Monday, July 6, 2015

Thoughts on Immortality

This morning I read yet another article declaring how some current piece of technology will soon be dead and gone. This time it was that conventional, spinning storage medium we call disk. Solid state devices are getting cheaper and faster and more efficient and so naturally all those floor space mongering, power hungry, heat generating mechanical antiques are going to simply vanish.

I disagree.

The truth is none of this stuff ever really dies. Of course you don't encounter many 3.5 inch floppy disks any more. But we can cite an almost endless list of technologies that the prognosticators have assured us are destined for the the grave, most of which are still around.

For instance there are still as many or more lines of COBOL code in production today as there are in any other computer programming language. Mainframe computers abound. Even the RIM Blackberry is still with us despite Apple and Android, and the company's own missteps. Pagers and PDAs still sell well years after the advent of the ubiquitous and all powerful mobile device. The list goes on and on.

In fact, outside the computer realm, people continue to read books and magazines, VCRs are still around and so are CDs. According to the CEA, digital cameras, e-readers and MP3 players are among the top gift holiday items. Even vinyl records have enjoyed renewed popularity and are staging a comeback. Heck, I own a hand cranked phonograph and a collection of 78s.

Okay, the phonograph is an antique and, though it works, I don't actually use it to listen to music. But the point is many of these things are very much in daily use many years after the prediction of their demise. If you expand your view outside of the US there are even more so-called obsolete devices very much alive and kicking.

Perhaps they aren't written about as much or advertised as heavily and so they slip quietly into the background of our minds. They are no longer the newest, hottest or sexiest thing on the market. But news of their death, as one famous author is reputed to have said, has been greatly exaggerated.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Static Role of the CIO

Frankly, I am growing tired of hearing about the changing role of the CIO. It's the same tired story being told over and over again. It is no different than the heralding of all of the other dramatic changes in technology, each supposedly changing all the rules and creating new challenges and opportunities for business.

Why do we single out these particular senior leaders and judge them by standards different from the other members of the C-Suite?  Surely the tools and techniques, problems and issues the CFO deals with have evolved over time as they have for the head of Marketing, Sales and business leaders in general.  Yet, the people who occupy these senior roles have not been repeatedly threatened with extinction.

Could it be because the members of the C-Suite are not focused on the tools of their trade but rather bring their knowledge, experience and discipline to bear on those most critical aspects of running the business and meeting their specific criteria for success? Sales, quality, customer satisfaction and, yes, even profitability are some of the key concerns of these top managers. They strive to please their customers, shareholders and employees.

As a member of the C-Suite this is what a true Chief Information Officer focused on 20 years ago and what CIOs will focus on 20 years from now.

Whether your data center is in the basement or the cloud is not the issue. Is it operating efficiently, with speed and agility? Waterfall, agile, extreme or whatever may come next is not the question but rather, are the developers delivering the capability to run the business? Buy or build is not the question. Are we investing our limited capital in the manner which generates the best overall return.

I would argue simply, if your focus has been on managing technology and not managing the business, you never were a CIO.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

All Clouds Are Not Created Equal

Every CIO is constantly challenged by management's demand to control operating costs, maintain a high quality of service and yet support the ever growing needs of the business. Add to that the new pressures of transforming the company to compete effectively in the new digital economy.

We are all familiar with the triangle of price, quality and schedule. The conventional wisdom is you can have any two out of three -- but rarely can you achieve all three. If you want it fast and cheap, it isn't going to be very good. Add a strong desire for quality into the equation and keep the time frame short, and costs are likely to soar.

Enter the "Cloud." This is a latter day timesharing, service bureau or remote computing model (for those of us who have been around a while) with a bit of a twist. The platforms, tools and software systems available today truly enable computing power to be delivered as a utility to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

The cloud presents an opportunity to push routine or commodity services out the door, reducing the burden on internal resources, increasing agility, flexibility and predictability of costs. The cloud makes it easy to scale up and scale down as needed, and can free limited internal resources to focus on higher value projects.

But with these benefits come new concerns. The top of the list is always security. How can we be assured our data will be safe from theft or misuse when we put it in the hands of some outside data center operators? Clearing that hurdle brings us to other make or break decisions. Does the provider offer the platforms, API or software tools that are needed to run our applications and support the business? Can I meet all of my regulatory obligations?

Assuming we can identify a player or players that meet these and other necessary criteria we eventually turn our attention to cost.

