Cloud is not a panacea.. oh, wait: didn’t I say that already?

My comment in response to a

Why You Really, Truly Don’t Want a Private Cloud:

This guy speaks at conferences! I would ask for my money back (unless the ticket warned: “Zealots within”)

Simple things that for some reason otherwise-intelligent people seem to constantly forget while preaching cloud:

– legacy system issues include already purchased hardware, systems, licenses, architecture and design, talent, process, etc etc.
— without following through on the original business models the forecast benefits and RoI will never be realised – which if allowed to happen requires calculation into any Cloud cost / savings projections

– as per Dov, existing processes (across both the private and public sectors) require adjustment

– as per my entire 32 year career in solutions architecture and technology planning
— *nothing* ever has been, nor is likely to be, a panacea
— almost everything related to people and change takes longer and delivers less return than was projected

Don’t misunderstand me: he is / they are NOT wrong… but in my opinion based on 32 years in the industry, you are not as correct as you think you are and like many others need to stop the generalisations and pontifications and get on with actual delivery .. which requires listening to needs and situations, making observations and determining requirements rather than picking up a paintbrush and a bucket of beige paint.

Couldn’t help adding this after reading some of other comments on the article:

I forgot one other necessary specific:

Kofi, you can’t really think that all public clouds are magically dispersed, diverse, backed up and accessible within the required SLA and OLA levels for that business to earn as planned.. for dirt cheap prices?

And that the expensive private cloud doesn’t provide any of that luxury and in fact makes that which you have designed..
to meet your needs..
and which is under your control
– you contend that this is more susceptible to what, now?

Are you aware that cloud is a new term for old stuff… and that public v. private is simply a commercial model for the same stuff running on the same tin over the same pipes – – and often even in the same data centres?

If so you might benefit from a simple little blog I wrote called ‘My Gardener is in the Cloud’ and all of the other real world pragmatic discussions I have either written or re-blogged here on this page

Why Publishers Don't Like Apps - Technology Review

The Delivery Vehicle is, has been and for sometime will be, the web

Why Publishers Don't Like Apps - Technology Review

Apps are not the wave of the future, merely another way to deliver web content – – and it is not financially viable and so cannot make business sense for every business, every publication, every content provider to create their own apps.

especially if they've looked at the future of the web, and HTML5…

and even more so if they have a clue about the sustainable economic use of tech to deliver value to a business (as opposed to costing it a fortune or it's existence)

So, when I read an article stating that maybe apps aren't the disruptor for media (nor a fave of media publishers) that they were thinking they might be, all I can respond with is "duh!".

This is exactly what I have been saying since this 'generation' of apps first appeared on smartphones – – and reinforced by LinkedIn's 90%+ HTML5 implementation of their iPad app

The Delivery Vehicle is, has been and for sometime will be, the web

And

This does *not* apply only to media delivery but to information creation, delivery and consumption… I would love to hear your thoughts after you check out this article

Why Publishers Don't Like Apps – Technology Review

 

Camera

Good News! You’re Not Paranoid

CameraSo, they can see it all… and they really are watching! For the past six years, PRISM (under public ownership) and that other form of Big Brother, the Internet in general, (under, mostly, private ownership) for much more than six years. While very different in nature, perception and our view of having given permission (or otherwise) these two avenues to our information are also very much the same. As is the answer to how you can take control of both and render PRISM itself effectively irrelevant with regards to your data (more on that a bit later).

Read the rest at Compare the Cloud

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Keep it Secure… the Business of Cloud

cloud_lockMy latest, hosted at ComparetheCloud.net

Depending on where you go or what you read, the issues vary but the underlying concerns about Cloud security seem fairly standard: concern about the lack of control over cloud-based environments; concern about access to data and systems from outside of the walls of the business combined; concern and uncertainty as to how to manage current threats, both targeted and random, let alone whatever comes next.

Truth be told, much of this stuff is, relatively speaking, straight-forward if not easy once you’ve done the work, determined your needs and selected the correct, trusted partner (who has passed the requisite due diligence which any business with any significant level of security requirements or concerns should insist on).

Read the rest at ComparetheCloud

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Newmarket Races

Sir Alex… the Business of Cloud

Taking the helm at Man U at about the same time as Microsoft went public and IBM released their first twelve-pound ‘convertible’ laptop, the Sir Alex Ferguson timeline covers far more than fifteen hundred matches. Yes, too many books, movies and metaphors have applied sports to business and the boardroom but Sir Alex, in Football, over time is more akin to management in the computer industry than you might realise.

The BBC wrote that “his initial victories were hard won but that the domination to follow was unexpected” which sounds a bit like the PC industry whose history and evolution follow similar time and story lines, with the key word for both being ‘evolution’.

Unlike most other industries which by circumstance and necessity do and have changed, somewhat, over time (often supported by technology), the computer industry, which is rapidly becoming the cloud industry, as driven by Moore’s law consists of sets of dynamic ‘living’ product ranges in a general state of flux… things that need care and feeding, maintenance and improvement, and support from a businesses led with a combination of pragmatic vision and astute business sense. .. and flexibility.

Skipping over the fashion and hairstyle offenses – on-pitch and off – that the Manchester United bastion has seen and instead ponder the massive evolution of change that has happened around him while at the helm. The breadth of change from player salaries to their attitudes is a result of communications breaking barriers and extending borders (just like IT in general and Cloud specifically) through to the fans and the media (the football version of Cloud clients, consumers and analysts). We could stretch the analogies further but I think the point is made.

The opening of telecommunications channels and the pervasive use and availability of broadcasting kit moved the media approach and coverage to a global stage, necessitating amongst other things a re-adjustment of the Premiership business model and a re-prioritisation of the revenue streams from tickets to t-shirts and advertising with a growing hands-on focus directly on the fan base.

q3

While of course he didn’t run the day to day business of the club, at a minimum in IT industry terms you’d have to consider Sir Alex a board-seated CTO of the MU machine. The changes he has helped managed the Club through are as vast as the changes from silent film to radio to television to satellite viewing, from mainframes to minis to micros to handhelds, or from re-seller to integrator to service provider to cloud provider, and everything else in between (which, as the astute amongst you might have noticed, in our industry has also created the need for a re-adjustment to business models, a different way of looking at revenues and a different focus and approach to customers).

Alex Ferguson was open to change: any good Manager (football or otherwise) needs a defence mechanism and the flexibility to deal with and exploit that which is happening around you is near the top of the list. And change is of course what the IT industry – and Cloud –  is all about, both changing itself and enabling change pretty much everywhere else. You are after all still selling and providing computer “stuff” but the pitch, the rules, the players, the press and the fans all only bear the tiniest of resemblance to what came before.

(In any case, has anyone else noticed that the Football v Religion question has been answered from a social media perspective: the announcement of the new Pope garnered about five times as many tweets in the first round of reactions to Sir Alex stepping down).

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puzzle

Keep it Clear… the Business of Cloud

puzzle

For a CEO not up on the tech side of things, asking a techie “What is Cloud?” would be as useful as asking a meteorologist the same question… there are too many wrong answers – for the particular needs of any particular CEO – amongst the right ones, not to mention that the term itself has become almost redundant.

To be fair, the term ‘cloud’ itself has probably contributed to the rapid uptake in both use and press coverage. To paraphrase George Carlin, “Cloud is such a friendly sounding word… It sounds like a snack, doesn't it? New Nabisco Clouds! And new Cheese Clouds, Corn Clouds, Pizza Clouds, Sesame Clouds, Onion Clouds, Tater Clouds”…" Broad, cross-functional, magical… and more – it is a great catch-all term, just not a specific one.

I’ve discussed, argued, positioned (and worse) the topic of cloud with peers, clients and colleagues at dinners, meetings, events, forums and pubs (the noisy ones being the best as I can’t hear half of the argument)… we, they who work in and around this space, seem for the most part to know what we’re talking about, even when at cross-purposes or in disagreement. One thing I have noticed across the board, though, is that there exist four intersecting loops of cloud belief: those who see it as

  1. a technology modelq1
  2. a utility (or service) model
  3. an operational model
  4. a commercial model

And, as is often the case in IT, the anomaly is the norm: none of those views are incorrect or correct, necessarily: like the work required to get there and the reward on arrival, it depends on the point of view of the beholder. When finding my way to a solution I often take hybrid as my first target and from there work towards either end as needed. To me, that is the only position from which to start with this cloud thing.

And you know what? This is not the complicated stuff… what really has become complicated is the marketing, the messages, the myriad of names and labels and the one-size-fits-all promises that business users are being hit with  (not to mention the contracts!). Dozens of choices at a coffee shop doesn’t phase me (or the average consumer who knows, broadly, what they want to drink) BUT twenty price plans with eight levels of up-front spend for thirty different handsets with fifteen different network add-ons at the local mobile phone wareshopstorehouse can be rather vexing…

Does this mean it time for a new term? (no, please!)  As an industry we need to provide clarity and consistency (along with some good solid honesty). While not a big fan of regulation and often less than thrilled with how (and why) standards are (sometimes) implemented, I do rather like both when they are done properly and result in a level playing field and I reckon that clarity and consistency of terminology typically happens when standards are applied. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) “Definition of Cloud Computing” is a strong starting attempt to clarify the ambiguity that is cloud, starting with the following five identifiers:

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity enabling quick scale-out
  • Measurable services

But of course it wouldn’t be cloud if we didn’t have several strong starting points, including the Open Group, Distributed Management Task Force, Cloud Security Alliance, Storage Network Industry Association, and Open Cloud Consortium all have cloud standards efforts ranging from terminology to security.

q2Cloud computing is not a trend (although the rush to the marketplace is) but rather a fundamental shift in capabilities that enables a fundamental re-think from “what can we do?” into “what do we want to do?” offering a focus on growth and opportunity across industries and world-wide, including all sides of the equation – manufacturers and vendors, service providers, techies and end users and businesses of all sizes.

Clever ways to sell and describe products is a game that will not stop but a little consistency and clarity by vendors describing just what it is that they bring to the table would go a long way… (just like the relationships created by doing so).

I am open and interested to comments and either agreeing or opposing points of view… and come back next week for "Keep it Secure… the Business of Cloud."

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switch

Keep it Simple … the Business of Cloud

switchA complicated business, this cloud thing, if you want it to be… of course you don't want it to be, nor do your customers, but it isn't "simple" any more than IT is simple: it is made to look that way, though, by people who know what they're doing.

The cloud message I hear most comes across as a variation of the POOF methodology: "quick, easy, click here, pay there, flick the switch and POOF! You're in the cloud!" This does set an expectation that things are (and will continue to be) simple, quick, and easy (oh, and don't forget, cheap: chances are that somewhere along the way that things like "low entry costs," "cost-effective," and "no CapEx," were translated to "cheap," "cheap," and "cheap.")

Seth Godin says that "You can't sell complicated to someone who came to you to buy simple" to which I add a corollary that "you can't sell expensive to someone who came to you to buy cheap!" However you look at it, while things are (or can be) simpler and more cost-effective than they ever have been, simple to understand does not always equate to not complicated and cost-effective does not in any sense of the word guarantee inexpensive (and it is all relative: specifically to each specific set of customer requirements to which you are delivering).

In reality, you actually can do both, but you better do it well if you want it to stick (and remember, the easy-to-sign customer may end up being the one you wished you hadn't closed).

Broadly considering, no Cloud Provider, large or small, truly understand what the entire market wants or for that matter what an entire segment of customers want: part of what we are offering with today's computing and communications capability is the chance to do new things or old things better, stronger faster and cheaper. You are meant to work with them to exploit the cloud to do whatever it is they want to do, which of course starts with listening to what they want and then applying your knowledge, expertise and experience to work with them to translate those wants into needs… and how to deliver them.

I have a favourite trick in getting this process rolling at the start of a new hunt looking to start the build process of a strong, long-term relationship – you know, that space and time when you aren't yet certain of the drivers of those sitting across the table or the focus and appoach that they or their organisation takes to IT in the business, let alone their agendas!

Remember those coloured, layered plastic pages of the human body in the Encyclopedias of our youth? The first picture was of a person (which we'll liken to your cloud business answer for your customer's business problem); turn the top page to reveal first muscles below the skin, next the blood system, then the organs and finally the skeleton (which equates to what, who and how you deliver that business answer). Everything in between is, well, everything in between – but this allows you to start with the big picture if that turns out to be the right starting point – or the bones if that is what your audience needs on the day… while preparing you well for anything in-between.

Don't sell complicated as simple, because it isn't… and what you are about to do with your customers is game-changing, one way or the other and that seldom is simple.

The Business of Cloud homepage

Compete or Collaborate… or Both? … the Business of Cloud

Get used to the concept of co-existence

The progressive views about your marketing, your customers and your competition as espoused by Seth Godin are seldom things with which I find disagreement…. he walks a different path that started with his book Permission Marketing (summarised nicely here – and I highly recommend the book of the same name, not to mention all of the rest!).

Seth’s views on de-focusing from your competition – which to me only makes sense since you are unlikely to destroy them and so should get used to the concept of co-existence – and applying that attention instead on what you do, say and sell, (and who you do, say and sell it to) is spot-on… but I reckon it stops a little short. While he is far from incorrect I suggest that if you also extend your focus, wisely with research, planning and networking, you might find additional routes to explore.

In other words, pick which of your competitors merit your applying a different focus and perspective – and a different set of goals – to find and define opportunities to exploit for mutual benefit.

shark-and-mackerel shark
Positioning: Which “mackerel” would you rather be?

Now at this point it’s not unfair to think “mutual benefits, ok… which ones are mine, then?” when you are looking at splitting deals. Truth be told it is amazing how far a little quid pro quo can go and most change their views as this approach is applied. So, if you are open to such things (and don’t mind a few bullet points) then consider:

• Extended Propositions and aggregated references supporting the targeting of larger scale opportunities
• Agile delivery with access to a cross-organisation resource base (the ability to afford to win that big deal)
• Opportunities to share costs to engage and share world-class resources
• Scaled buying power reducing costs, increasing pre-sales support and accuracy
• Extended overall reach and raised profiles all ‘round

Now this isn’t a plug (unless of course you’d like to speak further on the subject, in which case feel free to consider it a plug) but I have use my own “Loop” business model which targets accelerated growth by a combination of co-operative competition and the right planning and preparation to “acquire to grow” or to be better positioned for acquisition… and it isn’t rocket science.

The origins of this type of model are simple and I don’t claim to have invented the approach: Top and middle tier Managed Service Providers continue to succeed and to grow largely by using “group credentials” of co-operative consortiums when going for those big opportunities. And, as markets tighten and opportunities diminish, recent trends are showing those big players extending their reach into the lower-margin and higher competition SME space in search of new business: and they can afford to invest in lower margin accounts especially in a space with an on-going need for cost reductions that makes MSP offerings worth another look.

One opportunity to not miss along the way is the small business distrust of Managed Services and even greater distrust of “big business” – so why not disrupt by aggregating, co-operatively, with your “competitors” (selected based on their capability and offerings; track record and size; attitude and goals; and in some cases geography).

Disrupt things with a Consortium model

Not only effective as a countermeasure, a consortium in this case is a natural disruptor which builds on existing structures and frameworks to deliver bigger and better. Collaboration – of resources, networks and partners / supply chain – will support your targeting larger scale opportunities within newly-aggregated current segments. And, as partners learn to trust and work together, it should enable reaching ‘up’ into the growth space to take back your market from those big players.

There is a Cloud Computing point to all of this: we know the Cloud computing playing field is complicated with platforms, delivery vehicles, orchestration, management and we know even better the complications in customer clarity of both requirements and everything they need to deliver to them. Wouldn’t a clever player crossing both of those complex spaces, in a constantly evolving environment (not to mention a rather challenging economic situation, overall) look to find and exploit opportunities from whatever angles might work (in just the same way as my colleagues, competitors, suppliers and customers worked to bring some joint clarity and awareness on this brilliant Tell me why I should use your Cloud? blog here at Compare the Cloud?)

While I often object to incorrect platitudes packaged as sage quotes, there are as always exceptions to the rule, so let me finish with Sun Tzu and "Know your enemy and know yourself and you will always be victorious" or, as translated by Don Vito to Michael Corleone as “Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer.”

After all, isn’t that what networks are for? 

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stopselling

Stop Selling the Cloud… the Business of Cloud

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“Sales and marketing fail when they either are selling or marketing the wrong thing, or the right thing in the wrong way” ~ me, 2012

 

In planning a recent holiday, we started (as I assume most do) with choosing a destination, based on either the mission (see, visit, do something…) or the vision (city; dive; rest…) for the holiday. We narrowed things down by applying our requirements criteria including travel time and budget, adjusting and extending our view as we made a selection.

We decided on a city break in Istanbul and during this initial ‘discovery’ process we further refined our requirements and determined, broadly, that transport and desired level of accommodation would be both available and affordable and that the city offered us what we were seeking for this holiday. Based on target location, timeframes and convenience, flying was pretty much the only valid option.

While we always seek as painless a travel experience as possible, we typically allocate more budget to accommodations and activities than we do to travel: this typically makes Business Class or better a price barrier but we never adjust our basic requirements: local airports, competitive pricing and a track record that leads us to expect a safe runway landing rather than a splash down or a ride into the side of a mountain. Those needs met, we selected and booked the flight.

Then came the Fun, part 1: deciding where to stay and from there planning what we might get up to on arrival. Following pretty much the same requirements-defined approach as above, at a more granular level, we finalised our criteria relevant to the type of break we wanted (our mission and vision) ranging from the neighbourhood of our hotel to its proximity to sights and transport.

This was followed by the Fun, part 2: going there and doing it. Loosely illustrated our time allocation – and preferably also that of our budget (which is, sadly, usually a larger chunk by far than desired), looks a little bit like:

stopselling

The same type of breakdown applies, loosely, to selling technology-based business solutions  (although not always the same ratios): technology is meant to enable something, to solve something, to deliver something or to earn something, not just to be really cool tech with a better name and fancier tools.

Awareness is Good, Hype is Bad

Now, as written in Part 1 of this reality check, Beware the Cloud-ists! I’d like to say that I like cloud and have done since well before it was called cloud. And that today, with the processing power, capacity and bandwidth to deliver to the promise, not to mention the sliding commercial models and minimal-to-nil start-up barriers in terms of costs or time delays, we are now enabled to use smart, utility delivered, commodity computing in a way that it can really make a difference.

This is very promising in the view of both the business and technology camps: reduced risk, reduced cost, increased agility and overall reduced barriers across what has become a much-simplified business to consumer to business loop (particularly but not exclusively to the online or otherwise computing-centric space).

Cloud Computing has struck a chord with and captured the imagination of the public, businesses and Government in a way that other attempts at delivering utility model computing, ranging from On Demand to first generation SaaS and other such incarnations never did. Everywhere you look are managers, experts, analysts and “observers of a journalistic nature” writing, blogging and tweeting about it: a myriad of real-world experts (some of whom know about that of which they speak, others clearly who do not!) generating countless books, articles and whitepapers.

Cloud is Merely the Delivery Vehicle

… and cloud is also a great foot in the door. Controlled and applied realistically, the hype around cloud is raising awareness and increasing uptake and I suggest using the opportunity created by this hype. Leverage the interest and awareness to start new, broader conversations based on the business goals of your customer (and their customers) rather than the delivery needs of their IT department or your own short-term sales targets… I suggest that you stop selling cloud and instead start to sell and deliver the things that cloud will enable: their imaginations have been captured by all of those pundits and it is time to take advantage of that: the right way!

Raising interest in and creating an understanding of the cloud and its (actual) benefits is clearly good all round: assuming that you want to move from selling products and services to selling business solutions and long-term relationships, cloud is the perfect vehicle to enable that move (more a transformation, by the way, than a move).

Selling business solutions and long-term relationships indicates that it is the competitive edge (in terms of: agility; cost of sales and delivery; sustainability of service) delivered via these new commercial models and methods wrapped around enhanced, improved and new technologies that are cloud, rather than the tech itself. Sell the holiday: the hotel and the activities are that which captures the imagination, not the flight.

And that answer remains the same even if your customer is re-selling your cloud-based models and methods to their end-users: the only difference is that you need to work with them to move them to also think and sell the same way.

Cloud is about enabling innovation, driving speed, delivering business agility and reducing risks: You need a different conversation and a different proposition… my suggestion is to stop selling cloud, start having those different conversations and see where they take you: let cloud sell itself based on what it can do rather than what it is.

As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver-lining: your competitors who are selling that silver lining may make short term income but I would suggest that the real place to go mining would be in the doors opened and relationships built by the conversations around how this cloud stuff can transform their businesses, reduce their costs and get them to their goals better, stronger, quicker, cheaper. That is where lies the mother lode.

Oh… and don’t forget to beware of the Cloud-ists!

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BSB - Copy - Copy

the Beyond Solutions Boardroom video Interview Series

Today's issues with today's business leaders, in the Beyond Solutions Boardroom you will hear from bright, innovative and successful CEOs and Business Leaders (and the occasional Visionary) sharing their views on the trends, realities and planning necessary to succeed

Styled as conversational and interactive, this informative series delivers insights and ideas with which businesses and brands can enhance their results either by adapting and applying, or as the catalyst to connect 'their' dots

Produced by IntelligentHQ, hosted by Groupe INSEEC London and presented by Daniel Steeves, the Boardroom is a "mostly pitch-free" environment, though discussions will necessarily include product and company references (but, hopefully, used to illustrate rather than sell)

The first in our CEO Series with Richard Weaver of Advantage Business Partnerships


In production and coming soon:

Jon Penney, Founder and CEO of Intellect Security and Cryptosoft

Dinis Guarda, Founder and CEO of IntelligentHQ, Ztudium (and others)

Eddie George. Founder and CEO of New Finance

Also, recording starts next week for Beyond Cloud: a series of thought-provoking thought-leader discussions and forecasts, from 15 different angles on the Industry!

 
   

                                     

Cloud Warnings

Questions to Ask Before Buying… the Business of Cloud

Cloud Buying Questions for Cloud Computing Service Providers, hosted by the good folk over at CompareTheCloud.net

Cloud Service Provider:  You’ve made your pitch and you’re in the door, sitting across from some subset of senior management who are waiting to hear about how you and your cloud can change their world. Well done (especially these days!)… but there just might be a few questions before the deal closes: buying cloud from you is a leap of faith – not only in your business – but in their own business and its ability to capitalise on what you are offering.

