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Disruption with dev/ops and PaaS Unicorns

Back from Velocity, John and I catch up on things going on in the cloud and dev/ops space. We try to iron out what exactly the change and point of dev/ops is and how businesses could use it. The episode is capped of with a discussion about PaaSes, two possible types of them.

Download the episode directly right here, subscribe to the feed in iTunes or other podcatcher to have episodes downloaded automatically, or just click play below to listen to it right here:

Show Notes

  • What is dev/ops? workshops – at Atlanta, Portland – who comes to these things? Mostly web startup guys, but some enterprise people.
  • What’s with the Microsoft interest? They sponsored the Atlanta workshop.
  • On Microsoft and cloud dev – Concero, the VisualStudio pickling tool. Opalis is another interesting asset.
  • The rising need for orchestration in dev/ops? Which brings in DTO Solutions’ Run Deck – John gives an overview.
  • How about OSLC? Anyone know about that?
  • VisibleOps stuff, researching IT management in practice.
  • What are the metrics for success and failure in dev/ops? Lots of MTTR, expecting failure.
  • In a failure-driven world: never mind that premature optimization is the devil’s root canal business.
  • If you have to move from Amazon to Rackspace, how long would it take?
  • A painful problem statement: you can’t be agile with current IT Management. Also: it’s not how much it costs you, it’s how much you make.
  • DRW pairing developers and traders at a desk. Making it a little bluer. “They can get things in front of customers really fast.”
  • Adaptive Business Plans, Evolutionary Transactions – The only reason a business wants to be your friend is to get your money.
  • Find the moribund businesses, revitalize them with more agile IT.
  • How was Velocity?
  • Some PaaS talk – “bring your own PaaS,” etc. And John likes “the private PaaS.” Or is it “build your own PaaS”? Like, using a Chef cookbook to use RabbitMQ. And then “purpose driven cloud” from John.
  • John at Build a Cloud day in Chicago this weekend.

Disclosure: see the RedMonk client list for clients mentioned.

Categories: Agile, Cloud, IT Management Podcast, Systems Management.

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Where the developers are, OpenStack edition

When asked where developers hang out now-a-days, my first answer is always Twitter. Anecdotally, when I ask developers where they get their news many of them say two sources: Twitter and GitHub. They then admit to some other sites, but those are just more for when they’re bored. If you remember the huge sway sites like Slashdot had, that’s a huge change, to go to something as cooky and tiny as Twitter. But, hey, everyone’s doing it.

So, I was interesting to page through one of the recent OpenStack surveys. Granted, it’s just 33 respondents, so that’s nothing scientific or otherwise. Nonetheless, they have a nice listing of social networking sites those 33 keep an eye on:

Asked about their primary source for OpenStack info, 33% said it was social media, 33% said the official OpenStack site, and the rest got their info from blogs and other sources. Check out the survey write-up for some more details and other questions.

Disclosure: Rackspace is a client.

Categories: Marketing, Programming.

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Using video and podcasts for tech evangelism – The Barton George Media Empire – RedMonk Radio #65

I’m always curious how “new media” publishing is going for other people, like Barton George of Dell who’s put out a lot of podcasts and videos over the years, including one with myself at the event. He’s one of those guys who always has a Flip camera in his pocket and managed to get some great interviews with people during the “HallwayCon” of events. Back at the Dell analyst event in Austin, we say down right outside the entrance to the new Austin City Limits studio for a chat on all that:

In addition to clicking play above, you can download the episode directly or subscribe to the RedMonk Radio podcast feed (in iTunes or wherever) to have this episode automatically downloaded for your listening pleasure.

Shows Notes

  • I ask Barton to tell us about the ins-and-outs of recording and a little history, like being used as a news reference from time-to-time.
  • I ask him to tell us how these videos and podcasts have helped out the companies his worked for, and himself. He tells us some interesting internal usage stories from Dell.
  • See Barton’s YouTube channel for the newer videos he’s been doing. And, of course, there’s Barton blog for all his stuff, media and not.

Disclosure: Dell is a client.

Categories: Marketing, Podcasts, RedMonk Radio Podcast, The New Thing.

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vConstruct – What's in Your Stack?

Everyone is gaga for the cloud, but how exactly can you get your stuff up there? A local, Austin-based company is trying to crack that problem. Here’s what’s in vConstruct’s stack:

Who are you?

vConstruct helps companies migrate to and adopt cloud based technologies by providing tools and services. Our new product, MigrationPath, helps professional service organizations migrate their clients to the cloud, helps SaaS companies onboard new customers, and helps individual companies migrate their data to the cloud. My name is Art and I am VP Technology for vConstruct. I recently moved to Austin from Philadelphia at the end of March 2011.

