How to revamp your IT operational plan without getting fired

Hey there, aren’t you the one who keeps telling everybody that the IT operations team is a service provider to the business? That you’re customer-centric? That you deliver high-quality technological capabilities for a fair price? Aren’t you the one who said that you know what it takes to satisfy the needs of developers and application owners and your IT operational plan is foolproof?

If that’s the case, then why are your “clients” taking as much business as they can to public clouds and other service providers? If your service is so awesome, why do the budget owners keep telling you you’re too slow, expensive and are lacking capabilities they can get elsewhere?

Read the rest of this article here…
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The {Private} Cloud of Despair

“Oh ye of little faith!”  That’s kind of the reaction I have been getting from some of you to my last missive on the End of Private Clouds.

Perhaps it’s the definition of “not too distant future” that has people confused. There will absolutely be a continuing investment by vendors and their enterprise customers in building and deploying private cloud solutions. Some value will be realized and we can help make sure that happens. However, at some point most customers will fall into a pit of despair and abandon their private clouds BECAUSE THEY CAN’T KEEP UP.

How many enterprises write their own DBMS? SFA/CRM? Operating Systems, Networking, HRMS, ERP, or other systems? How many enterprises custom design their own servers and storage devices?  You know at some point early in the market many of them did just that. Then a vendor solution came along and made continuing their investment a bad business decision.

The fact is that Amazon, Google, Microsoft and (perhaps) IBM are proving that they can run data centers and clouds far more effectively than most enterprises. And it’s only going to get worse for the in-house IT team. The sheer scale, cost model, and ability to invest in R&D for data center technology and operations solutions just favors the bigger players and the gaps are only going to grow.

There’s been some recent noise about the gap between OpenStack hype and actual enterprise adoption. Perhaps many IT organizations are struggling with the tension between their desire to build and operate something as cool as a cloud and their understanding of the bleak reality they are facing.  The ladder to cloud success is very high – and only the undaunted will attempt the climb. The rest will despair of the Quixotic nature of such a quest and will move on to greener pastures.

(c) 2013 John Treadway / CloudBzz / TechBzz Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This post originally appeared at http://www.cloudbzz.com/. You can follow me on Twitter @CloudBzz.

The End of Private Cloud – 5 Stages of Loss and Grief

It’s not today, or tomorrow, but sometime in the not too distant future the bulk of the on-premise private cloud market is going to shrivel into a little raisin and die. A very small number of very large companies will operate private clouds that will be, by an large, poor substitutes for the services available in public clouds. However, they will be good enough for these companies for some percentage of their workloads.

I have seen dozens of private cloud efforts by many large customers. Most are pretty weak shells of a cloud, not coming close to the economics or capabilities of even 2nd or 3rd tier public clouds. Comparing them to AWS, Azure or Google is like comparing my art work to a Picasso or Rembrandt. The only similarity is that I can still call mine art even if it’s atrocious. I can still call your cloud a cloud too – even if it’s expensive, inelastic, and lacking anything but the most basic of features. Some will be reasonable, but in the long run it’s a game you cannot win.

No matter how good you think you are, you’ll never have the resources, skills or need to be as good as Amazon. AWS deploys enough computing capacity every day to run Amazon.com when it was a $7B online retailer. How many servers will you rack and stack today? How many petabytes of storage will you deploy this weekend? How many features did you update this year (Hint – in just the first half of November, Amazon announced 27 enhancements, features or entirely new services!!!!).

In her seminal work, “On Death and Dying,” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross articulated the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief. I think it’s time to look at this for private clouds.

1. Denial and Isolation

Most large company IT organizations are in severe denial about that is going on in the public cloud market today. They think that if only they get their vCloud or OpenStack cloud up and running they can be just like Amazon. Or perhaps they still cling to the total fantasy that their internal data centers are somehow more secure than Amazon’s or Microsoft’s – companies that spend more money on InfoSec per day than most enterprises will invest over the next 5 years. The denial comes from a fear of change, fear of loss of position and career, or just ignorance. By the way – denial is a guaranty that the risk is real. Those who see the future have already shifted their careers to ride the wave instead of being destroyed by it.

2. Anger

One you start to understand what is happening, that your career plans and worldview are being overtaken by the cloud, it is natural to become angry and bitter. You’ll go out of your way to point out potential security or performance issues with public clouds, maybe blogging about the “what ifs” of outages and disruptions, attack vectors and dirty power grids. You can’t control this because your CEO is not going to give you $100M it will take to really build a private cloud. Or perhaps you’re a private cloud vendor looking for that exit that may never come. “Oh why did I waste my time on this market” you might cry when all of the exits have passed you by and you’re looking at an ever dwindling market with lots of dying startups trying to consume whatever oxygen is left. Perhaps you can jump on (off) the Cloud Liberation Freedom Front (aka “CLiFF”)…

3. Bargaining

The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control–

  • If only I had moved to public cloud sooner…
  • If only I had gotten better advice from IBM, HP, VMware, Oracle or Accenture…
  • If only we had tried to be more cloudy in our data center…

Secretly, we may make a deal with our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality. Do we pray for AWS to fail? Do we pray for a Google data center meltdown?

