Enterprise tech ISVs should recommend hybrid computing platform scenarios to their customers

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthEnterprise technology consumers have made their reluctance clear. In most cases they will not agree to incur the expense and effort required to migrate on-premises computing platforms, like Microsoft SharePoint, to public cloud tenancy. So the ISVs owning the IP supporting these platforms, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM, EMC, etc, should promote hybrid computing scenarios to these customers.

Anyone reading an article written by Jeffrey Schwartz, and published to the RedmondMag web site on February 20, 2015, will get this dose of reality. The article is titled SharePoint MVPs: ‘On-Prem is Very Much Alive and Well’, and is composed of a set of quotes from participants in a TweetJam, including Asif Rehmani, who is a client of ours. Rehmani is the CEO of VisualSP. VisualSP is also the name of Rehmani’s leading product, which, in my opinion, should be a core component in any adoption strategy for SharePoint for a large community of users. VisualSP provides SharePoint users with access to high powered technical tips, in video format, directly within the SharePoint workspace — in other words, “in-context”. This writer serves as Vice President for Business Development for Rehmani’s company.

The TweetJam was organized by Christian Buckley who also served as its moderator. Buckley, himself, is a SharePoint MVP and a familiar spokesperson on SharePoint topics.

The specific challenge platforms represent to stakeholders thinking about migrating enterprise applications to public cloud alternatives, is the opportunity users have, more often than not, seized to customize them. An ERP system built on SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft components, for example, usually includes an extensive set of features either provided by third parties, or built, from the ground up, with custom code. As the MVPs quoted in Schwartz’s article make clear, from their quotes, the effort required to migrate these “computing realms” entirely over to a public cloud PaaS like Office 365 is a non-starter.

Apparently Microsoft (the clear leader in this effort. Microsoft has used its “Mobile First, Cloud First” campaign to help its enterprise computing customers decide to migrate to Office 365 and Azure. The start of this campaign coincided with Satya Nadella’s ascendance to the position of CEO of the company in 2014. Nadella was the first to articulate this slogan of the Microsoft brand) has gotten this message. Several articles were published over the last two days about an event freshly added to the Microsoft Ignite schedule for May, 2014 — an early peek at SharePoint Server 2016.

This change is a healthy transformation of a campaign which appears to have been too brittle for its targeted audience to adopt. Hybrid computing scenarios, with a public cloud component supporting appropriately chosen computing requirements, operating, in tandem, with an on-premises data center, is the solution the enterprise computing market appears to favor. After all, no one likes ultimatums — least of all one’s core customers.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Microsoft Acquires InMage and Adds Another Dimension to Its Hybrid Cloud Storage Offer

Microsoft publicly announced its purchase of InMage on July 11, 2014. With this purchase Microsoft adds another solution to its growing list of answers for enterprise businesses migrating to a hybrid computing architecture built with on premises and cloud IaaS, SaaS components. The other product in this lineup is the StorSimple Hybrid cloud storage offer, which partners hardware from Seagate with custom software to provide a backup method for data reposed on Azure.

Why the need for these solutions? As this writer discovered recently, business subscribers to Microsoft’s Office 365, with data residing in business silos (with, in turn, their own databases) may have a very difficult time retracting this information, once it is uploaded to the cloud. If the information resides in Access 2013, for example, once the data is sent to the Office 365 cloud as an Access 2013 App, it will be converted to SQL Server data, regardless of whether or not the customer maintains a license for SQL Server or not. The Access 2013 App simply lands “somewhere in Azure” and cannot be retrieved.

For larger businesses, this kind of experience is untenable (and for understandable reasons). Given the urgency of Microsoft’s objective to emerge as the premier provider of solutions to a “mobile first, cloud first” market, proceeding without a solution directly assuaging market concerns about the data integrity of a hybrid computing architecture with on premise and cloud venues, disaster recovery, and simply periodic backup of the whole thing to on premise servers and storage is an unacceptable option. Evidently Redmond has gotten a lot of the message on just what can be expected of enterprise business on the question of cloud computing migrations.

As Takeshi Numoto states in his blog post announcement of the InMage acquisition, the “business continuity” solution represented by the InMage product running on Azure actually expands the attractiveness of Azure as a premier cloud, IaaS option not only for enterprise customers standardized on Windows, but also for their counterparts running Linux or even VMware. So InMage expands the reach of Azure, while, at the same time, providing a unique feature neither Google Compute, nor Amazon AWS can offer, at least for the near future.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


The Microsoft Cloud Promotional Campaign Debuts Without a Formal Introduction

Microsoft has debuted a new promotional campaign, ‘The Microsoft Cloud’. This campaign is targeted to the core of Microsoft’s customer base — enterprise business. The campaign includes a highly integrated set of customer testimonials, position statements, and presentations of components of the solution.

This campaign launched with little formal fanfare, breaking with what has come to be Microsoft’s “typical” approach to introducing a new set of marketing concepts. So the campaign has, to date, successfully avoided the usual critical reaction from popular media. Of even greater importance, rather than foisting “Microsoft’s” version of popular computing concepts, this campaign simply starts with a familiar presentation on cloud computing and merely brands it as “Microsoft’s” cloud. The campaign breaks further from the recent past with a very clear focus on enterprise business prospects and their need for hybrid clouds, which amount to an integration of on premises computing systems –SQL Server, Windows Server– with Office 365. Promotional content is highly integrated with product presentations juxtaposed with client testimonials and even success stories.

The theme of the campaign includes four components:

  1. Insights
  2. Productivity
  3. Social
  4. and Platform

1) Insights

Insights amount to analytics, and include Microsoft’s BI offers, CRM, and Power BI for Office 365. But on premises BI solutions, including SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014 are also promoted. Microsoft’s new embrace of 3rd party computing platforms (for example, the announced port of Office to the Apple iPad device platform) is represented in the Power BI presentation with a presentation of how Power BI can be connected to SAP Business Objects.

2) Productivity

The “Productivity” presentation is all about Office 365, with no mention of SharePoint anywhere in at least the first 4 screens I reviewed. There is no on premises solution included in this plank of the Microsoft Cloud solution. But there is a section devoted to the “Office 365 Trust Center”, ostensibly to persuade enterprise prospects on the security of the Productivity computing platform.

3) Social

Once again, I found no mention of SharePoint within the first few screens of the “Social” presentation, which is filled with a lot of information about Yammer, and a new set of “Social CRM” capabilities, which are built on the CRM product.

4) Platform

The last plank of the solution, Platform, is a lot about Azure, but also very much a position statement on the notion of “hybrid cloud”.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Wall Street Looks Favorably on Microsoft’s Efforts to Restructure

Wall Street analysts are beginning to see the promising signs of a successful effort at Microsoft® to reorganize its business to better service emerging needs of its core customers (meaning larger organizations in the private, public and not for profit sectors) for a wider set of computing devices (including tablets and smart phones), and comparatively less expensive multi tenant public cloud SaaS offers.

As recently as Tuesday, October 1, 2013, Tiernan Ray wrote a short piece titled MSFT: UBS Cuts Target to $37, Says Look Past Higher Spending, where he quotes analysts from Citigroup and UBS as having “buy” ratings on the stock. The argument is Microsoft may end up spending significantly more money fueling the reorganization than investors would have expected earlier, but the payoff will be a good one.

So the analyst community is now much more sanguine on Microsoft’s chances than they were as recently as a mere couple of months back. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this new found optimism about this mature ISV spills over into their opinions on Oracle, SAP and IBM. Bottom line, these mature ISVs will make a lot of money as they begin to successfully address the needs of their long standing core customers with better products and services.

Given the ever present noise about security issues with cloud computing (despite some claims published on the Wall Street Journal’s CIO blog, attributed to Verizon, that big customers are no less enthused about multi tenant cloud offers than they were before revelation of the NSA Surveillance program), I think the installed base of on premise software already owned and maintained by these mature ISVs for their customers will provide a very compelling reason for the same customers to look first to these vendors and only later to pure cloud SaaS offers.

Finally, with the very visible position the Nokia acquisition gives them as a prominent manufacturer of smart phones, and their dogged determination to get the Surface tablets “right” for the “right” market, I can’t see Microsoft losing. It may take a while, but they will win at this game, eventually.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved