Cloud’s my first, my last, my everything…

March 20, 2017

Or at least that’s the approach some people seem to be taking! I liked this article in Computing from last week – I’m definitely in agreement with the sentiments. I’ve always thought the ‘Cloud Bigot’ approach was the wrong one. I guess it comes down to my preferred approach to ‘solutioneering’ any IT problem – start with the business need and work back from there.

Cloud is a delivery route, a way of paying for IT as a service, a consumption mechanism, a way of offloading elements of IT you don’t want to run or that don’t have strategic value, a way of starting small and building up. It’s not a solution in and of itself, in my opinion.

I’ve always thought the best way to do it is to work out what solves the problem – and worry about the consumption model afterwards. Of course, these days, even if there’s a directive for Opex over Capex, most solutions can be financed – and many vendors have at least a ‘pay as you grow’ option, even if not ‘pay as you go’.

Anyone disagree?

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Could GDPR be the next PPI?

February 13, 2017

Well, we love a few acronyms (or are they acrostics?) in our industry! I was talking with someone the other day, and we ended up on the subject of PPI and those irritating calls you get. Seems they are dying out a bit which, in my book, is no bad thing. I used to amuse myself by trying to keep them on hold as long as possible – my record was more that seven minutes…

Anyway, I digress! What are all these people going to do once the PPI gold rush is over? I reckon the new wave will be PPI-style organisations cold-calling you and offering to sue the companies that are in the public domain for having suffered a breach. Call me cynical but I could totally see someone hacking into an organisation and then having the temerity to offer to sue on behalf of the people whose information they have found!

Best get your house in order before May 2018, I reckon – let’s not give this PPI scourge the chance to spread…

Two kills three?

February 4, 2017

I was interested to hear this week of the probably demise of 3D TV. I can’t say it surprises me – it’s a bit of fun at the cinema but I can’t see the attraction myself at home. Admittedly that’s mostly because I wear glasses already and putting the 3D ones over the top isn’t ever so comfortable and just feels damned weird. It seems a waste of contact lenses just to pop them in to watch a film!

It got me thinking, though. I reckon what has really killed 3D is the ‘second screen’ phenomenon. I mean, when do you ever sit down and watch something without snacking on your email, fiddling about on social media, or looking at property or car porn? My personal addiction is Autotrader – drooling over what I could buy if someone would pay me good money for a kidney. Obviously doing this while wearing Roy Orbison’s shades isn’t the easiest thing. Am I alone in this supposition?

Memories of the machine…

October 2, 2014

Interesting article on Computing today about in-memory databases and what is hampering adoption. The fact that, being in memory, persistence and recoverability is an issue, appears to be hampering mainstream adoption outside of data-warehousing and BI, etc – which is understandable. Availability is pretty damned important and there is no point in going as fast as you can if you might lose everything or have to undertake a lengthy rebuild.
It seems to me though that organisations should be starting to work on this sort of architecture – if only to prepare themselves for the next generation of infrastructure where persistent memory will (hopefully; everything crossed!) solve the availability issue. Have a read about HP’s ‘The Machine’ project which will give you an idea of where this stuff may be going….

Surface Pro 3 – 12 inches of shiny…

May 21, 2014

I just saw this morning that Microsoft have announced the Surface Pro 3… I must admit it looks quite nice. I have always thought of the Surface as more of a MacBook Air competitor than an iPad competitor, so it is interesting to see the comparisons drawn on the Microsoft website.
If you are going more after the laptop market, why not have a slightly larger screen? That makes sense to me. I’m pleased to see they reckon they have sorted the ‘typing on the lap’ issue that was really challenging with the original surface. However cool the keyboard attachments were, typing on your knees always felt like you were dicing with gadget death…
I haven’t had a go with one yet but hopefully I will get the chance in the near future…

VDI – the final furlong

January 28, 2014

It’s a running joke in our industry that every year since 2006 has been the year of the virtual desktop. In reality, it’s been a mixed bag over the years, and has been sold as a panacea when in fact it has been very use-case dependent.
I’m firmly of the opinion that we are gently moving towards a ‘workspace’ metaphor rather than a ‘desktop’ one – where a device-independent portal connects users to the applications, files, data etc that they need to do their job. With the acquisition of Mobile Device and Application Management vendors recently by both Citrix and VMware, it certainly seems to be moving in that direction.
In the meantime, however, pretty much everyone still has need of a good old Windows desktop in some way, shape or form for existing applications – which brings us back to VDI. What’s interesting is that over the last few months, the technology stack supporting VDI has matured to the point where I reckon we can deliver pretty much any desktop or use case using that technology. There are two important parts at play here:
Firstly, the maturation of flash storage technology. Whether an all-flash array, in-server flash, or hybrid, there are now options available, at a reasonable price, to help to drive the performance your users really need.
Secondly, graphics card technology. NVidia are doing some great stuff here in enabling us to dedicate graphics capability to desktop virtual machines – in conjunction with some clever software stuff from the VDI players.
Between these two advancements, we’re able to do some pretty awesome stuff. Admittedly our EUC team seems to spend most of their time showing off that they are able to play Call of Modern Warfare or some such rubbish from a field in the middle of nowhere, but we are finding some real use cases in architects and other heavy CAD users. We’ve been able to take a chunk of cost out of their bill for workstations – and give them an element of flexibility and IP protection that didn’t exist before.
So VDI might not be the ultimate answer – but until you can access CAD from the cloud, we can help!

Lunch with the CEO of VMware…

June 27, 2013

Had lunch the other day with a chap called Pat Gelsinger – he’s the CEO of VMware. Pleasant chap – quite understated, not your usual flamboyant leader but a real techy underneath. He spent years at Intel and ran the design groups for most of the major processor developments so he kinda knows his stuff. Unfortunately we only had an hour with him – we were scheduled to have two, but apparently he got stuck in traffic caused by the Queen’s coronation celebration. I did enjoy winding the VMware guys up that it had only been in the diary for 60 years… 🙂

 

Anyway – there were just a couple of things I thought were worth sharing on their strategy that some or all of you may be interested in:

 

Cloud:

VMware recently announced vCloud Cloud Service (vCHS, a public-ish cloud service based, no surprises, on VMware). See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/03/13/vmware_vcloud_hybrid_cloud_service/ for a bit more detail. They recognise that they can’t compete with Amazon etc, but they think there is a real opportunity here for VMware partners (this will be a channel offering) for the following reasons:

 

1: it is entirely compatible with on premise workloads that run on VMware. Yes, Amazon etc will import workloads that are currently .vmdk but transferring from VMware on premise to VMware cloud (or partner cloud #cloudsoftcat) will take with it many attributes such as security and networking configurations.

 

2: Corporate workloads are certified to run on VMware in a way that they aren’t with Amazon. The big example here is that VMware have an agreement with SAP – SAP is fully supported on VMware on or off prem. In fact SAP HANA (big data stuff) on vCHS is the only way to consume HANA as a service/ online for production.

 

3: VMware had a load of tech that they bought that formed a Platform as a Service package called CloudFoundry.  Needless to say this stack runs on VMware…. on or off prem. This means that they will have the only platform where a customer can develop and test an app ‘in the cloud’ and then move it onto their own servers for production (for security, data residency reasons, whatever). Vice versa too. The Cloud Foundry stuff has been spun out (with some other bits) into a company called Pivotal run by VMware’s previous CEO Paul Maritz. (even geekier side-note: you know the term WinTel? Well, that was kinda driven by Paul Maritz and Pat Gelsinger. Paul was Mr Win (ran the Windows platform business at MS for years) and Pat was Mr Tel (Intel chips). Looks like the stack has moved up a little!)

