Monday, October 31, 2011

Inaugural C3 Conference

With the annual SIM CIO Executive Leadership Summit behind me, I am turning my attention to the next important event this year, the Cloud Computing Consortium Conference being hosted at the Howe Center at the Stevens Institute of Technology next Monday, November 7.

When you consider current trends in information technology, cloud computing is certainly high on the list. Although, in my view,  it has been around in one form or another for many years, today the cloud is having a dramatic impact on the way companies and individuals acquire the computing resources they want or need. There is a whole new industry providing everything from raw compute or storage capacity through complete business process applications.  Increasingly, the cloud is being embraced and as a result there is a need to better understand how to manage it.

The Consortium was founded last year to bring together a number of individuals including business leaders, solutions providers, consultants and academics. They were formed into groups, each with the task of discussing and studying key aspects of the cloud. As one of the founding members, I have been involved in this effort from the start. The result is a body of knowledge around several key issues such as basic strategies, proper governance, the value proposition and sourcing.

These areas were examined in depth and each committee will report their key findings at the conference. They will be presented and discussed in the form of a panel comprised of some of the members. We will also hear introductory comments from Dr. Jerry Luftman, Howe School of Technology Management and a special presentation on the legal issues by Matthew Karlyn, Partner at Foley &Lardner, LLP.

Whether choosing a productivity suite for your own use or sourcing the next key business application for your company, cloud computing is something you must now understand. The work being done at the consortium could be important in preparing you to deal with choices, costs and concerns associated with the cloud.

As a member of the Executive Council, I strongly recommend you visit the C3 web site. There you will find more information about the organization and the conference. Become a member, participate in discussions or join one of the working groups and help contribute to the effort.

If you have the opportunity attend the conference next week. I'll be there participating in the panel on value creation and tweeting, of course, during the balance of the event.

If you are interested in the cloud but can't be there, simply take the advice below and follow me.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, October 28, 2011

Feeling Insecure

One of the most frequently discussed concerns about using cloud computing is security. Management have a false sense comfort when the computers and, therefore all of their digital assets, are housed within the four walls of the company. Having the server just down the hall somehow instills confidence that nothing bad can happen.

Of course, you and I know the dangers come primarily from the people with administrative control and any physical connection to the outside world. Where these boxes sit is way less important than the electronic defenses and governing procedures surrounding access.

My view has always been that cloud computing services can afford to invest more in hardware and software than most companies are able or willing to spend. Cloud providers will construct the most secure and robust infrastructure and staff it with the best resources because this is their primary business. Most other companies have to weigh the cost of high end security systems and security professionals again other investments in the core business. A new firewall or intrusion detection software is not likely to win against a new print ad campaign or product line extension.

Yet, executives cling to the belief that their IT department will somehow manage to protect their systems and data. Putting this responsibility in the hands of a third party somehow introduces an additional level of risk.

My faith in cloud providers was shaken a bit, though, when I read about the recently exposed security flaw in Amazon AWS. Researchers uncovered an electronic loophole which would have allowed the bad guys to take administrative control of the AWS environment. Very scary to think someone might have discovered the back door to the fort was left open so anyone could waltz in and take over.

It is true cloud providers like Amazon may have the best of the best. But we certainly know that nothing is perfect and it is likely that other security holes will be found. Attackers may anticipate a greater payoff in hacking a cloud service than going after any single company. I was reminded of Willie Sutton who, when asked why he robbed banks, replied, "..because that's where all the money is."

One cloud provider may be supporting the systems of thousands of different customers including some applications for major corporations. A successful hacker would be a kid in a candy store -- at night, after close, with no parents around. Why spend time breaking the lock on the front door of a house when you could compromise the card key system in a thousand room hotel.

In my view, at the end of the day, the cloud providers are still the better bet. They have the best chance of detecting potential weaknesses, plugging holes when they are discovered, detecting attempted and successful breaches and continuously improving their defenses. Being one of many companies in a shared facility also afford some degree of further protection. All the hotel doors may be open, but the thief still has to figure out what room you are in.

Given the number and frequency of high profile security breaches, no one knows how to maintain absolute security. I'm going with the safety in numbers theory and suggest taking your chances with cloud services.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't Touch That Dial

After reading a number of recent news stories you would think you better slip on a pair of latex gloves before leaving your house.

Computerworld earlier this week reported on a health study recently published  that showed 41% of ATM machines carried germs that could cause a common cold or flu. According to this report, you cannot ride the escalator at the mall, pump gas in to your car or even take in the mail without putting your hand on a surface covered with these nasty little critters.

Forget about parking your car on the street. You will have to touch the parking meter handle and its dripping with germs. Clearly you're better off just waiting for the traffic light to change since touching that crosswalk button will expose your finger to countless germs.Don't even think about getting food or a beverage from a vending machine.

Last week I read another report of a study that projected one in six cell phones in the UK would test positive for some very nasty stuff. You can click this LINK and see for yourself, but I warn you it is really disturbing. After reading this article I vowed never to borrow a cell phone again.

As a frequent traveler for business, these reports would have me think I shouldn't use the airport restrooms, touch a baggage cart or anything in the gate area. Thank goodness for the internet so you never have to actually go to a bank, travel agent or library any more. But be wary of public kiosks with touch panels. 

Has all the new technology somehow amplified the danger of bacteria? Weren't we just as exposed to all this nasty stuff when phones still had wires attached and human tellers actually handed you money? Didn't our parents allow us to buy candy from gumball machines in the grocery store? You know those knobs weren't cleaned that often, nor the glass ball containing the candy.

Before we get too excited about finding a little poop on some cell phones, let's review a few facts. Germs or  bacteria are a part of life. Most of them are harmless and some are even necessary or helpful. Only a few types out of tens of thousands are actually dangerous but good hygiene habits such as washing your hands with soap can mitigate risk.

The human body continually maintains its defenses against micro intrusions and so eating right, exercise and adequate rest will keep you healthy. Exposure to germs is necessary for the body to build up its defenses. This is the whole premise behind immunization.

As an aside, people really should learn to put the cell phone away before they go to the toilet and only take it out again after properly washing their hands and exiting the facilities.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Watson of OZ

One of the more exciting yet, subtle announcements Jeanette Horan, Vice President and CIO of IBM slipped in during her opening keynote address was a plan to use the Watson technology to support the IBM sales force. Once you know what you want, need or lack, you have somewhere to go to meet someone who has all the answers, the great and powerful Watson.

By now, everyone has heard about the incredible feat of engineering that resulted in a computer system that could consume, digest and use massive amounts of information to research questions posed in simple English form. Watson stunned audiences by understanding words, phrases and even puns, and answering questions correctly on the popular TV show Jeopardy.  In fact, Watson answered faster and more often than two of the most notable human champions.

A few weeks ago I predicted this technology would soon be put to use in other industries, in particular health care. The health care initiative was announced and is under way.

IBM saw the enormous potential if Watson could help its own sales force identify and configure solutions from among the thousands of product offerings. Feed Watson all the product information, capabilities, applications and case studies and suddenly Watson may be able to help you help customers determine which solution will meet their need optimally and most effectively.

Suppose you have a client in metals and their customer management skills are a little rusty. Watson could help you configure a CRM solution with real heart. Your agricultural client may be so flexible the management team can't stick to one plan. What they may need is some business intelligence. Whatever the requirements, Watson could figure it out.

Complex pricing models would be child's play. Watson could develop configurations based on the most appropriate guidelines, customer data and performance requirements. No more hoards of flying monkeys running around collecting things for you. Watson may even help write the proposal.

Ideas will not be limited by individual experience or time to conduct research. No more searching the knowledge base or asking others if they have encountered similar needs. The faster  delivery and accuracy of these proposed solutions should make customers happier and bring the deal home sooner.

It is not much of a leap to expect Watson, once loaded with comprehensive sets of system documentation, will start handling support calls. Soon you may be calling or sending an email to Watson with your computer systems issues. With the ability to understand the problem or specific error message in context, instant access to all documentation and known solutions, Watson will rarely keep you waiting or require you to undertake some wild mission to satisfy your needs. Watson will show you the solution has been right at your feet all along.

It's official. We're not in Kansas any more.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Avaya In The Spotlight With Flare

The impressive list of speakers at the FW SIM 2011 CIO Executive Leadership Summit yesterday included the CIO of IBM, Kimberly Clark and Avon. Their presentations and the other speakers and panelists focused on the role of the CIO in business transformation, innovation and growth and many key management issues. But the session that most impressed my inner geek was a brief demonstration of the new collaborative tool from Avaya called Flare.

Paul Humphreys, Director of Global IT at Avaya, in a breakout session discussed collaboration in terms of being people-centric, in sharp contrast to being object-centric. When we collaborate with conventional systems, he claimed,  we generally start with some object and share it with people. We may draft a document or develop a spreadsheet, then send or share it with others through email or other on-line collaborative tools.Perhaps the process begins when we receive a text message or imaged document and we forward that to someone else to begin working together. As work progresses we keep passing these objects around.

