Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cloud Computing Economics


For anybody interested in the economics of Cloud Computing compared to traditional IT infrastructure environments you should check out this site from Amazon Web Services. Of course, it is biased to the AWS environment but still makes a strong point about how Cloud environments compare to traditional IT environments. This will be similar with all Cloud infrastructure providers (plus or minus a few $). GoGrid have a similar(ish) page around cloud scalability.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A new kind of platform


Redefining Software Platforms - How PaaS changes the games for software vendors. This is the title of an interesting report sponsored by Intuit published back in Oct '09 which is definitely worth a read.

From the report:

The rise of software as a service over the past decade has opened up new opportunities for independent software vendors to develop new applications hosted and delivered via the Web. But until recently, any ISV creating a SaaS offering has had to build its own hosting and service delivery infrastructure. That has all changed in the past two years with the rise of platform-as-a-service. PaaS is the online equivalent of conventional computing platforms, providing a ready-made infrastructure on which an ISV can rapidly build and deliver a SaaS application.

While many ISVs are understandably wary of binding their fate to that of an emerging platform provider, those who have stepped forward to become early adopters of PaaS have experienced dramatic reductions in development costs and timescales. By lowering barriers to entry and foreshortening time-to-market, PaaS supercharges SaaS, accelerating the pace of innovation and intensifying competition.

The advent of PaaS will change the game for ISVs – not only those who choose to introduce SaaS offerings, but also those who remain wedded to conventionally licensed, customer-operated software products.

The emphasis above is mine because this is a very powerful and important statement and should be heeded by all software vendors. Read the report if you get some time.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Big Rethink

Cloud Computing creates a fundamental paradigm shift for all actors in the technology business: buyers, software companies, service providers, infrastructure providers etc.

James Urquhart wrote an interesting series of articles recently on how the technologies encapsulated as Cloud Computing "...are enabling IT professionals to rethink the packaging, delivery, and operation of software functionality in extremely disruptive--and beneficial--ways". Read it here.

However, I like his 5th article in this series the best because it looks to the future - always my favorite topic! He considers several areas which are likely to significantly change. This includes:
  1. How software is packaged...
  2. How Enterprise IT will begin to bend technical architectures to align better with the cloud...
  3. How new organizational structures will need to emerge within the IT department...
  4. How the changing landscape of software development platforms will result in new philosophies of software architecture, deployment, and operations...
  5. How the need for tactical systems administrators will be reduced...

Read the whole series if you get a chance.

I also want to add a few areas I believe will be severely impacted:
  1. How IT Services companies need to evolve to embrace the Cloud...
  2. How software companies need to turn themselves into services companies...
  3. How IT management tools should change to allow for a holistic view of IT (internal and Cloud)...
  4. How Vendor Relationship Management will become a key discipline in IT organisations...
I will discuss these areas in more detail in upcoming posts.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Great Service is Hard

One of the hardest things a business can do is provide great service. For software companies moving into providing services in the Cloud, this is a big paradigm shift. It's not good enough any more to just throw out a new version of your product a couple of times a year. Now you have to engage in continuous improvement and engagement with your customers. That's not easy, especially if you haven't ever provided Services like this before.

Seth Godin has another great post on some of the balance required to provide great services. Read it here.

On a separate point, I don't really like the term SaaS (Software as a Service) for the simple reason that it should be less about the software / technology and more about the services. I would like to see this acronym fade over time and get replaced simply with Services. That's what it's really all about for customers.

ZeroTouch IT

The Return on Investment of SaaS

#saas #cloudcomputing

Want to know if software as a service (SaaS) really has a long term economic benefit? Well, Forrester Research issued a nice report in July 2009 covering this very topic. Click here to go to the report (subscription required).

Firms almost always consider SaaS as a cost-advantage over on-premise software in the short run due to its quick implementation times and pay-as-you-go pricing. But many firms question the long-term value of SaaS, wondering if the rent-versus-own model necessarily has a cost crossover point and if so, when? As SaaS continues to move into a broader range of applications and into larger, more strategic deployments, Forrester examined client decisions across a range of SaaS solution areas and found that firms obtain long-term value with SaaS solutions.

In the report Forrester considered three key questions:

  1. Benefits. How will your company benefit from SaaS?
  2. Costs. How will your company pay, both in hard costs and resources, for SaaS?
  3. Risks. How do uncertainties change the total impact of SaaS on your business?
If you get the opportunity you should read this report, especially if you are considering investing in SaaS or even if you are skeptical about the whole concept.

Here's what Forrester says are the key benefits of SaaS:

  • Reduced cost of adoption: SaaS helps by reducing the licensing, training, and support costs of adding additional users.
  • Quicker adoption: SaaS helps by decreasing the time to ramp up new users, maximizing their productivity from using the application.
  • Improved adoption: SaaS helps by enabling more users to use the application.
  • On-premise cost avoidance: SaaS helps by eliminating maintenance costs; reducing full-time help desk and server support, and transferring staff to higher value, proactive roles.
  • Improved flexibility: SaaS helps by reducing spend on excess capacity.

There is one extract from the report I particularly like:

"...Many of the firms that Forrester interviewed talked about the significant effect that user adoption has on the usefulness of analytics and reporting on data contained in solutions and therefore the ability to drive useful business decisions from solution information."

The power of Analytics to drive your product and company strategy cannot be underestimated. I wrote about this previously. For end user companies the ability to utilise analytics should be a major factor in the move to SaaS models because this type of analytics is much harder (not impossible) in the on-premise world. For software companies they need to seriously consider the design of the user interface of their Services because it has been proven over and over again that high user adoption rates correlate to a well designed user interface and if you want to really exploit analytics to understand your customers more, you need to achieve higher adoption rates.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What is Cloud Computing?


I've written many posts about this over the last few months. Check out my Blog archive.

Here is a great presentation compendium about what Cloud Computing is all about. It was created by Ben Kepes and uses the Cloud itself to show the presentation and some relevant videos.

View it here

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The end of dumb software

Here's why traditional desktop or client/server software is going to lose in the battle against smart Cloud based services.

Seth Godin's post: The end of dumb software

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More on Cloud Security


The other day I posted a quick note on Cloud security. As a follow-on to that post the following two articles are worth a read.

eWeek writer Wayne Nash wrote an interesting piece called "Is Cloud Computing Secure? Prove it?"

“Security is not a product that can be purchased,” Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of research operations for The 451 Group said. “It’s a way of life, an implementation of the proper architecture, and the proper selection of tools, programs and procedures. No product that I know of is either secure or insecure. The same is true of the cloud computing environment.”

Over on CloudAve, Krishnan Subramanian proposes that "Cloud Security Needs A Rethink But The Evolution Will Be Slow".

I was going to take out some key points from his last two paragraphs but it's all important so I've included it all here.

