Survey Reveals Sequence Of Online Research That Drives Retail Shopping

A recent survey from Wanderful Media and Dimensional Research quantifies how consumer shopping experiences are increasingly driven by online experiences. Data about the effect of online shopping platforms on consumer shopping in brick and mortar stores underscores the importance, for retailers, of building rich and enticing online infrastructures around their products. Findings from the study indicated that store websites, online marketplace stores such as Amazon and social media all played significant roles with respect to the research done by consumers within a store.

Getting Consumers Into A Store

Emails, coupons, online advertisements, online store searches and social media all played a role in driving consumers into brick and mortar stores as illustrated below:

Online promotions and marketing of stores outweighed social media recommendations from friends by a factor of more than two.

Devices Used For Consumer Research In Stores

Smartphones represented the dominant platform for consumer research while in stores. Despite the significance of online marketing in getting consumers into stores, consumers continued to research and refine their shopping preferences using online research. In other words, online marketing had an initiatory effect on brick and mortar shopping experiences that consumers subsequently refined and finalized in collaboration with smartphones and tablets once in stores.

While the study powerfully illustrates the significance of the relation between brick and mortar shopping and online shopping and research, it hardly signals the death of the brick and mortar shopping. On one hand, online shopping drives retail shopping but retail shopping, conversely, leads to more targeted online product research and comparison shopping. All this suggests that big data analytics by retailers on online sales should consider the points of origin of online consumer research and strive toward constructing a holistic picture of the trajectory of a consumer’s online product research. Preliminary findings indicate that more focused consumer research happens in stores, on smartphones. The implication here is that retailers should increasingly focus on the richness of their positioning of products in smartphone-powered search platforms in ways that complement the efficacy of their email and online promotions that drive consumers into stores, in the first place.

Complete details of the study can be found here:

UserVoice and Crittercism Partner To Deliver Comprehensive Mobile App Customer Feedback Solution

Crittercism and UserVoice today announced a partnership that delivers a comprehensive infrastructure which empowers developers to obtain customer feedback and monitor the performance of their mobile applications. Developers can now obtain a 360 degree view of user activity, feedback, inquiries and application performance, all from the purview of an integrated application interface that melds the application monitoring and customer feedback platforms of Crittercism and UserVoice, respectively. The partnership responds to the rapid proliferation of mobile applications and the corresponding need, by the creators of such applications, to engage customers as well as to understand the frequency of application crashes and related performance metrics.

Under the partnership, Crittercism, an application performance management platform, collaborated with UserVoice, a SaaS helpdesk and customer engagement solution that enables the makers of client server, SaaS and mobile applications to more effectively understand their user base’s experience of their software. UserVoice provides a structured framework for the solicitation and organization of customer feedback. UserVoice’s forums feature allows users to provide feedback and then vote on existing ideas related to that feedback or otherwise create a new idea as illustrated below:

Moreover, UserVoice’s Instant Answers solution structures the automated delivery of knowledge base articles in response to customer questions such that roughly 40% of questions are answered by a knowledge base article before they are sent to a help desk agent. The platform additionally facilitates competition amongst help desk resources for “kudos” designations from users by way of an integrated service desk resource dashboard. In addition, the platform features a collection of widgets, SDKs and APIs that can be directly embedded into a product to maximize the stream of customer feedback with a view to more effectively understanding user experience.

Richard White, CEO of UserVoice, commented on the partnership with Crittercism as follows:

Consumers today expect a seamless mobile app experience, and will often abandon an app based on continued crashes or other issues, especially if they aren’t able to quickly report and resolve them. With Crittercism, we are extending our customer communication, support and feedback capabilities to mobile app developers, giving them the most comprehensive, flexible and intuitive support solution for mobile applications.

The partnership with Crittercism enables UserVoice to deliver a more comprehensive customer engagement solution that additionally provides data regarding mobile app crashes and related technical issues. The resulting platform presents developers with technical and user experience-based data points from which to monitor application usage and performance with a view to iteratively refining their mobile apps. Importantly, the integrated solution offers ways of prioritizing customer feedback such that mobile app makers can effectively scale their help desk support resources as their user base expands. UserVoice mobile app support is limited to the iOS platform at present, although Android is on the UserVoice product roadmap for subsequent integration.

RackWare Delivers Automated Intelligence To Cloud Deployments With RMM

Santa Clara-based startup RackWare recently released version 2.0 of its RackWare Management Module as a premier offering within the rapidly growing cloud infrastructure space. The RackWare Management Module (RMM) enables enterprises to optimize their cloud deployments by adding “automated intelligence” to cloud infrastructures. The RackWare Management Module boasts solutions related to cloud Mobility and Elasticity. RMM’s Mobility solutions enable vendors to avoid vendor lock-in by facilitating the migration of platforms from one infrastructure to another, with minimal corresponding coding changes. Meanwhile, RMM’s Elasticity solutions help companies optimally manage workloads and resource consumption.

The RackWare Management Module features the following components:

AutoScaling functionality for datacenters, private and public clouds based on real-time metrics regarding load, usage and performance.

Automated “parking” and “unparking” of cloud hosts by powering down systems or reducing CPU power within hypervisor systems or minimizing resource consumption on bare metal servers.

Cloud Bursting
A specialized form of autoscaling, RMM’s Cloud Bursting functionality refers to scaling across heterogeneous cloud environments based on metrics gathered by the RMM monitoring engine or a load balancer.

A push-button, automated solution to move workloads between datacenters to clouds.

Sash Sunkara, RackWare’s CEO and founder, remarked on the value of RMM 2.0 as follows:

Today’s enterprise IT organizations need solutions that allow them to immediately benefit from deploying applications in the cloud within their current environment. The RackWare Management Module does just that. With RMM 2.0, users can take full advantage of the cloud without compromising their current investment in infrastructure and applications. And, once RMM is in place, it is easy to expand use of the cloud to increase cost savings to the business through greater availability and flexibility for application developers and users.

Here, Sunkara remarks on how RackWare’s Management Module enables enterprises to transition quickly to the cloud and optimize the corresponding deployment by enabling “greater availability and flexibility” for developers and users alike. Founded in 2009, RackWare’s customers include Macy’s, Amazon, Reuters and SunGuard. The company has been largely in stealth mode since its launch and is now gearing up to render its RMM cloud infrastructure offering available to a wider audience.

Reflections On OpenStack’s Second Birthday And The Way Forward

This past week, OpenStack turned two years old. A year ago, I examined OpenStack’s accomplishments upon the celebration of its first birthday. Since then, OpenStack’s technical and business development progress has been both meteoric and profound. A year ago, OpenStack claimed the backing of 80 companies. Today, OpenStack is supported by a whopping 183 companies and 3386 people. OpenStack’s second year featured the successful deployment of Essex, its fifth release after the Austin, Bexar, Cactus and Diablo releases. Essex is distinguished by the tight integration of OpenStack’s different components as well as the maturation of plug-in functionality that facilitates deployment of third party products. Jonathan Bryce, co-founder of Rackspace Cloud and chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board, commented on the milestone represented by the Essex release as follows:

When you put it all together, this is really getting to the point where we have a complete cloud OS that you can use to manage compute, storage and networking and manage it all through a Web-based interface and have all the components integrated.

The Essex release contains 150 new enhancements and features developed through contributions from 55 companies and 200 developers in what is widely regarded as the most stable OpenStack release to date. But OpenStack’s technical maturation aside and notwithstanding, the most compelling part of its success story over the last year features the vortex of business development energy that catapulted the initiative into a major player in the cloud computing landscape within the space of two years.

In year two, OpenStack garnered the official support of heavyweights such as IBM and Red Hat, for example, both of whom occupy Platinum member positions within its Foundation. In tandem with its growing base of supporting companies, PaaS and cloud automation vendors alike deployed and marketed products as OpenStack compatible. Puppet Labs, for example, released configuration modules specially designed for enterprise-grade OpenStack deployments. Similarly, Piston Cloud Computing partnered with Rightscale, Puppet and Opscode to allow customers to use these automation products with pentOS, its own OpenStack product. PaaS products such as ActiveState’s Stackato, Red Hat’s OpenShift Origin and CumuLogic marketed their ability to run atop the OpenStack infrastructure. And training vendors such as Mirantis partnered with CloudCamp to deliver OpenStack training.

In summary, highlights of OpenStack’s progress within the last year include the following:

• The release of Essex, marked by the integration of OpenStack Dashboard and OpenStack Identity into OpenStack for the first time.
• The creation of the OpenStack Foundation, featuring 19 companies that will serve as Gold and Platinum members in its Foundation.
• Enterprise grade installations by Rackspace, HP, Dell and Cloudscaling.
• Enthusiastic reception amongst the PaaS community as PaaS vendors increasingly marketed the ability to run on top of IaaS platforms such as OpenStack.

While concerns of fragmentation within the OpenStack community are legitimate, the key question for OpenStack in its third year will be its ability to accelerate the maturation of its product in order to keep pace with the staggering rate of innovation exemplified by Amazon Web Services. The cloud computing world has already given it a stunningly warm reception and declared its open-ness, no pun intended, to the idea of an open source, inter-operable, IaaS platform. The question now is whether OpenStack can deliver, maintain and consistently enhance a mature, stable product as a Foundation and community of vendors.

Amazon Web Services Experiences Another Outage Due To East Coast Storms

On Friday, Amazon Web Services experienced its second outage in less than a month due to power failures caused by thunderstorms in Virginia. Amazon Web Services products that were affected by the outage included the Elastic Cloud Compute, Relational Database Service and Elastic Beanstalk. The outage began around 840 PM PDT on Friday. Most services were recovered by Saturday afternoon. Companies affected by the outage included Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix and Heroku. Friday’s storms left millions of people across the Eastern United States without power.

