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Crowdfunding: not just for geeks. Help Free Ruggiero 21 Nov 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Consumerization, Innovation, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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Just a short post. Teaching the Open University’s technology foundation course a couple of years ago introduced me to the idea of crowdfunding – I’m sure I’d have encountered it anyway, but seeing it as part of the wider picture of the social revolution added an extra dimension. Of course, crowdfunding isn’t entirely new; people have always subscribed readily to popular conventional share issues, not just in the privatisations of the last few decades but in the 19th century railway boom and earlier (look up the South Sea Bubble for one that historically went badly wrong). What’s different is that the reach is extended via the Web to people who might not otherwise think of being subscribers; and the range of rewards, while often creative and interesting, doesn’t extend to ongoing shareholder participation.

Shortly after learning about the idea, I joined one crowdfunding initiative as a result of which I now own a board game called Dreaming Spires which is about to have its official public launch. And now another, firmly in the realm of  the Arts.

We’re supporting members of the Brighton Early Music Festival (BREMF) which is a music festival with a difference. Not just early music concerts of a considerable excellence – and this year we were privileged to be part of two of them, built on choral and instrumental workshops we attended. But also projects which present the music in a new light, set in its historical context. This year, for example, we learned of the developments of “new” music as the style moved from Renaissance to early Baroque; feelings ran high, and “the old music” was held by some as a standard which the newer styles were pushing aside.

Next year’s BREMF will look at women composers, and the festival wants to stage what we’re calling Free Ruggiero (it has a long Italian name) which is the first complete opera known to have been composed by a woman: La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall’Isola d’Alcina written in 1625 by Francesca Caccini. If you apply for Arts Council funding you need to show you already have backing from other sources, and BREMF are raising this by crowdfunding through the Zequs platform.

Visit the Zequs page to find out more, if early music which challenged the norms and set ideas appeals to you. As I write, you only have nine days left to subscribe!

Links:
• Free Ruggiero on Zequs
• Brighton Early Music Festival (not just in the season)
• Dreaming Spires on Kickstarter

Twitter business information: railways lead the way 21 Aug 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Consumerization, Innovation, ITasITis, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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A little while ago I facilitated an event looking at social media in business. Part of the discussion, of course, focussed on in-enterprise social interactions: tools like Yammer, which sit within the enterprise and facilitate social interaction without risking compromise of business information.

But, inescapably, there was equal emphasis on the business use of external social media. Not just to put out messages on behalf of the enterprise: but to notice and respond to what the community is saying about you. As one delegate outlined: you can pick up on Twitter or Facebook a comment from a client who’s had a poor experience, and interact directly with them to explain. And quite often, they will then post a follow-up message offering appreciation along the lines of “now I understand”. What could be negative can be turned positive.

As a minor railway buff, I was interested also to hear the number of delegates referring to their commuting experience and the way that Twitter, particularly, has developed. First, of course, as an information tool for passengers: the twittosphere carries information about delays and problems, often much faster (and perhaps more reliably!) than official information arrives from the train operator. Particularly to passengers stuck somewhere after a points failure or, heaven forbid, a suicide. But the first development from that has been the way that train operating companies (TOCs) respond: keeping a feed going, and responding to tweets about problems. The best avoid anonymity: this morning’s first feed from First Capital Connect, for example, says “Morning folks, Jay, Tina and Greg here to take you through the morning. Hope you have a super day ^Jay“. There was strong favourable comment in the room about this. Another example of Euan Semple’s mantra: Organisations don’t tweet. People do.

Then Modern Railways magazine carried a couple of articles in successive months about Twitter data on the rail network.

In July, Roger Ford’s Informed Sources column covered a website which aggregates Twitter information for passengers. The commute.london site, from Delta Rail in Derby (which used to be British Rail’s research facility), produces something like a tag cloud through which you can see tweets about incidents on your commuter route. Because it’s commute oriented, the main page is an index by TOC not by location. Though it doesn’t seem to pick up tweets from the TOCs themselves.

You can also see the overall rating your TOC is currently getting, though since the tweets are mostly adverse (more people are likely to tweet for a problem than to praise) it’s not clear how this is achieved. It’s not the only such idea; the  Twitraffic app on my mobile aggregates information about road delays and incidents, which I contribute to when on the road and (of course) not driving.

There doesn’t seem to be an app for commute.london, which is a shame. The website is mobile friendly, with big blowsy panels and large text, but all you can get to by way of detail is the entire twitter feed for the TOC. It would be nice to be able to click through words in the tag cloud.

