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Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive Innovation

Definition: “Disruptive innovation is a new innovation which creates a new market and value network, which disrupts exiting markets and value networks eventually displacing an earlier technology”https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/p/2/005/06b/0ee/121de4f.jpg

In contrast a sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks but is simply an evolution/improvement of a product over time.

To fully qualify as a disruptive innovation it has to change an entire market. Lets take an example the first car was a technological revolution but it was not disruptive innovation due to the fact it was a high priced luxurious item and did not disrupt the market which a horse and cart/Carriage was competing in. It was only when Ford made the Model-T that it was a disruptive innovation as it changed the market and displaced the horse and cart/Carriage as it was affordable and accessible.

So with that in mind and looking at today’s technologies which can we class as a truly disruptive innovation?

EMC have come out with many recent technologies which have been disruptive but in my view sustaining innovation, such items are XtremIO is an example which is a evolution of all flash arrays.

What I believe is a disruptive innovation is ScaleIO which is looking to disrupt the storage market and it seems odd that EMC would look to disrupt their own business in such a way. EMC is a vast amalgamation of companies smartly acquired over time to define a strategy, but ScaleIO seems to directly impact the storage industry in which EMC is so dominant.

Lets look at this simply, ScaleIO is the convergence of storage and compute in to one tier leveraging existing application server local disks, running on any hardware and major OS. The key element here is “Storage” the ScaleIO removes the dependency for external SAN storage which can be costly & complex.

Lets look at some of the figures also 1M IOPS from 8 nodes and 11M IOPS from 53 nodes! When you couple this with up to 80% reduction in costs, as you do not need dedicated external storage, SAN switches, power, cooling & HBA’s it starts to look extremely positive especially considering this can scale to 1000’s of nodes, is elastic and also resilient with self healing.

So what EMC are doing is actively pushing a technology which could disrupt their own mainline of business which is storage and they seem to be moving ever more to the new model of commodity hardware and intelligent software, which is positive as they are adapting to the times and leading the charge on the new world of IT. Some argue that EMC has too many acquisitions but I would counter that, I think EMC have admitted they cannot out pace/develop everyone so it is smart to acquire technologies which are of interest.

While ScaleIO is in its infancy at present in terms of being taken on board by large enterprises, I believe that sooner or later companies will be looking to remove their complex & costly external SAN storage and adopt a technology similar to ScaleIO.If not completely removing this at least displacing a significant part of it.

In recent times I cannot think of a technology which made such a disruption, the only one that springs to mind is visualization at the server layer which truly was a disruptive innovation.

So back to the start of this article where I stated what a disruptive innovation is, when you look at what ScaleIO is looking to achieve, displacing an existing storage market, creating a new market and value network it ticks all the boxes of disruptive innovation in the sense that it will truly change IT in the future.

For more information please see: ScaleIO


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Times there a Changing…

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd, the one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before”

EMC World 2014

EMC World 2014

With EMC world running this week in Las-Vegas and another raft of announcements made, I thought I’d post a blog on the new technology and more importantly the terminology which is currently in the market place. It seems the market is full of software defined messages at the moment, and this is a good thing. It means that as end users we have choice of what platform/model we adopt and use, but too many choices can be over whelming.

You may have seen that last year at EMC world EMC announced ViPR the software defined data centre message. Over the last 12 months ViPR is making traction in the market place. But lets take a step back and think what is ViPR’s aim? In my view it is to automate and do what we do today only better, the whole point of having something defined/automated in software is to improve what we do today and automate where we can. One person once summed up SDDC for me pretty well, and simply stated “Software Defined is simply doing for the data centre what Virtualisation did for the server layer”. The concept to understand with ViPR is that its application centric which means the storage services are aligned to the applications.

ViPR has just recently had support extended to HDS as well as NetApp, which is a great in road for the industry as it is the only product currently aimed at this space and trying to abstract, automate and pool resources. If you are interested in ViPR go to http://www.emc.com and download the trial which is a great insight in what this product achieves.

Okay so we have discussed one element of SDDC but this is only the storage layer, what about hardware what do I run this software on? Personally I don’t think the industry is too far away from having standardised appliances which run specialised software for your feature/functions. The server industry is now pretty much X86 and we will not be far from “Commodity” in the coming years for compute, network and storage. This means as a customer you can purchase “White box” hardware and build the software stack on this yourself such as Open Stack and a virtualisation engine or you can buy an appliance which comes already built.

EMC just announced EMC ECS (Elastic Storage Compute) EMC ECS which is exactly the latter of the paragraph above. This was previously known as “Project Nile” and is a hyper scale cloud solution which promises lower TCO costs than moving to a public cloud but being a private cloud solution is more secure. Now let me do some jargon busting here, the EMC ECS is designed for what EMC dub the “3rd Platform” this is the mobile, social and big data platform where we are managing/running millions of diverse applications rather than the traditional server client model and traditional applications.

What is a great story with ECS is the fact it can be converged with existing Private or hybrid cloud models and will boast a whole host of features from automated provisioning, self-service & 28% lower TCO than Google or Amazon. These are bold statements but I believe this is genuinely pioneering. Lets think about what I said before putting advanced software on to commodity hardware, thats all ECS is, its EMC ViPR & SRM running on standardised servers, network and storage providing seamless application provisioning and huge scale (up to 2.9PB). This is clearly aimed at service providers or companies who are considering a hybrid cloud model as a lower TCO for an environment, in my experience this year the word “Hybrid Cloud” is on everyone’s mind and is starting to ring home with companies as budgets and staff become ever more stringent.

On we go to another option or choice, do I simply employ a hybrid cloud model and off load some of my workloads to a lower TCO option in the cloud and let someone else look after it? In this space again there are an abundance of providers, newest to the market being VMware VCHS, or do I simply go to a full public model?

Another choice is do I go converged and buy everything as an appliance on specialised Hardware? Nearly every vendor in the market place now offers something like a VBLOCK.

I think you are beginning to get the idea, the market is full of choice now and choices that need to be carefully considered. If we get too lost in cost and functionality then we may lose sight of what it is we require from SDDC which is simplicity, scalability and speed of provisioning. As IT departments move to a DEV OPS environment more and more technical functionality speciality will be lost to service delivery and management, and this change is being forced by the nature of the world we live in today. Everything must be faster, more efficient and simple, managing large complex multi vendor infrastructures will start to become cumbersome and too costly. I think what is unique here is EMC have acknowledged the “Cloud” from an early stage and can now offer you a fully built cloud solution or a build it yourself option such as ViPR and your choice of commodity HW & Open Stack or something similar.

The last and final choice is, “When do I choose a direction?” This is a difficult choice the market now is full of options for all services “Cloud” and these services are ever evolving. Look how far ViPR has come from one year ago being a piece of software dipping its toe in the environment to now where it is fully embedded in an appliance and offered as “Cloud in a box”. What I would say or advise on this subject is look at where you are now and the plans of the business. This eludes to what I stated earlier, “what is the businesses primary function?” lets take a car manufacturer their sole purpose is to manufacture and sell a car for the greatest % of profit and gain as much market share as possible. If the business has stated they need to be smarter or more efficient to keep up with competitors then the business starts to look at gains/improvements which can be made across the board, lets not forget IT is a supportive function of the business.

I have worked with many customers who have a whole raft of solutions they have either tried & tested, are looking at or have heard of. My advice would be look at where you are now and the coming 3 years and assess what you can do. EMC Adaptivity can look at what applications your business uses which are suitable for certain cloud platforms, private, public or hybrid and classify what cost savings & efficiencies you can expect to gain. This is a great tool as every IT professional I have met has stated to me “I am unsure whether that application could exist in the cloud” and as we all know application landscapes are large & complex.

Once you know where you are it is easier to then make a decision on the best solution going forwards which will lets face it come down to end user experience, this is such a huge factor that many overlook. My final thought on this is EMC are daring to be a little different especially with products like ECS, ViPR and Scale IO, they are changing as a company and are always on top of the curve. With that in mind, EMC one of the largest hardware vendors in the world has admitted “Times they are a changing” and have adapted to the new demands in the market place, as end users we should adopt and try these new technologies as without trying we will not be any different from competitors or gain any new benefits.

 


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The Illiterate of the 21st Century

"How are you defining your strategy?"

“How are you defining your strategy?”

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, un learn and relearn”

I am guilty of this as much as anyone else, in my role we constantly learn new technology, derive that it is the best technology in the world and that it can change everything and then a new shiny object comes along and the focus switches. Throwing technology at an issue or opportunity fills a hole but does it drive a strategy? I would argue no, the IT world has been fed the word “Cloud” now for years and now everyone is on board with cloud and accepts this as a technology and a viable way that the world of IT is heading, most are now looking to IT professionals and asking “How do we get there?”

This is a common question and a vendors immediate response will be “Well this technology can definitely solve this”. My experience so far has taught me a few things, IT roles are changing they will become more strategy driven and service orientated yet most companies I now come across are still defining their strategy and really value input in to this. A strategy is a complex timeline of events to reach a goal which has a direct outcome to the business whether this be something as generic as saving money or generating new business.

The important term here is “business” the people who sign off the cheques and allow business units to pursue technologies. The strategy does not start and end with an IT department for Cloud. It should be transparent across a business yet here is the inherent problem, because “Cloud” is such a common term now people read all about the good and bad stories of cloud which can be positive and negative thus affecting a strategy.

