Archive for the 'Cloud Transformation' Category

The Roar of the Cloud


By Mike Lingo – CTO – Astadia Consulting

Louder, louder and louder again.

I’m standing at the top of the ramp and looking straight down the slope where all of this takes off into the blue sky, and I have to tell you it’s exhilarating. This is what it means to be Cloud-centered at the close of 2010:

We are now flying past the inflection point. We have a distinct voice and everyone recognizes the sound. More are listening every day.

I’m hearing the loud chatter at a decibel level normally associated with a flyover of F16’s, the roar of 25,000 Cloud architects, evangelists, pioneers and zealots who gathered at the Dreamforce event recently in San Francisco.

I’m hearing the silky jazz sound of sales and service sharing the same stage, aligned and primed for performance, more easily than ever.

I’m hearing the walls crashing down between IT and the business, the implosion of all that has been erected in the name of specialization and segmentation.

And I’m hearing a big sigh of relief. Finally, we can fail gracefully on projects and get to the right answer sooner with less cost.

But I have to tell you if your organization does not know how to communicate, the Cloud is not going to work for you. Those gears are going to grind and grate and ultimately disintegrate with a loud crash. I won’t be able to help you there.

What I can do is point you in the right direction. And I can help you stand shoulder to shoulder with the business and get the thing rolling again, because there is a lot less resistance working against you when you put software back in its place.

Best wishes for making a racket and ratcheting up rapidly in 2011,
Mike Lingo

Astadia showcasing the ITX ROI Calculator at Dreamforce 2010


By Cory Vander Jagt – Director of Cloud Transformation

Over the last 2 years, I’ve witnessed an explosion in Cloud applications; the pace of growth is amazing as more and more people realise its benefits. The biggest annual event in the IT industry’s calendar is testament to that – Dreamforce. Now everyone’s talking Cloud! We all want to benefit from:

  • Elastic IT Infrastructures
  • Access to shared resources
  • Rapid innovation and enhancement
  • Predictable cost, and
  • Decreased administrative burden

However, the question I’m finding more prevalent than ever is:

How much can I really save/benefit by moving to the Cloud?

Hard facts, concrete cost savings and black and white numbers will always be the foundation of any decision to change. Hence why, we at Astadia created an ROI calculator specifically designed to give you that level of granular analysis.

Whilst the overall benefits of Cloud computing are clear, we understand that your business is very different, with its own nuances and individuality. Therefore, to determine with any real relevance, the true benefit to your business, you’ll need a tool that allows you to analyse each segment of your IT environment to understand what cost savings you can make when moving it to the Cloud.

At this year’s Dreamforce 2010, Astadia will be showcasing the ITX ROI Calculator. Why not have a play with it and pop by the booth (#513) to talk more about how we can help you move to Cloud.

“Hey! You! Get Onto My Cloud.” Lingo, unleashed


By Christie Turner – Director of Marketing – Astadia Consulting

Mike Lingo, the CTO at Astadia, travels the globe helping companies use the Cloud to transform their businesses. A Silicon Valley veteran and long time tech exec, he’s seen it all: Freewheeling disasters, crazed, defensive stakeholders, clean project roadmaps sullied by labyrinthine development models, and even ahead-of-schedule, under-budget implementations. Now, in his new book, “Hey! You! Get Onto My Cloud”, he tells all, and charts how the Cloud will profoundly affect the people, processes, security, infrastructure – and bottom line – of your business.

“People ask me, Mike, why the Cloud? Why now? And I tell them it’s about having the horsepower they’ve always wanted, with fewer trips to the gas pump and very little wallop to your wallet. I tell them the Cloud has a higher safety rating than standard computing, and you get that safety without compromising on what you can wring out of this baby on the curves in your contact center, or on slick surfaces like you find on the executive floors. I tell them that you don’t even have to own anything, you just rent, and if you don’t like the model you’ve chosen, you bring it back and they give you another one to try out. Like a test drive, but all the time. There’s never been a better time to get behind the wheel.” —From the Foreword

“What Mike has done in this manifesto is to strip things back to the essentials and provide a plain-spoken view of where the strategic opportunities to leverage the Cloud exist for IT folks, the CxO crowd, and business line managers. The book charts a path not fraught with traditional IT peril, but one that unlocks the innovative juices of your team. Likely your CEO is demanding a strategy, so see what all the fuss is. And make it actionable.”—Doug Menefee, CIO, Schumacher Group

Click here to download a sample chapter of Mike’s forthcoming book about cloud computing.

