Saturday, April 25, 2009

Project management in tweets ...

  • All business activities are in transition from innovation (rare and poorly understood) to commodity-like (common and well defined).

  • The characteristics of an activity vary during its lifecycle. An innovation is dynamic & requires deviation whilst a commodity does not.

  • How to manage an activity varies with the stage of its lifecycle. Which is why no single project methodology is suitable everywhere.

  • Successful project management is knowing when to use static (six sigma, prince 2) and when to use dynamic methodologies (XP, Scrum).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Welcome to the free cloud ...

I was happy that we launched Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud yesterday along with the official Ubuntu Images on Amazon EC2.

With Ubuntu you can build your own private cloud that matches the EC2 API or you can build in Amazon EC2 with Ubuntu.

This is a first step towards creating a market and free clouds.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Innovation Management in tweets ...

  • Many people mix up the terms invention, idea and innovation.

  • Innovation is the first(ish) attempt to put an idea into practice. You can manage the process of implementation.

  • Ideas are postulated entities and concepts derived from invention and discovery. You can create an environment to encourage ideas.

  • You can encourage and manage some aspects of innovation but the real trick is finding out which idea is going to be valuable.

  • There is an inverse relationship between the future value of an activity and how certain we are about this.

  • We don't know which ideas will be successful - we have to take a guess and often we will fail in our guesses.

  • Innovation management is a mix of management, encouragement, guess work and embracing failure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Actions speak louder ...

Today, the chancellor presented an excellent budget.

The budget contained investment in building & green technology, measures for the protection of society's most vulnerable, focus on training & jobs, benefits to savers, introduction of a higher tax rate and increased government borrowing in order to maintain public spending. Unfortunately whilst it's an excellent step in the right direction, it's just a step and we've got an enormous mountain to climb. That said, combined with Brown's recent lambasting of snout troughing MP's, this has been a good few days.

It's still a great shame we purchased all those gilts in the "quantitative easing" fiasco, that interest rates have remained too low, we've been foolishly generous regarding re-insurance of bad debts, the excessive bonus culture remains intact and the for the wealthiest it is all too easy to avoid tax. However, at least this we're heading in the right direction.

Naturally, a few of the most advantaged made the usual hollow threats to leave the country. Such words not only demonstrate arrogant beliefs of self-importance but also a delusion that anyone else cares or that somehow they won't be replaced in a heartbeat. Please don't threaten to leave - just leave, go on, sod off ... and don't come back.

Events I will be speaking at ...

I'm happy to say that I've been invited to give a keynote at OSCON this year and I'll also be providing a general session track on cloud computing.

Events I won't be speaking at ...

I've heard of lot of rumblings about various cloud conferences having excessive vendor bias. I suspect I know why.

I offered to speak at two upcoming cloud conferences and have been turned down. Fair enough, I might put a lot of work into speaking but I'm hardly a digerati.

I've then subsequently been told that I could speak if I paid £2,000+ or Canonical hired a booth. Wow, so speaker selection is no longer based upon the topic, the quality of the talk but instead how much cash you've got?

No wonder there are rumblings.

There and back again ... a personal journey.

Back in 2006, the company I ran, Fotango, publicly launched a JavaScript application platform that ran on an utility computing environment. It was known as Zimki. It was a forerunner to what today we call PaaS (Platform as a Service).

Zimki developed a loyal and forgiving following. Platforms on the internet were new and we were learning. Amazon EC2 also launched (a few weeks later) and we felt we were in good company. However, we knew that creating competitive marketplaces that gave users a choice in providers and easy portability between them was critical for the success of this future industry.

Although this wasn't a new idea - the same effect had happened in networks and many other fields - it was the reasoning behind the decision to announce the open sourcing of Zimki back in October 2006. We planned to create the "infrastructure for a 'national' grid for Zimki environments" with choice for users and competition between providers.

Yes, this meant we were going to give an "easy route to competitors into this environment", but that's the point - to create a wider market.

Our future was set, a marketplace of providers with freedom of code and data based upon standards implemented through open source code. It made logical, economic and business sense, Fotango was a profitable company and there was the potential for huge future revenue streams. Azure, and Google App Engine were still "visions" and we were a pioneer. Make the right moves and we would become the dominant platform in this space.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated. Our parent company Canon (or more importantly their consultants  / advisors / whoever ) didn't see our "cloud" computing vision as aligned to its core business. We were toast, the open sourcing was stopped and Zimki ended.

Without an alternative provider, our users were unable to move their code and data. This was one of the problems we had tried to solve and alas the same thing has happened again with CogHead. Anyway, I no longer work at Canon. Today, I work at Canonical.

Canonical embraces open source and the "cloud"; it understands that this is a future direction of technology and it sees this change as core to its business. In the next release of Ubuntu we've included Eucalyptus into the distribution. This means that anyone can create their own private cloud which matches AWS (e.g. the Amazon EC2 / S3 API) using open source technology. The reasoning for choosing Eucalyptus was simple: pick the emerging standard and find an open source reference implementation of it.

We're also releasing official Ubuntu images for AWS. We want to help and encourage our users to build in Amazon's cloud along with building and experimenting with their own clouds. We also want to see multiple providers develop around AWS APIs, and portability between them.

Amazon EC2 API (et al) are the emerging de-facto standard that the market has chosen. Hopefully, with Eucalyptus in the Ubuntu distribution we will see the market further adopt the EC2 API in private clouds and, ultimately, actual moves towards an open cloud.

This is my one grumble with the open cloud manifesto. It's good to talk but the ideas of an open cloud environment have already been heavily discussed over the last three years.There's no need for a manifesto that rehashes old ground; what's needed is the adoption and promotion of standards based around open source reference models.

Fortunately, in a bizarre twist, the open cloud manifesto might actually achieve this. The 170 odd companies who have signed up to it have all agreed "to adopt existing standards wherever appropriate", to use "standards organizations" and to address portability through standards.

With further market adoption of AWS supported by the inclusion of Eucalyptus into the Ubuntu distribution, we might see a push towards IETF recognition of a market chosen standard. At which point, if the companies behind the open cloud manifesto are true to their word we should see widespread adoption of the EC2 / S3 APIs as the standard.

For Amazon this is the strategic equivalent of checkmate against any new major entrant, as it provides a mechanism to retain competitive advantage by being at the forefront of any standardisation effort. For the community, it is a step towards a future of portable environments between providers and the promotion of open source as the dominant model in the cloud computing space.

This is what I tried to start with Zimki all those years back. It does create a feeling of deja vu to be back in a similar position. At least this time, there will be no broken promises and it's going to be done right. The technology preview of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud which combines Eucalyptus into the Ubuntu Server Edition will be released tomorrow (Thursday 23rd April)

--- Update 13 Nov 2013

Today, Eucalyptus continues with its AWS compatibility story and is close to passing 100K cores in one installation. Amazon continues to not only dominate but accelerate away. The open cloud manifesto became a hopeless joke and alas most of the old competitors still fight against the inevitable. 

Fortunately, CloudFoundry plays a solid open source platform game and is full of promise. Canonical has grown and vastly outstrips RHT in the cloud. I was so wrong back in 2008 about my fears of RedHat playing a clever game that I couldn't see - turns out that they were fighting blind and didn't know what was happening. 

Various standards bodies are trying to impose their will on a market that has already decided, Javascript continues to rapidly grow and as for Canon, well ... 

The technology that was lost - Borg, Zimki, ClockThat - have today's equivalents representing many billions of market capital. That's not even including the 3D printing stuff, utility billing engine, the facebook platform and numerous other efforts. In another universe, given a huge amount of luck then Canon might have done quite well in this cloud space or maybe not. As for the embarked upon television products, well I did warn about yield ... gosh, I do dislike big name strategy consultants aka kids with 2x2 diagrams of well intentioned drivel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Inflation still rampant

Depressingly, inflation still continues to remain well above the government 2% target at 2.9%. Sterling has also gone through a sustained period of depreciation and nothing is being done.

What I'm bemused about is how some are calling "quantitative easing" a success and stating that we need more of it. What we need to do is raise taxes, nationalise the building industry, increases interest rates and start building social housing. But don't worry, we're going to get a £5,000 voucher to buy a green car instead.

They've all gone quackers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

No surprises ...

The idea of printing money to buy high interest gilts (a type of government bond) at the top of the market was the monetarists "solution" to our economic crisis. It even has a catchy name - quantitative easing - which makes it sound like they know what they're talking about. To anyone with an iota of sense, it's financial lunacy.

The first thing you've got to stop doing when you're in a hole is to stop digging. Alas dug we have and our much admired army of great economists and bankers have got us into further trouble. Whilst the ideas of recapitalisation through a forced nationalisation seems a good move (assuming we don't sell off cheaper later) and the need for direct investment in industry (a Keynesian style approach) is sound, much of the rest that is promoted as "a solution" has been woeful.

Interest rates have remained far too low, the currency has been depressed and inflation is increasing. As of Feb'09 it grew to 3.2%, well above the governments own target. There is even the chatter in some political classes that inflation is a good thing and that quantitative easing is working.

This action is all a result of the desperate search for easy options rather than dealing with the problem at hand. We should have nationalised the building industry, redistributed wealth through tax, increased the supply of social housing and prepared for the storm. Instead, we've let those who've most profited from their recklessness of the hook and raided the piggy banks of the prudent. Inflation will rise more, the economy will weaken but cheap foreign capital will help boost share and house prices.

You might be broke, lack housing and have no job prospects but look the FTSE will be rising ... so it must be good? Alas, not for the ordinary people and especially not if you are a saver. For these people, I reserve my deepest sympathy. You might have scrimped and saved your whole life but whatever you leave in the bank is likely to become worthless over the next decade. Your savings will in effect have been spent by other people.

Thanks for the bolly, thanks for bailing us out and thanks for the bonuses etc.

[Update 6th March 2013 - Notes on the current drama]

We are still continuing with our dogma of increased QE despite no visible sign of the economy improving and plenty of counter examples. The FTSE and house prices are doing well, inflation on core imports is rising and the economy continues to weaken. It's pretty glum and we're only getting into deeper trouble with increasing social divides.

There has been some good moves by the Cabinet Office regarding IT and we have a glimmer of a tech boom. At least some people seem to be on the ball and fortunately the insanity of Labour has been replaced by a Coalition.  Alas, some elements of this coalition have shown they can be equally insane.

Whilst austerity has been needed, the treasury is now suggesting a float of RBS (part nationalised), reduction of the higher tax rate and has done little in the way of major direct investment. There also seems to be a growing tendency to believe in the mythical concept of "trickle down effect". In a sign of the madness to come the BoE has even been talking about negative interest rates. 

The recession has extended far beyond what was necessary and in the next economic wave, we seem ill prepared. Banks have returned to their excessive bonus culture with claims of a necessity due to a global competitive market for talent. However, no actual data has yet been demonstrated that such a market exists and recently the global competitive market for executive talent has been shown to be the sham we all knew.

Of course, beyond all the Libor manipulation and other practices, we seem to be building up for the next CDO debacle - this time probably on student debt which has been turned into collateral.

On an international scene, China continues to grow from strength to strength showing the importance of using the market economic as a tool rather than a reason for society.

In the US, there has been a disturbing rise in false debates e.g.  Hayek vs Keynes which hides the issue that Friedman and the Monetarist approach would be supported by neither. Alas, Friedman's dogma rules despite no demonstrable benefit and no supporting data.

We've also seen some minor upheaval in the UK / US with a focus on changing the current social environment though the Occupy movement. This has been largely dismissed in the US despite its importance.  We continue to head towards the Rubicon.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

On Speaking ...

Web 2.0 was fantastic. I really enjoyed the talk, the audience was blooming wonderful and the conference exceptional. I was also overwhelmed by the audience that turned up to my talk at SYS-CON.

I was even described by a couple of people as a "presentation rockstar" - wow, thanks but unfortunately wrong.

I love speaking and I'll admit that I do a fairly reasonable job of it these days. It's such an honour and a pleasure to speak to my peers but it's a lot of hard work and physically draining. For your average 40 minute talk, you're talking 120 hours+ of solid work. Whilst, I normally mash-up one talk to the next, each modified version still takes 35+ hours to prepare. On top of this you can often add the agony of flights (12 hours+ in a cramped environment is my favourite), the fog of jetlag and all the usual exhaustion which goes with it.

However, it's all worth it just to hear a few people say how much they enjoyed the talk or how it helped them. Speaking is an opportunity to give something back and it's a delight to do so.

Unfortunately, I'm lousy at self promotion and hence I find it difficult to break into new conferences. If I was a "presentation rockstar" then it would be a different matter. This is why I often speak at the same conferences because at least I'm a known quantity.

So, I'm going to ask you for help. There's a conference coming up about cloud and I'm trying to convince the organisers that I can present, that I know my stuff and that I've been speaking about clouds (or what we used to call utility computing) & open source for a long time. This is not an easy task because I'm a relative unknown compared to many "cloud superstars". I need to convince them that I can really speak on this subject.

Hence, I'm asking you, if you've ever heard me speak, can you leave a comment about how you found the talk (good or bad) so I can at least say ... "this is what the community thinks".


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Help needed with the Cloud ...

I'm writing a piece on cloud computing and I'm stuck on a particular analogy. I need to know who invented the "industrial revolution" and who actually first coined the phrase?

Also, I'm still looking for a short and catchy definition for the "industrial revolution" which explains everything in a single sentence rather than requiring me to read several volumes of enlightened historical writings.

Come on people, it has been over two hundred years now. Surely we've got this one nailed down to 140 characters or less.