I’ve been talking to a number of users and providers of bare-metal cloud services, and am finding the common threads among the high-profile use cases both interesting individually and starting to connect some dots in terms of common use cases for these service providers who provide the ability to provision and use dedicated physical servers with very similar semantics to the common VM IaaS cloud – servers that can be instantiated at will in the cloud, provisioned with a variety of OS images, be connected to storage and run applications. The differentiation for the customers is in behavior of the resulting images:
Deterministic performance – Your workload is running on a dedicated resource, so there is no question of any “noisy neighbor” problem, or even of sharing resources with otherwise well-behaved neighbors.
Extreme low latency – Like it or not, VMs, even lightweight ones, impose some level of additional latency compared to bare-metal OS images. Where this latency is a factor, bare-metal clouds offer a differentiated alternative.
Raw performance – Under the right conditions, a single bare-metal server can process more work than a collection of VMs, even when their nominal aggregate performance is similar. Benchmarking is always tricky, but several of the bare metal cloud vendors can show some impressive comparative benchmarks to prospective customers.
There is always a tendency to regard the major players in large markets as being a static background against which the froth of smaller companies and the rapid dance of customer innovation plays out. But if we turn our lens toward the major server vendors (who are now also storage and networking as well as software vendors), we see that the relatively flat industry revenues hide almost continuous churn. Turn back the clock slightly more than five years ago, and the market was dominated by three vendors, HP, Dell and IBM. In slightly more than five years, IBM has divested itself of highest velocity portion of its server business, Dell is no longer a public company, Lenovo is now a major player in servers, Cisco has come out of nowhere to mount a serious challenge in the x86 server segment, and HP has announced that it intends to split itself into two companies.
And it hasn’t stopped. Two recent events, the fracturing of the VCE consortium and the formerly unthinkable hook-up of IBM and Cisco illustrate the urgency with which existing players are seeking differential advantage, and reinforce our contention that the whole segment of converged and integrated infrastructure remains one of the active and profitable segments of the industry.
EMC’s recent acquisition of Cisco’s interest in VCE effectively acknowledged what most customers have been telling us for a long time – that VCE had become essentially an EMC-driven sales vehicle to sell storage, supported by VMware (owned by EMC) and Cisco as a systems platform. EMC’s purchase of Cisco’s interest also tacitly acknowledges two underlying tensions in the converged infrastructure space:
An inquiry call from a digital strategy agency advising a client of theirs on data commercialization generated a lively discussion on strategies for taking data to market. With few best practices out there, the emerging opportunity just might feel like space exploration – going boldly where no man has gone before. The question is increasingly common. "We know we have data that would be of use to others but how do we know? And, which use cases should we pursue?" In It's Time To Take Your Data To Market published earlier this fall, my colleagues and I provided some guideance on identifying and commercializing that "Picasso in the attic." But the ideas around how to go-to-market continue to evolve.
In answer to the inquiry questions asked the other day, my advice was pretty simple: Don’t try to anticipate all possible uses of the data. Get started by making selected data sets available for people to play with, see what it can do, and talk about it to spread the word. However, there are some specific use cases that can kick-start the process.
Look to your existing customers.
The grass is not always greener, and your existing clients might just provide some fertile ground. A couple thoughts on ways your existing customers could use new data sources:
Dell today announced its new FX system architecture, and I am decidedly impressed.
Dell FX is a 2U flexible infrastructure building block that allows infrastructure architects to compose an application-appropriate server and storage infrastructure out of the following set of resources:
Multiple choices of server nodes, ranging from multi-core Atom to new Xeon E5 V3 servers. With configurations ranging from 2 to 16 server nodes per enclosure, there is pretty much a configuration point for most mainstream applications.
A novel flexible method of mapping disks from up to three optional disk modules, each with 16 drives - the mapping, controlled by the onboard management, allows each server to appear as if the disk is locally attached DASD, so no changes are needed in any software that thinks it is accessing local storage. A very slick evolution in storage provisioning.
A set of I/O aggregators for consolidating Ethernet and FC I/O from the enclosure.
All in all, an attractive and flexible packaging scheme for infrastructure that needs to be tailored to specific combinations of server, storage and network configurations. Probably an ideal platform to support the Nutanix software suite that Dell is reselling as well. My guess is that other system design groups are thinking along these lines, but this is now a pretty unique package, and merits attention from infrastructure architects.
On October 31, IBM and Tencent announced that they will work together to extend Tencent’s public cloud platform to the enterprise by building and marketing an industry-oriented public cloud.
Don’t be fooled into looking at this move in isolation. With this partnership, IBM is turning to a new page of its transformation in China, responding to the challenges of a stricter regulatory environment, an increasingly consumerized technology landscape, and newly empowered customers. The move is a crucial milestone in IBM’s strategy to localize its vision for cloud, analytics, mobile, and social (CAMS). IBM has had a strategic focus on CAMS solutions and is systematically building an ecosystem on four pillars:
Cloud and social. This is where IBM and Tencent are a perfect match. IBM’s cloud managed service, operated by its partner 21ViaNet, officially went live on September 23. It can support mission-critical applications like ERP and CRM solutions from SAP and Oracle from both the IaaS and SaaS perspective. This could help Tencent target large enterprise customers beyond its traditional base of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) and startups by adding social value to ERP, CRM, and EAM applications.
On October 20 at TechEd, Microsoft quietly slipped in what looks like a potential game-changing announcement in the private/hybrid cloud world when they rolled out Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS), an integrated hardware/software system that combines an Azure-consistent on premise cloud with an optimized hardware stack from Dell.
HP was the first US company to create a joint venture subsidiary in China; three decades later, the vendor has become a major player in the country’s consumer and enterprise markets. Among enterprises, HP has strong brand awareness for its server products and services, traditional software solutions, and IT services, but rather less for holistic application life-cycle management (ALM), especially on the mobile side. I think it’s time for technology decision-makers and enterprise architects to seriously consider adopting mobile app delivery management solutions and to evaluate HP for that purpose. Here’s why:
HP’s portfolio now covers the entire mobile app life cycle.The products HP will bring to market as part of its latest strategy will eventually cover the entire mobile application life cycle from app design, development, and optimization to distribution and monitoring. For example, at the design stage, HP Anywhere — based on popular open source product Eclipse — allows developers to write once to multiple devices within its integrated development environment. And its service virtualization feature can help virtualize third-party cloud services and make them consumable across each layer of the system architecture, including web servers, application servers, and web services.
HP’s solution has rich optimization features suitable for Chinese enterprises. At the mobile app optimization stage, HP’s Mobile Center uses a comprehensive approach to functionality, interoperability, usability, performance, and security to consolidate and automate mobile testing. Mobile Center is integrated with LoadRunner, one of the most popular performance engineering tools in Chinese market.
While the timing of the event comes as a surprise, the fact that IBM has decided to unload its technically excellent but unprofitable semiconductor manufacturing operation does not, nor does its choice of Globalfoundries, with whom it has had a longstanding relationship.
A year ago, I blogged about the fact that the app economy was blurring the lines and opening up new opportunities, with a lot of new entrants in the mobile space, be it with mobile CRM and analytics, store analytics, dedicated gaming analytics, etc.
Since 2010, more than 40 companies have raised about $500 million in that space! Watch it closely – consolidation will continue, as evidenced recently by Yahoo’s acquisition of Flurry.
While a lot of innovation is happening on the supply-side, too many marketers have not defined the metrics they’ll use to measure the success of their mobile initiatives. Many lack the tools they need to deeply analyze traffic and behaviors to optimize their performance.
Fifty-seven percent of marketers we surveyed do not have defined mobile objectives. For those who do, goals are not necessarily clearly defined, prioritized, and quantified. Only 38% of marketers surveyed use a mobile analytics solution! Most marketers consider mobile as a loyalty channel: a way to improve customer engagement and increase satisfaction. Marketers must define precisely what they expect their customers to do on their mobile websites or mobile apps, and what actions they would like customers to take, before tracking progress. Too many marketers focus on traffic and app downloads rather than usage and time spent. While 30% of marketers surveyed consider increasing brand awareness as a key objective for their mobile initiatives, only 16% have defined it as a key metric to measure their success!
Very much in the shadows of all the press coverage and hysteria attendant on emerging cloud architectures and customer-facing systems of engagement are the nitty-gritty operational details that lurk like monsters in the swamp of legacy infrastructure, and some of them have teeth. And sometimes these teeth can really take a bite out of the posterior of an unprepared organization.
One of those toothy animals that I&O groups are increasingly encountering in their landscapes is the problem of what to do with Windows Server 2003 (WS2003). It turns out there are still approximately 11 million WS2003 systems running today, with another 10+ million instances running as VM guests. Overall, possibly more than 22 million OS images and a ton of hardware that will need replacing and upgrading. And increasing numbers of organizations have finally begun to take seriously the fact that Microsoft is really going to end support and updates as of July 2015.
Based on the conversations I have been having with our clients, the typical I&O group that is now scrambling to come up with a plan has not been willfully negligent, nor are they stupid. Usually WS2003 servers are legacy servers, quietly running some mature piece of code, often in satellite locations or in the shops of acquired companies. The workloads are a mix of ISV and bespoke code, but it is often a LOB-specific application, with the run-of-the-mill collaboration, infrastructure servers and, etc. having long since migrated to newer platforms. A surprising number of clients have told me that they have identified the servers, but not always the applications or the business owners – often a complex task for an old resource in a large company.