Business · Cloud

Riverbed extends into the cloud

logo_riverbed_orange

One of the most critical, but often overlooked components in a system is that of the network. Enterprises continue to spend considerable amounts of money on network optimization as part of their core infrastructure. Traditionally, enterprises have controlled much of the network between applications components. Most of the time the different tiers of an application were collocated in the same data center or across multiple data centers and dedicated network connections that the enterprise had control of.

The advent of cloud changed all of that. Now, different tiers of an application may be spread across different locations, running on systems that the enterprise does not control. This lack of control provides a new challenge to network management.

In addition to applications moving, so does the data. As applications and data move beyond the bounds of the enterprise data center, so does the need to address the increasingly dispersed network performance requirements. The question is: How do you still address network performance management with you no longer control the underlying systems and network infrastructure components?

Riverbed is no stranger to Network performance management. Their products are widely used across enterprises today. At Tech Field Day’sCloud Field Day 3, I had the chance to meet up with the Riverbed team to discuss how they are extending their technology to address the changing requirements that cloud brings.

EXTENDING NETWORK PERFORMANCE TO CLOUD

Traditionally network performance management involved hardware appliances that would sit at the edges of your applications or data centers. Unfortunately, in a cloud-based world, the enterprise does not have access to the cloud data center nor network egress points.

Network optimization in cloud requires an entirely different approach. Add to this that application services are moving toward ephemeral behaviors and one can quickly see how this becomes a moving target.

Riverbed takes a somewhat traditional approach to how they address the network performance management problem in the cloud. Riverbed gives the enterprise the option to run their software as either a ‘sidecar’ to the application or as part of the cloud-based container.

EXTENDING THE DATA CENTER OR EMBRACING CLOUD?

There are two schools of thought on how one engages a mixed environment of traditional data center assets along with cloud. The first is to look at extending the existing data center so that the cloud is viewed as simply another data center. The second approach is to change the perspective where the constraints are reduced to the application…or better yet service level. The latter is a construct that is typical in cloud-native applications.

Today, Riverbed has taken the former approach. They view the cloud as another data center in your network. To this point, Riverbed’s SteelFusion product works as if the cloud is another data center in the network. Unfortunately, this only works when you have consolidated your cloud-based resources into specific locations.

Most enterprises are looking at a very fragmented approach to their use of cloud-based resources today. A given application may consume resources across multiple cloud providers and locations due to specific resource requirements. This shows up in how enterprises are embracing a multi-cloud strategy. Unfortunately, consolidation of cloud-based resources works against one of the core value propositions to cloud; the ability to leverage different cloud solutions, resources and tools.

UNDERSTANDING THE RIVERBED PORTFOLIO

During the session with the Riverbed team, it was challenging to understand how the different components of their portfolio work together to address the varied enterprise requirements. The portfolio does contain extensions to existing products that start to bring cloud into the network fold. Riverbed also discussed their Steelhead SaaS product, but it was unclear how it fits into a cloud native application model. On the upside, Riverbed is already supporting multiple cloud services by allowing their SteelConnect Manager product to connect to both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. On AWS, SteelConnect Manager can run as an AWS VPC.

Understanding the changing enterprise requirements will become increasingly more difficult as the persona of the Riverbed buyer changes. Historically, the Riverbed customer was a network administrator or infrastructure team member. As enterprises move to cloud, the buyer changes to the developer and possibly the business user in some cases. These new personas are looking for quick access to resources and tools in an easy to consume way. This is very similar to how existing cloud resources are consumed. These new personas are not accustomed to working with infrastructure nor do they have an interest in doing so.

PROVIDING CLARITY FOR THE CHANGING CLOUD CUSTOMER

Messaging and solutions geared to these new personas of buyers need to be clear and concise. Unfortunately, the session with the Riverbed team was very much focused on their traditional customer; the Network administrator. At times, they seemed to be somewhat confused by questions that addressed cloud native application architectures.

One positive indicator is that Riverbed acknowledged that the end-user experience is really what matters, not network performance. In Riverbed parlance, they call this End User Experience Management (EUEM). In a cloud-based world, this will guide the Riverbed team well as they consider what serves as their North Star.

As enterprise embrace cloud-based architectures more fully, so will the need for Riverbed’s model that drives their product portfolio, architecture and go-to-market strategy. Based on the current state, they have made some inroads, but have a long way to go.

Further Reading: The difference between hybrid and multi-cloud for the enterprise

Business · Cloud

Morpheus Data brings the glue to multi-cloud management

clover-b4ff8d514c9356e8860551f79c48ff7c

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.

Business · Cloud · Data

Microsoft empowers the developer at Connect

iagGpMj8TOWl3Br86sxsgg

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 · CIO · Cloud · Data

Are the big 5 enterprise IT providers making a comeback?

Not long ago, many would have written off the likes of the big five large enterprise IT firms as slow, lethargic, expensive and out of touch. Who are the big five? IBM (NYSE: IBM), HP (NYSE: HPQ), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) and Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO). Specifically, they are companies that provide traditional enterprise IT software, hardware and services.

Today, most of the technology innovation is coming from startups, not the large enterprise providers. Over the course of 2015, we have seen two trends pick up momentum: 1) Consolidation in the major categories (software, hardware, and services) and 2) Acquisitions by the big five. Each of them are making huge strides in different ways.

Here’s a quick rundown of the big five.

IBM guns for the developer

Knowing that the developer is the start of the development process, IBM is shifting gears toward solutions that address the new developer. Just look at the past 18 months alone.

  • February 2014: Dev@Pulse conference showed a mix of Cobol developers alongside promotion of Bluemix. The attendees didn’t resemble your typical developer conference. More details here.
  • April 2014: Impact conference celebrated 50 years of the mainframe. Impact also highlighted the SoftLayer acquisition and brought the integration of mobile and cloud.
  • October 2014: Insight conference goes further to bring cloud, data and Bluemix into the fold.
  • February 2015: InterConnect combines a couple of previous conferences into one. IBM continues the drive with cloud, SoftLayer and Bluemix while adding their Open Source contributions specifically around OpenStack.

SoftLayer (cloud), Watson (analytics) and Bluemix are strengths in the IBM portfolio. And now with IBM’s recent acquisition of BlueBox and partnership with Box, it doesn’t appear they are letting up on the gas. Add their work with Open Source software and it creates an interesting mix.

There are still significant gaps for IBM to fill. However, the message from IBM supports their strengths in cloud, analytics and the developer. This is key for the enterprise both today and tomorrow.

HP’s cloudy outlook

HP has long had a diverse portfolio that addresses the needs of the enterprise today and into the future. Of all big five providers, HP has one of the best matched to the enterprise needs today and in the future.

  • Infrastructure: HP’s portfolio of converged infrastructure and components is solid. Really solid. Much of it is geared for the traditional enterprise. One curious point is that their server components span the enterprise and service provider market. However, their storage products are squarely targeting the enterprise to the omission of the service providers. You can read more here.
  • Software: I have long since felt that HP’s software group has a good bead on the industry trends. They have a strong portfolio of data analytics tools with Vertica, Autonomy and HAVEn (being rebranded). HP’s march to support the Idea Economy is backed up by the solutions they’re putting in place. You can read more here.
  • Cloud: I have said that HP’s cloud strategy is an enigma. Unfortunately, discussions with the HP Cloud team at Discover this month further cemented that perspective. There is quite a bit of hard work being done by the Helion team, but the results are less clear. HP’s cloud strategy is directly tied to OpenStack and their contributions to the projects support this move.

HP will need to move beyond operating in silos and support a more integrated approach that mirrors the needs of their customers. While HP Infrastructure and Software are humming along, Helion cloud will need a renewed focus to gain relevance and mass adoption.

Microsoft’s race to lose

Above all other players, Microsoft still has the broadest and deepest relationships across the enterprise market today. Granted, much of those relationships are built upon their productivity apps, desktop and server operating systems, and core applications (Exchange, SQL, etc). There is no denying that Microsoft probably has relationships with more organizations than any of the others.

Since Microsoft Office 365 hit its stride, enterprises are starting to take a second look at Azure and Microsoft’s cloud-based offerings. This still leaves a number of gaps for Microsoft; specifically around data analytics and open standards. Moving to open standards will require a significant cultural shift for Microsoft. Data analytics could come through the acquisition of a strong player in the space.

Oracle’s comprehensive cloud

Oracle has long been seen as a strong player in the enterprise space. Unlike many other players that provide the building blocks to support enterprise applications, Oracle provides the blocks and the business applications.

One of Oracle’s key challenges is that the solutions are heavy and costly. As enterprises move to a consumption-based model by leveraging cloud, Oracle found itself flat-footed. Over the past year or so, Oracle has worked to change that position with their cloud-based offerings.

On Monday, Executive Chairman, CTO and Founder Larry Ellison presented Oracle’s latest update in their race for the enterprise cloud business. Oracle is now providing the cloud building blocks from top to bottom (SaaS PaaS IaaS). The message is strong: Oracle is out to support both the developer and business user through their transformation.

Oracle’s strong message to go after the entire cloud stack should not go unnoticed. In Q4 alone, Oracle cloud cleared $426M. That is a massive number. Even if they did a poor job of delivering solutions, one cannot deny the sheer girth of opportunity that overshadows others.

Cisco’s shift to software

Cisco has long since been the darling of the IT infrastructure and operations world. Their challenge has been to create a separation between hardware and software while advancing their position beyond the infrastructure realms.

In general, networking technology is one of the least advanced areas when compared with advances in compute and storage infrastructure. As cloud and speed become the new mantra, the emphasis on networking becomes more important than ever.

As the industry moves to integrate both infrastructure and developers, Cisco will need to make a similar shift. Their work in SDN with ACI and around thought-leadership pieces is making significant inroads with enterprises.

Summing it all up

Each is approaching the problem in their own ways with varying degrees of success. The bottom line is that each of them is making significant strides to remain relevant and support tomorrow’s enterprise. Equally important is how quickly they’re making the shift.

If you’re a startup, you will want to take note. No longer are these folks in your dust. But they are your potential exit strategy.

It will be interesting to watch how each evolves over the next 6-12 months. Yes, that is a very short timeframe, but echoes the speed in which the industry is evolving.