Business · Cloud · Data

Delphix smartly reduces the friction to access data

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Today’s CIO is looking for ways to untap the potential in their company’s data. We have heard the phrase that data is the new oil. Except that data, like oil, is just a raw material. Ultimately, we need to refine it into a finished good which is ultimately where the value resides.

At the same time, enterprises are concerned with regulatory and compliance requirements to protect data. Recent data breaches by globally-recognized companies have raised the concern around data privacy. Historically, the financial services and healthcare industries were the ones to watch when it came to regulatory and compliance requirements. Today, the regulatory net is widening with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), US Government’s FedRAMPand NY State DFS Cybersecurity Requirements.

Creating greater access to data while staying in compliance and protecting data sit at opposite ends of the privacy and cybersecurity spectrum. Add to this the interest in moving data to cloud-based solutions and one can quickly see why this is one of the core challenges for today’s CIO.

DELPHIX REDUCES THE FRICTION TO DATA ACCESS

At Tech Field Day’s Cloud Field Day 3, I had the opportunity to meet with the team from Delphix.

Fundamentally, Delphix is a cloud-based data management platform that helps enterprises reduce the friction to data access through automation of data management. Today, one-third of Fortune 500 companies use Delphix.

Going back to the core issue, users have a hunger for accessing data. However, regulatory and compliance requirements often hinder that process. Today’s methods to manage data are heavily manual and somewhat archaic compared with solutions like Delphix.

Delphix’ approach is to pack up the data into, what they call, a Data Pod. Unlike most approaches that mask data when it is shared, Delphix masks the data during the intake process. The good thing about this approach is in removing the risk of accidentally sharing protected data.

In terms of sharing data, one clever part of the Delphix Dynamic Data Platform is in its ability to replicate data smartly. Considering that Delphix works in the cloud, this is a key aspect to avoiding unnecessary costs. Alternatively, enterprises would see a significant uptick in data storage as masked data is replicated to the various users. Beyond structured, transactional data, Delphix is also able to manage (and mask) databases, along with unstructured data and files.

THE CIO PERSPECTIVE

From the CIO perspective, Delphix appears to address an increasingly complicated space with a clever, yet simple approach. The three key takeaways are: a) Ability to mask data (DB, unstructured, files) at intake versus when pulling copies, b) ability to smartly replicate data and c) potential to manage data management policies. Lastly, this is not a solution that must run in the corporate data center. Delphix supports running in public cloud services including Microsoft Azureand Amazon AWS.

In Summary, Delphix appears to have decreased the friction to data access by automating the data protection and management processes. All while supporting an enterprise’s move to cloud-based resources.

Business · Cloud

Morpheus Data brings the glue to multi-cloud management

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Enterprises across the globe are starting to leverage cloud-based resources in a multitude of ways. However, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to cloud that makes sense for the enterprise portfolio. This leads to a rise in multi-cloud deployments for the varied workloads any given enterprise uses. Meaning, any given enterprise will use a variety of different cloud-based services depending on the specific requirements of any given workload. It is important to understand the difference between Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Cloud.

This cloud ‘sprawl’ creates an increasingly complicated management problem as each cloud provider uses a different approach to manage their cloud-based services. Layer in management processes, automation routines and management tools and one can quickly understand the challenge. Add to this that any given application may use a different combination of cloud services and one can quickly see how the problem gets exponentially more complicated with each workload.

MORPHEUS DATA PROVIDES THE GLUE

At Tech Field Day’s Cloud Field Day 3, I had the opportunity to meet with the team from Morpheus Data.

Morpheus Data addresses this complicated web of tools and services by providing an abstraction layer on top of the various tools and services. More specifically, Morpheus Data creates abstraction between the provisioning and underlying infrastructure. To date, they support 49 service integrations out of the box that cover a variety of cloud services, governance tools, management tools and infrastructure.

Providing governance and automation is key to any multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud deployment. Leveraging a solution like Morpheus Data will help streamline CloudOps & DevOps efforts through their integration processes.

One interesting aspect of Morpheus Data’s solution is the ability to establish application templates that span a number of different tools, services & routines. The templates assist with deployment and can set specific time limitations on specific services. This is especially handy to avoid one form of sprawl known as service abandonment where a service is left running and accruing cost even though it is no longer used.

Much of Morpheus Data’s efforts are geared toward ‘net-new’ deployments to cloud. Moving legacy workloads will require re-working before fully taking advantage of cloud-based resources. I wrote about the challenges with legacy workloads moving to public cloud in these posts:

LOOKING BEYOND THE TOOL

While Morpheus Data provides technology to address the systemic complexities of technology, it does not address the people component. To be fair, it is not clear that any tool will necessarily fix the people component. Specifically, in order to truly leverage good governance and automation routines, one needs to come to grips with the organizational and cultural changes to support such approaches.

In order to address the people component, it is helpful to break down the personas. The key three are Developer, Infrastructure Administrator and Executive. Each of these personas have different requirements and interests that will impact how services are selected and consumed.

IN SUMMARY

Morpheus Data is going after a space that is both huge and highly complicated. A big challenge for the team will be to focus on the most critical spaces without trying to cover every tool, process and model. This is really a question going broad or going deep. You can’t do both.

In addition, it is clear that Morpheus Data has a good start but would benefit from bringing operational data and costs into the factors that drive decisions on which services to use. The team already has some cost components included but are not as dynamic as enterprises will need moving forward.

In summary, the Morpheus Data solution looks like a great start to the increasingly complicated multi-cloud space. Every enterprise will have some form of complexity dealing with multi-cloud and hybrid cloud. As such, they could benefit from a solution to help streamline the processes. Morpheus Data looks like a good start and will be interesting to see how the company and solution evolve over time to address this increasingly complicated space.

CIO · Cloud

Three key changes to look for in 2018

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2017 has officially come to a close and 2018 has already started with a bang. As I look forward to what 2018 brings, the list is incredibly long and detailed. The genres of topics are equally long and cover people, process, technology, culture, business, social, economic and geopolitical boundaries…just to name a few.

Here are three highlights on my otherwise lengthy list…

EVOLVING THE CIO

I often state that after spending almost three decades in IT, now is the best time to work in technology. That statement is still true today.

One could not start a conversation about technology without first considering the importance of the technology leader and role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO, as the most senior person leading the IT organization, takes on a very critical role for any enterprise. That was true in the past, and increasingly so moving forward.

In my post ‘The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO’, I outline many of the differences in the ever-evolving role of the CIO. Those traits will continue to evolve as the individual, organization, leadership and overall industry change to embrace a new way to leverage technology. Understanding the psyche of the CIO is something one simply cannot do without experiencing the role firsthand. Yet, understanding how this role is evolving is exactly what will help differentiate companies in 2018 and beyond.

In 2018, we start to see the emerging role of ‘Transformational’ CIO in greater numbers. Not only does the CIO see the need for change, so does the executive leadership team of the enterprise. The CIO becomes less of a technology leader and more of a business leader that has responsibility for technology. As I have stated in the past, this is very different from that of the ‘CEO of Technology’ concept that others have bandied about. In addition, there is a sense of urgency for the change as the business climate becomes increasingly competitive from new entrants and vectors. Culture and geopolitical changes will also impact the changing role of the CIO and that of technology.

TECHNOLOGY HITS ITS STRIDE

In a similar vein to that of the CIO, technology finds its stride in 2018. Recent years have shown a lot of experimentation in the hopes of leverage and success. This ‘shotgun’ approach has been very risky…and costly for enterprises. That is not to say that experimentation is a bad thing. However, the role of technology in mainstream business evolves in 2018 where enterprises face the reality that they must embrace change and technology as part of that evolution.

Executives will look for ways to, mindfully, leverage technology to create business advantage and differentiation. Instead of sitting at the extremes of either diving haphazardly into technology or analysis paralysis, enterprises will strike a balance to embrace technology in a thoughtful, but time-sensitive way. The concept of ‘tech for tech sake’ becomes a past memory like that of the dialup modem.

One hopeful wish is that boards will stop the practice of dictating technology decisions as they have in the past with mandating their organization use cloud. That is not to say cloud is bad, but rather to suggest that a more meaningful business discussion take place that may leverage cloud as one of many tools in an otherwise broadening arsenal.

CLOUD COMES OF AGE IN ALL FORMS

Speaking of cloud, a wholesale shift takes place in 2018 where we pass the inflection point in our thinking about cloud. For the enterprise, public cloud has already reached a maturity point with all three major public cloud providers offering solid solutions for any given enterprise.

Beyond public cloud, the concept of private cloud moves from theory to reality as solutions mature and the kinks worked out. Historically, private cloud was messy and challenging even for the most sophisticated enterprise to adopt. The theory of private cloud is incredibly alluring and now has reached a point where it can become a reality for the average enterprise. Cloud computing, in its different forms has finally come of age.

 

In summary, 2017 has taught us many tough lessons in which to leverage in 2018. Based on the initial read as 2017 came to a close, 2018 looks to be another incredible year for all of us! Let us take a moment to be grateful for what we have and respect those around us. The future is bright and we have much to be thankful for.

Happy New Year!

Network

Upgrading to a mesh wifi network

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After several folks asked about a recent tweet I posted about upgrading my home wifi network to a mesh network, I thought I would spend a few words to describe the before and after.

UNDERSTANDING THE BASELINE

Before discussing the details about the wifi networks and implementation, it is important to first set a baseline. As with most decisions, they are not made in a vacuum nor are they made independent of other variables and/or factors. In my case, one of the core factors to understand is that I live in the Apple ecosystem. If I lived in a Windows and/or Android ecosystem, the circumstances would not have been the same. And therefore, past decisions would likely have been different.

MOVING TO MULTIPLE WIFI ACCESS POINTS

Considering that I live in the Apple ecosystem, it made logical sense (at the time) to consider an Apple AirPort Extreme base station as my wifi access point. At the time, one AirPort Extreme base station provided solid coverage to my entire home. In addition, the Apple ecosystem with management software included in the Mac OS made the management really simple.

At some point, however, the size of my home increased and so did the need for a broader wifi network. Apple’s AirPort Extreme base stations allow the ability to create an extended network across multiple access points. The fact that you could create a wireless bridge across two AirPort Extreme base stations was also handy for those devices that didn’t have wireless capabilities. That’s all great. That is, until it isn’t great.

As Apple stopped regularly updating their AirPort devices, the quality of service consistently degraded. First, it was access points that lost connection to other access points. Then performance became an issue. Eventually, it got to the point where performance felt really lagging…especially if another device was streaming on the network. Now keep in mind that my Internet connection is a 150Mbps broadband connection which should provide plenty of bandwidth. Add to that the management required to keep things working and one can see how frustrating it can get.

THE SHIFT TO MESH

For some time, I have been toying with the idea of replacing the three connected Apple AirPort Extreme base stations with a modern mesh network that focused on performance while still keeping things simple. After doing a fair amount of research, it came down to two products: Eero & Google Wifi. Both products had solid reports from users. In the end, I opted for the Google Wifi 3-node system over the Eero for one simple reason: Cost. The three unit Eero system is significantly more expensive than the equivalent 3-node Google Wifi system. And the specs seemed pretty similar.

In my situation, the three wifi units are setup as: 1) Primary, connected directly to cable modem. The second port connects to a switch which connects to other devices that perform better via wired over wireless connections (Smart TVs, DVR, Apple TV, DVD Player, etc). 2) Wireless mesh. And 3) Wired wifi mesh. The last one is closer to my home office which has a wired connection to the core switch in order to provide greater performance while still supporting the wifi mesh. Installation and setup was very quick and easy to do.

EARLY REPORTS ARE IN

Granted the devices have been operational almost 24 hours. However, since installing the new devices, I have seen a marked improvement in wifi stability and performance. I can also see how much bandwidth is being used by different devices and address as needed. Even my wife noted that the Google wifi access points are less obtrusive than then Apple AirPort Extreme base stations. Although only one of the three is visible as the other two sit behind things and out of view. Even when everyone is at home on their devices, I have not noticed a single blip in performance like in the past. In addition, moving around the house between access points also seems quicker and seamless. This is important for those (like us) that live in semi-rural areas where cell coverage is spotty and wifi calling is required.

Only time will tell, but so far I am very pleased with the change.

Cloud

Four expectations for AWS re:Invent

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This week brings Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) annual re:Invent conference where thousands will descend upon Las Vegas to learn about cloud and the latest in AWS innovations. Having attended the conference for several years now, there are a number of trends that are common at an AWS event. One of those is the sheer number of products that AWS announces. Aside from that, there are a number of specific things I am looking for at this week’s re:Invent conference.

ENTERPRISE ENGAGEMENT

AWS has done a stellar job of attracting the startup and web-scale markets to their platform. The enterprise market, however, has proven to be an elusive customer except for a (relatively) few case examples. This week, I am looking to see how things have changed for enterprise adoption of AWS. Has AWS found the secret sauce to engage the enterprise in earnest?

PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT

Several years back, AWS made a big point of not being one of “those” companies with a very large portfolio of products and services. Yet, several years later, AWS has indeed become a behemoth with a portfolio of products and services a mile long. This is a great thing for customers, but can have a few downsides too. Customers, especially enterprise customers, tend to make decisions that last longer than the startup & web-scale customers. Therefore, service deprecation is a real concern with companies that a) do not have a major enterprise focus and b) have a very large portfolio. Unfortunately, this is where AWS is today. Similarly, to date, AWS has not done much in the way of portfolio pruning.

HYBRID CLOUD SUPPORT

For the enterprise, hybrid is their reality. In the past, AWS has taken the position that hybrid means a way to onboard customers into AWS Public Cloud. Hybrid, a combination of on-premises and cloud-based resources can be a means to onboard customers into public cloud. The question is: How is AWS evolving their thinking of hybrid cloud? In addition, how has their thinking evolved to encompass hybrid cloud from the perspective of the enterprise?

DEMOCRATIZATION OF AI & ML

Several of AWS’ competitors have done a great job of democratizing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools in a means to make them more approachable. AWS was one of the first out of the gate with a strong showing of AI & ML tools a few years back. The question is: How have they evolved in the past year to make the tools more approachable for the common developer?

BONUS ROUND

As a bonus, it would be interesting if AWS announced the location of their 2nd headquarters. Will they announce it at re:Invent versus a financial analyst call? We shall see.

In summary, AWS never fails to put on a great conference with a good showing. This year should not disappoint.

Business · Cloud · Data

Microsoft empowers the developer at Connect

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This week at Microsoft Connect in New York City, Microsoft announced a number of products geared toward bringing intelligence and the computing edge closer together. The tools continue Microsoft’s support of a varied and growing ecosystem of evolving solutions. At the same time, Microsoft demonstrated their insatiable drive to woo the developer with a number of tools geared toward modern development and advanced technology.

EMBRACING THE ECOSYSTEM DIVERSITY

Microsoft has tried hard in the past several years to shed their persona of Microsoft-centricity of a .NET Windows world. Similar to their very vocal support for inclusion and diversity in culture, Microsoft brings that same perspective to the tools, solutions and ecosystems they support. The reality is that the world is diverse and it is this very diversity that makes us stronger. Technology is no different.

At the Connect conference, similar to their recent Build & Ignite conferences, .NET almost became a footnote as much of the discussion was around other tools and frameworks. In many ways, PHP, Java, Node and Python appeared to get mentioned more than .NET. Does this mean that .NET is being deprecated in favor of newer solutions? No. But it does show that Microsoft is moving beyond just words in their drive toward inclusivity.

EXPANDING THE DEVELOPER TOOLS

At Connect, Microsoft announced a number of tools aimed squarely at supporting the modern developer. This is not the developer of years past. Today’s developer works in a variety of tools, with different methods and potentially in separate locations. Yet, they need the ability to collaborate in a meaningful way. Enter Visual Studio Live Share. What makes VS Live Share interesting is how it supports collaboration between developers in a more seamless way without the cumbersome screen sharing approach previously used. The level of sophistication that VS Live Share brings is impressive in that it allows each developer to walk through code in their own way while they debug and collaborate. While VS Live Share is only in preview, other recently-announced tools are already seeing significant adoption in a short period of time that ranges in the millions of downloads.

In the same vein of collaboration and integration, DevOps is of keen interest to most enterprise IT shops. Microsoft showed how Visual Studio Team Services embraces DevOps in a holistic way. While the demonstration was impressive, the question of scalability often comes into the picture for large, integrated teams. It was mentioned that VS Team Services is currently used by the Microsoft Windows development team and their whopping 25,000 developers.

Add to scale the ability to build ‘safe code’ pipelines with automation that creates triggers to evaluate code in-process and one can quickly see how Microsoft is taking the modern, sophisticated development process to heart.

POWERING DATA AND AI IN THE CLOUD

In addition to developer tools, time was spent talking about Azure, data and Databricks. I had the chance to sit down with Databricks CEO Ari Ghodsi to talk about how Azure Databricks is bringing the myriad of data sources together for the enterprise. The combination of Databricks on Azure provides the scale and ecosystem that highlights the power of Databricks to integrate the varied data sources that every enterprise is trying to tap into.

MIND THE DEVELOPER GAP

Developing applications that leverage analytics and AI is incredibly important, but not a trivial task. It often requires a combination of skills and experience to fully appreciate the value that comes from AI. Unfortunately, developers often do not have the data science skills nor business context needed in today’s world. I spoke with Microsoft’s Corey Sanders after his keynote about how Microsoft is bridging the gap for the developer. Both Sanders & Ghodsi agree that the gap is an issue. However, through the use of increasingly sophisticated tools such as Databricks and Visual Studio, Sanders & Ghodsi believe Microsoft is making a serious attempt at bridging this gap.

It is clear that Microsoft is getting back to its roots and considering the importance of the developer in an enterprise’s digital transformation journey. While there are still many gaps to fill, it is interesting to see how Microsoft is approaching the evolving landscape and complexity that is the enterprise reality.

Business · Cloud · Data

Salesforce bridges the customer engagement gap for growth at Dreamforce

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Last week was Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco with a whopping 170,000+ attendees. Even so, what were the key takeaways?

Today, many enterprises are either Salesforce customers and follow the space closely as it pertains to a key element for executive teams today: Customer engagement. One of the top issues that executive teams and board of directors face is how to create a deeper relationship with customers. Salesforce sits at this nexus. Here are the top takeaways from the conference;

UPSIDES:

  1. Partnership with Google: Salesforce announced their partnership with Google. While much of the discussion was integration with Google Cloud and G Suite, there are benefits that both companies (and customers) could gain from the relationship. The data that Google maintains on user behavior and ad-related impact could provide useful to Salesforce customers. Salesforce in turn could provide integration and insights to Google Ad Words. The potential from this symbiotic relationship could prove significant.
  2. Democratizing Einstein & AI: Last year, Einstein provided an interesting opportunity for Salesforce and their customers. This year, Salesforce showed how providing customers with an easy way to leverage Einstein provides a powerhouse of potential to support customer engagement. Plus, proactively predicting outcomes provides insights not previously possible.
  3. myTrailhead: Personalization has long-since been a key success factor to engage users. myTrailhead provides a level of personalization to allow users to work as they work best. Often, we require all users to work from a single console or interface. myTrailhead allows users to customize their experience.

DOWNSIDES:

  1. Fewer Feature/ Function Announcements: There was quite a bit of discussion around the number of feature/ functionality announcements made at Dreamforce. Further suggesting that maybe things are slowing down for Salesforce in terms of innovation. It is unclear to predict a trend from one data point. However, there are several indicators that this may only indicate a maturing of the innovation cycle.
  2. Expansion of Platform to Verticals: Salesforce supports a number of verticals with their solution. However, the depth they support the ecosystem around verticals pales in comparison with newer startups focused on specific verticals in the CRM space.
  3. Lack of New Data Sources: Unlike its competition, Salesforce takes a partnership approach to data integration into the platform. That is, they rely on partners to bring data sources for customers to leverage. Examples are financial services, traffic, weather, and other common data elements.

REVENUE GUIDANCE

Another key question that came up was around Salesforce’s revenue guidance. Can they (essentially) double their revenue to match guidance? And if so, how. There are a number of factors that I believe will support this.

All in, Salesforce is faced with significant headwinds from both competition and adoption of innovation by enterprises. Bringing partnerships with Google and democratization of newer technologies will do well to carry them forward. There is still a significant amount of potential upside for Salesforce.