Monday, November 5, 2012

The End of the Laptop-Centric World?

Is this you:  You own multiple laptops or desktop computers because you have different uses, jobs, clients or applications? 

Doesn't this seem ridiculously inefficient and wasteful - especially because we now in the "cloud era"?

Turns out there are quite elegant solutions that move us away from this "boat anchor" centric lifestyle where activity revolves around the laptop work hub.

The solutions I have in mind are not always broadly used, or for that matter, broadly known. But they are often quite simple, convenient, and even cost-advantageous.

Let me give you a hypothetical example - but based very much in reality (names have been changed to protect the innocent). And I'll share a very reasonable set of solutions, too.

Act I: The Setup
Let's take a consultant named Margo.  She runs a small firm with a handful of large corporate clients.  To accomplish her work she needs access to each client's intranet as well as a number of their secure, internal applications.  She also needs to share data with co-workers in her firm, as well as share it back to individual contacts within each client.

Each time Margo takes on a new client, they issue her firm a corporate laptop, usually equipped with VPN software and a 2-factor security app with a physical fob. Whenever Margo does remote work with a given client -- accessing the intranet, using internal apps, interacting via collaboration software, or even certain VoiP apps -- she must use the appropriate laptop.  And that's about 80% of the time.

To add to this, alongside each laptop, Margo uses a DropBox account with folders dedicated to each client. She shares these folders with her co-workers as well as client contacts within each company (and who are behind each client's firewall) as interactive project-based workspaces.

Act II: The (Troubling) Reality
Fast-forward: We have Margo with an office full of client-provided hardware. Together her firm is holding capital equipment that cost each client between $2k-$4k.  It's equipment inventory each of her clients have had to request, allocate, provision, track and maintain (and likely one day, recapture). Besides the cost and efforts to secure, the equipment is still subject to breakage, loss, theft and/or other forms of compromise. 
That's wasteful / risk-laden observation #1.
Next, we have the "DropBox problem": One day Margo realizes that she's running short of disk space on her own office tower computer. She tracks it back to the fact that her single DropBox account contains files from all of her co-workers representing the work from all of her clients... and it dawns on her that files from client A have been accessible to all other clients via the single DropBox account. She races to modify the access rights to various DropBox folders.
That's risk-laden observation #2
Finally, Margo finds herself on a business trip visiting Client A. She gets a call from Client B needing an urgent intervention. But since she isn't carrying the laptop from Client B, she's unable to help.
That's just plain silly observation 3
Act III: An Elegant Solution

All of these unfortunate scenarios are a result of a "PC Era" view of the world - where data, access and security are tied to the physical laptop. To be certain, there are absolutely scenarios where this should remain the case. But in Margo's case, the model is antiquated.  Let's move to the "Cloud Era" and see how things might be different.

Enter the concepts of "Mobile applications" and "Virtual desktops". In these cases, each of Margo's clients provides a shared (or dedicated) desktop OS behind their firewall. They might also provide a secure application streaming protocol for specific internal applications (think: SAP, accounting, web browsing, email, etc. etc.).  Both desktop and/or application gateway are made available as virtual desktops & apps via a web gateway to approved users.  All a user needs is a client device (laptop, iPad, smartphone) and a secure authentication mechanism.

So, Margo would simply carry her own personal laptop (or iPad, for example) as well as security fobs from each of her consulting clients.

Any time Margo needs access to work with a client, she connects to a gateway (think: click on an app) hosted by one of her clients, and enters her security credentials. Up pops a secure desktop belonging to one of her clients, just the way she left it the last time she accessed it.  All of her data files are there, as well as email and applications. And she'll have complete secure access to her client's corporate intranet.  In fact, she could even have multiple secure desktops from each of her clients up-and-running simultaneously on a single machine, with no security issues whatsoever.

But there's one difference: When she closes the session(s), no client data will reside on her laptop - safe and sound for her clients. And, no matter where she is, no matter what device she has (her own, a borrowed iPad, etc.) she can re-access those desktops and/or applications.  Pretty elegant.

What if Margo is "untethered"?  There's even a scenario for the untethered worker. She could install a virtual machine desktop on her laptop.  Within that secure "sandbox" would run the OS belonging to her client, with all access rights etc. Each time the device is connected to the net, the sandboxed OS (and its apps) would synchronize with her client's IT department. 

Oh - And what about that "DropBox Problem"?  With this model she (and her co-workers) can use a shared drive or service either (a) within the client's firewall, accessible whenever the virtual desktop is active, or (b) a separate shared drive brokered by a client's own gateway service.  Never would Margo risk data from one client being co-mingled with data from another.

In my opinion, the "PC era" will begin to ebb, as the concept of mobile apps and virtual workspaces begins to take hold. And as more IT departments become more comfortable with BYOD strategies and mobile work options, the more this trend will accelerate.

Here's saying goodby to the laptop-centric world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apps and Desktops and Clouds - Oh My!

A bunch of people have asked me about my new gig with Citrix.  "You're doing VDI and XenApp now? I thought you were a Cloud guy?" Yes, it's true...  and it’s due in part to today's announcements by Citrix about Project Avalon, the explosion of the Mobile Enterprise, and the Path to the Cloud. And it’s about helping corporate IT think and operate more like Service Providers do.

Mobility: A Perfect Use Case for the Cloud

Consider the use case to deliver huge numbers of applications and desktops across hundreds, thousands, or tens-of-thousands of mobile clients – Challenging for IT due to configuration, set-up, monitoring, management, network optimization and scaling.  Doubly challenging when you consider the different topologies of virtual servers, licensing servers, provisioning servers and more, all scaling at different rates to maintain service levels.

What better use-case than to apply a cloud operations model within which to deploy such a solution?

With appropriate cloud management and orchestration, much of the guesswork of infrastructure sizing, machine provisioning and network adjustments can be obviated. Management of heterogeneous apps, VMs and OS’s is a breeze.   Serving-up mobile apps – and even entire virtual desktops – out of a cloud infrastructure is a natural.  And therein lies beauty in this new technology.

