by Eric Knipp | March 22, 2012 | Comments Off
Yesterday I had the good fortune to attend a breakfast talk given by Cowboy great Drew Pearson at the SMU campus here in Plano. Besides earning a place in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor last year in recognition of his NFL greatness, Drew is a successful marketing executive, life coach, and motivational speaker. Drew gave a talk on the subject of identity. Until I saw a post from my colleague and friend Tom Austin on the subject of digital vs. personal self, I had no plans to blog about Drew’s talk. Tom poses several questions:
- Does your digital self reflect your real-world self?
- Is it desirable or even possible to separate your personal self from your digital self?
- How do you deal with this challenge?
Yesterday morning, Drew talked about the importance of identity at both an individual and organizational level. Having an identity means you know who you are and what you believe, and you never have to guess how you should behave. For individuals, your identity is the set of constraints that dictates who you associate with, how you treat people, how you make decisions, and how you will be remembered. For organizations, identity dictates what people you should recruit, who you should fire, how you develop your strategic and operational plans, how your culture evolves, and how your customers and competitors see you in the market. Businesses try to codify identity through the mission statement. Religious organizations use creeds. Nations use constitutions. Weirdly, individuals often don’t codify identity at all. Some of us opt for an affirmation statement. For most of us, our identity is something of an accident that we fall into, rather than something we deliberately choose.
Identity is hard enough to get right in the real world. How many of us are consistent in our values, our friendships, our goals? How many of us have been willing, from time to time, to pursue avenues other than those our probable identities would suggest? How many of us have never even taken the time to decide what we are or who we want to be? If you’re constantly negotiating with yourself, you probably don’t have a perfectly-formed identity. But don’t feel too terrible, because most of us are in the same boat.
If it’s hard to nail down an identity in the real world, it’s damn near impossible in the digital world. Every Facebook status update, every Tweet, and every LinkedIn post is another chance for us to betray our identities, revealing painfully short attention spans, feeble convictions, failures to be who we say we are (or even who we would like to be able to say we are). And that’s just the stuff we do on purpose – Google, Microsoft, and hundreds of government agencies around the world are no doubt compiling frighteningly detailed dossiers on our “true” digital selves.
I don’t pretend to have the solution to this conundrum. I think we’d all benefit from being more deliberate about our real-world identities. If we can do that, we’ll have a fighting chance at effectively managing our digital identities by aligning our digital and real-world values and choices.
Category: Personal Effectiveness Tags: Personal Effectiveness
by Eric Knipp | March 11, 2012 | 3 Comments
Sitting on a flight from Dallas/Fort-Worth to Orlando for Gartner’s Orlando Portals, Content, and Collaboration Summit, I just observed an event that reminded me of why I believe so strongly that architects ought to cut code themselves. We’re being redirected around the leading edges of a storm line stretching from southwestern Arkansas all the way down to Houston. I am lucky enough to be riding my frequent flier status to an upgrade at the front of the bus, while coach is filled with already-exhausted parents and screaming kids excited to spend “quality time” with the Rat. Yeah, I am pretty happy to be up here.
Anyway, the row in front of me is filled with a familial unit, including 2 kids. I love kids (especially my 2 boys). But more to the point: I love kids who behave themselves. And for the most part these kids behave (if only due to their mobile electronic distraction units). That probably shouldn’t surprise anyone – if you’re in business class as an 8-10 year old kid, it’s because your parents are either very well-off financially, or because one or both parents work in a field demanding a lot of travel, and upgrades were made. In the latter case, these kids are probably still pretty well-off. Children of financially secure parents tend to be children of well-educated, well-behaved parents. Maybe not fair, but there it is.
Because we are being diverted around a storm system, we are enjoying a bit of a bumpy ride. The pilots have turned on the fasten seat belt sign, made announcements about the importance of remaining in your seat with the belt fastened, and our flight attendants have reinforced these ideas. When the plane is rocking side to side, the pilot is telling you to stay in your seat, and your friendly flight attendant is doing the same thing, you should probably stay in your seat.
So, back to my in-flight neighbors. Well-behaved in general, they don’t know how to follow the simple request to stay in their seats for their own safety. It is patently obvious why they don’t “get it” – their parents don’t get it either; they get up and use the bathroom, change seats, and so on, generally serving as a bad example of how to behave yourself as an air traveler. Kids parrot their parents. Fortunately, in the case of in-flight turbulence, most of the time nobody gets hurt, even if they can’t follow rules.
How does this relate to your role as an architect? Well, line programmers parrot you the way that kids parrot their parents. If the rules don’t apply to you, they won’t be taken seriously by the people you’re to nurture and develop. If you act like coding is a big imposition, gifted yet ambitious developers will aspire to a role where coding no longer matters. If you don’t experiment, create prototypes, and research new technologies, you certainly won’t engender interest in same from your programmers. Unfortunately, most of the time, someone or some project will get hurt by such behavior.
I don’t mean to draw an unfair comparison between developers and children (although in some rare cases, such a pure comparison is appropriate). What I mean to say is that everybody needs to be led. In your organization, architects probably don’t lead people in a traditional hierarchical sense – but architects certainly lead by example. How you conduct yourself matters. Choose to spend some of your time coding, even if you believe it isn’t the most valuable use of your time in a pure business sense. In terms of the example and inspiration you supply your organization’s line developers, it matters a lot.
Category: Applications Programming Tags:
by Eric Knipp | March 6, 2012 | 3 Comments
Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced yet another cut in its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) pricing (it also announced cuts in select PaaS capabilities, including the relational database service). I’ve been telling Gartner clients for years that this will never stop. Amazon.com is a retailer and at its core, AWS is a retail business. It is a mistake to look at AWS as a traditional IT services business, even though it competes against some megavendors in that space. AWS is like all retailers, ultimately about volume, not operating margin.
OK, you say, no volume, no business. True. But the incumbent IT industry megavendors are much more focused on margin, enjoying profitability between 20 (for professional services and hosting) and 40 percent (for traditional software). On its very best day a discount retailer like Amazon would dance a jig over a 6 percent margin. Simply put, if you’re Amazon or any of its component businesses, you’re not going to be undersold by any competitors that focus on value over price.
IaaS is for all practical purposes the closest thing to a commodity that exists in the cloud services market. I believe that eventually it will be a perfect example of a commodity, where service providers become price takers and there is very little room, if any, to command a premium on differentiated features and functionality. I believe that AWS itself proves this out through its increasing portfolio of higher-order, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) style offerings.
If IaaS is becoming a commodity, volume business, the logical move for value players who prefer margin to volume is up the chain to PaaS, or even software-as-a-service (SaaS). It makes a lot of sense – if you’re a company with a history of winning in the market with a differentiated value proposition, then it’d be natural for you to compete in an adjacent market in similar fashion.
Which is why I keep scratching my head over the things I see happening in the IaaS market. I see a number of large enterprise-oriented players who’d like a piece of the exploding cloud infrastructure market. They’re aiming money, and more importantly, time and leadership focus, at the IaaS opportunity. Now, these are not players from a retail background – they’re in the high-value, high-margin bucket I talked about earlier. And they think they’re going to go out and eat Amazon’s lunch by competing in the IaaS market. How likely are they to be successful?
So I keep asking myself this – why are companies with an obvious path to sustainable, high-margin growth – winning in the PaaS space – sinking so much effort into competing in the IaaS space? Do they really want to die the death of a thousand cuts at the hands of a retailer?
Or, in other words, don’t bring a differentiated knife to a commodity gun fight.
Category: Cloud Cloud Application Platforms Tags:
by Eric Knipp | February 15, 2012 | Comments Off
Cloud computing has become an important element of every enterprise IT provider’s business strategy and it is long past time to treat “a cloud [as] water vapor,” as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison famously said in 2009. Even Oracle is now well-entrenched in the cloud war through both acquisition and internal initiatives. Microsoft, IBM, SAP, and every other established player in the enterprise IT space is heavily invested in cloud technology and/or cloud “marketecture”. And then there are the many smaller players “born in the clouds”, a small number of which have gone on to become large enterprise IT providers in their own right, such as Salesforce.com and Google.
In 2008 it was hard to envision just how much difference a few years would make. Back then, the biggest players in serving the most needs of the enterprise IT market, and with the best prospects for future growth, were dominated by packaged software, data center infrastructure, professional services, and managed hosting. At the time, the only companies truly qualified to be considered enterprise IT generalists were IBM and HP – with Oracle in the on-deck circle, with its soon-to-be-announced acquisition of Sun. Not that these were the only important enterprise IT companies – far from it – but clearly they were the ones with the largest share of wallet in existing customer accounts, they were the ones serving the broadest set of needs, and clearly they were the ones with the best prospects to grow customer spending over time.
What a difference a few years makes! The emergence of what Gartner today calls the “Nexus” of forces – cloud, mobile, social, and information – has radically altered the size and scope of the battlefield upon which the IT leaders make war upon each other. Hardware and traditional managed hosting are becoming less important as enterprises realize that they don’t really want to own IT capital assets, and they don’t really want to deal with the plumbing issues associated with managing infrastructure. Business leaders are rediscovering that the reason they chose to build data centers and fill them with expensive shiny boxes is because they want the business value associated with the processes running there. CIOs are being told to drive business value and shift away from the day-to-day tactics of cost optimization. It isn’t happening all at once but the change is now obvious and inexorable. In “Vendor Roulette”, which Ray Valdes and I presented at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in 2011 (and which we presented in a slightly different form with our colleague David Mitchell Smith in 2010), we postulate that the industry structure is shifting away from the 2008 picture, and toward something that looks more like this.
We are seeing the beginning of business strategies that align with the vision of the future enterprise IT industry structure we articulated in Vendor Roulette. Today’s announcement of Canopy - a joint venture between Atos, EMC, and VMware – is a fine example. Combining cloud platforms with professional services is a key step in the maturation of the cloud services market. While I don’t know enough about Canopy to know if the company will succeed, I am excited to see more examples of organizations whose stated business strategy aligns so well with what Gartner has been saying for several years. I believe we will see further examples in the near future – and that companies from Salesforce.com, to Microsoft, to Oracle, and beyond, will make professional services a key ingredient in the cloud services recipe.
Category: Applications Cloud Cloud Application Platforms Tags:
by Eric Knipp | October 15, 2010 | 1 Comment
I’ve not had time to blog in a while, thanks to my slamming research and conference schedule. I guess I shouldn’t complain – I enjoy getting out to see the folks, and some of my colleagues find themselves at Gartner Symposia on nearly every continent. By comparison my schedule is tame. So, where will I be this Fall?
October 18-21 finds me in Orlando, Florida for Gartner Symposium/ITXpo 2010, where I’m delivering several important sessions:
- Monday, 10/18 – Gartner Keynote: New Realities, Rules, and Opportunities (with various distinguished colleagues)
- Tuesday, 10/19 – Debate: Shared-Hardware vs. Shared-Everything Multitenancy (with Lydia Leong and Ray Valdes)
- Tuesday, 10/19 – Web Application Development in 2015: Shifting Sands
- Tuesday, 10/19 – Vendor Roulette: Predicting the Next M&A Moves (with Ray Valdes and David Mitchell Smith)
- Thursday, 10/21 – Platform as a Service: The Strategic Center of Cloud Computing Architecture (with Yefim Natis)
The following week, October 25-27 finds me in Japan at Gartner Tokyo Symposium, where I get to deliver some very interesting, broad talks on cloud and emerging technologies:
- Monday, 10/25 – Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2011
- Tuesday, 10/26 – Emerging Trends and Technologies: Now that You Have the Bandwidth
- Wednesday, 10/27 – The Cloud Computing Scenario
After some much needed R&R I will be landing for Mashery’s the Business of APIs conference in downtown San Francisco. Just a little over a week later, I am chairing the Application Development track at Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development & Integration conference in Los Angeles November 15-17, where again I get to meet with the folks and present some interesting pitches:
- Monday, 11/15 – End-User Roundtable: Best Practices in Cutting Development Cost
- Monday, 11/15 – Rapid Fire: If We Build Cloud APIs, Do We (Still) Need Cloud Integration (with Benoit Lheureux)
- Tuesday, 11/16 – Rapid Fire: Apptrepreneurship: Your Next Great Software Delivery Model?
- Wednesday, 11/17 – Web & Cloud Development 2015: Prepare for Shifting Sands
That rounds out my Gartner conference travel schedule and while I’m excited about the great material and big audiences I expect to see, I am a little bummed that I’ll be forced to miss some of the premier AD conferences of the season, including Adobe MAX and Microsoft PDC. Fortunately my consolation prize is attendance at DreamForce in early December, which should be an interesting opportunity to see what’s up with VMforce, among other things!
I hope to see some of you at these events!
Category: Uncategorized Tags: symposium
by Eric Knipp | September 1, 2010 | 1 Comment
VMware is not a household PaaS name (are there any?) but vFabric will take it there.
As a CEAP, vFabric provides a variety of vetted components – Spring for AD, GemFire for XTP, Rabbit for messaging, etc. Of course the underlying lingua franca is Java, a language ubiquitous in the enterprise. Interested cloud platform providers, such as carriers – will no doubt take a close look at the vFabric offering as a basis for PaaS competitiveness.
The other story is one that I’ve been following for a while – the potential shakeout in PaaS. I pointed out last year that the SpringSource acquisition put VMware in position to dictate some terms in the cloud application platform space. Not everyone believed, but here we are with VMware moving up the stack (albeit not with CloudFoundry, but hey, nobody’s perfect).
The next question – how far can VMware go in its “encirclement of Microsoft” strategy? VMforce and Google App Engine for Business are a great start, but the PaaS shakeout is just getting started. Smaller providers must catch Maritz mania for the VMware strategy to be fully realized.
It will be interesting to see how things play out. For now I plan to enjoy the next couple of days of VMworld and report back.
Note to Microsoft: Eclipse is an IDE not a language.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: aPaaS, Cloud, paas, vmw, vmware
by Eric Knipp | March 28, 2010 | 1 Comment
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending MIX, Microsoft’s Web-oriented conference. This conference was cool for a range of reasons; for one, it was my first in-depth viewing of Windows Phone 7 Series.
By all accounts, Windows Phone 7 Series is an impressive improvement over Windows Mobile. The preview we saw looked great, performed well, and incorporated some interesting enhancements to smartphone GUI, such as grouping related icons rather intuitively. The development model is entirely based on Silverlight, Microsoft’s RIA technology built around .NET. This provides immediate access to a large number of developers who are no doubt hungry to build apps – but it also creates the problem of disenfranchising existing Windows Mobile customers who have no upgrade path for their applications. The latter has the potential to be a big problem as Windows Mobile is firmly embedded in operational technology used in logistics operations (like warehouses). Microsoft hopes that by offering a more flexible development toolset, developers will make up for the lack of backward compatibility by cranking out lots of cool Windows Phone 7 Series Silverlight apps.
Silverlight is an interesting beast. Microsoft has moved fast to get it to market and make it competitive with Flash. That the company has been able to do so is a testament to the breadth of its existing investments in .NET, PhotoSynth, WCF, WPF, Visual Studio, and a range of other reusable items sitting in the Microsoft software inventory. Most curious, though is the choice of name .. how did the Silverlight team manage to get a simple and compelling name where so many others, like Windows Phone 7 Series, have failed? Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series, as a name, strikes me as not too far off from the high school teenager wearing clothes with the tags hanging out. On the one hand, it is a clear signal; on the other hand, it might say more about the bearer than the brand.
