Monday Apr 21, 2008

Are "Quants" suitable for grid infrastructure?

Are "Quants" suitable for grid infrastructure? investorwords, a finance dictionary site, defines a quant as "One who performs quantitative analyses". Not so useful; while I have known people bet on horses because they like the name, I have not really heard of people investing in the stock market using this strategy, so evaluating the value of stock using numbers seems pretty basic, and in their eyes a Quant is a person. They define quantitative analyses as "The process of determining the value of a security by examining its numerical, measurable characteristics such as revenues, earnings, margins, and market share." If measuring the value of one stock, it is unlikely that, parallel algorithms are necessary. The data points are too few to warrant applying grid or parallel programming techniques. If analysing a portfolio of many stocks using these techniques, or a whole bank portfolio, then grids become more useful. It really depends upon the size of the portfolio, and the required response time.

A chartist on the other hand, performs "Technical Analyses", which investorwords, defines as "A method of evaluating securities by relying on the assumption that market data, such as charts of price, volume, and open interest, can help predict future (usually short-term) market trends. " Presumably the name chartist, comes from the fact that they use graph representations of the data series they analyse. However, the analysis of history increases the number of data points involved, and when one tries to apply technical analysis to portfolios, the problem of scale and the attributes amenable to parallelism come into the frame. The use of Grid software and hardware architectures probably becomes more useful earlier.

Neither of these techniques however are truly applications; they can be used to support trading decisions, risk evaluation, capital adequacy calculations, and pretty much any decision which involves evaluating today's and tomorrow's value of a financial instrument, be it treasury, equity or derivative.

investorwords is in my sidebar, and in my del.icio.us feed.

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Thursday Apr 17, 2008

Revolutionary business, revolutionary I.T.

My colleague, Ambreesh Khanna, presented on how the growing use of Microfinance, is changing IT architectural requirements, and the risk management criteria. [There's a number of references on google, or exalead, but the Guardian reported on how Mohammed Yunus won the Nobel Peace prize 18 months ago.]

So while it costs a bank a certain amount to manage a customer, if its liabilities to its customers are small, then the risk can be managed in a different way. If a bank has 1000, € 500K loans in its book, only a small number of defaults cause a problem, whereas, if  its portfolio is reversed with  ½ million, € 1000, then many more defaults are required to cause a problems. It also changes the nature of the traffic. Many low volume payments, mandate an IT and banking efficiency that will need to borrow from the web 2.0 architectures. Ambreesh also wrote about microfinance on his blog.

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Monday Mar 31, 2008

A word from our sponsor

Ms Viviane Reding, the sponsoring commissioner spoke to the conference via a video cast. This isn't yet available, but I'll post a link when I can, hopefully to streaming video.

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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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Tuesday Mar 18, 2008

Saving the Planet

Richard Barrington, who doesn't blog as often as he should, Sun's Green Lantern, introduced the day's keynote speaker, Craig Bennett, from Cambridge University's Programme for Industry. He spoke about the science of climate change. He used a combination of his own slides,and Al Gore's which reminds me I still haven't seen "an inconvenient truth".

Greenhouse gases are at an all time historical high. Unless we stop producing them, this will continue. Some natural (and a few human) processes consume carbon. The amount of green house gases in the atmosphere determine the temperature of the earth. The Stern Report talks about the potential effects of changes in the average temperature and argues it is possible to restrict the growth in green house gases, but the world needs to act in concert.

Craig's web site states that he led CPI’s work on the Bali Commuiniqué which brought together 170 global companies in support of a comprehensive, legally-binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change and generated global media attention, Sun was a signatory and is an active participant in the CPI's activities.

He also repeated Gore's slides about how science and journalists treat the issues, by comparing the weight of scientific peer reviewed papers versus the balance of media coverage. There were no scientists arguing that the level of green house gases are not dangerous. Science has agreed that green house gases cause climate change, and that human activity contributes to the danagerous level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The majority of press coverage was oppossed to this view. (2006).

When asked his opinion about what might be done, he firstly suggested that the politicians havn't really got to grips with the importance and inexorability of climate change and that another major western city will need a New Orleans style disaster before they take it seriously, but his other, possibly more low key suggestions were

  • there is no silver bullet, we need silver buckshot
  • tax bad things not good things i.e. can we discriminate between clean & dirty energy, its a bit tricky with a 17½% VAT on everything
  • government procurement should prioritise low carbon goods

This is what the Guardian said about the Stern Report, when it was first published.

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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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Tuesday Dec 11, 2007

And in Italy?

Mr Paolo Donzelli, of the Italian Department for Technical Innovation, presented on the italian government's policies in sustaining and nurturing innovation, and IT innovation in particular. (The slides for this and all other presentations I'm commenting on should be available on the NESSI web site). A fascinating study, which explained their strategy and the analysis that led to it, making a distinction between digital enablement, encouraging usability and adoption, reducing the digital divide and straight forward training.

They have and are looked very hard at healthcare systems and incubated a web or distributed computing approach as opposed to a messaging solution. Possibly more red shift than blue shift.

Their approach in the education sector is less advanced; they have a cost problem on the desk top. I should find someone to give them a call.

I found it interesting that their showcase industry approach is textiles which they see as very important to the italian economy. It reminds me however about the case study based on a Spain to New York fashion house that has a design to ERP solution and can offer haute couture for several days at a time, with both industry leading time to market (days) when they're innovating their market, and best of class rapid response when they've been out flanked. It seems that high fashion is a true time to market industry and thus IT can obviously help.

Paolo made some comments about the suitability of 3D computing and hence virtual worlds as design aids in the textile industry scenario. As you can see from my previous blog articles, "Driving Change on the Internet" (see below) and "How real is Virtuality?", I am very cautious about the utility of virtual worlds and particularly second life, but placing the problem domain in a world of 3 dimensions, such as fashion, or even engineering design may give it a relevance I haven't recognised. It doesn't solve the problem examined on this blog in the latter article, that to program in a virtual world, you need to understand the virtual world's physics. The bulk of programming theory since Djikstra has involved understanding the real world problem and modeling it, or creating languages in which the real world can be described, this approach can't be taken in second life. Building a wind tunnel in Second Life would be very difficult and almost certainly more costly than simulating it using other tools. (No doubt, someone has done it and will prove me wrong.) Whether this is a fundamental feature of virtual worlds, I don't know.

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Software, economics and society

We have just heard from Dr. Frans De Bruïne and Ken Ducatel, the former talked about the need for Security, to guard against global warming and the demographic time bomb; Europe is not just interested in health care because of the socialists. The ageing population is a jeopardy to the wealth engine of work and the various governments and commission all have different responses (Oh Boy!).

He stated that for instance in Holland, they're playing with a government 'Facebook' page. Will this lead to you having to document your car insurance, child support liabilities and private pension provision on-line in a government portal. The latter might help keep track of what the insurance companies owe you, but do you really want this hackable, or publishable at the will of politicians and civil servants? Despite these fears it is a possible first step to a real EU Web 2.0 and user created content, I am not sure what value one can create through communities in such a portal. It would also need some serious investment in reaching all the EU's citizens, both in the network and server infrastructure to reach everyone, but also in client access ubiquity. Not everyone has access to a computer, although most have phones and the ipod touch with its wi-fi is an interesting and probably popular innovation of the internet hand held device. Wi-fi is neither as ubiquitous, nor as cheap as in the US yet, and I suspect it varies massively with the EU.

He also spoke about how in Germany, networked medical care systems in the home allowed patients to be discharged earlier, thus saving money. Presumably the IT reduces the number of relapses.

Ducatel argued that the US uses its its (minimal, except for defense) public requirement to seed ICT innovation. I wonder if this is because US business has a greater appetite to build its own code. The flip side of this is that "Europe under uses Software". Its an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity for supply, but commercial stove piping inhibits the growth opportunity.

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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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Tuesday Sep 18, 2007

EU 10, Microsoft 0

An exciting day in many ways yesterday! The European Court have confimred the European Commissions fine on Microsoft for ant-competitive activities. The Guardian have reported it with the head line "European appeal court opens Windows to the world and shakes the superdominant". A headline only imagined in the Guardian business section.

Most interestingly they indirectly quote the competition commissioner, Ms Neelie Kroes,  as saying that this ruling strengthens the commissions determinatio to put consumer benefit above innovation. This would be worrying if it wasn't for the fact that only "Author/Publishers" need copyright/patent protection to inhibit competition. There are many other business models that drive innovation in the economy.

 This article at vnunet.com, called "Copyright harms the economy" is further evidence that bit by bit, people recognise that ideas cannot be exclusivly owned and that exclusive ownership is not in the public interest.

