Infrastructure Matters, Episode 1: Why Does Infrastructure Matter?

In this inaugural installment of Infrastructure Matters, we established the basis of the podcast – why does infrastructure matter in a cloud-crazed world? Co-hosts Steven Dickens, Camberley Bates, and Krista Macomber shared their individual takes on why infrastructure matters and shared key insights from events they have recently attended.

Our conversation covered the following:

  • How infrastructure impacts the availability and performance of hybrid cloud IT services
  • How infrastructure impacts the security of hybrid cloud IT services
  • Issues pertaining to the manageability of hybrid multi cloud IT services
  • Issues driving placement of workloads and data across particular cloud environments
  • Insights from AWS re:Inforce
  • Insights from NetApp’s Analyst Summit
  • Insights from a recent visit to Lenovo’s manufacturing facility in Germany

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Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.


Announcer: This is the Infrastructure Matters Podcast, brought to you by The Futurum Group. We explore the latest developments in hybrid cloud computing and the technology that underpins it. In each episode, we’ll dive deep into the latest trends and technologies that are shaping the hybrid cloud computing landscape. The Infrastructure Matters Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Please do not take anything reflected in this show as investment advice. Now your co-hosts Steven Dickens, Camberley Bates, and Krista Macomber of The Futurum Group.

Steven Dickens: Hello, and welcome. My name’s Steven Dickens. You’re joining us here on a new episode of Infrastructure Matters, a new podcast we’re running here at The Futurum Group. I’m joined by my co-host, Camberley Bates and Krista Macomber. Welcome to the show.

Camberley Bates: Welcome, everyone. We’re really excited to finally get this thing kicked off.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, it’s been a while in the making, hey, Krista.

Krista Macomber: Hi Steven. Hi Camberley. It certainly has and exciting to be recording. Welcome everyone.

Steven Dickens: So let’s do some introductions. This is a new show. I lead our cloud and infrastructure practice here at the Futurum Group. Camberley, let’s maybe do some introductions and position what you do for us.

Camberley Bates: Sure. Some of you may know me from the Evaluator Group. We are now part of the Futurum Group, which is awesome, expanding everything that we can do. And what I’m heading up right now is the data and infrastructure technology group. As you know, I love to see where data goes and screws everything up. So that’s what we’re looking at, what I’m going to be focusing on as well, especially since we’ve got an awful lot going on in that space nowadays. And Krista?

Krista Macomber: Sure. Thanks Camberley. So I’m Krista Macomber, I sit on Camberley’s team. So I also came to the Futurum Group through the acquisition of Evaluator Group. I’m a senior analyst on the team and I cover primarily data protection, but increasingly that is becoming data security with ransomware, which we all know and love to talk about and all of the cyber attacks and really how closely linked data protection is becoming today with the other areas of the security stack. So as you mentioned, Camberley, there’s certainly a lot going on in that space.

Steven Dickens: So we are going to be recording a weekly show called Infrastructure Matters. You’re going to have three hosts. The show format is we’re going to dig into the big news of the week, this team’s on the road on a weekly basis. I’ve just come from Lenovo, Camberley’s just been at an event. So you’ll get us talking about the events that we’ve been at and some of the big news that’s come out that week. And then the next part of the show is we’re going to dive deep into a particular topic, whatever that topic is, we’re going to pick a topic and go deep on it and then really look to sort of summarize up and give you a half an hour segment once a week talking about why we believe infrastructure matters. So let’s maybe do that first as this is the first episode. Camberley, can you give us sort of your view of why you think the infrastructure matters? We’re at a pivotal point where a lot of people are thinking about cloud, we’re thinking about on-premise, we’re thinking about private, hybrid, multi-cloud. What’s your perspective on why infrastructure matters?

Camberley Bates: Well, I’ve always giggled when I’ve heard the phrase, well, it’s just in the cloud. It’s like, okay guys. Yeah but if it’s in the cloud, it’s sitting on something. And that infrastructure, whether you care about the chips, the processing power, the IO, the replication, any of that stuff, how all that is a architecture designed, the well architected concept that AWS put forth, I think that was at least six, seven years ago, gives you an idea how important that infrastructure is.

And so infrastructure, a lot of times we think of it as just pure hardware. It’s not just pure hardware, it’s all of the systems, processes and procedures that are put in there that the IT operations guys got to make sure it works to make sure our systems are available. And we kind of know what it feels like when AWS or Azure or Google or IBM or somebody else goes down. We all scream because we live on our computers and our email and our Twitter and our LinkedIn. Well, not everybody lives on Twitter. At least I don’t.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I’m guilty of living on Twitter, but yeah…

Camberley Bates: You live on Twitter. I don’t.

Steven Dickens: Yeah. And Krista, what’s your perspective? I mean I think Camberley summed it up perfectly, but what would you add to that?

Krista Macomber: Yeah, certainly. So it’s very timely because I was just this week at Reinforce, which is AWS’s annual security conference. It was actually the first year I had the opportunity to join. And it’s really interesting that Camberley is bringing up the well-architected framework and things of that nature because an important theme of the show from AWS’s perspective was articulating the investments that they’re making in engineering to bring security to the cloud infrastructure that they’re providing to customers.

So capabilities like Nitro, which is their sort of virtualization hardware that all EC2 instances are based on now and Firecracker, which is their virtualization technology that they’re using to support Lambda and their serverless functions, for example. So whether you’re on premises or whether you are in the cloud, it’s pretty clear that infrastructure has an important role to play from the security of the IT services that are being delivered at the end of the day.

Camberley Bates: And I’m always cracking up… Excuse me, sorry, I’m always cracking up when we hear the word serverless because it’s really not serverless, it’s just that beauty of it is that the guys that are developing and using the system don’t have to think about what’s behind that infrastructure. Now they do have to think about what’s behind it because if I’m even accessing an instance, I have to know what that instance looks like. So in servers, you were just at the event that was Lenovo over in Budapest this last week.

Steven Dickens: Well, yeah. So I mean, don’t get me started on serverless. It’s a term I absolutely hate. I think we’ll dig into that one on a later show because I’ve got at least a 15-minute rant to go on when I talk about serverless. But we’ve all been on the road this week. I mean, Krista, you took us there. Maybe you want to go first and talk about your summary for Reinforce. I was gutted that I was somewhere else and I’ll talk about that from your coverage of the show. But love to hear, and I think our listeners would as well, what your perspective was on Reinforce.

Krista Macomber: Sure, certainly. So as I mentioned, there was quite a bit about the engineering investments that AWS is making internally, to the point that we’ve been discussing, to make sure that the actual software and hardware infrastructure that is being used to deliver these cloud services to developers, to IT teams to make sure that those are secure.

So that was a very important kind of general theme of the show. And as analysts, we actually got some really great deep dives into some of these areas. But also actually the show was kicked off by AWS’s CISO and he was talking about this shared responsibility model between cloud providers and the end customer. And I thought it was kind of an interesting way to put it. He said, where you have access, you have responsibility. Going back to Spider-Man and Peter Parker there in terms of where you carry a responsibility…

Steven Dickens: I’m hoping there was a Spider-Man logo in the background when he said that.

Krista Macomber: Yes, exactly, right. So another kind of important theme was what is AWS doing with capabilities like AWS verified permissions, which was announced by the show to make it easier for customers to facilitate secure access to these services and really to put some power in the hands of the customers to make sure that as they’re placing data into the cloud and as they’re accessing these applications that they’re doing so in a secure way.

So it’s on one hand living and breathing in this space, I think we’d kind of all hope to think that we’re a little bit beyond needing to discuss and really emphasize that there is still responsibility on the part of the customer when we go to the cloud. I think it’s very clear that the more we can continue to emphasize that and continue to put that education out there is really important because I think there’s still some education that needs to be done. So those were a couple of my bigger takeaways from the show in the sessions that I was able to join.

Steven Dickens: Any big announcements? Were there any product launches?

Krista Macomber: Yeah, so I would say the verified permissions that I alluded to, that was one thing. And so essentially what that’s doing is AWS is making it easier for developers to build these permission controls into their applications upfront because of course, this can get very complex, especially as these applications are being used at scale across the enterprise and maybe there are different use cases where specific permissions might be needed.

