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Don’t Fear the Cloud Workshop (Part 4 of a 4 part series “Who moved the IT cheese while I was getting production back up?”)

Part 3 — Your Cloud Journey and Roadmap with Intelligent Automation for Cloud

Part 2 — How Agile is your Cloud?

Part 1 — The End of Big IT Architecture

This is a real story.  Places and names have been changed …

By now, this blog series has hopefully convinced you to throw out the old school approaches and turn the calendar to July, 2012.

I really enjoy talking to groups of people in IT about a specific problem.  There is an organizational dynamic that occurs when good collaboration is going on.  Even constructive confrontation has its place.  The best and most forward looking IT shops realize that they don’t know it all and especially for a new area that they need the benefit of a Cloud Workshop.

What is a Cloud Workshop?  It is a one day slice of time where the Intelligent Automation team at Cisco helps a customer group envision their near term and future cloud value.  It usually unlocks a stuck team.  It can raise standards.  It can clarify a path through the old school thought forest.  It can be challenging on both sides.  It is critically important to get a cross section of all major departments:  service management, the desktop team, virtualization, identity management, compute, network, storage, infrastructure engineering, and program management.  What do we do with this cross sectional group?

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Your Cloud Journey and Roadmap with Intelligent Automation for Cloud (Part 3 of a 4 part series “Who moved the IT cheese while I was getting production back up?”)

Part 2 -- How Agile is your Cloud?

Part 1 -- The End of Big IT Architecture

(with contributions from my teammates Mike Eisenstein and Jim Kao)

This blog guides you through the considerations after you have taken the first step in your Journey to Cloud with the Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud Starter Edition.

Once you have deployed the Starter Edition, you can take some time to experience the benefits and begin to start noting where you need your company’s cloud roadmap to go next.   What are the key things that you, your business, your users, and your operations need to take them to the next level?  Many of these will be in the next edition from Cisco, others will require building an integration into a system that is critical such as your ERP environment to enable chargeback.  Let’s break the discussion in some key areas:

Compute

Starter Edition works with UCS and vCenter.  While Cisco would like to see your entire datacenter filled with UCS and Nexus, we do realize that you may have other vendors on your approved buying list.  You may decide you want to leverage your Cloud Portal, Process Orchestrator, and Server Provisioner across a number of computing hardware vendors.   We have customers who provision both physical and virtual servers across Cisco and other vendors.  It is one of most common heterogeneous integrations that we do.  This allows the end user to order compute as a service with little regard to which flavor the physical server is.

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How Agile is your Cloud? (Part 2 of a 4 part series “Who moved the IT cheese while I was getting production back up?”)

Is your organization moving to a cloud model through a well thought out RFP with at least 40 requirements?  May I suggest that you rethink this model.   The RFP approach with a committee generated wish list may work in some situations, or even be required, but in general the IT shops that really differentiate themselves go Agile for the cloud.  What does that mean?

In our business unit we have turned the development of our Cloud Automation platform:  Intelligent Automation for Cloud to an Agile development methodology and process.   This means when I ask if we will have a certain feature in our 3.1 version, I get an unexpected answer:  we won’t know until close to the ship date.  Going agile means we work off a backlog of user stories versus a hard and fast set of features that MUST be in the release.  We can ship at anytime with the right methodologies in place.

This approach also works for our customers in building their clouds with our software stack.  Agile cloud builders have a set of cloud user stories that they are implementing and may release the updated version of the cloud functionality every quarter, or even every 2-3 weeks.   When relaying this approach that one of our customers is taking to another customer considering our solution, I could see a twinkle in his eye as he said:  I bet that could really help differentiate the value the IT organization provides.  He got that right.

We sell to customers who have RFPs and those who look for capabilities, roadmaps, and more importantly an alignment of vision and approach to cloud automation.   Many cloud builders look for vendors who will grow with their agile cloud and one that has an open and extensible model to build new use cases with.   Why is that of paramount importance?  If you think you know what your cloud needs six months from now, good luck.  If you bet on the fact that your business and technology requirements will change before you get to your next release of your cloud you will need an agile cloud builder methodology.

Back to responding to, SIGH, another RFP.

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Unleash your Automation for Cloud (Easier than you Think)

In about 2 weeks there will be a great webinar panel discussion on the business and technology architecture concerns in automating your cloud and how to measure the value.   Unleashing automation solutions to do what they do best may make or break a company’s IT strategy over the next few quarters as those cloud journeys begin.

The webinar, IT Automation Unplugged, a panel discussion moderated by Glenn O’Donnell of Forrester will indeed be a cool event to listen in to.  Not only has Glenn followed this space for many years but he also has some really insightful perspectives on the Journey to Cloud.  This webinar has the potential to highlight some really pointed dialog between myself and Brad Adams of rPath, Nand Mulchandani of ScaleXtreme, and Luke Kanies of Puppetlabs.  I bet the sparks might fly as we trade our perspectives on the huge demand for private and public clouds and need for enterprises to show value quickly.

This brings me to a great phrase I heard this week from one of our customers.  It was used in the context of their employees using their company’s private cloud.   It was “High Governance”.  It was seriously lacking in their current solution which highly leveraged their virtualization vendor’s software.  I probed them on what they meant by “High Governance”.  It was mostly around ensuring that individuals that provision services would get  access to only the services, cloud data center locations, and specific providers that they are entitled to.   While this is not a new concept, the element that grabbed my attention was that IT shops have a strong need for different sourcing strategies based upon end user role, organization,  location, and any number of policy settings in their Active Directory or LDAP.

“High Governance” means ensuring that your cloud users get ONLY what they are entitled to in your IT policy.   No more generic UIs for generic users or uber UIs for unknown hypothetical users.  The cloud is now a strongly governed personal experience, what a novel concept.

I wonder what the panel will think about this.  Please attend if you get a chance.

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In Between the Numbers: Renting Prosperity – A New Value Proposition

June 25, 2012 at 8:37 am PST

Have been thinking about the retail implications of an early May article in the Wall Street Journal.

“Renting Prosperity” (by Daniel Gross, May 5) spoke to the growing trend of rental – and not just in the traditional housing or automotive markets.  Numerous other rental business have emerged in recent years, from the Zipcar car-sharing plan to the Chegg.com college textbook service to the one million customers who have used Rent the Runway’s frock-and-accessory services.

The obvious implication for retail is all about new business models.  A number of traditional brick-and-mortar players are now testing the waters.  We’re aware of initiatives in which purveyors of hard goods are renting clothes washing machines by the load and high-end consumers of electronics are leasing home theatre set-ups and even iPads – along with monthly subscriptions, say, to Netflix. 

But the lessons of the rental trend go deeper than simply a new business model. 

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