From Silos to Services: Cloud Computing for the Enterprise

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November 30, 2015  10:24 PM

Things to Watch in 2016

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
AppDynamics, AWS, Azure, Dell, Docker, EMC, Google, OpenStack, PaaS

downloadIt’s too early to write a predictions blog. Besides, after AWS announced revenues of $6-7B/yr and 80% growth and Dell acquiring EMC for $50-60B, I’m not sure we need a bunch of predictions right now. There are plenty of groups that need to execute against some business plans, and lots of people are trying to figure out the new economics in technology.

But there are some things that I will be watching closely in 2016:

All Roads Lead to Austin

Far too many technical conferences are in San Francisco or Las Vegas. They are cities that rob your soul and don’t give you any energy back. But 2016 offers a glimmer of hope. Both OpenStack Summit and OSCON are going to be in Austin, TX in 2016. I was hoping that Dell might convince EMC to move EMCWorld there too, but apparently that dream never got off the ground. Nevertheless, there will be sunshine. There will be temperatures that won’t felt you. And there will be BBQ. Glorious, glorious BBQ for as far as the eyes can see!!

Everybody Wants to Monitor Containers or Micro-Services

There is a growing number of companies in this space. Some of them want to manage the infrastructure (e.g. Appformix, Datadog, Sysdig, Weave, etc.) and others that want to monitor the applications (e.g. AppDynamics, NewRelic), while others monitor aspects of both (e.g. SignalFX).  Continued »

November 29, 2015  2:06 PM

Lessons from an Intra-preneur

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

shutterstock_139401506In my career, I’ve had four opportunities to either lead or be part of projects that would be consider “internal startups” within larger companies. Sometimes the people that are involved with these projects are called “Intra-preneurs”, because there are some similarities to the experiences of people that create new businesses (e.g. entrepreneurs).  The projects were:

  • In 2006, the “Linksys One” group that was spun out of Cisco and into Linksys, to focus on building early SMB solutions.
  • In 2008, the Virtualization and Grid Infrastructure group at NetApp that was focused on integrating virtualization technologies (VMware, Red Hat, Microsoft) with NetApp technologies.
  • In 2010, the pre-VCE group (from VMware, Cisco, and EMC) that was focused on the Vblock technologies before they were formalized into the VCE company.
  • In 2014, the EMC {code} group which focused on open source technologies and communities.

I contrast these experiences with my time at Virtustream, as they transitioned from a Cloud Provider to also being a technology/software provider.

The technology industry has an unusual fascination with startups, entrepreneurs and how it measures success and failure. I suspect that it goes back to the original HP garage and the excitement around new ideas. But the reality in the technology industry is that new ideas are and will always be plentiful, but the execution of those ideas into businesses is incredibly difficult. The odds against making something new come to fruition are astronomical, to the point where most logical people would discourage anyone to do it. Big companies have more money, more engineers, existing sales and distributions channels and overall brand awareness. But yet people keep trying to build better mousetraps and they keep climbing mountains because they are there to be climbed.

Lessons Learned

Over the last couple months, I was drawn back into thinking about this based on a couple things I read and listened to:

  1. Chad Sakac on The Geek Whisperers podcast, talking about how he created, grew and scaled the “Chad’s Army” vSpecialist group into the much bigger role he has today.
  2. Lucas Carlson’s newsletter series about entrepreneurship and failure.

Between the two, it was a nice mix of internally and externally-focused activities, small company and big company challenges, and successes and failures…..and learnings. Continued »

November 22, 2015  1:32 PM

Some Cloud Native Terminology you should Learn

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

If you’ve been following the discussion about how applications are now being written to be more “cloud native”, you might have seen some terminology that was strange or unusual. This is because the operational model around these newer types of applications makes a few assumptions which are very different than applications and infrastructure in the past. Let’s look at a couple of the concepts:

  1. Infrastructure as a Software: While there will still be underlying hardware for servers (some acting as storage) and networks, the core idea is that the way to interact with these systems is if they are built primarily from software, which is decoupled from the underlying hardware.
  2. Infrastructure as Code: Using software development techniques to define, test and manage the infrastructure software. This means that teams use structured automation frameworks (e.g. Chef, Puppet, Ansible, etc.) instead of random scripts, and the code is kept in versioned, software repositories.
  3. Avoid Patching: Instead of patching existing systems, the core believe is that new “versions” of a system should be deployed instead. This avoids the feature-patch-dependency creep.
  4. Abstract where Possible: Being able to abstract specific components within an architecture helps avoid lock-in to a specific element, and eventually leads to more programmatic ways to interact with more parts of the system.

Terminology to Learn

Durable – “survives failure of its parts” – This aligns to Abstract where Possible. Elements will fail and this is expected, but the overall system should be durable enough to survive either HW or SW failures.

Declarative – “user of the abstraction declares the desired state, and the service providing that abstraction attempts to maintain the abstraction in that desired state.”  – This aligns to Infrastructure as Software and as Code. The owner of a system defines (in programmatic software) what it wants it to look like and how it should act. The system should be managed not to vary from this state or “promise”.

Immutable – “unchanging over time or unable to be changed” – This aligns to the idea of Avoiding the Patching elements of an applications, or the popular “Pets vs. Cattle” notion of managed resources.

Ephemeral – “lasting for a very short time.” – This aligns to both the idea of Infrastructure as Software and Abstracting where possible. Some elements are only needed for short periods of time, or will only remain as long as a dependent element is in use. This is partially why people are beginning to like using containers, as they are designed like processes, to bringing them up or down is simple and fast.

Remotable – “is an interface that allows IPC (Inter Process Communications) among other things. As you may know, all apps (most of the time) run on their own process and cannot directly interact with apps running in other processes directly. One method you can use to create an intercation between is by using a IBinder. IBinder allows communication between those “remote” objects.

We discussed many of these topics on a recent The Cloudcast podcast –

November 16, 2015  10:04 AM

When Customers become Vendors

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
AWS, Cloud Foundry, Enterprise, GE, Netflix, Open source, twitter

Part of my world involves attending many, many technical events each year. Some of them are large vendor-sponsored shows, while others are small gatherings and meetups. For the most part, the lead speakers work for vendors and are highlighting some product or technology that they sell. It’s part of the model where companies with large R&D budgets develop technology, and products are purchased customers.

Source: AWS re:Invent 2015 - Keynote - Capital One

Source: AWS re:Invent 2015 – Keynote – Capital One

Over the past 12-18 months, the background of the speakers has begun to change. I’ve noticed that more speakers are coming from “customers” and they are either highlighting interesting business projects or software that they have developed.

It’s not unusual that customers would be on-stage with vendors at events, as vendors like to showcase “real life examples” of companies that use their product. But more times than not, these examples follow the standard IT model of deploying something new and saving some money for the business. What is unusual, or maybe I should say “becoming commonplace” are customer lead stories about actually transforming the business via technology. Complex problems that require new ways of thinking, and customers that have executive support to do things differently. Maybe they are using open-source software. Maybe they are using public cloud services. Maybe they went around IT and have integrated a SaaS offering into one of their commercial products. They are big problems, which require big ideals to solve them. The types of that would attract top-level engineers to be part of the solution.

Other customer stories talk about how they have solved a problem and are now contributing the associated software code back to an open source community. And this isn’t just NetFlix or Twitter, it’s banks and pharmaceutical companies and brick-and-mortar retailers and insurance companies and industrial giants. The types of companies that everyone likes to say are completely restricted from doing cool new things because of regulatory requirements.

So what does this mean? Why has this trend been happening for the last 12-18 at events around the world? Continued »

October 31, 2015  12:05 PM

Enterprise IT Vendors as Halloween Costumes

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
Cisco, Citrix, EMC, HP, Microsoft, NetApp, Oracle

halloweenIt’s that time of year again, when all the little ghosts and goblins come running up the yard and ringing the doorbell, looking for treats. Some costumes are obvious, while others require a little bit of explanation. Either way, they all make you think you need to give them some of your candy. Right there, in your face, wanting to know just how much of your candy bowl they’ll be able to take from you.

This got me thinking – what would some of the Enterprise IT vendors be dressing up as for Halloween this year? Let’s take a look:

Oracle – Iron Man

ironmanThis one is pretty easy. They are extremely well funded and have a strong set of powers. They obviously love being awash in red, with a glow of power around them. For many years, you hadn’t heard that much about them, but their recent cloud launches, just like the recent Iron Man movie franchise, have them in many people’s watch list.

They believe that you should give them most of your candy bowl, and they expect you to have at least that much saved for them in each of the coming years.

IBM – Donald Trumptrump

Always impeccably dressed and well spoken, IBM lets you know that their costume cost at least $1B, because they don’t engage in any public activities unless that threshold has been committed. Like mainframes, Trump’s core business has been in brick and mortar real-estate and other lasting assets. But sometimes they like to make a splash, by partnering with companies like Twitter or Apple, to create a new impression in existing markets – sort of like “The Apprentice”.  America isn’t quite sure if they believe in Trump, as polls have been down lately – sort of like IBM’s stock price.

Hewlett Packard (HP) – Centaur

centaurRecently split between HP Enterprise and HP Inc. (or should that be ‘HP Ink’?), they are still somewhat connected by the common HP name. HPE wants to be blazing new trails, firing arrows into new markets. HPI is a steady business, moving forward like a plow horse dragging lines through a field to plant crops in the springtime. Do they co-exist, or so their separate ways. And can a centaur exist independently, without the other half?

Cisco – Batman

batmanWealthy and powerful like IronMan/Oracle, but often takes on the mild mannered appearance of their leader (John Chambers or Chuck Robbins). And like the recently plethora of movies made about Batman, Cisco has attempted to show the world different views of their existence – networking company, collaboration company, consumer company, Internet of Everything company. They’ll be watching your candy bowl, whether you know it or not.

Continued »

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 »

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