What is Authentic Change?

   (and What’s happening at EMC World…)

Global business is in a mega shift as their business lines envelope the global, mobile consumer with data rich offerings; as their operations eagerly vet out cloud as a platform for agility while hoping it delivers a better cost model for IT. We’re in a waiting game of sorts as companies test this out.

SAP, as the current reigning champion of global business apps, is in the middle of this conversation in a large number of the companies who are working to evolve.

We believe the end game for now is to convert IT from its old data center centric roots into a broker of IT services, with the CIO at the helm. Even today large companies often have an “Energy Broker” function where they bid out their energy requirements for the company. Similarly IT will be provide the best value/risk ratio to the business by implementing a brokerage model for IT.

Imagine: A “Line of Business” resource wants to kick off an SAP HANA project with a partner. They go into the services catalog, select an SAP HANA development environment, determine what they’re willing to pay, what risk they’re willing to take, what level of performance, and what geo they want the development environment. Moments later, they have their environment. The brilliance is not only that they could do that, but also that IT would have orchestrated these options with potentially several different provider companies or with their own IT staff. This allows companies to define profile-based services and keep the offerings competitive. It makes it a buyer’s market and that makes IT a hero to the business. Here’s a little video I had my team put together to highlight this concept. Worth a quick view.


So if you buy my idea of a service broker model for IT, let me provide you a handful of recommended next steps you can take to jump right into your own journey to “HERO”:

1) VIRTUALIZE – You have to virtualize. 100% Virtualized environments provide the kick off to a Software Defined IT environment and your services broker model. If you take a Ford F-250 an inch off the ground, there’s a good chance you could move it, if any part of it is touching the ground, there’s an equal chance you won’t be able to. You have to get your apps, data, platform, VMs, all off the ground. You have to virtualize. Here’s a story from Columbia Sportswear about their Virtualization of SAP a few years back and the pay-offs it provided.

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2) COLLABORATE – Don’t go at it alone and don’t get your knowledge from one book. There are many in similar kayaks in the river with you. Chat it up with your social network. (Get a social network…) Running the rapids is more fun if you know where the rocks are.

At EMC we saw the need to bring our customers, partners, SAP and our experts together to evolve the dialog one whiteboard at a time. For years we have been holding “SAP Weeks” across the globe. They are so popular, we often meet fire code limits in our facilities. Here’s a link to @EMCSAP Travel guide if you’d like to engage with in an upcoming event.

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3) TRUST EXPERTS – At this time of great change do some due diligence on who’s “Talking” about change and who’s actually “Walking” through change. Find those who are the next great leaders based on where they spend their money and where they leave their sweat. EMC as a major IT company deserves a modicum of respect and interest for their place in this change. However, not everyone knows that 3 years ago this company of 50,000 or so people completely pulled out of Oracle eBiz and replaced their global business app with SAP. Impressed? What if I said they did that and implemented ITaaS at the same time? Really Impressed? Ok, well what if I said they also Virtualized the entire footprint while they rolled it out and implemented a broker model for application connectivity? Super impressive I believe. The IT org has been on a wild ride of advancement and optimization ever since.

They recently have been one of the first companies making major investments in “Virtualized HANA” aka running SAP HANA on VMware. They will be presenting much of this at next week’s EMC World (Las Vegas May 5-8). If you can’t make it here’s some information about their efforts (Blog & Whitepaper below)



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4) COME TO EMC WORLD – Next week at the Venetian in Las Vegas is going to be a blow out show. Cloud and Big Data will be center stage all week and SAP will be an important point of conversation.  SAP is a Platinum Sponsor this year at EMC World. There will be Global SI and SP partners, customers from all over the world. Keep your ears out for announcements, as there may just be something that peaks your interest.

Here are just a few of the things Attendees will see:

  • Keep your ear tuned to Joe Tucci’s, Chairman keynote.
  • Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware’s Keynote will talk about their solutions related to SAP.
  • Follow the action on #EMCWorld and @EMCSAP
  • Whiteboards and technical presentations at the SAP kiosk in the EMC Solutions Pavilion
  • SAP LVM in the Hands on Lab
  • Meet the SAP Mentors & EMC Elect at EMC World
  • Live demos in the “Build-A-Cloud LIVE!” area in the Solutions Pavilion that includes automated SAP Provisioning
  • Get Social around SAP Topics  Tuesday 4:30 PST https://www.crowdchat.net/emcworld 

SAP related Breakout sessions:

  • REDEFINE IT for SAP Cloud and Big Data
  • Virtualized HANA demo in the SAP kiosk in the Solution Pavilio
  • EMC and virtualized HANA presentation @Mini Theatre at Vmware booth on Tuesday
  • VMAX & SAP HANA: Tailored Datacenter Integration with the VMAX Family
  • EMC IT Business Transformation: Running SAP & SAP HANA on vSphere
  • VPLEX: Continuous Availability for All Business Critical Applications  like SAP
  • Application & Database Migrations with Zero Downtime Using EMC VNXTransforming Your SAP Landscape Using VNX & Isilon


Let’s continue the conversation!

@Asitison – Send me a Tweet for a meet up at EMC World, Sapphire, or just to continue the dialog over social.


Software Defined Enterprise: Bridging to the Cloud

Welcome 2014! I hope it is a glorious year in which we all realize our healthy doses of the tremendous change that has been bearing down on us for the last couple of years. What change? You know the line up:  cloud, big data, real-time computing, mobile, etc.  For 2014,with the change, we will also continue to see a fair dose of hype. The hype will go on and possibly increase in volume as vendor providers aggressively click their hockey sticks at the puck of progress.  For this blog, I’d like to get into one topic I feel is getting over-played at the moment; public clouds.

No haters please!  I am not saying public clouds in total are hype, but there is an expansiveness that reads to me as overly eager. Public clouds are a handful of years in the making and there are some great successes to point out “Salesforce”, “iCloud”, “Ariba” are just a few examples of successful business models that have proven the validity of public clouds. These examples have additionally demonstrated adequate stability for businesses in order for companies to consider leveraging this innovation. These are rudimentary steps toward an inevitable shift towards what I call the utilization of IT. Public clouds will continue to increase in importance. The ultimate spoiler was Nicholas Carr when he called out this trend years ago in his book “The Big Switch”.  I also agree this is not a question of “if” but “when” and in what manner. With all this said, I think we’re going too fast. I am seeing an over-rotation to what looks like a “2-minute drill” to drive public clouds into all aspects of IT for mid market and multi-national organizations, ASAP! However, I believe we’re still building the necessary groundwork to make this feasible and I worry about the risks.

One doesn’t have to watch the news for more than a couple of weeks to see a significant cloud outage, or massive breaches in corporate security. As a global industry that is building new cloud disciplines, we are less than a decade into a massive inter-connected world where everyone leaves their digital signature throughout their endless online activities.  Corporations open themselves up to constant attack from malicious opportunists in order to try to keep up with the growing opportunity within this global online economy. This alone is a MASSIVE step forward and we haven’t gotten it right yet. Like a fine wine, our processes and technology have to evolve/mature. We’ve become a society where the gas pedal must stay flat to the floor (and I’m the worst…), but we have trillions of dollars at stake in this evolution. If we have learned from our history (e.g. DotCom, Year 2000 bug) we will remember as IT escalates and speeds beyond our ability to consume the change, we find ourselves sub-optimized and less wealthy from our over-steps.  Ultimately in these scenarios we find ourselves led to a correction of some sort and back to the whiteboard for remediation work. It’s a significant hit to productivity and unnecessary.

Evolution, it takes time…

If we all agree it would be great to avoid another unproductive, over-zealous dive into the future, let me offer a governing function for your consideration. What I see trending in businesses is a smaller, more prudent step that creates less risk, but still delivers profound change that optimizes operations and builds a foundation for better decision-making.

I call it the Option E business model where the “E” stands for everything.  If given a clean choice, I believe corporations will not choose: “Public Clouds”, “Private Clouds”, “Appliances”, “Traditional Data Centers”, but option E… all of the above. Companies will choose to leverage all types of market offerings in order to address their specific needs and strike a balance between value and risk to match their profile. This approach can be aligned with the concept of the “Software Defined Enterprise” (SDE). SDE is the transformational change where functionality is abstracted away from its hardware limits through virtualization. We’ve all tested the waters of virtualization and reaped the benefits. However once you are 100% virtualized and you move into this realm of SDE, it’s like crossing over into OZ. Now things that were manual and slow, can become automated and agile. No longer do you have to wait on a FedEx truck to stand up a replacement server. You can provision automated/on the fly, and disaster recovery becomes a button click. This is all possible because now it is virtual: a software-based world.

What’s important here is SDE is integral in the delivery of all clouds, so you will be leveraging SDE regardless of your plan. The question is will you get the most from it? Are you reworking your processes to exploit it? Have you squeezed out the buffers and slack time that are prevalent in traditional IT processes? That “protective layer of fat” was there to reduce risk, but now it is not needed. Ultimately these efficiencies equate to real dollars and speed to the business.

Ok, so why not just jump to public cloud and wash your hands of it all? Aren’t public clouds the future? Maybe, but there are some good reasons to gauge your plans. I already mentioned there are more risks associated with public clouds than your traditional IT operations. I want to add a few other reasons to consider. A big reason you should pace yourself is cost. Today you are evaluating the “cost” and “speed” of public clouds against your traditional operations. This is an unfair fight. You have potentially $10-$50-$100 million or more of optimization opportunity within your business that can be easily attained.  One of the best examples of this is EMC’s transformation to SAP and ITaaS. The project was called Propel (http://bit.ly/LBARIA), please give it a read.cropped-crayons2.jpg

There are many examples of companies insourcing workloads that previously sat on public clouds, and as a result saved millions in operational costs. Publicly offered clouds are first and foremost convenient, although they rarely stack up against a hybrid SDE model on protection, cost and flexibility.

Finally, some of the public cloud offerings today are a bit like Hotel California: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave….” Today, It can be difficult to divest from a public cloud decision. Companies who have spent little to no time building disciplines and processes around SDE ( service brokering, automation, classification, portability, migration, security, etc) are taking undue risks with their customers’ data and with their corporate viability itself.  We must remember that, although as a global commercial/industrial complex, we are working to reduce the cost and complexity of Information Technology, we have never been more DEPENDENT UPON IT!

In summary, its time to evolve, plan your steps wisely. Look to convert IT from an operations function, to a broker of services leveraging all that is available to you to meet and exceed your constituents’ expectations.  This means developing news skills and new processes. Also it is important, to keep your C’s & V’s from signing quick checks that rob the company of opportunity and take away the CIO’s ability to effect positive change. Build a story about your approach to evolving the business. Taking control of that corporate perspective of clouds is your prime objective. It’s not really about clouds, it’s about providing a service. Don’t let your company give away your competitive advantage in an effort to evolve.  Good luck, and ping me if you want to brainstorm about your company’s plans.

I’d Rather have a Jeep and a Tent than an RV

If you are like me (hopefully you’re not), you just shoved a 5-state travel-a-palooza into three days of your short holiday. If you did, you might have seen me driving my breadbox on four wheels.  When I say breadbox, I mean my square; right angled 4-door Jeep Wrangler with manual 6-speed and limited slip differential.  I expect your response to this new insight is… “Why is this successful IT leader hauling around like a college wannabe in a Jeep and not in some token of European engineered refinement?” I offer in response, because my mountain bike and kayak fit great on it whether the top is up or down…  When I said “breadbox”, you might have thought I was talking about the other breadbox on the road, the recreational vehicle or “RV” as we’ve come to call this elephant of the road.  I saw a few while driving, but I wasn’t that poor soul.


Thinking about these two ambulatory machines does however provide me with a great metaphor for the change we see in the IT industry. Let me explain further… On the East coast USA, we tend all plan, for our families, the proverbial trip through the Western United States (aka #TripOutWest). When one plans such a trip, you end up considering taking an RV along for the ride. I have considered this trip myself. Each time I have I always end up back in the same position; I would rather have a Jeep and a tent, than an RV.

First off RV’s are super expensive and don’t hold their value.  They not only cost a lot, they cost even more to run them.  They are bulky and lumbering to drive. Then when its time to park, you pull into a questionable camp ground, where you and a hundred guys named “Bubba” park diagonally 10 feet apart, all loosely connected to an aromatic septic system, which you had to hook up, right after you balanced the RV with stands. For this pleasure you spend $59.99 a night. We’re not done. Because your transportation became your immobile home, you have additionally been hauling a trailer with a golf cart on the back, or…. Yep you guessed it… a Jeep.

Alternately, you can optimize your story. A Jeep is cheaper, more agile, and flatly more fun than an RV. I can get there faster, drive further, and climb trails if I like. From within the ample trunk space, I can grab the tent, walk a couple miles into the woods and experience real camping; finding the wilderness I so long to commune with (not Bubba’s cigar smoke).  Additionally, there are many adequate Motor Lodges where I can rent a room for $59.99 a night providing me better comforts of home than my RV’s shower/toilet combo.  Better yet, since I am sleeping under the stars for some of the trip, I can spend even more on my rooms.  Bottom-line I have a cheaper, more profound experience, and I am not burdened by excessive weight and complexity.

This brings me to IT and the changes we are experiencing as we evolve to what IDC has coined the “Third Platform”. Social is big, the global-mobile user has become the new user. We have the consumerization of the application as platforms burst into a seeming-less infinite number of business services functionality. Cloud computing collapses traditional data center strategies; and big data provides new opportunities for revenue and customer service for those who can master it. If the third platform is your “Trip out West”, how do you choose your tools?  Do you want an RV?  All in one does everything and yet nothing well approach?  Probably not.

The economics for re-platforming are now available. Companies are looking at redefining their landscape to best stage for opportunity. Through this process, workloads like OLTP and OLAP aren’t going away they are just becoming less value-able and less optimal to be the top of the food chain any longer; if compared to new business services like “real-time remote decision support” as an example.  However, new and faster doesn’t mean you can now apply a one-size-fits-all approach.  Every company has to reassess the workloads of the future and build out IT to support that. Or within the metaphor, build IT like a “Jeep and a tent”. The jeep is your core IT competencies, the hotel is your off-prem compute when you need it, the tent is your efficient provisioning and orchestration that increases your ability to respond and exploit opportunities that present themselves.

I can continue to apply the metaphor to the software industry. I think software vendors have to additionally re-think the concept of “platform”. I question the staying power and momentum of the traditional platform play as an effort to stem the tides of change that rage against this model. Platform providers need to free themselves from the concept of being a stand-alone platform and become collection of compute engines and value based processes that are part of an interconnected network of compute and connectivity where data and activities flow across. Otherwise the “platform” will be just another node on an endless network of nodes becoming irrelevant. Everyone else, who is competing on this floating field of play, will have decoupled from the burden of “platform” and become 100% focused on creating inter-operable, purpose-built computing at lightening speeds.

IMG_0761Though an iconic platform of the past, the Jeep still envelopes the principles of what we want in the future: agility, toughness, stability, and performance at a fair value. My recommendation…buy a Jeep, lift kit is optional.

On my way to Sapphire

I am sitting in the Airport heading off to a week of Sapphire. That means 17-20 hour days, endless meetings, new friends and catchups with many old friends.

What will we hear at Sapphire?

– I predict we’ll see more formalizaton of options for HANA. Customers will be able to buy hana from a wider array of partners with more options than the inital appliances that exist on the PAM today.

– I predict a heavy dose of cloud and virtualization for non-HANA components of the SAP landscape. currently our demand in this area is through the roof.

– I suspect this is the year that smaller vendors start showing up with hana specific applications and toolsets they have built. This will be interesting to see the innovation within a growing ecosystem

– I know I will have several meetings that tighten the grip on our partner Go To Markets. Similar to SAP’s partner grow plans, EMC has massively expanded its partner model over the last 3-4 years. Last week this matured into a merger of our Velocity Partner and Channel programs into a consolidated upgrade: EMC Business Partner program. This allows our customers more flexible options to get to the cloud in any form they wish and/or stage hosting in almost any location(s) on the planet for SAP Landscapes.

– Interesting thing is SAP is having a special event on Human Face of Big Data project and Book written by Rick Smolan. SAP repected the work Rick did in capturing how Big Data is changing the world. The interesting part is EMC is the primary sponsor of HFBD and its great to have a partner like SAP recognnize the work in this way (check out my previous blog on this for more data). I hear there’s a more creative work coming on this topic too.

-Ok plane is leaving, i’ll be writing more later!

If you are at the show find me at twitter: asitison

Brian Gallagher talks in The Real World about cloud storage

Typed in the field —- Excuse the typos

During Brian Gallagher’s ESD keynote, he took the audience through the changes to the VMAX product line.

Here’s some highlights frm his presentation

– 17 VMAX breakout sessions At EMC World

-VMAX Cloud Edition. During the discussion ran a video on the transformation of Navitare, Accenture spin off for airline industry.

-Vmax cloud , provision faster, 34% lower tco, and provide ITaaS with more consistency than AWS.

-VMAX Clud provides automation, strong use metrics as is sized simply through capacity and or performance needs

– Vmax runs 3x faster other compeition. vmax can optimise data placement in an exclusive way,
across data centers (up to 4).

-2.5 x faster than HP 3par and with replication it doubles its time to respond. Aka “Wicked Bad”

– Brian also talked about Vplex. Which had an interesting data factoid.

-It runs in 52% of the top 200 companies

– VRPA. EMC has virtualized recover point appliance allowing for more flexibilty and better cost for a portion of their clients. Brian said this is a sign of things to come

-CMA had a video. Talked about using Oracle RAC on VMAX as the best of breed platofrm for their busieness. Performance, scale, and reliabilty was quoted as the features that were most important. CMA can add many terabytes of data in a sngle day

– Future of Cloud storage, FAST today puts right data in right place at right time since its release in 2009 it has been impactful on optimzing capx optx for EMC customers. This week we”‘re extending to XtremeXF as an expansion of the storage it supports. In future.. It will be fully automated storage technology. Tubr fast policies n their side and optimize data horizontally across the storage arrays. Imagine storage tiering and data migration in one place, and extend to the backup device and hey the cloud…

– Brian also introduced (tongue & cheek) the VFrig which was a VMAX with a refrigerator in it. They are raffling off to one lucky receiptient.

– Today people are moving storage to compute, how about comiute to storage?? Low latecny systems, DB ops, analytics, should be running in the storage device. Using VMWare, Brian showed a demo of R&D work showing vmax with vplex running inside,

– Announces the release id Project Bourne and Software Defined Storage

-interesting, showed all the product placement of VMAX in the movies, fun little video. Called out and remediated problematic Dell servers

Ok that’s it have to run to the next meeting

ViPR “Magic Venom” for Virtualized Storage

At EMC World, one expects to hear a series of announcements that impact the way IT is stored, mined, migrated, managed and protected. This year will be no different, there are several “new economy” architectures and models that we’ll all get to know a little better this week. One such announcement is “ViPR” Software Designed Storage.

Ok let’s stop for a second and appreciate after years of V-names from EMC, they have finally dialed in a name as Chill as ViPR…what what! I’m loving that augmentation alone.

So many of us have been waiting for EMC to properly enter into the SDS market and push an OpenStack integration through their mfg plant doors. I believe ViPR will be adequately received by the market and will have a health adoption curve. Some will say it’s a little late to market, but I believe when the critics get an understanding of the functionality included in ViPR’s first release, they will be impressed in what will be the market’s most aggressive entrant to date. Additionally, you have to think about just how much VMware activity is going on in the EMC install base, there is a huge demand for this type of management/facilitation product.

IDC in their recent “Digital Universe Study”, Dec 2012 talked about the paradox that data management product costs continue to notable drop, but the total investment continues to go precipitously up. They go on to state that from 2012 to 2020 servers will grow by 10x, data will grow by 14x, but IT professionals will grow by less than 1.5x. Optimizing Virtualization, Cloud, ITaaS are mandates to frankly…survive.

I want you to go by the booth or get on the web to get the complete juice on ViPR, but let me give you a few key data points. First ViPR leverages the intelligence of the underlying arrays, it doesn’t create a “not invented here” dynamic, but builds upon your current investments. The control path and data path are decoupled so you have more flexibility to architect and not impact performance. One nice feature is the data services strength with built-in ability to write once and then run the data everywhere. Its also a cloud app, has support for heterogeneous storage devices, and built in API to allow growth and tailoring.

ViPR Controller sits on storage arrays and connects to ViPR Data Services across File Block, Object and products like Hadoop(HDFS) Atmos, VMAX ,VNX, Netapp “file” day one; plus devices and commodity hardware slated for future releases. The Controller provides capabilities for automation, self-servce, metering and provisioning. Also a number of 3rd party providers have stepped forward to integrate.

