The Private Cloud Has Failed Us and more...

The Private Cloud Has Failed Us

Perhaps there is no deeper disappointment in life than when a cherished concept fails to produce the desired results. Such is the case with the industry’s notion of private clouds.

DespairI’m throwing in the towel, walking away – and cursing under my breath. It’s a failed concept.

Yes, I was seriously seduced early on. Check out this Jan 2009 post where I breathlessly made the case for this new private cloud model. If I wasn't the first person to do so, I was certainly close to being the first.

I argued vigorously for the cause for many years. For me, it was the right answer at the right time.

I hereby publicly admit the error of my ways. The world has changed, and so must I.

Why is it that traditional private clouds have left most IT shops at a dead end?

A Simple Concept

Private_cloudThe idea behind a private cloud was straightforward: use virtualization and a little automation to create an easy-to-consume data center infrastructure service that provides virtual machines and their associated storage.

By keeping a little extra capacity around, IT could be much more responsive to that next provisioning request.

At the time, private clouds were far more efficient as compared to manually provisioning virtual resources, or – worse – physical resources. And, make no mistake, they were a big improvement over what came before.

And then the world changed.

The Business Wants An Enterprise Cloud

DigiworldIf private clouds were the supply side, what’s happened to the demand side?

For so many business models, the digital economy is here and now: disrupt or be disrupted. The business now craves the speed, agility, functionality – and cost structure -- of public clouds.

Competitors new and old are arming themselves with the new weaponry. For many, it’s a matter of urgency.

Against modern demands, traditional private clouds now look like an antiquated response.

Here’s why.

1 -- The Private Cloud Consumption Model Is All Wrong

Why?  It ain't cloud.

Computer_racksIT buying racks of equipment and attempting to offer a “service” (just like the cloud guys!) has turned out to be misguided at best. IT is still in the capital expenditure business – they have to guess how much stuff they’re going to need.

Buy too much and you waste resources. Buy too little and you’ll come up short at the wrong time. Nobody ever gets it right twice.

We’re back to “have a hunch, provision a bunch”. IT is asking the business to spend ahead of actual demand, and bear the risk for IT’s inability to accurately forecast. Public cloud vendors don’t force this on their customers.

The consumption model is wrong on another level. Business consumers crave cost transparency: show me how much it actually costs for what I’m consuming, and no one else. The reason is simple: business people need to understand true costs.

It is the rare IT organization that has achieved this cost transparency back to its business users. Why? It’s very hard to do. Equipment, licenses and labor is bought in bulk, but consumed as a service. And the required skills to price variably consumed services from those static ingredients isn’t trivial.

PinocchioThat’s why you typically find a “flat corporate tax” back to IT consumers. As any armchair economics student will tell you, that’s about the most destructive pricing mechanism one can imagine – it incentivizes all sorts of suboptimal behaviors.

When pressed, IT organizations will often create something that looks like a price list for their services catalog, but everyone knows the truth – it’s usually a made-up corporate fiction.

2 -- The Private Cloud Functionality Model Is All Wrong

The better public clouds aimed at enterprises have rich suites of ready-to-use functionality. Not the case with private clouds. Or many popular public clouds, for that matter. It’s often a build-your-own world for both.

Want to deliver a speedier environment for your application developers? You’ll have to design, integrate and support your own. Want a powerful platform for your analytics users? Same story – significant assembly and required. Want great integrated infrastructure support for your enterprise application portfolio? Sorry, no can do.

Can private clouds deliver out-of-the-box functionality that is immediately usable by the business? Yes, if all you want is a generic VM.

VDIExamples of standalone usable private cloud functionality are hard to come by, but virtual desktops just might qualify.

OK, fine, but … my view is that simply recreating a legacy desktop paradigm using VMs isn’t exactly a game changer for most business types. The same is true for virtualizing, say, your email server or collab site.

Put differently: private clouds do OK at consolidating existing stuff.  They're aren't designed - out of the box -- for the new stuff people want to do.  And that ain't cloud.