So, you tell me. Should Microsoft let its tags hang out?
Category: RIA Tags: microsoft, mobile, Silverlight
by Eric Knipp | February 14, 2010 | 1 Comment
I’ve noticed a number of blog posts lately about the value of execution. At the risk of stating the obvious I’ve decided to chime in.
Corporations and individuals alike spend a lot of time on differentiation. We set ourselves apart through our values and our deeds, our features and our form. Our resumes and product marketing literature are filled with comparisons – what we have and haven’t added to our list of accomplishments.
I just finished watching Hannah Kearney win the gold in the ladies downhill moguls. She won the gold not because of a fancy air package – but because of execution. She went faster than her opponents and executed her fairly unconventional air package flawlessly.
I regularly read the Amazon Web Services and Google App Engine Blog. I’m not saying I don’t value features. We all do. But the enterprise values something more important than features – execution. Because what is reliability other than repeating the same thing over and over again? And what is execution other than that?
Category: Cloud Application Platforms Tags: cloud computing, execution, olympics
by Eric Knipp | December 31, 2009 | 5 Comments
My colleague Ray Valdes has just completed his work on the latest Gartner RIA MarketScope. Ray was kind enough to invite a number of analysts, including me, to participate in this important research.
While the cat-herding of analysts can be a thankless job, I think you’ll agree that in this case the results are well worth it.
The RIA Marketplace is in a state of flux. This year saw the introduction of Microsoft Silverlight 3, which in many respects is equal to Adobe Flash in terms of support for enterprise use scenarios. Ajax remains the dominant RIA choice, and HTML5 is poised to expand the power and flexibility of the browser-only approach.
Now that Microsoft has validated “heavy RIA” in the eyes of many enterprises, interest in RIA technologies is increasing across the board. Frequent Gartner inquiries indicate that clients pit Ajax vs. Flash vs. Silverlight against each other in evaluations for new RIA projects. What does this mean for JavaFX and other technologies? Tough to say for sure, but my bet is that the “heavy RIA” arena comes down to a battle between Adobe and Microsoft, and that there is enough room in the market for both to be successful.
Finally, vendors are shifting to meet a new demand from the enterprise – for an end-to-end RIA solution that involves both client- and server-side components. To that end, new “full-stack” vehicles for delivering the user experience will emerge over the next 12-24 months.
For more interesting thoughts, and to see the vendor-specific analysis, check out the 2009 RIA MarketScope.
Oh, and have a Happy New Year!
Category: RIA Tags: Ajax, Flash, RIA, Silverlight
by Eric Knipp | November 30, 2009 | 2 Comments
If You Build It, They Will Come. If You Don’t, They Might Build It Anyway.
Etsy, a Web proprietor of handmade goods, didn’t have a public API. That didn’t stop the “Etsy Underground” from hand-rolling one.
Etsy did have an API for internal use only. While it wasn’t promoted, it also wasn’t well-hidden from the public. Some enterprising developers figured that out, and reverse-engineered the API for their own nefarious purposes. This resulted in third party applications, code libraries, and widgets all leveraging Etsy’s site and content.
By the time Etsy got wind of what was happening in a new developer ecosystem, it was too late to steer the direction of the community directly. They could either shut off the community’s ability to innovate, or add fuel to the fire. The company chose the latter, and launched an open API which replicated all of the features the Underground had come to know and love, and took it further.
The result? According to Etsy, the API now gets 9 million invocations a month, and has spawned 17 applications, including 5 for the iPhone. One site in particular, craftcult.com, is a leading driver of traffic to Etsy’s site.
Handmade goods are interesting, but what about your business? Chances are, your data is already being scraped by somebody; maybe you can make it easier for them, and in so doing foster a community that spreads your brand.
The urge to control access is great, but what if you can become a bigger broker in the conversation by sharing instead? Clearly this won’t work for all businesses – sometimes the content is just too valuable to share, and loses its value to the enterprise once it spreads.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: API, Etsy, WOA