First applications, then servers, now ... EVERYTHING ? 

Within the past couple of months the already intense cloud race has absolutely exploded.  From Microsoft's fantastic new reboot of Azure, to Google newly announced IaaS (infrastructure as a service) offering, to Amazon's endless stream of improvements and enhnacements to its AWS platform, cloud innovating is at light speed right now.

I think we can expect crticial new developments over the next twelve month as the result of all this innovation.  First, every application that wants to remain successful will be migrated to the cloud, probably in an PaaS (platform as a service) model, though possilbly also in an IaaS model.  By 2013 any application that hasn't fully embraced cloud will be dead man walking.  Second, organizations are going to have to figure out the businesss case for KEEPING technology in-house, opposite of today's dynamic where IT managers have been cautious about moving things off premise.  The cloud model is just too affordable, too stable, too reliable not to just wash away all the last of the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt that customers may have ...  IT stakeholders will be all cloud all the time starting in 2013, count on it.

Where does this lead?  How about no more routers and switches, it's all just handled in the software.  Imagine that if you can.  Not only will you be putting servers and applications into the cloud, the entire network down to every last switch port, will be a candidate for public and provide cloud.  The technology isn't mainstreamed yet, but it's getting close, and after the 2013 tidal wave of cloud, we should see companies beginning to adopt cloud/virtualization strategies for the entire network. 

Should be a really exciting couple of years. 


why iPad doesn't matter to Microsoft

A lot of people hate Microsoft ... after all they're the New York Yankees of tech companies, taking home the crown year after year after year.  Until recently.  Recently we've seen success from Apple and Google, the likes of which has not been seen in a long, long time.   And it doesn't matter, not even a little bit.

Let me explain. 

In software, the real money comes from corporations.  Business buyers are where it's at, and the "consumerization" of IT doesn't change that in the least.  In fact, in the long term the consumerization of IT helps everyone as consumers get more devices and services to choose from, and vendors get ever higher sales.

Now with these business buyers going gangbusters Apple and Google have seen success with their respect iOS and Android products.  But so what.  When it comes down to it, these devices are merely endpoints, and not all that different from a PC or a laptop.  That is, regardless of who makes them, they consume corporate IT services like any other endpoint.  And what that means is that the spend for the corporate platforms is going to be bigger and bigger as IT departments now have to deliver services to a multitude of devices and form factors.

And who provides the brunt of these corporate IT services ?  Well, Microsoft of course ! What's the REALLY killer app on the iPhone?  Email.  What type of email ?  Exchange email.  Who makes Exchange eamil ?  MICROSOFT.  Is Exchange / free / cheap ?  Nope.  It takes Windows Server products, hardware products from the likes of Dell and HP, experienced technicians and consultants, and a host of other resources to deliver it.  And at the end of the day it's Microsoft that benefits, same as it ever was.  Sure Apple and Google get a seat at the table, but as with PCs, the cost of the device is going to represent only a fraction of the "total cost", most of which is going to be eaten by Microsoft and its ecosystem. 

Still doubting, think that music and books and movies are important, and that the companies that run these will be long term winners ?  There's no doubt that Apple and Google are going to displace a lot of industries (think newspapers and record companies), but these trends have very little to do with IT spending.  Moreover, the ability to deliver someone else's song or book is mostly about driving sales of the endpoint, and is not a profit driver per se  ...  sooner of later all these vendors are going to have content ecosystems, and great screens, and fast devices, and then it'll be look below for margins.  The hardware will be commoditized and once again it'll be the business services and software that drive the actual business. 

And who will be left standing after all the smoke clear ?  Microsoft.  Damn those New York Yankees !


Beware the Infotech Hammer

There's a famous saying that goes 'if all you have is a hammer, then every problem seems like a nail'.  This adage is known as the 'law of the instrument', and has never been more applicable to infotech than it is today.

A mere five years ago the answer to the question was:  Microsoft.  It frankly didn't really matter that much what the question was ... Either Microsoft had the best product (Exchange, SQL, Visual Studio), or they had a good enough product that was the standard (Office, Windows).

What a difference a few years can make.  There's no such thing as a single answer to the question, and Microsoft isn't even among the answers for some of the most basic business IT questions these days (think mobile).  Products from companies ranging from Google to Apple to Salesforce and dozens of others mean that businesses now have more technologies choices at a lower cost than at any time prior.

So beware ... don't fall into the trap of thinking there's only one solution for your business, and avoid service providers that only have a hammer (Microsoft) in their toolbox .  The days of Microsoft only are long over, and though we think Microsoft often represents the best value for customers, there are plenty of other options that customers should carefully consider.   

More choices at a lower cost than ever.  Great for the customer, and great for our industry.  




What's up with Windows Azure ? 

Windows Azure is one of Microsoft's most important and strategic new products, yet few people know what it is, and even fewer understand its business value. 

The is a real problem.  Azure is basically Microsoft's take on cloud services, and it's essential platform for them as innovators like Amazon and Vmware convince more and more customers to move IT tasks to their could platforms and tools.   Having underperformed against more nimble rivals, Microsoft fired the Azure team, and is hoping that new blood will get the platform going.  That remains to be seen, but here are three things Microsoft can do to get this platform going.



Azure ?  Are you kidding me.  This has to be one of the worst product names since Microsoft BOB.  A total disaster.  Azure is a Windows / SQL / .NET related product, and they are going to have to find a marketing campaign that makes this clear.  And they are going to have to do so with a cool new name.

2.  ADD IaaS

In cloud terms infrastructure as a service (IaaS) basically means that you can provision a remote server.  It's one of the more basic functions you'll find in innovative cloud platforms like Amazon's EC2, but also one of the most essential.  And Microsoft doesn't offer it.  Think about that for a second:  if you want to provision a Windows 2008 Server, you have to go to Amazon (or GoGrid, of one of the other competitors) to get it.  Microsoft had better add IaaS, and they had better do it fast.  If they hope to catch up to the competition they had better offer it with more features, and a lower cost, than the competition.  I'd also suggest partnerships with Dell and HP to catch up in the Enterprise.  Really, it's beyond belief that Microsoft would cede leadership in Windows cloud servers, so let's hope they turn this around fast.

3.  Add Use Cases

While Azure is a fantastic technical platform, a lot of bright IT people still don't know what they're supposed to do with it.  Microsoft needs to do a better job of explaining how Azure can help customers.  They should focus on core IT functions (network, remote access, file storage, backup, etc), and articulate the best use cases for Azure in these areas. 


... We are really only at the beginning of the cloud build out, so Microsoft probably has time to catch up.  But with each passing month, Amazon, Google, and others, are adding more features, innovation, and value, so Microsoft has got to get moving.  Microsoft's Windows Servers have long been a mainstay in business computing, and so the cloud version of Windows Server is in some respect its "birth right".  We''ll see if Microsoft can actually step up to claim leadership, or if it will fall further behind its smaller, hungrier, and faster competitors.  





iPad your business

I've never actually seen a new device disrupt business computing as quickly as the iPad has done this last year.  From the power users Engineering, to the early adopter field guys, to the non-techies with the corner offices, as we approach 2012 it seems almost everyone has an iPad in the office.   

The 'bottoms up' approach of end users bringing in devices will carry a business only so far.  The challenge going forward for technology administrators and senior managers is to get behind this trend, and help unlock the business potential of iPad computing.  Here are a few thoughts on first steps:

MDM (Mobile Device Management) ... figure out how to use MDM platforms to make your office's iPads even better.  Among its many benefits, MDM lets you deploy and update applications on the iPad so that users have the means to bring line of business applications into their devices.   The means that you can easily provision Salesforce and Keynote apps for the sales guys, or Numbers for the accounting folks, or iAnnotate for the field people.  Whatever your user community's needs, they're going to be much better addressed with an MDM strategy.


Integration ... Getting your current computing to work with your mobile workforce is essential.  This means that your systems from SQL to Exchange will need to be updated and configured for mobile.  This is one of the cheapest and most transformative changes you can make, just taking the stuff you've already paid for and making it work for these new computing platforms.  


Custom Applications ...   there are so many great rapid application development toolkits available for cloud and mobile that development has never been easier.  While off-the-shelf computing can work fine for many basic business requirements, custom applications designed to fit the exact needs of your business and its mobile workforce are essential for many successful companies.  An experiened mobile cloud developer will be an essential relationship in 2012 and beyond. 

I'm excited about the possibilities for the New Year, and to see what the mobile cloud vendors including Apple have in store for 2012.  I would encourage anyone with responsbility for business success to look closely at the developments in iPad computing, and more broadly the mobile cloud, and to develop a parntership with a technology provider who can help realize the many opportunities in these great new technologies.