Glyndebourne opera takes on social media 3 Nov 2012Posted by Tony Law in Social issues, Social media.
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I’ll declare an interest: Glyndebourne is local to us, and as a singer I enjoyed a couple of stretching and very rewarding workshops through the audition process. Unfortunately I had to withdraw from participation because of family and other commitments which will clash with the most intense rehearsal period. Thankyou, Susannah and the team, for the chance to be – even marginally – part of Glyndebourne-behind-the-scenes.
But it was the theme of the opera that drew me to it as well.
You can find more details on Glyndebourne’s own site, but briefly: the opera begins in a care home, where a staff member introduces the residents to virtual worlds as a way to let them express their personalities when their frailty limits their scope to do so in real life. They create avatars (“imagos”). So does he, but his is hijacked by his two sons. The opera switches between two natural worlds (the care home, and his own home) and several islands in the virtual world.
As in worlds we know about, like SecondLife, the imago represents who you’d like to be rather than your natural world constraints. So one elderly lady becomes a teenage girl, who falls in love in the virtual world with the imago operated by the two teenage boys. At the end, when the real lady dies, the relationship moves poignantly from the virtual to the natural world.
Many years ago, I saw Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange which made waves for all the wrong reasons. It was a powerful film asking questions about what is the essence of humanity. Imago will do the same in a world whose technology has moved on by around 40 years. It’s staged in early March for three days only; ticket prices are community prices, not mega-opera prices; and if you can get to Glyndebourne, do come.
Suddenly, it’s personal 1 Nov 2012Posted by Tony Law in Social issues, Social media.
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Information that comes through the social network isn’t always welcome. At my desk last evening, I received a call (in the UK!) from a New York Times reporter working on a Hurricane Sandy story. And so I learned that a former colleague, with whom I was still spasmodically in touch, had died alongside her husband in the storm in New Jersey when a tree fell on their truck. Their two younger sons were with them in the car, but are safe.
The reporter had been searching for her contacts through, among other places, LinkedIn and called me. Watching coverage of President Obama’s visit to NJ, an hour later, he was talking about people I knew better than he did. Suddenly, it’s personal.
I joined SmithKline Beecham, as it then was, in 1993 to do emerging technology monitoring. A reorganisation a few years later gave me a brief which was global, across the whole international company. Then, much more than now, there was a gulf between the pharmaceutical R&D arm of the company and the rest of us (R&D lumped us all together as “Corporate”). But Beth Everett had been carrying a similar brief to mine, in R&D IT, for longer than I had. She and her boss had knowledge, experience, contacts and processes and with her boss’s active encouragement she and I worked together for several years.
R&D had different business perspectives. Short term, experimental and tactical IT solutions were often embraced. Six months taken off the lead time for a new drug was well worth while. “Corporate” wanted a vendor with an established market record. But R&D would adopt, adapt and leverage experimental technologies from vendors, startups, and academic research. So my previous collaborative work with academic researchers in the UK paid off in credibility with Beth’s network. Our different contacts and perspectives combined to great benefit. And some of the awareness, risk appetite and external collaborations began to transfer to the wider corporation. Many years later, after the merger which formed GlaxoSmithKline, I was still benefitting from this with the willingness of senior IT managers to know about things going on in leading edge IT, and to see potential in at least some of the technologies we monitored.
Beth encouraged me to attend, alongside the R&D people, meetings of the Object Management Group (OMG): SB R&D held membership, and were leaders of its work in the late 1990s in the healthcare domain. (Incidentally, that enabled me to reconnect with Andrew Watson, OMG Technical Director, who previously I’d known in a European distributed systems architecture project. His colleague Andrew Herbert later became head of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England.) Beth and I shared attendance at OMG meetings: one in Manchester, England, was remarkable for a presentation by Tom Kilburn of his work on the “Baby” computer and the first ever stored computer program. We participated in projects. And I learned about how consensual standards-making works. All these things are my mix of personal and professional memories of Beth.
