I have long been an armchair economist. I did a full economics sequence in school, found it to be utterly fascinating, and have continued to read intently on the topic ever since. Such is the life of a geek. However, I've always wondered why none of the ...

 

The Case For Pessimism -- And Optimism -- In The IT Labor Market and more...

The Case For Pessimism -- And Optimism -- In The IT Labor Market

John-Maynard-Keynes-650I have long been an armchair economist.

I did a full economics sequence in school, found it to be utterly fascinating, and have continued to read intently on the topic ever since.

Such is the life of a geek.

However, I've always wondered why none of the typical IT analyst firms spend any serious effort studying the structure and dynamics of the IT labor market.

Sure, there's all sorts of great analysis on various technologies, vendors and consumption models, but what about the people who are responsible for making the magic happen?

How is their world changing?

It's relevant because change is in the air. Cloud, baby.

Cloud_roomPublic cloud is not only arbitrage on technology costs -- which everyone talks about -- but also labor costs.

Cloud is already busily at work disrupting the IT technology market. I would argue that -- before long -- it will do the same for the IT labor market.

I don't know whether to be pessimistic or optimistic about the changes to come, so I'll present my case for both -- and let you decide.

But one thing is certain; change is coming.

The Case For Pessimism

One of the best ways to understand an industry transition is to go looking for reasonable historical parallels. Yes, there's no such thing as a perfect analogy, but it's still a useful exercise.

ManuMy best example is what happened in US manufacturing near the end of the last century ("Why Enterprise IT Will Go The Way of US Manufacturing").

TL; DR: in a short period of time, US manufacturers were forced to transform from laggards to leaders, or perish in the process.

But what happened to the US manufacturing labor market as a result?

In the recent US elections, much emphasis was given to manufacturing jobs going overseas. While that might be true in some degree (and certainly a red meat election topic), the data shows that automation is responsible for the decline of manufacturing jobs in the US.

Robots, folks.

Metro_20161118_mfg_output-vs-employment51As a result, US manufacturing productivity is now at an all-time high. And US manufacturing jobs are at an all-time low.

Such is the way of the world.

If one considers enterprise IT as a "factory" for delivering value-added IT services, the implications might be grim.

Increasing levels of automation -- whether on-premises or in the public cloud -- will likely decimate the IT employment ranks over time in a similar way.

Although productivity per worker will be at an all-time high.

Pessimistic, yes.

The Case For Optimism

The comparison between IT and manufacturing only goes so far.

With manufacturing, we're talking about tangible things -- and there's only so much demand for TVs, cars, widgets, jet aircraft and so on. You fight for your fair share by delivering a better widget at a lower cost than the other guy.  

RemotesBesides, how many flat panel TVs can you own? I think I've hit my limit.

IT services are a completely different beast, I would argue.

There seems to be no finite boundary for our appetite for newer IT services.

Look what's on the plate now: advanced analytics, IoT, machine learning and more.

And when we're done with those, I'm sure there will be even more bright shiny things we'll want to spend money on.

Furthermore, I'd argue that the market for IT services is highly elastic: the cheaper they become to produce, the more aggregate demand appears for those services.

I'd never would have imagined a 10GB data plan would be insufficient for my daily needs, but there you have it.

Personal_techOK, maybe there are some practical limits on how much personal technology we are willing to  wear, or how many apps we can have on our phones, but -- generally speaking -- the appetite for better tech in the business world shows no sign of slowing down.

All that technology magic will always require smart people to make it work.

Yes, they'll have different skills and roles than before, but the jobs will be there -- maybe even more so than today.

For example: how many people who work with IT tools every day are esconced in business units outside of a traditional IT function?

A whole lot, and I would argue their ranks appear to be growing.  We can't get enough of a good thing.

A potential analogy might be healthcare in the US.

Over the last fifty years, there have been incredible breakthroughs in both outcomes and productivity.

Healthcare-Job-ChangesAnd -- at the same time -- remarkable growth in the demand for healthcare workers.

We tend to care about our health, so I guess we spend more on it over time.  

We can't get enough of a good thing.

A Mixed Bag?

Combining equal parts of pessimism and optimism gives you an interesting scenario.

Like manufacturing, many of our traditional IT jobs are going away, and they're not coming back. Once they've been automated -- cloud or otherwise -- that's that. If you believe in finite demand for enterprise IT services, it's a grim scenario for the career IT professional.

But, like healthcare, maybe we just can't get enough of a good thing. The focus shifts to using IT in innovative ways to create better outcomes vs. heavy investments in simply keeping the lights on.

That means plenty of satisfying IT career opportunities abound, they just look very different than the ones from decades past.

Such are the perils and promises of the cloud era.

I guess you could count me as an optimist.

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Untangling Enterprise IT For The Cloud Era

Many business leaders are now applying serious pressure towards their IT counterparts to move to a cloud model sooner than later.

ConflictTheir motivations are unambiguous. Business people see cloud models delivering better IT services at a lower overall cost.

And no one wants to forego a significant competitive advantage.

But it can be harder than it looks -- at least, given many of the familiar public cloud options in the market.

Most larger enterprise IT landscapes are deeply integrated; almost woven together.

Applications aren't usually isolated; they feed, and are fed by, others. Critical business processes that power any enterprise can span dozens of individual application components. And like a central nervous system, the enterprise IT control plane spans all of it, keeping a watchful eye on performance and security.

Cloud_presoUntangling the components incrementally, and attempting to move them to a public cloud model one at a time, is turning out to be far harder than it might look to be on vendor powerpoint.

Unfortunately, the basic nature of popular public clouds isn't genetically compatible with what enterprise IT is doing today. And therein lies a thorny problem.

What to do?

It's All Connected -- Or Should Be

I keep arguing with folks that enterprise IT is distinctly different than other forms of IT.  

What a web-scale company wants from IT and what a manufacturing company wants are usually two different things.

WovenOne of the defining characteristics of most enterprise IT is deep integration: whether intentional or not.

Data flows are integrated: transactional systems feed reporting systems feed analytical systems which often make transactional decisions -- like what offers you'll be presented on a web page.

Control planes are typically integrated around business processes, or should be: any weak link in the chain can disrupt the desired business outcome.

IT skills and expertise transcends neat boundaries; IT pros do what's needed to ensure that data continues to flow.

Now, Try And Separate Out One Component

When considering a move to a public cloud model, the discussion usually drifts to "which applications might put in a public cloud?".

Unwoven2But if applications tend to be woven together, separating one or two components out for a re-implementation can be much harder than it looks.

The underlying technology of many public clouds is fundamentally different than what you'd find in the data center.

It's managed, secured and operated completely differently.

Existing applications can't be run unless they're tested, qualified and -- in many cases -- entirely rewritten.

And, oh yes, there's this network latency thing :)

If, as an IT leader, you've been successful in creating a deeply integrated on-premises environment, congratulations.  You did your job.

Unfortunately, the act of doing so has made your ability to deconstruct individual application components and move them incrementally to a public cloud model just that much harder.

MovingI remember many years ago when my wife and I foolishly attempted to move house over a period of many days instead of all at once.  I don't know what our reason was at the time, all I can recall is that it didn't work out so well.

The moving boxes would arrive a few at a time, but we had little control as to what was in them.

We'd try to cook a meal, but couldn't come up with enough utensils. We'd try to sleep and shower in the new place, but ended up missing pillows. I tried to fix a few things around the house, but my tools hadn't arrived yet.

It's getting dark outside, where are our lamps?

It wasn't until most of our belongings had arrived that we could get back to a normal life.

Charting A Course

So, what to do?

On one hand, there's no denying the acute business interest in moving to a cloud model. On the other hand, there's no denying the stupefying complexity and deep integration of many IT environments.

Jet-engineThe classic rubric of trying to change a jet engine while in flight applies here.

One school of thought is to embark on a massive initiative to re-engineer IT to be more "cloud native" in anticipation of an eventual move to a public cloud model.  

That's a laudable and notable goal -- but, in some sense, we've been continually re-engineering our environments over the last few decades.

Certainly, any investment along those lines (for example, starting to use containers to package applications) is a positive thing. 

My belief? Depending on a complete re-engineering of a significant component of enterprise IT isn't going to save the day. 

The required level of investment -- in time, money and resources -- can only be measured in many years. It's an inherently risky undertaking.  

And the business people don't appear to be willing to wait -- or spend the inordinate amounts required to accelerate to a reasonable timeframe.

An Alternative Approach

If most public clouds don't work the way enterprise IT works, how about a public cloud that's better designed to work with enterprise IT as it is today; and not at some distant future state?

Cloud_nativeThe change-the-world let's-start-over-again visionary IT types will reject most forms of compromise when discussing cloud.  

Unfortunately, most enterprise IT is defined by compromise.

Let's take workloads and application models.  Many IT shops have a wide inventory: older monolithic legacy applications, current multi-tier setups, and maybe a few modern containerized models they're working towards.  

Ideally, your choice of public cloud vendor should support your choice of application and computing model.  Just like you do in the data center. Want to run your own stack?  You should be able to.

DatabasesHow about database?  The majority of valuable enterprise information lives in some form of a database.  

It's not an unreasonable view that any choice of public cloud ought to be able to run databases extremely well -- at least as well as they run in data centers today.

Which explains why Larry Ellison used most of his keynote at Oracle Open World to clearly contrast the ridiculously extreme differences between Oracle Cloud and AWS.

How about being able to have identical environments in the public cloud and on-premises?  Being able to bring the public cloud model behind your firewall?  Have workload portability across both the data center and multiple public clouds?  Being able to manage and secure it all with a consistent control plane?

These are not unreasonable expectations from an enterprise IT point of view.

Why Public Cloud Adoption Has Been Slow For Enterprise IT

Tangled-messWhen you look at the industry statistics for public cloud adoption patterns by enterprise IT, you'll notice they are characteristically low.  

Dig deeper into actual usage, and you'll find what I call "cloud at the edge" and typically not at the core of the enterprise.  

Maybe desktop and collaboration has been moved to a public cloud model.  Maybe there's some SaaS being done by parts of the business.  Maybe there's a familiar private cloud consolidating generic workloads in the back room.

What's left is the hard stuff: enterprise applications, woven together, powering the critical business processes that every organization depends on to get work done.

Maybe the problem with enterprise IT adoption isn't about enterprise IT.  It is what it is.

Maybe it's more about the poor public cloud choices enterprise IT has been offered up to this point.

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Coping With RBS

Exploding-head-syndromeMany of us have conditions that end up greatly affecting our quality of life.

It often takes many years to fully understand the situation, its impact on you, and the impact on those around you.

One of my personal challenges has been coping with RBS: Restless Brain Syndrome. I can't easily shut my brain down. I'd really like to be able to stop incessantly deconstructing and resynthesizing the world around me, but I can't.

Quite seriously, it has affected my quality of life, and my relationships with others.

Maybe you -- or someone you know -- suffers from the same malady?

I'm Serious (Sort Of)

You know that joke where someone asks someone else "what time is it?" and the other person responds with the history of timekeeping, current timekeeping technologies available, and finishes off with current cosmological theories of time?

Bored_babyUhhh, that's uncomfortably close to the truth, especially if I'm not paying attention.

For whatever reason, put an idea in front of me to think about, and I go all multi-dimensional. I inspect the concept from every possible angle, break it into pieces, reassemble it in many different ways, and then find relevant associations with other ideas and concepts.

A vast universe opens up with infinite recombinant possibilities. I save myself by zooming back to the immediate context, and choosing a handful of models that might be relevant here and now.

Noam Chomsky revolutionized linguistics with a simple idea: we are all born with the ability to learn any potential language: spoken or unspoken. As children, the process of learning a language is essentially unlearning all non-productive ones.

Maybe that's what I'm doing.

Social Impacts

My RBS has made for many awkward social situations.

I remember a few neighborhood parties where I caught myself launching into a free-flow of related ideas and concepts, triggered by something someone said. Yes, there was alcohol involved. I wasn't paying attention, and I had to stop myself. Strange looks all around.

Blah_blahThe work environment can be even more challenging. Somebody asks you your perspectives, you forget yourself and -- liftoff!!

It can get uncomfortable for others if you're not careful. Or worse, you see an organizational train wreck happening in slow motion, you feel you're the only one to see it, and you find there's not much you can do about it.

Education before university was rough, to put it mildly. It wasn't that I was just nerdy or geeky, many of the other kids found me simply weird in a disturbing way.  And I wasn't quite sure why, so I thought about it.  A lot.

