Monday, March 30, 2009

Cloud Computing Expo

Checked into the hotel, finished my presentation and went to look at the room that I'll be speaking in tomorrow.

Alas it's in the middle of nowhere and it looks like it has enough space for twenty five people. The old adage of swinging a cat comes to mind.

It's somewhat tiny compared to the audiences we get at CloudCamp. Still, it'll be fun speaking with a more intimate audience. Considering all the brouhaha that SYS-CON has recently caused, especially with Aral, it makes me wonder whether this part of the trip wasn't wasted.

As for the conference itself, well it's a pleasant enough environment but there really isn't much happening in the cloud. The most exciting developments seem to be about who has joined or not joined various manifesto efforts.

I have to feel a bit sorry for Reuven, he's taken a lot of stick for trying to get a group of companies work together around standards in the cloud. The manifesto may not be that open or have involved the community that well, but still the intention is right.

Hopefully, Web 2.0 Expo will be much better but I think after this, with the exception of OSCON, I'll try sticking to U.K. based conferences.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Curiosity ....

I'm curious. What legislation is there to prevent a bank (or any financial entity) with two regional business units (acting as independent entities) from operating identically the same OTC (over the counter) options against each other?

Why would anyone do this?

Well if one of the business units is in a low tax regime and it exercises the options more often in favourable conditions (for example, in the extreme, the other unit exercising the options in all circumstances) then this acts as a mechanism for funneling profits from a high tax to a low tax regime.

It would seem pretty straightforward to create a mass of intra-company trade and algorithms to control this trade that would give the appearance of a legitimate trading activity.

Is OTC intra-bank trading legal? If it does occur, has anyone compared how low tax regime business units fare against their high tax regime counterparts?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What is Cloud Computing ...

Roughly speaking, Cloud Computing is ...

  • the concepts of utility computing
  • the commoditisation of certain I.T. activities (through high levels of ubiquity)
  • the consequent growth of volume operation specialists (the "as a Service" industry)
  • the development of underlying virtualisation, cluster and grid technologies (computing resources being provided by a mesh of devices and grids as opposed to a single identifiable device.)

... combined together to cause a disruptive transition of the computing stack (application, platform and infrastructure) from a product to a service based economy.

Whilst I wholeheartedly support attempts to provide a taxonomy for various elements of cloud computing, the attempt to come up with a precise, all encompassing and concrete definition of cloud computing is flawed.

Cloud computing isn't a thing, it's a combination of underlying factors that are causing a transition in the information technology industry. We will eventually get a reasonable definition for this concept but it will be described in volumes and not a short snappy sentence. That said, I thought I'd now provide my very own short snappy definition:-

“Cloud computing” is a consequence of economic, commercial, cultural and technological conditions that have combined together to cause a disruptive shift in I.T. towards a service based economy.

I'll change my view when someone, 200 years after the event, can give me a precise, all encompassing, concrete definition of the "industrial revolution" without requiring me to read a book or watch a documentary.

Of course, I'll always welcome suggestions on good books to read.

Changing Phone with Orange

I recently changed phone to the O2 network and started the process of transferring my old phone number. O2 was very helpful in the process and told me exactly what I needed to do.

I called Orange and asked for a PAC. I was asked lots of questions about why I wanted to leave, wouldn't I prefer to stay and that I'll lose the credits on my phone by transferring. I made it clear that I wanted to move.

Eventually I was transferred to another number. When I say transferred, I was actually placed in a phone queue where I was bombarded with awful music. I waited ... 5 minutes ... waited ... 10 minutes ... waited ... 15 minutes. After a painfully long time, I managed to speak to someone.

I insisted on them providing me with a PAC. They obliged.

The O2 bit was easy, phone them up, quickly get to who I need to speak with and give them the PAC. They gave me a date for the transfer. Simple.

Day of the transfer, it seems that Orange hasn't quite handed over the number. I now have a phone which I can call from but to which all incoming calls go to my Orange answer-phone. It has to be easier than this. I'm hoping this isn't going to turn into one of those awful Mercedes-like customer support experiences. Fortunately for me, O2 is on the case.

I note that I have also received a letter from Orange addressed to "Dear Other Unregistered". It states they are sorry that I've decided to leave and that their service is flexible enough to meet my needs. This actually isn't quite true, they don't offer the phone I want and it seems that they can't be bothered to remember my name after all these years.

I'm starting to wonder whether others have problems with transferring. I'm curious to how this will develop because if portability of a phone number in a regulated industry is so non-trivial, what does this mean for "cloud computing"?

Does anyone know of any industry statistics around portability in the telecoms market? Success rates on first attempts etc?

Monday, March 02, 2009

There is no value in free software

One of most ludicrous statements I've heard recently is that "there is no value in free software". Whilst this is certainly true for a product vendor with a business proposition based upon selling a product, this does not mean that viable businesses cannot be based upon free products. The key to success is to make value from the services you provide.

The problem with products is that their success contains their own seeds of destruction. The more widespread an activity becomes (encapsulated in some form of product), the less differential value it has to a user. For example, the activity of CRM has been encapsulated in various excellent products which have gained widespread adoption. They are now so widespread that those products have little or no differential advantage for their users.

Nothing which is ubiquitous can be described as a source of advantage.

The very success of products at various layers of the computing stack (from application to infrastructure) has resulted in ubiquitous and well defined activities. Such activities are now suitable for service provision (hence the growing 'as a service' industries of the cloud computing space). The products themselves are simply becoming the standard output of a service world.

Obviously, this is a bitter pill for those in a product mentality to swallow. It's always uncomfortable to realise that your own success has led to the disruption of your industry.

Nevertheless, in the cloud computing world, value is in the service and not the product. Furthermore, open source reference models provide a means of creating standards, allowing portability and overcoming adoption issues. This means, that the growth of the service industry (and hence value) is more likely to be enhanced by open source (and hence free product). The counterpoint to this is standards built upon proprietary technology. This will simply result in all providers and consumers handing some form of strategic control over to a technology vendor. From a user and societal point of view, this is a complete disaster, it would be like someone "owning" the electricity standards.

In the cloud computing world, open source software enhances value whereas proprietary technology will diminish it.

I'd strongly suggest getting used to a world where value in ubiquitous activities is through services. Discrete I.T. activities are shifting from a product to a service based economy. There is little you can do to stop it. That's progress for you.

The old lie of "there is no value in free software" belongs to an increasingly bygone age. I'm sure that many a town crier lamented the invention of the printing press, many a gaslight engineer despised the development of the electric light bulb and many a newspaper baron has poured scorn on bloggers. These are little more than the delusions of those who wish to cling to the past, our modern day King Canutes. You can't stop commoditisation and the progress towards services, no more than media and newspaper barons have stopped the commoditisation of the means of mass communication.

The battle is already over, it's just a question of how long it takes for everyone to realise.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

When the going gets rough ...

I was recently asked what legislation do we need to control the shenanigans in the financial community. As far as I'm concerned we've got plenty.

Over the last decade much has been done to push forward the ideologies of monetarism with numerous threats made that excessive regulation would force Banks and certain industries to leave our shores. The reckless continuation of monetarist dogma has led to this debt fuelled society and the resultant serious damage to property and harm caused to the public.

The act of threatening or actual harm in order to further an ideology is amply covered by the anti-terrorism laws of 2000 & 2001. Under these laws the Government has the right to seize any cash or assets which are either connected to or have been obtained through threats and acts related to the pursuit of such an ideology.

As far I can see, this includes Sir Fred's pension.

Well, that's what the pirate in me says we should be doing.