Friday, December 31, 2010

The numbers are adding up!

iPads made an impact this holiday season as sales topped all expectations. And I am now a proud owner as well. Will this fuel creative minds to come up with more new ideas? Will NonStop share in the success?


Walking back into my Boulder home this week I was truly appreciative of how fortunate I was to live in Colorado. With an uninterrupted view of Colorado’s front ranges as well as the Continental Divide, with the snow covered 14,000’ Long’s Peak clearly visible beneath a few high clouds, it’s proving quite a spectacle!

Readers of the comForte Lounge blog may have caught the most recent post It’s now in our hands! where I wrote of how I came into possession of an iPad over Christmas, and how pleased I am to become completely untethered, free to check magazines, newspapers, and even blogs no matter where my travels take me. The picture above is of me seated in my kitchen nook, checking the cricket scores, of course!

I’m not the only one in the family, however, with an iPad. Before I received my very own, our daughter Anna, very active in teaching technology, was given an iPad. In a recent post to her blog iTeach with iPad she wrote of how “as iPads gain in popularity, those in education are looking at ways that the iPad may improve teaching and learning in the classroom (and) I was given an iPad to test out!”

Unfortunately, she’s far from being as impressed with the iPad as I have become, and for good reasons. “It seems that there are not many good tools when it comes to teacher productivity. There are lots of educational apps that would be great for kids to use if each child had an iPad at his/her disposal, but virtually none that are helpful when there's only one iPad in the room.”

But it’s still early days and I suspect the iPad, is going to play an increasingly relevant role in business and the pool of applications available to tablet users will grow exponentially in the coming years. If the pundits prove correct, in time Anna may just see every kid with an iPad anyway!

In its last media prognostication contest USATODAY journalist, David Lieberman, did go so far as to suggest when it comes to which company will be selling the most netbooks in late 2010 – Apple? Dell? Google? HP? Intel? Someone else? responded with “the spirit of the question has to do with hot products, and one of the big stories of 2010 is how the iPad has reshaped the way we look at portable computers. So we’re going with Apple here (as it) dominates the mobile market …”

Social media will change, too, that’s for sure. While it’s not news to iPhone users to see an application, or App, for Twitter, Facebook, even LinkedIn available for their smart devices, embracing the iPad will see even more involvement.

To many industry observers it seems possible that sites like Facebook, with the support they provide for business pages in addition to wall space, may easily replace the need for a web site. Today’s up and coming business leaders will tend to look to Facebook for info, as readers of my generation checked out a web site!

This is not surprising as already I am accessing more and more sites directly from the Apps provided on my new IPad than from interacting directly with a browser. Perhaps what we are seeing from our young leaders should not be ignored.

Some of the numbers are amazing, almost overwhelming, but worth quoting in case you missed them. In naming Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, it was reported that Facebook added its 550 millionth member. Time then added “one out of every dozen people on the planet has a Facebook account … (and) lavish 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month.”

More impressive yet, Time then reports on how “last month, the site accounted for 1 out of 4 American page views. Its membership is currently growing at a rate of about 700,000 people a day.” Finally, and to pull it all into perspective, “in less than seven years, Zuckerberg wired together a twelfth of humanity into a single network, thereby creating a social entity almost twice as large as the U.S. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest, behind only China and India.”

Facing criticism over its detours into green-tech investments, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins was under growing pressure to return to what it does best – picking winners when it comes to internet start-ups! In its regular Valley Talk editorial Fortune columnist, Adam Lashinsky, wrote in December 6, 2010 issue, under the heading of “Kleiner Perkins gets its’ digital grove back on” how “they have stopped drinking the Kool-Aid and are committed to coming back and focusing on making money again.”

This was a reference to what one investor had told the journalist, but then to clarify where the money would be invested, wrote of “the recent announcement of Kleiner’s trendy ‘sFund’ for social media companies at least signals where Kleiner’s heart is these days.”

In the same issue of Fortune that I referenced earlier, Intel ran a full page advertisement that sums up much of what has been covered here. Under the heading “from the mind to the marketplace” Intel promotes how they are “helping university students’ worldwide turn thinking into the business of the future. Because encouraging new ideas fuels innovation!”

Put aside for one moment the smart phones, tablets, and netbooks and whether one company or another will dominate their respective markets. Ignore also the explosive growth in popularity of social networks and the content being provided on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Be even less concerned about something as trivial as our kids’ texting each other pushing cloud computing to the forefront of technology discussions.

