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The title of this blog post is also the title of a talk I’m giving today at CloudSlam in San Francisco. Creating the presentation gave me an opportunity to think about this issue. While it’s a purposefully provocative title (those are the ones usually picked for presentations, after all), it’s also a question that many IT departments are wrestling with as they feel the impact of cloud computing.


Analysts and management vendors (BMC included) shout from the rooftops about the advent of shadow IT and the fact that if IT does not embrace cloud, they will be a relic of a bygone era. I’m reminded of the hardworking folks that delivered ice before freezers were invented. Is that the future of IT? Is this a foregone conclusion, or can IT still reinvent itself?


I do not believe that the end is near for centralized IT. Cloud is making existing IT practices obsolete, but not the IT function itself. And while the cloud solves many problems, at its core, it is just a new layer of abstraction, and it still has to be managed. Think about what you are getting from a public IaaS provider – a server at a point in time. If that server is turned off, it’s gone. If the application running on that server bogs down, maybe you have crack engineers that built a self-healing application, or maybe there is something that needs to be troubleshot. More likely it’s the latter. There are entire new sets of best practices that haven’t even been written yet for cloud. There is no question that IT must fundamentally change to mirror the abstraction of cloud, and what’s astounding is the pace at which the benefits of cloud are forcing the issue.


What will IT look like in 3-5 years? There will undoubtedly be a portion of IT that will remain unchanged. Applications won’t migrate themselves overnight. While new services and applications will be written to take advantage of cloud, the business case to move every application wholesale is murky at best. Someone will still have to manage those applications running in legacy environments. For the forseeable future, IT will look like a dual-headed beast with the” cloud” head slowly consuming the “legacy” head. 


IT will evolve to focus on the application. Emerging PaaS offerings, both public and private, will allow IT to do away with the drudgery of things like OS patching, golden images, and the like. IT can instead focus on ensuring applications are running smoothly and deploying new services more rapidly. The result will be a huge increase in IT productivity for organizations that invest not just in cloud technologies, but in aligning and retraining their IT staffs to the new way of doing things.


So no, IT is not obsolete, just IT as we know it. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing for anyone involved.

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Back when I was starting out in IT, I was a cub sysadmin working under two more experienced sysadmins who were mentoring me. In a shocking departure from stereotype, only one of them had a beard and wore socks under his sandals. We were running a smallish datacenter with some Unix boxes, some Windows servers (moving from NT4 to 2000) and just introducing some Linux systems into the mix. One of the first tasks I got involved in was a datacenter move. The whole exercise went swimmingly - nothing got lost or fell off a loading dock - until it came time to power things up, and two of our core servers got half way through the boot process and stopped. After some frantic debugging, we realized that at some point in the past, these two machines had somehow ended up cross-mounting filesystems from each other over the network. Thanks to the magic of DNS aliases, nobody had realized this, either at the time or in the analysis prior to our move. The problem was that now they were stuck there like two people standing in front of a door, going "after you", "no, after you", "I insist", and so on ad infinitum.

Image by Peter Facey


The point of my story is that many prospects I speak to about cloud basically want to pick up their existing data centre, and move it into the cloud - which in this context essentially means virtualizing it, and not much more. The problem is that by performing this sort of "forklift upgrade", IT departments will simply perpetuate all the cruft that has piled up in the existing environment over time, such as those NFS cross-mounts. A migration is a good moment to re-examine what is the point of IT. What are the business benefits that IT is expected to deliver? And how is the IT department performing against those metrics?


The value of cloud is emphatically not in business as usual. The intelligence built into serious cloud platforms gives IT a much better understanding of what the IT infrastructure is actually supporting. A friend told me recently that he missed physical servers, because sooner or later someone would trip over a dust-covered box in the server room and ask whether it still needed to be there. Unmanaged virtualized infrastructure offers no such comfort to the sysadmin: virtual servers can soldier on long after their users have left and the business case is no longer valid.


Before just moving your server room into the cloud, take a long hard look at it and see what you can get rid of or improve - and pick a management platform that will let you do that more frequently than you move datacenters, too, so that you can respond to changing user requirements and market conditions.

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Moving to the cloud is almost a mainstream buzz phrase.

But moving to the cloud does not mean outsourcing the need to understand what is going on in your data center.



David Savino, Chief Technology Officer for Column Technologies and one of the initial employees for the company, shares some of the misperceptions over companies using public and private clouds. Savino also includes insight for determining  what’s the right fit for a company-- and when moving to the cloud is not an option.


His best experiences, key lessons, and a glimpse at “Cloud Future” are all included in this 15 minute Podcast.

I invite you to take a listen if you missed it earlier this week.

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I was listening to a local, somewhat cheesy but definitely entertaining radio program here in boston this morning on Kiss 108. Matty, the morning host, has been entertaining Boston residents for over 20 years while keeping us mildly in tune with Top-40 hits (Really? Selena Gomez?) Usually, he and his co-hosts, Billy and Lisa, wax on about the latest travesty of sport or the rumors of another Kardashian pregnancy - but today Matt declared something like:


Am I the only one who absolutely has no idea what this cloud is? I fear that the people who know what the cloud is will take over.


Then they called in a 19 year old intern who explained that the cloud was basically remote file sharing. To this kid's credit, he did clarify that the file wasn't stored in the actual clouds, but on a server. "somewhere".


If you read this blog, you take for granted that you know what the cloud is. And, that it isn't just Apple's iCloud. You can define Hadoop. You understand multi-threaded processing. You know what you'd do if a genie bestowed upon you $100,000 worth of Amazon EC2 credit (you'd ask for the same for S3!). You can parse that last sentence.


But, for the rest of the world - let me try to sum it up.


There are times when our computers run really slow and we curse at them. There are times when web sites load really slowly too. Sometimes, that's because your computer is old, or because it doesn't have enough memory, or because you've filled the hard drive or run out of bandwidth because your kid is watching YouTube upstairs. This happens to companies too - but they are trying to do very complicated things with their computers. Like tracking their entire manufacturing line - or calculating the best route for their delivery trucks across the country - or providing you with that very web site that is slow.


The cloud is a way to tap into a seemingly unlimited amount of computing power. So, things don't have to be slow anymore. If you don't have enough, you just rent more from the cloud. Like a timeshare - but for more, faster computers.


Matty, every morning, it's a pleasure. I listen to you even when I'm on the road with the new app. So, you know, you're already in the cloud.

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This week I am in the Middle East, where there are very few clouds in the sky, but on the other hand every CIO has clouds on their mind.



Image by Makz

I had the opportunity to speak to a gathering of regional CIOs arranged by a partner of ours, and to discuss their hopes and fears for this latest evolution of IT. Their main concerns were around governance, risk and compliance, performance and capacity management, and organizational transformation. The feeling in the room was that most cloud service providers do not yet have a sufficiently mature and reliable model for customers to trust them with mission-critical workloads.


Among the aspects which were felt to be neglected, security was highly ranked, but the main expectation on the part of the group was guidance and best practices. In the view of the assembled CIOs, service providers need to move beyond pure infrastructure hosting and offer their customers guidance and expertise. However, very few CIOs said they would feel comfortable handing over their entire IT operations to a single provider. Rather, they expect to see a world of many smaller providers, each specializing in one particular niche of a complex IT ecosystem.


This preference for multiple specialist providers as opposed to a single larger partner is partly as a hedge against failure of individual providers' operations, but it is also very much of a piece with the move that is underway towards end-user empowerment. Where each team or even individual user might bring their own requirements and expect IT to be able to satisfy them rapidly, a single provider will almost certainly not be able to respond in an acceptable timeframe to all these very diverse requests. The CIO will however be expected to provide control and governance around all of the constantly changing mosaic of providers.


This is where Business Service Management (BSM) comes in: thanks to the heterogeneous approach at every level of the stack, BMC is able to provide central visibility and management into a diverse and evolving IT environment. As one of the CIOs present at the Riyadh event put it, "anything else means setting ourselves up for failure".

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Sometimes you see something and just can't help but gush about it.  I submit to you exhibit A: in a speech by VMware CTO Steve Herrod, he states:

"In June when we launched vSphere 5, we announced something called the Cloud Infrastructure Suite.  And this is really more of a marketing term. Those of you know our products deeply know that they don’t fit as well together as they need to. Some of them have multiple databases, some don’t look the same, some install differently, and what I can’t stand that is Site Recovery Manager doesn’t currently work with vCloud Director, as several examples. So, what we are basically able to say is that we created and acquired companies and led to a lot of individual products, but they don’t work well enough together yet."


Well, I have to give Mr. Herrod credit: he's telling it like it is.  I certainly won't attempt to argue the point that VMware's products don't integrate well enough.


VMware makes a great hypervisor infrastructure solution, one that has arguably changed the IT landscape forever.  But infrastructure vendors are historically not good sources for IT management solutions, and Mr. Herrod's comments only reinforce this point.  He goes on to cite how VMware CTO Paul Maritz came from Microsoft, where integration of the Office suite changed the IT landscape, and how this same philosophy will result in better integrations from VMware.  However, I would draw more attention regarding Mr. Maritz's heritage at Microsoft to the point that they have been unable to create thorough, competitive management solutions to go along with their own infrastructure platform.  To me, that is far more telling of the future of management solutions to come from VMware.


For IT management solutions, you need a platform-neutral IT management expert.  BMC is just that.  BMC invented the notion of Business Service Management in 2003, forever changing the landscape of IT Management.  And while VMware has been selling their not-much-more-than-marketing management offering, BMC has been selling a true, out-of-the-box cloud management solution.  It integrates (really, not just in marketing-speak) best-of-breed provisioning, configuration automation, change management, configuration management, compliance management, performance management and capacity management capabilities into a single solution, deployed from a single installer.  And it does so across a range of physical, virtual and external cloud platforms, freeing you from lock-in to any platform vendor, and therefore preserving price flexibility.


It's real, it's integrated, and the latest version has been shipping about as long as VMware's marketing offering.

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So thus far two post on “open”: Part 1: What is “Open”?” and “Part 2: “Open” is Infrastructure Neutral”.  In those posts, I wrote about what I believe“Open” should really mean.  In this post, I will explore BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management and show where it is “Infrastructure Neutral.


When you first log into BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management as a Cloud Administrator, you will begin realize how powerful this product really is!  I like to say… we need to start at the bottomand work our way up:



As you can see, BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management is a very powerful.  Put simply, it can help you build and address hybrid cloud scenarios. In parallel, BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management can support various compute, networking, storage and public cloud resources.


Don’t believe me, here is what we support today out of the box:

  • PublicClouds: Amazon Web Services, Harris Cloud with more key clouds coming soon
  • Hypervisors: VMWare, Citrix XenServer, Redhat/KVM with more coming soon
  • ServerHardware: Dell, HP, IBM
  • NetworkHardware: Cisco
  • StorageHardware: EMC, NetApp


Couple this with our:

  • ProviderAPI: Enables onboarding of providers not yet supported out-of-box.
  • REST API:Can be used to customize BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management to fit the needs of your organization, extend the capabilities of BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management, automate repetitive processes and/or create your own portal into BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management.


Combining all this together, BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management IS “Infrastructure Neutral.”  Meaning, we will not lock you in to using a particular cloud or vendor but rather enable you to build a multi-tiered, full-stack configurable cloud services to simplify the delivery of service offerings within your enterprise.


So back to my original premise… “What is Open?”  Translate all the above and we get “Infrastructure Neutral” which is really code for “No Lock-In” which is really code for “Open”.  And again, ask the question: Am I locked to one particular vendor whether at the cloud, infrastructure or management layers?  With BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management I’d say the answer is no!

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To my relief, new terms are emerging that are even more buzzwordy and fashionable than "cloud". The specific examples I have in mind are DevOps and its younger cousin, NoOps.


lookoverthewall.jpgTraditionally there has been a split, not to say a wall with spikes on top and a trench filled with fire, between IT operations and application developers. In this mode, developers write and package the application, and then throw it over the wall for IT to deploy and manage. Of course this can lead to issues, such as unproductive blamestorming meetings where sysadmins accuse coders of incompetent development, and coders deride sysadmins for being overly cautious stick-in-the-muds who won't deliver what the apps team needs.


DevOps is basically the latest spin on the long-standing notion that developers should have the competence and access rights to do their own administration, at least for the pre-production environments. Of course this can cause problems in the hand-over, especially around documenting requirements and dependencies, but the DevOps view is that having IT in the loop for every change is just too much of a bottleneck, especially for the rapid deployment cycles associated with modern web applications.


NoOps is the extension of this concept to the idea that IT should not be in the loop for any actions. In this view developers do not simply release their code to an environment which is designed and managed by a separate ops team. Instead developers take over all responsibility for architecture design, capacity planning, performance optimization, and so on.


This of course makes perfect sense. The major cause of outages is human error, and not necessarily the fairly obvious moment when the poor overworked sysadmin realizes one oh-no-second after hitting Enter that he was not where he thought he was. The major cause of outages is complexity, so the issue is the valid change that is made here but not there, or the upgrade that happened to one component but did not flow down to later stages of the lifecycle. These are the types of human error that can either cause failures on deployment, or those more subtle issues which only show up under load, or every second Thursday, or only when the customer's name has a Y in it. Instead NoOps aims to eliminate downtime and improve performance by removing every possible human intervention and hand-over, and instead allowing one single original design, created by the developers who understand the system, to propagate everywhere automatically.


In this world there is still a role for IT, but it moves away what I once heard a sysadmin friend describe to a colleague as "monkey-compatible tasks" - basically low-value-added, tactical, hands-on-keyboard activity. Instead the IT team has a more consultative and strategic approach, working in partnership with developers and other users of IT infrastructure to ensure that they all have access to what they need without bottlenecks or barriers to entry.


This is a perfect fit for BMC's Service Blueprints, because trying to do NoOps by scripting, or suddenly dropping this approach into an existing organization without warning, is a recipe for disaster. The Service Blueprints allow developers to design for the entire application lifecycle, or rather, for the entire lifecycle of the business service which that application implements, and hand that over to automation for the delivery.


What do you think? Is the world ready for NoOps? Are you ready for NoOps?

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So last week I wrote a blog title “Part 1: What is “Open”?”.  In that post, I laid the ground work on what I believe “Open” should really mean.  Now as I began to type this post, I slowly realized that I needed to break this series into three parts, so this is part two of three.  In this post, I will begin to explore BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management and set the stage to define how it is “Infrastructure Neutral.


Let’s face it… the real goal of “Open” is to prevent “Lock-In” across vendors, clouds and supported hardware. When dealing with medium to large enterprise, I tend to hear three things:


  1. I want to enable hybrid cloud and have the ability to manage all my cloud resources under a single management interface.
  2. I want to gain control of public cloud utilization.
  3. I need a solution that does not care what vendor(s) is/are underneath it.


Translation… “Infrastructure Neutral.”  Yes, I am calling public clouds “infrastructure.”  Let’s face it, the goal in leveraging “cloud” is the hopes it can extend your datacenter’s infrastructure.


So how does BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management fit in here?   Let’s take a look…


Goal: How we canget a single portal that can offer up service offerings that span both private and public cloud and not care what is beneath it:



If you notice, BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management can offer a Cloud End-User access to an array of services defined by a Cloud Administrator.  I hear a lot of customers asking:


  1. I want to have the ability to control what service offerings are ran and where, but still embrace public cloud.
  2. I need to offer up public cloud but have it appear as a service in my enterprise.


With BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management we can offer up this logic!  That is, provide the ability to display a portal of service offerings that can plug into various resources and as well as various clouds.  The big question is how?


I will explore this in part three next week… Until then, remember, “Open” is more than just open source!

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It's amazing what I.T. was meant to be.