So thinking about “Cloud” we all know the technology is there but how does a business understand the change it will bring?

The approach is simple, a step back from technology needs to be taken. In my experience the one element holding up large organisations moving to a cloud model which ever this may be, is applications. How does a large organisation understand 20 years of their applications, dependancies, landscapes, & feasibility for the cloud? In present years this would have been solved by a large complex consulting engagement which would tag applications, long story short it was a manual process which took 6-12 months. EMC last year purchased a company called “Adaptivity” which automates all of this but goes one step further with data classification, applicable data laws and a modern ranking of the applications suitability to be moved in to a cloud model such as Rack space or ATOS.

It is only when an organisation understands these large application landscapes that they can address the second issue of adopting a cloud utility model to effectively charge back BU’s. This is another common comment, the IT departments want to charge back but the BU’s are not in tune with this. Echoing back to the start of this post I mentioned transparency and it needs to have buy in across the business. Charge back and show back are elements which are desirable and it is only when organisations understand the true needs of the applications that they can streamline for the cloud. If a company takes an approach to “Gold” everything, so fast disks, huge memory in servers, backup, replication etc expect to pay for that in the cloud, this service costs and only once you have classified your applications can the financial areas of the business can explore the costs of keeping this in house or moving to a public cloud.

So stepping away from the technology and looking beyond software and hardware will drastically power conversations surrounding Cloud based technologies.

So back to the start of my comment on learning and re-learning, people want to embrace cloud but need guidance on this. Workshops and gap analysis studies with Cloud Strategy have been hugely popular and effective in this space, the more I run these type of events the more I learn that the cloud conversation struggles are not local but felt across the industry.


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Consumer Drones & CIA Cloud?

I was fascinated to read about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos mention two things this week in a press appearance “Consumer Drones” & “Private Cloud”. Amazon as a company still continue to impress me, they are always at the bleeding edge and tend to see or imagine a long time before the remainder of the industry catches up.

Firstly lets take the word private cloud which Amazon go to lengths never to mention. Earlier in the year I blogged about the potential rumours that Amazon were building a CIA private cloud and the implications that this could have on competitors, please see the link below.

CIA Cloud

So it seems that this was not media hype and in fact this is a reality, So if you put two and two together and think if Amazon are embarking on a large scale secure cloud with the CIA they will surely apply the lessons learnt there and be even more formidable in the market place. This is certainly a wake up call for the old school of the industry who will not move PROD & enterprise workloads in to the cloud? It seems more and more now that Amazon are targeting this sector and with their pricing model and success you would not bet against them achieving such a feat. Amazon are the dominant player in this arena but they have mostly focussed on public cloud and if they can make the CIA cloud work then surely others would follow. 

The market share for cloud at the moment seems to be ramping up even more, with VMware announcing at VMworld 2013 the vCloud Hybrid services and drawing a line in the sand to target Amazon. It will be fascinating to see what un folds with this next year. 

Consumer Drones? 

Image

Secondly Jeff talked about consumer drones, and this fascinated me. Small electrically powered “octocopters” (Amazon Name) will deliver lightweight consumer goods in urban areas with a distance of 10 miles. This is to drastically cut down energy costs from fuel and traffic in built up areas. The whole thing seems like something out of a Sci-Fi movie though, imagine a drone landing on your front garden delivering a package, I think it would be fantastic. Obviously this is all still in the R&D phase right now and there would be endless amounts of testing and red tape to get through but just think if anyone can do this it would be Amazon! 

Food for thought anyway!


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What is the Social Customer?

I found the below a really insightful presentation on the social customer. The social customer is not social media but rather understanding customers as social beings.

This presentation may help you to understand how younger generations network and interact.

Insightful stuff and a great presentation, the word social media is becoming immensely over used and the true nature of being connected online all the time means that offline interaction is sparse and this is the most important element.


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Volumes of Data are not the Issue the Filter is – 5by

“All of the biggest technological inventions created by man – the airplane, the automobile, the computer – says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness.”

I often visit YouTube and just sit there looking at the screen wondering what to type in the search box, and more often than not I end up watching videos I have seen before or even worse cycling through tons of videos not really paying attention. Despite YouTube trying to change the website with categories and trending they still have not got the concept right.

Enter 5by the online video concierge:

Video Concierge

Video Concierge

5by takes an entirely different approach on how you consume online videos, you are greeted with the above screen when logging in and are presented with a menu which allows you to select a category such as “exploring” or “killing time”, then you are sent to a finer level of detail such as “travel” or “great outdoors”. It is once you have selected these two parameters that a video comes to the screen which is brought from YouTube or Vimeo. I must add at this point you do not get directed the video is in the portal.

While you are watching the video 5by asks you for reactions and presents you with an on screen menu to “LOL” & “OMG”, what this does is 5by takes your reactions and learns about what you do and don’t like so that next time it can serve up a better video for you.

I personally love this and although it is only in browser format for the time being the Montreal based startup are developing IOS and Android applications as they know this is the target market.

The concept is simple, easy to use and brings back some of the excitement of when YouTube first came about as for me YouTube is so full of everything you can ever imagine now it is hard to stumble across a video that is worth watching. I must say that now I have discovered 5by it has become addictive and as it feeds from the giants of YouTube and Vimeo you still get all the videos you could dream of just in an intelligent manner.

My opening quote may have seemed like I am lazy, I suppose I am in a certain regard but technology should work like this in my view and this is certainly a stepping stone. There is no shortage of videos out there you just need the correct filter!

Have a go on 5by you will not be disappointed, I am looking forward to the applications and if they can make this appear on my smart TV also!

 


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If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change

Drowning in Email?

Drowning in Email?

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change”

I am going to drag up an old topic here surrounding email its validity today. Lets look at email in our everyday lives, we check it what every 2 minutes? We receive 1000’s of emails at work surrounding marketing, news announcements, requests, tasks, calendar invites…..the list goes on and on! I am now reaching that tipping point where email consumes a lot of my time and I am sure you are no different, whatever Microsoft gives us to make email better such as categories, tasks, folders etc it is still a nightmare to use.

What particularly frustrates me is the “I sent you an email, did you not get it?” To which my response is usually, no I didn’t as I receive around 200 emails a day and to be honest going through them all would take all day. Lets take my inbox right now, currently sat at “3286” unread messages, these are from all manner of departments, people,  companies.

I tried the fabled email blackouts, time management courses, email management courses and none are an advisable path to getting past emails as suffice to say some people just rely on emails and here we get to the crux of the issue, the issue is not with technology it is to do with people. People who know and like email will not change to a different format as it requires stepping out of their comfort zone and adapting to something new.

We live in a world where Twitter is used by finance companies such as Bloomberg to monitor markets and chatter, huge forums of people on blogs, user groups and not to mention we have mobile phones, so why do we manage huge email farms which lets face it they drain the resources from your computer, consume your day, distract you constantly from your actual job and cause huge frustration. The answer is as simple as it is annoying “Legacy”, process is king in companies and if their process involves email (most likely sending spreadsheets/PPT/Word Docs over email) then this is difficult to break.

So in our company we have Salesforce which is a step in the right direction, we also use Salesforce Chatter which is designed to be a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. It has some inherent flaws though on usability and seems more of an after thought. For instance in your news feed you cannot filter by “Post Type” which is hugely frustrating as your news feed is full of items you do not care about. It is a work in progress as far as I am concerned  but its flaws are what stop people adopting this as they piggy back on this excuse to say “well its not as good as it could be”.

You are starting to see my issue here? If we cannot change and adapt to new technologies then they cannot progress it is as simple as that, why would someone spend developing time and money to develop something no one wants to use.

The resolution to this at a high level is extremely simple, an application needs to be developed which is user friendly and attractive to use, think of Apple why do people flock to them? It is because they are good to use, give people a good experience and they will always return. Amazon and ebay are the true master examples of such customer experience.

Just imagine one application which was a hub for all your communications if I take my role as an example, I would love to have a single pane of glass which shows me direct messages, forums/groups I am in news feeds, web feeds for my account sets, face time or integration in to my phone and a calendar. Is that so much to ask? The idea is painstakingly simple, one screen, one interface for all this communication and cut out all the chatter that companies generate everyday with what effectively is spam. Each pane of glass should be tailored to someones role within that company, i.e. if they are financial they have financial data etc on their screens.

Technology is supposed to becoming more integrated in to our lives, but email is the dinosaur which we all steer back to and to be honest it needs to change. When I started my first job I had social media already and email even back then in 2007 seemed old school. The distance that technology has come since then seriously puts Email in the dark and it would take one good application to change the face of this.

Of course I cannot end this article without mentioning “Mailbox” I cannot convey how disappointed I was with the mailbox application, it was simply a few gestures on your mail which categorised them. Mailbox is not revolutionary it is merely putting putting Shrek in a dress. Quite a harsh statement I know but lets face it, has Mailbox lived up to any of its claims? The issues is not trying to adapt what we have rather change what we have at the foundations.

I am not alone I am sure in this rant, and visionaries of IT have been claiming they need to get rid of email for a long time, ATOS CEO even went as far as claiming he would remove email in coming years, but quickly returned on his statement. I would love to see one company that has used email for years just say “that’s it turn off the servers, this is the new platform, adjust to it”.

So to finish on my starting comment, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change”  simply put if you sit down and realise the potential you can see room for change.