From Silos to Services: Cloud Computing for the Enterprise

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October 21, 2015  9:22 PM

Thoughts from AWS re:Invent 2015

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
AWS, Hybrid cloud, iot

reinventThe AWS re:Invent 2015 show was a couple weeks ago and I’m finally starting to get my thoughts together on the announcements and trends – got a little distracted by the Dell/EMC merger announcement last week.

Patterns are Emerging

While I always try and make predictions prior to the show about potential new services, I’ve learned my lesson and will start taking a different approach to thinking about AWS. Just like AWS has a tremendous system to collect feedback about their services from the end-user usage patterns, the rest of us should be able to start seeing certain patterns emerging. The number #1 pattern to recognize is “make it simpler, eliminate friction”. This is now obvious with services like Lambda, Elastic Container Service, Kinesis Firehose and the IoT service. While the uber-techies could explain how someone could use containers on AWS before, it was complicated. Someone could explain how to stream data from sensors to AWS, but it was complicated. The new patterns is to eliminate that complexity and allow it to be simpler to use by the masses. Services like Lambda answer the question of, “why do I need to manage an entire server or VM just to run a few functions?’ Services like Kinesis Firehose answer the question of, “how do I size the input and processing of my streaming data from IoT end-points?”

While some people will focus on things like Snowball for data transfer, which by-the-way is creative way to think about getting around the speed of light (“data gravity”), the foundational infrastructure pieces are all in place now. Time to get ready for the onslaught of combined services that will simplify how to build upon them.


The Enterprise Believes in AWS and Looks towards the Long-Term Horizon

Companies like Capital One and GE and Accenture and FINRA, who work in highly-regulated industries and have been around for decades are trusting AWS to build their next-generation platforms. In some cases they will use native AWS services as the building blocks. In other cases, they will use software platform layers like Cloud Foundry on top of the infinite AWS infrastructure resources. They have done their due-diligence on the platform, the security, the performance and are now voting with their wallets for frictionless access to resources and advanced services. These types of companies are the lighthouses for other large enterprises, and you can be sure that other CIOs will be making calls to their colleagues to learn from their successes and failure (just like at DOES)


“Hybrid Cloud” is being ReDefined

Every traditional vendor is betting their future on Hybrid Cloud. Their vision of the Hybrid Cloud is initially a refresh of their customer’s existing hardware to build a Private Cloud. And then add a bunch of Cloud Management Software that automate repetitive tasks and eventually add a self-service catalog of services that are available to internal developers. Eventually, those customers will hopefully be able to turn up some resources and services in a public cloud environment, but that might be constrained to only those public clouds that use the exact same technology – assuming any of those public clouds still exist in a few years. The implementations will be slightly different from vendor to vendor, but they are all following the same playbook. Continued »

October 21, 2015  8:18 PM

Thoughts from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

DOES2015The technology industry is at an interesting crossroads right now. At one end of the spectrum are companies like AWS that are growing incredibly fast and are reshaping some of the fundamental rules of the industry. At another point on the spectrum are the 100s of open-source projects and start-ups that are driving innovation and new approaches to both infrastructure and applications. The projects are also disruptive, but many people aren’t quite sure how (or if) they will become monetizable. Then there’s the stuff that is sometimes called “slow tech”; the large technology vendors and their customers that have dominated industry verticals for decades. These companies generate massive profits, employ millions of people, and generally feel threatened by many of the newer or faster technologies on the spectrum.

Fear creates some interesting behavior. It’s a nature element of survival, and people can do incredible things when their intrinsic survival techniques take over. I believe psychologists call it our “lizard brain”.

In San Francisco this week, the 2nd annual DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) was held and about 1200 people attended. These people were from 400-500 companies, coming to share their stories about making the dinosaurs dance and to share tribal knowledge with those that wanted to survive and grow.

For all the news we hear out of Silicon Valley about unicorns, DOES is a pragmatic event. It’s focus is on real businesses making real changes that create real financial impact. And these changes didn’t happen overnight. In fact, most of them took several years and are still a work in progress. No greenfield environments here. It’s a jugglers conference, with mainframe apps, legacy apps and cloud native apps acting as the flaming torches. Continued »

October 15, 2015  8:44 PM

Tech A.D.

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
AWS, Dell, EMC

It’s been an interesting two weeks, hasn’t it. I was at the AWS re:Invent 2015 event in Las Vegas last week and things were gong along as expected. There were 19,000 people in attendance and AWS continued to announce new features and highlight interesting customer use-cases. To say that AWS is impressive is an understatement. They are powerful and professional and they are doing things that no other technology company has done to impact Enterprise IT in a very long time.

And about mid-week, there was a strange rumor that started getting momentum and cross-referencing:
“Dell to acquire EMC”

Huh? Dell, the company with all the debt from going private two years ago? What about EMC buying VMware, or vice-versa? What about the EMC Federation? What the Dell?

And then on Monday, it happened. Dell acquired EMC. It’s not officially closed – that’ll probably be next spring or summer, but October 12, 2015 is now official “Tech A.D.” – after Dell.

Sitting in the middle of these two events is somewhat disorienting. I’ve run out of fingers and toes for how many people called and said, “Did that really just happen? I’m having a hard time processing this.”

I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time this week processing, writing about and discussing this Dell/EMC merger (here, here, here, and here). There more I think about, the more I realize that there is potentially a new angle to write or discuss everyday for quite a while. But instead of talking about portfolio strategy or tracking stocks or branding changes, I thought I’d throw out the concept of Tech A.D. (credit Amy Lewis, famous on Twitter @commsninja, for the clever name).

When I was a guest on Speaking In Tech this week, Greg Knierieman (@knierieman) asked if the AWS re:Invent show was altered when the Dell/EMC rumors began. Stu Miniman (@stu) said, “Other than the press, nobody in attendance really cared.”

Let that sink in a little bit. At the fastest growing event in our industry, the vast majority of the attendees DID NOT CARE about the LARGEST IT MERGER IN HISTORY.

I’ll wait….

This is what inflection points look like. You may or may not care about Dell/EMC, but the ripples from this intersection of AWS growth and two IT titans merging will be felt for quite a while and will very likely have an impact on your tech career for the next decade.

Simple question – which IT model are you aligning yourself to for the next decade? The software-driven, OPEX-based model, or the solution-driven, mostly CAPEX-based model? Which one are you betting your company’s future, and which one are you betting your career?

At AWS re:Invent, you walk away thinking that there are some incredible new applications and businesses being enabled by this new model of computing.

After the Dell/EMC merger announcement, you walk away thinking this could be a trainwreck or a bellweather for change across the “traditional IT” segment of the technology industry.

The latter of those walkaways has lots of potential twists and turns. The former looks like a freight-train carry gold, but also running over many things that aren’t quite sure what to do on or near the tracks.

It’s going to be an interesting next couple of years. So what decisions are you making after Tech A.D.?

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 »

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