A few years ago, I wrote a series of blogs on Cisco’s Domain Ten(SM) framework. Since then, we’ve used this simple yet powerful analysis tool to help guide many customers on data center and IT transformation projects. I personally found it quite notable that leading market analyst firm IDC, recognizing Cisco as the worldwide leader in the Networking Consulting Services arena in their August 2015 IDC MarketScape Worldwide Network Consulting Services 2015 Vendor Assessment (IDC Document #258131), called out Cisco Domain Ten in their assessment of Cisco.
Over the years, as we’ve used this framework to analyse customer IT, data center and cloud challenges, we’ve evolved and tuned the framework. You can learn more about Cisco Domain Ten, in the video below as well as my original blogs, which are still very relevant.
How then, do you know if a Cisco Domain Ten would help you in your data center, cloud and broader IT initiatives? How do you know if you should be making a Cisco Domain Ten workshop one of your new year’s resolutions for 2016?
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Tags: applications, architecture, Cisco ACI, Cisco Domain Ten, Cisco Services, Cisco UCS, cloud, cloud orchestration, IT architecture, ITaaS, ITSM, operations management, security, virtualization
In my previous blog, I highlighted the need in ISV’s business transformation due to various changes in the market. Although ISVs are bound to face challenges as they shift their approach to application development, they must also be weary of the challenges that can come with other technological avenues, including cloud, analytics, mobile and social networks. The following are the top 10 challenges that I have seen ISVs struggling with in today’s market:
- Domain 1 – Infrastructure & Environment
- In today’s cost-sensitive market with tight budgets, ISVs have to decide if there is a business case to build a Cloud to run their production software or host SaaS solution in a public Cloud or hosted Cloud. There are many qualitative and quantitative factors to consider. Qualitative analysis can include new or existing software solution, security, compliance, availability, global reach requirements, IP protection, existing IT resources in-house or lack there-of, etc. Quantitative analysis can include cost per user considering cost of compute, network, storage, support, training, software license, third party integration, human resource cost for development and support, etc.
- It is easier to do the above analysis for Test environments, where you would need a large number of resources for a short period of testing time. Hence, public IaaS providers can be cost effective if there are no major concerns on Security, Compliance or IP-Protection. In such situations, ISVs can develop software using in-house environments and use public Cloud (or hybrid Cloud) for test environments.
- ISVs should consider Cattle and Pet strategy (just like a cow in a cattle where if one cow dies, it gets replaced without any big impact to cattle, a server or a VM instance in cloud should be treated the same where if one server goes down, there should not be any impact on the functionalities of the cloud solution. This is unlike a pet – or a traditional server in legacy environment – where a pet requires care and create impact if something happens to it) in architecting the software for Cloud to reach higher availability. One should not have a Pet instance that cannot go down. Instead software solution should have failover capabilities and also load balancing capabilities so any server should be replaceable just like a cow in a Cattle. Following are some generic statistics of reliability in Cloud compare to Legacy environments:
- Legacy has 99.9% reliability for Applications and 99.999% reliability for Infrastructure
- Cloud has 99.0% reliability for Infrastructure and 99.999% reliability for Application
- Domain 2 – Virtualization & Abstraction
- Evaluating if your software can live on a virtualized server or if it requires bare-metal server, can be the starting point in the Cloud journey. Not every software solution is designed to be on a virtualized server. In this case, it is a critical decision if one should redesign the software or develop it from the scratch or use container technology.
- Questions, such as: “can (and should) your software do multi-tenancy?”are also very important. This decision can lead to overall impact on how you architect your software solution and evaluate price. Ability to do multi-tenancy can lead to reduced infrastructure to run your solution and hence, possibly reduced price to end customer. One should also evaluate impact of multi-tenancy on security that is required for ISV’s vertical industry. When a SaaS application handles sensitive data, ISVs must know and document how enterprise’s sensitive data is isolated from other tenants’ data. This analysis includes data at rest and data in-transit within the ISV’s SaaS environment, as well as in-transit across other untrusted networks.
- Domain 3 – Automation and Orchestration
- Selecting the right tools for automation of policy-based orchestration, deployment and provisioning can lead to less manual steps, reduced time to setup new customers and enhanced speed to market.
