Can I take Mission Critical Apps to the Cloud? – THE GOLDEN 7 CONSIDERATIONS


I have been in Minneapolis since Monday to participate in #SAPWeek.  #SAPWeek is a unique experience where EMC brings in their customers, partners and experts, from all over the globe, into a concentrated deep dive whiteboard jam session for a few days. I was at the first in Santa Clara in 2007 and have been attending many each year since. There are very few things that are as consistently more rewarding as exploring the future of enterprise landscapes that run SAP, and that is #SAPWeek.

Right now, customers are re-platforming in droves. Here in the mid-west the topics of interest ranged from “Is it time to go to X86/Virtualization”, to “what is HANA TDI” (and I should I use it), to “is the cloud real for mission critical”.

The quick answer to whether you should roll out HANA with an appliance or TDI is: TDI. You are going to save 20-30% or more of OPX getting off the appliance model. If someone   is advising you otherwise, get new advisers.  Check out my blog on “the HANA Puzzle” for more on that story.

As for the cloud, many customers were…well… shocked here in the heartland that “cloud” is a feasible option for mission critical apps like SAP HANA. I am hear to tell you it is. There are many VERY LARGE companies aggressively adopting the cloud for SAP Traditional and HANA. Since our alignment with Virtustream in 2014 our field teams are very active responding to this market migration.  (If you are not familiar with Virtustream,  here’s a good level set video for you)

During the discussions this week. I referred to a slide I built with Christoph Streubert to help our customers navigate the questions as to whether they can get to the cloud. My laptop was not booting and I promised to post this via a blog. (Commitment DONE)

Golden7 for Cloud

I think the average IT org can take this list and build out a tailored profile/gap analysis to begin to determine the big questions of the cloud:

  • What – What workloads will I move to the cloud (or what environments in my landscape)
  • When – When does it make sense based on my cost and risk profile
  • Why Not – What about my environment hinders me from sending workloads to the cloud.  Make sure you socialize this item.  I am finding these “sacred relics” of the past are actually breaking down as your cross the lines of business. Cloud is compelling.
  • Who – Not all clouds are the same. Make sure your cloud partners are offering:
    • You performance requirements/guarantees
    • You long-term operational costs with significant reductions.
    • Risk monitoring and management

As you dive in to the “Golden 7” considerations, feel free to reach out for an interactive discussion on how to fill out your version of this story

Solving the HANA Puzzle: Optimized Infrastructure Choices


I was recently meeting with SAP customers while traveling through Singapore and Bangkok. What I found on these travels was a growing market with unique challenges, and some brilliantly spicy food. I also found a customer base dealing with the same global questions of “HANA” and “Cloud”. It’s a statement of fact that IT must evolve by reducing the on-going cost equation, and replatform to faster, more flexible architectures in order to keep pace with the Line of Business (LOB). One of my old mentors from the 90’s had a tag line: “Speed Kills”. The sensibility of this statement has only become more relevant over the last 20 years.

Yes, HANA and Cloud are the two levers of change in the SAP customer base, and I find a constituency that is focused on getting this right. IT budgets aren’t what they were in the 90’s, and they are dealing with the major realities of running mature global IT operations. I interpret their collective position as one trying to solve a challenging puzzle.

As I prepared to present last week, I wanted to engage the audience. While waiting for my turn to speak, I came up with the “HANA Puzzle” concept below. The “HANA Puzzle” went over pretty well with the audience and I think it’s relevant for the broader SAP community, so I wanted to share it with you. Here’s a quick step through of my Whiteboard talk.

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“Can you solve it?” I asked the audience. They trained their eyes on the seemingly arbitrary list of letters, yet found no hidden key. So, I began to explain to them, the HANA puzzle.

The first letter is “A”, that stands for…

APPLIANCE – When HANA was first released, SAP limited infrastructure variability by requiring every deployment of HANA to be installed on a certified appliance. This ensured HANA had the appropriate compute horsepower required to run, and it simplified the deployment process for the customer. Even today there are many customers who are inclined to consider an appliance model for their deployment of HANA because of its initial simplicity. In reality, the appliance model was a contemporary of early HANA when limits were welcomed, but it loses favor for mature deployments. Today where HANA deployments moving into their second, third, fourth step of evolution, TDI has become the model of choice.

TAILORED DATA CENTER INTEGRATION (TDI) – TDI is the ability to install HANA on top of a customer’s IT landscape through a self-certification process. There are still some requirements for component validation, but the effect is a significant savings in overall TCO. I recommend this paper by Antonio Freitas on the mainstreaming of TDI for a full review of TDI’s impact.

Why is TDI a better solution for TCO? Simple, IT operations have been refined for multiple decades to optimize on a horizontal model. Key optimization techniques like capacity planning and load balancing are a function of the maximization of shared resources. Most customers have found that they can run HANA successfully within their existing landscape, or optimize their infrastructure with new tech that maximizes across multiple axes, not just their HANA deployment. As important as cost, this additionally provides the maximum flexibility for operations. Finally, using IT standards leverages the company’s existing skill sets.

All of these are key optimizations that TDI enables, but probably the most singularly important optimization TDI supports is our “V” in the puzzle. Here is a blog by SAP’s Bill Zang covering the impact of TDI and virtualization on the cost of systems operations.

VIRTUALIZATION – OK I am guessing a few of you figured out the “V” in the puzzle was virtualization, because virtualization’s power to optimize is well known. If you are curious how that specifically impacts HANA, here’s a quick read on the basics of Vsphere 5.5 support specific for HANA. I am comfortable in saying that, today, virtualizing non-production HANA is common practice. The savings created through standing up and shutting down Virtualized HANA development environments and the improved model for HA and DR alone justify including HANA in your non-production environments. However, some companies have ventured even further, using virtualization in production. Watch Bill Reid talk about his deployment of virtualized HANA in production for EMC IT.

Well the puzzle is in the process of being solved, can you guess was “P” is for?

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PRIVATE CLOUD – It’s a short, but steep leap from Virtualization to private cloud. Private cloud adds in the next level of application/DevOps functionality to the stack, which further abstracts and automates HANA away from the physical data center and into the cloud. Private cloud does this while the providing the most cloud protection via hard-walled environments. There are many ways to deploy HANA on private cloud including the market leading solution from Virtustream called xStream Cloud Management software. This solution granularizes the environment into small compute chunks and optimizes the layout to minimize the HANA workload’s footprint. Then xStream routinely monitors usage of each unit of compute. The system will further automate the starting and stopping on SAP environments, minimalizing the amount of human interaction needed for HANA landscape operations. This is useful, for customers who deploy “on-premise” and “off-premise”.

ON/OFF PREMISE – Let’s continue the conversation on xStream to apply its optimization to an off-premise environment. If you have contracted Virtustream for managed services or are using xStream sfw for hosted private cloud, then the products ability to turn off and on small compute units called “MicroVMs” translates into significant savings. By monitoring whether a MicroVM is on or off every 5 mins, Virtustream minimizes their charges to actual consumption, only charging for compute units that are “on”. Add in the automated starting and stopping of SAP workloads, and a hosted private cloud can translate to 20, 30, 50% or more savings over your existing deployment.

SAP sees private cloud as a key catalyst to the success of HANA. SAP created a specification for private cloud called HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) which they provide through a small certified list of providers (including EMC/Virtustream).

Can you guess the “H” yet?

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HYBRID CLOUD – Now we’re getting serious. Hybrid cloud is the next frontier of HANA and SAP computing. Only the most advanced SAP companies have begun to venture into the future of a hybrid cloud model. There is some ambiguity in the market as to what defines a hybrid cloud. Is a customer who has Success Factors SAAS and a hosted private cloud for HANA, a hybrid cloud? Well yes, probably; and by this definition hybrid is somewhat mainstreamed. However, when I mention an elite group of customers heading to the future… well I’m talking about more advanced functionality. I am referring to the ability to create elasticity by bursting workloads from on premise to off or from one cloud location to another. This is the promise of a huge step in further optimization, but there are natural roadblocks to hinder progress. “How big is your data?” or “HANA is an in-memory platform” are two great examples. So today you can not slice off an intra-workload within HANA and seamlessly float it to the cloud. However, think of needs for elasticity in development, system migration, HA, or DR? Hybrid functionality can be really impactful to operations of global businesses.

