CIO Big Data Obstacles

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“Most CIOs and other senior IT executives believe their companies are not prepared to make full use of the waves of data coming into their organization” Bain Insights leaders Steve Berez, Paul Callahan and Rasmus Wegener report for Forbes.

Big data, when accessible, can lead to more meaningful and actionable insights, but there is also the management and processing of that data behind-the-scenes and that is the place where many companies feel they are not quite ready.  Bain Insights finds that consolidating and cleaning data, simplifying access and rights management and improving access to external data sources are all commonly cited by CIOs as big data obstacles.  These are pretty specific but there are also cultural obstacles that are playing a role and sometimes even preventing some companies from working towards using big data.

Here are the culture or mindset obstacles that companies face with big data as identified by Bain Insights:

  • Owners of the data (business) and stewards of the data (IT) still make decisions with little interaction or understanding of the other group’s needs
  • IT focuses on storing and securing data versus focusing on getting data to the right hands for gaining insights
  • The company continues to apply old processes to new challenges and needs

How to overcome? One recommendation is to form closer relationships between business and technology teams. Once a relationship is established, balance business priorities with the technology investments that help productivity long-term.  DataOps is the term Bain Insights uses, “a DataOps mentality focuses the organization on improving the way that business leaders, data scientists and IT managers work together to discover insights.”

Share what big data obstacles your company faces? Does your company also have to make a mindset shift in order to capitalize on big data?

Current Cloud Trends

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In Monday’s blog post, we discussed why small and medium-sized businesses should consider the cloud, especially when it comes to data protection and disaster recovery. Today, let’s again look at a recent cloud trends webinar featuring Joe Lyden, Evolving Solutions Cloud Sales Specialist, and James Keating III, Evolving Solutions Business Technology Architect. Below we focus on what the key trends are in the marketplace.

Some current cloud trends of note are:

  • A growing focus on management of Amazon Web Services (AWS) workloads by traditional co-location providers. Companies who at one time may have been seen as AWS competitors are actually now offering AWS management
  • Public cloud vendors: “a two-horse race.” Network World reported Gartner research showing that Amazon and Microsoft Azure are by far the clear dominant players in the public IaaS market
  • People want to talk cloud. The Evolving Solutions team, as James Keating points out in the webinar, is seeing this first hand. More companies have someone who is responsible for cloud and Gartner reports that 6 out of 10 Fortune 500 companies have hired or are looking to hire a director-level person to oversee cloud strategy
  • Cloud as part of the technology tool belt.  No longer is cloud consider “new” or “something for that project in the future,” instead the cloud is seen as a standard tool that the technology team can tap to improve current operations, meet new demands and drive innovation

Here are also specific use-cases our team is seeing. First, more businesses are turning to the cloud for disaster recovery, because disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) provides businesses more protection and resiliency at an affordable, pay-as-you-go price. More businesses are also looking for an integrated monitoring service – cloud and on-premise systems together. Finally, businesses are also developing what we call a “private hybrid.” In other words, companies are asking what applications work best on-premise and which applications work best in the cloud without intention to bursting into the cloud. This is neither a true hybrid or public cloud.  This scenario is what our James calls, “a private cloud with a side of public cloud storage or backups.”

Want to talk more about how current cloud trends are shaping up and what that might mean to your company? Contact Evolving Solutions to discuss. You can also listen to Joe and James’ full cloud trends webinar here.

Why SMBs Should Consider the Cloud

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Last month Joe Lyden, Evolving Solutions Cloud Sales Specialist, and James Keating III, Evolving Solutions Business Technology Architect, discussed current cloud trends during a lunch webinar. Over the next two blog posts, we will look at several parts of that discussion. Today, let’s focus on cloud solutions for data protection and important factors for cloud success.

How important is your data?

  • 81% of companies that have experience an outage in the past 2 years were down for more than 2 days
  • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster
  • 51% of small and medium businesses (SMBs) have an IT business continuity plan in place. Flip that number and it could mean that 49% are not fully prepared
  • $10,000 is the estimated average cost of a single data loss incident

In today’s marketplace where you are expected to be “on” 24/7, data protection and business continuity are key to staying competitive.  Through the cloud, SMBs can now more than ever access cutting-edge, reliable data protection, disaster recovery and business continuity solutions at an affordable price point. Disaster recovery as a service is becoming an important and affordable entry point for many businesses when it comes to cloud adoption.

