Lots of people sending me messages with links and questions.
Lots of back-and-forth discussion.
Lots of clear differences of opinion.
All to be expected, since the core rationale behind VCE is accelerating change ...
Not in a lip-service kind of way, but in a serious and foundational way?
In my mind, this is the single most polarizing discussion in IT today is change: what kind of change, how fast, how much, why the change, and so on.By polarizing, I mean that it tends to line up people on one side of an issue or another. Facts are often wielded in defense or support of people's underlying perspectives around change -- is it a good thing, or a bad thing?
Broadly speaking, this results in two groups I call "change agents" and "status quo".
The change agents are highly motivated by the dazzling potential for large, substantial changes -- and want to get to these better states as quickly as possible -- while hopefully avoiding a disaster.
The status quo group tends to focus on the potential for bad things to happen, and will only tolerate proposed changes to the extent that it doesn't cause anything bad or unpleasant to happen. Big changes done quickly imply big problems -- not good.
Now, I am not trying to paint one group or the other as "good" or "bad" -- both perspectives are needed to make the world go around.
It is what it is.Context Matters
There are times when the world is changing quickly, and thus tends to proportionally reward those people who desire to accelerate dramatic changes. And there are times when the world is more stable, and those that are risk-adverse tend to reap the rewards.
My primary assertion is that -- if you're in the IT business -- it's currently more of the former and less of the latter. The IT world is changing fast -- are you?
IT infrastructure (and the industry that creates it) is morphing very quickly -- how infrastructure is built, how it's operated and how it's consumed. Call it cloud, call it IT-as-a-service, call it whatever you'd like -- whether it's an "elephant" or a "pachyderm" is irrelevant: it's very large and it's coming your way fast.
This has resulted in many IT leaders very interested in accelerated change -- either to play offense, or perhaps in a more defensive mode. Either way, "accelerating change" within IT organizations is an extremely hot topic in my circles these days.
So, What Are Your Options?
In the spirit of keeping things simple, I've divided strategic options into four conceptual buckets.
The first appeals primarily to the status quo crowd: it's the traditional IT stack solutions from the traditional IT stack vendors, most notably IBM and HP.
More importantly, their business models are highly rewarded by perpetuating the legacies they've established, and slowly moving their customers forward in a non-disruptive fashion.
For example, if you're an IT vendor who gets a lot of revenue from, say, servers and services -- would you embrace a disruptive model that resulted in far less servers and services revenue?
You'd certainly realize that aggressively moving your customers to fewer commoditized servers, or environments that are inherently less complex -- well, that's not entirely a good thing for the bottom line.
In the heat of debates, I tend to put it a bit more forcefully: "these are the people who created the legacy, do you really expect them to fix it?"
Certainly, in our quadrant of strategic choices, they represent incremental change that takes a long time.
There seems to be another school of thought around what I call "quick fixes" -- tactical technology implementations that deliver incremental benefits very quickly.
Data deuplication -- in all its sundry forms -- certainly fits this category. You get capacity savings without too much effort. But implementing this technology does nothing to address the underlying challenge -- rapid information growth and associated management disciplines.
Using server virtualization for simple server consolidation sort of fits in this bucket for me. Yes, you're saving money by using fewer servers, but you really haven't changed anything else much.
If you think about it, there are lots of examples -- from EMC and every other technology vendor.
Have a specific pain point? We've got a quick fix for you to consider.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a quick fix in isolation. But don't expect substantial changes in IT service delivery through the application of multiple quick fixes.
IT Consulting And Professional Services
For IT to dramatically change, the people and process issues have to change. Not a little, a lot.
They evaluate your current state, help you formulate your desired end state, and articulate all the things that have to change between where you are, and where you want to be.
Done right, it results in deep, substantial and significant changes in how IT does its job. That's good.
The problem is that it takes take -- a lot of time, and a lot of effort. The discussion can be mind-numbing in their complexity and ambiguity.
And if you're hell-bent on dramatic and rapid change, you may despair at the multi-year time horizons involved.
People can only change so fast -- no matter how fast you'd like them to change.
Do We Need A New Option?
Yes, we do.
The ability to work with technology vendors who are known and proven to the enterprise, like the first approach.
The ability to rapidly deploy all the new enabling technologies that support transformation, but do so in using an integrated approach.
The ability to bring consulting and professional services to bear, but do so faster and with more compelling results than traditional approaches.
Which brings us to the rationale behind VCE -- and everything it's doing.
When you unpack VCE, you'll find aspects of all three legacy models: proven capabilities from industry leaders, all the cool technologies that support transformation, as well as good set of consulting and professional services from the respective companies and their partners.
But there's more -- there's some new options to consider as well.
What Makes VCE Different?
Depending on your lens, you may view VCE as "more of the same" from IT vendors. And -- to a certain extent -- there's a rational basis for that view, as outlined above.
But I'd like to focus instead on what VCE has brought to the table that's different -- and can accelerate dramatic change if that's your goal.
The VCE stack is comprised of best-of-breed enabling next-gen technologies from each of the three respective companies -- VMware, Cisco and EMC.
For example, it presumes a fully virtualized, dynamic and pooled model -- there are no half-measures here.
It assumes that you think that things like unified fabric and hypervisors and automatically tiered storage and fully integrated element management etc. are *good* things, and not things to be avoided as potentially dangerous.
For some, this is moderately controversial, but we're just warming up here ...
The operational model assumes that traditional silos are integrated horizontally, and IT resources are delivered as a dynamic service. Provisioning of resources is integrated. Monitoring of service delivery is integrated. Varying resources up and down is largely automated.
It presumes a high degree of trust in not only the management environment, but the processes that are used to deliver the services.
Or perhaps you'd like a next-generation security model that is largely based on virtualization as core abstraction?
The controversy level is now increasing ...
As long as we're being controversial, let's really open it up.
How about a pre-integrated and pre-characterized unit of infrastructure (the vBlock) that intentionally constrains all the choices you've traditionally been used to?
How about a new professional service to stand it up, run it and optionally charge you for what you use (that would be Acadia?)
How about a variety of self-service consumption portals that let IT users provision IT resources with an absolute minimum of IT involvement?
Or a growing number of compatible service providers who'd be glad to offer you the same infrastructure and services with the control that enterprise IT needs, only using a different consumption model?
The controversy has now boiled over -- there's shouting in the room! Heresy!
A Place To Start
Now, let's pop up a few levels in the organization -- just for a moment. Imagine you're an IT leader, and change is on your agenda. The bigger and faster the change -- the better.
You're looking at all of this, and -- if it works as advertised -- this looks like a great world to live in.
Dramatically lower opex and capex. IT that's far more responsive to the business. Far better answers to data protection and security. Lots of competing and compatible service providers to go look at. A big change, to be sure.
But where to start?
This is where the concept of "lighthouse projects" comes in -- a deployment at scale against an unmet organizational need that proves what can be accomplished -- and accelerates change.
Maybe it's your VDI project. Or making all your application developers happy. Or perhaps you've got some folks that need a self-service technical computing environment. Or maybe a great platform for self-service business analytics and decision support.
I know there's at least *one* of these lurking in your environment -- I find one every time I go looking.
That's where you stand up a vBlock with a legacy-free team using legacy-free processes -- and show everyone else just what can be done -- and do so quickly.
And That's Where We're Seeing Success
Some people get what VCE and vBlocks and all that are about -- and some people don't.
They want big changes, and they want them as quickly as possible.
They want to change how IT is built, how IT is operated and how IT is consumed. And they want an obvious place to start, and to show results quickly.
Now, to be sure, they also want everything else that the other approaches have offered as well: all the goodness that the new tech can bring, working with established and proven vendors, and access to partners and consultants to get the skills and services they need.
And that's what they're finding in VCE ... a new option for accelerated change.