Sunday, June 29, 2008

Monitoring the "cloud" ...

At E-Tech (March 2007), I talked about :-

  • The commoditisation of IT.
  • The need for competitive utility computing markets.
  • The "potential" green benefits of large scale computing providers.
  • Why open source was essential for SaaS.
  • The need for open hardware.
  • The change of consumer from a passive to active participant.
  • Why patent length needs to be variable and set to the likely time of independent discovery.

All of these themes were connected to the underlying process of commoditisation.

I continuously keep tabs on how different business activities are affected by this process as this enables me to help my clients determine a better strategic choice for their activities. There are numerous stages in an activity's lifecycle, each with its own methodologies and strategies.

Now whatever the "cloud" is, it is certainly about the commoditisation of IT. It's therefore about the creation of a competitive utility computing market for which there are a number of requirements.

One of these is a high degree of substitutability between services (what I jokingly called Fungitility and Patration and James called Software Fluidity). Substitutability between services in the Software as a Service or Cloud Computing or whatever term is in vogue, means:-

The freedom to move from one service provider (including internally) to another without hindrance (including excessive cost, time or effort), without boundaries and predicated on the existence of an equivalent service or services.

This term really is about the portability of data, applications and frameworks (see my talk from OSCON) between providers but that terms is used by the DataPortability group to mean something equivalent to "access to data". It's all a bit messy but it's the concepts that matter not the actual terms. They will all get cleaned up at some later point along with aaS wars when there is less buzz.

All you need to know is that IT is moving from a product to a service based economy (hence all the different aaS terms), and in a service based economy the freedom to move from one service provider to another without hindrance is critical. This of course means there must be more than one service provider.

Oscon, July 2007

Substitutability between service providers will require the portability of any necessary data, applications and frameworks from one to another services that are interoperable. For this, and for reasons of strategic control, the services will need to be based upon open sourced standards. This is starting to slowly happen for example with the open SDK of GAE and Eucalyptus. Another requirement is compliance and assurance services. It seems like we have a first step being made along this path with CloudStatus.

Back in July '07, I said: "Six years from now, you'll be seeing job adverts for computer resource brokers."

The speed at which things are moving, it could be even sooner.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Look what I've found hiding in the shadows ...

For over ten years I've been going on and on and on about commoditisation as a force both in IT and manufacturing. From utility computing to 3D printing with a healthy dose of open source, network effects and the interaction of digital / physical along the way.

Many times it has felt like a lonely journey and I have become very used to people mocking these ideas. Of course I've seen the transition from mocking to accepted wisdom as heavyweights get involved in these subjects. When Carr published his first HBR article and Sterling published his book, it was a joyous moment for me as I knew my likelihood of being mad was decreasing.

A lot of the poor souls at Fotango were continuously exposed to my mutterings and Tom Insam (now at Dopplr) once said that "I had the annoying habit of being right about the future". Well, the truth is I don't predict the future. All I ever do is take old ideas and repeat them in a modern context.

I happen to agree with Tim O'Reilly that the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed. However, I would also extend his idea to the future is already here, we've just forgotten where we've put it. There is an incredible sense of pleasure in discovering that little bit of the future which has been brushed underneath the carpet or left cowering in some dusty corner of a library.

On that note, it is good to see that the old ideas (pre 1980's) on commoditisation of IT are so mainstream now. Also I'm glad that finally we have a heavyweight, Greg Papadopoulos, advocate "a free market [in the cloud] in which all interfaces and formats are based on open standards". This will take more than open standards, as open APIs and data formats won't provide portability (including interoperability) alone, however the discussion about competitive markets between providers is excellent. This is what should be expected to happen from the old ideas of second sourcing (pre 1970's).

I did note with interest that Gartner is reported to have said that :-

“By 2012, software as a service (SaaS) will surpass open source as the IT cost-cutting method of choice.”

You really shouldn't think of it as SaaS vs Open Source. The really powerful combination is SaaS and Open Source. SaaS will become huge once it is based upon open source and competitive markets form.

As for me, well everyone who knows me also knows that I've become somewhat tired of web 2.0, enterprise 2.0 and the "cloud". I still blog and talk about these subjects, but I'm slowly moving on to something new - books. In other words I'm playing with ordinary objects that do extraordinary things.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Here comes the Borg ...

Many, many years ago, Fotango introduced a system called the "Borg".

The idea of the system was that we could deploy any of our web applications to a mass of blades and spin up new application servers as we needed them. A lot of this went into production but many of our advanced plans for automatic creation and destruction of virtual servers and applications according to estimation of future load were never completed in production. But then again, this was 2004.