Back in the June issue, Informed Sources reported on another business-oriented development from Delta Rail. Sophisticated visualisation shows, for example, the level of Twitter activity compared to the norm; analyses positive versus negative messages (the example is to distinguish “Thankyou very much” from “Thanks a bunch!”); and, in real time, can show the build up of an incident from the volume of feeds relating to a particular location. This may well provide information to the operators faster than their own sources: after all, passengers are on the spot! Reviewing the data, both in real time and retrospectively, against other sources such as the National Passenger Survey can produce a wider overall picture than (say) the Survey on its own.

Nice to be able to highlight an IT success!

Links:
• Tweets put passengers ahead of the game, Roger Ford, Modern Railways, June 2014, p 36
• Social Media: more than just Tweets, Roger Ford, Modern Railways, May 2014, pp 36-37 (there are no online links to the articles themselves)
• Twitter: First Capital Connect (@FirstCC)
• commute.london
• Twitraffic online or as app
• Delta Rail “Innovative Software and Technology for the Transport Industry”

Digital Natives and security 5 Jul 2013

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, Impact of IT, Insight services, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I don’t normally post based on what I learn professionally in a Corporate IT Forum event, because we operate under Chatham House rules. But what follows is in the public domain and I’ve researched it without calling on any privileges.

In any discussion of collaborative working, you come up against the issue that younger people have a different take on using public tools and smart stuff than do those of us who were around as computers began to spread out beyond the finance department. Something that I remember smart people at Forrester Research beginning to highlight well over ten years ago, making the inference that younger potential employees will expect the use of these kind of tools: and may not want to work for organisations that lock them out.

Well, Generation Y is beginning to rise through the ranks; and the Millenials are coming along fast behind. So we can move beyond inference. And one of the things that distinguishes corporate work from what you can do with your own stuff at home is security. That is, protecting everything from the information resources you need to rely on to the endpoint devices and infrastructure. We see the willingness of our younger colleagues to open up on Facebook or the many more recently arrived tools. And we shake our grey heads and worry. But we maybe base our worries on what we think, rather than on what we actually know.

A group of (older) IT managers figured this, and brought together a group of “digital natives” working in security-conscious industries. They asked them how they would like to work in 2020. For an outline of the project, see a guest post by one of the group’s members, Colin Powers, just a week ago on Colin Robbins’ blog Once Upon a Camayoc. And, particularly, embedded in it is a video made by the group which you won’t find by searching. You can find more by searching Twitter for #UKCeB or #DN2020, and there is other material on YouTube too. The presentation was created using an online tool which has been around for a year or two: Prezi.

Links:
• Digital Natives: Secure Collaboration in Team Defence 2020, Colin Powers (guest post), Once Upon a Camayoc, 25 Jun 2013
UK Council for Electronic Business (UKCeB)
• Forrester Research: What Gen Y Really Thinks About Your IT Department, TJ Keitt, 1 Apr 2011 (it seems that Forrester has dropped reference to Generation Y in its more recent research). Access requires a full client account
Forrester Research, Create A Habitat Of Technology Engagement And Enablement For Your Workforce, C Voce and others, 10 May 2013. This report is available to free registered users and is linked to The Workforce Enablement Playbook
Prezi

Enterprise grade public cloud: IDC’s take 19 Jun 2013

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I’m on an AT&T webcast relating to public cloud infrastructure and its growth. Allow that this is primarly a US-focussed perspective. It’s AT&T sponsored, but delivered by IDC. It’s being recorded, and I’ll add the URL when it’s available.

Much of the underlying data comes from IDC’s winter 2012 CloudTrack Survey, with around 500 respondents. Five elements: the pace of change; deployment; networking; workloads; and next-generation solutions.

IDC refer to the “third platform”, not just second platform; and with spend growing nearly 12% per year compared to less than 1% for second platform. Third platform will account for almost 25% of this combined spend by 2020, and in the next three years spend on external services will grow to around an eighth of “traditional” IT spend. Over three quarters of North American companies are already using public cloud services.

There’s a useful categorisation of cloud deployment models, with names that speak for themselves. Self-run private or managed private; dedicated (externally) hosted or virtual private cloud; or public. Running across these are the decisions about on- or off-site, and dedicated or shared infrastructure. That eighth of spend shift over the next three years depends on these decisions.

Virtual-private cloud (VPC) has clout, through additional security and control, better connectivity into corporate networks, and more controlled SLAs but are built on public cloud infrastructure. AT&T believe shared services will command the lion’s share of the developing spend, although the split between dedicated and shared is more equal right now. This is what AT&T imply by “enterprise grade public cloud”.

Connectivity is crucial (remember, AT&T is a network company …) and there is an opportunity to connect VPC through an MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) high-availability cloud network rather than the public internet. Integration to the corporate network is close to seamless. IDC believe this option overcomes many enterprise objections to VPC cloud usage. And the CloudTrack survey suggests that any major workload coming up for reinvestment is at least going to be considered for cloud migration.

Noticeably, the workloads most likely to be moved are about the key elements of the “third platform”: social, big data (and analytics) and mobile. Where relevant, emerging markets also make a strong contribution to the importance of the third platform. Enterprises will need competencies across cloud and all these; they may not be tagged as cloud initiatives, but in these spaces cloud is crucial for developments to be effective, and those developments will be combinations of the four technology spaces. There’s a graphic for this; look in the webcast when it’s online (I’ll add the URL when it’s available).

On the half hour. Transition from the IDC analyst (Frank Gens, Senior Vice President and Chief Analyst) to Amy Machi, AT&T representative. This is a sales pitch for the combination of IBM’s Smart Cloud solution and AT&T’s VPN (NetBond), and you’ll get less notes. But with so much discussion about the limitations of service agreements with providers, it’s interesting that IBM trail over 70 auditable automated tasks available to clients, and cloud-based ITIL processes. Also, an important point is that AT&T will scale network capability in line with the demands on the scaleable cloud resource being claimed at IBM’s end of the wire. For anyone looking seriously at this version of the Cloud option, several case studies show the variation in possibilities.

Note, too, that at the present this is a US service and users need to be an AT&T customer. It will extend to Europe and Asia/Pacific relatively soon.

So: in response to questions, Frank Gens believes that investment in new capabilities will swamp legacy migration onto the third platform. And IT managers (VP/SVP) are coming to accept a reputable cloud service provider as having security at least as good as their own and possibly better, but the network has remained a vulnerability. With a managed MPLS network, rather than public infrastructure, these concerns are mitigating.

Some Open Source notes 9 Feb 2013

Posted by Tony Law in Consumerization, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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In my persona as an Associate Lecturer of the Open University, I promised some brief notes on Open Source software to help a colleague who’s leading a Staff Development workshop in a couple of weeks’ time.

Educational providers always need to find workable inexpensive software to provision their students. Around 1990 I taught the first Open University course which took ICT facilities to the students in their homes, rather than requiring them to book time on terminals hosted by friendly local institutions. The DT200 course existed in the days of DOS, but it used an early on-screen word processor (FirstWordPlus on the GEM GUI), a cut-down version of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, and the CoSy conferencing system. The configuration was an Amstrad 640 with two 5.25 inch floppy drives and no hard disk. Oh, and the mouse port was on the left hand side which is why, more than 20 years later, I still use my mouse left handed.

I promised some notes, as I said. And I thought I’d share them more widely. I use Open Source software quite freely but nothing startling. I also use other freeware and a handful of niche purchased products, such as Graphic Converter for the relatively limited image manipulation I need to do.

My main OU course now is the ICT foundation course which introduces students to a range of practical ICT tools as well as the social and global context in which the technologies operate. It uses Audacity for audio recording, which I’d been using for some time already for creating podcasts for students on another course. It uses FreeMind for mind maps. Alongside this it uses tools like Picasa for image manipulation which is free (from Google) but of course isn’t Open Source.

I use a Mac but run it sometimes as a Windows machine using BootCamp. On Windows I don’t maintain a Microsoft Office licence so I use Open Office. While there are some compatibility issues with on-screen presentation I haven’t hit any significant problems. I know there are some, but they haven’t affected anything I’ve needed to do. I use the VLC media player on Mac for Windows Media Player formats, since Microsoft no longer make a player for Mac.

The Firefox browser and other elements of the Mozilla family are of course Open Sourced and Firefox is my browser of choice. I use the internal web server on my Mac which is a version of Apache.

For application development I use Cincom Smalltalk which is a full object-oriented environment and although it’s commercially owned it’s developed by its OS community. I learned Smalltalk, also 20 years ago, when working on a collaborative academic-industry research project and I still love it.

Working in industry, as I did until recently, I encountered a lot of suspicion about Open Source. More recently I think it’s abated somewhat but it’s still there.

The debate around OS in the commercial IT sector focusses on accountability – not knowing who is accountable for quality or who can be sued (to put it bluntly) for any real problems. It’s difficult for procurement-minded professionals to accept that a community of interest is likely to have higher quality standards and to identify and fix problems more quickly than a major for-profit software supplier.

This attitude has softened over the past several years, not least because some software (such as Apache and Linux) has become widely used in the enterprise. To my reading there are (at least) two reasons. Cost (obviously) but also licensing.

It’s a lot easier to promote a web service when you don’t have to license according to the number of users. Quality has become a given for the most widely used products. Security can be easier to assure and handle when there can be access to source code. And acquiring OS software through a distributor does offer some assurance of quality. There have been some high profile espousals of OS software, such as Linux or Open Office in government departments which are supremely cost-conscious, but these haven’t had an enormous impact in the wider commercial marketplace.

What is, I think, true is that as more specialised niche requirements have been accepted within the enterprise, there’s a recognition that either open source or niche (= small startup) providers may be the only route to a solution. Someone, somewhere, has created an open source community around your need.

There are various definitions of what constitutes Open Source. By one definition, a specification is “Open” if it is published, so that it can be used by other platforms – as other word processing software can create documents in Microsoft’s format. Conversely, the Open Document Format was defined through an open process: but isn’t yet accepted as the leading standard for interoperability. This is the open process I learned about through by participation in the Object Management Group’s work. Building consensus and reconciling different viewpoints, including those of commercial developers, takes time: but there is often a strong academic foundation, and academic rigour often sustains a longer-lasting and more effective standard. Or, again, there is development through an open community which brings many minds to bear on problems; which converges on useful solutions; but which can become self-perpetuating so that the vision does not always grow or, where necessary, change.

Links:
• Sourceforge: one of the strongest groups of Open source communities
• Sourceforge is host to Audacity and to FreeMind
• Linux (of course)
• Apache (the Apache Software Foundation) also hosts Open Office
• Mozilla for Firefox, Thunderbird and more
• Smalltalk (see this page for versions)
VLC media player
Commercial products:
• Graphic Converter from Lemkesoft
• Picasa from Google
History:
• Gem Desktop

Insight coverage: Consumerisation 21 Feb 2012

Posted by Tony Law in Consumerization, Insight services, ITasITis, Managing IT, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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Tomorrow I’m part of the team delivering the Corporate IT Forum’s Consumerisation Summit in London. That’s prompted me to create the latest InformationSpan insight services Coverage Report.

Coverage Reports identify the major, second tier and niche insight providers who can effectively support enterprise IT in their strategy, decision making and operational management. In the case of consumerisation, a review of our database of over 400 IT insight providers is revealing.

There’s a strong tendency for consumerisation (or, in North American coverage, “consumerization”) to be equated to the use of smart endpoint devices. Certainly the movement began with enabling cheaper, consumer-side PCs rather than corporately procured devices with a tailored enterprise desktop; and the use, now, of smartphones, tablets and other Bring Your Own devices is a key part of the topic. With, of course, its attendant concerns for appropriate use, security, information protection and so on.

But consumerisation, properly understood, must encompass the wide range of consumer-end online services and applications: freeware (such as the Open Smalltalk which I use for programming); consumer cloud services (where Google Apps started); replacements for conventional technologies (such as the fax-to-email service which provides my rarely-used fax reception capability); and much, much more. I surveyed these in a presentation a couple of years ago; see the link below.

So I define consumerisation as the use, in the enterprise, of technologies provisioned directly by users through the open consumer marketplace – or, at the least, technologies also commonly purchased and used directly by end consumers. I categorise these into: collaboration platforms; communications; research; contact management; and infrastructure.

This Coverage Report identifies who covers what, based on what I can see on their websites. While, as mentioned, a lot of coverage is confined to smart devices, there are providers who look well beyond this and take a more positive attitude (as opposed to lock-down-everything). Forrester Research, of the majors, has been looking for some years at the impact of Generation Y on the workforce and the end-user experience they bring, and this informs their coverage. Horizon Watching, as always, punches above its weight.

CSC’s Leading Edge Forum were probably the first to fully identify this trend, and have around ten years’ well developed coverage. The surprise in the survey is a second-tier provider called Info-Tech Research, who also have a range of strategy starters, tools and other resources.

For a bit more information about the report, visit InformationSpan, below. Other links to providers are in the report which costs £150 from informationspan.com.

Links:
• Coverage report: Consumerisation. InformationSpan, Feb 2012 (brochure)
• Can Web 2.0 run your Business? InformationSpan presentation, BCS Consultancy SIG, Jan 2010 (free download)
• Consumerisation Summit, Corporate IT Forum, 22 Feb 2012

Tech trends for 2012: who thinks what? 6 Jan 2012

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, Impact of IT, Insight services, IT is business, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social issues, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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It’s the time when insight services are awash with predictions for the coming year. I’ve been having a look or, where possible, a listen to a few.

Did you see a recent Forrester announcement? In line with their own recommendations, they’ve replaced the CIO post with a Chief Business Technology Officer. With hindsight I’m surprised it’s taken this long; “Not IT but BT” has been a Forrester theme for several years now.

Another place where I’ve seen the Business Technology tag used is in McKinsey‘s quarterly newsletter. Their Business Technology office has just reported their sixth annual technology survey. According to the newsletter, “executives say their companies are boosting IT spending and adopting new technology platforms to support innovation”. McKinsey see a significant challenge to IT: “Aspirations—and current expectations—for IT have never been higher”.

Here are a few other pointers.

IDC Insights believe the CIO’s 2012 agenda will be shaped around the “Four Forces” (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data). I’m registered on their webcast (10th Jan: free) to hear more. Yankee Group also offer a focus on mobility. Their focus is on the market for devices, but their research speaks also to the corporate buyer strategist when they see an even smartphone market between Android, iPhone and BlackBerry. Oddly, though, they refer to the Bring-Your-Own market but don’t have a focus on tablets. They do, though, see both personal Cloud services and HTML5 becoming important in the coming year.

Gartner, of course, have created their swathe of Predicts 2012 content. Of course, most of it is client-only access. But the front page of Predicts 2012 includes a 15-minute podcast from Darryl Plummer. He highlights the same four areas as IDC (except he says “Information” instead of “Big Data”). It’s worth listening to Darryl; he’s quite listenable-to.

Significantly, Gartner’s highlighted report for the IT community is titled “Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2012 and Beyond: Control Slips Away“. You almost don’t need to read the report; but there’s a useful summary by Peter Galen at Infosec Update. Corporate control of users’ IT assets has been useful, but is now increasingly a myth. Seems like Gartner are saying that this year is the year it will reach tipping point. But, listening to Darryl speaking in this area, I did rather wonder “What took you so long?”

IBM, in their “5 in 5″ (five trends in five years) take the argument a step further and look beyond the WENA (western Europe/North America) corporate market. Thanks to Basex for the alert to this, but I’m not entirely clear that Basex is looking at the same report. Their focus on mobile devices is on the super-smart, not on the abolition of the digital divide. Worth a look, to lift your eyes beyond the immediate page.

Finally, Ray Wang (now at his own Constellation Research) highlights “10 Mega Business Trends To Watch For In 2012″.

.

Perhaps the key one, for IT, is “Keep consumerisation of IT enterprise class”: in other words, ensure the right balance between enablement and discipline. Here’s a world class statement of the issue:  If IT is too strict, business fails. If business fails to have a level of discipline in technology adoption, IT can not keep up with the lack of standards and scale. Ray sets this in the context (and there’s a timechart) of the change from transaction to engagement as the basis for business. There are comments for innovators, and for those who are scared to innovate.

Happy New Year!

Links:
• Forrester Research Names First Chief Business Technology Officer, Forrester Press Release, 5 Oct 2011
• A rising role for IT: McKinsey Global Survey results, McKinsey Quarterly, Dec 2011
• IDC Insights 2012 Predictions: The CIO Agenda, IDC Insights, 4 Jan 2012, in IT Governance and Executive Strategies. For the webcast (10 Jan), the registration link is at the foot of the page.
• Register and download 2012 Mobility Predictions: A Year of Living Dangerously, Yankee Group , Dec 2011
• Predicts 2012: Gartner; summary at Infosec Island, Peter Galen, 3 Jan 2012
• IBM the next 5 in 5, see also Basex Tech Watch
• 10 Mega Business Trends To Watch For In 2012, Ray Wang, constellation

Beyond gmail: Google apps event with BCS 11 Oct 2011

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, IT is business, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I’m at a BCS North London event at Google’s London office, listening to presenters from the AppsBroker consultancy extend my understanding of how Google Apps work. We’ve passed through the background stuff about using cloud apps in general and now getting to the meat. If you’ve wondered, like me, what Google APIs can really do, then this is an as-it-goes posting; watch the space! Any errors in understanding or interpretation are mine, of course.

How to write a Google-extended app …

1 – Appscript; 2 – Gadget APIs; s – Data APIs

1: Appscript = Javascript extended. Primarily for spreadsheets plus elements such as contacts, calendar, finance, sites, docs list, maps (some of these are in Labs).

