The Future of DevOps

I recently did an interview with JAX Magazine on DevOps and here is the transcript of the interview.

Some people call DevOps a cultural movement, others consider it a magic bullet. In your view, what is the essence of DevOps?

DevOps is used to increase the efficiency of a business. It is a catalyst for collaboration between the roles of technology developers and IT operations to improve the agility of both IT and development. It is no magic bullet. The same problems such as poor communication, mismatched expectations, lack of cohesiveness and teamwork, and lack of vision that exist in a traditional development and operations setting will be carried over to a DevOps situation.

What are the latest trends in DevOps? Could you describe one important trend that you are particularly interested in?

As with most technology trends, DevOps is relying more heavily on cloud-based solutions. These solutions will shy away from the more simplistic Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) approach and compartmentalize workflows into distinct containers. The container approach uses the same concept that DevOps employs. Using separate specialized containers that collaborate with each other that can change rapidly for a faster, efficient, and cost-effective solution. At the same time, there is a need to more flexible management on an enterprise scale so these solutions are being integrated with cloud management suites for ease of provisioning, monitoring, auditing, and management.

DevOps is more than a technology trend — some people claim that it is transforming the modern IT landscape. As more and more organizations decide to adopt DevOps, they need guidance and the right tools. In your view, what are the most suitable tools that should be part of a ready-to-use “DevOps kit”?

DevOps needs an infrastructure that can support rapid development and deployment.  I would say the essential toolkit includes a code repository, a project management tool, a change management application, and a ticketing system. Every person in the DevOps team needs to be on the same page. The project management tool helps with this. The code repository helps with code versioning and release management. This way everyone can work on the most recent branch of code submitted. An automated testing environment is also helpful with speeding up development and getting products to market faster. Next, the change management application allows for a controlled implementation of changes and ensures that adequate review of changes has been accomplished. Lastly, a ticketing system tracks end user issues and their resolution. When these items relate back to application issues, new releases can solve the underlying issues.

What is the role of cloud in a DevOps context? What benefits does it bring?

The cloud can be used for both collaboration for the development/operations team and the deployment to the customer. This can be used for rapid deployment of each new iteration. With a cloud, the support can be done anywhere, anytime, which makes it much more efficient than provisioning individual systems. The cloud can also be used to quickly set up test or QA environments and allows for rapid deployment of products or rapid growth.

If containers are revolutionizing IT infrastructure and DevOps is transforming the modern IT landscape, would you say that they go well together?

DevOps can use containers in many of its solutions. Containers can be thought of as single units that collaborate to make a final product. This way the DevOps job of supporting the containers can be singled out to an exact container with each container fulfilling a certain function. In this way, it is much easier to discern which container needs maintenance. This improves efficiency, which is one of the primary goals of DevOps

What are the anti-patterns of DevOps?

Anti-patters remove undesirable assumptions and artifacts from the DevOps culture and belief system. DevOps does not combine the roles of a Developer and Operations into a single job. It instead aims to strive for better collaboration between two roles within the same collaborative team. When developers start doing the job of system administrators or vice versa, anti-patterns bring corrective structure to the team. This ensures that both developers and administrators have the same goal instead of being in opposition to each other while still performing distinct tasks within the team.

Do you have a tip on how we can eliminate obstacles to DevOps adoption?

The first step to DevOps adoption is to get developers to start using an agile development approach rather than a traditional approach. This is essentially a prerequisite for DevOps and many companies have already taken this step. Next, comes coordination and integration of the teams. There needs to be the establishment of new norms, goals, and expectations. Some groups may need to undertake team-building exercises to better work together and there may be some cultural changes as well as development and operations teams may have developed their own unique cultures.

Preparing Your Storage Environment for Tomorrow’s Opportunities

Businesses today can’t exist without data. They feed on it, breathe it, and those that understand how to most effectively harness it, achieve competitive advantage. Not only will those companies see returns today but tomorrow as well since they will be well-poised to seize future data storage opportunities and better leverage their data to make decisions and glean insight.

As you know, companies and consumers alike are producing data at a rate never seen before and this continues to increase. Those companies looking to the future know that they will need to support a data set vastly larger than the one they support today and at faster speeds. However, this is only part of the future storage landscape.

Setting

Looking towards the future in any industry can be difficult because so many things will change, but change is expected, often cumulative, consisting of a series of many small changes that overall shift the business and technology landscape forward. In this way, they are somewhat predictable even if we do not know the exact specifics of how those changes will take place.

It is true that organizations will have much more data in the future, but this huge amount of data will be spread among a variety of different providers including cloud services, local storage, peripheral devices, and datacenters. Employees will interface with their data not only via computers, browsers and apps, but through wearable technology and possibly augmented and virtual reality. Users will not be the only ones creating the data of the future. As sensors continue to decrease in cost, the Internet of Things (IoT) will become more prolific and see many new use cases.

In fact, IDC expects the “digital universe” of global data to double in size every two years between now and 2020, when it will reach 44 zettabytes.[1]

These changes will produce new storage opportunities for organizations.

Opportunities

The main opportunities for storage and IT will be in protecting data’s competitive advantage and achieving new insights and capabilities from integrating systems, while supporting larger data volumes and faster access to data.

Self-protecting data

Data today provides significant value to organizations. Without it, many companies would not be able to exist. The value of data will only increase and as that data is used in more and more places, securing it in the absence of traditional organizational security controls will be of prime importance because the secure data will allow companies to maintain their competitive advantage. Companies will do this by allowing data to be self-protecting. Data will need to be able to move freely but still enforce organizational security policies.

New insights and capabilities from system integration

Creation and consumption of data by users and things will take place on many devices, peripherals and connected things, managed by their own systems. Such systems will most likely be a diverse collection of companies and technologies. Those companies that can effectively integrate the data from these sources will be able to gain new intelligence and it will set the stage for data management opportunities.

One data management opportunity for future storage systems will be to reduce rework. Data created on one device can be shared with other devices, so that users do not need to recreate the data. This will be especially important for teams working on the same project. Organizations will be able to take this a step further and integrate data from different teams together, so components from one project or initiative are automatically correlated with others. This will increase agility and key business metrics such as time to market, closed sales or customer response time. Furthermore, the insights and uses of different systems will allow for users to utilize the data they create in multiple ways, enhancing data utility and maximizing the data’s organizational value.

Those companies skilled in data management will also be better equipped to protect data against loss. Data creation and change events can be tracked across systems so that they are effectively synchronized and archived.

Larger data volumes, faster speed

Companies and storage partners will need to effectively architect a solution that meets current and planned capacity and performance needs without introducing bottlenecks down the road. Disk has been our bottleneck for so many years that we are conditioned to focus on it, sometimes to the exclusion of other factors.

As flash storage approaches new heights in speed at lower price points, utilizing more open standards, bottlenecks will crop up in other parts of the storage network such as switches, Host Bus Adapters (HBAs), and virtual fabrics. Future ready solutions need to take this into consideration and allow for increased bandwidth, expandability and flexibility in the storage network and various interconnects such as WAN or cloud services.

Case in point – Wunderlich Securities Inc. implemented a flash-storage solution, and chief information officer Aaron Goodwin reports “We’ve got a lot of headroom for growth, plus more peace of mind.”

Future Ready Strategy

How effectively companies can utilize their current and future data will depend upon the ability of companies and their storage solutions to tag and categorize data, evaluate and integrate data platforms, build system organizational intelligence and empower end users.

Define policies for tagging and categorizing data now

Most data now are like a patient in the ICU without ID. Doctors don’t know who the person is, including their medical history which limits treatment options. Tagged data, like the patent with ID, has a history and it can tell that history to the applications that work with it. Some patients refuse care and some data will refuse to be accessed while others may be accessed with some restrictions.

Establish methods for evaluating and integrating data platforms

Data that exists in silos can only benefit applications and users operating within those platforms. Future ready companies will need to allow for secure integration between these diverse platforms. However, they will need to ensure that data leaving is protected and that incoming data is screened. The organizational data silos of today are like fresh water cisterns. Those can be combined together into a much larger collection, but introduce saltwater and the entire repository is unusable. Similarly, garbage data in a system will result in poor decision making, and new data created based on this data will be similarly flawed. This is particularly important for companies employing machine learning and artificial intelligence based business intelligence systems.

Build organizational intelligence and awareness into systems

From a security perspective, future ready storage solutions act more like a parent at a playground rather than an executive secretary. Whereas the secretary keeps the executive sealed off from the world, the parent lets their child experience the playground under the parent’s watchful eye. Those that believed the secretary would protect the executive’s schedule were proved wrong again and again as attackers pushed their way past the secretary or worked around her. The parent, while not infallible, is ever-ready to intervene. He or she is intelligent enough to make decisions in a changing environment with many simultaneous interactions and they can take appropriate action such as negotiating with other parents or communicating and coordinating with more powerful entities such as law enforcement when the need arises. Data, like that child, will need to interact with many systems under an intelligent, flexible guardian.

Empower end users

Lastly, users of tomorrow’s systems will need to be aware of how their creation and use of data impacts the organization. It is not enough to have effective data integration and security controls if users incorrectly categorize data, disclose it to unauthorized persons, or feel so restricted that they do not utilize the systems. Users must be empowered so that the technology and data allows them to work more effectively. Such users will embrace the technology and bring the most value to the organization. They will also find their careers more enjoyable when they do not need to compete with the technology. Technology should be a tool, not a restriction, a pencil rather than handcuffs. Are your storage systems ready for the future? It is coming faster than you think so prepare yourself for tomorrow’s opportunities.

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Preserving Value in Future Ready Storage Solutions

Storage solutions make or break the systems they support and yet these same systems are routinely seen as a cost to be decreased, rather than a competency to be developed. A racer doesn’t remove his engine if he expects to compete. However, rational, well-intentioned businesses sacrifice storage capabilities in an attempt to improve the bottom line. Those who wish to be future ready must think differently. The fact is that storage supports the business and it will be even more important as we move forward into this data-driven economy.

Traditional cost factors and costly mistakes

Storage as a component of IT, is often seen as a cost of doing business. You can’t run a business without looking at costs, but costs are only part of the picture. Companies exist to provide some value and the costs they incur should be contributing to that value. Cutting cost without regard to their value erodes organizational effectiveness, ultimately leading to organizational demise. That said, storage is a cost, but it is more important to view it as a component of the organization’s core competency, and a large contributor to the value the organization offers to its customers.

IT decision makers are still looking for storage solutions that reduce rack space, lower power and cooling costs and meet IOPS (Input/Output Operations per Second) requirements at a low price point. That much hasn’t changed, but continued progress in these areas has primarily been the through the increasing use of flash storage. Flash uses less power and produces less heat and it now comes at an affordable price.

“Compared with other storage solutions in our data center, we have seen a 100 to 200 percent increase in data speeds with our all-flash Dell storage arrays,” says Xu Hui, chief information officer at Daqo Group.

It can also meet IOPS requirements with fewer disks or chips so I/O intensive apps can run off a smaller footprint. Flash capacity has also been changing  with technologies like 3D flash memory allowing for arrays to be flash only, and it comes in a variety of flavors such as SLC, MLC and TLC that offer different price to performance ratios.

For those choosing to retain their spinning disk systems, power and cooling costs cannot be ignored. These aging systems can be costly to maintain. Some organizations may need to keep their data in house due to regulatory or data sovereignty issues, so use cases vary. However, opportunities abound for moving archival functions to the cloud rather than keeping costly nearline storage systems running. Cache locally and hybrid solutions are giving organizations more ways to move active data to the cloud as well which is replacing traditional capital expenditures with operating expenditures.

Some companies do not need the IOPS that flash offers. They are more than happy with a few hundred or thousand IOPS, especially in network attached storage. Some businesses have difficulty adopting flash because of the initial cost, especially when they have an existing system in place that seems to do the job. However, configuration and utilization mistakes are far too common. RAID (redundant array of independent disks) groups are sometimes overprovisioned in order to meet IOPS requirements resulting in lower disk ROI. In other cases, the full cost of ownership of a storage system is not factored in because cost factors such as power and cooling are not assigned directly to the underlying resources, but are managed in their own bucket instead.

Long-term storage value

Each company exists for some purpose and employees work towards that purpose. Similarly, the technology an organization employs is also utilized to further organizational goals such as producing a product, organizing teams, communicating with employees and customers, and making sure that everyone is paid at the end of the day. When you look at organizational assets in terms of their value, it is easy to see which things should be enhanced and which should be removed. Systems that do not provide value should be cut or replaced and those that can bring more value should be enhanced.

Agility is a key factor in both the business of today and tomorrow. Organizations need storage systems that can be deployed quickly and easily to protect their data from loss, ensure its availability when needed, and respond quickly to application and end user requests. Fortunately, deploying storage systems can be much easier today, and some systems are preconfigured for certain use cases. Hyper-converged systems, for example, are already preloaded with software for a workload. These systems are practically ready to go when they are plugged in. This can be quite advantageous for those companies that know what they need. However, other companies need flexibility with platforms that can support a wide range of workloads which flash and hybrid tiered storage can provide.

I would be remiss if I did not mention security because security preserves data value. Organizations rely upon their data, and they receive significant competitive advantage from it. This competitive advantage is maintained when the security of their systems remains intact.

Lastly, users demand instant access to emails and files while databases are ever-hungry for more speed. Future ready storage solutions will see the most value when they can meet or exceed demand. This will allow organizations to make decisions quicker, create solutions for customers in less time and innovate faster than ever before. This is a bright future where technology is leveraged to allow people to do more than they thought possible. The future starts now. Is your storage ready for it?

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2015 #Techsgiving at CDW

CDW asked me what my must-have products were for #Techsgiving sweeps and I have to say the choice was rather easy. These five products are my choice for the person who likes to work smart and play hard at home and on the go.  Vote for your favorite #techsgiving package here for a chance to win the package or other prizes.

Dell Laptop

 

 

 

 

 

This set begins with a laptop that knows no borders. Dell’s new XPS 13” 9343 laptop features the amazing infinity display that will make you feel like what you see on your computer is part of the world around you. Not only is this display thin and almost borderless, it is also a QHD+ with a resolution of 3200×1800 with touchscreen capability to boot. The rest of the machine is no slouch either. It features an i7 processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid state drive so you can work like a champ and its 802.11ac WIFI will keep you connected at to WIFI easily and reliably.

QNAP

 

 

 

 

 

 

My second item is the QNAP TS-653 Pro NAS server. This beast of a NAS has so many uses that even the most tech savvy of you will be hard pressed to utilize them all. It comes without drives but it has six drive bays so my next choice is six 3TB Western Digital WD30EFRX 6Gb/s SATA WDHDDdrives. This should be plenty of space for most of you so I would recommend you configure the drives in a RAID 5 with one hot spare. This means that you would have 4 drives for data, one for parity and one that would automatically be swapped in if a single drive fails. Even with that configuration, you would have 12TB of space. For those of you who need more, simply drop the hot spare and you will have 15TB.

Your QNAP is not just a storage device. You can connect it directly to your TV to display videos and images or play music. The popular XBMC/Kodi media center can be installed directly on it as well as other application such as Chrome. You can also use it as a DLNA player to stream content to network devices such as AV receivers, computers and smart televisions. The QNAP has a variety of apps that can be installed on it. My favorites include the backup station that can operate as a Mac OS time machine and a backup device for Linux and Windows machines. You can also connect it to cloud storage such as Dropbox to backup that data. Additional features include a VPN server, antivirus software, web server, FTP server and much more.

Now that you have a powerful computing device you can take anywhere and a storage device to hold all your digital content and make it available to you, you might wonder what else you would need.

4k TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, the laptop screen is great for lying on the couch, traveling and so much more, but sometimes you want a larger than life experience. Just plug the laptop into a 4k display and you’ll be able to do even more. The Samsung UN40JU6400F is a 40 inch 4k display that really shines. It has so many pixels that you can display six, non-overlapping windows on this 4k display and redefine the meaning of multitasking. This unit has 4 HDMI connections so you can connect that QNAP to it as well, but, even if you don’t, this TV is equipped with a wide variety of smart features including Netflix, Youtube, Hulu plus and web browsing.

Keyboard

The last item on my list is probably the best keyboard I have ever used. The Logitech G710+ is a mechanical keyboard that provides the perfect level of responsiveness, feedback, and speed. It is built for gamers but I use it for writing and have found that I can type noticeably faster with it. Logitech’s software can analyze how you type to show you which keys you utilize the most. The programmable keys can be used for games or you can program macros to perform common computer tasks. Such macros have the potential to save you a lot of time. You will also love the backlit display that can be adjusted or even turned off so that it provides the right amount of light for use. In the end, this is a polished, well-built keyboard with enough features for gamers and power users alike.

So, if you are like me and you want to work hard and play hard, grab a few of these great products for #Techsgiving. The only problem you’ll have is determining what is work and what is play.

 

What you need to know about Windows 10 Security and Privacy

Microsoft officially launched its successor to Windows 8.1, Windows 10, on July 29, 2015, and millions have already downloaded this free upgrade or utilized Microsoft’s queued digital delivery system. Windows 10 offers users many new features including a new browser and integrated Cortana search which essentially means that your operating system is integrated with the cloud. However, don’t let all these features and launch celebrations distract you from its security, which is somewhat in the fine print.

By default, Windows 10 collects information from your microphone, location, camera, handwriting, and searches. According to Microsoft’s privacy statement, this information is used to provide services. For example, Cortana uses location, speech, handwriting and searches to provide intelligent information to you. The information is also used to send product and service information, distribute security notices and display advertisements. Information is shared with Microsoft affiliates, subsidiaries and vendors. This is a common practice for many companies and Microsoft explicitly states that they do not collect information from email, chat, video calls, voice mails, and personal files for advertisement targeting. However, unlike the web, your operating system is resident on your machine, potentially collecting information even when you are not actively using the computer.

The good news is that the default tracking can be disabled by editing Windows 10 and the Edge browser privacy settings. Microphone, location, and camera settings can be managed by clicking start and then going to settings and finally privacy. This will open the privacy menu. Search privacy is managed by opening the Edge browser then going to advanced settings under settings. After viewing advanced settings, you will see a privacy section where you can turn off the Cortana search assistance called “Have Cortana Assist Me in Microsoft Edge.” You can also manage some settings online by opting out of ads based on browsing history and interests here.

As a side note, Windows 8 integrated Microsoft online accounts with local accounts which allow Microsoft to combine data gathered from multiple computers linked to a Microsoft account and online activities together. This is also present in Windows 10, but you still have the option to use a local account rather than a Microsoft account. Using a local account will disable some application downloads and synchronization features, but it will limit the data collected to that machine so that it is not integrated with usage on other platforms or the Microsoft online community. This also prevents someone who compromises your online account from remotely accessing your computer using that account or vice versa.

Windows 10 includes a feature called Wi-Fi Sense. This feature allows your contacts to connect to your wireless network, and it has received a lot of negative press after its release. However, initial concerns raised were premature or exaggerated. Wi-Fi sense is not turned on for all your contacts automatically. Contacts are not granted access to your network unless access has been assigned and this is only available after you make a wireless network available for sharing. This feature makes it easier to allow friends to connect to your network without providing the wireless password to them, and the feature can be disabled if and when it is not needed.

What about the good features?

Windows 10 also comes packed with new security features. It has Device Guard to protect against unsigned applications, support for biometric authentication through Windows Hello, new security features in Microsoft’s Edge browser and a suite of parental controls.

Device Guard blocks unsigned applications from running on the machine. This helps prevent malicious programs and infected program files from executing malicious code on your computer. For a program to run, the software company must sign the installer file with a key that only they have. Windows checks this key to verify that the file originated from the software company and not some other third party such as a hacker and allows the installation if the key is verified.

Second, Windows 10 now supports multiple ways to log into your computer including face, eye, and fingerprint authentication through a feature called Windows Hello. The software is built into the operating system, and users just need to attach biometric devices that are Windows Biometric Framework supported to use the feature. Third party support has existed for biometric authentication for quite some time, but Microsoft’s adoption allows for enterprises to integrate biometrics into their identity management systems through native Microsoft technologies.

Microsoft’s built in browser, Edge, helps prevent websites from tampering with your machine or stealing credentials through new security controls. Edge is equipped with an even better version of SmartScreen phishing detection that checks the reputation of sites you visit while Passport encrypts saved passwords. The browser also supports W3C content security policy and strict transport security standards. Furthermore, the browser is remarkably fast with all these controls under the hood.

Lastly, Windows levels the parental controls playing field with Mac OS and even adds a few new features through Family Features. These features allow parents to better control the programs their children run and the content they view online. Parental controls include time limits on logins, block or allow rules for applications and games, web filtering and activity logging.

In the end, I think Windows 10 is a good step forward in both features and security, but it can be enhanced by turning off a few features, especially if you are not using those features. Remember that Windows 10 is still new so there will most likely be many updates as these features are put under the strain of attacks and normal workloads.

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site PowerMore. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.