Exploring the future of computing: The Hybrid Model

The migration to the cloud is well under way. Like little water drops evaporating, data and applications are heading from the vast ocean of On Premise Servers and databases to the great cumulonimbus in the sky.

With guys like Marc Benioff as the flamboyant ringleader, there’s no wonder why there is so much hype. Slowly and steadily over the past several years, salesforce.com, one of the earliest pioneers in cloud computing, has been evolving from its CRM SaaS (Software as a Service) roots into a more complete cloud computing platform, casting a vision that extends their Software as a Service platform beyond CRM, but also provides Data as a Service, and Database.com, which is aimed at being an agnostic cross technology/cross operating system data platform.

Hyperbole aside, there are indeed proven and valuable benefits that cloud computing has ushered in. Some of these include:

– Quick deployment
– No (or limited) CapEx investment
– Rapid scalability
– Lower maintenance costs

Microsoft with its Azure platform, and the Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud, among countless other providers illustrate the current demand and mass movement towards cloud computing, and increasingly validate the trend as being viable for a growing number of business scenarios.

But as much of the the marketplace rushes to the cloud, others are moving back to On Premise deployments. Concerns about data security have largely been answered, but data governance and management are still at the top of CIOs minds. In some scenarios, cost, system speed, or integration requirements with other legacy systems become a challenge. And I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the near future, one of the large cloud players gets hacked, sparking a backlash against the cloud computing model.

As someone put it yesterday on Twitter (let me know if you said it and I’ll give attribution), bank robbers go where the greatest amount of money is, hackers go where the greatest amount of data is.

According to an article on Biztech2.com, Stephen Mann, an analyst with Ovum recently stated:

“There is currently a buzz around SaaS, but CIOs need to ensure their decision to introduce it is based on a strong business case, rather than on the back of industry hype. SaaS is now becoming a mainstream part of the corporate IT mix but using it for the right reasons, in the right places and in the right way within an organisation is crucial. CIOs need to establish this before embarking on an implementation project.”

I agree with his assessment. In the CRM space, some companies have abandoned or avoided salesforce.com in favor of options like Microsoft CRM or Sage SalesLogix because of their flexibility to move and manage data and portions of the application stack between the Cloud, On Premise, or a combination of both.

Recognizing the trend, Enterprise 2.0 vendor SocialText today announced a migration service for those unsatisfied with Clould provider Yammer. They contend that the new offering has the potential to bring IT personnel greater control, more predictable costs, and better security. In a recent conversation, SocialText Co-Founder, Chairman, and President Ross Mayfield shared stories with me about how several organizations have come to SocialText, frustrated with having to pay money to use basic services such as managing users, segmenting data, or to simply get their data out. Mayfield contends that Yammer has a model that “VC’s love, users like, and IT personnel don’t like”.

The future of computing isn’t cloud, nor On Premise exclusively – it’s a hybrid of both where applications, data, and devices interact to help users find, analyze, consume, and contribute information across a myriad of interfaces, data sets, and physical locations. A blend of Cloud, On Premise, and Web Services all play a part in designing the information management systems of the future.

Piecing all of that together and creating the right mix is a challenge that CIOs, with the assistance of practitioners will continue to sort out over the next several years.

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Three New Required Roles for your company: (#3) Media Mogul

Longer ago than I’d like to mention, I started a series called “Three New Required Roles for your company”. As the business landscape changes, shifts in business models and design require new roles and adjustments to traditional thinking. New opportunities emerge, and businesses who understand the greater trends can profit from seizing these gaps in market awareness and efficiencies.

In the first first two posts of this series, I advocated incorporating two new roles into your organization. These were:

(1) The CIA Operative, which highlighted the importance of listening to what folks are saying about your company, your products and services and other key topics that are relevant to what your organization is interested in.

(2) The Social Anthropologist, which highlighted a rapidly growing requirement for a skill set that has previously been relegated to studies of remote people groups, but now has potential ground breaking applications for forward looking organizations. Know your customers (and their network).

If you haven’t read those, or you need to refresh your memory, please (re)read those at your convenience, as I’d love to hear your thoughts, feedback, criticism (or praise).

Now, let’s take a look at the third and final critical role necessary for you to compete in the new business landscape: Your company’s very own Media Mogul.

I’m not talking about a web designer. I’m not talking about the Director of Marketing who comes up with good campaign ideas and glossy slicks to hand out at trade shows. I’m not talking about Press Releases.

