Changing landscape for IT consultants

IT Consultants: Navigating a Changing Technology Landscape

By | Data Center, Strategy | No Comments

The role of the consultant in the data center infrastructure space is seeing some considerable shifts lately. Five years ago, consultants were still fairly specialized in certain disciplines like server, storage and network. Now, as technology has continued to converge across the compute, storage, network and virtualization platforms, the roles of consultants have become increasingly complex. Read More

Cloud computing contract considerations

Cloud Trends Update: Top Five Cloud Contract Considerations

By | Cloud Computing, How To, Strategy | No Comments

Last week, IDS hosted a dinner featuring a presentation about current cloud trends and how IDS is helping our customers create their cloud strategy. The topic generated a lot of very interesting conversation and one of the biggest discussions was about cloud contracts. If you’re going to trust a partner to host your data, it is critical to have a contract in-place that protects the interests of both parties. Many large cloud providers have a “take it or leave it” approach to contracts and others will work to customize to your needs. Regardless of the flexibility, it is imperative that you understand all aspects of your cloud contract and what it means to your business. Since this was a highly discussed item at our dinner, I decided to create a list of the top 5 contract considerations when evaluating Cloud Providers. Read More

The Hotel California Dilemma with Hyperscale Cloud

The Hotel California Dilemma with Hyperscale Cloud

By | Cloud Computing, Data Center, Strategy | No Comments

At IDS, we are constantly speaking with IT organizations about our IDS Cloud offering and the marketplace in general. For those of you who don’t know, three years ago we built our own IDS Cloud offering based on the latest FlexPod and Vblock technology. Our Cloud is available with roughly 4PB of storage across geographically-dispersed Data Centers. This was a massive investment for IDS that resulted in a valuable ongoing opportunity for our team. I think everyone at IDS has learned many lessons over the past year surrounding the value of our offering versus the Hyperscale Cloud providers like Amazon and Azure. These lessons have shaped our ability to offer a truly valuable cloud offering to our customers. Read More

How to Create a Technology Roadmap

Developing Successful Technology Roadmaps for Your Organization

By | Data Center, Design & Architecture, How To, Strategy | No Comments

This is the second of a two-part series on Technology Roadmaps. Previously we explained “The Concepts behind a Technology Roadmap,” and here we explain how to develop one. 

Technology roadmaps begin with a “handshake” between IT and the business. Knowing future business plans allows IT to determine the focus area(s). As businesses evolve and new technologies emerge, IT is challenged with constant change. Developing roadmaps helps IT to be prepared for the change and manage the associated risks.

How Do You Create a Technology Roadmap?

  1. Collect Data. Take the time to gather preliminary information about products, people and processes. Understand current implementations and directions.
  2. Hold Interviews. Identify key stakeholders and gain different perspectives. Meet individually or in groups, and be sure to cover topics like resources, costs, risk, compliance, growth, skills, support and management.
  3. Create technology baselines. Document the essentials and highlight the constraints. Stay sufficiently high-level, but acknowledge the details around recent changes.
  4. Analyze focus areas. Use a structured method for the analysis. One of the most widely used framework in business analysis is the SWOT (Strength-Weakness-Opportunities-Threats) model. Since opportunities and threats relate to the industry at large, it is important to have subject matter experts (SMEs) provide input at this stage.
  5. Construct technology roadmaps. This is a collaborative exercise incorporating the inclusion of emerging technologies over several years. This does not always have to be a chart or a graph. It can be as simple as an enumeration of important technology adoptions in stages. For best results, use a backward sweep starting from end objectives, and then a forward sweep showing how adopting a technology at each stage can lead to the end objective. Continue this same pattern until you get it just right.
  6. Present recommendations. Knowing the roadmaps enables you to enumerate the IT projects that need attention in the coming months. There should also be clarity on the investment needed in terms of budget, time and resources.
  7. Host a workshop. Facilitate a workshop where key stakeholders meet again to review the results. This is a necessary touch point to discuss the project-based initiatives and make any final adjustments to the course.

How effective are Technology Roadmaps?

It all depends on the people and the effort put into the exercise. As indicated in the first part of this two-part series, technology roadmaps bring consensus and improved planning, budgeting & coordination. It is critical that organizations treat this as a project in itself, and provide the necessary funds and resources.

While an internal committee may be established to execute such a project, the benefits of technology roadmaps multiply exponentially when an external partner, like IDS, is involved. IDS guarantees a proven process with expert methodology, and key insight on the final deliverable. A partner like IDS can pre-empt much of the struggle by bringing SMEs to the table and a fresh external perspective.

And remember: As businesses and technologies evolve, so will the roadmaps. So, review them often.

Learn more by reading the first part of this two-part series, “The Concepts Behind a Technology Roadmap.”

Choosing the right MDM for your organization

Choosing the Right Enterprise Mobile Device Management Solution

By | How To, Strategy, Virtualization | No Comments

Recently there’s been a lot of buzz in the technology marketplace about Mobile Device Management, or MDM. It is certainly one of the new trendsetters and hot topics within Information Technology management. MDM has become even more relevant with the heavy adoption of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) models by many organizations. With all the information surrounding MDM to digest, the big question is, what is the right MDM product for your organization?

There are a lot of factors to consider when investigating any new technology solution and it’s easy to get bogged down in the process. Today I’d like to walk you through the right steps to take when determining the best Mobile Device Management solution for your company.

5 Steps to Choosing the Right MDM Solution for Your Organization

  1. Check in with Gartner Magic Quadrant. I always look at Gartner Magic Quadrant as they have been the leading trusted resource for qualifying technologies. Gartner’s 2014 leaders in EMM are AirWatch, MobileIron, Citrix, Good Technology and IBM.
  2. Consider existing technologies. Take the time to consider existing technologies in your environment. For example, if you have Citrix XenDesktop or XenApp, then you probably use Netscaler devices to access these environments from the Internet. Depending on your existing technologies and considerations for hardware, licenses and optimization, you can determine which solutions may be a good fit.
  3. Determine requirements. Start asking questions related to the requirements you need to meet. One example of many questions you should ask might be if you only want to provide company resources on these devices while users are on premise. If that’s the case, you will need to determine whether the product has Geo-fencing capabilities.
  4. Analyze the options. Once you have narrowed your focus to two or three choices, it’s time to do some additional homework. Ask your trusted solution advisors that you have used in the past, and look at any industry related postings about experiences with the products.
  5. Complete a proof of concept. When you are ready to make a decision and have your ideal solution in mind, it’s time to do a proof of concept. For this type of project, a POC is highly recommended to ensure that the product will work in your environment, meet all of your requirements and perform to expectation. From there, you can expand into a larger pilot group, and finally roll into production.

It’s important to ensure that you make proper business decisions when it comes to your strategy for managing and controlling devices accessing company resources. In addition to the steps listed above, you can also help prevent mistakes by running business decisions by a focus group. This way you know how receptive the user community will be when you implement products that manage personal and company owned devices. Ultimately this strategy helps you communicate properly with the user group and gives you the opportunity to get them excited about new technologies.


Creating a Technology Roadmap for your Organization

The Concepts Behind a Technology Roadmap

By | Design & Architecture, Project Management, Strategy | No Comments

Information Technology is critical to an organization’s success in modern times. Yet, too often we tend to get comfortable with what we have inherited or have in place today. Yes, IT is concerned with growth, and costs and will “shrink” on demand, but does anyone know where IT is headed? The costs question is directly related to at least two other questions that not every IT department asks:

  • Where do we [IT] want to be in 3 years? In 5 years? In 10 years?
  • If we continue to do what we do today, will we get there?

The good news is, IT is getting wiser. IT knows the importance of strategy. Strategic thinking has made its way from textbooks to the real world. Today, IT leaders work with businesses to provide direction that translates to a strategy, which leads to a plan. A technology roadmap is a special kind of plan. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

“A technology roadmap is a plan that matches short-term and long-term goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals. It is a plan that applies to a new product or process, or to an emerging technology.”

Some will differentiate between product roadmaps and technology roadmaps. For our purposes, we will stick to implementation of IT technologies in a typical organization.

What Drives a Technology Roadmap?

Technology roadmaps are only plausible when the goals are clear. The roadmaps are only as valuable as the areas of interest in the business. So, from an IT perspective, the rubber meets the road when we know:

  • How business applications are preparing for tomorrow’s challenges?
  • Which infrastructure changes will maximize the value to the business?

This gives a roadmap its purpose.

From there on, it is a matter of gaining a good understanding of “what is” and “what can be.” In each focus area, the IT team must evaluate the technology trends and uncertainties, relating that back to the current state and skills in the organization.

  • Do we know what else is out there?
  • Do we have what it takes to get there?

This gives a roadmap its framework.

What Can Happen Without a Technology Roadmap?

Without a technology roadmap, organizations carry unaddressed costs and risks due to outdated strategies and quick fixes that resemble patches in a quilt. Technology roadmaps bring consensus and improved planning, budgeting & coordination.

As technology evolves, so does the roadmap. An outdated technology roadmap can be almost as harmful as not having one at all. Sedentary strategies mean organizations are likely to fall victim to unplanned costs and reduced value to the business. It is, therefore, critical to setup a recurring review period where key stakeholders refresh and revise the map as business requirements continue to transform.

Stay tuned for the next part of this two-part series, when we dive into the steps needed to create your own technology roadmap.

IDS Hires new Director of Pre-Sales Engineering

Welcome to New Director of Pre-Sales Engineering, Ajay Patel

By | IDS, Strategy | No Comments

IDS is excited to announce the addition of a new Director of Pre-Sales Engineering, Ajay Patel, to our team. As a leading Data Center Technology Integrator and Cloud Services Provider we are careful to hire only the most impressive engineering and IT professionals. Right from the start we knew Ajay, who has over 20 years of experience in the field, would be a perfect complement to our skill set and culture.

A New Approach to Technology Solutions

Ajay brings a thoughtful approach to the technology industry. He explains that having the correct mindset is crucial for success.

“In my experience I’ve found it’s possible to orchestrate transformative business strategy using thoughtful data-driven decisions. We can revolutionize organizational growth, performance and profitability simply by leveraging technology in a strategic way,” says Patel.

Enthusiastic about the new hire, Chief Technology Officer, Justin Mescher, explained that Ajay’s hire is a crucial pivot point for IDS. He said that IDS has already seen great success from their Data Center and Cloud offerings, and with Ajay they will be able to dedicate even more focus to expanding and developing customer-facing resources and other initiatives.

“IDS has already grown exponentially due to our unique methodology and expert engineering talent. There is no question that the combination of Ajay’s extensive background and thought leadership will continue to propel IDS further than we ever knew it could go,” says Mescher.

Ajay is looking forward to providing integral expertise and a unique mindset to support IDS in their continued path of exponential growth, but he’s even more enthusiastic about the culture. He explained that he’s excited to be a part of IDS because it represents an impressive level of skill and dedication to customers, something he hasn’t found within many other organizations.

We are thrilled to officially welcome Ajay to the IDS team and look forward to seeing how we will continue to grow with his support.



EMC Takes Control of VCE

By | Cloud Computing, EMC, Strategy, VMware | No Comments

EMC recently announced that they were buying out most of Cisco’s interest in VCE with Cisco only retaining a 10 percent stake in the company. VCE published that they would keep their mission intact, and continue to create new solutions using their industry-leading VBlock Systems. EMC has also made headlines lately for being nominated as one of the “World’s Best Multinational Workplaces,” and for some speculation that they may be planning a reorg, which may include the formation of a new cloud business unit.

What Does The EMC Transition Mean for VCE?

While there are always different rumblings of opinions throughout an industry, many analysts maintain that the VCE transition towards becoming an EMC business is an entirely natural one, and will probably help to skyrocket their growth. In the article “EMC Buys Cisco’s Stake in VCE, Eyeing Hybrid Cloud Potential” analyst Zeus Kerravala from ZK Research explained that joint ventures are only meant to last for certain period of time.

Kerravala said “If VCE Is going to earn billions more, they are obviously going to have to find a way of growing beyond organic growth. That will probably be through mergers and acquisitions or a change of channel strategy, and it’s going to require making faster decisions.” He went on to say that since there will now be streamlined decision making under EMC, he believes it’s a good move for VCE.

Our Take on the VCE Transition to EMC

With a big industry move like this one, we wanted to talk to IDS Chief Technology Officer, Justin Mescher, and get his take on the VCE transition. Mescher explained that the move might help solidify previous marketplace suspicions.

He said,“Ever since VMware acquired Nicira in 2012 and created their own software-defined networking stack, speculation has been swirling that EMC, VMware, and Cisco would start to grow further apart. While this move seems to confirm the rumors, I think it will be a positive move overall.”

Mescher went on to explain that VCE’s biggest value has been bringing fully validated and pre-integrated systems to customers to accelerate time to value, reduce risk and increase efficiency, and that mantra of the offerings shouldn’t change.

He explained that it will be interesting to see is how the recent EMC re-structuring to create a Cloud Management and Orchestration group will impact this acquisition. EMC has proclaimed that this new business unit will focus on helping customers work in both the private and public cloud independently of the technology running underneath it. This will include EMC’s “software-defined” portfolio as well as some of their new acquisitions targeted at cloud enablement and migration.

Concluding his thoughts, Mescher said,“Could EMC take the framework and concept that VCE made successful and start to loosen some of the vendor-specific requirements? While this would certainly not be typical of EMC, if they are serious about shifting from a hardware company to focusing on the software-defined Data Center, what more impactful place to start?”

About VCE

VCE was started in 2009 as a joint venture between three of the top IT industry companies, EMC, Cisco and WMware as an effort to provide customers integrated products solutions through a single entity. In 2010 VCE introduced their Vblock Systems which provided a new approach to optimizing technology solutions for cloud computing. Since then they have continued to grow their customer portfolio and improve their solutions and be a leader in the industry. See the complete VCE history.

Cloud Computing and Farming from NetApp Insight

An Unexpected Finding at NetApp Insight 2014

By | Cloud Computing, NetApp, Strategy | No Comments

Another year of NetApp Insight has come and gone and I would like to share some very exciting news regarding the many useful updates to Data ONTAP 8.3. However, I will have to wait a few more weeks until NetApp lifts the press embargo. Instead, I want to take some time and share with you something I found extremely interesting from NetApp partner, Fujitsu

NetApp has partnerships with many players in tech, but this story presented at one of the general sessions from Fujitsu’s Bob Pryor, Head of Americas and Corporate Vice President, regarding how Japanese farmers are using SaaS in the cloud really had a profound effect on me.  Not only because cloud computing and farming are perceptively juxtaposed, but having grown up on a dairy farm, I’m always interested in how farmers are using technology to drive efficiency in their daily lives. For example, robots and GPS devices did not exist 30 years ago in the agricultural space, right when I needed them most to help me with my chores.

How Can Cloud Computing and Farming Work Together?

Cloud and farming? Nothing could seem so irrelevant on the together on the paper.After all, farmers use sweat and brawn, machinery, and long hours to accomplish their tasks, but they’re also running a business and need to collect data on crops, commodity prices, livestock, and weather.Millions of potential data points for analysis could open up new ways of discovery to higher yields, healthier livestock, and ultimately, greater profits.Kind of sounds like a “Big Data” opportunity to me. I encourage you to take a look at Akisai, Fujitsu’s SaaS platform aiding Japanese farmers today. 