Yes, IT folks care about consolidating stuff; but business people – well, not so much.

Just ask them.

Although there is no shortage of converged and hyperconverged vendors who are !!hyperexcited!! about consolidating existing workloads. Mea culpa, I’ve been there before. Sometimes I feel they’re offering a better COBOL compiler. Cool stuff, but hard to be relevant in the bigger picture.

Just don’t confuse consolidating existing physical workloads with delivering the new capabilities business users crave.

3 -- The Private Cloud Compatibility Model Is All Wrong

CollideMost private clouds are built around vSphere. Most public clouds aren’t. Most vSphere shops use a vSphere-based set of tools to run their shop. Most public clouds don’t. Most private clouds offer IT a high degree of control. Most public clouds don’t.

Can you see where this is going?

There are strong and powerful reasons why many enterprises will want to use an integrated combination of on-premises and off-premises resources. Each has strong pros and cons. But what happens when you try and use them together?

Can you move simplistic VMs around from here to there? Sure, we’ve all seen that demo, and it never fails to impress the non-enterprise IT crowd.

Let’s try something a bit more practical: how about seamlessly integrating public clouds with on-premises versions of the same, and run demanding enterprise workloads as a single, integrated architecture?

I didn’t think so -- not unless you want to staff a sizable systems integration and support team, and wait around for them to eventually figure out how to glue everything together. That’s not the cloud people want, is it?

It’s simple: most public and private weren’t designed to work together.  And that's a problem.

4 -- The Private Cloud Labor Model Is All Wrong

CraftsemenClouds are supposed to be more efficient: both with resources and labor.  Simply shifting resource efficiency into greater labor costs sort of misses the point, no?   Many cloud models -- both private and public -- are showing themselves to be labor-intensive in enterprise IT settings.

Why?  They don't do what is needed out-of-the box.  People are required.  Expensive people.  The frustrating part?  These people are usually re-creating what already exists elsewhere.  That's a problem.

Re-inventing an existing proven solution doesn’t create value. Not only that, you’re very likely to do a poor job of it.

When I was working with VCE, I can’t tell you how many infrastructure teams vehemently insisted they could do a better job doing infrastructure system integration than a company dedicated and resourced to productizing infrastructure integration.

I guess it was all they knew how to do. By the way, I never saw them do a better job -- ever.

Now that I’m at Oracle years later, it’s the same story again, but this time around the gap between what my current employer can do with their technology and the in-house integration team’s capabilities is much, much more pronounced. That doesn’t mean they’ve given up, though – no matter how far-fetched their arguments sound.

It just doesn’t create value to do unneeded integration between things that weren’t designed to work together when compatible and pre-integrated alternatives are available.

Building_a_carIt’s like opting to design and build a car from piece parts vs. buying one.  And arguing that you’re delivering a better car while saving time and money in the process.

Take a look at any enterprise IT org chart, and ask a pointed question: how many people are spending their careers either trying to (a) recreating existing, proven solutions, (b) trying to support incompatible stuff working together, or (c) suffering the consequences of people attempting to do (a) and (b)?

As you’ll see in a moment, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Now, let’s take a business user’s view.

What’s the opportunity cost of IT investing in the ”unneeded systems integration business”? How long do business users have to wait for usable results vs. status meetings? How well does the IT-assembled solution work when eventually delivered? More broadly, why does IT often insist on recreating known and proven solutions, and not doing a good job at it?

Is it to justify their existence?

LinesNot all that long ago, I had to do some personal car stuff: license, registration renewal, etc. I spent the better part of a day driving to a government building, and being shuffled from long line to long line with papers in my hand.

Worse, I saw a well-staffed office of state employees behind the glass partition who didn’t exhibit any signs of urgency.

What frosted me was that I was paying for how they chose to run their business – both with my time and my tax dollars.

