Kevin McIsaac

Kevin McIsaac

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Conclusion: Migrating physical servers to virtual machines is a one-off project that requires deep specialised knowledge, and IT organisations should engage a specialist third party to develop the migration plans and to perform the physical to virtual migration. This leaves IT staff free to focus on the acceptance testing of the migrated applications and on learning how to manage the environment to drive the greatest benefit from the new virtualised infrastructure.

IT organisations that have not migrated the majority of their x86 workloads to virtualised servers should evaluate the costs, risks and benefits of this migration, then identify the triggers that can be used to drive this.

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Conclusion:With infrastructure vendors jumping on the cloud bandwagon, their sales and marketing teams are increasingly using the terms “Cloud”, “Cloud Computing” and “Infrastructure Cloud”. From discussions with clients we have observed these terms are not well understood and mean a wide range of different things to different people.

This confusion is driven by a war between vendors to establish a definition of these terms that best suits their specific products, technologies and architectures. Until “Cloud Computing” and “Infrastructure Cloud” become commonly defined, which we expect to take at least until the end of 2010; be careful to define what you mean, and seek to understand what others mean by these terms to avoid significant misunderstandings between staff, vendors and partners.

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Conclusion:In our November 2008 survey1we found many organisations are using archiving to manage their rapidly growing unstructured data. On further in-depth research we found that these archiving projects are mostly IT driven, focused on silos of data, and are largely limited to automating storage tiering (HSM) to control storage costs. While this is a sensible starting point, IT organisations could extract more value from archiving by offering enterprise search and eDiscovery to the data owners.

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Conclusion:Despite the challenging economic climate, the data centre is a hive of activity with many organisations taking a strong interest in consolidating the data centre and running it as a shared service. Savvy manager will take the current economic slowdown as an opportunity to rationalise, consolidate and optimise the existing data centre infrastructure before the next growth cycle starts.

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Conclusion: As discussed in “Backup is not Archive!1 all IT organisations should evaluate deployment of an archival platform. However, based on numerous client conversations and a recent survey, it is clear there are significant project risks in implementing archiving. One-quarter of archiving projects take more than two years to implement and nearly half of IT managers state that they would not recommend the archiving product they had selected!

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Conclusion: Many organisations do not distinguish between backup and archive and assume their backup data is also their archival data. This makes the backup environment overly complex and difficult to operate and creates a very poor archival platform.

Organisations that separate these processes find that backups shrink significantly, resulting in much smaller backup windows and much faster recovery times. This also enables the archival data to be optimised to meet desired business requirements. That is, cost, retrieval time, compliance, discovery and so on.

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Conclusion: The number of documents (reports, email, TXTs, other written material) managers read every day amounts to a huge amount of textual information. All of us are now 2.0-conditioned and are more used to absorbing sound or word-bites and less sympathetic to struggling through long documents. So you can be certain that, no matter how important the substance of your reports, your audience will not read them with as much care and attention to detail as you spent writing them. Even the management summary may get the 10 second treatment: a once-over-lightly scan to determine the document’s usefulness before giving it a proper read – or not if it doesn’t grab attention.

Bloggers know all about the 10 second treatment and the good ones construct their blogs to capture and hold their target readers. (If they don’t they lose the revenue from selling their products or the advertisements on their blog sites). Competent bloggers use successful attention grabbing and holding techniques to help ensure that their communications get the attention they deserve and convey their intended messages.

Observations: Thanks to the 2.0 world most people have learned to skim-read really quickly. This is a problem for those writing reports for management. It means that if they haven’t made the important parts easily findable and accessible then the whole report becomes invisible. Write reports, and especially, management summaries, expecting their readers initially to only scan them. Once the report has captured their attention, they will return and read more closely what they initially scanned.

The medium is the message. Marshall McCluhan1 meant by this that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role, not only by the content delivered via medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. The widespread acceptance of PowerPoint last century (!) resulted in many documents and reports being produced in a PowerPoint-like format. Now, the ubiquitous influence of the Internet and Web 2.0 means that reports and documents are being delivered and presented in web-influenced styles.

It’s a 2.0 world, so cater for speed readers. Managers have to wade through scads of written material and become proficient speed readers, scanning at about 900 words per minute, rather than reading at about 240 words a minute. (It is likely that you will spend about 10 seconds scanning this entire note to determine its usefulness and, if it has captured your interest, will return and spend four or so minutes giving it a proper read.) Therefore, if your writing is initially going to be speed-read it is wise to write it on this assumption.

Learn from bloggers. Expert bloggers capture their readers by making it easy for them to scan the blog and find the key elements in the approximately 10 seconds they’ll initially allocate to the blog’s content. They attract the reader’s eye with:

  1. a catchy blog title,

  2. subtitles or subheadings within the blog

  3. bold, underlined, quoted, or otherwise highlighted text and hyperlinks

  4. pictures, graphs, charts, or images

  5. a summary of key findings/points/recommendations

If their scan suggests the blog is likely to meet the readers’ interests they will then go back and read the article in more depth.

Copy the bloggers. By including these keys in your document, your target audience can rapidly appreciate its value and assess the relevance of the content. After that, those who are interested will re-read it, this time in more depth, understand the message and act accordingly.

Content is king is a web catchcry, generally focused on ensuring that the web sites are easily indexed by search engines. The same meme2 applies to blog writers, wanting to ensure that blog readers see the value of the blog’s contents and return for more rather than ensuring search engine optimisation. The whole point of a blog (and your report) is the message. The person reading the blog (your report) wants to learn something or have something they ”know” confirmed – they are reading it for the content. That is why bloggers use the approach described above.

Rule number 1: Remember, busy people never read beyond the first page or maybe (the diligent ones) the second. You may still have to provide all the expected back-up bulk, but the serious content must appear early. Help the diligent ones find all the detail by using hyperlinks to the relevant components.

Rule number 2: Follow the Three Rules of Targeted Traffic to ensure those you want to read your material do so:

  1. Determine the audience you are writing for – write for them.

  2. Stay on-topic – don’t introduce irrelevant distractions.

  3. Write the document – and its title – so that your targeted reader finds it as interesting as their favourite web page.

Rule number 3: review your final document – and edit if it needs be – to make sure your target audience will read it. Check that:

  1. You’re making a unique and new point and not just regurgitating information,

  2. You’ve clearly summarised the point of your article in 2 – 3 sentences,

  3. the point you’re trying to make is apparent.

And: Move all those boring front pages containing the revision history and sign off details to an appendix with a hyperlink to them. Put the most important part of your document right up front!

Next Steps:

  1. Determine your target readers’ views of the readability, clarity and value of the documents/reports you provide them, and how they think they could be improved.

  2. Determine if a “blog-like” approach would improve their perceptions.

  3. If “Yes” set up a pilot program to “blog” a particular set of documents and monitor the response of the target audience.

  4. If it is successful, expand the program, possibly placing your non-sensitive “blogs” on your intranet.

What about – Start now – explore the option of blogging your approach as you develop your 2009/10 IT budget3.

2 Meme – A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Coined by analogy with `gene', by Richard Dawkins

3 See Start to prepare IT Budgets for 2009/10 Now IBRS February 2009

Conclusion: Virtual Desktops was one of the hottest infrastructure topics of 2008. However, tight IT budgets due to the economic downturn, and mounting evidence that Virtual Desktops are more expensive that well managed full desktops, will dampen enthusiasm for this technology in 2009.

Based on recent discussions with a cross-section of large and small organisations we confirm our long held view that Virtual Desktops are not a general purpose replacement for a Full Desktop and that reports of mass rolls-outs of Virtual Desktops are pure vendor hype! As predicted, we did find some organisations using Virtual Desktops in a limited fashion for a specific niche.

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Conclusion: While much has been written about the release of Microsoft’s hypervisor into a virtualisation market already dominated by VMware, there is a quite battle being fought for third place between XEN and KVM.

With KVM stealing the open source thought leadership from XEN, and XEN being acquired by Citrix, which is better known for desktop products, the position of third place is now up for grabs. The net result is that XEN will remain a niche product in the virtualisation market.

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Conclusion: Deployment of a virtualised Microsoft desktop environment requires careful consideration of how virtualisation impacts an organisation’s Microsoft’s licensing costs. Even though Microsoft has introduced new licensing packages to address desktop virtualisation, it is not uncommon for organisations to significantly underestimate the licensing costs involved.

To avoid confusion, and potentially embarrassing licensing cost surprises, when evaluating a virtual desktop strategy IT organisations must keep firmly in mind Microsoft’s edge-centric (device) licensing model. Think in terms of licences and grants and not in terms of software.

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Related Articles:

"Has Microsoft's desktop licensing got you on edge? Part I: The structure" IBRS, 2008-11-30 00:00:00

While some international analyst firms claim the economic crisis will cause Green issues to fall off the IT agenda, in Australia we beg to differ! In 2007 the Australian Federal Government introduced the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 20071. The key features are:

  • Reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and production by large corporations.

  • Public disclosure of corporate greenhouse gas emissions and energy information.

  • Consistent and comparable data available for decision making.

Failure to comply can mean up to two years in goal and a fine of up to $220,000. What makes this Act so interesting is that the CEO is personally liable to ensure their organisation’s IT systems are capable of complying with these new emissions reporting requirements. In short, this Act puts the onus on the CEO to ensure their organisation has the necessary reporting and monitoring systems in place.

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Conclusion: Reducing the environmental footprint of the Desktop has become an important topic for many organisations. Organisations that have undertaken a Green Desktop initiative report excellent returns from low risk operational and behavioural changes that avoid the massive capital projects associated with radical changes to the desktop deployment model such as Thin Desktops.

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Related Articles:

"Greening Your Desktop Part I: Gather the Facts!" IBRS, 2008-09-28 00:00:00

Conclusion: Reducing the environmental footprint of the Desktop has become an important topic for many organisations. Astute CIOs will implement simple measurement processes to test vendors’ claims and separate the ‘green washing hype’ from the truly effective changes.

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Related Articles:

"Greening Your Desktop Part II: Pick the Low Hanging Fruit" IBRS, 2008-10-31 00:00:00

Conclusion: Historically, the main barriers to mobility were the high cost and the limited capabilities of the mobile devices and the mobile data network. With network and device costs plummeting, 3G network bandwidth good enough, and the computing capacity of recent mobile devices rivalling laptops from a few years ago, these barriers have now been all but eliminated.

The new mobility barriers are the lack of a robust Identity and Access Management infrastructure to securely authenticate users and determine their access level and the rigid Standard Operating Environment (SOE) currently used to manage desktop complexity.

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