SVP Technology at First Data Corp; large scale system architecture, infrastructure, tech geek, reading, learning, hiking, GeoCaching, ham radio, married, kids
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Choose Technology Suppliers Carefully

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Many years ago, Amazon chose to use Oracle database products to run the business. At the time it was a perfectly rational decision and, back then, many customers made the same choice and some took a different path. I’ve worked on both DB2 and SQL Server over the years so I know well the arguments on why Oracle isn’t the best choice to run a business and many customers elected to use DB2 or SQL Server. One of the strongest reasons not to use Oracle is they are very expensive, famous for customer unfriendly price increases once you are “locked in”, and license audits once the customer has little negotiating power. The Oracle database has many faults but the primary faults are non-technical: Oracle business practices are based upon developing weakness in the customer negotiating position and then pouncing on those weaknesses at license negotiation time.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years of watching Oracle/customer relationships is customers will put up with a lot. Each customer has to run their own businesses and successfully serve their respective customers. They are all busy and, although they will quickly tell you how annoyed they are with Oracle, some still use the Oracle database. It takes work to move to another solution and everyone is busy.

However, the second thing I’ve learned from watching Oracle/customer relationships over the years is there really are limits to what customers will put up with and when hit, action is taken.  Eventually, a customer will focus on the “Oracle Problem” and do the work to leave the unhealthy relationship. When they do, the sense of relief in the room is absolutely palpable. I’m super happy to have been part of many of these migrations in my near-decade on each of IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server. It’s fun when helping to make your product work for a customer not only helps your company but also helps the customer save money, get a better product, and no longer have to manage an unhealthy supplier relationship.

A super interesting example of this unhealthy customer relationship problem is Larry Ellison frequently referencing Amazon and saying they run their entire business on Oracle. He even goes on to say Amazon tried to move databases and failed.  These frequent claims from the Oracle leader are interesting for two reasons: 1) the statement is incorrect and 2) Amazon doesn’t allow Oracle to use the Amazon brand in marketing and yet Larry just does it anyway. Who wants a supplier that users your brand in their own marketing campaings without either permission or even accuracy. It’s not the biggest problem with Oracle as a technology supplier but it’s a material annoyance and it’s kind of amazing first that they do it and second that the claims aren’t even correct.

One of the most important databases at Amazon.com is the data warehouse system. The reports from this giant cluster drive pricing, purchasing decisions, and helps guide web site design choices. Amazon is a data driven company and this system is the supplier of much of the data that drives daily decisions at Amazon.

There was a time when this system was running on Oracle. Like a lot of customers, Amazon was paying too much and not treated terrible well by Oracle. But at Amazon, as at most companies, serving customers is always a higher priority than spending the effort to move to another database even though better solutions were available. However there are limits to what any customer will endure and Oracle is always probing that mark. Eventually the combination of better products like Amazon Redshift being available and Oracle being so incredibly customer-unfriendly swung the attention of Amazon to the database technology choice behind the data warehouse. Quite a while back the decision was made that this vital, mission critical system simply had to come off Oracle.

Oracle pricing was annoying, better database solutions are available in the cloud but, perhaps even more important, being held hostage by Oracle believing that moving to another database is difficult to schedule, hard to finance, and unlikely to be executed upon just isn’t the right place to be.  Unhealthy supplier relationships rarely yield good business results and almost never get better on their own.

Amazon now runs their entire data warehouse system on AWS Redshift in the AWS cloud. It’s less expensive, AWS doesn’t talk about their customers without permission, and, in the cloud, moving to different database solutions is far easier — no more end of quarter license audits for those that have had the privileged to enjoy that experience with Oracle.  I’m told it’s excruciating.

It’s a new database world and customers are moving to better database products as they make the move to the cloud. For some, better database solutions is one of the drivers of their move the cloud. Being able to use specialized databases for different workloads rather than having to use the one-size-doesn’t-really-fit-all-approach is a big benefit of the cloud. In the cloud, you can easily choose to run many different database products, each optimized to the workload.

Oracle no longer plays any part of the Amazon.com retail data warehouse. There are lots of smiles in that room. Of course Larry is still talking, but that’s been trailing indicator for decades :-).

From Andy Jassy of AWS:

In latest episode of “uh huh, keep talkin’ Larry,” Amazon’s Consumer business turned off its Oracle data warehouse Nov 1 and moved to Redshift. By end of 2018, they’ll have 88% of their Oracle DBs (and 97% of critical system DBs) moved to Aurora and DynamoDB. #DBFreedom

This relief from both distraction and cost has been wonderful, and more and more customers are making this decision. There really are limits to what customers will put up with and excellent database alternatives are now broadly available. Cloud computing makes moving between databases far easier and more and more customers are saying “enough” and are electing to make the investment in database freedom. But I suspect we’ll keep hearing protests from Oracle’s Leadership.

 

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JayM
15 hours ago
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Yeap.
Atlanta, GA
skorgu
13 hours ago
ORA-$$$$: Insert Coin
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New – CloudFormation Drift Detection

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AWS CloudFormation supports you in your efforts to implement Infrastructure as Code (IaC). You can use a template to define the desired AWS resource configuration, and then use it to launch a CloudFormation stack. The stack contains the set of resources defined in the template, configured as specified. When you need to make a change to the configuration, you update the template and use a CloudFormation Change Set to apply the change. Your template completely and precisely specifies your infrastructure and you can rest assured that you can use it to create a fresh set of resources at any time.

That’s the ideal case! In reality, many organizations are still working to fully implement IaC. They are educating their staff and adjusting their processes, both of which take some time. During this transition period, they sometimes end up making direct changes to the AWS resources (and their properties) without updating the template. They might make a quick out-of-band fix to change an EC2 instance type, fix an Auto Scaling parameter, or update an IAM permission. These unmanaged configuration changes become problematic when it comes time to start fresh. The configuration of the running stack has drifted away from the template and is no longer properly described by it. In severe cases, the change can even thwart attempts to update or delete the stack.

New Drift Detection
Today we are announcing a powerful new drift detection feature that was designed to address the situation that I described above. After you create a stack from a template, you can detect drift from the Console, CLI, or from your own code. You can detect drift on an entire stack or on a particular resource, and see the results in just a few minutes. You then have the information necessary to update the template or to bring the resource back into compliance, as appropriate.

When you initiate a check for drift detection, CloudFormation compares the current stack configuration to the one specified in the template that was used to create or update the stack and reports on any differences, providing you with detailed information on each one.

We are launching with support for a core set of services, resources, and properties, with plans to add more over time. The initial list of resources spans API Gateway, Auto Scaling, CloudTrail, CloudWatch Events, CloudWatch Logs, DynamoDB, Amazon EC2, Elastic Load Balancing, IAM, AWS IoT, Lambda, Amazon RDS, Route 53, Amazon S3, Amazon SNS, Amazon SQS, and more.

You can perform drift detection on stacks that are in the CREATE_COMPLETE, UPDATE_COMPLETE, UPDATE_ROLLBACK_COMPLETE, and UPDATE_ROLLBACK_FAILED states. The drift detection does not apply to other stacks that are nested within the one you check; you can do these checks yourself instead.

Drift Detection in Action
I tested this feature on the simple stack that I used when I wrote about Provisioned Throughput for Amazon EFS. I simply select the stack and choose Detect drift from the Action menu:

I confirm my intent and click Yes, detect:

Drift detection starts right away; I can Close the window while it runs:

After it completes I can see that the Drift status of my stack is IN_SYNC:

I can also see the drift status of each checked resource by taking a look at the Resources tab:

Now, I will create a fake change by editing the IAM role, adding a new policy:

I detect drift a second time, and this time I find (not surprise) that my stack has drifted:

I click View details, and I inspect the Resource drift status to learn more:

I can expand the status line for the modified resource to learn more about the drift:

Available Now
This feature is available now and you can start using it today in the US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), Canada (Central), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Seoul), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Sydney), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Europe (Frankfurt), Europe (Ireland), Europe (London), Europe (Paris), and South America (São Paulo) Regions. As I noted above, we are launching with support for a strong, initial set of resources, and plan to add many more in the months to come.

