According to Bob Philips, there are three stages of man:-
- He believes in Santa Claus.
- He doesn't believe in Santa Claus .
- He is Santa Claus.
Festive greetings and a happy new year!
Though I've talked about commoditisation and worth in the IT industry for the best part of a decade, I consider myself a late arrival to the utility computing field (or what is now called cloud computing). I only actively became involved (as opposed to just talking about it and using virtualisation, large scale SANs etc) in 2005 when I directed my company towards building a utility computing service.
I was also a late arrival to the open source world, only becoming involved in 2000 when I ran Fotango. Furthermore, I was a late arrival to the field of 3D printing, only taking a real interest in the subject in the late 1990's.
I was late because lots of other people were involved much earlier, decades earlier in every single case.
However, some people are later than me. This doesn't mean that I'm right and they're wrong. This doesn't mean that I have some great insight and they have none. It doesn't even mean that I have some right of superiority. All it means is that I've been involved for longer and that act in itself is meaningless.
Good ideas come from any direction and unfortunately the field of cloud computing is just as awash with half-truths, thought leadership posturing and nonsense as it is with good ideas. There does appear to have been an unseemly scramble by some to set themselves up as the digerati of cloud computing, the purveyors of knowledge and the oracles of our time.
Don't let others decide for you what is right or good, decide yourself.
What I find uncomfortable are blog posts such as Daryl Plummer's and Reuven Cohen's follow on which could easily be taken as to mock the ideas of those who are late to a field (the instant experts, the pretenders vs contenders). Now, I've met Reuven and he seems a pleasant enough fellow but I don't agree with this approach of "I'm the expert" vs "Cloud posers".
As I've said before "in my simple world it's the idea that's important, not the source".
I read that Werner Vogels has been made InfoWorld's CTO of the year. Congratulations are much deserved.
Whilst Werner and the Amazon team might not have been the first to take utility computing from idea into practice, they have certainly been the most successful to date.
Their execution has been second to none and the award is justly deserved.
There has been a lot of internet discussion recently over whether the cloud is anything new, if you're confused hopefully the following will help clarify the situation. Before getting into the nitty gritty, let's clear up some terms.
From Jan Fagerberg's work, Innovation is the first-ish attempt to carry out an idea into practice. It is the embodiment, combination, or synthesis of knowledge in original, relevant or new products, processes or services.
I say first-ish as it is notoriously difficult to determine who was the first person (or group) to put an idea into practice. As Eliot Sivowitch once postulated, in his Law of Firsts;
“Whenever you prove who was first, the harder you look you will find someone else who was more first. And if you persist in your efforts you find that the person whom you thought was first was third.”
An idea is an image or a concept or an abstraction. As John Locke said “it being that term which, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is the object of understanding when a man thinks”.
Discovery or invention are processes that result in the generation of new concepts or postulated entities or devices. Both of these processes involve serendipity, questioning and the use of analogy.
So how about the cloud then?
The cloud simply represents the shift of the computing stack (from the applications we write to the hardware we use) from a product to a service based economy. This shift is in a transitional stage at the moment, so you're equally likely to hear about product-like internal clouds as much as service-like external clouds. Consumers and vendors will take time to get used to this change.
However, the provision of this computing stack is not something new. Today, the use of computing hardware is not an innovation and the ideas of providing computing hardware as commodity-like products (standard servers) or as commodity-like services (through network connected virtualised machines) are several decades old. However, whilst the ideas are old, isn't the act of putting this into practice a relatively recent (the last decade or so)?
Well yes, it is and that's the point where confusion reigns because whilst computing infrastructure is not new nor is the provision of an activity as a service, isn't the combination of the two new?
In reality this is simply the natural development of an activity from a product to a service based economy. It doesn't repeat the original innovation of computing infrastructure, in much the same way that "car hire" doesn't recreate the original innovation of the motor car. It's less of an innovation and more of an expected evolution.
Unfortunately we use the term innovation everywhere and whilst you might think this doesn't matter, it does. The methods by which you manage an activity vary with whether it's an innovation or more commodity-like and not with whether it has this new feature (often called product innovation) or operational improvement (often called service innovation).
So is the cloud new? In practice it is, in concept it isn't. Is it an innovation, not really but lots of people will call it so.
I mention this also, because a friend recently described me as a thought leader on cloud computing. This is completely untrue and it would be fraudulent for me to even imply that this was the case. I might have been publicly speaking about commoditisation of IT over the past four years but as far as I'm aware, the real thought leadership in this field occurred decades ago.
