Archive for the ‘IT Channel’ Category

My predictions for 2012…

January 3, 2012

I normally do this the other way round, but this time I decided to publish on the news site first – but for those of you who follow me here (thank you!), here’s my predictions for IT, plus some suggestions for how to address and take advantage of these trends. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from all at Softcat! I thought we would start the year off with a few predictions for what we expect to happen over the course of the year. Rather than this being simply some predictions in isolation, we’ve made a few suggestions as to how you might be able to respond to, or take advantage of, these trends:

Desktop – if you haven’t already, you will come under increasing pressure to migrate to Windows 7. We expect IT to need to reduce desktop management costs, while maintaining or improving service levels to the business. Windows 8 is looking likely to ship towards the end of the year – it’s looking good so far and could be interesting when your PC, phone and tablet run basically the same OS. We think Windows 8 will be the last revision of the ‘desktop’ operating system as we know it – Windows won’t go away, but will increasingly be a platform across a huge range of devices.

What to do?

Get your desktop house in order – look at management toolsets such as System Center to reduce the pain of migrating to Windows 7 and of ongoing maintenance, and reconsider server-based computing (VDI, Terminal Services etc) where this makes sense.

BYOD – more and more people within  your organisation will demand, and even expect, to be able to use their own devices – particularly phones and tablets – for work purposes. You need to set out your strategy here, as it is something that you can harness to improve productivity, employee satisfaction and business continuity.

What to do?

Evaluate the risk inherent in having data on these devices, versus the demand and potential gains. Technologies such as GOOD can encrypt data on those end-points, or you can use centralised computing to deliver Windows apps to those devices without any data getting on to the device. Over time, you may want to consider rearchitecting your line-of-business applications or at least having a transport mechanism that enables delivery to handheld devices.

Communications – we think there will be two main trends in communications. The first will be mobility-related – replacing desktop handsets by running telephony clients on mobile devices, and increasingly implementing VoIP over GSM or WiFi. The second will be an increase in the use of casual, desktop-based video conferencing and application sharing. Both of these trends will improve collaboration across geographical boundaries and bring disparate work-forces closer together.

What to do?

We think the increasing interest in Microsoft LYNC will drive both of these areas, so you could do worse than start there, especially if you have an Enterprise Agreement which gives you at least some LYNC entitlement. There’s a healthy ecosystem of products to improve and extend the capabilities of LYNC, as well.

Datacentre – virtualisation will continue to be the prevailing trend. If you haven’t, you really should – and if you have, you should probably do more! We’ll see more management technologies, both from the virtualisation vendors and from the ecosystem, which will help to push up the percentage of applications you virtualise, as well as to migrate towards the nirvana of a ‘private cloud’. No doubt your demand for storage will accelerate as well, so you will need to be clever about the way in which you use disk to keep on top of costs in that area while maintaining the performance your applications need. Oh, and you’ll need to improve your ability to recover in the event of a disaster, too.

What to do?

Review your strategy for virtualisation – are you trading physical server sprawl for the virtual equivalent? Would tighter management enable you to drive up utilisation? Review your storage strategy as well – can you make use of deduplication, for example – or employ a combination of SSDs for performance and cheaper, slower disk for data? The combination of clever use of storage and increased virtualisation can make it far easier – and cheaper – to implement a robust DR plan.

Cloud – this is the year that we will see ‘Cloud’ descend into Gartner’s ‘trough of disillusionment’. It wouldn’t surprise us if we saw the first serious security breach in the cloud space, and doubtless another large-scale outage.  Having said that, losing some of the hype will make Cloud a more realistic proposition for businesses when done properly. We think that localised, friendly cloud providers will be increasingly important – credit-card-cloud will be reserved for development and test.

What to do?

Don’t write cloud off – but look to providers where you have or can build a relationship and where doing your own due diligence is possible. Look to extend the capabilities of your infrastructure for capacity or DR by partnering with a provider of infrastructure as a service, and if your business needs a new application, consider cloud options against on-premise.

Security – Firstly, 2012 is the year we expect security technologies to start to catch up with virtualisation. Up until now the available technologies have been somewhat immature, and the new model of ‘introspection’ via APIs will improve this. Secondly, this will be the year the business tells you to stop blocking Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, as people are now genuinely using them as business tools. You will no longer be able to mitigate the risks by turning them off! We’ll also see more focus than ever on keeping data safe – something which is increasingly difficult in this mobile world.

What to do?

Firstly, if your legislative or threat landscape demands it, look seriously at Intrusion Prevention technologies which will work across your virtual environment. Secondly, make sure that your Web Security Policy is up-to-date, and supplement it with a powerful filtering technology that enables control down to application-level within social networking sites, rather than taking a simple allow-or-deny approach. Thirdly, gain an understanding of the way in which data moves around your organisation and make sure your access policy limits data misuse, especially through social media and email. Encryption of remote access is a sensible step, and you may, if your position requires it, like to give consideration to a data-loss-prevention tool.


