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Top 5 Posts of 2013

Over the course of 2013, I wrote a number of posts about CIOs, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Data Centers and IT in general. Here are the top-5 most popular posts in 2013:

5. Time to get on the Colocation Train Before it is Too Late

In the number 5 spot is a post addressing the forthcoming challenges to the data center colocation market and how the ripple effect hits IT.

4. A Workload is Not a Workload, is Not a Workload

Number 4 is a post written in 2012 about the discrepancy between cloud computing case studies. Not all workloads are the same and many of the examples used do not represent the masses.

3. The IT Role in Value Creation is Not a Technology

The number 3 spot goes to a post that addresses the direction of IT organizations within the business and how it is evolving. It is this very evolution that is both very difficult and very exciting at the same time.

2. Motivation And Work Ethics: Passion Fuels the Engine

Another post from 2012 goes to the number 2 spot, which shows that some subjects (like: the importance of passion) have staying power. This post addresses important characteristics for a leader to consider. It addresses the intersection of passion, work ethic and motivation.

1. What is Your Cloud Exit Strategy?

Probably one of the most controversial titles goes to the number 1 spot. This post addresses the challenges faced with cloud when one doesn’t think about their end-state and evolution.

Honorable Mention: So Which Is It? Airplane Mode or Turn Devices Completely Off?

Back in Apr 2012, I was traveling and noticed that many didn’t turn off their devices even though they were instructed to…which prompted the post. Even though the FAA changed their rules in US, this post still gets quite a bit of attention.

CIO

Apple Acquisition of AuthenTec Provides Significant Opportunity

Apple’s acquisition of AuthenTec for $8 per share or about $356 million brings a value purchase of fingerprint and security technology. On the surface, the acquisition provides Apple with biometric fingerprint technology to imbed in their mobile devices. While that is significant news, there is more, much more to the story…read on…

First off, $356 million is a bargain for the potential the acquisition could bring. Between the core biometric fingerprint technology and cache of intellectual property (IP), the potential is significant enough. However, there is significantly more potential here.

Value of Mobile Biometric Scanners

Integrated fingerprint scanners in mobile devices are not new. HP was the first to introduce biometric security to a PDA in 2002 with their iPAQ 5450. IBM introduced an integrated fingerprint scanner to a laptop in 2004 with their ThinkPad T42 model. Adding biometric security addresses some of the concerns that come with management of corporate data and near field communications (NFC) for payment processing.

Impact of RIM Blackberry

There most definitely is a relationship between the current state of RIM (makers of Blackberry) and Apple. I wrote a post ‘Learning From The Blackberry Monkey Wrench’ outlining some of my thoughts. There are three core components to the Blackberry service: 1) The hardware devices, 2) The software running on the devices and servers and 3) the RIM operations that manage all Blackberry traffic. This third one is most often missed and one of significant concern. If RIM collapses and the three components go to different companies, what happens to the data center operations that secure and manage the Blackberry system? I’m certain it will create pause for many corporate entities that currently rely on Blackberry solutions.

Apple has the software and hardware solution. However, they do not rise to the level of security Blackberry affords. The acquisition of AuthenTec technology could provide just the boost they need.

Creation of Security Ecosystem

It is unclear as to the entire portfolio of IP AuthenTec brings. One thing is for certain, the potential for upstream and downstream security integration is strong. And with that integration, Apple has the potential to bring a solution to market similar to Blackberry that addresses the data security concerns coming from BYOD and CoIT.

Bottom Line: Considering the acquisition potential beyond the obvious, $356m seems like a steal. Of course, Apple still needs to execute to prove the true value.

Further Reading:

http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1138830/000119312512318086/d384083d8k.htm

http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/AAPL.O/key-developments/article/2580569

CIO

Learning From The BlackBerry Monkey Wrench

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Consumerization of IT (CoIT) have brought pause and complications to the traditional IT support model. Some have argued that BYOD is more expensive and not a good option for corporations. I disagree under the premise that the arguments are based on strictly the IT perspective and traditional support methodologies. There is obviously much more to it…but this post isn’t about arguing the BYOD perspective.

While organizations wrestle with what to do, the industry stalwart has tripped, stumbled and appears to be falling quickly.

RIM Falls From Grace

RIM, the makers of the industry-standard BlackBerry, has seen their stock price lose almost 90% of its value in less than 18 months. That is in addition to leadership changes, delay of their next major operating system and significant job cuts. To put that in perspective, the Dow Jones and Nasdaq markets have made minor gains during the same period.

 

Impact for Enterprise IT

IT organizations and the companies they serve have standardized on the BlackBerry platform for years. Even today, many corporate enterprises still leverage the BlackBerry platform. The downturn for RIM creates a significant challenge for IT organizations and managed service providers (MSP); regardless if they have adopted a mobile strategy or not. Even if the organization has a mobile strategy in place, replacing mobile devices is not a trivial task. Just ask anyone who has needed to coordinate, rollout and support a successful mobile device upgrade. Upgrading to new devices within the same product family (ie: BlackBerry to BlackBerry) presents enough of a challenge. The complications grow exponentially when moving to a new platform (ie: BlackBerry to iOS or Android).

Mobile Strategy Changes

There are solutions to the problem and they require quick action. Some are short-term fixes while others are long-term solutions. First and foremost, if a mobile strategy does not exist…create one! It needs to include the BYOD policy. Ensure that it not only includes consideration for the devices, but more importantly the data and applications. Past methodologies focused on securing devices as the means to securing corporate data. With the move into BYOD and CoIT, securing devices is a futile effort in the long term. Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions exist to manage the variety of devices a corporate IT organization may encounter. In the long term, relying solely on MDM solutions needs to evolve to managing the applications and underlying data.

Take Action Now

It should go without saying, but corporate entities should not be taking a wait-and-see approach with supporting BlackBerry devices. It takes too long to move to a new platform and this approach could leave users in limbo. Unlike other devices/ solutions, the RIM/ BlackBerry solution relies on RIM’s data centers and servers in operation for the system to work. Unfortunately, the likely outcome for RIM is to sell off the intellectual property assets to a third party. This could mean that the three core components (Software, Devices and Operations) could end up with three different companies…and it is unknown what their motives will be.

Bottom Line: Develop a mobile device strategy immediately and engage backup planning. Don’t wait to see what happens with RIM/ BlackBerry first.

Further Reading:

Gaining Entry to the Enterprise via the Consumer Trojan Horse

The Difference Between CoIT and BYOD: And the Impact for IT

What the CIO Needs to Know About BYOD

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Sneak Peek of the Under The Radar Conference

The Under The Radar (UTR) Conference (http://www.undertheradarblog.com/) is tomorrow, April 26, 2012. UTR is the intersection of hot up-and-coming startups, investors and judging. If the reception tonight was any indication, the conference and presentations should be very interesting. Here’s a sneak peak of my take of the hot areas and companies to watch:

Application Development Solutions

A few companies are presenting their solutions in the mobile and security space. In the era of cloud computing, these are two hot buttons that enterprises and service providers alike need to be keenly aware of. The move of the information worker from a stationary device to a mobile device is in process. CoIT and BYOD are both serious factors to the movement. Likewise, using traditional security paradigms in the new model run into serious complications. Tools are needed to help organizations make this move while managing and securing environments.

Companies: BitzerMobile, Cabana, Duo Security, Fabric Engine, Framehawk, StackMob

Platforms and Infrastructure

Building applications on top of infrastructure is nothing new. In the cloud era, the architecture…and options open up quite a bit. The cloud market is starting to mature and value is moving from core infrastructure to platforms and on to applications. Leveraging hosted platforms does require a different paradigm to succeed. In addition, when considering apps at scale, automation and orchestration become even more important. This is a very broad area with quite a bit of specialization. Moving forward, integration in the space will be the key to success…along with some consolidation.

Companies: Appfog, AppHarbor, CloudBees, CloudScaling, Drawn to Scale, ionGrid, Iron.io, MemSQL, MongoLab, Nodejitsu, NuoDB, Piston Cloud, Puppet Labs, Sauce Labs, ScaleArc, Zadara Storage

Monitoring and Analytics

One of the most interesting areas is how data is used and analyzed. And then taking action based on the information gleaned from the data. Players in this space range from aggregating data to understanding and analyzing it. Value increases as the data is moved into analytics and ultimately business actions taken based on the intelligence. While there is quite a bit of specialization in this area at different levels (application monitoring/ performance management to analytics and intelligence), added value will come when these can be tied together to drive business decisions.

Companies: Chart.io, Cloudability, Cloudyn, Datadog, DataSift, Infochimps, Metamarkets, Nodeable, Sumo Logic, Tracelytics

Interesting Areas to Watch

In today’s marketplace, there are the future-state solutions and concepts. And then there are the real-world solutions that solve today’s problems. Both states need to be understood and the ball needs to be moved forward…and fast! The increased amplitude of mobile devices along with cloud computing bring applications at scale into the forefront. Orchestration and automation becoming hallmarks to success to up-level the conversation and value IT brings to organizations. Ultimately, the play will be with data and analytics. But today, there are more fundamental issues on the table.

Of course, that’s just a cursory review of the upcoming presentations from the UTR conference. Look for more details in the UTR Twitter stream (#UTRconf) and posts after the conference.

CIO

Gaining Entry to the Enterprise via the Consumer Trojan Horse

Ok, so you’re selling technology products, solutions or services. You’re looking for the largest buyers and typically look to the enterprise market. You develop the strategy and start going to work. You setup a sales team, check. You setup a channel and partner program, check. Then you start leveraging the relationships, check. But how do you cover the consumer angle? Huh? Yes. Using consumers as a sort of ‘Trojan Horse’ into the enterprise space.

