Thursday, April 15, 2010

Information management takes aim at need for improved business insights from complex data sources

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Today's sponsored podcast discussion delves into how to better harness the power of information to drive and improve business insights.

We’ll examine how the tough economy has accelerated the progression toward more data-driven business decisions. To enable speedy proactive business analysis, information management (IM) has arisen as an essential ingredient for making business intelligence (BI) for these decisions pay off.

Yet IM itself can become unwieldy, as well as difficult to automate and scale. So managing IM has become an area for careful investment. Where then should those investments be made for the highest analytic business return? How do companies better compete through the strategic and effective use of its information?

We’ll look at some use case scenarios with executives from HP to learn how effective IM improves customer outcomes, while also identifying where costs can be cut through efficiency and better business decisions.

To get to the root of IM best practices and value, please join me in welcoming our guests, Brooks Esser, Worldwide Marketing Lead for Information Management Solutions at HP; John Santaferraro, Director of Marketing and Industry Communications for BI Solutions at HP, and Vickie Farrell, Manager of Market Strategy for BI Solutions at HP. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Santaferraro: The customers that we work with tend to have very complex businesses, and because of that, very complex information requirements. It used to be that they looked primarily at their structured data as a source of insight into the business. More recently, the concern has moved well beyond business intelligence to look at a combination of unstructured data, text data, IM. There’s just a whole lot of different sources of information.

The idea that they can have some practices across the enterprise that would help them better manage information and produce real value and real outcomes for the business is extremely relevant.

If you look at the information worker or the person who has to make decisions on the front line, if you look at those kinds of people, the truth is that most of them need more than just data and analysis. In a lot of cases, they will need a document, a contract. They need all of those different kinds of data to give them different views to be able to make the right decision.

... I’d like to think of it as actually enterprise IM. It’s looking across the entire business and being able to see across the business. It’s information, all types of information as we identify structured, unstructured documents, scanned documents, video assets, media assets.

... By effectively using the information they have and further leveraging the investments that they’ve already made, there is going to be significant cost savings for the business. A lot of it comes out of just having the right insight to be able to reduce costs overall. There are even efficiencies to be had in the processing of information. It can cost a lot of money to capture data, to store it, and cleanse it.

Then it’s about the management, the effective management of all of those information assets to be able to produce real business outcomes and real value for the business. ... Obviously, the companies that figure out how to streamline the handling and the management of their information are going to have major cost reductions overall.

The way to compete

Esser: This is really becoming the way that leading edge companies compete. I’ve seen a lot of research that suggests that CEOs are becoming increasingly interested in leveraging data more effectively in their decision-making processes.

It used to be fairly simple. You would simply identify your best customers, market like heck to them, and try to maximize the revenue derived from your best customers.

Now, what we’re seeing is emphasis on getting the data right and applying analytics to an entire customer base, trying to maximize revenue from a broader customer base.

We’re going to talk about a few cases today where entities got the data right, they now serve their customers better, reduced cost at the same time, and increased their profitability.

... We think of IM as having four pillars. The first is the infrastructure, obviously -- the storage, the data warehousing, information integration that kind of ties the infrastructure together.

The second piece, which is very important, is governance. That includes things like data protection, master data management, compliance, and e-discovery.

The third is information processes. We start talking about paper-based information, digitizing documents, and getting them into the mix. Those first three pillars taken together really form the basis of an IM environment. They’re really the pieces that allow you to get the data right.

The fourth pillar, of course, is the analytics, the insight that business leaders can get from the analytics about the information. The two, obviously, go hand in hand. Rugged information infrastructure for your analytics isn’t any better than poor infrastructure with solid analytics. Getting both pieces of that right is very, very important.

... [And, again,] governance processes are the key to everything I talked about earlier -- the pillars of a solid IM environment. Governance [is] about protecting data, quality, compliance, and the whole idea of master data management -- limiting access and making sure that right people have access to input data and that data is of high-quality.

Farrell: We recently surveyed a number of data warehouse and BI users. We found that 81 percent of them either have a formal data governance process in place or they expect to invest in one in the next 12 months.

... What we’ve seen in the last couple of years is serious attention on investing in that data structure -- getting the data right, as we put it. It's establishing a high level of data quality, a level of trust in the data for users, so that they are able to make use of those tools and really glean from that data the insight and information that they need to better manage their business.

... A couple of years ago, I remember, a lot of pundits were talking about BI becoming pervasive, because tools have gotten more affordable and easier to use. Therefore anybody with a smartphone or PDA or laptop computer was going to be able to do heavy-duty analysis.

Of course, that hasn’t happened. There is more limiting the wide use of BI than the tools themselves. One of the biggest issues is the integration of the data, the quality of the data, and having a data foundation in an environment where the users can really trust it and use it to do the kind of analysis that they need to do.

... The more effectively you bring together the IT people and the business people and get them aligned, the better the acceptance is going to be. You certainly can mandate use of the system, but that’s really not a best practice. That’s not what you want to do.

By making the information easily accessible and relevant to the business users and showing them that they can trust that data, it’s going to be a more effective system, because they are going to be more likely to use it and not just be forced to use it.

Esser: Organizations all over the world are struggling with an expansion of information. In some companies, you’re seeing data doubling one year over the next. It’s creating problems for the storage environment. Managers are looking at processes like de-duplication to try to reduce the quantity of information.

The challenge for a CIO is that you’ve got to balance the cost of IT, the cost of governance and risk issues involved in information, while at the same time, providing real insight to your business unit customer.

Then, you’re getting pressure from business leaders for timely and accurate information to make decisions with. So, the challenge for a CIO is that you’ve got to balance the cost of IT, the cost of governance and risk issues involved in information, while at the same time, providing real insight to your business unit customer. It’s a tough job.

Key examples

Farrell: Well, one key example comes to mind. It’s an insurance company that we have worked with for several years. It’s a regional health insurance company faced with competition from national companies. They decided that they needed to make better use of their data to provide better services for their members, the patients as well as the providers, and also to create a more streamlined environment for themselves.

And so, to bring the IT and business users together, they developed an enterprise data warehouse that would be a common resource for all of the data. They ensured that it was accurate and they had a certain level of data quality.

They had outsourced some of the health management systems to other companies. Diabetes was outsourced to one company. Heart disease was outsourced to another company. It was expensive. By bringing it in house, they were able to save the money, but they were also able to do a better job, because they could integrate the data from one patient, and have one view of that patient.

That improved the aggregate wellness score overall for all of their patients. It enabled them to share data with the care providers, because they were confident in the quality of that data. It also saved them some administrative cost, and they recouped the investment in the first year.

... Another thing that we're doing is working with several health organizations in states in the US. We did one project several years ago and we are now in the midst of another one. The idea here is to integrate data from many different sources. This is health data from clinics, schools, hospitals, and so on throughout the state.

Doing this gives you the opportunity to bring together and integrate in a meaningful way data from all these different sources. Once that’s been done, that can serve not only these systems, but also some of the potential systems more real-time systems that we see coming down the line, like emergency surveillance systems that would detect terrorist threat, bioterrorism threats, pandemics, and things like that.

It's important to understand and be able to get this data integrated in a meaningful way, because more real-time applications and more mission-critical applications are coming and there is not going to be the time to do the manual integration.

Santaferraro: We find that a lot of our customers have very disconnected sets of intelligence and information. So, we look at how we can bring that whole world of information together for them and provide a connected intelligence approach. We are actually a complete provider of enterprise class industry-specific IM solutions.

... Probably the hottest topic that I have heard from customers in the last year or so has been around the development of the BI competency center. Again if you go to our BI site, you will find some additional information there about the concept of a BICC.

And the other trend that I am seeing is that a lot of companies are wanting to move from just the BI space with that kind of governance. They want to create an enterprise information competency center, so expanding beyond BI to include all of IM.

We have expertise around several business domains like customer relationship management, risk, and supply chain. We go to market with specific solutions from 13 different industries. As a complete solution provider, we provide everything from infrastructure to financing.