It was at an OMG meeting in Philadelphia, hosted by SB, that I first met Beth’s family: her husband Rich, and their (then three, now four) children. They welcomed me into their home on a visit too. At a devastating time for them all, thoughts and prayers are with them.
• Couple From Randolph, N.J., Are Killed in Storm, New York Times online, 31 Oct 2012 (by Alison Cowan; find the timestamp 7.54 p.m.) [This post no longer appears online]
• Hurricane Sandy: Police ID couple killed in Mendham Township crash …, NJ.com, 30 Oct 2012/update 31 Oct 2012
• Object Management Group (go to Search and look for Corbamed or find the Healthcare Domain Task Force)
• ANSA (Advanced Networked Systems Architecture): The official record of the ANSA project, 1985-1998
• Microsoft Research Cambridge
• Blue Crest Riding Center, Rich and Beth’s business, also on Facebook
• Tom Kilburn, 1921-2001, obituary, Computer50
Business Continuity, Olympic style 12 Apr 2012Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, IT is business, ITasITis, Social issues, Technorati.
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People are beginning to talk about “keeping business running in London during the Olympics” or words to that effect. I’ll try and track some of the most helpful commentary.
The Olympic planners themselves highlight the key issues. Of course the effect will be at its greatest close to the venues, but these are quite widely scattered across London and beyond. Nor is the impact limited to those areas:
- travel: there will be perhaps millions of additional people in, and travelling to and around, London. Event start times may mean additional travellers in the rush hours. Transport networks will be re-organised to service the games, meaning disruption to normal travel patterns
- logistics: deliveries into or from, or transport through, London will see challenges
- communications: there will be significant additional load on communications networks which might lead to overload and failures in other areas
- accommodation: will be scarce and probably more expensive than usual
- staff: people may be on leave (escaping, or, because they want to attend events or are volunteering), or, on shorter timescales, giving attention to reports of high profile events as they happen
- and don’t forget that however good the preparation there is always the possibility of a high profile security incident which would cause disruption very widely
Suggestions, and commentary, are beginning to emerge. What’s striking me is that we’ve been here before: not in relation to the Olympics, clearly, but with other situations where travel and normal business patterns might be disrupted. Ash clouds. Bird flu. And so on.
So, what are the recommendations being re-invented? For the people issues, some clear short-term ones such as don’t arrange meetings during the Olympics which involve lots of people travelling to, and needing accommodation in, the London area. See if working patterns can be changed to stagger travel. And do check out the events at the out-of-London venues too. Expect that, for those who do need to visit, accommodation expenses will increase. Book travel as far ahead as possible.
But (this is an IT blog) once again the discussion focusses on alternatives. Use online technology to support distributed meetings: much more a way of business-as-usual than it was, for example, ten years ago at “9/11″. In fact, where I worked, it was 9/11 that kick-started the use of distributed meetings: not just from the security angle, but because the number of people out of place that single week highlighted just how much the company was spending on travel.
Encourage and support staff working from home, to circumvent commuting disruption: we had that one with the bird flu scare, and one of the key questions was whether the company’s inbound connectivity was adequate. Another, not immediately obvious, is whether the public infrastructure (which in residential areas won’t have been upgraded to support the event) is up to the increased load being placed on it. We’re a lot further on than even a couple of years ago in understanding different ways of enabling business activities to use personal technology, but staff likely to work from home may still need to be provided with additional services or facilities too.
Here are a number of references and events.
First, check out the Olympic organisers’ own business continuity information, planners and tools. London 2012 online has an extensive Business Network section highlighting both opportunities for businesses to get involved and the continuity challenges. Track through to Preparing your Business, or download (PDF) Preparing your Business for the Games.
The CMA (part of the BCS these days) is hosting an eventon the afternoon of 16th April focussing on the comms issues: Managing Your Business During the Olympics will include fixed line, mobile network and data centre providers and an ISP.
I’ll seek more, but the major (global) analysts not surprisingly don’t have much. In the meantime I’m off cycling in France along the Avenue Verte Dieppe-Forges (posting in French – sorry!), so I’ll extend this post next week.
Tech trends for 2012: who thinks what? 6 Jan 2012Posted 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!
• 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
Is power shifting to the OS vendors? 2 Dec 2011Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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Frank Zimper, via one of my Circles on Google Plus, drew my attention to a thoughtful article in MIT’s Technology Review (TR). I used to read TR regularly, in a paper copy, but time allocation defeated me. I ought to get back to it because it ranges not just across a whole range of the novel techology spectrum but to comment about what’s going on.
So here’s an article by Jonathan Zittrain, professor of law and computer science at Harvard (no, TR doesn’t restrict itself to MIT authors!) discussing the development of the platform vendors’ stranglehold on applications and, therefore, on content delivery. The piece is called The Personal Computer is Dead but that’s not actually what it’s about.
Zittrain takes for granted the shift from the desktop-like devices of the past thirty-odd years to mobile, highly personal smartphones and tablets. What he’s concerned to point out is that the enterprises who define the functionality of these devices, via the OS – Apple, Google, now Amazon, and still Microsoft – also lock down, with varying strictness, the means by which software can be loaded.
And with software goes content, which these days is often in the cloud and can only be accessed through the authorised App. Change platform and you may lose your content (not just your software). Zittrain suggests that this restrictive practice puts Microsoft’s tactics with IE (remember the anti-trust case?) in the shade. Yet it’s crept in under the radar, perhaps because we see these devices as “appliances”. They’ve become ubiquitous computing and content devices, as it were, by stealth.
As well as these socio-legal issues, the article does capture quite neatly the changing models for development and delivery of both software and content; for its more or less draconian review and authorisation by the platform vendors (and the reasons for this); and for payment, including the impost imposed by the app stores which have become, in some cases, the only route to market.
Well worth a read. Thankyou, Frank!
Green 3: Andy Lawrence of 451 1 Nov 2011Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, Insight services, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati.
Tags: Green IT Expo
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Continuing my assessment of analysts I haven’t heard before: here at the Green IT Expo is Andy Lawrence of 451 Group, talking “Green Datacentres to Green Clouds”. Andy looks after data centre disruptive technologies, and eco-efficient IT, for 451. It’s the first time, again, that I’ve heard 451 directly.
He promises an overview including a European Union Framework project called Optimis. I’ve been involved in EU research in the past, didn’t know about this one: that’ll be interesting.
Here’s a sort-of hierarchy of energy efficiency for the data centre. At the base, five years’ work on reducing the power use of datacentre infrastructure: PUE, best practices, EU Code of Conduct. One tier up: work on lower power chips, efficient drives, virtualisation, power management etc. Above that again, the ability to look holistically at an application or service: for example, what’s the eco-impact of choosing 1 second response rather than 1.5 seconds?
So: Cloud. Cloud should be more eco-efficient and it’s often asserted to be so. But is it? 451 believes the assumptions are largely unproven. [Private] cloud and virtualisation, as a matter of observation, seems – so Lawrence says – to show under-utilisation so some of the eco gains are not realised..
We’re about to see another measurement framework. Here, there are four axes: economic, compliance, CSR (corporate social responsibility), operational effectiveness. Again, take a holistic look: e.g. what’s the energy cost of insisting backups are permanently online rather than powered-down (on tape, for example).
How do you measure resource efficiency? There are some proxy metrics; there are direct measures (i.e. actual measurements, not estimates: how much carbon now); and metrics (e.g. PUE). They are “good; but be careful: unreliable for business decisions”. We’re promised a tour of some cross-industry initiatives, and also a few highlights from individual companies.