The following questions, posed in no particular order, are the nature of which you might hear coming from the other buy-side of the table:

  1. Questions and Answers signpostWhere are your Data Centres; how are they connected; who and how has the whole thing been designed and built? What is your current technology landscape and what are your plans?
  2. What happens if my applications / data / websites are unavailable (and /or remain unavailable for an inordinate amount of time? And, for that matter, what is the definition of an inordinate amount of time?) Tell me about service levels and service credits?
  3. How quickly can you restore lost data (including recovery from user error); what is the back-up regimen, frequency, retention policies? Where is the data backed up?
  4. Tell about your support model for my business users, technical users and developers. Will we have an account manager and, if yes, what does that mean?
  5. Show me how I am not locked in to you: what are the mechanisms to ensure a cost effective repatriation of applications and data (to either another provider or back into my own data centre); what are the costs and timings of such decommissioning?
  6. While at this point you foresee no problems in moving our (pick one: ERP; bespoke trading platform; SOA; etc.) to your cloud… what is your approach (from due diligence through to the actual porting exercise) and what happens if there are problems? Will there be any impact on my costs?
  7. You seem like a new and risky (or successful and growing business): what happens to my business if you should go under (or get acquired)?
  8. Where have you done any or all of the above / can I speak with a current customer bearing some relationship to mine in terms of industry sector and scale? Can I see your Customer case studies quoting business results?

Buying cloud from you is a leap of faith – not only in your business – but in their own business and its ability to capitalise on what you are offering.

When I started writing this, I had planned a list of a few questions only, intending to discuss each a little more including views as to how to answer: along the way it has become the start of a solid list of tough questions which might prove of value all along the supply chain (and I’d also suggest that, if a customer doesn’t ask such questions, that a larger opportunity just might exist to start a journey where you can start adding extra value from day one of the sale process by posing and answering those questions together… never a bad way to start a relationship!).

At this point I’d like to throw the floor open to you: what are the questions a service provider should be asked?  And which are the questions a provider should be well prepared for?  And what are the killer questions that might have caught you off-guard?!

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clouds over Computing

My take on Cloud Expo Europe 2013

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My take on Cloud Expo Europe 2013

"Events of this nature, with vendors, seminars and keynotes, help you to see what ‘could be’ prior to defining or designing what you want”

“Cloud to Clarity wasn’t quite delivered… but this is not a reflection on either the event or the exhibitors, though, rather on the state of a rapidly evolving industry… but it is getting better”

Guest post at ComparetheCloud.net (click on the title above or the logo below to check out a top Cloud Computing resource)

I’ve been attending IT industry shows and events the nature of this one since the ‘old days’ when business computing existed only on mainframes (which, by the way, are in many ways the predecessor architecture of cloud which is, effectively, computing re-centralised…) and I recall only a few where I have felt it worth attending for more than one day: Cloud Expo Europe 2013 was one of them.

As mentioned in a recent blog published elsewhere, I typically counsel any business to focus on requirements and targets before looking at the technology, but these times (and this show) are a little different.

Because you can do more than you could before – particularly without spending a large amount of money up front to get started doing it – thinking outside of the box effectively requires knowledge of what might be out there and I am now more likely to suggest that you see what ‘could be’ prior to defining or designing what you want.

Click here or on the Logo below to read the rest


Daniel is a Director at Beyond Solutions, a Partner at HB Prime Advantage and a Thought Leader for Compare the Cloud.

TCIO

Does the UK technology sector measure up?

Bdaily Business News

Does the UK technology sector measure up? (An opinion piece by me published at BDaily.co.uk Business News)

It's Technology Week on Bdaily. Daniel Steeves, a Canadian Partner at James Caan’s Mayfair firm HB Prime Advantage offers his opinion on how the climate could be improved for the tech businesses in the UK in comparison with other countries.

From commitments to infrastructure improvements, through to making available more visas for skilled workers, the UK Government has been backing some relatively successful efforts to attract new or added presence from some of the ‘big players’ to London but, in my opinion, a bit too focused an eastward view.

Regardless of the geography, supporting technology-focused or technology-enabled start-up businesses (a space currently supporting tens of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in revenue across the UK) is a clever approach as both a short-term tactical and a longer view strategic position to work towards bolstering and growing our economy.

The problem is not only that an East London focus excludes the successful and growing technology industry we have in Cambridge and down the M4 Corridor to Oxford (the places in the UK where those billions are generated) but that, for the most part, the typical east London start-up is in the consumer-facing space rather than targeting the business to business environment (the companies in the UK who are generating those billions).

“Build it and they will come” does not apply to industry in general or the technology sector in particular, rather it is something that happens… and then grows. I grew up in the growing Silicon Valley (North) as Ottawa was sometimes called. Like its California namesake businesses started and grew in that geography partly in support of the Military and mostly because of what was under the ground… as the industry (and the local population) grew, so did the supporting ecosystem, from the service sector through to education to Government.

So, how to improve the climate for technology start-ups in general? I’d consider starting with the following three things:

  • Continued encouragement and support for business start-ups, but enhanced with education and awareness on what constitutes a sustainable business.
  • A little (or a lot) less hands-on involvement with the business of the sector, replaced with a greater focus on removing roadblocks related, for example, to taxes and visas
  • Just let it happen… from an external point of view the Government should support start-ups as though they were plates spinning on a stick: don’t touch the stick until you are certain that the plate is going to fall (and be ready and aware to be sure of which ones to be sure of catching!)

