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

Service Innovation Workshop with NSF

SaaS.pngJust finished up a very interesting couple of days at a workshop to develop a research agenda for service innovation. The objective was to define a roadmap for future service innovation research and education for the NSF as well as academic and industry partners.


This was a very diverse group of about 60 people that broke into working groups to look at service innovation from a number of angles. One thing that almost all the groups appeared to rally around was the thought that the service modeling techniques currently in use (and simulations) are not up to the task of bringing diverse groups to a consensus and (more importantly) action.


We tried to avoid the typical trap of spending the entire meeting defining ‘service innovation’ and instead focus on areas where NSF funded research would do the most good (e.g., automation, incorporating knowledge into service system design, skill definition and education for next-generation service innovation) -- generating value.


There was one area where I had a bit of concern: the goal of human-centered service systems. I don’t have too much of a problem where the humans determine the value and consume the result (focusing attention on the unique), but if humans are on the critical path of executing the service, there had better be a good reason since I still view that human attention is going to be scarce.


We did get into an interesting discussion of if it is attention or understanding intention that is scarce?!?


There was also an interesting idea coming from the DIY space that if you can be a consumer in the future you can be a producer in the future. We’re not there yet, but it does show the level of disruption that might need to be embraced.


One great outcome for me was the opportunity to meet a number of like-minded people who have problems where I and others at HP can help address.

Largest commercial research supercomputer opened in Houston

data and oil.jpgBP opened a computing center last month that is home to the largest supercomputer for commercial research in the world. The three-story, 110,000-square foot facility on BP’s west Houston campus houses over 5,400 HP ProLiant SL230s servers (totaling over 100k cores). The computing center implements advanced cooling methods that use 30 percent less energy than BP’s previous computing center.



Computer modeling and simulation have played a significant role in the current oil boom, helping geophysicists find and analyze underground reserves faster, giving them clear pictures of underground areas than they have ever had before. This reduces the risk associated with oil exploration.


Similar techniques will expand into other industries that have massive amounts of data where proven patterns mean the difference between profitability and a dry hole.

Labels: energy| Simulation

Applying 3D Simulation to Enterprise Security

simulation.pngUsing a 3D simulator to visualize a computing environment is a long way from traditional IT security, but the drama of video gaming actually enables analysts to watch over their networks more effectively. An article New Scientist titled: The real Ton: IT security as a shoot ‘em up   describes some research under development at the Lincoln Laboratory, part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the simulation, network administrators can patrol their environments as if they were playing a first-person shooter - much like in the cult film Tron.


This was presented at the IEEE High Performance Extreme Computing Conference in September 2012. Both the paper and the presentation are available for download.


Although not really gamification in the purist definition, it definitely is an example of serious gaming moving into the IT field.

Labels: 3D| IEEE| security| Simulation

Scarce questions and analytics

question and analytics.GIFBusiness analytics is about using the data available to manage performance and make decisions. It is about asking questions to get answers. As we have more powerful tools, analytics should allow us to ask questions we’ve never thought of asking before. We can hypothesize about issues and results.


Even the type of questions we ask may change. Which is more important knowing the buying behavior of our customers or knowing more about the behavior of those who are not current customers? Is it better to know about why people make decisions to buy our product or about understanding why people were entering a decision making situation?


These kinds of questions are not exactly new, but there is now more data and powerful tools to attack them then have ever existed before. With social techniques we also have new perspectives to add to the analysis.


Most of the analytics work in the past was focused on hindsight, performing analysis on historical data. Much of the real-time analytics push discussed currently is about providing insight into decisions that need to be made now. The real opportunity is in the area of foresight, with modeling and simulation techniques to predict and shape the future we want to have. These are all analytic areas that are rapidly changing.


I’ve mentioned in the past that in a world of abundant data having more data is not all that exciting -- on the other hand having the attention of personnel with the right questions will always be scarce and powerful.


Now is the time for organizations to make a choice to develop greater depth and breadth of analytic capabilities, figuring out what works and blazing a trail toward a more agile future.

Hats that the CIO needs to get rid of… (Part 2 of 2)

windy hat.pngIn the past innovators were a chosen few—predominately middle-aged, middle-class Western men. Tomorrow’s innovators will come from all corners of the globe, all races, religions, and classes. Not only can everyone be an innovator – it is an expectation going forward as more “normal” tasks are automated.


When I say I am only human, I’m saying that I’m innovative. I like to do things differently. The optimist view is that all humans are innovative. The environment of the future will be designed to support this level of personalization and creativity. It may even reach the point where what we think we’re talking with may not be human at all.


The pessimist may believe that as low as only one percent of any general population has the high motivation, intelligence, and creativity to be truly innovative.


For Canada, with a population of 32 million inhabitants, we can reason that 320,000 are innovators. In the United States, that number increases to three million innovators.


One percent of China’s and India’s combined population would be 26 million innovators. They’ll have nearly as many innovators as Canada has residents. Our global approach is opening up those innovations to the world, further accelerating change and adoption.


Yesterday I described the numerous hats today’s CIOs are required to wear -- but what about the roles to avoid? Here are a few of the hats the CIO probably shouldn’t wear:


Chief inertia officer

Inertia is defined as “a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force.” Inertia is what makes companies continue in a direction long after the signs of change have passed. It’s represented by fixed-cost decisions, where the enterprise is sometimes incapable of overcoming bad decisions simply because they were made recently and must be defended despite better reason.


When I was going through my MBA program, one of the things we had a great deal of discussion about was the fact that sunk costs are in the past, and they can’t be a constraint to your future.


Increasingly, the future isn’t a straight line from the past, and decisions made on that basis won’t serve the enterprise well. The CIO must be a force in overcoming organizational inertia and be a strong voice in understanding not only the points at which systems fail but also the point at which optimal performance is lacking.


Chief impediment officer

IT must be a business enabler, not a business impediment. Increasingly, applications are moving closer to business end users. The expectations are for greater flexibility for devices, systems and collaboration. CIO’s must understand and embrace (at least to the point of making an active decision instead of a passive one) topics like BYOD.


The CIO is responsible for smoothing the transition from a legacy IT environment to a business-flexible SOA, where IT will move as rapidly, and with as much agility, as the enterprise demands.


Chief inefficiency officer

The efficiency of the enterprise is often tied to the efficiency of the IT capabilities underlying and supporting it. Maintaining the efficiency of the IT infrastructure is becoming a more demanding chore.


Six-nines (99.9999 percent) availability requirements mean redundant, standby infrastructure, much of which remains unused until there’s a point of failure. Architecting computing infrastructure that can be highly efficient during low traffic but can quickly and economically scale to tens of thousands of business events are becoming practical. New processes, tools, and techniques will be necessary for most organizations and the CIO is on point to plan for this.


CIOs must not only work at the strategy level, but also understand and relate to the details needed to make it happen. They must understand and preserve that which is optimally efficient, yet also muster the courage to find what could work better -- to evangelize change. They must be part lawyer, technician, mediator, and change agent. The CIO must be as much at home in the business environment as they are in the technical world. No other position in the modern enterprise requires the executive to excel in so many capacities. Even if someone masters the many dimensions, it’s safe to say that the future CIO should prepare to take on further additional, unexpected responsibilities. It’s the nature of the job.


Are you wearing in hats that you might need to take off? Do you have any other “don’ts” to add to my list?


 To read more about my thoughts on the roles of the CIO, visit these HP The Next Big Thing blog posts:

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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.