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April 2010

Stack Wars

Thursday, April 22, 2010 Category : , , , , , , 0

Stephen Foskett (http://blog.fosketts.net/ @SFoskett) has started a series over at GestaltIT on the Stack Wars topic. Stephen reached out to a few people in the blog space to see what they thought. I thought his questions were really interesting so gave it some thought (okay it was only enough thought that could be done on a bus trip to work).

To the questions.

Why is this happening?

I think a number of factors have lead to the "stack" or the return to the mainframe model.

One of these is virtualisation. Virtualisation has in many ways collapsed the different components of compute, networking and storage into a blob where differences in each individual layer are diminished. The layers are abstracted away through the hardware independence and it starts to make sense to obtain an entire "virtualisation" machine rather than build it from scratch each time.

Likewise the continue performance improvements means that these more generic solutions can solve a might greater scope of workload than ever before. Certainly the advancement in hardware processing capacity has outpaced softwares ability to consume it.

The second element is the change in behaviour of the vendors. The vendors are much more willing to get in front and sell to end users these days. Even those vendors who are so channel focused do this. I remember 10 years ago in the integration space; it was only the top of town that could get a sales person or a system engineer from a vendor to visit and flaunt their wares. These days, if you are a fish and chip shop you could probably get a vendor to turn up for a presentation and a proof of concept.

However the vendors are realising what the system integrators learnt a long time ago, there is money to be made by combining all the parts and providing a whole solution. Plus the cost of sale can drop if you can have a few packages that fit most sales, rather than doing everything as customised solutions.

The vendors have realised that by using virtualisation and stacks they can make larger sales whilst reducing their cost of sales whilst targeting an increase number of opportunities.

Is this good for end-users?

It is probably a little early to see how the benefits for end users will pan out. If we learn from history the mainframe era certainly had its drawbacks for many organisations towards the end.

There are certainly some up sides for the end users. Improved levels of support and integration can't be bad. Certainly lower costs by removing lots of customised design work and through economies of scale is going to be a benefit.

But there will be drawbacks too. I don't think anyone has been thinking or talking about the lifecycle of these stacks. Will you have to replace the entire stack each time at end of life to keep your support? What if you are happy with your compute and storage but have brought in a new networking fabric that is much faster, do you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Where are IBM and Dell?

My hunch is that IBM and especially Dell are in the wings waiting to see how things pan out. Let the early adopters play and make the market, see where the success and failures are. Once they have learned from all of their mistakes they can swing in bringing in their existing value propositions. They don't want to leave it very long but we are still in the incubation period for the stacks.

I think Dell is the one to watch here rather than IBM. After all they have been essentially doing this today in the lower end of town. They have the parts to bring it together and they can suck the bottom tier right out of the market from under everyone else.

Of course HP is the other one to watch very carefully, especially now that 3Com is on board.

What about the smaller players?

If the stacks take off the smaller players are going to continue to do what they have always done, value add. Many elements of technology have turned to commodity. Remember the days when you would always pay people to come in and do Exchange deployments. Remember how hard it was to maintain Unified Communications solutions. Over time the technologies became utility enough that organisations could do these themselves.

Smaller players, whether they be systems integrators or vendors will continue to find those niche requirements and the hard projects or problems that will always be around. Our consumption of technology is growing not shrinking, the small players will continue to deliver and support the early adoption technologies.

What does this do to innovation?

Many people in IT need to understand that we are in a young industry which is starting to mature. A lot of stuff really is going to become utility and standardised, thats the way industries evolve. Yet innovation still continues in mature industries.

What about cloud?

Bingo, we can't talk about anything with mentioning Cloud. Are the stacks the vendors means of abating the move of all of the revenue to a handful of global cloud providers. Build an internal Cloud with our stack please so we can keep making some money off you.

I see the stacks working well with the Cloud, certainly the IaaS and PaaS based ones. Improved standards adoption will allow the federation and creation of meta Clouds. So there is still a place for internal work loads (there is some good thinking on this that uses the commercial property market or food production analogies).

What I DO predict we will see is the vendors offering the stacks to Enterprises is Cloud based service models for internal use. How do people consume photocopiers and printers today, they pay per page. The vendor puts in the equipment, maintains it and supplies it, you just pay for what you use. In the future we are going to see this model start to appear more in IT, once you have a utility stack, this can successfully be achieved for the vendor and the Enterprise. By the way virtualisation is the key enabler here, abstracting away all the hardware from the workloads.

Is this the ultimate form of IT infrastructure?

The word "ultimate" makes it sound like the most amazing. No, I don't think its going to be the ultimate. I think the stacks might become the boring utilities they they are meant to be. A standardised, reliable, cost effective computing block thats does what it is tasked to do, no more and no less. Its the IT version of the multi-function photocopier. Roll them in and roll them out. The stacks are more about an operational model than speeds, feeds, dials and knobs.

Well there you have it, thats enough for me to come up with on a bus trip. Be keen to hear your thoughts, post in the comments.



Saturday, April 17, 2010 Category : 1

My word of the day yesterday was "Cloudwashing".

Cloudwashing is "simply last year’s technology in new clothing". Take something old or existing and just label it Cloud! How often are you seeing that. Some aged managed service now turned into a Cloud Service.

Its hard to verify but it looks like the phrase started with James Staten from Forester Research.

In the TechWorld article Maxwell Cooter wrote
Forrester analyst James Staten said that vendors' statements about cloud had contributed to the confusion with companies using the term indiscriminately. " We call it ‘cloudwashing'" he said. Staten said that Forrester had tried to distinguish between genuine cloud services and those pres-existing services that had been ‘cloudwashed'. "A true cloud service has two features: does it include an element of self-service provisioning and does it include ‘pay-per-use'. Many vendors claim to offer cloud services but their offerings only contain one of these elements," he said.

The paradox for Staten that such attempts by vendors to rebadged their services is not playing well with their target market - the large enterprises. "Enterprise customers are not attracted by this re-labelling To my mind it's like a well-known folk singer striking out in a new direction and doing hip-hop - no matter how well he does it, it's not what he was known for and it's not going to appeal to his target audience."

There companies who have grasped the nature of cloud computing said Staten and are offering genuine cloud services. He said Amazon was one as was Savvis, a company that quickly realised that companies wanted a cloud just for them and have gone after the high-end hosting market.

But Staten pointed out that cloud computing could have fundamental changes in the way that companies do business. "What cloud computing has created, said Staten, is a new opportunity for enterprises to work in a different way. "It's way too easy for business unit developers to by-pass their own IT departments and go straight to Amazon. And as long as the IT department is more expensive and less responsive that's what they'll do".
Now we all have a new game to play. When you hear someone washing their existing service and selling it as Cloud, call it out, yell "Cloudwashing!" and for emphasis extent your arm and point whilst you do it.

Of course the current game is Cloud Bingo. You yell Bingo in a meeting or presentation the first time someone mentions Cloud.


vCloud API support please

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 Category : , 5

Its time for the vendors to start considering their support for the vCloud API. Let me give you some thoughts and background on such a statement.

Why do I say this? Well today you have the vSphere API that many vendors are using to integrate and automate many functions when it comes to enhancing VMware functionality. In particular areas such as deployment, backup and replication.

Vendors such as Veeam, Vizioncore, DoubleTake, BMC, Altiris (and many others the list would be long) perform actions through using the well understood VMware APIs. However we know that in the future, and hopefully thats a near term concept, the idea of performing these actions on a local VMware implementation only is going to be limiting.

Tomorrow, organisations are going to want to perform all of the operations they do with these applications with the Cloud, and that Cloud is not going to accept or integrate with those existing API standards. Instead the vCloud API is the mechanism to control external environments outside your organisation. Eventually it may also be the means of manipulating your internal systems as well, your Internal Cloud, or the Community Cloud you have built with other partners.

Lets take replication (closely related to backup) as an example. Organisations will want to deploy a replication destination appliance in the Cloud. Rather than replicating to their own second site, hey now replicate to this appliance within Cloud. Now that its in the Cloud the storage required can be consumed in an elastic, opex manner, capacity planning is all taken care of for you and you are not paying to have the computer power sitting there just incase you need it. DR to the Cloud.

However when you want to recover a machine for a test or for a real recovery scenario all you want to do is click the button in the software and it talks to your cloud provider backend, creating and deploying machines on the fly. Could not be simpler. But remember the Cloud does not support the vSphere API, thats all hidden and under the control of the Cloud provider. If you, the customer, want to manipulate the cloud you need to use the vCloud API, and thats why your software vendor needs to have support for it.

This is more important for the application or OS deployment tools. What destination do you want me to deploy that new server image and application stack to? Do you want it on your internal vSphere environment, then thats the vSphere APIs. Opps not enough internal capacity or the economies for this profile work better in the Cloud, off and deploy it to my federated Cloud, thats the vCloud APIs.

Of course this is a burden on the third part vendors to support another API but much of the operations will be similar. The engineering won't be trivial but there are good parallels between the two sets of operations in each API set.

Will we see the two sets of APIs merge? I don't think so in the short term, there will always be more feature and function that would be available when you control the infrastructure down to the hypervisor layer, even if its your own internal cloud. However over time you could see either more compatibility or merging of the APIs.

I hope VMware are talking to the vendors about this and giving them a good roadmap on future API integration. I also hope more important for the shorter term that that software vendors are looking at the large opportunity this can bring for additional uses and wider adoption of their technology when it comes to integrating with the Cloud. Those early to market might just be able to make a good land grab for themselves.

From my conversations with organisations, they are keen to use the Cloud where its function and economies fit, and they are going to be looking to their software vendors for good support and automaton.

Keen to hear peoples thoughts on this, so post in the comments.


VMware TV Cloud Channel

Thursday, April 08, 2010 Category : , 0

Did you know that VMware have a Channel on YouTube? Its at http://www.youtube.com/user/vmwaretv

There is a dedicated vCloud section where there are some new videos up. You can go straight to this section via this link.

Check out this one by the man himself.

Looks like a few older videos are being loaded. Lets hope some great one start to appear over time.


P.S. Of course if I notice any really sweet ones, I will do a post here, your source of all things sweet on VMware and vCloud.

Mike DiPetrillo from VMware talks Cloud

Wednesday, April 07, 2010 Category : , 2

Last week Mike DiPetrillo (@mikedipetrillo / http://www.mikedipetrillo.com/) finally came out from hiding. Mike is a veteran at VMware, being one of its early employees and one of the early people at VMware to adopt social media and blogging. Of late though Mike looks to have been missing in action. Well Mike has come out from hiding, a bit anyway.

As the Global Cloud Service Architect for VMware Mike has been head down working on VMware's vCloud initiatives. Its a huge task and involves leading a growing team of Cloud pre-sales Architects around the world. Recently Mike sat in on the VMTN Community Roundtable with John Troyer and discussed many aspects of Cloud (listen).

I managed to catch up with Mike to discuss many topics around Cloud. The things we covered were :
  • How VMware define Cloud and Mikes personal definition.
  • The transition of traditional applications which are placed into the Cloud (Applications In the Cloud / AIC) and the new range of applications being built for the Cloud (Applications For the Cloud / AFC).
  • What VMware are doing in assisting people with the building new style applications.
  • The different skills and focus required when architecting Cloud environments.
  • Some examples of the concepts or pitfalls organisations need to be aware of as they start to thing about building or moving to Cloud environments.
  • Lastly Mike discusses the feature of VMware that he thinks is just way cool, after all he has been working with virtualization for longer than most of us. Also Mike reveals how ESX got its name. Do you know what the three letters stand for?
I hope you enjoy the discussion. A big thank you to Mike who was gracious enough to take the time and sit down to share his thoughts and insights. A true gentleman.

Here is the video (embeded below).

Lets hope that Mike gets more time to return to the blogging scene and share more of his thinking.


P.S. Those vCloud Architects I mentioned are starting to write some blog posts of their own, you can read these at http://blogs.vmware.com/vcloud/ and I was also urge you to keep up with the writings of Steve Jin (@sjin2008) from VMware at http://www.doublecloud.org/ who writes from the application space view of Cloud.

Interview with authors of Foundations for Cloud Computing

Tuesday, April 06, 2010 Category : , 0

Last week I ran into two of the authors for the new book "Foundations for Cloud Computing with VMware vSphere 4" which is published by USENIX.

John Arrasjid (@vcdx001) and Steve Kaplan (@roidude / http://www.bythebell.com/) were kind enough to give me a quick interview (video embeded below).

We discuss the reasons behind the book, who wrote which bits, the copies sold and what might be coming next.

I have read through most of the book (which is now nicely autographed). Its a good primer on all of the elements in vSphere that enable you to use it as a basis for Cloud computing. However, as John points out in the interview, it does not cover building a Cloud with VMware. If you are thinking of buying the book in order to understand the ways and means of building a Cloud based on VMware, you will be left short.

It was great to bump into John and Steve and thanks to them for being great sports and doing the interview on the fly.


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