Telcos becoming cloud providers doesn’t seem to work

Since the late 2000’s, one of the cloud strategy theories was that existing telcos and network providers could become public cloud providers. Many, if not all have tried and/or trying. Thus far, it’s been a rocky road: few synergies seem to be sleeping on the ground, ready to roused up to go fight the giants, or, at least, carve out niche spaces. As summarized in a 451 report on CenturyLink:

That’s the idea that a connectivity provider should be better positioned to take advantage of cloud computing infrastructure because it controls the means of access to those resources, leading to a natural synergy. So far, none of the major carriers has managed to make that work, hampered by scale, traditional mindsets in network operations, and sales. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, Orange, BT and other global carriers got started on similar telco transformation efforts many years ago with varying degrees of success, and with major detours toward trying to out-Amazon Amazon in the IaaS space with network-focused cloud services. Instead vendors like Amazon Web Services and others have all but run away with the managed infrastructure and cloud markets, which are slated to reach a combined $100bn by 2020, according to 451 Research’s Market Monitor.

Furthermore, from another report on Verizon:

Verizon is not the first company of its kind to move away from infrastructure services in this way. Rackspace, at the time the world’s largest independently managed infrastructure and cloud provider, pivoted away from selling basic cloud infrastructure (and spinning off its low-cost web-hosting operations, Cloud Sites, to LiquidWeb), taking a more services-led approach. UK-based Colt Technology Services canceled its Managed Cloud offering (the go-to-market brand for its IT Services’ €80m revenue business) in 2016, selling it to German IT services company Getronics. Other IT vendors such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) have chosen to keep out of the commodified public cloud service market, choosing instead to focus on hybrid and third-party services.

That said, there’s plenty of work – and spending – to be done to keep the tubes flowing and (eventually) costs optimized, e.g.:

[CenturyLink] has spent $700m on upgrades and improvements in its network, partly to serve NFV needs but also to address rates of failure in service delivery, repair times and other customer satisfaction areas.

And, for Verizon, there’s always money in the banana stand:

Focusing its efforts on managed networking services, managed security and professional services is a smart move for Verizon, given the lower costs, higher margins and double-digit growth rates of these sectors…. Managed security services and managed network services (in the ‘other’ category) – are expected to grow at 16.3% and 21.5% respectively during the same time.

We’ll see if one of the telco’s whacks it out, but the market window seems, if not painted shut, pretty firmly slid closed.

The Bathroom Bill, Texas SB6 – Notebook

As you can imagine, things like the so-called “bathroom bill” drive me crazy. It also makes me sad for whatever happened to my fellow Texans, who support it, that they’d be this cruel, uninformed, and ignorant. And, of course, there’s the people effected.

Stealing some of Matt Ray’s notes for our Software Defined Talk recording, here’s a notebook and highlights on the topic.

  • The Hillbillies are obsessed with bathrooms
    • It’s really depressing how aggressively stupid Texas is sometimes. I don’t blame anyone avoiding it.
    • “The consequences of this bill are beyond severe. Not only can transgender people be arrested and jailed for using the bathroom, but they will be assumed to be pedophiles, and be put on the Texas sexual predator watch list. So not only is there the possibility of being hauled off to jail during a conference, the arrest will ruin the rest of your life. Just because you need to pass some water.”
  • Current status: The bill is having trouble in the Senate, however, part of it is about removing a requirement to provide multi-user bathrooms in schools.
    • More: “The differences on the bathroom bill are substantial. The Senate would require transgender Texans to use the restrooms in publicly owned buildings that match their biological sex and would bar local governments from adopting or maintaining their own laws on the subject. The House version would apply only to elementary and secondary schools; after it passed last weekend, Patrick and others criticized it as a change that does very little.”

How’d it go in North Carolina?

  • AP analysis of economic effect in North Carolina, from March 2017:
    Losses of $313m a year – “$3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.”
    Some examples, not just bleeding-heart tech companies: “Those include PayPal canceling a 400-job project in Charlotte, CoStar backing out of negotiations to bring 700-plus jobs to the same area, and Deutsche Bank scuttling a plan for 250 jobs in the Raleigh area. Other companies that backed out include Adidas, which is building its first U.S. sports shoe factory employing 160 near Atlanta rather than a High Point site, and Voxpro, which opted to hire hundreds of customer support workers in Athens, Georgia, rather than the Raleigh area.”
    Most of it is from businesses like Paypal and Deutsche Bank pulling out – good for them!