What’s more important than the simplicity, and ease of use, of these devices, and all the services being provided, is that there will be a generation of highly creative individuals empowered at a much earlier age than ever before. Their creativity will fuel the new ideas that drive the innovation that we so often talk about and struggle to embrace in our daily business lives.

When these new ideas translate to solutions and come to market, however, many of them will push into mission-critical markets where the attributes so highly valued by corporate IT managers and familiar to all where NonStop is deployed, will once again percolate to the top!

I really like my iPad and I have started to take it with me everywhere I go. It, and similar devices, will become the tools supporting many networks of creative folks. The information being captured and marshaled and then in turn, becoming the foundation for yet even more new ideas, lends itself for a new role for NonStop servers.

What we have taken for granted for so long with NonStop, and continues to create angst among those of us aware of opportunities even as we see so many oblivious of its potential should be fuelling an even more aggressive outreach on our parts. Free and untethered as so many of us have become, with little tolerance for outages of any kind, it seems to be ready-made for NonStop servers.

Perhaps it is already being pursued and perhaps there’s creative folks already tinkering with some new ideas. I am very encouraged by our daughter’s School District passing several iPads to the technology teachers to encourage creativity in the classroom. She certainly will put time into this research project, and you may want to follow her blog, Techie Teacher, to track the progress she makes.

And perhaps the message of NonStop will not be lost on this new community. Clearly, I have more work to do on this subject and as the weather over the Rockies worsens, I will just check out my iPad a little bit longer …

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Still making notes on coasters?

There’s many who see the role of social media as a distraction and a nuisance at times, while there are those who believe it will spur innovation. Should we be moving more aggressively to support innovation?

Perhaps the highlight of the year for me was the time spent on the Nurburgring circuit, late in September. This circuit used to be the venue for the German Grand Prix and having the opportunity to complete a number of uneventful, and relatively slow, laps driving on Germany’s Grüne Hölle, the world-famous Nordschleife, or North Loop, of the Nürburgring, fulfilled a childhood dream when I imagined I was running wheel to wheel with historic figures from a bygone era as we raced around this highly challenging and extremely dangerous track.

For those who may have read the post “Respect the ‘Ring” I made to my social blog, buckle-up-travel.blogspot.com, the track was wet on arrival. There had been heavy rain overnight that had continued into the morning hours and as we drove to the track, we passed a number of flat-bed tow trucks leaving the track with wrecked cars on board. But with the coming of winter the Eifel forest, where the circuit is located, is often blanketed in snow and the picture above was sent to me by Thomas, one of the instructors from RSRacing who had tutored me in September.

Sitting at coffee shop the other day and paging through my Blackberry, I saw that it was snowing in Nurburg and I knew Thomas had read previous posts to my social blog and had connected with me on LinkedIn (LI) so he was likely to respond to my request for a photo but all the same, collaborating with Thomas to get the photos I wanted and in the timeframe that I needed, was pretty impressive. The picture above is of “hatzenbach” an early sequence of turns within sight of the South Loop and the grandstands that are a part of what today is the venue for the modern-era Formula One races.

Social media channels, and the ease the information can be shared globally, lets us maintain dialogues with friends and acquaintances with nary a concern about where they are or what they may be doing. Whenever we have questions, or need information, there are always those willing to step in to help us.

A good friend of mine, and a colleague from my days at Insession, began an email to me recently with the somewhat traditional “how are you,” only to correct himself and adding, “of course I know how you are, as does everyone else!” A reference to how regularly I update my LI profile as well as post to my Facebook (FB) wall and tweet! However, it’s not just sites like LI and FB that have the corner on collaboration!

From the first time I was exposed to the virtual community Second Life (SL) and created an avatar, I thought that global participation within a virtual community would be a boon to business. I had a lot of fun flying from island to island, checking out the construction that was under way. Landing on an island where Pontiac had a sales presence I even took advantage of the opportunity to test drive a Solstice only to drive it into a lake.

I dropped in on islands that IBM had bought where they were building digital representations of their labs, holding virtual meetings and, for a short time, there wasn’t a major IBM marketing event where you would escape an update on how IBM was benefiting from its exploitation of SL. While IBM is less vocal about its SL pursuits, it has licensed the technology and is hosting it behind IBM’s firewall.

Perhaps not immediately associated with traditional social media channels, it’s possibly more indicative of what’s to come than many of the more popular sites we readily access today. SL combines visual cues with exchanges we may otherwise overlook – and having cues that reinforce information only accelerates further collaboration.

