The Danger of Denying Reality: DevOps Enterprise Summit London Review

June 16th, 2017 No comments

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the DevOps Enterprise Summit in London recently. The conference is organised by ITRevolution which is lead by DevOps luminary Gene Kim who has written a number of books and papers about DevOps.

DevOps can touch every part of a business and help to create enormous benefit but there is a danger people can get caught up in the hype of things and possibly ignore reality.

I appreciate it takes huge courage to stand up at a conference and talk about what you’ve done and you should rightly be proud of having the courage and of you successes. I certainly don’t want to diminish the work some of the presenters had done but feel a reality check may be in order. One of the presentations at the conference was from the Ministry of Justice with one of its IT partners which was titled “Hybrid-Clouds: How to Go Slow and Haemorrhage Money Doing It”. The premise was public cloud was the future and wasting time and resources doing hybrid cloud is a fools errand.

Peeking into the future this is something I actually agree with. Hybrid cloud should be today’s on-ramp to the public cloud rather than a destination in itself. Now, there are going to be use cases for “private cloud” but this should actually be public cloud services managing on-premises IT if there is a need. The on-premises IT will more likely be devices that need to be physically located near to other things to report on/number crunch where there  are network limitations. It won’t be a mashing together of existing traditional on-premises IT linked up to a public cloud. Its not a public cloud more agile UAT version of your database that refreshes from the production on-prem version.

So, when an organisation as well known and important as the Ministry of Justice says it is all in on public cloud, its time to sit up and take notice. However, the reality doesn’t match up with the advertising. The Ministry of Justice says it has 50 cloud native public cloud applications out of 950. The other 900 applications run on traditional on-premises infrastructure. I questioned this and was told the Ministry doesn’t have a timeline to move the 900 apps to public cloud and will still even continue to deploy new workloads on-premises. They are only 5% public cloud yet seemingly ignoring the other 95%. That’s a bit of a reality check and not an all in on public cloud (yet). Have they learned enough from migrating or creating net new 5% public cloud apps to proclaim hybrid cloud a waste of time even if its temporary?

Unfortunately this kind of presentation reinforces the wrong message and I would believe creates more of a bi-modal IT mess. The IT estate gets carved up into the old and the new without acknowledging and managing the important bridge between the two and the continual evolution of IT from old to new wherever it may be hosted. Ring fencing your current, legacy, heritage, traditional, whatever you want to call it actually adds more technical debt if you don’t have a migration plan. There needs to be continuous evolution from old to new, the smaller and quicker the steps the easier it is.

Nordea bank had a provocatively titled talk “How Do You Fit a Core Banking System into a Few Containers?” which went through a development effort to migrate from a monolithic Oracle and Java estate to something new and containerised. There are two things which they did at least highlight which showed this isn’t the unicorns and rainbows one may expect from the title. First, this is only currently in test, not production. This certainly still has huge benefits with being able to test more quickly and have a more nimble and repeatable deployment model. Nordea says it is working with its compliance and regulatory teams to be able to move towards production. I hope for their sake that compliance/security/regulators were brought in at the very beginning and have been part of the journey rather than coming in only when they need to think about production. Secondly they openly said their containers are still very heavy which is an issue. They have large containers with Oracle and JVMs installed. The title did say a “few containers”. This seems like they are using containers not for micro-services but more of a packaging and standardised deployment format, all fine and useful but the real wins will be pulling apart that massive Oracle and Java codebase into discrete micro-services.

I will be very interested to see how Nordea get on with this in production, at least they are trying, playing and learning, I look forward to a future talk: “How Do You Fit a Production Core Banking System into a Lots of Containers?”

Enterprises certainly should have a goal of using more and more public cloud services and even be bold and have a public cloud first policy. Refactoring monolithic applications into micro-services allows you to do so much more. However you can’t ignore what you currently have and if you’re going to talk about where you are going, be realistic with where you are coming from and what that might mean as you learn more.

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Do Enterprise People Not Care About DevOps? A DevOps Enterprise Summit London Review

June 15th, 2017 No comments

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the DevOps Enterprise Summit in London recently. The conference is organised by ITRevolution which is lead by DevOps luminary Gene Kim who has written a number of books and papers about DevOps.

I was struck that there were apparently 650 attendees which I found surprisingly low. If DevOps is the solution to many IT problems I would have thought that it would appeal to more than 650 people. It was hosted in easily accessible London and seemed to attract people from all over Europe in my unscientifically unofficial badge watching and accent analysis.

I can think of two reasons for the seemingly low turnout. First of all this is targeted squarely at the enterprise who are certainly laggards by nature of their size and complexity. Although DevOps is now fairly established practice, enterprise are still wrangling their own inertia and bureaucracy. Enterprises may not yet see the value in sending people to a conference about DevOps, they are happy to spend vast amounts of money on wasting time  in the office doing meaningless work yet a few days at a conference to hear from peers and experts is seen a time away from the office which must be therefore unproductive.. This would be seen as ridiculous in smaller, IT focused companies that have fully embraced “cloud native” where DevOps is obvious and the norm. Enterprises can be very strange.

Secondly, DevOps is very difficult to define and articulate. It could be seen as a term possibly as loosely defined as “cloud”. How many people would see value and attend a “Cloud Enterprise Summit”? I think this is one of the challenges facing the DevOps “movement” for enterprises. It is tough to articulate DevOps and therefore tough to define its value. When you understand what DevOps can bring it seems obvious but when you don’t it can seem nebulous. I’ve heard anecdotally that the DevOpsDays are seen as somewhat insular. Is the DevOps movement itself a barrier to adoption?

One of the things that backed up my observation at the conference is more physical, books. The conference gave out Gene Kim et al’s The Phoenix Project, DevOps Handbook and other books for free at the conference. I had thought people would attend the conference having already read the books and wanting to find out more but a number of people I spoke to had never heard of the books or if they had heard of them hadn’t read them. I found this amazing as The Phoenix Project has been out for more than 4  years and was one of the books that sparked my interest in discovering what is holding back IT.

Attendance numbers aside it seemed the people who were there were very engaged and the presentations were diverse and interesting. Does this mean DevOps is still in its infancy in the enterprise and conference attendees are its early proponents or is DevOps still not getting the attention in enterprises it needs?

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DevOps Enterprise Summit London Review: Organisational Change is Mandatory

June 15th, 2017 No comments

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the DevOps Enterprise Summit in London recently. The conference is organised by ITRevolution which is lead by DevOps luminary Gene Kim who has written a number of books and papers about DevOps.

One of the recurring themes throughout the conference was about organisational change. Many enterprises are making some headway with DevOps practices if we define DevOps in one of its purest aims of “shipping higher quality code faster” as well as in a more broader sense of making IT more efficient and adaptive.

I listened to a number of the presentations, attended the great Ask the Speakers Sessions, took part in a group discussion and spoke to a number of attendees. The number one barrier to improving IT efficiency and getting that better code shipped faster is organisational change rather than technical tools or capabilities. The repeated message was, the bigger the focus on organisation change, the better performing an IT organisation will be. By organisational change I mean team function as well as financing.

I was struck listening to the presentation from Barclays by Jonathan Smart, The Yin and Yang of Speed and Control and followed up in the Ask the Speakers Session. Barclays has spent three years completely changing the way its organisation is structured and aiming for the so-called 2 pizza team or smaller more nimbler teams. What is also interesting is they are extending this to their external partners by structuring these engagements also using the same small cell based structure approach. Basically one-size all encompassing outsourcing deals are out the windows which is something IT professionals have been telling their bosses for years!

Read more…

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UKVMUG: Demystifying the Future of IT , an IT practitioners guide

November 17th, 2016 2 comments

vmugI had the huge honour today of presenting the closing keynote at the UK National VMUG.
I’ve attended all but one of the previous six UK VMUGs and my excuse for missing last year’s was attending Virtualisation Field Day 4 so I’ll take a pass for that!

I presented “Demystifying the Future of IT, an IT practitioners guide”
The premise was helping IT practitioners navigate a complicated cloud journey.

Here are the slides:

As well as a summary:

I want to redefine the journey as a multi-cloud one rather than just hybrid which implies a single private and public cloud relationship. Multi-cloud means embracing all the cloud offerings from on-premises to AWS/Azure encompassing IaaS, PaaS, SaaS.
I all to briefly went through a small part of Wardley Mapping to help people focus on user needs and map out their IT on the Evolutionary Pathway which tracks things from Genesis through to Utility. This I hope helps people work out what to build vs. buy vs. consume.

Resetting on simplicity is a big theme, to try to make things much simpler to operate and manage which also helps deciding on where to place things.

I went through how Microsoft transitioned its own Treasury department to a cloud model by working out what could be binned, transitioned to SaaS, refactored for PaaS, lifted and shifted to IaaS or left alone on-prem.

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VMworld US 2016 Buzz: My wrap up thoughts + a VMworld Hot or Not

September 20th, 2016 No comments

I arrived at VMworld a little sceptical this year. So much is changing in IT, cloud and DevOps is actually delivering the promises of a better way to do things, I wasn’t sure VMware was up to the task of pivoting/extending beyond being the best VM hypervisor/management company around.

Cloud Native

I do see tons of things happening at VMware. Cloud native apps and container management are being worked on furiously as the immediate existential threat to the VM being the unit of IT consumption. Is this enough? Do we need to manage containers as VMs or should we be doing things differently? Squashing your existing applications into containers just as a packaging format and then having to back them up doesn’t really move the needle, you’re just moving the unit of consumption to a container yet with the same “restrictions” you had with your VMs.

It was a real shame Docker wasn’t on stage and relegated to a small booth. Docker has developer mindshare and is dying to get into enterprises, surely VMware and Docker can work together, Microsoft doesn’t seem to have a problem with this.

Although things are moving extremely quickly in IT nowadays, there is very much a long tail because if applications need to be rewritten to take advantage of this cloud native world, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

Yet, because new applications can be written much more quickly and delivered to customers much more quickly, business have more more choice and agility when it comes to changing the software/services they use so that long tail may dwindle quicker than VMware would like.

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VMworld US 2016 Buzz: The Parties!

September 14th, 2016 No comments

Adding some more colour to the highlights from my VMworld US 2016 coverage:

The VMworld parties are part of the experience, vendors & community get together to sell and socialise. Here are some of the parties I attended to get an idea of what’s happening out of the conference center.

Sunday

Welcome Reception

VMworld itself kicks off its sales side with the opening of the Solutions Exchange by a Welcome Reception, at first glance it looks like not much has changed with the move from San Francisco to Vegas with plenty of companies eager to tell you their stories.

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VMUG Member Party

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VMworld US 2016 Buzz: Office of the CTO Stand: P4: Programmable Data Planes

September 14th, 2016 No comments

I made a point as I always do at VMworld to head to the VMware Office of the CTO booth to have a glimpse into the future. I spoke to Mihau Budiu who also talked at a session which I blogged about: VMworld US 2016 Buzz: Hot Topics in VMware Research – CTO9406 so here are my notes from that:

Towards a programmable Internet

Mihau talked about P4 (Programming Protocol Independent Packet Processors). I had heard about P4 on the Packet Pushers Podcast (is that P3?). This is a programming language for programmable dataplanes so it allows you to reprogram the data plane which could be switches, FPGA’s, network cards, software switches, VMs etc.

This allows you to build customisable protocols easily as new protocols normally take forever to get ratified. P4 looks great, you can reprogram switches on the fly to make it much more simple to run multiple kinds of networks or any kind of network extension rather than being hampered by current headers.

Here are the pics from the CTO stand display:

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VMworld US 2016 Buzz: Office of the CTO Stand: Corfu Distributed Shared Log

September 14th, 2016 No comments

Adding some more colour to the highlights from my VMworld US 2016 coverage:

I made a point as I always do at VMworld to head to the VMware Office of the CTO booth to have a glimpse into the future.

I had been to a session which I blogged about: VMworld US 2016 Buzz: Hot Topics in VMware Research – CTO9406 so here are my notes from that:

Michael Wei spoke about Corfu which is an open source distributed open scale platform. He went through how a typical application becomes distributed which leads to a whole bunch of tools to get this working. Corfu is meant to solve this by being a distributed shared log with strong consistency for massive scale. Corfu objects are in-memory, highly available data structures and are being baked initially into NSX to provide a much more scalable and flexible control plane. They are also researching new programming models to be able to take advantage of this.

Corfu OneData is a new project using this platform for BigData. This provides a common Big Data store but still using native Hadoop/MySQL/Cassandra etc. APIs

Read more about Corfu here: https://research.vmware.com/projects/1

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VMworld US 2016 Buzz: Office of the CTO Stand: CLOVE: Congestion-Aware Load Balancing from the Virtual Edge

September 14th, 2016 No comments

Adding some more colour to the highlights from my VMworld US 2016 coverage:

I made a point as I always do at VMworld to head to the VMware Office of the CTO booth to have a glimpse into the future. I spoke to Aditi Ghag.

This is all about building a congestion aware, fine-grained, distributed network load balancer. This means as soon as the packet enters the network at the vSwitch or physical network switch when using SDN you can decide on which path it takes rather than having the network load balancing have to consult a central service.

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I haven’t found an associated research paper, if there is one out on the internets somewhere, let me know and I’ll link to it.

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VMworld US 2016 Buzz: Office of the CTO Stand: Enabling vMotion with Passthrough SR-IOV Network Devices for Latency Sensitive Apps

September 14th, 2016 No comments

Adding some more colour to the highlights from my VMworld US 2016 coverage:

I made a point as I always do at VMworld to head to the VMware Office of the CTO booth to have a glimpse into the future. I spoke to Xin Xu.

Currently VMware has a number of features for allowing latency sensitive apps to have a more direct path to the hardware which obviously speeds things up. However this breaks some other useful functionality. VMware is working on allowing vMotion for latency sensitive apps when using SR-IOV Network devices.

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You can read more details of the research paper here:

http://dl.acm.org/ft_gateway.cfm?ftid=1703154&id=2892256

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