Friday, November 30, 2007

Final rant in November.

Well it has been ages since I've posted anything about "The internet is killing our culture" debate. To be honest, I've been ignoring it again. However I was talking to Jonathan Laventhol recently and we wandered onto the subject.

The bit I hate about this debate is that it implies that somehow "our" culture is static. What is "our" culture - 1970s? Victorian? Edwardian? 1450s? 10 minutes ago? which country? which region? whom in particular?

Now I can discuss the debate "Is the internet killing the pre-internet culture" in the same way I can debate "Did the renaissance kill the pre-renaissance culture". We still need a bit more definition but it's a better starting point than "our".

The idea that a previous culture is some "golden age" compared to our own is a continual myth passed down throughout history. Our culture includes the internet and whilst I'm sure that many professionals lament its creation there was probably once a large number of wandering minstrels and town criers lamenting the printing press.

It makes no difference, culture changes, it's not a static thing. There is no "our" culture to begin with. It's temporal, and if "our" means today then today includes the internet.

So "Is the internet killing the internet culture" ... blah.

Give me strength .... rant over ... mischief managed .... time for December.

Flexing Plexus ...

Plexus, a provider of SaaS in the manufacturing industry, has released a paper on how 'How Manufacturing Software Enables Companies to Improve Quality Operations and Control Warranty Costs'.

It describes its product, Plexus Online, as a competitive advantage.

Since enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, manufacturing execution systems and supply chain management are fairly ubiquitous in most industries, then you really need to consider them as becoming more of a cost of doing business. This is no bad thing for a SaaS provider who can show a serious cost advantage over competitors due to its utility based charging mechanism.

On the other hand this is not so hot if you are a customer who is stuck with some expensive traditional licensed system, or if you are in the process of building one. The competitive advantage from these systems has already long gone because of its ubiquity: you really should be focused on cost and utility like services.

Of course, this could be even more of a problem for a provider of expensive traditional licensed type systems.

Fortunately there is a silver lining for those providers and customers. Plexus is a proprietary system. There is no ecosystem of Plexus providers competing around a standard. As there is no market of providers, this means all the usual fears of adoption and questions on what happens when a disaster occurs.

One of these days though, some company is going to cotton on that having a small piece of a really big pie is way better than all of a small pie.

What would happen if Plexus open sourced their system and help developed an eco-system of competitive Plexus providers? Plexus itself could become the 3rd party assurance service that such a market needs - they have already got an incredible reputation. Customers would have choice including hosting it themselves in the interim whilst they become comfortable with the market of providers, overcoming any adoption fears.

Do it right and such a market might possibly give SAP / Oracle / Salesforce a run for their money.

In any event, Robert Beatty (founder of Plexus) seems a smart cookie and they are an interesting company to watch.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Build or wait?

Back at E-Tech, Mar'06, I talked to Artur Bergman about building a mood map of the world. He was going to look at feeds, I ran off to buy a monkey .... long story .... it was all about getting the monkey to react according to the world mood.

Anyway, in the end I fiddled about with some code on Zimki and put it online collecting some very basic data - I'd totally forgotten about it until now.

Well, thanks to Björn Negelmann - I've just come across Wefeelfine by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar.

This is utterly wonderful, captivating even.

Oh, yes ... why moods? Well Artur and I were both interested in information markets - we'd even started messing around with the idea of one in Fotango, sometime in 2005. Anyway, mood and location seemed an interesting combination for highlighting whether something was happening somewhere in the world.

Don't know if anyone has done this, I'd be interested to hear the results.

Insane in da membrane ...

Thanks to Basti Hirsch for sending me a link to this video. I don't think it could ever be funnier.

What's in your web 3.0?

What's in web 3.0? or web 4.0? or web 4.5.1.0? Any ideas? No?

Go on, have a go and play the "What's in your web x.0 game"

Normally historical classifications are given post event, however in the brave new web world let's define classifications pre-event and decide what the future will be called before it is even here.

It's a sort of history 2.0, or is that history 3.0 or .....

Just ranting at some of the pointless debates on minutiae which occur in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Open Source vs SaaS?

I am amazed to discover lots of discussion about a so called "Open Source vs SaaS" debate.

Surely it is obvious that the barriers to adoption of SaaS and the fears about the uncertainty of provision of service will be reduced through greater patration(as in portability of service). The fastest way of achieving this is through providing an operational means of implementing an open standard - which means Open Source.

It is not a this vs that debate, as Open Source will accelerate the adoption of the XaaS stack and it is complimentary to it.

Next I'll be hearing about the great "Salt vs Vinegar" or "Fish vs Chips" debate ....

I'll have mine "Fish AND Chips" please.

What terms mean ...

Wow, it's amazing how something as publicly spirited as wikipedia can be used as a sales tool. I was looking up some stuff and noticed term wars, blatant marketing by groups and some really snide attacks.