The EU’s Optimis project provides a list for assessment: trust, risk, eco-efficiency, cost (TREC). The aim is to create an architectural framework that looks at all of these, and a development toolkit. Lawrence asserts the need for multiple metrics: “a lone metric never works”. The hard stuff is the effort to associate carbon with a cloud service, especially where the actual data are locked up in the provider’s data centre and they may well have no interest in providing the detailed data to feed into the models. It is, at the least, a hard problem.
Lawrence outlines an alternative proxy approach. It still relies on cloud providers doing the sums; but they may well already be gathering the data, and may well be more willing to deliver a category-based per-hour or per-VM footprint (kWh and carbon per VM hour, perhaps). Its accuracy needs to be similar to that of billing, neither much more nor much less.
This presentation has given me an incentive to revisit what I know of 451 Group: perhaps the most encouraging aspect was Andy Lawrence’s willingness to identify, and review, academic/industrial research projects which are easily overlooked by an insight market which tends to look only at vendors’ own development pipelines. It admits that development of real, workable methodologies is some time away: Optimis, like all EU Framework projects, is pre-competitive research. But while the project itself may not deliver the ultimate solution, the ideas it generates will certainly inform future metrics and tools.
• The 451 Group and The Uptime Institute
• Optimis EU project: Optimized Infrastructure Services
• EU GAMES: Green Active Management of Energy in IT Service centres (similar, for high performance computing)
• (These projects are within the EU’s 7th Framework Project; the CORDIS database holds information on these and all projects)
Green IT; encountering Connection Research 1 Nov 2011Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, Insight services, IT is business, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati.
Tags: Green IT Expo
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Connection Research is an Australian insight service focussing on sustainability issues. I know of them – they’re in the InformationSpan database – but this encounter at the Green IT event is the first chance I’ve had to hear from a key person; in this case, William Ehmcke the CEO. It’s another META Group spin-off company; William, it appears, led META in Asia-Pacific until it was acquired by Gartner in 2004.
This is an as-it-goes blog, plus a bit of later tidying up.
Connection reckons to work from real data, determining metrics and developing benchmarks. Their areas are: communities; green IT; the built environment; and carbon/compliance (Australia is about to introduce carbon pricing, around A$23/ton).
Connection also recognises “green fatigue” and “greenwash”; but broader issues are gaining prominence for PR; from regulation; or for financial reasons (direct, or indirect because of brand and reputation issues). There’s a perfect storm of issues, because the rise of “big data” is increasing demand; transparency is being demanded; energy security is a rising issue (in Australia as in the USA, though not so much in the UK); and simple cost.
Connection has helped to develop an ICT Sustainability framework and index, with academic partners, across: equipment lifecycle; end user computing; enterprise & data centre; and IT as a low-C enabler. Essentially, in this, is the same distinction as in Simon Mingay’s presentation: doing IT green, and enabling green business by IT. He recognises Bring Your Own plus mobility as a sustainability strategy – it creates fundamental savings and helps reduce the need for permanent facilities on the current scale..
The Fujitsu Global ICT Sustainability report, published Sept 2011, surveyed 80 different areas. It appears that results on the IT Sustainability Index (ITSx; see Connection’s website for more information) have generally regressed recently, and this isn’t a drag effect from emerging economies in China and India. Within the detail, it’s interesting that Government is ahead of the across-sector average index. Surprisingly, brand reputation is driving some “dirty” industry (e.g. mining) up the stack. Nationally, Canada is the leader and the UK second; regulation has been driving this market; and few markets excel in all the sectors.
Ehmcke highlights the major slip in the ITSx for Professional Services; odd, because these industries have only buildings, people and intellectual property. They ought to be easily able to excel; but they don’t, and have slipped relative to 2010 as has, more understandably, manufacturing.
In response to a question: an interesting national measure is GDP value per unit of carbon emission, where Japan leads the way (though not included in the Connection stats; the survey wasn’t done because of the tsunami). Ask how much carbon your enterprise uses per $million of revenue … the use and development of effective metrics is falling back and, without data, action is impossible. Over half the CIOs surveyed have no idea about their IT power consumption, for example.
