14
Jan

IBM introduces a new mainframe computer targeted to some markets better served by clusters of smaller servers

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIBM debuted its z Systems line of mainframe computers in January, 2015. The product line is targeted to a hot segment of enterprise computing consumers, organizations with a burning need to manage mobile devices, users availing of cloud computing offers and, above all, secure online data processing.

Readers can learn more about this product line on its website, IBM z Systems (http://www-03 NULL.ibm NULL.com/systems/z/announcement NULL.html?lnk=ushpls1). A quick glance at the marketing communications content reveals some popular and absolutely current computing themes:

  • mobile computing
  • enterprise social computing
  • real-time analytics and “in-transaction” analytics
  • secure, cloud computing

Video product presentations are available on the product website, along with a traditional datasheet in PDF format. A quick glance at the datasheet exposes a cluster approach to delivering the computing power of a typical high performance computing (HPC) system. No problem so far, but how does the introduction of a hardware computing platform with these capabilities align alongside IBM’s announced effort to become a major player in the public and private cloud market for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS? Does it make sense for developers building solutions for Hadoop, Map Reduce, and other cluster architectures optimized for lots of comparatively much smaller CPUs to focus on porting these applications over to IBM’s platform?

Notable on the datasheet is IBM’s suggestion about development platforms. The recommendation is for Java. But a lot of the most promising sector of app development, in, admittedly, very early 2015, is built on scripting languages, with JavaScript getting the most attention. There is also some substantial mention of traditional mainframe computing languages (COBOL) on the datasheet.

So one needs to question just how this product line adds value to IBM’s effort to catch up with its peers in the cloud computing business with systems like these. Certainly a review of the website for these new products is recommended given the themes articulated by the press releases about the z System computers. The most prominent of these are all allusions to mainframe computing, which, in 2014, seems to be something of anathema. Big iron is, unfortunately, no longer the recommended way for most enterprise businesses to proceed, at least not for the ones already committed to Azure, AWS and Google Compute Engine.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

29
Dec

Does Google face a difficult internal challenge as it addresses the enterprise computing market with products?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPerhaps the biggest obstacle to Google for work improving its success in the enterprise computing market is Google’s approach to marketing communications. Where are the blogs? Is there an easy-to-find repository full of the kind of promotional information enterprise tech consumers have demonstrated an interest in digesting? How do Google’s communications efforts compare to its peers?

The answer to each of the three questions posed above is, unfortunately, not promising:

Where are the blogs?

Unless/until one lands on the Google for work “home page”, Google for Work (https://www NULL.google NULL.com/work/), it is not likely readers will be able to locate the “for work” blog. The blog is mentioned in a vertical column located on the right of the very bottom of the home page under a curious title, “Keep in Touch”.

A search of blogger (which is now a component of Google, itself) did not produce any “Google” blogs with the content enterprise IT management traditionally has been shown to consume.

Is there a familiar spot on the web where business management can visit to read the latest news on Google’s products for enterprise computing?

If one assumes the Google Work (or is it “for work”?) page to be the online repository for any/all information about enterprise computing products offered by Google, disappointment will likely follow. “Google for Work” maintains a Twitter page, @googleforwork. A quick review of the tweets on the page revealed a lot of content located on Google + pages. All of these entries should be linked to the “Google for Work” home page. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. The Twitter page is a better bet. Though even a search of the Twitter page will not reveal all of the content published on topics related to the Google for work offers.

How does Google’s MARCOM for “Google for Work” compare?

I spend quite a bit of time working with marketing communications material published by Microsoft, arguably, Google’s most formidable challenger in the enterprise computing market. Blogs are a prominent feature of Microsoft’s core web sites:

  • Office (http://www NULL.office NULL.com)
  • and MSDN (http://msdn NULL.microsoft NULL.com)

“Blogs” are accessible via a click on a link prominently displayed on the Office home page. The link, admittedly, is located towards the bottom of the page as is the case with the blog link on the Google for work site.

On the MSDN web site, blogs are accessible via a click on the “Community” tab on the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, and then a click on the “Blog” hot link exposed to the site visitor.

Oracle maintains an even more extensive set of blogs than Microsoft and, once again, collects the blog content within a “Community” link. IBM does, as well, though the IBM content is not centralized.

Google should re-architect its marketing communications effort for the “Google for work” product line if it is to succeed. Some thought should also go into choosing a better brand name for the product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

1
Dec

Reading between the lines of Black Friday, 2014, data points, have consumers satisfied a lot of their appetite for new Apple iOS devices?

