Pay-as-you-go IT models provide cost and operations advantages for Northrop Grumman

The next BriefingsDirect IT business model innovation interview explores how pay-as-you-go models have emerged as a new way to align information technology (IT) needs with business imperatives.

We’ll now learn how global aerospace and defense integrator Northrop Grumman has sought a revolution in business model transformation in how it acquires and manages IT.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to help explore how cloud computing-like consumption models can be applied more broadly is Ron Foudray, Vice President, Business Development for Technology Services at Northrop Grumman. The interview is conducted by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What trends are driving the need to change how IT is acquired? People have been buying IT for 40 or more years. Why a change now?

Foudray: Our customers, who are primarily in the government sector across the globe, understand the dynamic nature of how IT and technology innovation occurs. It can be a very expensive investment to maintain and manage your own infrastructure as part of that.

Ron Foudray


In parallel, they see the benefits of where technology is going from a cloud perspective, and how that can drive innovation — and even affordability. So there is a cultural transformation around how to do more relative to IT and where it’s going.

That gets to the things you were just using in your opening comments as to how do we transform the business model and provide that to our customers, who traditionally haven’t thought about those business models.

Gardner: I suppose this is parallel to some creative financing trends we saw 10 or 15 years ago in other sectors – manufacturing and transportation, for example – where they found more creative ways of sharing and spreading the risk of capital.

Pay-as-you-go or buy?

Foudray: I think it’s a great analogy. You can look at it as if you are going to lease a car instead of buying one. In the future, maybe we don’t buy cars; maybe we just access them via Uber or Lyft, or some other pieces. But it’s that kind of transformation and that kind of model that we need to be willing to embrace — both culturally and financially — and learn how we can leverage that.

Gardner: Ron, tell us about Northrop Grumman and why your business is a good fit for these new models.

Foudray: I have been in the aerospace and defense market for 36 years. Northrop Grumman clearly is a market-leading, global security company, and we focus primarily on building manned and unmanned platforms.

We have as part of our portfolio the sensors that go along with those platforms. You may have heard of something called C4ISR, for Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. It’s those types of sensors and systems that we bring to the table.

In my portfolio, on the technology services side, we are also providing differentiated capabilities for how we support, maintain, upgrade and modernize that infrastructure. That includes the capabilities of how we can provide the services more broadly to our customers. So we focus primarily on five core pillar areas: autonomous systems, strike platforms, logistics, cyber-security, and C4ISR.

Gardner: You are not only in the delivery of these solutions, but you are an integrator for the ecosystem that has to come together to provide them. And, of course, that includes IT.

Foudray: Exactly. In fact, sometimes when I go talk to a customer, it’s like we’re Northrop Grumman Information Technology. They are trying to connect the dots. So, yes, I think of Northrop Grumman not only as the platforms, sensors and systems, but the enterprise IT infrastructure as well..

The edge for our war fighters is anywhere that their systems and sensors are being deployed.

That comes with the digital transformation that’s been ongoing inside of our war-fighting apparatus around the world for some time. And so when you hear about the [transformation] of things in the data center or at the edge — well, the edge for our war fighters is anywhere that their systems and sensors are being deployed.

We need to be able to do more of that processing, and that storage, in real time, at that closer point-of-need. We therefore need to be driving innovation with enterprise IT on how to connect into and leverage that all back across those systems, sensors, and platforms.

When you put it in that context, the digital interconnectedness that we have — not just a society — but in a war fighting sense as well, it becomes more and more clear as to why an integrator, a company like Northrop Grumman, wants to drive enterprise IT innovation and solutions. By doing so, we can drive essentially the three things I think all customers are looking for, which are mission effectiveness, mission efficiency, and affordability.

Gardner: The changes we have seen in IT and software over the past decade — of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and other cloud-driven models — make a lot of sense. You pay as you consume. You may not own the systems; they are in somebody else’s data center, typically referred to as the cloud.

But I’m going to guess that in your business, public cloud isn’t where you are going to put your data centers – this is probably more of an on-premises, close to the point of value, if you will, deployment model. So how do you translate SaaS consumption models and economics to an on-premises data center?

Control and compliance in the cloud?

Foudray: You are astute in pointing that out, because government customers traditionally have had a greater need for a level of control and compliance. With those types of data and applications — whether it’s the clearance level of the information or just the type of information that’s being collected — there is sensitivity.

That said, there are still some types of information — back office type of things – that may be appropriate for a public cloud that you could commingle with today. But very clearly there is more and more of a push for that on-premises solution set.

When our customers begin thinking about cloud — and they are modeling their enterprise on a cloud capability — they tend to use the model of, “Well, how can I get the same affordability outcomes that a public cloud provider is going to be able to offer?” They are amortizing their cost and those elements across all those other customers versus an on-premises solution that is only theirs.

The business model innovation is that consumption-based, on-premises solution that gets more creative on how you look at the residual values.

And so the business model innovation that we are talking about and driving is that consumption-based, on-premises solution that gets more creative on how you look at the residual values. And in our space, there’s a lot of digital data that won’t come back into the equation that is not able to realize residual value. It’s like when you bring back the leased car, that we talked about earlier, if you go over 30,000 miles, it still has value after your lease period.

In a lot of cases in the government environment, depending on where it lives, those digital fingerprints are going to have to stay on the customers’ side or get destroyed, so you can’t assume that into the model.

There are a lot of different variables driving it. That’s where the innovation comes in, and defines how you work as an integrator. With partners — like we see with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and others in the marketplace — we can drive that innovation.

Gardner: In a case where there’s a major government or military organization, they may want to acquire on a pay-per-use basis, but the supply chain that supports that, they might want to be paid upfront on a CapEx basis. How are you able to drive this innovation in end-pricing and in economics for entire solutions that extend back into such supply chains? Or are you stuck in the middle?

Trusted partners essential

Foudray: That hits on a very core part of the challenge, and why having a partner that is going to help you provide the IT infrastructure is so important — not just in terms of managing that supply chain holistically but in having a trusted partner, and making sure that the integrity and the security of that supply chain is maintained. We haven’t talked about the security element yet, but there is a whole cybersecurity piece of that supply chain from an integrity perspective that has to be maintained as well.

The more trust you build up in that partnership, and across those relationships with your downstream suppliers, the better. That trust extends to how they are getting paid and the terms associated with that, with working those terms and conditions and parameters upfront, and of getting those laid in so that the desired expectations are met. Then you must work with your customer to set the right expectations on their terms and conditions to provide them a new consumption-based model. It’s all from an agreement perspective, all very closely aligned.

Gardner: Is there something about newer data center technology that is better tuned to this sort of payment model change? I’m thinking of software-defined data center (SDDC) and the fact that virtualization allows you to rapidly spin-up cloud infrastructure applications. There’s more platform agility than we had several years ago. Does that help in being able to spread the risk because the IT vendors know that they can be fleet and agile with their systems, more than in the past?

Hardware clearly is an enabling feature and function, but software is what’s really driving digital transformation … not just on the technology side, but also on the business side and how it’s consumed.

Foudray: We do a lot from a software perspective as a systems integrator in the defense market space. Software is really the key. Hardware clearly is an enabling feature and function that’s driving that, but software is what’s really driving digital transformation. And that element in and of itself is really what’s helping to transform the way that we think about innovation — not just on the technology side, but also on the business side, and in how it’s consumed.

We are putting a lot of energy into software transformation, as part of the digitization aspect — not just in terms of how quickly we can provide those drops from an agile development, DevOps, development-security-operations (SecOps) perspective, but in terms of the type of services that are delivered with it, and how you look at it.

Changing the business model in parallel needs to avoid offending engineering principle 101: Never introduce more than one key change at a time. You have to be careful that culturally, depending on the organization that you are interacting with, that you are not trying to drive too much change and adoption patterns at the same time.

But you are right to hit on the software. If I had to pick one element, software is going to be the driver. Next is the culture — the human behavior, of where someone lives, and what he or she is used to. That’s also going to be transformative.

Gardner: For mainstream enterprises and businesses, what do you get when you do this? What are some of the payoffs in terms of your ability to execute in your business, keep your customers satisfied, and maybe even speed up innovation? What do you get when you do this acquisitions model transformation thing right?

Scale in, scale out, securely

Foudray: First, it’s important to recognize that you don’t lose control, you don’t lose compliance, and you don’t lose those things that traditionally may have caused you not to embrace [these models].

What you get is the ability to leverage innovation from a technology perspective as it happens because your provider is going to be able to scale in and scale out technology as needed. You are going to be able to provision more dynamically in such an environment.

You get the ability to leverage innovation from a technology perspective as it happens.

If you have the right partner in your integrator and their provider, you should be able to anticipate and get in front of the changes that drive today’s scalability challenges, so you can get the provisioning and get the resourcing that you need. You are also going to be in a much better predictability state of where you need to be for the financial elements of your system.

There are some other benefits. If you implement it correctly, not only are you going to get the performance that you need, your utilization rates should go way up. That’s because you are not going to be paying for underutilized systems as part of your infrastructure. You will see that added affordability piece.

If you do it right, and if you pick integrators who are also tying in the added dimension of security, which we very much are focused on providing, you are going to get a high level of compliance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Risk Management Framework (RMF). On the US side, there is also the National Defense Authorization Act, which requires organization and agency heads to certify that their enterprise is at a certain level of hygiene. If you have implemented this correctly, you should be able to instrument your environment in such a way that at any given time you know what level of security you are at, from a risk perspective.

There are a lot of benefits you get for cost, schedule, and performance — all of that tied together in a way that you never would have been able to see from an ecosystem perspective, all at the same time. You may get one or two of those, but not all three. So I think there are some benefits that go along those lines that you are going to be able to see as a customer, whether you are in the defense space or not.

Gardner: Yes, I think we’re going to see these models across more industry ecosystems and supply chains. Clearly vendors like HPE have heard you. They recently announced some very innovative new flex-capacity-types of pricing, and GreenLake-branded ways to acquire technology differently in most markets.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in Cloud computing, Cyber security, Data center transformation, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP, Software-defined storage, storage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A tale of two hospitals—How healthcare economics in Belgium hastens need for new IT buying schemes

The next BriefingsDirect data center financing agility interview explores how two Belgian hospitals are adjusting to dynamic healthcare economics to better compete and cooperate.

We will now explore how a regional hospital seeking efficiency — and a teaching hospital seeking performance — are meeting their unique requirements thanks to modern IT architectures and innovative IT buying methods.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to help us understand the multilevel benefits of the new economics of composable infrastructure and software defined data center (SDDC) in the fast-changing healthcare field are Filip Hens, Infrastructure Manager at UZA Hospital in Antwerp, and Kim Buts, Infrastructure Manager at Imelda Hospital in Bonheiden, both in Belgium.The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are the top trends disrupting the healthcare industry in Belgium? Filip, why do things need to change? Why do you need to have better IT infrastructure?

Hens: That’s a good question. There are many up-and-coming trends. One is new regulations around governance, which is quite important. Due to these new rules, we are working more closely together with other hospitals to share more data, and therefore need better data security. This is one of the main reasons that we need to change.

Filip Hens


In Belgium, we have many hospitals, with some of them only a few kilometers apart. Yet there have been very few interactions between them.

New demands around augmentation of services means patient data are a growing concern. So it’s not only the needs of new governance but also the demand for providing better medical services across hospitals.

Gardner: Kim, how are the economics of healthcare — of doing more with less — an ongoing requirement? How are you able to conserve on the costs?

Buts: We are trying to do everything we can across the financial possibilities. We are constantly looking for good solutions that are affordable. The obligation to work in a [hospital] cluster provides us with a lot of new challenges.

A major challenge for us was around security. We have invested hugely in security. Many of the new applications are now shared across the hospital cluster. So we chose to take on the role of innovator. And to continue innovating, we have to spend a lot of money. That was not foreseen in the annual budget. So we took advantage of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE’s) new financial services approaches, to make things happen much faster than usual.

How HPE Digital Solutions

Support Healthcare

And Life Sciences

Gardner: We’ll get back to some of those services, but I’d like to help our readers and listeners better understand this interesting combination of needing to compete — that is to attract patients — but at the same time cooperate and share data across hospital cluster. Filip, tell us about UZA and how you’re unique compared to a regional hospital. What makes you different?

Sharing is caring, and saving

Hens: Our main focus remains patient care, but for us it is not necessarily general medicine. It is more the specialist cases, for such things as specialized surgery. That is our main goal. Also we are a teaching hospital, so we have an emphasis on learning from patients and from patient data.

Gardner: You have unique IT and big data requirements from your researchers. You have more of an intense research and development environment, and that comes with a different set of IT requirements?

Hens: Yes, and that is very important. We are more demanding of the quality of the data, the need to gather more information, and to provide our researchers a better infrastructure platform.

That is one difference between a general hospital and a university hospital. A teaching facility has more complex patient analytics requirements, the need for complex data mining and stuff like that.

Gardner: Kim, how are you in your healthcare cluster now able to share and cooperate? What is it that you’re sharing, and how do you that securely to creating better healthcare outcomes?

Buts: A big difference for us is financial. Since we are a smaller hospital, we must offer a very broad portfolio of treatments. That means we need to have a lot of patients to then have enough income to survive. The broad offering, that portfolio of treatments, also means we are going to need to work more together with the other cluster members.

Kim Buts


We are now trying to buy new IT equipment together, because we cannot afford to each buy for every kind of surgery, or for every kind of treatment. So we have combined our budgets together and we are hosting different things in our hospital that are then used by the other cluster members, too.

Financially, due to the regulations, we have less income than a university hospital. The benefits of education funding do not get to us. We only get income from patients, and that is why we need to have a broad portfolio.

Hens: Unlike a general hospital, we have income from the government and we also have an income flow from scientific research. It is huge funding; it is a huge amount. That is really what makes us different. That is why we need to use all of that data, to elaborate on scientific research from the data.

If not an advantage, it is an extra benefit that we have as university hospital. In the end, it is very important in that we maintain and add extra business functionality via an updated IT infrastructure.

If we maintain those clusters well — the general hospitals together with university hospitals — then those clusters can share among themselves how to best meet patient needs, and concentrate on using the sparest amount of the budget.

Robust research, record keeping, required

Gardner: You are therefore both trying to grapple with the use and sharing of electronic medical records (EMR) applications. Are you both upgrading to using a different system? How are you going about the difficult task of improving and modernizing EMR?

Buts: One big difference between our hospitals is our doctors; they are working for the hospital on a self-employed basis at Imelda. They are not employees of the hospital as at UZA. The demands of our doctors are therefore very high, so we have to improve all of our facilities — and our computer storage systems — very fast.

We try to innovate for the doctors, so we have to spend a lot of money on innovation. That is a big difference, I think, between the university hospitals because the doctors are employees there.

Gardner: How does that impact your use of EMR systems?

How HPE Digital Solutions

Support Healthcare

And Life Sciences

Buts: We are in the process of changing. We are looking for a new EMR system. We are discussing and we are choosing, but the demands of the doctors are sometimes different from the demands of the general hospital management.

Gardner: Filip, EMR, is that something you are grappling with, too?

Hens: We did the same evaluations and we have already chosen a new EMR. For us, implementing an EMR is now all about consolidation of a very scattered data landscape, of moving toward a centralized organization, and of centralizing databases for sharing and optimization of that data.

There is some pressure between what physicians want and what we as IT can deliver with the EMR. Let’s just say it is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to understand each other better, to know why they have high demands, and why we have other demands.

That comparison between the physicians and us IT guys makes it a challenging landscape. We are busier with the business side and with full IT solutions, rather than just implementing something.

It is not just about implementing something new, but adaptation of a new structure of people. Our people rethink how everybody’s role is changing in the hospital, and what is needed for interaction with everybody. So, we are in the process of that transformation.

Gardner: What is it about the underlying IT infrastructure that is going to support the agility needed to solve both of your sets of problems, even though they are somewhat different?

Filip, tell us about what you have chosen for infrastructure and why composable infrastructure helps solve many these business-level challenges.

Composable confidence

Hens: That is a good question, because choosing a solution is not like going to the supermarket and just buy something. It is a complex process. We still have separation of data storage and computing power.

We still separate that kind of stuff because we want to concentrate on the things that really bring added value, and that are also trustworthy. For us, that means virtualization on the server and network platforms, to make it more composable.

A more software-defined and composable approach will make us more independent from the underlying hardware. We have chosen for our data center the HPE Synergy platform. In our opinion, we are ready because after many years as an HPE customer — it just works.

For me, knowing that something is working is very important, but understanding the pitfalls of a project is even more important.

And for me, knowing that something is working is very important, but understanding the pitfalls of a project is even more important. For me, the open discussion that you can have with HPE about those pitfalls, of how to prepare for them and how to adapt your people to know what’s to come in the future — that is all very important.

It’s not only a decision about the metal, but also about what are the weaknesses in the metal and how we can overcome that — that is why we stick with HPE, because we have a good relationship.

Gardner: Kim, what are you doing to modernize, but also innovate around those all-important economic questions? How are you using pay-as-you-go models to afford more complex technology, and to give you advancement in serving your customers?

One-stop shopping

Buts: The obligations of the new hospital-cluster regulations had a huge impact on our IT infrastructure. We had to modernize. We needed more compute power and more storage. When we began calculating, it showed us that replacing all of the hard drives at one time was the best option, instead of spreading it over the next three to four years.

Also the new workload demands on the infrastructure meant we needed to replace it as fast as possible, but the budget was not available at our hospitals. So HPE Financial Services provided us with a solution that meant we could replace all our equipment with very short notice. We exchanged servers, storage, and our complete network, including our Wi-Fi network.

So we actually started with a completely brand new data center thanks to the financial services of HPE.

Gardner: How does that financing work? Is that a pay-as-you-go, or are payments spread over time?

Buts: It’s spread over the coming five years. That was the only solution that was good for us. We could not afford to do it any other way.

Gardner: So that is more like an operating costs budget than an upfront capital outlays budget?

We actually started with a completely brand new data center thanks to the financial services of HPE. We could not afford to do it any other way.

Buts: Yes, and the other thing we wanted to do was do everything with HPE — because they could offer us a complete range of servers, storage, and Wi-Fi networking. That way we could reduce the complexity of all our work, and it guaranteed us a fast return on the investment.

Gardner: It is all more integrated, upfront.

Buts: Yes, that is correct.

Gardner: At UZA, what are you doing to even further modernize your infrastructure to accommodate more data, research, sharing, and security?

Hens: It is not about what I want to deliver; it is about what the business wants that we can deliver, and what we can together deliver to the hospital. So, for me, the next step is the EMR program.

So, implementing the EMR, looking for the outcomes from it, and offering something better to end-users. Then those outcomes can be used to further modernize the infrastructure.

That for me is the key. I will not necessarily say that we will buy more HPE Synergy. For me, the key to the process, as I just described, that is what will set the margins of what we will need.

Gardner: Kim, now that you have a new data center, where do you take it next in terms of people, process or even added technology efficiencies? Improved data and analytics, perhaps?

Cloud in the Cluster?

Buts: That is a difficult one because the cluster is very new for us. We are still looking at good ways to incorporate and decide where the data is going to be placed, and what services are going to be required.

It is still brand new for us, and we have to find a good way to incorporate it all with the different hospital cluster members. A big issue is how are we going to exchange the critical patient data, and how we are going to store it safely and securely.

Gardner: Is cloud computing going to be a part of that?

Buts: I do not know. Everything is “cloud” now so, maybe. I am not a huge fan of public cloud. If you can stay in a private cloud, yeah, then okay. But public cloud, I do not know. In a hospital, regulations are so strong and the demands are so high.

Gardner: Maybe a shared private cloud environment of some sort?

Buts: Yeah. I think that could be a good solution.

How HPE Digital Solutions

Support Healthcare

And Life Sciences

Hens: For public cloud in general, I think that is a no-go. But what we are doing already with our EMR, we can work together with a couple of hospitals and we can choose to build a private cloud at one of the sites at our hospitals.

You do not need to define it as a cloud. Really, it’s like public Internet cloud, but you have to make your IT cloud-aware and cloud-defined inside the walls of your hospital. That is the first track you need to take.

Buts: That is why in our hospital cluster, we chose to host a lot of new applications on the new hardware. It gave us the ability to learn and adapt quickly to the new innovations. And for the other hospitals, we are now becoming a kind of service provider to them. That was for us a big change, because now we are more a service level agreements (SLA)-driven organization than we used to be.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in application transformation, Cloud computing, Cyber security, data center, Data center transformation, disaster recovery, electronic medical records, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, healthcare, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Security, storage, User experience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retail gets a makeover thanks to data-driven insights, edge computing, and revamped user experiences

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer vertical industry disruption solutions interview explores how intelligence, edge computing, and a rethinking of the user experience come together to give retailers a business-boosting makeover.

We’ll now learn how Deloitte and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) are helping traditional retailers — as well as hospitality organizations and restaurants — provide a more consistent, convenient, and contiguous user experience across their businesses.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to help to define the new digitally enhanced retail experience are Kalyan Garimella, IoT Manager at Deloitte Consulting, and Jeff Carlat, Senior Director of Technology Solutions at HPE. The interview is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Jeff, what are the top trends now driving the amazing changes in retail?

Jeff Carlat


Carlat: First off, I want to clear the air. Retail is not dead. Everywhere I go I hear that the retailer is dead, no more brick and mortar. It’s a fallacy. There is a retail apocalypse out there, but quite honestly 85 to 90 percent of purchases still go through the brick-and-mortar retailer.

The retail apocalypse does apply to brick-and-mortar stores that are failing to transform to fully embrace the digitalization  expected by consumers today. We are here to do something about it.

Gardner: Kalyan, user experiences have always been important. You can go back to Selfridges in London more than 100 years ago. People understand the importance of user experience. What’s different now in the digital age?

Garimella: Unfortunately, if you think about it, going back for the past four decades, retailers have relied on brand names and the strength of the merchandise to attract more customers. They never really differentiated themselves from the experiences that they were creating versus what their competitors were creating.

With the advent of changing customer demographics — with Millennials, Gen Ys, Gen Xs coming into the picture — retailers now need to produce a more customized shopping experience. They need to give shoppers a reason to escape their online retail channels, to come to brick-and-mortar shops and make more purchases there. It’s high time we give that to them — and make them come back to the stores.

Gardner: There are still things in the physical world that need to remain in the physical world, right, Jeff?

Virtual-real hybrid

Carlat: Exactly right! Take me, for example. We recently bought a new house and I wanted to get a nice La-Z-Boy chair. I’m the kind of guy who’s not going to just push a button on a computer or a handheld to buy a new chair. I’m going to want to go sit in it. I want to know is this right for me, and so I go to a traditional brick-and-mortar outlet.

How HPE and Deloitte Align IT
With Business Strategies

Yes, I may do my research [online]. I may actually end up [online] doing my purchase and having it shipped directly to my home. But while I’m at the store, I want to have an experience — an immersive experience — that’s going to help suggest to me, “Oh what’s the perfect side table that should go with that? What’s the complementary piece of art that actually matches the fabric?”

I want the capability to know what that chair will look like in my own decor, via virtually imposing that chair into my environment. That’s where the world is going. Those are the demands of the new retail environment, and they will separate those that continue to thrive in the retail environment from those that suffer and decline.

Gardner: And, of course, the people in that physical environment might actually know quite a bit about the purchase that you could gain from. They have been doing this for some time. There is the interaction of a consultancy effect when you are in a sales environment.

Kalyan Garimella


Garimella: People are always going to be a key asset no matter where we do it and in whichever industry. If we can complement the existing user knowledge that exists in the retail stores with the intelligence, or analytics and data that go along with it — that’s a powerful combo. We want to provide that.

That’s why we are talking about helping brick and mortars attract more customers — not just by increasing the customer experience and optimizing your digital store operations — by combining data and insights, and not relying only on opinions.

Gardner: Is that what we mean by cross-channel experiences, Jeff?

Easy as 1-2-3

Carlat: We, together with Deloitte, are delivering in early 2018 the Connected Consumer for Retail offering. It’s definitely a cross-channel experience. This takes the cross-channel experience and enhances it for the brick-and-mortar environment.

The Connected Consumer for Retail offering is based on three core principles. Principle number one is providing that enhanced customer experience, that immersive experience, which ultimately increases revenues and basket sizes for retailers.

The Connected Consumer for Retail offering takes the cross-channel experience and enhances it for the brick-and-mortar environment.

The second principle is based on optimizing in-store operations. How do you ensure that you have the right amount of stock — not overstocking and not under-stocking? How do you reduce the amount of a lost inventory? This Connected Consumer offering will help shrink and reduce the cost structures in a brick-and-mortar environment.

And finally, as Kalyan mentioned, the third key principle is around driving new insights from the in-store analytics. That data and intelligence is derived from the customers — coming through video-location analytics and all kinds of integration into social networks. You can know so much more about the customer, and then give that customer a personalized experience that brings them back and increases brand loyalty.

Gardner: I suppose it’s important to connect all of the dots across an entire shopping ecosystem process – from research to purchase to installation to service. Is that what we need?

Garimella: Absolutely, and that is what we refer to as an omni-channel experience, or a unified commerce experience. Our customers these days expect a seamless continuous shopping experience — be it online or in a store. If you can create that consistent behavior and shopping experience, that is a powerful channel to attract even more customers.

There are many retail concepts very much in demand right now, such as online delivery or pickup at the store. Or you can order in-store and have delivery to your house. Or you can order in one store and pick up in other stores, if the inventory is not currently available in the initial store.

So whatever channel they choose, you can provide value in each of those steps back to the customer – and in doing so you are attracting loyalty, you are building the brand. And that is a powerful medium.

Deloitte and HPE Collaboration

Span 20 Years and Myriad IT Solutions

Gardner: And the more interactions, the more data, the more feedback, the more analysis, and the better the experience. It can all tie together.

Let’s talk about how the technology accomplishes that. You mentioned a new retail initiative at HPE in partnership with Deloitte. What are fundamental technology underpinnings that allow this to happen?

Solid foundations for success

Garimella: The Connected Consumer for Retail begins at the infrastructure level — solutions around HPE Aruba, HPE Edgeline Systems portfolio, and other converged infrastructure systems. For location-based analysis, we are using the wireless LAN from Aruba and their Meridian App Platform for mobile. From a security layer, we are using Niara and ClearPass, but we are also working with a set of third-party vendors for radio-frequency identification (RFID) and for video analytics. So it amounts to an ecosystem of the right partners to solve the right business problem for each of those retailers.

Gardner: And, of course, it has to be integrated properly, and that is where Deloitte comes in. How does that come together into an actual solution?

Carlat: This is the beauty of working with a group like Deloitte. They bring together the consultative and advisory capabilities, along with the technical integration needed. Deloitte brings the ability to help the customer figure out how to get started on this journey.

First off, the methodology helps a customer think big about what they can do, then helps them actually build a business plan internally to drive change and get the right business approvals to start changing. Then they proceed to solution execution that starts small – and builds a proof of concept.

How HPE and Deloitte Align IT

With Business Strategies

In as little as eight weeks, we can deliver the value that can then be extrapolated across all of the retail sites. That’s what projects the true savings. That is the proper scale: To think big where you can, then start small, and lastly, scale fast across all of the sites.

Gardner: Kalyan, any more to offer on the importance of proper integration at a solutions level?

Garimella: Internet of Things (IoT) is such a complex ecosystem of technologies that you need subject matter experts from each of the technologies — such as RFID, Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), your core enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, the customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and the list goes on.

That’s where we come in, with the right people, and with the vast resources that we have. That’s deep industry expertise. We come and we look at the problems, create the customer journey for our clients, and then create the right level of systems integration that can help achieve the business objective.

Gardner: Let’s look at some examples. What are some of the ways that retailers are doing things right to improve on that all-important user experience?

Carlat: As a consumer, I know what I like — and I know what I do not like. I have seen overly aggressive advertising, pushiness that repels me as much as waiting in a long line at a retail brick-and-mortar. There needs to be a correct balance, if you will, of suggestive selling, cross-selling, and upselling. But you have to have the right learning, the right analytics, to be right more times than you are wrong. It means providing a value versus becoming a pest.

This new offering allows that balance to be made. Other best practices would be providing point notifications to issue a discount that would get me as a consumer over the buying hump, to say, “You know, that is a good deal. I cannot pass this up.” Then as a seller, I can naturally dovetail into increasing the basket size, cross-sell, and upsell.

Gardner: How can the brick-and-mortar company better extend itself beyond the threshold of the physical building into the lifestyle, the experience, and the needs of the consumer?

Customized consumer choices

Garimella: You are talking about bringing the retailer into the houses of the customers. That is where the successful online retailers have been. We are working with our brick-and-mortar clients to create similar experiences.

Some of the options to do that would be having a digital voice assistant included on your retailer or shopping app. You could add items to a wish list; you could look up those items and determine if they are close by and where is the retailer nearest to my house. Maybe I could go and check those out instead of waiting for a couple of days for them to be delivered.

We are talking about bringing the retailer into the houses of the customers. That is where the successful online retailers have been.

So those are some of the experiences that we are trying to create — not just inside the brick-and-mortar store, but outside as well.

Gardner: Jeff, tell us a bit more about the Connected Consumer for Retail. Where can we find out more information?

Carlat: We are rolling out this offering in Q1 2018. It is being delivered consultatively initially through Deloitte as the lead. We are happy to come in and do demos, as well as deliver proofs of concept. We are actually happy to help build a business model and conduct workshops to understand what is the best path for retailers to begin adopting the on-ramp to this digital transformation.

The easiest way to get to us is via our websites at either HPE or at Deloitte. We have business leads in all regions, all parts of the world.

Gardner: We have talked mostly about brick-and-mortar retailers, but this applies to hospitality organizations, restaurants, and other consumer services. How should they too be thinking about the user experience and extending it to a life cycle and a lifestyle?

From pain to gain

Garimella: Wherever there’s a possibility of converting a pain point in a customer journey into an engagement point, I think IoT can definitely help. We are calling this the Connected Consumer for Retail for a reason. The same concepts and the same technologies that we have developed for the retail solution can be extended to hospitality, or travel, or food services, et cetera, et cetera.

For example, based on location and proximity of a user, you can create — using the location-based services – improved experiences that cater to individuals in hospitality and hotels by giving them the right offers at the right time, thereby increasing the basket size in their respective industries.

Gardner: It seems that across these vertical industries we are at the threshold of something that had never been possible before.

Carlat: This is the beginning of a new era for retail. What is clear to me is those retailers that choose to adopt change are going to be the winners — and more importantly those that do not choose to change are going to be the losers.

Deloitte and HPE Collaboration

Span 20 Years and Myriad IT Solutions

Garimella: I think Jeff hit it right on. Retail is changing and changing fast, and other industries will follow in the same suit as well. If you do not put enough emphasis on customer engagement, while also optimizing your operations, you are at risk.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in application transformation, artificial intelligence, big data, Business intelligence, Business networks, Cloud computing, CRM, data analysis, Deloitte, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Internet of Things, Mobile apps, mobile computing, Networked economy, retail, social media, User experience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How VMware, HPE, and Telefonica together bring managed cloud services to a global audience

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer optimized cloud design interview explores how a triumvirate of VMware, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and Telefonica together bring managed cloud services to global audiences.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

Learn how Telefonica’s vision for delivering flexible cloud services capabilities to Latin American and European markets has proven so successful. Here to explain how they developed the right recipe for rapid delivery of agile Infrastructure-as-a-Services (IaaS) deployments is Joe Baguley, Vice President and CTO of VMware EMEA, and Antonio Oriol Barat, Head of Cloud IT Infrastructure Services at Telefonica. The interview is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What challenges are mobile and telecom operators now facing as they transition to becoming managed service providers?

Oriol Barat: The main challenge we face at this moment is to help customers navigate in a multi-cloud environment. We now have local platforms, some legacy, some virtualized platforms, hyperscale public cloud providers, and data communications networks. We want to help our customers manage these in a secure way.

Gardner: How have your cloud services evolved? How have partnerships allowed you to enter new markets to quickly provide services?

Antonio Oriol Barat

Oriol Barat

Oriol Barat: We have had to transition from being a hosting provider with data centers in many countries. Our movement to cloud was a natural evolution of those hosting services. As a telecommunications company (telco), our main business is shared networks, and the network is a shared asset between many customers. So when we thought about the hosting business, we similarly wanted to be able to have shared assets. VMware, with its virtualization technology, came as a natural partner to help us evolve our hosting services.

Gardner: Joe, it’s as if you designed the VMware stack with customers such as Telefonica in mind.

Baguley: You could say that, yes. The vision has always been for us at VMware to develop what was originally called the software-defined data center (SDDC). Now, with multi-cloud, for me, it’s an operating system (OS) for clouds.

We’re bringing together storage, networking and compute into one OS that can run both on-premises and off-premises. You could be running on-premises the same OS as someone like Telefonica is running for their public cloud — meaning that you have a common operating environment, a common infrastructure.

So, yes, entirely, it was built as part of this vision that everyone runs this OS to build his or her clouds.

Gardner: To have a core, common infrastructure — yet have the ability to adapt on top of that for localized markets — is the best of all worlds.

Joe Baguley


Baguley: That’s entirely it. Like someone said, “If all of the clouds are running the same OS, what’s the differentiation?” Well, the differentiation is, you want to go with the biggest player in Latin America. You want to go with the player that has the best direct connections: The guys that can give you service levels maybe that the cloud providers can’t give. They can give you over-the-top services that other cloud providers don’t provide. They can give you an integrated solution for your business that includes the cloud — and other enterprise services.

It’s about providing the tools for cloud providers to build differentiated powerful clouds for their customers.

Learn How HPE and VMware Solutions
Enable a New Style of Business

Gardner: Antonio, please, for those of our listeners and readers that aren’t that familiar with Telefonica, tell us about the breadth and depth of your company.

Oriol Barat: Telefonica is one of the top 10 global telco providers in the world. We are in 21 countries. We have fixed and mobile data services, and now we are in the process of digital transformation, where we have our focus in four areas: cloud, security, Internet of Things (IoT), and big data.

We used to think that our core business was in communications. Now we see what we call a new core of our business at the intersection of data communications, cloud, and security. We think this is really the foundation, the platform, of all the services that come on top.

Gardner: And, of course, we would all like to start with brand-new infrastructure when we enter markets. But as you know, we have to deal with what is already in place, too. When it came time for you to come up with the right combination of vendors, the right combination of technologies, to produce your new managed services capabilities, why did you choose HPE and VMware to create this full solution?

Sharing requires trust

Oriol Barat: VMware was our natural choice with its virtualization technologies to start providing shared IT platforms — even before cloud, as a word, was invented. We launched “virtual hosting” in 2007. That was 10 years ago, and since then we have been evolving from this virtual hosting that had no portal but was a shared platform for customers, to the cloud services that we have today.

The hardware part is important; we have to have reliable and powerful technology. For us, it’s very important to provide trust to the customers. Trust, because what they are running in their data centers is similar to what we have in our data centers. Having VMware and HPE as partners provides this trust to the customers so that they will move the applications, and they know it will work fine.

Gardner: HPE is very fond of its Synergy platform, with composable infrastructure. How did that help you and VMware pull together the full solution for Telefonica, Joe?

Learn More End-to-End Solutions
From HPE and VMware

Baguley: We have been on this journey together, as Antonio mentioned, since 2007 — since before cloud was a thing. We don’t have a test environment that’s as big as Telefonica’s production environment — and neither does HPE. What we have been doing is working together — and like any of these journeys, there have been missteps along the way. We stumbled occasionally, but it’s been good to work together as a partnership.

As we have grown, we have also both understood how the requirements of the market are changing and evolving. Ten years ago providing a combined cloud platform on a composable infrastructure was unheard of — and people wouldn’t believe you could do it. But that’s what we have evolved together, with the work that we have done with companies such as Telefonica.

The need for something like HPE Synergy and the Gen10 stack — where there are these very configurable stacks that you can put together — has literally grown out of the work that we have done together, along with what we have done in our management stack, with the networking, compute, and storage.

Gardner: The combination of composable infrastructure and SDDC makes for a pretty strong tag team.

Baguley: Yes, definitely. It gives you that flexibility and the agility that a cloud provider needs to then meet the agility requirements of their customers, definitely.

Gardner: When it comes to bringing more end users into the clouds for your managed services providers, one of the important things is for end users to move into that cloud with as much ease as possible. Because VMware is a de facto standard in many markets with its vSphere Hypervisor, how does that help you, being a VMware stack, create that ease of joining these clouds?

Seamless migrations

Oriol Barat: Having the same technology in the customer data center and in our cloud makes things a lot easier. In the first place, in terms of confidence, the customer can be confident that it’s going to work well when it is in place. The other thing is that VMware is providing us with the tools that make these migrations easier.

Baguley: At VMworld 2017, we announced VMware Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX), which is our hybrid cloud connector. It allows customers to locally install software that connects at a Layer 2 [network] level, as well as right back to vSphere 5.0 in clouds. Those clouds now are IBM and VMware cloud native, but we are extending it to other service providers like Telefonica in 2018.

The important thing here is by going down this road, people can take some of the fear out of going to the cloud.

So a customer can truly feel that their connecting and migrations will be seamless. Things like vSphere vMotion across that gap are going to be possible, too. I think the important thing here is by going down this road, people can take some of the fear out of going to the cloud, because some of the fear is about getting locked in: “I am going to make decisions that I will regret in two years by converting my virtual machines (VMs) to run on another platform.” Right here, there isn’t that fear, there is just more choice, and Telefonica is very much part of that story of choice.

Gardner: It sounds like you have made things attractive for managed service providers in many markets. For example, they gain ease of migration from enterprises into the provider’s cloud. In the case of Telefonica, users gain support, services and integration, knowing that the venerable vendors like VMware and HPE are behind the underlying services.

Do you have any examples where you have been able to bring this total solution to a typical managed service provider account? How has it worked out for them?

Everyone’s doing it

Oriol Barat: We have use cases in all the vertical industries. Because cloud is a horizontal technology, it’s the foundation of everything. I would say that all companies of all verticals are in this process of transformation.

We have a lot of customers in retail that are moving their platforms to cloud. We have had, for example, US companies coming to Europe and deploying their SAP systems on top of our platforms.

For example in Spain, we have a very strong tourism industry with a lot of hotel chains that are also using our cloud services for their reservation systems and for more of their IT.

We have use cases in healthcare, of companies moving their medical systems to our clouds.

We have use cases of software vendors that are growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses and they need a flexible platform that can grow as their businesses grow.

A lot of people are using these platforms as disaster recovery (DR) for the platforms that they have on-premises.

I would say that all verticals are into this transformation.

Learn How HPE and VMware Solutions
Enable a New Style of Business

Gardner: It’s interesting, you mentioned being able to gain global reach from a specific home economy by putting data centers in place with a managed service provider model.

It’s also important for data sovereignty and compliance and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other issues for that to happen. It sounds like a very good market opportunity.

And that brings us to the last part of our discussion. What happens next? When we have proven technology in place, and we have cloud adoption, where would you like to be in 12 months?

Gaining the edge

Baguley: There has been a lot of talk at recent events, like HPE Discover, about intelligent edge developments. We are doing a lot at the edge, too. When you look at telcos, the edge is going to become something quite interesting.

What we are talking about is taking that same blend of storage, networking and compute, and running it on as small a device as possible. So think micro data centers, nano data centers. How far out can we push this cloud? How much can we distribute this cloud? How close to the point of need can we get our customers to execute their workloads, to do their artificial intelligence (AI), to do their data gathering, et cetera?

And working in partnership with someone who has a fantastic cloud and a fantastic network just means that a customer who is looking to build some kind of distributed edge-to-cloud core capability is something that Telefonica and VMware could probably do over the next 12 months. That could be really, really strong.

Gardner: Antonio?

Oriol Barat: In this transformation that all the enterprises are in, maybe we are in the 20 percent of execution range. So we still have 80 percent of the transformation ahead of us. The potential is huge.

Looking ahead with our services, for example, it’s very important that the network is also in transformation, leveraging the software-defined networking (SDN) technologies. These networks are going to be more flexible. We think that we are in a good position to put together cloud services with such network services — with security, also with more software-defined capabilities, and create really flexible solutions for our customers.

Learn More End-to-End Solutions
From HPE and VMware

Baguley: One example that I would like to add is if you can imagine that maybe Real Madrid C.F. are playing at home next weekend … It’s theoretical that Telefonica could have the bottom of those network base stations — because of VMware Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), it’s no longer specific base station hardware, it’s x86 HPE servers in there. They can maybe turn around to a betting company and say, “Would you like to move your front-end web servers with running containers to run in the base station, in Real Madrid’s stadium, for the four hours in the afternoon of that match?” And suddenly they are the best performing website.

That’s the kind of out-there transformative ideas that are now possible due to new application infrastructures, new cloud infrastructures, edge, and technologies like the network all coming together. So those are the kind of things you are going to see from this kind of solutions approach going forward.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in application transformation, artificial intelligence, Business networks, Cloud computing, data center, Data center transformation, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Internet of Things, managed services, multicloud, Security, Software-defined storage, Virtualization, VMware | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Infatuation leads to love—How container orchestration and federation enables multi-cloud competition

The use of containers by developers — and now increasingly IT operators — has grown from infatuation to deep and abiding love. But as with any long-term affair, the honeymoon soon leads to needing to live well together … and maybe even getting some relationship help along the way.

And so it goes with container orchestration and automation solutions, which are rapidly emerging as the means to maintain the bliss between rapid container adoption and broad container use among multiple cloud hosts.

This BriefingsDirect cloud services maturity discussion focuses on new ways to gain container orchestration, to better use serverless computing models, and employ inclusive management to keep the container love alive.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to help unpack insights into the new era of using containers to gain ease with multi-cloud deployments are our panelists: Matt Baldwin, Founder and CEO at StackPointCloud, based in Seattle; Nic Jackson, Developer Advocate at HashiCorp, based in San Francisco, and Reynold Harbin, Director of Product Marketing at DigitalOcean, based in New York. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Nic, HashiCorp has gone a long way to enable multi-cloud provisioning. What are some of the trends now driving the need for multi-cloud? And how does container management and orchestration fit into the goal of obtaining functional multi-cloud use, or even interoperability?

Nic Jackson

Nic Jackson

Jackson: What we see mainly from our enterprise customers is that people are looking for a number of different ways so that they don’t get locked into one particular cloud provider. They are looking for high-availability and redundancy across cloud providers. They are looking for a migration path from private cloud to a public cloud. Or they want a burstable capacity, which means that they can take that private cloud and burst it out into public cloud, if need be.

Containers — and orchestration platforms like KubernetesNomad and Swarm — are providing standard interfaces to developers. So once you have the platform set up, the running of an application can be mostly cloud-agnostic.

Gardner: There’s a growing need for container management and orchestration for not only cloud-agnostic development, but potentially as a greasing of the skids, if you will, to a multi-cloud world.

Harbin: Yes. If you make the investment now to architect and package your applications with containers and intelligent orchestration, you will have much better agility to move your application across cloud providers.

This will also enable you to quickly leverage any new products on any cloud provider.  For example DigitalOcean recently upgraded our High CPU Droplet plans, providing some of the best values for accessing the latest chipsets from Intel. For users with containerized applications and orchestration, they could easily improve application performance by moving workloads over to that new product.

Gardner: And, Matt, at StackPointCloud you have created a universal control plane for Kubernetes. How does that help in terms of ease of deployment choice and multi-cloud use?

Ease-of-use increases flexibility

Baldwin: We’ve basically built a management control plane for Kubernetes that gives you a single pane of glass across all your cloud providers. We deal with the top four, so AmazonMicrosoft AzureGoogle and DigitalOcean. Because we provide that single pane of glass, you can build the clusters you need with those providers and you can stand up federation.

Matt Baldwin

Matt Baldwin

In Kubernetes, multi-cloud is done via that federation. The federation control plane connects all of those clusters together. We are also managing workloads to balance workloads across, say, some on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and some on DigitalOcean, if you like.

That’s what we have been doing with our star product. We are still on that journey, still building more things. Because it’s moving quite fast, federation is shifting and changing. We are keeping pace and trying to make it all easier to use.

Our whole point is usability. We think that all this tooling needs to become really, really easy to use. You need to be able to manage multi-cloud as if it’s a single cloud.

Gardner: Reynold, with DigitalOcean being one of the major cloud providers that Matt mentioned, why is it important for you to enable this level of multi-cloud use? Is it a matter of letting the best public cloud services values win? Why do you want to see the floodgates open for public cloud choice and interoperability?


Simple and Reliable

Cloud Object Storage

Harbin: Thousands of businesses and over a million developers use DigitalOcean — primarily because of the ease in provisioning and of being able to spin up and manage their infrastructure. This next step of having orchestration tools and containers puts even more flexibility into the hands of developers and businesses.

Reynold Harbin

Reynold Harbin

For customers who want to use data centers on DigitalOcean, or data centers on other providers, we want to enable flexibility. We want developers to more easily burst into public clouds as they need, and gain all the visibility they want in a common way across the various infrastructure providers that they want to use.

Gardner: Developers are increasingly interested in a serverless model, where they let the clouds manage the allocation of machine resources. This also helps in cost optimization. How do the container orchestration and management tools help? How does serverless, and the demand for it, also fit in?

Jackson: Serverless adds an extra layer of complexity, because the different cloud providers have different approaches to doing serverless. A serverless function running on Google or Azure or AWS — they all have different interfaces. They have different ways of deploying, and the underlying code has to be abstracted enough so that it can run across all the different providers. You have to really think about that from a software architectural problem, from that perspective.

Serverless pros and cons 

In my opinion, you would allow yourself to get locked in if you use things like the Native Queuing or Pub/Sub, which works really well with a particular cloud provider’s serverless platform.

One of the recent projects I’m super-excited about is OpenFaaS, by Alex Ellis. What OpenFaaS tries to do is provide that cloud-agnostic method of running functions-as-a-service (FaaS). This is not necessarily serverless, you still have to manage the underlying servers, but it does allow you to take advantage of your existing Kubernetes, Nomad, or Docker Swarm Clusters. It then gives you the developer workflow, which I think is the ultimate end-goal, rather than thinking about decoupling the complexity of the infrastructure.

Gardner: Reynold, any thoughts on serverless?

Harbin: I agree. We are on this road of making it easier for the application developer so they don’t have to worry about the underlying infrastructure. For certain applications, serverless can help in that goal, but at the same time you’re adding complexity. You have to think about the application, the architecture, and which services are going to be the most useful in terms of applying serverless.

You have to think about the application, the architecture, and which services are going to be the most useful in terms of applying serverless.

We want to enable our developers to use whatever technologies will help them the most. And for certain applications, serverless will be relevant. OpenFaaS is really interesting, because it makes it easier to write to one standard, and not have to worry about the underlying virtual servers or cloud providers.

Jackson: The other neat thing about OpenFaaS is the maintainability. When you look at application lifecycle management (ALM), which not enough people pay enough attention to, Serverless is so new that ALM is still unknown.

But with OpenFaaS — and one of the things that I love about that platform — you are baking functions into Docker containers so you can run those as standard microservices outside of the OpenFaaS platforms, if you want. So you can see that kind of maintainability. It gives you an upgrade path, despite being completely decoupled from any particular cloud provider’s platform. So you gain flexibility.

If you want to go multi-cloud, you can run OpenFaaS on a federated Nomad or federated Kubernetes cluster and you have your own private multi-cloud FaaS approach, which I think is super cool.

Gardner: It sounds as if we would like to see the same trajectory we saw with containers take place with serverless, there is just a bit of a lag there in terms of the interoperability and the extensibility.