Let me tell you about one personal experience. Again I am going to use xStream Cloud Management software as an example. I recently worked with resources from Virtustream, EMC and VCE to test out a bundled solution putting xStream on a Vblock. The objective was to allow customers run the cloud optimizing software within their data centers and operationally communicate with other xStream-based clouds. We put this solution through the paces. There were several scenarios like “cloud site failure”, and “system migration between sites” that were proved out. In our first few phases of testing we have had amazing results. Check out this solution brief for more information.

PUBLIC CLOUD – The final “P” is for public cloud. For mission critical systems, public cloud is less impactful than its sister cloud derivations, yet it can’t be overlooked when SAP customers are looking at overall optimization. Public cloud can provide a variety of offerings from SAAS offerings like SuccessFactors, to small online HANA development environments, to offloading a company’s traditional landscape or as a tool for addressing big data requirements. Here’s a story from about BlueFin’s leverage of public clouds for their SAP landscape. As companies plan their replatforming efforts they should consider public cloud as a tool to round out their overall strategy.

Well… We’ve solved the “HANA Puzzle”.

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I called it the “HANA Puzzle” because for many companies its not a question of why HANA, they know that HANA is the future; yet the “how” and “what” can be confusing because of the amount of evolution we’ve experienced in the last few years. I hope you see an “answer” in my solution to this puzzle. Everyone has to define their own journey, but there is tangible precedence in the market on what decisions will maximize both your operational flexibility and TCO.

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For current and future EMC customers, I want to point out; EMC Federation (including EMC, Virtustream, and VMWare) provides the market with the hardware, software and services to address each and every iteration and derivative of HANA you may choose, across the entire “puzzle”.

I hope this helps you solve your own path for HANA. Please feel free to share your story or ask for details on any of this as needed.

(As for the hot and spicy food… a few of my favorites were Rendang, Laksa and this spicy bamboo salad in Bangkok… Man, it doesn’t taste the same in the States… Loved it.)

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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

Vishal Sikka Makes it Official – The Wall between Operations and Analytics is Obliterated


SAP Announced today the ability to run SAP Business Suite on top of their HANA in-memory platform. Like the fall of the Berlin wall, there is little now that stands between the real-time analytics functions and what will be lighting fast operational business processes running on the same state of the art platform. I have been talking in my blogs for a while… that analytic processes aren’t complete unless they kick off operational “actions” that follow through on newly generated insights. With this announcement, SAP takes the industry a step closer to that future, today.

Unlike Oracle, who has built an iron forest of Oracle specific appliances, SAP has enabled the eco-system to provide a “HANA economy”. The consumer has options for supporting products that resemble the assets that run in their current data centers (which is smart…) and there is a legion of well trained Global Change Agents (Read about some of them here) to help customers get from “idea” to “execution”. Time to Value is a hot commodity in this new world order.

At EMC we’re additionally seeing customers working to transform their legacy world. This combines not only hot products like HANA, but additionally addresses how to leverage cloud, _aaS initiatives, and to increase their Opx to Capx ratios. With SAP FKOM only a couple weeks away, its going to be a Fast start to 2013 as we all try scramble from talking about it through quotes, contracts, and time spent to get to results.

This also takes HANA out of the sandbox and into Data center. Though there have been notable production usage of HANA, today’s announcement moves from what was primarily greenfield, to a massive legacy install base. I’m sure we’ll hear more from SAP at FKOM on the details of this announcement and I am sure their initial limitations to ramp through, but the pit-bull has pushed his nose through the paper bag, HANA moves into the Mission Critical category without doubt.   This means an evolution of current limited specs to have HANA eventually look more like the rest of our customers’ landscapes. You can’t shove a multi-national fortune 100 in a several system nodes and call it a day. IT is a mature industry with lots of technology and process that will need to be integrated.

I look forward to the journey. See you at FKOM!

Here’s a few more write ups (some with slides, photos and opinions…)

ZDNET     CMSWire  INFOWorld  TECH-CRUNCH

Find me on Twitter: ASitison  or on SAP Community Network

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…

Putting the Face on the IMMENSE WORLD of BIG DATA


As I start this blog I have to tell you I am reminded of what Steve Jobs purportedly said to John Sculley, an executive at Pepsi, to get him to come run Apple.

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?”  

You know it’s rare to be part of something that is so new and innovative that it’s hard to explain. What I’m trying to describe is the “fresh” before the fad. I’m not talking about being part of a flash mob, but join in on the very first. I’m not talking about the 20,000th wedding party dance down the aisle-a-thon, but a vulnerable moment…where you don’t know the outcome of your effort. Few of us are lucky enough to join a startup that takes an idea, and grows it to an empire, or be at the moment when something newsworthy is created. These special moments hard to find. They become salient memories when you are part of them.

Well I have one of these moments I can let you in on…

Like reading tomorrow’s newspaper today, I can prognosticate on an upcoming event, and I’m going let you in on the ground floor. Today’s blog is to let you know about an organized series of events that will measure our world in new ways, it will change the ways we see ourselves, and you can be right in the freaking middle of it all.

“The Human Face of Big Data” (HFOBD)Human Face of Big Data

EMC Corporation and Rick Smolan, in conjunction with Rick’s production company “Against-All-Odds” Productions, is launching one of the most aggressive, creative, and newsworthy projects the Information Technology (IT) industry has ever seen. It’s so audacious that it’s not even IT anymore. Out of what many would have traditionally called the marketing department, comes a project that is more akin to the benevolence of the Medici family funding Michelangelo’s Sistine masterpiece, than what your average Fortune 100 Corporation spearheads. EMC, its social network of partners and a diverse set of stakeholders have come behind this vision that employs the ancient art of storytelling. The story they will tell will introduce us all to the global face of big data. 

Don’t get distracted… I know you’ve read a blog on global big data, but this is no blog mad ‘am. When you take a visionary from photo journalism and the market’s think tank of big data idea people, you come up with something much more profound. This is an orchestrated process of multiple global events on a grand scale that will, by its very action, deliver new insights on the emerging data-rich world we inhabit. It will be a fractal analog of data analytics it’s self. We create, we explore and we learn.

I’ll stop and get to the details.  The HFOBD is a multi-point plan. I want to share with you some of the high and low level details so you can get excited and join in, while I’ll leave a fair amount for you to explore as you engage in the process.

So is it BIG?

Well here are some of the initial estimated data points on the project’s scope

  • 100 Photographers
  • 1,000 node Greenplum device
  • 10,000 data detectives
  • 10,000,000 human sensors
  • 1,000,000,000 media impressions

Will I learn anything?

  • Did you know that depression can be predicted a couple days before it happens? Find out more.
  • Do you realize scatter plots can prevent future crime? I predict a causative relationship!
  • Ever feel like you could do more to reduce your energy bill, but don’t have an outlet? (pun intended…)
  • “CONTEXT IS KING!” we can do more if we can bundle silos on knowledge via context. Open-minded data-driven solutions.

Are there some Milesposts along the Journey?

  •  From September 25nd  until October 1st, millions of people will interact with their mobile device (w/ HFOBD app) and the world around them. For just a few days, devices will collect both passive and active human interaction for millions across the planet.
  • Additionally as part of the experience children will be given devices to collect data about their world.
  • There will be a control center in the ballroom of the New York Stock Exchange where Big Data Big Shots will gather to manage the process.
  • During and after the event, thousands of data detectives will process and explore the data for new levels of knowing.
  • The experience will culminate in a handful of artifacts:
    • a website where you can explore the experience and you can additionally connect with people that are like you, in profile, across the globe. 
    • And, a large book of data and photos telling the story. The book will be distributed to the 10,000 of the world’s leaders and influencers in November.
    • A CNN Special documentary and other public events.

Where do I go?  What do I do?