Here is where it becomes really interesting because costs are not always that predictable. For Software as a Service (SaaS) we can apply the rates per user per month and have a reasonable estimate of the cost. However, this is not as simple in other types of cloud services such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) where costs will depend heavily on the actual resources consumed by our application.

We can estimate resource consumption and, using published rate charts, try to predict the cost. But it turns out this may not be a fair basis for comparison. Research shows not all clouds are created equal. A series of benchmarks run by Krystallize Technologies demonstrated the same workload run on identical machines provisioned at different cloud service providers will yield different performance levels. This would suggest we will can expect different levels of performance for our application depending on its characteristics and the provider we choose.

That was not too surprising given different providers will have different equipment, architectures and design. What was very surprising was the performance varied within provider. The representative work load executed on several identically provisioned machines at the same provider also yielded different performance levels.  Moreover, these performance levels varied significantly over time. Keep in mind these cloud service providers operate data centers that are in a constant state of change.

While there are plenty of tools to simulate workloads, monitor the performance of an application or the network, and monitor costs, Krystallize CloudQoS™ provides the kind of visibility into the cloud that no other monitor delivers. You will be able to detect when the "sand" under the platform has shifted.

Whether you are first choosing a cloud service provider, managing an existing provider or just trying to maintain a quality of service, having the ability to measure the true performance of the platform supporting your application will be essential.

With the proper visibility, you may be able to rest easy knowing your cloud service will remain as fast and cost effective, and will continue to provide the same high quality service throughout the life of your application.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Where Did We Meet?

I have always been a fan of LinkedIn. For professional networking it is unsurpassed, outdone only by live events where you can shake hands, make eye contact and exchange business cards.

I am not exactly sure when this feature was added but I would love to shake the hand of the person who enhanced the "relationship" tab to allow for notes and other information about each contact that only you can see. One of these special fields is "how you met."

I attend a lot of conferences, business meetings and social events which means I collect a lot of business cards. I have always been pretty diligent about keeping this contact information in my personal address book, but often the 'connection' is made on-line in LinkedIn as well. I also connect frequently with people who I meet by phone, video-conference, through publications or even by referral.

Of all the things I have the most trouble tracking it is how and where I first met someone. Being not just able, but prompted to include this tidbit of information when adding a new connection is pure gold. Now, when looking back at people, particularly people with whom there has been little contact for a long time, one can easily be aware of the source of the connection.

By the way, the section allows you to add multiple notes about the individual such as personal information or other background material you may have, activities or communications with the person. You can set up reminders to prompt you to call, write or take some other action. The contact can also be "tagged" or assigned to a group. 

By using these features, which are included in the free version of the product, you can have  pretty robust contact tracking system.

Recently, I started to go back through my contacts, reconnecting with people and carefully adding notes. Not only has it been working well, but I even get a laugh when some of them can't recall where we met either.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Swimming with the Sharks

When you see a ship in port it not only means the end of one voyage, but the beginning of another. And so it is that my ship has come into port again, ending an almost three year journey. This was the fourth voyage where I filled the role of captain, pulling a crew together from different parts of the ship and taking the systems of the vessel up a couple of notches.

The role of the CIO is changing in many ways and like an old sea captain it becomes more and more difficult to find a ship where people are comfortable with you and believe you will function well on the bridge. Some think you lack the energy while others might feel you haven't kept up with the latest advances in the engine room or navigation systems. In fact, many think technology has advanced so much the ship can practically run itself.

Well I may find myself on the bridge of another ship one day, but in the meanwhile I have embarked on a completely new journey. Toward the end of last year I joined the crew of a pirate ship. Well, not really, but I'm not sure there is a good nautical analogy for an investors group. I suppose we're more like a independent fleet of fishing boats, casting our nets and hoping for a big haul.

I am now a partner in the North Andover Investors Collaborative II. Week after week we evaluate different early tech based start-up companies to choose the ones we think are going to be winners. What sets this group apart from most is the collective brain-trust with a diverse cross section of disciplines and experience.  To select the investments we draw from over thirty seasoned professionals with backgrounds in law, finance, technology, and a variety of verticals.  I've only been a part of it for a few months but I can already see where this breadth of knowledge has quickly segregated the high potential candidates from the glitzy flash in the pan ideas.

Playing Shark Tank has been exciting, fun and a real learning experience. I am seeing some incredible innovations, new software, services and technology. There will certainly be no lack of material to write about.

This new journey may be more uncertain, with less clear direction and a much higher risk of return. But I am enjoying the wind and the waves, and the camaraderie. This role turned out to be quite a catch!

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC