Thursday, 30 September 2010

Virtualization Remains the Key to Cloud Computing

All of the talk about Cloud Computing can obscure the role of virtualization. The concept, along with its sibling, abstraction, can be difficult to grasp, let alone implement. Yet it is the key to Cloud Computing. All else is mere server consolidation, the same old wine packaged in new, green-friendlier bottles.
Virtualization has been with us for a long, long time. Some old-timers will recall the time when it referred to memory, in a day when memory was still very expensive. Others can go back even further, and recall pioneering virtualization efforts involving the CP/M operating system and early Intel PC architectures.

Infinite, or Close EnoughNone of that is important now. What is important is the idea that unless your applications--and the data flows and processing loads associated with them--are decoupled (ie, removed) from specific pieces of hardware and from underlying operating environments, you don't have Cloud Computing. You don't get the efficiencies being touted for it, you don't get the true elasticity associated with it, you don't get the performance associated with it.

Yeah, OK, and...
And unless you, as a Cloud customer, perceive the Cloud to be infinite (or at least, larger than anything you'll ever need), then you're not really talking about Cloud Computing. You may be talking about server consolidation and saving a lot of money, which is a good thing. But you won't be talking about Cloud.
I say this as I read more and more, with some concern, about the notion of fixed, on-site hardware being called Private Cloud Computing.

If you are a customer who turns on the spigot to receive SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS from the sky, the supply seems unlimited to you. After all, that's the deal. Flexibility, scalability, an infrastructure set up so that you use what you need and pay for that only. Just like water or electricity.

I realize that at some point IT resources, specifically processors and storage, are finite. Just like water or electricity.

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The Missing Piece of Cloud Security?

Cloud computing, especially public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service is not yet a reality for the vast majority of companies. Recent announcements however, from VMware (VMW), Citrix and Oracle (ORCL) clearly show that enterprise cloud computing is gaining momentum.

In 2010, 9% of companies are currently using or evaluating IaaS, with many more planning deployments for 2011 and 2012. Even though 62% of companies trust IaaS mostly for development and testing applications for now, only 14% trust it for customer-facing Web applications. What's standing in the way of IaaS adoption? Security is the biggest challenge, by a factor of two over all other reasons cited in our research.

Security professionals say that the lack of visibility and control over public cloud infrastructure makes it hard to apply security controls, monitoring, audit and assurance. One of the key services missing from public cloud is centralized, secure and reliable logging. IaaS computing is in many ways a DIY model: you have to design, build, secure and operate each operating system image yourself. Over time, IaaS providers have gradually built more and more platform services that extend the basic CPU-and-storage-on-demand offering. Unfortunately, no one, to my knowledge, is yet offering a logging-as-a-service to complement an IaaS solution.

Log management is hard enough in your own data center. Doing it in a public cloud poses additional unique difficulties. First, there's the issue of ephemeral virtual machines: as virtual machines are turned up and down, their logs need to persist long after the machines disappear. The second problem is deciding where to put the log collection server or servers. If the log collector servers are themselves in the cloud then there is a risk that a failure or outage affecting the production servers will also compromise the log servers leaving no logs to troubleshoot. Conversely, if you backhaul all the logs out of the public cloud and back in to your own data center, you have to consider bandwidth capacity and costs.

A possible solution to log management in the cloud is to try a hybrid public/private log architecture. In this architecture, all virtual machines in the cloud will log to a collection server also running in the cloud. The logs themselves can be saved to cloud storage, which, if correctly configured, will replicate to multiple cloud data centers for availability and disaster recovery. In parallel, you can forward the entire stream of logs, or perhaps a subset of the most important log events, to your own data center. This way you have a full copy in the cloud and another copy in your own environment as a backup.

Cloud logging considerations are very important because they form the basis of security information management, which is a critical component of any security governance program. Logs are necessary for regulatory compliance, incident response and post-incident forensics. A robust and reliable logging architecture will give you the best combination of control, visibility and resilience, while preserving your "chain of custody" for audit purposes, independently of the cloud service provider.
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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Friday, 24 September 2010

Unified Communications Integrated in the Cloud

(UC) as we know it today is flawed. The initial investment is simply too high for the return, partly due to the cost of each component and the fact you need gateway servers and software to tie the disparate systems together. Even then there's no guarantee the products will play nicely with one another, meaning you have to add a line item to the budget for troubleshooting.

Enter cloud-based UC, a solution that is fully integrated before deployment and can be beneficial for companies of all sizes, not just massive enterprises with matching budgets.

But first, what exactly makes up UC? There are many options but most industry watchers agree that at the heart lies a messaging or e-mail solution. The standard UC makeup adds instant messaging (IM), presence awareness and telephony (normally in the form of VoIP) on top of the messaging component. A true UC composition, however, should also include file services, SharePoint (or another collaboration solution), voicemail integration –– like what you would find with Outlook Voice Access for Microsoft (MSFT) Exchange –– and potentially Web conferencing.

So UC is often comprised of seven services, but most companies typically have only two or three of these that are actually engaged and integrated. For in-house IT departments, getting more integrated can be challenging, requiring staging/operating budgets as well as a full-time staff –– and that doesn't even deliver half of what UC can be.

Cloud-based UC relieves this burden from IT, providing a package that works regardless of internal infrastructure or staffing. Through the cloud, a bundle of services can be purchased and, aside from activating a VoIP phone service, be up and active within an hour.

Obviously the benefits of UC are numerous –– the enhancements to collaboration, flexibility and efficiency have been well documented. What is not often discussed are the benefits of UC-in-the-cloud compared with an in-house operation.

Cost is an area where cloud-based UC shines. It offers incredible cost savings when compared to in-house, thanks in large part to eliminating the need for hardware, software and licenses. Alongside the reduced need for hardware and software, staffing costs can be easily managed, as cloud UC doesn't require a large team of internal experts to deal with upgrades or maintenance, all of this is handled by the service provider and is included in the monthly cost of the UC service.

Add to this the fact that cloud-based UC provides the same redundancy we have come to expect from a cloud service (think Amazon EC2 or OpSource), and it looks like in-house solutions are not even playing on the same field. And this is before you factor that UC in the cloud offers greater geo-diversity. With more companies turning to dispersed staffing systems as well as remote consultants/freelancers, the ability to make sure all employees have access to communication solutions is imperative while the inherent redundancy of the cloud increases reliability and prevents data loss during outages.

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Thursday, 23 September 2010

The End of Traditional IT Outsourcing: How It Impacts Customers

The traditional IT outsourcing industry will be dead in five years, A.T. Kearney's Arjun Sethi predicted in a recent interview with The culprit? Cloud computing services. Sethi's vision of the future of the IT services industry is quite clear, but he's unsure of the specific implications this industry transformation poses to traditional IT outsourcing customers.

To determine the buy-side effects of "the end of IT outsourcing as we know it," talked to Kevin Campbell, group chief executive of technology for Accenture and former head of its outsourcing group. According to Campbell, the cloud-based future state holds great promise for outsourcing customers in all sectors—seamless customer connections for retailers, electronic health records that follow you everywhere, low-cost government-provided IT services—if only IT departments can meet the not insignificant challenge of integrating services in the new "cloud-sourced" environment.

Kevin Campbell: The cloud is still emerging and all its related implications haven't been thought through. Organizations are still trying to understand what the cloud is. There is much discussion about how the cloud will affect sourcing, and while there are plenty of schools [of thought], all outsourcers are looking at what their role in the cloud might be, how it will change their relationship with customers and what opportunities it will present.

In your opinion, will the market rapidly develop cloud services capable of displacing traditional outsourcing? 
It's already happening. The question is about delivering services at scale. Everyone we're talking to has cloud as part of their IT strategy, and many organizations are already piloting solutions and thinking about next steps. We expect the cloud to have a significant effect on the market within the next three to five years.

Who are the true early adopters—those already using cloud services for mission-critical applications or infrastructure? 

We're not seeing Global 2000 companies running their financial or ERP systems in the cloud. This doesn't mean that what's out there in terms of cloud services isn't important. But for critical applications—applications that can't go down—it's about having the ability to work around system outage issues.
We are seeing especially strong interest in the pharmaceutical, financial services, high-tech and telecommunications sectors, and demand for the entire cloud services lifecycle across all our geographies.

What are the risks of early cloud adoption

The risk most often discussed is security. The bad guys keep getting more sophisticated and creative. The potential exposures and the implications to the rest of the infrastructure are also becoming better understood.
However, many of the innovators in the cloud space are not accustomed to dealing with enterprise [needs]. They either come from the commercial world or start-up worlds, and they don't have a strong understanding of enterprise requirements such as service levels or uptime demands. But the market's understanding of the enterprise will mature over time.

Cost reduction and capital outlay avoidance are driving cloud adoption. Are customers of cloud computing services reaping those benefits yet? 

Accenture defines cloud services as those that cost at least 40 percent less than current services, have minimal up-front costs, are paid for as you use them, and are ready when you need them.
There are a lot of cloud-like solutions and things with cloud-like characteristics in the market. In fact, outsourcers have worked for years to try to provide utility-like services. But the real key is delivering one-to-many usage and a standardized approach. If you can deliver that, clients are realizing significant benefits.

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Haze Around Mobile Cloud Computing?

In a recent report by Juniper Research it was reported that Enterprise customers will be a major force behind the growth in mobile Cloud services and by 2014 one third of all the mobile applications could be Cloud-based valued at $9.5 Billion.

When cloud is used to deliver a service that is consumed over mobile can the consumer tell?  No, and in practice a consumer will not care.  It is a service they subscribe to and hopefully it adds value.   Cloud for a pure mobile operator needs to be  understood as a means to provide existing and new services.  Indeed it is reasonable to suggest that existing services are already cloud.  Voice calls and SMS are already network accessed, pay per use services.

Cloud for mobile operators can be an enabler of new customer benefits.  Cloud style deployments can reduce the cost of existing implementations and new cloud services, delivered from internal applications or from a third party, can increase the service portfolio and increase potential revenue, increasing ARPU.  The mobile operator has a key advantage as they already have a customer relationship with millions of potential customers but as is proved by the number of apps in found in the Apple app store this is a long tail market.  With means to exploit both the developer community and also to advertise and sell their applications the mobile operator would be ideally placed to increase revenue.

What the mobile operator needs is a cloud mobile application store.  Unlike applications that are downloaded onto the end user’s phone, these applications run inside the cloud and be accessed by any mobile phone with a browser.  They are naturally persistent and do not need to be reacquired/transferred when the users device is changed.  This is a key differentiator.

Enterprises too can receive extra value via cloud services from the mobile operator.  The mobile operator can host for an enterprise a service that they want to deliver to their employee’s and customer’s mobile devices.  Furthermore these services may benefit from intimate linking with the additional capabilities a mobile operator can provide – payment means, authentication, etc.

Even more interesting is a move into PaaS.  Platform as a service is the little brother of IaaS and SaaS, so far, with limited adoption.  A mobile operator can use PaaS to enable ISVs and innovative developers by providing a development cloud service and then a delivery cloud service that includes hosting and key common platform capabilities like databases and also the additional mobile specific capabilities mentioned earlier.

Haze around mobile?  A mobile operator who has a clear view on how to focus on using their special assets will benefit from their adoption of cloud technology.  And will the end user care where the service comes from? No!

If you are interested in how Telcos can play a leading role in Cloud Computing you can sign up for the next Cloud Vision webinar featuring HP Cloud experts and moderated by Patrick Kelly, Research Director of Analysys Mason titled “Enterprise Mobility through Services in the Cloud: A Mobile Operator’s Guide”. Places are limited – register now .

View the recordings of the previous Cloud Vision “Inside the Cloud” series of webinars featuring thought leaders and Cloud experts here

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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Answer Is the Cloud – Now What’s the Question?

In Lewis Carroll's classic story "Through the Looking Glass," Humpty Dumpty remarked: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." It seems that the same principle applies to almost any industry expert and IT vendor when they talk about Cloud Computing. So, in an effort not to fall into the same trap as Humpty Dumpty, let's start with the obvious first question:

What exactly is Cloud Computing?
The most authoritative definition is from the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), the U.S. federal technology agency that works with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards. The latest version of the "NIST Definition of Cloud Computing" is available online, but it can be summarized as shown in Figure 1.

What's driving Cloud Computing today?
As the world gradually pulls itself out of recession, companies are starting to implement "return to growth" strategies, which means growing revenue rather than trying to cut their way to profitability. An essential part of this is to re-connect with customers by aligning their marketing and sales channels with the ways that their customers want to evaluate and purchase their products. As they do this, an undeniable truth emerges: The way that customers expect to interact with them has undergone a fundamental and permanent change, and on a scale and pace that has never been seen before. Businesses find a whole new generation of customers who are impatient, unencumbered with antiquated notions such as brand loyalty, and who expect things to work the way that they want them work. Customers now demand speed, immediacy, and ease-of-use. They expect to be able to do business with you wherever and whenever they want, and on whatever device they choose. The new customer experience benchmarks are Facebook, YouTube and iTunes, and if you can't provide that quality of experience, they'll simply find someone who can.

So when businesses turn their attention from survival mode to growth mode, they quickly realize that "reconnecting with the customer" is not a return to business as usual, but something that requires a complete rethink of the way they work, both externally and internally.

The new business imperatives for customer interaction are agility to meet rapidly changing market conditions, flexibility in the way that they do business and rapid time-to-value as trends are increasingly measured in days and weeks - not months and years. Inside organizations, new tools and business processes are needed to manage new ways to create demand, manage new distribution channels, communicate value to customers and provide visibility on rapidly changing customer trends.

Given the huge amount of publicity, it is inevitable that the CEO will hear or read the pitch that "Cloud provides agility, flexibility, and quicker time-to-value," and get hooked. What's keeping them awake at night is the need for a fundamental change in the way that they interact with customers, and the answer is right there in front of them - Cloud Computing. It's exactly what they need to immediately start challenging the IT department to develop a cloud strategy. As proof of this, a recent survey conducted by the 451 Group in June 2010 confirms that it is CEOs, not CIOs, who are driving Cloud Computing initiatives in most organizations.

The answer to the question - what's driving cloud computing - is very clear: Business Needs. Led by the CEO, the primary driver of cloud computing inside most organizations today is the line of business, where it's seen as an essential component of a "return to growth" strategy. Reducing cost, the primary focus for the last few years, is still important, but it's no longer one of the top priority items in an increasing number of company budgets today.