  • TODAY– Get Connected  
    •  go register your email and share the link with everyone. http://www.humanfaceofbigdata.com/
    • Start following on Twitter: @FaceOfBigData  ; #HFOBD
    • Vimeo Video: https://twitter.com/#!/search/face%20of%20big%20data/slideshow/videos
    • September 25th thru Oct 1st – Download the App & Engage the App! 
      •  Each person who loads the apps changes the outcome.
      • Get involved, and inspire your network of friends to join
      • Carve off enough time to engage the device, carry on with who you are for 24 hours.
      • I’ll be at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco with 40,000 other people, hopefully all engaged in the big experiment.
    • October 2nd –  Keep Tabs on the Progress!
      • Keep an eye out for information that begins to post on the progress
      • Check the website routinely, what is planned sounds really cool
    • November 20th – Enjoy the Outcome
      • Book will be available in electronic form,
      • once published alsoin a free iPad app and also in PDF form.
      • Watch for the CNN Special

I can’t wait to share this memory with you.

Analytic-Driven Action, one step into the uncharted abyss… What Now?


 Hello everyone. A topic that has been running through my mind is what impact does “analytic-driven action” have on our analytic, reporting and operational business systems. First there is plenty of stochastic prose about terminology used in BI/BA space today. I think it’s important you are aware of my interpretation of the terminology, so I put a write up at the end of the blog.

Otherwise we’ll continue.

My interests today are around predictive analytics and real-time analytics. Let’s assume we’re using super fast equipment returning data in milliseconds or we’re leveraging predictive tools that allow us the ability to take on the proactive steps in engaging customers, partners or employees in real-time. If we have the ability to leverage new found intelligence to effect action (aka analytic-driven manipulation of the user experience) my question is what do you do with it and how do you set up your systems so that you can do not just one data-driven action, but essentially blend analytics and operational systems in an iterative social activity?

What I am talking about here is a perfect puree of business, sales, support, and analytics systems. In other words we’re talking 100’s of millions if not billions of dollars of transformation for you average Fortune 100 company to put this into action. So we have to make an enormous, profitable market while we’re at it. And, hopefully change the world.

There are a few ways I’d like to evolve the thinking on this topic to make it worth the effort. In this blog I have laid out a few areas to consider in forming an approach. First topic: if we’re going to do “Analytic-Driven Action” we need to include additional functionality beyond our CRM and ecommerce toolsets. Let’s also consider:

–          True Engagement – Sending a coupon based on my GPS co-ords is shallow and intrusive.  Engage me, know me, interact with me, and provide more than I know about myself and my surroundings. As Guy Kawasaki  likes to put it “Enchant me”.

–          Cross System Integration – You want to immerse and manipulate me, then you’ll need to bring multiple sources of information together to create data that expands my accessible knowledge about items in my locale, and about the other people around me who resemble me in a demographic way.

–          Process Management – We’ve all been on that phone call where 30 people join a weekly cadence and no one’s done anything… Our systems are similar we can’t shepherd important customer/client/constituent interaction without being able to take an action and follow through. We’ll need workflow technology to deliver on our promises.

–          Authorized Personal Profile – The privacy answer can’t be “no systems” or “no privacy”. We need concentric circles of privacy, where we allow access to our general profile, our personal relationships, and our financial/health data. Allow us to let people into our circles and establish a social contract of privacy that is democratic and individually controlled, yet universally leveraged.

–          Minimum Collective Knowledge – Recently I did an informal survey as I ran on the treadmill at my local YMCA. The Y had 4 choices in 24/7 news running (CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CNBC) That day I ran about an hour and in that time, I would tell you unofficially, these 4 stations only overlapped on about 10% on the news they covered, (overlap of all 4 on same topic was about 4%). There were interesting stories across the spectrum, but really quite different. If you didn’t invest in churning between channels, you really miss part of the contemporary experience. Ultimately, we’re living different lives side-by-side. If the polarization of our politics is any example of that, then I am concerned with the specialization of information creating more distance between us and our commonalities waning.  Yes this is a societal issue, but it has relevance in this discussion. We can’t get so specialized that we forget the value in a common dialog and the structures that compose that. If we get out of “broadcasting” activities how is that lessened need supported and/or replaced.

