Category Archives: Data Center

San Francisco VMUG Meeting with Frank Denneman

A new VMUG chapter started up in San Francisco, the city of startups, on June 24, 2014. I happened to attend this meeting, and my thoughts from this meeting are below.

The meeting was organized at the Thirsty Bear brewing company on Howard Street, which is a stone’s throw away from the Moscone Center. This is a great central location, with parking conveniently available at the garage next door. I arrived around 11:30am, the designated start time and made my way to the second floor, where the meeting was to take place. The meeting room itself was an open space, but comfortable and cozy, accommodating 40-50 persons.

I had the opportunity to interact with Chris Seline and Andrew Uplinger, the leaders of the San Francisco chapter, who had organized this meeting. I also spoke with several attendees, including VMware customers, VMware staff, and representatives of PernixData, the sponsor of this meeting. The main attraction was an opportunity to meet with the presenter, Frank Denneman, who is an industry legend.

Attendees started to stream in, and pretty soon the room was buzzing with activity. Andrew and Chris efficiently signed in the attendees, and managed the walk-ins as well. They distributed raffle tickets to each attendee, and provided logistical information. VMUG was raffling a VMUG advantage membership, and PernixData was giving away a GoPro Hero3 camera.

Networking started going on in full force, as attendees interacted with each other and exchanged business cards and stories. They made a beeline for the food and drinks; the food was excellent Spanish fare, which the Thirsty Bear is known for, with many options. Chris Seline took the floor, welcomed the attendees, and introduced Frank Denneman, the presenter. The PernixData presentation began after a few introductory words from Frank.

PernixData offers its FVP solution, which uses server-side Flash memory to increase I/O performance for VMs across a cluster. This addresses many issues including VM sprawl, the I/O blender, latency to SAN storage, queue depth limitations, and more. (Sound Bite: Storage problems form over 75% of VMware support calls). FVP also eliminates the major chunk of demanding I/O from hitting the SAN, since these are served up from within the server’s Flash memory. Thus performance to all VMs improves, regardless of whether they are accelerated by FVP or not. At its core, FVP decouples storage performance from capacity, so that each issue could be independently addressed.

Audience viewA view of the audience during Frank Denneman’s presentation

You can view the entire presentation by Frank here (VMUG login required).

After this great presentation, attendees headed for refills on their food and drinks, as the meeting entered its final stages. Chris took the floor again to survey the attendees on the convenience of the meeting time, the location, as well as preferences for future meeting topics. It was then time for the raffle, and the prizes were distributed to the lucky winners. I said my goodbyes to fellow attendees, congratulated the leaders, and made my way out around 1 pm.

Raffle WinnersThe lucky raffle winners

 To summarize, the venue and timing were excellent and convenient to attendees. There were 45-50 attendees in total, which is excellent for the first meeting of a VMUG chapter. The food and networking were great, and the presentation was excellent. Andrew and Chris managed all aspects of the meeting well, from the planning and preparation to the execution itself. Feedback from fellow attendees was uniformly positive, with all intending to return for the next meeting.

VMUG Leader PicsLeaders of Sacramento VMUG, San Francisco VMUG, and Silicon Valley VMUG with Frank Denneman

Congratulations to Chris Seline and Andrew Uplinger for a great job!! We hope to see many more successful meetings from the San Francisco VMUG chapter. Follow @SFVMUG for updates from this chapter.

 

 

 

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Impact of Emerging IT Trends – An IT Leader’s View

During October 2013, I had the opportunity to speak with IT leaders at major technology companies about topics of current interest, such as IT Transformation and Cloud Computing. While I was interested in getting their thoughts and insights on how businesses are impacted by these forces, I was also curious on how they are dealing with the impact upon their organizations.

One of these leaders, Paul Chapman, is the VP of Global Infrastructure and Cloud Operations at VMware. He runs the Global Infrastructure and Cloud Ops Organization within VMware, primarily focused upon running internal infrastructure, networks, datacenters, compute, the internal private cloud, and the traditional IT services.

Paul felt that the Cloud is greatly changing how businesses invest in and consume technologies. Systems and processes that are not core to the business are easy candidates to move to the Cloud. He thought that IT departments should provide innovative services to the business. The key benefit to the organization would be agility, which is essential in today’s dynamic environment.

There were many other takeaways and suggestions from Paul that I felt were beneficial to me. The complete transcript of this insightful conversation can be viewed here.

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The Evolution of Cloud Computing

What is Cloud computing?

Cloud Computing is massive amounts of computing capacity that is available to users as a service, on demand, elastic and scalable, charged based on actual resource usage, and completely managed by the Cloud service provider. Users only need a computer to connect to and use the service. The official NIST definition of Cloud Computing can be accessed here.

Several major developments over the past few years have made this model of computing not only acceptable, but also highly preferred by companies. There are many advantages with this model, and some concerns and risks as well. I will focus primarily upon the public cloud for the rest of this post.

What has been the impact of Cloud Computing?

  1. Lower costs of technology deployment due to sharing of large-scale capacity acquired by the Cloud service provider at wholesale prices.
  2. Conversion of fixed costs to variable costs makes it much more appealing to CFOs and business leaders.
  3. Rapid scale-up and scale-down is possible, and this greatly improves agility of the business. It makes it suited for highly variable or periodic workloads.
  4. Simplicity of the cloud model to deploy/manage makes it easy for shadow IT or developers to manage. The business side is understanding technology better and moving towards mastering it.
  5. A personal experience for me was the boom in IT spending by dotcoms in the late 1990s, which created a huge demand for system and network administrators. IT professionals were among the early hires in most of those startups, since they needed to design and build the systems for Engineering. In contrast, with XaaS being simple to deploy and use today, and the emergence of the DevOps trend, IT staff is among the last to be hired in today’s startups.
  6. There has been a gradual reduction in the size and importance of the IT department, with increased scrutiny on IT spending.

I discussed these issues in depth with the following IT executives to see how their strategy had changed due to the emergence of Cloud Computing.

Bask Iyer: Bask is the CIO at Juniper Networks, responsible for IT, but also for Business and Technology Operations. He has over 25 years of experience, with IT leadership roles at Fortune 50 companies, such as Johnson and Johnson, Glaxo, and Honeywell.

Paul Chapman: Paul is the VP of Global Infrastructure at VMware. He runs the Global Infrastructure and Cloud Ops Organization within VMware, primarily focused upon running internal infrastructure, networks, datacenters, compute, the internal private cloud, and all the traditional IT services.

Mark Settle: Mark is the Chief Information Officer at BMC Software, with responsibility for applications and Business Operations. He has been a CIO at companies within various industries, such as Oil & Gas, Financial services, Consumer products, and Hitech distribution.

Here is what they had to say about the impact of Cloud Computing.

Organizations should seriously consider moving to the Cloud, felt Bask, “If good, cheap and reliable computing is available, you’d be crazy to build out your own datacenters”. On the importance of staying with your core competency, Paul stated, “We don’t win in the marketplace because we have the best HR or SFA processes”.  According to Mark, it pays to keep looking for opportunities to move applications to the Cloud, “We constantly look at our product portfolio to determine if there are other products that lend themselves to being offered in a SaaS kind of format”.

There are hurdles in moving to the Cloud, Paul said, “I think you have to have the platform, capabilities and applications in order to be able to move”. Mark thinks that Cloud adoption will happen application by application. He states that he never heard anyone say, “My strategy over the next few years is to decommission one-quarter of my installed base and switch everything over to Rackspace. I think what happens is that people find individual use cases, where to use the Cloud”. The advantages outweighed risks, according to Bask, “(The) cloud provides significant advantages—speed and agility—when combined are more valuable than cost”.

