Why every enterprise needs docker and kubernetes to succeed in 2018

2 May

Peter Drucker famously said: “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” Thanks to technology advances, today’s entrepreneurs can create customers faster and build stronger relationships with them. All that while delaying or completely forgoing investments in physical infrastructure like brick & mortar stores or branch offices. Digital native businesses can be more intentional about who their target segments are, able to reach them through an array of digital channels, and provide them with much more personalized offerings than during Drucker’s times.

Betting on a digital-first business model has proven to be a very successful approach for a number of industry disruptors who managed to poach large numbers of underserved customers from well established incumbents. It took Dollar Shave Club only three years to gain around 8% of the $3 billion U.S. market for razors and blades by offering a convenient subscription based service. Trunk Club sold itself to Nordstrom’s for $350m after cracking the code on how to digitally serve fashion conscious customers who don’t like to shop; the acquisition happened  after only five years in business and with a meager $12m in venture capital.

Application strategy: “Build” or “Buy”?

Betting on digital capabilities makes a lot of business sense but the question remains: do companies invest in building applications in house or rely on external vendors? Key findings from IDC Webinar on 2017 IT Predictions clearly confirm an increased focus on the former. According to IDC’s Frank Gens, “By 2018, enterprises pursuing Digital Transformation strategies will expand their developer teams by 2-3x”. Goldman Sachs already employs more than 10,000 engineers as they see technology as a competitive advantage. “Technology has remained a core competency for Goldman Sachs. Technology engineers make up roughly one-third of our workforce.

While Goldman Sachs may resemble Facebook and Google with their laser-sharp focus on in-house software development, most companies don’t innovate at Google and Facebook pace and may struggle to build large teams of developers and IT Ops. But the pressure to bring application development back in house is not going away as Gartner predicts, by 2020, 75 percent of application purchases supporting digital business will be “build,” not “buy”.

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation

What can enterprises do to accelerate their digital transformation journey and optimize their technology investments?

Engineers = executives for the digital age

First, companies should consider adding more technology savvy leaders to their C-suites. This trend is already on the rise and IDC predicts that “by 2021, one third of CEOs and COOs of G2000 companies will have spent at least five years in a tech leadership role.” A CEO who oversaw large technology transformations before becoming commander in chief, will have the right expertise to turn a technology investment into a business outcome. Not surprisingly, 24 of the world top 100 best performing CEOs have an engineering degree. One of the best known engineers-gone-CEO is Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox. “I moved from engineering to business but the difference is not a difference at all. The synergy between the two is amazing” says Burns, who joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern.” Her engineering background translated very well into the C-suite. “This discipline and idea that getting good minds together of all different types and from all different backgrounds to attack a problem is something that engineers are unbelievably good at.

Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox; Image source: http://thesource.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ursulaburns16x9.jpg

Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox

Digital leaders drive 5x more revenue than industry average

Second, it’s important to “begin with the end in mind” and quantify the forecasted business impact of technology leadership early on, before the first dollar is spent on additional IT solutions. Moreover, the phase of planning and budgeting for transformation needs to take a holistic approach and consider not only substantial technology investments but also investments in the organizational capabilities to embrace digital in the company culture, design adequate change management process and uncompromisingly deal with legacy systems. Transformations of this scale are not easy but the benefits can be huge: McKinsey estimates that B2B digital leaders drive five times more revenue growth than their peers.

 

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Building enterprise software has never been easier

Finally, enterprises do not have to start their software projects from scratch. Technologies like docker and kubernetes can simplify and automate many activities in the workflow, such as application development, CI/CD, container infrastructure setup, network instrumentation, database connectivity, governance processes and security.

In particular, docker allows your code to work across different environments, eliminating the risk that small configuration discrepancies between Dev, Test and Production environments will break your application. But how? Let’s explore how docker and containerization make applications more portable.

First, container-ize your application with docker

A docker image simplifies the distribution of an application by bundling it with the appropriate runtime environment and libraries needed to make it work. At runtime, the containers are isolated in their individual sandboxes so that e.g. different Python or Java versions don’t conflict with each other. Thanks to isolation, you also decompose your application into multiple microservices that over time can end up running different version of runtimes, using different libraries or requiring different packages. IT operations and developers can easily manage the application as self-contained units on the host operating system. Docker also provides an easy way to produce repeatable deployments of applications because the entire process can be automated.

docker

Now that you know the benefits of running application in docker containers, you may be asking yourself a few questions:

  • How do I run and orchestrate containers on the available infrastructure?
  • How do I scale or update containerized applications?
  • What about container health monitoring and connectivity?
  • Can I run my older Java monoliths alongside new and shiny microservices that may be written in more contemporarily hip programming languages like Go or Node.js?