This transformation is not going to happen overnight. It is an evolution with too many players in play. There are customers who need a mind shift on how they perceive about the security, there are the cloud service providers who should offer the highest level of security in their infrastructure and, also, build trust with sensible contracts that will add confidence to the enterprise customers (a few red and green dots doesn't cut the slack) and, finally, regulators who should understand the advantages of fast evolving technologies and make the regulations in tune with the technological development. On top of all these things, the cloud technology is still in the early stages and needs to mature further.

Unless we see an evolution on all the above said fronts, it is difficult to visualize a world where public clouds are the only way of life. In fact, even with the evolution of all the above said players, the very fact that the world is diverse and the needs are diverse implies that there will always be some need for the so called private clouds and internal clouds. I do agree that the economics of public clouds will eventually move more and more customers into the public clouds but the evolution will be slow and not complete. There is no point in arguing if private clouds should exist or not. Rather, we should be focusing on developing better standards for interoperability, security, etc. and let the market forces decide on the evolutionary path of the clouds.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not all downloads are illegal

Great commentary on this topic from JP

Read article here

...Whatever you may have been told, the internet was not actually created to become a new distribution mechanism for failing entertainment industries. There is considerable pressure on the industry to change, to innovate. New business models are emerging, based on patronage, on subscription, on advertisements.

We have to allow the innovation to continue. Today, even the worst enemies of downloaders would accept that somewhere between 13% and 16% of all downloads are legal and paid for, whatever those terms now mean. There are 6 billion people out there, all getting connected to the commons that is the internet. The industry should learn from Grateful Dead and Prince and Nine Inch Nails, focus on growing the size of the pie to make sure that 13-16% represents a very big number. Because that is possible, even likely.


Most people are law-abiding. Most people want to make sure that artists are rewarded. Sometimes laws are out of date and need changing. Sometimes business models are out of date and need changing.

In the internet we have something precious and valuable. In the millenial generation we have something precious and valuable. It is time to keep our heads and do the right thing, foster innovation, encourage cultural expression and adaptation. And avoid seeking to alienate an entire generation…. in order to try and implement a failed proposition.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cloud Security

#cloudcomputing #saas

The lower down the stack the Cloud provider stops, the more security you are responsible for implementing and managing yourself.

Is the Cloud more or less secure?

  • Without context, this is a stupid question.
  • The reality is that we are just as insecure as we've always been!

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Monday, September 21, 2009

IT evolution from physical servers to cloud


I came across this interesting graph recently from Jamal Mazhar in Kaavo. It attempts to capture the benefits and challenges of various phases of IT evolution from the days of having dedicated physical servers for each application to the use of public clouds. It nicely highlights the differences.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What works in the Cloud?


What works in the Cloud?

  1. When processes, applications and data are mostly independent
  2. When the integration points are well defined
  3. When there is an acceptance of lower security levels (or perceived to be lower)
  4. When an organisations internal IT enterprise architecture is good
  5. When the required platform is web based
  6. When cost is a consideration
  7. When the applications are new

What doesn't work so well?
  1. When processes, applications and data are not decoupled
  2. When the integration points are not well defined
  3. When high security is a requirement (or the perception of high security)
  4. When an organisations internal IT enterprise architecture is not so good
  5. When the applications require "thick-client" interfaces
  6. When cost is a consideration
  7. When the applications are legacy

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Friday, September 18, 2009

The importance of business analytics in an on-demand world

#saas #analytics

On-demand services offer an enormous advantage over traditional enterprise software in the ability to collect real-time business intelligence. When building or running your service don't forget to incorporate mechanisms to facilitate efficient collection, measurement, analysis and feedback of key business and service performance information into your corporate / service strategy. A successful on-demand service should be able to answer these essential questions about your service users:

  1. What did they do?
  2. Could they do it?
  3. Why did they do it?
  4. How did they do it?

Thanks to Alistair Croll for the original idea. Also, check out the SAS Institute if you are really serious about what Business Analytics can do for your business.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Good Enough Revolution

Are you responsible for bringing products or services to market? If so, you really need to read this Wired Magazine article on The Good Enough Revolution.

Entire markets have been transformed by products that trade power or fidelity for low price, flexibility, and convenience. — Erin Biba

There is a change going on with everything from music players (MP3), to computers (Netbooks), to software ( and probably every other market out there. Wired sums it up nicely:

So what happened? Well, in short, technology happened. The world has sped up, become more connected and a whole lot busier. As a result, what consumers want from the products and services they buy is fundamentally changing. We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they're actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as "high-quality."

Take some time and read the Wired article.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where does education go from here?

If you have any interest in education or learning, you should read this post from Seth Godin.

Education at the Crossroads

Lots to think about here...

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Clouds - the fourth column

#saas #cloudcomputing

Following on from my previous post about moving into an on-demand world it is important to look at Clouds from the IT buyer perspective. Alistair Croll posted an interesting article the other day (For CIOs, clouds are the fourth column) discussing an aspect of this.

From his post:
Clouds are transforming IT; that’s not news. But regardless of your cloud computing agenda, clouds are already affecting your IT plans, because they give you a cudgel with which to bludgeon traditional software and infrastructure providers.

Every IT decision of any real consequence starts with a shortlist of three competing offerings. One of the three is usually the incumbent provider [...] . Along with this incumbent are a couple of alternate providers. As a buyer, you line the features and prices of each contender up in nice, clean columns where you can compare them. Sometimes these providers are simply “column fodder” designed to rein in the incumbent; but many IT companies have built healthy businesses by being the alternate.

It’s time to add a fourth column: a cloud-based offering. That means every Request for Proposals (RFP) that a company issues must have a cloud-based option, regardless of whether the company actually plans to adopt clouds.

...Even if you believe you’ll never use a cloud computing platform (you Luddite, you!) you need to treat a cloud offering as a fourth column when evaluating any IT solution. You’ll be better armed, and more likely to discover hidden costs.

Worth thinking about but I would prefer if the fourth column was more than just "column fodder" and actually a serious consideration for the CIO - because Clouds can seriously impact a company in a positive way.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The effect on revenue of on-demand sales

#saas #cloudcomputing
The effect on revenue needs to be managed carefully when moving from traditional software sales models to on-demand ones.

The guys over at CloudAve have been doing some pretty interesting posts recently about the challenges of moving traditional software companies to on-demand models. Yesterday I posted about our experiences of the differences on the technical side of the house when you move to providing on-demand services.

Successful software companies excel at designing products, writing and testing software, and providing quality professional services capabilities. They also know how to market and sell software and in many cases to establish partnerships. These capabilities are mostly the same regardless of sector. On-demand or SaaS delivery models require different capabilities in operations, customer support, infrastructure (servers, power, storage, databases, networking), security, performance and load testing, continuous service improvement, IT Service Management, and specifically how to master the model of selling services rather than software.
This post from Ben Kepes summarises Ariba's experience of making the shift. Worth a read for anybody considering making the move (which you should).