Security phobias can limit Cloud adoption for some companies, but as Mark says, “Your customer information is in the Cloud (SalesForce), and your employee SSNs are in ADP, so what (assets) are people fussing about?” Bask thinks that Cloud adoption actually helps IT departments and the business, “When Enterprise IT departments embrace Cloud, they will free up resources to focus more on delivering business value fast”. Paul thinks that rapid pace of technology evolution will continue, “Constant change is the new steady state”. More of their thoughts can be viewed here.

Conclusions

Cloud Computing is real and has been here for quite some time already. All of us are using Cloud based services on a daily basis, from email to social networking to mobile applications. Businesses are increasingly using the Cloud for Business applications. How will Cloud Computing play out over the next few years?

I think the following will happen over the next few years.

  • Cloud services will become much more commonly used, both by consumers and businesses. Most businesses will eliminate or drastically shrink their datacenters.
  • Costs will continue to decrease for Cloud services, with enhanced features offered by various vendors.
  • There is going to be a huge shakeout within the Cloud service provider industry, and only a few players will survive.
  • Enterprise Software vendors will face significant threats from Cloud-hosted competitors. Most of these vendors will fail to transform, and shrink, be acquired, or fail.
  • IT organizations will move up the value chain by focusing on increasing the agility of business, and supporting Business Transformation.

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Transformation and the future of the IT Organization – Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, I examined the various forces that drove the development of technology and computers, and how this gave rise to the IT department to manage this for the enterprise. The IT department has established itself within businesses, but is now subject to financial and performance standards like other organizational functions. If the business does not perceive commensurate value for costs incurred in supporting the IT department, what does the future hold for corporate IT organizations?  I spoke with the following executives to get insights into some of these issues.

Paul Chapman: Paul is the VP of Global Infrastructure at VMware. He runs the Global Infrastructure and Cloud Ops Organization within VMware, primarily focused upon running internal infrastructure, networks, datacenters, compute, the internal private cloud, and all the traditional IT services.

Mark Settle: Mark is the Chief Information Officer at BMC Software, with responsibility for applications and Business Operations. He has been a CIO at companies within various industries, such as Oil & Gas, Financial services, Consumer products, and Hitech distribution.

I discussed a number of topics with them, including the current state of the IT function within their companies, and the industry in general. What are the transformational forces driving IT and what are its effects?  How would the future IT organization be, and what would it need to do to thrive? Most of all, I wanted their opinion on the role of innovation within IT, and its value to the business. I have listed some of their insights on various topics from our conversation below.

On IT Transformation

Mark “There is always a wave of transformation sweeping through the IT industry, and some of the (traditional IT) construction skills are getting commoditized”.

Paul “I think that there has always been a notion of IT transformation; it is more a movement than transformation. Transformation has a real and defined start and end; there is a movement to IT as a Service”.

Mark “We have an assembly line model kind of concept, which is unfortunately prevailing in IT, where we have highly specialized jobs that need to be performed in a certain sequence to deliver service to the ultimate customer”.

Value for IT

Paul “I think the key is that you understand the new roles that are starting to emerge”.

Mark “The value for IT always gets generated really from interaction with the business”.

Paul “All the complexity that had been holding IT back is being solved. The challenge now has shifted from technology to the organization itself, it is about change management, about adopting and embracing the service model”.

Mark “They (IT organizations) know how to cut costs, they know all the stones to turn over, and they have become quite good at doing it, so they are asked to do it every budget cycle”.

Paul “IT is no longer able to hide behind the complexity (of technology)”.

Role of Innovation

Paul “Absolutely, IT organizations need to innovate (to provide value to the business)”.

Mark “If the SaaS providers start to displace the development activities, and the IaaS providers disrupt the extension of the datacenter, the only kind of equity that IT delivers is the data”.

Paul “By focusing on agility, we have freed up resources, and dollars to focus on innovation activities without necessarily increasing the overall IT budget”.

Future IT organization

Paul “We are seeing less demand for people that manage storage, people that manage compute, and people that keep the lights on in an infrastructure role”.

Mark “The IT organization of the future, (needs to) focus in moving to the value boundary with the business”.

Paul “IT professionals are always on a continuum of always needing to reinvent themselves, because of technology change. I think constant change is the new steady state”.

Mark “Figure out where you are within the commoditization wave, try to swim upstream, to get to wherever the maximum value gets generated, which is typically in direct interaction with the business”.

Read more of their insights from my conversations here.

In my opinion, IT needs to innovate for the business, providing Points of Differentiation. After one player within an industry demonstrates improved business due to an innovation, competitors quickly catch up to the leader. However, not catching up will become a competitive disadvantage. As Mark stated, “(IT) is kind of a force multiplier that goes out and finds solutions that makes groups more productive, at a personal level, or as a group, and helps in supporting the business”. Providing a steady stream of innovation is the crucial advantage that an IT organization can provide to the business.

Technology has become simpler to setup and use, and processes will simplify as well. The organizational cost focus has already afflicted IT departments, and the only manner that IT organizations survive is by providing a strategic edge to the business, like every other function within the company. As Paul summarized, “an IT organization that is very low in terms of innovation output, then by default, you have greater scrutiny of your IT budget”.

I think that IT Transformation this time has to focus upon the actual needs of the business – agility, simplicity, and cost. In addition, it has to deliver tangible value to the bottomline of the organization.

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My Impressions from VMworld 2013

I attended VMworld this year, during August 25-29 in San Francisco. This is a brief report of what I saw and the impressions I came away with. It is getting bigger each year, with 23,000 attendees in 2013. There were lots of interesting sessions, but I could only attend a fraction of those I would have wished to attend. Reasons? Too many conflicts, with each session offered only once. In addition, there were many meetings/receptions/lunches, and lots of networking. I feel that conference prices keep rising just from the perceived value from networking.

For those looking for a overview of the content, here are the day-by-day highlights from the VMware vCloud blog. An excellent coverage of Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 by David Davis. In case you are looking for more detail, here is Scott Lowe’s blow-by-blow from the keynotes by Pat Gelsinger (Day 1) and Carl Eschenbach (Day 2). Scott also has a great report on interesting vendor meetings he had during VMworld here, these could be technologies and companies to watch over the coming months.

Picture from the Expert Blogger Session at VMworld 2013

Picture from “Ask the Expert vBloggers” Session

The Exhibit Hall was huge, with over 250 exhibitors. The influence of the major industry players was clearly evident from the size of their operations, and the show they put up. Nearly half the exhibitors were storage companies, or offered storage solutions. It took me over two days to cover all booths of my interest, and got me wondering about how new players and small startups could effectively stand out in this environment. Well, Jerry Chen had the very same impression; see here for his post on how it is becoming harder for startups to get noticed at VMworld. He also analyzes the future of VMware as a company, and the role of many key initiatives to VMware’s strategy.

Finally a plug for the VMware User Group (VMUG). VMUG is a customer led organization, and relies on the dedication and commitment of its members and its leaders (including yours truly) to support the community of VMware users. The VMUG booth was the most visited booth, with over 5480 visitors. One-third of VMworld 2013 attendees were VMUG members and this is expected to grow. Join the VMUG community, and volunteer – it is a great way to be amongst a smart and passionate set of individuals!!

The VMUG Booth at VMworld 2013

A view of the VMUG Booth at VMworld

Robin Matlock, VMware CMO, made a shout out to the VMUG community and organization on the opening day.  It was really great to meet other leaders, with over 190 Leaders, VMware Employees and Partners attended key VMUG Leader events. I will leave you with some press coverage of VMUG; interviews with the President, Mariano Maluf are here and here, and an interview with the Executive Director, Victor Bohnert can be viewed here.

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