Key Take Aways From MMS2013


Introduction

I’ve parked myself at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas awaiting the start of my long haul home to Europe. The new terminal is inspiring me to share as I reflect on the past week and on what’s happening at work.

ICT in the 21st Century

A lot is going on and moving in ICT and even more is coming our way. In the Microsoft sphere we got the official heads up at MMS2013 that new features would be publicly discussed at TechEd 2013 (USA or Europe). So you might want to attend that one. I for one think that’s great. We need that information to verify we’re still are on the right track and fine tune our course. Especially in those areas where we can get quick wins with sometimes significant cost savings & benefits.  I could start telling you about all the great sessions and products at MMS2013 whilst quacking like a duck “cloud, cloud, …, cloud, cloud, cloud, … cloud”. But I will not. You can watch it all here.  I will reflect on the key take away.

Cheaper & Faster

Cheaper AND faster are the new mantra or’ “fast is the new cheap”. Cheaper makes everyone happy especially when quality remains high. Faster is sometimes a bit more of a challenge to sell. “New features, already?”  you say. Yes. The nature of our economies and industry is being transformed by the cloud and commoditization. It brings a lot of benefits, especially in a high speed, low drag world.

Fast is actually faster. For many years now any strategy & execution plan that took more than a couple of years was doomed. You get bypassed and your big investments will never live up to their potential. So, apart from the necessary larger and more long term investments, we evolve more and more towards a perpetual improvements & rapid adoption model. Innovation and the subsequent commoditization of it is pushing this. That’s not bad. By making constant smaller (easier to fund) investments that deliver fast results we get to a more adaptable, agile environment for lesser costs. It’s not that all long term, large scale projects are going away but the ratio is shifting. In smart countries this is already being done for building hospitals and other infrastructure that evolves fast. It’s not unique to ICT. Massive projects taking too long and too much funding lead to out of date solutions at the time of delivery at huge costs. Use this approach where needed but forget about it for the other projects. Cloud will be an important tool in all this, not the goal.

A Word of Warning

Fast and cheap shouldn’t translate into mediocre crap at dump pricing that will bite us. It should also keep in mind the ecosystem and don’t act like a shock & awe offensive leaving everything in it’s track in disarray. It needs to fit into a plan with clear goals an knowing where it fits in and helps.  It’s about balance. That’s the art. Knowing what, where, when and with/for who to do it. Not easy. Now let’s hope some of my managers read this blog. It might help them. As the question beckons an answer: who is it that will lead us in this new era? Well not one single person, far from it. It’s a team effort and to lead a team takes competence and some character.

It takes competence and personality

Competence and personality, combined with  applying both these (skills and  drive) diligently in a sustained fashion. That requires a lot of effort, even when no one is watching you, or perhaps better stated, especially then. Do what needs to be done where and when needed. Not because it could get you promoted or more money. That’s the character part. That’s what drives us to learn by participating in our ICT communities, presenting, attending conferences and networking. But also in those hours spend reading, studying and working in the lab alone or with a buddy. That’s what will make us able to handle the though and bad situations you’ll encounter and overcome them. It’s your resourcefulness that will make you seek and find opportunity in adverse conditions. People like the team members amongst whom I have the distinct pleasure of working. You can’t find such synergy if it’s only about personal gain and getting ahead. There is both a broad and deep skill set needed by all involved and doesn’t come easy nor can it be bought. It has to be acquired through work and experience. The transformation of the ICT landscape is uncharted domain for all but a few of us so it’s going to ask a lot of effort, often outside of our comfort zone.

Sure there are cynics who laugh at this and can’t imagine why someone would do all that without personal and immediate reward. Those are the ones we don’t need and who won’t be there at crunch time. Only after the facts they seek the spotlight to poach the glory if things went well or to condemn those that failed whilst trying. Well, the last so called leader who did that doesn’t work with us anymore. Enough said.