 

Positioning:

Pat had just come from meeting the CIO at a large media company. The CIO surprised him by saying that this was the first time anyone at VMware had tried to meet him. VMware recognise that they have been selling infrastructure stuff to the head of infrastructure and that the stuff they have now is potentially more strategic. They are really trying to train their sales guys in ‘value selling’ and get them confident in front of CIOs. They are making a real effort to make their literature etc more business centric and less tech-centric. I’m hoping they will be sharing this stuff with the channel as I am sure we can use it as we gradually creep up our customers’ organisations…  

VMware are well aware that as servers get bigger, customers will need fewer of them so to keep revenues going in the right direction they have to be able to sell more than just vSphere, hence their three focus areas: Hybrid Cloud, Software Defined Datacentre and End User Computing.

 

Networking:

Who’s the largest networking vendor by port? If you count virtual ports, it’s VMware – 60 million (virtual) ports worldwide. They consider themselves to be the largest networking vendor no one talks about. They believe there is a real opportunity with virtual networking to increase efficiency and reduce latency – if a database server has to talk to a middleware server and they are on the same host, the traffic never needs to leave the host rather than going on a big loop (VM>virtual nic>physical nic> rack/ blade chassis networking> top of rack switch> core switch etc and back). They recently bought a company called Nicira who apparently have the most advanced distributed control plane – they already had in VCNS the most advanced network insertion. These will combine at VMworld into a single product called NSX. Interestingly they are looking at doing something similar for firewalls, which they expect to be a big channel opportunity…

Needless to say this is bringing them into some ‘interesting’ conversations with Cisco, but they have agreed to work together as they feel the opportunity is better. VMware need hooks into the hardware in the same way they do with server processors etc…

I hope that was interesting – please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

 

#geekbands #storagebands

February 7, 2013

Had some geekery fun at work the other evening with some of the Softcat tech crew, including Lodz and Phillbert. The game started off as #storagebands – musical acts whose names could be punned into something related to storage technology – and later morphed to #geekbands – just anything vaguely technological.

I thought I would share a list of some of the best ones – please feel free to chip in below in the comments section!

Tenacious SSD (my favourite)

Linux Richie

Blood Sweat and Tiers

Michael BUEble (pretty tenuous – BUE equals Backup Exec)

Grandmaster Flash

Johnny Cache

NickelBackup

Fat32Boy Slim

Tiers for Fears

3PARamore

Portisheadcrash

(Kernel) Panic at the Disco

Queens of the Tape Age

The RAMones

The Wide Stripes (this triggered it all off)

Any more for any more?

Letting the (Soft)Cat out of the bag at BETT

February 7, 2013

So the Softcat Education team were out in force at the recent BETT show, where the latest and greatest education technology was on display. I was roped in to conduct some ‘Sam’s Surgeries’ for our customers, as well as talking about our vision for Infrastructure for better learning outcomes.

No conference is complete without some giveaways of course. We had some natty Softcat branded bags printed up for our customers, and, as is becoming something of a BETT tradition, a load of Soft Cats – this year in purple! These proved really popular with the attendees – so popular in fact that one of our wonderful customers appears to have put two of these Soft Cats to work in his IT department. If they are half as good as our consultancy team, he’s got the right idea!
Anyway, just for a bit of fun, here for your delight and delectation is The Adventures of Cuddly Cat!
<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/samrosamro/the-adventures-of-cuddly-cat&#8221; title=”The adventures of cuddly cat!” target=”_blank”>The adventures of cuddly cat!</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/samrosamro&#8221; target=”_blank”>Sam Routledge</a></strong> </div>

If you want to join in the fun, Tweet a photo or whatever of your Soft Cat with the hashtag #SoftcatRocks – I’m sure we can rustle up a prize for the best!

Predictions for 2013…

January 7, 2013

I normally post stuff here to make sure I like it before cross-posting on the Softcat website. This one made it onto the main site before I got round to sticking it on here, but for completeness’ sake here are my predictions for 2013 – interested in your views so please feel free to comment!

Clouds moving faster

It looks like ‘cloud’ is finally past the ‘trough of disillusionment’. We saw a surge of interest particularly in the second half of 2012 and we expect that to continue and even accelerate this year. IT departments are starting to realise that they need to spend more time working with the business on the applications they need to do their jobs – and less time worrying about the flashing lights in the data centre. Cloud doesn’t necessarily mean you have to throw out all your servers and storage and let your data out into the big wide world – your strategy might equally be to invest in the latest generation of pre-validated infrastructure stacks, complete with management layer, to take a lot of the pain away from worrying about hardware, firmware compatibility, multi-vendor support issues etc. The main thing is there are options…

What to do?
Evaluate your options, when the time is right – with the help of someone who can advise on a range of different approaches. On/off premise and indeed hybrid are all options. When acquiring new software, look at SaaS options alongside on premise deployments. Don’t forget connectivity – quite often overlooked when considering cloud approaches.

A big year for Microsoft

It’s going to be a huge year for Microsoft, with new releases of Windows, Office, Exchange and SharePoint either out or shipping this year. The desktop is the obvious place to start – with the impending end of support for Windows XP (April 2014) it doesn’t take a genius to suggest that we’ll see an acceleration of Windows 7/8 migrations. It will be really interesting to see the split between Windows 7 and Windows 8. My gut feel is that Windows 7 will be the default choice but the UI in Windows 8 as well as the wide selection of form factors (pick one to suit your working style!) will drive adoption for more mobile workers.

Outside of Windows, there’s a lot of interest in LYNC – and with the increase in collaboration features as well as a much more social approach SharePoint 2013 could be a hit!

What to do?

Familiarise yourself with the roadmap and work out where the technology matches the needs of your organisation over the coming year or so. It’s also worth taking stock of your licensing situation to make sure you’re in a position to take advantage of the new releases if appropriate. If you have Software Assurance in place, make sure you are taking advantage of some of the extra benefits – in particular Deployment Planning Services and Training Vouchers to help you get set for the roll-out.

Mobility

No surprises here but the pressure on IT to allow user-owned devices to connect will get even stronger. You can try and offset this with an appropriate form factor of Windows 8 tablet, but in reality your users will want to work on whatever device they choose/chose! Fortunately this year will see a range of technologies to help you secure these devices and deliver services to them. Our security team are talking about ‘The Return of the NAC’ – using network security to identify users and devices and route them securely to appropriate resources. This sort of ‘contextual analysis’ will also hopefully enable us to detect threats and infections earlier and respond appropriately. Now that this new mobile world means that we cannot rely upon perimeter-based security, maybe now we will start to see a ‘secure by design’ approach rather than making use of point products to plug gaps.

We’ll also see offerings, from Citrix and VMware among others, that will provide a ‘gateway application’ delivering access to a range of internal resources, SaaS services and native apps.

I’m going to go out on a limb here having spent the last year researching options – but maybe this year we will get clear and concise guidance from HMRC on tax treatment for individuals buying devices for work use, and for organisations providing a contribution towards such devices…. Fingers crossed, anyway!

What to do?

Now more than ever it is imperative to have a clearly defined mobile strategy. Email is the starting point – but it is definitely worth looking at how access to applications on the go can speed up the flow of your business.

Buzzwords of the year

No doubt we will hear (as we have every year since 2006!) that 2013 will be the year of the virtual desktop… Other than that, hopefully we will see a decline in the tendency of vendors to ‘cloud-wash’ their software. Now that the whole IT world knows what cloud is, that ceases to have much value. No doubt the ‘Big Data’ bandwagon will continue to trundle on this year. I rather think the value is in the analytics rather than the size of the data! The big one for 2013 will of course be ‘Software Defined’ – the concept that functionality previously in hardware can be managed from a software layer in an abstracted manner. This has been applied so far to networking, storage and indeed the whole data centre – expect to be flooded with ‘software defined’ products by the end of the year!