So that was a big area, but really looking at the infrastructure itself, one thing that I would bring up was something called EC2 Instance Connect, which was kind of announced and discussed actually up on the main stage. And what that is, it’s essentially creating the ability for users to access EC2 instances through a private subnet as opposed to their public IEP addresses. So that’s using SSH and RSP and streamlining the ability to do that.

So I think those two announcements are sort of a great example of what I was talking about in terms of Amazon emphasizing what they’re doing to make their infrastructure more secure, but then also kind of feedback and allow more secure access and feed both ends of that spectrum, if you will. So those are two of the bigger things, at least from my perspective that I took away.

Steven Dickens: And you did some coverage on our website and we’ll put that in the show notes below I think, if people want to double click and go through that. So Camberley, you’ve been on the road a lot of late. What’s been your sort of feedback and what are you hearing from the market?

Camberley Bates: So the latest one I was at was the NetApps Analyst Day, and they hosted for the first time since COVID. Wonderful to get in front of all the executives and hear where they’ve been and where we’re going. Of course we’ve talked to them over the years, but being in 3D is a whole lot better than 2D in my perspective. Clearly from NetApp, everything is about the data of course. And I think any data storage firm is going to talk about that, but I think more importantly, it’s about the data infrastructure. It’s how all those pieces are tied together. They are probably the leading cloud provider of the vendors that are out there in terms of providing what we would call first class citizen on technology, on AWS and Azure and soon to be Google as well. So ANF is sold by Azure and FSX ONTAP is sold by AWS, if I can get all the names straight, directly from them.

Very powerful file system that is used for mission-critical type of applications, et cetera and doing quite well there. Had that piece, but they also have a very large business that’s on premise as well. The biggest thing that they brought out this last year is something called Blue XP, which is all about a data plan and data services and how do you tie all these pieces together and enable them? Many of the vendors are doing something like this. They are, in fact, we have to get there because the complexity of this is getting worse, it’s not getting easier, it’s getting worse.

And I think that was enlightened when George Kurian got up and talked about the use cases and the clients, which I can’t quote because they’re NDA clients, but talked about the complexity of these use cases of where people are looking at, I’m on-prem, I’m moving off-prem, I’m replicating across multiple zones in a super high availability environment, adding in the data protection systems that go in there. None of that is simple. It’s not simple on-prem and it’s not necessarily simple off-prem.

And then when you throw in the other piece of that is that how you do something in Google is very different from how you do something in AWS and how you do something in Azure. All of a sudden IT operations are looking for having four staff running four different environments. And that’s why the data plane or the data services plane becomes really critical and that’s where they’re going with the Blue XP, which is extremely strategic for them. And I think it would be for every other firm that’s needing to get to that place. So that’s my big takeaway there, all about data of course, again. I can go on, if you want.

Steven Dickens: And it’s going to be a key theme of this podcast as we go forward. That hybrid, multi-cloud, a lot of enterprises are going from, they either started on the public cloud or they started on-prem, and as you would even just add those two components together, that’s two different stacks typically then you bring on other cloud platforms and it can become a mess very quickly. Was there anything you were picking up from a manageability perspective there, Camberley, sort of around how people are wrestling with some of those hybrid multi-cloud challenges?

Camberley Bates: I don’t think they’re quite there yet, actually making some decisions about that. I think this is one of the up and coming issues that they’re all going to be facing. As they have built, they end up… So what we see happening is I choose Azure maybe for more enterprise class applications. I’m choosing Google for some big time AI type applications. I’m looking at AWS for modern applications. So I’ve got different strategies with different clouds because just like a lot of other services, different firms provide different capabilities and then strategic elements. So I think once that starts to settle in, then they’ll start figuring out these cloud groups.

Up until now, what we’ve seen is, I have a cloud group and I have an on-prem group, and then they started kind of merging together and now I have multiple cloud groups, so I need to address how I’m going to do that. And nothing has been… There are some firms that are moving towards not necessarily resolution, we’re trying to address this skills problem, but I think we’re going to have to see the vendors come up with some tools that will help this process of managing on the multi-cloud level. And that is one of the next big shifts that we’re going to see happening.

Steven Dickens: Was there any specific product announcements as part of the Analyst Day?

Camberley Bates: No, they did not. They did their big announcement prior, which was the C-series product that they came out with for the ONTAP product, which is the QLC offering. For those people who don’t know what that means, that’s the big dense drives that are solid state. And in order to bring those out in an enterprise class, you have to do some special things to be able to manage the rights and all that kind of thing. So we’re seeing most of the vendors are coming out with those kinds of class products out there. They become very financially competitive and a possibility of, well, some people have it, replacing HTDs. I’m not sure if that ever happens. It’s like replacing tape. We haven’t done it yet, so we’ll see. I’m not betting on anybody’s death like the mainframe yet either.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, it seems to be that we layer on these technologies rather than anything actually dying off.

Camberley Bates: Yeah, exactly. How about you?

Steven Dickens: Yeah, for me, I’ve got some bags under my eyes from coming back from Europe. The jet lag is kicking in today. I was out with Lenovo in Hungary at their manufacturing facility in Budapest, Ullo, actually just outside of Budapest, really impressive facility where they’re able to produce up to a thousand servers a day in a discrete manufacturing facility. Huge capability to be able to take in parts. It’s got a bonded warehouse as part of the factory, be able to take parts from all over Europe and across the world and then be able to take those parts. And then at the other end of the factory outcomes are fully assembled system and this is all of their product range, including through some of the desktops as well that they’re able to put through this factory. So they’re now serving about upwards of 80% of all of their orders that are placed in EMEA through this factory.

And everyone’s going out with a “Made in Europe” stamp on the box. So huge impact for their clients. That’s been a real boon from an eco perspective. So they were shipping and flying-in a lot of systems from China previously. So the ability to cut down and be able to ship pretty much anything in a day to any client in EMEA. So it’s been able to reduce the carbon footprint of their shipments, which is obviously huge, but also speed up time to delivery for their clients. So instead of stuff having to come on a slow boat from China, literally they’ve been able to ship that from their factory in…

Camberley Bates: So how long has that factory been there?

Steven Dickens: So they really impressively built this factory during COVID.

Camberley Bates: Oh wow.

Steven Dickens: They literally had to leverage all of the technology and create a digital twin of their factories in China and work with their supply chain and manufacturing partners to visualize where it would go. Basically they had a big empty building in March of 2020, and that was it. All of the factory build out was done during COVID and they launched during COVID, which equally impressively, the factory manager there took us on a tour, couldn’t share any pictures unfortunately, but deeply impressive of how they were able to build that out. And then we got some time with Kirk Skaugen and his team. Kirk’s, the SVP responsible for the infrastructure business. So I got a chance to really double click on what they’re doing in true scale, which I’ll be spending some time with them in November to really go deep on true scale, but fascinating there. And really I think reset might as well..

Camberley Bates: For the viewers that don’t know what true scale, true scale is their consumption as a service offering where you can purchase capacity on demand kind of process. So just clarifying that.

Steven Dickens: Well, it’s interesting, they’ve extended it, and I didn’t know this, but obviously Lenovo’s got the Motorola business for the handsets and the devices. They’ve got a really broad portfolio in edge, and what they’re doing with true scale is taking it from device through to data center infrastructure. So the classic stuff that you and I would cover, Camberley, from a storage compute provided as a service, they’re taking that same model and taking it out to the edge and device. So device through to data center as a consumption model, which I thought was particularly fascinating and I don’t think was… Well, since HPE going out to the edge with GreenLake, but I don’t think anybody’s gone fully out to the device side, obviously given the structure of their business with Motorola.

So that was particularly fascinating for me, really interesting to get a… And they did a good job and Kirk did a fantastic job of this, of just positioning where Lenovo is, I reset some of my expectations and I said this to him at dinner, around, I didn’t realize how much of an enterprise player they were. I think you position Lenovo, we all know of them in the desktop and the devices space, probably I would give them credit in the X86 service space. I didn’t realize they were number four by market share in storage, for instance.

Camberley Bates: That’s a recent take on. So that’s been significantly growing. A lot of their real… Where they’re playing is in that lower end of the market where there’s great attachment to their servers and they’ve moved up a little bit on that as well. So yeah, they are a key player. In fact, when a NetApp… Since we were talking about NetApp earlier, they resell NetApps and actually they’re branded. They’ve got branded names over there with them. So very, very powerful player for them in that market.

Steven Dickens: Yeah. And that was some of the conversation I had with their storage team about how they’ve come up the eight price [inaudible 00:22:37] storage and up to level price band four and the progress they’ve been making. So fascinating discussion. So yeah, really interesting just time with those. It’ll take me until the weekend to recover from the jet lag, but definitely the trip was worth it.

Camberley Bates: Right.

Steven Dickens: So we’ve probably got time… As we say, we’re going to pick sort of one big topic every week to dig down. We’ve got workload placement as our big topic, favorite topic of mine. Probably spend five or 10 minutes on this before we look to wrap here. So from a workload placement point of view, what’s the rubric you are thinking of, Camberley? What are you thinking when somebody says, what should I be putting where in the cloud?

Camberley Bates: So I’m going to talk placement and I’m going to talk rationalization. So there’s a rationalization going on right now where I’m looking at where are my applications, where I should put them. And then there’s a placement, which is all the new projects that are coming up where I’m going to go put that application, and some of the areas that they’re looking at in order to do this… Clearly I look at cost, but cost has a lot of elements to that. And that cost can include, not only just the cost of the cloud or cost of on-prem, but the staffing capabilities, et cetera that we have. Another big thing is staffing. Do I have the staff for that and do I streamline my staffing by putting it in the cloud or do I streamline my staffing by having a managed service that’s supporting that application?

Another one is data. Where am I using data? Especially as we get into the AI applications, et cetera. How and can I use the cloud up there to burst into? Can I use the cloud to do my analysis and then just take the inference engine back down on-prem and do that in a super efficient manner? That would be another one. And then of course there’s… And I’m not going all through everything, but there’s geopolitical, not geopolitical, but the geographic presence and the privacy and also the regulations that fall into decisions about where I’m going to place things. So some of that is personal preference about whether or not I feel like I’m secure enough.

Some of it is actually are the tools there and capabilities there to allow me to fit the needs of what the regulators are asking me to? And the last one is performance. Last big one I would think of is performance. Can I get the performance that I need in tuning in that system in the cloud? And it’s one of the reasons why we still see a lot of transactional systems on-prem because performance… And many times when I know what I’ve got to do and how I’ve got to scale it or if it’s just a standard kind of system that I know and it’s predictable, the on-prem can be tuned and perform far better than we can up in the cloud.

Steven Dickens: And Krista…

Camberley Bates: People will argue with that too.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I mean I think if people are pragmatic then they’ve got that perspective of looking through those criteria. I mean, is there anything you’d add to that, Krista, from your perspective, from a security or data protection perspective?

Krista Macomber: Yeah. So I think it’s interesting because when we think about cloud storage in particular, I think backup has long been one of the early use cases for the cloud. And when we think about disaster recovery, I think that can be a really potentially a great use case for DR, right, because you can kind of just fail over. You don’t need to worry about buying and maintaining that whole separate data center. Now of course, we do have the concerns that Camberley was bringing up. So for instance, performance, how much time is it going to take to maybe recover from the cloud? There are egress fees, which is the fee that’s incurred when you pull data back from the cloud. That is a consideration. And naturally of course there’s potentially some latency when we move to the cloud in terms of that compute performance.

So going back to the infrastructure matters, it certainly does. And when we think about the data protection implementation, we’re seeing that the cloud certainly can play an important role, but these factors need to be considered in addition to compliance and really security as well. So one big topic that we’re working with from an IT ops perspective is making sure that there are additional security controls and that I’m not simply just maybe putting my data into a generic Amazon bucket when I really need more of an isolated environment for ransomware recovery.

So that’s where things like network controls come into place and being able to control when the data is replicated into the vault. So when we think about kind of hybrid those are, I would say, some of the key factors that really go into determining what role the cloud is going to play in your data protection implementation and what security controls really need to be in mind when we start integrating those resources.

Steven Dickens: For me, I’ve had a simple model with four criteria and I’ve kind of updated my thinking of late. For me it’s performance, availability, scalability, and security. And then looking at those workloads and kind of giving them a score out of one out of 10. Does it need to be highly available for instance, where the world ends if there’s application’s not available or can I come back and just submit my expenses 15 minutes later? So that type of give it a score of one to 10. And the two I’ve added most recently are eco requirements. I’m hearing a lot of organizations kind of focusing on environmental impact. So I think that’s kind of starting to factor in. And then we’re seeing with the rise of Fin Ops, TCO and cost, I think when the times were good, it was moving into the background and those are the four criteria, which were kind of driving the discussion.

Increasingly now people are prepared to maybe take some trade-offs to get the cheapest option and maybe make trade-offs to get best, what is the environmental option? So I think these give us all topics, we’re going to spend some more time, I’m conscious that this is the first episode and we’re running up close to half an hour here. I think it’s been fantastic for us to spend some time. We’re going to get better at this, bear with us and this is the first of what’s going to be a weekly show. So thank you very much for tuning in for what’s been the first episode of Infrastructure Matters. Please click and subscribe and do all those YouTube and subscription things. But Camberley and Krista, great to have you on the show. I’m going to look forward to this conversation on a Friday morning.

Camberley Bates: It’s going to be fun.

Krista Macomber: It certainly will. Thank you all.

Steven Dickens: We’ll see you next time. Thank you very much for listening.

Camberley Bates: Okay. Take care everyone.

Krista Macomber: Thank you.

Author Information

Steven is Vice President and Practice Leader at The Futurum Group, responsible for the Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure and Operations Practice. Operating at the crossroads of technology and disruption, Steven engages with the world’s largest technology brands exploring new operating models and how they drive innovation and competitive edge for the enterprise.

With experience in Open Source, Hybrid Cloud, Mission Critical Infrastructure, Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, and FinTech innovation, Steven makes the connections between the C-Suite executives, end users, and tech practitioners that are required for companies to drive maximum advantage from their technology deployments.

Steven is an alumnus of industry titans such as HPE and IBM and has led multi-hundred-million-dollar global sales teams Steven was a founding board member, former Chairperson, and now Board Advisor for the Open Mainframe Project, a Linux Foundation Project promoting Open Source on the mainframe.

As a Birmingham, UK native, his speaking engagements take him around the world each year enabling him to share his insights on the role of technology and how it can transform our lives going forward.

Camberley brings over 25 years of executive experience leading sales and marketing teams at Fortune 500 firms. Before joining The Futurum Group, she led the Evaluator Group, an information technology analyst firm as Managing Director.

Her career has spanned all elements of sales and marketing including a 360-degree view of addressing challenges and delivering solutions was achieved from crossing the boundary of sales and channel engagement with large enterprise vendors and her own 100-person IT services firm.

Camberley has provided Global 250 startups with go-to-market strategies, creating a new market category “MAID” as Vice President of Marketing at COPAN and led a worldwide marketing team including channels as a VP at VERITAS. At GE Access, a $2B distribution company, she served as VP of a new division and succeeded in growing the company from $14 to $500 million and built a successful 100-person IT services firm. Camberley began her career at IBM in sales and management.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in International Business from California State University – Long Beach and executive certificates from Wellesley and Wharton School of Business.

With a focus on data security, protection, and management, Krista has a particular focus on how these strategies play out in multi-cloud environments. She brings approximately a decade of experience providing research and advisory services and creating thought leadership content, with a focus on IT infrastructure and data management and protection. Her vantage point spans technology and vendor portfolio developments; customer buying behavior trends; and vendor ecosystems, go-to-market positioning, and business models. Her work has appeared in major publications including eWeek, TechTarget and The Register.

Prior to joining The Futurum Group, Krista led the data center practice for Evaluator Group and the data center practice of analyst firm Technology Business Research. She also created articles, product analyses, and blogs on all things storage and data protection and management for analyst firm Storage Switzerland and led market intelligence initiatives for media company TechTarget.

Krista holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Journalism with a minor in Business Administration from the University of New Hampshire.


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