I've always had a difficult time turning social acquaintances into real friends. My thoughts are always racing along at warp speed, making it tough to build real bonds with people. But I'm learning to get better at it.

The bright spot in all of this is my wife and kids. I've learned to adapt and bond with them, and them to me. They enjoy teasing me when I accidentally slip into an alternate dimension.

Keeping Your Brain Fed

I don't watch many TV shows, movies, concerts, etc. The pace can be too slow, the content too shallow, and I get -- well -- restless.

Brain_food2Binge-reading on the internet is more my style. It's not just computer tech, it's almost anything well-written with structured thinking that I can get my hands on: economics, history, politics, biology, physics, cosmology -- you name it, it's food for the beast.

When I was younger (BI -- before internet), I would read books and publications at a feverish pace. To be clear, it wasn't about learning with a purpose, it was more like gorging myself at the buffet line.

I can't listen to music casually as other people can. I find myself deconstructing every note, every chord, every instrument, every intonation. As a result, I can't carry on a normal conversation when there's music playing. Background music in a restaurant can be hugely distracting.

ListenAnd I am famous for always turning off the radio when we get into a car, as being forced to intently analyze the current wave of mindless popular music is incredibly annoying.

Trying to fall asleep can be downright frustrating at times.

All that unconscious processing I should be doing during REM sleep I end up doing in a wakeful state. I'm not into medications for this purpose (although that has been suggested several times), although a nice glass of wine or two doesn't hurt.

This Isn't About Intelligence

I have met plenty of super-smart people -- many of them clearly vastly more intelligent than I will ever be -- and they don't have the same issues. Maybe they're more skilled in being in the here and now than I am. Or something different?

Conversely, I have met a few people who don't initially present as smart, but they seem to have the same challenge I have. I find them fascinating. I have no idea what's going on here. Maybe I'm somewhere on the spectrum and just don't know it.

ShrinkI remember talking to a psychologist about this years ago.

Before long, I slipped into another dimension: history of psychoanalysis, limitations of the approach, how underlying neurology was essential to understanding the human brain, how so much wasn't known about fundamental brain mechanics, what caused me to reach out to this person, what their motivations might be, how human language was so limiting, and so on.

The conversation didn't last long as a result. Sigh.

Coping With RBS

Yes, I made the term up. I'm only half-serious.  And my situation is nothing compared to the severe challenges other people face. But the underlying condition can be quite unpleasant and disruptive.

OverheatedCreating stuff -- writing, composing, performing -- serves as a perfect heat sink for my overheated electronics.  But you can't be doing that every waking hour.

I would like to think our brains are tools that we can control. I believe that -- with effort -- they can be programmed and subtly rewired. It's not easy and it's not 100% effective, but it can help to cope with unproductive behaviors.

Over the last few years, I've become acutely aware when I'm slipping into this mode, and immediately shut myself down using a variety of techniques.  For those that have found me a bit intense, it's something I'm working on.

I think I'm starting to make progress. For example, I can now focus on linear tasks far better than I used to be able to. I can carry on an average conversation for longer than before.

Life is all about moving forward, isn't it?

And I'm finding life a bit more enjoyable when I can shut my damn brain down.

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Why I Love The Oracle Cloud Strategy

StrategyIn recent blog post, I shared that I had come to Oracle based on the strength of their cloud strategy.

A few snarky individuals tweeted "what strategy?". Haha, the interwebs would certainly be less entertaining without a bit of trolling.

To be fair, I realized I hadn't made my case for Oracle's approach to cloud.

So I decided to do just that.

This is a long post -- longer than most. It is not corporate marketing, it is my personal perspective. Disclaimer: these are (as always) my own opinions, and certainly not vetted by my employer.

Viewer discretion advised: I'm going to be direct as usual, and some sensibilities will be inevitably offended in the process. Apologies in advance.

Why Do I Care?

CoalmineI have spent my entire working life -- all 40+ years of it -- involved with enterprise IT, mostly on the vendor side.

I am not exaggerating: at 14, I had a part-time job coding BASIC on a timeshare mainframe.  Teletype, punch tape and a 300 baud modem.

That sort of thing tended to happen in Silicon Valley where I grew up.  Cheap labor :)

As a result, I have grown a deep empathy for those that choose to make enterprise IT their career.

There are certainly easier ways to make a living. I see IT leaders and thinkers continually struggle with competing demands from the business against a rapidly shifting technology landscape. They rarely get the love from the executive team. It's a tough gig.

When I see something that can potentially offer IT professionals a win, I go out of my way to say "look at this, it could be big for you!". I can list off all the different technologies and strategies I've been smitten by.

Most of them became real things -- at least, for a while.

I was smitten early on by the promise of cloud, but became disillusioned over time. Many current forms of cloud have not proven to be that big win I had hoped for, especially for enterprise IT.

Fake_cloudsMost public clouds are inherently difficult for enterprise IT to consume. They don't work the way enterprise IT needs them to work. So adoption is limited; and it doesn't change the game enough to be meaningful. SaaS would be a clear exception here.

I think of most private cloud as a head fake -- "cloud without cloud". It's usually infrastructure only, it's still purchased and operated as plumbing, and there are few compatible public cloud offerings.

It doesn't change the game enough to be meaningful.

As I looked across the IT industry, I was initially quite despondent. Sure, various vendors were offering piece parts that could be potentially cobbled together, but that isn't the greatest answer. Cloud should be something you use and build on, not hand-craft and support forever.

I like driving cars. I don't enjoy selecting automotive components, attempting to assemble and integrate them, and supporting them when they break. Especially since all I mostly do these days is drive to the airport.

The business is starting to look at IT the same way. Why can't I just consume what I want to consume? Who is this army of well-intentioned IT people attempting to build and support stuff, and continually struggling in the process? Why don't we just move to a better model?

And -- unfortunately -- those business people are right.

The Oracle Approach

Blog slide 1At a high level, here is what I find so compelling about Oracle's approach to cloud.

First, there's a complete -- and integrated -- public cloud offering that works the way enterprise IT works.

There's integrated and extensible SaaS.

There's a PaaS platform aimed at enterprise developers with a dizzying set of capabilities.

And there's a broad range of IaaS services that covers the enterprise IT spectrum.

You're free to compare subsets of the public Oracle Cloud with other alternatives, but there is no direct comparison for the entire offering.

Blog slide ESSecond, there is a full line of on-prem systems engineered for database, applications and analytics. They do things other systems can't do.

And they come with precise equivalents in the public Oracle Cloud should you need a different consumption option down the road, which I call "cloud insurance".

Cloud insurance?  Yeah, you don't want to be "that guy" when new IT leadership decides that everything is going to some sort of cloud.

Again, you won't find any on-premises infrastructure vendor doing this.

And, finally, Oracle has figured out how to bring subsets of the public Oracle Cloud into the data center, behind your firewall.

Blog slide OCMSame functionality, same operational model, same pricing model, etc.

Cloud machines: a public cloud model delivered on-premises: 100% compatible with the public Oracle Cloud.

No other vendor has figured out how to do that, either.

Put it all together? A complete and modern full stack optimized for enterprise applications and workloads. One architecture, three cloud consumption models, your choice.

Use it to run aging legacy, or build cloud-native: your choice. Add in workload portability with other clouds, and it starts to look pretty appetizing.

I don't think any vendor can make any one of these statements, let alone all of them. So when I get on my soapbox and start saying "hey, this could be big for you!", there's some reasonable substance behind the claim.

But I think I owe you a deeper explanation of why each component of the Oracle approach is so compelling through my eyes.

A Business Process Platform View Of SaaS

A narrow view of software-as-a-service holds that certain business functions aren't strategic. Rather than invest resources in either customized or on-prem solutions, simply consume an external software service for what you need. Packaged, black-box functionality is all we need.

Business_processThe broader view is that most organizations thrive on their business process DNA. The better companies are always investing in new processes, and improving existing ones. Moving to a SaaS model should support that strategic view, and not inhibit it.

What sets Oracle SaaS apart from other SaaS offerings in my view are three things: (1) a broad set of integrated core enterprise functionality (2) rich, ready-to use business process IP, and (3) the ability to easily extend and integrate functionality as needed.

Put differently, I tihnk of Oracle SaaS as a business process platform, and not a point solution.

