Monday Oct 08, 2007

CEC Convenes in Las Vegas

Sun's annual Customer Engineering Conference kicks off today with two themes in which our prized field organization will be immersed for the next three days: Green Computing and "Redshift" - the Internet growth trajectory that is underserved by Moore's law.

I had the privilege to interview Matt Ingenthron last Friday in a prelude to the event, in which we ad lib'ed a short repartee about the relevance of Sun to developers who are doing PHP and Ruby applications, and who are classically building on LAMP.  These developers are a decidely Redshifted bunch and are eminently entitled to the bounty of advantages for Redshifted apps of Solaris, and Sun's SPARC and X64 systems, so we give it to them...

There will plenty of news about Sun's successes in the Redshift ecosystem pouring out of the Nevada desert over the next three days, so stay tuned.

Thursday Jul 19, 2007

CommunityNext 2

Start Up style enthusiasm was in no short supply at the second CommunityNext conference held at the Plug And Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale last Saturday.  Several companies represented were not even online as of the first CommunityNext conference held last February, yet many have since built thriving communities with millions of users.  The secret to their success, and the theme of this gathering, was viral marketing.

While February's day long event featured lessons on How to Tap The Wisdom of Crowds, Saturday's teachings might best be described as Getting Inside The Teenage Brain.  The scope of possibilities seemed to have devolved in the intervening six months to a level more concerned with how 14 year old girls will place a widget on their MySpace page than how the network effect can improve the lives of millions.  I left the event feeling like the social networking party had moved to the trailer park and the Anchor Steam on Draught had been supplanted by Pabst in cans.   But I don't spend much time on MySpace, so take my sentiments with a grain of salt (and a lime).

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Amid the inanity of Profile Bling and Breakup Alert best practices there were sensible exchanges about building net communities the viral way.  Some insights from the viral front lines :

  • Metrics matter - measuring effectiveness against goals are as important to running a widget based viral marketing campaign as any Madison Avenue ad campaign.  
  • It turns out that wikis are for everyone - given a wiki as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich, teachers will use it to develop curriculum and engage their classes, as PBwiki discovered.
  • The Facebook platform was deemed by many widget developers here as the API sine qua non.

Perhaps most relevant to a field architect like me was the implicit adoption pattern threaded throughout the presentations: widgets get combined with other widgets to make new and interesting platforms that are essentially loosely coupled composites of fine grained apps.  This seemingly chaotic trend toward Widget-dom foreshadows an adoption pattern that runs orthogonal to the SOA model so many enterprises are pursuing, where heavy duty governance is critical and service discovery with its attendant infrastructure represent costly overhead.  Corporations are spending millions planning multi-year SOA initiatives.  Meanwhile the Facebook platform allows developers to build composite applications quickly, all the governance is essentially embedded in the client libraries, and services are discovered virally - registries and WSDL are not critical to the ecology of a Widget World.  Granted, student social calendars and virtual food fights are a far cry from a CRM/ERP/BI mashup, and identity management and access control through a RockYou widget would make any CIO cringe, but with the addition of JSON support to platforms like Facebook I expect we'll see more complex integrations emerge soon, and WS-XACML shows promise for protecting data exchange between loosely coupled apps according to some rich policy.  How quickly will this hosted RESTful approach displace enterprise owned and operated SOA infrastructure is hard to predict.  No doubt the transformation is driven by many of the same factors driving the redshift market transformation Sun is betting on.

The explosive growth experienced by many of the companies at CommunityNext reaffirms Sun's focus on designing for network services at scale.  The results of that focus, such as Project Blackbox, the Niagra processor, and the Sun Grid, ought to figure heavily in the future of many of these start ups.  Sun's SOA technology, which looks more and more RESTful by the day, could be the best bridge for Enterprise IT to cross into Widget-dom, and a good platform for social networking platforms to adopt in order to penetrate the Enterprise market.

My cryptic and incomplete notes from this Sun sponsored event are below.

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Friday Mar 09, 2007

The March of Read-Write: Was Sousa Wrong?

TED's roots and core values are no better represented than in the person of Lawrence Lessig.  It was he who really Gestalt2 the content of the conference.  ("If you love a word, use it."  Erin McKean told the TED crowd today.  As a criteria for choosing the right word, she says, being in the dictionary is an unnecessary and artificial constraint.  What are the odds a word with exponentiation in it will make it into the publication she looks after?  As a word and feeling, I love Gestalt2.  It's entertainment's Metcalfe's Law on steroids.)

In Lessig's TED talk he recounted John Philip Sousa's passionate opposition to the advance of phonographs and the recording industry. "These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country," Sousa warned, and went on to say, "The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."

So, in an abstract sense, goes the tired argument for the prevailing commercial model of copyright protection.  But that wasn't Lessig's point.  His point was that the Read Only culture that is ardently protected by institutions like the RIAA, the big five recording companies, and portions of the publishing industry, is a culture "where the vocal chords of the millions have been lost."

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The stark irony presented was that, indeed the same voice Sousa sought to protect by preventing  technology's indiscriminate trampling over humanity's means of expression is again the voice that, several technological generations hence, is opening up for all humanity to hear.   Without our common sense recognition of Fair Use, artists like Javier Prato, and Johan Soderberg would not be able to reach most us.  Of course, fair use alone does not get such artistic works to the people.  You also need a network.

Implicit in all this was more validation that the redshift market projection that Sun is betting on is a very good bet.

For me, Lessig answered an important question that was not asked.  Which is more precious to our freedom of expression, fair use or network neutrality?  In the RW culture, these convictions to freedom are inextricably connected and equally important.


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