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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”

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



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? 


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!



Only a quick post today….

What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?

When people think about computer science, they imagine people with pocket protectors and thick glasses who code all night. The truth is coding is now in every day life, with the explosion of mobile devices and development of applications it is hard not to have an understanding of coding and everyone should at least give it a go! Coding is shaping the devices we interface on a daily basis and never has the freedom to learn coding been more open. This is the aim of Code Academy.

If you have ever had a desire to code and do not know where to start this is the place to go, it is an online learning portal where you can learn languages such as Java script, J Query, PHP, Python, Ruby, API programming, IOS development and much more. Further to the online tutorials and excellent built in programming tools the aim of this site is to develop a community of both learners and teachers exchanging best practices.

I have embarked on learning Ruby and I must say it is quite addictive, the website allows you to put in the practice as you learn either in the web browser or dedicated application such as “Hackety Hack” which I am currently using to learn Ruby.

My experience of this so far is really positive and as a tech guy it is good to learn the foundations of a language I have never had the chance to use before. In my line of work we are encouraged to learn about applications and all aspects of their internal workers. Code Academy allows me to do this and also understand how these applications are constructed and to speak on a level with other coders.

If you have ever thought an App was good or wanted to know how something was put together I encourage you to visit this site and give it a go!


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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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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.


Acceptable Downtime in our World? Introducing “Chaos Monkeys”

netflixI first read an article about this on GigaOM, and this really got me thinking in ways that companies go about down time. All lines of businesses are different and some can accept downtime others cannot. If you think of the likes of services we depend on and use daily such as Google, Amazon, Ebay etc we would not accept downtime. This is a rapid change of thinking as a few years ago we might have accepted this but not now, not in our online 24/7/365 world, and as I always allude to this is due user experience and choice that we as end users have.

An Example of this is Google Mail which went down between 8:45 AM PT and 9:13 AM PT when they were upgrading some of their load balancing software which turned out to be flawed so they had to revert back to a previous version  Now why would Google  deploy code at that time? The answer is simple when you think of it, in the online world we now live in there is no acceptable window of downtime so companies like this are constantly rolling out code upgrades to give more benefits to the end users and the business.

So a particular section of this article intrigued me which was how Netflix works, the full article can be found here. Netflix employs a service they created called “Chaos Monkeys” and this is an open invitation to break systems and cause downtime, because their philosophy is “The best defense against major unexpected failures is to fail often”. So they learn from failures and by doing this systems become more resilient.

Netflix were quoted saying “Systems that contain and absorb many small failures without breaking and get more resilient over time are “anti fragile” as described in [Nassim] Taleb’s latest book,” explains Adrian Cockcroft of Netflix. “We run chaos monkeys and actively try to break our systems regularly so we find the weak spots. Most of the time our end users don’t notice the breakage we induce, and as a result we tend to survive large-scale outages better than more fragile services.”

So the Chaos Monkey seeks out and terminates instances of virtual machines (AWS in this case) on a schedule usually within quiet hours, but this means that Netflix learn where their application is weak and they can identify ways to then keep this service running despite what goes down.

The thing is failures happen, everyone accepts this but when you find out about your applications stability is critical as with the case of Netflix the videos must keep on streaming!

I really like the philosophy of a “Chaos Monkeys” and it has really intrigued me as this is a different perspective to what I have viewed and experienced with scheduled DR testing, what Netflix are essentially doing is constantly trying to bring down this service.

This got me thinking about EMC VPLEX, which is designed to give you an active-active data center but more importantly giving you outage avoidance through such mediums as a stretched HA cluster spanning geographic distances. When I think of Netflix and in particular their infrastructure  if automated VMware high availability restarted their services on the other cluster then the outage windows would be smaller as it would only need an application restart but they could maintain online services while still hunting for errors.

Everything I seem to read these days is about availability, cloud, users and demand. VPLEX is addressing this zero tolerance availability, I will post an article explaining more about VPLEX soon, in the meantime have a look here.

So to sign off enjoy your Xmas and New year!