• SherpaTools, Channel Strategies and Google Apps Management


    CloudSherpas is a systems integrator and application developer that almost exclusively deals with Google Apps (they’re a high performing Google Apps Partner having moved over 80000 users to Google Apps to date). I spent a bit of time talking…

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  • NetSuite Finds Partner, Needs to Tackle Verticals


    I had an advance briefing yesterday from NetSuite who are announcing this morning a new partnership with Hein & Associates. Hein is a full-service public accounting and advisory firm with offices in Denver, Houston, Dallas, and Irvine, California. This…

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  • Cisco Offers Solutions For IaaS Providers

    Image representing Cisco Systems as depicted i...

    Image via CrunchBase

    I have been emphasizing again and again that there won’t be a consolidation around few cloud infrastructure players. Then, the idea of private clouds is also not going away anytime in the near future (even though I see public clouds as the future for many workloads). Finally, there are these SaaS vendors and web application providers who are building their own datacenters for their consumption. All these things are keeping IaaS market hot and Cisco is jumping in to offer a comprehensive Infrastructure as a Service solution for service providers.

    Web 2.0 and the next cloud based generation has changed the way service is provided over the net. The depth and breadth of services has increased manifold from massive video services to big data to mashups, etc.. Not only that, the way these services are consumed has changed considerably with unexpected spikes. All these trends points out to a need for an agile next generation infrastructure that is more flexible and cost effective. Many different vendors are trying to get a big slice of this pie but Cisco seems to be surging far ahead of the competitors.

    Late last week, Cisco announced a new IaaS for Service Providers offering using their UCS and IP-NGN products. They offer the service providers with the tools, design guides and advanced services to be able to “fast-track” the implementation of IaaS offerings. In short, any service provider can deploy agile, flexible, low cost, highly scalable IaaS solutions without worrying too much about the cost or other logistical issues. These solutions are built for scale, thereby, offering the much needed elasticity for the IaaS. Their low cost makes it easy for the service providers to offered metered billing.

    This offering by Cisco includes UCS for the compute, VMWare’s ESX Vi4 Hypervisor for the virtual machines, Cisco Nexus™ 1000V for virtual access, their best of the breed switch products like Redundant Cisco Nexus 5020 Series Switches, Redundant Cisco 7600 Series Routers, etc.. This unified offering provides service providers a solution to offer their customers the flexibility of capacity on-demand, at scale with multitenant capabilities to maximize the use of their infrastructure across multiple customers.

    Such unified solutions by companies like Cisco makes it easy for service providers to offer cloud computing solutions to businesses of all forms and shapes. With VMWare running on a hot streak, I am wondering how long it will be before Cisco acquires EMC and VMWare 🙂

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  • box.net – Doing It All In the Box


    <disclaimer> – I thought twice about the title above, anyone who infers anything from it needs to spend significantly more time away from a computer </disclaimer>

    I spent some time yesterday talking to box.net (coverage here) – partly in order to get an update on how they’re fairing, and also to demo some new technology they’re introducing. First a quick update. Box.net are proud that they’ve now reached the dual milestones of 1 billion files served and 1 million files served per day. They’ve grown the organization 75% and are now a 70 person team. Jen Grant, VP of Marketing at box sees 2010 as their “big year” caused, in part, by three factors affecting enterprises:

    • More organic businesses with more external project connections
    • IT changes carving costs out of spend and driving value
    • The changing face of the workforce

    With the review underway, Jen was keen to lift the wrapper on their new product announcement. Box.net is integrating the functionality gained when they acquired content management company Increo solutions in October – the new functionality brings content playing and embedding to box.net. So how does this work, and what’s the use case?

    With the new functionality, box.net users will be able to view any file natively within the box.net environment – not only documents but images, presentations, audio, video, PDFs etc. This extends so far as to allow for playing of PowerPoint files and, more importantly, gives IT some visibility over the content use – IT can, for example, track which slides of which presentations have been viewed the highest number of times. It’s a value area that Sliderocket is building it’s offering on, the ability to add value to formerly static documents by making them the launch pad for multiple trackable action calls. I quizzed Jen about this side of things and her response was:

    We’re really excited about how Cloud Content Management can give the IT department more robust analytics regarding how content is being used… giving IT better visibility regarding how business content is shared both within and beyond the organization. Our customers use Box to share files internally, but also as a core way to collaborate around files externally, whether it’s partners, vendors, prospects or customers, so information regarding collaboration “beyond the firewall” is key.

