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 · Cloud · Data

Delphix smartly reduces the friction to access data

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Today’s CIO is looking for ways to untap the potential in their company’s data. We have heard the phrase that data is the new oil. Except that data, like oil, is just a raw material. Ultimately, we need to refine it into a finished good which is ultimately where the value resides.

At the same time, enterprises are concerned with regulatory and compliance requirements to protect data. Recent data breaches by globally-recognized companies have raised the concern around data privacy. Historically, the financial services and healthcare industries were the ones to watch when it came to regulatory and compliance requirements. Today, the regulatory net is widening with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), US Government’s FedRAMPand NY State DFS Cybersecurity Requirements.

Creating greater access to data while staying in compliance and protecting data sit at opposite ends of the privacy and cybersecurity spectrum. Add to this the interest in moving data to cloud-based solutions and one can quickly see why this is one of the core challenges for today’s CIO.

DELPHIX REDUCES THE FRICTION TO DATA ACCESS

At Tech Field Day’s Cloud Field Day 3, I had the opportunity to meet with the team from Delphix.

Fundamentally, Delphix is a cloud-based data management platform that helps enterprises reduce the friction to data access through automation of data management. Today, one-third of Fortune 500 companies use Delphix.

Going back to the core issue, users have a hunger for accessing data. However, regulatory and compliance requirements often hinder that process. Today’s methods to manage data are heavily manual and somewhat archaic compared with solutions like Delphix.

Delphix’ approach is to pack up the data into, what they call, a Data Pod. Unlike most approaches that mask data when it is shared, Delphix masks the data during the intake process. The good thing about this approach is in removing the risk of accidentally sharing protected data.

In terms of sharing data, one clever part of the Delphix Dynamic Data Platform is in its ability to replicate data smartly. Considering that Delphix works in the cloud, this is a key aspect to avoiding unnecessary costs. Alternatively, enterprises would see a significant uptick in data storage as masked data is replicated to the various users. Beyond structured, transactional data, Delphix is also able to manage (and mask) databases, along with unstructured data and files.

THE CIO PERSPECTIVE

From the CIO perspective, Delphix appears to address an increasingly complicated space with a clever, yet simple approach. The three key takeaways are: a) Ability to mask data (DB, unstructured, files) at intake versus when pulling copies, b) ability to smartly replicate data and c) potential to manage data management policies. Lastly, this is not a solution that must run in the corporate data center. Delphix supports running in public cloud services including Microsoft Azureand Amazon AWS.

In Summary, Delphix appears to have decreased the friction to data access by automating the data protection and management processes. All while supporting an enterprise’s move to cloud-based resources.

CIO · Cloud

Three key changes to look for in 2018

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2017 has officially come to a close and 2018 has already started with a bang. As I look forward to what 2018 brings, the list is incredibly long and detailed. The genres of topics are equally long and cover people, process, technology, culture, business, social, economic and geopolitical boundaries…just to name a few.

Here are three highlights on my otherwise lengthy list…

EVOLVING THE CIO

I often state that after spending almost three decades in IT, now is the best time to work in technology. That statement is still true today.

One could not start a conversation about technology without first considering the importance of the technology leader and role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO, as the most senior person leading the IT organization, takes on a very critical role for any enterprise. That was true in the past, and increasingly so moving forward.

In my post ‘The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO’, I outline many of the differences in the ever-evolving role of the CIO. Those traits will continue to evolve as the individual, organization, leadership and overall industry change to embrace a new way to leverage technology. Understanding the psyche of the CIO is something one simply cannot do without experiencing the role firsthand. Yet, understanding how this role is evolving is exactly what will help differentiate companies in 2018 and beyond.

In 2018, we start to see the emerging role of ‘Transformational’ CIO in greater numbers. Not only does the CIO see the need for change, so does the executive leadership team of the enterprise. The CIO becomes less of a technology leader and more of a business leader that has responsibility for technology. As I have stated in the past, this is very different from that of the ‘CEO of Technology’ concept that others have bandied about. In addition, there is a sense of urgency for the change as the business climate becomes increasingly competitive from new entrants and vectors. Culture and geopolitical changes will also impact the changing role of the CIO and that of technology.

TECHNOLOGY HITS ITS STRIDE

In a similar vein to that of the CIO, technology finds its stride in 2018. Recent years have shown a lot of experimentation in the hopes of leverage and success. This ‘shotgun’ approach has been very risky…and costly for enterprises. That is not to say that experimentation is a bad thing. However, the role of technology in mainstream business evolves in 2018 where enterprises face the reality that they must embrace change and technology as part of that evolution.

Executives will look for ways to, mindfully, leverage technology to create business advantage and differentiation. Instead of sitting at the extremes of either diving haphazardly into technology or analysis paralysis, enterprises will strike a balance to embrace technology in a thoughtful, but time-sensitive way. The concept of ‘tech for tech sake’ becomes a past memory like that of the dialup modem.

One hopeful wish is that boards will stop the practice of dictating technology decisions as they have in the past with mandating their organization use cloud. That is not to say cloud is bad, but rather to suggest that a more meaningful business discussion take place that may leverage cloud as one of many tools in an otherwise broadening arsenal.

CLOUD COMES OF AGE IN ALL FORMS

Speaking of cloud, a wholesale shift takes place in 2018 where we pass the inflection point in our thinking about cloud. For the enterprise, public cloud has already reached a maturity point with all three major public cloud providers offering solid solutions for any given enterprise.

Beyond public cloud, the concept of private cloud moves from theory to reality as solutions mature and the kinks worked out. Historically, private cloud was messy and challenging even for the most sophisticated enterprise to adopt. The theory of private cloud is incredibly alluring and now has reached a point where it can become a reality for the average enterprise. Cloud computing, in its different forms has finally come of age.

 

In summary, 2017 has taught us many tough lessons in which to leverage in 2018. Based on the initial read as 2017 came to a close, 2018 looks to be another incredible year for all of us! Let us take a moment to be grateful for what we have and respect those around us. The future is bright and we have much to be thankful for.

Happy New Year!

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

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.

CIO · Cloud

3 ways enterprises can reduce their cybersecurity risk profile

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If you are an executive (CIO, CISO, CEO) or board member, cybersecurity is top of mind. One of the top comments I often hear is: “I don’t want our company (to be) on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.” Ostensibly, the comments are in the context of a breach. Yet, many gaps still exist between avoiding this situation and reality. Just saying the words is not enough.

The recent Equifax breach brings to light many conversations with enterprises and executive teams about shoring up their security posture. The sad reality is that cybersecurity spending often happens immediately after a breach happens. Why is that? Let us delve into several of the common reasons why and what can be done.

ENTERPRISE SECURITY CHALLENGES

There are a number of reasons why enterprises are challenged with cybersecurity issues. Much of it stems from the perspective of what cybersecurity solutions provide. To many, the investment in cybersecurity teams and solutions is seen as an insurance policy. In order to better understand the complexities, let us dig into a few of the common issues.

Reactive versus Proactive

The first issue is how enterprises think about cybersecurity. There are two aspects to consider when looking at how cybersecurity is viewed. The first is that enterprises often want to be secure, but are unwilling or unable to provide the funding to match. That is, until a breach occurs. This has created a behavior within IT organizations where they leverage breaches to gain cybersecurity funding.

Funding for Cybersecurity Initiatives

Spending in cybersecurity is often seen in a similar vein as insurance and comes back to risk mitigation. Many IT organizations are challenged to get adequate funding to appropriately protect the enterprise. It should be noted that no enterprise will be fully secured and to do so creates a level of complexity and cost that would greatly impact the operations and bottom line of the enterprise. Therefore, a healthy balance is called for here. Any initiatives should follow a risk mitigation approach, but also consider the business impact.

Shifting to Cybersecurity as part of the DNA

Enterprises often think of cybersecurity as an afterthought to a project or core application. The problem with this approach is that, as an afterthought, the project or application is well on its way to production. Any required changes would be ancillary and rarely get granular in how they could be applied. More mature organizations are shifting to cybersecurity as part of their core DNA. In this culture, cybersecurity becomes part of the conversation early and often…and at each stage of the development. By making it part of the DNA, each member of the process is encouraged to consider how to secure their part of the project.

Cybersecurity Threats are getting more Sophisticated

The level of sophistication from cybersecurity threats is growing astronomically. No longer are the traditional tools adequate to protect the enterprise. Enterprises are fighting an adversary that is gaining ground exponentially faster than they are. In essence, no one enterprise is able to adequately protect themselves and must rely on the expertise of others that specialize in this space.

Traditional thinking need not apply. The level of complexity and skills required is growing at a blistering clip. If your organization is not willing or able to put the resources behind staying current and actively engaged, the likelihood of trouble is not far way.

THREE WAYS TO REDUCE CYBERSECURITY RISK

While the risks are increasing, there are steps that every enterprise large and small can invoke to reduce their risk profile. Sadly, many of these are well known, yet not as well enacted. The first step is to change your paradigm regarding cybersecurity. Get proactive and do not assume you know everything.

Patch, Patch, Patch

Even though regular patching is a requirement for most applications and operating systems, enterprises are still challenged to keep up. There are often two reasons for this: 1) disruption to business operations and 2) resources required to update the application or system. In both cases, the best advice is to get into a regular rhythm to patch systems. When you make something routine, it builds muscle memory into the organization that increases the accuracy, lessens the disruption and speeds up the effort.

Regular Validation from Outsiders

Over time, organizations get complacent with their operations. Cybersecurity is no different. A good way to avoid this is to bring in a trusted, outside organization to spot check and ‘tune up’ your cybersecurity efforts. They can more easily spot issues without being affected by your blind spots. Depending on your situation, you may choose to leverage a third-party to provide cybersecurity services. However, each enterprise will need to evaluate their specific situation to best leverage the right approach for them.

Challenge Traditional Thinking

I still run into organizations that believe perimeter protections are the best actions. Another perspective is to conduct security audits with some frequency. Two words: Game Over. While those are both required, security threats today are constant and unrelenting. Constant, evolving approaches are required today.

