Saturday, October 15, 2011

Free the cloud...from its data centers - Five types of services

Last week, I was driving to a meeting in Tel-Aviv. To get directions and inform about possible delays, I entered the address to my GPS service (Waze), by copying it from the appointment. Waze determined a 10 minutes late arrival, so I text message the expected delay using my blackberry.

How many times have you done it? Can’t we have a service that will handle it for us, so that we will not have to drive and text.

Cloud computing opens the opportunity to have a 'virtual representative' dedicated to serve a person or a company in a specific area, coordinating multiple apps located all over. Like in this very simple case that involves three different environments, smart-phone, enterprise environment and the public web. 

Let’s use an Octopus as a metaphor to illustrate the concept of 'head in the cloud...arms down to earth'.

The Octopus head represents the person or company that is served by the cloud, and the arms are the enabling fabric that embraces apps and data inside data centers and outside.

End-to-end consumer representation - Head in the cloud

Most of the pre-cloud solutions are constrained by location, device or environment. Cloud computing is free of physical limitations and thus can oversee computing and information assets everywhere, on behalf of individual people and companies. 

As an example, before Apple's iPod, mobile music solutions were just a device that played music.

Apple took a different approach and shifted the focus from the device to the consumer. They addressed the consumer needs by building an iTunes store and an ecosystem around it, and then bundled it together with an iPod device. It fundamentally changed consumer experience and created a new way for the music industry to participate and monetize.

Apple provided an end-to-end consumer experience that practically transformed the music industry, and with the same principles also the mobile industry.

...but Apple like Apple they only support their own devices and environments, which inherently limits their reach.

Cloud as a Fabric - Arms down to earth

Cloud computing essentially takes the Internet revolution to its next level. So similar to the Internet it should embrace them all, whether physically, in the cloud, at people’s home or outside, and on company’s premises. Cloud should be a fabric that seamlessly streamlines information and apps, in the right context, to the right device, in the right place, and at the right time.

As a fabric it should be aware of the metadata managed and not necessarily the data itself.

Dropbox succeeded to break out of the pure Vs. hybrid cloud debate. They manage files storage, on behalf of individuals and groups, at virtually any device and environment. While the cloud serves more as the head that enables the synchronization.
Generalizing this concept can address most of the currently forbidden cloud apps including: 
Data warehouses with large volume and sensitive information, Apps with highly confidential content like banking and mission critical apps. Their metadata and orchestration logic can be kept in the cloud data centers, and the physical content in one or multiple on-premise instances.

Five potential cloud-based services that can 'free' the cloud, in the enterprise space

Here are five types of services that can use the same concept.
  1. Computing resource optimization and utilization – Overall management is in the cloud, and the arms can be on either company's or person's premises, or in different selected site and/or a selected cloud data center. Services can include: (a) Backup services; (b) Balance peak load time; (c) Fail over services; (d) Share and trade excess computing resources. 
  2. Improved usability – Synchronize content across multiple environments and devices – The 'head' is predicting user's or company's needs in terms of time, place and device type, and the 'arms' are the actual presence at the device side. Foursquare's Radar, as an example, is starting to push relevant information at the right place and time.
  3. Complete end-to-end solutions – Source content and apps that reside on-premise and in the cloud, across the value chain and deliver them effectively to target audience, while opening new collaboration opportunities. Companies like GT Nexus and E2Open are focusing on this space in the Supply Chain area.
  4. Data quality, benchmarking and trends – Share and exchange selected anonymized content located on-premise, to improve data quality, determine trends and benchmarking in the cloud.
  5. Operation resources – This one goes beyond computing resources - Access resources that operate everywhere for outsourcing tasks, while orchestrating them from the cloud similar to the Amazon Mechanical Turk.
Secure content packaging is required to enable smooth mobility.


Some of the cloud leaders are starting to offer services that go beyond the cloud data center like, Microsoft Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN), Apple iCloud, Data Residency Option (DRO), and VMware vFabric and vCloud

Cloud computing is THE enabler and power behind the 'tectonic technology shift' (The Big Five - Mobile, Social media, Big Data, Consumerization of IT, by Dion Hinchcliffe). As a fabric it can expand and embrace all consumers’ needs without forcing them to physically keep content in the cloud.

Cloud can modernize Archimedes statement "Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth", and be this place that we stand on to transform the IT world.

Also this blog is based on many discussions Oren Ryngler and I had. Yes we talk quite a lot…;-)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Three Pillars of the Next Generation Enterprise Solutions

Cloud computing, Mobile, Social networking, Big data, Consumerization, Y generation, and a couple of others, are accelerating their pace into the very core of the enterprise world. And after ruling for over twenty years, the Client/Server era is slowly reaching its end.

When trying to imagine the next enterprise software generation we typically base our predictions on the emerging technological capabilities. I took a different approach and focused on the purpose and the needs that these technologies can serve. 

The Three Pillars are Work, Personal and Social

We are living and interacting across three different pillars or worlds. They include our work and company pillar, the very personal private world, and various social circles of friends, family and acquaintance. These three pillars are blurring, and the best way to illustrate it is by just looking at our smartphone. The same calendar space has work related meetings together with family events and personal doctor appointments. Also the contact list includes co-workers info together with friends and family.

Each one of these three pillars is also marking a major inflection point, as nicely demonstrated by the Time magazine person of the year nomination. The Time magazine person of 1982 was the personal computer, and in 2010 it was Mark Zuckerberg for the social revolution. And if we go really back to 1960 some of the nominated 'American Scientists' were the founding fathers of computing which mainly served work related purposes. 

I used these three pillars to reflect on the first two generations of enterprise software (Mainframe and Client/Server), and then tried to extrapolate to determine the next generation, and identify the type of players that will have major influence on shaping it. It’s not a science, but could shed some light…

Client/Server architecture – adding personal pillar to the work pillar

The first generation of software solutions started in the 60’s with mainframe and later also mini computers. They were focused on providing solutions for work i.e. companies and organizations.

Personal computing commenced in the late 70’s. It took the business world about a decade and ‘Fat client’,  ‘Thin client’ debates to embed its capabilities into enterprise class client/server architecture.

Within its inherent limitations Client/server managed to optimize the two pillars i.e. work and personal. It provided better usability and increased level of personal control, along with enterprise governance and resource sharing. Solutions that were designed for Client/Server architecture delivered an improved user experience in a significantly lower overall cost.

Social business architecture – adding social and strengthening personal

There seems to be a common agreement that social business architecture is the next enterprise software generation, enabled by cloud computing, but there is no agreement about what is it. So here is my definition.

Next generation enterprise solutions should start by focusing on providing an end-to-end personal solution for the individual professional. The solution will allow maintaining private information and be owned by the person and not his company. It will seamlessly leverage company resources and adhere to work’s governance practices, while being entertained and helped by the social circles.

Let’s take an engineer that is in the Cloud computing business, working on a couple of projects at her company. At work she collaborates with her co-workers, and reports time and status. She also keeps private notes related to her projects, cloud computing and others.  She sometime chat with her college friends about cloud computing topics, and other stuff. She needs a solution that will place her in the center of the three pillars, and let her seamlessly switch among pillars and get information independent of the pillars.

Some advanced enterprise solutions are starting to shift toward people centered solutions. At this stage it is in the center of the company circle, surrounded by company boundaries. It is definitely a move in the right direction, but for a true social business solution, the person should be in the middle of the three pillars of WorkPersonal and Social.

The main chalenge is the fine tuning of the three pillars to reach the right balance. It is expected to take longer than shaping client/server and be more difficult to reach.

Solutions for business professionals will seed the enterprise social business

Since the next generation solutions will be truly person centric, solutions that focus on individual business professionals are expected to play a major role.  It includes solutions and companies like: Evernote, Dropbox and in the content and storage management, Tripit (acquired by Concur) and Worldmate in travel management, Expensify in expense management, Asana, Basecamp and Manymoon (acquired by in the project management space, and more.

These new breed of apps, powered by cloud computing, let their users store private information, while allowing a secure sharing of information with selected people and groups, from their work or social circles. They can natively leverage the existing social networking like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and some can even be integrated to the private social business environments managed by their companies.

Summary and credit

There were two major generations of computing architecture since its inception. The first one was Mainframe focusing on solutions for work. The second generation Client/Server developed when the two worlds of work and personal collided.

We are now in the verge of the third computing generation that will emerge when the three worlds of workpersonal and social will collide. Personal apps like Evernote and Dropbox that are aimed at business professionals will play a major role.

The following is based on numerous discussions Oren Ryngler and I had.

...and Seinfeld's view

Kramer: 'Jerry, don't you see? This world here, this is George's sanctuary. If Susan comes into contact with this world, his worlds collide. You know what happens then?'

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is Salesforce Chatter, and the likes, a ‘False social’?

Most people, including me, would completely agree with Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff and his statement around private cloud is a false cloud. The concept of private cloud is really an oxymoron, unless the scope of the private cloud is large enough, so that resource sharing and economy-of-scale can kick in.

Similar to Cloud computing, the value and power of Social networks is highly dependent on their size. Actually, as the Metcalfe’s law states, it is even much more important for networks.

Social network is fueled by the number of its active participants

When this emerging social energy is looking to also power businesses, it hits the data security wall. And thus the realization is done through so-called ‘private social networks’ that are providing access only to people that work for the same company.

As an example, Salesforce Chatter as well as Jive, Yammer, SocialCast, SocialText are providing a ‘private social network’ infrastructure for company's employees. They can have limited success with very large companies that manage to build a vibrant network.

To illustrate the fundamental problem of ‘private social network’ let’s use the telephony systems.

Imagine that you could freely call anyone in your company, but…guess what, for calling partners and customers you would need a completely different system, devices and network. Same analogy can also be made to email systems, and Internet usage as a whole. Would it be an acceptable solution?

The main reason for having ‘private social networks’ is data security. It is also a major concern for telephony system, emails and Internet. But they have all managed to overcome it without significantly compromising over the openness of the network and thus its value and efficiency.

The main weaknesses of private social networks

1. Restricted network size limits the potential value. Very large companies can benefit from an improved internal communication, but will find it hard to communicate with external partners and customers. For smaller companies where external communication is playing a major part, private social network is not economic.

2. Network building effort is done repeatedly. Private networks are isolated, thus they need to start the enormous effort of building a network from scratch again and again for every company.

3. External partners and customers are treated as guests. It keeps guests as second-level citizens of the network, missing a place to get access to all of their activity. It is like having a different inbox/outbox and message types for each company they deal with.

So private social network,
o Is not efficient
o Is not democratic
o Is not economical
o Is not environmental

Private social network can still be a good starting point for large companies to experience social networking methods for communicating and collaborating.

True 'business-oriented social networks' are coming up…

In the spirit of the 'social power and the coming corporate revolution' by David Kirkpatrick, I went back to the French revolution. True 'business-oriented social networks' should strive for Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité...or in English, support the freedom to associate and act with any member of the network, while ensuring equal rights to all members. This is actually the foundation of all 'public social networks'. 

Few business-oriented principles should be added to the open foundation:
o Business context 
o Company notion 
o Enterprise grade security and privacy - leverage proven concepts from the well-established networks e.g. Telephony and Internet.

In an interview that Parker Harris co-founder gave to R “Ray“ Wang recently, he seems to also agree that collaboration and relationships should be ‘fluid relationship’ as he called it, and I am quoting "All of the hand offs today are coarse but in the future, this will feel like a fluid relationship. It won't feel like you are shifting gears between companies."

So we can expect that one of the next versions of Salesforce Chatter or different vendor will be a true social network…

Do you agree?

What's your opinion?