Monthly Archives: October 2010

Standing on the platform

People misunderstand cloud. They get confused between what the words means and how to describe it to customers and colleagues. This got me thinking of a situation I encountered years’ ago while waiting for a train. Let me tell you the story.

I’m waiting for a train and I suddenly become aware of a conversation going on behind me.

I’ve put the money in and the damn thing isn’t working”.

I turned round and saw two elderly people standing in front of a weighing machine.

I went up to them and asked them what was wrong.

The old lady said “we put our money in to the slot and its not working”. She showed me what they were doing and it yes she was right, it didn’t work.The old man explained “ it says on the machine PUT YOUR MONEY IN THE SLOT AND STAND ON THE PLATFORM. We have been doing that but it doesn’t work”.

 

System platform modula

I then realised. The machine had a sign saying they had to STAND ON THE PLATFORM but because the machine was on a PLATFORM ( the railway station platform ) they were confused. Literally speaking they were right, but because the machine was standing on a railway platform the message was ambiguous and caused confusion.

So then I thought about the confusion with cloud and the sometimes ambiguous and confusing messages we hear every day. They remind me of my railway platform experience and it taught me that when having a discussion about cloud it pays to make sure you are

STANDING ON THE PLATFORM!!!

Paul.

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What next after virtualization

When you have embrace virtualization fully and have demonstrated all the business benefits that accrue from that strategy, what are you going to do next?

I contend that once you make a commitment to virtualise it is a strategy you are on for a very long time. Some will argue virtualization is only at a 2.0 stage and there are many more releases to go before we can ask the ‘what next’ question. They are probably right.

Lets examine this. Firstly, there is still a hue amount of application workloads running on traditional x86 platforms. Secondly, desktop and application optimization is still significantly a barren area that virtualization may still have a place to play. We then have the battles of mobile virtualization.

Then there is what cloud is doing around moving workloads dynamically from one virtualised host to another in disparate datacenters, across boundaries’, and identity endpoints. We are still in the kitchen in this area  I feel, and there are masses to do around interoperability, certification and management standards. The bodies like ISO / IEEE are well on the case I hear.

So I would rephrase the question to be ‘now we are virtualizing what next’. Virtualization may be baked into hardware and operating systems and exceptionally mature and mainstream, but there is a long long way to o go before we  can tick it off as an industry.

So my list in no particular order ( and assuming virtualization has given me time to think more clearly because I have shaved my CAPEX and OPEO budgets, stabilised and rationalised my core IT functions, realigned my people and can predictably and proactively measure performance of IT ) my list would be;

 

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The future (and Moore’s Law ) will determine quite nicely the physical ‘what next’ such as processors, solid state disk drives and so on, but the exciting aspect of the original question is where organisations’ can now go. You see virtualization is implicit in all the areas I list above – it will be there somewhere to a less or greater extent. You may never see it again or need to graft at migrating from physical to virtual and all that engineering effort you did 5 years ago, but it will still be there to help you achieve these new initiatives. Remember wanting to know why a dialup modem made those noises and the AT commands you needed to drop into a script? Well I don’t. Not anymore.

Remember and this is key, Virtualization isn’t a project that comes to an end. It is an architecture decision you made and just like deciding to buy a dog, ‘it’s for life’.

Paul.

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Original thought >> putting skin in the game

When was the last time you had one?

when was the last time you said something, wrote something or demonstrated something that was totally original. I bet is was a long time ago.

In our world of commodity technology and reusable buzz words and off the shelf content, the ability to produce original thought is exceptionally hard. Everyone competes to say or do something that no one else has done before, purely because we believe it will make us stand out from the crowd. We hope the  customer will identify us as being the type of people they need to do business with.

Is the true? Is that what customers really want? Or do they want someone who can deliver what everyone else can but cheaper, smarter, quicker, safer and as a partner not as a supplier.

Many CIOs will say ‘don’t tell me what you can do, show me how you can help me be successful as a CIO’. This question usually sorts out the ‘men from the boys’. CIOs will see anyone who can put some skin in the game as someone who is capable of having original thought moments. They will see innovation. They will applaud stepping up. They will distinguish you from the rest. They are looking for something original. This is often called putting skin in the game.

Putting skin in the game is perhaps the hardest ( and easiest given some positive thought ) thing for us to do. It doesn’t mean we have to give away our goods and services for free, but it does mean we have to think about what we can give the CIO before we go and see them. A smart CIO will be expecting you to firstly understand how you are going to help him. He usually wont just sit there and tell you all his problems. He will instead expect you to have done your homework and have something to offer even at the first meeting. For some, it may be in the first 5 minutes. He may not give you any more time if you haven’t demonstrated something original.

Note I say demonstrate – not bull****. Repeating buzzwords and what someone has said isn’t original. I know because I do it quite a lot!! Demonstrating is very different and how you do that is your ‘secret sauce’. Do you want me to tell you? Get Lost!!! Maybe a future post.

Oh it also means you don’t need to invent stuff or promise fantasy. Sometimes just saying you can do the basic things better than anyone else ( and proving it of course ) will be enough to keep a CIO interested in you. How long will this take? Depends on how much skin you have!!

 

Paul

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Snakes and ladders

Making things simple is possibly one of the most important things we can all strive for nowadays. The days of making technology a black art, full of terminology and mysterious complexity has long gone. The Generation Y community have no need to understand how things work anymore; they just want to use the technology to get what they need.

This attitude is now becoming more prevalent in the board room. 10 years or even 5 years a CIO or CTO may have been able to get away with a ‘techno’babble’ report or presentation as he or she explained why a project failed to meet its goals or deadlines. The board would probably have nodded wisely and congratulated the CIO on trying his best and sliced off another dose of shareholders’ dividends to let him try something else.

Well we all agree this scenario has gone for good.Now the world of technology can be played out much more simply.

Imagine a snakes and ladders game.

 

snakes and ladders

 

The decisions and results of your strategy is very much like this game. You make a decision and something good happens like delivering a project ahead of budget or getting a high level of customer satisfaction. But then a snake arrives such as a major outage or bug problem that makes you fall back down again. This is what technology is like. The goal to complete the game is why we are in this industry. The hard bit sometimes is making sure you know what the goal is and being prepared both for a snake and a ladder. I hope you are keeping up!

 

Now the really hard bit ( but rewarding if you can understand it ) is being able to know when you are climbing up a ladder or slipping down a snake. Take the cloud discussion. How would you describe your experiences if you had to think about cloud?

 

  • You may be going well and climbing up a ladder because you have identified a really suitable cloud candidate among your business critical applications that could save you thousands each year and give you better storage capability and test and development opportunities
  • But then you hit a compliance snag around where the application can and cant be accessed from and you end up sliding down a snake
  • You resolve these issues and are back on track and realise that you can accelerate a DR project by using a cloud infrastructure service
  • But then as things were going so well you realise that the compliance people have not ratified this approach and there may be issues for insurance and legal which you hadn’t thought about
  • Lets say you fix those and you know have identified huge people saving through automation and business process management by migrating your order processing application to the cloud
  • You are just about to sign then you get hit with a snag around identity access between your cloud provider and your own authentication

 

You will have got it by now. The point is that just like the game, discussing cloud is just like the game. You go and you go down. The trick (or skill) is to know when a snake is looming and where the ladders are, and unlike the game which is based on a roll of a dice, you have to be able to predict and mitigate for these ups and downs.

Maybe I’ve invented a cloud board game….now there you go – a free idea.

 

Paul.

