Sunday Jun 25, 2006

Around the world...

A busy week indeed. It is not very often that within a week you get a chance to circumnavigate the planet. I started out heading from Prague to San Francisco on June 15th for some meetings with Greg's staff and a few other meetings in CA. Then on to Denver on the 16th for some meetings with my team and such. I then got to spend the weekend with some friends riding dirt bikes and quads in the mountains (I didn't break anything on this trip but I did manage to bruise a number of body parts). Monday was more meetings in Colorado, then back to San Francisco for the Services executive review on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon had me off to Shanghai, China for the second of three major legs in rounding the planet. I delivered a keynote address at a conference on Friday morning and then Saturday was back on a plane to take me back home to Prague. There you have it, a little over a week, took me for one lap of planet earth.

The highlight of the week, not that sitting in meetings all day are not fun, was the IEEE International Conference on Service Operations, Logistics and Informatics (SOLI) in Shanghai. This was the second year of the SOLI conference and the first time Sun has publicly displayed its services strength at a technical conference.

Pete Gratzer, John D. Lilli, Mike Gionfriddo and Ray Tan all participated by publishing papers and attending. Sun had a special session (track) at the conference and in general it was well attended. I also had the honer of delivering a keynote at the Friday plenary session. My topic was "IT as a Service", essentially how IT is going through the transformation from being a "place" to becoming a "service".

The conference went very well. A bunch of very interesting papers were submitted and presented. I had the chance to sit on a panel of sorts to discuss how academia could be doing more in preparing students for the services oriented economy. A great discussion was had between the Chinese and USA National Science Foundations, a number of representatives from universities around the world, representatives from IBM and of course Sun.

I also got to spend a good deal of time talking with a number of academia about services related research, what Sun is doing in the services space and general service geek conversation. In particular I had a series of chats with Dr. Sanjay Joshi and Dr. Richard Wysk both of Penn State. We even had a chance to do a bit of Chinese market shopping.

Huge thanks to Dr. Robin Qiu for involving me and for putting on such a great event. Thanks Robin! See you in San Diego next year!

Sunday Mar 05, 2006

Old dog learns new trick...

Last week I had the chance to finally sit down with Mark Hayden and Steve White. Steve and Mark are experts on what we call Sun Global Resolution Troubleshooting (SGRT). What is SGRT? Simply, it is Sun's advanced troubleshooting methodology. SGRT is based on the Kepner Tregoe resolve process. SGRT significantly reduces that amount of time our engineers need to solve complex problems.

Why do we have a troubleshooting process? Isn't troubleshooting relatively simple, why have a special process? I am not asking you these questions as much as to show you what most people ask or think when they consider troubleshooting. Troubleshooting and diagnosis is a critical daily function that is performed by our service engineers. Every time we engage with our customers we must put troubleshooting and diagnosis to the test. Most of the problems, the vast majority, are resolved via our knowledge base and the skills of our engineers. However there are always problems, incidents, that are escalated and these incidents are almost always very complex. Is it a problem with storage, operating system, memory, hardware, network, middleware? We are a systems company after all and that means problems can manifest themselves in many different ways. So how do you go about solving a complex problem? You could start by making educated guesses and see if your guess fixes the problem or creates another. Or you could follow a rational thought process that works problems in similar ways to identify the true and root cause of the issue. That is what SGRT does.

How do our customers benefit from SGRT? Let me quote some stats on what we have accomplished:

  • Due to the implementation of SGRT we have reduced the customer wait time, in escalated cases, by over 1200 years per year. Yes that is right 1200 years of waiting for a problem to be solved per year.
  • Average time to solution has decreased by 52% for escalated cases
  • The quality of information transferred between engineers improved significantly
  • Product specific engineers can spend more time resolving the real problem rather then having to keep going back to the customer for more information.
Why am I so excited by this? To tell you the truth, before my meeting with Steve and Mark I didn't have that great of an understanding of SGRT. Yes I knew about how we have been using the methodology and how our solution centers have been leading the way for Sun in the area, but I didn't have any hands on experience with the process. This led me to set up a meeting with Steve and Mark. I wanted them to teach me what they could about SGRT. I expected them to pull out a number of presentations and blast me with knowledge. Instead they did something far more effective. They ran thought a real life scenario with me. They had me read a case study which was filled with facts about a company that was experiencing a particular problem with one of their products. After reading the case study they simply said "OK Dan, what would you do?" I of course used my experience and engineering skills to immediately jump to the answer. I told them a number of things that I would do, from having engineering run additional tests, change some processes, etc. I will spare you all the details but suffice it to say I was completely wrong. We then applied SGRT to the problem and began to use logical reasoning (which I thought that I had done in the first place). After about 30 minutes the problem became absolutely clear. I was convinced and now am a strong supporter of SGRT.

As a side note, the case study we used was from a real company that never solved the problem with their product, spent hundreds of millions trying to fix the issue and eventually went out of business.

So that was my big learning of the week. A methodolgy can make a difference and SGRT is transforming the way we solve the trickiest of problems. For more information on Sun's troubleshooting process read this blog.

Sunday Jan 22, 2006

Are we listening?

It is Sunday morning, like it will be for nine more Sunday mornings. I am sitting in the ski lodge at Eldora mountain working while my son takes part in a twelve week ski school. For those of you that have experienced Eldora, you know that it is a stretch to call the structure I am in a lodge and worse yet to call the ski area a mountain, but I digress. I should also be truthful and tell you that it is not all work, I do get my runs in, however short they may be.

So why am I blogging about what I am doing on a Sunday morning? Well I have an observation to share with you. First let me paint the picture for you. I am sitting at a fold-away table in the middle of a large building which is effectively located in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. No network, no cell coverage, no TV, nothing but the stray particle passing on its way from space. The room is packed with parents and kids from age 3 to teens. Around me are about 20 other overworked corporate sycophants and/or people who just can't live without their laptops. While their kids ski, the parents work. Right next to me is a man who was just joined by his son, who looks in his teens. I over heard the boy ask one simple question which formed the basis of my observation. "Dad, are you on the net?" That is it. However, the value was in what followed. Of course the father said no, as there is no network connection, but then the kid kind of went off on his father. He said "No network, then what are you doing? You can't read email, instant message, surf the net or find out what your friends are doing"

Now this may not be that interesting of an observation except from the passion and age of the person who pointed out the lack of the obvious. Kids these days (I sound like an old man don't I?) are more aware of the network and its benefits then any other generation in our history. They are the digital natives (unlike myself, a digital immigrant) and don't seem to be able to function without it. Not because they are computer junkies, rather they are part of a community that we current day adults don't seem to understand. Take a look at the likes of, and They all represent significant communities where conversations take place, needs and wants are developed and ideas are shared freely. You don't think so? Well the three I listed support a community greater then 30 million people.

All of this reminded me of an article in the December 12th, 2005 issue of Business Week. The article, "The MySpace Generation" by Jessi Hempel, was basically highlighting the generation of individuals that perform a significant amount of their socialization in the digital world. Let me point out some data included in the article: Share of 24 million American teens (12-17):

  • 87% Use the internet
  • 65% Instant Message (IM)
  • 44% Go online everyday
  • 29% Keep several IM conversations going at once
  • 29% Have more then 50 buddies on their IM list
  • 25% IM with people in the same room
Back to the observation. The fact is that communities matter. Now you can jump to think that this blog is just a propaganda pitch for Sun's cause, but the reality is that communities do matter. Younger generations don't separate technology from their social interactions. In fact, they rely upon technology for their social interactions. Three million people are joining the network every week. The younger generation that are joining the network are using positive emotional words to talk about technology, they view technology as social and blend it seamlessly into their lives. More important they are optimistic about the future and the roll that technology plays in it. Now we old folks can sit back and just think that this is silly and that social interactions should be just that, social. However think about this for a minute. These kids don't have barriers. They interact and socialize with people around the world. They think freely and don't mind sharing. Sharing is the price of admission if you participate in a community.

Now the real question all of us in the technology industry should be asking ourselves is, "are we listening?" Are we paying attention to these communities? Are we listening to the needs and wants being expressed? I can guarantee that if we don't start listening, opportunities will pass by us faster then google became a recognized brand.

I will go on the record for the start of this year to say this is trend #1, Communities Matter. I am undoubtedly not the first person to recognize this, but I hope that you will see that we are the first major computing technology company to leverage and embrace communties.

What does all of this have to do with Services? Simply put we must find ways to serve communities and in turn the communities will serve us. How? Just watch us...

Tuesday Jan 10, 2006

Services Vs. Services

Services. An interesting and overloaded word. There are many meanings but the one I will focus on is from our friends at Princeton. They define Service as Work done by one person or group that benefits another. In the IT industry, the syntax of this definition can be considered the same but the semantics are very different. Many CIOs will relate to services as consultants that darken the sky with wing tips in order to deliver a service and stay much, much longer then expected. In other words, service (work performed) can be delivered by putting people on a problem and letting them try to solve it.

Another interpretation of service can be taken from the software world. In software, services (for example Web Services) are typically coarse grained, pre-coded encapsulations of function that carry out complex business tasks automatically. The key here is automatically.

So the question is, can services be performed automatically like the software interpretation? ABSOLUTELY. I have given you polar opposites. One (the wing tips) uses people (the lower form of which we call consultants ;-) and the other uses technology to solve the given problem. The problem? In a word, complexity. Consultants can mask complexity in order to deliver a solution that appears simplistic. Technology can be used to engineer out complexity and make a solution truly simplistic. To be fair, technology when not applied appropriately, can also make things more complex. Don't get me wrong, consultants have a place in IT, in fact I used to be one and managed an organization of them. Consultants should be used to architect and implement solutions for clients, not cover up technology ineffectiveness.

I hope at this point you see that I am comparing services delivered via consultants vs. services delivered via technology. Of course there is a place for both, but which one wins out over time and at scale? I will argue that technology will always win over people from a cost and complexity perspective. It is really just a matter of timing. Does that mean that we should all pack it in and head back into the primordial ooze from which we came? No. There will always be a need for wetware. However, technology can be used to perform repetitive tasks, identify patterns, and implement complex instructions with consistent quality far better then most humans. Think telco switches vs. their human operator switchboards of the past. Although both of these service models will continue to be viable for the time being, innovation is happening in the technology space. That is unless some of you out there are working on some gene splicing activities that augment our human capabilities.

Why do I bring all of this up? Quite simply, we have spent and are spending a lot of time and R&D investments in technology for our service offerings. Simply put, our vision is that all solutions are enabled as services delivered through the network. We are doing this through the integration of technology, knowledge, process and partnerships.

Specifically we are finding ways to inject technology into our offerings so we can deliver real capabilities to be proactive and preventative. Finding problems before they manifest themselves is far better then becoming more efficient in fixing them when they happen. We are applying the same innovative prowess we bring to hardware and software to our services. So look out world, we are innovating on all cylinders. Put down your switchboard headphones, help the coverup consulting services companies with their bench strength and get ready for the future.

I plan to bring a number of subjects relating to our services innovation to this forum, so keep an eye out...




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