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The Economy 2.0

I’ve been following Umair Haque for a couple months.  I was tipped by Fred Wilson ala AVC fame.  At first I thought he was a new age socialist, which he is.  However, I think his meaning gets stronger under todays circumstances.  His old rules vs new rules perspective literally makes me look and think sideways.  Five, maybe 10 years ago, I would have immediately dismissed these mother and apple pie perspectives to yet another progressive hippy with modern glasses.  But hang on here, now, now with literally bedrock companies collapsing on a quarterly basis, you can’t help but question if another approach is needed.

All of his ideas tend to wax the assumption of a connected world, which is great.  I get it.  The world isn’t *totally* connected as we think, but I’m following.  But Umair takes the Web 2.0/social network further by asking and requesting companies to embedd new rules of engagement with their customers and community.

Listen for yourself.  Below contains a video to a recent talk he gave in Sweden.  He’s not the most charismatic speaker, he glosses over details left right and center, but the core….listen to the core of his argument.  I’m a moderate in most things from sports to beer, but this fresh thinking is seriously f*&king sweet.

Video link.

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Do clouds have doors and locks?

You can’t go a day without a dozen or so pundits preaching the value and virtues of the cloud.  Most folks seem to accept its enevitable conclusion, that all things software will eventually be powered by a “cloud infrastructure” – just as soon as we can define what the cloud means.  I think this diagram is one of the best logical descriptions going right now.

I don’t see a whole lot of conversation about how ISVs or enterprises can tap into the cloud without getting locked into a particular cloud provider.  If you go down the list of major providers, and remove the IaaS services(which is really a hop and a skip from datacenter hosting with better pricing) , each PaaS, SaaS is a full fledged lock-in strategy for ISVs & enterprises.

If I’m an ISV and I want to write a brand new application, I must decide a couple things right out of the gate:

1.  Which language I am willing to write it in?

2.  What VM environment do I use?

3.  Do I need associated data within the providers environment(ie. google, AWS, salesforce.com, etc.)?

4.  Do I want to attract other ISVs already inside the providers cloud for easy interoperability?

I was at a Virtual Appliance conference and a member of the audience asked Amazon, “when will you provide the tools and capabilities that are compatible with industry standards so I can write my application using your PaaS services and then take it elsewhere(or expand it) as I need?”  The Amazon rep could only say, use our IaaS service and you can build whatever you want.  I don’t think that answer won the room over.  But, its early days……so does anyone really care?

If an ISV needs some basic services for their application in the form of a database, a webservice, authentication, caching, load balancing, storage, etc. these are all unique per cloud provider.  Google, Azure, AWS, Salesforce, etc.  Then you have to decide, python, php, java, .Net….So what do ISVs do to now to build on the RIGHT cloud the first time without getting locked in?  Or should they build/port(like this VMware to Xen conversion) their app to each cloud platform for maximum coverage?

Again, its early days and most ISVs will have to pick or simply go with EC2 and IaaS to avoid the analysis.  However, I don’t think standards are the immediate answer to conundrum.  Discussion is needed in order for the next generation of applications to move past this “cloud lock-in” debate.  Standards always seem to be viewed as limiting, and I think I agree with this for the most part, but de facto standards seem to move quickly among like minded smart people who are trying  to accomplish the same thing.  I hope in this world of connectedness, that a cloud application service abstraction can be born(or possibly a startup like Gigaspaces) to avoid one cloud vendor becoming the only one on the block.

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Henry Ford could have built a faster horse, but didn’t

I’m not one to hunt for famous quotes, they sort of grab my attention dependent on mood and timing.  I was reading something related to cloud technologies and came across a good one from Henry Ford:

If I listened to my customers they would have asked me to make a faster horse

Visionaries always look smarter AFTER they’ve conquered the world.  Most game changing technologies come from the mind of an expert who has vision.  Better mouse trap technologies(Google algorithm combined with better advertising engine) vs. never before seen technology(Netscape Navigator) have certain qualities that I think make it easy to read whether they are truly innovative or just iterative.

When I think about cloud computing and all the things its intended to enable, I don’t see visionary nor game changing.  I see evolutionary or, using Clayton Christensen speak,  ‘sustaining technology’.  Simply put, applying existing technology to a new service and wrapping some additional iterative frameworks doesn’t make revolutionary.  Then I read this article summarizing this years CES show and I’m left thinking, really?  I just don’t see anything on there thats all that interesting.  New innovative technology is commonly beaten down by armchair analysts and I don’t see that on the list.

I think the amount of noise new technology gets, to some degree, can provide a litmus to how disruptive it might be.  Obviously, law of averages puts most new ideas to bed well before any true adoption takes place.  But, those that did in fact “change the world” probably have similar attributes.  Without having the time and energy to study all the game changing innovations over the past 100 years, I suspect a healthy percent must have had to overcome significant adversity.

Think for moment when Henry Ford unveiled his first Model T.  The community must have been startled and dismayed at this limited noisy machine.  Comparing it to the existing horse transport must have led to much doubt and ridicule.  The cost, speed, lack of infrastructure and fuel stations, poor reliability, I mean the list is endless.  If I compare this to the cloud model, its receiving limited doubt(beyond LJE), lots of hype, even though many users are still on the sidelines.  If I apply my newly found litmus test, this gives me a clue that the technology is interesting but not disruptive.

Why does disruption matter anyway?   I don’t think it does, I think its merely a reflection of how brilliant the idea and the person is, and in this case, since no one “owns” the cloud idea per se, its all moot anyways.  What a waste!

Still a great quote.

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Background

I was born in silicon valley in the 70s. I live in San Francisco with 2 girls and a lovely wife.  I grew up in a sort of Who’s Who of silicon valley engineers not realizing until years later that these awkwardly dressed be-speckled men were literally changing the world.  My dad is a retired high energy physicist from SLAC and my mom was a nurse at Stanford.

I’ve spent nearly 14 years working in the software industry, 11 at Oracle and 2+ at Ingres.  I was a pre-med major in college and realized by about 2nd semester junior year, after 2 semesters of organic chemistry, I wasn’t going to pursue medicine.  Something inside me said doctors(at least the good ones) are born, not developed.  So….I found a new focus, software.  It was 1995.

I started in project & product management on a couple different internal products at Oracle.  With very little experience, I mostly learned on the job about software.  I moved onto managing the first Oracle Appliance(aka Raw Iron) and then finished my tenure performing a “chief-of-staff” role for an engineering group focused on serviceability of software systems at scale.

At Ingres I’m I was a product manager for partner solutions and integration.  I manage two software Appliance solutions based on Business Intelligence and Enterprise Content Management stacks.  I also enable other ISVs to work with Ingres.

I’ve called this blog ‘Musings in the middle’ because I spend a lot of time there, operationally and figuratively.  As a Libra, I’m sort of forced by the moons to judge and listen to all sides(or the meaningful ones) before reaching a conclusion.  At work I spend a lot of time working with and planning with developers, but then an equal amount of time with sales, marketing and executives.

So here goes…..

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