Kevin Mort on Cloud Services and Virtualization

IBM Edge Conference

Paul Talks to Kevin Mort, business computing technology specialist and past president of COMMON US, about Power Systems, cloud, virtualization, COMMON and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


Paul: So hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. So, I'm joined today by an old friend and old colleague. We worked together quite a few years ago in COMMON as both subject matter experts and on the set with that. But he’s also one of my arch nemeses because he is a hardware guy and I'm a software guy. So hello Kevin Mort.

Kevin: Hello. Hello.

Paul: So Kevin. [Laughs]

Kevin: Yes, nemesis. Us hardware guys, we you know don't always like the software guys very much but you know without us you don't have something to run on; without you we don't have anything to run on our hardware so⎯

Paul: Yeah, I know.

Kevin: It's a mutual thing right? [Laughs]

Paul: Yeah. We're necessary evils to each other is what we are.

Kevin: Indeed, yeah.

Paul: But⎯OK so let me start Kevin by asking you, do you see yourself as being an IBM i guy? Are you a Power Systems guy or are you something else hardware guy?

Kevin: You know that's a really good question. I think it is a little bit of all the above. I'm sorry that's a cop out but you know I think it has developed over time. Earlier in my career I would say I was absolutely an IBM i guy or AS/400 or system i or whatever you want to call it at the time, but I look at Power Systems as an overall architecture and IBM i is one OS. It happens to be my heritage. It's what I have a lot of passion for and am involved in a community of people who express and share that passion but at the same time I like to see what is going on in say the storage arena that uses Power on spectrum scale for example. What I see happening in the cloud space with Power, you know Power is integrating into the cloud now as well, cloud services and all that. I like to see what Google is doing with taking the Power architecture and Power chip and through Open Power Foundation, I think it's an awesome organization to build on the Power architecture. It's kind of a rising tide thing, right? So from that perspective I like all of that but my business and what we do, you know we ventured very much into storage and into managed services and everything so I have to have a wider view now⎯

Paul: Yeah.

Kevin: ⎯Than I think I used to so it's changed quite a bit.

Paul: Yeah and I think it is. I mean it work⎯I mean, again, I don't know how many people are aware of this but for example when people talk about Watson, of course Watson runs on Power.

Kevin: Absolutely. Yup.

Paul: You know so yeah. It's interesting. There are a couple of things that you touched on there Kevin that just fascinate me. So one is cloud. You mentioned cloud in passing.

Kevin: Yes.

Paul: I'm of an age where I have a certain view on cloud and I sort of smile every time I hear the word.

Kevin: Uh-huh.

Paul: Sorry. Do you share that view or would you look at it from a different angle?

Kevin: Oh totally. Yeah, you know as the line goes there is no cloud. It is just somebody else's computer right?

Paul: Right. [Laughs]

Kevin: And you know cloud is⎯I kind of like the term hosted you know more than probably cloud but cloud fits very well into a couple of arenas. Just from a marketing perspective it works well with the average individual and yes it works well in the executive offices as well. As a marketing term, it works right?

Paul: Yeah.

Kevin: You know we are at a time where it is shared resources, the shared environments, what we can do with all of this is at a really amazing time and just the flexibility that we have. Now those of us that can remember back a little bit tend to say isn't it just time, you know, time-share on a mainframe you know all over it 30 years ago.

Paul: Yeah, right. Yeah.

Kevin: In respect it is and that is kind of why we laugh a little bit because it is the same-same old thing but I don't love the term but I use it because the people I talk to are using it so I kind of have too.

Paul: Yeah.

Kevin: You know but it definitely is an interesting age with respect to that. There is a lot of decentralization going on, a lot of cloud services happening but there is also a lot of customers who are keeping these things in house and I think there is a lot to worry about in terms of security and you know geographic placement and all this. I mean we're talking with customers around the US and certainly in Latin America and the Caribbean and actually overseas as well that cloud technology is certainly something they are looking for to move expenses from-you know those capital expenses where I have to go out and buy a system to an operating expense where they can do something every month. That's a very compelling argument.

