Tag Archives: Azure

VMware Cloud on Azure? Really?

I work for a global channel partner of Microsoft, VMware & AWS  and one of the teammates recently asked me the question whether VMware Cloud on Azure (similar solution to VMware Cloud on AWS) would be a reality? It turned out that this was on the back of a statement from VMware CEO Pat where he supposedly mentioned “We have interest from our customers to expand our relationships with Google, Microsoft and others” & “We have announced some incremental expansions of those agreements“, which seems to have been represented in a CNBC article as that VMware cloud is coming to  Azure (Insinuating the reality of vSphere on Azure bare metal servers).

I’d sent my response back to the teammate outlining what I think of it and the reasoning for my thought process but I thought it would be good to get the thoughts of the wider community also as its a very relevant question for many, especially if you work in the channel, work for the said vendors or if you are a customer currently using the said technologies or planning on to moving to VMware Cloud on AWS.

Some context first,

I’ve been following the whole VMWare Cloud on Azure discussion since it first broke out last year and ever since VMware Cloud on AWS (VMWonAWS) was announced, there were some noise from Microsoft, specifically Corey Sanders (Corporate vice president of Azure) about their own plans to build a VMWonAWS like solution inside Azure data centers. Initially it looked like it was just a publicity stunt from MSFT to steal the thunder from AWS during the announcement of VMConAWS but later on, details emerged that, unlike VMWonAWS, this was not a jointly engineered solution between VMware & Microsoft, but a standalone vSphere solution running on FlexPod (NetApp storage and Cisco UCS servers) managed by a VMware vCAN partner who happened to host their solution in the same Azure DC, with L3 connectivity to Azure Resource Manager. Unlike VMWonAWS, there were no back door connectivity to the core Azure services, but only public API integration via internet. It was also not supposed to run vSphere on native Azure bare metal servers unlike how it is when it comes to VMWonAWS.

All the details around these were available on 2 main blog posts, one from Corey @ MSFT (here) and another from Ajay Patel (SVP, cloud products at VMware) here but the contents on these 2 articles have since been changed to either something completely different or the original details were completely removed. Before Corey’s post was modified number of times, he mentioned that they started working initially with the vCAN partner but later on, engaged VMware directly for discussions around potential tighter integration and at the same time, Ajay’s post (prior to being removed) also corroborated with the same. But none of that info is there anymore and while the 2 companies are likely talking behind the scene for some collaboration no doubt, I am not sure whether its safe for anyone to assume they are working on a VMWonAWS like solution when it comes to Azure.  VMWonAWS is a genuinely integrated solution due to months and months of joint engineering and while VMware may have incentives to do something similar with Azure, it’s difficult to see the commercial or the PR benefit of such a joint solution to Microsoft as that would ruin their exiting messaging around AzureStack which is supposed to be their only & preferred Hybrid Cloud solution.

My thoughts!

In my view, what Pat Gelsinger was saying above when he says (“we have interest from our customers to expand our relationship with Microsoft and others”) likely means something totally different to building a VMware Cloud on Azure in a way that runs vSphere stack on native Azure hardware. VMware’s vision has always been Any Cloud, Any App, Any device which they announced at VMWorld 2016 (read the summary http://chansblog.com/vmworld-2016-us-key-annoucements-day-1/) and the aspiration (based in my understanding at least) was to be the glue between all cloud platforms and on-premises which is a great one. So when it comes to Azure, the only known plans (which are probably what Pat was alluding to below) were the 2 things as per below,

  • To use NSX to bridge on-premises (& other cloud platforms) to Azure by extending network adjacency right in to the Azure edge, in a similar way to how you can stretch networks to VMWonAWS. NSX-T version 2.2.0 which GA’d on Wednesday the 6th of June can now support creating VMware virtual networks in Azure and being able to manage those networks within your NSX data center inventory. All the details can be found here. What Pat was probably doing was setting the scene for this announcement but it was not news, as that was on the roadmap for a long time since VMworld 2016. This probably should not be taken as VMware on Azure bare metal is a reality, at least at this stage.
  • In addition to that, the VMware Cloud Services (VCS – A SaaS platform announced in VMworld 2017 – more details here) will have more integration with native AWS, native Azure and GCP which is also what Pat is hinting here when he says more integration with Azure, but that too was always on the roadmap.

At least that’s my take on VMware’s plans and their future strategy. Things can change in a flash as the IT market is full of changes these days with so many competitors as well as co-petitors. But I just cant see, at least in the immediate future, there being a genuine VMware Cloud on Azure solution that runs vSphere on bare metal Azure hardware, that is similar to VMWonAWS, despite what that article from CNBC seems to insinuate.

What do you all think? Any insiders with additional knowledge or anyone with a different theory? Keen to get people’s thoughts!

Chan

Apple WWDC 2017 – Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality & Mixed Reality

Introduction

As a technologist, I like to stay close to key new developments & trends in the world of digital technology to understand how these can help users address common day to day problems more efficiently. Digital disruption and technologies behind that such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoTVirtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) & Mixed Reality (MR) are hot topics as they have the potential to significantly reshape how consumers will consume products and services going forward. I am a keen follower on these disruptive technologies because the potential impact they can have on traditional businesses in an increasingly digital, connected world is huge in my view.

Something I’ve heard today coming out of Apple, the largest tech vendor on the planet about how they intend on using various AI technologies along with VR and AR technologies in their next product upgrades across the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, App store, Mac…etc made me want to summarise those announcements and add my thoughts on how Apple will potentially lead the way to mass adoption of such digital technologies by many organisations of tomorrow.

Apple’s WWDC 2017 announcements

I’ve been an Apple fan since the first iPhone launch as they have been the prime example when it comes to tech vendors who utilizes cutting edge IT technologies to provide an elegant solution to address day to day requirements in a simple and effective manner that providers a rich user experience. I practically live on my iPhone every day for work and non-work related activities and also appreciate their other ecosystem products such as the MacBook, Apple watch, Apple TV and the iPad. This is typically not because they are technologically so advanced, but simply because they provide a simple, seamless user experience when it comes to using them to increase my productivity during day to day activities.

So naturally I was keen on finding out about the latest announcements that came out of Apple’s latest World Wide Developer Conference event that was held earlier today in San Jose. Having listened to the event and the announcements, I was excited by the new product and software upgrades announced but more than that, I was super excited about couple of related technology integrations Apple are coming out with which include a mix of AI, VR & AR to provide an even better user experience by integrating these technology advancements in to their product offerings.

Now before I go any further, I want to highlight this is NOT a summary of their new product announcements. What interested me out of these announcements were not so much the new apple products, but mainly how Apple, as a pioneer in using cutting edge technologies to create positive user experiences like no other technology vendor on the planet, are going to be using these potentially revolutionary digital technologies to provide a hugely positive user experience. This is relevant to every single business out there that manufacture a product, provides a service or solution offering to their customers as anyone can potentially look to incorporate the same capabilities in a similar or even a more creative and an innovative manner than Apple to provide a positive user experience in a similar fashion.

Use of Artificial Intelligence

Today Apple announced the increased use of various AI technologies everywhere within the future apple products as summarised below

  • Increased use of Artificial Intelligence technologies by the personal assistant “Siri”, to provide a more positive & a more personalised user experience
    • In the upcoming version of the Watch OS 4 for Apple Watch, AI technologies such as Machine Learning is going to be used to power the new Siri face such that Siri can now provide you with dynamic updates that are specifically relevant to you and what you do (context awareness)
    • The new iOS 11 will include a new voice for Siri, which now uses Deep Learning Technologies (AI) behind the scene to offer a more natural and expressive voice that sounds less machine and more human.
    • Siri will also use Machine Learning on each device (“On device learning”) to understand specifically what’s more relevant to you based on what you do on your device so that more personalised interactions can be made by Siri – In other words, Siri is becoming more context aware thanks to Machine Learning to provide a truly personal assistant service unique to each user including predictive tips based on what you are likely to want to do / use next.
    • Siri will use Machine Learning to automatically memorise new words from the content you read (i.e. News) so these words are now included on the dictionary & predictive texts automatically if you want to type them

 

  • Use of Machine Learning in iOS 11 within the photo app to enable various new capabilities to make life easier with your photos
    • Next version of Apple Mac OS, code named High Sierra, will supports additional features on the photo app including advanced face recognition capabilities which utilises AI technologies such as Advanced convolution Neural networks in order to let you group / filter your photos actually based on who’s on them
    • Machine learning capabilities will also be used to automatically understand the context of each photo based on the content of the photo to identify photos from events such as sporting events, weddings…etc and automatically group them / create events / memories
    • Using computer vision capabilities to create seamless loops on live photos
    • Use of Machine Learning to activate palm rejection on the iPad during writing using the apple Pen
    • Most Machine Learning capabilities are now available for 3rd party programmers via the iOS API’s such as Vision API (enables iOS app developers harness machine learning for face tracking, face detection, landmarks, text detection, rectangle detection, barcode detection, object tracking, image registration), Natural Language API (provides language identification, tokenization, lemmatisation, part of speech, named entity recognition)
    • Introduction of Machine Learning Model Converter, 3rd party ML contents can be converted to native iOS 11 Core ML functions.

 

  • Use of Machine Learning to improve graphics on iOS 11
    • Another Mac OS high sierra updates will include Metal 2 (the Apple API that provides app developers near direct access to the GPU capabilities) that will now integrate Machine Learning to graphic processing to provide advanced graphical capabilities such as Metal performance shaders, Recurrent neural network kernels, binary convolution, dilated convolution, L-2 norm pooling, Dilated pooling etc. (https://developer.apple.com/metal/)
    • Newly announced Mac Pro graphics powered by AMD Radeon Vega can provide up to 22 teraflops of half precision compute power which is specifically relevant for machine learning related content development

 

Use of Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

  • Announcement on the introduction of Metal API for Virtual Reality to be used by developers – That includes Virtual Reality integration to Mac OS High Sierra Metal2 API to enable features such as VR-optimised display pipeline for video editing using VR and other related updates such as viewport arrays, system trace stereo timelines, GPU queue priorities, Frame debugger stereoscopic visualisation.
  • Availability of the ARKit for iOS 11 to create Augmented Reality straight out of iPhone using its camera and built in Machine Learning to identify contents on the live video, real time.

 

Use of IoT capabilities

  • Apple Watch integration for bi directional information synchronisation between Apple Watch and ordinary gym equipment so that your apple watch will now act as an IoT gateway to your typical gym equipment’s like the Treadmill or the cross trainer to provide more accurate measurements from the apple watch and the gym equipment will adjust the workouts based on those readings.
  • Apple watch OS 4 will also provide core Bluetooth connectivity to other devices such as various healthcare tools that open the connectivity of those devices through the Apple Watch

 

My thoughts

The use cases for digital technologies, such as AI, AR & VR in a typical corporate or an enterprise environment to create a better product / service / solution offering like Apple has used them, is immense and is often only limited by one’s level of creativity & imaginations. Many organisations around the world, from other tech or product vendors to Independent Software Vendors to an ordinary organisation like a high street shop or a supermarket can all benefit from the creative application of new digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Internet Of Things in to their product / service / solution offerings to provide their customers with richer user experience as well as exciting new solutions. Topics like AI and AR are hot topics in the industry and some organisations are already evaluating the use of them while some already benefit from some of these technologies made easily accessible to the enterprise through platforms such as public cloud (Microsoft Cortana Analytics and Azure Machine Learning capabilities available on Microsoft Azure for example) platforms. But there are also a large number of organisations who are not yet fully investigating how these technologies can potentially make their business more innovative, differentiated or at the very least, more efficient.

If you belong to the latter group, I would highly encourage you to start thinking about how these technologies can be adopted by your business creatively. This applies to any organisation of any size in the increasingly digitally connected world of today. If you have a trusted partner for IT, I’d encourage you to talk to them about the same as the chances are that they will have more collective experience in helping similar businesses adopt such technologies which is more beneficial than trying to get their on your own, especially if you are new to it all.

Digital disruption is here to stay and Apple have just shown how advanced technologies that come out of digital disruption can be used to create better products / solutions for average customers. Pretty soon, AI / AR / IoT backed capabilities will become the norm rather than the exception and how would your business compete if you are not adequately prepared to embrace them?

Keen to get your thoughts?

 

You can watch the recorded version of the Apple WWDC 2017 event here.

Image credit goes to #Apple

 

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