A Developer Productivity View of Platform As A Service

Blog Slide 4While there always will be a strong desire to run shrink-wrapped software, that's not always enough. Enter the enterprise application developer. Or perhaps a small army of developers?

Developing and customizing application software is an expensive proposition. The focus here is to make these folks as productive as possible in their core task: delivering powerful applications.

Yes, there are all the developer tools you might expect for the coding bits (plus the vast world of open source tools) but there's also a very long list of powerful, ready-to-use services that can be easily integrated into even more powerful applications: mobile, analytics, IoT, etc.

Where I think Oracle stands apart is their focus on the unique needs of enterprise application developers, and giving them the tools they need to do their job far better.

An Enterprise IT View of Infrastructure As A Service

Start talking about public cloud IaaS, and people think "AWS". After all, they pretty much invented the category over ten years ago. And they have been quite successful, no argument there.

Blog slide 5That being said, it's fair to say that AWS is a poor fit with the needs of most enterprise IT functions.

Not all applications can run well in a virtualized x86 environment, for one thing.

If you've invested heavily in people and process around control planes (security, monitoring, etc.) none of that works well with AWS.

Not every app can go to a public cloud, there's still a strong need to run things on-premises, ideally with the same architecture.

For dedicated and predictable workloads, AWS can be awfully expensive. And if you're not paying attention to consumption, "self-service" can quickly become "all you can eat" and blowing out the budget in the process.

Blog IaaS SlideI argue that there's clearly room in the market for public cloud IaaS that works the way enterprise IT needs it to work.

And that is what Oracle is building.

Choose from a wide variety of compute models: elastic, dedicated, bare metal or our engineered systems. Run Linux, Windows or UNIX. Run legacy, run virtualized, run containers. Get workload portability at the database, VM or container level.

Larry Ellison made it very clear during his Oracle Open World keynote that he intends to directly compete with AWS on both price *and* performance. And I see clear evidence that Oracle has more than enough firepower to deliver on that promise.

Now, On To The Data Center

Despite all this cloud talk, today's reality is that the vast majority of IT spend still happens in the data center. And that's not going to change next week.

Blog slide 6Oracle's infrastructure is all about enterprise applications: databases, application logic and middleware, and analytics. We use the term "engineered systems" to describe our full-stack integration of hardware and software.

For people who want to build customized on-premises environments, we'll sell them the same components we use in our public cloud: operating system and hypervisor, servers, storage, data center fabric, etc.

Caution: some assembly is required.

For folks who want a simplified out-of-the-box experience, we offer purpose-built appliances: one each for databases, application logic and middleware, and analytics.

Blog slide 7For folks who need something a bit more extreme, that's where products like Exadata, Exalytics, Exalogic and SuperCluster fit in. For what they do, no one does it better. That's what happens when you can engineer hardware and software to work together.

So, what's the tie in with public cloud?

Our on-premises technology has precise equivalents in the public Oracle Cloud. I think of it as "cloud insurance".

Sure, you want an on-premises solution today, but what about down the road?

Isn't it nice to have a precisely equivalent public cloud option -- just in case?

Bringing The Public Cloud To The Data Center

There are so many situations where a public cloud model might look attractive, but can't be considered for any number of reasons: regulations, latency, etc.

If you can't come to our cloud, we'll bring our cloud to you.

Blog slide 8That's the idea behind cloud machines: subsets of the public Oracle Cloud delivered as a service in your data center, behind your firewall. It's managed and monitored by the same people (and using the same tools) as our public Oracle Cloud.

No one else in the industry is doing this today. I do read that Microsoft is working towards something similar in the future. Hard for me to compare with something that doesn't exist yet.

The current Oracle Cloud Machine is integrated PaaS/IaaS targeted at application landscapes. The PaaS/IaaS services are identical to those delivered in the public Oracle Cloud. Many aspects of the pricing are the same as well.

At Oracle Open World, we announced that we'd be delivering an Exadata Cloud Machine, aimed at providing the same database-as-a-service capabilities as we offer with Exadata in the Oracle Cloud. We also stated our intent to do the same with open analytics, with a Big Data Cloud Machine.

To be very clear, a cloud machine is not a private cloud. It is a public cloud model, delivered in your data center, behind your firewall. You use it; you don't buy it/build it/maintain it. Just like a public cloud -- although certain minimums apply.

Why I'm Such A Big Fan Of The Oracle Approach

One of the reasons that I think there's been so little adoption of public clouds by mainstream IT organizations is that there's so much that has to change all at once.  In most situations, it's an all-or-nothing proposition.  

Burn the boats, we're going to the cloud!

In most cases, your applications have to be converted and tested to run in a given public cloud -- or you have to move to SaaS. Any operational procedures or tooling you have invested in has to be re-invented.

And, once you're there, you're not coming home -- even if you need to.

Put differently, if you could somehow break the cloud proposition into manageable, easier-to-consume pieces, more IT shops could make progress towards that goal.

SuncloudsAs an example, imagine a public cloud that didn't require enterprise applications to be converted or rewritten. One that supported legacy monolithic applications, current multi-tiered applications as well as the new generation of container and microservices apps.

As another example, imagine that you'd stand a decent shot of simply extending your chosen control planes and policies into the public cloud.

As a final example, imagine that you could easily consume either on-premises or public cloud using the exact same architecture. And you could have straightforward workload portability to other clouds and other architectures.

That would be an entirely different proposition, now wouldn't it?  Far easier to consume than burning the boats and starting all over again in a new world.

Move your applications without rewriting or conversion.  Extend your control planes of choice into the public cloud.  Consume a public cloud model in the convenience of your own data center.  Move workloads between the data center and your choice of cloud.  Rich PaaS and SaaS functionality that builds a platform for business innovation.

That's why I came to Oracle. I believe that cloud will eventually change how enterprise IT will be done. And Oracle was the only company I could find who had all the pieces -- and the commitment -- to make it happen.

Everyone other vendor I looked at either had a partial answer, or often no answer. Unless you'd like to assemble something yourself? Hint: it's harder than it looks.

Now that I'm over a year into this, I am a stronger believer than ever.  The story and the execution keeps getting better and better.  When I put this story in front of an enterprise IT group, they immediately realize it creates entirely new options for them.

PopcornIntegrated SaaS/PaaS/IaaS delivered in the public cloud.

Engineered systems optimized for database, application logic and middleware, and analytics -- with precise equivalents in a public cloud.

And the tantalizing notion of a cloud machine: a public cloud model delivered in your datacenter, behind your firewall, as a managed cloud service.

All aimed at enterprise IT organizations, and demanding enterprise application workloads. You know, the hard stuff.

So far, so good.

But we're in early days. The big shift from traditional on-premises models to cloud models (whether delivered in a public cloud or in the data center) has just begun.  Most of the market is still up for grabs.  

I remember a time when we all thought that AOL would rule the internet, and we'd all be using Netscape as a browser.  Things change.

I think I've chosen an excellent spot to watch the action.

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VMware and AWS -- Harder Than It Looks

PonderingOne of the bigger pieces of industry news last week was VMware announcing they intend to eventually offer an infrastructure service built on top of a new AWS bare metal offering.

My corner of the internet broke for a while as a result. Before long, I was inevitably getting pinged by my Twitter brethren for a personal view.

I spent a few days thinking about it from various angles.  Sorry to say, I come away with more negatives than positives.

Fair warning: I left EMC and VMware because I didn't see a viable cloud strategy. I joined Oracle on the strength of their cloud strategy. So far, it's played out exactly as I thought it would.  

Not much has changed with my perspective since then.  Including this latest press release.

What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been

The story of VMware trying to come up with a viable public cloud strategy is a long and torturous one.

Long_tripvCloud Director. vCHS (also known as vCheese). vCloud Air 1. vCloud Air 2. EMC buying Virtuastream and mistakenly positioning it as "the answer", then backing down. The IBM deal. The loose affiliation of the vCloud Air Network.

And now this. Forgive me if I come across as just a teeny bit skeptical based on the story so far.

At a macro level, what we're seeing is obvious. The world is moving to a public cloud model. VMware's core product -- vSphere -- wasn't designed for public clouds. VMware -- the company -- is not structured as a public cloud provider. Hence the history of thrashing around, trying to come up with some sort of viable answer.

There are certainly a lot of heavy vSphere users that are hoping (praying?) that VMware can deliver a workable solution. So far, no dice.

