Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cloud buzz: is it cheaper or wiser?

I did a piece for an industry website which focused on opportunities for companies like mine.    I'm reusing that content, but thinking about what it means for our customers.

In that article, I discussed some content that my HTG colleague, Reed Wilson from Palmetto Technology, recently sent over.  He saw a marketing pitch a cloud software provider in the healthcare space.   The pitch boiled down to essentially "You were never trained to use Facebook or Gmail and you’ll never need to be trained on our software.  That’s the beauty of Cloud Computing."

Reed intelligently continues with some analysis.  He notes that it sets a very unrealistic expectation for the buyer.    Comparing practice management software to Gmail or Facebook is unrealistic.   Does the cloud application handle complex workflows and work processes?

It does, Reed continues, sell.  And some customers are buying the pitch, even if it doesn't always result in what they think it is.  The perception is that cloud computing is automatically cheaper than going with an on-premise one .   When we compare the on-premise with cloud solutions, they are often very similar.

The true promise of cloud computing is not “simplicity” or “cheap”, but in a wiser way to spend IT dollars, giving higher reliability and lower administration costs.  That doesn’t necessarily result in “simple” or cheap”.   This is critically important to examine when looking at a cloud solution.

This discussion expanded when Mike Ritsema with i3 Business Solutions chimed in.    He brought some facts to bear.

"IBM made 84% of their profit last year from services and software.  They’ve acquired over 100 companies in these areas over the last 10 years.  7% of their profit came from hardware.  They love the complication of integrating disparate technology."

Mike's list of ways companies integrate into the cloud was dead on:

EDI

Payroll

Web browsing

Buying

RFP / RFI

Collaboration

Blogs, Social Networking

E-mail

Mike outlined a recent customer solution, showing where he brought value to a small business.   "I just finished a small business a deal:  QuickBooks, Fishbowl Distribution Software, EZ Connector integration software, ASP DOT NET eCommerce, Authorize .NET Credit Card Processing, Cloud email, IBM Server, Cisco Firewall, implementation services, and Redundant internet access."   His company's value, and the area they see growth, opportunity, and the ability to make money in helping customers, is bolting and holding "this stuff together" for the next decade.

Mike continues, however, noting "It’s as complicated or more complicated than an on premise solution."  This means it's not necessarily "cheaper" but it does add significant capabilities to his customer, something they couldn't have before.

We see cloud computing as incredibly powerful -- but we also see more and more confusion in the market place.  Cloud computing is a new paradigm, a new way to deliver some solutions.   It offers high availability where it couldn't be delivered before.   It doesn't always mean "cheap", however.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little to say, but financials on the mind

I've had little to say.

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me, as post WPC i had work to do, and then a week in the UK for HTG11 and a few more days in Chicago for HTG5.    Now that those are done, I'm in those few moments before I dig in again.

I'm doing a financial analysis piece that one of my HTG5 colleagues shared with me this week.  It's an interesting model -- looking at your rate of change over time to understand how the business grows and shrinks as the business ebbs and flows.   I've done the first round by putting the numbers together and seeing the trends.  I want to lay on our history and the information about the economy to see how much was "me" and how much was "outside me".

So I'm off to do that.   Financials on the mind....

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Speaking at WPC - and it's

So I'm speaking at WPC.  And some of the meat is stuff I'll be able to talk about at 3:31pm on Wednesday, July 14.

Here's my session:

SMB04 The Meaning of Cloud Computing for My Small or Midsize Business

[full description]

Wednesday, July 14 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM WCC-143AB

Session Type: Breakout Session

Track: Core Infrastructure, Small and Midsize Business Partner

Speaker(s): Marco Di Giacomo

Cloud-based infrastructure solutions can now be delivered at an affordable price that... brings enterprise-class functionality, reliability, and security within the reach of virtually every small and midsized business. Are you ready to build and deploy Windows-based infrastructure and help your customers reduce the cost and complexity of new productivity-enhancing Cloud Computing services? Join this session to learn about how to shift from hands-on tactical hardware and software upgrades, day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting, and instead focus your limited resources toward leveraging Microsoft infrastructure solutions to deliver new strategic business outcomes that can grow the topline and better control the bottom line.

More

Cloud-based infrastructure solutions can now be delivered at an affordable price that brings enterprise-class functionality, reliability, and security within the reach of virtually every small and midsized business. Are you ready to build and deploy Windows-based infrastructure and help your customers reduce the cost and complexity of new productivity-enhancing Cloud Computing services? Join this session to learn about how to shift from hands-on tactical hardware and software upgrades, day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting, and instead focus your limited resources toward leveraging Microsoft infrastructure solutions to deliver new strategic business outcomes that can grow the topline and better control the bottom line.


I think you should go.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Help Out Eric Ligman!

Review my performance – Your input counts! - Microsoft SMB Community Blog - By Eric Ligman - Site Home - MSDN Blogs:

I'm reposting this from Eric Ligman, so you can help him out -- he's asking for a few minutes of your time, so if you're in the Microsoft community, help him out.  From his blog post:

"For any of you that have been following me over the years, you know that I have been very open about my goal in my role to help increase the satisfaction of Microsoft partners around the world in working with Microsoft through things like: helping provide information of value and interest, providing correct answers to questions (even when it is not the popular answer), helping address concerns and opportunities, directing you to relevant and important information, providing avenues for input into and out of Microsoft, connection opportunities with Microsoft, and much, much more.  (In fact, I have this openly stated on my overview page about me)  This year has been no exception.

Now is your opportunity to provide your input and feedback into how I am doing.  Here at Microsoft, as many of you know, our fiscal year runs July 1 – June 30, which means we are approaching the end of our year here in a few weeks.  Like every other company, we do annual performance reviews internally where people’s performances are evaluated to determine how well they are performing.  Since I focus so much of my time to helping organizations outside of Microsoft, like our Microsoft partners around the world, I am providing you with an opportunity to have your voice heard in evaluating how I am doing.  "

 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tracking Systems

I believe in tracking systems.      Not spy movie style tracking systems, but rather the idea of having something that keeps track of everything in your business.

For Evolve, this system is the heart of what we do.  Everything is tracked within it, and we have signs posted around the office that say "if it's not in ConnectWise, it doesn't exist".  Only things written down and documented are managed.  Because if it can't be measured, it can't be managed.   I recently wrote a piece about this for my industry colleagues, and I think it's very relevant for my customers.

If you’re driving a car, you require a pretty steady stream of data to ensure you’re operating well. Your speedometer ensures you’re going the right speed, you keep an eye on the gas tank, your GPS for directions, your mirrors to know what is around you, and even the feel of the car to know how it’s running. But driving your car on feel alone would be impossible.

The same is true of business. Without good metrics, you can’t know how well the business is running without knowing the details. How efficient is your team? How profitable? How does your sales pipe look? Is your marketing functioning?

It’s important to take the time and measure all the parts, so as you adjust and make decisions, you know how well you’re doing. If you make a change to the way services are delivered, did you make it better? You only know if you know how well it worked before, and thus an improvement or slowdown in service will be shown via those metrics. Sales suffer from much the same problem. If you don’t measure, how do you know how well you’re doing?

There are multiple systems to help with tracking these kind of metrics, and generally fit into the category of "Customer Relationship Management", or CRM.   These tools let you track the various pieces of your business, and tie into your financial metrics systems.    Ultimately, you get insight into the various parts of your business, and let your team manage the parts that are important to them.

Embrace the numbers. They’ll help you drive your car better, and help you drive your business better.

 

 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cloud Services Roundtable -- guess who

Guess who is a new contributor to the Cloud Services Roundtable?

This guy!

http://www.cloudservicesroundtable.com/cloud-services-roundtable-blog.html

Catch me tonight doing Q&A on Virtualization

Want to talk best practices for virtualization?   Catch me tonight doing a roundtable on it.

When: Wednesday, Jun 16, 2010 6:30 PM (PDT)

Where:

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Susan Bradley has invited you to attend an online meeting using Live
Meeting.
*Join the meeting.
<https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/winserver_usergroup/join?id=Q6JHCM&role=attend&pw=8%5E-%5CzqX>*

*Audio Information*
*Computer Audio*
To use computer audio, you need speakers and microphone, or a headset.
*First Time Users:*
To save time before the meeting, check your system
<http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=90703> to make sure it is ready
to use Microsoft Office Live Meeting.
*Notes*

*Troubleshooting*
Unable to join the meeting? Follow these steps:

1. Copy this address and paste it into your web browser:
https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/winserver_usergroup/join
2. Copy and paste the required information:
Meeting ID: Q6JHCM
Entry Code: 8^-\zqX
Location: https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/winserver_usergroup

If you still cannot enter the meeting, contact support
<http://r.office.microsoft.com/r/rlidLiveMeeting?p1=12&p2=en_US&p3=LMInfo&p4=support>

*Notice*
Microsoft Office Live Meeting can be used to record meetings. By
participating in this meeting, you agree that your communications may be
monitored or recorded at any time during the meeting.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Are your VMs taking longer to startup?

The startup time increases every time after you back up the data on all the disks of the computer in Windows Server 2008 if the computer runs some virtual machines:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;982210&sd=rss&spid=14134

 


Thought I would pass this one on.

 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baseball on the mind... and the respect shown within it

I totally have baseball on the brain today, having attended the debut of the new "hottest" pitcher in baseball last night.  My buddy Matt chronicles some thoughts on the game itself, but my mind is on something that happens at every game that I thought was culturally significant.

 

IMAG0004.jpg

 

It's more significant in Washington, as the nation's capital, but every game, usually around the third inning in the game, the team calls attention to the wounded soldiers from Walter Reed who are in attendance.  Every game, the Nats bring over some of our injured to give them the night out, and the scoreboard shows "Welcome Home!".  And without fail, the stadium stands and applauds.  For me, this is just part of what's traditional at a game.   These are our soldiers, and they're to be respected.

This isn't the case everywhere in the world.  I was on a trip to the UK last year, and attended a rugby match with some good friends there.    Lots of British soldiers in attendance... and the crowd interaction was different.   The soldiers were simply more members of the crowd, bantering with those in attendance.  At one point, a group of spectators heckled the soldiers, who responded in turn with their own retorts back. The dynamic was very different than I'm used to.   I had some discussions with my British friends about it, who noted it was simply the way things were.  They didn't think anything of it.  Soldiers were just regular people.

I really enjoy the opportunities I get to travel and meet people from all around the world.   Differences are what makes us all great, and the ability to learn from those differences is key.  Certain things, however, always make you proud to be from your country. The respect we show for our armed forces her in the States... it makes me proud to be an American.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Giving up my laptop for an iPad?

I think I'm really close to being able to give up carrying a laptop on trips. 

I've been sticking to my iPad for the majority of my mobile work, and so far loving it.   Email, RSS, browsing, all work just as well on the iPad.  I do have a short list of things i can't do well.

Document editing.   All my stuff now lives either in SharePoint or in DropBox, so i can get to all my data and read anything.   I just can't edit it and put it back.  That is something i need fixed.

Instant Messaging.   I am a pretty heavy IM user, and between Skype, Windows Messenger, and AOL IM, I chat a lot.  Meebo covers a lot of that, but without multitasking, I'm either messaging or working, and that is kinda annoying.   I'm hoping the software upgrade fixes this complaint.

Blogging.  To my shock, I can't find a good blogging tool.   Sucks.

ConnectWise.   Despite making it work via Wyse PocketCloud to hosted desktop, I'm really itching to have this solved by a native app.

Presenting.   If I'm giving a presentation, I still feel I need a laptop.  While I can connect a VGA out to the iPad, using my iPhone as a remote just doesn't work for me.  I have a little presenter remote I rely on when giving a talk, and i still feel I need that setup when I'm presenting.  However, I might consider my net book in those cases now....   

But I'm close.   I'm really close to feeling like I don't need a laptop.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Want to learn about Disk defragmentation and virtualization?

Guess who one of the industry experts is?  Catch this presentation THIS Thursday!

WNS213PAL: Virtual Server Performance Degradation: “What the Frag is Going Wrong!?”

Presented by: Stephen Deming; Michael Materie

Webcast Date: 6/10/2010

Webcast Start Time: 9:30 AM (Pacific)

PLC Registration Link for Partners

Level:  100

Partner Audience: Partner IT Professional

In the world of server virtualization, there are many factors for partners to consider when tuning for optimal performance; have you ever considered data fragmentation? When examining modern virtualization deployments, we see the trend of increasing virtual machine image density on the storage volumes. Whether it’s server consolidation, dynamic allocation, or Live Migration; fragmentation is occurring. And what about inside those virtual machine images? Is the guest OS still managing fragmentation? Join Diskeeper Corporation, Microsoft, and industry experts for a thorough discussion of fragmentation in your virtual server farm, architecture & configuration considerations, and tools to help address the challenges.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

USAir crew needs to learn about how to say "Yes"

 

I tend to fly a lot.   I'm not George Clooney by any stretch, but I find myself on planes frequently.  I've had some pretty boring flights, and some good ones.   The memorable ones tend to be either really good, or really bad.   The stewardess on a flight from Chicago to DC who was cracking jokes with such a dry wit most of us didn't even notice at first was a memorable,

And then there was the miserable experience from Las Vegas home to DC.

The flight itself wasn't that bad.   While we pushed back from the gate on time (so the airline could get it's on time score) we sat on the ground for 30 minutes waiting on weather to clear in DC.  There was a lot of turbulence, and so it wasn't a particularly comfortable ride.

These little details weren't what made it painful.   I almost expect that as I fly.

What made it painful was how often the stewardess, the one who used the microphone the most, communicated with us.

I can't remember how often I was told "No" on this flight.

It started with her announcement of the delay, which went something like this.

"As the captain has indicated, we'll be on the ground a bit now.  We won't be serving any beverage service as we wait for clearance."

Ok, sure, but probably better ways to tell us this.

After the regular beverage service, which I admit I didn't pay much attention to, she announced a second service.

"We'll be coming through the cabin, offering coffee and water.  The water has no ice.   If you want anything else, we aren't offering it.  We have coffee and water with no ice."

Here's where I started noticing the trend.   Everything was "No."  I wasn't alone.  The girl next to me started snickering too, and I asked her, and she agreed -- this crew was surly, and it was about what we didn't get.

The plane had some considerable turbulence on the flight.   As you might expect, our negative nelly made sure to tell us.

"There is no standing in the aisle when the captain has the fasten seatbelt sign on.  Do not stand in the aisle."

Yes, this is a safety issue.   As I'm getting to... there's a better way to say this.

The best part, however, was about 30 minutes from landing in Washington's Reagan National Airport.  Now, DCA was the last airport to reopen after 9/11, and has notably had some different security rules.  In the past.    Her announcement.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are now 40 minutes away from landing.   Due to federal regulations, all passengers must be in their seats 30 minutes from landing at DCA.  This means you won't be able to go to the bathroom or stand up.   You cannot go to the bathroom.   If you need to go, go now.  You won't be able to get up again."

She actually counted down.

"You now have 8 minutes to go to the bathroom.  You won't be able to do after this.   There is NO going to the bathroom in 8 minutes."

The passengers were starting to snicker, but notably, those of us who fly regularly, were getting angry -- you could tell.

She then announced "It's now 30 minutes from landing.  There is no getting up."

The landing was relatively quiet, and no one did get up.   The crew was in their seats early due to the turbulence, and we landed and disembarked.

I was pretty sure the regulation she was citing was outdated, and sure enough, I was right.

http://www.tsa.gov/press/releases/2005/press_release_0607.shtm

Not only is it outdated, it's five (5!) years out of date.   She's not only wrong, but she communicated everything in a negative tone.  As I discussed with several passengers while standing in line at that 8 minute mark, everything was no.  Let's try how she COULD have said things.
When on the ground: ""As the captain has indicated, we'll be on the ground a bit now.  We'll do our best if you need anything as we wait for clearance."

For the second service, she could have just said they had water and coffee.  Why the need to tell us what she didn't have -- the ice?

For the turbulence: "Ladies and gentlemen, for your own safety, when the fasten seatbelt sign is on, please stay in your seats.   We want you safe, and the unexpected cabin movement could be very painful. "
Notice the trend so far?
There's a huge customer service difference between being positive and being negative.  On US Airways Flight 49 from LAS to DCA on June 3, the crew chose to be negative.    It's a shame.  It leaves a very bad impression.


 

 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Tipping Culture

Maybe I'll write on the weekend about fun stuff.  No idea yet.  But I did think of a pair of conversations last night that linked.

I went to the Washington Nationals game last night (and my two blogging cohorts are going again today for the blogger day), because we'd been sucked in by the potential to see the latest phenom on the pitching staff.  That's now Tuesday, when I'll go again.  Regardless...

It was the 6th inning, so about 9:30 at night, and getting to be that Washington unbearable hot when the air doesn't move.   And just as I think of a cold beer, the cry of "beerman" hits my ears, and there he is with a cold can waiting for me.    $8 later plus $1 in tip, I have the solution to my problem.

I turn to Watson and tell him how I love that moment -- the moment when you desire something and there it is, our convenience culture making it readily available for you to order or not.

I continued, saying I had met an Australian this week when in Las Vegas who had been afraid of the tipping culture in America.  He had been concerned, before arriving here for his first trip, that it would be overwhelming and expensive.   He then immediately told me how much he loved it, and how surprised he was by the difference it made.   He didn't mind the tip, because he knew the service was that much better.  He even mused about what a difference it would be if they did that in Australia too.

I think about motivation among people, and sometimes, money is a big motivation.  Not always, and not universally, but sometimes.   Pure incentive plans don't always work with technical staff, but they can help too.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Steve Jobs Ushers in Post-PC Era

Steve Jobs Ushers in Post-PC Era | Lance Ulanoff | PCMag.com:

I love this.   Absolutely love this.    It's similar to conversations I had this week, where the idea of a different form factor for consuming information is coming.

Before, we only had "computers".  Now, we embed data into everything.  Phones, pads, Kindles. The data is everywhere.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

If you had one wish... wish for BI

I sat on a panel this past trip to Las Vegas, and we spoke a variety of subjects.   The last question sparked the most interest for me personally, as it dared to ask "If you could have three wishes for your business, what would they be.". In reality, we each offered one wish

Besides the joke of piles of money, my colleagues on stage answered with good ideas that boost their businesses.   One was a full sales pipe full of potential clients who he could sell services to.  Another was offering the idea of accelerated profitability in their business.

My answer surprised a lot of folks.  I asked for a fully functioning Business Intelligence (BI) practice, such that I didn't have to build one, and had it running and ready now.

Why the radically different approach?

If you think about adding "more" to your business, you might be increasing the next quarter, or four quarters, but are you taking your business to the next level?   Double your sales pipe - sure it increases revenue, but does it protect you from changing dynamics in the market?   If I double your profitability, does that slow the drive to commoditization that all industries and products suffer from?

I'm not a doom sayer.  I don't believe that the IT solution provider business is going to disappear, driven to the cloud and make irrelevant.   As long as there are businesses that don't do IT as their mission, they will continue to need partners to help with their technology needs.

I do, however, believe that as our industry continues to mature, it will move more and more to advanced services.   Most of us don't service hardware, which used to be a huge portion of what we did.   Many don't even sell hardware anymore, viewing it as commodity.   Services themselves morphed into various flavors of managed services, and even those continue to trend, even slowly, towards the idea of being a commodity.

Thus, sitting on your laurels and doing "more" of the same isn't a long term plan.  Doubling your pipe doesn't help ensure you'll be there in ten years.   If you want to build a long term asset, you have to continue to mature.

The next leap in what we do is more challenging, however. Rather than deliver more technology services, we have to start delivering business driven technology services.   This is a subtle difference, but where Business Intelligence comes in.

Using technology to deliver business information in a timely manner is an order of magnitude different from managing the pipes we manage now.   Thus, business intelligence.

 

First post of a new blog, and I'm not telling.

I'm starting a new blog, and I'm not telling anyone about it.


I decided to start another blog when sitting at the Kaseya conference and having some musings to write down, but realized I didn't have a blog to put it on. I've long had the Evolve blog, which was intended to write to our customers about customer issues, what would be useful in the SMB space, and things they should know.


I then did a series on virtualization, and I decided that I should break that out into its own blog, and thus SMBVirtualization.net was born. While it hasn't been as active recently, I have some thoughts on that too... And likely will syndicate content here that I like into that blog.


But as I mused about some stuff I had to say about the IT industry, it didn't fit any of the places I had to write in. I write sometimes on a baseball blog, and that didn't fit either.


So I'm starting another. This is the musings of an active IT channel member, and I won't restrict the content here. It might end up being life musings, or industry musings, or anything on my mind. The other sites will get more focused content, and I reserve the right to put something here AND there. You want a filter, don't subscribe to this one.


I'll also probably link here to other places I write and contribute - as a contributor to ChannelInsider, TechTarget, and CRN, that content goes there... But I tend to like that stuff a lot, so I will link to that content on those sites.


And to top this all off, I'm not planning to promote this. Sure, I'm going to link this to Facebook and Twitter, and I'll certainly publish it. But no blast emails, no announcements of a new blog, nothing like that. If you like my drivel, share it. If you think this is too much, read the sites I promote.


I Have A Rate For That was born at the Kaseya show when I said that on stage, and it was unrelated to the specific topic. Thus, this blog.