Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Google Apps charges ahead with improved data security and long-awaited Java support

Cast Iron Systems and Google have teamed up to overcome one of the biggest hurdles to cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) in the enterprise -- concerns over data security.

Cast Iron for Google Apps, which was announced today, includes the Google Secure Data Connection, enabling the encrypted exchange of data between a company's enterprise applications and Google's cloud offerings. This makes it easier for companies to integrate their Google Apps and Google App Engine applications with on-premises and cloud apps.

Cast Iron, Mountain View, Calif., is a SaaS and cloud applications provider, and offers pre-configured connectivity with hundreds of other applications, as well as a library of integration templates with pre-configured gadget data maps. Cast Iron for Google Apps offers a portfolio of deployment options, including integration-as-a-service through Cast Iron Cloud, and on-premise physical and virtual appliances.

In a recent survey, IT executives displayed considerable hesitancy in switching to cloud-based applications. A main reason for holding back, cited by many of these executives, was the concern over data security.

Not everyone is squeamish about using cloud apps. Schumacher Group, a $250-million U.S. emergency medicine practice management firm, has created a web portal for its medical providers using a set of custom gadgets and a Google site. The company manages 2,500 physicians who care for 2.5 million patients each year in over 150 emergency rooms across 20 states.

Cast Iron for Google Apps helps enable the extraction and secure exchange of data from Schumacher Group’s MS SQL Server data warehouse to Google Enterprise Gadgets in real-time. Providers and doctors in the Schumacher network now have more secure visibility into emergency room data from anyplace, anytime.

In other Google Apps news, the long-awaited Java support for App Engine has been announced, and the first 10,000 developers to sign up will be given a first look and a chance to comment.

With the new support, developers can build web applications using standard Java technologies and run them on Google's scalable infrastructure. The Java environment provides a Java 6 JVM, a Java Servlets interface, and support for standard interfaces to the App Engine scalable datastore and services, such as JDO, JPA, JavaMail, and JCache.

Also included is a secure sandbox, which will allow developers to run code safely on Google servers, while being flexible enough to allow them to break abstractions at will. More information is available at

These two developments continue the march toward enterprise-ready cloud activities. Can we still really call cloud just a fad or hype?

HCM SaaS provider Workday's advanced architecture brings cloud business agility benefits to enterprises now

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Special offer: Download a new white paper on Workday's latest update to System 7.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

The paybacks from designing a strong IT architecture can now be enjoyed by more than the enterprises that build them. Increasingly, enterprises are reaping the fruits of modern IT architectures that their software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud providers have developed.

Think of it as a multiplier effect of IT modernization -- everyone using the services benefits. In essence, by building good applications and infrastructure, SaaS providers are providing more than standalone applications and services -- they are delivering business agility through integration as a service but without having to upgrade your data center.

By using a unified SaaS service as a way to achieve integration across many far-flung services and processes, the so-called "cloud of clouds" principle can be achieved early. This drives down complexity and cost. It allows enterprises to exploit cloud productivity benefits without building a cloud, and to integrate via cloud advancements without mastering cloud-level integrations.

To learn more about IT architectural best practices at a SaaS provider can achieve these added benefits for the users now -- at greatly reduced total costs and little or no capital outlays -- I recently examined the experiences and approaches of Workday, a human capital management (HCM) SaaS provider. Listen as Stan Swete, CTO of Workday, explains how advanced SaaS providers be an effective core to reach and obtain cloud computing business benefits early and meaningfully.

Here are some excerpts:
It's our belief that enterprise applications have driven a lot of success and a lot of value in enterprises, but that success and value has come at a very, very high cost. Essentially the systems come down to being very hard to use, hard to change, and hard to integrate.

At Workday ... we started our company with a lot of background in what had gone before in terms of architectures to support enterprise resource planning (ERP). ... [We knew] what worked and what didn't work so well with previous client-server architectures.

From the beginning, we thought about a system that would be able to deal natively with producing Web services to get data out of and back into the application and would treat the conversation with other systems as a first-class conversation, just like the conversation with individual users.

In IT today, people are in a difficult spot. They have complex environments. The complexity has grown for a variety of reasons. Everyone sees the opportunity to modernize and to improve efficiencies, but how do you do that in the midst of a complex environment that is constraining just how aggressive you can be?

If you have a SaaS provider like Workday, or someone who's able to take a clean approach, ... instead of having to deal with the complexity of managing all the multiple instances and different architectures you might have, you can use the unified SaaS service as a way to achieve some integration and cut costs. ... Today, it's all about cost.

We have the religion of service-oriented architecture (SOA), and firmly believe that the right way for us to tie into other systems in the cloud and other systems on-premise of our customers is via SOA and an embrace of Web services. We embrace that and we think to some extent that it can accelerate SOA adoption within enterprises. They all see the appeal of newer SOA architectures ... [but] they have the whole other set of architectures that they've got to be concerned about maintaining.

We think the rigidity in these architectures comes from the fact that you've got a complex logic layer. ... Millions of lines of code, in most cases, are backing the logic layer of enterprise systems. That layer has a complex conversation with the relational database, which also has its own complex structure -- typically thousands of relational tables to model all of the data.

We decided to take an entirely new approach in this area and embrace an approach that leveraged the concept of encapsulating data with some of the logic into an object. ... At Workday, the primary logic server is what we call our Object Management Server. It's a transaction processing system, but it's entirely based on an object graph, and that is just a class structure that represents not only the application and its data, but also the methods that process on that data.

The important difference is that we have that layer and we don't have a correspondingly complex and changing data layer. We have a persistent data store that is a simplified version of a relational database that can persist changes that happen from the object layer. ... It's an unchanging relational schema that can persist, even as we make changes up in the object layer.

[Furthermore] we have some of the transformational and delivery options in multiple formats available to us in our data center, so that the Workday applications can generate Web services. Beyond that, we can transform those Web services into other data formats that might be more meaningful to legacy applications or the other applications we need to tie to. We did a lot of work in that area and came up with the need to embrace Web services and embed in an enterprise service bus (ESB).

When you combine the architecture we talked about with the SaaS delivery model ... There are definitely benefits for the customers that we're serving and, frankly, we think that in the approach there are tons of benefits for us, as a vendor, to take cost out of what we're doing and pass those savings on to our customers.

... If you combine that architecture with a cloud-based approach or delivery of SaaS, you get what we at Workday call "hosted integration" or "integration on demand." ... We take the ESB and package up integration so that it can be reused across a wide set of customers.

Built-in business intelligence, as we call it, is also absolutely an advantage of our offering. ... Having an object model that allows us to link more data attributes together than a classical relational database to establish relationship is a lot lighter weight than having to build the foreign key into another table. We're able to cross-link a lot of information that we're tracking inside the object model that we have, and so we're able to offer unusually rich reporting to the customers.

Our transactional application is facilitating multi-dimensional analysis without the need to have to take the data, off load it into an OLAP cube, and then, by a third-party tool, query that cube. ... [This] information can be more interesting to the people who are not just back-office human resources professionals, but maybe managers who wanted to get information about their workforce. That is all built into the application, and that's the level of increased business intelligence we're delivering today.

There is just a large world of opportunity to expand into. ... We're growing to provide business intelligence without the need to buy third-party tools to do it.

[Additionally] you're going to have people who want to use your application without getting into the pages that your application actually renders. Mobile is a great example of that. We absolutely see widening out access to Workday on the mobile devices.

We've been very quickly able to extend the business-process framework that we have ... so that approvals that are done within that framework can now be completely processed on a mobile device. We’ve picked the iPhone as the first starting point and we'll be expanding out to other devices. ... There is a lot of information that is currently presented well within Workday, but it could be presented just as well within a gadget and someone else's portal.

We're able to mark-up a subset of our data and have that appear in a native client on the iPhone that you can get on the App Store, just like you get any other iPhone application. Then, with security, you're just utilizing a native app, which is acting on Workday data. We use that for manager approvals, the management of to-do lists, and for enterprise search of the workforce. That's been a successful example of leveraging this modern architecture. We didn't have to go in and rewrite our applications.

[There are] new options for enterprises to look at in terms of offloading some of the applications that they're trying to support in their existing environment. It's a vehicle for consolidating some of the complexity that you have into a single instance that can be managed globally if you have architected globally, as Workday has done.

We talked about a lot of the value of leveraging new technology to deliver enterprise applications in a new way and then combining that with doing it from the cloud. That combination is going to profoundly change things going forward.

If you think about the combination of modern architectures and cloud-based modern architectures, what will happen when two vendors that have taken that similar approach start to partner in terms of integrated business processing is that the bar will get raised significantly for how tight that integration can become, how well supported it can be, and how it can functionally grow itself forward, without causing high cost and complexity to the consuming enterprise that's using both sides.

As I look in the future, I think enterprises will see an ecosystem of their major application providers be cloud-based and be more cohesive than a like group of on-premise vendors. Instead of having a collection of different architectures and different vendors all in their data center, what they will see is an integrated service from the set of providers that are integrating with Web services in the cloud.

It allows for a lot more integrated processes.
Read a full transcript of the discussion.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Amazon's BI-on-the-fly using MapReduce-as-a-service brings huge cloud data crunching to the masses

Amazon's announcement of a cloud-based data mining and analysis service, using the Hadoop implementation of MapReduce, potentially opens advanced business intelligence (BI) activities to many more businesses and organizations. It's an excellent example of just how much cloud computing can change the world.

