The Cloud: It promises you heaven, then puts you through Hell!

First off, let’s give credit where credit is due.  The Jovi philosopher said, when talking about a woman, “You promise me heaven, then put me through Hell”.  I have loosely adapted it to cloud implementation strategies.

Well, it happened again.  I was talking to some clients and it happen again.  What happened you may ask?  The US and THEM thing.  US meaning the server guys which usually includes the storage guys and THEM the network guys.  I wonder, why is that?  In the same corporation, it would seem that factions exist.  Am I exaggerating a little?  You would think so, but, as I look around, it would seem like IT has its own politics also.  Alright, accuse me of being ‘Vieux Jeu’, but, can’t we all just get along?  The nasty thing about clouds is that it will bring to the surface just about every dysfunctional corporate relationships you have.  The cloud is as much about communication as it is about technology.  Communication because you will need to have some of the best communication practices around.  The server person, the storage person, the network person will need to all be in sync in order to have smooth operations.  Will the server person built profiles that also require detailed networking information?  or will it be the either way around?  Will one mind the others interference?  And that’s just for starters.  Who will “own” the business process?  Will the business units accept sharing servers with others?  All of these functional groupings will need to evolve with the new paradigm that the cloud represents.

Well, I am no psychologist, but it sounds like the CIO could use the help of one.

In the meantime, I promised my brunette a Bon Jovi concert, he is coming to town, ahem. 😉

TheBenz

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Will desktop digitalization affect you?

Last week, Citrix invited me to the worldwide launch of their new suite of products.
Instead of the usual power point assault (PPA), they opted for the showing of a
video.  In there we were introduced to Brad, in order for Brad to go about his daily routine, he needs access corporate applications in various places sometimes where internet access is not available.  The storyline brilliantly displays how a worker can be productive at the office with his PC, on the road with a mobile unit, may it be a laptop an iPad or even a cell phone, OK, the screen may be a little small, but it’s nice to know that it’s possible.  Should no internet access be available, all of your profiled applications are available to you on your preferred medium and the next time you find internet access you can simply synchronize.  The novelty here is very subtle to grasp.  It used to be that, in order to be productive on the road, you had to bring your office issued portable where the corporate applications where physically installed in it.

That is no longer true!

Remember when you needed to own a phone recorder?  Eventually, that phone recorder got digitalized and that feature is now included with just about every phone you find in the market.  Personally, I have opted for an answering machine in cloud, because it better suites my needs.  My answering machine service is bundled into my phone/internet/TV service and I get a single monthly bill from my local telco.  So, what does this have to do with fancy VDI?  Everything!

The focus is on the user and not the medium (PC/Laptop/iPad etc..).  Essentially, the user has the choice use any device he sees fit.  His desktop actually has been digitalized and lives in the cloud, he simply logs on to access it.  Think about the possibilities.  We have broken the bonds that link a user to a physical computing device.  The device can be anything, and in fact, the corporation doesn’t even need to issue him one.  Someone, either an employee or  contractor, can simply bring his favourite computing device and plug into the corporate desktop profile that was assembled for him.

I am willing to bet that these technologies will evolve into a desktop as a service offering that will be coming at a place near you!  Stay tuned.

Samy “TheBenz” Benzekry

Posted in Cloud | 2 Comments

Google Artificial Intelligence…really?

Like most of us in IT I really don’t have a whole lot of time to read all the magazine subscriptions and newsletter I receive.  But I keep a pile next to me my bed post and every so often I catch up.  This was the case last night.

I was reading eWeek (Sept6, Vol.27 no.15) and came up on the printed version of a blog post from Clint Boulton.  Ever since Google came up with the brilliant PageRank algorithm it would seem like they have been relentless in enhancing and expanding its application. They keep track of everything in the hopes of “predicting” your next inter-action.  Boulton gives an example where it’s one of your friend’s birthday and Google’s algorithm “suggests” a restaurant based your past purchases and location.  In Eric Schmidt words, “I actually think most people want Google to answer their questions….They want Google to tell them what to do next…”. Sounds scary and helpful at the same time.

