Report from BMC Exchange Federal

By Dick Stark

BMC’s annual Federal user group conference, Exchange, was held this past Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Center in Washington, DC.  This was the first of seven global events across three continents. Attendance was good with approximately 400 customers, partners, and BMC employees in attendance Nearly 40 show attendees visited the RightStar booth. Here is a short Exchange 2019 update.

Alan Thomas, Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service, GSA, opened the session with a discussion of GSA’s perspective as an investor, consumer, and provider of IT products and services. As an investor, GSA is a member of the IT modernization fund where congress allocated $100M for IT modernization. Agencies must apply for approval in order to receive funding. Examples of funded projects include email to cloud, legacy to modern, and shared services. Since the money must be “repaid,” agencies are forced to look at value creation, cost savings, and return on investment.

Next up NASA CIO, Renee Wynn discussed NASA’s use of cloud computing. In just a short time, NASA has made tremendous cloud progress, currently averaging $1.4M of cloud-based computing hours per month with more than 5 petabytes of data stored in the cloud.  The result: Renee claimed that NASA is now 80% cloud, with just 20% traditional on-premise. NASA cloud service offerings include SaaS solutions such as Office 365, and Box document management, and discussed a cloud success story, NASA’s Earth Observing System Data nd Information System (EOSDIS) EOSDIS provides end-to-end capabilities for managing NASA Earth science data from various sources – satellites, aircraft, field measurements, and various other programs. Consuming 45 petabytes of data a year EOSDIS provides data for satellite, aircraft and space missions in a easily consumable format, helping turn “science fiction into reality.”

Herb Van Hook, BMC VP and CTO, presented BMC’s new theme, “Run and Reinvent.” BMC is focused now on assisting organizations drive innovation, master modern IT, unify current with the future, and stabilize and optimize. Key BMC principles include modernization, cloud optimized, analytics, AI, machine learning, and exceptional user experience.

Bill Marion, Deputy USAF CIO closed out the conference with a discussion about IT transformation and cybersecurity. Of interest was AF Enterprise IT as-a-service (EITaaS) and the progress made with IT agility with its poster child, Kessel Run. Kessel Run is “not your Father’s Air Force.” At Kessel Run, government developers have embraced Agile and DevOps culture as the way of helping the Air Force develop software like a commercial enterprise. In hoodies and blue jeans and working at tables like at Google or Facebook, the Air Force is quickly moving IT modernization forward.  

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Report from the Atlassian Government Symposium

By Dick Stark

Last Wednesday, RightStar exhibited at the Atlassian Government Symposium, held at the Westin City Center in Washington, DC. This is one of a series of worldwide stops to promote Atlassian products, services and customer networking. Atlassian had a good turnout with more than 200 attendees.  RightStar led a successful Jira Service Desk lab, one of the most popular sessions of the event. Here is a short summary.

How IT can adapt to the future. Jay Simons, Atlassian President opened the keynote with a talk about digital transformation and the pace of change, especially in government, and the potential impact. Like everywhere, government IT teams have to empower the rest of the agency, but it is up to every team to work together to manage increased expectations. Just like at Summit, Jay discussed the importance of IT Operations and briefly described:

  • Jira Software—how to manage work;
  • Jira Service Desk—service desk for every team;
  • Statuspage—absolute best way to communicate status of incidents; and
  • OpsGenie—powerful alerting & on-call management.

Government’s Largest Service Desk? Up next was a Sr. Systems Engineer that presented a case study which must undoubtedly be one of Atlassian’s largest accounts. She described how this agency grew from just a few Jira users in 2010 to more than 160,000 today. According to the presenter, prior to 2013, Jira usage was isolated and siloed by the various teams. In 2013, two systems merged into one and added 8000 users to the system, taking the agency to a total of 12,000.

By 2014, the agency was up to 27,000 Jira users and began using Jira Service Desk for incident management. By, 2015, the number hit 60,000 and today it is up to 160,000. What’s most incredible is that the entire system was supported with a team of only eight administrators.

Current 2018 statistics included:

  • Jira Projects:                       2,600
  • Spaces                               5,800
  • Jira issues:                         1.5M
  • 2018 Issues resolved           10,000
  • Service Desk agents            5

The statistic the speaker was most proud of: Customer Satisfaction. Her Jira Service Desk gets the best marks in the agency.