In essence, the service, Amazon Elastic MapReduce, if it works as advertised, abstracts the complexity and cost of massive parallel and symmetrical programming and processing so non-computer scientists -- you know, business types -- can examine and query huge data sets.

Think of it as having your own tuned supercomputer that you can plug gigantic data sets into and ask questions that will determine the course of your businesses for the next decade. Oh, and you can pay for the pleasure on a credit card.

This high-end BI value has pretty much been the sole purview of large, skilled and deep-pocketed enterprises. But there are plenty of people, researchers, government agencies, academics, small to medium enterprises, venture capitalists and the like that would hugely benefit from sussing out important trends and findings from the growing reams of raw data generated by modern businesses and societies. Talk about metadata on steroids! Here's another way to use social networks, folks.

For more on the business implications of MapReduce and advanced BI, take a look at a podcast I recently moderated. For more on the more technical aspects of what MapReduce-oriented computing means, there's a second podcast discussion.

Given the intriguing price points Amazon is providing, this service could be a game-changer. It will likely force other cloud providers to follow suit, which will make advanced BI services more available and affordable for more kinds of tasks. I can even imagine communities of similarly interested user parties sharing query formulations and search templates of myriad investigations. A whole third-party BI consulting and services industry could crop up virtually overnight.

It will interesting to see if Business Intelligence 2.0 types of analysis can also be brought to the service, through third parties or even outright products that leverage the cloud BI services in the background.

Their pitch: We can bring what Google does for the Web to your entire universe of data. For any of your users. Oh, and we can bring other useful and available data sets into the mix, too. And you can afford this. Your executives can figure out how to use it directly. No lab coats required.

Governments and legislators in particular -- which have access to huge stores of publicly financed data -- could significantly drop the cost of providing data and analysis services to the masses. As I understand it, the federal and state governments are a bit better at creating data than leveraging it in near real time. As in, the once a decade census data takes almost 10 years to get published. This could help that a lot.

Part of the challenge will be getting to the data and making the largest -- sometimes in the petabyte scale -- sets available to a service like Amazon's. The garbage-in, garbage-out parable does not change. And moving and managing these large sets is not trivial.

What's more trust remains a hurdle. For sensitive data, the handling and security of the bits need to be managed. But if a sales force trusts it's daily grind to, perhaps other sensitive data too has a place on someone else's cloud fabric.

For those that can get access to good data on matters of importance to them, and perhaps do unique joins against other data sets, this cloud--based BI development could be a boon. Things that were never possible at any price are now doable.

With Amazon's move, the important BI tasks moves up away from cost-inhibitors and the infrastructure access pain to the data access, quality and query development skills levels, where it belongs.

Particularly in this economy, taking the risk out of weighty business and market decisions -- at an affordable cost on someone else's cloud fabric -- is a no brainer.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

HP advises strategic view of virtualization to dramatically cut IT costs, gain efficiency and usher in cloud benefits

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Read a full transcript of the discussion. Access more HP resources on virtualization.

Virtualization has become imperative to enterprises and service providers as they seek to better manage IT resources, cut total costs, reduce energy use, and improve data center agility.

But virtualization is more than just installing hypervisors. The effects and impacts of virtualization cut across many aspects of IT operations. The complexity of managing virtualization IT runtime environments can easily slip out of control.

A comprehensive level of planning and management, however, can assure a substantive economic return on virtualization investments. The proper goal then is to do virtualization right -- to be able to scale the use of virtualization in terms of numbers of instances elastically while automating management and reducing risks.

To gain the full economic benefits, IT managers also must extend virtualization from hardware to infrastructure, data, and application support -- all with security, control, visibility, and compliance baked in.

What's more, implementing virtualization at the strategic level with best practices ushers in the ability to leverage service oriented architecture (SOA), enjoy data center consolidation, and explore cloud computing benefits.

To learn more about how virtualization can be adopted rapidly with low risk using sufficient governance, I recently interviewed Bob Meyer, the worldwide virtualization lead in HPs' Technology Solutions Group.

Here are some excerpts:
For the last couple of years, people have realized the value of virtualization in terms of how it can help consolidate servers, or how it can help do such things as backup and recovery faster. But, now with the economy taking a turn for the worse, anyone who was on the fence, who wasn’t sure, who didn’t have a lot of experience with it, is now rushing headlong into virtualization.

They realize that it touches so many areas of their IT budget, it just seems to be a logical thing to do in order for them to survive these economic times and come out a leaner, more efficient IT organization. ... It’s gone to virtualization everywhere, for everything -- "How much can I put in and how fast can I put it in." ... Everybody will have a mix of virtual and physical environments.

We're not just talking about virtualization of servers. We're talking about virtualizing your infrastructure -- servers, storage, network, and even clients on the desktop. People talk about going headlong into virtualization. It has the potential to change everything within IT and the way IT provides services.

