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


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…)


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.


ImageYou can tell I’m a jet setter, why? Because I am finishing up a winter cold this week that I either got from the team in LA, the folks in Boston, my trip to NYC or from my kids.  Anyway I am on the mends with excessive dosages of germ cleansers and bug killers because next week I am in Vegas for SAP Insider. As far as Vegas goes I can take it or leave it, but SAP Insider has been a staple event for me for several years. I wouldn’t want to miss it. This year they have combined 5 SAP-related, Insider sponsored events into one venue: BI, Cloud & Virtualization, Administration & Infrastructure, MOBILE, & Business Objects Boot camp.

First, let me tell you about how EMC has organized for the event (#EMCSAP). As a gold sponsor, you’re going to see a great deal of EMC around the show. We’ll be spending most of our time talking with customers around Cloud and Big Data solutions we’ve brought to market.

What you’ll find interesting this year is that much of the conversations will include “hindsight” (aka lessons learned). We’ve been busy the last couple of years taking customers into virtualization, and into the hybrid clouds. We now have the luxury of an install base that provides some direction for those who now begin the journey.

This year we’ll have 3 expert speaking sessions that should be full of content about what we’ve learned from working with our customers to reach the cloud.                                               

Date:  2/28

EMC Accelerates the Journey to Your Cloud by Replatforming to an Intel Architecture – 2:45 pm, RM 106   – Abstract:  SAP customers today are evaluating how to move to virtualization confidently and improve daily operational efficiency—while ensuring the highest levels of availability. Discover methodologies and how replatforming to x86 with can accelerate the journey to your cloud and help accelerate SAP deployments.  You will gain practical insight into what you can do today to build a virtualized, dynamic SAP infrastructure for tomorrow’s private cloud computing model.       

Date:  2/29

Reduce Costs and Improve TCO by Virtualizing SAP with EMC & VMware – 10:00 am RM 106 – Abstract:  The business benefit of cloud technologies are appealing; however, virtualizing mission critical applications carries significant risks associated with performance, security, availability and management complexity. In this session, learn how SAP and EMC are partnering to develop secure clouds that are highly scalable and available within the performance requirements of SAP applications. Key topics covered will include: Physical to Virtual computing solutions, backup consolidation with deduplication, and availability and disaster recovery in a virtual environment.  You will gain practical insight into what you can do today to build a virtualized, dynamic SAP infrastructure for tomorrow’s private cloud computing model.

Title:  Case study: EMC IT shares lessons and tips based on its enterprise virtualization initiative – 2:15pm RM 301 – Abstract: Explore EMC IT’s Journey to the Cloud and best practices on how enterprise mission critical applications like SAP are designed and deployed in virtualized datacenters. By referencing EMC’s own large scale SAP ERP global deployment, you will learn about the approach used to integrate 80+ applications into a “Common Integration Cloud”. 

I know this next line sounds like sleazy marketing, but it’s true…Last year our sessions were standing room only, so get there early for a seat. If you get there too early we promise to entertain you with brilliant conversation.  Worst case… if you miss the time slots, you can always tweet me @ASitison and I can hook you up with the presenter or just come by the booth for a handshake and some giveaways (CAN YOU SAY PLASTIC CASH!).


What I like about the SAP Insider series is traditionally it is the “workers” who show up to learn and to think about new ways to address problems that they have experienced in the last year.  This is “reality” walking the halls by the thousands. This is not where people come to hear about how the next great thing that will change the world in 5 years, it’s where you hear from those who are changing their world today. And, it’s a great place for a guy like me to get a dose of what needs fixing in 2012.  

I’m going to approach the event a little differently this year.  Usually I get consumed by meetings with customers I am currently engaged with. I rarely make it pass the hotel restaurants and the tradeshow floor. This year I am going to carve off some time and take on a new mission. My iphone and I are going on a journey to capture some of the stories about the problems and solutions that everyone is solving and to document a few of the interesting ideas that are readily available in the conversations on the floor.

On my journey, I’m going to try to answer:

1)      How are companies doing and how are they leveraging SAP in their strategy?

2)      What are the major problems being solved today (i.e. cause & symptoms)?

3)      How are they solving them and how are they pacing their roadmaps (i.e. cure & dosage)

4)      What does big data look like to them and how central will SAP products like HANA and BOBJ be to their strategy?

5)      What is their cloud strategy and have they “ventured into the mist…” Do they have personal stories about chargebacks/metering, provisioning, multi-tenancy, etc?

6)      How has globalization changed their plans?

7)      What do they want from their product and integration partners?

8)      Are there trends to be identified in everyone’s collective activities?

I will leverage twitter while I am at SAP Insider (#SAPInsider). If you’re there, please reach out @ASitison and we’ll get one of those extremely weak coffees together. I’d love to hear your story. I will also monitor the social media activity for any valuable content. If you have questions you’d like me to answer while I am there send me something through Twitter and I’ll be your trained monkey. When I get back from the trip, I’ll post a summary of my findings back here on the blog site for your consumption.   Wish me luck, hunt me down (figuratively), and/or come back to see what I found out.

Monkey signing out.

“The CLOUD of the TITANS” – SAP, EMC, and VMware Strengthen their Partnership around Cloud Computing

 In Madrid Spain, on November 10th, Pat Gelsinger, Paul Maritz and Vishal Sikka virtually join together and take the keynote stage at SAPPHIRE NOW Madrid. The three will talk about what is covered in today’s SAP Press Release: “Preferred Three-Way Strategic Collaboration with EMC and VMware to Deliver Greater IT Efficiency and Business Agility

Before we dive into the details of this release, let’s look at these 3 people on stage:

    • Ever heard of Paul Maritz?  He was a key leader during the rise of MS Windows into the ubiquitous desktop and server operating system it is today.  Later he created a company, “PI Corporation” focused on what was then the obscure concept of “Cloud Computing”.  Now he’s the CEO of VMWare
    • How about Pat Gelsinger? He contributed to the Intel 286 and 386 chip design which brought the computer to the masses, and then was the executive over the development of a continuous line of best in class products that made the Intel brand what it is today. Now he is the President/COO of EMC.
    • Vishal Sikka has been the CTO at SAP since 2007, overseeing the rollout out of ECC 6.0, acquisition of Sybase and now the adoption of HANA into the SAP customer base. He sits in the technical top seat for a company with over 120,000 customers.

It’s rare to see 3 people who’ve had more impact in our industry, co-presenting on a stage.  It is probably worth listening to what they have to say.

So, what is being talked about in Madrid?  Here are some of the notable excerpts from the release:

  • “SAP will work closely with EMC and VMware and is currently evaluating options to deliver an end-to-end stack optimized for running mission-critical SAP applications. Together, the three companies plan to invest and integrate best-of-breed application, database, virtualization, management and information infrastructure technologies, as well as deliver new services to support and accelerate customers’ journey to the cloud.”
  • “SAP and VMware expect to deliver an extended support program by integrating a configuration and health check for SAP systems running on VMware cloud infrastructure into SAP® GoingLive™ Check services and SAP EarlyWatch® Alert service…”
  • “SAP also intends to drive a radical improvement in the manageability of enterprise applications in private clouds by evaluating the delivery of VMware vSphere®-based virtual appliances, orchestrated by declarative models in the TOSCA language…”
  • “SAP and EMC will explore collaboration opportunities around the SAP HANA™ platform to deliver high-end system availability and EMC’s fully automated storage tiering technologies (FAST). This deep collaboration will further strengthen SAP in-memory computing technology…”
  • “SAP’s next-generation architecture is truly bringing the power of these disruptive innovations to our customers without disruption. Our work with EMC and VMware demonstrates this.

So why should you take note of these “notes”:

  • My first reason I’ve already pointed out. There is a convergence of pioneers in our industry lining up around these technologies, around these companies.
  • End to End Stack”, that is a powerful statement coming from this group.  Think about the last time EMC and VMWare reported on a triangulation with Cisco.  The company VCE was born and they deliver the “Vblock” which is already having an impact on the SAP install base. SAP, EMC, and VMware together could really change the playing field. Best in class, market share leaders, all in one end to end package.
  • Virtualization Health Check, Application Manageability, these are both improvements that will help the large SAP community further adopt virtualization and private cloud improvements. Allowing even the conservative IT departments to progress on platform modernization.
  • HANA & FAST, This is an interesting announcement between EMC and SAP. EMC is the first non server company to be singled out in this way.  One can assume that this collaboration will lead to best in class model that provides a clean scale out solution for the HANA in-Memory platform, allowing for better controls, availability and information protection.
  • First to Market Fitness, What this messaging really communicates is here are the current innovators for the new generation of SAP landscapes that are driving into the cloud. These 3 companies individually have been the most active in innovation for the support of SAP over the last few years. Customers want to accelerate their consumption of modern platforms that are more agile, and that have better price to performance, yet they feel they must wait for the proper level of maturity to be demonstrated. This collaboration is an accelerant.  If you want to mitigate risks in mission critical environments, what better way, than to bring together this group of titans? A Recent Study Named EMC as the No. 1 choice for Applications. The IDC study showed EMC swept the no. 1 slot including SAP. A similar study by Goldman Sachs showed EMC no. 1 choice to support VMWare environments.  These companies together, have an over whelming level of capital in “Market Trust”.

These press releases tend to come and go. What excites me is the promises made within. Keep your eye on the things to come.

Link to Press Release:

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.