How cloud can make CIOs into MVPs!

CIOs MVPsAs general manager of IBM’s North America cloud services and solutions team, I get to speak to a lot of clients. One CIO with whom I regularly talk compares his typical day to a hockey goalie’s, batting away slap shots from internal clients, vendors, hackers and bosses. “So many bosses,” he notes.

I sympathize, but he should flip the way he’s framed his dilemma. If anything, today’s “digital revolution” provides the perfect backdrop for a CIO to become the MVP, a key enabler of innovation and profitability.

To set the stage, Rob Carter, CIO of FedEx, puts the digital revolution in the bigger enterprise context. “Every business model is being upended,” he says. “Every customer expectation is rising to new heights. The digital revolution is underway and survival requires way more than surface-level tactics.”

Survival, sure. Prosperity is even better, and research from the IBM Institute for Business Value shows that to achieve that, 80 percent of CEOs are experimenting with different business models or thinking of doing so. Businesses must transform. The resources of cloud technology can help achieve it.

In the old days, CIOs largely considered cloud a cost and efficiency tool. No longer. The best CIOs I know look at cloud as way to exponentially improve their enterprises’ speed to market, 360-degree insight, compelling customer experiences and streamlined business processes operations.

So, how do great CIOs approach this? They know they still have to keep the lights on, as economically as possible. However, they’re also looking for opportunities to create a competitive lead and boost the bottom line. They place far more emphasis on building an agile culture that supports rapid experimentation and prototyping to help their organizations reach the market first with new offerings. A wonderful exemplar is IBM CIO Jeff Smith, who has made the principles of “agile” a cornerstone of his work.

CIOs’ conversations with the C-suite and their lines of business peers are about higher business value. They understand that the cloud is a platform for innovation, not a destination. That’s why forward-looking technology leaders are also looking at advanced analytics, cognitive and the Internet of Things (IoT), so that business value will continue to expand. Their goal is to extract maximum value from all the data that matters, from inside and outside the organization.

In addition, the best CIOs continually fine-tune their cloud strategy to ensure they have the right infrastructure as well as appropriate cost, performance, scale, resiliency and regulatory compliance.

One CIO who works in Canada’s public sector has told us he wants to include a discussion about technology in every strategic decision. Specifically, how can it be a disruptor that transforms status-quo thinking?

That’s no goalie. He’s thinking offense, and to be successful, CIOs in all sectors and industries must adopt the same mentality.

In the end, what great CIOs understand is that it’s not about electrons, acronyms or the latest “something as a service.” It’s about compelling customer experiences, innovation, speed and profitable business outcomes. The CIO can be the advocate and enabler for the best business outcomes and greater profitability.

 

To learn more about CIOs’ views, read the report “Redefining Connections-Insights from the Global C-suite Study – The CIO perspective.”

Cloud sets successful mobile initiatives apart!

3d image on white backgroundExecutives expect a lot from mobile initiatives.

According to an IBM Institute for Business Value study, 77 percent of executives are planning at least five mobile initiatives over the next year, and 62 percent expect those initiatives to pay off within 12 months or less.

That’s not always how things pan out. About two-thirds of the time, mobile initiatives don’t meet their budget, schedule or project objectives. What helps the other third succeed? Many of them rely heavily on cloud-based development platforms such as IBM MobileFirst Foundation.

In addition to conceiving, building and integrating the app with organizational resources, enterprises must also continuously innovate and enhance mobile experiences. Building the app is just the first step.

Hybrid cloud can help reduce provisioning and development time by up to 90 percent, quickly deliver enhancements and keep users interested long after an app is first released.

How can you put cloud platforms to use in your mobile initiatives?

Learn more about it by checking out the first in a series of five webcasts aimed at illustrating how mobile, powered by the cloud, can deliver innovation and capture value.