What does this mean to IT?
IT's traditional reaction to pressures from the business and customers, especially in larger enterprises, is to comprehend new requirements in the rolling three-year or five-year strategic IT plan. After all, building a new sales force automation or customer relationship management solution takes time - there are the RFI and RFQ processes to go through, detailed ROI calculations, budget approval cycles and extensive/detailed vendor contract negotiations. Once that's all done, the lengthy implementation phase can begin, where the chosen solution is customized (sometimes extensively) to fit the company's systems.

For most businesses, this process is a frustrating "take it or leave it" approach driven by IT, executed at IT's pace, and riddled with delays and cost overruns. What's more, it's completely inconsistent with the customer-facing and internally facing imperatives that the CEO and business leaders are now grappling with, in a fashion that IT cannot continue to operate in.

Cloud Computing offers a compelling alternative to the old way of providing IT services. Instead of internally developed monolithic systems, with lengthy and costly implementations of customized third-party business solutions, Cloud Computing provides an agile and flexible environment with shorter solution implementation cycles at a much lower cost. It represents a fundamental shift in the way that enterprises acquire and implement new IT functionality (computing power, storage, software, etc.) to support customer and organizational needs. In short, Cloud Computing offers IT a new way of implementing the functionality that the business units are demanding, and at a speed and cost that meets their expectations.

What this means to IT is that they are facing a critical choice that has to be made soon - either "Do nothing" or "Lead from the front." If they do nothing, business units have a choice now and they'll turn to any of the hundreds of SaaS vendors that can deliver 95 percent of the new functionality they need. These "fly under the corporate IT radar" solutions can be delivered as fast as it takes them to enter their credit card information, so they can have a great Salesforce Automation solution today with no commitment, no delay, and no IT.

"Leading from the front" is the only right course. IT owns IT, regardless of whether it comes from inside or outside the organization. Along with delivering completely new applications to the business, Cloud Computing will allow IT to enhance the functionality of existing applications by leveraging content and services from third-party providers. These "borderless" applications offer a best-of-both-worlds approach - the existing investments in legacy applications and the "systems of record" are protected, and new functionality to meet new needs can be delivered quickly and at a low initial cost.

What are the risks, and how can IT mitigate them?
From a line-of-business perspective, Cloud Computing is raising expectations on how quickly and cost-effectively new IT functionality can be made available to them. More important, even though the delivery chain for these "borderless applications" now crosses organizational and geographic boundaries, users will still expect the applications to perform well, and will hold IT accountable if they don't.

The bottom line is that IT has to meet the business' expectation of faster delivery of new functionality and good performance, while at the same time addressing two key risks: ensuring that sensitive data remains protected in compliance with company policy and state/federal legislation; and maintaining end-to-end visibility and control of service performance and availability of borderless applications.

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Public vs. Private Clouds

Christian Perry has an article in Processor Magazine that I contributed some quotes to. The article is about the ongoing debate about the merits of public and private clouds in the enterprise.

One of the assertions that VMWare made at last week’s VMWorld conference is that secure hybrid clouds are the future for enterprise IT. This is a sentiment I agree with. But I also see the private part of the hybrid cloud as an excellent stepping stone to public clouds. Most future enterprise cloud apps will reside in the hybrid cloud; however, there will always be some applications, such as bursty web apps, that can benefit tremendously from the basic economics of public clouds.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Will Your Cloud Provider Be Around in Two Years?

I just read that my hosting company, GoDaddy, is on the auction block to be sold to the highest bidder. Naturally, I’m thinking of how this change of ownership could adversely affect the service of my web sites, blogs, and virtual servers.  One never really knows until the new owners take over. Maybe they clean house and things change for the better. Or they may look to cut costs and things could take a downward turn. Migrating to a another service would a pain but I could do it if needed.

This brings to mind the current state of the cloud computing market. The mad gold rush of cloud services providers continues. Everyone wants a piece of the action.  These companies offer a variety of hosting services for IT infrastructure, platforms and applications.  The lure of moving to the cloud is obvious. Let someone else do it better, cheaper, more reliably and worry about the  details. More organizations are taking advantage. Companies, large and small, are moving their data, applications, and systems to one or more of the legion of providers out there.  This means more dependence on these providers for accessing business critical resources.  Although there are some obvious leaders in the cloud market today ( Google, Amazon, Salesforce), there are also a many smaller boutique providers that compete mostly on price.

In coming years, I expect the market to settle. Some providers will flourish, others will go down in flames or be acquired by one of the larger shops. These changes could have real consequences to customers. What happens if your provider is using proprietary technology and goes out of business?  Migrating to a new provider might be difficult. Doing your due diligence before selecting a provider is very important. Verifying the financial stability of the company and developing a strong service level agreement are key requirements.  Your SLA must address uptime, performance and security. The ability to audit your provider is also very important.

Many small businesses would not exist without the cloud. Building, hosting, and managing an IT infrastructure can be cost prohibitive. Choosing the right provider, however, may be the difference between success and failure.

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Data Compliance and Cloud Computing Collide: Key Questions

Forrester has been putting out really interesting reports on cloud computing lately. I discussed one of them in a recent post entitled "Cloud Computing: Whose Crystal Ball is Correct," which addressed the topic of private clouds. In that post, I examined Forrester's James Staten's point that implementing private cloud computing requires far more than buying vSphere and a few add-on modules—it requires standardization, process re-engineering, and organizational alignment.

This week brought another excellent report from Forrester, "Compliance with Cloud: Caveat Emptor," written by Dr. Chenxi Wang, exploring the challenges raised by the collision between data compliance requirements and cloud computing real-world offerings.

As Dr. Wang notes, most data compliance laws and regulation are written with an assumption that the liable party controls the infrastructure data is stored on as well as the placement decision about where that storage is located. Practically none of the laws and regulations recognize that a service provider may hold the data on behalf of the liable organization. Therefore, most compliance situations assign all of the responsibility to the user of a cloud computing environment despite the manifest fact that much of the control of the data is out of the hands of the user.

Several things about Dr. Wang's analysis stood out to me:

1. It may be easier to learn where an IaaS provider's data centers (and therefore, data storage location) are than for an SaaS provider. Google (GOOG) is identified in the report as not being able to state, definitively, where one's data is hosted or that its location will be restricted to any given region. Obviously, any opaqueness about location causes a real problem for users to ascertain if they are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

2. Only one law is identified as specifically recognizing the role of a service provider—HITECH for HIPAA. All other laws and regulations leave all of the responsibility with the user. At HyperStratus, we refer to this situation as asymmetric risk —despite the fact that compliance is a shared responsibility, most or all of the risk falls upon the user.

3. Those who trumpet that cloud providers accept responsibility for legal compliance measures overlook an obvious difficulty—cloud providers often don't know what data is being stored in their infrastructure and can't know what legal conditions apply to the data.

For a company like Amazon, the fact that someone can begin executing a cloud-based application with nothing more than a credit card and an account id means that it has no way to validate (or indeed, even understand) an application's compliance requirement. This is worth repeating—absent a discussion, there is no way for a cloud provider to have any idea what measures should be taken for compliance reasons—so insisting the cloud provider step up and meet compliance requirements may be unrealistic.

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Cloud Promises Savings, Delivers Speed

In the time it takes to get a cup of coffee, any one of the hundreds of engineers and developers at mobile computing chip-maker Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) can provision himself a new server -- one that's fully configured with compute, storage, networking, middleware and other resources. "You can get something provisioned within 15 minutes," says Matthew Clark, senior director of IT.

