Tuesday, May 27, 2014

HP's Helion Cloud Initiative

HP’s Helion Cloud Initiative

It is not often that one sees a major corporation undertake an effort to remake itself. GM is the most recent example that comes to mind. However, GM needed a bankruptcy to force the issue. HP is embarking on a major transformation of its internal structure not under the pressure of bankruptcy, but by a drive to spur organic growth in key business initiatives by increasing innovation and implementing new technology. HP calls this “The New Style of IT,” and it includes cross-company initiatives such as Cloud, Big Data, Mobility, and Security. As part of this, HP’s cloud initiative continues under the new “HP Helion” brand.
Let’s examine what HP is up against as we assess their chances of success. HP has funded Helion with an initial amount of $1 billion over the next two years. The amount certainly signifies how seriously they take this effort.  This follows HP’s consolidation during 2013 and 2014 of disparate cloud-related products and services across the company into a new HP Cloud business unit, which combines all of their cloud portfolio. Effectively, many people will find themselves in new organizations. They will have to determine how to work with new colleagues in different relationships and changed responsibilities. While it is easy to announce such a change, a lot of hard work will be necessary to get these units functioning.

Next, the long range goal involves the integration of other HP products into the Helion world. For example, they will have to incorporate  Helion into HP Converged systems along with hundreds of other products, some of which will require major efforts in themselves. Another long range project will incorporate Helion into HP’s roughly 80 worldwide datacenters[1]. Martin Fink, leader of the Helion effort, says that the datacenter effort should take the next 18 months.

HP plans to roll out several projects this year. The first is a distribution (distro) of software to the Helion Cloud Community based on the Icehouse release of Open Stack. A free version of the software[2] is available now. HP plans a free release of updated versions every 6 weeks. Later in the year, HP will release a for-fee commercial version that scales much higher, supporting more users and VMs than the free version. It includes bundled-in support.

We have several suggestions for HP. For the new cloud organization to be successful, it needs to be very creative. Therefore, HP leadership should carefully consider the physical arrangements they make for the new unit. Steve Jobs spent a lot of time with the architects of the new Apple headquarters to ensure that the design would encourage and foster the creativity of the people working there. HP cannot afford (nor do they need) to redesign all their facilities. However, they could find a facilities review well worthwhile[3]

We also suggest that HP reconsider how they measure success for each new Helion distro. Executives were very proud they released their distro only three weeks after OpenStack’s release of icehouse. Clearly, today’s emphasis must include time-to-market, but speed cannot risk compromised quality. HP’s commitment to a new release every six weeks needs to be reevaluated. We believe that customers appreciate that quicker releases means that faster access to fixes and new functionality. However, they would be happier with 8 week intervals if the delay meant a better tested/more reliable release.  If time is needed for better quality, HP can tell the customers that they are taking that additional time without making much fuss. In fact, it might just be better to commit to the slightly longer interval.

We must also mention that although we are admirers of Martin Fink (we knew him when he did an excellent job in Linux), we do not think that having him wear three hats as HP’s CTO, Research Director, and manager of Helion[4] is really viable for an extended amount of time. Each one of these efforts requires (and should have) a full time executive. HP risks a lot by delaying recruitment or identification of these people.

In summary, we view this Helion rollout as a further, very positive development of Meg Whitman’s strategy for HP. In particular, the ongoing financial turnaround of the company that has proceeded well so far has made this Helion strategy practical.  It has made possible the $1 billion dollar investment funding Helion. HP customers and stockholders have a lot to cheer about at this point. However, Helion success will require wrenching changes at HP. HP management faces a real challenge making this initiative work. We are encouraged by their evident planning and efforts so far.

[1] HP has announced that 22 datacenters will implement Helion by the end of 2015.
[2] Service is a priced option.
[3] Whitman is consolidating the Helion group into several locations and gradually moving some of the telecommuters back into the office. Sounds like a reasonable strategy to us.
[4] He has other  management responsibilities has well.

Friday, May 16, 2014

IMPACT 2014 – IBM as the Magician’s Helper

By Rich Ptak

Scientist/statesman Arthur C. Clarke promoted three laws, one of the most trenchant states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Even those with minimal familiarity with the building blocks of technology will comprehend the truth in that law. At IBM’s IMPACT 2014, the developers and operations staff that create, enable and deliver the ‘magic’ saw the latest offerings of infrastructure, software and services that support their efforts.

Over 9,100 attendees from 83 countries accessed displays and attended discussions that provided a detailed review of the latest, greatest hardware starting with the amazing POWER8[1] chip, brand new PowerSystems[2] through to PureSystems, WATSON and System z mainframes.

However, the strongest focus was on the increasingly accessible, powerful software used to create and deliver the magic. On display were products and solutions ranging from Cloud–based Open Standards development, test and deployment services to specialized applications that support developers and, increasingly, business staffs in their quest to harness the power of Cloud, Big Data/Analytics and mobile devices. All of these are designed to speed development, test and delivery of solutions that improve enterprise operations and life in general in so many different ways.

IBM continues the theme of their new business operating model “IBM as a Service” (from Pulse 2014). Day 1’s theme ‘The New Composable Business’ expanded on the requirements of this emerging style for business operation. IBM uses this term to describe the dynamic evolution in the organization, creation and delivery of business services a result of and driven by today’s big three technologies: Cloud, Big Data and Mobile. To succeed, composable businesses require the structure, organization and infrastructure of a complementary ‘Composable IT’, which are fueled and made possible by those same technologies.

This leads us to Day 2’s theme: “Made with IBM” kicking of with customer and partner presentations demonstrating the successes they were realizing using IBM products and services. IBM has recently been celebrating significant anniversaries (50 years of the mainframe), introducing the new POWER8 chip and PowerSystems, as well as launching Power-based WATSON as a real business group as it proves it is not simply an exotic example of expensive, esoteric cognitive computing.

Underlying all this, IBM said that it is the developers who hold the key to innovation. Therefore, IBM is dedicated to making their task easier, convincingly demonstrating it on-stage as customers working in real-time used IBM products to assemble solutions. Using a variety of platforms, including WATSON, they demonstrated customized customer service interactions involving commercial transactions, travel planning, financial services, as well as more complex services for medical treatment protocols, resource location and management.

On Day 3, the focus was on “The Way Forward”, discussing extensions to existing, as well as numerous new IBM efforts that increase the accessibility and lower the cost of using their solutions, services and infrastructure now available for students, developers, businesses and enterprises. There were numerous announcements of new and enhanced products, services and solutions. A sampling includes the announcement of additional enhancements to IBM Codename: BlueMix[3], a Cloud-based delivery system to virtually the complete range of IBM products and solutions and a considerable number of partner products to developers et al to gain experience, insight and try n’ buy. Then, there is the IBM Cloud marketplace of over 200 IBM and Third-party products and services.  PureApplication Service on SoftLayer improves Cloud economics (lower costs) with over 200 software patterns that are more modular to increase agility, simplify reuse and add flexibility. Complementing these activities is a new IBM MobileFirst Development solution. You can sign-up for a free account on Cloudant[4], IBM’s mobile-ready, highly scalable NoSQL Database-as-a-Service now available on SoftLayer. New pre-configured industry-specific mobile apps were announced for Retail Banking, Small Business Banking, Coordinated Care, etc. The list continues, more information is available directly on IBM’s site.

IBM has and is operating to a vision of market that is in the process of radical transformation. The transformation is fundamental and massive affecting the business and operational models of vendors, partners and customers. It changes how revenue is generated; how solutions are created, deployed, delivered and accessed. A lot of foundational investment must be made in building and providing the comprehensive ecosystem of vendors, channels, partners and customers to achieve the transformation. No company can do it all alone. IBM is working hard to define, create and implement the parts of the ecosystem that they can deliver and influence. They are working with their partners, competitors and customers in the areas of the ecosystem that each of those requires and where coop-tition is necessary for the transformation is to occur. Those include long-range efforts at standards and environmental portability.

Developers have a key role in initiating and accomplishing a successful move. Vast advantages will accrue to those who make the shift. IBM has set out to attract and support those developers, partners and customers that already recognize the need to change. They are undertaking the major task to accelerate and make the move to composable business operations easier for current movers and to educate those who recognize something is happening and are searching for the path forward. IBM’s efforts are inclusive, recognizing that the ultimate success of the effort depends on the success of multiple players. IBM Application & Integration Middleware General Manager, Marie Wieck summarized the plan best in her keynote speech summary:

  • IBM is helping customers transform to composable businesses and capitalize on cloud, data and mobile
  • IBM continues the journey to build out the most comprehensive cloud portfolio in the industry, with the IBM Cloud marketplace as the single destination
  • IBM has opened its middleware to the cloud, working with broad development ecosystem on the BlueMix platform-as-a-service

IBM sees the future in this transformation. We tend to agree.

[1] See a review: POWER8 – IBM’s billion dollar bet on servers at
[2] More details from IBM at:
[3] See our review IBM's BlueMix---A playground for developers at:
[4] Sign up for a free account:

Monday, May 12, 2014

IBM's BlueMix---A playground for developers

IBM – BlueMix, A learning playground for Developer’s

By Bill Moran

On February 24, IBM announced several major Cloud initiatives including an on-line Cloud Development site, called BlueMix. On April 28th IBM significantly enhanced BlueMix. Before we dive into the details first, some background.

History shows that developers play a key part in the success of any platform. Over the years, Microsoft and Apple actively solicited and cultivated developers of all sorts to use their platforms. One major result is that Windows and the iPhone enjoyed great marketplace success. Apple’s app store has become legendary for the vast choice of applications available.  IBM has clearly seen that capturing developer interest as essential to its success in the Cloud.

However, IBM also understands that developers divide into two groups. The first group is developing Greenfield applications. These are brand-new applications that typically do not have to integrate with an existing set of applications. Startup companies will have many such applications. The second developer type writes applications that must integrate with an existing set of applications. For example, a bank might want to develop a new mobile app that allows customers to make changes to their accounts on-line. It's clear that it must integrate into the bank’s existing applications that are already running in production environments. If the bank allows development of this application to proceed in the cloud without being done properly, it can encounter major difficulties in testing, integration and performance.

Therefore, IBM inaugurated the new cloud service for developers called BlueMix with many features that app developers will find very attractive. Let's describe some of these features. For example:
·        The developer can select any language suitable for the cloud that they wish to use. They can get going with very little set-up time.
·        BlueMix has an extensive catalog of services from IBM and third parties that are built in. Notable here are SQL and NOSQL, as well as others such as app runtimes like Java and PHP.
·        BlueMix has services that connect to the Internet of things. Applications can manage and analyze data coming from mobile phones, cameras, sensors, and other intelligent devices.
·        It provides an integrated DevOps environment with planning tools and source control. Developers can access and use their favorite tools.
·        It can run the necessary backend services for mobile apps, such as Push notifications.
·        It facilitates integration into existing systems. It is easy to connect to existing apps by using tools like Secure Connector and Cast Iron integration.
·        IBM is also now offering a new facility, BlueMix Garage. This is a physical location where developers can work with each other and interact with IBM experts. The first Garage, located in South San Francisco, is run by Galvanize with plans to ultimately host up to 200 such startups.
BlueMix has much to offer the developer community. Even better, it is free. Developers only need to sign on to it during the Open Beta going on now. To do so, go to  Also, in line with the idea of continuous development, expect to see IBM rolling out additional functions over the coming year. At the recent IMPACT event, they added services in support of Cloud Integration, the Internet of Things, Analytics and Application Auto-scaling to meet demand. You can follow this and find out more using Twitter @ibmcloud and in the blog:

There is also a worldwide series of workshops on BlueMIx. Go to:, for locations and schedule. The workshops are free.

Another part of this growing ecosystem is Developer Works. With more than 4 million members already, it is proving to be an excellent source of technical information and well worth exploring. You can simply follow this link to to access this rich resource of knowledge and information.

It is very clear that IBM is making a major effort to court and attract developers to its solutions and tools. They have made a very excellent start by demonstrating that they have a clear understanding of the problems that developers face as they must move to the new operating climate of composable business and composable  IT. “Composable’ in this context speaks to an operating and operational mode that demands fast response times with services that are highly adaptive as well as quickly and easily accessible.

BlueMix is IBM’s aggressive first step to aid and speed the transition of both IT and businesses to this new environment. It does so by providing a significant boost to developer productivity and agility in the cloud environment. BlueMix allows easy access to tools and services designed for cloud usage so that developers are able to acquire experience and expertise in the use of new and existing development tools and services. We find no downside for developers to check out what is on offer to them on BlueMix. And, we expect many will decide to increase and expand their participation to their own as well as their employer’s significant benefit.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From the floor of EMC WORLD

It's now day 3 at EMC World.  Predictably, we have seen a series of announcements -- ViPR and the cloud appliance are the biggies so far, with the acquisition of Andy Bechtelheim's stealthy DSSD (for flash storage) probably the most widely hyped.

Re this last: No product from them yet, but expect a platform to support in-memory computation (read Hadoop and SAP HANA) to lead the list of 1Q2015 releases.  This is a newly-emerged segment, and will take several years to ramp up.  In the interim between now and when it starts to scale, keep in mind that there are no players already servicing this segment at scale... despite what they might tell you)=.

ViPR 2 continues its growth as the convergence engine for management of EMC's storage products.  It also can manage across other vendors' products if they align with OpenStack.  ViPR also offers native management for a few non-EMC boxes.

A few other things heard today:

From Bill Scannell to the partners:  "Give them a choice (EMC, or competitors' products), but have an opinion" (i.e., push EMC kit). Got me thinking about the whole lock-in issue which, given the advantages offered by pre-configured, pre-tested systems, may not be a real issue after all. Time-to-value pretty much trumps all these days from the buyer's viewpoint.

Again from Bill Scannell:  "All flash, flash everywhere". But because EMC offers so many flavors of flash, make sure the sales team has some guidance re which flash to sell.

From a partner: "We need guidance to compete with the nimble startups that have entered the flash market."  My suggestion to EMC: Codify the response to achieve consistency.