In response to another question: a point was made that sustainability, in many corporations, is handed to Risk Management (even where there’s a Sustainability Officer), because it’s seen as being about compliance and a holistic view isn’t taken.
A couple more questions, and then a quick outline of the Foundation for IT Sustainability, and the new Green IT Fundamentals course based on licensed training material from Connection, linked to CompTIA, and supported by the Global e.Sustainability Initiative. A useful presentation; the emergence of training, metrics, and certifications is important and the topic was expanded in a presentation from the BCS which I haven’t blogged.
• Connection Research
• ICT Sustainability: Global Benchmark Report Reveals a Lack of Visibility of the ICT Energy Bill Has Delayed Success, Fujitsu Press Release, 21 Sept 2011: headline summary, with link to obtain a copy of the full report
• Foundation for IT Sustainability (FFITS)
• Global e.Sustainability Initiative (GESI)
A Gartner perspective on Green IT 1 Nov 2011Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, IT is business, ITasITis, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati.
Tags: Green IT Expo
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I’m at Central Hall, Westminster – home territory for a Methodist! I’m here for an event and expo on Green IT; waiting for the keynote from Simon Mingay of Gartner. There’s connectivity, so this blog will get periodically updated. Links, as always, will get added later; probably tomorrow.
“What happened to the Green in Green IT”? Both aspects: “Greening of IT” and “Greening with IT”. Mingay’s perspective: Green isn’t the primary agenda; it’s always been about cost, and about saving resources (particularly energy); but the aims coincide. ICT brings together the business information to achieve the targets.
1 – IT organisations have to engage, don’t wait for “the business” to come to you.
2 – IT must innovate, as part of the enterprise’s wider innovation agenda
3 – investment in IT systems must connect to the business’s value generating aspects, not just the “corporate and social responsibility” (CSR) agenda; although CSR is good for profit, this issue goes further.
Some organisations are slipping backwards, believing they’ve ticked the box – this ties up with a later data-driven observation from William Ehmcke of Connection Research. Energy management is a new core competency; demand and prices are both increasing and the resulting pressure on costs is unsustainable. Mingay quotes Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline: “if we don’t do something about it, we’ll be out of the game”. Tactical improvement is not enough!
Mingay highlights various aspects of the enterprise world: corporate initiatives (e.g. Unilever Sustainable Living); vendor acquisitions and partnerships; enhanced regulations (mentioned Scope 3 and see ISO 50000; see Links, below). The focus is moving beyond compliance to a “resource perspective on the organisation”, designed in, continuous (not a once-a-year report), and including the whole supply chain: which isn’t easy!
Gartner offer a Strategic Planning Assumption – one of the tenets which shape their research: “By 2015, sustainability will be an economy-wide, top-five priority for major Western European and North American CEOs.” Though as a colleague at the event commented, this doesn’t identify which current top-five issue will give way to it!
Gartner offer three frameworks to assess:
- sustainability maturity: the more mature the performance, the higher the demand for information enablement
- sustainability value, in five domains varying from Enabling to Contributing (e.g. new business models, new products/services), linked to the run/grow/transform model, with separate scales for private and public sectors;
- solution domans for sustainable business systems: from compliance (low strategic priority) to growth, and from hindsight to foresight, segmented into (a) compliance, risk and governance; (b) enterprise efficiency; and (c) brand/reputation.
Building management is an obvious area where ICT can correlate and analyse the data from environmental monitoring and control, and deliver cost and eco benefit. Mingay isn’t the first to highlighted the opportunities for FM and ICT to work together; we know about this one from a Leading Edge Forum Study Tour in, I think, 2007.
And guess what, there’s a Sustainability Hype Cycle … the key point is the very large number of technologies mapped on it. Energy-efficient IT is mainstream (“mostly”), he says. But sustainable IT is still stuck in a niche, considering aspects such as toxics and e-waste and pigeon-holed with these issues. Supply chain issues, and systemic energy efficiency (middleware, network, application) are at present still stuck in “academia”, he says – what this means is that the fundamental research on how to identify, measure and model these issues is still being done.
