Tuesday, 22 May 2012

View from the outside

It's now six months since I left the clutches of Big Blue and sold my soul to Mr Larry Ellison. I thought it time to note some feelings, observations and thoughts of changing jobs as a bit of an old git.

So as I am sat in my hotel room here in Dubai, having eaten a room service meal, set the alarm for 06:00 in the morning to get to a last minute customer meeting in Abu Dhabi before flying back to blighty it might be tempting to say that not much has changed. To some extent that is true and could easily be described as same sh1t different colour. However that would be really under estimating the fundamental changes I have seen by changing employer. Now I am not so naive as to say the following is unique to being a member of Fat Larry's Band but I do think it puts my previous life in IBM in perspective.

Lets get the bad out of the way first and to be honest they are pretty much the same as in being employed by a large American technology company. Those in a similar position will know so no need to detail. (See previous comment about different colour!)

In know particular order these are my observations: (and are in no way meant to put down a mostly enjoyable time in IBM)

Life as an IBMer was focussed around what IBM wants - despite the mantra of customer first this was not really the case.

Politics in the new job are just the same except they are more in the open and easier to navigate.

There are really annoying people everywhere.

Despite what many people think in Oracle, it is SOOO much more joined up than IBM. Really it is.

Other organisations do a much better job of culturally integrating acquisitions than IBM.

IBM does not have the monopoly on talent and some of the ex-Sun employees I have had the pleasure of working with and calling team mates are truly the best I have worked with.

Despite being focussed on Engineered Systems it is great to be able to talk a COMPLETE solution with customers ... from Apps to disk.

I spent the last two days conducting a discovery session with a customer. I talked to business execs, CIO, HR Director and met with the CEO to name a few and had this access because the company I work for has such a comprehensive offering in the market place and can really add business value to an organisation.

I am based from a reasonably small office in Bristol where a few people work from on a fairly random basis as in the old job. Yet I am afforded the luxury of a desk on which I can have a docking station and a monitor, actually talk and get to know the other people based there and actually have a feeling of community.

It is nice to work with sales people who actually have some appreciation of customer values and how their products deliver it.(Well generally speaking anyway) 

I didn't realise that IBMers really to slag competitors on social media with information that is incorrect or out of date quite as much as they do.

I have been surprised that so many of my ex IBM colleagues have left to explore pastures new and I really do hope that they feel as re-energised as I do now.

So have things really changed ..... you bet your arse they have.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Mike Bassett: England Manager

What has the new England Manager got to do with a blog about Engineered Systems and Architecture? 

There has been lots of different views in the UK press regarding the appointment of the new England football manager Roy Hodgson as compared to "fans favorite" Harry Redknapp. A few comments have said that Roy Hodgson is the "safe" (read boring and less headlines in the press) choice and not really a game changer (pun intended!). However, the last couple of high-profile managers that were supposed to bring change actually resulted in the same old players being selected, a lack of communication and disconnect with the underlying structure in the F.A. In fact nothing really changed in terms of results.

I think that the new England manager will not only be required to be successful on the pitch (and we certainly need that to happen for once!) but he will also need to connect at all levels within the structure and start to help develop and mentor younger managers etc and beging change from the grass roots up. 

So why is this relevant ? Well it's relevant because if Engineered Systems (and yes, OK, other offerings as well !) are really going to be successful in driving change towards IT simplification and efficiency then the change needs to be effective at all levels of the IT stack - from Apps to Disk. Marketing weasels will come up with the flashy headlines and campaigns it will take a much less hyped but deeper change in the way IT is delivered to really make a difference.

Maybe this "safe" option could be a real game changer after all.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Everyone is an Architect?

Engineered, Integrated, Consolidated, Appliance ..... all of these (and more) are used to describe a new way of delivering IT functionality. Yes, I do work for the premier vendor of these systems but regardless of any particular vendors offering, there are implications that to some degree are common to all. 

How do these systems fit into the existing IT landscape and traditional IT job roles ?

This very subject started a debate in our team in response to a request for a particular customer situation and got a couple of us thinking about this.

Friend and respected colleague @Zalez blogged about the changing job roles, the concept of DevOps and begins to shed light on the impact these new systems will have on job roles. 

These sort of changes in roles are not only driven by vendors supplying IT capability in a different, more packaged format, but driven by how to adopt them into enterprise IT. See this article for some insights into Rogue IT and the need to embrace it.

It is my personal opinion that any IT department must have some sort of an architecture strategy to be successful in delivering what the business needs. I don't really care what it is called, Enterprise Architecture, Strategy, default vendor choice, etc, etc ..... the important thing is that there is some rationale behind choices being made. Only by having some idea of the structure and shape of existing IT will the effect of these new systems be able to be quantified.

From an Enterprise Architecture point of view it means a couple of things. Firstly, it means bigger, more course grained solution building blocks. Secondly, it starts to challenge the utopian view that Architects like to adopt of an organized, standardized layered approach and move to a more vertical, capability focused and interconnected fabric. Please not that this does NOT mean a return to Silo'd and disconnected. This drives true rogue IT.

By driving this change, the role of say, the Storage Admin for example, now has to start dealing with multiple storage technologies. Some of these may be focused on delivering eye-watering database performance for a Data warehouses and others delivering a cost effective, flexible Dev/Test cloud. The practical reality of this is that the storage for the DW will be under the direct, day to day control of the DBA's. 

This shifts the focus of the Storage Admin role will become more of defining policy, strategy and governance across the storage landscape. Similar in concept to the impact that BPM has had on development roles in using tools to design new business capabilities by combine services into new processes rather than cutting code. It's just starting to happen further down the IT "stack".

Any (sensible) thoughts, comments welcome as I am currently working on how this approach changes Enterprise Architecture thinking and delivery.



Tuesday, 24 April 2012

PureSystems - Flex or Fantasy?

So, IBM have discovered integrated systems with the recent announcement of PureSystems. Link is here if you have a life an not noticed the marketing. If you believe all the hype IBM has had such a real Niel Armstrong moment that IT will never be the same again. So I thought I would take an alternative view to what all this means.

There are a number of sites that have reviewed the announcement. One of my favorites is this in The Data Center Journal by Greg Shulz. I especially love the bulls buzzword bingo wordle! Another good one in the awesome El Reg is here. So I will leave it to you to review the official information and some of the industry commentators and make up your own minds as to what it all really means to you.

To summarize, (and just to be accurate for all the blue bloods out there, this is my personal interpretation and thoughts) an IBM PureSystem is a factory integrated data and compute infrastructure in a cabinet combing cloud, virtualization, servers, data and storage networking capabilities.
The IBM PureFlex system is comprised of various IBM and products and technologies (hardware, software and services) optimized with management across physical and virtual resources (servers, storage (V7000), networking, operating systems, hypervisors and tools).

The IBM PureApplication system builds and on PureFlex systems as a foundation for deploying various software stacks to deliver traditional IT applications, PaaS, SaaS or AaaS along with suitable buzzwords of elastic, scalable, repeatable, self-service, rapid provisioning, resilient, multi tenant and secure among others.


So what makes these different from HP or EMC etc? According to the marketing it is "Built in Expertise", "Integration by Design" and a "Simplified Experience". According to the video messages on the launch site, customers find it easy to write applications but find it really hard and expensive to deploy, run and manage them and the answer to this is IBM PureSystems. 

An alternative view is that IBM has spent the last decades charging customers billions of dollars in services doing what a PureSystem will help them do for a couple of hundred thousand dollars of hardware. An interesting compare to what the real cost of these systems will be. I wonder what the TCO will be when installation, software licenses and support are factored in ? Talking of support, as there is a total reliance on ISV applications what is the reality of a support call going to be .... hardware it's not us, it's software, software it's not us it's the application ... you get the idea.

Built in Expertise - read, customize and run these scripts to get what you thought you were buying from the factory. 

Integration by Design - read, someone managed to get a single PID on the price list.

Simplified Experience - read, it's easier to get your cash for compute and storage resources in one go.