Archive by Author | Pierre Hall

Old, New or just a Mash-Up?

One of the areas that I’m increasingly reflecting on in my day to day dealings with partners and customers is the changing nature of some of the established IT ecosystems and the disruptive influence that the SMAC stack (Social, Mobile, Analytics & Cloud) is having on them. The changes are far-reaching and permeating all layers of traditional IT infrastructure such as Software, End Points, Networking and Datacenter technologies.

Nothing is making this more apparent to me than in our Group Mobile project that we are running to deliver enhanced capabilities and improved ways of working for our own staff and ultimately our clients looking to embrace this next wave of opportunity, innovation and efficiency.

During a recent analyst event we held, one of our customers who a leading global automotive manufacturer was sharing the exponential growth of end-points expected to impact their infrastructure over the coming years. I was somewhat startled at the predictions as I was purely thinking in the context of their employees and their growing demand for mobility until it was pointed out that they are also intending to bring their production vehicles on-stream over the coming years! The opportunity for them to collect analytics from the use and performance of their ‘product’ will provide insight to improving every single aspect of their value chain in the years to come.

Whether it is the “Internet of Things” or increasing demands for employee flexibility and mobility the infrastructure of tomorrow will increasingly require horizontal interoperability between the various vertical markets and IT ecosystems to enable the full potential of a connected experience. Creating platforms that are communicable, operable and programmable across devices – regardless of manufacturer, model or vertical sector – will be required. The vision is that connectivity between people, processes and ‘things’ should work seamlessly for businesses to truly flourish at scale.

Despite the fact that many emerging vendors are working towards interoperability (just look at the recent change in strategy from Microsoft to enable Office on Apple devices), the present fragmentation – in terms of devices, operating systems, software and a wide range of different connectivity protocols – remains in my view one of the greatest barriers for IT to crack to enable broader adoption. However, we do see some players out there taking the lead in building Enterprise grade platforms that allow us to abstract some of these dependencies and allow IT to enable their businesses through exploiting intelligence, agility and user/consumer empowerment with architectures that transform the way they engage with their systems.

We’re getting close to deploying a platform of this type into production ourselves. Our aim? – to really validate whether this provides us the opportunity to build our own particular ecosystem of technology partners and systems (old and new) to improve not only our own ways of working but drive Enterprise Mobility in this brave new world of consumer led products and services.

Workplace IT predictions for 2014

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Well it’s that time of the year and no well-meaning blog would be complete without some predictions for the coming year. I canvassed some of my team for their views so that we can look back next year and see if they have potential parallel careers as fortune tellers!

First up is Paul who thinks we will see lots of continued uncertainty in the Mobile OS market, with a surprising upswing in Windows Phone and fight back by Blackberry to maintain adoption in Enterprise – that won’t be matched in the consumer world.  Somewhat polar to market commentary and headlines – so something to keep an eye on!

Next up is Pete who believes SSD (Solid State Disk) will become standard, across all traditional PC client devices. The cost difference for spindle and solid state has reached such a small difference that the performance benefits and reduced failure rates will outweigh this small price difference. Hmmm, could be good news for Samsung and Kingston!

Pete also thinks we’ll see the death of the docking station (again 🙂 ) – as we move towards more choice and more mobile devices, the desire and ability for a consistent docking experience will be surpassed by wireless peripherals and connected screens.

Next one up from the team is not necessarily good news for the industry and somewhat inevitable in the climate but there is the expectation that at least one major ‘pure play’ reseller (read no services division) will either go under or get swallowed up in 2014.

David in Services also suggests that we might see a short-fall in available UK resources to tackle the backlog of Enterprise Windows XP users that still haven’t migrated – caused by the product formally going ‘end of life’ in April 2014. Not sure if this is a prediction or wishful thinking!!

Finally, we move to Tina and Software. First prediction is that we will see Big Data move into the mainstream as people stop talking about it and start to use information to underpin their business models. Whilst 2014 will also be the year that we see the number of software vendors used within Enterprise estates increase as a result of the users opting for smaller ‘app like’ line-of- business tools and not the over specified and under-utilised tools they have today.

Personally, I think that we will continue to be ‘S.M.A.C.ked’ (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) as a major theme and as the “nexus of forces” continues to empower users through technology and information it will make 2014 disruptive and stimulating for everybody involved in Workplace IT.

So there you have it, down in black and white for judgement next year. I’d be really interested to hear your own predictions for the coming year (related to Workplace IT of course!)?

I hope you have a great Christmas break, and see you all in 2014!

Are you COPEing?

There has been the usual flurry of mobile reports over the weekend from the likes of Gartner, Citrix and others. One of the articles that caught my eye was entitled “COPE Will Outshine BYOD in 2013”. Now we have talked in many of our CC blogs about how this industry loves an acronym or two and this was a new one on me. So if you live in the world of reality and to save you endless hours of wonderment I can explain it  for you –  COPE is meant to stand for ‘corporate owned, personally enabled’.

