“One Throat to Choke” – Who’s Kidding your Hands Don’t Fit.

Well here I am, back from Oracle OpenWorld and banging out another week of work. OOW for me was 3 days, jam packed full of interactions with our customers, partners, and Oracle.   I found the show to be informative, and I definitely realized how invested EMC’s customers are in the Oracle-EMC solutions.  EMC and Oracle have been in an industry interlock through the last 2 decades together supporting some of the most impactful business processes in the world. As I talked to an endless stream of noteworthy customers, I felt that connection completely.  While there, I also poked around, attended keynotes, and talked to everyone who dared to look at me (a mistake they will not make twice!).

I’d like to tell you about all the insights I took away, but frankly, I can’t keep your interest for that long. So, let me work to edit and organize my thoughts. Today I will work in Vignettes. Why? Because, no one has told me I couldn’t, and I am feeling creative.

Vignette One: “Crazy Mixed Up [Open]World”

The scene opens in a super large room with bright lights and thousands of people, otherwise known as the Keynote hall.  Monday morning, I had the privilege to sit up front with a few of our customers and some serious players from EMC. Monday morning Joe Tucci, CEO of EMC, kicked off the keynotes. After a strong rally of all the great things EMC is doing around the Cloud (web coverage: http://tiny.cc/wuiu9), He introduced Pat Gelsinger who in turn introduced Chad Sakac. Pat and Chad had an entertaining presentation on EMC’s Big Data strategy. Data growth, EMC Greenplum, virtualization, analytics engines; many topics were reviewed in the context of EMC innovations. Pat also held up a new piece of EMC technology, Lightening flash cards . In beta, the Lightening flash cards have a CPU mounted on the blade, and they will provide a reported 320GB of lightening fast flash per card. Chad followed Pat’s lead and began to demo VMware’s integrated VFabric Cloud Application Platform (related coverage: http://tiny.cc/0ec74). This really showed how to take customer analytics requirements down through the software and hardware.  They also showed the card at work as it vaporized performance problems live on stage. The two ended by comparing the hypothetical auto insurance costs between 3 constituents, you may have heard of: Gelsinger, Tucci, and Larry Ellison. Larry’s was the most expensive since it had a jet and racing boat in his fleet of vehicles.  It was a humorous way to end, and a good time was had by all. 

What struck me was that in just a handful of years, how EMC was no longer a storage company, but a bundled solution company, much of what was noteworthy in the presentation was all the software and software integration that has been developed. And, other than the Lightening blade that Pat held up, there was little mention about the hardware.  Following the event, it was my job to take Pat to a meeting with a CIO from one of our customers. In that meeting and throughout the day, you could tell that the keynote message and the energy resonated.

Following the EMC keynote, Oracle took the stage for a couple of hours and presented on Exalytics, SPARC Super Cluster, they also reviewed Exadata and Exalogic updates. By circumstance, they reiterated many of the same functionalities EMC had discussed, but with an Oracle-specific platform to support Oracle apps. In their presentation, Oracle took shots at many of their new infrastructure competitors “23x faster than”, “more gigabit capacity for”, and “2 more DRAM of that”. The dialog continued…

Whether I was bored or in a new enlightened state, there listening to the keynotes it hit me. Like an episode from the “Twilight Zone”, our two companies had switched places. “Freaky Friday”, but it’s only Monday… We were spending our time talking about software and Oracle was spending their time talking about hardware. I wonder how many of the thousands of people listening thought the exact same thing?  It goes to show, as Joe Tucci said, “Cloud is the most disruptive tech wave ever”. The vendors our customers have worked with for years are going through notable changes to provide for a new era of IT technology. The good news, customers have quality options to fulfill their requirements with, and they will vote with their wallets.

