Business · Cloud · Data

Shifting the thinking of enterprise applications

Enterprise applications are not new and have been around for decades. Since their start, enterprise applications have increased in their level of sophistication and business automation. However, this sophistication comes with a significant degree of complexity too.

Historically, enterprises were in the position where they needed to build everything themselves. Much of this stemmed from the fact there were limited options to consider. Fast forward to today and there are a myriad of options of how an enterprise can consume an enterprise application.

However, getting from here to there is not trivial. Practically every enterprise application has a strong degree of complexity that is directly tied to the intricacies of their specific business operations. For decades, enterprises have taken the approach of customizing the application to match their existing business processes. Due to the degree of customization, every enterprise Information Technology (IT) organization essentially created their own enterprise application snowflake.

CHANGING THE ENTERPRISE APPLICATION PARADIGM

One of the challenges for enterprise applications in the cost to upgrade. All of the unique customizations significantly increase the cost and complexity to upgrade the system. The customizations, related programming, configuration and testing involved turn each upgrade into the equivalent of a new implementation.

For many enterprises, it is common practice to skip versions rather than maintain currency due to the cost and disruption associated with the complexity to upgrade. This also means that many enterprises delay their ability to leverage new functionality.

New opportunities from cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) present unique opportunities to enterprise applications. With cloud-based enterprise applications, no longer is the enterprise required to install, manage and operate the underlying enterprise application. As applications increase in their level of complexity, this takes an increasingly huge burden off the shoulders of the IT organization.

AI presents a different type of opportunity. Enterprises are increasingly their reliance on data to gain greater insights. The volume and types of data are adding increased pressure on the traditional methods to analyze data. AI presents a unique opportunity to automate the process and gain insights not previously possible. However, the more data available to the AI algorithm, the more supportive it can be. And that is where cloud comes in to provide additional resources in a meaningful way when needed without the need to build a fortress internally.

TRADITIONAL VERSUS TRANSFORMATIONAL

Of late, enterprise IT organizations are shifting their focus from a traditionalIT organization to that of a transformationalIT organization. That is to say that their focus is shifting from technology-centricto business-centric. As part of this shift, IT organizations are looking for ways to streamline their technical operations and focus more on data and insights.

The shift to transformational IT organizations is having an impact on the most sacred applications within the IT portfolio including the enterprise applications.

MATURING THE THINKING ABOUT ENTERPRISE APPLICATIONS

More mature enterprises are starting to shift their thinking about enterprise applications. This is due to a number of factors including 1) IT organizations are shifting their focus on business-centric outcomes, 2) Mature alternatives exist for even the largest of implementations 3) The pressure to implement advanced functions is increasing and 4) The speed in which IT organizations must respond with changes is increasing.

Each of these pose a significant challenge to the traditional approach of maintaining enterprise applications. The only real solution is to change the thinking around enterprise applications to avoid proliferating snowflakes.

 

This post was sponsored by:

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https://www.sap.com/intelligentdata

Business · Data

Understanding the value of data integration

To understand the value of data integration, one has to first understand the changing data landscape. In the past few years, more data has been created than existed in all of time prior to that. In 2014, I penned a post asking ‘Are enterprises prepared for the data tsunami’? When it comes to data, enterprises of all sizes and maturity face two core issues: 1) How to effectively manage the sheer volume of data in a meaningful way and 2) How to extract insights from the data. Unfortunately, the traditional ways to manage data start to break down when considering these new challenges.

DIVERSE DATA SETS

In the above-mentioned post, there was reference to an IDC report suggesting that by 2020, the total amount of data will equate to 40,000 exabytes or 40 trillion gigabytes. That is more than 5,200 gigabytes for every man, woman and child in 2020.

However, unlike data in the past, this new data will come from an increasingly varied list of sources. Some of the data will be structured. Other data will be unstructured. And then there is meta data that is derived through analysis of these varied data sets. All of which needs to be leveraged by the transformational enterprise.

In the past, one might have pooled all of this data into a classic data warehouse. Unfortunately, many of the new data types do not fit nicely into this approach. Then came the data lake as a solution to simply pool all of this data. Unfortunately, this approach is also met with challenges as many enterprises are seeing their data lakes turn into data swamps.

Even beyond data generated internally enterprises are increasing their reliance on externally sourced data. Since this data is not created by the enterprise, there are limits on how the data is leveraged. In addition, simply bringing all of this data into the enterprise is not that simple. Nor is it feasible.

Beyond the concept of different data sets, these new data sets create ‘data gravity’ as they grow in size. Essentially, creating a stronger bond between the data set and the application that leverages it. As the size of the data set grows, so does its ‘gravity’ which prevents movement. All of these reasons create significant friction to considering any movement of data.

VALUE OF INTEGRATING DATA

The solution rests with data integration. Essentially, leave data where it resides and leverage integration methods to the various data sets in order to create insights. There are actually two components when considering how to integrate data.

There is a physical need for data integration and one that is more logical in nature. The physical component is how to physically connect the different data sources together. This is easier said than done. It was already challenging when we managed all of the data within the enterprise. Today, the data resides in the hands of many other players and approaches. This can add complexity to the integration efforts. Modern data integration methods rely on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to create these integration points. In addition, there are security ramifications to consider too.

The logical integration of data often centers around the customer. One of the core objectives for enterprises today is customer engagement. Enterprises are finding ways to learn more about their customer in an effort to build a more holistic profile that ultimately leads to a stronger relationship. Not all of that data is sourced internally. This really is a case of 1+1=3 where even smaller insights can lead to a larger impact when combined.

THE INTERSECTION OF DATA INTEGRATION AND ADVANCED FUNCTIONS

Data integration is a deep and complicated subject that is evolving quickly. Newer advancements in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) space are leading enterprises to gain greater insights that even they didn’t think about. Imagine a situation where you thought you knew your customer, but the system suggested other aspects that weren’t considered. AI has the opportunity to significantly augment the human capability to create more accurate insights and faster.

Beyond AI, other newer functions such as Machine Learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT) present new sources of data to further enhance insights. It should be noted that nether ML nor IoT are able to function in a meaningful way without leveraging data integration.

DATA INTEGRATION LEADS TO SPEED AND INSIGHTS…AND CHALLENGES

Enterprises that leverage AI and ML to augment their efforts find increased value from both the insights and the speed in which they respond. In today’s world where speed and accuracy are becoming a strong differentiation for competitors, leveraging as much data as possible is key. In order to leverage the sheer amount of data, enterprises must leverage data integration to remain competitive.

At the same time, enterprises are facing challenges from new regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). There are many facets and complexities to GDPR that will only further the complexities for data integration and management.

While enterprises may have leveraged custom approaches to solve the data integration problem in the past, today’s complexities demand a different approach. The combination of these challenges push enterprises to leverage advanced tools to assist in the integration of data to gain greater insights.

 

This post sponsored by:

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https://www.sap.com/intelligentdata

Business · Cloud · Data

How cloud is changing the business and IT landscape

 

Enterprises around the globe are facing disruption from a number of different directions. To combat this disruption, they increasingly turn to cloud computing.

Cloud computing is the single biggest opportunity for organizations to dramatically change how their business operates through changes in their Information Technology (IT) landscape. Organizations are evaluating ways to leverage cloud-based solutions in differentiated ways. As these organizations evaluate how best to leverage cloud, there are a number of factors to consider when moving into a cloud-based world.

SHIFTING HOW WE THINK ABOUT ORGANIZATIONS

The move for enterprises leveraging cloud-based technology causes more than just a shift in technology. It also causes a shift in how we think about strategy, organization and culture. In the past, enterprises were required to build their strategy, organization and support around the entire technology platform. There were few to no other reasonable options.

In the cloud-based era, those aspects change. Today, there are mature, viable solutions that allow the enterprise to leverage alternatives. By shifting functions that are important but not strategic nor differentiated, it allows organizations to shift their focus as well.

By making this shift, organizations are able to up-level conversations and focus on business outcomes rather than technology features. These changes open the door to other shifts as well.

CHANGING THE WAY WE WORK

Two of those shifts directly impact the advantage to a business and their customers. The first shift is leverage. Cloud computing provides leverage in ways not previously feasible. IT organizations now have access to a bevy of solutions and virtually unlimited resources. Prior to cloud computing, organizations were limited in their ability to quickly scale resources and leverage new technology. For many, cost constraints were a significant limitation to potential growth.

