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  Of course, in technology you can keep waiting and waiting and waiting because what you buy today is obsolete tomorrow.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?

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.

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.

Let the Consolidation Begin: Verizon buys Terremark

First, let’s have a round of applause for Verizon and their executive leadership.  Verizon has shown the ability to move beyond marketing trends to acquire ‘smart’ technology companies that address core business needs.  While others in this space have a ‘not invented here’ mentality, Verizon has no such issue.  Need proof?  Look no further than their Cybertrust acquisition in 2007.

Second, the giant smiles at Savvis, Rackspace, Hosting.com, GoGrid, and others are causing a blinding industry whiteout.  Savvis and Rackspace are both innovators and leaders in this space and are hot growth and/or acquisition targets.  These companies aren’t selling marchitecture; instead they are building unique architectures using leading-edge technologies from VMware, Cisco, EMC, Intel, and others.

Third, Amazon is the wild card in this equation.  No slighting of Amazon’s cloud prowess in this blog, as they are clearly a disruptive and growing force within the industry.  Amazon’s leadership made strategic bets before this rocket ship took off, and they are reaping the benefits of solid execution.  What remains to be seen is if Enterprises are truly ready for a Cloud or if they will demand collocation and/or dedicated server hardware, of which Amazon does not currently offer.

Finally, here we go again, it’s AT&T vs. Verizon.  Let’s not kid ourselves, Verizon’s real target is AT&T and Terremark gives them a strategic energy boost.  However, AT&T’s no slouch in the Cloud or Managed Services arenas.  AT&T offers a complete portfolio of IAAS, Cloud Storage, Co-Location, Virtualization, and Managed Services.  Furthermore, AT&T has an impressive track record of providing high quality Enterprise Class Solutions to their customers. Not to mention, AT&T has a rock-solid partnership/relationship with IBM.

One last thought, lets not forget that the Cloud depends on many physical elements such as datacenters (real estate), servers, storage, networking, security, applications, and people (talent).  As the cloud grows, datacenter growth (global) will become increasingly important.  Verizon gains on all fronts with Terremark; not to mention a healthy mix of Government and Enterprise Customers.

Let the consolidation begin and may the best valuations win.

AT&T & iPhone: “Can you hear me now?”

AT&T Wireless has become the company that we love to hate.  After-all, they are the 2nd largest wireless carrier in the United States and maintain exclusive rights to the Apple iPhone.  Furthermore, we are bombarded by advertisements from Verizon poking fun at AT&T with their clever “can you hear me now” advertisements based on the quality of their wireless network.  How can poor AT&T even dream to compete against Verizon?  For goodness sakes, Verizon scared Sprint right out of the core network business.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a currently an AT&T wireless customer and I am completely addicted to my Apple iPhone 3G.  Like many iPhone users, I find myself using the “phone” less and less and instead rely on AT&T’s 3G network for data transmissions.  For me, the iPhone is an extension, and in some cases a replacement, for my laptop.  While I have experienced issues with both Apple’s software and the AT&T network, I understand AT&T’s challenges and I am thankful they are spending both the time and money to correct those issues.  Is Verizon’s network up to the iPhone challenge?

It is time to find out the answer to that question.  I propose that AT&T renegotiate the terms of their exclusivity agreement with Apple to allow Verizon to offer the iPhone on their network.  AT&T would maintain exclusive rights to all next generation iPhone models (4G, 5G …) for x number of months.  This would allow AT&T to keep a competitive edge on Verizon while giving consumers greater choice and providing Apple access to the number one wireless provider in the United States.

Additionally, it has the potential to bring Verizon’s network to its knees.  While Verizon’s network is impressive, it has never seen anything like the traffic iPhone users generate.  Verizon would be saddled with the same growing pains that AT&T experienced with one difference, “can you hear me now.”  Initially, Verizon would gain some high volume customers from AT&T while watching a significant percentage of their base switch to the iPhone.  Let’s face it; Verizon’s phones are boring at best.

After this initial spike in subscribers, the real fun begins.  Verizon’s iPhone users will begin to complain about similar issues to the ones that AT&T users have experienced; poor battery life, dropped calls, no rings, slow network, no network available, no data available, and more.  Verizon’s customer care will see their call volumes spike and their customer satisfaction numbers will fall.  Finally, “can you hear me now” will become a thing of the past and we’ll see Verizon’s CEO walking through the park apologizing and promising they can do better.

Finally, the emperor will have no clothes and all eyes will be focused squarely on Apple.  Apple will be forced to clean-up their act by providing more reliable software and introducing better hardware in their newest iPhone models.  Who does that benefit the most? AT&T (see above exclusivity agreement).  In the meantime, AT&T will have spent billions of dollars upgrading their network using the lessons they have learned to provide a superior experience via their network.

“Can you hear me now?”

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