Monthly Archives: March 2013

EMC’s New Strategy

It’s been about three months since Joe Tucci – CEO EMC and Chairman of the EMC and VMware Boards, announced the three pillar strategy for EMC. My thoughts are below but in summary how interesting that an organisation can focus and at the same time extend!

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The BIG EMC is now made of three parts; EMC II, VMware and Pivotal. (It’s not a new incarnation of EMC2 as in EMC Two, but EMC Information Infrastructure.) The idea is to divide the IT stack into three parts, the new infrastructure, the new OS and the new application layer.

The New Infrastructure

The journey to the cloud is not over yet, in fact we need to take a bit of a route adjustment to get there. Each year analysts like IDC survey customers to see when they will achieve the illusive IT as a Service end point. Strangely each year it seems to get further away!

What’s so hard? What is hard is achieving a full end to end orchestration through the stack! We have been automating and orchestrating each layer in an attempt to be able to tie the pieces together. However too much pre-work needs to be done before any higher-level orchestration can be effected. The cause of this is fundamentally too many control and command differences between all the parts.

The new idea is to move this up a level and to fully abstract the control plane to the next level. In this way all hardware resources become ‘virtual’ and can be managed at this higher plane. Having created this software defined abstraction, the orchestration from end to end should become achievable, without having to manage the underlying hardware as well.

At the same time there are the continuing challenges being presented due to the growth of data! As I pointed out in a previous post, storage is not snorage, (here), as each year gaps appear where new architectures are needed to close them.

We all live with the issues around managing content; moving it around, sharing it, etc. EMC’s information intelligence group continues to build out this portfolio of birth to disposal technologies to make organisaitons productive and safe.

It’s EMC Information Infrastructure’s job to make all of this happen!

The New Operating System – VMware

Well here I’m going to speculate as I am not that up to date with VMware anymore. Consider the traditional operating system it had two jobs; control the hardware and interface to the applications. Virtualisation has removed the first job as it now controls the underlying physical resources and has opened up new capabilities brining about the world of ‘cloud’. The dynamic instantiation of applications onto different platforms as well as the movement of them across physical machines or across distances cannot exist in a physical world! Now there is more work to be done here.

The other part I wonder about, the API’s that allow applications to run. Is this an area that will continue to exist going forward? I don’t know what the answer is.. do you?

Either way this layers is the domain of VMware and there is a lot of work to be done here!

The New Applications

Ever since computing became a general business tool, the backlog of projects has been growing. There seem to be an insatiable appetite for business functionality, which is now becoming mission critical for many organisations. As the world becomes digital the ability to harness data and operationalise it, becomes critical to the survival of most organisations. Here lies the challenge which the Pivotal Initiative will address with the technologies they have and will bring to market.  How to harness and use all that data? (The realm of Big Data.) How to respond in real-time? The realm of ‘extreme programming’ and agile development as well as high speed processing and analytics.

Establishing the framework for ‘new app’ development is the job of Pivotal.

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LinkedIn, (Fairfax and BBC) on Big Data

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Michael Harte, CIO Commonwealth Bank, got the opening quote at the Big Data summit late last week, saying something like the bank is moving to real-time analytics as their competitive edge.  Not to be outdone the NAB said they were making ‘significant investments in customer analytics’. Big Data has matured in a big way in the last 18 months in Australia!

A number of interesting statements were made, such as:-

Vincent from the BBC saying they were trying to create an ‘always on’ relationship with their customers by providing value to their fans, having a two way conversation  and saying ‘thank you’.  (Don’t wish to gripe but perhaps service in general in Australia could learn a little about engagement and thanks! Side story, had my car serviced last week and as I drove away found a fault that they had introduced. As they requested returned the car the next day, only to receive a a phone call to ask if I was happy with the service the previous day! Is that customer care or follow the script and procedure service!)

Back to the main attraction. Fascinating graphs and data from Manu Sharma, ex Principal Data Scientist for LinkedIn, some of which I recall..
–          Average CEO’s and Sales person has 4 letters to their names, engineers 6
            and restaurateurs 7!
–          Peter/Bob or Debora/Sally are the top CEO names.
–          Since 2007 Newspapers, restaurants, warehousing, capital markets have been shrinking the most while Internet, online publishing have been growing.

The most interesting visualization was a ‘skills’ cloud which clustered together the different skills that people ‘give’ to others. The drill downs were great, for example Manu showed a cluster around Python/MySQL and PHP is Hadoop, EC2, Google App Engine, HBase, MapReduce, AWS .. as expected .. The punch line – clustered around “Business Development” is – Hard worker, Attentive to detail, Revenue improvement!

