Friday, March 30, 2012

The World Wide Cloud of Things

I've been asked to present on the topic of "Internet of Things and The Cloud" at an upcoming conference in Shanghai next month. As you can probably tell, I can pretty well BS myself out of any situation, I do admit this one has made me pause. What are we talking about when use the term "Internet" of things? Are we talking about the Internet as a architecture, a network, as a or as "uniquely identifiable objects (things) and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure". Then I ask are we talking about "the cloud" as a metaphor for the Internet or are we talking about cloud computing as a structure for getting something done using remote Internet centric computing resources? Are we talking both? I think we're talking both.

It seems pretty clear that we as a society are moving to a world where everything that can be connected, will be connected. In essence if it's powered and has the ability to either provide information either by displaying it or collecting it will be connected to the internet. The Internet is the ultimate information conduit. Now I ask, how does this relate to computing? Maybe it relates in that all this new information must be aggregated, segregated and analyzed. The enormous amount of information will need new "distributed" ways to be stored and worked upon. Enter cloud computing and enter the theses for my presentation. See you in Shanghai April 12th.

(I'll try to post my presentation, after I present it in China)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Yes, Professional Services are Important for Cloud Providers

I keep reading these stories about how various cloud service providers are building up their consulting practices around cloud computing mostly to address the enterprise market (see my previous post for some thoughts on that subject). These articles mostly read like it's a surprising realization. Today's post comes via our friends at GigaOM, I'm actually a little surprised to see this type of marketing piece from them, but that's besides the point.

Let me get to the point. Of course professional services are important. These services are in many cases the most important part of the the decision process for businesses looking at utilizing cloud products. If you're going to implement an SAP platform (as a traditional example) you're most likely going to hire consultants and integrators to assist with the heavy lifting. The cloud is no different. Yes, you're going to hire a cloud consultant, expert, guru, whatever you call them, this is a certainty. The real question is whether that consultant is part of your providers organization or external. But to say this is a surprising realization, is absurd. Unless you of course have all the answers to all the questions.

So my word to wise, your cloud deployment is only as good as those (the people) who are going to implement. Do your homework.

All The Best Apps Are On My Phone

Last night I had a nice chat with my Mom (@mcuniverse) who with her various blogs, websites and gadgets is by all means someone way ahead of the technology curve for her generation. Yet even as a "Computer Buff" she still describes herself as a late adopter of technology. Beside being my Mother and the person who first introduced me to technology, she's a great sounding board when it comes to insights into the technology adoption curve of the boomer generation.

Back to the discussion ~ during it occurred to us that back in the day, (late 1980s) all the best apps were distributed via shareware or freeware specifically for the MS DOS and later Windows PCs. Fast forward 20 years, all the best apps are for, as she said are for "phones". She feels like she's missing all the best stuff, she said she'd love to use but it's only available on phones. Like many other phone only apps.

And you know what? She's right. For the mass market a.k.a "the consumer", the PC has quickly become little more than a web browser with a few office type apps. Thats about it. Anything worth using or doing is either web based or in a walled phone only garden. There are attempts to re-create the mobile app scene on PC's with Google, Microsoft and Apple all trying to recreate this eco-system, but sadly they're little more than a mechanism for the delivery of traditional software of the past rather than a conduit into the new and exciting world of mobile apps. The problem with a desktop or laptop is, they aren't really personal. They aren't extensions of you. They're cumbersome additions, not integrated extensions of your persona.

So herein lies the problem, it seems that the boomer generation has little need or interest in smart phones. They see it as a phone. But are they really? They've quickly become the personification of true personal computers and to be honest the phone part of my iPhone is probably the part I use the least. Although I still lug my laptop on my various business trips, it most sits in my hotel room. What I do bring to presentations, meeting and escapades is my Tablet and smart phone. It's all I need, more to point, it's all I want.

So as the world debates the move to cloud. It's already happened. Just ask my mom.

The @ruv Instagram Photo Gallery

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Talking 'Mission Critical' Enterprise Clouds

I'll tell you one thing, since joining Virtustream a few weeks ago I've heard a certain phrase thrown around a lot, one the I admit I have long avoided when discussing cloud computing. The term is "Enterprise Cloud" and it's at the heart of our strategy. Hey we even call our cloud an "enterprise cloud platform". So what makes this more enterprise than others cloud platforms and more importantly why does it even matter?

