Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cloudera and SGI: Hadoop for Geeks AND Suits

Some of you may be too young to remember it, but there was a time when business technology decision makers looked askance at open source solutions such as Linux and the Apache Web server. These and others are now common components of many business technology infrastructures.

What happened? Some pioneering companies such as Red Hat and Ubuntu began wrapping packages of supporting technologies and services around Linux and related offerings. And those packages began to overcome the fears and objections of the "suits" who approved the budgets of the "geeks" already sold on the technological advantages of Linux, et al.

Fast-forward to today. Apache Hadoop is a combination of a distributed file system and nifty behind-the-scenes software. Hadoop makes it easier and faster to build and run applications that require lots of data and the shared power of multiple computers. And so far, Hadoop has followed a trajectory similar to that of Linux in its early days as a viable business computing platform. The geeks already love it or are champing at the bit to take it out for a spin, but the suits are largely unfamiliar and wary.

Enter the alliance of Cloudera and SGI, the venerable Silicon Graphics International. Cloudera is doing for Hadoop what Red Hat, Ubuntu and others did for Linux and related technologies. Its Cloudera Enterprise offering combines a suite of management software with support services to make Hadoop adoption and realization of its benefits faster and easier. SGI, meanwhile, combines the strengths of its server hardware with its strengths in markets that have proven strong for high-performance computing (HPC) and are likely to be equally enthusiastic users of Hadoop. These markets have included government, research and telecommunications segments, according to SGI.

Providers of cloud-based business applications and services will become one of these key markets very soon. Hadoop-powered computing clusters as a service, and the kinds of applications those clusters can support, should prove irresistible to users with advanced requirements, and to Cloudera, SGI and their partners.

Meanwhile, the Cloudera-SGI alliance is presenting itself as equally appealing to technical and business decision makers. For the geeks, SGI announced yesterday that it had set new Hadoop performance records by running Cloudera software on SGI servers. For the suits, the companies announced yesterday the availability of SGI Hadoop Clusters with the Cloudera Enterprise Management Suite already installed. "The relationship will also enable the two companies to jointly build, sell and deploy integrated, high performance Apache Hadoop-based commercial solutions," the announcement said. I can't imagine that the two companies will take very long to turn their collective expertise and experience into packaged solutions and services designed for the suits and the geeks in specific markets and/or facing specific challenges.

If you work at an enterprise that you think can benefit from business-enabled, purpose-built Hadoop deployments, keep an eye on Cloudera and SGI, especially as they ramp up competition with Oracle's software and its Sun hardware. And whether your company needs or wants Hadoop or not, look at the Cloudera-SGI alliance as a harbinger of more such relationships to come.

Vendors understand that users prefer solutions that let those users focus on running their businesses, not any particular technologies. Responsive vendors will increasingly deliver combinations of purpose-built, pre-configured physical, cloud-based and cloud-enhanced "appliances" that are easy to deploy, require minimal user management and deliver benefits rapidly. And for the solutions that meet those criteria, the inner workings matter far less to buyers and users than how well those workings work. Whether those buyers and users are geeks, suits or geeks wearing suits, a rapidly growing demographic segment...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cloud-Enabled Infrastructure Management: A Two-Way Need

Is the technology infrastructure upon which your business relies ready for "the cloud(s)?"

As with every meaningful one-on-one relationship, cloud-enabled infrastructure management (or "CEIM," as in "things are not always as they…") is definitely a bidirectional exercise. (Or, if you must, a "two-phase commit.")

Why? Because you've not only got to manage cloud-based business resources alongside any premise-based resources -- the computers at your facilities that are running the applications your business needs -- critical to your business. You've also got to figure out whether and how best to add cloud-based management resources to your current infrastructure management portfolio.

Whew. A step back, upwards and outwards seems appropriate here.

Your business relies upon its technology infrastructure to survive, let alone to thrive competitively. This is increasingly true given the growth of "the mobile, social cloud." Even if your business does no business online (yet!), people are influencing how your business is perceived online, likely even as you read this. Which means you need an infrastructure that enables your business to know and respond to what's being said about it online, in addition to all the other things necessary to make your business work.

Also, neither your technology budget nor your technology staff is infinite, if you even have any of either. Which means you've got to focus on solutions that maximize benefits while minimizing cost and complexity. Which means you either are looking at cloud-based solutions or will be soon. Especially if you own or work for a small or mid-sized business or "SMB." Which means you've got to be able to manage them at least as well as you're managing your current business technology tools.

And no, the tools and processes you've been using to manage premise-based resources are not adequate by themselves to manage cloud-based services too. And yes, there's a growing range of cloud-based infrastructure management services you need to consider. Especially if you're using or considering cloud-based business computing services as adjuncts to or replacements for any premise-based resources.

How to begin? Focus on what infrastructure management is supposed to help your business to do. Run better.

From that perspective, here are four things every infrastructure management solution and process must do, wherever it happens to reside.

Collect all relevant data on use and performance. (Process point: be clear on what's really "relevant.")
Refine that data into actionable information.
Optimize that information based on business-specific goals and processes.
Promulgate that information across all affected constituencies, via reports they can all understand and use.

Then, lather, rinse and repeat. Think of it as a "CROP circle" for the infrastructure that enables and empowers your business. Only less mysterious and controversial than other similarly named items.

Your business' need for an effective CEIM strategy creates a great opportunity to ensure that all of your infrastructure management efforts meet your specific CROP requirements and goals. Take full advantage of that opportunity, and make sure that Sales, Marketing, Operations, IT and all other directly affected constituencies have a seat at the table.

A Request and An Offer: If you'll spend fewer than 10 minutes answering six questions about cloud-enabled infrastructure management and including at least an e-mail address, I'll send you a complementary summary of the results and my analysis and recommendations. You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZKSRM9M -- please take it and tell everyone you know to do the same. Thanks!