Moving To The Cloud: The Last Easy Decision

By now, you’ve read all the analyst reports, news articles, press releases, and blogger ramblings regarding the benefits of cloud computing.  Begrudgingly, you understand that although Cloud Computing began as a marketing fad, the technology behind it is real and is here to stay.

Perhaps you are dabbling in virtualization while considering upgrading your aging networking and storage equipment.  You wonder about the risks associated with moving aggressively toward this new type of infrastructure while considering migrating entire services to Application Cloud providers such as Service-now, Salesforce, or Microsoft’s new Cloud offerings.

Privately, you worry about the demands and pressures placed on your current IT staff.  If Cloud computing is going to work then you must find a way to tear down the silos that have existed for decades.  A successful transition will require not only a well thought out plan but the flawless execution of said plan.

Finally, you wonder what role Amazon EC2, Rackspace, AT&T, Verizon, SAVVIS, and others will play in your future.  Costs are one thing, security and reliability is another.  After all, even Google struggles to provide the vaunted 5 9’s of reliability.  Even if you find the perfect provider, will they remain independent or fall victim to the inevitable consolidation of the industry?

Weighing all the risks, you decide to build a private cloud first while eyeing the benefits of a hybrid or public cloud architecture.  Confidently, you call in your IT Directors or Managers and instruct them to provide you with a detailed cost analysis of building your new architecture.

Unfortunately, the easy part is over; where do you begin?  Do you start with picking a server or compute vendor or a storage vendor?  Do you call in your trusted networking vendor to understand what they have to offer?  Do you exit your comfort zone and call one of these newer vendors with cloud ready equipment?

The server team loves HP and is pushing Matrix, but you’ve read a lot about Cisco UCS, Dell Datacenter/Cloud Solutions, and IBM’s new Blade offerings.  The storage team loves EMC, but you’re intrigued by HP’s purchase of 3Par and Dell’s purchase of Compellent, not to mention NetApp.  Your storage networking team is loyal to Brocade, but if you purchase Cisco UCS then why not implement the Nexus and MDS?  Your networking team is partial to Cisco and are all certified Cisco engineers, but you wonder if Brocade, Juniper, or upstarts like Aristra are the way to go?   Unified fabric or Qfabric?  Fibre channel, ISSCI, or fiber channel over Ethernet?  What about the impacts of multi-hop fiber channel over Ethernet?  Is it time to upgrade your power, cooling, cabling, racks, too?

Next come even tougher questions regarding the software vendors.  Do you choose Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, Red Hat, or Oracle, as your virtualization vendor?  Are your current software vendors certified on these platforms?  You’ve been reading about Vblocks, could this help or does it force you into purchasing Cisco, EMC, and VMware?  What about open source alternatives?

Finally, how do Openstack, Eucalyptus, and Nimbula fit into this equation?  What’s Dell UEC or Opscode’s Chef?   What do you do for backup and disaster recovery?  How are you going to manage and monitor this?  Can you really get a single pane of glass?  Can anyone really handle the dynamic nature of a Cloud where everything from networking to storage to servers to applications are all virtualized?  What about security?

Yes, Cloud computing is as revolutionary and as disruptive as you have been reading.  However, never underestimate the complexity or magnitude of the decisions you must make to implement this marvelous architecture.  In the end, the easiest decision you will make is to move to the Cloud.

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Fun Alert: Insane 2011 Predictions That May Come True

Google Acquires Level 3 Communications

Really?  Forget net-neutrality, think fiber and capacity management.  Google gains a worldwide network and a host of services and options to redefine the Internet.  Google’s itching for another industry to transform, and the service provider market is ripe for the picking.  By streamlining processes, costs, and creating a true cloud, Google can change the game while laying the foundation for some incredible mobile products and services.

Apple Acquires Sony Corporation

Why?  How about content, home entertainment, consumer electronics, and more.  Imagine Sony TV’s pre-loaded with Apple TV or PS3 with an ‘Apple-like’ interface.  Apple would gain content via Sony Pictures, cameras, a massive distribution channel, and control of standards, patents, and more.  In the end, Apple would restore Sony to their former glory while drastically expanding their breadth and depth of products.

Cisco Acquires SAVVIS

Huh?  As Cisco is dead serious about the cloud and Infrastructure as a service, purchasing SAVVIS would give Cisco a ‘enterprise-class converged cloud solution.’  Plus, SAVVIS is a huge Cisco customer and early adopter, so Cisco wouldn’t’ need to swap out hardware as UCS is already in-play here.  Cisco gains data center expertise, IAAS, SAAS, Hosting, Content Management, and more while moving ever closer to end-customer and consumer.

Dell Acquires Brocade

Are you kidding me?  Dell needs an Ethernet and storage networking presence and they need it right now.  By purchasing Brocade and integrating their product sets, Dell can finally go toe-to-toe with HP and IBM.  Additionally, Foundry products finally get the sales and distribution channel they need to compete with Cisco, HP, and Juniper.  Dell would streamline manufacturing, sales, marketing, and more to create a viable alternative to HP’s growing ProCurve business.

Baidu Buys Yahoo

Never!  Baidu (the student) comes into the US Market flush with cash to buy Yahoo (the teacher).  Baidu would gain a US presence while putting their thumb in Google’s eye.  Yahoo gets an injection of cash and swagger, as they focus on platform services and open source projects.  Meanwhile, Microsoft quietly wins here as they continue to work with Yahoo/Baidu and expand their Chinese presence.

Huawei Buys Juniper

Come on?  Shunned by Dell, Juniper has little options as IBM refuses to enter the networking hardware business.  Huawei desperately wants to enter the North American Market, and Juniper’s name and mix of service provider and enterprise customers are just the ticket.  Huawei would quickly ramp up Juniper’s product line while introducing new lines of business including wireless carrier infrastructure, storage networking, and more.

Oracle Buys NetApp

Finally something we can agree on!  While Oracle/Sun have some amazing storage products, NetApp gives Oracle legitimate world-class storage solutions.  Oracle could leverage NetApp within their next generation ‘Exa’ products while refining how Oracle products perform on NetApp storage.  Meanwhile, Oracle/NetApp will make billions from FlexPods while moving closer to Cisco.

IBM Throws a Pebble at Cisco UCS; Buys Blade Networks

In the wake of increasing competition from the likes of Cisco, HP, vEMC (VMware plus EMC), IBM responds by purchasing Blade Networks.  For those who have never heard of Blade Networks, Blade was mercifully spun out of Nortel Networks and has hundreds of customers and several hardware OEM deals.  Coincidentally, I think not, Blade has been a long time partner of both IBM and IBM/Netezza.

After years of transforming themselves into a software/services company, IBM is being forced back into the networking business.   While some have postulated that “IBM has turned their back on Juniper Networks”, the reality is Juniper’s baggage may be too big for even IBM to swallow.  Additionally, IBM’s purchase of Blade Networks is a pebble across the bow of Cisco and will do little to anger one of their most strategic partners.

Blade gives IBM a converged networking fabric company while eliminating their competitors from Blade’s technology; namely HP, NEC, and SGI.  Additionally, Blade provides IBM a way to ‘dip their toe in the water’ to see if the market, customers, and partners approve of this new direction.  If IBM is truly looking to challenge UCS or Matrix, then they need additional pieces to this puzzle.

What IBM needs is a new platform ala Cisco UCS that eliminates the baggage of the original blade systems; optimized for density and space.  They must examine how to better integrate their storage platforms with their blades using FCoE and perhaps should look towards a true Multi-Hop FCoE solution.  They must revolutionize virtualization and I/O as perhaps no one else on this planet has the experience, patents, and real world deployments as IBM.  Finally, IBM has the opportunity to rethink management by acquiring, integrating, and refining their current solutions.

If IBM needs a little inspiration, then they can look to their long time bitter enemy Oracle.  While virtualization, fabrics, networking, server chassis, and storage is interesting, applications are still king.  Oracle’s vision is clear; you can run our apps on any server or virtualization platform you want, but it just runs better on Oracle.

The last time I checked, IBM is still Big Blue and they have an arsenal of technology at their disposal.  The question is  ‘if’ and ‘when’ IBM will wake from their slumber and lead the industry once again.  Aside from a blockbuster merger between IBM and Cisco, … hey, one can dream… your move Dell.

Cisco’s New Data Center Products Trump HP’s New Avaya Partnership

HP continues to plug-the-holes against Cisco by signing a three-year agreement with Avaya.  The agreement calls for HP sales and services teams to be trained and certified in Avaya call center and unified communications.  HP sales teams will have the ability to resell Avaya and offer outsourced management.

