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Why we about to move from cloud computing to industrial computing?

April 5, 2010 7 comments

I spent the other week at a new conference called Cloud Connect. Being able to spend four days emerged in an industry discussion about cloud computing really allows you to step back and think about where we are with this emerging industry. While it would be possible to write endlessly about all the meeting and conversations I had, you probably wouldn’t have enough time to read all that. So, I’ll spare you and give you the top four things I learned at Cloud Connect. I recommend that you also take a look at Brenda Michelson’s blogs from the event for a lot more detail. I would also refer you to Joe McKendrick’s blog from the event.

1. Customers are still figuring out what Cloud Computing is all about.  For those of us who spend way too many hours on the topic of cloud computing, it is easy to make the assumption that everyone knows what it is all about.  The reality is that most customers do not understand what cloud computing is.  Marcia Kaufman and I conducted a full day workshop called Introduction to Cloud. The more than 60 people who dedicated a full day to a discussion of all aspects of the cloud made it clear to us that they are still figuring out the difference between infrastructure as a service and platform as a service. They are still trying to understand the issues around security and what cloud computing will mean to their jobs.

2. There is a parallel universe out there among people who have been living and breathing cloud computing for the last few years. In their view the questions are very different. The big issues discussed among the well-connected were focused on a few key issues: is there such a thing as a private cloud?; Is Software as a Service really cloud computing? Will we ever have a true segmentation of the cloud computing market?

3. From the vantage point of the market, it is becoming clear that we are about to enter one of those transitional times in this important evolution of computing. Cloud Connect reminded me a lot of the early days of the commercial Unix market. When I attended my first Unix conference in the mid-1980s it was a different experience than going to a conference like Comdex. It was small. I could go and have a conversation with every vendor exhibiting. I had great meetings with true innovators. There was a spirit of change and innovation in the halls. I had the same feeling about the Cloud Connect conference. There were a small number of exhibitors. The key innovators driving the future of the market were there to discuss and debate the future. There was electricity in the air.

4. I also anticipate a change in the direction of cloud computing now that it is about to pass that tipping point. I am a student of history so I look for patterns. When Unix reached the stage where the giants woke up and started seeing huge opportunity, they jumped in with a vengeance. The great but small Unix technology companies were either acquired, got big or went out of business. I think that we are on the cusp of the same situation with cloud computing. IBM, HP, Microsoft, and a vast array of others have seen the future and it is the cloud. This will mean that emerging companies with great technology will have to be both really luck and really smart.

The bottom line is that Cloud Connect represented a seminal moment in cloud computing. There is plenty of fear among customers who are trying to figure out what it will mean to their own data centers. What will the organizational structure of the future look like? They don’t know and they are afraid. The innovative companies are looking at the coming armies of large vendors and are wondering how to keep their differentiation so that they can become the next Google rather than the next company whose name we can’t remember. There was much debate about two important issues: cloud standards and private clouds. Are these issues related? Of course. Standards always become an issue when there is a power grab in a market. If a Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, or an Oracle is able to set the terms for cloud computing, market control can shift over night. Will standard interfaces be able to save the customer? And how about private clouds? Are they real? My observation and contention is that yes, private clouds are real. If you deploy the same automation, provisioning software, and workload management inside a company rather than inside a public cloud it is still a cloud. Ironically, the debate over the private cloud is also about power and position in the market, not about ideology. If a company like Google, Amazon, or name whichever company is your favorite flavor… is able to debunk the private cloud — guess who gets all the money? If you are a large company where IT and the data center is core to how you conduct business — you can and should have a private cloud that you control and manage.

So, after taking a step back I believe that we are witnessing the next generation of computing — the industrialization of computing. It might not be as much fun as the wild west that we are in the midst of right now but it is coming and should be here before we realize that it has happened.