In just the past few years, we’ve seen an uptick in the impact of Consumerization of IT (CoIT) in the enterprise space. The movement shifts the power pendulum away from IT and toward users. BYOD is also making an impact on the movement too. For more info on BYOD vs. CoIT:

https://avoa.com/2012/02/10/the-difference-between-coit-and-byod-and-the-impact-for-it/

In the case of Apple, they’ve attempted entry into the enterprise market a few times. Each time, they’ve been unsuccessful in creating a beachhead and establishing momentum. In the past two years, their attempt to enter the enterprise has largely succeeded. According to Apple’s latest quarterly earnings call, “94% of the Fortune 500 and 75% of the global 500 are testing or deploying iPads”. Others are also in the testing phase (see link below). And that doesn’t take into account the number of devices already in play via the consumer angle. So, is Apple changing their strategy to enter the enterprise environment? Regardless of the specific answer, they are progressing. The move gives Apple an interesting beachhead into the enterprise space…whether they intended to or not.

Interestingly, if consumers are used to using a given technology, they’re more supportive of using it in their professional life too. And that is a good thing for IT organizations from an adoption standpoint. The question is how providers can help enable this process. Apple is a good use-case of a different approach.

The point is: If you’re a provider looking to make a beachhead, there are options to sell into enterprises beyond the traditional approaches. Consumers is one way…but doesn’t fit every company’s solution. If your solution does fit, it might be an interesting model to consider. And this doesn’t cover the other targets open to most providers. But more on that later…

Additional Links:

CIO Magazine – Is Apple changing Its Enterprise Tune?

http://blogs.cio.com/leadershipmanagement/17022/apple-changing-its-enterprise-tune

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So Which Is It? Airplane Mode or Turn Devices Completely Off?

I’ve written about the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) in past missives. It seems that today, everyone flying on an airplane has some form of technology gadget. And the range varies from a cell phone to an iPod, to a tablet to a laptop.

Anyone who has been on an airplane in the past couple of decades has heard the warning to turn off their devices during takeoff and landing. “The main cabin door is closing, please turn off any device with an on-off switch. Airplane Mode is not acceptable.” Really? I mean, I understand ‘why’ they are saying to fully turn off and not just to airplane mode. But what happens at altitude? People just turn their devices back on…cellular radios and all! The bottom line is that while folks generally knew how to operate technology, the nuances still escape them.

In fact, on a recent flight from LAX to DFW, I flew on a United CRJ-700. The flight attendant comes on with the normal warning as the door closes. Everyone turns off their devices like they’re told and we’re off! 18,000 feet later, the double-chime alerts the cabin it is ok to turn on “approved” devices. But that’s where things go awry.

On this particular flight I was walking back from the restroom at the back of the plane. Which, I might say, was roomier than most narrow-body jets. But enough about the size of the bathroom. As I walked down the aisle back toward my seat, I always take note of the number and type of devices that people use. On this flight, there were an ample number of iPads in use. Nothing new there. What was a surprise was seeing “No Service” displayed in the upper left hand corner of the screen. And not just on one iPad. But I casually counted at least six of them in this state…and that was just the folks in aisle seats.

I would have expected to see the all to familiar airplane icon that notes the device is in “airplane mode”. Airplane mode, for those not familiar, is where the device turns off the transmitting radios (cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth). Isn’t that what the announcements are intended to address?

This all got me thinking that the announcements really are not doing what they intended. Supposedly (and that’s a big supposedly), electronic devices can interfere with the navigation of an aircraft. Ok. So, which is worse? Finding out that a device onboard interferes with navigational equipment while you’re on the ground? Or finding out when you’re at altitude? Personally, I’d prefer the former.

Just last month, the NY Times learned that the FAA is going to take a “fresh look” at electronic devices on flights.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/disruptions-time-to-review-f-a-a-policy-on-gadgets/

I’m not going to hold my breath. It will probably take quite a long time before we see a list of approved devices …let alone a broader context of what is approved. What makes this all bizarre is that the FAA has already approved the use of iPads in the cockpit to replace the bulky flight manuals.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/f-a-a-approves-ipads-in-cockpits-but-not-for-passengers/

If we assume that folks other than the ones I observed are equally confused by the difference between airplane mode and turning off the device, then what are we really fighting against? Bureaucracy? I would bet good money that more devices are turned on and transmitting at altitude. As for when the FAA might lift the ban on using devices on landing and takeoff? My bet is that it’s right behind lifting the ban on liquids in carry on luggage. Again, I’m not holding my breath.

Regardless of the FAA regulations, my recommendation is to enable airplane mode while in-flight. Why? It saves on the battery life of the device. Plus, it just won’t connect to a cell tower.

The average cell tower covers an area of approximately 10 square miles (or a radius of approximately five miles). Five miles translates to 26,400 feet. And most commercial aircraft fly from 30,000 to 40,000 feet. That translates back to between 5.68 and 7.58 miles…well outside of the distance needed to connect. And because cell radios in devices are smart, they vary the power needed to connect to a cell tower. In flight, this means the cell radio is using full-power to attempt the connection…therefore draining precious battery power.

So, the next time you’re in the air, save yourself some headaches…and battery power. Just switch your device to airplane mode and then turn it off for takeoff and landing. When you’re back on the ground, switch it back to regular mode.

And let’s hope that the FAA does heed the sheer magnitude of growing user base that are using these devices by changing their rules.