 

SIIA OnDemand Europe Conference – Notes from an SVP


By John McDowell – SVP of Global Sales for Astadia Consulting

I was half tempted to title this blog post “Notes from an SVP on a Small Island”! Yes, I’m in the UK visiting our EMEA team and as luck would have it I’ve chosen the coldest October week on record – what joy! Along with running from warm cab to rainy street and back again I was also invited to attend the SIIA OnDemand Europe Conference at London’s Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, as a speaker for one of the panels. The conference is attended by executives from ISVs, SaaS, Web and Enterprise companies from across Europe, gathered to explore, debate and discuss all aspects of SaaS and Cloud Computing.

The overriding theme of the conference was that SaaS and Cloud Computing are here to stay and will continue to change the way we consume IT services in the future. However, with this change, Systems Integrators (SI) are faced with an ever-changing environment in which to grow, gain business and profit. My panel slot discussed how SIs can achieve this and what customers should be looking for when selecting an SI for a SaaS or Cloud-based project.

The ‘big boys’, the likes of Cap Gemini, Steria, Accenture and Deloitte, still reign king at the top of the tree, but what is becoming increasing apparent is the growth of new, smaller, more specialist SIs with real expertise in the SaaS and Cloud market space. In my role as Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Astadia Consulting, I have learnt there is more to being a profitable SI in today’s hi-tech market than we traditionally thought. Here’s a snippet from some of the panel questions and what my thoughts were:

Q: Why do you think there has been such growth in the smaller SIs for Cloud & Saas?

In todays cloud space it’s about being focused on one area of business; for Astadia we like to see ourselves as our customer’s first port of call for all things cloud. So when a company looks to step into the cloud space, we can help with the initial move and then look at what additional infrastructure can be leveraged once they’ve made the first step. Astadia are Salesforce.com largest implementation partner worldwide. Why has Salesforce taken off at such speed? Because, traditionally CRM is the easiest place to start the migration of your application infrastructure into the cloud; the nice part about Salesforce is the license model, as well as the integrated bolt-ons that are part of the Salesforce AppExchange.

The sheer nature of smaller SIs makes them more adept at partnering with the many cloud vendors in order to provide holistic solutions for the Cloud. A nice example of this is the Astadia Front-Office; where customers can quickly leverage a package of applications that help with Marketing Automation, lead generation and lead nurture through to Salesforce Automation, targeting and commission structures.

Q: What advice would you give to smaller start ups in this market?

You can’t be half-hearted in your approach to the Cloud. That’s why so many smaller SIs are making such big changes and growth spurts in this game; they focus solely on the Cloud. They are experts in their fields who have a range of applications, technical expertise and best practise knowledge designed specifically for the Cloud. That really is Astadia’s strong point.

You should also realise that one size SaaS vendor does not fit all. Certain products will fit well in some cases and not in others; the successful SI will be the one that knows how to place these products specifically for the customer’s requirements.

SIs also need to focus on what they want to achieve. Astadia is a Services company, not a product company. We don’t compete on selling products; we compete on the services we provide from an industry best practice standpoint.

Q: What industry verticals do you see growing the most in this market?

So far the fast movers have been the Telcos, Media, Not-for-Profit and Financial Services sectors. The laggards are healthcare and the public sector, which I’m sure, will change as they have the most to benefit from SaaS and Cloud computing. Particularly from a cost saving point-of-view; which I see is at the forefront of the British Government’s agenda of late; I was looking at the news this morning re the pending government cost cuts.

Q: How much of the work to migrate to the Cloud requires integration – Getting the data into one place?

As far as we see it, all projects start and end with data. This underpins the success of any Cloud project and that’s why we partner with a number of integration providers. There’s no point having a whiz-popping Cloud application that can be used mobile, at home, offline and so on, if it doesn’t have the relevant data stored in it. Data drives end user adoption and buy in; without this your project is doomed.

Is Your Force.com Code Green?


By Alan Shanahan – Principal Technical Architect for Astadia Consulting

Alan ShanahanNow when I say Green, I don’t mean the ‘Eco-Friendly’ type of green. What I’m referring to is the type of code that, when tested, comes back with zero errors

A COMMON SCENARIO:
Here’s a real-world scenario I’ve come across more than once. You engage a consultancy firm to add some additional custom functionality to your Salesforce.com org. They develop new Visualforce pages, along with some Apex code classes and triggers to give you what you need. After testing you’re happy with the new functionality and press on for production; then bang! The problems start!

Suddenly, they’re asking for more time (and money) to make changes to your existing codebase so they can deploy their newly-developed functionality into your production environment. You stand bemused, searching for reasons why on earth would that be the case? The people who developed the last set of custom programs deployed theirs without any problems, and you haven’t touched a line of code on the system since; you couldn’t have, nobody in the organisation knows how to!

So, what happened? Gremlins? Industrial sabotage? Inquisitive amateurs? Hackers?

Most likely none of the above. Perhaps you unwittingly caused the problems yourself.

Let’s dig a little deeper to discover why…

TEST METHODS:
Firstly, let’s look at test methods. What are they? Put simply, test methods are a set of programs that (if built according to best-practice guidelines) create their own sample data, establish test conditions for your Visualforce pages, Apex classes and triggers, create events that run your code through as many test scenarios as possible, to check that various test results match expected results, and put up a metaphorical red flag if any failures occur. In short, they are programs that test other programs.

From the point of view of Salesforce.com, you need to “exercise” at least 75% of your entire Apex codebase, and have no program failures occurring on ALL test methods in that codebase in order to deploy code to a production org. This is a hard-and-fast rule, and there’s no way around it, and for good reason.

In light of an excellent Salesforce.com article that delves quite deeply into the whole subject, rather than have me rabbit on for pages, I suggest taking a look at this:
http://wiki.developerforce.com/index.php/An_Introduction_to_Apex_Code_Test_Methods

TYPICALLY…
As business users work with their Salesforce.com org, it’s not uncommon for them to find a case where users have entered erroneous data. To combat this, System Admin creates a new validation rule in the production org to ensure a phone number is now mandatory where it had previously been optional. The business continues without a hiccup, data quality is improved, all is well…

Except for one thing – the assumptions around business rules have changed and the developers were not informed, so any test methods that were creating test data in this functional area would have left this phone number field blank. As soon as the test methods attempt to write data to the database, program failures occur because of the new validation rule. In reality, there is no real problem yet because test methods don’t run until a developer asks them to run. It’s not until someone attempts to deploy new code to the production environment that problems occur.

On the face of it, there’s nothing really wrong with adding this validation rule, in fact Salesforce makes it easy to do this. However, there’s a strong argument against changing any component that has an effect on a system’s business rule implementations without going through the proper regression and acceptance testing. The fact is that your codebase, and its collection of test methods, if properly written, should form a sound basis for any regression testing that you carry out, which can be used to help identify just this type of scenario.

Except during times when development is taking place (and only then for short periods), all of a system’s test methods should be in GREEN status i.e. they should all run without failure and with the appropriate amount of code coverage. Above all, system tests should exercise all your code thoroughly and check for positive and negative conditions as much as possible.

To check the status of your org’s code, simply do the following:

  • Log into Salesforce.com as an Administrator (or a user with similar permissions)
  • Click the Setup link, top-right of the page
  • On the menu at the left, under the App Setup section, click on the Develop heading
  • Now click on Apex Classes and you will see a list of class files in your system

The magic button is the Run All Tests button. Click it and stand back. This may take a few minutes depending on the amount of code to run but when it’s finished you will have quite a lengthy web page with detailed debugging information. We’re only interested in a small part of that though, at the top. It’s the figure next to Test Failures – if it’s zero, you’re in clover, Green! If not, something has changed and now there’s an additional element of risk to your next custom development project.

Don’t despair though. Quite often the code corrections are minimal. But one thing is sure, you do want someone with the appropriate expertise to carry out this work. Astadia Consulting can help with this. Just contact us at www.astadia.com or email us at esavvides@astadia.com and we’ll organise a code review and give you a comprehensive written report to prepare you for your new development project. We can also talk to you about TDD (Test-Driven Development) and best practice for the entire subject area.

Inhabiting the Cloud – Talk-the-talk, walk-the-walk


By Alan Shanahan – Principal Technical Architect for Astadia Consulting

Alan ShanahanI’ve been a member of the Astadia team for just over 4 months and as an employee of the company I can confirm we not only talk-the-talk, we also walk-the-walk.

“What is the man on about?” I hear you chime.

Cloud technology, that’s what I’m on about.

At Astadia, we preach our cloud credentials, we make our daily Hovis on the back of the growth of cloud application usage, but this isn’t just procrastination for how you should do it, it’s also how we do it. We also “Live in the Cloud”.

Astadia prides itself as being of the top cloud implementation and integration consultancies worldwide. As the #1 partner for Salesforce.com, Eloqua, Right90, and many other top SaaS (Software as a Service) technologies, we improve customer lifecycle management in marketing, sales, and customer service – the functional areas that most companies move to the Cloud first.

As the IT Cloud Transformation (ITX) innovator, we deliver strategic analysis, operational design, technology deployment, and ongoing support for companies moving IT infrastructure or applications to the Cloud.

This isn’t just mindless marketing blurb however! To prove it let’s look a day in the life of me; Alan Shanahan. Let’s take a look at my typical day and the applications, and tools I use to get me through it. What I’m not going to do is give you reviews of each, this isn’t a sales pitch; suffice to say they’d all get high scores. What I am going to do is demonstrate just how much of Astadia’s in-house business actually runs in the cloud.

Salesforce.com – www.salesforce.com

It’s 8:30am on a Monday morning and I’ve logged into Salesforce.com, the application we use to manage our corporate leads, deals, accounts, contacts, referrals, in-house content management, in short, just about everything you need for Sales Force Automation.

At Astadia we call Salesforce ‘The App’. You want to know where a useful case study is; it will be in ‘The App’, you want to find contact details for someone’ it will be in ‘The App’. You want to have a chat with your peers; it will be in the ‘The App’, in the form of the new Chatter add-on – very nice I must say.

Astadia don’t only sell and implement Salesforce.com as part of a wider Sales Force Automation system, we also use it in-house for pretty much everything we do from a sales perspective. What’s nice is, I’m also able to access ‘The App’ via my Blackberry or iPhone, so I’m never really far from the info I need. Anyway, I’ve logged in, taken a look at some profile updates on Chatter, checked the technical spec document for the project I’m currently working on and I’m just looking up the contact details of the IT Manager I’m working with today.

OpenAir – www.openair.com

It’s now 7pm and after a pretty long and hectic day, I’m just logging into OpenAir on my Blackberry to log my timesheet for today. Astadia use OpenAir for all timesheet and expense tracking, as well as resource and project planning. Corporate-wide, it gives our management a 360 degree view of consultant utilisation, project status and a view for future planning.

Google Apps – www.google.com/apps

I’m going to presume this needs little explanation; but I’ll expound nonetheless. Email, calendars, content management, document management (Docs), project management (Sites), content management/delivery (Sites). Actually Google email has a superb spam filter and downtime is minimal.

Hootsuite – www.hootsuite.com

I use this to manage my corporate and personal Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. I’d be delighted if they added SFDC Chatter to the list of platforms they support. Then I really would have everything social media orientated in one place.

LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com

This is effectively my online CV; it’s also a lifeline for connections to former and present colleagues, and a great way to recruit. We’re constantly looking for qualified, experienced contractors so LinkedIn is a great way to look at who’s out there on the job market.

Evernote – www.evernote.com

This is my one-stop-shop for everything note-based. I composed this blog using Evernote, knowing it synced to the cloud, and is available on my work laptop (PC), my home-based Mac, my iPhone and Blackberry and even on the web. That’s a lot of backup security, and availability you couldn’t better.

Any time I get an idea, need to take a quick note or see a code snippet or tip that I need to file away, this is the place to keep it. It’s secure, you can use folders and tags for categorisation of notes, you can even email your own private, unique Evernote email address to add something to your note collection.

Roboform – www.Roboform.com

Today’s typical desk-bound worker has to manage several passwords – corporate network, email accounts, web logins, and God-only-knows how many others. Developers working on dozens of projects every year have to manage many more. This is an impossible burden without some kind of help. Roboform shoulders the burden for me, with no security fears, and it’s adaptable to many situations. If the worst case came to be, I just need to remember my master password – ONE password – and I can retrieve all my logins through the Roboform Online web site.

ReadyTalk – www.readytalk.com

A truly invaluable tool that I use to demonstrate project developments to customers, presentations, share my desktop and a great audio conference bridge. Don’t stay at home without it!

DropBox – www.dropbox.com

This is an online file storage that automatically syncs changes & handles versioning. This is a great way to have file availability across all your devices and a top class backup too.

LogMeIn – www.logmein.com

Not that I can’t do most of my work on any PC or laptop thanks to the cloud, but for those moments when you really need to access your home computer, this is a real lifesaver!

Xythos – http://www.xythos.com/xod.html

When I first joined the company everyone kept saying to me “it’s on the X Drive” and that exactly what Xythos is for Astadia. We all work remotely so just like the old server drive in the office that we all put our documents on in the old days, we’ve got the same but hosted via the Net – very nice.

What about development tools?

Of course I use other tools, desktop-bound, to carry out my day-to-day. I have to; in general, web-based equivalents of these tools don’t exist. The Eclipse IDE is a vital tool – I couldn’t write an Apex trigger without it. Similarly, the Apex Data Loader is a favourite, although rapid advances in cloud integration tools are starting to change the landscape here. MS Visio and MS Project are still in the picture, as are some other members of the Office suite from time to time (if I’m honest), but only when I need advanced functionality that doesn’t exist currently in Google Apps.

But let me ask you this – how much time do you think it would take me to recover from loss or failure of my work laptop? The real answer is that I would be productive within 1 hour of acquiring a replacement machine, and all of my data is recoverable. Why? Because a copy exists of everything I need and value IN THE CLOUD. It’s stored securely, behind an encrypted door.

Ask yourself this: How long would it take you to recover?

Astadia ITX ROI Calculator helps you calculate the cost of applications in the Cloud


By Elena Savvides – EMEA Marketing Manager, Astadia Consulting

There’s no doubt Cloud computing is here to stay; anyone who thinks otherwise is in for a nasty shock pretty soon, I mean we all know the benefits, right?

We know it’s the way of the future, we know IT infrastructure is going to “The Cloud”, but if we really understood the benefits we wouldn’t still be sitting on the fence, waiting to see who’s going to be the early adopters. After all as a CIO or IT Manager, I wouldn’t want the blame of a failed IT project landing at my door, would you?

So how can we really start to quantify the benefits of moving our IT infrastructure to the cloud? The first place to start is with some of the off-the-shelf products like Salesforce.com or Eloqua Marketing Automation, which are fairly simple plug and play concepts; you pay for what you use; nice and easy.

But what about those custom apps developed back in the day, by “what’s his name in IT, you know that grey haired techie who programs all day in Java script!” Those apps that are now totally ingrained in the backbone of your business. They’re not the best, they’re only accessible via VPN, but hey they do the job and everyone knows how to use them, I mean if it’s not broke, don’t fix it?

Here’s another example, are you one of those organisations that have tens, if not hundreds of Excel documents. All your intellectual property is tied up in a bunch of scary Excel macros; Managers and Business Owners have no visibility and the net effect of all that, is a series of isolated data silos run by key individuals who are hanging onto their little empires. Data security is immeasurable, as is data quality, but what is best way forward from this?

What we really need is a quantifiable way of measuring the cost verses the benefits of moving our homegrown, custom apps to the cloud. What we should be asking ourselves is, which pieces of my IT infrastructure and application portfolio will cost less and perform better when moved to the cloud? In other words, how do you capture that magical Return on Investment (ROI)?

Traditional on premise solutions leak money at three major points as a company undergoes change. By standardising your application environment in the Cloud you’ll consistently provide elasticity for your business at all of these points.

It’s a proven fact the cloud increases the efficiency of IT infrastructure. Economies of scale reduce costs exponentially, while improving the security, reliability, and functionality of most application environments and architectures. The technology is ready. The ROI is waiting.

But hey, don’t take my word for it – try it yourself and tell me what you think!
http://astadia.com/itx/


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