“Fujitsu’s new service is the first of its kind worldwide that has been designed to provide comprehensive support to all aspects of agricultural management, such as for administration, production, and sales in open field cultivation of rice and vegetables, horticulture, and in animal husbandry. With the on-site utilization of ICT as a starting point, the service aims to connect distributors, agricultural regions, and consumers through an enhanced value chain.” – Fujitsu

As more of us move into large cites and as third-world countries continue evolve from an agrarian to manufacturing/services based economies, it’s more important now than ever to understand where our food comes from, how it’s produced, and how it affects us as consumers. If technology can play a more dominant role in supplying food delivery to the world with less land, resources, and time, and can provide better economies of scale to the farmer, then I believe Fujitsu is onto something here.

Please visit Fujitsu’s website for further information.



WAN vs. WAN Optimization

By | How To, Networking, Strategy | No Comments

Last week, I compared Sneakernet vs. WAN. And I didn’t really compare the two with any WAN optimization products—just a conservative compression ratio of around 2x, which can be had with any run-of-the-mill storage replication technology or something as simple as WinZip.

But today, I want to show the benefits of putting a nice piece of technology in between the two locations over the WAN to see how much better our data transfer becomes.

When WAN Opt Is Useful

When choosing between a person’s time or using technology, I like the tech route. But even if it’s faster, how much faster does it need to be to offset the expense, hassle, and opportunity cost of installing a WAN Opt product? The only true way to know is to buy the product, install it, and run your real-world tests; however, I’m one for asking around.

But even if it’s faster, how much faster does it need to be to offset the expense, hassle, and opportunity cost of installing a WAN Opt product?

I reached out to my friends over at Silver Peak, and they pointed me to this handy online calculator.

It turns out, WAN Optimization products aren’t always useful in some situations. If you have ample bandwidth that’s very low latency, it might not be worth it. But even marginal latency across any distance at all, or data that can be repetitive (or compresses/deduplicates well), can benefit from a WAN Opt. And if you have business RPO and RTOs, you may very well require WAN Optimization in between.

An Example

I took the example from last week: the 100mbit connection, figuring in 7ms of latency to simulate the equivalent of 50% utilization on the line with 2x compression. If you recall, the file transfer of 10TB of data moved in 10 days can translate to 370TB of data in the same time frame with a Silver-Peak appliance at both ends. Much of that efficiency is due to the way WAN Optimization works, which is to say that data doesn’t always just get compressed and streamed using multiple steams. The best WAN Opt products also don’t send duplicate and redundant data. So a transfer that would normally take a week or a day could be completed in as little as 4.5 hours or 40 minutes, respectively.

The effort to install, in reality, is not that significant. Silver-Peak appliances come in physical and virtual form, with the virtual machines being a lot quicker to spin up and a little cheaper to acquire. Just make sure you are on a relatively recent IOS code that supports WCCP on your routers, and you can quickly deploy the virtual appliance in both locations.

Additional Benefits

Aside from moving data quickly, there are other benefits, such as improved voice calls (UDP packets that arrive out of order can be reassembled in the correct order), faster response times on applications over the wire, and pretty much any type of traffic that’s TCP-IP. If it were me, I would simply compare the cost of expanding the performance of the circuit versus adding a WAN Opt product in between. For most locations in the United States, circuits are expensive and bandwidth is limited, so you’re likely better off with a Silver-Peak at both ends to save both time and cost.

If it were me, I would simply compare the cost of expanding the performance of the circuit versus adding a WAN Opt product in between.

Of course, don’t just take my word for it. Run a POC on any network that you’re having problems with, and you’ll find out soon enough if WAN Optimization is the way to go.

Photo credit via Flickr: Tom Raftery