Jeff;

 

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JayM
1 day ago
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Nice
Atlanta, GA
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1 public comment
acdha
14 hours ago
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This is nice compromise for being able to make changes on a deterministic timescale without giving up on CloudFormation entirely
Washington, DC

Gear Offer is an online marketplace for buying and selling used camera gear

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When it comes to buying used photography gear, there are plenty of options around the web: eBay, Amazon, KEH, B&H, and Adorama. Now, there's a new option — Gear Offer, a photography-specific marketplace for selling and buying used camera equipment.

Based out of Scottsdale, Arizona, United States, Gear Offer is a self-proclaimed "marketplace just for photographers that's hassle free, priced fairly and continually improving" founded in March 2017.

Trusting a new online marketplace isn't always easy, but Gear Offer clearly lays out its terms of service and guidelines on how selling and buying items works.

Listing items on Gear Offer is free. There's even a built-in pricing tool that uses recent sales of identical products as a guideline for what price you should set your item(s) at. Once the gear is listed, it's a matter of waiting for someone to click the "buy now" button on the product page or make an offer that's accepted.

Once an item is purchased, the funds from the buyer will be transferred to their Gear Offer account. The seller then packs up the item, ships it off, and adds the tracking number to the purchase on Gear Offer. The buyer will then receive updates until the item (hopefully) safely arrives on their doorstep. After the payment has cleared, which Gear Offer claims is "typically in 2 business days" the seller will receive their funds. Below is a chart provided by Gear Offer that illustrates the timeline of the buying and selling process.

To protect against fraudulent accounts and activity, Gear Offer says it uses machine learning to continually evaluate the risk of certain sales and transactions. It also relies on reviews from buyers and sellers to help build trust between frequent users. In the event something does go wrong, Gear Offers says customer service is provided by "real live humans," and not ones in offshore call centers.

To confirm this claim DPReview tested the Gear Offer contact line by calling at roughly 4pm ET on a Saturday and after stating its name via a Google Voice operator service, DPReview was connected to a line that was eventually directed to a voicemail that said we would hear back "as soon as possible" regarding its inquiry. DPReview called again five minutes later in a secondary effort to contact the Gear Offer team and was immediately connected with a representative from the company.

Gear Offer makes its money is through a 6.9% processing fee when an item is sold, similar to how eBay and Amazon works, although at a lower rate — Gear Offer notes that eBay charges 12.9% (plus a standard $.30 fixed processing fee).1 The 6.9% fee comes from the income of the seller of the item.

Head over to Gear Offer to find out more and browse around the current listings. To list or purchase photography gear sign up for an account.


1 The eBay processing fee is 10% and the PayPal processing fee is 2.9%, which makes for the 12.9% total fee.

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JayM
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The Allure of Sweet Fudge Verses a Lean Transformation Diet

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In my role as an AWS Enterprise Strategist I am privileged to travel to globe working with amazing customers and their leadership teams. In nearly all of these encounters one of the questions, if not the first question is “What should my Target Operating Model be as we grow and use AWS Cloud?”. The TOM, as we have colloquially called it, is always a fascinating conversation. And I often refer to my own experience running Agile teams with AWS previously as Senior Director and CTO at Capital One UK and the many shared learnings of the customers that I visit from around the world.

I am incredibly lucky to work with a very diverse team at Amazon. And in conversation with John Enoch, Principal, Technical Business Development, I discovered he also had a fascinating way of thinking about it. So, here in his own words a guest blog from Mr Enoch.

Jonathan Allen
Enterprise Strategist & Evangelist, AWS

The Allure of Sweet Fudge Verses a Lean Transformation Diet by John Enoch

What do leaders of large, complex enterprises with huge technical debt think when looking over a cliff of urgency in their digital transformation projects? After all, “digital” infers binary ones and zeros processed by software to generate desired outcomes. Not all senior executives may have an in-depth knowledge of the importance of their organization’s ability to innovate, iterate, and reliably run software in a cost effective manner, let alone how to transform their operating model to be “digitally enabled.”

Such executives may be considering whether organizational change, a rethink of the role of technology, and what IT exists to deliver are decisions that really need to be taken today. Could hard choices be safely parked for a while, delayed or driven more slowly? The mathematician and satirist Tom Lehrer commented in the 1960s that looking at a world of great change and risk can make one feel either helpless or reliant on faith in higher powers. As he uniquely put it, “like a Christian Scientist with an appendicitis.” Faced with great risk and uncertainty, our belief systems can indeed create a sense of helplessness. CIOs faced with complexity and legacy debt could reasonably share that sentiment.

What if an executive team is constrained by a known lack of organizational budget or a low appetite for change? Wouldn’t it be compelling to have assurance that perceived urgency is an illusion and that change at scale to improve customer experience, governance, and cash-flow is not the only viable option available? What if, as in Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail,” organizations could split IT operations into two and operate “new and disruptive” and “old and stable,” with both performing to plan in tandem? In 2014, Gartner started promoting this message as a viable approach to managing IT operations across the divide of a digital transformation and called it “bimodal IT.” Gartner created a valuable debate on whether cloud adoption could be successful, with innovation and agility benefits delivered, while legacy continued to run as usual, without a clear exit plan for those legacy assets and operating models.

Gartner’s assumption is that old world, legacy, technical debt is comparatively stable and can be run as “Mode 1,” managed safely and separately as-is and to be migrated to the cloud as-and-when. In parallel, “Mode 2” is cloud native, innovative, agile, more prone to failure, and to be driven by a separate team within the same organization. While this sounds intellectually elegant, Gartner was challenged on this two-tier IT operating model by Forbes (e.g., Bimodal IT: Gartner’s recipe for disaster”), Forrester (e.g., “Bimodal IT is past its due date”), and many others.

I have yet to see a body of quantified, empirical evidence that bi-modal is a viable choice that delivers the promised results of digital transformation. Furthermore, can it be proven that bi-modal IT delivers better results than a unified approach to executing a change program that is based on real-world experience, such as is outlined in the blog 12 Steps to Get Started with the Cloud?

To date, I have seen no such evidence. Gartner did conduct a CIO survey in 2017 that claims to validate their bi-modal theory. Such survey-based research methods are largely based on individual responses to interviews and questionnaires. Such methods can be questioned for being at best indicative based on the sample and at worst open to respondents’ bias and ambiguity, depending on the choice and wording of the questions.

I am surprised that bi-modal has gained such traction and entered language as a viable approach to cloud enabled change. I hear IT executives refer to their status in running “Mode 1” and progress in executing on their investments and plans in “Mode 2.” It is as if they are normalizing a health and fitness routine of eating “super-sized” burgers daily, while one day a week is dedicated to a separate diet of eating celery and doing five-mile runs. Bi-modal presents the idea that two incompatible approaches can be operated together, within the same organization. Christensen advocates the creation of a separate business entity with a new culture and operating model; not a new silo within the same business.

I think it best to leave the job of arguing the benefits of bi-modal to Gartner, as the authors of the theory. After all, in 2016, “bi-modal” ranked at number six of the top search terms on Gartner.com.

The most common objections to Gartner’s bi-modal construct include claims that:

  • It creates a false sense of security that the pace of external disruption can be managed within the constraints of internal processes and capabilities.
  • It ignores the risk of Mode 1’s increased fragility and incongruence over time.
  • Mode 2 systems likely tie into and are dependent on Mode 1 processes from day one.
  • The transition state of “hybrid” can easily become static and permanent.
  • It duplicates and complicates by creating two systems, processes, and even cultures.
  • Bi-modal relies on splitting the IT organization into two and creating siloes. Best practice aligns IT budgets with lines of business serving customers, not technology.
  • It creates a good vs. bad technology team, with those on the “bad” team feeling disenfranchised, without a career path, and more likely to disengage and leave.
  • It creates a political dogfight between the two siloes over IT budgets and priorities.

Shortly before I joined Amazon, I spent time with an insurance company that invested in operating bi-modal IT. They had a large IT Infrastructure team, huge legacy debt, and had bought a smaller, agile-based IT company to drive change from within. The new agile silo in the organization was totally dependent on IT’s old waterfall-based process, and the team had to grab a ticket and wait in line for whatever needed to be delivered, the same as any anyone else. The status quo of the IT operating model was not challenged because it was running to plan as Mode 1. The morale in the new team deteriorated as timelines slipped and frustration grew. Interventions from the CEO did little to change things, since some senior executives were heavily invested in the status quo, a few years from retirement, and did not want to embark on an enterprise-wide change initiative.

More recently, I have seen banks tempted by offers of IT outsourcing (ITO) of their data centers so that legacy skills can be siloed externally and the organization can focus on innovation in-house. This is another form of bi-modal IT: the ITO promises “keeping lights on,” smooth running of existing assets while taking those assets off the books. Looking more closely at the market value of a typical data center versus its book value and the cost and risk of recovering the difference, it would require somewhat onerous terms for the ITO provider to deliver a commercially profitable contract. The delays in successful execution of customer relevant IT projects once the urgency of executing clear change plans may be even more costly than just biting the bullet and executing a change program.

How people see problems tends to dictate their choice of solutions. If the problem being addressed is the cost and risk of change, then change will likely be constrained by cost and risk. If the issue is selecting IT choices that drive up customer experience scores, tighten controls, and increase free cash-flow, then change is more likely to be accepted as a tough but necessary decision since the status quo is unsustainable. There may be no available decision fudge of a middle way.

Standish Group’s annual chaos report from 2017 found that only 36% of major IT projects deliver on expectations, budget, and timelines; 19% are abject failures; and the rest are “challenged.” The odds of delivering an IT-enabled transformation project successfully are low. The 2018 Standish Group report gave insights into how to improve these odds. It highlights the impact of “decision latency.” Organizations that adopt an Agile approach to project delivery will be able to cycle through decisions more effectively, and achieve 58% success and 9% failure rates. In contrast, those that maintain a more complex waterfall approach only have an 18% probability of success, with 32% deemed failures and 50% challenged.

By maintaining a bi-modal approach to running IT, there is no impetus to change the process and method that has delivered such statistically poor outcomes to date. Rather than focusing on the cost of change, perhaps organizations should ask how much money is spent on IT projects, what percentage of projects fail, and how much, for example, a 40% rise in project success rates would add to cash flow. IT should be focused on where there is a need to do more and faster to serve customers better than competitors, regardless of technology and process. There is no substitute to a well-structured change program, and the hard choices and trade-offs it entails, starting with the initial 12 steps.

Is there a body of objective, empirical evidence that proves that there really is a trade-off between running IT as and Agile, DevOps based cloud versus on-premise that equates to “fast and innovative” versus “slow and stable” according to the bi-modal IT construct? If so, I have yet to see anything that evidences measurable impact on cash flow, customer experience, risk, and their combined effect on company valuations over time. The evidence I do see is that disruptive, successful organizations, with high market values such as Amazon, AirBnB, Netflix, Salesforce, Pinterest and many others are adopters of cloud at speed and at scale, and are not attributing their competitive success to running bi-modal IT.

John Enoch
Principal, Technical Business Development, AWS

LinkedIn

Forbes

John Enoch

John joined AWS in 2016 and specialises in Cloud Economics and risk. He works with commercial and technology executives to help quantify the impact of IT choices on cashflow, customer experience and risk. Prior to joining AWS, John was a Fintech CEO, a Director in Deloitte’s Audit Advisory practice and an IT Strategy Principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He has a patent on a compliance analytics technology and an MSc in Decision, Cost and Policy Analysis from the Engineering faculty at the University of Gävle in Sweden.

 

 

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JayM
2 days ago
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Great read.
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Stan Lee, the arch superhero of comic books, is dead at 95

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There will never be ’nuff said about this legendary creator.

The man born Stanley Lieber published his first comic book under the pseudonym Stan Lee in 1941–Captain America Comics #3–and he never looked back. He went on to create some of the most memorable, beloved, pivotal characters in all of comics–among them, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and The Avengers–and help shepherd the industry into cultural dominance. And now, 77 years later, he has died at age 95.

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JayM
2 days ago
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Cameo no mo.
Atlanta, GA
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'Move More and Sit Less': These Are the New Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

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After a decade, Americans have new physical activity guidelines to aim for — and officials hope the changes will get more people encouraged to get moving.

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