    It seemed to me a sensible approach for box.net to provide it’s own analytics functionality to the app. When I suggested this to Jen her reply was that:

    …adding our own detailed and granular analytics component to Box isn’t a current priority, though we’ll keep evaluating and see if there’s a need for that kind of functionality. But this is where the value of Box’s open platform comes in: we can easily leverage and integrate great solutions from other providers, such as a basic Google Analytics integration… we’re always interested in bringing best-of-breed solutions to our customers, and analytics is no exception.

    Apart from just content viewing though, users will have the ability to build rich content around files – creating comments and tasks and printing the files – in this way box.net are differentiating themselves from the likes of Google docs which is more about file creation rather than content management and workflow.

    The second part of the functionality is embedding – organizations can embed files on extranets to give external visibility to chosen files. It’s bringing what YouTube bought for video to all documents. As Jen pointed out:

    embedding lets you share the content in the form you intended. For example, you don’t have to worry about whether people have the right applications or the right version of any given piece of software – what you want them to see is how it’s delivered. Since we remove the barriers to viewing that content, it just makes it accessible to more people, whether it’s on a company intranet, a blog or any other web page.

    Overall I’m pretty excited by the new functionality – more the ability to view content items on the fly and online than the embedding. What it’ll mean for box.net’s customer numbers this year remains to seem. See the video below for a demo of the new functionality. 


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  • IBM Gets Serious With SaaS

    Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

    Image via CrunchBase

    When everyone thought IBM will never get the SaaS game, they jumped in with their Lotuslive offerings. They followed it up with the addition of a social component, called LotusLive Connections, to help businesses of all sizes to work beyond their corporate firewall. At Lotusphere 2010 this week at Orlando, IBM announced some additions to their LotusLive Cloud Collaboration Platform which now provides integrated email, Web conferencing, social networking and collaboration with emphasis on security, reliability and enterprise integration. Essentially, this is IBM’s attempt to push SaaS into the enterprises to maintain their marketshare.

    In doing so, IBM has taken a page out of Google’s playbook and announced LotusLive Labs, a collaborative effort between teams at IBM Research and Lotus. LotusLive Labs will offer LotusLive customers access to pre-alpha technologies just like how Google is offering with their products like Gmail and Google Calendar. This announcement follows last week’s dramatic announcement that they have poached a big enterprise customer away from Microsoft Exchange. They announced that they are going to start with one of the largest cloud deployments for Panasonic with more than 300K seats. At that time, they announced that the LotusLive platform is extensible and it would allow Panasonic to build extensions to its infrastructure without increasing the resources of its IT departments. Their announcement on Monday further reveals IBM’s strategy of releasing their own extensions through LotusLive Labs.

    Currently, they have made a handful of such technologies available and this portfolio will grow in number pretty soon. The technology previews available right now are

    • Slide Library, a presentation library using which one can search through libraries of presentations to gather useful information and ideas. And when the presentation is done, it can be uploaded and shared with colleagues and clients.
    • Event Maps, an easy way to browse conference sessions, organize sessions by categories and provide feedback to conference organizers. Event Maps supports collaboration features such as commenting, rating and tagging on conference events.
    • Collaborative Recorded Meetings is a collaborative media and meetings service that records and transcribes the entire meeting presentation which allows one to locate and share part or full presentation with others.
    • Composer lets one create new applications by mashing up all sorts of services from the Web, e-mail, forms, collaboration tools and backend systems.

    None of these are new to many of us from the consumer-centric world. However, enterprises are taking a slower path to adoption and IBM is trying to convince them that they should continue trusting IBM even for their SaaS needs. In fact, soon they will be releasing a collaborative app similar to Google Wave and offer support for LotusLive mobile from iPhone.

    They also announced that they will make APIs for LotusLive services available to any IBM business partner in the second half of 2010. In fact, three of their partners will soon be announcing integrated solutions based on LotusLive APIs.

    • Silanis Technology, which offers electronic signature process management to be integrated with LotusLive Files and Activities
    • Skype, for making voice and video calls with LotusLive contacts
    • Prolifiq, a sales messaging platform integrated with LotusLive Contacts and Files

    Interestingly, IBM will soon move LotusLive offerings to a multi-tenant system much like other SaaS vendors but they are also planning to offer a hybrid solution for enterprises insisting on keeping some of their data on-premise. Another interesting change in IBM’s strategy is the reduction of minimum number of users for a LotusLive Notes subscription from 1,000 to 25. This will help even small businesses take advantage of the same technologies used by big enterprises.

    The economics of LotusLive is still unattractive to smaller businesses and, even, some enterprises. Google and other smaller players like Zoho (disclaimer: Zoho is the exclusive sponsor of this blog but this is my individual opinion) will gain big in these segments. However, with these new offerings, IBM is positioning itself to offer SaaS solutions to their existing customers and also to those enterprises still having difficulty trusting new age companies like Google. IBM’s strategy may not be innovative but it will help them stay in the game and, with some luck, get to eat a reasonably larger share of the pie.

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  • Enterprise 2.0 – Building the New Schoolyard for Bullies?


    I have a friend called Jennifer (name and details changed, obviously). At school she was a loner without many friend who, as loners often do, overcome loneliness by bullying smaller kids in the playground. Jennifer managed to gain “friends” by doing this, although they weren’t really friends, rather individuals who were scared that they’d become the target unless they joined in with Jennifer’s shenanigans.

    Well, luckily for her schoolmates, Jennifer grew up, studies and entered the workforce where she was forced, at least to a certain extent, to forego her bullying behavior in the interests of fairness, due process and the common good.

    Until today that is…

    You see the advent of social media in its various guises has given Jennifer the opportunity to once again throw her weight around and make life difficult for others. Involved in a part of an organization that makes extensive use of social media type tools, Jennifer has a wide following in her vocational field and uses this following to bully others the way she used to use her heft to do so all those years ago in the schoolyard.

    Now my enterprise friends will tell me bullying in the work place has always existed but social media and enterprise 2.0 tools have extended the reach an individual can communicative with – this is an unquestionably great thing when it comes to collaborating on specific projects, but it’s also a dangerous thing when used inappropriately.

    I’ve spent long time talking with Enterprise 2.0 practitioners, attending enterprise 2.0 events and hearing about the barriers to adoption. Generally we’re grasping to find either good case study examples of enterprise 2.0 being put to work or fixes for the oft mentioned barriers to adoption – none of however 9at least in public) are prepared to front up and tell the stories of Enterprise 2.0 gone wrong and used for ugly purposes.

    And in this we run a real risk – by burying our heads in the sane and not “outing” the dark side of social media, we play into the hands of those who view the blogosphere, Twitter and social media generally as a complete waste of space. If we don’t tell the stories, and develop ways of avoiding the pitfalls these tools enable, they’ll use the same tales to discount E20 outright.

    So here’s a plaintive call to those using social media generally and Enterprise 2.0 tools more specifically: Don’t hide the use-cases that feel uncomfortable, rather use them as case studies, develop solutions and show that like a community of old, so too can a virtual community stand up and police its own.

    Everyone would be a little happier if we did that…

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  • GoodData – More of the Same, Dressed Up Like New?


    Late last year GoodData gained quite some degree of publicity – due in no small part to the caliber of its investors. Tim O’Reilly is both an investor and board member and Marc Andreesen is also behind the venture. At first blush it would seem that GoodData provides the holy grail – on-demand visualization and analytics of business data. See video below:

    A few minutes spent on their site however gave me cause for concern (emphasis mine):

    GoodData securely hosts your data, enables you to build and manage a multi-dimensional data model from a variety of data sources, provides the tools to analyze data in a collaborative environment, and the means to share the results with others.

    Now I’m not dogmatic that everything should be real-time and on-demand but GoodData strikes me pretty much as a classical BI offering done the traditional way – aimed for organizations with screeds of data and with the ability to both extract data from their SaaS applications, upload it to GoodData’s warehouse and then run BI analytics – sorting, filtering and pivoting.

    What on-demand applications really need, in my opinion, is real time on the fly analysis. That’s why YouCalc (my review here) excited me when I came across them. You see YouCalc provides direct queries on data sources, rather than relying on data warehousing and what must inevitable end up as analysis on obsolete data. TouCalc is the business that should have the big dollars behind it but, as is often the case, style tends to overcome substance, at least in the short term.

    GoodData occupies an uncomfortable space – their tool is really aimed at huge enterprises with terabytes of data, but as we know big enterprise is hardly in the cloud yet and not very likely to upload all their on-premise data to GoodData for analytics purposes since they can perform more advanced BI behind the firewall with on-premise BI tools.

    Don’t get me wrong, the idea of moving some of the data storage and number crunching aspects of bid-data analysis out of onsite data centers and into the clouds resonates with me – I just think that YouCalc don’t go nearly far enough in their approach.


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  • Syncronicity, Availability and the Perils of Instant Gratification


    I came across a TED presentation the other day that discussed our “culture of availability” and our obligation to that availability. It’s an interesting presentation and worth a watch (see below):

    It got me thinking about synchronicity and reflecting upon some example of Google Wave that were showcased a few months ago at the San Francisco Enterprise 2.0 conference. At the time I wrote one word down in my notebook (yes I still use a pen and paper) that word being Synchronicity, appended with a large question mark.

    You see we’re all diving in to embracing synchronous communications in forms both traditional and new (telephones the former, IM the latter) but at the same time many of us have a concern around just how much the obligation to digital availability impacts upon our non digital availability (precisely the point the video is trying to make).

    Communication, beyond the transfer of information, is all about creating identity, sharing a narrative and, to some extent, defining who we are. Sometimes digital synchronicity is in fact a barrier to that aim.

    Which swings back indirectly to the impact of Twitter-like tools within an enterprise and just how much adoption the vendors offering the myriad variations on the theme can expect to see. Yes, I’ll grant that there is a definite use case for synchronous communications – when an instant answer is needed, when a problem can be rapidly and easily solved, but likewise there is some context that comes from asychronicity that actually adds value to the transaction – to give time for reflection, rumination and synthesis of multiple themes.

    We’re all accustomed to the “fire hose” analogy that sees us able to access nearly limitless information in real time. Whatever happened to the discussion around “right-time” information? The concept that sees situational asynchronicity as a valuable facet of communications?

    What do others think? Is asynchronous soon to be dead and buried?



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  • If Enterprise 2.0 is a Crock, Second Life Enterprise if the Stuff That Fills the Crock


    What got into my head? During a relative lull in interesting sounding sessions at Enterprise 2.0, I decided to attend the session run by Linden Labs entitled “The Virtual Enterprise: The Future of Work”.

    At the session Linden Labs announced Second Life Enterprise, a behind-the-firewall private virtual world for within an organization. And yes, just to comply with the theme du jour, it’ll have an app store.

    For $50000 you can get yourself a pair of servers dedicated to running your very own Second Life. Apparently, and according to Linden Labs, 2009 is “a breakout year for collaboration” – funny, I thought it was a breakout year to focus on efficiency, cut costs, get more productive and move away from the kids-on-crack hype.

    It seems I was wrong.

    second life enterprise

    So they’re actually serious (I checked my diary just in case we’d swung around to April 1) – Linden say that “Virtual worlds are the best alternative to face-to-face interaction” – in the session the audience were asked how many people had engaged in video conferences (everyone had) and how many had a good experience doing so (pretty much no one). Linden then effortlessly glided to the conclusion that virtual worlds would change all that. All because itcomes complete with both a lunar landscape environment and a spaceship one. Oh my!

    It seems others have got a little hot and bothered about the opportunities these sorts of offerings give to the enterprise. In one case it’s Farmville for business – Oy Vey!

    Now if Linden were selling a product that enables distributed virtual design of prototypes of real products maybe I’d buy into their schtick – but they’re not – it’s all just about selling crack – except at least with crack you get the initial high.

    Linden rolled out some customers who use Second Life Enterprise – namely the US Navy and IBM. Bear in mind that one is an inefficient behemoth trying to find its way in a world and spending great sums of cash earned from a legacy offering while the other is an inefficient behemoth trying to force its way in the world and spending great sums of cash earned from taxpayers ill equipped to pay. Not exactly an example of cutting edge, nimble and focused case studies.

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