First let's look at the broader market, it's true the largest players are moving to the cloud, generally speaking this has been a lower level entry point. A kind of ground up approach to IT where the developer with a particular need goes out and finds a solution to his or her problem set. More recently the term "Shadow IT" has been used to describe this type of usage model whereby IT systems and IT solutions are built and used inside organizations without organizational approval. Allowing developers the freedom to create is often credited as the central method of innovation within IT today.

Innovation aside, it's also often the central reason applications fail. Things like lack of oversight, planning, documentation and just generally a seat of your paints approach to application dev and deployment. Not exactly the kind of approach larger businesses (AKA The Enterprise) like to see within the more important parts of their business IT orgs.

So back to what the heck is an enterprise cloud? I suppose one could say it's a cloud platform or service that takes the the particular needs of a larger enterprise customer into consideration. Moreover, one that supports mission-critical processes. Yes, Mission Critical. What? Ok, back to wikipedia.
  • Mission critical refers to any factor of a system (equipment, process, procedure, software, etc.) whose failure will result in the failure of business operations. That is, it is critical to the organization's 'mission'.
I'm not going to go out and say that if a small businesses website, application or what have you fails it's less important, it's obviously just as important as a larger enterprise's infrastructure. The key difference is the amount at stake. Yes, cash money, baby. In a public company for instance if a mission critical application fails not only could this result in massive problems both human and economic, it could result in signicant legal and regulatory problems as well. Where if you're iPhone app stops working, sure your customers are pissed, but unlikely to result in government intervention via new policies and even potentially new laws. I suppose What I'm saying is there just more at stake for a so called enterprise customer.

In a recent Virtustream customer announcement, Steve Stone, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Morris Communications, a media company based in Augusta, Ga. that owns and operates 12 daily newspapers said it well. “We turned to Virtustream because they offer the only enterprise cloud platform that features the security and availability of a private cloud and the cost efficiencies of a public cloud—in fact they are the only vendor we could find with true consumption-based pricing. Virtustream xStream delivered superior performance, and the company has the in-house managed services expertise to advise and execute on the entire migration process.”

Ok, press fluff aside, they needed a full service cloud platform, both on premise (private), as well as off premise (public) and the service to help in the transition from the old tactics and approaches to the new more nimble architecture that a cloud centric environment enables.

At the end of the day what being enterprise ready means is taking into consideration the demands, processes and unique requirement of an enterprise customer. For an enterprise looking at moving from a traditional on premise approach to a mission critical cloud infrastructure, I've come to realize that leveraging their existing in house experience while also realizing the increased economic benefits of using the cloud is a central part of the rationale for making the move to cloud computing. Success means having enterprise customers who can easily see these benefits via a custom suite of tools and services, all the while keeping the ability to use the technology, skills and approaches that have made them successful in the first place. Processes, methods and expertise that has in many cases taken decades to perfect. In essence allowing them to gracefully take a leap forward into the cloud while keeping one foot on the ground.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New ruv Blog Design ~ Hard Wood

Studio @ Liberty Village Toronto
Let me start by saying if you're using an old browser and the site looks like crap, upgrade your browser now or view the mobile version. Please don't comment it's broken in IE6 or something stupid like that. Cause I don't care... Nah, Just kidding, let me know if you see any problems.

In designing this the new version of my site, I was inspired by my new studio located in Toronto's Liberty Village (see my pic). The office itself is an old converted factory full of exposed brick and wood with a smoking fast internet connection, a mix of the old with the new. Kind of like my new design. For this design, i dusted off my photoshop and CSS skillz using some the latest tricks such as drop shadows for the text.

Here's how I did it for those interested.
  • (text-shadow: 2px 2px 2px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.9);)
Another big part of the site is the use of Google Web Fonts which according to Google, "makes web fonts quick and easy to use for everyone, including professional designers and developers."

It's actually a pretty cool service, the goal is to create a directory of core web fonts for the world and to provide an API service so that anyone can bring quality typography to their webpages.

It even has it's own font API service which runs on Google's servers. They are fast, reliable and tested. Google provide the service free of charge. It is possible to add Google Web Fonts to a website in seconds. Like what you're currently looking at.

Best of all, the fonts are Open Source. This means that you are free to share your favorites with friends and colleagues. You can even improve or customize them and collaborate with the original designer. And you can use them in every way you want, privately or commercially – in print, on your computer, or in your websites.

For your reference, I'm using the Font Didot for the body, Sorts Mill Goudy for the headers and Calligraffitti for the dateline.

Let me know what you think.

(If you're reading this post via RSS, go to and check it out)

Monday, March 26, 2012

On the Road: Interview with EMC's JP Morgenthal

While on the road at CloudCamp DC, I had the opportunity to interview long time friend and cloud expert JP Morgenthal (Principal Solutions Architect from EMC). We talked Clouds, Hybrid, Federation, SaaS and the rise of PaaS, moving toward a services based architecture/economy.

This Weeks @DigitalNibbles: Cyborg Anthropology with Amber Case

I'll admit it, one of the best parts of doing the Digital Nibbles podcast series is getting to meet new and interesting folks. A lot of the these people are brought to the show via my co-host @techallyson a.k.a Allyson Klein who also moonlights as a Marketing Director at Intel. (j/k)

Our upcoming show on Wednesday is going to be a great one with featuring a Amber Case who is a self described Cyborg Anthropologist.. what? Yes, someone who studies Cyberanthropology, What is that you ask? Well, I had no idea either so I went to the "trusty" Wikipedia page which stated it as.

"a subbranch of sociocultural anthropology that deals with cybernetic systems, the culturally informed interrelationships between human beings and technologies. These interrelationships include the attempts to fuse technological artifacts with human and other biological organisms, with human society, and with the culturally shaped environment."

Professionally Amber is a co-founder of a startup in PDX (Portland) called Geoloqi that has developed a mobile geolocation and geo-fencing API that is really quite cool, but even more interesting is what and how she describes herelf as a "cyber anthropologist."  She has spoken at TED, as well as written about the subject in Wired, Forbes, TNW and TIME and recently spoke at SXSW.

She describes Cyborg Anthropology as: someone who "looks at how humans and non human objects interact with each other, and how that changes culture. So, for instance, we have these things in our pockets that cry, and we have to pick them up and soothe them back to sleep, and then we have to feed them every night by plugging them into the wall, right? And at no other time in history have we had these really strange non human devices that we take care of as if they are real. And we're very dependent upon them. So that's one of the aspects that I'm studying, the idea of mobile technology and its effect on people's relationships. Another thing is the idea of extending into the second self online, through an avatar. So studying how people interact with each other through these little technosocial interactions, versus just the analog interactions, is another aspect of cyborg anthropology."

You can finder more info on her at Twitter, Linked-In, and at her blog or tune into the Digital Nibbles Podcast this wednesday at 6pm Eastern / 3pm Pacific.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Big Bucks for Virtustream & Webinar

We're on a roll, Virtustream has secured an additional $15 million dollars in  venture capital funding, bringing our total equity raised to $75 million to date.  We'll be using the funds to further accelerate Virtustream's growth, accelerate development of our xStream cloud solution, expand our geographic coverage and support the rapid growth in the cloud market.

A little background, The xStream platform was purpose built to address the exacting requirements of enterprise customers as they move their IT and applications to the cloud.  xStream delivers secure enterprise class clouds, with application level SLAs, supporting multiple hypervisors and is the industry's first cloud solution to use ‘µVM' (See - A Kilowatt for the Cloud?) It’ technology providing efficiency significantly beyond traditional virtualization and enabling a truly consumption based pricing model.  Virtustream offers xStream, Enomaly and Spotcloud worldwide and has offices in New York, Washington, London, San Francisco, Toronto and operates four data-centers worldwide.

For an in depth look at our compelling technology based on the Micro-VM (µVM), please attend our interactive webinar on Wednesday, March 21 at 8am PT/11am ET/3pm GMT. Register here

Going forward you will see further hybrid and federation cloud capabilities as we enhance our solutions.  Check us out at or follow us on twitter @virtustream 

µVM - A Kilowatt for the Cloud?

It's been interesting getting settled into a new company, specially one that's not mine. From expense reports to new platforms and new systems to learn, I'm actually quite enjoying the change of pace and scenery. Over the last couple of weeks a big part of my job has been getting a feel for our Virtustream technology and platforms. One of the more interesting descriptions I keep hearing is our "µVM" (micro VM) tech, the basis for how our cloud is measured, metered, and billed.

First of all let me start out with the term. Micro (μ) is a prefix that comes from the Greek μικρός (mikrós), meaning "small". It's also a prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of 10-6 (one millionth). So its ideal when talking about a unit of cloud measurement, at least from a marketing standpoint.

Marketing gimmics are useful, but lets take a closer look at the actual technical analogy. When I ask what it is, I keep hearing the same response. Me: What's a µVM ? Geek: It's like a kilowatt for the Cloud?

According to Wikipedia, one watt is the rate at which work is done. Or to put it another way the measurement of the actual work or power required to do something or the amount of energy consumed while doing it. It's a unit of measure for getting something done - a perfect anology for cloud, where we are typically forced to look at cloud  from the point of view of a traditional CPU. But really, the idea of RAM or GHZ as the basis for work is a little off the mark for a uniform unit of measure, it's importance is in a group or collection of elements. What we're really talking about is how much aggregate resources are required to get something done, and moreover how much those resource will cost on the smallest of increments as possible. So essentially a µVM is an aggregate, a collection of technical items that are gathered together to form a total quantity (in our case for cloud resources). It allows us to pack a much greater quantity of resources into a much smaller area. (How you ask? That's another post)

So enter the Kilowatt for the Cloud. Although technically if we're talking about "Micro" maybe the MicroWatt is a better phrase, it's equal to one millionth (10−6) of a watt and uses the same µ symbol :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reviving The Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF)

It's been two years since for a variety factors we decided to stop posting to the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum. Over that time, a lot has changed within the industry, as well as in my personal life (two kids) and professional life (Enomaly sold). The cloud has gone from a fringe concept to a mainstream phenomenon. A phenomenon that can be seen in almost every part of information technology today. We've seen open to data center alliances to open server specifications to open stacks, to say the least, the need for "open" has propagated far and wide. But alas, there is still no uniform access for a truly interoperable cloud. A single stack, hardware specification or alliance has yet to result in any global interoperability among cloud services.

Over the past several months, I have been busy in the acquisition of my previous company Enomaly to Virtustream. Now that this has completed I have time to re-engage in some of my previous passions, including the nurturing of cloud interoperability amongst other cloud advocacy activities. I have been approached by many folks in the industry over the last two years to revive CCIF. Like any community, I don't expect all of your to jump back into the fray as I understand we need to rebuild trust in the message and discussion. I believe this discussion must resume. There are currently more than 1300 members within the CCIF mailing list and another 3000 on our linkedin Group. If you are no longer interested in cloud interoperability, please take the this chance to un-subscribe. If you are as passionate about this subject as I am. Then I encourage you to speak up and re-engage in the conversation.
You can subscribe to the mailing list here > or our linkedin group

Condo Computing (Own the base - Rent the Spike)

There's a long standing joke in the cloud space. One that can be summed up as  "All your bases R belong to your cloud provider" a play on the pre-internet meme  all your bases are belong to us The mantra is one of not only lock-in but one that has become a fundamental cloud business premise based upon what has become a central requirement of a complete and total migration to the cloud. One that assumes a binary choice must be made when deciding to use cloud centric services. But the reality is the choice is one that must take a wholistic view of many loosely coupled parts both local and remote. An aggregated (hybrid) approach that understands that key metrics are constantly changing and baseline capacity requirements are no longer as simple as mine or yours. But instead built upon the base of a partnership within a federated group of cloud services yours and mine.

Last week I had the honor of meeting with the director of infrastructure for a major California University. During our conversation he describe a concept he called "Condo Computing" whereby a collective group of campuses are able grain greater efficiencies by grouping together physical server assets into jointly managed racks. Think of it as a  physical collective of servers old school multi tenancy. In essence each cabinet is like a condo complex where each condo unit is a server or blade jointly managed collectively but owned independently, yet enjoy secured access to a shared on premise cloud environment for spikes in demand and disasters avoidance. Continuing this analogy, each resident owns their baseline and has the ability to rent the spike. Yes, it's zynga's mantra of Own the base - Rent the Spike in action in the most unconventional of places.

The concept is ideal for the emerging hybrid federated architectures being adopted by enterprises who are now beginning take their first steps into the cloud. It's an architecture built on the knowledge and abilities they have in house while also allowing the economics and flexibility found in using secure remotely accessible cloud capacity. An evolutionary step forward while keeping one foot on the ground. 

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