What’s interesting about this announcement is that HP now has agreements with multiple competitors for the next generation data center including Brocade and Avaya.  If you add the potential overlap between Avaya and Alcatel-Lucent mixed with a bit of Microsoft then you have the danger of some explosive conflict.  Of course, HP is no stranger to handling this type of conflict.  However, would a future Avaya acquisition make better strategic sense for HP?

Meanwhile, as HP strengthens their partnerships, Cisco strengthens their next generation data center arsenal.  Once again, Cisco has trumped their competitors by introducing FabricPath, a superset of the emerging IETF standard called Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL).  Remember, Brocade is committed to TRILL within their recently announced Brocade Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS).

FabricPath is an upgrade to NX-OS that combines the best of layer-3 routing and layer-2 switching allowing for scaleable data centers with predictable network performance.  Take the following example from Cisco that was featured in an article by Kevin Komiega in InfoStor:

“With spanning-tree you have multiple links which are blocked and a high level of oversubscription. With FabricPath you can build a scalable, flat, non-blocking network with two layers and no oversubscription with a 16X improvement in bandwidth performance,” says Nikhil Kelshikar, product marketing manager for Cisco Nexus 7000 Solutions.

Additionally, FabricPath and Cisco’s new F-Series modules for the Nexus 7000 allow Cisco to combine six Nexus 7000 switches into a single product.  Cisco is offering a pre-packaged solution called FabricPath Switching System (FSS) that can be grouped in clusters of eight to allow for 160Tbps of raw switching capacity.  Wow, did I just write that?  Not to mention the fact that Cisco just took the air out of Juniper’s Stratus Unified Fabric.

If that wasn’t enough, Cisco announced the availability of a software release of WAAS that can be run as on on-demand service on the Cisco ISR.   Next, Cisco rolled-out new cloud deployment professional services and Cisco introduced a new Catalyst 4948-E Switch with increased capacity, performance, and automation.

Finally, Cisco is introducing Cisco Intelligent Automation Solutions for IT Services.  Building on Cisco’s acquisition of Tidal Software, Inc., they are releasing new versions of the Tidal Enterprise Scheduler and Tidal Enterprise Orchestrator.  As any reader of this blog knows, I am very interested in the autonomic aspects of the next generation data center and I hope to obtain additional information about this solution.

In this latest round of the battle for the next generation data center, Cisco’s products trump HP’s partnerships.

Enterasys Joins the Datacenter Fight; Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight

Enterasys joins the growing list of network equipment vendors unveiling their vaunted datacenter strategy with the hopes of derailing their larger competitor’s plans.  Enterasys’ hope hinges on a “vendor agnostic” datacenter strategy and is based on their S-series switches with their policy-based operations model.  By supporting multiple virtualization and storage vendors, Enterasys is banking the farm on best-of-breed architectures and emerging IEEE standards.

While Enterasys’ strategy looks good on a press release, it may have been their only option.  Faced with the reality that Dell has decided to team with Juniper Networks, IBM is remaining “neutral” (for now), HP does not need another switch, Brocade purchased Foundry Networks, and Cisco is Cisco, there is little room for Enterasys to partner with a major U.S. manufacturer.  However, would an International partnership make sense?  Aren’t they stronger outside of North America?

Additionally, does Enterasys really believe that Cisco, HP, and Brocade will not support 3rd party vendor solutions?  The last time I looked, Cisco’s MDS supports EMC, HDS, IBM, HP, NetApp, and more.  Cisco’s UCS-B supports multiple hypervisors including offerings from both VMware and Microsoft. Finally, do you remember Cisco’s Open Partner Ecosystem that “helps stimulate technology innovation, augment service delivery, and accelerate market adoption of Unified Computing”?  The same could be said, in varying degrees, about HP and Brocade.  Therefore, what is new or different about Enterasys’ solution?

Perhaps, Enterasys’ will attempt to differentiate their virtualization support via their superior policy-based security and templates.  However, isn’t that simply a different way to do virtual machine profile mapping ala Cisco and Brocade?  Don’t get me wrong; Enterasys has some very interesting and innovative technology but their lack of market power and limited product portfolio puts them at risk of getting lost in the shuffle.

In the end, Enterasys faces an uphill battle against their larger and higher profile competitors.  The war for the next generation datacenter is in full swing and Cisco and HP are proving plenty of “shock and awe” while Juniper, Brocade, Dell, and IBM have their guns locked and loaded.

In the future, Enterasys’ relationship with Siemens Enterprise Communications may yield additional firepower.  However, right now Enterasys is bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Brocade One: Real or Take-Over Bait?

On June 9, 2010, a special day for me, Brocade officially announced their converged data center strategy with the release of Brocade One. Brocade One has a familiar goal of simplifying the data center architecture while reducing costs.  Brocade plans on leveraging the assets of Foundry Networks (acquired by Brocade in 2008) while creating a “unified view of the data center as a network” (Brahm). 

With this announcement, Brocade is sounding the “all-hands” alarm and pointing the ship directly at both Cisco and Juniper. Cisco’s UCS continues to evolve into a formidable next generation data center architecture backed with new products and software offerings.  Meanwhile, Juniper’s Project Stratus isn’t due to be launched until 2011; fueling Juniper to sign an OEM agreement with Dell for next-generation networking.

No posting about the next-generation data center would be complete without mentioning both HP and IBM.  In May, HP announced that they are a founding member of the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) along with Juniper, Brocade, Microsoft, and others (http://www.ucif.org).  IBM is notably absent from the UCIF along with Cisco; a coincidence or a sign of things to come?

Finally, while Brocade’s announcement is “interesting”, will anyone notice?  Brocade’s messaging isn’t as refined as their larger competitors and they are arguing that their competitors are putting intelligence in the server while they are putting it into the network.  <Insert Qualification Argument Here> One lingering question; Is Brocade serious about going at it alone or are they making themselves a more attractive take-over target?

2010: The War of IT has Begun; Cisco delivers blow to HP

In school, we are taught important dates or periods within history.  I’ll never forget a history professor asking, “who fired the first shot?” in the American Revolution or detailing the sinking of the Lusitania by the Germans.   Within the history of high technology, yesterday’s announcement by Keith Goodwin, Vice President Cisco’s Worldwide Partner Organization, is such a date.  With one statement, Cisco changed the IT landscape as they ended a lucrative and important relationship with HP by failing to renew HP’s System Integrator Contract that strips HP of being a Cisco Certified Partner and Reseller.

Effectively, HP is now on the outside looking-in at Cisco’s Empire.  HP loses access to Cisco’s proprietary information including product roadmaps and reseller initiatives.  Additionally, Cisco no longer offers HP “protection” as they begin to untangle their complicated business relationships including software and hardware sales.  While HP may believe they are prepared for this action, competing against Cisco head-to-head is very different from maintaining a competition/cooperation arrangement; yet HP is very different from past competitors.

With HP’s size and market power, are we poised to answer the question, “What would happen if an unstoppable force strikes an immoveable object?”  HP has amassed a powerful software and hardware portfolio via acquisition and partnerships.  Also, HP has something Cisco needs, a large, growing, and competent services division (EDS).

Of course, Cisco counter’s EDS with their relationship with IBM but how long will that last?  After-all, IBM is in a similar position as HP with one intriguing difference; IBM is not a network equipment manufacturer (yet).  Can Chambers convince Palmisano to maintain the status quo?  Or do they look beyond partnerships to acquire Juniper, Brocade, or perhaps ZTE to fill their product holes.  Would Palmisano stand for Cisco acquiring a services company?  Or, would that be the final straw that opens a new flank in the war against Cisco.  What would happen if Cisco purchased Liquid Computing or the new SGI?

Finally, let’s not forget Larry Ellison and Michael Dell.  Oracle didn’t just spend billions of dollars on SUN to sit on the sidelines.  Oracle now sports an impressive list of hardware and software assets especially in the realms of file systems and virtualization.  Meanwhile, Dell has opened up their pocketbook and has entered into the services business while radically expanding their relationship with Juniper.

Look for three things to happen:

  1. Heightened M&A Activity (large and small)
  2. Heightened Partnership Activity and Alliances
  3. The rise of an unexpected and/or new competitor

We are watching history in the making as its; Chambers vs. Hurd vs. Palmisano vs. Ellison vs. Dell vs. Klayko vs. Jonhson vs. ?

2010: The War of IT

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