Monthly Archives: January 2011

IT budgets being cut is not a shock

I was frankly not too surprised to see some analysis from Gartner around the shrinking UK CIO budget forecast. It seems UK CIOS predicts a 7% budget reduction in budgets. See the story at Gartner: UK CIOs expect budgets to shrink 7%.

The other day I was talking to a friend who works for VMware, and we were chewing the fat around where IT cost savings could go next. ( IBM have some great ideas by the way ). He spoke about a CIO conversation he had been involved in and one aspect really struck home. The CIO was discussing his budget challenges over the next 5 years’ and commented…..

“I expected to have a s smaller IT budget. I forecasted this behaviour 2 years ago in my 5 year plan and for the most part, the investments I made over the last 24 months have allowed me to cope with the lower operating and capital monies available to me. Furthermore, I expect similar reductions next year. The board support this and it is all part of our plan”.

Now Gartner and others are often quick to highlight IT budget cost reduction as the big burden facing CIOs. But I don’t actually see it that way. Far from being a burden, to many CIO’s cutting costs is a natural activity for a CIO that ‘has a plan’. Let me explain.

A CIO title stands for CHIEF INFRASTRUCTURE OPTIMIZATION OFFICER.  Well that’s what I say anyway Smile

His or her job is to optimize their assets, their people and their decisions and each year they expect to see their budget to reduce for one simple reason. They don’t need as much. Sure they are going to need cash to make innovative decisions but a smart CIO can identify ‘standing still’ costs that can be eradicated to find this innovative cash without asking for budget increases. You sell to these guys right?

Technology should reduce the cost of running an IT department. Whether it is virtualization, mobile devices, storage platforms or cloud computing, the natural ‘innovation’ in all the products and services available will always reduce the cost of running an IT department.

Of course an organization will ‘spend more on IT’ with increased M&A activity or ‘in your face’ technology innovations that ‘spring up over the Board table’, but the underlying trend is that the modern CIO does not get shocked with less money each year. They plan for it and expect it, In fact it is their job to ensure it happens.

Now if you are speaking to someone who is moaning about IT budget costs being cut, with hands tied behind their back and no influence on buying decisions, then you are speaking to the wrong person my friend. Now if you are unsure about how to speak to the people who do make the decisions then I cant help you here.

cheers

Brummie-Russ.

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Prayer ( for the Cloud )

For reasons outside cloud computing and technology as a whole. this weekend has led me to really think about prayers and the Serenity Prayer ( by Reinhold Nieubhar )  sort of kills two birds with the same stone.

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So thinking about cloud computing and all the paraphernalia that comes with it, I would advocate there will be people and organisations’ that cannot change things and there are others with the courage to change the things they can. Having the wisdom to know the difference maybe the big differentiating factor in their competitiveness for years to come.

Have a safe night.

Paul

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Synchronization

Do you sync or not?

Its not a personal question –  but when you think about how much personal data we expect to have at our fingertips we take for granted that wonderful word – synchronisation.

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What is it?

Well according to Wikipedia as you can see it is the art of keeping things in sync , coordination and in unison.

Do we need it?

Well for years’ our industry has relied on Synchronization and for the rest of mankind we will need it still. But the main point is whether we as end users will need to sync our information now we have the cloud paradigm is the point of interest.

Computers need a way of knowing what ‘time’ it is so they can perform the I/O instructions in a logical manner to ensure the information is not garbled and in the wrong order. For this they use a clock and this clock has to be in sync with anyone else sending information.

OK we knew that. We also know that for us to work ‘offline’ we need a way to work when we are not in the tunnel or in an area without communications. So we have to have a way of syncing this information back to the ‘master’. And yes we have been doing this for years e.g. I got to sync my email being the most popular and frustrating.

But do we think we will need to sync the same way in the future. Does cloud remove the need for sync or will communications still be fragile to ensure we still need this offline capability.

Will it be less obtrusive?

For many of us the art of synchronisation is a lot like the swimmers. It takes effort and it can go wrong. The future however does hold out the promise that our applications and operating systems will be ‘sync aware’ and not bother us with the ‘I have to sync’ activity and just go about their business in the background.

Clues for this?

Take a look at Windows 8. So Ok you haven’t deployed Windows 7 yet but there is a rumour there will be a cloud drive although there are some rumours of OS sync for zero free patching by the end user which I’m not sure about.Take a look at Live Sync or Mesh or SkyDrive or DropBox or Mozy – the list is endless.

The issue I can see though is the difference between backup and synchronization. People don’t want to backup. They want their data secure and available and they don’t want a concept of a window where they could lose data. This is achievable in the data center corporate world to a point but the complexity as you move into the branch and remote user world is acute.

No one has cracked this problem as we strive for ‘data anywhere on any device’ and it is going to be very interesting as to who cracks this. Will it be Microsoft or Apple. Will Google sort out a solution. What about the phone manufacturers? Can they do it. Will it be a cloud provider like Amazon who does this? Will anyone do it.

 

So for now I guess we are stuck with having to remember to sync and if we forget we can always back our data up/ SO people selling portable hard drives and large USB sticks will still have a market for some time yet.

OK off the work out why my Windows phone 7 device cant sync photos to the Skydrive and to avoid having to do a hard reset as recommended by Microsoft. Guys – come on!!!!

have a good Saturday.

Brummie.

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What is this?

Its interesting what you can you see at night.

Satellite photos of the earth can throw up very interesting views of how we live our lives. Most notably the view I picked up of a particular part of the world where at night there are no visible signs of light.

Where is this ? North Korea apparently. So they either browse the cloud with the lights out or they don’t have any clouds at night!

Now I don’t know if this is 100% accurate but it makes you think that by the looks of it – South Korea is very active with cloud based on the amount of light beaming up to the satellite.

Is their a point to this Paul? Well the only one I could think of is that it demonstrates that ‘cloud does indeed have borders’ and that the concept of a ubiquitous cloud is only true if you don’t live in North Korea ( at night time ).

Good night.

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Proud to be Brummie this morning

This morning I am exceptionally proud to be a Brummie. Why? Well for many years’ this may have been sometimes hard to work out but this morning I have every reason to feel on top of the world.

Because last night my soccer team ( for my US readers ) achieved something they hadnt managed to do since 1956 – get to a Wembley cup final.  So in 1956 Dwight D Eisenhower was in the WHite House and Anthony Eden was in Number 10. Bill Hailey and his Comets, Pat Boone and Doris Day were in the music charts. Jesus – proper long way back.

In 1956 technology was a very different place so I thought I would give you a collage of pictures to celebrate my team’s amazing achievement last night.

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Not an iPad, XBox, Blackberry or cloud in sight….ahh those were the days.

 

Come on you Blue Boys….or more appropriately –

Keep right on to the end of the road,
Keep right on to the end,
Tho’ the way be long, let your heart be strong,
Keep right on round the bend.
Tho’ you’re tired and weary still journey on,
Till you come to your happy abode,
Where all the love you’ve been dreaming of
Will be there at the end of the road.

 

So proud this morning and for my dad more importantly.

 

 

 

 

Paul ( Brummie-Russ)

 

OK we got to win the final against Arsenal but dont spoil the moment for me!!!! Smile

Common Operating Environment

There are many acronyms in the IT industry. Often called TLAs or Three Letter Acronyms although we seem to have a raft of FLAs ( four or five letter acronyms – maybe we ran out of TLAs !!! )

But COE ( or common operating environment ) is a very interesting TLA.

We all talk about IT being the foundation or building blocks for a business. IT becomes the rock that success is built upon by providing a reliable and secure utility just like the electricity that powers the lights, photocopiers and hand driers in the rest rooms. The blocks of IT are seen as a corporate asset and justify on-going investment by stakeholders who are proud that their CIO and the IT team are contributing positively to IT being a service. Blah blah blah.

FIne words but if they are to be true then the organisation will have a COE or common operating environment. They will talk COE all the time. They will have a conscious strategy to ensure everything ( and I mean everything ) they do is directed at ensuring they optimise, protect and enhance their COE. They will be proud of their COE, It will be their passion. It will need to be yours therefore.

A COE reaps many benefits such as true lifecycle management of IT assets be they PCs, servers, licenses, application code. Anything really. This ‘standardisation’ manifests itself in a number of very obvious ways. People who understand a COE display quite common characteristics such as;

  • they communicate with each other and have a process to do that
  • they write things down
  • they have a small number of partners and vendors
  • they test things
  • they have an open mind
  • they understand what ‘good’ looks like

How do you spot a COE? Can you get away with just asking “tell me about your COE”? Err No……..

No to identify whether a COE is present in an organisation requires some analysis and discovery as you question their key people.Clearly there are some obvious ones ( although alone do not necessarily mean that a COE is in existence ) such as:

  • Do you have a single approach to operating systems
  • Do you have a standard hardware platform for devices and servers
  • Do you have a single management framework that sits above all systems
  • Do you have a single application development lifecycle focus
  • Do you have a common security model
  • Do you have a single Governance, Risk and Compliance attitude
  • Do you have a reference architecture for your infrastructure
  • Do you write things down

And so on……..but remember. A COE may not necessarily mean they have a single vendor or operating system. Provided they can manage it in a common way and achieve their desired result, who is it to say that running HP, Dell, IBM and Cisco servers is a bad thing? Or running Microsoft and VMware virtualization is poor practice? or running Apple and Blackberry devices for email? The important that the you need to remember is that a COE should always start with ONE THING and be very clear and justifying ANOTHER THING.

Knowing the impact of choice and variety in an IT organization is like the holy grail. This is why experts in designing and managing COE environments are always like the wise owls. They know the cost’ of an IT asset and know what will happen if they introduce ANOTHER thing. They will balance the opportunity for innovation against the risk and cost to them to support it. Typically they will stay with their COE.

Come on – don’t you see? This is why Cloud is the ultimate COMMON OPERATING ENVIRONMENT. Not got it? Why do you think vendors talk about their products and services in such lovely language as CLOUD OPERATING SYSTEM or IT AS A SERVICE.? It is because they have mastered the art of delivering large scale and sustainable COE deployments. Perhaps Google or Microsoft where the first masters of the COE.

BrummieRuss.

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Windows 3.1– aahhhh

In the deep back of my mind I recalled the other day the startling similarity to a cloud drawing I had just completed to the heady days of Program Groups ,Main Group, Games Group and so on. Of course I am going on about that time in our lives when we lived in the world of Windows 3.x. You remember it? You do?

Let me cast your mind back. You had a desktop full of program groups. Each program group had a title  (main, games, applications, accessories ) and you spent your days running your applications and accessing your data within these nice neat boundaries. I personally remembered the ‘art’ of the IT administrator making the desktop boot up the same so the user had a simple existence and a very happy experience.

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So what differences can we spot? Can we spot between these halcyon days of Program Groups,drag drop and tiled windows, and the emerging cloud desktop of the future. Lets take a look.

  • Both allowed a user to ‘group’ their applications to suit their ‘eye’
  • Both allowed the user to ‘not care where the data was coming from’
  • Both gave the IT admin concerns about security, data backup, remote support, service level and availability
  • One made it very hard to provide a single sign on experience to the user ( tough one – could be both of them )
  • One makes it easier to blend social experiences with the corporate experience ( cloud )
  • One made it easier for a IT admin to ‘roll out’ a standard experience (Windows 3.x)
  • One made it easier to deploy on all different hardware types ( cloud )
  • One had a straightforward backend infrastructure ( Windows 3.x with client server architecture )
  • One made it easier to write and deploy applications ( Windows 3.x – pre registry and user personalization )
  • One had a static lifecycle of applications and demands; the other changes nearly every 3 months or so with new services and media expectations ( cloud being the latter )
  • One needs common or bespoke APIs to ‘talk’ to resources in different locations ( cloud )

People will say the Cloud variety is more flexible, allowing for the blend of social networking with corporate need, working across all devices both on and offline. Cloud also makes it easier to write and deploy applications, and the ability to ‘manipulate’ information turning data into knowledge in unparalleled. The Windows 3.x days were restrictive compared to what we can do today. In those days applications were hard coded on the hard disk, and providing users with any self –service (unlike today with application stores, virtualised apps etc ) seemed a pipe dream.

