Friday, December 30, 2011

Netflix Phenomenon and Mobility

Three weeks ago, I attended a two day workshop called the mGov Strategy.  This workshop's purpose is to provide input to OMB's mobility strategy for the US Federal Government.  Steve VanRoekel, OMB CIO, sponsored this workshop.  US civil servants from various lines of government joined the workshop. OMB split the working group into five sub-groups.  The sub-groups were:
  1. Acquisition - How can US government address acquisition of mobile technologies and services? Can the US government streamline the acquisition process.
  2. Security - How to safeguard government information and technologies from hackers.
  3. Privacy - How to protect mobile user information from inappropriate use especially when they interface with US government mobile sites and apps.
  4. Citizen apps - How to develop a mobile presence to engage US government's biggest customer US citizen.
  5. Infrastructure - How can US government address the evolution of mobile technologies and associated technologies like cloud computing, social computing and others.
As the member of the security sub-group, we discussed several policy and technical approaches.  The thing that caught my eye and basically sums up any future technical advancement is the ability to do use any application from anywhere and anytime.  I call this the "Netflix phenomenon"

Even though Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, won't win the CEO of the year award, I still give him credit in taking the movie watching experience from a cinema theater to any possible device which is accredited by Netflix.  I admit that Google introduced this feature with YouTube however Netflix took it to a new level.  I can now start a movie via  my laptop, pause it and then resume it on my iPad.  I like this DirecTV commerical which captures what I am talking about.

To develop this type of an IT service, enterprises need to invest in the following technologies and architectures like:
  • Cloud computing - IT departments need to centralize their business applications and act as cloud brokers to outsource some of their applications to third party clouds like Amazon EC2, Google Cloud, Rackspace and others.  I believe unless OMB makes significant investments in IT infrastructure, agencies will have to act as cloud brokers. It's a cost effective mechanism.
  • Smarter Pipes - Where is Mario when you need him?  With all of the data and information streaming back and forth between clouds, user devices, government needs to influence how IT networks should evolve.  Since mobile users are constantly starving for the fastest network, vendors have to realize that simply scaling up the networks is not a sustainable model.  Vendors and research institutes need to look at how data should traverse the network and optimize it.  A good example is that vendors need to develop information caching mechanisms at the network level.  
  • Smarter security - One of the best phrases used by the mobile users in the government space is, "brick". Users can call and email on a brick but nothing else.  Security personnel should realize that clamping everything defeats the purpose.  IT risk management should be a key in developing a smarter security posture. Single sign on is key as well. No one wants to sign on with multiple usernames and passwords to do their work.
  • Usability - One of the best parts of using Netflix is how intuitive the user interface is.  Ease of use is a key phrase to describe Netflix's user interface.  We need to identify and prioritize what functionality is needed or desired on a mobile app.
  • Flexibility - Use sound architecture principles like loose coupling, simple interfaces and architectures.  Simpler is better.  
  • Standards based architecture -  Eventhough there is an over abundance of  standards especially XML (frankly I am sick of how folks are misusing it), we still need to emphasize it and design appropriately.  Having a 50MB XML payload in SOA enabled information exchange is NOT smart architecture.  I am not going to expound on the 50MB XML example since it is aggravating.
Even though Reed Hastings didn't make alot friends with Qwikster or jacking up the monthly Netflix fees,  he did build a pretty cool service called Netflix streaming.  As I write this blog, my youngest son is watching Power Rangers in Space via the WII and my oldest two are watching a Dreamworks movie via the PS3.  My third one is having fun the old fashioned way. She is attending a birthday party. Thanks Reed and now bring down the monthly fees.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 3 @ Gartner Symposium

I spent the third day attending sessions about Wireless IT capabilities; a discussion between 2 Gartner analysts and Paul Maritiz, CEO of VMWare; and session called CIO Power Politics.

Gartner Sessions on Wireless
The wireless sessions were quite good and they validated some of things I would like to see implemented in the agency I work for. They also highlighted the explicit dependencies associated with setting up an enterprise wireless capability. Gartner also didn't emphasize any variables associated with security when developing a mobile strategy. Frankly I think the IT community is struggling on how to balance with innovation, operations, and security. This was evident on how Gartner is skimming over the security components of mobile technologies. I therefore think that IT departments in general will eventually abstract themselves from system/infrastructure security and interface with the security components using IT risk management. IT system security will exist but it will morph into a security science discipline where software and hardware will be developed and embedded into systems (ala McAfee and Symantec). These components will be combined at the IT DNA level (firmware, network stack, etc, etc) and will be implicitly be everywhere in the cloud stacks and device (mobile, desktop) OS stacks. IT department won't have the resources dedicated to look at explicity system security.

Paul Maritz
This leads me to the next point. According to Paul Maritiz, CEO of VMWare, labelled clouds as software mainframes. The Gartner analysts tried to see if VMWare is going out of the virtualizations and going in application and information tier. Paul answered "No". They want to support application development by producing nooks and hooks into the VMWare stack. He was asked about VMWare's acquistion of DIgital Fuel. Paul answered that Digital Fuel was acquired to provide VMWare's customers tools and methods to monitor their VMWare products. Paul kept emphasising that automation is the key and not management. My favorit quote of the Gartner Symposium was said by Paul Maritz. The quote is, "You cannot put management lipstick on a chicken." During the whole session, Paul reminded me of Pavaoritti, the great opera singer. After listening to the session, I am of the opinion that VMWare is betting that Paul Maritiz will hit the right notes in leading VMWare to succeed in the Opera of Cloud and Virtual computing.

