Saturday, May 5, 2012

Open Letter to Tom Scott at Klouchebag

It's been four years since our last economic bubble and eleven since our last technology bubble, so it's possible that another one is coming soon. Or not. Your guess is as good as mine. I suppose I could pontificate about why one is coming (hint: see Instagram @ $1B), but that doesn't help anybody. Instead, I've decided to create an open plan to take advantage of the existing hype in the market, across multiple vectors. So I've decided to write an open letter to Tom Scott, creator of Klouchebag.

Dear Tom,

Big fan of Klouchebag. Built in just a few hours. Hosted in the Cloud. Leveraging APIs to access realtime data. All the checkboxes for success in today's web. And it came at just the right time, since Klout has obviously jumped the shark with this article in Wired magazine. Not only does Klouchebag boldly claim dominion as "The Standard of Asshattery", but it plays the yang to the ying that has become social media. But this is not a fan letter, it's a blueprint for potential riches as we potentially near the next bubble.

"Social" and "Big Data" are two of the hot buttons in technology these days. Klouchebag is clearly at the intersection of those tsunami trends. It has potential, but it needs the right type of guidance. Here are my suggestions to properly take advantage of the buzz you've created.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Spectrum of Hardware for the Cloud

When I joined Cisco in 1996, I was sitting in new-hire orientation and distinctly remember one of the VPs tell us that, "we are a software company".  I remember being surprised at this, because we had just finished touring an incredible lab filled with huge boxes of blinking lights. But after working with the products for a few months, it became obvious that the value to our customers was the stability and flexibility of the IOS software (no kids, not the stuff on your iPhone).
Ten years went by and I found myself in a spin-out that was using the ODM hardware manufacturers used by Linksys. We expected those products to be very simple, since they were targeted at very low price points. But as we began testing them, we were shocked at the performance levels - they were 20% of the cost of "enterprise" products with at least 20-30% better performance,  including 80-90% of the same features. Wow!  The previous 10 years had been all about custom-built hardware and ASICs, and now we had crossed-over to where "merchant silicon" was a legitimate alternative.

Within a decade, our industry had transitioned from software to hardware and back to software being the key value element in IT infrastructure. Seeing those price/performance economics, you might think that this would quickly become the defacto standard for all vendors, just like other electronics in other industries (TVs, Kitchen Appliances, etc.). But that's not the case. In fact, the IT industry has actually spread out the way they deal with hardware in a wide spectrum.

Custom ASICs
Cisco continues to lead the market in custom high-end ASIC development, making it a critical part of their future strategy in the data center. Juniper is another company that relies heavily on custom ASIC development to control their ability to deliver features across their platforms. Both of these companies are also starting to create programs to allow programability or API-level interaction with their systems. On the other end of custom hardware are companies like SeaMicro (acquired by AMD) creating unique hardware density to link low-power CPU chips, driving density and cost/watt costs down dramatically.

A Fork in the Road to the Cloud?

Over a year ago, I wrote my initial thoughts on VMware's CloudFoundry PaaS platform. Over the past year, the platform has grown and evolved in interesting ways - new frameworks, new partners, new tools and new ways to interact with the community.

But one question continued to linger. How would CloudFoundry connect back to the rest of the VMware portfolio? There was already some connections to the SpringSource framework and vFabric, but it wasn't clear if it would connect back to vSphere. Or should it connect back to vSphere? Cloud Foundry is an open (source) PaaS framework that was designed to run on any cloud, so would it build the hooks to connect to ESX/ESXi or vCloud Director?

For the 1st year, the answer was "no". No vSphere dependencies. But with the one year anniversary announcement, the CloudFoundry team introduced the BOSH tool chain. Within the BOSH framework is a concept called CPI (Cloud Provider Interface), which defined a way to interact with IaaS clouds. Included with BOSH were CPIs for VMware vSphere and Amazon AWS.