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Tuesday May 22, 2007

New Business Models for the Particpation Age

Today, Don Tapscott, author of "Wikinomics" presented a keynote about how mass-collaboration is changing the way that value is created in the world economy. This stems from both software functionality and network economies of scale. Obviously the enablement of new forms of economic co-operation is also a factor at continuing to drive specialisation. Tapscott quotes Carr's "IT does matter" and mentions that he has often debated with him, which is hard because Carr is good, but he (Tapscott) says "I have an advatage in this debate, he's wrong". The last three days has made me question about how one can innovate in corporate IT.

He told a story about being on TV, "Surfing the Net" and his kids cut him down to size by suggesting it was on par with surfing the TV or fridge. "I'm browsing the fridge for content!". (I thought this was really funny, but my kids tell me its not!) Amongst the younger generation, time online is at the expense of TV, and online activity is today a more creative & participatory act than watching TV, going to the Movies or a Play, or using the early web. The drive to participation makes all content collaborative and he has banned the term "web site" due to the owning author implications.

He then examined what Google, Ebay and Amazon really are, and argued that they are digitial conglomerates. Google sells ads, which makes it a media company, but its also a retailer, broker and bank. "This is not a bubble!". The creation and existence of new-age conglomerates, requires the examination of why a firm exists. Classically, its about transaction costs and the benefits of specialisation. As people cease to be labour in a knowldege economy and accounting costs drop to zero, the costs of doing business across the corporate firewall drop and business have created extended enterprises and latterly business webs. The next transformation will be mass collaboration and peer-production. (Interestingly, Tapscott quoted a mutual fund example of a folksonomy based co-operative, but I didn't write it down. Can any readers add those they know as comments?)

He summarised his presentation with an examination of the seven new business models he's identified as enabling in the new world of mass collaborations and pointing to his use of a Wiki to develop the ideas, much to the chagrin of his publishers, who are trying to work out how and if they can publish a volume two. They shouldn't worry, I certainly intend to check out the wiki and probably get the book.

This article was written over time from contemporaneous notes and back dated to near the time of occurance.

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More Futurology, Gartner's "Emerging Trends"

I am in Barcelona, attending Gartner's European Symposium and Expo. They have two of these each year and the spring event is positioned as broader and more forward looking. It was opened by a tour de force from Peter Cole, (CEO) and six of their top researchers. Later discussions brought home to me that one needs to be very carefull when listening to clever people, as sometimes one (i.e. I ) can assume that they mean the same things as yourself, this isn't always so.

I do wonder however whether their Macro-economic analysis is based too strongly on financial volume and on their boundary definition of IT. Just because our children don't see what they do as using IT, doesn't mean that it is not IT.

Another key insight I obtained here, is that there is a debate between those who think that IT as an industry is entering a maturity stage and those who don't. I should really have known this. Some IT companies are (very successfully) betting their future on the first view. I believe that because IT is dependent on software, which is not constrained by the laws of physics, it will continue to evolve rapidly and that its evolution will remain a source of value and wealth creation in the developed world for a while to come. This means that IT and most importantly, company's software portfolios will remain a source of differentiation and competitive advantage. Another point made to me is that peer based collaboration or community development may inhibit, ignore or exclude the genius that provokes radical change. It's an interesting point of view and one that community wranglers may need to think about.

A fair amount of time has been spent talking about "Green IT". Gartner's late arrival to this issue can be forgiven due the bravery of launching thier programmes in the USA, where they may be able to begin to remove the partisanship from the issue. 

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Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

A Faster Horse

John Maeden of BT presented after lunch and spoke about the nature of fundamental change and how organisations react in dealing with the problems that cause the change, indicating that data centre architecture was such a problem today, due to its complexity and the requirements of today's applications.

He also quoted Henry Ford about radical change,

"If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have chosen a faster horse"

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James Gosling at Sun Live, London

After lunch, James Gosling presented and took us through some “What are Web 2.0” slides, its a short and to the point presentation. Among several asides, he pointed out that scientific computing which used to drive IT innovation is now leveraging the games industry, since the Sony Playstation 3 has the highest floating point performance in the world, (or on the planet as it seems is the current Sun mot-de-jour).

I wonder what this example says about the economics of the appliance vs. the general purpose?

tags: “topic:[James Gosling]” “

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