A Perfect Technology Next-Step

To accomplish this, Citrix – partnered with customers and Service Providers – is embarking on a 2-stage journey called Project Avalon. This will let enterprises and/or service providers deliver Windows apps and desktops as a true cloud service from private, public and hybrid clouds for users on any device, anywhere.

In the first stage of the journey, the approach to installation, management and monitoring of the base infrastructure for virtual desktops & apps will be massively simplified (Get the Tech Preview here). Also, features such as the visual experience will be extended. Then in the second, this infrastructure will be fitted with the ability (a) to mix-and-match any underlying cloud platform (b) mix-and-match different Citrix and Windows platforms, and (c) integrate with sophisticated management and orchestration to provide scaling, fail-over and cloud platform migration.

Consider the possibilities – the ability to stand-up a complete mobile enterprise solution either on your private cloud, and/or public cloud. Think: CloudStack, Amazon, Azure. Or a combination.

Goal: Help SPs Be More Efficient / Help IT Operate Like an SP

The point of all of this is to deliver mobile desktops and mobile apps from any cloud to any device.  Some Citrix service providers (CSPs) are doing this now and Project Avalon will further simplify their effectiveness to deliver from their public clouds. They’ll be able to stand-up massively scalable mobile desktop and mobile application environments (think 0,000’s and more). This will allow corporate IT – whether SMBs or global enterprises – to source global mobility solutions to any device more effectively than ever before.

For the enterprise wishing to use their own private cloud for mobility services, Project Avalon will permit this too.  In fact, using this new architecture, one could even burst (or fail-over) from a private cloud to a public instance.

Corporate IT has always had what I term “SP envy” that SP’s already run IT like an efficient business and IT would like to be more like them. With Project Avalon, IT really can operate like an SP on an internal cloud. As I’ve said before, the worlds of IT and SPs are merging, and IT will be delivered "as a Service" rather than as an engineered offering. Project Avalon will help accelerate Bringing the Enterprise to the Cloud.

I'm excited to be part of the Citrix family, to be part of this important mix of cloud and mobility, and to help use the cloud paradigm in an applied way: To help people work and play from anywhere.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Rise of the Cloud Service Bus

In my recent GigaOm guest blog, I posited that the advent of hosted cloud services (particularly PaaS and SaaS) will slowly morph the role of the CIO into that of an IT Supply Chain Manager.

Technologically, I believe this move to a "Buy-and-Integrate" mentality (vs. a "Build-Everything" mentality) will open the door to a new class of products to assist with services integration. And, if you agree that the importance of leveraging external services will be elevated for the CIO, then I believe a significant enabling technology will be a rebirth of the need for a robust "service integration bus".

Why?  As I mention in my blog, enterprises integrating external services require:
 - Identity and access management for each provider
 - Data compliance, legal and regulatory audit access across each provider
 - Security compliance systems
 - Provisioning, including capacity forecasting
 - Performance (e.g. SLA) monitoring
 - Cost and budget tracking (i.e. for billing, showback and/or chargeback)
 - Disaster Recovery / Redundant service sources where needed
Some would call the above integration functions "Glue Logic." Indeed in the past, many of these functions were hand-integrated across the few external services that were leveraged, and custom-engineered into each internally engineered stack. But time is changing the model. With more turnkey services  sourced from cloud (IaaS/PaaS/SaaS) providers, the need for a more efficient integration function will escalate. Integration will need to be standardized and replicable, scalable and responsive to the business' needs.
You may recall one component integration approach has been the Enterprise Service Bus, primarily associated with SOA leveraging SOAP protocols. This Integration Bus was originally to orchestrate access and workflow between component services within the enterprise. (By the way, Microsoft offers a great overview of ESBs - albeit BizTalk centric - here on MSDN).

I believe that the "2.0" Integration Bus will be one which brokers higher-level services generated from external, public cloud providers - not just internal component services. And it will use more generalized interactions than SOAP, since the providers and their environments will be less standardized.

To this end, there are some great current/upcoming thoughts suggested by Mike Ponta of the notion of a "Cloud ESB", and can't wait to hear more.  A quick survey of the market also yielded what looks to be potentially promising integration technology coming out of Mulesoft called their CloudHub.

Conceptually, the "mashed-up" service was the 1.0 version of this integration concept. But as enterprise IT begins to regularly tap and integrate multiple external services, the 2.x integration busses will need a more structured, standardized and rapid approach to integration.

I can't wait to see what else the market will generate. Stay tuned.

Other resources/Blogs:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Enablers for Transformed IT - Placing My Bets

It's an odd time of the year to be making predictions. But recent conversations with start-ups, CEOs, CIOs and others have suggested areas in Enterprise IT that I  bet will be "hot" over the near/medium term.

Some of the areas are "Sexy" (high on the Hype Cycle) - and others are not. But in my opinion all are worth betting on. They are all interrelated and all are critical enablers to the goal of a transformed IT ecosystem.

Already Sexy: Integrated Cloud Infrastructure Management
Of course you expected this one... But the betting opportunity isn't exactly what you think.

There are currently hoards of point-products professing "cloud management" - including the OpenStack/Cloudstack alternatives - but surprisingly, these still lack in providing a comprehensive solution that a reasonably sophisticated SP or CIO needs to buy.

In other words, I don't just mean a product that offers an automated virtualization (server, storage, networking) layer.... No: The real opportunity I expect to see here is an integrated comprehensive solution, that includes security, compliance, monitoring, financial metering, end-user provisioning portals, etc.  The winners in the space will either integrate these features too, or offer a pre-integrated bundle of best-of-breed point-products. And it's going to happen soon.

Not Yet Sexy: The Integration Bus
If you believe that most of IT's infrastructure is "going cloud" and that many 3rd-party services will be SaaS, then the role of the CIO will begin to shift from being a technologist (who builds things from ground-up) to being a Supply-Chain manager (who integrates multiple services from multiple sources).

To execute on its new role in the enterprise, IT will therefore become an integration point for internally- and externally-generated services. It will need to provide core identity, compliance, data exchange, security, and access infrastructure to properly "broker" all of these diverse services, providers and APIs.

