From Silos to Services: Cloud Computing for the Enterprise

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December 23, 2015  9:17 PM

Applying 2015 Life Lessons to IT Planning

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
Compliance, DevOps

For me personally, 2015 was a VERY INTERESTING year in lots of ways. As I take a little time off, I started wondering if there was anything I learned from my personal life that could be applied to the technology world.


We lost some family members in late 2014 and as a result I was asked to take over some legal and financial responsibility for the remaining family members. I use the word “family” loosely, because this was family that was several levels removed and we had different last names. When I agreed to this responsibility, I thought I had reviewed the associated paperwork (wills, trusts, policies) properly. And then I got the opportunity to put my thoroughness into action by having to go to battle with multiple law firms, insurance companies and government agencies. While I was fully capable of executing the necessary actions, we quickly learned that the execution path was much more complicated than the original paper trail would have suggested. LESSON LEARNED – Lots of people will tell you that the “Recovery” part of Backup and Recovery is the most important aspect. I’d also throw in that simply testing recovery might not be enough. Test things like “person in charge of encryption keys has left the company” or “our company went through a merger recently and wants to change the naming scheme for internal systems“. Did your recovery model hold up to those semi-technical issues as well as the heavily-technical aspects?


We decided to renovate portions of our house. In today’s world of Houzz, 24×7 DIY shows on TV and Angie’s List, it could be very easy to believe that anyone with basic organizational skills or the ability to click on pictures could produce a beautiful new kitchen or sunroom. Just use the on-demand services that are available on the Internet. What could possible go wrong? LESSON LEARNED – The world is becoming enamoured with DevOps and Agile development and things like “infrastructure is a commodity”, but many DevOps teams are still small (see Slide: 37) and co-located in one main location. Once many groups gets involved in building new technologies and services, communications and documentation of standards becomes even more critical. CI/CD and Cloud-Native App platforms help with this, but don’t underestimate the need for great people both in planning and building the foundational infrastructure.


Throughout 2013 and 2014, I found myself frequently needing to borrow large vehicles to be able to move or haul “stuff” (firewood, furniture, building materials, etc.). While I had friends that would allow me to borrow their vehicles, it became a time consuming and often complicated engagement. So in 2015 I bought myself a pickup truck. It’s an older model (1994, F150), but it runs consistently and does the “heavy lifting” and “dirty jobs”. No bells or whistles needed. LESSON LEARNED – While the industry is often caught up in the latest trends and fads, there will always been a need to have equipment do the ugly work. Maybe it’s batch processing or security monitoring or just structured cabling. Whatever it is, it’s OK to make basic investments that are specific to those types of needs. They don’t get any headlines, but they cover the necessities of the business.

December 12, 2015  12:51 PM

10 Important Container Areas to Watch

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
AppDynamics, AWS, Azure, CoreOS, EMC, Google, IBM, Kubernetes

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 9.45.59 AM

[1] Docker’s “Batteries Included But Removable” Strategy  Before there was Docker, there was dotCloud. dotCloud was a PaaS company. Eventually they decided to separate out the technology that made setting up containers easy, and Docker was born. But that team knows how to integrate all the other elements needed to build a platform (networking, storage, scheduling, security, etc.) and have been adding those elements piece-by-piece into the Docker, Inc. portfolio. But instead of making them into a monolithic piece of software, they are making them modular and removable (or interchangeable) with 3rd-party extensions that integrate with Docker’s APIs. This is a similar approach to what VMware did in the past with vCenter plugins and APIs like VAAI. It will be interesting to watch how the market adopts the native Docker elements (Docker Networking, Swarm, etc.) vs. 3rd-party extensions.

[2] VMware’s Container Strategy – As Docker grew in popularity, many “Docker is a VMware killer” headlines were written. While VMs and Containers serve different functions and are mostly used by different groups (Ops vs. Devs), the narrative was out there. But VMware came back strong in 2015 with their VMware Integrated Containers strategy and products (some commercial, some open-source). VMware is quickly evolving to understand containers, open-source and the needs of developers.

[3] Microsoft’s Container Strategy – Microsoft and Docker have had an evolving relationship throughout 2015, and Microsoft has continued to add container-centric functionality to both Windows Server and Azure throughout the year. As they become more OS agnostic, Microsoft has the ability to rekindle their relationships with new and previous developer and ISV groups.