Obviously, HP has all of the infrastructure that a customer needs. We can package their IM solution in a single finance package that hits either CAPEX or OPEX. We've got software offerings. We've got our consulting business that comes in and helps them figure out how to do everything from the strategy that we talked about upfront and planning to the actual implementation.

We can help them break into new areas where we have practices around things like master data management or content management or e-discovery.

Esser: We have a couple of ways to get started. We can start with a business value assessment service. This is service that sets people up with a business case and tracks ROI, once they decide on a project. But, the interesting piece of that is they can choose to focus on data integration, master data management, what have you.

You look at the particular element of IM and build a project around that. This assessment service allows people to identify the element in their IM environment, their current environment, that will give them the best ROI. Or, we can offer them a master planning service which generates really comprehensive IM plan, everything from data protection and information quality to advanced analytics.

Obviously, you can get details on those services and our complete portfolio for that matter at and, as well as at There is some specific information about the Neoview Advantage enterprise data warehouse platform there.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fog clears on proper precautions for putting more enterprise data safely in clouds

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: HP.

The latest BriefingsDirect podcast hones in on managing risks and rewards in the proper placement of enterprise data in cloud computing environments.

Headlines tell us that Internet-based threats are becoming increasingly malicious, damaging, and sophisticated. These reports come just as more companies are adopting cloud practices and placing mission-critical data into cloud hosts, both public and private. Cloud skeptics frequently point to security risks as a reason for cautiously using cloud services. It’s the security around sensitive data that seems to concern many folks inside of enterprises.

There are also regulations and compliance issues that can vary from location to location, country to country and industry by industry. Yet cloud advocates point to the benefits of systemic security as an outcome of cloud architectures and methods. Distributed events and strategies based on cloud computing security solutions should therefore be a priority and prompt even more enterprise data to be stored, shared, and analyzed by a cloud by using strong governance and policy-driven controls.

So, where’s the reality amid the mixed perceptions and vision around cloud-based data? More importantly, what should those evaluating cloud services know about data and security solutions that will help to make their applications and data less vulnerable in general?

We've assembled a panel of HP experts to delve into the dos and don’ts of cloud computing and corporate data. Please welcome Christian Verstraete, Chief Technology Officer for Manufacturing and Distributions Industries Worldwide at HP, and Archie Reed, HP's Chief Technologist for Cloud Security, the author of several publications including, The Definitive Guide to Identity Management and he's working on a new book, The Concise Guide to Cloud Computing. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Reed: If you look at the history that we’re dealing with here, companies have been doing those sorts of things with outsourcing models or sharing with partners or indeed community type environments for some time. The big difference with this thing we call cloud computing, is that the vendors advancing the space have not developed comprehensive service level agreements (SLAs), terms of service, and those sorts of things, or are riding on very thin security guarantees.

Therefore, when we start to think about all the attributes of cloud computing -- elasticity, speed of provisioning, and those sorts of things -- the way in which a lot of companies that are offering cloud services get those capabilities, at least today, are by minimizing or doing away with security and protection mechanisms, as well as some of the other guarantees of service levels. That’s not to dismiss their capabilities, their up-time, or anything like that, but the guarantees are not there.

So that arguably is a big difference that I see here. The point that I generally make around the concerns is that companies should not just declare cloud, cloud services, or cloud computing secure or insecure.

It’s all about context and risk analysis. By that, I mean that you need to have a clear understanding of what you’re getting for what price and the risks associated with that and then create a vision about what you want and need from the cloud services. Then, you can put in the security implications of what it is that you’re looking at.

Verstraete: People need to look at the cloud with their eyes wide open. I'm sorry for the stupid wordplay, but the cloud is very foggy, in the sense that there are a lot of unknowns, when you start and when you subscribe to a cloud service. Archie talked about the very limited SLAs, the very limited pieces of information that you receive on the one hand.

On the other hand, when you go for service, there is often a whole supply chain of companies that are actually going to join forces to deliver you that service, and there's no visibility of what actually happens in there.

Considering the risk

I’m not saying that people shouldn't go to the cloud. I actually believe that the cloud is something that is very useful for companies to do things that they have not done in the past -- and I’ll give a couple of examples in a minute. But they should really assess what type of data they actually want to put in the cloud, how risky it would be if that data got public in one way, form, or shape, and assess what the implications are.