Beyond technology, cloud provides the organization with the ability to leverage the expertise of others. As mentioned, previous methods required IT organizations to be an expert across a myriad of strategic and non-strategic areas. With cloud, organizations can focus on those aspects strategic and differentiated for their business and customers. This shifts the organization and culture to focus more directly on solutions that provide business advantage.

The second shift is speed. Unlike past options that may take weeks or months for the availability of applications and resources, cloud shortens the time to a matter of minutes. As businesses are looking for ways to respond quickly to ever-changing customer requirements, this rapid flexibility provides the organization with the ability to respond in a timely fashion.

OPENING UP NEW OPPORTUNITES

Aside from speed, cloud opens up a whole new world of opportunity for organizations. Historically, there was a minimum cost of entry for many of the more advanced systems. Unfortunately, these costs were far outside the realm of possibility for Small and Medium Businesses (SMB). With cloud, SMB organizations now have access to the same solutions as the largest of enterprises. Essentially, this levels the playing field by lowering the barriers to entry of these advanced systems.

As organizations shift toward a greater focus on customers through quicker and more accurate business decisions, so does their reliance on data. At the same time, organizations are facing an explosion of data. Traditional reporting and analytics are collapsing under the weight of this new influx of data.

To combat the data deluge, organizations are increasing their reliance on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to automate the insights gleaned from the data. While AI & ML require large quantities of data, traditional solutions are simply unable to provide the resources that AI & ML algorithms require. Again, cloud computing opens the door to organizations, large and small, to leverage these advanced functions.

BRINGING IT TOGETHER

The combination of cloud-based resources with advanced functions provide organizations with new opportunities to glean greater insights much quicker than previously possible. Cloud’s leverage provides organizations the ability to shift the IT landscape to focus on business outcomes and strategic initiatives rather than deep technical expertise.

In summary, cloud computing presents not only an alternative option for technology consumption, but a required pillar for tomorrow’s business.

 

This post is sponsored by:

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https://www.sap.com/intelligentdata

Cloud

Four expectations for AWS re:Invent

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This week brings Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) annual re:Invent conference where thousands will descend upon Las Vegas to learn about cloud and the latest in AWS innovations. Having attended the conference for several years now, there are a number of trends that are common at an AWS event. One of those is the sheer number of products that AWS announces. Aside from that, there are a number of specific things I am looking for at this week’s re:Invent conference.

ENTERPRISE ENGAGEMENT

AWS has done a stellar job of attracting the startup and web-scale markets to their platform. The enterprise market, however, has proven to be an elusive customer except for a (relatively) few case examples. This week, I am looking to see how things have changed for enterprise adoption of AWS. Has AWS found the secret sauce to engage the enterprise in earnest?

PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT

Several years back, AWS made a big point of not being one of “those” companies with a very large portfolio of products and services. Yet, several years later, AWS has indeed become a behemoth with a portfolio of products and services a mile long. This is a great thing for customers, but can have a few downsides too. Customers, especially enterprise customers, tend to make decisions that last longer than the startup & web-scale customers. Therefore, service deprecation is a real concern with companies that a) do not have a major enterprise focus and b) have a very large portfolio. Unfortunately, this is where AWS is today. Similarly, to date, AWS has not done much in the way of portfolio pruning.

HYBRID CLOUD SUPPORT

For the enterprise, hybrid is their reality. In the past, AWS has taken the position that hybrid means a way to onboard customers into AWS Public Cloud. Hybrid, a combination of on-premises and cloud-based resources can be a means to onboard customers into public cloud. The question is: How is AWS evolving their thinking of hybrid cloud? In addition, how has their thinking evolved to encompass hybrid cloud from the perspective of the enterprise?

DEMOCRATIZATION OF AI & ML

Several of AWS’ competitors have done a great job of democratizing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools in a means to make them more approachable. AWS was one of the first out of the gate with a strong showing of AI & ML tools a few years back. The question is: How have they evolved in the past year to make the tools more approachable for the common developer?

