by Eric Knipp | February 15, 2012 | Comments Off
Cloud computing has become an important element of every enterprise IT provider’s business strategy and it is long past time to treat “a cloud [as] water vapor,” as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison famously said in 2009. Even Oracle is now well-entrenched in the cloud war through both acquisition and internal initiatives. Microsoft, IBM, SAP, and every other established player in the enterprise IT space is heavily invested in cloud technology and/or cloud “marketecture”. And then there are the many smaller players “born in the clouds”, a small number of which have gone on to become large enterprise IT providers in their own right, such as Salesforce.com and Google.
In 2008 it was hard to envision just how much difference a few years would make. Back then, the biggest players in serving the most needs of the enterprise IT market, and with the best prospects for future growth, were dominated by packaged software, data center infrastructure, professional services, and managed hosting. At the time, the only companies truly qualified to be considered enterprise IT generalists were IBM and HP – with Oracle in the on-deck circle, with its soon-to-be-announced acquisition of Sun. Not that these were the only important enterprise IT companies – far from it – but clearly they were the ones with the largest share of wallet in existing customer accounts, they were the ones serving the broadest set of needs, and clearly they were the ones with the best prospects to grow customer spending over time.
What a difference a few years makes! The emergence of what Gartner today calls the “Nexus” of forces – cloud, mobile, social, and information – has radically altered the size and scope of the battlefield upon which the IT leaders make war upon each other. Hardware and traditional managed hosting are becoming less important as enterprises realize that they don’t really want to own IT capital assets, and they don’t really want to deal with the plumbing issues associated with managing infrastructure. Business leaders are rediscovering that the reason they chose to build data centers and fill them with expensive shiny boxes is because they want the business value associated with the processes running there. CIOs are being told to drive business value and shift away from the day-to-day tactics of cost optimization. It isn’t happening all at once but the change is now obvious and inexorable. In “Vendor Roulette”, which Ray Valdes and I presented at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in 2011 (and which we presented in a slightly different form with our colleague David Mitchell Smith in 2010), we postulate that the industry structure is shifting away from the 2008 picture, and toward something that looks more like this.
We are seeing the beginning of business strategies that align with the vision of the future enterprise IT industry structure we articulated in Vendor Roulette. Today’s announcement of Canopy - a joint venture between Atos, EMC, and VMware – is a fine example. Combining cloud platforms with professional services is a key step in the maturation of the cloud services market. While I don’t know enough about Canopy to know if the company will succeed, I am excited to see more examples of organizations whose stated business strategy aligns so well with what Gartner has been saying for several years. I believe we will see further examples in the near future – and that companies from Salesforce.com, to Microsoft, to Oracle, and beyond, will make professional services a key ingredient in the cloud services recipe.
Category: Applications Cloud Cloud Application Platforms Tags:
by Eric Knipp | October 15, 2010 | 1 Comment
I’ve not had time to blog in a while, thanks to my slamming research and conference schedule. I guess I shouldn’t complain – I enjoy getting out to see the folks, and some of my colleagues find themselves at Gartner Symposia on nearly every continent. By comparison my schedule is tame. So, where will I be this Fall?
October 18-21 finds me in Orlando, Florida for Gartner Symposium/ITXpo 2010, where I’m delivering several important sessions:
- Monday, 10/18 – Gartner Keynote: New Realities, Rules, and Opportunities (with various distinguished colleagues)
- Tuesday, 10/19 – Debate: Shared-Hardware vs. Shared-Everything Multitenancy (with Lydia Leong and Ray Valdes)
- Tuesday, 10/19 – Web Application Development in 2015: Shifting Sands
- Tuesday, 10/19 – Vendor Roulette: Predicting the Next M&A Moves (with Ray Valdes and David Mitchell Smith)
- Thursday, 10/21 – Platform as a Service: The Strategic Center of Cloud Computing Architecture (with Yefim Natis)
The following week, October 25-27 finds me in Japan at Gartner Tokyo Symposium, where I get to deliver some very interesting, broad talks on cloud and emerging technologies:
- Monday, 10/25 – Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2011
- Tuesday, 10/26 – Emerging Trends and Technologies: Now that You Have the Bandwidth
- Wednesday, 10/27 – The Cloud Computing Scenario
After some much needed R&R I will be landing for Mashery’s the Business of APIs conference in downtown San Francisco. Just a little over a week later, I am chairing the Application Development track at Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development & Integration conference in Los Angeles November 15-17, where again I get to meet with the folks and present some interesting pitches:
- Monday, 11/15 – End-User Roundtable: Best Practices in Cutting Development Cost
- Monday, 11/15 – Rapid Fire: If We Build Cloud APIs, Do We (Still) Need Cloud Integration (with Benoit Lheureux)
- Tuesday, 11/16 – Rapid Fire: Apptrepreneurship: Your Next Great Software Delivery Model?