Avaya have taken advantage of session instance protocol or SIP to turn this process around. SIP creates connections and moves things among different systems. For instance, this is the underlying technology for the feature in Google Voice that permits phone calls to be moved from your cell phone to the land line in your house even though they are completely different phone systems. In the Avaya model collaboration begins with the people, bringing other systems or objects into the session as needed.

One can probably argue six of one, half dozen of another -- in other words it amounts to the same thing. But what was very different and unique was the drag and drop interface used to establish and orchestrate all of the collaborative interactions.

The metaphor for the shared space is a spot light in the center of the screen where you drag and drop people or objects to bring them together. Although I have not used the system and cannot speak to the performance and functionality first hand, I have to admit the demonstration video makes it appear very slick.

In flash back to the movie Minority Report, the senior manager in the video is swiping employee images from his virtual address book and with the stroke of his hand dropping them into the spotlight. By doing this he creates a working group. He kicks off a conference call and dynamically adds more people, then breaks a few of them into a smaller working group as a sub-team. He drags a text he received and the draft presentation into the spot light sharing it with the other participants. After a while he brings everyone back to the full working session to complete the project.

The system is completely device agnostic. While the senior manager is using a desktop computer in the nicest office I have ever seen, other participants are in smaller work spaces, at home or on a smart phone.

The novelty might wear off and system limitations will no doubt surface, but one thing is undeniable. The observation that people begin by collaborating with people and not objects is spot on. We need more systems, like Flare, that have a highly intuitive interface and are built to operate the way people naturally interact.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, October 24, 2011

Backstage Jitters

As many of you perhaps know, I am chairing the FWSIM 2011 CIO Executive Leadership Summit at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Greenwich Connecticut today. When I attend conferences like this I try to tweet with the designated hashtag (in this case #hmgciogch) to enable others to get a glimpse of what is going on and perhaps one or two key takeaways from various speakers. But today I will be on stage, introducing each speaker, moderating the Q&A and keeping the program moving along. I'm afraid there will be no time for tweets!!

Perhaps some of you, my readers, were able to be here and can tweet or blog about the event. Your perspective and feedback is very important to us.

A huge amount of effort goes into each of these events and this happens to be one of the best of them. If you saw the agenda and collection of speakers we have I am sure you would agree. Our conference organizer, HMG Strategy along with members of the SIM chapter and our Advisory Board have done an incredible job of creating a truly world class event. Many thanks to our speakers and panelists, and all who attend, without whom there wouldn't be much of a conference. Of course we also thank our sponsors who make it all possible through their support.

This has been many months in the making. Everything from booking the hotel, choosing rooms, room setups and meals, AV support and equipment through the minute by minute documentation of the day has been carefully addressed to ensure a smooth and seamless production.

Later in the week I will write more about what happened during these 12 hours but for now, the audience is seated, the house lights are going down, the curtain is about to go up and the show must go on.

Did I hear someone say, "Break a leg ..."

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, October 21, 2011

No Reply Needed

Pretty much everyone uses email these days. So I thought I would share a little email advice which might save you some embarrassment and will certainly be most appreciated by mail systems administrators around the world.

To start with, whenever you get an email from a "friend" which ends with something like send this to everyone you know you should immediately seek out the delete key and use it. Almost without exception, these messages are a lame attempt to get you and everyone you have in your personal address book to spread a message.

Just like chain letters in the old days, it may be a get rich quick scheme, promise good things will happen or conversely, threaten disaster if you don't send it on. It might warn of a computer virus that will eat your computer or claim to be a fund raiser for a missing child. The odds are it is a hoax. I discussed this once before in another column called the Truth Fairy so I won't go over old ground. Check it out before taking any action.

Unfortunately, smart people who are wise to this colossal waste of time will often choose to let everyone know they have been had. They use the standard REPLY ALL feature. This will send the message back to everyone on the distribution list and generally sparks an email storm as others on the list then do the same.

This frequently happens in the corporate environment as well. One employee sends a note to a large distribution list, perhaps unintentionally, and everyone on the list feels compelled to inform the sender of the mistake. But instead of sending a REPLY, the REPLY ALL option is used and the storm begins. Each person now receives another message and, in a well meaning effort to avoid further mistakes, does a REPLY ALL to let everyone know what is happening. Ironically, people often use REPLY ALL to specifically tell people they should not use REPLY ALL.

Don't forward messages before checking them out. If they are a hoax or mistake, limit your reply to the single person who sent it to you, or simply hit delete.

One last tip. It is often desirable to hide the names on the distribution list. Using the BCC field in lieu of the TO or CC fields will have the effect of sending the message to everyone on the list but only showing each person their email address. When using this form, there is no way for anyone to reply to all the recipients.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Google Apps Plus, Coming To A Cloud Near You

A big story in the tech world yesterday (almost certainly overshadowed by the capture and killing of Colonel Gaddafi today) was an announcement that Google Plus is coming to Google Apps users. It's no secret I have been a fan of GMail and the whole Google Apps product line since its early days. But to add and presumably integrate all of the capabilities of Google Plus into the Apps suite is really a smart move.

Google Apps allows companies, large and small, to take advantage of cloud based office automation tools. Beyond mail and calendar functions, Apps offers document processing, spreadsheet and recently enhanced presentation tools. These tools have a unique feature in that they allow real time collaboration. You and several others can edit the same document at the same time with full logging, audit and rollback capabilities.

Apps includes a host of other tools including instant messaging (Google Talk) and web site management. In my view, bringing Google Plus into the mix adds three especially useful and valuable elements.

First, the contact management function becomes much richer with a new ability to manage, maintain and search full profiles. The current, more structured address book can be blended with the more flexible Google Plus profile to yield a new resource for locating people with specific skills or experience, both inside and outside the company.

Second, the interactive discussion model of Google Plus will quickly advance communications among employees beyond the conventional point to point or point to many email paradigm. Alerts will direct people to threads and speed interactions. The degree of collaboration within the company and even with customers and suppliers can be taken to a whole new level. Circles will emerge representing departments, cross functional teams, project groups, key suppliers, customers and so on. These can be developed and shared throughout the organization.

Finally, Hangouts will revolutionize the company meeting. They are fast, simple and when fully integrated into the workplace, will be quickly embraced and often used in lieu of physical meeting rooms. Copier and overnight express costs will plummet and travel time and expense can be greatly reduced or eliminated. Meetings will not have to be structured into one hour increments, limited by the availability of a conference room or videoconference equipment. The can be done at any time from anywhere, including a mobile phone.

I've probably overlooked other benefits that will fall out of bringing these sets of capabilities together. But I have no doubt this will increase the appeal of Google Apps and perhaps entice even more companies to take advantage of this service.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guess Who Is Watching You

For years people have argued about the right to privacy in the work place. In particular, the debate was often whether email was subject to privacy laws or belonged to the company. The view in this country has generally made it acceptable for companies to monitor email content while other countries have taken a different view.

With the advent of so many new electronic channels of communication from text to twitter and all the social and business networks, this debate is going to broaden.

According to a recent HBR article, the responsibility to police all of this digital activity is increasingly falling on the CIO. When concerns are raised by management, the CIO is often the person they engage to scan employee messaging, Twitter accounts, blogs or on-line community chat boards. Using readily available tools and techniques, the CIO can assemble a picture of how employees are portraying their company, coworkers, management and perhaps even customers.

The CIO will generally have the knowledge and ability to collect, analyze and present findings for management. However, approval for these actions should be sought from both Legal and Human Resource professionals before putting yourself and the company at risk. What is permissible can be especially complicated in a multinational environment where legality may depend on where the data lies or the employee resides or both.

My advice is to be proactive. The company must be clear about what is and is not acceptable behavior on the part of an employee. It should publish these guidelines in an employee handbook as well as conduct periodic training sessions. Once the rules have been clearly defined and communicated, employees are on notice the company will take action if violations are discovered. Knowing where you draw the line will make people less likely to cross it.

The company should further state they will respect individual freedom of expression and right to privacy, but retain the right to investigate any and all digital content generated using the resources owned or provided by the company. Moreover, the consequences for any violation should be commensurate with the offense and must be applied quickly and evenly.

This cuts both ways. Employees should think long and hard before posting content in any public forum that might be construed by the company as insulting, derogatory, defamatory or otherwise socially unacceptable or even unlawful. Whether the company has the right to search and find this content or not is less important than what may happen if it is discovered. It could turn out to be a career limiting move.

This is truly a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and one should definitely look before you leap.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

I was all set this morning to release my column when I saw news story come across one of my feeds. Apparently the United States recently considered launching a cyber assault against another country before deciding to just wage a conventional attack. You can read the whole story in the New York Times or on-line at this link

It was just last March when the US Government knew an attack on Libya was imminent. Before sending in NATO planes our military considered breaking through Libya's cyber defenses to cripple their ability to detect and repel the air attacks. In the end it was decided Libya's defenses were weak enough and no one wanted to set a precedent by launching the first overt cyber-offensive. 