As we move to a more complicated approach to IT services (SaaS, Public Cloud, Private Cloud, On Premises, Edge Computing, Mobile, etc), the level of complexity grows. Now layer in that the data that we view as gold is spread across those services. The complexity is growing and traditional thinking will not protect the enterprise. Leveraging outsiders is one approach to infuse different methods to address this growing complexity.

 

One alternative is to move to a cloud-based alternative. Most cloud-based alternatives have methods to update their systems and applications without disrupting operations. This does not absolve the enterprise from responsibility, but does offer an approach to leverage more specialized expertise.

The bottom line is that our world is getting more complex and cybersecurity is just one aspect. The rate of complexity and sophistication from cybersecurity attacks is only growing and more challenging for enterprises to keep up. Change is needed, the risks are increasing and now is the time for action.

Business · Cloud

One theory on Amazon interest in a second headquarters

Amazon announced that they are in search of a location for their second headquarters. The new headquarters facility is expected to create 50,000 jobs and bidders are welcome to submit their proposals to woo the Amazon opportunity. While that, in itself, sounds great, there may be more in the works than just a new headquarters. Let me share my theory on what this may indicate.

THE LOCATION SHORTLIST

First, companies like Amazon do not go into major decisions like this without already having a pretty good idea of how it will end. There is just too much risk at stake. In this specific case, the physical location of the second headquarters. Prior to making the announcement, I suspect Amazon already done their due diligence and has an internal shortlist of potential locations they would accept.

When evaluating Amazon’s two core businesses, Amazon.com and Amazon Web Services (AWS), both rely heavily on technology. Therefore, a headquarters location must have a strong technology ecosystem that can support their separate growth trajectories.

While just about any major city in the US could support a new headquarters, tech-centric locations on the shortlist may include Silicon Valley, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, Atlanta, New York or Boston. One outlier may include Washington DC/ Virginia. Why? As Amazon continues their spectacular growth, innovation and acquisition of competitors, it will need stronger ties to government in-circles.

So, which location? My theory is that the process is more of a formality and the decision is between a couple of locations that will come down to local/ state tax incentives. If true, the shortlist is a few locations less than outlined above.

IS A SPLIT ON THE HORIZON?

It is not common for companies to suggest a second ‘headquarters’ location. It does happen, but not often. There may be an undercurrent driving this move. Amazon has two core businesses; Amazon.com and AWS. Almost two years ago, Amazon announced that Andy Jassy would be promoted to CEO of AWS. This may be the first market in a longer-term strategy for Amazon.

One challenge Amazon continues to face is conflict between their core Amazon.com business and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Major customers of AWS continue to flee when Amazon.com moves into a competitive role. Essentially, Amazon.com gains are negatively impacting AWS. For example, Walmart is just one of the latest customers to do so. In the enterprise space, prospective customers have expressed concern that AWS (historically) is not Amazon’s core business. The distribution business is their core. Of course, in the past few years, AWS has grown significantly. However, it still presents a challenge. Splitting Amazon into two companies with Andy Jassy taking on new AWS entity could be the solution.

SPLIT DECISIONS

But there is a potential problem with splitting AWS from Amazon. When they operate as a combined company, Amazon is not required to disclose their significant AWS customers as they are not material in revenue to their core business. However, if the two companies were to split, this disclosure could be required and would bring focus to who AWS’ material customers are…in a very public way.

Now, if none of AWS’ customers are material, or contribute a significant amount of value (individually) to their financial revenue, this issue is not relevant. However, I suspect that Amazon.com is a major consumer of AWS’ services. And there may be a couple of other major customers.

If there are significant, material customers in the mix, it could present concerns among shareholders of AWS. Today, we don’t have clarity to this issue due to the economic halo effect of the core Amazon.com business. Splitting the companies brings this potential issue to light…and may be the reason Amazon has not split the two companies yet.

IMPACT TO SEATTLE ECOSYSTEM

The last driver may be the Seattle ecosystem itself. Seattle is a vibrant, technology metropolis that supports several major technology companies like Microsoft and Amazon. In addition, major companies like Boeing and Costco consume a significant footprint too. Big companies bring great opportunities and economic growth to communities. However, they can have a downside too. Cost of living increases, risk of losing a company, limited skilled people are all risks that offset the opportunities. One can look to the SF Bay Area/ Silicon Valley to see how this is playing out, how competitive it is for talent and how hard it is to relocate someone to the Bay Area.

It is probable that with Amazon’s success and growth trajectory, they may feel that the Seattle ecosystem is starting to become limiting or incapable of handing the entirety of a company like Amazon today and moving forward. If this were the case, I suspect the shortlist of potential suitors may not include Silicon Valley, New York or Boston.

MY TAKE

All that being said, my theory is that there is an impending split on the horizon for Amazon. The move of Jassy to CEO, AWS’ continued growth and secondary factors point to this as a possible outcome. That coupled with the ability for AWS having proved it can stand on its own without the core Amazon.com business further support the perspective.

I look forward to hearing what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments below!