In “Accelerate Your Digital Business Transformation with IBM Mobile and Cloud,” IBM Senior IT Architect and Specialist Alex Feinberg will demonstrate the KidBrix mobile app, which was built on IBM Bluemix and is powered by IBM MobileFirst Foundation, and discuss how you can jumpstart your own mobile projects. IBM has been positioned as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Mobile Applications Development Platforms for four consecutive years.

Check out the replay of the webcast here.

Hybrid cloud storage: Past, present and future!

4 cloud adoption challenges for the Asia-Pacific region!

Traffic, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Honshu, Japan, elevated viewBusiness leaders must weigh a number of options in the process of choosing a cloud computing platform or service. Not only do they have to pick the service that will best fit their business needs, but they also have to find just the right mix of options to ensure security, accessibility, meet regulatory requirements, and so on.

Those decisions can be tough to navigate for any business leader, but for those outside the United States and Europe, there are yet even more considerations. In an article on the site Security Intelligence, author Preethy Soman lists these added challenges specific to Asia-Pacific:

1. Data location

Data centers often reside in the U.S. and Europe, which can complicate the transmission and decryption process, as well as efforts to head off attacks, without a strong strategy.

2. Lack of standards

There are many different cloud providers with many different available security features with no unifying guidelines. Users must look closely at what features providers offer and ensure continuity if they work with more than one cloud provider.

3. Regulatory requirements

Different countries have different data regulations, so businesses based in countries other than where their data resides must be aware of multiple legal requirements. A few options, such as Box Zones from IBM, do enable organizations to make use of data centers closer to home. That’s something for business leaders in the Asia-Pacific region to keep in mind.

4. Integration

Not only must business leaders ensure their cloud providers comply with their country’s regulations and meet their business needs, they also must ensure that a provider’s cloud technology is compliant with their on-premises systems.

Letting customers decide who really leads in cloud!

d0a4882a8c9ebc2f0ce5a71c017f2420When people discuss “the cloud,” what they’re really talking about is the vast landscape of cloud solutions. Today, clouds fuel apps that are touched by thousands of organizations and millions of people every day. In a lot of ways, the cloud has become the invisible thread weaving its way through everything digital, in one form or another.

It is becoming central to increasing aspects of our digital society, so much so that in a few years, we very well may stop talking about it all together. Instead, we will simply assume the capabilities it represents—better economics, ease of use, and flexibility.

Today 80% of enterprises are headed to hybrid models, which integrate cloud and on-premises, according to IDC. In addition, IDC says more than 90% of new software will be built for cloud delivery in 2015. This major IT shift is forcing corporations to find out the best way of moving to the cloud without foregoing existing investments in infrastructure.

IBM is helping lead this shift to the cloud and assisting clients across a wide array of industries as they digitally transform their organizations. Through our decades of client work and industry expertise, we are able to deliver consistency with choice via hybrid, public or private clouds. We’re leveraging this heritage and expertise while investing billions to deliver new AI, Internet of Things and Blockchain applications to the cloud.

Today there is no shortage of opinions when it comes to cloud leadership. Research firms, influencers and pundits have all weighed in about defining cloud, vendor market share, the ongoing evolution of cloud-based services and who will ultimately end up on top.

The assessments by analysts are varied, but rather than examine approaches or methodology, we’d like to stick to the facts. Here’s what some of the key analysts in the industry are saying about cloud:

These new independent reports build on two that recently came from IDC and TBR naming IBM a leading IaaS provider. Another client survey by TBR ranked IBM as the most widely adopted cloud platform and Synergy Research recently ranked IBM as the #1 hybrid cloud provider and also a top three leader in IaaS. http://ubm.io/2atvN7X.

If these reports weren’t enough, just this quarter, IBM Cloud announced a 30 percent year-to-year growth. IBM Cloud now has reached $11.6B in revenue for the past 12 months. IBM Cloud also has $6.7B annual run rate in cloud delivered as a service.

