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Chuck Hollis
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The enterprise IT model is changing fast: IT now strives to become the internal service provider of choice, offering an attractive portfolio of services that are convenient for the business to consume. This transformation should not be a revelation to anyone. All of the sudden, IT starts to look more like modern manufacturing, and less of a project-oriented crafts guild. As anyone who has run a good-sized business will know, it’s all about “the numbers”: how much, how good, how fast, etc. You wouldn’t try to run a business without good financial instrumentation — and the same is quickly becoming true for many progressive IT shops. But the question comes up — what tools exist that do all of this? I’d like take you on a quick tour through VMware’s vRealize Business offering. I think is one of the many “hidden gems” in the VMware portfolio. It offers a surprisingly rich suite of ITBM (IT Business Management) functionality that’s becoming essential in modern IT environments — and stands head-and-shoulders above many alternatives. Say what you want about bean-counters: money matters. Why This Is Becoming More Important When IT didn’t have to move fast, its business management tools didn’t have to... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Chuck's Blog
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In our increasingly digital world, sometimes there is no substitute for the Real Thing. As a keyboard player, there are all sorts of great digital analogs of real pianos: stage pianos, software pianos that run on your laptop, etc. Amazing technology -- good sounding, infinitely adjustable, etc. If someone was... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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One of the more fascinating efforts across the EMC Federation (EMC II, VMware and Pivotal) is the substantial investment behind what is now known as Federation Solutions Like many of you, I have developed a natural skepticism of just about anything branded a “solution”, as so many are just marketing wrappers for familiar technologies. This time, though, it appears to be quite different — there’s real engineering at work here, pointed at real heavy-duty challenges. Once you wade into the gory details, there’s a lot to like. The New IT Agenda The rationale for Federation Solutions is based on the presumption that most enterprise IT organizations will have to field 5 new capabilities in the near future. None of these should be a surprise to anyone. 1) Mobility — provide access to all applications and data through mobile devices 2) Apps — use agile development to build new customer-centric applications 3) Big data — build a business data lake to deliver insights using all available data 4) Infrastructure — move to a software-defined data center (SDDC) infrastructure, expand to hybrid cloud 5) Security — use adaptive, data-driven security to rapidly respond to emerging threats Any one of these is a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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The news over the weekend that HP was splitting into two separate businesses made me deeply ruminate over the future of the IT industry — helped along by a few adult beverages. At one level, one could simply say that this is the familiar changing-of-the-guard in the IT business: larger companies with familiar business models being overtaken by smaller and more nimble upstarts. But I think there’s more going on here that meets the eye. When I talk about the future of the IT industry with my colleagues and customers, there's all sorts of theories about what's happening, and why. And, yes, I do have my opinions. Theory #1 — Startups Are Eating The Established Player’s Lunches There’s something many people find exciting about following the startup scene. Me, not so much. It’s like the lottery: many play, few win. In my little corner of the IT world (e.g. storage), we’ve seen all manner of new startups in the last few years. The insider consensus is that supply exceeds demand: the market doesn’t need that many new storage players, so there will be winners and losers. Some seem to be competing on how fast they can burn cash. Too much... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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Navigating a typical career isn’t easy. Your interests aren’t always aligned with everyone else’s: your employer, your manager, your co-workers, etc. Give in to external pressure, and you can end up miserable before long. Take a strong, independent stand, and everyone will likely be unhappy with you before long. So how do you navigate that quintessential win-win? That’s how I see mentoring: helping good people craft their approach to getting what they want out of their career. The advantages for those being mentored are substantial: an impartial perspective, good advice, new connections, and honest feedback. But being a mentor for others also has its rewards, often unappreciated by many. I’ve had the good fortune of being mentored, and being a mentor. I’d recommend both for just about anyone so inclined. On Being Mentored Much has been written on this topic. Some of it is good advice, and some of it is completely unrealistic based on my experience. Not every senior person can be a decent mentor, it demands a specific profile which isn’t exactly common. And not every person who fits the profile has the time or interest in being a mentor. One frequent error I see is people aiming... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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A memo from Captain Obvious: flash continues to change how we think about storage. For me, the party started way back in 2008 when EMC introduced an enterprise-grade flash drive for Symmetrix. Fast forward to 2014, and the party is still rocking strong … Up to now, most of my customer discussions have been how to best use flash with precision: surgical strikes on key areas where IO response times are a problem. The approach makes a certain sense: flash drives are more expensive than the magnetic spinning variety. But in the last six months, it’s not unusual to meet a customer that sees themselves going “all flash” either now, or before too long. The mindset has clearly begun to shift from "use flash to manage performance problems" to "use flash as the default". We're not talking exotic use cases, it's showing up in bread-and-butter enterprise IT settings. And the motivations are quite interesting. The Basics Of Flash If we’re going to over-simplify, it’s all about the need for speed. Yes, flash capacity is more expensive than disk capacity. But when it comes to performance, it’s an outright bargain. For most IO profiles, flash drives clearly offer more performance bang-for-buck... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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If you’re a server manufacturer, you’re playing a very demanding game. There’s a never-ending parade of new technologies you’ve got to rapidly adopt. Customers expect both flawless execution as well as steadily declining prices. And you’ve got some pretty aggressive competitors as well :) You’re also paying attention to shifting workload demands from your customers. As I track the various server vendor announcements, I couldn’t help but notice a pronounced shift towards designs that are obviously intended to be used as part of a storage or database farm. Looks like the pendulum is swinging — again. Differentiating Terms Here, we’re discussing software-based storage (vs. software-defined storage). The distinction is important: software-based storage is anything that doesn’t prefer specialized external storage hardware, e.g. designed to run on industry-standard servers. In this category should be software-based storage products (VSAN, Nexenta, ScaleIO, Scality, Maxta, etc.) as well as HDFS (basically a storage system for big data) as well as the newer databases, etc. Any software that stores and retrieves data, provides persistence and protection, etc. would be part of this discussion. Indeed, even IDC -- the scorekeeper of the storage biz -- has introduced a new tracking category: software-defined storage platform, or SDS-P.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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For those of you interested in software-defined storage, I wanted to point you to two pieces (written by me) that you might find useful. The first is more of a conversational treatment: if you're interested in SDS, what should you be looking for? It's a quick read, and doesn't require that you be an enterprise architect to follow along. The second is a more exhaustive treatise on SDS from a VMware perspective. It is lengthy, detailed and is aimed at enterprise architects who need to take a multi-year view. It will also give you a sense of some of the areas VMware will be focusing on (both alone and with partners) without getting into roadmap details. At some point, these will be posted on the VMware website -- just wanted to give you all a preview! "Understanding The DNA Of Software-Defined Storage" "The VMware Perspective On Software-Defined Storage" As always: feedback, commentary, criticisms, complaints, etc. -- all welcome! -------------------------------- Like this post? Why not subscribe via email? Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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Browse the various online forums, and you’ll see that a good portion of the discussion is around the merits (or lack thereof) of one keyboard vs. another. Hey, we’re keyboard players — no surprise that we pay a lot of attention to the instruments we play! I could make this... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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So many keyboard players obsess on getting the right keyboard (or perhaps several keyboards!). They spend many thousands of dollars — over and over again — looking for that better sound. These same people then often don’t give all that much thought to their amplification. Maybe they think the sound... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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If you’re going to be part of a band, that means learning new music. If you’re going to be moving between bands on a semi-regular basis, that can mean learning a lot of new music quickly. While it would be nice to leisurely learn a new song every few weeks,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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Maybe they see me playing in one of my bands. Maybe I’m at a party, there’s alcohol involved, and there’s a piano nearby. Regardless, I frequently get approached by later-in-life people with that burning question: how do I learn to do what you’re doing? It looks like so much fun... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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If you look how an orchestra is organized, you’ll find the piano next to the other percussion instruments: tympani drums, etc. As pianos produce their sound by hammers hitting strings, it makes a certain sense. While I’m always impressed by a piano player whose technique can produce sensuous and melodic,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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No surprise, I’m out in gorgeous SF for the annual gathering of the vFaithful — VMworld 2014. As before, it’s quite an experience, even for a jaded event veteran like me. Like a desert blooming after a rainstorm, Moscone Center is transformed into a fascinating technology experience, and — then — we wait until next year for it to happen all over again. I’m not capable of giving you a detailed report on everything that happened at VMworld — there’s way too much to cover. Instead, I thought I’d share with you what stood out for me personally. What A Great Place Many of you have been to Las Vegas for big industry events. Let me just say it — San Francisco has its special charms: food, culture, people, weather, scenery, etc. I’m always reminded by what a nice place it can be if you just let it wash over you. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time to be a tourist. For most people, VMworld is an all-day slog from Sunday through Wednesday, and perhaps Thursday. If you’re involved in IT infrastructure, this is the big show of the year. Yes, it’s about server virtualization. It’s also about networking,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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My corner of the IT industry is foisting a new concept on enterprise IT shops: software-defined storage. Supposedly, it’s TNT — the next thing! But we as vendors need to be held accountable for making our case. The existing storage kit seems to be doing the job; why would we need anything radically different? Where’s the big advantage, and — more importantly — is the expected gain worth the trouble? Unless we — as an industry — can make our case for the new technology, it will join the scrap heap of glittery ideas once considered and eventually discarded. But that won’t happen here — at least, that’s what I think. When Will You Hit The Storage Wall? Maybe software-defined storage doesn’t solve an immediate, burning problem for you right now, but — over time — many IT organizations will hit an interesting wall. Some are clearly there already, more are inevitably approaching. Here’s what the "storage wall" looks like: #1 -- Storage capacities continue to grow and grow; fueled by a potent combination of new information types (e.g. big data, IoT, rich content, etc.) and rapidly declining hardware costs. Gigabytes become terabytes and then petabytes and on to exabytes.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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"Music is like sex -- it's more fun when you do it with other people" There's only so much fun you can have playing music by yourself. At some point, most of us will venture out and try to join other like-minded musicians to be part of a band. Some... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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As a younger version of my present self, I was supremely confident in what I knew to be true — especially when it came to all things enterprise IT tech. There was generally accepted wisdom about many things; to disagree with certain tenets made people question your expertise. But with age and experience, I realized that many of the “obvious truths” on which I had built my belief system were quickly becoming fallacies. Time for a new religion? No, not really — more of a never-ending appreciation of how the world really works. That means modifying old frameworks, and creating new ones. I often meet younger versions of myself, also supremely confident in their current beliefs. I don’t try and challenge them directly, but I do make the point that “obvious truths” in this business have a very short shelf-life indeed. Enterprise IT Matters Since I’ve spent most of my career working for IT vendors, it was natural for me to assume early on that I was selling to the most important people on earth: enterprise IT organizations. Imagine my disappointment when I started to realize that — in many situations — IT is just another supporting function, like HR,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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I have always been a piano player first and foremost. Other keyboardists are all about organ, or synths, or sometimes a Rhodes fan here or there -- but my roots are firmly planted in the sounds of acoustic pianos. I am what I am. It's one thing when you're playing... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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The more I meet different musicians, the more I realize most everyone's motivations for playing are different. Some people aren't quite sure why they do what they do. But if I'm going to be successful at interacting with them -- and making it work musically -- I'll sooner or later... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2014 at Late Bloomer
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No, I didn’t append the word “stupid” to the title of this blog post. I do admit I had a moment of temptation, but then realized that I don’t like demeaning titles, and assume the same for most of you as well. But I will ‘fess up to a certain level of frustration results when discussing advanced IT concepts with my colleagues and customers. The natural temptation is to put whatever’s being discussed on the operating table, and surgically dismembering a big concept into constituent technologies, which are then individually criticized. Frequently, the forest is lost in a critique about individual components of the trees. Can I attempt a big picture? IT consumption continues to balloon exponentially with no end in sight. Between commodity hardware and open source, the traditional ingredients are predictably getting cheaper and cheaper — but not outracing demand, it seems. Which leaves us with a renewed and intense focus on operational efficiency: primarily the effort required to get something done. While new shiny technologies are always interesting, the new lens should be “how does this new thing enable a new operational model?” Because how we do things is becoming much more important than what we use... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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Many of my VMware colleagues and I are seeing the same thing, time and time again. We’re doing a general update on things VMware — a smorgasbord of different topics. We get to the segment on vCHS — VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service. Frequently, they either haven’t heard about it, or don’t know much about it. That's an opportunity waiting to happen. Because within 5 minutes, they’ll quickly grasp how a hybrid cloud is different, and how they might use it. Heads nod, light bulbs go off, the discussion gets animated — all that. Given the inherent skepticism of many enterprise IT groups towards All Things Cloud, you might not expect that sort of positive reaction. But true hybrid clouds aren’t like other public cloud services — and that’s what makes them so darn appealing to so many enterprise IT groups. Understanding Hybrid Clouds The vast majority of public cloud services are built from a self-contained perspective. They have their own suite of services, their own management tools, their own processes, their own behaviors, etc. We’ve seen enormous differentiation and maturation over the last several years: and there are many good public cloud services out there to choose from. But no... Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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Several years ago, it became clear to me that the next aspirational model for enterprise IT was “IT as a Service”, or ITaaS. At its core was a simple yet powerful idea: that the core IT operational model should be refashioned around the convenient consumption of IT services. Under the ITaaS model, most everything IT does is now presented as a variable service, marketed to users, with supply driven by the resulting demand. IT becomes the internal service provider of choice. Now, several years later, that once-controversial idea has clearly grown deep roots, with many examples of progressive IT organizations embracing this perspective. Some have made the transition, some are mid-journey, others have yet to begin. The IT world has moved forward. So, it’s fair to ask — what might come next? I have a strong suspicion as to what the next operational model will be. Automation: The Ultimate IT Productivity Lever "Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum one which to place it, and I will move the world" -- Archimedes When it comes to continually improving IT productivity, automation is that lever. It's the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to IT outcomes. Progressively... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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I have the distinct privilege of working closely with VMware’s VSAN team. As a career storage guy, I find VSAN fascinating on many levels: - It’s a bona-fide storage product from a company not known for storage - It’s a 100% software product, uniquely interwoven with the vSphere hypervisor - It doesn’t look or act like a familiar storage array To say there were a few personal worry-bubbles when we took it to market would be an understatement. What would our customers think? How would storage people react to it? Now that the first full quarter is behind us (and largely public information), I can safely declare: VSAN shows every sign of being a winner. The Public Information As part of VMware’s earnings call, VSAN was identified as a “growth product”, also “well exceeded internal plan” and, in a later interview had “over 300 paying customers”. NSX — another growth product which has been out for bit longer — is now at a $100m run rate. Not too bad for VSAN’s first full quarter out. Heck, just getting a mention in the earnings call is a big deal :) But there's more to the story than those sparse tidbits ...... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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In one corner of our industry, we have a familiar discussion regarding hypervisors, or — more precisely — software-defined compute. In another corner, we have a vigorous debate around software-defined networking. And, closer to home, a completely separate debate around software-defined storage. Shouldn’t they all be aspects of the same discussion? What do we gain by preferring a singular, consistent and integrated view of software-defined disciplines — and what do we lose by considering them individually, using a traditional lens? Let’s Start With Compute … Wrapping your head around software-defined anything can take some serious effort, if my personal experience is any guide. I do what I can to help explain the key ideas, and why they are important. A good starting point for wading into the deep end is our familiar server virtualization — something we all have experience with. Seen through a “software defined” lens, we could better describe it as using application policy to dynamically compose compute services. Here’s an application. Here are the server resources and services I want it to have: memory, vCPUs, HA, priority, etc. I express my desires to the hypervisor using a policy, which then dynamically allocates and manages the resources and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2014 at Chuck's Blog
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I haven't been keeping up on my usual steady blogging pace recently. Maybe there's an industry lull, maybe it's the warm summer, who knows? In the meantime, I'd like to offer my regular readers a selection of earlier posts that have stood the test of time in terms of broad popularity and relevancy. If you've seen these before, my apologies in advance :) #1 -- Writing A Good Strategy Doc For some reason, Google loves this post. I had no idea it would be this popular -- it's been viewed over 100K times, with hundreds of new views every day. That's a lot for me. I guess there are a great deal of people out there who find themselves in the position of having to do this important task, and they go searching. #2 -- Coaching For Corporate Creatives This one touched a deep nerve in more than a few people, judging by the response. Life isn't always grand when you're a square peg and all you can see is round holes. #3 -- Ten Career Tips I've Learned The Hard Way Pragmatic career coaching is something I've always done when the opportunity presents itself. Here's the essence of my... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2014 at Chuck's Blog