The future: virtualization, Cloud Computing and social media. Bleedin’ obvious, really
Trustmarque Solutions recently, and generously, treated a group of its leading customers to a series of talks by leading IT experts. Top of the bill was the insight of Gartner. I just hope that Trustmarque didn’t have to pay too much for what amounts to the bleedin’ obvious. Gartner
…told an audience at Trustmarque Solutions Customer Event (TE2010) that every organisation needs to be working towards virtualisation and Cloud Computing and embracing social media.
Why is this obvious? It’s the economy, stupid: there’s no money left. Customers are fewer and the banks aren’t lending. Meantime, we all have costs, and we all have sales. But at the moment, increasing sales is very difficult. If we can’t increase sales, we must reduce costs – which makes sense at any time, since a tiny reduction of cost is equivalent to a huge increase in sales at the bottom line.
Virtualization and Cloud Computing are just about the only option other than laying off staff (which should be an absolute last resort since your staff are your future) in order to reduce IT costs. A common mistake, however, is to consider them as separate options. Don’t. Think of them as stages along a single path. Virtualization will reduce your costs quite dramatically. Cloud Computing will reduce them further and increase your agility quite dramatically: it is effectively outsourced virtualization. So Cloud Computing has to be the ultimate destination.
But for most companies it is a scary journey into the unknown, so one best done in stages. Feel your way. Start with virtualization. This will maximise your existing assets and reduce your costs. Then migrate that into a private cloud. Discover the pitfalls and the opportunities of cloud computing. Security is one of the issues. But it’s not a show stopper – rather it is an opportunity to get your security right. For example, in full Cloud Computing you lose your own perimeters. You can no longer police them yourself. Now, you could simply leave that to your provider (who probably has more security experts and considerably greater security expertise than you currently have in-house), but that’s frightening.
However, if you change your security paradigm you can emerge with greater security than ever. Use your local private cloud to move from a concentration on boundary security to one of data security. Ultimately, if you protect your data (wherever it is in the Cloud) and your provider protects the perimeter (wherever it is) you will emerge with even greater security. See the Unisys Stealth system for just one example of what I mean.
In the final analysis, moving through virtualization to full Cloud Computing is not an option, it is an absolute requirement. If you don’t do this your costs will rise, your profit margin will be squeezed into non-existence and you will be stuck in a computer room with nowhere to go. Meanwhile, your cloud-embracing competitors will be able to undercut you on sales and outmanoeuver you on tactics. You know what you have to do.
Now let’s look at social media.
The fastest growing social network is Twitter. It grew by 1382 percent in 2008. The message is that 62 percent of new users are between 39 and 51 years old indicating they are of business-user age. What’s important is that you extend that to your business and embrace it and use it as an opportunity. Social networking is an alternative delivery model. You have to either embrace it or police it. It will exist in your organisation.
Gartner at TE2010
Well, actually you have to do both: embrace and police. First let’s mention the others, primarily Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook you need to discourage. Some companies have company FB pages: I love XYZ Ltd. But the dangers in FB far outweigh the advantages. Shun it. Teach your staff to limit their involvement to purely personal things on their own computers in their own time; and make slagging off the company a disciplinary (sacking) offence. Facebook is for personal gossip – it’s not for business.
LinkedIn is a bit different. It is a business network, and has some beneficial aspects that are particularly useful for the smaller company. But as Graham Cluley at Sophos recently told me, it can also get out of hand. It can aggregate company information to an extent that makes it a social engineer’s paradise. So you have to be careful about just how much information ends up there. And just as you can use it to head hunt new staff, other companies can use it to poach your own.
And finally Twitter. There is absolutely no doubt that Twitter can be used to get your message out, far and wide and very quickly. But note that a huge majority of the Twitterati could be classed as professional cynics. They will see through, and rubbish, unprofessional usage as fast as you can say ‘gotcha’. Twitter is a two-edged sword. It can make reputations overnight, and it can destroy reputations overnight. So you need to invest in social media expertise to make your reputation; and you equally need to invest in Twitter-crisis-management expertise to protect your reputation. This is new territory. It is changing the very nature of corporate marketing: embrace it, but protect yourself.
Now, I must finally apologise to Trustmarque. In providing free advice to its customers from leading IT experts it did a very good thing. What I’m saying here is that next time, I can give them just as good advice for a fraction of the cost they paid Gartner.