- Utilizing automation for release management can lead to less errors and smaller numbers of business interruption.
- As high availability and less time between interruptions for disaster recovery are critical to keep customers in Cloud space, ISVs should have automation tools to do regular testing with simulated disaster situations to verify high availability.
- Domain 4 – Customer Interface
- Since late 1990s, with introduction of Web, ISVs are forced to decide if software should have thick client or thin client or both. Now, with ubiquitous smart phones, popularity of mobile applications and with speedier releases of upgrades on popular mobile platforms such as Google Android, Apple IOS, etc., maintaining and upgrading mobile client can be substantial additional investment.
- ISVs also need to make decisions on what should be the scope of the mobile client –
- Should it be an independent software with full feature functionality of software solution, or
- Should it be a hybrid solution where some feature functionalities are available on Mobile client while the rest is accessed remotely via web and executed in Cloud, or
- Should Mobile client just be an additional device with remote web client?
- In addition, with market trends towards integrating third party APIs to expand the feature functionalities of the software, role based identity management is critically important. Additional challenge is that ISVs have to develop flexible solution so they can adjust to different interpretation of different roles by different API providers.
- Domain 5 – Service Catalog
- With SaaS, ISVs have to plan on how to price their software solution per user but also think about how to package the software solution and make it available using web based catalog. This catalog needs to have clear use cases that are easy to understand, aligned to vertical industry needs and price competitive to match customer’s willingness to pay. Moreover, though, any inclusion of third party software solution needs to be transparent to the user; it needs to be clearly defined in the legal language to reduce liability.
- Development of such price & package is not a simple task. It is an art as one should create unique value perception for all use cases, be competitive, as well as make it easy for the user to decide and differentiate from competition to avoid price discussion instead of value. Moreover, this catalog may need to change regularly based on competitive forces and customer needs.
- In addition to developing their own catalog, ISVs must also consider how their software solution can be integrated in Partner’s catalog so they can reach broader audience. This requires considerations, such as how to price it to the value given by partner solution. This may require rethinking on the price as partner based use of ISV’s software solution may not include full feature functionalities.
- Domain 6 – Financial
- Pricing software solution using Pay-per-use model is a challenge that is different from pricing for perpetual license. Pricing needs to be based on the market’s willingness to pay, as competition is just a click away. It also requires considerations and clear understanding that ISVs may not have many months to recover R&D cost due to competitive threats. Hence, it requires clear planning on how fast ISV can get enough customers to reach a breakeven point to cover R&D, customer acquisition & operation cost.
- Compared to one-time billing for perpetual license, monthly or quarterly ongoing billing for pay-per use is a challenge and it has larger number of collection issues.
- With the popularity of social media, even clarity and simplicity of regular bill-to-customer is important. Otherwise, ISV runs the risk of having a critical blogger targeting ISV billing practices and impacting reputation and moving customer’s opinion away from ISV. Such customer opinion also provides additional ammunition to competition. Hence, a bill should have enough details that are easy to understand, yet forces customers to see the value and possibly avoid easy comparison with competition.
- In pay-per-use licensing, ISVs have to develop new strategy for revenue recognition and that can lead to impact on how sales compensations are designed.
- If software solution includes third party vendors, ISVs need to do appropriate ongoing reporting to the vendor and also understand appropriate impact for tax purposes.
- How long should ISVs let customer try software solution for free or have a promotional package is based on software solution maturity, market trends and direct competition. This decision alone can lead to high cost of customer acquisition and promotion.
- Maximizing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to understand market trends and develop appropriate reports for business impact is critical for today’s success and require additional skills and resources.
- ISVs needs to develop intelligent reporting for customers, partners and its own management using analytics tools based on software solution. Moreover, making sense out of structured and non-structured data with variety, volume and velocity of data requires different reporting solutions such as use of Big Data Analytics. Each customer click that can span across ISV’s multiple systems and possibly multiple Cloud provider partners that are part of the solution can execute multiple transactions and produce multiple logs. Some of the key analysis that companies could consider based on business maturity to develop correlations and to make future business decisions are: log analysis (web, applications, transactions, database, IT Infrastructure, System Tracking, Errors, Intrusion detection logs), process analysis, user interaction analysis, real time alert & action analysis and historical event analysis. These solutions are not free and require appropriate in house resources such as Data scientists & Business analysts, infrastructure & software planning and investment.