As companies are required to work more closely with the rest of their ecosystem, cloud services is an easy way to do that. It’s a concept that is reasonably well-known under the label of community cloud. It’s one of those that is actually starting to pop up.

A lot of companies are interested in doing that sort of thing and are interested in putting data in the cloud to achieve that and address some of the new needs that they have due to the fact that they become leaner in their operations, they become more global, and they're required to work much more closely with their suppliers, their distribution partners, and everybody else.

It’s really understanding, on one hand, what you get into and assessing what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense, what’s really critical for you and what is less critical.

Reed: At the RSA Conference in San Francisco, We spoke about what we called the seven deadly sins of cloud. ... One of the threats was data loss or leakage. In that, you have examples such as insufficient authentication, authorization, and all that, but also lack of encryption or inconsistent use of encryption, operational failures, and data center liability. All these things point to how to protect the data.

One of the key things we put forward as part of thethe Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) announcement that HP was active in was to try and draw out key areas that people need to focus on as they consider the cloud and try and deliver on the promises of what cloud brings to the market.

Although cloud introduces new capabilities and new options for getting services, commonly referred to as infrastructure or platform or software, the security posture of a company does not need to necessarily change significantly -- and I'll say this very carefully -- from what it should be. A lot of companies do not have a good security posture.

You need to understand what regs, guidance, and policies you have from external resources, government, and industry, as well as your own internal approaches, and then be able to prove that you did the right thing.

When we talk to folks about how to manage their approach to cloud or security in general, we have a very simple philosophy. We put out a high-level strategy called HP Secure Advantage, and it has three tenets. The first is to protect the data. We go a lot into data classification, data protection mechanisms, the privacy management, and those sorts of things.

The second tenet is to defend the resources which is generally about infrastructure security. In some cases, you have to worry about it less when you go into the cloud per se, because you're not responsible for all the infrastructure, but you do have to understand what infrastructure is in play to feed your risk analysis.

The third part of that validating compliance is the traditional governance, risk, and compliance management aspects. You need to understand what regulations, guidance, and policies you have from external resources, government, and industry, as well as your own internal approaches -- and then be able to prove that you did the right thing.

Verstraete: Going to the cloud is actually a very good moment for companies to really sit down and think about what is absolutely critical for my enterprise and what are things that, if they leak out, if they get known, it's not too bad. It's not great in any case, but it's not too bad. And, data classification is a very interesting exercise that enterprises should do, if they really want to go to the cloud, and particularly to the public clouds.

I've seen too many companies jumping in without that step and being burnt in one way, form, or shape. It's sitting down and think through that, thinking through, "What are my key assets? What are the things that I never want to let go that are absolutely critical? On the other hand, what are the things that I quite frankly don't care too much about?" It's building that understanding that is actually critical.

... Today, because of the term "cloud," most of the cloud providers are getting away with providing very little information, setting up SLAs that frankly don't mean a lot. It's quite interesting to read a number of the SLAs from the major either infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or PaaS providers.

Fundamentally, they take no responsibility, or very little responsibility, and they don't tell you what they do to secure the environment in which they ask you to operate. The reason they give is, "Well, if I tell you, hackers can know, and that's going to make it easier for them to hack the environment and to limit our security."

There is a point there, but that makes it difficult for people who really want to have source code, as in your example. That's relevant and important for them, because you have source code that’s not too bad and source code that's very critical. To put that source code in the cloud, if you don't know what's actually being done, is probably worse than being able to make an assessment and have a very clear risk assessment. Then, you know what the level of risk is that you take. Today, you don't know in many situations.

Reed: Also consider that there are things like community clouds out there. I'll give the example of US Department of Defense back in 2008. HP worked with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to deploy cloud computing infrastructure. And, we created RACE, which is the Rapid Access Computing Environment, to set things up really quickly.

Within that, they share those resources to a community of users in a secure manner and they store all sorts of things in that. And, not to point fingers or anything, but the comment is, "Our cloud is better than Google's."

So, there are secure clouds out there. It's just that when we think about things like the visceral reaction that the cloud is insecure, it's not necessarily correct. It's insecure for certain instances, and we've got to be specific about those instances.

In the case of DISA, they have a highly secured cloud, and that's where we expect things to go and evolve into a set of cloud offerings that are stratified by the level of security they provide, the level of cost, right down to SLA’s and guarantees, and we’re already seeing that in these examples.

Beating the competition

While we’ve alluded to, and actually discussed, specific examples of security concerns and data issues, the fact is, if you get this right, you have the opportunity to accelerate your business, because you can basically break ahead of the competition.

Now, if you’re in a community cloud, standards may help you, or approaches that everyone agrees on may help the overall industry. But, you also get faster access to all that stuff. You also get capacity that you can share with the rest of the community. If you're thinking about cloud in general, in isolation, and by that I mean that you, as an individual organization, are going out and looking for those cloud resources, then you’re going to get that ability to expand well beyond what your internal IT department.

There are lots of things we could close on, of course, but I think that the IT department of today, as far as cloud goes, has the opportunity not only to deliver and better manage what they’re doing in terms of providing services for the organization, but also have a responsibility to do this right and understand the security implications and represent those appropriately to the company such that they can deliver that accelerated capability.
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Private cloud models: Moving beyond static grid computing addiction

This guest post comes courtesy of Randy Clark, chief marketing officer at Platform Computing.

By Randy Clark

People don’t talk much about grid computing much these days anymore, but most application teams that require high performance from their infrastructure are actually addicted to grid computing -- whether they know it or not.

Gone are the days of requiring a massive new SMP box to get to the next level of performance. But in today’s world of tight budgets and diverse application needs, the linear scalability inherent in grid technologies becomes meaningless when there are no more blades being added.

This constraint has led grid managers and solution providers to search for new ways to squeeze more capacity from their existing infrastructures, within tight capital expenditure budgets. [Disclosure: Platform Computing is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

The problem is that grid infrastructures are typically static, with limited-to-no flexibility in changing the application stack parameters – such as OS, middleware, and libraries – and so resource capacity is fixed. By making grids dynamic, however, IT teams can provide a more flexible, agile infrastructure, with lower administration costs and improved service levels.

So how do you make a static grid dynamic? Can it be done in an easy-to-implement and pragmatic, gradual way, with limited impact on the application teams?

By introducing private cloud management capabilities, armed with standard host repurposing tools, any types of grid deployments can go from being static to dynamic.

For example, many firms have deployed multiple grids to serve the various needs of application teams, often using grid infrastructure software from multiple vendors. Implementing a private cloud enables consolidation of all the grid infrastructures to support all the apps through a shared pool approach.

The pool then dynamically allocates resources via each grid workload manager. This provides a phased approach to creating additional capacity through improved utilization, by sharing infrastructure without impacting the application or cluster environments.

The beginning of queue sprawl

ake another example. What if the grid teams have already consolidated using a single workload manager? This approach often results in “queue sprawl,” since resource pools are reserved exclusively for each application’s queues.

But by adding standard tools, such as virtual machines (VMs) and dual-boot, resources can be repurposed on demand for high priority applications. In this case, the private cloud platform instructs on which application stack image should be running at any given time. This results in dynamic application stacks across the available infrastructure, such that any suitable physical machine in the cluster can be repurposed on demand for additional capacity.

While many grid professionals consider their grid environments cloud-like already, the advent of cloud computing nonetheless helps make grid environments completely dynamic

Once an existing grid infrastructure is made dynamic and all available capacity is put to use, grid managers can still consider other non-capital spending sources to increase performance even further.

The first step is to scavenge internal underutilized resources that are not owned by the grid team. The under-used resources can range from employee desktop PCs, to VDI farms, and disaster recovery infrastructure or low-priority servers. From these, grid workloads can be launched within a VM on the "scavenged" machines, and then immediately stopped when the owning application or user resumes.

The second major step is to these higher levels of infrastructure productivity direct IT operating budget to external services such as Amazon EC2 and S3. A private cloud solution can centrally manage the integration with and metering of public cloud use (so-called hybrid models), providing additional capacity for “bursty” workloads, or full application environments. And since access to the public cloud is controlled and managed by the grid team, application groups are provided via a seamless service experience -- with higher performance for their total workloads.

