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Docked!

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I admit, I sometimes have weird vacations. I’ve had a few weeks off from work while awaiting the start of my new job. There was a trip to New Orleans (in the summer!) but also time spent watching the livestreams of two tech conferences. A little while back I watched and commented on Apple’s WWDC and, before heading off to NOLA, I tuned into DockerCon. I’m truly a geek. DockerCon is the conference for Docker users. In case you are unaware, Docker is arguably the most used (or at least well known) container technology. Containers are a type of virtualization. There’s plenty of places to look up containers so go

Apple’s WWDC Keynote Was Strange To Me

I never bothered with Apple products, let alone the Worldwide Developer Conference. Seriously, in 32 years in the IT industry and 6+ years as an analyst, I regarded Apple as mostly a consumer business and spent very little time tracking them. My overall impression was that they were long on style (which is good) but short on real technological substance (which, to me, is not good). The best Apple products happened when they took someone else’s idea, such as the music player or smartphone, and made it palatable to the masses. Personally, I never saw the appeal of Apple. Sure the products were easy to use but that was because

Changes on the Horizon

Career changes, They happen. You work for a company then you work for a different one. Job A morphs into Job B and then changes altogether into something else. The arc of my career has been a bit like the rolling hills of Central New York. There have been ups and downs and excursions into curious byways. Sometime, I traveled through the career equivalents of big cities. Other times it has been more like wandering into a small town. Now, I am preparing to leave Neuralytix and my recent career as an industry analyst to go work for a big international bank. It’s a bit like moving to a big

SAP States the Obvious But That’s Alright

sap

The recently concluded SAP’s SAPPHIRE 2016 conference left me with an odd feeling. On the one hand, I really liked much of what I heard – machine learning, microservices, design thinking, and API catalogs. On the other hand, these are all topics that are well-known to SAP’s customers, even though they were presented as if they were brand new. In addition, SAPs competitors have been talking about these subjects for a long time and most already have products in the field. That left me thinking that SAP is moving in the right direction but just a little behind the curve set by their competitors and the market. To be honest,

I want to hear from you. Yes you!

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I was recently diving head first into quantum computing. Even though I know it’s years away from practical applications, it’s not Star Trek technology anymore. This exercise in future thinking got me wondering which technologies that are actually happening now but still considered early are worthy of my attention. So I ask you, friends, readers, and brilliant minds, to help me out and answer a short survey about emerging technologies. I’m interested to know which of these you are deploying now, will be implementing in the future, might not be using, or simply are still not sure what it is. These responses will guide some of my future content, so your response can

Docked!

dockercon_logo

I admit, I sometimes have weird vacations. I’ve had a few weeks off from work while awaiting the start of my new job. There was a trip to New Orleans (in the summer!) but also time spent watching the livestreams of two tech conferences. A little while back I watched and commented on Apple’s WWDC and, before heading off to NOLA, I tuned into DockerCon. I’m truly a geek. DockerCon is the conference for Docker users. In case you are unaware, Docker is arguably the most used (or at least well known) container technology. Containers are a type of virtualization. There’s plenty of places to look up containers so go do that now if you are ill informed about them.

DockerCon, unlike most conferences I have attended or viewed, is entirely oriented toward technology professionals. Even Microsoft Build and WWDC have more business influence than DockerCon. That’s not unexpected given that Docker’s whole business is centered around developers and sysadmins, It does, however, does add a certain flavor to the proceedings. For instance, the speakers seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about why one would use a container. I would have thought that anyone who was at DockerCon was there to understand the “how” and had already figured out the “why”. It was whipped cream on ice cream – generally unnecessary and in the way of the good stuff.

The most interesting part of DockerCon was seeing how far the technology has come in such a short period of time. It’s not just the growth numbers – though there has been phenomenal uptake in Docker container usage – but the rate of evolution of the product itself that is so startling. In two years, Docker has gone from having only the basic container engine to networking and security upgrades along with the addition of plugins and orchestration. The platform choices have also expanded, though much of it is still in BETA. Whereas Docker, like most containers, has been based on LXC and limited to 64-bit Linux, they are now expanding into Windows and MacOS as well as various cloud platforms such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.

The upshot is that Docker is making itself more attractive for large scale production environments. Docker 1.12 adds features that are important to deploying containers in production, as opposed to developer, environments. For example, orchestration will be part of the 1.12 release. Called Swarm, this feature allows large numbers of containers to be instantiated easily and then managed effectively. Manual tools are fine for individual developers but not for production environments. Swarm, which is similar to Google Kubernates, does all this. The upgrades to security are also important to expanding the use of containers into more robust environments. The addition of key management, while mundane, is very important to maintaining secure environments and Docker 1.12 has it.

Docker is also introducing a new container format. Typically, containers have encapsulated one piece of processing. What the Distributed Application Bundle or (terribly nicknamed) DAB does is package many containers together so that a sysadmin can deploy the entire application at once. Not only does this make it easier to deploy a new application but makes it much easier to migrate or move whole applications. Coupled with Swarm, this is a big time saver for the OPS crowd. DAB is still experimental so it isn’t certain if it will become a feature but it shows that Docker is thinking the right way.

The big takeaway from DockerCon is that Docker containers are now ready for the big time. The ecosystem is growing and the product itself has evolved into something that is useful to production environments. Our little container tech has grown up and is ready to wear big boy pants.

Apple’s WWDC Keynote Was Strange To Me

I never bothered with Apple products, let alone the Worldwide Developer Conference. Seriously, in 32 years in the IT industry and 6+ years as an analyst, I regarded Apple as mostly a consumer business and spent very little time tracking them. My overall impression was that they were long on style (which is good) but short on real technological substance (which, to me, is not good). The best Apple products happened when they took someone else’s idea, such as the music player or smartphone, and made it palatable to the masses. Personally, I never saw the appeal of Apple. Sure the products were easy to use but that was because you had to do things the Apple way. With Linux, there is a dozen ways to do anything. With Microsoft Windows, you have a limited number of choices. With Apple, there is one and only one way of doing anything and you will like it, so help me Steve Jobs. So, I ignored them.

As I waited for my next gig to begin, I found myself with a bit of time on my hands and said “What the heck! I’ll watch the WWDC livestream.” I’ve been to hundreds of industry conferences and livestreamed many more. Apple’s WWDC was not very different. Lots of loud music, hyperbole, and unbridled enthusiasm for incremental feature enhancements. Seriously folks, do tech companies think we are “really going to love…” a different color or small increase in performance? Is it true that they “can’t be more excited…” about small changes over and over again? Judging by the insane applause at WWDC at the smallest announcement, that might be the case. I’ve seen more sedate crowds at rock concerts and religious gatherings.

Two things struck me about the WWDC keynote that was different than the many other conferences I’ve been to. First, there was almost no blockbuster announcements. The most interesting announcement, to me anyway, was the ability to cut and paste between Macs and iPads. That’s pretty useful and wish I had an easier way to do that in the Windows/Android world. However, that’s not exactly a life changing event. Other than that, everything seemed incremental or catch up. The fanbois went nuts over the idea of Siri for the Mac. Whoopee do da. Microsoft has had Cortana (basically an edgier Siri) on the PC for at least a year, as well as Windows and Android mobile devices. The Apple cognoscenti seemed to utterly lose their minds over the renaming of what is now watchOS. Come on people, watch devices are a tiny niche. Their big, expensive, and poorly duplicate some of the functionality of a smartphone. They are the equivalent of sports car for geeks. No more useful than a cheaper version but an object of desire just the same.

The second big difference between WWDC and other tech conferences is the level of weird. Suer, I’ve seen sad, aging rockers, trampoline artists, and other strange entertainment at conferences but that was just to warm up the crowd. Then it was all business. Apple, on the other hand, spent considerable time introducing a new app called Breathe. Yes, Breathe! As in inhale and exhale. I get controlled breathing and meditation are a way of reducing stress but this is a technology conference not a health or yoga event. If anything will elicit California/New Age/naval gazing jokes, Breathe will. Another popular announcement was the introduction of a Minnie Mouse watch face for the watchOS. Apple positioned it as some kind of feminist statement when it’s obviously the opposite. It is whimsical and cute but it’s still just Minnie Mouse. The speaker kept talking about how much their daughter was going to love this as if they were going to buy a $400 Apple Watch for a little girl. Personally, I would start with a $10 Minnie Mouse watch until they were in, oh, college! I can’t imagine a Google, Microsoft, or Dell conference keynote featuring Minnie Mouse and meditation as important parts of the opening keynote.

WWDC taught me that Apple developers and fans live in a different world than the rest of the development community. It’s a culture all its own, sort of a mashup of techno, geek, fashion, and religion. Technologically, Apple is a follower but from a design perspective it’s a leader. That seems to violate one of the basic precepts of IT culture which is to push the envelope technically and worry about making it pretty later. Yet, this seems okay for the Apple community. The want the sizzle more than the steak.

Listening in on WWDC was like visiting an alien culture. It wasn’t what I expected. I was sometimes delighted but much of the time simply confused. And like many places I’ve visited, I was glad to have done it once but have no plans to return. It’s simply not my tribe.