Business · Cloud

Oracle works toward capturing enterprise Cloud IaaS demand

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The enterprise cloud market is still shows a widely untapped potential. A significant portion of this potential comes from the demand generated by the legacy applications that are sitting in the myriad of corporate data centers. The footprint from these legacy workloads alone is staggering. Start adding in the workloads that sit in secondary data centers that often do not get included in many metrics and one can quickly see the opportunity.

ORACLE STARTS FROM THE GROUND UP

At Tech Field Day’s Cloud Field Day 3, I had the opportunity to meet with the team from Oracle Cloud Infrastructureto discuss their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud portfolio. Oracle is trying to attract the current Oracle customer to their cloud-based offerings. Their offerings range from IaaS up through Software as a Service (SaaS) for their core back-office business applications.

The conversation with the Oracle team was pretty rough as it was hard to determine what, exactly, that they did in the IaaS space. There were a number of buzzwords and concepts thrown around without covering what the Oracle IaaS portfolio actually offered. Eventually, it became clear during a demo, in a configuration page what the true offerings were: Virtual Machines and Bare Metal. That’s a good start for Oracle, but unfortunate in how it was presented. Oracle’s offering is hosted infrastructure that is more similar to IBM’s SoftLayer(now called IBM Cloud) than Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWSor Google Cloud.

ORACLE DATABASE AS A SERVICE

Beyond just the hardware, applications are one of the strengths of Oracle’s enterprise offerings. And a core piece of the puzzle has always been their database. One of the highlights from the conversation was their Database as a Service (DBaaS)offering. For enterprises that use Oracle DB, this is a core sticking point that keeps their applications firmly planted in the corporate data center. With the Oracle DBaaS offering, enterprises have the ability to move workloads to a cloud-based infrastructure without losing fidelity in the Oracle DB offering.

Digging deeper into the details, there were a couple interesting functions supported by Oracle’s DBaaS. A very cool feature was the ability to dynamically change the number of CPUs allocated to a database without taking an outage. This provides the ability to scale DB capacity up and down, as needed, without impact to application performance.

Now, it should be noted that while the thought of a hosted Oracle DB sounds good on paper, the actual migration will be complicated for any enterprise. That is less a statement about Oracle and more to the point that enterprise application workloads are a complicated web of interconnects and integrations. Not surprisingly, Oracle mentioned that the most common use-case that is driving legacy footprints to Oracle Cloud is the DB. This shows how much pent-up demand there is to move even the most complicated workloads to cloud. Today, Oracle’s DB offering runs on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). It was mentioned that the other Oracle Cloud offerings are moving to run on OCI as well.

Another use-case mentioned was that of High-Performance Computing (HPC). HPC environments need large scale and low latency. Both are positive factors for Oracle’s hardware designs.

While these are two good use-cases, Oracle will need to do things that attract a broader base of use-cases moving forward.

THE CIO PERSPECTIVE

Overall, there seems to be some glimmers of light coming from the Oracle Cloud offering. However, it is hard to get into the true differentiators. Granted that Oracle is playing a bit of catch-up compared with other, more mature cloud-based offerings.

The true value appears to be focused on existing Oracle customers that are looking to make a quick move to cloud. If true and the two fundamental use-cases are DBaaS and HPC, that is a fairly limited pool of customers when there is significant potential still sitting in the corporate data center.

It will be interesting to see how Oracle evolves their IaaS messaging and portfolio to broaden the use-cases and provide fundamental services that other cloud solutions have offered for years. Oracle does have the resources to put a lot of effort toward making a bigger impact. Right now, however, it appears that the Oracle Cloud offering is mainly geared for existing Oracle customers with specific use-cases.

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.

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.

CIO · Cloud

The difference between Hybrid and Multi-Cloud for the Enterprise

Cloud computing still presents the single biggest opportunity for enterprise companies today. Even though cloud-based solutions have been around for more than 10 years now, the concepts related to cloud continue to confuse many.

Of late, it seems that Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud are the latest concepts creating confusion. To make matters worse, a number of folks (inappropriately) use these terms interchangeably. The reality is that they are very different.

The best way to think about the differences between Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud is in terms of orientation. One addresses a continuum of different services vertically while the other looks at the horizontal aspect of cloud. There are pros and cons to each and they are not interchangeable.

 

Multi-Cloud: The horizontal aspect of cloud

Multi-Cloud is essentially the use of multiple cloud services within a single delivery tier. A common example is the use of multiple Public Cloud providers. Enterprises typically use a multi-cloud approach for one of three reasons:

  • Leverage: Enterprise IT organizations are generally risk-adverse. There are many reasons for this to be discussed in a later post. Fear of taking risks tends to inform a number of decisions including choice of cloud provider. One aspect is the fear of lock-in to a single provider. I addressed my perspective on lock-in here. By using a multi-cloud approach, an enterprise can hedge their risk across multiple providers. The downside is that this approach creates complexities with integration, organizational skills and data transit.
  • Best of Breed: The second reason enterprises typically use a multi-cloud strategy is due to best of breed solutions. Not all solutions in a single delivery tier offer the same services. An enterprise may choose to use one provider’s solution for a specific function and a second provider’s solution for a different function. This approach, while advantageous in some respects, does create complexity in a number of ways including integration, data transit, organizational skills and sprawl.
  • Evaluation: The third reason enterprises leverage a multi-cloud strategy is relatively temporary and exists for evaluation purposes. This third approach is actually a very common approach among enterprises today. Essentially, it provides a means to evaluate different cloud providers in a single delivery tier when they first start out. However, they eventually focus on a single provider and build expertise around that single provider’s solution.

In the end, I find that the reasons that enterprises choose one of the three approaches above is often informed by their maturity and thinking around cloud in general. The question many ask is: Do the upsides of leverage or best of breed outweigh the downsides of complexity?

Hybrid Cloud: The vertical approach to cloud

Most, if not all, enterprises are using a form of hybrid cloud today. Hybrid cloud refers to the vertical use of cloud in multiple different delivery tiers. Most typically, enterprises are using a SaaS-based solution and Public Cloud today. Some may also use Private Cloud. Hybrid cloud does not require that a single application spans the different delivery tiers.

The CIO Perspective

The important take away from this is to understand how you leverage Multi-cloud and/or Hybrid cloud and less about defining the terms. Too often, we get hung up on defining terms more than understanding the benefits from leveraging the solution…or methodology. Even when discussing outcomes, we often still focus on technology.

These two approaches are not the same and come with their own set of pros and cons. The value from Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Cloud is that they both provide leverage for business transformation. The question is: How will you leverage them for business advantage?

CIO · Cloud · Data

Why are enterprises moving away from public cloud?

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We often hear of enterprises that move applications from their corporate data center to public cloud. This may come in the form of lift and shift. But then something happens that causes the enterprise to move it out of public cloud. This yo-yo effect and the related consequences create ongoing challenges that contribute to several of the items listed in Eight ways enterprises struggle with public cloud.

In order to better understand the problem, we need to work backwards to the root cause…and that often starts with the symptoms. For most, it starts with costs.

UNDERSTANDING THE ECONOMICS

The number one reason why enterprises pull workloads back out of cloud has to do with economics. For public cloud, it comes in the form of a monthly bill for public cloud services. In the post referenced above, I refer to a cost differential of 4x. That is to say that public cloud services cost 4x the corporate data center alternative for the same services. These calculations include fully-loaded total cost of ownership (TCO) numbers on both sides over a period of years to normalize capital costs.

4x is a startling number and seems to fly in the face of a generally held belief that cloud computing is less expensive than the equivalent on-premises corporate data center. Does this mean that public cloud is not less expensive? Yes and no.

THE IMPACT OF LEGACY THINKING

In order to break down the 4x number, one has to understand legacy thinking heavily influences this number. While many view public cloud as less expensive, they often compare apples to oranges when comparing public cloud to corporate data centers. And many do not consider the fully-loaded corporate data center costs that includes server, network, storage…along with power, cooling, space, administrative overhead, management, real estate, etc. Unfortunately, many of these corporate data center costs are not exposed to the CIO and IT staff. For example, do you know how much power your data center consumes and the cost for real estate? Few IT folks do.

There are five components that influence legacy thinking:

  1. 24×7 Availability: Most corporate data centers and systems are built around 24×7 availability. There is a significant amount of data center architecture that goes into the data center facility and systems to support this expectation.
  2. Peak Utilization: Corporate data center systems are built for peak utilization whether they use it regularly or not. This unused capacity sits idle until needed and only used at peak times.
  3. Redundancy: Corporate infrastructure from the power subsystems to power supplies to the disk drives is designed for redundancy. There is redundancy within each level of data center systems. If there is a hardware failure, the application ideally will not know it.
  4. Automation & Orchestration: Corporate applications are not designed with automation & orchestration in mind. Applications are often installed on specific infrastructure and left to run.
  5. Application Intelligence: Applications assume that availability is left to other systems to manage. Infrastructure manages the redundancy and architecture design manages the scale.

