From Silos to Services: Cloud Computing for the Enterprise

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September 30, 2015  8:38 AM

Looking ahead to AWS re:Invent

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

reinventThere are four big infrastructure events each year – VMworld, OpenStack Summit, Cisco Live and AWS re:Invent. While it’s not the largest in terms of attendance, in my opinion, AWS re:Invent is the most important because it is setting the tone for where infrastructure is evolving – both in terms of technology and economics. Heading into next week’s event, these are my thoughts about the (projected) AWS announcements and focus areas.

Overall (focus: Innovators and Disruptors are Winning; CIOs need to make bigger bets to survive)
  • AWS is focused on killing legacy IT and legacy vendors. Won’t focus on any of the other cloud providers (Google, Azure)
  • Continued focus on companies that are “All In” about using AWS. This will be ISVs, and many verticals. The verticals won’t actually be “All In”, but segments of their business that are rapidly changing will be shown as moving all applications to AWS (Media, Healthcare/Pharma/R&D, Financial Services, Gov’t)
Storage (focus: storage vendors are struggling; AWS further eats into their profits)
  • They see weakness from the major vendors (EMC, NetApp, HP) and will announce big price cuts to EBS, S3, Glacier and Elastic File.
  • Some focus on how more of the EC2 (VM) instances are completely backed by SSDs and how that pricing is coming down sharply.
  • They’ll simplify how snapshots/backups for DB services across regions, further eliminating the value of storage admins. Saw this already with Aurora DB.
Compute (focus: developers love containers and microservices; let AWS be your Ops team)
  • Lots of focus on Elastic Container Services and Lambda. Trying to establish themselves as the next-gen cloud that is beyond VMs and now focused on micro-transaction for new applications
  • Lots of focus on the growth of these areas and trying to highlight that Cloud Native apps are becoming more critical to business survival and success.
Hybrid Cloud (focus: how to add modern app capabilities around legacy data sources)
  • There will be new focus on simplifying pricing, including ways to pre-purchase resources.
  • They will have a focus on Enterprise Identity Services (e.g. Active Directory, LDAP) integration
  • They will expand upon their Service Catalog offering, which is one of the areas that most vendor-led Private and Hybrid Cloud offerings don’t get right and most IT organizations don’t know how to create (they can’t make IT into “products”)
PaaS (focus: distributed application services wins vs. monolithic application frameworks)
  • Don’t expect much from them here. PaaS market is still fragmented and AWS doesn’t want to let Cloud Foundry define the model. AWS has always believed in the UNIX approach of offering multiple loosely-coupled or individual tools to developers and operations teams.
IoT (focus: AWS has the best IoT platform; trying to take away momentum that IBM is building)
  • Big focus on AWS Lambda (Micro-Compute) + Kinesis (Stream-Processing). Consumer, Manufacturing, Gov’t (Region/City) and Healthcare are super-focused on this space. Lines of business driven, not IT.
Mobile (focus: don’t allow iCloud to get traction with iOS app developers)
  • Big focus on making mobile apps simpler to build and run.
  • Focus on cross-platform application services, not just Apple or Android


September 27, 2015  8:12 PM

Quietly, Cisco Builds a Developer Platform

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

dos_equisTo paraphrase the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World, “I don’t always write about development platforms, but when I do, I tend to dig in fairly deep“. These new platforms are generating large amounts of interest and community following – as well as attracting large amount of VC funding.

An interesting element of that research is that very few of those platforms are coming from companies that are well-known in the application development space. But the market is moving quickly around this concept of “Cloud Native Apps” and almost every major IT vendor and start-up is trying to find a way to be relevant in this emerging space. As they all know, applications are becoming central to creating new business models (see: Uber, AirBnB, Netflix, Square, Facebook, etc.).

I recently predicted that Cisco might acquire Salesforce, but until that happens, they appear to be quietly building an application development stack. The platform appears to have two pieces: [1] Cisco Shipped and [2] Mantl. Both of them are open-source and are based on a variety of popular infrastructure and application tools.

“Shipped” is focused on the developer experience; getting applications from their laptop and moving them into environments for testing or production. It is focused on applications running in containerized environments and works with basic scripts and GitHub collaboration.

“Mantl” is focused on the complex backend-integration that’s required to run these Cloud Native applications (built on microservice architectures) across any cloud platform. It’s built using a broad set of open-source software frameworks and tools, many supported commercially by companies such as CoreOS, Docker, Hashicorp, Elastic, Mesosphere, NGINX, and Red Hat. Continued »

September 19, 2015  10:26 AM

IT Predictions Sure to Be Wrong

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
AWS, Cisco, Docker, EMC, Microsoft, Oracle, VMware

357962021As I sit here on a fall Saturday morning, I’m enjoying the best time of the year. There are two morning traditions that are not to be missed:

  1. Watching the beginning of College Gameday at 9am and seeing the pre-tailgate crowds piling up on campuses across the country.
  2. Listening to this jam.

btw – I’m still not sure that I need a little bang in my ting-tang….but I digress…

Saturday mornings have one challenge – what to do between 9:30am and 11:55am, when Lee Corso’s predictions are made? Usually the right answer would be to sit in front of a huge grill and make sure the temps stay around 225* and the smoke on pork shoulders is thick. But this morning we’re going to try something different – I’m going to make my own predictions. So here’s a few crazy ones certain to be wrong…

Cisco Buys Salesforce

Cisco has a new CEO (Chuck Robbins), who seems to much more focused on software than his predecessor. Cisco has made a bold prediction that the Internet of Things (or “Everything”) will drive a $19T opportunity over the next decade. To make this happen, Cisco needs not only a big presence in the Cloud, but a big presence in software applications.  At Dreamforce this week, the Salesforce IoT strategy was front and center. How quickly with the Cisco board allow the new CEO to have access to the big checkbook?

Microsoft Buys Docker (and maybe Mesosphere)

Windows is the dominant PC operating system. But PC sales are on the decline, being replaced by smartphones, tablets and alternative server and laptop OS’s. Docker is becoming a favorite of developers on Linux, and Windows support is coming soon. And Docker has an astronomical valuation for a company that has shown limited revenues (to-date). Microsoft has the available cash and needs a way to attract developers in either Linux or Windows environments. Can Docker be the technology that helps Microsoft move forward from being OS-dependent in the future?

Oracle Buys EMC

Everyone is expecting some shakeup in the current EMC Federation model, with the heavy betting on EMC buying the rest of VMware and officially bringing them under a single umbrella – maybe even adopting the “VMware” name as the overall brand. That might happen and it would be interesting to see who would run that combined entity. But there’s an outside shot to consider – Oracle now has former EMC leader Dave Donatelli running their Exa-business. Donatelli wanted to run EMC at one point in time. Would the EMC Federation assets help Oracle broaden their markets, as well as taking out a fierce competitor?

When Amazon Web Services (AWS) is reporting $6-8B/year a revenues, it’s beginning to threaten some existing IT leaders. Just like College Football is beginning to get more comfortable with a more rapid pace of play, the world of IT is going to need to get used to faster changes going forward.

September 10, 2015  2:20 PM

The New Apple: Software is (Un)Valuable

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

apple-armadaLike many people, I watched as my Twitter stream exploded yesterday with reactions about the latest announcements from Apple. New watch bands, faster iPhones, bigger iPads, updated AppleTV boxes and a magical pencil. Mixed in the announcements were some discussions about a few of the software features that could be used on these new devices.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a brief review of an excellent new book by Stephen O’Grady, called The Software Paradox. It highlights the shifts in how software is distributed, used and ultimately monetized (or not) by both vendors and providers of software-centric services. One of the core premises of the book is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to monetize packaged/embedded software being sold directly to customers.

With that in mind, let’s get back to all these Apple announcements. What has Apple become? It can be argued that it is now a massive hardware company that gives away the embedded software for free. iOS or MacOS do not run on anything except Apple hardware, and increasingly, that software is now available on an on-going basis (e.g. updates/upgrades) for free. In terms of online services, Apple makes the bulk of their revenues by being the orchestrator of a marketplace (e.g. AppStore or iTunes), not by selling their services or their software. They take a 20-30% cut for running the marketplace; essentially a reseller of digital goods.

As much as people might want to mock the lack of “new feature innovation” coming from Apple, what they are putting together is a fairly brilliant strategy. They seem to realize that revenues from stand-alone software are difficult to create and grow. They understand how to create experiences when hardware is bundled with software, regardless of who builds the software. They’ve created a user-base that is reasonably locked into the Apple experience and has been mostly conditioned to update the required hardware every 2-3 years. And since Tim Cook is a genius at supply-chain-management (getting the silicon turned into products), Apple is able to exert massive control over the pricing of the underlying hardware elements (or “COGS” – Cost of Goods Sold).