Throughout the data center, virtualization is one of those key technologies that help you get to that next generation of the consolidated data center. If you just look at from a consolidation standpoint, a couple of years ago, people were happy to be consolidating five servers into one or six servers into one. When you get this right, do it on the right hardware with the right services setup, 32 to 1 is not uncommon -- a 32-to-1 consolidation rate.

Yet the business can be affected negatively, if the virtualized infrastructure is managed incompletely or managed outside the norms that you have set up for best practices. One of the blessings of virtualization is its speed. That’s also a curse in this case, because in traditional IT environments, you set up things like a change advisory board and, if you did a change to a server, if you moved it, if you had to move to a new network segment, or if you had to change storage, you would put it through a change advisory board. There were procedures and processes that people followed and received approvals.

In virtualization, because it’s so easy to move things around and it can be done so quickly, the tendency is for people to say, "Okay, I'm going to ignore that best practice, that governance, and I am going to just do what I do best, which is move the server around quickly and move the storage around." That’s starting to cause all sorts of IT issues.

Initial virtualization projects probably get handled with improper procedures. ... Just putting a hypervisor on a machine doesn’t necessarily get you virtualization returns.

You have to start asking, "Do I have the right solutions in place from an infrastructure perspective, from a management perspective, and from a process perspective to accommodate both environments?"

The danger is having parallel management structures within IT [with a separate one for virtualized resources]. It does no one any good. If you look at it as a means to an end, which virtualization is, the end of all this is more agile and cost-effective services and more agile and cost-effective use of infrastructure.

Virtualization really does touch everything that you do, and that everything is not just from a hardware perspective. It not only touches the server itself or the links between the server, the storage, and the network, but it also touches the management infrastructure and the client infrastructure.

What we intend to do is take that hypervisor and make sure that it's part of a well-managed infrastructure, a well-managed service, well-managed desktops, and bringing virtualization into the IT ecosystem, making it part of your day-to-day management fabric.

The focus right now is, "How does it save me money?" But, the longer-term benefit, the added benefit, is that, at some point the economy will turn better, as it always does. That will allow you to expand your services and really look at some of the newer ways to offer services. We mentioned cloud computing before. It will be about coming out of this downturn more agile, more adaptable, and more optimized.

No matter where your services are going -- whether you're going to look at cloud computing or enacting SOA now or in the near future -- virtualization has that longer term benefit of saying, "It helps me now, but it really sets me up for success later."

We fundamentally believe, and CIOs have told us a number of times that virtualization will set them up for long-term success. They believe it’s one of those fundamental technologies that will separate their company as winners going into any economic upturn.
Read a full transcript of the discussion. Access more HP resources on virtualization.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eclipse Swordfish OSGi ESB enters fray for SOA market acceptance, Sopera to add support

The Eclipse Foundation's news that the first release of Swordfish enterprise service bus (ESB) in early April hasn't exactly set the blogosphere on fire. Reaction to the open-source ESB so far has ranged from ho-hum to mild skepticism.

There are, after all, several open source ESBs in play, from Mule to Apache ServiceMix and Synapse to PEtALS.

On the other hand, it could just be that the rest of the bloggers are working finding just the right fishing metaphor to use for new ESBs, something that seems to be a requirement when writing about Swordfish.

How about, "there's a deep and wide ocean of opportunity for an open source ESBs, and an ability to federate them might provide yet more fish to fry." Sorry.

Eclipse made the announcement Monday at Eclipsecon 2009. Swordfish, which is described as a next-generation ESB, aims at providing the flexibility and extensibility for deploying a service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy. Based on the OSGi standard, the new ESB builds upon such successful open-source projects as Eclipse Equinox and Apache ServiceMix.

Among the features highlighted in Swordfish are:
  • Support for distributed deployment, which results in more scalable and reliable application deployments by removing a central coordinating server.

  • A runtime service registry that allows services to be loosely coupled, making it easier to change and update different parts of a deployed application. The registry uses policies to match service consumers and service providers based on their capabilities and requirements.

  • An extensible monitoring framework to manage events that allow for detailed tracking of how messages are processed. These events can be stored for trend analysis and reporting, or integrated into a complex event processing (CEP) system.

  • A remote configuration agent that makes it possible to configure a large number of distributed servers from a central configuration repository without the need to touch individual installed instances.
Austin Modine at The Register sees the move putting Eclipse up against some software powerhouses and is taking a wait and see attitude:
Eclipse's jump into runtime puts the foundation into more direct competition with companies like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, as well as a multitude of smaller providers. Eclipse already shook up the development tools market by offering a free and open source toolset — can Eclipse pull off the same with SOA?
Steve Craggs at Lustratus Research takes a glummer view:
So, will Swordfish make a successful strike at the ESB market? So far, open source ESB projects have not had a great deal of success, and as far as 2009 goes Lustratus has forecast that open source projects will suffer due to the lack of the necessary people resources to turn open source frameworks into a useful user implementation. However, Swordfish has the backing of the influential Eclipse organization, which has done a lot to standardize the look and feel of many software infrastructure tools.