HP Launches Public Beta Of IaaS Cloud Based On OpenStack

Today, HP launched a public beta of its public cloud as part of its HP Converged Cloud solution that features traditional IT, private clouds, managed clouds and public clouds. Designed on the OpenStack open source cloud operating system, HP’s public cloud avoids vendor lock-in by giving customers the option of transferring their deployments to another OpenStack vendor for any reason. The HP public cloud Beta currently features the following components:

Public Beta (pricing is based on a utility model analogous to Amazon Web Services)

HP Cloud Compute: scalable virtual servers on demand.
HP Cloud Object Storage: scalable, enterprise-grade storage.
HP Cloud Content Delivery Network: low latency and optimized content delivery by means of a CDN powered by Akamai.

Private Beta (you must be an existing HP Customer to sample these products)

HP Cloud Block Storage: high performance, persistent storage
HP Cloud Relational Database for MySQL: a web-based service that provides access to a MySQL database featuring “automated backups, database snapshots, automatic host replacement, and multiple availability zones.”

Out of the gate, almost 40 companies have already expressed intentions to partner with HP’s Cloud Services including a cluster of PaaS vendors such as ActiveState, CloudBees, Corent Technology, CumuLogic, Engine Yard and Gigaspaces. Bart Copeland, President and CEO of ActiveState, elaborated on ActiveState’s Stackato PaaS support for HP’s cloud services by noting:

Adding support for HP Cloud Services to Stackato reinforces our vision of providing the PaaS layer in the cloud that supports any underlying infrastructure, which will greatly benefit enterprise developers and IT/DevOps by giving them the options and flexibility they want. Those enterprise developers and IT/DevOps need good options for building secure yet flexible cloud infrastructure—HP Cloud Services allow enterprises access to world-class products and services, and is going to be a clear alternative to Amazon Web Services.

Here, Copeland envisions HP Cloud Services as having the potential to parallel Amazon Web Services even as it is built on open source cloud technology in the form of OpenStack. HP’s press release made the comparison between HP Cloud Services and Amazon Web Services stronger by hinting at an HP marketplace that would allow customers to tap into its rich partner ecosystem in order to build additional functionality into their own deployments on the HP Cloud platform. Such a platform would parallel the recently announced Amazon Web Services Marketplace and render the head to head comparison between HP Cloud Services and Amazon Web Services even more compelling.

For now, however, the important thing worth noting about HP’s launch of its Beta public cloud is that OpenStack has secured an important victory as the foundation for what promises to become one of the world’s largest, enterprise-grade public clouds. Moreover, the deep support that HP’s Cloud Services platform has secured at such an early stage underscores the possibility that HP’s Cloud Services may parallel Amazon Web Services not only in its inherent functionality but also in the richness of its partner ecosystem.

Linux Foundation Announces CloudOpen, Technical Conference On Open Source Cloud Computing And Big Data

The Linux Foundation recently announced CloudOpen, a technical conference dedicated to open source cloud computing and big data. The conference is intended to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas about the use of open source cloud and big data technologies. The inaugural CloudOpen technical conference will take place from August 29 to August 31, 2012 in San Diego, California. The conference expects to showcase content of a technical nature related to products such as, but not limited to “Chef, Gluster, Hadoop, KVM, Linux, oVirt, Puppet, and Xen.” The Linux Foundation is currently soliciting Calls For Proposals (CFPs) by June 1. Sponsors of CloudOpen include Dell, Citrix, Eucalyptus Systems, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, NEC, Puppet Labs and SUSE.

CloudOpen is unique amongst cloud computing conferences because of its explicit focus on open-source technologies. The conference enables collaboration and conversation amongst open-source cloud professionals at a historical juncture where CIOs, development managers and software developers are increasingly used to navigating hybrid IT infrastructures featuring a combination of proprietary and open source solutions. Because many open source cloud and big data technologies are new or have only been recently deployed in combination with other solutions, technical resources are likely to benefit tremendously from the conference’s design of facilitating lateral conversations about topics such as best practices, regulatory requirements, deployment challenges, integration with 3rd party software, automation, inter-operability, APIs and ongoing operational challenges.

The Linux Foundation announced CloudOpen in the wake of weeks of recent conversation about open source cloud computing products Eucalytptus, OpenStack and CloudStack. First, Eucalyptus reached a deal with Amazon Web Services such that AWS officially endorsed its API for promoting inter-operability between the Eucalyptus private cloud and the Amazon Web Services platform. The deal means that Eucalyptus customers can migrate data between their data centers and the Amazon Web Services platform by using Eucalyptus APIs that are compatible with Amazon Web Services products such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

Then, Citrix open-sourced CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation despite having made a prior commitment to using OpenStack for CloudStack’s IaaS technological platform. Meanwhile, OpenStack has continued to make waves given the launch of its Foundation, Rackspace’s Beta launch of a commercialized OpenStack platform as well as an endorsement from Puppet Labs. Expect the open source cloud and big data juggernaut to gather steam this spring and summer. Red Hat, for example, will open-source the code for its Platform as a Service, OpenShift, at the Open Cloud Conference from April 30 through May 3.