Paul: Yeah. It's, I suppose, I mean again depending on your site of bus-I mean I must admit that if I found out that my bank was doing everything just using a generic cloud service out there, I would be highly concerned about where my data was you know but I mean-

Kevin: Yeah.

Paul: Sure for a lot of⎯I mean if it is some manufacturing company I really don't care where they keep their data. It's⎯yeah.

Kevin: Yeah well to them a lot of it is flexibility of doing business and where we start to see the entrance to it now, outsourcing say and not outsourcing in the sense of getting rid of people but outsourcing in terms of the day to day type of stuff that it takes a lot of man hours to manage-

Paul: Yeah.

Kevin: That they are wasting time doing. Patch management for example. We do a patch management service and you know we use some IBM products for that called Big Fix and that is great on the x86 side. It actually even does AIX too and Linux that you know we can automate that process. That's a time savings for them, right? And that's a cloud service or could be a cloud service.

Paul: Yeah.

Kevin: HA and DR backups and all that is another huge area that we see and IBM is starting to move that cloud as a tier of storage even, cloud object storage and all that kind of stuff so there's a lot of really cool technology in that space but at the same time you always have that sort of grain of salt back there that you are wondering-

Paul: Yeah.

Kevin: You know applicability for purpose right so.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah. So one of the other things of course and I know this is an area you deal with quite a bit Kevin is the whole area of virtualization.

Kevin: Yeah. Yeah.

Kevin: Sure. Yeah, I mean again you know what we have seen now is the, especially in the communications arena so we can geographically disperse a lot better than we could you know in years past. VPNs, high bandwidth, we can replicate data very easily so everything is getting virtualized even more so than it was just a few years ago. As you know, you know I have been working in virtualization for a long time and several other folks that we have in common you know all knew that. It's an area that we spend a lot of time at COMMON on, at the COMMON organization of sessions and all of us run training in that area. Virtualization is massive. We are moving so many more workloads to a virtualized arena both on storage and on server so it's kind of software defined storage, software defined networking as well as software defined compute even though there is real hardware sitting underneath of it. That is the kind of funny thing about the cloud is that there is not just some you know pile of hardware somewhere right? It's⎯we might not sell to the small customers as much who are going off premise and going to a cloud solution but we are selling to much larger customers who are heavily virtualized in order to provide that service you know to these other customers.

Paul: So since you actually mentioned it there in passing, I would like to swing back on COMMON.

Kevin: Sure.

Paul: Kevin because as I said many years ago we crossed paths many, many, many times, served on many committees together, did many conference calls and things like that but you went on Kevin to become president of COMMON for a few years.

Kevin: Yes.

Paul: You are now⎯well the current past president I think.

Kevin: Yeah, immediate past president is what we call it, yeah. The guy who used to have the job. [Laughs] Yeah, so you know from my term concluded officially in May, at the end of the annual meeting in New Orleans. Jeff Carey is our new president for this year. I could only run for one year actually because I was technically at the end of my six years on the board so this is my seventh year on the board-

Paul: Yeah.

Kevin: And I will roll off here next May in Orlando.

Paul: Yeah. So I mean a few years ago I know that COMMON went through, you know, quite a tough time with the financial downturn that as everybody⎯

Kevin: Sure.

Paul: As everybody did.

Kevin: Yeah. Yup.

