He who controls the management software controls the universe.

No one ever got fired for buying IBM.  Well…how did that work out?

When I started working in storage, it was a major portion of our capital budget.  When we made a decision on a storage platform, we had to write the proposal for the CIO to change to another brand, and we had better be sure we didn’t have issues on the new platform.  We didn’t buy on price, we bought on brand, period.

I was speaking with a customer recently, and they were talking about how they were moving to a storage startup which recently went through an IPO.  I asked them how happy they were about it, and the response was, something to the effect, it is great, but we will likely make a change in a few years when someone comes out with something new and cool.  This wasn’t an smb account, not a startup, this was a major healthcare account.  They were moving away from a major enterprise storage vendor, and they were not the first one I had spoken to who is going down this path.

I remember when virtualization really started to take off.  The concept was amazing, we thought we were going to see massive reduction in data-centers and physical servers.  Please raise your hand if you have less physical servers than you did 10 years ago.  Maybe you do, but for the most part I rarely see that anyone has significantly reduced the number of workloads.  I guess virtualization failed and was a bad idea, time to move on to something else?  Of course not, we just got more efficient and started to run more workloads on the same number of systems.  We got more efficient and better at what we do, we prevented server sprawl, and thus realized cost savings through cost avoidance.  What has changed though is moving from one server vendor to another is pretty simple.

If I were still in the business of running datacenters I would probably spread over two or more vendors with some standard builds to keep costs down, and provide better availability.  From a storage perspective I wouldn’t really care who my storage vendors were provided they could meet my requirements.  Honestly I would probably build a patchwork datacenter.  Sure it would be a bit more work with patching and such, but if there are API’s, and we can do centralized management to deploy firmware to each system, why not, why be loyal.  For that matter, why have a single switch vendor?

See what I did there?  It is all about the software.  Whether you believe VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat, or someone else will win, the reality is it is a software world.  If your hardware will play nice with my hypervisor, and my management tool, why should I use only one vendor, if it won’t, why should I use it?  It is all about applications and portability.  Hardware isn’t going away, but it is sure getting dumber, as it should, and we are pushing more value through software.  He who controls the management software controls the universe.

 

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He who controls the management software controls the universe.

Getting hired into IT as a Veteran

With Veterans Day coming, this seemed like a logical time to talk about getting hired into the IT field as a Veteran.  As someone who started out with no degree and no formal training, but a strong desire to work in the tech industry, I thought it would be interesting to share my story, with the hopes that it will help others break into the field.

Don’t let anyone tell you no.  I was medically retired from the Army, and the Vocational Rehabilitation counselor from the VA told me  that he would not authorize payment for school if I chose IT as my major.  My only options were to go for a Bachelors in Business Accounting, or use my G.I. Bill to pay for school.  I opted for my G.I. Bill, I am so glad I did, I would have been a terrible accountant.  I also applied to every IT job, both entry level and not, I stretched my skills, and I clawed my way into a help desk contract job at a school district after being rejected for a lower level position at the same school district.

Read everything you can, if you don’t know something, ask, or look it up, but don’t ever stop learning.  Don’t just look for technical learning either, consider yourself a business person with technical skills.  Some of the best sources for learning are books, podcasts, and blogs.  Here are a few lists that I have used and personally recommend.  Some of these are technical, but all of these will help you develop yourself, and show that you aren’t afraid of getting outside your comfort zone.

  • Books
    • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us – Seth Godin
    • EntreLeadership – Dave Ramsey
    • Start – Jon Acuff
    • The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win – Gene Kim
    • The juggling act bringing balance to your faith family and work – Pat Gelsinger
    • The New Kingmakers – Stephen O’Grady
    • The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google – Nicholas Carr
  • Podcasts
    • Geek Wisperers
    • In Tech We Trust
    • Speaking in Tech
    • Entreleadership Podcast
    • Chat with Champions
    • DevOps Cafe Podcast
    • The Cloudcast
  • Blogs

Get involved in every community activity, technical meetup, and usergroup you can.  When I wanted to get my name out there, I started showing up at my local VMware Users Group, and started writing this blog.  I watched some of the presenters, and I was hooked.  I started learning the materials and practicing, and pretty soon I was presenting.  I started getting more into it, looking for more opportunities to present.  Next I plan to start with Toastmasters, and taking a few classes on presenting.  I make community events a priority when they focus on IT, and the user.  Finding people who do what you want to do and asking them if they can help, offer to buy them coffee, find out their reading list, ask them how they were successful, ask them if they will mentor you, but make sure you are bringing them some value and some perspective.

There is no magic formula for success.  Veterans tend to be driven, and turn our skills from being soldiers into technical skills.  One day you will wake up and realize you are well on you way, but you never stop learning.  Focus on community and on developing your skills.  Learn everything you can, be a good team player, and you will never find yourself lacking opportunities.

Getting hired into IT as a Veteran

There can be only one…or at least less than there are now.

Since the recent announcement  of Dell acquiring EMC, there has been great speculation on the future of the storage industry.  In previous articles I have observed that small storage startups are eating the world of big storage.  I suspect that this trend had something to do with the position EMC found themselves in recently.

Watching Nimble, Pure, and a few others IPO recently, one cannot help but notice there are still far more storage vendors standing, with new ones coming out regularly, and the storage market has not consolidated as we thought it would.  During recent conversations with some of the sales teams for  a couple storage startups, we discussed what their act two was to be.  I was surprised to learn that for a number of them, it is simply more of the same, perhaps less a less expensive solution to sell down market, perhaps some new features, but nothing really new.

Looking at the landscape, there has to be a “quickening” eventually.  With EMC being acquired, HP not doing a stellar job of marketing the 3Par product they acquired, Netapp floundering, and Cisco killing their Whiptail acquisition, we are in a sea of storage vendors with no end in sight.  HP splitting into two companies bodes well for their storage division, but the biggest challenge for most of these vendors is they are focused on hardware.

For most of the storage vendors, it is likely that lack of customers will eventually drive them out of business when the finally run out of funding.  For some, they will survive, get acquired, or merge to create a larger storage company, and probably go away eventually anyway.  For a few they will continue to operate in their niche, but for the ones who intend to have long term viability, it is likely they are going to need to find a better act two, something akin to hyper converged infrastructure, or more likely simply move to a software approach.  While neither are a guarantee, they do have higher margins, and are more inline with where the industry is moving.

We are clearly at a point where hardware is becoming commoditized.  If your storage array can’t provide performance, and most of the features we now assume to be standard, then you shouldn’t even bother coming to the table.  The differentiation has to be something else, something outside the norm.  Provide some additional value with the data, turn it into software, integrate it with other software, make it standards based.  Being the best technology, the cheapest price, or simply the biggest company doesn’t matter any more.  Storage startups, watch out, your 800lb gorilla of a nemesis being acquired might make you even bigger targets.  You better come up with something now or your days are numbered.

There can be only one…or at least less than there are now.