(please click here to read the original article)

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Grey Clouds over Cost Savings

Grey Clouds over Cost Savings

A great piece by Michael Queenan of Nephos Technologies 

when a Cloud blog starts with "If you are looking at Cloud for just cost savings you’re going to be disappointed" I know I've found one of the good ones (and thanks to @MJQueenan for the mention)

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Big Data, Big Deal

Big Data, Big Deal

My latest blog as posted at  at ComparetheCloud.net: it is your data, not big data, that matters (but even that has limited relevance until you know what you want to do with it)

It is easy to drown in big data articles, let alone the numbers that they quote: companies counting customer transactions in the millions (or more) per day, websites with literally billions of photos and videos, not to mention 3000 tweets per second! We are inundated with broad brush information but, like the data being written about, the relevance to you and your business is not so clear… it is your data, not big data, that matters but even that has limited relevance until you know what you want to do with it.

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Data is of course aggregating at an amazing rate but this is nothing new… it’s clearly been happening for quite some time. What has changed is that, as that data piles up, awareness of the potential value within it is increasing. Combined with advances in technology and the delivery of that technology, storage and access costs are drastically reduced which creates opportunities to derive information, intelligence and insights from that data (in many cases, an asset you already own!)  .. Read the rest here

really Should you be?

Should you be selling Managed Services and Cloud?

(subtitle: Should you be buying Managed Services or Cloud from these people?)

Clearly the playing field has and is still changing for the business technology sector from the point of view of both end user organisation and the traditional mix of vendors, integrators, resellers, outsourcers and other tech-space providers (choose your label, add freely to the list).

While this is also true for those already with a managed service model, they do at least have clarity in response to the question posed in the title above: right or wrong, profitable and growing or not, they are already in that space.

Meanwhile, the other players in the sector are being bombarded by change: what customers are asking for (expecting, demanding); the underlying technology to deliver to those requirements; the necessary commercial and service models and processes in place. Over the past year I’ve read more than a few articles along the lines of “Cloud Kills the Traditional (insert term here)” and “Change or Die,” many of which deliver coherent arg02062007285.jpguments but most of them are partly correct and incorrect.

In my business I advise ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ IT service providers business to adapt a solutions-focused, recurring revenue client model. But not all such businesses get the same advice… it is not always the case that the provider side should (or is ready, yet, to) provide such services (competently and profitably) nor that the end user is both ready and in need of the change (again, yet: we are talking industry wide disruption based on valued add, so they are likely to get there but hopefully after a little bit of planning to ensure that they have an idea of where they are actually going!)

Sticking with our “traditional” mix of vendors, integrators, resellers, outsourcers and other tech space providers, I would suggest any of the above execute a short review of the following questions to ‘test’ their readiness, willingness (and awareness) to do what it takes to do it right – not to mention to take a preliminary view of the levels of effort it might take to get there:

  1. What are your current: capabilities, skill sets, references and credibility?
  2. What are your current assets, in general and Data Centre(s) in particular
  3. Do you currently offer any managed services (network or device monitoring, eMail, printing, etc.)?
  4. What are the capabilities, assets and skill sets of your current customer base; Do they understand the value of managed services?
  5. Do your client-facing staff have relationships with your clients (to whom are they selling; do they have C-level relationships?)

These same questions, slightly adjusted and posed to potential service providers as well as inward-looking, also apply to pretty much all end user / customer business considering moving, changing or transitioning and, even more importantly, in my opinion, with whom they choose to make that move: managed service relationships do have a 'tied-in' nature, so tread and choose carefully.

These questions are the tip of the iceberg and would be covered in the first hours of one of my typical engagements… it is the questions which follow and the requisite investment in time and resources to create and implement change across sales, delivery, operations, business processes and, of course, the commercials to successfully adapt and grow as a Managed Service Provider).

“Growth” is the magic word, by the way… preparing for, selling correctly and then delivering what is essentially “more of the same” to a client base that is expanding as you do it better (faster, smarter, cheaper) will, from what I have seen across the sector these past fifteen years or so, drive growth and expansion batter than most strategies.

If you’d like to discuss further how you can assess and prepare for such a move – and to take a first run through that list of questions, contact me at steeves@beyond-solutions.co.uk for a complimentary introductory workshop (free-form but functional).

My Gardener is in the Cloud: my Recent TEDxBristol Talk (video and text)

Robert shows on Tuesday mornings, backs his van into my driveway, throws open the back door and pulls out his kit: a mower some weeks, a blower others, always a rake and a trimmer…

He unlocks the gate and goes about his work and within an hour or so he is gone. All that I need to do is have handy the garden waste bin.

Oh, and an espresso: I have him hooked.

Even if you only glance at the business or technology news you can't help but have noticed a lot of discussion about the cloud – it has become a very big word. And Robert is all you need to understand it:   An on-demand resource, in the spring and autumn Robert scales up with his son to spend extra time preparing for summer growth or just picking up the leaves. He can be scheduled for plantings and transplants, tree removal, or to pop 'round and feed the cat when we go away for a weekend

Somewhat similar, except for the cat feeding, Cloud is a commercial model for computing where you run programs and store data, on demand, over the network, into the cloud, which is someone else's computer.

Cloud is also called a utility model since like gas and electricity it's available on demand, pay as you go.

You don't need to buy, manage or house big computer servers and storage (or lawn mowers and trimmers), merely work it out with the cloud provider (who, by the way, isn't really in a cloud: they'll be in a traditional data centre, somewhere, anywhere, down the road in Kent or in Manitoba, it doesn't really matter – cloud computing has great value and removes barriers but it isn't rocket science and it isn't brand new.