While many grid professionals already consider their grid environments cloud-like, the advent of mature cloud computing models can help make grid environments more completely dynamic, providing new avenues for agility, service improvement and cost control.

And by squeezing more from your infrastructure before spending operating budget on external services, you can protect your investment while satisfying users’ insatiable appetite for more performance from the grid.

This guest post comes courtesy of Randy Clark, chief marketing officer at Platform Computing.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Enterprise IT plus social media plus cloud computing equals the future

Two developments last week really solidified for me the collision course between social media concepts and traditional enterprise IT. This is by no means a train wreck, but rather a productive, value-add combination that is sure to make IT departments more responsive to the needs of the businesses and the customers they mutually support.

First, IT consultancy Hinchcliffe & Co. was acquired by Dachis Group. This mashes up Dachis's "social business design" professional services offerings with Hinchcliffe's Enterprise 2.0 architecture, methods and implementations.

The merger shows that social media-enabled business activities need the full involvement of core IT, and that IT has a new and increasingly important role in designing how corporations will find, reach, connect to and service their customers, partners, suppliers -- and the various communities that surround them all.

Terms of the sale for both of the privately held firms was not disclosed, but Hinchcliffe founder and Dion Hinchcliffe told me he'll be helping Dachis Group harness the efficiencies and reach of social media through Enterprise 2.0 for global 2000 corporations.

As he sees it (and I agree), the ability for IT to use rich Internet application technologies, SaaS, cloud, SOA, business intelligence, social-media driven end-user meta data -- all leveraged via SOA integrated, governed and automated business processes -- are changing the nature of business. Companies now know that they can (and should) do business differently, but they don't yet know how to pull all the services and parts together to do it. Same for marketing execs.

Time for IT and marketing to get to know each other better. IT organizations and Enterprise 2.0 methods are increasingly aligned to integrate and leverage the traditional IT strengths with the best of the web, social and marketing. Doing an end-run around IT for advanced marketing is a stop-gap measure, the real solution is bringing IT and web/social/marketing together.

You can't have meaningful and scalable social business strategy at global 2000 firms without the firm hand of IT, newly endowed with modern architectures and tools, on the tiller. A firm like Dion's makes that essential but so far rare connection between the IT culture and the social media marketing pioneers.

"This gets us poised for what happens next: The coming half-decade is going to be a tremendously important and exciting one in the business world as organizations look to fundamentally retool for the 21st century, an era that has quite different expectations and requirements around business and how it gets done," said Hinchcliffe.

The Dachis Group, founded by Jeff Dachis (former Razorfish CEO) in 2008 and well-funded by Austin Ventures, is growing quickly and doing considerable acquiring, including Headshift Ltd. last year. Dion will join as Dachis as senior engagement manager, reporting to Peter Kim, managing director of North American operations.

Another indication of this mega mashup between technology and social media:'s expansion of the private beta testing of its Salesforce Chatter, a Facebook-style social networking platform for enterprises and SMBs. And now AppExchange 2, the next generation of Salesforce's enterprise app storefront, will includes a "ChatterExchange" for social networking business apps.

I saw a demo of Chatter last month at Salesforce headquarters is San Francisco. It has the potential to do what Google Wave does only better, and more targeted as business functions. If I were Lotus, I'd be concerned.

From all this I see a business world soon that no longer begins and ends its days in an email in-box, or portal, but on the "wall" of precisely filtered flow that defines the business process through a social interactions lens, and not a back-office application interface. And that wall can be easily adjusted based on the users activities, policies, etc. Just about anything can be added, or not.

I'm not alone in this vision, of course. Salesforce last week in a New York press conference rolled out "Cloud 2," which has enterprise apps behaving like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

[Incidentally, my old Gillmor Gang cohort and founder, Steve Gillmor, today joins after leaping and hopping from a rag tag bunch of podcast and blog sites. Congrats, Steve.]

Yep, social networking meets the enterprise. Kind of like chocolate and peanut butter.