In summary, ViPR abstracts the management of the storage from the hardware. It dramatically reduces management costs in an increasingly complex environment, provides faster time to value, extends and protects existing investments and ultimately delivers more choice on how and where to store data. This is a monster step in the right direction. I think one bite from ViPR and you’ll be a fan.

SAP Week, “#PureMagic” in Silicon Valley

(…and a little bit about EMC’s April Events)IMG_3087

Unlike the rest of the snow-covered country, last week was mild in Silicon Valley. The cherry blossoms were blooming and the afternoon air’s mild nip seemed like a minor hindrance compared to the east coast winter I left. I will say it was the perfect setting for a getaway of sorts. A gathering of common minds around one big topic: SAP.

Last week around 150 people gathered at EMC’s Executive Briefing Center (EBC) for a full week of SAP Topics. EMC has long held solution-oriented workshops and executive briefings, but what we call “SAP Week” stands in a special category.  A handful of years back, primarily because of the convergence of SAP experts in and around the Silicon Valley corridor, we started taking over the normally refined and sophisticated EBC facility with a bunch of surly types who came in all flavors of SAP. The EBC was happy to do it, matter of fact they were, in part, the instigators. I remember the first year’s hot topic was showing the lab and demos of SAP running virtualized on VMware. Now there are thousands of customers who have taken that plunge. I am comfortable in saying that, that original SAP week was a key player in the early days of virtualizing SAP. Each year, new milestones have come along and the customers come from new locations around the globe. This year we had an international audience from Latin America, EMEA and APJ, along with the continental US and Canada.


The event has grown in popularity and what were a few EMC and VMware resources running around between customer whiteboard chats has grown into something quite more significant. Here are some stats: over 30 unique customers hosted, with over 10 partners ranging from product vendors to system integrators and service providers. SAP supported the event providing experts across categories and some reps came in with their customers. The place was filled with household names, customer and partner alike. All in all, the event ran for 4 days averaging about 30-40 people in the mix each day.

Of course you can go to SAPPHIRE and see the same list of companies, go by the booths and attend the 15 min conference meet-ups, but what is magical about this is that the pressure is off.  SAP Week, We tell the customer, “Here’s a room for the day, want to talk to EMC or SAP? Want to have Cisco join in?  How about Deloitte?”  The customer can blend their experience by picking and choosing experts in combinations. It reminds me of summer camp. By end of the week, you’re not the kid from Jersey and I’m not the kid from North Carolina, we’re all “Cabin No. 23”.

IMG_3034The stories, hors d’oeuvres, and a few shared glasses of wine at dinner…everyone becomes part of the shared experience that’s just a little bigger than the piece parts.  Here are some of the things we learned this time around:

1) We focused on the trends, problems and solutions, not products. You can get feature/function from a website but times like these it’s about reality. What have you experienced?  Where was your biggest problem during the rollout? Hey I’ve always wondered about…. Etc. It’s about the stuff you can’t read about.

2) Our speaker recommendations are: “dialog, don’t present”. Half of the experts who ran sessions didn’t use presentations. Some white boarded, some just talked about their business and their experiences. Ever see a person with 10-20 yrs experience present a standard deck? Boring! Instead tell me about your business, what you care about, what you are hearing about in the SAP info-sphere. This makes it uniquely interesting.


3) Cloud story is not changing but the demographics are.  x86 is continuing to knock down the “big iron” blockades to change. I used to consider it a win if a customer converted to x86/VMware based Vblock solution over several months of due diligence. Last week I saw 3 different customers mentally flip to a converged strategy in the course of a couple of meetings.  Why, the freaking results are outstanding! It’s hard to deny the real-life “wins” customers have had with the platform.

Additionally almost every conversation had a level of off-prem, on-prem, public cloud, or private cloud component. In reality, every customer is looking at having a little bit of every strategy. Whether it is hosting a Test/Dev environment on Secure24 (a SAP cloud provider who attended) or considering Ariba for procurement, it was like blood in the veins, it’s inherent in every conversation.

That leads to one of the newest and most active discussions, which was systems management tools for the cloud. I heard every flavor, vCloud Suite, UIM, LVM, Citirix. Not to cop out on trending, but I seemed to hear a different plan with every customer. There’s a tendency to buy cloud products that complement existing systems management expenditures. On a related topic, many customers who now change out from UNIX to x86 now have to reconsider HA clustering, some DR changes, these items are all the reality of “going to the cloud”. It’s messy when you make clouds…


4) HANA is happening. It’s not like it was the only topic at the event. It wasn’t, I wouldn’t even say it was the hottest topic at the event, but HANA is alive in the seeds of planning within our customer base. First let me say, the customers in attendance spanned from big industrials, to retail, to mid market players. So many of them aren’t traditionally early adopters. They don’t “go” the first 2 years on the average innovation wave. It’s usually what I would call a pragmatic group, squarely in the mass-adoption segment of the bell-curve. With that said, I can easily say HANA was in almost all customer’s planning efforts, some with sandboxes, some who were rolling out initial use cases, some who want to buy it as a service through a multi-tenancy offering. Many said why couldn’t I run this on my existing standards?   Unlike what we see in the initial phase of HANA go-to-market, I predict adoption will be like wildflowers in the field and not like a formal Italian garden. It will propagate and multiply in all sorts of variations and placements. Customers want to have a say in their architecture decisions, their leverage of cloud, and when to leverage appliances. The old and new generation of the SAP landscape will not be as black and white as the chalkboard it is drawn on. That…is ok! EMC has a long-standing belief that innovation happens in the field. Customers are an equal player in this IT experience. Bottom-line, I think these types of conversations tell me HANA adoption is advancing.  When you start to enable the pragmatic, you go beyond the hype phase and head into a more productive period.


