2.19.2009

A few words about cloud standards

Does cloud computing need standards? In a word, yes. Should we have push cloud companies to create those standards now? In two words, not yet.

Open, honest standards are vital to the widespread adoption of technologies, because they foster interoperability, innovation and evolution. New technologies are built on top of standards, because standards provide a stable base. Standards represents best practices and pragmatic compromises. They provide everyone – software companies and enterprise alike – with the assurance that what they build today should be usable tomorrow.

We need cloud computing standards to ensure that virtual machine images can be ported from one cloud provided to another. We need standards to make sure that applications can be migrated from the data center into the cloud – and back again. We need standards to allow enterprises to compare one cloud provider to another, and to deploy applications across multiple providers with ease. We need standards to allow a third-party ecosystem to flourish.

We need those standards. But we don’t need them yet – even though some enterprise customers (and third-party service providers) are already clamoring for them. Indeed, at IDC’s Cloud Computing Forum yesterday in San Francisco, I listened as IDC analysts pounded the cloud companies to “listen to their customers” and create standards immediately.

Bad idea! Standards, hastily enacted, can stifle innovation. Cloud computing is in an early experimental growth stage. Sure, we have some well-entrenched early success stories, such as Amazon, Google and Salesforce.com, but it would be a potential tragedy to allow the early work of three companies to be codified as standards. We need time for their cloud offerings to shake out for a few year. We need time for new players to enter the market with new technologies – and new ideas. We need time to broaden the base upon which the standards are made to go beyond commercial interests.

It’s always suboptimal when a few big companies get together to create standards, whether de facto through their market power, or de jure by browbeating a standards body. I’d love to see more work from the academic community, from open-source projects, from other organizations, before we insist that cloud companies freeze their experiments and call them standards – standards that we will have to live with for years to come.

Instead, cloud providers should open up their formats and APIs, publishing them for all to use – and then let a thousand flowers of innovation bloom without the worry of premature standardization to crush the new ideas.

2.17.2009

Me and King Kong Bundy

It was 1988 or 1989 — can't be sure exactly. That was the era when there were dozen of personal-computer manufacturers, and when it was vital to make the twice-annual pilgrimage to COMDEX. That's where you'd not only find the hottest new computing hardware and software, but also no-expenses-spared booths and floor shows starring models, celebrities, magicians, dancers and athletes.

At one COMDEX of that long-ago epoch, I was speaking about cutting-edge laptop computers, and that gave me access to the speaker's lounge. When I wandered in for a moment's relaxation, I saw an enormous man wearing a leotard. The heavyweight wrestler King Kong Bundy, who at that time was the pitchman for HeadStart Computers, was sitting alone at one of the tables.

To make a long story short: I sat down next to the huge man, and we started talking. He had a very normal voice, and so if you didn't look at the bald-headed giant, it was just like having any other conversation. We chatted about computers, and it turned out that he was fairly PC-literate; he was knowledgeable about the latest modems, monitors, processors, all sorts of COMDEX-related things. I recall thinking, this is a savvy businessman — not the stereotypical muscle-bound dumb guy.

During the remainder of the show, I passed by the HeadStart booth several times, and if King Kong Bundy was there, he'd wave or smile in my direction. What a nice guy.

Our fun new doctor's office scale

I've always liked those "balance beam" scales they have in doctors' offices. You know, the kind where you stand on the scale and push little weights back and forth until it tells you how much you weigh. (Technically, it tells you how much you mass, since that's how a balance scale works.)

After a recent routine checkup, during which the nurse practitioner weighed me, I decided to investigate getting one of those balance beam scales for our home. To make a long story short, the scale was less expensive than I had expected, so we got one. We've been enjoying the new scale for a week now.

Our doctor has a "Health o Meter Physician Balance Beam Scale" model 402KL. You can view the data about it here on the manufacturer's site. List price is $349.95. It measures both in pounds and kilograms, and includes a height scale.

We were delighted to find it for a whole lot less — currently $140.43 — from Amazon.com. We ordered it with second-day shipping, but it arrived the next day. Setup took about ten minutes; there are four bolts that have to be connected to hook the base to the vertical beam. Calibration took another minute — just had to turn a screw about 1/10 of a rotation to zero out the measurement. VoilĂ ! Instant doctor's scale. Loads of fun.

2.11.2009

"Don't be my Valentine"

Maybe I'm not sufficiently romantic, but there's always been something strange to me about Valentine's Day. From being forced to bring little Valentine's cards for my classmates in elementary school (as a mandatory classroom activity), to being relentlessly bombarded by marketing messages from greeting card, flower and candy companies, something hasn't been right.

Was it me? Was it only me?

I guess not. CNN contributor Roland Martin says it clearly with in his essay today, "Please don't be my Valentine." Here's an excerpt:

First of all, Valentine's Day is not built around a religious event like Christmas or Easter; nor does it have any special meaning to the nation such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

It is nothing more than a commercial holiday created by rabid retailers who needed a major shopping day between Christmas and Easter in order to give people a reason to spend money.

Now folks, I love my wife. She is truly an awesome woman who is smart, talented, fine, and, did I say fine? But do I really need a special day to show my affection for her?

He continues,

And Valentine's Day really isn't even a two-way street. Men are utterly irrelevant except to serve as pawns in this commercial game, emptying their wallets in order to satisfy their lovers or those around them. Oh yea, retailers know the con game.

I'm with you, Roland. Considering that I took my wife out on a dinner date last night, it's clear that we don't need a special day to show our affection. We try to make every day special. I think I'm plenty romantic.

We don't need to support a retail-driven holiday that guilts men into buying specific products on a specific day in order to demonstrate their love for their special ladies.

Read Roland's commentary. What do you think?

2.09.2009

ATM cards limits: How does this work again?

For many years, the daily cash limit that we could take out of an automated teller machine has been $300.

Today, my wife and I received new ATM cards from our bank.

The new cards say that our "Daily ATM withdrawal limit" has been raised to $409.

How the heck do you get that last nine dollars out of the ATM? All the ones we use only stock $20 bills!

2.02.2009

10 Secrets of SharePoint Success

San Diego — At the SharePoint Best Practices conference here today, the keynote speaker provided the ultimate SharePoint resource: a list of 10 steps to success with SharePoint.

SharePoint Best Practices
is produced by Mindsharp, which is a technology training and education company. This is their second SharePoint Best Practices conference; the debut event last year was in Washington, D.C.

The keynote speaker was Joel Oleson (pictured), who is a SharePoint Evangelist and Senior Product Manager at Quest Software. However, he's probably best known for his tenure at Microsoft, where he architected Microsoft's internal SharePoint deployment, and also served as product marketing manager for the launch of SharePoint Server 2007.

Here, without further ado, are Joel's 10 steps to success with SharePoint. What's in bold are his points; the descriptions are my summary of his comments.

1. Confront reality. Assess the situation, and determine where you are right now, with skills, resources, culture and plans.

2. Create a governance plan. You need a governance plan to define services, resolve ambiguity and mitigate conflict within the organization. The plan explains defines services by using people, process and policies.

3. Get an executive sponsor. Because a successful SharePoint implementation will necessarily affect organizational policies, processes and culture, it's important to have genuine, sincere and consistent top-level support.

4. Create a dream team. You're not going to have a successful SharePoint deployment if your team consists of a single guy who's designated as the new SharePoint admin, and maybe a developer who'd rather be playing with AJAX.

5. Build services, not stuff. A SharePoint deployment requires software, data, metadata and other artifacts, duh, but that's not the point of the deployment. Don't forget: The reason you deploy SharePoint is because of the services it offers the organization.

6. Define clear policies and standards. Users across the organization want guidance about what they can do, what they can't do, who does what, what's appropriate, and so-on. Ambiguity and vagueness are bad.

7. Invest in scalable information architecture. When planning the deployment, understand where the scalability pain points are, so you can plan for them.

8. Don't forget change and risk management. The SharePoint deployment you envision is not going to be exactly what happens. Be sure to plan carefully — but stay flexible and responsive to changing needs and changing realities.

9. Adoption is what counts. The job's not done just because the software is running. If information workers aren't using SharePoint, you've lost. If workers aren't taking SharePoint farther than you expected, you've lost.

10. Keep It Simple Stupid. Make your SharePoint project a series of many easy wins. While it's great to have big plans, use a phased approach that is realistic about what you can accomplish, and go from success to success to success.

SD Times != San Diego Times

Memo to self: Remember, when attending events or meetings in San Diego, to register as "Software Development Times," not as "SD Times."

I always cringe when I hear the question, "Oh, you're with the San Diego Times?"

Presumably I'd have a similar identity crisis in South Dakota.

2.01.2009

Alan's Macintosh & iPhone blog goes on holiday

For those of you who have been following my separate Mac & iPhone blog: As of today, Feb. 1, it's taking a little vacation.

My blog had been provided courtesy of TechWeb's bMighty small-business site since 2007. I've received a lot of fan mail, and know that there are many followers who like my matter-of-fact, non-fanboy commentary and analysis about Apple's technologies and products. No Kool-Aid here!

Sadly, TechWeb notified me last week that due to budget cuts, they were discontinuing my blog.

I'm looking for a new sponsor for my Mac & iPhone blog, and will let you know when it's found a new home.

Thank you for your support!

About Me

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Co-founder and editorial director of BZ Media, which publishes SD Times, the leading magazine for the software development industry. Founder of SPTechCon: The SharePoint Technology Conference, AnDevCon: The Android Developer Conference, and Big Data TechCon. Also president and principal analyst of Camden Associates, an IT consulting and analyst firm.