Monday, June 22, 2009

A front row seat for the private cloud evolution: our top content

An interesting way to get a bead on the future is to take a moment to look back at how it evolved. Amidst the flurry of the recent announcement of CA's acquisition deal with Cassatt, I nearly missed an important milestone of my own: the Cassatt Data Center Dialog blog has been going strong for 6 months now.

Now, that probably still makes this blog a neophyte in industry terms, but I figure it's an excuse to look back at what you, the readers, have found interesting over the past half-year.

Obviously, this retrospective comes at a bit of a crossroads for me personally and certainly for Cassatt. Like many who worked at Cassatt, I have been offered a job with CA and will be taking them up on that in mid-July. There's been a bit of commentary on what CA's acquisition of Cassatt assets and employees will mean for CA, what it means for the evolution of public and private cloud computing, and even what lessons other start-ups or entrepreneurs can learn from it all. There will be plenty of time for me to weigh in more specifically on those as time goes on.

In the meantime, however, I'm taking a much-needed 5-week leave of absence and having a bit of a summer vacation with my family in Berlin, Germany. The timing is perfect for a rare, extended break between responsibilities. So I'm taking it.

The circumstances also seem to be good for giving you something to ponder while the blog entries slow down for a bit (sorry, but biergartens are winning out over private clouds...for the moment). Here are the highlights of this blog's past 6 months as I (and our readership stats) see them:

Our Top 10 most popular posts

1. Are internal clouds bogus? This entry is probably the defining post for Cassatt Data Center Dialog. I wrote it on the plane on the way back from a visit with New York and Boston press and analysts. It is a reaction to the skepticism I heard on that trip about the term "internal" or "private" clouds -- a skepticism that is only now beginning to fade. It is also an attempt to emphasize that many folks get wrapped around the axle in talking about specific terminology with customers. It's much smarter just to make sure you discuss something an IT operations person wants to discuss, no matter what your vision is of a next-generation data center infrastructure.

2. When an elephant sits on your blade center Trade show humor is very popular, it seems. Rich Miller of Data Center Knowledge picked up my tongue-in-cheek summary of what started out as a very bad day for our demo guy at a Gartner trade show. You know, the kind that begins with the forklift (or something very big) trashing your demo equipment. This one comes complete with photos -- and a happy ending.

3. Sorry, VMware, you don't need virtualization for cloud computing. While the folks at VMworld Europe were talking all about cloud computing, one thing was really bothering me: the underlying assumption that seemed to go unchallenged -- that virtualization was going to take over the data center completely -- and was an interchangeable term cloud computing. This topic is still controversial. This one got some notice from Mike DiPetrillo (of VMware itself).

4. Applying an internal cloud to disaster recovery. Looking for an example of how an internal cloud concept could be applied to a specific, tangible use case? This post used a real-life Cassatt example and was picked up by Dave Rosenberg’s CNET blog "Software, Interrupted."

5. Public/private hybrid cloud computing: sooner or later? Or, what comes next after you figure out that private clouds aren't bogus? This follow-up post chronicles the industry's shift to discussing a dynamic mix of internal/external, public/private clouds. I talk a bit about why I'm skeptical that this will happen in the short term. Long term? Different story. (And a story that's still being written.) I did an even more recent "where are we now on this debate?" update here.

6. Gartner's Tom Bittman says the future looks a lot like a private cloud – This post started out to be simply a report of Gartner analyst Tom Bittman's keynote at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Vegas last December. However, the content ended up being one of the defining bits of industry commentary on where things are headed in the future, in my opinion (and, according to the stats, is still of great interest to readers many months later). His opinion is right there in the title. Can't say I disagree. Tom's blog is a good one to check out, too.

7. Nicholas Carr: IT and the economy are cloudy, but the Big Switch is on - My visit to the IDC Directions conference in March in San Jose produced this post about Nick Carr's presentation. It also was the first conference in which I was attending, blogging, and Tweeting. Not sure how I survived, but readers were interested in what he had to say. And though I saw counterarguments in the blogosphere from folks like Gordon Haff, Nick's message obviously resonates. (Though, I agree with recent tweets that it wouldn't hurt if the cloud computing folks stopped quoting him for a while.) Also, Data Center Dialog has run several interviews with individuals we thought IT ops folks would find useful: Al Gillen of IDC, Derrick Harris (now doing bigger, better things at GigaOM), Mark Thiele of VMware, and John Humphreys of Citrix. My biggest disappointment on the Nick Carr post was that I wasn't able add him to this list with a one-on-one interview. Yet.

8.-10. The Craig Vosburg "technical details" posts. The final 3 entries in our Top 10 weren't written by me, but were written by co-contributor Craig Vosburg, who was Cassatt's chief engineer before moving over to CA earlier this month. His post on Is your organization ready for an internal cloud? became the basis for a webinar we ran on that topic with Steve Oberlin. More details here. His post was a no-holds-barred look at what IT and their business partners need to be ready to swallow if they're going to try to pursue a private cloud initiative. The goal was to help you in IT operations to know what you're in for. Craig also wrote up Business agility: Using internal cloud computing to create a computer animation render farm in less than a day, which chronicled his use of the Cassatt product to create an animation render farm from spare capacity in our own IT machines. Don't try that without permission, mind you.
Rounding out our list was Craig's first post, Cloud computing: It's all about the '-ilities.' He uses that entry to define what he sees as required for internal cloud computing. It's an important list of things that seemed pretty basic to us, but also really struck a chord.

Who said cloud computing can't be fun?

I've tried to mix in a bit of levity along the way, even if it helps to be a bit of a geek to enjoy it. My favorite post? Hands down, my recent Star Trek post was the most fun to write. Though the one about our squished trade show blade center was pretty amusing both as something to live through and to write about.

Some words of gratitude

Thanks to bloggers and Cassatt alumni James Urquhart and Ken Oestreich for inspiring me to actually get started on this blog in the first place. Christofer Hoff (a newly minted Cisco employee!), Chuck Hollis of EMC, and Lori MacVittie of F5 via blogs and Twitter have been unknowing influences on what gets posted here, so they all certainly warrant a big, unsolicited thank-you mention.

What’s next for Cassatt? For me? For this blog?

Well, the Cassatt question has been answered, at least. Stay connected with CA for more on that. As for me, in the short term you can follow me and my tech-related thoughts from the other side of The Pond as @jayfry3 on Twitter.

When I get back to the States in mid-July, you should expect this blog to kick back into high gear. Until then, someone save my seat for this cloud computing show. I'm expecting the flurry of activity to continue, and I'm not one to let a little vacation time get in the way.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cassatt cloud innovation added to CA muscle

For those who have been watching and wondering what's next for Cassatt, the wait is over. CA announced today that they are the new home for much of what Cassatt has to offer: technology assets, patents, and a very significant chunk of the employees.

After the dire situation that Quentin Hardy wrote about in Forbes back in April, this is certainly a win for Cassatt and those with vested interest in seeing its ideas -- often described as both innovative and too far ahead of the market for its own good -- find a backer.

Here are a couple relevant excerpts from the CA-Cassatt press release:

CA Acquires Cassatt Data Center Automation Innovation and Expertise:
Acquisition Enables Dramatic Expansion of CA’s Automation and Cloud Capabilities

ISLANDIA, N.Y. and SAN JOSE, CA, June 2, 2009 -- CA, Inc. (NASDAQ:CA) today announced the acquisition of certain data center automation and policy-based optimization expertise and assets from Cassatt Corporation, a provider of innovative cloud computing software that makes data centers more efficient. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Some comments from Ajei Gopal, executive vice president of the Products and Technology Group at CA:

"This acquisition strengthens CA's ability to deliver on the promise of Lean IT for our customers. With the addition of Cassatt's engineering team and advanced data center automation assets, CA will accelerate its development of software that helps customers make more intelligent, business policy-based decisions. We are ensuring that CA will continue to be at the forefront of managing our customers’ evolving IT environments."

And some comments from Cassatt's chairman and CEO, Bill Coleman:

"Cassatt has long been a champion for using a cloud-style architecture to manage data centers like a 'compute utility.' This is a great move for both organizations because of the vision we share -- delivering a new, dramatically more efficient way to run data centers. The acquisition of Cassatt's data center automation technology and expertise by CA, one of the world's largest and most successful software companies and an innovator in business-driven automation, will help make this vision into a reality for customers."

And, finally, from Donald Ferguson, CA's Chief Architect:

"Cassatt invented an elegant and innovative architecture and algorithms for data center performance optimization. Incorporating Cassatt's analysis and optimization capabilities into CA's world-class business-driven automation solution will enable cloud-style computing to reliably drive efficiencies in both on-premises, private data centers and off-premises, utility data centers. We believe the result will be a uniquely comprehensive infrastructure management approach, spanning monitoring, analysis, planning, optimization and execution."

As I look at CA's infrastructure management portfolio as a (now former) outsider, I see a lot of product breadth in something near and dear to the hearts of those of us from Cassatt: data center efficiency. This deal combines CA's already broad product set and its formidable execution capabilities with some new data center optimization, cloud computing, and automation expertise from Cassatt. That seems like good news to me, especially since one of the dings against Cassatt has always been that infrastructure management is pretty difficult to entrust to a small vendor.

Neither Cassatt nor CA are going to have much more comment on today's announcement beyond the official press release. Don't take that as negative. We're spending our time and effort (starting today) to bring it all together in a way that will make sense for everyone involved. We'll share those details when we have them.

One piece of bittersweet news is that while Cassatt CEO Bill Coleman has been the face and personality behind Cassatt since its beginnings in 2003 (including a starring role as a Forbes cover boy in September 2006), he won't be coming with us to CA. I'd like to personally thank Bill for his vision and passion, and for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the story at Cassatt. I like to think that even though we didn't achieve the massive customer adoption we were hoping for, we did have a significant impact on the industry discussions about how to run and manage a data center, about utility computing, and about what has come to be known as cloud computing.

Along the way, we at Cassatt have all tried hard to make sure we're part of a real, on-going conversation with the industry and with end users. The name of this blog is just one reflection of that. Many things will likely change for us Cassatt folks as a result of the CA deal, but I for one am confident that we'll keep the dialog going. Stay tuned.

You can continue to follow Jay Fry on Twitter as @jayfry3.