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OpsCraft, a PaaSing interest, SXSW, MMS2011, John's new job – IT Management & Cloud Podcast #086

Cheeseburger topped with pastrami - this is what they're eating in heaven.

The missing “craft” of operations, what’s up with PaaS-hype, and some updates from conferences like SXSW and the Microsoft Management Summit – that’s what’s going on in this episode. Oh, and John has a new job!

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Show Notes


Michael Coté: Well, hello everybody! This is 28th of March, 2011. This is the IT Management & Cloud Podcast #86, if I have the number right, which I just looked up the number, John, and all of a sudden I am having doubts that it’s actually #86. I don’t know why I feel like these extreme doubts, can you explain it?

John Willis: Well, I think it should be more than 86, right?

Michael Coté: Yeah? It is 86, because we recorded like three episodes last time.

John Willis: Yeah, we have been slackers for quite a while now.

Michael Coté: That’s right. That’s right. Well, did you have a safe trip back from South by Southwest?

John Willis: I did, yes. It was good.

Michael Coté: I have to admit, I played a little of the disappearing Houdini act there several times. I didn’t hang out as much as I could have with the family in town, but why don’t — how did the Cloudy Awards end up?

John Willis: It was fun. I mean, I guess for anybody who was paying attention — they had to change the venue a couple of times. Originally the venue was going to be at this house. Did you hear this story? It’s hilarious, right?

Michael Coté: No.

John Willis: The Dyn Inc. guys were ready to house — they are just a fun bunch. I mean, if buying software because you like people is a good enough reason, then buy all their Dyn Inc. and all the DynDNS stuff they have, because they are just fun, awesome dudes.

Anyway, so they rented a house for the week, party animals. So they were going to have the Cloudy Award there. So they had like 700 people registered, figuring that maybe only like 300 would show up. But about a week-and-a-half before, the lady who owns the house looks up online, she calls them and says, you know, if you guys have more than 60 people there, I am calling the cops.

Michael Coté: Nice!

John Willis: So then, they go ahead and rent like an used warehouse floor on Congress or something, I don’t know, downtown, and then the day of, the Fire Marshal shows up and says they can’t have an event there.

Michael Coté: That happened to a lot of people I heard at South by Southwest this year.

John Willis: Really? Yeah.

Michael Coté: I mean, I am all for preventing people from being burned alive.

John Willis: Hey, I am glad, I always prefer not to. Well, and then the place they found was — do you remember the name of that place? It was beautiful.

Michael Coté: It was Serranos; it’s Symphony Square they call it.

John Willis: Yeah.

Michael Coté: It’s a Tex-Mex restaurant that’s been there for a while and they have — they are sort of this grotto, I guess is the technical term, that’s all done out. So there is a little stage with the moat along the stage. So there is kind of a theater sort of thing going on.

It’s a very nice setting. It’s kind of well-hidden, if you will, metaphorically and literally from the kind of downtown scene, so there is not a lot of — it’s kind of a surprise when people find it, if they don’t know about it already.

John Willis: Yeah, it was a brilliant venue, because here, again, the Dyn Inc. guys had planned on having bands all afternoon. And I guess one of the guys, Kyle York, he is Head of Sales there at Dyn Inc., he is also somehow in the music business, not really sure how, but they had these bands from like Minnesota and different — there were like bands that came in from different parts of the country and they would play like a couple of set and then we would announce some Cloudy Award and then they would play another set. It was just a blast. They had free drinks and great venue. It was more fun than you should be able to have and get paid to be there.

Michael Coté: That’s right.

John Willis: That was very — and they had a local hero, Michael Coté won, he came up and accepted his award.

Michael Coté: Oh yeah, and then Josh Duncan from Zenoss was there too, right?

John Willis: That’s right. It was fun. Most of the people in the crowd like didn’t really care, but it was kind of fun. At one point, you probably missed it out, I pulled out my little flip camera and I said, hey everybody, my wife doesn’t think I really do anything important, can you all say, hi Vicky? And the whole crowd waved to her, so it was kind of cool.

Michael Coté: That’s right. And then how was the CloudCamp that you went to? I was only there for a little bit during a session that you had, as I recall, about famines and people wearing grass hats.

John Willis: Yeah, we kind of hijacked it, but Dave Nielsen let us run a DevOps — impromptu DevOps kind of meeting within the CloudCamp thing, and it was very cool. We went ahead and Gene Kim, ‘The Visible Ops’ author and Founder of Tripwire, he came in and gave a presentation, and Ernest Mueller, National Instruments, and myself and a couple of other people.

So it was really a nice little — it was fun. We kind of hijacked a nice little South by Southwest DevOps meet up.


Michael Coté: That’s right. And so while we are on this little tangent here, can you sort of go over what ‘The Visible Ops’ thing is? I mean, I saw that people were very obsessed with it recently, so I finally got the book and kind of read through it myself. And it has got some good stuff in it, but I am curious to hear another retelling outside of my own head of what the deal is?

John Willis: I mean, I have read it a couple of times around the years. It’s just a good playbook for operations. It’s commonsense, but they talk about why tracking change and incident is so important. It’s really not an ITIL push it down your throat, but it’s very much service management is very important, populations, and case studies of why.

And it really — I mean, anybody in operations should at least read it once because it’s — for me, when I first read it, I am like, big freaking deal. But it’s got — actually — it was kind of the same thing when I first saw ITIL. The first time I was introduced to ITIL, I was like, so yeah, so what?

Michael Coté: So we should have a process where people request us to do things and track us doing them.

John Willis: And track changes and —

Michael Coté: Think genius.

John Willis: Well, it’s funny, because later on, hopefully, we will talk a little bit about all this screaming and hollering about DevOps, but that’s actually what a lot of guys, I guess now to look at it from their perspective, they are saying, okay, DevOps, yeah. Tell me something I don’t already know, right?

Michael Coté: Yeah. As I recall, we had an episode a few ago where I was that guy complaining about that.

John Willis: Yeah. But yeah. So no, the thing — I kind of came back and respected it, but again, when I first read it I was like, big deal. But now what I realize is, very much like I thought, it’s a way to get everybody on the same playbook, and that’s a great thing, because we are all talking from a common perspective, we understand what’s important.

I think that actually to some of the naysayers of DevOps right now, I think that’s probably the reason why people say, well, DevOps, so what? Isn’t it just all commonsense? Why are you guys making such a big deal out of it, right? Well, yeah, it is commonsense, but let’s just get all on the same playbook, because not everybody else — there’s a lot of people that didn’t think incident and change was important, especially lot of web operations companies.

Michael Coté: Right. Yeah, I think how you open it up is — I mean, that is a good explanation from what I saw as sort of — I have come to appreciate when there is discipline and process and stuff involved. Like being able to distill it down into something less than like — it’s basically like an 80-page book. It’s actually — I think if you have ever sort of encountered ITIL or MOF or any of these big process things and they seem really overwhelming and expensive and sort of cumbersome, like it’s good just to like read that book because it kind of like — it gives you the lay of the land, if you will.

I mean, that’s — yeah, I mean, I think it’s a nice book. It’s a kind of book that you could kind of hand to someone and be like, this kind of tells you what the point of IT is. Not what the point is, but like what the day-to-day — it’s sort of one view of what the day-to-day operations of IT is going to be like and it’s not like the view and you need to modify and whatever, but it gives you — when I was a programmer at some point I had no idea what IT management was about and I had to learn that so I could program tools for it, and it would have been nice to have that book at the time, to just kind of lay out all the stuff that you could further build down into.

John Willis: Well, it’s funny, because I mean, I was talking before on our podcast is that, there is this whole thing about NoOps now. It shouldn’t be DevOps, it should be NoOps.

Like I agree but I disagree, and the part — I think we are not speaking the same language. So there almost needs to be this kind of handbook again of, let’s just all get on the same page before we start arguing. Like the idea of operation as being a cumbersome barrier for development to get things done, we need to eliminate, we need to move that out.

But the idea that we don’t need — it depends on what you mean by NoOps, is, do you mean that like you don’t care about all that knowledge and IP of people who fundamentally know how to run IT datacenters?

By the way, sports fans, just because you put it in the cloud doesn’t mean a lot of that secret sauce of running operations goes away. People think, oh, you just use Heroku or you just use Elastic Beanstalk and you are done. Hey! All right, good, good luck buddy, because there is a — there is a secret sauce to running an operations business. It isn’t just cloud and it isn’t just a tool, it’s a lot more. Again, it’s a process of cloud tools and it’s a know-how.

It’s like a great developer and architect understands it has a sense of how to develop great features in a way that makes sense. Well, a great operations guy has that kind of same black magic. You know what I mean?

Michael Coté: I think you are right. I think it’s always easier to find examples of sort of like developer culture, because they are a very chatty bunch, than it is operations culture, and it’s —

John Willis: We are a little chatty bunch. I mean, that’s our problem.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah, and so it’s — therefore that’s one of the reasons it’s easy to gloss over, there is actually a lot of craft, if you will, as the programmers would call it in operations.

Back, starting at the beginning of agile development and even before that with books like ‘Peopleware’ and some sort of like back in the Microsoft heyday of code as culture, if you will, there was — I think the development world kind of learned that being navel-gazing about your craft and the way you do stuff in your practice and things beyond the documented path, if you will, was very valuable for the overall community.

And I feel like to some extent there is sort of like Linux people and UNIX people and there is some craft and stuff in there, but it’s not quite at the same level of sharing — of useful sharing that I see in the development world as much.

There are little pockets here and there of people doing it again, but a little bit to your point, somewhat tangentially, but almost directly from it. A lot of the whatever Ops you want to call it that’s fascinating is a chance to kind of jump on that and for everyone to just discuss kind of the craft side of things.

John Willis: Yeah, I think that’s it, and I think there is like — it’s funny, because there is three types of people. There are the people that really don’t understand it and they are like, well, that’s so limited with the cloud, right? In their world operations is about rack and stack and hardware. Over, checkmark, don’t need it anymore.

And there are lots of idiots out there that will just say, well, why don’t we need anything with Ops, Ops has been solved, right? I am like, no, it has it. Go ask — go see how Amazon runs their operational infrastructure or eBay, like there is a lot of craft there.

Michael Coté: It’s like when FoxPro and Filemaker solved programming, you didn’t really need programmers after that.

John Willis: There you go, there you go. But then there is the guys that are in the trenches that are saying, well, you know this, why are you making a big deal out of it, right? The guys who were sysadmin guys. But that’s the point is, we don’t share our craft, we don’t talk about it. It’s the Bob’s, and Bob scripts and Bob directories that like they are in the trenches. They were like, we don’t want this DevOps thing, I have got work to do.

Whereas the guys in the middle, I think, which I like to include myself on is the guys who are really trying to expose the craft of how operations can play really well and is important.

Michael Coté: There you go. Yeah, we need to get the O’Reilly guys to come up with some — or maybe the pragmatic programmers. But see, that’s a thing that needs to exist in the IT world as equivalent of the pragmatic programmers, that’s another sort of code as craft thing, but someone should do some book that’s sort of like operations craft missive.

John Willis: I mean, web operations is definitely a good one, but that’s — it’s still kind of — it brushes over, it’s web operations.

Michael Coté: Yeah. This is a little bit of craft, but you know one of the — I don’t know, I think it kind of directly relates, I was reading, over in Spiceworks they have this community where their admins talk with each other; crazy idea. I am laughing at myself with that phrasing.

But anyways, there was one form post on, some guy was considering using hosted exchange versus on-premise, and it was just fun to read. He was asking what the pros and cons were, and it was fun to read all the admins from different sizes of companies kind of discussing like what the pros and cons were beyond like — I mean, obviously cost is one thing to figure out. Like there is a certain amount of — I don’t know, it’s one think to pay like whatever it is, $5 a user a month I think is what you get for the hosted exchange is kind of the going rate, it’s one thing to pay that for like 20 people.

And if you have like — it’s kind of crazy once you get into like thousands of people, of course your cost are much bigger. Now, that’s one aspect of it.

But then there was also the other aspect, the craft part, if you will, where it’s like, well, ultimately you are going to be responsible for that stuff being up. And there is various levels of support you get from people.

Like, for example, Google Apps is really great and it’s relatively cheap, but there is really no support from anyone. So like if you actually need support, the cost is not that good. There are all these interesting considerations to go over.

And then there was also this sub-thread going on about how, which I thought was funny; funny from an outsider, because I am sure all of them kind of don’t even realize the funniness of it. It was complaining about, or not complaining, but talking about how much disk quota or email quota and attachment quota they had.

I think all of them would say like, well, regular users get a 1 gig quota or whatever it was, but then executives get the 5 Gig quota. And it’s funny, like executives have this whole other quota level associated with their email, whereas everyone else does. And there is just — I mean, I think the variability of levels of service dependent on how high above the hierarchy the user is from you, that’s to put it in wonky terms, is a piece of craft to explore.

John Willis: No, yeah, and I think it’s funny just in general that whole — we run into — we could talk about — I mean literally, when you try to sell it as a service, particularly to systems administrators, there is that kind of — there is a lot to be said about the craft. The hosting thing gets a lot down to — I am kind of wandering all over the place, but it’s losing control.

Michael Coté: Yeah, there was a tremendous amount of it.

John Willis: Yeah. And it’s not even losing control, it’s that you are losing that kind of possibility for secret sauce that — well, and to get a little esoteric here, I mean, that’s what I worry about like Platform-as-a-Service is.

Like Platform-as-a-Service is, like they sound good, Parney thinks they are kind of a primrose path, because like you are going to go put your app there and everything looks good and all the things are handled, but now all of a sudden your company is faced with an opportunity, and there is some technology out there that you can’t use in this Platform-as-a-Service.

And that craft around how well you adapt as a business and all that, you might have given that up. You know what I mean? And I think that lies in the kind of — the people who really think about it think, it’s not just about the dollars, it’s not just about the, I don’t get — you running something for me at scale will probably be more efficient than me running it. It’s that like, there might be something I am not seeing that I will hit that roadblock and I don’t want to be in a position where I can’t take advantage of it.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah, you want maximum flexibility for maximum disaster.

John Willis: Yeah.

Michael Coté: You can draw one of those four quadrant things and do disaster level and flexibility and you always want the upper left or whatever. I guess it’s upper right.

John Willis: Upper right, yeah.

Michael Coté: I don’t know what I am talking about with charts; I am not that kind of analyst.

So let me ask you this, since you mentioned it, I have noticed this — let me compare some notes with you and the listeners. I have noticed this rise in people saying how PaaS is a big deal, the Platform-as-a-Service, and this Infrastructure-as-a-Service, that’s all fantastic, but the new thing is Platform-as-a-Service.

I don’t have anything beyond anecdotal sort of conversations here, but it seems like everyone, and let me put a little footnote there that I am going to get to on everyone is excited about PaaS stuff, and now the footnote is, most of the people I hear talking about PaaS stuff are like vendors who have a PaaS.

John Willis: Who sell PaaSs, right?

Michael Coté: Yeah. So I don’t know, I mean, I am a little — so my background is like, I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with a PaaS, if you go in — just like you were talking about and kind of evaluate, basically I think any piece of software you depend on instead of writing yourself, and this is a bit of an absurd statement, it’s just all about the time demarcated takes.

Like obviously you don’t want to write every piece of software, including an operating system, because that’s going to take you way too long, so you just keep piling up stuff that you are reusing, and at some point a PaaS is something that you don’t have to write and worry about.

But like you said, there could be limitations that you have, who knows, or maybe not, I don’t know. But what are you seeing out there with this — is this just a passing interest, Johnon?

John Willis: No. Well, I mean, certainly I am working against the tide because the — I mean, everybody is high on PaaS and PaaS is going to accelerate. My concern about a Platform-as-a-Service — the bigger picture is that, to try to put everything that we talk about in the cloud in three buckets is really pretty silly, really, when you think about it, right?

We tend to like say, well, that’s a SaaS and therefore it will do x and y and that’s a PaaS and therefore it’s going to be a, b, and c, and that’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Like, well, I mean, like it’s kind of silly to say, look at all the possible things that are associative of cloud computing and say, okay, it’s only in three categories and that’s it.

My point is that, by calling something a PaaS is like anywhere from — like people are even starting to say maybe Amazon’s new CloudFormation, Elastic Beanstalk, are kind of the starter set of a PaaS, and then you go all the way over to something like, which is on the complete other end, and so it’s hard to make generic statements about a PaaS, and say, well, PaaSs are bad or PaaSs are good.

Because again, I mean, the spectrum of what we are talking about is anywhere from a loosely coupled Infrastructure-as-a-Service that looks like a PaaS, to something like totally proprietary unused force — whatever the language is for, like that’s like as PaaSy as it’s going to get, right?

So I think the question is not whether I think PaaS is a good idea, I think abstraction of services or abstraction of solutions is like absolutely where we have to be.

I mean, APIs are the root of most of this. Like building a robust API set, or I have seen now people have started using the XaaS, which is Everything-as-a-service. That starts making the sense is like, I don’t care whether it’s IIS, what I want is the ability to be flexible in my business decisions. And so if you throw a technology at me that doesn’t allow me to be flexible on my business decisions, then I get worried.

And even something like Heroku or Force, where yeah, I mean, my time to market can be really quick, but if for tomorrow somebody lays out a solution that’s Cassandra based and they have this and this, and now I am already down, like my business is already in Heroku and they are going to tell me they don’t support it for another 18 months so it’s not even on their roadmap, I don’t want to be in that position.

I mean, if you look at the companies that are kind of following the Lean startup model, they are able to adapt and change very rapidly, and there is price you pay for that. The price about — like I don’t think it’s a smart idea to have a leading edge business idea or company and run it completely on something like Force or Heroku or Engine Yard, I will flat out say it.

Even though it’s easy to get to market, now, if there are pieces of your infrastructure, like the FlightCaster guy, that was a great example. They had the whole backend in Hadoop, with closure and all this stuff, and they credited their web front end on Heroku. That’s a brilliant idea, because they can move their web at front end anywhere. They could throw it up on their own.

But if you start thinking about the PaaS as the end all be all for your business, I think you are going to — you are possibly limiting yourself for opportunities, where your competitors are a little bit smart.

It’s about building composite infrastructure, so that you can kind of decouple things and move them around and become, what I call, bullet proof. So I think that in those cases the pure PaaSs could be dangerous.

Michael Coté: Yeah. No, I think it warrants some more investigation, because I mean, there is almost like two types of PaaSs you are talking about in there, and one of them is just the classic PaaS, or what I would consider a PaaS is just like, someone just has pre-selected some middleware for you and you just build stuff on top of that middleware, whereas there is another type of PaaS, which is kind of like the model, that’s more — you are really just writing a plug-in for an application, like it’s difficult to imagine a non-Salesforce type of thing you would do on top of

Now, I know because people have shown me that you can do non-stuff like that, but it’s sort of like, it’s an application specific PaaS, which I know is another thing people advocate quite a lot.

But yeah, it’s the old cross-platform worrying that you do, like do you write only to Windows or do you write a web application or do you write to Mac or do you write to Solaris or do you write to whatever? You see that in the mobile space nowadays quite a bit where it’s sort of okay to write only for the Apple ecosystem, but increasingly people want to write for Apple, Android, and have a web thing.

So there is like — in my little group of programmer friends we have this — we kind of joke about this thing we called Whichard’s first principle of programming, and it goes back to this guy Brandon Whichard we know, who used to work on identity management stuff, but he also used to be the Product Manager of the group we worked at, at BMC.

And he said that one of the biggest anti-patterns that you always have with the programmers is they always implement a user and a writes management system. Like they never, ever, and I am obviously overstating it, sort of reuse some user management system.

And it’s just funny, because you end up spending all this time writing a user and their permissions and orchestrating all of that stuff, when there is like tons of them available out there.

And because you have this proliferation of user and rights management, which is sort of like an essential part of most software, especially when it becomes enterprise software, it just creates all sorts of problems.

That’s the kind of thing where like you would really like that not to be the case, and that’s one of those things where I feel like, along with the database and some other stuff, it would be great if a Platform-as-a-Service would sort of handle that for you so you weren’t rewriting that stuff.

So I guess what I am saying is looking a Platform-as-a-Service strictly is sort of like component reuse, I don’t really see that big of a deal for it, but if your Platform-as-a-Service is more like you are just writing a plug-in, then you kind of have to be aware of that’s the sandbox you are sticking yourself in.

John Willis: Well, I think that was a great point about the — you don’t want to have to write, like today they are — when you sit down and want to build a business, there are so many abstractions to even build on top of it.

Now, I am a big fan of kind of the roll your own infrastructure as code model, which is harder than building using a PaaS, but I have this — it’s PaaS light, because long as I can build my abstractions, I kind of componentized my infrastructures, if you will, I componentized my web servers, so now I have built it once, it has got its inputs, it has got its outputs, I can put it anywhere I want.

I think that’s a much safer way. I mean, obviously I have the hardest race with Chef, but I mean, I think that’s a much safer way to build, but ultimately what you do want is you definitely want, wherever possible, somebody else to do it. But I think today there is so much opportunity with solutions out there that you can pretty much cherry-pick infrastructure to lay — already built on top of — I mean, to put together a Ruby LAMP Stack on Amazon is pretty freaking darn easy if you Chef, Puppet, or even now CloudFormation.

Now, to make it scalable, a little harder; make it elastic, a little harder, but not incredibly harder. So again, I think I am more of a fan of staying on the do it yourself more than let somebody else do it, but always look for — if somebody has already written that infrastructure for billing, use that open source component, don’t write your own monitor, there are plenty of great monitoring tools. There are pretty of great things out there that you can abstract with and still not be very into the PaaS.

Michael Coté: So you were mentioning like — did we talk about this NoOps business, you said there was some little kerfuffle going on about that?

John Willis: Yeah, there has been a whole bunch on Twitter. There are basically two posts. One was that DevOps is a scam or something like that. The thing is, he makes some okay points. His first point is that agile was a scam and how everybody got so rich on it, now DevOps is the new snake oil.

And I think that, all right, everybody is entitled to their opinion, but if I look at the kind of people that are pulling DevOps, I am like that’s — I am not including myself, I mean, some really — people like — these guys are not salesman, like John Allspaw, Patrick Debois, Andrew Shafer, Adam Jacob, Jesse, Luke Kanies, I mean, these guys are not — they are changing the game out there. I mean, they are doing some real shit. And to just take one sloth and say, well, DevOps is just snake oil sales pitch, like come on, it’s not that simple either way. It’s not as simple to say DevOps solves all problems and it’s not that simple to say DevOps is just some get rich scheme. You know what I mean? It’s neither.

I think, again, a lot of people who are just kind of jumping into the conversation, it’s like cloud two years ago, it was the same thing you saw on Twitter about the cloud, all these people came in and said, what’s the big deal, cloud, we have been doing this for ten years? Yeah, you kind of have but you kind of haven’t.

Michael Coté: Yeah, nowadays all the vendors like to tell you they have been doing it for years too, this stuff, that’s always exciting.

John Willis: So the old Cisco commercial, they are right there. IBM has pretty much owned the — not IBM, Microsoft has owned their silly cloud commercials, but Cisco has, I don’t know if you have seen it now. They have got, we are the guys that connect the clouds. They are more realistic than the Microsoft one.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah. Cisco is always weird. I was talking with someone about this around South By South West and it is — Cisco is always annoyingly trying to talk about being a collaboration company and everything and really we just want routers and I guess servers.

They have that video TelePresence stuff which looks impressive, I saw it on 30 Rock! last night they were using it, so that’s good stuff.

I always get being someone who consults with companies about their sort of technology marketing. I was getting frustrated when they market their aspirations a lot more than their here and nows if you will or not even — well now it is a lot more quantitatively but I feel like it’s one thing to speak up to like what you would really like to be doing in the future and everything but you need to make sure you have equal volume on what you are currently doing. I always imagine hoards of conference scores at various tech companies sort of thinking in their head, well this stuff looks great but I have got this laundry list of bugs I would like you to fix with stuff I am already running.

John Willis: Of course the guys who — they get back and then they want to have the like — how come it doesn’t work the way it worked at the conference? Yeah, well, one of the conference had a little bit of extra stuff.

Michael Coté: Yeah, but to be fair, I think Cisco could tell a very incredible story as far as running the networks, so that would be just fine.

John Willis: No, their commercial is actually pretty much it like where the guys connect the cloud, and there is a logic to that but — as opposed to Microsoft ones or some silly, I am going to go to the cloud.

Michael Coté: So going back up at our little hole here to the South By South West thing, let me ask a wrapping up question on that topic. So it’s one of my little hobbies to help people come up with excuses to come to South By Southwest and let me ask you as like a cloud guy if you will, and a recovering normal Ops IT guy like do you think it’s a conference worthy to go to if you are in the infrastructure cloud area?

John Willis: I think it’s a bullet, I mean it’s like – this is the first one I have ever been to and there was some really exciting stuff around IT technology and everybody speaks that language. So I think it’s just going to get better-and-better every year, right?

Michael Coté: Yeah, probably. What I tell people is like a lot of the people who are there, I mean they all need to run their stuff somewhere. So it’s a good idea to go there and kind of see a wide swath of a certain type of customer and I figure it’s more in the small and medium segment, right, like I don’t know if there is a lot of enterprise people who go there, but there is a large volume of people who need to run their stuff whether it’s on — need to run their stuff on the public Internet somewhere and so usually that points towards doing cloud stuff or something else.

And the other thing that’s important to pay attention to is the – no one would use this phrase but as the infrastructure people were kind of tracking the types of workloads and infrastructure I mean, the applications that are running on top of all that, because it does tend to drive a lot of lower level stuff, like I finally got around to — as a somewhat related example, I finally got around to reading one of the posts of my fellow Redmonk’s Steven O’Grady about, he calls it the speaking of link bait, they are coming like data apocalypse or whatever.

And his point is, he was just looking at his own personal usage of his data plan on AT&T and once he discovered that he could watch like NetFlix and his baseball on-demand stuff, it’s like quadrupled or whatever and he costed out how much it would cost to have an unlimited plan and being aware of these huge volumes of data that are traversing around as he gets to in kind of the advice part of his piece. If you don’t see those applications coming they are kind of going to be a shock. A lot of the discussion of South By Southwest is about the types of applications.

And then even more worse, even worse for the point I am trying to make, driving people to needlessly click Reload over-and-over again, or just to use those applications a lot. So there is this sort of peak bandwidth issue that I am sure people will sort out, as all peak issues are sorted out where application writers don’t really care about bandwidth consumption or processor consumption and yet they are driving their users to create and consume more-and-more of it and it’s a nice problem to know about.

John Willis: Well, and I was thinking about South By Southwest and I am obviously have a hammer type of guy, so there was an underlying DevOps theme and he is like, wow, wait a minute, we didn’t get that for yet, but we did, because if you think about all the companies there, like they are all faced with these same problems. They are all like social and big data and media and they are all faced with the same common problem is you’ve got to be able to run IT efficiently and cost-effectively, and these are all the things — and even to the point where Etsy, the reason I came in a day early was Etsy had a craft by code or code by crafting, you were there, where they talked about how they do continuous delivery.

Here they are, right in the middle of South By Southwest Etsy giving like a couple hour presentation and how they do continuous delivery at Etsy, showing a continuous integration, deployment and the room was packed, I mean packed with people, because this is a common like — whether you like it or not, you are in the IT business these days. It goes back to why operations are so important, I mean, whether you like it or not you are in the op business of running operations, and just having your cloud doesn’t solve that, you’ve got to run it effectively, efficiently, and so to me the underlying theme that wasn’t the broadcasted theme or you’d have to be looking for it like a guy like me who sees everything as a nail.

It look like a swarming, everybody is willing to have an infrastructure discussion. I even had this little thing at the Apogee party, there was this party Apogee had with a couple of other companies, there were like three companies that teamed up, had this really soiree party and I was in there and I was wearing my Opscode shirt, and some young guys with ear rings in their noses and eyes and all that – just started talking to them, and they were like what’s the OC stand for, man? And I am like, I said, oh you know that TV show, the OC, and they were like, oh wow, really? That’s cool, and I am like, no, I am just kidding.

And then I said so what is it then? I am like, oh, well we are a company called Opscode, we’ve got this product, and I am trying to explain at the highest level thinking, it’s one of those kind of Christmas party conversations, and he said, oh, is it they were like zoo-keeper, I am like, oh s**t, this kid knows what he is talking about. And then I said, no, I said, you haven’t heard of Puppet. He is like, yeah! I said, well, we have a product called Chef, he says, oh Chef, we use Chef, and I am like, dopey me, trying to be funny about the OC thing. I mean like there were people come up to me and tap me on the shoulder and say, hey, we use Chef, we love your product.

So there was this kind of underlying theme, like anybody who is – all the people are going there – not all the people, but a lot of people are going there, building like high-powered social media, media web or big data type solutions and across the board on all those three kinds has to be lean infrastructure. And most of those people are well aware of kind of the DevOp techniques. So my point is, I had a lot of fun, I had a lot of touch-points with a lot of technology that I love. The Infochimps guy had a nice big data stuff, the Etsy guys had something.s Apogee had an interesting part, I think next year is just going to be even more discussions about infrastructure.

Michael Coté: Yeah, maybe it will have like a track along those lines and everything, I mean I know that they had a fair amount of cloud panels including one that I moderated. So it might be nice if they dug a little deeper if you will.

John Willis: Cloud schmoud. it’s not the infrastructure, dude!

Michael Coté: That’s right, it’s all about the platform as a service.

John Willis: No, it’s not the infrastructure, you haven’t been paying attention.

Michael Coté: So speaking of like cloud like infrastructure stuff, you were telling me, I keep forgetting the name of this IBM thing, but you were telling me you’d come across like a high-scale virtualization automation roll out magic voodoo, what’s the name of it officially?

John Willis: It’s Advanced Virtual Deployment Software.

Michael Coté: There we go.

John Willis: So this is again, IBM shoots themselves in the foot. This name, like if you don’t peel the onion on this, you’ll think, oh jeez, here we go, it looks like a private cloud, I mean it looks pretty darn slick.

Michael Coté: Yeah, when I was at Pulse a few week ago now I was hanging out with an IBM friend of mine, Bill Higgins, who now works at Tivoli and doing all sorts of fun stuff. And he introduced me to the guy doing this project and I got kind of — he was going to do a demo later in the evening, which ended up not working because of VPN issues and all this network stuff.

John Willis: VPN issues.

Michael Coté: That’s right. But anyways, the way he described it, it was kind of like, I am sure you and other listeners have heard of that Dell OpenStack Installer thing, with sitting in the office next to me, Matt Ray worked on that a little bit, and then basically, this thing is somewhat similar in the sense that there is a — you have sort of got a bunch of bare metal laying around and there’s all sorts of like little pixy booting and fun peer to peer stuff to spread things around and automate just sort of — I am wiggling my fingers now doing the sort of magic thing.

All sorts of like configuration magic and provisioning magic which actually looked pretty exciting. They mentioned it in passing in the keynote, but it was the kind of thing where like — and I wrote this up in my Pulse overview thing. I mean, this is the kind of thing where I feel like they should give it like ten minutes on the keynote in a two hour keynote to go over, because everyone will just be like, oh, now I get it. I mean, it will be like a big, even if it is whatever beta released or whatnot, it’s still — that’s the kind of advanced thinking you want to see in this —

John Willis: Yeah, I mean, if I am just coming out with a private cloud that’s ultimately going to pair up against things like Eucalyptus and whatnot, then that’s an interesting start. You know what I mean?

But again, if you like at it and you don’t see that much, you kind of dig little deep and see that — because even the Dell stuff right, so I worked on a little bit with that, Matt did most of the work there, but the Crowbar, I mean, all the Crowbar is, is really kind of — the Dell Crowbar, which is the proof of concept name for their open source project, that it’s just going to — it basically is kick start on steroids.

So you take a rack and just like these machines come online and they will get the bios and if you generate it, the OS will get burned, not burned, but installed.

And what Matt did is put OpenStack on the backend of that to turn — to kind of fulfill, not just the five, six boxes in a rack, but become then an OpenStack cloud controller with nodes in it.

But it sounds like this advanced virtual deployment software is like an OpenStack or a or Eucalyptus. So if that’s what IBM is throwing out there, that could be pretty interesting. IBM writes pretty software.

Michael Coté: No, from the way the demo was — that thing was described to me and the bit of the demo I could see, it was nice. It was sort of like — it was kind of like a right scale kind of thing mixed with a bunch of provisioning and configuration management, and I don’t know, we will see what they do with it.

John Willis: Yeah, I will just go and try to take a look at it and see what — because I am always interested in the IBM angle, I have done so much work with IBM, with particularly Tivoli.

Michael Coté: Yeah, well, also in conference news, I went to the Microsoft Management Summit last week, and that was exciting as an analyst from the angle that I had actually missed going to it last year because we had some family business back then. But it exciting, because they were really cloud crazy there, but in a very a much more defined way than just sort of being very cloud imperative, if you will.

They talked about their Project Concero thing, which is a way of managing your private and your public clouds and things like that, and they had a lot of virtualization stuff. But you can kind of see, and I wrote up kind of a little post along these lines, but you can see there, they seemed to genuinely be working on enabling a lot of private cloud stuff for their customers.

And to be fair, this is the part of the Summit that goes over — the part of — Microsoft has a lot of conferences and this is the one that’s all about sort of on-premise stuff, if you will.

So they weren’t sort of dismissing Azure public cloud stuff, it’s just more like — it’s not exactly their kind of thing at that conference, whereas in a few weeks now MIX is coming up where I am sure we will talk about Azure a little bit, and there is Tech·Ed this summer and so forth and so on.

But yeah, they were a lot more respectable in their cloud talk than I have seen coming from them and even some other vendors, they had a lot of products to speak about.

Now, all that said, it’s not like they were really GA on most of the cloud stuff, if all of it that they talked about, aside from Azure, so it is kind of a, here is what’s coming kind of thing, and you could of course get their Concero — I can’t — your funny way of pronouncing things is messing me up, John. Their Project Concero thing, I think you can get a beta of that or something like that, which sounds good.

And as I wrote up in the post, you know the thing that I would challenge them and anyone else who kind of has a proprietary way of going about this stuff like for Microsoft, the big question is like, so if I wanted to be like a Microsoft cloud developer, right, would I have to use Visual Studio to get like maximum effect and I think figuring out the nuanced answers to that question will sort of point you at that kind of locking that you were talking about earlier, and really there is tons of people who deploy on the Microsoft stack, and it does great for them.

So at some point, one of the many points you get to it makes sense to just go that way, but you know your needs might be more varied and you may not want to become a Microsoft developer if you will, and I don’t think it’s — I don’t quite understand the full openness of their cloud stuff at the moment despite Azure running like Python and Java and things like that. It’s still what it gives down to is that — and you were kind of alluding this earlier, how everyone at South By Southwest, or if you want many people are talking about using Opscode or ZooKeeper are like there is a certain tool belt or tool chain if you will that emerges, and the question becomes how much of that stuff that you can kind of swap in and out versus stuff you’re forced to use to mess with all the configuration metadata.

John Willis: Yeah, no I mean I think about this a lot and I mean again I have this hammering out problem but I look at like these continuous delivery models that seem to be working really well and right now I don’t really from my perspective to me it’s all about how do you officially build a matrix around that, you know what I mean, in other words. And is it Puppet, is it Chef, is it ZooKeeper, there is an interesting guy here in Atlanta called John Winston has written this thing called Nova, and Novas are pretty interesting for ZooKeeper, it’s a Ruby-based implementation with ZooKeeper. And it’s getting a lot of good attraction because ZooKeeper is a little more complex to implement and resisting is really darn simple.

There are some things out of the box that don’t happen with ZooKeeper, it has some opinionated models for just doing the kind of things that everybody choose a ZooKeeper for, but anyway the point is that like if you think about the service pipeline, it has continuous integration, it has kind of a unit test model bill, it has test-driven development or behavior-driven development, it has obviously configuration management, a piece like Puppet or Chef or Cfengine and it has kind of a deployment management model, and I think about that model and I am watching companies that are doing this today at lightening speed and delivery models.

So I don’t think much about like how would somebody who has their own kind of model fit into this. I don’t think about that much, you know what I mean? That’s just an out there problem for somebody else to solve.

Michael Cote: Yeah, and two more things on the MMS stuff just for people who care, what are the few more things, one of them and I am kind of summarizing the little post I wrote is there is — they released this interesting product called Advisor like System Center Advisor, it’s basically a SaaS hosted knowledgebase kind of thing to get to like pulling best practices that integrates onto the tool and as long time listeners know I am always fascinated with the idea of sticking any expect of IT management in SaaS, and more importantly like what I would call Collaborative IT Management is this idea of applying like the learnings from community and the web to sort of doing operation stuff, all that craft stuff we were talking about before.

And to be fair like I think the Advisor thing is sort of — not sort of, is locked down to just Microsoft and put its stuff, so it’s not open like the Spiceworks Community is, where similar stuff kind of goes on, and a less than kind of and kind of kind of way, if you will.

Anyways, but it is and lots of people have tried to do this, or a fair amount of people tried to do this in the past, but it is — it’s I haven’t seen a large organization be excited about it in the same way that Microsoft seem to be, so that’s an interesting thing to look at and they also released I think Windows Intune which has been a Beta for a while, and it’s basically from managing client desktops which means desktops that employees use not servers and Microsoft Lingo and it’s a SaaS-based thing.

But what’s interesting is I am pretty sure that they would like to do it for servers at some point, I mean they didn’t really say that but it kind of makes sense, like if it works for clients, one day it should work for servers, and overall that is kind of like some reading between the lines that I was getting is that they would like to do a lot more IT management as SaaS stuff, which I think that’s overall good and I mean like in the OC they are all about managing servers.

John Willis: Yeah, that’s true, that’s nice.

Michael Coté: So a similar sort of thing going on there. But yeah, there is more — you can read more detail on this stuff in the little wrap-up post that I did, but I think overall it was a usually when I have been to MMSs in the past as some people in the audience will attest to its all – well you know what I am talking, about what it’s all about, SML and SDM and MOF and modeling the IT process and they pretty much are done with that in all senses of the word ‘Done’ as they’ve quoted enough of it and they are not really interested in talking about that stuff anymore.

They are more interested in talking about private clouds and things like that, they even mentioned DevOps several times. And Microsoft within the Microsoft world which is always the big caveat, they have a very credible footing to talk about having a unified tool chain if not culture between the application development and the delivery of it. They have some pretty good actual working code to do stuff like that. I don’t know if it’s sort of in production for a bus cell code, but they have good demos and stuff going on there.

So anyways before I make you fully fall asleep, because I know Microsoft, I know Microsoft is about as invigorating to you as drinking a full bottle of cough syrup, so I’ll wrap that up and there is more if you want to read about it.

John Willis: Yeah, so anyway it was going to kind of wrap up a little bit of big news.

Michael Coté: Oh yeah, that’s right.

John Willis: Big news, wow! So I am going to be — this is my last week at Opscode.

Michael Coté: At the OC as it were.

John Willis: At the OC, yeah, there was those kids and all there, the party is on the beach and all just getting too crazy. Yeah, and I am going to be going –

Michael Coté: This means you are not going to be sleeping with your best friend’s mother anymore, right?

John Willis: That’s right, the whole – the volleyball on the beach and best friend’s mothers and all sorts of crazy stuff that goes on at the OC. Now it’s all good stuff, I am going to go over to work with DTO and it’s actually a good fit for. I had some great conversations with Adam Jacob, the Founder of Opscode and we both think it’s a great idea.

Part of what I did last year was a lot in Opscode which was evangelism, kind of like you meet my metaphors. I felt that I was helping build the religion last year and I think I was pretty effective in building the religion and I know Adam and Jesse agree and are very happy to know what I did and now it’s time for Opscode to build the church, if you will. Construct the church and really figure out how the cells, models and they are really building a company.

So that’s part of it. I like the building, the religion and I am really fascinated with the DevOps portion of the next step. I love Chef, I think it’s my favorite product on the market and the infrastructure’s code is absolutely the way this has to be done and when somebody comes up with a better way, so I am big fan, but I think the bigger picture is what we talk about is how do you solve the whole problem and that’s the religion I want to fight this year and are embraced. So it’s all good.

The other part is I really, in heart and soul of me, you’ve talked about this before I am a services guy and Opscode is a product company primarily and I am a services guy. So I really want to go out and build service organizations and that’s —

Michael Coté: Yeah, it sounds like it will be exciting for you.

John Willis: Yeah, it’s exciting and DTO is already a part. I just want to say that DTO is already in partnership with Opscode so we are always talking about working on deals already together.

Michael Coté: So why don’t you tell people what DTO does for those who don’t know?

John Willis: So DTO stands for Dev to Ops, but basically we are a service company. We actually have an open-source tool. We kind of work around the open-source tool chain and the DevOps, we call the DevOps tool chain and we work around infrastructure’s code products like Puppet and Chef, and then also a continuous integration, building models for continuous delivery, release management, help service companies, help provide services to company, help them fulfill kind of what continuous delivery model in the services, very strong Java, very strong DevOps, so good stuff.

Michael Coté: And along with Andrew Shepherd back when they — I think when he worked at Puppet lab still or Reductive Labs as it was called, I think DTO and I think it was Damien and him wrote the — I still show it around as like when people ask me what DevOps is, it’s one of the few sort of things to point at, I think isn’t it the fully automated provisioning tool chain, speaking of IBM names John I think –

John Willis: Yeah, I don’t really —

Michael Coté: It is, that paper came from — it’s like ’09 paper.

John Willis: Yeah.

Michael Coté: It’s been aged now but it’s kind of it gives you — it’s one of the few like I said kind of grounded senses that gives you a sense of what’s going on and I think having — we actually, DTO was a client of ours for a little while back, I guess, in 2010 or something and having done work with them, those guys are very busy actually out there building stuff. So they always — you’ll be simmering in the soup if you will of all this business.

John Willis: Yeah, and that’s the fun thing is that they are delivering real-life continuous delivery models for large customers right now kind of under the radar, people don’t know and they just didn’t — plus the other thing is they recently released an interesting product that fills the gap in the space which is called RunDeck which is — it’s kind of a Run Book Automation, I would say orchestration product, open-source, and it really, really works well with products of Chef and Puppet. So yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I am looking forward to it.

Michael Coté: Well, that will be great.

John Willis: Great stuff!

Michael Coté: You’ll have a good time.

John Willis: Yeah.

Michael Coté: So let me see if I can scrape the bottom of the bucket here before we wrap. I think we can come in at 60 minutes, John. That would be because we are professionals.

John Willis: Yeah, that’s right.

Michael Coté: Well, let me put in a little ad here at the end and then I’ll let you wrap up with anything you have. But I started, speaking of Spiceworks, I started a little project with them where they do this thing every quarter called the voice of SMB IT, I think they put SMB in there.

They also do a lot of things where they have this big pool of data of what people are kind of — they have a giant asset database in the cloud and a bunch of other stuff. So they kind of along with their own surveys, they look over all this data and kind of do what are people actually doing out there and they had one post recently that was like in various sectors like education and construction and manufacturing and software like how much virtualization are people using.

It’s a very short to the point post and there’s also a ranking of hypervisors use which as you can predict is pretty much an order is VMware, Hyper-V and then XenServer are what people are using according to their study.

Anyways, so I am doing a little series with them where I am kind of adding the — I’d like to think that I am kind of like the John Madden color commentary on this where I am just kind of adding some commentary on some of their data posts, and I put the first one up which I’ll put a link to in the Spiceworks Community where — so they did this thing like I said and the lowest users of virtualization were the education sector and the highest user of course was the software sector.

So I talk to some folks that I know including our very own Matt Ray about — he represented the software sector, I talked to this other guy that in West Texas who is kind of — I think he Director of IT for the Winters ISD for Education and I kind of asked them both like so, what’s up with your virtualization usage so you could kind of figure out the extreme ends of the scale there? And it was fun to see what they are talking about and what their plans were with virtualization.

It’s interesting because in the high-end on the software scale like people don’t really even realize that they are kind of using virtualization. I mean they realize they are using it but they don’t think about it as a novel concept, it’s so engrained in software developers’ heads whereas in things like education, it’s still kind of some new magic on the horizon for many people.

So yeah, I am curious to see if anyone has commentary and why or why not they are using virtualization kind of by the sector they are in.

John Willis: Well, I think with Spiceworks you are probably going to skewed view too, because I mean it’s funny, I think there’s still a lot of enterprises that still will — oh yeah, we use Virtualization for test out but not production. There is still quite a few surprisingly that actually still have that kind of little bit of a boogeyman about, you know, well we don’t use virtualization production. Why? No, no, no… we are not sure or its performance we take.

Michael Coté: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, well that reminds me of a principle I came up when talking with the Microsofties about — they spend a lot of time and I talk with them a lot about dividing up legacy IT versus Greenfield stuff, the legacy stuff which is kind of difficult to get in the cloud way maybe. I kind of derive this principle from them I think which my phrasing is if it ain’t broke, don’t cloud it. We’ll see — I don’t know. It will be interesting to sort out how far the stuff goes just like Virtualization.

John Willis: Well, I am just the opposite like the phrase I want to remove from all IT lexicon is and I am so when I hear it, my cringe is like well how would we be able to do that companywide, John? You don’t?

So like you were talking about the cloud, I would say, when in doubt, cloud it, you know what I mean. I just don’t like, cloud everything —

Michael Coté: So you are saying — so I am typing this in right now. If it ain’t broke don’t cloud it versus when in doubt cloud it out.

John Willis: Yeah, like I am not really sure what the hell, let’s throw it into cloud.

Michael Coté: And I think there’s another phrase that we could say versus — for what is it? Like build on top of cloud and let ops sort it out.

John Willis: Yeah.

Michael Coté: That’s right. Cloud it all and let ops sort it out.

John Willis: Yeah — no I think that but that’s why a little bit of my pet peeve is that kind of, I am not yelling at you but that whole like when in doubt don’t cloud it and that is it goes back to the whole, people think it’s a binary thing. It’s like cloud or nothing, like we can’t do that because it would just destroy our organization.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah, oh that reminds me of another sub-project that I have going on. Have you noticed I started these sub-projects whenever I actually do them? It’s very exciting.

John Willis: Yeah.

Michael Coté: But I emailed you about this one too but for the listeners, I want to — I actually have some input from people and I am kind of just waiting for permission from their people to use it. So it’s a just kind of a matter of paperwork if you will, but I am trying to gather just at this very moment, if you will, being this year or something. Like when people are building a public or a private or a hybrid or a dancing or maybe an elephant cloud, whatever kind of cloud do you want to call it, like I am very curious about —

John Willis: The black cloud.

Michael Coté: There you go. I want to know like the exact kind of like infrastructure they are using from like servers to routers to their wiring and the infrastructure. Like there was one thing that I thought was really missing from the Microsoft management thing.

Being a software company, it’s fine, and they have partners with HP and Dell to be their cloud partners or whatever, which is cool, but I think at this point in the cloud world, especially if this whole private cloud thing is going to take off, I mean we really need — and by ‘we’, I mean people on the buying side of the fence. We really need to sort of out what that means hardware-wise because I mean I kind of feel like there’s sort of this — the iceberg under the water is like, oh yeah, all those datacenters, you are going to need to totally replace all those guys with these crazy cloud boxes and that’s — I don’t know, I don’t feel like there’s quite enough conversation going on about below the software layer of cloud stuff in the private cloud area.

So I am curious for people who are doing anything that they would consider cloud, I don’t really care of the orthodoxy of it, like what the hardware situation looks like. I would appreciate any input people have.

John Willis: There you go. Good!

Michael Coté: So we are only two minutes over the 60 minutes, John, which means that we are professionals with icing on top.

John Willis: There you go.

Michael Coté: Do you got anything else you want to throw up there before we wrap up on this fine Monday?

John Willis: No, I think that’s it. It’s good.

Michael Coté: So are you officially with the DTO now or do you have a little —

John Willis: No, Monday — I’ll start Monday.

Michael Coté: So you can say anything crazy this week that you want, but come Monday, you are a company man.

John Willis: That’s right. Well, I can’t — yeah, I guess like that, I don’t know. But yeah, we’ll see, it all under adventure.

Michael Coté: All right, well that sounds good. I am going to look forward to all of your new IM names and Skype names and email names.

John Willis: Yeah.

Michael Coté: Every time John has an organizational change, he generates a bunch of new identities for me to keep track of. So that will work out well. Well, thanks as always for everyone for listening and we’ll see everyone next time.

Disclosure: see the RedMonk client list for clients mentioned.

Categories: Conferences, IT Management Podcast, Systems Management.