Tag Archive for Cloud

Startup Spotlight: Re-skill, Pivot or Get Squashed

spotlight

The subject matter of this post is a startup of sorts and was triggered by a conversation I had with an industry veteran a few months back. By veteran of course, I mean an old bugger! ūüėČ

It is an entity which begins its journey sourcing a target market in the tech industry and spends day and night pursuing that market to the best of its ability.

It brings in resources to help meet the key requirements of the target market; some of those resources are costly, and others not so much.

Occasionally it hits a bump in the road with funding and potentially needs to find other sources of investment, and may go through several rounds of funding over the course of a number of years. Eventually it gets to a point where the product is of a decent quality and market value.

Then it does a market analysis and discovers that the market has shifted and if the entity does not pivot or indeed re-skill, they will become irrelevant within a few short years.

Eh?

I am of course talking about the career of an IT professional.

Though I may be slightly exaggerating on the becoming irrelevant quite so fast, we certainly all made the choice to follow a career in one of the fastest moving industries on the planet. We have no choice but to continue to develop and maintain our knowledge, in order to keep driving our careers forward.

As a self-confessed virtual server hugger with a penchant for maintaining a pretty reasonable home lab, I enjoy understanding the detailed elements of a technology, how they interact, and acknowledging where the potential pitfalls are. The cloud, however, is largely obfuscated in this respect; to the point where many cloud companies will not even divulge the location of their data centres, never mind the equipment inside them and configuration thereof!

Obfuscation

Obfuscation

That said, those of you with a keen eye may have noticed a shift in my twitter stream in the past year or so, with subjects tending towards a more public cloudy outlook… Talking to a huge range of customers in various verticals on a regular basis, it feels to me that a great many organisations are right on the tipping point between their current on-premises / dedicated managed services deployment models, and full public cloud adoption (or at the very least hybrid!).

It’s hard to believe that companies like AWS have actually been living and breathing public cloud for over ten years already; that’s almost as long as my entire career! In that time they have grown from niche players selling a bit of object storage, to the¬†Behemoth-aaS they are today. To a greater or lesser extent (and for better or worse!), they are now the yardstick upon which many cloud and non-cloud services are measured. This is also particularly the case when it comes to cost, much to the chagrin of many across the industry!

To me, this feels like the optimum time for engineers and architects across our industry (most definitely including myself) to fully embrace public and hybrid cloud design patterns. My development has pivoted predominantly towards technologies which are either native to, or which support public cloud solutions. Between family commitments, work, etc, we have precious little time to spend in personal development, so we need to spend it where we think we will get the most ROI!

charge

So what have I been doing?

Instead of messing about with my vSphere lab of an evening, I have spent recent months working towards certified status in AWS, Azure, and soon, GCP. This has really been an eye opener for me around the possibilities of designs which can be achieved on the current public cloud platforms; never mind the huge quantity of features these players are likely to release in the coming 12 months, or the many more after that.

Don’t get me wrong, of course, everything is not perfect in the land of milk and honey! I have learned as much in these past months¬†about workloads and solutions which are NOT appropriate for the public cloud, as I have about solutions which are! Indeed, I have recently produced a¬†series of posts covering some of the more interesting AWS gotchas, and some potential workarounds for them. I will be following up with something similar for Azure in the coming months.

Taking AWS as an example, something which strikes me is that many of the features are not 100% perfect and don’t have every feature and nerd knob under the sun available. Most seem to have been designed to meet the 80/20 rule and are generally¬†good enough¬†to meet the majority of design requirements more than adequately. If you want to meet a corner use case¬†or a very specific requirement, then maybe you need to go beyond native public cloud tooling.

Perhaps the same could be said about the mythical Full Stack Engineer?

Good Enough

Anyhow, that’s enough rambling from me‚Ķ By no means does this kind of pivot imply that everything we as infrastructure folks have learned to date has been wasted. Indeed I personally have no intention to drop “on premises” skills and stop designing managed dedicated solutions. For the foreseeable future there will likely be a huge number of appropriate use cases, but in many, if not most cases I am being engaged to look at new solutions with a publicly cloudy mindset!

Indeed, as Ed put it this time last year:

What’s your definition of Cloud DR, and how far down do the turtles go?

Dr Evil Disaster Recovery

WARNING –¬†Opinion piece! No Cloud Holy Wars please!

DR in IT can mean many different things to different people. To a number of people I have spoken to in the past, it’s simply HA protection against the failure of a physical host (yikes!)! To [most] others, it‚Äôs typically protection against failure of a data centre. As we discovered this week, to AWS customers, a DR plan can mean needing to protect yourself against a failure impacting an entire cloud region!

But how much is your business willing to pay for peace of mind?

When I say pay, I don’t just mean monetarily, I also mean in terms of technical flexibility and agility as well.

What are you protecting against?

What if you need to ensure that in a full region outage you will still have service? In the case of AWS, a great many customers are comfortable that the Availability Zone concept provides sufficient protection for their businesses without the need for inter-region replication, and this is perfectly valid in many cases. If you can live with a potential for a few hours downtime in the unlikely event of a full region outage, then the cost and complexity of extending beyond one region may be too much.

That said, as we saw from the failure of some AWS capabilities this week, if we take DR in the cloud to it’s most extreme, some organisations may wish to protect their business against not only a DC or region outage, but even a global impacting incident at a cloud provider!

This isn’t just technical protection either (for example against a software bug which hits multiple regions); what if a¬†cloud provider goes under due to a financial issue? Even big businesses can disappear overnight (just ask anyone who used to work for Barings Bank, Enron, Lehman Brothers, or even 2e2!).

Ok, it’s true that the likelihood of your cloud provider going under is pretty teeny tiny, but just how paranoid are your board or investors?

Cloud DR

Ultimate Cloud DR or Ultimate Paranoia?

For the ultimate in paranoia, some companies consider protecting themselves against the ultimate outage, by replicating between multiple clouds. In doing so, however, they must stick to using the lowest common denominator between clouds to avoid incompatibility, or indeed any potential for the dreaded “lock-in”.

At that point, they have then lost the ability to take advantage of one of the key benefits of going to cloud; getting rid of the “undifferentiated heavy lifting” as Simon Elisha always calls it. They then end up less agile, less flexible, and potentially spend their time on things which fail to add value to the business.

What is best for YOUR business?

These are all the kinds of considerations which the person responsible for an organisation’s IT DR strategy needs to consider, and it is up to each business to individually decide where they draw the line in terms of comfort level vs budget vs “lock-in” and features.

I don’t think anyone has the right answer to this problem today, but perhaps one possible solution is this:

No cloud is going to be 100% perfect for every single workload, so why not use this fact to our advantage? Within reason, it is possible to spread workloads across two or more public clouds based on whichever is best suited to those individual workloads. Adopting a multi-cloud strategy which meets business objectives and technical dependencies, without going crazy on the complexity front, is a definite possibility in this day and age!

(Ok, perhaps even replicating a few data sources between them, for the uber critical stuff, as a plan of last resort!).

The result is potentially a collection of smaller fault domains (aka blast radii!), making the business more resilient to significant outages from major cloud players, as only some parts of their infrastructure and a subset of applications are then impacted, whilst still being able to take full advantage of the differentiating features of each of the key cloud platforms.replication photocopierOf course, this is not going to work for everyone, and plenty of organisations struggle to find talent to build out capability internally on one cloud, never mind maintaining the broad range of skills required to utilise many clouds, but that’s where service providers can help both in terms of expertise and support.

They simply take that level of management and consulting a little further up the stack, whilst enabling the business to get on with the more exciting and value added elements on top. Then it becomes the service provider’s issue to make sure they are fully staffed and certified on your clouds of choice.

*** Full Disclosure *** I work for a global service provider who does manage multiple public clouds, and I’m lucky enough to have a role where I get to design solutions across many types of infrastructure, so I am obviously a bit biased in this regard. That doesn’t make the approach any less valid! ūüôā

The Tekhead Take

Whatever your thoughts on the approach above are, it’s key to understand what the requirements are for an individual organisation, and where their comfort levels lie.

An all-singing, all-dancing, multi-cloud, hybrid globule of agnostic cloudy goodness is probably a step too far for most organisations, but perhaps a failover physical host in another office isn’t quite enough either‚Ķ

I would love to hear your thoughts? Don’t forget to comment below!

Top 10 Tekhead Posts of 2016

I’m pleased to say that I upped my game somewhat over the past year, managing to churn out 62 posts in 2016, more than double the 28 posts I produced in 2015!

There were a few other interesting trends over the previous year. The balance between VMware and other subjects has definitely shifted for me, where for example, I wrote well over a dozen posts on AWS.

I guess this is probably representative of both my recent role change, as well as the shift in my customers from being 90%+ VMware houses, to a broad mix of different cloud platforms, both public (AWS / Azure) and private (VMware / OpenStack).

This trend is only going to accelerate in the future, and I suggest Scott Lowe’s Full Stack Journey podcast would be well worth your time subscribing to for great information on how to avoid being left behind as our industry morphs over the coming years!

thecloud

It’s worth noting that this trend is also mirrored in the top 5 articles alone, which include popular newer technologies such as Docker and AWS. That said, it’s great to see the Intel NUC Nanolab series is still as popular as ever, and people are obviously still keeping their vSphere skills and certs up to date, based on the VCP delta study guide popularity.

You may also have noticed that I have been a little quieter of late. The main reasons for this have been down to starting my new role earlier this year, studying for exams, plus a number of other projects I’ve been involved in (such as the Open TechCast podcast). Hopefully I can find a little more balance between them all in 2017, though I already have a couple of podcasts, a VMUG presentation, and a possible exam lined up for January so I’m not really helping myself on that front!

Tekhead Post Stats 2016

So, enough jibber jabbing! Here follows the top 10 most popular posts of the past 12 months.

Tekhead Top 10 Posts of 2016
  1. My Synology DSM Blue LED issue was actually just a failed drive!
  2. Installing Docker on Ubuntu Quick Fix
  3. NanoLab – Running VMware vSphere on Intel NUC – Part 1
  4. Fix for VMware Remote Console unrecoverable error: (vmrc)
  5. AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Exam Study Guide & Resources
  6. VCP6-DCV Delta Exam (2V0-621D) Study Guide and Exam Experience
  7. NetApp – Is this the dawn of a new day?
  8. NanoLab – Part 10 – Your NUCs are nice and cool, but what about your stick?
  9. Index of Tekhead.it Blog Posts on Amazon AWS
  10. Quick Fix for “The task was canceled by a user” when deploying OVA in vCenter 6

Something Mike Preston and I discussed on our recent Open TechCast podcast episode, was how it can be a little frustrating as a blogger that often an opinion piece which took ages to write and edit will get a small number of views, whilst a quick tip which took a couple of minutes to jot down, might get thousands or even tens of thousands over time!

Gladly, my top 10 this year includes both types, so my time wasnt completely wasted! ūüôā

Anyway thats enough from me for now; all the best for 2017 folks!

Now that’s what I call… Tech Predictions 2017

predictions

At this time of year, it is customary to look back at the past 12 months and make some random or not-so-random guesses as to what will happen over the coming 12. As such, what could be more fitting for my final post of 2016?!

Here’s a few of my personal best, worst, and easy guess candidates for 2017‚Ķ

Tekhead Predictable Tech Predictions 2017

Easy Guesses

Come on Alex, even Penfold could have predicted these!

  • AWS will continue to dominate the cloud market, though the rate at which they deploy new features will start to slow (over 1000 a year is pretty unsustainable!). Their revenues will continue to grow at gangbuster rates, however their market share will be slightly eroded as people experiment more with their competitors too.
  • Microsoft Azure will grow massively (not quite 100% but not far off it). Their main growth will probably be in hosting enterprises and typical line of business applications as people move their legacy junk into the cloud. The recent announcements of the Single Instance VM SLA of 99.9% will definitely accelerate this as customers will feel less include to refactor their applications for cloud.
  • Distributed everything!
  • Docker will start to become more mainstream production and less Dev/Test.
  • Google will kill off at least one popular service with multiple millions of users.
  • The homelab market will reduce as people do more and more of their studying in the cloud.
  • Podcasting will become the new blogging (if it hasn’t already!)
  • DellEMC will continue to hack off bits of its anatomy to pay back that cheeky little $67Bn debt.
  • I continue to use memes as a crutch to make my otherwise lifeless articles marginally more interesting!obvious
Best Guesses

Its on the cards… maybe?

  • Google will continue to be ignored by most enterprises for Cloud IaaS. They will gain some reasonable growth in the web application space after another mass marketing activity to developers, ISVs and hosters.
  • Oracle grows Cloud revenues 50% or more but market share remains small. Their growth is mainly driven by IaaS revenue as customers begin to move their workloads to be closer to their data in the Oracle PaaS and SaaS services.
  • There will be no major storage company IPO in 2017, i.e. over $200m.
  • Many storage startups will run out of funding and die on the vine (depressing I know!). Their IP will be snapped up by the old guard storage companies in the proceeding fire sales‚Ķ
    fire-sale
  • 3D XPoint will begin to creep into storage arrays by the end of the year, fuelling another storage VC funding bubble for at least another 12 months for any company who claims to have an innovative way to use it.
  • A major cloud provider suffers a global outage.
Worst Guesses

These probably won’t happen, but if any of them do, I’ll claim smugly that I knew they were always going to!

  • Pure Storage will make an acquisition of a storage startup to create their third product line, perhaps a secondary storage company (i.e. not just all flash) along the lines of Cohesity.
  • Cisco will buy a storage company. They will be more successful at integrating it than they were with Whiptail! (Which wouldn’t be difficult‚Ķ ūüėģ )
  • Spanning a single application over multiple clouds becomes a real possibility, as one or more startups come out of stealth to provide innovative ways to span clouds. Nobody buys into it, except maybe for DR.
  • Tekhead.it becomes the most read blog in the world in 2017
  • Cats take over the planet and dogs are forced to form a rebel alliance which is ultimately victorious when a chihuahua takes out the entire cat leadership in one go, with a stolen reaper drone.Cats vs Dogs
  • Jonah Hill wins Strictly Come Dancing, narrowly defeating Frankie Boyle and Charlie Brooker in the final.
And finally…

Here’s wishing you all an awesome, fun and prosperous 2017!

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