Is Community Still a Bad Word? #blogredux


This week in Blog Redux: is community still a bad word? This week I’m reviving an old post from from February 2012 (almost 8 years ago!). The post was titled On dev-ops, marketing, the c-word, and pneumonia. Don’t worry, the c-word is community.

As always, I’ll re-post the blog in its entirety here, and add my comments as a quote that start with Thoughts from 2019: .

On dev-ops, marketing, the c-word, and pneumonia

Pneumonia is a funny thing. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with pneumonia a week and a half ago. While I was at Cloud Connect. I can honestly say I’ve never been this sick in my entire life. It’s worse than the massive kidney infection I had when I was 8 months pregnant. Or the appendectomy that happened when I was six months pregnant. (Yes same kid. She obviously inherited tenacity from the get-go).

I’ve had to just lay in bed for 12 days now. This blog has been written and re-written several times in my head, but today is the first day I’ve had the energy to sit up and write it.

Thoughts from 2019: I was very sick. I didn’t even have the energy to read, which was a first for me. It was the first time I had slowed down in a very long time. The universe absolutely told me to have a seat. Hard IT burn-out lessons learned here.

One of the things I’ve been laying in bed thinking about is how social media tools are being used for marketing. I jumped to marketing from technical education because I wanted to blog and learn and talk about all of the cool new emerging technologies. I wanted to do more than maintain courses on legacy technologies  for a corporate training organization. And isn’t marketing really just educating people about what your company can offer?

Thoughts from 2019: I maintain that this is exactly what a product marketer does, based on research and collaboration.

Social media gives all of us the ability to find experts on all sorts of topics . Hell, you may be the expert – maybe you find a blog or a video or a message board that sparks innovation by giving you a different angle, a different definition. Then you share your innovative idea with others – and you banter and argue and everyone learns a ton.

Thoughts from 2019: I believe this is still true, but it may be harder to find. I mean, kids these days want to grow up to be influencers, not influence others with their unique insights and talents.

For businesses, harnessing the power of the experts inside and outside of your organization can be a very powerful thing. Unfortunately, that’s not what I’m seeing in the world of marketing. Lots of the traditional marketing viewpoints – reach, eyeballs on the pages, crafting and controlling the messages seem to be much more important than telling the company’s story from the viewpoint of external and internal experts.

You may have seen me talking about the “C-word” on Twitter. The c-word is Community. I started using the c-word after talking to some other social media folks who had also noticed in meetings about new social media plans, lots would be said about various social media tools, keywords, even metrics, but nothing was ever said about how this plan would impact and build the community. It’s almost like community is a dirty word!

I think the support groups in an organization – e.g. Education and Marketing – really need to step up and start changing the way they do business. We need to stop applying the old way of doing things to these new social media tools.  We are the teachers, the story tellers. Why aren’t we telling stories, teaching our communities? Why are we just making plans to tweet and blog and chatter? Let’s take advantage of the promise of the tools – and change how we do things!

Thoughts from 2019: Just coming out of a corporate product marketing role, I’m not sure this has gotten much better in the last 8 years. It is much easier to create video and blog content, and social media marketing is really part of digital marketing now. There are even efforts to do influencer marketing, but that too doesn’t try to knit ties between internal and external parties, let alone build internal or external communities. There is so much potential for marketers and educators here, surely we are better than nation states who use social media marketing tools to disrupt the social fabric of their enemies.

One of the few conversations I was able to have at Cloud Connect was with Brent Scotten of DreamHost. We mulled over the idea of what will happen if the whole devops movement really takes root in organizations.  The devops movement is about the operations and software development teams working together to create the best infrastructure possible in order to quickly develop and deploy software. If those teams work as a well-oiled team, and the company’s product is getting better faster because of it, marketing and education can’t be add-ons. These groups can’t continue to business like they did last century when the bread and butter of the business has moved on to doing things a new way.

I love this point the Agile Admin makes in a post about the definition of dev-ops:

The point is that all the participants in creating a product or system should collaborate from the beginning – business folks of various stripes, developers of various stripes, and operations folks of various stripes, and all this includes security, network, and whoever else.  There’s a lot of different kinds of business and developer stakeholders as well; just because everyone doesn’t get a specific call-out….   The original agile development guys were mostly thinking about “biz + dev” collaboration, and DevOps is pointing out “dev + ops” collaboration, but the mature result of all this is “everyone collaborating”. (emphasis mine)

Thoughts from 2019: We are 8 years in, and I believe the dev-ops movement (although the intentions were good) and public cloud providers have actually widened the gap between developers and IT admins.

These days I’ve had to lay in bed have allowed me to really reflect on who I am. I’m a community builder, an educator, a story teller. My forced shut down reminded me how important those things are. Looking forward to getting my strength back and getting back to work to try and to help people see that community isn’t a bad word.

Thoughts from 2019: A strong product community can make a better product. We strayed from that original idea to chase likes and views. I think it’s time to revisit the promise of community.

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Cloud 2020 Summit – did our predictions materialize?

zoltar - fortune teller

The Cloud 2020 Summit was held May 19, 2013 at the Supernap in Las Vegas (which is now called Switch – I think). The event was pulled together by Krish Subramanian, Ben Kepes, and Mark Thiele. The purpose was to “look at the future of cloud infrastructure – it’s going to bring together pundits, vendors and enterprise buyers to postulate on where the industry is going“.

The website is no longer live, but you can see the agenda here. Thank goodness they invited bloggers! I’m not sure how I got invited, but I sure was happy to be there. I’d like to challenge anyone who attended the Cloud 2020 Summit and blogged about it to republish their blog, with added commentary now that we’re at the close of 2019.

Observations from 2019: Here is the post I wrote (original post is here). Looking back, I think it is pretty incredible what I took away from the event.

Cloud 2020, new economic models, and diversity

Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend Interop and the Cloud 2020 Summit. I have lots of thoughts and themes that are converging into a solid story, and this is the blog is the first of the themes that have come out of that event for me.

Observations from 2019: I started off pretty nice. 🙂

To set the stories up, I first have to talk about my passionate outburst during the #Cloud2020 session “The Economics and Use Case of Federated Clouds”. The goal of the session was to “make some sense in terms of economics of how it is going to play out and also discuss some use cases around the idea”. So they discussed cloud as a platform and the economic theories that could drive that. Mainly capitalism vs. communism. My suggestion is that we are leaving out older economic theories, mainly indigenous | substinence economic models.

During the panel, I questioned why the same old tired economic theories were being discussed. Why is it still a binary discussion, with no dissent or deviation, even when the plans we are discussing will impact every person on this earth. What are our responsibilities as we think of the economies of the cloud?

Observations from 2019: Looking back, I know that our visions for cloud 2020, and how new “web 2.0” applications were being implemented bothered me at this level: if we continued to ignore the people our new world was going to impact, we were going to get some scary results. And that’s exactly the path we’re on right now.

I say that it is vital that we have a healthy, vigorous dialogue that is truly diverse. One definition of diverse is where the environment is open enough that all the questions can be asked. I’m not sure we are there yet. (Yeah this is gonna be long, please read on!).

I told the panel there was a problem when all day none of the speakers had included women, multiple races, or representatives of different classes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: this is not an anti-man, they didn’t include us, blah blah blah post. I know the organizers. I know this is not how they think or operate, and indeed they invited women who had to back out because of other commitments. I also know I could have been/should be more participatory…the responsibility is not just with the men or the organizers.

Observations from 2019: I think we’ve started to make improvements with diversity. But we still have a long way to go. I still go to meetings, to events, where women and minorities are not present, and if they are they aren’t the ones on the stage. It is even more important than ever to have a diverse group of people deciding how infrastructures and applications are built, especially as we use people’s personal data to fuel these new apps.

I was approached afterward by someone who felt attacked by my words. I apologized for that, told him I was sincerely sorry and that wasn’t my intention.But he made sure to let me know that specifically had felt attacked because I called out the lack if women (even though my point was the lack of diversity). He then told me something that really has stuck with me.

He told me if I wanted to get ahead, I should stop pointing out that I’m a woman.

He entirely missed the  point I was making, probably because it made him uncomfortable. Whether he knows it or not, he went on to do what’s been done to reinforce the power system for centuries…he told me if I wanted to prosper in the capitalistic society we are ruled by that I needed to hush. Quit rocking the boat. Don’t call attention to the obvious gaps.

I know that’s not what he intended. But it was the net effect of his words. I know it’s because he felt threatened by my words and ideas. And I fell into the same role I’ve always assumed as that familiar scene played out.

I didn’t mean to make him feel threatened. But that’s his issue to deal with, not mine. I didn’t say anything wrong by calling out the obvious. It should be obvious to everyone that when we talk about he future of IT, we are talking about something that will impact all of humanity. We should understand that there will be unintended consequences that may impact disenfranchised societies. It’s our responsibility as the creators of these new ways to manipulate information to insist that all the questions be asked before we settle on the new normal for communications. We need to insist on a truly diverse conversation about these issues.

Observations from 2019: Reading this almost 7 years later, I’m mad at myself. I can still remember that interaction, and he had no business talking to me the way he did. He wanted to intimidate me into silence. Of course I still wrote about it, but look at this language I used.

He sure didn’t care about how I felt when he threatened me. I was working at Dell at the time, and at the time I took it as a threat. And especially when we look at what is happening because we don’t have diversity creating new apps and new architectures, he could have taken a breath and took away a different perspective.

I can say without a doubt that the Cloud 2020 summit is one of the best events I’ve attended in ages. It gave me an opportunity to connect and think and talk about some important issues that are near and dear to my heart. I’m very grateful I walked away from the experience and event feeling so empowered. I think that says alot about that event, and about that community.

Observations from 2019: This was a great event. I think they should should host #cloud2030!

So, with that out of the way, in my next post I want to start talking about the concept of the social economy – one used by indigenous and subsistence societies.

Observations from 2019: I never wrote this post, but I’ve been talking again indigenous ways of knowing. That was the point of contention with this talk – he spoke about using the cloud to give salmon fishers a bigger market. I brought out – maybe they don’t want that. Maybe they don’t want to over fish. The speaker said they could switch to genetically modified fishing, and I said “I don’t want no existentially modified salmon”. That line is still hilarious. 🙂

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NetApp Goes to the Cloud #TFD20

man releases paper airplanes from a window

This post – NetApp Goes to the Cloud – is my review of materials presented at #TFD20.

NetApp’s 1st presentation at #TFD20 was about NetApp’s cloud strategy. I was very excited to see Nick Howell (aka @DatacenterDude), NetApp’s Global Field CTO for Cloud Data Services, there to greet us and kick things off.  I’ve always known him to be knowledgeable, visionary, and a bit controversial. All of my favorite things! And I was psyched to see how he was going to frame his conversation.

Infrastructure Admin’s Journey to the Cloud

Nicks’ presentation was titled “OK, Now What?” An Infrastructure Admin’s Journey to the cloud.

He set up the history of things for datacenter admins, and how quickly they need use their existing skills to pivot if they’re going to support cloud. I liked this slide highlighting historical design patterns for datacenters.

Cloud Native Strategy, via NetApp

He gave a great overview of the struggles IT Ops folks will need to go through in order to support their organization’s move to the cloud: new training, new certs, etc. It will take effort to get up to speed from a technical perspective.

NetApp Goes to the Cloud

Of course, the message was how easy NetApp makes it for their customers to get to “the cloud” using NetApp Cloud Data Services. He brought in the Google Cloud Partner of the Year award that NetApp was awarded this year’s at Google Next. To me, that makes it obvious they are doing the hard integration work to enable hybrid cloud with NetApp storage.

They’ve been at this for a few years after hiring an exec to run a cloud business in 2017, and acquiring cloud startups (Greenqloud 2017, StackPointCloud 2018). Two years later, NetApp has built a suite of cloud products that are delivered in the cloud, as-a-Service, by NetApp.

They have an IaaS offering called CVO (Cloud Volumes ONTAP), which is a virtual version of ONTAP in the cloud which allows customers to do everything they would do with ONTAP on prem plus more in the three major public cloud services. They have a free trial if you’re interested in kicking the tires. There are also two PaaS offerings called CVS (AWS Cloud Volumes, Google Cloud Volumes) and ANF (Azure NetApp Files).

NetApp goes to the cloud

They are building a control plane, that Nick compared to vCenter, called Fabric Orchestrator. It will give a global view of all data, no matter where the data resides. You’ll have oversight and management control from this control plan. This is set to launch in 2020.

NetApp Kubernetes Service

While this is great work to provide the services to make NetApp hybrid architectures possible, what can you *do* with it? Data capacity exists to host applications, and the way to orchestrate modern applications is Kubernetes.

NetApp has their own Kubernetes service that they call NKS. It is a pure upstream Kubernetes play, and they support the latest release within a week. It has been built to provision, maintain, and do lifecycle management no mater the cloud on which it runs.

Real talk

From everything we were shown, if you’re a NetApp customer you have lots of opportunity on which cloud to use as you build a hybrid and/or multi-cloud strategy. You have a a cloud organization that understands your fears and pains, and they are working to make cloud as easy as possible for you.

NetApp seems to have the right team and attitude to make multi-cloud a reality for their customers. They’ve built a cloud team from cloud native veterans to drive this strategy. They seem to be very intent on shepherding traditional operations teams into the new cloud native era. Will this be enough to span the digital transformation gap? Only time will tell.

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Tech Field Day from the Other Side

Last month I accomplished my dream of becoming a Tech Field Day delegate for #TFD20. Because I left my job at VMware in order to launch Digital Sunshine Solutions, I finally no longer work for a vendor and I qualify to be a delegate! This post is a reflection on the differences between being at a vendor and hosting Tech Field day and being a delegate.

Tech Field Day history

For those of you who don’t know, Tech Field Day is a roving event run by Stephen Foskett. 10 years ago, when we were all figuring out what blogging and podcasting meant to big tech companies, he had the vision to take influencers who were talking technically and strategically about products on their personal blogs and podcasts right to the vendors. This gave vendors the opportunity to explain the products and processes, as well as meet this new type of advocate/influencer. Stephen paved the way for enthusiastic, independent influencers the same recognition as analysts and press have always received. Smart vendors welcomed his travelling crewe into their inner circle.

My first time as a delegate

The reason I’ve never participated before: I’ve always worked at a vendor! You can see from my Tech Field Day Delegate page that I’ve participated as a vendor and blogger since the beginning of Tech Field Day. I’ve been responsible for organizing and hosting as a vendor and let me tell you that was no small accomplishment at the time!

Experiencing Tech Field Day as a delegate was exponentially more challenging than following or even hosting as a vendor. Most days we needed to be downstairs before 7. So I was up early to go to the gym and put on makeup. I hate wearing makeup, but my good friend Polly has been playing with a YouTube channel and let me know that if you’re on camera, you need makeup. She is probably right.

We traveled to several vendors a day, hearing their current pitches. Some were amazing, some could have been better. Everyone was very nice though, and treated us like VIPs. After a full day of presentations (we went from 7 – past 5 every day), there were dinner and socialization activities.

My view from the Tech Field Day delegate table

I have known most of the other delegates for a long time (decade even). Talking about the technical and business challenges brought up by the vendors really did bring us together in a community for the week.

What’s in it for vendors

Since I’ve worked for a vendor, I know how hard it can be to secure the funding to bring Tech Field Day to your company. In case you had any reservations, let me put your mind at ease: every single delegate is very keen to hear, understand, and discuss what you’re presenting. There was so much experience in our set of delegates that we had some very vigorous discussions about what you presented. I’m just now getting around to writing blog posts, because I needed the time to reflect and research a bit before I put pen to paper.

The food and swag all were nice, but we were honestly most interested in what your speakers had to say. A couple of the presentations were a little rough, and we found out later that the folks presenting were tapped at the last minute. This is no disrespect to those presenters, but vendors you really want to ensure that you have your guru in the room. Even if they are a little rough, just coach them on what not to say. Let them get up there and geek out. Having folks present that are super safe because not as comfortable with material as they would have liked, or worse sticking to a script is very frustrating, I know this can happen when someone is asked to cover at the last minute. It just leaves you with this feeling that the really good stuff is missing.

The Tech Field day event has always been such a good blend – mixing curious, experienced techies with the product people who want feedback and input to their product strategy. If you have a new message or launch you would like to test, Tech Field Day is a great vehicle for that.

Participate in the Tech Field Day Community

There are so many ways to participate in the Tech Field Day community! To start with, you can watch all of the events live online from the Tech Field Day website. If you’re a vendor, you can become a sponsor and have the delegates live at your location. If you’re an independent techie, maybe one day you can also live the dream.

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Cloud Migration: The only path to Digital Transformation?

butterfly transforming

As the end-of-year conference dust settles, it’s becoming clear that we’re finally experiencing the long-heralded digital transformation. We have cloud, we have hybrid cloud, we have edge, but the technologies have improved to the point that it’s possible now to choose how to implement what has become known as “the cloud”.  As always, my question is what does this all mean for ops?

The Amazon Web Service conference re:Invent is this week in Las Vegas. I’ll be there to chat with people, trying to figure out if what I think is happening matches the reality of what’s happening in organizations. As part of my prep, I wrote this blog post. It is meant to be a bit controversial. My end goal is to find the reality of our current situation, find ways to acknowledge the hype and with real community building move past it. Who’s with me?

Simplified (and slightly dramatized) cloud history

The original target market for the public cloud providers was developers. Public cloud providers understood that developers were stifled by tedious IT rules that many times seemed like process for process’ sake. And if we’re honest as ops people, we hated having to enforce these arcane rules just as much as the developers hated dealing with them.

The cloud providers were smart. They built the scalable architectures that ops couldn’t (or wouldn’t, or weren’t allowed to) build. Then they went after the developers, whispering in their ears saying “we know your IT team is difficult, we know they suck, come build with us. We will give you the environment you want. No more putting in ticket requests with a 4 week SLA, or having to wait forever to be assigned more resources. Come to our cloud, and you can just build your code, run it and as you need resources, we will provide them. We got you.

Devops is born

Development teams building out cloud native applications (perhaps containerized applications) figured out pretty quickly that they needed operational expertise to get the job done.  And devops was born. They needed someone who understood networking, vms, containers, security, as well as the application itself. So a new flavor of sysadmin was born: the SRE. Or maybe you call them a Platform engineer. Whatever you call them, they are a ninja that understands how to build and manage a cloud environment that hosts the new applications being built by develoers. Also, they are able to collaborate and work with developers.

These folks bring all the on-prem ops knowledge and lessons learned from managing traditional apps, but with a twist: they can no longer touch the infrastructure, many times they can’t even manage the VMs. Think about the pressure there: they must deeply understand what the cloud provider is offering and match it to their application’s requirements. And those services (including infrastructure) can be changed or even cancelled by the cloud providers change at any time. These ninjas must understand the architecture of the application and be able to adjust that design if the cloud provider changes up the offering.

Oh they are also saddled with all of the data hygiene requirements of traditional applications: backups, restores, security, access, archiving.

What devs want vs what they need

When we think about why IT teams were notoriously so hard to deal with, part of the reason is because supporting enterprise apps is really hard. It turns out maintaining data, protecting it, backing it up having it always available takes real strategy and work. Add in dealing with latency issues and dealing with privacy regulation issues and the complexity only increases.

Not that we needed the crazy process we’ve seen over the last several years. Our charter as ops is to more than just keeping keep the datacenter lights on, it is to provide devs with the tools they need to create apps that support the business. Somehow that got lost, and the cloud providers pounced on the opportunity to grab all of those workloads.

Reality of running workloads sets in

In addition to the complexities of datacenter hygiene, there is the question of whether all workloads belong in the cloud. Some reasons to consider keeping applications on premises are privacy, latency, and data gravity.

The principle of data gravity proves true here: as data grows in mass, it is more likely that applications will be created close to where the data physically resides. And while it is true that cloud applications and even IoT devices are creating masses of new data, in many cases it is augmenting and/or blending with data from 30 – 40 years ago, and that data resides in big metal storage arrays and even mainframes.

So the question becomes: do all applications belong in the cloud? Can a flexible, elastic (cloud-like) environment be built on-premises? Is this an either-or decision, or can IT ops use all of the available options to build and maintain the best infrastructure for any given application?

Digital Transformation is here

The digital transformation that we’ve heard about from analysts and marketers for the last several years is finally here. It’s real, we’re in the midst of it, and we’re starting to see some real battle lines being drawn between traditional on-premises vendors and cloud providers.

Can cloud providers figure out how to deal with the latency issue? I’m sure we’ll hear about that this week when AWS reveals their progress on Outposts. Will the cloud providers find a way to get around security regulations?

Can traditional on-premises vendors figure out how to help organizations build true cloud-like environments on-premises? VMware seems to have taken a step in this direction with Project Pacific, and making Kubernetes the control plane for vSphere. They also have a data-center-as-a-service offering with Dell EMC in VMware Cloud on Dell EMC. But will orgs grasp what these offerings mean and buy into it?

And we haven’t even touched on edge and what that could mean in the scope of digital transformation.  If you think of all the data centers that were evacuated, could they turn into edge locations for cloud? What if you build out an infrastructure that devs can drop their environments onto to take advantage of low latency to your data, or to extend their cloud infrastructure into areas traditionally underserved by the public cloud?

Maybe most importantly, will cloud vendors and traditional infrastructure vendors stop the arms war and start working together?

The future is now

We are in the middle of a digital transformation that will reset computing probably for the remainder of my career. What are you experiencing? I’d love to hear about it! If you’ll be in at re:invent ping me on twitter [ @gminks ], let’s chat! Otherwise respond in the comments, I’d love to hear if I’m way off-base.

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