The U.K. government's use of a buy-out (re-capitalisation) strategy rather than a bail-out strategy has taken a lot of flak in the last month. I wholeheartedly support this Keynesian approach because it is a form of future wealth redistribution from the market to the state, assuming that we don't sell out too quickly when the market recovers (something which the laissez-faire vultures will obviously try hard to encourage).
Contrary to popular belief, most businesses are not the paradises of economic virtue and good management that they attempt to portray but are often haphazard structures prone to waste, incompetence, politics and simplified forms of management (often to ridiculous extremes). Dorian Gray would be proud.
It is the rare business that lasts fifty years without being seriously challenged by a couple of blokes in a garage start-up. If the military was run like most businesses, then we'd probably be on our twentieth regime change by now.
The government should be exploiting these weaknesses. The most obvious example of this, is the plans for more public building. Rather than making shareholders wealthy, we should be buying up the likes of Taylor Wimpey (on the cheap) and funnelling building projects through a part or wholly nationalised building company. Give people jobs rather than shareholders easy pickings.
It's worth remembering that money trickles up and not down, so if you want to get things going then start with those at the bottom of the social scale.
On the same note, the time has never been better to join the Euro. At such a low exchange rate, the potentials for investment and strengthening our manufacturing and export businesses are exceptional. Many pundits are asking the government to prop up the pound, however this form of interference is not only doomed to failure it also results in a transfer of wealth from state to market. Wrong way guys.
The debt burden maybe high but if we're buying out good future assets on the cheap then we're going to come out of this smelling like roses.
This is definitely not the continuing odour of the financial markets given the latest Ponzi scheme extravaganza. $50 billion in a pyramid scheme, talk about financial wizardry! You have to ask, who was auditing the books and signing off the accounts? Was it one of the big four again, the same gang who were also responsible for auditing many of the banks that have now collapsed.
We really should start asking ourselves whether we need a national owned auditing company and legislation that all company books have to be signed off by the government?
It'll be a nice little earner and we can always privatise it when the economy recovers.
The people of Sark have struck a blow for democracy. Not only did they decide to have elections but they also, rather peskily, voted for the people they wanted.
According to the BBC, this hasn't made the Barclay Brothers very happy and as advocate Gordon Dawes said:"Sark doesn't appear to want or appreciate the Barclays' investment and so it doesn't have it".
Hence 15% of the people of Sark are losing their jobs because the brothers didn't get the sort of democracy they wanted.
Naturally the brothers have the right to pull out of Sark, it's their choice. However, by doing so they throw down a gauntlet to free democracy. It is the right of every society to hold free elections without fear of recriminations or the economic equivalent of collective punishment. For us not to take up this challenge would only encourage other companies to bully governments and their people.
We too can exercise our own rights of choice. I will never knowingly buy any of the papers produced by the brothers companies including the spectator and the telegraph. I would ask you all to examine your conscience.
This is really old stuff, but I feel it's worth repeating.
The importance of "cloud" computing to business is far beyond simple cost savings, allocation of resources, capex to opex conversion and economies of scale. These are the obvious reasons for considering the cloud and they are little more than a follow my leader game caused by the commoditisation of IT. As more competitors adopt the cloud it will create cost competitive pressures for others to follow. Consumers of IT will need simply to adapt to this change in order to retain their relative competitive positions (this is known as the red queen effect).
It's a very old merry-go-round caused by the usual transition of the once novel and new field of IT infrastucture to more of a commodity. It will have all the trappings of past transitions from the cries of users for second sourcing options, the battles over standards and portability, the usual formation of exchanges, brokerages, marketplaces and the confusion created by vendors as they attempt to prevent their industry being commoditised.
However buried in all this is one truly interesting aspect known as componentisation. From the work of Herbert Simon's and his theory of hierarchy, we know that the speed of evolution of any system is directly related to the organisation of its subsystems. Take a moment to consider how fast it is to build an application today using a database and a development platform and then compare this to how slow it would be to build the same application if you had to first start designing the cpu, I/O and memory.
Componentisation can make an incredible difference and the more organised the subsystems are, the faster it is to build new and adapt old systems.
The computing stack, from the applications we write, to the platforms we build upon, to the operating systems we use are now moving from a product to a service based economy. This change can be clearly seen from a quick scan of what is hot today. Software as a Service, Web Services, Mashing up Data Services, Hardware as a Service, Service oriented architecture ... it's all the same thing.
The shift towards services will also lead to standardisation of lower orders of the computing stack to internet provided components. A consequence of this will be an acceleration in the speed at which new IT systems can be built and modified. The world of IT and business on the web is about to get a whole lot faster.
It should be remembered that the battle for survival of any company revolves around the non-trivial task of balancing the needs of adaptation (changes to the market, the red queen effect) and innovation (creative destruction). However, it is these two effects of adaptation (through maintaining cost competitiveness and matching increased competitor agility to adapt to changes) and innovation (an ability to bring new ideas to market more quickly) which will force any business to choose cloud.
You don't have a choice, you never did. The cat is well and truly out of the bag and the old way is in decline. If you think that "cloud" is simply about more efficient and lower cost provision of IT then prepare yourself for a rude awakening.
You might think that cloud computing won't effect you, but it will if you use any form of IT infrastructure. Unfortunately, at different layers of the computing stack, various companies are preparing a gilded cage for you to walk into.
You should already be thinking about the cloud and your first words to any vendor should be:-
In my quest to unfortunately come across the most hopeless companies in the world, I've found a new contender to the throne of the most disastrously hopeless. This is a company who's service or product is in my opinion more shoddy than Mercedes. Step forward ... Tiscali.
Ok, now I was asking for the impossible. I was asking for them to transfer my "superfast, reliable broadband" from one house to another. What I got was a superslow, unreliable service. If this broadband was a car it would be my old A-Class Mercedes.
So, here's the story:-
5th Nov : told by Tiscali that our broadband would be transferred in 10 working days.
12th Nov : phoned Tiscali, to check on progress. I was told that they had ordered the broadband for the old address. They apologised and said they would get it sorted.
19th Nov : no broadband, phoned Tiscali. I was told that they hadn't re-ordered the broadband as they had to wait for the old order to elapse. They said they would call back shortly and give me an update. They never called back. I phoned again and was told that the broadband was going to be connected on the 27th. I was assured that this was a confirmed date and this time it would happen.
27th Nov : no broadband, phoned Tiscali. I was told that there was a technical fault with BT and they were liaising with BT to get it sorted. The order was apparently placed yesterday but they said it would be completed on the 5th Dec. I corrected them on the date of order. I asked for the name of the person I was talking to which I received the immortal line "Sorry we're not allowed to give you our names because of the Data Protection Act". Wow, that's a new one.
... slowly, I'm started to get tired with this nonsense ...
27th Nov decided to double check the earlier story with Tiscali. New story found. Apparently the order hadn't gone through for 5th Dec. Talked to supervisor, apparently there was a problem with Tiscali's computer systems; it kept on putting orders into an error state. The system was telling him the order was only placed yesterday, however he fixed the problem and the order was now placed. He would call if there was any further problems and he said it wasn't BT's fault.
6th Dec : no broadband, phone Tiscali. Apparently there was a problem with BT and the order would be completed on the 19th December which seeing the order was placed only yesterday .... here we go again.
So from my view Tiscali blames other companies for its own faults, makes promises it doesn't keep, has problems it doesn't get sorted, completely fails to deliver its service and even its staff tell porkies - can't give a name indeed! Well, that's got to be more utterly hopeless than Mercedes.
Fortunately, I separately ordered cable broadband from Virgin which was done and installed in less than three days - thanks Virgin! The one last problem I have is to go through the task of cancelling my Tiscali account and getting them to refund the cash they owe me. I suspect that this is going to be painful.
After five weeks, I finally have connection again. There is lots I'd like to talk about but it's late, so I'll have to wait until this weekend.
However, I will note that there seems to be a growing argument that open standards will provide portability in the cloud world. This idea is seriously flawed and there is a far simpler way to ensure portability between one cloud environment and another. The solution is for both providers to offer an identical service.
The simplest way this can be achieved is if the standard for the service is not a written specification but an operational open sourced stack built with portability in mind. It doesn't matter what layer of the computing stack you're talking about.
I used identical because if the standard is an open sourced stack then there is nothing preventing a provider making operational improvements in the code whilst still maintaining exactly the same functionality. This is why GPLv3 and not AGPL is so important for the cloud world.