The San Diego-based company's self-service infrastructure, dubbed "AutoZone, (AZO)" includes all the hallmarks of a private cloud: a self-service portal with a menu of standardized services that users can choose from; a virtualized infrastructure built using highly standardized suites of hardware and software; fully automated provisioning and deprovisioning; and the ability for IT to meter and allocate costs from the division level down through to the individual department, application or user.

But don't ask Clark to call it a private cloud.

"We're getting close to a cloud, but I would call our implementation a cross-platform, automated virtualized environment," he says. His reticence is understandable because, as he points out, everyone seems to have a different definition of cloud computing. Clark's is very simple, if broad: "Cloud is efficient use of resources across your infrastructure, which can also be external services."

James Staten, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., says Qualcomm is on the leading edge. No matter how Clark defines cloud computing, Staten says, "Qualcomm is a lot further along than most companies are."
Clark's peers are watching with great interest. Private clouds are rapidly becoming a priority for corporate IT heading into 2011. The core elements -- on-premises virtualization, standardized infrastructure and service offerings, and automated provisioning -- can deliver cost efficiencies and reduce administrative overhead. But the biggest driver by far is time to market, IT executives say. "We look at the benefit as quicker time to onboard applications, not cost savings. It's all about speed of deployment," says Norm Fjeldheim, Qualcomm's CIO.

There's another motivating factor at work as well, says Staten: potential competition from public cloud offerings, which IT's customers are increasingly using as an alternative to traditional IT-hosted systems. "There's this fear that the public cloud will make IT irrelevant," Staten says, and many IT organizations are feeling pressure to have an internal "cloud answer" for the business side as soon as possible.
With all of the hype about cloud, it's important to keep in mind that, unlike some public cloud services that promise instant gratification, private cloud is an infrastructure play that represents a long-term payback. "It's not something you drop in today and immediately see a 50% return on investment," says Mitch Daniels, technical director at integrator ManTech International Corp. "The expectations-setting really needs to be addressed upfront, especially with management."

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Is Your Head in The Clouds?

There’s been a thunderstorm of growing noise surrounding cloud computing in the past 24 months. Vendors, analysts, journalists and membership groups have all rushed to cover the cloud medium, although everyone seems to have their own opinion and differing definition of cloud computing.  Similar to many new sectors of technology, the key is to separate the truth from the hype before making educated decisions on the right time to participate.

While still evolving and changing, cloud computing is here to stay. It promises a transformation – a move from capital intensive, high-cost, complex IT delivery methods to a simplified, resilient, predictable and a cost-efficient form factor.  As an end user organization of different sizes, you need to consider where and when cloud may offer benefit and a positive edge to your business.

Cloud computing is a new concept of delivering computing resources, not a new technology.  Services ranging from full business applications, security, data storage and processing through to Platforms as a Service (PaaS) are now available instantly in an on-demand commercial model. In this time of belt-tightening, this new economic model for computing is achieving rapid interest and adoption.

Cloud represents an IT service utility that enables organizations to deliver agile services at the right cost and the right service level; cloud computing offers the potential for efficiency, cost savings and innovation gains to governments, businesses and individual users alike. Wide-scale adoption and the full potential of cloud will come by giving users the confidence and by demonstrating the solid information security that it promises to deliver.

Computing is experiencing a powerful transformation across the world. Driven by innovations in software, hardware and network capacity, the traditional model of computing, where users operate software and hardware locally under their ownership, is being replaced by zero local infrastructure.  You can leverage a simple browser access point through to powerful applications and large amounts of data and information from anywhere at any time, and in a cost effective manner.

Cloud computing offers substantial benefits including efficiencies, innovation acceleration, cost savings and greater computing power.  No more 12-18 month upgrade cycles; as huge IT burden like system or software updates are now delivered automatically with cloud computing and both small and large organizations can now afford to get access to cutting-edge innovative solutions.  Cloud computing also brings green benefits such as reducing carbon footprint and promoting sustainability by utilizing computing power more efficiently.
Cloud computing can refer to several different service types, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). SaaS is generally regarded as well suited to the delivery of standardized software applications and platforms, like email, CRM, accounting and payroll. The development of the SaaS business model has been rapid and it is now being used to provide high performance, resilient and secure applications across a range of company sizes and industries.  So when should you consider a cloud service and what should you look for in choosing a vendor partner?

Cloud or SaaS does not provide one-size-fits-all solutions, and not every application in the cloud will be right for your business. You should consider in what areas it makes sense to utilize the cloud.  Where can your organization gain improvement in areas of business efficiency, resilience and cost reduction? Look to others in your sector and what they have done, and look for simplicity and obvious choices in your first cloud solution adoptions. Review your shortlisted vendors carefully and compare them across multiple areas but not just price. With cloud computing you need to ensure that you validate who you are dealing with, what their reputation is and the quality of service you will receive.

Things to consider when looking for a cloud service vendor:

  • Review your vendor and its financial viability – its profitability is an indication of its strength and stamina and reflects the strength of its business model and ability to execute as a long term supplier to your business.
  • Look at its technology (function/protection) and match it with your business requirements – look at the fundamentals such as safety and reliability first, as you would when buying a car, then consider the extras.
  • Study the roadmap and service enhancements your business will benefit from – what reputation does the vendor have for consistent delivery and innovation in the past few years?
  • Research the vendor’s reputation for support and service provision – how good are the SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and what is its capability to deliver results?  How big is the support team?  Are they located in your region, and are they employed directly by the vendor?
Ignoring the cloud or moving everything to it in a race are both perilous positions. Taking educated steps to the cloud will ensure you gain the benefits that it can bring and that you don’t end up in a technological storm.
By Ian Moyse, EMEA Channel Director, Webroot/ CloudTweaks contributor

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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Will Cloud Computing Add Value to the Marketing Mix?

For the past 18 months the hype has suggested that Cloud Computing will be the next game changer. But will it? Or are we simply witnessing the next major land grab by a few technology giants on a perceived new market segment?

A plethora of recent surveys has shown that whilst organisations are generally aware of the cloud, they are reticent to dive in and procure services. For every survey that suggests that a CIO is considering Cloud Computing as a priority for his or her organisation you will find another survey stating that business leaders haven’t a clue as to its meaning or how it will aid them.

With over 20 different definitions of cloud computing in play, it’s hardly surprising that the market is suffering from a ‘fog’ of confusion. Several reasons are given, which include hype over substance, internal resistance and security concerns - all of which suggest that the industry spin doctors need to work harder to get the cloud benefit message across.

The industry needs to focus less on the technology and more on the needs of the customer. We need much less of the ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ type jargon and more of the ‘Business as a Service’ approach. Cloud is about evolution of services not revolution.

The core attraction of cloud is that companies can avoid buying and running their own hardware, software and other equipment by contracting with a hosting vendor to supply the systems on its own servers. This outsourcing of computing resources offers flexibility, scalability, agility and costs savings over the traditional in house approach. Four attributes which should, and is, making cloud a prime candidate for early adoption by campaign and project managers.

Campaigns and one off events are notoriously dynamic and really benefit from the ‘on demand’ nature or elasticity that the cloud offers. In theory the cloud should rid us of server crashes as we clamour for the hottest tickets and news, with spikey demand being controlled and managed.

StreetSmart, which asks diners in the nation’s top restaurants to give an extra £1 on top of their bill during the festive period, was one of the first UK Charities to have its website fully hosted and managed on a cloud platform.

