How about this HPE? Automation and Infrastructure Excellence

Last summer I went to HPE Discover in Las Vegas and wrote about the company’s organizational progress and lack of marketing acumen. Half a sun’s orbit later, they still haven’t found a good way to communicate what they are up to.  It’s not clear of these things are set in stone (and I certainly hope they aren’t) but yesterday we heard them talk about “simplifying hybrid IT”, “driving the intelligent edge” and leveraging their experience and talents.  I think most of us in the room threw up in our mouths a little bit. The first impressions were a tangle of boredom and confusion, and first impressions are the only ones that matter.

Great corporate messaging is short and memorable. It communicates a business vision or experience that means something to customers, employees, partners or other interested parties. It communicates a reason for conducting business. It implies a meaningful direction. Everybody that hears or sees the message should be able to repeat it without memorizing it. It doesn’t try to be all-encompassing. It doesn’t try to define the company’s business opportunities. It doesn’t try to be clever.  It doesn’t need to be looked up on a PowerPoint slide or Googled.

But rather than just complain, I decided to make up my own messaging for HPE – the one that I will use when I talk to anybody about what HPE is doing.

Automation and Infrastructure Excellence.

There it is. Four words that make an impression. I fully expect anybody who reads this to think “no”  for any number of reasons, but that is exactly how messaging (and naming) become so thorny. Instead, I would say, try to figure out how to use it.

What do IT customers need to manage their big, changing infrastructures? Automation. Orchestration, metrics, provisioning and modeling are all aspects of automation. Data protection and security are worthless if they are not automated. Automation is the holy grail for all things cloud-like, whether that cloud likeness is an acquisition experience or the transparency of changing the underlying technology an application runs on. Everybody in the IT business knows that this stuff is complicated and that there are no “simple” solutions, but the processes for managing it can always be improved upon with automation power tools. That is what HPE’s Synergy and OneView are all about. These are pillar, cornerstone products that should be front and center in the understanding of what HPE stands for. Hence the word “Automation” without ornamentation or constraints.

What do people running businesses want from any aspect of their business? Excellence. Not perfection, but the best effort to achieve the best result. HPE is in the infrastructure business and all that encompasses with respect to cloud integration.  Hybrid cloud technologies are not necessarily required to be excellent, but HPE certainly wants their hybrid cloud solutions to be excellent, which is why they are putting so much emphasis on automation.

What about things like The Machine – Hewlett Packard Labs’ project to create a persistent memory computing paradigm? It is an attempt to create infrastructure excellence where it is not clear what the applications will be. That’s OK. It’s important for HPE to look for new ways to create excellent infrastructures, whether they are used in datacenters, manufacturing plants, life sciences research, health care, vehicles, etcetera. And everybody wants their infrastructures to be excellent, in whatever way they define excellence.

And what about IoT and analytics, which are also key to HPE’s strategy? I’d argue that both are part of infrastructure excellence. You need an excellent infrastructure to run analytics, to acquire and process IoT information, to make the business decisions that are needed to have an excellent, digitally-wired and responsive organization. HPE will partner with many numerous analytics and IoT software companies and all of them will appreciate and help sell HPE’s excellent, automated infrastructure solutions.

10 reasons the UK should become the 51st State of America

Now that the UK has left the EU and is a free agent without a clue, it’s time for us to take a hard look at making it one of the United States. This is a deal with real synergy that would replace their current lose-lose situation with a sure-fire win-win outcome. Here are ten reasons why this deal needs to go down.

  1. Better gun selection for UK citizens

    wall of gunsThe powerful gun lobby in the US would support this deal because it means the sales of weapons and ammunition would go way up in a huge hurry. Think of it UKers, no background checks, bigger weapons than you can get now, ammo that you can stockpile for many years worth of turf defending against terrorists. What’s not to like?

  2. Pave the way for a merger of the British Premier League and the NFL

    bpl nflLet’s face it, sports matter more than anything else, except guns and this would create a lot more beer-drinking, crossover sports fans than any other imaginable scenario. Eat your hearts out La Liga. One caveat, Chelsea has to relocate to New York before the start of the 2017 season.

  3. Keep Putin’s paws off the Queen

    putin queen elizabethIf you don’t think Vladmir Putin wants the Queen, you don’t understand anything about this conquering man. He wants it all and is probably hatching a plan right now to make at least England part of Russia. If you don’t believe it, just think about this for a moment – the man in the lead for the job as British PM is named Boris.

  4. Keep Game of Thrones production on schedule

    GOT1First, lets all agree that the word schedule is pronounced with a hard “c” and not shedjule. Once we can agree that our common language is American, the next most important thing is for Game of Thrones to be delivered on time, regardless of the budget. Winter is coming and we have to get this series in the can.

  5. Skip the negotiations and feel the power

    riskIf the UK remains independent they are going to have to negotiate from a position of uncertainty with EU members that want to feed them helpings of humble pie. But, if the UK, with the largest army in Europe, joins the United States there is nothing to negotiate. Does France or any other European country want to mess with that?

  6. Forget clearing customs between LHR/JFK & LHR/LAX

    heathrow customsLet’s just do away with one of the greatest nuisances on the plant – English and American citizens having to wait in long lines at big, horrible airports. We all want to get to our vacations faster without worrying about things like having to explain the possession of medicinal marijuana to border control agents.

  7. One state instead of four countries

    whereis spain editedEngland, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would all join the United States as one united state, because most people in the USA don’t actually know where these places are and it could be embarrassing whenever it came up. If the name State of England were for some reason unacceptable to UK citizens, alternative names for the new state would be Old New York, East California, Texas-2 and Disneyana.

  8. Finally decent Mexican food

    la cucarachaIts almost unbelievable that so many people travel to the UK when the food there is so bad. Admittedly, there is terrific curry in the UK, but if you are from Texas and are attending a football game in the UK, you probably won’t want curry as opposed to more familiar options, such as Mexican, Tex-Mex and Taco Bell. When the UK becomes America’s 51st state, Mexican restaurants will start popping up everywhere like Cucarachas.

  9. Jobs, jobs, jobs!

    FA_unemployment01.jpgNothing like this can ever happen without talking about all the jobs that will be created and this adding the State of England to the United States is certainly no different. Drivers training jobs, jobs retrofitting automobiles with dual steering wheels, building walls along Mexican and Irish borders, casino jobs, hotel jobs, a transatlantic oil pipeline from Scotland to Maine and jobs working in unemployment offices. If politicians can imagine it, it can produce thousands of great jobs.

  10. Reduction in the size of Government

    shrinking governmentState governments in the United States are much smaller than the federal government. MPs in the UK would become State Senators and thousands of other redundant bureaucrats would be eliminated so they could become lobbyists in the US system. There would be no need for the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, but the United States does have a vacancy currently on it’s Supreme Court that could be filled by a legal champion of law – something that could be decided by a uniquely entertaining transatlantic reality television show.

I talk to me about HPE

(This blog post was also published on LinkedIn)

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. HPE paid for my travel, lodging and food to attend HPE Discover 2016 earlier this month. That’s it (besides me having been an employee there in the past), they aren’t paying me for my opinions, writings, rants or videos.

I see a lot of good things going on at HPE. They say they deliver solutions to help customers IT organizations’ become more agile and they appear to be eating their dog food. For example, after they tried to compete in the public cloud business, they decided to focus instead on producing their excellent Helion private cloud management software.  They also adopted flash technology in their flagship 3PAR storage product line in a very effective, straightforward way, as opposed to creating confusing and diverging product lines the way EMC and Netapp did.  It appears they are even starting to figure out how to leverage the technology and team from their disastrous Autonomy acquisition to develop enterprise software for Big Data and IoT. In short, they seem to have figured out the markets that are important to them, the products they can sell today and the investments they need to make to compete in the future.

The pendulum of focus appears to have swung to the technology and product side of the business and away from marketing side. This was necessary, but HPE also needs to figure out how to communicate effectively about their technology and products, which is not easy for a company suffering from branding/naming confusion. Names are a tough challenge for many large IT vendors and HPE often struggles by inflicting good technology with unfortunate names – including flagship tech like “Composable Infrastructure”. The word composable does not mean anything to anybody and dictionary definitions shed no light whatsoever on what HPE is trying to communicate. This does not lead to a sense of mystery and capability as much as a sense of baloney. Ambiguity will not help HPE make it to where they want to go and they need all the clarity they can get.

HPE is not back to where they used to be because there really isn’t a “back there” anymore – the world has moved on and HPE is much better situated to pursue enterprise technology opportunities than HP ever was.

Would we fund GPS today and would we find a Brad Parkinson to develop it?

Precision agriculture can increase profits and limit environment

Last week Brad Parkinson was awarded the Marconi Prize for his work developing the GPS technology that synchronizes space and time for the entire planet. Parkinson’s recognition is certainly deserved considering how pervasive GPS technology has become and his unwavering insistence on making it available globally as a free service. It didn’t have to be that way and probably wouldn’t be if GPS were developed today.

GPS was developed by Parkinson’s team at the US Air Force in the 70s. I recommend reading this brief history of it’s development, published by Stanford University in 1995 before the big GPS boom happened. Since then, GPS has significantly altered our view of the world by enabling the maps and apps that take us everywhere on the planet. Readers who are curious about the applications of GPS might want to read Greg Milner’s recently published  book: Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Technology, Culture and Our Minds.

I can’t help but wonder if we would have the resolve to develop GPS from scratch today and make it available worldwide for free. It’s hard to imagine that a private company developing the technology would give the service away. Recovering the high cost of satellites and rockets would make a freemium business model highly unlikely. The money to build and launch all these satellites would have to come from the GPS service itself, which implies that it would use encoded signals that would only be intelligible to matched decoding receivers. The receivers would cost a lot more than they do today because of the licensing fees that would need to be paid to the satellite operating company. Satellite radio is a reasonably good comparison and it hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm.

Also, if GPS were developed by private industry there would almost certainly be multiple competing GPS satellite systems – all with their own equipment, licensing deals and the inevitable patent infringement lawsuits to muddy the waters. In fact, there are other satellite positioning systems circling the earth, such as Russia’s GLONASS, and others that are in development, but they will likely have free services following the economic course set by GPS. Brad Parkinson’s determination to make a free civilian GPS band available opened the doors to an eternity of free positioning services. He probably wasn’t thinking about that back in the 70’s, but that is his legacy.

At the time Parkinson developed GPS, there were many in the military and congress that thought it was a waste of money on what they perceived to be a redundant navigation system. I suspect that if GPS were a project today that it would not survive the budget cutting mindset of congress. But Parkinson made sure enough people understood that it was not a navigation system, but a way to locate targets so that the risks and errors of war could be minimized. It’s now abundantly clear that GPS makes war much more efficient and has saved many lives by reducing the number of bombs that hit the wrong targets. That said, mistakes still occur and war is a horrible thing, but Parkinson acted in the best interest of soldiers and civilians to limit casualties. He left the Air Force in the 80’s and worked for most of the rest of his career as a professor at Stanford University.

If GPS had not been developed all those years ago, would we try to invent it now or would it be too difficult economically? If the answer is “no, it would be too expensive”, what does that say about our abilities to create key infrastructure technologies today? What, if anything, have we lost over the last four decades.

Somebody we should all know a lot more about: Claude Shannon

claudeshannonEvery now and then you find something out that seems almost impossible that you didn’t know it previously.  A few months ago I stumbled across one of those things when speaking with Nick Bellinger. It seemed like a small thing – I mentioned that I had once lived in Petoskey Michigan and he responded that I must know about Claude Shannon. When I said no, he gave me one of those incredulous looks that let me know instantly that I had missed badly. Thankfully, Nick went on to inform me that Mr. Shannon had invented information theory and further that I could read about it in a fascinating book called “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation” by Jon Gertner.

I listened with rapt attention to the audio book as it told story after story of Bell Labs and the people who worked there discovering and inventing much of the stuff that the information age is based on. I highly recommend it for the sections on Claude Shannon that portray the finest and quirkiest aspects of human creativity that most of us can only look at in amazement and wonder. Stories of his seemingly ridiculous and fascinating inventions – such as the robotic machine whose only function is to turn itself off – are both wildly humorous and stimulating. Individuals like Shannon are often disregarded as lone wolves who don’t play well with others, but Shannon’s story is a testament to how much we can all benefit enormously from their solitary accomplishments.

Shannon invented Information Theory on his own, without direction or suggestion or, from what anyone can tell, conversation with others about what he was doing. It wasn’t just that he invented the idea of the digital bit and the foundations of digital information transmission – he went on to prove mathematically that information could be transmitted without loss over an arbitrarily noisy network given a sufficient number of bits to do the job. Everything we understand about digital data, error correction, compression, encryption and deduplication is rooted in his work. In short, everything connected to a network – which will soon be almost everything with an on/off switch – uses the theories Shannon invented all by himself. He is truly a towering figure and he is also virtually unknown. Shannon never wanted fame, but it’s just not right that we should be ignorant of his work.

2016 is the 100th anniversary of his birth and you can find articles about him online and find out about events that have taken place in his honor, such as this “Extra Ordinary Event” recently at MIT. I think you’ll get the best picture of Shannon from the Idea Factory, where he was held in the highest esteem by the finest engineering and research team ever assembled.

Living the California Dream – featuring In and Out Burger

Life in Northern California is pretty sweet – the location, the weather and proximity to In and Out Burgers. We are living the dream.