Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cloud-mobile mega trends point to need for rapid, radical applications transformation, says HP

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

In many ways, the mobile device explosion and the cloud computing ramp-up reinforce and support each other.

Cloud services make mobile devices -- like smartphone and tablets -- more productive, while making users better connected to enterprise resources and work processes. On the other hand, mobile devices -- with their ubiquitous, non-stop wireless access -- make cloud-delivered applications, data, and services more relevant and more instantly available anywhere.

The next BriefingsDirect podcast discussion then focuses on the rapid and massive shifts confronting enterprises as they adopt more mobile devices and broaden their uses of cloud services ... in some kind of managed fashion, one would hope.

There are good reasons for doing these in tandem, with strategic coordination. By leverging cloud and mobile, applications can be supported by a common, strategic, architectural, and converged-infrastructure approach.

Furthermore, by making cloud-delivered applications and data context-aware, delivering enterprise applications to any device securely can be done at a reduced cost (a lot when compared to conventional applications infrastructure models). It therefore over time makes little sense to have unique stacks beneath each application for each application or device type.

So how do enterprises adjust to these mobile-cloud, dynamic-duo requirements in the strategic and a proactive way? How can they leverage and extend their current applications or identify which ones to fold and retire?

It’s clear that radical, not incremental, adjustment is in order to make sure that the cloud-mobile era is a gained opportunity and not a fatal or devastating misfire for IT operators -- and business strategists alike.

Our next guest, Paul Evans, Global Lead for Application Transformation with HP Enterprise Business, helps explore the promises and perils of adjusting to the cloud-mobile shift. The interview is conducted by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:
Evans: We have to go through a radical transformation now in terms of our applications. I don't use these words lightly. There are these new technologies, part of the megatrends that are affecting organizations.

In the technological world, we have the world of cloud, and we have the world of mobile. We cannot ignore them. People can’t abdicate and say, "I'm not going to go do it." It's not going to be that way.

At the same time, the CIOs and senior stakeholders are looking outward and asking what are these new technologies, what could they do for me, how could they improve customer service, and what will my competition do?

They also look also over their shoulder and say, "I spend 70 percent of my IT budget keeping the applications I have today working. I probably don’t have enough budget or resource to do both. So the question is, which one of these should I spend more of my time on?"

The answer is that you really can’t afford not to spend time on either. So it's a balancing act between how I encompass the new and exploit it, and at the same time, what do I need to do with my existing applications.

Andy Grove, the former head of Intel said that this is a major inflection point.

This year people are predicting that if you count the amount of smart phones and tablets that will be shipped, i.e. bought, that it will be greater than the number of desktop, laptop, and network PCs. So we're tending now toward an inflection point in the marketplace that says more people will interact using mobile devices than they will static devices.

That trend isn’t just a blip for 2011. That continues as we accelerate, as people just get more comfortable with using that technology, as functionality improves, and security and manageability come under control.

We're at that point now. That’s why we use this term radical transformation, because for the people that really want to exploit this, they're making their plans, they're drawing up their action lists of what they have to do, both at the front end with the mobile and cloud environment, but also with their legacy environment.

Although we see the world of cloud and mobile as very new-age, very sexy, and all the rest of it, at the end of the day, people have to sit down and deal with what the environments they have right now. They may not be so exciting. They may not be so new-age, but at the end of the day, they make products, count money, and run the organization as it is today. They are the legacy applications.

I often sit down with a customer who says, "We have to take stock. We have to make a plan. We're not going to do this one day at a time or a week at a time. We have to appreciate how we are going to exploit cloud.

What applications that we have in the back-end server environments are we going to bring forward to the cloud to service a mobile environment? What we are going to do about the use of mobile within our organization and what we are going to do about serving our customers better through mobile devices and the technologies that go with them?"

This is going to be pervasive. This is the way we're going to do things for the foreseeable future. Therefore, if we don’t get it right now, we stand a risk of making decisions about platform types or architectures, or whatever it may be, that within six months, we’re going to say that it wasn’t such a good idea.

Never been here before

I meet so many customers now that are saying, "We’ve never been here before. We’ve never been with this volume of devices. We’ve never been through the fact that over half of our workforce now brings their own device with them into the office."

They're sending out policy documents that say, "you shall not do this," and it's totally ignored. The changing workforce has a totally different level of expectation as it were, of what's possible, just in terms of the amount of transactions that are performed over the net or 20,000 applications downloads in a minute.