When we talk about Analytic-Driven Action, we often reference the use cases of “fast trades on the trading floor”, or “proximity offers to mobile user” as examples.  These are two early versions in this field of thought, but they don’t test out the conceptual model to my satisfaction.  Let’s find something more interesting.  Life’s two most important activities are to “live” and “reproduce”.  I want to keep my “G rating”… so I’m going to choose “Iive” as the verb for my use case.  We all want to live and we are all motivated to take action that will ensure we live while shopping, exercising, taking a business trip, etc. In my mind, living is made up of primarily 4 things:

  • Historic vices & virtues – what you’ve done right & wrong in the past. This has little to do with your future, but you may already have been impacted by it. I put stress in the “vice” category…
  • Current vices & virtues – what you do today really matters for your current health
  • Environmental factors – Is there a piano hanging over your head, or a hurricane off the coast?
  • Defects – Genetics… Some of us have defects that will appear, and some will be fatal.

So what could we do to improve a person or group’s chances of living?  A quick brain dump of marginal ideas rendered the following list:

  • Remind someone they haven’t exercised in two days, and provide suggestions on optimal time to exercise with close locations based on weather and schedule
  • Point them to 5 people within a mile that also would like to play a pick-up game of basketball
  • Report that you’re current hydration, heart rate and temperature for people you age has lead to ___% instances of hypovolemic shock in the last year.
  • Offer a note that someone similar to them has just sat down for coffee alone and wouldn’t mind a conversation.
  • Identify other close-proximity people in a traumatic situation, so that the team can group to survive.
  • ID tha someone 1 mile away is looking for an expert in your expertise. (service is healthy…)
  • Verbal “play by play” steps to perform CPR, merged with a launched 911 call with GPS co-ords auto supplied, notifying a doctor that is 200 yds away.
  •  See that you are late for you meeting automatically sending an email to the attendees with an estimated arrival and/or launch a bridge call to connect everyone to get started.
  • Suggest products that are located within walking distance (when you have a free 30 mins in your schedule) that people of similar profile have purchased for health reasons, and accept alternative requests from the user. “No I don’t want a Buns of Steel Video, but my wife did need a cartridge for the Brita filter, is there one close?”

   How do systems have to change?

So maybe I went on too long about ideas and I am sure there are tons of other, better ideas. My point is that let’s not do thinly veiled commerce with “did you know there’s a Tony Romo around the corner…” type activity, but let’s actually impact people’s lives in a positive way. Analytics can’t crunch through numbers in real-time, then feed little digital billboards to us and call it innovation. Instead engage with the ability to inspire and interact.  This requires something more than real-time analytics, it requires our operational systems to respond in similar ways. Not that everything will run in real-time, but the systems need to interact on demand, kicking processes off that then come back with answers or start execution of other events and deliverables.  Additionally, we need the ability to integrate with other sources of data and operational systems that are owned by others.  The “supply chain” revolutionized the retail store, thus this model will revolutionize our economy and ultimately society all by surrounding the individual and his/her tribes.  We need to apply various flavors of analytics in conjunction with operational systems with the individual in mind, instead focusing on short-money targets. Otherwise we will miss a grand opportunity to change the way we do business in the future.

=Terminology Reference Section=

Here’s my little reference section on terminology. Is there a difference between all the current buzzwords? I believe the answer is yes and there is a difference worth noting. Here’s a reasonable definition I support (http://bit.ly/Of0tXt). I have also provided my 2 cents on the differences of BI, BA, RTA, & PA in this section.

Business Intelligence (BI) was, is and will be a function within corporations that generates reports on internal operations, sales tickets and possibly soft targets like customer feedback. It is the reporting function that sits upon primarily relational databases today and has been mostly rear facing. The primary data management functions within BI are to aggregate and slice views out of the big chunk of data (i.e. June Revenue, Inventory Turns, Customer wait time, etc.). Companies read this intelligence and react to change their business. I do believe this term will evolve to incorporate the entire world of business analytics, if for no other reason companies like SAP with their BusinessObjects, Sybase, and HANA products will continue to use the term BI in their product suite. That’s ok, but in most companies today it’s their reporting system and different than analytics.