All of a sudden, I am transported back to the first Terminator movie where the Robot (aka “The Terminator”) has an answer to give and the 3 answers relevant replies pop up in his visor, I won’t print what chosen.  Funny how AI talks always brings images of the Terminator movie!

I can see why some people will have some issues with that.  Personally, I can’t predict my brunette’s mood or replies, yet I am to believe that a series of axioms and statistics collected on her habits will be able to?  Ahem, I have learned early not to say never, but it’s a fine line between “suggesting”, “deciding” and “reflecting”.

Can your next want or need, be expressed based on the prediction results of a decision tree?  Possibly, but I think human interactions are more complex than that and the weight of the carrier (the person or program) giving you advice varies greatly from one individual to another.  Is the value of the restaurant prediction Google sends me greater than the one I get from the list of friends (my Facebook or other network) or from my favourite gastronomic beat reporter?  Google would like to think not, but, I would tend to think that word of mouth is still more prevalent since we are interacting with a “real” person perhaps even not for the first time, so potentially having created a bond of trust with that person.

Google is on to something here.  I understand the strategy and where they are going, I do however  that, other that traditional adwords, they have not yet found their way.  After all, in this technocracy, all of this research should serve some form of economic gain.

The more we try to understand human interactions, the more we need to focus on the basics.  In universal terms, the relative novelty of technology is still no match for the complex social interaction that Darwinian evolution has brought us to where we are today.

TheBenz

Posted in IT, Technology, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Geek Goes Calypso!

No, this is not about the latest dance craze!  For those of you who haven’t heard there is a new water-park that opened earlier this summer that this fo2 (father of 2) geek just had to check out.

At about an hour and a half away from my place (or 148.7KM) this place better be worth it,  and it is: Calypso.  I won’t comment on the water-park itself other than both my 6 and 8 year old enjoyed it thoroughly.

So, what’s a geek to do without any of his usual electronic accoutrement?  And what about this nagging urge to check email?  Now I know (NIK) what quitting smoking must feel like!

The kids are playing in this huge Pirate Ship, reminiscent of the pirates of Caribbean, and at the top of the ship is this huge bucket of water that every so often fills up and sends a deluge of water to whomever happens to be under.

Hum, this is interesting! (..resisting the urge to invent a new acronym Tii)

With no watch, I am down to counting steamboats.  Averaging the 3 times I counted, it’s 57 steamboats!  Proud of my “achievement”, I shared the method and the result with my brunette, which, by the way, failed to attract any kind of sense of awesomeness from her, oh well !  But then, I focused her attention on the kids and adults and their reaction after being drenched by the water.  Some for the first time, OK they were not watching, and other repeat offenders not happy of the seemingly random bucket justice!

It seems to me like, if you have been fooled once, wouldn’t you try not to be fooled again?

Why are we so compelled at repeating some of the same steps that got us in trouble?  I wonder, is this done consciously or not?

Other than some wet clothes no real problem, albeit a few cell phones than may never ring again or, god forbid, not text or receive email!

All kidding aside, we all know that proper planning prevent poor performance.  So, why are we compelled to repeat the same mistakes?  In University, I remember my project management class teacher (Mr. Herrera) focusing some lectures exclusively on IT failures, and some where truly spectacular ones!  Recently, I came across a blog from ZDNet, Michael Krigsman that focuses on exclusively on the topic.

More often than none, most of us that have been around long enough, in hindsight, can remember what went wrong, and we point to lack of communication, budget overruns, lack of management or user implication, scope creep, weak project definition and the list goes on and on.  IT has been around for almost 60 years, with the accumulated knowledge of successful and unsuccessful IT projects haven’t we yet learned how to properly scope a project and plan for it accordingly?

One would think so!  So, why are we still doing the same mistakes?

I can’t even presume to have an answer here, what I do know is that IT project management, at times, demands skills that are closer to psychology than that of pure IT knowledge.

I can only point to the qualities a good IT project should have if it is to succeed.  But, I am forced to acknowledge that I can’t coerce anyone to follow them.

Sometimes, the stars just don’t align, and one of the success criteria just isn’t there, and wouldn’t you know it, it happens to be a certain executive’s favourite feature no one bothered telling you about!

Hum… 😦

Samy “TheBenz” Benzekry

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Branding and technology investments

Have you guys seen the top 10 branding disaster for 2010? Or, should I say so far in 2010!

At HP we had a CIO that use to say, that “every business decision triggers and IT event”!  A C level executive decides to implement a new procedure and somewhere down the line an IT guy will get a call to implement a new software.  (I always wondered why that is done after the fact and never during the reasoning process! Ahem, another post perhaps.)

I would like to propose that the inverse is also possible.  With every Technology failure, business repercussions will occur. Case in point, Take a look at the branding repercussions on The Daily Finance’s top 10 branding disasters here: Top10 Disasters

In order we have, BP, DELL, Adobe, Sony, Goldman Sachs, RIM, Nokia, Johnson & Johnson, Google and Toyota.

BP, well, I can’t argue with that one being at number one!  Every time CNN dispatches Anderson Cooper, either you just one the Nobel peace prize or your due for some serious worldwide punishing reporting.  In their case, it would appear that their brand has gone from 20Billion in January 2010 to 0$ in June 2010.  OUCH! A lot of coverage has been done, so I won’t go there, but, from a business continuity side, you hear of things like a lack of or barely existing disaster recovery plan.  Clearly, somebody will have some explaining to do.

Dell, their branding according to the Daily Finance has dropped 44%.  Although not the only reason for their drop but, did anyone there think that shipping 12 million computers with faulty electrical components would go unnoticed?  How much would have fixing the supply chain cost?  Could this have been avoided?

Adobe, OK, mostly egos here!

Sony, Sony, Sony, boy, I love their products!  My TV is a Sony, my computer screen is still a Trinitron, not for much longer though, it’s showing its age.  But, ask me what my 6 year old uses every day?  Sadly for Sony, it’s his DS with his favourite Mario game.  Ask me how he and I hang out? We bowl on the family Wii.  The PS3 is a great platform but a great brand and great technology can only carry you so far.  You need to keep on investing in R&D, and never stop understanding and researching your clients.  As much as it can be painful, and I have been there, keep on listening to the complaints.  Remember the Walkman, the original one that played tapes?  Did you know that the real name of this gizmo is portable audio cassette or tape?  I am always impressed when a brand enters the lingua franca.  Someone in marketing clearly did his job.  However, their MP3 efforts have been timorous and plagued with security flaws.  Could it be that as the kings of the analog world they did not understand the digital world or perhaps refused to face it?  Never underestimate resistance to change!

Goldman Sachs, no surprise there 38% drop.

Research in Motion, 36% drop.  That great Canadian company, so close to my heart.  I would like to add a personal  not here.  I don’t own a blackberry, it’s a corporate policy thing, but my wife always refer to chatting with her friends on the Blackberry network as “pin”.  it goes something like “I’ll pin you later”!  This leads me to believe that there is something going on here.  Now, I can still text to any phone, yes, but I am not part of that “elite” group. 😦

Nokia, Johnsons and Johnson, Google yes, Google, the inventors of the other great word, “Googled” as a synonym to searched all have gone through drops and at number 10 Toyota.  Toyota, great company, great products, but they stopped listening to their clients.  How can you manufacture a truck from Japan when the product, the Tundra, is only sold in foreign markets mainly the US?  And when you have technical issues, don’t hide face up to them.  It’s not a sign of weakness, if anything, it’s empathetic. (Fortune July 2010 , page 110)

