Cloud’s change agents bypass IT

Inside the enterprise: A study by Forrester finds that the drive for cloud computing continues to come from lines of business, not IT.

By Stephen Pritchard, 31 Jan 2013 at 08:50

According to a report by Forrester and Microsoft one of the drivers for cloud computing continues to be a frustration with the speed and flexibility of IT.

Although cloud can cut operating costs, and allow IT departments to deploy new systems more quickly, researchers found that the impetus for IT projects is coming mostly from outside the IT organisation.

This is worrying, but less for the suggestion that IT is failing to embrace the cloud, but because it implies that IT — despite several years of pressure – is still not responding adequately to business needs.

As a result, line of business managers are sourcing their own technology through the cloud or Software-as-a-Service. Some managers are literally turning to their credit cards to bypass lengthy IT processes.

“Often the starting position within the business is a desire for innovation, but IT is seen as too slow,” says Holger Kisker, a principal analyst at Forrester.

“With cloud they have a new lever. But it is also leading to a ‘Wild West’ of the cloud, with IT not responsive or fast enough, and business doing it on its own.”

In particular, companies are using cloud to develop lightweight, web-based applications, or to automate business processes through software as a service.

Forrester also identified a group of practitioners, mostly in business, that it describes as “change agents”. These change agents are the employees or managers who identify where technology can help improve the business, and then act, often through the cloud, to deliver it.

Guest editor’s thoughts:

“I work in IT in the construction industry.

“People will look at the cost of consultancy in construction and say ‘Wouldn’t it be so much cheaper if we didn’t have to pay for a quantity surveyor or a health and safety guy?’ Yes it would.

“But, when that building falls down and kills passers-by, the resulting litigation can cost millions and much heartache.

Put into that context, construction consultancy works out to be quite a cheap investment. And the same goes for cutting corners with IT and by-passing due process.

“The building, and your IT infrastructure, might not fall down. But would you be prepared to take the risk,”asks Mark Evans, IT director at construction firm RLB.

Similarly, business units outside of the IT team can use Cloud-based services quite cheaply. If bypassing corporate security means that goods and services can get to market faster then there is a compelling argument for bypassing the IT team.

The service you have implemented, bypassing the “due diligence” of the IT team may not get hacked, sharing your corporate secrets or new patent information with the world.

…But would you be prepared to take the risk?

The change agents, according to Kisker, are often influenced by the power of consumer applications run through the cloud, and question why the business lacks similar capabilities. These change agents help to drive up overall business efficiency, and should be nurtured, the research found.

IT has a chance to respond, but there is a clear sense that its window to do so is narrowing. “The need here is for IT to understand the opportunity cloud offers them,” says Kisker.

Forrester sees IT departments becoming cloud brokers and co-ordinators and sourcers of services, with the focus moving away from building and running systems. In some cases, Kisker believes, IT could even become a profit centre for the business, rather than simply a cost.

Inside the enterprise: A study by Forrester finds that the drive for cloud computing continues to come from lines of business, not IT.

By Stephen Pritchard, 31 Jan 2013 at 08:50

But that will mean some far-reaching changes in the way IT departments operate, and the skills of their people. As one head of IT at a UK university told the researchers, some 80 per cent of IT staff are currently technical, with just 20 per cent with business skills. That will have to change, as organisations move more of their raw IT capabilities into the cloud.

There are skills and resources that IT can bring to cloud projects, around standards, security, governance, data protection and integration. And Forrester admits that successful cloud projects without any involvement are rare.

But IT needs to develop its co-ordination and governance functions in such a way that they improve the success of cloud projects, without stifling the innovation the cloud agents are trying to bring about.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro

For further coverage of cloud computing visit our sister site Cloud Pro.