Baldwin: There is also the serverless framework they can use that helps to abstract out the serverless endpoints. So abstract at Lambda or Kubeless or any other, Fission; Kubeless and Fission are just two other projects that are more geared toward Kubernetes than others.

Gardner: Nic, tell us about your organization, HashiCorp. What are you up to?

Simplify, simplify

Jackson: We are all about delivering developer tooling to enable modern applications. We have products like Nomad, which is a scheduler; Terraform, for infrastructure-as-code; Consul, which you can use for key value configurations and service discovery; Packer for creating gold master images; and Vault, which is becoming very popular for managing “secrets” and things like that.

We are putting together a suite of products that can make integration super-easy, but they actually work well standalone, too. You could just run Terraform if you want to, or maybe you are just going to use Nomad and Consul, or maybe Consul and Vault. But the aim is that we want to simplify a lot of the problems that people have when they start building highly available, highly distributed and scalable infrastructures.

Gardner: Reynold, tell us about DigitalOcean, and why you are interested in supporting organizations like StackPointCloud and HashiCorp as they better provide services and value to their customers.

Harbin: DigitalOcean is a very intuitive cloud services platform on which to run applications. We are designed to help developers and businesses build their applications, deploy them, and scale them faster, more efficiently, and more cost effectively. Our products basically are cloud services with various configurations to maximize CPU or memory available in our data centers around the world.

We also have storage, including object storage, for a unlimited scale; or block storage that you can attach a volume of any size to, depending on your needs. And then we also include networking services for securing and scaling — from firewalling to load balancing your applications.

All of these products are designed to be controlled, either through a simplified UI or through a very simple API, a RESTful API, so that tools like Terraform or Kubernetes orchestration through StackPointCloud can all be done through the single pane of glass of your choice. And the infrastructure that underlies it is all controlled via the API.

 Users and developers want easier ways to provision and manage infrastructure.

The reason we are leaning to these kinds of partnerships and tooling is because that’s what our users want, what developers want. They want easier ways to provision and manage infrastructure. So if you want to use an orchestration tool, then we want to make that as easy and as seamless as possible.

Gardner: The infatuation with containers has moved into the full love affair level, at least based on what I see in the market. But how do we keep this from going off the rails? We have seen other cases where popularity can lead to some complexity. For example, with the way virtual machines (VMs) were adopted to a point where sprawl became such an issue.

What are the challenges we are facing, and how can organizations better prepare themselves for a world of far more containers, and perhaps a world of more serverless?

Container complexity 

Baldwin: Containers are going to introduce a lot of complexity. I will just dig into one level of complexity, which is security. How to protect one host talking to another host? You need to figure out how to protect one service talking to another service. How do you secure that, how do you incur that traffic, how do you ensure that identity is handled?

When you begin looking at other pieces of the puzzle, things like ServiceMesh. We look at things like Kubernetes and Istio as complementary because you are going to need to be able to observe all of these environments. You are going to have to do all the things that you would have done with VMs, but there’s just an abundance of these things. That’s kind of what we are seeing, and that’s the level of complexity.

The tooling is still trying to catch up, and a lot of the open source tools are still in development, with some of the components still in alpha. There is a lot of need for ease-of-use around these tools, a lot of need for better user interfaces. We are at the beginning where, yes, we are trying to handle containers, and lots of containers all over the place, and trying to figure out how these things are talking to each other, and being able to just troubleshoot that.

How do you trace when your application starts to have an issue? How do you figure out where in that environment the issue is showing up? You start to learn how to you use tools like the Zipkin or you introduce OpenTracing into your stack, things like that.


Simple and Reliable

Cloud Object Storage

Gardner: Matt, what would you encourage people to do now, experiment with more tools, acquaint themselves with those tools, make demands on tools, how to head this off this from a user perspective?

Tiptoe through the technology

Baldwin: I would begin by stepping into the water, going into the shallow end of the pool by just starting to explore the technology.

I have seen organizations jump into these technologies. Take Kubernetes as an example. I have seen organizations adopt Kubernetes really early, and then they started to build their own Platform as a Service (PaaS) on top of it without actually being involved in the project and being aware of what’s happening in the project.

So there is the danger of duplicating things that are happening in the roadmap, duplicating something that’s in the roadmap that will be done in six months in the project. And now you are stuck on Kubernetes version 1.2, and how do you move to the next version of Kubernetes?

So I think there is a danger there with too early of an adoption, if you start to build too much. But at the same time there is a need to conduct proof of concepts (POCs), to start to shift some of your smaller services into new areas.

I think you need to introduce Istio into test environments and start to look at what that does for you, and start looking at all the use cases around it, things like traffic shifting. There are issues like how to do a A-B deployments, service meshes can actually give you that and start to play with that and start to plan for the future, but maybe not completely start to customize whatever you just built, because there is always a threat that the project isn’t fully baked yet.

Gardner: Sounds like it might be time to be thinking strategically, as well as tactically in how you approach these things. Maybe even get some enterprise architects involved so that you don’t get too bogged down before the standards are cooked.

Nic, what do you see as the challenges with bringing containers to use in a multi-cloud environment? What should people be thinking about to hedge against those challenges?

Sensible speed

Jackson: Look at just how fast things have moved. I mean, Kubernetes as a product practically didn’t exist two years ago. Nomad didn’t really exist two years ago. I think it was only just launched at HashiCorp in 2015. And those products are still evolving.

And I think it was a really good comment that you have to be careful about building on top of these things, and then stray too far away from the stable branch. You could end up in a situation where you can’t follow an upgrade path — because one thing that’s for certain, the speed of evolution isn’t going to slow down.

Look at just how fast things have moved. I mean, Kubernetes as a product practically didn’t exist two years ago. Nomad didn’t really exist two years ago. I think it was only just launched at HashiCorp in 2015. And those products are still evolving.

Always try to keep abreast of where the technology is, and always make sure you have a great path. You can do that through being sensible about abstraction. In the same way that you would not necessarily depend on a concrete implementation in your code, you would depend on interfaces. You have to take a similar approach to your infrastructure, so we should be looking at depending upon interfaces, so that if a new component comes along — something that’s better than Kubernetes – you can actually hot-swap them out without having to go through years of re-platforming.

Gardner: Reynold, how do you see solving complexity in the evolution of these technologies, and ways that early-adopters can resist getting bogged down as they continue to mature?

Harbin: The two main points that Matt and Nic have brought up are really good ones. Certainly visibility and security of these applications and these environments is really important from a functionality perspective.

As Nic mentioned, the pace at which new technologies are being developed is intense. You have to have an environment where you can test out these various tools, see what works for you, do it in a way that you can get these ideas and run them and test them and see how this technology can help your particular business. And a lot of this infrastructure in many ways is almost disposable, because you can spin it up as you need to, test it and then spin it down — and it might only need to live for an hour or for a couple of days.

Being aware of the tools, what’s happening in terms of new functionality, and then being able to test that either locally or in a cloud environment is really going to be important.

Gardner: I was expecting at least one of you to bring up DevOps. That thinking about development in conjunction with production, and making this more of a seamless process would help. Am I off base? Matt, should DevOps be part of this solution set?

Shared language

Baldwin: Yes, it should be part of it. I guess my personal opinion on DevOps is that we are moving more toward where Ops needs to become more and more invisible. It’s more about shipping, and it’s more about focusing on the apps versus the infrastructure. And so I just see more like the capital O going to lowercase o.

What I do think is interesting right now is that developers and operators are now speaking the same language. If you are looking at Kubernetes, developers and operators are now speaking the same language. They are speaking in Kubernetes, and so that’s a very big deal. So now the developer is building it in the same way that the operator is going to understand it. The operator is going to understand how the microservice is built; the developer is going to understand how it’s built. They are all going to understand everything.

And then with multi-cloud, you could also do things like have your staging environment in one cloud and you promote your code so that your operators are running the code over in production on another provider and you could promote that code across the network, so you can do things like that, too.

They are speaking in Kubernetes, and so that’s a very big deal. So now the developer is building it in the same way that the operator is going to understand it.

I think there is some of the traditional DevOps tooling, things like Chef, things like Puppet, I don’t think have as much of a future as they used to have, because they did a lot of app management on the hosts and now that the apps are not living on the host anymore, there is not a lot for those tools to do. So just build out a host at Amazon AWS and then just deploy Kubernetes and then just let Kubernetes take over from there.

Some of those tools, their importance will lessen, like you won’t have to know Puppet as much; you likely won’t ever need to know Puppet.

Gardner: Nic, are you in the same camp, more Dev, less Ops, lowercase o?

More Dev, less Ops?

Jackson: I think it depends on two things. The first thing is the scale of your organization. When you look at a lot of tools, and you look at a lot of information that’s out there, it makes an assumption that everybody is operating at fixed scale, and I don’t think that’s the case. Pretty much any business that’s operating in a digital world, which is pretty much any business these days, you can take advantage of modern development techniques. When you start depending on the scale, then it also shifts who is potentially going to be doing the infrastructure side of things.

Smaller companies, I think you are going to get more Dev than you will Ops because that may not be a scale that can support a dedicated operations team. But larger enterprise organizations, you may have more of a platform team, more of an operations person who is using code to manage infrastructure.


Simple and Reliable

Cloud Object Storage

In either case, there’s a requirement that developers have to have an appreciation and an understanding of the platform to which they are deploying their code. They need to have that because they need to have an understanding of how things like service discovery works. How are the volumes working for persistent storage, how are things going to work in terms of scale and scalability? So if you are going to be load testing it, what are sort of the operational thresholds in terms of I/O for CPU or disk, and things like that?

I think DevOps is a really powerful concept. I certainly love working in a world where I can interact and work with the operations and the infrastructure teams. I benefit as a software engineer, and I think the infrastructure engineers benefit because those sorts of skills that we both have, we can share. So I really hope DevOps doesn’t go away, but I think the level at which that interaction occurs does very much depend on scale of your organization.

Shop around

Gardner: Are there examples of some organizations, large or small, that have embraced containers, have multi-cloud in their sights, are maybe thinking about serverless?

Baldwin: I have an example. This customer was a full-on Amazon shop, and they had not migrated to microservices. Their first step was to move to Docker, and then we moved them up to Kubernetes. These guys were an adtech firm and they had, as you can imagine, ingress traffic that had a high charge to it, and that was billed by Amazon.

So they spent a lot of time negotiating a better cloud price-point with Google. What they were able to do is stand up a Kubernetes cluster on Google Cloud and then shift the workload that was needed at that better price-point. At the same time, they kept the rest of the workload at Amazon because they were still relying on some of the other underlining services of Amazon, things like Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS).

So they didn’t want to completely move to Google, but they wanted to move something that they were taking a really large hit on, on cost, and move that to Google. So I think you are going to see multi-cloud first get used as a vendor tactic against the cloud providers to try and negotiate a better price point. So if you are doing adtech, now you are in a position where you can actually negotiate with Amazon, Google or whomever, and get a better price and just move your workload to whomever gives it to you.

So that makes it a lot more competitive. That was an early example, one of the earlier federation examples we have.

Gardner: The economic paybacks from that could be very significant, if you can leverage better deals from your cloud providers. That could be a very significant portion of your overall expenses.

Baldwin: It’s giving the power back to the consumer. We basically have a cloud monopoly, and then smaller ones. So we have Amazon AWS, and so how do you work against Amazon to reduce the price points, how do you try to break that?

And once you start to get power back to the consumer, that starts to weaken the hold on the end-user.

Gardner: Nic, an example that we can look to perhaps in a different way, one that provides a business advantage?

Go public 

Jackson: One of the things that we see for a lot of enterprise customers is the cloud adoption phase. So I can’t give you the exact numbers, but the total market in terms of compute for the big four cloud providers is about 30 percent. There is something like 60 percent to 70 percent of all of the existing compute still running in private data centers. A lot of organizations are looking at moving that forward. They want to be able to adopt cloud, for whatever reason. They want better tooling to be able to do that.

You can create a federated Kubernetes cluster, or a federated Nomad cluster, and you can begin shifting your workload away from the private data center and into the cloud. You can gain that clear migration path. It allows you to run both of those platforms side by side, the distinct platform that the organization understands but also the modern platform that requires learning in terms of tooling and behavior.

That’s going to be a typical approach for a lot of the large enterprises. We are going to see a lot of the shift from private data centers into public clouds. A lot of the cloud providers are offering pretty attractive reasons in terms of licensing to do that rather than renew your license for your physical infrastructure. Why don’t you just move it off into your cloud provider?

That’s going to be a typical approach for a lot of the large enterprises. We are going to see a lot of the shift from private data centers into public clouds.

But if you’re running tens of billions of dollars worth of business, then any downtime is incredibly expensive. So you will want to ensure that you have the maximum high availability.

Baldwin: You can see that Microsoft is converting a lot of their enterprise agreements to move people over to Azure.

Jackson: Well, it’s not just Microsoft. I mean, Dell/EMC is one of the most aggressive. I could imagine a great sales strategy for them is to say, “Well, hey, rather than buying a new Dell server, why don’t you just lease one of these servers in the Dell cloud and we will manage it for you.” And you basically you’re just shifting from a capital expenditure (CapEx) to an operational expenditure (OpEx) model.

I think Oracle has a similar strategy, the Oracle cloud is up and coming. So the potential is rather than paying for an Oracle database license you could just move that database into the Oracle cloud and save yourself a lot of trouble around the maintenance of the physical data center.

Gardner: Reynold, any thoughts on examples of how orchestration of containers may be moving more toward Serverless models that have great benefits for your end users? As a public cloud, where do you see a good example of how this all works to everyone’s advantage?

No more either/or

Harbin: As developers move toward containers and orchestration, they can begin looking at cloud providers not as a choice of either/or but as, “I get to use all of them, and I get to use the products and services that are best for my particular application.”

An example of that would be a customer who was hosting their application and their storage on Amazon AWS, and a month ago DigitalOcean released our new object storage product called Spaces. Essentially they gained all the benefits of the AWS S3 object storage, but the cost is 10 times lower, at least for bandwidth.

If this particular customer could containerize their application, which basically publishes and posts content to object storage and delivers a lot of that to end users, they would have the flexibility to take advantage of new products like Spaces that are being rolled out all the time by various cloud providers. In this case, they could have easily moved their application to DigitalOcean, take advantage of our new object storage product, and essentially lowered the total cost.

But it’s not just DigitalOcean products. New technologies that can make your applications better are being released all the time, as open source projects and commercial products. Companies will gain agility if their applications are containerized, as they will be able to use new technologies much more easily.

Baldwin: There are some great abstraction layers — things like Minio that you don’t necessarily need to interact with the underlying object storage. You have a layer that allows you to be ignorant of that, and such de-coupling is super-useful.

Companies will gain agility if their applications are containerized, as they will be able to use new technologies much more easily.

Gardner: I’m afraid we are about out of time, but I wanted to give each of you an opportunity to tell us how to learn more about your organization.

Matt Baldwin, how could people follow you and also learn more about StackPointCloud?

Baldwin: If you wanted to give Kubernetes a shot, we provide a turnkey marketplace and management platform. So you just hit the site, log in with social credentials like GitHub, and then you can start to build clusters. You can check it out via our blog on We also run all of the major markets for the Kubernetes community, up and down the West and East Coasts.

So you can engage with us at any of the Kubernetes events in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and wherever. Yeah, also just drop any Kubernetes slack channel and just ping us, ping me on baldwinmathew, also @baldwinmathew on Twitter.

Gardner: Nic, same thing, how can people follow you and learn more about HashiCorp?

Jackson: is a great landing site because you can bounce out to the various product sites from there. We also have a blog, which we are pretty active with. We are generally publishing at least a couple of pieces of information ourselves on there every week but we are also syndicating other stuff that we find, not necessarily always related to HashiCorp but just interesting technology things.

So you can get access to the blog through there and on Twitter following HashiCorp, myself, I am @sheriffjackson, so you can follow me on Twitter, I try to share stuff that I find interesting.

Gardner: And Reynold, learning more about DigitalOcean as well as following you or other evangelists that you think are worthy?

Harbin: The community site on DigitalOcean has 1,700 really well-curated articles. So would be a good start, and we have several really technology-agnostic articles about containerization, as well as specific technologies like Kubernetes. They are articles, they are well written and they will teach you just how you can get started. And then of course, the DigitalOcean website is a good resource just for our own product.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: DigitalOcean.

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How a large Missouri medical center developed an agile healthcare infrastructure security strategy

Healthcare provider organizations are among the most challenging environments to develop and implement comprehensive and agile security infrastructures.

These providers of healthcare are usually sprawling campuses with large ecosystems of practitioners, suppliers, and patient-facing facilities. They also operate under stringent compliance requirements, with data privacy as a top priority.

At the same time, large hospitals and their extended communities are seeking to become more patient outcome-focused as they deliver ease-of-use, the best applications, as well as up-to-date data analysis to their staffs and physicians.

The next BriefingsDirect security insights discussion examines how a large Missouri medical center developed a comprehensive healthcare infrastructure security strategy from the edge to the data center — and everything in between.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn how healthcare security can become more standardized and proactive with unified management and lower total costs, BriefingsDirect sat down with Phillip Yarbro, Network and Systems Engineer at Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The discussion was moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: When it comes to security nowadays, Phil, there’s a lot less chunking it out, of focusing on just devices or networks separately or on data centers alone. It seems that security needs to be deployed holistically — or at least strategically – with standardized solutions, focused on across-the-board levels of coverage.

Tell us how you’ve been able to elevate security to that strategic level at Saint Francis Healthcare System.

Phillip Yarbro

Phillip Yarbro

Yarbro: As a healthcare organization, we have a wide variety of systems — from our electronic medical records (EMR) that we are currently using, to our 10-plus legacy EMRs, our home health system, payroll time and attendance. Like you said, that’s a wide variety of systems to keep up-to-date with antivirus solutions, making sure all of those are secure, especially with them being virtualized. All of those systems require a bunch of different exclusions and whatnot.

With our previous EMR, it was really hard to get those exclusions working and to minimize false positives. Over the past several years, security demands have increased. There are a lot more PCs and servers in the environment. There are a lot more threats taking place in healthcare systems, some targeting protected health information (PHI) or financial data, and we needed a solution that would protect a wide variety of endpoints; something that we could keep up-to-date extremely easily, and that would cover a wide variety of systems and devices.

Gardner: It seems like they’re adding more risk to this all the time, so it’s not just a matter of patching and keeping up. You need to be proactive, whenever possible.

 Being proactive is definitely key. We like to control applications to keep our systems even more secure, rather than just focusing on real-time threats.

Yarbro: Yes, being proactive is definitely key. Some of the features that we like about our latest systems are that you can control applications, and we’re looking at doing that to keep our systems even more secure, rather than just focusing on real-time threats, and things like that.

Gardner: Before we learn more about your security journey, tell us about Saint Francis Healthcare System, the size of organization and also the size of your IT department.

Yarbro: Saint Francis is between St. Louis and Memphis. It’s the largest hospital between the two cities. It’s a medium-sized hospital with 308 beds. We have a Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and a Level III trauma center. We see and treat more than 700,000 people within a five-state area.

With all of those beds, we have about 3,000 total staff, including referring physicians, contractors, and things like that. The IT help desk support, infrastructure team, and networking team amounts to about 30 people who support the entire infrastructure.

Gardner: Tell us about your IT infrastructure. To what degree are you using thin clients and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)? How many servers? Perhaps a rundown of your infrastructure in total?

Yarbro: We have about 2,500 desktops, all of which are Microsoft Windows desktops. Currently, they are all supplied by our organization, but we are looking at implementing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy soon. Most of our servers are virtualized now. We do have a few physical ones left, but we have around 550 to 600 servers.

Of those servers, we support about 60 Epic servers and close to 75 Citrix servers. On the VDI side, we are using VMware Horizon View, and we are supporting about 2,100 virtual desktop sessions.

Gardner: Data center-level security is obviously very important for you. This isn’t just dealing with the edge and devices.

Virtual growth

Yarbro: Correct, yes. As technology increases, we’re utilizing our virtual desktops more and more. The data center virtualization security is going to be a lot more important going forward because that number is just going to keep growing.

Gardner: Let’s go back to your security journey. Over the past several years, requirements have gone up, scale has gone up, complexities have gone up. What did you look for when you wanted to get more of that strategic-level security approach? Tell us about your process for picking and choosing the right solutions.

Yarbro: A couple of lessons that we learned from our previous suppliers is that when we were looking for a new security solution we wanted something that wouldn’t make us experience scan storms. Our previous system didn’t have the capability to spread out our virus scans, and as a result whenever the staff would come in, in the morning and evenings, users were negatively affected by latency because of the scans. Our virtual servers all scanned at the same time.

We have a wide variety of systems and applications. Epic is our main EMR, but we also have 10 legacy EMRs, a picture archiving and communication system (PACS), rehab, home health, payroll, as well as time and attendance apps.

So whenever those were set to scan, our network just dragged to a halt. We were looking for a new solution that didn’t have a huge impact on our virtual environment. We have a wide variety of systems and applications. Epic is our main EMR, but we also have 10 legacy EMRs, a picture archiving and communication system (PACS), rehab, home health, payroll, as well as time and attendance apps. There are a wide variety of systems that all have different exclusions and require different security processes. So we were hoping that our new solution would minimize false positives.

Since we are healthcare organization, there is PHI and there is sensitive financial data. We needed a solution that was Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant as well as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)-compliant. We wanted a system that made a really good complement and that made it easy to manage everything.

Our previous ones, we were using Trend Micro in conjunction with Malwarebytes, were in two consoles. A lot of the time it was hard to get the exclusions to apply down to the devices when it came time to upgrade the clients. We had to spend time upgrading clients twice. It didn’t always work right. It was a very disruptive do-it-yourself operation, requiring a lot of resources on the back end. We were just looking for something that was much easier to manage.

Defend and prevent attacks

Gardner: Were any of the recent security breaches or malware infections something that tripped you up? I know that ransomware attacks have been on people’s minds lately.

It’s been a great peace-of-mind benefit for our leadership to hear from Bitdefender that we were already protected (from ransomware attacks).

Yarbro: With the WannaCry and Petya attacks, we actually received a proactive e-mail from Bitdefender saying that we were protected. The most recent one, the Bad Rabbit, came in the next day and Bitdefender had already said that we were good for that one as well. It’s been a great peace-of-mind benefit for our leadership here knowing that we weren’t affected, that we were already protected whenever such news made its way to them in the morning.

Gardner: You mentioned Bitdefender. Tell me about how you switched, when, and what’s that gotten for you at Saint Francis?

Yarbro: After we evaluated Bitdefender, we worked really closely with their architects to make sure that we followed best practices and had everything set up, because we wanted to get our current solutions out of there as fast as possible.

For a lot of our systems we have test servers for testing computers. We were able to push Bitdefender out within minutes of having the consoles set up to these devices. After we received some exclusion lists, or were able to test on those, we made sure that Bitdefender didn’t catch or flag anything.

We were able to deploy Bitdefender on 2,200 PCs, all of our virtual desktops and VDI, and roughly 425 servers between May and July with minimal downtime, knowing that the downtime we had was simply to reboot the servers after we uninstalled our previous antivirus software.

We recently upgraded the remaining 150 or so servers, which we don’t have test systems for. They were all of our critical servers that couldn’t go down, such as our backup systems. We were able to push Bitdefender out to all of those within a week, again, without any downtime, and straight from the console.

Gardner: Tell us about that management capability. It’s good to have one screen, of course, but depth and breadth are also important. Has there been any qualitative improvement, in addition to the consolidation improvement?

Yarbro: Yes. Within the Bitdefender console, with our various servers, we have different policies in place, and now we can get very granular with it. The stuff that takes up a lot of resources we have it set to scan, maybe every other day instead of every day, but you can also block off servers.

Bitdefender also has a firewall option that we are looking at implementing soon, where you can group servers together as well as open the same firewall roles, and things like that. It just helps give us great visibility into making sure our servers and data center are protected and secured.

Gardner: You mentioned that some of the ransomware attacks recently didn’t cause you difficulty. Are there any other measurements that you use in order to qualify or quantify how good your security is? What did you find improved with your use of Bitdefender GravityZone?

It reduced our time to add new exclusions to our policies. That used to take us about 60 minutes. It’s down to five minutes. That’s a huge timesaving.

Yarbro: It reduced our time to add new exclusions to our policies. That used to take us about 60 minutes to do because we had to login to both consoles, do it, and make sure it got pushed out. That’s down to five minutes for us. So that’s a huge timesavings.

From the security administration side, by going into the console and making sure that everything is still reporting, that everything still looks good, making sure there haven’t been any viruses on any machines — that process went down from 2.5 to three hours a week to less than 15 minutes.

GravityZone has a good reporting setup. I actually have a schedule set every morning to give me the malware activity and phishing activity from the day before. I don’t even have to go into the console to look at all that data. I get a nice e-mail in the morning and I can just visually see what happened.

At the end of the month we also have a reports setup that tells us the 10 highest endpoints that were infected with malware, and we can be proactive and go out and either re-educate our staff if it’s happening with a certain person. Not only from the security administration time has it saved us, it also helps us with security-related trouble calls. I would say that they have probably dropped at least 10 percent to 15 percent on those since we rolled out Bitdefender hospital-wide.

Gardner: Of course, you also want to make sure your end-users are seeing improvement. How about the performance degradation and false positives? Have you heard back from the field? Or maybe not, and that’s the proof?

User-friendly performance

Yarbro: You said it best right there. We haven’t heard anything from end-users. They don’t even know it’s there. With this type of roll out, no news is good news. They didn’t even notice the transition except an increase in performance. But otherwise they didn’t even know that anything was there, and the false positives haven’t been there.

We have our exclusion policy set, and it really hasn’t given us any headaches. It has helped our physicians quite a bit because they need uninterrupted access to medical information. They used to have to call whenever our endpoints lost their exclusion list and their software was getting flagged. It was very frustrating for them. They must be able to get into our EMR systems and log that information as quickly as possible. With Bitdefender, they haven’t had to call IT or anything like that, and it’s just helped them greatly.

Gardner: Back to our high-level discussion about going strategic with security, do you feel that using GravityZone and other Bitdefender technologies and solutions have been able to help you elevate your security to being comprehensive, deep, and something that’s more holistic?

Multilayered, speedier security

Yarbro: Yes, definitely. We did not have this level of control with our old systems. First of all, we didn’t have antivirus on all of our servers because it impacted them so negatively. Some of our more critical servers didn’t even have protection.

Just having our entire environment at 100 percent coverage has made us a lot more secure. The extra features that Bitdefender offers — not just the antivirus piece but also the application blocking, device control, and firewall roles control just adds another level of security that we didn’t even dream about with our old solutions.

Gardner: How about the network in the data center? Is that something that you’ve been able to better applying policies and rules to in ways that you hadn’t before?

Yarbro: Yes, now with Bitdefender there is an option to offload scanning to a security server. We decided at first not to go with that solution because when we installed Bitdefender on our VDI endpoints, we didn’t see any increased CPU or memory utilization across any of our hosts, which is a complete 180-degrees from what we had before.

But for some of our other servers, servers in our DMZ, we are thinking about using the security server approach to offload all of the scanning. It will further increase performance across our virtualized server environment.

Gardner: From an economic standpoint, that also gives you more runway, so to speak, in terms of having to upgrade the hardware. You are going to get more bang for your buck in your infrastructure investments.

With servers-level security, it doesn’t have to send that file back or check it again — it already knows. That just speeds things up, almost exponentially.

Yarbro: Yes, exactly. And with that servers-level security, it’s beneficial to note that if there’s ever an upgrade for software or patches, that once a server checks into it first, if another server checks in or another desktop checks in, it already has that exclusion. It doesn’t have to send that file back or check it again — it already knows. So it just speeds things up, almost exponentially, on those other devices.

Gardner: Just a more intelligent way to go about it, I would think.

Yarbro: Yes.

Gardner: Have you been looking to some of the other Bitdefender technologies? Where do you go next in terms of expanding your horizon on security?

One single pane of secure glass

Yarbro: The extra Bitdefender components that we’re kind of testing right now are device control and firewall, of being able to make sure that only devices that we allow can be hooked up, say via USB ports. That’s critical in our environment. We don’t want someone to come in here with a flash drive and install or upload a virus or anything along those lines.

The application and website blacklisting is also something that’s coming in the near future. We want to make sure that no malware, if it happens, can get past. We are also looking to consolidate two more management systems into just our Bitdefender console. That would be for encryption and patch management.

Bitdefender can do encryption as well, so we can just roll our current third-party software into Bitdefender. It will give us one pane of glass to manage all of these security features. In addition to patch management, we are using two different systems; one for servers, one for Windows endpoints. If we can consolidate that all into Bitdefender, because those policies are already in there, it would just be a lot of easier to manage and make us a lot more secure.

Gardner: Anything in terms of advice for others who are transitioning off of other security solutions? What would you advise people to do as they are going about a change from one security infrastructure to another?

Slow and steady saves the servers

Yarbro: That’s a good question. Make sure that you have all of your exclusion lists set properly. Bitdefender already in the console has Windows, VMware’s and Citrix’s best practices in their policies.

You only have to worry about your own applications, as long as you structure it properly from the beginning. Bitdefender’s engineers helped us with quite a bit. Just go slow and steady. From May to July last year we were able to do 425 servers. We probably could have done more than that, but we didn’t want to risk breaking something. Luckily, we didn’t push it to those more critical servers because we did change a few of our policy settings that probably would have broken a few of those and had us down for a while if we had put it all in right away.

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Inside story on HPC’s role in the Bridges Research Project at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer high-performance computing (HPC) success story interview examines how Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has developed a research computing capability, Bridges, and how that’s providing new levels of analytics, insights, and efficiencies.

We’ll now learn how advances in IT infrastructure and memory-driven architectures are combining to meet the new requirements for artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and deep machine learning.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to describe the inside story on building AI Bridges are Dr. Nick Nystrom, Interim Director of Research, and Paola Buitrago, Director of AI and Big Data, both at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst, at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Let’s begin with what makes Bridges unique. What is it about Bridges that is possible now that wasn’t possible a year or two ago?

Nick Nystrom


Nystrom: Bridges allows people who have never used HPC before to use it for the first time. These are people in business, social sciences, different kinds of biology and other physical sciences, and people who are applying machine learning to traditional fields. They’re using the same languages and frameworks that they’ve been using on their laptops and now that is scaling up to a supercomputer. They are bringing big data and AI together in ways that they just haven’t done before.

Gardner: It almost sounds like the democratization of HPC. Is that one way to think about it?

Nystrom: It very much is. We have users who are applying tools like R and Python and scaling them up to very large memory — up to 12 terabytes of random access memory (RAM) — and that enables them to gain answers to problems they’ve never been able to answer before.

Gardner: There is a user experience aspect, but I have to imagine there are also underlying infrastructure improvements that also contribute to user democratization.

We stay in touch with the user community and we look at this from their perspective. What are the applications that they need to run? What we came up with is a very heterogeneous system.

Nystrom: Yes, democratization comes from two things. First, we stay closely in touch with the user community and we look at this opportunity from their perspective first. What are the applications that they need to run? What do they need to do? And from there, we began to work with hardware vendors to understand what we had to build, and, what we came up with is a very heterogeneous system.

We have three tiers of nodes having memories ranging from 128 gigabytes to 3 terabytes, to 12 terabytes of RAM. That’s all coupled on the same very-high-performance fabric. We were the first installation in the world with the Intel Omni-Path interconnect, and we designed that in a custom topology that we developed at PSC expressly to make big data available as a service to all of the compute nodes with equally high bandwidth, low latency, and to let these new things become possible.

Gardner: What other big data analytics benefits have you gained from this platform?

Buitrago: A platform like Bridges enables that which was not available before. There’s a use case that was recently described by Tuomas Sandholm, [Professor and Director of the Electronic Marketplaces Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. It involves strategic machine learning using Bridges HPC to play and win at Heads-Up, No-limit Texas Hold’em poker as a capabilities benchmark.]

Paola Buitrago


This is a perfect example of something that could not have been done without a supercomputer. A supercomputer enables massive and complex models that can actually give an accurate answer.

Right now, we are collecting a lot of data. There’s a convergence of having great capabilities right in the compute and storage — and also having the big data to answer really important questions. Having a system like Bridges allows us to, for example, analyze all that there is on the Internet, and put the right pieces together to answer big societal or healthcare-related questions.

Explore the New Path to

High Performance


Gardner: The Bridges platform has been operating for some months now. Tell us some other examples or use cases that demonstrate its potential.

Dissecting disease through data

Nystrom: Paola mentioned use cases for healthcare. One example is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center of Excellence in the Big Data to Knowledge program called the Center for Causal Discovery.

They are using Bridges to combine very large data in genomics, such as lung-imaging data and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, to come up with real cause-and-effect relationships among those very large data sets. That was never possible before because the algorithms were not scaled. Such scaling is now possible thanks very large memory architectures and because the data is available.

At CMU and the University of Pittsburgh, we have those resources now and people are making discoveries that will improve health. There are many others. One of these is on the Common Crawl data set, which is a very large web-scale data set that Paola has been working with.

Buitrago: Common Crawl is a data set that collects all the information on the Internet. The data is currently available on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud in S3. They host these data sets for free. But, if you want to actually analyze the data, to search or create any index, you have to use their computing capabilities, which is a good option. However, given the scale and the size of the data, this is something that requires a huge investment.

So we are working on actually offering the same data set, putting it together with the computing capabilities of Bridges. This would allow the academic community at large to do such things as build natural language processing models, or better analyze the data — and they can do it fast, and they can do it free of charge. So that’s an important example of what we are doing and how we want to support big data as a whole.

Explore the New Path to

High Performance

Computing Solutions

Gardner: So far we’ve spoken about technical requirements in HPC, but economics plays a role here. Many times we’ve seen in the evolution of technology that as things become commercially available off-the-shelf technologies, they can be deployed in new ways that just weren’t economically feasible before. Is there an economics story here to Bridges?

Low-cost access to research

Nystrom: Yes, with Bridges we have designed the system to be extremely cost-effective. That’s part of why we designed the interconnect topology the way we did. It was the most cost-effective way to build that for the size of data analytics we had to do on Bridges. That is a win that has been emulated in other places.

So, what we offer is available to research communities at no charge — and that’s for anyone doing open research. It’s also available to the industrial sector at essentially a very attractive rate because it’s a cost-recovery rate. So, we do work with the private sector. We are looking to do even more of that in future.

We’re always looking at the best available technology for performance, for price, and then architecting that into a solution that will serve research.

Also, the future systems we are looking at will leverage lots of developing technologies. We’re always looking at the best available technology for performance, for price, and then architecting that into a solution that will serve research.

Gardner: We’ve heard a lot recently from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) recently about their advances in large-scale memory processing and memory-driven architectures. How does that fit into your plans?

Nystrom: Large, memory-intensive architectures are a cornerstone of Bridges. We’re doing a tremendous amount of large-scale genome sequence assembly on Bridges. That’s individual genomes, and it’s also metagenomes with important applications such as looking at the gut microbiome of diabetic patients versus normal patients — and understanding how the different bacteria are affected by and may affect the progression of diabetes. That has tremendous medical implications. We’ve been following memory technology for a very long time, and we’ve also been following various kinds of accelerators for AI and deep learning.

Gardner: Can you tell us about the underlying platforms that support Bridges that are currently commercially available? What might be coming next in terms of HPE Gen10 servers, for example, or with other HPE advances in the efficiency and cost reduction in storage? What are you using now and what do you expect to be using in the future?

Ever-expanding memory, storage

Nystrom: First of all, I think the acquisition of SGI by HPE was very strategic. Prior to Bridges, we had a system called Blacklight, which was the world’s largest shared-memory resource. It’s what taught us, and we learned how productive that can be for new communities in terms of human productivity. We can’t scale smart humans, and so that’s essential.

In terms of storage, there are tremendous opportunities now for integrating storage-class memory, increasing degrees of flash solid-state drives (SSDs), and other stages. We’ve always architected our own storage systems, but now we are working with HPE to think about what we might do for our next round of this.

Gardner: For those out there listening and reading this information, if they hadn’t thought that HPC and big data analytics had a role in their businesses, why should they think otherwise?

Nystrom: From my perspective, AI is permeating all aspects of computing. The way we see AI as important in an HPC machine is that it is being applied to applications that were traditionally HPC only — things like weather and protein folding. Those were apps that people used to run on just big iron.

These will be enterprise workloads where AI has a key impact. They will use AI as an empowering tool to make what they already do, better.

Now, they are integrating AI to help them find rare events, to do longer-term simulations in less time. And they’ll be doing this across other industries as well. These will be enterprise workloads where AI has a key impact. It won’t necessarily turn companies into AI companies, but they will use AI as an empowering tool to make what they already do, better.

Gardner: An example, Nick?

Nystrom: A good example of the way AI is permeating other fields is what people are doing at the Institute for Precision Medicine, [a joint effort between the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center], and the Carnegie Mellon University Machine Learning and Computational Biology Departments.

They are working together on a project called Big Data for Better Health. Their objective is to apply state of the art machine learning techniques, including deep learning, to integrated genomic patient medical records, imaging data, and other things, and to really move toward realizing true personalized medicine.

Gardner: We’ve also heard a lot recently about hybrid IT. Traditionally HPC required an on-premises approach. Now, to what degree does HPC-as-a-service make sense in order to take advantage of various cloud models?

Explore the New Path to

High Performance


Nystrom: That’s a very good question. One of the things that Bridges makes available through the democratizing of HPC is big data-as-a-service and HPC-as-a-service. And it does that in many cases by what we call gateways. These are web portals for specific domains.

At the Center for Causal Discovery, which I mentioned, they have the Causal Web. It’s a portal, it can run in any browser, and it lets people who are not experts with supercomputers access Bridges without even knowing they are doing it. They run applications with a supercomputer as the back-end.

Another example is Galaxy Project and Community Hub, which are primarily for bioinformatic workflows, but also other things. The main Galaxy instance is hosted elsewhere, but people can run very large memory genome assemblies on Bridges transparently — again without even knowing. They don’t have to log in, they don’t have to understand Linux; they just run it through a web browser, and they can use HPC-as-a-service. It becomes very cloud-like at that point.

Super-cloud supercomputing

Cloud and traditional HPC are complimentary among different use cases, for what’s called for in different environments and across different solutions.

Buitrago: Depending on the use case, an environment like the cloud can make sense. HPC can be used for an initial stage, if you want to explore different AI models, for example. You can fine-tune your AI and benefit from having the data close. You can reduce the time to start by having a supercomputer available for only a week or two. You can find the right parameters, you get the model, and then when you are actually generating inferences you can go to the cloud and scale there. It supports high peaks in user demand. So, cloud and traditional HPC are complimentary among different use cases, for what’s called for in different environments and across different solutions.

Gardner: Before we sign off, a quick look to the future. Bridges has been here for over a year, let’s look to a year out. What do you expect to come next?

Nystrom: Bridges has been a great success. It’s very heavily subscribed, fully subscribed, in fact. It seems to work; people like it. So we are looking to build on that. We’re looking to extend that to a much more powerful engine where we’ve taken all of the lessons we’ve learned improving Bridges. We’d like to extend that by orders of magnitude, to deliver a lot more capability — and that would be across both the research community and industry.

Gardner: And using cloud models, what should look for in the future when it comes to a richer portfolio of big data-as-a-service offerings?

Buitrago: We are currently working on a project to make data more available to the general public and to researchers. We are trying to democratize data and let people do searches and inquiries and processing that they wouldn’t be able to do without us.

We are integrating big data sets that go from web crawls to genomic data. We want to offer them paired with the tools to properly process them. And we want to provide this to people who haven’t done this in the past, so they can explore their questions and try to answer them. That’s something we are really interested in and we look forward to moving into a production stage.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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How UBC gained TCO advantage via flash for its EduCloud cloud storage service

The next BriefingsDirect cloud efficiency case study explores how a storage-as-a-service offering in a university setting gains performance and lower total cost benefits by a move to all-flash storage.

We’ll now learn how the University of British Columbia (UBC) has modernized its EduCloud storage service and attained both efficiency as well as better service levels for its diverse user base.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy.

Here to help us explore new breeds of SaaS solutions is Brent Dunington, System Architect at UBC in Vancouver. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: How is satisfying the storage demands at a large and diverse university setting a challenge? Is there something about your users and the diverse nature of their needs that provides you with a complex requirements list?

Dunington: A university setting isn’t much different than any other business. The demands are the same. UBC has about 65,000 students and about 15,000 staff. The students these days are younger kids, they all have iPhones and iPads, and they just want to push buttons and get instant results and instant gratification. And that boils down to the services that we offer.

Brent Dunington


We have to be able to offer those services, because as most people know, there are choices — and they can go somewhere else and choose those other products.

Our team is a rather small team. There are 15 members in our team, so we have to be agile, we have to be able to automate things, and we need tools that can work and fulfill those needs. So it’s just like any other business, even though it’s a university setting.


Gardner: Can you give us a sense of the scale that describes your storage requirements?

Dunington: We do SaaS, we also do infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). EduCloud is a self-service IaaS product that we deliver to UBC, but we also deliver it to 25 other higher institutions in the Province of British Columbia.

We have been doing IaaS for five years, and we have been very, very successful. So more people are looking to us for guidance.



Flash Performance

Because we are not just delivering to UBC, we have to be up running and always able to deliver, because each school has different requirements. At different times of the year — because there is registration, there are exam times — these things have to be up. You can’t not be functioning during an exam and have 600 students not able to take the tests that they have been studying for. So it impacts their life and we want to make sure that we are there and can provide the services for what they need.

Gardner: In order to maintain your service levels within those peak times, do you in your IaaS and storage services employ hybrid-cloud capabilities so that you can burst? Or are you doing this all through your own data center and your own private cloud?

On-Campus Cloud

Dunington: We do it all on-campus. British Columbia has a law that says all the data has to stay in Canada. It’s a data-sovereignty law, the data can’t leave the borders.

That’s why EduCloud has been so successful, in my opinion, because of that option. They can just go and throw things out in the private cloud.

The public cloud providers are providing more services in Canada: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure cloud are putting data centers in Canada, which is good and it gives people an option. Our team’s goal is to provide the services, whether it’s a hybrid model or all on-campus. We just want to be able to fulfill those needs.

Gardner: It sounds like the best of all worlds. You are able to give that elasticity benefit, a lot of instant service requirements met for your consumers. But you are starting to use cloud pay-as-you-go types of models and get the benefit of the public cloud model — but with the security, control and manageability of the private clouds.

What decisions have you made about your storage underpinnings, the infrastructure that supports your SaaS cloud?

Dunington: We have a large storage footprint. For our site, it’s about 12 petabytes of storage. We realized that we weren’t meeting the needs with spinning disks. One of the problems was that we had runaway virtual workloads that would cause problems, and they would impact other services. We needed some mechanism to fix that.

We wanted to make sure that we had the ability to attain quality of service levels and control those runaway virtual machines in our footprint.

We went through the whole request for proposal (RFP) process, and all the IT infrastructure vendors responded, but we did have some guidelines that we wanted to go through. One of the things we did is present our problems and make sure that they understood what the problems were and what they were trying to solve.

And there were some minimum requirements. We do have a backup vendor of choice that they needed to merge with. And quality of service is a big thing. We wanted to make sure that we had the ability to attain quality of service levels and control those runaway virtual machines in our footprint.

Gardner: You gained more than just flash benefits when you got to flash storage, right?

Streamlined, safe, flash storage

Dunington: Yes, for sure. With an entire data center full of spinning disks, it gets to the point where the disks start to manage you; you are no longer managing the disks. And the teams out there changing drives, removing volumes around it, it becomes unwieldy. I mean, the power, the footprint, and all that starts to grow.

Also, Vancouver is in a seismic zone, we are right up against the Pacific plate and it’s a very active seismic area. Heaven forbid anything happens, but one of the requirements we had was to move the data center into the interior of the province. So that was what we did.

When we brought this new data center online, one of the decisions the team made was to move to an all-flash storage environment. We wanted to be sure that it made financial sense because it’s publicly funded, and also improved the user experience, across the province.

Gardner: As you were going about your decision-making process, you had choices, what made you choose what you did? What were the deciding factors?

Dunington: There were a lot of deciding factors. There’s the technology, of being able to meet the performance and to manage the performance. One of the things was to lock down runaway virtual machines and to put performance tiers on others.

But it’s not just the technology; it’s also the business part, too. The financial part had to make sense. When you are buying any storage platform, you are also buying the support team and the sales team that come with it.

Our team believes that technology is a certain piece of the pie, and the rest of it is relationship. If that relationship part doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter how well the technology part works — the whole thing is going to break down.

Because software is software, hardware is hardware — it breaks, it has problems, there are limitations. And when you have to call someone, you have to depend on him or her. Even though you bought the best technology and got the best price — if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and you need someone to call.

So those service and support issues were all wrapped up into the decision.



Flash Performance

We chose the Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) 3PAR all-flash storage platform. We have been very happy with it. We knew the HPE team well. They came and worked with us on the server blade infrastructure, so we knew the team. The team knew how to support all of it.

We also use the HPE OneView product for provisioning, and it integrated into that all. It also supported the performance optimization tool (IT Operations Management for HPE OneView) to let us set those values, because one of the things in EduCloud is customers choose their own storage tier, and we mark the price on it. So basically all we would do is present that new tier as new data storage within VMware and then they would just move their workloads across non-disruptively. So it has worked really well.

The 3PAR storage piece also integrates with VMware vRealize Operations Manager. We offer that to all our clients as a portal so they can see how everything is working and they can do their own diagnostics. Because that’s the one goal we have with EduCloud, it has to be self-service. We can let the customers do it, that’s what they want.

Gardner: Not that long ago people had the idea that flash was always more expensive and that they would use it for just certain use-cases rather than pervasively. You have been talking in terms of a total cost of ownership reduction. So how does that work? How does the economics of this over a period of time, taking everything into consideration, benefit you all?

Economic sense at scale

Dunington: Our IT team and our management team are really good with that part. They were able to break it all down, and they found that this model would work at scale. I don’t know the numbers per se, but it made economic sense.

Spinning disks will still have a place in the data center. I don’t know a year from now if an all-flash data center will make sense, because there are some records that people will throw in and never touch. But right now with the numbers on how we worked it out, it makes sense, because we are using the standard bronze, the gold, the silver tiers, and with the tiers it makes sense.

The 3PAR solution also has dedupe functionality and the compression that they just released. We are hoping to see how well that trends. Compression has only been around for a short period of time, so I can’t really say, but the dedupe has done really well for us.

Gardner: The technology overcomes some of the other baseline economic costs and issues, for sure.

We have talked about the technology and performance requirements. Have you been able to qualify how, from a user experience, this has been a benefit?

Dunington: The best benchmark is the adoption rate. People are using it, and there are no help desk tickets, so no one is complaining. People are using it, and we can see that everything is ramping up, and we are not getting tickets. No one is complaining about the price, the availability. Our operational team isn’t complaining about it being harder to manage or that the backups aren’t working. That makes me happy.

The big picture

Gardner: Brent, maybe a word of advice to other organizations that are thinking about a similar move to private cloud SaaS. Now that you have done this, what might you advise them to do as they prepare for or evaluate a similar activity?

Not everybody needs that speed, not everybody needs that performance, but it is the future and things will move there.

Dunington: Look at the full picture, look at the total cost of ownership. There’s the buying of the hardware, and there’s also supporting the hardware, too. Make sure that you understand your requirements and what your customers are looking for first before you go out and buy it. Not everybody needs that speed, not everybody needs that performance, but it is the future and things will move there. We will see in a couple of years how it went.

Look at the big picture, step back. It’s just not the new shiny toy, and you might have to take a stepped approach into buying, but for us it worked. I mean, it’s a solid platform, our team sleeps well at night, and I think our customers are really happy with it.

Gardner: This might be a little bit of a pun in the education field, but do your homework and you will benefit.



Flash Performance

Dunington: Yes, for sure.

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How modern storage provides hints on optimizing and best managing hybrid IT and multi-cloud resources

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Analyst interview examines the growing need for proper rationalizing of which apps, workloads, services and data should go where across a hybrid IT continuum.

Managing hybrid IT necessitates not only a choice between public cloud and private cloud, but a more granular approach to picking and choosing which assets go where based on performance, costs, compliance, and business agility.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to report on how to begin to better assess what IT variables should be managed and thoughtfully applied to any cloud model is Mark Peters, Practice Director and Senior Analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Now that cloud adoption is gaining steam, it may be time to step back and assess what works and what doesn’t. In past IT adoption patterns, we’ve seen a rapid embrace that sometimes ends with at least a temporary hangover. Sometimes, it’s complexity or runaway or unmanaged costs, or even usage patterns that can’t be controlled. Mark, is it too soon to begin assessing best practices in identifying ways to hedge against any ill effects from runaway adoption of cloud? 



Peters: The short answer, Dana, is no. It’s not that the IT world is that different. It’s just that we have more and different tools. And that is really what hybrid comes down to — available tools.

It’s not that those tools themselves demand a new way of doing things. They offer the opportunity to continue to think about what you want. But if I have one repeated statement as we go through this, it will be that it’s not about focusing on the tools, it’s about focusing on what you’re trying to get done. You just happen to have more and different tools now.  

Gardner: We hear sometimes that at as high as board of director levels, they are telling people to go cloud-first, or just dump IT all together. That strikes me as an overreaction. If we’re looking at tools and to what they do best, is cloud so good that we can actually just go cloud-first or cloud-only?

Cloudy cloud adoption

Peters: Assuming you’re speaking about management by objectives (MBO), doing cloud or cloud-only because that’s what someone with a C-level title saw on a Microsoft cloud ad on TV and decided that is right, well — that clouds everything.

You do see increasingly different people outside of IT becoming involved in the decision. When I say outside of IT, I mean outside of the operational side of IT.

You get other functions involved in making demands. And because the cloud can be so easy to consume, you see people just running off and deploying some software-as-a-service (SaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model because it looked easy to do, and they didn’t want to wait for the internal IT to make the change.

All of the research we do shows that the world is hybrid for as far ahead as we can see.

Running away from internal IT and on-premises IT is not going to be a good idea for most organizations — at least for a considerable chunk of their workloads. All of the research we do shows that the world is hybrid for as far ahead as we can see. 

Gardner: I certainly agree with that. If it’s all then about a mix of things, how do I determine the correct mix? And if it’s a correct mix between just a public cloud and private cloud, how do I then properly adjust to considerations about applications as opposed to data, as opposed to bringing in microservices and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) when they’re the best fit?

How do we begin to rationalize all of this better? Because I think we’ve gotten to the point where we need to gain some maturity in terms of the consumption of hybrid IT.

Learn More About

Hybrid IT Management

Solutions From HPE

Peters: I often talk about what I call the assumption gap. And the assumption gap is just that moment where we move from one side where it’s okay to have lots of questions about something, in this case, in IT. And then on the other side of this gap or chasm, to use a well-worn phrase, is where it’s not okay to ask anything because you’ll see you don’t know what you’re talking about. And that assumption gap seems to happen imperceptibly and very fast at some moment.

So, what is hybrid IT? I think we fall into the trap of allowing ourselves to believe that having some on-premises workloads and applications and some off-premises workloads and applications is hybrid IT. I do not think it is. It’s using a couple of tools for different things.

It’s like having a Prius and a big diesel and/or gas F-150 pickup truck in your garage and saying, “I have two hybrid vehicles.” No, you have one of each, or some of each. Just because someone has put an application or a backup off into the cloud, “Oh, yeah. Well, I’m hybrid.” No, you’re not really.

The cloud approach

The cloud is an approach. It’s not a thing per se. It’s another way. As I said earlier, it’s another tool that you have in the IT arsenal. So how do you start figuring what goes where?

I don’t think there are simple answers, because it would be just as sensible a question to say, “Well, what should go on flash or what should go on disk, or what should go on tape, or what should go on paper?” My point being, such decisions are situational to individual companies, to the stage of that company’s life, and to the budgets they have. And they’re not only situational — they’re also dynamic.

I want to give a couple of examples because I think they will stick with people. Number one is you take something like email, a pretty popular application; everyone runs email. In some organizations, that is the crucial application. They cannot run without it. Probably, what you and I do would fall into that category. But there are other businesses where it’s far less important than the factory running or the delivery vans getting out on time. So, they could have different applications that are way more important than email.

When instant messaging (IM) first came out, Yahoo IM text came out, to be precise. They used to do the maintenance between 9 am and 5 pm because it was just a tool to chat to your friends with at night. And now you have businesses that rely on that. So, clearly, the ability to instant message and text between us is now crucial. The stock exchange in Chicago runs on it. IM is a very important tool.

The answer is not that you or I have the ability to tell any given company, “Well, x application should go onsite and Y application should go offsite or into a cloud,” because it will vary between businesses and vary across time.

If something is or becomes mission-critical or high-risk, it is more likely that you’ll want the feeling of security, I’m picking my words very carefully, of having it … onsite.

You have to figure out what you’re trying to get done before you figure out what you’re going to do with it.

But the extent to which full-production apps are being moved to the cloud is growing every day. That’s what our research shows us. The quick answer is you have to figure out what you’re trying to get done before you figure out what you’re going to do it with. 

Gardner: Before we go into learning more about how organizations can better know themselves and therefore understand the right mix, let’s learn more about you, Mark.

Tell us about yourself, your organization at ESG. How long have you been an IT industry analyst? 

Peters: I grew up in my working life in the UK and then in Europe, working on the vendor side of IT. I grew up in storage, and I haven’t really escaped it. These days I run ESG’s infrastructure practice. The integration and the interoperability between the various elements of infrastructure have become more important than the individual components. I stayed on the vendor side for many years working in the UK, then in Europe, and now in Colorado. I joined ESG 10 years ago.

Lessons learned from storage

Gardner: It’s interesting that you mentioned storage, and the example of whether it should be flash or spinning media, or tape. It seems to me that maybe we can learn from what we’ve seen happen in a hybrid environment within storage and extrapolate to how that pertains to a larger IT hybrid undertaking.

Is there something about the way we’ve had to adjust to different types of storage — and do that intelligently with the goals of performance, cost, and the business objectives in mind? I’ll give you a chance to perhaps go along with my analogy or shoot it down. Can we learn from what’s happened in storage and apply that to a larger hybrid IT model?

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Peters: The quick answer to your question is, absolutely, we can. Again, the cloud is a different approach. It is a very beguiling and useful business model, but it’s not a panacea. I really don’t believe it ever will become a panacea.

Now, that doesn’t mean to say it won’t grow. It is growing. It’s huge. It’s significant. You look at the recent announcements from the big cloud providers. They are at tens of billions of dollars in run rates.

But to your point, it should be viewed as part of a hierarchy, or a tiering, of IT. I don’t want to suggest that cloud sits at the bottom of some hierarchy or tiering. That’s not my intent. But it is another choice of another tool.

Let’s be very, very clear about this. There isn’t “a” cloud out there. People talk about the cloud as if it exists as one thing. It does not. Part of the reason hybrid IT is so challenging is you’re not just choosing between on-prem and the cloud, you’re choosing between on-prem and many clouds — and you might want to have a multi-cloud approach as well. We see that increasingly.

What we should be looking for are not bright, shiny objects — but bright, shiny outcomes.

Those various clouds have various attributes; some are better than others in different things. It is exactly parallel to what you were talking about in terms of which server you use, what storage you use, what speed you use for your networking. It’s exactly parallel to the decisions you should make about which cloud and to what extent you deploy to which cloud. In other words, all the things you said at the beginning: cost, risk, requirements, and performance.

People get so distracted by bright, shiny objects. Like they are the answer to everything. What we should be looking for are not bright, shiny objects — but bright, shiny outcomes. That’s all we should be looking for.

Focus on the outcome that you want, and then you figure out how to get it. You should not be sitting down IT managers and saying, “How do I get to 50 percent of my data in the cloud?” I don’t think that’s a sensible approach to business. 

Gardner: Lessons learned in how to best utilize a hybrid storage environment, rationalizing that, bringing in more intelligence, software-defined, making the network through hyper-convergence more of a consideration than an afterthought — all these illustrate where we’re going on a larger scale, or at a higher abstraction.

Going back to the idea that each organization is particular — their specific business goals, their specific legacy and history of IT use, their specific way of using applications and pursuing business processes and fulfilling their obligations. How do you know in your organization enough to then begin rationalizing the choices? How do you make business choices and IT choices in conjunction? Have we lost sufficient visibility, given that there are so many different tools for doing IT?

Get down to specifics

Peters: The answer is yes. If you can’t see it, you don’t know about it. So to some degree, we are assuming that we don’t know everything that’s going on. But I think anecdotally what you propose is absolutely true.

I’ve beaten home the point about starting with the outcomes, not the tools that you use to achieve those outcomes. But how do you know what you’ve even got — because it’s become so easy to consume in different ways? A lot of people talk about shadow IT. You have this sprawl of a different way of doing things. And so, this leads to two requirements.

Number one is gaining visibility. It’s a challenge with shadow IT because you have to know what’s in the shadows. You can’t, by definition, see into that, so that’s a tough thing to do. Even once you find out what’s going on, the second step is how do you gain control? Control — not for control’s sake — only by knowing all the things you were trying to do and how you’re trying to do them across an organization. And only then can you hope to optimize them.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. You also can’t improve things that can’t be managed or measured.

Again, it’s an old, old adage. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. You also can’t improve things that can’t be managed or measured. And so, number one, you have to find out what’s in the shadows, what it is you’re trying to do. And this is assuming that you know what you are aiming toward.

This is the next battleground for sophisticated IT use and for vendors. It’s not a battleground for the users. It’s a choice for users — but a battleground for vendors. They must find a way to help their customers manage everything, to control everything, and then to optimize everything. Because just doing the first and finding out what you have — and finding out that you’re in a mess — doesn’t help you.

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Visibility is not the same as solving. The point is not just finding out what you have – but of actually being able to do something about it. The level of complexity, the range of applications that most people are running these days, the extremely high levels of expectations both in the speed and flexibility and performance, and so on, mean that you cannot, even with visibility, fix things by hand.

You and I grew up in the era where a lot of things were done on whiteboards and Excel spreadsheets. That doesn’t cut it anymore. We have to find a way to manage what is automated. Manual management just will not cut it — even if you know everything that you’re doing wrong. 

Gardner: Yes, I agree 100 percent that the automation — in order to deal with the scale of complexity, the requirements for speed, the fact that you’re going to be dealing with workloads and IT assets that are off of your premises — means you’re going to be doing this programmatically. Therefore, you’re in a better position to use automation.

I’d like to go back again to storage. When I first took a briefing with Nimble Storage, which is now a part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), I was really impressed with the degree to which they used intelligence to solve the economic and performance problems of hybrid storage.

Given the fact that we can apply more intelligence nowadays — that the cost of gathering and harnessing data, the speed at which it can be analyzed, the degree to which that analysis can be shared — it’s all very fortuitous that just as we need greater visibility and that we have bigger problems to solve across hybrid IT, we also have some very powerful analysis tools.

Mark, is what worked for hybrid storage intelligence able to work for a hybrid IT intelligence? To what degree should we expect more and more, dare I say, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to be brought to bear on this hybrid IT management problem?

Intelligent automation a must

Peters: I think it is a very straightforward and good parallel. Storage has become increasingly sophisticated. I’ve been in and around the storage business now for more than three decades. The joke has always been, I remember when a megabyte was a lot, let alone a gigabyte, a terabyte, and an exabyte.

And I’d go for a whole day class, when I was on the sales side of the business, just to learn something like dual parsing or about cache. It was so exciting 30 years ago. And yet, these days, it’s a bit like cars. I mean, you and I used to use a choke, or we’d have to really go and check everything on the car before we went on 100-mile journey. Now, we press the button and it better work in any temperature and at any speed. Now, we just demand so much from cars.

To stretch that analogy, I’m mixing cars and storage — and we’ll make it all come together with hybrid IT in that it’s better to do things in an automated fashion. There’s always one person in every crowd I talk to who still believes that a stick shift is more economic and faster than an automatic transmission. It might be true for one in 1,000 people, and they probably drive cars for a living. But for most people, 99 percent of the people, 99.9 percent of the time, an automatic transmission will both get you there faster and be more efficient in doing so. The same became true of storage.

We used to talk about how much storage someone could capacity-plan or manage. That’s just become old hat now because you don’t talk about it in those terms. Storage has moved to be — how do we serve applications? How do we serve up the right place in the right time, get the data to the right person at the right time at the right price, and so on?

We don’t just choose what goes where or who gets what, we set the parameters — and we then allow the machine to operate in an automated fashion. These days, increasingly, if you talk to 10 storage companies, 10 of them will talk to you about machine learning and AI because they know they’ve got to be in that in order to make that execution of change ever more efficient and ever faster. They’re just dealing with tremendous scale, and you could not do it even with simple automation that still involves humans.

It will be self-managing and self-optimizing. It will not be a “recommending tool,” it will be an “executing tool.”

We have used cars as a social analogy. We used storage as an IT analogy, and absolutely, that’s where hybrid IT is going. It will be self-managing and self-optimizing. Just to make it crystal clear, it will not be a “recommending tool,” it will be an “executing tool.” There is no time to wait for you and me to finish our coffee, think about it, and realize we have to do something, because then it’s too late. So, it’s not just about the knowledge and the visibility. It’s about the execution and the automated change. But, yes, I think your analogy is a very good one for how the IT world will change.

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Gardner: How you execute, optimize and exploit intelligence capabilities can be how you better compete, even if other things are equal. If everyone is using AWS, and everyone is using the same services for storage, servers, and development, then how do you differentiate?

How you optimize the way in which you gain the visibility, know your own business, and apply the lessons of optimization, will become a deciding factor in your success, no matter what business you’re in. The tools that you pick for such visibility, execution, optimization and intelligence will be the new real differentiators among major businesses.

So, Mark, where do we look to find those tools? Are they yet in development? Do we know the ones we should expect? How will organizations know where to look for the next differentiating tier of technology when it comes to optimizing hybrid IT?

What’s in the mix?

Peters: We’re talking years ahead for us to be in the nirvana that you’re discussing.

I just want to push back slightly on what you said. This would only apply if everyone were using exactly the same tools and services from AWS, to use your example. The expectation, assuming we have a hybrid world, is they will have kept some applications on-premises, or they might be using some specialist, regional or vertical industry cloud. So, I think that’s another way for differentiation. It’s how to get the balance. So, that’s one important thing.

And then, back to what you were talking about, where are those tools? How do you make the right move?

We have to get from here to there. It’s all very well talking about the future. It doesn’t sound great and perfect, but you have to get there. We do quite a lot of research in ESG. I will throw just a couple of numbers, which I think help to explain how you might do this.

We already find that the multi-cloud deployment or option is a significant element within a hybrid IT world. So, asking people about this in the last few months, we found that about 75 percent of the respondents already have more than one cloud provider, and about 40 percent have three or more.

You’re getting diversity — whether by default or design. It really doesn’t matter at this point. We hope it’s by design. But nonetheless, you’re certainly getting people using different cloud providers to take advantage of the specific capabilities of each.

This is a real mix. You can’t just plunk down some new magic piece of software, and everything is okay, because it might not work with what you already have — the legacy systems, and the applications you already have. One of the other questions we need to ask is how does improved management embrace legacy systems?

Some 75 percent of our respondents want hybrid management to be from the infrastructure up, which means that it’s got to be based on managing their existing infrastructure, and then extending that management up or out into the cloud. That’s opposed to starting with some cloud management approach and then extending it back down to their infrastructure.

People want to enhance what they currently have so that it can embrace the cloud. It’s enhancing your choice of tiers so you can embrace change.

People want to enhance what they currently have so that it can embrace the cloud. It’s enhancing your choice of tiers so you can embrace change. Rather than just deploying something and hoping that all of your current infrastructure — not just your physical infrastructure but your applications, too — can use that, we see a lot of people going to a multi-cloud, hybrid deployment model. That entirely makes sense. You’re not just going to pick one cloud model and hope that it  will come backward and make everything else work. You start with what you have and you gradually embrace these alternative tools. 

Gardner: We’re creating quite a list of requirements for what we’d like to see develop in terms of this management, optimization, and automation capability that’s maybe two or three years out. Vendors like Microsoft are just now coming out with the ability to manage between their own hybrid infrastructures, their own cloud offerings like Azure Stack and their public cloud Azure.

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Where will we look for that breed of fully inclusive, fully intelligent tools that will allow us to get to where we want to be in a couple of years? I’ve heard of one from HPE, it’s called Project New Hybrid IT Stack. I’m thinking that HPE can’t be the only company. We can’t be the only analysts that are seeing what to me is a market opportunity that you could drive a truck through. This should be a big problem to solve.

Who’s driving?

Peters: There are many organizations, frankly, for which this would not be a good commercial decision, because they don’t play in multiple IT areas or they are not systems providers. That’s why HPE is interested, capable, and focused on doing this.

Many vendor organizations are either focused on the cloud side of the business — and there are some very big names — or on the on-premises side of the business. Embracing both is something that is not as difficult for them to do, but really not top of their want-to-do list before they’re absolutely forced to.

From that perspective, the ones that we see doing this fall into two categories. There are the trendy new startups, and there are some of those around. The problem is, it’s really tough imagining that particularly large enterprises are going to risk [standardizing on them]. They probably even will start to try and write it themselves, which is possible – unlikely, but possible.

Where I think we will get the list for the other side is some of the other big organizations — Oracle and IBM spring to mind in terms of being able to embrace both on-premises and off-premises.  But, at the end of the day, the commonality among those that we’ve mentioned is that they are systems companies. At the end of the day, they win by delivering the best overall solution and package to their clients, not individual components within it.

If you’re going to look for a successful hybrid IT deployment took, you probably have to look at a hybrid IT vendor.

And by individual components, I include cloud, on-premises, and applications. If you’re going to look for a successful hybrid IT deployment tool, you probably have to look at a hybrid IT vendor. That last part I think is self-descriptive. 

Gardner: Clearly, not a big group. We’re not going to be seeking suppliers for hybrid IT management from request for proposals (RFPs) from 50 or 60 different companies to find some solutions. 

Peters: Well, you won’t need to. Looking not that many years ahead, there will not be that many choices when it comes to full IT provisioning. 

Gardner: Mark, any thoughts about what IT organizations should be thinking about in terms of how to become proactive rather than reactive to the hybrid IT environment and the complexity, and to me the obvious need for better management going forward?

Management ends, not means

Peters: Gaining visibility into not just hybrid IT but the on-premise and the off-premise and how you manage these things. Those are all parts of the solution, or the answer. The real thing, and it’s absolutely crucial, is that you don’t start with those bright shiny objects. You don’t start with, “How can I deploy more cloud? How can I do hybrid IT?” Those are not good questions to ask. Good questions to ask are, “What do I need to do as an organization? How do I make my business more successful? How does anything in IT become a part of answering those questions?”

In other words, drum roll, it’s the thinking about ends, not means.

Gardner:  If our listeners and readers want to follow you and gain more of your excellent insight, how should they do that? 

Peters: The best way is to go to our website, You can find not just me and all my contact details and materials but those of all my colleagues and the many areas we cover and study in this wonderful world of IT.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Kansas Development Finance Authority gains peace of mind, end-points virtual shield using hypervisor-level security

Implementing and managing IT security has leaped in complexity for organizations ranging from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to massive government agencies.

Once-safe products used to thwart invasions now have been exploited. E-mail phishing campaigns are far more sophisticated, leading to damaging ransomware attacks.

What’s more, the jack-of-all-trades IT leaders of the mid-market concerns are striving to protect more data types on and off premises, their workload servers and expanded networks, as well as the many essential devices of the mobile workforce.

Security demands have gone up, yet there is a continual need for reduced manual labor and costs — while protecting assets sooner and better.

The next BriefingsDirect security strategies case study examines how a Kansas economic development organization has been able to gain peace of mind by relying on increased automation and intelligence in how it secures its systems and people.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy.

To explore how an all-encompassing approach to security has enabled improved results with fewer hours at a smaller enterprise, BriefingsDirect sat down with Jeff Kater, Director of Information Technology and Systems Architect at Kansas Development Finance Authority (KDFA) in Topeka. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: As a director of all of IT at KDFA, security must be a big concern, but it can’t devour all of your time. How have you been able to balance security demands with all of your other IT demands?

Kater: That’s a very interesting question, and it has a multi-segmented answer. In years past, leading up to the development of what KDFA is now, we faced the trends that demanded very basic anti-spam solutions and the very basic virus threats that came via the web and e-mail.

Jeff Kater


What we’ve seen more recently is the growing trend of enhanced security attacks coming through malware and different exploits — that were once thought impossible — are now are the reality.

Therefore in recent times, my percentage of time dedicated to security had grown from probably five to 10 percent all the way up to 50 to 60 percent of my workload during each given week.

Gardner: Before we get to how you’ve been able to react to that, tell us about KDFA.

Kater: KDFA promotes economic development and prosperity for the State of Kansas by providing efficient access to capital markets through various tax-exempt and taxable debt obligations.

KDFA works with public and private entities across the board to identify financial options and solutions for those entities. We are a public corporate entity operating in the municipal finance market, and therefore we are a conduit finance authority.

KDFA is a very small organization — but a very important one. Therefore we run enterprise-ready systems around the clock, enabling our staff to be as nimble and as efficient as possible.

There are about nine or 10 of us that operate here on any given day at KDFA. We run on a completely virtual environment platform via Citrix XenServer. So we run XenApp, XenDesktop, and NetScaler — almost the full gamut of Citrix products.

We have a few physical endpoints, such as laptops and iPads, and we also have the mobile workforce on iPhones as well. They are all interconnected using the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) approach.

Gardner: You’ve had this swing, where your demands from just security issues have blossomed. What have you been doing to wrench that back? How do you get your day back, to innovate and put in place real productivity improvements?

We wanted to be able to be nimble, to be adaptive, and to grow our business workload while maintaining our current staff size.

Kater: We went with virtualization via Citrix. It became our solution of choice due to not being willing to pay the extra tax, if you will, for other solutions that are on the market. We wanted to be able to be nimble, to be adaptive, and to grow our business workload while maintaining our current staff size.

When we embraced virtualization, the security approaches were very traditional in nature. The old way of doing things worked fantastically for a physical endpoint.

The traditional approaches to security had been on our physical PCs for years. But when that security came over to the virtual realm, they bogged down our systems. They still required updates be done manually. They just weren’t innovating at the same speed as the virtualization, which was allowing us to create new endpoints.

And so, the maintenance, the updating, the growing threats were no longer being seen by the traditional approaches of security. We had endpoint security in place on our physical stations, but when we went virtual we no longer had endpoint security. We then had to focus on antivirus and anti-spam at the server level.

What we found out very quickly was that this was not going to solve our security issues. We then faced a lot of growing threats again via e-mail, via web, that were coming in through malware, spyware, other activities that were embedding themselves on our file servers – and then trickling down and moving laterally across our network to our endpoints.

Gardner: Just as your organization went virtual and adjusted to those benefits, the malware and the bad guys, so to speak, adjusted as well — and started taking advantage of what they saw as perhaps vulnerabilities as organizations transitioned to higher virtualization.

Security for all, by all

Kater: They did. One thing that a lot of security analysts, experts, and end-users forget in the grand scheme of things is that this virtual world we live in has grown so rapidly — and innovated so quickly — that the same stuff we use to grow our businesses is also being used by the bad actors. So while we are learning what it can do, they are learning how to exploit it at the same speed — if not a little faster.

Gardner: You recognized that you had to change; you had to think more about your virtualization environment. What prompted you to increase the capability to focus on the hypervisor for security and prevent issues from trickling across your systems and down to your endpoints?

Kater: Security has always been a concern here at KDFA. And there has been more of a security focus recently, with the latest news and trends. We honestly struggled with CryptoLocker, and we struggled with ransomware.

While we never had to pay out any ransom or anything — and they were stopped in place before data could be exfiltrated outside of KDFA’s network — we still had two or three days of either data loss or data interruption. We had to pull back data from an archive; we had to restore some of our endpoints and some of our computers.

We needed to have a solution for our virtual environment — one that would be easy to deploy, easy to manage, and it would be centrally managed.

As we battled these things over a very short period of time, they were progressively getting worse and worse. We decided that we needed to have a solution for our virtual environment – one that would be not only be easy to deploy, easy to manage, but it would be centrally managed as well, enabling me to have more time to focus back on my workload — and not have to worry so much about the security thresholds that had to be updated and maintained via the traditional model.

So we went out to the market. We ran very extensive proof of concepts (POCs), and those POCs very quickly illustrated that the underlying architecture was only going to be enterprise-ready via two or three vendors. Once we started running those through the paces, Bitdefender emerged for us.

I had actually been watching the Hypervisor Introspection (HVI) product development for the past four years, since its inception came with a partnership between Citrix, Intel, the Linux community and, of course, Bitdefender. One thing that was continuous throughout all of that was that in order to deploy that solution you would need GravityZone in-house to be able to run the HVI workloads.

And so we became early adopters of Bitdefender GravityZone, and we are able to see what it could do for our endpoints, our servers, and our Microsoft Exchange Servers. Then, Hypervisor Introspection became another security layer that we are able to build upon the security solution that we had already adopted from Bitdefender.

Gardner: And how long have you had these solutions in place?

Kater: We are going on one and a half to two years for GravityZone. And when HVI went to general availability earlier this year, in 2017, and we were one of the first adopters to be able to deploy it across our production environment.

Gardner: If you had a “security is easy” button that you could pound on your desk, what are the sorts of things that you look for in a simpler security solution approach?

IT needs brains to battle breaches

Kater: The “security is easy” button would operate much like the human brain. It would need that level of intuitive instinct, that predictive insight ability. The button would generally be easily managed, automated; it would evolve and learn with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning what’s out there. It would dynamically operate with peaks and valleys depending on the current status of the environment, and provide the security that’s needed for that particular environment.

Gardner: Jeff, you really are an early adopter, and I commend you on that. A lot of organizations are not quite as bold. They want to make sure that everything has been in the market for a long time. They are a little hesitant.

But being an early adopter sounds like you have made yourselves ready to adopt more AI and machine learning capabilities. Again, I think that’s very forward-looking of you.

But tell us, in real terms, what has being an early adopter gotten for you? We’ve had some pretty scary incidents just in the recent past, with WannaCry, for example. What has being an early adopter done for you in terms of these contemporary threats?

Kater: The new threats, including the EternalBlue exploit that happened here recently, are very advanced in nature. Oftentimes when these breaches occur, it takes several months before they have even become apparent. And oftentimes they move laterally within our network without us knowing, no matter what you do.

Some of the more advanced and persistent threats don’t even have to infect the local host with any type of software. They work in the virtual memory space. It’s much different than the older threats, where you could simply reboot or clear your browser cache to resolve them and get back to your normal operations.

Earlier, when KDFA still made use of non-persistent desktops, if the user got any type of corruption on their virtual desktop, they were able to reboot, and get back to a master image and move on. However, with these advanced threats, when they get into your network, and they move laterally — even if you reboot your non-persistent desktop, the threat will come back up and it still infects your network. So with the growing ransomware techniques out there, we can no longer rely on those definition-based approaches. We have to look at the newer techniques.

As far as why we are early adopters, and why I have chosen some of the principles that I have, I feel strongly that you are really only as strong as your weakest link. I strive to provide my users with the most advanced, nimble, and agnostic solutions possible.

We are able to grow and compute on any device anywhere, anytime, securely, with minimal limitations.

We are able to grow and compute on any device anywhere, anytime, securely, with minimal limitations. It allows us to have discussions about increasing productivity at that point, and to maximize the potential of our smaller number of users — versus having to worry about the latest news of security breaches that are happening all around us.

Gardner: You’re able to have a more proactive posture, rather than doing the fire drill when things go amiss and you’re always reacting to things.

Kater: Absolutely.

Gardner: Going back to making sure that you’re getting a fresh image and versions of your tools …  We have heard some recent issues around the web browser not always being safe. What is it about being able to get a clean version of that browser that can be very important when you are dealing with cloud services and extensive virtualization?

Virtual awareness, secure browsing

Kater: Virtualization in and of itself has allowed us to remove the physical element of our workstations when desirable and operate truly in that virtual or memory space. And so when you are talking about browsers, you can have a very isolated, a very clean browser. But that browser is still going to hit a website that can exploit your system. It can run in that memory space for exploitation. And, again, it doesn’t rely on plug-ins to be downloaded or anything like that anymore, so we really have to look at the techniques that these browsers are using.

What we are able to do with the secure browsing technique is publish, in our case, via XenApp, any browser flavor with isolation out there on the server. We make it available to the users that have access for that particular browser and for that particular need. We are then able to secure it via Bitdefender HVI, making sure that no matter where that browser goes, no matter what interface it’s trying to align with, it’s secure across the board.

Gardner: In addition to secure browsing, what do you look for in terms of being able to keep all of your endpoints the way you want them? Is there a management approach of being able to verify what works and what doesn’t work? How do you try to guarantee 100 percent security on those many and varied endpoints?

Kater: I am a realist, and I realize that nothing will ever be 100 percent secure, but I really strive for that 99.9 percent security and availability for my users. In doing so — being that we are so small in staff, and being that I am the one that should manage all of the security, architecture, layers, networking and so forth — I really look for that centralized model. I want one pane of glass to look at for managing, for reporting.

I want that management interface and that central console to really tell me when and if an exploit happens, what happened with that exploit, where did it go,  what did it do to me and how was I protected.

I want that management interface and that central console to really tell me when and if an exploit happens, what happened with that exploit, where did it go, and what did it do to me and how was I protected. I need that so that I can report to my management staff and say, “Hey, honestly, this is what happened, this is what was happening behind the scenes. This is how we remediated and we are okay. We are protected. We are safe.”

And so I really look for that centralized management. Automation is key. I want something that will automatically update, with the latest virus and malware definitions, but also download the latest techniques that are seen out there via those innovative labs from our security vendors to fully patch our systems behind the scenes. So it takes that piece of management away from me and automates it to make my job more efficient and more effective.

Gardner: And how has Bitdefender HVI, in association with Bitdefender GravityZone, accomplished that? How big of a role does it play in your overall solution?

Kater: It has been a very easy deployment and management, to be honest. Again, entities large and small, we are all facing the same threats. When we looked at ways to attain the best solution for us, we wanted to make sure that all of the main vendors that we make use of here at KDFA were on board.

And it just so happened this was a perfect partnership, again, between Citrix, Bitdefender, Intel, and the Linux community. That close partnership, it really developed into HVI, and it is not an evolutionary product. It did not grow from anything else. It really is a revolutionary approach. It’s a different way of looking at security models. It’s a different way of protecting.

HVI allows for security to be seen outside of the endpoint, and outside of the guest agent. It’s kind of an inside-looking-outward approach. It really provides high levels of visibility, detection and, again, it prevents the attacks of today, with those advanced persistent threats or APTs.

With that said, since the partnership between GravityZone and HVI is so easy to deploy, so easy to manage, it really allows our systems to grow and scale when the need is there. And we just know that with those systems in place, when I populate my network with new VMs, they are automatically protected via the policies from HVI.

Given that the security has to be protected from the ground all the way up, we rest assured that the security moves with the workload. As the workload moves across my network, it’s spawned off and onto new VMs. The same set of security policies follows the workloads. It really takes out any human missteps, if you will, along the process because it’s all automated and it all works hand-in-hand together.

Behind the screens

Gardner: It sounds like you have gained increased peace of mind. That’s always a good thing in IT; certainly a good thing for security-oriented IT folks. What about your end-users? Has the ability to have these defenses in place allowed you to give people a bit more latitude with what they can do? Is there a productivity, end-user or user experience benefit to this?

Kater: When it comes to security agents and endpoint security as a whole, I think a lot of people would agree with me that the biggest drawback when implementing those into your work environment is loss of productivity. It’s really not the end-user’s fault. It’s not a limitation of what they can and can’t do, but it’s what happens when security puts an extra load on your CPU, it puts extra load on your RAM; therefore, it bogs down your systems. Your systems don’t operate as efficiently or effectively and that decreases your productivity.

With Bitdefender, and the approaches that we adopted, we have seen very, very limited, almost uncomputable limitations as far as impacts on our network, impacts on our endpoints. So user adoption has been greater than it ever has, as far as a security solution.

I’m also able to manipulate our policies within that Central Command Center or Central Command Console within Bitdefender GravityZone to allow my users, at will, if they would like, to see what they are being blocked against, and which websites they are trying to run in the background. I am able to pass that through to the endpoint for them to see firsthand. That has been a really eye-opening experience.

We used to compute daily, thinking we were protected, and that nothing was running in the background. We were visiting the pages, and those pages were acting as though we thought that they should. What we have quickly found out is that any given page can launch several hundred, if not thousands, of links in the background, which can then become an exploit mechanism, if not properly secured.

Gardner: I would like to address some of the qualitative metrics of success when you have experienced the transition to more automated security. Let’s begin with your time. You said you went from five or 10 percent of time spent on security to 50 or 60 percent. Have you been able to ratchet that back? What would you estimate is the amount of time you spend on security issues now, given that you are one and a half years in?

Kater: Dating back 5 to 10 years ago with the inception of VDI, my security footprint as far as my daily workload was probably around that 10 percent. And then, with the growing threats in the last two to three years, that ratcheted it up to about 50 percent, at minimum, maybe even 60 percent. By adopting GravityZone and HVI, I have been able to pull that back down to only consume about 10 percent of my workload, as most of it is automated for me behind the scenes.

Gardner: How about ransomware infections? Have you had any of those? Or lost documents, any other sort of qualitative metrics of how to measure efficiency and efficacy here?

We have had zero ransomware infections in more than a year now. We have had zero exploits and we have had zero network impact.

Kater: I am happy to report that since the adoption of GravityZone, and now with HVI as an extra security layer on top of Bitdefender GravityZone, that we have had zero ransomware infections in more than a year now. We have had zero exploits and we have had zero network impact.

Gardner: Well, that speaks for itself. Let’s look to the future, now that you have obtained this. You mentioned earlier your interest in AI, machine learning, automating, of being proactive. Tell us about what you expect to do in the future in terms of an even better security posture.

Safety layers everywhere, all the time

Kater: In my opinion, again, security layers are vital. They are key to any successful deployment, whether you are large or small. It’s important to have all of your traditional security hardware and software in place working alongside this new interwoven fabric, if you will, of software — and now at the hypervisor level. This is a new threshold. This is a new undiscovered territory that we are moving into with virtual technologies.

As that technology advances, and more complex deployments are made, it’s important to protect that computing ability every step of the way; again, from that base and core, all the way into the future.

More and more of my users are computing remotely, and they need to have the same security measures in place for all of their computing sessions. What HVI has been able to do for me here in the current time, and in moving to the future, is I am now able to provide secure working environments anywhere — whether that’s their desktop, whether that’s their secure browser. I am able to leverage that HVI technology once they are logged into our network to make their computing from remote areas safe and effective.

Gardner: For those listening who may not have yet moved toward a hypervisor-level security – or who have maybe even just more recently become involved with pervasive virtualization and VDI — what advice could you give them, Jeff, on how to get started? What would you suggest others do that would even improve on the way you have done it? And, of course, you have had some pretty good results.

Kater: It’s important to understand that everybody’s situation is very different, so identifying the best solutions for everybody is very much on an individual corporation basis. Each company has its own requirements, its own compliance to follow, of course.

Pick two or three vendors and run very stringent POCs; make sure that they are able to identify your security restraints, try to break them, run them through the phases, see how they affect your network.

The best advice that I can give is pick two or three vendors, at the least, and run very stringent POCs; no matter what they may be, make sure that they are able to identify your security restraints, try to break them, run them through the phases, see how they affect your network. Then, when you have two or three that come out of that and that you feel strongly about, continue to break them down.

I cannot stress the importance of POCs enough. It’s very important to identify that one or two that you really feel strongly about. Once you identify those, then talk to the industry experts that support those technologies, talk to the engineers, really get the insight from the inside out on how they are innovating and what their plan is for the future of their products to make sure that you are on a solid footprint.

Most success stories involve a leap of faith. With machine learning and AI, we are now taking a leap that is backed by factual knowledge and analyzing techniques to stay ahead of threats. No longer are we relying on those virus definitions and those virus updates that can be lagging sometimes.

Gardner: Before we sign off, where do you go to get your information? Where would you recommend other people go to find out more?

Kater: Honestly, I was very fortunate that HVI at its inception fell into my lap. When I was looking around at different products, we just hit the market at the right time. But to be honest with you, I cannot stress enough, again, run those POCs.

If you are interested in finding out more about Bitdefender and its product line up, Bitdefender has an excellent set of engineers on staff; they are very knowledgeable, they are very well-rounded in all of their individual disciplines. The Bitdefender website is very comprehensive. It contains many outside resources, along with inside labs reporting, showcasing just what their capabilities are, with a lot of unbiased opinions.

They have several video demos and technical white papers listed out there, you can find them all across the web and you can request the full product demo when you are ready for it and run that POC of Bitdefender products in-house with your network. Also, they have presales support that will help you all along the way.

Bitdefender HVI will revolutionize your data center security capacity.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: Bitdefender.

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Globalization risks and data complexity demand new breed of hybrid IT management, says Wikibon’s Burris

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Analyst interview explores how globalization and distributed business ecosystems factor into hybrid cloud challenges and solutions.

Mounting complexity and a lack of multi-cloud services management maturity are forcing companies to seek new breeds of solutions so they can grow and thrive as digital enterprises.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to report on how international companies must factor localization, data sovereignty and other regional cloud requirements into any transition to sustainable hybrid IT is Peter Burris, Head of Research at Wikibon. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Peter, companies doing business or software development just in North America can have an American-centric view of things. They may lack an appreciation for the global aspects of cloud computing models. We want to explore that today. How much more complex is doing cloud — especially hybrid cloud — when you’re straddling global regions?

Burris: There are advantages and disadvantages to thinking cloud-first when you are thinking globalization first. The biggest advantage is that you are able to work in locations that don’t currently have the broad-based infrastructure that’s typically associated with a lot of traditional computing modes and models.



The downside of it is, at the end of the day, that the value in any computing system is not so much in the hardware per se; it’s in the data that’s the basis of how the system works. And because of the realities of working with data in a distributed way, globalization that is intended to more fully enfranchise data wherever it might be introduces a range of architectural implementation and legal complexities that can’t be discounted.

So, cloud and globalization can go together — but it dramatically increases the need for smart and forward-thinking approaches to imagining, and then ultimately realizing, how those two go together, and what hybrid architecture is going to be required to make it work.

Gardner: If you need to then focus more on the data issues — such as compliance, regulation, and data sovereignty — how is that different from taking an applications-centric view of things?

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Burris: Most companies have historically taken an infrastructure-centric approach to things. They start by saying, “Where do I have infrastructure, where do I have servers and storage, do I have the capacity for this group of resources, and can I bring the applications up here?” And if the answer is yes, then you try to ultimately economize on those assets and build the application there.

That runs into problems when we start thinking about privacy, and in ensuring that local markets and local approaches to intellectual property management can be accommodated.

But the issue is more than just things like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, which is a series of regulations in the European Union (EU) that are intended to protect consumers from what the EU would regard as inappropriate leveraging and derivative use of their data.

It can be extremely expensive and sometimes impossible to even conceive of a global cloud strategy where the service is being consumed a few thousand miles away from where the data resides, if there is any dependency on time and how that works.

Ultimately, the globe is a big place. It’s 12,000 miles or so from point A to the farthest point B, and physics still matters. So, the first thing we have to worry about when we think about globalization is the cost of latency and the cost of bandwidth of moving data — either small or very large — across different regions. It can be extremely expensive and sometimes impossible to even conceive of a global cloud strategy where the service is being consumed a few thousand miles away from where the data resides, if there is any dependency on time and how that works.

So, the issues of privacy, the issues of local control of data are also very important, but the first and most important consideration for every business needs to be: Can I actually run the application where I want to, given the realities of latency? And number two: Can I run the application where I want to given the realities of bandwidth? This issue can completely overwhelm all other costs for data-rich, data-intensive applications over distance.

Gardner: As you are factoring your architecture, you need to take these local considerations into account, particularly when you are factoring costs. If you have to do some heavy lifting and make your bandwidth capable, it might be better to have a local closet-sized data center, because they are small and efficient these days, and you can stick with a private cloud or on-premises approach. At the least, you should factor the economic basis for comparison, with all these other variables you brought up.

Edge centers

Burris: That’s correct. In fact, we call them “edge centers.” For example, if the application features any familiarity with Internet of Things (IoT), then there will likely be some degree of latency considerations obtained, and the cost of doing a round trip message over a few thousand miles can be pretty significant when we consider the total cost of how fast computing can be done these days.

The first consideration is what are the impacts of latency for an application workload like IoT and is that intending to drive more automation into the system? Imagine, if you will, the businessperson who says, “I would like to enter into a new market expand my presence in the market in a cost-effective way. And to do that, I want to have the system be more fully automated as it serves that particular market or that particular group of customers. And perhaps it’s something that looks more process manufacturing-oriented or something along those lines that has IoT capabilities.”

The goal is to bring in the technology in a way that does not explode the administration, management, and labor cost associated with the implementation.

The goal, therefore, is to bring in the technology in a way that does not explode the administration, managements, and labor cost associated with the implementation.

The other way you are going to do that is if you do introduce a fair amount of automation and if, in fact, that automation is capable of operating within the time constraints required by those automated moments, as we call them.

If the round-trip cost of moving the data from a remote global location back to somewhere in North America — independent of whether it’s legal or not – comes at a cost that exceeds the automation moment, then you just flat out can’t do it. Now, that is the most obvious and stringent consideration.

On top of that, these moments of automation necessitate significant amounts of data being generated and captured. We have done model studies where, for example, the cost of moving data out of a small wind farm can be 10 times as expensive. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to do relatively simple and straightforward types of data analysis on the performance of that wind farm.

Process locally, act globally

It’s a lot better to have a local presence that can handle local processing requirements against models that are operating against locally derived data or locally generated data, and let that work be automated with only periodic visibility into how the overall system is working closely. And that’s where a lot of this kind of on-premise hybrid cloud thinking is starting.

It gets more complex than in a relatively simple environment like a wind farm, but nonetheless, the amount of processing power that’s necessary to run some of those kinds of models can get pretty significant. We are going to see a lot more of this kind of analytic work be pushed directly down to the devices themselves. So, the Sense, Infer, and Act loop will occur very, very closely in some of those devices. We will try to keep as much of that data as we can local.

But there are always going to be circumstances when we have to generate visibility across devices, we have to do local training of the data, we have to test the data or the models that we are developing locally, and all those things start to argue for sometimes much larger classes of systems.

Gardner: It’s a fascinating subject as to what to push down the edge given that the storage cost and processing costs are down and footprint is down and what to then use the public cloud environment or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) environment for.

But before we go into any further, Peter, tell us about yourself, and your organization, Wikibon.

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Burris: Wikibon is a research firm that’s affiliated with something known as TheCUBE. TheCUBE conducts about 5,000 interviews per year with thought leaders at various locations, often on-site at large conferences.

I came to Wikibon from Forrester Research, and before that I had been a part of META Group, which was purchased by Gartner. I have a longstanding history in this business. I have also worked with IT organizations, and also worked inside technology marketing in a couple of different places. So, I have been around.

Wikibon’s objective is to help mid-sized to large enterprises traverse the challenges of digital transformation. Our opinion is that digital transformation actually does mean something. It’s not just a set of bromides about multichannel or omnichannel or being “uberized,” or anything along those lines.

The difference between a business and a digital business is the degree to which data is used as an asset.

The difference between a business and a digital business is the degree to which data is used as an asset. In a digital business, data absolutely is used as a differentiating asset for creating and keeping customers.

We look at the challenges of what does it mean to use data differently, how to capture it differently, which is a lot of what IoT is about. We look at how to turn it into business value, which is a lot of what big data and these advanced analytics like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and deep learning are all about. And then finally, how to create the next generation of applications that actually act on behalf of the brand with a fair degree of autonomy, which is what we call “systems of agency” are all about. And then ultimately how cloud and historical infrastructure are going to come together and be optimized to support all those requirements.

We are looking at digital business transformation as a relatively holistic thing that includes IT leadership, business leadership, and, crucially, new classes of partnerships to ensure that the services that are required are appropriately contracted for and can be sustained as it becomes an increasing feature of any company’s value proposition. That’s what we do.

Global risk and reward

Gardner: We have talked about the tension between public and private cloud in a global environment through speeds and feeds, and technology. I would like to elevate it to the issues of culture, politics and perception. Because in recent years, with offshoring and looking at intellectual property concerns in other countries, the fact is that all the major hyperscale cloud providers are US-based corporations. There is a wide ecosystem of other second tier providers, but certainly in the top tier.

Is that something that should concern people when it comes to risk to companies that are based outside of the US? What’s the level of risk when it comes to putting all your eggs in the basket of a company that’s US-based?

Burris: There are two perspectives on that, but let me add one more just check on this. Alibaba clearly is one of the top-tier, and they are not based in the US and that may be one of the advantages that they have. So, I think we are starting to see some new hyperscalers emerge, and we will see whether or not one will emerge in Europe.

I had gotten into a significant argument with a group of people not too long ago on this, and I tend to think that the political environment almost guarantees that we will get some kind of scale in Europe for a major cloud provider.

If you are a US company, are you concerned about how intellectual property is treated elsewhere? Similarly, if you are a non-US company, are you concerned that the US companies are typically operating under US law, which increasingly is demanding that some of these hyperscale firms be relatively liberal, shall we say, in how they share their data with the government? This is going to be one of the key issues that influence choices of technology over the course of the next few years.

Cross-border compute concerns

We think there are three fundamental concerns that every firm is going to have to worry about.

I mentioned one, the physics of cloud computing. That includes latency and bandwidth. One computer science professor told me years ago, “Latency is the domain of God, and bandwidth is the domain of man.” We may see bandwidth costs come down over the next few years, but let’s just lump those two things together because they are physical realities.

The second one, as we talked about, is the idea of privacy and the legal implications.

The third one is intellectual property control and concerns, and this is going to be an area that faces enormous change over the course of the next few years. It’s in conjunction with legal questions on contracting and business practices.

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From our perspective, a US firm that wants to operate in a location that features a more relaxed regime for intellectual property absolutely needs to be concerned. And the reason why they need to be concerned is data is unlike any other asset that businesses work with. Virtually every asset follows the laws of scarcity.

Money, you can put it here or you can put it there. Time, people, you can put here or you can put there. That machine can be dedicated to this kind of wire or that kind of wire.

Data is weird, because data can be copied, data can be shared. The value of data appreciates as we us it more successfully, as we integrate it and share it across multiple applications.

Scarcity is a dominant feature of how we think about generating returns on assets. Data is weird, though, because data can be copied, data can be shared. Indeed, the value of data appreciates as we use it more successfully, as we use it more completely, as we integrate it and share it across multiple applications.

