The Power of Pi: And the Open Source Future

Sometimes, you just have to get into the game. Such was the case for me in gaining deeper knowledge of how developers code. And how the cloud frees everything.

It’s been a very long time since I did meaningful coding (COBOL) and figured it was time to gain hands on knowledge of today’s coders. I had played with UNIX a bit 20 years ago while with KPMG but wanted to get my hands dirty and better understand how to actually code in today’s environment including writing API’s to AWS. I didn’t have a spare computer around to reimage so did the next best thing.

I picked up a Raspberry Pi through Amazon and went all in learning how to SSH into the Pi, code in Python, and write API’s to move files to S3. And I feel good. Here’s a couple of quick observations:

The Open Source community is amazing. Everything you need to develop applications is readily available, and essentially free. I’ve been speaking and presenting on the rise of LINUX and OpenStack for years however I now have an even greater appreciation. The new breed of developers of Open Source.

Developers have unprecedented power. They can write incredibly powerful programs on very small and affordable computers. Take that power and amplify it with the power of cloud computing, and they could rewrite any application. Can you imagine the banking industry with time honored dependency on mainframe computing, having its code written for the cloud. It would be the final dagger that ends the mainframe for good.

The future bellows to 20 somethings (and younger). They get it. The world has changed. Dependencies have been broken down. My generations needs to adopt, or just get out of the way.




Digital Enterprises: 40% of tomorrow’s fortune 500 companies don’t yet exist

When John Chambers looks into the audience at Cisco Live and notes that “40% of the businesses in the room will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years”, you have to figure that he’s also looking in the mirror.

Consider that the top hotel chain didn’t exist over 7 years ago (Airbnb) and the largest taxi service didn’t exist over five years ago (Uber). Stop for a second and think about that. Airbnb in just 7 years grew to be the largest hotel chain in the world accomplishing this by beginning with a simple web site and a few applications and evolved into running almost their entire operations in the AWS cloud. Contrast that with a company like Marriott who owns multiple data center and a disaster recovery location 200 feet underground and it’s easy to recognize the inherent advantage new digital enterprise companies evoke.

This new breed of companies that were born in the cloud, unencumbered by the legacy architectures of the current Fortune 500, will dynamical change the business landscape. And the implications to hardware manufactures like CISCO, HP and others could be apocalyptic.

Today’s business giants might not be tomorrows.

Three Factors for Managing Your Data in the Hybrid Cloud

In today’s hybrid cloud environment, we tend to think of compute as being agile, data decidedly less so. Yet data, and the information and value it contains, is one of the most critical assets an organization has.

Data could be considered an asset on most corporate finance reports. If you doubt this, ask your CEO and CFO what would happen if all your corporate data were lost. In most cases, companies would cease to exist.

The cloud raises new questions for how businesses view data. How do you keep track of your data both inside and outside the data center? What controls are in place for your data in the cloud environment? Do you have line of sight to your data at all times? How do you secure your data from unauthorized access and unauthorized environments in hybrid cloud domains?

For most businesses, the answers to these questions are neither positive nor reassuring. With this in mind, let’s agree that data is different and therefore needs to be treated differently from compute. And yet, when it comes to the cloud, we tend to just let data go along for the ride.

Imagine if, instead, our data could seamlessly and securely integrate across whatever IT environment we build, for the lifecycle of our data. This requires the adoption of a data fabric strategy. A data fabric works to encapsulate your data to help you view, control, manage, access and move it through the hybrid cloud. In building your data fabric, there are three factors to consider:

Data Management: This critical component is fast becoming the single most difficult challenge facing data center managers. Proper data management enables end-to-end monitoring and orchestration of your data, providing strategic insight across your entire hybrid cloud environment.

Data Mobility: The value of data mobility is found at the intersection of cost, performance, efficiency of operations, feature sets and service level agreements. A key challenge is ensuring that data has agility, and can seamlessly move or be replicated between disparate cloud infrastructures. Typical storage management systems are adept at moving data within the storage infrastructure domain but fall down once data is created or moved outside the confines of the corporate data center. Providing the ability to move and access data across domains is a key advantage of the data fabric strategy.

Data Services: Disparate data sets stored in separate and distinct architectures and protocols create a tangled and locked web of information. Data services via a data fabric strategy can be the key to unlocking a host of valuable insight to both analytics applications and data center managers. Understanding the value of data sets, recognizing their importance and exposing the critical elements to the appropriate storage tier is key to providing valuable data services.

