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IBM Cloud: it’s the infrastructure, stupid

I recently attended IBM’s Cloud Summit in New York City. Here are my subsequent reckons.

Firstly some semiotics – rather than a trip to Vegas or White Plains, NY, IBM had invited industry analysts to its new Astor Place facility in the East Village (just a few doors down from the Village Voice). The building is beautiful, staffed with people from the Watson team, but also IBM Design – which means a younger, hipper vibe than normal at an IBM facility, with tattoos and piercings. Also – you can get decent coffee nearby. Robert LeBlanc, who runs cloud for IBM, was even sporting a Valley Mullet (jacket, jeans combo) though he wasn’t wearing sneakers.

Further indications of change could be seen by the presence of Jesse Proudman, friend of Redmonk and founder of Blue Box Cloud, recently acquired by IBM. Jesse said the blue washing process (the acquisition process after you take the big blue pill) was surprisingly easy, and he was looking forward to dramatically accelerating data center rollouts globally. He also has some budget to run around and hire some fellow cloud natives, like Jill Jubinski and Tyler Britten, who both joined IBM in the last 2 weeks. I know he’s talking to some more (core engineering) talent, and we’ll hear more soon.

Blue Box builds OpenStack-based private clouds for customers than can be deployed on prem or off. But the company is also interesting because of its pre-Docker adoption of containers. It was already building a management stack designed for containers on Open Stack, rather than just VMs.

From the perspective of the tech hipster it’s easy to dismiss Openstack as something for old fuddy-duddies, but the thing about old fuddy-duddies is that they have budget. For now OpenStack is too many vendors chasing too few customers, but it will continue to shake out. IBM bought Bluebox. Cisco bought Piston. Oracle picked up the Nebula engineering team.

Why OpenStack? It’s the Infrastructure, Stupid. When everyone else in IT turned around one day and realised Amazon was going to eat their lunch just as surely as software was eating the world they had to do something about standardising and commoditising the infrastructure layers of the stack – storage, network and compute – in a topology that resembled Amazon’s own services, without directly aping them (Eucalyptus, acquired by HP, tried that route).

Enterprises generally want something solid and supported they can rely on, even if it isn’t “cool”.  But while OpenStack engineering was getting done, albeit somewhat slowly given all of the competing interesting involved, the industry got a notion they could simply leapfrog Amazon by moving up the stack – namely Platform as a Service, exemplified by Cloud Foundry, a Heroku knock off that you could run on prem or off. Marketing and strategy people got all excited about about PaaS. In IBM’s case this meant a deal to standardise on Cloud Foundry and a massive marketing campaign around its implementation, known as BlueMix.

The beauty of Cloud Foundry from a vendor perspective is that while the code is open source and portable, which gives customers the warm and fuzzies, the APIs exposed through may not be. It allows for some API-level lock-in (although good engineering and API choices can mitigate the issue in a cattle vs pets world) and data gravity (a potentially significant lock in in the longer term run). An IoT API for example might available in BlueMix but not Pivotal, for example. It’s easy to understand why IBM got excited about The New Middleware. So IBM and Pivotal are fighting it out for partner and API ecosystem dominance.

For PaaS though share of enterprise wallet remains unclear. Lots of POCs, not so much purchasing, barring some high scale exceptions. In the meantime, Amazon has continued to dramatically grow its business. Meanwhile – it’s easy to forget that Cloud Scale from a Cloud Native doesn’t automatically mean success in the cloud. It it did, Google would be number one.

But back to the Summit – IBM knows it has a lot of work to do. One reason I came away with a more positive impression of IBM’s strategy was the focus on Infrastructure. Jim Comfort, General Manager, GTS Cloud Development & Delivery, did a good job of talking up infrastructure issues, rather than BlueMix getting all of the attention. He talked about emerging customer topologies such as Scale Out Compute with Scale Out Storage, for example. Perhaps more importantly IBM was explicitly positioning to the effect that not all workloads are Cloud Native, 12-Factor etc. Enterprise developers are not used to building or running stateless apps.

So IBM offers Oracle in the Cloud. It signed the global deal to run cloud for SAP. One area it has some customres that hasn’t received enough is traditional Microsoft workloads shifted to the cloud. Amazon is making a killing there. Bottom line – IBM needed to give it’s infrastructure story more attention. In that sense job done. SoftLayer should not be a junior partner to BlueMix given infrastructure is the quickest potential route to volume.

Another important narrative that came through strongly from Don Rippert, GM Cloud strategy was the understanding that to Benjamin’s Black tweet above, the world has both stable layers and hipster layers, which evolve and degrade at different speeds. Sometimes a hipster stack becomes a stable layer. It is IBM’s job to ensure customers can use both where appropriate. The cloud business at scale is a packaging exercise. Because open source, not just for IBM but for everyone.

IBM still has a huge amount of work to but the major reorg announced at the beginning of the year is beginning to bed in.

IBM paid T&E. Amazon, IBM, HP, Pivotal and Salesforce are all clients.

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In Tech We Trust: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The “rational optimists” say we’re moving in the right direction, and how can you argue against Hans Rosling’s bubble charts or Bill Gates’ multibillion dollar positivism/activism?

This morning the optimism was in high gear. Within about 10 minutes on Twitter we had

The BBC announced the Micro Bit, a potentially worthy successor to the BBC Micro, in getting kids to code. One of the lovely organisations behind it is called Technology Will Save Us.

And even better

Well thats good news. But there is more.

Or how about reforestation?

Or perhaps we don’t need tech per se, just the power of our imaginations

An argument based on empathy doesn’t seem so dumb when we have stuff like this

But then we live in a society that reveres banks over countries and communities. Optimism or not we’re clearly facing real and substantive challenges and dangers – mass extinction is pretty compelling evidence. Science is not a Cargo Cult, whatever the deniers might claim, though it increasingly looks like a religion in terms of the the faith we put in it. I am in the lucky position of being half-American so I am naturally pretty optimistic, but I am also a European so I believe in resource constraints. We all have a lot of work to do.  Technology can’t save us. Only we can do that, by choosing how to use it.





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On Drawbridges and SecOps









Last night I gave a short (paid) talk over dinner at the Quality Chop House for a customer and prospect event held by Cohesive Networks – an app centric security company. It was interesting to compare notes with a group of London bank tech execs, and they had some amusing war stories. Anyway I talked about micro-services of course, and my theory that drawbridges are more important than moats. We also had fun talking about the cattle vs pets microservices distinction. While most cattle is somewhat disposable, not all of it is – think prize bulls… 

We all agreed that a key problem was domain knowledge. Too often the security people know about security, but not the rest of the stack. This has to change. SecOps know the business, the stack, and all the security goodness. Such people are hard to find. Similar situation obviously to DevOps.

It’s not just banks and enterprises that are ratcheting up their security investments. Seems like Cloud Native companies are also getting the memo – many have been remiss at securing assets behind the load balancing tier – they have not deperimiterised any more effectively than traditional enterprises = and so there is a lot of investment in that area at the moment. Related – Transport Layer Security (TLS), the successor to SSL for encryption, is making an impact, with Amazon releasing a new open source implementation, S2N earlier this week. Varnish Software CTO Per Buer told me earlier this week that his SF clients have all said TLS support is non-optional and has to be in place by year end…. 

The Cohesive pitch is that once the perimeter is breached, all other services are at risk. All apps should be individually secured at the network level.

Which brings me to to drawbridges. Generally when we think of security we think of fences, moats and high walls. These all play a role in security, but real security is granular control of who and what you let you in. A state of permanent siege is not a great way to get business done. Microservices need drawbridges as much as they need moats. Enterprises, cloud native companies and service providers should build all services as if they expect them to be exposed externally, just as you should write code so that it can be open sourced, with clean docs, clean interfaces and manageable granularity.

Anyway – here were my key takeaways.

  • Shift testing left
  • Develop all services as if they will be exposed to the cloud
  •   same as you should develop all code so it could be open sourced
  • Focus on drawbridges not moats
  • Microservices as a forcing function for better security
  • SOA underpins API Management, which will underpin Microservices
  •   performance not just features – see Amazon S2N lib
  • SOA as a style to manage internal and External access to resources
  • SecOps is now a thing

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Java Development, Cloud Services, Continuous Deployment and PaaS

The world of application development, delivery and platform choices is changing absurdly quickly, as this great post from CircleCI – It’s the Future! – makes clear.

Web native companies are now used to getting new memos every day, but for enterprises generally, and certainly Java shops, all this change can be a little overwhelming. But change, like death and taxes is a certainty, and businesses are crying out for helping making digital transformations. There is no reason Java shops can’t be part of the transformation as software eats the world. After all, when web companies grow up, they turn into Java shops (see Twitter and Facebook to name two).

With all the current frenzy about “Unicorns” and greenfield web native opportunities it’s easy to forget that Netflix started life as a monolithic Java app running in a tomcat container.  Or that Amazon wasn’t born as a micro-services company – that came some time after the company was founded. Point being – Enterprises need to learn from innovative (or “disruptive”) companies, rather than using them as an excuse not to change.

Tomorrow I am doing a webinar with Oracle where we’ll be tackling many of these issues, looking at the role of Java development in the age of PaaS, Continuous Deployment, Agile and so on, in the age of the new kingmakers. Hopefully you’ll join us for what I hope will be a good conversation after the presentations. Please register here.



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Refreshing APM: on Agile, Continuous Deployment, Hybrid and Micro-services

Application Performance Management (APM) is going through one of its periodical refreshes as new platforms and methods emerge and pressure grows on enterprises to become more like web native companies in terms of velocity of digital product and service delivery. This video, sponsored by IBM, represents some of my current thinking on the subject. Let me know what you think.

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Opinionated Infrastructure Podcast: Java 20 years in, past, present, future.

Introducing a new podcast series, called Opinionated Infrastructure, for those of that don’t like to watch video rants while you’re driving. This first one is sponsored by, which might surprise you given the theme is 20 years of Java, past, present and future. More surprising perhaps is that the guest is Joe Kutner, JVM Languages Owner at Heroku. Now don’t imagine we spend the show saying Java sucks, but JVMs are cool. That is not the point. Rather – what is the role of Java in a web native era? How did we get here, and what comes next. Heroku wants to be be a home for the new Java workloads.

Hope you enjoy the show. I will be making this a regular thing.

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20 Dos and Don’ts about Presenting at Developer Events

from James Governor

A couple of months back I presented at IBM Interconnect about developer events and why they’re increasingly important. IBM is a client and paid my travel etc.

Some of the reasoning is fairly obvious. Twilio for example, is now adding $1m in annual recurring revenue every seven days, driven by participation in more than 500 developer events in 2014.

IBM itself has been investing heavily in developer ecosystems, events and locations, through its Ecosystems and Digital Cities initiatives. It’s been running tons of BlueMix (IBM’s Cloud Foundry implementation) training events, hackathons and so on. And of course it supported the Shoreditch Village Hall venue, by Shoreditch Works, helping to fund a space in which we ran developer community events and conferences such as London Node User Group, London Java Community, and Cleanweb throughout last year.

But for traditional companies, IBM’s core customer base, the obvious isn’t always so obvious, so I put together this deck to help IBM clients (and Big Blue holdouts) understand the value of face to face interactions with developer communities, but also to provide some advice about how to come across.

So here are some dos and don’ts. I bet you have your own pet loves and hates. Please make your own suggestions.

do and dont




Categories: developers.

Microsoft Build 2015 and the Dancing Elephant

At Build 2015 Microsoft finally sloughed off many of the shackles of its own making and renewed its relevance to the industry from a developer, and thus customer, perspective. Microsoft is moving forward by systematically dismantling an apparatus of corporate control built on tight coupling between Windows and Office.

CEO Satya Nadella is increasingly looking like Microsoft’s Louis Gerstner – that is, an executive who can look at things from the customer perspective, with a truly outside-in view, and drive the cultural change needed to revitalise a company from the ground up. Nadella has a relaxed, confident demeanor that makes you want to lean in and engage, and now by extension, so does Microsoft. In terms of its corporate evolution Microsoft currently looks like IBM in the late 1990s, supporting whatever environments customers choose, but with Azure playing the role of Global Services, and the key customer being the modern software developer rather than the CIO. In other news Microsoft’s timing is pretty much perfect. Decoupling just in time for the age of micro-services? Priceless.

When Microsoft released its iPad apps for Office pretty much everyone gushed about them. But the apps would have been released two years earlier than they were had the project not been nixed by ex Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. This is not necessarily to damn Ballmer, whose “only failing was delivering sustaining growth (from $20 to over $70 billion in sales.)” but rather to point out the shackles of success were forged in an earlier era. Selling both apps and the infrastructure they run is after all the the holy grail of industry dominance.

But times have changed, and the change is accelerating. To reestablish relevance Microsoft needs to be winning new developers to the cause, and that just wasn’t happening under Ballmer. Where Ballmer was a farmer, Nadella is a forager. It’s not as if Microsoft didn’t know the world has changed, but sometimes new management is needed to drive the change a company already knows is necessary to respond.

So what did Microsoft actually do at Build?

visual studio code





  • Launch an IDE, Visual Studio Code, that runs on Windows, Mac OS-X and Linux from the get go. Code is an IDE that expresses what Microsoft has always been good at – IntelliSense, developer productivity for the 99%, solid debugging tools, but multiplatform. It supports Node.js, JavaScript, C#, C++, PHP, Java, HTML, R, CSS, SQL, Markdown, TypeScript, LESS, SASS, JSON, XML, and Python. It can only be a matter of time before we see Go and Rust supported, too.
  • Support Xcode in Visual Studio. This one was kind of crazy – opening an Xcode file in Visual Studio to edit Objective-C using the Project Islandwood SDK. Why would you want to do that? Developers can now compile Objective-C to support Windows, allowing for porting of apps and games from the most vibrant ecosystem to Windows Store, which definitely needs a boost, but which is going to get a huge amount of cash support from Microsoft. The toolset was used by King, the publishers of Candy Crush, to port their app to Windows 10 Mobile. And now Microsoft is going to ship Candy Crush preinstalled with Windows 10. From developers to users, see.
  • Support Android on Windows  – quite a different approach, but Windows 10 Mobile will be shipping with an Android subsystem, allowing for easier porting of Android apps to Windows using the Project Astoria SDK. These apps can be developed in Eclipse, as per the Google tool chain.
  • Support Java in Visual Studio – demonstrated by 17 year old Aidan Brady, for writing Minecraft mods. Perhaps more telling in the keynote than the demo, was the fact Briana Roberts, on stage with Aidan, was at pains to explain that being able to write Minecraft mods with Visual Studio didn’t mean Microsoft didn’t like Eclipse.
  • MOAR DOCKER – Microsoft ceded the stage to Docker CEO Ben Golub, so it became his show for  a few minutes. Ben explained that when it started working with Microsoft they expected to simply be writing support for Docker on Hyper-V, so Docker was surprised when Microsoft went a lot farther. In Ben’s words:
    • Here are the 5 surprises we have had in making this a reality
      1. Docker on Windows Server Not Just Linux
      2. Content and collaboration for developers
      3. Open orchestration for multi-container applications
      4. All about freedom of choice to mix and match to build the best distributed applications
      5. In just 6 months, real and it’s being demo’d today

      In the Demo, Mark Russinovich showed the following

      • A .NET application being deployed to Windows Server using Docker
      • The same .NET application being pushed to a Linux Server running on Azure via Visual Studio
      • Remote attachment and debugging of the .NET application running inside of a Docker container from within Visual Studio

      The demo is a great reflection of the freedom of choice to developers (italics mine).

  • Deliver support for Apache Cordova in Visual Studio for creating hybrid web/native apps (as announced at Build 2014)
  • Go nuts for Node.js. Slick Visual Studio integration with NPM, etc.
  • Preview .NET framework running on Linux and Mac. When this work is baked, it will make the Docker support v interesting in terms of app portability.
  • Make a browser that doesn’t suck. Welcome Edge.

Related- The Node stuff is starting to get interesting.

Perhaps most interestingly of all in terms of going where the developers are, oddly enough it didn’t make much splash in the keynotes, was extensive support announced for Github on Azure, Hyper-V and Visual Studio.

So Microsoft slew some sacred cows, but lowering barriers to entry isn’t enough in itself to attract net new developers. For that you need some beautiful and shiny to attract them. Microsoft certainly delivered that with its HoloLens demos. So yeah- you can now make an object in Minecraft and deploy it in your living room…

So Microsoft is back in the game. It is a dancing elephant. We’ll find out over the next year or so whether Microsoft can really begin to attract new developers into the fold however, but many impediments are now gone. Thankfully I won’t have reporters call me any more about being surprised because Microsoft is doing x where x is anything remotely open source.

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We are hiring

In case you haven’t already seen the post from my business partner Stephen I just wanted to let you know that some changes are afoot at RedMonk, to wit Donnie Berkholz is leaving the firm.

We are sad to see him go. He has made a material contribution to the firm’s success and helped build our community. So thank you Donnie.

However we’re still very confident about our trajectory. As Marc Andreesen says, Software is Eating the World. Every bite it takes RedMonk’s market opportunity grows. We’re brilliantly positioned. We were outliers when we launched the firm, because we said developers matter. But today market after market is getting the memo. 2014 was our best year ever.

So we’re hiring. If you’d like to help developers, by helping their patrons better serve them, this is a sweet gig. We’re steeped in open source and the open web. Our track record in making predictions is pretty incredible, mostly because we believe in the William Gibson dictum – the future’s already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed. And of course – the best way to predict the future is to (help) build it. This is an opportunity to join a firm that makes a meaningful impact on the tech industry.

Fair warning to all applicants: we will be very picky. You need to be able to communicate effectively, write well and be committed to rational discourse. You should have a reasonable online presence and a passion for developers and the tools they use. Other things we’ll look for include programming skills, economics and statistics training and experience with rich media. Previous experience as an analyst is a bonus, but absolutely not required. Interested? Send a CV and anything else you believe we should consider to hiring @

You will have big shoes to fill, whoever you are. The analysts that have come before you have done some incredible work, and we expect nothing less from you.

Why work here? The most obvious reason is that RedMonk remains, in my obviously biased opinion, an amazing place to work. There aren’t many too many jobs available that allow you to influence the strategic direction and decision making process of some of the biggest and most important technology companies in the world – as well as their disruptors, that give you a pulpit to produce public research for some of the best and brightest developers on the planet. Fewer jobs still let you work on things that are important, things that improve the day to day lives of developers, and by extension, the users they service. Tim O’Reilly says to “work on stuff that matters“; we think we do, almost every day. And as you might guess from conferences like the Monktoberfest, we try and have fun doing it.

Come and join us, and help us do even better in 2015.



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At Interconnect: On mobile, enterprise data moats and why developer events matter.

rafe at monkigras

It’s Interconnect next week, the first outing for IBM’s new conference consolidating its Cloud, Mobile, DevOps and Security businesses. It will be good to find out more about the recent reorganisation at the company, and to catch up with clients. Is IBM really all in for cloud? I should know more in a week.

I am giving a couple of talks, and really looking forward to both.

Monday morning will be the first outing for a piece of work I am doing looking at tech events and Developer Engagement. I will explain why corporations should encourage their technical staff to get out from behind their laptops and start going to developer events. We will look at the advantages of hosting events, going to events, and generally getting out there from an engineering perspective. Companies from all sectors are realising that they won’t get through the transition to the digital economy without getting the best out of the best software engineers and developers. So what can the enterprise learn from Web companies about developer culture, and how to channel it?

Monday, February 23, 2015


@dev playground


My second session of the day examines a completely different topic – Mobile, Moats, Mainframes and Data Management. Today we’re seeing the rise of the unicorn – mobile app companies valued in the multibillion dollar range. These sky-high evaluations are not based on revenues from the mobile app itself, so much as the data being collected about how users are interacting with the network. I will examine how enterprises can benefit from similar approaches, and begin to establish their own data moats and drawbridges. Companies need to take a broad view of data assets and the transactions that underpin them, in order to compete with new highly capitalised competitors. I will be presenting with IBM’s Michael Perera again. We do a pretty good double act. You should come check us out.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Mandalay Bay, Reef Ballroom B



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