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Re-Thinking Pork Bellies. Why There are No Commodity Clouds, Only Commodity Thinkers.

For a while now,  I’ve been bothered with the word commodity. Like legacy, greenfield, there are value judgements implicit in the words. When we apply them to technology adoption, they serve as marketing oars to rock the new tech boat, but are not useful when you need a fish for dinner.

And this article on the NYSE community cloud is a great example of why there are no commodity clouds.

The NYSE’s community cloud platform is design to ensure that its customers are treated fairly, and it ensures them that the maximum latency that any user will experience in this data center is 70 microseconds (one millionth of a second) round-trip for any message, O’Sullivan said.

“We guarantee that nobody will have an advantage on the network,” said O’Sullivan. “It’s designed to be a level playing field for trading.

Basically, this compute service comes with a latency service level and a promise that no one gets better latency, thus ensuring a level playing field for traders.

So it’s “level-playing-field-as-a-service;” which is right and ridiculous. Right because that’s the differentiators; ridiculous that I have to pull the *aaS to describe what before I would have simply called “service.”

There was a time when coffee was called a commodity, then Howard Schultz of Starbucks came along, and Peet’s came along, and next, we are all paying $5 for coffee.

Even frozen pork bellies are not commodities anymore. You might remember this quote:

“Pork bellies! I have a hunch something exciting is going to happen”

from Trading Places with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy

But as you see from the link, even pork bellies are not commodities anymore in the trading markets.

And then again, pork bellies are not commodities according to chef Michael Mina--it’s now branded, locally-grown, organic and … sexy. Pork bellies. Sexy.

So you can see why I might think clouds are far, far from being commodities like pork bellies. Which are not commodities anymore.

As for x86 being a commodity? I don’t see Intel suffering. Don’t confuse platform with commodity.

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Conversations about Cloud – “What is Self-Service IT?”

Every once in a while (here, here), I have the same conversation enough times with customers that I find it useful to bring it to the blog community. Last week at VMworld 2011, I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time speaking with customers and partners about Intelligent Automation and what it means for IT to deliver self-service capabilities to their customers (internal, contractors, etc.). During the conversations, a number of questions came up over and over again: Read More »

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Innovate on the Cheap

Innovation is inextricably linked with the old adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try, and try again!”  Great entrepreneurs concur that in order to drive real innovation, corporations must cultivate originality by giving employees the freedom and resources to introduce new ideas, methods and processes.

So I began to wonder, what are some great ways that an enterprise can balance the hard costs and the opportunity costs of fostering innovation with the more practical demands of the balance sheet?

A few weeks ago, I heard James Urquhart talking to a customer about their cloud strategy and he said some things that I thought were very powerful.  He was talking about the flexibility of Cisco UCS and how it allowed for inexpensive do-overs.  You can buy the hardware and try something on it at small scale.  If it shows promise, you can scale it up to meet the full market need.  If it doesn’t work, the hardware can quickly be recaptured and repurposed for the next innovation.  Repeat, redo, retry, redesign—cost effectively “try, and try again.”

As the conversation went on with the customer, we came to recognize the same benefit of a well-engineered orchestrator as the common point of interaction of all the pieces of IT.

New services in the cloud are more than just building a new VM template or vApp and then cloning it on demand.  The move toward ITaaS means bringing in new purpose-built technologies (such as IT chargeback, application configuration management, network flow management, industry-specific compliance reporting, etc.), and integrating them with existing OSS/BSS products you already have (ticketing systems, network monitoring, email, etc.).

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The Automation Imperative

So what’s with the increased interest in automation lately?  No doubt you’ve noticed there have been more than a few blogs already written on this site and others espousing the importance and value of automation.  (“Meet the Newest Member of Your Data Center Operations Team,” Tere’ Bracco, November 8, 2010 and “Mad Scientist Alert,” Christopher Kennessey, October 27, 2010) What trends lie behind this demand?  Three come to mind:

1)     Disappearing cost-benefit of offshoring

2)     Increasing skills shortage

3)     Growing adoption of virtualization/cloud technologies

And each of these deserves a bit more exploration. Today, I will focus on offshoring and leave the other two for future blogs.

Moving IT operations to low-cost parts of the world has been a very lucrative exercise for the past two decades.  However, the financial benefits that were obvious 10 years ago are mostly gone thanks to increasing salaries in India, China, and other emerging countries combined with rising hassle costs (compliance, regulations, security, communications, language, and management) associated with off-shoring.  Here is a quote from Sramana Mitra who wrote a very well publicized and much debated article in 2008 titled “The death of Indian outsourcing” (http://www.sramanamitra.com/2008/01/22/death-of-indian-outsourcing/).  She writes “Rising wages in the most popular offshore centers (especially Bangalore), are eroding the cost advantage that drove this business to India in the first place. When the practice began, there was a 1:10 cost advantage. Today, this has dropped to 1:3. Over the next 5 years, perhaps, it won’t make sense to send work to India anymore.”  Further complicating the offshoring play is the 20-40% attrition rates seen in many of these low-cost countries.

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New Solutions + New Math: Exponential Benefits of Adding an Enterprise Scheduler to Virtual Machine Management

Oh, how data processing has evolved, growing in complexity and sophistication, it now spans across multiple software stacks and disparate systems. With the introduction of virtualization platforms, processes can now be run on virtualized environments as well as a physical one.  As we know, virtualization allows you to use physical hardware more efficiently. That’s because often times an application is sitting “idle” and doesn’t really need all the allocated computing resources, and virtualization lets idle computing resources be re-assigned to other tasks.  Virtualization technology and the advancements of Cloud Computing afford businesses significant benefits in terms of cost reduction and efficiencies resulting from consolidation and standardization.

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