4. Depression

It’s over. Sadness and regret set in and we realize that there is nothing to be done. Our best laid plans are in ruins. The future looks bleak, where servers are getting older by the minute, turning off one by one in silent desolation. The staffing model for 2020 shows a drawdown to a skeleton crew just keeping alive the old legacy stuff that you can’t kill or migrate. It’s dull, sad, drudgery.

5. Acceptance

Not everyone will get here. Many have already, coming to the early conclusion that the future is and will be in the public clouds. Those that do get here before everybody else will have more opportunity, more reward, more fulfillment. The late arrivals may have to find other careers – like today’s laid-off mainframe programmer looking for a job at Facebook, it ain’t gonna happen dude. Many a former techie has found fulfillment and happiness in other fields – I even know one who went back to medical school and is a practicing oncologist. Pretty cool, eh? Even Julia Child didn’t start cooking until she was 50 – so your second career is nothing to fear!

In any event, once you understand that the public cloud is the future – and when you are over the denial, anger, bargaining and depression – you can start to make plans.

CIOs should start getting ahead of the curve, thinking very hard about whether or not that new data center plan is worth the investment. Why spend $30 million, or $300 million, on a fancy new data center that may lay empty in a decade?  Instead of investing $5m in a new private cloud, how about investing $5m in the InfoSec upgrades required to safely use a public cloud?

It’s only a matter of time. Resistance is indeed futile. The public cloud is the future.

(c) 2013 John Treadway / CloudBzz / TechBzz Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This post originally appeared at http://www.cloudbzz.com/. You can follow me on Twitter @CloudBzz.

It’s All About SDN

By Ben Grubin

HP’s announcement last week at Interop that they are shipping their SDN SDK and SDN App Store is merely one of the first salvos of a war that will likely heat up over the next 24 months. What was once the purview of marketing and start-ups, Software Defined Networking has now become the dominant strategy of HP, VMware and others to truly disrupt the current state of data center network architecture.

HP SDN Ecosystem

As they announced a few months ago, VMware is going further with their NSX-based SDDC (Software Designed Data Center) concept, which essentially treats the entire underlying network infrastructure as dumb pipes.

In this new world of SDN and SDDC, the never-ending list of features that Cisco, HP, Dell, Huawei, and others have used as the lynchpin of their competitive strategy in the Ethernet switching and routing markets is nearly irrelevant. Instead, what these new technologies demand is simplicity and speed, something incompatible with layering on hundreds of unnecessary features into the software that drives Ethernet switches.

In fact, layering is the underlying story here. While most network architects have tried to avoid networking overlays due to complexity and losing visibility into layer 2 and 3 architecture, SDN and SDDC are truly a network overlay that abstracts away the entirety of the underlying physical network.

Implementing SDDC means only two basic requirements for the underlying network: it should have as few hops as possible between any two points, and as much “symmetric” capacity as possible–meaning the capacity should be equally large between any two points on the network. Only with this design do you enable the broadest possible freedom at the overlay SDDC layer.

What don’t you need? VLANs, layer 3 routing protocols (OSPF, IGRP), and other such mainstays of the data center. All of this is handled inside the software layer, and with VMware NSX the virtual infrastructure.

All in all, this is an exciting movement towards simplifying the network layer and making it more agile and responsive to the needs of business. Having per-VM virtualized network components such as load balancers, firewalls, and switches means less specialized equipment and less capital outlay in the racks.

Is all of this going to be in production tomorrow? No way. There’s still some key hardware and software challenges that need to be solved to equalize the performance equation. However, if history is our guide, it won’t take long for those to be conquered.

 

 

Oracle of the Cloud – Seek and Ye Shall Find

Oracle logoOracle & Cloud. Oil & Water. Never the twain shall mix. Or so it’s been until now.

Excluding SaaS offerings that were mostly acquired, Oracle has been largely absent from the cloud these past 7 years. However, one thing you can always count from Larry & Co is an uncanny ability to adapt, embrace and compete like hell when it matters. Coming from an 8-1 deficit to win 8 straight America’s Cup matches shows you just how much Ellison likes to win.

After years of ignoring or aggressively denying the importance of cloud computing, Oracle has finally demonstrated their credible progress with no less than 10 new offerings announced at Oracle Open World this week. There is still a fair amount of cloudwashing going on, but for the first time it is no longer fair to deride Oracle as cloud hype without substance. It was fun while it lasted though.

Oracle is embracing the public cloud with database, middleware, compute and storage offerings. Their compute solution, powered by the acquisition of Nimbula and Chris Pinkham, looks pretty reasonable at first glance. And storage built on OpenStack Swift is also pretty leading edge. Multiple DBaaS offerings and a cloud-extended database backup appliance will probably be well-received by Oracle’s customer base.

