June 6th, 2012

Start Spreading the News… Cloud Expo, New York

Cloud Expo 2012Cloud Expo 2012 is almost here. This promises to be an incredible event, with thousands of attendees and over 100 speakers. As previously mentioned, I’m privileged to be presenting on Making Hybrid Cloud Safe & Reliable. I’m particularly excited that I’ll be introducing attendees to the new concept of API-Aware Traffic Management. It will also be great to be back in New York City!

I recently read Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast & Slow, a fascinating study of how the human mind works. With the new capabilities offered by big data and Cloud computing — the dual themes for next week’s event — and the increasing personalization of technology through Mobile devices, I think we have an opportunity to make our digital systems more human in their processing. What does that mean?  Well, more intuitive in user experience, more lateral through caching of unstructured data and more adaptive to changing conditions. API-Aware Traffic Management certainly reflects this potential.

If you are going to be (or hope to be) at the event, add a response in the comments box or tweet to @MattMcLartyBC. Hope to see you there!

May 30th, 2012

Where Did Siri Go?

IBM Versus SiriRecently, there’s been some media focus on the limits of BYOD, especially relating to businesses disallowing certain smartphone features. This article on IBM’s somewhat restrictive BYOD guidelines mentions outright bans on technologies like Dropbox and Siri. As an ex-IBM employee, a geek in a partner-facing technical role and a smartphone user, I’m particularly intrigued by the lines drawn by corporations in cases like this.

As the variety of available business apps and mobile devices continues to grow exponentially, enterprises will find it increasingly difficult to place such rigid limits on BYOD. Employees are already beginning to feel entitled to use apps that make them more efficient. In some case this may mean that employees will knowingly use banned apps. If businesses want to avoid this kind of insubordination, they will have to work with their employees, not against them.

One part of the solution is a focus on education rather than overly-strict technological bans. Another is embracing the concept of BYOD rather than fighting it. For instance, many of our customers provide their own apps to run on employee-owned devices. We focus on providing these customers with solutions that allow them to make BYOD secure and manageable, without having to ban apps or impose invasive mobile device management software.

The rest of the solution will come from Cloud and mobile vendors taking steps to make their technologies more enterprise-friendly. This means, for example:

  • Apple will need to recognize its prevalence in the enterprise market and take steps to certify iCloud and Siri for business use.
  • Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive will need to deliver terms of service that assuage fears rather than fostering them.

No one has all of the answers yet and I suppose you can’t blame IBM for a cautious approach but the most successful BYOD initiatives are likely going to be those that are flexible enough to avoid alienating employees. How else will we know what happens when Siri is asked to open the pod bay doors?

May 15th, 2012

API-Aware Traffic Management

Cloud ExpoAs I mentioned in my last blog post, the promise of cost reduction is compelling many enterprises to move their workloads into the Cloud but many IT leaders are reluctant to do so, for fear of compromising the security and availability of their services. These concerns are well-founded but the benefits of Cloud are too great to ignore. To obtain these benefits, companies must adopt techniques that protect against the attendant risks, without compromise.

Many people are familiar with Layer 7’s industry-leading security functionality, so it’s no surprise that I’d recommend using our Gateway technology to protect connections from on-premise infrastructure to off-premise Cloud services. The flexibility of deployment options we offer makes it possible to create a network of secure on- and off-premise endpoints to meet the most stringent requirements. This covers security but what about availability?

People seem to be less familiar with Layer 7’s routing capabilities. Our Gateway technology is optimized to perform flexible, content-based routing with negligible impact on overall transaction times. In the context of the Cloud, this means that traffic proxied by a Layer 7 Gateway can be re-directed using intelligent algorithms and even dynamic, state-based awareness. This routing capability, which I call “API-aware traffic management”, brings huge benefits in ensuring availability when connecting to multiple API instances – on-premise, off-premise, in multiple Clouds… anywhere on the hybrid network.

I’ll be discussing this topic in detail at the upcoming Cloud Expo 2012, June 11-14 in New York City. This promises to be a great event, so I hope you can make it and attend my discussion!

April 30th, 2012

Cloud & Clear

Hybrid CloudIt’s April in Vancouver, which got me thinking about clouds.  Although the IT buzz in 2012 has been dominated by mobile and big data, Cloud computing is still a hot topic, especially since it is an enabler for both. In the public Cloud space, Google just launched Drive in the same week that Microsoft updated SkyDrive. In the private Cloud domain, IBM recently announced its PureSystems platform, which falls along similar lines as the Exa- line from Oracle.

It will be interesting to see whether or not big enterprises buy into this “21st century mainframe” concept but what’s clear is that enterprises now want to migrate critical workloads to the Cloud, en masse. To realize the true benefits of Cloud, many of these workloads will have to be running off-premise. But since many will remain on-premise, enterprises will be relying on hybrid Cloud infrastructure for their most significant IT services.

Security remains a major area of concern for organizations looking to leverage the Cloud. Increasingly, availability and reliability are also significant concerns, particularly since Amazon has had a few outages recently. In addition to addressing these concerns, enterprises are evaluating how they can optimize processing volumes to get maximum cost benefit from their Cloud deployments.

Please join me at the Cloud Expo, June 11-14 in New York, where I’ll be discussing solutions for each of these considerations. Hey, we should have blue skies by then!

February 3rd, 2012

Security in the Clouds: The IPT Swiss IT Challenge

Scott Morrison in GstaadProbably the best part of my job as CTO of Layer 7 Technologies is having the opportunity to spend time with our customers. They challenge my assumptions, push me for commitments and take me to task for any issues -  but they also flatter the whole Layer 7 team for the many things we do right as a company. And for every good idea I think I have, I probably get two or three great ones out of each and every meeting with the people who use SecureSpan to solve real problems on a daily basis.

All of that is good but I’ve learned that if you add skiing into the mix, it becomes even better. Layer 7 is fortunate to have an excellent partnership with IPT, a very successful IT services company out of Zug, Switzerland. Each year, IPT holds a customer meeting up in Gstaad, which I think surely gives them an unfair advantage over their competitors in countries less naturally blessed. I finally managed to draw the long straw in our company and was able to join my colleagues from IPT at their annual event this January.

Growing up in Vancouver, with Whistler practically looming in my backyard, I learned to ski early and ski well. Or so I thought, until I had to try to keep up with a crew of Swiss who surely were born with skis on their feet. But being challenged is always good and I can say the same for what I learned from my Swiss friends about technology and its impact on the local market.

The Swiss IT market is much more diverse than people from outside of it may think. Yes, there are the famous banks but it is also an interesting microcosm of the greater European market — albeit run with a natural attention to detail and extraordinary efficiency. It’s the different local challenges that shape technology needs and lead to different emphasis.

SOA and Web services are very mature and indeed are pushed to their limits but the API market is still in its very early stages. The informal, wild west character of RESTful services doesn’t seem to resonate in the corridors of power in Zurich. Cloud appears in patches but it is hampered by very real privacy concerns and this, of course, represents a great opportunity. Secure private Clouds are made for this place.

I always find Switzerland very compelling and difficult to leave. Perhaps it’s the miniscule drop of Swiss ancestry I can claim. But more likely it’s just that I think the Swiss have got this life thing all worked out.

Looking forward to going back.