Browsing articles from "April, 2013"

Disruptive Changes

Apr 25, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Cal Braunstein

Amazon Inc. and Microsoft Corp. lowered their pricing for certain cloud offerings in attempts to maintain leadership and/or preserve customers. Similarly, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) launched its next-generation Moonshot hyperscale servers. Meanwhile, IDG Connect, the demand generation division of International Data Group (IDG), released its survey findings that show there may be a skills shortage when it comes to the soft skills required when communicating beyond the IT walls.

Focal Points:

  • Earlier this month Amazon price reduced the prices it charged for its Windows on-demand servers by up to 26 percent. This brought its pricings within pennies of Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud fees. The price reductions apply across Amazon’s standard (m1), second-generation standard (m3), high-memory (m2), and high-CPU (c1) instance families. CEO Jeff Bezos stated in the Amazon annual report the strategy of cutting prices before the company needs to, and developing technologies before there is a financially motivating factor, is what protects the company from unexpected markets shifts. Microsoft has responded by aggressively cutting its prices by 21 to 33 percent for hosting and processing customer online data. In order for customers to qualify for the cuts they must make monthly commitments to Azure for either six or 12 months. Microsoft also is making its Windows Azure Virtual Network technology (codenamed “Brooklyn”) generally available effective April 16. Windows Azure Virtual Network is designed to allow companies to extend their networks by enabling secure site-to-site VPN connectivity between the enterprise and the Windows Azure cloud.
  • HP launched its initial Moonshot servers, which use Intel Corp. Atom low-cost, low-energy microprocessors, This next-generation of servers is the first wave of hyperscale software defined server computing models to be offered by HP. These particular servers are designed to be used in dedicated hosting and Web front end environments. The company stated that two more “leaps” will be out this year that will be targeted to handle other specific workloads. HP claims its architecture can scale 10:1 over existing offerings while providing eight times the efficiency. The Moonshot 1500 uses Intel Atom S1200 microprocessors, utilizes a 4.3U (7.5 inch tall) chassis that hosts 45 “Gemini” server cartridges, and up to 1800 quad-core servers will fit into a 42U rack. Other x86 chips from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), plus ARM processors from Calxeda Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., and Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) are also expected to be available in the “Gemini” cartridge form factor. The first Moonshot servers support Linux, but are compatible with Windows, VMware and traditional enterprise applications. Pricing starts at $61,875 for the enclosure, 45 HP ProLiant Moonshot servers and an integrated switch, according to HP officials. (For more on this topic see this week’s Research Note “HP’s Moonshot – the Launch.”)
  • According to a new study by IDG Connect, 83 percent of European respondents believe there is no IT skills shortage while 93 percent of U.S. respondents definitely feel there is a gap between the technical skills IT staff possess and the skills needed by the respondents’ companies. IDG attributes this glaring differentiation to what are loosely defined as “hard” (true technical skills and competencies) and “soft” (business, behavioral, communications, and interpersonal) skills. The European respondents focused on hard skills while their American counterparts were more concerned about the soft skills, which will become more prevalent within IT as it goes through a transformation to support the next-generation data center environments and greater integration with the business. As IT becomes more integrated with the business and operational skill requirements shift, IDG concludes “companies can only be as good as the individuals that work within them. People … are capable of creative leaps of thinking and greatness that surpass all machines. This means that any discussion on IT skills, and any decision on the qualities required for future progression are fundamental to innovation. This is especially true in IT, where the role of the CIO is rapidly expanding within the enterprise and the department as a whole is becoming increasingly important to the entire business. It seems IT is forever teetering on the brink of bigger and better things – and it is up to the people within it to maximize this potential.”

RFG POV: IT always exists in a state of disruptive innovation and the next decade will be no different. Whether it is a shift to the cloud, hyperscale computing, software-defined data center or other technological shifts, IT must be prepared to deal with the business and pricing models that arise. Jeff Bezos is correct by not sitting on his laurels and constantly pushing the envelope in pricing and services. IT executives need to do the same and deliver comparable services at prices that appeal to the business while covering costs. This requires keeping current on technology and having the staff on board that can solve the business problems and deliver innovative solutions that enable the organization to remain competitive. RFG expects the staffing dilemma to emerge over the next few years as data centers transform to meet the next generation of business and IT needs. At that time most IT staff will not need the current skills they use but skills that allow them to work with the business, providers and others to deliver solutions built on logical platforms (rather than physical infrastructure). Only a few staff will need to know the nuts and bolts of the hardware and physical layouts. This paradigm shift in staff capabilities and skills must be anticipated if IT executives do not want to be caught behind the curve and left to struggle with catching up with demand. IT executives should be developing their next-generation IT development and operations strategies, determining skills needed and the gap, and then begin a career planning and weaning-out process so that IT will be able to provide the leadership and skills needed to support the business over the next decade of disruptive innovation. Additionally, IT executives should determine if Moonshot servers are applicable in their current or target environments, and if so, conduct a pilot when the time is right. 

