Wednesday Mar 18, 2009

Convergence

There is a conversation on google groups, cloud computing [XML] about CISCO's plans to enter the server market, kicked off by this article at Business Week.

The dimension, only just, missed in that conversation is the opportunity to get design synergies on the hardware between networking and systems. Why do large scale users have to buy switches and servers as seperate procurements? Perhaps the next stage is to migrate the network functionality to a software appliance, so one buys a box and then decides what to do with it. (I know that a switch needs a lot of ports where a non-switch system only needs two, but modern blade systems are modularising this design area as well.)

The interesting questions then left are whether the data centre, or network can consolidate to one cabling standard and perfromance. When will the need for seperate networking (or interconnect) technologies between CPUs and Systems decline? (If ever?)

I know some computer scientists thinking about tomorrow's problems are interested in this sort of thinking.

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Monday Mar 16, 2009

Gambling with Finance

CIO Connect, in their winter 2008 magazine, have published an interview with Robin Osmond, Betfair's CEO about his plans to utilise their software platform as a vehicle for trading financial products. They claim to be starting with spread betting, which seems available at http://www.tradefair.com/ but are looking to offer FX trading at some time in the future.

Spreadbetting for financial products has been around for a while and has already played the regulatory arbitrage by being considered as gambling and treated that way by HMRC. Betfair innovated the ambkling world by building a betting exchange, and removing the risk of running a book from their business model. Their software, and more importantly their information systems architectural skills might well apply to financial products exchanges but can they build the trust that'll bring consumers to their site, and solve the problem that the real money is in trading.

I expect that meeting a new group of regulators who in the UK at least have a reputation problem of their own will keep them busy. While it seems a simple diversification to many, I wonder if the difference in customer base, and regulatory environment will make this harder than it would seem.

Tradefair's CTO, Martin Thompson, was also interviewed and talked about building an integrated system, from business logic to silicon. It'll be interesting to see what they've done, if they ever make it public.

I have linked to CIO Connect, above, but they have a wayward re-direct rule set that issues some stupidly long URLs presumably to track activitty and they like to keep their stuff behind their firewall to protect their subscription revenue.

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Friday Mar 21, 2008

Public Data should be free

A government study has concluded that it would best to stop charging for public data, reported in the Guardian yesterday. In the 80's the UK Government established 'trading funds' for a number of its statistical and data management bodies including the ordnance survey (Maps), DVLA (Road Vehicles and Users), Companies House, the Land Registry, Met Office and Hydrographic Office, and required them to charge for access to data that had either been payed for by the taxpayer, or it was mandatory to provide to government.

This research, conducted by a team from Cambridge University, discovered that freeing the information creates greater value in the economy than would be lost through charge income.

The campaigners for free information argue, firstly that consumers have payed already for the information through their tax payments, and secondly that the government is often in a monopoly position as the only body capable of collecting some of the data through its power of compulsion. The state monopoly makes it very hard to determine a market price, particularly as the marginal cost to supply is zero. The report also denies the argument that participation in a market encourages innovation in the supply chain, because of both the lack of regulation, and the monopoly position of the government. It should be noted that some of the government's "income" is paid with taxation, since the government agencies cross charge each other.

The release of this public information would in all probability lead to innovation in the use cases as more people seek to add value to it, with different approaches and use cases, and its this innovation that will crete real economic value. This is a very real case showing that welfare optisation occurs when information and knowledge is charged at marginal cost, which for digital information is zero or virtually zero.

We'll have to see what the Treasury does.

You might also want to see the Guardian's Campaign Page, Free our Data and the Open Knowledge Foundation's web site.

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Thursday Jan 31, 2008

Microsoft & Yahoo!

Microsoft and Yahoo to merge? Here's the Reuters story on it! It values Yahoo! at $44.6 bn which is a  62% premium on yesterday's price. The deal will be effected by a cash and shares offer.

What does it mean? Obviously its a defensive move against Google's competitive position, and I am being constantly persuaded by friends to try Google's new services. Market success in Google's business is based on keeping its users looking at their sites, they do this by doing things well and by innovating to attract new users (or at least new usages). Will a Microsoft/Yahoo! merger help them or me? I am not really sure.

A sub story at Reuters is that EU refuses to comment, although the story really doesn't say much more, apart from to name the spokesman.

Its interesting to check out their combined network services, games, MMORPGs, chat,  groups, bookmarks and pictures. Yahoo! has had a habit of picking up the social service providers I'd chosen, I know it'll impact me. I wonder if it will or should impact my search for a new internet client.

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Thursday Jan 17, 2008

Hi MySQL, welcome to Sun

{short description of image}Wow, the MySQL announcement from Sun has certainly made a lot of noise in the blogosphere. The Register comments here..., and also post their interview with Rich Green & Marten Mikos. You've probably seen Jonatahan's Blog and Comments.

The Register Article has some interesting, and some wrong headed and tedious comments about the MySQL current licencsing policies, it'll be interesting to see how it moves forward. We all obviously have a lot to learn, it should be fun.

