Why “cloud” represents disruptive innovation – and the changes at HP are just the tip of the iceberg

Yesterday, I wrote a post about disruptive innovation, based on a book I’d been reading: The Innovator’s Dilemma, by , by Clayton M Christensen.

In that post, I asked whether cloud computing is sustaining or disruptive – and I said I’d come back and explain my thoughts.

In some ways, it was a trick question: cloud computing is not a technology; it’s a business model for computing. On that basis, cloud cannot be a sustaining technology. Even so, some of the technologies that are encompassed in providing cloud services are sustaining innovations – for example many of the improvements in datacentre and server technologies.

If I consider the fact that cloud is creating a new value network, it’s certainly disruptive (and it’s got almost every established IT player running around trying to find a new angle). What’s different about the cloud is that retrenching and moving up-market will only help so much – the incumbents need to switch tracks successfully (or face oblivion).

Some traditional software companies (e.g. Microsoft) are attempting to move towards the cloud but have struggled to move customers from one-off licensing to a subscription model. Meanwhile, new entrants (e.g. Amazon) have come from nowhere and taken the market for inexpensive infrastructure as a service by storm. As a consequence, the market has defined itself as several strata of infrastructure-, platform- and software- (data- and business process- too) as-a-service. Established IT outsourcers can see the threat that cloud offers, know that they need to be there, and are aggressively restructuring their businesses to achieve the low margins that are required to compete.

We only have to look at what’s happened at HP recently to see evidence of this need for change. Faced with two quarters of disappointing results, their new CEO had little choice but to make sweeping changes. He announced an exit from the device space and an aquisition of a leading UK software company. Crucially, that company will retain its autonomy, and not just in name (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) – allowing Autonomy to manage its own customers and grow within its own value network.

Only time will tell if HP’s bet on selling a profitable, market-leading, hardware business in order to turn the company around in the face of cloud computing turns out to be a mistake. I can see why they are getting out of the device market – Lenovo may have announced an increase in profits but we should remember Lenovo is IBM’s divested PC division, thriving in its own market, freed from the shackles of its previous owner and its high margin values. Michael Dell may joke about naming HP’s spin-off “Compaq” but Dell needs to watch out too. PCs are not dying, but the market is not growing either. Apple makes more money from tablets and smartphones than from PCs (Macs). What seems strange to me is that HP didn’t find a buyer for its personal systems group before announcing its intended exit.

If HP spins off their PC business....maybe they will call it Compaq?
@MichaelDell
Michael Dell

So, back to the point. Cloud computing is disruptive and established players have a right to be scared. Those providing technology for the cloud have less to worry about (notice that HP is retaining its enterprise servers and storage) but those of us in the managed services business could be in for a rough ride…

Rumours of the death of IT consumerisation have been greatly exaggerated

If you follow anyone IT-related on Twitter, or even the mainstream media, it’s difficult to have missed Hewlett-Packard (HP)’s news that it is planning to discontinue the production of WebOS devices and is considering a full or partial separation of its personal systems group.

I’m not entirely comfortable with commenting on a competitor’s business strategy on a Fujitsu blog (so I won’t) but I was more than a little surprised this morning when I saw CloudPro’s article suggesting that “HP’s cloud bet could kill consumerisation in IT“. Really?

Yes, all that glitters is not gold and, undoubtedly, there are some challenges for device manufacturers to overcome but, as Joe Baguley (EMEA Chief Cloud Technologist at VMware) has presented on a number of occasions, the consumerisation of IT is nothing to do with iPads, TouchPads (or even Stylistic Q550s…). It’s not about any device!

Put simply, the consumerisation of enterprise IT is about providing IT as-a-service.

Prior to the emergence of the world-wide web, users did what they were told to – making use of the hardware and software that the IT department provided. Now the dynamic has changed: the boundaries between work and play have eroded and, for many knowledge workers, there is no clear separation between business and personal tasks. Work has become something we do, not a place where we go, and those “users” have become consumers.

Consumers want to feel empowered – they desire flexibility, personalisation and immediate gratification. Our information workers want IT to work for them, in the way that they need it to work. They desire a portable, device independent, always-on (and instant-on) modern working environment that provides access to information from any device (including data synchronisation), with self-service subscriptions to provide access to application stores/portals and personal/professional persona management. If that sounds challenging, they are used to this in the consumer space – now they want it in business and a sizable proportion of employees are circumventing IT policies to self-provision at least a part of their IT toolkit.

Just like our banks, social networks, recreational websites and email, the organisational IT department has become a service provider. Furthermore, if the IT department can’t provide a service, consumers are happy to go elsewhere – leading to the emergence of what has become known as shadow IT.

Sometimes this shadow IT grows out of the need to do something that’s not possible on the corporate infrastructure (like using Dropbox to share a file with a colleague in another part of the world); and sometimes it’s officially sanctioned (for example, a business unit director deciding that salesforce.com is a more appropriate CRM solution than the IT-provided line of business application).

Regardless of the source of the shadow IT, it takes a brave CIO to try and fight it. Whether the approach is to embrace, contain, block or ignore, consumerisation is a trend that’s increasingly difficult to avoid.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

HP iPrint application for the iPhone and iPod Touch

It’s not very often that I come across an iPhone app that I think is worth blogging about. It’s even less often that I’m impressed by what is basically a printer driver but, a few days back, my manager told me about HP iPrint Photo for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

This application locates HP printers (like the OfficeJet 6310 that the company supplied me with) on a WiFi network (using Apple’s Bonjour technology) and allows me to print images directly from my iPhone. Unfortunately, when iTunes copies images from my computer to the iPhone it “optimises” them to such a low quality that they are pretty poor when printed (even at 10cm x 15cm); however the prints from the iPhone’s camera (from my 3G model – I haven’t tried the new camera in the 3G S) are perfectly acceptable. A demonstration video and screenshots are available on the HP website.

It’s a pity that HP can’t provide a driver to give my 64-bit copy of Windows 7 more than just basic printing features on the same device…

HP ink ripoff

I used to have a great printer – an HP LaserJet 2200dn. It was a workgroup-class laser printer with a duplex unit and it happily printed many pages for me until one day it started banding. I changed the toner cartridge but that didn’t help – it seemed that the printer needed more specialised attention than I could provide so, as they had enjoyed the benefits at no cost for the last few years, I asked the company that I work for to either a) fix it or b) replace it. The company chose option b and, supplied me with an HP OfficeJet 6310 all-in-one device that doesn’t print on both sides of the paper, often picks up multiple sheets when printing large documents and drinks ink at an alarming rate.

You may have realised by now that I’m no fan of inkjets but I do at least use the HP339 high yield black cartridges (this printer can use 336, 337 or 339) so I don’t have to change cartridges quite so often (and I keep on printing until it runs out, rather than changing the cartridge when low ink warning first appears). Applying that model to the tri-color cartridge, I decided to try the 344, which appears to be the same as a 342/343, except with more ink inside… but the printer was having none of it:

Cartridge Error: Cartridge on left is not intended for this printer

HP Vivera 343 ink cartridgeI swapped it for a 343 (which looks the same, costs slightly less, but only has 7ml of ink instead of 14ml) and was greeted with:

Genuine HP Tri-Color print cartridge installed.

Rip-off merchants! It seems that HP, in addition to having different numbers for similar cartridges in different markets, is preventing the use of high-yield cartridges in certain devices. Interestingly, if I had an OfficeJet 6210 instead of a 6310, it could use either the 343 or the 344. I know I could use third-party inks but that would void the warranty and, after all, this is the company’s printer – not mine (so it’s not my choice to make).

It really annoys me that, in the throwaway society we live in today, the printer doesn’t cost much more than the consumables. The real answer of course is to print fewer pages… but with more and more companies opting for the “green” benefits of electronic billing (it’s not green – the tax authorities still want paper documents and sometimes its just easier to read documents on paper – it just shifts the printing burden from the supplier’s bulk-printing facilities to the reciever’s crappy inkjet) things are only going to get worse.

If only all warranty calls were like this…

A couple of years ago, I had the misfortune to require warranty support from Dell (a frustrating experience). Then, problems with my IBM ThinkPad left me stuck between a 3-year hardware warranty and a 90-day software warranty. Well, thankfully my recent experiences with HP have been considerably better.

Last year I had some warranty repairs carried out on a couple of my notebook PCs – the warranty cover was for a back-to-base repair: a courier arrived from DHL and packaged the computers, then a few days later they were returned with the faulty components replaced.

Then, yesterday, one of my hard disks failed. I checked the warranty status on the Seagate website (one of the reasons that I use Seagate drives is the 5-year warranty) but it wasn’t valid as the component was originally supplied by HP. So, I called HP, who were happy to take my word that a few whirrs and clunks from the disk, then nothing (except a system that was stuck attempting to boot from drive C: ) meant that this device was broken and needed to be replaced (even if I did have to explain to an overseas call centre operator that I work for a company with 20,000 employees and I couldn’t check every address they had on their system for that company name, but that my home address certainly wouldn’t be there). Half an hour later, HP (or one of their agents) called me to check the part number and promised me a replacement within 24 hours.

By 9:00 this morning, I had a package containing a new drive in my hand (even if the courier didn’t know anything about collecting the faulty component) and a few minutes later I had installed it in my system. By lunchtime, everything was up and running again. Then, I found the instructions that told me to package the failed drive in the box used to ship the new replacement and peel off the label, underneath which was a pre-paid returns label. All that was needed then was a call to UPS to arrange collection and a few minutes ago, the same UPS driver returned to collect the package.

Overall, it was a positive experience (as positive as a wrecked hard drive can be) – less than a day of downtime on a standard parts-only warranty. Thank you HP.

HP lights-out configuration utility

One of the most significant additions to server hardware in recent years has been the inclusion of on-board management facilities. HP, IBM and Dell all have their own hardware implementations, but I’ve been looking at a great piece of software for the Compaq/HP remote insight lights-out edition (RILOE) cards – the HP lights-out configuration utility (cpqlocfg.exe). This can be used (along with appropriate security credentials and an XML configuration file) to remotely manage servers from the command line, for example:

cpqlocfg -s ipaddress -v -f poweron.xml

poweron.xml is a modified version of one of the HP-supplied sample scripts which logs on to the server, sets write access and turns the power on. Full documentation on the scripting interface is available from the HP website.