BONUS ROUND

As a bonus, it would be interesting if AWS announced the location of their 2nd headquarters. Will they announce it at re:Invent versus a financial analyst call? We shall see.

In summary, AWS never fails to put on a great conference with a good showing. This year should not disappoint.

Business · Cloud · Data

Microsoft empowers the developer at Connect

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This week at Microsoft Connect in New York City, Microsoft announced a number of products geared toward bringing intelligence and the computing edge closer together. The tools continue Microsoft’s support of a varied and growing ecosystem of evolving solutions. At the same time, Microsoft demonstrated their insatiable drive to woo the developer with a number of tools geared toward modern development and advanced technology.

EMBRACING THE ECOSYSTEM DIVERSITY

Microsoft has tried hard in the past several years to shed their persona of Microsoft-centricity of a .NET Windows world. Similar to their very vocal support for inclusion and diversity in culture, Microsoft brings that same perspective to the tools, solutions and ecosystems they support. The reality is that the world is diverse and it is this very diversity that makes us stronger. Technology is no different.

At the Connect conference, similar to their recent Build & Ignite conferences, .NET almost became a footnote as much of the discussion was around other tools and frameworks. In many ways, PHP, Java, Node and Python appeared to get mentioned more than .NET. Does this mean that .NET is being deprecated in favor of newer solutions? No. But it does show that Microsoft is moving beyond just words in their drive toward inclusivity.

EXPANDING THE DEVELOPER TOOLS

At Connect, Microsoft announced a number of tools aimed squarely at supporting the modern developer. This is not the developer of years past. Today’s developer works in a variety of tools, with different methods and potentially in separate locations. Yet, they need the ability to collaborate in a meaningful way. Enter Visual Studio Live Share. What makes VS Live Share interesting is how it supports collaboration between developers in a more seamless way without the cumbersome screen sharing approach previously used. The level of sophistication that VS Live Share brings is impressive in that it allows each developer to walk through code in their own way while they debug and collaborate. While VS Live Share is only in preview, other recently-announced tools are already seeing significant adoption in a short period of time that ranges in the millions of downloads.

In the same vein of collaboration and integration, DevOps is of keen interest to most enterprise IT shops. Microsoft showed how Visual Studio Team Services embraces DevOps in a holistic way. While the demonstration was impressive, the question of scalability often comes into the picture for large, integrated teams. It was mentioned that VS Team Services is currently used by the Microsoft Windows development team and their whopping 25,000 developers.

Add to scale the ability to build ‘safe code’ pipelines with automation that creates triggers to evaluate code in-process and one can quickly see how Microsoft is taking the modern, sophisticated development process to heart.

POWERING DATA AND AI IN THE CLOUD

In addition to developer tools, time was spent talking about Azure, data and Databricks. I had the chance to sit down with Databricks CEO Ari Ghodsi to talk about how Azure Databricks is bringing the myriad of data sources together for the enterprise. The combination of Databricks on Azure provides the scale and ecosystem that highlights the power of Databricks to integrate the varied data sources that every enterprise is trying to tap into.

MIND THE DEVELOPER GAP

Developing applications that leverage analytics and AI is incredibly important, but not a trivial task. It often requires a combination of skills and experience to fully appreciate the value that comes from AI. Unfortunately, developers often do not have the data science skills nor business context needed in today’s world. I spoke with Microsoft’s Corey Sanders after his keynote about how Microsoft is bridging the gap for the developer. Both Sanders & Ghodsi agree that the gap is an issue. However, through the use of increasingly sophisticated tools such as Databricks and Visual Studio, Sanders & Ghodsi believe Microsoft is making a serious attempt at bridging this gap.

It is clear that Microsoft is getting back to its roots and considering the importance of the developer in an enterprise’s digital transformation journey. While there are still many gaps to fill, it is interesting to see how Microsoft is approaching the evolving landscape and complexity that is the enterprise reality.

Business · Cloud · Data

Salesforce bridges the customer engagement gap for growth at Dreamforce

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Last week was Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco with a whopping 170,000+ attendees. Even so, what were the key takeaways?

Today, many enterprises are either Salesforce customers and follow the space closely as it pertains to a key element for executive teams today: Customer engagement. One of the top issues that executive teams and board of directors face is how to create a deeper relationship with customers. Salesforce sits at this nexus. Here are the top takeaways from the conference;

UPSIDES:

  1. Partnership with Google: Salesforce announced their partnership with Google. While much of the discussion was integration with Google Cloud and G Suite, there are benefits that both companies (and customers) could gain from the relationship. The data that Google maintains on user behavior and ad-related impact could provide useful to Salesforce customers. Salesforce in turn could provide integration and insights to Google Ad Words. The potential from this symbiotic relationship could prove significant.
  2. Democratizing Einstein & AI: Last year, Einstein provided an interesting opportunity for Salesforce and their customers. This year, Salesforce showed how providing customers with an easy way to leverage Einstein provides a powerhouse of potential to support customer engagement. Plus, proactively predicting outcomes provides insights not previously possible.
  3. myTrailhead: Personalization has long-since been a key success factor to engage users. myTrailhead provides a level of personalization to allow users to work as they work best. Often, we require all users to work from a single console or interface. myTrailhead allows users to customize their experience.

DOWNSIDES:

  1. Fewer Feature/ Function Announcements: There was quite a bit of discussion around the number of feature/ functionality announcements made at Dreamforce. Further suggesting that maybe things are slowing down for Salesforce in terms of innovation. It is unclear to predict a trend from one data point. However, there are several indicators that this may only indicate a maturing of the innovation cycle.
  2. Expansion of Platform to Verticals: Salesforce supports a number of verticals with their solution. However, the depth they support the ecosystem around verticals pales in comparison with newer startups focused on specific verticals in the CRM space.
  3. Lack of New Data Sources: Unlike its competition, Salesforce takes a partnership approach to data integration into the platform. That is, they rely on partners to bring data sources for customers to leverage. Examples are financial services, traffic, weather, and other common data elements.

REVENUE GUIDANCE

Another key question that came up was around Salesforce’s revenue guidance. Can they (essentially) double their revenue to match guidance? And if so, how. There are a number of factors that I believe will support this.

All in, Salesforce is faced with significant headwinds from both competition and adoption of innovation by enterprises. Bringing partnerships with Google and democratization of newer technologies will do well to carry them forward. There is still a significant amount of potential upside for Salesforce.

Business · CIO · Cloud

IBM Interconnect expectations, a CIOs perspective

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This week is IBM’s annual cloud conference in Las Vegas. Quite a bit has changed in the past year for IBM and at this year’s IBM Interconnect there are a few things I’m looking for. Each of them centers in the mainstream of enterprise demand. Here’s the quick rundown:

IBM CLOUD CURRENT STATE AND DIRECTION

Over the past several years, IBM made strategic acquisitions that feed directly into IBM’s core cloud strategy. Those include Softlayer and Bluebox Cloud. Since last year’s Interconnect conference, I’m looking to hear how things have progressed and how it impacts their direction. Both are key attributes to enterprise engagement.

UNDERSTANDING THE IBM CUSTOMER

IBM is well known for catering to their existing customer base. As enterprises evolve, I’m looking for indications on how non-IBM enterprise customers are choosing to engage IBM. Is most of the demand still coming from existing IBM customers? Or have others started to gravitate toward IBM…and why?

In addition, how has the recent partnership announcement with Salesforce changed this engagement? Granted, the ink is still wet on the agreement, but there may be a few tidbits to glean here.

PORTFOLIO HALO EFFECTS

IBM’s Watson provides an interesting opportunity for enterprises looking to engage analytics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Watson, along with the strides IBM has made with Internet of Things (IoT) provides some interesting opportunities for both existing and prospective IBM customers. I’m looking to see if these are creating a halo effect into IBM’s cloud business…and if so, how and where.

LEADERSHIP CHANGES

Finally, IBM is changing up the leadership team. Longtime IBM’er Robert LeBlanc has departed from leading the IBM Cloud division and changes are afoot in marketing. How will these changes impact how IBM approaches cloud and how IBM is perceived in the broader enterprise market?

 

Overall, IBM is clamoring to be a leader in the enterprise cloud space, but faces some stiff competition. Cloud has been a key element in IBM’s enterprise portfolio for some time. This week should provide greater insights on their current state and path moving forward.