And that is where the concern is, because if I have data in one location, two things could possibly happen. One is if it gets copied and stolen, and there are a lot of implications to that. And two, if there are rules and regulations in place that restrict how I can combine that data with other sources of data. That means if, for example, my customer data in Germany may not appreciate, or may not be able to generate the same types of returns as my customer data in the US.

Now, that sets aside any moral question of whether or not Germany or the US has better privacy laws and protects the consumers better. But if you are basing investments on how you can use data in the US, and presuming a similar type of approach in most other places, you are absolutely right. On the one hand, you probably aren’t going to be able to generate the total value of your data because of restrictions on its use; and number two, you have to be very careful about concerns related to data leakage and the appropriation of your data by unintended third parties.

Gardner: There is the concern about the appropriation of the data by governments, including the United States with the PATRIOT Act. And there are ways in which governments can access hyperscalers’ infrastructure, assets, and data under certain circumstances. I suppose there’s a whole other topic there, but at least we should recognize that there’s some added risk when it comes to governments and their access to this data.

Burris: It’s a double-edged sword that US companies may be worried about hyperscalers elsewhere, but companies that aren’t necessarily located in the US may be concerned about using those hyperscalers because of the relationship between those hyperscalers and the US government.

These concerns have been suppressed in the grand regime of decision-making in a lot of businesses, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a low-intensity concern that could bubble up, and perhaps, it’s one of the reasons why Alibaba is growing so fast right now.

All hyperscalers are going to have to be able to demonstrate that they can protect their clients, their customers’ data, utilizing the regime that is in place wherever the business is being operated.

All hyperscalers are going to have to be able to demonstrate that they can, in fact, protect their clients, their customers’ data, utilizing the regime that is in place wherever the business is being operated. [The rationale] for basing your business in these types of services is really immature. We have made enormous progress, but there’s a long way yet to go here, and that’s something that businesses must factor as they make decisions about how they want to incorporate a cloud strategy.

Gardner: It’s difficult enough given the variables and complexity of deciding a hybrid cloud strategy when you’re only factoring the technical issues. But, of course, now there are legal issues around data sovereignty, privacy, and intellectual property concerns. It’s complex, and it’s something that an IT organization, on its own, cannot juggle. This is something that cuts across all the different parts of a global enterprise — their legal, marketing, security, risk avoidance and governance units — right up to the board of directors. It’s not just a willy-nilly decision to get out a credit card and start doing cloud computing on any sustainable basis.

Burris: Well, you’re right, and too frequently it is a willy-nilly decision where a developer or a business person says, “Oh, no sweat, I am just going to grab some resources and start building something in the cloud.”

I can remember back in the mid-1990s when I would go into large media companies to meet with IT people to talk about the web, and what it would mean technically to build applications on the web. I would encounter 30 people, and five of them would be in IT and 25 of them would be in legal. They were very concerned about what it meant to put intellectual property in a digital format up on the web, because of how it could be misappropriated or how it could lose value. So, that class of concern — or that type of concern — is minuscule relative to the broader questions of cloud computing, of the grabbing of your data and holding it a hostage, for example.

There are a lot of considerations that are not within the traditional purview of IT, but CIOs need to start thinking about them on their own and in conjunction with their peers within the business.

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Gardner: We’ve certainly underlined a lot of the challenges. What about solutions? What can organizations do to prevent going too far down an alley that’s dark and misunderstood, and therefore have a difficult time adjusting?

How do we better rationalize for cloud computing decisions? Do we need better management? Do we need better visibility into what our organizations are doing or not doing? How do we architect with foresight into the larger picture, the strategic situation? What do we need to start thinking about in terms of the solutions side of some of these issues?

Cloud to business, not business to cloud

Burris: That’s a huge question, Dana. I can go on for the next six hours, but let’s start here. The first thing we tell senior executives is, don’t think about bringing your business to the cloud — think about bringing the cloud to your business. That’s the most important thing. A lot of companies start by saying, “Oh, I want to get rid of IT, I want to move my business to the cloud.”

It’s like many of the mistakes that were made in the 1990s regarding outsourcing. When I would go back and do research on outsourcing, I discovered that a lot of the outsourcing was not driven by business needs, but driven by executive compensation schemes, literally. So, where executives were told that they would be paid on the basis of return in net assets, there was a high likelihood that the business was going to go to outsourcers to get rid of the assets, so the executives could pay themselves an enormous amount of money.

Think about how to bring the cloud to your business, and to better manage your data assets, and don’t automatically default to the notion that you’re going to take your business to the cloud.

The same type of thinking pertains here — the goal is not to get rid of IT assets since those assets, generally speaking, are becoming less important features of the overall proposition of digital businesses.

Think instead about how to bring the cloud to your business, and to better manage your data assets, and don’t automatically default to the notion that you’re going to take your business to the cloud.

Every decision-maker needs to ask himself or herself, “How can I get the cloud experience wherever the data demands?” The goal of the cloud experience, which is a very, very powerful concept, ultimately needs to be able to get access to a very rich set of services associated with automation. We need visible pricing and metering, self-sufficiency, and self-service. These are all the experiences that we want out of cloud.

What we want, however, are those experiences wherever the data requires it, and that’s what’s driving hybrid cloud. We call it “true private cloud,” and the idea is of having a technology stack that provides a consistent cloud experience wherever the data has to run — whether that’s because of IoT or because of privacy issues or because of intellectual property concerns. True private cloud is our concept for describing how the cloud experience is going to be enacted where the data requires, so that you don’t just have to move the data to get to the cloud experience.

Weaving IT all together

The third thing to note here is that ultimately this is going to lead to the most complex integration regime we’ve ever envisioned for IT. By that I mean, we are going to have applications that span Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), public cloud, IaaS services, true private cloud, legacy applications, and many other types of services that we haven’t even conceived of right now.

And understanding how to weave all of those different data sources, and all those different service sources, into coherent application framework that runs reliably and providers a continuous ongoing service to the business is essential. It must involve a degree of distribution that completely breaks most models. We’re thinking about infrastructure, architecture, but also, data management, system management, security management, and as I said earlier, all the way out to even contractual management, and vendor management.

The arrangement of resources for the classes of applications that we are going to be building in the future are going to require deep, deep, deep thinking.

That leads to the fourth thing, and that is defining the metric we’re going to use increasingly from a cost standpoint. And it is time. As the costs of computing and bandwidth continue to drop — and they will continue to drop — it means ultimately that the fundamental cost determinant will be, How long does it take an application to complete? How long does it take this transaction to complete? And that’s not so much a throughput question, as it is a question of, “I have all these multiple sources that each on their own are contributing some degree of time to how this piece of work finishes, and can I do that piece of work in less time if I bring some of the work, for example, in-house, and run it close to the event?”

This relationship between increasing distribution of work, increasing distribution of data, and the role that time is going to play when we think about the event that we need to manage is going to become a significant architectural concern.

The fifth issue, that really places an enormous strain on IT is how we think about backing up and restoring data. Backup/restore has been an afterthought for most of the history of the computing industry.

As we start to build these more complex applications that have more complex data sources and more complex services — and as these applications increasingly are the basis for the business and the end-value that we’re creating — we are not thinking about backing up devices or infrastructure or even subsystems.

We are thinking about what does it mean to backup, even more importantly, applications and even businesses. The issue becomes associated more with restoring. How do we restore applications in business across this incredibly complex arrangement of services and data locations and sources?

There’s a new data regime that’s emerging to support application development. How’s that going to work — the role the data scientists and analytics are going to play in working with application developers?

I listed five areas that are going to be very important. We haven’t even talked about the new regime that’s emerging to support application development and how that’s going to work. The role the data scientists and analytics are going to play in working with application developers – again, we could go on and on and on. There is a wide array of considerations, but I think all of them are going to come back to the five that I mentioned.

Gardner: That’s an excellent overview. One of the common themes that I keep hearing from you, Peter, is that there is a great unknown about the degree of complexity, the degree of risk, and a lack of maturity. We really are venturing into unknown territory in creating applications that draw on these resources, assets and data from these different clouds and deployment models.

When you have that degree of unknowns, that lack of maturity, there is a huge opportunity for a party to come in to bring in new types of management with maturity and with visibility. Who are some of the players that might fill that role? One that I am familiar with, and I think I have seen them on theCUBE is Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) with what they call Project New Hybrid IT Stack. We still don’t know too much about it. I have also talked about Cloud28+, which is an ecosystem of global cloud environments that helps mitigate some of the concerns about a single hyperscaler or a handful of hyperscale providers. What’s the opportunity for a business to come in to this problem set and start to solve it? What do you think from what you’ve heard so far about Project New Hybrid IT Stack at HPE?

Key cloud players

Burris: That’s a great question, and I’m going to answer it in three parts. Part number one is, if we look back historically at the emergence of TCP/IP, TCP/IP killed the mini-computers. A lot of people like to claim it was microprocessors, and there is an element of truth to that, but many computer companies had their own proprietary networks. When companies wanted to put those networks together to build more distributed applications, the mini-computer companies said, “Yeah, just bridge our network.” That was an unsatisfyingly bad answer for the users. So along came Cisco, TCP/IP, and they flattened out all those mini-computer networks, and in the process flattened the mini-computer companies.

HPE was one of the few survivors because they embraced TCP/IP much earlier than anybody else.

We are going to need the infrastructure itself to use deep learning, machine learning, and advanced technology for determining how the infrastructure is managed, optimized, and economized.

The second thing is that to build the next generations of more complex applications — and especially applications that involve capabilities like deep learning or machine learning with increased automation — we are going to need the infrastructure itself to use deep learning, machine learning, and advanced technology for determining how the infrastructure is managed, optimized, and economized. That is an absolute requirement. We are not going to make progress by adding new levels of complexity and building increasingly rich applications if we don’t take full advantage of the technologies that we want to use in the applications — inside how we run our infrastructures and run our subsystems, and do all the things we need to do from a hybrid cloud standpoint.

Ultimately, the companies are going to step up and start to flatten out some of these cloud options that are emerging. We will need companies that have significant experience with infrastructure, that really understand the problem. They need a lot of experience with a lot of different environments, not just one operating system or one cloud platform. They will need a lot of experience with these advanced applications, and have both the brainpower and the inclination to appropriately invest in those capabilities so they can build the type of platforms that we are talking about. There are not a lot of companies out there that can.

There are few out there, and certainly HPE with its New Stack initiative is one of them, and we at Wikibon are especially excited about it. It’s new, it’s immature, but HPE has a lot of piece parts that will be required to make a go of this technology. It’s going to be one of the most exciting areas of invention over the next few years. We really look forward to working with our user clients to introduce some of these technologies and innovate with them. It’s crucial to solve the next generation of problems that the world faces; we can’t move forward without some of these new classes of hybrid technologies that weave together fabrics that are capable of running any number of different application forms.

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As enterprises face hybrid IT complexity, new management solutions beckon

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Analyst interview examines how new machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities are being applied to hybrid IT complexity challenges.

We’ll explore how mounting complexity and a lack of multi-cloud services management maturity must be solved in order for businesses to grow and thrive as digital enterprises.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

Here to report on how companies and IT leaders are seeking new means to manage an increasingly complex transition to sustainable hybrid IT is Paul Teich, Principal Analyst at TIRIAS Research in Austin, Texas. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Paul, there’s a lot of evidence that businesses are adopting cloud models at a rapid pace. There is also lingering concern about the complexity of managing so many fast-moving parts. We have legacy IT, private cloud, public cloud, software as a service (SaaS) and, of course, multi-cloud. So as someone who tracks technology and its consumption, how much has technology itself been tapped to manage this sprawl, if you will, across hybrid IT?

Paul Teich


Teich: So far, not very much, mostly because of the early state of multi-cloud and the hybrid cloud business model. As you know, it takes a while for management technology to catch up with the actual compute technology and storage. So I think we are seeing that management is the tail of the dog, it’s getting wagged by the rest of it, and it just hasn’t caught up yet.

Gardner: Things have been moving so quickly with cloud computing that few organizations have had an opportunity to step back and examine what’s actually going on around them — never mind properly react to it. We really are playing catch up.

Teich: As we look at the options available, the cloud giants — the public cloud services — don’t have much incentive to work together. So you are looking at a market where there will be third parties stepping in to help manage multi-cloud environments, and there’s a lag time between having those services available and having the cloud services available and then seeing the third-party management solution step in.

Gardner: It’s natural to see that a specific cloud environment, whether it’s purely public like AWS or a hybrid like Microsoft Azure and Azure Stack, want to help their customers, but they want to help their customers all get to their solutions first and foremost. It’s a natural thing. We have seen this before in technology.

There are not that many organizations willing to step into the neutral position of being ecumenical, of saying they want to help the customer first, manage it all from the first.

As we look to how this might unfold, it seems to me that the previous models of IT management — agent-based, single-pane-of-glass, and unfortunately still in some cases spreadsheets and Post-It notes — have been brought to bear on this. But we might be in a different ball game, Paul, with hybrid IT, that there’s just too many moving parts, too much complexity, and that we might need to look at data-driven approaches. What is your take on that?

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Teich: I think that’s exactly correct. One of the jokes in the industry right now is if you want to find your stranded instances in the cloud, cancel your credit card and AWS or Microsoft will be happy to notify you of all of the instances that you are no longer paying for because your credit card expired. It’s hard to keep track of this, because we don’t have adequate tools yet.

When you are an IT manager and you have a lot of folks on public cloud services, you don’t have a full picture.

That single pane of glass, looking at a lot of data and information, is soon overloaded. When you are an IT manager, you are at a mid-sized or a large corporation, you have a lot of folks paying out-of-pocket right now, slapping a credit card down on public cloud services, so you don’t have a full picture. Where you do have a picture, there are so many moving parts.

I think we have to get past having a screen full of data, a screen full of information, and to a point where we have insight. And that is going to require a new generation of tools, probably borrowing from some of the machine learning evolution that’s happening now in pattern analytics.

Gardner: The timing in some respects couldn’t be better, right? Just as we are facing this massive problem of complexity of volume and velocity in managing IT across a hybrid environment, we have some of the most powerful and cost-effective means to deal with big data problems just like that.

Life in the infrastructure

Paul, before we go further let’s hear about you and your organization, and tell us, if you would, what a typical day is like in the life of Paul Teich?

Teich: At TIRIAS Research we are boutique industry analysts. By boutique we mean there are three of us — three principal analysts; we have just added a few senior analysts. We are close to the metal. We live in the infrastructure. We are all former engineers and/or product managers. We are very familiar with deep technology.

My day tends to be first, a lot of reading. We look at a lot of chips, we look at a lot of service-level information, and our job is to, at a very fundamental level, take very complex products and technologies and surface them to business decision-makers, IT decision-makers, folks who are trying to run lines of business (LOB) and make a profit. So we do the heavy lifting on why new technology is important, disruptive, and transformative.

Gardner: Thanks. Let’s go back to this idea of data-driven and analytical values as applied to hybrid IT management and complexity. If we can apply AI and machine learning to solve business problems outside of IT — in such verticals as retail, pharmaceutical, transportation — with the same characteristics of data volume, velocity, and variety, why not apply that to IT? Is this a case of the cobbler’s kids having no shoes? You would think that IT would be among the first to do this.

Dig deep, gain insight

Teich: The cloud giants have already implemented systems like this because of necessity. So they have been at the front-end of that big data mantra of volume, velocity — and all of that.

To successfully train for the new pattern recognition analytics, especially the deep learning stuff, you need a lot of data. You can’t actually train a system usefully without presenting it with a lot of use cases.

The public clouds have this data. They are operating social media services, large retail storefronts, and e-tail, for example. As the public clouds became available to enterprises, the IT management problem ballooned into a big data problem. I don’t think it was a big data problem five or 10 years ago, but it is now.

That’s a big transformation. We haven’t actually internalized what that means operationally when your internal IT department no longer runs all of your IT jobs anymore.

We are generating big data and that means we need big data tools to go analyze it and to get that relevant insight.

That’s the biggest sea change — we are generating big data in the course of managing our IT infrastructure now, and that means we need big data tools to go analyze it, and to get that relevant insight. It’s too much data flowing by for humans to comprehend in real time.

Gardner: And, of course, we are also talking about islands of such operational data. You might have a lot of data in your legacy operations. You might have tier 1 apps that you are running on older infrastructure, and you are probably happy to do that. It might be very difficult to transition those specific apps into newer operating environments.

You also have multiple SaaS and cloud data repositories and logs. There’s also not only the data within those apps, but there’s the metadata as to how those apps are running in clusters and what they are doing as a whole. It seems to me that not only would you benefit from having a comprehensive data and analytics approach for your IT operations, but you might also have a workflow and process business benefit by being an uber analyst, by being on top of all of these islands of operational data.

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To me, moving toward a comprehensive intelligence and data analysis capability for IT is the gift that keeps giving. You would then be able to also provide insight for an uber approach to processes across your entire organization — across the supply chains, across partner networks, and back to your customers. Paul, do you also see that there’s an ancillary business benefit to having that data analysis capability, and not ceding it to your cloud providers?

Manage data, improve workflow

Teich: I do. At one end of the spectrum it’s simply what do you need to do to keep the lights on, where is your data, all of it, in the various islands and collections and the data you are sharing with your supply chain as well. Where is the processing that you can apply to that data? Increasingly, I think, we are looking at a world in which the location of the stored data is more important than the processing power.

The management of all the data you have needs to segue into visible workflows.

We have processing power pretty much everywhere now. What’s key is moving data from place to place and setting up the connections to acquire it. It means that the management of all the data you have needs to segue into visible workflows.

Once I know what I have, and I am managing it at a baseline effectively, then I can start to improve my processes. Then I can start to get better workflows, internally as well as across my supply chain. But I think at first it’s simply, “What do I have going on right now?”

As an IT manager, how can I rein in some of these credit card instances, credit card storage on the public clouds, and put that all into the right mix. I have to know what I know first — then I can start to streamline. Then I can start to control my costs. Does that make sense?

Gardner: Yes, absolutely. And how can you know which people you want to give even more credit to on their credit cards – and let them do more of what they are doing? It might be very innovative, and it might be very cost-effective. There might also be those wasting money, spinning their wheels, repaving cow paths, over and over again.

If you don’t have the ability to make those decisions with insight, without the visibility, and then further analyze it as to how best to go about it – it seems to me a no-brainer.

It also comes at an auspicious time as IT is trying to re-factor its value to the organization. If in fact they are no longer running servers and networks and keeping the trains running on time, they have to start being more in the business of defining what trains should be running and then how to make them the best business engines, if you will.

If IT departments needs to rethink their role and step up their game, then they need to use technologies like advanced hybrid IT management from vendors with a neutral perspective. Then they become the overseers of operations at a fundamentally different level.

Data revelation, not revolution

Teich: I think that’s right. It’s evolutionary stuff. I don’t think it’s revolutionary. I think that in the same way you add servers to a virtual machine farm, as your demand increases, as your baseline demand increases, IT needs to keep a handle on costs — so you can understand which jobs are running where and how much more capacity you need.

One of the things they are missing with random access to the cloud is bulk purchasing. And so at a very fundamental level, helping your organization manage which clouds you are spending on by aggregating the purchase of storage, aggregating the purchase of compute instances to get just better buying power, doing price arbitrage when you can. To me, those are fundamental qualities of IT going forward in a multi-cloud environment.

They are extensions of where we are today; it just doesn’t seem like it yet. They have always added new servers to increasing internal capacity and this is just the next evolutionary step.

Gardner: It certainly makes sense that you would move as maturity occurs in any business function toward that orchestration, automation and optimization – rather than simply getting the parts in place. What you are describing is that IT is becoming more like a procurement function and less like a building, architecture, or construction function, which is just as powerful.

Not many people can make those hybrid IT procurement decisions without knowing a lot about the technology. Someone with just business acumen can’t walk in and make these decisions. I think this is an opportunity for IT to elevate itself and become even more essential to the businesses.

Teich: The opportunity is a lot like the Sabre airline scheduling system that nearly every airline uses now. That’s a fundamental capability for doing business, and it’s separate from the technology of Sabre. It’s the ability to schedule — people and airplanes – and it’s a lot like scheduling storage and jobs on compute instances. So I think there will be this step.

But to go back to the technology versus procurement, I think some element of that has always existed in IT in terms of dealing with vendors and doing the volume purchases on one side, but also having some architect know how to compose the hardware and the software infrastructure to serve those applications.

Connect the clouds

We’re simply translating that now into a multi-cloud architecture. How do I connect those pieces? What network capacity do I need to buy? What kind of storage architectures do I need? I don’t think that all goes away. It becomes far more important as you look at, for example, AWS as a very large bag of services. It’s very powerful. You can assemble it in any way you want, but in some respect, that’s like programming in C. You have all the power of assembly language and all the danger of assembly language, because you can walk up in the memory and delete stuff, and so, you have to have architects who know how to build a service that’s robust, that won’t go down, that serves your application most efficiently and all of those things are still hard to do.

So, architecture and purchasing are both still necessary. They don’t go away. I think the important part is that the orchestration part now becomes as important as deploying a service on the side of infrastructure because you’ve got multiple sets of infrastructure.

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Gardner: For hybrid IT, it really has to be an enlightened procurement, not just blind procurement. And the people in the trenches that are just buying these services — whether the developers or operations folks — they don’t have that oversight, that view of the big picture to make those larger decisions about optimization of purchasing and business processes.

That gets us back to some of our earlier points of, what are the tools, what are the management insights that these individuals need in order to make those decisions? Like with Sabre, where they are optimizing to fill every hotel room or every airplane seat, we’re going to want in hybrid IT to fill every socket, right? We’re going to want all that bare metal and all those virtualization instances to be fully optimized — whether it’s your cloud or somebody else’s.

It seems to me that there is an algorithmic approach eventually, right? Somebody is going to need to be the keeper of that algorithm as to how this all operates — but you can’t program that algorithm if you don’t have the uber insights into what’s going on, and what works and what doesn’t.

What’s the next step, Paul, in terms of the technology catching up to the management requirements in this new hybrid IT complex environment?

Teich: People can develop some of that experience on a small scale, but there are so many dimensions to managing a multi-cloud, hybrid IT infrastructure business model. It’s throwing off all of this metadata for performance and efficiency. It’s ripe for machine learning.

We’re moving so fast right now that if you are an organization of any size, machine learning has to come into play to help you get better economies of scale.

In a strong sense, we’re moving so fast right now that if you are an organization of any size, machine learning has to come into play to help you get better economies of scale. It’s just going to be looking at a bigger picture, it’s going to be managing more variables, and learning across a lot more data points than a human can possibly comprehend.

We are at this really interesting point in the industry where we are getting deep-learning approaches that are coming online cost effectively; they can help us do that. They have a little while to go before they are fully mature. But IT organizations that learn to take advantage of these systems now are going to have a head start, and they are going to be more efficient than their competitors.

Gardner: At the end of the day, if you’re all using similar cloud services then that differentiation between your company and your competitor is in how well you utilize and optimize those services. If the baseline technologies are becoming commoditized, then optimization — that algorithm-like approach to smartly moving workloads and data, and providing consumption models that are efficiency-driven — that’s going to be the difference between a 1 percent margin and a 5 percent margin over time.

The deep-learning difference

Teich: The important part to remember is that these machine-training algorithms are somewhat new, so there are several challenges with deploying them. First is the transparency issue. We don’t quite yet know how a deep-learning model makes specific decisions. We can’t point to one aspect and say that aspect is managing the quality of our AWS services, for example. It’s a black box model.

We can’t yet verify the results of these models. We know they are being efficient and fast but we can’t verify that the model is as efficient as it could possibly be. There is room for improvement over the next few years. As the models get better, they’ll leave less money on the table.

We’re also validating that when you build a machine-learning model that it’s covering all the situations you want it to cover. You need an audit trail for specific sets of decisions, especially with data that is subject to regulatory constraints. You need to know why you made decisions.

So the net is, once you are training a machine-learning model, you have to keep retraining it over time. Your model is not going to do the same thing as your competitor’s model. There is a lot of room for differentiation, a lot of room for learning. You just have to go into it with your eyes open that, yeah, occasionally things will go sideways. Your model might do something unexpected, and you just have to be prepared for that. We’re still in the early days of machine learning.

Gardner: You raise an interesting point, Paul, because even as the baseline technology services in the multi-cloud era become commoditized, you’re going to have specific, unique, and custom approaches to your own business’ management.

Your hybrid IT optimization is not going to be like that of any other company. I think getting that machine-learning capability attuned to your specific hybrid IT panoply of resources and assets is going to be a gift that keeps giving. Not only will you run your IT better, you will run your business better. You’ll be fleet and agile.

If some risk arises — whether it’s a cyber security risk, a natural disaster risk, a business risk of unintended or unexpected changes in your supply chain or in your business environment — you’re going to be in a better position to react. You’re going to have your eyes to the ground, you’re going to be well tuned to your specific global infrastructure, and you’ll be able to make good choices. So I am with you. I think machine learning is essential, and the sooner you get involved with it, the better.

Before we sign off, who are the vendors and some of the technologies that we will look to in order to fill this apparent vacuum on advanced hybrid IT management? It seems to me that traditional IT management vendors would be a likely place to start.

Who’s in?

Teich: They are a likely place to start. All of them are starting to say something about being in a multi-cloud environment, about being in a multi-cloud-vendor environment. They are already finding themselves there with virtualization, and the key is they have recognized that they are in a multi-vendor world.

There are some start-ups, and I can’t name them specifically right now. But a lot of folks are working on this problem of how do I manage hybrid IT: In-house IT, and multi-cloud orchestration, a lot of work going on there. We haven’t seen a lot of it publicly yet, but there is a lot of venture capital being placed.

I think this is the next step, just like PCs came in the office, smartphones came in the office as we move from server farms to the clouds, going from cloud to multi-cloud, it’s attracting a lot of attention. The hard part right now is nailing whom to place your faith in. The name brands that people are buying their internal IT from right now are probably good near-term bets. As the industry gets more mature, we’ll have to see what happens.

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Gardner: We did hear a vision described on this from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) back in June at their Discover event in Las Vegas. I’m expecting to hear quite a bit more on something they’ve been calling New Hybrid IT Stack that seems to possess some of the characteristics we’ve been describing, such as broad visibility and management.

So at least one of the long-term IT management vendors is looking in this direction. That’s a place I’m going to be focusing on, wondering what the competitive landscape is going to be, and if HPE is going to be in the leadership position on hybrid IT management.

Teich: Actually, I think HPE is the only company I’ve heard from so far talking at that level. Everybody is voicing some opinion about it, but from what I’ve heard, it does sound like a very interesting approach to the problem.

Microsoft actually constrained their view on Azure Stack to a very small set of problems, and is actively saying, “No, I don’t.” If you’re looking at doing virtual machine migration and taking advantage of multi-cloud for general-purpose solutions, it’s probably not something that you want to do yet. It was very interesting for me then to hear about the HPE Project New Hybrid IT Stack and what HPE is planning to do there.

Gardner: For Microsoft, the more automated and constrained they can make it, the more likely you’d be susceptible or tempted to want to just stay within an Azure and/or Azure Stack environment. So I can appreciate why they would do that.

Before we sign off, one other area I’m going to be keeping my eyes on is around orchestration of containers, Kubernetes, in particular. If you follow orchestration of containers and container usage in multi-cloud environments, that’s going to be a harbinger of how the larger hybrid IT management demands are going to go as well. So a canary in the coal mine, if you will, as to where things could get very interesting very quickly.

The place to be

Teich: Absolutely. And I point out that the Linux Foundation’s CloudNativeCon in early December 2017 looks like the place to be — with nearly everyone in the server infrastructure community and cloud infrastructure communities signing on. Part of the interest is in basically interchangeable container services. We’ll see that become much more important. So that sleepy little technical show is going to be invaded by “suits,” this year, and we’re paying a lot of attention to it.

Gardner: Yes, I agree. I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. Paul, how can our listeners and readers best follow you to gain more of your excellent insights?

Teich: You can follow us at, and also we have a page on Forbes Tech, and you can find us there.

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How mounting complexity, multi-cloud sprawl, and need for maturity hinder hybrid IT’s ability to grow and thrive

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Analyst interview examines how the economics and risk management elements of hybrid IT factor into effective cloud adoption and choice.

We’ll now explore how mounting complexity and a lack of multi-cloud services management maturity must be solved in order to have businesses grow and thrive as digital enterprises.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy

Tim Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor at AVOA in Los Angeles joins us to report on how companies are managing an increasingly complex transition to sustainable hybrid IT. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tim, there’s a lot of evidence that businesses are adopting cloud models at a rapid pace. But there is also lingering concern about how to best determine the right mix of cloud, what kinds of cloud, and how to mitigate the risks and manage change over time.

As someone who regularly advises chief information officers (CIOs), who or which group is surfacing that is tasked with managing this cloud adoption and its complexity within these businesses? Who will be managing this dynamic complexity?

Crawford: For the short-term, I would say everyone. It’s not as simple as it has been in the past where we look to the IT organization as the end-all, be-all for all things technology. As we begin talking about different consumption models — and cloud is a relatively new consumption model for technology — it changes the dynamics of it. It’s the combination of changing that consumption model — but then there’s another factor that comes into this. There is also the consumerization of technology, right? We are “democratizing” technology to the point where everyone can use it, and therefore everyone does use it, and they begin to get more comfortable with technology.

It’s not as it used to be, where we would say, “Okay, I’m not sure how to turn on a computer.” Now, businesses may be more familiar outside of the IT organization with certain technologies. Bringing that full-circle, the answer is that we have to look beyond just IT. Cloud is something that is consumed by IT organizations. It’s consumed by different lines of business, too. It’s consumed even by end-consumers of the products and services. I would say it’s all of the above.

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Gardner: The good news is that more and more people are able to — on their own – innovate, to acquire cloud services, and they can factor those into how they obtain business objectives. But do you expect that we will get to the point where that becomes disjointed? Will the goodness of innovation become something that spins out of control, or becomes a negative over time?

Crawford: To some degree, we’ve already hit that inflection-point where technology is being used in inappropriate ways. A great example of this — and it’s something that just kind of raises the hair on the back of my neck — is when I hear that boards of directors of publicly traded companies are giving mandates to their organization to “Go cloud.”

The board should be very business-focused and instead they’re dictating specific technology — whether it’s the right technology or not. That’s really what this comes down to.

What’s the right use of cloud – in all forms, public, private, software as a service (SaaS). What’s the right combination to use for any given application?

Another example is folks that try and go all-in on cloud but aren’t necessarily thinking about what’s the right use of cloud – in all forms, public, private, software as a service (SaaS). What’s the right combination to use for any given application? It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.

We in the enterprise IT space haven’t really done enough work to truly understand how best to leverage these new sets of tools. We need to both wrap our head around it but also get in the right frame of mind and thought process around how to take advantage of them in the best way possible.

Another example that I’ve worked through from an economic standpoint is if you were to do the math, which I have done a number of times with clients — you do the math to figure out what’s the comparative between the IT you’re doing on-premises in your corporate data center with any given application — versus doing it in a public cloud.

Think differently

If you do the math, taking an application from a corporate data center and moving it to public cloud will cost you four times as much money. Four times as much money to go to cloud! Yet we hear the cloud is a lot cheaper. Why is that?

When you begin to tease apart the pieces, the bottom line is that we get that four-times-as-much number because we’re using the same traditional mindset where we think about cloud as a solution, the delivery mechanism, and a tool. The reality is it’s a different delivery mechanism, and it’s a different kind of tool.

When used appropriately, in some cases, yes, it can be less expensive. The challenge is you have to get yourself out of your traditional thinking and think differently about the how and why of leveraging cloud. And when you do that, then things begin to fall into place and make a lot more sense both organizationally — from a process standpoint, and from a delivery standpoint — and also economically.

Gardner: That “appropriate use of cloud” is the key. Of course, that could be a moving target. What’s appropriate today might not be appropriate in a month or a quarter. But before we delve into more … Tim, tell us about your organization. What’s a typical day in the life for Tim Crawford like?

It’s not tech for tech’s sake, rather it’s best to say, “How do we use technology for business advantage?”

Crawford: I love that question. AVOA stands for that position in which we sit between business and technology. If you think about the intersection of business and technology, of using technology for business advantage, that’s the space we spend our time thinking about. We think about how organizations across a myriad of different industries can leverage technology in a meaningful way. It’s not tech for tech’s sake, and I want to be really clear about that. But rather it’s best to say, “How do we use technology for business advantage?”

We spend a lot of time with large enterprises across the globe working through some of these challenges. It could be as simple as changing traditional mindsets to transformational, or it could be talking about tactical objectives. Most times, though, it’s strategic in nature. We spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to solve these big problems and to change the way that companies function, how they operate.

A day in a life of me could range from, if I’m lucky, being able to stay in my office and be on the phone with clients, working with folks and thinking through some of these big problems. But I do spend a lot of time on the road, on an airplane, getting out in the field, meeting with clients, understanding what people really are contending with.

I spent well over 20 years of my career before I began doing this within the IT organization, inside leading IT organizations. It’s incredibly important for me to stay relevant by being out with these folks and understanding what they’re challenged by — and then, of course, helping them through their challenges.

Any given day is something new and I love that diversity. I love hearing different ideas. I love hearing new ideas. I love people who challenge the way I think.

It’s an opportunity for me personally to learn and to grow, and I wish more of us would do that. So it does vary quite a bit, but I’m grateful that the opportunities that I’ve had to work with have been just fabulous, and the same goes for the people.

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Gardner: I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with you, Tim, because you always do challenge me to think a little bit differently — and I find that very valuable.

Okay, let’s get back to this idea of “appropriate use of cloud.” I wonder if we should also expand that to be “appropriate use of IT and cloud.” So including that notion of hybrid IT, which includes cloud and hybrid cloud and even multi-cloud. And let’s not forget about the legacy IT services.

How do we know if we’re appropriately using cloud in the context of hybrid IT? Are there measurements? Is there a methodology that’s been established yet? Or are we still in the opening innings of how to even measure and gain visibility into how we consume and use cloud in the context of all IT — to therefore know if we’re doing it appropriately?

The monkey-bread model

Crawford: The first thing we have to do is take a step back to provide the context of that visibility — or a compass, as I usually refer to these things. You need to provide a compass to help understand where we need to go.

If we look back for a minute, and look at how IT operates — traditionally, we did everything. We had our own data center, we built all the applications, we ran our own servers, our own storage, we had the network – we did it all. We did it all, because we had to. We, in IT, didn’t really have a reasonable alternative to running our own email systems, our own file storage systems. Those days have changed.

Fast-forward to today. Now, you have to pick apart the pieces and ask, “What is strategic?” When I say, “strategic,” it doesn’t mean critically important. Electrical power is an example. Is that strategic to your business? No. Is it important? Heck, yeah, because without it, we don’t run. But it’s not something where we’re going out and building power plants next to our office buildings just so we can have power, right? We rely on others to do it because there are mature infrastructures, mature solutions for that. The same is true with IT. We have now crossed the point where there are mature solutions at an enterprise level that we can capitalize on, or that we can leverage.

Part of the methodology I use is the monkey bread example. If you’re not familiar with monkey bread, it’s kind of a crazy thing where you have these balls of dough. When you bake it, the balls of dough congeal together and meld. What you’re essentially doing is using that as representative of, or an analogue to, your IT portfolio of services and applications. You have to pick apart the pieces of those balls of dough and figure out, “Okay. Well, these systems that support email, those could go off to Google or Microsoft 365. And these applications, well, they could go off to this SaaS-based offering. And these other applications, well, they could go off to this platform.”

And then, what you’re left with is this really squishy — but much smaller — footprint that you have to contend with. That problem in the center is much more specific — and arguably that’s what differentiates your company from your competition.

Whether you run email [on-premises] or in a cloud, that’s not differentiating to a business. It’s incredibly important, but not differentiating. When you get to that gooey center, that’s the core piece, that’s where you put your resources in, that’s what you focus on.

This example helps you work through determining what’s critical, and — more importantly — what’s strategic and differentiating to my business, and what is not. And when you start to pick apart these pieces, it actually is incredibly liberating. At first, it’s a little scary, but once you get the hang of it, you realize how liberating it is. It brings focus to the things that are most critical for your business.

Identify opportunities where cloud makes sense – and where it doesn’t. It definitely is one of the most significant opportunities for most IT organizations today.

That’s what we have to do more of. When we do that, we identify opportunities where cloud makes sense — and where it doesn’t. Cloud is not the end-all, be-all for everything. It definitely is one of the most significant opportunities for most IT organizations today.

So it’s important: Understand what is appropriate, how you leverage the right solutions for the right application or service.

Gardner: IT in many organizations is still responsible for everything around technology. And that now includes higher-level strategic undertakings of how all this technology and the businesses come together. It includes how we help our businesses transform to be more agile in new and competitive environments.

So is IT itself going to rise to this challenge, of not doing everything, but instead becoming more of that strategic broker between in IT functions and business outcomes? Or will those decisions get ceded over to another group? Maybe enterprise architects, business architects, business process management (BPM) analysts? Do you think it’s important for IT to both stay in and elevate to the bigger game?

Changing IT roles and responsibilities

Crawford: It’s a great question. For every organization, the answer is going to be different. IT needs to take on a very different role and sensibility. IT needs to look different than how it looks today. Instead of being a technology-centric organization, IT really needs to be a business organization that leverages technology.

The CIO of today and moving forward is not the tech-centric CIO. There are traditional CIOs and transformational CIOs. The transformational CIO is the business leader first who happens to have responsibility for technology. IT, as a whole, needs to follow the same vein.

For example, if you were to go into a traditional IT organization today and ask them what’s the nature of their business, ask them to tell you what they do as an administrator, as a developer, to help you understand how that’s going to impact the company and the business — unfortunately, most of them would have a really hard time doing that.

The IT organization of the future, will articulate clearly the work they’re doing and how that impacts their customers and their business, and how making different changes and tweaks will impact their business. They will have an intimate knowledge of how their business functions much more than how the technology functions. That’s a very different mindset, that’s the place we have to get to for IT on the whole. IT can’t just be this technology organization that sits in a room, separate from the rest of the company. It has to be integral, absolutely integral to the business.

Gardner: If we recognize that cloud is here to stay — but that the consumption of it needs to be appropriate, and if we’re at some sort of inflection point, we’re also at the risk of consuming cloud inappropriately. If IT and leadership within IT are elevating themselves, and upping their game to be that strategic player, isn’t IT then in the best position to be managing cloud, hybrid cloud and hybrid IT? What tools and what mechanisms will they need in order to make that possible?

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Crawford: Theoretically, the answer is that they really need to get to that level. We’re not there, on the whole, yet. Many organizations are not prepared to adopt cloud. I don’t want to be a naysayer of IT, but I think in terms of where IT needs to go on the whole, on the sum, we need to move into that position where we can manage the different types of delivery mechanisms — whether it’s public cloud, SaaS, private cloud, appropriate data centers — those are all just different levers we can pull depending on the business type.

Businesses change, customers change, demand changes and revenue comes from different places. IT needs to be able to shift gears just as fast and in anticipation of where the company goes.

As you mentioned earlier, businesses change, customers change, demand changes, and revenue comes from different places. In IT, we need to be able to shift gears just as fast and be prepared to shift those gears in anticipation of where the company goes. That’s a very different mindset. It’s a very different way of thinking, but it also means we have to think of clever ways to bring these tools together so that we’re well-prepared to leverage things like cloud.

The challenge is many folks are still in that classic mindset, which unfortunately holds back companies from being able to take advantage of some of these new technologies and methodologies. But getting there is key.

Gardner: Some boards of directors, as you mentioned, are saying, “Go cloud,” or be cloud-first. People are taking them at that, and so we are facing a sort of cloud sprawl. People are doing micro services and as developers spinning up cloud instances and object storage instances. Sometimes they’ll keep those running into production; sometimes they’ll shut them down. We have line of business (LOB) managers going out and acquiring services like SaaS applications, running them for a while, perhaps making them a part of their standard operating procedures. But, in many organizations, one hand doesn’t really know what the other is doing.

Are we at the inflection point now where it’s simply a matter of measurement? Would we stifle innovation if we required people to at least mention what it is that they’re doing with their credit cards or petty cash when it comes to IT and cloud services? How important is it to understand what’s going on in your organization so that you can begin a journey toward better management of this overall hybrid IT?

Why, oh why, oh why, cloud?

Crawford: It depends on how you approach it. If you’re doing it from an IT command-and-control perspective, where you want to control everything in cloud — full stop, that’s failure right out of the gate. But if you’re doing it from a position of — I’m trying to use it as an opportunity to understand why are these folks leveraging cloud, and why are they not coming to IT, and how can I as CIO be better positioned to be able to support them, then great! Go forth and conquer.

The reality is that different parts of the organization are consuming cloud-based services today. I think there’s an opportunity to bring those together where appropriate. But at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself a very important question. It’s a very simple question, but you have to ask it, and it has to do with each of the different ways that you might leverage cloud. Even when you go beyond cloud and talk about just traditional corporate data assets — especially as you start thinking about Internet of things (IoT) and start thinking about edge computing — you know that public cloud becomes problematic for some of those things.

The important question you have to ask yourself is, “Why?” A very simple question, but it can have a really complicated answer. Why are you using public cloud? Why are you using three different forms of public cloud? Why are you using private cloud and public cloud together?

Once you begin to ask yourself those questions, and you keep asking yourself that question … it’s like that old adage. Ask yourself why three times and you kind of get to the core as the true reason why. You’ll bring greater clarity as to the reasons, and typically the business reasons, of why you’re actually going down that path. When you start to understand that, it brings clarity to what decisions are smart decisions — and what decisions maybe you might want to think about doing differently.

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Gardner: Of course, you may begin doing something with cloud for a very good reason. It could be a business reason, a technology reason. You’ll recognize it, you gain value from it — but then over time you have to step back with maturity and ask, “Am I consuming this in such a way that I’m getting it at the best price-point?” You mentioned a little earlier that sometimes going to public cloud could be four times as expensive.

So even though you may have an organization where you want to foster innovation, you want people to spread their wings, try out proofs of concept, be agile and democratic in terms of their ability to use myriad IT services, at what point do you say, “Okay, we’re doing the business, but we’re not running it like a good business should be run.” How are the economic factors driven into cloud decision-making after you’ve done it for a period of time?

Cloud’s good, but is it good for business?

Crawford: That’s a tough question. You have to look at the services that you’re leveraging and how that ties into business outcomes. If you tie it back to a business outcome, it will provide greater clarity on the sourcing decisions you should make.

For example, if you’re spending $5 to make $6 in a specialty industry, that’s probably not a wise move. But if you’re spending $5 to make $500, okay, that’s a pretty good move, right? There is a trade-off that you have to understand from an economic standpoint. But you have to understand what the true cost is and whether there’s sufficient value. I don’t mean technological value, I mean business value, which is measured in dollars.

If you begin to understand the business value of the actions you take — how you leverage public cloud versus private cloud versus your corporate data center assets — and you match that against the strategic decisions of what is differentiating versus what’s not, then you get clarity around these decisions. You can properly leverage different resources and gain them at the price points that make sense. If that gets above a certain amount, well, you know that’s not necessarily the right decision to make.

Economics plays a very significant role — but let’s not kid ourselves. IT organizations haven’t exactly been the best at economics in the past. We need to be moving forward. And so it’s just one more thing on that overflowing plate that we call demand and requirements for IT, but we have to be prepared for that.

Gardner: There might be one other big item on that plate. We can allow people to pursue business outcomes using any technology that they can get their hands on — perhaps at any price – and we can then mature that process over time by looking at price, by finding the best options.

But the other item that we need to consider at all times is risk. Sometimes we need to consider whether getting too far into a model like a public cloud, for example, that we can’t get back out of, is part of that risk. Maybe we have to consider that being completely dependent on external cloud networks across a global supply chain, for example, has inherent cyber security risks. Isn’t it up to IT also to help organizations factor some of these risks — along with compliance, regulation, data sovereignty issues? It’s a big barrel of monkeys.

Before we sign off, as we’re almost out of time, please address for me, Tim, the idea of IT being a risk factor mitigator for a business.

Safety in numbers

Crawford: You bring up a great point, Dana. Risk — whether it is risk from a cyber security standpoint or it could be data sovereignty issues, as well as regulatory compliance — the reality is that nobody across the organization truly understands all of these pieces together.

It really is a team effort to bring it all together — where you have the privacy folks, the information security folks, and the compliance folks — that can become a united team.

It really is a team effort to bring it all together — where you have the privacy folks, the information security folks, and the compliance folks — that can become a united team. I don’t think IT is the only component of that. I really think this is a team sport. In any organization that I’ve worked with, across the industry it’s a team sport. It’s not just one group.

It’s complicated, and frankly, it’s getting more complicated every single day. When you have these huge breaches that sit on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and other publications, it’s really hard to get clarity around risk when you’re always trying to fight against the fear factor. So that’s another balancing act that these groups are going to have to contend with moving forward. You can’t ignore it. You absolutely shouldn’t. You should get proactive about it, but it is complicated and it is a team sport.

Gardner: Some take-aways for me today are that IT needs to raise its game. Yet again, they need to get more strategic, to develop some of the tools that they’ll need to address issues of sprawl, complexity, cost, and simply gaining visibility into what everyone in the organization is – or isn’t — doing appropriately with hybrid cloud and hybrid IT.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Case study: How HCI-powered private clouds accelerate efficient digital transformation

The next BriefingsDirect cloud efficiency case study examines how a world-class private cloud project evolved in the financial sector.

We’ll now learn how public cloud-like experiences, agility, and cost structures are being delivered via a strictly on-premises model built on hyper-converged infrastructure for a risk-sensitive financial services company.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Jim McKittrick joins to help explore the potential for cloud benefits when retaining control over the data center is a critical requirement. He is Senior Account Manager at Applied Computer Solutions (ACS) in Huntington Beach, California. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Many enterprises want a private cloud for security and control reasons. They want an OpEx-like public cloud model, and that total on-premises control. Can you have it both ways?

McKittrick: We are showing that you can. People are learning that the public cloud isn’t necessarily all it has been hyped up to be, which is what happens with newer technologies as they come out.

Gardner: What are the drivers for keeping it all private?

McKittrick: Security, of course. But if somebody actually analyzes it, a lot of times it will be about cost and data access, and the ease of data egress because getting your data back can sometimes be a challenge.

Jim McKittrickAlso, there is a realization that even though I may have strict service-level agreements (SLAs), if something goes wrong they are not going to save my business. If that thing tanks, do I want to give that business away? I have some clients who absolutely will not.

Gardner: Control, and so being able to sleep well at night.

McKittrick: Absolutely. I have other clients that we can speak about who have HIPAA requirements, and they are privately held and privately owned. And literally the CEO says, “I am not doing it.” And he doesn’t care what it costs.

Gardner: If there were a huge delta between the price of going with a public cloud or staying private, sure. But that deltais closing. So you can have the best of both worlds — and not pay a very high penalty nowadays.

McKittrick: If done properly, certainly from my experience. We have been able to prove that you can run an agile, cloud-like infrastructure or private cloud as cost-effectively — or even more cost effectively — than you can in the public clouds. There are certainly places for both in the market.

Gardner: It’s going to vary, of course, from company to company — and even department to department within a company — but the fact is that that choice is there.

McKittrick: No doubt about it, it absolutely is.

Gardner: Tell us about ACS, your role there, and how the company is defining what you consider the best of hybrid cloud environments.

McKittrick: We are a relatively large reseller, about $600 million. We have specialized in data center practices for 27 years. So we have been in business quite some time and have had to evolve with the IT industry.

We have a head start on what’s really coming down the pipe — we are one to two years ahead of the general marketplace.

Structurally, we are fairly conventional from the standpoint that we are a typical reseller, but we pride ourselves on our technical acumen. Because we have some very, very large clients and have worked with them to get on their technology boards, we feel like we have a head start on what’s really coming down the pipe —  we are maybe one to two years ahead of the general marketplace. We feel that we have a thought leadership edge there, and we use that as well as very senior engineering leadership in our organization to tell us what we are supposed to be doing.

Gardner: I know you probably can’t mention the company by name, but tell us about a recent project that seems a harbinger of things to come.

Hyper-convergent control 

McKittrick: It began as a proof of concept (POC), but it’s in production, it’s live globally.

I have been with ACS for 18 years, and I have had this client for 17 of those years. We have been through multiple data center iterations.

When this last one came up, three things happened. Number one, they were under tremendous cost pressure — but public cloud was not an option for them.

The second thing was that they had grown by acquisition, and so they had dozens of IT fiefdoms. You can imagine culturally and technologically the challenges involved there. Nonetheless, we were told to consolidate and globalize all these operations.

Thirdly, I was brought in by a client who had run the US presence for this company. We had created a single IT infrastructure in the US for them. He said, “Do it again for the whole world, but save us a bunch of money.” The gauntlet was thrown down. The customer was put in the position of having to make some very aggressive choices. And so he effectively asked me bring them “cool stuff.”

You could give control to anybody in the organization across the globe and they would be able to manage it.

They asked, “What’s new out there? How can we do this?” Our senior engineering staff brought a couple of ideas to the table, and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) was central to that. HCI provided the ability to simplify the organization, as well as the IT management for the organization. You could give control of it to anybody in the organization across the globe and they would be able to manage it, working with partners in other parts of the world.

Gardner: Remote management being very important for this.

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To A Hybrid IT


McKittrick: Absolutely, yes. We also gained failover capabilities, and disaster recovery within these regional data centers. We ended going from — depending on whom you spoke to — somewhere between seven to 19 data centers globally, down to three. We were able to consolidate down to three. The data center footprint shrank massively. Just in the US, we went to one data center; we got rid of the other data center completely. We went from 34 racks down to 3.5.

Gardner: Hyper-convergence being a big part of that?

McKittrick: Correct, that was really the key, hyper-convergence and virtualization.

The other key enabling technology was data de-duplication, so the ability to shrink the data and then be able to move it from place to place without crushing bandwidth requirements, because you were only moving the changes, the change blocks.

Gardner: So more of a modern data lifecycle approach?

McKittrick: Absolutely. The backup and recovery approach was built in to the solution itself. So we also deployed a separate data archive, but that’s different than backup and recovery. Backup and recovery were essentially handled by VMware and the capability to have the same machine exist in multiple places at the same time.

Gardner: Now, there is more than just the physical approach to IT, as you described it, there is the budgetary financial approach. So how do they maybe get the benefit of the  OpEx approach that people are fond of with public cloud models and apply that in a private cloud setting?

Budget benefits 

McKittrick: They didn’t really take that approach. I mean we looked at it. We looked at essentially leasing. We looked at the pay-as-you-go models and it didn’t work for them. We ended up doing essentially a purchase of the equipment with a depreciation schedule and traditional support. It was analyzed, and they essentially said, “No, we are just going to buy it.”

Gardner: So total cost of ownership (TCO) is a better metric to look at. Did you have the ability to measure that? What were some of the metrics of success other than this massive consolidation of footprint and better control over management?

McKittrick: We had to justify TCO relative to what a traditional IT refresh would have cost. That’s what I was working on for the client until the cost pressure came to bear. We then needed to change our thinking. That’s when hyper-convergence came through.

What we would have spent on just hardware and infrastructure costs, not including network and bandwidth — would have been $55 million over five years, and we ended up doing it for $15 million.

The cost analysis was already done, because I was already costing it with a refresh, including compute and traditional SAN storage. The numbers I had over a five-year period – just what we would have spent on hardware and infrastructure costs, and not including network and bandwidth – would have been $55 million over five years, and we ended up doing it for $15 million.

Gardner: We have mentioned HCI several times, but you were specifically using SimpliVity, which is now part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Tell us about why SimpliVity was a proof-point for you, and why you think that’s going to strengthen HPE’s portfolio.

Learn How to Transform

To A Hybrid IT


McKittrick: This thing is now built and running, and it’s been two years since inception. So that’s a long time in technology, of course. The major factors involved were the cost savings.

As for HPE going forward, the way the client looked at it — and he is a very forward-thinking technologist — he always liked to say, “It’s just VMware.” So the beauty of it from their perspective – was that they could just deploy on VMware virtualization. Everyone in our organization knows how to work with VMware, we just deploy that, and they move things around. Everything is managed in that fashion, as virtual machines, as opposed to traditional storage, and all the other layers of things that have to be involved in traditional data centers.

The HCI-based data centers also included built-in WAN optimization, built-in backup and recovery, and were largely on solid-state disks (SSDs). All of the other pieces of the hardware stack that you would traditionally have — from the server on down — folded into a little box, so to speak, a physical box. With HCI, you get all of that functionality in a much simpler and much easier to manage fashion. It just makes everything easier.

Gardner: When you bring all those HCI elements together, it really creates a solution. Are there any other aspects of HPE’s portfolio, in addition now to SimpliVity, that would be of interest for future projects?

McKittrick: HPE is able to take this further. You have to remember, at the time, SimpliVity was a widget, and they would partner with the server vendors. That was really it, and with VMware.

Now with HPE, SimpliVity can really build out their roadmap. There is all kinds of innovation that’s going to come.

Now with HPE, SimpliVity has behind them one of the largest technology companies in the world. They can really build out their roadmap. There is all kinds of innovation that’s going to come. When you then pair that with things like Microsoft Azure Stack and HPE Synergy and its composable architecture — yes, all of that is going to be folded right in there.

I give HPE credit for having seen what HCI technology can bring to them and can help them springboard forward, and then also apply it back into things that they are already developing. Am I going to have more opportunity with this infrastructure now because of the SimpliVity acquisition? Yes.

Gardner:  For those organizations that want to take advantage of public cloud options, also having HCI-powered hybrid clouds, and composable and automated-bursting and scale-out — and soon combining that multi-cloud options via HPE New Stack – this gives them the best of all worlds.

Learn How to Transform

To A Hybrid IT


McKittrick: Exactly. There you are. You have your hybrid cloud right there. And certainly one could do that with traditional IT, and still have that capability that HPE has been working on. But now, [with SimpliVity HCI] you have just consolidated all of that down to a relatively simple hardware approach. You can now quickly deploy and gain all those hybrid capabilities along with it. And you have the mobility of your applications and workloads, and all of that goodness, so that you can decide where you want to put this stuff.

Gardner: Before we sign off, let’s revisit this notion of those organizations that have to have a private cloud. What words of advice might you give them as they pursue such dramatic re-architecting of their entire IT systems?

A people-first process

McKittrick: Great question. The technology was the easy part. This was my first global HCI roll out, and I have been in the business well over 20 years. The differences come when you are messing with people — moving their cheese, and messing with their rice bowl. It’s profound. It always comes back to people.

The people and process were the hardest things to deal with, and quite frankly, still are. Make sure that everybody is on-board. They must understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, and then you try to get all those people pulling in the same direction. Otherwise, you end up in a massive morass and things don’t get done, or they become almost unmanageable.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Inside story on HPC’s AI role in Bridges ‘strategic reasoning’ research at CMU

The next BriefingsDirect high performance computing (HPC) success interview examines how strategic reasoning is becoming more common and capable — even using imperfect information.

We’ll now learn how Carnegie Mellon University and a team of researchers there are producing amazing results with strategic reasoning thanks in part to powerful new memory-intense systems architectures.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. 

To learn more about strategic reasoning advances, please join me in welcoming Tuomas Sandholm, Professor and Director of the Electronic Marketplaces Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tell us about strategic reasoning and why imperfect information is often the reality that these systems face?

Sandholm: In strategic reasoning we take the word “strategic” very seriously. It means game theoretic, so in multi-agent settings where you have more than one player, you can’t just optimize as if you were the only actor — because the other players are going to act strategically. What you do affects how they should play, and what they do affects how you should play.



That’s what game theory is about. In artificial intelligence (AI), there has been a long history of strategic reasoning. Most AI reasoning — not all of it, but most of it until about 12 years ago — was really about perfect information games like Othello, Checkers, Chess and Go.

And there has been tremendous progress. But these complete information, or perfect information, games don’t really model real business situations very well. Most business situations are of imperfect information.

So you don’t know the other guy’s resources, their goals and so on. You then need totally different algorithms for solving these games, or game-theoretic solutions that define what rational play is, or opponent exploitation techniques where you try to find out the opponent’s mistakes and learn to exploit them.

So totally different techniques are needed, and this has way more applications in reality than perfect information games have.

Gardner: In business, you don’t always know the rules. All the variables are dynamic, and we don’t know the rationale or the reasoning behind competitors’ actions. People sometimes are playing offense, defense, or a little of both.

Before we dig in to how is this being applied in business circumstances, explain your proof of concept involving poker. Is it Five-Card Draw?

Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold’em has become the leading benchmark in the AI community.

Sandholm: No, we’re working on a much harder poker game called Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold’em as the benchmark. This has become the leading benchmark in the AI community for testing these application-independent algorithms for reasoning under imperfect information.

The algorithms have really nothing to do with poker, but we needed a common benchmark, much like the IC chip makers have their benchmarks. We compare progress year-to-year and compare progress across the different research groups around the world. Heads-Up No-limit Texas Hold’em turned out to be great benchmark because it is a huge game of imperfect information.

It has 10 to the 161 different situations that a player can face. That is one followed by 161 zeros. And if you think about that, it’s not only more than the number of atoms in the universe, but even if, for every atom in the universe, you have a whole other universe and count all those atoms in those universes — it will still be more than that.

Gardner: This is as close to infinity as you can probably get, right?

Sandholm: Ha-ha, basically yes.

Gardner: Okay, so you have this massively complex potential data set. How do you winnow that down, and how rapidly does the algorithmic process and platform learn? I imagine that being reactive, creating a pattern that creates better learning is an important part of it. So tell me about the learning part.

Three part harmony

Sandholm: The learning part always interests people, but it’s not really the only part here — or not even the main part. We basically have three main modules in our architecture. One computes approximations of Nash equilibrium strategies using only the rules of the game as input. In other words, game-theoretic strategies.

That doesn’t take any data as input, just the rules of the game. The second part is during play, refining that strategy. We call that subgame solving.

Then the third part is the learning part, or the self-improvement part. And there, traditionally people have done what’s called opponent modeling and opponent exploitation, where you try to model the opponent or opponents and adjust your strategies so as to take advantage of their weaknesses.

However, when we go against these absolute best human strategies, the best human players in the world, I felt that they don’t have that many holes to exploit and they are experts at counter-exploiting. When you start to exploit opponents, you typically open yourself up for exploitation, and we didn’t want to take that risk. In the learning part, the third part, we took a totally different approach than traditionally is taken in AI.

We are letting the opponents tell us where the holes are in our strategy. Then, in the background, using supercomputing, we are fixing those holes.

We said, “Okay, we are going to play according to our approximate game-theoretic strategies. However, if we see that the opponents have been able to find some mistakes in our strategy, then we will actually fill those mistakes and compute an even closer approximation to game-theoretic play in those spots.”

One way to think about that is that we are letting the opponents tell us where the holes are in our strategy. Then, in the background, using supercomputing, we are fixing those holes.

All three of these modules run on the Bridges supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), for which the hardware was built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

HPC from HPE

Overcomes Barriers

To Supercomputing and Deep Learning

Gardner: Is this being used in any business settings? It certainly seems like there’s potential there for a lot of use cases. Business competition and circumstances seem to have an affinity for what you’re describing in the poker use case. Where are you taking this next?

Sandholm: So far this, to my knowledge, has not been used in business. One of the reasons is that we have just reached the superhuman level in January 2017. And, of course, if you think about your strategic reasoning problems, many of them are very important, and you don’t want to delegate them to AI just to save time or something like that.

Now that the AI is better at strategic reasoning than humans, that completely shifts things. I believe that in the next few years it will be a necessity to have what I call strategic augmentation. So you can’t have just people doing business strategy, negotiation, strategic pricing, and product portfolio optimization.

You are going to have to have better strategic reasoning to support you, and so it becomes a kind of competition. So if your competitors have it, or even if they don’t, you better have it because it’s a competitive advantage.

Gardner: So a lot of what we’re seeing in AI and machine learning is to find the things that the machines do better and allow the humans to do what they can do even better than machines. Now that you have this new capability with strategic reasoning, where does that demarcation come in a business setting? Where do you think that humans will be still paramount, and where will the machines be a very powerful tool for them?

Human modeling, AI solving

Sandholm: At least in the foreseeable future, I see the demarcation as being modeling versus solving. I think that humans will continue to play a very important role in modeling their strategic situations, just to know everything that is pertinent and deciding what’s not pertinent in the model, and so forth. Then the AI is best at solving the model.

That’s the demarcation, at least for the foreseeable future. In the very long run, maybe the AI itself actually can start to do the modeling part as well as it builds a better understanding of the world — but that is far in the future.

Gardner: Looking back as to what is enabling this, clearly the software and the algorithms and finding the right benchmark, in this case the poker game are essential. But with that large of a data set potential — probabilities set like you mentioned — the underlying computersystems must need to keep up. Where are you in terms of the threshold that holds you back? Is this a price issue that holds you back? Is it a performance limit, the amount of time required? What are the limits, the governors to continuing?

Sandholm: It’s all of the above, and we are very fortunate that we had access to Bridges; otherwise this wouldn’t have been possible at all.  We spent more than a year and needed about 25 million core hours of computing and 2.6 petabytes of data storage.

This amount is necessary to conduct serious absolute superhuman research in this field — but it is something very hard for a professor to obtain. We were very fortunate to have that computing at our disposal.

Gardner: Let’s examine the commercialization potential of this. You’re not only a professor at Carnegie Mellon, you’re a founder and CEO of a few companies. Tell us about your companies and how the research is leading to business benefits.

Superhuman business strategies

Sandholm: Let’s start with Strategic Machine, a brand-new start-up company, all of two months old. It’s already profitable, and we are applying the strategic reasoning technology, which again is application independent, along with the Libratus technology, the Lengpudashi technology, and a host of other technologies that we have exclusively licensed to Strategic Machine. We are doing research and development at Strategic Machine as well, and we are taking these to any application that wants us.

 HPC from HPE

Overcomes Barriers 

To Supercomputing and Deep Learning

Such applications include business strategy optimization, automated negotiation, and strategic pricing. Typically when people do pricing optimization algorithmically, they assume that either their company is a monopolist or the competitors’ prices are fixed, but obviously neither is typically true.

We are looking at how do you price strategically where you are taking into account the opponent’s strategic response in advance. So you price into the future, instead of just pricing reactively. The same can be done for product portfolio optimization along with pricing.

Let’s say you’re a car manufacturer and you decide what product portfolio you will offer and at what prices. Well, what you should do depends on what your competitors do and vice versa, but you don’t know that in advance. So again, it’s an imperfect-information game.

Gardner: And these are some of the most difficult problems that businesses face. They have huge billion-dollar investments that they need to line up behind for these types of decisions. Because of that pipeline, by the time they get to a dynamic environment where they can assess — it’s often too late. So having the best strategic reasoning as far in advance as possible is a huge benefit.

If you think about machine learning traditionally, it’s about learning from the past. But strategic reasoning is all about figuring out what’s going to happen in the future.

Sandholm: Exactly! If you think about machine learning traditionally, it’s about learning from the past. But strategic reasoning is all about figuring out what’s going to happen in the future. And you can marry these up, of course, where the machine learning gives the strategic reasoning technology prior beliefs, and other information to put into the model.

There are also other applications. For example, cyber security has several applications, such as zero-day vulnerabilities. You can run your custom algorithms and standard algorithms to find them, and what algorithms you should run depends on what the other opposing governments run — so it is a game.

Similarly, once you find them, how do you play them? Do you report your vulnerabilities to Microsoft? Do you attack with them, or do you stockpile them? Again, your best strategy depends on what all the opponents do, and that’s also a very strategic application.

And in upstairs blocks trading, in finance, it’s the same thing: A few players, very big, very strategic.

Gaming your own immune system

The most radical application is something that we are working on currently in the lab where we are doing medical treatment planning using these types of sequential planning techniques. We’re actually testing how well one can steer a patient’s T-cell population to fight cancers, autoimmune diseases, and infections better by not just using one short treatment plan — but through sophisticated conditional treatment plans where the adversary is actually your own immune system.

Gardner: Or cancer is your opponent, and you need to beat it?

Sandholm: Yes, that’s right. There are actually two different ways to think about that, and they lead to different algorithms. We have looked at it where the actual disease is the opponent — but here we are actually looking at how do you steer your own T-cell population.

Gardner: Going back to the technology, we’ve heard quite a bit from HPE about more memory-driven and edge-driven computing, where the analysis can happen closer to where the data is gathered. Are these advances of any use to you in better strategic reasoning algorithmic processing?

Algorithms at the edge

Sandholm: Yes, absolutely! We actually started running at the PSC on an earlier supercomputer, maybe 10 years ago, which was a shared-memory architecture. And then with Bridges, which is mostly a distributed system, we used distributed algorithms. As we go into the future with shared memory, we could get a lot of speedups.

We have both types of algorithms, so we know that we can run on both architectures. But obviously, the shared-memory, if it can fit our models and the dynamic state of the algorithms, is much faster.

Gardner: So the HPE Machine must be of interest to you: HPE’s advanced concept demonstration model, with a memory-driven architecture, photonics for internal communications, and so forth. Is that a technology you’re keeping a keen eye on?

HPC from HPE

Overcomes Barriers 

To Supercomputing and Deep Learning

Sandholm: Yes. That would definitely be a desirable thing for us, but what we really focus on is the algorithms and the AI research. We have been very fortunate in that the PSC and HPE have been able to take care of the hardware side.

We really don’t get involved in the hardware side that much, and I’m looking at it from the outside. I’m trusting that they will continue to build the best hardware and maintain it in the best way — so that we can focus on the AI research.

Gardner: Of course, you could help supplement the cost of the hardware by playing superhuman poker in places like Las Vegas, and perhaps doing quite well.

Sandholm: Actually here in the live game in Las Vegas they don’t allow that type of computational support. On the Internet, AI has become a big problem on gaming sites, and it will become an increasing problem. We don’t put our AI in there; it’s against their site rules. Also, I think it’s unethical to pretend to be a human when you are not. The business opportunities, the monetary opportunities in the business applications, are much bigger than what you could hope to make in poker anyway.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Philips teams with HPE on ecosystem approach to improve healthcare informatics-driven outcomes

The next BriefingsDirect healthcare transformation use-case discussion focuses on how an ecosystem approach to big data solutions brings about improved healthcare informatics-driven outcomes.

We’ll now learn how a Philips Healthcare Informatics and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) partnership creates new solutions for the global healthcare market and provides better health outcomes for patients by managing data and intelligence better.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy.

Joining us to explain how companies tackle the complexity of solutions delivery in healthcare by using advanced big data and analytics is Martijn Heemskerk, Healthcare Informatics Ecosystem Director for Philips, based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Why are partnerships so important in healthcare informatics? Is it because there are clinical considerations combined with big data technology? Why are these types of solutions particularly dependent upon an ecosystem approach?

Heemskerk: It’s exactly as you say, Dana. At Philips we are very strong at developing clinical solutions for our customers. But nowadays those solutions also require an IT infrastructure layer underneath to solve the total equation. As such, we are looking for partners in the ecosystem because we at Philips recognize that we cannot do everything alone. We need partners in the ecosystem that can help address the total solution — or the total value proposition — for our customers.

Gardner: I’m sure it varies from region to region, but is there a cultural barrier in some regard to bringing cutting-edge IT in particular into healthcare organizations? Or have things progressed to where technology and healthcare converge?

Heemskerk: Of course, there are some countries that are more mature than others. Therefore the level of healthcare and the type of solutions that you offer to different countries may vary. But in principle, many of the challenges that hospitals everywhere are going through are similar.

Some of the not-so-mature markets are also trying to leapfrog so that they can deliver different solutions that are up to par with the mature markets.

Gardner: Because we are hearing a lot about big data and edge computing these days, we are seeing the need for analytics at a distributed architecture scale. Please explain how big data changes healthcare.

Big data value add

Heemskerk: What is very interesting for big data is what happens if you combine it with value-based care. It’s a very interesting topic. For example, nowadays, a hospital is not reimbursed for every procedure that it does in the hospital – the value is based more on the total outcome of how a patient recovers.

This means that more analytics need to be gathered across different elements of the process chain before reimbursement will take place. In that sense, analytics become very important for hospitals on how to measure on how things are being done efficiently, and determining if the costs are okay.

Gardner: The same data that can used to be more efficient can also be used for better healthcare outcomes and understanding the path of the disease, or for the efficacy of procedures, and so on. A great deal can be gained when data is gathered and used properly.

Heemskerk: That is correct. And you see, indeed, that there is much more data nowadays, and you can utilize it for all kind of different things.

Learn About HPE

Digital Solutions

That Drive Healthcare and Life Sciences

Gardner: Please help us understand the relationship between your organization and HPE. Where does your part of the value begin and end, and how does HPE fill their role on the technology side?

Healthy hardware relationships 

Heemskerk: HPE has been a highly valued supplier of Philips for quite a long time. We use their technologies for all kinds of different clinical solutions. For example, all of the hardware that we use for our back-end solutions or for advanced visualization is sourced by HPE. I am focusing very much on the commercial side of the game, so to speak, where we are really looking at how can we jointly go to market.

As I said, customers are really looking for one-stop shopping, a complete value proposition, for the challenges that they are facing. That’s why we partner with HPE on a holistic level.

Gardner: Does that involve bringing HPE into certain accounts and vice versa, and then going in to provide larger solutions together?

Heemskerk: Yes, that is exactly the case, indeed. We recognized that we are not so much focusing on problems related to just the clinical implications, and we are not just focusing on the problems that HPE is facing — the IT infrastructure and the connectivity side of the value chain. Instead, we are really looking at the problems that the C-suite-level healthcare executives are facing.

How do you align all of your processes so that there is a more optimized process flow within the hospitals?

You can think about healthcare industry consolidation, for example, as a big topic. Many hospitals are now moving into a cluster or into a network and that creates all kinds of challenges, both on the clinical application layer, but also on the IT infrastructure. How do you harmonize all of this? How do you standardize all of your different applications? How do you make sure that hospitals are going to be connected? How do you align all of your processes so that there is a more optimized process flow within the hospitals?

By addressing these kinds of questions and jointly going to our customers with HPE, we can improve user experiences for the customers, we can create better services, we have optimized these solutions, and then we can deliver a lot of time savings for the hospitals as well.

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Digital Solutions

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Gardner: We have certainly seen in other industries that if you try IT modernization without including the larger organization — the people, the process, and the culture — the results just aren’t as good. It is important to go at modernization and transformation, consolidation of data centers, for example, with that full range of inputs and getting full buy-in.

Who else makes up the ecosystem? It takes more than two players to make an ecosystem.

Heemskerk: Yes, that’s very true, indeed. In this, system integrators also have a very important role. They can have an independent view on what would be the best solution to fit a specific hospital.

Of course, we think that the Philips healthcare solutions are quite often the best, jointly focused with the solutions from HPE, but from time to time you can be partnering with different vendors.

Besides that, we don’t have all of the clinical applications. By partnering with other vendors in the ecosystem, sometimes you can enhance the solutions that we have to think about; such as 3D solutions and 3D printing solutions.

Gardner: When you do this all correctly, when you leverage and exploit an ecosystem approach, when you cover the bases of technology, finance, culture, and clinical considerations, how much of an impressive improvement can we typically see?

Saving time, money, and people

Heemskerk: We try to look at it customer by customer, but generically what we see is that there are really a lot of savings.

First of all, addressing standardization across the clinical application layer means that a customer doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on training all of its hospital employees on different kinds of solutions. So that’s already a big savings.

Secondly, by harmonizing and making better effective use of the clinical applications, you can drive the total cost of ownership down.

Thirdly, it means that on the clinical applications layer, there are a lot of efficiency benefits possible. For example, advanced analytics make it possible to reduce the time that clinicians or radiologists are spending on analyzing different kinds of elements, which also creates time savings.

Gardner: Looking more to the future, as technologies improve, as costs go down, as they typically do, as hybrid IT models are utilized and understood better — where do you see things going next for the healthcare sector when it comes to utilizing technology, utilizing informatics, and improving their overall process and outcomes?

Learn About HPE

Digital Solutions

That Drive Healthcare and Life Sciences

Heemskerk: What for me would be very interesting is to see is if we can create some kind of a patient-centric data file for each patient. You see that consumers are increasingly engaged in their own health, with all the different devices like Fitbit, Jawbone, Apple Watch, etc. coming up. This is creating a massive amount of data. But there is much more data that you can put into such a patient-centric file, with the chronic diseases information now that people are being monitored much more, and much more often.

If you can have a chronological view of all of the different touch points that the patient has in the hospital, combined with the drugs that the patient is using etc., and you have that all in this patient-centric file — it will be very interesting. And everything, of course, needs to be interconnected. Therefore, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies will become more important. And as the data is growing, you will have smarter algorithms that can also interpret that data – and so artificial intelligence (AI) will become much more important.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Inside story: How Ormuco abstracts the concepts of private and public cloud across the globe

The next BriefingsDirect cloud ecosystem strategies interview explores how a Canadian software provider delivers a hybrid cloud platform for enterprises and service providers alike.

We’ll now learn how Ormuco has identified underserved regions and has crafted a standards-based hybrid cloud platform to allow its users to attain world-class cloud services just about anywhere.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy.

Here to help us explore how new breeds of hybrid cloud are coming to more providers around the globe thanks to the Cloud28+ consortium is Orlando Bayter, CEO and Founder of Ormuco in Montréal, and Xavier Poisson Gouyou Beachamps, Vice President of Worldwide Indirect Digital Services at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), based in Paris. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Let’s begin with this notion of underserved regions. Orlando, why is it that many people think that public cloud is everywhere for everyone when there are many places around the world where it is still immature? What is the opportunity to serve those markets?

Bayter: There are many countries underserved by the hyperscale cloud providers. If you look at Russia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), around the world, they want to comply with regulations on security, on data sovereignty, and they need to have the clouds locally to comply.


Orlando Bayter (1)


Ormuco targets those countries that are underserved by the hyperscale providers and enables service providers and enterprises to consume cloud locally, in ways they can’t do today.

Gardner: Are you allowing them to have a private cloud on-premises as an enterprise? Or do local cloud providers offer a common platform, like yours, so that they get the best of both the private and public hybrid environment?

Bayter: That is an excellent question. There are many workloads that cannot leave the firewall of an enterprise. With that, you now need to deliver the economies, ease of use, flexibility, and orchestration of a public cloud experience in the enterprise. At Ormuco, we deliver a platform that provides the best of the two worlds. You are still leaving your data center and you don’t need to worry whether it’s on-premises or off-premises.

It’s a single pane of glass. You can move the workloads in that global network via established providers throughout the ecosystem of cloud services.

It’s a single pane of glass. You can move the workloads in that global network via established providers throughout the ecosystem of cloud services.

Gardner: What are the attributes of this platform that both your enterprise and service provider customers are looking for? What’s most important to them in this hybrid cloud platform?

Bayter: As I said, there are some workloads that cannot leave the data center. In the past, you couldn’t get the public cloud inside your data center. You could have built a private cloud, but you couldn’t get an Amazon Web Services (AWS)-like solution or a Microsoft Azure-like solution on-premises.

We have been running this now for two years and what we have noticed is that enterprises want to have the ease-of-use, sales, service, and orchestration on-premises. Now, they can connect to a public cloud based on the same platform and they don’t have to worry about how to connect it or how it will work. They just decide where to place this.

They have security, can comply with regulations, and gain control — plus 40 percent savings compared with VMware, and up to 50 percent to 60 percent compared with AWS.

Gardner: I’m also interested in the openness of the platform. Do they have certain requirements as to the cloud model, such as OpenStack?  What is it that enables this to be classified as a standard cloud?

Bayter: At Ormuco, we went out and checked what are the best solutions and the best platform that we can bring together to build this experience on-premises and off-premises.

We saw OpenStack, we saw Docker, and then we saw how to take, for example, OpenStack and make it like a public cloud solution. So if you look at OpenStack, the way I see it is as concrete, or a foundation. If you want to build a house or a condo on that, you also need the attic. Ormuco builds that software to be able to deliver that cloud look and feel, that self-service, all in open tools, with the same APIs both on private and public clouds.

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Provides an Open Community

Of Cloud Service Providers

Gardner: What is it about the HPE platform beneath that that supports you? How has HPE been instrumental in allowing that platform to be built?

Community collaboration

Bayter: HPE has been a great partner. Through Cloud28+ we are able to go to markets in places that HPE has a presence. They basically generate that through marketing, through sales. They were able to bring deals to us and help us grow our business.

From a technology perspective, we are using HPE Synergy. With Synergy, we can provide composability, and we can combine storage and compute into a single platform. Now we go together into a market, we win deals, and we solve the enterprise challenges around security and data sovereignty.

Gardner: Xavier, how is Cloud28+ coming to market, for those who are not familiar with it? Tell us a bit about Cloud28+ and how an organization like Ormuco is a good example of how it works.

Poisson: Cloud28+ is a community of IT players — service providers, technology partners, independent software vendors (ISVs), value added resellers, and universities — that have decided to join forces to enable digital transformation through cloud computing. To do that, we pull our resources together to have a single platform. We are allowing the enterprise to discover and consume cloud services from the different members of Cloud28+.

We launched Cloud28+ officially to the market on December 15, 2016. Today, we have more than 570 members from across the world inside Cloud28+. Roughly 18,000 distributed services may be consumed and we also have system integrators that support the platform. We cover more than 300 data centers from our partners, so we can provide choice.

In fact, we believe our customers need to have that choice. They need to know what is available for them. As an analogy, if you have your smartphone, you can have an app store and do what you want as a consumer. We wanted to do the same and provide the same ease for an enterprise globally anywhere on the planet. We respect diversity and what is happening in every single region.

Ormuco has been one of the first technology partners. Docker is another one. And Intel is another. They have been working together with HPE to really understand the needs of the customer and how we can deliver very quickly a cloud infrastructure to a service provider and to an enterprise in record time. At the same time, they can leverage all the partners from the catalog of content and services, propelled by Cloud28+, from the ISVs.

Global ecosystem, by choice

Because we are bringing together a global ecosystem, including the resellers, if a service provider builds a project through Cloud28+, with a technology partner like Ormuco, then all the ISVs are included. They can push their services onto the platform, and all the resellers that are part of the ecosystem can convey onto the market what the service providers have been building.

We have a lot of collaboration with Ormuco to help them to design their solutions. Ormuco has been helping us to design what Cloud28+ should be, because it’s a continuous improvement approach on Cloud28+ and it’s via collaboration.

If you want to join Cloud28+ to take, don’t come. If you want to give, and take a lot afterward, yes, please come, because we all receive a lot.

As I like to say, “If you want to join Cloud28+ to take, don’t come. If you want to give, and take a lot afterward, yes, please come, because we all receive a lot.”

Gardner: Orlando, when this all works well, whatdo your end-users gain in terms of business benefits? You mentioned reduction in costs, that’s very important, of course. But is there more about your platform from a development perspective and an operational perspective that we can share to encourage people to explore it?

Bayter: So imagine yourself with an ecosystem like Cloud28+. They have 500 members. They have multiple countries, many data centers.

Now imagine that you can have the Ormuco solution on-premises in an enterprise and then be able to burst to a global network of service providers, across all those regions. You get the same performance, you get the same security, and you get the same compliance across all of that.

For an end-customer, you don’t need to think anymore where you’re going to put your applications. They will go to the public cloud, they will go to the private cloud. It is agnostic. You basically place it where you want it to go and decide the economies you want to get. You can compare with the hyperscale providers.

That is the key, you get one platform throughout our ecosystem of partners that can deliver to you that same functionality and experience locally. With a community such as Cloud28+, we can accomplish something that was not possible before.

Gardner: So, just hoping to delineate between the development and then the operations in production. Are you offering the developer an opportunity to develop there and seamlessly deploy, or are you more focused on the deployment after the applications are developed, or both?

Development to deployment 

Bayter: With our solution, same as AWS or Azure allows, a developer can develop their app via APIs, automated, use a database of choice (it could be MySQL, Oracle), and the load balancing and the different features we have in the cloud, whether it’s Kubernetes or Docker, build all that — and then when the application is ready, you can decide in which region you want to deploy the application.

So you go from development, to deployment technology of your choice, whether it’s Docker or Kubernetes, and then you can deploy to the global network that we’re building on Cloud28+. You can go to any region, and you don’t have to worry about how to get a service provider contract in Russia, or how do I get a contract in Brazil? Who is going to provide me with the service? Now you can get that service locally through a reseller, a distributor, or have an ISV deploythe software worldwide.

Gardner: Xavier, what other sorts of organizations should be aware of the Cloud28+ network?

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We accelerate go-to-market for startups, they gain immediate global reach with Cloud28+.

Poisson: We have the technology partners like Ormuco, and we are thankful for what they have brought to the community. We have service providers, of course, software vendors, because you can publish your software in Cloud28+ and provision it on-premises or off-premises. We accelerate go-to-market for startups, they gain immediate global reach with Cloud28+. So to all the ISVs, I say, “Come on, come on guys, we will help you reach out to the market.”

System integrators also, because we see this is an opportunity for the large enterprises and governments with a lot of multi-cloud projects taking care, having requirements for  security. And you know what is happening with security today, it’s a hot topic. So people are thinking about how they can have a multi-cloud strategy. System integrators are now turning to Cloud28+ because they find here a reservoir of all the capabilities to find the right solution to answer the right question.

Universities are another kind of member we are working with. Just to explain, we know that all the technologies are created first at the university and then they evolve. All the startups are starting at the university level. So we have some very good partnerships with some universities in several regions in Portugal, Germany, France, and the United States. These universities are designing new projects with members of Cloud28+, to answer questions of the governments, for example, or they are using Cloud28+ to propel the startups into the market.

Ormuco is also helping to change the business model of distribution. So distributors now also are joining Cloud28+. Why? Because a distributor has to make a choice for its consumers. In the past, a distributor had software inventory that they were pushing to the resellers. Now they need to have an inventory of cloud services.

There is more choice. They can purchase hyperscale services, resell, or maybe source to the different members of Cloud28+, according to the country they want to deliver to. Or they can own the platform using the technology of Ormuco, for example, and put that in a white-label model for the reseller to propel it into the market. This is what Azure is doing in Europe, typically. So new kinds of members and models are coming in.

Digital transformation

Lastly, an enterprise can use Cloud28+ to make their digital transformation. If they have services and software, they can become a supplier inside of Cloud28+. They source cloud services inside a platform, do digital transformation, and find a new go-to-market through the ecosystem to propel their offerings onto the global market.

Gardner: Orlando, do you have any examples that you could share with us of a service provider, ISV or enterprise that has white-labeled your software and your capabilities as Xavier has alluded to? That’s a really interesting model.

Bayter: We have been able to go-to-market to countries where Cloud28+ was a tremendous help. If you look at Western Europe, Xavier was just speaking about Microsoft Azure. They chose our platform and we are deploying it in Europe, making it available to the resellers to help them transform their consumption models.

They provide public cloud and they serve many markets. They provide a community cloud for governments and they provide private clouds for enterprises — all from a single platform.

If you look at the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, we have one of the largest managed service providers. They provide public cloud and they serve many markets. They provide a community cloud for governments and they provide private clouds for enterprises — all from a single platform.

We also have several of the largest telecoms in Latin America (LATAM) and EMEA. We have a US presence, where we have as a provider. So things are going very well and it is largely thanks to what Cloud28+ has done for us.

Gardner: While this consortium is already very powerful, we are also seeing new technologies coming to the market that should further support the model. Such things as HPE New Stack, which is still in the works, HPE Synergy’s composability and auto-bursting, along with security now driven into the firmware and the silicon — it’s almost as if HPE’s technology roadmap is designed for this very model, or very much in alignment. Tell us how new technology and the Cloud28+ model come together.

Bayter: So HPE New Stack is becoming the control point of multi-cloud. Now what happens when you want to have that same experience off-premises and on-premises? New Stack could connect to Ormuco as a resource provider, even as it connects to other multi-clouds.

With an ecosystem like Cloud28+ all working together, we can connect those hybrid models with service providers to deliver that experience to enterprises across the world.

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Gardner: Xavier, anything more in terms of how HPE New Stack and Cloud28+ fit?

Partnership is top priority

Poisson: It’s a real collaboration. I am very happy with that because I have been working a long time at HPE, and New Stack is a project that has been driven by thinking about the go-to-market at the same time as the technology. It’s a big reward to all the Cloud28+ partners because they are now de facto considered as resource providers for our end-user customers – same as the hyperscale providers, maybe.

At HPE, we say we are in partnership first — with our partners, or ecosystem, or channel. I believe that what we are doing with Cloud28+, New Stack, and all the other projects that we are describing – this will be the reality around the world. We deliver on-premises for the channel partners.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in application transformation, Cloud computing, cloud messaging, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Nokia refactors the video delivery business with new time-managed IT financing models

The next BriefingsDirect IT financing and technology acquisition strategies interview examines how Nokia is refactoring the video delivery business. Learn both about new video delivery architectures and the creative ways media companies are paying for the technology that supports them.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to describe new models of Internet Protocol (IP) video and time-managed IT financing is Paul Larbey, Head of the Video Business Unit at Nokia, based in Cambridge, UK. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: It seems that the video-delivery business is in upheaval. How are video delivery trends coming together to make it necessary for rethinking architectures? How are pricing models and business models changing, too?

Larbey: We sit here in 2017, but let’s look back 10 years to 2007. There were a couple key events in 2007 that dramatically shaped how we all consume video today and how, as a company, we use technology to go to market.

Paul Larbey (1)


It’s been 10 years since the creation of the Apple iPhone. The iPhone sparked whole new device-types, moving eventually into the iPad. Not only that, Apple underneath developed a lot of technology in terms of how you stream video, how you protect video over IP, and the technology underneath that, which we still use today. Not only did they create a new device-type and avenue for us to watch video, they also created new underlying protocols.

It was also 10 years ago that Netflix began to first offer a video streaming service. So if you look back, I see one year in which how we all consume our video today was dramatically changed by a couple of events.

If we fast-forward, and look to where that goes to in the future, there are two trends we see today that will create challenges tomorrow. Video has become truly mobile. When we talk about mobile video, we mean watching some films on our iPad or on our iPhone — so not on a big TV screen, that is what most people mean by mobile video today.

The future is personalized

When you can take your video with you, you want to take all your content with you. You can’t do that today. That has to happen in the future. When you are on an airplane, you can’t take your content with you. You need connectivity to extend so that you can take your content with you no matter where you are.

Take the simple example of a driverless car. Now, you are driving along and you are watching the satellite-navigation feed, watching the traffic, and keeping the kids quiet in the back. When driverless cars come, what you are going to be doing? You are still going to be keeping the kids quiet, but there is a void, a space that needs to be filled with activity, and clearly extending the content into the car is the natural next step.

And the final challenge is around personalization. TV will become a lot more personalized. Today we all get the same user experience. If we are all on the same service provider, it looks the same — it’s the same color, it’s the same grid. There is no reason why that should all be the same. There is no reason why my kids shouldn’t have a different user interface.

There is no reason why I should have 10 pages of channels that I have to through to find something that I want to watch.

The user interface presented to me in the morning may be different than the user interface presented to me in the evening. There is no reason why I should have 10 pages of channels that I have to go through to find something that I want to watch. Why aren’t all those channels specifically curated for me? That’s what we mean by personalization. So if you put those all together and extrapolate those 10 years into the future, then 2027 will be a very different place for video.

Gardner: It sounds like a few things need to change between the original content’s location and those mobile screens and those customized user scenarios you just described. What underlying architecture needs to change in order to get us to 2027 safely?

Larbey: It’s a journey; this is not a step-change. This is something that’s going to happen gradually.

But if you step back and look at the fundamental changes — all video will be streamed. Today, the majority of what we view is via broadcasting, from cable TV, or from a satellite. It’s a signal that’s going to everybody at the same time.

If you think about the mobile video concept, if you think about personalization, that is not going be the case. Today we watch a portion of our video streamed over IP. In the future, it will all be streamed over IP.

And that clearly creates challenges for operators in terms of how to architect the network, how to optimize the delivery, and how to recreate that broadcast experience using streaming video. This is where a lot of our innovation is focused today.

Gardner: You also mentioned in the case of an airplane, where it’s not just streaming but also bringing a video object down to the device. What will be different in terms of the boundary between the stream and a download?

IT’s all about intelligence

Larbey: It’s all about intelligence. Firstly, connectivity has to extend and become really ubiquitous via technology such as 5G. The increase in fiber technology will dramatically enable truly ubiquitous connectivity, which we don’t really have today. That will resolve some of the problems, but not all.

But, by the fact that television will be personalized, the network will know what’s in my schedule. If I have an upcoming flight, machine learning can automatically predict what I’m going to do and make sure it suggests the right content in context. It may download the content because it knows I am going to be sitting in a flight for the next 12 hours.

Gardner: We are putting intelligence into the network to be beneficial to the user experience. But it sounds like it’s also going to give you the opportunity to be more efficient, with just-in-time utilization — minimal viable streaming, if you will.

How does the network becoming more intelligent also benefit the carriers, the deliverers of the content, and even the content creators and owners? There must be an increased benefit for them on utility as well as in the user experience?

Larbey: Absolutely. We think everything moves into the network, and the intelligence becomes the network. So what does that do immediately? That means the operators don’t have to buy set-top boxes. They are expensive. They are very costly to maintain. They stay in the network a long time. They can have a much lighter client capability, which basically just renders the user interface.

The first obvious example of all this, that we are heavily focused on, is the storage. So taking the hard drive out of the set-top box and putting that data back into the network. Some huge deployments are going on at the moment in collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) using the HPE Apollo platform to deploy high-density storage systems that remove the need to ship a set-top box with a hard drive in it.

HPE Rethinks

How to Acquire, Pay For

And Use IT

Now, what are the advantages of that? Everybody thinks it’s costly, so you’ve taken the hard drive out, you have the storage in the network, and that’s clearly one element. But actually if you talk to any operator, their biggest cause of subscriber churn is when somebody’s set-top box fails and they lose their personalized recordings.

The personal connection you had with your service isn’t there any longer. It’s a lot easier to then look at competing services. So if that content is in the network, then clearly you don’t have that churn issue. Not only can you access your content from any mobile device, it’s protected and it will always be with you.

Taking the CDN private

Gardner: For the past few decades, part of the solution to this problem was to employ a content delivery network (CDN) and use that in a variety of ways. It started with web pages and the downloading of flat graphic files. Now that’s extended into all sorts of objects and content. Are we going to do away with the CDN? Are we going to refactor it, is it going to evolve? How does that pan out over the next decade?

Larbey: The CDN will still exist. That still becomes the key way of optimizing video delivery — but it changes. If you go back 10 years, the only CDNs available were CDNs in the Internet. So it was a shared service, you bought capacity on the shared service.

Even today that’s how a lot of video from the content owners and broadcasters is streamed. For the past seven years, we have been taking that technology and deploying it in private network — with both telcos and cable operators — so they can have their own private CDN, and there are a lot of advantages to having your own private CDN.

You get complete control of the roadmap. You can start to introduce advanced features such as targeted ad insertion, blackout, and features like that to generate more revenue. You have complete control over the quality of experience, which you don’t if you outsource to a shared service.

There are a lot of advantages to having your own private CDN. You have complete control over the quality of experience which you don’t if you outsource to a shared service.

What we’re seeing now is both the programmers and broadcasters taking an interest in that private CDN because they want the control. Video is their business, so the quality they deliver is even more important to them. We’re seeing a lot of the programmers and broadcasters starting to look at adopting the private CDN model as well.

The challenge is how do you build that? You have to build for peak. Peak is generally driven by live sporting events and one-off news events. So that leaves you with a lot of capacity that’s sitting idle a lot of the time. With cloud and orchestration, we have solved that technically — we can add servers in very quickly, we can take them out very quickly, react to the traffic demands and we can technically move things around.

But the commercial model has lagged behind. So we have been working with HPE Financial Services to understand how we can innovate on that commercial model as well and get that flexibility — not just from an IT perspective, but also from a commercial perspective.

Gardner:  Tell me about Private CDN technology. Is that a Nokia product? Tell us about your business unit and the commercial models.

Larbey: We basically help as a business unit. Anyone who has content — be that broadcasters or programmers – they pay the operators to stream the content over IP, and to launch new services. We have a product focused on video networking: How to optimize a video, how it’s delivered, how it’s streamed, and how it’s personalized.

It can be a private CDN product, which we have deployed for the last seven years, and we have a cloud digital video recorder (DVR) product, which is all about moving the storage capacity into the network. We also have a systems integration part, which brings a lot of technology together and allows operators to combine vendors and partners from the ecosystem into a complete end-to-end solution.

HPE Rethinks

How to Acquire, Pay For

And Use IT

Gardner: With HPE being a major supplier for a lot of the hardware and infrastructure, how does the new cost model change from the old model of pay up-front?

Flexible financial formats

Larbey: I would not classify HPE as a supplier; I think they are our partner. We work very closely together. We use HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen9 Servers, the HPE Apollo platform, and the HPE Moonshot platform, which are, as you know, world-leading compute-storage platforms that deliver these services cost-effectively. We have had a long-term technical relationship.

We are now moving toward how we advance the commercial relationship. We are working with the HPE Financial Services team to look at how we can get additional flexibility. There are a lot of pay-as-you-go-type financial IT models that have been in existence for some time — but these don’t necessarily work for my applications from a financial perspective.

Our goal is to use 100 percent of the storage all of the time to maximize the cache hit-rate.

In the private CDN and the video applications, our goal is to use 100 percent of the storage all of the time to maximize the cache hit-rate. With the traditional IT payment model for storage, my application fundamentally breaks that. So having a partner like HPE that was flexible and could understand the application is really important.

We also needed flexibility of compute scaling. We needed to be able to deploy for the peak, but not pay for that peak at all times. That’s easy from the software technology side, but we needed it from the commercial side as well.

And thirdly, we have been trying to enter a new market and be focused on the programmers and broadcasters, which is not our traditional segment. We have been deploying our CDN to the largest telcos and cable operators in the world, but now, selling to that programmers and broadcasters segment — they are used to buying a service from the Internet and they work in a different way and they have different requirements.

So we needed a financial model that allowed us to address that, but also a partner who would take some of the risk, too, because we didn’t know if it was going to be successful. Thankfully it has, and we have grown incredibly well, but it was a risk at the start. Finding a partner like HPE Financial Services who could share some of that risk was really important.

Gardner: These video delivery organizations are increasingly operating on subscription basis, so they would like to have their costs be incurred on a similar basis, so it all makes sense across the services ecosystem.

Our tolerance just doesn’t exist anymore for buffering and we demand and expect the highest-quality video.

Larbey: Yes, absolutely. That is becoming more and more important. If you go back to the very first the Internet video, you watched of a cat falling off a chair on YouTube. It didn’t matter if it was buffering, that wasn’t relevant. Now, our tolerance just doesn’t exist anymore for buffering and we demand and expect the highest-quality video.

If TV in 2027 is going to be purely IP, then clearly that has to deliver exactly the same quality of experience as the broadcasting technologies. And that creates challenges. The biggest obvious example is if you go to any IP TV operator and look at their streamed video channel that is live versus the one on broadcast, there is a big delay.

So there is a lag between the live event and what you are seeing on your IP stream, which is 30 to 40 seconds. If you are in an apartment block, watching a live sporting event, and your neighbor sees it 30 to 40 seconds before you, that creates a big issue. A lot of the innovations we’re now doing with streaming technologies are to deliver that same broadcast experience.

HPE Rethinks

How to Acquire, Pay For

And Use IT

Gardner: We now also have to think about 4K resolution, the intelligent edge, no latency, and all with managed costs. Fortunately at this time HPE is also working on a lot of edge technologies, like Edgeline and Universal IoT, and so forth. There’s a lot more technology being driven to the edge for storage, for large memory processing, and so forth. How are these advances affecting your organization?

Optimal edge: functionality and storage

Larbey: There are two elements. The compute, the edge, is absolutely critical. We are going to move all the intelligence into the network, and clearly you need to reduce the latency, and you need to able to scale that functionality. This functionality was scaled in millions of households, and now it has to be done in the network. The only way you can effectively build the network to handle that scale is to put as much functionality as you can at the edge of the network.

The HPE platforms will allow you to deploy that computer storage deep into the network, and they are absolutely critical for our success. We will run our CDN, our ad insertion, and all that capability as deeply into the network as an operator wants to go — and certainly the deeper, the better.

The other thing we try to optimize all of the time is storage. One of the challenges with network-based recording — especially in the US due to the content-use regulations compliance — is that you have to store a copy per user. If, for example, both of us record the same program, there are two versions of that program in the cloud. That’s clearly very inefficient.

The question is how do you optimize that, and also support just-in-time transcoding techniques that have been talked about for some time. That would create the right quality of bitrate on the fly, so you don’t have to store all the different formats. It would dramatically reduce storage costs.

The challenge has always been that the computing processing units (CPUs) needed to do that, and that’s where HPE and the Moonshot platform, which has great compute density, come in. We have the Intel media library for doing the transcoding. It’s a really nice storage platform. But we still wanted to get even more out of it, so at our Bell Labs research facility we developed a capability called skim storage, which for a slight increase in storage, allows us to double the number of transcodes we can do on a single CPU.

That approach takes a really, really efficient hardware platform with nice technology and doubles the density we can get from it — and that’s a big change for the business case.

Gardner: It’s astonishing to think that that much encoding would need to happen on the fly for a mass market; that’s a tremendous amount of compute, and an intense compute requirement.

Content popularity

Larbey: Absolutely, and you have to be intelligent about it. At the end of the day, human behavior works in our favor. If you look at most programs that people record, if they do not watch within the first seven days, they are probably not going to watch that recording. That content in particular then can be optimized from a storage perspective. You still need the ability to recreate it on the fly, but it improves the scale model.

Gardner: So the more intelligent you can be about what the users’ behavior and/or their use patterns, the more efficient you can be. Intelligence seems to be the real key here.

Larbey: Yes, we have a number of algorithms even within the CDN itself today that predict content popularity. We want to maximize the disk usage. We want the popular content on the disk, so what’s the point of us deleting a piece of a popular content just because a piece of long-tail content has been requested. We do a lot of algorithms looking at and trying to predict the content popularity so that we can make sure we are optimizing the hardware platform accordingly.

Gardner: Perhaps we can deepen our knowledge about this all through some examples. Do have some examples that demonstrate how your clients and customers are taking these new technologies and making better business decisions that help them in their cost structure — but also deliver a far better user experience?

In-house control

Larbey: One of our largest customers is Liberty Global, with a large number of cable operators in a variety of countries across Europe. They were enhancing an IP service. They started with an Internet-based CDN and that’s how they were delivering their service. But recognizing the importance of gaining more control over costs and the quality experience, they wanted to take that in-house and put the content on a private CDN.

We worked with them to deliver that technology. One of things that they noticed very quickly, which I don’t think they were expecting, was a dramatic reduction in the number of people calling in to complain because the stream had stopped or buffered. They enjoyed a big decrease in call-center calls as soon as they switched on our new CDN technology, which is quite an interesting use-case benefit.

When they deployed a private CDN, they reached costs payback in less than 12 months.

We do a lot with Sky in the UK, which was also looking to migrate away from an Internet-based CDN service into something in-house so they could take more control over it and improve the users’ quality of experience.

One of our customers in Canada, TELUS, when they deployed a private CDN, they reached costs payback in less than 12 months in terms of both the network savings and the Internet CDN costs savings.

Gardner: Before we close out, perhaps a look to the future and thinking about some of the requirements on business models as we leverage edge intelligence. What about personalization services, or even inserting ads in different ways? Can there be more of a two-way relationship, or a one-to-one interaction with the end consumers? What are the increased benefits from that high-performing, high-efficiency edge architecture?

VR vision and beyond

Larbey: All of that generates more traffic — moving from standard-definition to high-definition to 4K, to beyond 4K — it all generates more network traffic. You then take into account a 360-degree-video capability and virtual reality (VR) services, which is a focus for Nokia with our Ozo camera, and it’s clear that the data is just going to explode.

So being able to optimize, and continue to optimize that, in terms of new codec technology and new streaming technologies — to be able to constrain the growth of video demands on the network – is essential, otherwise the traffic would just explode.

There is lot of innovation going on to optimize the content experience. People may not want to watch all their TV through VR headsets. That may not become the way you want to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. However, maybe there will be a uniquely created piece of content that’s an add-on in 360, and the real serious fans can go and look for it. I think we will see new types of content being created to address these different use-cases.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in Bimodal IT, Business intelligence, Business networks, Cloud computing, data analysis, data center, Data center transformation, Enterprise app stores, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Information management, Internet of Things, machine learning, managed services, Microsoft, server, Software-defined storage, storage, User experience, video delivery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IoT capabilities open new doors for Miami telecoms platform provider Identidad IoT

The next BriefingsDirect Internet of Things (IoT) strategies insights interview focuses on how a Miami telecommunications products provider has developed new breeds of services to help manage complex edge and data scenarios.

We will now learn how IoT platforms and services help to improve network services, operations, and business goals — for carriers and end users alike.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to help us explore what is needed to build an efficient IoT support business is Andres Sanchez, CEO of Identidad IoT in Miami. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: How has your business changed in the telecoms support industry and why is IoT such a big opportunity for you?

Sanchez: With the new OTT (Over the Top content) technology, and the way that it came into the picture and took part of the whole communications chain of business, the business is basically getting very tough in telecoms. When we begin evaluating what IoT can do and seeing the possibilities, this is a new wave. We understand that it’s not about connectivity, it’s not about the 10 percent of the value chain — it’s more about the solutions.

Andres_SanchezWe saw a very good opportunity to start something new and to take the experience we have with the technology that we have in telecoms, and get new people, get new developers, and start building solutions, and that’s what we are doing right now.

Gardner: So as the voice telecoms business trails off, there is a new opportunity at the edge for data and networks to extend for a variety of use cases. What are some the use cases that you are seeing now in IoT that is a growth opportunity for your business?

Sanchez: IoT is everywhere. The beauty of IoT is that you can find solutions everywhere you look. What we have found is that when people think about IoT, they think about connected home, they think about connected car, or the smart parking where it’s just a green or red light when the parking is occupied or not. But IoT is more than that.

There are two ways to generate revenue in IoT. One is by having new products. The second is understanding what it is on the operational level that we can do better. And it’s in this way that we are putting in sensors, measuring things, and analyzing things. You can basically reduce your operational cost, or be more effective in the way that you are doing business. It’s not only getting the information, it’s using that information to automate processes that it will make your company better.

Gardner: As organizations recognize that there are new technologies coming in that are enabling this smart edge, smart network, what is it that’s preventing them from being able to take advantage of this?

Manage your solutions

with the HPE

Universal IoT Platform

Sanchez: Companies think that they just have to connect the sensors, that they only have to digitize their information. They haven’t realized that they really have to go through a digital transformation. It’s not about connecting the sensors that are already there; it’s building a solution using that information. They have to reorganize and to reinvent their organizations.

For example, it’s not about taking a sensor, putting the sensor in the machine and just start taking information and watching it on a screen. It’s taking the information and being able to see and check special patterns, to predict when a machine is going to break, when a machine at certain temperatures starts to work better or worse. It’s being able to be more productive without having to do more work. It’s just letting the machines do the work by themselves.

Gardner: A big part of that is bringing more of an IT mentality to the edge, creating a standard network and standard platforms that can take advantage of the underlying technologies that are now off-the-shelf.

Sanchez: Definitely. The approach that Identidad IoT takes is we are not building solutions based on what we think is good for the customer. What we are doing is building proof of concepts (PoCs) and tailored solutions for companies that need digital transformation.

I don’t think there are two companies doing the same thing that have the same problems. One manufacturer may have one problem, and another manufacturer using the same technology has another completely different problem. So the approach we are taking is that we generate a PoC, check exactly what the problems are, and then develop that application and solution.

This is not just a change of process. This is not purely putting in new software. This is trying to solve a problem when you may not even know the problem is there. It’s really digital transformation.

But it’s important to understand that IoT is not an IT thing. When we go to a customer, we don’t just go to an IT person, we go to the CEO, because this is a change of mentality. This is not just a change of process. This is not purely putting in new software. This is trying to solve a problem when you may not even know the problem is there. It’s really digital transformation.

Gardner: Where is this being successful? Where are you finding that people really understand it and are willing to take the leap, change their culture, rethink things to gain advantages?

One solution at a time

Sanchez: Unfortunately, people are afraid of what is coming, because people don’t understand what IoT is, and everybody thinks it’s really complicated. It does need expertise. It does need to have security — that is a very big topic right now. But it’s not impossible.

When we approach a company and that CEO, CIO or CTO understands that the benefits of IoT will be shown once you have that solution built — and that probably the initial solution is not going to be the final solution, but it’s going to be based on iterations — that’s when it starts working.

If people think it’s just an out-of-the-box solution, it’s not going to work. That’s the challenge we are having right now. The opportunity is when the head of the company understands that they need to go through a digital transformation.

Manage your solutions

with the HPE

Universal IoT Platform

Gardner: When you work with a partner like Hewlett PackardEnterprise (HPE), they have made big investments and developments in edge computing, such as Universal IoT Platform and Edgeline Systems. How does that help you as a solutions provider make that difficult transition for your customers easier, and encourage them to understand that it’s not impossible, that there are a lot of solutions already designed for their needs?

Sanchez: Our relationship with HPE has been a huge success for Identidad IoT. When we started looking at platforms, when we started this company, we couldn’t find the right platform to fulfill our needs. We were looking for a platform that we could build solutions on and then extrapolate that data with other data, and build other solutions over those solutions.

When we approached HPE, we saw that they do have a unique platform that allows us to generate whatever applications, for whatever verticals, for whatever organizations – whether a city or company. Even if you wanted to create a product just for end-users, they have the ability to do it.

Also, it’s a platform that is so robust that you know it’s going to work, it’s reliable, and it’s very secure. You can build security from the device right on up to the platform and the applications. Other platforms, they don’t have that.

We think that IoT is about relationships and partnerships — it’s about an ecosystem.

Our business model correlates a lot with the HPE business model. We think that IoT is about relationships and partnerships — it’s about an ecosystem. The approach that HPE has to IoT and to ecosystem is exactly the same approach that we have. They are building this big ecosystem of partners. They are helping each other to build relationships and in that way, they build a better and more robust platform.

Gardner: For companies and network providers looking to take advantage of IoT, what would you suggest that they do in preparation? Is there a typical on-ramp to an IoT project?

A leap of faith

Sanchez: There’s no time to be prepared right now. I think they have to take a leap of faith and start building the IoT applications. The pace of the technology transformation is incredible.

When you see the technology right now, today — probably in four months it’s going to be obsolete. You are going to have even better technology, a better sensor. So if you wait –most likely the competition is not going to wait and they will have a very big advantage.

Our approach at Identidad IoT is about platform-as-a-service (PaaS). We are helping companies take that leap without having to create very big financial struggles. And the companies will know that by our using the HPE platform, they are using the state-of-the-art platform. They are not using just a mom-and pop-platform built in a garage. It’s a robust PaaS — so why not to take that leap of faith and start building it? Now is the time.

Gardner: Once you pick up that success, perhaps via a PoC, that gives you ammunition to show economic and productivity benefits that then would lead to even more investment. It seems like there is a virtuous adoption cycle potential here.

Sanchez: Definitely! Once we start a new solution, usually the people who are seeing that solution, they start seeing things that they are not used to seeing. They can pinpoint problems that they have been having for years – but they didn’t understand why.

For example, there’s one manufacturer of T-shirts in Colombia. They were having issues with one specific machine. That machine used to break after two or three weeks. There was just this small piece that was broken. When we installed the sensor and we started gathering their information, after two or three breaks, we understood that it was not the amount of work — it was the temperature at which the machine was working.

So what they did is once the temperature reached a certain point, we automatically started some fans to normalize the temperature, and then they haven’t had any broken pieces for months. It was a simple solution, but it took a lot of study and gathering of information to be able to understand that break point — and that’s the beauty of IoT.

Gardner: It’s data-driven, it’s empirical, it’s understood, but you can’t know what you don’t know until you start measuring things, right?

Listen to things

Sanchez: Exactly! I always say that the “things” are trying to say something, and we are not listening. IoT enables the people, the companies, and the organization to start listening to the things, and not only to start listening, but to make the things to work for us. We need the applications to be able to trigger something to fix the problem without any human intervention — and that’s also the beauty of IoT.

Gardner: And that IoT philosophy even extends to healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, any place where you have complexity, it is pertinent.

Manage your solutions

with the HPE

Universal IoT Platform

Sanchez: Yes, the solution for IoT is everywhere. You can think about healthcare or tracking people or tracking guns or building solutions for cities in which the city can understand what is triggering certain pollution levels that they can fix. Or it can be in manufacturing, or even a small thing like finding your cellphone.

It’s everything that you can measure. Everything that you can put a sensor on, you can measure — that’s IoT. The idea is that IoT will help people live better lives without having to take care of the “thing;” things will have to take care of themselves.

Gardner: You seem quite confident that this is a growth industry. You are betting a significant amount of your future growth on it. How do you see it increasing over the next couple of years? Is this a modest change or do you really see some potential for a much larger market?

Once people understand the capability of IoT, there’s going to be an explosion of solutions.

Sanchez: That’s a really good question. I do see that IoT is the next wave of technology. There are several studies that say that by 2020 there are going to be 50 billion devices connected. I am not that futuristic, but I do see that IoT will start working now and probably within the next two or three years we are going to start seeing an incremental growth of the solutions. Once people understand the capability of IoT, there’s going to be an explosion of solutions. And I think the moment to start doing it is now. I think that next year it’s going to be too late.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in application transformation, big data, Cloud computing, data analysis, enterprise architecture, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Internet of Things, machine learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside story on developing the ultimate SDN-enabled hybrid cloud object storage environment

The next BriefingsDirect inside story interview explores how a software-defined data center (SDDC)-focused systems integrator developed an ultimate open-source object storage environment.

We’re now going to learn how Key Information Systems crafted a storage capability that may have broad extensibility into such realms as hybrid cloud and multi-cloud support.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

Here to help us better understand a new approach to open-source object storage is Clayton Weise, Director of Cloud Services at Key Information Systems in Agoura Hills, California. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What prompted you to improve on the way that object storage is being offered as a service? How might this become a new business opportunity for you?

Weise: About a year ago, at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Discover, I was wandering the event floor. We had just gotten out of a meeting with SwitchNAP, which is a major data center in Las Vegas. We had been talking to them about some preferred concepts and deployments for storage for their clients.

Clayton Weise (1)That discussion evolved into realizing that there are number of clients inside of Switch and their ecosystem that could make use of storage that was more locally based, that needed to be closer at hand. There were cost savings that could be gained if you have a connection within the same data center, or within the same fiber network.

Pulling data in and out of a cloud

Under this model, there would be significantly less expensive ways of pulling data in and out of a cloud, since you wouldn’t have transfer fees as you normally would. There would also be an advantage to privacy, and to cutting latency, and other beneficial things because of a private network all run by Switch and through their fiber network. So we looked at this and thought this might be interesting.

In discussions with the number of groups within HPE while wandering the floor at Discover, we found that there were some pretty interesting ways that we could play games with the network to allow clients to not have to uproot the way they do things, or force them to do things, for lack of a better term, “Our way.”

If you go to Amazon Web Services or you go to Microsoft Azure, you do it the Microsoft way, or you do it the Amazon way. You don’t really have a choice, since you have to follow their guidelines.

They generally use object storage as an inexpensive way to store archival or less-frequently accessed data. Cloud storage became an alternative to tape and long-term storage.

Where we saw value is, there are times in the mid-market space for clients — ranging from a couple of hundred million dollars up to maybe a couple of billion dollars in annual revenue — where they generally use object storage as kind of an inexpensive way to store archival, or less-frequently accessed, data. So [the cloud storage] became an alternative to tape and long-term storage.

We’ve had this massive explosion of unstructured data, files, and all sorts of things. We have a number of clients in medical and finance, and they have just seen this huge spike in data.

The challenge is: To deploy your own object storage is a fairly complex operation, and it requires a minimum number of petabytes to get started. In that mid-market, they are not typically measuring their storage in that petabytes level.

These customers are more typically in the tens to hundreds of terabytes range, and so they need an inexpensive way to offload that data and put it somewhere where it makes sense. In the medical industry particularly, there’s a lot of concern about putting any kind of patient data up in a public cloud environment — even with encryption.

We thought that if we are in the same data center, and it is a completely private operation that exists within these facilities, that will fulfill the total need — and we can encrypt the data.

But we needed a way to support such private-cloud object storage that would be multitenant. Also, we just have had better luck working with open standards. The challenge with dealing with proprietary systems is you end up locked into a standard, and if you pick wrong, you find yourself having to reinvent everything later on.

I come from a networking background; I was an Internet plumber for many years. We saw the transition then on our side when routing protocols first got introduced. There were proprietary routing protocols, and there were open standards, and that’s what we still use today.

Transition to


HPE Data Center Networking

So we took a similar approach in object storage as a private-cloud service. We went down the open source path in terms of how we handled the provisioning. We needed something that integrated well with that. We needed a system that had the multitenancy, that understood the tenancy, and that is provided by OpenStack. We found a solution from HPE called Distributed Cloud Networking (DCN) that allows us to carve up the network in all sorts of interesting ways, and that way we don’t have to dictate to the client how to run it.

Many clients are still running traditional networks. The adoption of Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) and other types of SDDC within the network is still pretty low, especially in the mid-market space. So to go to a client and dictate that they have to change how they run the network it is not going to work.

And we wanted it to be as simple as possible. We wanted to treat this as much as we could as a flat network. By using a combination of DCN, Altoline switches from HPE, and some of other software, we were able to give clients a complete network carrying regular Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) across it. We then could tie this together in a hybrid fashion, whereby the customers can actually treat our cloud environment as a natural extension of their existing networks, of their existing data centers.

Gardner: You are calling this hybrid storage as a service. It’s focused on object storage at this point, and you can take this into different data center environments. What are some of the sweet spots in the market?

The object service becomes a very inexpensive way to store large amounts of data, and unlike tape — with object as a service, everything is accessible easily.

Weise: The areas where we are seeing the most interest have been backup and archive. It’s an alternative to tape. The object service becomes a very inexpensive way to store large amounts of data, and unlike tape — where it’s inconvenient to access the data — with object as a service everything is accessible very, very easily.

For customers that cannot directly integrate into that object service as supported by their backup software, we can make use of object gateways to provide a method that’s more like traditional access. It looks like a file, or file share, and you edit the file share to be written to the object storage, and so it acts as a go-between. For backup and archive, it makes a really, really great solution.

The other two areas where we seen the most interest have been in the medical space, specifically for large medical image files and archival. We’re working now specifically to build that type of solution, with HIPAA compliance. We have gone through the audits and compliance verification.

The second use-case has been in the media and entertainment industry. In fact, they are the very first to consume this new system and put in hundreds of terabytes worth of storage — they are an entertainment industry client in Burbank, California. A lot of these guys are just shuffling along on external drives.

For them it’s often external arrays, and it’s a lot more Mac OS users. They needed something that was better, and so hybrid object storage as a service has created a great opportunity for them and allows them to collaborate.

They have a location in Burbank, and then they brought up another office in the UK. There is yet another office for them coming up in Europe. The object storage approach allows a kind of central repository, an inexpensive place to place the data — but it also allows them to be more collaborative as well.

Gardner: We have had a weak link in cloud computing storage, which has been the network — and you solved some of those issues. You found a prime use-case with backup and archival, but it seems to me that given the storage capabilities that we’ve seen that this has extensibility. So where it might go next in terms of a storage-as-a service that hybrid cloud providers would use? Where can this go?

Carving up the network

Weise: It’s an interesting question because one of the challenges we have all faced in the world of cloud is we have virtualized servers and virtualized storage, meaning there is disaggregation; there is a separation between the workload that’s running and the actual hardware it’s running on.

In many cases, and for almost all clients in the mid-market, that level of virtualization has not occurred at the network level. We are still nailed to things. We are all tied down to the cable, to the switch port, and to the human that can figure those things out. It’s not as flexible or as extensible as some of the other solutions that are out there.

In our case, when we build this out, the real magic is with the network. That improved connection might be a cost savings for a client — especially from a bandwidth standpoint. But as you get a private cross-connect into that environment to make use of, in this case, storage as a service, we can now carve that up in a number of different ways and allow the client to use it for other things.

For example, if they want to have burst capability within the environments, they can have it — and it’s on the same network as their existing system. So that’s where it gets really interesting: Instead of having to have complex virtual guest package configurations, and tiny networks, and dealing with some the routing of other pieces, you can literally treat our cloud environment as if it’s a network cable thrown over the wall — and it becomes just an extension of the existing network.

We can secure that traffic and ensure that there is high-performance, low-latency and complete separation of tenancy. If you have Coke and Pepsi as clients, they will never see each other.

That opens up some additional possibilities. Some things to work on eventually would be block storage, file storage, right there existing on the same network. We can secure that traffic and ensure that there is high-performance, low-latency and complete separation of tenancy. So if you have Coke and Pepsi as clients, they will never see each other.

Gardner: Very cool. You can take this object storage benefit — and by the way, the cost of that can be significantly lower because you don’t have egress charges and some of the other unfriendly aspects of economics of public cloud providers. But you also have an avenue into a true hybrid cloud environment, where you can move data but also burst workloads and manage that accordingly. Now, what about making this work toward a multi-cloud capability?

Transition to


HPE Data Center Networking

Weise: Right. So this is where HPE’s DCN software-defined networking (SDN) really starts to shine and separates itself from the pack. We can tie environments together regardless of where they are. If there is a virtual endpoint or physical appliance; if it’s at a remote location that can be deployed, which can act as a gateway — that links everything together.

We can take a client network that’s going from their environment into our environment, we can deploy a small virtual machine inside of a public cloud, and it will tie the networks together and allow them to treat it all as the same. The same policy enforcement engine and things that they use to segregate traffic in microsegmentation and service chaining can be done just as easily in the public cloud environment.

One of the reasons we went to Switch was because they have multiple locations. So in the case of our object storage, we deployed the objects across all three of their data center sites. So a single repository that’s written the data is distributed among three different regions. This protects against a possible regional outage that could mean data is inaccessible, and this is the kind of recent thing that we in the US have seen, where clients were down anywhere from 6 to 16 hours.

One big network, wherever you are

This eliminates that. But the nice thing is because of the network technology that theywere using from HPE, it allowed us to treat that all as one big network — and we can carve that up and virtualize it. So clients inside of the data center — maybe they need resources for disaster recovery or for additional backups or those things — it’s all part of that. We can tie-in from a network standpoint and regardless of where you want to exist — if you are in Vegas, you may want to recover in Reno, or you may want to recover in Grand Rapids. We can make that network look exactly the same in your location.

You want to recover in AWS? You want to recover in Azure? We can tie it in that way, too. So it opens up these great possibilities that allows this true hybrid cloud — and not as a completely separate entity.

Gardner: Very cool. Now there’s nothing wrong, of course, with Switch, but there are other fiber and data center folks out there. Some names that begin with “E” come to mind that you might want to drop in this and that should even increase the opportunity for distribution.

Weise: That’s right. So this initial deployment is focused on Switch, but we do a grand scheme to work this into other data centers. There are a handful of major data center operators out there, including the one that starts with an “E” along with another that starts with a “D.” We do have plans to expand this, or use this as a success use-case.

As this continues to grow, and we get some additional momentum and some good feedback, and really refine the offering to make sure we know exactly what everything needs to be, then we can work with those other data center providers.

Whenever clients deploy their workloads in those public clouds, that means there is equipment that has not been collocated inside one of your facilities.

From the data center operators’ perspective, if you’re one of those facilities, you are at war with AWS or with Azure. Because whenever clients deploy their workloads in those public clouds, that means there is equipment that has not been collocated inside one of your facilities.

So they have a vested interest in doing this, and there is a benefit to the clients inside of those facilities too because they get to live inside of the ecosystem that exists within those data centers, and the private networks that they carry in there deliver the same benefits to all in that ecosystem.

We do plan to use this hybrid cloud object storage as a service capability as a model to deploy in several other data center environments. There is not only a private cloud, but also a multitenant private cloud that could be operative for clients that have a large enough need. You can talk about this in a multi-petabyte scale, or you talk about thousands of virtual machines. Then it’s a question of should you do a private cloud deployment just for you? The same technology, fulfilling the same requirements, and the same solutions could still be used.

Partners in time

Gardner: It sounds like it makes sense, on the back of a napkin basis, for you and HPE to get together and brand something along these lines and go to market together with it.

Weise: It certainly does. We’ve had some great discussions with them. Actually there is a group that was popular in Europe that is now starting to take its growth here in US called Cloud28+.

We had some great discussions with them. We are going to be joining that, and it’s a great thing as well.

The goal is building out this sort of partner network, and working with HPE to do that has been extremely supportive. In addition to these crazy ideas, I also have a really crazy timeline for deployment. When we initially met with HPE and talked about what we wanted to do, they estimated that I should reserve about 6 to 8 weeks for planning and then another 1.5 months for deployment.

Transition to


HPE Data Center Networking

I said, “Great we have 3 weeks to do the whole thing,” and everyone thought we were crazy. But we actually had it completed in a little over 2.5 weeks. So we have a huge amount of thanks to HPE, and to their technical services group who were able to assist us in getting this going extremely quickly.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in application transformation, big data, Business networks, Cloud computing, data center, Data center transformation, disaster recovery, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Information management, Software-defined storage, storage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How IoT and OT collaborate to usher in the data-driven factory of the future

The next BriefingsDirect Internet of Things (IoT) technology trends interview explores how innovation is impacting modern factories and supply chains.

We’ll now learn how a leading-edge manufacturer, Hirotec, in the global automotive industry, takes advantage of IoT and Operational Technology (OT) combined to deliver dependable, managed, and continuous operations.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to help us to find the best factory of the future attributes is Justin Hester, Senior Researcher in the IoT Lab at Hirotec Corp. in Hiroshima, Japan. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What’s happening in the market with business and technology trends that’s driving this need for more modern factories and more responsive supply chains?

Hester: Our customers are demanding shorter lead times. There is a drive for even higher quality, especially in automotive manufacturing. We’re also seeing a much higher level of customization requests coming from our customers. So how can we create products that better match the unique needs of each customer?

As we look at how we can continue to compete in an ever-competitive environment, we are starting to see how the solutions from IoT can help us.

Gardner: What is it about IoT and Industrial IoT (IIoT) that allows you to do things that you could not have done before?

Hester: Within the manufacturing space, a lot of data has been there for years; for decades. Manufacturing has been very good at collecting data. The challenges we’ve had, though, is bringing in that data in real-time, because the amount of data is so large. How can we act on that data quicker, not on a day-by-day basis or week-by-week basis, but actually on a minute-by-minute basis, or a second-by-second basis? And how do we take that data and contextualize it?

Justin Hester


It’s one thing in a manufacturing environment to say, “Okay, this machine is having a challenge.” But it’s another thing if I can say, “This machine is having a challenge, and in the context of the factory, here’s how it’s affecting downstream processes, and here’s what we can do to mitigate those downstream challenges that we’re going to have.” That’s where IoT starts bringing us a lot of value.

The analytics, the real-time contextualization of that data that we’ve already had in the manufacturing area, is very helpful.

Gardner: So moving from what may have been a gather, batch, analyze, report process — we’re now taking more discrete analysis opportunities and injecting that into a wider context of efficiency and productivity. So this is a fairly big change. This is not incremental; this is a step-change advancement, right?

A huge step-change 

Hester: It’s a huge change for the market. It’s a huge change for us at Hirotec. One of the things we like to talk about is what we jokingly call the Tuesday Morning Meeting. We talk about this idea that in the morning at a manufacturing facility, everyone gets together and talks about what happened yesterday, and what we can do today to make up for what happened yesterday.

Why don’t we get the data to the right people with the right context and let them make a decision so they can affect what’s going on, instead of waiting until tomorrow to react?

Instead, now we’re making that huge step-change to say,  “Why don’t we get the data to the right people with the right context and let them make a decision so they can affect what’s going on, instead of waiting until tomorrow to react to what’s going on?” It’s a huge step-change. We’re really looking at it as how can we take small steps right away to get to that larger goal.

In manufacturing areas, there’s been a lot of delay, confusion, and hesitancy to move forward because everyone sees the value, but it’s this huge change, this huge project. At Hirotec, we’re taking more of a scaled approach, and saying let’s start small, let’s scale up, let’s learn along the way, let’s bring value back to the organization — and that’s helped us move very quickly.

Gardner: We’d like to hear more about that success story but in the meantime, tell us about Hirotec for those who don’t know of it. What role do you play in the automotive industry, and how are you succeeding in your markets?

Hester: Hirotec is a large, tier-1 automotive supplier. What that means is we supply parts and systems directly to the automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), like Mazda, General Motors, FCA, Ford, and we specialize in door manufacturing, as well as exhaust system manufacturing. So every year we make about 8 million doors, 1.8 million exhaust systems, and we provide those systems mainly to Mazda and General Motors, but also we provide that expertise through tooling.

For example, if an automotive OEM would like Hirotec’s expertise in producing these parts, but they would like to produce them in-house, Hirotec has a tooling arm where we can provide that tooling for automotive manufacturing. It’s an interesting strategy that allows us to take advantage of data both in our facilities, but then also work with our customers on the tooling side to provide those lessons learned and bring them value there as well.

Gardner: How big of a distribution are we talking about? How many factories, how many countries; what’s the scale here?

Hester: We are based in Hiroshima, Japan, but we’re actually in nine countries around the world, currently with 27 facilities. We have reached into all the major continents with automotive manufacturing: we’re in North America, we’re in Europe, we’re all throughout Asia, in China and India. We have a large global presence. Anywhere you find automotive manufacturing, we’re there supporting it.

Discover How the 

IoT Advantage

Works in Multiple Industries 

Gardner: With that massive scale, very small improvements can turn into very big benefits. Tell us why the opportunity in a manufacturing environment to eke out efficiency and productivity has such big payoffs.

Hester: So especially in manufacturing, what we find when we get to those large scales like you’re alluding to is that a 1 percent or 2 percent improvement has huge financial benefits. And so the other thing is in manufacturing, especially automotive manufacturing, we tend to standardize our processes, and within Hirotec, we’ve done a great job of standardizing that world-class leadership in door manufacturing.

And so what we find is when we get improvements not only in IoT but anywhere in manufacturing, if we can get 1 percent or 2 percent, not only is that a huge financial benefit but because we standardized globally, we can move that to our other facilities very quickly, doubling down on that benefit.

Gardner: Well, clearly Hirotec sees this as something to really invest in, they’ve created the IoT Lab. Tell me a little bit about that and how that fits into this?

The IoT Lab works

Hester: The IoT Lab is a very exciting new group, it’s part of our Advanced Engineering Center (AEC). The AEC is a group out of our global headquarters and this group is tasked with the five- to 10-year horizon. So they’re able to work across all of our global organizations with tooling, with engineering, with production, with sales, and even our global operations groups. Our IoT group goes and finds solutions that can bring value anywhere in the organization through bringing in new technologies, new ideas, and new solutions.

And so we formed the IoT Lab to find how can we bring IoT-based solutions into the manufacturing space, into the tooling space, and how actually can those solutions not only help our manufacturing and tooling teams but also help our IT teams, our finance teams, and our sales teams.

Gardner: Let’s dig back down a little bit into why IT, IoT and Operational Technology (OT) are into this step-change opportunity, looking for some significant benefits but being careful in how to institute that. What is required when you move to a more an IT-focused, a standard-platform approach — across all the different systems — that allows you to eke these great benefits?

Tell us about how IoT as a concept is working its way into the very edge of the factory floor.

Discover How the 

IoT Advantage

Works in Multiple Industries 

Hester: One of the things we’re seeing is that IT is beginning to meld, like you alluded to, with OT — and there really isn’t a distinction between OT and IT anymore. What we’re finding is that we’re starting to get to these solution levels by working with partners such as PTC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to bring our IT group and our OT group all together within Hirotec and bring value to the organization.

What we find is there is no longer a need in OT that becomes a request for IT to support it, and also that IT has a need and so they go to OT for support. What we are finding is we have organizational needs, and we’re coming to the table together to make these changes. And that actually within itself is bringing even more value to the organization.

Instead of coming last-minute to the IT group and saying, “Hey, we need your support for all these different solutions, and we’ve already got everything set, and you are just here to put it in,” what we are seeing, is that they bring the expertise in, help us out upfront, and we’re finding better solutions because we are getting experts both from OT and IT together.

We are seeing this convergence of these two teams working on solutions to bring value. And they’re really moving everything to the edge. So where everyone talks about cloud-based computing — or maybe it’s in their data center — where we are finding value is in bringing all of these solutions right out to the production line.

We are doing data collection right there, but we are also starting to do data analytics right at the production line level, where it can bring the best value in the fastest way.

Gardner: So it’s an auspicious time because just as you are seeking to do this, the providers of technology are creating micro data centers, and they are creating Edgeline converged systems, and they are looking at energy conservation so that they can do this in an affordable way — and with storage models that can support this at a competitive price.

What is it about the way that IT is evolving and providing platforms and systems that has gotten you and The IoT Lab so excited?

Excitement at the edge  

Hester: With IoT and IT platforms, originally to do the analytics, we had to go up to the cloud — that was the only place where the compute power existed. Solution providers now are bringing that level of intelligence down to the edge. We’re hearing some exciting things from HPE on memory-driven computing, and that’s huge for us because as we start doing these very complex analytics at the edge, we need that power, that horsepower, to run different applications at the same time at the production line. And something like memory-driven solutions helps us accomplish that.

It’s one thing to have higher-performance computing, but another to gain edge computing that’s proper for the factory environment.

It’s one thing to have higher-performance computing, but another thing to gain edge computing that’s proper for the factory environment. In a manufacturing environment it’s not conducive to a standard servers, a standard rack where it needs dust protection and heat protection — that doesn’t exist in a manufacturing environment.

The other thing we’re beginning to see with edge computing, that HPE provides with Edgeline products, is that we have computers that have high power, high ability to perform the analytics and data collection capabilities — but they’re also proper for the environment.

I don’t need to build out a special protection unit with special temperature control, humidity control – all of which drives up energy costs, which drives up total costs. Instead, we’re able to run edge computing in the environment as it should be on its own, protected from what comes in a manufacturing environment — and that’s huge for us.

Gardner: They are engineering these systems now with such ruggedized micro facilities in mind. It’s quite impressive that the very best of what a data center can do, can now be brought to the very worst types of environments. I’m sure we’ll see more of that, and I am sure we’ll see it get even smaller and more powerful.

Do you have any examples of where you have already been able to take IoT in the confluence of OT and IT to a point where you can demonstrate entirely new types of benefits? I know this is still early in the game, but it helps to demonstrate what you can do in terms of efficiency, productivity, and analytics. What are you getting when you do this well?

IoT insights save time and money

Hester: Taking the stepped strategy that we have, we actually started at Hirotec very small with only eight machines in North America and we were just looking to see if the machines are on, are they running, and even from there, we saw a value because all of a sudden we were getting that real-time contextualized insight into the whole facility. We then quickly moved over to one of our production facilities in Japan, where we have a brand-new robotic inspection system, and this system uses vision sensors, laser sensors, force sensors — and it’s actually inspecting exhaust systems before they leave the facility.

We very quickly implemented an IoT solution in that area, and all we did was we said, “Hey, we just want to get insight into the data, so we want to be able to see all these data points. Over 400 data points are created every inspection. We want to be able to see this data, compared in historical ways — so let’s bring context to that data, and we want to provide it in real-time.”

Discover How the 

IoT Advantage

Works in Multiple Industries 

What we found from just those two projects very quickly is that we’re bringing value to the organization because now our teams can go in and say, “Okay, the system is doing its job, it’s inspecting things before they leave our facility to make sure our customers always get a high-quality product.” But now, we’re able to dive in and find different trends that we weren’t able to see before because all we were doing is saying, “Okay, this system leaves the facility or this system doesn’t.”

And so already just from that application, we’ve been able to find ways that our engineers can even increase the throughput and the reliability of the system because now they have these historical trends. They were able to do a root-cause analysis on some improvements that would have taken months of investigation; it was completed in less than a week for us.

And so that’s a huge value — not only in that my project costs go down but now I am able to impact the organization quicker, and that’s the big thing that Hirotec is seeing. It’s one thing to talk about the financial cost of a project, or I can say, “Okay, here is the financial impact,” but what we are seeing is that we’re moving quicker.

And so, we’re having long-term financial benefits because we’re able to react to things much faster. In this case, we’re able to reduce months of investigation down to a week. That means that when I implement my solution quicker, I’m now bringing that impact to the organization even faster, which has long-term benefits. We are already seeing those benefits today.

Gardner: You’ll obviously be able to improve quality, you’ll be able to reduce the time to improving that quality, gain predictive analytics in your operations, but also it sounds like you are going to gain metadata insights that you can take back into design for the next iteration of not only the design for the parts but the design for the tooling as well and even the operations around that. So that intelligence at the edge can be something that is a full lifecycle process, it goes right back to the very initiation of both the design and the tooling.

Data-driven design, decisions

As you loop this data back to our engineering teams — what kind of benefits can we see, how can we improve our processes, how can we drive out into the organization?

Hester: Absolutely, and so, these solutions, they can’t live in a silo. We’re really starting to look at these ideas of what some people call the Digital Thread, the Digital Twin. We’re starting to understand what does that mean as you loop this data back to our engineering teams — what kind of benefits can we see, how can we improve our processes, how can we drive out into the organization?

And one of the biggest things with IoT-based solutions is that they can’t stay inside this box, where we talked about OT to IT, we are talking about manufacturing, engineering, these IoT solutions at their best, all they really do is bring these groups together and bring a whole organization together with more contextualized data to make better decisions faster.

And so, exactly to your point, as we are looping back, we’re able to start understanding the benefit we’re going to be seeing from bringing these teams together.

Gardner: One last point before we close out. It seems to me as well that at a macro level, this type of data insight and efficiency can be brought into the entire supply chain. As you’re providing certain elements of an automobile, other suppliers are providing what they specialize in, too, and having that quality control and integration and reduced time-to-value or mean-time-to-resolution of the production issues, and so forth, can be applied at a macro level.

So how does the automotive supplier itself look at this when it can take into consideration all of its suppliers like Hirotec are doing?

Start small 

Hester: It’s a very early phase, so a lot of the suppliers are starting to understand what this means for them. There is definitely a macro benefit that the industry is going to see in five to 10 years. Suppliers now need to start small. One of my favorite pictures is a picture of the ocean and a guy holding a lighter. It [boiling the ocean] is not going to happen. So we see these huge macro benefits of where we’re going, but we have to start out somewhere.

Discover How the 

IoT Advantage

Works in Multiple Industries 

A lot of suppliers, what we’re recommending to them, is to do the same thing we did, just start small with a couple of machines, start getting that data visualized, start pulling that data into the organization. Once you do that, you start benefiting from the data, and then start finding new use-cases.

As these suppliers all start doing their own small projects and working together, I think that’s when we are going to start to see the macro benefits but in about five to 10 years out in the industry.

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DreamWorks Animation crafts its next era of dynamic IT infrastructure

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer thought leader interview examines how DreamWorks Animation is building a multipurpose, all-inclusive, and agile data center capability.

Learn here why a new era of responsive and dynamic IT infrastructure is demanded, and how one high-performance digital manufacturing leader aims to get there sooner rather than later.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to describe how an entertainment industry innovator leads the charge for bleeding-edge IT-as-a-service capabilities is Jeff Wike, CTO of DreamWorks Animation in Glendale, California. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tell us why the older way of doing IT infrastructure and hosting apps and data just doesn’t cut it anymore. What has made that run out of gas?

Wike: You have to continue to improve things. We are in a world where technology is advancing at an unbelievable pace. The amount of data, the capability of the hardware, the intelligence of the infrastructure are coming. In order for any business to stay ahead of the curve — to really drive value into the business – it has to continue to innovate.

Gardner: IT has become more pervasive in what we do. I have heard you all refer to yourselves as digital manufacturing. Are the demands of your industry also a factor in making it difficult for IT to keep up?

Wike: When I say we are a digital manufacturer, it’s because we are a place that manufacturers content, whether it’s animated films or TV shows; that content is all made on the computer. An artist sits in front of a workstation or a monitor, and is basically building these digital assets that we put through simulations and rendering so in the end it comes together to produce a movie.

Jeff Wike (1)


That’s all about manufacturing, and we actually have a pipeline, but it’s really like an assembly line. I was looking at a slide today about Henry Ford coming up with the first assembly line; it’s exactly what we are doing, except instead of adding a car part, we are adding a character, we’re adding a hair to a character, we’re adding clothes, we’re adding an environment, and we’re putting things into that environment.

We are manufacturing that image, that story, in a linear way, but also in an iterative way. We are constantly adding more details as we embark on that process of three to four years to create one animated film.

Gardner: Well, it also seems that we are now taking that analogy of the manufacturing assembly line to a higher plane, because you want to have an assembly line that doesn’t just make cars — it can make cars and trains and submarines and helicopters, but you don’t have to change the assembly line, you have to adjust and you have to utilize it properly.

So it seems to me that we are at perhaps a cusp in IT where the agility of the infrastructure and its responsiveness to your workloads and demands is better than ever.

Greater creativity, increased efficiency

Wike: That’s true. If you think about this animation process or any digital manufacturing process, one issue that you have to account for is legacy workflows, legacy software, and legacy data formats — all these things are inhibitors to innovation. There are a lot of tools. We actually write our own software, and we’re very involved in projects related to computer science at the studio.

We’ll ask ourselves, “How do you innovate? How can you change your environment to be able to move forward and innovate and still carry around some of those legacy systems?”

How HPE Synergy


Infrastructure Operations

And one of the things we’ve done over the past couple of years is start to re-architect all of our software tools in order to take advantage of massive multi-core processing to try to give artists interactivity into their creative process. It’s about iterations. How many things can I show a director, how quickly can I create the scene to get it approved so that I can hand it off to the next person, because there’s two things that you get out of that.

One, you can explore more and you can add more creativity. Two, you can drive efficiency, because it’s all about how much time, how many people are working on a particular project and how long does it take, all of which drives up the costs. So you now have these choices where you can add more creativity or — because of the compute infrastructure — you can drive efficiency into the operation.

So where does the infrastructure fit into that, because we talk about tools and the ability to make those tools quicker, faster, more real-time? We conducted a project where we tried to create a middleware layer between running applications and the hardware, so that we can start to do data abstraction. We can get more mobile as to where the data is, where the processing is, and what the systems underneath it all are. Until we could separate the applications through that layer, we weren’t really able to do anything down at the core.

Core flexibility, fast

We want to be able to change how we are using that infrastructure — examine usage patterns, the workflows — and be able to optimize.

Now that we have done that, we are attacking the core. When we look at our ability to replace that with new compute, and add the new templates with all the security in it — we want that in our infrastructure. We want to be able to change how we are using that infrastructure — examine usage patterns, the workflows — and be able to optimize.

Before, if we wanted to do a new project, we’d say, “Well, we know that this project takes x amount of infrastructure. So if we want to add a project, we need 2x,” and that makes a lot of sense. So we would build to peak. If at some point in the last six months of a show, we are going to need 30,000 cores to be able to finish it in six months, we say, “Well, we better have 30,000 cores available, even though there might be times when we are only using 12,000 cores.” So we were buying to peak, and that’s wasteful.

What we wanted was to be able to take advantage of those valleys, if you will, as an opportunity — the opportunity to do other types of projects. But because our infrastructure was so homogeneous, we really didn’t have the ability to do a different type of project. We could create another movie if it was very much the same as a previous film from an infrastructure-usage standpoint.

By now having composable, or software-defined infrastructure, and being able to understand what the requirements are for those particular projects, we can recompose our infrastructure — parts of it or all of it — and we can vary that. We can horizontally scale and redefine it to get maximum use of our infrastructure — and do it quickly.

Gardner: It sounds like you have an assembly line that’s very agile, able to do different things without ripping and replacing the whole thing. It also sounds like you gain infrastructure agility to allow your business leaders to make decisions such as bringing in new types of businesses. And in IT, you will be responsive, able to put in the apps, manage those peaks and troughs.

Does having that agility not only give you the ability to make more and better movies with higher utilization, but also gives perhaps more wings to your leaders to go and find the right business models for the future?

Wike: That’s absolutely true. We certainly don’t want to ever have a reason to turn down some exciting project because our digital infrastructure can’t support it. I would feel really bad if that were the case.

In fact, that was the case at one time, way back when we produced Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Because it was such a big movie from a consumer products standpoint, we were asked to make another movie for direct-to-video. But we couldn’t do it; we just didn’t have the capacity, so we had to just say, “No.” We turned away a project because we weren’t capable of doing it. The time it would take us to spin up a project like that would have been six months.

The world is great for us today, because people want content — they want to consume it on their phone, on their laptop, on the side of buildings and in theaters. People are looking for more content everywhere.

Yet projects for varied content platforms require different amounts of compute and infrastructure, so we want to be able to create content quickly and avoid building to peak, which is too expensive. We want to be able to be flexible with infrastructure in order to take advantage of those opportunities.

HPE Synergy


Infrastructure Operations

Gardner: How is the agility in your infrastructure helping you reach the right creative balance? I suppose it’s similar to what we did 30 years ago with simultaneous engineering, where we would design a physical product for manufacturing, knowing that if it didn’t work on the factory floor, then what’s the point of the design? Are we doing that with digital manufacturing now?

Artifact analytics improve usage, rendering

We always look at budgets, and budgets can be money budgets, they can be rendering budgets, they can be storage budgets, and networking — all of those things are commodities that are required to create a project.

Wike: It’s interesting that you mention that. We always look at budgets, and budgets can be money budgets, it can be rendering budgets, it can be storage budgets, and networking — I mean all of those things are commodities that are required to create a project.

Artists, managers, production managers, directors, and producers are all really good at managing those projects if they understand what the commodity is. Years ago we used to complain about disk space: “You guys are using too much disk space.” And our production department would say, “Well, give me a tool to help me manage my disk space, and then I can clean it up. Don’t just tell me it’s too much.”

One of the initiatives that we have incorporated in recent years is in the area of data analytics. We re-architected our software and we decided we would re-instrument everything. So we started collecting artifacts about rendering and usage. Every night we ran every digital asset that had been created through our rendering, and we also collected analytics about it. We now collect 1.2 billion artifacts a night.

And we correlate that information to a specific asset, such as a character, basket, or chair — whatever it is that I am rendering — as well as where it’s located, which shot it’s in, which sequence it’s in, and which characters are connected to it. So, when an artist wants to render a particular shot, we know what digital resources are required to be able to do that.

One of the things that’s wasteful of digital resources is either having a job that doesn’t fit the allocation that you assign to it, or not knowing when a job is complete. Some of these rendering jobs and simulations will take hours and hours — it could take 10 hours to run.

At what point is it stuck? At what point do you kill that job and restart it because something got wedged and it was a dependency? And you don’t really know, you are just watching it run. Do I pull the plug now? Is it two minutes away from finishing, or is it never going to finish?

Just the facts

Before, an artist would go in every night and conduct a test render. And they would say, “I think this is going to take this much memory, and I think it’s going to take this long.” And then we would add a margin of error, because people are not great judges, as opposed to a computer. This is where we talk about going from feeling to facts.

So now we don’t have artists do that anymore, because we are collecting all that information every night. We have machine learning that then goes in and determines requirements. Even though a certain shot has never been run before, it is very similar to another previous shot, and so we can predict what it is going to need to run.

By doing that machine learning and taking the guesswork out of the allocation of resources, we were able to save 15 percent of our render time, which is huge.

Now, if a job is stuck, we can kill it with confidence. By doing that machine learning and taking the guesswork out of the allocation of resources, we were able to save 15 percent of our render time, which is huge.

I recently listened to a gentleman talk about what a difference of 1 percent improvement would be. So 15 percent is huge, that’s 15 percent less money you have to spend. It’s 15 percent faster time for a director to be able to see something. It’s 15 percent more iterations. So that was really huge for us.

Gardner: It sounds like you are in the digital manufacturing equivalent of working smarter and not harder. With more intelligence, you can free up the art, because you have nailed the science when it comes to creating something.

Creative intelligence at the edge

Wike: It’s interesting; we talk about intelligence at the edge and the Internet of Things (IoT), and that sort of thing. In my world, the edge is actually an artist. If we can take intelligence about their work, the computational requirements that they have, and if we can push that data — that intelligence — to an artist, then they are actually really, really good at managing their own work.

It’s only a problem when they don’t have any idea that six months from now it’s going to cause a huge increase in memory usage or render time. When they don’t know that, it’s hard for them to be able to self-manage. But now we have artists who can access Tableau reports everyday and see exactly what the memory usage was or the compute usage of any of the assets they’ve created, and they can correct it immediately.

On Megamind, a film DreamWorks Animation released several years ago, it was prior to having the data analytics in place, and the studio encountered massive rendering spikes on certain shots. We really didn’t understand why.

After the movie was complete, when we could go back and get printouts of logs to analyze, we determined that these peaks in rendering resources were caused by his watch. Whenever the main character’s watch was in a frame, the render times went up. We looked at the models, and well-intended artists had taken a model of a watch and every gear was modeled, and it was just a huge, heavy asset to render.

But it was too late to do anything about it. But now, if an artist were to create that watch today, they would quickly find out that they had really over-modeled that watch. We would then need to go in and reduce that asset down, because it’s really not a key element to the story. And they can do that today, which is really great.

HPE Synergy


Infrastructure Operations

Gardner: I am a big fan of animated films, and I am so happy that my kids take me to see them because I enjoy them as much as they do. When you mention an artist at the edge, it seems to me it’s more like an army at the edge, because I wait through the end of the movie, and I look at the credits scroll — hundreds and hundreds of people at work putting this together.

So you are dealing with not just one artist making a decision, you have an army of people. It’s astounding that you can bring this level of data-driven efficiency to it.

Movie-making’s mobile workforce

If you capture information, you can find so many things that we can really understand better about our creative process to be able to drive efficiency and value into the entire business.

Wike: It becomes so much more important, too, as we become a more mobile workforce.

Now it becomes imperative to be able to obtain the information about what those artists are doing so that they can collaborate. We know what value we are really getting from that, and so much information is available now. If you capture it, you can find so many things that we can really understand better about our creative process to be able to drive efficiency and value into the entire business.

Gardner: Before we close out, maybe a look into the crystal ball. With things like auto-scaling and composable infrastructure, where do we go next with computing infrastructure? As you say, it’s now all these great screens in people’s hands, handling high-definition, all the networks are able to deliver that, clearly almost an unlimited opportunity to bring entertainment to people. What can you now do with the flexible, efficient, optimized infrastructure? What should we expect?

Wike: There’s an explosion in content and explosion in delivery platforms. We are exploring all kinds of different mediums. I mean, there’s really no limit to where and how one can create great imagery. The ability to do that, the ability to not say “No” to any project that comes along is going to be a great asset.

We always say that we don’t know in the future how audiences are going to consume our content. We just know that we want to be able to supply that content and ensure that it’s the highest quality that we can deliver to audiences worldwide.

Gardner: It sounds like you feel confident that the infrastructure you have in place is going to be able to accommodate whatever those demands are. The art and the economics are the variables, but the infrastructure is not.

Wike: Having a software-defined environment is essential. I came from the software side; I started as a programmer, so I am coming back into my element. I really believe that now that you can compose infrastructure, you can change things with software without having to have people go in and rewire or re-stack, but instead change on-demand. And with machine learning, we’re able to learn what those demands are.

I want the computers to actually optimize and compose themselves so that I can rest knowing that my infrastructure is changing, scaling, and flexing in order to meet the demands of whatever we throw at it.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Enterprises look for partners to make the most of Microsoft Azure Stack apps

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer hybrid cloud advancements discussion explores the application development and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) benefits from Microsoft Azure Stack.

We’ll now learn how ecosystems of solutions partners are teaming to provide specific vertical industries with applications and services that target private cloud deployments.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to help us explore the latest in successful cloud-based applications development and deployment is our panel, Martin van den Berg, Vice President and Cloud Evangelist at Sogeti USA, based in Cleveland, and Ken Won, Director of Cloud Solutions Marketing at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Martin, what are some of the trends that are driving the adoption of hybrid cloud applications specifically around the Azure Stack platform?

Van den Berg: What our clients are dealing with on a daily basis is an ever-expanding data center, they see ever-expanding private clouds in their data centers. They are trying to get into the hybrid cloud space to reap all the benefits from both an agility and compute perspective.

Martin van den Berg

van den Berg

They are trying to get out of the data center space, to see how the ever-growing demand can leverage the cloud. What we see is that Azure Stack will bridge the gap between the cloud that they have on-premises, and the public cloud that they want to leverage — and basically integrate the two in a true hybrid cloud scenario.

Gardner: What sorts of applications are your clients calling for in these clouds? Are these cloud-native apps, greenfield apps? What are they hoping to do first and foremost when they have that hybrid cloud capability?

Van den Berg: We see a couple of different streams there. One is the native-cloud development. More and more of our clients are going into cloud-native development. We recently brought out a white paper wherein we see that 30 percent of applications being built today are cloud-native already. We expect that trend to grow to more than 60 percent over the next three years for new applications.

HPE Partnership Case Studies

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of Flex Capacity Financing

The issue that some of our clients have has to do with some of the data being consumed in these applications. Either due to compliance issues, or that their information security divisions are not too happy, they don’t want to put this data in the public cloud. Azure Stack bridges that gap as well.

They can leverage the whole Azure public cloud PaaS while still having their data on-premises in their own data center. That’s a unique capability.

Microsoft Azure Stack can bridge the gap between the on-premises data center and what they do in the cloud. They can leverage the whole Azure public cloud PaaS while still having their data on-premises in their own data center. That’s a unique capability.

On the other hand, what we also see is that some of our clients are looking at Azure Stack as a bridge to gap the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) space. Even in that space, where clients are not willing to expand their own data center footprint, they can use Azure Stack as a means to seamlessly go to the Azure public IaaS cloud.

Gardner: Ken, does this jibe with what you are seeing at HPE, that people are starting to creatively leverage hybrid models? For example, are they putting apps in one type of cloud and data in another, and then also using their data center and expanding capacity via public cloud means?

Won: We see a lot of it. The customers are interested in using both private clouds and public clouds. In fact, many of the customers we talk to use multiple private clouds and multiple public clouds. They want to figure out how they can use these together — rather than as separate, siloed environments. The great thing about Azure Stack is the compatibility between what’s available through Microsoft Azure public cloud and what can be run in their own data centers.

Ken Won


The customer concerns are data privacy, data sovereignty, and security. In some cases, there are concerns about application performance. In all these cases, it’s a great situation to be able to run part or all of the application on-premises, or on an Azure Stack environment, and have some sort of direct connectivity to a public cloud like Microsoft Azure.

Because you can get full API compatibility, the applications that are developed in the Azure public cloud can be deployed in a private cloud — with no change to the application at all.

Gardner: Martin, are there specific vertical industries gearing up for this more than others? What are the low-lying fruit in terms of types of apps?

Hybrid healthcare files

Van den Berg: I would say that hybrid cloud is of interest across the board, but I can name a couple of examples of industries where we truly see a business case for Azure Stack.

One of them is a client of ours in the healthcare industry. They wanted to standardize on the Microsoft Azure platform. One of the things that they were trying to do is deal with very large files, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) files. What they found is that in their environment such large files just do not work from a latency and bandwidth perspective in a cloud.

With Microsoft Azure Stack, they can keep these larger files on-premises, very close to where they do their job, and they can still leverage the entire platform and still do analytics from a cloud perspective, because that doesn’t require the bandwidth to interact with things right away. So this is a perfect example where Azure Stack bridges the gap between on-premises and cloud requirements while leveraging the entire platform.

Gardner: What are some of the challenges that these organizations are having as they move to this model? I assume that it’s a little easier said than done. What’s holding people back when it comes to taking full advantage of hybrid models such as Azure Stack?

Van den Berg: The level of cloud adoption is not really yet where it should be. A lot of our clients have cloud strategies that they are implementing, but they don’t have a lot of expertise yet on using the power that the platform brings.

Some of the basic challenges that we need to solve with clients are that they are still dealing with just going to Microsoft Azure cloud and the public cloud services. Azure Stack simplifies that because they now have the cloud on-premises. With that, it’s going to be easier for them to spin-up workload environments and try this all in a secure environment within their own walls, their own data centers.

Should a specific workload go in a private cloud, or should another workload go in a public cloud?

Won: We see a similar thing with our client base as customers look to adopt hybrid IT environments, a mix of private and public clouds. Some of the challenges they have include how to determine which workload should go where. Should a specific workload go in a private cloud, or should another workload go in a public cloud?

We also see some challenges around processes, organizational process and business process. How do you facilitate and manage an environment that has both private and public clouds? How do you put the business processes in place to ensure that they are being used in the proper way? With Azure Stack — because of that full compatibility with Azure — it simplifies the ability to move applications across different environments.

Gardner: Now that we know there are challenges, and that we are not seeing the expected adoption rate, how are organizations like Sogeti working in collaboration with HPE to give a boost to hybrid cloud adoption?

Strategic, secure, scalable cloud migration 

Van den Berg: As the Cloud Evangelist with Sogeti, for the past couple of years I have been telling my clients that they don’t need a data center. The truth is, they probably need some form of on-premises still. But the future is in the clouds, from a scalability and agility perspective — and the hyperscale with which Microsoft is building out their Azure cloud capabilities, there are no enterprise clients that can keep up with that.

We try to help our clients define strategy, help them with governance — how do they approach cloud and what workloads can they put where based on their internal regulations and compliance requirements, and then do migration projects.

The future is in the clouds, from a scalability and agility perspective.

We have a service offering called the Sogeti Cloud Assessment, where we go in and evaluate their application portfolio on their cloud readiness. At the end of this engagement, we start moving things right away. We have been really successful with many of our clients in starting to move workloads to the cloud.

Having Azure Stack will make that even easier. Now when a cloud assessment turns up some issues on moving the Microsoft Azure public cloud — because of compliance or privacy issues or just comfort (sometimes the information security departments just don’t feel comfortable moving certain types of data to a public cloud setting) — we can move those applications to the cloud, leverage the full power and scalability of the cloud while keeping it within the walls of our clients’ data centers. That’s how we are trying to accelerate the cloud adoption, and we truly feel that Azure Stack bridges that gap.

HPE Partnership Case Studies

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of Flex Capacity Financing

Gardner: Ken, same question, how are you and Sogeti working together to help foster more hybrid cloud adoption?

Won: The cloud market has been maturing and growing. In the past, it’s been somewhat complicated to implement private clouds. Sometimes these private clouds have been incompatible with each other, and with the public clouds.

In the Azure Stack area, now we have almost an appliance-like experience where we have systems that we build in our factories that we pre-configure, pretest, and get them into the customers’ environment so that they can quickly get their private cloud up and running. We can help them with the implementation, set it up so that Sogeti can help with the cloud-native applications work.

With Sogeti and HPE working together, we make it much simpler for companies to adopt the hybrid cloud models and to quickly see the benefit of moving into a hybrid environment.

Sogeti and HPE work together to make it much simpler for companies to adopt the hybrid cloud models.

Van den Berg: In talking to many of our clients, when we see the adoption of private cloud in their organizations — if they are really honest — it doesn’t go very far past just virtualization. They truly haven’t leveraged what cloud could bring, not even in a private cloud setting.

So talking about hybrid cloud, it is very hard for them to leverage the power of hybrid clouds when their own private cloud is just virtualization. Azure Stack can help them to have a true private cloud within the walls of their own data centers and so then also leverage everything that Microsoft Azure public cloud has to offer.

Won: I agree. When they talk about a private cloud, they are really talking about virtual  machines, or virtualization. But because the Microsoft Azure Stack solution provides built-in services that are fully compatible with what’s available through Microsoft Azure public cloud, it truly provides the full cloud experience. These are the types of services that are beyond just virtualization running within the customers’ data center.

Keep IT simple

I think Azure Stack adoption will be a huge boost to organizations looking to implement private clouds in their data centers.

Gardner: Of course your typical end-user worker is interested primarily their apps, they don’t really care where they are running. But when it comes to getting new application development, rapid application development (RAD), these are some of the pressing issues that most businesses tell us concern them.

So how does RAD, along with some DevOps benefits, play into this, Martin? How are the development people going to help usher in cloud and hybrid cloud models because it helps them satisfy the needs of the end-users in terms of rapid application updates and development?

Van den Berg: This is also where we are talking about the difference between virtualization, private cloud, hybrid clouds, and definitely cloud services. So for the application development staff, they still run in the traditional model, they still run into issues in provisioning of their development environments and sometimes test environments.

A lot of cloud-native application development projects are much easier because you can spin-up environments on the go. What Azure Stack is going to help with is having that environment within the client’s data center; it’s going to help the developers to spin up their own resources.

There is going to be on-demand orchestration and provisioning, which is truly beneficial to application development — and it’s really beneficial to the whole DevOps suite.

There is going to be on-demand orchestration and provisioning, which is truly beneficial to application development — and it’s really beneficial to the whole DevOps suite.

We need to integrate business development and IT operations to deliver value to our clients. If we are waiting multiple weeks for development and the best environment to spin up — that’s an issue our clients are still dealing with today. That’s where Azure Stack is going to bridge the gap, too.

Won: There are a couple of things that we see happening that will make developers much more productive and able to bring new applications or updates quicker than ever before. One is the ability to get access to these services very, very quickly. Instead of going to the IT department and asking them to spin up services, they will be able to access these services on their own.

The other big thing that Azure Stack offers is compatibility between private and public cloud environments. For the first time, the developer doesn’t have to worry about what the underlying environment is going to be. They don’t have to worry about deciding, is this application going to run in a private cloud or a public cloud, and based on where it’s going, do they have to use a certain set of tools for that particular environment.

Now that we have compatibility between the private cloud and the public cloud, the developer can just focus on writing code, focus on the functionality of the application they are developing, knowing that that application now can easily be deployed into a private cloud or a public cloud depending on the business situation, the security requirements, and compliance requirements.

So it’s really about helping the developers become more effective and helping them focus more on code development and applications rather than having them worry about the infrastructure, or waiting for infrastructure to come from the IT department.

HPE Partnership Case Studies

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Gardner: Martin, for those organizations interested in this and want to get on a fast track, how does an organization like Sogeti working in collaboration with HPE help them accelerate adoption?

Van den Berg: This is where we heavily partner with HPE, to bring the best solutions to our clients. We have all kinds of proof of concepts, we have accelerators, and one of the things that we talked about already is making developers get up to speed faster. We can truly leverage those accelerators and help our clients adopt cloud, and adopt all the services that are available on the hybrid platform.

We have all heard the stories about standardizing on micro-services, on a server fabric, or serverless computing, but developers have not had access to this up until now and IT departments have been slow to push this to the developers.

The accelerators that we have, the approaches that we have, and the proofs of concept that we can do with our client — together with HPE —  are going to accelerate cloud adoption with our clientele.

Gardner: Any specific examples, some specific vertical industry use-cases where this really demonstrates the power of the true hybrid model?

When the ship comes in

Won: I can share a couple of examples of the types of companies that we are working with in the hybrid area, and what places that we see typical customers using Azure Stack.

People want to implement disconnected applications or edge applications. These are situations where you may have a data center or an environment running an application that you may either want to run in a disconnected fashion or run to do some local processing, and then move that data to the central data center.

One example of this is the cruise ship industry. All large cruise ships have essentially data centers running the ship, supporting the thousands of customers that are on the ship. What the cruise line vendors want to do is put an application on their many ships and to run the same application in all of their ships. They want to be able to disconnect from connectivity of the central data center while the ship is out at sea and to do a lot of processing and analytics in the data center, in the ship. Then when the ship comes in and connects to port and to the central data center, it only sends the results of the analysis back to the central data center.

This is a great example of having an application that can be developed once and deployed in many different environments, you can do that with Azure Stack. It’s ideal, running that same application in multiple different environments, in either disconnected or connected situations.

Van den Berg: In the financial services industry, we know they are heavily regulated. We need to make sure that they are always in compliance.

So one of the things that we did in the financial services industry with one of our accelerators, we actually have a tool called Sogeti OneShare. It’s a portal solution on top of Microsoft Azure that can help you with orchestration, which can help you with the whole DevOps concept. We were able to have the edge node be Azure Stack — building applications, have some of the data reside within the data center on the Azure Stack appliance, but still leverage the power of the clouds and all the analytics performance that was available there.

That’s what DevOps is supposed to deliver — faster value to the business, leveraging the power of clouds.

Van den Berg: In talking to many of our clients, when we see the adoption of private cloud in their organizations — if they are really honest — it doesn’t go very far past just virtualization. They truly haven’t leveraged what cloud could bring, not even in a private cloud setting.

So talking about hybrid cloud, it is very hard for them to leverage the power of hybrid clouds when their own private cloud is just virtualization. Azure Stack can help them to have a true private cloud within the walls of their own data centers and so then also leverage everything that Microsoft Azure public cloud has to offer. We just did a project in this space and we were able to deliver functionality to the business from start of the project in just eight weeks. They have never seen that before — the project that just lasts eight weeks and truly delivers business value. That’s the direction that we should be taking. That’s what DevOps is supposed to deliver — faster value to the business, leveraging the power of clouds.

Gardner: Perhaps we could now help organizations understand how to prepare from a people, process, and technology perspective to be able to best leverage hybrid cloud models like Microsoft Azure Stack.

Martin, what do you suggest organizations do now in order to be in the best position to make this successful when they adopt?

Be prepared

Van den Berg: Make sure that the cloud strategy and governance are in place. That’s one of the first things this should always start with.

Then, start training developers, and make sure that the IT department is the broker of cloud services. In the traditional sense, it is always normal that the IT department is the broker for everything that is happening on-premises within the data center. In the cloud space, this doesn’t always happen. In the cloud space, because it is so easy to spin-up things, sometimes the line of business is deploying.

We try to enable IT departments and operators within our clients to be the broker of cloud services and to help with the adoption of Microsoft Azure cloud and Azure Stack. That will help bridge the gap between the clouds and the on-premises data centers.

Gardner: Ken, how should organizations get ready to be in the best position to take advantage of this successfully?

Mapping the way

Won: As IT organizations look at this transformation to hybrid IT, one of the most important things is to have a strong connection to the line of business and to the business goals, and to be able to map those goals to strategic IT priorities.

Once you have done this mapping, the IT department can look at these goals and determine which projects should be implemented and how they should be implemented. In some cases, they should be implemented in private clouds, in some cases public clouds, and in some cases across both private and public cloud.

The task then changes to understanding the workloads, the characterization of the workloads, and looking at things such as performance, security, compliance, risk, and determining the best place for that workload.

Then, it’s finding the right platform to enable developers to be as successful and as impactful as possible, because we know ultimately the big game changer here is enabling the developers to be much more productive, to bring applications out much faster than we have ever seen in the past.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Posted in application transformation, Cloud computing, Data center transformation, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft, professional services | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How a Florida school district tames the wild west of education security at scale and on budget

Bringing a central IT focus to large public school systems has always been a challenge, but bringing a security focus to thousands of PCs and devices has been compared to bringing law and order to the Wild West.

For the Clay County School District in Florida, a team of IT administrators is grabbing the bull by the horns nonetheless to create a new culture of computing safety — without breaking the bank.

The next BriefingsDirect security insight’s discussion examines how Clay County is building a secure posture for their edge, network, and data centers while allowing the right mix and access for exploration necessary in an educational environment.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

To learn how to ensure that schools are technically advanced and secure at low cost and at high scale, we’re joined by Jeremy Bunkley, Supervisor of the Clay County School District Information and Technology Services Department; Jon Skipper, Network Security Specialist at the Clay County School District, and Rich Perkins, Coordinator for Information Services at the Clay County School District. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are the biggest challenges to improving security, compliance, and risk reduction at a large school district?

Bunkley: I think the answer actually scales across the board. The problem even bridges into businesses. It’s the culture of change — of making people recognize security as a forethought, instead of an afterthought. It has been a challenge in education, which can be a technology laggard.

Getting people to start the recognition process of making sure that they are security-aware has been quite the battle for us. I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon. But we are starting to get our key players on board with understanding that you can’t clear-text Social Security numbers and credit card numbers and personally identifiable information (PII). It has been an interesting ride for us, let’s put it that way.

Gardner: Jon, culture is such an important part of this, but you also have to have tools and platforms in place to help give reinforcement for people when they do the right thing. Tell us about what you have needed on your network, and what your technology approach has been?

Skipper: Education is one of those weird areas where the software development has always been lacking in the security side of the house. It has never even been inside the room. So one of the things that we have tried to do in education, at least with the Clay County School District, is try to modify that view, with doing change management. We are trying to introduce a security focus. We try to interject ourselves and highlight areas that might be a bad practice.

Jonathan Skipper


One of our vendors uses plain text for passwords, and so we went through with them and showed them how that’s a bad practice, and we made a little bit of improvement with that.

I evaluate our policies and how we manage the domains, maybe finding some stuff that came from a long time ago where it’s no longer needed. We can pull the information out, whereas before they put all the Social Security numbers into a document that was no longer needed. We have been trying really hard to figure that stuff out and then to try and knock it down, as much as we can.

Access for all, but not all-access

Gardner: Whenever you are trying to change people’s perceptions, behaviors, culture, it’s useful to have both the carrot and a stick approach.

So to you Rich, what’s been working in terms of a carrot? How do you incentivize people? What works in practice there?

Perkins: That’s a tough one. We don’t really have a carrot that we use. We basically say, “If you are doing the wrong things, you are not going to be able to use our network.”  So we focus more on negatives.

The positives would be you get to do your job. You get to use the Internet. We don’t really give them something more. We see security as directly intertwined with our customer service. Every person we have is our customer and our job is to protect them — and sometimes that’s from themselves.

Rich Perkins


So we don’t really have a carrot-type of system. We don’t allow students to play games if they have no problems. We give everybody the same access and treat everybody the same. Either you are a student and you get this level of access, or you are a staff member, you get this level of access, or you don’t get access.

Gardner: Let’s get background on the Clay County School District. Tell us how many students you have, how many staff administrators, the size and scope of your school district?

Bunkley: Our school district is the 22nd largest in Florida, we are right on the edge of small and medium in Florida, which in most districts is a very large school district. We run about 38,500 students.

And as far as our IT team, which is our student information system, our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, security, down to desktop support, network infrastructure support, our web services, we have about 48 people total in our department.

Our scope is literally everything. For some reason IT means that if it plugs into a wall, we are responsible for it. That’s generally a true statement in education across the board, where the IT staff tends to be a Jack-of-all-trades, and we fix everything.

Practical IT

Gardner: Where you are headed in terms of technology? Is there a one-to-one student-to-device ratio in the works? What sort of technology do you enable for them?

Bunkley: I am extremely passionate about this, because the one-to-one scenario seems to be the buzzword, and we generally despise buzzwords in this office and we prefer a more practical approach.

The idea of one-to-one is itself to me flawed, because if I just throw a device in a student’s hand, what am I actually doing besides throwing a device in a student’s hand? We haven’t trained them. We haven’t given them the proper platform. All we have done is thrown technology.

And when I hear the terms, well, kids inherently know how to use technology today; it kind of just bothers me, because kids inherently know how to use social media, not technology. They are not production-driven, they are socially driven, and that is a sticking point with me.

We are in fact moving to a one-to-one, but in a nontraditional sense. We have established a one-to-one platform so we can introduce a unified platform for all students and employees to see through a portal system; we happen to use ClassLink, there are various other vendors out there, that’s just the one we happen to use.

We have integrated that in moving to Google Apps for Education and we have a very close relationship with Google. It’s pretty awesome, to be quite honest with you.

So we are moving in the direction of Chromebooks, because it’s just a fiscally more responsible move for us.

I know Microsoft is coming out with Windows 10 S, it’s kind of a strong move on their part. But for us, just because we have the expertise on the Google Apps for Education, or G Suite, it just made a lot of sense for us to go that direction.

So we are moving in one-to-one now with the devices, but the device is literally the least important — and the last — step in our project.

Non-stop security, no shenanigans

Gardner: Tell us about the requirements now for securing the current level of devices, and then for the new one. It seems like you are going to have to keep the airplane flying while changing the wings, right? So what is the security approach that works for you that allows for that?

Skipper: Clay County School District has always followed trends as far as devices go. So we actually have a good mixture of devices in our network, which means that no one solution is ever the right solution.

So, for example, we still have some iPads out in our networks, we still have some older Apple products, and then we have a mixture of Chromebooks and also Windows devices. We really need to make sure that we are running the right security platform for the full environment.

As we are transitioning more and more to a take-home philosophy — and that’s where we as an IT department are seeing this going – so that if the decision is made to make the entire student population go home, we are going to be ready to go.

We have coordinated with our content filter company, and they have some extensions that we can deploy that lock the Chromebooks into a filter situation regardless of their network. That’s been really successful in identifying, maybe blocking students, from those late-night searches. We have also been able to identify some shenanigans that might be taking place due to some interesting web searches that they might do over YouTube, for example. That’s worked really well.

Our next objective is to figure out how to secure our Windows devices and possibly even the Mac devices. While our content filter does a good job as far as securing the content on the Internet, it’s a little bit more difficult to deploy into a Windows device, because users have the option of downloading different Internet browsers. So, content filtering doesn’t really work as well on those.

I have deployed Bitdefender to my laptops, and also to take-home Apple products. That allows me to put in more content filtering, and use that to block people from malicious websites that maybe the content filter didn’t see or was unable to see due to a different browser being used.

In those aspects we definitely are securing our network down further than it ever has been before.

Block and Lock

Perkins: With Bitdefender, one of the things we like is that if we have those devices go off network, we can actually have it turn on the Bitdefender Firewall that allows us to further lock down those machines or protect them if they are in an open environment, like at a hotel or whatever, from possible malicious activity.

And it allows us to block executables at some point. So we can actually go in and say, “No, I don’t want you to be able to run this browser, because I can’t do anything to protect you. Or I can’t watch what you do, or I can’t keep you from doing things you shouldn’t do.” So those are all very useful tools in a single pane of glass that we can see all of those devices at one time and monitor and manage. It saves us a lot of time.

Bunkley: I would follow up on that with a base concept, Dana, and our base concept is of an external network. We come from the concept of, we are an everywhere network. We are not only aiming to defend our internal network while you are here and maybe do some stuff while you are at our house, we are literally an externally built network, where our network will extend directly down into the student and teacher’s home.

We have gone as far as moving everything we physically can out of this network, right down to our firewall. We are moving our domain controllers, external to the network to create literally an everywhere network. And so our security focus is not just internal, it is focused on external first, then internal.

Gardner: With security products, what have you been using, what wasn’t working, and where do you expect to go next given those constraints?

No free lunch

Perkins: Well, we can tell you that “free” is not always the best option; as a matter of fact, it’s almost never a good option, but we have had to deal with it.

We were previously using an antivirus called Avast, and it’s a great home product. We found out that it has not been the best business-level product. It’s very much marketed to education, and there are some really good things about it. Transferring away from it hasn’t been the easiest because it’s next to impossible to uninstall. So we have been having some problems with that.

We have also tested some other security measures and programs along the way that haven’t been so successful. And we are always in the process of evaluating where we are. We are never okay with status quo. Even if we achieve where we want to be, I don’t think any of us will be satisfied, and that’s actually something that a lot of this is built on — we always want to go that step further. And I know that’s cliché, but I would say for an institution of this size, the reason we are able to do some of the stuff is the staff that has been assembled here is second to none for an educational institution.

So even in the processes that we have identified, which were helter-skelter before we got here, we have some more issues to continue working out, but we won’t be satisfied with where we are even if we achieve the task.

Skipper: One of the things that our office actually hates is just checking the box on a security audit. I mean, we are very vocal to the auditors when they come in. We don’t do things just to satisfy their audit. We actually look at the audit and we look at the intent of the question and if we find merit in it, we are going to go and meet that expectation and then make it better. Audits are general. We are going to exceed and make it a better functioning process than just saying, “Yes, I have purchased an antivirus product,” or “I have purchased x.” To us that’s unacceptable.

Bunkley: Audits are a good thing, and nobody likes to do them because they are time-consuming. But you do them because they are required by law, for our institution anyways. So instead of just having a generic audit, where we ignore the audit, we have adopted the concept of the audit as a very useful thing for us to have as a self-reflection tool. It’s nice to not have the same set of eyes on your work all the time. And instead of taking offense to someone coming in and saying, “You are not doing this good enough,” we have literally changed our internal culture here, audits are not a bad thing; audits are a desired thing.

Gardner: Let’s go around the table and hear how you began your journey into IT and security, and how the transition to an educational environment went.

IT’s the curriculum

Bunkley: I started in the banking industry. Those hours were crazy and the pressure was pretty high. So as soon as I left that after a year, I entered education, and honestly, I entered education because I thought the schedule was really easy and I kind of copped out on that. Come to find out, I am working almost as many hours, but that’s because I have come to love it.

This is my 17th year in education, so I have been in a few districts now. Wholesale change is what I have been hired to do, that’s also what I was hired here to do in Clay. We want to change the culture, make IT part of the instruction instead of a separate segment of education.

We have to be interwoven into everything, otherwise we are going to be on an island, and the last time I heard the definition of education is to educate children. So IT can never by itself be a high-functioning department in education. So we have decided instead to go to instruction, and go to professional development, and go to administration and intervene ourselves.

Gardner: Jon, tell us about your background and how the transition has been for you.

Skipper: I was at active-duty Air Force until 2014 when I retired after 20 years. And then I came into education on the side. I didn’t really expect this job, wasn’t mentally searching for it. I tried it out, and that was three years ago.

It’s been an interesting environment. Education, and especially a small IT department like this one, is one of those interesting places where you can come and really expand on your weak areas. So that’s what I actually like about this. If I need to practice on my group policy knowledge, I can dive in there and I can affect that change. Overall this has been an effective change, totally different from the military, a lot looser as far as a lot of things go, but really interesting.

Gardner: Rick, same question to you, your background and how did the transition go?

Perkins: I spent 21 years in the military, I was Navy. When I retired in 2010, I actually went to work for a smaller district in education mainly because they were the first one to offer me a job. In that smaller district, just like here, we have eight people doing operations, and we have this big department. Jeremy understands from where he came from. It was pretty much me doing every aspect of it, so you do a little security, you do a little bit of everything, which I enjoyed because you are your own boss, but you are not your own boss.

You still have people residing over you and dictating how you are going to work, but I really enjoyed the challenge. Coming from IT security in the military and then coming into education, it’s almost a role reversal where we came in and found next to no policies.

I am used to a black-and-white world. So we are trying to interject some of that and some of the security best practices into education. You have to be flexible because education is not the military, so you can’t be that stringent. So that’s a challenge.

Gardner: What are you using to put policies in place enforce them? How does that work?

Policy plans

Perkins: From a [Microsoft] Active Directory side, we use group policy like most people do, and we try and automate it as much as we can. We are switching over, on the student side, very heavily to Google. They effectively have their own version of Active Directory with group policy. And then I will let Jon speak more to the security side though we have used various programs like PDQ for our patch management system that allows us to push out stuff. We use some logging systems with ManageEngine. And then as we have said before we use Bitdefender to push a lot of policy and security out as well, and we’ve been reevaluating some other stuff.

We also use SolarWinds to monitor our network and we actually manage changes to our network and switching using SolarWinds, but on the actual security side, I will let Jon get more specific for you.

Skipper: When we came in … there was a fear of having too much in policy equated to too much auditing overhead. One of the first things we did was identify what we can lock down, and the easiest one was the filter.

The content filter met such stipulations as making sure adult material is not acceptable on the network. We had that down. But it didn’t really take into account the dynamic of the Internet as far as sites are popping up every minute or second, and how do you maintain that for unclassified and uncategorized sites?

So one of the things we did was we looked at a vendor, like, okay, does this vendor have a better product for that aspect of it, and we got that working, I think that’s been working a lot better. And then we started moving down, we were like, okay, cool, so now we have content filtering down, luckily move on to active network, actually not about finding someone else who is doing it, and borrowing their work and making their own.

We look into some of the bigger school districts and see how they are doing it. I think Chicago, Los Angeles. We both looked at some of their policies where we can find it. I found a lot of higher education in some of the universities. Their policies are a lot more along the lines of where we want to be. I think they have it better than what some of the K-12s do.

So we have been going through there and we are going to have to rewrite policy – we are in an active rewrite of our policies right now, we are taking all of those in and we are looking at them, and we are trying to figure out which ones work in our environment and then make sure we do a really good search and replace.

Gardner: We have talked about people, process and technology. We have heard that you are on a security journey and that it’s long-term and culturally oriented.

Let’s look at this then as to what you get when you do it right, particularly vis-à-vis education. Do you have any examples of where you have been able to put in the right technology, add some policy and process improvements, and then culturally attune the people? What does that get for you? How do you turn a problem student into a computer scientist at some point? Tell us some of the examples of when it works, what it gets you.

Positive results

Skipper: When we first got in here, we were a Microsoft district. We had some policies in place to help prevent data loss, and stuff like that.

One of the first things we did is review those policies and activate them, and we started getting some hits. We were surprised at some of hits that we saw, and what we saw going out. We already knew we were moving to the Google networks, continuing the process.

We researched a lot and one of the things we discovered is that just by a minor tweak in a user’s procedures, we were able to identify that we could introduce that user to and get them used to using email encryption, for example. With the Gmail solution, we are able to add an extension, and that extension actually looks at their email as it goes out and finds keywords — or it may be PII — and automatically encrypt the email, preventing those kinds of breaches from going out there. So that’s really been helpful.

As far as taking a student who may be on the wrong path and reeducating them and bringing them back into the fold, Bitdefender has actually helped out on that one.

We had a student a while back who went out to YouTube and find out how he could just do a simple search on how to crash the school network, and he found about five links. And he researched those links and went out there and found that this batch filed with this type will crash a school server.

He was able to implement it and started trying to get that attack out there, and Bitdefender was able to actually go out there and see the batch file, see what it did and prevent it. By quarantining the file, I was able to get that reported very quickly from the moment that he introduced the attack, and it identified the student and we were able to sit down with the administrators and talk to the student about that process and educate them on the dangers of actually attacking a school network and the possible repercussions of it.

Gardner: It certainly helps when you can let them know that you are able to track and identify those issues, and then trace them back to an individual. Any other anecdotes about where the technology process and people have come together for a positive result?

Applied IT knowledge for the next generation

Skipper: One of the things that’s really worked well for the school district is what we call Network Academy. It’s taught by one of our local retired master chiefs, and he is actually going in there and teaching students at the high school level how to go as far as earning a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)-level IT certificate.

If a student comes in and they try hard enough, they will actually figure it out and they can leave when they graduate with a CCNA, which is pretty awesome. A high school student can walk away with a pretty major industry certification.

We like to try and grab these kids as soon as they leave high school, or even before they leave high school, and start introducing them to our network. They may have a different viewpoint on how to do something that’s revolutionary to us.

But we like having that aspect of it, we can educate those kids who are coming in and  getting their industry certifications, and we are able to utilize them before they move on to a college or another job that pays more than we do.

Bunkley: Charlie Thompson leads this program that Jon is speaking of, and actually over half of our team has been through the program. We didn’t create it, we have just taken advantage of the opportunity. We even tailor the classes to some of the specific things that we need. We have effectively created our own IT hiring pipeline out of this program.

Gardner: Next let’s take a look to the future. Where do you see things going, such as more use of cloud services, interest in unified consoles and controls from the cloud as APIs come into play more for your overall IT management? Encryption? Where do you take it from here?

Holistic solutions in the cloud

Bunkley: Those are some of the areas we are focusing on heavily as we move that “anywhere network.” The unified platform for management is going to be a big deal to us. It is a big deal to us already. Encryption is something we take very seriously because we have a team of eight protecting the data of  about 42,000 users..

If you consider the perfect cyber crime reaching down into a 7th or an 8th grader and stealing all of their personal information, taking that kid’s identity and using it, that kid won’t even know that their identity has been stolen.

We consider that a very serious charge of ours to take on. So we will continue to improve our protection of the students’ and teachers’ PII — even if it sometimes means protecting them from themselves. We take it very seriously.

As we move to the cloud, that unified management platform leads to a more unified security platform. As the operating systems continue to mature, they seem to be going different ways. And what’s good for Mac is not always good for Chrome, is not always good for Windows. But as we move forward with our projects we bring everything back to that central point — can the three be operated from the single point of connection, so that we can save money moving forward? Just because it’s a cool technology and we want to do, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for us.

Sometimes we have to choose an option that we don’t necessarily like as much, but pick it because it is better for the whole. As we continue to move forward, everything will be focused on that centralization. We can remain a small and flexible department to continue making sure that we are able to provide the services needed internally as well as protect our users.

Skipper: I think Jeremy hit it pretty solid on that one. As we integrate more with the cloud services, Google, etc., we are utilizing those APIs and we are leading our vendors that we use and forcing them into new areas. Lightspeed, for instance, is integrating more-and-more with Google and utilizing their API to ensure that content filtering — even to the point of mobile device management (MDM) that is more integrated into the Google and Apple platforms to make sure that students are well protected and we have all the tools available that they need at any given time.

We are really leaning heavily on more cloud services, and also the interoperability between APIs and vendors.

Perkins: Public education is changing more to the realm of college education where the classroom is not a classroom — a classroom is anywhere in the world. We are tasked with supporting them and protecting them no matter where they are located. We have to take care of our customers either way.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Bitdefender.

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Posted in big data, Cloud computing, Cyber security, disaster recovery, Enterprise architect, Government, Help desk, Identity, Microsoft, Security, social media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Imagine Communications leverages edge computing and HPC for live multiscreen IP video

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer HPC and edge computing strategies interview explores how a video delivery and customization capability has moved to the network edge — and closer to consumers — to support live, multi-screen Internet Protocol (IP) entertainment delivery.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

We’ll learn how hybrid technology and new workflows for IP-delivered digital video are being re-architected — with significant benefits to the end-user experience, as well as with new monetization values to the content providers.

Our guest is Glodina Connan-Lostanlen, Chief Marketing Officer at Imagine Communications in Frisco, Texas. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Your organization has many major media clients. What are the pressures they are facing as they look to the new world of multi-screen video and media?

Connan-Lostanlen: The number-one concern of the media and entertainment industry is the fragmentation of their audience. We live with a model supported by advertising and subscriptions that rely primarily on linear programming, with people watching TV at home.

Glodina Connan-Lostanlen


And guess what? Now they are watching it on the go — on their telephones, on their iPads, on their laptops, anywhere. So they have to find the way to capture that audience, justify the value of that audience to their advertisers, and deliver video content that is relevant to them. And that means meeting consumer demand for several types of content, delivered at the very time that people want to consume it.  So it brings a whole range of technology and business challenges that our media and entertainment customers have to overcome. But addressing these challenges with new technology that increases agility and velocity to market also creates opportunities.

For example, they can now try new content. That means they can try new programs, new channels, and they don’t have to keep them forever if they don’t work. The new models create opportunities to be more creative, to focus on what they are good at, which is creating valuable content. At the same time, they have to make sure that they cater to all these different audiences that are either static or on the go.

Gardner: The media industry has faced so much change over the past 20 years, but this is a major, perhaps once-in-a-generation, level of change — when you go to fully digital, IP-delivered content.

As you say, the audience is pulling the providers to multi-screen support, but there is also the capability now — with the new technology on the back-end — to have much more of a relationship with the customer, a one-to-one relationship and even customization, rather than one-to-many. Tell us about the drivers on the personalization level.

Connan-Lostanlen: That’s another big upside of the fragmentation, and the advent of IP technology — all the way from content creation to making a program and distributing it. It gives the content creators access to the unique viewers, and the ability to really engage with them — knowing what they like — and then to potentially target advertising to them. The technology is there. The challenge remains about how to justify the business model, how to value the targeted advertising; there are different opinions on this, and there is also the unknown or the willingness of several generations of viewers to accept good advertising.

That is a great topic right now, and very relevant when we talk about linear advertising and dynamic ad insertion (DAI). Now we are able to — at the very edge of the signal distribution, the video signal distribution — insert an ad that is relevant to each viewer, because you know their preferences, you know who they are, and you know what they are watching, and so you can determine that an ad is going to be relevant to them.

But that means media and entertainment customers have to revisit the whole infrastructure. It’s not necessary rebuilding, they can put in add-ons. They don’t have to throw away what they had, but they can maintain the legacy infrastructure and add on top of it the IP-enabled infrastructure to let them take advantage of these capabilities.

Gardner: This change has happened from the web now all the way to multi-screen. With the web there was a model where you would use a content delivery network (CDN) to take the object, the media object, and place it as close to the edge as you could. What’s changed and why doesn’t that model work as well?

Connan-Lostanlen: I don’t know yet if I want to say that model doesn’t work anymore. Let’s let the CDN providers enhance their technology. But for sure, the volume of videos that we are consuming everyday is exponentially growing. That definitely creates pressure in the pipe. Our role at the front-end and the back-end is to make sure that videos are being created in different formats, with different ads, and everything else, in the most effective way so that it doesn’t put an undue strain on the pipe that is distributing the videos.

We are being pushed to innovate further on the type of workflows that we are implementing at our customers’ sites today, to make it efficient, to not leave storage at the edge and not centrally, and to do transcoding just-in-time. These are the things that are being worked on. It’s a balance between available capacity and the number of programs that you want to send across to your viewers – and how big your target market is.

The task for us on the back-end is to rethink the workflows in a much more efficient way. So, for example, this is what we call the digital-first approach, or unified distribution. Instead of planning a linear channel that goes the traditional way and then adding another infrastructure for multi-screen, on all those different platforms and then cable, and satellite, and IPTV, etc. — why not design the whole workflow digital-first. This frees the content distributor or provider to hold off on committing to specific platforms until the video has reached the edge. And it’s there that the end-user requirements determine how they get the signal.

This is where we are going — to see the efficiencies happen and so remove the pressure on the CDNs and other distribution mechanisms, like over-the-air.


High-Performance Computing

Solutions from HPE

Gardner: It means an intelligent edge capability, whereas we had an intelligent core up until now. We’ll also seek a hybrid capability between them, growing more sophisticated over time.

We have a whole new generation of technology for video delivery. Tell us about Imagine Communications. How do you go to market? How do you help your customers?

Education for future generations

Connan-Lostanlen: Two months ago we were in Las Vegas for our biggest tradeshow of the year, the NAB Show. At the event, our customers first wanted to understand what it takes to move to IP — so the “how.” They understand the need to move to IP, to take advantage of the benefits that it brings. But how do they do this, while they are still navigating the traditional world?

It’s not only the “how,” it’s needing examples of best practices. So we instructed them in a panel discussion, for example, on Over the Top Technology (OTT), which is another way of saying IP-delivered, and what it takes to create a successful multi-screen service. Part of the panel explained what OTT is, so there’s a lot of education.

There is also another level of education that we have to provide, which is moving from the traditional world of serial digital interfaces (SDIs) in the broadcast industry to IP. It’s basically saying analog video signals can be moved into digital. Then not only is there a digitally sharp signal, it’s an IP stream. The whole knowledge about how to handle IP is new to our own industry, to our own engineers, to our own customers. We also have to educate on what it takes to do this properly.

One of the key things in the media and entertainment industry is that there’s a little bit of fear about IP, because no one really believed that IP could handle live signals. And you know how important live television is in this industry – real-time sports and news — this is where the money comes from. That’s why the most expensive ads are run during the Super Bowl.

It’s essential to be able to do live with IP – it’s critical. That’s why we are sharing with our customers the real-life implementations that we are doing today.

We are also pushing multiple standards forward. We work with our competitors on these standards. We have set up a trade association to accelerate the standards work. We did all of that. And as we do this, it forces us to innovate in partnership with customers and bring them on board. They are part of that trade association, they are part of the proof-of-concept trials, and they are gladly sharing their experiences with others so that the transition can be accelerated.

Gardner: Imagine Communications is then a technology and solutions provider to the media content companies, and you provide the means to do this. You are also doing a lot with ad insertion, billing, in understanding more about the end-user and allowing that data flow from the edge back to the core, and then back to the edge to happen.

At the heart of it all

Connan-Lostanlen: We do everything that happens behind the camera — from content creation all the way to making a program and distributing it. And also, to your point, on monetizing all that with a management system. We have a long history of powering all the key customers in the world for their advertising system. It’s basically an automated system that allows the selling of advertising spots, and then to bill them — and this is the engine of where our customers make money. So we are at the heart of this.

We are in the prime position to help them take advantage of the new advertising solutions that exist today, including dynamic ad insertion. In other words, how you target ads to the single viewer. And the challenge for them is now that they have a campaign, how do they design it to cater both to the linear traditional advertising system as well as the multi-screen or web mobile application? That’s what we are working on. We have a whole set of next-generation platforms that allow them to take advantage of both in a more effective manner.

Gardner: The technology is there, you are a solutions provider. You need to find the best ways of storing and crunching data, close to the edge, and optimizing networks. Tell us why you choose certain partners and what are the some of the major concerns you have when you go to the technology marketplace?

Connan-Lostanlen: One fundamental driver here, as we drive the transition to IP in this industry, is in being able to rely on consumer-off-the-shelf (COTS) platforms. But even so, not all COTS platforms are born equal, right?

For compute, for storage, for networking, you need to rely on top-scale hardware platforms, and that’s why about two years ago we started to work very closely with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for both our compute and storage technology.


High-Performance Computing

Solutions from HPE

We develop the software appliances that run on those platforms, and we sell this as a package with HPE. It’s been a key value proposition of ours as we began this journey to move to IP. We can say, by the way, our solutions run on HPE hardware. That’s very important because having high-performance compute (HPC) that scales is critical to the broadcast and media industry. Having storage that is highly reliable is fundamental because going off the air is not acceptable. So it’s 99.9999 percent reliable, and that’s what we want, right?

It’s a fundamental part of our message to our customers to say, “In your network, put Imagine solutions, which are powered by one of the top compute and storage technologies.”

Gardner: Another part of the change in the marketplace is this move to the edge. It’s auspicious that just as you need to have more storage and compute efficiency at the edge of the network, close to the consumer, the infrastructure providers are also designing new hardware and solutions to do just that. That’s also for the Internet of Things (IoT) requirements, and there are other drivers. Nonetheless, it’s an industry standard approach.

What is it about HPE Edgeline, for example, and the architecture that HPE is using, that makes that edge more powerful for your requirements? How do you view this architectural shift from core data center to the edge?

Optimize the global edge

Connan-Lostanlen: It’s a big deal because we are going to be in a hybrid world. Most of our customers, when they hear about cloud, we have to explain it to them. We explain that they can have their private cloud where they can run virtualized applications on-premises, or they can take advantage of public clouds.

Being able to have a hybrid model of deployment for their applications is critical, especially for large customers who have operations in several places around the globe. For example, such big names as Disney, Turner –- they have operations everywhere. For them, being able to optimize at the edge means that you have to create an architecture that is geographically distributed — but is highly efficient where they have those operations. This type of technology helps us deliver more value to the key customers.

Gardner: The other part of that intelligent edge technology is that it has the ability to be adaptive and customized. Each region has its own networks, its own regulation, and its own compliance, security, and privacy issues. When you can be programmatic as to how you design your edge infrastructure, then a custom-applications-orientation becomes possible.

Is there something about the edge architecture that you would like to see more of? Where do you see this going in terms of the capabilities of customization added-on to your services?

Connan-Lostanlen: One of the typical use-cases that we see for those big customers who have distributed operations is that they like to try and run their disaster recovery (DR) site in a more cost-effective manner. So the flexibility that an edge architecture provides to them is that they don’t have to rely on central operations running DR for everybody. They can do it on their own, and they can do it cost-effectively. They don’t have to recreate the entire infrastructure, and so they do DR at the edge as well.

We especially see this a lot in the process of putting the pieces of the program together, what we call “play out,” before it’s distributed. When you create a TV channel, if you will, it’s important to have end-to-end redundancy — and DR is a key driver for this type of application.

Gardner: Are there some examples of your cutting-edge clients that have adopted these solutions? What are the outcomes? What are they able to do with it?

Pop-up power

Connan-Lostanlen: Well, it’s always sensitive to name those big brand names. They are very protective of their brands. However, one of the top ones in the world of media and entertainment has decided to move all of their operations — from content creation, planning, and distribution — to their own cloud, to their own data center.

They are at the forefront of playing live and recorded material on TV — all from their cloud. They needed strong partners in data centers. So obviously we work with them closely, and the reason why they do this is simply to really take advantage of the flexibility. They don’t want to be tied to a restricted channel count; they want to try new things. They want to try pop-up channels. For the Oscars, for example, it’s one night. Are you going to recreate the whole infrastructure if you can just check it on and off, if you will, out of their data center capacity? So that’s the key application, the pop-up channels and ability to easily try new programs.

Gardner: It sounds like they are thinking of themselves as an IT company, rather than a media and entertainment company that consumes IT. Is that shift happening?

Connan-Lostanlen: Oh yes, that’s an interesting topic, because I think you cannot really do this successfully if you don’t start to think IT a little bit. What we are seeing, interestingly, is that our customers typically used to have the IT department on one side, the broadcast engineers on the other side — these were two groups that didn’t speak the same language. Now they get together, and they have to, because they have to design together the solution that will make them more successful. We are seeing this happening.

I wouldn’t say yet that they are IT companies. The core strength is content, that is their brand, that’s what they are good at — creating amazing content and making it available to as many people as possible.

They have to understand IT, but they can’t lose concentration on their core business. I think the IT providers still have a very strong play there. It’s always happening that way.

In addition to disaster recovery being a key application, multi-screen delivery is taking advantage of that technology, for sure.


High-Performance Computing

Solutions from HPE

Gardner: These companies are making this cultural shift to being much more technically oriented. They think about standard processes across all of what they do, and they have their own core data center that’s dynamic, flexible, agile and cost-efficient. What does that get for them? Is it too soon, or do we have some metrics of success for companies that make this move toward a full digitally transformed organization?

Connan-Lostanlen: They are very protective about the math. It is fair to say that the up-front investments may be higher, but when you do the math over time, you do the total cost of ownership for the next 5 to 10 years — because that’s typically the life cycle of those infrastructures – then definitely they do save money. On the operational expenditure (OPEX) side [of private cloud economics] it’s much more efficient, but they also have upside on additional revenue. So net-net, the return on investment (ROI) is much better. But it’s kind of hard to say now because we are still in the early days, but it’s bound to be a much greater ROI.

Another specific DR example is in the Middle East. We have a customer there who decided to operate the DR and IP in the cloud, instead of having a replicated system with satellite links in between. They were able to save $2 million worth of satellite links, and that data center investment, trust me, was not that high. So it shows that the ROI is there.

My satellite customers might say, “Well, what are you trying to do?” The good news is that they are looking at us to help them transform their businesses, too. So big satellite providers are thinking broadly about how this world of IP is changing their game. They are examining what they need to do differently. I think it’s going to create even more opportunities to reduce costs for all of our customers.

IT enters a hybrid world

Gardner: That’s one of the intrinsic values of a hybrid IT approach — you can use many different ways to do something, and then optimize which of those methods works best, and also alternate between them for best economics. That’s a very powerful concept.

Connan-Lostanlen: The world will be a hybrid IT world, and we will take advantage of that. But, of course, that will come with some challenges. What I think is next is the number-one question that I get asked.

Three years ago costumers would ask us, “Hey, IP is not going to work for live TV.” We convinced them otherwise, and now they know it’s working, it’s happening for real.

Secondly, they are thinking, “Okay, now I get it, so how do I do this?” We showed them, this is how you do it, the education piece.

Now, this year, the number-one question is security. “Okay, this is my content, the most valuable asset I have in my company. I am not putting this in the cloud,” they say. And this is where another piece of education has to start, which is: Actually, as you put stuff on your cloud, it’s more secure.

And we are working with our technology providers. As I said earlier, the COTS providers are not equal. We take it seriously. The cyber attacks on content and media is critical, and it’s bound to happen more often.

Initially there was a lack of understanding that you need to separate your corporate network, such as emails and VPNs, from you broadcast operations network. Okay, that’s easy to explain and that can be implemented, and that’s where most of the attacks over the last five years have happened. This is solved.

They are going to get right into the servers, into the storage, and try to mess with it over there. So I think it’s super important to be able to say, “Not only at the software level, but at the hardware firmware level, we are adding protection against your number-one issue, security, which everybody can see is so important.”

However, the cyber attackers are becoming more clever, so they will overcome these initial defenses.They are going to get right into the servers, into the storage, and try to mess with it over there. So I think it’s super important to be able to say, “Not only at the software level, but at the hardware firmware level, we are adding protection against your number-one issue, security, which everybody can see is so important.”

Gardner: Sure, the next domino to fall after you have the data center concept, the implementation, the execution, even the optimization, is then to remove risk, whether it’s disaster recovery, security, right down to the silicon and so forth. So that’s the next thing we will look for, and I hope I can get a chance to talk to you about how you are all lowering risk for your clients the next time we speak.


High-Performance Computing

Solutions from HPE

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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How The Open Group Healthcare Forum and Health Enterprise Reference Architecture cures process and IT ills

The next BriefingsDirect healthcare thought leadership panel discussion examines how a global standards body, The Open Group, is working to improve how the healthcare industry functions.

We’ll now learn how The Open Group Healthcare Forum (HCF) is advancing best practices and methods for better leveraging IT in healthcare ecosystems. And we’ll examine the forum’s Health Enterprise Reference Architecture (HERA) initiative and its role in standardizing IT architectures. The goal is to foster better boundaryless interoperability within and between healthcare public and private sector organizations.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about improving the processes and IT that better supports healthcare, please welcome our panel of experts: Oliver Kipf, The Open Group Healthcare Forum Chairman and Business Process and Solution Architect at Philips, based in Germany; Dr. Jason Lee, Director of the Healthcare Forum at The Open Group, in Boston, and Gail Kalbfleisch, Director of the Federal Health Architecture at the US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: For those who might not be that familiar with the Healthcare Forum and The Open Group in general, tell us about why the Healthcare Forum exists, what its mission is, and what you hope to achieve through your work.

Lee: The Healthcare Forum exists because there is a huge need to architect the healthcare enterprise, which is approaching 20 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the economy in the US, and approaching that level in other developing countries in Europe.

Jason Lee (1)


There is a general feeling that enterprise architecture is somewhat behind in this industry, relative to other industries. There are important gaps to fill that will help those stakeholders in healthcare — whether they are in hospitals or healthcare delivery systems or innovation hubs in organizations of different sorts, such as consulting firms. They can better leverage IT to achieve business goals, through the use of best practices, lessons learned, and the accumulated wisdom of the various Forum members over many years of work. We want them to understand the value of our work so they can use it to address their needs.

Our mission, simply, is to help make healthcare information available when and where it’s needed and to accomplish that goal through architecting the healthcare enterprise. That’s what we hope to achieve.

Gardner: As the chairman of the HCF, could you explain what a forum is, Oliver? What does it consist of, how many organizations are involved?

Kipf: The HCF is made up of its members and I am really proud of this team. We are very passionate about healthcare. We are in the technology business, so we are more than just the governing bodies; we also have participation from the provider community. That makes the Forum true to the nature of The Open Group, in that we are global in nature, we are vendor-neutral, and we are business-oriented. We go from strategy to execution, and we want to bridge from business to technology. We take the foundation of The Open Group, and then we apply this to the HCF.

Oliver Matthias Kipf (1)


As we have many health standards out there, we really want to leverage [experience] from our 30 members to make standards work by providing the right type of tools, frameworks, and approaches. We partner a lot in the industry.

The healthcare industry is really a crowded place and there are many standard development organizations. There are many players. It’s quite vital as a forum that we reach out, collaborate, and engage with others to reach where we want to be.

Gardner: Gail, why is the role of the enterprise architecture function an important ingredient to help bring this together? What’s important about EA when we think about the healthcare industry?

Kalbfleisch: From an EA perspective, I don’t really think that it matters whether you are talking about the healthcare industry or the finance industry or the personnel industry or the gas and electric industry. If you look at any of those, the organizations or the companies that tend to be highly functioning, they have not just architecture — because everyone has architecture for what they do. But that architecture is documented and it’s available for use by decision-makers, and by developers across the system so that each part can work well together.

Gail Kalbfleisch (1)


We know that within the healthcare industry it is exceedingly complicated, and it’s a mixture of a lot of different things. It’s not just your body and your doctor, it’s also your insurance, your payers, research, academia — and putting all of those together.

If we don’t have EA, people new to the system — or people who were deeply embedded into their parts of the system — can’t see how that system all works together usefully. For example, there are a lot of different standards organizations. If we don’t see how all of that works together — where everybody else is working, and how to make it fit together – then we’re going to have a hard time getting to interoperability quickly and efficiently.

It’s important that we get to individual solution building blocks to attain a more integrated approach.

Kipf: If you think of the healthcare industry, we’ve been very good at developing individual solutions to specific problems. There’s a lot of innovation and a lot of technology that we use. But there is an inherent risk of producing silos among the many stakeholders who, ultimately, work for the good of the patient. It’s important that we get to individual solution building blocks to attain a more integrated approach based on architecture building blocks, and based on common frameworks, tools and approaches.

Gardner: Healthcare is a very complex environment and IT is very fast-paced. Can you give us an update on what the Healthcare Forum has been doing, given the difficulty of managing such complexity?

Bird’s-eye view mapping

Lee: The Healthcare Forum began with a series of white papers, initially focusing on an information model that has a long history in the federal government. We used enterprise architecture to evaluate the Federal Health Information Model (FHIM).  People began listening and we started to talk to people outside of The Open Group, and outside of the normal channels of The Open Group. We talked to different types of architects, such as information architects, solution architects, engineers, and initially settled on the problem that is essential to The Open Group — and that is the problem of boundaryless information flow.

It can be difficult to achieve boundaryless information flow to enable information to travel digitally, securely and quickly.

We need to get beyond the silos that Oliver mentioned and that Gail alluded to. As I mentioned in my opening comments, this is a huge industry, and Gail illustrated it by naming some of the stakeholders within the health, healthcare and wellness enterprises. If you think of your hospital, it can be difficult to achieve boundaryless information flow to enable your information to travel digitally, securely, quickly, and in a way that’s valid, reliable and understandable by those who send it and by those who receive it.  But if that is possible, it’s all to the betterment of the patient.

Initially, in our focus on what healthcare folks call interoperability — what we refer to as boundaryless information flow — we came to realize through discussions with stakeholders in the public sector, as well as the private sector and globally, that understanding how the different pieces are linked together is critical. Anybody who works in an organization or belongs to a church, school or family understands that sometimes getting the right message communicated from point A to point B can be difficult.

To address that issue, the HCF members have decided to create a Health Enterprise Reference Architecture (HERA) that is essentially a framework and a map at the highest level. It helps people see that what they do relates to what others do, regardless of their position in their company. You want to deliver value to those people, to help them understand how their work is interconnected, and how IT can help them achieve their goals.

Gardner: Oliver, who should be aware of and explore engaging with the HCF?

Kipf: The members of The Open Group themselves, many of them are players in the field of healthcare, and so they are the natural candidates to really engage with. In that healthcare ecosystem we have providers, payers, governing bodies, pharmaceuticals, and IT companies.

Those who deeply need planning, management and architecting — to make big thinking a reality out there — those decision-makers are the prime candidates for engagement in the Healthcare Forum. They can benefit from the kinds of products we produce, the reference architecture, and the white papers that we offer. In a nutshell, it’s the members, and it’s the healthcare industry, and the healthcare ecosystem that we are targeting.

Gardner: Gail, perhaps you could address the reference architecture initiative? Why do you see that as important? Who do you think should be aware of it and contribute to it?

Shared reference points

Kalbfleisch: Reference architecture is one of those building block pieces that should be used. You can call it a template. You can have words that other people can relate to, maybe easier than the architecture-speak.

If you take that template, you can make it available to other people so that we can all be designing our processes and systems with a common understanding of our information exchange — so that it crosses boundaries easily and securely. If we are all running on the same template, that’s going to enable us to identify how to start, what has to be included, and what standards we are going to use.

A reference architecture is one of those very important pieces that not only forms a list of how we want to do things, and what we agreed to, but it also makes it so that every organization doesn’t have to start from scratch. It can be reused and improved upon as we go through the work. If someone improves the architecture, that can come back into the reference architecture.

Who should know about it? Decision makers, developers, medical device innovators, people who are looking to improve the way information flows within any health sector.

Who should know about it? Decision makers, developers, medical device innovators, people who are looking to improve the way information flows within any health sector — whether it’s Oliver in Europe, whether it’s someone over in California, Australia, it really doesn’t matter. Anyone who wants to make interoperability better should know about it.

My focus is on decision-makers, policymakers, process developers, and other people who look at it from a device-design perspective. One of the things that has been discussed within the HCF’s reference architecture work is the need to make sure that it’s all at a high-enough level, where we can agree on what it looks like. Yet it also must go down deeply enough so that people can apply it to what they are doing — whether it’s designing a piece of software or designing a medical device.

Gardner: Jason, The Open Group has been involved with standards and reference architectures for decades, with such recent initiatives as the IT4IT approach, as well as the longstanding TOGAF reference architecture. How does the HERA relate to some of these other architectural initiatives?

Building on a strong foundation

Lee: The HERA starts by using the essential components and insights that are built into the TOGAF ArchitecturalDevelopment Model (ADM) and builds from there. It also uses the ArchiMate language, but we have never felt restricted to using only those existing Open Group models that have been around for some time and are currently being developed further.

We are a big organization in terms of our approach, our forum, and so we want to draw from the best there is in order to fill in the gaps. Over the last few decades, an incredible amount of talent has joined The Open Group to develop architectural models and standards that apply across multiple industries, including healthcare. We reuse and build from this important work.

In addition, as we have dug deeper into the healthcare industry, we have found other issues – gaps — that need filling. There are related topics that would benefit. To do that, we have been working hard to establish relationships with other organizations in the healthcare space, to bring them in, and to collaborate. We have done this with the Health Level Seven Organization (HL7), which is one of the best-known standards organizations in the world.

We are also doing this now with an organization called Healthcare Services Platform Consortium (HSPC), which involves academic, government and hospital organizations, as well as people who are focused on developing standards around terminology.

IT’s getting better all the time

Kipf: If you think about reference architecture in a specific domain, such as in the healthcare industry, you look at your customers and the enterprises — those really concerned with the delivery of health services. You need to ask yourself the question: What are their needs?

And the need in this industry is a focus on the person and on the service. It’s also highly regulatory, so being compliant is a big thing. Quality is a big thing. The idea of lifetime evolution — that you become better and better all the time — that is very important, very intrinsic to the healthcare industry.

When we are looking into the customers out there that we believe that the HERA could be of value, it’s the small- to mid-sized and the large enterprises that you have to think of, and it’s really across the globe. That’s why we believe that the HERA is something that is tuned into the needs of our industry.

And as Jason mentioned, we build on open standards and we leverage them where we can. ArchiMate is one of the big ones — not only the business language, but also a lot of the concepts are based on ArchiMate. But we need to include other standards as well, obviously those from the healthcare industry, and we need to deviate from specific standards where this is of value to our industry.

Gardner: Oliver, in order to get this standard to be something that’s used, that’s very practical, people look to results. So if you were to take advantage of such reference architectures as HERA, what should you expect to get back? If you do it right, what are the payoffs?

Capacity for change and collaboration

Kipf: It should enable you to do a better job, to become more efficient, and to make better use of technology. Those are the kinds of benefits that you see realized. It’s not only that you have a place where you can model all the elements of your enterprise, where you can put and manage your processes and your services, but it’s also in the way you are architecting your enterprise.

The HERA gives you the tools to get where you want to be, to define where you want to be — and also how to get there.

It gives you the ability to change. From a transformation management perspective, we know that many healthcare systems have great challenges and there is this need to change. The HERA gives you the tools to get where you want to be, to define where you want to be — and also how to get there. This is where we believe it provides a lot of benefits.

Gardner: Gail, similar question, for those organizations, both public and private sector, that do this well, that embrace HERA, what should they hope to get in return?

Kalbfleisch: I completely agree with what Oliver said. To add, one of the benefits that you get from using EA is a chance to have a perspective from outside your own narrow silos. The HERA should be able to help a person see other areas that they have to take into consideration, that maybe they wouldn’t have before.

Another value is to engage with other people who are doing similar work, who may have either learned lessons, or are doing similar things at the same time. So that’s one of the ways I see the effectiveness and of doing our jobs better, quicker, and faster.

Also, it can help us identify where we have gaps and where we need to focus our efforts. We can focus our limited resources in much better ways on specific issues — where we can accomplish what we are looking to — and to gain that boundaryless information flow.

Reaching your goals

We show them how they can follow a roadmap to accomplish their self-defined goals more effectively.

Lee: Essentially, the HERA will provide a framework that enables companies to leverage IT to achieve their goals. The wonderful thing about it is that we are not telling organizations what their goals should be. We show them how they can follow a roadmap to accomplish their self-defined goals more effectively. Often this involves communicating the big picture, as Gail said, to those who are in siloed positions within their organizations.

There is an old saying: “What you see depends on where you sit.” The HERA helps stakeholders gain this perspective by helping key players understand the relationships, for example, between business processes and engineering. So whether a stakeholder’s interest is increasing patient satisfaction, reducing error, improving quality, and having better patient outcomes and gaining more reimbursement where reimbursement is tied to outcomes — using the product and the architecture that we are developing helps all of these goals.

Gardner: Jason, for those who are intrigued by what you are doing with HERA, tell us about its trajectory, its evolution, and how that journey unfolds. Who can they learn more or get involved?

Lee: We have only been working on the HERA per se for the last year, although its underpinnings go back 20 years or more. Its trajectory is not to a single point, but to an evolutionary process. We will be producing products, white papers, as well as products that others can use in a modular fashion to leverage what they already use within their legacy systems.

We encourage anyone out there, particularly in the health system delivery space, to join us. That can be done by contacting me at and at

It’s an incredible time, a very opportune time, for key players to be involved because we are making very important decisions that lay the foundation for the HERA. We collaborate with key players, and we lay down the tracks from which we will build increasing levels of complexity.

But we start at the top, using non-architectural language to be able to talk to decision-makers, whether they are in the public sector or private sector. So we invite any of these organizations to join us.

Learn from others’ mistakes

Kalbfleisch: My first foray into working with The Open Group was long before I was in the health IT sector. I was with the US Air Force and we were doing very non-health architectural work in conjunction with The Open Group.

The interesting part to me is in ensuring boundaryless information flow in a manner that is consistent with the information flowing where it needs to go and who has access to it. How does it get from place to place across distinct mission areas, or distinct business areas where the information is not used the same way or stored in the same way? Such dissonance between those business areas is not a problem that is isolated just to healthcare; it’s across all business areas.

We don’t have to make the same mistakes. We can take what people have learned and extend it much further.

That was exciting. I was able to take awareness of The Open Group from a previous life, so to speak, and engage with them to get involved in the Healthcare Forum from my current position.

A lot of the technical problems that we have in exchanging information, regardless of what industry you are in, have been addressed by other people, and have already been worked on. By leveraging the way organizations have already worked on it for 20 years, we can leverage that work within the healthcare industry. We don’t have to make the same mistakes that were made before. We can take what people have learned and extend it much further. We can do that best by working together in areas like The Open Group HCF.

Kipf: On that evolutionary approach, I also see this as a long-term journey. Yes, there will be releases when we have a specification, and there will guidelines. But it’s important that this is an engagement, and we have ongoing collaboration with customers in the future, even after it is released. The coming together of a team is what really makes a great reference architecture, a team that places the architecture at a high level.

We can also develop distinct flavors of the specification. We should expect much more detail. Those implementation architectures then become spin-offs of reference architectures such as the HERA.

Lee: I can give some concrete examples, to bookend the kinds of problems that can be addressed using the HERA. At the micro end, a hospital can use the HERA structure to implement a patient check-in to the hospital for patients who would like to bypass the usual process and check themselves in. This has a number of positive value outcomes for the hospital in terms of staffing and in terms of patient satisfaction and cost savings.

At the other extreme, a large hospital system in Philadelphia or Stuttgart or Oslo or in India finds itself with patients appearing at the emergency room or in the ambulatory settings unaffiliated with that particular hospital. Rather than have that patient come as a blank sheet of paper, and redo all the tests that had been done prior, the HERA will help these healthcare organizations figure out how to exchange data in a meaningful way. So the information can flow digitally, securely, and it means the same thing to those who get it as much as it does to those who receive it, and everything is patient-focused, patient-centric.

Gardner: Oliver, we have seen with other Open Group standards and reference architectures, a certification process often comes to bear that helps people be recognized for being adept and properly trained. Do you expect to have a certification process with HERA at some point?

Certifiable enterprise expertise

Kipf: Yes, the more we mature with the HERA, along with the defined guidelines and the specifications and the HERA model, the more there will be a need and demand for health enterprise-focused employees in the marketplace. They can show how consulting services can then use HERA.

And that’s a perfect place when you think of certification. It helps make sure that the quality of the workforce is strong, whether it’s internal or in the form of a professional services role. They can comply with the HERA.

Gardner: Clearly, this has applicability to healthcare payer organizations, provider organizations, government agencies, and the vendors who supply pharmaceuticals or medical instruments. There are a great deal of process benefits when done properly, so that enterprise architects could become certified eventually.

My question then is how do we take the HERA, with such a potential for being beneficial across the board, and make it well-known? Jason, how do we get the word out? How can people who are listening to this or reading this, help with that?

Spread the word, around the world

Lee: It’s a question that has to be considered every time we meet. I think the answer is straightforward. First, we build a product [the HERA] that has clear value for stakeholders in the healthcare system. That’s the internal part.

Second—and often, simultaneously—we develop a very important marketing/collaboration/socialization capability. That’s the external part. I’ve worked in healthcare for more than 30 years, and whether it’s public or private sector decision-making, there are many stakeholders, and everybody’s focused on the same few things: improving value, enhancing quality, expanding access, and providing security.

All companies must plan, build, operate and improve.

We will continue developing relationships with key players to ensure them that what they’re doing is key to the HERA. At the broadest level, all companies must plan, build, operate and improve.

There are immense opportunities for business development. There are innumerable ways to use the HERA to help health enterprise systems operate efficiently and effectively. There are opportunities to demonstrate to key movers and shakers in healthcare system how what we’re doing integrates with what they’re doing. This will maximize the uptake of the HERA and minimize the chances it sits on a shelf after it’s been developed.

Gardner: Oliver, there are also a variety of regional conferences and events around the world. Some of them are from The Open Group. How important is it for people to be aware of these events, maybe by taking part virtually online or in person? Tell us about the face-time opportunities, if you will, of these events, and how that can foster awareness and improvement of HERA uptake.

Kipf: We began with the last Open Group event. I was in Berlin, presenting the HERA. As we see more development, more maturity, we can then show more. The uptake will be there and we also need to include things like cyber security, things like risk compliance. So we can bring in a lot of what we have been doing in various other initiatives within The Open Group. We can show how it can be a fusion, and make this something that is really of value.

I am confident that through face-to-face events, such as The Open Group events, we can further spread the message.

Lee: And a real shout-out to Gail and Oliver who have been critical in making introductions and helping to share The Open Group Healthcare Forum’s work broadly. The most recent example is the 2016 HIMSS conference, a meeting that brings together more than 40,000 people every year. There is a federal interoperability showcase there, and we have been able to introduce and discuss our HERA work there.

We’ve collaborated with the Office of the National Coordinator where the Federal Heath Architecture sits, with the US Veterans Administration, with the US Department of Defense, and with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). This is all US-centered, but there are lots of opportunities globally to not just spread the word in public for domains and public venues, but also to go to those key players who are moving the industry forward, and in some cases convince them that enterprise architecture does provide that structure, that template that can help them achieve their goals.

Future forecast

Gardner: I’m afraid we are almost out of time. Gail, perhaps a look into the crystal ball. What do you expect and hope to see in the next few years when it comes to improvements initiatives like HERA at The Open Group Forum can provide? What do you hope to see in the next couple of years in terms of improvement?

Kalbfleisch: What I would like to see happen in the next couple of years as it relates to the HERA, is the ability to have a place where we can go from anywhere and get a glimpse of the landscape. Right now, it’s hard to find anywhere where someone in the US can see the great work that Oliver is doing, or the people in Norway, or the people in Australia are doing.

Reference architecture is great to have, but it has no power until it’s used.

It’s really important that we have opportunities to communicate as large groups, but also the one-on-one. Yet when we are not able to communicate personally, I would like to see a resource or a tool where people can go and get the information they need on the HERA on their own time, or as they have a question. Reference architecture is great to have, but it has no power until it’s used.

My hope for the future is for the HERA to be used by decision-makers, developers, and even patients. So when an organizations such as some hospital wants to develop a new electronic health record (EHR) system, they have a place to go and get started, without having to contact Jason or wait for a vendor to come along and tell them how to solve a problem. That would be my hope for the future.

Lee: You can think of the HERA as a soup with three key ingredients. First is the involvement and commitment of very bright people and top-notch organizations. Second, we leverage the deep experience and products of other forums of The Open Group. Third, we build on external relationships. Together, these three things will help make the HERA successful as a certifiable product that people can use to get their work done and do better.

Gardner: Jason, perhaps you could also tee-up the next Open Group event in Amsterdam. Can you tell us more about that and how to get involved?

Lee: We are very excited about our next event in Amsterdam in October. You can go to and look under Events, read about the agendas, and sign up there. We will have involvement from experts from the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Norway, and this is just in the Healthcare Forum!

The Open Group membership will be giving papers, having discussions, moving the ball forward. It will be a very productive and fun time and we are looking forward to it. Again, anyone who has a question or is interested in joining the Healthcare Forum can please send me, Jason Lee, an email at

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: The Open Group.

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Posted in big data, Cloud computing, Cyber security, data analysis, Data center transformation, Enterprise architect, enterprise architecture, Enterprise transformation, Government, Information management, Platform 3.0, Security, The Open Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hybrid cloud ecosystem readies for impact from arrival of Microsoft Azure Stack

The next BriefingsDirect cloud deployment strategies interview explores how hybrid cloud ecosystem players such as PwC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) are gearing up to support the Microsoft Azure Stack private-public cloud continuum.

We’ll now learn what enterprises can do to make the most of hybrid cloud models and be ready specifically for Microsoft’s solutions for balancing the boundaries between public and private cloud deployments.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to explore the latest approaches for successful hybrid IT, we’re joined by Rohit “Ro” Antao, a Partner at PwC, and Ken Won, Director of Cloud Solutions Marketing at HPE. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Ro, what are the trends driving adoption of hybrid cloud models, specifically Microsoft Azure Stack? Why are people interested in doing this?

Antao: What we have observed in the last 18 months is that a lot of our clients are now aggressively pushing toward the public cloud. In that journey there are a couple of things that are becoming really loud and clear to them.

Journey to the cloud

Number one is that there will always be some sort of a private data center footprint. There are certain workloads that are not appropriate for the public cloud; there are certain workloads that perform better in the private data center. And so the first acknowledgment is that there is going to be that private, as well as public, side of how they deliver IT services.

Now, that being said, they have to begin building the capabilities and the mechanisms to be able to manage these different environments seamlessly. As they go down this path, that’s where we are seeing a lot of traction and focus.

The other trend in conjunction with that is in the public cloud space where we see a lot of traction around Azure. They have come on strong. They have been aggressively going after the public cloud market. Being able to have that seamless environment between private and public with Azure Stack is what’s driving a lot of the demand.

Won: We at HPE are seeing that very similarly, as well. We call that “hybrid IT,” and we talk about how customers need to find the right mix of private and public — and managed services — to fit their businesses. They may put some services in a public cloud, some services in a private cloud, and some in a managed cloud. Depending on their company strategy, they need to figure out which workloads go where.

Ken Won


We have these conversations with many of our customers about how do you determine the right placement for these different workloads — taking into account things like security, performance, compliance, and cost — and helping them evaluate this hybrid IT environment that they now need to manage.

Gardner: Ro, a lot of what people have used public cloud for is greenfield apps — beginning in the cloud, developing in the cloud, deploying in the cloud — but there’s also an interest in many enterprises about legacy applications and datasets. Is Azure Stack and hybrid cloud an opportunity for them to rethink where their older apps and data should reside?

Antao: Absolutely. When you look at the broader market, a lot of these businesses are competing today in very dynamic markets. When companies today think about strategy,

Rohit Antao


it’s no longer the 5- and 10-year strategy. They are thinking about how to be relevant in the market this year, today, this quarter. That requires a lot of flexibility in their business model; that requires a lot of variability in their cost structure.

When you look at it from that viewpoint, a lot of our clients look at the public cloud as more than, “Is the app suitable for the public cloud?” They are also seeking certain cost advantages in terms of variability in that cost structure that they can take advantage of. And that’s where we are seeing them look at the public cloud beyond just applications in terms that are suitable for public cloud.

Public and/or private power

Won: We help a lot of companies think about where the best place is for their traditional apps. Often they don’t want to restructure them, they don’t want to rewrite them, because they are already an investment; they don’t want to spend a lot of time refactoring them.

If you look at these traditional applications, a lot of times when they are dealing with data – especially if they are dealing with sensitive data — those are better placed in a private cloud.

Antao: One of the great things about Microsoft Azure Stack is it gives the data center that public cloud experience — where developers have the similar experience as they would in a public cloud. The only difference is that you are now controlling the costs as well. So that’s another big advantage we see.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

for Microsoft Azure Stack

Won: Yeah, absolutely, it’s giving the developers the experience of a public cloud, but from the IT standpoint of also providing the compliance, the control, and the security of a private cloud. Allowing applications to be deployed in either a public or private cloud — depending on its requirements — is incredibly powerful. There’s no other environment out there that provides that API-compatibility between private and public cloud deployments like Azure Stack does. 

Gardner: Clearly Microsoft is interested in recognizing that skill sets, platform affinity, and processes are all really important. If they are able to provide a private cloud and public cloud experience that’s common to the IT operators that are used to using Microsoft platforms and frameworks — that’s a boon. It’s also important for enterprises to be able to continue with the skills they have.

Ro, is such a commonality of skills and processes not top of mind for many organizations? 

Antao: Absolutely! I think there is always the risk when you have different environments having that “swivel chair” approach. You have a certain set of skills and processes for your private data center. Then you now have a certain set of skills and processes to manage your public cloud footprint.

One of the big problems and challenges that this solves is being able to drive more of that commonality across consistent sets of processes. You can have a similar talent pool, and you have similar kinds of training and awareness that you are trying to drive within the organization — because you now can have similar stacks on both ends.

Won: That’s a great point. We know that the biggest challenge to adopting new concepts

The biggest challenge to adopting new concepts is not the technology; it’s really the people and process issues.

is not the technology; it’s really the people and process issues. So if you can address that, which is what Azure Stack does, it makes it so much easier for enterprises to bring on new capabilities, because they are leveraging the experience that they already have using Azure public cloud.

Gardner: Many IT organizations are familiar with Microsoft Azure Stack. It’s been in technical preview for quite some time. As it hits the market in September 2017, in seeking that total-solution, people-and-process approach, what is PwC bringing to the table to help organizations get the best value and advantage out of Azure Stack?

Hybrid: a tectonic IT shift

Antao: Ken made the point earlier in this discussion about hybrid IT. When you look at IT pivoting to more of the hybrid delivery mode, it’s a tectonic shift in IT’s operating model, in their architecture, their culture, in their roles and responsibilities – in the fundamental value proposition of IT to the enterprise.

When we partner with HPE in helping organizations drive through this transformation, we work with HPE in rethinking the operating model, in understanding the new kinds of roles and skills, of being able to apply these changes in the context of the business drivers that are leading it. That’s one of the typical ways that we work with HPE in this space.

Won: It’s a great complement. HPE understands the technology, understands the infrastructure, combined with the business processes, and then the higher level of thinking and the strategy knowledge that PwC has. It’s a great partnership.

Gardner: Attaining hybrid IT efficiency and doing it with security and control is not something you buy off the shelf. It’s not a license. It seems to me that an ecosystem is essential. But how do IT organizations manage that ecosystem? Are there ways that you all are working together, HPE in this case with PwC, and with Microsoft to make that consumption of an ecosystem solution much more attainable?

Won: One of the things that we are doing is working with Microsoft on their partnerships so that we can look at all these companies that have their offerings running on Azure public cloud and ensuring that those are all available and supported in Azure Stack, as well as running in the data center.

We are spending a lot of time with Microsoft on their ecosystem to make sure those services, those companies, or those products are available on Azure Stack — as well fully supported on Azure Stack that’s running on HPE gear.

Gardner: They might not be concerned about the hardware, but they are concerned about the total value — and the total solution. If the hardware players aren’t collaborating well with the service providers and with the cloud providers — then that’s not going to work.

Quick collaboration is key

Won: Exactly! I think of it like a washing machine. No one wants to own a washing machine, but everyone wants clean clothes. So it’s the necessary evil, it’s super important, but you just as soon not have to do it.

Gardner: I just don’t know what to take to the dry cleaner or not, right?

Won: Yeah, there you go!

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

for Microsoft Azure Stack

Antao: From a consulting standpoint, clients no longer have the appetite for these five- to six-year transformations. Their businesses are changing at a much faster pace. One of the ways that we are working the ecosystem-level solution — again much like the deep and longstanding relationship we have had with HPE – is we have also been working with Microsoft in the same context.

And in a three-way fashion, we have focused on being able to define accelerators to deploying these solutions. So codifying a lot of our experiences, the lessons learned, a deep understanding of both the public and the private stack to be able to accelerate value for our customers — because that’s what they expect today.

Won: One of the things, Ro, that you brought up, and I think is very relevant here, is these three-way relationships. Customers don’t want to have to deal with all of these different vendors, these different pieces of stack or different aspects of the value chain. They instead expect us as vendors to be working together. So HPE, PwC, Microsoft are all working together to make it easier for the customers to ultimately deliver the services they need to drive their business.

Low risk, all reward

Gardner: So speed-to-value, super important; common solution cooperation and collaboration synergy among the partners, super important. But another part of this is doing it at low risk, because no one wants to be in a transition from a public to private or a full hybrid spectrum — and then suffer performance issues, lost data, with end customers not happy.

PwC has been focused on governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) in trying to bring about better end-to-end hybrid IT control. What is it that you bring to this particular problem that is unique? It seems that each enterprise is doing this anew, but you have done it for a lot of others and experience can be very powerful that way.

Antao: Absolutely! The move to hybrid IT is a fundamental shift in governance models, in how you address certain risks, the emergence of new risks, and new security challenges. A lot of what we have been doing in this space has been in helping that IT organizations accelerate that shift — that paradigm shift — that they have to make.

In that context, we have been working very closely with HPE to understand what the requirements of that new world are going to look like. We can build and bring to the table solutions that support those needs.

Won: It’s absolutely critical — this experience that PwC has is huge. We always come up with new technologies; every few years you have something new. But it’s that experience that PwC has to bring to the table that’s incredibly helpful to our customer base.

There’s this whole journey getting to that hybrid IT state and having the governing mechanisms around it.

Antao: So often when we think of governance, it’s more in terms of the steady state and the runtime. But there’s this whole journey between getting from where we today to that hybrid IT state — and having the governing mechanisms around it — so that they can do it in a way that doesn’t expose their business to too much risk. There is always risk involved in these large-scale transformations, but how do you manage and govern that process through getting to that hybrid IT state? That’s where we also spend a lot of time as we help clients through this transformation.

Gardner: For IT shops that are heavily Microsoft-focused, is there a way for them to master Azure Stack, the people, process and technology that will then be an accelerant for them to go to a broader hybrid IT capability? I’m thinking of multi-cloud, and even being able to develop with DevOps and SecOps across a multiple cloud continuum as a core competency.

Is Azure Stack for many companies a stepping-stone to a wider hybrid capability, Ro?

Managed multi-cloud continuum

Antao: Yes. And I think in many cases that’s inevitable. When you look at most organizations today, generally speaking, they have at least two public cloud providers that they use. They consume several Software as a service (SaaS) applications. They have multiple data center locations.  The role of IT now is to become the broker and integrator of multi-cloud environments, among and between on-premise and in the public cloud. That’s where we see a lot of them evolve their management practices, their processes, the talent — to be able to abstract these different pools and focus on the business. That’s where we see a lot of the talent development.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

for Microsoft Azure Stack

Won: We see that as well at HPE as this whole multi-cloud strategy is being implemented. More and more, the challenge that organizations are having is that they have these multiple clouds, each of which is managed by a different team or via different technologies with different processes.

So as a way to bring these together, there is huge value to the customer, by bringing together, for example, Azure Stack and Azure [public cloud] together. They may have multiple Azure Stack environments, perhaps in different data centers, in different countries, in different locales. We need to help them align their processes to run much more efficiently and more effectively. We need to engage with them not only from an IT standpoint, but also from the developer standpoint. They can use those common services to develop that application and deploy it in multiple places in the same way.

Antao: What’s making this whole environment even more complex these days is that a couple of years ago, when we talked about multi-cloud, it was really the capability to either deploy in one public cloud versus another.

Within a given business workflow, how do you leverage different clouds, given their unique strengths and weaknesses?

Few years later, it evolved into being able to port workloads seamlessly from one cloud to another. Today, as we look at the multi-cloud strategy that a lot of our clients are exploring this: Within a given business workflow, depending on the unique characteristics of different parts of that business process, how do you leverage different clouds given their unique strengths and weaknesses?

There might be portions of a business process that, to your point earlier, Ken, are highly confidential. You are dealing with a lot of compliance requirements. You may want to consume from an internal private cloud. There are other parts of it that you are looking for, such as immense scale, to deal with the peaks when that particular business process gets impacted. How do you go back to where the public cloud has a history with that? In a third case, it might be enterprise-grades workloads.

So that’s where we are seeing multi-cloud evolve, into where in one business process could have multiple sources, and so how does an IT organization manage that in a seamless way?

Gardner: It certainly seems inevitable that the choice of such a cloud continuum configuration model will vary and change. It could be one definition in one country or region, another definition in another country and region. It could even be contextual, such as by the type of end user who’s banging on the app. As the Internet of Things (IoT) kicks in, we might be thinking about not just individuals, but machine-to-machine (M2M), app-to-app types of interactions.

So quite a bit of complexity, but dealt with in such a way that the payoff could be monumental. If you do hybrid cloud and hybrid IT well, what could that mean for your business in three to five years, Ro?

Nimble, quick and cost-efficient

Antao: Clearly there is the agility aspect, of being able to seamlessly leverage these different clouds to allow IT organizations to be much more nimble in how they respond to the business.

From a cost standpoint, and this is actually a great example we had for a large-scale migration that we are currently doing to the public cloud. What the IT organization found was they consumed close to 70 percent of their migration budget for only 30 percent of the progress that they made.

And a larger part of that was because the minute you have your workloads sitting on a public cloud — whether it is a development workload or you are still working your way through it, but technically it’s not yet providing value — the clock is ticking. Being able to allow for a hybrid environment, where you a do a lot of that development, get it ready — almost production-ready — and then when the time is right to drive value from that application — that’s when you move to a public cloud. Those are huge cost savings right there.

Clients that have managed to balance those two paradigms are the ones who are also seeing a lot of economic efficiencies.

Won: The most important thing that people see value in is that agility. The ability to respond much faster to competitive actions or to new changes in the market, the ability to bring applications out faster, to be able to update applications in months — or sometimes even weeks — rather than the two years that it used to take.

It’s that agility to allow people to move faster and to shift their capabilities so much quicker than they have ever been able to do – that is the top reason why we’re seeing people moving to this hybrid model. The cost factor is also really critical as they look at whether they are doing CAPEX or OPEX and private cloud or public cloud.

One of the things that we have been doing at HPE through our Flexible Capacity program is that we enable our customers who were getting hardware to run these private clouds to actually pay for it on a pay-as-you-go basis. This allows them to better align their usage — the cost to their usage. So taking that whole concept of pay-as-you-go that we see in the public cloud and bringing that into a private cloud environment.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

for Microsoft Azure Stack

Antao: That’s a great point. From a cost standpoint, there is an efficiency discussion. But we are also seeing in today’s world that we are depending on edge computing a lot more. I was talking to the CIO of a large park the other day, and his comment to me was, yes, they would love to use the public cloud but they cannot afford for any kind of latency or disruption of services because that means he’s got thousands of visitors and guests in his park, because of the amount of dependency on technology he can afford that kind of latency.

And so part of it is also the revenue impact discussion, and using public cloud in a way that allows you to manage some of those risks in terms of that analytical power and that computing power you need closer to the edge — closer to your internal systems.

Gardner: Microsoft Azure Stack is reinforcing the power and capability of hybrid cloud models, but Azure Stack is not going to be the same for each individual enterprise. How they differentiate, how they use and take advantage of a hybrid continuum will give them competitive advantages and give them a one-up in terms of skills.

It seems to me that the continuum of Azure Stack, of a hybrid cloud, is super-important. But how your organization specifically takes advantage of that is going to be the key differentiator. And that’s where an ecosystem solutions approach can be a huge benefit.

Let’s look at what comes next. What might we be talking about a year from now when we think about Microsoft Azure Stack in the market and the impact of hybrid cloud on businesses, Ken?

Look at clouds from both sides now

You will see that as a break in the boundary of private cloud versus public cloud, so think of it as a continuum.

Won: You will see organizations shifting from a world of using multiple clouds and having different applications or services on clouds to having an environment where services are based on multiple clouds. With the new cloud-native applications you’ll be running different aspects of those services in different locations based on what are the requirements of that particular microservice.

So a service may be partially running in Azure, part of it may be running in Azure Stack. You will certainly see that as a kind of break in the boundary of private cloud versus public cloud, and so think of it as a continuum, if you will, of different environments able to support whatever applications they need.

Gardner: Ro, as people get more into the weeds with hybrid cloud, maybe using Azure Stack, how will the market adjust?

Antao: I completely agree with Ken in terms of how organizations are going to evolve their architecture. At PwC we have this term called the Configurable Enterprise, which essentially focuses on how the IT organization consumes services from all of these different sources to be able to ultimately solve business problems.

To that point, where we see the market trends is in the hybrid IT space, the adoption of that continuum. One of the big pressures IT organizations face is how they are going to evolve their operating model to be successful in this new world. CIOs, especially the forward-thinking ones, are starting to ask that question. We are going to see in the next 12 months a lot more pressure in that space.

Gardner: These are, after all, still early days of hybrid cloud and hybrid IT. Before we sign off, how should organizations that might not yet be deep into this prepare themselves? Are there some operations, culture, and skills? How might you want to be in a good position to take advantage of this when you do take the plunge?

Plan to succeed with IT on board

Won: One of the things we recommend is a workshop where we sit down with the customer and think through their company strategy. What is their IT strategy? How does that relate or map to the infrastructure that they need in order to be successful?

This makes the connection between the value they want to offer as a company, as a business, to the infrastructure. It puts a plan in place so that they can see that direct linkage. That workshop is one of the things that we help a lot of customers with.

We also have innovation centers that we’ve built with Microsoft where customers can come in and experience Azure Stack firsthand. They can see the latest versions of Azure Stack, they can see the hardware, and they can meet with experts. We bring in partners such as PwC to have a conversation in these innovation centers with experts.

Gardner: Ro, how to get ready when you want to take the plunge and make the best and most of it?

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

for Microsoft Azure Stack

Antao: We are at a stage right now where these transformations can no longer be done to the IT organization; the IT organization has to come along on this journey. What we have seen is, especially in the early stages, the running of pilot projects, of being able to involve the developers, the infrastructure architects, and the operations folks in pilot workloads, and learn how to manage it going forward in this new model.

You want to create that from a top-down perspective, being able to tie in to where this adds the most value to the business. From a grassroots effort, you need to also create champions within the trenches that are going to be able to manage this new environment. Combining those two efforts has been very successful for organizations as they embark on this journey.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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Advanced IoT systems provide analysis catalyst for the petrochemical refinery of the future

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology trends interview explores how IT combines with IoT to help create the refinery of the future.

We’ll now learn how a leading-edge petrochemical company in Texas is rethinking data gathering and analysis to foster safer environments and greater overall efficiency.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

To help us define the best of the refinery of the future vision is Doug Smith, CEO of Texmark Chemicals in Galena Park, Texas, and JR Fuller, Worldwide Business Development Manager for Edgeline IoT at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are the top trends driving this need for a new refinery of the future? Doug, why aren’t the refinery practices of the past good enough?

Smith: First of all, I want to talk about people. People are the catalysts who make this refinery of the future possible. At Texmark Chemicals</