Back in 2006-7, I described this concept as an open sourced standard but you can think of it as an open pattern (thanks to Doug Neal) with competition around service provision. By providing the service as an open sourced standard, you can not only solve the issue of portability but also provide a faster means of implementing and hence achieving a defacto standard.
Of course a focus on service provision is in line with the shift of IT from a product to a service based economy, which is what cloud computing is really all about. I covered many of these subjects back at OSCON in 2007.
Whilst none of these ideas are new, the lack of portability is a result of the normal jostle of competitors in an emerging market. This will continue to provide a clear stumbling block for adoption and prevent the formation of functioning exchanges and brokerages.
I suspect that open standards will continue to be cited as a possible solution but the problem with these standards is that they define what can be done, not what can't be done. Product differentiation is the mortal enemy of portability.
Of course, you could achieve portability with a proprietary stack but only if consumers and providers are willing to sacrifice a major element of strategic control to a technology vendor. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft achieves this with Azure.
Of course, the simplest answer to all of these problems is open source. In less than a decade, I suspect you will find that the entire cloud world is either based upon open sourced stacks with provider competition around Price and QoS or we'll have ended up with government regulation.
A number of people have asked me why I'm being so quiet on Twitter and the Internet in general. Thank you for being concerned, however the simple reason is that I've moved home and my broadband provider (Tiscali) has taken almost four weeks to spectacularly fail in connecting my home to the internet.
As soon as I'm finally connected, I'll blog the whole sorry episode and play catch-up with the internet world.
Amazon has finally made a move into content delivery networks with CloudFront.
It'll be interesting to watch Akamai's response as Amazon pushes a utility model and we see a likely race to the bottom and a focus on volume operations. Since May, Akamai's stock has already taken a bit of a pounding from $40 to $13.
As I've said before, I don't make predictions. So here is my non-prediction for next year.
When the Azure services platform is launched, we will see the creation of an ecosystem based upon the following concepts:-
Since the common component in all of this will be the Azure platform itself, then migration between all these options will be easy as pie through the Windows Azure Fabric Controller. If this happens, then the lower orders of the computing stack will end up becoming less visible and the hypervisor wars will become an afterthought. It could be Game, Set and Match to MSFT for the next ten years.
This vision however is only possible, if the network effect parts of Azure actually work (I'll post about that some other time) and the advantages of componentisation through an acceleration in business innovation are realised.
Of course, all of this will create a huge dependancy for all parties concerned on this technology layer but without a clear cut alternative, the pressure to adopt could be immense. The real battleground for the "cloud" has always been in building an ecosystem around the framework layer of the computing stack.
I used the ideas of componentisation (Herbert Simon's work on the theory of hierarchy) to describe the acceleration of business evolution on the web that will result from the shift of the computing stack from a product to a service based economy.
I raised most of these points in various discussions at web 2.0 summit in 2006, hence I was pleased to read the following ZDNet post about this years summit in which industry executives such as Cisco's Chief Technology Officer, Padmasree Warrior, described the need for federated clouds and portability at all layers of the computing stack.
I couldn't agree more with the posts comment that "eventually, cloud computing providers at all of the layers will become more open and adhere to standards that allow for federation and movement between clouds. Maritz sees cloud computing as helping to drive the information economy and stimulate new information marketplaces."
Marketplaces, open source ... absolutely. My only word of caution is that people need to carefully consider why the framework layer of the computing stack is so important and especially the dangers that exist within it.
I provided a link to my OSCON 2007 talk on commoditisation, federation, utility computing markets and the need for open source standards - it's a bit old and tired but still covers most of the main points.
This is the time of year when we remember those soldiers who have made the greatest sacrifice on our behalf. I'm sure however they would prefer it if we didn't have this one special day and instead remembered them for the rest of the year.
Whilst we happily reduce a hero's income support because they have some paltry war pension, I notice that bankers (who don't have a special day) happily spend governmental support on plumping up their pensions and bonuses.
When you consider contribution to society, it is difficult to justify the huge salaries in the investment world when compared to that of a teacher, policeman or a soldier. The reason of course is that our economic system has little regard for contribution to our society and we delude ourselves when we consider it as being anything other than a system that needs active management.
If there is one thing to remember, it is that our current system rewards those who sacrifice the most the least and offers everything to the most callous and greedy who risk nothing.
Every day we enjoy the security and the benefits of an educated and ordered society. Every day we enjoy the peace and freedom that men and women have fought and died for. Every day we should honour all our heroes but above all else we should honour those who have suffered and died in conflict in the service of their country and all those who mourn them.
One day a year, is not enough.
Sam Ramji said: "My team's focus has been on making sure that this platform treats open source development technologies as first-class citizens" and here are some of the quoted examples :-
In a service world, lock-in is not solved by interoperability alone. You require portability of your code and data from one framework provided by a large computing vendor, to another or to your own machines. This is my basic minimum in order for me to be happy with a cloud service.
This can be achieved with a closed stack (adopted by many providers) or an entirely open framework, however in the cloud computing world the frameworks (Azure, Google App Engine, Zembley, Jaxer, ReasonablySmart, 10Gen etc) are the potential standards that allow for portability & interoperability between these providers. This is what you need in order to overcome the current lack of second sourcing options.
In the service world, specifications and open standards are not enough. In a service world, standards need to be actual pieces of operational code. Whilst a "standard" can be a closed technology, it obviously creates dependencies of all the participants in a marketplace on the technology vendor who owns that "standard".
If you're going to compete on service, compete on service but don't try and convince us that either a proprietary technology is open because it uses some open standards or a proprietary technology doesn't create lock-in in the service world.
There will always be some CIOs who will rush head long into a gilded cage, I suspect most will be considering how to deal with second sourcing issues.
I picked this up Tom Lord's comment on Nick's recent blog post about "A typology of network strategies"
"Yes, we want a utility infrastruture but no, we don't want the power company to be the sole provider of compatible toasters" & "we will have to bust up and separate the two realms of business"
The platform plays in the cloud world will separate the resource providers (ISPs) from the application providers (ISVs and community) and provide a common technology framework between the two.
The two businesses will be kept separate but they will also be bound and ruled by the platform. This is why, in my view, the recent spate of blog posts about Amazon EC2 (a cloud ISP) vs Azure Services Platform (a platform play) miss the point.
To explain, I'll note the following from Microsoft's own literature and apparently Ballmer's own statements:
Using a bit of twisted logic, you could imply that the long term future of Azure might well be as a technology platform provided by a marketplace of different ISPs on top of which is built a marketplace of applications created by different ISVs. If this is the case, you could think of Microsoft's own data centres as a beach-head for this strategy.
Amazon was recently praised by Ozzie for releasing its cloud services before Microsoft. He is reported to have said that "all of us are going to be standing on their shoulders". I wonder if he was speaking literally and that Azure Service Platform will be available on Amazon's servers at sometime?
If that turns out to be the case, then Amazon will truly find itself playing the role of one of the nine.
Need a new watch? Try our bio-watch made from genetically modified cells, powered by photosynthesis, fully biodegradable, 100 year life span and even makes a tasty snack if you're feeling hungry.
Well, we're not quite there yet, but this announcement from UC San Diego is certainly timely news.
The simple solutions to environmental degradation are less consumption or fewer people.
The past twenty years have definitely taught us that less consumption is out.
I wonder how long it will be before we see the first examples of bio-terrorism based upon environmental concerns (whether individual, group or sponsored by a state).
History has taught us that despite the monstrous, unethical and vile nature of murderous acts such as genocide and eugenics, a madman's reasoning has often been used to justify these same acts in terms of some "higher purpose".
I have little doubt that there are madmen in our society today.
On a positive note, I'm very encouraged by Barack Obama's promise of $150 billion for clean energy research. I'm a little less impressed that this is over ten years. Still, it's a step in the right direction.
I'm being blunt because Tim made some extremely good points and was promptly criticised from various quarters without people (in my view) really critically evaluating what he said. I've lost count of the number of times this has happened to Tim whether it's over social network portability, supporting open source or even the whole web 2.0 concept.
There are network effects but it is not (nor has it ever been) sustainable at the hardware / infrastructure layer of the computing stack. Whilst I have previously discussed, in a number of posts, how preferential performance and pricing can be used to create network effects within a single cloud provider (i.e. through data transfer or intra-cloud api calls), these effects are relatively weak. For comparison consider the network effects associated with having a telephone number (strong) vs the network effects of cheaper phone calls between users on the same network (weak).
As far as I'm concerned the future for this part of the stack is one of invisibility, high volume, low margins and open source. This is not where the battle for the cloud will be fought.
Now take a look at ReasonablySmart.com.
Manolis is the creator of a piece of technology which turns an ordinary paper book into an interactive experience. I've written about this before but just in case you haven't seen this, I've included a video of me playing with the technology.
I want to be quite clear, this is a paper book which you touch words in and it interacts with your computer. It keeps all the wonderful characteristics of paper whilst gaining all the enjoyment of interaction. I love this concept unlike the Kindle which I think of as a poor excuse for a book.
Unfortunately Manolis' publisher has been unable to find an "absolutely stellar writer to justify the spend" which means the book won't be produced anytime soon.
So I've created a facebook group and I'm looking to find people willing to support this project. I need to be clear that I've worked with Manolis as part of amphilab, I still support him in his goal to find funding and I have a small interest in the company.
Manolis will need:-
This is what it will take to usher in a new era of interactive books.
Anyway, I like to experiment in formats, as with my use of Hegelian dialectics at FOWA. So this time, I'm going to try something completely different.
I've already recorded my talk which I'll broadcast during my slot, and while it's playing I'll answer questions and stop and explain bits where necessary. Of course people can watch the talk at their convenience and if you want to watch beforehand then please feel free. I've provided the video below.
Why open matters from innovation to commoditisation
Today I was faced with a challenge.
Explain cloud computing and why interoperability, portability and markets based upon open sourced standards are important IN layman terms!
Now as James' says, I've done this subject to death over the last few years. So I thought I'd try to explain all of this using example for cloud computing and an analogy to explain why interoperability, openness and so forth is important.
So here goes ...
Imagine that average Joe has taken out a big loan to buy lots of very expensive computer hardware.
Tom rents this hardware from average Joe and uses his technological wizardry to make it all appear as one big computer.
Dick rents this big computer from Tom and uses his virtualisation technology to make it appear as lots of small virtual machines.
Harry rents some of these virtual machines and creates a multi-tenanted storage service and messaging system.
Alice also rents virtual machines from Dick to provide a multi-tenanted framework for developing applications in. Rather than building all the elements of the framework she rents Harry's storage and messaging system however she provides access to it through her own API.
Bob rents an instance of this multi-tenanted framework from Alice in order to build a multi-tenanted application which provides transport routing information based upon user provided data, some super smart algorithms and an external cartographic web service from Dave.
Sue, who runs IT for a multi-billion dollar transport company, decides to use Bob's new transport routing system as a key part of her business processes. It's provided on a software as a service basis and marketed as "cloud" which is the latest hot thing, so Sue is happy.
Sue has never heard of Dave, Alice, Harry, Dick, Tom or average Joe. That's cloud computing!
The downside is that average Joe forgets to pay a bill and his machines get repossessed.
As for the analogy;
Imagine that average Joe has taken out a big loan to buy lots of very expensive houses.
Tom uses his financial wizardry to make it all appear as one big security.
Dick divides this security into smaller ...
... you know the rest.
Well it's a positive move in my book seeing that I've been there, done that and bought the T-Shirt.
The one major downside is that they're not opening up all the other ancillary components of the framework including bigTable. If they did this, then we might actually start to see an ecosystem of providers develop in the cloud.
I might actually find a cloud service that I'm happy with.
Stop dithering ... you're going to have to in the long run.
The one thing that we don't seem to hear a great deal about on this side of the pond is the policies of the presidential candidates. The election seems to have almost become Obama vs Palin and whether the U.S wants someone who's black in a position of power or someone who's a woman.
Well, I'm not an American, so I have no vote and my voice counts for nothing. I don't even know the issues at stake. However, I recently heard someone say that they couldn't vote for "a rootin' tootin' hockey mom". Why not? Surely a government by the people, for the people should have all walks of life in charge or is a Yale or Harvard degree becoming mandatory for office these days?
By pure coincidence, I read in the FT how Andrew Lahde, founder of California’s Lahde Capital, rounded on the US “aristocracy” who were able to pay for their children to go to Yale and then a Harvard MBA. He apparently said that “these people who were truly not worthy of the education they received rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government.'
This all reminded me of when I first visited San Francisco. I was staggered by how segregated the community was between poor and rich. The divide was sharp and crystal clear. A 15 second crossing separated the "American dream" from the "American nightmare". It certainly gave meaning to the old phrase of "from the wrong side of the tracks."
I wish I could go back and ask the person I heard saying they wouldn't vote for a "a rootin' tootin' hockey mom" whether they had the cash to pay for their children to go to Yale and Harvard?
For the people, by the people ... be careful not to lose this ideal and never dismiss someone just because they have a fairly ordinary background.
Just noticed that my talk at FOWA was mentioned by Carl Bate (author of 'Lost in Translation') on the CTO blog, and a quick bit of ego surfing shows that I'm also in Caroline McCarthy's article on CNet and Mortlemania.
West Nile virus is a pathogen that causes fatal encephalitis in humans. A chemokine receptor (a type of receptor found on the surface of certain cells) CCR5 is critical for protection in humans. However, in predominantly Northern European populations a defective CCR5 allele (form of the gene) has been found. This defect is known as CCR5 delta 32.
Homozygosity (i.e possession of two defective forms of the gene inherited from each parent) for CCR5 delta 32 is significantly associated with high risk and a fatal outcome when it comes West Nile Virus.
Now, HIV also uses CCR5 as a co-receptor in order to invade its target cells and homozygosity for CCR 35 delta 32 is reported to provide strong protection against HIV infection. So those Europeans who are homozygous for CCR5 delta 32 (estimated at 10% of the population) have a strong protection against HIV but a weak resistance to West Nile Virus.
In a long term scenario with the uncontrolled and unchecked spread of HIV, you might reasonably expect the population to become predominantly homozygous for CCR 35 delta 32 i.e. to be brutal, they are the ones who are more likely to survive.
However, with environmental changes we are seeing the spread of West Nile virus further North and if it is uncontrolled and unchecked then you could reasonably expect a decline in the level of homozygosity for CCR 35 delta 32. Again, for rather brutal reasons.
I mention this to illustrate one point. Evolution is not independent of the environment; it is predominantly controlled by it. In an environment which is constantly changing, where strengths can become weaknesses and vice versa, the stability of a complex system often depends upon diversity. Variability in the genetic make-up and the phenotype of a population can often save it.
In the current unstable economic climate, it is often tempting for a company to retreat to core activities and minimise diversity. This is probably the last thing you should be doing.
Back in July, I gave a general talk at CloudCamp London on how consumers will need to push vendors towards interoperability and portability in the cloud.
At FOWA during the session on the important bits of cloud computing, a member of the audience - Terry Jones - put a similar question of portability and interoperability to both the speakers and the crowd. I happen to be in agreement with Terry that the consumers of cloud services have an important role to play here and so far have been remarkably silent on the issue.
What I suspect we need is some form of consumer association providing unbiased information and supporting the needs of consumers. Such an association should primarily consist of cloud consumers and to a lesser extent service providers or technology vendors. Well, as a starting point, there is Google Cloud Users group started by Sam Johnston.
Anyway, I've finally got around to creating a video of my talk.
CloudCamp Jul'08 - Gang up now before the *aaS cloud gets you
I've just finished reading the computerworld interview on cloud computing with Barry X Lynn, of 3Tera.
Whilst I would certainly agree that the shift from product to a service based economy is fairly inevitable for a ubiquitous and well defined activity, the problem with the cloud is the lack of second sourcing options i.e. the lack of interoperability, portability and easy switching between providers at equivalent levels of the computing stack.
As Bert, also of 3Tera, said on Tim Anderson's blog :-
"Interoperability certainly is a major concern for users of cloud computing".
Well, I completely agree and that's why I've been going on about the need for open sourced standards (i.e. the standards in the cloud are operational open sourced pieces of code) since 2006. Open source in this context makes sense as any ubiquitous activity is at best a cost of doing business and hence feature differentiation is of no value. The problem we're facing is that many product vendors are not prepared for a shift to a service world and competition based upon price and quality of service. What many vendors want to create is "my product as a service".
This mentality could create fairly vicious forms of lock-in with a loss of control and a lack of competitive pricing pressures. This is what Richard Stallman was arguing against and he is right, a proprietary cloud could easily turn into a trap that would cost more and more over time.
Barry countered this view with the idea that it's "no more stupid than picking up a telephone, getting a dial tone and completing a call anywhere in the world through interconnected "clouds" of phone company networks. Well, I must admit I don't know what the situation is in the U.S, but in the U.K. when I wish to change phone company, I can. Also when I switch between phone companies, I don't find that I either have to rewire my entire home or that essential data is somehow lost or changed. This is the problem with analogies to electricity or phone providers, unlike those utilities we have a relationship with cloud vendors through our data.
To make a fair comparison with the phone industry, then you would have to imagine an "open" system whereby you could simply change phone companies and a "closed" system whereby when you switch phone company then not only does your number change but so does every number you used to call and to top it all you also have to rewire your entire house in the process. Of course it would be madness, you'd effectively be locked-in and Stallman is right to called such a system "stupid".
A cloudy world without competitive markets based upon open sourced standards is a potential lock-in nightmare.
Whilst I was disappointed by the taxpayer's acquisition of toxic mortgages from B&B and the cheap sale of the savings business to Santander, I was wholeheartedly cheered by our Government's move to a buy-out rather than a bail-out response to the banking crisis. The recapitalisation of the failing banks by the Governmental purchase of preference shares through a rights issue is just what the doctor ordered.
This is a far more sensible course of action than the Paulson plan of buying toxic paper which was rushed through the two houses in the U.S. and would do nothing but to help those who least needed it and add woe to those who could least afford it. For the people, by the people ... don't make me laugh.
I'm also pleased to hear that the deregulation of the Thatcher era is finally being seen as partially culpable for the current crisis. Those who know me, know that I despise the laissez faire dogma of the Chicago "Nut-House" of Economics, as once preached by its high priest Milton Friedman. The die for this crisis was cast long ago and I'm glad to see that people are saying so.
P.S. If you want to know my economic tendency - it's A.Smith, J.M.Keynes, J.Schumpeter and J.K.Galbraith.
The last two weeks have been extremely busy for me. Along with working on the business case and funding for an interactive book company, I've started a new job and been a co-chair of a major London conference.
So in quick order ...
The interactive book company is Amphilab (I now work as an advisor having finished an initial three month stint). The company produces books with printed electronics. Let me just note one thing, these are not one page e-readers BUT real BOOKS with real paper pages which interact with computers. So it's old fashioned paper and ink (which we all love) AND turning pages (which we all love) PLUS text that interacts with computers & mobiles. We've already got a book deal and I'm now helping Manolis look for some funding that he needs.
I've also started a new job with Canonical as the software services manager. This role combines my passion for cloud computing & open source and puts it to good use for a great company. I know I was not intending to do any more work in the cloud computing space but then I met Mark and the Canonical team. It's a great place with great people - life just seems to be getting better and better.
Lastly, I've just finished co-chairing the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference. It was an absolute blast with some great talks by people like Kevin Marks, Gavin Bell, Suw Charman-Anderson, Julie Meyers, Ben Huh and the list goes on. The crowd was amazing, the venue excellent and Carsonified put on a grand show for everyone. Brilliant.
P.S. I've linked to my FOWA talk below. I know that I haven't yet created a video for my "Gang up now before the *aaS cloud gets you" talk at CloudCamp, London - I'll get around to it soon.
P.P.S. I'm also still writing, speaking, doing some ad-hoc work, building a bio-reactor and I'm in the process of moving home!
"The world is in danger of being gobbled up by a big space chicken" said Ms Lolly Stevens in the Marentessa Times yesterday.
She continued, "just like a butterfly, we can already feel the effect of its flapping 1,000 foot wings. The destabilisation of the financial markets is a direct cause of this and we're on the edge of a precipice."
Ms Stevens warned that she needed an immediate $600 billion in order to create a giant chicken trap in space and without this the world would probably end sometime soon.
"there is no time to think about this, we need the chicken money now" she stated whilst pointing frantically into the sky, flapping one arm like a wing and making "squawk, squawk" noises.
Asked about the likelihood of achieving her goals, she stated "well the Senate seems happy to spend more than this on one load of turkey, why not less on a planet eating chicken?"
So Richard Stallman has attacked the idea of the cloud as a ' trap aimed at forcing more people to buy into locked, proprietary systems'.
Cloud computing (a term I'm not particular fond of) is often used to describe various forms of service provision of the computing stack. The shift of parts of the computing stack (apps to hardware) from a product to a service based economy is a consequence of the growing ubiquity of particular areas of IT.
Simply put, cloud computing is an expected consequence of IT becoming ubiquitous and it provides a large number of benefits through economies of scale and componentisation. However that said, it's not without risk and the key issue for any consumer is interoperability and portability between the different providers. In practice, such portability will only ever occur with open sourced standards.
So, is the cloud a trap? Well, the cloud is not a bad idea but some of the current incarnations are. If it's not open sourced then be aware of what you're getting involved in, either as a customer or a potential partner. In the web industry, you're potentially handing over strategic control of your future business to a technology partner and in the long run Stallman is right to call that 'worse than stupidity'.