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Chuck Hollis
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Economic history is replete with creations that have changed our world. From steam power to the internet, human innovation moves forward in great leaps and bounds, thanks to technology. Here, I present my arguments as to why I believe we are on the threshold of a new economic era: the cloud economy. This is not about how we feel about clouds, it's about the cloud's potential to change the nature of the world we live in, perhaps faster than we thought. I think it's always useful to start with a quick historical perspective. Indulge me? Steam power was invented in 1762. For the first time, you could deliver substantial mechanical power almost anywhere. It marked the start of the Industrial Revolution, among other things. As with any innovation, there were plenty of disruptions at hand. For example, if you were in the stagecoach business, the idea of steam powered trains didn't exactly thrill you. About a hundred years later, we started to use steam power to generate electricity. For the first time, power could be consumed at a distance from where it was generated. This picture is from the 1920s. If you look carefully, you can see that the gas... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2017 at Chuck's Blog
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I’ve written about this amp a few times before. It continues to impress me in that it sounds great in so many situations. It also makes me despair as I see so many other musicians struggling to make it sound great. Here’s the deal: learn how to use it properly,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2017 at Late Bloomer
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Several years ago, my wife decided to get an advanced degree in psychology, and became a counselor. Along the way, I was duly impressed by the therapeutic power of simply talking about a problem in a constructive manner. These days, I joke that I've become a "cloud therapist" for many of the enterprise IT leaders I meet. They know they have a big challenge ahead of them, they just need to talk about it. I've been told the conversations are usually helpful, which is good. Over the years, some of my most stimulating discussions have been with Dave Vellante, founder of Wikibon. Dave and I feed off of each other quite well: freely challenging each other's assumptions, and getting to the meat of the matter before too long. And we always have fun. A while back, we thought it'd be great if we could have these great dialogues in a more public forum. We agreed on a series of four interviews, each approaching the enterprise IT cloud challenge from different perspectives. In the first interview I'll want to explore some of the deeper forces behind the move to cloud-like models for enterprise IT. Understanding why a problem exists in the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2017 at Chuck's Blog
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In the working world, doing your job well means that you're a candidate for a larger role with more responsibility. The same thing is proving true in my band world. Somehow, I've gone from being the keyboard guy to being responsible for amplifying and mixing the entire band. Too bad... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2016 at Late Bloomer
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This morning, I came across this grim piece from Chris Mellor at The Register, detailing evidence of the violent restructuring in our familiar storage array market. Call it confirmation bias, but many of us have seen this coming for a while, and have acted accordingly. The numbers have been mediocre for many quarters, but recently the pace seems to be accelerating. It wasn't all that long ago that storage companies were almost semi-glamorous in the enterprise IT world: EMC, NetApp, HDS, Pure, Nimble, et. al. Great growth all around, and tons of VC flowing into the sector. What happened? And should we think of this as a temporary aberration, or a permanent structural shift? The Lure Of Storage I decided to join a small storage startup in 1994, moving from Silicon Valley to suburban Massachussets. At the time, EMC was a ~$400 million company with something like 1,600 employees. I became sold on the idea that -- in the world of computing, information mattered. Capturing, persisting and re-using data was going to be a big deal, so storage was going to be really important. And I thought standalone storage vendors would have a better strategic positioning than server vendors in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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I have long been an armchair economist. I did a full economics sequence in school, found it to be utterly fascinating, and have continued to read intently on the topic ever since. Such is the life of a geek. However, I've always wondered why none of the typical IT analyst firms spend any serious effort studying the structure and dynamics of the IT labor market. Sure, there's all sorts of great analysis on various technologies, vendors and consumption models, but what about the people who are responsible for making the magic happen? How is their world changing? It's relevant because change is in the air. Cloud, baby. Public cloud is not only arbitrage on technology costs -- which everyone talks about -- but also labor costs. Cloud is already busily at work disrupting the IT technology market. I would argue that -- before long -- it will do the same for the IT labor market. I don't know whether to be pessimistic or optimistic about the changes to come, so I'll present my case for both -- and let you decide. But one thing is certain; change is coming. The Case For Pessimism One of the best ways to understand... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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At one time, I was updating this blog regularly. And then, not so much. Over a year has passed since I last wrote something here. Well, such is life. I thought I owed all of you an update. Things are good, but -- well -- life moves on. I've left... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2016 at Late Bloomer
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Many business leaders are now applying serious pressure towards their IT counterparts to move to a cloud model sooner than later. Their motivations are unambiguous. Business people see cloud models delivering better IT services at a lower overall cost. And no one wants to forego a significant competitive advantage. But it can be harder than it looks -- at least, given many of the familiar public cloud options in the market. Most larger enterprise IT landscapes are deeply integrated; almost woven together. Applications aren't usually isolated; they feed, and are fed by, others. Critical business processes that power any enterprise can span dozens of individual application components. And like a central nervous system, the enterprise IT control plane spans all of it, keeping a watchful eye on performance and security. Untangling the components incrementally, and attempting to move them to a public cloud model one at a time, is turning out to be far harder than it might look to be on vendor powerpoint. Unfortunately, the basic nature of popular public clouds isn't genetically compatible with what enterprise IT is doing today. And therein lies a thorny problem. What to do? It's All Connected -- Or Should Be I keep... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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Many of us have conditions that end up greatly affecting our quality of life. It often takes many years to fully understand the situation, its impact on you, and the impact on those around you. One of my personal challenges has been coping with RBS: Restless Brain Syndrome. I can't easily shut my brain down. I'd really like to be able to stop incessantly deconstructing and resynthesizing the world around me, but I can't. Quite seriously, it has affected my quality of life, and my relationships with others. Maybe you -- or someone you know -- suffers from the same malady? I'm Serious (Sort Of) You know that joke where someone asks someone else "what time is it?" and the other person responds with the history of timekeeping, current timekeeping technologies available, and finishes off with current cosmological theories of time? Uhhh, that's uncomfortably close to the truth, especially if I'm not paying attention. For whatever reason, put an idea in front of me to think about, and I go all multi-dimensional. I inspect the concept from every possible angle, break it into pieces, reassemble it in many different ways, and then find relevant associations with other ideas and concepts.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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In recent blog post, I shared that I had come to Oracle based on the strength of their cloud strategy. A few snarky individuals tweeted "what strategy?". Haha, the interwebs would certainly be less entertaining without a bit of trolling. To be fair, I realized I hadn't made my case for Oracle's approach to cloud. So I decided to do just that. This is a long post -- longer than most. It is not corporate marketing, it is my personal perspective. Disclaimer: these are (as always) my own opinions, and certainly not vetted by my employer. Viewer discretion advised: I'm going to be direct as usual, and some sensibilities will be inevitably offended in the process. Apologies in advance. Why Do I Care? I have spent my entire working life -- all 40+ years of it -- involved with enterprise IT, mostly on the vendor side. I am not exaggerating: at 14, I had a part-time job coding BASIC on a timeshare mainframe. Teletype, punch tape and a 300 baud modem. That sort of thing tended to happen in Silicon Valley where I grew up. Cheap labor :) As a result, I have grown a deep empathy for those that... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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One of the bigger pieces of industry news last week was VMware announcing they intend to eventually offer an infrastructure service built on top of a new AWS bare metal offering. My corner of the internet broke for a while as a result. Before long, I was inevitably getting pinged by my Twitter brethren for a personal view. I spent a few days thinking about it from various angles. Sorry to say, I come away with more negatives than positives. Fair warning: I left EMC and VMware because I didn't see a viable cloud strategy. I joined Oracle on the strength of their cloud strategy. So far, it's played out exactly as I thought it would. Not much has changed with my perspective since then. Including this latest press release. What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been The story of VMware trying to come up with a viable public cloud strategy is a long and torturous one. vCloud Director. vCHS (also known as vCheese). vCloud Air 1. vCloud Air 2. EMC buying Virtuastream and mistakenly positioning it as "the answer", then backing down. The IBM deal. The loose affiliation of the vCloud Air Network. And now this. Forgive me if... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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Today is the day Dell officially acquires EMC. Having spent 18 years at EMC (and two at VMware), my attention keeps wandering to the topic -- and its meaning -- even though I've moved on to bigger and better things. Maybe it's time for a little writing therapy? We all have had plenty of time to process the single largest tech acquisition in history. Today, the combined DellEMC marketing machine is fully cranked up, blasting Happy Rays into the interwebs. All as expected. As most big events are a mixture of positives and negatives, this one is no exception. Congrats To Joe Tucci I'm not shy to say, I've always been a big fan of Joe's. His plan to build EMC from a pure play storage company into something more meaningful (e.g. EMC Federation) was well-intended. He also gets credit for the smartest IT acquisition evah -- VMware. Many of us knew for many years that EMC as a standalone entity wasn't going to be critical mass in the new world order. Joe did the right thing, he sold the company to the right guy for the right price. Way to go, Joe. It was a privilege to be on... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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Sometimes, you see a phrase that makes you pause and think. I tripped over this one, courtesy of Justin Warren, who was commenting on the recent VMworld announcements. The phrase made me think. Thinking is good. Thank you, Justin. New ideas in the IT world are bright, shiny objects that initially capture our attention. They then become utterly familiar, and the world progresses to newer, brighter and shinier things. VMware was founded in 1998. It was acquired by EMC over 12 years ago. Next week, EMC disappears and becomes part of Dell. Life moves on. VMware has been very successful in helping to define what "private cloud" means inside a data center. Amazon Web Services was publicly launched in 2006, a decade ago. It too has been wildly successful, and has helped to define what "public cloud" means outside of data centers. Both can reasonably be described as "legacy", if nothing else than through age and maturity alone. Both could be described as providing infrastructure as a service, or IaaS. They also can be described as two competing industry forces attempting to capture each other's territory. When it comes to enterprise IT, I can't make the argument that either is... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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I must be getting old. I can't remember whether I mentioned it here or not. I've been writing pieces for Forbes for a while now, and just realized that I've built up a decent number of articles there. You'll note that the tone and target audience is a bit different than what I do here. I think some of the pieces came out pretty well, if I do say so myself :) Chuck's articles on Forbes Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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Last week, I wrote a blog post "Why I've Lost Interest In Hyperconverged". My argument, in a nutshell, was that the central value proposition for hyperconverged was taking cost out of infrastructure by consolidating less-important applications. That creates two strategic problems for its vendors. First, as it's all about saving money and not providing any relevant application-specific differentiation, all players will soon be in a race to the bottom: who can do the job for the least money? Second, if the primary customer motivation is cost reduction, the next logical step would be to ship those virtualized clusters off to some sort of public cloud. Especially if it was super-easy to do so. Basically, game over for on-premises vendors at that point. Once a workload has gone to the public cloud, there is precisely zero economic opportunity left for any of the familiar hyperconverged players because -- well -- none of them have a public cloud. This move to the public cloud is not simple hand-waving on my part. It's way easier than you think, and is being widely used today. I'm going to use Oracle Ravello as just one example as to why I am resolute in my prediction... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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Watching the current raft of hyperconverged players go at it in the blogosphere has turned into a movie where I've lost all interest in the plot and characters. Here's just one recent example of yet another intense piece from my colleague Chad Sakac. The problem is that I'm just not interested anymore. I know how the movie predictably ends. That wasn't always the case. Long-term readers will remember me going on and on about hyperconverged, etc. etc. Things change. I move on. Maybe you should too? Here's the pitch: for medium-to-larger IT shops, hyperconverged isn't strategic, it's just a tactical cost-reduction tool. And if something isn't strategic to the people who buy large amounts of IT stuff, it's not strategic to me either. Everything else gets quickly commodotized. Since I've historically done a decent job predicting shifts in the IT world, you might want to invest a few moments and understand my thinking. Agree or disagree -- it's up to you. What's This All About? Look beyond the buzzword, and you'll find some very simple ideas. A hyperconverged architecture generally involves implementing storage functionality in software and using server-resident storage devices vs. a traditional external storage array. The resulting environment... Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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With every industry trend, there frequently emerges a tipping point that signifies "yes, this is real, this is happening". I offer for your consideration "cloud quotas". The idea is simple: executive management, frustrated by progress, creates a timeline for the IT function to get to cloud, e.g. 80% of workloads by 2020 or similar. Yearly goals are established to get to the desired state. And to put some teeth into it, the IT budget is then forcibly partitioned into two segments: cloud and non-cloud, starting with 2016. The proportion of earmarked cloud spend is raised every budgeting year until the desired strategic target is achieved. The goals are structured in such a way that typical IT cloud-washing won't help much. Yes, IT will get credit for moving desktop and collaboration out, and perhaps that handful of pilot applications that have been moved, and of course any SaaS implemented -- but IT is not likely to get credit for, say, that IaaS-only private cloud sitting in the data center. This is not theoretical: I have seen many examples from around the globe. Where I've seen it implemented, it's non-negotiable. It's real, and it's happening for more than a few large IT... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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I play in two different bar bands these days. I love it. I've been in about a half-dozen other bands, and have auditioned for maybe several dozen over the years. When you invest the time and energy with the right people, it can be enormously fun and deeply satisfying. However, much of the time, not so much. Finding the right band situation isn't easy. One or more things won't click -- often out of your control -- and you have to make the tough choice to stick it out, or move on. Are work situations so different? Not from my perspective. When it all works and works well, teams in the workplace can be huge fun and deeply satisfying. Other times you have to decide whether to slog through it, and hope for the good stuff down the road apiece. And if the magic doesn't materialize, sometimes the wise decision is to politely move on and set up shop elsewhere. Being In A Band Lots of good musicians out there who do well as solo artists. They have my respect. However, playing in a band requires an additional set of musical, social and -- sometimes -- leadership skills. You're thrown... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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Perhaps there is no deeper disappointment in life than when a cherished concept fails to produce the desired results. Such is the case with the industry’s notion of private clouds. I’m throwing in the towel, walking away – and cursing under my breath. It’s a failed concept. Yes, I was seriously seduced early on. Check out this Jan 2009 post where I breathlessly made the case for this new private cloud model. If I wasn't the first person to do so, I was certainly close to being the first. I argued vigorously for the cause for many years. For me, it was the right answer at the right time. I hereby publicly admit the error of my ways. The world has changed, and so must I. Why is it that traditional private clouds have left most IT shops at a dead end? A Simple Concept The idea behind a private cloud was straightforward: use virtualization and a little automation to create an easy-to-consume data center infrastructure service that provides virtual machines and their associated storage. By keeping a little extra capacity around, IT could be much more responsive to that next provisioning request. At the time, private clouds were far... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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If you're a grizzled infrastructure guy like me, you're completely justified in your skepticism when any vendor claims to have announced something Truly NewTM. I mean, how many flash arrays, converged thingies, etc. does the world need? Because we tend to focus on the underlying technology, we tend to miss other equally important innovations. For example, Uber didn't really introduce new technology to the world; they just changed a familiar consumption model. A few weeks back, Oracle announced a new industry category -- cloud machines -- under the banner "Cloud At Customer". First up: the Oracle Cloud Machine -- on-prem PaaS/IaaS targeted at enterprise application developers. Simply put, it's a public cloud model delivered in the data center. It fundamentally changes the familiar consumption model. In the short time since, I've been seriously stunned by the level of customer and partner interest. People immediately grasp the concept, realize that it's fundamentally different alternative, and are immediately curious. We must be on to something here :) Sure, I personally thought the notion of a cloud machine was going to be successful. But at the end of the day, what I think doesn't matter that much; the opinion of thousands of IT... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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From time to time, I am preoccupied with a simple question: why are we all here? Perhaps the same thought nags at you as well. I prefer answers that are simple and direct, and don't require invoking a cosmological constant. It wasn't until later in life that I came up with an answer that works for me. Your results may be different, naturally. I believe it's very simple: we are here to be happy -- individually and collectively. Learning To Be Happy I think the first mission we have as human beings is to learn how to make ourselves happy. As young children, it seems to come quite easily, but it gets more complicated as we become adults. I think it has something to do with hormones. As an adult, I was eventually successful in teaching myself what made me happy. It wasn't obvious at first. I lost a lot of time chasing things that other people told me were supposed to make me happy, but didn't. My world changed significantly for the better when I finally dialed in the working formula. A key learning: listen to yourself, not others. I often meet adults of all ages and all walks... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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Our IT industry has always adored "strategic relationships", we seem to read about several every week. They can be convenient answers to painful gaps in individual strategies. Some work out, most don't. Hope springs eternal. But the announcement of IBM and VMware getting together to deliver cloud services certainly deserves closer inspection -- at least by me. On one level, it makes perfect sense. On another level, not so much. While we'll likely have to wait a year or more to see if this particular spawning bears any offspring, it's definitely worth discussing. What Was Announced From the press release: IBM and VMware have jointly designed an architecture and cloud offering that will enable customers to automatically provision pre-configured VMware SDDC environments, consisting of VMware vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN on the IBM Cloud Another take from someone writing on Forbes is here. And I'm sure there will be many more opinion pieces to join mine over the next few days :) No real specifics were discussed about actual availability, as you'd expect. Why This Makes Sense On one level, you can see what each party gets from this arrangement. VMware, which has been telling a hybrid cloud story for... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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In the automotive world, a defective part from a supplier can result in expense and tragedy. Witness the massive Takata airbag recall, affecting dozens of manufacturers and tens of millions of vehicles on the road today, including potentially yours :( The IT world is no different, we are all dependent on components from others, especially Linux and open source code. Bugs are found, some are serious -- and they must be quickly patched at considerable effort and expense, otherwise tragedy may await. Last week, a particularly nasty bug was found in the widely used glibc code that enabled bad guys to essentially take over a DNS server. More details here, here and here. The severity of the bug resulted in a "PATCH NOW!" directive to the IT community at large. While not as nasty as the infamous Heartbleed or Venom bugs, this one merited a serious and immediate response. For many IT shops, this sort of all-too-common fire drill involves not only a lot of effort, but downtime as well. Except for Oracle shops, that is. The Magic Of Ksplice Typically, it's very hard to patch code when it's running -- sort of like swapping out an airline engine while... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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When "cloud" became A Big Thing several years ago, we were all greatly amused by vendors who simply added a "cloud" moniker to familiar offerings from a previous era. If cloud is the new shiny thing -- and, as a vendor, you're flat-footed in having new offerings -- why not simply rebrand the familiar as "cloud"? Hence the term cloudwashing - painting a thin cloud veneer over what is most certainly not cloud. Microsoft's infamous "To The Cloud!" campaign earned justifiable scorn, for example. Vendors weren't the only ones doing a bit of cloudwashing. Within many IT shops, the notion of a private cloud became quite popular -- a cool thing to do. An awful large number of ordinary virtualized server clusters got internally -- and aspirationally -- rebranded as "private cloud". Fast forward to 2016 -- and cloudwashing is still with us, but in a different form. Early versions of cloudwashing were responses to clear gaps between expectations and reality. Modern cloudwashing is no different. I would argue that, when it comes to enterprise IT cloud strategies, we're still cloudwashing ourselves: vendors and IT shops alike. Modern Cloud Motivations Early cloud motivations were mostly about saving money and not... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2016 at Chuck's Blog
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I was looking forward to joining Wikibon's #crowdchat on "True Private Clouds" last Thursday. I enjoy the topic, the participants and the platform. As is so often the case, it turned out that my travel plans didn't align, so I tried to catch up afterwards. It's probably good that I missed it, as I certainly would have been seen as a disruptive influence :) Make no mistake: I know and like the gang at Wikibon. We've all been around the industry for quite a while. But even a great bunch of guys can have a bad day once in a while. In Search Of The "True Private Cloud" Brian Gracely took a stab at elevating the industry discussion around private clouds at the end of last year. It's a quick read here. TL;DR version: a "true" private cloud is presumably sold and supported by a single vendor: hardware, operating system and hypervisor. I think the goal here is to differentiate against the familiar practice of rolling-your-own from different vendors. Not to quibble, but I think Brian is attempting to describe a better way of going about obtaining a private cloud: e.g. get it all from one vendor, and saving yourself... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2016 at Chuck's Blog