What we were trying to create was an environment where we just added more hardware, as it was needed, and the environment decided how it was best used. The plan was that the environment would automatically balance the use of hardware according to the variable demand of all the various web applications that existed within it. The decision process would be left to the "Borg Queen". What we ended up with was most of this, the ability to spin up virtual machines, deploy and configure applications with a single command, scale up applications and recreate virtual machines on fail.

Of course, Borg raised an interesting question that you wouldn't know on what hardware your application existed on at any one moment in time.

I joked about this subject when Rich Miller and Greg Ness posted about portable VMs. However James Urquhart has explored the concept of portable environments in the cloud and brought up a whole host of legal issues. James really is a smart cookie, but then all the Jameses I know are smart - odd that.

If you are interested in the "cloud" and you don't follow James and Rich, you really should. Actually Greg is really interesting too.

-- update June 2014

Came across this system from Google - apparently called Borg as well. The scale is obviously different, probably some of the ambitions are the same.

Fotango's more limited version was built by a team led by Artur Bergman.

Gang up now before the *aaS cloud gets you.

I've just been invited to speak at London Cloud Camp. Naturally I enjoy the opportunity of speaking however web 2.0, utility computing and enterprise 2.0 are all becoming mainstream topics these days and are losing their lustre.

So I thought I'd give a summary of my talks from E-Tech, OSCon, FOWA and Web 2.0 last year. However, after writing up the synopsis it occurred to me that this stuff is really becoming old hat. Hence I've put up the synopsis here in the hope of getting some feedback.

Title: Gang up now before the *aaS cloud gets you.

Synopsis [draft]:
Cloud computing is a hot marketing topic at the moment, as can be seen by the plethora of *aaS terms being touted. Despite protestations about *aaS from many quarters of the IT industry, we will adopt it in much the same way that many well know brands have embraced the outsourcing of manufacturing to service providers.

Outsourcing to service providers should, and can, be successfully applied to commodity-like activities which are well defined and ubiquitous. The benefits of adopting a service approach and using service providers are achieved through componentisation (higher velocity in product release), economies of scale (lower price for the same quality of service) and the balancing of supply and demand (dealing with capacity planning and bursty demand).

The commoditisation of IT is at the heart of cloud computing. As with any commodity, substitutability between providers is a key strategic concern. For software services this means portability (and interoperability) between service providers which in turn requires that the core technology be provided as open sourced standards.

From an economic point of view such an approach mirrors the shift of IT from a product to a service economy with competition based upon price and quality of service rather than product differentiation. Unfortunately many vendor offerings are little more than our product "as a service"

Without substitutability between service providers, any consumer is facing a strategically weak position in terms of competitive pricing, security and the risks of monopoly. However not using *aaS can equally create a competitive disadvantage due to the Red Queen Effect.

What is a business consumer to do?

Business consumers need to push vendors towards open sourcing their technology. Whilst it might be possible to do this by forming consumer organisations (hence ganging up), the more likely route is the long wait for government regulation. This probably won't happen until after we experience a couple of high profile reruns of the lessons of second sourcing. Despite the best efforts of vendors, there will be a black swan in the *aaS world and a catastrophic systems collapse due to some form of systemic failure (i.e. the *aaS cloud gets you).

Whilst a few enlightened vendors (for example Google, FaceBook and Bungeelabs) seem to have realised that open source is the way forward, many more vendors remain stuck in a product mindset. Except for those lucky few who find a role in a niche product area, some vendors will find themselves ill equipped to cope with a world where reputation and service become the source of competitive advantage.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's a hard luck life ...

It turns out that anti-terrorist laws are being used to snoop on ordinary members of the public suspected of petty offences. People have been bugged and spied upon for breaching the smoking ban to housing benefit fraud to playing music loudly. If only those same laws had been used on the snout trough-ing members of government who have been lavishly spending the public purse on nannies, private accommodation and other perks.

Just for laughs, whilst asking the country to show restraint in wage rises, a group of London MPs have been awarded inflation busting increases. There is even talk of a 40% pay rise for MPs to make up for some of their perks being taken away. Until that arrives, the poor loves have been told that they now have to buy their own TVs and kitchen furniture out of their £60K+ p.a. salary. How will they cope?

It shouldn't be forgotten that in the past MPs asked for everyone to show restraint and set the example by awarding themselves low wage increases. Of course, we all suspected that they were racking up hidden perks. At least we now know just how much they've been coining it.

So should they get huge rises? Well in my opinion they should not only get pay rises pegged to the CPI but their lavish expenses should go. I know that Andrew Neil (from "This Week") doesn't believe that £60K+ is much money, but most people think it's a fortune.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

3 is the new 2 ...

There are three accelerators to change hidden in the concepts commonly associated with web 2.0. These are :-

  • componentisation through the internet as a platform
  • network effects through social networks
  • increasing participation though reducing barriers to entry, collaborative approaches and the levelling of any disparity between opportunity and ability.

I mention this because Salesforce have decided to define Platform as a Service (a term which they coined and used successfully to gain thought leadership on what was already a common concept) as "Web 3.0".

Seeing that the internet as a platform is a key part of web 2.0, this change will just cause confusion and will be of little benefit to consumers. However, it will give the pundits plenty to talk about.

Expect "Process as a Platform as a Cloud as a Service" or PaaPaaCaaS (aka web 4.51 rc 2) soon. Sounds gibberish? It is, and so are these new terms being touted.

Monday, June 23, 2008

From Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0

This is a recreation of my talk from the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Milan (June 2008).

During the talk I examined the concepts of web 2.0, enterprise 2.0 and the forces behind change. The talk links together a number of topics from componentisation, software as a service, participation, network effects, innovation and commoditisation into a single theme (most of this stuff is old hat for those who have seen any of my presentations over the last few years).

The video covers in very simple and general terms:-

  • What is commoditisation?
  • What is innovation?
  • Why is web 2.0 important?
  • Why is web 2.0 important now?
  • Why is enterprise 2.0 important?
  • Some basic lessons on managing enterprise 2.0.

From Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0 (50 mins approx)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Age of Innovation ... oh no it isn't .... oh yes it is ...

Following on from a less than enlightened discussion about age and innovation, I've decided to put down the basic tenets of the argument in a graphical form (click on each image for a larger view).

Part I - the opening question

Part II - challenging beliefs

I'm slowing coming to the conclusion that I've found the "Hazard" age group.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Some basic SaaS questions ...

SaaS is simply the move of IT from a product to a service based economy and as a result it promises all sorts of benefits through componentisation. If you want to realise those benefits then there are two basic questions you need to ask:-

  1. Is there a standard service?
  2. Are there alternative providers of the standard service that I can simply and almost instantaneously switch between?

Unless the answer to both questions is yes, then you will in effect be locking yourself into a strategically weak position in terms of pricing, competition and security. Of course there are other methods of lock-in including network effects such as market reports but portability and interoperability are the most primitive methods.

Just be aware that there is a severe risk of lock-in in the SaaS world today. Whilst there are circumstances where it is reasonable to allow your company to be locked-in to a single provider, they are few and far between.


I don't get this at all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where's our cut?

According to Clay Shirky, Wikipedia has taken approximately 100 million hours of human effort. Also, according to Clay Shirky, the internet connected population watches 1 trillion hours of TV per year. As Clay says, 1% of our time spent watching T.V. is enough to create 100 Wikipedias.

Whilst this is a wonderful example of how human capital can be spent to create incredibly valuable public resources, it also creates a slight problem. According to Silicon Alley Insider, Wikipedia is worth approximately $7 billion. In other words, each one of those 100 million hours of human capital provided is worth approximately $70.

This means that the T.V. industry has been potentially using $70,000,000,000,000 of human capital each year and as far as I can see they haven't paid a penny for it. Now that just doesn't seem fair.

Future of Web Apps

This year I was invited to help out with the schedule for FOWA (Future of Web Apps).

I'm really pleased to be involved as FOWA is one of my favourite events. Ryan and the crew have already put together a strong line up of speakers, including Kathy Sierra. The schedule isn't finished yet, but it certainly is shaping up to be an outstanding event.

Two things of note.

I read the following post on the shenanigans at with some interest. I've long argued the need for second sourcing in the SaaS world and this example adds just further weight to that argument.

We need open sourced standards, portability and interoperability between vendors.

In the long run trust, reputation and honesty will be everything in the SaaS world. I note that Craig Heartwell calls for someone to have the strength of their convictions and quit Salesforce over this treatment of customers. Saying you have principles is one thing, having the integrity to stand by them is another. However, that said, resignation is always the last option and whilst Chris might be annoyed at his treatment and his lack of choices, this situation is not irreversible especially if customers group together.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Enterprise 2.0 Milan

Just landed, final preparations for my talk tomorrow and then it's back on the plane to Blighty for another meeting. At some point I will find time to produce some videos.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Our Labour's Lost ...

After the Blair years, Mr Brown promised a new beginning. Well that has certainly happened. Having graduated from spin and a cavalier attitude to our judicial systems and armed forces, our government now seems willing to sell out our liberties, abandon the poor and the the weak and kowtow to the well heeled.

Mr Brown even has the chutzpah to describe David Davis' stand against authoritarianism as "a stunt and a farce". Actually Mr Brown, it's called having principles, something to stand for and the integrity to stand by it.

I find it difficult to accept that the Labour party would ever sell out our liberty for a sham of security. It was Blair's leadership that made me abandon Labour and vote Liberal at the last election. I really believed that things might change for the better.

I was wrong. Whatever this government is, Labour it isn't.

Silent, Rant ...

Due to work, I've been silent running for the last week, finishing my Enterprise 2.0 and Butler Group talks. Of course, as always happens, I find something really exciting and interesting to look at just as any spare time I thought I had evapourates.
That said, I'm going to make some observations about a couple of random topics that have come up recently:-

  1. Open standards do not provide portability, they provide accessibility to data.
  2. SaaS today is strategically weak in terms of protecting the buyers' interests in regards to monopolistic opportunism, security and effective pricing.
  3. Neither Web 2.0 nor Enterprise 2.0 can be described as innovations today.
  4. Management is not linear but complex. There are no simple methods to management.
  5. Organisations only exist in the interaction between people and activities. Organisations aren't real things.
  6. Simplifying the activities of a company to basic KPIs and dashboards is the equivalent of crippling an organisation in order to allow for easier management.
  7. One of the problems with Enterprise 2.0 is the lack of training for management to deal with a complex (non linear) world.
  8. Increasing connectivity in a social network helps increase resistance to change.
  9. The secret to having a successful innovation is to fail lots.
  10. Not having a process / activity map of an organisation is like not having a map of somewhere you are visiting. Fine for a house, not so good for a country.
  11. You can't map the inside of an uncharted territory until you've started to explore it. The same is true with innovation.
  12. 42 is not the answer to life, the universe and how long the police should be able to detain someone without charge.
  13. [Some additions by Rebecca Caroe]

  14. Web 2.0 bandwaggon-jumping is the single easiest way to erode brand value online if a company doesn't do it right.
  15. Thinking that just because you blog it will make your organisation famous is naieve - your ability to write interesting stuff is the limiting factor PLUS how easy it is to find your writings.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Don't Panic ...?

According to Pingdom and Network World, Amazon was down, kaput, not working and generally having an unplanned event.

Have no fear, in the world of "national grids" the failure of one power station isn't going to stop the provision of electricity. So, in the world of "cloud computing", I can just switch over to another provider.

Alas, No.

I exist in a world where portability and interoperability are replaced with an abundance of lock-in. Let's imagine we were consumers of Amazon's EC2 & S3. When they are down do we sit here twiddling our thumbs whilst wondering :-

  • Has any data has gone missing?
  • How am I going to find out?
  • What if they don't come back?
  • When are they coming back?
  • Should I start building my own infrastructure?
  • Should I have really fired my systems team?

In short do we just sit here thinking panic, panic, panic, panic .... phewww it's back again.

Now the people of Amazon are smart, so they will be taking every precaution. A long time ago, I spent a short amount of time doing complex risk analysis using a mix of quantitative and qualitative analysis. Amazon is bound to have hundreds of risk analysts doing the equivalent of Hazop and Hazan on their systems. Making sure that every system has a mass of redundancy, that every redundant system is different from the original and that every fault tree conceivable has been analysed. Systematic failures can be very painful when they hit and when the fault is the standard component you've implemented everywhere ... ouch. Despite all the precautions and measures they take, they will one day see their Black Swan.

When that happens we better have a simple switch over to another provider or we will be receiving the unpleasant lesson of second sourcing ourselves.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Words of advice ...

If you are going to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, then whatever you do, don't miss Jenny Ambrozek's session on the 10th.

Jenny is one of smartest people I know and an absolute pleasure to talk with. I was so delighted when we were able to persuade Jenny to come and speak at Enterprise 2.0 Summit at Cebit and the session she ran was truly spectacular.

The highlight of the Cebit conference was Jenny, Euan and Dion on stage together. I'll be catching up with Euan and Dion at Web 2.0 Strategies in London on the 12th.

If anyone can record Jenny's session, I'd appreciate a copy.

[Additional note: I've just realised that Jenny is speaking at E2.0 Open, which is the FREE part of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. If you're in the area and you can't afford to pay the conference pass fee, don't worry, you don't have to. It's worth checking out E2.0 Open, they seem to have a really good lineup.]

Soft landing ...

For many years I've been perplexed at how the housing market has been sustained and why anyone thinks we are not heading for recession. Whilst the FTSE collapse between 2000-2003 was straightforward enough (I had it pegged as dropping from 6500 to 2500, though it did drop to 3300 it rose again shortly afterwards), the housing market has remained completely out of sync with historical norms.

The buy-to-let and other enthusiasts have certainly had a good ride but eventually prices will return to a more balanced level. According to the Times prices dropped by 2.4% last month. The question is, how much further is there left to go :- 20%, 30% or even 40%?

Well, the market reckons it's going to drop by around 30%. That's quite a shocker! Of course, some pundits have gone as high as a 40% drop which tends to make people look at you as though you're the enemy of the free world. Unfortunately, as with all things, the drop will probably overshoot its historical position as it heads south. We're currently around 45% above where we should be.

To even whisper 40-55% earns the pundit a one way ticket to Bedlam and above that figure, well, you're just being silly.

Whilst I'm not going to try and put a figure on how much it is going to overshoot (I'm in the silly region), I thought I'd put up this wonderful old video and leave you with the wise old words of "always look on the bright side of life".

Fancy camping? Welcome to InterTent'08 ...

I'm going camping at Lee Valley Campsite on the 16th / 17th August. So based upon some tweets, I thought I'd start a completely disorganised unconference on Emerging Technologies (for example, Green IT, Innovation, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Utility Computing, Portability, Fabrication, Gov 2.0, Cybernetics, Open Source, Social Media and anything else that is interesting)

Bring your own tent, laptops, food, drink, coffee and whatever else you need. If you need power, you're going to have to work out how to bring some of that too (solar, wind, pedal etc). You'll need to book a pitch, which will cost you £6.80 per person.

As for the name of this unconference, blame James Governor. If you fancy organising this and putting up a facebook, myspace or some other group etc, please don't ask - just do it.

Things people have added

If you're planning to come along then please add yourself to the Wiki.

At the end of the day, I'm just going camping. If it turns out that we end up with an impromptu conference all about tomorrow's technology, well then that's £750 quid saved.

How big is your spime ...

Yesterday, I spent a few hours in the company of Manolis and his wonderful book. I have long been fascinated by the convergence of the physical / digital and in particular the coming resurgence of printing both in terms of 3D structure, printed electronics and hybrid printers.

A new class of things, called "spimes", is on the horizon and it challenges all our preconceptions of what an object is. Occasionally you see glimmers of this future, other times you walk right past it.

Open sourced EC2 .... not by Amazon

Thanks to James Urquhart for spotting Eucalyptus.

From their site: "EUCALYPTUS -- Elastic Utility Computing Architecture for Linking Your Programs To Useful Systems -- is an open-source software infrastructure for implementing Elastic/Utility/Cloud computing using computing clusters and/or workstation farms.".

Not only is it "interface-compatible with's EC2" but it is also "designed to be modified and extended so that multiple client-side interfaces can be supported"

Now, that is good news. If you happen to be an ISP starting to get nervous of this new world of large utility computing providers, then group together, get involved with EUCALYPTUS and create a marketplace.

EUCALYPTUS would appear to be, a full blown, open sourced standard at the "Hardware as a Service" level of the computing stack. All we need now are multiple providers, some trademarks and a compliance authority.

P.S. If you are interested in utility computing then the two blogs I keep an eye on are : James Urquhart and Rich Miller.

Web 2.0 Strategies

I've noticed a little bit of a ding dong going on over Enterprise 2.0. At the heart of this is a wonderful quote from Jevon Macdonald (picked up Dennis Howlett's ZDNet article):

"The Drag Queens of Enterprise 2.0 are those old Enterprise software vendors who haven’t done anything to change their products, but instead they went out and have bought a nice dress and have put some eye shadow on their football player physiques."

This statement resonates with the changes occurring in the "cloud computing"1 world. IT is moving from a product to a serviced based economy and competition in this new world takes more than just adding "as a Service" to your product.

I had a peek at the schedule and there is a whole session on "cloud computing". I don't know the speakers but hopefully this will be a balanced view and not some sort of "our product" + "as a Service" vendor love-in. If anyone is going, I'm not, then I've provided a set of questions that you might want to ask2.

Now, it seems that Dennis' comments have drawn a bit of flak, even to the point that Steve Wylie, the Conference Director, has suggested that Dennis could save himself the trip.

Well, I'm really excited to be speaking at Web 2.0 Strategies in London on the 12th, alongside some stars of the Enterprise & Web world such as Euan Semple, Dion Hinchcliffe, Julie Meyer and Jeff Schick. So Dennis, if they want you stay away then come and join us instead.

Additional Notes:

1.Looking for a definition of "cloud computing" ..... join the club. James Urquhart has had several attempts at doing this but there so many vendors vying for "thought leadership" that the term keeps on getting mangled. It's like the Haas become IaaS, FaaS or PaaS becomes DaaS and SOA becomes ROA and WOA debate. If you're looking for an answer, sorry, but wait for five years until marketing and the pundits have moved on and then the terms will get cleaned up. For the time being just accept it as an ephemeral concept meaning that your systems will exist somewhere on the internet, probably.

2."When people talk about the 'cloud' they often use analogies to public utilities. However, when I change my electricity provider, I don't normally need to rewire my house. I want that same easy switching in the 'cloud computing' world. I want to move from Microsoft, to IBM, to Amazon and back again, at a click of switch. I want portability, interoperability and choice. You wouldn't catch manufacturing using services without second sourcing options, I don't see why IT should be different.

Can the panel :

  • demonstrate an example of two large independent 'computing cloud' providers that I can simply switch between. I can change electricity providers with a quick phone call and no downtime - I'd like the panel to show me how to do that with one of their systems or alternatively explain how I'm going to avoid lock-in?
  • explain how portability and interoperability is going to be achieved without the core systems being completely open sourced? We know that the standards approach, for example POSIX & SQL and a myriad of others, has failed in the past to achieve such goals.
  • explain how something which is ubiquitous and well defined, and therefore suitable for provision as a service, is anything but a cost of doing business? Shouldn't the customer focus be on price and quality of service alone?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

More Food for Thought ...

Tom Raftery asks an interesting question: "What if electricity were like the Internet?"

Beyond the normal realm of politics, I'd expect that one of the obstacles to this ideas is transmission loss. However, even today, it is economically feasible to have transmission systems exceed a distance of 4,000 km and with high temperature superconducting materials (such as copper oxide materials or the recently discovered iron based superconductors) this could be almost lossless.

Considering the fluctuation in renewable energy supply and CO2 production being a worldwide issue, I'm surprised that we don't hear more about the ideas of a worldwide energy grid.

According to wikipedia, "the concept of an interconnected global grid linked to renewable resources was first suggested by Buckminster Fuller" in the 1970s.

There are even organisations such as the Global Energy Network Institute (GENI) who apparently have been working on the "viability of the interconnection of electric power networks between nations".

This subject deserves a higher profile.

I wish I had thought of that ...

I recently posted a question about how much much CO2 on average goes into the creation, maintenance and removal of a kilo of human flesh. Being a little bit on the large side, I'm looking for socially responsible ways of removing the additional mass.

Dennis Howlett continues this line of thought by asking how environmentally friendly is WiiFit. Are WiiFit fanatics a net contributor to CO2 emissions?

One Good, One Bad ... Twice.

Let us start with the good. OnSaaS has provided an introduction into the Software as a Service world where it describes a stack of services from the application, to the framework it runs on, to the operating system underneath this. It describes this stacks as SaaS, PaaS (platform) and IaaS (infrastructure). Whilst I dislike the abundance of *aaS terms almost as much as I dislike the growing plethora of *OAs, the division of the the "as a Service" world into a conceptual computing stack is something I'd agree with.

On a side note, IaaS used to be called HaaS back in 2006. I do find that all this term re-invention creates confusion.

What I find unfortunate is their linking (the bad) of the utility computing definition to the term IaaS. Utility computing is a billing and commodity provisioning model whereas "as a service" is simply about delivery methods. Don't confuse the two, they are not the same.

One of the most exciting future developments of the service world is the potential growth of competitive utility computing markets. These markets will be based upon portability between providers and competition in how services are implemented. However, how do you strike the right balance between competition (the difference between services) and yet ensure portability?

As previously explained, over the last year, the optimal way to achieve this is to use a combination of GPLv3 and trademarks. The "SaaS loophole" of GPLv3 allows for competition (an individual service can be modified without releasing the code) whilst preventing the branching of systems into a proprietary product (i.e. any modified code which is provided in a distributed executable must be released). This blend of competition and protection can be enhanced by the use of trademarks to provide compliance information to end users. For example, you can modify the service but you can only use the trademark if you comply to the primitives (which can be tested remotely) and allow for portability (which can be tested remotely).

This perfect storm of competition, protection and portability can be created by using open source software licensed under GPLv3 (or an equivalent) with enforcement of a reputable trademark. If you want to know more about this, then I'd suggest seeking out the counsel of Roberta Cairney. It was my discussion with Roberta which brought out the reasons why the SaaS Loophole was so essential for the SaaS world.

As I said back at OSCON in 2007, GPLv3 is the perfect license for the service world. To close the "SaaS loophole" would reduce the value of the license as it discourages competition and increases the barrier to adoption for no discernible benefit. I said "no discernible" benefit as the idea that you can create portability and compliance by removing the SaaS Loophole is wishful thinking at best. For portability to work, you will need an open sourced standard and the emergence of a compliance authority. GPLv3 is the ideal license for encouraging this to happen.

This view is not universal, as Linux Magazine's doubts1 over the GPL shows. It positively describes Facebook's CPAL (Common Public Attribution License) as an example of what is wrong with GPL.

The attribution term (section 14) of the CPAL is reasonable (the good), as a "powered by FaceBook Platform" lends for the creation of high order, trademark protected forms such as "FaceBook Partner Platform" or "FaceBook Enterprise Platform". Such trademarks can provide end users with useful information on the service provider.

However, I find it unlikely that FaceBook is even thinking in those terms because the CPAL suffers (the bad) from the same flaw as AGPL. Section 15 in effect removes the equivalent "SaaS loophole" which undermines any possible competition or service improvement as well as increasing barriers to adoption by serious providers.

Section 15 .... You must treat any External Deployment by You of the Original Code or Modifications as a distribution under section 3.1 and make Source Code available under Section 3.2.

Though the article states that fbOpen is only asking for attribution, it is in effect asking for a lot more. Under the license, any competitive provider would have to return any operational improvements that they might make in the code.

The "SaaS loophole" is an essential part of competition in a service world.2

Additional Notes:

1.The original phrasing included "tirade against", this was incorrect as I have misunderstood the author's intention - please see comments.

2.The original posting included "and Linux Magazine, in my opinion, is just plain wrong on this matter". I have removed this as my opinion was based upon my misunderstanding of the tone of the original article.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Social Media made yummy ....

No nonsense social media explained with ice cream. I just love this.

The service war begins ...

Whilst Google have fired a tentative shot and Bungee Labs might still be working out the best sort of ammo, Facebook has just thrown a small grenade into the platform as a service world.

Rather than a set of agreed APIs that need to be implemented, such as opensocial, Facebook is providing a functioning platform. The move towards open source not only attacks some of the issues around portability but provides the fastest way for other providers to adopt this platform as an emerging standard.

Though this move is bold it is far from perfect. The platform is not complete and the licenses suffer from the same issues as AGPL.

Nevertheless, this move takes us closer to the day that open sourcing the entire platform and trying to forge a competitive marketplace becomes the norm. This is what we should expect as we move from a product to a service based economy.

In the service world, reputation is everything. Unfortunately many companies who have strong reputations today will not make the transition as they will find it difficult to change to a new value network.

The one company which has the most to gain and yet the most to lose from this transition is probably Microsoft. The key to its future success is its once mortal enemy, open source.

If Microsoft fully embraced open source and the service world whilst providing support to the community and potential competitors, then Microsoft would dominate this space. Even Google and Amazon's foray into the service world would be trampled by such a move. Microsoft has the ability to own this space, not through IP but through reputation and trademarks.

However, as with all things, the first fight is always with yourself.

Whilst the path may be obvious to a few and the company has certainly made moves in that direction, the question is whether the rest of the organisation could ever accept that its greatest success is likely to come from its former foe. Can such a company ever embrace the new value networks? Could such a company ever let go of its most valued products?

It would be irony indeed if Microsoft turned out to be Microsoft's greatest enemy and Open Source its greatest ally.

Time will tell.

I know I don't make predictions but I thought I'd just say, that in my opinion:

"By 2025 either Microsoft will be one of the largest contributors to open source software or it will have become tomorrow's Polaroid / SCO / Commodore / ...".

Bar a desperate attempt to introduce some monstrous lock-in nightmare that spirals us quickly down the route of government intervention, the end of the open source war is starting and a new war is just beginning.

[Addition: I was asked for some clarification on my "prediction". First thing I'd like to note, is that I don't make predictions. In my view, by 2025, the most significant IT market will consist of utility computing services based upon open sourced standards. In my view, Microsoft will have a major position in this service market. Hence, in my view, Microsoft will be one of the largest contributors to open source software by 2025. As far as I am concerned, the likelihood of Microsoft not having a major position in such a market is about the same as it becoming the next Polaroid / SCO / Commodore etc. ]

Monday, June 02, 2008

It weren't me sir, it was him, honest ...

Mike Arrington has launched another tirade against Blaine Cook. If you don't know who Blaine is, he was the former lead architect for Twitter, a messaging service, which according to the article suffered terrible reliability problems whenever Blaine wasn't there.

Whilst the tone of the article is hell bent on making Blaine responsible for his own absence and everything else to boot, it does stop short of adding the death of dinosaurs, global warming and 'Don't pay the Ferryman' by Chris de Burgh.

I have almost a decade of trouble shooting experience from which I have learnt that it is rare for a situation to be just one guy's fault. The most common causes of failure with any new service tend to be either politics or a lack of resources, vision, commitment, investment, hardware, planning, useability, viability, management skill and luck. However, the most common reason given for failure is the guy who isn't there.