Looking at the initial bites on Swordfish, the market needs to be baited a bit.

And, of course there's more to market acceptance than just the code drop. Also this week, German start-up and Deutsche Post AG spin-off Sopera GmbH announced plans to support Swordfish as part of a comprehensive SOA platform.

Sopera helped develop and refine Swordfish at Deutsche Post before helping to bring the project to fruition in Eclipse.

Using the Eclipse Swordfish (SOA Runtime Framework) and the SOA Tooling Platform (STP), Sopera now plans to further deliver a new service registry/repository, integrate process orchestration engines, and provide integration between the OSGi components -- all to create the SOA solution.

As I said to Ricco Deutscher, Sopera's CTO, managing director and co-founder, when briefed: "In today's economic climate, there is definite opportunity for open source SOA. Plus, we see emerging requirements for modern middleware that includes SOA, and helps prepare for cloud-based applications."

There should be a signifiant degree of pull for strong SOA offerings built of open source components, but with value-add of integration and associated support services. The market for the de facto on-premises cloud architecture and implementation is wide open. There's no reason that open source SOA implentations won't be a major portion of quite a few clouds.

Low-cost open spurce solutions -- coupled with the proper balance of completeness and flexibility -- may gain a surer foothold now, given the economy, than in the past. Deutscher says Sopera is seeking to attain and deliver on the right balance at he right price.

The ambition is certainly there. Last month, Sopera joined forces with Microsoft and Open-Xchange under the Open Source Business Foundation (OSBF), a non-profit European open source business network, to announce a platform that leverages SOA for cloud computing.

This "Internet Service Bus (ISB)" will create a bridge between Java and .NET software applications and promote seamless interoperability. I'm all for that, long as it's a fully bi-directional bridge.

The first release of Swordfish 0.8 will be available for download the first week of April from Sopera will be delivering solutions around it and then added SOA and cloud solutions over the next two years.

SaaS provider Workday extends HR business processes to iPhone, mobile tier

Managing your workforce processes and workflow is now no further away than your iPhone. Workday, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) human capital management provider, this week announced new mobile capabilities, with an iPhone application that allows users to search worker directories and complete basic management tasks.

The Pleasanton, Calif. company also announced that it plans BlackBerry support for later this year, with other mobile tier support in the works. [Disclosure: Workday is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

With the new mobile application users can review, approve, deny, and revise tasks from the Workday workforce management applications, and view the status of ongoing business processes. They can also search for worker contact information and phone or email directly from the smartphone.

The streamlined mobile application includes password and role-based security, along with time-out and sign-out preferences aligned with the user's security requirements.

The mixture of SaaS-based business applications as full web apps or mobile apps that allow the interfacing with the processes is the way of the future. Look at how many of us do email now ... we check on urgent and time-sensitive communications using iPhones and the like. Then we do more asynchronous and "fatter" processes on the PC.

For busy managers flooded with expense report sign-offs and hiring and firing minutiae, the mobile access can be a godsend. It prevents slowed up processes, and also prevents the overloaded email in-box. Making SaaS apps reach the mobile tier -- but in an appropriate way that recognizes the use requirements for "on the go" work -- will become a general business requirement, I expect.

The mobile solutions are built with a platform-independent core. Workday plans to continue updating its capabilities to allow all devices to take advantage of the solution, either through platform-specific client applications or mobile HTML.

The new application will be available from the iTunes App Store. Workday is hosting a webinar on the new mobile capabilities on March 25. Anyone interested can register at More information on the iPhone app is available at

Sunday, March 22, 2009

BriefingsDirect Analysts list top 5 ways to cut enterprise IT costs during economic downturn

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Read a full transcript of the discussion.

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Doing more for less in IT? Sure, easier said than done. But who said it couldn't be done?

We took the question of how to cut information technology (IT) costs in the downturn to five analysts and consultants, who can both say and do. The result is the latest BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition, Vol. 38, a periodic discussion and dissection of IT infrastructure related news and events.

In this episode, recorded March 13, 2009, our analyst guests make their top five recommendations for cutting enterprise IT costs amid the economic downturn. How does IT adapt and adjust to the downturn? Is IT to play a defensive role in helping to slash costs and reduce its own financial burden on the enterprise?

Or, does IT help most on the offensive, in transforming businesses, or playing a larger role in support of business goals, with the larger IT budget and responsibility to go along with that? Can IT lead the way on how companies remake themselves and reinvent themselves during and after such an economic tumult?

Or is IT good both for economic offense and defense, and therefore the indispensable business function?

We ask our panel to list the top five ways that IT can help reduce costs, while retaining full business -- or perhaps even additional business -- functionality.

Please join noted IT industry analysts and experts Joe McKendrick, independent IT analyst and prolific blogger; Brad Shimmin, principal analyst at Current Analysis; JP Morgenthal, independent analyst and IT consultant, and Dave Kelly, founder and president of Upside Research. Our discussion is hosted and moderated by me, BriefingDirect's Dana Gardner. I also offer my 5 cents on the topic.

So here are the lists ... (Read a full transcript of the discussion.)

McKendrick's Top Five Recommendations

1) SOA remains viable: Service oriented architecture (SOA) is alive, well and thriving. SOA solutions promote reuse and developer productivity. SOA also provides a way to avoid major upgrades, or helps with additional major initiatives in enterprise systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP).

2) Virtualize all you can: Virtualization offers a method of application and infrastructure consolidation. You can take all those large server rooms -- and some companies have thousands of servers -- and consolidate into more centralized data centers. Virtualization paves the path to that.

3) Cloud computing: Cloud offers a way to tap into new sources of IT processing, applications, and IT data. Cloud allows IT to pay for such new capabilities incrementally, rather than having to make large capital investments.

4) Open source software: Look to open-source solutions. There are open-source solutions all the way up the IT stack, from the operating system to middleware to applications. Open source provides a way to, if not replace your more commercial proprietary systems, then at least to implement new initiatives and move to new initiatives that fly under the budget radar. You don't need budget approval to establish or begin new initiatives using OSS.

5) Enterprise 2.0: These tools and methods offer an incredible way to collaborate and to tap into the intellectual capital throughout your organization. Enterprise 2.0 offers a way to bring a lot of thinking and a lot of brainpower together to tackle problems.

Shimmin's Top Five Recommendations

1) User-generated IT: Give your users a really wide "pasture." There's an old saying that if you want to mend fewer fences, have a bigger field for your cattle. You can see that in IT with some experiments with BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) -- programs that folks like Citrix and Microsoft have been engaging in. IT no longer manages the device, just the virtual image that resides on servers and "visits" the client machine. Mobile devices are also ... extending desktops and laptops. You need to have some faith in your users to manage their own environments and to take care of their own equipment, something they're more likely to do when it's their own property, and not the company's.

2) Don't build large software, buy small software: SOA is well-entrenched within enterprise IT, or in clouds. You can buy either software as a service (SaaS) or on-premise software that is open enough that it connects with and works with other software packages. No longer do you need to build an entire monolithic application from the ground-up. An example is PayPal. This is a service, but there are on-premises renditions of this kind of idea that allow you to basically build up a monolithic application without having to build the whole thing yourself. Using pre-built packages, smaller packages that are point solutions like PayPal, which lets you take advantage of their economies of scale, and lets you tread upon the credibility that they've developed, something that's especially good for consumer-facing applications.

3) Build inside but host outside: You shouldn't be afraid to build your own software, but you should be looking to host that software elsewhere. Enterprises, enterprise IT vendors and independent software vendors (ISVs) ... are leaping toward putting their software platforms on top of third-party cloud providers like Amazon EC2. That is the biggest game-changer in everything we've been talking about here. There's a vendor ... and they've been moving toward shutting down the data centers and moving to Amazon's EC2 environment. They went from multi-multi thousand dollar bills every month to literally ... a couple of hundred bucks a month. It was a staggering savings they saw ... because the economies are scaled through that shared environment.

4) Kill your email: Email has seen its day, and it really needs to go away. For every gigabyte you store, I think it's almost $500 per user per year, which is a lot of money. If you're able to, cut that back by encouraging people to use alternatives to email, such as social networking tools. We're talking about IM, chat, project group-sharing spaces, using tools like Yammer inside the enterprise; SharePoint obviously, Clearspace and Google applications. That stuff cuts down on email. ... Look at software or services like Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). You can get Exchange Online now for something like $5 per user per month. That's pretty affordable. So, if you're going to use email, that's the way to go.

5) Turn off the printers: By employing software like wikis, blogs, and online collaboration tools from companies like Google and Zoho, you can get away from the notion of having to print everything. As we know, a typical organization kills 143 trees a year -- I think was the number I heard, which is a staggering amount of waste. There's a lot of cost to that.

5.5) Walk away from Microsoft Office: It's the big, fat cow that needs to be sacrificed. Paying $500-$800 a year per user for that stuff is quite a bit. The hardware cost is staggering as well, especially if you are upgrading everyone to Vista. If you leave everyone on Windows XP and adopt open-source solutions like OpenOffice and StarOffice, that will go a long, long way toward saving money. Why I'm down on printing is that the time has gone when we had to have really professional, beautiful-looking documents that required a tremendous amount of formatting. Everything needed to be perfect within Microsoft Word, for example. What now counts is the information. It's same for 4,000-odd features in Excel. I'm not sure if any of us here have ever even explored a tenth of those [features].

Morgenthal's Top Five Recommendations

1) Vendor management: Companies mismanage their vendor relationships. There is a lot of money in there, especially on the IT side -- for telecom, software, and hardware. Get control over your vendor relationships. Stop letting these vendors run around, convincing end-users throughout your business that they should move in a particular direction or use a particular product. Force them to go through a set of gatekeepers, and manage the access and the information they're bringing into the business. Make sure that [buying decisions] goes through an enterprise IT architecture group.

2) Outsourcing: With regard to outsourcing noncritical functions, I'll give you a great example where we combined an outsourced noncritical function with vendor management in a telecom company. Many companies have negotiated and managed their own Internet and telco communications facilities and capability. Today, there are so many more options for that. It's a very complex area to navigate, and you should either hire an expert consultant ... to help you negotiate. Or you should ... take on as much bandwidth as you need on average, and when you need excess bandwidth ... go to the cloud for that additional bandwidth.

3) Utilization analysis: Many organizations don't have a good grasp on how much of their CPU, network, and bandwidth is actually utilized. There's a lot of open capacity in that [poor] utilization, and it allows for compression. In compressing that utilization, you get back some overhead associated with that. That's a direct cost savings.

4) Data quality: I've been trying to tell corporations for years that this is coming. When things are good, they've been able to push off the poor data quality issue, because they can rectify the situation by throwing bodies at it. But now they can't afford those bodies anymore. So now they have bad data, and they don't have the bodies to fix up the data on the front end. ... Invest the money, set it aside, get the data quality up and operate more effectively without requiring extra labor on the front end to clean up the data.

5) Desktop alternatives: It's a great time to explore desktop alternatives, because Windows and the desktop has been a de-facto standard. It's a great way to go -- when things are good. When you're trying to cut another half million, million, or two million dollars out of your budget, all those licenses, all that desktop support, start to add up. They're small nickels and dimes that add up. By looking at desktop alternatives, you may be able to find some solutions. A significant part of your workforce doesn't need all that capability and power [on the desktop]. You can then look for different solutions, like light-weight Linux or Ubuntu-type environments that provide just Web browsing and email, and maybe OpenOffice for some light-weight word processing. For a portion of your user base, it's all they need.

Kelly's Top Five Recommendations

1) Optimize, optimize, optimize: All organizations, both on the business side and the IT side, are going to be doing more with less. ... That makes a great opportunity to step back and look at specific systems and business processes. At the high level, go through business process management (BPM)-type optimization and look at the business processes. Also look at things like data center optimization ... save money and defer capital investment. Increase utilization of storage systems. ... You have all this redundant data out there. There are products from Symantec and other vendors that allow you to "de-duplicate" email systems and existing data. There are ways to reduce your backup footprint. Do single-instance archiving and data compression. ... Just look at existing processes and say, "How can I do individual components more efficiently." Look at specific automated tasks and see how you can do more with less in those tasks.

2) Don't forget the people: The most effective way to have an efficient IT organization is to have effective people in that IT organization. As an IT manager, one thing you need to do is make sure that your people are empowered to feel good about where they're at. They should not hunker down and go into a siege mentality during these difficult times, even if the budgets are getting cut and there's less opportunity for new systems or technology. They need to redirect that stress to discover how the IT organization can benefit the business. You want to help motivate people through the crisis and work on a roadmap for better days ... . Provide a positive direction to use their energy and resources.

3) Re-evaluate commercial software use: You may have investments in Oracle, IBM, or other platforms, and there may be opportunities to use "free" products that are bundled in those platforms that you may not be using. Oracle, for example, bundles Application Express, a rapid application development (RAD) tool, as part of the database. I know of organizations that are using it to develop new applications. Instead of hiring consultants or staffing up, they're using existing people to use this free RAD tool to develop departmental applications or enterprise applications.

4) Go green: Now is a great time to look at energy sustainability programs and try to analyze them in the context of your IT organization. Going green not only helps the environment, but it has a big impact, as you're looking at power usage in your data center with cooling and air conditioning cost. You can save money right there in the IT budget and other budgets by going to virtualization and consolidating servers. Cutting any of those costs can also prevent future investment capital expenditures, too. Look at how you're utilizing the different resources and how you can potentially cut your server and energy costs.

5) Go to lunch: It's good to escape stressful environments ... IT can take the business stakeholders out to lunch, and take a step back and reevaluate priorities. Clear the decks and re-align priorities to the new economic landscape. This may be a time to re-evaluate the priorities of IT projects, re-examine those projects, and determine which ones are most critical. You may be able to prioritize projects anew, slow some down, delay deployments or reduce service levels. The end effect here allows you to focus on the most business-critical operations, applications and services.

Gardner's Top Five Recommendations

1) Harsh triage: Go in and kill the waste by selectively dumping the old that doesn't work. IT needs to identify the applications that aren't in vigorous use, or aren't adding value. They should either kill them outright or modernize them. Extract the business logic and use it in a process, but no longer at the cost of supporting the entire stack or server below each application. IT needs to identify the energy hogs and the maintenance black holes. Outdated hardware robs from the future in order to pay for a diminishing return on the past. Look for the low-lying fruit and the obvious wasteful expenditures and practices. Reduce the number of development environments. Look at something like Eclipse, Microsoft, or OSGi and work toward more standardization around a handful of major development environments. Replace costly IT with outside services and alternatives for your email, calendar, word processing, and baseline productivity applications. Put an emphasis on self-help. Empower the users. That means more use of SaaS and on-demand applications. It's really about acting like a startup. You want to have low capital expenditures. You want to have low recurring costs. You want to be flexible.

2) Build a cloud computing skunkworks: Create a parallel IT function that leverages cloud attributes. Focus on the value of virtualization. That means looking to standardized hardware on-premises, and using grid, cloud, and modernized and consolidated data center utility best practices. More use of appliances, too, and looking at open-source software anew makes sense. This is another way of saying do SOA using cloud and compute fabric alternatives. Also look at outside offerings for where other people have created cloud environments that are very efficient for baseline functions that don't differentiate,and for new greenfield applications.

3) Reduce client costs: It's time to simplify and mobilize the client tier. You can use mobile devices, netbooks, and smart phones to do more activities, to connect to back-end data and application sets and Web applications. It's time to stop spending money on the fat client. Spend it more on the lean server, and get a higher return on that investment. That includes the use of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) types of activities. It means exploring Linux as an operating environment on the desktop, where that makes sense. Look at what the end users are actually doing with these clients. Find workers that can exist using only browsers, and give them either low-cost hardware or deliver that browser as a virtualized application through VDI on a thin client. Centralize more IT support, security, and governance at the data center. Reduce the number of data centers. Use acceleration, remote branch technologies, and virtual private networks (VPNs) to deliver web applications and VDI clients across wide area networks. Act like a modern startup ... build the company based on what your needs are now, not on what IT was doing 15 years ago.

4) BI everywhere: Mine the value of all the data you can. This includes business intelligence (BI) internal to IT, such as server and network equipment log files. Know what the world is doing around you, and what your supply chain is up to, too. It's time to join more types of data into your BI activities, not just your internal relational data. You might be able to actually rent data from a supplier, a partner or a third-party. Bring that third-party data in, do a join, do your analysis, and then walk away. Then, maybe do it again in six months. It's time to think about BI as leveraging IT to gain the analysis and insights, but looking in all directions -- internal, external, and within IT. Also use BI across extended enterprise processes. It's also good to start considering tapping social networks for their data, user graph data, and consumer preferences metadata, and using that as well for analysis as well. There are more and more people putting more and more information about themselves, their activities, and their preferences into these social networks.

5) Elevate IT to the board level: The IT executive should be at the highest level of the business decisions in terms of direction, strategy and execution. The best way for IT to help companies is to know what those companies are facing strategically as soon as they're facing it, and to bring IT-based solutions knowledge to the rest of the board ASAP. IT can be used much more strategically at the board level. That way IT can be used for transformation and problem-solving at the innovation and business-strategy levels, not as an afterthought, not just as a means to an end -- but actually factoring what the end can be and what can be accomplished. That is, again, acting more like a startup. If you talk to any startup company, they see IT as an important aspect of how they are going to create original new value, of how to get to market cheaply, and how to behave as an agile entity on an ongoing and continuous basis.

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Webinar: Modernization pulls new value from legacy and client-server enterprise applications

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Welcome to a special BriefingsDirect presentation, a podcast created from a recent Nexaweb Technologies Webinar on application modernization. Learn how enterprises are gaining economic and productivity advantages from modernizing legacy and older client-server applications.

The logic, data, and integration patterns' value within these older applications can be effectively extracted and repurposed using a variety of tools and methods. That means the IT and business value from these assets can be reestablished as Web applications on highly efficient platforms, and out to mobile devices, too.

Examine here how a number of companies have attained new value from legacy and client-server applications, while making those assets more easily deployed as rich, agile Web applications and services. Those services can then also be better extended across modern and flexible business processes, as part of service oriented architectures (SOAs).

In the podcast, hear from Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions; David McFarlane, COO at Nexaweb, and Adam Markey, solution architect at Nexaweb.

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of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Learn more. Sponsor: Nexaweb Technologies.