Posted by: Greg Ness | July 12, 2014

My Debut SciFi Novel: The Sword of Agrippa

I’ve been working on The Sword of Agrippa novel and hope to have it completed by the end of the year. The first section (a Prologue and two chapters) is now on the Kindle Marketplace. $3.99. *

Buy it and write a review, and be among the first 25 to submit that review – and get a free commemorative t-shirt, created as a thank you to those who supported the successful kickstarter campaign.

First Section On Sale Now

First Section On Sale Now

Most of the remaining work (for the remaining 120+ pp) is editing, and thanks to a successful Kickstarter project editing and promotion is now paid for.

The Sword of Agrippa is written for geeks who are passionate about technology, science and history.  It is set in 2020, in a world with more than a trillion sensors and new discoveries related to recently discovered graphene.  There is a race to discover dark energy, through everything from science to shamanism. You can read a sample at the Kindle link (above).

GET THE T-SHIRT!

If you buy the first installment ($3.99) and write one of the first 25 reviews I’ll give you a commemorative t-shirt, with the cover on front and “Certainty is the enemy of knowledge” on the back.*

The t-shirt should be ready by the end of August. The t-shirt is being developed as a thank you for the Kickstarter backers who stepped up and made it happen.

*So now you know: I don’t play golf.  My weekend warrior hobby is a mix of tennis and writing. I’ll need your review posted on Kindle and your address and desired shirt size to get you the t-shirt… if you made it in the first 25.  After 25 reviews are posted, I reserve the right to either withdraw the offer… or even keep it going!

Posted by: Greg Ness | June 26, 2014

AWS and the Perils of “BoxThink”

Catching Up from the Airport

The next five years ought to be challenging for infrastructure appliance vendors, especially those who see their future “in the box.” We just wrapped up at the AWS Public Sector Summit, held in Washington, DC.  An ecosystem of about 3000 attended the 3 day event.

Forgive my typos... I'm at the airport

Forgive my typos… I’m at the airport

Massively disruptive software companies are springing up throughout the AWS ecosystem. It reminded me of the early VMware days, as a robust partner ecosystem appeared out of nowhere.

Amazon AWS is transforming the competitive landscape and ushering in a new era of innovation; the Seattle-based juggernaut is allowing software startups to have strategic impacts in very short periods of time. Business impacts.  Operating impacts. Culture impacts.

The AWS infrastructure is elastic, almost boundless versus the tired, fractured, stovepipe IT that evolved out of the collision between the mainframe and PC era. It is a dream come true for a new generation of software startups.

Amazon is making traditional IT look like a land of a thousand stovepipes; a highly complex and overly-politicized swamp of certifications, ASICs and shell games.

I referred to the ultimate levelling of the playing field back in my 2012 Golden Fleece blog, inspired as a response to a glowing Motley Fool article lauding Cisco’s 2012 prospects:

It is likely that we will see a new set of seasoned, well-funded and well-staffed startups with bigger threat potentials than before.

It is also likely that we will see an entirely new generation of IT infrastructure companies with more product/solution/service breadth than ever before, enabled by the power of software and perhaps a newer, more nimble combination of operating models.

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I enjoyed dinner last night with senior AWS execs in the public sector team and we talked about the massive disruptions today being unleashed by 30 person startups leveraging AWS IaaS.  The City of Asheville, NC was one of the grand prize winners of the global City on a Cloud competition.  The small, dedicated team led by Jonathan Feldman is using AWS (and CloudVelox) to improve DR protection beyond anything available from traditional DR vendors, especially those stuck in dying feudalistic mindsets.

Incredible BBQ

Incredible BBQ in Asheville, NC

You can read the epitaph of traditional device-bound DR here, from the Asheville award page:

Moving disaster recovery from traditional, expensive, premises-based, manual fail over to an automated, pay-as-you-go, cloud-based fail over.

You can also read more from the Asheville CloudVelox Cloud DR case study.

 

#     #     #

At Structure last week I heard much the same thing from a variety of analysts and experts.  If you are wondering if a hardware appliance vendor is already impacted, listen for the following on the earnings calls: “our larger orders are starting to take longer to close.”

