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