Three stages: optimisation (current); innovation (starting – lots of “adopted innovation” which isn’t really new, and not yet seeing attitude changes especially towards compromise on performance and availability); paradigm change (rare, as yet, but the shift to Cloud has the potential to be one). Examples: data centre infrastructure management (DCIM), treating the whole data centre as a system, with PUE modelling, active power management and so on. Gartner are bringing this topic into their Data Centre and Infrastructure/Operations events. He offered some perspectives on emerging DC design trends, in a modular “build small, build often” approach. There is a list of “ten things to think of next” – starting with measurement! The two key optimisation parameters are space, and compute power per kWh, and sustainability governance is essential for progress (with IT fully engaged).
If you think you’re done on Green IT, you haven’t understood the issues!
• Sustainable Living Plan, from Unilever, aims to” develop new ways of doing business which will increase the social benefits from Unilever’s activities while at the same time reducing our environmental impacts”
• There’s information on the ISO 50000 family of standards on the ISO Helpline (and in many other places!)
• Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Value Chain Accounting and Reporting Standard, also known as Scope 3, from the World Resources Institute
• Hype Cycle for Sustainability and Green IT, 2011, Gartner, 28 Jul 2011 (available to subscribers only; if this link doesn’t work, search for document G00214739)
Brian Arthur on the Second Economy 6 Oct 2011Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, ITasITis, Social issues, Technorati.
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In my inbox today was a pointer to an article in McKinsey Quarterly by Brian Arthur, economist and technology thinker. In brief, he explores the idea that a “second economy” is developing apace “underneath” the visible one. He shows how IT has not only taken over doing individual mundane tasks: it is now handling the many connections through which information is created from data, and making new connections as needed.
Well, as IT people, we know that’s happening. But the use cases are worth reading through because of the inferences being drawn. This connectivity, says Arthur, is already to a large extent self-configuring, autonomous (that is, “human beings may design it but are not directly involved in running it”) and self-repairing. If the Industrial Revolution represents the economy as growing muscular power, the IT revolution represents it as growing neural capability. He carefully doesn’t call it “intelligence”, but it has the capability to react as, say, a bacterium can sense and swim towards a source of nutrition.
Two quotes caught my particular attention, for those of us concerned with enterprise IT.
“In any deep transformation, industries do not so much adopt the new body of technology as encounter it”. Think about what’s happening with consumerisation, with cloud, with the iPad (as I wrote earlier today in tribute to Steve Jobs).
Economic growth in the past has always worked through the creation of jobs (though it has rendered old ones redundant and created new ones). This may not hold in future; the jobs that most of us professionals prize are disappearing too. So “the main challenge of the economy is shifting from producing prosperity to distributing prosperity“. I’d guess the Spirit Level researchers would have something to say about that, since it’s clear that more equal societies are better not just for those at the bottom of the heap but for those at the top too. And that, too, implies redistribution.
Not a tech posting, this; but professionals, in any field, need to be stimulated to think about the consequences of what we do for those among whom we exist. Read it; it’s worth it.
• The Second Economy, W. Brian Arthur, McKinsey Quarterly, Oct 2011 [sign-up may be required]
• W Brian Arthur: External Professor, Santa Fe Institute, and Visiting Researcher, Intelligent Systems Lab, PARC
• You might want to look for a paper or digital copy of Arthur’s The Nature of Technology (ISBN: 9781416544050)
• The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone
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My second webinar report today features a free Gartner seminar from Jeffrey Mann, who I knew well in his META Group days as a great application analyst. The topic isn’t “what’s available” but “how do you make decisions”: potentially much more useful.
First, he’s talking about Cloud for absorbing capacity demand peaks: the right definition. But, as he points out: the high-end integration requirements of a portal don’t necessarily suit well to Cloud infrastructure. Security and confidentiality play as issues too.