Now take a corporate application with this legacy thinking and move it directly into public cloud. It will need peak resources in a redundant configuration running 24×7. That is how they are designed, yet, public cloud benefits from a very different model. Running an application in a redundant configuration at peak 24×7 leads to an average of 4x in costs over traditional data center costs.

This is the equivalent of renting a car every day for a full year whether you need it or not. In this model, the shared model comes at a premium.

THE SOLUTION IS IN PLANNING

Is this the best way to leverage public cloud services? Knowing the details of what to expect leads one to a different approach. Can public cloud benefit corporate enterprise applications? Yes. Does it need planning and refactoring? Yes.

By refactoring applications to leverage the benefits of public cloud rather than assume legacy thinking, public cloud has the potential to be less expensive than traditional approaches. Obviously, each application will have different requirements and therefore different outcomes.

The point is to shed legacy thinking and understand where public cloud fits best. Public cloud is not the right solution for every workload. From those applications that will benefit from public cloud, understand what changes are needed before making the move.

OTHER REASONS

There are other reasons that enterprises exit public cloud services beyond just cost. Those may include:

  1. Scale: Either due to cost or significant scale, enterprises may find that they are able to support applications within their own infrastructure.
  2. Regulatory/ Compliance: Enterprises may use test data with applications but then move the application back to corporate data centers when shifting into production with regulated data. Or compliance requirements may force the need to have data resources local to maintain compliance. Sovereignty issues also drive decisions in this space.
  3. Latency: There are situations where public cloud may be great on paper, but in real-life latency presents a significant challenge. Remote and time-sensitive applications are good examples.
  4. Use-case: The last catch-all is where applications have specific use-cases where public cloud is great in theory, but not the best solution in practice. Remember that public cloud is a general-purpose infrastructure. As an example, there are application use-cases that need fine-tuning that public cloud is not able to support. Other use-cases may not support public cloud in production either.

The bottom line is to fully understand your requirements, think ahead and do your homework. Enterprises have successfully moved traditional corporate applications to public cloud…even those with significant regulatory & compliance requirements. The challenge is to shed legacy thinking and consider where and how best to leverage public cloud for each application.

Business · CIO · Cloud

Google Next Expectations, A CIO’s Perspective

This week is Google’s Next conference in San Francisco and all eyes are on Google to gain insights to their direction, activities and plans around cloud. That being said, there are a few specific things I am looking for here at Next.

POSITIONING IN THE CLOUD

As a public cloud provider, Google faces stiff competition from Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure along with a bevy of others. In today’s public cloud marketplace, only the top contenders will take the majority of the spoils. Driving to be a top contender takes focus, a solid understanding of the marketplace, having the right message and going after the right target with the right product mix.

Google does have an uphill climb, but also a pile of resources to leverage. The question will be: Does Google have the right combination of items to secure their place in the public cloud market? Where are they today and what is coming down the road? And possibly more importantly, what is their perspective on the public cloud market and where they fit? 

ENGAGING THE ENTERPRISE

Generally speaking, there are two types of customers in the public cloud space: The web-scale/ startups and the enterprise customers. At this point, Amazon AWS has secured their place with the web-scale/ startups. However, a key to securing ones place in the public cloud market is by going after the yet-to-be-tapped, massive enterprise market. And while that may sound straightforward, it is anything but.

The enterprise market is incredibly complicated, yet, highly lucrative. In order for a company to successfully tap into the enterprise market, it needs to navigate a minefield of issues. Two specific items I am looking for at Next include how well Google is ‘speaking the language’ of enterprise and how well they are building relationships. The key here is in their ability to speak the language of enterprise in order to build relationships with enterprises. Initial indications are that they have struggled with this point.

MEETING IN THE MIDDLE

Google is a sophisticated company with incredibly powerful solutions. Those solutions can offer Google a significant advantage over competing solutions. However, without addressing the challenges outlined above, those very solutions could end up with a limited number of customers.

The enterprise must be key to Google’s strategy moving forward. In order to secure their place, they will need to demonstrate they can meet somewhere in the middle between where they are and where the enterprise currently sits.