But will virtual communities eventually overlap, perhaps even merge, with more traditional social media channels – will we stop being “followers” and be more active in our exchanges with others? Will communities such as SL lead to the development of even more communities?

I’m not a “gamer”, and so much of what is now available on SL is of little interest to me nor is it to many within the IT community I talk to. But a future where every social media channel, “traditional” or otherwise, takes us to areas of interest more quickly will be something that only further heightens our interest in collaborating that in turn nurtures the prospect for innovation!

Watching an old episode of CSI, a popular television program, the lead investigator visits a Buddhist temple where threats had been made and where it had been reported one of the monks had promised retribution. Picking up an old sword, the investigator is advised that it’s just an old sword brought over from Thailand and wouldn’t be of interest to which the investigator responded “the past is just the past but it may have the fingerprints of the future!”

So it is with the many forms of social media that we now so readily embrace – whether we treat them seriously or as a nuisance - as a networking environment that easily and readily supports collaboration, they may be very much an indication of what the future will look like! “The growing importance of networking, of mixing it with colleagues and generating ideas – using social media not unlike we used to use beer coasters and dinner napkins,” shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us!

Recently a reader emailed me a link to a review by Fiona Graham, technology of business reporter for the BBC news, of the book “Where good ideas come from: The natural history of innovation” by Steven Johnson. The quote above come from the author’s introduction, and what followed not only shouldn’t surprise any of us but help us realize where the future is headed.

The review adds a comment from Johnson that really adds substance to my own observations of late, suggesting “(good ideas) come from crowds, they come from networks. You know we have this clichéd idea of the lone genius having the ‘eureka’ moment. But in fact … it turns out that so often there is this quiet collaborative process that goes on, either in people building on other peoples' ideas, but also in borrowing ideas, or tools or approaches to problems.”

Wrapping up the review, a final quote concludes with “the ultimate idea comes from this remixing of various different components. There still are smart people and there still are people that have moments where they see the world differently in a flash … but for the most part it's a slower and more networked process than we give them credit for."

Spending time in Nurburg and unsure when I would next visit the town, I collected beer coasters as souvenirs. At the time, I thought that they would serve as a reminder of the great time I had, but perhaps I had missed the point. Long after their presence is gone and any association with my outing on the track is lost, there will still be blog postings and updates in various social media channels.

And just as we no longer sketch ideas on coasters but instead use our iPads, it is within the network that our creativity is fed and our ideas fine-tuned. With this change, as noted earlier, it will be the crowds with which we collaborate where future innovation lies. The fingerprints of the future are definitely visible today on all that we have worked on in the past – perhaps I will just keep the coasters to protect my countertops from the celebrations I am sure will follow!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CI-Ready or Not!

ISV’s are pursuing certification; the credentials obtained will sort out whose embracing modern programming models and frameworks and it’s a good start! But it has HP’s full attention!
This weekend I paid a quick visit to the vineyards near Los Olivos, just outside of Solvang. Deep in “Sideways” territory that includes a number of the vineyards and restaurants featured in that film. Since the weather wasn’t particularly helpful, after tasting a flight of wines at Fess Parker winery, we selected a bottle of Syrah and enjoyed it with a little cheese we had brought with us.

The photo above is of me in the midst of reminiscing on the film and devouring the cheese that included a very good English Stilton. For those who may not recall the specifics of Sideways, two aging former college roommates that had been unsuccessful in their respective careers – one a television actor and the other a writer – elect to just get away from it all and spend the week in the Santa Ynez Valley prior to the television actor’s getting married.

“Heavy week of posts behind me – think I will head for the wineries; about time,” I tweeted early Saturday morning as I added a baguette and a little pâté to the cheese I already had pulled out from the refrigerator. Somehow I recall that’s exactly what the characters in the movie did at one point and you can’t really blame them - it was difficult to miss their passion for wine!

This all leads into the exchanges I have had earlier this week, all triggered from commentaries I provided in earlier posts to this blog, as well as to a short post provided to the new comForte Lounge blog. Both of these posts were influenced by the recent article in The Connection, “NonStop ISVs can now earn ‘Converged Infrastructure Ready’ Insignia”, where author Sundaresh Krishnan (Sundar) provided a quick snapshot of what the program entails and why the community should pay attention to it.

In short, as HP was designing the Converged Infrastructure Ready, or CI-Ready, program it was the NonStop participants within HP who selected the tenets of CI-Ready applicable to NonStop – common modular infrastructure, common management, standards based software and came up with the criteria to determine whether an application or critical infrastructure software were CI-Ready.

In my November 9, 2010 post “Papers? Papers, please!” to this blog, I described how at this year’s NonStop Symposium HP NonStop management mused that “customers have upgraded their hardware, but their applications have not evolved.” How could we expect to see anything different? Wasn’t it up to the ISV community to embrace modern programming practices?

In fact, should an ISV develop solutions around modern tools, how could we be assured that these solutions would be compatible with the new tools being introduced by HP for NonStop? CI-Ready would provide these credentials, according to HP, and help assure IT that such a product satisfied the key criteria. ISVs would also benefit from the internal HP programs, as those with the CI-Ready credentials would gain increased mindshare with HP at large!

The Fess Parker winery is steeped in history and was one of the few wineries not to be featured in the movie Sideways. The winery’s founder, Fess Parker, was the actor hired by Walt Disney to play the role of Davy Crockett. The motif on the wine glasses of Fess Parker winery is the coonskin cap made popular by Parker’s character. On the walls around the tasting table are memorabilia from the Parker’s time with the Disney Corporation.

And yet the winery’s mission is among the simplest I’ve ever seen, admitting only to wanting “to grow the finest wine grapes on earth.” Somehow, I could hear in this admonition some of the same phrases from the NonStop Symposium of how NonStop is not a Tandem and how “the difference is real and significant, but the fundamentals are the same.” The platform of today is modern, open, standards based, deployed on commodity hardware without price premiums long associated with Tandem’s of the past.

The need to upgrade to modern applications was not just recognition that running yesterday’s software on today’s modern hardware wasn’t going to yield the ROI you would expect, and it was a huge dose of reality. Fresh from college, computer science graduates were coming well-equipped to work with development platforms capable of producing the types of solutions companies needed to compete and yet, there was nothing in the way that prevented the solutions created from running on NonStop.

But which tools? Which frameworks and runtime environments? And which ISV products provided options that didn’t simply compound the problem, as after all, the intent was to produce the finest applications on earth! “Modernization leads to business advantages,” Sundar suggested in a recent email exchange, adding “as the converged infrastructure strategy gains even more momentum this year, CI-Ready certification will be a key differentiator for partners.”

In the short post of December 3, 2010 “Call this art?” to the blog, comForte Lounge, I referenced a recent article of Marty Edelman where he rightly described modernization as “a journey of many steps,” and where he notes how “no one coming out of college has ever heard of (Tandem’s tools)!” What the intent of CI-Ready is to make the platform running the finest applications on earth completely transparent to those who develop them.

There’s now many managers who tell me that new hires fresh out of college have no idea at first that they are deploying their code on a NonStop server and when they do, they become quite passionate about it, marveling at all the steps they don’t have to take to ensure their applications will scale and remain available – all steps that required considerable programming discipline and called on techniques many found difficult to embrace.

There will be a period of overlap where more seasoned IT staff continue to maintain existing applications, even as they come up to speed on more modern languages like Java, all the while the college graduates, the new kids if you like, turn out new applications using the modern environments they were exposed to as part of their education.

This still doesn’t detract from the central topic. What about new applications being acquired – how can companies really tell if they won’t compound the problem and simply add to the complexity? After all, many IT departments have failed after bringing in the latest “Gucci Development Environment” only to realize what once was consider fashionable and trendy lost steam, as newer more modern technologies arrived!

“Converged Infrastructure (CI) is THE strategy at HP. It has resonated really well with the customers for the past year or so, and various business units within HP are strongly aligned to this,” Sundar continued in his latest email to me.

And in pursuing this strategy, HP has to be lauded for kicking off a program as ambitious as CI-Ready, as they could have as easily stood aside; the results may be questioned and some of the ISVs will be unsure of the true value. However, only a few weeks into the program such heavyweights as Integrated Research, ElectraCard Services, comForte, and even GE Healthcare with Centricity Enterprise have gained CI-Ready credentials so I can only assume in time, the majority of ISVs we all work with will pull out all the stops and follow suite.

“To grow the finest wine grapes on earth,” and then, to produce the finest applications on earth! There is a synergy between producing wine and applications – and I’m sure there will be many who want to help me out on this point. Bring a good English Stilton, of course!