The parallel to this strategy in the Enterprise IT market is the growing trend to bundle together hardware and software under categories like “converged infrastructure” (CI) and “hyper-converged infrastructure” (HCI). While open-source software is often out innovating commercial software, it still struggles to make revenues when sold directly as a commercial product. But bundle that software together with a defined set of hardware and a known end-user experience and you can begin to understand what products like VCE’s Vblock are at a $2B run-rate.

We’ve heard it ad-nauseum for the last few years – “software is eating the world“. And while it’s true that entire industries are being reshaped by innovative uses of software, it still requires the right packaging, the right experience and the right business model to make that equation successful. Sometimes we forget that simplicity usually wins, and those that take the most friction out of the “idea to execution” equation often get to keep the bulk of the value creation.

August 31, 2015  8:01 PM

The New Face of IT Transformation

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

I typically don’t pay much attention to politics, but after the 2012 election, I was intrigued by the team that built the underlying technology platform to drive donation and voter-awareness, led by Harper Reed. The ensueing set of articles helped me connect together how powerful technology could be in leading social change and the impact it has on government. In the race to elect the most powerful person in the world, Harper Reed was essentially the most important person to make that happen.

HarperReed-1When I was getting the EMC {code} program started in 2014, I knew that it would be important to help the executive team understand the types of people that were involved in open source and modern application development. It was definitely a different audience than traditionally buys storage arrays. As part of a presentation, I showed some pictures of well known people in this space. One of the pictures was of Harper Reed. Of all the people I showed, that pictures got the biggest response. Hippy! Homeless person! No chance that person will be our customer!

Fast forward a few years and I saw an announcement that PayPal had acquired a company called Modest. They were a company that specialized in mobile payment platforms. When I saw the picture of the founders, I was taken back to that day when I realized that their was a new face of IT transformation.

HarperReed-2 Somewhere in this story is a lesson about not judging a book by it’s cover. People that are changing government. People that are changing the payment system for the most popular computing device on the planet. No small tasks.

More so, it goes to a piece of advice that I’ve given many companies that are trying to get involved in modern IT; Cloud Native Apps, DevOps, Open-Source and other modern revolutions. The advice is simple – you will start seeing people that have a look similar to Harper Reed start sitting in your meetings with customers. Those customers are starting to build more of their own differentiated applications. The developers are the new kingmakers. That person might not speak up in the meeting, but they are influencing decisions. Offer to take that person(s) out for a beer. And make sure it’s a good craft beer. Then listen, a lot! They have ideas about how to change their business, and they are often looking for people to help them gain executive support.

There is a new face of IT transformation, and they aren’t wearing a suit and tie.

August 31, 2015  12:06 PM

How the VMworld and Twitter Platforms Are Similar

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
twitter, VMware, VMworld

vmworld2015With VMworld 2015 upon, this is usually where I’ll write a piece about “Things I’m looking forward to at VMworld.” But as I flew out to San Francisco, something different dawned on me this year. While VMworld is still an event that has plenty of announcements from VMware or their ecosystem partners, it’s really evolved into a platform that is dominated by activities that were created by their ecosystem. The parallels this draws to the Twitter platform are interesting, and worth studying if you’re a company or community that is attempting to drive incremental value through your ecosystem.

When we think about Twitter today, it’s much different than the original platform that only allowed someone to have 5000 followers. It evolved through the community creating unique capabilities, such as the hashtag, that evolved to blend seamlessly into the platform. Twitter now defines we how watch sports, how we follow political events and political unrest around the world.

Within the VMware community, there are groups that define experts (vExpert, EMCElect, Cisco Champions). This is similar to the “validated” check on Twitter.

There are events around and within VMworld that are not sanctioned by VMware, but draws crowds and interesting conversations (v0dgeball, VMunderground, vBrownBag, OpeningActs, vBeers). They take advantage of the proximity of attendees and the desire to have conversations and learning outside of the VMware-define messages. This is similar to CrowdChat on Twitter.

Beyond these, the community has spawned trainings, podcasts, and many others activities that build on the passion of people that are attached to the community. They don’t ask for permission, they simply build around the “VMware platform” in ways that fill holes or add value.

For many people “attending” VMworld, these outside activities and communities have become more interesting and more valuable than the actual event. It gives them an opportunity to network with colleagues from around the world and get back-channel information from companies.

Continued »

August 9, 2015  12:21 PM

Review: “The Software Paradox”

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
Source: EMC, EMC World 2015

Source: EMC, EMC World 2015

Software is a strange beast. On one hand, it’s hard to argue with the economic disruption that “Software is Eating the World” is doing to many industries. On the other hand, more and more software is being licensed as open source and companies are struggling to find ways to monetize this technology.

There will never be another Red Hat. Commercializing and selling open source software has proven to be a model that has had more failures than successes.

There will never be another VMware. Selling proprietary software to Enterprises, primarily on-premises, is a model that thrived in the 80s, 90s and 2000s, but is quickly moving towards public cloud services.

A year ago, we decided to shift the focus of the podcast to towards open source software, public cloud and the technologies driving this shift. We did that after reading “The New Kingmakers“. It crystalized much of what we’d been seeing for the past 3-4 years, as we listened to the segments of IT that weren’t wrapped up in the VMware ecosystem.

This past week I has an opportunity to read Stephen O’Grady’s follow-up book, The Software Paradox. At 60 pages it’s a quick 2hr read; perfect for a flight and highly recommended. It does an excellent job of providing a historical context on how the software industry grew out of IBM and into today’s evolving models.

At the core of the book is the premise that it is becoming more difficult to make profits by selling software directly, but models are emerging for companies that deliver services based on software. It does an excellent job of looking at vertically integrated models (e.g. Apple, Oracle) vs. SaaS models (e.g. AWS, Salesforce, etc.).

This will be an interesting concept to watch, as it will impact every part of the IT industry – vendors, integrators, service providers, end-users. Analyst firm Wikibon produced research on Public Cloud this past week that forecasted that 1/3 of all IT spending will be in Public Cloud within 10 years., nearing $500B.

[disclosure: I contribute analysis on cloud computing to the Wikibon community]

Continued »

August 9, 2015  11:02 AM

So the Boss Called a Developer

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
Developer, DevOps, Docker, go, Mobile, SaaS

Growing up, my father was a farmer in Ohio. His family worked that land as far back as the 1850s. Growing up, I heard stories about plowing fields and long hours and hard work. It always made me appreciate this speech by Paul Harvey.

I wrote this variation a while ago. I have a great audio recording of it, but I could use some help from the community pulling together images for a video. It would probably make a great intro for a DevOps Days or other developer-centric event. If you have any create pictures (hi-res), feel free to send them to me. One of these days I’ll pull together the video.

“So the Boss Called a Developer”

And on the 30th day, leadership looked down on their quarterly results and said, “We need a business advantage.” So the boss called a developer.

The boss said, “I need someone willing to code all day, get interrupted by meetings, take vague requirements, fill up on coffee, work late into the night, fix bugs, write tests and commit to dates for things never before created.“ So the boss called a developer.

“I need someone with the skills to build scalable apps and creativity to design simple UIs. Someone to learn Go, wrangle Docker, master Jenkins, hack against an undocumented API, and not lose their mind when a manager changes all the priorities last minute.” So the boss called a developer.

The boss said, “I need someone willing to write glue code for 48 hours straight to make a demo to win a deal, then throw it all away and redesign those functions to be a stable product in less than 3 months. I need someone that can write a Chef recipe that does the work of four sysadmins; who can make apps work across all browsers. And who ignores the jokes about crumbs in their beard and piled up 5-hour energy and who finishes a forty-hour work week by Tuesday, and then logs another thirty hours before the beer bash on Friday night.” So the boss called a developer.

The boss needed someone willing to sit between customers and sales people, silently watching claims of roadmaps and futures, all the while designing the system in their head. And then start working on it during the flight home. So the boss called a developer.

The boss said, “I need someone smart enough to write complex algorithms, wise enough to anticipate failure scenarios, refactor code, rewrite code, recompile code and have a demo ready for exec review each week. Someone to build, package, script, and deploy. Someone who can work in the cloud, on mobile, on SaaS and who documents just enough to cover their ass. Then attend a couple meetups each week to stay ahead of the next big thing. “

“Somebody who will help us know our customers better. Someone who will analyze our data and visualize it for HR, AR and PR. Someone who will come home after a long week, exhausted, and give his daughter a hug when his daughter says she wants to learn to code, “just like dad does”. So the boss called a developer.

July 30, 2015  10:49 AM

Preparing for Fall Trade-Show Season

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

These days, there is a meetup or event almost every day of the year, in a city near you. For some people, it’s become a full-time job to be at these events and for others it leads to a feeling of FOMO. So as we move into the Fall 2015 Tradeshow Season, including major events such as VMworld (US & Europe) and OpenStack Summit (Tokyo), many people often ask me for tips and tricks to make sure their presentations create the most impact.

The key to a good presentation is to have quality information and engage the audience. This morning I saw an article about some of the key engagement tricks from one of the most engaging groups in the world. It got me thinking – is there a similar set of techniques that presenters at tradeshows could use? Here’s what I found after extensive research. Feel free to use any of these tips during your fall presentations.

Totally Dismiss the Competition – Whateves…


Set Big Expectations – This shows that you have plans for world domination, or maybe bigger.


Set Medium Expectations – Maybe your PPT slides are a little bit ahead of your engineering roadmap, but you’re still feeling confident that you can stay ahead of your competitors.


Set Small Expectations – Dude, our VC funding barely covers our weekly sushi bill and our core technology is open-source, so monetization is “still being determined”.



Subliminal Messaging (Part I) – Let your hands tell the competition the size of your market-share compared to their market-share.

Copy of Cisco--621x414

Subliminal Messaging (Part 2) – Let your customers and management team know that you got things under control.

hqdefault (1)

Subliminal Messaging (Part 3) – My HR department said that I should think about what job I want in 5 years


Subliminal Messaging (Part 4) – The analysts and competition might say your software is vaporware, but you’ll show them.


I’m selling Automation Software, but People Still Matter – nothing says “nobody is getting fired because of automation” like bringing out human props during your presentation”


Our Software Seamlessly Integrates with your Existing Environment – We blend right in. It’s not about our software, it’s about YOUR success.


We’re All-In and have Nothing to Hide – I know our software seems like magic, but I have nothing hidden up my sleeves. Our engineers are just that brilliant.


Football Season is Coming Up, Let’s Throw the Ball Around during a Tailgate – Nothing appeals to the sales rep like your ability to talk about stuff that isn’t geek-centric.


So there you go. If you can work in a half-dozen of these tips into your 30-60 minute presentation, you’re guaranteed to get high-scores, a standing ovation and a line of people waiting in line to buy you drinks after the event….those are usually free anyways, but it’s the thought that counts.

July 25, 2015  4:15 PM

When the Game Changes…

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
AWS, Cloud Computing, DevOps

awsWhen the iPhone was first announced, there were a number of skeptics – no keyboard, limited apps, bad camera and a high price tag. It was just a consumer device; it couldn’t be used for work. But I recall having a conversation with a colleague that had deep background in the mobile space, having dozens of patents from his work at Nokia and Motorola. His first comment to me was, “Nokia, Motorola and Blackberry are dead. The device is no longer a phone, and they are now competing with a company that does $6B+ a year in software R&D. It’s a new game now.” He went on to explain to me the economics of an iPhone having 8Gb of memory (vs. a few 100k in the leading Blackberry) and how those companies didn’t have a background in the Internet or true software development (vs. device drivers). It took a couple of year for that premonition to come true, but it wasn’t long before the iPhone had completely changed how computing interacts with end-users. They may not one the largest market-share (see: Android), but they do own the lion’s share of the revenues in the mobile device and application space.

Flash forward a few years and we’re seeing the same thing happen with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the rest of the IT industry. The AWS story isn’t new, as it’s now 8yrs old, but there’s a feeling that the rules of the game have now shifted in their favor. Now that the AWS numbers are fully disclosed by Amazon, combined with recent struggles by traditional leaders IBM, EMC, HP, Cisco and others, and it’s becoming clearer that the traditional approaches of go-to-market and technology innovation are no longer going to be valid moving forward.

From a strategy perspective, Simon Wardley (@swardley) has spoken about this for many years. From a CIO perspective, Bernard Golden (@bernardgolden) has continued to be vocal about the shift towards public cloud. And Wikibon’s Dave Vellante (@dvellante) laid out the broader economics in a very compelling way.

Technology is in a never-ended state of flux, so the rise of AWS is by no means a “XXX is dead” situation, but I do believe that it’s a “game over” situation – at least for the old style of game.

  • The old game had long supply chains from technology-creator to end-user.
  • The old game was based on CAPEX-centric hardware and ELA-centric software.
  • The old game had clearly-defined swim lanes for technologies and technology providers.
  • The old game was based on massive over-provisioning of resources, and long lead-cycles between business idea and IT execution.
  • The old game saw silos between the applications and operations.
  • The old game saw silos between platforms.
  • The old game was focus on business productivity, unlike the new game which enables new business models.

Continued »

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