Glenn Pougnet, Director of StreetSmart, said: “The cloud has presented us with the perfect solution for handling the short term increase in demand that we face with our annual StreetSmart Christmas campaign. The cloud has removed the worry for us of having to manage our website capacity ensuring that our site is always available to potential donors and restaurant patrons. We are left free to concentrate on running the campaign and raising vital funds to give homeless people hope and a new start in life.”

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Friday, 10 September 2010

WebOS 2.0 – Mobile Cloud Computing

There has been more and more talk regarding Cloud based operating systems and Mobile Cloud Computing.

We have come across some WebOS 2.0 beta information and images. Many off these images can be found at and What we’ve noticed is that some of the direct cloud services that will be available in the WebOS 2.0 are: Google Doc, and Apples Mobile Me.

In addition, you will be able to connect using VPNC via Ciscos – AnyConnect.  This is a very interesting looking product and we’d expect a lot more discussions on it in the future.

Here are 24 screenshots for you to review.  Image credit to

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When Clouds Attack: 5 Ways Providers Can Improve Security

Criminals intent on attacking others can lease networks of compromised computers, or botnets, from other criminals serving the underground community. These resources could be considered "clouds" in their own right, but researchers warn that that operators of legitimate clouds need to worry about being used for illicit attacks as well.

In a presentation at the DEFCON hacking conference in August, two researchers did just that. David Bryan of Trustwave and Michael Anderson of NetSPI created a handful of virtual servers to attack a small financial company—a client that wanted to test its security against just such an attack. Rather than renting a botnet from criminals, the researchers used Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) to rent less than a dozen virtual servers to overwhelm the target's network with traffic.

The researchers claimed there was no indication that Amazon detected the attack and called for all cloud providers to take more care in monitoring how their resources are used.

"Lets get ahead of this before it turns into the Wild West," says Trustwave's Bryan.

While Amazon may not have caught these particular security researchers, the company asserts that catching the bad guys will be much easier in the cloud.

"Illegal activities across the Internet have been commonplace long before the cloud," Amazon said in a statement sent to "Abusers who choose to run their software in an environment like Amazon EC2, make it easier for us to access and disable their software. This is a significant improvement over the Internet as a whole where abusive hosts can be inaccessible and run unabated for long periods of time."
Yet, companies have to monitor their own cloud space for such usage.

Here's a look at some of the security strategies that Amazon and its peers are taking now to improve cloud security.

1. Easy for customers, easy for attackers

Making cloud resources easy to use for customers or internal clients is good business. Yet, those same benefits can easily extend to attackers, says Archie Reed, chief technologist for Secure Advantage and Cloud Security at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).

"All the benefits that we subscribe to cloud, especially the public cloud services—the relatively low cost, instant provisioning, and the ability to access anywhere and any time—all of those benefits can be taken over by someone with the knowledge and the will," Reed says.

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Thursday, 9 September 2010

SAP deploying 1000 iPads to employees, more on the way

SAP has embraced its devotion to mobile solutions by distributing 1,000 iPads to employees with more to come. ZDNet reports that SAP’s CIO Oliver Bussmann shared news of the iPad program late last week on Twitter.
Bussmann notes that the iPads are ready for duty. Each is equipped with access to Citrix tools via a virtual private network (VPN) and email for participating employees.

Additionally, the users will pilot the Mobile Sales for SAP CRM app for iOS. The iPads have been spread across SAP employees around the world.

We can assume this is just the beginning of the program, as Bussmann took to Twitter once again to suggest that there’s "more to come." Best of luck to SAP in their new initiative.

via SAP deploying 1000 iPads to employees, more on the way.

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Mobile Cloud Computing Platform | Cloud Computing News Media Community -

The IT world is always full of a never ending buzz!
Recently when a group of techies were asked to name two emerging technologies that they hear a lot about that will definitely have an impact on their life, the answer was: Cloud Computing and Mobile Computing. The same is agreed by HR recruiters that Cloud computing and Mobile software developers are in high demand.  In the technology industry you hear a lot about cloud computing, SaaS, Mobile Apps, Smart phones, Mobile telecom etc.

Move to 2010 and beyond… Mobile Cloud Computing. (Cloud computing and Mobile computing)
‘By 2015, more than 240 million business customers will be leveraging cloud computing services through mobile devices, driving revenues of $ 5.2 billion.

One can now see business executives doing all their daily tasks on a mobile device. Communication? Yes. Viewing Media Reports? Yes. Tweeting? Yes. Scheduling? Yes…

What is Mobile Cloud Computing?

As with the cloud computing, most of the power of infrastructure, processing, data storage resides outside the mobile device. While mobile devices have the ingenuously made mobile apps within them, they rely on powerful outside cloud sources to process and deliver the requirement. In a typical cloud computing scenario involving IaaS, Paas, SaaS, a PC acts as a client to make use of the cloud with a connectivity solution; in this case, the internet. The most popular Mobile devices fueling this growth are the Apple iPhone and Google Android products.

MobileMe by Apple

MobileMe is a cloud service by Apple that allows you to synch all you mobile devices. After a free trial period, it is a paid service costing around $100 a year. The services are for mail, contact, calendar syncing through a cloud storage space. This service is evolving and now there are plans by Apple to make this as a cloud platform. A recent update is the Mobile iDisk App, which may enable cloud iTunes and streaming services.

Other mobile cloud vendors:

The giants Google and Microsoft are also on with their plans. There are certainly some early startup companies to watch for. Nuance Communications Soonr, Upvise are some. Upvise Mobile cloud for small businesses is an interesting service offer.


Mobile Cloud Computing Platform promises to be beneficial to both individual mobile device users and enterprises. As we saw in reality, the only industry that showed growth even during the recession was the mobile industry. Phone/mobile devices get more and more technically sophisticated to a level that we can call them mini computers so connecting to the cloud would make the more sense. With Mobile internet usage ever increasing, Mobile Cloud Computing is expected to be the next big thing.

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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Choosing Your Cloud Vendor

Expanding on the " introduction to cloud computing" article, here are some additional suggestions for choosing  a cloud service model  provider.

In a typical Cloud Computing data centre, an application set will generally be hosted over Virtual Machines running on a large number of Physical Machines

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a definite factor when considering a move for some enterprise services into the cloud. There are certainly arguments both for and against the merits, especially when considering the impact of risk on an enterprise that choses to transfer risk with the adoption of a cloud service.

However as a customer you should ensure resources are in place to safeguard the maintenance and management of your identity management and authentication systems. Keep in mind that in the dynamic cloud computing environment traditional security practices may not fully apply and when designing your service/s for deployment in the cloud.

As customers you need to be clear that for every anticipated gain from such a deployment you will be giving up something else e.g.change in security metrics and loss of control of resources.

When drafting your Service Level Agreement (SLA) ensure that the provider explains items such as, their facilities to include business continuity plans, backup facilities, rack space, power, cooling, networking, physical security, logical security, (everything transferred to the cloud should be secured to the same level as you would implement at your enterprise to secure your applications in their Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)).

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10 Hot Cloud Reseller Partner Programs

10 Hot Cloud Reseller Partner Programs

Here is a list of 10 Hot Cloud Computing Reseller Programs on the internet.  If we missed you don’t worry about it I’m sure we’ll hear from you. You can expect this list to be updated regularly. so if you have a program that you believe is worthy of a mention, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.

