From Silos to Services: Cloud Computing for the Enterprise

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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.

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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 »

July 19, 2015  10:42 AM

A Year of Living DevOps’y

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
Cloud Computing, Development, DevOps, Open source

blue devops_4A 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)

  1. 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.
  2. [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 »

July 18, 2015  5:00 PM

The Re-Birth of the Clouderati

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
Cloud Computing, twitter

twitter-birdsWhen 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 »

June 25, 2015  5:43 PM

A Year of Living Open-ly

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
Cisco, Docker, Open source, OpenStack, SIP

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 »

June 24, 2015  8:29 PM

Does (Business) Management Care about DevOps?

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

[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]

Screen-Shot-2015-03-05-at-4.42.44-PM-370x290A 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 »

June 21, 2015  1:44 PM

On Father’s Day and Career Paths

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

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 »

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