- Wednesday, 11/17 – Web & Cloud Development 2015: Prepare for Shifting Sands
That rounds out my Gartner conference travel schedule and while I’m excited about the great material and big audiences I expect to see, I am a little bummed that I’ll be forced to miss some of the premier AD conferences of the season, including Adobe MAX and Microsoft PDC. Fortunately my consolation prize is attendance at DreamForce in early December, which should be an interesting opportunity to see what’s up with VMforce, among other things!
I hope to see some of you at these events!
Category: Uncategorized Tags: symposium
by Eric Knipp | September 1, 2010 | 1 Comment
VMware is not a household PaaS name (are there any?) but vFabric will take it there.
As a CEAP, vFabric provides a variety of vetted components – Spring for AD, GemFire for XTP, Rabbit for messaging, etc. Of course the underlying lingua franca is Java, a language ubiquitous in the enterprise. Interested cloud platform providers, such as carriers – will no doubt take a close look at the vFabric offering as a basis for PaaS competitiveness.
The other story is one that I’ve been following for a while – the potential shakeout in PaaS. I pointed out last year that the SpringSource acquisition put VMware in position to dictate some terms in the cloud application platform space. Not everyone believed, but here we are with VMware moving up the stack (albeit not with CloudFoundry, but hey, nobody’s perfect).
The next question – how far can VMware go in its “encirclement of Microsoft” strategy? VMforce and Google App Engine for Business are a great start, but the PaaS shakeout is just getting started. Smaller providers must catch Maritz mania for the VMware strategy to be fully realized.
It will be interesting to see how things play out. For now I plan to enjoy the next couple of days of VMworld and report back.
Note to Microsoft: Eclipse is an IDE not a language.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: aPaaS, Cloud, paas, vmw, vmware
by Eric Knipp | March 28, 2010 | 1 Comment
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending MIX, Microsoft’s Web-oriented conference. This conference was cool for a range of reasons; for one, it was my first in-depth viewing of Windows Phone 7 Series.
By all accounts, Windows Phone 7 Series is an impressive improvement over Windows Mobile. The preview we saw looked great, performed well, and incorporated some interesting enhancements to smartphone GUI, such as grouping related icons rather intuitively. The development model is entirely based on Silverlight, Microsoft’s RIA technology built around .NET. This provides immediate access to a large number of developers who are no doubt hungry to build apps – but it also creates the problem of disenfranchising existing Windows Mobile customers who have no upgrade path for their applications. The latter has the potential to be a big problem as Windows Mobile is firmly embedded in operational technology used in logistics operations (like warehouses). Microsoft hopes that by offering a more flexible development toolset, developers will make up for the lack of backward compatibility by cranking out lots of cool Windows Phone 7 Series Silverlight apps.
Silverlight is an interesting beast. Microsoft has moved fast to get it to market and make it competitive with Flash. That the company has been able to do so is a testament to the breadth of its existing investments in .NET, PhotoSynth, WCF, WPF, Visual Studio, and a range of other reusable items sitting in the Microsoft software inventory. Most curious, though is the choice of name .. how did the Silverlight team manage to get a simple and compelling name where so many others, like Windows Phone 7 Series, have failed? Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series, as a name, strikes me as not too far off from the high school teenager wearing clothes with the tags hanging out. On the one hand, it is a clear signal; on the other hand, it might say more about the bearer than the brand.
