Category Archives: Cloud Computing

SDN and the Cloud – quick thought

If SDN, and it’s “sister” NFV, actually achieve the hype that has been circulating could we actually have a day where infrastructure cloud providers are really no longer “independently” purchased by the data center manager (or CMO, or COO, or whatever flavor of “business driven cloud consumer” you choose).  Instead, could we see a day where there are ecosystems in place such that the SDN management software has a direct link with specific cloud providers (e.g. one for compute, another for storage, etc.).  some have called that “real time infrastructure”.  My question though is – could, concurrently, each SDN ecosystem have an optimized set of API’s such that the SDN management software can dynamically provision and de-provision pre-determined, contractually bound, specific cloud sourced resources real-time, from a pre-selected cloud provider in that eco-system.

At that point, the data center manager really doesn’t care who the specific cloud provider is, assuming that the ecosystem has properly vetted that cloud provider.  If that is possible, then is it possible that one of the very large global infrastructure providers would own both ends (the SDN Management environment AND the cloud infrastructure services)?  Do IaaS cloud providers really then focus their attention on SDN developers, rather than data center managers?

Advertisements

The Cloud rains on a brittle market

Market trends gain strength from the correctness of their promises. Is it cheaper, faster, more secure? Dilute the promises and a forceful market becomes brittle. Crack a brittle market and revenue disappears.

By the way, what ever happened to Netbooks? Four years ago Netbooks were going to save the PC industry. Now they are gone, victims of the brittle market. IT departments loved Netbooks as their convenient answer to popular tablets. In a brittle market Netbooks were swamped by BYOD.

The market for enterprise computing equipment versus cloud services is in the brittle stage. The promises of the cloud gain strength while counter forces are losing at the flanks. This post is not about the cloud. This is about the market. Promises of lower cost, ease of use, scalable power are strengthening. The opposition is brittle and when it breaks the flow of dollars will shift dramatically.

The dollars in question are those spent by corporations on servers, storage and networking – the data center. Corporations buy name brand equipment. Cloud providers develop their own equipment and save money and by doing so. They also change the dynamic of revenue growth and profit generation in the IT market. A shift from corporate computing to the cloud means more than a redirection of dollars. It means a fundamental shift as cloud service providers challenge OEM equipment vendors in the development of new technology.

The cloud does to IT management what robots did to manufacturing so, naturally, there is internal management resistance. Management’s main and plausible objection has been security.  They also point to the increased cost of data connections. While conceding that these are crucial, and without in any way diminishing their importance, realize that one day security will be solved and the cost of data transport will continue to decline.  As this happens the brittle market will crack.

What happens then? Well, consider that Google, like all of the large scale cloud providers, does not use state of the art high end servers of the type you see at Interop. They optimize their cost, power consumption and space utilization with a vast array of commodity systems. On top of that, the Google file system competes directly with the value delivered by classic storage system vendors, demonstrating that cloud providers dilute the need for major manufacturers.

Imagine a world where pick up/ drop off laundry service was incredibly cheap and effective. Would you own a washer and dryer?

BYOD: Powering the “Shield”

Regular followers of this blog know that BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a hot button issue of mine.  In recent posts, I’ve explored some of the challenges faced by the never-ending flood of personal devices in the workplace – security, compliance and management key among them.  But hopefully, I’ve also conveyed an enthusiasm for all BYOD has to offer.  More than a powerful enabler of productivity, it also helps employees be more responsive to customers.  When you think of it, this is every company’s goal. 

There are many strong opinions about BYOD, and I can take up more than a few blogs on the topic.  But the truth is – whether you love it or hate it – BYOD is here to stay and companies must be prepared to handle all it brings.

As a first step, companies must devise a strategy that specifically addresses security, compliance, and management.  It’s more than securing the individual device – but ensuring the actual network stays safe.  Going beyond security is addressing such things as mobile application management, or how enterprises ensure access to apps that improve employee productivity.  It’s also about application enablement – determining which apps to include in the mobile device toolkit — and then limiting those that pose a threat.  The biggest challenge is delivering all this functionality under one umbrella – in a cohesive package.

