Structure 2015: It’s a hybrid cloud world and it’s still about customers

I had the opportunity to participate again in Structure 2015 in California a couple of weeks ago.  This was my third time at Structure and they keep getting better. All three Structure panels I was on were moderated by Barb Darrow. Barb does a great job keeping things interesting; she asks provocative questions and ensures the panelists don’t do infomercials for their companies.

My first Structure was in 2013. I was on a panel with Scott Dietzen, the CEO of Pure Storage.  DataGravity was in stealth mode at the time, but if you listen carefully I outlined everything we were doing. So I had fun driving our marketing team nuts. This one had Scott and I talking about storage trends and what the future holds, of course there was a discussion on Flash.  Scott and I agreed on some things and disagreed on others which always makes a panel interesting.

I was at Structure again in 2014 on a panel with Ash Ashitosh, the CEO of Actifio. This one focused on IoT (Internet of Things), a term I still hate. It feels like a buzz word that everyone defines its own way. However, I do believe there is sensor data that is being collected and will be used for a variety of things. I am looking forward to my shoes telling me it’s time to buy a new pair or that my posture is off. DataGravity was still in stealth mode, but again I disclosed many of the things we were up to in general terms.

The November 2015 Structure was magic. Gigaom was the original organizer of Structure. Gigaom closed shop in March of 2015 and the June 2015 Structure was canceled. To prove that you can’t kill great things, Structure got rebooted and returned in November in 2015.  When I was asked to speak, I said sure, I am in. I was rooting for this Structure to be great and it didn’t disappoint.

There was a wide cast of characters talking about important topics. Some bold folks making projections about everything from how the Dell/EMC combination will fare, to what happens with containers, to the FBI CISO talking about security.

I was on a panel this time with Ellen Rubin, the CEO of ClearSky Data and David Mytton, the CEO, Server Density.  The topic of the panel was “Everything You Need to Know About Data Security.”  We had 20 minutes so this was a lofty goal with a lot of ground to cover. The most important take away was to understand your data and its value. At the end of the day, the primary goal of security is to ensure that data is not misused. We talked about human error being the biggest risk to security. There was also discussion about what the changes in requirements for Safe Habor will mean to smaller organizations. If it’s upheld, it will likely be more painful for small companies because as David noted larger companies likely already have Notices in place.

It was definitely a Cloudy day at Structure. Every other talk was about the Cloud and the disruptions the Cloud will cause. I think the discussion is where does the application live, if it’s in the Cloud the data should be there as well, if not probably not, given today’s Cloud dynamics. There were two camps in the Cloud discussion. The first is that Clouds come in three flavors, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry (Amazon, Azure, Google or Amazon, Google, Azure depending on who’s doing the talking). There was lots of handicapping on which Cloud would win.  Also the realization that for the Enterprise to move to the Cloud (once they get their applications there) there would need to be at least two flavors since none of them can afford a single point of failure. FBI CISO Arlette Hart spoke about how cloud providers need to be more transparent about their security practices for example.

I believe Intel had the discussion right. Intel had a great session that talked about “Tens of Thousands of Clouds.”  I wanted to rename it “Tens of Thousands of Clouds” plus three, or as I will refer to it as butter pecan, the second most popular ice cream according to a google search.  There wasn’t really any disagreement, at least privately, in many cases publicly, that the IT world will be a hybrid world for a variety of reasons. There will be infrastructure on premise (or at hosted location), in a private cloud, hosted by local cloud provider (MSP) and in public clouds. As most folks know, one size fits all really fit no one.

I view the public clouds somewhat like the big box stores. I believe the smaller boutique clouds if you will, will differentiate themselves based on service. They will have Virtual IT for customers who are experts in their environment and will understand the Service Level Agreements, governance and regulation requirements for that customer. There will be primary contacts on issues. It will be personalized service.  These boutique clouds will provide customers a 360 degree view of their data. They will provide data curation services for their customers, including help with data privacy, data protection and data insights. At DataGravity we are in a unique position to be part of this trend because we enable these new forms of clouds.

Intel is doing a lot of innovative work to enable Clouds. They talked about the development of an “Intel® Xeon® processor with an Altera FPGA (field programmable gate array) in a multi-chip package, as well as a set of libraries to get started,” 3D XPoint Technology which will make SSDs run 5x – 7x faster, and really fast dense affordable NVDIMMS.  I see these technologies as having an important impact on data security and analytics.  I am looking forward to these technologies being generally available as the algorithms required to move to predictive analytics for data security are memory and compute hungry. I can imagine there will be another leap in predictive analytics capabilities and cost structures that make advances affordable using these technologies. We could see this have the same impact on the storage space as Flash did. Flash did as much to enable fundamental improvements in storage data management as it did for raw application performance.  Stay tuned on how this will turn out.  My brain is swirling with the new possibilities these advances could provide.

I attended a number of other sessions. One of the questions that made me smile was “Is every business a software business or a data business?” I would say the answer is neither. Both are tools to provide customer value and solve problems. The discussion like many of them was geeking out, as opposed to talking about every business providing value to customers and solving problems for customers. Software is a tool; data is the input that fuels the customer solutions. There was another interesting session hosted by Apcera, focused on the term “a platform in transition.” The panel’s focus was on data security and governance and where it belongs. There was discussion about governance and security starting in the application or about it needing to be driven into the platform for consistency and application portability, which made a lot of sense.

There were a lot of discussions about which public cloud would win. Folks were handicapping the various public clouds. I will stay out of this discussion. What wasn’t in disagreement, at least privately, in many cases publicly, is that the IT world will be a hybrid world for a variety of reasons. There will be infrastructure on premise (or at hosted location), in a private cloud, hosted by local cloud provider (MSP) and in public clouds.

In the midst of all of these innovation and tech talks, the best reminder for the day was by Corry Voo (I apologize if I captured the quote wrong):
“Technology is just there to make something happen in the business world.  Doing technology changes for technology sake is suicidal.”

If you’re interested in viewing any of the sessions I participated in, check these out below:
Structure 2013
Structure 2014
Structure 2015 (requires registration to view)

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Paula Long

Paula Long is the CEO and co-founder of DataGravity. She previously co-founded storage provider EqualLogic, which was acquired by Dell for $1.4 billion in 2008. She remained at Dell as vice president of storage until 2010. Prior to EqualLogic, she served in engineering management positions at Allaire Corporation and oversaw the ClusterCATS product line at Bright Tiger Technologies. She is a graduate of Westfield State College.