It seems to me that the notion of an integration bus will become crucial. Such a bus will provide the "glue logic" between all services, and avoids tedious hand-coded integration points. In many ways this bus is a core intersection point between the internal and external cloud - the hybrid nexus, if you will.

Remember, it's not enough to have a service in a cloud. There will be a huge need for coordinating the interactions into/out-of (and between) cloud-sourced services. The need for such a service bus will quickly elevate to that of a critical IT enabler. A good bet to take.

Getting Sexy: IT Business Management
Building on the concept of IT as a "supply chain manager" is the concept of IT as a Service Provider to the business. This is sometimes termed IT-as-a-Service, where IT begins to run itself as a "business". While it may not literally have a profit motive, it will be forced to become functionally competitive with external services, to market itself, and to price itself competitively.

As I've written before, in order to think like a business, one critical enabler is to know fixed and variable costs, as well as cost allocations and cost sensitivities.

Thus, the segments known as IT Financial Management (ITFM), IT Business Management (ITBM) and/or Technology Business Management (TBM) will necessarily have to expand in importance.  This segment looks at the granular cost basis of infrastructure (including cloud service costs) and assembles a composite cost structure at the application and even service level. This permits IT to understand cost sources, provide decision support and forecasting for infrastructure changes, and provide a "bill of IT" showback/chargeback to internal service customers.  All critical in the new Transformed view of IT.

Too Sexy: Big Data Business Models

Careful here... I'm not speaking about Big Data infrastructure or analytics products per se. I'm referring to the business models that will soon be based on mashing-up and analyzing large quantities of structured/unstructured data to uncover new revenue opportunities.

As I recently mentioned, data-based business models will begin to complement existing product/service based businesses.  While adoption of Big Data technology is already penetrating the infrastructure market, the real opportunity is when it penetrates the lines-of-business people such as marketers, sales, and business development.

Companies that employ marketing professionals paired with "data scientists" are the ones to watch. The new business opportunities presented by the promise of cracking big data will be the driving force behind the infrastructure and technology purchases.

When will this transition happen?  I predict when companies begin to hire "Big Data product managers" and team them with BizDev and data scientists. Now that's disruptive and sexy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Follow IT's Money: A Survey of IT Financial Management Vendors

With all the talk of Cloud Computing and the transformation of IT, conversations mostly center on technology. But core to real IT transformation is the financial transformation of IT as well.

I've recently written about IT's need for financial metrics and financial transparency (a recent blog of mine has a great set of resource pointers on this very topic) but haven't done a deep dive into the companies - and products - that enable this change. In the course of researching I've found that the market is getting increasingly crowded with players... and indicator to me that this segment is beginning to become more important to IT leaders.

At its core, IT finances are based on capturing and monitoring fixed vs. variable costs, use and utilization of assets, and then blending-in operational costs. Other more sophisticated IT finance tools then allocate those costs to projects and/or organizations across the enterprise, and some even integrate that data into other finance applications (See this Blog by Paulo Prazeres on the topic). Still other tools extend out into the public cloud, monitoring usage and cost - even making recommendations regarding other pricing options and even other cloud providers.

Overall, in my opinion, these tools should be used with one goal in mind: Running IT more like a business. To do so, you need to know your sources of fixed and variable costs, costs of alternative sourcing, per-unit service costs, and who costs are allocated to. (Note: knowing costs is a requirement, actually charging-back is not).  So, when choosing tools, consider what you might need for your basic here-and-now requirements, also consider where you want to be in a few years, and what vendors are likely to offer those features as well.

Disclaimer - I may have unintentionally omitted some vendors... if so, please let me know so I can add them in. ~ KO

Subscription Billing
This class of players provide approaches to manage online subscription services, be they recurring SaaS or perhaps even other cloud-based infrastructure services. Many have flexible policy engines to support a variety of recurring revenue models.  This group of vendors isn't necessarily core to providing IT financial transparency, but may provide important services for specific IT business models.
Aria Systems - (San Francisco, CA) SaaS based service providing subscription billing and recurring revenue management; flexible billing/metering on any metric within the data center. Multiple connectors into many types of accounting systems

Monexa -  (Vancouver, BC) A very comprehensive suite of tools for billing automation for the entire subscription lifecycle of the business from initial offer to revenue to renewals.

Zuora - (Redwood City, CA) With an impressive set of customers, they provide enterprise-class, cloud-based tools to launch and scale any subscription service, quickly and affordably.
IT Accounting, Charge-back, Show-back
This next set of companies is by far the broadest, with all vendors providing at least basic products for monitoring, allocating and (most of the time) charging-back variable IT costs. This is all a foundation for providing basic IT cost transparency.
Cloudability - (Portland, OR) The platform aggregates our customers’ cloud costs into accessible and comprehensive reports to help manage spending, reduce waste, and identify opportunities for cost savings.

CloudRows - (Israel) Provides cost control for Amazon Web Services (AWS) accounts; enables you to be sure you are operating within your IT budget, and notifies you before a budget exception is about to occur. Works by constantly monitoring AWS activity logs in the background, and producing cost analytic reports for budget tracking.

Cloudyn - (Israel) Yields a deep view of application use of cloud resources, and actionable solutions for cost optimization; continually collects utilization, consumption, availability, capacity, and cost metrics for monitored cloud resources i.e. Compute (e.g, AWS EC2), Database (e.g, AWS RDS) etc.
Costnomics - (Fremont, CA)  SaaS based tool providing IT Financial Management; Service Cost Management; IT Investment Management; IT Charge Management. The resulting value is to provide Cost Transparency, optimized IT Spend, and better business alignment.
Newvem - (Israel) Newvem tracks and analyzes cloud resources usage, especially as they sprawl, identifying sub-optimal and vulnerable use of cloud resources with regards to security, availability, utilization, cost effectiveness and more. Then, recommends what needs to be done. Newvem does this by combining powerful data analytics of cloud usage data and curating crowd-sourcing knowledge and expertise from active cloud users, the community and experts for each specific issue that arises.
Nicus Software - (Salem, VA) Provides enterprise-wide IT financial management application used for IT chargeback, cost visibility, budgeting and forecasting. Suite is a comprehensive set of chargeback functions to support many different chargeback methodologies including resource-based, subscription-based, fixed cost, distributions, allocations, pass-thru and adjustments.