Jira Service Desk Lab. RightStar’s JSD lab was so successful, that there was standing room only. Additionally, there was plenty of interest in ScanStar for Insight and Jira, and our DevOps Sim. The future looks bright for Atlassian in the government space.

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Report from Atlassian Summit 2019

By Dick Stark

Atlassian’s annual user conference, Summit 2019, was held a week in Las Vegas. Atlassian had a record-breaking turnout with more than 5000 customers and partners attending. Here is a short summary.

Partner Day is held the day before the main event. This year there were 750 partner attendees representing 234 partner organizations, 20% of which are marketplace vendors, 40% are solution partners, and 40% are both. Scott Farquhar, co-founder and co-CEO opened the session by describing how well Atlassian is doing–3000 employees, 25,000+ developers, and 500 partners. Highlights include:

IT Ops. After conceding the chat business to Slack, Atlassian is betting that IT transformation will drive more money into IT Ops which bodes well for Jira Service Desk (JSD) and OpsGenie, a 2018 acquisition. OpsGenie focuses on incident and alert management. It was an excellent pick-up, with a 130% annual growth rate, short sales cycle, “best rules engine on the planet,” and an aggressive price point that fills a current need that no ITSM toolset can match. Additionally, Atlassian demonstrated a new plugin between AWS and JSD that automatically provisions a new AWS environment in a fraction of the time it takes to do this manually. (As a comparison, BMC and ServiceNow can do this but not without an expensive runbook automation utility and lots of professional services.)

AgileCraft, another acquisition that closed two weeks ago, is now known as Jira Align. It is an enterprise portfolio management system that connects work performed to company goals. It answers the question of how new features impact performance and results.

Cloud. Anu Bharadwaj, head of Atlassian’s cloud platform reported that Atlassian continues to invest heavily in Cloud. Today, 90% of new Atlassian customers start out in the cloud. Anu announced that cloud performance is much improved as Atlassian now supports customers with as many as 10,000 users, moving soon to unlimited. The best news for Summit attendees–Atlassian offered a free one year Jira Software Cloud subscription equal to the max license for all active Server and Data Center users (up to 2,000) for all Summit attendees.

Channel Update. The channel team discussed how to best work with Atlassian Technical Account Managers (TAMs) and Enterprise Advocates (EAs). TAMS work with partners and customers to provide guidance, best practices, and advocacy. EAs work with Atlassian’s largest customers to market their Data Center offerings and sell priority enterprise support. In summary, it is clear that Atlassian is on a roll with a very loyal customer following. RightStar too is on a roll and I’m excited that we can be part of Atlassian’s success.

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New ScanStar is On a Roll

By Dick Stark

Last week we received an order from a state agency for Jira Core, Jira Service Desk, Confluence, Insight, implementation services and ScanStar. It was the culmination of a sales process that included a RightStar advisory assessment to determine their needs and design a more modern asset management system. The system, when completed will be a cradle to grave work order and inventory management system equipment and assets requiring replacement or maintenance. A user portal and knowledge management system are also included. This is an excellent use case for Jira and ScanStar for other similar needs. Here’s why:

Efficiency. Providing barcode scanning technology (ScanStar) and a customer support portal (Jira Service Desk) and designing and building an improved workorder process from intake to execution saves times and improves accuracy. (Statistically, a typical typist will make one mistake in 300 keystrokes.  The chance of a scanner mis-reading a bar code symbol is somewhere between one in a million and one in four trillion. The increased efficiency that barcode scanning allows is the reason why ScanStar has such a high ROI.)

Accountability. Improving the service level agreement framework for work order requests allows technicians to better estimate effort and track time spent on work orders. Additionally, using barcoding to receive, check-in, and checkout inventory, improves accuracy and offers a better way to reconcile what organizations think they have with what they actually have

Transparency. RightStar will implement a framework to allow accurate reporting for program level as well as work order level and task level decision making. Enter ScanStar: an excellent fit to their needs. RightStar has years of barcode scanning experience starting in 2005 with MagicWand. ScanStar began shipping in 2011, replacing MagicWand and supporting FootPrints, BCM, Remedyforce, and Remedy.

Now, thanks to the hard work of our development team, new ScanStar for Androids and iPhones is available. No need for a purpose-built scanner, although there are several Android based purpose-built scanners which do work well in a more industrial environment. New ScanStar is Wi-Fi based meaning that the scans and updates are all performed in real-time. New ScanStar supports Remedy, Remedyforce, FootPrints. BCM, AND Jira and Insight. With new ScanStar there is no need for our ScanStar application to run on a server.  Instead, the entire application runs on the mobile phone. 

We still offer classic ScanStar, for DOD secure environments.  There a purpose-built scanner without Wi-Fi or a camera can be used through-out the day to create and update items and then be returned to the office for synchronization when necessary. These scanners have a mobile operating system and can run custom scanning applications like ScanStar, which provide the benefits previous discussed.

The best news: ScanStar for Jira and InSight is now on the Atlassian Marketplace where they are exposed to more than 40,000 Jira Service Desk customers.  Also, all ScanStar products are now available on Google Plays and Apple’s App Store giving exposure to millions.

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ITIL 4: Ready to Launch

service value system

By Dick Stark

Last week I set in on a webinar presented by ITpreneurs and AXELOS that described the ITIL 4 upcoming launch, and its new courseware and curriculum. AXELOS is the organization responsible for developing and enhancing the ITIL framework and methodology used by professionals primarily in the service management space. AXELOS is also the certification body for those of us that hold ITIL v3 foundation and other certificates.  ITpreneurs provides ITIL and other related courseware and trainers.

Almost exactly one year ago, at the Pink 18 kickoff Pink Elephant President, David Ratcliffe at proclaimed that ITIL alone is not enough, but went on to say that “ITIL is still the star of the show,” but it needs a new supporting cast.  He proudly announced that over three million people now have some type of ITIL certification, with Pink training at least 500,000 of them.  Have over three million ITIL certified people made a difference? After 10 years of ITIL v3, is ITIL still relevant?  Does ITIL matter? And will ITIL 4 help return ITIL to its glory years of yesterday?

Yes, except a lot has transpired in the last ten years especially around digital transformation, DevOps, and the cloud. What really matters is translating knowledge into results. Delivering knowledge, like taking an ITIL class (or any class) is only the first step. RightStar and others have seen ITIL / ITSM projects take years, not months which has opened the ITSM door to DevOps and why Gartner asserts that “DevOps is the bimodal bridge to Mode 2.” (Meaning DevOps/Mode 2 is focused on agility, while ITIL / Mode 1 is focused on stability.)

This is why some have referred to ITIL 4 as agile ITIL. But it is more than that. ITIL 4 stresses value for the organization, working holistically, keeping things simple, and six other guiding principles: design for experience, start where you are, progress iteratively, observe directly, be transparent and collaborate (similar to DevOps’ guiding principles). The service value system, above, facilitates integration and coordination of various organizational components and activities and provides a strong, unified, value-focused direction for the organization.

So, when is the launch? ITIL v4 training classes became available on February 11. These classes will be offered in “pro” to “premium” versions with new cases studies and games. There is even a new “going to Mars simulation game.” And the ITIL 4 exam will be available on February 28. Becoming an ITIL Expert is still a daunting task with 17 credits required. But the good news—most training is available in online versions, and a bridge course is available for current ITIL v3 Experts.

What’s exciting is that RightStar is hosting an ITpreneurs train the trainer ITIL v4 session on March 14-15. I look forward learning more about ITIL 4 and its path in our more agile IT world.

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What is the Future of On-Premise Software?

netflix

By Dick Stark

On January 15, Netflix quietly announced a price increase by an average of 13 to 18 percent. With 58 million US subscribers, that works out to an additional $1.4B yearly revenue increase. How elastic is this type of increase?  Will users move to another provider? In my opinion, that’s not too likely. Most may grumble or complain, but in the end what’s a couple of dollars a month increase compared to the opportunity to watch a seemingly unending supply of shows and movies. Let’s face it, we’re all hooked, and will pay almost any price for the chance to keep streaming.

Netflix is the poster child of a cloud based on-demand software subscription-based service provider–not too unlike Salesforce, ServiceNow, Workday and others. RightStar has been a Salesforce customer since we started the company 15 years ago. In the early days of SaaS based software, I had the chance to discuss Salesforce’s success with its former CFO.  His comment: “Our customers just can’t get enough—it’s as addictive as cocaine.” And I get it. With any mission critical or semi-mission critical piece of software, the cost of changing to a competitive offering is just too painful, no matter what the cost.  For example, RightStar has spent more than $375,000 on Salesforce since we’ve been in business, just for software subscription charges. Had we run on-premise sales automation software on our own server, we would have likely spent no more than $100,000 during that timeframe. Does it matter?  Not really, we have received good value from Salesforce over time and have no plans to do anything else.

Meanwhile at some of the larger SaaS-based software enterprise companies this past month, executives have undoubtedly exchanged high-fives as the announcement of Netflix’s price increase made the rounds. This is good news for these SaaS-based companies because very few customers will defect given a price increase. This makes for a very bright future for these SaaS providers.

As far as I can tell, there is no slow-down in cloud-based solution growth. Many large organizations, like Capital One have decided to completely empty out their own data centers and turn exclusively to cloud providers like AWS’ platform as a service (PaaS) offering. This gives organizations that have standardized on a PaaS platform, like AWS, the best of both worlds– reduced capital and operating expenses combined with the opportunity to run on-premised based software solutions, which normally have a much less expensive lifecycle cost basis as compared to SaaS offerings.

For example, we are currently involved in a ServiceNow vs Remedy opportunity. Comparing ServiceNow pricing over five years to Remedy on-premise gives Remedy a significant edge in price. This price difference is more than enough to pay for the cost of computer infrastructure and support required to manage on-premise software in either a corporate data center or on a PaaS platform like AWS. Plus, PaaS platforms provide a good defense against ever increasing SaaS pricing.

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This Year’s High-Tech Prayer Breakfast

By Dick Stark

I bought a full table at the High-Tech Prayer Break-fast held this past Wednesday at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner.  This is an amazing annual event with more than 800 attendees. The speakers this year were Marcus Bullock, Founder and CEO of Flikshop, and Jeff Struecker, Author, Pastor, and former Army Ranger. I was not prepared for for the amazing stories they both shared.  Here’s a brief report:

HighTech Prayer BF 2018Marcus Bullock kicked things off by saying when at 15 years old he was tried as an adult and convicted to eight years in prison for stealing a car. Marcus, whose mother is a preacher, thought that God had left him during those eight long years in prison. He kept going thanks in large part to the frequent letters and pictures his mother mailed him, her regular visits, and her calls to the warden to help “look out” for him. When he left prison in 2004 he had “grown up,” and after working in a paint store came up with an idea for Flikshop, an app that makes it easy for inmates and their families to stay in touch.

So, several years after his release, Marcus created Flikshop. This free app for smartphones lets users take pictures, write messages, and send them off in the form of a 99 cent postcard to friends and family in over 2000 registered correctional facilities across the US. Since frequent communication from home kept Marcus going while in prison, he figured it would have the same impact on others. Thanks to the internet, there is little interest in letter writing, and no internet in prison. Flikshop now makes the difference connecting over 140,000 inmates.  And most of the inmates that use Flikshop don’t go back to prison. Marcus summed things up this way, “No matter where you are, God is calling you.  He has told me that I’m here for a purpose and I can help change the world.”

Jeff Struecker knew at an early age that he wanted to be an Army Ranger, and when he turned 18, enlisted and served for 22 years before retiring as an Army Chaplin in 2011.  During his service he saw plenty of action—the invasion of Panama, Gulf War, Iraq War, and the Battle of Mogadishu/Somalia, which he relayed in great detail. It turned out that this battle, was depicted in the popular movie, Black Hawk Down, in which Jeff played a key role of leading a three-vehicle convoy, that returned a wounded Ranger to base. Upon return, he set out again, on a “suicide” mission to rescue others. Jeff said that it was his strong faith in God that gave him the courage to face his fears and complete the mission successfully. He recounted the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, prior to his crucifixion, as detailed in Luke: “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” At that point, Jeff knew, that live or die, he wouldn’t lose either way. Jeff returned from the battle unharmed and his fearless behavior during the final mission convinced others having faith in God does indeed help deal with the good and not so good times that we all face.

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