Vignette Two: “Congestion at the Intersection of Cloud Meets Big Data”

Ever been in a canyon in Arizona when a thundering horde of cattle came pounding in your direction? I’ve done some hiking in New Mexico and Arizona in my life and…well ok I saw a cow or two, but no stampede. The closest I ever came was last week at the EMC booth at OOW11. About every 5-10 minutes we would run a theater presentation and as the crowd left, you’d literally watch the booth staff step aside to avoid being trampled. I didn’t count them personally, but I know that way more than 13,000 people took a few minutes to talk to an expert or watch a show in our theater. Additionally we had EMC IT speaking about our transformation to virtualize our Oracle databases internally, we had EMC TV taping customer testimonials, and our meeting space was packed for 3 days straight. Unlike a traffic intersection, there’s always room for more.  Come join the movement!

Vignette Three:  “One Throat to Choke – if you have hands the size of Manhattan”

So let’s talk a little about clouds. The cloud is a lot like a Mainframe(MF), without ownership issues… What you say?!?  Stay with me here…if you look at the systems in support of PaaS, IaaS, SaaS, etc. what are their major features: Virtualization, Scale, Consolidation, Multi-tenancy, Systems management, Chargeback, etc.  They are in ways very similar to a big MF from the 1970’s.  A major difference is that the MF was a vertically integrated mostly proprietary single sourced product. The efficiency of the system was high, but the flexibility of user to choose how she used the system was limited and costly.  It’s taken us 30 years to get back to the same concept with a small but massive innovation: choice.  The cloud is the cloud because it’s democratic. It’s made up of many providers providing a litany of options on open systems. You get the benefits of MF on a hyper scale.  These key concepts are the essence of the “tipping point” (Malcom Gladwell)  for the next wave of IT, and these concepts are what bothered me about Oracle’s strategy as they too join the cloud. 

The keynote on Wednesday claimed that Oracle’s new public cloud offering is great because it’s standards based. This claim mainly hung on Java as the development platform. It was said many existing clouds and enterprise software are not valid because they are not based on these similar standards.

Yet now for the third year in a row, Oracle announced new appliances and a proprietary version of Linux that continue to drive the Oracle apps and DB owners to single sourced, primarily proprietary solution. Luckily for the thundering horde, there are good alternatives that offer better alignment to their entire IT strategy.  However, it’s the overwhelming message that this is somehow good for the industry, is what I would call, un-productive to the cause. A clear eye will see this as a trip “forward to the past”, back to a world Tom J. Watson would recognize.

Vignette Four: “It’s Easier to Ask for Forgiveness than Permission”

A man walks into a doctor and says “It hurts when I run my Oracle apps without Virtualization”, the doctor says “then virtualize”.  If there was a predominate dialog running through the entire show it was customers asking if, when and how they can virtualize Oracle.  Oracle has traditionally tried to make it difficult to virtualize Oracle using VMware; [assumptive] because a lack of VMware drives demand to their appliances and thus OVM. However this has been a small puddle in the path of progress that many have already crossed for both non-production and more recently production DBs. With vSphere5 the limitations have been removed and now it’s on a normal technology adoption cycle.  I already mentioned that a company as big as EMC is converting to an approximately 99% virtualized environment. We will see many customers virtualize the database in 2012 as described in this recent press release on American Tire Distributors.  Of the customers I spoke with, their primary concern was that Oracle support contract states, if there is a problem that can’t be resolved the customer may have to migrate to a physical environment to resolve it.   That’s not a crazy statement to have in a support contract, and it’s also not crazy for customers to be highly concerned about how this statement will be leveraged.  I appreciate that this big opportunity, to better really important IT environments, is also a risk because they are so important. This is why a natural technology adoption cycle exists, and it is similar to the virtualization of MS Exchange debate 5-6 years ago. We’re way past that one, the databases are next to be taken by the Virtual Tsunami.

Two recent surveys came out that I want to bring to your attention.

  • Storage Attach for VMWare Environments (Source: Goldman Sachs IT Spending Survey, March 2011)
    • EMC went from 33% (Dec 2010), to 40% (Feb 2011)
    • next closest competitor was 17% (Feb 2011)
  • EMC #1 Choice for Application Storage (Source: IDC’s Wrldwd Qtrly Strge Sys Tracker, Mar 2011,SUDS Survey )
    • Across seven categories including Oracle, SAP, SharePoint, Exchange, VDI, Analytics, EMC is #1. 
    • The 2nd and 3rd positions were not swept by any other vendor.

At EMC, we see this happening. There is no doubt the train has left the station, it’s your decision which car to jump on, or if you’re taking alternate transportation.

 Vignette Five: “Tragically Upstaged”

On Wednesday, Larry Ellison held the keynote. If you’ve never seen Larry present he’s casual, charismatic, and poisonous to his prey.  For Wednesday the prey was SAP & Salesforce.com. Like an XBOX shoot’em up, there was gore everywhere; if you avoid the inaccuracies, it was a great demonstration sleight of hand and showmanship. He also announced a few new offerings that I should spend some time on, but I’m going with a different angle here.

What really interested me happened close to the end of the keynote. Let me take you back to my blog “Shake Rattle and Roll”  where I talked about the different technologies I used versus my kids during the east coast earthquake. I wasn’t on social media and thus less informed and connected than my daughters.   I am here to report I am reformed!  I was on twitter during Larry’s speech typing and reading. It is there where I got the sad news about Steve Jobs. I then watched people begin to get up and leave the keynote, first a trickle, then a flow, then a flood.  Those who were not on social media probably didn’t know what was happening.  I however, was connected to my fellow techies at that moment, and though be it that I was completely bummed by the news, I felt I had closed the gap just a little on the iGeneration.


Snakes Swallowing Hippos – Reducing the Gag reflex

I don’t want to imply the world’s corporations are “snakes”. However they remind me of a viral video I once saw of an African Rock Python who had swallowed a small hippo whole. The major growth into the world of “big data” resembles this metaphor. Many data analytics initiatives are like hungry snakes consuming colossal amounts of data at rates we did not conceive of five years ago. Ingestion, query processing, provisioning, indexing/data structures, backup, availability, retention, and governance requirements are all viciously attacking the traditional architectures, and we’re all learning the lessons that come with each innovation in the field.

Someone once explained to me that system performance is like plumbing. If you have a system full of partial clogs, but the water volume is 1 % below capacity everything works great. Once you reach capacity on any one spot, the system slows or stops (then your wife yells at you). If you remove the clog, that actually frees up more volume that may create another delay later in the system. In other words, the software and hardware that make up a computer stack create a complex and interdependent system. Growth can outpace one or more capacities. Most of the challenges I see in our customers are related to limitations in capacity and throughput as the business world begins the era of big data.

 I want to point out that cloud, in theory alone, does not free us of this burden. These same agitants will transfer to the cloud. Cloud providers have to work diligently to tune capacity and utilization in multi-tenancy environments so that as you float around in your cloud, you don’t accidently bump into the harsh side of an iron box. This has been witnessed in various news clips lately. Cloud will help by the function of major consolidation allowing for better utilization and allowing for shared “slack”, but it is held to the same rules of physics. “If you run at a wall, eventually you will hit it”.

 OK so back to data analytics, we are in a powerful growth phase of big data and there is a community of vendor companies on the edge of this movement. That includes traditional providers of data management software like Oracle. It also includes new innovations like EMC’s Greenplum data warehouse solutions, and Isilion for scale-out of unstructured data (i.e. videos, GIS maps).

I bring this up because there are only a few events a year where so many of the experts get together to discuss these topics, one of those opportunities is in two weeks. If you’re game, and you can find a hotel room, dive head first into a sloppy big mess of big data @Oracle OpenWorld (#oow11). OOW will be held in San Francisco at the Moscone Center starting Oct 2nd with a reported attendee list of approximately 42,000 people. The majority will be bringing some of the freshest challenges and ideas to what will be a very interesting soirée.

So if you’re a snake looking to swallow a hippo, this show is a hotspot. EMC has been a long time player with a large customer base in support of Oracle and other mission critical applications. When it comes to big data, we help reduce the “gag reflex” of consuming large quantities of the stuff. Both the associated Oracle teams and the big data teams at EMC spend their time divining answers to the challenging questions of how to speed, backup, de-duplicate, copy, protect, and virtualize data systems to support the rate of growth. Imagine hundreds of guys as smart as Sam Lucido (@Sam_lucido) running around with the single mission to help customers “digest the hippo”. If you are going to Oracle OpenWorld here are some of the key topics we’ll be covering and their venue:

 o (Session ID 33580) Virtualized Oracle: More Performance, 80% Faster Provisioning and 50% less Cost Monday @ 11am

o (Session ID 33640) Oracle Data Warehouse meets Big Data: Blazing Fast Loads, Queries and Analytics Monday @3:30pm

o (Session ID 33600) Deduplication and Oracle RMAN: More Full Backups, Faster Recovery, Less Cost Tuesday @10:15am

o (Session ID 33660) Migrating Oracle to the Cloud: 10x More Performance and $7M saved on x86/Linux Tuesday @3:30pm

o (Session ID 33620) Clone Oracle Databases Online in Seconds with Oracle CloneDB and DirectNFS Wednesday @1:15pm

Ok let me especially highlight these 2 events where you can see my friend Ramesh Razdan from EMC IT present. Like “500 brake horsepower”, this is where “smoking rubber hits the road”. Ramesh is all facts when it comes to running one of the largest integrated and cloudifying IT organizations on the planet.

o (Session ID 3560) Ramesh will serve in a panel discussion as part of a Cisco session

o Ramesh Razdan will be presenting in Cisco Booth (#721) on 10/3 and 10/4 @3:30 pm.

Did I save the best for last? You bet. Joe Tucci, EMC’s CEO, is doing the Keynote on Monday 8:00am (@oracleopenworld). Joe has been the master mind of EMC’s growth through the acquisition strategies of companies like VMware, Data Domain, Greenplum and Isilon. He’s at full pace as he takes EMC to the crossroads of Cloud Computing and Big Data. Super smart guy and I think you’ll find inspiration in his session.

Ok, if you miss something while you’re there you can always come by the booth and be inundated with prizes, smiling faces, and #EMC experts to answer questions. BOOTH 901 There will be quite a few announcements so keep your ear out that first week of October. Also keep a look out for the “Most Intriging Man in IT (www.facebook.com/IntrigingMan)

I look forward to a healthy slice of hippo…see you there!

Already Tired of the Cloud?

Mentally I have a multi-tenancy problem. On one shoulder I have a hippie wannabe creative type that bangs on musical instruments, writes, paints, and focuses on the creative process. On the other side, I have a little suit-wearing business analyst. This duality is sometimes maddening. The artist in me wants to poke a stick in my temple when I hear “the cloud” on yet another TV commercial, and the other part of me is excited to be part of the next phase of this technology cycle. Now that I have everyone questioning my mental state… let me provide a diversion and state that duality, diversity, alternating needs are part of what is driving the Cloud movement. So let’s talk about what’s really happening and why everyone is forced to watch those crazy commercials.

“Value of the Cloud Today”
As I describe the value of “Cloud” to companies today, I don’t want to claim authorship on my categorizations. Many have provided inspiration. In an effort to recognize all, I’ll point out Dave Vellante’s iterative work on “Stack Wars” as a good example. He makes many good points about the race to technical dominance among the big vendors today. With that said, I’ll continue on like it’s all my idea. For my discussion purposes, I’ll overly simplify and say we have 4 operative categories of computing today:

1 )Traditional Tech: For this discussion, I am referring to everything from 2009 back, Client Server, Mainframe, etc. Over the years since we first used Hollerith’s Desk to tally the census data around the turn of the 20th century, we have worked to optimize individually owned computing environments and we have spent trillions of dollars on our data centers in primarily a self ownership model. For more info on cost, this blog has some of the details on IT spending ( Information Technology Spending By Country, etherfire, brighthub.com, Published Jul 31, 2010). Because of its dominance, we will not see traditional tech become extinct any time soon, but I do see notable changes in the following 3 categories.

2) Vertical Integration: Henry Ford was a master at Vertical Integration. He owned the rubber tree farm to make his tires, machined his own parts, etc. This is a very traditional model for the beginning of a technology curve (aka automobiles in early 1900’s). Interesting enough some companies are deploying this strategy today in the later, more mature phases in which we are currently. A good example is Oracle’s exa-N product lines. It’s an “all in one box”, single vendor strategy. The focus is specialization and is aimed to increase performance for data analytics and potentially reduce costs from server reduction. There are other examples of “IT appliances” in the market. The company where I work has similar purpose-built appliances. These purpose-built “plug in and go” appliances will continue to gain ground because they are easy to consume, but they need to balance their specialization with their cloud integration capabilities. Why should you care if they connect to the cloud? Because, history proves specialized/isolated assets are more expensive than communal assets. Appliances will likely be “cloud compliant” or they will find themselves as a tangent away from a cloud strategy and obscured from the primary plans of the business.

3) Virtual Integration: This technique leverages the features of Virtualization to blur the lines of proprietary systems into an abstracted layer of logic technology components. With a virtually integrated environment come optimizations for utilization, improved flexibility, notable savings from consolidation and other benefits. Every virtualized environment is not necessarily a “cloud”, but it provides a medium to begin developing systems with cloud attributes. This still requires the individual companies to retain ownership or to bundle managed services as part of their efforts.
4) Hosted Service Levels and/or Functionality: Hosted environments provide a utility type computing environment where the user can consume IT units without a great deal of day-to-day knowledge about what is happening “behind the curtain”. Hosted environments are not the sole domain of the Cloud, but they provide a scaled platform and a financial transactional model to monetize or apply the cloud to IT. In the last decade hosted systems have grown tremendously, albeit not without many customers returning to in-sourced or on-premise systems. These reversals are a mix of growing pains in scaled execution and changing customer requirements. Though I’ll point out change is a function of clouds. Clouds should allow for IT units to “float” between providers.

Within some of these categories you can begin to see optimizations achieved by the abstraction of the physical equipment from the logical functionality and the utilization of service that abstracts the consumer from the technical expertise. Both approaches are optimizing through a function of consolidation. These changes mirror the evolution of electricity production (expertly outlined in “The Big Switch” by Nicholas Carr, a book and topic I plan to cover in a later blog.) These building blocks provide the technical stage for a new business model we call the cloud. Today we have 2 cloud formats “Public Cloud” and “Private Cloud”. A Public Cloud is where a consumer buys the service and uses it paying per use, a monthly or an annual fee. Public Clouds generally imply multi-tenancy. Meaning my stuff is next to your stuff and there is some basic security to protect us from each other.
A Private Cloud provides cloud-like functionality, but is housed in a single instance either owned by the consumer or specifically hosted for that consumer by a 3rd party. Whether a consumer leverages a cloud publicly or in private, there are some basic benefits they are able to leverage:

Utilization – Because your servers for say Exchange 2010 are now virtual, you don’t have to purchase all of them as physical assets, they will co-exist on a large physical server, and this inherently increases utilization as an example.
On-Demand Capabilities

o Performance – Yes VMs do add a bit of overhead, but once again you’re combining strength. Imagine 100 cars on the highway and every car going downhill gives their horsepower to the cars going uphill. This will increase the ratio “performance/dollars spent”.

o Capacity – Similarly, capacity needs fluctuate and virtualization can help level set to an overall optimization of available assets.

Virtual Management– Today Cloud technologies take the fundamentals of virtualization and add management capabilities which are critical to enable the switch to the cloud.

o Separation of duties – ability to define delineation between users and functions. Strong permissions controls, performance controls of the virtual machines, etc.

o Simplification – Example, if you had a box crash 100 miles away, you would have to requisition a new server, wait for it to ship, plug it in, and load it with new software. If that box was a VM, you could send the server configuration like an email to the remote server and enable it with a couple of button clicks. Cloud simplifies, cloud tools provide templates and wizards to increase the utility of the administrator.

Owner to Consumer Switch – With all this new flexibility and simplification, companies can evaluate and execute a more fluid ownership model. Do they own this asset or do they ship it to a partner? Do they allow an integrator to host a developing system and move it back when it’s ready for production, do they own the primary system, but bolt on clouds from 3rd parties? These are options that were non-existent or at least much more difficult to execute just a couple of years ago.