On Friday, November 28, 2014, Barrons reported on some numbers coming out of IBM on Black Friday online shopping. In an article titled Apple Makes Up Third of Black Friday Online Buying, as Wiis, Xboxes, and iPads Fly (http://blogs NULL.barrons NULL.com/techtraderdaily/2014/11/28/apple-makes-up-third-of-black-friday-online-buying-as-wiis-xboxes-and-ipads-fly/), Tiernan Ray refers to some data coming from IBM and opines on the portion of sales made via devices running Apple’s iOS O/S. This segment, per Ray, looked like “31% of total online traffic”. Barrons goes on to note this portion “more than double[s] devices running Google’s Android software.”

Pretty impressive numbers, right? Not so fast. When these numbers are compared to the numbers published by IBM about the same type of consumer buying activity merely a year before, on Black Friday, 2013, a lot of the air comes out of this dirigible. On November 30, 2013, Jay Yarow published a similar article for Business Insider. This time titled Here’s A Problem With The Theory That Android Is Taking Over The World (http://www NULL.businessinsider NULL.com/ios-android-shopping-traffic-2013-11), Yarow summarizes IBM’s conclusion as follows: “iOS traffic reached 28.2 percent of all online traffic, compared to 11.4 percent for Android. iOS sales reached 18.1 percent of all online sales, compared to 3.5 percent for Android.”

When the Black Friday, 2014 stats are seen in perspective with the same data for the previous year, iOS penetration of the total online consumer market merely increased 9.9%. As well, Android may actually have increased its portion of the market segment (I can’t make this claim as the numbers Ray provides in his article are approximate, whereas Yarow provided more specificity in his piece for Business Insider).

So one could easily recast Ray’s presentation into a recount of how online consumer markets are actually stabilizing and, despite reports of feverish consumer appetite for the new 2014 iOS models, Apple only grew its segment in the high single digits, etc.

Ray, in fact, takes a break from the otherwise glowing recount to note a telltale sign things may not be as sanguine as they seem: “That growth is actually below a 13% growth projection that Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster had attributed to IBM as a forecast heading into the day.” Munster appears to be pointing to the total size of the online consumer buying experience for Black Friday, 2014 as a little more than half as large as IBM had originally predicted it to be. So much for predictive analytics, right?

Bottom line: Black Friday, 2014 wasn’t as much of a coast for Apple as Ray seems to be portraying it to be.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

12
Nov

Is Salesforce.com in the cross hairs as mature ISVs jump into the customer data and analytics markets?

Salesforce.com acquired ExactTarget in 2013. Arguably, ExactTarget can produce a comparable quality of customer data to Facebook, or the just announced IBM Twitter partnership. But as Marc Benioff, CEO remarked during Salesforce.com’s Q2 2015 Earnings Conference call (http://edge NULL.media-server NULL.com/m/p/dg36tiry/lan/en), Salesforce.com is an enterprise cloud business.

We’ve written at length in this blog on the unique character of enterprise business markets for computer hardware, software (including cloud), and networking. As Benioff noted during a joint presentation with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, to announce the addition of Salesforce.com as a supported CRM option for Microsoft’s Office 365 customers, Microsoft, itself, is one of Salesforce’s largest customers for ExactTarget services.

But servicing the needs of businesses marketing non durable commodities to consumers is a very different story, which Facebook seems to be winning. Salesforce’s growth rate, at 38% year over year is enviable, but Facebook’s year over year growth rate of nearly 60% is a lot better. Would it make sense for a stagnant mature ISV named IBM, desperate for some big growth, to see an opening to bring ExactTarget-like capabilities to a different market?

IBM certainly has a presence in every leading marketing business in the US and Western Europe. As a trusted partner of Ogilvy and Mather, Forbes, etc. a partnership with Twitter, which promises to provide them with a very unique set of data collected from Twitter’s “fire hose” to be fed into their Watson analytics solution looks very promising.

Salesforce, on the other hand, with Keith Block, an exceptionally capable sales and marketing executive for enterprise business markets, as President, looks clearly dedicated to signing up more enormous businesses like Microsoft. One can certainly argue the very large marketing businesses IBM presently services (and, in turn, the manufacturing and service-providing customers of these marketing firms like Procter and Gamble) fit the bill for legitimate Salesforce targets, but in this writer’s opinion it isn’t likely the way they are leveraging ExactTarget will meet the needs of Omnicom, etc for the consumer non durable goods market. This writer spent a lot of time with IBM from 1994 to 2001 and can speak to what was then a deep, strategic relationship with Ogilvy, Forbes, and others.

So the ExactTarget capability does look like something a mature ISV like IBM would want to repackage for its own, and very different set of consumers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

11
Nov

Marketers look to be succeeding with customer data and have pressing needs to consume more

During Facebook’s Q3 2014 Earnings Conference Call (http://www NULL.media-server NULL.com/m/p/22wd72e4), Mark Zuckerberg, CEO reported $3.2 Billion gross revenue for the quarter, and a 64% year over year increase in their advertising business. In contrast, Google, as Patrick Pichette, Senior Vice President and CFO reported during its Q3 2014 Earnings Conference Call, experienced merely a 20% year over year increase in total revenue from its Sites business and only a 9% year over year increase in its Network revenue.

So it looks like a fair question to ask what’s up at Facebook? From a teaser summary this writer found on the web site for MIT’s Sloan Review, titled How Facebook is Delivering Personalization on a Whole New Scale (http://sloanreview NULL.mit NULL.edu/article/how-facebook-is-delivering-personalization-on-a-whole-new-scale/), Blake Chandlee, Vice President of Global Partnerships at Facebook pointed to customer data as a very valuable asset Facebook has, apparently, learned to monetize much more successfully than Google.

Customer Data includes “[o]nline [c]hatter” (quoted from another short summary on the MIT Sloan web site, this one titled “Online Chatter is Big Data Gold”. The short piece was written by Leslie Brokaw and published online on October 27, 2014). Online Chatter is the stuff users produce when they post to alerts, interact with friends, etc on Facebook. All of this takes the form of unstructured data, which, in turn, has to be manipulated and given shape with tools developed for the big data trend.

The tools are not the subject of this post. Rather, what this writer finds to be important is how Facebook’s reported growth is emblematic of the success its customers have achieved using this “online chatter” to their advantage. Unstructured data, precisely as the MIT Sloan precis presents it, is becoming a very valuable asset.

One can argue this trend is not new. As far back as year ago, ostensible Facebook competitors AT&T and Verizon were said to be jumping into the same market (interested readers may want to check out an online article titled AT&T joins Verizon, Facebook in selling customer data (http://rt NULL.com/usa/at&t-selling-personal-information-725/)). But not all customer data is the same. It isn’t likely either Verizon, or AT&T can produce the same treasure chest of “online chatter” to rival Facebook.

But Twitter certainly can and appears to be moving in the right direction with an announced first partnership with IBM. We just published a post to this blog yesterday on this announcement.

Google certainly has an enormous repository of a type of unstructured data in its GMail service. Assuming they have access to a comparable capability to anonymize the data, then, one might argue, they are prepared to go toe-to-toe with Facebook. But the contrasting sales growth numbers from the two quarterly reports mentioned at the top of this post point to a looming problem for Google — email just doesn’t seem to be producing as useful a set of customer data. How else to interpret the differences in growth? Pity Google + is not doing better. Google + failure is a big deal and likely to emerge as a major obstacle Google will need to fix.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

10
Nov

Online conversations become even more valuable data as consumers implement new analytics designed to work with big data

On October 29, 2014, IBM and Twitter announced a partnership (https://www-03 NULL.ibm NULL.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/45265 NULL.wss). Under the terms of this partnership, Twitter will provide IBM with data. In turn, IBM will permit customers to use its IBM Watson Analytics to work with Twitter data.

The Twitter data is often referred to as the “fire hose”. According to Statistic Brain (http://www NULL.statisticbrain NULL.com/twitter-statistics/), an average day sees some 58,000,000 Tweets. So it should be fair to say any effort to collect this volume of information, and, then, to analyze it, falls into the big data and analytics category.

So just who would be interested in the Twitter “fire hose”, and why? Reading further in the IBM press release one finds a clue: “The first joint solution will integrate Twitter data with IBM ExperienceOne customer engagement solutions, allowing sales, marketing, and customer service professionals to map sentiment and behavior to better engage and support their customers.” A brief look at IBM’s web site for its ExperienceOne (http://www-01 NULL.ibm NULL.com/software/marketing-solutions/experienceone/) service reveals a data analytics offer targeted to Chief Marketing Officer (CMOs), who usually lead “marketing, merchandising, sales, and customer service” (quoted from the ExperienceOne web site).

For an ISV like IBM to offer data collection, analytics, and even predictive analytics solutions, and the services required to successfully implement them, to a target market of CMOs from Lines of Business (LoBs), represents a major shift in focus from IBM’s familiar market of CIOs and enterprise IT organizations. In turn, the ExperienceOne offer stands as a testimony as to how the path by which technology innovation enters the enterprise has shifted away from the CIO and over to leaders from LoBs. Bottom line, this deal is a further indicator of why CIOs and their enterprise IT organizations are playing much more catch up than used to be the case in the past. It also can be interpreted as an indicator of a bigger enterprise need for Enterprise Device Management (EDM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions.