In at least some cases I think it is likely that senior executives are already starting to prefer software and services over the ownership, maintenance and upgrading of increasingly complex and costly hardware-bound racks.  Perhaps they’ve even conducted some pilots and watched IT teams become faster, more strategic and/or collaborative.  Or perhaps they are simply tired of paying a premium for complexity. Either way, BoxThink is becoming obsolete.

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Ancient History

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Also: a special thanks to the backers of my Kickstarter campaign: The Sword of Agrippa, which was fully-funded as of last week.  Thank you team Agrippa!  I now have an editor for my (close to) 200 page manuscript developed over many years as a form of “mental golf”… that has finally taken shape.

Posted by: Greg Ness | June 11, 2014

How the Hybrid Cloud War will be Won

When Amazon AWS announced its hybrid cloud console it set the stage for an all-out hybrid cloud war between a handful of companies, including VMware and Microsoft.

The first losers in the hybrid cloud war will be perhaps a third of all service providers; those who are too small, too manual and too locked into the dying hardware-centric status quo to compete with the titans on an increasingly automated playing field.

The second set of losers will be the third party hosting companies who refuse to automate and continue to focus on traditional enterprise IT services, versus catering to the successful cloud players.  They will fight hard to hold onto customers as they amortize truly sunk investments in traditional IT hardware and manual labor. Their hybrid clouds are neither hybrid nor cloud.

Perhaps everyone knew this was coming. After all, as the IT power center moved from hardware to software and services the physical borders between applications, networks, servers and even endpoints started to dissolve.

It was only a matter of time when all enterprise tech companies would compete (from their bases of strength) for larger shares of the overall IT market.  That $1T+ enterprise IT “market of all markets” will become increasingly accessible to more players thanks to the emergence of hybrid cloud and hybrid cloud automation.  That vision came into sharper focus with Amazon’s announcement, and VMware’s very quick response.

The hybrid cloud war will not be won on price but on agility; because agility enables new operating models, including Cloud DR and web-scale IT.  And agility will require hybrid cloud automation.  The hybrid cloud players who automate will onboard customers faster and offer powerful new operating models. The hybrid cloud war will be won with automation.

I am looking forward to another great panel on cloud computing this week at Future in Review.  If you are attending FiRe2014 you are invited to our Wednesday afternoon session on Cloud Evolution:

“Cloud Evolution: New Operating Models for Business Transformation”: With Dave Campbell, CTO, Cloud and Enterprise, Microsoft; Mathew Lodge, VP Cloud Services, VMware; David Nelson, Chief Strategist, Cloud Computing, Boeing; and Michael Liebow, Global Managing Director, Accenture Cloud Platform; hosted by Greg Ness, VP, WorldWide Marketing, CloudVelocity, and SNS Ambassador for Cloud Computing.

"The Best Technology Conference in the World" The Economist

“The Best Technology Conference in the World” The Economist

Fire 2014 Agenda includes Vint Cerf, Michael Dell, Neal Stephenson, Mark Hurd and Chris Lewicki, CEO of Planetary Resources.  See why The Economist calls Future in Review “The best technology conference in the world.”

Posted by: Greg Ness | May 13, 2014

Cloud DR is the Future and the Present

Since launching Archimedius more than 6 years ago I’ve enjoyed pontificating about long term trends, from the rise of virtualization security to software-defined networking and the internet of things.  Lately I’ve been on a data center consolidation and cloud DR kick, spurred by career choices architected to place me at the heart of the vortex. That vortex arrived within the last three weeks.

Cloud DR is  taking shape now as organizations seek more agility and cost savings.

If you are interested in tracking Cloud DR, check out these very cool resources:

1) AWS Advanced Strategies in Disaster Recovery webinar on YouTube (just posted- already with 150+ views). Contact me for the slides.

2) Gartner’s 2014 Cool Vendor report on Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity.

3) One of the first Cloud DR case studies, based on the City of Asheville, NC and their ability to leverage the AWS cloud for extending protection and increasing test agility.

Think sizable cost reductions and increases in agility for apps that do not require active/active DR. I’m already working on my next blog stimulated by dinner last night with one of the world’s leading cloud architects.

Thanks to a great product and some great customers we were cited as a Cool Vendor by Gartner for our One Hybrid Cloud™ platform.  I don’t think I can say it any better than Gartner VP John Morency who included CloudVelocity in the report after a series of briefings and customer interviews:

“The result is the realization of hybrid cloud computing that can be equally effective in supporting both selective application failover as well as data center-wide disaster recovery without incurring unnecessary fixed monthly service costs.” 

AGILITY: Profound Implications for Hybrid Cloud

How many vendors have promoted a “static” hybrid cloud that is still locked in to facilities with fixed monthly costs and similarly throttled use cases?  Their bottom line: you build more capacity yet use it more efficiently.

Agility –the ability to avoid fixed monthly costs in favor of usage-based costs- is the real hybrid cloud payoff. You use IaaS as needed, with minimal monthly payments for storage costs.

See the illustration below comparing hybrid cloud IaaS costs and utilization for disaster recovery, for example, when compared to the costs of a dedicated facility.

A Powerful New Cloud DR Operating Model

A Powerful New Cloud DR Operating Model

The combination of CloudVelocity agility with AWS IaaS makes the hybrid cloud a powerful game changer, as you can read here at Cloud DR Pilot Light is Powerful and within a CloudVelocity case study tied to a one week hybrid cloud deployment for an entire Oracle ecommerce stack. As you can see, agility is the game changer, not merely a 10-30% reduction in monthly costs for those in dedicated facilities.

The idea of paying for IaaS only when needed (the pilot light operating model) is a game changer. It can:

  • Reduce disaster recovery costs to such an extent that many important apps today that are unprotected can be protected; and
  • Reduce overall IT capex and opex by reducing the amount of idle data center capacity deployed simply for occasional use.

You can read more at the CloudVelocity blog on the top six cloud DR benefits.

Posted by: Greg Ness | April 16, 2014

Cloud DR Works Best with a Pilot Light

Earlier this month I had the chance to talk directly with organizations leveraging AWS for cloud DR.  It is a very interesting and powerful use case.  Calling it transformative is an understatement.

These forward-thinking teams are using AWS as a kind of pilot light for a multi-tier app environment (including a cloned database stack) in AWS storage being kept up to date with incremental changes in the local database.

A Powerful New DR Operating Model

A Powerful New DR Operating Model

Amazon is paid during tests and outages, in addition to a very low ongoing storage cost.  When compared to the fixed costs of maintaining duplicate racks and data centers, it is a substantial savings.  See the red line shown in the diagram.  With a private cloud those costs are likely lower (than the fixed costs shown) yet they would still much higher on an ongoing basis.

This operating model opens up business continuity and disaster recovery options for apps that otherwise might not be protected.  For one municipality, a $200k proposal for DR for two critical apps was turned down, leaving the apps unprotected.  The municipality explored options and looked to leverage “pilot light DR” on AWS.  You can find out more at: Advanced Strategies for Leveraging AWS for Disaster Recovery.

There is yet another payoff with “pilot light DR” on AWS: agility.  Notice the small spikes from tests. These tests can be conducted on demand with a high degree of automation and without having to request permission from a service provider.

Pilot Light Dr has Two Operating Modes

Pilot Light Dr has Two Operating Modes

The notion of pilot light DR seems intuitively obvious, yet it requires a hybrid cloud automation platform that supports the unique demands of production environments in the cloud.

If you’re interested, check out these interesting blogs by my partner in crime CloudVelocity CTO Anand Iyengar:

Container Limitations for Production Workloads

Cloud Migration is Bigger than Image Portability

The Hybrid Cloud is Ideal for Disaster Recovery

PS… While traveling to meet customers, I also had the chance to eat some incredible BBQ at 12 Bones in Asheville, NC.  That’s me on only 4 hours of sleep, not realizing that I’m about to eat some of the most incredible BBQ.  I assure you that I will be smiling before the meal next time.

Incredible BBQ

Incredible BBQ

Posted by: Greg Ness | March 28, 2014

The New Microsoft and the New Cloud

When it comes to the emerging multi-billion dollar hybrid cloud market, Microsoft is becoming more than a force to be reckoned with; it is articulating a powerful vision, one that is increasingly well-grounded in the Redmond giant’s core expertise and global data center footprint.  Some call Microsoft’s advantage “enterprise DNA” but I think that may prove to be an understatement.

