Tag Archives: Virtualisation

No Silo’s in a Healthy Foundation.

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Last week I was lucky enough to listen to a number of you describing your IT environments and the current issues you face, and I’m a little shell shocked!

As EMC is an international company, we can sometimes convince international experts to visit and share their experience and knowledge with us. (Easier to do in our summer!)  Last week we had two such experts, (Healthcare and Life Sciences), tour the country. A great opportunity for me to meet hospitals and researchers, and learn first-hand about your issues. My lesson learnt from the week was that your issues are shockingly consistent: Growth and Budget, (too much of one and not enough of the other, you know which!). Living the ‘doing more with less’ cliché.

What might surprise you was that in each case the prime cause is ‘stovepipes’. Segregation of departments, budgets, projects, planning, leading to the implementation of disparate systems, applications and  datasets. (One person told us they had about 2000 applications in this single hospital, wow). So its not surprising that no-one seems to be able to provide a single patient view!

How were people thinking about solving this problem. Well on the whole a lot are not, they are too busy doing ‘business as usual’ or keeping the lights on, to even think about it.  Others were very optimistic about implementing an organisational wide EMR/EHR, but as many were very sceptical about getting a business case up and showing any return on the investment.

In my experience, working in other verticals, the journey has always started within IT.  The first step is to consolidate the environment, perhaps starting with the IT support systems and then moving into the ‘business’ applications. If you are a producer or consumer of IT services the goals remain the same:

  • To cut costs: by increasing utilisation when moving to shared infrastructure.
  • To become more responsive: by using virtualised technologies.
  • To improve the service: by using automation.

At the end of the day the results have been impressive across the board, as an example EMC itself has taken this journey from consolidation to virtualisation to automation and we estimate the savings in the millions but more importantly:

  • the amount EMC spends on ‘keeping the lights on’ from over 70% of the IT budget to less than 40%, and now invests in innovation.
  • the time it takes to stand up a new service from over 3 months to under 1 day, freeing up people to help drive business outcomes.

If you are a customer of IT how about asking what are they doing, this year to cut the cost of the services they provide by x%, and how are they going to be more responsive to your requests?

While this may sound very tech-centric it’s a good place to start.. it’s the foundation that needs to be laid in order to move into the making healthcare healthy, (sorry)!

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EMC Strategy Update 2014 – Gateway to the Future.

ViPR signals the future of computing and now I understand this!

First a confession, sometimes it takes me a while to fully understand the impact of some technologies. I remember seeing the first iPod adverts and pondering why anyone would want to carry a hard disk drive around in their pocket!  Likewise when I first encountered ViPR, I thought neat way to manage storage… but it’s not going to change the world?  Like the iPod I have come to understand that this is industry changing. Big statement let me explain.

ViPR has two major components, a controller and data services.  The controller has had a lot of focus, as it was the most built out at release time. Fundamentally it provides virtualised storage and automated management across your whole environment. This gives you visibility into all your storage and a consistent way to manage it; resulting in lower costs and higher reliability. If you were sceptical you would say this is just the next generation of storage virtualisation, and it would be hard to argue that.

Now before highlighting the revolutionary power of the ViPR data services let’s make sure we are on the same page, with respect to the shift in IT technology that is currently underway. Analyst group IDC puts it succinctly as the movement from the 2nd platform to the 3rd platform. (Depicted below)

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This is the movement to an infrastructure that is capable of servicing billions of users, with millions of apps, (driven by social, mobile and big data computing), will look very different to current infrastructures. Enter the Software Defined Datacentre, where we use software to manage and control these elements, (ViPR controller). More importantly, to gain the scale and elasticity required a new hardware construct is required!

One example is illustrated by EMC’s acquisition of ScaleIO.  ScaleIO presents a virtual storage array, that is built from the storage in the servers that participate. Surely this competes directly with EMC’s core storage business today? Yes maybe, but if I need 1000 engines driving a massively parallel workload, I can’t achieve that simply with the hardware resilient architecture of ‘traditional’ storage arrays. While scale out architectures like Isilon scale to the hundreds of nodes, ScaleIO grows to thousands to support the 3rd Platform requirements.

So re-think ViPR in this context, today I am firmly in the 2nd Platform and I implement ViPR to gain control, lower cost and improve availability. Then I get a request to support a 3rd Platform application, let’s say Hadoop. Do I rush out and purchase dozens of servers or how do I plug in the HDFS Data Service into ViPR and support them immediately out of my existing hardware infrastructure?

Here was my ah-ha moment… as I grow my 3rd platform services, I deliver these as data services against existing hardware today and move into specialised or commoditised hardware infrastructures, depending on other factors, but without disruption! Now ViPR becomes a mechanism for me to co-exist in these worlds and move between them as need be. (After all there is still a lot of mainframes/1st Platforms in use today!).

So if I’m right what would you expect to see from EMC? Expect more ‘Data Services’ which will look like virtual versions of the current ‘hardware’ products that exist today!

What is Software Defined Networking and why is it heating up?

Over the past couple of months a few start-up SDN companies have been purchased by major vendors, e.g. VMware picking up Nicra. Do you need to take note and what’s going on?

Firstly YES, you need to be on-top of this as it will affect your future! The issue here is that traditional networking is causing a number of issues as it is too restrictive, to take us into the future of the “hybrid cloud”. So in summary, in the future you will still have your physical topology as well as essentially a logical one, the logical one is basically where SDN comes into play.

To simplify the problem right down the IP system was designed to connect two devices together. Two issues with this as we move to the cloud are:

–       In its design, it starts by finding a path between the two devices, and then connects them together. Now when one of the devices suddenly moves, the system breaks down!

–       The interface today describes the devices identity, (my MAC address is me!), however today we are more interested in the service being provided. Similar to the change in virtualising servers, we used to think about a physical box being our server, (“There is our Exchange server!”), now we think about the application,(“Which VMware cluster is your Exchange running on?”), not related to a specific box.

So there is a need to separate out the control of the network traffic and retain the physical networking to move the data in-order to move into a dynamic and service oriented world.

There are a couple of major initiatives underway in this space, such as the ‘Open Network Foundation (ONF) founded last year by a consortium of vendors and end users to promote the use of SDN. Their major piece of work is to create an open interface standard which is called ‘Openflow.’ As expected, enterprise networking giant Cisco is also working in this area and they have an API/SDK kit called the ‘Open Network Environment Platform Kit, (OnePK), to foster an ecosystem around their switching and routing devices.

To try bring this all together, imagine you are a cloud provider. You need to deliver to your customers a network which looks just like what they have on their site and you need to deliver the service level that you are contracted to them to deliver, however you have to provision this from your highly leveraged infrastructure. How do you do that? You put a ‘virtual network layer’ on top of your physical one, let’s call that a software defined network!

Transform Yourself – Does that Scare or Excite You?

This is the last of the three posts about Transform IT+Business+Yourself..

If you are a road-warrior, like me you will often be asked, “How to do cope being on the road so much?” Well I have a confession, I love it! The idea of coming to work each day and doing the same thing every day scares me. Tim Longhurst, @timlonghurst, had a little model about people’s attitude to change; the edge people who actively look for the change and think outside the box, there are the people who go along with it and there are the anchors that do everything in their power to maintain the status-quo.

To me learning about or creating something new is the same as that new toy you got as a child. (Which I do get accused of being by my colleagues every time I walk in with a new gadget, which is currently the 7” Samsung Galaxy Tab2.)

Personally, I have a big problem with the anchors, who love to say, ‘we have always done it this way!’ The past is just a lesson on how to improve it next time. After all, advancement is only achieved by building on what has been done before, by standing on the shoulders of giants… etc. etc. (I could make some statement about why the Apple/Samsung court case is bad for our market in general and will stifle innovation, but let’s not go there now.)

So back to the point here, Transform IT+Business, will only happen if we take heed of the major trends affecting our skills and teams:

–          Transform IT by breaking down silos: ImageWe got a hint of this when virtualisation started and the VMguy had to know about everything. The virtual machine not only contained the application but abstracted storage and networking. Suddenly the breadth of skills had to expand and an understanding of all domains became mandatory. To me this is why Australia led the world, as the average Australian IT professional has always had a far wider skill set than almost all the northern countries.

–          Transform from Technology to Service DeliveryImage
As automation and orchestration look after work ‘not fit for humans’, the humans apply their intellect at a higher level, to work with the organisation and understand their needs and then working out how best to deliver the service to meet those requirements.

–          Transform Business by finding the Information, Knowledge and Wisdom within the Data: ImageTo do this a multi-disciplinary approach is needed to be able to investigate, theorize, and discover the relationships and trends and the correlations that exist in the vast amount of data we all have access to.

Exciting times ahead, embrace them and enjoy the journey!

EMC Forum – Relating to the Future Picture

In the last post introduced the EMC Forum theme of Transform IT+Business+Yourself and outlined the picture the futurist painted. Now what has this to do with Cisco, EMC and VMware? Well it seems to be the vision and strategy, that binds these three companies together.