It took substantial effort to keep my mouth shut, smile, and get my government-required paperwork done. It was clearly designed to be self-perpetuating as only bureaucracies can be.

Is it any wonder that business people get so frustrated with enterprise IT?

Things Don’t Have To Be That Way

That’s why I consider the hypervisor-centric private cloud a failed model: there’s more to winning at enterprise IT than constructing a VM provisioning machine. It doesn’t even begin to solve the current problem of delivering an enterprise cloud: one that meets the agility and functionality needs of modern enterprise application landscapes.

Time to get off that train, and onto the next one -- one that's going where you need to go.

Oracle_cloud_logo2And, yes, there is certainly a better way. I won’t go into excruciating detail, but allow me a quick example of why things don’t have to be so hard.  Yes, this is an Oracle pitch -- but it also illustrates what you could be demanding from your vendors.

Oracle has three parts to their cloud strategy.

1 -- Oracle delivers integrated SaaS, PaaS and IaaS designed for modern enterprises, ready to use today. No assembly required, unless you want something special. It’s already trusted by many thousands of companies around the world. It supports almost any workload, and not just Oracle software.

2 -- Oracle delivers on-premises solutions engineered for modern enterprise applications – database, application logic and middleware, and analytics. All of them come with precise equivalents in the Oracle Cloud. The engineered approach delivers far better results in the data center, and no system integration is required to make private and public work together, as the public cloud is now simply an extension of your data center. If your data center plans change, everything comes with cloud insurance.

3 -- For those craving the agility of the public cloud in the data center, Oracle delivers Cloud Machines – subsets of the Oracle Cloud – that offer the same functionality, economics and operational model of the public cloud. Again, precisely equivalent with the public Oracle Cloud.

Take a moment, please, to digest the impact of all of this, and how it has fundamentally changed my perspective.  It should change yours as well.

All at once, my cold disgust with today’s failed private cloud model is gone, now replaced by the warm glow of optimism. There is hope after all. Yes, I do wish we all could have started here, but we didn’t.

To be fair, with this model you’re trusting a single vendor to be held accountable for delivering results. If the vendor doesn’t execute, you clearly have other options. But some find this all-in approach philosophically unattractive.

Losing_my_religionI would argue that maybe it’s time to get a new religion, as the alternatives are proving  strategically disastrous for larger enterprises.

Just consider how this approach neatly solves private cloud shortcoming as outlined above:

For example, the consumption model is instantly fixed, if needed. Consume off-premises, consume on-premises – it’s the same financial model.  Mix opex and capex model as needed.  If desired, IT can get out of the capex forecasting business, and business users get full unit cost transparency. Voila!

Integrated enterprise functionality is immediately available, because Oracle has already done all the hard work to integrate their products and technologies with others. It also helps that Oracle owns its own technology stack: from storage to database to mobile apps.

As a result, IT can now focus on using modern IT vs. attempting to re-invent it.

There are almost no compatibility issues to “fix” or “engineer” or “integrate” with this model. It’s all the exact same stuff on both sides of the wire, with a single vendor supporting it all.

Tool_guyAnd – best of all – the labor model gets rightsized and realigned for the cloud era. Yes, there are people who really enjoy screwdrivers and glue guns, but the need for vast armies of them is quickly fading in the new model.

Although – I have to point out -- some of these hands-on integration folks have found a new life, doing the same sorts of gluing together of things in build-your-own clouds such as Amazon’s, essentially recreating their historical world view but now in the cloud. I admire them for their inventiveness.

My view? Unnecessary systems integration didn’t make sense in the physical world, and it certainly doesn’t make sense in the cloud world.

Where Does That Leave Us?

Maybe you like your private cloud. Maybe it delivered the intended benefits. Maybe it moved the needle from what came before, and is seen as successful. That’s all good.

But that was then, and this is now.

I now see traditional private clouds as a strategic and architectural dead end. Before long, you will too.

SimpleLike so many technologies before it, the world has moved on, and left private clouds behind.

There is no logical road forward that makes economic or strategic sense. Any proposed potential way forward would inevitably require an army of IT people doing integration and support work of questionable value – and business people patient enough to pay for it, wait for it, and live with its inadequacies.

My view is that more business people are wising up. They may sense that their dear enterprise IT colleagues may have lost their way in the era of cloud.

Surely, there will be more hard questions to come: what are you IT guys doing, how long will it take, how much will it cost – and why are you insisting on doing this the hard way?

If you’re a senior IT leader, best if you have some good answers prepared.


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Yes, Something Very New Has Come Along

BrightstarIf you're a grizzled infrastructure guy like me, you're completely justified in your skepticism when any vendor claims to have announced something Truly NewTM.  

I mean, how many flash arrays, converged thingies, etc. does the world need?

Because we tend to focus on the underlying technology, we tend to miss other equally important innovations.  For example, Uber didn't really introduce new technology to the world; they just changed a familiar consumption model.

A few weeks back, Oracle announced a new industry category -- cloud machines -- under the banner "Cloud At Customer". First up: the Oracle Cloud Machine -- on-prem PaaS/IaaS targeted at enterprise application developers.

Simply put, it's a public cloud model delivered in the data center.  It fundamentally changes the familiar consumption model.

In the short time since, I've been seriously stunned by the level of customer and partner interest. People  immediately grasp the concept, realize that it's fundamentally different alternative, and are immediately curious.

We must be on to something here :)

Sure, I personally thought the notion of a cloud machine was going to be successful.  But at the end of the day, what I think doesn't matter that much; the opinion of thousands of IT professionals matters far more.

And -- so far, so good.

Oracle Cloud Machine In 30 Seconds

30secThe Oracle Cloud Machine is a re-packaging of a portion of the public Oracle Cloud for on-premises use.

The user experience is the same, e.g. public Oracle Cloud.  The operational model is the same as the public Oracle Cloud, e.g. the service is operated and managed by the same team (and using largely the same processes) as the public Oracle Cloud. The financial model is the same as well, e.g. metered or subscription. And, of course, the software stack and user experience is identical.

Hence the description of "public cloud model delivered on-premises".

In addition to the current model targeted at enterprise application development and execution, expect two more versions before long  -- aimed at database and big data analytics. Once understood, you'll see that the model is easily extensible to other portions of the IT landscape.

Hence it's best to think about cloud machines as a new category -- they are that different.

How A Cloud Machine Is Different

DifferentFolks used to traditional on-premises private clouds may scratch their heads, and wonder why all the fuss? After all, many of the ingredients look the same to them: compute, hypervisor, PaaS, etc.

First, this is integrated PaaS/IaaS targeted at enterprise applications developers. Standalone IaaS doesn't do this unless you spend a lot of time and effort rolling your own, and few application teams want to wait for the science project to finish.

Second, you're contracting for a complete, integrated service provided by Oracle. You're not buying the separate ingredients and cooking your own meal. It's a pure opex services model, just like the public cloud.

Third, it is derived from -- and seamlessly interoperable with -- with the public Oracle Cloud. No homegrown solution can make that statement.

ControlFolks used to familiar public cloud services also do their own head-scratching, but the questions are different.

A cloud machine lives on the premises of your choosing, under IT control. By itself, it is not dramatically elastic, but -- working with the public Oracle Cloud -- it is.

Like most public cloud services, developers are free to bring many of their favorite open source tool sets. Like most public cloud services, the infrastructure team doesn't play a direct role in providing supporting services.

Unlike public cloud services, you don't have the usual bugaboos about not being in control, data leaving the premises, latency, etc..

So the developers are free to move as fast and confidently, which matters.

What Senior IT Leaders Tell Me They Like About Cloud Machines

The senior crowd clearly appreciates the pure opex model of a cloud machine. This isn't clever financing in disguise, it's a clearly-defined integrated service you commit to for a fixed period of time. All costs are included: transparently and known in advance.

And when you're done, the service disappears and that's the end of your commitment. Just like the public cloud.

Smiling_execThese same people also appreciate that the Oracle Cloud Machine service is pre-integrated, and supported as a whole. This is not some reference architecture or solution guide; it's a baked, standardized product offering. Less time, less risk, less cost. Not to mention that Oracle has clearly integrated the whole stack: from application to database to infrastructure to support and so on.

On a more strategic note, I see that they appreciate how it brings immediate cloud agility to their enterprise application portfolio. No need to wait patiently for the various teams to cobble something together. There's also the attractiveness of easily mixing and matching with identical services from the public Oracle Cloud.

I do find it, errr,  interesting that senior IT execs who are responsible for multiple disciplines immediately grasp the concept.  Not so with the usual industry analysts, who tend to hold a partitioned (and historical) view of the world. 

What Partners Like

Oracle partners tell me they like being able to offer their clients a pure passthrough opex model for an integrated solution that sits behind one or more enterprise applications: either IaaS only, or a mix of PaaS and IaaS. It certainly helps them stand out from the crowd -- something that every partner wants to do.

I mean, just about anyone could sell you the ingredients -- how many sellers can offer a public cloud model on-premises?

It also simplifies their partner business model -- they can focus on the application, and leave the supporting infrastructure and tools to Oracle. Everything they position can run on-premises, in the public Oracle Cloud, or any combination. That's very strong differentiation.

The Infrastructure Team -- Well, Not So Much

You can't please everyone.

UnhappyHey, guys, I've worked the infrastructure end of the business my whole career.

I'd love to say cloud machines are all about the infrastructure team and what you do, but the truth is completely the opposite: it's about delivering public cloud infrastructure services on premises without the need for direct involvement by the infrastructure team.

Yes, I know you're heavily invested in VMware and everything that goes with it. Not relevant in this context. Business users want results, and aren't as obsessed with the ingredients as you've been.

More importantly, they can't afford to wait for y'all to put something together on their behalf.  Even if you could.

I gently remind people that part of being an IT professional is continually evolving your skill set forward, especially during big industry transitions. That NetWare cert I got many years ago doesn't help me much these days, nor does my extensive COBOL programming experience :)

The industry will still demand skilled IT professionals in the future; cloud or no cloud. They'll just be working with a different model.  And the market for people who specialize in hand-crafting infrastructure appears to have started its inevitable decline.

Competitive Responses? There Aren't Any.

GotnothingI can safely assert that no IT vendor is delivering anything that looks like a cloud machine today. Going farther, it's hard for me to see how any one of them could do so in the near future.

They'd need a full application stack, an enterprise-oriented public cloud, as well as the proven ability to deliver enterprise-class solutions on-premises.

Rare is it indeed in our industry when one vendor can do something so attractive for so many IT shops, and no competitors can mount a meaningful response.

I did see one deck from a competitor decrying Oracle "lock in".

As I remind people, deep integration is the flip side of lock in. I drive a Ford F-150, which I love. I use Ford parts when things break. I don't feel locked in. Besides, users are free to run almost any application (Oracle or otherwise), bring their favorite tool sets, or move the software stack elsewhere if needed.  Let's move on, shall we?

Sometimes I think some IT folks who obsess about lock in might be looking for job security in the multi-vendor integration and support business. As the industry moves to more integrated stacks, that's going to be a losing battle.

The Bottom Line - Faster, Now!

FasterThere are so many organizations I meet these days that are near-desperate to get more agility from their enterprise application portfolio. The app team is working their butts off, but don't have the modern tools they need to work effectively.  

They look longingly at public clouds, and wish they could get the same on their premises.

To be fair, the infrastructure team is working their butts off as well, but just can't close the gap.  Even if they could replicate the technology model (very difficult), there's still the financial and operational model to clone.  Oh yes, and whatever you eventually end up building won't have a compatible public cloud option.

The Oracle Cloud Machine solves this thorny IT problem brilliantly.

And this is getting fun for me :)


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On Being Happy

Why_hereFrom time to time, I am preoccupied with a simple question: why are we all here?

Perhaps the same thought nags at you as well.

I prefer answers that are simple and direct, and don't require invoking a cosmological constant. It wasn't until later in life that I came up with an answer that works for me.

Your results may be different, naturally.

I believe it's very simple: we are here to be happy -- individually and collectively.

Learning To Be Happy

Happy_meI think the first mission we have as human beings is to learn how to make ourselves happy. As young children, it seems to come quite easily, but it gets more complicated as we become adults.

I think it has something to do with hormones.

As an adult, I was eventually successful in teaching myself what made me happy. It wasn't obvious at first. I lost a lot of time chasing things that other people told me were supposed to make me happy, but didn't. My world changed significantly for the better when I finally dialed in the working formula.

A key learning: listen to yourself, not others.

I often meet adults of all ages and all walks of life that haven't succeeded at this fundamental mission yet. I feel for them, and help as I can. May you have an epiphany as I did.

When you're happy, you tend to live a harmonious life. You don't quarrel, or have many bad days. You aren't easily irritated, and you don't rant much. Your energy and interactions tend to be positive, which engenders the same from others. People want to interact with you as a result.

And, most importantly, being happy at your core enables you to do more for others.

Helping Those Close To You To Be Happy

SculptureLike many of you, I am in a long-term married relationship with three wonderful kids. I really, really want them to be happy, much as I am. I work hard at helping them as needed, but it's fundamentally their job -- not mine.

My wife is very happy these days. She is doing exactly what she wants to do, and is quite good at it. Her days are long, but she enjoys it deeply. Seeing her so satisfied of course makes me happy.

Yes, it sounds dopey, but it's true -- you can't be happy unless your spouse/partner is happy as well. I have no problem putting her happiness ahead of mine as need be.

My three children are all happy young adults. They feel good about themselves, their place in life, and what the future will bring them. As a result, they tend to make good decisions, which is important.

Seeing them on the road to their future makes me deeply pleased.

Helping Others Be Happy

Once you've taken care of yourself and those close to you, you're in a stronger position to help others. I've found that's very hard to do if you're worrying about your own situation, or that of your family.

For example, I routinely make the time to encourage and mentor those that I work with. Skip the corporate mentoring program, and just do it because it feels good to help others. Most of the time, I help people discover what they really want out of work and their career. Often, they've adopted someone else's goals without going through their own internal discovery process. That's sort of like wearing someone else's clothes and expecting to be comfortable.

I give of my time and money. If someone I've met is going through a rough patch, I listen with empathy, offer encouragement and refrain from giving specific advice unless asked. When I retire, I look forward to investing more time in younger people going through their formative years -- it can be a rough patch for many.

Not everyone means well. If someone appears intent on putting a dent in my positive attitude, I steer clear and refrain from interaction. Lots of people out there working on lots of issues, and not all of them can be helped.

A Simple Philosophy

Thinking about the world this way makes it very easy in my interactions with others: I try to help them get what they want unless it would adversely impact someone. Happiness shouldn't be a zero sum game. When I can help someone out, I feel good -- it's a win-win.

So, what's your philosophy?



IBM And VMware Tie Up: What Does It Mean?

MatchOur IT industry has always adored "strategic relationships", we seem to read about several every week.  They can be convenient answers to painful gaps in individual strategies.  

Some work out, most don't.  Hope springs eternal.

But the announcement of IBM and VMware getting together to deliver cloud services certainly deserves closer inspection -- at least by me.

On one level, it makes perfect sense.  On another level, not so much.

While we'll likely have to wait a year or more to see if this particular spawning bears any offspring, it's definitely worth discussing.

What Was Announced

From the press release:

IBM and VMware have jointly designed an architecture and cloud offering that will enable customers to automatically provision pre-configured VMware SDDC environments, consisting of VMware vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN on the IBM Cloud

 Another take from someone writing on Forbes is here.  And I'm sure there will be many more opinion pieces to join mine over the next few days :)

No real specifics were discussed about actual availability, as you'd expect.

Why This Makes Sense

On one level, you can see what each party gets from this arrangement.

Cloud_v_hybridVMware, which has been telling a hybrid cloud story for at least five years, has yet to deliver an attractive, compatible enterprise-class public cloud offering to complement their on-premises capabilities.  First, there was supposed to be vCloud Director and a partner network.  Without being critical, vCloud Air has struggled.  

And then there was that recent headfake around EMC and Virtustream.

Bottom line: VMware needs a compatible, enterprise-class cloud, and fast.  Smaller partners couldn't deliver.  VMware itself couldn't deliver.  EMC couldn't deliver.  Presumably, this wasn't a business that Dell was interested in.  HP is still smarting from cancelling their last big cloud initiative.  Cisco?  We won't go there.

So IBM is a logical choice.  Ain't many other choices out there, are there?

IBM theoretically gets access to an enormous vSphere installed base to sell compatible cloud services.  My joke about BlueMix is that it's like dark matter; I'm sure it's out there, I just don't have any compelling evidence.  IBM can potentially add standardized, easy-to-consume vSphere-based cloud services to their existing portfolio, and doesn't really give up anything in the process.

On paper, there's a certain logic to this.  Not mention urgency, as Amazon / Microsoft / Oracle all are in the cloud business today, so time is short.

What Doesn't Make Sense

The first thing that struck me is that VMware theoretically ends up doing quite well, IBM not as much.  

CrossedThe offering will be comprised of commodity hardware (low margin), VMware software products (margin goes to VMware), and IBM's value-added service delivery.  

I don't see much room for upsell for additional services, as these will be competing with customers who are quite comfortable today doing infrastructure in-house -- whether assembled or pre-integrated.

IBM can charge a small premium, but not much. 

The other invisible piece of the equation is the cloud  service provider operating system: that entity that provisions clusters and VMs on behalf of multiple tenants.  

This is a non-trivial piece of software to create and mature.  Will IBM take existing vCloud Air code and try and whip it into shape?  Create their own cloud controller?  Something else?  Not clear to me, but it's an important question as it's this critical piece of software that makes a public cloud a public cloud.

There's also the thorny problem of existing VMware EULAs.  VMware has sold a boatload of these.  Can these customers take their licenses to IBM's cloud, or do they have to buy again?  Details, details.

And, let's keep in mind, there are certain demanding workloads that many IT pros won't run on vSphere -- no matter how much powerpoint you put in front of them.

Caveats Abound

Proof-in-the-puddingAs they say, the proof is in the pudding.  We'll have to wait a while before we see an actual cloud service in the marketplace.  

What's not clear is how long.  A year?  Maybe more?  The market is moving fast.  My view is that -- unless you already have a viable enterprise cloud service in the marketplace today -- it's probably too late to start a new one.

And, not to be snarky, VMware customers have every right to be skeptical about yet another forthcoming VMware cloud strategy.  I've sort of lost count.  No, wait, this is the one ...

Finally, there's not going to be a lot of air cover from the mothership on this one: either EMC or (soon) Dell.  

Yes, VMware is independent, but when your corporate parents take a dim view of things, it's never easier.

Not to imagine some potentially awkward conversations. Customer to VMware/EMC/Dell rep "what's your strategy for hybrid cloud?"  Errr, call IBM?

The Inevitable Oracle Comparison

Oracle_cloud2At a high level, there are three fundamental components to Oracle's cloud strategy

  • A fully-featured and successful public cloud offering: SaaS, PaaS and IaaS -- plus a boatload more.  It would take you a week to go through everything that's there.
  • Providing compatible public cloud equivalents to what we sell on-premises, e.g. Exadata Cloud Service.  Think of this as "cloud insurance" if you will.
  • The ability to bring a fully-featured public cloud model on-premises.

All from a single vendor engineering the stack, and supporting everything.  None require a "strategic partnership" to be successful; Oracle controls its own destiny -- which I find somewhat reassuring.

What All This Means

It should be clear by now: cloud is the new enterprise architecture.  Public and private clouds need to work closely together to deliver the agile IT framework demanded by the digital economy.  

If you're a traditional IT vendor that can't show their customers how to easily and confidently get to integrated public/private, life is going to get much harder for you -- and your customers.

The future is coming fast.


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When A Patch Crisis Isn't

RecallIn the automotive world, a defective part from a supplier can result in expense and tragedy.  Witness the massive Takata airbag recall, affecting dozens of manufacturers and tens of millions of vehicles on the road today, including potentially yours :(

The IT world is no different, we are all dependent on components from others, especially Linux and open source code.  Bugs are found, some are serious -- and they must be quickly patched at considerable effort and expense, otherwise tragedy may await.

Last week, a particularly nasty bug was found in the widely used glibc code that enabled bad guys to essentially take over a DNS server.  More details here, here and here

The severity of the bug resulted in a "PATCH NOW!" directive to the IT community at large.  While not as nasty as the infamous Heartbleed or Venom bugs, this one merited a serious and immediate response.

For many IT shops, this sort of all-too-common fire drill involves not only a lot of effort, but downtime as well. 

Except for Oracle shops, that is. 

The Magic Of Ksplice

Changing_enginesTypically, it's very hard to patch code when it's running -- sort of like swapping out an airline engine while it's at cruising altitude.  Much easier to just land the plane.

One approach is to simply update the code on storage, and restart everything.  Downtime is never ideal, and you silently cross your fingers when things are coming back up. 

Unfortunately, that's so often the norm.

Another popular approach is to use clustering technology for fast failovers.  Update shared code on storage, and then failover each server in sequence using a clustering technology to minimize production impact.   Better, but it's still a process that deserves close supervision.

These days, there's a third approach, and that's Ksplice.

Ksplice is a Linux framework, pioneered by Oracle, that enables hot-swapping of code modules on-the-fly with ZERO disruption.  Old code is unhooked and new code is re-hooked -- and the application is completely unaware that anything has happened.

HookKsplice has been happily performing non-disruptive online patching on kernel code in Oracle Linux for several years.  It works, and it works great. 

But what about user space code, like the aforementioned glibc?

User space code is a much harder, as Oracle has to develop individual harnesses for specific libraries that are widely in use.  It's not a generic capability.  If you're running user code that has been modified with one of our Ksplice harnesses, you're golden -- otherwise you have to patch like everyone else.

Fortunately, the code in question already had a Ksplice harness as part of our distribution.  Anyone running recent Oracle Linux code (and subscribing to the appropriate service) was able to non-disruptively patch the defective library code with ZERO downtime and ZERO impact to production.

It's an impressive feat, one that I'm sure was appreciated by more than a few Oracle customers.

More on Ksplice here, along with additional commentary here and here.

It should be pointed out, it's the same Linux that's used in our Oracle Engineered Systems: Exadata, Exalogic, Exalytics, Supercluster, Oracled Database Appliance, Big Data Appliance, Private Cloud Appliance, Zero Data Loss Recovery Appliance and so on.

The Value Of The Red Stack

RedstackOne of the things I didn't fully appreciate before coming to Oracle is that owning all the pieces in an IT stack lets you do some pretty impressive things.

Like automatically hot-patching a critical bug across a vast army of Linux-based systems with no downtime.

While I do see the historical appeal of rolling-your-own IT stacks, it's hard to argue with the ease and convenience of a completely engineered stack.  Including nifty features like this one.

Just curious: for all you non-Oracle Linux admins out there, how long did it take you to find, patch and restart every affected system?

Just curious :)


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