Category Archives: Enterprise IT

Why isn’t IT market intelligence obsessed with optimising the multibillion-dollar mature industries?

I’ll level with you, I‘m confused.

When I look at recent premier IT events such as Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and CES in Las Vegas, I see an industry that is almost entirely focused on the future. Obviously, technology players want to accelerate innovation – the event programme at this year’s MWC for example includes a session called the “4th Industrial Revolution”.

But what about optimising the performance of the mature €650 billion[1] European IT market? Compare the MWC and CES programmes with the Consumer Goods Forum, the premier gathering of the food and drink sector, at €1,048 billion[2] making it the largest manufacturing industry in Europe, and you’ll see a programme in which innovation is there, but sitting alongside good stewardship of their well-established sectors.

In a mature industry, performance parameters are well known, top line growth is small, big players that can’t keep up get acquired by nimbler competitors, and optimisation is key. As well as innovating in emerging technologies, the IT industry should be innovating in its core businesses to optimise performance in the mature sectors. One example – in an area I know well – is how companies see the role of sales tracking in the new world of established technologies, grown up now after 30 years. The over-complication of market intelligence (MI) offerings here is causing a raft of issues, and users of this data should be demanding better. To paraphrase a few people, I’ve heard:

“We are drowning in data, we just don’t know what to do with it …”

“We spend so much time compiling different sources that the real analytics come as a second thought”, and

“We don’t fully understand what each dataset actually represents, or how to act on it.”

In the IT sectors, this sentiment isn’t exclusive to vendors – it is shared in their channel by distribution and reseller partners –it being generally accepted that MI data is sub-par as delivered today.

This problem has been around for quite some time. In a previous role at one of the largest and oldest technology firms in the world, I worked with one of the most sophisticated MI solutions I’ve ever seen. “Well done them”, you might think. In reality, it wasn’t without strife. It took the company over three years to design and implement that solution and, to this day, it still requires many people across the globe to combine multiple data sources into ‘one version of the truth’. The company implemented this solution at the tail end of what was generally considered the ‘maturation’ of the PC industry. Any other company thinking of undertaking a similar task today in the printing, display, PC, or other flat or declining mature industry, would need to be resource-rich and highly committed to the cause.

Whilst it is imperative to stay abreast of shifts in consumer and business trends, managing the at-risk 1% of a multi-billion-dollar established industry is as important, if not more so in some cases, as getting established in multi-million-dollar upcoming categories. Indeed, the frustration voiced by the industry would suggest that this is the case. Is it possible that many participants in these mature-technology industries are struggling to monitor and protect their cash-generating business, and that this impacts their ability to invest in new technology in the future?

What is needed to fulfill the requirements of such companies? At CONTEXT, we are working with our customers and partners to address this issue, and have designed a number of new services that provide both broad and specific analyses of mature IT product categories. The key focus areas for this new breed of deliverables are reliability, cost-effectiveness and simple implementation, so that instead of drowning in data and wasting time trying to bring together multiple data sources, the user is able to integrate information easily into existing operations and spend time more productively in improving their business. In essence, that’s our aim at CONTEXT: to help our customers and partners Optimise Today, and Accelerate Tomorrow.

by TP

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[1] EITO Report Western Europe 2013/14

[2] Food Drink Europe 2014

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Filed under Enterprise IT, Market Analysis, Mobile technology, Networking, Retail

The Swansong of the HDD?

Storage components have come a long way since the first 3.75 MB HDDs were introduced by IBM in 1956. 2016 in particular has been a landmark year for storage components, as aftermarket sales of solid state drives (SSDs) through European distribution overtook those of hard disk drives (HDDs) for the first time, marking a trend which we expect to speed up in the coming years.

HDD manufacturers have recognised the growing importance of SSDs: in the last two years they have bought up several players in the SSD market or/and have started to produce SDDs themselves. As well they might. SSDs are already better in every technical aspect: they have a larger capacity, they are faster, and they are more reliable. Unlike HDDs, which have mechanical parts, there are (almost) no limits to the development of SSDs and their miniaturisation. Indeed, whilst HDD capacity appears to be capped at the 10 TB currently touted by WDC’s flagship model, Seagate unveiled a huge 60 TB SSD in August last year at the Flash Memory Summit.

Manufacturers have yet to give up on HDDs however, extending their lifespan by investing in such technology as Helium or SMR, and banking on the one very clear advantage of HDDs over SSDs – price. For now, the cost of a gigabyte of storage on HDD is about a quarter of that on SDD, and this makes it attractive to businesses who want to lower IT infrastructure costs as much as possible and do not  need the technical advantage of SSDs.

For businesses where time efficiency represents a potential cost-saving however, the move to SSD for their IT infrastructure represents a worthy operational investment, notwithstanding the cost premium. At CONTEXT, for example, we recently made the choice to transfer our main database from an all-HDD system to an all-SSD system by Q2 2017. By doing this we should save 10-15% in terms of time and resources. The savings will allow us to develop new projects but, more immediately, our reports will run faster. This means we can look to deliver our products more quickly, which is key for our clients – the earlier they have information, the more actionable it is.

Storage requirements for such things as back-up on the other hand do not need the latest speed and features, and in areas such as these HDDs will remain the go-to technology for the time being, but only as they remain the cheaper option.

Seagate is saying that HDDs will be around for the next 20 years or so, we suspect they may not last that long. Will they be gone earlier? We’ll be watching closely.

by GM

 

 

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Filed under Enterprise IT