- Domain 7 – Platform
- With growth of Cloud, Linux has become a very popular OS to develop solutions on. One can find many IaaS and PaaS providers offering Linux offers on cost effective bases. That said, though Linux is popular, Windows is not too far away with support from Microsoft’s Azure and few other Cloud Providers. But other Unix flavors are becoming less and less popular day by day. Hence, ISVs have to consider if their software should be migrated to Linux or Windows if they are not developed on them.
- Based on OS, one also needs to consider existing resource’s familiarity with popular application development platforms, frameworks and libraries. For example, ISVs may be able to find many resources that are familiar with Eclipse compared to other alternatives.
- Similar to OS, database plays an important role in the stability, performance and cost of the software solution. Per CPU core pricing of Oracle may require additional look when open source database like MySQL has become very stable and popular for many use cases. Many ISVs have found it to be an acceptable alternative. By the way, such consideration may lead to redesign of the software and may not be appropriate for all conditions.
- Domain 8 – Application
- ISVs have to develop a clear strategy that customers get hooked on by providing customers free or cost-effective training, or easy API based integration points for logging, reporting, identity integration, such that customers would not easily consider competition that is just a click away.
- Decide if ISV should consider languages such as C#, C++, VB, Java or consider light weight scripting language such as Perl, Java Script, PHP, Ruby or Python or both is based on familiarity of existing development team, current code, modularity of the solution and available resources.
- Large amount of source code is available via open source, and ISVs have to evaluate if it is appropriate for their development team to use it for faster time to market and also consider copy-right issues related to using such open source code.
- ISVs have to revisit their software solution to understand that it has modular design to take advantage of heterogeneous components offered by the Cloud and also leads to appropriate planning for high availability.
- Domain 9 – Security and Compliance
- As mentioned by Cloud Security Alliance for Application Security, there are four key metrics that apply for Cloud applications – Compliance and Governance, Identity and Access, Vulnerabilities and Patching, and Data Security. ISVs must ensure that needed metrics are available for Enterprise customers for their SaaS platform.
- A good hacker can take advantage of the weakness in the development language for the software. Therefore, ISV needs to establish good coding practices such as input validation, authentication, authorization, configuration management, session management, cryptography, parameter manipulation, exceptional management, appropriate protection of in-memory data, and audit & logging.
- ISV should also document following key things for their Enterprise customers:
- What Web application security standards (input validation, encoding output, preventing request forgery and information disclosure) are being followed by the ISV?
- What application and infrastructure controls are in place to isolate the enterprise’s data from that of other tenants?
- How many denial of service attacks were attempted and how were they handled?
- How do they manage identity?
- How do they encrypt data (logs, between multiple application modules, between application and database and between application and third party API based use, etc)?
- Domain 10 – Organization, Governance and Process
- Historically, software vendors are responsible for application development, feature and functionalities while customers are responsible for managing them in their own environment. With SaaS, operating and supporting is also part of ISV’s responsibilities. ISVs capability for continuous software development and with upfront considerations for operations and delivery of that software can allow capture of market opportunity faster and reduce time to get customer feedback. This DevOps software development methodology and considerations for operations is an important evolution compared to historically popular Waterfall or Agile methodologies. It is stated that DevOps methodology of software development reduces approximately 50% time as well as cost for long term operations support.
- Impact of social network is tremendous and questions such as how are ISVs reaching out to potential target customers with social networking, how to support software online, how to maintain reputation online in the face of a crisis.
- Many established ISVs have a sales force with tendency to hunt for the customers, transact the deal and leave. SaaS solution with pay-per-use licensing requires farming of the customers. In many ISV’s environment, this ongoing relationship building takes much more effort than sales is trained for, and would want to spend time per customer based on their quota size. Hence, ISVs have to plan appropriate sales strategy to keep sales force motivated.
- For many ISVs, changing Sales compensations and training sales teams to sell pay-per-use license with minimal upfront revenue have been the most difficult part of this transformation. Established ISVs have to juggle to make sure that bottom line is not impacted too much and they can achieve good growth in subscription revenue for top line growth.