Google Apps

The Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program offers IT solution providers the ability to take Google Apps – a cloud-based suite of email, calendar, IM, and collaboration tools – to new and existing customers. Watch the Quick Tour video.
As one of the global leaders in SaaS, Google Apps has experienced accelerating adoption with thousands of businesses signing up daily and over 2 million companies already using this solution to improve their business with better messaging and collaboration tools. Hear why more and more companies are going Google.

SoftLayer Cloud

The SoftLayer Reseller Program provides qualified hosting resellers with exceptional benefits as well as confidence that they are delivering their end customers a service with the highest performance and reliability. With SoftLayer, “value-adding” hosting resellers can better fulfill their end customer’s needs and grow their own services on demand.

The program gives resellers non-exclusive rights to offer standard SoftLayer services as well as products not sold directly under the SoftLayer name brand. Resellers receive generous volume discounts on dedicated server and upgrade purchases, setup fees and more. Resellers also receive preferred services, including a customized customer portal and auto-provisioned server delivery within 2 to 4 hours on components in stock.

RedHat Cloud Partner Program

A Red Hat Certified Cloud Provider offers a trusted destination for Red Hat customers, ISVs, and partners to use Red Hat technologies in public clouds, and meets rigorous testing and certification requirements to ensure the delivery of a safe, scalable, supported, and consistent environment for enterprise cloud deployments.
Through the Certified Cloud Provider Program, Red Hat has established the industry’s first program to certify that vendors have tested the cloud and have support processes in place to quickly resolve problems should they occur.

OpSource Reseller Program

OpSource’s Distribution Partners provide systems integration and outsourced solutions that include cloud or managed hosting. These partners resell OpSource solutions. Distribution Partners, including systems integrators, MSPs and VARs must be generate more revenue from services rather than rely on decreasing margins on hardware and software. Cloud computing represents an opportunity to translate expertise in infrastructure, network and software solutions into cloud hosting services revenue.


The NetApp Partner Program for Resellers is designed to help you grow your business and maximize profitability. With NetApp products and services in your portfolio, you can deliver innovative storage and data management solutions that satisfy even your most demanding customers.


Cloud computing is an unstoppable trend in IT, and ReliaCloud is positioned to be a leading provider. Their legacy is in high-quality service, technical competence, security, reliability, and long-term customer relationships.


Bring the Soonr award winning Active Backup service offerings with your own private label and watch your business grow with high margins and a recurring revenue stream. You’ve heard the hype. Cloud computing will reduce your hardware investment, minimize maintenance costs and allow you to focus on building your business with a recurring revenue stream. How do you turn this into a reality for you and your customer?


Work with the leader in enterprise cloud computing and join the most successful partner ecosystem in the industry! Whether you’re an independent software vendor (ISV) who wants to build commercial SaaS applications or a consulting firm looking to expand your services into the cloud.

RackSpace Cloud

The Rackspace Cloud Partner program is designed to give you the ability to grow your reputation, your connections to your clients, and your business.


There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the new cloud computing partner program with Dell.  It doesn’t appear to be available as yet but it is something to look into when it does arrive. You may visit their partner page for more information and announcements.

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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

CRM: What to Consider When Choosing Between SaaS and On-Premise Systems

What’s Happening :: The customer-relationship management software you installed ten years ago is showing its age just as the market for CRM software has fully matured. You have choices now between on-premise and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

Why You Care :: According to Mark Ameres, a CRM consultant, many companies are running “dead-end” applications that either integrate poorly with other enterprise systems or can no longer accommodate corporate growth.

“Our older systems were holding us back from providing the same level of student service and support we were able to provide when we were smaller,” says Michael Statmore, the IT director with Post University, which has a physical campus in Waterbury, Conn., and a growing online presence. The university chose Oracle (ORCL) CRM On Demand to manage information about all its students, whether they take classes online or on campus. By using a SaaS application, Statmore avoided making investments in new infrastructure and is able to keep management costs down.

The Real Deal :: Online CRM costs less to deploy than an on-premise system, and it may be more easily funded because it can be budgeted as an operational—as opposed to a capital—expense, says Sajid Usman, an analyst and consultant with Accenture’s CRM practice. It’s also easier to add users and capacity as an enterprise grows. On the other hand, on-premise systems offer tighter integration with other enterprise systems and are more easily customized.

Integration concerns were critical for Maricel Cabahug, CIO with Yaskawa America, which manufactures components for industrial equipment. She chose on-premise CRM from SAP because it could be linked more easily to the company’s SAP ERP system. Yaskawa America lost business when sales agents did not realize they were pursuing an existing customer as a prospect. “Someone can know that a customer has a machine being serviced and see that we are negotiating a new contract with that same customer,” says Cabahug.
One the other hand, Justin Ricketts, CIO with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, chose and an online fundraising management tool from Convio for its flexibility, lower initial costs and ability to scale up quickly. The nonprofit manages the activity of 14 million donors and 124 affiliated offices. “We did have to make sure the security precautions were the same we would have used for on-premise CRM, and we had to choose vendors who could show us the status of all servers, performance metrics, and the same stats of a premise-based product,” says Ricketts.

What You Should Do :: Don’t base your decision on what you’re currently using, says Ameres; consider which platform best meets your current needs for managing customer contacts and technical issues such as security or scalability. On-premise CRM is better suited for integration with other in-house applications, observes Usman. But a SaaS application offers lower up-front costs for companies that need a new system immediately and don’t have a big data center staff.

John Brandon is a freelance writer based in Minnesota.

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Friday, 3 September 2010

Cloud Computing: A Perfect Fit for Midsized Companies

I often hear a debate about exactly who is using cloud computing — especially the IaaS variant. Many times I hear people aver that cloud computing is mostly being used by SMB companies. Others assert that cloud computing will really pick up when really large companies make the move. I dissent from both of those perspectives. I believe over the next couple of years it will be midsize companies that really leverage IaaS cloud computing.

Why would this be the case?
I think it's a pipe dream that small companies are going to really adopt cloud computing. The primary reason is that these companies are typically extremely short-handed in terms of technical talent. They've usually got a few overworked super sys admins fighting each day's fires with absolutely no time to invest in learning new skills.
And don't kid yourself, cloud computing requires skill upgrades. There's a world of difference between getting a single instance running in Amazon and implementing an elastic application surrounded by the necessary supporting services like monitoring and management. One small company sysadmin confided to me in a quiet aside — this was just a few years ago — that she was anxious about upgrading one of their core applications because the new version required an SQL database.

So I don't see small companies really adopting IaaS. Many people note that the low cost of cloud computing would be a good match for small businesses and assume that they'll be a ready market for the cloud. It's true that small businesses also run extremely lean and look to save every penny on IT they can. For this reason small businesses will be the home of SaaS adoption. SaaS is perfect for small businesses — they get the benefits of world-class infrastructure, enterprise-class features, and no capital investment. Frankly, I'd be surprised if the SMB market doesn't shift to a SaaS-dominated sector.

Looking at large companies, the barriers to cloud computing aren't a shortage of technical talent or a lack of capital. Far from it. Large companies are the ones that were able to build their own data centers and support a full complement of technical staff.

What holds back large companies is, in a sense, their success with the previous generation of computing. Because they could invest in the old model, they've now got an installed base of hardware and a large, top-notch technical staff on hand.

There's pressure on these businesses to justify the sunk cost of their hardware infrastructure, so they tend to more toward a vision of private cloud computing. And many of the talented technologists on staff see public cloud computing as a job threat, so there's a natural tendency to conclude that it requires further study and assessment and avoid rushing into anything too hastily. And in any case, many of these companies are executing five-year plans that have already been set in motion, so disrupting the current plan, even to consider something that could be very attractive, tends to be downplayed.

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3 Areas Where FUD Needs to Stop

There is a new breed of animal appearing in the infosec community, according to Dr. Jimmy Blake, chief security officer for Mimecast, a cloud-services company based in London, and host of the blog Cloud Computing and Bad Behavior. The new breed is what he calls the "attention monger" (he actually used a more colorful word, but we toned it down for this article.) The attention monger is courting headlines with the media that add no real value to information security.

Most infosec pros know the term FUD; it stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. But increasingly Blake thinks he sees FUD making headlines too often because opportunists are hoping to get their name out there. However, while drumming up concern over vulnerabilities in popular products does often garner media attention, it can be detrimental, too, he warns (See also: Good FUD vs. bad: Is there really a difference?).

"The danger in raising FUD is that users get attrition. They get so used to a constant stream of things that they are told to watch out for and when the really big things actually occur, they aren't ready for it," he said. "If we are constantly bombarding users with this stuff, it gets lost in the noise and they aren't prepared for the real vulnerabilities."
Blake recently outlined three areas where he sees rampant hype spewed in the media with little value.
Apple (AAPL):

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Thursday, 2 September 2010

84% of Businesses Surveyed Will Support Personal iPads

This is the most striking statistic that has come out of a current survey that Citrix is conducting. The 494 respondents so far have indicated a high adoption rate and anticipation of the iPad as a business tool. To be clear this is not cross section of all businesses, rather it is mostly comprised of Citrix customers and those that have come to our website and have interest enough in the iPad to take a short survey.

The high level of support for personal iPads seems to reinforce the notion that the iPad will be the door opener for BYOC at many companies. The fact that IT can safely provide access to company apps, data and virtual desktops without managing the device will make the iPad a game changer for business beyond just the form factor and features. This device will provide the leading example of how IT can keep control of the data, apps and compliance yet enable their users to maximize their choice and productivity from anywhere.

Perhaps another reason for the IT support is the fact that so many IT pros plan to use the iPad to be more productive themselves. (This is based on another Citrix survey showing that iPad use by Mobile IT pros as one of the top business uses of the iPad.)

Some of the other finding from the survey so far include

• 80% will purchase and use the iPad for business
• 84% of organizations will support personal iPads; 50% expect their organization to purchase for them
• Primary app to be used on the iPad are productivity apps with 87% response rate
• 90% of respondents will use ipad for business email, closely followed by the ability to view, edit and create presentations. Nearly 60% of respondents indicated that they will use iPad for online meetings and to access critical business information
• Largest benefits: 90% indicated increased mobility to work remote, at home, or anywhere, 74% indicated improved productivity and satisfaction

It's not too late to participate, the survey runs through May 31 and you will get a chance to win an iPad ( regardless of your answers ) . Let us know your vote and comment below if you have other thoughts or opinions on the results so far. I will do a follow-up with all the details when all the results are in.

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Microsoft To Pay More Than Half A Billion Dollars To Jump-Start Windows Phone 7

Editor’s note: The following guest post is by Kim-Mai Cutler.

Nearly four years after Apple launched the iPhone and two years after Google open-sourced the code for its Android operating system, Microsoft is finally set to re-enter the mobile market this holiday season in a serious way with Windows Phone 7.

It is trying to catch up to those more modern smartphones the only way it can — with cold, hard cash.
The company could spend a half-billion dollars or more in marketing costs and payments to developers and handset manufacturers to subsidize the expense of building phones and apps, so that the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem is well-seeded at launch.

Jonathan Goldberg, a telecommunications analyst at Deutsche Bank, estimates that Microsoft will spend $400 million on marketing alone for the Windows Phone 7 launch. That doesn’t include the millions it has already committed to pay for “non-recurring engineering” costs that help offset development costs for handset manufacturers.

“This is make-or-break for them. They need to do whatever it takes to stay in the game,” says Goldberg. “It’s still wide open. They don’t have to take share from Android or Apple, so long as they can attract enough consumers switching from feature phones.”

On a visit earlier this month to the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Goldberg says company executives told him that Microsoft, along with its carrier and manufacturing partners, would likely spend “billions” of dollars in the first year for marketing and development. Another source familiar with Microsoft’s manufacturer and carrier agreements says the company will spend $1 billion on the launch, half on marketing and half on other development costs.

“We have a long-term view and Microsoft has been in this position before in other businesses where we’ve had to take a long-term view,” says Microsoft senior product manager Greg Sullivan, who would not comment on the estimates. “The mobile phone market is growing by leaps and bounds, but it’s still in the early stages.”

In some cases, potential manufacturing partners have accepted payments only to later back out.
Out of the original eight handset manufacturers that Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 with in February, there’s serious traction left at just three—HTC, Samsung and LG, according to Goldberg. (The others were Dell, HP, Sony-Ericsson, Garmin-Asus, and Toshiba). Sullivan didn’t comment on the launch partners either. But HP, which was set to design and sell Windows Phone 7 handsets up until it acquired Palm in April, had a contract covering development costs over several years that could have been worth up to $20 million, according to a source familiar with the deal.

Sullivan declined to comment on the nature of its deals with handset makers. “We have a broad range of interactions with our partners and sometimes that involves our engineers working closely with their engineers,” he says.

Not only that, Microsoft has been offering financial support sometimes in the form of revenue guarantees to developers so that there will be enough apps in its store at launch, according to Microsoft senior product manager Anand Iyer. Apple and Google, in comparison, have accumulated enough natural momentum for their mobile platforms to attract developers for free.

Iyer counters that  already there has been 300,000 downloads of Microsoft’s development tools, suggesting strong interest. Indeed, Microsoft has hundreds of thousands of developers it can tap through the relationships it’s built over the years with the Xbox and Windows.

But the reality is that Microsoft has been outmaneuvered by a team a fraction of its size over the last five years at Google in a space it rightfully should have owned. It initially focused on enterprise consumers when RIM commanded the smartphone market with the Blackberry, but had to switch gears once Apple blew open the doors with the ultra, consumer-friendly iPhone. It also originally focused on phones with resistive touchscreen interfaces (the kind that work with a stylus) and only recently started supporting capacitive touch, years after Apple launched it.

Its most recent efforts in the mobile space have bombed. The company took the much-hyped Kin phone off the market after reportedly selling fewer than 10,000 units. Furthermore by spending hundreds of millions of dollars, it is effectively competing against its own business model. It licenses out its software for a fee of roughly $15 per OS shipped to manufacturers, unlike Android, which is free and lacks the same software restrictions. A big question for Microsoft is whether it will be able to keep its licensing model afloat   (Even at $10 per device, 100 million Windows 7 phones will have to ship before it recoups $1 billion in marketing and engineering subsidies, not counting revenues from search advertising or its cut of app sales).

That said, Microsoft has come from behind before. It entered the console market years
behind Sony and Nintendo; the Xbox is now the top-selling console in the U.S. this year and Xbox Live, its online gaming service, generated an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue last year.

Windows Phone 7 has also won positive reviews from tech blogs across the board with its
sleek interface. MobileCrunch’s Greg Kumparak praised the OS, calling it “the little girl who was kind of a punk to you in second grade somehow managed to grow up kind of cool — and to top it off, she’s actually sort of hot.” Many manufacturers also don’t necessarily want to be wholly dependent on Android and want to diversify by supporting Windows phones.