Anyway, as I still dabble in the XaaS world I checked out a couple of terms and thought I'd better get involved.

First, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is defined exactly the same as Hardware as a Service (HaaS) except it was invented afterwards. I was late to the party having borrowed the HaaS term from other people, most likely Nick Carr. Looks like some were even later, I've made some corrections.

[Added: I know I shouldn't but I cannot help myself. The thing about IaaS is that not only is it identical in concept to HaaS, it was invented significantly later and differed by only one letter. It's a bit like me running around saying I've just invented:-

  • The Vheel - a circular device that is capable of rotating on its axis, facilitating movement or transportation or performing labour in machines
  • The Selephone - a telecommunications device which is used to transmit and receive sound.

You get the picture ... it's just plain silly.]

SaaS Platform - missed this one, it is what I call FaaS or Framework as a Service. I prefer FaaS only because I've probably pinched it from someone else and it fits nicely into the XaaS terminology (see the video below) by Scott Maxwell from April'06.

SaaSu is not a term worth repeating - it's far better to use the phrase "utility computing" and let the term SaaSu be forgotten ... quickly.

[Added : Whilst I dislike the term SaaSu and prefer the term "utility computing", I am speaking of the term rather than the company - SaaSu.com. I also note that they have made a call recently for simplification back to the SaaS term. Thank you Peter for pointing that out.]

Now, as for who invented the term Software as a Service (SaaS). Well Tim O'Reilly used the term in "The Open Source Paradigm Shift" in 2004 but it had been used before by many others. It's worth noting that "SaaS" was used by Amy Mizoras Konary in a 2004 IDC report.

However it was a common term well before then.

Hmmm, XaaS must be a hot topic otherwise you wouldn't need so many rewrites of history.

Utility computing is good for ducks ... OFFICIAL

Those boffins at Accenture Technology Labs apparently believe that utility computing is good for the environment (and hence as I said good for ducks - thx to Suw for the notes.). They even talk about a future spot market in computing resources.

Of course, resource brokers is old news to any readers here who hopefully are well versed in the impacts of commoditisation. I can't really claim any credit - I take my ideas from history, whether it's Petrarch, Schumpeter or McCarthy.

In any case "anytime you think of an idea it is likely that someone, somewhere else in the world is independently thinking or has thought of the same idea".

Damn, nicked that one too.

The only downside is the potential for more consumption but in the short-term it should hold some benefit. Longer term, we're going to have to solve those thorny energy production issues.

--- Update 6th October 2013

Many years later, at the Royal Society, we're still talking about utility computing and sustainability.

Anywhere, Anytime ...

... Any Application.

This talk on the future of virtualisation by James Hamilton is worth watching.

I couldn't agree with him more, especially with the essential need for open source and open standards in this field. Just see any of my previous talks including OSCON.

Open standards is a big topic today - it's even a blue beanie day.

It affects all layers of the XaaS stack, and there are groups such as Data Portability which have formed to champion the need for such standards in particular areas. You also have the DMTF who announced an Open Standard for System Virtualization Management.

James Urquhart has an excellent blog post covering the issue of application and data portability. I happen to personally agree with James that unless there are open standards, then in most cases the sensible approach is to use utility like services behind the firewall.

However it's all good news as we all need more patration and as Adalio Sanchez said:-

"the adoption of standards-based technologies is a sound business strategy that helps companies minimize time to market, reduce costs, generate differentiated offerings, and drive a business model for sustained growth"

The most important thing about open source and open standards is that they level the playing field. I happen to agree with Kogut and Metiu that open mechanisms of development recognise "that distribution of natural intelligence does not correspond to the monopolization of innovation by the richest firms".

You never know where that next big idea is coming from ... it could be some surfer dude.

Acceleration or Velocity?

Last year I attended a conference in which one of speakers suggested that utility computing was a far off subject (2012+). This I found mildly interesting because it was already becoming established, however the speaker's point was that large companies wouldn't take it seriously until that time.

So I was interested to read Joe Tucci's list of the top 7 priorities for 2008.

  • Virtualization
  • Storage
  • Security
  • VOIP
  • Enterprise 2.0
  • Software in the Cloud
  • Green Computing.

Now if I look at somewhere like Fotango then each of these had become priorities some 2-6 years beforehand, for example the company has organised activities around an internal wiki since 2003/04.

This would be fairly normal as larger corporations tend to lag the smaller software companies. What is unusual is that this lag is normally considered to be around 7-10 yrs and I find it unlikely that there are companies who can say that the above list was their priority between 1998-2001.

So what has happened? Joe Tucci says that this list is "something to consider for anyone who contends that business technology moves too slowly."

Rather than looking at the speed at which technology moves, the really interesting question is whether the spread of technology is accelerating.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles ....

Fly around the world on solar power?

Travel to space in a balloon?

Sounds great, but I want a car which does 100 km per litre.

I saw the car in Berlin, it's absolutely wonderful but it looks like I'm going to have to wait until 2010.

Can I borrow a cup of silver colloid solution?

Back at EuroFoo 2004 I ran a couple of sessions; one on worth (and commoditisation) and the other on fabrication technologies. Apparently at the latter session, I stated "home printers to be here within three years".

Well it looks like I was out by six months or so. DeskTop Factory has won Popular Science Magazine's Best of What's New Award.

Cool. So the first home 3D printers will be available next year at $4995 a piece.

Still it's not cheap, but then the first mass produced inkjets - the HP ThinkJet (1984) - was priced at $495 which is between $950 and $1,700 in today's terms (depending upon which measure you use).

These days you can pick up a high resolution inkjet photo printer for less than a $100. I expect the same to happen with 3D printers, and over the next decade the capability of these home fabrication machines to include not just form, but multiple materials and electronics.

[Added : Objet Geometries have announced Polyjet Matrix and a 3D printer capable of printing out in multiple materials]

They will become commonplace as well as cheap. Of course the real money will be in materials and design.

With the commoditisation of the manufacturing process itself and a further reduction of the barriers to participation, we will start to see the extension of the consumer as producer into new industries.

I look forward to the day, that my neighbour asks to borrow more exotic materials than sugar.

P.S. Watch the video .... there is a duck in it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's worse than that, it's virtual Jim ....

I've been busy researching for an article I'm writing on innovation and organisation. Of course, that always means that really interesting news comes out and I have to play catch-up.

So, Big Blue is looking at getting into the HaaS (hardware as a service) world along with Amazon and Microsoft, and the now well known move by RedHat into the EC2 space.

The latter certainly provides an open source standard for an OS instance running on a HaaS environment, and with multiple providers of such then we might start to see the early stages of a competitive market form. However, the key issue is still portability from one environment to another, which can only be helped by Xen's adoption of OVF as both Amazon and IBM have Xen as their core.

This issue of portable VMs (Virtual Machines) also raises whole new questions such as security. This is something Rich Miller has been exploring and I'm glad to see he is pursuing this.

The issue at stake here is that portable VMs render physical location meaningless. Any security processes or rule based upon such, will be obsolete.

Q: Where are our servers these days?

A: Two have just moved down to Florida, seven are in Miami, one is in Tokyo, three are in transit and haven't decided quite where they are going, another two have just had kids so we have a whole family of servers in London and one has gone AWOL. We're hoping that it will phone in a bit later.

Q: AWOL?

A: Yeah ... as in missing. Hang on ... just got a twitter ... it says it has setup camp in Berlin, will be back online in five minutes. Apparently it got into a fight with another server ... I'll find out later.

As Greg Ness puts it:-

"virtualization promises to clearly demarcate security technologies into two camps: 1) the dynamic and 2) the dead."

I think you can probably say the same about the hosting market.

The web 2.0 way of IT resource management .... er what?

When I first came across Paglo, I was initially surprised about it being labeled web 2.0. Though Paglo is SaaS, it shows how the term web 2.0 is becoming increasingly used as more of a marker of transition rather than imparting some characteristics. Since, I prefer to talk more about the underlying processes that are occurring, such a marker is useful to me. However I can see why it must cause ever greater confusion for those who want it to mean something specific.

In any case I did take a look at the concepts behind Paglo and there are some things I like.

It's a web based SaaS for IT resource management based upon search concepts. On the surface there appear to be no real community or collaborative aspects other than sharing queries. They are however looking for a product manager to "work with cutting-edge search, collaboration, and social networking technologies at the same time" - so it'll be interesting to see how this develops.

Paglo does seem to offer a way of managing IT resources for SMBs. With an estimated 8.3 million small and mid-sized US-based businesses, there is some potential here. I'd have to question how this plays out in the long term with the development of XaaS, how much resources SMBs have and why they have them. Still for the time being it's a big enough problem that it is worth attention.

They also discuss their "open enterprise" philosophy and say that they are "committed to open source software and we hope that users and developers like you will use these tools, improve them, and adapt them".

Whilst they are open sourcing the crawler (the bit which collects data on your systems and pumps it back to the Paglo servers for indexing), the server side elements which do all the indexing and collating remain closed. However the data will be available through open APIs, and they seem committed to the idea that "users and businesses own their data – companies do not". Good.

They identify a number of essential characteristics in their "open enterprise". Such ideas are quite common, but it is worth repeating their words.

  • Be human
  • Open conversations
  • Publish everything
  • Remove barriers to product use
  • Promote collaboration
  • Enable third parties to add immediate value

Interesting company. I wonder how long it will be before someone makes a P2P equivalent. Still Paglo is something worth watching and I hope they do well.

A swarm of angels

I was recently talking about online collaboration, commoditisation and practicalities for creating new businesses around this. I had remarked that I was surprised that there had been no major collaborative open source film projects.

Looks like I was wrong on that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I, Robot ...

Ok - so hot on the heels of open social, is something which is very exciting ... Android.

I've attached the video below, but basically Android is an open source stack for developing applications on the mobile phone, backed up by an alliance of interested parties.

Obviously providing a standard framework for building apps on a mobile phone is a big thing ... however there are two more things I wish to note. First that Google APIs will be available on Android. I assume this also means OpenSocial in the future?

Secondly, that XMPP support is provided. More P2P applications and bitTorrent for the mobile phone? Excellent.

Watch the video ...

The dark side of the force ...

I'd forgotten all about this mashup video between Monty Python and Star Wars - it's very funny.

Much Ado about nothing .... or is there?

Open Social is the "Hero" of today, according to the rave reviews it has been receiving . There are of course many "malcontents" such as Tim willing to raise questions about this. Well, I have some questions myself.

The first thing that really struck me with Open Social was that it seemed geared to creating portable apps with a standard language such as JavaScript and a framework to support this. The social network side just appears to be a spring board for adoption.

What makes me think that is a framework play? Check out the Persistence Data API.

The strategy of building an open framework and then piggy backing on social networks was something that we were planning with Zimki - maybe I'm reading too much into this?

However my curiousity was also aroused by the the list of who is involved - LinkedIn, Oracle, Salesforce.com etc. This is quite a business orientated crowd, and whilst Salesforce is already a well known SaaS player, Oracle is just moving into this space.

Though this move by Google is good for the industry and probably necessary for them, there seems to be much more to Open Social than just portable social networks apps.

Is this going to turn out to be the NBE that Yegge hinted at?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of SCO ...

According to Dave Hitz:

"This morning, Sun filed suit seeking a “permanent injunction against NetApp” to remove almost all of our products from the market place. That’s some pretty scary language!"

Yep, Dave ... it does sound scary and it also seems to be a response by Sun to NetApp's previous attempts to sue.

As Jonathan Schwartz, CEO Sun, puts it:

"One of the ways we innovated was to create a magical file system called ZFS - which enables expensive, proprietary storage to be replaced with commodity disks and general purpose servers. Customers save a ton of money - and administrators save a ton of time. The economic impact is staggering - and understandably threatening to Net App and other proprietary companies."

So NetApp seems a tad annoyed at ZFS which is being used by Sun, the open source community and also included in Leopard OSX. That's competition for you.

However, the bit that really makes me pay attention is this:

"The number one rule of open source is that you should only give away stuff that belongs to you. That is what this suit is about, and everything else is just fluff."

Is this another SCO in the making? Another company gearing up to have a pop at the open source community because of fears in its own market space, only to then promptly dive into the dustbin of history?

A quick bit of sniffing around and hey presto .... "NetApp Increases Commitment to Microsoft Products" ... is there a connection?

This is the time to start thinking about whether you have any second sourcing options available.

The lawyers are taking over the asylum.

A patent application covering the business process method of a -

"concept of a marketing company devoted to selling/marketing products produced by other companies in return for a share of their profits"

- was rejected by the PTO on the grounds that a claim must either have a “useful, concrete, and tangible result” or “transform” something into a new physical state. This is good, as the application does neither of these things.

Unfortunately the decision is being appealed on the grounds that the test is too strict. The full story can be followed on Patently-O.

The application should really have been rejected on the grounds that there is no innovation involved whatsoever. The applicants and their lawyers should really have been carted off to an asylum for the bleeding obvious for their own good and ours. Provision of service in return for a percentage of worth or rewards? We've been doing this for hundreds if not thousands of years - booty of war, no win no fee and many others.

Given the enormous amounts of waste and the negative impact on innovation that the current patent system has, it is about time that business process method patents were discarded for the pointless sham that they are.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Web 2.0 Expo Berlin

I've uploaded a video of my Web 2.0 Expo Berlin talk below. Unfortunately there was no audio available, so I've had to record myself speaking in the hotel - doesn't seem quite the same without an audience.

I had a small but really pleasant crowd turn up - not surprising since I was up against some superstars from Google.

There is a lot of buzz about open social, I should check it out myself in more detail. I do hope it is as really open as it sounds.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Web 2.0 Expo - Preview

The guys from BerlinBase caught up with me in the corridor at web 2.0 Berlin, so we created a quick video of what I'm going to be talking about on Tuesday. I've posted it here.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Where's it gone?

My interest was piqued when I read about Metamaterial electromagnetic cloaks. Rather than using novel materials, it looks like a "simpler" approach of using cameras and projectors can make a tank disappear.