The Centurylink Technology Solutions Blog - Trends in IT Infrastructure

Results tagged “consumer brands” from The Centurylink Technology Solutions Blog

A few weeks back, eTail East speaker Michael Stromer, vice president of customer connections marketing at JetBlue, delivered a simple but incredibly valuable reminder to event attendees: You can have the most beautiful e-commerce site in the world, but if the page doesn't load fast enough, people will leave!

 

There's a lot of research proving his point. Kissmetrics found 40 percent of visitors abandon websites taking more than three seconds to load, and 79 percent of shoppers dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again.

SaaS IconThe presence of firewalls in China appears to be having little impact on the country's Internet usage, if a new UN Broadband Commission report is any indication. This study projects Chinese Internet users will surpass today's 565 million English-speaking users by 2015.

 

Professional Services IconI admit it: I'm a procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping. Black Friday sales are usually well done by the time I get started, and my penchant for turning to online shopping at the last minute tends to make the surprises under the tree, well, that much more surprising!

Harnessing the Power of Big Data

While at eTail West, an industry trade show for retail, brand manufacturer and travel and hospitality firms, with SiteMinis, Savvis' mobile hosting solution partner, it became clear that "big data" has emerged as a hot buzzword and trend. Companies are beginning to see the challenges and opportunities in big data and looking to either be an earlier adopter or, at a minimum, pay attention to better understand this market and get ahead of the curve.

"Big data," in general, refers to data from both unstructured and structured sources, including machine-generated information (i.e., click stream activity, log data, network security alerts) and social media sources respectively. These information sources are generating data stores that are getting very large, growing and changing very quickly, and struggling to fit within traditional database architectures. Companies are realizing that the real advantage is not about just having the data, but harnessing it to gain big insights at a reasonable cost.

Luckily, today's alternative hardware delivery models, cloud architectures and open source software bring big data processing within reach. For brand manufacturers, retail and travel and hospitality firms, this is especially good news. In an increasingly competitive market, big data provides the visibility and insights to more effectively market to existing and potential customers. However, there are certain technical requirements companies must consider to capture the potential of their data resources. Technology requirements include policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property and liability in a global environment.

Savvis is currently working with clients on big data solutions and roadmaps so they can exploit the power of valuable data assets to strategically address business requirements. Clients want to better segment customers to more precisely tailor products and services, improve the development of next-generation products and services, and improve performance and reduce variability in business operations - better forecasting with real-time data, for example. By better tapping into the data resources a company collects, these strategic benefits are well within reach.

I encourage you to stay tuned as Savvis continues to evolve its big data solutions and offerings.

Steve Garrou is vice president, global solutions management, at Savvis, a CenturyLink company.
Mobile Solutions

The most enriching customer relationships we have at Savvis are the ones where we get invited to participate in our client's long-term technology planning. As a trusted IT infrastructure partner, we oftentimes get asked to help plan our customer's IT infrastructure roadmap years out into the future.

 

One of the IT strategy topics our customers can't stop talking about is their need for a mobility plan. Mobile-form end user devices are becoming so powerful, convenient and ubiquitous that IT managers are forced to evaluate whether they have the right data center strategies to match their rapidly emerging mobility scenarios around marketing, desktop and web development.

 

On Jan. 26, I had a chance to attend the Future Of Mobility event, presented by Bisnow Media. This session broke out the mobility topic into two main panel discussions: Federal Government Mobility and Private Sector Entrepreneurs. Many of the trends discussed at this event echo those of our current customers in the Interactive Marketing and Public Sector verticals. A few highlights:

 

Cell Phone Soldiers - Greg Youst, mobility lead for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), discussed how smartphones and tablets are emerging as common warfighter tools, changing the way the military operates in many scenarios. One interesting trend emerging is the use of remote, in-theater base stations like the ones offered by Oceus Networks. CEO Doug Smith talked about how his products could be deployed to a remote area, which may have only intermittent backhaul connectivity, but still enable 4G LTE wireless connectivity to a widely dispersed fighting force. Some of the more advanced mobile base stations of this type even include blade-form server hardware, which can support application servers and databases running highly classified, secure communications over encrypted channels via 4G.