I’m literally asking you to think about figureheads like Rupert Murdoch, Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Forbes, Ted Turner, etc. Get those people in your mind. Imagine them working for your company. Think about how they’d corral attention in your business domain. Keep them there and let that image frame this conversation. We’ll come back to those folks later.

Oprah

Ted Turner

Ted Turner

There are at least 5 reasons why we need to consider this strategic hire:

(1) Time is the most elusive resource for all of us. We increasingly only seek media that we want and need. Filters play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Your customers, prospects, partners, influencers, and vendors in the same boat. If you’re not providing something that they want or need, it’s not getting through.

(2) EVERYONE (including you and I) now has access to content creation tools AND significant media distribution channels. More and more individuals and organizations are hopping into the pool everyday.

(3) Traditional company centric messaging is increasingly ignored, less effective, and more expensive

(4) The makeup of Internet content is rapidly moving:
—> AWAY from text TO rich media
—> AWAY from computer based interaction TO mobile device interaction
—> AWAY from unidirectional communication and information consumption TO multi-directional annotated sharing, conversation, and feedback

(5) Valuable Content is being syndicated at exponential reach through newly formed and evolving “Communities of Trust”.

Look at points 1 and 2. Merge them together. Time is the most elusive resource for all of us and EVERYONE has access to content creation tools AND significant media distribution channels.

There is an absolute collision happening right now. Blogs, Microblogging, Video Production, and other Interactive Media Production is now essentially open to everyone. A huge majority of new media distribution is on “free” channels. There is a rush to participate.

People who were already faced the challenge of time management, are now faced with an increasing complex dilemma of what to read, who to listen to, who to talk to, etc., and every day there are more entrants competing for our time and attention… for your customer’s and prospect’s time and attention.

In short, there is chaos. And, where there is chaos, there is opportunity.

With the inability to filter, we look for others to help us with our decisions of what media to consume. Who do we trust? People we like. People we trust. People we admire. People…like us. This is one reason why Valuable Content is being syndicated at exponential speed and reach through newly formed and evolving “Communities of Trust”.

There is a heated battle happening for attention.

Those that are able to capture it, provide something extraordinary while they have it, and enable those that engage to share with their trusted circle have a huge advantage. Once you gain pole position, you have a great chance to stay there. (Hat tip to Tom Foremski at Every Company is a Media Company who provided this analogy and seems to have very similar thinking on this)

For a moment, let’s bring those media moguls we referenced earlier back to the forefront of this conversation. What is the common thread for each of them? There are probably dozens, but here’s a key one: They have consistently created (bought, or curated) compelling and interesting content consistently over time that attract people AND keep their attention. Many of them have also bought distribution channels so that they could control the content on each respective channel.

Who else is doing this, and what benefits have they reaped?

Wine Library

Gary Vaynerchuk grew his family’s local New Jersey liquor store into a $60 million dollar a year business by creating a daily video blog Now he’s written a book, has signed a multi-book deal, has joined the speaker circuit, and his company is growing even more as he rides the media wave.

Blendtec – a blender manufacturer

Created one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns ever and increased their retail sales by more than 700% because of it! Read the case study. Perhaps many of you can relate.

They’ve since parlayed their initial success of that “media” into the production of 96 videos capturing the attention of millions of would be customers.

In another recent stroke of genius, they leveraged the recent hype and publicity of the iPad to create this cameo appearance on YouTube, which oh, by the way, has garnered more than 6 MILLION views in just a few weeks. Here’s the video:

BluDot

Here’s another example from BluDot, a chair manufacturer who observed a community culture in SoHo of those who liked to find interesting things on the street and take them home. In response, they came up with a creative experiment, and subsequent video:

But, it doesn’t have to be video.

Read this article posted on the American Express OPEN site about how a university differentiated themselves by giving their prospective attendees (prospects) something useful that helped them achieve what they are trying to do.

The Altimeter Group recently produced a framework for Social CRM which has garnered nearly 40,000 views at the time of writing this post, which by the way, is a very good starting point if you are considering a Social CRM initiative.

You get the idea. Think along these lines. Think outside the realm of your traditional thinking. You are now a media company.

And if you want to get a glimpse of where this all is heading so you can be ahead of the curve, here’s a VERY interesting glimpse into the future of publishing:

And finally, if you’re still not convinced, check out what’s happening over at salesforce.com.

It seems that marketing and business visionary Marc Benioff also sees things the way that I do. In addition to Salesforce.com’s recent acquisitions of Jigsaw and launch of VMForce, he just hired his own Media Mogul, Steve Gillmor, away from TechCrunch.