In this writer’s opinion the IBM Twitter partnership is a milestone in the evolution of the value of online user data. The daily production of enormous volumes of unstructured data from Tweets becomes a commodity, which Twitter can profit from in an entirely different manner than other social media sites have been able to achieve in the past. One can argue Facebook is doing much the same thing. But there is no IBM in the middle of how Facebook interacts with its customers. The data collection, warehousing, analytics, and, finally, predictive analytics capabilities a player like IBM brings to the process substantially elevates the potential represented by the Twitter fire hose for the CMOs who will ultimately consume it.

There is certainly room for firms competing with IBM to attempt to apply the same structure (with, presumably, Twitter competitors) for consumers with, perhaps, similar objectives in mind. The important point for anyone following the businesses owning the data (meaning Twitter and its competitors) is the likely need to factor in a higher valuation, should this IBM Twitter partnership pay off.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

30
Oct

Mature ISVs converge and compete on the “productivity” theme

Microsoft, Google, and the recently announced joint marketing effort by Apple and IBM, are all presenting solutions to the consumer market for computing solutions around the theme of “productivity”. But, in stark contrast to how this type of competition plays out around commodity hardware (smart phones, tables, PCs, laptops), each of these ISVs is working hard to articulate a niche, highly differentiated message.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft mentions “productivity” as early as two and a half minutes into the forty nine minutes of the Microsoft Cloud Briefing (http://news NULL.microsoft NULL.com/2014/10/20/cloud-event-webcast/) event, which was held on October 20, 2014 in San Francisco. The core, mission-critical foundation stone of this brand message is, as follows: in 2014 there is simply too much information. Too much information results in no information (kind of like Samuel Coleridge’s line from his Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, “water, water everywhere, but n’ary a drop to drink”). So the real imperative driving (and you can substitute your favorite mature ISV on this one) product marketing for computing is acquiring, understanding, categorizing, and prioritizing all of this information, behind the scenes (via machine learning) so an individual can do something with it.

Whether the solution is Delve, or Google Now, or Watson really doesn’t matter. Each of these intelligence platforms is out there to service individual needs to better manage information in a world where, literally, one thousand times the amount of information is available, at comparatively little or even no cost. Each of the competitors in this market is betting on the enormous value of this low cost pool of information, once it is packaged effectively, for consumers.

It’s refreshing to see how none of these competitors has reverted to a “competition to be the best” strategy. The market for the type of computing capability behind the notion of “productivity” as each industry spokesperson articulates it, promises substantial revenue. Treating it as a commodity would be real fool’s play.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

15
Oct

ISVs debut cloud, SaaS solutions to satisfy consumer appetite for Analytics and Data

On Monday, October 13, 2014, Salesforce.com announced the debut of a new cloud, SaaS solution named “Wave” (https://www NULL.salesforce NULL.com/company/news-press/press-releases/2014/10/141013 NULL.jsp). Back on September 16, 2014, IBM announced “Watson Analytics”, once again, a cloud SaaS, but, this time, a freemium offer. So it’s safe to say Analytics for the masses has become a new competitive ground for big, mature ISVs to contend for more market share.

A couple of points are worth noting about the Salesforce.com press release:

  1. GE Capital is mentioned as already using Wave. Given GE’s own recent PR campaign around its own data and analytics effort, one must wonder why the business finance component of the company opted not to use the home grown solution ostensibly available to it
  2. Informatica is mentioned as an “ecosystem” partner for Wave and released its own press release, titled Informatica Cloud Powers Wave, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud, to Break Down Big Data Challenges and Deliver Insights (http://www NULL.marketwatch NULL.com/story/informatica-cloud-powers-wave-the-salesforce-analytics-cloud-to-break-down-big-data-challenges-and-deliver-insights-2014-10-13)

The Wave announcement follows, by less than a month, IBM’s announcement of a freemium offer for “Watson Analytics”, and Oracle’s “Analytics Cloud”. Both of these offers are delivered via a cloud, SaaS model. So it’s likely safe to say enterprise technology consumers have demonstrated a significant appetite for analytics. The decision by Salesforce.com, IBM, and Oracle to all deliver their solutions via a cloud, SaaS offer speaks to the new enterprise computing topology (a heterogeneous computing environment) and the need to look to browsers as the ideal thin clients for users to work with their data online.

An ample supply of structured and unstructured data is likely motivating these enterprise tech consumers to look for methods of producing the kind of dashboards and graphs each of these analytics offers is capable of producing. With data collection methods advancing, particularly for big data (unstructured data), this appetite doesn’t look to abate anytime soon.

ISVs with solutions already available, principally Microsoft with its suite of Power tools for Excel (PowerBI, PowerPivot, etc), may also be participating in this “feeding frenzy”. It will be interesting to see how each of the ISVs with offers for this market fare over the next few business quarters.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

23
Sep

IBM Debuts BI Applications Powered by Watson Running on an iPad

On September 6, 2014, the New York Times published an article written by Steve Lohr on, arguably, a new look for IBM’s Watson machine learning solution, which is, apparently, an ambidextrous tool. This time Watson was said to be powering a rich set of BI dashboards displayed on an iPad. The article is titled IBM Offers a Data Tool for the Mainstream, With Watson’s Help (http://bits NULL.blogs NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2014/09/16/ibm-offers-a-data-tool-for-the-mainstream-with-watsons-help/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=technology&_r=0).

The image displayed on the web page presenting this article says a lot. A woman holds an Apple iPad tablet computer, which is exposing a set of Business Intelligence (BI) charts, dials, and the rest of the usual accoutrements of what are commonly referred to as “dashboards”. Presumably the woman holding the tablet is an example of Gartner’s notion of a “citizen developer”, meaning the type of power user targeted by this marketing effort for Watson. For readers otherwise unfamiliar with the notion, a “citizen developer” is an enterprise business user, with some authority, who maintains a voracious appetite for technology, but can’t write software, and has little interest in learning how to code. These people devour so-called “no-code” applications built on workflows.

By “says a lot”, this writer means the notion of someone (like the woman depicted in the image, who is enthusiastic about technology) high on energy, but low on computer programming skills, successfully creating a full-featured dashboard of data, without recourse to developers, points to a direct, head-to-head competition between Apple/IBM and Microsoft for the same market, namely enterprise customers looking for “no-code” solutions and lots of BI.

The product on the table on the Microsoft side, in this presumed comparison, is Office 365 and the suite of BI solutions included in the Power BI Excel offer. IBM certainly has the position in the enterprise computing space to represent a serious, credible threat to Microsoft’s dominance. The fact the dashboard is depicted running on an Apple iPad, rather than a Microsoft Surface is, as well, something to think about.

This competition is nothing new. IBM and Microsoft have fiercely competed for BI business before. IBM’s Cognos has traditionally owned a large piece of the market, with Microsoft challenging via a combination of SQL Server, SharePoint, and efforts of some prominent partners — notably Neudesic (http://www NULL.neudesic NULL.com). What is different about the potential challenge represented by the combination depicted in Lohr’s article, is the dramatically lower cost of acquisition likely for the kind of solution we see running on the lady’s iPad. Redmond will likely get the wake up call.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

29
Aug

IBM has not exited the midrange enterprise server market, just the X86 segment

On August 22, 2014, IBM® announced a program to encourage Big Data and Cloud app development by Linux ISVs for its Power Systems servers (http://www-03 NULL.ibm NULL.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/44634 NULL.wss). So it should be safe to say, despite selling their X86 hardware server business to Lenovo, IBM is still very much committed to a business strategy segment built around computing hardware architecture.

The notion of encouraging 3rd party application development for IBM’s branded hardware makes sense, but the past history of how well IBM has executed on similar opportunities is spotty, at best. The biggest example of IBM missing on these efforts, of course, can be found in the history of what once was known as the “IBM PC”, which is presently referred to simply as “PCs”. After first opening the market for an operating system, at the application layer, for its X86 processor architecture, in 1981; then partnering with Microsoft® for the O/S, and, later Intel® for mass production of chips running the supporting X86 firmware; IBM found itself exiting the entire business a short 6 years later in 1987. Somehow IBM failed to deliver on the promise of this device, to its own detriment.

Similar patterns of awkward relationships with third parties can be found in the history of what was once IBM’s core revenue segment — the mainframe computer. Almost all of the 3rd party developers for IBM’s mainframe platform have vanished. A brief look at the website of one of these, Cullinet (http://cullinet NULL.net) (actually Cullinet came to life on hardware manufactured by GE, but later received a port over to the IBM mainframe) provides the telltale markers repeated many times, by other 3rd party ISVs writing solutions for IBM’s mainframe platform, over the years.

At the same time, the history of the core components of IBM’s Power System Server hardware (principally AIX) has been less than a complete success. Perhaps the promise of attractive margins is worth the effort represented by a program like the one IBM announced on August 22, but if IBM reverts to its familiar pattern of positioning its own mainframe computer line as a better solution to this midrange, distributed computing platform, the program results are likely to be disappointing.

Once again, watching the rollout of this program should be high on the list of activities worth some time for anyone with a substantial interest in IBM.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved