Thursday, April 28, 2011

A view into the "Clouds of Change" blog

I created this word cloud using the service. I thought it would be interesting to review these periodically to see what topics are dominating the discussion on the blog. I'll post these from time to time to see how things change in this rapidly evolving segment of the technology industry.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Interesting Set of Coincidences

I'm not a big believer in conspiracy theories, but it is sort of fun and ironic when certain coincidences all line up around the same time. For example:
And of course there's this fictional prediction...

Not sure there are any great lessons here, except to work hard, be humble and keep in mind that fundamentals (technology, design, etc.) matter.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

101 Thoughts about the "Cloud Foundry" Announcement

[This is still a work in progress - the blog post, not Cloud Foundry ]

This week's Cloud Foundry announcement has the Cloud Computing community buzzing about the OpenPaaS framework driven by VMware. Considering the size of VMware, the competitors it's taking on (Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle,, Amazon AWS and RedHat), and the delivery model (open-source), it's no surprise that opinions and analysis are coming from every direction.

Who knows if I'll make it all the way to 101, but my head's been spinning with all the angles, so here goes.... [NOTE: Some of these thoughts are specifically about Cloud Foundry, while others are about the idea of application portability & mobility, since frameworks tend to come and go over time.]

  1. Their Hypervisor is always under pricing pressure from free alternatives (Hyper-V, Xen, KVM), their middleware is now open-source and SP's probably aren't sure if they are vendor or competitor. Will be interesting to see what their revenue models looks like long-term.
  2. Cloud Foundry creates a PaaS model that isn't dependent on VMware VMs, but does attack their largest competitors, so an interesting "creative disruption" strategy. This always takes courage from leadership. Paul Maritz is uber-smart and been in the big boy games before, so you have to expect he has a grand plan for all of this.
  3. It's not clear if "for fee" Cloud Foundry from VMware is attached to Mozy's service. Mozy just raised prices. If they are connected, it will be interesting to see if the "for fee" service can remain competitive at scale...or if that's really part of their strategy? 
  4. What does Cloud Foundry mean for existing VM Admins
  5. How will the 1000s of VMware channel partners adapt to this new model? Do they have the skills to understand this and sell this? Moving from infrastructure to applications is not a simple context switch for most people.
  6. How will Cloud Providers (SPs hosting the apps) react to the portability capabilities? Will we see minimal friction (eg. number portability), or subtle changes to their services (ToS, billing, network/security infrastructure) that reduce that flexibility?
  7. Several people are already connecting the open-source dots of CloudFoundry and OpenStack, so what does this ultimately do to vCloud Director (at SP or between ENT & SP)?
  8. Does VMware have the deep pockets to support the developer community enough to make it dominant (like Google and Microsoft did before them)? Is VM revenue enough of a cash cow to sustain.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Has Financial Services shown us the Future of Cloud Computing? - Part II

In Part I of this series, I looked at some of the thinking and buyer behavior similarities between today's financial services and today's Cloud Computing trends. In Part II, I wanted to look at the potential similarities in the value-chain between these two markets.

In the past, financial services was dominated by investment banks, insurance companies and large financial conglomerates. They had access to the largest amounts of capitals and access to the best knowledge of market trends. Investors could enable portfolios that created steady, diversified returns that would allow them to build for the future and avoid major catastrophes. Access to those portfolios was available through  a variety of sources, often local or regional professionals, that provided a variety of services.

Over time, due to technology and competitive forces, the financial services giants consolidated and began offering more services directly to clients. They brought together retail banking, brokerage, investment banking and M&A. Differentiating between the largest companies became difficult for many investors. Seeing an opening to offer differentiated or unique services, many "alternative trading" platforms arose, include the rise of hedge funds. These services focused on automated trades, often taking both sides of the market and using extreme levels of leverage to create ROI. By being highly leveraged, often times ignoring (or going against) established guidelines, they began to establish themselves as the area where the most value was derived from the financial services industry. They left the established players to focus on lower-risk customers, often focused on traditional principals and goals.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Has Financial Services shown us the Future of Cloud Computing? - Part I

[This is the first of a two-part blog looking at the parallels of Cloud Computing and Financial Services - Part I looks at trends in the use and consumption of financial services and assets.]

"The value of your internal assets just haven't been unlocked because you're not using them the right way."

"The easiest way to deal with risk is to give it away to some other business (and they'll give it away as well). Package it up and claim that it has no flaws."

"Massive leverage on a shared infrastructure produces incredible ROI."

"You can trust us with your assets, we don't have internal systems that can better leverage that information to position ourselves on the other side of this business."

[muffled in the background, amongst all the noise...., "Create a plan that utilizes tools you understand and can adapt to ups and downs in the market."]

Cloud Definitions - More Useless than Statistics?

Given that we all use various elements of Cloud Computing every day, I know they can't be classified as Lies, damned lies and statistics...

...but several years into this latest phase of computing, it seems we can't go more than a few weeks without someone trying to create a new definition for Cloud Computing (herehere and here).  Everybody spinning a new cloud definition to help establish themselves as the leader in this transition, according to their own model.

Do I blame companies, consultants, standards-bodies and media for trying to establish themselves as a thought leader as things change? No, that's normal behavior. But what really concerns me is the potential damage this does to overall innovation across the industry if people spend more time worrying about definitions than they do creativity. We discussed this on The Cloudcast with Christian Reilly a few weeks ago, in the context of how he helped his company adopt a new services-centric model within their business.

Christian made a subtle, but insightful, comment that we didn't put very many definitions around "the Internet" as it was evolving throughout the 1990s. This allowed companies and developers to be creative in how they created technology and evolved it for their businesses.

Am I overthinking this or are the definers getting in the way of the thinkers and doers?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Challenges of Market Transitions

[Disclosure: My current employer (Cisco) is a business/technology partner to both VMware and EMC]

Earlier today VMware announced that they had acquired the assets, people and operations of online storage service Mozy from EMC. Almost immediately, the Twitterverse was calling out VMware for abandoning their current business model, primarily acting as a vendor, selling to Enterprise/Commercial businesses and Service Providers. Mozy currently operators as a Cloud Storage provider (to both consumers and small-business), so questions arose about whether this now put VMware in competition with their existing (or future) Service Provider customers.

Considering how rapidly the IT landscape is changing, I had to step back and think about whether an action like this completely forces VMware to change their business model or if there were alternative ways to think about it. My immediate thoughts are recorded on the whiteboard picture above. [NOTE: I have no inside-information about what the VMware strategy might be, these are purely guesses. Don't bet your 401(k) on any of my scribbles.]