Small and medium-sized businesses especially are stretched when it comes to time and resources, but in today’s marketplace you are still expected to provide reliable, always on service. Cloud solutions allow SMBs to do just that – providing any-sized businesses with enterprise-class technology.

Take a step back.  The cloud is “not magic pixie dust” as Joe Lyden points out in the webinar.  Just like with other technology projects, you must have a clear cloud strategy, specific objectives and a clear understanding of what will integrate well. Testing is also extremely important.  The right cloud partner can help SMBs navigate cloud solutions available and weigh in on what would work best for your situation.

Look for our next blog post on Wednesday, April 27th where we will cover current cloud trends. You can also listen to Joe and James’ full Cloud Trends webinar here.

Business Phones Moving to the Cloud

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More and more businesses are looking to the cloud for phone lines and to support mobile.  In his article on Inc., “Why Traditional Products Are Moving to the Cloud Faster Than Ever,” Chirag Kulkarni walks us through why this change is happening, and if you haven’t, why you should consider cloud.

Mr. Kulkarni reports that “cloud apps are expected to make up 90% of all mobile data within the next few years.”  Why the move? First, what started as a few early adopters has now with ever better technology become an every day conversation at the water cooler. Cloud solutions are now part of the normal make-up of IT and teams in every industry are looking for how to bring cloud benefits to every aspect of their business -even the traditional phone.

Why consider cloud phone solutions? Mr. Kulkarni outlines the following reasons:

Your business operates in multiple locations. Cloud phone solutions allow your company to use the same product at every location, allowing for more integration, reliability and an increased ability to scale as you expand and grow.

Your business has become increasingly mobile. Whether it is your employees or your customers, mobile has become a touch and access point for many organizations. Cloud phone solutions can provide better mobile integration.

Finally, you should consider cloud phone solutions, because you have a tight budget. Now what IT team doesn’t face a tight budget? This is where cloud solutions can really make a difference. For some organizations going it alone requires not only money but also expertise. With cloud solutions you can tap into leading solutions that provide reliable service at an as-you-need-it pricing model. In the specific case of phone service, Mr. Kulkarni points out, “traditional phone networks require you to put forward thousands of dollars upfront, and you may not receive the benefits of this system for many months to come. Cloud phone systems are incredibly cheap to install because they’re fully scalable.”

Cloud solutions are not just for that “big project” you are planning. Instead, cloud solutions can now be applied to the everyday operations within your organization.

It’s Here: IBMi 7.3

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“From the web interface used to order a birthday gift to the mobile interface used for paying bills, companies need modern capabilities like cloud solutions and deeper analytics to run their businesses in a secure environment,” writes Alison Butterill for IBM System’s In the Making blog.  Companies across all industries have a long history of turning to IBM i on Power Systems to meet their needs.

And just last week, IBM announced the release of IBMi  7.3.  Ms. Butterill reports the new release will allow you to better:

  • Conduct accurate analysis of data within a specific historical time period and provide an outlet to compare the insights against current data with DB2 for i temporal support.
  • Analyze data to plan ahead and build new strategies that improve business operations with newly enhanced OLAP functionality.
  • Optimize system management and security with the security authority collection.

 

IBM i 7.3Chief Architect for IBM i operating systems, Steve Will, also discusses the IBMi  7.3 release for IBM Systems Magazine. In his article, he writes the new release will have features that simplify insight, provide intelligent security and bring new open source options to developers.  Mr. Will provides several links to bloggers who dig deeper into each aspect of the new release. Here are the articles of note:

  • For more on IBMi 7.3 DB2 enhancements such as temporal support and OLAP functions, check out Mike Cain’s post on DB2fori blog.
  • Dawn May on IBM Systems Magazine dives into the security enhancements for 7.3, specifically the Authority Collection feature
  • IBM Business Architect for Application Development, Tim Rowe, takes a developer’s look at new integration with open source on System i Developers blog

Are you interested in talking specifically about what IBMi 7.3 can bring to your business? Contact our team at Evolving Solutions.

In the News: Digital Transformation

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Digital TransformationAs digital technology touches more aspects of our business operations it not only changes the way businesses interact with customers but can also completely change the business model.  Supporting these changes are IT systems and operations, utilizing cloud, mobile and big data to drive innovation.

Ann Bednarz writes for Computerworld, “tech pros are at the center of these changing business models that blend digital and physical worlds in order to better serve customers, drive revenue and increase productivity.”  How can your own IT team be proactive and take the lead on digital transformation?

First, recognize that some of these changes are taking place outside of IT, such as mobile, social media or cloud. Don’t automatically be afraid and throw up roadblocks, instead become a strategic partner that listens to the challenges and lends IT expertise to overcome. Ms. Bednarz article points out that the ongoing challenge for IT is to ensure a partnership with business.  Look for ways to be part of the strategic conversations and lend your technology expertise to drive innovation.

Dion Hinchcliffe of ZDNet recommends looking to early pioneers of digital transformation, “I believe that most organizations can learn enough from the pioneers and their successful experiments, to pull together a plan of action that will work for them.”  What can you learn from how these digital leaders operate and the choices they make?  Mr. Hinchcliffe notes that from his own study one thing he has learn from early adopters is that the ones who are successful with digital transformation don’t focus on any one technology, he writes, “instead, they fundamentally rethink the business by exploring the fresh potential that the digital world enables.”

Share what digital plans are in the works at your company and what role is your team taking in the conversations.

Industry News Round- up – Watson in the News

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IBM Watson
The IBM Watson-powered concierge “Connie” at work in a hotel (pcmag.com).
IBM’s Watson continues to be a top news story and industries are finding creative uses for Watson’s abilities.  Today let’s look at what Watson has been up to in retail, entertainment and hospitality.

Watson and MasterCard Partner to Bring Big Data to Small Business

According to ZDNet, MasterCard has integrated IBM Watson into its platform to give small and medium-sized merchants access to big data analytics.  Soon merchants will be able to access real-time, analytics based market insights on revenue, market share and customer types.  MasterCard recognized that their small business customers may have data but they lack the resources to gain real insights.  Watson in particular will be able to deliver more views into customer behavior and buying trends. What they are labeling as “smarter data” will become more accessible and actionable through this new partnership.

Watson at Hogwarts

A little pop culture, according to Tech Insider Watson analyzed the Harry Potter books and movies using the “Big Five” test to assess personality traits to classify characters and to compare how their roles changed from the books to on film.  One finding ranked Harry high for anger second only to Voldemort despite being the “good guy.” Watson also agreed with many Harry Potter fans that Ginny’s character in the movie is not as strong as in the books, noting she ranked higher for intellect and gregariousness in the books. Finally, Professor McGonagall was the character left most intact when comparing the books to the movies.

Watson Works as Hotel Concierge

Have you heard about Connie the robot concierge?  PC Magazine reports Hilton has partnered with IBM to use its Watson-powered robot to act as hotel concierge, recommending restaurants, attractions and hotel amenities to guests. Connie uses Watson speech and language APIs to interact with guests and respond to questions. The more Connie interacts the more she “learns” and the more the technology improves.

Industry Insiders Make Their Cloud Trend Picks

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“Along with social, mobile and analytics, cloud technologies and models have earned a place as one of the core disruptors of the digital age. And while the cloud market has matured over the years, its interaction with the rapidly growing data and analytics landscape suggests there are plenty more disruptive opportunities for cloud in 2016,” writes Thor Olavsrud for CIO. He interviewed industry experts to get their picks on what will be the key cloud trends this year. Here are the highlights:

