Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Tale of Three Cloud Strategies (Upgraded from Two)

Earlier in March I penned a blog titled A Tale of Two Cloud Strategies and observed the two opposing cloud strategies of VMware vs. AWS. VMware, with its strength in the enterprise, building presence in the public cloud -- and AWS with de facto dominance in the public cloud, working inroads into the enterprise.

In my closing paragraph I noted
These will be extraordinary strategies to observe over time. We all know that even the most dominating companies/technologies eventually meet their match (or their disruption).  Both VMware and AWS have appeared at times to be unstoppable. As they converge, it will surely be a battle of gladiators.  Unless (or until) of course, third, fourth and dark-horse players disrupt the party. As they always do. 
And, sure enough, here comes the Number Three - and predictable - gladiator.

Enter: Microsoft Azure - and Windows Server 

Azure has been gaining ground (and functionality) steadily.  Earlier in the year Azure GM Steven Martin hyped that 50% of the F500 companies were now using the service. And just the other day, Microsoft reported 103% growth quarter (includes Office 365). But that's not the real story IMO.

The company has also released (with a new name) the Windows Azure Pack. When used with Windows Server and System Center, it allows enterprises and service providers to generate Azure services -- using Azure APIs. Furthermore, it simplifies creating hybrid services between the data center and Azure, including capacity expansion, fail-over and DR.

Trojan horse? No - simply a clever strategy.  They are lowering (and nearly eliminating) the barriers to adoption of the public cloud by introducing it as a service extension of Windows you already own. And this way, any enterprise or service provider can go public/private/hybrid on their own timetable.

It's Now a Three-Horse Race. Do I hear Four?

VMware, AWS and Microsoft are off to the races for dominance of the hybrid cloud. Will there be a fourth?  And, will the market segment into 3 preferences? Or, will users demand greater interoperability and fight lock-in.

Stay tuned until our next episode...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Succeeding with Daas: For MSPs, Business Help Outweighs Technology Hype

By now you may have heard of a new entrant into the Desktop-as-a-Service market, with VMware buying Desktone.  While I applaud the move that will help mature the market, I have to add some sobriety to their party atmosphere. Technology alone does not sell product - especially where the Managed Service Provider (MSP) channel is involved. Putting it Bluntly - Support the Business! Soundbites would have MSPs believe that VMware’s thousands of partners will instantly be able to stand-up and sell DaaS.  Our experience shows that vendors also have to provide the MSP with business assistance – planning, market guidance, sales training, support pointers - if the offer is to succeed in the market.  The build-it-and-they-will-come mentality doesn’t work...  [Continued on blogs.citrix.com]

Desktops-as-a-Service: The Rising Tide Lifts All Ships

New Entrants VMware and AWS Will Raise Awareness

(updated 13 Nov 2013)

If you look at Gartner Research's 2013 Hype Cycle for IT Infrastructure and Outsourcing Services, you'll find Hosted Virtual Desktops (HVDs) at the very peak of hype this year, outdistancing all other technologies.

For years HVDs were considered a niche technology, where an outsourcing provider (typically a Managed Service Provider or MSP) delivers virtualized desktops from an external source. Think: Cloud-hosted desktops. The cloud-hosted virtual desktop segment is sometimes referred-to just as Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS) implying that the desktops are on-demand, regardless of where they are sourced.

To date, many reasons have throttled broad adoption: Cost, user experience, network speed/latency, doubts about reliability/availability, and more.  But the environment is changing and growing. And that growth will be accelerating.

Analysts closely track the DaaS market, including estimates for areas of adoption, market size and growth rates (see my recent Blog, How big is the hosted desktop market?) But all of those estimates were based on a market formed by a few vendors. By my own estimate, Citrix's installed base of Service Providers currently leads the pack in terms of worldwide partners and installed DaaS seats.  Additionally Desktone has been vying for second place, with TuCloud, Dincloud and others also proliferating offerings. An excellent (albeit year-old) assessment of the state of DaaS is the 451 Research "Desktops as a Service: New approaches to desktop management from cloud service providers" study.

But without a second (or third) source of DaaS from a major vendor besides Citrix, the perceived market size (and customers' comfort to consume) has been limited. Up until now.

VMWare - Welcome to the Party
Recently VMware's End-User Computing group announced their acquisition of Desktone and its DaaS infrastructure technology. Clearly VMware sees an opportunity to combine its view of the cloud with the opportunity to further serve the enterprise's needs for desktop infrastructure.  And while Desktone is a relatively small player in the market, VMware must assume that aligning their technology with their existing Horizon suite of enterprise virtual desktops will create a large new cash stream for the company.

But this move also represents an important step towards raising the Tide for DaaS, toward validating and maturing delivery of HVDs from the cloud. VMware, as a major supplier to Enterprise IT, has put its money behind the bet - indicating that there is money to be made, and that economic opportunity is outweighing hype.  In my opinion, we'll see analysts like Gartner, IDC and 451 begin to adjust their DaaS targets upwards, as vendors begin to make the market. To be sure, customers drive the decision. But they also follow reputable vendors' direction.

This rising tide will also be a wake-up call to other major software and/or cloud vendors. Think: Amazon... Think Azure...  I'm betting it may well signal that major cloud vendors will also jump into the DaaS game themselves. And when that happens, the market estimates will again move upwards.

AWS - Welcome to the Party (added November 2013)
Also signaling a shift of cloud-hosted desktops to mainstream is Amazon Workspaces. In my opinion, this move caps the claim that all major vendors see this market as growing and lucrative.  Whereas the market was driving by the demand side, Amazon's move will now drive the market from the supply side as well.

Although AWS will (currently) only offer what I'll term "Basic VDI" I would expect this may meet the needs for basic short-term desktop needs.

Impact on Enterprises, SMBs and Service Providers
While statistics show that SMBs are the largest adopters of DaaS, enterprise IT is taking interest too. DaaS provides not only mobility to employees, but enables BYO device programs, enhances data security, and more.  It is much, much more than just a cost reduction play.

The beauty of DaaS is that it takes the desktop off the desk - and often even out of the datacenter. It simplifies IT's job by taking the day-to-day equipment and OS maintenance off the to-do list so IT can focus on higher-value functions. And it's working, as companies outsource their desktops to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and others.

Speaking of Service Providers, the DaaS opportunity is a potential boon for them. More SPs are standing-up DaaS environments - but understand that to succeed, the SP offers are absolutely not commodities. The successful SPs are differentiating their offers, pursuing special-purpose DaaS offers along vertical markets and/or regulatory lines (see my Differentiate or Die piece). These SPs use DaaS technology from vendors such as Citrix to stand-up a reference architecture and then bundle-in other applications, voice services, file-sharing technologies, and even Mobile Device Management products.  Don't believe me? There are scads to choose from out there.

Crossing the Trough of Disillusionment
Circling back to Gartner's Hype cycle: Critical to a new technology's maturity and sustained market presence is how quickly it crosses the Trough of Disillusionment on the way to the Plateau of Productivity.

Crossing quickly requires a combination of vendor support, market ubiquity and (hold your breath) products that work and add unique value. The good news is that DaaS really does work - over the past few years we at Citrix have seen its growth as the proverbial hockey stick. And it adds real value too - in the areas of employee mobility, BYO device programs, data security, maintenance reduction and especially cost containment.

My sense is that 2014 will add DaaS to the vernacular in nearly all major Service Provider and SMB IT conversations. And I can't wait to see how high this tide will be.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Service Definition for Hosted Desktops – Where to Begin

Managed service providers know they want to offer exemplary customer-focused hosted services including apps and hosted desktops. But these firms (players ranging from niche players to global Telcos) also allstruggle with the same questions: What are the right services to lead with? What customer sizes should I pursue in what markets? Does market geography matter? How and when should I expand my services offers?....  

[Continued on blogs.citrix.com

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Your Next Computer… in the Cloud?

For years, the “virtual PC” has been the dream of users and corporations alike. After all, why do millions of us lug around a laptop with our Windows desktop stuck to it? Why do we risk theft, loss or damage to valuable data when our entire workspace -- and data – could instead live in the cloud and be accessed from anywhere by any of our devices... 

[continued as guest Blog on Wired Innovation Insights]

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cloud-Hosted Desktops: Real and Growing

A day doesn’t pass that I’m not asked (by a co-worker, partner or analyst) about whether hosted/virtual desktops delivered over the public Internet make sense.

My response usually takes an empirical approach, and cites the offers and business types that are already in-market and growing. (See related blog, How Big is the DaaS Market)

Insofar as economic pros/cons are concerned, there appear to be layers of arguments over what approach has a lower total cost of ownership, what performance is best, what infrastructure to use, etc. And I’ve decided not to pursue those areas for a number of reasons.

Why? The primary reason is because it simply doesn’t make sense to compare the capabilities of today’s cloud-hosted desktops to the capabilities of a traditional PC-delivered desktop. Believe it or not, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. Today’s hosted desktops enable delivery to any type of device (PC, phone, tablet, touch-device), permit device-to-device session roaming, provide superior data security/sandboxing, have global availability, and offer a great user experience to boot.  More than you get with a fixed PC.

So I decided to look at who’s currently offering what to whom… and what I found was pretty impressive.  Not only did I track a massive number of firms in the Desktop-as-a-Service (“DaaS”) market, but there were many in each geography even with vertical or industry-specific flavors (also see my Differentiate or Die blog)

Check out These Vendors

Follows are some examples of Hosted Desktop / DaaS vendors and their offers – regardless of the hardware/virtualization platform they use. (Disclosure: These are all partners of the Citrix Service Provider / CSP program)
GreenQubeHosted Office 
GreenQube offers SMBs and enterprises their GreenQube Hosted Office (desktop, apps and data) via a secure and cost effect subscription-based services. They pair the offers with a high quality customer service that monitors, manages and continually upgrades resources. The firm offers a variety of Desktop packages 
Intercept ITOnline Desktop 
Based out of the UK, Intercept IT offers a generalized DaaS offering. To paraphrase, OnlineDesktop delivers all crucial application and data needs via Intercept IT’s bespoke cloud. The remote desktop service is available anywhere there is an Internet connection. Rather than businesses having to manage a costly internal IT system, it becomes possible to effectively rent IT as a service, on a cost-per-user, per-month subscription basis. See their PDF Brochure 
MultrixHosted Desktops 
Based in Amsterdam, Multrix has a thriving business hosting 350 customers with more than 6,500 seats of their Hosted Desktop.  Their service provides all the standard applications users are accustomed to, such as Microsoft Office, Exchange, Internet Explorer (and other browsers), antivirus, antispam, WinZip, Adobe reader. In addition they support more than 350 business applications in the field of ERP, CRM, financial and more specific (industry) applications.  Multrix has an excellent case study published, courtesy of Citrix 
NasstarHosted Desktop 
Out of the UK, Nasstar’s Hosted Desktop is a generalized cloud computing solution which enables users to access their desktops, business apps and files in the cloud so they can work from anywhere on a wide range of devices. Their Hosted Desktop provides a single access point for many apps, ranging from the most commonly used - such as Microsoft Office, Microsoft Exchange email and Sage - to industry specific and bespoke apps. The company also offers a range of on-demand, published and web-based apps that can be delivered through their offerings. 
nGenx - nFinityDesktop 
Based in the US and focusing on workforce mobility, nGenx offers two primary types of desktops to SMBs and enterprises.  nFinity Advanced Desktop – powerful and fully functional desktop with user customization, streaming video capabilities, advanced productivity tools, and full access to nFinity Apps.  nFinity Basic Desktop – simple, yet effective HTML5 operability, core desktop functionality, user customization, and access to productivity apps as well as some nFinity Apps.
xCentric Managed workstations & hosted applications
One of my favorites in the US, xCentric focuses solely on one vertical: Accounting and CPA firms.  And I love their opening volley: “We focus solely on accounting firms - yes solely. We know your software, your associations, your deadlines... and are still investing in learning more about what makes a firm both tick and succeed in today's marketplace.”  And they do a great job of speaking to the firms’ business owners and administrators about why hosted desktops.   

More Resources & pointers

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Differentiate or Die: Why MSPs and Hosters Need to Change their Game

I admit, I’ve borrowed the title from an excellent presentation given by Dr. Joseph Williams, Managing Director, Microsoft WW SaaS Channel. He gave a presentation at the recent Microsoft Hosting Summit, and the point was this: 
The hosting market is crowded and includes huge players such as Microsoft itself. If you want to maintain a healthy hosted services business, don’t chase the same commodity offerings... 

How Big is the Hosted Desktop (DaaS) Market?

Without question, “How big is the hosted desktop market” is the top inquiry I get from our Citrix Service Provider (CSP) partners.  Our thousands of global partners are constantly making investments in infrastructure, marketing, business operations and sales. And frequently they are going to their board (and sometimes to external investors) for funding to chase the high-margin, high-value hosted desktop market.... [Blog continues on blogs.citrix.com

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Clouds Will Form Around Data's Gravity?

The concept of Data Gravity posits that as data accumulates (whether it be stored, analyzed, used) it tends to attract even more similar data. And as the data amasses there is less likelihood that it will be moved/migrated elsewhere.  If you're not already familiar with the concept definitely check out Dave McCrory's excellent blogs, analyses and presentations on datagravity.org

I believe this data aggregation concept can also apply to attracting computing too. As I've mentioned in It will be a data-centric (cloudy) world, there are examples today where special-purpose compute clouds are already forming around special-use data sets... sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically. One example I frequently point out is the NYSE Capital Markets Community Platform - a special-purpose cloud computing environment formed with a massive market trading data set at its core.

I am increasingly asked by service providers and enterprises alike, what other businesses and special-purpose clouds might form around data?  What new clouds (and associated business models) might we build and monetize? How can we better serve vertical market needs in the Cloud?

Forming Community Clouds - Applied (vs. Theoretical) Data Gravitational Theory

After more thinking and conversations with experts on the topic, I wanted to offer some examples and ideas that I hope trigger further exploration by cloud- and service providers. Perhaps there are (or will be) new businesses based on some of these ideas of attracting data and computing.

Financial Services Community Cloud: as I've mentioned, the NYSE CMCP has at its core a huge database of stock market history.  It's natural attractor for trading firms and hedge funds to co-locate their compute loads near this data as they test and refine trading algorithms and prediction methods. High-performance processors with low-latency connections to Wall Street don't hurt the model either.  Perhaps there are other forms of gravitational financial data (other markets?) that could attract similar compute clouds?

Photography/Imagery Community Cloud: More and more companies (Shutterfly, SmugMug, EverPic stock photography companies etc.) are in the business of warehousing photos - mostly for simple monetization. But some innovative photo data collections might take advantage of this and provide a co-located compute platform for ISVs to provide higher-level photo identification, cataloging, enhancement and even geo-tagging services.  Perhaps the compute services could take advantage of knowledge about the larger database of images that have been previously tagged or otherwise cataloged within the larger community.  [Bonus thought experiment: create a shared medical imagery cloud].

CRM and Customer Insight Community Cloud: Consider the amount of customer data located on Salesforce.com and others. Now consider the amount of consumer behavior information collected by systems like Marketto and others.  What if one of these giants begins to acquire additional firms who house complementary marketing data - and begins to build valuable "big data" around customer behavior?  Much like force.com, the customer data would attract even more marketing and consumer behavior application workloads, again attracting more data and workloads.

The Retail Community Cloud: Start watching what Walmart Labs and Nielson are doing in the Big Data and retail analytics space.  It would be but a small jump for either to create a retail cloud - centered around a huge (but perhaps anonymized) database of consumer purchasing patterns, geographies, pricing and outlets. Monetize it by allowing co-location of marketing analytics workloads from marketing firms seeking insights into better forms of micro-marketing, associative/recommendation sales, and other forms of retail analytics engines. All retail firms great-and-small would want a piece of that action.

The Energy Community Cloud: What would it be worth to amass data about energy consumption -- at the customer level -- across the country? Perhaps associate those users with industry/SIC codes, zip codes, electricity prices and/or electricity source renewabilty (or carbon footprint)?  No single utility has this data, but firms such as Enernoc monitor consumption data across the country. What if they developed a cloud that encouraged co-location of workloads and businesses which take advantage of this data - such as monitoring which businesses are really "greenest", which vertical industries are growing fastest, or where alternative energy sources would be most attractive. Add to the database information such as energy efficiency programs or overlay it with data about alternative (wind, solar, geo) energy generation. The data at the core could attract compute workloads for use by other energy, efficiency, and economic monitoring businesses.

And more clouds: As I've mentioned before,
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? 

Building a Community Cloud with Gravity
The next natural question I wonder is how one might go about building a community cloud or "special purpose" data repository and associated compute cloud - be it around a vertical industry or specialized data type. In my opinion there are a few necessary properties each cloud (business) would have:
  • Data sets that become more valuable as they grow and become more diverse - and of course which generate additional gravity of their own
  • Business models that monetize the data - and perhaps generate additional derivative data. (In some instances the data may need to be anonymized).
  • Co-located workloads that need to be co-located near the large (gravitational) data sets due to their frequent access 
  • Privacy, security and regulatory controls specific to the industry and/or data type and globally provided/reinforced
  • Industry-specific sales & marketing - presumably each community cloud would have appeal to specific verticals, markets or industry groups. Driving demand / awareness within these markets is of course critical.
If you know of community clouds based on data gravity, please share. In my opinion we'll see dozens of these special-purpose clouds form around data sets in the coming years.

For Further Reading:

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Tour of Switch's SuperNAP

I have to admit that I was prepared to be underwhelmed when I toured the Switch SuperNap in Las Vegas. After all, how impressive can a co-location facility be?  Just slab, cooling, ping, pipe and power.  Right?

With thanks to Mark Thiele (EVP Data Center Technologies) and Jason Mendenhal (EVP Cloud), I was able to spend some quality time in-and-around the facility (even inside one of the AC units) and got an education that mega data centers are much more than a structure to house servers.

First - let me give you some amazing first-impressions: Switch's SuperNAP is all about design and function. The structure, the architecture, the even the color scheme is all for a purpose - to communicate attention to detail. And while it might cost a bit more to color-code pipes and conduits, label every piece of equipment, architect custom lighting, or build with industrial design principles, it's clear that every item in the entire structure is there (and highlighted) for an intentional purpose.

And now for some observations and learnings:

Energy Efficiency
In all of the talk about energy efficiency, the SuperNAP averages a PUE  around 1.24 during the year. That means overall Switch's ability to minimize energy loss and to maximize cooling efficiency is extraordinary compared to most competitors... less than 25% of the total facility power is used for "overhead" operations, while the majority goes directly to the servers and equipment. That's a relatively rare feat these days, with the industry average of 2.9, and only 20% of data centers scoring better than 2.0 according to a Digital Realty Trust survey reported by the Data Center Journal.

Cooling Options
Arguably the breakthrough for the design of the datacenter is Rob Roy's breakthrough thinking about cooling. Traditional data centers take a "diffusive" approach to cooling equipment. That is, they place AC units throughout the data center, diffuse cool air (via raised floor) over everything, and allow the hot air from the servers to re-mix with the cooler ambient air.

But if you think about it, server racks should really be viewed as radiators (think about the radiator in your car). To achieve the best heat transfer efficiency, pull cool air directly through the radiator, and channel it directly back to the cooling device. And that's what switch does with their T-scif  (Thermal separate compartment in Facility). Cool ambient air is pulled through the server racks and channeled directly into a hot-air plenum. there is no mixing of the hot air w/cool. Think of this as hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment taken to the extreme.

Data Center Density
The notion of density makes sense along many dimensions. First, more server manufacturers are designing equipment as inherently dense - a packed Cisco UCS or Dell Blade enclosure can potentially pull 7kW or more. And there may be 4 or more of these units in a rack enclosure.... that means a given rack might consume as much as 15-25kw. (The SuperNAP is designed to support about 1.5kW/square foot, easily enough to handle a packed cabinet). But the beauty of density also helps with creating a larger heat differential aiding in heat transfer efficiency.

Supporting power and cooling density ultimately helps Switch because it means that a given customers needs less space - which equates to $ savings. Yet density also helps Switch due to the obvious efficiencies.

Co-Located Compute
Very early in the tour Jason pointed out the advantages of customers and partners co-locating their equipment within the SuperNAP.   With the physics of bandwidth and latency hard-at-work, it became clear that certain customers had an advantage to co-locate their private cloud infrastructure in the same data center as their public cloud partners (or other service provider customers). Apparently there were many examples of this co-located hybrid cloud approach at the SuperNAP. 

Co-Located Networking
The SuperNAP is literally a nexus of multiple Network Access Points - that's the NAP part - originally built by Enron. (In fact, it was pretty cool literally seeing the conduits come up out of the floor with the fibers inside!)  This fact provides users with advantages such as network redundancy as well as the ability for Switch to broker bandwidth at wholesale prices. They market this as the Combined Ordering Retail Ecosystem (CORE).

Physical Security and Disaster Preparedness
It wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention the physical security that Switch provides... something slightly out of "24".   While it's not appropriate to share details, suffice it to say that entry onto the campus, into the building, and around/within the cages was closely and carefully monitored and guarded.  The facility itself is secured in multiple zones, as-are the tenant areas.

But the other security blanket Switch offers is back-up power and cooling. Should there be an outage from the local utility, cooling is literally designed to "flywheel" for enough time for generators to kick-in.  And there is sufficient fuel on-site (and sources off-site) to maintain operations through even the fiercest unforseen disaster.

Example: Content Hosting and Distribution
Without naming names, a major content streaming company chose Switch for nearly all of the reasons above.  But what I found particularly  fascinating and compelling is that they even co-located their physical broadcast operations at the SuperNAP.  Picture aisles of million-dollar storage arrays pumping-out movies and live TV shows 24x7 across the country. Co-located is the nerve-center -- not unlike NASA mission control -- that monitors performance and delivery country-wide. Why Locate at Switch? Besides all of the efficiency and security aspects, access to nationwide backbone networks ensures maximum video performance.

Going forward, Switch will be more than doubling its capacity in the next year or so, building into new expanded facilities. And from the sound of it, much of the space is already spoken for.

Who says the data center isn't important? I certainly wasn't underwhelmed by this visit.

For More Information

Monday, March 25, 2013

What Is Meant by a "Cloud-Ready" Application?

Is calling an app "cloud-ready" just a form of cloud-washing?  C'mon - aren't all apps "ready for the cloud" (and for that matter, ANY cloud)? Doesn't IaaS and its elastic capacity + automation solve for all app scaling and configuration issues?

You'd think so if you listened to all of the accolades paid to the public cloud these days. But as I dug into the complexities of maintaining sophisticated app landscapes, just dropping them onto a public IaaS cloud only helps to a point.

Why? Because a complex landscape will include many servers (often virtual machines) linked by unique network topology (including load balancing, firewalls, etc.) connected to differing forms of storage (not to mention storage tiering, backup etc.) and all choreographed to work together in a specific manner with unique rules.

Only your ISV and app architect know for sure...

It turns out that IaaS (and/or PaaS) infrastructure foundations are necessary, but not sufficient solutions to allow app admins to fully maintain complex app landscapes in the cloud.

Why? It's because these landscapes don't fully self-manage the app environment. They don't interact with the applications' unique configuration rules and procedures. They don't have knowledge that only the ISV can have regarding optimal capacity and topology. And they can't predict what changes to make until told to do so.  Thus, most cloud hosting scripting - while convenient - is still a but of a kludgey solution if you really understand the specific application.

And the system gets another layer of complexity when you consider that different (public/private) clouds may embed differing properties. So if/when an admin wants to redeploy the app on a different cloud, he faces another headache.

Enter: ISV App Orchestration
Admittedly, I believe "orchestration" is another nebulous concept next to "automation" and other over-used terms.  But in the context above, let's consider "App Orchestration" and where it can help.  Later on, I'll give a few examples of providers who are currently solving the problem.

As I mentioned, the best forms of App Orchestration ought come directly from the ISVs themselves. Presumably they know the the ideal configuration dynamics, SLA controls and more. Specifically, app orchestration (AO) ought to provide the following:
  • Blueprints for landscapes - The AO engine/layer must necessarily start with knowledge about the required app landscape and topology - and be capable of initiating it. Somewhat akin to AWS CloudFormations, the AO layer must be able to invoke a partial or entire instance of the app - for a specific scale or a given infrastructure. Such blueprints or templates then serve as starting points for other topologies and/or governing rules.
  • Operating (or dynamic) orchestration - At the core of the AO layer is logic around optimal adjustments to compute (number and location of app images and VMs), network (including load balancing and QoS), and storage (connectivity, tiering, caching). Balancing these resources is not necessarily linear, and differing use cases for the app may impact how these resources are combined. In general, only the ISV architect may have knowledge about such workflows and optimizations.
  • Goal-based automation - Even if you set up an app landscape on top of IaaS, it doesn't guarantee administrators won't have to adjust it in the future. Say you want to re-optimize around a specific SLA (or combination of SLAs). Or that you want to scale the system in advance of new users. This feature helps set (and sequence) future-state goals for the system to attain and maintain.
  • Multi-cloud deployment - There are many pure-play vendors currently on the market that facilitate deployment onto differing public clouds (e.g. Rightscale, Scalr, enStratus) but none operate from within the app administration console. This allows the app admin to determine as part of the apps own policies, where and when to place workloads on differing private and/or public clouds.
  • Multi-version management - Any vendor should recognize that larger customers with multiple locations will likely be running more than one version of their software. AO needs to recognize this reality, and orchestrate landscape instances (or even parts of landscape instances) that may have various versions.
  • Multi-tenant management - Again, any vendor should recognize that larger customers (and especially service providers, SIs, etc.) are likely to need to manage separate/isolated tenants on the infrastructure. AO needs to recognize this not so much from a role-based admin perspective (a prerequisite) but from the perspective of maintaining isolation of one landscape while being capable of manipulating another.
Next: Suite Orchestration?

I also wanted to share a brief thought here: What would a "cloud-ready" software suite look like?

We all know that large software and platform vendors (think: Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Symantec, Citrix, CA, IBM, HP etc.) offer tons of what they call end-to-end software. They all say that their SW is integrated.  But can they all claim that those suites are cloud-ready? Can they all be orchestrated as an integrated system together?  Probably not. Not yet anyway. Which leads me to the next section...

App Orchestration: A new (required) layer for ISVs?

Traditionally, ISVs (and their customers) have had focus on code, on APIs, on performance tools, and on management/monitoring software.

However, during the recent virtualization era, the push has been for ISVs to go further and ensure that their apps can be virtualized and supported in an entirely virtualized data center.

As we now enter the Cloud Era, I believe ISVs delivering complex apps and/or app suites will be required to provide intelligent orchestration when those app portfolios are run in a cloud environment. That means "north-south" orchestration, i.e. how the software interacts with the IaaS/PaaS layers, and "east-west" orchestration, i.e. how the software interacts with other components/products from the vendor.

The "east-west" coordination is what I find most intriguing. That might mean continuous orchestration between specific apps and networking, storage, firewalls, IaaS, DBs and more. Across all products from a given ISV's software suite.

This would shift the notion of a vendor's "suite" from being a loose aggregation of apps and tools, to one that was indeed cloud-ready and orchestrated as a system. Even if only for use with an on-premesis cloud.

Will vendors begin to acquiesce the need for true orchestration in a cloud? I hope so. The ISVs are really the only ones with the deep knowledge to do so. And in the Cloud Era, the value to customers would be immeasurable.

Other Resources

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Tale of Two Cloud Strategies

These are the best of times. These are the the worst of times. These are the times of the "cloud era" where two technology leaders are struggling to dominate the IT infrastructure, private cloud, and public cloud markets.

Two recent announcements lead me to making an interesting business strategy observation about two opposing approaches to dominating these markets:
  • VMware's recent announcement that it intends to venture into the public cloud (assessment courtesy of James Staten)
  • Amazon Web Service's recent (re) announcement of its Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) functionality as it ventures into the enterprise (on AWS Blog) as well as their recent teaming with Equinix and Netapp
As they mature, each company is trying to stake a claim in the others' territory. VMware venturing into Amazon's domain, and Amazon's venturing into customers dominated by VMware. 
AWS: A Strategy Going from Public to Enterprise

Let's first examine Amazon AWS. These guys essentially pioneered the public IaaS cloud. Early users were dev/test engineers, experimenters, and special projects teams to see how far they could push the cloud. Arguably these users remain the mainstay of AWS. But Amazon realized that it needed to grow beyond these early-adopter audiences.

And, AWS has steadily improved on their platform. Not just in raw size, but in services. It seems not a week goes by that AWS doesn't announce another service API for their cloud. One could argue that taken in total, AWS is constructing the de facto public cloud operating system.

But they've also recognized that growth depends upon expanding into and winning-over the enterprise with additional services, security and business-models that CIOs expect. I see VMware pursuing 3 strategies to do so:
  1. VPC - Creating an extension of an enterprise's network and data center within a virtual private cloud hosted on Amazon's infrastructure
  2. Public API - Tacitly (or explicitly) allowing 3rd parties with an enterprise presence to use the AWS set of APIs. Be it Eucalyptus, OpenStack, ASF CloudStack or others, Amazon knows that when enterprise software and IT skills are designed around their APIs, they ultimately win - since switching costs from deploying in the enterprise to deploying in EC2 become nearly zero.
  3. Channel distribution - Amazon also knows that enterprises like to buy through trusted distributors and value-added resellers. AWS has been savvy in allowing the traditional channel distribution mechanisms to have access to AWS (at a reseller discount, of course).  Traditional channel VARs know that they ultimately have to develop business models with AWS, lest they be cut-out of the value-chain by customers going direct.
VMware: A Strategy Expanding from Enterprise to Public

In somewhat contrast, we have VMware. A leader in enterprise virtualization and management, VMware has been pursuing domination in enterprise IT focusing on its own virtualization and infrastructure management technologies - not to mention a cloud framework and sophisticated management tools.

VMware also believes that a strong ecosystem of hosting providers and cloud service providers will help it cement its technology in the market. By encouraging those partners to build their own clouds and services on top of its products, technologies and APIs they hope to expand the prevalence of their platform and use by enterprises - since many of these partners already have relationships with the CIO.

But recently (IMO) VMware has acquiesced that it needs more clout in the public cloud space to maintain growth in a quickly-saturating Enterprise virtualization market (threatened by Microsoft, Citrix, and others). Thus, they recently announced the intent to develop a hosted Hybrid Cloud service.  The intent would be to offer existing VMware customers what would appear to be a seamless extension of their virtual infrastructure into VMware's own hosted virtual infrastructure.

Whether this turns out to be a true public cloud (as in a direct competitor to AWS) remains to be seen. And even though this new service is expected to be sold through VMware's existing channel, there is no doubt that it will cause some channel conflict with their existing hosted service providers.

Nonetheless, this strategy clearly marks VMware's move into the public cloud style of business, perhaps encroaching into Amazon's VPC space.

What's Next: More of the Same

These sorts of growth strategies are not new to business. Companies continually try to go expand into adjacent markets when growth begins to stagnate or when competition gets fierce. No difference here.

These will be extraordinary strategies to observe over time. We all know that even the most dominating companies/technologies eventually meet their match (or their disruption).  Both VMware and AWS have appeared at times to be unstoppable. As they converge, it will surely be a battle of gladiators.  Unless (or until) of course, third, fourth and dark-horse players disrupt the party. As they always do.

Follow-on Blog: A Tale of Three Cloud Strategies (added October 2013)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Only in Silicon Valley: License Plate Sightings in the Field

Driving around silicon valley on routes 101 and 280 ("The 101" and "The 280" if you're from California) you can't help but notice this isn't like the rest of America.  You'll see dozens of Priuses. Frequently you'll even see Teslas and Fiskers. And there's that white all-electric 325i I see buzzing around. But what really drives-home the fact that this is northern CA are the Vanity plates.

Herein I will only post plates that I personally see. To wit:

Webmaster1 - yes, I believe you were #1... because this car may have been around since Tim Berners-Lee invented the web.

Ethernet - This guy is parked right around the corner from where I live. I'm thinking the car also dates back to the first time that a 10baseT got plugged in...

Patent: This one speaks for itself. Their other car is probably a Bentley.

WebApp.  Microcode for a microcar?

1E4 Gauss. That's a Tesla.... literally and mathematically.  James Maxwell and Carl Gauss would be proud of ya'.

Apple. No, not Steve's car. But I'm sure they've had multiple offers for this plate. Wondering how many times it's been stolen.

I Debug. What Claudius the engineer says. One classy coder.

Byte Law. I take that to be a metaphor for Shark Attorney. Nice Karma.

Silica. His wife's car is plated SiO2. I have to wonder what form of the compound he made his fortune with. Perfect for a Blog post with the word Silicon in it.

PWR V*I. Another apropos Tesla vanity plate right around the corner from me. What? That's a Watt.

Nfobahn for the autobahn.  But is the Benz speedier than my 2 gig WiFi?

CMD SHFT. Now that car's got to have an awesome function keystroke.

Net Sclr. Judging that this was taken in a Citrix parking lot, I'm guessing this guy has something to do with NetScaler.  That's auto load balancing for network traffic, not load balancing for automobile suspension in traffic.

Cloud C. [Guest submission] Wow, just wow.  Thanks @geoffarnold

UX Dzinr. [Guest submission] And that's quite a user experience you're driving Mr. Designer. Thanks @susanwu88. Recently saw this guy in my neighborhood. So I'll take credit for the sighting, too.

SMB Guru. [Guest submission] Yep, that's his thang. Billboard or vanity plate? Thanks @AnuragTechaisle

ARM Pwrd. Oh boy, that's a RISCy vanity plate.  And it sure doesn't look like it's a tablet computer.

SUNW. A bygone ticker preceding a bygone ticker (JAVA) for a bygone company (now ORCL) that held a special place in my heart. Alas, it didn't look like Scott was the guy driving.

iPodded. You did?  I was unaware there was a past tense of a noun.

BEA Number 1.  BEA… fastest SW company to reach $1B. And this is a Proud Man (and an ex-CEO). Go Cardinals.

PA VC. Either cute spousal initials… or a Palo Alto Venture Capitalist? You decide.

I Binary. And I think he was doing 100 in bumper-to-bumper traffic on RT 101. Get it? LOL.

Java Fun. Love this one. And it ain't about coffee… cross-referencing SUNW above.

OK, this isn't a vanity plate sighting. But the SLS was being driven in the hood by a local businessman, sailor, and Forbes Man #5….  Larry.

Innovation. How Apropos. And especially perfect when found on a Tesla.

Java Man.  From the looks of this plate, it historically pre-dates Java Fun (above) and possibly Neanderthal Man as well. Could it possibly even pre-date the programming language?

Java Com. Likely a reference to java.com  But what's with the "Got Coffee" reference? Hopefully wry humor.  3rd Java-related vanity plate sighting!

I Hate Microsoft [Guest submission] Well, someone was either burned bad by Balmer, or worked for Sun Micro at some point in their career. Thanks to @derek32smith for snapping the pic and for @skpodila for bringing to my attention.

AAPLE OS - More general purpose than saying Lion or Tiger or any other aggressive mammal.

Hey RTFM - [Guest submission] Clearly displayed by an enlightened, yet very frustrated, front-line IT support person. For the uninitiated, think: Read The F%&# Manual... a common complaint when dealing with instruction-averse users. Thanks again to @skpodila for finding this via @UODucks.

IP Reuse - Intellectual Property or Internet Protocol? Patent lawyer or inventor of DHCP? IPv4 company car? You get to decide.

HW Engr -  Hardware is still king, despite how much software-defined-everything seems to dominate trade press.

PIXXL - Is this a commentary on the size of the vehicle, or on their display technology profession?

CTXS Ready - For those in the know, it's a technology compatibility program.  Thanks @swarna for reminding me to post.

Quantum - An apropos Si Valley vanity plate found on a compact 2-seater.
...was that a wave, particle, or BMW Z4??

I Crypto - Crypto or de-crypto?

IP Video.  Besides, who uses broadcast TV or cable anymore?  This photo also receives the "Only in Silicon Valley" bonus award for the MIT license plate frame.

Pixar4U. Had to include this one, with its San Francisco and Emeryville roots, as well for as its Cupertino-based Jobsian funding.

Comp LWR.  Whether this lawyer is into computers or compensation, another only-in-silicon-valley sighting. Probably knows the Byte Law guy above.

SaaS APM. Why do we use acronyms in Silicon Valley? Because that's short for Software-as-a-Service (delivered) Application Performance Management.  Guessing this one's owned by someone from NewRelic or AppDynamics?

Go Pure: Lots of ways to interpret this one, especially since it's on a Tesla.  My bet it's a Pure Storage marketing vehicle.  Is a vanity plate fee deductible as a business expense?

NASDQ FB: Many of you will instantly recognize the references to the exchange and to the ticker.

BLM RCH - Short for BloomReach. Big Data analytics. Small Car transportation.

CLKMAIL - That would be Click Mail. Smart email.

I Love Lytro - This guy clearly knows something about Light Field imaging cameras and sensors. If you don't believe me, ask Andreessen-Horowitz, Greylock and NEA.

NETGURL - Faster than a speeding packet. More powerful than a 32-core CPU. Able to leap great latencies with a single bound. It's.... NetGurl.

NETPOP1 - If you're a geek, this means a Network Point-of-Presence. If you're not, you're just a cool networked dad.

JR GEEK - Apparently not yet a Major Geek... or I suppose they're just a maturing Nerd?

PPT DIVA - Probably works for Duarte.  Seriously...  how would we possibly convey any ideas at work if it were not for PowerPoint?

FACEBK - needs no introduction Guest submission by former colleague @mitchparker.  Plate probably does not belong to Mark Z.

Yodlee - think this guy works there? (BTW, nice ride)

Net BSD - can you say highly-portable open-source Linux O/S?

HTTP 451 - Error code for Site Unavailable for Legal Reasons - If, for example, it's censored by the government.  I'm soooo curious what business this guy has. Or had.

VMUNIX - I'm nerding out here... Back in 1979, 3BSD (the third Berkeley Software Unix Distribution) was released. First to have Virtual Memory, hence VM. I'm guessing that by the type of license plate this Beemer is sporting, this guy was part of it. Also loving this latest find due to the Net BSD plate two clicks up.

CPTR NRD - For the Computer Nerd. Need I say more?

Hacker Girl - yup, that girls-that-code initiative sure seems to have paid off.... or has it?

Silicon 4 Sale - That's how Silicon Valley got its name in the first place. FAB-ulous plate!

Engineer F+ - What do you call the person who graduates last in their engineering class?   An engineer.

Apple MV - Apple Mountain View? Momentous Vision? Motor Vehicle?

Jedi Coder - Not modest in the least... and in a P100D. Quite the coder.

Nerd Nation - How apropos. It certainly seems that way, living here inside the Bubble.

802.11AC - Guest submission from @DavidGee - Think high-bandwidth WiFi protocol, and you'll get the picture of how truly nerdy this plate really is.

In Beta - You know this person does lots of development and testing.  I wonder if their other vehicle has "Outa Beta"?

ISO27001 - Do ya think they're into InfoSec and Risk Management?
Live to Byte - Bitten by the technology bug, or biting the software bug?

Siri - Hey Siri, please bring my Benz around to the front of the estate...

Syntax Error - A frustrated designer of compilers?

Server Dude - An Iron Hugger in a Prius? Anyway, hoping to find Server Gal soon. To pair with HKRGRL and NETGURL above.

CTRL-ALT - Makes me want to cry out "DEL".  Clearly a close personal friend of CMD-SHFT noted above.

PR Maven - In the world of high-tech, your Public Relations staff need to be bold. Clearly not lost on this PR professional.

Mozilla - a Fiery, Foxy vehicle.

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