a reckoning for tech by the humans that work with it

AWS is not Microsoft, it’s Salesforce. TechReckoning Dispatch v3n18

Hi friends,

Hope you’re sliding into an easy end of the year, but if you’re like me, December is always a little frantic with holiday obligations, scant daylight, end-of-year work stuff, and this year we add post-election apocalyptic worries and the political clown car show.

My wife Kat tells the story of an early gig as a commission-driven recruiter. She was ready to ease up in December, but the colleague who was training her said that December was always her best month, because everybody else always slacks off and she keeps pushing. And Kat went on to make her biggest commission ever that first month. So push as needed, but use your downtime wisely. Rest if you need it, and above all, wear warm socks this winter. Warm feet = happy feet.

Announcing the Influence Marketing Council!

One of the cool things we’ve been working on is now launching: The Influence Marketing Council. This is a private network for B2B tech marketers who work with advocates, influencers, and communities. TechReckoning does a lot of consulting projects, but we wanted a lighter-weight way to help programs be more effective throughout the year with peer support, research, events, and insightful speakers. The IMC is a way for a group of woke marketers to help each other do better with community and bloggers and connecting them back to their business in a humane way. We’re super excited about it and already have the first companies signed up. This is a program that’s needed and one that I think is going to make the smart companies even better. If you work at a company and want to not be a marketing robot that everybody hates, ping me and let’s talk. There’s special pricing before the end of the year.

AWS is not Microsoft, it’s Salesforce

I’ve been thinking a lot about AWS and not-AWS. Sometimes people say “AWS is the Microsoft of the cloud” because they’re thinking about Microsoft’s dominance in the 90’s, and it seems like AWS is a parallel to that — multiple times the size of its competitors. Two thoughts:

Thought 1. Microsoft still makes boatloads of money, but we tend to forget how unrelentingly dominant it was back in the day. Windows was always an end-user platform as well as a server platform, and those two roles reinforced each other. Although AWS dominates the $30B-ish infrastructure/platform public cloud market, it certainly doesn’t seem like AWS owns that kind of share of the broader marketplaces of app platforms in general or SaaS apps or the multi-trillion-dollar IT as a whole. And Amazon doesn’t have any pull in the end-user space, even if web and mobile hadn’t decoupled that kind of reinforcing synergy anyway.

Thought 2. Microsoft was always proud of how much ecosystem money they were generating — I don’t have figures at my fingertips, but VMware had a similar view and was always bragging that for every dollar of software sold, they generated $15–20 of add-on services, hardware, etc for everybody else.

In tech we tend to talk a lot about platforms, but often in the technical sense: the capability of building other things on top of your thing. A more generalized economic model of platform, however, is the state of leaving enough money and opportunity around your stuff that other businesses can live off of building their stuff on top of your stuff. Microsoft and VMware definitely had platforms. Facebook probably doesn’t, and we can argue about Google and Apple. But does Amazon?

Let’s compare conferences to get some insight. VMworld’s conceit, although never completely true, was that it was an industry conference. But the big sponsors are also all big giant companies — OEMs, system integrators, mega-tech, and conglomerates. This is a manifestation of the economic platform that VMware built. All those drag-along $$ are up for grabs.

Now look at the sponsors of the recent AWS re:Invent conference. Notice that the largest sponsors include smaller companies, and that a lot of the SIs, other BigCo’s, and hardware OEMs are either missing or down the list. Friends in the press world also tell me that the big news gets announced at VMworld and very little non-Amazon news gets announced at re:Invent.

Let’s not bend this thin branch of an analysis too much, but I maintain this is a signal that Amazon’s ecosystem and platform are not mature. “Amazon as a terrible partner” jokes were still flying around this year’s conference. What we did see, however, was a huge press push by Amazon to highlight their partners. I will predict that this push will increase as AWS fights to build a more robust channel and platform ecosystem. However, I’m not sure this is in Amazon’s native DNA to be a platform company, and AWS is turning out to be super complicated, and I’m not sure a robust worldwide channel until a general VAR/MSP in Tacoma or Temecula can master it, and I don’t think we’re there yet.

So all this got me to thinking that AWS is not really like Microsoft at all. Instead, it’s more like Salesforce. Salesforce is huge, it has a platform, and it dominates its part of the market — but the total ERP/CRM/BPM/BI market is even huger. Nobody thinks Salesforce will take over 97% of the market like Microsoft did in the 90’s. Nobody thinks every company in the world, big or small, should use Salesforce. And a number of competitors are gunning for it — the big guys like SAP and Oracle finally are getting their SaaS together, the young kids are specialized or vertical or have a better UI. Salesforce is a based on a cloud platform that is getting long in the tooth. All of those pressures are true for AWS as well. And finally both Salesforce and AWS don’t have that lever of end-user PCs or office productivity programs to reinforce the server/cloud/app end of their business.

Therefore, AWS is more like Salesforce than Microsoft. Q.E.D.

I also recently attended KubeCon / CloudNativeCon. This is the emerging conference of the Kubernetes world. I’m pretty bullish on Kubernetes, but you can’t think of it as “vs AWS” or “vs VMware” or anything like that. Kubernetes does, however, have the potential of becoming the de facto app definition, deployment, and management layer in the cloud. In that way, I think Kubernetes is more like the Linux kernel of the cloud than the product of any one company.

I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain. However, more on this later. I’m excited to dig in and see if I can help more IT/ops people learn about and bring their skills to these new cloud-native platforms.

Worth A Click

As always, Ben Thompson at Stratechery is worth reading on Amazon, Google, Products vs Platforms, and Kubernetes How Google is challenging AWS.

This is Google’s bet when it comes to the enterprise cloud: open-sourcing Kubernetes was Google’s attempt to effectively build a browser on top of cloud infrastructure and thus decrease switching costs; the company’s equivalent of Google Search will be machine learning.

Cisco recently announced it was cancelling its Intercloud public cloud. This analysis is spot on with what AWS is becoming. Looking Deeper into Cisco’s Decision to Drop Intercloud by Tom Nolle on the CIMI Blog.

The cloud of the future is a new model of development first, and a public hosting opportunity second. Those who can promote application development with critical tools are the contenders. Cisco is not such a company, nor could they become one easily. But neither are most other companies. Rackspace knew that and has moved to become a cloud integrator.

At the same time, this shifts cloud momentum back to the IT players, though. You need to be strongly software-driven to be a contender in the future battle for cloud supremacy, in no small part because the battle won’t be about the cloud at all, but about how we build distributable, efficient, applications. The cloud opportunity will be geographically distributed hosting of that new development framework.

In case you’re a security admin and you think that one way we’re going to solve anything is to keep bugging users about passwords and other borderline cruel harassment. ‘Security Fatigue’ Can Cause Computer Users to Feel Hopeless and Act Recklessly, New Study Suggests reported at the mudder-fuggin NIST, so please pay attention.

“Years ago, you had one password to keep up with at work,” she said. “Now people are being asked to remember 25 or 30. We haven’t really thought about cybersecurity expanding and what it has done to people.”

The multidisciplinary team learned that the majority of their average computer users felt overwhelmed and bombarded, and they got tired of being on constant alert, adopting safe behavior, and trying to understand the nuances of online security issues.

True confession: when forced to change a password by IT authoritarians, I always just changed the last digit 0-9, and I don’t understand why a user would ever do anything else. And I think the password to my router might be written down somewhere, but I’ll likely just factory reset it if I need to change anything. Nobody needs another password, ever.

Hey, have you heard about Docker? Of course you have, but if you want to move past “container is the new VM,” Stephen Foskett wrote a post that lodged in my queue looking at the bigger picture and what it means to IT Ops. This is a great 101 for Docker. What’s the Deal with Containers?

Because containers specify an environment in which to run an application, they are truly transformative in practice. As mentioned, a developer can be sure that her application will run in exactly the environment she specifies … Because of this ease of use aspect, IT is beginning to embrace container technology, and especially Docker. Typically, IT operations folks are a little nervous about new technologies, and this is especially true of developer-focused tech. But once they try Docker, a light goes on!

Hey, I was on the Datanauts Podcast 056: The Changing World Of Skills, Silos & Clouds. Thanks Ethan and Chris for having me on! We talked about the career-y things I always talk about. Since you’re never going to be sure if you’re learning The Right Thing, just keep learning the stuff that seems the most fun to you. Welcome to all new Datanauts listeners! Don’t hesitate to drop me a line and say hi.

Listen to Geek Whisperers #123: Bizdev developer evangelism and the Hidden Genius Project with Kurt Collins. What if you could be a developer evangelist and work on company alliances? Give it a listen. We also talk bout Kurt’s work with the Hidden Genius Project, a program that mentors black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills.

Geek Whisperers #124: Strategies for Starting a Podcast with Cecelia Taylor. We get meta.

Geek Whisperers #125: Models of Contribution Throughout Your Career.This one is a sleeper hit. How do folks transition from individual contributor to manager to leader?

Geek Whisperers #126: Social Media – The Career Killer? This one should have been twice as long – are you just screwing around on Twitter or not?

Always Read The Comments

From the dusty mailbox: I’ll paraphrase Chris Evans, who points out that (1) VMW on AWS is only good for legacy apps; greenfield apps should be cloud-native and don’t need vSphere or the new features on AWS; and (2) How can the economics work if VMW can’t price it lower than on-prem VMW, and AWS can always underprice both VMW scenarios? I’m not being paid by VMW to be an apologist, so I don’t feel compelled to answer, but I’ve got some thoughts. (1) Kit Colbert, the baby face killa of VMware, rebutted on Twitter with a plea to acknowledge just exactly where we are with regards to cloud migration (i.e., not very far; lots of legacy $) and if you look at Photon Platform you see Kit’s vision for cloud-native apps — still manageable by VMware. And (2) I got nuthin – it’s up to VMW to feed the channel and not to screw up pricing. It’s worth noting that the project was highlighted at re:Invent, but did not get as much oxygen as Amazon’s new features: databases, AI/ML, IoT, and a container full of disks.

Also from the mailbox, Andrew Miller points out that both VMW and AWS are making (opposite) bets on how long it will take the cloud-native shift to happen. He later expanded his note to me into a full blog post. Worth reading.

Keeping Up With Our Friends and Neighbors

On a different note, one of our long-term clients is Illumio, who has quite an interesting security platform. The person we collaborate with the most is Alana Devich, who is creative and brilliant — a former comedian, she’s an amazing writer and blogger, a podcast producer, and a social media whiz. We really love working with her. Alana has recently been diagnosed with serious as shit cancer. We’re helping Alana raise money to keep all the plates spinning as she fights this stuff. For our non-US friends, this is a peculiar part of our health care system where even people with great insurance get hit with extra bills at times like these. We’re contributing via the Illumio team here. If you can afford a bit extra this holiday season, please contribute. Thanks so much.

While we’re on this note, I’m not usually political, but Alana’s partner was featured in a recent documentary by Ava DuVernay, director of Selma. Called 13th, it’s available on Netflix, and it’s about how race and incarceration have been intertwined in the US since the Civil War. As our political discourse is reduced to headlines and tweets, this film, although uncomfortable, is well worth watching.


If you like this newsletter, forward it to someone who needs a better 2017. For more groovy links, check out TechReckoning on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Photo credits: John Troyer, MIT TMRC & Illumio, Hateplow. Copyright © 2016 TechReckoning, All rights reserved.