    • “Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan — who leads the largest company based in North Carolina — said he’s spoken privately to business leaders who went elsewhere with projects or events because of the controversy, and he fears more decisions like that are being made quietly.”
  • For context, The North Carolina economy: “In 2010 North Carolina’s total gross state product was $424.9 billion. In 2011 the civilian labor force was at around 4.5 million with employment near 4.1 million. The working population is employed across the major employment sectors.”
  • So, rough estimate of economic impact is: a decrease of 0.07%/year (this is a bad number since it’s based on 2010 GDP and other forward looking estimates, however, it gives you a ball-park sense.) However, see scenario for larger impact for the future below (I mean, not to mention being a dick-heads and treating people as subhuman for no good reason other than being fucking social-idiots):

Money and jobs prospects for Texas

  • Back to Texas, the next 10 years are critical for North Texas. Many large, international enterprises are setting up big campuses up there in DFW.
    For example, Toyota relocated their NA headquarters there.

    • For Toyota, this means something on the order of 1,000 new jobs in Texas, with an estimated 2,800 existing employees who’ll move to Texas. That’s a lot of new HEB customers, home buyers, and taxpayers.
  • Now, think of other G2000 companies that would want to move to Texas, or beef up their existing presence. The companies will be deciding what to do in the next 2-3 years, and if they skip on Texas, that will be decades of lost cash, not to mention new Texans.
  • Also, from Texas Association of Business: “The business group released a study last month warning that legislation like the transgender bathroom bill could cost the state economy up to $8.5 billion a year and threaten 185,000 jobs.” (Meanwhile, that organization has “remained neutral.”)

Why in the first place?

  • So, what’s the big deal for those in favor of it in the first place? Well, obviously, the idea that there’s “wide-stances” going on is bunk (more).
  • One can only conclude that supporters are confused (and, thus, afraid): there’s a fundamental disagreement about gender and sexuality. But, also, there’s just downright discriminatory. We’ve lived through this before with the gay marriage movement int he past 20 years and know how to spot veiled discrimination.
  • As one ACLU person put it: “that fundamentally [supporters of bathroom bills] just don’t think of transgender people as humans, and they try to erase trans people from existence.””
  • The Economist describes the people effected: ‘The heart of the bill is its concept of “biological sex”; lawmakers define it as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate”. This definition is fraught for several reasons. First, as many as 1 in 1,500 babies are born with ambiguous genitalia that qualify them as “intersex”, though that designation was only used for the first time last week, when a Brooklyn-born, 55-year-old California resident received a revised birth certificate from New York City in the mail. Second, thousands of the 1.4m transgender Americans have had sex-reassignment surgery, which means that many people who were designated as male or female at birth now have “the physical condition” of being another gender. And for transgender people who retain the biological markers of their original gender identification (because they choose not to undergo surgery or cannot afford it), the fact of their sense of themselves remains. Many transgender women and men feel not only uncomfortable but endangered when being forced to use a bathroom that does not mesh with their identity. In a 2013 paper, Jody Herman, a scholar at the UCLA law school’s Williams Institute, discussed a survey finding that 70% of transgender people “reported being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms”.’ (More from CNN.)
  • Is there anything to actually worry about? The article continues: “No similar research bears out the theory that opening bathrooms to transgender people spurs sexual predators to put on lipstick and a dress to target women and young girls in public facilities. Last year, a coalition of organisations dedicated to preventing the abuse of women issued a letter addressing Mr Patrick’s worry. “As rape crisis centers, shelters, and other service providers who work each and every day to meet the needs of all survivors and reduce sexual assault and domestic violence throughout society”, they wrote, “we speak from experience and expertise when we state that these claims are false”. Texas Republicans say that strict gender segregation in public bathrooms is “common sense”, but their appeal to conventional wisdom is not borne out by the evidence. A police department official in Des Moines, Iowa, said he doubts that bathroom tolerance for trans people would “encourage” illicit behaviour. Sex offenders, he said, will find victims “no matter what the laws are”.”
  • Meanwhile, bathroom bill thinking shows a misunderstanding of the realities of sexual assault: ‘[Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center] said she believes people “must understand the facts about sexual assault,” adding that in 8 out of 10 cases the victim already knows the person who sexually assaulted them, citing Justice Department statistics. However, 64 percent of transgender people will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, she said, citing a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality.’
  • All of this said, other than “there is no evidence,” it’s surprisingly hard to find any numbers and reports on the topic of “is this actually a problem,” based on past crime and incidents. This is true for both sides of the issues!
  • That said, the conclusion would, thus, be that there’s no evidence based on historics that there’s anything close to a material, actual problem (sexual assault) going on here. This is not only intellectually (and socially) frustrating, but it also means that all the effort spent on bathroom bills is wasted and should have been spent on fixing real problems that could prevent actual sexual assault.