How would you describe your development process?

We are a small, agile development team and we are currently working on 1 week iterations. We plan and create/estimate our tasks as a group, then we develop, test, and release. Right now we manage our development processes using Google spreadsheets, but we are currently evaluating more sophisticated tools. Once our iteration is complete, we deploy to a local server for testing, and then deploy to Amazon once testing is complete.

What tools are you using?

We use Visual Studio for development. Our product lives in the Amazon EC2 cloud, and our product can be deployed using simple XCOPY deployment. We wrote our own .NET deployment tool to copy the files up to Amazon. We also use the same deployment tool to deploy to our local server for testing.

A tool you’ve used recently that didn’t work out well?

We tried to use Rally Software to manage our development process. The tool had everything that we wanted, but it got very slow and clunky as more stories and iterations were added. We finally decided that it was too much of a hassle to use Rally and switched to Google docs. Definitely not the ideal solution, but our team is small enough that it works ok for us.

Anything else?

We are actively seeking developers, in particular a web application (UI) developer. Our job description is available on Follow us on twitter at @vConstruct. [Also, see their launch press release.]

Categories: Cloud, Development Tools, What's in your stack?.

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Justin Sheehy on Basho, NoSQL, and Velocity 2011

While at Velocity 2011, I asked Basho‘s Justin Sheehy to tell us how things have been going at Basho and what the current state of the NoSQL world is. We also have a good discussion of how developers are finding the “post-relational database world” and how GitHub plays into Basho’s business.


As usual with these un-sponsored episodes, I haven’t spent time to clean up the transcript. If you see us saying something crazy, check the original audio first. There are time-codes where there were transcription problems.

Michael Coté: Well, hello everybody! Here we are in Santa Clara at Velocity 2011 and I ran into an old friend of RedMonk and I thought I’ll get an update about kind of what’s going on and then what’s going on in the NoSQL area. What don’t you introduce yourself?

Justin Sheehy: Sure. I am Justin Sheehy. I am the CTO of Basho Technologies. We make Riak, Webmachine, and some other open source software.

Michael Coté: So I mean how things have been going for Basho?

Justin Sheehy: Oh, it’s been going fantastic. The past year or so has been really exciting. Things are looking better on the money front and more important on the developer’s front.

Michael Coté: A good front.

Justin Sheehy: That’s right. That’s all that matters. So we are looking for — the next few months are really going to be amazing. We’ve got a fantastic team that’s only gotten bigger and better. In the next few months, people even just watching GitHub are going to see things start flying really fast and furious.

Michael Coté: Well, you know what, why don’t we rabbit hole into that first? How are you fitting GitHub into — I mean obviously, the development side, but how does that fit into the business side?

Justin Sheehy: Sure. So a big part of our business is it’s not just a software business; it’s an open source software business and today, the easiest and best way to engage with the open source community, no question about it is GitHub. And to me, that’s much less about the specific technologies involved, Git’s great and all that, but it’s much more about the way people are used to interacting there and it’s a very contribution and communication heavy environment.

Michael Coté: Right.

Justin Sheehy: Since we moved our development to GitHub, the amount of community involvement with the code as opposed to just the ideas and the documentation has really shot up and it’s been great for the product.

Michael Coté: That’s interesting. So there’s sort of trackable more contributions code-wise.

Justin Sheehy: Yes, no question about it. The rate of people actually contributing improvement and –

Michael Coté: And do you pay attention to like people who follow your stuff and who fork it and things like that.

Justin Sheehy: We look at it and we track it because you kind of be crazy not to sense the information is there, but I am skeptical of the things like number of followers and things like that and maybe even number of forks mean all that much compared to things like number of poll requests. I mean that’s heavy engagement.

Michael Coté: Yeah, I guess —

Justin Sheehy: But if someone does the fork and then does a bunch of work in it, I’d like to see that.

Michael Coté: Yeah.

Justin Sheehy: But I also see that there are lot of projects out there that get forked a lot and by itself, that doesn’t yet mean anything. It’s been an early indicator, but to me it’s when people start talking back and that can be in the form of poll requests or lots of other things that’s really exciting.

Michael Coté: So for people that don’t know, can you explain the portfolio that you guys have of your core products?

Justin Sheehy: Sure. So our core product and the things we sell is Riak. It’s a distributed database and two biggest reasons people go to it are for extremely high availability and for easy scalability and that easy part is a big deal; it’s really easy to install, really easy to operate, really easy to interact with the developer. Around that, we’ve built an ecosystem of other open source tools, the sole niches we cared about and that we put out there in the open source community. Things like Webmachine, which is a toolkit for building REST styled applications, things like Rebar, which is a build tool, and all those sorts of things, but RIAK is the product that the company is built on.

Michael Coté: And being a database to super-generalize it, what kind of data are people storing in it most commonly?

Justin Sheehy: Sure. So from a business point of view, there’s certainly not a — I would love it if there was a vertical to focus on. But it doesn’t work that way, just the same way that it doesn’t work the way for MySQL or Oracle or anything like that. It’s not the same shape of a database as, say, the ones I just named. It’s not a traditional table-based relational database. But we’ve found that the minor adjustments that people from the relational way of thinking to the way that they started in Riak are very small compared to the operational adjustments they would have to make to solve their availability and scalability problems with those kinds of systems.

Michael Coté: Right. And sort of performance benefits, like let be reload the question, but what it is for someone who is kind of used to SQL or relational stuff or the traditional way for doing database is like what — can you up through the sort of like a typical, I want to use a charge word like enlightenment, but how do they get to enlightenment to like oh, I get it. Here is why I should be using this rather than MySQL or —

Justin Sheehy: Sure. So I actually don’t think people shouldn’t be using that other stuff. There are ton of applications and I can think a couple of times really recently that I was saying to someone, I think the right answer to your problem today is MySQL.

Michael Coté: Right.

Justin Sheehy: Those are fantastic technologies

Michael Coté: Or Oracle Coherence.

Justin Sheehy: Oh, sure! Yeah, Cameron and company build a great product, but there are cases at last about — it has almost nothing to do with SQL or anything like that. In fact, most people using the databases that speaks SQL to them, a lot of the time you are not writing SQL. They are going through ORMs or some other document layer and if they are doing that, the impedance mismatch that they’ve got to the relational database is huge already and they don’t actually have to change much about the way that they are thinking about their own code. There are object layers and document layers for things like Riak too. So for a lot of the programmers that happen to be using relational business, most of them aren’t really using it for relations anyway.

Michael Coté: Yeah.

Justin Sheehy: So from many of those people that aren’t using it for huge ad-hoc relational queries most of time, it’s really easy. And then when they do want to do interesting ad-hoc queries, yeah, we have a different programming model, but that part is not hard.

Michael Coté: Right, right. Well that makes sense. So then broadening the topic a little bit like we were actually talking about this one while recording, I kind of forget when NoSQL kind of started, but it did seem to reach like an apex of fury.

Justin Sheehy: Oh, definitely.

Michael Coté: — like about a year ago or so, and you always know when these things nowadays reach some fury when, there’s almost a redefinition of what the word is. Now I remember there was a big discussion of what is the in-home –

Justin Sheehy: Oh, yeah, definitely.

Michael Coté: Remember that? So anyhow, I mean, like; well, first off like how long do you think this, whatever you want to call this space has been, this sort of post-relational database is the only thing sort of –?

Justin Sheehy: Sure! So I started really 2008 and 2009.

Michael Coté: Yeah.

Justin Sheehy: You had the first NoSQL events, they named themselves that, right then, and it’s been going ever since. But I think while you could use phrases like post-relational or whatever it’s referred to the artifacts, the databases, I think that the term NoSQL doesn’t make any sense to the technology category, right.

It’s a negation, or you can play games all there trying to redefine what the No is, and maybe it’s not only hey; but even if you do that, it still doesn’t tell you anything about the category, right. It doesn’t tell anything what the things are.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah.

Justin Sheehy: And so instead of trying to play games with the word to make that okay, I think it’s not a category at all. But what it is and what has been going on for the past, I guess three or four years now, is I think of it more as a movement, and by that up, a series of events in time. And what that movement is about or it gets and what they know is really about, is about a monoculture of database architecture, right, in the sense that a few decades ago, Oracle 1. Oracle 1, the early database was predating, MySQL certainly predating Modern and PostgreSQL.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah.