That’s why I’m so pleased to introduce BYODShield.

Today, Westcon announced our teaming with BlueCat and Fiberlink to provide an industry first – a subscription-based service delivering a multi-layered “shield” that specifically addresses security, compliance, and management issues created by personal devices in the workplace.  We’re tightly integrating formerly disparate network security and enterprise mobility offerings — packaging them alongside our deep GOLDShield technology pre- and post-sales support model – and creating an all-in-one solution.  It’s a service that virtually eliminates current and future headaches associated with provisioning, servicing, securing, and managing thousands of personal devices. 

But it’s much more than a simple partnership.  Really, any distributor can do that.  We’ve successfully brought together BlueCat and Fiberlink to jointly write code exclusively for Westcon.  The functionality delivered by this deep collaboration can’t be found anywhere else.  We’re really proud of the result – integrating award-winning technology with our unsurpassed expertise in security and unified communications. 

When it comes down to it, BYODShield is about demystifying the complexities of managing and securing personal devices in the workplace.  Instead of trying to contain BYOD, we help you embrace it.  And it’s something you’ll see us do even more down the road.  Because the real future of distribution comes through offering resellers a consistent, unified, and integrated approach to solve their most complex technology challenges.  And a good distributor will tackle the integration and do the legwork for you – backing it with all services necessary to make it work.

Like anything new, BYOD is a scary proposition that can cause nightmares for any CIO… But before losing any sleep, take a step back and see what’s possible when leveraging the right tools.  And be sure to check out more about BYODShield at http://us.westcon.com/byodshield

 

Westcon Goes “All-In” on Cloud Distribution

Recently, we’ve been talking to our vendor partners and customers about the cloud and the impact cloud-sourced IT services will have on the channel. There’s a lot of noise about cloud, and we’ve been working to harmonize that noise into a cloud services distribution strategy.  — one that will benefit all channel stakeholders, including Westcon Group.

In June, we deployed a cloud services aggregation portal in the UK, through which we began transacting cloud services business almost immediately. During this process, we learned a lot about what’s necessary to operationalize a successful cloud services distribution strategy. First, operational heavy lifting is required. Tacking this onto our existing business and expecting it to flourish is not an option; tight alignment with our sales, marketing and product management operations is a requirement, as is alignment with our procurement processes and IT systems. Second, the target keeps moving: new business models are emerging, new needs arise, and everyone (vendors and channel partners included) must figure it all out. The plane has already departed on cloud and there’s no time to stop and hit the reset button.  In striving to remain relevant to our channel partners, we’re changing the airplane’s navigation system in mid-flight!

At Westcon, we’ve been focusing on three key areas:

  1. Identifying and investing in mature cloud markets
  2. Helping resellers transition to one of any number of cloud-based business models
  3. Developing new capabilities that (a) help vendors bring their cloud services to market, and (b) help resellers make the aforementioned transition to cloud

 Identifying and investing in mature cloud markets

As a VAD, Westcon knows we’re not able to be all things to all people.  Rather than simply filling our cloud services catalogue with all available services, we’re focusing on the most mature cloud services (i.e., market-ready), under the assumption these are easiest for partners to market and sell to customers. As other cloud services reach maturity, we’ll add them to our catalogue. This iterative approach maximizes our investment and forces Westcon to stay close to markets as they develop.

Helping resellers transition to one of any number of cloud-based business models

Partners all over the world continue to ask for our help. They want to know how to leverage their existing investments, whether those investments be in managed (data, voice) networks, security operations centers or systems integration capabilities. They want to know how cloud services can be added  to their portfolio of offerings, quickly and easily, and with minimal capital outlay. They want to know how Westcon Group lowers their barrier to entry, either by providing access to best-of-breed cloud services from across our global vendor portfolio they can resell to customers, or by providing converged infrastructure solutions (hardware and software) they can use to build IaaS platforms, enterprise private clouds or virtual private clouds. We are and will continue to provide this value to our partners.

Developing new capabilities to help vendors bring cloud services to market while enabling resellers make the cloud transition

Westcon is investing in the development of new capabilities that have not typically been considered the domain of “distribution. We’re doing this to lower our partners’ and customers’ barriers to entry to the cloud. Frankly, this is what’s most exciting about the opportunity. After all, how many times do you have the opportunity to define a market in the midst of such a fundamental shift? We’ve integrated some of these new capabilities into our cloud services distribution ecosystem, with more to follow  

Distribution is inherently a conservative industry. The cloud, however, enables us to explore new, uncharted territory. Our goal is to be the best and easiest distributor to transact business with, whether that business is cloud services, infrastructure products, professional services or a mix of all three; to realize that goal requires boldness of vision and expert execution of strategy and tactics. At Westcon, we’re “all-in” on both fronts.  Stay tuned to this blog for more on our cloud vision in the months to come.

Cloud Dynamics

We’ve been spending a significant amount of time on two cloud fronts (no pun intended).  First, helping companies understand their potential role and opportunity in the cloud, and second, how they can participate in this burgeoning marketplace without over-committing capital.

Westcon has begun the build out of our cloud platform wherein we continue our role as a distributor.  In the case of the cloud, we see our role as the distributor of cloud services to resellers, systems integrators and service providers globally.  Our partners can then utilize the Westcon cloud platform to provide those cloud services to their end-users/customers. The focus is on education and awareness in addition to the actual technology.  Our platform brings together offerings and markets.  What we will not do is compete with our customers or vendors who are interested in building out the infrastructure necessary for the actual cloud offering.  The Westcon platform is in production in the UK and is now being rolled out globally.  The platform is exciting, and we will have more formal announcements in the near future, but just as interesting and exciting is the ebb and flow in clarity of roles and opportunities within the cloud marketplace.

In the cloud, the traditional vendor to disti to serviceprovider/reseller to enduser dynamic can be turned upside down.  Traditional service providers are now building out infrastructure to house their cloud offerings, while traditional manufacturers/vendors are looking to their customer base to invest and house the necessary infrastructure to “manufacture” the cloud offering.  Not quite, but it almost feels like they are swapping roles within the channel. Some vendors are drawing a line, stating that they want to compete in the cloud, but only as a supplier of hardware and software.  And these vendors are approaching their customer base in a quest to have their customers “manufacture” the cloud service, based on the vendors technology.  This puts the capital onus on the customer base.  So, creative financing becomes more and more critical as these companies do not want to risk that much capital on an unproven market.  Distribution can, and is, stepping into the breach, sometimes quite creatively, to provide potential financing options.

Financing the capital investment required to build out cloud platforms is becoming another important component in the infancy of the cloud industry.  These issues are quite complex, and will take time to mature.  Hence our belief that we are still very, very early in the cloud era, with many unique opportunities in front of every player in the channel.

Hot, Not Hot, and Be On The Lookout For….

Hot

– Flat network – already discussed in earlier posts, but continues to remain an early, “going to get hotter”, topic. Each of the vendors is, or has, recently made significant announcements about their converged Ethernet/fabric/2-tier/1-tier offerings.  Driven in large part by the need for a data center network with lower latency, optimized for virtualization, the network is the data center, and the data center is the network.

– Data Center to Data Center networking – really a subset of the above, but there are nuances such as WAN Acceleration technologies specifically designed for DC to DC as opposed to DC to Campus. This nuance will become more and more of a marketing issue for those better positioned as opposed to those perhaps not really in that DC-to-DC space.

– SBC’s – starting to get the recognition of their importance relative to their role in UC. They can be considered the switch/firewall equivalent for VOIP/UC. As companies and the public overall migrate to VOIP and SIP, SBC’s become critical. Expecting steady growth with an inevitable over-hype by the media once they understand the technology in the next few months.

– Cloud failures – the stories will remain hot for a while. In addition to service failure there will be offering failures – established vendors pulling out of initial cloud forays.

Not Hot

– Cloud success stories – this will take a backseat for a while, but cloud successes will definitely continue nonetheless.

Be on the lookout for:

– Virtualization security – as vendors continue to realize the exposure that virtualization presents, more and more messaging and positioning will appear. The exposure is two-fold. First, the obvious – a new layer in the stack introduces new opportunities for bad people to do bad things. But second, perhaps not as obvious, is the governance associated with the potental consolidation of previously physically separate servers/applications/data onto one single physical server. The IT group doing the consolidation may not recognize the compliance risks they are introducing.  And potentially even more interesting, the hypervisor doesn’t have a mechanism to process business rules associated with the company’s compliance or regulatory policies yet.

– POE – probably not the most exciting discussion point, but POE dedicated vendors have technologies coming out that can help support the powering of all the new video demand going on in the network. This is especially important for the growth of outdoor video/signage (think stadiums and traffic). Many of the vendors embed POE, but some of it is “just enough” and really does not provide the flexibility companies will need as they grow their video usage.

– Tablet Videoconferencing – there is definitely the potential for a schism to appear. I think it is already appearing. We could end up with high end videoconferencing rooms and many low-end video conferencing end points being tablets. The issue over video quality is over. Pretty much every device now has HD capabilities. With the growth of tablets, I pads or Android, the consumerization of IT is forging some new paths in video and UC.

What is a Private Cloud ???

I recognize that the media has moved the term “cloud computing” into an over-hyped state.  But, as a CIO, I also know that there is real value in utilizing the cloud.  The “Public” Cloud.  What has me concerned is that the media is now calling everything “the cloud”, breaking it into public cloud services and private cloud services and I think I am missing the point with “Private Clouds”.

The categories of “cloud services” are, in simple terms:

1. Infrastructure as a service(IAAS) – this is the “storage as a service” or “compute as a service” type offerings.

2. Platform as a service(PAAS) – this is the Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure type offerings.

3. Software as a service(SAAS) – this is the Salesforce.com type offerings.

One of the most appealing aspects of the cloud is that the cloud concept is based on a “pay by the drink” model.  You only pay for what you use.  When you’re not using it, you don’t pay – like a utility.

But this is where the benefit of the private cloud seems to break down.  It breaks down on two levels: First, as a CIO do I have or want to invest in having the capability to provide my enterprise with a pay-by-the drink model and the associated billing functionality and; Two, even if I had the capability, do I really want to have that as the model for my enterprise IT service?

The above presumes that when one talks about a private cloud they are not just talking about virtualization.  Virtualization is a great opportunity to more effectively and efficiently manage the data center.  Westcon’s data center is 100% virtualized.  We are a big proponent and find great value in virtualization.  And, the underlying principle that accelerates cloud offerings really is virtualization.  But, by definition a private cloud is more than just a virtualized data center.  The CIO delivering a private cloud has to provide the abovementioned cloud services while doing so with a pay-by-the-drink billing capability, competitively priced.

There has to be more.  For example, even if tomorrow the CIO made IAAS/PAAS/SAAS offerings available to his or her business units with a pay-by-the-drink usage tracking and billing capability, are the internal business units prepared to take on the responsibilities associated with consuming such services.  I know it’s been very fashionable to question the value of IT, but the truth of the matter is that every well-managed firm utilizes IT to compete more effectively.  Can the CIO compete with the public cloud offering on price, and still provide the competitive value inherent within a business-process savvy internal IT organization. Few CIO’s can compete with Google or Microsoft on price.  Therefore the CIO is then left with monetizing the infrastructure sitting in the enterprise’s data center.  And, the CIO must either monetize the business process services inherent within IT or dismantle those services.  This will not create value for the enterprise.  And I doubt the CFO wants to hear about all the capital infrastructure write-offs the CIO would need to incur to become price competitive.

There is no doubt that the public cloud can create value for the CIO and the enterprise.  But it requires proper planning, and its value in the short term is incremental.  But the concept of the private cloud is different.  It requires a substantial upheaval within the IT organization as well as within any business unit that relies on the IT organization.  It is unclear to me where the cost/benefit is within that internal upheaval.

Then again, if the private cloud is really just virtualization, then let’s just call it virtualization, and reinforce the value of virtualization’s benefits.