Pivotal Conversations: The management perspective on transforming Allstate, with Opal Perry

I’m always interested to hear how management manages to change how software is done in large organizations – it can seem impossible! As ever, Allstate provides a fascinating stream of information here, and I was lucky to get the chance to interview Opal Perry there on how Allstate has been doing with all that cloud-native stuff.

Check out the listing on SoundCloud, and be sure to subscribe to the podcast if you like it.

Also, if you want to hear more, Matthew Curry and I had a similar conversation a few weeks ago at OSCON.

The eternal battle for OpenStack’s soul will conclude in three years. Again – My May Register column

“What types of clouds are running OpenStack?” OpenStack Survey, 2017.

My column at The Register this month looks at the state of OpenStack. As Matt Asay better headlined it “CIOs may not want to build private clouds, but they are, anyway.”

Check out the piece!

Pivotal Conversations: Cloud-native monitoring & PCF Metrics, with Todd Persen

This week’s podcast:

In this episode we talk with Todd Persen on the topic of monitoring cloud-native applications with Pivotal Cloud Foundry Metric. We discuss the changing nature of monitoring in cloud-native platforms, how developers can now turn black-boxes into white-boxes, why time-series dominates the thought-technology in this space now, and the benefits of open source taking over most innovation in systems management. Richard is out this week, so Andrew Shafer returns to fill in as co-host.

Listen above, download the MP3 directly, and/or subscribe to the podcast feed if you haven’t.

As Rome burns, there’s plenty of money investing in attention aggregation, innovation, and…burgers?

Let the Old Gods bellow and rage in the distance.There are likes to like and pages to page-view. Swipes to swipe. Items to be ordered and thought-leaders to be thought-followed. We’ve got our own temples, up in The Cloud, to be decorated with selfies and festooned with a million paeans to ourselves, our personal brands and our experiences. Our chauffeured chariots to be summoned, literally, on-demand. The app as finger-snap. People are favoriting us as we sleep. At least, they’d better be.Google is doing the work that priests and rabbis used to do. It has answers. Curious children are learning to consult with Alexa and Siri in kindergarten.And our New Gods have found a way to extract tribute from each and every one of these activities.We’re carrying their altars in our pockets.
“American Gods,” Josh Brown

There’s a quandary in there about why the market is up despite all the craziness in DC. The two reasons seem to be: (a.) in this craziness, customers of major companies are escaping into the comfort of the golden arches, Marriott(?), and iPhones, so, (b.) the Pareto minority who actually does all the investing goes to where the customers are going. For the investing group, there’s also some brand-driven devotion to big companies.

Sure: smoke ’em if you got ’em!

Owning half of all advertising is a good business

The Attention Merchants can fill in the gaps of how companies like Google and Facebook are doing so well here: they’re essentially gobbled up the advertising market, this life-blood of most all business, i.e.:

Information cannot be acted upon without attention and thus attention capture and information are essential to a functioning market economy, or indeed any competitive process, like an election (unknown candidates do not win). So as a technology for gaining access to the human mind, advertising can therefore serve a vital function, making markets, elections, and everything that depends on informed choice operate better, by telling us what we need to know about our choices, ideally in an objective fashion.

You could hang a figure on the value of that over 1, 5, 20, 50 years…but, let’s just say it’s a fuck-load lot of money and, thus, valuation in a company. Controlling what people, businesses, and governments spend their attention and money on? Priceless.

Good companies often have good products

Next, you can get the sense with this kind of talk that what’s being valued in companies is “nothing,” just a feeling, a sense. In reality, for example, with companies like Apple and, now, Amazon, long-term strategies (often risky) that result in cash-spewing machines is what’s being valued. The iPhone and it’s software makes a ton of money; AWS throws off cash.

Google has an 88 per cent market share in search advertising. Facebook (including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp) controls more than 70 per cent of social media on mobile devices. “Silicon Valley has too much power,” Rana Foroohar

In the pure “dot.com” category, it’s easy to get beguiled and think that “likes” and baby pictures in Facebook, or putting dog-faces on teens, is the thing being valued. Of course they’re not, people’s attention and the ability to keep those people paying attention (“a culture of innovation”) is what’s valued. Advertising is what’s being valued, not whatever “social” is.

Trading on perception…which is built by good products

Now, I don’t actually know how investing works – I’m one of those hoards of Vanguard-drones – but it’s clear that all the interesting stuff is based on predictions about how other buyers will price/value a share. You can sit around and collect dividends (or wait for a company to be bought by another) as your “payout” in equity investing, but that seems to be the boring game (unless you’re an “activist” investor who hype-engineers those two). So, of course, paying attention to people’s perception of a company’s value is what the investing insiders get all worked up about.

But, again, if you look at “the new gods,” most of the companies have actual, valuable businesses. I can speak to the tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, and (a bit) Salesforce. They have good things to sell and good strategies backing them.

Netflix, for example

Netflix, which is on the list of “new gods,” is another example. First, it was a better mouse-trap to browse for DVDs online, queue up ones to get, and have them mailed to you rather than going to the rental store. Then, as streaming became technically possible (queue those endless Mary Meeker decks), simply doing that was better than living at the whim of cable companies that seemed like they were over-serving and over-charging. (And meanwhile, TiVo just sort of shit-the-bed on their go at this market-window – maybe the cable companies gleefully starved TiVo with their own DVRs and lack of partnerships).

And, once all of Netflix’s customers had watched that 5% of the streaming catalog that was actually good (I kid! I kid! It’s probably more like 15%, right?), Netflix had to make it’s own original content (and put in exclusive licensing deals). In each round, they had a good product and re-arranged their strategy accordingly (and sometimes it didn’t go well).

(If I knew this industry better, I’d know if my hunch that HBO is the Microsoft here [“fast follower” who was sort of there the whole time with a good product and even evolving, just not getting the glory] was helpful or not.)

“Old Gods” fall


HP(E) and IBM are negative examples here, and Microsoft provides a more positive example. For a long, long time, both HP and IBM were perceived as being rock-solid – their products and services were trusted, worked well, and, thus, were purchased a lot. (I’ll spare you the old IBM adage.)

They had good businesses. But over the past 10 (or even 15) years, each fell behind the times, seemingly willingly: they didn’t evolve their business model, product portfolios, and corporate strategies fast enough. They didn’t change quickly enough, and the worse mistake was that they didn’t realize they needed to change faster and, then, that management didn’t make it happen. HP had got hit up with The Curse of Most M&A Doesn’t Work, But Some of it Really Doesn’t work. In each case, the financials of the company suffered, and so did everyone’s perception of the company.

The point with HP and IBM is: in large, older tech companies you need not only a good product, but you need to a good everything.

Microsoft’s rebirth

Microsoft shows that you can turn that around, and adds more confusion to how investors actually value companies. From what I know, Microsoft has always been a financially good company, but it languished starting in the Internet era, which it barely battled through (to much financial glory after the late 90s).


But as it continued to biff on mobile, SaaS, shoring up desktop sales (I might be wrong on this point), and even cloud (where it’s now considered one of the “top three”), the perception was that Microsoft had lost it, strategically. An early warning sign was screwing up the Danger acquisition, which was a prelude to whatever Nokia was. And, I always found Bing to be overly quixotic: why try? But, really, I suppose you’d want to try to go after that pool of “priceless” advertising money above that Google and Facebook now steel-fist, and analysts would have discounted Microsoft’s share price even more if they didn’t try for a slice of that TAM-pie.

Despite all that, Microsoft seems to have turned it around. Their perception is pretty good now, and they’re out of that share-price plateau of the 2000’s. And, again, what did they do? They made good products, they built a good business, they changed almost everything.

Luck is handy too

You can throw more negative and positive examples on the pile: Yahoo!, how SUSE blossomed after it go out from Novell’s thumb, how AOL lost its way (though, maybe that’s getting better?), SAP & Oracle (deciding which and how each is good or bad is left as an exercise to the reader), etc.

In each case, companies just have to do the simple thing of trying to build a good business, make good products and services, and, well, catch a substantial stream of lucky breaks.

Since I don’t know burgers, payments, and hotels, I can only assume that in Josh’s list of new gods, McDonald’s, Visa, and Marriott are following a similar, annoyingly common sense approach.

Gods become “old god” because they suck versus the new gods

To hop on the American Gods metaphor train, sure, some of the old gods fell into disfavor out of whim (Johnny Appleseed don’t seem half-bad, and Easter seems pretty nice!), but most of them were dumped because they were shitty: blood sacrifice, mind-control, and otherwise treating humans like shit sure seem like a raw deal compared to TV, free-market-money, Jesus, and Paul Bunyan. The old gods stopped trying to innovate, as it were, and got all stuck on hammering in people’s heads, child sacrifice, and hanging humans.

That shit don’t sell now-a-days. So, you know, like the doctor says: don’t do that.

Meanwhile, back to the point

So, still, why’s the money-hole going so well?

You’re wondering how it could be possible that the S&P 500, the Nasdaq 100 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average could be climbing to record highs day after day, given, well, everything.
How is it that stocks can break through to new heights while the country at large seemingly sinks to new depths?

Who really knows why “the market” is “up” when it should be “troubled,”. In general, the way companies are valued and the way businesses run doesn’t seem effected much by cultural strife, change, and, chaos (in the short to medium term, at least). So, if the ruling hill-billy class wants to make a big to-do out of bathrooms, what does “god money” care? If anything, money likes contained chaos, constant change that makes cash turn over and change hands.

Also, of course, Republicans are in power, which makes money-focused people hopeful for tax reductions, repatriation, regulation reduction, and things that are otherwise the opposite of “Democrats wanting to use money to help poor people.” Most investor class people seem to stop reading that sentence after the word “money.”

Finally, you can’t exactly trust anything that Trump and friends say – sure, that 35% border tax would tank huge sectors of the economy, but come on, he’s caved on so many other things…well, actual important, money-related things (though, hey, how am I going to do my pivot tables if I can’t use my laptop on the way back from Zurich?)

There’s an argument to be made that if people can’t maintain steadily, growing salaries, there won’t be enough consumer money sloshing around to spend on things …but if ‘400 wealthiest Americans had “more wealth than half of all Americans combined,”‘ what do they need that other half for but to packaged up their prepared meals and old-man groaning mattresses to be drone delivered?

More, how much influence does the social chaos of state and local government really effect “the market,” and Congress doesn’t seem to actually do anything (nor want to), and we’ve got a little under two years until the next gut-wrenching election night – what if we elect more crazies, but this time they can actually get shit done?!

Don’t worry, though! There’s plenty of time to order five gallon tubs of guacamole and wrastle with (and for) carnies into the office!

Which is to say: in politics, so far, there hasn’t been much more than talk about money. It’s all been able people and culture. Investors don’t invest in people and culture (maybe they use their own cash to buy expensive art, sure), so why should the market be down?

Coté Show: Getting over resistance to change

Matt Curry is back! In this episode recorded at OSCON 2017, we discuss the problems with getting people to change, from staff to management, private sector and government.

See the full show notes for the podcast subscription link and more doo-dads!

Software Defined Talk: The Donnie Berkholz Episode, “Freedom in health-care: a regular ‘heck of a job, Comey’ situation,” DevOps & security, & Canonical’s IPO ambitions

094 cover art smaller

In a too rare spate of social commentary, we start talking about the price of hipster avocados in Australia and US health insurance. With one of our favorite analysts moving over the enterprise side, we talk about what it’d be like going through that door. We then wrap up talking about Canonical’s IPO talk, related OpenStack market discussion, and then use CyberArk’s acquisition of Conjur to discuss the state of privileges access management (PAM). We end, as always, with recommendations, including some CostCo discussion.

Check out the full show notes for more.

Be all civilized and modern by subscribing to the feed, or just download the MP3 directly if you prefer utter, complete control over your ear-holes.

Big pay-offs in innovation take time and have confounding finances

A nice way of explaining Amazon’s success in charts, e.g., as compare to Wal-Mart:


Just thinking aloud without any analysis, it seems liken Amazon is an example of how difficult, long, and confounding  doing continual innovation as your business is. Many companies claim to be innovation-driven, but most can just eek out those “incremental innovations” and basic Porterian strategy: they improve costs, enter adjacent marketers, and grow their share of existing TAMs, all the while fending off competitors.

Amazon, on the other hand, has had decades of trying new business models mostly in existing businesses (retail), but also plenty of new business models (most notably public cloud, smart phones and tablets, streaming video and music, and whatever voice + machine learning is).

All that said, to avoid the Halo Effect, it’s important to admit that many companies tried and died here…not to mention many of the retailers who Amazon is troubcibg – Wal-Mart has had several goes at “digital” and is in the midst of another transformation-by-acquisitions. Amazon, no doubt, has had many lucky-breaks.

This isn’t to dismisss any lessons learned from Amazon. There’s one main conclusion, thought: any large organization that hopes to live a long time needs to first continually figure out if they’re in a innovation/disrupting market and, if they are, buckle up and get ready for a few decades of running in an innovation mode instead of a steady-state/profit reaping mode. 

Another lesson is that the finances of innovation make little sense and will always be weird: you have to just hustle away those nattering whatnots who want to apply steady-state financial analysis to your efforts. 

You can throw out the cashflow-model chaff, but really, you just have to get the financial analysis to put down their pivot tables and have faith that you’ll figure it out. You’re going to be loosing lots of money and likely fail. You’ll be doing those anti-Buffet moves that confound normals.
In this second mode you’re guided by an innovation mindset: you have to be parnoid, you have to learn everyday what your customers and competitors are doing, and do new things that bring in new cash. You have to try.