So, you tell me. Should Microsoft let its tags hang out?
Category: RIA Tags: microsoft, mobile, Silverlight
by Eric Knipp | February 14, 2010 | 1 Comment
I’ve noticed a number of blog posts lately about the value of execution. At the risk of stating the obvious I’ve decided to chime in.
Corporations and individuals alike spend a lot of time on differentiation. We set ourselves apart through our values and our deeds, our features and our form. Our resumes and product marketing literature are filled with comparisons – what we have and haven’t added to our list of accomplishments.
I just finished watching Hannah Kearney win the gold in the ladies downhill moguls. She won the gold not because of a fancy air package – but because of execution. She went faster than her opponents and executed her fairly unconventional air package flawlessly.
I regularly read the Amazon Web Services and Google App Engine Blog. I’m not saying I don’t value features. We all do. But the enterprise values something more important than features – execution. Because what is reliability other than repeating the same thing over and over again? And what is execution other than that?
Category: Cloud Application Platforms Tags: cloud computing, execution, olympics
by Eric Knipp | December 31, 2009 | 5 Comments
My colleague Ray Valdes has just completed his work on the latest Gartner RIA MarketScope. Ray was kind enough to invite a number of analysts, including me, to participate in this important research.
While the cat-herding of analysts can be a thankless job, I think you’ll agree that in this case the results are well worth it.
The RIA Marketplace is in a state of flux. This year saw the introduction of Microsoft Silverlight 3, which in many respects is equal to Adobe Flash in terms of support for enterprise use scenarios. Ajax remains the dominant RIA choice, and HTML5 is poised to expand the power and flexibility of the browser-only approach.
Now that Microsoft has validated “heavy RIA” in the eyes of many enterprises, interest in RIA technologies is increasing across the board. Frequent Gartner inquiries indicate that clients pit Ajax vs. Flash vs. Silverlight against each other in evaluations for new RIA projects. What does this mean for JavaFX and other technologies? Tough to say for sure, but my bet is that the “heavy RIA” arena comes down to a battle between Adobe and Microsoft, and that there is enough room in the market for both to be successful.
Finally, vendors are shifting to meet a new demand from the enterprise – for an end-to-end RIA solution that involves both client- and server-side components. To that end, new “full-stack” vehicles for delivering the user experience will emerge over the next 12-24 months.
For more interesting thoughts, and to see the vendor-specific analysis, check out the 2009 RIA MarketScope.
Oh, and have a Happy New Year!
Category: RIA Tags: Ajax, Flash, RIA, Silverlight
by Eric Knipp | November 30, 2009 | 2 Comments
If You Build It, They Will Come. If You Don’t, They Might Build It Anyway.
Etsy, a Web proprietor of handmade goods, didn’t have a public API. That didn’t stop the “Etsy Underground” from hand-rolling one.
Etsy did have an API for internal use only. While it wasn’t promoted, it also wasn’t well-hidden from the public. Some enterprising developers figured that out, and reverse-engineered the API for their own nefarious purposes. This resulted in third party applications, code libraries, and widgets all leveraging Etsy’s site and content.
By the time Etsy got wind of what was happening in a new developer ecosystem, it was too late to steer the direction of the community directly. They could either shut off the community’s ability to innovate, or add fuel to the fire. The company chose the latter, and launched an open API which replicated all of the features the Underground had come to know and love, and took it further.
The result? According to Etsy, the API now gets 9 million invocations a month, and has spawned 17 applications, including 5 for the iPhone. One site in particular, craftcult.com, is a leading driver of traffic to Etsy’s site.
Handmade goods are interesting, but what about your business? Chances are, your data is already being scraped by somebody; maybe you can make it easier for them, and in so doing foster a community that spreads your brand.