In the private cloud, Oracle is starting to make some progress as well. I wouldn’t use them to build private IaaS clouds at this point, but they are selling an IaaS-in-box “engineered system” that might get some users. What’s more interesting is their database consolidation play which is being offered to major enterprises through an Exadata DBaaS offering that can be run in customer data centers. A very solid customer case from UBS shows that this is real.

Another interesting area is in the middle tier with the availability of Dynamic Clusters in WebLogic 12c. Like a good PaaS environment (which this is not), the ability to seamlessly (and with preset constraints) perform horizontal scaling of workloads is pretty interesting. Application changes might be required, and I don’t believe that multi-geo scaling would work with their model without significant code changes, but it’s a good start at enterprise PaaS functionality.

I came to the Oracle [Open World] seeking truth and wisdom on the cloud but expecting very little. To Oracle’s credit, they have exceeded my expectations. If you are an Oracle client or partner, it’s time to take a look at their cloud story to see how it might fit with your plans. I’d still be wary of some of their claims and don’t believe that they will be able to meet all of your needs, but at least they are in the game and competing. And we all know what happens when Ellison chooses to compete.

Getting Ready for the Cloud

by Ben Grubin

Whether you have a handful of applications of thousands of them, if some are not already running the cloud the idea has likely been discussed. Most people agree there are large numbers of applications that should be relatively easy to migrate to cloud infrastructure, yet most still haven’t made the jump to cloud. Why?

A few years ago, I remember writing about the immaturity of public cloud services. My thinking then was that building a private cloud and migrating your applications to it internally would build institutional knowledge (capabilities, policies, experience, etc) necessary for migrating and operating applications in the a public cloud while radically simplifying storage and network issues. These days most companies still haven’t made it that far even though the maturity of public cloud has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, public cloud maturity has come so far that the question has become not whether to migrate applications to the public cloud, but how many and to which cloud?

In hindsight, it’s pretty easy to see that leaping into cloud (private OR public) a few years ago was a pretty risky and expensive proposition. Most enterprises made the right choice when they elected to sit tight, leverage virtualization to reduce wasted hardware and consolidate data centers (or at least reduce the growth of hardware), and keep a weather eye on this “cloudy” stuff. But now, with a maturing IaaS cloud market, is it time to jump in?

Sorta.

While public clouds are maturing, the question of which public cloud can be tricky. Yes, Amazon AWS currently has the lion’s share of the market, but the lower left corner of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for IaaS is very crowded, with new entrants daily. Furthermore, some IT behemoths are just piling into this market: see Tuesday’s announcement that Oracle is launching the Oracle Compute Cloud, intended as a competitive platform to AWS.

The answer may be to optimize your application for IaaS portability, rather than for a specific cloud environment. For example, decoupling services from the core application both helps an application become easier to scale horizontally, and frees you to change out underlying technologies in those services (like moving from sending your own email to using Amazon’s Simple Email Service).

Making your applications ready for the cloud now positions you to take greater advantage of the growing diversity of the public cloud ecosystem. Tackling changes today will make it a lot easier to move your apps when the time is right.

So Much To Read, So Little Time…

Too Much to ReadRecently I was having a conversation with someone and we got on the topic of books and what we had read recently. We’ve all had this conversation many times, but it struck me that lately many people suffer from the same conundrum – too many books and not enough time. In addition to the stack of unread paperback and hardcover books on my nightstand, I also have a Kindle full of great reading.

I have read many of these books, but many others I have merely started to read before getting distracted and moving onto something else. I also have a stack of magazines (paper and digital), dozens of online publications and blogs, white papers and analyst reports, newspapers, and the daily missives of my friends on Facebook and my extended network on Twitter.

I read for many reasons – to gain knowledge, to get perspective, to escape into another world or time, to keep up with my profession, to laugh, to think, to live. I love to read, but I now wonder if my reading might be more satisfying if it were more purposeful.

What does that mean – more purposeful? What I’m thinking about is picking a small number of issues, topics or themes and focus my reading in those areas. Exploring the depth of an idea might interesting.

Today I could be accused of being a mile wide and an inch deep when it comes to my literary interests. In itself that is probably not a horrible thing. My interests are broad and that probably makes it easier for me to engage in superficially interesting conversations with many different people. I say “superficially interesting” because my knowledge and perspective on many of these topics is often exhausted in a matter of minutes. If I meet someone with a deep passion for a particular interest we hold in common, my surface-level exploration won’t allow me to sustain an extended and thoughtful conversation on the matter. That’s not totally true, I guess, because that encounter becomes a great opportunity for me to learn from the other. But I would have less to contribute.

I also wonder if I should substitute writing more for reading less. It would likely be a positive development if I were to write more, create more, and otherwise get out and engage more fully with the world. It would stand to reason that my writing should follow my reading in terms of focus.  As I gain deeper knowledge and understanding of a particular topic, my writing would hopefully reflect that and be more thought-provoking as a result.

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

— Albert Einstein

Now I just need to figure out where my focus should be…