Friday, August 30, 2019

Simplicity; understood by many but rarely achieved!

Sailing a modern racing yacht can be complicated and yet, for many years this too it’s been the same for IT. However, CIOs all want to see IT simplified and HPE has now stepped up to address this …

When I first started sailing I had to learn the ropes. Actually, and figuratively! In terms of actually I had to be able to translate what I had to do into tying an appropriate knot and as for figuratively, just a few outings before I really did have to know how to tie a bowline knot. No excuses! Yes, and pretty much blindfolded. So much for learning, “the rabbit comes out of the hole” and yes, “around the tree and back down the hole!” Never did visualize that but one seasoned sailor taught me a short-hand way of achieving exactly the same goal. Simple, right? Well not exactly; seems like everyone with whom I sailed had a different way of tying a bowline knot.

No matter; the ends justify the means, right? On the other hand a yacht is a vessel where everything can go horribly wrong in a split second as was often the case during my times racing aboard yachts. For all of that time racing other yachts it was on Sydney harbor; I never truly became a sailor – just a competent deckhand and due to my size this meant I spent almost all of my time at the pointy end of the yacht dancing atop sails, halyards, sheets and braces. No, there aren’t any ropes up front, just oddly named items that eventually you get the hang of, more or less. Bigger yachts? Well they have lazy sheets and lazy braces but that’s a whole different story!

There is a reason why seasoned sailors talk about the creeping sophistication that is changing the way sailors interact with their craft. If you have had the opportunity to watch the latest Americas’ Cup racing series or simply seen pictures taken at this regatta, they are no more yachts than a Formula One racer is a car we can take out for a Sunday drive. I have looked at these pinnacle racers and simply scratched my head – apart from being extremely dangerous to sail, they have very few components that I recognize. No sails, no real keel and almost nothing in the water. Sophisticated? Why then am I reminded of one definition of sophisticated as being “overly complicated!”

When it comes to technology there is a lot of talk about transforming to hybrid IT. Almost every product vendor has their own ideas as to what this really means. Likewise, those in the services industry put different spins on hybrid IT as well. What they all have in common is that with just a little wordsmithing, vendors of products and services keep on doing what they have been doing for years – selling products and services; if it was only that simple!

Whereas some advocates argue very strongly that hybrid IT is centered on cloud services others argue just as strongly that it is a mix of traditional systems and cloud services. Others still would prefer to have you believe it is a combination of everything already described and now, with the intelligent edge, there is even talk of mini clouds leading, I have to assume, to discussions on edge hybrid OT/IT!

For HPE customers, up until now it’s still been a hit-and-miss affair. As Phil Davis, HPE’s Chief Sales Officer & President, Hybrid IT, said in a post to LinkedIn, “Users have learned that public cloud is all about capacity. There’s a role for that, especially with non-critical data. But when vital applications are stored in the public cloud alongside those from hundreds of other companies, that shared infrastructure can lead to latency and other performance issues.”

However, Davis also said that, “Nevertheless, public cloud has helped usher in an attractive payment model – pay-as-you go consumption.” This cuts to the very heart of the cloud issue even as it adds significant weight to the argument for the need for hybrid IT.

As with everything else that has transpired in IT there are very big upsides to what’s deemed as being new even as there are oftentimes serious downsides. When it comes to public clouds the downside just happens to be predictability tied to performance. Like that famous box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. On the other hand, the upside continues to entice enterprises, as clouds are all about unlimited capacity together with consumption based pricing. Elasticity of provisioning, as we have heard talked about for some time, together with only paying for what you use, when you use it!

But talk of hybrid IT equally has its upside and downside. In this case, the upside is that an enterprises important mission critical applications can still run on-prem while other applications (more often than not, related to data lakes and data analytics) can run on private clouds also on-prem. There are even opportunities to choose to run some applications on public clouds where enterprises can leverage the many tools and utilities provided by the public cloud service providers.

However, the downside can best be summed up in one word – complexity. Yes, it takes a sophisticated enterprise to tackle the overly complicated results of engaging all three models. In some respects it’s mind-blowing when you start conjuring up images of applications being able to run on-prem, off-prem and on traditional as well as on virtualized. Provisioning it all correctly and ensuring all required resources are accessible is stuff of operational nightmares. You want to run it where? So yes, it’s complicated.

At least it was none other than Einstein who said “Everything should be made as simple as possible. But no simpler.” When it comes to hybrid IT what is central to nearly every enterprises plans is some sort of way to hide the complexity. It was not through happenstance that HPE updated it’s key message for HPE Discover a few years ago to “Simplifying the transformation to Hybrid IT” as I am sure that they caught on that this wasn’t going to be an easy assignment for any enterprise. But then again, giving data center managers the flexibility to select where applications run based on availability of resources, the optimum cost (for running the application) and the overall transparency of any shift of platform well, they bought into this idea of true hybrid IT.

This past week at VMworld Conference, HPE took the wraps off it’s latest initiative. As the headlines explained, “
HPE brings hybrid cloud-as-a-service to VMware customers - HPE is offering its GreenLake, its pay-per-use managed service, to VMware Cloud Foundation customers.” For some time now we have been watching the GreenLake program storm into the market – some 600 customers and over $2.8 Billion in total contract value – is the key program when it comes to everything-as-a-service together with consumption pricing supporting the HPE pay-as-you-go (and no-hardware-required) model. Forget images of stagnant lakes in Florida awash in slime. This is the real deal and it’s the focus of HPE’s drive to simplify the task of embracing hybrid IT.

In a post to LinkedIn, Phil Davis posted that, “For years, HPE has stood by our belief that we are moving toward a hybrid world. Now, nearly everyone is adopting a similar vision - including the same public cloud vendors that claimed private clouds would eventually become a thing of the past … As we reaffirmed at HPE Discover Las Vegas just last month and at Discover More in Singapore this week, there are many pathways to take us there, with cloud being one of the options.”

All well and good as we all know that many paths lead to clouds. However, it was Davis who then added, “At HPE, we believe that your cloud experience should be open and seamless across all clouds, and should be powered by a partner who offers customer choice as their first sales priority.”

Open and seamless; but how? According to CRN journalist, Steven Burke who follows HPE for CRN, “The new GreenLake as a service offering, which runs on HPE’s fast-growing Synergy composable cloud platform, allows partners for the first time to provide VMware virtual machines (VMs) on a pay-per-use basis with the full VMware Cloud Foundation stack on GreenLake.”

Quoting Paul Miller, HPE Vice President of Global Marketing, who Burke interviewed for CRN, HPE thinks that they “have a better VMware solution with Synergy that enables speed, agility, a lower cost point and more flexibility over Dell with metering at the VM level. … Dell meters at the server level. We are the only ones that meter at the VM level and enable customers to bill at that level.”

The way another publication, ZDNet, saw the announcement was, “
The integration effectively creates a hybrid cloud-as-a-service offering for customers using HPE appliances and VMware software.” And yet again, this publication quotes Miller, "We're enabling [customers] to get the cloud economics, the cloud speed and agility in their own data center."

Expressed another way, Davis also said in his LinkedIn post, “
HPE is focused on providing customers with the right mix of hybrid IT, one that is tailored just for them. Our goal is to solve, not simply sell. Furthermore, our portfolio was developed to guide customers along any point of their cloud journeys by helping them integrate new components in legacy environments, and helping them connect to next-generation cloud native apps.”

While I have not discussed the ramifications of this announcement with the HPE NonStop team two thoughts come to mind that I believe we may all want to consider. Firstly, HPE IT is running NonStop-as-a-Service where the application just happens to be the NonStop SQL data base. HPE talks about this as DBaaS supported by NSaaS. For now, its on-prem, but it’s also got many of the attributes / expectations you would typically associate with private cloud deployments. Secondly, there is the reference to HPE Synergy.

I cannot speak for HPE, but it should be clear to anyone who has attended any of my recent presentations or read previous posts, that I am very bullish about HPE Synergy and of the potential to be able to interact with Synergy to provision NonStop. It’s not too hard for me to imagine hearing news at some point that this will become yet another way to consume NonStop – again, nothing official and I cannot point at anyone who has confirmed any of this but it does have me wondering. What’s driving my interest in such an end game? Well its simplicity of course – it has to become very easy to deploy NonStop any which way I want without slaving over a console to correctly provision all the required resources.

Ignoring for a moment my earlier observation about sophistication being best described as overly complicated! According to Wiki, when it comes to sophistication, “Today it is common as a measure of refinement—displaying good taste, wisdom and subtlety rather than crudeness, stupidity and vulgarity.” All of the energy that HPE has exerted in making transformations to hybrid IT as simple as possible and perhaps, as fluid as enterprises would like, has a lot to do with diminishing the complexity involved. And with the most recent announcements by HPE, it may very well have hit the mark this time with combinations of GreenLake, Synergy and its partnership with VMware. Arguably, brilliant! Or, as Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!” 

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