CIO Power Politics
I attended this session with a colleague of mine. Session was an assessment on what it takes to be a successful CIO. I could go into the details but it comes down to common sense. Key tentants are: know your organization; know the mission and vision of your organization; understand your strengths and weaknesses; and work hard. Hard work doesn't mean slaving as a code monkey or developing shell scripts. It means take ownership, be passionate about it and user your common sense. This will inspire your team and create a positive synergy. The other thing that caught my eye is Gartner's mission. What is it? Is Gartner providing information regarding trends and analysis or sessions on what it takes to succeed as a CIO.

In closing I was caught by Mr. Maritz' s analogy of the cloud as software mainframes. In 1970s and 1980s, we had hardware mainframes. In 2010s, we have software mainframes. I believe by 2020, we will have information mainframes. What are information mainframes? They are data and information sets available on the internet and these sets will be avaiable for a cost. Applications of these information mainframes could be for visual analytics, information sharing. These information mainframes will replace architectures like SOA which will never succeed in an enterprise scale. Information mainframes will allow companies to run federate queries, data discovery and data management. To get there, technologies and methodologies need to be developed to increase data quality, semantic harmonization, data security. We are not there yet. Social networks like Facebook, and Linkedin are people information mainframes however we are not there yet for enterprise business information.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2 days @Gartner Symposium

This is my second year at the Gartner Symposium IT/XPo in Orlando, Florida.  After the first two days of the symposium, I believe the mantra of the symposium is the three new pillars of technology which are the glued together by information.  The pillars are:
  1. Cloud Computing
  2. Mobile Computing
  3. Social Computing
At first you think this is just bunch of hype.  What can a bunch of research analysts know about cloud, mobile, or anything else in IT.  Are these Gartner analysts creating trends from pure ignorance?   The answer is,"No"  Companies like Amazon, Google and Apple are creating technologies which are extremely disruptive and are causing problems in a positive way.  Today Gartner mentioned Google and Apple as the innovators.  I believe Amazon should be in that group. Amazon built the EC2  before IBM can spell cloud.
Amazon's model tends rely on developing services which are off-shoots out of its book business.  The Amazon cloud was a game changer and now Amazon's Silk which is a cloud browser will change the way things are done on the mobile space.

I attended couple of mobile sessions today and coule of social media sessions today.  Did I learn anything from these sessions?  The answer is Yes.  Social media has a defined lifespan.  Mobile computing is going to take over and the concept of cloud brokers was introduced.

I personally believe that cloud will reduce costs in the long run and increase throughput. I also believe that mobile will allow users to be more immersed in the internet and social computing is not a IT phenomenon but rather a social one.

The thing that caught my ear was the case study they did about the financial organization and how they built visual tools.  They updated their processes to be more "agile" so that the customer is engaged more in the development process.  I am therefore waiting for Agile computing.  This is the next big thing.  Once these technologies are stablize and drive costs down, businesses will be looking for more agility from their IT since the users will be changing their needs based on their social network.

Friday, September 30, 2011

...I’ve just been fired over the phone ...

You must have heard, "Carol Bartz is fired". What?!!! Who is Carol Bartz? She is the ex-CEO of Yahoo! She was fired September 6, 2011. According to the pundits, Yahoo! is profitable however it is lagging to Google, Facebook and others. I think the fundamental problem is that Yahoo! used to compete with Google. Unfortunately it is morphing into a content provider like,, Eventhough Yahoo! is profitable, they cannot keep up with the Google and Facebooks of the world. Here is a good example, Look at how Ms. Bartz tells the world that she is no longer the CEO of Yahoo!. She sends an email with the following:

To all,
I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.
Sent from my iPad
See the issue?  You may think it is the email.  True. Shooting an email to your ex-employees that you were fired has issues but I am not going there.  The issue I see is that it was sent from her iPad.

Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are evolving to companies which develop and disseminate content; and develop the software and hardware which dissemiinate content.  Facebook is not in the hardware business however they are creating waves by funding software projects which work around Apple's devices limitation on Flash.  Apple is not a content generator (not yet atleast) but they are the best content deliverer.  Google  is not a content generator but a content aggregator, content searcher and a content deliverer.  Facebook is a content generator, content aggregators, and a content deliverer.  Microsoft is pretty much all over the place with Bing,, and others.

Yahoo! used to be know for the search engine however it has evolved in a purely a content provider.  Folks would agree that Yahoo! would be mentioned with companies like AOL (yes that same AOL),  What Yahoo! needs to do is get back in the hardware and software side of things.  Yes, Yahoo has a get great AJAX library however they need to something interesting like buy RIM and rebrand it with Yahoo! content.  I don't know if this is possible but a move like that would bring Yahoo back in the business.  In conclusion, I would have appreciated Ms. Bartz if her email stated the following:

To all,
I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.
Sent from my Yahoo! Tablet

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Engagement Model - Resolving the "too many cooks in the kitchen" problem

The McKinsey Engagement: A Powerful Toolkit For More Efficient and Effective Team Problem SolvingLately I am involved in mobile and social computing at work.  I am working with our agency's communication departments, and internal IT groups like: IT infrastructure operations, email, mobile device acquisition and provision group and IT solutions development group.  Understandably these organizational business entities need to be involved however there is no clear cut role on how these organizations need to operate.  It's a classic case of "too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth"; however in this case, "too many organizations destroy a IT business function".  I am not saying that a specific organization is at fault since the are not however this clearly shows that there is a lack of guidance in the engagement side of this effort.