MMS2013: SD-B303 How to Build Your Strategy For a Private Cloud


Eduardo Kassner delivered a great session. You can look at it here when it becomes available. Give it 24 hours after real time delivery.

What’s more, he was deadly honest about the realities in the field. Only 2% of customers are effectively using a private cloud … He also offered some very simple tool for getting started with projects to get things done and deliver results. All you need is a Hotmail account and an internet connection to use the tool. It produces reports and MS Project files for the needed projects, Visio diagrams etc. The Optimization Assessment Tool generates reports that can serve as the baseline for planning an effective roadmap and as an incentive for optimizing your IT infrastructure. The detailed Roadmap plan will be generated as part of the Discovery tools.

Now we can be skeptical and realistic that this tool is not perfect. But that same reality is that I have seen a lot less results from expensive consulting and “non committed” attempts at doing something with cloud. The two Dilbert cartoons below demonstrate this very adequately while at times being a bit to close to reality for comfort.

January 07, 2011

November 18, 2009

Traveling To MMS 2013


Well I’ll be traveling towards MMS 2013. A big thank you, by the way, to the team back home for keeping an eye on things while reading the Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Installation and Configuration Guide.

I’m attending this conference for the great networking opportunities and to establish the role System Center will have in our future. Many thousands of us will be attending MMS 2013 in Las Vegas (Nevada, USA) once again for that very same reason. I’m travelling over LHR to LAS with the help of British Airways as one of their Boeing 747s does the job quite adequately.

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System Center 2012 SP1 has been released with full support for Windows Server 2012 whilst Windows 8 is gaining traction and the BYOD & Hybrid trends are ever increasing the challenges for management & support. Meanwhile we’re faced with ever bigger challenges keeping up with Private, Hybrid & Public cloud efforts and trends while maintaining our “legacy” systems.

I’m looking forward to discuss some serious issues we’re dealing with in managing an ever increasing varied ecosystem. Things are moving fast in technology. This means we need to adapt and move even faster with the flow.My friends, colleagues, fellow MEET members & MVPs, business partners, Microsoft employees I’m looking forward to meeting up at the Summit in Mandalay Bay!

Next to the sessions I have meetings lined up with vendors, friends & colleagues from around the globe as we optimize our time when we can meet face to face to talk shop and provide feedback. If you can’t attend follow some of the action here at MMS 2013 Live!

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If you  read my blog or follow me on twitter and are attending be sue to let us know so we can meet & greet.

Personal Best of MMS 2012 Series “Why We Fail–An Architect’s Journey to the Private Cloud”


Introduction

The speaker (Alex Jauch) addresses cloud terminology confusion and points out that yet everyone wants it. So the pressure is on to deliver cloud.

But as an architect you can’t build with such vague notions of what it is. That just doesn’t work. 78% of enterprise IT Shops will deploy a private cloud by 2014 (Gartner) 62% of all IT Projects fail. For the record, building a private cloud is not an easy project.

For one, what are you building? What is it, way to may definitions. NIST seems to be one of the better definitions around. Specific, direct and actionable. We can work with that. I suggest you visit the NIST site for more information on:

  • Deployment Models:Private Cloud, Hybrid, Public.
  • Service models SAAS, PAAS, IAAS
  • The Essential Characteristics
    The Common Characteristics

Why We Fail

What happens:

  • Install Hyper-V
  • Deploy System Center
  • Build a solution

The essential element of cloud is that  “The cloud is a customer centric business model, not technology”.It’s approached to much as a technology problem and that’s why we fail.

The architect should not allow this to happen so he is to blame. The architectural practice is to marry business needs and wants to technology as a solution. This really hits home but there are more people involved and than there is the entire business / IT alignment fiasco as you can read in my blog The shortage of skilled employees, are we making it worse? , but the bucks ends with the architect..

How do we add value to the business? Commodities do not add value, they are necessities. So we need to decide what business we are in. Meeting standards is not a goal. Enabling business is the goal. So they think you’re doing a great job empowering them. After all they are paying for it.