These are transactional rates in volumes that we've never seen before. Despite a lot of our previous experience, you just can’t leave it and say, "It worked five years ago. It’s going to work for the next five years." That's what our customers are dealing with today.

There are two critical questions have to get answered. One is the organizations that are going to move applications to a cloud environment are not going to move all of them. One of the questions we get all the time is, What percentage of my applications or products should I be moving to the cloud? And of course the answer is ... It’s not a percentage thing. It’s the type of application.

It’s still formative times, but in HP’s view, clearly applications that probably are not embodying intellectual property would be a type of application that's well served moving into the cloud. And, any form of application including servicing, providing a service across a wide population of users as well, especially those who are obviously in a mobile environment; applications that are productivity-centric.

You really want to drive the cost down as low as possible for any of these productivity applications. There's no sense in running on aging infrastructure where the costs are high. You really want to be getting the cost down, because if it’s a productivity application, it doesn’t differentiate you. And if it doesn’t differentiate you, then why would you spend anything more than the minimal cost?

So put those productivity applications onto the lowest cost environment where you couldn't provision an infrastructure that has this elasticity that the cloud environment provides.

No clear line of sight

So we're moving applications from back-end environment to the cloud. Then we have an opportunity to rationalize the portfolio. Rationalizing the portfolio had two big impacts. One, it takes cost out, which means that you can consider that as saved money or money that can reinvested in the mobile world.

But also you're taking out complexity. Every organization, I think, would agree at the moment that their environments are too complicated, and by virtue of being to complicated, it makes it difficult to change them, and people are looking for agility and flexibility.

So first things first. When we're talking to organizations, what we're trying to understand is what are the candidates that can move to the cloud, and that’s a big hot topic. A lot of our users and customers say, "We sort of get our head around cloud. That’s okay. We can see it’s a different paradigm. It has a different cost model. It helps me with provisioning. Life’s good."

The technical challenge is to support this environment agnostically and say, 'We don’t care what you're using.'

So they can get their head around that, and as you can tell by just reading the press and listening to what goes on in the world, you would say people are on the move with cloud.

On the other hand, when they are looking from the outside in with mobile, there is less of a precedent there. The sharp customers that we are working with are saying, "We don’t want to fall into traps. We're going to build an environment that suits one type of mobile environment and we are going to be able to test it and manage it." They know that they don’t have that order of control. The days when it was, "You shall use this device, and that device we know how to work," have gone.

If you think back to mainframe days, people had to use a 3270 device. That was it. It was defined by IBM. That’s the way you're going to do it. And if you didn’t have one, then you didn’t get to participate. The world is now totally the other way around.

The technical challenge is to support this environment agnostically and say, "We don’t care what you're using." What we can do is understand how to manage and provide the right level of security to that device, whatever that device may be. Maybe you come inside the network and that’s going to be a high performance network these days, because of the whole issue of impatience.

As I said, the volume and the variety of platforms are unprecedented. Even though we had the PC world, the PC as the client was a single entity. It had some interesting characteristics initially, but there was one brand. What we're dealing with now is many different ways. Therefore, we have to understand this from an agnostic standpoint, so that the consumer can continue to use the device of their choice and can get the services they require from this new cloud and server environment.

Virtuous architecture adoption

As organizations begin to realize that the world is going to change, their view is going to be "We need architecture."

By virtue of developing an architecture, people are beginning to realize, as they begin to take stock of where they have been spending their money, that they have in the past and may have an opportunity to drive more efficiency and effectiveness into that organization, whilst at the same time delivering innovation.

So I think this inflection point can have some really good signs about it. ... It’s forcing decisions on people now, because the people that appreciate that this radical transformation is something that they can’t stop and they should exploit, rather than trying to ignore. People are actually seeing that there are significant efficiencies to be gained from deploying these new technologies.

Radical travel changes

hat’s interesting is that there are always industry "skews" of technology. We have a tool in HP called the Business Value Framework. What that tries to do is interpret where the business wants to go.

If you can serve people better, if you can give them better information, then there is highly likely that they are going to come back as a repeat customer.

Ignore the technologies for a moment. You could argue the airline industry is relatively commoditized -- then what people are going to look for is how we're going to have that small differentiation that makes us better than the rest of the world.

When you look at this business value framework and you look at things like services and transportation, what comes through very loudly is customer service and customer satisfaction is key. If you can serve people better, if you can give them better information, then there is highly likely that they are going to come back as a repeat customer.

You don't want to spend a truckload of money dragging people to your airline and then displeasing them, so they go to somewhere else, because that's makes the whole initial effort worthless.