Compared to my post last week, Gartner’s definition of Cloud matches in most elements but I included easy sign up without long term commitments. This matches the use case for absorbing capacity peaks, but for longer-term critical business functions (running your sales on salesforce.com, for example) most consumers will want some longer term assurance.
Gartner also add to the established model of System (or Infrastructure), Platform and Application as a Service: two further levels. Information (e.g. a Reuter’s feed), and Business Services. The shift in provision focus is from “capacity” to “capability”, and evaluation is outcomes based. I like that.
Jeff “gets nervous” if cost saving is the only reason clients are moving to cloud services; cost reduction may be part of the outcome, but there are hidden costs (e.g. increased network capacity) and many disappointments. “Disconnect price from cost … reconnect price to value.”
And, perhaps closer to the meat of the theme: “Portals … will follow … The greater portal opportunity [for Cloud] lies largely with B2B” – strikingly close to Mark Benioff’s Cloudforce message I was listening to earlier. More on that later.
Early Cloud deployment: look for something that will work with the vanilla service (“out of the box” requirement). And it’s easier to start greenfield than migrating from on-premises services. Complexity (e.g. customisations) mitigate against migration.
Jeff showed a self-assessment chart for issues such as data, compliance, policies and failure remediation – how complex is getting going again after a stop? Even with due diligence, it comes down to trust – usually lower for a pure-cloud solution. Users often prefer to be in control even of functions and processes they are not so good at.
What about best practices? Half a dozen use cases, for example capacity on demand (such as hiring lots of extra staff for a short time, I guess like Christmas postal deliveries) – Jeff calls this “Cloudbursting”. I’ve heard a presentation of this being done around a massive weekly sales promotion that, on its first outing, unexpectedly and grossly overloaded the company’s normal web servers. Cloud to the rescue!
Other use cases include: providing lower-end capabilities to segments of the staff population, such as floor staff in a store; secure extranets in an isolated environment (e.g. in M&A or restructuring when information needs to be kept confidential to a subset of staff but in more than one enterprise); or “splitting the stack”. Jeff proposes a small handful of hard-headed questions to help evaluate whether cost will really be saved (bearing in mind that he asserts that cost saving shouldn’t be the only target for a Cloud move). You must be able to identify where cost savings will come from, they’re not automatic!
And do, first, hold a mirror to your entire company and ask if – culturally – the enterprise is ready to make this kind of change (it’s trust, again, but legal issues such as e-discovery may be highly relevant here). Then be sure you understand why: examples might include flexibility, cost, being more easily current to latest software versions, reduced internal resource requirements, and so on. And you must have defined measures for a pilot to judge whether to move on.
In this, recognise the many constituencies in the business with different needs and expectations: not a new idea, but a useful categorisation of business interests on the chart. Think how to get them involved.
Gartner does expect that in the next few years all organisations will have some level of Cloud service: complete (few), or mixed (most).
In the brief Q&A, the issue of recent high profile outages (e.g. on Office 365 for some customers) was raised. Jeff’s view is to keep it in perspective: compare with internal capability, not with the ideal of zero outage.
I raised a question based on listening to Mark Benioff earlier. That presentation was put out via Facebook, and Benioff was strongly promoting “social technology” as the communication and collaboration platform of the future. As an analyst, Jeff sees very few innovations which totally replace what came before, and believes this will be a case in point. So social technologies are, indeed, very important; but the older platforms won’t go away.
Congratulations for Jeff for going beyond the technology of Cloud, and the (perhaps hyped) potential. This was a good counterbalance to Mark Benioff’s evangelistic case, and confirms that Jeff has lost none of his edge since last time I had the chance to interact with him!
• Cloud Strategies for Portals, Content, & Collaboration Projects, Gartner webinar, 14 Sep 2011, replay (link to be added when available) – in the meantime see Gartner Webinars
• Mark Benioff at Cloudforce London, ITasITis, 14 Sep 2011