The Take Away

Traditional IT needs to evolve (fast) to customer centric IT.  End user departments define the goals. Our operational proficiency used to be our pride but what does it mean to the customer? Problems that do not affect the business don’t matter. So talk to customers to find out about what they want and need. They don’t care about your skill set or certifications. You’ll need t extract the need from their wants.

The ability to take pain points away from customers. Small & medium sized projects do very well at this. But in a lot of companies they don’t promote you for those “smaller” projects. So the business also has to evolve.

I’d like to add that Old style IT is also promoted by  a lot of misguided security officers and business lawyers. Strict rules as a guidance and instrument are their instruments and no those are also not always in the business best interest.

This relates to IT Portfolio Management: Strategic, High Potential, Key Operational & Support. We need to realize that whatever we work on might be strategic or high potential will move to key operational and support. They all need different approaches and types of management. So choose your methodologies wisely. Don’t just pick one and force that square peg in the round hole. This is my advice to both business and IT. I’ve seen business decisions change support level products turned into high cost  high maintenance because due to bad decisions. So we might not have to be our brothers keeper towards the business but than again do we really need those bridging functions and those guys or gals need to be at the top of their game as I stated in The shortage of skilled employees, are we making it worse?

So keep things a simple and as effective as possible. Do it fast, ride and repeat. You’ll learn a lot and improve along the way. So here comes the build or buy decision and the link to the NetApp plug by the speaker. This is very dependent on the situation of the organization at hand. So the fast track has it’s place here. Is speed of delivery of key importance or absolute flexibility and adaptability? So it will depend. Yes the consultants answer. But being a real consultant is a very respectable job. I can’t hell it that the word has become meaningless due to missuses and inflationary titles for temps for hire.  The System Center stack and how NetApp improves and leverages all this is briefly discussed. He ties the fast track into the discussion of portfolio management and working in a customer centric way.

Conclusion

Why are we doing what we do? Think about it. There is a nice book on this subject  “Why we fail? by Alex Jauch.

The Private Cloud A Profitable Future Proofing Tactic?


The Current Situation

I’m reading up on the private cloud concept as Microsoft envisions we’ll be able to build ‘m with the suite of System Center 2012 products. The definition of private cloud is something that’s very flexible. But whether we’re talking about the private, hybrid or public cloud there is a point of disagreement between some on the fact that there are people that don’t see self-service (via a portal, with or without an approval process) as a required element to define a *cloud. I have to agree with Aidan Finn on this one. It’s a requirement. I know you could stretch the concept and that you could build  a private cloud to help IT serve it customers but the idea is that customers can and will do it themselves.

The more I look into system center 2012 and it’s advertised ability to provide private clouds the more I like it. Whilst the current generation has some really nice features I have found it lacking in many areas, especially when you start to cross security boundaries and still integrate the various members of the System Center suite. So the advancements there are very welcome. But there is a danger lurking in the shadows of it all. Complexity combined with the amount of products needed. In this business things need to go fast without sacrificing or compromising on any other thing. If you can’t do that, there is an issue. The answer to these issues is not always to go to the public cloud a hundred percent.

While the entire concept might seem very clear us techies (i.e. still lots of confusion to be found) and the entire business crowd is talking about cloud as if it’s a magic potion that will cure all IT related issues (i.e. they are beyond confused, they are lost) there are still a lot of questions. Even when you have the business grasping the concept (which is great) and have an IT team that’s all eager and wiling to implement it (which is fabulous) things are still not that clear on how to start building and/or using one.

In reality some businesses haven’t even stepped into the virtual era yet or only partially at best. Some people are a bit stuck in the past and still want to buy servers and applications with THEIR money that THEY own and is ONLY for them.  Don’t fight that to much The economics of virtualization are so good (not just financially but also in both flexibility & capabilities) that you can sell it to top management rather easily, no matter what. After that approval just sell the business units servers (that are virtual machines), deliver whatever SLA they want to pay for and be done with it. So that problem is easily solved.