Furthermore, the simple architecture that Windows 3.x was afforded seems ancient with a one dimensional environment of servers, storage, security and network. Imagine now the complexity we have with cloud services. Whilst we may be getting an innovative end user experience the ‘cost’ of getting to that experience is huge. The cost includes the networking complexity of caching information to give browsers real-time experiences for media, the security models to allow federation single sign on across the different clouds, the protection of corporate IP with the proliferation of end point devices and the overall user satisfaction of a ‘good day at the office’.

To add to the ‘cloud angst’ there is the lack of personalisation in the public cloud. I mean – if you pay peanuts then you get treated like a monkey. Right? Bit harsh OK.Even with private cloud and IT as a service your experience is dictated by a service level probably agreed with someone in your organisation and the anonymous provider, so your experience will be ‘hard coded’ into your desktop. Your influence may be similar to those Windows 3.x days. Is this what you need? Is this what you have at home or on your mobile device? I don’t think so.

So with the benefits of these heterogeneous devices and endless choice for Software As A Service applications we have to factor into the Windows 3.x effect that for many users all they want ( and need ) is a desktop experience that just gives them a fairly standard set of applications without all this choice.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying cloud is wrong or that we should go back to Windows 3.x. Cloud is awesome and is part of the inevitable technological revolution occurring in the 21st century.

The point I’m trying to make is that we need to learn from and not forget  our Windows 3.x experiences, and look at what we are actually trying to give the end user. Too many people seem to forget the harmony with the end user, and will leave them with a desktop of clouds that is unusable. But it will be pretty,but not much better than Windows 3.x. I have personally seen ‘cloud’ desktop environments that are good for power saving, aesthetic to the eye, totally decoupled from the device, fully browser and rich media provisioned – yet, totally user  unfriendly because of the loss of ‘user experience’. It sort of reminds me of the early days of ASP computing. Be warned Sad smile

So take heed – you cloud service providers and architects. Don’t just get carried away with the technology in your data centers and ‘cloud’. Leaving users with something they cant use without entering multiple passwords, confusion around where their files are, inability to manipulate information across cloud boundaries and a support nightmare with service agreements and operating agreements, is not a good move. Ignore your users at your peril.

THE STONE AGE DIDNT END BECAUSE WE

RAN OUT OF STONES

 

BrummieRuss.

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Skills

So occasionally I like to point to people who say really up to date things. And as you know by now I often talk about cloud so it struck me that Dustin Amrhein hit the nail on the head when he talked in his blog about the skills needed for the cloud explosion.

Take a read.

http://dustinamrhein.ulitzer.com/node/1662786

I tend to agree with Dustin. I have blogged before about the need for a new kind of cloud business analyst being someone who can translate business priorities against IT strategies and then how cloud can benefit. Sounds easy doesn’t it. Believe me I can count on one hand people I Have met that would get that job!! ( OK so maybe I don’t know many people !!!)

Paul.

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A boiling pot and IT

A very old idiom is “A watched pot never boils”.

IMHO You could apply the same adage to IT. Imagine asking someone with a job title like IT Manager or IT the following question. Do you watch your IT?

Can you imagine the reply.

  • “What do you mean…do we watch our IT? don’t be daft. Of course we don’t”
  • Or perhaps they may say “No we wait for it to boil over”

So knowing people in IT like you obviously do, what would the percentage of responses you would likely get?

You see there is a big difference between popping in and out of the kitchen to check on the pot and staying in the kitchen to make sure it doesn’t boil over. The same applies In IT yet the amazing number of people who pay lip service to management software and tools, or rely on ‘experience’ or don’t even bother. I bet these people have great kitchens at home!!!!!

Now I’m no cook but I have learned painfully that pots boil over when you least expect them, and it ALWAYS happens when I turn my back for just a second. I have seen IT display the same annoying characteristic, and if you are managing a big enterprise datacenter then there are lots of pots with the potential to boil over!

Morale of this story – if you don’t want to manage your IT, then buy takeaway food and move into the Cloud – Ha!!!!

 

Smile

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