Now while you remove the cynical smile from your face, I thought there was a little more to the substance of this article. We all know that BYOD has reached the top of the hype curve and when you examine just how many Enterprise organisations have actually removed all of the corporately owned end user devices and let employees run their business from their own personal devices  -you’ll find that the answer is actually – very few.

I have been known to say on many occasions that ‘consumer IT’ and ‘BYOD’ are not the same outcome and here at CC we are definitely seeing a shift in our clients spend moving to more lightweight and touch enabled devices. However, we also see a range of new IT challenges — from security, compliance and management, to cost and human capital management, as organisations are rapidly forced to invest in some form of mobile device management (MDM). In a recent Gartner research note published at the back of last year they noted that MDM market has been growing, and will continue to grow in 2013, with the market size estimated at over $500 million, and more than 100 players!

The COPE article also stated that “Although a recent study shows that  77 percent of BYOD employees dislike the use of mobile device management (MDM) on their device, the “personally enabled,” or “PE,” aspect of COPE allows employees to choose the company-approved device they favour while also enabling them to use it personally and professionally”.

I can relate to this; as outside of the IT literate, high net worth and high fee earning individuals in an organisation – most would happily be given the right device to get on and do their job properly and accommodate for situations whereby they can access certain personal services if they want to (was it any different in desktop/laptop only days?).

However, there is clearly still some tension in reaching the right balance. Citrix recently published their quarterly enterprise mobility cloud report and one of the unexpected findings from the aggregated data showed that “Dropbox was on the blacklist, but was also one of the most heavily-recommended apps from enterprise IT (in the enterprise app catalog). This juxtaposition speaks to Dropbox’s simultaneous usefulness and risk! Organizations can’t decide!”

So how it for you? Is your mobile device strategy as clear as a bell or are you just about in a position to COPE? I’d be really interested in your viewpoint….

Spotlight on Software

With software taking up an ever-increasing share of an organisation’s IT budget, it is becoming increasingly important to manage, control and protect your software assets. Having great control of the software life-cycle process and understanding your license position can definitely help your organisation avoid unnecessary expenditure and potentially save money!

As a result, we’ve been busy this year developing our capabilities around helping our clients to manage and control their software estates.  We understand that the cornerstone of developing a Software Asset Management (SAM) strategy is to create an Effective License Position (ELP) i.e. understand what you have actually purchased versus what you are actually using versus what you actually need. It is also becoming increasingly more difficult to develop this multi-dimensional view as it contains aspects of commercial and technical information and can span assets that cover a wide and distributed estate.

To this end, earlier this year we launched our C3 Software service which is a suite of SAM services that can be delivered either as individual components or as a complete solution through Computacenter. Stage one of developing an effective strategy is to provide the visibility of the licenses that have been procured and acquired across the business. To cut the time and expense associated with developing this view, we have worked with one of our partners – License Dashboard to build this aspect as a “cloud” service where we have taken all of the pain associated with designing and staging the platform and turned it into a secure, accessible service that can be procured and used on a consumption basis . This easy-to-use deployment model and interface enables any organisation to start taking control of the full ISO/IEC 19770-1 Software Asset Management life-cycle without needing extensive, in-house license management knowledge or invest in significant infrastructure.

We think it is a service that many of our customers could benefit from and with the growing list of challenges in:

  • consumerisation
  • data storage & retrieval
  • mobility & remote working
  • workplace modernisation
  • and not to mention “the cloud”

The need for an organisation to develop an ELP that can cope with this diversity is only going to grow and we don’t believe that any other solution can  help build an ELP faster!

We’ve been delighted by the response to our service and while we are on-boarding our first clients we were also thrilled to win Innovation Partner of the Year  at the recent 2012 License Dashboard awards. If you are interested in learning more, you can read about our wider C3 Software solution approach in our online Briefing Guide here

Get modern stay modern

It has been a few weeks since I last posted but with holidays, the odd global sporting event and growing schedule of product releases – it has been anything but dull!

This week, during a meeting with a major global media and broadcasting organisation I was asked the question “what did we mean by the Journey to a Contemporary Workplace?”  To be fair, we have been using the branding and tag line for nearly a year now and it was the first time that I had been posed the question by one of our clients!  My answer went something along the lines of “we know that the Workplace has become a driver for broader infrastructure change and with the perenial organisational challenge of increasing performance and reducing costs – our solutions are targetted at helping you to get modern and stay modern”.  Now whilst this answer didn’t exactly explain what the outcome looked like for this particular client from the outset – but the time we had worked through each of the 5 core elements listed below, we had a much better understading of where they are today and where they needed to get to!