The urge to control access is great, but what if you can become a bigger broker in the conversation by sharing instead? Clearly this won’t work for all businesses – sometimes the content is just too valuable to share, and loses its value to the enterprise once it spreads.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: API, Etsy, WOA
by Eric Knipp | November 24, 2009 | 6 Comments
Or, in this case the hammering on Best Buy’s Remix API. According to @bestbuyremix:
5.7 million API calls yesterday. The 19th to yesterday (5 days) accounts for 61% of our total so far this month.
The day before, @bestbuyremix reported 5.3 million API calls.
I spent half a day last week at the Business of APIs Conference, where I had the opportunity to meet with folks from Best Buy, Hoover’s, Etsy, CBS, the New York Times, and more who are involved in open API programs.
It is pretty clear to me that APIs are going to become an invaluable – and common – tool in the enterprise’s public Web presence toolbox. When we finally hit “critical mass” – more retailers with public WOA APIs than without – will API traffic become a new barometer for predicting Christmas shopping economic outcomes?
UPDATE – Proof that an API community must be closely measured and managed. Your key partners might need help at a critical moment, as according to @bestbuyremix:
We had to increase the API rate limit for @miloshopping because of all of their press so far today! NYT article: http://bit.ly/073VfE9
Happy Turkey Day Everyone!
Category: Uncategorized Tags: API, best buy remix, WOA
by Eric Knipp | October 9, 2009 | Comments Off
That’s the thought I walked away with after my experiences at MAX this past week. I used to think of Adobe as this cute, fuzzy bunny of a company with great designer and RIA tools (plus that PDF reader thing). Friendly, happy-go-lucky Adobe, loved by all and inspiring fear in no one.
Adobe’s roots, postscript fonts notwithstanding, are in delivering great tools to designers. The Macromedia acquisition of 2005 extended Adobe’s capabilities to delivering rich user experiences to end-users with Flash (and to a lesser degree with ColdFusion). Macromedia was also a company with a narrow focus. Together, the new Adobe could offer end-to-end rich internet solutions from designer to developer. A great story, but RIA was still in a nascent stage. Adobe remained a fuzzy bunny of a company albeit one that did a great job as a steward of its acquired property in Macromedia (primarily Flash and ColdFusion – I can’t imagine any Flash or CF developers being justifiably upset at how Adobe has advanced those platforms).
RIA is no longer in a nascent stage as evidenced by the entry of Microsoft. I’ve characterized the RIA landscape as a “battle royale” between Flash and Silverlight, and I believe this is becoming truer every day. Ignored by Microsoft for years, Adobe is now in a battle against one of the largest “megavendors” on the planet for mind and market share. Of course Adobe has a huge lead, but Microsoft has plenty of resources to play catch up (or at least to try).
The emergence of a well-funded, competent rival in Adobe’s core business forces the company to become more strategic about its growth. We can see the beginnings of a strategic shift underway.
The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog
Adobe’s success has been tied to PDF and Flash for years, but lately all of the company’s eggs have transitioned toward the Flash basket. They’ve got a Flash-based BPM product (LiveCycle), Flash-based developer tools (Flash Builder, Flash Catalyst, the Flex Framework), even Flash inside of PDF (PDF Portfolios). With the acquisition of Omniture and the various LiveCycle/Flash services – for now collaboration and distribution – and the unification of the Flash runtime for mobile and desktop, plus the Flash iPhone development announcement, the company is erecting all kinds of barriers to imitation to keep Microsoft at bay.
Can Microsoft copy some of this stuff? Sure. Microsoft can buy an analytics company, they can create various Silverlight-oriented cloud services, and they can conceivably buy enough influence and expertise to get Silverlight on tons of mobile devices. It will cost a lot, but Redmond has scads of cash if they want to commit it to the fight. I’m not sure they’ll do so, but even if they do, it will take time to harvest their investment.