In the end, with technology, you have to realize that you are dealing with mechanical parts.  Sooner or later, they will fail!  Some may fail less than others, but they eventually will.  They only thing between failure and success is resilience.  In other words, you can build procedures and architectures around critical parts to attenuate the failure of a component but, in the case of an extreme catastrophe, think of a reactor core meltdown or in BP’s term an Oil Rig explosion, you need to have a well-documented and have practiced your disaster recovery plan.  Part of that plan should also include a great communication plan.  Keeping people in the dark will only increase their angst.  Take a look at how the Aviation handles it.  When a failure occurs, they have a very methodical approach.  They dispatch a team of expert that study everything there is to know about the accident.  They try to reproduce it in a virtual world, and if they can figure out what happened data goes out to manufacturers so that airplanes can be retrofitted to avoid the condition that caused the crash.  Even in training, there is a saying among pilots that goes like this, “a superior pilot uses his superior knowledge to avoid situations that will require his superior skills”.

You should see your technological infrastructure costs as an investment that, with proper care, in the long run will return value to your brand, and that is something you can definitely bank on.

Samy Benzekry

Posted in IT, Technology | 1 Comment

Could the the cost of IT have anything to do with the rise of Cloud computing?

Hello,

Bob is looking to purchase his first house.  His ideal home is in a posh neighbourhood with white picket fences and costs a bargain 300K $.  Sounds great so far and, by the way, the costs of upkeep are at 120k $ per year.  Should Bob buy this house?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would think twice about it!

Replace Bob by Information Technology and you have essentially the way we have been selling IT assets (hardware and software) since the dawn of IT.  Wait, it gets better, you get to do it again for software roughly every 3 to 5 years since the new version is so much better and cooler than the previous one!  With hardware, at least, you can redeploy elsewhere or enrich your favourite IT guy’s personal “lab” !

A growing trend of CEO’s and CFO’s are asking tough questions along the lines.  Why are we buying all of this “stuff”?  What kind of value will it bring to the corporation’s bottom line.  As an IT professional, you better be ready to answer.  You can try the old, “but the new gear is like soooooo cool dude”, but take it from someone who has been there, it won’t fly!  New technology assets should be rigorously measured against the tangible benefits preferably in the form of the equity return it provides to the corporation.  If you can’t figure this out, your project is at risk.

The message here simple, IT needs to be visible.  Visible in the sense that it provides true value, true strategic differentiators.

If it can’t provide strategic differentiators, then that business function is at risk of being outsourced.  After all why should a CEO invest in something that may be important, but won’t provide anything in terms of competitiveness?

Where will that business function live?  How about SalesForce, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Workday etc… if it’s a standard business process, chances are, a Software as Service offering exists somewhere.

Samy “TheBenz” Benzekry

Inspiration for this blog:  one line in Paull Strassmann 1998 article on the value of Knowledge Capital.

“If someone would try to sell a house that requires an annual upkeep equal to a half of the purchase price, nobody would buy it. A rapidly deteriorating capital asset is not worth much. Yet the very high ratio of life-cycle maintenance costs to the original acquisition cost demonstrates that today’s application software is one of the flimsiest artifacts that management will ever buy.” (http://www.strassmann.com/pubs/valuekc/)

Posted in Cloud, Economics | 3 Comments

Hello world!

Hello world!,

Interesting choice of words the wordpress blog decided to use, this gives me a chance to go down memory lane a little and give some kudos to these 2 unpretentious words.  You see, I just signed up for my very first blog, and what do you know, the first post is automatically generated for me and it is entitled “Hello world!”. 

How great is that! 

If you have done some programming you will understand my fondness for that expression.  It’s usually the first lesson given in a programming class.

Wow, I remember my first few classes.

The first “Hello world!” coded by me, was on a “PC” (as I recall the term was coined just a few short years before my arrival to computers ) for a Pascal class running a Z80 processor, circa early 80’s for me.  I think I was 16 or 17 at the time!  Wow, such a distant memory!

My second “Hello world!” was on an Apollo station, yet another blast from the past!  Who would have known that just a few years later, via a few acquisitions, I would work for the company that bought Apollo Computers?

Here’s to you my new old 80’s friend “Hello world!”, I missed you!

Samy “TheBenz” Benzekry

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments