it.

The reasons for this growth, the reasons for moving to other data centers, are fueled by a lot of different activities.

In many cases it's related to growth. The organization and the business have been growing. The current facilities were inadequate -- because of space or energy capacity reasons or because they were built 30 years ago -- and so the organization decides that it has to either build a new data center or perhaps make use of a hosted data center. As a result, they are going to have to move.

Whether they're moving to a data center they own, moving to a data center owned and managed by someone else, or outsourcing their data center to a vendor like HP, in all cases you have to physically move the assets of the data center from one location to another.

The impact of doing that well is awfully high. If you don't do it well, you're going to impact the services provided by IT to the business. You're very likely, if you don't do it well, to impact your service level agreements (SLAs). And, should you have something really terrible happen, you may very well put your own job at risk.

So, the objective here is not only to take advantage of the new facilities or the new hosted site, but also to do so in a way that ensures the right continuity of business services. That ensures that service levels continue to be met, so that the business, the government, or the organization continues to operate without disruption, while this takes place. You might think of it, as our colleagues in Enterprise Services have put it, as changing the engine in the aircraft while it's flying.

Gilis: If you don't do the planning, if you don't know where you're starting from and where you're going to, then it's like being on the ocean. Going in any direction will lead you anywhere, but it's probably not giving you the path to where you want to go. If you don't know where to go to, then don't start the journey.

Most of the migrations today are not migration of the servers, the assets, but actually migration of the data. You start building a next-generation data center --most of the time with completely new assets that better fit what your company wants to achieve.

Migration is actually the last phase of a data center transformation. The first thing that you do is a discovery, making sure that you know all about the current environment, not only the servers, the storage, and the network, but the applications and how they interact. Based on that, you decide how the new data center should look.

... If you build your new engine, your new data center, and you have all the new equipment inside, the only thing that you need to do is migrate the data. There are a lot of techniques to migrate data online, or at least synchronize current data in the current data centers with the new data center.

Usually, what you find out is that you did not do a good enough job of assessing the current situation, whether that was the assessment of a hardware platform, server platform, or the assessment of a facility.

There's not that much difference between local storage, SAN storage, or network attached storage (NAS) and what you designed. The only thing that you design or architect today is that basically every server or every single machine, virtual or physical, gets connected to a shared storage, and that shared storage should be replicated to a disaster recovery site.

That's basically the way you transfer the data from the current data centers to the new data centers, where you make sure that you build in disaster recovery capabilities from the moment you do the architecture of the new data center. ... The moment you switch off the computer in the first data center, you can immediately switch it on in the new data center.

McKinnis: From an outsourcing perspective, companies don't always do 100 percent outsourcing of that data-center environment or that shared computing environment. It may be part of it. Part of it they keep in-house. Part of it they host with another service provider.

What becomes important is how to manage all the multiple moving parts and the multiple service providers that are going to be involved in that future mode of operation. It's accessing what we currently have, but it's also designing what that future mode needs to look like.

There are all sorts of decisions that go around that from a client perspective to get to that decision. In many cases, if you look at it from a technology standpoint, the point of decision is something around getting to an end of life on a platform or an application. Or, there is a new licensing cycle, either from a support standpoint or an operating system standpoint.

There is usually something that happens from a technology standpoint that says, "Hey look, we've got to make a big decision anyway. Do we want to invest going this way, that we have gone previously, or do we want to try a new direction?"

Once they make that decision, we look at outside providers. It can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to go through the full cycle of working through all the proposals and all the due diligence to build that trust between the service provider and the client. Then, you get to the point, where you can actually make the decision of, "Yes, this is what we are going to do. This is the contract we are going to put in place." At that point, we start all the plans to get it done.

. . . There are times when deals just fall apart, sometimes in the middle, and they never even get to the contracting phase.

There are lots of moving parts, and these things are usually very large. That's why, even though outsourcing contracts have changed, they are still large, are still multi-year, and there are still lots of moving parts.

Bennett: The elements of trust come in, whether you're building a new data center or outsourcing, because people want to know that, after the event takes place, things will be better. "Better" can be defined as: a lot cheaper, better quality of service, and better meeting the needs of the organization.

This has to be addressed in the same way any other substantial effort is addressed -- in the personal relationships of the CIO and his or her senior staff with the other executives in the organization, and with a business case. You need measurement before and afterward in order to demonstrate success. Of course, good, if not flawless, execution of the data center strategy and transformation are in play here.

The ownership issue may be affected in other ways. In many organizations it's not unusual for individual business units to have ownership of individual assets in the data center. If modernization is at play in the data center strategy, there may be some hand-holding necessary to work with the business units in making that happen. This happens whether you are doing modernization and virtualization in the context of existing data centers or in a migration. By the way, it's not different.

Be aware of where people view their ownership rights and make sure you are working hand-in-hand with them instead of stepping over them. It's not rocket science, but it can be very painful sometimes.

Gilis: You have small migration and huge migrations. The best thing is to cut things into small projects that you can handle easily. As we say, "Cut the elephant in pieces, because otherwise you can't swallow it."

Should be a real partnership

And when you work with your client, it should be a real partnership. If you don't work together, you will never do a good migration, whether it's outsourcing or non-outsourcing. At the end, the new data center must receive all of the assets or all of the data -- and it must work.

If you do a lot of migrations, and that's actually what most of the service companies like HP are doing, we know how to do migrations and how to treat some of the applications migrated as part of a "migration factory."

We actually built something like a migration factory, where teams are doing the same over and over all the time. So, if we have to move Oracle, we know exactly how to do this. If we have to move SAP, we know exactly how to do this.

That's like building a car in a factory. It's the same thing day in and day out, everyday. That's why customers are coming to service providers. Whether you go to an outsourcing or non-outsourcing, you should use a service provider that builds new data centers, transforms data centers, and does migration of data centers nearly every day.

Most of the time, the people that know best how it used to work are the customers. If you don't work with and don't partner directly with the customer, then migration will be very, very difficult. Then, you'll hit the difficult parts that people know will fail, and if they don't inform you, you will have to solve the problem.

McKinnis: Cloud computing has put things back in people's heads around what can be put out there in that shared environment. I don't know that we've quite gotten through the process of whether it should be at a service provider location, my location, or within a very secure location at an outsourced environment.

Where to hold data

I don't think they've gotten to that at the enterprise level. But, they're not quite so convinced about giving users the ability to retain data and do that processing, have that application right there, held within that confinement of that laptop, or whatever it happens to be that they are interacting with. They're starting to see that it potentially should be held someplace else, so that the risk of that data isn't held at the local level.

Bennett: Adopting a cloud strategy for specific business services would let you take advantage of that, but in many of these environments today cloud isn't a practical solution yet for the broad diversity of business services they're providing.

We see that for many customers it's the move from dedicated islands of infrastructure, to a shared infrastructure model, a converged infrastructure, or an adaptive infrastructure. Those are significant steps forward with a great deal of value for them, even without getting all the way to cloud, but cloud is definitely on the horizon.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript of the podcast, or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Executive interview: HP's Robin Purohit on how CIOs can contain IT costs while spurring innovation payoffs

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

The latest BriefingDirect podcast delivers an executive interview with Robin Purohit, Vice President and General Manager for HP Software and Solutions.

I had the pleasure to recently sit down with Purohit to examine how CIOs are managing their IT budgets for 2010. During the economic recovery, the cost-containment conundrum of "do more for less" -- that is, while still supporting all of your business requirements -- is likely to remain the norm.

So this discussion centers on how CIOs are grappling with implementing the best methods for higher cost optimization in IT spending, while also seeking the means to improve innovation and business results. The interview coincides with HP's announcements this week at Software Universe in Germany on fast-tracks to safer cloud computing.

"Every CIO needs to be extremely prepared to defend their spend on what they are doing and to make sure they have a great operational cost structure that compares to the best in their industry," says Purohit.

The 25-minute interview is conducted by me, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Purohit: Well, just about every CIO I've talked to right now is in the middle of planning their next year’s budget. Actually, it's probably better to say preparing for the negotiation for next year’s budget. There are a couple of things.

The good news is that this budget cycle doesn’t look like last year’s. Last year’s was very tough, because the financial collapse really was a surprise to many companies, and it required people to very quickly constrain their capital spend, their OPEX spend, and just turn the taps off pretty quickly.

... [Now] they need to be able to prepare to make a few big bets, because the reality is that the smartest companies out there are using this downturn as an advantage to make some forward looking strategic bets. If you don't do that now, the chances are that, two years from now, your company could be in a pretty bad position.

... There are a couple of pretty important things to get done. The first is to have an extremely good view of the capital you have, and where it is in the capital cycle. Getting all of that information that is timely, accurate, and at your fingertips, so you can enter the planning cycle, is extraordinarily important and fundamental.

When you are going to deploy new capital, always make sure that it's going to be able to be maintained and sustained in the lowest-cost way. The way we phrase this is, "Today's innovation is tomorrow’s operating cost."

When you do refresh, there are some great new ways of actually using capital on server storage and networking that's at a much lower cost structure, and much easier to operate, than the systems we had three or four years ago.

In the past, we’ve seen mistakes made, where people deployed new capital without really thinking how they were going to drive the long-term cost structure down in operating that new capital.

This is where we really see an opportunity: To help customers put in place IT financial management solutions, which are not just planning tools -- not just understanding what you have -- but essentially a real-time financial analytic application that is timely and accurate as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, or a business intelligence (BI) system that's supporting the company’s business process.

New business agenda

Companies want to see the CIOs use capital to support the most important business initiatives they have, and usually they are associated with revenue growth, by expanding the sales force, and new business units, some competitive program, or eventually a new ecommerce presence.

It's imperative that the CIO shows as much as possible that they're applying capital to things that clearly align with driving one of those new business agendas that's going to help the company over the next three years.

Now, in terms of how you do that, it's making sure that the capital spend that you have, that everything in the data center you have, is supporting a top business priority. It's the most important thing you can do.

One thing that won't change is that demand from the business will all of a sudden strip your supply of capital and labor. What you can do is make sure that every person you have, every piece of equipment you have, every decision you are making, is in the context of something that is supporting an immediate business need or a key element of business operation.

It also means there are more things and more new things to manage.

There are lots of opportunities to be disciplined in assessing your organization, both in how you spend capital, how you use your capital, and what your people are working on. I wouldn't call it waste, but I would call it just a better discipline and whether what you're doing truly is business critical or not.

If you don't get the people and process right, then new technologies, like virtualization or blade systems, are just going to cause more headaches downstream, because those things are fantastic ways of saving capital today. Those are the latest and greatest technologies. Four or five years ago, it was Linux and Windows Server.

It also means there are more things and more new things to manage. If you don't have extremely disciplined processes that are automated, and if you don't have all of your team with one play book on what those processes are, and making sure that there is a collaborative way for them to work on those processes, and which is as automated as possible, your operating costs are just going to increase as you embrace the new technologies that lower your capital. You've got to do both at the same time.

Say that you're a new CIO coming to organization and you see a lack of standardization, a lack of centers of excellence, and a lot of growth through merger and acquisition, there is a ton of opportunity to take out operating cost.

The right governance

We've seen customers generally take out 5 to 10 percent, when a new CIO comes on board, rationalizes everything that's being done, and introduces rigorous standardization. That's a quick win, but it's really there for companies that have been probably a little earlier in the maturity cycle of how they run IT.

A couple of new things that are possible now with the outsourcing model and the cloud model -- whether you want to call it cloud or software as a service (SaaS) -- is that there's an incredibly rich marketplace of boutique service shops and boutique technology providers that can provide you either knowledge or technology services on-demand for a particular part of your IT organization.

