Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bi-Modal IT: Gartner Endorses Both Disruptive and Conservative Approaches to Technology

Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too? Last week, attendees of Gartner’s IT Infrastructure and Operations Management (IOM) Summit got the recipe in regard to managing their IT systems.

Analysts Debra Curtis and Ronni Colville introduced the theme of “bi-modal IT” in their keynote and it popped up over and over again at the conference. Put simply, I took “bi-modal IT” to be a directive from a top-flight IT analyst firm for organizations to try some of the more dynamic, agile approaches to running their IT systems while not completely abandoning more conservative, waterfall-oriented methods for more traditional portions of their environment.


By acknowledging both parts of IT—“the fast part and the slow part,” as they called it onstage—Gartner is walking a fine line and encouraging big companies to do the same. But make no mistake, change is in the air.

Easing into disruptive change

Gartner certainly did give a stamp of approval to the more conservative elements of an organization and the “we’ve always done it this way” approach. That sounds like something that would enable IT operations teams at big companies to sigh with relief as they go back to business as usual, but I also heard a call for change.

Gartner made the case, too: For example, a huge 42% chunk of respondents to its CIO survey (2,339 CIOs from 77 countries representing $300 billion in IT spend) said they disagreed with this statement: “The IT org has the right skills and capabilities in place to meet upcoming challenges.” Uh oh.

Gartner highlights DevOps as a smart direction

So what should companies do to get their IT operations up to speed? Much of the content at the IOM Summit pointedly encouraged a non-traditional and often disruptive approach, specifically talking about DevOps:
  • DevOps dos & don’ts: DevOps was front and center, including a session from Cameron Haight talking about how to go from theory to practice, with cautionary tales of what not to do (what Cameron called “anti-patterns”). “The goal of DevOps is not to create a new set of elite ninjas,” he said, but to change the culture of an organization. Sometimes that requires setting up a new, DevOps-specific organization as a starting point.
  • Manage core IT org conflicts: George Spafford recounted learnings from his Phoenix Project book (co-written with Gene Kim and Kevin Behr) and hit upon the core conflict of IT organizations. Folks who are aligned closely with the business, said George, push to move faster to enable the business. Folks aligned with IT operations want to protect the business, and push to move slower. I don’t think anyone in the midst of rolling out an application would disagree, but how an organization resolves this conflict will determine how much of the new IT approaches it will tolerate.
  • Highlight accountability: Jim O’Neill, CIO of HubSpot, led a great session recounting his company’s success with DevOps, which he said enabled IT to help the firm grow from 1,150 customers to more than 12,000 customers over the past eight years. He advised the audience not to be afraid to “let go” of the old way of doing things, but to be careful not to “separate accountability from responsibility.”

IT operations is, more than ever, about teamwork

Surprisingly, many of the most prominent sessions at Gartner IOM weren’t about technology. Nor were they about different approaches to development or operations. Instead, they addressed how to work with people and how to drive change in an organization.

Professor Eddie Obeng’s frenetic (and most amusing) keynote walked the whole room through the emotions of getting people to accept change (Hint: make them believe it’s their idea). Analyst Ed Holub brought that home in his session about IT operations teamwork. “Every part of infrastructure & operations is becoming a team sport,” said Holub. “There is very little you can do effectively by yourself. Teamwork is the key ingredient to infrastructure & operations’ success.”

All in all, the Gartner IOM Summit mixed these organizational basics with strong forward-thinking vision. And, while Gartner did leave conservative organizations an out, many of the sessions seemed to be clearly telegraphing that change needs to come to IT organizations that want to help drive their business forward.

“Bi-modal IT” sounds like a strategy for easing into that change without abandoning everything that came before. Even conservative companies should jump at the chance, even if only in a limited way. Next time around Gartner may not be so subtle.

This post also appears on the New Relic blog.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Framehawk is a Gartner 'Cool Vendor'

The enterprise client computing landscape includes a “cool” new player now:  us.  Gartner has named Framehawk a Cool Vendor for Client Computing 2013.
The write-up highlights four core things for an enterprise’s client computing initiatives:  productivity, cost reduction, risk mitigation, and user flexibility.
Says Gartner, “the current technologies available to IT organizations can fall short in addressing these often-competing objectives.”  The Cool Vendor report named Bromium, Framehawk, Numecent, and revisited Wanova, which was acquired by VMware in 2012. All of the 2013 cool vendors in this space “increased focus on managing the assets the enterprise truly cares about — applications and data — rather than the entire device and OS.
“This theme,” writes Gartner, “has swept through the enterprise mobility space over the past two years, and is now taking hold more broadly in enterprise client computing.”
This last point rings especially true from our perspective here at Framehawk.  Our focus is on application mobilization, rather than trying to provide device-specific mobile security or management. We think the currently required trade-offs between mobile security, performance, and user experience are unacceptable as employees demand to use tablets as part of their normal work day.
If you’ve been following us for a while, you know our backgrounds from NASA and large financial service organizations have both played large roles in shaping the Framehawk Platform.
A quick recap of the tenets of our solution:  nothing – no data or application code -- goes on the device.  You shouldn’t rewrite the applications you’re already using in order to enable mobile access.  You should be able to use new cross-platform technologies like HTML5 to build your new mobile-first applications.  And touch interfaces should be intuitive – and automatic.
It’s great to have folks like Gartner add us to their lists.  I’d even call it kind of, well, cool.
If you want some basics about the Framehawk solution, start here or download our “Strategic Application Mobilization” white paper.
The Gartner Cool Vendor paper referred to in this post is:
Gartner, “Cool Vendors in Client Computing, 2013,” Terrence Cosgrove, Nathan Hill, Federica Troni, Mark A. Margevicius, Phillip Redman, and Neil MacDonald, May 3, 2013.
Gartner Cool Vendor Disclaimer:
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
The Cool Vendor logo was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What if the killer app for enterprise mobility and tablets is actually access to multiple apps?

For every new technology, the holy grail is always to find the “killer app.”  That phrase existed long before “app” referred to a little beveled square on your iPad.
The killer app for the PC was arguably two:  word processing and spreadsheets.  (Anyone remember WordStar or Visicalc?)  For the Internet, it was email, later enabled by a notable app of its own: the web browser.
So, what’s the killer app for tablets?
What is the one thing that’s going to make tablets absolutely mandatory going forward?  The question is even more interesting when you add an enterprise perspective.  What is the thing that will make it a necessity for every employee to have (and use) an iPad or a Galaxy Note or a Surface?
In trying to answer this question, I think back to something our CTO, Stephen Vilke, said in a recent webinar about the dos and don’ts for bringing enterprise applications to the iPad.  I’ve been posting the highlights of his “dos & don’ts,” and here’s one that’s directly related to this line of thinking:
DO understand that the next “killer app” for the enterprise to be delivered on a tablet is actually the blend of multiple apps.
Stephen’s comments boiled down to this: if it’s productivity you want to enable, you must provide access to the suite of applications and tools that users are comfortable using and can be productive with.
This means that an organization needs to make a number of their key business applications widely available to the workforce simultaneously via mobile, regardless of which device they bring.  So, in fact, one single app is not the thing that will drive usage, but perhaps it's the ability to do productive work on a whole set of enterprise applications – the same ones they’ve already been using, and new ones that are being created.
As Stephen noted:
The benefits of a consolidated app workspace are clear: they offer an engaging and more user-friendly and productive experience to improve ROI on mobility investments. However, complexity increases, as application variety ranges from ERP through to the many hundreds or thousands of corporate applications required to support business operations – and finding the sweet spot might not be so easy.
There are a number of ways to achieve application mobilization in the enterprise, including custom client apps, multi-platform middleware, HTML5, software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud-based solutions, or through a virtualized/remote desktop.
IT managers need to assess each route for cost, speed, business benefit, and practicality. They’ll need to decide if development is best done in-house or through partnerships with other providers.  Will they want to build custom apps internally, or use an outsourced, hosted solution?  Influencing factors will include the number and type of mobile platforms being supported.  Not to the mention security, performance, and UX issues that we hear about from IT, from application owners, and from users.
But coming back to the “killer app as multiple app access” idea, Gartner thought this concept was interesting enough to come up with a new category for it, something they call “workspace aggregators.”  We’ve blogged about the concept here a couple times over the past few months, and think it’s an interesting way to describe a new approach (one that Framehawk itself is taking).
And, if you think about it, the rise of something new on the hardware side is generally matched by a parallel rise of a killer app on the software side.  If not, the hardware is generally headed for the dustbin of history sooner rather than later.
Tablets have followed a bit of a new trajectory, though.  Tablets have the interesting characteristic of trying to present all the killer apps from all previous computing platforms in this new form factor.  Or at least, that’s the promise.  For productivity apps like email, word processing, and spreadsheets, tablet makers have either tried to put forward their own versions (Apple) or are a bit slow to market with tablet versions of their existing packages (Microsoft).
Real enterprise tablet usage has been hindered by 2 things.  First, tablet providers have struggled a bit to deliver continuity with existing environments and tools as I noted.   And IT has had difficulty finding a safe way to incorporate them into the enterprise environment and still maintain a user experience that won’t make the users rebel.
So, it seems to me that a real tipping point for the official, legitimate adoption of tablets in the enterprise just might be the ability to get to those productivity apps AND intuitive, secure access for new and existing enterprise applications.
Put this all in one workspace for particular sets of employees and you just might have something, well, killer.
For more "confessions of a CTO" (from Framehawk's Stephen Vilke) about the 7 Dos & Don'ts for Bringing Enterprise Applications to the iPad, you can download our white paper.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What you need to know about using tablets as clients for enterprise applications

The flurry of new mobile devices continues.  Consumers (who look a lot like your employees) love them.  And they naturally want to use them in their (er, your) enterprise IT environment.  And that’s where the problems start.
It seems like it would be simple to introduce tablets and other mobile devices into the enterprise.  But here’s the worst-kept secret in IT today: it’s not.
And this is a huge problem.  Tablets, which should be a boon to productivity and flexibility for employees, are instead causing IT headaches.
The new mobile realities for application architecture, or: what’s changed thanks to tablets
As we here at Framehawk have been focusing our efforts to help enterprises make tablets productive with enterprise applications, the first thing we see companies struggling with are their long-standing application architecture assumptions.  The tablet is a different animal and many of IT’s assumptions about how clients work with their enterprise apps are no longer valid.
Here’s a quick list of what’s changed in moving from only traditional PCs to a list of application clients that includes tablets.  I’m calling this a list of the “new mobile realities”:
The networks are now varied and unreliable.  Existing applications expect a high-quality, consistent corporate LAN to communicate between clients and servers.  When you use an iPad, you replace that LAN with WiFi or an unreliable mobile network.  Add in the complexities of latency from large geographic distances and network security concerns, and the network becomes a major source of uncertainty.
Client devices now have very constrained – or completely unknown – computing capabilities. iPads, Android tablets, Microsoft Surface, and other mobile devices all have processing and memory constraints connected to size, weight, and battery life trade-offs.  This means that relying on the edge device to take on any of the processing load for applications will put a severe drag on the performance of those applications on that device.  In a BYOD environment, you also have no idea which device will actually be the client at any given time, since by definition you are leaving the choice up to the employee.
The new user interaction model – touch – is drastically different.  Enterprise applications in use today were built to receive input from a mouse and keyboard. The touch and gesture interface of tablets, however, is a very different interaction approach, and the difference is going to have to be accounted for when trying to work with existing applications via a tablet.  In addition, tablet users have an expectation that their interaction on the device will be very simple, specific, and easy – a situation that, putting it nicely, may be at odds with the way an existing enterprise application is designed.
The new client device usage model is quite varied.  With the introduction of tablets as a client in the enterprise application environment, applications need to support a variety of different usage models.  They must be able to handle the short-duration, quick-interaction style usage from tablets at multiple times throughout the day.  They must also still be able to handle the long-lasting, consistent-connection usage from the traditional desktop and laptop PC clients.  And, in some cases, they also need to be able to handle the very dynamic, get-in/get-out usage pattern of smartphone users.  Because employees aren’t (generally) giving up their PCs, enterprise applications must support all of these different patterns at different times from the same user.  IT has to be ready for all possibilities.  The business processes must support all these possibilities as well – no business process silos allowed.
Cloud computing means new deployment options.  At any given time, an application’s servers might be in an organization’s data center, in a hosted virtual private cloud, or in a public cloud – the answer depends upon cost, load, time of day, security, or other business requirements.  Or, the enterprise may be using Software as a Service (SaaS) applications provided by a third party. All of these scenarios add complexity in attempting to provide access to those applications via tablets – and even more so when accessing multiple applications in an enterprise’s portfolio.
Security for mobile devices has many more moving parts – and some different assumptions.  By allowing new devices not owned by IT access to applications from outside the corporate network, the bad guys could have more attack options.  IT’s traditional approach to dealing with unknown or untrusted devices is to say no or lock everything down.  This approach with tablets or other mobile devices results in either unacceptable user experience trade-offs (such as multiple, repeated log-ins and challenges) or draconian legal requirements to control devices that they do not own (such as requiring agreement to remote wipe and the like), putting personal information and assets at risk to somehow meet the enterprise requirements.  And, some of the approaches that IT has used in other situations (like VPN) open up more security holes themselves.
What can IT do about these new mobile realities to accommodate tablets?
So what do you do about this?  There are a number of existing approaches to application mobilization.  But these New Mobile Realities I’ve been talking about are the very things that give the existing approaches fits.  Whether you use VDI, HTML5, or develop some native apps, there are some unavoidable and painful trade-offs.
Of course, here at Framehawk, we look at this as a huge opportunity in need of a solution (we have a white paper you can download that tells a bit more about how we handle a lot of this).
But regardless of what you think of our solution, step 1 for an enterprise is to figure out where the moving parts are and begin to consider solutions that address (or at least understand) the issues.  Hopefully, this list starts you in the right direction.  Stay tuned for a follow-on blog about new ways to think about a solution.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Want to avoid data leakage from mobile enterprise apps? Use the cloud

You know the conventional wisdom:  if you’re using mobile devices, the best way to secure enterprise application data is some combination of locked-down devices and strong data security measures.
However, both IT and users know the truth that comes with these approaches:  they ratchet up hidden costs while killing user experience and productivity, all in the name of avoiding data leakage.
So what are the better options for mobile access to enterprise applications?
The problem is that there haven’t been too many.  But there is one you might not have thought of:  use cloud computing.
Hold on, you say, isn’t the cloud inherently insecure?  Plus, why would I add another wrinkle in communicating back and forth with tablets -- something that's already pretty iffy over mobile networks. Isn’t that a big gamble?  Actually, it's not -- if you do it right.  With a smart approach (and a technology partner who can deliver on a couple key components), cloud computing can be a surprisingly effective technique to solve the security, performance, user experience, and cost issues plaguing enterprises in providing mobile access to enterprise applications.
Intrigued?  We’re doing a free webcast on the topic with InformationWeek at 10 a.m. Pacific on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.  Join us and we’ll walk you through what I’m proposing here.
The speaker, our CTO and co-founder Stephen Vilke, will look at existing approaches and the trade-offs that enterprises are currently making in application mobilization. He’ll detail the architectural components (both pros and cons) of a cloud-based approach.  And, he’ll show how IT can deliver both secure application data and a UX that employees rave about through the use of a cloud-based architecture.
Stephen will discuss:
  • New architectural ideas that mean you don’t ever put any data on the mobile device
  • A way for applications to communicate with tablets that’s fast and secure – even over unreliable mobile networks
  • How smart use of the cloud can enable the security and usability required by enterprise mobility
  • How IT can enable BYOD and still maintain control
  • A way to future-proof your development and cost structure
If you're interested in hearing more about this approach, especially given existing application investments and tight application development budgets, join us on Tuesday.  We’ll cover how to pull it off.
Stephen will also leave time to take live questions during the event.  And we promise to keep the vendor sales pitch (yes, Framehawk can help you solve a lot of these issues) to a bare minimum.
Hope you can join us.
Click here to register for our InformationWeek webcast "How to Avoid Data Leakage from Mobile Enterprise Applications: Use the Cloud" at 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern) on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.  The event will be moderated by Erik Sherman (@ErikSherman), blogger for CBS MoneyWatch and Inc.com.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Making mobile user experience ‘tablet-y’ for enterprise applications

We’ve been checking off the various dos & don’t for bringing enterprise applications to iPads and other mobile devices.  There are a lot of them.  So many that our CTO Stephen Vilke did an entire webcast about the topic (summarized in this white paper).
Last week I brought up mobile security.  The issue that goes hand-in-hand with that is user experience (UX).  In fact, mobile user experience is usually what suffers when IT operations and corporate compliance get their way.
Stephen, however, is not one to just say, “Oh, well, the users are just going to have to deal with it.”  In fact, avoiding that mistake is core to his CTO tip this time around:
DON’T underestimate the importance of building a rich user experience.
From Stephen’s perspective if security is king for tablets in the enterprise, then user experience is certainly next in line for the throne.  IT departments simply must deliver a strong user experience, says Stephen. If the (albeit brief) history of mobile has taught us anything, it’s that if people don’t like it, they won’t use it.
"How many times have you heard, 'our sales team, managers -- insert group here -- are not using a new system because it’s not easy to use'? Or 'the users hate using the application because it’s hard to do anything with it'? 
"The more time you spend at the beginning of a project making sure there is a rich user experience, the more user satisfaction will increase. This does not have to mean a full re-write for your legacy applications, but rather it is about researching how your audience interacts with applications on their current hardware (PC and laptop) and adding some iPadness to that application when you deliver it on a tablet.  Make it tablet-y!  No one wants a PC experience replicated exactly on a tablet. 
"In fact, at the core of this 'consumerization of IT' revolution inside the enterprise is user experience -- employees asking to use their own iPad at work because it’s easy to use, and easy to be productive with. The only reason employees use the IT systems at work is because their job depends on it. If workers weren’t forced to execute expense reports with scanners, scissors, and tape, and instead could execute it faster with an iPhone app, they would likely opt for the quick route and actually spend a little more time doing their job. Moreover, they might even enter information into a CRM system more frequently if they could do it from their iPad wherever they happen to be."
User experience drives user adoption. And, as Stephen has noted more than a couple times in his career, good news travels fast. The more people use something, the more they will share their experiences with others, and the faster the rate of adoption.
Moreover, building a strong user experience is going to drive productivity across your range of use cases. Technology should not get in the way of a user’s productivity. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions are notorious for letting the user down when it comes to the user experience. A salesperson, physician, investment advisor, or whatever the role, does not want the mobile version of their virtual app to slow them down. Conversely, creating native applications unique to the user’s job can increase their productivity as well as their effectiveness, but can also be time consuming and very, very expensive.  Says Stephen:
"Try to make it simple. If done right, UX can drastically decrease support costs. Leveraging a simple user experience, one that is intuitive and user-friendly means that there will be fewer knots to untangle down the line. The up-front costs distributing applications to tablets are one thing, sustaining their upkeep and performance is something else. 
"Companies with successful implementations spend roughly 25 percent of their implementation costs on delivering user adoption – for things like training, communications, and change management. Larger implementations can spend roughly 30-35 percent on user adoption. Spending time at the beginning of a project on the user experience can lower these costs."
Think about it.  Says Stephen: “no one trained you to use Google, Craigslist, or CNN.com.”  He’s not saying to just drop all of those mobile security concerns.  But remember this:  UX is worth more time and effort than IT has been used to devoting to it.  And in this more tablet-y world, that’s going to have to change.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On second thought, maybe Microsoft Surface is worth a look for enterprises

Our CEO Peter Badger had a chance to play with a Microsoft Surface tablet the day they announced it.  As we noted here and on Twitter, he wasn’t impressed.
However, that didn’t stop him from buying one and running it through his paces alongside his other tablets here in the Framehawk office “proving ground” (AKA Peter’s desk).
But here’s the interesting part of the story.  After spending some time using the Surface, Peter changed his mind about this new tablet, especially in considering what the interest and impact might be for enterprises.  Here’s his quick, verbatim run-down from a note he wrote to us here internally, after 2 hours on the Surface RT:
“Great hardware. Sturdy, good power, nice screen/keyboard format.
“Reasonably good operating system UI, although everything is a second slower to launch/react than iOS.
“Terrible browser.  It’s confusing and slow.  You can't click on links accurately. It reminds me of Blackberry browsing.
“Interesting 'desktop mode.'  I see what they did.  They put a desktop on a tablet. I can see how the desktop/tablet experience can start to gel, although most of the desktop apps are hard to navigate using touch. It’s impossible to manage windows without a bunch of constant pinch/zoom actions. A Bluetooth mouse would be awesome.”
Overall, Peter said, “I’m still forming an opinion.  I haven't outright rejected it yet.”  And that’s saying a lot from Peter, someone who has been called an Apple fan boy before (with good reason).
Other positive ‘insider’ views of the Surface – including mine
Our CTO Stephen Vilke also got his hands on one, and as he indicated in his post a few weeks back, it impressed him.  Early indications (including this Gizmodo pre-review from CES) are that the Surface Pro is also pretty interesting.
Over the holidays, it was my turn:  I also got to play around on a Surface.  It took a bit of getting used to, but after a little bit of trial and error (and the owner kibitzing over my shoulder), I figured out the UX paradigm.  And I found it pretty easy to hop around and get some things done – in applications I recognize and have used for years.
One odd thing: Surface thinks of itself as a PC.  It even calls itself one on various start-up and settings screens.  And there are moments when it is.  There are other moments when it’s a tablet.  And there are still other moments where I feel like it doesn’t know what it is…leaving me a bit confused as to what to do next.
But, in general, the Surface was usable.  And quite appealing.  And after 30-40 minutes of poking around, I felt like I knew how to be productive on it.  The PC/tablet confusion is probably more a result of Microsoft trying to strategically blur the lines between those devices for their own gain than a serious problem.
However, it should be noted that my comments and the ones above are responses by people in the mobile business.  So, even more interesting to me was the view of some folks I know quite well, but who are outside the industry bubble.
A pragmatic choice for everyday users
Along those lines, the most interesting thing about my test drive over the holidays was that it was mother's new Surface that I was borrowing.  She, my brother, and my father are buying Surface tablets for personal use plus daily work on our family farming operation (check out Mohr-Fry Ranches…home of the grapes that go into award-winning Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel and artisan beans recently featured at Williams-Sonoma).
When they told me they were jumping on the tablet bandwagon and had selected the Surface, I was actually quite surprised.  What about the iPad and its elegant, easy-to-use interface?
It turns out that the major selling point for them is legacy investment protection.  They were comparing the Surface to their PCs.  They liked the less-bulky and mobile form factor, plus the ability to use the productivity apps they already know and use every day.
Not that my family is necessarily a great tech bellwether.  However, I found it interesting that despite all the buzz from Apple, they made a pragmatic choice based on a pretty specific use case.  It makes me think that many small, medium, and even large enterprises might come to similar conclusions as they weigh similar choices.
Don’t consider this any sort of definitive information or final word, but rather some additional data points from both mobility insiders and relative newbies – several of whom seem to be finding what they’re looking for with the Microsoft Surface.

This blog also appears on the Framehawk blog.