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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 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.




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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Amazon gets (more) serious about government cloud

Another Step towards cloud security becoming acceptable even for the likes of the Government.


Not that you probably needed it, but here’s more proof that Amazon Web Services(s amzn) is dead serious about getting more government work.

First, CloudFormation, the company’s tool that lets systems administrators manage sets of related AWS services from simple templates, is now available on Amazon’s GovCloud service. GovCloud was built for government agencies and other entities with special compliance and security needs.

And, on Monday, AWS opened a brand new office in Herndon, Virg., near two motherships — Washington D.C. and Amazon’s gigantic US-East data center farm. Amazon plans to add 500 jobs in the space which will be home to engineering, customer support, security and other functions, according to this Washington Business Journal report.

As almost everyone knows by now, Amazon has targeted some mission-critical government cloud applications including the once-secret CIA cloud, where AWS is now challenging an IBM-prompted Government Accountability Office review of its CIA…

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Inception of EMC ViPR

You could be forgiven for thinking that if data storage companies were dinosaurs, EMC would be Tyrannosaurus Rex. If they were all fish, EMC would be a shark. Nothing wrong with being a T-Rex or a shark. They’re just large, fearsome and old fashioned.

This might be how EMC is perceived from the outside in, as a large cut throat arrogant organisation. I can tell you from working here that this is definitely not the case, I have never worked in a more fluid organisation where change and creativity is embraced.



This for me is no more highlighted than the release of EMC ViPR at EMC World 2013, what EMC are doing is introducing a software layer to control the data centre. True EMC’s play has always been in the hardware layer coupled with software controlling this. these two layers can be defined as “Control Plane” which is the software and the “Data Plane” which is the physical hardware that sits below.

Typically what the IT industry has done is marry the control and data plane together which creates vendor lock in. As an end user this is frustrating as the “Cloud Era” by definition is supposed to be open, and while many adopt the philosophy of Cloud Computing customers still have silo’s of compute, network and storage managed by different softwares, plug in’s, skill sets etc and it is too complex. As an example of this imagine you have an EMC storage estate and a Net App storage estate, in reality these are two separate estates. You then also have to think about the compute and network layers, the management complexity of having these two infrastructures etc the list goes on. It is understandable why companies do not put all their eggs in one basket with one single vendor and it is also understandable why people chose different technologies as I will be the first to admit many technologies excel in different areas.

But what is harder to fathom is why this single control plane has not been introduced before? Well it is not from not trying, it is only now where the technology is at a level where the concept can be put in to practice. When I think of EMC ViPR I think of Facebook, Google & Twitter with their Compute, Network and Storage approach, they labelled hardware as commodity and placed a very intelligent API on top to ease management of these huge infrastructures. While this API is locked down by them and does very specific tasks in their environment EMC ViPR is planning on being much more than that.

The first thing you should know about EMC ViPR is that the source code and API’s are open, EMC are not guarding this close to their chest, this is designed to be industry wide not vendor specific. I think that this is huge, EMC have been quietly publishing API’s for some time now, a lot of it has gone un noticed, but EMC knows they cannot out manoeuvre each startup or very bright graduate student with a fantastic idea, and by hiding what you are doing you limit innovation by these very parties. This is no more evident from the story behind how ViPR began which is a collaboration from different software companies coming together each with their own expertise.

So whats the vision, just another software layer yeah? Well no this is why this is so ground breaking, think if you could aggregate your compute, network and storage layers and configure, manage and report in to one control plane regardless of vendor, protocol etc. Pretty cool right? This is pretty out there in terms of its ability, EMC will be the first ones to admit that you need different Hardware to do different things, high transaction workloads require different hardware than archives etc, but the issue with all these is that they all create islands.

What ViPR is doing is aggregating all these together, imagine if you could do that with your environment, ViPR is a software control plane that ties in to all the below API’s of your hardware and controls them through policies. Masking the user from the complexities of managing all these separate entities. Think of it like the picture below:



You can see above that a single API can reach in to a virtual pool which is actually presented from Storage below. This has been dubbed Abstract, Pool and Automate. This is truly moving towards a singular control plane and the data plane existing at a layer where we do not touch this.

I have been fortunate enough to try the lab’s with EMC ViPR and immediately what was apparent was the fact I could create services quickly and easily through a wizard which was configuring my services to a policy. For example think like this, If I wanted the best possible service, be that Gold or however you dubb this, what ViPR goes away and does is create this service based on policies, so let’s for argument sake say a VM gets created, is protected by HA, the network and zones are setup and the storage layer is protected by VPLEX. All this can be driven through a wizard and literally took me minutes to do. The most important fact to point out here is that not once did I go in to V-Centre, log in to a storage array to carve out volumes, log in to switches to create zone sets, configure firewalls and security policies etc etc, it was all done for me.

Now that for me is a pretty huge deal as it was all transparent to me and as scary as it was impressive. I am not saying that EMC ViPR is the solution to everything as it is still due to be GA and I imagine it will have a lot of tuning/change to come, but for me this is a huge step. Anyone who thinks EMC are the dinosaur or shark clearly have a view of EMC which perhaps is outdated by 10 years and I would encourage you to look at these latest offerings. What has been achieved is quite incredible and yet the concept is hugely simple, hardware is hardware and its intelligence is derived from software, by identifying and separating these two planes (Control and Data) you gain greater flexibility to innovate and this is exactly what EMC are doing.

If you would like a very in depth focussed view on EMC ViPR please visit this blog provides a great insight in to the inception and deliverance of this software.

On a personal note, I have not had much time to dedicate to this blog of late but I will from now be doing weekly posts.




Removing your head from the sand…..

Take the time to learn from others around you

Take the time to learn from others around you

I often think that the IT world buries itself in its own little world and the analogy goes “If I cannot see them they cannot see me” (Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy quote). But there is so much more to be seen and discovered that relates to IT. We are seeing this more and more now, no longer is IT just responsible for the delivery of email and a service desk which we can moan at when things are not working, but IT is now responsible for innovation within the business and being extremely smart on efficiencies, cost and all the while completing this with the same number of staff and an ever decreasing budget. The “innovation” side comes from the now industry standard words of big data and big data analytics.

Now in my humble view IT departments have not yet fully understood these new aspects they are to bring to the table and this goes back to my analogy of burying our heads in the sand, maybe if we ignore it, it will go away? The harsh reality is it will not, smarter ways of generating revenue for the business and understanding customers through analytics is now becoming mandatory for businesses to compete with each other.

I sound like I am beating up on IT here, but I am guilty of this myself and I think we all are to some degree.

So I hear you ask what is the golden answer? Well I may have just stumbled across a path to that answer, last year I attended something called the “Yorkshire Mafia” in the UK. This was an event driven purely from LinkedIn with no real marketing campaign other than LinkedIn and there were over 2000 attendees.

The real golden nugget here is that it was not all IT companies attending it was businesses of all natures from large corporates to entrepreneurs. But more importantly the key notes were a great way to understand how other businesses are using IT, social media and the likes to the best effect. This involved key notes from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter.

This is a huge networking event which allows businesses from all verticals to meet and see what others are doing. Now isn’t that refreshing?! There is even a Billionaire panel where 6 CEO’s of very successful businesses sit on a panel and can be asked questions by the audience, now personally this was fascinating for me as when do you get this opportunity to ask these people what you want? I may be the exception here but I do not meet the CEO of many companies and this was a unique insight!

So the headline is, if you want to take your head out of the sand and see what other businesses are doing within all industries and how it relates to you, attend this conference I guarantee you will see or hear something you can use or find useful. And the best bit, how much does this cost?! Nothing its free! From a personal note, based on the success of this last year you can see from the sponsors such as Barclays that they have attracted this year that this type of event is growing in size and importance.

Register below and actually go to a conference which is different from your normal industry events, let me know what you think and maybe see you there! Also you will be surprised to see all the IT vendors now rushing to attend these events as they realise the potential of these networking events.

The Yorkshire Mafia


The Secret Cloud…

Secret Cloud

Secret Cloud

To start this blog I thought a quote from Henry Ford would work quite well “A Business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about its profits, that they will be embarrassingly large!”.

From my previous post I blogged about the fist fight in the enterprise public cloud, in which there are many players including, Amazon, ATOS and more recently VMware. The list goes on, but they are all fighting about one space in particular and this is aquiring the enterprise applications that vendors and suppliers have safe guarded for years.

Amazon are making more and more in roads in to this space and I could not resist to blog about the CIA cloud. Thats right the CIA cloud, it has been reported that the CIA are in talks with Amazon around a private cloud solution. This was first reported by “Federal Computer Weekly”, now you have to think about this in context. This is the US governments first real move in to cloud computing after acknowledging the benefits of cost saving, flexibility and able to keep up with the latest trends in computing such as big data and analytics. So if the leader in cloud computing at the moment can build a highly secure, highly performant stable environment for the CIA applications, what is stopping the rest of the enterprise world merging to a similar approach?

One of the clouds biggest questions is “Is my data safe?” surely if the CIA are looking at this they deem the cloud model to be safe. Now lets not get carried away here its not like Amazon will place the CIA on a shared infrastructure with every other man and his VM! They are apparently building a private cloud for the CIA.

This is falling inline with their recent communications that they are beefing up their VPC (Virtual private cloud) capabilities, such as giving you more storage per relational database up fro 1TB to 3TB and up to 30,000 IOPS. Their whole game plan here is to attract the IT old school who will not move enterprise applications to the cloud. It certainly sounds appealing to me!

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.

Naturally no one will comment on this from the CIA or Amazon but I am sure this will have got tongues wagging in the industry. To go back to my quote at the start of this blog, Amazon seems ever more focussed on the service it is delivering and if they do get this contract it is reported that this is worth $600 over ten years. Just think if they can then coax the enterprise application crowd over to their services also, I think the quote rings true, they will be embarrassed by profits!

So in jest this blog never happened! “Gentlemen, congratulations. You’re everything we’ve come to expect from years of government training. Now please step this way, as we provide you with our final test: an eye exam…” FLASH (quote men in black).


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants…

Have VMware realised that Amazon are standing on their Shoulders?

Have VMware realised that Amazon are standing on their Shoulders?

“One who develops future intellectual pursuits by understanding and building on the research and works created by notable thinkers of the past” I thought this an appropriate opening to the topic of discussion here today. I will explain this metaphor at the end of my ramblings, but in the most basic form Amazon are the ones standing on the giant VMware shoulders at the moment…

My thoughts and reading this month have been mainly of VMware’s talk of taking down the giants that are Amazon, VMware was as bold to say “Amazon will kill us all”. This sparked my attention and intrigue in to investigate this a little further.

This all stems from the brand that Amazon have in the industry, in previous posts I have blogged about how Amazon are ahead of the curve and anticipated this era of cloud computing. True VMware may have enabled this at a hypervisor layer but Amazon are the true victors here. In my opinion I think Amazon crept up on everyone in their blind spot, maybe the big corporations were a little too relaxed in what they were doing and just did not see this coming. You could argue that VMware were riding so much of a growth wave that they didn’t think this could effect them. It is the typical market pattern that the big innovators grow fast and then become stagnant. Constantly innovating is tough and I think that VMware have been right to spin off the platform as a service business as it brings more focus to the company.

Okay so on to the point of Amazon killing us all! This is referring to the shift in focus to Amazon. Every customer I go to has some form of services running in AWS whether that has been approved or not is a different story. And as I have stated before the reason people do this is choice, conventional IT is restrictive and does not give even half the speed people want especially if they have a credit card handy.

Just lately though in my experience Companies are starting to look over their shoulder’s at Amazon and wonder, how much data do I have there? Is it safe? does my data live on a shared platform with other companies data? Can I have my data back when I want? In this world at the moment intellectual property is king and the risk of companies employees sending out data to the cloud is one that will keep some awake at night.

So what are VMware bringing to the table? They are looking to announce in the 2nd half of this year a public cloud offering to compete head to head with Amazon. They are looking to extend their vCloud Director technology from existing customers in to the cloud enabling the mobility of production workloads. And here we get to the real fight that is happening, traditional IT vendors are now fighting to keep production applications on their infrastructure, AWS has predominantly been for test and development applications, but the nosies made by Amazon at its AWS re invent show last year are that they now have these production applications clearly in their sites!

So no wonder the gloves are now coming off with the big guns, as their comfort zone is at stake.

Do I think VMware can pull this off? One official at VMware was quoted as saying “surely we can beat a company who sells books”. That is a harsh statement, if you follow Formula One and are aware of Red Bull, the big manufacturer teams once said “They are a drinks manufacturer” but look at them now, they are triple world champions. For me VMware has to make a public cloud service which I want to buy in to and enable its channel to effectively sell these services. Certainly they are making the right noises and in my view focussing their direction which they seem to have lost a little bit. Bringing on someone like Pat Gelsinger is a real message to the industry that they mean business, look what he has done at EMC for the last 3 years.

In my verdict the jury is still out and VMware have to prove they have what it takes, so to sign off how I started, Amazon in my view are currently standing on the giant VMware’s shoulders as they understood what VMware had created and how to make a service from it. VMware are left looking up at what their intellect has created and it now seems the red mist has descended and they are focussing on this space also.