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Monday, September 14, 2009

Operational Fatigue and on-demand services

#saas #cloud computing
I was reading Dani Shomron's blog and he was discussing the differences between software engineers and operations engineers. See his post here - Discipline (or lack thereof) and Operational Fatigue.

I spent most of the time while reading this nodding in agreement. In a lot of projects I've been involved in recently this difference keeps coming up and it amazes me how many companies choose to ignore it or dismiss it as a problem at all.

The world is changing for software companies. Not only have they to deal with the normal pressures of competition, regulation, cost pressure etc but they also must adapt to the fast emerging requirements from their customer base for new on-demand delivery models (e.g. SaaS – Software-as-a-Service). These companies have to consider SaaS delivery for two primary reasons:

  1. Their current customer base is demanding it
  2. They need to unlock new markets for their products and on-demand delivery is an ideal way to do this (particularly for 2nd and 3rd tier markets)

Successful software companies excel at designing products, writing and testing software, and providing quality professional services capabilities. They also know how to market and sell software and in many cases to establish partnerships. These capabilities are mostly the same regardless of sector. On-demand or SaaS delivery models require different capabilities in operations, customer support, infrastructure (servers, power, storage, databases, networking), security, performance and load testing, continuous service improvement, IT Service Management, and specifically how to master the model of selling services rather than software. We developed the diagram below to illustrate the contrasts between these models.

We spend a lot of time working with software companies to provide the Service piece of the Software-as-a-Service model, which allows them to focus on what they do best – writing software.

The sooner software companies stop looking at on-demand / SaaS models from a technology perspective and start focusing on the service end of things the better. As James Urquhart from Cisco says: "The Cloud isn't a technology, it's an operational model."

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

A data centre built from lego

Came across this recently. It's 60 secs long. Some people obviously have way too much time on their hands - fun all the same!

Click here to see video

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Enterprise 2.0 Needs To Stop Being So Naive

Very interesting piece from Paul Michaud over on CloudAve on why the whole Enterprise 2.0 movement is not matching up to its hype, particularly for large organisations. Click here for original post.

From the article:
From my perspective, I think the Enterprise 2.0 crowd needs to come down to earth and get a large dose of reality. The world of Big Enterprise IT is not the same as a tech startup in the valley. Not every application is about Web and related tools, collaboration, mashups, etc. The apps where that stuff applies are frankly trivial and if that was the state of the world app complexity wise we wouldn’t have the issues we have and we wouldn’t even be talking about Enterprise 2.0. The reality is real Enterprises have issues with Organizational Structure and that same structure fights changes. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen attempts to redesign IT Org’s go down in flames or the result be just as bad as where they started. They have issues with tons of legacy apps that continue to need to be supported, integrated, updated,etc. Think Y2K people. Those Cobol apps are still going strong (as much as the thought of that gives me a rash) and they cannot support mashups or social computing, or be run in a cloud. How do you deal with putting Paul Michaud’s contact information into 500-1000 applications which are scattered around the firm globally and no two of which store and address or a middle name the same. These are boring mundane problems bu they are the real issues that keep CIO’s awake at night, not whether their employees can change the color of the GUI background on the latest app or have better internal chat facilities, or Tweet from their desk.

Speaking as an ex-CIO from the Financial Services industry, I know that the Enterprise 2.0 "industry" wasn't solving the really hard problems which we struggled with every day. E2.0 is not a silver bullet. And no, the solution is not to "just re-write everything". E2.0 tools and approaches have their place but they do not solve everything a medium to large organisation has to deal with. Paul is right, the vendors need to be less naive and take a reality check.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cloud Computing Use Cases Whitepaper

Version 1 published July 31st 2009.

Link to Scribd version

The Cloud Computing Use Case group brought together cloud consumers and cloud vendors to define common use case scenarios for cloud computing. The use case scenarios demonstrate the performance and economic benefits of cloud computing and are based on the needs of the widest possible range of consumers.

The goal of this white paper is to highlight the capabilities and requirements that need to be standardized in a cloud environment to ensure interoperability, ease of integration and portability. It must be possible to implement all of the use cases described in this paper without using closed, proprietary technologies. Cloud computing must evolve as an open environment, minimizing vendor lock-in and increasing customer choice.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Who says the Government are Technology Laggards?

The US Federal Government has plans to offer both Software as a Service for government agencies and a cloud-based platform for agencies to develop, test and deploy new applications.

NASA has also been experimenting with Cloud Computing.

If the US Government can start to use Cloud Computing then there should be no reason Enterprises can't consider it as a new resourcing option. There's an awful lot of scare mongering still going around - particularly in relation to security and integration. Granted, whether these are perceptions or reality they need to be addressed. However, these are relative problems which may not be an issue depending on what you are doing.

I think of this as like the Movie Critic in the newspaper. How many times have you seen a film review which said the movie was terrible, when in fact it was fantastic when you saw it? The key point here is that the film critic's opinion is just that, their opinion. Make up your own mind. The same applies to technology - especially for the more innovative / new stuff. There is always going to be people telling you the 10,000 reasons you shouldn't use it. What are the 3 reasons you should?

Make up your own mind.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Elasticity, Performance, and Analytics will change role of Web Operations

Nice short video (about 6 mins) from Alistair Croll on why elasticity, performance, and analytics will change how Web Operations are judged.

View original Bitcurrent post

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why Cloud Computing Matters

Excellent talk from Simon Wardley on why Cloud Computing matters. Worth spending 15 minutes looking at this. Simon presented this at O'Reilly OSCON (Open Source Convention) in July 2009.

Click to view video (YouTube)

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Friday, July 17, 2009

Conventional wisdom is wrong about Cloud IaaS

Forrester research released an interesting piece of research in May 2009 which debunks some conventional thinking about who will or will not utilise Cloud Computing.

Forrester: Conventional wisdom is wrong about Cloud IaaS

From the report extract:

Survey results confirm strong interest in cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) but debunk several stereotypes. Large firms are more interested in cloud IaaS than small firms. Firms are interested in cloud services slightly more than internal cloud, not, as conventional wisdom has it, much less than internal cloud. Firms are equally comfortable with all major workload types in the cloud and are almost as comfortable with production apps as they are with test and development usage. For all vendor strategists, this means focusing on enterprise and SMB both, not leading with SMB, while product vendor strategists also need to develop different messages for enabling internal cloud versus supporting use of external service providers.

