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.

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.

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.

4 simple steps to cloud adoption!

It has become vitally important for organizations to be cloud players. They must be innovative with their IT transformation approaches in building flexible and agile business systems such as customer resource management (CRM) systems, storage systems, complex process automation and for leveraging social media and mobile technologies. Companies believe this will help them respond to rapidly changing customer demands at a faster pace than the traditional deployments would allow.

There are multiple cloud adoption strategies to choose from, but I want to simplify one adoption strategy into four steps: assess, plan, adopt and optimize.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 10.50.21 AM

 Step one: Assess

  • Assess the cloud deployment challenges, opportunities and success rates in the market
  • Understand the business value, IT feasibility and success factors for your organization to deploy your applications in cloud
  • Evaluate and document the success stories, risks and barriers involved in cloud adoption
  • Assess the cloud vendors for cloud partnerships

This analysis will provide definitive guidance for evaluating the pros and cons. I recommend this for an efficient and effective migration.

Step two: Plan

It is important for organizations to develop a customized cloud strategy. They should plan to leverage existing collateral with software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) strategies, as well as review applicable deployment models, reference architectures and more to assemble a customized road map and architecture.

  • Identify applications that are quick to market and critical to business in terms of revenue and customer satisfaction
  • For early adopters, it is a good strategy to choose applications that are stand-alone and simple to migrate so the disruption is limited to that application and focus is on learning from the cloud adoption processes
  • For those organizations that are on the path to enhancing their customer and business value through cloud, it is a good idea to think about IT innovation, productivity, agility and efficiency while identifying applications for potential cloud deployments, then they can apply their cloud experience to deploying more complex systems
  • It is important to know the suitability of public, private or hybrid clouds and the cloud models — SaaS, IaaS and PaaS, or a combination
  • Remember to identify and document what you expect to gain for your business SLAs (service level agreements), what you plan to deliver to your customer Quality of Service (QoS) and what the terms of understanding are (policies and governance) with your cloud vendor. This will help develop a cloud strategy for a successful, well-managed cloud deployments
  • Engage the IT architect and development teams to develop suitable use cases for this deployment
  • Research cloud providers and engage business capture teams to determine suitable payment plans

Step three: Adopt

The planning and adoption phases are closely woven together and have multiple steps that need reiteration. For example, while reviewing the collateral during planning, it is equally important to understand available cloud computing and adoption standards (NIST Guidelines, OpenStack adoptability and portability standards, as well as methodologies for migrating applications).

  • Leverage the cloud deployment architectures you developed in the planning phase and develop application migration strategies, use cases and scripts
  • Identify the servers, the data stores and the software to realize migration road maps

You can leverage IBM Cloud computing technologies and a large corpus of cloud collateral on developerWorks.

Step four: Optimize

Optimizing business processes and software licenses will help you realize the benefits of improved organizational efficiency to provide increased value to the organization and the customer.

  • Conduct “lessons learned sessions” after each cloud deployment and refine your processes and methods accordingly
  • Develop required skill road maps and assemble skilled resources ahead of a deployment

Clearly there are many benefits to migrating applications to cloud. A few noteworthy benefits are called out in the diagram below:

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 10.50.51 AM

Globally, an increased number of organizations are adopting cloud deployment models to promote and sustain the market advantage.  It is inevitable that more organizations will want to migrate their applications to the cloud mainstream and be part of this digital and mobile transformation around us.

It is vitally important to stay interconnected and access information quickly to gain a competitive advantage. It is also crucial, however, for organizations to clearly ascertain the real advantages for themselves and to assemble and adopt a proven road map to cloud deployments.

So in summary, assess the value of cloud for your own organization; plan a simple application deployment first, and gradually migrate to planning for enterprise systems; adopt through learning and strategic options and finally optimize your assessments, planning, deployment methods and processed and continuously refine your strategy.

I believe that cloud adoption has become increasingly easier and possible because of the cloud-ecosystem of products, vendors and a vast library of customer references that we have available to us today. And this four-step process should help simplify the strategy.

I invite you to comment on this. What do you think? Do these four steps cover it all? If this were to be a recipe for success, then which other key ingredient is missing?  Let me know. Post your comments and connect with me on Twitter….

A practical guide to platform as a service: PaaS benefits and characteristics!

PaaS BenefitsOne of the major benefits of platform as a service PaaS is its ability to improve a developer’s productivity. PaaS provides direct support for business agility by enabling rapid development with faster and more frequent delivery of functionality. It does this through continuous integration techniques and automatic application deployment. PaaS also enables developers to realize the cloud’s broader benefits.

This includes:

  • Scalability, including rapid allocation and deallocation of resources with a pay-as-you-use model (noting that the use of individual resources can vary greatly over the life cycle of an application)
  • Reduced capital expenditure
  • Reduced lead times with on-demand availability of resources
  • Self-service with reduced administration costs
  • Reduced skill requirements
  • Support of team collaboration
  • Ability to add new users quickly

The automation support one receives in a PaaS environment also provides productivity improvements and consistency in delivery. Along with automation is the ability for closer equivalence of the development, test and production environments, again improving consistency and reliability of delivery. This is one aspect of a DevOps/agile development approach that is ideal for a PaaS environment.

[Related post: A practical guide to platform as a service: What is PaaS?]

In addition, PaaS systems typically enable the sharing of resources across multiple development teams, avoiding the need for wasteful allocation of multiple assets of the same type in separate silos.

PaaS systems typically build in security and data-protection features, including resilience capabilities such as replication and backups. This can improve security and reduce the need for in-house security skills.

The provision of sophisticated, off-the-shelf capabilities as services enables the rapid creation and evolution of applications that address business requirements. This is especially important when considering mobile and web applications that include social and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.

Business applications typically require integration and involve aggregation of data and services from multiple existing systems. PaaS systems usually feature prebuilt integration and aggregation components to speed and simplify necessary development work.

PaaS systems can be used to build applications that are then offered to other customers and users as a software as a service (SaaS) offering. The requirements of SaaS applications, including scalability and the ability to handle multiple tenants, can usually be met by the cloud computing capabilities of a PaaS system.

In our next installment, we’ll provide guidance for acquiring and using PaaS offerings.

Interested in learning more about PaaS and getting a better picture of its implementation best practices? Check out my post on PaaS basics and download the Cloud Standards Customer Council’s “Practical Guide to Platform as a Service.”