Kubernetes is the answer to all these questions.

Second, orchestrate your containers with kubernetes

Kubernetes lets you keep your developer hat on at all times, as it gives you simple objects that represent what you need to do with applications, and you connect those simple objects together with straightforward commands and tools.

Kubernetes

Kubernetes also provides service discovery, networking and self-healing. For example, if your application is an e-commerce website, and the container hosting that website fails for some reason, kubernetes will replace it by another one, and will redirect the traffic to the new container immediately.

Application development has never been as productive as with these modern platforms automating many programmer’s pains away.

Today’s companies looking to double down their technology investments to achieve competitive advantage should start with enterprise-grade turnkey-solutions that provide full-stack application creation environment with a rich ecosystem of monitoring, logging and auditing tools.

Check out Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) for an example of a full-stack solution to develop and manage containerized applications at scale.

With docker and kubernetes,  you do not have to build your software from scratch but you gain a powerful assembly line.

Assembly Line: Image sources: http://www.techlicious.com/images/family/child-building-a-lego-set-construction-shutterstock-510px.jpg https://www.flickr.com/photos/legoloverman/4779822382

Assembly Line for Enterprise Applications

To learn more about Kubernetes, attend KubeCon (May 2-4, Copenhagen, Denmark) or Google Next (July 24-26, San Francisco, USA) or read this great book:

Kubernetes Up & Running https://amzn.to/2HX9aLy

 

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#MWCA: Robots & Drones or 100% Digital Marketing?

19 Sep

Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA) was as much an insight into the future of the mobile ecosystem as it was a study of extreme marketing strategies.

T-Mobile: un-carrier or un-marketer?

Every marketer ever preparing to exhibit at MWC knows the challenge: how to stand out from the crowd if your budget cannot compete with 7 and sometimes even 8-figure numbers that Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei spend on their booths. T-Mobile has an answer: ditch the show floor altogether and throw a party at a really cool venue next-door like SF Mint instead and advertise your move on social media. Well done, T-Mobile, un-carrier and un-marketer alike!

IoT, Robots, VR and AR

I simply cannot wait to see IoT, VR and AR demos that Verizon, Sprint and AT&T had at their MWCA booths become part of our everyday lives. All the carriers are building ecosystems of vendor, manufacturers, developer, robotics and content partners to innovate entertainment (immersive experiences from 360 cameras), transportation (connected vehicles and intelligent transportation), healthcare (real-time vials’ measure and feedback) and many other domains.

I have yet to experience a live football game but I already know which venue I’ll pick: the new connected stadium of San Francisco 49’s whose technology stack was designed with fan experience in mind. The niners are already planning to offer VR game immersion services.

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Rich Communications Suite (RCS) is back and going strong

Last time I checked (2010), RCS was positioned in the mobile industry as a final attempt of Telcos to compete with content providers by offering a branded mobile client combining calls, messaging and Internet portal. Fast forward to Q3 2017 and RCS is getting integrated into native messaging platforms and ready to take consumer-brand interactions to the next level. On top of basic exchange “Would you like to refill your prescription? Reply REFILL to confirm” via text message, consumers can now communicate with bots of their favorite brands by clicking one of several menu options directly from their devices’ messaging app. GSMA representatives at MWCA confirmed first commercial applications by the end of the year.

What application would you build if 4ms latency was real?

A jump from 4G and 40ms latency to 5G and 4ms latency sounds very progressive but in which scenarios does it really matter? Verizon Wireless and Ericsson had the answers with their “Ballon & Drone” demo. A small drone was programmed to follow a red ballon. First, the drone was controlled from a data center in San Francisco that with only 4ms response delay was a perfect simulation of 5G latency ballpark. Once we switched to a control center in Seattle and the latency was closer to what we have with 4G, namely over 40ms, the drone and balloon immediately got out of sync. If self-driving cars are to prevail in the future, we better get those latency figures to almost negligible numbers and move control centers as close to the network edge as possible.