5) One of my favorite conversations is with other partners about how we can take our value and their value, invest together and create improved offerings for our customers. I was fortunate enough to host several of our partners for business discussions aroun 2013 planning. I walked away with several opportunities, that if I could only hire another 100 people, we’d be able to complete them all by Q3.  Last year my team focused on about 11 partners developing joint assets and developing the building blocks that make our customer’s experience that much more valuable.  During our user group session over lunch, we had a partner speak about a customer for whom they were able to reduce their project deployment timeline significantly, thus reducing their time to value. The customer’s CIO had quoted that the project was flawless, almost boring even though it had challenging goals. This was in part attributed to the pre-work done to help the partner have the appropriate assets and training on that technology so they could out perform expectation. I have a new saying “Speed is a perception, founded on preparation”. I ask my team to develop solutions to reduce complexity, risk, and time to value, and improve value of the overall solution. I used to “pitch” for a living, but I find it more impactful to engage in the problem-solving process. If I’m helpful, build trust over time and offer great products, you’ll find they sell themselves. We’re trying to spend more of our time in these productive efforts.

So you missed the cherry blossoms and the Santana Row Sushi? That’s ok, there are more events coming.

In early April we will be running a series of SAP events across APJ where we’ll offer similar amenities.

And… the week of April 23 we are hosting a global event;  both our Boston, Ma and our Cork Ireland EBCs will be hosting a simultaneous  “Across the Pond” SAP Week.

So you like Sushi, Lobster or Guinness?  Great, pick your spot!  For more information hit my Twitter account @ASitison

SAPPHIRE NOW Madrid: and the Hat-trick of Business Transformation

Last week I spent an inspiring and almost sleepless week in Madrid for Sapphire NOW. The labor strike did not mute our collective efforts to align and plot our joint work within the SAP EMEA Marketplace. As expected, everyone was there. Monday Afternoon before show startsThere were over 10,000 in attendance and many more connecting in via the web. From the “world of SAP” perspective, the concrete is still drying on the major changes that have been announced during the last few SAP events, so as expected, this was not a year of shocking new announcements, but more the foundational establishment of these ideas as they begin to be realized. I went to the show to understand if Americas and EMEA have different optics on SAP’s direction and if either showed a glimmer of a leadership position on advancing the “next gen” of SAP. (more on this later…) bueno no?

 To accomplish this task, I had to talk with many customers, friends and SAP smart-guys alike. It started with a customer dinner sponsored by EMC, VMW, Cisco & Intel at the Casino de Madrid. Monday night 40 or more of us gathered in this grand hall for an friendly start of the week. An opening of sorts on the ideas we would continue to discuss throughout the coming days. What a brilliant location to do this. (Happy Birthday @Sylvie75015 & Parmeet!) 

To move forward in this one way discussion, let me first state my position on what is changing business today. I have heard no better summarization nor have I found any outliers to my assessment of where the business dollar is spent today to transform. I like my version, which I’ll share with you now. So… consider yourself lucky to get this brilliance straight from the Donkey’s mouth. 😉  Today there are 3 things that are driving spend. A hat-trick of trends that are not only singularly important, but together they make an inertial jolt that cracks the patina off everything status quo.

Primary Business Dollar Spend Today:

–          Application Modernization (I include cloud/virtualization here)

–          Business Analytics

–          Global Mobile User

These three trends are driving the majority of focus and together they literally change the industrialized world from back office to storefront.  If you’re hardware and processes can float in a cloud, while your self-service global user uses “choose your own” mobile devices to interact with your business which is smarter about core competencies because of the better use of the data you own, you can see how optimization in cost, revenue, share of wallet, distribution, commerce, inventory, etc… all change.  Who’s the looser in this new world order?  Those who use 1990’s binoculars to view 2020 business models and those who frankly aren’t creative or open enough to engage their customer and eco-system in a transformative process.  Ok we are susceptible to DotCom-itis here. However, we’re not talking about ill-thought shallow commerce tools (I hope…). If you don’t see the opportunity for business model change, you may find yourself working for the person who did.

So to me, the strategy is to build the disciplines and open up the frontal lobe a bit.  Just as we have had massive specialization over the last few decades. I believe we will continue to see companies become more inter-dependant; “nodes” on an inter-linked mesh of business process and market options. We can’t make products and then sell them. We will need to be more collaborative across the process from idea to inventory to satisfaction and support. We reduce blockages between the expert and the consumer, our job is to hook our competence to the plumbing of “demand”. This requires much higher levels of trust, confidence and interactions between the platform creators, market innovators and the change agents that make it happen.