Justin Sheehy: — and so on, and Microsoft SQL and all these. Oracle defined the database architecture, everybody else followed, everybody did now. And so for the past couple of decades when people were building a new software project, they’d make a whole bunch of interesting choices, right; what languages to write in, what operating systems to use, but they weren’t really making any interesting choice about their database architecture because choosing MySQL or Postgres or Oracle isn’t — that’s a choice on detailed features —

Michael Coté: And like you’re saying, they built up the whole O/R mapping rule to kind of isolate themselves from that unmovable choice.

Justin Sheehy: Right, and so if NoSQL is anything, it’s a movement that’s sort of breaking up that monoculture of database architecture, right, a lot of the products that get put together and various software components as part of NoSQL are part of a movement; they’re not part of a useful category, right. Many of them have very little in common except that they’re all are sort of objection to the idea that there’s only one way that’s same to think about structuring and storing your data.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah.

Justin Sheehy: And it’s not that you need to switch from the old one-way to a new one-way, it’s equally broken. But the idea that just like you choose operating systems and you choose programming languages and you chose frameworks, you can choose database architectures. And that’s what’s been going on, and I think it’s finally starting to reach a point of, sort of general awareness. Even a lot of people that, in a lot of situations quite rightly still want to pick the same one they picked before, are becoming aware that there’s a choice, and I think that’s a big deal.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah. So you definitely feel a lot more exploring of other options nowadays.

Justin Sheehy: Right.

Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah. Now I guess that is like, that was the lasting effect like where the NoSQL stuff is a denominate. Now I think you’re right; it is, people are aware of it, as we used to say, it’s kind of on the shortlist.

Justin Sheehy: Yeah.

Michael Coté: Like people are willing to consider it.

Justin Sheehy: Right.

Michael Coté: — instead of just thinking it some wacky experimental thing.

Justin Sheehy: Even if they don’t consider it, they know they could have, and that’s what wasn’t even true before, right. Most developers five years ago weren’t even aware that there was an interesting choice for data storage other than the Oracle-shaped model, but whether it was embody to MySQL or Postgres or Oracle or whatever.

And so now, they know that choice exists, just like say someone that only ever programmed in Java, right, just to pick an example of something outside databases, might choose no, I’m never going to write my programs in C++, and they never choose that and it’s never on their personal shortlist.

Michael Coté: Yeah.

Justin Sheehey: They know that choice exists. And that’s the piece that’s new in databases right now. And that the mainstream software community is staring to become aware that a choice exists, even the people that aren’t really caring about their choice themselves just yet.

Michael Coté: That’s right. Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. Well, great! Well, thanks for the update.

Justin Sheehy: Well, thanks a lot. It was my pleasure.

Disclosure: GitHub is a client.

Categories: Conferences, Open Source, Programming.

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Links for June 15th through June 17th

Disclosure: see the RedMonk client list for clients mentioned.

Categories: Links.

Links for June 8th through June 14th

Geoffrey Moore talks at #AdobeCEM11

Disclosure: see the RedMonk client list for clients mentioned.

Categories: Links.

Opscode 1.0 – Brief Note

Just announced: the @mattray office cloud, preview -

Opscode GA’s its offerings. It’s time for it to start some automation knife fighting.

Opscode, the commercial company around the automation project Chef, had a bundle of what I’d call “1.0” announcements today: firming up their product offerings for general availability:

Also, there’s Windows support, which is sort of a minority interest at the moment but damn fine to start hammering out now.

But does anyone care?

There’s plenty of momentum for Opscode as their numbers-porn slide shows:

Segment Context & Such

Indeed, I continue to see interest in Chef, particularly from developers and ISV types – see their Crowbar partnership with Dell, putting together OpenStack, Chef, and Dell hardware for quick-clouds on the cheap. Check the small Opscode partnering mention in El Reg’s piece on Calxeda today as well.

I tend to hear more interest in Puppet from IT types (see coverage of their offering here), something the Private Chef offering might help address. IT folks have been skittish about using cloud for their software, and, why not? As one admin told me last year, “well, if the Internet goes down, I’m dead in the water,” he has no tools. And, despite the fact that you’re probably dead in the water in all cases where “the Internet goes down” and that ServiceNow seems to be doing just fine, that’s some FUD that doesn’t deserve much scorn.

On the broader front, I’m still not seeing much regard from the traditional automation vendors for these model-driven automation up-starts, Chef and Puppet. But they should be paying attention more: both are classic “fixing a moribund category that sucks” strategies that seem to be actually working in removing The Suck by focusing on speed.

Downloadable PoCs

Matt Ray's OpenStack box in the works

And if you’re on the other end of the stick – buying and/or using automation software – checking out these new approaches is definitely worth your time. The reports are sounding similar to the early days of open source, where the CIO is stuck in multi-month PoCs and license renewals, while a passionate admin somewhere just downloads Puppet or Chef, does a quick-n-dirty PoC, and then gets clearance to take more time to consider these whacky, new methods.


Disclosure: Opscode and ServiceNow are clients.

Categories: Brief Notes, Cloud, Open Source, Systems Management.

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Social IT with ServiceNow

Recently, ServiceNow has been integrating “social” into its service desk and IT Management suite. This means having chat among IT staff and end-users, activity streams that fold together the usual updates with tickets and parts of IT pitching in their state. On-top of this ServiceNow is evolving the UI to track the metaphors you’d expect from a web app.

ServiceNow’s Rob Phillips gives us a quick overview of all this in the interview above, and then a quick demo of the features in action below:

Be sure to put the viewer in HD mode if you’d like finer detail.

For more on the recent ServiceNow Knowledge11 conference, see my trip report.

Transcript – Overview

Michael Coté: Hello everybody! Here we are in lovely San Diego at the ServiceNow Knowledge11 Conference, the User Conference for And as always, this is Michael Coté with RedMonk. And to go over some of the newer stuff in ServiceNow, I have a guest with me.

Do you want to introduce yourself?

Rob Phillips: Sure! I’m Rob Phillips. I’m the Director of Solution Strategy at ServiceNow.

Michael Coté: And we’re just coming out of the keynote that you guys had this morning with the great pantsless IT guy as I remember. There was an excellent cartoon kind of — it was a nice way of portraying the evolution of IT.

Rob Phillips: Yeah.

Michael Coté: And along those lines, I mean there’s kind of two clusters of things that you guys went over in the keynote and have been talking about and we’re going talk about. And the first one is this idea of Social IT, if you will, and the second is, you guys have, kind of unlike a lot of enterprise application vendors, you’re sort of spending a lot of time on the UI, and improving the end-user experience, rather than necessarily worrying about the stakeholders and the managers and everything.

We’re going to take a look at a demo of some of this stuff. But before that, I just wanted to get a sense of what those two areas are from you. So why don’t we start with the more abstract idea of Social IT? What exactly is Social IT to you guys?

Rob Phillips: Well, I mean, so we’re seeing the adoption of social behavior with technology all over the world, I mean, we saw the stat this morning; there’s 6.8 billion people in the world and there’s five plus billion mobile subscriptions out there today. So the adoption of mobile technologies and social technologies is ramping. And we think that there is a very obvious transition of that type of interaction from the consumer space into the corporate space, which has really been a driver for us.

So starting to leverage more small pieces of information, readily available, Twitterfall types of data in the context of IT management can be very, very relevant for managing systems, or having individuals collaborate with one another, and perhaps help themselves rather than having to go seek an individual IT person to resolve issues.

Michael Coté: It sounds like part of what you’re saying is — there’s these wacky consumer technologies like Twitter and Facebook and all these things, and you’re almost talking about getting a real-time feed —

Rob Phillips: Yes.

Michael Coté: — if you will, of stuff happening in IT and kind of putting it in front of various IT staff.

Rob Phillips: That’s right. And it’s being proved that wacky is probably not the right term, it’s mainstream, right. So I mean Facebook is the third largest country in the world. So I don’t think these are outliers any longer, this is the way people communicate today.

Michael Coté: When you’re looking at these non-wacky things, if you will —

Rob Phillips: Right.

Michael Coté: — from the consumer world, I mean, what — there’s numerous technologies or practices or whatever you want to call that you can kind of pluck from that consumer space. And for you guys, what are sort of the top things that you’re trying to repurpose for a business enterprise setting in ServiceNow?

Rob Phillips: I think from day one, the inception of our company in 2004, we were very inspired by what we saw in consumer space. And this talks about the user interface area. When you look at, in those days, My Google or My Yahoo! or, iGoogle or the Gmail application that was just coming out, we see a tremendous simplification of the interface, so it’s very easy to use and yet ,still offers a lot of power and flexibility in the back-end tool. And we’ve seen more and more of that inspiration throughout the years with tools like certainly in a lot of the social interfaces.

So it’s interesting the trend has really been this consumerization in the enterprise. Employees go home at night and they use all these tools, they use Amazon to shop, and then they come to work, and the company presents to them a piece of Soviet era technology with hundreds of fields on the screen, it’s unusable, and so truly, the users are revolting. They’re simply not using the tools that have been presented to them; they’re going around the process. We talked this morning about Shadow IT, because the tools were so inflexible and unusable, they’re just going outside of the corporation to get the help they need.

So for us, simplicity is a driving force; we’re always trying to bring the inspiration from the consumer space into the enterprise interface.

Michael Coté: I guess one thing I come across is the sort of overwhelming –like you’re going to point this fire hose of information at me. One thing is like if had a, Twitter like feed hooked up to my service desk, like how do I stop from being buried by all the stuff that’s going to happen? Or like you had a demo this morning of live chat —

Rob Phillips: Right.

Michael Coté: — and if there’s 50 people trying to live chat with me at once, like how do I deal with that?

Rob Phillips: Yeah, so I think there are different notions. There is a skill associated with some of this. From a chat perspective, we’re going to give you the ability to route chats based on a variety of methods so that as you’re managing a queue, generally you have a team of individuals that manage your queue, and so as new chats come in, you can pick those out of the queue at will, or route them to different groups based on the context.

As a consumer of the information, we see this heavily in Twitter today; yeah, if you’ve ever pointed your browser directly at the true open Twitter feed, there’s — I mean, I can’t remember the numbers; a million tweets per thirty seconds or something are appearing there. So obviously, you can’t consume that knowledge.

So it really comes down to being able to segment the information; generally we do this by following people. And so in our system you can follow someone you’re interested in hearing what they have to say. But because we’re built on the ServiceNow platform that does all this other IT management, I can also follow documents, I could follow an incident. If I saw that something was broken and I want to understand when it’s resolved, I can simply follow that incident to see when it’s fixed.

I can follow business services. If I commonly use an application like SAP, maybe I want to follow that to see when planned outages are going to occur.

So it’s being selective around the types of people and pieces of data that you follow.

Michael Coté: It sounds like, I mean there’s a traditional routing and rules engine behind any service testing that’s trying to get the need of a user, of a user of IT to the right person, and also, to some extent, load balance the people who are replying to them correctly. But there’s also the; I don’t know, the notion of like; I don’t even know what to call it, but sort of over time you build up this big filter of stuff that you follow and unfollow that you’re interested in.

Rob Phillips: Right. So I think it’s that, and then, but then democratizing the information and giving the broad user base the ability to go and search the entire data store at will, they can do that through keywords, or like Twitter, we use hash tags. So the ability to find that data very, very rapidly, I think will be tremendously appealing to the audience.

Michael Coté: The other group of things that you guys are doing, I guess later this summer, if I remember, is – there were some nice demonstrations in the keynote this morning; there’s a lot of UI or UX or Usability improvements.

Rob Phillips: Right, right.

Michael Coté: And it was kind of fun being in the large tent with all the people because they were getting very excited about what seemed like, to an outsider, very basic things that you’re changing arount.

Rob Phillips: Agreed. Yeah.

Michael Coté: But it is, I guess with business software, you don’t always have those basic UI things necessarily. And all of that said — can you give us just an overview before we see the demo of what these UI changes are oriented around?

Rob Phillips: One thing that certainly has changed from even just a few years ago when we started writing the software to today, is that the screen resolution has dramatically increased. I mean, I think I just looked at a new iMac desktop recently and the native resolution was something like 2500-2600 pixels. Just a few years ago, it was 10.4.

So, and many of our customers who manage high volumes of tickets have perhaps two of those monitors sitting on their desk. So we wanted to take the opportunity to use some of the screen real estate more effectively, so I’ll show you some examples of how we can split the data, multiple panes within our software.

Additionally, over the years, we’ve continued to broaden horizontally the application set that we offer. So as a subscriber to ServiceNow, you may have initially signed up for our service to do something tactical like incident management or change management. But over the years, we’ve actually broadened the offering, and our customers have access to all this, be it cost management, or project management, or IT governance.

So what’s occurred is that the navigation of the system has gotten a bit unwieldy. There’s a lot of accordion type menus all over the place —

Michael Coté: A lot of trees of stuff.

Rob Phillips: A lot of trees of stuff. And so what we found is that most individual users have four or five or ten things they frequently click on, much like in a browser you have bookmarks.

Michael Coté: Yeah.

Rob Phillips: And so we wanted to create a UI that allows you to drag bookmarks or favorites to a quickly accessible interface, just simplifying the number of clicks to navigate.

Michael Coté: One thing I wanted to clarify is, these bookmarks that you mentioned, they’re sort of saving the state of the screen and also where you are in the application; sort of like a filter of things you’re looking at.

Rob Phillips: Sure! That’s right. Yeah.

Michael Coté: Okay. Well, great! Well, I mean, with that overview, let’s check out a demo of what this stuff actually looks like.

Rob Phillips: Okay. Sounds good!

Transcript – Demo

Michael Coté: All right! Well, here’s a quick demo of the Social IT stuff in and also the user interface improvements that will be coming later this summer.

Rob Phillips: So here I’m actually looking at more of a customer front-end or an end-user interface that allows them to interact with the IT department. And from here, a pretty familiar type of scenario –So I can simply chat with the helpdesk. So if I have an issue, I can tell them, hey, SAP looks like it’s down. I will get a response back from the system automatically with, thanks for submitting, you’re currently at this position in the queue and it’s going to take about this long to get to you; that’s all dynamically calculated.

On the other side of the fence, a technician would be monitoring their chat desktop. And so here I can see I’ve got a queue of chat requests coming in, and I can simply answer this chat request and communicate with the user. So I can ask questions like which client are using, is it the Web or is it the desktop, and capture information that’s needed to assess, hey, is this just a, maybe a question the user has or is this truly some type of issue or incident as we would call it in ITIL that needs to be resolved.

If it’s the latter, then right from the chat, I can go ahead and create an incident record in ServiceNow’s incident application. That link is posted back to end-user, and I can click out to this incident.

So now as a technician, continue resolving the issue. So I might go ahead and do some triaging here, figure out what the root of the problem is. And perhaps we realize that truly this SAP system is down, so this is a critical incident. And I can also see all the chat activity here.

Michael Coté: So the chat is linked to this ticket.

Rob Phillips: Yeah, so all the context is now included in this single incident document, and so I’ll go ahead and just save those updates.

What we commonly find at this point in big organizations is that someone goes and spins up a bridge phone number, right, and a half-dozen or a dozen people dial into this conference call and they’re communicating about resolving this priority one incident. But it’s challenging because as someone joins the call late, now we have to reiterate what was already said, and so we spend a lot of time bringing up individuals with the status.

Instead, why don’t we just create a chat room? So right from the context of the incident, I can create a new room, I can automatically invite people that are perhaps from the group I’ve assigned to resolve the issue or select individuals out of the user list, and create this room. They’ll get emails inviting them to the room or I can just post them this URL. And then the room here will allow us to all join into a cohesive conversation; I could scroll up, scroll down as updates are made to the resolution of the incident.

Michael Coté: And this is all – you’re in full-screen mode here, but this is also in a Web browser essentially, right?

Rob Phillips: Yeah. We are entirely browser-capable, we’re agnostic to — I’m using Chrome on a Mac –we don’t care what browser you use, there is no plug-ins or any kind of controls that need to be brought in. I think everybody gets chat; it’s a natural progression for the helpdesk and the service desk to have this capability at their fingertips.

Another application here that is very social in nature is this concept of what we call live feed. And this is very much lifted from a Facebook type of interface, from Twitter types of Twitterfalls for information. And so here you can see in fact, some folks who are just finished up the keynote as you said, some folks took some pictures of that keynote as it was occurring. So very collaborative, I can —

Michael Coté: So might take a picture of the SAP server that’s down.

Rob Phillips: Yeah, that would be sad. Someone might do that, hopefully smoke wasn’t rolling out of it. And just like social applications, I’m sure everyone has used before, I can participate in this conversation dynamically. I can like something, I can tag it so that I can quickly search for information later, I can obviously reply to the post here. We rolled this out internally at ServiceNow a couple of months ago, and to be honest, I was astounded at the adoption we saw throughout our company.

We’re still a small company today but growing extremely fast. And so the ability for our global employees to communicate and ask questions and have access to information as they’re ramping up in the company feed has just been stunning to me. It’s also amazing to see just by putting this into a social opt-in kind of flow, how interactive people become. If someone asked you a question on email, you probably ignore it.

Michael Coté: Right.

Rob Phillips: Something about the rewarding aspect of participating in this kind of feed is compelling.

Michael Coté: And internally, I mean, we kind of can get a sense from looking at the screen. But what are the types of things people are using this feed for? I mean, like what shows up on this a lot?

Rob Phillips: All right! I think that’s going to be interesting to see over time, I see sort of two divides. There are some organizations like ours where we’re truly using this as a corporate collaboration tool. So there are systems like Yammer for example, it’s very much a Facebook within the corporate firewall, and I think we would be a great solution in that space.

Additionally, I have organizations that focus very specifically on IT. So really maybe IT are the only folks that are exchanging information here, great way for them to communicate collaboratively. And as you see here, the incident that I just created about SAP being out, automatically posted to the wall to alert anyone in the audience that hey, this system is down; we already know about it, you don’t need to call us. And as I said, I can just follow this document, so that I’ll see updates to its resolution.

So it becomes another kind of communication mechanism rather than having to use email as the only way to speak to the audience.

Michael Coté: All right! It’s sort of a virtual way to do management by walking around essentially.

Rob Phillips: Right.

Michael Coté: Sort of seeing what’s happening.

Rob Phillips: Right.

Michael Coté: — with all your robots posting to it, and then your actual people.

Rob Phillips: Yeah, any type of document can post. So if a business service, for example, is going to be upgraded or had a planned outage, I can have that post to the wall as well. So it’s exciting for us as we’ve just recently released this technology to see the adoption and how people use it within the enterprise.

And then just lastly, I would focus maybe a little bit on the UI enhancements that we’ve been making. So here is an example of a typical screen in ServiceNow. You’ve got this huge queue of records of data, and we provide you some nice little features where you can hover these records to get a snapshot without having to leave the list context. But with huge resolutions, you just, you have a lot of wasted space, so we introduce the notion of a split. So now you can split the pane and get more real estate, I can navigate still through this list, move these sliders around, I can do this vertically as well.

Michael Coté: All right!

Rob Phillips: And then again, it’s all about real estate, you can collapse the header. We had this navigator out here previously, and as I mentioned, this thing just starts to get a bit unwieldy as you get more and more links. And so I can now come in and say, I do change management, I want to have, at a single click, a report or an overview available to me. I can just click anywhere and drag that to this left pane that we just introduced. We’re much inspired by the RockMelt browser or Asana. So now I can click on this and drill out to that detail.

Michael Coté: Yeah, you can like save your setup if you will.

Rob Phillips: Yeah, and — virtually anything can be dragged out to this pane including filters and reports, live feed is a great example. And not only can they drive the main browser area here, but I can do something called a fly-out which allows me to leave the context in the background untouched and yet have access to data that’s relevant. For example, if I’m very frequently working on that critical incident, I can just fly that out, make updates to it, click off of it, and continue doing the rest of my work.

Michael Coté: You’ve somehow managed to create nice looking dashboards without saying the word dashboard.

Rob Phillips: Yeah, right, right. And then the nav just goes away. We’re going to be completing some development on more of these panels or edges throughout the application set. So we’ll have an edge on the right-hand side of the browser which has all of your chat contacts and your buddy lists.

Michael Coté: Yeah.

Rob Phillips: So we think this is a very compelling way to have your workspace front and center, and all of the cursory information that you need a single-click way.

Michael Coté: So also learning from the consumer space, so that there are very sort of little buttons on the edge of those things that other people can contribute or is there sort of plug-ins that people might be able to add or –?

Rob Phillips: Yeah, you can create, so for example, this navigation — really anything you see in the application is editable. So if you wanted to create new types of documents that you then post here, that absolutely could be extended.

Michael Coté: Yeah, so you can allow the ServiceNow community to kind of come up with fun little widgets.

Rob Phillips: Yeah.

Michael Coté: All right! Well, that as a nice quick demo of the new stuff that you guys have there. It’s great! Thanks for spending all this time.

Rob Phillips: All right! Thank you very much.

Disclosure: ServiceNow is a client and sponsored this video.

Categories: Enterprise Software, RedMonkTV, Social Software, Systems Management.

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Applying Cloud Computing to IT Management

View more documents from Michael Coté

I found a paper I’d written as part of a webinar on cloud last year. It’s a quick overview intro and overview for the “IT Management” crowd:

This brief paper provides a working definition of “cloud computing” and then discusses three areas that IT organizations must target for change to gain the full benefits of cloud computing:

  • IT management at large scale, without IT intervention – the efficiency of a cloud rests on operating at large scale and especially with as little human intervention as possible.
  • Configurations Management & Automation – The configuration and provisioning needs of the cloud must be highly automated and often assume less than perfect process and diagnostics.
  • Delivering Frequent Functionality – Taking advantage of the cloud depends on delivering applications in a rapid, Agile fashion, which depends on automation being an enabler instead of yet another moving part to wrestle with.
  • Disclosure: the webinar this came from was sponsored by CA Technologies.

    Categories: Cloud, Systems Management.

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