I've read the full report and it brings up some interesting thoughts:

  • The report stated that only about 1/3 of the participants were "not interested in cloud computing". That means 2/3's are!
  • Something is obviously driving these users towards the adoption of Cloud Computing -- my own thoughts about current IT depts and Channel vendors are being proven true - there is clear dissatisfaction among end-user organisations about how IT is currently delivered as well as the associated costs.
  • It would seem end-users are much less conservative than expected. Conventional thinking is that enterprises will start with development and test environments in the Cloud and maybe consider production systems in the future. According to this report, that isn't true -- over 1/3 of large and medium sized enterprise companies are ready to put enterprise apps into production in public Cloud environments.
  • The Big Switch is happening and both IT departments and the Channel vendors need to adapt and fast -- (disclosure: my own firm ZeroTouch helps both IT depts and IT Service Providers to make these changes)
ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is Cloud Computing really something new? Who cares...

A lot of the detractors of Cloud Computing say it's nothing new. We've had mainframe timeshares for decades, we've had Bureau computing services, we've basically had loads of technologies and solutions which did similar things.

So why is everybody so excited (or threatened) by Cloud Computing?

I read a thought provoking article recently which compared the maturity of Cloud Computing to the iPhone. Huh? Exactly, huh? Definitely worth a read because effectively both the iPhone and Cloud Computing are nothing new from one perspective - some of the technologies have been around in other products / services / guises for ages, but from another perspective, they make technology disappear! This is when technology starts to become seriously useful - when you stop thinking about it and it doesn't get in the way. When you make a mobile phone call you don't think about all the technology in the handset, wireless network, billing systems and numerous other systems required to make it all work. You just think about calling your friend, wife, husband, order pizza etc. The technology has disappeared.

Cloud Maturity: Just Like the iPhone, There's an App for that...

...Whilst I have often grouped Cloud Computing with the consumerization of IT (and the iPhone as it’s most visible example) together in concert in my disruptive innovation presentations, I never really thought of them as metaphors for one another.

When you think of it, it’s really a perfect visual.

The iPhone is a fantastic platform that transforms using technology that has been around for quite a while into a more useful experience. The iPhone converges many technologies and capabilities under a single umbrella and changes the way in which people interact with their data and other people...

So what about the Cloud?

The point here is that Cloud is very much like the iPhone. As Sir James (Urquhart) says “Cloud isn’t a technology, it’s an operational model.” Just like the iPhone.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Is Twitter conceptually just like TV?

Here's an interesting thought. Is Twitter the online equivalent (conceptually) of TV? There are a lot of similarities. Broadcast TV is based on a "flow" model i.e. you tune in and get to see what's on now. This is like Twitter (and other "flow" based information sources) - you tune in and get to see the Tweets flowing past right now.

If we continue this analogy then are we likely to see (over time) similar consumer behaviour to what happened in TV-land? Consumers will be more interested seeing the content they want to see when they want to see it, rather than having to be tuned in all the time. We'll probably see the equivalent of Cable news, where everything gets repeated every 15 minutes. And lots of other developments which occurred in TV-land.

Hold on. Isn't that not just like blogs and other archived-like content? Or basically just the normal Internet with its vast array of web pages on every subject known to man?

If my Twitter / TV analogy plays out, then consumers will get fed up with the real-time broadcast flow nature of this service and return to other "information when you want it" modes of operation. Or will they?

Interesting thought. What do you think?

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Cloud Standards Co-ordination

This announcement marks a significant evolution in Cloud Computing standards. Worth exploring further if you have an interest in this field.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Major Standards Development Organizations Collaborate to Further Adoption of Cloud Standards

Cross Institutional Group Pursuing Clarity of Standards Landscape

Arlington, VA. - July 13, 2009 - At its Cloud Standards Summit here this week, OMG™ today announced a collaboration with leading technology Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) to coordinate and communicate standards for Cloud computing and storage. Organizations expected to participate in this round-table style collaboration include: the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), the Open Grid Forum (OGF), the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), Open Cloud Consortium (OCC) and the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).

To support this collaboration a public working group has being established and anyone with relevant technical skills, interest and commitment can participate. Participation by enterprise and government IT leaders is encouraged to ensure that their critical standards needs are being addressed. The work is an outgrowth of the already existing Standards Development Organization Collaboration on Networked Resources Management (SCRM) working group that has coordinated management standards in general.

"OMG is committed to providing modeling-based solutions for complex business challenges, including those associated with cloud computing. Cloud computing, which is primarily a business decision of operating expense vs. capital expense, fits well into our vision of Business Ecology, which is focused on the optimization of business processes through standards," said Richard Mark Soley, Ph.D., chairman and CEO, OMG.

Most SDOs already have many one-to-one liaison relationships, which are effective and productive for handling specific issues. This round table-style collaboration provides a "bird's eye view" of this broad and complicated technical area, helping further the work already underway between these leading standards bodies. This is the main reason the Cloud Standards Coordination working group was born. The group has a goal to create a landscape of cloud standards work, including common terminology.

The organizations involved have created a wiki to describe each organization's standards and efforts in this space. Each SDO has representatives that keep the wiki up to date. The URL is

" is a vital mechanism for coordination across the cloud computing landscape. OGF will use this venue to drive progress for end-users, developers, vendors, and all cloud stakeholders," said Dr. Craig A. Lee, President, Open Grid Forum.

"The DMTF has established relationships with many SDOs through its alliance partner program and is actively expanding those alliances to leverage existing and future DMTF standards, such as OVF," said Winston Bumpus, President DMTF. "With the recent formation of the DMTF Open Cloud Standards Incubator the coordination of DMTF standards with these SDOs and industry groups will be key to minimizing overlap and identifying any gaps between the standards."

"The SNIA, in its role to advance storage and information technology, is defining a cloud storage taxonomy, a cloud reference model and the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) specification in coordination with and support of several standards development organizations and industry groups," said Vincent Franceschini, Vice Chair SNIA Board of Directors and Co-chair of the SNIA Cloud Storage committee. "We see our cloud storage standards coordination work as key to achieving integration and adoption of these new industry cloud standards in released products and services as well as complementing existing storage and computer standards."

"With this collaboration, we look forward to leveraging OCC's work developing standards for large data clouds and for inter-cloud communication with other standards efforts," says Robert Grossman, Chair of the Open Cloud Consortium.

"Fostering trust in cloud computing services is a key criteria for enabling its growth," said Jim Reavis, co-founder of the Cloud Security Alliance. "CSA seeks to encourage pervasive adoption of best practices for securing cloud computing to create a trusted baseline for the industry and are proud to be a part of this collaborative effort to help us achieve that mission."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Forget Google, maybe this is the real threat to Microsoft?

Google would never be able to inflict this much damage on Microsoft's Seattle HQ.

The 1,700-foot Tsunami that struck Alaska (in 1958) - can it happen again?

This is an interesting read for a number of reasons. Firstly, it shows the possible danger the whole Western US and Canada may be under. From the article:

...Their scenario depicted a rupture beginning in the north and propagating toward the south along the 600-mile long Cascadia Subduction Zone (an area where two tectonic plates move towards one another, forcing one to slide beneath the other). In their scenario, the ground moved about 1.5 feet per second in Seattle, nearly 6 inches per second in Tacoma, Olympia and Vancouver, and 3 inches in Portland, Oregon...