- In this fast moving market with no permanent friends or foes, relationships for cooperation or competition, ISV has to continuously think who to partner with and how to structure partnership that is based on Customer value and aligned with ISV’s short & long term business strategy.
- The need to move fast to improve software and remain a step ahead of the competition has lead established ISVs to develop hybrid solutions while others SaaS based ISVs have become core business services in Cloud(i.e. Workday, Salesforce.com, google app engine etc.), and they are replacing traditional on-premises software vendors. Some ISVs have expanded their reach and capabilities using third party SaaS vendors echo systems, such as Salesforce.com.
- Existing System Integration
- Once ISV develops SaaS based solution, system integration with other ISV’s solutions, reporting needs requires modularized thinking and possibly different developer resources as not all integrations are based on simple solution such as REST API. Some still require custom API integrations that may be based on Java or C++. Moreover, such integration should also consider higher availability and scale needs for SaaS solutions. Hence, ISV builds versus what ISV integrates into using third party API has become an important question of business decisions.
- Success of ISVs does not only rely on the direct customers but also equality important are echo system partners. So ISVs also need to consider organic approach of today’s fast moving market environment and develop APIs for their key feature functionalities for partner’s to take advantage of. This is one of the very important considerations for DevOps methodology to address needs of development, operations and integration. This ability to allow someone to integrate to your software using your API (possibly REST based) as part of echo system can offer immense opportunities for ISVs, as it automatically enables you to reach a wider customer base.
In short, it the pressure to continuously adding value when competition is one click away leads to a challenge of existence for ISV and a –poses the question: should ISV continue to be an ISV, or not? Small, agile and nimble ISVs can turn fast with the market trend but that can lead to not having sufficient time to develop efficient processes and procedures. Large and established ISVs have advantage of existing customers and well-oiled operations but changing faster with the time is always a challenge. This Ying and Yang of agility to meet market demand and efficiency to run the business is core to many ISV challenges.
After saying all of the above, not everything is bad for ISV business, as more and more ISVs are coming to market with their unique flavor of SaaS solution. There are many ways to make money in today’s market, such as faster customer reach due to internet, analytics, mobile and social networks as well as , enthusiastic responses from venture capitalists to invest in “good” SaaS based solutions. ISVs that understand the challenges explained and are weary of them will surely experience a positive change in their results.
Visit Cisco Services to learn more about how converging technology trends are shaping the way IT operates and delivers services. Be sure to join the conversation, #CiscoServices.
Tags: Activate the IT Transformation, Agile, analytics, Big Data, business transformation, Cisco Domain Ten, cloud, data center, devops, Idependent Software Vendor, ISVs, mobile, network, social, software developer, Software Development Lifecycle
In today’s era of SMAC – Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud based solution, Pay-Per-Use licensing and Dev Ops software development methodology, Independent Software Vendors (ISV) are facing major challenges on many fronts. ISVs strive to differentiate from their competitors and gain new customers, as well as retain existing customers and generate additional revenue from them. This shift is happening throughout the software developer market and has surfaced technological and business changes for ISVs.
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Tags: Activate the IT Transformation, Agile, analytics, Big Data, business transformation, Cisco Domain Ten, cloud, data center, devops, Idependent Software Vendor, ISVs, mobile, network, social, software developer, Software Development Lifecycle
Recently, I had the opportunity to join a discussion regarding the #FutureOfCloud in the #InnovateThink Tweet Chat. One of the questions that came up revolved around the process typically used to associate a workload with a specific cloud deployment model. That is an important question and top of mind whenever we speak with customers.
One of the most appealing qualities of the cloud is the variety of ways in which it can be delivered and consumed. A successful cloud strategy will let you take advantage of a full range of consumption models for cloud services to meet your specific business needs. In reality, when we think about it, the process is very similar to what any company in virtually any industry goes through when shaping its business strategy. For each area of the business, inevitably the question arises: Build, Buy or Partner?