Looking forward, the creation of a data fabric strategy requires a long-term view of how organizations manage data. Data can no longer just piggyback on compute.

Data in a Hybrid Cloud World – The Case for a Data Fabric Strategy

Data in a Hybrid Cloud World – The Case for a Data Fabric Strategy
In today’s hybrid cloud environment, we tend to think of compute as being agile, data decidedly less so. Yet data, and the information and value it contains, is one of the most critical asset to an organization. Unlocking the static nature of data is a key component of a flexible and dynamic hybrid cloud environment. Cloud environments however appear to be the “Hotel California” repository for your data; “you can check out any time you like but you can never leave”. To seamlessly integrate data into a dynamic and unified view across the entire cloud ecosystem for the life-cycle of your data requires the adoption of a data fabric strategy.

The Data Fabric Definition
So, what is “data fabric”? To address that, let me ask how do you keep track of your data both inside and outside the data center, what controls are in place for your data in the cloud environment, do you have line of sight to your data at all times, and how do you secure your data from unauthorized access and unauthorized environments in hybrid cloud domains? The most likely answer is not well, very little, not really and that can’t be fully achieved. None of those answers are acceptable.

Conceptually, data fabric works to encapsulate your data to help you view, control, manage, access and move data through hybrid cloud environments over the entire data life-cycle. It is a set of capabilities working together to provide management (from creation to archival), agility (accessibility, mobility, portability) and data services.

Creating a data fabric though requires the proper data management strategy. A strategy that employs a controlled approach to how you organize, protect and secure your data in a hybrid cloud. In my next blog, I’ll discuss the evolving role of data management, data mobility and data services in creating a data fabric strategy.

The Path to Thought Leadership Marketing Strategy

Thought leadership campaigns are at the core of any successful marketing strategy, and a key characteristic of successful companies.  They define the business and their products as the premier solutions and their leaders as the go-to experts in their field.  Correctly positioning your company as a thought leader is essential to your strategic marketing plan; regardless of your size.

Detailed below are fundamental steps to consider when defining a though leadership marketing strategy.  They are not meant to be all inclusive however will provide insight and starting points in developing your though leadership marketing strategy.

Carve out your leadership position – what do you want to be known for?

Most companies weren’t born as though leaders; the competency was developed over time.  Thought leadership is an active intent to stake a position in the market that clearly defines leadership; and a commitment to broadcast that position via multiple channels.  Social media gives everyone the ability to create noise broadcasting why their product is the best, and why other products are failures.  But that’s just noise.  Thought leadership requires rising above the noise, positioning your products and solutions as the de facto leader based on the expertise and experience of both the solutions and the industry expertise you bring to market.

Note you don’t have to be knowledgeable about everything in a given industry segment.  Thought leadership requires that you stake out a position on a sub segment of the industry for which you compete demonstrating greater knowledge and insight than your competitors.  If we look at the cloud industry, it’s not that you have to be an expert on the industry, only the segment for which your products and solutions create value for customers.  You’re not going to go up against Amazon or Microsoft for the entire cloud, you only have to go up against a solution stack for which you have competency and can define and demonstrate differentiation like security, analytics, or customer service.

Expertise – You have to know the subject

It can’t be stated enough, you have to know the subject matter.  You need to become the expert on your differentiation in the market place.  What is the specific pain point that your products and solutions fill?  With that in mind, you have to become an expert on that pain point, how that pain point is shared with other customers, and how your solutions are best equipped to solve that problem.

The Voice – not about having the best selling product, about differentiating yourself

Once you have staked out your though leadership segment, you must develop a voice.  Many organizations think of this at how best to promote their products and solutions.  Thought leadership is different.  Thought leadership requires relating to the customer, understanding the customer’s challenges, and offering solutions agnostic advice to help solve these challenges.  It is only through the creation of a rapport with the customer that we become thought leaders, and ultimately turn marketing from a push campaign (delivering product content to customers) to a pull campaign (customers actively seeking product and solutions from you).

Audience – Who do you speak to?