Also, think about the latest rush by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo etc to build Data Centers in this part of the world near the Columbia River. I hope they factored in some severe earthquakes in their construction...

A geological event like that described in the article above would not only have a major impact directly on this region but also on global commerce because of the interconnectedness of everything and the growing move to Cloud Computing (and in particular the services of the companies mentioned above).

Business Continuity Management planning is something every company should have but especially in this region. Also, it goes without saying (or it should) that secondary / backup facilities and data centers shouldn't be anywhere near this region - just in case of the big one...

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Cloud Computing for dummies - video

Here's a nice Cloud Computing for Dummies explanation from

InfoClipz: Cloud computing

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Exploding networks

I was reading some of Kevin Kelly's posts recently and came across these two about the "Network" effect.

A networks tendency to explode in value mathematically

Increasing returns

If you haven't read any of Mr Kelly's works before you should start now.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Saturday, May 30, 2009

BioTech companies embrace Cloud Computing

Interesting post from Krishnan Subramanian on CloudAve about how BioTech companies are embracing Cloud Computing.

...Cloud Computing saves lot of time for these companies benefiting their research in dramatic ways. Even if we take economics out of the Cloud Computing for enterprises, the time savings itself is a huge advantage. It not only saves tons of money for these companies, it also helps them reach the markets faster beating out other players in the competitive marketplace.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Friday, May 29, 2009

It would be fantastic if Apple made one of these...

I was reading Scott Adams blog (Dilbert creator) recently and he outlined a wish for a new type of central computer for your home that handles all of your entertainment, home controller, and computing needs.

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who would like one of these. I looked into this months ago and couldn't find anything that fit the bill either. Lots of pieces of the puzzle but no complete solution.

From his blog:

Before you rush to tell me "That already exists," and then provide links to things that only do a few functions, let me assure you that it doesn't exist. But there is no reason to think it won't be developed in the future.

I came to this conclusion while searching for a home system that would deliver recorded TV shows and music (iTunes) to several rooms in the house, with each room controlling its own content. I was surprised to learn that no such thing exists.

It would be nice if this hypothetical system also controlled my lights and video games and security and heat and AC. I'd love it if all of my entertainment content could be downloaded from the Internet. And it should be networked with my home computers and automatically back itself up over the network. That would be spiffy.

The closest thing on the market is a so-called home media center that will distribute movies, music, and your own content to multiple rooms. It's not yet integrated with a whole home DVR to handle all of your normal television viewing. It doesn't handle lights, video games, security, heat, AC, or home computing. And it doesn't back itself up over the Internet. Plus it is crazy expensive. So there's a long way to go.

I particularly like his idea for handling disaster recovery of all your media etc.

As an aside, the system would only need to back up a database of what movies, music, and video games you own, and not the actual content. If you ever needed to do a recovery, your record of ownership would allow you to download the content again for free.

This sounds like a job (no pun intended!) for Apple. Do for home servers what they did for music and phones.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Friday, May 8, 2009

Why companies are bad at changing?

The reason (well, one of them anyway): Change Blindness.

Eh, what's that? People are bad at noticing stuff. In companies they don't notice the stuff that is blindingly obvious to outsiders (or people not as close to the situation).

What better way of demonstrating this than a little magic. Watch these two videos to see this in action.

Richard Wiseman - card color change

Penn and Teller - cups and balls (with clear cups!)

Now think of all those situations (professional and personal) where you missed changes - I know I have, lots! Here's an extract from Wired magazine which casts some light on this:

Attention, it turns out, is like a spotlight. When it's focused on something, we become oblivious to even obvious changes outside its narrow beam. What magicians do, essentially, is misdirect - pivot that spotlight toward the wrong place at the right time.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Google means by Cloud Computing

Here's what Google means when they talk about Cloud Computing. Click Here.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What recession?

Some people don't seem to have spotted there is a recession going on at the moment across the globe. My company has been looking for suppliers recently for an upcoming project. To narrow down the list we only contacted companies where we had a personal recommendation. One of the strongest placed companies obviously doesn't need the business because after the first contact they haven't called us back --even after we contacted them several times and got the person who recommended them to us to give them a gentle nudge! Unbelievable!

Another company never got back to us even once since we had our initial meeting. I hate that. If you don't want the business that's fine, just say so. Don't go into radio silence mode.

This was in total contrast to the company we will give the contract to. They returned our calls quickly. Sent through quotes. Were available for conference calls at short notice. Provided examples of their work before we even asked for it. A pleasure to work with.

I have a very simple perspective of things during the sales cycle.

If the experience is crap during the sales cycle, it is unlikely to be any better if you are an actual customer.

In these challenging times, I believe every company should be striving to significantly improve service levels all across their organisations. Reducing costs is only going to get you so far. Keeping customers (in particular) and getting new ones is how you will survive this recession. Not paying attention to service levels (or ignoring potential customers) will start to hurt your business sooner than you can imagine.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Age of Immediacy has a meaningful downside

Brilliant article in Wired by J.J. Abrams on the Magic of Mystery. Definitely worth a read.

...And that was when I really felt it. Cheating is humiliating. No matter what form it takes. Skipping ahead—even without the help of someone in Underoos—lessens the experience. Diminishes the joy. Makes the accomplishment that much duller.

Perhaps that's why mystery, now more than ever, has special meaning. Because it's the anomaly, the glaring affirmation that the Age of Immediacy has a meaningful downside. Mystery demands that you stop and consider—or, at the very least, slow down and discover. It's a challenge to get there yourself, on its terms, not yours.

...The point is, we should never underestimate process. The experience of the doing really is everything. The ending should be the end of that experience, not the experience itself.


ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Big data and Analytics

Interesting post from O'Reilly on How Big Data Impacts Analytics.

If you are interested in the subject of Analytics you should have a read (including the related links in the post). Also check out the video from Linkedin's Chief Scientist DJ Patil.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

More Cloud FUD

Another FUD story on Cloud Computing. I was sent a link to this by @cogtric. It was posted on the O'Reilly Radar by Robert Kaye commenting on OSCON day 2. Some extracts:

Some of you may know Jesse Vincent [...] . He started his session by outlining why cloud computing may not be the best idea and then went on to talk about his new distributed database called Prophet.

... I found his analogy of cloud computing as "digital sharecropping" quite apt. Wikipedia defines sharecropping as: "Sharecropping is a system of agriculture or agricultural production in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crop produced on the land (e.g., 50 percent of the crop)." History tells us that sharecropping didn't work out so well for the farmers and that a lot of the farmers were dependent on the landowners and heavily in debt to them.

In the beginning of computing people ran programs they didn't own on machines they didn't own (mainframes were leased from the manufacturer). People had no control over when these machines got updates and had very little control in general. In the 80's things got better as PCs started appearing, only to lock users into things like Windows. And today people don't need to have servers, software or anything else -- just a web browser to host and run web-sites thanks to cloud computing.

This analogy is seriously wrong. The following comment on the above post by Jonathan Blocksom is much closer to the mark in the analogy department.

The analogy to sharecropping seems based in hyberpole -- great for getting people riled up at your presentation but it breaks down pretty quickly when you examine it. Try replacing a web store with a retail store and the web service provider with a landlord and I think you have a better model:

* Landlords charge a flat rate by square footage (usage), not a percentage of your sales (like sharecroppers). (Probably a few exceptions, like fast food in airports)
* Purchasing and configuring land and servers is an expensive initial cost
* There are tax advantages to not owning property (land or servers)

But like a web service provider you may have the same concerns:
* How can you trust your landlord not to let the secret police in?
* What if your landlord disagrees with what you are doing and asks you to move out?
* If your landlord shuts you out (by changing the locks), you're screwed!

Despite the last three issues there's millions of working landlord and commercial tenant relationships out there that are more or less working (landlord reluctance to put in a good HVAC system aside).

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Monday, April 27, 2009

Follow up to McKinsey FUD on Cloud Computing

For anybody playing catch-up, McKinsey wrote a paper debunking a lot of stuff related to Cloud Computing for Enterprise usage. You can read the background here on my previous post. This paper obviously drew a lot of comments from all corners of the globe with the usual pro's and con's on display. CloudAve posted some follow-up thoughts here which outline some interesting perspectives on the debate.

...Many people have written extensively debunking McKinsey’s claims and the report also had support for its claim from pundits who make a career talking about traditional software world. Of all the analysis, [CloudAve] was impressed by the model put forward by Joe Weinman. He correctly pointed out to the role of Cloud Computing in the enterprise IT, at least, in the near future...

...This will be the normal evolution of enterprise IT and any expectations to accelerate the process is unreasonable. At the same time, if the critics of Cloud Computing use this (slow) normal evolution process as an evidence to debunk Cloud Computing, it just shows their ignorance. Enterprises will slowly move towards Cloud Computing and while the transition happens, Joe’s rental car model is the correct model to explain what is happening. I hope analysts take some time to understand this before they come up with another report talking about the irrelevance of Cloud Computing.


ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Are schools killing creativity?

I saw this talk a good while back and was reminded about it again when a friend sent me a link to it today. Really inspiring and worth spending 20 minutes looking at it.

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

View talk here

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

The Sixth Sense

I got distracted this morning looking at TED videos when I was supposed to be doing actual work! Anyway, I came across this really interesting presentation from Pattie Maes of MIT Media Lab demoing The Sixth Sense.

Check it out here. The possibilities of this technology are mind-blowing and even controversial in some cases.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Five Pillars of Cloud Computing

There has been an awful lot of discussion as to what is and isn't Cloud Computing. I've seen so many discussions where the purists battle the pragmatists over arcane definitions and subtleties. In most cases these are pointless discussions and just waste a load of time for all concerned.

SOA World Magazine published an interesting article on the Five Pillars of Cloud Computing which does a pretty good job discussing the subject. From the article:

Cloud computing requires a dynamic computing infrastructure - there are four other pillars, too.

Cloud computing is getting tons of press these days. Everyone has a different perspective and understanding of the technology, and there are myriad variations on the definition of the cloud- William Fellows and John Barr at the 451 Group define cloud computing as the intersection of grid, virtualization, SaaS, and utility computing models. James Staten of Forrester Research describes it as a pool of abstracted, highly scalable, and managed compute infrastructure capable of hosting end-customer applications and billed by consumption. Let's take it a step further and examine the core principles, or pillars, that uniquely define cloud computing.

It's worth having a read - it's not too long, only one page!

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Featuritis Curve

I found this on CloudAve the other day and thought it brilliantly explained the problem with a lot of software out there at the moment.

Take note software developers!

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Is your business the right size?

Another brilliant article from Seth Godin. This time about whether your business is the right size or not. From Seth:

Many businesses that are in trouble are in trouble for a simple reason: they're the wrong size.

A newspaper that only had a few dozen employees would be doing great today. But they have hundreds or thousands of employees because that was an appropriate scale twenty years ago. When I started my first web company fifteen years ago, the idea that you could be successful with six or ten employees was crazy, but today many of the most successful companies have not many more than that. That's 15,000 fewer employees than eBay has.

This is so true. Read the rest of the article.

My own business ZeroTouch IT Ltd is built on this principle of RightSizeNess (an interesting new word!). We're competing successfully with companies much larger than us and winning because we're the right size and they aren't.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Scientists and Cloud Computing

It seems obvious that the scientific community should leverage the power of Cloud Computing. Here are links to two articles from CloudAve discussing the merits of doing exactly this.

Scientists and Cloud Computing - part 1

Scientists and Cloud Computing - part 2

The author ( Krishnan Subramanian) outlines two advantages of Cloud Computing for the scientific community:

Cost Savings: Unlike many enterprise level customers, the requirements of individual scientific groups, in most cases, comes in bursts. It doesn’t make sense to invest heavily in infrastructure. In fact, in almost all the cases, they cannot afford to invest in huge infrastructure. This is one of the reasons why high end scientific computing infrastructure are usually shared by several hundred research groups from all over the world. There is another factor in play too. Most of the scientific funding is done for short term. The money available in such short term funding is not enough to consider building high end infrastructure. This offers a great opportunity for Cloud Computing to jump in and fill the void. Scientists can just “rent” the infrastructure for a short period when they need to use the computing resources and pay just for the usage. This offers them tremendous amount of cost savings and, also, gives them an opportunity to conduct some experiments which they would have left out due to funding considerations.

Time Savings: One of the biggest problems facing the scientists needing high computing resources is the issue of time. Building an infrastructure for computing costs lots of money but, more importantly, it takes quite a lot of time too. Even if a scientific group is part of the hundreds of groups that share computing resources from places like CERN or other national laboratories, they will have to wait for their turn to come. [...] In this fast paced world where different scientific groups are vying for the same piece of the scientific puzzle, time is the most crucial factor. [...] This is where Cloud Computing will come handy for scientists. They don’t have to wait for anything. They can just launch the necessary computing instances on the cloud and start their computation. In fact, they can scale up without much or any extra investments (for eg. instead of running 1 instance for 100 days, if they can “parallelize” their program, they could run 100 instances for 1 day and get the results). Such scaling options gives them the necessary agility in the competition to churn out scientific results fast.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Ever wonder where your Gmail is stored?

Check out this video tour from Google showing one of their container data centers.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Friday, April 17, 2009

McKinsey slams Cloud Computing for large companies

Looks like the old guard of doing business is fighting back. McKinsey released a report claiming that large corporations cloud lose money through the adoption of cloud computing. Check out this post from TechCrunch which gives a nice summary. TechCrunch conclusion:

"The report seems to hype the cloud costs and understates the rapid changes in cloud market conditions and resultant innovation and price cutting that will take place in the near future."

