Blog, featured, General

Podcast – What’s Old Is New Again

15 Nov , 2013  




I’m happy to let everyone know that Alan Shimel and I are podcasting together again!

We’ll have a podcast up very soon. Stay tuned.

Cloud, featured, General, IT, Network

Network Virtualization: Next Battlefront for Your Data Center

3 Sep , 2013  

Everyone’s very familiar with server virtualization technology (VMware, Hyper-V, Xen, KVM); creating virtual server instances instead of matching server hardware up with a single operating system. Most medium and many small sized business have carved out a server virtualization strategy and are well down the path of virtualizing the computer room or data center. Virtualizing servers is an established best practice.

What you may not realize is the heated battle between vendors to virtualize the network is in full gear (network virtualization or Software Defined Networks). Combatants include well established companies such as Cisco, VMware and IBM, open source initiatives like OpenStack, university research programs, and industry organizations and standards including OpenFlow (ONF), NfV (ETSI), and OpenDaylight (Linux Foundation).

Consider network virtualization an open battlefield where new entrants and established players see an opportunity to unseat traditional network vendors, most notably Cisco. During August 2013’s VMworld Expo, VMware pre-announced their NSX network hypervisor. HP and Juniper co-announced plans to integrate VMware NSX with their respective SDN controllers and Layer 2 gateways.

Keeping up on all that’s happening in network virtualization can be challenging for network engineers and IT managers in small-to-medium sized businesses. What’s occurring is more than just an incremental move to virtualize elements within of the network. SDN and virtualization are fundamentally redefining how we design and think about data networks, emphasizing software functionality over traditional network hardware, dynamic network creation/reconfiguration through OpenFlow and network controllers, collapsing network functions into multi-purpose network devices, and performing network administration tasks through APIs and scripting languages such as Python and Django framework. These represent substantial, if not fundamental, changes in how we design and manage networks today, and the network engineering skills necessary.

What should IT and network engineering organizations do to prepare for network virtualization?

  1. Build new network engineering skills through exposure to existing server and storage virtualization technologies, and script development with Python, Django and web services (popular scripting languages used in SDN open source initiatives).
  2. Leverage existing virtual network technologies such as software-based network elements (firewalls, load balancers, etc.) including those provided through Amazon Web Services, network vendor offerings such as the Cisco Nexus platform, open source and 3rd party software options (Kemp’s load balancer for example).
  3. Review and educate you and your team on the virtualization strategies of your current or desired key vendors. Keep in mind their strategies can range from supporting industry collaboration and open source, to more defensive and proprietary approaches.
  4. Outline for vendors your interests and plans for network virtualization.
  5. Require vendors begin to virtualize traditional hardware-only network products and appliances. You can bet your enterprise IT counterparts are doing the same.

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IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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featured, General, IT, Mobility, Uncategorized

The CIO Role – From Tech Manager to IT Services Broker

27 Mar , 2013  

Recently I was asked to define the role of a CIO in medium-sized businesses so I thought I would share my thoughts and research on the topic. There are many definitions of the CIO’s role. Traditionally the CIO role is defined as managing technology for the business and managing how information is utilized. Views vary whether the role is best served by a business person or a technologist.

In fact, the role of CIO has changed significantly  in medium-sized businesses over the past several years. Once viewed as order takers and leaders of the “techie group”, CIOs now work with the CEO and senior executives to understand current and future business goals, develop technical strategies that enable and facilitate those goals, bring technology enabling opportunities to the business, and create alignment within the IT organization and across its actions.

Effective CIOs see the big picture, understand and anticipate where the business is going, anticipate what challenges may be faced and what opportunities might arise that can be leveraged to benefit a medium-sized business.  CIOs take the initiative to distil changes in the technology marketplace, translate those changes into business value, surface technology-based opportunities, innovate and experiment, and lead cross-organization initiatives to achieve the strategic and tactical business goals.

As an example, the CIO must anticipate the impact of changes from a workforce that is more mobile, works from many locations, uses multiple devices (corporate and personally owned), and has “consumer expectations” of IT technology.