Recognize that your audience is not yourself.  Your audience is segmented across a multitude of axis.  Technical users, decision makers, and even generationals need to be considered when executing your strategy.  How to engage a CXO is very different then engaging an IT director or systems administrator.  Equally, the conversation you have with someone who grew up in the data center is very different than a millennial that has never stepped in front of a rack of servers.  Broadening your message, your tone, and the avenues for which you utilize is determinate on the success of your campaign.

The Avenues – publications that can be used

Thought leadership is earned, not given.  Therefore, you must utilize a multitude of mechanisms to implement your thought leadership strategy.  Examples include social media, industry conferences, personal blogs and electronic publications.  Some examples are listed below:

BrightTalk – leading webinar based content deliver site

InfoWorld – leading online publication features tech bloggers

TechTarget Bitpipe – Leading IT industry content and resource guide

IDG Connect – Leading IT industry content and resource guide

DCIA – Distributed Computing Industry Association weekly email content delivery

Thought leadership is an active campaign strategy that must be employed.  It takes consistency, dedication to the position, and time.

Technology Marketing to Service Providers

The service provider segment is probably one of the richest growth areas for technology and software manufacturers to penetrate.  Synergy Research just reported that quarterly revenue for Cloud Infrastructure Services hitting $5B with Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and Salesforce ranking as the top five.  Understanding this segment and learning the nuances is key to your strategic marketing plan.

I’ve taken a quick snapshot of the service provider segment dividing it into sub-segments (IaaS, SaaS, Transaction) to document the similarities and differences based on the segments hardware knowledge, purchase trigger points, and a host of other categories to define how best to reach.  The point is not to create an absolute picture but to lead to tendencies for each of the segments and how best to approach.  Clearly this needs further refinement however I believe this is one of the first steps in developing a strategic marketing plan focused on the Service Provider segment.  From there, understanding where your hardware and software fit and developing sales play to capture revenue is only one or two marketing evolutions away.


Infrastructure as a Service – This segment highlights the most sophisticated purchaser and may resembles your typical enterprise user.  For most, they are building either a VMware or OpenStack based cloud service and have already identified an incumbent provider.  They are typically concerned with scalability and cost and have an expectation of rich data services.  Trigger points for this segment includes cost of current hardware provider, ability to manage data growth in a scalable fashion, and new development activities / offerings that lead to new opportunities like supporting new cloud OS, STaaS, hosted exchange, SharePoint and new archival and document repositories.  Reference Architectures are key to this segment with whitepapers and cases studies are instrumental in helping them understand how to build for expansion.

Software as a Service – SaaS provider run the gamut from sophisticated infrastructure knowledge to new entrants that are taking a software or service based product and beginning to offer it as a service.  It is these new SaaS entrants that represent the greatest growth opportunities and are the most important to capture.  Although initially cost consciences; as their service grows, their ability to provide the performance and scalability necessary to satisfy growth outweighs cost (growth means they are selling more high margin service).  They need an entry level product that can grow and scale rapidly with a simplified architectural framework.  Entrenched SaaS providers mirror the characteristics of IaaS providers and are focused on managing data growth while simplifying the architecture.  Reference architectures and whitepapers are key however case studies are important to this segment.

Transaction Based Services – The consumer segment can be highly diverse in their hardware knowledge.  It’s important to recognize that for this segment, the infrastructure and software is not their main business.  Therefore, simplicity is key.  In most cases, they are focused on a single vendor solution for providing the platform necessary to facilitate transactions.  This can be in the vein of infrastructure to support an OLTP environment or open-source based compute environment.  They are extremely interested in understanding how other companies solve this problem and look at cases studies and social media for learning.

Final Thought – The key for marketing to the service provider segment is leadership as a trusted advisor.  The key will be uncovering emerging opportunities and positioning your company as the trusted advisor that can help companies navigate growth, while ensuring performance, scalability and cost effectiveness to entrenched users.

Internet of Things and the Data Center

I just recently returned from the Consumer Electronics Show and was overwhelmed with the emphasis on the Internet of Things.  I was there interviewing companies for the Data Center Industry Association for an upcoming webinars and had some interesting discussions on both the evolution of the data center and how IoT will impact.

Per Cisco, there will 50 billion connected devices by 2020.  By then, the world’s population will be just under 8 Billion.  That’s 6.25 connected objects per person.  Data centers are not equipped to deal with that growth, at least not in their current form.

Think about it.  That’s 50 Billion connected objects producing data.  Fifty billion objects that need to be networked, and tied into applications to produce value.  The implication for our storage, compute and networks (internal and external) will be overwhelming.  The amount of applications that will be created and big data analysis that will need to occur in order to take advantage of all this information will keep programmers employed, and data center managers grey haired for the next decade.

If you thought the data center was getting complex now, just wait.  Time to start rethinking the data center of the future.  The one of today isn’t ready.

Cloud Bubble? – Defining the burst!

As Google and Amazon race to the price leadership bottom in the grab-customers-at-all-cost push, one wonders if a “Cloud Bubble” isn’t forming.  Over the past year, both Amazon and Google have announced price drops in excess of 50% for select services in an attempt to capture cloud share. Microsoft, not be outdone, has announced a push towards Office 365 giving out substantial discounts to attract customers.  All three have increased the amount of customers using cloud substantially.  Research by Synergy Research Group of the big 4 cloud providers shows Amazon holding the greatest market share owning 27% of the cloud market.  Microsoft is second capturing approximately 10% with IBM owning 7% and Google grabbing 5%.  But with many analyst speculating that the margins in cloud are at best in the single digits, and potentially in the red, one has to wonder if a bubble is forming.  How inexpensive can the cloud become and is this movement setting up a potential burst?  To understand what the bubble will look like, or more importantly, what will be the impact when it burst, let’s take a look at a potential scenario that could occur.

CIO’s recognize the need to streamline and automate their data center to take advantage of the efficiency, agility and unification that only a private cloud provides.  It’s not enough to stop at only virtualization in the data center. Many enterprise data centers are examining and developing private cloud infrastructure to ensure the integration of their legacy applications to their cloud enabled and SaaS applications.  Once private cloud adoption moves into wide stream adoptions, public cloud growth will slow and public cloud providers will need to determine a way to turn their existing customers into long term profitability.

Now, in order to create long term profitability, they’ll need to increase prices.  And this is where it will get complicated.  As public cloud costs rise, enterprise customers will look to move applications back into their private cloud.  The ease of this migration will hinge on exit cost analysis; how simple is it to move applications back into the private cloud data center.  And exit costs will directly correlate to the degree of integration with the public cloud provider’s system.  Customers running applications on a Microsoft, VMware or OpenStack cloud stack will potentially have a lower exit cost, provided they are running the same release version.  Customers who have designed their applications to run exclusively on EC2 or who are taking advantage of Cloud Apps engine may be looking at rewriting applications to run in private cloud environment, and unplanned and unbudgeted exercise.  Intuitively, Amazon and Google have the least to lose by increasing cloud pricing.  They have entrenched customers who have high barriers for exiting their platforms.

Does all this sound vaguely familiar?  One only needs to take a look at the mainframe era to recognize the similarity to applications directly tied to compute environment for which they live to see the parallel.  So, how does all this shake out?  Smart CIO’s will begin to recognize the potential ramifications of too tightly coupling their applications with their cloud providers.  And it is this insight that will lead to many enterprises ensuring the movement of their applications to a private cloud.  As public cloud providers increase cost, barriers to exit will come down accelerating the exit.  At this point, some public cloud providers will not be able to support the diminishing margins.  This is the point when cloud companies who cannot financially weather a declining public cloud use, will implode.  And the bubble will burst.

We have seen the effect of what happens when cloud providers close shop.  Nirvanix and MegaCloud are just a couple of examples reference in the NetworkWorld article posted June 2nd 2014.  So, what shape will you company be in if the bubble burst?


IT Marketing – Duh, It’s The Applications Stupid



To shamelessly hack the phrase “it’s the economy stupid”, most hardware vendors don’t get it.  It’s not about your spinning disk, your compute density, or your software defined everything.  It’s not even about your solutions; especially when those solutions highlight your hardware.  It’s about how you can enable customers application.  CXO’s don’t care about the data center.  Well, they do, only in as much as it supports the applications, and the value they can gain from those applications.

The answer is therefore, start marketing to how your technology improves application performance, resilience, compliance and integration.  Does your content marketing benefit the customer’s applications?

The world of cloud has changed purchasing decisions, and purchasing decision makers.  IT is no longer in control; or at least have been relegated even further downstream from the decision criteria.

Ultimately, you need to start marketing to marketing.  They will control a greater amount of IT spend than IT (see latest update from CIO online).  And you best speak applications.


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