Paul: Do you sort of feel that COMMON has turned that corner? That it's getting back on track is the wrong term. But, you know, but that it is as opposed to being sort of on that defensive that it is now sort of moving forward again? Kevin: Yeah. I think my personal opinion would be⎯not really the⎯you know, that I think we are making a lot of interesting investments like for example students. You know it is something we didn't used to do before very much. The last several years we have been bringing students to the fall conference as part of our-the COMMON's Education Foundation has been key to that. We continue to increase that number so the outreach is really there and that is helping us get a footprint into universities and getting that name and what we can do for them you know out there. I think the trend line is up. I think we have got a positive vibe you know around the organization that we haven't had for those couple of years you know throughout the down turns everybody experienced and it has forced the organization to kind of go back like a lot of companies, a lot of nonprofits and such to go back and evaluate you know where we are getting our information from and how we understand our membership and how we grow our membership in this you know kind of new area where we're trying to attract not just out members from say the boomer generation and GenX and now we're into millennial and etc., etc.

Paul: Yeah.

Kevin: So we have to be able to survive through all of that. I'm really excited about some of the stuff we are doing now and I do think that there is a good way you know for a 55-year-old-or-so organization at this point … and you know we have I think a lot of opportunity through the leadership that we've got to progress the organization forward for a long time. Every nonprofit, every user group has these issues. We are not unique at all⎯

Paul: Oh, yeah.

Kevin: ⎯In this area and we are very clued into a lot of other IT organizations that we now have you know very much the same issues but I can't officially speak you know for COMMON itself as the president is the one that does that but you know in my humble opinion from kind of what I can share you know I am very positive about it. I love the people we work with you know in the organization. We have a great staff and a great group of volunteers and I am excited for what we can try to drive forward in the next few years-

Paul: Yeah, I always find it fascinating, Kevin, I mean that the challenge that user groups and COMMON especially because it's⎯let's be honest⎯it's the biggest one in the world having the U.S. as its base. That challenge they face to constantly change in an industry that is constantly changing you know to keep that going.

Kevin: Exactly.

Paul: It's a really, really difficult thing and it goes against human nature. You know like human nature is you want to become settled you know and you just want things just to run nice and lovely-

Kevin: You want to protect, yeah.

Paul: But we're in an industry that is in a constant state of flux you know so it's quite a challenge.

Kevin: Yeah.

Paul: So I really am happy that COMMON is rising to that. Also by the way touching on that with the students, I know-actually when we are recording this, I'm here at the RPG and DB2 Summit, and it's the same. We have six or seven students coming along and it's that buzz that you just get from having people under the age of 25 as part of the group you know. [Laughs]

Kevin: Exactly, yeah.

Paul: It suddenly makes you feel young again. Actually the last thing I would just like to touch on Kevin and I-

Kevin: Sure.

Paul: This is something I just love every time I am talking to you. Could you explain to people kind of what some mornings, say at weekends, what your alarm clock call is? [Laughs]

Kevin: Umm yeah. The alarm clock ends up being oh, I don't know about 10,000 or 12,000 rpm and something like that. No, so our house is situated about a five to seven minute walk or so from the first turn of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so we are here in a little town called Speedway Indiana. It was founded not too long ago after the track was built and opened in 1909 so it's a fun little community. We are right here next to the track. This weekend we have the Red Bull air race going on so we have planes flying over the speedway which is a little bit unusual but our family, myself, my son, my wife, we are all fans of things that go fast and are loud so we are all in for that and should be fun but we've got the U.S. Nationals that are down the street here, the drag racing as well that were over Labor Day weekend so the whole area is a great spot if you like you know racing and things that are loud, on several wheels or even two so we are all good. [Laughs]

Paul: So tell people about that T-shirt you were telling me about Kevin.

Kevin: Oh. Yeah, it's the⎯now, of course, this goes back a few years but I do have a t-shirt that says if you remember the line, you know, “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning.” Well this is “I love the smell of Methanol in the morning.”

Paul: Kevin Mort.

Kevin: It's Shell.

Paul: I'm sorry. I think Kevin that is the perfect note to leave this conversation. [Laughs] So Kevin, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I really appreciate it.

Kevin: Thank you very much Paul. I appreciate it.

Paul: OK. So that's it for this iTalk everybody. Tune in again in a couple of weeks for the next one. Bye for now.


Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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