Just seeing the down side of everything being online rather than on the device; the demo’s gone down through being unconnected. Notwithstanding that I’m doing this on Google’s guest network,, the demo doc is, it appears, “offline”. Embarrassing, even when the demo’s working on a ChromeBook, which admittedly does reboot nice and quickly!

When it’s come back, we get a quick view of the script code inserted into a Spreadsheet to quickly create a form with follow-on technology such as mail-outs based on the respondent’s input, or sending update notifications when an online document is changed.

2: Data APIs, based on REST rather than SOAP (HTML based, IIRC, but can use other languages eg. Java/script .NET, …). Can for example use Data APIs to push data into a shared spreadsheet in real time from multiple users/locations/sources, but maintaining one version of truth.

3: Gadget APIs: simple HTML/Javascript to extend gadgets. Example shown: a smart reschedule for a shared meeting. Looks a lot like the calendaring that Lotus Notes has done for years!

Google App Engine and Cloud Storage will have a >99.9% SLA from November. Cloud SQL (see Google Blog last week) is under beta.

— adding to the interest level, we just had a fire evacuation and a quick tour of Eccleston Square with the fire marshals. Now trickling back – at least, most of us. I think some people have decided to duck out.

In the pipeline: Google Big Query: online dataset analysis – data mining/BI application. And something called the Google Periodic Table (there’s an extra column in the Transition Metal section …) which visualises the family of applications and extensions. Prediction, for example, can look at web traffic and draw interesting conclusions. Lots of searches on “sore throat” might signal the start of a flu epidemic.

Abbreviated in response to the disruption: Dalim, chair of the Branch, talking about governance. What changes with the cloud? Some of the controls e.g. for change management; assurance from third parties, and provider management; identity and access management (d0 you still have super users?) and monitoring; evolving technology, complexity and challenges. Dalim offers an app assurance checklist [see BCS NLB website in due course].

Q&A … references to Google’s global infrastructure capability; e.g. guaranteeing at least four copies of data on different continents (that is, replication like Lotus Notes used to do). Regarding data protection issues – Google can’t at present commit to (for example) segregating data into the EU though this is being worked on. The offering currently may not be appropriate for heavily regulated in-country enterprises e.g. some areas of government, finance. Google, though, takes the approach that they are not data owners; they are data holders, and would pass access requests to the data owners. And there are data online about which countries request legal discovery, how often, and when. From the security point of view, just a glimpse of the multiple levels of protection applied to data.

Thinking about a portfolio of services: Google Apps will integrate both on-premise (e.g. with AD) and other cloud services (e.g. a strategic partnership with salesforce.com). And there’s a commitment to back data out if a service relationship is terminated. Cloud, to Google, is short term contractable (e.g. 12 month; or a little as 1 month) – no lock-in.

Links:
• Google Apps (follow the links)
• Google App Engine, Cloud Storage and Prediction API are open for business, Official Google Blog, 11 Oct 2011
• BCS North London Branch: Past Events 2011 (you may have to scroll for this event; presentations are not yet posted but are expected)
• AppsBroker consultancy

Oops, no title! Social media outside WENA 13 Sep 2011

Posted by Tony Law in Consumerization, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati, Uncategorized.
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An excerpt from a recent IDC Financial Insights blog posts a useful summary of the social media focus outside WENA (Western Europe/North America). Though the focus of the whole post is banking, this bit is particularly general:

It Is Not Just Facebook. It is easy to be dazzled by the current leading light of social media — Facebook. Indeed, many executives have disregarded the promise of social media by thinking, “how can Facebook really be useful to my bank?” The truth, of course, is social media is not just Facebook.

Across the Asia/Pacific region, there are dominant Facebook alternatives: Weibo in China, Wretch in Taiwan,Orkut in India, and mixi in Japan; these have developed different trajectories and propositions vis-à-vis Facebook. Furthermore, there are market-specific Web boards that provide a wealth of feedback on how banks stack up against each other (e.g., Product Review in Australia and Thai Visa in Thailand). In our recent IDC Financial Insights forums, other social media sites have been cited as useful: YouTube (product training and knowledge sharing made more effective because of video), Twitter (Australian banks dealing with crises such as bank outages), Yammer (internal Q&A and knowledge sharing), and LinkedIn (hiring of staff).

