Don’t END user computing, ENABLE it.

End user complaints and general experience issues are many times seen as lowest level IT support function. Most organizations when asked “who is responsible for this?” reply “I am not sure” or “it’s another team’s responsibility”. Usually, if it’s an end user issue that is directed to anyone but the infrastructure team (cuz they are really busy!) App slowness issues, contact App Dev…Unhappy user, contact the service desk…down application, Infrastructure team will be there to save the day but it’s not their fault. All others please visit the IT Complaint Department (shown below).

Please Take a Number

“…our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.” – Steve Jobs

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SMP Cycles for a Cause

This June, SMP recruited both avid cyclists and beginners to ride and fundraise in support of two events that aim to improve health and longevity in our region. The Tour de Cure aims to stop diabetes and raise critical funds for education, advocacy and research through the American Diabetes Association. SMP riders participated in the Rochester tour in both the 40 and 20 mile rides on June 13th. In support of cancer research and patient care programs at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, SMP singed on as a Five Speed sponsor for the 2015 Ride for Roswell. On June 27th, SMP riders rode the 45 and 20 mile routes. At both events riders enjoyed scenic views, cheers from volunteers and the satisfaction of supporting such worthy causes!

Becoming Good at the NEW IT

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. -Alvin Toffler

Over the past 3 years I have begun to see a shift in the way customers are planning, selecting and deploying technology capabilities to their users. The range of choice has expanded at every level; in devices, applications, methods of computing, potential partners and ownership. A ‘one-size fits all’ technology strategy is moving to one in which it’s now ‘any size that you like’. IT can now deliver many more capabilities; dependence on ‘cost-only’ business cases will encourage IT leaders to keep the legacy alive.

Our EUC team is focused on helping our customers identify their desired outcome, assess the legacy IT, document and present it to leadership in meaningful terms. This provides the best starting point to decide whether the investment is worth pursuing for the value planned to obtain.Read More »

How is cloud impacting modern networking and security? Maybe it’s time to start from scratch… No, really.

John McAdam, Outgoing CEO of F5 Networks
John McAdam, Outgoing CEO of F5 Networks

Some time in the past year, at an F5 event, I was listening to John McAdam’s view on the disappearing data center. He said that it’s all going to the cloud, which will drastically shape the way we design IT infrastructures from now on. It’s a little funny because we’ve come to think of the cloud message as almost a parody of itself.  This cloud is some vaporous thing out there that we’re supposed to be moving to, but nobody knows how.  The fact, though, is that he’s 100% right. It’s happening.  Every mature IT department I work with has a cloud initiative, of sorts.  Some are taking an application or two.  Some are taking a whole data center.  Some are building DR in the cloud.  Some have moved all collaboration to a managed or cloud service – whether that be documents and email or phone systems. Some believe we can simply load our data centers up into vCloud Air and, “voila!” it’s done. That may be the case for some smaller enterprises, but, as a seasoned architect, I still have a difficult time swallowing an SAP infrastructure’s existence in the cloud.. and I work cloud stuff every day. Imagine the questions a CEO might have about that.  In fact, if we step into those shoes for a moment…Read More »

SMP Fearlessly Faces Challenges

SMP enjoyed two fun endurance events this past week.  On Thursday, May 21st SMP Albany participated in the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge for the first time.  Nearly 8,500 runners and walkers participated in the event.  Six employees form the SMP Albany office represented at this 3.5 mile corporate road race.  Fostering team spirit, the group tackled the race and then enjoyed some post event refreshments nearby.

On Tuesday, May 26th SMP Rochester participated in the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge.  This event welcomed nearly 10,500 participants from 421 companies.  With 22 registered runners and walkers and a strong support staff and cheering squad, 30 SMP employees enjoyed an evening of good food, good company and good cheer at the Corporate Challenge!  Rain showers, high heat and high humidity were no match for the SMP spirit. We look forward to our next endurance adventures, the Tour de Cure and the Ride for Roswell in June, stay tuned!

SMP Endurance Events: Season Kickoff

It is event season at SMP!  As we enter spring time, we have a full line up of endurance events on the schedule through the fall.  These events offer much more than a chance to be active.  It is an opportunity for us to mingle with and jog beside colleagues outside of the office and with those that we may not work with closely.  Furthermore, SMP’s involvement in the community through event sponsorship and participation allows us to show a unique side of our culture.  In addition to striving for excellence in the industry, SMP fosters total wellbeing among employees through a comprehensive wellness program, with physical fitness being one facet of the program.

SMP endurance events provide enough diversity to appeal to every athlete; from the non-athlete to the fierce competitor.  This past weekend SMP was the title sponsor of the River Challenge in Rochester, NY.  This event featured a run, bike, paddle triathlon or a run, bike, run duathlon.  Despite the brisk morning temperatures, SMP’s athletes put forth strong and undeterred performances with both individual and team participants.  Two of our athletes completed The River Challenge as their first solo multisport race, a great accomplishment!  With additional employees on site to cheer their colleagues along, the River Challenge provided fresh air, exercise and an opportunity to build camaraderie; the prefect recipe for a feel good experience!

Architecture Matters!

After a few days of meetings revolving around architecture, I figured this blog post would be fitting. It is an everyday conversation that normally ends up with the words “Architecture Matters” coming out of my mouth. It is all too common for people to want to leverage the newest IT shiny gadget. After all, most people in the IT field have a passion for technology. It doesn’t matter what it is phones, computers, tablets, watches, and even their IT infrastructure.

Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the causes or effects of this happening.

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Part I Software-Defined Data Center: Are you ready for the next Evolution?

When thinking about the huge technological shift that is in front of us I can only think of one word that sums it up nicely: Evolution.  At the very core definition, evolution is the gradual development or advancement of something from simple to more complex or better which hopefully, results in benefit(s).   Complexity, in our world, is taboo and usually sends people running for the hills, however, let’s point out something here. While evolution provides complexity, more-so it provides benefit and this has been and is seen in the Data Center over time.

Evolve

Evolution in the technology industry is inevitable and much like biological evolution, it is a necessity for survival and the survival of our business. Entire species have evolved over time to adapt and overcome obstacles, technologists have to do the same.  The traditional ways of doing business have changed and, in that, so have traditional ways of delivering IT Infrastructure.  We too, need to adapt and change to overcome what has been placed in front of us through fierce competition, and customer expectations (customers: internal & external).

So what is the so called next “Evolution” in IT?  Well, we know it’s certainly focused on software. We hear the buzzword Software-Defined constantly even more-so than “Cloud” these days.  But what does it all mean, exactly and more importantly, what does that mean to your business?

software-defined

In order to answer this question we have to ask ourselves why it is we do the things we do daily at our jobs.  Questions like why am I a Storage Administrator, or why am I a Virtualization Engineer or broadly why is it we are delivering IT Infrastructure and services in the first place?  The answer to these questions is more apparent now than it ever has been even though it has been the same answer from the very beginning and that is, Applications.  We simply do not design, implement, and support Infrastructure so it can run VM’s, or Operating Systems, we do so to support the delivery of Applications to end users or processes period.  Any attempt to justify what it is we do outside of this is, and i’ll use one of my favorite terms here is, simply, shenanigans. Applications of all kinds whether they are Infrastructure focused apps to deliver a service such as Web Filtering, COTS (Commercial off the Shelf) or custom in-house developed applications, it doesn’t matter.  Infrastructure Engineers provide the resources necessary to run and house applications. Let me let you in on a little secret as well, “Cloud” provides infrastructure for much of the same reasons, it’s just not located on premise in your data center.

Apps

Since Applications are key to Product/Service delivery and revenue, the development, delivery, and continuous improvement of these Applications is critical to your business.  The quicker you can develop, deliver, and improve on your Apps, will have a direct impact on business success in your market.  This idea of faster application delivery with continual improvement is not new by any means, however there are Industry Leaders out there that have taken this to the next level (Google, Amazon, Netflix).  Now, let’s not fool ourselves, these are giants in the business world, and while we strive to achieve that type of success, we should be learning from their model and implementing these ideas or subset of ideas, where it makes sense.  These organizations develop, deliver, and improve their applications several times, daily.  The standard IT organization may take several months to deliver version 1.0 or even a dot release of a custom application or an upgrade to a COTS application like Exchange or SharePoint.

 apps2

Now we have to ask ourselves what Software-Defined delivers as it relates to Applications.  From an IT Infrastructure perspective, over the last decade, we have been focused on disparate infrastructure and bringing it together through Virtualization.  During that period of time we reaped the benefits that Virtualization brought us, consolidation of Applications, easier management and faster delivery of Infrastructure.  Phase one of the Software-Defined vision, which is what I’ll call it, was/is critical in providing IT a way of pooling these resources around compute.  I’ve outlined some of those benefits earlier.  We all know that Compute is just one part of the whole story within the Data Center, however.  We have Storage, Network, Security, Management, and Application Delivery that, while have gotten much better over time, are still separate management points with little to no integration,broadly, with the Virtualization Platform. Phase two builds on this new paradigm where Infrastructure is REQUIRED to be agile with a rapid delivery model in support of Applications for our business and customers. Virtualizing compute is only part of the bigger picture and we must address all core technologies and services in the Data Center to truly deliver on this vision and software is the only way to get there.

Stay tuned for Part II of this series when I break down Software-Defined Storage and Software-Defined Networking and what that means to applications running in your Data Center.

Welcome the Age of Change @ the Speed of Life

We live in a connected society of humans and machines. This world creates great conflict for both humans and machines. Humans must protect themselves from allowing the machines to control them. Some of us attempt to do so by removing technology from our lives at certain times during our day. I say attempt because it is very challenging to do this and very easy to fail. Due to our difficulty in controlling our actions of how, when, and where we use technology, we as users of the machines have become very unpredictable. Machines need protection from humans in order to avoid being cast aside for not delivering an acceptable user experience that is consistent. Herein lies the pain and conflict users consuming IT resources can feel.

IT departments are made up of humans trying to configure solutions and machines have very little defense against their creator. Complicating the situation is unpredictable, volatile, and at times what appear to IT as “abusive” users.  The evolution of our society as it relates to technology has moved quite quickly compared to the evolution of our society as a human race. The more we continue to evolve the ways in which we consume and inherently change our behavior, the more complexity we introduce into the IT departments responsible for delivering the tools we use. This challenge presents a situation which forces IT to choose how  to overcome this uncertainty.Read More »

The “Network Effect” and its Impact on Collaboration

A successful collaboration strategy promotes the grouping of applications, services, devices and content into “one” unified architecture to improve business processes and boost productivity. Cisco’s Collaboration portfolio has an end to end solution for businesses of all shapes and sizes. However, an organization will not see the impact of their strategy until the user population adopts the technologies and puts the capabilities to use.

Successful collaboration relies on the “network effect”. I am not referring to network design… or how secure a network is… or how much bandwidth it has… or whether or not Quality of Service has been implemented. I am referring to a concept that the “value” of a product or service increases as more and more people use it. A perfect example of a product falling victim to the “network effect” is the telephone. The more people who own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. A user purchasing a telephone may not intend to create value for other users, but they do so regardless.

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