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Out of the box

I went to a meeting the other day and the partner with me mentioned the classic yet totally meaningless phrase 5 times in the space of an hour. I kept a record of each time he said it. 5 times
It wasn’t his fault.  He was programmed to say such stuff and it just flows off the tongue. I probably say it myself but what the hell does it mean? Do people believe it?
What does it mean? Out of the box?????
In the context of our world it is possibly the most useless four words going. Can you imagine saying to a customer you want to have a strategic relationship any of the following;
  • Virtualization will out of the box reduce your carbon footprint by 20%.
  • CRM out of the box will close your more business.
  • The management console  out of the box will give you real-time performance reports.
It doesn’t mean anything in the context of technology we sell. It’s meaningless so why do we say it ??
Customers’ have smelt the rat and they will be thinking ‘this guy keeps making out I can just lift this solution out of its box and it will do what he says without any effort’. Doh! It doesn’t make sense, we don’t believe me and more importantly, he is leaving without any business from me.’
Lets all agree to NEVER SAY IT AGAIN!! I will if you will.
 
P.S, We will never use it when we talk about cloud.
 
Paul.
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Einstein A Go Go – To The Cloud

God I wish he was still alive now to see this Cloud journey we are all on. A man who can come up with such pearls of wisdom would have made cloud such a simple thing to explain – don’t you think?

His insight and perception of things that people didn’t really understand was phenomenal. I mean just listen to some of his classic quotations whilst thinking about cloud.

  • Insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
  • The important thing is not to stop questioning
  • Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
  • Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
  • I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.
  • If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
  • We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them
  • If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it
  • You have to learn the rules of the game, and then you have to play better than anyone else
  • Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a madman

Which is my favourite when I think about cloud? Easy.

“If you cant explain it , you don’t understand it.”

 

Thanks Albert.

Paul.

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Cloud for Dummies

I had to take a double look but YES there is a Dummies book for Cloud Computing.

Now I admit I haven’t read this book so I cannot be critical ,but it made me think who would actually buy this. I wonder what thought process they had to reach for this and pull it down from the bookshelf.

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Of course people need to understand cloud computing and making it simple is what the Dummies book is all about, and they do a good job by the way. But I wondered about the type of people buying this book because sometimes we have over-complicated what cloud means. The industry I mean.

Let me explain. You can get a Dummies book for cake making, learning Excel, Algebra or How to Speak French. But one for Cloud Computing? My point is that you have to believe that there is a need for cloud computing. you have to be convinced that there is value in change and boy george, cloud is one helluva change!

So I recommend  an absolutely amazing book entitled Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson.

You see it tells you all need to know about cloud computing. Put simply one the Dummies book is telling you what cloud computing is, whilst the Cheese book is telling you why you need cloud computing in the first place.  Don’t understand?

Go read the books.

Paul.

Break fix maintenance (and cloud )

Hi

The agenda with the CIO went like this:

1.  Break fix contract
2.  Cloud

What a cool agenda.! Could it be any different.

The first item was firmly locked into the miniature of hardware with a deep analysis of support desk calls, SLA performance, specific hardware failures, missing inventory items, warranty renewals and plans for hardware swap out at a new office being refurbished.

The second item was totally different as we spoke about application workloads, private versus public cloud, security, virtualization and the CIO’s vision for application lifecycle management.

I sat there wondering how we can achieve such a diverse agenda with clearly nothing in common between one item and the other. A strange one I thought. For me personally one had nothing to do with the other.

As the conversation developed I realised why the CIO wanted to keep both conversations close to each other. His major business applications were clearly candidates for the cloud, but he knew  that cloud didn’t wave a magic wand. Sure applications could move to the cloud, but he saw his applications as services and realised that there was still a lot of infrastructure that supported his cloud, such as storage, network switches, Active Directory servers and security appliances that needed to be well managed and maintained. Having a nice lightweight web application running in someone else’s data center wouldn’t matter anything if a network card failed on a key authentication server that meant users couldn’t logo on.

I reflected that something as mundane as break fix maintenance could have a place in a discussion about cloud computing. I should remember – nothing surprises you in IT these days and that for me my conversation ha changed yet again!

 

Paul.

Do you know what this is?

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No? Well it is a view of London obtained from The Geotaggers’ World Atlas is an interesting series of images by Eric Fischer that shows city maps overlaid with points indicating that a photograph was taken there. The location data was obtained from Flickr and Picasa, and the resulting images are heat maps of popular photography locations.

 

Pretty cool.

 

Paul.

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