What people are looking for is obviously loyal and devoted customers who come back and back and back, and that all comes down to deliver customer satisfaction. One of the customers we've been working with, Delta Air Lines, has really put that at the forefront. They can provide very rich, very high quality information, so that people know what's going on.

Range of devices

Working with Delta, they've been providing to a range of mobile devices, like smart phones, tablets, etc., but also to traditional desktop environment, rich information, not only when you're waiting for the plane, but also when you're on the plane by virtue of seat-back videos screens so that people get a continuous feed.

If you're flying from A to B to C, you're going to change planes in the middle. If you're going to miss your connection, you usually sit on the plane, knowing you're going to miss your connection, and then what are you going to do? That means you get off the plane, queue with 500 other people, and then you eventually get another plane -- eventually -- all the time trying to figure out how you can tell your family why you are late and rest of it.

Delta is trying to provide an environment that says while you're on one of your airplane, it's already working out the next connection and it will give you that information on the plane. It will give the e-boarding card. It will send you the vouchers that would allow you to get some refreshment, all to your mobile device, so that all of that stress and angst that you’ve had traditionally gets taken out. In a commodity industry that's the sort of thing you have to do to be different from the rest.

We see that in a number of industries. We see people today delivering and developing mobile applications, particularly in the commodity world, to deliver up a much higher level of customer service and satisfaction.

What they value are things like structured workshops, to have an open debate between technology and business.

What we are definitely doing in some respects is using the experience we built up in dealing with people's legacy environments and understanding what they value. What they value are things like structured workshops, to have an open debate between technology and business that says who is leading, who is following, where are we going, and what do we need?

A lot of the things we do in terms of those initial services set the scene, so that we just don't leap in and decide, "Well, we're going to support X device. We're going to provide this app on it." And then, six months later, we're struggling with how we're going to deploy that app over multiple platforms and how we're going to use new technologies like HTML5 etc. to give us that agnostic approach?

It’s this convergence between the mobile world and the traditional world, because we believe that’s the big thing. We can talk about the sexy front end, the smart phones, the pad environment -- and it's great to talk about those -- but at the end of the day, those devices only really get to do what they are paid to do, when they connect to rich and meaningful information at the back end. So for this convergence we sit with users, sit with the CIO, and understand what is it that they're going to be converging in terms of information from the back end and the utilization of the mobile device on the front end.

Put into context

Then, how do we connect those together? How do we sit down and say, "What sort of speed of transaction, what volume of information are we talking about here," and obviously understanding that. That information has to be put into context now for the device of the front-end. If you're delivering this to a smart phone, it has to be represented in a totally different way than if you were going to deliver it to a desktop PC or, in the middle, a pad.

So the point being is we've got to be aware of those. We’ve got to be aware of the user’s context and understand what we can and cannot deliver to them. But I think behind the scenes, and of course, this is where the consumer says, "I don’t really care," but the whole management and security that you put in place, and HP has spent a lot of time, and a lot of effort, and a lot of money in acquisitions and development of technologies that allow people to manage and also provide a secure environment, to those devices that are at the front-end.

There are serious challenges. I wouldn’t for a second say this is a piece of cake. Just ring us up, and 30 days later you get a solution. It is not like that. This is a big deal. There are serious challenges and therefore they need serious people to fix them. We're into understanding how you get this end-to-end view, because if you only look at a piece of the puzzle, you aren’t going to build what is absolutely necessary.

There are serious challenges. I wouldn’t for a second say this is a piece of cake. Just ring us up, and 30 days later you get a solution. It is not like that.

If you type in hp.com/go/applicationtransformation, there are a plethora of different links there for people to read up on things, watch videos, whatever. We're also developing a digital repository for predominantly video material. We find that our customers are very clear in telling us that they like watching short, sharp pieces of materials that are being videoed, so they can get the message quickly and get offline.

Maybe the days of reading a 20 page white paper are gone, which I am not sure is true, but definitely our clients told us very clearly that they like watching videos. So we're developing a whole series of video-based material, whether it's on application rationalization, application modernization, mobility in the enterprise world, or infrastructure.

The intention here is not to hear from HP, because we will do what we're paid to do, which is trying to convince you we have some very smart people in technologies and products, but also hear from industry experts, hear from our customers about what they're doing, how they're doing it, and the sort of benefits.

So if you stay in touch through hp.com/go/applicationtransformation, we'll always point you to materials that in some instances are not being delivered by HP, but just hear from our customers and hear from industry analysts about really what is now possible.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: HP.

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