[4] Container Networking – While Docker solidified their networking stack in 2015 with the acquisition of Socketplane, 3rd-party companies such as WeaveWorks have built excellent native-container networking stacks that are being used by many Enterprises and Service Providers. And with the libnetwork functionality, Project Calico and Docker Networking APIs, additional 3rd-party companies can integrate networking.

[5] Container Storage – Initially, the thinking around container storage was that either a file-system was sufficient (e.g. NFS, BTRFS, etc.) or it would be stateless and the data would be kept in non-container locations (e.g. bare-metal or a VM). But as 2015 evolved, companies and projects like ClusterHQ (Flocker), Portworx, Rancher Persistent Storage Services and EMC REX-Ray emerged to offer persistent storage that was deeply integrate with container environments. Docker also extended their Storage API. Continued »

December 10, 2015  10:36 PM

10 Biggest Cloud Stories of 2015

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely
AWS, Azure, Cisco, Cloud Computing, Dell, Docker, EMC, GE, HP, HPE, IBM, iot, Microsoft, Open source, Oracle, Pivotal, Public Cloud, VMware

downloadIt was a busy year in Cloud Computing. It was the year that Public Cloud really showed the market how fast it could grow, and how badly it could fail. It was also the year that existing Enterprise companies had to made big bets to determine if or how they will compete moving forward.

So in no particular order, here are my Top 10 Cloud Computing stories of 2015:

  1. Amazon announces Earnings and Growth Rates – For the first time, Amazon broke out their AWS earnings. Nearly $8B in revenues, 80% YoY growth and 20-25% operating margins. This sent shockwaves through the industry, especially for competitors that called AWS a “commodity cloud” and expected it to have margins similar to retail business.
  2. Dell acquires EMC/VMware – While the deal isn’t officially finalized yet (awaiting the 60-day go-shop clause to expire), but the $65B price-tag and moving both companies private had many people scratching their heads. There are still financial questions to answer investors, but the $80B combined company will be a powerhouse in Enterprise IT, unless this deal is a sign that the public cloud is really destructive to legacy IT.
  3. Microsoft supports Docker, Mesosphere – Microsoft made a ton of announcements in 2015 that reflected the new thinking in Redmond, but supporting Docker and Mesosphere (both in Windows and Azure) showed the industry that they were serious about attracting developers and new applications again.
  4. VMware announces Container strategy – For many people, Docker was supposed to be a VMware killer. Instead, VMware embraced the container technology and laid out a strategy (VMware Integrated Containers; Project Photon) to show Enterprise customers a path for using both VMs and Containers.
  5. Rackspace supports other Public Clouds – When OpenStack was being created, Rackspace was a major contributor and hoped to compete with AWS in the public cloud. Rackspace has now altered their previous strategy and is now offering “Fanatical Support” for both AWS and Azure.
  6. HP cancels HP Helion Public Cloud – HP was in the Public Cloud business, then they were out, then back in again, and finally they shut down operations of their HP Helion Public Cloud offering. A core part of their Hybrid Cloud strategy, HPE is now shifting the Public Cloud portion to either be AWS or Azure, or partnering with HPE-powered Service Providers.
  7. EMC acquires Virtustream for $1.2B – Even with VMware vCloud Air in the EMC Federation, EMC decided that it needed a more Enterprise-focused offering, so they acquired Virtustream, one of the leaders in that area. EMC has since announced that Virtustream will merge together with vCloud Air and be run in a single organization reporting to Rodney Rogers.
  8. IoT Strategies begin to form – AWS, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, GE, Oracle, Pivotal, IBM, SAP and many others laid out their IoT strategies and began to roll out commercial services. It’s still early days for IoT, but the frameworks for global platforms are starting to get created.
  9. Oracle announces Cloud strategy – At Oracle OpenWorld 2015, Oracle laid out their SaaS, PaaS and IaaS strategy, as well as a number of available services. Details are still emerging in many areas, but like Microsoft, Oracle has a massive installed base of customers and applications to help transition to their cloud.
  10. Open Source Software  All of the major Cloud provider not only build their services on open source software, but in many cases are now contributing back to large projects. Microsoft made major contributions. Apple made a late-year push, as did legacy vendors Cisco, HP, EMC and VMware.

What major stories did we miss for 2015 that were game changers for you?

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 »

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