But that’s not a cloud yet. Now that I’m thinking of it, perhaps getting businesses to adopt the concept will be the  hardest. You might not think so by reading about private clouds in the media but I have encountered a lot of skepticism and downright hostility towards the concept. No, it’s not just by some weary IT Pros who are afraid to lose their jobs. Sometimes the show stoppers are the business and users that won’t have any of it. They don’t want to order apps or servers on line, they want then delivered for them. I even see this with the younger workforce when the corporate culture is not very helpful. What ‘s up here? Responsibility. People are avoiding it and it shows in their behavior. As long as they want to take responsibility things go well. If not, technical fear masked as “complexity” or issues like “that’s not our job” suddenly appear.

There is more, a lot of people seems at their limit of what they can handle in information overload at every extra effort is too much.  Sometimes it’s because of laziness or perhaps even stupidity? Perhaps it’s a side effect of what Nicolas Carr writes about the: the internet is making us dumber and dumber as a species. But then again, we only have to look at history to learn that, perhaps, we’ve never been that smart. Sure we have achieved amazing things but that doesn’t mean we don’t act incredibly stupid as individuals or as a group. So perhaps things haven’t changed that much. It’s a bit like the “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” sort of thing. But on the other hand things are often too complex. When things are easy and become an aid in their work people adopt technology fast and happily.

Sometimes the scale of the business is not of that nature that it’s worthwhile top deploy a cloud. The effort and cost versus the use and benefits are totally out of sync.

That’s all nice and well you tell me, but what’s are technologists to advice to their customers?

Fire & Maneuver

The answer is in the sub title. You can’t stand still and do nothing. It will get you killed (business is warfare with gloves on and some other niceties). Now that’s all good to know but how do we keep moving forward and scoring? There will always be obstacles, risks, fears etc. but we can’t get immobilized by them or we come to a standstill, which means falling behind. The answer is quite simple. Keep moving forward.  But how? Do what you need to do. Here’s my approach. Build a private cloud. Use it to optimize IT and to be ready to make use of * clouds at every opportunity. And to put your mind at ease you can do this without spending vast amounts of money that gets wasted. Just provide some scale up and scale out capacity & capability. The capability is free if you do it right. The capacity will cost you some money. But that’s your buffer to keep things moving smoothly. Done right your CAPEX will be less than not doing this. How can this be?

Private Clouds enable Hybrid Clouds

The thing that I like most about the private cloud is that it enables the use of hybrid cloud computing. On the whole and in the long run hybrid clouds might be a transition to public cloud but as I’ve written before, there are scenarios where the hybrid approach will remain. This might not be the case for the majority of businesses but still I foresee a more permanent role for hybrid clouds for a longer time that most trendy publications seem to indicate. I have no crystal ball but if hybrid cloud computing does remain a long term approach to server computing needs we night well see more and better tools to manage this in the years to come. Cloud vendors who enable and facilitate this approach will have a competitive advantage. The only thing you need to keep I mind that private or cloud computing should not bee seen as replacements or alternatives for the public cloud. They don’t have the elasticity, scale and economics of a public cloud. They are however complementary. As such they enable and facilitate the management and consumption of IT services that have to remain on premises for whatever reason.

Selling The Public Cloud

Where private cloud might help businesses who are cloud shy warm up to the concept, I think the hybrid cloud in combination with integrated and easy management will help them make the jump to using public cloud services faster. That’s the reason this concept will get the care and attention of cloud vendors. It’s a stepping stone for the consumption of their core business (cloud computing) that they are selling to businesses.

What’s in it for the business that builds one?

But why would a business I advise buy into this? Well a private cloud (even if used without the self-service component) is Dynamic Systems Initiative (SDI) / Dynamic Data Center on steroids. And as such it delivers efficiency gains and savings right now even if you never go hybrid or public. I’m an avid supported of this concept but it was not easy to achieve for several reasons, one of them being that the technologies used missed some capabilities we need. And guess what, the tools being delivered for the private could can/could fill those voids. By the way, I was in the room at IT Forum 2004 when Bill Gates came to explain the concept and launch that initiative. The demo back then was deploying hundreds of physical PCs. Times have changed indeed! But back to selling the private cloud. Building a private cloud means you’ll be running a topnotch infrastructure ready for anything. Future proofing your designs at no extra cost and with immediate benefits is to good to ignore for any manager/CTO/CIO. The economics are just too good. If you do it for the right reason that is, meaning you can’t serve all your needs in the public cloud as of yet. So go build that private cloud and don’t get discouraged by the fact that it won’t be a definition example of the concept, as long as it delivers real value to the business you’ll be just fine. It doesn’t guarantee your business survival but it will not be for your lack of trying. The inertia some businesses in a very competitive world are displaying makes them look like rabbits trapped in the beams of the car lights. Not to mention government administrations. We no longer seem to have the stability or rather slowness of change needed to function effectively. Perhaps this has always been the case. I don’t know. We’ve never before in history had such a long period of peace & prosperity for such a broad section of the population. So how to maintain this long term is new challenge by itself.

Danger Ahead!

As mentioned above, if there is one thing that can ruin this party it’s is complexity. I’m more convinced of this than ever before. I’ve been talking to some really smart people in the industry over the weekend and everyone seems to agree on that one. So if I can offer some advice to any provider of tools to build a private cloud.  Minimize complexity and the amount of tools needed to get it set up and working. Make sure that if you need multiple building blocks and tools the integration of them is top notch and second to none. Provide clear guidance and make sure it is really as easy to set up, maintain and adapt as it should be. If not businesses are going to get a bloody nose and IT Pros will choose other solutions to get things done.

BriForum 2011 Europe Here I Come


As you might have read a in previous blog and noticed in the side bar, I’m of to London (UK) to attend  BriForum 2011 Europe. It’s time to get away from the wide screens overlooking my ICT empire toys and broaden my horizons  For those who think the cloud is going to take away your job … think again, I’m getting busier than ever. The reality is that we just can’t push a button and have everything up an running in the cloud. Greenfield projects and start ups might beat existing infrastructure & application architecture over the head with cloud and make those businesses run harder for their money but they will run and compete. That race will produce a huge workload.

So I’m of to dive into some sessions on Cloud, Server & Application Virtualization, VDI … should make for some interesting days. I hope to be able to talk to lots of people with a variety of experience to help find out new or alternate way to address some issues (or challenges) we need to tackle in the years ahead. Subjects like Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity, application aware storage in a virtualized environment, Geo Clustering, Site Recovery, … should gives us ample to discuss. Give us a shout if you’re there. It’s also a nice opportunity to meet up with some fellow bloggers and twitter. acquaintances.

A colleague of mine is heading to the USA, Atlanta to attend TechEd 2011 USA. So he’s crossing the big pond to get some brand new info on the latest and the greatest in Microsoft technologies on the IT Pro side of the business.

So of to London I go, onwards & always going forward in IT as there is no turning back Smile I’ll keep you posted when I find the time to do so. 

BriForum Europe 2011 & The Experts Conference Europe 2011


Great news from the educational & conference front. First of all, I’m attending BriForum in London, United Kingdom in May (http://briforum.com/Europe/index.html).  That’s good news, normally we’d have to pop over the big pond to go to that one, so this is pretty neat. And timely, due to some prospecting I’m doing for Disaster Recovery,  Business continuity, application aware storage in a virtualized environment It’s a good match and I hope to get in to some educational discussions about the challenges we all face. Some of the storage vendors we’re interested in are there as well so there is certainly some potential to make it a good experience.