The DNA of the Cloud Power Partnerships

January 15, 2010 2 comments

I have been thinking  alot about the new alliances forming around cloud computing over the past couple of months.  The most important of these moves are EMC,Cisco, and VMware, HP and Microsoft’s announced collaboration, and of course, Oracle’s planned acquisition of Sun.  Now, let’s add IBM’s cloud strategy into the mix which has a very different complexion from its competitors. And, of course, my discussion of the cloud power struggle wouldn’t be complete without adding in the insurgents — Google and Amazon.  While it is tempting to want to portray this power grab by all of the above as something brand new — it isn’t.  It is a replay of well-worn patterns that we have seen in the computer industry for the past several decades. Yes, I am old enough to have been around for all of these power shifts. So, I’d like to point out what the DNA of this power struggle looks like for the cloud and how we might see history repeating itself in the coming year.  So, here is a sample of how high profile partnerships have fared over the past few decades. While the past can never accurately predict the future, it does provide some interesting insights.

Partner realignment happens when the stakes change.  There was a time when Cisco was a very, very close partner with HP. In fact, I remember a time when HP got out of the customer service software market to collaborate with Cisco. That was back in 1997.

Here are the first couple of sentences from the press release:

SAN JOSE and PALO ALTO, Calif., Jan. 15, 1997 — Hewlett-Packard Company and Cisco Systems Inc. today announced an alliance to jointly develop Internet-ready networked-computing solutions to maximize the benefits of combining networking and computing. HP and Cisco will expand or begin collaboration in four areas: technology development, product integration, professional services and customer service and support.

If you are interested, here is a link to the full press release.  What’s my point? These type of partnerships are in both HP’s and Cisco’s DNA. Both companies have made significant and broad-reaching partnerships. For example, back in 2004, IBM and Cisco created a broad partnership focused on the data center. Here’s an excerpt from a CRN article:

From the April 29, 2004 issue of CRN Cisco Systems (NSDQ:CSCO) and IBM (NYSE:IBM) on Thursday expanded their long-standing strategic alliance to take aim at the data center market. Solution providers said the new integrated data center solutions, which include a Cisco Gigabit Ethernet Layer 2 switch module for IBM’s eServer Blade Center, will help speed deployment times and ease management of on-demand technology environments.
“This is a big win for IBM,” said Chris Swahn, president of sales at Amherst Technologies, a solution provider in Merrimack, N.H.
The partnership propels IBM past rival Hewlett-Packard, which has not been as quick to integrate its own ProCurve network equipment into its autonomic computing strategy, Swahn said.
Cisco and IBM said they are bringing together their server, storage, networking and management products to provide an integrated data center automation platform.

Here is a link to the rest of the article.

HP itself has had a long history of very interesting partnerships. A few that are most relevant include HP’s ill-fated partnership with BEA in the 1990s. At the time, HP invested $100 million in BEA to further the development of software to support HP’s software infrastructure and platform strategy.

HP Gives BEA $100m for Joint TP Development
Published:08-April-1999
By Computergram

Hewlett-Packard Co and BEA Systems Inc yesterday said they plan to develop new transaction processing software as well as integrate a raft of HP software with BEA’s WebLogic application server, OLTP and e-commerce software. In giving the nod to WebLogic as its choice of application server, HP stopped far short of an outright acquisition of the recently-troubled middleware company, a piece of Wall Street tittle tattle which has been doing the round for several weeks now. HP has agreed to put BEA products through all of its distribution channels and is committing $100m for integration and joint development.

Here’s a link to an article about the deal.

Oracle  probably has more partnerships and more entanglement with more companies than anyone else.  For example,  HP has a  longstanding partnership with Oracle on the data management front. HP partnered closely with Oracle and optimized its hardware for the Oracle database. Today, Oracle and HP have more than 100,000 joint customers. Likewise, Oracle has a strong partnership with IBM — especially around its solutions business. IBM Global Services operates a huge consulting practice based on implementing and running Oracle’s solutions.  Not to be outdone, EMC and Oracle have about 70,000 joint customers. Oracle supports EMC’s storage solutions for Oracle’s portfolio while EMC supports Oracle’s solutions portfolio.

Microsoft, like Oracle, has entanglements with most of the market leaders. Microsoft has partnered very closely with HP for the last couple of decades both on the PC front and on the software front. Clearly, the partnership between HP and Microsoft has evolved for many years so this latest partnership is a continuation of a long-standing relationship. Microsoft has long-standing relationships with EMC, Sun, and Oracle — to name a few.