I bring all this up because I believe the SAP eco-system is the best staged in the industry to begin this journey.  First SAP has the three jeweled crown to make the most of the Hat-trick.  This includes their invigorated platform with key cloud offerings through the eco-system (aka CSC, AWS, SunGard, etc.). They have HANA/ASE to transform analytics, plus the database layer of the stack, and they have the Afaria mobility platform to engage the mobile user. Not that they haven’t done a good job creating the product suite, but the mastery is in how they changed the dialog. The last few Sapphires have focused on everything from jacked-up iPads running the front-end of SAP, to social stories about small business incubators who leverage SAP, analytics and mobile to reach places that don’t always have consistent power, much less german engineered business systems.  The keynotes predict the change and demonstrate the initial flicker of opportunity that awaits.                                                                                   Jim Snabe in his keynote, addressed the changing model of distribution. Smartly he used the analogy of  the music industry which transformed from LP albums to iTunes over a 20 year span. He took the audience through how these changes were not always comfortable and in some cases left some folks standing by the roadside, while giving birth to new innovators like Apple. Through this example he showed “tech” companies can be “business” companies as well.  From this clear example, he took the collection of us through other industries like fashion and financial services and showed how these same patterns are appearing across industries. Reduced formalized/packaged distribution, increased consumer involvement in the design and fulfillment process. He implied how output becomes less of a  structured assembly-line product and more of an interactive “result” (consider Gone with the Wind vs Call of Duty; or Catcher in the Rye hardcover v/s Rye Whiskey Wikipedia entry…).

I also heard a common message from what I call the change agents, the Deloittes, Accentures, or Bluefins of the world. Whether large or small most are working on speeding business process change while looking at a massive customer base who’s running SAP like they did in the 1990’s. There is a treasure box of services waiting for those who can help companies apply cloud, analytics and mobile in new ways to speed their time to value, reduce costs/risks, while they enjoy performance improvements in the new world order.  Good news, the platform technologies help like they never did before.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to hear Sanjay Mirchandani speak on the transformation of IT at EMC (including a global deployment of SAP), you are missing one of the best examples of the future in the market today. Sanjay can talk for hours about ITaaS, choice driven mobility integration, and what you realize in this message, you can’t even begin until the landscape is 100% virtualized.  His choice tool for this were “Vblocks“. The improvements he has driven in responsiveness, cost reductions and ultimately…agility are profound.  If you look at the technologies he used in the plan (VCE, VMW, EMC, Cisco, SAP, Spring Source, etc.) the needed combination of innovations have only been together for approximately a year.  We are on the cusp of great change.  As for change agents, Sanjay’s team used experts from the eco-system like Accenture to help get it right and apply tribal knowledge. These changes I speak of requires the piece parts to come together to make change happen.

I stated that there were not many ground breaking announcements, but on Thursday VMware and SAP announced HANA on Vsphere. Today this only supports non-production deployments, but having the ability to virtualize HANA provides a new level of flexibility and improves provisioning during the sandbox period, helping accelerate HANA adoption. EMC and Cisco were happy to see this alignment push through. Again one more example of convergence between the big drivers of business transformation.

I’ll end by mentioning the SAP Mentors. If you haven’t had the pleasure of spending time with the Mentors, it’s your loss. This is a “band of brothers” who have been honored by inclusion in the Mentor program. You can’t buy your way in, you have to earn it. Membership spans outside of SAP and this group is on the front lines of change. I had the chance to catch up with several mentors at the show and I can tell you that what many of us would call keynote “hipe” is substantiated in the “hands” of these mentors. Customer innovation isn’t an empty demo, these guys are seeing it happen in the field. Some of them relatively young (compared to me) will be the lead guard of what’s to come. They are helping set the new agenda.

Again it was a great trip. I mentioned at the front of this blog that part of my journey was to highlight the similarities and differences between Americas and EMEA. I am shocked to say, I saw little difference. The dialog is global, so as you slip between one geographic theater to another… the wall-paper is quite familiar. Its more about meeting the people involved than drastic differences in strategy. People work with people they like.  In a swirling whirlpool of transition, some things never change. Chao.

Optimizing on the Question – Big Data Analytics

In life there are opportunity costs. I have spent many a Sunday fretting over whether to clean the basement, watch the game, or spend the afternoon on single track with one of my kids. We unfortunately can’t create a duality that allows us to experience two simultaneous events, I always have to choose across my options. Companies face opportunity costs too. Do you hire head count for Brazil, reduce inventory in mid west, manage COGS, or acquire a company. There are constant decisions that leave alternative opportunities like dust on the floor. Matter of fact, companies are really layers of opportunity cost decisions we call strategies.  Strategies allow us to plan and execute with focus. Sometimes strategies are new and/or overt; sometimes they are organic and implied (a kin to culture). Usually companies have an agenda that is known by most and for this conversation I will call it a strategy. I would say for the majority of companies, strategy isn’t always democratic and out of the box for everyone. There’s a bit of trickle down defined and disseminated. “This is a growth year for us, we need to penetrate the market…”, “We’re concerned about Europe…”, “Divisional goal is 500 million…” or something similar.

Many of us, at various levels in the organization, are bounded by constraints and are asked not to create and advance the cause aimlessly, but to a set of criteria. This is important to align the organization and execute with powerful sameness.  Yet once in a while something happens, the market changes, new tech shows up. When this happens, the technologists get geeky and the C-level gets hungry, scared, or both.  Something “new” arises from the corporation that breaks the rules, and clears paths for new ways of thinking.  Think about the Dotcom wave, it is currently the quintessential example of this scenario.  All of a sudden, 20 year olds were becoming executives, Dotcom companies had valuations that surpassed blue chips, and people who sold socks to dogs were getting millions in VC money. The “rule followers” were punished and mocked as dinosaurs. The companies considered long-standing cultural strategies as broken and many chose to replace process while revolutionizing their offerings.  This worked for some, destroyed others, and embarrassed many in the ranks. We’re now entering a similar wave around Big Data Analytics.

My term for this wave/bubble/era… is Big Data Analytics (BDA). I use this inclusive term for the wave of change that is taking BI and departmental analytics and merging it with social media, global mobile user, cloud, and various forms of big data. Here within this wave again we have many great examples about how knowing more about us (from what data exists around us) allows for new insights and is ushering a new age. There are examples like “The Human Face of Big Data” (#HFOBD) with Rick Smolan, EMC/Greenplum Analytics Workbench on a 1000 node cluster developed to study big data (i.e. twitter, facebook, etc). or SAP’s recent “Real-Time Race” (#RealTimeRace) pitting two System Integrators against each other on stage developing live solutions on HANA. These bits of news get us all thinking “what if”.  However, as a large group of capitalists, I’m not sure we know how to leverage it, how to make decisions around opportunity costs for BDA. We’re in a bit of an innovation bubble and the ultimate question is what can we do to improve and prioritize our choices?

I have a few recommendations for everyone to consider in their business. It’s a short list of 3 things that I believe the smart companies will consider either organically or by reading this blog 😉

1)      Data is the new Information Technology (IT). Read “The Big Switch” by Nicholas Carr and you’ll see that since the birth of the “industrial company”, there has been a “technology” group which consists of smart, well-paid resources who apply the latest tech to business. First it was electricity & machines, then business systems, then computers, then data centers, and I propose the next wave will be whatever Big Data Analytics becomes.  (I would call it “Knowledge Management”, but we already blew that logo in the 90’s…) What this means is BDA will be pervasive and inject itself in many aspects of business, not just creating opportunity to increase revenue through traditional means.  Companies need to build new disciplines that identify and develop data use. Picture the 1960-1970’s. We used vacuum based mainframes, typewriters, rotary phones, and business men took 2 hour martini lunches. The world of iphones, tablets and angry birds is very different. I believe our future world will be thoroughly basted with data driven wisdom which will have even larger impacts.

2)      A Corporate Decision Strategy is needed. How we make decisions and what questions do we ask? We need to be much better at asking questions than we are today. I am under impressed by the long line of shopping basket, alternative offer, or Twitter sentiment studies I see.  This is applying old perspectives of your customer to a field with much greater opportunity. How do we involve crowd sourcing, self-service, social media, and data analytics to change the customer experience, the corporate workforce, and ultimately what is considered corporate core competencies.  I think a great way to start is a review and inventory of BDA capabilities within the business and an assessment of how questions are asked that create data analytics projects. Questions and decisions don’t serve the strategy, they are the strategy going forward.  Also note, the people who can define the right questions are more like artists, musicians, song-writers.  Many know there is a strong correlation between scientists and musicians. Similar to how computing jobs became loaded with creative people, we’ll need to migrate these skills away from programming and towards question development and decision strategy. Good news, the new recruits have grown up as “gammers”, this plays well into foundational skill sets needed.

3)      Change Business Systems – I’ve written assembler code and I’ve run analytics models. They are both very difficult to conceptualize and navigate. It’s a relatively small group of individuals that can execute these skills and thus create a real problem of scale. AI and machine learning are the beginnings of techniques that begin to help the average person to become a contributing member in this new age. We need decision support within BDA to morph from manually running a “K Means” model or hand developing “ordered pairs” to something less academically rigorous, and data capture/management/cleansing to become more intuitive and automated.  If we can automate “Mario Kart” as far from assembler as it is today, we can do the same in the era of BDA.

As companies refine and develop their BI/Data Analytics programs into the era of BDA. I think there’s an equivalent need to rethink the questions they ask. Do we need less sales execs? Do we need more data security?  Do we want to know what else we could sell someone buying running shoes, or do we want to help them design a new shoe specifically match their demographic/health needs? Can our customer sell themselves? And if so, how do we need to change what we sell to be competitive? What are we good at? What companies should merge to exploit inherent opportunity?  These are the opportunity costs of the new era that will emerge from BDA. To gain insight from data, we must first ask the right questions of it…

Quick post on EMC and VMware announcements

EMC reports great quarter of growth, the makes big changes to stage for the cloud and big data evolution.


A couple interesting points. Move shows loyalty and comfort in past leadership decisions. It screams “foundational” structuring for what’s to come. Maritz running of strategy at EMC? that’s exciting. But the piece I am most excited about is the expanded boards of Burtonville. I got to say I am a big fan of what Jeremy Burton has done with his time at EMC and I am really jazzed about his leadership over Go To Market activities. This should have a real impact.

There’s goodness in these steps and puts “talent” to “task” in a new way that is fresh and optimized.

Sorry it’s a short write up today but wanted to get the info out to the readers.