The cost structures associated with running infrastructure as a service (IaaS) are so dramatically lower and are very compelling, so if you can find a trusted provider for that, cloud computing allows you to move at least markets that are lower risk to experiment with those kind of new techniques.

The other nice thing we like about cloud computing is that there is at least a perception that is going to be pretty nimble, which means that you'll be able to move services in and out of your firewall, depending on where the need is, or how much demand you have.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Early thoughts on IBM buying Lombardi: Keep it simple

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

By Tony Baer

This has been quite a busy day, having seen IBM’s announcement come over the wire barely after the alarm went off. Lombardi has always been the little business process management (BPM) company that could.

In contrast to rivals like Pegasystems, which has a very complex, rule-driven approach, Lombardi’s approach has always been characterized by simplicity. In that sense, its approach mimicked that of Fuego before it was acquired by BEA, which of course was eventually swallowed up by Oracle.

We echo Sandy Kemsley’s thoughts of letdown about hopes for a Lombardi IPO. But even had the IPO been done, that would have postponed the inevitable. We agree with her that if IBM is doing this acquisition anyway, it makes sense to make Lombardi a first-class citizen within the IBM WebSphere unit.

Not surprisingly, IBM is viewing Lombardi for its simplicity. At first glance, it appears that Lombardi Teamworks, their flagship product, overlaps WebSphere BPM. Look under the hood, and WebSphere BPM is not a single engine, but the product of several acquisitions and internal development, including the document-oriented processes of FileNet and the application integration processes from Crossworlds.

So in fact Lombardi is another leg of the stool, and one that is considerably simpler than what IBM already has. In fact, this is vey similar to how Oracle has positioned the old Fuego product alongside its enterprise BPM offering which is build around IDS Scheer’s ARIS modeling language and tooling.

IBM’s strategy is that Lombardi provides a good way to open the BPM discussion at department level. But significantly on today's announcement call, IBM stated that once the customer wants to scale up, that it would move the discussion to its existing enterprise-scale BPM technology. It provided an example of a joint engagement at Ford -– where Lombardi works with the engineering department, while IBM works at the B2B trading partner integration level -- as an example of how the two pieces would be positioned going forward.

The challenge for IBM is preserving the simplicity of Lombardi products, which tend to be more department oriented bottom-up, vs. the IBM offerings that are enterprise-scale and top-down.

James Governor of RedMonk had a very interesting suggestion that IBM could leverage the Lombardi technologies atop some of its Lotus collaboration tools. We also see good potential synergies with the vertical industry frameworks as well.

The challenge for IBM is preserving the simplicity of Lombardi products, which tend to be more department-0oriented and bottom-up vs. the IBM offerings that are enterprise-scale and top-down. Craig Hayman, general manager of the application and integration middleware (WebSphere) division, admitted on the announcement call that IBM has “struggled” in departmental, human-centric applications. In part that is due to IBM’s top-down enterprise focus, and also the fact that all too often, IBM’s software is known more for richness than ease of use.

A good barometer of how IBM handles the Lombardi integration will be reflected on how it handles Lombardi Blueprint and IBM WebSphere BlueWorks BPM. Blueprint is a wonderfully simple process definition hosted service while BlueWorks is also hosted, but is far more complex with heavy strains of social computing.

We have tried Blueprint and found it to be a very straightforward offering that simply codifies your processes, generating Word or PowerPoint documentation, and BPMN models. The cool thing is that if you use it only for documentation, you have gotten good value out of it – and in fact roughly 80 percent of Blueprint customers simply use it for that.

On today's call, Hayman said that IBM plans to converge both products. That's a logical move. But please, please, please, don’t screw up the simplicity of Blueprint. If necessary, make it a stripped down face of BlueWorks.