This strong growth is being driven by customer wins include Halliburton and Pratt & Whitney. Halliburton is using the cloud to lower the risk and cost of exploring new oil and gas fields, ultimately improving their bidding decisions. Using high performance computing and the GPU features of the IBM Cloud, Halliburton can quickly run hundreds of simulation cases and build forecasts.

Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corp. company, is moving the engine manufacturer’s business, engineering and manufacturing enterprise systems to a fully-managed and supported environment on the IBM Cloud. The move will enable the company to scale quickly to meet the expected rise in computing service, data processing, and storage demands as a result of increased production over the next decade.

These milestones reflect the customer adoption and validation IBM is experiencing in the market. People will continue to speculate and guess on where the market headed. In the meantime, these facts and independent third party assessments underscore IBM’s leadership in the cloud.

In cloud’s ‘second wave,’ hybrid is the innovator’s choice!

Second Wave HybridIn the cloud business, there’s plenty of “tech talk” about APIs, containers, object storage and any number of other IT topics.

I don’t discount its value, but my view of cloud is a little different because my job begins and ends with IBM clients’ success in adopting cloud, nothing more or less. As a result, I get a daily, ground-level view of what enterprise CIOs, line-of-business leaders and other decision makers experience when adopting cloud technology.

Here’s what I hear from them:

  • They believe in the cloud so much that they’re literally betting their businesses on it.
  • They’ve decided a hybrid cloud strategy is the right approach.
  • They aren’t thinking so much about infrastructure as about innovation and speed—basically,the “second wave” of cloud computing, which includes analytics for structured and unstructured data and security capabilities.

They also understand that cloud isn’t a destination, but rather a platform for innovation. It’s where they can dream big, start small, experiment and scale when successful. In these organizations, CTOs and CIOs become advocates of “the art of the possible.”

Hybrid is the palette they’re painting with, best expressed by the analysts at Frost and Sullivan: “At their core, successful hybrid cloud strategies support the delivery of high-value applications and services to the business, while at the same time driving cost and inefficiency out of the IT infrastructure.”

Fine, but how does adopting a hybrid cloud strategy support business success?

Successful enterprises provide the answer. They aren’t simply grabbing cloud technology for its own sake. Instead, they’re pursuing a business strategy that’s equal parts transformation and industry disruption. They have a deep faith that cloud and cognitive technology will cause changes in customers’ experiences, vastly improve business processes and operations, and improve insight and innovation across all aspects of their companies’ missions.

Look at how these companies are doing it:

  • Shop Direct, one of the UK’s largest online retailers, wanted to improve its customers’ shopping experiences. To do so, it needed greater IT performance and flexibility. By taking a hybrid approach and migrating critical workloads to a fully managed cloud environment, Shop Direct improved its ability to react to market changes, launch strategic digital initiatives and create an easier, more personalized online experience.
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc.(CCE), an independent Coca-Cola bottler based in the United States, operates 17 manufacturing sites across Europe. In today’s crowded soft-drink market, the company wanted to stay relevant to consumers by engaging them more creatively, interactively and personally. Mobile fit the bill. To make this happen, CCE needed to bring its business systems into a global cloud environment. By using a hybrid strategy, it reduced the time to deploy new applications by more than 30 percent while creating new forms of customer engagement.
  • Anthem, the health benefits company, wanted to simplify IT, reduce risk and develop products faster. By using a cloud orchestration tool and bare metal services—both marks of a hybrid strategy—Anthem accelerated system provisioning time from 17 days down to seven hours. It has also consolidated its subsidiaries’ standalone IT into one scalable platform that can respond rapidly to changing business needs.

In this second wave of cloud, where hybrid is the strategy of choice, it’s no longer only about cheap computing and storage. Instead, cloud has become the platform for innovation and business value. It is the IT delivery model that impacts the entire enterprise.

If anything, hybrid’s bringing enterprises into the third wave of cloud: cognitive computing, the next frontier of innovation. Increasingly, cognitive capabilities are being embedded in applications and they’ll be the next game changer. Hybrid enterprise leaders will use cognitive for natural human engagement and a deeper understanding of dark data. They’ll uncover insights into their businesses that they couldn’t have achieved even a year ago. And it will get them even closer to their customers.

For more about hybrid cloud strategy, read Frost & Sullivan’s “Using Hybrid Cloud Strategy to Drive Business Value.”

A practical guide to platform as a service: What is PaaS?

What is PaaSThe generic “PaaS” (platform as a service) label is used very broadly to refer to many cloud services, making it difficult for customers to accurately evaluate and compare offerings from different service providers.

To address this challenge, it’s helpful for customers to understand the range of capabilities that PaaS offerings provide. The ability to distinguish PaaS capabilities from IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and SaaS (software as a service) services is important. Inevitably, there are some fuzzy boundaries between these service models. Customers will need to successfully navigate the gray areas.

The basics

In a PaaS environment, a cloud service customer can develop, deploy, manage and run applications (created by the customer or acquired from a third party) using one or more execution environments supported by the cloud service provider. PaaS offerings are targeted primarily at application developers, though their capabilities can extend to operators.

One way of describing PaaS is that it represents a cloud service rendering of the application infrastructure (middleware): application servers, database management systems, business analytics services, mobile back-end services, integration brokers, business process management systems, rules engines and complex event processing systems. Such application infrastructure assists the developer in writing applications. This reduces the amount of code that must be written while expanding the application’s functional capabilities.

The essence of a PaaS system is that the cloud service provider takes responsibility for the installation, configuration and operation of the application infrastructure, leaving responsibility for only the application code itself to the cloud service customer.

PaaS offerings also often expand on the platform capabilities of middleware by offering application developers a diverse and growing set of services and APIs that provide specific functionality in a managed, continuously available fashion, enabling immediate productivity for developers.

PaaS also enables applications to take advantage of the native characteristics of cloud systems, often without the application developer having to add special code to the application itself. This provides a route to building “born-on-the-cloud” applications without requiring specialized skills.

Comparing the models

How does PaaS compare with SaaS and IaaS?

SaaS offers a fixed set of application capabilities while PaaS supports the creation and use of application code with whatever set of capabilities is required for the business. The need for specialized code is very general, and it’s telling that many SaaS offerings provide APIs specifically to applications built on a PaaS for tailoring, customization and extension.

IaaS provides fundamental infrastructure but leaves installation, configuration and operation of the necessary software stacks in the hands of the customer. IaaS offerings provide extensive control over resources that may be necessary for some applications at the cost of requiring considerable effort from the customer. PaaS offerings often organize the underlying resources, removing the responsibility and effort from the customer, but potentially limiting choices.

Some platform as a service offerings also blend in features of IaaS and SaaS cloud services to offer some control of basic resource allocation on the one hand, while providing complete off-the-shelf software capabilities on the other. This can cause some confusion, but the hallmark of a PaaS system is the ability for the cloud service customer to create and run applications and services that meet specific business needs.

6 causes of application deployment failure!

Causes Application Deployment FailureToday’s businesses operate in an environment of accelerated transformation and rapidly changing business models. It is critical for concerned IT leaders to reduce the risk of failure.

It’s no secret that application deployment failures and slow deployment timelines lead to massive financial losses. Potential damage to one’s businesses reputation and, ultimately, the loss of customers make failure one of the top priorities for every management level, from CEOs to IT Directors, according to a recent ADT report.

The costs alone are intimidating. Infrastructure failures can cost as much as $100,000 per hour. Production outages cost roughly $5,000 per minute. Critical applications can cost organizations $500,000 to $1 million per hour in some cases.

Why all the problems? Based on my 13 years of IT experience working with clients of all sizes across various industries, these are some key causes of application deployment failure:

1. Process inadequacy.

Operational resilience means more than the ability to recover from failure. It also includes the ability to prevent failures and take actions to avoid them. Many organizations do not have the appropriate operational resilience maturity required for their IT and business. It is practically impossible to prevent application failures completely, but it is important that organizations take the time to find, predict and fix them.

2. Lack of consistency in the release pipeline.

Many organizations experience a mismatch of software deployment models through their IT systems. This results in failures because systems are typically interconnected in IT landscapes.

3. Process complexity.

Some environments are complicated by the myriad of different toolsets and deployment procedures used by development and operational teams. The vast array of tools creates multiple tooling domains with embedded manual processes between the domains, which results in process complexity. In addition, there are examples where the provisioning and deployment processes are very different at the opposite ends of the release pipeline.

4. Deviance.

Lack of standardization and flexibility throughout the development and release process show up commonly in application vulnerability scanning. These weaknesses are caused by development teams not carrying out the appropriate security testing because they lack the appropriate governance measures. In some cases, testing can be viewed as expensive and time consuming, leading to a tendency to minimize efforts.

5. Lack of skills.

Every organization has its hero developers or operations experts who can single-handedly solve every problem. Overtime processes are built around these individuals, making these processes difficult to run when they move on. It is crucial to have processes that are not just built around one or two critical resources, but that also scale and are repeatable and automated to meet the changing demands of the organization.

6. Uncertainty.

A lack of proper communication and interoperability between the demand and supply side of IT, development and operational teams, results in situations in which actions taken in isolation seem sensible, but put together end to end, result in failure. In many organizations, the majority of changes are incremental additions or alterations. These changes can often attract less oversight and control than major projects.

How can one avoid the big bad six? An easy way is to discover faults that could result in failure early on in the release cycle. Doing so will reduce the cost of fixing the faults and eliminate the cost that could have been incurred from an application deployment failure.

4 key design considerations for a multi-tenant cloud!

Cloud uses multi-tenancy to share IT resources, software and services in a cost efficient and secure way.

Ever wondered what it takes to achieve multi-tenancy in a hybrid cloud? This intrigued me until I was involved in designing multi-tenant cloud solutions. Multi-tenancy is not new. We have been using it in various forms, one common example is public transit.

From an IT perspective, multi-tenancy has two aspects:

Internal: A company treats its departments as different tenants. This demands a logical isolation of applications and infrastructure while sharing the physical infrastructure.

External: A service provider’s environment in which each tenant is a different company. A financial company requires a dedicated infrastructure (physical isolation), while a retail company could share infrastructure with other companies (logical isolation).

It is interesting to understand how this multi-tenancy magic happens behind the scenes and its relevance to cloud design. Factors such as security, reliability, scalability and serviceability play important roles.

Typical expectations of clients of a multi-tenant cloud, whatever their business, are:

  • The experience of a dedicated cloud
  • Secure and isolated
  • Complies with standards and regulations
  • Cost efficient
  • Scalable and manageable

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Security and compliance needs are fluid across the different layers. Each layer contributes towards security and compliance needs. Let’s visualize the solution from a bottom-up approach.

Infrastructure

IT infrastructure makes up the bricks and mortar of any cloud. Infrastructure can be either shared physically or logically, based on multi-tenancy and security expectations.

Total isolation of compute can be achieved through dedicated clusters and/or resource pools. Logical isolation is realized at the virtual machine level, using a shared cluster or resource pool.

In the case of multi-tenancy within an organization, logical isolation can be achieved in several ways:

  • Common storage infrastructure with acceptable trust level
  • Separate disk arrays/pools of disks
  • Separation at the logical unit number (LUN) level

Total isolation of a network is realized with an entirely separate, dedicated network for every tenant. Logical isolation occurs at the network level and is achieved by using different virtual local area networks (VLANs) and virtualized network interface controllers (vNICs).

Secure isolation across the tenancy landscape helps meet expected security needs.

Virtualization

Clients expect that the various infrastructure elements are virtualized and managed as a single large entity, while at the the same time isolated based on tenancy.

Hypervisor-based isolation can also address needs with a dedicated or shared hypervisor environment across tenants. Anti-collocation, hypervisor-level firewalls, resource grouping of compute and storage, and VLAN-based isolations are some of the means to accomplish security and compliance needs.

