It’s very difficult these days to consume any type of IT-related media and not hear about “stack wars”. Podcasts, VMUGs, tweets, and industry conferences. Company A does it all under one logo. Companies B, C and D are collaborating to create lock-in. Company B also works with other partners, so where are their real loyalties and strategies. Blah, blah, blah…
All of this makes great fodders for the media and Wall Street, but surprisingly, it matters very little to most of the companies I speak with these days. Yes, they monitor it closely because they want strategic partners instead of just suppliers. But more than anything else, the C-level discussions today are about Innovation. Innovation in raw technology; innovation in technology delivery models; innovation in using technology to radically change business models; innovation in partnership models.
Many customers I speak with are in markets where the pace of change is incredibly fast. Fast in the sense of market-leaders being on top in Year 1 and out of the market in Year 4-5 because they fell behind in technology use or adopted a bad strategy. They have global competitors with cost models and operational efficiency that people couldn’t fathom several years ago. Rapid change is part of their lives, hence they don’t look at Innovation as a “nice-to-have” but rather a “must-have”. They expect their business/technology partners to constantly be reinventing themselves and their technologies to give them every possible advantage they can create.
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So, following up from my last post, do I think mainframes were the first private clouds? In a word, no. However, I think there are some key lessons to be learned from the era of big iron computing for organizations looking to roll out private clouds today.
While a lot of the technology is the same (virtualization, clustering, shared resources), there are some significant differences, including the rapidity of re-provisioning (think weeks or months), responsiveness to end user requests (there wasn’t), and the ability to self-provision (ha!).
I guess my point is that the shift to private cloud is less about technology and more about how you run your IT shop. I cannot take credit for this insight–my compatriot James Urquhart made this point about a year ago. However, when chatting with customers, many of them still tend to see this as a technology led transition and not a people/process-led transition. The risk at the end of the day is that you end up with cloud infrastructure missing some of the key benefits of private cloud computing–you may see improved agility but might not see the TCO reductions you were expecting.
So, operationally, there are a couple of things I think we can learn from the days of IBM and DEC big iron:
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As the broad IT market and budgets appear to be coming back in 2010, the SAN market continued to maintain its roughly $2 billion annual size with $475M in shipments in CQ1’10. Showing some growth, larger Director-class switches actually grew 8% sequentially.
At the same time, Cisco’s ongoing commitment to Fibre Channel was validated by the market in Q1. Cisco MDS (aka SAN switch) revenue grew 100% year over year in CQ1’10, and Cisco’s market share in Director-class switches grew to a virtual tie at 50%.
Has Cisco re-focused on storage/Fibre Channel?
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You remember those television advertisements about the “3 AM calls”, don’t you ? Yes, the ones showing the cherubic children fast asleep as the phone rang incessantly and the announcer’s baritone asking you which presidential candidate you really wanted to answer that call at 3 AM. Well, I actually got one of those calls. No, I wasn’t running for public office and there was no nuclear meltdown – I was the CIO of a mid-sized organization, and the meltdown that was imminent was simply an application that refused to restart after a “routine” maintenance upgrade.
What ran through my mind in those few minutes at 3 AM as my Ops team was rapidly bringing me up to speed was not how I had a fully redundant, resilient infrastructure (I did) or had meticulously assembled a best-of-breed software platform, tested and tuned for scalability and performance (I had); my first thoughts instead zeroed in on the fact that in an hour, the first of six call centers we supported would start humming to life, and hundreds of agents would be unable to log in to their system.
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In statistics courses, we learn about the perils of using very small sample sizes to extrapolate possible trends or predictions. But in today’s fast paced, 24×7, 140 character world, we know that “information” spreads and morphs quickly. So spotting trends from small samples and small bits of information maybe a knee-jerk reaction, but it’s also a critical skill if you want to properly educate the market. I put information in quotes because there is a difference between FACTUAL information and speculative/FUD-driven information. Nevertheless it’s all information.
This week’s “trend” is the recent misperception that Cisco UCS only works with VMware and VCE Vblocks. I’ve heard this at least a half-dozen times this week, while qualifies as a trend in my world. Let’s correct this right now – CISCO UCS is NOT RESTRICTED to only VMware and VCE Vblock. I can imagine where this misinformation may have come from, but today I only want to focus on the FACTS.
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