 

Citizen Expectations - Gwynne Kostin from the GSA Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technology talked about how citizen expectations of their government are changing - but not in the way you might expect. She observed how use cases and user experiences that we expect out of technology are expanding to scenarios we didn't even think possible a few years ago. Think about how children are being raised to swipe screens and control tablets via gestures. Think about how lunch hour "downtime" gets replaced by having a movie theater in your pocket. The methods and models for IT end user interfaces are entering a period of rapid innovation, and therefore IT leaders will need to be ready for how these influence our infrastructure strategies.

 

Budget Optimization - From both the Civilian and Defense agency perspective, significant savings are envisioned through an embrace of mobility. Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) programs, mobile hypervisors, and tablet-based virtual desktops all lead to a visionary future where government agencies can drastically reduce the number of desktops required for mission support. The challenge is of course security and complexity, as devices are released faster than government agencies can publish security standards and mobile-device-management (MDM) platforms proliferate.

 

SoLoMo! - No, it's not an Italian tenor warming up, it's the latest venture capital buzzword focusing on the intersection between social networks, local search, and mobile devices. It is at the confluence of these trends where much of the innovation is occurring in the IT marketplace. One thing to remember, suggested WhosHere CEO Stephen Smith, is that the key to succeeding at this crossroads is reducing friction. Mobile use cases often don't allow for lengthy sign-up procedures or obstacles to value. One way to innovate is through tighter innovation with your existing sources of data - rather than asking users to re-enter their information, why not let them start using the service and then see if you already have their information on file while they're getting value? However, the most important friction reducer is the ability to tie to a payment network, observed mPortal CEO DP Venkatesh. This is one of the reasons why he gives Amazon a leg up on Google in the mobile space.

 

Don't Build Apps, Build Experiences - The most common error observed by the panel of mobile entrepreneurs is the stampede of enterprise decision makers to "launch something" in a mobile form factor without fully understanding how it supports their business strategy. Pat Sheridan from Modus Create observed that without understanding how a mobile application will be used, how customers will truly benefit, and how it will be uniquely positioned amongst the noise of the various app stores, many mobile launches are doomed to fail. Understanding how to create a vital user experience using facets of "SoLoMo" is vital. Sean Lane from BTS and Alan Snyder from BoxTone both pointed out that companies often over-inflate their expected revenue from download fees and mobile advertising because they fail to gain critical mass.

 

It Still All Comes Back To The Data Center - I left the Future of Mobility event thinking how much all this change and innovation still comes back to the data center, and how busy this will keep us at Savvis and CenturyLink. Many times during the event, it was stressed that despite all the focus on app stores and "native" development, a context aware website is still often the most efficient route to market for many applications. Being able to serve "dumb" phones, smartphones, tablets and desktops all from one context aware infrastructure takes effective infrastructure management and high-performance IP networking.

 

Savvis has some exciting developments planned in 2012 in the mobile solutions space, and we look forward to talking about these trends further with our customers.

 

David Shacochis is vice president, global public sector, at Savvis.

SiteMinis CEO Marci Troutman

This is the second entry in a series of blog posts featuring Savvis clients answering five questions about their business and IT solutions. Marci Troutman, founder and chief executive officer of SiteMinis, shares details about her company's use of cloud computing.

 

1. Can you share some background about SiteMinis and how it uses IT outsourcing?

Founded in 2004, Siteminis offers brick and mortar and e-commerce companies an easy way to take their websites mobile to reach an explosive customer base and generate new revenue.

 

SiteMinis leverages a unique mobile website technology platform to deliver custom mobile SiteMinis CEO Marci Troutmanwebsites, enabling these companies to extend their brands to the growing mobile universe and provide a better mobile experience to consumers making buying decisions. Working on more than 95 percent of all legacy and smartphones, SiteMinis simplifies the move to the mobile web and delivers a fast, turnkey solution to engage mobile consumers.

 

Working with industry leaders, such as Savvis, SiteMinis delivers a comprehensive offering that eliminates the need for customers to find separate resources for their hosting, site development and other needs. Customers are ensured of the best component for each portion of the solution.

 

2. What led SiteMinis to cloud computing?

Siteminis determined that cloud computing met the needs of the unique and rapidly growing mobile space. The cloud model allows Siteminis to maintain laser focus on our core competency, the mobile web, at the same time maintaining a best-in-class IT Infrastructure with our partner Savvis.

 

3. How has cloud improved and impacted your company's mobile website technology platform?

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

 

4. What benefits are website owners and end-users seeing since you implemented cloud solutions?

Cloud computing fills a perpetual need of IT: Siteminis clients have a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software.

 

Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT's existing capabilities

 

5. What advice do you have for other companies considering cloud?

If you need to spend more time building your business and less time maintaining your IT infrastructure, cloud computing can help your company.

 

Through a flexible, easy-to-use cloud interface, cloud computing implementation delivers cost savings, high performance, scalability and security without all the headaches that normally come with a 'build it yourself' implementation.

 

To read a SiteMinis news release about its partnership with Savvis, click here.

Mobile Website Photo-WEB.jpg

I've learned quite a bit while manning the booth, walking the floor and attending conference seminars this week at eTail Boston. Generally, mobile and ecommerce are the hottest topics.

 

Using this space, I wanted to highlight what I learned from the first two days of this conference.

 

Marketers Love Mobile Apps

We have a strong presence here - a joint booth with mobile cloud partner SiteMinis. We're talking about our new enterprise and template-based mobile app

platforms. Really cool stuff.

 

Most of the people who stop by our booth are involved in marketing. Their biggest challenge with mobile apps is getting IT, developers and interactive agencies all in line and moving at the speed required to get campaigns and other information to market.

 

Our template-based platform with SiteMinis is truly a do-it-yourself solution. People have raved about the simplicity, and they can see how a tool like this gives marketers the ability to create their own content and sites, alleviating their need to go to IT, developers and interactive agencies. Instead of time-consuming headaches, they can create and deploy their mobile site in minutes.

 

Business Advantages Should Be Better Communicated

As I walk around the conference floor, I see a lot of booths with - quite frankly - poor messaging around their ecommerce and mobile products.

 

They're not communicating the real business advantages. Ideally, you'd like to see them showcase the business challenges they are facing, describe their solution and highlight the benefits of using their product.

 

I also don't see a lot of products, other than ours, that focus on the underlying platform. If information is going to be stored in the cloud, for example, they want to know if there's a trusted provider behind the product.

 

Mobile Marketing Will Explode

I've heard numerous experts from companies like Dell and Brookstone deliver presentations and participate in panel discussions, and a common theme has emerged: Despite all the hype, mobile marketing remains in the infancy stage. However, they all believe it's going to explode in the near future.

 

Experts here at eTail Boston advise marketers to go out and try as many mobile marketing measures as possible. Find out what works best. Don't just sit back and not do anything.

 

Scalability Key to Web-Based Ecommerce

During a panel discussion, I heard an interesting exchange about planning for the next holiday season. Christian Friedland, president of Build.com, really honed in on making sure that whatever plans you have for website scalability, know that you'll need more.

 

The point is to make sure you have an infrastructure platform that can scale up to where it's going to be during the holiday season. And then test, test, test the system so you can see how it will react to all that traffic.

 

Another important point deals with the application side of the equation. Not only do you need scalable infrastructure, your applications also have to scale with the infrastructure. Don't forget that. Ultimately, you are supporting the client experience. It should be a good one.

 

Comparison Shopping, QR Codes and More

In addition to being used for direct shopping, mobile phones are being used for tasks such as comparison shopping and to scan QR codes.

 

Think about it: When you're at the electronics store, how many times have you looked over to see somebody scanning the bar code to see if he's getting the best deal? Heck, I've done it myself.

 

QR codes - which link to product information, videos and more - are also becoming popular.

 

The point here is that mobile phones are an evolving tool. Mobile not only impacts brand companies from a mobile commerce and sales perspective, it's continually impacting them in new ways.

 

While we can build solutions to meet today's needs, there always will be something new. People don't know the full impact of mobile and all the different things that are going to come to fruition.

 

That's all for now. I hope to learn more today, as well as dive into best practices and emerging strategies of mobile shopping during the Mobile Shopping Summit on Thursday.

 

Kevin Conway is global director, consumer brands, at Savvis.

Study after study has shown that if you are a Web-based business and your landing pages are slow to load you will lose business. You will also pay a second penalty, losing search rank, making it harder to recover after fixing site problems. Likewise, an overloaded site can quickly turn a marketing success into a PR problem as clothing store Reiss found out last week.

 

Most companies know this, so they ensure that they have a solid SLA in place with their data centre provider covering the performance and availability of their cloud or colocation space so that their apps stay up and are on a platform that should deliver the designed responsiveness.

 

Unfortunately, guaranteeing that the lights are on, the platters are spinning and that the bandwidth is in place is not enough to ensure success for a Web-based business, your customers do not connect at the cage or even at the edge of your provider's WAN. Instead, your Web apps must traverse thousands of miles of fibre over multiple networks before reaching their destination. The variables these routes impose play a key role in the overall delivered responsiveness of your applications, and need to be monitored and reported on so that action can be taken to ensure that each end-user's quality of experience (QoE) remains high.

 

Savvis' End User Experience Monitoring (EUEM) service, which is powered by Gomez, can analyse performance both from the internet backbone in over 150 major cities, for an overview of performance, or drill down to customer level via tests run on a network of more than 150,000 end-user desktop computers located in multiple countries. We usually recommend that alerts from the network are copied to our own systems management teams so that we can start investigating issues and recommending ways to resolve them as soon as they arise.

 

The payback from end-user monitoring can be almost instantaneous. We recently set up an initial monitoring profile as a test for a client for just 24 hours. The tests highlighted that a particular code block was causing loading to appear to pause. The diagnostic information we provided enabled the customer's development team to modify the application so that the page now performs better.

 

As you run EUEM analysis over longer time scales you can establish trend data that informs capacity planning and allows for exception monitoring that can aid early fault detection. You can also use EUEM for strategic planning.

 

A great example of this is when planning to roll out a service to a new market. If, prior to roll out, you use the EUEM network to run test transactions against the application from your target market, you can compare this to the performance norms to identify if there are any particular local bottlenecks that need to be addressed, for example, by considering moving the load from that market to a more local data centre or modifying the application to split the transactions into smaller parts.

 

With this sort of flexible capability, I believe EUEM should be considered as part of every Web service infrastructure contract as a complement to standard SLAs. Used fully EUEM will help ensure that not only is the site up, but that it is delivering. Without EUEM can you honestly say you know how your customers see your apps?

 

Steve Falkus is product marketing manager, EMEA, at Savvis.
Mobile Website Photo-WEB.jpg

I am using this space today to delve a little deeper into what consumer brands executives in marketing, m-commerce and IT need to consider regarding changes in their approach to the mobile marketplace. You may recall that I touched on this topic recently in a post titled "Technology drives consumer brands to embrace mobile websites and apps."

 

To ensure that a company's efforts make the most impact, there are several questions that need to be answered before implementing new or enhancing existing mobile applications and/or mobile websites. This post focuses on the recommended first step that a company should take before investing in mobile initiatives: Define the company's mobile strategy.

 

Today, IT organizations are being reactive to their Line of Business or Marketing Departments' demands for iPhone, Droid or other smartphone applications. These demands are primarily based on trying to get ahead of the competition or, in most cases, as a reactive measure to catch up to what the competition has already launched.

 

To define a mobile strategy, executives need to take a step back, really understand what the corporation is trying to achieve, and map technology to support the corporate objectives. A few specific questions that should be answered or confirmed before a company moves forward with a mobile strategy are as follows:

 

  1. What are the company's corporate objectives?
  2. How can mobile initiatives help the company map to and achieve the corporate objectives?
  3. Is there a corporate mobile strategy?
  4. If so, who in the organization owns the mobile strategy? If not, who will own the mobile strategy?
  5. What is the company looking to implement for consumers in m-commerce and mobile interactive marketing?
  6. What is the company looking to implement for employees in mobile in enterprise applications?
  7. What is the consumer and employee experience that the company wishes to create with a mobile strategy? Are these different? If so, how and why?
  8. What do the consumer and employee mobile demographics look like?

 

Once a company understands the answers to the questions above, they will be able to refine or define their mobile strategy. With a mobile strategy in place, the next step will be to make an educated decision on whether to develop a mobile application, a mobile website or a combination of both.

 

Should I build a mobile application or mobile website?

There are a few facts to consider when evaluating whether to develop a mobile website or a mobile application. For instance:

 

A mobile website:

- Helps companies address the 5,000-plus smartphones and tablets in the marketplace today;

- Provides the opportunity to integrate a mobile website into enterprise applications;

- Provides a single site to update content and features;

- Provides a single site to update code to support new mobile devices that come to market; and

- Provides a single site to secure vs. having to secure each mobile application that is built.

 

Mobile applications:

- Are usually limited to a single smartphone or tablet;

- Will require code and security updates on a regular basis for each device they serve;

- Will need to be built and updated to support new versions of mobile devices that come to market; and

- if specific to iPhone, Droid or BlackBerry devices, can be a good investment IF the majority of the company's consumers and/or employees are users of these mobile devices.

 

The information above gives corporations items to consider before moving forward with the implementation of a new mobile solution or enhancing their existing mobile solutions. The right answer is not simply to build a mobile application or a mobile website. The right answer comes from mapping the mobile strategy to the company's corporate objectives, knowing the audiences' demographics and gaining clarity on the experience the company wishes to convey.

 

Understanding how, why and when to incorporate mobile solutions to their strategy will help enterprises provide consumers and employees with a more interactive and productive user experience.

 

Kevin Conway is global director, consumer brands, at Savvis.

XOOM tablet

Whether you have one yourself or see others using them, mobile technologies are impacting our experiences every day. Mobile smartphones and tablets have quickly become a part of our everyday lives. What has been seen to date is just the beginning of what we will have the ability to do with mobile technologies while we are on the go.

 

We started using mobile devices (cell phones) for verbal communication. This has rapidly transformed into a means to quickly search the web for information, purchase goods and services, store knowledge and provide alternative methods of communicating via texting and social networks.

 

The impact of mobile technologies has created another major change agent in technology. Companies now need to research and understand consumers' mobile usage behaviors and subsequently build mobile strategies to transform their business via this technology. Companies that want to stay engaged with their current customer base and create new opportunities with new customers have to embrace the mobile channel.

 

Advances in mobile technologies have created major opportunities and challenges for consumer brands executives in marketing, e-commerce and IT. Most of these brand executives have already built their first generation mobile strategies, which focused on engaging consumers via the newest generation of mobile smartphones (i.e., iPhone and Droid).

 

Now, the explosion of tablets and updates to the likes of the iPhone and Droid have consumer brands executives addressing the next move in their mobile strategies. The first big question executives are working through is, "Do I build a mobile application or do I build a mobile website?"

 

One view is that building a mobile application that can only be used on an iPhone or a Droid does not address the majority of the smartphones in use. Companies thinking this way usually lean toward building a mobile website that will support more than an iPhone and/or a Droid. There are others who say building an iPhone or Droid application is the right approach because the people who make up their targeted demographics use iPhones and Droids.

 

For the discussion on mobile applications versus mobile websites, consumer brands marketing and e-commerce executives need to ensure they have strategically thought through and are able to address the following:

 

  • Decide and document your business objectives and goals and align your mobile strategy to them
  • Know the pros and cons as it pertains to your mobile strategy for building mobile applications versus mobile websites
  • Research your options for platforms that will align and help you meet your goals.
  • Research strategic partners (not vendors) who want to understand your business and the challenges your company is facing, and will help you identify options and design solutions to best leverage the appropriate technology to solve your challenges and meet your corporate objectives.

 

Kevin Conway is global director, consumer brands, at Savvis.

In the technology services industry, sometimes the best thing a marketer can do is come up for air. I was reminded of this while talking to my neighbor, a 72-year-old retiree, who from my own observation is the furthest thing from a "target market" that I could imagine when I consider the demographic of online shoppers.

 

Boy was I wrong.