By the way blogger seems to be having some issues today. I'd just like to note that Blaine isn't there either.

You have the Grim ...

Today, I received a very kind email regarding my talks on innovation and my ability to predict future trends. Whilst I'm flattered, alas I'm neither a Gypsy Rose nor a Professor Trelawney.

As I've said before, rather than making genuine predictions I just repeat what is already happening with some added vagueness: "That ball you threw into the air, I predict it will land somewhere". Naturally, I don't make the prediction until I've seen the ball descending, just in case.

It looks like I'm not alone with that trick. Gartner's top 10 disruptive technologies for 2008-2012 consists mainly of things that are simple continuations of existing trends with added vagueness. For example, the prediction:

"Within the next five years [2013], information will be presented via new user interfaces such as organic light-emitting displays,digital paper and billboards, holographic and 3D imaging and smart fabric."

is barely worthy of the name because it is already happening today. Many such systems are already in product trials.

However, I did find a genuinely interesting and bold prediction that they have made :-

"By 2010, web mashups, which mix content from publicly available sources, will be the dominant model (80 percent) for the creation of new enterprise applications."

Wizardly hats off to them.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Evolution of the Mobile Phone ...

Brilliant .... thanks to Hex for spotting this.

How much C02 per kilo of human flesh ....

There are many studies which show that livestock is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (from CO2 and Methane to Nitrous Oxide) and that our diet impacts emissions.

According to ABC News, Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin concluded that the average "American diet is responsible for an additional ton-and-a-half of greenhouse gas emissions a year from each of us".

I mention this because I'm a little overweight (a bit of a porker is the polite term) and that additional mass I carry is a consequence of unnecessary carbon emissions (i.e. food I didn't need to eat). My additions however are nothing compared to the Greenpeace wearing Kraken I witnessed hauling himself out of a Land Rover in Tonbridge today. I couldn't work out which caused more damage: the SUV, the extraneous mass or a combination of both. Was the t-shirt ironic?

Anyway for reasons of vanity I've decided to do something about my additional mass. Having caused environmental damage gaining it, I'd rather minimise the environmental cost of removing it. Whilst one obvious option is to spend time down the gym, I was wondering whether anyone has done a study of how much additional co2 such pointless exercise causes. I say pointless because there are usually no additional benefits to gym exercise other than the exercise itself.

What I'm looking for is exercise with some form of point, such as an allotment or forestry work or volunteer gardening. However, I'd still be interested to know what each kilo of my additional mass means in unnecessary and unsociable environmental damage caused.

Leadership ....

I'm reading one of those throwaway books on the lessons of successful leadership. It's actually quite a hefty tome, so to throw it away with any force could cause some damage to an innocent bystander. Bizarrely enough, that statement would aptly describe my opinions of the lessons it contains - likely to cause harm to others.

I only have only one lesson on leadership that is worth repeating and it's not even mine.

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves."

Lao Tzu

Web 2.0 Expo

I've been twittering about this over the last few weeks but just as a reminder the closing date for submission for web 2.0 expo is midnight, Tuesday.

Know yourself ....

Every year I speak at numerous conferences to thousands of people and yet I often suffer from self doubt.

The reason why I suffer so, is because I hate failure and whilst I might have succeeded at many things, I have also failed many times. Each failure is a tiny cut in my memory and every now and then it will flash back and make me wince.

However, I know that I suffer with this mental affliction and I know the root causes of it, which for me is half the fight won. Because of this knowledge, I am able me to look back at those events and understand why I failed.

The ability to deal with and understand failure is important because whenever you try to do something new, the first battle is always with yourself. In life most people are their own greatest obstacles.

Retrospection is an incredibly powerful and yet often under used tool, especially in management. A key element of such analysis is honesty and for this reason it is ineffective in a company setting unless there is a culture which embraces failure. Without such a culture people will hide failure, they will spin it and the truth will often be buried.

Unfortunately, failure is often seen as a bad thing even though failure is the normal result of trying to do something which is genuinely new. Whilst common and well defined activities, such as the phones working when your company moves offices, will only fail due to incompetence, building the world's first of something should be expected to fail despite best efforts.

Excluding managerial incompetence, how well a company embraces and adapts to failure is a sign of how innovative a company is. A willingness to accept failure requires extraordinary strength of character whether in an individual or an organisation. This is sadly lacking in many organisations as they often parade misunderstood concepts of success and openly frown upon the concept of failure. Anecdotally it would appear that the result is almost always the same - the stifling, suffocation and eventual death, first of innovation and then, finally, of the organisation itself.

Embracing failure is an essential ingredient for long term success. In other words :-

"If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve."

Lao Tzu