And just recently confirmed that The Experts Conference is coming to Europe. TEC2011 Europe will be held in Frankfurt, Germany from October 17th to October 19th 2011. This conference is high quality and created to fill the needs of the most experienced users, which is one of the reasons I would like to attend. The more you learn & grown the more you bump into the next level of challenges and being able to learn form high level content and interact with experienced speakers and attendees who are dealing with the same issues can be very rewarding. Attendees of TechEd have a way to measure the level of the sessions, well, they are all supposed to be Level 400 only. Quest is hosting this, so they certainly should be able to round up the expertise.  I’m going to make it to the new “track” at this conference and that’s “Virtualization & Cloud”. More information can be found here http://www.theexpertsconference.com/europe/2011/virtualization-cloud-training/overview/

The timing of these conferences is pretty good. As I said we’re doing a lot of prospecting right now and hope to get a lot of information from attending these. For anyone interested why I attend conferences and why I think they are valuable see mu blog post on this subject http://workinghardinit.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/why-i-find-value-in-a-conference/

Private Clouds, Hybrid Clouds & Public Clouds


Now that I’m thinking of and working more and more towards a concept that might be described as a hybrid cloud using tools and technologies that should facilitate this (Azure, Virtual Machine Manager 2012, System Center vNext, Hyper-V vNext) I get to think about what cloud means, is and could or might become. In the end it is nothing more or less than utility computing based on standard components to deliver commodity services. What you do with those and how determines the success of your endeavors. After all not all devices run by electricity where brilliant and successful. Why is this important to notice? Well people tend to get involved in silly discussion of my cloud is better than yours. And to confuse things even more in between all those discussions vendors are fighting about what constitutes the best technology (hardware & software) for building one. That can be fun, but it has little to do with the value of the cloud as a concept. Now where do private clouds a hybrid clouds fit in? Is the private cloud and the hybrid cloud something temporary, a facilitator towards a “true” public cloud? Or is this just the case for the private cloud?

If you concur that not all IT is the same, not all organizations are the same and not all IT is or will become a commodity one could state that the hybrid cloud has a more permanent character. It will aid having a unified, holistic way to manage it all. Multiple environments with separate management are less attractive as that incurs overhead in costs and perhaps even skills.

But what about that private cloud? Let’s face it. Most (none) of us will ever be able to get the share volume en thus the economy of scale for cost, pricing, redundancy or flexibility as the public cloud. If we can, that would mean the public cloud vendors are not doing their job right. On the other hand there are other needs in business than cutting costs. In the end cost cutting is a valuable tool but not a business model. You can’t run a company with as only mission statement "we’re cutting down on our costs”. So I think the private cloud might be more than just a transition model. It can live on, but probably not for most businesses. Depending on their needs I see a very bright future for hybrid cloud, both for transition and as a permanent solution. I would be hard pressed to call the choice for private or hybrid cloud wrong. It all depends if it’s a decision made for the right reasons. One should always note that choices and decisions have a limited life span. Business is very competitive and moves very fast and the very nature of cloud computing will only accelerate this.

I won’t surprise anyone that a lot of discussions around cloud are based on some assumptions. One of them is that we are discussing very well run organizations. Businesses and governments that have a clear understanding of their IT & business needs, have an IT strategy to support that and who use the best fitting management styles and methodologies as required and dictated by those needs. Sigh, perhaps it’s me but, while I so see occurrences of this at companies, I have never worked at or for one that is that well squared away. And, to me, becoming a financial sound success story with your business and IT in the cloud requires just this. Perhaps the lure or the push of the cloud will achieve for some companies and organization what nothing else has achieved, help transform them into better run entities. Some things, ugly hacks, internal IT can do (unwillingly) now are not possible in the cloud. The financial pressure will be bigger as well. It’s hard to hide or forget about certain costs in the cloud. If there is one thing, ISP, Telco’s (transforming into cloud vendors, but by origin giant “billing engines” for communications) and native cloud vendors are very good at it is sending you the monthly invoices. When things become visible they tend to attract attention. Sooner or later the bean counters will find you. A lot of the existing companies with legacy IT and politics will have a harder time dealing with all of this than the new, emerging ones that are built from the ground up using utility computing, so it’s time to step up to the plate and at least practice batting.