  1. OS & Applications
  2. VDI & Devices
  3. Consumerisation
  4. Mobile & Remote Working
  5. Collaboration

If you’d like a little closer look at the these elements yourself – feel free to click the link to our free online brochure

After reflecting on the meeting druing the journey home, I was struck with just how many new product launches and features were due in the coming weeks alone (some I couldn’t mention due to NDA) and how when repeating this session in just a month’s time there would a whole raft of new or improved options to availble to help with the journey. Starting with the release of the iPhone 5 today (don’t mention the maps!) we have back to back conferences VMWorld and Citrix Synergy  in Barcelona mid October culminating in the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 official launch at the end of October. The good news is that we have teams of people at Computacenter working with the technologies, attending and presenting at the conferences and building capabilities to help our clients get the best from these investments – so I’ll be sure to blog any intesting updates and viewpoints as the next few weeks progress. In the meantime, if we can help you with your particular journey right now – you can contact us at workplace@computacenter.com

Windows 8 is on its way

This week we have been participating in Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, and this year was a record-breaking event with over 16,000 partners attending from over 156 different countries (4,000 were attending for the first time). When you witness the vast number of attendees and the diversity of partners you realise that it is one of the largest, most vibrant IT ecosystems in the world.

Just so you can get a sense of the scale yourself, you can see a picture of the keynote here

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One of the major announcements of the week, was the availability of the new release of their flagship desktop operating system Windows 8. If you didn’t catch it on the news wire, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 8 is on track to Release to Manufacturing (RTM) the first week of August. For enterprise customers with Software Assurance benefits, they will have full access to Windows 8 bits as early as August.

There were many new features and enhancements discussed during the course of the week, but most of the excitement centred around the potential for devices such as Surface and the new Metro style user interface and applications. It is certainly going to be exciting to see how all of the OEMs, service providers and application developers innovate to exploit the platform for customer value. Here at Computacenter we have already started to look how we integrate it into our existing ‘Contemporary Workplace’ framework of solutions and services – whether it be advice, supply, deployment, integration or management that is needed for an effective outcome for our client’s users.

So, come the end of the year there is going to be another credible option for Enterprise organisations that wish to deliver touch based applications and services on slick, lean and powerful tablet devices. With Apple’s almost ubiquitous iPad already established as the market leader and Microsoft’s dominance of the corporate desktop platform (backed by the sort of ecosystem covered above) – the fight for market dominance is going to be monumental battle to watch.

The good news is that we can help our clients either way – but which way do you think the battle will swing or do you think there is room for both?

A sting in the tail for Apple Users?

There have been a couple of articles in the last week that have really got me thinking about the consequence of using products from the world’s most valuable brand.

The first article that appeared in wired magazine shows that the Ratio of PC to Mac Sales Narrowing to Lowest Level in Over a Decade. Whilst the article cites that industries that use video and photo editing are typically Mac-centric, I think it is easy to see their use in many more scenarios than this.

For the better part of the last two decades, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs focused on the outward appearance of his company’s products with an enthusiasm unmatched by his competitors. The unique designs that resulted from this obsession have given Mac products the “hip” image that they enjoy today. However, this ‘hip’ image also comes at a premium on acquisition, particularly when you consider that if you take apart a Mac computer, and you take apart a PC, you will find that they use the same parts and components. Both have: a motherboard, processor, RAM memory, graphics card, optical drive, hard drive etc.

However, they do not use the same software which brings me to another hidden cost that I had not heard of until recently.

Over the weekend I read an article in the WSJ that stated Apple Mac users booking holidays on the travel firm Orbitz’s web-site were paying up to 30% more than Windows PC users! Mainly because they could and would.

Orbitz are defending the tactic as an ‘experiment’ and believe some of the data has been taken out of context, with their CEO commenting: “However, just as Mac users are willing to pay more for higher end computers, at Orbitz we’ve seen that Mac users are 40% more likely to book 4 or 5-star hotels as compared to PC users, and that’s just one of many factors that determine which hotels to recommend a given customer as part of our efforts to show customers the most relevant hotels possible.”

So basically their website was interpreting the type of software accessing their content and then used advanced algorithms to render the more expensive options if it was Apple based. Whilst this has created a flurry of social media objection and conjecture, marketing data for this company showed that Mac users are associated with a somewhat richer demographic than PC users and Orbitz CEO Barney Harford defends their position stating that its software is simply showing users what it thinks they will want to see and buy.

The WSJ believes that the sort of target marketing undertaken by Orbitz will become more commonplace in the future as retailers become bigger users of predictive analytics.

Clearly, the challenge with this approach is that there is an assumption that if you use a Mac, then you stand out as a big spender. Whether it is true or not, I sense that other organisations will soon follow suit and will try to see that you place bigger orders as a result. In theses austere times, its just another factor of cost that sometimes isn’t considered by the more well heeled advocates of completely corporate wide BYOD scheme.

Personally, I think it’s just another example of how quickly the dynamics of the workplace and technology are moving – and as an Apple user myself I’ll be keeping a keen eye on my purchases!

In you are interested, you can read the WSJ article here