Rather than focus on core capabilities of Flash itself, Adobe is creating complements that improve the value drivers of the Flash runtime. Microsoft, to this point at least, has focused on making Silverlight functionally equivalent to the Flash runtime itself, a task which took the better part of two years. Now, I am not putting down Microsoft; delivering Silverlight 3 in two years is impressive considering how much time has been invested into Flash. Nor do I believe that Adobe is sitting still in terms of Flash player technology (the announcement of Flash 10.1 should put that to rest). I do believe that Adobe has created some very nice complements to the Flash runtime that Microsoft will be hard-pressed to repeat in less than 12-18 months (unless they’re already working on them, of which I have no knowledge).
I commented to several of my peers that I believe Adobe’s shift signals an intent to become what Gartner calls a “megavendor.” What’s a megavendor? To tell you the truth, I think its one of those things you understand when you see one. Today we recognize SAP, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle as megavendors. These firms offer huge breadth of product lines. Adobe’s not there yet, but I think it would like to be. The fuzzy bunny has teeth.
disclosure: I am a paid shill for neither Adobe nor Microsoft. =)
Category: RIA Tags: Adobe, Flash, iPhone, megavendor, microsoft
by Eric Knipp | September 28, 2009 | Comments Off
My wife and I had a wonderful weekend. We first attended a wedding, and then celebrated her birthday over dinner with friends and family last night. As usual, topics of discussion ranged widely, but a particularly intriguing subject came up – Wal-Mart’s new packaging for its private label goods:
This packaging looks, well, cheap. When I first saw it, I was reminded of the classic “private label” beverage of choice in many 80s TV shows:
The person who brought up the “new look” of Wal-Mart private label goods found this cheap look unappealing, and believed that consumers would not respond to it.
Without going into too much detail, I’ll start by saying that I believe that consumers are retrenching, and that the mentality of “conspicuous consumption” is gone for at least a generation. Too many kids and young adults in this country and others have seen their parents get wiped out by the economic downturn. They will become savers first.
Many white label products are just as good as their name-brand counterparts. In fact, many are identical, rolling off of the same factory floor. I admit I’m no expert but I’m unable to tell a difference between Great Value pasta and more expensive brands. The same is true for many other commodity items. I buy on price first.
I Beg to Differ(entiate)
At a high level, every company must decide on one of two “generic strategies.” Either be the cheapest (“cost leadership”) or provide more perceived value to the customer (“differentiation”). The customer’s perception of value can be influenced with more features, marketing, convenience, etc. The idea is that these value drivers will provide more of a reason for customers to pay a higher price.
Wal-Mart doesn’t make any bones about it – it is a cost leader. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart because I love the piped-in audio or the ambient lighting – I shop there because it’s CHEAP, plain and simple. I don’t care what the packaging looks like. More to the point, if the packaging looks cheap, it accentuates Wal-Mart’s cost leadership position. In fact, it starts to make cost leadership itself into a potential differentiator.
Imagine this scenario: Wal-Mart could charge $1 for a box of Ziti, which sits next to other brands that cost $1.20 or more. In the past, Wal-Mart’s Great Value packaging looked more in line with that of other brands (it wasn’t cheap-looking). Now Wal-Mart’s packaging looks cheap. It is designed to make the product look even cheaper than it is. Wal-Mart could raise its prices by a nickel a box, and customers might not even notice.
For a more in-depth discussion of generic strategies, competitive advantage, and corporate strategy I strongly recommend Gordon Walker’s book. It was perfect for a strategy novice like me, and it is a regular reference on my shelf.
How does this relate to Technology?
IT product and service companies have the same strategic choice to make – cost leadership or differentiation?
Most companies choose the latter, because differentiation offers more room for innovation – marketing campaigns, cool new features and delivery models, smarter consultants, etc. Cost leadership is about relentlessly pushing down fixed and marginal costs to provide the cheapest alternative. It’s really hard and you’re never safe – there’s always someone else who’s willing to do it a little cheaper if they can figure out how.
In our recent special reports on Cloud Application Platforms, we noted differentiators again and again – but rarely suggested considering a vendor based on price. It is not in the interest of vendors to compete on price, and enterprise CIOs would do well to remember it.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: strategy, wal-mart