  • Data migration. The processes for moving data in and out of the cloud will become simpler due to increased use of self-service data integration and data prep tools
  • Hybrid. Hybrid cloud will be more the “norm” as companies of every size will continue to be in transition between on premise and cloud
  • Adoption. Enterprises are beyond testing the waters and will “go cloud in a big way”
  • Partners in cloud use. IT will become “innovation brokers” viewed no longer as just the “fixers” but as a resource to determine how to best utilize the cloud
  • APIs. Cloud vendors will start to offer more APIs on demand
  • Security. Increased cloud use and demand will drive the formation of baseline cloud security standards
  • Enterprise advances. With new tool developments enterprises may also be able to achieve some cloud benefits on internal systems

Are you interested in discussing current cloud trends and the effects on your cloud strategy?  Join us on February 11th in St. Paul, our team will discuss what is happening in the cloud industry and break down the questions (and answers!) you should ask to develop or evolve your own cloud strategy.  After the discussion we will head over to the Xcel to watch the MN Wild take on the Washington Capitals. We invite you to register.

Telecoms Put Data Centers for Sale

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In recent years, telecoms have bought huge tracks of data center space hoping to tap into the growing enterprise IT outsourcing market for colocation and hosting services; but in recent months, the tide seems to be turning.

Peter Judge of Data Center Dynamics reports that Verizon Communications has put up 48 data centers for sale; many acquired in 2011 from Terremark.  This sale could net $2.5 billion for the company. Verizon is not the only one. Already AT&T, Century Link and others have put up pieces of their data center businesses for sale.  Mr. Judge adds, “All these moves follow a period when telcos aggressively bought up data centers, claiming there were great synergies with their communications business. They then saw the move from colocation to the cloud and set up cloud services, but generally found these were hard to sell against established providers.”

A tough competitive environment dominated by the larger, more established cloud providers seems to be the key factor cited by industry analysts for the telecom industry’s exit from the data center. Yevgeniy Sverdlik of Data Center Knowledge writes “with the cloud giants’ race to lower the prices of their services, their scale, and their rapid releases of new features, it has become nearly impossible to compete in the space, and operating a global data center fleet is expensive business.” In a recent Forbes article regarding the Verizon sale, the magazine points out that enterprise customers have continued to seek out more sophisticated offerings at lower prices and the companies that have been able to meet those demands have been the larger, mainstay cloud providers. In the long run, telecoms may have lacked the appetite needed to continue to invest in a very capital heavy market to stay competitive.

Telecoms are working to focus back on their core business and areas of specialty. It will be interesting to see who will pick up these new data centers in the coming weeks and months.

IT Facts and Figures for 2016

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Each December Computerworld surveys IT leaders to make predictions for the upcoming year.   Today let’s look at their findings:

Technology spending

Computerworld’s survey found that technology spending is expected to increase for 46% of the respondents. More and more companies find that technology is the key to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. 42% of respondents reported that their spending will stay the same and only 12% expect a decrease.

Where will investment take place?  Security, cloud and analytics ranked high on the list.  Check out this graphic from the survey:

World Spending
source: computerworld.com

Computerworld also calls out, “after several years of languishing in the tech hype cycle, the Internet of Things finally looks to be commanding tech execs’ attention, with 29% of respondents identifying it as a new area of spending for 2016. Green IT, which likewise had been back-burnered at many organizations, popped up on respondents’ radars as well, with 16% saying energy-saving technologies will be a new spend for them in the year ahead.”

Goals in the coming year

The survey also looked at what key projects are in the workds and the underlining goals driving them. Cloud computing, security and modernizing/replacing legacy systems were the top projects identified. 24% identified maintaining or improving service levels as a key goal of their current projects. Other goals notes were increase or create new revenue, increase productivity, improve the customer experience and meet security or compliance goals.

Computer World Goals
source: computerworld.com

Cloud

The survey found that cloud is still “a piecemeal journey” but as spending plans show it will continue to grow. 29% of respondents have moved some enterprise applications to the cloud with more in the works. 13% are starting to move email, calendar  or storage to the cloud. Further out industry analysts at IDC expect half of enterprise infrastructure and software investments to be cloud-based by 2018.

2016 is teed up to be an exciting year with continued focus on the technologies that will most improve service delivery and provide a cutting edge in the marketplace. Share where your company is headed.