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 · 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.

CIO

The lost generation in technology

 

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The technology industry is in crisis and yet many do not see the warning signs. How can an industry with as much innovation as the technology industry be in peril? The root of the issue rests with several complications…and people. As leaders, we hold a substantial responsibility to the very people we lead. Yes, many may consider them ‘human resources’, but they are still people. These are people with their own lives, families to support, communities to contribute to, and are often young folks trying to put their fingerprint on the world to make a difference. Yet, we may be leading the very flock we hope to flourish right off a cliff.

LEADING THE CHARGE

Passion. The entrepreneur is often driven by a fire in their belly driven by passion. Passionate about solving a specific problem or issue they often experience in their own life. That drive exudes into the organizations they form and people they lead. The organization is built around a common premise and passion.

The psychology of the people, however, is driven by several competing factors. The further one gets into an organization, the further away their focus from the common premise. One of the strongest diverging factors is money. We hear the stories about startups that turned into billion-dollar goliaths and in the process made many employees very wealthy. There is a story that when Microsoft went public in 1986, it created many millionaires overnight. It was said there was at least one millionaire in every hallway. One cannot ignore the allure of making it big is enticing.

FOCUS ON THE WRONG OBJECTIVE

Creating a common premise around passion is key. Founders are often passionate about solving a much-needed problem. That is not the issue. The question is how big of a problem is it and for whom? Focusing on a niche problem has a very different potential than solving a much larger problem. The potential number of customers, value and therefore upside is very different. Of course, larger problems may draw more competitors to the space too. Several dynamics affect choices around focus.

In addition to understanding the problem, one must understand who is the right target. There is a general assumption the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is still the ultimate target for anything technology related. Unfortunately, it not be further from the truth. And the target is changing over time (read: The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO). Many decisions may have been made by the CIO in the past are now made by others and may or may not include the CIO.

The complexities in understanding and knowing your target are ever-changing. Blindly assuming the CIO is your key target can lead to wasted effort, missed sales and hinder success.

A HARD LESSON TO LEARN…AGAIN

In the first dot-com era, we learned two things: 1) stock options are not worth anything unless there is an equity event and 2) many things will devalue stock options over time. Unfortunately, we are learning these two lessons again. Entrepreneurs, rightfully so, empathetically convey their passion to solve a problem. Prospective staff join firms at the advent of potentially solving said problem and making a significant fortune in the process.

It is this very perception that is woefully flawed and leads to the lost generation in technology. Staffers are willing to take significant pay cuts in lieu of stock options. Essentially, staff are working below their potential pay value on the prospect that the stock options turn into greater value.

Yet, very few will experience this outcome. Why? To pay out, 1) the company must succeed and experience an equity event that is large enough to pay staff stock options, 2) the stock options must not devalue through additional investment and other activities, and 3) the staff member must stay on-board long enough to vest. That is a tall order to run the gauntlet and succeed on the outcome.

NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM: CHOOSE CAREFULLY

Does this spell doom and gloom for startups, their entrepreneurs and the staff that choose to come on board? Absolutely not! The potential for the technology could not be brighter. The issue is one of focus and choice. If the energy put into startups trying to solve niche issues was redirected toward solving big problems, the outcomes would change. Our industry has many large problems to solve.

It is hard to get entrepreneurs focused on the larger problems. At a recent event, a panel of young college-age entrepreneurs was asked a number questions about their choices and projects. Many of them had tinkered with both software and hardware projects. However, many ultimately chose to focus on hardware projects. The panel was asked why that was the case. The answer: Unlike software, with hardware there is a tangible result. Something you can touch and see immediate benefit from.

Obviously, there is a gap between what is needed versus what is happening. Entrepreneurs must consider the ramifications (good and bad) of their decisions. Staff must consider their passion and ensure that their values and drive align. Staff need to go into opportunities with both eyes open and not assume a major payday. The combination of the two will lead to greater success among startups and solving bigger, yet unsolved, problems within the industry. At the same time, the energy of people will go toward solving big problems with meaningful outcomes for all those involved.

Business · CIO · Cloud · IoT

Three things to look for at Amazon’s upcoming AWS re:Invent conference

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As folks in the US prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, those of us in technology are looking to Amazon’s annual cloud confab AWS re:Invent the week after Thanksgiving in Las Vegas. In preparation for the sold-out conference, there are a few things to look for at the conference.

ENTERPRISE ENGAGEMENT

Amazon has done a good job of attracting the Webscale and Startup markets. One could go so far as to say that Amazon has cornered these markets. For these folks, the options are wide open to address their specific and scaling requirements. The requirements for enterprises, however, are vastly different from their webscale and startup counterparts.

Look for indications that Amazon is starting to learn how to engage enterprises and is moving in that direction. The method, language and solutions vary greatly when considering a prospective customer that has an existing footprint over those that are looking to build their first.

INTELLIGENCE: AI & MACHINE LEARNING

Amazon already has a Machine Learning solution in their portfolio today. Look for further expansion beyond just tools and into the realm of intelligence. Amazon has done a great job of create a bevy of infrastructure tools. However, moving into the intelligence space is both necessary and the logical next step in maturing Amazon’s position in this market. Also, look for Amazon’s response to the growing interest in AI solutions. In addition, the combination of AI & Machine Learning is paramount to more mature IoT solutions.

MOVING UP THE STACK

To date, most of Amazon’s portfolio targets the infrastructure end of the stack. There are a few solutions that move up the stack, but not many. Even so, Amazon has done a stellar job of their existing efforts. If, however, Amazon is intending to capture more of the enterprise market and move beyond being simply a tool provider, it needs to move up the stack into the application realm. To date, it is not clear if Amazon has both the capability and strong interest to do so.

Across the board, Amazon’s competition may not have the depth in IaaS cloud that Amazon has today. Nor do they have the ecosystem that Amazon has worked hard to build over the past 10 years. However, what they lack in IaaS depth is countered by their breadth up and down the stack. And while they may lack the breadth of features in the IaaS space compared with AWS, each are quickly catching up and are posting impressive growth rates.

Next week should provide another exciting event for Amazon and those working in the Cloud space. Whether coming from the startup, webscale or enterprise space, all eyes are on Amazon and their next move.

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.