I'll remind people: hope is not a strategy.

The Big Positives

EverythingThe most positive thing here are the industry optics.

VMware, the king of data center virtualization, inks an agreement with AWS, the king of public cloud infrastructure.

VMware gets the potential of a credible public cloud option, which it doesn't have today, AWS gets a potential entry into the enterprise IT world which it doesn't have today.

Everyone wins, birds sing and all is right with the world. Or is it?

The Big Negatives

First, there's the vague delivery schedule.

Fingers_crossedSometime next year, we are told, there will be something to look at. Having been a behind-the-scenes veteran of multiple industry announcements, long and vague schedules usually mean significant amounts of work, technical risk, or -- usually -- both.

If they had something to show that would help establish credibility, they'd already be showing it. Trust me.

While we're waiting, we'll have to be content with powerpoint slides and optimistic blog posts.

Second, there's a vexing question.

VMware couldn't offer a viable cloud service when they were building infrastructure to their specifications (vCloud Air). What makes us think they can do better when running on someone else's infrastructure? Yes, they'll be using a new bare-metal service from AWS, but the devil is in the details.

And we won't know the details for quite a while.

Finally, there's time lost.

I know that there will be more than a few VMware faithful who will take this announcement to their leadership team and say "see, we have a plan for cloud now!". Maybe they do, maybe they don't, but it will take a year to figure out either way.

Meanwhile, their progress forward will be stalled due to a "market freeze" (e.g. wait, don't do anything, there's something big coming!). And that's unfortunate.

The Strategic View

BackoflineVMware intends to offer this as their premiere cloud offering: sold and supported by VMware. Which means, of course, all the other infrastructure and IaaS vendors can move to the back of the line. Not exactly the most partner-friendly move. I can only imagine the conversations.

And VMware's current business model is heavily dependent on those partners today.

The intent of the service appears to precisely replicate on-premises VMware functionality. There's no new significant functionality being discussed as part of the service.

The problem? One of the big motivations to move to a public cloud is easy access to new functionality. That doesn't seem to be the case here. All we get is a new way to consume familiar VMs.

I feel a bit shortchanged. That means it's going to be all about the economics of the new service compared to doing things on-premises.

Amazon leaves a bit on the table. They've been investing in various software services (e.g. Redshift et. al.) in an attempt to differentiate from simple IaaS. None of that stuff runs in vSphere, nor has there ever been an inking that AWS would ever invest in doing that.

OpposingAnd, of course, there are opposing forces at work.  VMware wants the world to use their stack, AWS wants the same for their technology.  Not exactly what I would call a long-term stable situation.

I wonder how long before AWS offers yet another "migrate your vSphere VMs to native AWS" promotion?

(update October 25th: not too long, it seems.)

VMware will have to teach and incentivize their salespeople to sell subscriptions and metered consumption vs. traditional software licenses. Not impossible, but not easy either. The new "market freeze" will also apply to their traditional on-premises license business, and that's going to show up in the revenue line before long.

Additionally, if VMware fails to make the new service financially attractive to their existing partners (who incidentally sell boatloads of on-premises hardware), that's going to completely stall the venture. Not a lot of margin to work with, either.

That ain't FUD folks, that's how the world works.

BattleFrom the technology side, more concerns. Hypervisors have already become largely commoditized. Containers and container management is now a real thing, making vSphere's relevance in the cloud less assured. Proven solutions already exist today to encapsulate those VMs, strip out vSphere and move them unmodified to the public cloud of your choice, and saving big money in the process.

In addition to all the other challenges, VMware has fight a completely separate battle on maintaining their technology relevance in a world of public cloud.

Remember, we talking about easily commoditized IaaS here. Not PaaS. Not SaaS.

A Final Thought, Or Two

Yes, this was certainly a big bold move on the part of VMware. The world is quickly moving to cloud. They now know that delivering a viable public cloud service isn't as easy as it looks. So they are partnering their way in, and have landed a big one with AWS.  All credit where credit is due.

The harder part over the next year is making it work: making it work from a technology perspective, and making it work from a go-to-market perspective. And not cratering the business that pays the bills in the process.

None of this is obvious to me.

I'll check back in a year, and let you know what I think.  

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