Sullivan says the company’s OS would marry the best of Apple’s tightly-controlled platform model, with a consistent user experience and elegant design from device to device, with the best of Android’s horizontal model, which lets consumers choose their handsets and carriers.

Plus, the marketing dollars do make a difference. The $100 million Goldberg estimates that Verizon, Motorola and Google collectively spent on marketing helped turn the Droid line of phones into a serious stable of competitors against the iPhone. (Compare that to Google’s fizzled Nexus One launch, where the search giant pinched pennies on marketing.)

So a half a billion could do even more. At this point, Microsoft doesn’t have any other choice.
Update: Dell PR has contacted TechCrunch to let us know, “Any reports, or speculation, that report Dell will not support Windows Phone 7 are false…Microsoft announced Dell as a supporting partner at this year’s Mobile World Congress and nothing’s changed.” However, we’ve heard that Dell might wait until after the Windows Phone 7 launch to bring out their phone (and thus don’t have as serious traction as HTC, Samsung, or LG). When we asked Dell if this is true, they wouldn’t comment on the timing of the launch.
Photo credit: Flickr/Michael David Pedersen.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Article: What does RIM Need to Do to Stay Relevant in the Enterprise?

It's no secret that RIM is in trouble on Wall Street as it loses out in the consumer market to Android vendors and Apple. But what about RIM's core competency, the enterprise? We've been covering the rapid adoption of Android and especially iOS in the enterprise, and the availability of device management alternatives to the BlackBerry Enterprise Manager. Is RIM in danger of losing business customers as well as consumers? We think so, but have a few ideas on what RIM can do to keep its competitive edge.

First of all, let's be clear: most of the Android and iOS adoption in the enterprise is coming from user-owned devices. At the moment, RIM seems to be holding onto its existing enterprise customers. So why are we worried? Two things:

1) User-owned devices could start to cut into corporate owned devices. Business customers may start ditching their BlackBerrys in favor of carrying only one non-RIM phone as more organizations begin to allow user-owned devices.

2) As enterprises start supporting Android and iOS devices using device management solutions such as Good, Mobile Iron and Zenprise, they may start to realize they don't need BES any more.

3) As we pointed out when the European Commission decided against using BlackBerrys, enterprises are increasingly relying on more than just e-mail for communication and collaboration - and the lack of developer support for BlackBerry could be a stumbling block in the future.
So what are they to do?

Switch to Android

Dan Frommer recently suggested that RIM switch to Android. There was already a rumor that RIM's tablet will be Android powered, though that seems unlikely (others suggest it will be QNX powered).

Certainly that would be difficult, but it would give BlackBerry users a greater selection of software. As Frommer points out, the BlackBerry OS isn't RIM's core competency - its secure e-mail service is. If RIM offered a device with modern hardware, an Android operating system and its own e-mail service, all tied to a BES, then it could secure its position in the enterprise.

Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang disagrees. "There is so much value in the BBOS today," he says. "The issue is they need to rearchitect the platform to be more object oriented and developer productivity focused."
"My 12 year old cousin can build a fairly complex iPhone app in 3 weeks," Wang says. "The same app would require him 2 months to build on the RIM platform." To this end, RIM is re-tooling its app store, but it seems a lot like the Torch: too little, too late.

Deeply Integrate with Enterprise Software

If the future of the enterprise is in apps, then RIM could do more to engage enterprise software vendors and integrate their software more deeply in the BES. RIM is already doing this with SAP, but as Wang points out, development for BlackBerrys can be difficult.

"Relevance in the enterprise is not really in question at this point for RIM as they are still the dominant platform in this area right now," says Seregon CEO Julian White, "Where the other platforms have a slight advantage, and therefore RIM has a great opportunity to improve upon, is in the development tools they offer to build B2B, B2C, and B2E applications."

Seregon markets mobile enterprise application development platforms and will launch a new mobile application framework DragonRAD this year at BlackBerry DevCon.

A big issue for enterprises creating mobile apps is how to handle custom installations, according Rhomobile CEO Adam Blum. "Almost no enterprise is using an out of the box schema," he says.

Rhomobile attempts to solve this with its mobile application framework Rhodes (which we covered previously here), which supports changing schemes. According to Blum, spent quite a lot of money developing its own schema framework for its mobile app. RhoLogic was able to use Rhodes to quickly and cheaply build a SugarCRM mobile client.

RhoMobile or Seregon could make interesting acquisition targets for RIM, or point to a future strategy for RIM: making life easier for enterprise developers.

Create a Breakthrough Technology

RIM has been lagging companies like Apple, HTC and Samsung in its hardware development lately. The Torch's 624 Mhz processor and 360/480 resolution display failed to impress most reviewers. At the very least it needs to keep up with the competition - but what if they were able to leapfrog the competition? It's hard to predict what that could be, but if RIM stays in the hardware game it would be nice to see some real innovation.

The Good News: Apple might Not be All That Interested in the Enterprise

There is some good news: even though Apple may be capturing some of the enterprise market, but Canonical COO Matt Asay recently tweeted "Will Apple care? It has never aggressively courted enterprises." In fact, Steve Jobs hates enterprise IT.

It's difficult to see Apple walking away from all that money, and have been releasing enterprise iOS tools, so RIM shouldn't take too much comfort. But IT managers should take note of Apple's antipathy towards the enterprise before investing too heavily into Apple technology.

What else?

Are you a business user who has switched to the iPhone or an Android device? Or an IT manager considering supporting more mobile operating systems? What can RIM do to win you back or keep you?

Article: A Community-Based Framework to Evaluate Cloud Service Providers - ReadWriteCloud

When we wrote last week about "4 Tools for Assessing Cloud Performance," we asked for suggestions about other resources that can help companies monitor and evaluate cloud services. And we asked for suggestions as to what factors, in addition to cost and performance, might be important to weigh when making business decisions.
Jeffrey Abbott, Senior Product Marketing Manager in the Cloud Customer Solutions Unit at CA Technologies wrote a blog post in response: "Comparing the Relative Quality of Cloud Services - Is a single metric enough?" In it, he argues that not only are one or two variables insufficient, but that different parameters matter to different people. As such, a more robust index to evaluate cloud services needs to be developed.
CA Technologies started work on such a project, which has now been handed over to Carnegie Mellon University so that it can be an independent tool built not by one vendor but by a broader online community.

Cloud Commons and the Service Measurement Index

smi_detail.jpgThe Service Measurement Index (SMI) is a method designed to measure the end-to-end customer experience for any number of cloud services. The SMI will allow organizations to evaluate any number of IT services available to them, regardless of whether those services are provide internally or sourced to outside companies. The index measures services on six metrics, including quality, agility, risk, cost, capability, and security.
And it allows users to weight the importance of these different factors, depending on their definitions of what constitutes "good service." After all, for some companies, cost is no option. For others, cost may be the key. The SMI, hopes Abbott, will allow businesses to compare "apples to apples" when making IT decisions.
Launched in May of this year, the SMI and the Cloud Commons that supports it are fairly new projects. The index tracks over 100 services so far, including SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS providers. While some of the initial information comprising the SMI was compiled based on research with select businesses, Abbott says an API is in the works so that the index can be integrated into products and so that services can be monitored on a real-time basis. When appropriate, the information captured will be used to populate the database with more details about cloud companies' performance.