McKinsey summarise their report as follows:

Using "clouds" for computing tasks promises a revolution in IT similar to the birth of the web and e-commerce. Benefits include:
  • Much lower cost
  • Faster time to market
  • Great opportunities for creating new sources of value

While it has great potential, many of the claims being made about cloud computing have lead some to the point of "irrational exuberance" and unrealistic expectations. The purpose of this report is to focus the nascent cloud industry and its consumers on setting realistic expectations by taking a "hype free" approach starting with the most basic question of what a "cloud" actually is.

I'm all for a "hype free" perspective on Cloud Computing and I totally agree that there is a whole lot of "bandwagon following" going on in relation to it, however their conclusions take a very limited view of the potential of Clouds. They seem to have focused mostly on Clouds as a way of replacing in-house hardware and didn't focus on the other benefits organisations gain like increasing flexibility, scalability, capability - and reducing complexity, cost and risk.

This report makes some good points and is worth a read even with the very narrow worldview outlined.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Massively parallel compute power for the rest of us

The announcement by Amazon today of their Elastic MapReduce service is, I believe, a huge step forward in the world of Clouds. This gives us mere mortals the ability to tap into the Hadoop technology (one of the key engines behind Google's power) to cost-effectively process vast amounts of data.

There's some good coverage of it on CloudAve here.

You should also read this post on the AWS blog for more detailed information.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Definition of SaaS

Here's a good summary from ComputerWorld of what SaaS is all about.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Open Cloud Manifesto

A worthy effort is underway to attempt to make the platforms that power the Cloud more open. It's called The Open Cloud Manifesto.

The following is stated in the conclusion to the manifesto:

This manifesto is meant to begin the conversation, not define it. Many details (taxonomies, definitions and scenarios, for example) will be filled in as the cloudcomputing community comes together.

We have outlined the challenges facing organizations that want to take advantage of the cloud. These issues lead to a call to action for the IT industry around a vision of an open cloud. We as industry participants must work together to ensure thatthe cloud remains as open as all other IT technologies. Some might argue that it is too early to discuss topics such as standards, interoperability, integration and portability. Although this is a time of great innovation for the cloud computing community, that innovation should be guided by the principles of openness outlined in this document. We argue that it is exactly the right time to begin the work to build the open cloud.

Of course with all efforts like this, there's always vested interests and differences of opinion. Here's a review of the Open Cloud manifesto fight to date. Most notable are the companies NOT involved.

Initiatives like the Open Cloud Manifesto should be applauded and supported, not hijacked by vested interests or the reason to create a competitive "standard". We've all seen over the years how big a distraction that can be to everybody.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Software as a service is still misunderstood

Software as a service is an excellent option for IT and business units to pursue. Mark Everett Hall (Computerworld) gives a good overview including a view on when this on-demand approach falls short.

Research firm Gartner Inc. validates the view [that SaaS is cost-effective], with certain caveats. For example, if acquiring a packaged application wouldn't require hiring full-time workers or adding hardware, a subscription-based software service might not make long-term sense. Gartner advises users to estimate ongoing operational costs of a SaaS offering for at least three to five years and compare them with the projected investment in a packaged application for the same period, including depreciation on capital expenses. It's important to look at SaaS's long-term budget ramifications, even in these glum economic times, when short-term thinking can be tempting.

Also check out:

The 5 myths about SaaS


Four companies that swear by software as service tell why

"...If you are a start-up now and you are buying a server, you haven't really done your homework..."

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

The implications of multi-vendor cloud-driven alliances

Greg Ness writes an intriguing article on the implications of multi-vendor cloud-driven alliances for enterprise IT pros.

...I expect to see broad alliances form between the incumbents, perhaps into 2-3 major camps. Cisco and VMware will lead one such alliance; IBM and Juniper may lead another; and there could be an open source virtualization alliance driven by Citrix/Zen and select service providers who want to build their own cloud club. In addition, there will be a range of service providers who will shift from hosting to cloud, and we could see some transformational surprises come from these camps as well.

I think both Amazon and Google will be limited to serving small and medium-sized cloud offerings, despite the buzz and the success of their core businesses (books and advertising). Let me add an Apple (iTunes-like) cloud driven by iPhones in a new netbook form factor as my wild idea for the month, along with a Cisco OEM netbook.

...We are about to see a fundamental shift in IT that could drive costs out of systems and networks and enable vast new potentials. Those who continue to manually manage their networks and systems will be victims of The CIO Shell Game.
Some very interesting viewpoints worth thinking about.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Monday, March 30, 2009

Not every "platform" is a Platform

In the long line of marketing buzzwords surrounding the Cloud Computing and SaaS (software as a service) markets is the general abuse of the word Platform. More and more services are describing themselves as PaaS solutions (Platform as a Service). I would suspect that in most cases they aren't.

Haut Tec wrote a great article on this the other day - SaaS: All PaaS are not created equal.

...The marketing for most products described as “PaaS” for SaaS today includes some combination of the infrastructure and technology levels of the stack and quite often impacts the way the application logic is expressed. They rarely address multitenant architecture or any of the SaaS functionality that impacts the operational needs of your service. Depending on how they are configured, they can often represent a certain amount of risk through “lock-in” to their service...

Definitely worth a read.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Sunday, March 29, 2009

SaaS Maturity Model

Following on from my recent posts on SaaS Metrics, it is useful to take a look at the maturity of SaaS solutions on six levels (as defined by Forrester Research).

  • Level 0: Outsourcing is not SaaS
  • Level 1: Manual ASP business models target midsize companies
  • Level 2: Industrial ASPs cut the operating costs of packaged applications to a minimum
  • Level 3: Single-app SaaS is an alternative to traditional packaged applications
  • Level 4: Business-domain SaaS provides all the applications for an entire business domain
  • Level 5: Dynamic Business Apps-as-a-service is the visionary target

For more detailed information on each level take a look at this article from Microsoft.

Any company delivering SaaS services should know which level on the maturity model they are. This is also a useful tool for consultants advising SaaS companies or traditional software companies thinking about making a move into the SaaS field.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thinking about Design

I've been thinking about Design a lot recently for a number of projects. During my study I came across this excellent blog post from Seth Godin. If you have any interest in the subject of design you should read this.

Return on Design - by Seth Godin

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Crisis of Credit Visualized

Want to know how the credit crisis started? Here's a really good visualisation of the whole mess from Jonathan Jarvis.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized

Zerotouch IT Ltd

Monday, March 23, 2009

SaaS Metrics

Any software company considering doing business using a SaaS (Software as a Service) model not only needs to understand how to manage a 24x7 operational environment but also needs to understand the metrics of running a SaaS business. Haut Tec wrote two great articles recently on the whole subject of SaaS Metrics.

The first, SaaSoNomics 101 gives you the basics.

The metrics of any business model are arguably “entertaining reading” for only a very limited number of people to be sure. But it is a critical subject for companies with new SaaS products or ISVs moving to SaaS to understand and be ready to measure from day one of operations.

The second, SaaSoNomics 102A discusses the sales side of the equation.

...because of the typical subscription period in SaaS - constant monitoring and well-considered goals are critical to success.

Although there are a lot of numbers discussed in these two articles, I would be in favour of picking some critical ones, it is important that Executives in SaaS businesses understand the overall picture, therefore making it easier to pick the right metrics for their businesses.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The formula that crashed the world

Fascinating article from Wired magazine about the formula (or to be exact "Gaussian copula function" !!) that was at the heart of the global financial market crash and subsequently the economic crash.

How could one formula pack such a devastating punch? The answer lies in the bond market, the multitrillion-dollar system that allows pension funds, insurance companies, and hedge funds to lend trillions of dollars to companies, countries, and home buyers.

The CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligation) and CDS (Credit Default Swap) financial instruments fed on this formula.

The CDS and CDO markets grew together, feeding on each other. At the end of 2001, there was $920 billion in credit default swaps outstanding. By the end of 2007, that number had skyrocketed to more than $62 trillion. The CDO market, which stood at $275 billion in 2000, grew to $4.7 trillion by 2006.

Wall Street loved it...

At the heart of it all was Li's formula. When you talk to market participants, they use words like beautiful, simple, and, most commonly, tractable. It could be applied anywhere, for anything, and was quickly adopted not only by banks packaging new bonds but also by traders and hedge funds dreaming up complex trades between those bonds.

This article is definitely worth a read if you want to see how something simple could be turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy and then run through the greed machine of Wall Street and global financial markets with devastating effects.

ZeroTouch IT Ltd

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Don't try to reinvent it, just use what's there!

It keeps coming up over and over again. Why use Cloud Computing? This is usually followed with, "What is Cloud Computing?" Anybody following this blog will probably know that my definition is:

The Cloud = lower costs + more flexibility + more automation + better service

But what does this actually mean?

I'm fed up with the way the technology industry keeps over-complicating things
. IT underpins almost every business but often gets in the way of doing business. This is where the Cloud can come in.

Cloud computing principles can (over time) help companies change the cost / complexity curve. Move more and more applications, infrastructure, and even their support out of their company and into the Cloud. This can free up precious time, effort and budgets to concentrate on the real job of running their business. Plus, service levels in the Cloud are probably better than what you can achieve in-house.

It really comes down to focus. Figure out what you are good at and focus all your effort on that and let others (who are better at it than you) focus on all the other peripheral stuff. There are some real business benefits to be gained using what is available today and will only get better as the technology and services improve over time.

In my own business (ZeroTouch IT Ltd) we use a whole range of Cloud based services to drive down costs, improve efficiency and generally to keep the communication flowing across our company. We also use the Cloud as a key part of the services we provide to our clients - but that's for another post.

Here's a list of some of the Cloud based services we use to help run ZeroTouch:

So many companies get caught up trying to either reinvent things (usually because they suffer from Not Invented Here syndrome) or trying to complicate their world by insisting on customising everything. I take a different view. Use what's there! Especially the free (mostly ad supported) stuff.

If you subsequently need a higher level of service not provided by free (or low cost) services then upgrade to those premium services later. But don't hold up the benefits your business can realise today because you can't make a decision while you wait for perfect information to come along. You'll never have perfect information!

Make your decision, move on, adapt later.

The Cloud makes this possible.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Private and Public Clouds

Last year I wrote a post about emerging Cloud utilities and I discussed some scenarios briefly where the pure "everything in the cloud" model is unlikely for many companies in the next decade or two. Will everything move to the Cloud? Doubt it.

As many IT professionals already know, the integration challenge is already tough enough for applications hosted inside organisations. This new SaaS model just adds to the complexity. Granted, SaaS or Cloud solutions also create huge advantages but the industry needs to seriously consider this integration challenge.

Integration is not just about integrating web based applications using something like OpenID but also considering hybrid models where some solutions will be provided using SaaS and others will still be hosted internally.

It seems Cisco is also thinking about this hybrid world and the integration challenges associated with it. Private Clouds are Real - Internetworking for the Cloud.

Cloud computing architectures, whether public or private, or frankly ‘virtually private’ (private cloud extending into public infrastructure with enterprise control and trust established) will need a set of networking systems and architectures.
...Cloud Internetworking is about enabling the Inter-Cloud, the federation of cloud computing systems between enterprise and provider and one provider to the next. Workload becomes portable, and the Cloud Internetwork embraces this portability and ensures that the elements of trust and control don’t break or disappear with the advent of mobile workloads. Additionally, the Cloud Internetwork ensures that as workloads move they are still reachable via the most efficient path.

Back in December I was musing about the network risk associated with Cloud computing services. These risks haven't changed and they will have to be addressed by both the providers and the customers.

...the risk to the provided SaaS service is now in the network. If connectivity to the network is lost (from any node), those at that node have no service. I know this is stating the obvious but the point here is the types of services being provided - they're starting to become more mission critical. This means the accessibility requirements go up. It's not good enough for an organisation to have a five 9's up time from the SaaS provider if they can't access it.

For critical services the configuration of the network at each node now needs to be considered.

Finally, I ask the question at the start of this piece "will everything move to the Cloud?". I doubt it. There are many reasons why I think this but one of the most compelling is that it doesn't make sense for some applications to run entirely in the Cloud.

I still think that some of the analyst commentary and services being provided are similar to those we had around the .com boom. At that time, everything was being turned into a .com, even when it made absolutely no sense. I fear the same is happening with Cloud computing. Some services don't make sense in the Cloud, or at least the way they are currently being considered.

I think it makes total sense for documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc (i.e. the data) to be stored out in the Cloud securely. I'm not as convinced that running all the apps themselves in the Cloud is such a good idea. A hybrid model will be best in some cases - even though this will be a more complicated service to create.

I talk about this more here.

I'll leave you with this quote by Douglas Gourlay from Cisco:

...the Cloud Internetwork ensures that enterprises have choices, providers have markets, and infrastructure interoperates.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Microsoft My Phone Cloud Service

Microsoft have announced a new and potentially very interesting Cloud based application for syncronising critical information like contacts, calendar appointments, tasks, text messages, photos, video, etc on a user’s mobile phone to a password protected Web site.

Read this commentary from InformationWeek.

Here's the link to Microsoft's My Phone site.

These are the types of services the Internet is perfect for delivering and if Microsoft crack the usability side of things it could be a winner. It's also an interesting way for Microsoft to claim some critical Internet services landscape without having to compete directly with Google.