Web 4.0 – the web has grown up! Are we ready?

Watching children grow up is really amazing. I’ve just come home from a short business trip and as soon as I got my hug, I got the feeling that my children had grown in the few days I was away. Watching the next generation really shows you how fast the world is changing. When I sat back later in the evening, I wondered:  Are we witnessing the next generation 4.0 of the Web grow up?

How will cloud computing influence the way the Web evolves? How can we deal effectively with the massive amount of information that is created by all the networked smart devices? When will we finally be able to benefit from cloud computing  (if we want to)? Well, it seems that substantial change could happen within the next 12 months. Some days ago, German high-tech organization Bitkom announced  that cloud computing will be one of the biggest  trends this year – actually, THE trend. Over 66 percent of German businesses see the cloud as their top priority– for the third year in a row. Once it takes off, it will transform more than just the way we work.

Sales of cloud services for private and business customers in Germany are predicted to reach 13 billion euros by 2015. That is three times current revenues! Attentive observers may already have noticed that competition within the cloud market is increasing. This yields benefits for cloud consumers, as more and more specialized providers enhance their offers.

This, however, is only one small effect of the rise of cloud computing. Like an accelerator, it will boost two other trends:

  1. Mobile computing. Mobile computing is Number 2 on the priorities list of 53 percent of German businesses. People just love their smartphones, tablet PCs and other devices. What’s most important though: executives in particular are starting to realize the advantages and are driving change from the top down.
  2. Enterprise networking – on the human scale. Internal communication within a company will rely more and more on social networking solutions. With your office in your pocket, you’ll always be connected and instantly up to date. Initially, the connection will be mainly internal, with your coworkers. However, in the long run, it will open up organizations to communicate and interact directly with their customers, partners and stakeholders.

All this leads us to the next level of connectivity – Web 4.0. Seth Godin talked about it in his blog back in 2007. Though the term still lacks a properly accepted, broader definition, we already have all the ingredients Seth associated with Web 4.0 today: ubiquity (through the cloud and mobile computing), identity (through social networks) and connection (through social media). To put it in a nutshell – Web 4.0 is about making connections between individuals, about serendipity beyond simple search engines and, last but not least, about the network of all my peers taking initiative, boosting each other. You might look at it as extending your capabilities through the cloud – much like a well-connected family helps you to be much stronger than you are alone.

To me, this describes not only the future of the Web but also the future of our culture. Behavior and attitudes follow function and technology, so to speak. In the near future, social networking and different cloud models will enable more and more people to collaborate closely on an international level. Technology already affords us this freedom today. In turn, increasing collaboration and direct contacts will change how we deal with people and how we deal with daily challenges at work. Successful support channels on Twitter and Facebook may provide a glimpse of how this interaction may look in the future.

However, it is not just about change within our work environment. Objects and people will be connected in physical as well as virtual worlds. Augmented reality already connects real life with data, generating tremendous benefit. An armada of smart devices is connected to the net and creates enormous amounts of data – from a simple photo, a foursquare check to GPS data in your car or phone. The Internet of things is starting to free us from menial tasks like tracking and documenting the flow of goods. Examples are the monitoring of food transport or the tracking of pharmaceutical goods which make sure that the consumer gets high quality products. Through the cloud all these data can be linked and generate value. Many different scenarios are imaginable and possible – like health systems that continuously monitor one’s medical condition and suggest interventions when necessary. I am sure, if you think about it, you will find dozens of similar first steps in your own environment.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Only the miserable student does not surpass his master”. Maybe it is time to acknowledge that the next generation of technology has grown up to teach us a thing or two. For instance, a change in the way we use technology might be more important than the technology itself. From a business perspective, this raises the question of who should be driving that change. Should it be management? Or will it be a grassroots change that comes from employees? What are the obstacles to change? Is it technology or is it attitude and mindset?  What’s your view on Web 4.0?

 

Yours sincerely,

Andre Kiehne

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Embrace change to stay in the driver’s seat

I was on my way to see a customer in the northern part of Germany this week when my flight was delayed due to fog. It was actually the perfect setting as we were going to talk about cloud services.
This particular customer had decided to optimize his IT environment with a standardized internal solution stack that provides automation as well as virtualization. So far, so good. The question I wanted to raise, however, was – Is this the best solution stack for cloud services as well? Do you even need the same stack in the cloud? Do you really want to shift resources to scale your IT up and down in a cloud environment? In short, does technology really drive IT improvement?
My short answer is – no! Ultimately, cloud services are not a question of technology; they are a matter of business needs. Cloud services are about optimization, flexibility and competitiveness. As a result, the decision about what a business needs should not be left up to the IT department alone. Business units should have a say in the matter as well.

It’s only human nature that we stick to tried-and-trusted solutions. Thus, there is a tendency on the part of IT departments to pick known solutions from known vendors and to stick to proven processes and principles – an easy and successful approach in the past. Today, however, this approach has maneuvered us into a lack of flexibility, a lack of cost efficiency and – the major downside – a lack of innovation for business units and the entire company.
In contrast, cloud computing has become a commodity with a direct line to the end user. The danger that business units will bypass IT is greater than ever. It’s a situation that no business can tolerate.
So how can IT stay in the driver’s seat? My advice would be to embrace change. Honestly answer some tough questions like:
•    Are we trapped in a closed eco system?
•    Do we need to optimize the old technology stack? Or are its limitations already apparent?
•    Do we really want to continue counting CPU’s, say, for licensing software?
•    Would a hybrid solution provide a better fit for our business needs?
•    Is the existing provider an adequate partner?

Coming back to the questions posed at the beginning, I would like you to ponder the following:
•    Would you agree that cloud services are cost efficient due to the use of tightly integrated technology managed and shared by multiple customers?
•    Would you agree that individualized IT services may be a nice luxury? However, in order to gain maximum benefit from the cloud, would you agree that it should be strictly standardized to the needs of business units or processes?
If your answer to the latter question is “yes”, you probably would agree that technology is not the most important factor when it comes to cloud services. Regardless of how you optimize your internal IT in terms of automation and virtualization, choose a cloud provider who is able to support you in bridging today and tomorrow. And make sure he is not simply integrating good old technologies while urging you to continue counting processors, spending money on pre-investments and calculating license costs.
Be bold! Seize the opportunity! Improve your IT and your approach to it as a matter of business, and not just technology. From a customer’s perspective, technology should be irrelevant when it comes to the cloud. All that counts are the results.

Yours,

Andre Kiehne

A call to action to distributors: May the cloud be with you

Cloud computing is not only changing the life of CIOs; it is also having a great impact on the IT retail structure. The shift from retail to e-tail is not only happening in the consumer space. Resellers are increasingly turning to online stores for their purchases as well – thus slowly turning the likes of Amazon into distributors. According to a recent IDG survey, 4 out of 5 resellers think that online and multi-channel distribution is becoming more significant (Link). Only a few of those resellers, though, actually act accordingly and beef up their online offerings. I believe that cloud services can help classic distributors defend their position and, at the same time, deliver better service to their customers.

 

The challenge that lies ahead for distributors is a big one or, as one customer put it this week, “We have to decide whether we want to stay in this business or whether we want to sell food instead.” Leading e-tailers like Amazon have the potential to outdistance classic distributors in many ways. They have great logistics in place and are already well prepared for the cloud business. All they have to do is combine their existing business models – hardware supply and cloud services.

Amazon has already entered the corporate market, building up logistics hubs all over the world. Their cloud services enable them to combine traditional product sales with a new kind of service sales. For example, with every notebook you buy you get free cloud space. This sounds simple and nothing like a killer feature at first sight. However, once the technology matures, it can give customers access to an ecosystem of applications and services with every thin client.

So, is the death of the classic distributor merely a question of time? I don’t think so. On the contrary, I am convinced that cloud services offer a great opportunity for the distribution channel in two ways. And “service” is the magic word for both of them.

Firstly, professional distribution is the key to successful delivery of cloud services. There is an increasing need on the part of resellers for technical and personal support in choosing the right product, the correct approach, the best combination – a field where distributors are well positioned. They are well positioned because they already have established customer relationships; they are trusted partners. (And I believe that trust is one of the most important factors in the cloud business (Link). This, however, requires that distributors not only offer products but also give their resellers access to services and business solutions. Distributors need to build up skills in advising customers which cloud service is the best and how to integrate it. This approach will be even more successful if vendors also offer their product services and business solutions via a store – like the Fujitsu Business Solutions Store. This kind of store will also be an important component of distributors’ e-tail solutions in the future.

Secondly, cloud services can also help distributors to deliver better services to their customers. From security to helpdesk, or the provisioning of applications, there are many scenarios where the cloud can speed up processes and improve service quality.

Distributors can thus profit from – and with – the cloud, by adding value to their services. My advice: rather than being scared of the landslide that is happening just now in the distribution landscape,  a distributor who wants a bright business perspective ought to consider becoming a cloud aggregator and seize the opportunities the cloud has to offer.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Andre Kiehne

Stay independent. Stay flexible.

Have you flown recently? Remember the safety instructions? Some of those presentations may amuse you or bore you as much as they amuse and bore me. You certainly expect to disembark safely at your destination (and hopefully you did). But knowing how to exit may save your life. And on your first flight, that knowledge may also have given you more confidence. It is essential to know the way out in many other situations as well, whether it’s a party or a lengthy business meeting.

It may sound absurd, but I think having an exit strategy from the cloud BEFORE you enter it is a must. It saves money and soothes nerves. And knowing how to exit might even make the decision to enter less trying (http://blog.ts.fujitsu.com/face2fujitsu/?p=3740). By “exit”, I mean two scenarios: First, the day might come when you want to have your data back home again for reasons we cannot even foresee. Secondly, if you look at it realistically, it is unlikely that you will stay with the same provider forever. You might also want to exchange data and services between private and trusted cloud or between cloud and on-premise services. Your requirements and needs may change with time or in light of legislation, and maybe your provider will no longer be able to meet them. Your service provider might even cease to exist or change its own business model, forcing you to migrate to another cloud service.

What we need is a comprehensive plan for future scenarios in order to stay flexible. After all, that is what cloud services are all about. At this point, I cannot stress enough how important it is to establish common standards for the cloud industry to ensure exactly that. We have come pretty far already at the technical level, with inter-operative standards for virtualization of machines and storage. It is a good starting point, but what we ultimately need are standards for licensing software on an as-needed basis, and common interfaces between different cloud services.

Until that happens, however, I can only advise any company that is considering cloud services to define appropriate SLAs and ensure that its contracts are not restrictive. Data has to be portable. Period. This sounds banal, but it is crucial that your data is not proprietary to the provider’s system and that you obtain it in a standardized format. There should be an open application programming interface available, easing access and portability.

Last, but not least, develop a migration plan. In order to assure a smooth process, keep some providers on file who can pitch in on short notice. This will speed up the whole process and will become even more important if your own IT staff cannot cover or master the services. Bear in mind that you will probably generate a large amount of data in the cloud – so get prepared for the process of extracting and migrating it. A good cloud provider will have appropriate answers to these challenges and will even provide services for them.

Once you’ve cleared all this up, you can stow your tray table in the seatback in front of you, put your seat in the upright position and relax. You’re ready for takeoff.

See you in the cloud(s),

Andre Kiehne

What Color is the Cloud? Is it the ‘New Black’?

I recently had a chance to go shopping with my family and the inevitable happened – I ended up being the jury for some truly breathtaking fashion. Sitting there and waiting for the next revelation, I asked myself: “If you had to attach a color to the cloud, what would it be? Would it be red for alarm? Or blue for the wide-open sky? Or green for ecological advances? Or a grayish-brown mixture that tries to be all things to all people?”

For me, the cloud is the new black. It’s like the black dress that makes every woman appear noble and elegant, or like the sports car that every man dreams of driving (to labor a few clichés). Black stands for power, respectability, elegance and sophistication. In short: it’s attractive.

It’s so attractive that eighty percent of workers are using cloud services to accelerate their jobs. The new technology often comes through the – unguarded – backdoor. If you ask a company whether it is using cloud services, the IT department will probably say “no” whereas its employees will answer with a cheerful “yes”. This is not a secure, compliant approach. The challenge for IT departments is to get back into the driver’s seat. Introduce technologies that provide flexibility and simplify work processes. If you don’t, users will do it themselves.

By opting for cloud services, a company will also become more attractive to new and younger employees. They grew up with mobile devices that provide online data access anytime, anywhere. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are second nature to them. However, concepts like “Bring your own IT” or the use of social networks in the workplace are much easier to implement in a cloud infrastructure. Adopting the cloud will pay out twofold for businesses – they will establish an effective HR instrument and at the same time, they will ease daily communication and information transfer.

The black dress only looks good if it fits your figure perfectly. So take your time and find the perfect size and style. The elegance of cloud computing lies in its flexibility; it also eliminates multiple steps in the traditional IT purchasing process. Trial runs proceed hassle-free, and amendments are easy and fast (if your provider has the right infrastructure). Once you have clearly defined your needs, all it takes to adapt is to hit the “enter” key and you get a sleek fit.

Take Fujitsu, for example. Our company is constantly adapting as well. We are extending our scope steadily to deliver real business solutions. As reported in my last post during Forum 2011, we have announced the Business Solutions Store for the spring of 2012. ISVs can now easily provide their software as a service.

So if you haven’t already done so, get ready to show offyour IT black dress!

Yours,

Andre Kiehne

P.S.: Of course, the shopping spree ended up with a gorgeous black dress. Wouldn’t you know it?

Vibrant Cloud Formation during Fujitsu Forum 2011

I hope you’ve all had an exciting and inspiring time at the Fujitsu Forum 2011. If you could not attend, here is my very personal wrap-up of impressions: In a nutshell, I was thoroughly overwhelmed by the positive resonance and the many talks I had with attendees. Cloud computing was definitely one of the most intensively discussed topic.

I believe that Forum 2011 was so important because many people came together at the right time to discuss everything about the cloud – and start their individual journey to cloud formation. As diverse the experts’ perspectives and backgrounds were as intriguing and bold were their ideas, thoughts and opinions.

For example, Jeremy Worrell, Director of Cloud Computing, asked an important question: Is a cloud strategy, in a traditional sense, still adequate? A cloud, if faultily implemented, will cause more costs than it actually saves. New technologies require new approaches, he believes – and I quite agree with him. Business agility is more than just a fancy term; it is a prerequisite for success. Consequently, Worrel proposes a radical approach. Put strategy into question and prefer a modern, analytical approach that reconciles the cloud service with the broader IT and business strategy.

Since its launch at the Fujitsu Forum the majority of feedback and requests I receive is about our new Business Solution Store and Fujitsu’s commitment for the next level of a partner-friendly eco-system. It is actually overwhelming to see how many software vendors appreciate this step forward and want to be part of the eco-system from the very beginning. They all agree that in order to make the cloud an option for every company a joint effort of all market players is necessary.

The democratization of the software market, the rise of open source and the new flexibility and elasticity that cloud itself brings are the important drivers. And this is what Fujitsu provides in the Business Solutions Store: Through this marketplace, independent software vendors (ISVs) get a strong and trusted partner for offering their software as a service in a certified and tested, no-risk technical environment. They are then free to invest in staff or infrastructure and, via the subscription-based pricing model, they can invoice business applications precisely on a pay-per-use basis. This is a great way to enter a global market and conduct business without borders. And this road to the cloud is short, sweet and flexible (or “elastic” as Stephan Kaiser, Senior Vice President of PAC put it). According to Björn Kreutzfeld, Director of Platform as a Service & ISV Business, it only takes three steps: 1. Define Go To Market, 2. Technical Interface Integrations and 3. Enjoy (Cloud Business)! It’s that simple!

The Fujitsu Forum was, of course, the right place for those who have been seeking a complete overview of cloud computing and all related topics. From private cloud to hybrid cloud, from community cloud to public cloud – every aspect was covered. Of course, security was a top theme. What I really liked was that in his presentation, David Robinson, Chief Security Officer and Director of Information Security, went into every single security consideration and illustrated Fujitsu’s approach – which is based on know-how and competence as well as on partnership and trust.

After two vibrant days at the Fujitsu Forum, I am now even more optimistic that cloud services will take off. The numbers from Stephan Kaiser of PAC point in the same direction. His prediction: cloud business will grow by 30 percent by 2015, whereas the whole IT market will only grow 5 percent in the same time. This is truly a game-changing shift in the marketplace.

 

Sincerely,

 

Andre Kiehne

 

P.S.: If you’d like to have a look at all the presentations, I recommend clicking slideshare or rummaging through the face2fujitsu-blog.