Tag Archive for Culture

Answer Honestly: Are you Ersatz Cloud Native?

cloud

As we approach the middle of the year, I’ve been in the full-on strategic planning mode the last couple of weeks and cloud native is a major focus for me! As part of this, I was looking at industry trends and a particular type of organisation caught my eye.

Most organisations often aspire to increase agility, to respond quicker to their customers and market demands, to innovate. However, many organisations have years of technical debt, monolithic application stacks and shrinking IT budgets. IT is still too often seen as a cost centre instead of an opportunity to become a profit centre and agent for growth.

These organisations have one thing in common; they see lifting and shifting to the cloud as the silver bullet.

I thought Cloud was the silver bullet?

Now don’t get me wrong, cloud is AWESOME! It does help to address some of the challenges identified, but anyone who has been working in this space for any length of time will tell you cloud is an enabler, not the solution.

Moving your workloads to cloud is like moving your business from your garage to a shiny new workshop, with an array of amazing tools hanging on the wall just begging to help you with your next project.

You have room to breathe, so your innovation is now limited by your imagination, far more than your square footage! If you come up with an idea that turns out quickly to be garbage, there’s a handy industrial skip out the back, meaning you don’t have to wait 2 weeks until the next grey bin day to get rid of it!

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all! You still need to understand the tools, how they work to achieve outcomes faster and what problems they solve, lest you accidently lop off a finger!

Sounds great! Am I Cloud Native now then?

Here’s the key – unless we re-evaluate everything we do today and adopt new ways of working, we are simply not going to realise the benefit of working out of our shiny new workshop, with our huge array of tools!

In the real world this means your entire process from whiteboard ideation to deployment, the ongoing lifecycle of applications and everything / everyone / every process that touches them!

To me, cloud native means a set of technologies, the methodologies and processes to manage them and a state of mind which needs to permeate an organisation!

If you’ve simply lifted and shifted your existing estate and dropped it into the cloud, you’re not cloud native, you’re simply running VMs in a different data centre.

Much like the famed elevator from Lemony Snicket, VMs in the cloud are simply playing at being Cloud, or more accurately, Ersatz Cloud Native.

Further Reading:

I wrote another brief post on cloud native considerations a while back:
The Complexity of Public Cloud Architecture

NetApp – Is this the dawn of a new day?

NetAppSolidFireBiscuit

Many people in the storage industry believed that NetApp made a pretty big mistake by underestimating the power of flash and its impact on the storage market. What really impressed me is that at Storage Field Day 9, Dave Hitz stood up and openly agreed!

He then went on to explain how they had recognised this and made a strategic decision to purchase one of the hottest and most innovative flash storage companies in the world, SolidFire. This has clearly been done with the intention of using SolidFire as Polyfilla for the hole in their product portfolio, but I would suggest that it is as much about SolidFire becoming a catalyst for modernising and reforming the organisation.

As with almost any company which has been around for a significant period of time and grown to a significant size (currently standing at around 12,500 employees), NetApp has become rather a behemoth, with all of the usual process-driven issues which beset companies of their scale. Much like an oil tanker, they don’t so much measure their turning circle in metres, as they do in miles.

With the exception of a few key figures and some public battles with a certain 3-letter competitor, their marketing has also historically been relatively conservative and their customers the same. As a current and historical NetApp customer and ex-NetApp admin myself, by no means am I denigrating the amazing job they have done over the years, or indeed the quality of the products they have produced! However, of late I have generally considered them to be mostly in the camp of “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”.

Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM

In stark contrast, they have just spent a significant chunk of change on a company that is the polar opposite. SolidFire have not only brilliant engineers and impressive technology, but they also furnished their tech marketing team with some of the most well known and talented figures in the industry. These guys have been backed up by a strong, but relatively small sales organisation, who were not afraid to qualify out of shaky opportunities quickly, allowing them to concentrate their limited resources on chasing business where their unique solution had the best chance of winning. Through this very clear strategy, they have been able to grow revenues significantly year on year, ultimately leading to their very attractive $870m exit.

Having experienced a number of M&As myself, both as the acquiring company and the acquired, I can see some parallels to my own experiences. Needless to say, the teams from both sides of this new venture are in for a pretty bumpy ride over the coming months! NetApp must make the transformation into a cutting edge infrastructure company with a strong social presence, and prove themselves to be more agile to changing market requirements. This is will not be easy for some individuals in the legacy organisation, who are perhaps more comfortable with the status quo. The guys coming in from SolidFire are going to feel rather like they’re nailing jelly to a tree at times, especially when they run into many of the old processes and old guard attitudes at their new employer.

kidding

What gives me hope that the eventual outcome could be a very positive one, is that NetApp senior management have already identified and accepted these challenges, and have put a number of policies in place to mitigate them. For example, as I understand it, the staff at SolidFire have been given a remit that whenever they come across blockers to achieving success for the organisation, to ask some “hard questions”, which are robust in nature to say the least! That said, some are as simple as asking the question “Why?”. With executive sponsorship behind this endeavour ensuring that responses like “because that’s how we’ve always done it” will not be acceptable, I am confident that it will enable the SolidFire guys and gals to work with their new colleagues to affect positive change within the organisation.

I think this is reflected in Jeramiah Dooley’s recent post here, which echoes so many elements of this post I almost considered not hitting publish! 😮

If the eventual outcome of this is to make NetApp stronger and more viable in the long term, then all the better it will be for those who stick around to enjoy it! This, of course, will benefit the industry as a whole by maintaining a strong and broad set of storage companies to keep competition fierce and prices low for customers. Win-win!

bright

It is certainly going to be an interesting couple of years, and I for one am looking forward to seeing the results!

You can find the session videos from all the guys at NetApp here, I would say they are well worth the time to watch:
NetApp Presents at Storage Field Day 9

Further Reading
Some of the other SFD9 delegates had their own takes on the presentation we saw. Check them out here:

Disclaimer/Disclosure: My flights, accommodation, meals, etc, at Storage Field Day 9 were provided by Tech Field Day, but there was no expectation or request for me to write about any of the vendors products or services and I was not compensated in any way for my time at the event.