And what about Amazon and Google? Because both companies were early innovators in cloud computing, they were able to gain credibility in a market that had not yet emerged as the center of power. Therefore, both companies were well positioned to create partnerships with every established vendors that needed to do something with the cloud.  Every company from IBM to Oracle to EMC and Microsoft — to name but a few — established partnerships with these companies. Amazon and Google were small, convenient and non-threatening. But as the power of both companies continues to –grow,  so will their ability to partner in the traditional way. I am reminded of the way IBM partnered with two small companies — Intel and Microsoft when it needed a processor and an operating system to help bring the IBM PC to market in the early 1980s.

The bottom line is that cloud computing is becoming more than a passing fad — it is the future of how computing will change in the coming decades. Because of this reality, partnerships are changing and will continue to change. So, I suspect that the pronouncements of strategic, critical and sustainable partnerships may or may not be worth the paper or compute cycles that created them. But the reality is that the power struggle for cloud dominance is on. It will not leave anything untouched. It will envelop hardware, software, networking, and services. No one can predict exactly what will happen, but the way these companies have acted in the past and the present give us clues to a chaotic and predictable future.

Tectonic shifts: HP Plus 3Com versus Cisco Plus EMC

November 18, 2009 4 comments

Just when it looked clear where the markets were lining up around data center automation and cloud computing, things change. I guess that is what makes this industry so very interesting.  The proposed acquisition by HP of 3Com is a direct challenge to Cisco’s network management franchise. However, the implications of this move go further than what meets the eye.  It also pits HP in a direct path against EMC with its Cisco partnership. And to make things even more interesting, it also puts these two companies in a competitive three way race against IBM and its cloud/data center automation strategy. And of course, it doesn’t stop there. A myriad of emerging companies like Google and Amazon want a larger share of the enterprise market for cloud services. Companies like Unisys and CSC that has focused on the outsourced secure data centers are getting into the act.

I don’t think that we will see a single winner — no matter what any one of these companies will tell you.  The winners in this market shift will be those companies can build a compelling platform and a compelling value proposition for a partner ecosystem.  The truth about the cloud is that it is not simply a network or a data center. It is a new way of providing services of all sorts that can support changing customer workloads in a secure and predictable manner.

In light of this, what does this say for HP’s plans to acquire 3Com? If we assume that the network infrastructure is a key component of an emerging cloud and data center strategy, HP is making a calculated risk in acquiring more assets in this market.  The company that has found that its ProCurve networking division has begun gaining traction. HP ProCurve Networking is the networking division of HP.  The division includes network switches, wireless access points, WAN routers, and Access Control servers and software.   ProCurve competes directly with Cisco in the networking switch market. When HP had a tight partnership with Cisco, the company de-emphasized the networking. However, once Cisco started to move into the server market, the handcuffs came off. The 3Com acquisition takes the competitive play to a new level. 3Com has a variety of good pieces of technology that HP could leverage within ProCurve. Even more significantly, it picks up a strong security product called TippingPoint, a 3Com acquisition. TippingPoint fills a critical hole in HP’s security offering. TippingPoint, offers network security offerings including intrusion prevention and a product that inspects network packets.  The former 3Com subsidiary has also established a database of security threats based a network of external researchers.

But I think that one of the most important reasons that HP bought 3Com is its strong relationships in the Chinese market. In fiscal year 2008 half of 3Com’s revenue came from its H3C joint venture with Chinese vendor, Huawei Technology. Therefore, it is not surprising that HP would have paid a premium to gain a foothold in this lucrative market. If HP is smart, it will do a good job leveraging the many software assets to build out both its networking assets as well as beefing up its software organization. In reality, HP is much more comfortable in the hardware market. Therefore, adding networking as a core competency makes sense. It will also bolster its position as a player in the high end data center market and in the private cloud space.

Cisco, on the other hand, is coming from the network and moving agressively into the cloud and the data center market.  The company has purchased a position with VMWare and has established a tight partnership with EMC as a go to market strategy.  For Cisco, it gives the company credibility and access to customers outside of its traditional markets. For EMC, the Cisco relationship strengthens its networking play.  But an even bigger value for the relationship is to present a bigger footprint to customers as they move to take on HP, IBM, and the assortment of other players who all want to win.  The Cisco/EMC/VMware play is to focus on the private cloud.  In their view a private cloud is very similar to a private, preconfigured data center.  It can be a compelling value proposition to a customer that needs a data center fast without having to deal with a lot of moving parts.  The real question from a cloud computing perspective is the key question: is this really a cloud?

It was inevitable that this quiet market dominated by Google and Amazon would heat up as the cloud becomes a real market force.  But I don’t expect that HP or Cisco/EMC will have a free run. They are being joined by IBM and Microsoft — among others. The impact could be better options for customers and prices that invariably will fall. The key to success for all of these players will be how well they manage what will be an increasingly heterogeneous, federated, and highly distributed hardware and software world. Management comes in many flavors: management of these highly distributed services and management of the workloads.

I love the smell of acquisitions in the morning: BMC Gets BladeLogic

March 18, 2008 1 comment

The great thing about acquisitions is that it provides a lot of fodder for bloggers and pundits. And there have certainly been a lot lately. For example, just yesterday BMC finally got a data center automation company. It almost had landed OpsWare when HP swooped down and landed the deal. Now BMC is planning to purchase BladeLogic for about $800 million. This acquisition allows BMC to claim that it has all of the pieces to elevate its position in the data center automation market along side HP — its biggest rival. It also helps BMC demonstrate that it can use its cash to fund growth. BMC has more than a billion dollars in the bank and was under pressure to do something with the cash to fuel growth.

BMC has an interesting challenge. Much of the company’s growth has come from its acquisition of Remedy Software — which provides help desk automation solutions. While the company might have used Remedy as the center of its future strategy it decided to try for a bigger play. In 2004 it announced its Business Service Management strategy focused on providing measurement and management of IT resources from a business impact perspective.

The BladeLogic acquisition is a continuation of this strategy. BladeLogic adds more data center automation software into the platform. While this is a good move for BMC is not without risk. BMC has some much bigger and stronger competitors who seem the same potential for helping customers create a next generation computing environment. HP, for example, has a jump start on BMC through its Opsware acquisition. Ospware, now part of HP’s Business Technology Optimization (BTO) platform, adds to the depth of the HP management portfolio. In addition to HP’s some significant software assets for data center automation but HP has at least 15 of experience in both its consulting and outsourcing organization. In addition, HP picked up some significant talent from the Opsware team. IBM has been building its service management platform for years both through development and a slew of aquisitions too numerous to mention (I would definitely leave a couple dozen out if I tried). IBM has begun to leverage its resources to build a significant in Service Management portfolio under the Tivoli brand. Tivoli has been working over the last few years to rearchitect these assets into a platform. Some interesting assets that IBM has put into the mix include management software such as Netcool and Micromuse to ISS Solutions for security management. IBM has a significant consulting, services, and outsourcing organization in management as well.

Two other companies that BMC has to be worried about: CA which has been quitely rearchitecting its managment platform over the last few years with good results and EMC which has been buying management assets over the past several years and is putting together a potentially powerful platform.

Why is data center automation and service management suddenly the rage?

The next generation data centers is a big deal because organizations are trying to consolidate the number of data centers they are managing and they are trying to make those resulting data centers more efficient in terms of resources and energy. These companies also want to be able to treat all of their systems and software as though they are a set of assets that can be moved around and reused in a safe and predictable way. At the same time, existing data center technology has been aging. During the tech downturn during the last recession, companies stopped buying and updating their infrastructure until they figured out how to absorb what they had already bought. While customers were doing this, massive changes were happening in the industry — most notable has been the rise of virtualization –everything from grid computing to server virtualization to desktop virtualization. Now, combine virtualization of resources with the ability to manage this combination of resources as though it were an integrated environment based on business needs. This is where we are headed. It is little wonder that the acquisitions are happening. I think that it only the beginning of the big players buying the resources they need to win.

Top 10 Predictions: Innovation, ROI, Cloud Computing and more…

December 21, 2007 2 comments

I love the end of the year. I get to sneak out of the office for a few days and stay off of airplanes. I also have a chance to look ahead to the new year. I like making predictions. Sometimes, I am years ahead of the market; other times I am able to hit the nail on the head. So, for what it is worth, here are my top ten predictions for 2008 (Hey, how did that happen? What happened to 2007? I thought it just started!)

1. There will be two hot buzzwords this year: innovation and ROI. Companies want to find ways to leverage the technology they have invested in, to do things in totally new ways. At the same time, companies are nervous about investing in technology. They want assurances that there will be a return on their investment — quickly. So, you will see a lot of discussion of both issues. But here is one prediction that I guarantee: most of the proof about innovation and ROI will be fluffy and devoid of any real meat!

2. Here come the clouds! I think that cloud computing, one of the latest versions of virtualization, will become one of the hottest trends of 2008. Any infrastructure company you can name will come up with a cloud computing strategy. No single leader will emerge in 2008 but you won’t be able to move without bumping into the hype.

3. Software as a Service goes mainstream. Sure, SalesForce.com has been the industry darling over the past few years. There can be no doubt that SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff’s imaginative adventure hit the bulls-eye. But I expect that in 2008 there will be numerous mainstream, innovative approaches to Software as a Service. We already saw SAP announce SAP By Design as its entry into the SaaS market. Expect a lot more from mainstream players. Now add a social networking twist and things really get interesting.

4. The world gets more virtual. VMWare’s spectacular IPO made the rest of the market wakeup and smell the roses. Maybe there is money in this virtualization stuff after all. There will be three virtualization market segments: client, server, and application. I can’t decide which one I think is more important. How about all three!

5. More vendors will make more acquisitions (that’s another one you can take to the bank). Yes, Oracle will certainly make more acquisitions, but I don’ t think that BEA will be in the mix. Nor will HP buy BEA. However, I do predict that BEA will probably go private. I predict that HP will buy more software companies, especially in the data management area. IBM will continue its buying especially in software — more companies in what they call information management, more in systems management, and in the collaboration space. I expect to see more action from EMC as well primarily in management and security. The list is too long for this entry but stay tuned, it is going to be a very, very busy year.

6. So, I didn’t mention Microsoft yet. This is the year when Microsoft’s server/enterprise business will get the respect it deserves. Therefore, I expect to see Microsoft continue to make small but strategic acquisitions that will fit into the forthcoming Oslo strategy. I would expect to see Microsoft look for information management picks (among others). However, I don’t expect that Microsoft will be buying big, traditional software companies. I expect that Microsoft will make interesting acquisitions in web collaboration, social networking, and advertising.

7. Online goes off-line. Companies like Zoho are starting to gain traction because they can provide both online services combined with offline usage. Being able to continue working when you can’t get connectivity is the tipping point for these collaboration offerings to challenge Microsoft in the office and collaboration space.

8. This is the year that Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) moves from IT strategy to business strategy. Therefore, SOA will officially move out of the hype cycle and into mainstream. CEOs and CIOs have bought into the importance of consistent business oriented services. Therefore, expect that customers will get down to serious business of moving out of pilots into slow, deliberate implementations. This doesn’t make for splashy headlines but it does make business sense.

9. Google will continue to move into any market that leverages the advertising revenue model — including collaboration software and various cloud computing options. No surprise there. I do not expect that Google will make a bid for the traditional enterprise applications. I do expect to see a strengthening partnership with IBM.

10. Partner ecosystems will reach a new level of intensity this year. Enterprise software leaders will be working hard to make sure the most popular emerging players support their platforms. They will be joined in the mix by Software as a Service players who are trying to build up their arsenal of partners. Emerging players will live or die by their ability to sign the best partnerships. At the same time, enterprise software leaders are upping the requirements for participation. The bottom line is: what’s in it for me?

11. I know I promised 10 predictions but I have to add one more. There will be at least a few trends that will come out of the blue. But that is what makes things interesting!