Saturday, 17 August 2013

Actifio - what's the deal???

So I've been taking a look at Actifo - just trying to get a feel for the product, use case and business case that stacks up behind it - Guess I would also be interested in your views!!!

My take goes something along these lines (and this is based on a v quick paper review);

- Great idea, save on data stored by doing all the funky stuff that lots of these appliances / approaches can offer
- If the selling cost / implementation cost stack up - there could be a heap of money to be saved here...
- Base use cases that are offered seem to make sense
- One approach that gives backup, data in a 2nd / 3rd site, good approach to offering data into development all looks good

Things that I still need to get a view on / not so sure about;

- Looks like use cases currently documented, whilst good may be limited
- Does the product scale to the large enterprise (or where is it aimed at?)
- Management looks pretty cute (on PowerPoint ware) - but how easy is it when it gets to hundreds / thousands / tens of thousands of instances??)
- Who is gonna by them / how long will they be a standalone entity -
- What is the time to market / time to implement the product - buying it is just the starter - how long to get it into the infrastructure ecosystem, integrate and make useful
- Interop matrices - use cases with oracle / rman are listed (as an example) but do oracle recognize the solution and will they assist with a problem when it hits
- Business case - does it stack up???? - cant comment on numbers as haven't seen them - but will offer comment back

Anyway there you go - just a quick view as it stands - will comment back as I learn more...

That's all - MOT man just coming to see me now - hopefully it's a pass and not an expensive bill for car!!!

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Location:Oakhill Garage in Sutton (MOT time!)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Another rant - Understand your business, Understand your applications, Understand your infrastructure

So - its a rant... whats new i guess... well its what i do!!! :-)

So spent another day trying to understand the relationship between what us infrastructure bods do in relation to the business.... sounds simple - it becomes more apparent that talking infrastructure to the business is like, well.... like two completely different languages - and neither understand

cant help but think that, if in a creation of a business service / process that requires technology in some shape or form that from business to app to infra - everyone agrees a common language to talk in, its documented, its understood and most importantly ITS KEPT CURRENT, a regular audit takes place, the critical documents are CHANGE CONTROLLED with the appropriate people SIGNING OFF against the updates etc...

trying to work this out when a remediation process comes about / something breaks / need to complete a discovery is just horrid

ok ok ok so i know you will all be thinking, where is his service catalogue, where is his cmdb, prod cat, component catalogue, automated discovery, mappings maintained - and your right... but hey turn that question back at yourself - where are yours??

Show me someone that states that they have all this stuff and its 80% good i will show you an optimist.. (i was gonna say liar - but thats probably a little too strong - as they probably dont realise they are far from the truth) Why - well the tech just isnt here to do this automatically.. Sure there are some pieces there - but not the whole picture.

Take automated discovery - this would imply no human intervention... good point, however there needs to be - i am yet to see a product that automates discovery of a business service, maps to business process, translates into application service and so on - so it brings us back to the point about managing this important stuff properly.

One other thought - some simple, easy to read SERVICE MAPS that talk about the items that make up give business lines are a massively powerful thing - it may seem a nightmare sitting there with visio / powerpoint / tool of your choice - but when you walk into the business to have *that* discussion (this is what is important to you / which to you want to keep on the go etc.) it makes talking about given topic far easier.

End of my rant, and hopefully food for thought.....


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Location:Somewhere over the UK in an aeroplane

Friday, 28 June 2013

Attracting the right sort of workforce talent

How many large companies / enterprises have you worked in  –  and there is often discussions and drivers towards talent management, if you cant progress within then go to market and attract new blood in..

What is the typical type of talent pool that you try to attract, i wouldn't mind betting that the bulk of companies use some if not all of the the following criteria

  • Graduate just leaving university and having been through some level of graduate training pool or
  • Financially stable or
  • Good credit rating / background checks are all normal or
  • No history with criminal activities or
  • Traditional approach to schooling or
  • Probably middle class to upper class parenting or
  • Appropriate behaviour in social / work situations or
  • All of the above…

Now i am not saying that there is anything wrong with this particular demographic –  however it is also a somewhat limited and in today's social / economic climate is there a different (and better) approach???

Lets look at a few facts here and possible effect on our nice clean talent pool that we currently have (and how its shrinking)…

  • Austerity measures are kicking in, this in turn will cause a rise in families getting closer to / hitting the poverty threshold / running into credit issues
  • A potential rise in crime as a result of less money being available in poverty stricken communities
  • unemployment is not getting any better –  the chances of someone getting made redundant and hence getting an adverse credit rating is getting higher (and then points 1 & 2 kick in)
  • There is too much focus on credit rating systems which companies check before giving folk roles within their enterprises

As a result of the above –  there is a huge talent pool that could be harnessed in the future but will be rarely considered due to not meeting our stereotypical “well behaved citizen” that i mention in my first bullet point list.

it is also worthy of note that looking for our stereotypical employee has been the standard operating model for enterprises for many years and as a result people that could offer great value and do great work have been overlooked. 

OK –  so where does this leave us.. Well I do think there is more innovative approach that we could maybe consider when looking in future employees. Lets face it, as the social economic climate changes the likelihood of getting that (what we currently call) perfect employee falls… Not because they are bad or have done something wrong –  but because people have had to live life and have had to deal with different life situations….In fact this very same talent pool of people could also help steer some of the large enterprises out there to a possible customer base that has not yet been tapped.

There are also prejudices that stop us employing people that maybe have behavioral traits that are not normally considered to be socially acceptable –  lets get over it –  take a look at people for who they are, what they can offer and inherent talent they have.

So what am i saying here –  I guess that we should consider all people for all possible roles, and just don't try to slot our typical cliché employee into position as its *easy*. Lets have a bit more of an open mind, understand people for whom they are and maybe start truly offering roles to people that are best for the job, give everyone a chance and stop going with the cliché approach. You might even be surprised at your work teams rate increase…




Friday, 26 April 2013

So you want business resilience within your technology stack??? (part 1)

So you want to look at resilience… You have just had an issue / outage / scare and you decide that time is ripe to tackle this problem head on… But what are you really after, what is your motivation to fix / look at resilience approaches and whom do you think might fix it for you?

Resilience means so many things to many people and also can be taken in a different context based on who is offering a view….

Business resilience?? Application resilience?? Infrastructure resilience?? -> all will have a different view–  somehow you have to make the whole lot align with core focus on one thing –  what the business  needs / wants / desires and the outcome that is required.

So i am a lowly infrastructure fella –  i guess I cant even start to comprehend some of the stuff higher up the stack –  but one thing i have learnt and continue to learn is that you have to start at the top and work down (i.e. understand what your business needs to achieve when implementing resilience approaches / business continuance and work it through the rest of the org).

You start trying to fix / understand resilience at an infrastructure layer and forget the fact that your servicing the business and not understanding what is important to your given company's role in life –  you probably have some issues bigger than *just* trying to implement a resilience theme.

So back to what i guess we should do (and looking at things through an infrastructure lens (after all –  that is what i do…)) –  when servicing a greater call in life and working with / within / assisting resilience programme of work

  • Understand the business requirements / what is required and focus on these as core items
  • What are the application environments that correlate to the business (and let the business tell you critical business processes & services –  dont guess on their behalf!)
  • Ensure that you have good views of:
    • Knowledge of business applications
    • a view of business services and the technology map that provides this function
    • A decent service catalogue
    • A decent product catalogue
    • a proper inventory of you technology with a relevant CMDB in place and capable of providing appropriate views (prior 3 bullet points are good “lenses” that you should be able to apply to a CMDB to get views that are required
    • An ability to put business applications into appropriate “buckets” of criticallity and work allowing you to focus on the business services that are most important and relevant to the business
  • Application developers –  don't presume that infrastructure dudes are taking care of resilience approaches and have HA / DR / Resumption approaches built into the infrastructure layer so that you don't need to worry about it
  • Infrastructure dudes –  don't presume that application developers have coded an app to recover from a disaster scenario –  they may be presuming that infrastructure is taking care of everything
  • Infrastructure dudes meet application dudes, application dudes meet infrastructure dudes –  its good to work together on this stuff
  • Ensure that common resumption principles are agreed too and  adhered too across technology –  an example maybe that, when a DR event happens, we always fix-forward (i.e. application owners, developers & infrastructure guys all work forwards from a common point to ensure consistency is achieved).

Part 2 to follow…..


Friday, 15 February 2013

99.999% Availability - Really

So… How many times have you heard it / seen it… Vendor A walks into the business that your IT Team supports and says… Yes –  of course our product is highly available… We guarantee it… 99.999% available…. all good… the “five nines” have been quoted –  what could possible go wrong..

The business then goes and signs on the dotted line (ok –  see anything wrong here –  yep –  the business went and done it again, they let a vendor sell into the business without involving their infrastructure teams… but hey –  its still all good –  Vendor A has stated that Product B is 99.999% available –  its the best possible choice for that mission critical business application) –  What could possibly go wrong

So many months later after the business has brought this wonderful piece of infrastructure and started running their business critical app on said kit –  it suddenly looks a little more difficult to achieve this system integration and the “five nines” promise… why well –  erm that patch management that needed to be completed wasn't really included in the quote of system availability and yeah, the lifecycle management activities that need to be completed also means “planned downtime” –  surely this eats into out 99.999% availability as well –  Yep pretty much… so what should we learn from this –  probably a couple of things when dealing with vendors and guarantees of availability;

  • Ensure that the business involves infrastructure at a very early stage –  so vendor cannot mislead with quotes of availability
  • Identify your availability requirements ahead of engaging vendors –  at least understand your availbility requirements and work back from there with the vendor
  • Be sceptical and dont believe the hype!
  • Understand what is quoted in this 99.999% availability i.e. does this include planned and un-planned ourages
  • Understand patch management regimes and what this may mean to your availbility characteristics
  • Understand lifecycle management application and possible implications on downtime whilst running these processes
  • What currency practices does the vendor have in place to ensure your equipment stays in support and what is the frequency of updates that will be required
  • Understand the vendors measurement of availability –  i.e. just because a storage array is up and running and servicing I/O's slowly does this count as data available or unavailable
  • Understand the penalty system that a vendor puts in place for not achieving their guaranteed availability and how this is invoked –  it always helps to motivate a vendor with financial penalties when availability is not being met
  • Put proper measurements in place for your infrastructure –  when you hold your monthly / yearly vendor updates you can challenge them with appropriate metrics. This again drives good behaviour for us (the consumer)

@storagebod has written a great article on this topic also –  and can be found here:

Hopefully some food for thought!





Sunday, 10 February 2013

Stack Wars - Is 2013 the year of the stack???

There has been quite a lot going on out there by various vendors, a whole bunch of them trying to demonstrate how you can ship entire pre-loaded infrastructure stacks (i.e. storage, network, compute, memory, hypervisor (In some cases) and OS) into shippable rack configuration, calling them virtual data center's (VDC) and taking away the need to do some of the typical stuff that IT departments have to do for their customer base… Examples of these products would be:

  • VCE vBlock
  • HP Matrix
  • FlexPod (although would not put this in the exact same category)
  • IBM PureSystems

Additional to this, other vendors have also been making inroads into going further than just the core infrastructure layer and have started offering application services, examples of this could be:

  • Oracle Exadata (offering database services) / Oracle Exalogic (going into the middleware space, OBIE, OBIA, SOA etc…)
  • Teradata database machine
  • IBM PureApp (part the pure range) –  incl websphere, UDB DB2, BPM etc
  • IBM Z-Series / Mainframe (it really does provide the whole stack –  but is pretty bloody expensive!!!)

Some of the offerings have been better than others and i also think its fair to say as a general statement –  that a level of maturity just hasn't been there in the past…But… Are we starting to see some light in this space???

So firstly a couple of observations on the infrastructure stacks (the top list i mention) – Having observed a number of engagements on some of these products (either personally or through acquaintances) over the last 24 months –  in the early days these installations, ideas of just bringing in the infrastructure –  putting power and network up the backside of said device and consuming it were just not there –  however, lessons have been learnt and definitely for green-field sites or areas where legacy infrastructure doesn't hinder progression –  some vast improvement to product and ability to deliver has started to be obvious…. There is still a large amount of integration activity to take place, OS builds and standards to be engineered but the promise of easier delivery etc is starting to emerge with some promise. I have to say, whilst i was no real big fan of VCE –  vBlock 12–18 months ago –  it really seems to have taken shape

Now –  onto the end-to-end stacks –  the true stacks, where the vendor isn't just providing the infrastructure but also including application ready for business logic / app to be applied.

Now –  when you take a look at the vendors involved Oracle should really have this one killed… They have the exa range, they have the complete set of business applications to consume and if you believe the website, marketing –  its all ready to rock and roll with little to no integration required to start using the thing –  wheel it in, switch it on and start consuming…. oops –  doesn't quite work like that. It has to be said –  that Oracle really do have all of the components needed to make a holistic business offering –  but it just isnt quite there yet… it will get there, it needs a few more cycles of maturity before we can take full advantage…

Teradata –  guess they have a good(ish) database appliance that is meant to be efficient for large sets of data where multiple business lines may consume same data set –  but sort of getting a bit long in the tooth. DR Story is questionable and longevity of the company… hmmmm lets wait and see

IBM Mainframe –  OK –  i couldn't get past mentioning this somewhere in this article –  but its got to be said, in terms of someone who owns the stack, can layer OS, business app, database etc etc –  the Mainframe has had years on all of the other open systems stuff that is still trying to grow up –  admittedly its sort of expensive –  but i guess my point is, dont overlook it –  there is a lot of business value to be added / derived from potentially utilising spare cycles / mips on your big iron –  its prob worth taking a look… and whilst on IBM –  I guess i move onto my final nomination –  IBM PureSystems / PureApp

IBM Pure –  so have been watching this / following this for some time and also listening to some of my industry peers experiences of this product set –  and its got to be said –  its looking good. If you happen to be a IBM house, and someone that utilises the IBM Product set (websphere, BPM, DB2 etc etc) then you could do worse than take a look at pure-systems product range. You get a full environment in a box, all nicely integrated (so it appears) with some pretty smart tools wrapped around it. You can run P or X86 blades so any existing custom code you may have written can continue to be used. As a stack that you can wheel in and start using –  it looks pretty tight. In my humble opinion IBM took all of the integration lessons that they learnt with the mainframe environments and went an applied it to a distributed systems stack –  and with a pretty damn good result.. So IBM looks like they have come from middle of the pack to a clear first…

So will 2013 become the year of the stack – Probably not everywhere but the market is definitely starting to mature and IBM may just have put themselves back on top!!


Thursday, 31 January 2013

A new Blackberry - GREAT!!!

So just when you didn't need another phone hardware platform - you got another one anyway...

I am really quite confused with the new blackberry release... It looks like a iPhone, Smells like one, Pretends to be one - but oops its not one.. (why does this remind me of the Volkswagen Golf advert???)

This new release of the latest blackberry really confuses me... When we have all of these commoditised handsets out there and companies / software and offerings such as Good are giving us the same service - you have got to wonder why RIM are pushing this platform...

So will the new blackberry rock the world - hmmmm i dont think so... You have got to ask if this is the final dance of death of a failing company running out of ideas and options


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Location:The Train - London Bridge Station