The Secret of Business Growth in 2010

Having had their fill of the economic downside, business leaders are truly ready for the eventual upside. Apparently, U.S. companies are preparing for a global economic recovery to begin in the first half of 2010, according to a new "Road to Growth" market study from AT&T.

Key study findings include the following insights:

Business Agility and ROI Pressures
In today's economic climate, U.S. companies have significantly shortened the time frame over which a Return on Investment (ROI) is delivered.

More than half of U.S. IT executives stated they are under pressure to deliver a return on investment in half the time than their previous efforts. As a result, two-thirds cited that the change has affected their IT budgets, strategies and priorities.

The study found that companies are less willing to invest in longer-term projects -- where the return does not come quickly. One CIO stated that IT projects must give at least a 100% ROI in 12 months -- otherwise, the project is terminated.

Shrinking Costs, While Growing the Upside
No surprise, regarding the top-of-mind challenges. Cost cutting and increasing revenue remain the two primary business goals. To achieve those objectives, survive the recession and move towards growth, business technology strategies are focused on:

Reducing operating costs: 87 percent cited "reducing operating costs" as "extremely or very important." Improve collaboration with customers and partners: 85 percent cited "improved collaboration with customers and partners" as "extremely or very important." Enhancing workforce performance and productivity: 83 percent cited "enhancing workforce performance" as "extremely or very important."

Rise of the Any-Term Business Strategy
The study found that U.S. companies employ multiple strategies to address business goals, and do not distinguish between short-term and long-term strategies. It appears that U.S. companies are reducing the time period for their long-term forecasting until after the recession is over.

Moreover, the role IT plays in helping U.S. companies achieve long-term strategies is very similar to the role IT plays in supporting a company's short-term business strategies.

Ongoing Role of Business Technology
IT investments and priorities are very focused in a couple of key areas. The study found that "business continuity and security solutions" will have the biggest positive impact on business growth as U.S. companies prepare for an economic turnaround.

This is closely followed by "enterprise mobility solutions" and "Web delivery solutions." Areas of IT investment that are expected to have a high to moderate impact on businesses are "unified communications services" and "hosted solutions."

For more information, and a copy of the executive summary, visit the AT&T Road to Growth Study on their website.

How to Unlock the Power of Virtualization

Virtualization uses technology to remove the physical barriers associated with computer servers and applications -- enabling the consolidation or replacement of servers, storage, network and other physical devices.

As a result, your business can better use computing capacity and drive more value from IT resources as well as consolidate data centers and significantly lower energy consumption.

For companies who need guidance on a virtualization project, Verizon Business offers these five tips -- culled from the company's years of experience handling complex IT installations and expertise in implementing and managing virtual environments:
  1. Make sure you're looking at the big picture: A business should first complete a thorough assessment of its current IT environment and computing resources, including a full review of all servers. Once the enterprise has a better understanding of its infrastructure, it is easier to determine which computing resources, such as servers and devices, are candidates for consolidation.
  2. Enlist vendor support: After compiling a list of applications that can be virtualized, it is important to confirm there will be very few, if any, issues with vendor support. Some vendors, especially smaller ones, do not support their software on virtualized platforms.
  3. Evaluate licensing costs: When assessing applications for migration, evaluate the licensing costs associated with them. While consolidating multiple servers and devices into a single virtual machine will lower hardware and facility costs, this does not necessarily apply to software licensing costs. Many vendors still charge based on total available power and the number of physical applications. If that's the case, consider working with vendors that embrace more flexible licensing models.
  4. Avoid common bottlenecks: Carefully assess the memory and storage requirements for applications moving to the virtual environment. Memory and storage can severely limit how many virtual machines a host can support. A common scenario is an environment with consolidated storage and a high number of mobile BlackBerry users, requiring large memory and storage needs. Therefore, assessment, management and proper allocation of applications per virtual machine are key.
  5. Security, security, security: Security should be a top priority; it should be built in from the ground up to ensure the new environment comes with the right safeguards. Enterprises also should pay close attention to relevant industry regulations. For instance, businesses that store, handle or process customer payment information must maintain compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a comprehensive set of requirements for enhancing payment account data security. In that case, PCI DSS compliance would be a key requirement for the new virtual environment.
"Virtualization holds huge promise for the enterprise," said Michael Marcellin, vice president of Verizon global managed solutions. "Its ability to increase efficiency and agility while managing costs is unparalleled. With that potential, however, comes complexity concerning deployment and implementation. Our hope is that enterprises will take this promising technology to heart and embrace our suggestions -- based on our more than 10 years experience managing complex IT infrastructures -- on how best to utilize it."

Verizon Business offers a wealth of IT and hosting solutions to help customers meet their most-pressing IT needs in today's dynamic business environment. As we've previously reported on the Business Technology Roundtable, enterprise and small-business executives are actively adopting the selective out-tasking of applications to these managed cloud services.

Why Early-Adopters Embrace the Cloud

Cloud computing is all about new technology, right? Well, perhaps that depends upon your point of view -- as an application developer, or a business decision maker.

Private Cloud development will grow during the coming year, with 48.9% of developers expecting to deploy applications (via their on-site data center), according to a survey of 500 software developers by Evans Data Corp.

Their survey showed that 29.7% are currently working on applications destined for a private cloud environment, while an additional 19.2% expect to enter development within the next 12 months.

Taking Baby Steps with Cloud Computing
"Software developers are finding many reasons to develop software for the cloud, whether for a private cloud or public cloud," said John Andrews, President and CEO of Evans Data. "Not surprising, while developers want to take advantage of the cloud, our research indicates a strong preference for them to favor a cloud related development environment to simply extend their existing technology know-how."

The survey measured the intentions and adoption patterns of developers. This included Public and Private Cloud development -- types of apps moving first to the Cloud, development dynamics and tools for developing in the Cloud, data centers and virtualization, security, regulations, benefits, and inhibitors.

"Private clouds seem to be appealing for the easier methods of deploying and automating software delivery rather than the elasticity, and different pricing, that drove the initial fervor in public clouds," commented Michael Cote, software industry analyst for Redmonk.

Michael Dortch, acting director of research at Focus, said "Frankly, I'm surprised it's only 48 percent of developers, given that software as a service and other cloud-based elements are the only piece of the current software marketplace showing consistent, significant growth."

The survey results expose the trends. Half of the developers using Amazon public cloud services are adopting them experimentally or for prototyping -- rather than for business critical applications.

Three quarters of developers think that data for applications deployed in the cloud should be backed-up outside the public cloud -- either in traditional on-site storage or in a private cloud.

Fearless Early-Adopters Seek an Advantage
"The buying community is setting themselves up for another cloud spending moment once they decide public clouds are okay and move from private clouds," Cote said. "While security and regulatory concerns are very real, companies would do well to spend time asserting how they might skip some of their computing needs over the public clouds and avoid paying twice for everything."

That said, the primary motivation for business decision makers, that are early-adopters of managed cloud services, can be simply put -- strategic competitive advantage. While their peer group ponders the risks versus rewards, they're already vigorously moving forward.

Next-Generation Managed Security Services

Reports of network attacks and stolen data are commonplace. Consumers routinely undergo the stress of fraudulent charges or compromised credit cards. Computer hacker terms like "botnet" are becoming a part of our everyday vocabulary.

As a result, enterprise security and risk professionals find themselves on a never-ending quest to maintain the integrity of their communication networks, according to the latest study by Forrester Research. Fortunately, managed service providers offer solutions to help relieve the burden.

In its latest initiative to help businesses protect their vital assets from cyber threats and other online attacks, Verizon Business is now offering its next-generation managed security services (MSS) platform, complete with new options.

This enhanced platform is designed to safeguard corporate networks by proactively identifying vulnerabilities and prioritizing threats across the extended enterprise -- resulting in better visibility, enhanced security and reduced risk.

Businesses can now identify the threats that could do the most damage, and then respond quickly. The Verizon Business platform is available immediately to customers throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Risk-Based Approach to Network Security
Going beyond first-generation threat and vulnerability strategies to address underlying risk, Verizon’s new platform enables the management of multiple security platforms, changing business requirements and increased security compliance requirements.

It also enables enterprises that lack in-house security expertise and have limited resources to effectively secure their networks while obtaining a consistent quality of service at an affordable, predictable cost.

"The Verizon Business risk-based approach to network security gives enterprise customers a better understanding of the threats to their businesses so they can plan accordingly," said Amy DeCarlo, principal analyst - Managed IT Services at Current Analysis. "This pragmatic approach, coupled with the global availability of this service platform, makes this a compelling managed security offering for the enterprise."

Benefits of Flexible Service Levels
Verizon customers can choose from one of the following three new service tiers to address individual requirements -- including providing effective security solutions across multiple networks in different parts of the world, each with country-specific requirements.
  • Basic Monitoring: Allows customers to outsource only the monitoring of security devices to while leveraging in-house staffing and retaining management control.
  • Premium Monitoring: Provides continuous monitoring of security devices with analytical support. Security logs and alerts generated by security devices are analyzed and interpreted by security analysts located in one of the company's global security operations centers.
  • Premium Monitoring and Management: Incorporates the Premium Monitoring service, and also proactive management of all devices. This includes installing security patches, managing security policies and restoring devices.