Sunday, September 8, 2013

Listen to The Cloudcast

If you're interested in Cloud Computing I'd encourage you to listen to "The Cloudcast (.net)" podcast here, or go over to The Cloudcast website and get connected to the feeds via iTunes, Stitcher, Facebook, YouTube or RSS.

Thoughts from VMworld 2013

Before flying off to San Francisco last week, I made some notes about what I was looking forward to hearing at VMworld 2013. It has been a year since Pat Gelsinger took over as CEO, and having worked (indirectly) under him during my days at EMC, I knew that he had outstanding experience at driving change from within and building strong engineering foundations.

The big announcements coming out of VMworld 2013 were vCloud Hybrid Services (vCHS), NXS Network Virtualization Platform, and enhancements to vSphere 5.5 including the GA of VSAN (storage) functionality.

Many people saw these announcements and focused their initial analysis on how VMware was creating new competition with the likes of Amazon AWS (cloud), Cisco (networking) or the entire external storage industry (EMC/NetApp/HP/Dell/Nutanix/Simplivity/Tintri/etc.).

I saw things somewhat differently, thanks to a great conversation that I had with Rodrigo Flores (@RFFlores) during a dinner on Monday night. Rodrigo is one of the smartest and most pragmatic people in our industry, especially when it comes to the topic of how companies change with respect to the use of technology. During that conversation, we focused on how the major shifts (especially within an Enterprise) are often driven less by technology and much more so by removing user/usage friction and shifts in IT buying centers.

In everything I heard at VMworld, it dawned on me that VMware is poised to significantly change several buying centers within Enterprise/Government IT. They already own the most expensive portion of the Data Center (server virtualization and network-switching edge) and now they are attempting to leverage this to expand into application, network and storage buying centers.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Looking forward to VMworld 2013

It's that time of year again. Time for the industry's most influential infrastructure gathering, VMworld. And has become an annual occurrence, I jot down some pre-show thoughts about the event (2012, 2011).

Who is VMware in 2013?
While Pat Gelsinger was introduced at the 2012 VMworld as the new CEO, replacing Paul Maritz, the themes and strategy were still very much inline with Maritz's prior plans. Since then Gelsinger has narrowed the focus of the company, shed many products and begun putting his leadership team in place. So I'll be very interested to see how VMware gets presented this year. Gelsinger has not yet named a new CTO or CMO, so this year's event should very much be a representation of how he wants to present the company to the world.

VMware is definitely a company in transition. Server virtualization is a mature market. The role of the desktop is being impacted by smart, mobile devices and end-user expectations are rapidly changing. Open-source projects such as OpenStack and Hadoop are forcing existing VMware customers to rethink their longer term IT strategies, and the impact that public cloud has on the entire market is changing the economics of our industry.

In 2013, VMware is a virtualization company. VMware is a networking company. VMware is a storage company. VMware is a IT Operations Management company. VMware is a Cloud Service Provider. That's a wide net to cast into the marketplace, spanning across a variety of delivery and economic models. As I've heard a few VMware employees say, "we used to be Switzerland, but now we're Switzerland with a big artillery supply"

Software All the Things
Software-Defined Data Center. SDDC. OK, now that we have that out of the way, let's see if it actually means anything. I'm definitely seeing market demand for more and more technology to become "software-defined", whether that means a virtual-appliance form-factor, or better control via APIs, or plugins/packs/manifests/recipes for popular automation tools such as Chef, Puppet, Ansible, etc. What I'm curious to see is how VMware plans to architect the SDDC such that it can be viewed as a holistic Data Center, or even a holistic lifecycle manager for applications. We've seen lots of pieces, but this will be the opportunity to showcase if it's ready to move from pieces or "suites" to a more comprehensive delivery mechanism.

To me, the right story would go something like this:
  • Problem: IT is always faced with a balancing act between "go faster" and "spend less". In the past, "spent less" weighed more heavily, but that equation has changed and now "go faster" is the dominant need of the business.
  • Solution: Here is the holistic vision and execution of delivering "go faster" infrastructure that can be scaled, managed and monitored.
  • Solution: Here is the simplicity of how that "go faster" infrastructure can programmatically interface with application-deployment systems.

Networking - The New Frontier
Beyond Gelsinger's overall "State-of-VMware" message, the "Network Virtualization" (a.ka. "Nicira") announcements will be 1 or 1a, along with the vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) announcements. The OpenFlow-centric story from Nicira has changed quite a bit since the acquisition, with the focus now on "Network Virtualization" and how the network needs to evolve just like the server world did with ESX/vSphere. Right now the SDN market is still highly fragmented, but there is also some very interesting innovation happening as well. I'm interested to see if VMware takes an open, partner-enabling approach to the networking community (like they did with ESX/vCenter) or if they take a closed approach (like they did with vCloud Director). We've already seen integration with OpenStack and CloudStack, but it will also be interesting to hear how companies and customers can integrate with NSX (northbound and southbound). It will also be interesting to see how they bridge the open-source world of Nicira (Open vSwitch, OpenStack Neutron (formerly Quantum) with their existing vSwitch/ESX/vSphere/vCD technologies.

We Built a Cloud
The old rules said that vendors were vendors, channel partners were channel partners and service providers were service providers. But the game has changed and the old rules are not relevant anymore.

Cloud happens!

Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, Adobe, WebEx, Salesforce and many others offer their software via cloud services that they own and operate. VMware is the latest to join the game being played by these news rules. The challenge is balancing this new delivery and business model with partnerships and business models of the past. It's impossible to avoid all conflicts, so it will be interesting to watch how not only VMware positions vCloud Hybrid Services (vCHS), but also how the partner businesses react and adjust. This is a long-term bet by VMware. We know that Gelsinger has the stomach for this level of change as he's succeeded through previous market changes, but will the rest of the market wait while VMware learns to play in this new game?



[Full Disclosure: I am attending VMworld 2013 on a pass that was generously provided by VMware through their vExpert Bloggers program. I'm thankful to John Troyer (@jtroyer) and the team at VMware that continues to support that excellent program.]

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Changing Feel of VMware PEX

In my 20 years in the technology industry, I've found that there are three types of product/service strategy discussions that companies (vendors) have:
  1. "Our new product/tool will change the world." - Occasionally this happens, but more often that not it's just a feature that could be implemented on any existing platform.
  2. "Our new product delivers immediate value to customers and solves an existing (widespread) problem". Companies will typically pay money to solve problems, especially if it saves them money or unlocks a new market opportunity. Typically this creates a new market for the vendor. VMware ESX did this for many years. Consolidate servers, save money.
  3. "Our value is no longer distinct, so let's embed it into a suite/bundle with other things, and hopefully take a larger piece of the pie (customer's budget) that is currently allocated to somewhere else." 
I've had the privilege to attend many VMware events in the past 4-5 years (PEX, VMworld, VMUG, etc.), and the theme of those events always seemed to fall into the #1 or #2 buckets. It's what created such a passionate following for the products and the company. It created a very unique, "wow, if I do this, then something better happens" moment for many companies.

But this year's event was different. It had a #3 feel to it. Many of the themes that had been critical to VMware (VDI, virtualizing Mission-Critical Applications, etc.) were now buried within "suites". 

Overall, the value proposition to the customer was no longer obvious. Most notably by the VMware people that were presenting solutions like "vCloud Suite". The theme had shifted from "buy for value" to "buy for potential value, if we can unlock it". 

Here's an example. I sat through a "How to sell vCloud Suite" presentation, given by the Director of Product Management for vCloud (apologies, I didn't catch the presenter's name). The audience was VMware partners, primarily their go-to-market partners (VARs/SIs). After introducing the pieces of the vCloud Suite, his pitch went something like this (paraphrased):
  1. Great job selling vSphere. 30-40% of most applications are virtualized. Sometimes more.
  2. We're not going to call it "Cloud" anymore. It's now called "Software-Defined Data Center" (SDDC). vCloud used to be the answer to "how to get to Cloud?". vCloud is now the answer to "how to get to SDDC?".
  3. Getting to high-levels of virtualization was a CAPEX story. Inefficient hardware. Save customers hard costs. Getting to SDDC is an OPEX story. Inefficient people and processes. Save customers unknown/soft costs. 
  4. IT still isn't very efficient, mostly because storage and networking aren't virtualized and controlled (via VMware) like server virtualization. Get your customers to virtualize those things. (NOTE: How to do that is not covered in this presentation).
  5. Overall, IT still isn't operating very efficiently. Sell them vCOPs to figure out where there are more inefficiencies, like stranded VMs, poorly provisioned storage, poorly configured networks, etc.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Engineers Unplugged

Last summer, I was having lunch with my friend Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja) and we were discussing some ideas about how to better engage the Cloud Computing technology communities. As a whole, there is quite a bit of change happening in this space (technology, market dynamics, business models) and it can be difficult for people to keep up with all that's going on. I don't recall all the details of that lunch, but the central idea was that it would be interesting if we could capture the passion and insight that happens when technologists get together around a whiteboard and talk shop.

Another colleague, Simon Seagrave (@Kiwi_Si), did a nice interview with Amy about the program.



Needless to say, a few months later, Amy took her network connections and social media prowess and turned that initial idea into a very cool series of videos called "Engineers Unplugged". It's now moved into Season 2 and covers topics from Cloud Computing to Data Center design to Networking to Virtualization and everything in between. And more impressive than the technology breadth is the cast of ubergeeks that share their knowledge on the shows. I've been lucky enough to be on two episodes (below), but luckily most of the technology discussions are much more interesting than my sessions.

Monday, December 24, 2012

2013 Predictions

Since the world is ending in a few days, it's important to make predictions about things that nobody will be able to verify if they occurred or not. Since I made a few in 2011 and 2012 (and 2012+), I suspect I can't do anymore harm making a few in 2013 as well. A couple of the sites that syndicate my content have published them (here, here)

What Will You Do for FREE in 2013?

The most frequent conversation I had this year was with colleagues who asked for advice on their "career path". How should they stay motivated? How do they take on new or bigger responsibility? How do they earn more money?

A year ago, I wrote that people looking to advance their career should have at least one (if not a few) projects that they do for "free". Something outside their day-to-day work that lets them explore new skills or new ways to address challenges in a new market. It's not an easy thing to do, as we all live busy lives, but I continue to believe it's critical for anyone wanting to have greater control over their career and their future.

I thought it would be useful to highlight a few examples of people doing things for "free" that not only helped them learn new things, but opened new opportunities for their "career paths".