Changing Direction…Again

The funny thing about life and careers is you never know where you will end up. Alistair Cooke wrote a fascinating article, about how random his career has been, http://www.demitasse.co.nz/wordpress2/?p=1174. Recently a number of my friends from around the globe have been asking me about career moves, or for advice, assuming I actually know something or know what I am doing. I have come to realize, similarly to Alistair, planning my career does not work.  I am no where near where I thought I would be at any point in my career, I have surpassed my own expectations, not because I am smarter than anyone else, but because I love to learn and I have been very blessed to meet some very intelligent people who have taught me more than I ever thought possible.

Over the past 20+ years I have had the privilege of working as a soldier, tech support, a systems admin, a systems engineer, and a technology architect.  Recently I had a conversation with the team at VMware.  I was pretty convinced that I didn’t want to change jobs, but I do love VMware, and I have spent a great deal of time and effort to understand the strategy, as well as to work with VMware as a partner on many levels.

The interesting thing I learned during my interview process was that I have actually been interviewing for this job for nearly 9 months now without realizing it.  Interactions with various VMware employees showed them I was interested in VMware as a company, and in helping customers understand more about the solutions.  Through the conversation, the team at VMware laid out a strategy, and a future which is compelling.  The thing though that finally sold me though was the people.  I have a number of friends at VMware, and I follow many on the Tech Marketing team, so I feel like I know what things are like there, but meeting with the local team, and getting their perspective, and understanding the vision from their level.

I do want to say, HP is an exceptional company with some amazing products, and with some of the smartest people I have ever met.  I am humbled to say I was a part of the team at HP, and I am equally humbled and excited to be joining the VMware team.   I will continue to write my own opinions, and things that interest me.  If I have anything to recommend to anyone considering how to improve their current position, or find another it is the following.

  • Never stop learning
  • Ask questions
  • Find smart people and hang out with them
  • Learn from everyone
  • Give something back to the community.
  • Thank you’s go a long way
  • Humility saves you from looking silly
  • Always be polite and helpful, you never know when someone might help you, or when you might be able to help them.

So all this to say, this month I will be joining the VMware Health Care team as a Senior Systems Engineer.  I have much to learn, but I have confidence in the team, the product, and the strategy.  I look forward to continuing my journey, and to giving back to the community wherever possible.

Changing Direction…Again

Hyper-Convergence: a paradigm shift, or an inevitable evolution?

With the recent article on CRN about HP considering the acquisition of Simplivity, http://www.crn.com/news/data-center/300073066/sources-hewlett-packard-in-talks-to-acquire-hyper-converged-infrastructure-startup-simplivity.htm, it seems a good time to look at what simplivity does, and why they are an attractive acquisition target.

In order to answer both questions, we need to look at history. First was the mainframe. That was great, but inflexible, so we moved to distributed computing. This was substantially better, and brought us into the new way of computing, but there was a great deal of waste. Virtualization came along and enabled us to get higher utilization rates on our systems, but this required an incredible amount of design work up front, and it allowed the siloed IT department to proliferate since it did not force anyone to learn a skillset outside their own particular area of expertice. This lead us to converged infrastructure, a concept that if you could get everything from a single vendor, or support from a single vendor at the very least. Finally came the converged system, it provided a single vendor/support solution, packaged as one system, and we used it to grow the infrastructure based on performance or capacity. It was largely inflexible, by design, but it was simple to scale, and predictible.

To solve this problem, companies started working on the concept of Hyper-Convergence. Basically there were smaller discrete converged systems, many of which created high availability zones not through redundant hardware in each node, but through clustering. The software lived on each discrete converged node, and it was good. Compute, Network, and Storage, all scaling out in pre-defined small discrete nodes, enabling capacity planning, and fewer IT administrators to manage larger environments. Truly Software Defined Data Center, but at a scale that could start small and grow organically.

Why then is this interesting for a company like HP? As always I am not an insider, I have no information that is not public, I am engaging in speculation, based on what I am seeing in the industry. Looking at HP’s Converged Systems strategy, looking at what the market is doing, I believe that in the near future, the larger players in this space will look to converged systems as the way to sell. Hyper-convergence is a way forward to address the market space that is either too small, or needing something that traditional converged systems cannot provide. Hyper-convergence can provide a complimentary product to existing converged systems, and will round out solutions in many datacenters.

Hyper-Convergence is a part of the inevitable evolution of technology, whether HP ends up purchasing simplivity, these types of conversations show that such concepts are starting to pickup steam. It is time for companies to innovate or die, and this is a perfect opportunity for an already great company to keep moving forward.

Hyper-Convergence: a paradigm shift, or an inevitable evolution?

Defining the cloud Part 4: Supported

As I try to bring this series to a close, I want to look at what I would consider one of the final high level requirements in evaluating a cloud solution.  In the previous posts, we looked at the cloud as being application centric, self service, and open.  These are critical, but one of the more important parts of any technology is support.  This is something which has plagued linux for years.  For many of us, linux and unix are considered to be far superior to windows for many reasons.  The challenge has been the support.  Certainly Red Hat has done a fairly good job of providing support around their Fedora Based Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but that is one distro.  Canonical provides some support around Ubuntu, and there are others.

The major challenge with the opensource community is just that, it is open.  Open is good, but when we look at the broader opensource community, many of the best tools are written and maintained by one person or a small group.  They provide some support for their systems, but often times that is done as a favor to the community, or for a very small fee, they need to keep day jobs to make that work.

One challenge which seems to be better understood with the cloud, especially around openstack, is the need for enterprise support.  More and more companies are starting to jump on board and provide support for openstack, or their variant.  This works well, so long as you only use the core modules which are common.  In order to make money, all companies want you to use their addons.  This leads to some interesting issues for customers who want to add automation on top of the cloud or other features not in the core.

At the end of the day, a compromise must be struck.  It is unlikely that most companies will use a single vendor for all their cloud software, although that could make it less challenging in some regards.  It comes down to trade offs, but it is certain that we will continue to see further definition and development around the cloud, and around enterprise support for technologies which further abstract us from the hardware and enable us to be more connected, use the data which is already being collected, and the devices which are being and will be developed for this crazy new world.

Defining the cloud Part 4: Supported

Defining the cloud Part 3: Open

Open

This may seem like an odd topic for the cloud, but I think it is important.  One of the questions I have been asked many times when discussing cloud solutions with customers is around portability of virtual machines, and interoperability with other providers.  This of course raises some obvious concerns for companies who want to make money building or providing cloud services and platforms.

We live in a soundbite culture.  If it can’t be said in 140 characters or less, we don’t really want to read it.  Hopefully you are still reading at this point, this is way past a tweet.  We like monthly services versus owning a datacenter, who wants to pay for the equipment when you can just rent it in the cloud.  More and more services are popping up to make it simpler for us to rent houses for a day or a few days, get a taxi, rent a car by the mile, or a bike by the hour.  There is nothing wrong with this, but we need to understand the impact.  What if each car had different controls to steer, what if there was no standard?  How could the providers then create services, it is all based on an open and agreed upon standard.

In order for the cloud to be truly useful, it must be based on standards.  This is where OpenStack is the most important.  Going far beyond just a set of API’s, OpenStack enables us to have a core set of features that are common to everyone.  Of course in order to make money, beyond just selling support for this, many companies choose to add additional features which differentiate them.  This is not opensource, but still based on the open framework.  For most companies, this still uses open standards such as the rest API, and other standards based ways of consuming the service.  Even VMware, perhaps the largest cloud software provider, uses standard API’s, and supports popular tools for managing their systems.

Open standards, open API’s, and standards based management features are critical for the cloud.  Of course everyone wants you to choose their cloud, but to be honest, most of us consume multiple cloud services at once.  I use DropBox, Box.Net, Google Drive, Skydrive, and a few other cloud storage providers because they all have different use cases for me.  I use Netflix and Hulu Plus because they give me different content.  Why then should business consumers not use some AWS, some Google Enterprise Cloud, some HP Public Cloud, and perhaps even some of the other smaller providers?  For the cloud to continue to be of value, we will have to adjust to the multi service provider cloud, and everyone will have to compete on the best services, the best features, and the best value.

Aside