Business Analytics (BA) is different. I am NOT saying it’s new and that some companies haven’t been deploying business analytics/data analytics in their overall business intelligence investments, but most haven’t considered its impact at the same level that they do today. Business analytics is the leverage of statistical analysis to explore business interactions and data correlations. These tools were once relegated to the engineering or science lab, but now are being employed in BA. BA uses linear regression, logarithmic regression, k-means, hypothesis testing, scatter plots to iteratively push millions of bits of data through analytic pipes hoping to get new insight at the end. “We can say with 95% certainty that customers with yellow cars will likely to… in this scenario…” It’s more like archeology than a hardened business process.

Real-time Analytics (RTA) So what is the difference in real-time analytics and predictive analytics? These two are arbitrarily inter-changed in the press today. Probably because it is not profitable for companies to split hairs over such definitions and thus the lines blur, but in my mind they are distinctly definable and different. The term real-time comes from real-time systems. R-T Systems are required to not only compute, but compute at a given speed. While getting my masters, I worked at a company writing code for real-time systems, in my case NTSC (20 frames/sec). It is difficult to ensure that code written on one system runs consistently at the same speed on another system. As you can guess they don’t, you have to come up with algorithms that create the consistency.  So to me real-time analytics not only refers to systems that can deliver fast results, but that the analytics has some form of temporal requirement.

Predictive Analytics (PA) is not a time based activity, it is primarily leveraging tools like linear regression to determine the “Y” deviation as you plot x.  If you have thousands of examples of x,y plotted out and you know your “x”, you can predict your “y”.  For example: “If you are 40 years old, then you have a 50% or better likelihood of you will ___ your____”.  We’re using vast historical knowledge to predict behavior.

X86 Migration, Cloud Computing provide a blank piece of paper to optimize.


How many times in life do you get to really start over?  Where we are you able to take away the bad decisions, let go of the things we’ve outgrown, or throw out the spoiled milk?  In the world of big business the answer is never.  Well, now it’s almost never.

We in the IT industry are at the cusp of a significant, multi-year transformation that will happen to what we today call Information Technology. Starting now and expanding quickly will be volumes of customers migrating to more cost effective, more agile platforms. Or, in specific terms there will be more X86, OS/DB, and Private Cloud migrations in 2012 than we’ve seen before. The dam is cracked and leaking badly. The impending deluge of activity is not far away.  I would reference Noah, but that would be a cliché and this is not a story of impending doom, this is more of a super gnarly zip-line ride through a rainforest canopy. I believe this is going to be a great experience for most. Freeing, inspirational and refocused to move funds back to innovation and away from IT maintenance, a renaissance of sorts.

For the remaining segment of the blog, I’m going to focus on some of the initial thinking everyone should be considering to ensure their transformation is positive and planned.