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

New HP offerings enable telcos to deliver more safe cloud services fast

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has significantly elevated its efforts to become an indispensable full-service supplier to cloud computing aspirants, especially telecommunications, mobile and Internet service providers.

At Software Universe in Hamburg, Germany, HP today announced three new offerings designed to enable cloud providers and enterprises to securely lower barriers to adoption and accelerate the time-to-benefit of cloud-delivered services. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Timing here is critical. As the end users of cloud services seek flexible infrastructure, IP voice, unified communications and call center automation, cloud providers need a fast-track to such low-risk cloud capabilities. HP is also wasting no time as it competes yet more broadly against Cisco Systems in the race to become mainstream means to cloud services.

Among the new offerings:
  • HP Operations Orchestration, which will automate the provisioning of services within the existing infrastructure, allowing businesses to seamlessly increase capacity through integration with such things as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. Look for other public cloud providers to offer this as well.

  • HP Communication as a service (CaaS), a cloud program that will enable service providers to offer small and mid-size businesses services delivered on an outsourced basis with utility pricing. CaaS includes an aggregation platform, four integrated communications services from HP and third parties, as well as the flexibility to offer other on-demand services.

  • HP Cloud Assure for Cost Control, designed to help companies optimize cloud costs and gain predictability in budgeting by ensuring that they right-size their compute footprints.
Cloud Assure was introduced by HP last Spring, and today's announcement moves it to the next level. Neil Ashizawa, manager of HP's Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Products and Cloud Solutions, recently spoke with me about Cloud Assure for cost control. He told me:
"When we first launched Cloud Assure earlier this year, we focused on the top three inhibitors, which were security of applications in the cloud, performance of applications in the cloud, and availability of applications in the cloud. We wanted to provide assurance to enterprises that their applications will be secure, they will perform, and they will be available when they are running in the cloud.

"The new enhancement that we're announcing now is assurance for cost control in the cloud. Oftentimes enterprises do make that step to the cloud, and a big reason is that they want to reap the benefits of the cost promise of the cloud, which is to lower cost."
He then explained how Cloud Assure for cost control works:
"Cloud Assure for cost control solution comprises both HP Software and HP Services provided by HP SaaS. The software itself is three products that make up the overall solution.
  • "The first one is our industry-leading Performance Center software, which allows you to drive load in an elastic manner. You can scale up the load to very high demands and scale back load to very low demand, and this is where you get your elasticity planning framework.

  • "The second solution from a software’s perspective is HP SiteScope, which allows you to monitor the resource consumption of your application in the cloud. Therefore, you understand when compute resources are spiking or when you have more capacity to drive even more load.

  • "The third software portion is HP Diagnostics, which allows you to measure the performance of your code. You can measure how your methods are performing, how your SQL statements are performing, and if you have memory leakage."
These HP-driven means to attain cloud benefits sooner than later come in response to recent surveys in which industry executives clearly stated a need for more flexible computing options in the face of uncertain economic times. They want to be able to dial up and down their delivery of services, but without the time and cost of building out the capital-intensive traditional delivery models.

The market is also looking to cloud services -- be they on-premises, from third-parties or both -- to provide:
  • Elasticity – the ability to rapidly respond to changing business needs with automated provisioning of cloud and physical services
  • Cost control – by optimizing efficiency and gaining predictability of costs by ensuring cloud compute resources are “right sized” to support fluctuating business demands
  • Risk reduction – through automated service provisioning that reduces manual errors, non-compliance snafus, and downtime of business services and processes.
I think HP has correctly identified a weakness in the SaaS and cloud markets. In many cases, applications and productivity services came to market first, but lacked the enterprise-caliber infrastructure, management, and auditing and fiscal control mechanisms. Now, HP is bringing these traditional IT requirements to the cloud domains, and making them available to the large market of existing providers.

The cloud horse is now in front of the cart, which means the providers can do their jobs better, and more end users can adopt secure cloud services in ways that reassure their mangers and adhere to their governance policies.

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

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