HP Notebook Roadmap Session

April 8, 2011

It’s a Friday, so I thought I would share some photos. We had the HP/ Intel bus in at Softcat this morning, showing off their latest range of notebooks and going through some roadmaps with our account managers. HP are to be commended on sharing this stuff – one of the pieces of feedback we get regularly from customers is that they feel vendors let them down in terms of visibility on when a line will change. If you need to know about HP roadmap – ask your Softcat account manager!

The bus itself is quite impressive; I wonder if I could borrow it for the summer festival season – can you imagine turning up at Glastonbury in something like that? It would put my 1976 VW Camper to shame…

Microsoft updates cloud licensing

March 30, 2011

The ‘cloud’ industry had some great news today – Microsoft are making their licensing rules significantly more cloud-service friendly.

Up until now, organisations taking cloud services using Microsoft software had to have their licensing covered through something called the SPLA model – the Service Provider Licensing Agreement. This specifically permits, in the EULA, delivery of services to a third party – something which is precluded under ‘traditional’ licensing. There were two issues with this – firstly that customers had frequently already invested in ‘on-premise’ licensing and were therefore having to double-purchase, and secondly the complexities around managing two models of licensing.

As of the 1st of July, Microsoft will issue updated Product Use Rights, which will grant customers with active Software Assurance (SA) the right to deploy certain server workloads (including Exchange, Lync, SQL, SharePoint and CRM) either on their own infrastructure or in ‘the cloud’. This means that the choice of how a customer consumes Microsoft technology is no longer constrained by a customer’s existing licensing investment (assuming they have SA, of course!).

An increase in customer choice can only be seen as an advantage – both for those customers, and for cloud providers who can now novate customers’ existing investments to their platform. Well done Microsoft!

The only downsides I can see are that desktop appears not to be included – so no hosted full desktop as a service (such services are available, but typically based on session-based desktops) and of course that access to these ‘license mobility enhancements’ is restricted to Software Assurance customers. But despite those two small downsides I applaud Microsoft for a forward-thinking move (and it is more of an incentive to include SA).

I can see our Software Asset Management Team will have to introduce a Cloud Licensing Mobility Readiness Assessment in fairly short order!

To Cloud or not to Cloud, Part 2 (Cloud and the Channel)

February 17, 2011

Great article here from ESG on how service providers should work with and recognise the worth of the channel when it comes to positioning their services. I’m absolutely convinced that this is the case. I’m certain that there is a ‘service’ play here and a space for the trusted advisor to act as a ‘cloud broker’. I’m fairly certain that this cloud thing is a long-term play and a lot of organisations will have on- and off-premises infrastructure for a considerable amount of time. We as resellers can and should act as a bridge between these two worlds and offer some guidance through what is a complicated marketplace at present!

Chopping the spaghetti

February 1, 2011

My friend, and Microsoft technology evangelist John Westworth posted this blog recently about cloud silos and the new spaghetti infrastructure. I guess the implication is that organisations should, where possible, take the full cloud stack from a large vendor (such as Microsoft).

It feels to me as if this suggestion slightly sidelines the role of the channel. Let’s face it, we (resellers, SIs etc) have always integrated software (frequently and to a large degree from Microsoft), hardware and components of stacks from different vendors in order to (and this is the important bit) meet our customers’ business requirements. I don’t see this being significantly different in the cloudy world. We will have to evolve of course, but I am certain that there is a role for the channel partner as cloud broker, cloud service delivery manager, cloud integrator, cloud migrator… Not every organisation wants to deal with the vendors directly – there will be a service play around Cloud, of that I am certain.

Why SAM is about more than compliance

January 31, 2011

I was moved by this article in the industry press about how most Software Asset Management (SAM) work is in response to the threat or actuality of a vendor or enforcement body audit. I can’t deny that a significant number of our SAM engagements are driven by fear of audit. What I would add, however, is that a lot of organisations are starting to realise that good SAM is a matter of good financial stewardship and that the benefits extend far beyond simply the avoidance of a fine or bad publicity in the event of a forced audit.

SAM is a significant opportunity to save money, through the rationalisation of software titles in use, the ‘harvesting’ and redeployment of installed and licensed software which is not being used, and the cancellation of maintenance contracts for software which has been retired (often missed). Significantly, accurate knowledge on your existing license situation can enable you to negotiate from a ‘point of strength’ for licensing purchases and contract renewals.

Access to network audit data about installed software is a powerful aid to your helpdesk in diagnosing issues. Audit data about hardware can help you plan for and cost upgrades, such as Windows 7. It’s even possible to calculate probable carbon footprint and deduce possible savings, a service which Softcat can provide.