Orchestration and automation

Along with virtualization, orchestration and automation help realize multi-tenancy by  provisioning workloads on tenant specific environments; deploying tenant-specific software, middleware, tooling agents or antivirus programs; hardening workloads; integrating with directory services, and so on.

Often, a standard tooling landscape may be prescribed and used for cloud. However, that is not always how things pan out. At times, the cloud might require integration with a tenant-specific tooling environment. This would introduce custom automation and integration which the provider would have to accommodate.

A multi-tenant cloud must have some means of supporting client-specific business processes, tenant-level identity management services, integration with the necessary tooling for service and system management, and support for various hypervisors.

Defining standard processes and practices for the multi-tenant environment and providing flexibility for customizations may be essential. Grouping tenants based on the nature of their businesses, matching compliance requirements and geographical locations, and supporting tenants with specific needs as stand-alone clients are parts of the way ahead.

Catalogue

With all these expectations met, what does this really mean to the user?  How usable is the multi-tenant cloud?

Each aspect of multi-tenancy must culminate in an intuitive user interface.  The catalogue contents may vary based on tenancy and individual privileges. Multi-tenancy at a catalogue level may warrant integration with different directory services for each tenant, white labeling, integration with broker and management services, and so on.

With all these capabilities for designing multi-tenancy, the buck stops with the solution designers and their capability to continuously innovate and evolve a multi-tenant design based on ever-changing technology. Though these are important aspects based on typical expectations, however, exercise caution when specific expectations from clients must be met.

Find out more about IBM hybrid cloud.

By / August 16, 2016

An open letter to CIOs about open, hybrid cloud technology and the blended environment!

Open Technology hybid cloud letterRemember when the topic of open technology made many people in the industry uncomfortable? At IBM, we foresaw how critical open technology would become to our clients and the industry, and therefore embraced it. It was and remains essential.

Now we’re at the forefront of another disruption: a transition to cloud in the form of blended technology and environments, most commonly known as hybrid. Hybrid takes on many forms: traditional, non-cloud to cloud (public or private); private cloud to public cloud; private cloud to private cloud, or public cloud to public cloud.

As an industry researcher, I talk with a lot of CIOs. They are peers who have been in your shoes, and I’m certain if you asked, they would say they can empathize with you. You sit in the middle, sandwiched between the requirements of the business (they expect you to accelerate innovation) and the needs of IT (they need fast and good). The two can seem pretty oppositional at times.

But they don’t have to be. It is possible to transform business without sacrificing speed or security. With the right technology, you can connect workloads to get at powerful data, the data that will spark insights and allow you to disrupt before you become disrupted.

We recently completed a study of 500 IT decision makers who have implemented hybrid environments. Their research indicates that the frontrunners, the ones seeing more competitive advantages, are doing so thanks to the correct mix of blended, next-generation technology. In fact, nine in 10 of them said hybrid cloud gives them greater ROI than either an all-traditional or all-cloud environment.

Two-thirds of organizations that blend traditional and cloud infrastructures are already gaining advantage from their hybrid environments.

This doesn’t surprise me. It confirms what we knew all along: cloud isn’t a destination, it’s a platform for innovation and an enabler for change. Consider these survey stats:

  • Successful organizations are five times more likely to use hybrid cloud for cognitive computing initiatives
  • 85 percent of IT leaders report that hybrid cloud is accelerating digital transformation in their organization.

From an industry standpoint, I have seen the greatest innovation and change occur when CIOs see and embrace technology shifts. That’s true with cloud: a blended environment – an open, hybrid cloud – will deliver the outcomes your business expects and let you drive disruption. Here’s another supporting stat:

  • 85 percent of leading organizations believe open technologies are essential for hybrid portability and interoperability

I encourage you to take the time and read the study to find out how your peers are making use of hybrid cloud as an enabler of digital change and competitive advantage.