Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Anniversary Reflection Chap 2: "Cloud First" Transformation

First off, Cisco's President Rob Lloyd announced today a number of Intercloud related news that my team has been working on last year:
  • Rob announced more than 30 new partners have been added for Cisco's InterCloud platform. The new partners include BT, Deutsche Telekom, NTT, and Equinix, and collectively bring 250 data centers in 50 countries.
  • Rob also announced the General Availability of Intercloud Fabric, a game-changing technology that enables seamless, secure workload mobility between public and private clouds—the foundation for hybrid cloud management. 

Secondly, some more colors about my own Intercloud Fabric engineering journey at Cisco.
  • To the external audience, the both simple and complex problem my team is solving:
    • On one hand, CIOs are unequivocally saying "I want cloud", but on the other hand CSOs are telling CIOs "slow down".
    • Intercloud Fabric is giving the peace of mind, visibility, control, and compliance back to the CSOs/CIOs, so that their journey towards a Hybrid Cloud can truly be accelerated.  A CTO from one of the top Fortune 500 (cannot say the name but it is synonymous to the copy machine) told us, "I can now migrate my data center in 6 months instead of 2 years."
  • To the internal audience, the very transformation my team is going through:
    • Just like a few other very successful hi-tech companies are going through, we would not have gone to where we are today and will not reach where we want to get to next few years without transforming our own engineering team.  
    • It is a challenging but very rewarding exercise.  The priorities and skillset requirements for the engineering tasks are morphing, the user experience expectation is changing very quickly, the R&D model needs to be a lot more "agile", and ultimately a "Cloud First" model.
Lastly, it is a humbling experience to see a semi-skunkworks project grow into the top initiative within Cisco and the entire industry.   This is precisely why I'm so passionate and proud of my team -- they are truly delivering something amazing that is making a profound impact to the entire cloud ecosystem.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Container Disrupting or Complementing VM?

Virtual Machine (VM) is the first class object within contemporary enterprise data center.  There have been great debates on whether Container "marks the death knell for virtualization" or is at the peak of "Gartner Hype Cycle".

My former VMware colleague Kit Colbert posted an insightful and educational blog on why VM and Container are "better together".  I very much agree with Kit that VM technology is complementing Container technology for now in many use cases, especially for those users who want to enjoy a cutting edge technology without sacrificing enterprise grade manageability/security/ecosystem.

However the billion question still remains -- whether in the long run Container could disrupt VM within Data Center?

Let's first look at VM vs. Windows, as they were "better together" but things have changed significantly.
  • A decade ago, Windows had quite comprehensive management story and far more better IHV/ISV ecosystem; VM/Hypervisor world offered little more than a "cool technology".   VM and Windows were "better together" because majority of the workloads were Windows friendly and VM was a great "passenger seat" tool. 
  • A decade later, VM/Hypervisor has disrupted Windows Server by commanding the "driver seat" in Private Cloud build-up.  Hypervisor is now a strategic data center control point than a "cool technology".
I believe Container has the same potential to disrupt the VM in the next decade just like VM disrupted Windows.
  • From technology perspective, Container has the potential to offer far more computing efficiency and agility. For instance, a few early adopter hosting providers are seeing 10x more density/efficiency in their environment (VM is an overkill for the type of services they provide and VM is in the way to do optimal "bin packing"). 
  • From ecosystem perspective, Container land enjoys some unbelievable developer attention right now.  I was shocked to see 7,000 projects on dockers in less than a year, and that number is already way outdated by the time of this blog. I also see the industry started giving attention to bare metal provisioning (e.g., Project Ironic) too.
  • From enabling new/exciting use case perspective, Container has the potential to allow users to get the better part of both Bare Metal machines and Virtual Machines. VMs offer great mobility, portability, and agility to the server workload today, but applications have lost the direct control and optimal use of the hardware. If the Bare Metal based Container technology can offer the same mobility/portability/agility PLUS the same rich ISV/IHV ecosystem PLUS the fact the new mobile-cloud era applications can take great/real advantage of controlling the hardware directly, then the ubiquitous nature of VM can be challenged at that point.
Obviously a LOT is yet to happen to make the Container disruption closer to real and transform Container from a "cool technology" to an "turnkey solution", we cannot claim the certainty of this disruption at this point.

The other night, my new friend Flo Leibert (CEO/Founder of Mesosphere) showed me his latest toy to help applications to easily specify real computing power needs (cycles, scheduling, locality, etc etc, rather than sandbagging big time in VM provisioning to compensate the virtualization indirection).   It is really hard for me to deny the amazing potential for the application focused Container technology to disrupt the x86 abstraction focused VM technology in the next decade with so much great work out of Docker, CoreOS, Mesosphsere...

The debate on Container will go on with or without my blog, but again the ultimate fate really depends on the execution of the Container industry next few years … :)