Modern Infrastructure Trackbacks

November 27, 2012  2:47 PM

Learning from the mistakes of others

Laura Aberle Laura Aberle Profile: Laura Aberle

Mistakes abound when new technology and new processes are introduced—which is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, trial-and-error can be the best way to make progress in unfamiliar territory.

But it’s a little tougher to adopt a bold attitude toward risk when $5 million is at stake, as Steve Gunderson illustrates in this month’s From the Front Lines on the high price of designing a data center without investing in sufficient expertise. The company in question tried something new, but they cut the wrong corners and ended up paying for their self-reliance.

This month’s Modern Infrastructure is all about balancing on the knife’s edge between, in the words of our editor-in-chief, “forward-looking and foolish.” Planning the data centers of the future requires just such a balance, between useful innovation and costly oversights. In your data center design projects, when do you forge ahead, and when do you take a step back and ask the experts?

Read the entire issue of Modern Infrastructure (free registration required).

November 7, 2012  8:59 AM

Could cloud put time on your side?

Laura Aberle Laura Aberle Profile: Laura Aberle

So cloud has a disruptive effect on job security (whether that’s good or bad, we’ll have to wait and see) but what about job satisfaction? Does the cloud have the potential to take the traditional hassles out of IT and free up time for more “fulfilling” work?

That’s happened for at least one organization. According to Michael Mullarkey, CEO of Brickfish, a social media marketing software provider, adopting the cloud has changed the time distribution in the company’s IT department. “We don’t have three people running around here looking at the VMs,” he told While they started with three, since moving their production workloads and all of their accounting, email and customer service systems to the cloud, they now only have “half of one person’s time dedicated to the traditional IT responsibilities.” Instead of resulting in job loss, the switch to cloud allowed the other two members of the IT staff to go back to development.

The Boston Globe recently ran an article on the “time famine” that Americans are suffering, and that plenty of IT professionals experience at some point in their career—it relates to the feeling of being too busy, without necessarily accomplishing anything worthwhile. The flipside is a growing desire for “time affluence,” or a deeper sense of satisfaction with the amount of time we’re given (since time, after all, is not a resource we can grow).

Like Mullarkey, other advocates of cloud computing tout its time-saving benefits. This article describes how PaaS adoption can allow developers to “build and deploy applications without having to worry about anything else.” That worry-free feeling resonates with one of the conclusions drawn in the Globe article: the key to satisfaction isn’t saving time so that we can relax and put our feet up—it’s simply not feeling like we’ve wasted time. And when excessive administrative tasks impede projects that could move business or innovation forward, that can feel like a big waste.

But the PaaS example, like the Brickfish situation, suggests that the number of available positions in traditional operations may shrink. As cloud infrastructures take hold, the change may allow IT pros to shift their focus to more gratifying, business-boosting initiatives—but it could leave others with the hassle of scrambling for a new job.

November 5, 2012  7:43 AM

What’s in a name?

Stephen Bigelow Stephen Bigelow Profile: Stephen Bigelow

W. C. Fields said, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” I can’t think of a single sentiment that better captures the state of the IT industry today.

As each new technological development adds unique terms and definitions to the IT lexicon, both techies and business-types have struggled to divine their meaning for the enterprise. Just consider the importance of terms like server, Ethernet, storage area network, or flash memory. We need terms and definitions to understand the nature and capabilities of available IT products. But as the pace of technological development accelerates, there is also a growing confusion and uncertainty behind today’s IT vernacular.

I blame vendors.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re all vendors somewhere in the business chain, but it seems like the very IT vendors that we depend upon most to help navigate the future of our capital-intensive data centers–in fact, our very businesses–are going out of their way to obscure capabilities and seize upon new terms as PR tools. You just can’t be 100% sure what you’re buying.

Consider converged infrastructure; the idea of purchasing, deploying, and servicing pre-packaged and pre-integrated servers, storage, and networking from a single vendor. HP calls this “converged infrastructure.” Cisco calls this a “unified computing system” or UCS. Other vendors use other terms, but to this day, I still have no idea what I should call this type of technology other than just splitting the difference and calling it “integrated infrastructure,” which seems to be just vendor-neutral enough for us to discuss it without unduly favoring one vendor over another.

There are many other examples of great technological ideas that are simply lost in the marketing noise, but the bottom line is simply this: embrace new terms carefully and with trepidation. Chances are that the product you’re considering won’t do everything that those fancy new terms imply (but the vendor will never tell you that). More than ever, it’s critical to budget the time for comprehensive due diligence and proof-of-principle projects BEFORE you budget the capital to make the purchase.

November 1, 2012  8:54 AM

Keeping a solid job in an abstract world

Laura Aberle Laura Aberle Profile: Laura Aberle

Against a backdrop of slow jobs growth and the acceleration of cloud computing, it’s tough to shake the long-standing fear that IT jobs may vanish into the ether.

A meeting with the design department in How a Book is Made, by Aliki

I’ve experienced a similar worry: before working with online content, I started out in print book publishing. I also still have a storybook from my childhood, How a Book is Made, about a bunch of cats (I presume in a glamorous Manhattan office) meticulously laying out pages, copyediting with a red pen on paper and rushing hard copies to the manufacturer. Because of outsourcing, digital publishing and print-on-demand technology, those cats would be out of a job today—unless they let go of paper and learned how to design their book’s interior so that it looked (almost) as good on a Kindle Fire.


Cloud is changing the IT landscape in a similar way—so much so that the most vital skill for keeping your job seems to be adaptability.

Eighty-six percent of respondents to TechTarget’s 2012 IT Priorities Survey considered cloud projects a strong priority in 2012, and according to research from IDC, cloud computing is estimated to create 14 million jobs by 2015—but the real question is, will those jobs be in IT?

The worry, explained well in this recent article, is that companies will use any cloud-generated savings for business initiatives and end up hiring sales and marketing professionals rather than growing their IT department. The geographical location of the jobs is another consideration—14 million isn’t a huge number when spread across the globe, with 2 million jobs cropping up in India alone, and possibly only 1.1 million in the U.S.

However, adapting your skills and gaining an understanding of cloud architecture and business planning could be the key to keeping a position in IT. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” said Alex Barrett in this month’s MI cover story on cloud computing

The cloud is sticking around, so in order to remain part of the work force, IT pros may need to shift from hands-on work with servers and hardware to more conceptual tasks related to planning, management and cloud architecture.

And there are areas that should be affected in a particularly positive way by the movement to cloud computing. For example, new concerns related to compliance, audits and hackers open windows for security professionals looking to hold onto or grab positions.

Although our work is increasingly abstract and globalized, services still need to be delivered, and there are jobs to be found for those willing to continually adapt.

My Kindle may be gathering dust in the corner, but I can’t deny the unstoppable cost-savings and accessibility of e-books and online publishing. In the end, we’re still reading today and will be tomorrow—it’s just the paper and the paper-pushers that have transformed.

October 31, 2012  7:00 AM

Decomposing desktops are a scary thought for IT

ccignoli ccignoli Profile: ccignoli

In Steve Herrod’s keynote at this year’s VMworld conference, he referred to “decomposing desktops”—which I could only picture as a rotting stack of old PCs and Apple Macintosh Pluses in a graveyard somewhere. (Yes, I’ve got Halloween on the brain.)

However, I think what Herrod meant was that IT is looking at desktops differently these days. In some ways, they’re being virtually broken down into their disparate parts, as users access information quite differently than in the past.

But desktop PCs are certainly not corpses, according to news director Bridget Botelho. She writes in the first issue of Modern Infrastructure that despite the hype, VDI still hasn’t delivered on its promise of a full desktop experience. And that leaves IT pros continuing to depend heavily on those stalwart desktop PCs. Will VDI ever make it to prime time? Let us know what you think.

October 22, 2012  2:53 PM

Add Hype Translation to Your Résumé

Lauren Horwitz Lauren Horwitz Profile: Lauren Horwitz

When you joined your IT department, little did you know that part of your role would involve hype translation.

But you are the key line of defense between vendors’ overblown claims and your company’s dollars. You often provide the reality check on what vendors have promised and what a technology can really do.

In the first installment of Modern Infrastructure’s Countdown column, we take a look at some recent vendor claims that you may or may not have caught and their implications for technology. Take a look–just in case your business executives believe that Oracle can provide “easy, predictable pricing” or that the new Windows 8 interface requires no end-user adjustment.

October 22, 2012  2:49 PM

AWS, OpenStack and CloudStack: The cloud API war is on

Lauren Horwitz Lauren Horwitz Profile: Lauren Horwitz

Cloud application programming interfaces (APIs) might seem more boring than controversial, but as cloud platforms become more sophisticated, the cloud API war is on.

Cloud APIs give developers programmatic access to services, such as storing data, updating a database or provisioning a server. But making these services work hinges on there being similar code between the source and the destination for data and applications. If they differ, enter interoperability and portability concerns. And this is where the vendor battle for the hearts and minds of end users has emerged: At one side of the ring, there is Amazon Web Services’ cloud API, which is becoming the de facto standard. Companies like Citrix Systems and Eucalyptus make private cloud products that are compatible with AWS. On the other side of the ring is OpenStack, which held early allure and may still come out on top. It is championed by companies like Rackspace and Cisco Systems. The upcoming OpenStack Summit 2012 may give the standard some traction as well.

While this might seem like a trivial detail–I have a list of such things that I don’t really care about–if you’re a cloud architect or IT manager with vested infrastructure interests in the cloud, you should care. Why? Because the platform choices you make could be incompatible with one another.

Randy Bias — the co-founder and chief technology officer of Cloudscaling, an open source cloud infrastructure provider –recently discussed the impact of this standards war among cloud providers and how today’s patchwork will ultimately give way to a more uniform cloud universe. To find out more about Bias’s view on which standard the industry will ultimately choose, check out our inaugural issue of Modern Infrastructure.

October 22, 2012  2:41 PM

Passion projects

ccignoli ccignoli Profile: ccignoli

I love it when work and life intersect–when what people are passionate about is also how they make their living. One of my favorite aspects of VMworld 2012 was seeing that passion from many of the thousands of attendees at the show. It was evident in the serious cheering when VMware’s outgoing CEO Paul Maritz announced the end of the vRAM licensing scheme, and in the laughter at VMware execs’ tongue-in-cheek references to Microsoft and Apple. Those audience members were among friends and peers, united by their common interest: understanding the technology of our virtual world.
I liked witnessing our judges’ deliberations for the annual VMworld awards, too. They’re all smart and knowledgeable, and they can see how new technologies have the potential to shake up the market. One judge was so excited by the possibilities of a new blade offering that he said he wanted to take it home and give it a try–and his fellow judges couldn’t have agreed more.
That’s how I feel about putting together our new magazine, Modern Infrastructure, choosing the stories and topics that capture that knowledge and passion. You’ll find it in our first issue, in Beth Pariseau’s VMworld wrapup and in our features and columns. Our editors and contributors are passionate about uncovering all sides of a story–like Bridget Botelho’s look at virtual desktop infrastructure and Alex Barrett’s analysis of why IT departments are lagging behind in cloud computing. Our columnists are IT pros looking for the next big thing, or exploring how those next big things are actually working in data centers. We’re excited to bring you a new magazine. What are you excited about right now? Leave a comment or write to to let us know your thoughts.

August 31, 2012  5:24 PM

SDN as a first-class citizen in the data center

Lauren Horwitz Lauren Horwitz Profile: Lauren Horwitz

It’s no accident that when we began thinking about launching a magazine, we decided to launch it at VMworld 2012. The show mirrors the trends and technologies that we see as so paramount to highlight in MI—really, the convergence of cloud computing, virtualization and mobile device technologies that are transforming traditional data centers.

And this year’s themes only corroborated our suspicions about the prevailing enterprise IT concerns. As we noted in our VMworld 2012 coverage, issues like the software-defined data center, virtualized storage and better management capabilities have moved front and center this year. In the day one general session, VMware CTO Steve Herrod noted that networking and storage should be “first-tier citizens of the data center” rather than second-class citizens –presumably standing in the way of a fully virtualized, clouditized environment. To that end, all infrastructure resources in vCloud 5.1 is abstracted, and the idea is that enterprises can create their own virtual data centers with a logically isolated collection of virtual compute, storage, networking and security resources.

Attendees see these new virtualized areas as substantive progress, even if they remain wary about fully virtualized data centers or true hybrid cloud environments. “The focus on SDN says to me that [VMware] wants to eliminate the hurdles to considering cloud –and that’s a good thing,” said an IT architect for a financial services company in the New York area.

August 28, 2012  8:50 PM

The elephant not in the room

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

This is my first blog post as Editor-in-Chief of the upcoming Modern Infrastructure e-zine, filed to you directly from VMworld 2012 in San Francisco.

On my way to breakfast this morning, I grabbed a complimentary paper copy of the New York Times (I know, how quaint…). Page one featured a glowing story about Amazon Web Services, whose goal is to give “anyone on the planet an almost unimaginable amount of computing power,” the paper giddily reported.

Judging from the show floor, VMworld’s 23,000 attendees and 250-plus vendors haven’t read the article, or at least, don’t seem to think it applies to them. There, every IT vendor on the planet except Amazon (which is not surprisingly, not exhibiting) is busy regaling eager attendees with demos of their latest “engineered systems,” private cloud management stacks, flash arrays and backup software. These are all products predicated on robust in-house data centers teeming with dedicated infrastructure – but is that really the way things are headed?

VMware has built out an amazing technology and ecosystem, but let’s face it, the conversation has moved on. It’s AWS, not VMware, that has captured the hearts and minds of developers and startup owners everywhere, and its dirt-cheap costs, global presence and plentiful add-on services are increasingly driving enterprise business owners to the platform.

That has tremendous implications for VMware and its users. While there’s an enormous amount of on-premise, non-cloud infrastructure out there that needs to be configured and maintained, that estate will dwindle over time as more and more workloads are born on or migrated to the cloud – and from this vantage point, it doesn’t look like that cloud will be based on VMware, said Sacha Labourey, CEO and founder at CloudBees, a Java PaaS startup.

Amazon is not only the leading cloud player today, the race isn’t even close. There is some desire for Amazon alternatives, but the depth of its services and the speed of innovation “are like a magnet” that draw more and more customers in its fold, said Labourey.

VMware’s cloud efforts like vCloud and Cloud Foundry, meanwhile, are perceived to be expensive and moribund, and the company is stymied by its existing revenues and partnerships from going all out on cloud.

VMware is stuck between remaining in the past as a software vendor, or moving forward and becoming a service provider, Labourey said. The former has a terrific revenue stream and lots of inertia, “but what’s next?” and the latter creates conflict with its partner ecosystem that is hard to swallow. “It’s a tough move to make.”

For now, VMware insists that it will stay the course, despite rumors that it will jump in to the IaaS market with Project Zephyr. Asked about Zephyr at a press conference yesterday, Bogomil Balkansky, VMware senior vice president for cloud infrastructure products, reiterated the company’s intention to remain a software vendor.

But while VMware hasn’t been able to pull the trigger quite yet, don’t think that change isn’t coming for IT.

“Fast forward ten years. If you need a new application, the first thing you do is look for a SaaS version. If there is one, you’re done,” said Labourey. “If not, you go to PaaS, and you’ve never once touched an IaaS layer,” he said, much less dedicated infrastructure.

That’s a sea change for IT – the bulk of VMware’s customers, and what VMworld is all about. If everything is being done in PaaS and SaaS, “you’re not building IT stacks anymore,” rendering much of what IT folks do on a day to day basis irrelevant.

“It’s going to be a few years before the tsunami really hits,” Labourey said, “but if you want to stay in IT, you should go work for a cloud provider, or learn how to code.”

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