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Wednesday Dec 05, 2007

Broadening my Horizons

I have just arrived at Praia Del Rey, which is actually a golf course to the north of Lisbon on the atlantic coast. I am at a conference of Sun's EMEA Telco sales team.

I have just listened to a tedious lecture about how all Telcos are looking for new high value services to increase ARPU. I wonder if any of them actually want to run an efficient network, and charge for it. I think so.

Meanwhile, its a tremendous beach, you can see the other pictures at my flickr site.

Praia Del Rey

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Monday Mar 12, 2007

Empowering people

I visited the Commercial Industry break-out room and was pleasantly surprised to experience three interesting and in the final case hilarious presentation

John Blackman of JB Associates announced his company's Carbon Balance Sheet audit. I have been looking at how I can adjust the TCO tools we've been using to talk in terms of carbon footprint so its good to see others looking at helping companies understand their carbon consumption.

Bernard Taveres of Unilever followed with a presentation on some social programmes supporting Unilever's transition to adopting and living its “strategic intent” of “people vitality”. He spent some time talking about building the business case for building new forms of collaboration, and they saw the key variables as people, space and technology. I suppose what is interesting is the way in which innovators in teleworking recognise the cost of space and how its use changes as companies begin to trust their employees. Earlier schemes, including Sun's own iWork scheme started by reducing the time and cost of the commute, the consequent benefits include the reduction in space budgets, although realising this is both hard and takes time, and allows a company to hire the best, not merely the best within travel distance of an office.

Robert Hamilton of Orange then spoke, starting with the assertion that

Offices are pretty lousy places to work

He argued that the main use of an office is to take delivery of snail-mail and parcels. Well, that and meeting people, which makes the web-cam (or X-Coffee application) very useful, because you can check out whose in, before travelling to work and decide not to if the office is empty or full of boring people.

The tag line he developed is that agile businesses need to “collaborate in parallel” and people need to act as customers. Only two industries describe their customers as users, one of them is IT. He also asked why people mail presentations as attachments. We understand that putting a button onto a web site, reduces the viewers by 50%, why put your content as an attachments which requires a click and application load before people can read what you want. Obviously those with stuff to hide zip the presentations up, and require their readers to use the mouse twice. As Robert said,

why mail a presentation anyway, if what I say with the slide didn't add value, I wouldn't turn up.

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Friday Nov 10, 2006

Geeks & Suits

I made a video last week with Dan Berg and Chris Gerhard, where I played a fiercely independent investigative journalist, seeking the truth out of a corporate suit. (Yeah Right!) Chris and I did however ask Dan some questions about the re-invigorated talent management programmes (sic) that he is responsible for. To show inclusiveness, Chris and I both wore our normal clothes to work, so I dressed in a business suit and Chris was in an opensolaris T-Shirt. Geek & Suit!

Interestingly, the following day Management Today, published the highlights of a poll on the state of Business/IT alignment jointly funded by the Chartered Institute of Management and the BCS. This also suggests a them and us attitude still exists. The author, Rhymer Rigby suggests that the epitome of the split can be found in Douglas Coupland's latest book jPod, set in a Games Company where the marketing manager is at war with the development staff over their next best thing! This opposite position is counterposed by Nicholas Carr, who has turned his Harvard Business Review Article into a book called "Does IT  matter?". He of course has the view that it doesn't, so the suits will always despise the techies because they cost too much and do stuff that doesn't matter. Having started with a stupid and false polarity, a more careful reading of the results suggests that things are a bit more evenly balanced and that due to the increasing maturity of the IT world and its penetration into the schools and consumer leisure markets, together with increasing access to business education, the stovepipes are not as rigid as our fictional & polemic authors would have us believe. (Although in the UK, knowing something, and certainly being qualified in or about business is not necessarily a requirement for a business career.)

I need to see if the results are available with industry breakdowns. It is my view that the sedimentation process impacts IT investment strategies as does the competitive dynamic of industry. Fifteen years ago, manufacturing companies were buying and building "Just in Time" ERP systems. Today, they are only available as packages. Just in Time is not commodity, but the competitive baseline to play the game; the software functionality of ERP is no longer competitive advantage. There remains many businesses where they do compete through the ownership or onward rental of software and or by their ability to innovate and adapt. (I'm not really talking about ASP's here, but content providers.

None of these are commodity and the geeks are required to invent and sustain the software. The world is our future!  

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Monday Oct 09, 2006

The Growth of Google

I'm still pretty jet lagged, and woke up at some terrible time this morning to discover that Google have bought You Tube. See Yahoo...

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Tuesday Oct 03, 2006

Pile'm high! Sell'em cheap!

I cannot believe it! Tescos are going into the software distribution business. Reported here... by vnunet. Unfortunately its not Star Office!

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Saturday Sep 30, 2006

Listening to customers, proving value

Marc Hamilton (blogs here...) currently runs the "Systems Practice" solutions teams, of which we have three and spoke to us on thursday, and not only as in introduction to his team, who lead the "Data Centre Optimisation, HPC and Web Tier Infrastructure teams. These are led by Raj Dosaj, Simon See, & Steve Staso, who spoke to us on Friday. Marc introduced us to the way he wanted the global headquarters teams to work with the field and demonstrated the change in communication and collaboration tools. His team (and mine) are moving from Vignette to Media Wiki - from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. Some of my colleagues were interested in how to develop solutions capable of supporting COM & .net applications. Marc's reply repeated what John Fowler said earlier in the week, that deals based on Micorsoft's hegemony are not long term good business for Sun and should be pursued with only with channel partners. He talked about CDW, an american reseller, who use call centres to sell computers and drive the sales out of the strock control system. The sales staff are on daily targets/bonus and if they don't close, or can't ship, they don't get credited with the sale. This is what true volume sales is! Basically good business for Sun only occurs when customers need our unique technology or expertise. A fine example was provided by Dr Simon See, who spoke about the High Performance computing team and a pursuit that was in the last days and he had high hopes of success. (You'll have to subcribe to Sun NewsSun News and wait for the press release). Simon is another Principal Engineer and his undoubted expertise and enthusiasm makes him to my mind someone you'll hear more of. This is an area where Sun's experts and technology can help customers make a difference.

Jonathan blogged about Simon's deal today, 4 Oct 2006, and referenced this press release...

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Friday Sep 29, 2006

Corporate Consolidation in Hitech

Good Grief! CNET News reports that HP are to buy Voodoo PC. (See here...). When HP's wintel rival Dell bought Alienware earlier , I commented on my blog, that I thought or hoped that Alienware's system design expertise would be safe inside Dell's corporate mantle and even that I had found some value in Dell's self help resources. There is no doubt in my mind that like Sun these two companies design and build superior systems. This'll be interesting to see if Voodoo is valued for its design expertise or only its customer base - maybe its seen as an ink demand creation investment :), but it does mean that these games platforms will get into the shops.

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Sunday Sep 24, 2006

I.T. is business critical!

I finished off yesterday's Independent and noticed in the business pages that MFI has had to get out of its iconic flatpack furniture business due to significant losses arguably caused by a new IT systems implementation described by the Indy as, "so mismanaged that it couldn't deliver ...goods". I wonder whose fault that was!

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Thursday May 04, 2006

Open Source, Friend or Foe

The Register today, has an article, headlined "US in open source backlash" arguing that the US is a late, slow and distressed adopter of open source compared with Europe and Latin America. It reminded me of some of the speeches and conversations I had last week (See my blog here...) in Ipswich.

I bumped into Simon Deighton of MySQL. When I rudely asked him how they had beaten Postgres despite the latter's technical advantage he argued that success as an OSS vendor requires three things, a community {based around the code}, ease of installation {low barriers to entry/use}, and reliable and good enough functionality. He suggested that MySQL beat Postgres through ease of installation. Having thought hard about the list, I think its a good one. I shall certainly think about it for things I look to out there. Others should too.

Zaheda Bhorat of Google spoke about their commitment to Open Source and while much of their engagement is as consumers, they sponsor the summer of code and leverage the extreme programming policy of letting their developers spend one day/week doing what they want! This freedom {together with other aspects of their culture, such as the signed publication of open source, i.e. recognising authorship} they argue makes them a desirable place to work and helps them recruit the best people.

I'd not heard Simon Phipps speak before and he used some of the slides he's posted on the web. He showed how open source creates value summarised by the pithy quote "it's not about altruism". Both publication and contribution is in the coder's best interests. (I'll return to this another day as it impacts on some thinking I've been doing for the last couple of years about the source of wealth and the nature of software & information). He also offers a definition of open based on readability, however, most opensource is licenced and therefore the "right to use" is constrained. Simon has written a White Paper (see here...) offering a simple classification based on how the licence constrains copyright if users change the code. The third leg of his defintion of open relates to how easy it is to become a committer and/or how the original authors control or share the code's development and future. However possibly the most interesting comment is that we're now in "Software Market 3.0" and both expect to pay for software at the point of value and expect to make transparent payments for services related to software. Critically access to the "committers" so that errors can be fixed but a whole bunch of things come with software such as updates, fixes, documentation (including the known errors list), RFC process, consultancy, education etc. Open source allows consumers to negociate these services and pay a fair price for what they require. Simon referred to it as "unbundling the software value proposition". Clever stuff.

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Thursday Apr 27, 2006

Open Source in the Uk

I attended an "Open Source Day" conference at BT's Global R & D centre having arranged for Simon Phipps to speak on behalf of Sun at the event. We took a couple of laptops with Solaris "Nevada" release 35/37 and Simon Cook blogs here..., and now in my sidebar, demonstrated the use of Zones, Net Beans and Glassfish.

It was great to meet so many people; who fell into two camps, those that remember Sun as an open systems company and those that have never known and repeat our competitor propaganda that we're proprietary. It was good to have the opportunity to explain what we do.

Another article posted several days later than occurred and back dated.

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