Build versus Buy
When formulating their sourcing strategies, IT organizations repeatedly face very similar service-by-service, “build-versus-buy” decisions. The predisposition of IT organizations is to create and build IT services on their own. That is what many IT professionals want to do … create new services, invent ‘new things’. And that may very well be the best option. However, many customers also realize that it is often beneficial to adopt best-in-class capabilities to remain competitive even if this requires outsourcing select portions of the IT value chain. Hence the emerging role of IT as a broker of IT services that we discussed in the past (for more information please visit our web site.) And this requires a paradigm shift for many IT organizations.
Solving the ‘Equation’
To solve the “build versus buy” equation when sourcing their IT services, IT needs to evaluate cost, risk, and agility requirements to determine the best strategy for their business. IT needs a plan and a set of governance principles to evaluate each service based on its strategic profile. A collaborative approach between business and IT is also required. For example: Is the service core to the business? What is the business value associated with it (e.g., strategic importance, sustainable differentiation it can provide, time to market requirements etc..)? What are the cost implications (CapEx vs OpEx), risk profile, security, SLAs, data privacy and regulatory compliance requirements? And … do you have the expertise to plan, build and manage the new IT service while meeting the expectations of your business counterparts?
Hybrid Cloud Rapidly Emerging as the New ‘Normal’
Not surprisingly, my experience when talking to customers that operate in regulated industries or that are concerned about security – and the privacy of their data more specifically – is that they tend to favor private cloud deployments. For example, I was talking to a compliance manager part of a global financial institution and as soon as I uttered ‘public cloud’ his reaction was quite predictable …. He shook his head, got serious and quipped “Public cloud … I do not think so …” Real or perceived, security concerns remain top of mind and a major barrier to cloud adoption, and this is validated by market research data.
The predictability of the application with respect to resource consumption is also a factor. Applications that have high elasticity requirements are well positioned to benefit from the economics, agility and scale that public clouds can offer. Infrastructure capacity planning and optimization is a big task for most IT organizations. Having the ability to burst into the public cloud represents an appealing option. This is also why ultimately hybrid cloud is becoming the new normal, and results of the 2014 North Bridge Future of Cloud Computing Survey supports that view.
2014 Future of Cloud Computing – Annual Survey Results
The Power of Choice
Arguably the most important thing your IT organization can do is to diversify its choice of cloud providers ….. Simply because without choice you really do not have a strategy …. And no contingency plans to go along with it ….
What do you think?
Tags: capacity planning, Cisco Cloud strategy, Cisco Domain Ten, cloud, cloud workloads, Hybrid Cloud, InterCloud, private cloud, Public Cloud
If you were to believe the industry press, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that many companies across the world were rolling software defined networking (SDN) technologies into their networks today. I’m part of Cisco’s Services team and my colleagues across the world are the experts in helping you all design and deploy networks. If there is a large or complex leading (or bleeding!) edge network out there being designed, you can place a safe bet that someone from the Cisco Services team is involved helping our customers achieve their targets. If you’re involved in deploying any type of high technology equipment, you’ll appreciate that there is a world of difference between selling, demoing, and actually making it all work in your environment when it comes to new technology. Our team are in the latter camp.
So what are our consultants telling me about SDN in the real world? Excluding a few notable high profile cases (usually involving hyper-scale data centers) they are not seeing – as yet, to be honest – many early deployments. However they are seeing a growing number of customers interest in learning about and evaluating SDN related technologies – including Cisco ONE, NFV and in particular Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). And they are providing some early feedback on the use cases of SDN that customers are most interested in. They are all clear, however, on this point: this is the time to learn what SDN and Cisco ONE can do for your network in the future.
So how do you get started in SDN? Let me outline 5 key steps to help you get started. I’ll also point you to a technical white paper written by Mitch Mitchiner and Reema Prasad, two of our Customer Solutions Architects in Cisco Services, two of our experts responsible for making all of this work for you, your team and your business. I also recommend you check out the video link I’ve provided, for an excellent live demo of Cisco ONE technology, first presented at Cisco Live last year. This video gives a live demo of latency-based routing, one of the use cases described in Mitch and Reema’s paper.
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Tags: architectural approach, Cisco Domain Ten, Cisco ONE, Cisco onePK, cisco_services, network virtualization, NFV, SDN, software defined, software defined network