Dell and EMC together

I’ve been asked a few times about the Dell/EMC merger/acquisition, I can say nothing, not because of financial or security regulations, but because I know nothing at all. Although it was clear some changes were afoot at Dell, the announcement came as a surprise to me.

A couple of things are amusing though in the industry analysis. The most amusing is the quotes coming out of other industry based organizations and their CEO’s. This is a classic of it’s kind, on the Register about Meg Whitman at HP, and then this one from Dietzen the CEO at Pure.

This moves comes out of ‘weakness, not strength’, claims CE Dietzen

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of this entirely predictable FUD a confident CEO would say something to the effect of

The acquisition will be challenging, but we welcome the increased competition and are sure customers and businesses will recognize and continue to benefit from the great products we already have, and those on our roadmap.

Of course no one would ever actually say that, one it doesn’t make headlines, and two because well…

The other thing that’s been disappointing is that other Dell trope, you can’t use Apple products. See as an example The Register:

I have one thing to say to MacBook users at EMC: Whoops

I have to say, I’m always surprised when I hear this kind of thing. Seriously, while I’m sure Michael Dell would prefer everyone use a dell tablet or laptop, I’m sure he’d rather have the most talented, productive people and being acquired and having to use new apps is enough of a productivity hit. Why on earth would he want to want to make it worse by enforcing a move of hardware, software and app paradigms. FYI there are a number of people in Dell Software Group, especially from the Quest acquisition, that have been using Apple products since the Quest acquisition.

The Open Mainframe Project

It would be remiss of me not to mention another new Linux Foundation project, the Open Mainframe project. I’m actually be pretty interested, from a purely personal perspective, to see what this project does and where they plan to take Linux on the mainframe.

I’m glad to see that both Linux on the mainframe, and the ecosystem is still thriving. Having been involved with it heavily back in the late 90’s, and writing essentially the only public strategy in the original and republished IBM Redbook “Linux for S/390”. The first four chapters were mine.

I can recall with great fondness discussing with them head of IBM Systems Group, and future IBM CEO, Sam Palmisano and many others, the real reason Linux would be key to future success, it’s freedom. With India and China coming on stream as technology powerhouses, with millions of future programmers, it was clear that they would learn on Linux.

Even Windows was still the most pervasive operating system in 1998-2000, it was clear from anyone who understood technical people that Linux would influence not jut code, but threading, languages, library structures, call interfaces and more at the system level. For no other reason than people can study the source, learn from it, adapt it etc. and that was a train IBM couldn’t stop, we needed to be on board before the train left without us. There is a good NY Times article from the period here.

Good luck to the Open Mainframe project.

Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative

In a discussion recently I was asked about the Linux Foundation Converged Infrastructure Initiative and if it was still active?

Indeed it is, they’ve made some great progress on funding and supporting open source projects, and there are some interesting developments coming before the end of the year. CII has funded a number of projects through their grants process, you can read more of the some of the projects, and help with prioritization.

It’s not the nature of the CII to broadcast its’ work, the best measure of success are no vulnerabilities in the projects they are supporting. Projects funded following on from the initial OpenSSL, include:

  • Network Time Protocol (NTP)
  • GnuPG
  • OpenSSH
  • Debian Reproduceable Builds
  • The Fuzzing Project
  • False-Positive-Free Testing with Frama-C

Details of the grants etc. are here. Also, I’ve finally added my profile to the CII web site, as seen here

.CII Profile

Goodbye Cube life…

Goobye mau5trapThis month marks the end of my 41st year in information technology, IT; or a it was called back when I started, Data Processing.

Interestingly, officially yesterday I cleared out my “executive” cubicle at the mau5trap and for the first time became a remote (work-at-home) worker. I have to say I’d have preferred not to, but really given the distributed nature of our team it was simply a waste of time and space to maintain the cube, especially since I’m there infrequently; and for the most part, none of the other technical team members are.

It also means I don’t have to waste 90-minutes per day getting to and from the mau5trap, which has got significantly worse in the last 5-years. Yesterdays drive home was an epic waste of time, nearly 2-hours of which 90-mins was getting through downtown Austin.

Over the years I’ve worked at the head office of the businesses I’ve worked for; commuted by train, planes and automobiles to offices; worked on international assignment, temporary assignment, and virtual assignment; but I don’t ever recall actually giving up an office entirely before. In my later projects at IBM I was remote from the team and regularly worked from home; that was actually pretty demotivating.

As it turns out, it’s a pre-cursor to the start of other changes, and probably marks the beginning of the end of my technology career. I have no plans to retire just yet, but as someone who spent his career thriving off the enthusiasm and excitement created by being around others, spending days doing whiteboard architecture and design, I find the current state of tools, webex, powerpoint, chat and the omnipresent  email less and less an attraction.

Add to that my recent tendency to take-on the jobs and assignments no one else wants, or is hoping someone else will do, and there you have it.

| Edit. Thanks to #1 for pointing out I had too many “too’s”

O’Reilly Webcast – Extending Cassandra for OLAP

oreilly doradusColleague Randy Guck, who leads our open source Doradus project, recent gave an O’Reilly Webcast on the project and using Doradus to extend Cassandra for high performance analytics.

The discussion on how Doradus leverages Cassandra, its data model and query language, the internal architecture and the concept of storage services gave in-depth background to then understand the Doradus OLAP service and how it provides near real-time data warehousing.

Randys’ slides and webcast can be fund here. It does need registration, but is well worth the effort. The webcast was sponsored by Dell, which was entirely coincidental, since it was for a Hadoop services offering. Doradus offers some interesting ways to extend and use Cassandra and Randy covers most of them in the webcast. The key point is, that Doradus is an open source project, use and source code are free. Details on Doradus are in this blog entry.

Case story for Dell Software and Hardware

I’ve not posted much of late as I’m working on a lot of back office and process stuff, but still working in Dell Software Group. I recently attended the annual Dell Patent Award dinner where I was able to catch up with Michael Dell and my boss, John Swainson as well as a few other executives, as well many of the great innovators and inventors.

My former boss and Dell Vice President, Gerry Hackett made an interesting point in her remarks prior to doing the roll call for her team at the dinner, she said to the effect that Dell was going to be the only integrated solution provider. I was surprised, but thinking it through she was right.

When I saw this customer story about San Bernardino County School district, I thought it was worth linking here.

The technology curve and it’s impact on staff

Picture from wikipediaThe Hype curve is an interesting thing, especially in the modern development and services organizations. It’s been my observation that increasing, staff hiring, to fill out development teams, as well as the services teams follow pretty much the same curve. Development staffing tends to lag 3-6 months, services staffing, another 3-6 months.

The way it works is this. In the technology industry you build up products and services in specifics areas, they follow pretty much what has become known has the “Gartner hype cycle“. A few visionaries are required at first, eventually the adoption rate is so high and so fast that customers can’t get the people they need and you build up services teams to help them often in conjunction to the products you are bringing to market. No one wants a technology they can’t use.

Eventually customers and adoption of a given technology gets to a point where one of three things happen. 1. the technology is simplified and commodotized to the point where you can’t make money from it, or the customers are no longer buying it 2. The customers have taken on board their own teams to do the work or 3. The technology itself is no longer relevant and has been superseded. This can happen very quickly, I could give a number of examples of things I know from my time at Dell, but thats not the point.

Such is the state of the technology industry, that when you reach anyone of these situations you have to look at the people you’ve got and decide how best to use them going forward. Not everyone is willing to re-train, may IT skills are NOT transferable from project to project and while it seems harsh, a team of people focused on the inner workings of a technology from 5-years ago will often be better off being let go to find opportunities with the skills they have, than put into new positions, on new technologies for which they have weak skills at best. This is especially true for services teams. Remember, customers and businesses are being charged for, or paying for the skills, knowledge and experience when they buy services, not to have someone train or re-train on the job.

As I’m sure you are aware, the IT industry is in a constant state of change, old paradigms are going quickly. Expecting businesses to hold on to staff that no longer have the skill and knowledge to develop the products, or deliver the services that will be needed in 18-24 months, much less over a longer period is, sadly a concept from the 1990’s and earlier. Layoffs in advance of change are an important way to balance the demands of an ever changing industry.

I wrote a recent blog post about staying relevant in a large company which applies to a point here

About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group. I was formerly Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell, and an IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.

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