MWCA 2017 was a breath of fresh air after too unfocused CTIA and I can’t wait to see what surprises on both technology and marketing front MWCA 2018 to be held in Los Angeles has in store for us.

Partner Program for Tech Startups and not only

25 Jan

The vast majority of the world’s most successful Tech companies have a thriving ecosystem of partners, ranging from systems integrators, consultancies, independent software vendors, developer communities to value added resellers and distributors.

“Partner Program Template” helps you prepare a compelling partnership pitch:

  • Demonstrate understanding of your partner business and position your company as a valuable asset
  • Scope out collaboration areas with concrete milestones
  • Define success metrics and strategies to achieve them

What it Takes to Run a Tech Startup – Insights from Ben Horowitz

9 Dec

Dreaming of founding and running your own Tech company but unsure what it takes? Considering joining a hot startup and wondering if it will still be around in a year? You should read “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz.

I assembled a list of Ben’s insights on how to build a successful business. Some may be eye-opening, some may be just reinforcing what you already know. Nevertheless it’s a very useful checklist to reflect upon weekly if not daily.

On the role of the CEO:

  • I describe the CEO job as knowing what to do (“One” – strategic thinking) and getting the company to do what you want (“Two” – operational processes). While being a great CEO requires both skills, most CEOs tend to be more comfortable with one or the other. ”Ones” end up in chaos and “Twos” fail to pivot when necessary. If a CEO ignores the dimension of management she doesn’t like, she generally fails.
  • The only thing that prepares you for running a company is running a company. This means you will face a broad set of things that you don’t know how to do that require skills that you don’t have.
  • The enemy of competence is sometimes confidence. A CEO should never be so confident that she stops improving her skills.
  • The peacetime CEO does not resemble the wartime CEO. Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win.
  • To be a good CEO, in order to be liked in the long run, you must do many things that will upset people in the short run. Evaluating people’s performance and constantly giving feedback is precisely what a CEO must do.
  • A company without story is usually a company without strategy. The CEO ensures that the company story is clear and compelling.
  • A CEO can most accurately be measured by the speed and quality of the decisions he makes. Great decisions come from CEOs who display an elite mix of intelligence, logic and courage. (Courage because every decision that a CEO makes is based on incomplete information. Knowing this, you must continuously and systematically gather knowledge in the company’s day-to-day activities so that you will have as much information as possible when the decision point arrives.)
  • Great CEOs constantly assess whether they are building the best team. Your engineers, marketing, HR, sales people deserve a world-class management team. That’s the priority.

On the need for domain expertise and hands-on contributions:

  • Content-free executives have no value in startups. Every executive must understand the product, the technology, the customers, and the market.

On the importance of communication:

  • Sometimes an organization doesn’t need a solution; it just needs clarity.
  • As a company grows, it’s biggest challenge always becomes communication.
  • Perhaps the CEO’s most important operational responsibility is designing and implementing the communications architecture for his company. The architecture might include organizational design, meetings, processes, email, Yammer, Slack, and even one-on-one meetings with managers and employees. Absent a well-designed communication architecture, information and ideas will stagnate and your company will degenerate into a bad place to work.

On corporate culture:

  • Sometimes the right policy is the one the CEO can follow.
  • Political behavior almost always starts with the CEO.
  • Dogs at work and yoga aren’t culture.

On leadership:

  • Nothing motivates a great employee more than a mission that’s so important that it supersedes everyone’s personal ambitions.
  • Hiring senior people into a startup is kind of like an athlete taking performance drugs. If all goes well, you will achieve incredible new heights. If all goes wrong, you will start degenerating from the inside out.
  • There is no such thing as a great executive. There is only a great executive for a given company at a specific point in time.

On organizational structure:

  • The primary purpose of the organizational hierarchy in a company is decision-making efficiency

On selling the company:

  • You need to answer two questions:
    • 1) is the market much bigger than exploited to date?
    • 2) are we going to be number one?
  • If the answer to either 1) or 2) is “no”, you should consider selling

Are Software Developers from Mars and Tech Marketers from Venus?

24 May

Marketing to developers is almost an oxymoron. In a typical corporate setting those two departments either sit on the opposite sites of the office space or in separate buildings, depending on the size of the company. Similarly, engineers at your customer’s company hardly ever reach for marketing collateral when evaluating your product.

Engineering driven companies appreciate their developers. Steve Ballmer even dedicated them his unforgettable stage show “Developers, developers, developers”. I haven’t seen a CEO of a tech company pay such tribute to the marketing team.

Without great developers there would no product. But without great marketers the product wouldn’t sell itself.

A lot of tech marketers make the mistake of oversimplifying the value proposition of their product. Every tech innovation these days is “agile, flexible, reduces costs and increases productivity”.  As I explain in my Marketing Plan for Tech Startups (and not only), in today’s crowded marketplace you need to constantly re-win your customer business by delivering real value. A marketer’s job is therefore to position the product in the customer’s mind as an indispensable part of their professional or personal life. Calling a product “cutting edge, best of breed or visionary” without saying what it actually does and explaining the implementation philosophy behind it is not going to work.

If you’re in Tech and haven’t heard about Docker, you’ve been living under a rock. The ultimate Silicon Valley darling went from a two-person startup into becoming the de facto standard of modern application design virtually overnight. Two years ago very few people knew about Docker. Today, if your software is not supporting Docker, you’re not part of the cool kids club. In my opinion Docker is a marketing driven company because early on it understood the needs of their customers, i.e. the developers, and created three fantastic value propositions. First, Docker solved an important problem for developers: it overcame the limitations of the existing Linux container technologies and made the promise “build an app once, run it anywhere” possible. Second, Docker adopted “give before you take” attitude, open-sourced their code and contributed to the DevOps community early on. Lastly, Docker focused on making the developer’s life as easy as possible by building a bunch of tools to automate mundane tasks.

Another brilliant example of a company that removed common roadblocks preventing a developer from trying a new tech product is Twilio. A quick-start tutorial paired with code samples and detailed API specs allows a developer to build the first app in a matter of minutes. That’s real value.

Every company in the Valley prides itself on solving the vendor lock-in problem but the reality is it takes time for even the brightest human being to master the new and abandon the old. A marketing driven company knows how to add value to their customers’ lives and a great tech marketer will invest the time and budget into an ecosystem of documentation, support and community that will differentiate the output of the engineering team’s work and create a product that sells itself.

Marketing Plan Template for Tech Startups

9 Mar

Early stage tech startups are primarily driven by engineers who believe in one or several of the following statements:

  • We are making the world a better place
  • We are disrupting a stagnant industry
  • We have a solution to a prevalent problem

When you are deep in the weeds of developing a new tech product it may be hard to objectively evaluate the chances of your innovation to succeed in the marketplace. I’ve spent the past four years soaking up the San Francisco startup culture. Several of my friends, classmates from Stanford GSB and former colleagues have joined or funded startups. The million dollar question: “What’s the next hot tech company?” comes up at virtually every happy hour and every dinner. Being a geek at heart and marketer by passion, I’m spending my time at the intersection of technology and business thinking about how to turn an innovative product into commercial success story. Although a universal formula for creating the next game changing company like Uber, Dropbox or Netflix does not exist, the most successful tech companies have one thing in common. They are investing as strongly in product marketing as they are in the product development.

Innovation cannot happen in the vacuum, especially not in the highly competitive markets of today. The key to surviving and thriving as a tech leader is to constantly re-win your customers’ business by delivering real value. And how do you know that your product is set up for success in the marketplace? In order to answer this question I’ve looked at a number of hottest tech startups as well as well established companies to distill the critical elements of their marketing strategies. I synthesized the results of my analysis into a sixteen steps’ marketing plan checklist. Each step is explained threefold:

  • Definition of the business term that is the theme of the discussed step
  • Example of how a successful company implemented the step
  • Insights from my work as business consultant and product marketer


Buy Now Button

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“Marketing Plan Template for Tech Companies” is a framework for you to:

  • Get to know your customers and your competitors
  • Learn how to quantify your product’s value and how to communicate it
  • Define realistic business objectives and strategies to achieve them

My marketing plan template features lessons learned from  some of today’s hottest Silicon Valley companies. Let these great brands inspire your own success: Tesla, Netflix, Dropbox, Google, Trunk Club, Theranos, DocuSign, Marketo, Breather, Suse, Walgreens, Lyft, Riverbed, Nokia, Uber, Cisco and Salesforce.

I hope you’ll find my marketing plan useful. I look forward to your comments and suggestions!

Super Mobility Week: Telco + Silicon Valley = Best Friends

15 Sep

I wouldn’t say that Super Mobility Week hosted in Las Vegas last week stole the thunder from Mobile World Congress but I applaud the consolidation of 4G World and CTIA Wireless events in one venue.

ctia

There was a lot of talk about connected car, connected home and monetization of mobile video but what stroke me the most at the event this year was the broader trend of Telco getting at least some of the agility that the IT world takes for granted. I’m talking here about trends such as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) in pursuit of efficiency and scalability as well as convergence of IT and Telco APIs to build more sophisticated end-user applications.

Telco goes software

Telcos are software developers at heart but until recently Telco software (SW) has been tightly bundled with underlying hardware (HW). Even if Nokia decoupled HW and SW in 2009 with the introduction of the commercial off-the-shelf ATCA platform, mobile network operators still preferred to buy the whole SW/HW package from a single vendor. The main benefit of the coupled SW/HW approach was usually realized during troubleshooting situations. If the infrastructure was not working as expected, it was relatively easy to identify the vendor of the network element at fault.

As demands on the mobile network capacity keep growing, Telcos pursue new ways of architecting their networks not only for more capacity but also better scalability and efficiency. Bandwidth consumption is insatiable: for example, mobile video traffic will increase 14-fold between 2013 and 2018. By virtualizing network functions, Telcos can e.g. dynamically allocate more capacity to their content distribution networks just before Netflix issues the next release of utterly popular House of Cards. By proactively preparing the network for a brief but severe traffic spike, Telcos can greatly improve user experience and protect their infrastructure from saturation.

The maturing cloud computing market is pushing Telcos to virtualize too. As enterprise customers have adopted cloud they expect the same level of agility form their carriers. If you’d like to review the key concepts of NFV, check out my recent post SDN & NFV: Friends or Enemies?

Never get another set-top-box

Separating SW from HW improves efficiency and lowers cost of operating mobile networks but it has an even more important impact in the consumer and enterprise customer domain. Today consumers receive a set-to-box from their service provider that translates TV signals into content displayed on the television screen. Similarly, enterprise customers rely on hardware appliances to connect their branch offices to corporate networks and provide functions like firewall or WAN acceleration. When a consumer wants to start watching HD movies and TV, he needs to get a new set top box. When an enterprise wants to upgrade data speeds at remote offices from 10mbps to 100mbps, its service provider has to dispatch a technician to the site to install and a new router and configure value added services.

What if the complexity of a set top box and CPE router could be moved to the Telco cloud, while the devices themselves could be replaced with very simple hardware that requires close to zero maintenance?

mini

The shift from complex hardware to the mix of extremely simplified hardware powered by complex software has already taken places in several consumer products. As Jeff Lawson pointed out in his keynote, In the past if you wanted to have maps integrated in your car dashboard, you needed to buy a new car.

teslaToday, if you own a Tesla, the classic dashboard with cabin controls, navigation and communication is replaced by 17’’ touchscreen that gets automatically updated over the air with no need to stop by a dealership!

As nice and retro as a Mini Cooper dashboard looks compared to the sleek Tesla LCD, it starts to feel like a good old 50+ button remote control compared to Apple TV remote.

remoteapple

According to speakers from ALU, Ericsson and Nokia during the panel sessions I attended, all of Tier 1 service providers are currently exploring NFV and a few expect first commercial deployment by end of the year.

IT embraces Telco

The worlds of traditional Telco and agile IT are meeting half way to build a foundation for context based apps that make users more productive. A great example of such a Telco/IT mash-up app is Uber. First, it determines user location by GPS and automatically updates a map of available cabs that roam nearby. Once the user decides to order a ride, the app notifies the drivers. The location and phone number of the driver who accepts the ride are then delivered to the passenger via text message. Both the driver and the passenger are kept updated in real time via SMS, should either of them change their mind and cancel the trip. They can also call or text each other to agree on the exact pick up location.

The Uber app is powered by Twilio platform who has signed agreements with carriers in different countries to expose their SMS capabilities in the API. One could argue that push notifications available in the iOS and Android SDK could be used instead of SMS but the good old SMS will reach recipient’s phone even if the network coverage is poor. Uber is a great example of how combing the best of IT and Telco worlds results in fantastic user experience.