The CIO’s new role is to serve as a broker or conduit to business and technology solutions, assist in re-engineering business processes, educate the organization about potentially valuable technologies, and negotiation with and manage vendors. Most importantly, the CIO facilitates the organization’s access to online services, business applications, hardware and software tools, and technology-based services.

CIOs constantly ask themselves and the organization questions such as:

  • What are the impacts of business decisions on how we work, who we hire, and what business processes must change?
  • Are we capitalizing on technology for shareholder/member value and business profitability?
  • How do we foster a high-performance, creative and collaborative culture?
  • How can we better empower the organization with technology to make it more productive, efficient and lean?
  • What new innovations can IT bring to the business?
  • What technical skills are needed, and how do we develop internal staff and leverage external talent?
  • How do we identify and leverage the company’s knowledge resources?
  • What information exists or is needed by the organization, and how can we transform that information into company-wide solutions?
  • What new or changes in technologies have implications to the business?
  • What can IT do to be more efficient and effective in our use of technology?

Sources for this post: In addition to my own views on the topic, there were also several useful resources if found as part of my research. Some views matched up very well, while others held a differing opinion. Feel free to check out these resources.

Short URL to this post:

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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featured, General

Police Bullets Converge On Bank Robbers and Getway Car

19 Nov , 2009  

Scene 3 I was driving back from a meeting downtown today and needed to stop by my house to pick up the zip pouch with my bank stuff in it. I needed to make a deposit at the 1st Bank I use down the street.

Driving west on 120th on the border dividing Westminster and Broomfield (Colorado), I came up on two police cars blocking the street in both directions right where I turn into my subdivision. 

It was odd because I had seen the exact same thing a week ago, only it was nighttime, when 120th was blocked off at Huron (about 4 blocks the other direction) because some 26 year old idiot decided to commit road rage and shoot and kill another motorist. Though I made the connection that both sights looked eerily similar, I saw a silver car and a black car that looked like they had been in an accident together. So I figured that's what it was.

I got to my house on the northwest side of our subdivision, grabbed my bank pouch, and drove the long way around our subdivision to 1st Bank which is just three lights from my house. It was strange when I pulled into the bank parking lot because the first two rows of customer parking spots in front of the bank were completely empty. The first cars I could see were where the bank employees park. "Good," I thought, "I'll get in and out with no wait."

When I went in the only people that were in the bank were employees. No customers in sight. I think even the window blinds hand been closed, but I'm not sure about that. All the bank employees were calm, very friendly, and seemed extra nice. I filled out my deposit slip, visited the teller, grabbed two complimentary dog cookies for my dogs and headed out the door.

Scene close up 2 After taking the same detour and arriving home, my wife said the TV news said something about a bank robbery. They'd shown a picture of a 1st Bank that "looked a lot like ours." A few moments later I see a crawl across the bottom of the TV screen describing a bank robbery, a chase and two bank robbers were killed at the intersection 300 yards from my house.

The phone rang. It was my next door neighbor. I was stunned as she described how she was working in her home office, heard a car crash, and stood up to look out the window to see what happened. What she described was amazing.

"I stood there, saw the cops jump out of 5 or 6 cop cars and pump what must have been 50 rounds into the car. They just started shooting, no 'come out with your hands up.' It sounded like fireworks going off. I saw a neighbor kid hit the ground when he heard the shots." Then she asked, "Would you like to walk down and see it?"

You kidding? Heck yah.

Tv ant My neighbor, my wife and I walked down to the scene. 30 yellow evidence markers we splayed out along the road just next to the car. The car looked like the vehicle in the Godfather movie that was riddled with bullets when it stopped at a toll booth. There were bullet holes all over the side of the car, and the back window was shot out. 5 TV trucks had the cherry picker antennas extended to broadcast next to the nearby restaurant. And there were more cops standing around than the inside of a Crispy Creme donut shop.

I took some pictures with my iPhone, checked out the scene for 20 minutes or so, talked to other neighbors there to see the scene for themselves, and then headed back home.

I checked the TV and Internet to see what details they had. Turns out three hours earlier a man and a women robbed the 1st Bank where I bank (the one I'd just visited) and drove off in a silver Subaru Impreza. I'm guessing they drove south on Sheridan and then east on 104th to the Federal intersection.

The bank robbers had stopped at a Safeway discount gas station at 104th and Federal to get some gas. (Ah… note to self… remember to fill up with gas before pulling a heist if I ever decided to rob a bank.) These 2 moron's had stopped to fill up with gas AFTER robbing the bank. That's where the police spotted them.

An unmarked police car spotted the silver car matching the description and started to pursue the robbers leaving the gas station. The woman fired at the police car through the Impreza's back window. Bystanders said the police car was hit.

Scene close up 2 The cops chased the robbers north on Federal where the Subaru turned east on 120th… directly towards my house (we live on the north west most corner of our subdivision on 120th.) The lead cop attempted a pit maneuver on the now gassed up getaway car but ended up ramming it, causing the car to spin and stop facing the opposite direction from traffic, pointing right at the now multiple cop cars chasing them. That's the wreck my neighbor had heard when she stood to look and see what was going on.

The news verified much of her account. A woman jumped out of the car and started firing at the now stopped police cars. The cops literally opened fire spewing a gauntlet of bullets at the woman standing there and the man still remaining in the car. The cops pumped a barrage of 30 lead rounds into the two robbers and their car.

Patrons eating outside the Bakers Street Brew Pub 100 yards behind the robbers wrecked car hit the deck when they heard the shots. One person's account said the shots went on continuously for about 10 seconds.

 The male bank robber died sitting in the getaway car, still wearing his seatbelt. (I guess seatbelts  don't save lives after all.) The female robber was taken away in an ambulance and pronounced dead when they arrived at the hospital. A police officer had non-life threatening injuries (from the auto accident maybe?) and was taken to the same hospital.

After visiting the scene I came back to the house, turned on the news, checked the Internet and started writing this blog post. That's what we know at this point and time.

Next time I'm checking the newsbefore I head out to the bank.

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Blog, featured, General, Social

How to get started at blogging

19 Nov , 2009  

Write a one sentence blog post per week.

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featured, General

Podcast Naming Contest

11 Nov , 2009  

Alan Shimel and I are back doing our podcast again. We recorded an episode last night and should be up in the next day or so.

We've started a podcast naming contest and we'd love your suggestions. The winner submitting the name we select will get a t-shirt with our new logo on it (including the name) and an appearance on our podcast.

Email me (mitchell at mitchellashley dot com) your suggestions or leave a comment on this blog post.

I'll let you know when the "Alan and Mitchell" podcast is up.

In the meantime, check out my Network World podcast about Microsoft Office Web Apps which has a lot of rich information about how Microsoft will delver their free and enterprise versions of Office in a web browser.

featured, General

The Year The Media Died

14 Jul , 2009  

Now, I'm not actually a subscriber to the theory that traditional media is dead to be replaced completely by digital and social media. Newspapers may be drying up while social media is ramping up but things are never as black and white as they may seem they'll be. But, I ran across this Mad Avenue Blues video on GuruOfNew and thought it worth sharing with you.

Enjoy the video.

featured, General, Social

Social Media Is Building Schools In Africa $10 At A Time – Please Donate

17 Jun , 2009  

Earlier this year, a client I advise about social media and web technology approached me asking for help with a fund raising effort on Twitter. The idea was to raise enough money, $10,000, to set up a young Kenyan boy and his brother with a store they could operate and make a living. 

This situation was special because the boy had lost his arms after both his parents died from AIDS. He was so distraught, the village elders were worried he might take his own life, so they tied him up, cutting off the circulation resulting in him losing both arms. It was a tragic story but one with a happy ending. The campaign raised over $10,000 to build the boy and his brother their store. Donations were raised over a 48 hour period, using Twitter and a web page, asking for $10 donations. A similar effect was sucessful at Thanksgiving last year, but frankly, the results amazed me.

Jeff Power, US Mobilization Director with Global Hope Network International, a non-profit and non-religious organization, is undertaking his next Twitter-based fund raising campaign to build two schools, one in Kenya and the other in Ethiopia. Same approach: Twitter, requests for $10 donations, and a web site,

Social media is getting a lot attention, especially Twitter and Facebook. CNN, Dell, Microsoft, and countless other businesses use Twitter to reach their customers. Individual users Twitter to connect with colleagues, family and friends. But there's more to Twitter than just a short message, micro-blogging platform. 

Twitter can mobilize people, it can call them to action, and it can do good in the world, reaching even the poorest villages in Africa. Whether you're a social media wonk or a sckeptic, social media is having an impact on our society. I'd prefer it be a positive one, and the Build An African School shows us just how much of a positive impact social media can have.

Now… here's your chance to make a difference in the lives of a bunch of kids in Kenya and Ethiopia who can move from holding school under a tree, to school building and a classroom. Over the next two days (Wednesday and Thursday):

featured, General, Social

Video Interview About $200m Russian Facebook Investment

27 May , 2009  

Michael Arrington at TechCruch (a great site, btw) posted an interview on YouTube that he did with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner of Digital Sky Technologies, the investor who just plunked down a $200m investment in Facebook at a $10B valuation.

The interview focuses on the question of why Zuckerberg took the investment, how this investment was a bargain comparted to the Microsoft (and other) investment made at a $15B valuation in 2007, and opens the question of whether Facebook will be doing much more with acquistions this year.

You’ll find this interesting if you like to follow the investment and financial side of social media companies.

featured, General

Is Your Avatar Doing You Justice?

27 May , 2009  

In a blog post It’s All About The Faces, Brad Feld talked about the impact on his readers after changing from his normal portrait style avatar to a more artistic version. Followers commented how he seem so much less accessible, resulting in Brad changing back to his orginal picture.

That blog post immediately reminded me of a somewhat releted experience I had that same day. While creating a new group on Facebook, I ran into some challenges when trying to invite some of my Facebook friends to the group. For some reason my web browser would only display my friends avatars, and not their names, so I could only identify them by the avatar they’d selected. Many friends were easy to recognize, I was shocked by how many I was unable to recognize only having an avatar to go by.

Why? The friends I couldn’t immediately identify all had something other than a picture of themselves for their avatar. Examples included bears in a field, pictures of their babies and kids, scenary from a vacation or favorite location, far off shots that basically showed the person in sillotte, or they were just difficult to make out in the picture.

Now, I’m not saying it’s bad to be creative with your Facebook, Twitter or other social networking avatar. But the avatar you chose may impact friends and followers and the connection they feel with you. Some of my friend’s avatars have the person’s face front and center. I really like those because I immediately feel I know who I’m talking to, and in some esoteric way it refreshes for me a small part of the relationship I have with them.

The Facebook experience caused me to think about my own choice of avatars. I rotate primarily between three pictures; the first two are more “professional” in nature with one being based on the same picture you see in the heading of this blog, and another taken from a video interview I did a while back with Network World. The third is a little more distant shot of me playing my project Strat guitar, which I use for my music and personal posts. Those first two are pretty clear pictures of me, and should make it easy to recognize me from my mug shot. The third is not as easy to make out, though playing music is a deep passion of mine and I do enjoy showing off my guitar. I suppose showing me in that way does present my connection with music, and that’s something most who have non-professional relationship with me know if an important part of who I am.

In any case, I think the important thing here is to recognize that your choice in the pictures you use to represent yourself via an avatar does influence both people’s ability to recognize you, and more importantly, to establish and re-establish their connection with you. Unless you’re twittering under an account used for your business, your choice in avatars is more than just your badge or logo, it’s you we’re talking about. After all, isn’t that what social networking is all about… enabling interpersonal relationships, and building communities with others based on interests, topics, events, work, pop culture and social causes?

So take 2 minites and go check out the avatars you’re using. If they don’t help others relate or connect with you, maybe it’s worth considering a new avatar or dusting off that avatar you set aside in favor of some new, more artistic but less personal version. Remember that ultimately, social networking is about you and the connections you build with others. Some cool new Facebook survey you completed may say you relate to the world as a bear, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world should see you that way or that you want them to.