If you’ve followed my posts over 2012 for Cisco Data Center, you may have noticed that I took a slight departure back in September from data center topics to tell you about a “Giving Back” initiative I was part of in 2012 – the “Deloitte Ride Across Britain” (RAB). I noted previously the role of Cisco WAAS as part of our “Network on Wheels”, one of the technologies we consult on in our Cisco Data Center Services customer engagements. I did at the time promise an update on the actual ride itself, which if you read my earlier post, you may be interested in. So forgive me while I stray from the data center topic for today!
As we got past the Mayan Apocalyse day and as 2012 comes to an end, a question to reflect upon is if this has been the year of the Converged Infrastructure Solutions. Incidentally, use of these solutions by data centers was a topic of discussion on a panel moderated by Jim McHugh last month.
Just so we are on the same page, Converged Infrastructure Solutions are those which have integrated servers (CPU & Memory), server virtualization (hypervisor) and storage with the necessary network access into a single entity or logical unit. Examples are the VCE Vblock, NetApp FlexPod, Hitachi Data Systems UCP, IBM PureFlex System and HP CloudSystem (all names are trademarks of the respective companies). Even Dell has started marketing converged systems. The term pre-integrated has to be dissected carefully. In some cases the precise choices on server, storage array and the hypervisor have already been made by the vendor. In others, there is a choice on these infrastructure components and the solution is a reference design with tested scenarios. For instance, the Vblock is a fully integrated and tested solution with Cisco UCS for servers and network access, Cisco MDS 9148 storage switches, EMC VNX series storage and VMware virtualization. The misunderstanding on converged solutions is deep enough that an IBM PureFlex video goes on to compare the UCS Manager (manages only the UCS components) to the PureFlex management software, when in reality it should be compared with the Vblock management software. Read More »
Continuing my tour of the Cisco Domain Ten (SM) framework for simplifying data center transformation, with this blog, I’ll build upon my previous blogs and introduce Domain 3, which is concerned with “Automation and Orchestration“.
I’ve asserted previously that having an automated, virtualized data center is a necessary – but insufficient – basis for cloud – and Cisco Domain Ten portrays this very well. That said, automation and orchestration in my view is one of the 2 or 3 most important domains to focus on when transforming a data center, and when planning a cloud architecture. Automation is quite simply fundamental to delivering benefits such as cost reduction, elasticity, rapid service delivery and agility to your end users/ stakeholders/customers. So what are the key problems we in Cisco Services can help you with in this domain?
This is my first year as an attendee at the Gartner DC conference. I’ve been here once before working demos on the tradeshow floor, but this year it’s purely about information gathering. Tradeshows floors are great. You get to wander around and chat with a captive audience of your industry peers, partners, and “frenemies” collecting pens and light up bouncy balls. Based on where the swag really ends up, I think the pen purchasers really need to start thinking about logo branded crayon packs. But there is so much to learn in the conferences even in the most unexpected sessions.
My primary take aways from the initial keynotes were that Hadoop is a strong early adoption application candidate for cloud in a non-virtual context (Hadoop in the data center was recently covered in Jason Rapp’s blog) , that commodity compute is the leader in cloud computing (I cried a little on the inside with this one), and that personnel development and team building/creation is one of the biggest factors in an IT success story.
For day one the celebrity keynote was from Captain Chesley Sullenberger which seemed out of place before listening to him. His talk about teamwork, process, and respect leading to his success in pulling off that harrowing landing on the Hudson spanned well from the people aspect of organizations, and was a very enjoyable listen.
These take aways seem to me even more critical as IT organizations have to quickly evolve their data centers to meet demanding business requirements, without expecting additional resources .
Gartner does a very nice job of interactive polling within their conference. For the starting keynote the audience poll (~2,000?) revealed that budgets edging up, but for the greatest number of attendees are mainly flat.
It seems that 34% of the audience has to deal with a flat budget, 20% of the attendees benefit from a marginal increase (<5%), and 14% experience a small decrease (<5%)
Talking about data center evolution, as a Cisco guy, I had absolutely to attend (by choice ) David Yen’s presentation. David is our Sr VP & GM in charge of our DC Technology Group, so he’s the big picture for anything Cisco in the Data Center. He is a Phd, with a very large experience in compute, applications and network, acquired through executive role at Sun Microsystems, Juniper and Cisco. David’s talk was about the evolution of the data center and the relevance of Cisco -You may want to check the blog from Giuliano Di Vitantonio, VP Marketing Data Center and Cloud with slides and videos “ The Evolving Data Center : Perspectives from the Gartner DC Conferences” In his presentation David Yen covered some of the background for the evolution of the data center model, and the gains to be expected in the fabric model we see through Fabric Path in optimization of the new East/West data patterns.
This all has a strong relationship to our Unified Computing System solution. Which as a server platform “loaded with features ” might be perceived at some disadvantage in comparison to commodity compute, we’re happy to see that in reality our customers have placed us at #3 in datacenter compute world wide, and #2 in the US for an implementation that is only three years into the market, thanks to providing strong management capabilities, system agility, and dynamic integrated network functionality, as well as great TCO. As proof points , you may want to check Bill Shields blogs on this topic, but also the Cisco Buil& Price website with promotions of the month.
This Conference gave me also the opportunity to discuss other “more technical ” topics such as security for cloud and virtual services.
So stay tuned, as I will be back in January for additional conversations.
As the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas, NV closes, I can’t help feeling a bit of irony in bearing witness to the contrast in culture and atmosphere that this city encompasses relative to the experience many of us have interacting with Information Technology organizations today.
Moving any taboos about Vegas aside, the experience here is about an immersion into a culture of service. From the moment you step into a hotel to the moment you sit down to test your gaming fortunes, your experience is facilitated by professionals whose job it is to ensure you have a good time. Whether greeting you at the door, serving that fine cocktail or dealing your next hand of blackjack, an excellent experience is made possible by people who know how to be of service.
In contrast, many IT organizations today struggle in providing such a positive service experience to those who are seeking to use IT resources for their own productivity. Having some experience of my own in the world of hospitality, I was delighted but not surprised in observing the conference lunch staff have a plan to insure everyone who finished a session around lunch time, was fully accommodated. Each attendee was guided to the next available seat and immediately greeted with a fresh salad, ice tea and warm roll. Careful attention was paid to whether or not I want more or less of something, and if I’m ready for what’s next. Throughout lunch, I experienced a pleasant positive attitude by the attentive wait staff that satisfied my expectations.
What would it take to bring this culture of service excellence to users and organizations? Users of IT resources need the assistance and care of IT professionals so that they can be fully enabled for productivity.
Thankfully, while attending presentations around Infrastructure and Operations, I noticed an ominous theme around what it will take to mature the IT services in organizations today, the message pointed directly to a problem of culture.
In an example of how a change in culture really can transform productivity, Jarrod Green describes in his session, “Kill the IT Service Desk: Create a Business Productivity Team to Transform IT From the Grassroots”, the concept of the Business Productivity Team(BPT). Jarrod discusses business productivity teams having a singular focus on enabling business outcomes through:
1. Extending the capabilities of current and new IT resources
2. Proactive Identification to the solution to a problem
3. Understanding of and alignment with Business Challenges
4. Enabling user self sufficiency and digital literacy
5. Establishing the relationship with the business as a trusted advisor
This savvy service team sounds really excellent! But what does it look like?
It starts with someone who has knowledge of both technical and business processes. Instead of being an expert up the Ivy tower, they meet the user face to face where they are, leading them in solving their technical problems and teaching them about a new feature or way to do their work faster and smarter. Because a Business Productivity team is customer oriented, they earn the ability to influence by building partnerships and driving the consumption of features in current and new technologies that add value.
Wow, I must have stepped into an imaginary organization whose culture expects nothing less and rewards its professionals well! A pretty serious culture change is necessary in order to facilitate this unique capability.
In working with customers during services engagements, I am often asked by CIOs and IT Management how they can facilitate maturing their organization into becoming a strategic differentiator in the business they support. When focused on the evolution of customer service, support and the improvement of end-user experience I often refer to the “Fanatical” Customer Support that differentiates Rackspace in being a market leader of data center and cloud services. Rackspace’s support model encompasses the spirit of enabling productivity and success as the outcome for its customers.
We can speak endlessly about novel technologies that create all kinds of efficiencies and time saved for users. In order to get the most out of the investment in technology, an evolved IT Service desk that drives productivity and end user satisfaction is needed for that next step toward an extraordinary IT organization. Within the Operate Practice in Cisco’s Advanced Services, we strive to help customers achieve the goal of operational excellence in the planning, building and management of their IT Investments.
In my coming posts I will share more about what I think the IT organization of the future, enabled by new cloud tools and processes, will look like. More importantly, I want to bring forward what I think a proactive, inspiring and value-creating culture looks like for both IT teams and the organizations who depend on them.