Pace Applied Technology - (Warrenton, VA) Offers accounting for IT resources, user chargeback, financial analysis and reporting. Provides the means to identify resource use, determine the cost of utilization, and charge the appropriate system users and/or business activities.
uptimeCloud -  (Toronto, ON) a cloud cost monitoring service that will help you measure, monitor and manage the cost of all your cloud based infrastructure in AWS (Amazon Web Services). Provides Cloud cost monitoring, Cloud cost forecasting, and Cloud cost showback. From Uptime Software.
IT Finance and Technology Business Management
I've chosen to break this out from the section above due to the more comprehensive features that appear to be provided by the vendors. These products play a more strategic role to manage and forecast costs, evaluate overall value, and assist in IT/business decision-making.
Apptio - (Bellevue, WA) Enables IT leaders to manage the cost, quality and value of IT Services by providing deep visibility into the total cost of IT services, communicating the value of IT to the business through an interactive "Bill of IT"; strategically aligns the planning, budgeting and forecasting processes
BMC - (Houston, TX)  Business Service Management Delivers comprehensive transparency into resources and associated costs required to provide IT services to the business; process for capturing demand, as well as a means by which it can be prioritized and managed based on business goals and objectives;  Enables IT to budget and forecast expenses from the perspective of IT resources, activities, and their associated costs.
Claritia - (Fort Worth, TX) Provides solutions aimed at delivering complete transparency into the total cost of IT ownership and delivery so executives can easily optimize and forecast their budgets. Products for IT cost transparency, IT financial management and IT cost optimization.
CloudCruiser - (Roseville, CA) Provides cost visibility and optimization across heterogeneous internal/external cloud environments. Offers a comprehensive suite of applications to map and measure resource usage independent of computing environment, allocating costs based on IT-defined criteria, and providing flexible and in-depth reporting of that usage.
Comsci - (Iselin, NJ) Establishes product and unit costing metrics for benchmarking and/or chargeback; quantifies and presents the TCO for all IT applications and solution; provides actionable metrics and analytics for cost reduction opportunities and comparison to alternative solutions
Cube Billing (Dallas, TX)- a cloud-based application with two service offerings: An Internal Billing/Chargeback System and an External Billing System. ability to easily understand cost information via a cost allocation and chargeback application. We help make financial data transparent across sales, delivery, account teams, and external clients.

Other Resources & References

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cloud: What's a Service? Who Are SPs?

My perspective of Cloud Computing has been rocked a bit.

Simplistically, I assumed I knew what IaaS, PaaS and SaaS meant, and I thought I knew who the logical public providers of these services would be.

However, there have been a number of interesting new services - and providers - that show signs of breaking the stereotypes.

BTW, when I speak of services, I'm specifically meaning Component Services. Think of that as a mapping service;  a brokering service; a credit card clearing service; a datamart.

And in an increasing number of cases, I am seeing these services  being sourced from providers that are not the traditional hosting or SaaS providers you might expect. This leads me to believe that there will be a number of business models which the cloud makes possible that we've not yet considered. And these models will come from startups and established companies alike.

The first set of services that got me thinking comes from PayPal, and is X.commerce. Somewhat analogously to Amazon, eBay has observed that its mainstay businesses of auctioning and payments could be extended by making infrastructure and component services available separately to online merchants. X.commerce is their attempt to make service products such as credit card payment processing, cataloging, auctioning etc. available as a la carte APIs outside of the eBay/PayPal site.  We all think of eBay as an online "SaaS" platform, but they now need to be re-thought of as a cloud services provider as well.

Wall Street Exchange, or Cloud Service Provider? I'm referring to NYSE Capital Markets Community Platform (CMCP) that I blogged about back in June.  In an attempt to capture more customers such as hedge funds, NYSE took quite a step to launch its own special-purpose cloud-computing (IaaS) platform, right across the Hudson from Wall Street. Not only does is it intended to host high frequency trading apps, but it also houses a Big Data repository of historic exchange trading ticks, against-which trading algorithms can test their effectiveness.  Much like the example above, we have a business that turns itself inside-out to expose internal services (and data) creating an entirely new business model.

Next, I tripped over ifttt (If This, Then That). On the surface, this looks like a simple hosted scripting site.  Anybody can set up a simple decision/action...  i.e. IF I'm mentioned on Twitter, THEN text me; IF I'm tagged on Facebook, THEN post a message... and so on.  Ifttt goes further by allowing others to create combined "recipes" that you can use.  In some sense, this is an ultra-simple service mash-up that's hosted on the web for you.  And, if you adhere to the theory that very simple actions can be combined and nested to form more complex actions, there might be some pretty sophisticated personal automation features that Ifttt will enable in the future.  Ifttt is a pure online decision service.  Not sure what I'd call them, but this is a frame-breaker.

It's a Store! It's a Streaming Service Provider! Yes, even Walmart Entertainment is arguably now in the cloud Services game, with Disc-to-Digital which (using Vudu, a video streaming acquisition) allows users to stream videos from the web, assuming they've already purchased a DVD (read: Digital Rights) in the store.  Like Barnes and Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Netflix and others, the rush toward becoming a digital media distributor is blurring the lines between brick-and-mortar vendors and digital streaming Service Providers.

I'll be keeping my eyes out for other examples of new forms of IP disguised as cloud services. I'm sure I'll keep being surprised.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Will The "Stack Wars" Impact the Hybrid Cloud?

It's been a busy few weeks in cloud O/S land, first with the Amazon/Eucalyptus announcement and then with Citrix/CloudStack announcement, then last week's OpenStack show in San Francisco.

The market may be starting to shake-out in terms of dominant cloud APIs, major efforts to manage/govern cloud infrastructures, and who will (or will not) influence/direct these efforts. But the end-game is far from clear.

