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.
Subliminal Messaging (Part 2) – Let your customers and management team know that you got things under control.
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.
When 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.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote a piece called “A Year of Living Open-ly“, where I looked at how my perspective on open source had changed over the last year, from my work and interaction with various communities. One of the recurring themes that came up throughout the year was a focus on DevOps. Since this seems like a topic that is attracting a lot of attention, I thought I’d do a similar post around the things I’ve learned in this domain:
DevOps Seems Like It’s Hit the Mainstream
Since everyone is getting sick of the term “DevOps”, it means a couple things (if history is any indicator)
- It’ll probably be a couple more years before it actually hits mainstream. The Twitter echo chamber tends to be a couple years ahead of implementations and “follow the money”. Keep in mind that DevOps requires some skills that many people in IT don’t readily have, so the learning process adds time to any change in culture or process.
- [See: “Cloud”] Vendors and “thought leaders” will try and twist the concept into ways that will align to their portfolio. Be wary of people that haven’t be focused on this space for more than 3+ years.
Learn from People that Are Smarter Than You
There are tons of ways to start learning, whether that’s a big event like VelocityConf or DevOps Days or a local meetup in your city/region. Beyond any self-paced (or on-the-job) learning that you can do, I highly recommend working with a more experience person. I know that sounds like “hire an expensive consultant”, but the learning curves for aspects of this can be steep and it’s worth the expense to have someone help you avoid common pitfalls. That person (or group) can often times also help you structure some internal models that will help groups evaluate where they are today and how they can take steps to move forward. Go listen to things like The Goat Farm (podcast) and hear the stories of transformation from large enterprise companies from around the world. Watch the videos from DevOps Enterprise Summit.
[Side Note: If you’re a book learner – there are some deals on FREE and DISCOUNTED O’Reilly books that are linked off the right side of this page (disclosure: I don’t get anything if you use those Discount Codes, so this isn’t an endorsement)] Continued »
When I joined Twitter in 2008, it was still a fairly new medium of communication. But one of the things I quickly learned was how easy it was to find new communities and interesting people, if you used this one simple trick – search for a topic you were interested in and follow the names that came up over and over. This was before all the fancy clients that had filters and lists, but it was also a smaller user-base.
What I quickly found was a group of people that were affectionately know as the “Clouderati“. I later learned that this was a self-given nickname and a joke that came out of many beers are some pub at an early Cloud Computing event. At the time, there was this shift beginning to happen where lots of people were jumping on the VMware and virtualization bandwagon, and then there was a smaller crowd saying that much of that “discussion” was not focused on the right areas. This group was more focused on public Cloud Computing, distributed application development, open source and some things that seemed “out there” at the time. For many people, the Clouderati were considered “an echo chamber on Twitter” and often dismissed as not knowing what would appeal to mainstream IT audiences.
The last few weeks have been interesting for the #Clouderati.
Simon Crosby (@simoncrosby) – co-founder of XenSource, which created the Xen hypervisor, which was sold to Citrix in 2007. Several years after the acquisition, he started a company called Bromium, which focused on end-point security. We had Simon on The Cloudcast several times (here, here, here). This week it was announced that the Bromium technology would be embedded in Windows 10.
Sam Johnston (@samj) – one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, who worked at a number of companies (including some interesting roles at Google), was announced as the ANZ CTO at CSC. When combined with CSC CTO Dan Hushon, this brings a significant braintrust to CSC. Continued »
I first got (truly) exposed to open source software in early 2000. I was working at Cisco, and we were internally developing a SIP Proxy Server, which would go on to become Cisco CSPS (now EoS/EoL). The project started because one of our VP’s decided that they wanted to commoditize the call-control portion of VoIP systems, and Cisco would focus on making money around the edges of the network (IP Phones, VoIP Gateways, etc.). Given that Cisco hadn’t published any other open source projects, it was considered someone of a bold strategy – and some considered it crazy. But this was being built in Research Triangle Park, NC (“RTP”), which was just down the street from Red Hat, so lots of people in the area were curious if their business model might work in other places. My first education had less to do with choosing a license, or CI/CD models, but rather about the violent pushback that people had to disruptive economic models. This project lead to the eventual acquisition of Vovida, a maker of other open source VoIP components.
My next exposure was about 5 years later (~ 2005), when I was working in a new group that Cisco spun out to Linksys to build SMB business systems. It was my first exposure to the ODM model, where a 3rd-party would make minor modifications to their base software (based on Linux), that we could then rebrand and sell as commercial products. The ODM’s pace of innovation was incredible. We were used to 12-18 month development cycles, and they had new features every 3 months. And instead of having “unique differentiators”, we had essentially the same features that all of our competitors in the space had too. This model wasn’t about innovation, it was about changing the time to market equation, and significantly reducing the internal COGS (Cost of Goods Sold). The other real eye-opener for us was when they’d bring us some whitebox hardware prototypes – they were often 30% faster, with 80% of the features and 10% of the cost of the typical Cisco boxes we were used to designing around (especially for branch-office use-cases).
Sometime in 2010, I met Lew Tucker, who has just moved over to Cisco. He was going to be in charge of large open source projects, such as OpenStack. I had been experimenting with this new technology (a VMware replacement?) and Lew needed some people to help spread the gospel internally within Cisco. By this time, Cisco was facing competition from several open source projects and companies based on open-core business models, so there was an appetite for how to compete with “free” and also how to engage, contribute and influence the communities around these projects.
But that was all in the past. Open source was just an element of my previous experiences. For at least the last year, I’ve been living a much more open lifestyle. Actually, it’s been the last 18 months. While my day job was probably the most visible element, there were several things going on behind the scenes. The weekly podcast I host made a distinct pivot to move away from the mainstream Cloud Computing topics and instead focused on open source, SaaS, DevOps Containers and modern (Cloud Native) application development. Open source is at the core of all of these trends. As part of that shift, we started a new partnership with O’Reilly Media and their events (OSCON, Velocity, etc.). Continued »
[Disclosure: I gave this presentation at EMC World 2015, but all of the content is vendor independent. Nothing in the presentation or this blog is a sales pitch for EMC]
A few weeks ago, I gave a talk titled, “Why DevOps is Critical for Business” (video) (slides). It was part of a broader DevOps track, for an audience that is primarily IT professionals. The TL;DR version goes like this: Your business wants/needs to go faster to remain competitive in their industry. Technology is at the center of most business decisions today. Hence, IT needs to figure out how to deliver technology faster to enable the business.
It makes some analogies between the automotive industry shifts in the 1980s and Cloud Computing today. It also talked about the how information distribution has changed over the years (see: Jevons Paradox) and how people don’t need to be so worried about their jobs being automated away.
The room was packed and feedback was very positive. A number of people stuck around afterwards and we had a bunch of good discussions about, “OK, how would we actually do that?”
And then I got a phone call from a colleague….
The TL;DR version of the conversation went like this: “Keep in mind that most companies don’t care about the ‘HOW’ of their IT organization, they just care about the ‘WHAT’ (and results).” Continued »
As today is Father’s Day, I got to thinking about the stuff my father taught me that sunk in enough to have influenced my career or the guidance I’ve given others. On one hand, he introduced me to my first computer – an Apple II that he brought home to do spreadsheet/accounting work. We didn’t have any in school at the time, and I don’t recall the neighbors having one yet. He was just curious about how it worked. On the other hand, computers were really not a big part of my life growing up, so this may turn out to be more about learning skills and dealing with changes.
Many of my friends followed a path that was similar to their parents, and in the case of many of my male friends, it was influenced by their fathers. Doctors follow doctors. Lawyers follow lawyers. Engineers follow engineers. Teachers follow teachers. Coaches follow coaches. And so on. But my father grew up a farmer. No computers. No electronics. Just land to plow and animals to raise.
He told me many times how much he disliked the farm life, but he spent an equal amount of time telling me about the work ethic that comes with farming. Up early, work late, deal with bad weather and uncertainties. Sick days don’t exist. There were no shortcuts. You measure yourself on the effort (day-to-day), but ultimately on the collective results. And you find the balance between the things you love and the things you need to do – just because. Continued »
While it is only expected to have 2000 attendees, next week’s DockerCon 2015 is already shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated events of the trade-show calendar. As noted VC (and Cloud expert) Adrian Cockcroft likes to say, “Docker wasn’t on anyone’s roadmap in 2014. It’s on everyone’s roadmap in 2015.”
Here’s what I’m looking forward to at the event:
- Who is Docker in 2015? Per their mission statement, “Docker is an open platform that enables developers and system administrators to create distributed applications.” They have taken $150M in VC funding. They have a rapidly growing community (both in downloads/contributions) and new Docker-centric startups, but are also acquiring companies (eg. Socketplane, Kitematic) to fill in holes in their “stack”. Do they solidify themselves as a “platform”, competing with structured or unstructured PaaS offerings“, or do they avoid that classification and just stay focused on being an enabling technology? Do they target developers, operators, or both?
- Who is the Docker ecosystem in 2015? Last year, they limited attendance to 200-250 people. This year it’s 2000 (by comparison, Cloud Foundry Summit was ~1500). In about 18 months, Docker has been downloaded over 300M times. Many start-ups will come out of stealth next week, and many enterprise vendors will be jumping on the Docker bandwagon. But the biggest question I have is how does the Docker philosophy of “batteries included, but removable” resonate with the ecosystem? Is Docker building a flexible, pluggable stack, or are they building a more monolithic “suite” that is less ecosystem friendly?
- How do the new Docker v1.7 plugins work? Just released, it will be interesting to watch how this segment of the marketplace grows. Will the plugins be vendor-specific (and proprietary) or will significant contributions by vendors be made back into the primary, open projects?
- Is Storage + Docker hot? One of the topics that I’ve been hearing over and over again in the context of container is, “How do we manage persistent data, or storage?” I’ve heard it in the content of Mesos and Kubernetes, in the context of Cloud Foundry and now we’re seeing early announcements from projects like Flocker and RexRay, as well as new “volume” concepts and functionality in v1.7 of Docker. While container-based applications tend to be associated with stateless applications, the reality is that data must be dealt with somehow, and many people are looking at ways to bring the benefits of containers to the management of data.
- Security? VMware tried to tell the world that containers alone are not enough (or “insecure”) and are best run in a VM. Some early surveys confirm that many container deploys are still running in VMs. But Docker has tried to counter these claims with Security Best Practices and tools to avoid getting their momentum stalled, especially in Enterprise accounts.
- Users? Customers? Paying Customers? Use-Cases? There is no doubt that Docker is white-hot these days, but who are the users, what industries do they represent and are they creating revenue streams for Docker, Inc? The speaker lineup and agenda looks promising, with many geographic regions and industries represented, so it’ll be good to ask some deeper questions about how Docker is being used in their environments.
Overall, it should be a great benchmark to understand where this fast moving company and community is moving. Docker has the potential to disrupt so many segments of the Cloud-Native application industry, so it’ll be interesting to see how big of a piece of the pie they are going after and how the marketplace responds.
Before I get into my thoughts on VelocityConf (Santa Clara, 2015), I thought that I’d share a quick story. I’ve been attending open source events and meetups for several years (OpenStack Summit, LinuxCon/CloudOpen, DevOps Days, Cloud Foundry Summit, etc.) and have become comfortable with the vibe and communities at the events. They are very different from vendor events, in good ways and bad ways.
A few months ago, during my day job, we decided that we’d like to host a DevOps Days style event before EMC World. I reached out to some friends to see what the proper steps were to host an event, since DevOps Days has a planning organization. I was introduced to Bridget Kromhout (@bridgetkromhout) and we spoke for an hour about our idea for an event. As expected, she was very friendly and informative, but a little bit cautious about a “big vendor” doing this, since other “big vendors” had violated some of their guidelines about over-marketing in the past. Fair enough, we’d do our best stay within all of their guidelines as we hoped to show this community that we wanted to contribute valuable things (beyond free food & drink). Although she didn’t need to (we weren’t an official event), Bridget continued to provide us guidance and encouragement, as well as occasionally correcting us when we made some tactical errors. I tell this story because Bridget is like so many others that are involved in DevOps Days and VelocityConf – they are passionate about this domain and excited to help others that wish to learn and share. But she’s also very focused on it being done the “right way”, as we’ve seen too many other industry trends get swept up in marketing hype.
What does this have to do with IT organizations and VelocityConf? Actually, quite a bit…
Some common misperceptions about open source events (or DevOps or Web Scale, etc.)
- If it’s all open source, nobody spends or makes any money. – Tell that to Target, MLB, Google, Microsoft, Etsy, Orbitz, and many others names that presented sessions. Or tell that to the many VCs walking around the halls looking for the next big idea to fund.
- It’s just a bunch of neck-beard hippies. – Keep thinking that. They run some of the most influential and powerful companies in the world, and are getting presidents elected. Beards optional.
- They don’t understand the Enterprise. – Tell that to the Enterprise group that stuck around after a Security + DevOps session to talk about how they used DevOps, Public Cloud and Agile Development while dealing with SOX, HIPAA, and a bunch of other heavy regulatory guidelines.
- It’s just a Silicon Valley thing. – Except that they hold the events worldwide, and you’d find as many influential people from NYC or Minneapolis as you would Portland or SF/Bay.
Here’s what I loved about VelocityConf:
One of the most frequently discussed topics on the podcast, sometimes on the air and sometimes off, is the financial future of all these cool new technology companies that have open source software at the core of their business. Companies like Docker, CoreOS, Hashicorp, Mesosphere, Puppet Labs, Chef, Mirantis, Ansible and many others. We watch as they continue to get increasing large VC funding rounds, and like the dot-com bubble of the last 1990s, we wonder how they will match their revenue models with their valuation models. [Note: Puppet Labs had a strong Q1 revenue announcement]. Are these companies that are built only for acquisition (short-term), or do they have the sustaining power to last 5, 6 or 7 years before they move to IPO stage.
Keep in mind that these companies, with open source at their core, are different from other start-ups that are enduring longer periods of existence/growth (5, 6, 7yrs) without building an open source community – eg. Nutanix, SolidFire, Virtustream, Box.net, etc.
As I think about all the funding, I remember back to some of the most important (and pragmatic) guidance I’ve gotten from entrepreneurs like Rodrigo Flores and Rodney Rogers – “no matter how cool you think your technology is, it can only create a sustainable business if you can actually collect a Purchase Order (P.O.)”. And it’s important to remember that there is a big difference between building a community around a technology and building a business around your technology. It’s the difference between creating value and capturing value. The former requires technologists and vision. The latter requires that you understand not only who will fall in love with the technology, but who will approve and fund the acquisition of the technology (directly or as-a-Service). It means contacts, licenses, terms of payments and all those are things that aren’t embedded in a GitHub update. Continued »