I am sure there are multiple organizations which face this problem.  How do you deal with this type of problem?  The biggest complain I hear that there is no executive sponsorship or even if there is then there is no executive guidance.  In an agency where I work, which is an extremely large and bureaucratic government agency, no one is going to give strong sponsorship or guidance. Rather than complaining about it, I realize it is a reality and I have work with it.

In an ideal world, the organization or organizations, who are responsible for a specific effort, should have an engagement model (internal and external).  The internal model is called "organizational governance". The ideal world has a strong Program Management Office (PMO) which runs programs with an iron fist.  Unfortunately US civil servants who are grouped in IT departments usually don't have that luxury since government agencies view their IT departments as a support function.  The PMO paradigm may be implemented more now because of the current fiscal crisis with my employer.

As a program manager, how do you deal with this type of issue?  If you are not an enterprise architect (like myself) then you either hire a bright enterprise architect or work with your counterpart in enterprise architecture program.   Here are few steps that I can think of:

  1. Ask the architects to decompose the business functions of the organizations and then map them to their role in your program.  
  2. Present to the program stakeholders and see if they agree on it
  3. Develop projects and appropriate RACI charts that map different organization roles to it
  4. Develop program charter and plan
  5. Present to the program stakeholders and see if they agree on it
  6. Develop a communication plan which should be the basis for the engagement model
By going through a rigorous approach where stakeholders sign off on the plan and their responsibilities, you  can develop a concrete plan and manage your stakeholders.  Before I got into project management, I thought managers sit in numerous meetings and not do anything.  There are project and program managers who sit in meeting and like to strategize however their projects and programs don't have any valuable outcome.   I have learned that every work product being produced in a project or a program is a critical artifact to manage your team's and your stakeholders' expectations. After all most of project management is about managing and having a formal or informal engagement model.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Future adwords will be Man-words

Ultimate Guide to Google Ad Words, 2nd Edition: How To Access 100 Million People in 10 MinutesAs the number of visits to this blog are dropping like today's SP 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), I figured that I better write a blog entry. I didn't write a blog entry lately because I wasn't furloughed like some of my 4000 co-workers nor was I super excited about Henry Cavill who is new the Man of Steel.  I just didn't have anything to write about.

Well here it.  I just spent twenty minutes going through Google news to see if there is anything interesting to write.  I saw articles about malware and cybersecurity.  If I blast about the perpetrators in this blog entry then my systems may compromised (typical mantra of security folks).  I saw an article about slim iPhone 5 and the fat iPhone 4.   This led me to write about something different.  I could go and spew about the common IT topics like:

  • Google vs Microsoft vs Apple vs Facebook vs Cisco vs Yahoo vs Google (see the vicious cycle)
  • Malware and Cyber-security (is it the chinese again)
  • mobile devices (skinner, faster, lighter, cooler, etc)
  • Oracle just bought out company X
Forget that man! Life is too short.  I am going to write about the next big thing after adwords.  Companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft will market products directly to us because they are capturing our likes, dislikes and how we feel about certain situations.  The information tier in the world of IT is the more non-disruptive since information is constant.  A phone may smaller and faster, applications move into the cloud or networks are more secure but your data is your data.  Your height, weight, SSN, age, names, desires don't change as often.  There is disruption in this space as well but not as rapid in the hardware and software side of things.  Information can be combined to create new views however it doesn't disrupt the way you use a phone. 

So be warned, I first said it here.  Google is going to come out with Man-words or Woman-words where folks can bid on text ads which are specifically geared towards to you.  

Okay now I got to look at next week's article.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Masters in System Engineering

Systems Engineering Principles and Practice (Wiley Series in Systems Engineering and Management)Recently I have been pondering whether to get a Master's degree and if so then which degree should I get.  Initially I thought I should get my degree in Information Systems or Computer Science.  I also thought about being the "big boss" in a company for which I may need a  Masters in Business Administration (MBA).
With IT being commoditized and being outsourced, I decided that I don't want to get a master's degree in Information Systems or Computer Science.   It's so Y2K mindset.   Instead I am strongly considering getting a master's in Systems Engineering.  I believe Systems Engineering will provide me the tools to excel in the future.  I don't see IT being the way it is now in ten to twenty years.  I could get two hundred or more certificates from Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, CISCO and worry about renewing my certs every few years or get a degree in Information Systems and morph into a nice comfy paper pushing employee.  Neither career appeals to me.  MBA sounds great but I don't want to spend $40,000 and more and end up being a mid level manager.  I will go for an MBA if the program is right.  Currently getting a MBA from non reputable college is not my view of career advancement.

So. I have decided to pursue a master's in Systems Engineering.  After getting some insight into couple of complex systems like the National Incident Management System (NIMS) or National Airspace System (NAS), I believe this would be a fascinating domain to study in and it will equip me to do my current job better.  Please feel free to comment and tell me how you feel about my decision.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do I need a PMP next to my name

PMP Exam Success Series: Mindmaps PlacematI believe job seekers hurt their chances when they start appending various professional acronyms to their name.  I saw this person on Linkedin  and looked at the acronyms following this person's name. I then analyzed it. This person has:
    • MS - Master's of Science
    • MBA - Master's in Business Administration
    • CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional
    • PMP - Project Management Professional
    • ITIL - Information Technology Infrastructure Library certifed
    • MCSE - Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
    • CCNP - Cisco Certified Network Professional
    • Sec+ - I found this definition on Wikipedia Security+ is a certification dealing with computer security topics such as cryptography and access control, as well as business-related topics such as disaster recovery and risk management. 
I look at this person's profile and wonder the following things:
      • Why does this person have a MS, MBA and multiple certifications?
      • Does this person think that he/she needs to prove his/her technical skills?
      • Is this person demand a high salary or consultant rate since he/she has numerous certificates?
      • Why is this person so technical and have an MBA?  What is his/her career goals? 
I strongly believe this practice promotes recruiters to downgrade resumes or CVs which over use acronyms next to the candidates' names. I do believe that couple of acronyms next to the names may be helpful but why would a recruit consider someone who has a MBA or a PMP to be a Linux Kernel developer?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

RDBMS got it right with SQL.

Beginning iPhone 4 Development: Exploring the iOS SDKI recently purchased couple of books to learn how to write iPhone/iPad mobiles apps. I then viewed Objective-C on wikipedia to understand the nuances of the programming language.  It's doesn't look too bad.  It is geared more towards C++ which is not a bad approach.  The reason Apple uses Objective-C is because how Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, was involved with the company that invented Objective-C.  After spending numerous years working with Java, J2EE, ColdFusion, JavaScript, studying C++ in college and working with .Net, I feel that the paradigm of object oriented programming is fractured and it needs to be standardized.  Vendors like Oracle, Microsoft and Apple have come up with different compilers and different approaches on how engineers interface with the computer.

This has not be the case with relational databases where Structured Query Language (SQL) is a universal standard and it is quite straight forwards.  Vendors have taken liberty on how stored procedures, triggers and other things have been developed but the underlying SQL is a common standard.

The Object Oriented programming community should push for standardization of basic OO principles like a class, an interface, a public method, a private method, a static method, primitive data types.  By doing that design patterns can be implemented in a standard approach. For instance can anyone tell me how to develop code using Objective-C for the singleton design pattern.

UML will also be standardized an more granular.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

FYI: Email Sucks! -enoch

E-Mail: A Write It Well GuideHave you ever forwarded an email with the following message from you, "FYI..."?  This morning I talked to my colleague, Jonathan Beams, about our over reliance on email.  Imagine a world where employees didn't spend a significant amount of time typing emails. ... Ahhh...Doesn't that feel nice.

We could actually be more productive.  Unfortunately communications is such a big part of our day-to-day lives that folks cannot imagine a world without email. Jonathan stated this morning that the benefits of email are:
  • Documented conversation for traceability and commitment
  • A great way of sending documents
  • and others
I still think it is a waste.  The CIO in the organization I work for gets around 1000 emails a day.  This is frankly ridiculous. Social media and information management are trying to address this problem but I think we should get rid of it.

Here is a challenge to Google, Micrsoft, IBM and others.  Give me an alternative to email.  I know social media, cloud computing and mobile computing are here to stay but I think it is time to call email legacy. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Big data and the sampling approach

Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivityAfter my two hour commute from home, I stopped at Giant in Urbana, MD and bought flowers and chocolate for my wonderful wife.  During this process, I scanned my Giant card and go my rebate of couple of dollars.  While I was walking back to my car, I remembered one of the workshop I attended at last year's Gartner Symposium ITXPO.  The workshop was about visual analytics.  During the workshop I met an enterprise architect from a loyalty card company.  The company produces business intelligence by ingesting grocery stores chain's loyalty card data.  I then thought about the issue of big data.  This is hottest topics right now in the realm of information technology.

What is big data?  According to Wikipedia, "Big data are datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools."  It is wonderful that we have technologies which can store large data sets and run complex algorithms on fast computers to produce views in the data sets.  This approach, however, differs the traditional statistical approach like sampling.  As a trained chemist, I was raised in the sampling approach.  The number experiments I did in physical and analytical chemistry labs which relied heavily on the sampling approach.

This leads to the next question.  Which way is better?  This depends on several factors.  For example:
  • Data capturing methodology - If it is takes a few minutes to assess and capture data then sampling may be a way to go.  If all of the data points cannot be captured during the process then sampling approach may be the way to go.  For example the Census Bureau cannot do it's job if it took the big data approach to create its census.  It would take a long time and there is no guarantee that they would interview every single individual process.  The data points (people) are also changing by individuals dying and being born. 
  • Scalability - The Big Data approach is not a scalable approach. Yeah, the big data store vendors like Oracle, SAP, Micrsoft and Google will try to sell you more computing but capturing all of the data points and running algorithms can be a cost and resource prohibitive.  I believe sampling is the way to go if you want to do a scale the model.
  • Multiple views into a finite data set - If the data set is a finite number then I believe going the Big Data way is the right way since the computers will provide some unique views into the data. 
If anyone out there is working on both approaches then please comment on this entry.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Buddy it ain't dream computing. It's reality!

    A few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with my co-worker Bill about modeling to a specific project or program or should we model with the enterprise in mind.  I then asked the question.  Does it make sense to model data, business processes, or an software modules like the federate query for the enterprise?  The answer is No!  This is because the enterprise is an ambiguous area.  Nothing is clearly defined however every business and every person recognizes that there is a bigger universe than their specific project and program.  IT personnel will throw everything in the enterprise bucket if it is ambiguous, idealist or flat out dreamy. Architecting for the enterprise without requirements, constraints, road maps or even goals is what I call dream computing.  It is only possible in dreams.    If you want to argue with me or just disagree, I suggest that you hit the pillow and just dream about your reality.  Frankly in my reality, everything is driven by financial figures and what makes business sense.

    So getting back to the discussion with Bill, if your organization wants to push enterprise level thinking, modeling, design and development capabilities at the enterprise level then your organization should have a strategy.  You can then validate the strategy by picking an architectural framework which meets the organization requirements.  The strategy should also be defined by the organization requirements.  The organization requirements can captured as quarterly goals and have an  idea how they want to achieve the goals.

    After you pick the framework then you need to decompose the framework to understand how you can use it to meet your organization's requirements.  For example Department of Homeland Security  (DHS), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and other US government agencies use the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF).  The FEAF was developed by Office of Management and Budget(OMB) and it meets their requirements.  Unfortunately agencies like the DHS and FAA use FEAF to do data calls and develop roadmaps (40K foot view is an understatement).  This however leads to major heart burn among the agency's management community see FEAF doesn't meet any of their requirements.  The management community subscribes to Gartner and Forrester and these publications which state that EA is better than sliced bread (okay I am overusing the"sliced bread" phrase).  The management community then wonders why is our EA team so horrible.  They pester us with data calls and develop academic road maps using FEAF and they have no value to the agency.  This blog can go back about talking about the importance of communications from a EA program however I have blogged about this issue enough for the last couple of years now.  I am now going to talk about the individual agencies failing to develop a EA program with their ability to capture oranizational requirements.   If your government agency's EA program is done well then the data calls to OMB  should be a cinch. Usually EA programs complain about that they don't have any sponsorship.  In highly bureaucratic organization where you have to pick your battles, would you give sponsorship to an OMB centric program.  I don't think so.  This is also because the organization in general has not done its due diligence in defining their strategy.  The government agencies wait for answers from the top and are extremely reactionary.

    Back to Bill's conversation.  I told him that you cannot  do anything in the Enterprise without requirements.  You can model the enterprise to n-level granularity or the n-level sub processes.  In the end it is a wasted exercise because businesses are not going to pay how many rodents get stuck in a plane. If management is forcing you to go the enterprise level then identify the framework and work with the approach I proposed.
    Where is my pillow again?  I need to dream about new blog entry ideas.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    gCrack vs iCrack (Satire)

    I don't know if you heard but Google and Apple are announcing couple of new products which are aimed specifically at the "partying" group.  Google's version is called gCrack and it will be in Beta release mode.  gCrack will only be given out by existing gCrack users.  The product is a graduate of Google Labs; and is manufactured in south america.  It is then distributed via its new partners in Mexico called gNarcos. According to the Google CEO, this is the best thing since sliced bread and Google is excited about it.  Other neat incentives with respect to gCrack are:
    Meanwhile in Cupertino, CA, it is rumored that Apple has been working with its partners in developing iCrack.  It is a similiar product to gCrack.  Talking to unnamed sources within Apple, iCrack is far more expensive than gCrack since there is a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between iCrack users and Apple on the quality of iCrack.  Apple will back its iCrack product and guarantees that the users will be "high" when they use it.  Unlike gCrack, which does not guarantee the quality, iCrack is five times more expensive than gCrack.  Apple is also going to promise the following things with iCrack:
    • Create and track orders on iTunes
    • Purchase iCrack using Apple's exclusive iCrack app for its iPad and iPhone
    • Meet the iCartel (iCrack manufacturers) on iCrack using FaceTime.  
    Interpol is concerned about this development since they claim gCrack and iCrack is nothing more than crack cocaine.  According to the Republicans, these crack products will help the US economy and bring jobs.  The Democrats say that these type of policies will increase the need for standardized health care and pump money in Medicare.  It looks like gCrack and iCrack are here to stay.  The real winner will be Google and Apple shareholders. It should also be noted that both companies see the crack addict will be ultimately the real winner because it will bring prices downs and the quality up.  The next big question is what will Facebook, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle do?  Are they going to get into the crack cocaine business?  

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Marketing and Technical refresh

    What happens when a services oriented company tries to get into a product business? It's not a great model. When I was employed by Northrop Grumman, I worked on the project.
    This eGov program enabled grant seekers to fill out an XML based form and then submit it via the website. The XML form in-turn was transformed to an XML instance and then processed through a propitiatory Northrop Grumman XML transformation engine.

    Have you ever heard of this product? I don't even remember the product's name! This was in 2004. The product was a suite of open source java packages which were cobbled together to be a backend engine for a major eGov program.

    I left Northrop Grumman to work as a J2EE programmer for a company called Conquest Systems. I worked on a great team with sharp engineers and a great a project manager. We built a resource management web application using Struts and Hibernate with an Oracle database in the backend. This application for was the US military with a small development and support team. Meanwhile the company spent a lot of time developing a visual analytics tool for another US Government agency. The agency allowed Conquest Systems to take the rights of the products. Unfortunately, the company is still struggling to make it big with this product. The product uses EJBs. I also heard rumors that the app server ran on vacuum tubes.

    Now at my current employer, I see every small and big company trying to sell COTS product. Half of them are useless since it doesn't meet our requirements while the others are not enterprise enough.

    What seems to be the underlying problem? The problem is that service companies, especially public sector centric companies, tend to spend more time creating the product for a client and are not geared to market the product or give it enhancements to keep it technically fresh. This was recognized by my esteemed colleague Gene Gotimer a few years ago.

    The other major problem I see is that companies that want to build cool products rely on open source products. The initial cost is minimal, however a great price is paid to have smaller iterations of technology upgrade. How many products that you know of, which are built on Microsoft, IBM, SAP or a major vendor's infrastructure, have disappeared from the face of the earth? Not many, but you have to upgrade your product technology stack, otherwise you may end up with a robust Microsoft Visual FoxPro application. How many of you have worked on FoxPro? If you did then you must have had a mullet in the 80's.

    The beauty of the cloud technology is that it will force companies to keep up with the technology upgrade otherwise the cloud provider may not support that old FoxPro app. Does Amazon EC2 support FoxPro? I didn't think so. Back to the mullet issue, just kidding. The cloud computing technology model may actually assist the services centric vendor to build boutique products. If it becomes a popular product then the cloud vendor may buy it from you. If that happens then you can be proud that you are now trading your keyboard for some car keys. Car keys to your brand new Ferrari. At least that is what every caffeinated developer dreams about. ;-)

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    No Topic: Vent Blog

    I still remember the time I took my career assessment test in eighth grade @ Stillwater Junior High School, Stillwater OK. I took the test on an old PC with a green screen. To my disappointment, I was assessed to be a school teacher. WHAT!!! I wanted to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones (in my case Indian Jones).

    Looking back at that time, which was twenty plus years ago, I never thought I would be working in computer nirvana. Okay that is a stretch. FAA is not really a computer nirvana but it can be fun. What is the point of this blog entry you wonder. Well the purpose of this blog entry is to gripe about my seven year old daughter wants a MacBook Pro but she is now settling for a Barnes & Noble Nook. A seven year old! My seven year old wants to read books online and yes drag her fingers across to play Angry Birds. She and her siblings love to watch Netflix on the WII, PS3 and now the iPad. When I was growing up, I thought a Super Nintendo was the coolest thing but now I talk to high schoolers who have never even heard of Walkmans.

    Okay I lied. The point of this blog entry is to describe how generations are becoming more digital. Teachers are trying encourage to participate in discussions using twitter and Facebook which are going IPO. What's next?! Classroom sessions via Apple's Facetime.

    Lastly I leave you by asking you to read this article [] and then please ask yourself (if you an IT professional) if your son or daughter follow your footsteps. Would a son of Oracle DBA be an Oracle DBA or would a Java programmer's son be a Java programmer? Hence our profession can be described as evolution on steroids!

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Need to have an exit strategy

    I believe it is time for me to get out of the business of IT. Here are the reasons:

    • Deer in headlights: I talk to some of my senior managers and they look at me as a deer in the headlights when I tell them about the innovations of Ruby on Rails or noSQL databases. On the other hand, if I was tell them about client server technologies of the late 1990s then we have a conversation. I see myself going down the same path in the next twenty years unless technology is outsourced.

    • Outsource IT: This brings me to the second point. IT is so commoditized. Within a couple of years, I won't need to worry about the operations part since most of this will be outsourced. I heard of government agencies outsourcing the whole Blackberry program to a third party vendor. WHAT?!!! All those jobs! I know this is a big part of the whole world we live in. Do I want my job outsourced in the next five years? I don't think so.

    • Open Source - innovating out of existence: As open source technologies rapidly evolve, more businesses are relying on market analysis and large vendors to recommend what their IT strategy should be. Should a CIO look at open source technologies to enable their IT strategy or look to proven technologies which could be legacy in the next five years? I would guess the latter. As Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Google start putting cloud services, they are going to bring down costs and at the same time bring down the IT salaries. I believe the days of an Oracle DBA making a decent living are history. An Oracle DBA will make a similar salary as a typical engineer, which is 20% - 25% less then a typical IT staffer. These companies will also start filtering the Open Source technologies and the open source world will become an R&D lab. This is the best bet for any business since businesses don't have the time to update infrastructure every quarter.

    What should I do then? I need to refine my customer relationship skills well enough to say, "Would you like fries with that?" ;-)

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Let Me Charge You Per User.

    Yesterday I saw the following tweet from LinkedIn:
    “RT @benparr: Linkedin Surpasses 100 Million Users [INFOGRAPHIC] –

    This led to me thinking on how the business model in Information Technology (IT) has shifted to defining business value from the perspective of a user. Let me explain.

    Back in the day, vendors made money by charging customers on the number of CPU’s or the number of transactions their software supported without degrading the quality of the software service. There were several companies including Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, SAS and others which followed this model.

    When did the transformation begin? I believe it began when Google came along and started buying companies like DoubleClick and other online advertising companies. This opened up the world to a regular Joe or in this case a regular Enoch to generate revenue via online pay-per-click ads (PPC). At that time Google, Yahoo and other businesses recognized that individuals like you and me have a specific business value and the individual can increase his business value by how pro-active they are in using these online technologies. Then came Facebook with Microsoft’s help (Mr. Zuckerberg, you are one lucky dude!) started to leverage the business value from its users. Facebook and others recognized that money could be made via targeted ads and analyzing user behavior. They inturn showed their business partners that there is a better return on investment (ROI) on the marketing dollars by using logical platforms created by companies like Facebook and Twitter.

    Recently I heard on NPR (this may be out of style after congress is done slashing funding for this service) that investment companies are investing in companies like Facebook, Groupon, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., etc because they are generating money and everyone is excited about. These companies see their users as assets of a company. Switching gears a bit, Google is offering their cloud services to different companies and they are charging businesses a flat fee for the service which is based fee per user per year rather than fee per CPU or transaction. This model is cleaner since it identifies per business associate and it doesn’t require a techie geek like me to figure it out. Therefore “Go Fish”…I mean go figure, the business world always understood that its users are its life blood and now IT is aligning itself to it.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Assessing IT Trends via Google Trends

    After spending more than eleven years in the Information Technology, it is amazing to see how technologies evolve and trends are created and destroyed. I did a workshop on Thursday March 17,2011 with my colleague, Mr. Giora Hadar, on social media at FAA's IT\ISS conference where I discussed the evolution of social media and how FAA is using it. While preparing for the presentation, I realized how US government information policy is influenced by technology trends. Anyway here are some trends as viewed on Google Trends:
    As you can see, "cloud computing" and "social media" are the hottest IT trends while "service oriented architecture","knowledge management" and "enterprise architecture", are declining. BPMS is also on the rise. What this tells me that CIO will try to align their strategies to the latest trends. These trends correlate to the Gartner Hype Cycle. I wonder if folks are doing any analytical strategic work using a tool like Google Trends.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Bad Mix: Traditional businesses and Social media

    I recently did a road map of social media initiatives within the department and agency I work for. I tracked all of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) policies from the 1970 (Hello President Carter!) to the present time and them mapped them to specific Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) policies and initiatives. I also captured when various Social media businesses like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Blogger were formed or purchased by Google. It was a fascinating exercise.

    The evolution of businesses, which are based on the concepts of social networking, and organic growth, has truly been disruptive in the business world. The tools provided by these companies are making the Jasmine flower proud (my poor attempt in weaving the political revolutions in the middle east into this blog entry). Unfortunately I don't think social media tools are going to successful in the big business world because businesses are based on the principles of organized management. There is a reason why fortune 500 companies hire executives with a Masters of Business ADMINISTRATION and not Masters of Science in Business. Structure and management go together.

    If you think about it. Labor unions and other user related groups with a common goal (that are not dependent on a process) will adopt social media successfully within their organization. Meanwhile investment banks and large supply chain companies will have limited success because they are based on processes. IT is critical in a business they automate business process and automation of business processes can be managed. Social media shouldn't be managed but it should be organic. A successful CIO may be able to successful implement social media in niche pockets but he or she cannot make it an enterprise level shared services. Folks in the Department of Defense claim that social media is successful in their organization. When you do intelligence analysis which is based on information sharing from different perspectives then there has be collaboration. Social media in the intelligence domain is successful because it is based on information collaboration. This is uniquely different from a typical fortune 500 company.

    Anyway I had this thought this morning and now I need to go to work and the agency's social media initiatives.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    I sound like a left wing donkey (aka Democrat)

    I asked myself, "Will open source technologies ever fly?" after reading this article "Google asks US Patent Office Oracle Java patents". As businesses try to make a dollar or two from innovative minds who donated their "code" to better of man kind, I wonder if my children will enjoy the benefits of open source technologies. I don't know the answer but one of way of safe guarding these open source technologies is let government agencies take over the maintenance of open source software. I realize that I sound like a left wing "donkey" (aka. Democrat) but the open source community needs to address the bigger problem. How can brilliant works of engineering like Java, Ruby on Rails, Linux, Hadoop can be safe guarded from the hoards of entrepreneurs? I don't have a problem if a company like Cloudera and RedHat who make a living on supporting open source software. I however question when businesses fight the over basic fabric of open source software. Here is one idea we can look at:
    • Apache and other open source organizations should be care takers of open source. These organization should be funded by government agencies and they should be regulated by a UN organization.
    My right wing friends may ask the question, "why should the government get involved in managing open source technologies. I answer by saying do you want human safety compromised over a business indicator flashing red. Since IT is being used to track and guide flights, manage energy grids, and control access to vital information, I say the government should be responsible for managing open source technologies. Government has so much red tape that it reduces efficiencies but the red tape also safeguards the things under its control from the economic and political moods.

    Frankly if things don't change then I will start working Objective C, C#, and reduce my investment as a developer on open source technologies.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Reliving the Civil War via Twitter

    I wonder who came up with the idea of reliving the Civil War via Twitter. As some of you may know that I am a big fan of Twitter. It is truly a disruptive information technology. A few days ago, I came across this Twitter account:
    Abe was twittering things like:
    • "[Letter] U think slavery is right and ought to b extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to b restricted. That I suppose is the rub."
    • "Now we are told in advance, the government shall be broken up, unless we surrender to those we have beaten, before we take the offices."
    It looks like Washington Post is posting major civil war figures' thoughts and feelings via Tweets. Washington Post claims to derive the Tweets from historical information. This is still great. Here are the other folks who are Tweeting from 1861:
    The other Twitter accounts which are associated with this effort are:
    I am assuming the other famous Civil War figures will start Tweeting as well. I would like to see these folks on Twitter:
    1. Mrs. Lincoln
    2. Ulysses Grant
    3. Frederick Douglass
    4. William T. Sherman
    5. Robert E. Lee
    6. Lincoln's cabinet
    7. Lincoln's competitors in the Elections
    8. John Wilkes Booth
    9. George McClellan
    10. and others

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Places that I would like to work

    As an information technologist, I often ask the question, "Where would be the ideal place for an information technologist to work at?" Here are some of the places I usually end up with (rather than bore you, the readers, with paragraphs of explanations, here are one liners):
    1. Amazon : - Can we say EC2. Love to play with it
    2. Apple : - I would love to work with their innovators. Time to build my CV called iCareer.
    3. Cisco : - Eventhough I am not a Network specialist. I like their CEO since he seems to have a vision. I could work on the SOA stack.
    4. Facebook : - They made PHP cool! They have the data and the advertisers. Ingredients for some great business apps. My JavaScript skills are pretty good.
    5. Google : - I am nervous about their CEO getting pushed out. They have some cool minds. I heard their Product Managers are worse than slave drivers. Unfortunately I don't have a Computer Science degree to apply their.
    6. IBM : - They have the technology unfortunately with my professional experience I will probably end up working with their consulting services. If I worked there, I would probably say this all the time, "Have you looked at Websphere or the Rational Toolset?"
    7. Microsoft : - They are known for building UI friendly and scalable solutions for medium sized companies. I am waiting for their "cloud" solution where every local and state governments will deploy their solution. If I worked there then I would be working on the .Cloud stack.
    8. Oracle : - They have it all. Out of all the companies, they look every intriguing. I would work for them if I didn't travel alot and get to build some enterprise level solutions.
    9. RedHat : - They are not as big as Oracle but they look promising. Their acquisitions have been quite good and they are always pushing open source. Guys, you need to get Apache Wave and build a Social Media platform.
    10. Salesforce : - Give me the cloud. Nothing like working for a guy called Benioff! Seriously though, they look good and promising.
    11. VCE : - Nothing like working for a company which is based on an agreement by three giants: Cisco, EMC and VMWare.
    12. VMWare : - Hey Rod (Johnson that is). Need a Java guy!
    I didn't include:
    1. EMC : - I had a bad taste with their consultants. Documentum is overrated!
    2. SAP : - They are big and they are European. My french is rusty but would be interested in a strategic position there.
    In all seriousness, they all look good however I don't want to be a consultant with them but rather be a solution architect and be involved in their strategic decision making process. Any takers?! ;-)

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Human-centric Architecture

    I work with a colleague of mine who is a Knowledge Architect. His mission at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is to enable knowledge transfer between employees. The retiring employee should be able to leave the FAA while the FAA retains their knowledge. This is also true for employees who leave the FAA for better jobs. My peer is looking at social media as an enabler for smooth knowledge transfer.

    The concept sounds good but I am a skeptic. Here is why:
    • Knowledge Sharing, and Knowledge Management are not quantifiable. I noticed this at the FAA.
    • Knowledge Management is not simply enabled by Social Media. Like Knowledge Management and Enterprise Architecture, Social Media is an ambiguous domain.
    • Implementing Knowledge Management within an immature organization (with respect to repeatable processes which have appropriate controls) is almost impossible
    I believe Knowledge Management is not possible within the FAA but Human-centric architecture is possible. Knowledge Management attempts to capture people's knowledge via voluntary or involuntary actions and it is (atleast what I have seen) is a qualitative exercise. Human-centric architecture basically defines your current-state architecture with respect to your workforce. We can also define the target-state architecture with respect to workforce. This is key because you can now quantitatively map how your existing resources will fit the target-state architecture. By doing this, we can create a transition plan on how your existing resources should be retrained or mentor new resources (knowledge transfer). After we do this then we can come up with a program plan on how transform your workforce. During the workforce transformation, we can identify opportunities for training, mentoring and retiring and this is more focused and we can derived KPI. I would now be interested to debate a Knowledge Architect on why my approach is fundamentally flawed. Any taker? ;)

    Saturday, January 29, 2011

    TSA's Meet Our Blog Team page

    I am currently assigned to work as the Tech Lead for Social Media initiatives within my organization. I work for Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Air Traffic Organization (ATO). ATO is the largest Line of Business (LoB) in the Department of Transportation (DOT). I am providing architectural and strategic services to couple of Social Media pilots and I am researching the business value of social media within a government organization. Folks want to deploy expensive social media software and then see the evolution of user participation. Since the FAA is a government agency, I believe this approach is risky with our Tax Payer dollars. I believe a calculated approach should be taken.

    Anyway I came across this blog from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and I thought it was okay. I, however, love their the Meet Our Blog Team page. It describes the people blogging. It is not bunch of contractors who are slaving away on blog entries. This shows there is a personal touch to the blog. I really like it. I would like to get a few Air Traffic Controllers to blog on the proposed ATO blog.