Netformx Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire VARcompliance

Acquisition will help value added resellers, service providers and systems integrators drive more profitability into their business

Business WirePress Release: Netformx – 6 hours ago

SAN JOSE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Netformx®, the leader in collaborative requirements-to-order solutions, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire VARcompliance, LLC (VARcompliance), the leading provider of automated vendor certification and incentive reward tracking, monitoring and management solutions. The acquisition will make it significantly easier for solution providers to take advantage of vendor incentive programs and manage certifications with leading equipment vendors including Cisco(CSCO). Effective immediately, Netformx is now the exclusive global reseller for VARcompliance.

VARcompliance’s VxP SaaS platform, helps technology providers increase profitability by automating the process of capturing more reward dollars, removing labor-intensive and manual tasks to ensure compliance, and significantly improving the visibility and management of vendor reward and certification programs. Customers will benefit from reducing the time and cost required to track certifications, improving visibility into complex reward programs while designing solutions, and consolidating audit and compliance management. As a result, customers can increase their profitability with faster and more accurate proposals, greater promotional program participation, and tighter relationships with their equipment vendor partners and distributors.

Supporting Quotes

  • “With the need for IT Solution Providers to grow capital in order to invest in building for the future, they must become efficient in maximizing their margins through up front and backend vendor programs. Without the systems and efficiencies to leverage these programs, they stand to lose 10s of 1,000s of dollars. Netformx and VARcompliance are both trusted partners who provide great value in generating opportunities for increased margin, leveraging our critical engineering and management resources, and providing the tools needed to help partners streamline their operations. The combination of the two companies will significantly enhance the value they play in the IT solution marketplace as they have hit upon three fundamental business enablers – helping increase profitability, lowering operational costs, and automating tasks that are labor intensive and prone to errors. This acquisition just makes sense,” said Paul Cronin, Senior Vice President at Atrion Networking Corporation.
  • “The acquisition of VARcompliance will strengthen the relationship between our customers and their partners by addressing the challenges associated with taking full advantage of reward programs and managing certifications,” said Ittai Bareket, Chief Executive Officer at Netformx. “This has been a key area of focus for Netformx as it results in measurable profitability improvements for our customers. VARcompliance is by far the best solution in the marketplace and it made sense for us to add them to our requirements-to-order solutions.”
  • “Customers can continue to rely on VARcompliance when they want to significantly increase vendor reward dollar capture, while driving down the costs associated with certification tracking and managing incentive reward programs,” said George Mellor, President at VARcompliance. “Becoming part of Netformx will greatly expand market reach for both companies and provide a consolidated solution set making it even easier for our joint customers to achieve higher profitability.”

Resources

About Netformx

Netformx is the leader in collaborative requirements-to-order software solutions for enterprise technology. Netformx’s customers include service providers, systems integrators and equipment vendors who rely on the company’s award-winning solutions to create and sell the information, communications, and technology solutions that power business.

Netformx has over 2,680 solution providers as customers in more than 144 countries. Customers include AT&T, Belgacom, Bell, CDW, CenturyLink, Cisco, Dimension Data, HP, Insight, Juniper, Orange Business Services, Sprint, Swisscom, Telstra, Verizon, and WWT. The Netformx KnowledgeBase™ is the only comprehensive multi-vendor content library for technology products, including specifications, validation rules, pricing, ordering information, and discovery mappings from top technology suppliers including Cisco, Brocade, HP, Juniper, Avaya, APC, Belden, Plantronics, Polycom, and TrippLite.

More information can be found at www.Netformx.com.

About VARcompliance, LLC

VARcompliance, headquartered in Boston, is a Business Process Outsourcer utilizing a SaaS platform exclusively servicing the Value Added Reseller and Solution Provider marketplace – adding significant dollars to the bottom line through targeted incentive program optimization, reward tracking and automated certification compliance.

More information can be found at www.VARcompliance.com.

Cisco is bringing its Jabber unified communications platform to virtual desktops with a new software product called the Virtualization Experience Media Engine (VXME).

This week, PCMag got a look at Jabber running on a new thin client system of Cisco’s own design that is set for release in the first half of 2013, as well as on a Dell Wyse thin client, a mainstream laptop PC, and even a tablet. From what we could see, Jabber’s HD voice, video, and instant messaging runs quite smoothly with superior video quality on all those systems—any spottiness in the video and voice streams were due to connectivity issues and not the Jabber software.

“The definition of an enterprise workspace is changing as users demand increasing flexibility in where and how they work. With Cisco Jabber now available for virtual environments, we are enabling our customers to deliver a complete ‘anywhere’ desktop to their employees without sacrificing the exceptional enterprise capabilities they have come to expect,” Phil Sherburne, vice president of engineering in Cisco’s Enterprise Smart Solutions unit, said during a press event in San Francisco on Wedensday.

VXME is an additional piece of software added to Jabber that enables it to run in virtualized environments supported by top virtualization firms like Citrix and VMware (Gates’ note – and Desktone.). Cisco is promising that the virtual desktop Jabber experience is the same as it is on thick client PCs, and from what we could see, that’s pretty accurate.

The initial rollout of Cisco Jabber for virtual environments will initially be made available for Cisco’s own thin client system, which ties together all of the elements of a full-blown unified communications station. The thin client itself carries the Cisco brand and can run either the Citrix or VMWare virtual desktop solutions. Logitech supplies the webcam, Bluetooth mouse, and a special keyboard with designated keys for various call functions like answering a call and switching it to speaker, as well as a built-in LCD caller ID display. Jabra’s Handset 450 and Speak 450 speaker phone complete the picture.

Those systems will be available through Cisco’s reseller channel from partners like CDW.

At some point after the release of Cisco’s own thin client, VXME will come to Dell’s Wyse Z50D thin client and also other Windows-based thin clients and full-fledged PCs, Cisco said. In thin client installations, the VXME software sits locally in the thin client system while Windows or another desktop operating system runs on a server that can support multiple end users and thus save an organization money on hardware and servicing costs, while offering a more easily manageable security framework.

Another plus for the new virtualized Jabber is that it can be folded into an enterprise’s existing network infrastructure without needing to overhaul the network as the new product was designed to work within existing Cisco Medianet-managed network environments.

The Jabber voice, HD video, telepresence, and instant messaging package is currently used by about 1.4 million enterprise users, according to Cisco. The networking giant, which acquired Jabber several years ago, is now making those tools the centerpiece of its efforts to tailor its unified communications and collaboration product lines for what it calls the Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI).

VXI is an end-to-end solution that Cisco calls “the first desktop virtualization architecture to eliminate the crippling network bottlenecks and server overload often caused by real-time voice and video traffic traveling between an end user device and a virtual desktop hosted in the data center.”

The upshot is that you’ll soon be able to use Cisco Jabber for enterprise-class communications and collaboration on the desktop, mobile devices, and thin clients. Or at least you will if you’re part of an organization with the bucks to shell out for Jabber licenses and these customized thin client rigs, which Cisco wasn’t offering a price on just yet.

We expect most consumers and small business operators will be sticking to Skype and other free or low cost video communications alternatives for the time being.

For more from Damon, follow him on Twitter @dpoeter.

….before the article, here’s my two cents:  Cisco is a real believer in the vision of end-user computing (EUC).  Virtual desktops via VXIaaS (or hosted VXI) are another step in that direction as is supporting DaaS (VDI) out to the edge.  Their VXI series of webinars are industry thought leadership material; this Parallels investment will be only one of a few announcements coming in this end-device-centric vision of EUC.

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Cisco invested in Parallels last week, which could signal a new path for the networking vendor. What might this mean for Cisco desktop virtualization or cloud services?

It’s interesting to see Cisco take an interest in the smaller virtualization company. Parallels makes no mention of any specific products, and we don’t know exactly what equity investment means, but the announcement indicates that Cisco believes in Parallels’ overall offering. It mentions cloud services for SMB end users and adds, “By strengthening our collaboration with Cisco, Parallels is focused on accelerating its growth and offering an end-to-end solution for cloud service providers.” Let’s dig into that a bit.

Parallels already has an offering called Parallels Cloud Server, which encompasses Parallels Hypervisor and Parallels Containers. The hypervisor is used primarily for client hypervisors, and Containers is a unique virtualization method that segments a single Windows instance into isolated, manageable containers. That means one instance of Windows can be used for multiple services at the same time without stepping on each other.

MORE CISCO NEWS

Cisco buys Meraki

Using Cisco VDI to support real-time apps

Cisco works on network virtualization

As part of Parallels Cloud Server, these two technologies are combined with Parallels Cloud Storage to allow for cloud-based system management. It’s primarily aimed at hosting companies because Parallels has inroads with hosting firms that use Containers to deliver Windows Web servers to multiple clients.

Cisco got involved almost certainly because it wants to be on the back end of that offering; it could provide the servers, networking and WAN optimization. Plus, it shows that Cisco may want to tighten relations with a specific hypervisor.

For years there’s been speculation about Cisco buying into the desktop virtualization market. Every 18 months or so there’s a rumor that they’ll buy Citrix, for example, and it goes nowhere but does cause us to look at what Cisco’s offering would look like in that scenario. I want to do the same here by examining what Cisco already has.

What’s WAN optimization got to do with it?

Cisco’s WAN optimization tool, called WAAS, has been in the desktop virtualization news lately because of an announcement at Citrix Synergy in Barcelona last fall. Citrix announced a much tighter relationship with Cisco (prompting another rumor of an acquisition), andCisco announced it will promote Citrix NetScaler as its WAN optimization solution of choice (among other things). That doesn’t mean WAAS is going away; in fact, it might work well for a scaled-down, SMB cloud offering.

Networking, servers and storage

Grouping networking and servers together may seem odd, but the fact is that Cisco is using its networking relationships to sell servers, too. You’d be hard pressed to find a Cisco server shop that isn’t running Cisco networking. That would be a fundamental part of a Parallels cloud offering. 

Cisco also has storage tools despite the fact that it doesn’t actually offer any storage repositories. In addition to storage switches, the company offers storage optimization and management tools — all of which Parallels could use in a cloud platform.

Communications and thin clients

Cisco is among the top companies in collaboration and communications with IP, video and soft phones to thin clients designed for call centers that have phone components built in. A suite built on an all-Cisco platform would include these, meaning you’d get the WAN optimization, data center hardware, voice capabilities and endpoint device from one vendor. 

This sort of turnkey package is the reason that announcements like Parallels’ garner our attention. Anything that expands on its existing offering would be a step in the direction we’ve assumed Cisco was heading. If Cisco tightens relations with Parallels (or acquires them outright), it could deliver an end-to-end package with the distinct advantage of a single reference architecture that’s adaptable to almost anyone. It makes sense to start that process at the SMB level, since any kinks wouldn’t be as noticeable and would be easier to work out.

Of course, you’d also need a broker in between to get users from point A to point B. Perhaps Parallels is working on something like that as part of its Cloud Server offering, or maybe they would work together with a third-party broker such as LeoStream. Or — and I’m just throwing it out there — maybe Cisco would buy Citrix!

It will be interesting to see if this partnership has any effect on the relationship between Cisco and Citrix. In addition to the NetScaler announcement, it also means Cisco will be working more closely with Citrix XenServer and its cloud orchestration solution, CloudStack. Keep an eye on this as Cisco continues to dabble in the desktop virtualization and cloud services arena.

….before the article, here’s my two cents:  Cisco is a real believer in the vision of end-user computing (EUC).  Virtual desktops via VXIaaS (or hosted VXI) are another step in that direction as is supporting DaaS (VDI) out to the edge.  Their VXI series of webinars are industry thought leadership material; this Parallels investment will be only one of a few announcements coming in this end-device-centric vision of EUC.

===========================================================================

Cisco invested in Parallels last week, which could signal a new path for the networking vendor. What might this mean for Cisco desktop virtualization or cloud services?

It’s interesting to see Cisco take an interest in the smaller virtualization company. Parallels makes no mention of any specific products, and we don’t know exactly what equity investment means, but the announcement indicates that Cisco believes in Parallels’ overall offering. It mentions cloud services for SMB end users and adds, “By strengthening our collaboration with Cisco, Parallels is focused on accelerating its growth and offering an end-to-end solution for cloud service providers.” Let’s dig into that a bit.

Parallels already has an offering called Parallels Cloud Server, which encompasses Parallels Hypervisor and Parallels Containers. The hypervisor is used primarily for client hypervisors, and Containers is a unique virtualization method that segments a single Windows instance into isolated, manageable containers. That means one instance of Windows can be used for multiple services at the same time without stepping on each other.

MORE CISCO NEWS

Cisco buys Meraki

Using Cisco VDI to support real-time apps

Cisco works on network virtualization

As part of Parallels Cloud Server, these two technologies are combined with Parallels Cloud Storage to allow for cloud-based system management. It’s primarily aimed at hosting companies because Parallels has inroads with hosting firms that use Containers to deliver Windows Web servers to multiple clients.

Cisco got involved almost certainly because it wants to be on the back end of that offering; it could provide the servers, networking and WAN optimization. Plus, it shows that Cisco may want to tighten relations with a specific hypervisor.

For years there’s been speculation about Cisco buying into the desktop virtualization market. Every 18 months or so there’s a rumor that they’ll buy Citrix, for example, and it goes nowhere but does cause us to look at what Cisco’s offering would look like in that scenario. I want to do the same here by examining what Cisco already has.

What’s WAN optimization got to do with it?

Cisco’s WAN optimization tool, called WAAS, has been in the desktop virtualization news lately because of an announcement at Citrix Synergy in Barcelona last fall. Citrix announced a much tighter relationship with Cisco (prompting another rumor of an acquisition), andCisco announced it will promote Citrix NetScaler as its WAN optimization solution of choice (among other things). That doesn’t mean WAAS is going away; in fact, it might work well for a scaled-down, SMB cloud offering.

Networking, servers and storage

Grouping networking and servers together may seem odd, but the fact is that Cisco is using its networking relationships to sell servers, too. You’d be hard pressed to find a Cisco server shop that isn’t running Cisco networking. That would be a fundamental part of a Parallels cloud offering. 

Cisco also has storage tools despite the fact that it doesn’t actually offer any storage repositories. In addition to storage switches, the company offers storage optimization and management tools — all of which Parallels could use in a cloud platform.

Communications and thin clients

Cisco is among the top companies in collaboration and communications with IP, video and soft phones to thin clients designed for call centers that have phone components built in. A suite built on an all-Cisco platform would include these, meaning you’d get the WAN optimization, data center hardware, voice capabilities and endpoint device from one vendor. 

This sort of turnkey package is the reason that announcements like Parallels’ garner our attention. Anything that expands on its existing offering would be a step in the direction we’ve assumed Cisco was heading. If Cisco tightens relations with Parallels (or acquires them outright), it could deliver an end-to-end package with the distinct advantage of a single reference architecture that’s adaptable to almost anyone. It makes sense to start that process at the SMB level, since any kinks wouldn’t be as noticeable and would be easier to work out.

Of course, you’d also need a broker in between to get users from point A to point B. Perhaps Parallels is working on something like that as part of its Cloud Server offering, or maybe they would work together with a third-party broker such as LeoStream. Or — and I’m just throwing it out there — maybe Cisco would buy Citrix!

It will be interesting to see if this partnership has any effect on the relationship between Cisco and Citrix. In addition to the NetScaler announcement, it also means Cisco will be working more closely with Citrix XenServer and its cloud orchestration solution, CloudStack. Keep an eye on this as Cisco continues to dabble in the desktop virtualization and cloud services arena.

DaaS and 2013?

from Rick Blaisdell’s #Rickscloud blog

Equinix and Desktone FlexPod Partnership

good progress in this space with the new Equinix / Desktone partnership….

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