As we enter 2014 Microsoft and VMware are both promising to give Amazon’s AWS public cloud service a formidable challenge, along with OpenStack adoption at service providers and large enterprises.  Microsoft, however, is in a remarkable position that gets more interesting by the month.

Earlier this month I was able to talk to Microsoft’s Brad Anderson and Mark Russinovich, whom are among key execs leading the charge for Azure. We spoke on a cold, windy morning on a Pioneer Square rooftop about Azure’s rapid growth and maturation, in front of a few cameras for an upcoming video project on hybrid cloud.

Rooftops and Clouds in Seattle

Rooftops and Clouds in Seattle

We talked about Microsoft’s focus on delivering agility to the enterprise, through the development of tools that reduced the amount of effort required to leverage cloud infrastructure for storage, development and infrastructure.  I asked Brad and Mark about what has led to the evolution of cloud from a purely public model to the hybrid model and what that will mean for the enterprise adoption as well as what they see as the top priorities or considerations for hybrid cloud deployment.

The video will be shown at the upcoming (and sold out) Build Conference.  Later that day I spent a few hours with Microsoft execs responsible for SQL server marketing and mobile device management.

A very clear and articulate picture emerged of a company on a bold new path, looking to the future versus simply extending and monetizing the past.  The new Microsoft looked like a company focused on the development of an unprecedented cloud platform across form factors (and multiple clouds) that would enable new levels of IT agility: the cloud as a seamless extension of the device and the data center.

Several companies have articulated a similar vision, yet Microsoft seems intent on really pulling it off.  I didn’t come to this conclusion based on a single visit, but rather on a series of public moves and a growing pool of conversations.

Putting Things in Perspective

Almost a year ago I had the opportunity to meet with some of the Azure senior technical team as a part of a partnership program, and it felt like a hot startup percolating within the core of a massive campus.  See, for example Azure and the Hybrid Cloud Race (June 2013). From my perspective this was followed by briefings with other Microsoft and industry execs and ultimately the appointment of Satya Nadella as the new CEO, replacing Steve Ballmer.  While Ballmer has faced more than his share of critics for missteps (albeit across decades of massive disruptions in multiple tech categories where Microsoft had a presence), the tempo and drive of the Azure team was no doubt established on his watch and under his tutelage.  And the appointment of Satya may also be part of his enduring legacy as a hard-driving competitor.

Satya comes from the services side of the business and area of strategic interest as Microsoft looks forward to the next three decades and what changes are in store.  The return of Bill Gates as a philanthropist tackling global issues like poverty, education and health care is also a stark contrast to the “monopolist” persona of the desktop and server-centric era.

I think we are seeing the emergence of a nimbler, service-centric Microsoft with more emphasis on passion than power, solutions over products and agility over lock-in. If they can pull it off, they could craft a different kind of dominance in IT, one driven by empowering versus containing their customers’ visions.  According to Microsoft, Azure is now adding more than 1,000 customers per day (no revenue data offered), and Azure is doubling capacity every six to nine months. The Company also advised that Azure has penetrated (in one form or another) more than 55% of the Fortune 500.

Clearly Microsoft has its work cut out for it, with Amazon’s AWS driving the public cloud to new heights and with VMware’s high profile entry building on its strength in private (virtualized data center) clouds. Google recently announced sizable price cuts for its own cloud service. Certainly the Microsoft of the cloud era is a much different company, articulating and delivering upon a new vision rooted as much today in agility as it was once rooted in control.

(Disclosure: CloudVelocity is an Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure partner. Microsoft paid most of my Seattle travel expenses. I am also a Microsoft shareholder.)

I’m very excited about moderating the upcoming Future in Review panel entitled “Cloud: New Operating Models for Business Transformation”.  It will be held on May 21 at 2PM at the Montage Laguna Beach. Panelists so far include:

  • David Nelson, Chief Cloud Architect at Boeing;
  • Dave Campbell, CTO for Cloud and Enterprise Business Group at Microsoft;
  • Mathew Lodge,  VP of Cloud Services at VMware; and
  • Joe Tobolski, Managing Director of Emerging Technology Innovation at Accenture.
FiRe 2013

Last year’s hybrid cloud panel with execs from Microsoft, Savvis, Virtustream and Boeing.