Ok, we'll be coming back to Robert but he's done the job of showing technology, while complicated, can always be made more clear. That doesn't make it less complicated: it's challenging but done well technology adds value, enhances services and creates wealth and is after all the critical and fundamental bridge to the future

With more than a few years working across this sector as it has evolved, one of the most important lessons I've learned is that technology should

– Solve a problem

– Prevent a problem from happening in the first place

– Save some money, time or resources

– Generate revenue

If it isn't doing or delivering one of the above, somebody should be questioning why it is being done at all.

I found Alvin Toffler's Future Shock on my brother's bookshelf and at age 15 a table of contents that promised subterranean cities, cyborgs, hippies and sensory overload sounded pretty cool. It had its moments but I can't say it wasn't a heavy read

When I picked the book up again 10 or 15 years the later I found different things sticking out, mainly knowledge as fuel, the technological engine and information overload

I also realised that a fair bit of what he wrote was happening by circumstance but that the important bits behind the scenes, planning and design and other human-driven elements  were already falling behind

I was also struck by what Toffler called the flow of situations since it seemed to explain it all: and cause it. a chain reaction of change where the change itself enables or causes more change.

Future shock is real, but like cloud computing it isn't exactly new and like any shock the key is to plan for it while doing your best to avoid it

This is where that flow of situations works in our favour: we innovate which enables other innovations: we learn how to do things better, stronger, faster, cheaper

We in-build flexibility by architecting solutions the way they architect a high rise to deal with high winds and earthquakes; we plan for the future by making sure things are extendable and can grow or flex to meet demand and change

We analyse the risks, then we plan for and insure against them, not expecting the worst but with awareness and acceptance that the worst could happen

This provides the opportunity, sometimes, to roll with the punches and maybe even use the momentum to our advantage

Compare the person who dips a toe in the pool to check the temperature to the person who just dives in. The water is the same temperature for both, but not the level of physical shock if the water turns out to be ice cold

The toe dippers also gain advance knowledge of the situation and that alone reduces potential shock. They also have the choice of deciding not to go in after all

Robert does good work, basic garden maintenance, trimming and mowing. He knows what to plant in the sun and what to put in the shade (I've seen him read the labels) and for a fair price I get good basic service and save myself time and investment in yard equipment

You get what you pay for, hopefully, but you certainly don't get what you don't pay for: if we want flowers planted we select and collect them, and the compost: it just isn't part of the service.

But sometimes the expertise doesn't deliver the desired result: when I asked him to transplant a healthy, flowering palm tree from a pot into a more permanent location the results, by the following spring, were less than stellar

When I asked him what next?, he put his hands in his pockets and said to me 'Well, we are where we are' I paused…  “We are where we are” … Clever ploy… couldn't really argue that one…

We are where we are

The first time I heard that in a business meeting I thought it obvious but good, we were accepting reality, adjusting and plan our way forward. Then I realised it was an excuse and an attempt to dismiss everything that had happened until then, and just plow forward

"Where we are" is clearly our starting point for anything and everything going forward: "Where we are" is factual, mostly and forward starts HERE!

But  Without knowing "where we were" and "how we got here" it is tough to gauge exactly which way is forward is from.

"Where we were" is also factual but since it is in the past it is open to misinterpretation and argument but it is where the lessons were learned, and they are the most critical input to planning our way forward

We position things to succeed: otherwise what is the point?  To do that, requirements and objectives need to be defined and communicated: without knowing "where we're going"  we can't know what success looks like when we achieve it or what potential failure looks like along the way…

So with a clear way forward, we define objectives and start the journey

And again change causes change, ranging from technology advances to business opportunities or due to legislation

This is where planning proves to have been the right idea: if we invested a small bag of money in kitting out our in-house computer room 2 years back based on a 5 year plan and budget, the fact that cloud today might do it cheaper doesn't matter due to the current position for which the plan works and so adherence to it is the right call for the business

On the other hand, when new requirements come along we can try to position the business to take advantage of appropriate advances, updating the roadmap converging somewhere along the way

Now just a little more on why Where We Were matters more than you may realise

I promise I won't bore you with numbers (or any great level of graphical accuracy as you can see) but a quick look at population shows a steady rise forecast to continue along the same path

Cars and trucks have also grown significantly but the past 20 years and the next 20 years show a much sharper arc

But then again sharpness is relative… this next one combines of information and devices connected to the internet. And once again, the rise is expected to continue on that path: and according to Eric Schmidt from Google, in a 48 hour period we create as much data as we did from the first cave man paintings through to 2003.

Every 2 days. Hard to even begin to imagine that

We see, hear or directly experience change on a vast scale, daily along with people, things and information increasing and moving so rapidly that our senses while not overloaded are softened and we take less notice – the shock is reduced – particularly if it doesn't seem to impact us directly, at that moment… and then our attention is taken away, again

My wife tells me that I use too many analogies and that I sometimes sound condescending, but a large part of my what I do seems to end up as either translating technology or business requirements… and analogies work

So let's go for a couple more

As recently as the 80s the number of connected devices – what we are calling the Internet of Things – was on a scale similar to the number of back gardens on your block… Today we would have to count the blades of grass on each lawn to come close.

Strangely enough I don't think of this as important beyond being significant: we are rapidly reaching a state where everything that needs to be connected is connected, or will be .. along with plenty of things which don't need to be. from 0 to 8.5 Billion devices in 30 years is mind blowing already, but Cisco tell us to expect 50 Billion by 2020. It is rather cool but it is all infrastructure and a shock to which I've become more or less accustomed

Big data, meanwhile, is in value terms something to get excited about

Think of data like water flowing in streams and rivers… there is a lot of it, moving from place to place, sometimes very quickly.. But you can find a boat on a river system fairly easy: it has banks and we know where it starts and where it ends. Big Data is the ocean. All of them. Where it is just a little bit harder to find a boat, let alone even know it is out there.

Much of technology consists of improvements to what came before: fine-tuning, extending and enhancing. Advances and growth in the mobile space are vast but really only deliver what we had, more conveniently

Big Data is different. We have plenty of work to do just to determine the questions, how to ask them and how to find the answers.

Like DNA has allowed forensic examiners to reopen criminal investigations, big data can let us look back and better understand, with more information and better context, a more precise answer of just how we arrived "where we are".

If we can know what happened when, and how, we can see about learning from it to either prevent it from happening again, or to repeat it (depending of course on what IT was).

Cloud and other computing advances are significant but they are only the delivery vehicles that will take us to the treasures hidden in the big data.

The other reason that Big Data is different is that it is not a technology, rather it is a by-product of technology which requires interesting new tech to take advantage of it … but it is a fine example of creating value where there was little before

Computer power continually increases as a function of computer power itself: more power enables us to design and build even more power – maybe the only example ever of a good vicious circle

Add in the speed of communication, advances in storage and the knowledge and experience that is out there and the gates are open

My first answer when I am asked 'Can we do it?' is "Yes: given time, money, resources and flexibility we can pretty much deliver anything (other than maybe Beam me up, Scotty)"

And it is human resources that are the most necessary link in the chain: we need technical skills to work with the business to design and build solutions

if we are to harness big data we need analytical skills across all sectors to figure out what to do with all that information

And we need innovation: You can't create or enforce innovation, out-of-the-box thinking needs to be encouraged rather than, to paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson, stifled with bad management and bad legislation.

As far as future goes, the most important part of the word might be its last 2 letters, RE. Reformation and Renaissance, for example, driving the future by building on what came before – and incidentally, both creating great waves of future shock along the way

The same value will come from words like rewire remodel redesign recharge rethink reengineer – we replicate what we've done well and learn from and adjust what didn't work

Working from what we know, like dipping a toe in the pool, lets us prepare and plan so that we have a clear map to where we are going and a good idea of what we need to do to get there. All of which is to me the opposite of shock. Future shock may be a reality but the right efforts up front can act as shock absorbers

Looking back from the view of one in his 50s – his early fifties – it is clear that that I spent the first half of my life in the past and the last half in a dynamic but challenging future

Let me re-phrase that: last half so far… and if life technology advances nearly as far as death technology appears to have done, the odds are in my favour

Alvin Toffler had the right vision but the wrong forecast: he spoke of sub-cults and splinters of society as a bad thing where I see them as natural and which thanks to tech supports easy engagement – and disengagement: we are not isolated, we are connected … unless we choose not to be because we have that choice.

The communications encouraged and the psychology of behaviours re-introduced by social networks like Facebook and Twitter have in some ways started to reboot society, connecting and re-connecting people

Modern tech has changed everything:  but that same technology has also been the culprit in massive amounts of wasted time and energy

We need to re-think what we are building and why we are building it

As I came to the end of writing these words for today I realised that I have no conclusion .. or rather, that there is no conclusion, hopefully.. it is after all the future  Much of my work is providing information, context  and perspective to enable others to consider their own possible conclusions, which sounds a little like the overall concept of society, to m

If I were asked for a solution to this problem, this future thing, I could answer very quickly that the first move is to improve how we communicate, collaborate and educate.

Beyond that, I'd say that we need to figure it out together

And, by the way, my cleaners are also in the cloud!

And many many thanks to Natalia 

Einstein

Big Data – reduced to a buzz word |via @Data_Nerd

A good read: personally I think it isn’t as bad as cloud has been hyped but all along assumed that it would get there: according to @Data_Nerd, it already has  (my 2013 update: could be the hype is even worse!)

A “buzz word”, that is what data has been reduced too. “Big Data” is now a common phrase used to describe numerous counts of different types of data, social media data, point of sale data, financial data, digital and visual data…. Arg, make it stop. But what is it “really” and what makes it useful versus noise?

via Big Data – reduced to a buzz word | Analytical-Solution.com.

Tuizzi is going global / EU-Startups

You might say you could have done this too. But the fact is that Tuizzi did it first and got the second place at the Startup Games in London, last weekend.

Tuizzi is simply the booking.com of outdoor advertising. Either you are a small business owner, a brand manager or an advertising agency, this platform will help you find and buy the local advertisements you are looking for. And if you are the proud owner of a few billboards, you can put them for sale there and even manage your business for a fee.

I met today Afonso Santos, co-founder of this Porto based startup and asked him if it was really “too easy”. The answer: “It was fun and at the end we got the best prize I could ask, a new mentor I trust will help us put the next step in place”. Afonso also mentioned the team (three co-founders and one employee) is looking to take the next step. After all, there’s ten man-years of experience gathered, adding up the team member’s commitment to the project. “We are making some money in Portugal and we think we are more than ready to take a global approach, we just feel we need to take an additional step before scaling up”, reveals Afonso.

Tuizzi was the recent winner of the Switch Conference in Lisbon and defeated 120 startups at London Startup “Olympics”, all but UK-based Versarien, a high technology company specializing in materials development that “took the gold medal”. You can read more here and here.

Now it’s back to business. Just for reference, when Afonso told me about an interested Portuguese group in the same sector, it took me one attempt to guess which one was. But the company is looking for other markets and “a big investor might be in the horizon”, so are the effects of the Startup Games second place. I know some calls and mails are being exchanged and that a deal might come in the next weeks. Afonso confirms “this will be a Series A round, we mostly funded the project ourselves up to now”. We look forward to hear from that development. My guess: given the size of the market they are, that may well be the deal of the year in Portugal.

Tuizzi is going global / EU-Startups.