We all identify with the IT Transformation message that the world is moving from consolidation, through virtualisation to automated and orchestrated infrastructures. No one questions this evolution any more, they just talk about where they are on in the journey. As Andrew Dutton, (APJ Lead for VMware), pointed out from the boardroom down, this is no longer a question of IF, it’s just a question of how quick!

The technologies needed to complete this infrastructure transformation, and realise the goal of a fully automated hybrid cloud being run as a service, are beginning to surface. It can also be tracked by following the acquisitions, such as VMware’s purchase of Nicira, (software defined networking), Cisco’s purchase of Newscale and Tidal, you can track the virtualisation, automation and orchestration path.

Transforming Business, is by far, the most interesting part of the market today. As we humans accept that the amount of data that is available to us is more than the human mind can cope with, we realise that technologies can enhance and improve everything we do! More importantly as many organisations look to modernise applications by moving them to framework based environments like VMware’s Spingsource, there is an opportunity to architect for the future. Why just take an old application and put it on a new platform?

In the process of modernising applications, think about the future of IT. IT’s job is to capture, store, and analyse all data to provide real-time analytic support to all parts of the organisation. EMC’s recent implementation of SAP used this idea to construct what we are calling the “Application Integration Cloud”, the use of an in-memory database to enable integration and to feed the Big Data store. Not only did this reduce the integration challenge between all our systems but set up a modern analytics platform that has revolutionised our BI process and enabled us to leverage all our data.

Now what about transforming yourself.. next time..

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By Clive Gold, CTO Marketing, EMC Australia and New Zealand. Funny how sitting back and listening brings you new insights! I was starting to think that all hypervisors were the same. Reading the press gives you the opinion that this … Continue reading

Are Industry Associations Snorage or Hype-Busters?

By Clive Gold, CTO Marketing, EMC Australia and New Zealand.

As soon as I say “Storage Networking”, you will glaze over and think… “storage is snoreage” and if there is no ‘social’ before ‘networking’ who cares!  However consider that in IT, there just might be a small chance, that a few isolated vendors, possibly over-exaggerate or over-hype new technologies. I would argue having an independent voice in this market can provide you with a great deal of value!

Quick background, SNIA is the Storage Networking Industry Association, a body formed by the industry to drive standards and best practices associated with ‘storage’. In the past this body has been responsible for driving standards around storage management, storage protocols such as Object-based and iSCSI, etc.  Last week I was in the USA at SNW, (Storage Networking World) as I chair the International Steering Committee for SNIA, which represents the 7 regional affiliates to the ‘core’ of SNIA. (ANZ, Brazil, China, Europe, India, Japan, and South Asia).

So the question is, with a name like ‘Storage Networking’ which is so 2000’s, why does this association continue to exist? The answer is like EMC, SNIA has expanded its focus but is battling with its brand perception. Have a look at the agenda from last week, (Agenda and Pressos here), and in particular search for the “SNIA Tutorials”.

What you will find are a number of topics that you would expect, core storage related like, “Advanced Deduplication Concepts”, “Benefits of Solid State in Enterprise Storage Systems”. Don’t stop as you will notice a move to the virtual world, e.g. “pNFS & NFSv4.2: A Filesystem for Grid, Virtualization and Database”, “Storage Optimization for Virtual Desktops”, etc.  But it doesn’t stop  there, as the market has done SNIA moves from virtualisation to cloud. Sessions like: “Interoperable Cloud Storage with the CDMI Standard”. (“Cloud Data Management Interface” was the first standard for cloud storage and has begun being built into products on the market.)

Now it starts to get more interesting as a number of topics seem to move from the ‘core’ technology and more about how and why, titles like:

  • “A Hype-free Stroll Through Cloud Storage Security”
  • “Deploying Public, Private and Hybrid Storage Clouds”
  • “The Business Case for the Cloud”
  • “Enterprise Architecture and The Cloud”

How does that relate to ‘Storage Networking’, well it’s definitely about storage, no arguing there, and some would say you don’t have ‘cloud’ without networks.. so it’s perfectly relevant! It’s just about your ‘historic’ perception and the reality today!

To make it worse, your journey doesn’t stop there as you notice subjects that lead further from basic protocol standards, like, “Got Lawyers? They’ve Got Storage and ESI in the Cross-Hairs”, “Bringing Light to the “Digital Dark Age” – Preserving Digital Information for the Long Term”, “Can U B Social? Defining Social Media For Your Organization”.

Have a look at some of the content, and even if you aren’t a “tech nerd”, I think you will see value in a consensus view! If you want to know more sign up at snia.org.au.  See you there!