Buying a Cell Phone is Worse Than Buying a Car!

These days it seems that all I ever talk about is Cloud computing and Cell Phone operating systems.  As a contract-free AT&T customer, I should relish in my freedom to choose a new carrier or smartphone, yet instead I revel in cell phone indecision.

While Apple makes a wonderful and polished operating system (iOS), their ecosystem is both closed and proprietary.  After all, these are the same guys that won’t let me change a simple battery!  Another problem with the iPhone 4S is that the form factor.  It just isn’t very pleasing, especially when compared to its alternatives.  How about all those cracked screens out there?  Of course, iTunes is awesome and iCloud has some exciting possibilities.

Meanwhile, Android has come a long way in a short time.  It’s not nearly as polished as Apple’s iOS, but has many innovative features and is open source (kind of).  However, Android is experiencing tremendous fragmentation and is at the mercy of the Cell phone makers themselves.  While Samsung makes great phones, they have been slow to upgrade to the latest Android versions.  Also, what will they do now that Google is purchasing Motorola?  Speaking of Motorola, they seem like a safe bet since Google is purchasing them, but their less than stellar earnings results don’t instill confidence in a purchaser.

Finally, Windows Phone 7 Mango is lurking around.  It’s a blend of Apple’s polish with Android’s innovation, but has suffered from lackluster hardware and non-existent applications.  However, with Nokia’s recent announcement of 2 new Windows Phone 7 phones, there is some excitement that this may change.  What Microsoft needs to do is focus on the development community.  I’m not just talking about porting over existing applications, as they need some originals too. Of course, Microsoft has a really nice integration with iTunes, Office, and a slick SkyDrive offering.

Some would say I need to add Verizon vs. AT&T vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint to this discussion, but I’m not really dissatisfied with AT&T.  In fact, the ability to use both data and voice is something I wouldn’t want to live without.  For now, I’ll leave this for a later discussion.

So, do you buy a new Samsung Galaxy S II, Nexus II, or Motorola Droid Razr or wait for the iPhone5, Nokia 800, or whatever else is yet to be announced?  Of course, in technology you can keep waiting and waiting and waiting because what you buy today is obsolete tomorrow.  Any thoughts?

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Yahoo: Goodbye Bartz Hello Baidu or Apple

In yet another mystifying move, Yahoo’s board fired Carol Bartz and ended her three year tenure as CEO.  Over the last three years, Bartz has had to clean up after the less than stellar leadership of both Jerry Yang and Terry Semel led to revenue slowdowns, management bloat, product missteps, and who knows what else.

While I’m saddened to see Bartz go, I’m more aggravated by the ridiculous articles and blogs regarding Yahoo’s past, present, and future.  Note to the mainstream press…Yahoo IS NOT Google.  Yahoo is NOT Facebook.

Yahoo IS an Internet icon, a portal destination, an information and communications hub, and is chalk full of popular services and offerings.  Often seen as less innovative than Google, Yahoo has made meaningful contributions to Hadoop and has recently open sourced Traffic Server which was acquired as part of the Inktomi acquisition.

I see two paths for Yahoo; Baidu and Apple.

Baidu has grown into a formidable challenger to Google.  For Baidu to take the next step they must enter the Western marketplace and Yahoo would be the perfect vehicle to make this a reality.  A cash and talent infusion by Baidu would reinvigorate Yahoo giving it new life to innovate and disrupt its way to revenue growth.  It would also mean an end to Yahoo’s partnership with Microsoft (or would it) as well as new competitive efforts across traditional and mobile solutions.

Apple is a dominant force within the mobile/tablet community and Yahoo would make the perfect destination for their users.  With one brush of the pen, Yahoo would be folded under the Apple brand and would change the perception of Yahoo from old/dying to new/exciting.  Apple could use Yahoo as a platform for iCloud services and revamp Yahoo’s offerings to work seamlessly within iOS and OSX.  Additionally, Apple could use Yahoo to offer new and innovative Cloud services and accelerate the adoption of HTML5.

In the end, Bartz will come-up a winner in this mess as her honesty and toughness is refreshing.  However, the future for Yahoo may be bright as long as the Board realizes it’s time to turn the reigns over and sell the company.  Let’s hope they don’t turn down an offer like they had from Microsoft again and Yahoo finds a new home!

OCI’s Relevance within an Amazon and OpenStack World

Last week, yet another Cloud initiative began as the Open Cloud Initiative (OCI) launched from OSCON 2011 in Portland, Oregon.  The OCI bills itself as a non-profit organization to advocate standards-based Open Cloud Computing.   The OCI hopes to provide a legal framework based on the Open Cloud Principles Document (OCP) and apply them to Cloud computing products and services.

While conspiracy theorists will call this the “One Cloud” movement, the reality is there is little to worry about.  An OCI without Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, and more isn’t really an assembly of “leaders of Cloud computing” but more of an ideology.  Academics and Open Source aside, there is very little motivation for Cloud providers to work together other than standard connectivity and a few APIs.

The biggest force in promoting the OCI’s self-proclaimed slogan of “A non-profit advocate of open cloud computing” is actually another truly powerful Open Source Movements called OpenStack.  As OpenStack adoption continues to increase, they may become the defacto standard for building Clouds.  OpenStack is the core platform that allows Enterprises and Service Providers to build value-added software and/or services to create new and unique offerings or businesses to their customers.

It is the difference between “talking” and “action”.  While some in this industry like to debate the merits of Cloud computing and interoperability, others are creating and innovating.  I have already mentioned the OpenStack movement and its importance to Cloud computing, and no conversation on this subject would be relevant without talking about Amazon.

Amazon is rapidly innovating within Cloud computing while continuing to disrupt the industry, drop their published prices, and make money.  Instead of getting caught up in all this debate, Amazon is setting their agenda and putting the entire industry on the defensive.  In fact, their rate of innovation is astounding while their rate of adoption is actually accelerating.  What is their motivation to interoperate with other Cloud providers?  As long as they have open and defined APIs into the private clouds (VMware, Microsoft, Xen, KVM) of their Enterprise customers, then they are all set.

Altruistic goals cannot be confused with the capitalistic reality of the world we live in.  The OCI may have great intentions, but they plenty of work to do to make themselves relevant within an Amazon and OpenStack world.

Cloud Flash: Riverbed Buys Zeus

When it comes to Cloud computing, the “Innovators Dilemma” is dead as either companies transform themselves to tackle new challenges or die a slow death.  Verizon buys Terremark, Time Warner Cable buys NaviSite, Microsoft buys Skype, VMware “buys” Mozy, and more.  With the pace of innovation and change at record speed and accelerating, there is no longer time to debate the pros and cons of innovation.  The Deep Pockets of Legacy Software/Hardware/Service Providers = the Key to the Survival.  Really?  Microsoft is buying their way into the mobile space enticing developers to build applications for Windows 7 Mobile with cold hard cash.  Cisco is financing purchases via Cisco Capital Finance.  Now, Riverbed is buying their way into Cloud computing by purchasing Zeus.  Riverbed manages and optimizes datacenter and endpoint traffic while Zeus does the same for Cloud computing traffic.  Rather than revamp Riverbed’s technology for the Cloud, it’s simply easier to purchase.  In essence, the “Innovators Dilemma” has become the Integration Dilemma.

Given Riverbed’s success with their acquisition of Mazu Networks and CACE Technologies of Wireshark fame, I have no doubt that they have hit another home run the with the acquisition of Zeus.  I expect the Riverbed to successfully integrate Zeus’ technology across their entire product line while disrupting a market segment that they helped create.

VMware Acquires Shavlik: Where Has The Innovation Gone?

VMware has agreed to acquire Shavlik Technologies; the terms of transaction were not disclosed.  Shavlik was founded in 1993, is headquartered in Minnesota, and offers a full suite of products to manage physical or virtual servers and laptops/desktops.  Shavlik is no stranger to VMware as the companies jointly developed VMware GO, a SaaS based IT management offering.

While Shavlik is an excellent acquisition for VMware as their technology is solid and they are sure to grow faster under VMware’s umbrella, the question is why?  VMware paints this acquisition as a way to increase their penetration within small and medium business (SMB).  Mark Shavlik, President and CEO, writes via his blog, “We will also be entering global markets much faster by working with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Solution Providers. This enables more companies around the world to utilize our SaaS and On-Premise solutions.”  If Shavlik’s solution can scale to meet the needs of MSPs and Solution Providers, then is it really simply a SMB solution?

Perhaps it’s just me, but this whole thing seems a bit scripted for my taste.  From the press release to the blog post to the media coverage, it feels a bit like listening to politicians running through their talking points.   In an effort to shield themselves from the wrath of traditional IT management companies such as Symantec, HP, LANDesk, and IBM, Is VMware intentionally downplaying Shavlik’s capabilities?  After all, VMware has acquired a company that has full management capabilities including antivirus, patch management, configuration management, asset management, and power management.

At a time when VMware’s Enterprise dominance is being challenged by both Microsoft and Red Hat, Shavlik looks to be a defensive acquisition to protect the lower end of the market.  However, how many people have heard about VMware Go prior to this acquisition?  Will VMware roll Shavlik’s products into Ionix rationalizing the overlap with Configuresoft?   Does this help VMware with Hybrid Clouds?  Public Clouds?  Workloads?

More importantly, has VMware become so large that they have lost the ability to innovate and disrupt a market that they created?  This is not VMware’s first acquisition from their 3rd party partner ecosystem, and I suspect it is not their last.  VMworld 2011 is certainly going to be interesting!

Competitors Beware: Cisco’s Dawn is Hot and Bright

Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems that it is in vogue to root against large and powerful companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and more.  Looking back through the years, I haven’t always been complimentary of these companies but I’ve tried to remain objective yet present my opinion on their visions, strategies, and execution.

With the release of John Chamber’s memo to Cisco’s employees, Cisco is clearly under the microscope.  People are actually calling Cisco “Too Big To Succeed” and pointing towards an impending investor upheaval.  Could you imagine these statements made toward GE, Boeing, IBM, Facebook, or Google?

As Jack Welch famously said, “Willingness to change is a strength, even it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.”

Given that the entire world of IT is within a major inflection point, Chamber’s email must be seen as strength not weakness.  To respond to this rapid change, Cisco needed to reprioritize and refocus the company ala Google’s reorganization.  Furthermore, I’d like to see Chambers firmly take the reigns at Cisco to forcibly guide them through this next phase of technology.

Always remember that Cisco isn’t a “one-hit-wonder” as they have diversified products and services that address consumers, service providers, and enterprise customers.  The reality is Cisco plays a vital role within the IT industry and they are re-inventing the company to solve new and complex challenges manifested by this new IT inflection point.  Great ideas and execution are not limited to young companies and these companies have much to learn from Cisco.

Finally, rather than focus on Cisco’s reorganization and stagnant stock price, let’s look towards their new products within storage (MDS), switching (Nexus), compute (UCS), and datacenter fabric (FabricPath), as they are revolutionary, disruptive, and competitive.  My only suggestion to Cisco is that they need to fill additional product gaps (hardware/software/services) via strategic acquisitions of healthy, growing, and visionary companies.

Competitors beware, as the old proverb goes, “It’s always darkest before the dawn” and Cisco’s got a blazing hot and bright light.

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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