For me, an important part of SAM is making the most of the software you have paid for. Many organisations have subscribed to annuity-based agreements, such as the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, or Open Value Subscription. These agreements give you access to a range of software – some of which is pretty powerful and has real potential business benefit. Obviously there is effort involved in rolling out this software – but surely if there is a business need there it is sensible to look at software you don’t have to pay any extra for?

If you need any more information on saving money through good management of your software assets, have a look here where you can view our guide to Software Asset Management.

Technology@Work Takeaways

May 5, 2010

It’s nearly a week since I got back from HP’s Technology at Work event, in Frankfurt, and I have just about caught up, so I thought it was time to summarise my experience. First out, I very much enjoyed it – the organisation was very slick, Frankfurt was friendly and the content was superb. I feel less guilty now that HP have cancelled their tablet plans (or at least delayed them pending the integration of Palm) for my use of an iPad throughout the event…

My first comment would be that getting involved in the social media scene at events like this is a good idea. It made me feel really engaged with the event to be following #HPTAW and tweeting with folks like @StorageGuy and @JezatHP (follow both of these guys for good insider info on HP Storage and Networking respectively). It’s a really useful back-channel to comment on what is going on and point people in the direction of stuff that is interesting. Needless to say I was delighted to end up as Mayor of HP Technology at Work on Foursquare

Now on with the technology industry… My primary takeaway was the emphasis from Gartner (who were out in force) on a simple statistic: that in their research, 70% of IT budget is spent on ‘keeping the lights on’, and only 30% spent on innovation – finding technology solutions to move the business forwards. That’s pretty scary, and I would welcome feedback from our customers as to whether that’s common experience. It feels about right to me. Almost every keynote referred back to this statistic, and HP are focusing their efforts on remedying the situation. A lot of the conversations were around reducing cost: power and cooling, management, etc. However, an interesting point was that CIOs with responsibility for the power bills refresh infrastructure more often, deriving ROI from this refresh – and in the process giving their organisation access to the latest technology, making the business more agile.

I’m sure we all hope we are on the way out of recession. Certainly the feedback from Gartner was that organisations are investing. In fact, the focus appears to be moving away from out-and-out cost, although budget growth will remain low or nonexistent. The focus is on balancing value with risk and innovation – the goal is to enable the business to be flexible and adapt to change. The legacy of the economic situation will leave organisations in a state of flux – M&A, emerging markets, volatility and a need to advance and retract into areas will mean that IT must be able to react to and enable this constant change. No wonder virtualisation, cloud and Web 2.0 are the top three technologies on CIOs’ watch-lists. HP are working hard on the concept of ‘converged infrastructure’ (separate post to follow) to provide a cohesive platform from which to deliver services to meet the needs of your organisation.

End-user computing was another area, and one which has interested me for some time. The story echoed my post on Next Generation Desktops, but suffice it to say that the computing environment of tomorrow will be a little different. Virtualisation of the desktop in its various forms will become commonplace, and management by separation of the various layers (hardware, OS, apps, profile etc) will be the norm. At the same time, IT departments will need to get used to delivering mobile, lightweight apps to laptops, netbooks, smartphones and (dare I say it) the iPad.

Lastly, there was a fair amount on the networking front. HP contest that the acquisition of 3COM gives them an end-to-end networking portfolio, from the core to the edge, including security, for the first time. Networking is key to the Converged Infrastructure message, so keep an eye on this (we will announce an event soon). There was a lot of talk about unified communications, in particular integration of Microsoft Exchange and OCS with Procurve and Proliant.

Whilst I don’t think I recall Cisco being mentioned by name throughout the entire event, it’s fairly evident that they have a fight on their hands here!

HP and Cisco battle hots up!

November 12, 2009

Late last night UK time, I read on Twitter (via Mashable) that HP had bought 3COM. Funnily enough I’d been at HP that morning and someone had whispered that an acqusition in that space was on the cards (which we had guessed anyway). I guess I wasn’t expecting it that quickly!

I asked Steve Burnley, head of our networking business for a snapshot summary, and this is what he gave me:

–          Gives HP a routing platform to compete with Cisco at both the business and service provider level

–          Security – Tippingpoint is a strong (but very under-developed in Europe) product range – very big in the US

–          3Com switch will be discontinued as quickly as they possibly can.

 –          They’re still missing an FCoE platform, but Brocade could yet fit that bill

I’m pleased to say Steve didn’t spot that one coming, and I’m hoping his shares in another networking vendor aren’t hit too hard! We’ll see if his predictions come true. I’ll look forward to a briefing on Tippingpoint.

This is only going to accelerate the battle between HP and Cisco, which I am watching with interest from fairly close to the sidelines….

Official release here: