Showing posts with label Active Endpoints. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Active Endpoints. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Case Study: How Cloud Extend for Salesforce Integrates Complex Sales Efforts for PSA Insurance & Financial Services

Transcript of a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast on how a cloud integration helped a major financial services company provide productivity tools for account executives.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Active Endpoints.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on creating business process integration, extension, and coordination even in a diverse cloud-services environment.

We'll examine a case study that shows how account executives for a financial services firm are integrating their sales and fulfillment efforts across customer relationship management (CRM) and other business applications resources.

And, we'll see how the new Cloud Extend for Salesforce solution from Active Endpoints further supports a range of business development and consulting achievements. These managed processes, in essence, bind together critical sales and financial product delivery goals to better support a long-term business engagement.

I'm here with the IT Director and the Marketing Director from PSA Insurance & Financial Services to better understand how they've accomplished their vision for greater control and management of diverse and dynamic sales and consulting processes using Cloud Extend for Salesforce. [Disclosure: Active Endpoints is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Please join me now in welcoming our panel. We're here with Andrew Bartels, IT Director for PSA Insurance and Financial Services. Welcome to the show, Andrew.

Andrew Bartels: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: We’re also here with Justin Hoffman, Marketing Director for PSA Insurance and Financial Services. Welcome Justin.

Justin Hoffman: Thank you very much, Dana, glad to be here.

Gardner: We're also here with Eric Egertson, Vice President, Business Development and Strategic Accounts at Active Endpoints. Welcome, Eric.

Eric Egertson: Thanks Dana, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Gardner: It seems like you at PSA have been thinking for quite some time about how to do things better and it sounds like you’ve had success with Salesforce in moving into a software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud services capability and recognizing some of the advantages that comes with that, but it seems like something was missing.

I’d like to go first to Justin. What was it that you wanted to do as marketing director? What was missing from the way in which you were engaging with your clients? We're also going to find out some more about PSA in a moment?

Stalled initiative

Hoffman: We actually had tried a Salesforce implementation two or so years ago and we found that our adoption was not nearly what we would have hoped it to be. There were several reasons for that. One, we really didn’t customize Salesforce to the degree that we needed to. Two, there wasn't integration with any other systems. And, three, the participation was voluntary. There was some interest, but it was somewhat sporadic, and overall the initiative just petered out.

We did know that that having right CRM for PSA is critical for how we do business and could help us capitalize on some lost opportunities and better manage our existing client base.

We didn’t give up on the effort. We said to ourselves that we needed to get this right the second time. We were open to staying with Salesforce and we were open to looking at other CRMs, but we’ve learned a lot on our first round and we knew that we had to do better the second time.

Gardner: And what, in a nutshell, was missing? What is it that you really weren’t getting from this that you wish you had?

Hoffman: We were sitting in a room with the whiteboard and said, "What should this thing be. What should this CRM system do for us, our account executives, our sales and service people that are going to be using it?" One of the things that really rung through was that it needed to be easy and unintimidating.

We have some people who are very progressive technology users and they very much embrace it. And we have other portions of the population for whom there is a bit of an intimidation factor.

We have some people who are very progressive technology users and they very much embrace it. And we have other portions of the population for whom there is a bit of an intimidation factor. We knew that if we did it right, we'd have to find a way to wash that away, put things in plain English, make it simple and intuitive for people, and that would help drive adoption.

Gardner: As I understand it, this has been a challenge because you have a very diverse group of services. You span insurance and financial services. You've been around for over 80 years. Tell us a little bit about PSA, what you do, and then why it’s been such a challenge given the breadth and depth of your portfolio?

Hoffman: We're an independent, multidiscipline financial services firm based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. We also have two satellite offices, one in York, Pennsylvania and one in the DC Metro Area, and we do a lot of things for a lot of different people.

On the business side of the house, we provide property and casualty insurance for businesses. We’re also brokers and consultants for employee benefit plans and retirement plans.

For individuals we offer every kind of insurance you could ever need, from homeowners and auto, to life, long-term care, and disability. We also have a private-client division that serves very up-market consumers, those that have multiple homes, exotic cars, special collections, and need very sophisticated insurance programs and advice. Finally, we also offer wealth management services.

Different audiences

We do a whole lot of different things for a whole lot of different audiences. For organizations that are laser-focused, that are in one industry, that serve one specific audience, I’d imagine pretty much everything is easier for them. We need to develop systems, protocols, plans, sales systems, and things of that nature that can work in all these diverse circumstances to support these different clients and support them all well.

Gardner: Let's go to Andrew. As IT Director, you were hearing what your marketing director was saying. I imagine that you were eager to try to find a solution for him. What is it that you did in terms of trying to fulfill this, and how did you end up being able to get closer to the true vision that he had?

Bartels: As Justin has very eloquently put, we really present a value proposition at PSA, which is a truly integrated set of services. That’s a phrase or a word that you hear a lot, but unfortunately, in my experience, a lot of organizations fail to deliver where the rubber meets the road, which ultimately is the actual transactional systems that they have in place. What you find is that a lot of those systems are completely segregated, and we at PSA faced that challenge. We obviously have a lot of transactional systems on the back end to support various business units that present the services to our clients.

Ultimately from Justin’s vision and from the corporation’s vision, we wanted a system that could bring all of this together. We went out and looked at a number of different products knowing all the time that we had Salesforce in house, but that we had a troublesome initial rollout. Ultimately, we came to a conclusion that Salesforce was the right product for us, but we really had to roll it out in a different way, shape, or form.

Part of Justin’s vision, though, was that he and Senior Vice President-Business Development Ed Kushlis felt that even though Salesforce is a relatively easy user interface, because of the challenges that some of our users have, they felt it had to be easier. They felt it just had to, as I like to say, lead us down the garden path.

So Justin and Ed brought the idea to me of what we call a "Warm-up Plan," and I'm sure Justin is going to address that more, but the more I looked at this, the more I realized that, given native Salesforce functionality, what they wanted to do wasn’t going to be possible. We weren’t going to be able to do it without a lot of custom code.

In my past experience, when you attempt to custom code, a lot of money is invested upfront to develop a relatively static product.

This was a path that I wasn’t really all that keen to go down, because in my past experience, when you attempt to custom code, a lot of money is invested upfront to develop a relatively static product. In my experience, the idea didn’t stay static. Ultimately, people wanted to change what had been created.

So you’d invested a lot of money to create something that then had to be changed and modified again, and I was very, very against this concept. Justin, would you say we had our moments there?

Hoffman: That’s right. We felt like we really knew what we wanted. A very large portion of what we do is work with the salespeople to coach them, to help them make sure that they stay on top of their opportunities, and really work their leads to fruition.

So we felt so strongly about it, but when we were presenting Andrew with our need, there didn’t seem to be an option that made sense. Once he educated us in what it really meant to bring to life our vision, we started to get our heads around it and to recognize that it wasn’t going to be something that we weren’t going to be able to build one time, invest all of these resources in this code and development, and then never be able to touch it again, never be able to evolve it.

Fluid and flexible

Just knowing us, knowing our organization, the way we're opportunistic, the way markets shift, the way dynamics change, we needed to be fluid and have flexibility. Andrew helped us understand how we were really going to be painting ourselves into corner, if we were to push forward with the custom code route.

Gardner: So Andrew, you decided not to go custom code. You wanted this to be fluid and dynamic. You wanted the folks to be able to relate to it, tease out the value and then improve on that, sort of an iterative improvement over time. What did you find? What’s fulfilled that need?

Bartels: First, we looked at a product from Salesforce, which was something called Visual Process Manager, which I saw demoed at Dreamforce in San Francisco last year for the first time. I was very excited when I initially saw it. After we delved into it, for various reasons, including the maturity of the product and the fact that it wasn’t a true cloud-based product, we soon realized that Visual Process Manager at that time wasn't going to fulfill our needs. We really needed something that was fully integrated into Salesforce.

As an organization, we spent a tremendous amount of time and resources getting our users comfortable with the Salesforce UI. I had obviously invested a lot of time myself in looking at options.

Finally, I'm quite a follower of Twitter. There are a number of people that I follow that I respect. I came across a tweet about something called Cloud Extend. It was literally one tweet by somebody that I follow on Twitter.

I can’t emphasize enough how important driving adoption is when it comes to the implementation of any CRM, never mind Salesforce.

I clicked through and there I was on the Cloud Extend website. As I read about it, I suddenly said -- obviously dealing with a webpage I clicked through to from a tweet -- "You know what, if this does what they said can do, this is exactly what we need in order to achieve the goal of creating warm-up plans" that Justin referred to earlier.

I filled out the web form, and the next day in the office, I called Justin and Ed into my office and said, "You know guys, I’ve got to show you something." I must admit I was almost giddy. I said I don’t want to get ahead of myself yet, but if this product does what I think it does, they’ve nailed it. This is exactly what we at PSA have been looking for to help drive adoption.

I can’t emphasize enough how important driving adoption is when it comes to the implementation of any CRM, never mind Salesforce. At PSA, we're dealing with very successful individuals. We're not dealing with anybody that’s got a broken system, that’s doing something that doesn’t work. Every single one of our associates has been successful in his career. So our objective with rolling out Salesforce was to improve their effectiveness, to make them more productive.

As Justin mentioned earlier, adoption is tough. When I looked at what I saw is the potential of Cloud Extend, as it was defined there, I thought "Wow, this really is going to help us drive adoption across the organization."

Gardner: I’d like to hear more about that adoption, but I think it’s important for us to dig in a little bit deeper on what Cloud Extend for Salesforce is and does. So, let’s go to Eric.

Eric, how did this product come about? I'm sure you are probably delighted to hear the way that it’s being described. But give us a little history about how you came to realize what was missing and how an organization like PSA could benefit?

Moving to the cloud

Egertson: Dana, I’d be happy to do that. Andrew’s comments here really illustrate the benefit of moving to the cloud for business process management (BPM) software like the software that Active Endpoints develops.

Active Endpoints has been developing a commercial-grade process automation platform called ActiveVOS since 2003, and our customers use this process automation platform to develop really high-value applications. They deploy those applications on premises, and they get very high return on investment (ROI) and very high value from those applications.

The barrier, though, to broader and faster adoption of products like ActiveVOS is that with on-premise software you have to go through acquiring the licenses and getting the capital expense approved and you also have to go in and interface ActiveVOS to the systems that you want to use in your process automation.

By moving to the cloud, there are two big benefits, and we’ve heard Andrew talk about those so far. One is that you can get started at much lower cost and much faster because you don’t have to provision hardware. You don’t have to acquire licenses through CAPEX expenditures, but probably, even more importantly, Active Endpoints does the interfacing of ActiveVOS to the systems that you want to use for process automation.

So with our product, Cloud Extend for Salesforce, which we are formally introducing at Dreamforce at the end of August 2011, we built that product on top of the commercial-grade platform, ActiveVOS, and we pre-integrated it with the Salesforce web services interfaces.

They don’t have to buy licenses, but more importantly, they don’t have to integrate the services to the systems they want to use in their process automation flows.

So people like Andrew and Justin can get started with the product very quickly. They don’t have to worry about any integration or interfacing. They can just start building out their process automation flows, testing them and, as Andrew said, you can quickly change those around. Those interfaces use all open standards.

So they are very reusable, and it gives you a flexible platform, where Andrew and Justin can tweak, change, and modify their process flows. It’s all done in the cloud. They don’t have to buy licenses, but more importantly, they don’t have to integrate the services to the systems they want to use in their process automation flows.

Gardner: When I first saw the demo of this, what jumped out at me was the fact that you don’t know that you're in Cloud Extend. You feel like you're still in Salesforce that there is this visual acuity, because I think you leverage the application programming interfaces (APIs) that you live and breathe Salesforce, which is fine, but you get a lot more in the process -- and I guess that’s a pun.

What is this visual benefit and how does that extend to other process elements that you might want to bring into Salesforce that you couldn’t otherwise?

Egertson: Andrew, and Justin can speak to the user experience as well, but the user experience, when using Cloud Extend, is directly integrated into the UI. As Andrew mentioned, you don’t have to go out of Salesforce at all. As you're working on something in Salesforce, there is a section in the Salesforce screen, where you can choose what type of process flow you want to run as the user. You just click on a button and then you're stepped through a series of screens, all of which appear within a pane within the Salesforce UI.

Direct integration

Developing the process flows is also integrated directly into the Salesforce UI. You go in and, through a set of guidance trees, set up the series of steps that you want to walk a sales rep or producer through. The sales manager, somebody like Justin working hand-in-hand with Andrew, do that directly in the Salesforce user interface.

Gardner: Let's go back to Justin. You had this great thing that Andrew developed for you come in. How is it that using Cloud Extend with Salesforce with your account execs led them down this garden path? What did it do that got this adoption jump started and then into overdrive?

Hoffman: We believe ease of use to be a huge driver in adoption, being able to just ask questions in plain English, present simple answers for them to choose or select, which then drives the next set of questions that they’re going to be asked.

It just couldn’t be easier. It couldn’t be less intimidating. It washes away any anxiety that people might have or any perception of "This Salesforce thing is a pain to use." The way that you’re able to craft these guides is so straightforward, so easy to use, all that goes away.

I liken it to the concept of the airport kiosk. When you go to check-in, you punch in a few pieces of information and all you’re doing is answering the questions that are presented clearly and simply on the screen. There is actually very complex work that’s being done behind the scenes, but you, as the user, don’t have to have any comfort level with technology, it's just there. There are questions. You answer them, and all the information falls into the right place.

This thing is really easy to use and we’re getting all the information where it needs to be.

That concept is working for us and Salesforce and it just drives the general perception of, "This thing is really easy to use and we’re getting all the information where it needs to be." All of the reporting, all of the workflows, all of the views are populated sufficiently to support how we sell.

I’d like to elaborate on how we’re going to be using the warm-up plans. We knew that we didn’t want to automate to the degree that we take this thinking out of the hands of our account executives.

We're in a business where there is very long lead cycle. You might meet someone and you might not get a first meeting with them where you actually come in and talk to them about their business, what you can do for them for many, many months. After that, you might not get the business for a year-and-a-half.

So it's really important to stay in touch with people, to build trust, to establish credibility, and to work yourself along this very long lead cycle to stay focused, stay driving ahead, to get yourself that first appointment. That’s where people really shine. Our hit ratio is quite high, once people have gotten that first appointment.

These guides are really good about prompting people to take action, giving them options as far as how they’d like to warm up this lead. Use your discretion as a salesperson. Are you going to make a phone call? Then go ahead and here’s some coaching for that phone call. Are you going to send an email? Well, we make it really, really easy to send an HTML email through Salesforce. Are you going to invite them to one of our proprietary events? We make it really easy to do that through our guides.

Guiding, not forcing

ut, we don’t tell them how to heir prospecting and we’re not directly reaching out to the prospect without our account executives because they know the relationship. They know the stage it's in. They know the conversations they’ve had with the people. They know their pain points. We’re really guiding them, but we’re not forcing them. We’re not overriding. We’re respecting the fact that these are seasoned sales professionals.

Gardner: Back to you Andrew, I get this about how the sales folks, the account execs, can work this the way that they work, that they don’t have to adapt their behavior and patterns to the application. There is much of a meeting between them. At the same time, I’ve heard that as IT Director, you didn’t have to get involved with defining how that would happen.

So help me understand how that works? How is it that you can outsource this, have it as a true SaaS service, but also get that level of granular adaptability to these individual wants and requirements?

Bartels: I think everybody can appreciate that. The corporate IT departments really have a lot going on. Nobody is sitting around doing nothing. One of the challenges that many organizations confront, when marketing or business development comes to them with an IT need, is where does that fall in the priority queue when it comes to the priorities that are in front of IT?

One of the things was really refreshing about Cloud Extend is that it literally is as simple as point-and-click. I am sure a lot of people listening to this have installed apps from the Salesforce AppExchange. Getting Cloud Extend up and running in your Salesforce Org really is as simple as installing one of those managed packages from the AppExchange. You click through it, and boom, bang, it's done. It was amazing to me that it was as easy as they said it would be, and it truly, truly was.

Cloud Extend, to my amazement, was truly point-and-click. You don’t even have to install a separate application onto a PC.

It's as simple as dropping the Cloud Extend UI into the various object pages that you’re looking to use it in. Something that is really worth mentioning is that Cloud Extend is truly cross-object. You get a lot of apps out there that you can use in leads, but you can't use in accounts, or you can use them in opportunities and you can't use them in leads.

One of the things that was amazing about Cloud Extend is they thought through that. They said, "Look, this workflow engine can be applied to almost any object in Salesforce and we need to make it point-and-click easy to get it in and make it happen." From my point of view, it's the ability to easily deploy an application this powerful straight into the Salesforce Org and then be able to hand it over to the marketing and business development folks and say, "Go wild."

Justin and I have had a conversation backwards and forwards about how much support they would need. The wonderful thing is that when you install Cloud Extend straight into Org, it comes with a set of predefined guides that just work. You can pull up the guide design and say, "Okay, how did they do this?" It literally is point-and-click.

Salesforce likes to sell itself as 80 percent clicks, 20 percent code. I can say that Cloud Extend, to my amazement, was truly point-and-click. You don’t even have to install a separate application onto a PC. The entire experience, both from the user point of view and from the designer point of view, exists within the Salesforce UI. It is simply another app to click and select.

It ties into all your Salesforce profile permissions, and it just works. From an IT point of view, from having to support the myriad of applications that we support, I can't tell you how refreshing it is. I think Justin would agree with me here. If you can design a process on a whiteboard, you can most likely design a process using Cloud Extend and the guide designer within the UI of Salesforce.

Simple deployment

So from our point of view, the fact that we could deploy a workflow tool with the lineage that Cloud Extend has, coming from its roots in Socrates and things like that, and plug it in without deploying a single server or installing a single application was amazing for me and somebody that was responsible for prioritizing the tasks that my team need to focus on.

This was truly eye-opening and I said to Justin that when I see products like this I really realize that the cloud is coming of age. This is the future and this is what the future will look like.

Hoffman: To piggyback on what Andrew is saying here, I'm really excited that I'm going to be able to sit down with, say, our Senior Vice President-Business Development Ed Kushlis and talk through new ideas, changes in markets, and new opportunities. We can sit down with these guides and play with them, and you don’t have to have an IT background. I don’t know anything about code and I don’t have to, all I have to understand is what opportunity we’re seeing in the market and how our people sell.

We can get a good way down the road of building a guide without having to grab Andrew and engage him at least on the front-end. He is someone at the organization whose time is in very high demand. He is not your average IT person and when I say that, he has got a great strategic mind. He has got good business sense, it's true, and there are a lot of different people from the ops side, from the business development side, from the administrative side who are coming to him and asking for his help, his assistance on how we streamline things and how we can be smarter about things at PSA.

So if Ed and I have to get in that queue, well, we have to get in that queue. Alternatively, we can get right in, work on these guides and get ourselves a good way towards creating these new guides that will be dropped into Salesforce. If we can’t get it 100 percent ourselves, we are going to get it pretty darn close. That gives us a lot of freedom and a lot of agility.

At Dreamforce, at the end of August 2011, we'll make Cloud Extend commercially available.

Gardner: Thanks for that, Justin. Let’s go to you, Eric. It sounds like you are making Andrew look good because he doesn’t have to go through lot of clicks and spin his wheels getting this thing running. You're making Justin look good because he is able to help his sales executives do their job better. And you're making Salesforce look good, because you're able to exploit Salesforce and all the resources that they have added to it and the single sign on, what have you.

So tell us little bit, Eric, what is going to happen at Dreamforce? We're here in August, and it’s coming up fast. What’s going to happen at Dreamforce and where do you go next with this?

Egertson: At Dreamforce, at the end of August 2011, we'll make Cloud Extend commercially available. We've been working with PSA in our early access program and, as you’ve heard, they’ve had some success there rolling out the warm-up plans using Cloud Extend. I really liked what Andrew said toward the end of his last comment there, where cloud computing is what enables us to deliver the ease of use that customers always expect, but oftentimes do not receive.

If we had to roll this out all on premise and then have somebody like Andrew assign a development team to make the interfaces work, that’s a big barrier to adoption. That’s a big delay. By delivering this in the cloud, pre-integrated with Salesforce, it all just works. We’re able to get our customers up and running quickly.

Back to your question though, Dana, at Dreamforce, the product will become commercially available. We expect to sign up many customers at the show and immediately thereafter, we will go live with this.


All of the Cloud Extend technology is already cloud-enabled. It’s all based on open standards, knows all about web services. It’s multi-tenanted, so that we can host hundreds of customers and all of the data is segregated. It’s mobile-enabled. All of Cloud Extend guides will run on an iPad just as well as on laptop or a desktop and it’s socially enabled.

We work with Salesforce Chatter. We work with Jigsaw, and we can work with LinkedIn. So all of those things are there, as far as where we will take the product. We will continue to develop along the lines of social and mobile, but we also have the capability to pull in other SaaS applications.

Just as we’ve improved the usability and the sophistication of what you can do with Salesforce, we plan to do that for other SaaS applications as well. Cloud Extend for Salesforce is built on a commercial-grade development platform, and we can very easily, almost trivially, port this to other SaaS applications to enable process automation within any SaaS application.

In terms of where we'll take this, we'll keep our eye on the trends in mobile computing and social computing, as well as the plethora of SaaS applications that are out there. We'll be enabling process automation and workflow in those SaaS applications as well.

Gardner: So Eric, the big question for me is, you are able to provide these process innovation and flexibility benefits within those specific SaaS applications. How about across them? Is there going to be an opportunity to extend business process value among and between different SaaS that would be sort of that multiple cloud of clouds integration capability?

Egertson: That’s exactly the big picture, Dana. You’ve hit the nail on the head there. Even today, as we work with PSA and other Cloud Extend for Salesforce customers, if they need to reach out of Salesforce to another SaaS application or to an on-premises application again because the underlying technology is our ActiveVOS process automation platform, it’s very easy for us to enable that.

You can envision, in the very near future, an ecosystem where Cloud Extend is set up to integrate with an interface to many different SaaS applications.

You can envision, in the very near future, an ecosystem where Cloud Extend is set up to integrate with an interface to many different SaaS applications. With a little consulting work from us, we're able to interface that to on-premise applications and do exactly what you described, Dana, which would be to integrate across cloud applications, from a workflow or process automation perspective.

You would probably always have one SaaS application as your host, say Salesforce, but it would be pulling data from other systems, perhaps NetSuite, if it’s an ERP system, or Workday for HR information. But, the host SaaS application could be one of those other applications that pulls data from Salesforce.

The future, and it’s a near future for us, is that we will enable integration and process automation across SaaS applications in the cloud.

Gardner: We're just about out of time. I want to circle back to Andrew and Justin. I know it’s early, I know you are early adopters and it’s hard to quantify benefits when you’ve got such a long lead value proposition that you are focused on, but are there any metrics of success here? Do you have any either anecdotal or quantitative measurement that you can point to and say, this is working for us in the following way?

Sales statistics

Hoffman: As you pointed out, it's a little bit early to point to that, but when you talk about the metrics that mean something to us, there’s something that we knew to be intuitively true that I came across in an article, and I’d like to read it to you. These are just some quick stats regarding sales, what it takes, and where actually sales come from. They very much back up the concept of the warm-up plan.

Again, these warm-up plans not only help guide people towards what they are going to do, but they are going to keep people on track. They are going to keep people diligent about their follow-up, so I’ll read them off to you quickly.

About 48 percent of salespeople never follow-up with the prospect, these are not industry specific or PSA specific, they are just general sales stats. So, 48 percent of people never follow-up with the prospect. Only 25 percent make a second contact. Only 12 percent make three contacts. Only 10 percent make more than three contacts.

Now, if you look at where sales come from, only 2 percent of sales are made on the second contact, 5 percent on the third, 10 percent on the fourth, and 80 percent of sales are made between the fifth and twelfth contact.

Knowing that to be true in our guts and then to see these stats that we have just recently come across, it makes us very certain that having these warm-up plans and the other guides that are going to be available to us now are going to be huge difference makers for PSA.

Bartels: From my point of view, I look at the amount of investment of time and resources that we have put into integrating our back-end systems and bringing data that is critical to the whole sales process into Salesforce, any tool, Cloud Extend being one of them, that really allows us to get the maximum return on investment on what we have done with Salesforce is huge. It’s absolutely huge.

Anything that helps and makes that process simpler is going to drive return on investment.

Anybody who's used Salesforce, customized Salesforce, and added custom fields that are specific to their vertical realize very quickly that Salesforce can become a very deep product. Cloud Extend really enables us to ensure that our account executives, even though they may not be technology efficient, are really applying best practices when it comes to utilizing Salesforce and collecting the information that we as an organization know is absolutely critical to collect.

So anything that helps and makes that process simpler is going to drive return on investment, both in Cloud Extend, but most of all in the huge investment that we've put into Salesforce. That’s just a big, big plus for us at PSA.

Gardner: Very good. I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there. You have been listening to a sponsored podcast discussion on the new Cloud Extend for Salesforce solution from Active Endpoints. We've seen how it’s enabled PSA Insurance & Financial Services to manage their diverse processes and bind together critical sales and financial product delivery resources for better business results.

I’d like to thank our guests. We have been joined here by Andrew Bartels, IT Director at PSA. Thank you so much, Andrew.

Bartels: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: We have also been here with Justin Hoffman, Marketing Director at PSA. Thanks so much, Justin.

Hoffman: My pleasure. Thank you.

Gardner: And lastly, Eric Egertson, Vice President, Business Development and Strategic Accounts at Active Endpoints. Thank you, Eric.

Egertson: Dana, thank you very much.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks again for listening, and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Active Endpoints.

Transcript of a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast on how a cloud integration helped a major financial services company provide productivity tools for account executives. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Analysts Probe Future of Client Architectures as HTML 5 and Client Virtualization Loom

Edited transcript of BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcast, Vol. 52 on client-side architectures and the prospect of heightened disruption in the PC and device software arenas.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download the transcript. Charter Sponsor: Active Endpoints.

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Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the latest BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition, Volume 52. I'm your host and moderator Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

This periodic discussion and dissection of IT infrastructure related news and events, with a panel of industry analysts and guests, comes to you with the help of our charter sponsor, Active Endpoints, maker of the ActiveVOS Business Process Management System.

Our topic this week on BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition focuses on client-side architectures and the prospect of heightened disruption in the PC and device software arenas.

Such trends as cloud computing, service oriented architecture (SOA), social media, software as a service (SaaS), and virtualization are combining and overlapping to upset the client landscape. If more of what more users are doing with their clients involves services, then shouldn't the client be more services ready? Should we expect one client to do it all very well, or do we need to think more about specialized clients that might be configured on the fly?

Today's clients are more tied to the past than the future, where one size fits all. Most clients consist of a handful of entrenched PC platforms, a handful of established web browsers, and a handful of PC-like smartphones. But, what has become popular on the server, virtualization, is taken to its full potential on these edge devices. New types of dynamic and task specific client types might emerge. We'll take a look at what they might look like.

Also, just as Windows 7 for Microsoft is quickly entering the global PC market, cloud providers are in an increasingly strong position to potentially favor certain client types or data and configuration synchronization approaches. Will the client lead the cloud or vice versa? We'll talk about that too.

Either way, the new emphasis seems to be on full-media, webby activities, where standards and technologies are vying anew for some sort of a de-facto dominance across both rich applications as well as media presentation capabilities.

We're going to look at the future of the client with a panel of analysts and guests. Let me introduce them. I am going to welcome Chad Jones. He is the Vice President for Product Management at Neocleus. Welcome, Chad.

Chad Jones: Thank you, Dana. I'm glad to be here.

Gardner: We're also here with Michael Rowley, CTO of Active Endpoints. Welcome, Michael.

Michael Rowley: Thank you.

Gardner: We're also here again with Jim Kobielus, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research. Hi, Jim.

Jim Kobielus: Hi, Dana. Hi, everybody.

Gardner: And Michael Dortch, Director of Research at Focus. Hello, Michael.

Michael Dortch: Greetings, everyone. Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: JP Morgenthal, Chief Architect, Merlin International. Hi, JP.

JP Morgenthal: Hi, Dana. Hi, everyone.

Gardner: And Dave Linthicum, CTO, Bick Group. Welcome back, Dave.

Dave Linthicum: Hey guys.

Gardner: Let me go first to Chad Jones. Tell us where you see virtualization impacting the edge device, the client. Are we to expect something similar in terms of disruption there than the same as what we have seen on servers?

Time for disruption

Jones: Dana, in the client market, it's time for disruption. Looking at the general PC architectures, we have seen that since pretty much the inception of the computer, you really still have one operating system (OS) that's bound to one machine, and that machine, according to a number of analysts, is less than 10 percent utilized.

Normally, that's because you can't share that resource and really take advantage of everything that modern hardware can offer you. Dual cores and all the gigabytes of RAM that are available on the client are all are great things, but if you can't have an architecture that can take advantage of that in a big way, then you get more of the same.

On the client side, virtualization is moving into all forms of computing. We've seen that with applications, storage, networks, and certainly the revolution that happened with VMware and the hypervisors on the server side. But, the benefits from the server virtualization side were not only the ability to run multiple OSs side-by-side and consolidate servers, which is great, but definitely not as relevant to the client side. It’s really the ability to manage the machine at the machine level and be able to take OSs and move them as individual blocks of functionality in those workloads.

The same thing for the client can become possible when you start virtualizing that endpoint and stop doing management of the OS as management of the PC, and be able to manage that PC at the root level.

Virtualization is a key enabler into that, and is going to open up PC architectures to a whole brave new world of management and security. And, at a platform level, there will be things that we're not even seeing yet, things that developers can think of, because they have options to now run applications and agents and not be bound to just Windows itself. I think it’s going to be very interesting.

With virtualization, you have a whole new area where cloud providers can tie in at the PC level. They'll be able to bundle desktop services and deliver them in a number of unique ways.

Gardner: Chad, we're also seeing, of course, this welling of interest in cloud and SaaS, where services are coming off the Internet for applications and increasingly for entertainment, and to consumers as movies and video clips and full media. Is there something going on here between the two trends, where virtualization has some potential, but cloud computing is also ramping up? Is there some way that the cloud will be delivering virtualized instances of runtimes for client? Is that in the offing?

Jones: Well, number one, anything is possible out there. But, I definitely see that there's a huge trend out there in hosted desktops through virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), not only from a private cloud standpoint with an internal set of hosted desktops. Some companies are creating and working with some of the largest telcos to provide hosted VDI externally, so that all that infrastructure doesn’t have to be managed by the enterprise itself. It can actually be as a hosted service.

That would be an external semi-public, private cloud, and all the way down to full public clouds, where desktops would be hosted in that cloud.

Now, if you look at the trending information, it seems that VDI, in general, will niche out at about 15 percent of overall desktops, especially in the enterprise space, leaving still 85-90 percent of desktops still requiring that rich client experience.

But, with virtualization, you have a whole new area where cloud providers can tie in at the PC level. They'll be able to bundle desktop services and deliver them in a number of unique ways -- streaming or synchronization of VHD and things like that -- but still have them be compartmentalized into their own runtime environments.

Personal OS

Imagine that you have your own personal Windows OS, that maybe you have signed up for Microsoft’s new Intune service to manage that from the cloud standpoint. Then, you have another Google OS that comes down with applications that are specific from that Google service, and that desktop is running in parallel with Windows, because it’s fully controlled from a cloud provider like Google. Something like Chrome OS is truly a cloud-based OS, where everything is supposed to be stored up in the cloud.

Those kinds of services, in turn, can converge into the PC, and virtualization can take that to the next level on the endpoint, so that those two things don’t overlap with each other, and a level of service, which is important for the cloud, certainly for service level agreements (SLAs), can truly be attained. There will be a lot of flexibility there.

Gardner: Dave Linthicum, we're thinking now about cloud providers, not just delivering data services and applications, but perhaps delivering their own version of the runtime environment on the client. Is that in the purview of cloud providers or are we talking about something that’s perhaps dangerous?

Linthicum: I don’t think it’s dangerous. Cloud providers will eventually get into desktop virtualization. It just seems to be the logical conclusion of where we're heading right now.

In other words, we're providing all these very heavy-duty IT services, such as database, OSs, and application servers on demand. It just makes sense that eventually we're going to provide complete desktop virtualization offerings that pop out of the cloud.

The beauty of that is that a small business, instead of having to maintain an IT staff, will just have to maintain a few clients. They log into a cloud account and the virtualized desktops come down.

It provides disaster recovery based on the architecture. It provides great scalability, because basically you're paying for each desktop instance and you're not paying for more or less than you need. So, you're not buying a data center or an inventory of computers and having to administer the users.

That said, it has a lot more cooking to occur, before we actually get the public clouds on that bandwagon. Over the next few years, it's primarily going to be an enterprise concept and it's going to be growing, but eventually it's going to reach the cloud.

Gardner: This is something that might emerge in a private cloud environment first and then perhaps migrate out toward more consumer or public cloud environments.

Linthicum: Absolutely. Public cloud is going to be the destination for this. There are going to be larger companies. Google and Microsoft are going to jump on this. Microsoft is a prime candidate for making this thing work, as long as they can provide something as a service, which is going to have the price point that the small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are going to accept, because they are the early adopters.

Gardner: Michael Rowley at Active Endpoints, you're in the business of providing enterprise applications, business management, process management, and you have decided a certain approach to this on your client that isn’t necessarily a cloud or SaaS delivery model but nonetheless takes advantage of some of these technologies. Tell us what Active Endpoints did to solve its client issues with its business process management (BPM)?

Browser-based client

Rowley: When we talk about the client, we're mostly thinking about the web-browser based client as opposed to the client as an entire virtualized OS. When you're using a business process management system (BPMS) and you involve people, at some point somebody is going to need to pull work off of a work list and work on it and then eventually complete it and go and get the next piece of work.

That’s done in a web-based environment, which isn’t particularly unusual. It's a fairly rich environment, which is something that a lot of applications are going to. Web-based applications are going to a rich Internet application (RIA) style.

We have tried to take it even a step further and have taken advantage of the fact that by moving to some of these real infrastructures, you can do not just some of the presentation tier of an application on the client. You can do the entire presentation tier on the web browser client and have its communication to the server, instead of being traditional HTML, have the entire presentation on the browser. Its communication uses more of a web-service approach and going directly into the services tier on the server. That server can be in a private cloud or, potentially, a public cloud.

You go directly from your browser client into the services tier on the server, and it just decreases the overall complexity of the entire system.

What's interesting is that by not having to install anything on the client, as with any of these discussions we are talking about, that's an advantage, but also on the server, not having to have a different presentation tier that's separate from your services tier.

You go directly from your browser client into the services tier on the server, and it just decreases the overall complexity of the entire system. That's possible, because we base it on Ajax, with JavaScript that uses a library that's becoming a de-facto standard called jQuery. jQuery has the power to communicate with the server and then do all of the presentation logic locally.

Gardner: One of the things that's interesting to me about that, Michael, is that because we're talking about HTML5 and some new standards, one possible route to the future would be this almost exclusive browser based approach. We've seen a lot of that over the past decade or more, enough so that it even threatened Microsoft and its very identity as a client OS company.

But, we've run into some friction and some fragmentation around standards, things like Adobe versus Apple versus Silverlight, and the varying RIA approaches. Do you think that HTML5 has the potential to solidify and standardize the market, so that the browser approach that you have been describing could become more dominant than it is even now?

Push toward standards

Rowley: I think it will. I really do. Everybody probably has an opinion on this. I believe that Apple, growing dominant in the client space with both the iPhone and now the iPad, and its lack of support for either Silverlight or Flash, will be a push toward the standard space, the HTML5 using JavaScript, as the way of doing client-based rich Internet apps. There will be more of a coalescing around these technologies, so that potentially all of your apps can come through the one browser-based client.

Gardner: Of course, Google seems to be behind that model as well.

Rowley: Absolutely.

Gardner: So, here we have potentially two different approaches -- an HTML5 oriented world, more web-based, more services-based -- but also we have a virtualization capability, where we could bring down specialized runtime environments to support any number of different legacy or specialized applications.

Let's go to our panel. Michael Dortch, isn't this the best of both worlds, if we could have standardization and comprehensive browser capabilities and, at the same time, a virtualized environment, where we could support just about anything we needed to, but on the fly?

Dortch: Dana, my sainted, and very wise, mother used to say, where you stand depends on where you sit. So, whether or not this is a good thing depends entirely on where you sit, whether or not this is the best of both worlds or the best of all possible worlds. From a developer standpoint, I want one set of tools, right?

Gardner: Well, that's unlikely.

Dortch: Right, it's highly unlikely, but my mom also used to say, I was naively optimistic, so I am just going to plow forward here. Let me be more realistic. I want as few tools to manage and to learn as possible to reach the largest number of paying customers for this software that I'm trying to create. "Write once -- sell many times" is the mantra.

To get there, we're going to need a set of open standards, a set of really compelling services, and a set of really easy-to-use tools. If the model of the cloud has taught us anything yet, it's that, at the end of the day, I shouldn't have to care what those individual components are or even where they come from, but we know it's going to be a long, convoluted journey to get to that ideal space.

So the question becomes, if I am a developer with limited resources, what path do I go down now? I really don't think we know enough to answer that question. The Flash debate about Apple and its iPhone and its iPad hasn't seemed to shut down the Apple iTunes App Store yet, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Gardner: Adobe isn't going out of business either, nor is Microsoft.

Dortch: Exactly, exactly. Every time a Starbucks opens near me, none of the local coffee shops close. I don't get it, but it's the truth. So, at the end of the day, all that really matters in all of this discussion is a very short list of criteria -- what works, what's commercially feasible, and what's not going to require a rip and replace either by users or by developers. There's too much money on the table for any of the major players to make any of these things onerous to any of those communities.

Proprietary approaches

So, yes, there are going to continue to be proprietary approaches to solving these problems. As the Buddhists like to say, many paths, one mountain. That's always going to be true. But, we've got to keep our eyes on the ultimate goal here, and that is, how do you deliver the most compelling services to the largest number of users with the most efficient use of your development resources?

Until the debate shifts more in that direction and stops being so, I want to call it, religious about bits and bytes and speeds and feeds, progress is going to be hampered. But, there's good news in HTML5, Android, Chrome, and those things. At the end of the day, there's going to be a lot of choices to be made.

The real choices to be made right now are centered on what path developers should take, so that, as the technologies evolve, they have to do as little ripping and replacing as possible. This is especially a challenge for larger companies running critical proprietary applications.

Gardner: So, we've taken the developer into consideration. JP Morgenthal is a chief architect for a systems integrator (SI). What do you like in terms of a view of the future? Do you like the notion of a web-based primary vehicle for the new apps, and perhaps a way of supporting the older apps via virtualization services? What's your take architecturally?

Morgenthal: I like to watch patterns. That's what I do. Look at where more applications have been created in the past three years, on what platform, and in what delivery mechanism than in any other way. Have they been web apps or have they been iPhone/Android apps?

You've got to admit that the web is a great vehicle for pure dynamic content. But, at the end of the day, when there is a static portion of at least the framework and the way that the information is presented, nothing beats that client that’s already there going out and getting a small subset of information, bringing it back, and displaying it.

I see us moving back to that model. The web is great for a fully connected high-bandwidth environment.

I've been following a lot about economics, especially U.S. economics, how the economy is going, and how it impacts everything. I had a great conversation with somebody who is in finance and investing, and we joked about how people are claiming they are getting evicted out of their homes. Their houses and homes are being foreclosed on. They can barely afford to eat. But, everybody in the family has an iPhone with a data plan.

Look what necessity has become, at least in the U.S., and I know it's probably similar in Korea, Japan, and parts of Europe. Your medium for delivery of content and information is that device in the palm that's got about a 300x200 display.

The status thing

Kobielus: That was very funny. When people lose their fortunes, the last thing that the wives pawn is their jewelry. It’s the status items they stick with. So, the notion that the poor, broke family all have iPhones and everything is consistent with that status thing.

Morgenthal: Somebody sent me a joke the other day talking about how 53 percent of women find men with iPhones more attractive than those with Palm Pres and BlackBerry.

Gardner: So, JP, if I understand you, what you're saying is that the iPhone model, where you have got a client-server approach, but that client can come down freely and be updated as a cloud service to you, is the future.

Morgenthal: Yeah. And, on the desktop, you have Adobe doing the same thing with AIR and its cross-platform, and it's a lot more interactive than some of the web stuff. JavaScript is great, but at some point, you do get degradation in functionality. At some point, you have to deliver too much data to make that really effective. That all goes away, when you have a consistent user interface (UI) that is downloadable and updatable automatically.

I have got a Droid now. Everyday I see that little icon in the corner; I have got updates for you. I have updated my Seismic three times, and my USA Today. It tells me when to update. It automatically updates my client. It's a very neutral type of platform, and it works very, very well as the main source for me to deliver content.

Virtualization is on many fronts, but I think what we are seeing on the phone explosion is a very good point. I get most of my information through my phone.

Now, sometimes, is that medium too small to get something more? Yeah. So where do I go? I go to my secondary source, which is my laptop. I use my phone as my usual connectivity medium to get my Internet.

So, while we have tremendous broadband capability growing around the world, we're living in a wireless world and wireless is becoming the common denominator for a delivery vehicle. It's limiting and controlling what we can get down to the end user in the client format.

Gardner: Let’s go back to Chad Jones at Neocleus. Tell us how the smartphone impact here plays out. It almost seems as if the smartphone is locking us down in the same way the PC was 15 or 20 years ago, with some caveats about these downloadable and updatable apps or data. How does that fit into virtualization? Is it possible to virtualize the smartphone as well and get the best of something there?

Jones: First of all, I'm very happy to hear that women find guys with the iPhone more attractive, because I am talking on my iPhone with you guys right now. So, this is a good thing. I feel like I need to walk outside.

Virtualization is on many fronts, but I think what we are seeing on the phone explosion is a very good point. I get most of my information through my phone. Through the course of my day, when I'm not sitting in front of my PC, it almost becomes my first source of a notification of information. I get to get into my information. I get to see what the basics of whatever that piece of information is.

Normally, if I want to go start researching deeper into it or read more into it, then the limiting factor of that screen and those types of things that we were talking about drives me to my PC.

More coming through

think that you're definitely going to see more and more apps and those types of things coming through to the phones, but just by the sheer form factor of the phone, it's going to limit you from what you're able to do.

Now, what is that going to end up being? Is it going to be, yes, I am going to continue to have my laptop in my bag? I think that's going to be true for quite a while now. But, I certainly can see that, in the future, there could be just a sleeve that you throw your phone in and it just jacks up the screen resolution. Now, you have a form factor that you can work through.

But, to take it back to your whole question of virtualization on a phone, we haven’t seen the same type of platform-related issues in applications to a great extent yet, where it comes to conflicts and require a different phone, an OS version.

Is it readily working from app version to app version that you see on the PC. From an app virtualization standpoint, I don’t think that there is a big need there yet, until the continuation of those apps gets more complex. Then, maybe it will run into those issues. I just don’t see that that's necessarily going to happen.

From a multi-OS standpoint that virtualization would pull in, even from a management standpoint, I don’t think the platforms have the same issues that you're going to see inside of the PC platform. For me, the jury is still out on where virtualization and if virtualization would truly play on the phone model.

In the future, there could be just a sleeve that you throw your phone in and it just jacks up the screen resolution. Now, you have a form factor that you can work through.

Gardner: Let me flip it around then Chad. If more people like JP are getting more information and relying more on their phone, but they need that form factor and they need to support those legacy apps inside of an enterprise environment, why not virtualize the smartphone on the PC?

Jones: That would be interesting. Something from a reverse standpoint, absolutely. If it comes to a point where applications are primarily built for, let's say, the iPhone, you want to be able to have that emulator or something like that. That could definitely be a wave of the future. That way, you are crossing the bridges between both platforms. That could be an interesting approach at virtualization, but it's going to be on the PC side.

Dortch: I can't let this part of the conversation go by without raising a few user-centric concerns. Anyone who has done a webinar has clicked the button that says "Next Slide," and then died quietly inside waiting for the slide to load, because there has been latency on the net, some technological problem, or something like that -- whether you're an attendee or a presenter at one of these webinar conferences.

So, I'm thinking, if I am trying to do business-critical work under deadline, if it's the end of the quarter and I am trying to close a deal or something like that, and I click the button that's supposed to download the next virtualized client service that I am supposed to be using and it doesn’t load, I am going to start putting together a list of hostages I plan to take in the next few minutes.

Gardner: That's a point that's always there Michael. We all need ubiquitous broadband. There is no question about it.

Moving complexity

Dortch: Yeah, but I worry about what I've seen. When you talk about watching patterns, over the past 30, 35 years, one of the things I've seen is that complexity rarely goes away but it moves around a lot.

Is one of the thing that may be holding back client virtualization the simple fact that, when you look at the limitations of most client devices, especially hand-held client devices, even smartphones, and you look at the limitations, not only of the networks of the service providers but of their abilities to even monitor and bill accurately for such granular services, aren’t these things sort of like also slowing down the growth of these technologies that offer a lot of really great promise, but just don't seem to have taken off just yet?

Gardner: Sure there are going to be limiting factors, but we're trying to look at this also through an enterprise lens. We're thinking about how to support the old and the new, but do it in such a way that we're not tied to a client-side platform limitation, but we're really limited only by what we tend to do in terms of business process and applications and data.

Dave Linthicum, let's go back to you. The discussion about whether it's a PC or a smartphone, whether it's HTML5, web e-services, or a virtualized runtime environment, do these become moved pretty quickly when you think about the course of the application logic and that it's primarily becoming a business process across ecosystems of services and perhaps hybrids of suppliers?

It's the ability to put everything that I own and that I work with, and all my files and all my information, up into a provider, a private cloud.

Linthicum: Yeah, it's going to completely move. There are some prototypes today, such as the stuff Google provides, and they do it on mobile devices, as well as web, and they also provide their own OS, which is web-based. That, in essence, is going to be kind of a virtualized client, such as what we are talking about during this discussion. But, going forward, it's really not going to make a difference.

If you think about it, we're going to have these virtualized desktops, which come out of the cloud we talked about earlier, which communicate with our computers, but also communicate with cellphones any way in which we want to externalize those applications to us to become part of the process. That's where we are heading.

The power of the cloud, the power of cloud computing, the power of virtualized desktops such as this have the ability to do that. It's the ability to put everything that I own and that I work with, and all my files and all my information, up into a provider, a private cloud, and then have them come down and use them on whatever desktop, whatever device, that I want to use, whether it's pad computing, or whether it's on my TV at home at night. We're heading in that direction. We're getting used to that now.

As JP pointed out, we use our cellphones more than our computers every day. I guarantee you, half the guys on the call today have iPads. Admit it guys, you do. And, we're using those devices as well. We're starting to carry these things around, and ultimately, we are learning how to become virtualized onto itself.

I spent this weekend making sure I put up into Google everything that I have, so that I can get them to the different devices out there. That's where things are going to head.

Gardner: So, the synchronization in the config files, in the data files in the sky, that's the real lock in. That's where your relationship with the vendor counts, and increasingly, an abstraction off of the client allows you to have less and less of a true tie-in there.

Let's go to Jim Kobielus. Do you like the idea of a cloud-based world where the process and data in the sky is your primary relationship, and it's a secondary relationship, as JP said, towards whatever the client is?

Getting deconstructed

Kobielus: Yeah. In fact, it's the whole notion of a PC being the paradigm here that's getting deconstructed. It has been deconstructed up the yin yang. If you look at what a PC is, and we often think about a desktop, it's actually simply a decomposition of services, rendering services, interaction services, connection and access, notifications, app execution, data processing, identity and authentication. These are all services that can and should be virtualized and abstracted to the cloud, private or public, because the clients themselves, the edges, are a losing battle, guys.

Try to pick winners here. This year, iPads are hot. Next year, it's something else. The year beyond, it's something else. What's going to happen is -- and we already know it's happening -- is that everything is getting hybridized like crazy.

All these different client or edge approaches are just going to continue to blur into each other. The important thing is that the PC becomes your personal cloud. It's all of these services that are available to you. The common denominator here for you as a user is that somehow your identity is abstracted across all the disparate services that you have access to.

All of these services are aware that you are Dave Linthicum, coming in through your iPad, or you are Dave Linthicum coming in through a standard laptop web browser, and so forth. Your identity and your content is all there and is all secure, in a sense, bringing process into there.

A lot of applications will really mix up the presentation of the work to be done by the people who are using the application, with the underlying business process that they are enabling.

You don't normally think of a process as being a service that's specific to a client, but your hook into a process, any process, is your ability to log in. Then, have your credentials accepted and all of your privileges, permissions, and entitlements automatically provisioned to you.

Identity, in many ways, is the hook into this vast, personal cloud PC. That’s what’s happening.

Gardner: So, if I understand this correctly, we're saying that the edge device isn’t that important. And, as we have said in past shows, where the cloud exists it isn't that important: private, public, an intranet, a grid utility.

What is important? Are we talking about capturing the right data and the right configuration and metadata that creates the process? And if that's the case, Michael Rowley, that might be good news for you guys, because you're in BPM. Can we deconstruct what's important on the server and on the edge, and what's left?

Rowley: That's a great question, because a lot of applications will really mix up the presentation of the work to be done by the people who are using the application, with the underlying business process that they are enabling.

If you can somehow tease those apart and get it so that the business process itself is represented, using something like a business process model, then have the work done by the person or people divided into a specific task that they are intended to do, you can have the task, at different times, be hosted by different kinds of clients.

Different rendering

r, depending on the person, whether they're using a smartphone or a full PC, they might get a different rendering of the task, without changing the application from the perspective of the business person who is trying to understand what's going on. Where are we in this process? What has happened? What has to happen yet? Etc.

Then, for the rendering itself, it's really useful to have that be as dynamic as possible and not have it be based on downloading an application, whether it's an iPhone app or a PC app that needs to be updated, and you get a little sign that says you need to update this app or the other.

When you're using something like HTML5, you can get it so that you get a lot of the functionality of some of these apps that currently you have to download, including things, as somebody brought up before, the question of what happens when you aren't connected or are on partially connected computing?

Up until now, web-based apps very much needed to be connected in order to do anything. HTML5 is going to include some capabilities around much more functionality that's available, even when you're disconnected. That will take the technology of a web-based client to even more circumstances, where you would currently need to download one.

It's a little bit of a change in thinking for some people to separate out those two concepts, the process from the UI for the individual task. But, once you do, you get a lot of value for it.

Gardner: We're already seeing that with some SaaS apps, including some of the Google stuff, so that doesn't seem to be a big inhibitor. If what I hear you saying, Michael is that the process information, the data, the configuration data is important and valuable.

If we can burst out more capacity on the server and burst down whatever operating environment we need for the client, those things become less of a hurdle to the value, the value being getting work done, getting that business process efficiency, getting the right data to the right people. Or am I overstating it?

Rowley: No, that's exactly right. It's a little bit of a change in thinking for some people to separate out those two concepts, the process from the UI for the individual task. But, once you do, you get a lot of value for it.

Gardner: Chad Jones, do you also subscribe to this vision, where the data process configuration information is paramount, but that bursting out capacity for more cycles on the servers is going to become less of an issue, almost automatic? Then, the issuance of the right runtime environment for whatever particular client is involved at any particular time is also automatic? Do you think that’s where we are headed?

Jones: I can see that as part of it as well. When you're able to start taking abstraction of management and security from outside of those platforms and be able to treat that platform as a service, those things become much greater possibilities.

Percolate and cook

believe one of the gentlemen earlier commented that a lot of it needs some time to percolate and cook, and that’s absolutely the case. But, I see that within the next 10 years, the platform itself becomes a service, in which you can possibly choose which one you want. It’s delivered down from the cloud to you at a basic level.

That’s what you operate on, and then all of those other services come layered in on top of that as well, whether that’s partially through a concoction of virtualization and different OS platforms, coupled with cloud-based profiles, data access, applications and those things. That’s really the future that we're going to see here in the next 15 years or so.

Gardner: Dave Linthicum, what’s going to prevent us from reaching that sort of a vision? What’s in the way?

Linthicum: I think security is in the way. Governance, security, the whole control issue, and those sorts of things or fears that are an aid to the existing enterprises and the people who are going to leverage this kind of technology.

The people who are doing computing right now in a non-virtualized world are going to push back a bit on it, because it’s a loss of control. In other words, instead of just having something completely on a system that I'm maintaining, it’s going to be in a virtualized environment, things resourced to me, allocated to me through some kind of a centralized player. And, if they go down, such as Google goes down today, if people are dependent on Google Docs or Gmail or other sorts of things, I'm dead in the water. That’s really going to hinder adoption.

We're going to have to make sure we get systems that are going to comply with the laws that are out there and we need to be very aware of those.

We're going to have to prove that we can do things in a secure, private way. We're going to have to make sure we get systems that are going to comply with the laws that are out there and we need to be very aware of those.

More often than not, we've got to trust some of these players that are going to drive this stuff. This architecture itself is going to be viable, and the players themselves are going to provide a service that’s going to be reliable.

Dortch: I agree with everything David said and, from an enterprise standpoint, I hasten to add, there is the problem of the legacy systems. A lot of people are still running IE 6, and so HTML5 doesn’t really have much to offer them yet. From an IT management standpoint in the enterprise, it’s going to require some pretty fancy dancing in concert with the vendors and the developers who are pushing all this stuff forward to make sure that no critical user base is left behind, as you're moving forward in this way.

Gardner: Well, that’s why we are talking about this as a 15-20 year horizon. It’s not going to happen overnight.

JP Morgenthal, the trust issue. It seems that we've seen vendors trying to capitalize on the client, thinking that if you own the client, you can then control the process. We've seen other vendors say, if we can control the cloud, we can control the process. But, if you can’t control the server environment and you can’t control the client environment.

Why not just go after that all-important set of services. I'm thinking about an ecosystem or marketplace of business processes, perhaps something like what Salesforce is carving out. Any thoughts about who to trust and where the pincher points are in all this?

Interesting dilemma

Morgenthal: Trust is an interesting dilemma in a cyber environment. We're in an environment where the ability to defend is constantly about 10 paces behind those that are attacking. It’s the Wild West and the criminals outnumber the sheriffs 10:1. There is more money to be made robbing the people than there is protecting them.

The other thing that we have to deal with, with regard to trust, is that constant factor of anonymity. Anonymity is very problematic in this environment. Basically, it creates two classes of users. It creates a trust environment user and it creates an anonymous, public Internet user.

In the public Internet, you have your services, and they're potentially advertising-based or driven by some other revenue medium. But, you have to realize you are not going to know who your user is. You're not going to be able to be intimate about your user. Trust is minimal there. You do your best to minimize the potential for loss of data, for inappropriate use, for access to the services. Services are no different than an application at the end of the day.

I had a great meeting with the CSO from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and he said it best, "If I could do away with username and passwords, my life would be a billion times easier." Unfortunately, that's the number one medium for identity and credentials in the anonymous Internet. Until the day we have personal identity verification (PIV) cards, and they plug into machines, and we have guaranteed identity authentication given a credible medium, we're going to be dealing with that.

I think we have to assume that we now live in a world where we are going to be attacked. The question is how can we identify that attack quickly?

The alternative is that I'm going to create my secure net, my private net, where only I know the people and the users that are on that medium. That provides me a lot more flexibility and a lot more power. I can control what's happening on that, because I know who my users are.

So, we end up with these two class of users. I don’t see them going away anytime soon. Even in the 20 year realm, the ability to outthink the smartest hacker is unlikely. I think we have to assume that we now live in a world where we are going to be attacked. The question is how can we identify that attack quickly? How can we minimize the potential downside from those attacks? It's a lot like living in a world with terrorists.

Gardner: Jim Kobielus, JP had some interesting thoughts that you need to authenticate through the client or you need to authenticate through the service provider or cloud in order to make this work. But, is there a possibility that authentication could evolve to a cloud service? You authenticate through a process of some kind.

I'm going out on a limb here, clearly, but you're the guy who tracks BPM and data. Where does the enterprise environment fall in this? Is there a way to decompose the client and the server but still have enterprise caliber computing going on?

Kobielus: Oh sure, there is. I've sketched out seven layers of client services that can be put into a private cloud. Clearly, one of the critical pieces of infrastructure that the cloud needs to have, as I said, is identity management. It's also very much public key infrastructure (PKI) to enable strong authentication, multi-factor, webs of trust, and so forth.

You need to begin to think through the whole client computing equation, if you were an enterprise, a better rated identity, and look at the common standards, extensible application markup language (XAML) and so forth to enable that or to look at things like OpenID.

Unable to trust

o that's quite important, Dana, because fundamentally it's moving away from a world where PCs are personal computers that I trust, they are my resource. I don’t have to depend on anybody else. All my data, my apps, everything is here. I'm moving to a world where it's, PC, personal cloud. It's your cloud that I'm just renting a piece of or I have got a piece of it, where I can't really trust you at all in some fundamental sense.

My mnemonic here for the cloud and why we can't trust it is, bear with me, SLA-HA-NA. SLA -- service level agreements; HA -- high availability; NA -- not applicable, not available. If you don’t have common identity, common security, and common federation standards within an enterprise cloud, then that's not ready for full client virtualization.

Look at the public cloud. Dana, your article on 'Dealing With the Dearth of SLAs in the Cloud' gets to the point where the public cloud is definitely not ready for enterprise-grade client virtualization, until we get identity nailed down, if nothing else.

Quite frankly, I'm a bit jaundiced on that, because in the middle of the last decade, I was with a large B2B trading exchange that was working on better rated identity, trust standards and relationships among thousands upon thousands of companies.

Getting those trust relationships worked out, getting the policies written, getting all the lawyers to agree and getting the common standards just to make one industry specific trading exchange work was fearsomely difficult. Those trust issues are just going to be an ongoing deterrent to the full virtualization of clients into public cloud environments.

That means I've got to send back the PC or go through some lengthy process to try to talk the user through complicated procedures, and that's just an expensive proposition.

Gardner: Well, we've started at reality. We've gone out to a 15-year horizon, and now we are coming back in to the current day. Chad Jones, where does client virtualization fit in well? What does it solve? What’s its value to the typical enterprise, rather than thinking about this in terms of abstractions in the future?

Jones: The first thing is that the term client virtualization ends up getting applied to a lot of different things. Just as a point of clarification, there are virtualized desktops, which are hosted on the server side, like the VDI infrastructures, and then server-based computing of days past or niche status. But, true client virtualization is the ability to abstract away the hardware resource on the endpoint client and then be able to run virtual objects on top of that, and that's hosted locally.

For the near term, as the client space begins to shake out over the next couple of years, the immediate benefits are first around being able to take our deployment of at least the Windows platform, from a current state of, let's either have an image that's done at Dell or more the case, whenever I do a hardware refresh, every three to four years, that's when I deploy the OS. And, we take it to a point where you can actually get a PC and put it onto the network.

You take out all the complexity of what the deployment questions are and the installation that can cause so many different issues, combined with things like normalizing device driver models and those types of things, so that I can get that image and that computer out to the corporate standard very, very quickly, even if it's out in the middle of Timbuktu. That's one of the immediate benefits.

Plus, start looking at help desk and the whole concept of desktop visits. If Windows dies today, all of your agents and recovery and those types of things die with it. That means I've got to send back the PC or go through some lengthy process to try to talk the user through complicated procedures, and that's just an expensive proposition.

Still connect

You're able to take remote-control capabilities outside of Windows into something that's hardened at the PC level and say, okay, if Windows goes down, I can actually still connect to the PC as if I was local and remote connect to it and control it. It's like what the IP-based KVMs did for the data center. You don’t even have to walk into the data center now. Imagine that on a grand scale for client computing.

Couple in a VPN with that. Someone is at a Starbucks, 20 minutes before a presentation, with a simple driver update that went awry and they can't fix it. With one call to the help desk, they're able to remote to that PC through the firewalls and take care of that issue to get them up and working.

Those are the areas that are the lowest hanging fruit, combined with amping up security in a completely new paradigm. Imagine an antivirus that works, looking inside of Windows, but operates in the same resource or collision domain, an execution environment where the virus is actually working, or trying to execute.

There is a whole level of security upgrades that you can do, where you catch the viruses on the space in between the network and actually getting to a compatible execution environment in Windows, where you quarantine it before it even gets to an OS instance. All those areas have huge potential.

This is the great promise of cloud-based computing taken all the way into the application and used throughout the application.

Gardner: It seems as if what you are doing is ameliorating some of the rigidity of the traditional client model but still keeping it in enough of a sense that it's going to satisfy a lot of what enterprises need to do. Is that a fair encapsulation?

Jones: Yeah, absolutely. You have got to keep that rich user experience of the PC, but yet change the architecture, so that it could become more highly manageable or become highly manageable, but also become flexible as well.

Imagine a world, just cutting very quickly in the utility sense, where I've got my call center of 5,000 seats and I'm doing an interactive process, but I have got a second cord dedicated to a headless virtual machine that’s doing mutual fund arbitrage apps or something like that in a grid, and feeding that back. You're having 5,000 PCs doing that for you now at a very low cost rate, as opposed to building a whole data center capacity to take care of that. Those are kind of the futures where this type of technology can take you as well.

Gardner: So, virtualization is bringing flexibility by keeping the same essential model, it’s just a better architectural approach to it.

Michael Rowley, what you guys have been doing at Active Endpoints with your client is perhaps for newer applications getting that stepping stone to the future, but also protecting yourself. Because, if you're running in the browser, you don’t really care so much about what the client is, and you can also extend out from PCs to smartphones pretty quickly.

Rowley: Yes. You end up being able to support clients and support them even as they change what device they are on. They are not maintaining local data, so that they can move from device to device and even take a single task that they're working on, work on it on one kind of form factor at one point and another kind of at another point in time. This is the great promise of cloud-based computing taken all the way into the application and used throughout the application. I really believe a lot more applications are going to be based that way.

Gardner: I've got a sneaking suspicion that organizations that embrace both of these models have, in a sense, put some insurance policies in place, a backwards compatibility, forwards compatibility, services orientation, but also maintaining that all important enterprise levels of security, reliability, control, and management.

Rowley: One of the things that is really new and I think will catch on is this idea that these web-based apps might be able to communicate with the server through what the application considers as the service tier, the business tier, rather than having a presentation tier on the server, because of the fact that the client has gotten powerful enough to do the full presentation on its own.

Gardner: I want to again thank you all for joining. We have been here talking about the future of clients and services with cloud and virtualization impacts, as well as how to keep this in the real world sphere of what enterprises need to do their jobs.

We have been talking with Chad Jones, Vice President for Product Management at Neocleus. Thank you, Chad.

Jones: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: We have also been here with Michael Rowley, CTO of Active Endpoints. Thanks, Michael.

Rowley: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: Jim Kobielus, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research. Appreciate your input, Jim.

Kobielus: Always a pleasure.

Gardner: Michael Dortch, Director of Research at Focus. Appreciate it, Michael.

Dortch: Thanks for the opportunity, Dana. Thanks, everyone.

Gardner: JP Morgenthal, Chief Architect, Merlin International. Thank you, JP.

Morgenthal: Thank you, Dana. Fun as usual.

Gardner: Dave Linthicum, CTO, Bick Group. We appreciate your input as well, Dave.

Linthicum: Thanks Dana.

Gardner: I also need to thank our charter sponsor for the BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcast, and that is Active Endpoints. This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks for listening and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download the transcript. Charter Sponsor: Active Endpoints.

Special offer: Download a free, supported 30-day trial of Active Endpoint's ActiveVOS at

Edited transcript of BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcast, Vol. 52 from April 26, 2010 on client-side architectures and the prospect of heightened disruption in the PC and device software arenas. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2010. All rights reserved.

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