For more, see Eight Principles for Social Media in Banking, IDC Financial Insights, 13 Sep 2011

Other links:
• Weibo: The Chinese Twitter that dwarfs Twitter, Guardian blog (undated). The weibo.com site is in Chinese
• Wretch (also in Chinese)
• Orkut (which is part of Google)
• Mixi article in Wikipedia; the mixi.co.jp site is in Japanese but there is a company overview in English

Interestingly, the Chinese and Japanese language sites feature menu headings in English.

How sweet to be iCloud 16 Jun 2011

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, Impact of IT, Insight services, ITasITis, Managing IT, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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HApple iCloud logoow sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the blue!
It makes him very proud
To be a little Cloud.
How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the blue!

Thus sang Winnie-the-Pooh, when he was devising his strategy for getting access to essential resources – the honey in the bees’ nest in the tree. But it could have been Steve Jobs’s theme tune last week.

I finally sat down to watch the keynote session led by Steve Jobs from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this week: the one with the much-trailed announcement about iCloud. And to write: with a background of plasterers and plumbers in the house, and a digger reconstructing the drive outside!

In a keynote lasting nearly 2 hours, and viewable online, there was a lot of other stuff first. I’ll skip over it briefly: you can watch for yourselves or read other more detailed reports, but it provided context. Gartner’s Brian Prentice has said that “Apple’s vision of personal computing has unleashed a massive, pent up demand amongst people … But they are just one of many companies having success in reaching out directly to the user …”. It’s interesting to see Gartner finally and fully embracing the message that some of us have been preaching for years. Think King Canute: he knew he couldn’t hold back the tide but he had to go to the beach and demonstrate it to his sycophantic wise men. But this has been the other way round: the kings have been trying to hold back the tide, but even Gartner’s analysts now see that it’s not a winnable battle.

On the other hand, looked at from a corporate perspective: what iCloud will do is to bring to the consumer market the benefits that corporate infrastructure has provided its users for decades. Lotus Notes, with its replication and synchronisation capabilities, meant that I could access the same resources from anywhere, my own machine or not. I could read and reply to email, without having to copy stuff manually from one machine to another. I could update a meeting agenda, or modify a document, or publish a new application, ditto. It all just worked. But, to date, there’s been no consumer equivalent of maintaining multiple copies of data in sync across multiple devices. Even if you use a purely web-based email, you’ll still download documents or want to send one you’ve prepared earlier. And it’s not on your phone: it’s on the desktop Mac back at base.

Enabling that, it seems to me, is the vision of iCloud.

Phil Schiller said that the PC market shrank by 1% last quarter, while the Mac market grew 28%. OS X is now 10 years old; the next version, Lion, is due soon and there was a review of new features. The iPhone experience is feeding back into OS X: pinch, swipe and touch will arrive on Mac trackpads and in consequence the scrollbar will be much less in evidence. So will the menu bar, which has been fixed at the top of the Mac screen since time immemorial! Another iPhone idea that’s now (since January) on the Mac is theApp Store; Lion has it built in. Spaces (the multiple virtual screen feature, for Windows users who don’t have it) has the ability to move application windows from one Space to another or, even, to a new one. A new Resume feature means you can restart the machine just as you last left it: no need to restart everything separately. New visual paradigms and built-in search for handling mail. And more: take a look at the video, at around 6 minutes in. Oh, and you’ll go to the App Store for Lion. In July.

Then, there was a focus on the iPad, iOS, and the iPhone. But I skipped over that. At about 80 minutes in, Steve Jobs is back on stage to talk about iCloud (about 30 minutes’ worth). The primary rationale: the recent proliferation of types of device, and the complexities which arise if you create, buy or download digital material on one of them and need to maintain sync with the others. Even without media, it’s complex enough; I sync my address book and calendar between my main Mac and my phone (not an iPhone), but I draw the line at trying to keep these, and email, in sync between these two devices and my Macbook. What is Jobs offering? All the devices have comms built in. If the “centre of the universe” is the cloud rather than my iMac hard disk, then automatic sync can be enabled.

iCloud “stores your content in the cloud, and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices”. And it’s “integrated with your apps” so it’s all automatic. “It just works”. Jobs did take the hit of the failure of MobileMe; “not our finest hour”, he said; but, while MobileMe has been canned with immediate effect, the new service harnesses the hard learnings. There are new features such as calendar sharing: familiar in the enterprise, but now brought to the consumer market. Cloud-based replicated mail – with no ads. Integration of AppStore purchases across your devices: one purchase automatically available to all your devices, including the ones you haven’t bought yet. iBooks: again integrated, and where you’ve got to is kept in step between devices. Time Machine becomes cloud backup, and makes it easy to initiate a new device.

I got confused about Documents in the Cloud (90 minutes in). There’s automatic replication of documents, and updates, between devices using the same principles. Not needing to keep versions in step manually when working away from base on another device does sound good. It wasn’t clear whether this is limited to Apple’s iWork office suite (now available for the iPhone too); but then it appears that the Documents feature integrates PCs as well as Apple stuff. The story is to “let the app manage its documents”, but that’s where we started. When I have a project I may have text documents, and spreadsheets, and presentations, and PDFs, and other stuff all related to the project. And I want to keep them together. I want to go to one place and see the stuff that relates to that project. That’s what a folder is for.

And finally, iTunes in the iCloud; no additional charge to re-download to additional devices for historic purchases; new purchases will “appear” on all of them. A new subscription feature, iTunes Match, will match from the iTunes library any music you’ve legitimately purchased (on CD) and make this available to your other devices too.

Customers get 5GB storage in iCloud: and purchases, music and photos don’t count towards it. All this does make me wonder how much local storage is going to be needed on all these devices as content is pushed equitably to all of them. I guess storage is still getting cheaper and more compact, so perhaps that’s not an issue. Though iCloud won’t keep your Photo Stream for ever, even in their new enormous data centres. That’s too much, even for the cloud.

How sweet to be a cloud … Now some reactions.

In the ten days since the WWDC keynote, there’s been time for comment to gather. And as I’ve already hinted, Gartner no longer ignore all things Apple, nor counsel clients to avoid them like the plague. Read Brian Prentice’s blog: I think he sees iCloud as finally being the tipping point to get the personal device denialists in enterprise IT to realise the need to think creatively about the possibilities. He calls it DTTU (“Direct To The User”) and says “… enterprise IT organizations are some of the most resistant departments to change. Conversely, when change becomes absolutely unavoidable they display an amazing ability to craft intelligent, finely-tuned governance controls to deal with the new reality.” iCloud won’t go away, and can’t be legislated against in the enterprise. It’s time to start adapting, he says. And it’s a free service: how’s that for taking cost out of the bottom line?

There is an outline of some of the standard issues, quite succinctly put, at CIO.com; and we’ve covered them in depth – and the plus side too – in workshops at the Corporate IT Forum. CIO.com also link a slideshow (from PC World) about iCloud, but I’d recommend taking the time to watch Steve Jobs because this is a bowdlerized and very limited summary.

Presumably not by coincidence, Forrester on the same day as Jobs’s keynote released a report called “The Personal Cloud: Transforming Personal Computing, Mobile, And Web Markets”. I can only see the summary. But I rather suspect that Frank Gilett didn’t foresee Apple making iCloud a free service built into the OS. In a report aimed at vendors, this report “forecast[s] the number of users and paying subscribers to personal cloud services through 2016″. Jobs himself had a go at both Amazon and Google, in the context of the music download business (Mike McGuire of Gartner deals with that one too). There’s little in the Forrester Community.

CIO.com rehearses some of the standard enterprise concerns about consumerised services; they’re real ones, and the summary is good. But follow Brian Prentice in your approach, if you’re in enterprise IT. It would be good to know if Gartner are starting to do some of that thinking. The CIO.com article links to a short slideshow, originally from PC World, which outlines what iCloud is about. But its coverage is very selective and limited. You’ll do much better to take the half hour to watch Steve Jobs directly!

But I was surprised at how little real analysis there is in my regular sources. Looks like the industry – vendors, users and enterprises – is holding its breath for the official launch, to see what happens. You will do better searching Twitter; there are some links there to useful comments.

But for me, it finally begins to make sense. Lion’s integration with iCloud is a single, coherent picture; nothing’s merely an “add on”. And it’s free, so what’s to lose?

Links:
• Apple WWDC Special Event, video, 6 Jun 2011, from apple.com (iCloud starts around 80 minutes in)
• iCloud on apple.com
• Welcome iCloud – Now Prepare To Meet Your Enterprise IT Detractors, Brian Prentice, Gartner blogs, 9 Jun 2011
• The Personal Cloud: Transforming Personal Computing, Mobile, And Web Markets, Frank Gillett, Forrester Research, 6 Jun 2011 (subscription or purchase required for full report)
• Apple iCloud Draws CIO Concerns, CIO.com, 14 Jun 2011
iTunes in the Clouds, Mike McGuire, Gartner blog, 7 Jun 2011
• Corporate IT Forum event: Deploying iPads and other post-PC devices, 27 Jan  2011 (subscription required)
• Twitter feeds: http://twitter.com/#!/search/iCloud

 

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