The final word from Manu was:-

  • More data is better
  • Raw data is better
  • Standardisation and quality of data is key
  • Don’t compromise accuracy for efficiency
  • KISS – simple models are simpler to troubleshoot over time
  • Fail Fast and iterate
  • Correlation is not causation
  • Intuition trumps everything

(He is a data scientist so you didn’t expect small number of worlds did you?)

There were a few other items but the Intuition one stuck in my head. I keep getting the feeling that people believe that Big Data is the oracle. It is NOT!  You may say strange I say that being the Big Data bigot that I am, but that it the whole point. Big Data provides the data in digestible form for the human mind, it feeds the human brain with information that it can process. Then we do what humans do well, pattern match, create ideas, innovate, etc! These things don’t happen in computers, no matter how good your machine learning algorithm is!

VSPEX more Flexible and more Pod than others in the market.

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I did my homework for Data#3’s Juice IT roadshow, (Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth… register here is you are interested, Brisbane tomorrow and Perth next week..) In the process of developing my centred around VSPEX and it’s the first time I’ve had to delve deep into it and I’m quite surprised at what I’ve found.

To be truthful I did have a little bit of a cynical view about the offering! My initial reaction on reading the press release at the time was, “about time we put the Netapp Flexpod discussion to bed!” In my mind I put VSPEX into a bucked labelled Flexpod equivalent.. wow was I wrong!!

In one of the earlier posts I did point out how frustrating it was when NetApp positioned Flexpod against Vblock. It’s like positioning a Dick Smith electronics kit against a Bose Sound System! Reference architectures are a ‘best practices’ way to doing things. Whereas VCE’s products are just that, A Product. A product that is sized, built, sold, installed, maintained and upgraded as a single product.

So what differentiates VSPEX from the crowd? Well firstly it’s flexible at each layer there is a choice of technology you prefer. The cynics among you would say, “Yea right!”, look at the bottom two layers. Yes the storage and the protection technologies are from EMC, however as you might know EMC has a family of products in both these areas. The right tool for the right job!

Secondly, they are lightning fast… or put another way they deliver a great TCO and help you meet your SLAs. This is done by combining the leading capabilities of each of the layers, then fine tuning the setup for specific applications. Which leads to the third big differentiator.

EMC’s interoperability labs are legendary. I remember in the early day’s of Fibre Channel SANs, an article describing the testing EMC does said, “When EMC fixes it, it fixes it for the world!” In fact I’ve had customers show me how competitors of EMC have used the interoperability matrix to get their products working!

Well we have taken this facility and applied to to running VSPEX in particular application environments, e.g. VDI, Sharepoint, Exchange, etc. The engineers work out how to configure the entire stack to give the most reliable, highest performing and simplest way of running that application.

Day 2 Cisco Live – 7 deadly sins

Hats off to Cisco and their organising team for staging a great party last night. I was a little ‘perplexed’ when walking into the event and past a wall of 7 scantily clad young ladies. Being a bit slow I first thought is this the kind of image a brand like Cisco wants to portray! Then it clicked as each one had painted on their arm the particular sin they represented.

Inside each sin had a part of the massive hall, and an activity to satisfy every taste, from gambling to archery to fencing and computer games, even bean bags and movies playing for the people who were into sloth, after a long hard day at the conference!

I managed to get to a couple of sessions the first by the keynote speaker Carlos Dominguez who gave an inspirational talk on his theory of life and how to become a TechNowist, (here). Very interesting guy, well worth watching the video’s on that site. (He was also part of the Human Face of Big Data project that I worked on last year!)

The other session that sticks in my mind was a discussion about software defined networking. Unfortunately I was a little late into the session but the discussion seemed to be about how Cisco has opened up an API layer into their routers. I was a little perplexed as there was no discussion on how to make the network dynamic and flexible, but I guess that will come from the ‘programs’ that get written above this layer.

Last session of the day was a CIO panel which covered the hot topics of Big Data, Cloud adoption and the future of IT. Some nice statements made.. (twitter search @clivegold #CLMEL for a full list), but some of the notable ones were:

–          CIO becoming either CFO or CCO. Meaning Flexibility Officer given the discussions about becoming a ‘bendable’ organisation or Commercial Officer given the model where all services are delivered by a cloud contract.

–          A Data scientist is someone who can find meaning in the madness!

The last quote from the day that I liked was a definition of BYOD, “BYOD is not about the devices it’s about how to securely deliver services to employees!” Like it as it typifies the journey that I.T. is on, moving from technology to outcomes!

If you are at Cisco Live today, join us in room 210 at 12:15pm for a discussion on how to secure your environment using intelligence, not walls!

My First Day at Cisco Live

For me the day started with the first management session at Cisco Live 2013 in Melbourne. An interesting discussion on what the 21st Century Organisation will look like. (If you look for my Tweets you will probably get a good representation of the talk. Sorry!) The main thesis is that organisations have to be ‘flexible’ and not the old hierarchical command and control structures that existed in the dark ages of the 1990’s.. If you are a reader of my blog you will know that I am 100% in-line with this discussion! Flexible, agile and maximising the value of the human capital is what drives organisations today! Good start to the day.
The keynote by Carlos Dominguez was great! I was fortunate to see him present last year and this was an updated version of this keynote speech. Given some of the material was familiar to me I probably was able to keep up with all the ideas whereas I think it was a bit too ‘BIG’ for most people. He presents a 5 stage model of ‘connectivity’. I forget the first, however it’s the progression of everything being connected from Computers, People, Things, to the ultimate Convergence. Today obviously the talk is about the Internet of Things and he did a fantastic demonstration of wi-fi enabled globes from Philips. As he commented this is reality when you have these devices! Net-net is that the world is changing in every way shape and form, and if a totally instrumented lamp-post doesn’t illustrate this.. what does?
The other interesting part was a slide went up with an obvious mask on one of the logo’s. I asked the person sitting next to me if they had noticed and was told that at the partner day this slide went up, it show which companies look like they are not making the transition to the new world and seem to be destined for the legacy logo graveyard. Unfortunately for the presenter, the pure play storage vendor was in the room as a sponsor and spat the dummy!! To me I would say ‘She protests too much!”, but you know me!
The world of solutions I think is bigger again and EMC has a funky augmented reality app which is drawing in the punters… A fun way where an iPad app recognises a logo on a cap that someone is wearing and triggers off an animation of the logo exploding and stuff happening… if you are around well worth a look!
Otherwise, perhaps I do too many of these things but was uninspired by what I saw on most of the stands, which is fine as it makes our funky stuff stand out more.
A few more sessions in the afternoon, a security session by CISCO’s internal IT people which sounded like and EMC RSA pitch.. right down to the use of Intelligence based security, thank you. And to finish the day off a 90 minute discussion on Big Data in the enterprise by a very knowledgeable and experienced guy from the US! Thank you.

Organisational value statements: One way street to Extinction or the New management style?

(Warning: Out of the ordinary post.. not about technology.. you have been warned.. just something that I thought of.)

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I am privileged to be able to work with a lot of different organisations.  When visiting these, it’s common to find a poster of “The Company’s Mission and Values” either in reception or in a conference room. I religiously read these, in order to make my conversations / presentations relevant to the people in the room. However after doing this for years, yesterday I had an epiphany about these stated ‘Values’!

What I’ve noticed most organisations have similar value statements, Trust, Loyalty and Integrity; and all of them expect their employees to exhibit these values in their behaviour.  But here is my realisation, very few organisations exhibit these values back to their employees!

Let me illustrate with an example we can all relate to. Yesterday at a conference I saw someone I had not seen for many years. On enquiring how company X was going, he said he had been retrenched after 15 years! You guessed it, the organisations key value is ‘LOYALTY’. I do understand that some retrenchments are bloodless terminations, for managers who have weak stomachs! But in this case, this guy is one of the recognised experts in his field and is generally liked. The division he was part of was closed down, and everyone was let go! Demonstrated loyalty for 15 years to be indiscriminately let go… (Note: I use the word ‘guy’ as unisexual, as Magnum PI did in the 80’s)

Now if the stated values for an organisation are not demonstrated by the organisation itself, then the game is lost.  In todays ‘information economy’ it’s what happens in people’s heads that creates value. To maximise this value that ‘head’ needs to be in the right space!

My understanding was that the value set was to attract people who connected to these and would enjoy and thrive in such a working environment. Most importantly through their success the organisation would thrive! To me this is the only way to maximise the value, of what has become known as, “human capital”.

Today success or failure is determined by the people within an organisation. Everyone engaged, committed and rowing the same boat, in the same direction… has to be the goal of an organisation and practiced through its management….or maybe if they continue to stick to ‘industrial economy’ principals, they perish!