Service Delivery to Business Enablement: Data Center Edition

Apr 9, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lead Analyst: Adam Braunstein

I have never been a fan of alarmist claims. Never have I witnessed the sky falling or the oceans abruptly swallowing masses of land. Nonetheless, we have all seen the air become unsafe to breathe in many parts of the world and rising water levels are certainly cause for concern. When rapid changes occur, those progressions do not take place overnight and often require a distanced perspective. Secondly, being paranoid does not mean one is wrong.

Such is the case with the shifts occurring in the data center. Business needs and disruptive technologies are more complex, frequent, and enduring despite their seemingly iterative nature. The gap between the deceptively calm exterior and true nature of internal data center changes threatens to leave IT executives unable to readily adapt to the seismic shifts taking place beneath the surface. Decisions made to address long-term needs are typically made using short-term metrics that mask the underlying movements themselves and the enterprise need to deal strategically with these changes. The failure to look at these issues as a whole will have a negative cascading effect on enterprise readiness in the future and is akin to France’s Maginot Line of defense against Germany in World War II. While the fortifications prevented a direct attack, the tactic ignored the other strategic threats including a Belgium-based attack.

Three-Legged Stool:  Business, Technology, and Operations

The line between business and technology has blurred such that there is very little difference between the two. The old approach of using technology as a business enabler is no longer valid as IT no longer simply delivers the required business services. Business needs are now so dependent on technology that the planning and execution need to exist using same game plan, analytic tools, and measurements. Changes in one directly impact the other and continuous updates to strategic goals and tactical executions must be carefully weighed as the two move forward together. Business enablement is the new name of the game.

With business and technology successes and failures so closely fused together, it should be abundantly clear why shared goals and execution strategies are required. The new goalposts for efficient, flexible operations are defined in terms of software-defined data centers (SDDCs). Where disruptive technologies including automation, consolidation, orchestration and virtualization were previously the desired end state, SDDCs up the ante by providing logical views of platforms and infrastructures such that services can be spooled up, down, and changed dynamically without the limitations of physical constraints. While technology comprises the underpinnings here, the enablement of dynamic and changing business goals is the required outcome.

Operations practices and employee roles and skills will thus need to rapidly adapt. Metrics like data density, workload types and utilization will remain as baseline indicators but only as a means to more important measurements of agility, readiness, productivity, opportunity and revenue capture. Old technologies will need to be replaced to empower the necessary change, and those new technologies will need to be turned over at more rapid rates to continue to meet the heightened business pace as well as limited budgets. Budgeting and financial models will also need to follow suit.

The Aligned Business/IT Model of the Future: Asking the Right Questions

The fused business/IT future will need to be based around a holistic, evolving set of metrics that incorporate changing business dynamics, technology trends, and performance requirements. Hardware, software, storage, supporting infrastructure, processes, and people must all be evaluated to deliver the required views within and across data centers and into clouds. Moreover, IT executives should incorporate best-of-breed information enterprise data centers in both similar and competing industries.

The set of delivered dashboards should provide a macro view of data center operations with both business and IT outlooks and trending. Analysis should provide the following:

  • Benchmark current data center performance with comparative data;
  • Demonstrate opportunities for productivity and cost cutting improvements;
  • Provide insight as to the best and most cost effective ways to align the data center to be less complex, more scalable, and able to meet future business and technology opportunities;
  • Offer facilities to compare different scenarios as customers determine which opportunities best meet their needs.

Even though the reality of SDDCs is years away, IT executives must be travelling on the journey now. There are a number of intermediary milestones that must be achieved first and delays in reaching them will negatively impact the business. Use of data center analytical tools as described above will be needed to help chart the course and monitor progress. (The GreenWay Collaborative develops and provides tools of this nature. RFG initiated and still contributes to this effort.)

RFG POV: IT executives require a three-to-five year outlook that balances technology trends, operational best practices, and business goals. Immediate and long-range needs need to be plotted, moved, and continuously measured to mitigate immediate and long term needs. While many of these truths are evergreen, it is essential to recognize that the majority of enterprise tools and practices inadequately capture and harmonize the contributing factors. Most enterprise dashboard views evaluate data center performance at a tactical, operational level and identify opportunities for immediate performance improvements. Strategic enterprise dashboard tools tend to build on the data gathered at the tactical level and fail to incorporate evolving strategic business and technology needs. IT executives should incorporate strategic data center optimization planning tools which address the evolving business and technology needs to the mix so that IT can provide the optimum set of services to the business at each milestone.