Where is enterprise infrastructure headed in 2015?

The enterprise industry is another year older … and hopefully somewhat wiser. Here’s what enterprise watchers should expect to see in 2015.

More cyber attacks

Sadly, this is an easy one. As bad as 2014 has been, and it has been bad, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Given the steady increase in value going through our systems (credit cards numbers, personal information, IP), organized crime and nation-sponsored attacks will continue to rise in quantity and sophistication. The current approaches to security clearly aren’t cutting it, which is why the security space is one of my biggest personal focus areas. (Full disclosure I’m an investor in Illumio, Menlo Security and ThreatStream, all companies in this space.)

AWS pushes further into the enterprise

Almost every startup that we fund today is using [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services, but it’s interesting to see AWS creep further into the medium and larger companies that dominate IT spending. At this year’s AWS Re:Invent, there were lots of compelling enterprise anecdotes, plenty of “all-in” stories, and, most importantly, the arrival of an ecosystem. There were startups and large companies alike announcing integrations with AWS with particular focus on the “-ities” — predictability, manageability, security, and availability. These are good signs of increased adoption in mainstream businesses where it’s now not “if” but “when” a company adopts cloud.

AWS: Reinvent

The rise of IaaS competitors

AWS continues with its strong lead, but 2014 also showed that there’s going to be a bigger fight than ever. In particular, [company]Google[/company] Compute Engine and [company]Microsoft[/company] Azure are rapidly improving their services and have the pocketbooks to fight this for the long term. Throw in Rackspace, IBM, vCloud Air, HP and the many other regional or vertically oriented offerings, and it’s going to be a major battle — with customers as the likely winners.

Containers get down to work

The rise of Docker has been one of the true success stories of 2014. However, it has also created a deluge of competitors (CoreOSRed HatUbuntu) and interesting co-opters (AmazonGoogle and VMware). Quite a year for a previously unheralded technology. The rise is real, but I believe that some of the hype will subside in 2015 as the some of the real work of making containers usable by enterprises begins in earnest.

Docker and the money container

Converged/hyper-converged infrastructure grabs the limelight

2014 saw continued excitement over “converged infrastructure,” pre-configured hardware/software bundles that are powerful and easy to adopt. Nutanix, VCE and Cisco UCS get most of the attention, but there’s lots of interesting competition on the way, especially as the latter two vendors update their relationship status to “It’s complicated.” Latest offerings include VMware’s EVO designs to new products from the big system vendors (Dell and HP are particularly aggressive). And I can personally attest to a slew of startups heading into this converged world with a variety of technologies and approaches.

APIs on the mind

I wrote about “mobile-first infrastructure” earlier this year and continue to think it will drive several longer-term infrastructure changes. In 2015, I think it will manifest itself most as the rise of APIs in enterprise development, as companies both produce and consume APIs like never before. Look for increased conversations, companies and challenges arising over this shift. (Full disclosure: I’m a backer of RunScope, which makes developer tools for this “API economy.”)

Network virtualization gets its legs

There has been much discussion of the arrival of software-defined networking (SDN). However, the term itself has been polluted to a point where it means different things to almost anyone you ask. I prefer the term network virtualization to speak more holistically about the advancement in separating out the logical network from the physical network. Cisco ACI and VMware NSX appear to have the lead, and 2014 saw significant movement from proof-of-concepts toward significant paid usage. Anecdotally, most of the adoption is in service providers, financial services and tech-heavy IT companies. 2015 should see further progress in the adoption, including by a broader set of consumers.

Big deals for big data

In 2014 there was nonstop talk about big data, analytics, and the opportunities and challenges of each. 2014 funding for companies has been unprecedented, ranging from Intel’s huge bet on Cloudera to substantial private investments in DataStax (driver of Cassandra)Databricks (driver of Spark)PlatforaAltiScaleDataGravity and numerous others. (My company, General Catalyst, invested in AltiScale and DataGravity.) Next year these companies will all focus on revenue — and we’ll see how the public markets respond to at least one Hadoop vendor, as Hortonworks is now a public company.

That’s one person’s cut at developments in enterprise infrastructure for 2015, and I’m sure I’ve omitted others that will be even bigger. That’s what is so fun about this space these days: We’re in a modern-day renaissance driven by the convergence of new technologies, new expectations and new challenges, all of which point toward more and bigger changes happening each year than may have taken place in prior decades. Here’s to the fun ride ahead.

Dr. Steve Herrod is a managing director at General Catalyst Partners and was CTO and senior vice president of R&D at VMware.

Note: This story was updated at 5:24 p.m. PST to correct the reference to Cisco ACI (application-centric infrastructure) not ACE.

Seven Things the CIO should consider when adopting a holistic cloud strategy

As conversations about cloud computing continues to focus on IT’s inability at holistic adoption, organizations outside of IT continue their cloud adoption trek outside the prevue of IT. While many of these efforts are considered Shadow IT efforts and frowned upon by the IT organization, they are simply a response to a wider problem.

The IT organization needs to adopt a holistic cloud strategy. However, are CIOs really ready for this approach? Michael Keithley, Creative Artists Agency’s CIO just returned from CIO Magazine’s CIO 100 Symposium which brings together the industry’s best IT leaders. In his blog post, he notes that “(he) was shocked to find that even among this elite group of CIOs there were still a significant amount of CIOs who where resisting cloud.” While that perspective is widely shared, it does not represent all CIOs. There are still a good number of CIOs that have moved to a holistic cloud strategy. The problem is that most organizations are still in a much earlier state of adoption.

In order to develop a holistic cloud strategy, it is important to follow a well-defined process. The four steps are straightforward and fit just about any organization:

  1. Assess: Provide a holistic assessment of the entire IT organization, applications and services that is business focused, not technology focused. For the CIO, they are a business leader that happens to have responsibility for technology. Understand what is differentiating and what is not.
  2. Roadmap: Use the options and recommendations from the assessment to provide a roadmap. The roadmap outlines priority and valuations that ultimately drive the alignment of IT.
  3. Execute: This is where the rubber hits the road. IT organizations will learn more about themselves through action. For many, it is important to start small (read: lower risk) and ramp up quickly.
  4. Re-Assess & Adjust: As the IT organization starts down the path of execution, lessons are learned and adjustments needed. Those adjustments will span technology, organization, process and governance. Continual improvement is a key hallmark to staying in tune with the changing demands.

For many, following this process alone is not enough to develop a holistic cloud strategy. In order to successfully leverage a cloud-based solution, several things need to change that may contradict current norms. Today, cloud is leveraged in many ways from Software as a Service (SaaS) to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). However, it is most often a very fractured and disjointed approach to leveraging cloud. Yet, the very applications and services in play require that organizations consider a holistic approach in order to work most effectively.

When considering a holistic cloud strategy, there are a number of things the CIO needs to consider including these six:

  1. Challenge the Status Quo: This is one of the hardest changes as the culture within IT developed over decades. One example is changing the mindset that ‘critical systems may not reside outside your own data center’ is not trivial. On the other hand, leading CIOs are already “getting out of the data center business.” Do not get trapped by the cultural norms and the status quo.
  2. Differentiation: Consider which applications and services are true differentiators for your company. Focus on the applications and services that provide strategic value and shift more common functions (ie: email) to alternative solutions like Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps.
  3. Align with Business Strategy: Determine how IT can best enable and catapult the company’s business strategy. If IT is interested in making a technology shift, consider if it will bring direct positive value to the business strategy. If it does not, one should ask a number of additional questions determining the true value of the change. With so much demand on IT, focus should be on those changes that bring the highest value and align with the business strategy.
  4. Internal Changes: Moving to cloud changes how organizations, processes and governance models behave. A simple example is how business continuity and disaster recovery processes will need to change in order to accommodate the introduction of cloud-based services. For organizations, cloud presents both an excitement of something new and a fear from loss of control and possible job loss. CIOs need to ensure that this area is well thought out before proceeding.
  5. Vendor Management: Managing a cloud provider is not like every other existing vendor relationship. Vendor management comes into sharp focus with the cloud provider that spans far more than just the terms of the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
  6. Exit Strategy: Think about the end before getting started. Exiting a cloud service can happen for good or bad reasons. Understand what the exit terms are and in what for your data will exist. Exporting a flat file could present a challenge if the data is in a structured database. However, that may be the extent of the provider’s responsibility. When considering alternative providers, recognize that shifting workloads across providers is not necessarily as trivial as it might sound. It is important to think this through before engaging.
  7. Innovation: Actively seek out ways to adopt new solutions and methodologies. For example, understand the value from Devops, OpenStack, Containers and Converged Infrastructure. Each of these may challenge traditional thinking, which is ok.

Those are seven of the top issues that often come up in the process of setting a holistic cloud strategy. Cloud offers the CIO, the IT organization and the company as a whole one of the greatest opportunities today. Cloud is significant, but only the tip of the iceberg. For the CIO and their organization, there are many more opportunities beyond cloud today that are already in the works.

Cisco’s servers now tuned for Hadoop

Cisco and EMC have come up with a reference architecture featuring Cisco UCS server gear that’s designed to run the EMC Greenplum MR software, the company’s “enterprise-class” Hadoop distribution that features technology it OEMs from Hadoop startup MapR.

Nutanix gets $25M to help you scale like Google

Nutanix just closed a $25 million Series B round for its system that puts computing and storage on the same node, allowing companies to scale their storage layer without investing in a SAN. Khosla Ventures led the round, along with Lightspeed Venture Partners and Blumberg Capital.

Can the mid-market drive an infrastructure revolution?

Nutanix is counting on mid-size enterprises to drive its adoption of its converged infrastructure appliance. CEO Dheeraj Pandey’s stance is that SMEs have the budgets, the IT demands and the right cultures to justify taking chances on new approaches to infrastructure. He could be onto something.

Cisco: We’re all you need for cloud gear

At its Cisco Live event today in Las Vegas, Cisco rolled out a range of new features and products designed to convince companies that Cisco is all they need for their cloud network and server needs. But will customers actually buy into Cisco’s vision?

Today in Cloud

Chris Evans highlights this week’s news from Hitachi Data Systems, which sees the storage company begin to market a “converged infrastructure” solution. The Unified Computing Platform will see HDS enter a space that HP has been striving to make its own; a space in which customers can move up and down through the product range as their requirements change. However, as Chris outlines, the information released by HDS to date prompts far more questions than it answers.

HP wants to challenge Amazon for cloud developers

Systems giant HP today announced a slew of new enterprise cloud products and services, but it won’t be until later this summer — when it unveils its public cloud services — that we’ll see just how big a role HP will play in the cloud computing space.