Happy New Year!

December kind came and went and I just realized I didn’t post during the whole month! There was a twitter conversation/debate going on about females in tech that I observed and had a couple of DM conversations about. At the time I thought about posting my viewpoint but, as I say, December just zoomed past.

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 17.28.38 My firm belief about “women in tech” is that we’re all just people in tech. There are many industries where you could argue they need a “men in tech” movement yet we don’t witness this – or at least not to my knowledge.

I agree that at many tech conferences the majority of the audience is male but my view is that any kind of imbalance or gender stereotypes begin in the home. We as parents, not the tech industry, are responsible for any kind of pre-conceived ideas as to what is a “pink” job or what is a “blue” job. Frankly, there are certain pink jobs that women are better at and certain blue jobs that men are better at, for a variety of reasons. We should focus our efforts on ensuring EVERYONE has the access to education and job opportunities that best suit their own strengths and abilities, not their gender.

So with that rant over, what else happened in December? Well, I attended the SVC (server, virtualization and cloud awards) with my client Liquidware Labs. They won their category last year but this year only made runner up. It was a great night and was a good industry networking event too.

Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 17.59.11 Violin Memory filed for Chapter 11.

Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 17.47.50Many moons again I worked for Hayes Microcomputer Products – remember those guys? The inventors of the AT Command Set and the leading modem manufacturer. They mis-read the market and US Robotics ate their lunch in the SoHo (small office, home office) market. Hayes thought they could continue to command a premium price for a premium product and eventually went into Chapter 11. This status is voluntary and is aimed at helping to protect the company from creditors whilst they try to resurrect their business. Hayes did eventually come out of Chapter 11, but is was a shadow of its former self – in my humble opinion – and I left. It was a great learning experience, but one that I do not wish to ever experience again! During the Chapter 11 protection, I had a baby – that I took 2 days off work to have – and worked my a**e off to help the company out of this situation. I am sure my efforts were appreciated by the management of the time, but it took its toll on me and I resigned my position to take some time out. Hayes was subsequently sold and then disappeared, along with many other comms companies of the time. So, I wish the folks over at Violin good luck, whatever the outcome.

Another event that took place in December was the ending of Mariano Maluf’s presidency at VMUG. Mariano has been a driving force as President of the VMUG board of directors to “navigate” between VMUG as a not-for-profit organization and VMware. I was very honored to receive the President Award in 2013 from him for my services to the London and UK VMUG chapters. Thank you for your service Mariano and good luck in your future endeavors. And, of course, I wish his successor, Ben Clayton, much success in filling some very big shoes.

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 17.46.11So, we’re now in January, and lots of great things on the horizon. There is the first London VMUG meeting of the year on January 19th, you can register here. And of course, February 8th will see the first half of 2017 vExpert announcements for those of us that have re-applied and for the new tranche of entrants – good luck everyone!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017!!

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Decoupled – Abstraction Revisited?

Not since Gwyneth and Chris announced their ‘conscious uncoupling” in 2012, have I noticed so much use of the word decoupled in some vendors’ messaging. Is decoupling the new abstraction?

This 2006 whitepaper from VMware states “The term virtualization broadly describes the separation of a resource or request for a service from the underlying physical delivery of that service. With virtual memory, for example, computer software gains access to more memory than is physically installed, via the background swapping of data to disk storage. Similarly, virtualization techniques can be applied to other IT infrastructure layers – including networks, storage, laptop or server hardware, operating systems and applications. This blend of virtualization technologies – or virtual infrastructure – provides a layer of abstraction between computing, storage and networking hardware, and the applications running on it.”

According to Computing’s glossary, a decoupled architecture allows each component to perform its tasks independently of the others, while also enabling structural variations between source and target.

So, is decoupled a 2016 buzzword variation of the 2006 abstraction? Let’s take a quick look at some vendor messaging:

Arista: The goal of Network Virtualization as an overlay network is the decoupling of the physical topology from the logical topology.

Velostrata: Velostrata moves production workloads to the public cloud in minutes with a unique architecture that decouples compute from storage.

Liquidware Labs: ProfileUnity FlexApp is a leading industry user virtualization and application virtualization solution, that allows you to de-couple user profiles and applications from the Windows Operating System.

PernixData: PernixData optimizes storage for virtualized environments. By decoupling strategic storage performance and management functions from the underlying storage hardware, our software maximizes VM performance, delivers predictable scale-out growth, and minimizes storage costs.

For me, the word decouple conjures up freedom, as in you’re being freed from something you’ve been tied to – guess this is where Gwynnie and Chris were coming from 🙂 Whereas from an IT perspective it appears to denotes flexibility. Thus, decoupled must be the new layer of abstraction, as virtual infrastructure has been providing flexibility since waaaaay before that 2006 white paper was published!

 

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VMware President, Carl Eschenbach, departing VMware

When I started at VMware in 2003, Carl was heading up North American sales. The rise of his career within VMware to President and COO is a real success story in my opinion. During the span of his 14-year tenure at VMware it, and the industry at large, has morphed/evolved/changed dramatically, as has Carl’s position in the company.

What strikes a chord with me is Carl’s versatility. From the ‘humble’ beginnings of being a sales guy, he stepped into the big shoes of what was traditionally – for me anyways – Steve Herrod’s day 2 keynote at VMworld in 2013, delivering a great session, along with Kit Colbert, then a senior principal engineer now VP & CTO, Cloud-Native Apps, followed by more banter with EMEA CTO, Joe Baguley. You can read my summary post from VMworld 2013 here. I know of a few techies that might still categorize Carl in the ‘salesman’ bucket, but his understanding of technology, relating that to both customers and partners, is a huge part of having driven VMware revenues from $10M to over $6BN during his tenure.

I think his departure, along with Martin Casado’s, is a big loss for VMware. Both Carl and Martin will, apparently, remain as advisors to VMware, but their presence will be missed and, for me, particularly on the VMworld stage.

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Me and Carl at VMworld 2013 vExpert/VCDX party

I have very fond memories of working at VMware in the early days and Carl is a big part of those memories. He really understood the power of sales and marketing working as one team and I still have an email from him stating I’m his favorite marketing leader ever 🙂 Despite the drain on his time being president and COO at VMware, Carl always rapidly responds to my emails – whilst at VMware and ever since – not many executives do that. In fact, the only other one I know is Mark Templeton – another influential person in my virtualization career. Both great leaders and both now in new chapters of their lives. I wish them both continued success – and happiness too.

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Community 2.0

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Community – it means different things to different people, particularly in our industry. But I like this definition the best: A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. I’ve recently become involved in a crowd-sourced community, WhatMatrix. The goal of WhatMatrix is to provide free comparisons to organizations based upon collaborative, expert input. Having been involved in the launch of this community, it is exciting to see people’s responses to the matrices – particularly when they don’t agree! But the sweet thing about WhatMatrix is the fact that this is exactly what underpins it; if you disagree and can assert the correct information, it will be updated.

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The value of this can, however, potentially be undermined or misconstrued if an expert contributor is associated with a vendor. It could be assumed that the expert might have a bias towards his or her own company’s solution. This train of thought got me thinking about other things in general. I think that experts, bloggers, industry contributors etc., whatever “nomenclature” you want to associate with this group of people, it all boils down to respect. If you can demonstrate that your opinion is factually based and be willing to change it if proven wrong, then you command the respect to be an ‘independent’ member of said community. Whilst I’ve always said if you’re an employee, you’re ‘always on’ as a representative for your company, you can still be a community contributor and employee. I’ve also seen experts move from being independent to working for a vendor only to discover their ‘perks’, such as NFRs etc. are removed from them, as owners of the programs to which they belong don’t like the competition having access to their software. Well, let me tell you, if you sell via a channel and your competition is that desperate to get a hold of your product, they will! Don’t penalize the expert for no longer being independent is my view.

But I digress…….. What does the future hold for our community within the virtualization and cloud space? I see many vendors creating their own select programs and really getting behind them to own, drive and, in most cases, fund them. For any user community to thrive the vendor has to take ownership early on, in conjunction and collaboration with the users. Big user groups, such as the VMware User Group, have become totally independent to be effective and are funded via vendor sponsorship. For more niche players and start ups, make the community what your ‘social unit’ needs it to be, not what you, as a vendor, want it to be. Other community programs, such as VMware’s vExpert accolade, become less meaningful, to some, as they grow. People want exclusivity to feel more valued it would seem. My view is that as the user base grows, the vExpert numbers will grow. But maybe it is time to create some kind of tiering? This point reminds me of being involved building the channel for Citrix and then VMware across EMEA in both companies’ early days. The innovative partners that first came on board and really invested wanted recognition as the partner base grew to include the ‘box shifters’, and so tiering was introduced; platinum, gold, silver, etc.

In summary, I think Community 2.0 will be more collaborative, potentially less exclusive but more ‘segmented’ and should continue to focus on the needs of the member first and foremost.

 

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Crossing the threshold of passion to arrogance

I’ve recently witnessed a resurgence within our industry of knocking the competition – I’ll not mention any names, but unfortunately many companies are still guilty of breeding this culture within their organization – both the startups and the established companies.

It is acceptable to be passionate about your company, your colleagues, your product(s), etc. It is acceptable to have self-belief and to be able to back up any claims, preferably with customer case studies (a hot button of mine!) But it is not acceptable to bash the competition in the vain hope that you and your company/product will come out on top.

I’ve listed below some guidelines that I not only try to operate by but which I advise my clients to adopt also:

  • I’m a strong advocate of using the term comparative, versus competitive. Competitive immediately conjures up negativity and is a combative term. Whereas comparative is a much more positive term when referring to other companies/products that are available in the space in which you operate. Therefore, I always advise to produce a “comparative matrix” versus a “competitive matrix” to distinguish between your product feature set and another solution in the market
  • Always uphold your own integrity; do not succumb to any type of insidious corporate culture of competition bashing. It is all too easy to get swallowed up in the internal hype and mantras, try to remain objective versus subjective in these situations
  • What happens to those that ‘jump ship’? I’ve seen many peeps join their main rival and attempt to sell to the same customer they’d previously sold to. Only those that do NOT knock the competition can operate in that mode
  • Always maintain the high ground. Even if asked to provide feedback on your competitors it is best to maintain focus on YOUR core strengths.

A story I’d like to share is one that demonstrates a way in which to handle corporate pressure in these situations. A colleague of mine left Company X and joined Company Y. Company Y was the under dog and had hired this individual based on his knowledge of the sector and customer base. He was instructed to target all users of Company X’s products to offer them incentives to change to his new company’s offering. He informed his new employer that as he’d sold a majority of the ELA’s to that customer base, he’d be making a mockery of himself and his integrity to offer them an incentive to convert. Why would they trust him now? However, he was aware that some ELAs would be coming up for renewal. What better way to start a conversation with “You’ve been using great technology thus far, but now there is an alternative I’d like to talk to you about?”

None of this is rocket science, just a bit of common sense really, but when you’re riding the wave and the goal is always to win, you can sometimes lose sight of the reality and get swept along with the internal hype.

As I used to preach to my children when they were younger, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Today we work in a society that is very social media driven and led, and it is very hard to convey intonation on Twitter, for example. So do be careful what you say, and how you say it. Passion is always acceptable in my book – arrogance, on the other hand, never is.

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