From the cloud API perspective, there are a few likely contenders/winners here:
  • The Amazon Web Services (AWS) approach: arguably dominating the market at the moment, explicitly supported by Eucalyptus, as well as by Nebula, and CloudStack
  • The OpenStack approach, which likely will adopt some of the AWS approach, but possibly in favor of another
  • The VMware vCloud approach, arguably dominant in the enterprise space, and being partially adopted by large service providers.
  • Other dominant SP/vendor approaches such as Google and MSFT Azure
From an infrastructure management code base perspective, we also have
Note that it's important to distinguish between the cloud APIs and the infrastructure management code bases.  As pointed out in the Rightscale Blog, there will likely be multiple implementations of given APIs... and that's good because it allows for innovation around factors such as performance and underlying technologies.

The third "leverage point" of cloud management and standardization is of the virtual machine images such as the Amazon Machine Image (AMI) or the VMware VMDK.

    What this all means to the future of Hybrid Cloud Computing

    I'm looking at all of this from the perspective of the future cloud ecosystem - one where cloud services (and infrastructures) can easily interact with each other. 

    The question that got me thinking is whether hybrid cloud service and provider ecosystems will ultimately be loosely-coupled or tightly-coupled?  In other words, will there be significant consistency between "like-designed" and "like-implemented" services... or not?

    The foundation of my question consists of two scenarios I believe will be played-out:
    1. A few close-knit ecosystems, each using a single cloud API and Machine Image, creating a small number "tightly-coupled" clusters of providers.  (No one would deny that AWS/AMI will be one of the winners) In this world, it would be relatively easy to achieve portability between cloud service providers - which doesn't just mean code, but would include portability of policies, monitoring, etc. as well.

    2. An larger, fragmented ecosystem with a more "loosely-coupled" set of players.  Here we might see a number of heterogeneous APIs, Machine Images and infrastructure technologies, perhaps based on special-case uses, e.g. for community or vertical-industry cloud providers.    
    In the first Tightly-Coupled scenario, which smells more like a "standards" play, use of only a few winning APIs and Image types would make it easier to deploy consistent tools for monitoring, metering, compliance, security, availability, etc. across different providers' infrastructure, simplifying efforts for enterprise IT.  Providers might compete on efficiency of implementation, for example.

    In the second Loosely-Coupled scenario, there might be quite a number of varied implementations, Image types and APIs. This approach might be advantageous for individual special-purpose cloud uses. But it would also require that integration across providers would rest on the shoulders of the user, likely Enterprise IT.  Lots of "glue logic" would be needed to integrate the various SP services into the enterprise's own technologies and processes, and potentially even use of conversions of code from one image type to another.
    Are Allegiances Forming?

    I'd say so, particularly of the "Tightly-Coupled" variety. Already, Amazon has licensed its API to Eucalyptus (see James  Staten's blog "Has Amazon Solved Its Private Cloud Dilemma?" or Lydia Leong's "The Amazon/Eucalyptus Partnership"). In my opinion, we'll see even more of these API alignment agreements, perhaps after this deal has some early user successes.

    Similarly, VMware is fronting its vCloud approach and machine images to a host of aligned Service Providers.  And even Microsoft is encouraging the use of Azure APIs and technologies to create private clouds.

    As the public and service provider cloud market matures, natural "Camps" will form around them.  Ultimately, the first question that we might find ourselves asking is "Are you a Microsoft, Amazon or VMware Cloud?". 

    Kind of a modern version of the "are-you-Mac-or-PC?"

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Meeting IRL: Why The Valley's So Cool

    IRL is a reference you see on twitter -  it means "In Real Life."

    Sometimes we underestimate the value of meeting in real life. It's more convenient to email than to pick up the phone. And more easy to call than to arrange to have lunch. And for those of us addicted to Twitter, we feel as if we have our own community of followers and frequent commentators at our fingertips.

    The value of meeting in real life struck a chord a few weeks ago while in Santa Clara at the Cloud Connect conference.  Many of the speakers, start-up stars, consultants, bloggers and tweeps were all known to each other.  Its a very clubby bunch... but mostly online in the virtual world.

    Once at the conference, there was this explosion of meetings and meetups in the hallway, over lunch, over drinks, even over Falafels (you know who you are).

    And then there was a re-launch party given by CloudScaling Inc.: Open bar, DJ, packed room, endless conversation groups - a who's-who of the Clouderati, hangers-on, and maybe even cloud groupies.  But symbolically, this party was important.  It not only signaled that "the valley is back", but also illustrated to me the importance that all of these people, from all over the country, needed to meet in real life. 

    In fact, I bet that the majority of the "who's who" in cloud - top consultants, bloggers, influencers - where all there, congregating.  No, not the Masters of Industry. But the people doing the work, the innovation, the evangelizing. Yes, it was clubby. And surprisingly small, if you think about it as an entirely nascent-but-growing industry.

    These people were performing and important social and economic function. They were exchanging ideas, opinions, information. Where is the industry going?  Which are the hot companies this month? Who got hired where?  Where is so-and-so working now?

    What makes the Valley so cool - and so hard to replicate

    Every so often I hear that a local government is looking to replicate Silicon Valley.  High-speed optical networking. Tax breaks. Cheap commercial real estate. Attracting VCs.   What they Really need to do is host more parties.

    I say that tongue-in-cheek, but in reality it is the social networking component to the valley that makes all of the difference - the talent fluidity, the idea fluidity.  And that's really hard to legislate.

    Back in 1990's, AnnaLee Saxenian authored a prescient book, "Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128."  The thesis is why two regions, both with many great schools, and many great corporations, evolved so differently.  In the prologue she wrote
    "The valley is very fast-moving and start-ups have to move fast. The whole culture of the Valley is one of change. We laugh about how often people change jobs. The joke is that you can change jobs and not change parking lots. There's a culture associated with that which says that moving is okay, that rapid change is the norm, that it's not considered negative on your resume... So you have this culture of rapid decisions, rapid movement, rapid changes, which is exactly the environment that you find yourself in as a start-up.
    Indeed, the cultures are different. The companies that formed around 128 (and I worked at one for 4 years in the '80s) were large and mostly completely vertically-integrated.  They were their own technology ecosystem, designing hardware, coding software, and assembling things themselves. And once you were hired, being a "lifer" was what most people did.   Meanwhile in the Valley, each company was componentized. Your partners were across the street. Your new hires worked at your partners... or maybe even your competitors. (True, California cannot enforce noncompete clauses, whereas Massachusetts does)

    All this adds up to an incredibly driven, creative, localized and fluid talent pool. Doing what people do best - schmoozing, swapping ideas, creating the future.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    IT-as-a-Service: Resources and Pointers

    IT-as-a-Service. Possibly another buzzword that may reach the peak of hype and then fade away in a millisecond. But even if so, this new concept will persist by some other name.

    Unlike IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, etc. ITaaS isn't a technology model. It's a new mind-set and approach to delivering enterprise IT services - where IT operates and competes for "business" as-would a service provider.And, like a commercial SP entity, it actually tries to encourage service consumption, rather than discourage it.

    This is in contrast to the stereotypical IT department that runs a bottleneck help-desk, issues locked-down equipment, charges the enterprise with a flat operating "tax", and is organized along purely technological lines.

    This "new" IT thinks more like a business - not that it needs to deliver a profit per se, but that it's more customer (line-of-business) focused, understands its costs, and "competes" against alternatives that users now have outside the enterprise (a.ka. Shadow IT). The new IT thinks Self-Service provisioning, Choice Computing (BYoD), monitors variable costs and unit consumption, and is organized to deliver services, not technologies. 

    ITaaS Model - Components and Pointers

    When IT begins thinking about becoming an "internal" service provider, there are 3 conceptual models that need to shift - (a) how services are generated and consumed, (b) a shift in how technology is leveraged, and (c) a change in operations and organization.

    Where can you find the most authoritative information about ITaaS?  I'd like to believe that EMC is leading the way with, among others, our own IT Department.  But resources abound on the topic...  I've begun to collect useful pointers from many points of view. And, from time-to-time, I will update this list with additional pointers, insights and success stories.

    ITaaS Overview
    Don't take my word for it. Others are beginning to write about ITaaS, its benefits, its positive impact on business agility, and about where to start your plan:
    IT Leadership
    If the enterprise is to undertake the ITaaS transformation, then senior IT leadership - as well as line-of-business leadership - has to be 100% behind it.  But the traditional CIO-as-Technologist model necessarily has to give way to CIO-as-businessman.  Running IT like a business means complementing technology with knowledge of how the enterprise's core business runs, IT financial management, IT organizational transformation, and even IT services-supply-chain management.

    IT Financial Transparency
    A key characteristic of transformation to ITaaS is the ability to understand the costs of delivering individual services, and thus be able to allocate and price them appropriately. Once variable IT costs are understood, measured, and shared with the business, IT has a higher stake in ensuring that services are delivered and priced efficiently and transparently.  And, by creating and assigning per-unit costs to services, IT can more efficiently match supply with consumption. Ultimately, improved IT financial transparency ensures more accurate decisions made both by IT and lines of business.
     Reinventing the IT Consumption Model
    In a transformed IT environment, the goal is to drive an increase in service consumption by the business. The shift also includes IT viewing its business model as a profit center rather than a cost center, with more of a commercial mindset.  To accomplish this, IT must change its operating model to simplify access to services, and to facilitate delivery of services – regardless of whether they are internally or externally generated. And, if IT is to become this ‘broker’ of services, it must develop a customer-centric supply-chain approach to delivery of services that the business demands, no matter their origin.

    Transforming Organization, Roles, Skills
    As the IT organization transforms itself to become more like a service provider to the enterprise, internal IT skills, roles, and even the entire organizational structure will necessarily change. Traditional technology specialization areas will make way for more general, services-centric roles. Skills will shift from specialists who craft technology stacks, to generalists who manage holistic systems that produce user-centric services.  Service product managers (both in-bound and out-bound) will also be in demand to maintain value alignment with line of business users.
    Success Stories
    IT-as-a-Service is still new, and most companies who have embarked on the transformation are still mid-stream. But a few are making their journeys public. Here are a few I've found.
    Analyst Perspectives
    Industry analysts are beginning to adopt the "Run IT like a business" perspective, and even the ITaaS label. Here are some pointers (some reports require Analyst website logins/subscriptions)

      Monday, February 13, 2012

      My IT is Ready. My People Are Not.

      By now you may know that I buy into the enterprise approach where cloud computing and its operational model are enablers for something bigger: The transformation to IT-as-a-Service. That's when internal IT acts, operates and competes like an internal SP.

      But I've come to realize that such transformation is more of a skills and operational model shift than a technology shift (although technology is clearly an enabler). As was often mentioned at a recent CIO event I attended, "My technology is ready. My people are not" 

      This topic of talent, training and organization appears to be consistently glossed-over. But recently at EMC and with customers, I'm seeing the beginnings of a sea change in the industry.

      Early Indicators of Change

      My first sense of the need for change arose from a 2010 conversation with an analyst about using converged infrastructure. They made the observation that "to use a converged infrastructure to its fullest, you need a converged organization."  This got me thinking: when the boundaries between compute, storage and network begin to blur, so must the boundaries between traditional IT organizations. The advent of cloud computing (more specifically, IaaS and PaaS) highlights a similar issue.

      Slowly, the 'unit of management' in the data center is shifting away from the isolated IT component, and is moving toward the application service.  IT management is having to treat the infrastructure more holistically, more horizontally. With more automated provisioning, virtualization and elastic capacity, orchestration across all components is becoming a requirement. Similarly, the skills of IT Ops personnel need to be more integrated - individuals simply need more cross-specialization knowledge and training to ensure that services are delivered quickly and efficiently.

      My next sense of the breadth of change came when I joined EMC and saw what Sanjay Mirchandani (EMC's CIO) saw in transformation to IT-as-a-Service.  To him, cloud computing and infrastructure automation were merely enablers for IT organizations to become more of strategic enablers to the business, more of internal service bureaus, driving consumption of their services, and operating overall like a business itself. Toward this end, EMC-IT has been documenting its change now for a number of years. But, because this shift involved so much more than just technology, I began to realize that the skills and roles within "traditional" IT would become woefully inadequate in a number of years.

      In the transformed world of IT (and IT-as-a-Service) the organization needs to develop horizontal groups to manage broad platform architecture and management, as well as roles that 'broker' those services to the lines of business (service managers) and maintain alignment to the needs of users. There may even be roles that loosely align with 'sales and marketing' that help drive awareness and consumption of IT services - concepts that will surely seem foreign to any CIO.

      What's Next... and How To Prepare Your People

      When recently reading an article in Forbes I observed that others were noticing these needs (and opportunities) for IT skills of the future as well:
      "As a result of the shift to cloud, there is growing demand for professionals and managers that are more focused on business development than they are in application development. There will be greater opportunities for enterprise architects, and some offshoots will include cloud architects, cloud capacity planners, cloud service managers and business solutions consultants. Jobs being created may not always bear the term “cloud” in their titles, but cloud will form the core of their job descriptions.
      What caught me here was not all new roles will be technology-focused. Service managers and business solutions consultants - for example - will be client-focused. Think of that: Roles that exist solely to understand the line-of-business operating units, develop services (not technologies) to meet their needs, and help drive demand for those services. (See related post on A Marketing Lesson for IT )

      So if you believe the tenet that skills and roles will play a more critical role in the transformation of IT, then where does one start?  Here at EMC, I was pleasantly surprised to see that our own HR department is right on top of the problem.  Our IT HR director in fact was taking the lead in describing what change lay ahead.  In a recent communication of hers she noted
      "...we are in the midst of a process to build on our current skills to foster the ITaaS model, taking deliberate steps to fill any gaps by providing plenty of training and support. Last quarter, we assessed the skill level of each employee against a set of key competencies needed for their particular functions under ITaaS to determine what added training/support they need. In some cases, the skills we’ll be drawing on are very different than the typical IT focus. New areas of required expertise include things like product management and development, communications, marketing, negotiation and influence skills, and financial acumen.
      "Our prime focus in Human Resources is employee development and preparing employees for what our future IT organization will look like. This is part of our life-long learning and development program....  We are going to help [our people] gain new skills and provide them with the tools they need. A key part of the journey will involve learning to think like a service provider rather than the internal agency we are used to being. It will require a shift in our cultural mindset from discouraging business IT demand to actually selling and marketing IT services.
      Wow. IT shifting its mindset to selling and marketing...  That our HR group is this intimately involved in the transformation of the business I found exciting and enlightening. And as I looked further, I realized that we (and others, I'm sure) are beginning to take steps to prepare for this transition. EMC for example, recently Announced Cloud Architect and Data Center Architect certification tracks including expert-level tracks (and Brochure PDF )

      In many ways, existing hosting and public cloud service providers already know much of this; their business depends on good customer service, meeting requirements, and driving consumption (demand). Enterprise IT now simply has to learn from them - and adopt this new mindset.

      Where to start? Begin thinking about how the following job skills and orgs might play a role in advancing IT's strategic importance in the organization
      • New Consumption models - There is a need to simplify and drive how services are consumed. This is a 2-part process. Technically, there is the migration toward self-service catalogs. But there is also the marketing aspect that drives awareness and demand for these services - IT needs to think "commercially" - attract demand, and make access to it as frictionless as possible.
      • New Operational models: Architecturally and operationally, more of IT will become "horizontally" oriented, along the lines of business services and along the lines of customers. New orchestration-style tools and processes will be needed - implying the need for skills to manage them properly.
      • New Marketing roles: Yes, marketing.  To drive consumption, IT has to expose more of its services to more potential business users... and do so competitively. That is, IT needs not only to think about what the business needs, but what their next alternative (outside of the IT organization) is, and ensure that IT is the vendor of choice.  More about marketing IT here.
      • New Finance roles:  Implementing IT cost transparency doesn’t just require financial data, though that is what most people think about when they hear the term. It also depends on information about hosting, applications, infrastructure, licensing and maintenance, and other things that let us associate costs to services. Clearly these roles are net-new to IT
      • New Business relationships: Partnering with, and aligning to the business is about more than just providing basic IT services and helpdesk. It means working alongside line-of-business planning to understand what drives their top-line business, what is at the core of their competitive advantage, and what business agility can add to these. Dedicated roles - which are steeped in both business and technology skills - need to be acquired and assigned to individual business units.
      Other Resources:

        Sunday, February 5, 2012

        The Growth of Data Growth: My Digital Contrail

        Although I'm not a Big Data aficionado, I'd recently been struck by a few statistics from the IDC Digital Universe study:  It is estimated that in 2011, 1.8 Zettabytes of information was created, 75% of which comes from individuals. And by 2015, that number may grow to 7.9 Zettabytes.

        So, just where does all of this data come from?  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that each one of us (in developed countries, at least) kicks-off a near constant massive stream of data that gets stored somewhere, even if only transiently.

        In our seemingly innocuous day, we surely generate more data than we consume, some of which is captured by others, and only some which we might be privileged enough to retain.

        Thus I sat down to think about a typical "digital contrail" that I might generate. While I really can't quantify exactly how much stored data is created from each transaction, simply ball-parking the numbers would seem to support the Digital Universe claims.  And, if any of you reading this can help me quantify some of this, I'd be happy to append this post. Thanks in advance.

        Sources of my "Digital Contrail"
        • I make a cell phone call:  Phone location tracking data (i.e. from towers) created and tracked by the carrier; phone log files; data created and stored by multiple mobile apps and their own hosting infrastructures 
        • I browse the web: Site tracking; clickstream storage; site analytics; Email storage, including replication on devices as well as replication in geographical-mirrored data centers.
        • Driving my car: Location-based tracking by RFID tags at toll booths; unique instrumentation data such from as OnStar systems
        • Go to the bank: data streams initiated and stored from a simple ATM withdrawals; security analysis of banking transaction patterns; audit and verification trails for individual transactions; mirrored/backed-up data within the bank's data center
        • Go to the store: data streams initiated and stored from a simple credit card transaction; product inventory changes; buying patterns stored and allocated to individual affinity discount programs
        • Browse an online store: All of the above, plus clickstream storage and analysis
        • Plan some travel: Airline reservations & pricing systems such as SABRE ticketing; airline tracking databases; TSA flyer database updates & analysis
        • At my home: electricity usage via smart metering data collection
        • Using entertainment: Uploaded Photography and Video; sales pattern data and DRM data 
        • Go to the doctor’s office: Medical imaging , EMR data, reports, other records
        • Somewhere in the background: With everything I do, there are surely security systems,  kicking-off background data processes and analytics DB’s
        • Also somewhere the background: Every service is sourced from a data center, where all data (including device data) is surely replicated and backed-up, including log files.
        I finally thought through a simple habit I had, and how much storage space it spawned: I would receive an email with a PDF attachment - and carefully file the email in a folder while copying the PDF also into a separate folder related to the project. So I'd have 2 copies of the file on my PC, not to mention another copy on the Exchange server as well as one on the PC backup server file - 4 in all (assuming no deduplication system was in place). And if the email had been sent to others besides me... you get the point.  I was suddenly sensitized to data growth on a personal scale.

        So, now I've convinced myself that "the data's out there". I've created scads of data in the past 24 hour stint... and fortunately (or unfortunately) it's all recorded in different repositories. But now I begin to wonder - what *if* some of these structured and unstructured data streams were re-constructed, mashed-up and analyzed?  That bit makes me both nervous (from a privacy and security perspective) and excited (from a Big Data and personalization perspective).  More later when I stop to think about that one.

          Thursday, January 19, 2012

          It Will Be a Data-Centric (Cloudy) World

          (Or, Where Tomorrow's Clouds Will Form)

          Move Mohammed to the mountain, or the mountain to Mohammed? 

          In the context of data, applications and cloud computing, this question takes on a new perspective - and the role of Mohammed and the Mountain may soon reverse.

          In the traditional application-centric (and static infrastructure) world, the Application is the immovable "mountain". Like a magnet, the app is permanently-located, attracting to it local data stores and peripheral support apps.  Administrators dote around it like worker bees around the queen.

          But for some uses and applications this may all change - altering with it the how-and-where compute and community clouds form.

          Observation #1: Apps are becoming mobile

          With increased use of a virtualization layer, migration tools, shared storage, fat network pipes, and virtual I/O and switching, we are all now realizing that where the executable application code resides is becoming far less important. Everything is just data - and can be moved/migrated. In mature virtual environments, VMs typically move between servers because of maintenance windows, because of capacity adjustments, etc.  But when VMs move move between physical data centers (separated by many miles or more) there is often a data movement as well. But there's no denying that the application is becoming more mobile.

          We also have the emergence of large data arrays and analytics appliances that embed internal servers that speed queries and analysis. VM's typically run on top of these servers being migrated in-and-out of the arrays as workloads and queries change. Hang on to this visual... we'll come back to it later.

          Observation #2: Big Data is becoming bigger

          When we start talking about hundreds of Terabytes - or even Petabytes - of structured/unstructured "big data", moving that data becomes increasingly physically difficult. Where it's generated is generally where it stays. Think about financial stock exchanges; retail data warehouses; medical imaging; geologic or climatological data. These stores are now becoming big and immovable.

          So, enterprises are now locating these data stores within critical data centers - within which they are co-locating the applications that require frequent access to that data. Sometimes that proximity is sufficient, and sometimes the analytics may even move within the array. But any way you look at it, those data stores are becoming the center of attention, around-which the applications now congregate.

          An interesting shift. But wait, there's more...
          Outcome: Where Tomorrow's Clouds Might Form

          So let's expand this model from enterprise data centers to public clouds. Or even to "community clouds".

          Take the example of financial exchange data - NYSE’s Capital Markets Community Platform about which I blogged last year.  Here we have a special-purpose, "community cloud" - optimized for financial institutions, wherein they can locate trading and analytics applications. (Imagine a 3-person hedge-fund startup needing infrastructure). Operationally it's fit-for-purpose, with a high performance, low-latency compute backbone, with a common security/compliance envelope. But it's got another trait: At its core is a historic data warehouse of every tick for every trade. Now that's big data.

          If you think of it, the NYSE data store has become the "Mountain" around which applications (supplied by the cloud tenants) now congregate.They run their algorithms and analytics against the local data store. The data within the community cloud has become the anchor, the magnet. The apps are moved to be near the data.... not the other way around.  Remember that data array that had embedded VMs? Well, think of this model as that array on steroids.

          So, what might this mean if you want to build a differentiated cloud computing resource - say, targeting a specific industry vertical?  It says to me that the world will shift to a data-centric model. Focus on amassing and maintaining massive high-value data, all (presumably) requiring a similar security/compliance model. And then build a business by allowing tenants access by co-locating their applications in the same cloud as the data resides.

          I could see this transforming both the cloud service provider ecosystem, as well as entire industry groups. Consider new Cloud Service Provider models:  What if NOAA formed the Weather and Atmospherics Community Platform? If healthcare companies created federated Medical Records Community Platforms? If the USGS formed the World Geologic Community Platform? If other brokerages created equivalent capital markets platforms? 

          Cloud computing is shifting lots of conceptual IT models these days. But while you're considering what Cloud makes possible for applications, spend some time wondering what data makes possible for the Cloud.

          Other References

            Monday, January 2, 2012

            My Cloudy Nerdy Playlist for 2012

            Political movements have their anthems. Starbucks has its background music brand. But I thought it might be fun to collate a playlist that specifically appeals to the techie/cloudy group.

            So here goes. Some of these are pretty funny... others leave a bit to be desired.  And if you know of more (or have favorites of your own) send them my way and I'll add them...

            Songs about Clouds

            Other (mostly funny) songs about IT
            Techy Poetry
              Even MORE Links...