The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Displaying articles for: April 2012

Misplaced concerns about the death of the CIO

CIO RIP.pngPeter Kretzman in his post about the death of the CIO says that we have all heard quotes like:

“Users can go out and get their own technology now; they don’t need IT to do it for them. End-users are now IT-savvy, and can fend for themselves. They’ll bring their own devices (BYOD); they don’t need or want IT to provide devices for them. They’ll procure the services they need and want from the various SaaS offerings in the cloud or from outsourced vendors, and they’ll handle it all themselves.”


But just because we’ve heard them doesn’t make it true. When you talk to people about this kind of sentiment, it ultimately gets expressed as the question: “Who needs a CIO anymore?” It can even go further to: “Who needs an IT department at all anymore?

In Kretzman’s post, he goes on to talk about how, “this frequent linking of cloud and IT consumerization to the looming demise of the CIO and IT is not just misguided, but actually gets it completely backwards.” 


There are definitely changes taking place to the underlying technology that fuels IT. I agree that the off-loading of some of this effort (that is no longer valued by the enterprise) should free up the IT organization to focus on what is actually important to the bottom line.


Some of the elements that were viewed as “technical” are not as much of a differentiator as they used to be. Agile CIOs are making adjustments. The fact remains that all the new value generation efforts (social, mobile and analytics) are enabled by technology – that is undeniable.


These enablers require a degree of discipline (security, data integration, 3rd party management…). Even if hardware support and some of the value enabling software disappears into a service, the business is still left with everything else needed to integrate the activities and deliver value. If it is or isn’t called IT or the role is called the CIO; it is irrelevant – skilled personnel that understand what is required will still be needed.

Upcoming interaction opportunities

Things are a bit crazy this week, since I am helping out at the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship in St. Louis, but I thought I'd get one last post out this week about a couple of events that I’ll be at in the coming months. One is Interop at Las Vegas in Early May. The other is HP Discover.


hp discover 2012.png

For HP Discover I will participate in a serveral panels and do a couple of presentations. For the first time HP labs will also have a booth at HP Discover, please stop by.


The sessions I’m in are a bit up in the air at this time, but here is what I know so far:


Presentation Session: BB2883 - Application transformation in preparation for cloud
HP Application Transformation to Cloud Services enables organizations to determine cloud suitability for applications and infrastructure as they plan their transformation. Application Transformation to Cloud Services is a full lifecycle solution, from analysis to implementation of applications on cloud infrastructure. Learn three core steps that can be employed to transform your applications.


Presentation Session: BB3061 - Why you should care about Systems of Record
Traditional applications, combined with their infrastructure, can be called “Systems of Record.” These systems run today's organizations. They comprise the transactional engines, the information engines and the bulk of your IT expenditure. But are they close to being functionally complete?


Panel Session: BB3062 - Life as we know it is going to be all about “Systems of Engagement”
Systems of Engagement are about growth. They’re about making you stand out from your competition. In fact, they’re going to be the reason your customers remain your customers and the way you’re going to attract somebody else's customers. In this session, we’re going to look at examples of organizations that are doing just that and explore the technology they’re doing it with.


Panel Session: RT3063 - Don’t be the only one wondering about Systems of Record!
Join this roundtable session to discuss whether the Systems of Record make sense in your business and if so, what you should do with them to make them capable of taking advantage of a converged cloud environment.

Helping others and helping ourselves

Every semester I try and help out by participating in some way at a Business of IT course taught at the University of North Texas. Last night, I was an active audience member as groups of students presented their final presentation. This usually means we ask them relevant questions about their papers as they are presented to see if we can get them off-track or at least out of their depth. The philosophy is that it is better to falter in this in a relatively safe environment, rather than have their first real exposure to a truly animated customer be in their first job presentation.


The presentations last night were based on some current and relevant topics:

1)      How to become and remain a great CIO

2)      Managing Bring Your Own Device

3)      IT Security: What Boards and CEOs need to know and do

4)      Effective Communication of IT to the Business in ‘Business Terms’

5)      From the Enterprise Today to the “Information Age Enterprise”


All the students presented information based on the coursework covered during the year (e.g., COBIT, Zachman) in the context of their subject of interest. Other review team members were a CIO, a SCRUM certified project manager and a recent graduate of the course (at least relative to when I was an undergraduate), so it was varied enough to pursue them through any rat hole that may open up.


I try to participate in these opportunities, because they give me a chance to look at problems from a different perspective. It is relatively easy to see the students fall into certain traps. It is a bit harder to see how I’ve fallen (or continue to fall) into similar ones. Supporting others and performing self-examination can be quite cathartic.


The areas that I were a bit suprised were no covered were Cloud Computing and Big Data. Maybe they were banned as being too much of a buzzword.

Labels: Context| security| Youth

Meeting effectiveness improvement approach

meeting.pngI was talking with a co-worker about his approach when scheduling meetings, since he has been having some success in changing his approach. Anyone who knows me knows my perspective is that a cancelled meeting is always a good meeting.


First thing to have an effective meeting is to validate that a meeting is really needed.  We were talking about the number of times your sitting on a phone call or in a face-to-face meeting wonder “Why am I here?” or “Were they lonely and just needed someone to talk with?” Many times people could just have sent along a document and asked us to read it, asynchronously, rather than schedule a meeting. This meeting proliferation behavior may be a sign of how little attention people feel they get, since the only way they can get your attention is to get everyone together at the same time. Anyway…


He said he picked up this technique somewhere along the way and since it sounded useful, I thought I’d pass it along. It is called POST and it sets a standard level of expectation for a meeting:


P – Purpose – Document why we are having this meeting.

O – Outcomes – The expected deliverables from the meeting

S - Structure – The supporting materials used to facilitate this meeting (e.g., PowerPoints, project plans)

T- Timing – How much time will be allocated for the meeting.


He said that once he started using this approach, people took his meetings more seriously and the meetings actually got shorter. There are a couple of things I mentioned that I’d do as part of this:

1)      Let everyone know that if they prepare we should be able to get this meeting completed in X minutes, if not we will allocate the whole meeting time.

2)      Let them know everyone who will be attending


There are some expectations for those using the process:

  • There should be 5 days’ notice  of the meeting unless it is critical, so everyone can be prepared
  • Every person should know what is expected of them before, during and after the meeting
  • Everyone should know what media will be supported (virtual, teleconference) or if they will be needed in the room.
  • At the end of the meeting, there will be minutes including at least a summary of the decisions, action items and who will be held accountable
  •  And of course -- Meetings run to time

All these actions and expectations seem like common courtesy, but in this event-driven, multi-tasking world, meeting decorum seems to have fallen by the wayside.

HP India deploying “computer-lab-in-a-box”

lab-in-box.jpgHaving installed its fourth 'Lab-in-Box' (a self-sustainable computer lab in a shipping container) at Ahmedabad, India, Hewlett-Packard (HP) India is now in talks with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for installing more education focused labs.


Each HP Lab-in-Box comprises a shipping container that has 15 HP multi-seat thin client workstations, a multifunctional printer, wireless connectivity, electricity, furniture, fans and air conditioning. This approach allows multiple users (students in many cases) to be connected to one machine, which maximizes space and resource utilization while reducing cost and complexity. The same techniques that allow for containerized data centers have other applications as well.


While HP India is in talks with central and state governments for installing these labs across public schools in India, it has received demands from other countries as well. "Even Indonesia, Afghanistan and other African countries have also been demanding this lab but we are waiting for the pilot projects to get stabilized," said Jaijit Bhattacharya director, Government Affairs, HP India.


inside lab-in-box.jpgThe HP labs organization in India has been researching ways to impact education through computing. We’ll likely see a number of products and approaches in the coming years that continue this wave forward.


Even though there has been a great deal of talk about the Kahn Academy and various on-line efforts to shift how education is performed, some foundational infrastructure is still required.

Not too concerned about lock-in, but still concerned…

lock-in.pngI just saw a post on SiliconANGLE that asks: Are We Too Concerned with Vendor Lock-In? The focus of the article is taking the “high ground” – looking for what actually provides the value the business needs, stating that we need to “keep in mind the real value of software: performance, agility, stability”.


I think everyone but the most purist open source zealot would agree that businesses need to keep their eye on the value ball. It is software that provides that value. On the other hand, numerous times in my career I was dragged off in directions I didn’t really want to go by a vendors change in direction for their product (or when they were snapped up by someone where the relationship was already on-the-rocks). These issues are also important for businesses too. If you rely on too many “features” you can limit your flexibility down the line.


Although being open and standard shouldn’t be the only factor, it may be a decisive one when the open source solution is “good enough”. This dilemma between open and standard is why HP is trying support both open and heterogeneous environments with converged cloud

Cloud lifecycle management

Cloud optimist.pngI was in a discussion yesterday with someone who asked me “What is cloud lifecycle management?”


I thought for a moment and decided to talk about this from the public cloud consumer’s point of view. The concept of lifecycle management is right at the core of why cloud computing is attractive. The whole concept is to add flexibility. Once you are done using the public cloud capabilities, your commitment and expenses should be over.  


In -> Work -> Out -> Done and do it all fast.


With today’s business trends that can place inconsistent computing demands, this flexibility can provide a great deal of productivity and value. That is not the end of the story though, once you reach a level where you know you will generally need a certain amount of computing, it may be better to keep that in house – through a private cloud.


Many people talk about cloud computing like it is a utility, but I have to disagree. I’d say the issue is similar to housing. Once you know you are going to stay in an area and understand the level of floor space you require…, it is usually better to buy than to rent. Some people may live in an apartment all their lives, but there are reasons to own property as well. There is part of the lifecycle that is stable for a relatively long time.


One of the key skills that an organization will require is 3rd party management. They need to develop good partners to work with. I’ve mentioned in the past that things will be changing over the next few years. When we have 10s of cores and petabytes of low power storage in our vast array of mobile devices, it will shift how and why we use computing once again. Software architectures need to shift to take advantage of the parallel processing both in the cloud, in the distributed environment and hybrids of the two. That will shift what we think of as cloud today and how it will be used. Even though cloud computing looks like a powerful hammer not all the problems today or in the future can be nailed down.


So understanding the business needs, architecting for flexibility, having good partner relationships and using solutions that support open standards while flexible enough to support current and future needs are all part of a  lifecycle management strategy. This is all part of HP’s strategy with Converged Cloud

Inkjet technology applied to medicine

D300.pngA few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see the leveraging of existing inkjet technology into a new industry. The Hewlett-Packard (HP) D300 Digital Dispenser uses the same very precise fluid injection techniques used in inkjet heads for the creation of drug compounds. This tedious, time consuming and manual process can now automated and performed more precisely.


This is an example that even technologies that organizations have been using for decades can be applied in new ways in other fields to generate value. Innovation can come from many places in many forms.

The Titanic and radio communications

titanic wireless.pngToday marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the It also marks the first time the distress code "SOS" was used. I’ve read a number of accounts this year about the radio operaters and the communications traffic that took place to facilitate the rescue, as well as the effect the disaster had on radio communications globally..


Today we take it for granted that if our car breaks down or some other personal “disaster” takes place that we have instantaneous communications. It makes me wonder what people 100 years from now will look back on that we think is novel today.


The photograph shown is of the actual of Titanic's Wireless Room (Harold Bride shown sitting). Photo was taken by Father Brown who disembarked at Queenstown prior to the sinking. 


Explore the role of radio before, during, and after the disaster with the interactive timeline. Then, listen to an interview with Alexander Magoun, the outreach historian at the IEEE History Center. 

Could there be an ‘uncanny valley’ for business automation?

automation.pngAnyone who has worked with robotics has probably read about the uncanny valley – the point where the robotic interface is so close to human (but not close enough) that it gets creepy.


I was talking with someone the other day about computer automation and automated workflow. We were discussing the integration of human and automated response as a way to automate business processes. One of the items we discussed was: Could there be a similar phenomenon to the uncanny valley for computer intelligence? Could the response be so close to life-like that it is rejected by the common user? You could think of this as one last hurtle before passing the Turing test.


I’ve seen situations where an automated response was so obtuse that it made me question all the other responses I’ve seen from a system before. Of course, we’ve probably seen this phenomenon for people too.


I believe we settled on the view that there probably wouldn’t be this enough of an emotional attachment to generate revulsion, to the level physical objects can generate – but it is something to keep in mind. 

Leadership disruption

leadership.pngSince I wrote a post earlier that declared 2012 the year of disruption, when this article about The CIO Entering the Era of Disruption, I couldn’t pass it up.


‘During the CIO Practicum program at the University of Kentucky and the IT Value Studio series at Florida State College at Jacksonville, researchers asked attendees to come up with a name for the era we're about to enter. The general consensus was "the era of disruption."’


The article goes on to discuss the shifting role of the “C level” of the organization, with new names and new roles being defined. There is a great deal of change in both the roles and the expectations. Clearly, these are interesting times.

Is Cloud service support a requirement for BYOD?

Mobile cloud services.pngThe distinction for the employees between work and play are blurring. Employees expect the same kind of enriched user interface in their work lives as they have in their home lives. They demand an environment where they can use rich media and collaborative techniques as part of their business interaction. This mandate for change has been initiated as much by the board room as the back room and has culminated in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement within many organizations.


Unfortunately, much of the focus of this movement has been on the devices themselves instead of the business and personal drivers. BYOD is not really about the devices, but about the secure access to information from enterprises and other providers in a simple to use and flexible fashion.


If you have any experience with technology devices, you will recognize that there are thousands of options available on the market today, with the average American operating 6.6 mobile devices by the end of 2011. The life span of these devices is measured in months, so any approach that depends on a limited selection of product versions from even a single vendor will not stand the test of time.


While the number of smartphones and tablets has exploded over the past few years, there are other devices that users will expect to use to access corporate applications, some of which we can’t even imagine today.  Consider the number of “consumer devices” such as 200 Million game controllers and 40 Million e-Readers which have the ability to connect to the internet.  Additionally, there are the televisions, blue-ray players, and other consumer devices that are propagating throughout homes. What role they may play? Should the CIO decide that for the employee base?


Information Technology is only at the start of this journey, since the device count is likely to explode to 30 billion, 50 billion devices worldwide by 2020. Applications for these environments will all need testing and life cycle management. So strategic planning will be required both at the enterprise and the application levels.


This kind of explosion in capability is exactly why HP has been focused on converged cloud. There are a range of functionality required some best addressed by private, some public cloud capabilities. There is also a need to test and spin up environments using a variety of operating systems and underlying software -- like we’ve never seen before. Enabling organizations to address these needs in a repeatable, highly productive fashion is an area HP is putting its innovation shoulder behind. One-size-fits-all does not match an enterprise’s needs. HP's effort is on services that enable choice, confidence and consistency -- that is what will be required to address the flexible needs of the business and all these devices.

Cloud launch from HP today

Cloud ideas2.pngEvery 7-10 years, technology development and delivery undergoes a fundamental shift that opens up new business models and value generation opportunities. These shifts fundamentally change the way that technology is consumed and the value that it can bring. These shifts change what is possible and break down the barriers to innovation. Today, mobility, consumerization and cloud computing are signposts that mark the shift that is underway.


So what is the implication for IT? 

  • Opportunities - but at the same time, risk
  • Agility - but at the same time, a need for control
  • Flexibility – but also the possibility of lock-in


These conflicts point to the need for innovation.


The HP cloud offerings announced today are a start down the road to changing the way, infrastructure is built, applications are developed, services are defined and information is delivered. I will not cover the details in this post (you can see the press release for the official view), but focus instead on some of the underlying philosophy.


Early adopters of cloud services have found these techniques can provide both an improved “time-to-value” as well as cost flexibility.  Today, many mainstream organizations see cloud services as a key delivery model that can increase their ability to address organizational objectives in a demanding and unpredictable world -- a world where a major constraint is the number of seconds in a day.  A world where cloud enabled practices can be a cornerstone of their ability to gain access to the right IT services, from the right places, at the right time, at the right cost; and create the means to speed innovation, enhance agility and improve financial management.


HP believes organizations will need to implement a hybrid delivery strategy that will leverage cloud services as part of their IT delivery and consumption strategy. To make this happen, HP’s focus is on enabling choice, not making choices for organizations. Hopefully everyone recognizes that if you have a well understood set of computational requirements that are stable and consistent, it is better to own these capabilities – in those cases, “the cloud” will not be cheaper similar to the reason why it can be cheaper to own a home rather than rent one. So our view is that new more flexible solutions will be combined with traditional means to build and consume IT services.  HP is also trying to continue to support a market where there are leaders and laggards in the adoption of cloud, so one size cannot fit all organizations.


In order to deliver on the promise of the cloud and hybrid delivery, where everything has to be sourced and assembled at will -- information in all forms must be harnessed and exploited from inside and outside the enterprise in a secure fashion. This is an area where HP is performing research and development, since there are still many unknowns about the best way to address this need. This flexibility demand creates an environment where the IT mix can rapidly shift as organizational requirements change. Naturally, this will require changes to how software is architected and written. Application development and operational infrastructure must be visible, accessible and manageable in a consistent manner. Standardization must be in place to allow portability of services across deployment models and reduce lock-in.


HP’s approach to address this area is called the Converged Cloud - providing the unconstrained access to IT resources that organizations require, fulfilling their objectives. HP Converged Cloud provides access to “Infrastructure Anywhere,” “Applications Anywhere,” and “Information Anywhere.” Today’s announcements are just the start of a whole series of offerings and services we’ll be hearing more about over the coming weeks.


HP will deliver the HP Converged Cloud experience across four key customer scenarios. The typical journeys that customers tackle to fully embracing the cloud:

  • Making it safe for corporate developers to unleash innovation for mobility and consumerization while leveraging public cloud infrastructure safely and securely throughout the service lifecycle
    • Cloud-enabling existing data centers beyond virtualization to include automation and full hybrid delivery
    • Cloud Services provisioning from infrastructure, application, network, information, and SaaS-centricity standpoints.
    • Sourcing new virtual services from outside the enterprise that deliver the information in the context of your enterprise, and then consumption of that information directly by the user, application or business process.


HP’s Converged Cloud will be underpinned by a single architecture built on proven, industry-leading Converged Infrastructure (Servers, Storage, Networking) and new Converged Management and Security software (Automation, Management, Security);  and combined with enterprise-class, hardened open source technology (OpenStack) to deliver an enterprise-class IT service delivery capability which delivers the flexibility and choice the industry demands.


To learn more about the cloud computing services being announced by HP Enterprise Services, check out this blog post by Alison Watterson as well.


If you are on twitter you might try to watch the tag #convcloud on Thursday starting at about 1PM EDT. There is a twitter chat scheduled. I know if I have 2¢ to add, I’ll chime in.


Relays instead of transistors?!

This month’s IEEE Spectrum had an interesting feature about the use of MEMS switches instead of transistors for low power computing.


“It turns out that the best way to design a digital relay circuit block is to take a page from the first half of the 20th century, when large discrete relays were still used to build computers. Instead of grouping the nanorelays into discrete simple gates, as you would do with transistors, the best approach is to arrange many of them in series and in parallel to make as few gates as possible. If all the devices can be arranged into one single gate, all the nanorelays can be switched simultaneously, and the time required to perform any function is reduced to a single mechanical delay.”


They are not nearly as fast, but they consume significantly less power, one of the constraints that prevents putting computing and sensing into many situations. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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