“What’s next?”
Going forward the Cloud will provide greater utilization and flexibility in how we consume IT units. In my discussion, some would say I missed a Cloud category when I mentioned only public and private clouds. That would be “Hybrid Clouds”. I did this because to me this is how the cloud will be applied. “Hybrid” is a mash-up based on the customers financial and risk requirements. For me, the application of cloud will be like a Cloud shopping mall where you have a diverse series of store fronts offering a variety of ownership models and service levels. Figuratively, you may choose to buy a pre-made suit for one need, and the thread and cloth for another. I must assume this will be good for the customer and our collective GDP. My Business Analyst personality likes the options for business going forward, and my hippie side likes the fluffy clouds painted on everyone’s logos these days.

What will Dislodge the Pebble – Virtualizing Large DBs

2011 is the year for the question, when will large databases “virtualize” in mass? It’s somewhat a technology question; it’s definitely a bit of a sizing/scale/performance question, but I want to make the case here that it’s additionally a people and risk question that must be answered.

There is much worthy discussion about whether the technology is ready and for whom. I have the opportunity to work with some of the largest companies in the world and they each have unique requirements which are individually thrilling to help address. With that said, there are some great technologies available to attack “the middle” of the normal curve. Vsphere5 release increased capacity limits for virtual core counts and such, removing those fundamental limitations. I work with customers around products like Vblock from VCE which adds significant horsepower and simplicity to the equation, working as an accelerant for change. Finally, I know of customers who have virtualized significant DBs, but these areas are not my point of focus for this blog. Instead l’d like to look at human factors that will determine the pace of this transformation.

In a way, people are as much the database as the bits and the b-trees. People create the data, people write the software (well we use to…), people govern the use of the data, people maintain the data and, ultimately, people spend the money that most often the data is collected for in the first place. People are a huge part of the equation for virtualizing databases. Let me pull a bit of Hollywood-script-writing license and generalize this down to two people, the CIO and the DBA. This is unfair to paint with such a broad brush, but they will be the quintessential players in my story.

The DBA is a well-honed machine. The masters of this craft have been at it for 20 years cutting their teeth on MF to Open Systems migrations; they rode the rise of Oracle. Some started, left and came back to DB2. Most have suffered countless huge audacious problems and have earned their place in the database hall of fame. Companies pay the big bucks for these superstars for one reason. Both their technical experience and their risk mitigation experience have trained them to KEEP THE DB RUNNING, and they do. Virtualization to a DBA is a scary thing. It goes against the grain and, hey, when you’re in your 40’s who wants to be reviewing logs at 3:00am on Sunday morning… They have an aversion to such a big change which will require “new experience” to keep the system stable. Additionally many DBAs still suffer from performance and growth challenges that they feel are their primary job to address. Our companies have employed DBAs to bring these exact skills to the table and thus many DBAs are “cautious” to “concerned” about virtualization.

Now for the CIO. The CIO, though less connected with the details, has similar concerns of risk. Their success is tied to a highly performant and stable data center. With that said, they face an equally heavy burden to reduce costs each year as data grows, like a teenager, year in and year out. They have seen the virtues of virtualization and believe it to bring better utilization, cost management, IT agility, and DR capability. CIOs are listening to both sides and reasoning the answer to what, how, when; why is already covered.

Ok, so what you really want to know is do I see a trend? I have statistical training in my graduate work and I can safely say my sample size is ambiguous and biases are undefined, but I will not let that stop me from sharing my reasonably crafted opinion. Yes, there are some trends. The trend in 2010-1H2011 was a peppering of important deployments across the industry that virtualized DBs. These provided a proverbial support to show the sky isn’t falling, and stages for the next level of demonstrable growth. The trend in second half of 2011 will be lots of experts busy in the tasks of design, creation and realization. The whiteboard work has significantly increased. Blueprinting, POCs and other type of activity have notably increased. Messaging at Executive Briefings has increased (CIOs are listening). So when does the pebble dislodge and the deluge of large virtualized DBs flood the install base? If you carve off the most outrageously large and unique DBs from the conversation, I think you will see steady activity in the back half of 2011 and 2012 the pebble will tumble.