  • Business Process Change – I could spend some length of time on business process change, frankly I am currently focused on IT transformation and I believe there are fresher opinions available to you.  With that said, I can impart a nugget… that IT Transformation is not completely trapped in the realm of IT.  The changes will provide faster, more performant, more agile systems, with more predictable service levels, that deliver faster time to value. And, they should reduce the “cost to value” ratio. These improvements can be a catalyst for business process improvements. 
  • Technical Change – Here are some related considerations as you begin to look at how the technology will be reworked in your new world order. 
    • First remember, “Don’t pack a bag, you want new clothes”.   Don’t stay too committed to old components of your traditional architecture without validating how those components support your truly innovative agile IT environment of the future. 
    • “Where do you make the Cut?” If you’re carving up your architecture stack, where do you place the scalpel?
      •  Many look to what I call the “hardware/software divide”.  This divide is really a separation between the OS and DB.  Keep the app and database, but change out the OS and support hardware? This is where the majority are drawing the line. But it’s never been more rewarding to “part ways” with the status quo and look at real options for the database.
      • Thus, many are looking to swap out the DB layer as part of the change process. I was on a call with Wipro yesterday about a customer moving from their traditional DB to MS SQL. SQL 2012, formally Denali, is a real player going forward for mission critical application support. Additionally we know that many SAP customers are considering Sybase ASE as way to improve alignment within their SAP landscapes.
    • “Blank Pages” – these changes are disruptive. “Disruptive” translates to lots of white paper to write a new version on.  However, it does require some planning and there are folks who’ve started that effort already for you, the Systems Integrators.  EMC and their technology partners deliver convergent private clouds which is the “plumbing” and the “lumber” for the architecture.   Additionally, there’s been a continued joint effort to develop helpful solutions that span across the technologies. Finally, EMC and these technology partners have joined at the technical hip with the premiere SI’s to help support their mapping of the uncharted territories over the last year. From these efforts customers get advantages to speed and reduce the risks of change. You still want to put some thought to the effort., here are few things to consider when your staring at the blank page.
      • Technical Run Books – You changed your OS, you changed your DB? The commands don’t look the same any more. There will need to be consideration for ITIL and/or other processes in these changes.
      • Configurations – Similar to a fancy performance engine that can turn on and off cylinders to save gas,  the converged infrastructure will have new capabilities in access and compute power. Being able to reduce latency for the most important work loads and reduce cost for the least important.  What’s really great is the configurations are normally faster and cheaper than traditional methods. One example is EMC’s FASTVP, which transfers data content from silicon based flash drives to voluminous SATA drives, based on need.
      • Abstraction– Remember when you used to have to go to the bank and deposit checks, and now you use direct deposit. I went in a bank a couple weeks ago and I felt like I was visiting my childhood…Direct deposit is a form of abstraction. Cloud computing is another.  The abstraction from the physical to a private cloud where service levels and software perform in an independent, logical relationship on top of an converged infrastructure. In this environment, one is not limited to hard metal walls. What does that mean?
        • Always up – You can run active, active and all but remove the need to ever be down.
        • Disaster Recovery – DR can be expressed in minutes and not hours or days.
        • Test Dev in Drivers Seat – Test and development teams can launch parallel paths in minutes removing the need to wait on others to stage.
        • Portability – Need to test a server at a vendor’s lab, or want to put a bolt-on app into the public cloud, or want to allocate dedicated resources to a server for a couple of weeks?  This can all be done in a the private cloud computing environment
      • Understand Control Points.  Remember the first time you ice skated and you used newly found muscles?  With private clouds/cloud computing there are a few technologies racing for the leadership position in cloud management.  I’m not going to promote a specific technology, only to mention this is a consideration that you should include up front.
      • Cloud Security – I don’t believe clouds are inherently less protected than traditional methods, matter of fact I believe the opposite. However, “clouds are connected”.  Connectivity is the both the benefit and bane of clouds.  This is why most are taking mission critical to private clouds first. Why?  You get most of the benefits, you’re staged to leverage public clouds, and you have more control over security
      • Getting it Right with the Partners – Ultimately the heroes of transformative IT, Cloud computing will be the System Integrators (SI’s).  In most instances, they will guide companies through the process, through the transformation.  I recently had the opportunity to review Accenture’s Agile IT program. On top of their world-class experience in IT process optimization, they have specifically spent months industrializing the solution and process assets to allow their thousands upon thousands of customer engaged resources to have prescriptive roadmaps, reference architectures, use cases, and step by step guidance on the journey to transform IT.  Based on my discussions, much of the focus for them will be on helping customer migrate to x86 platforms and on to private clouds. These are rich fields for optimization, and no doubt Accenture will be a big player in this arena

I’ll leave you with the advice to approach private cloud transformation with the right mindset. If you’re reading this it’s fair to assume you are a very accomplished IT professional, possibly an executive and you don’t need a 101 lesson from me on how to execute your job.  However, in a friendly way, I want to challenge you as you approach your IT transformation project:

  • Be disruptive at the top.  If you want change and a strong plan, set the example at the top.
  • Open minded-ness is free. Consider your options; don’t be too quick to dismiss what is emerging. It could be the competitive edge you’ve been looking for.
  • Be immersive, don’t make split decisions. “Opportunity attracts the aggressive.” Make sure you’re investing in partners who are investing, innovative, and customer focused.
  • Look for the “Merger of Many”. Who’s backing whom?  Where have groups come together to make cloud a reality. Where are the early adopters placing their bets. 

Good luck on the journey.