If you are a journalist and would like to attend the conference contact me. You can watch a short about FiRe video for more background.

Posted by: Greg Ness | March 2, 2014

Cloud Agility Could be a $60B Market

Last fall I wrote a piece for VentureBeat on the contrasts between two key cloud operating models.  My intention was simply to contrast cloud lock-in with cloud agility, and what that contrast means for IT teams, especially those who might be unsettled by the cloud.  I also wrote at Seeking Alpha that the cloud agility market could be $60B.  Yet today even the “cloud as taxi” metaphor is broken, when one considers the two distinct and dominant flavors of lock-in, intentional and incidental.

Cloud lock-in is essentially the extension of the tired hardware-bound lock-in into the cloud. The cloud service provider “owns” the customer in the same way that the hardware vendor used to exert control over customer environments.  Training, expertise and complexity created effective barriers to competitors and enterprise development.  Innovation was limited to the confines of vendor capabilities. Intentional lock-in is the creation of specialized services and APIs that limit agility, while unintentional lock-in is the high cost of deploying an app environment into any cloud.

Today OpenStack has particularly high entrance costs.  While that is changing rapidly thanks to development efforts by many companies, earlier versions, especially those which have been modified, have unintentional lock-in.  OpenStack certainly offers opportunities for enterprises with large IT budgets and dedicated developer teams; yet the price of entry and exit is not a strength.

Cloud agility is an emerging operating model; the cloud supplements existing assets in the data center and other clouds to enable higher levels of agility and synergy.  Agility and synergy then enable higher performance through operating efficiency.  Yet the challenge for achieving cloud agility is clearly in getting there and few service providers will offer ease of mobility between their environments and competitors. Today the dominant model is lock-in, whether intentional or unintentional.

I watched Bob Green (CTO at Dizzion) speak at a TechTarget Modern Infrastructure event in Boston last week and one of his slides showed a breakdown in operating costs in traditional versus private and public cloud environments for a particular application.  There was a spike in the front of the public cloud (the cloud migration or integration expense) that he cited as an area of disproportionate influence on ROI.

That is why I’m pretty excited about what CloudVelocity (my employer) recently accomplished with an enterprise Oracle ecommerce stack (about 6TB in size), which was deployed into an AWS hybrid cloud in 7 days.  After the proof of concept was deployed and tested it was left on per the request of the (Fortune 1000) company.  The new environment turned out to be faster and easier for Dev/Test than the existing private cloud Dev/Test lab, without re-architecting or significantly modifying the app and stack. The stark contrast seen by company officials: a slow, vendor-driven environment with fixed costs versus an agile, on-demand environment with costs driven by usage.

It is very common to hear the “cloud as taxi” metaphor when talking about comparative costs, but that undersells the agility and synergy aspect, which might prove to be even more important. Think of the cab being available faster than your own car versus the car in the garage.   

That takes us to another problem with the cloud as taxi metaphor: the upfront costs of getting into the cab today with existing cloud management tools and processes.  The slide Green presented showed the spike in initial costs, perhaps the equivalent of paying $150 in advance for the rights to take a $50 cab ride. So what if another cloud provider charges only $40 or even $20 for the same ride? The $150 required in advance erodes the ROI for any change.

This is part of the OpenStack dilemma as well. As OpenStack matures and offers APIs similar to other offerings it reduces the upfront cost of entry.  Fewer expenses and developers upfront combined with a more robust offering could tip the scales away from incumbent cloud providers. But this clearly has not yet happened and incumbents are investing heavily in new infrastructure (and innovation) at a hearty $50B annual clip.

That is why I think that hybrid cloud automation is perhaps the most strategic opportunity for growth and profitability.  Make it easier to get multi-tier production apps into the cloud (without lock-in, including pre-cloud virtualization) and you accelerate cloud adoption.  That makes the monetization of agility (versus control) perhaps the most significant opportunity in the cloud space; more so than slugging it out as an IaaS provider and competing with specialty APIs. Yet that would require a revolutionary shift in thinking, from control to agility. 

See Will VMware or Microsoft Cash in…? for how I determined that the hybrid cloud automation (or agility) market could be $60B.

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