A few months ago I wrote a column, The Day The Earth Stood Still., forecasting an electronic doomsday at the hands of cyber terrorists. I'm not sure we're fully prepared for the outcome from an all out cyber disruption. At the time I was focused more on cyber terrorism and the cyber "cold war" which includes our alleged covert attack on other countries like Iran with the Stuxnet virus. 

Now I am convinced it is only a question of time before one country unleashes a nasty bit if code into the networks of another causing massive outages of communications and processing systems, and bringing commerce and daily life to a dead stop. The story includes a comment from an official of the administration. He says, "These cybercapabilities are still like the Ferrari that you keep in the garage and only take out for the big race and not just for a run around town, unless nothing else can get you there." 

I'm flashing back to the 50's when we had "the bomb" and it would only be used as a last resort, and would surely put an end to all future wars. Well it ended World War II but other countries subsequently developed their own nuclear capabilities and for decades we lived in mortal fear of nuclear annihilation, coming very close to the brink during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It remains a very real threat to this day.

Now we are potentially on the eve of virtual destruction. How will Western civilization function when the very infrastructure on which everything relies comes crashing down? How long will we be able to function as a nation without computer networks and processing power? Will we even be capable of defending against conventional attacks once our technology is compromised? 

We, perhaps, we made the right decision this time and did not set that dangerous precedent, taking cyber attacks to a whole new level. My fear, however, is that someone somewhere will one day decide to push the button and from that point on, all bets are off. 

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Day In The Life Of a Smart Phone

This weekend I took a little time off. Yesterday I was invited by my brother-in-law to play a round of golf. On Saturday I attended a football game at the local high school stadium. Although I grew up in the City, my children attended this school so I spent a lot of time there, in particular supporting the music program. For years after my children were off to college I continued to help with the school drama program and marching band. I've attended many of the Broadway shows, football games and competitions over the years and so it was a little like coming home for me too.

During the course of the afternoon at the stadium I took the opportunity to video record two promos or commercials for the KOMU TV News show U_News @ 4 I've written about. I had the cheerleader squad make the U sign and chant, "U News at 4 starts now." I recorded the band doing the same in full uniform including their fancy shakos with plume. After reviewing a couple of takes, the best ones were uploaded and sent off to the people at the station for review and final edit. They'll air sometime this week.

I stayed around for the half time show to see everyone perform. As the band marched on to the field I started a live stream of the show to my Bambuser channel on the internet. The show lasts a little over eight minutes so I was able to broadcast the entire performance and I know a dozen or so people watched it. More watched a replay.

Throughout the first half, I was able to keep up with messages from two email accounts and accept one phone call. I showed a few friends some recent photos of my family. Occasionally I scanned my Twitter feed and Facebook for postings, replying to one or two of them. My 'friends' knew I was there because I "checked in" using Foursquare which has been wired to automatically Tweet (on my personal Twitter account) and post to my Facebook status. Just before I left I ran into an old friend who recently changed jobs. I already had him in my address book which allowed me to quickly edit in his new information, or I would have scanned his business card to add him.

By now you must be wondering (or have figured out) my story is about the incredible power and versatility of the single device I used to do all of these things. My smart phone, an HTC EVO running Android, was the only piece of equipment I had with me and it fits comfortably into my shirt pocket.

My first cell phone, way back in the 90's, was a GE model that could make a wireless phone call. It was three times the size and weight, cost way more and did not fit in my pocket. It didn't do anything else.

In addition to being a video camera, my current smart phone has replaced my navigation system, providing verbal, tun by turn directions based on GPS. It is a music player. It provides access to the internet, handles all forms of communication including voice, video, chat, email and text. It provides access to all of the social networks, my stock portfolio and popular video games. It is a digital address book, day planner, electronic wallet and keeps my golf score. It can identify what song is playing and even act as a flashlight. With a footprint smaller than a 3 X 5 index card it is truly amazing how much functionality has been crammed into this one device.

By the way, our football team delivered a stunning victory with a final score of 28 to 8. My golf score, on the other hand, was not so impressive.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, October 14, 2011

Escusa-me Onde Esta O Bano

Yesterday Google released a new version of its translate tool for Android. You can find this program in the Android Market, download it to your smart phone and communicate with people in other languages. It takes just a minute to install, then you select the two languages and it is ready to go. There is no configuration or training.

Now, I have been around technology almost my entire life and it takes a lot to impress me. Here I am holding a device in my hand that listens in one language and immediately speaks the same words or phrases in another. I believe the last time I saw this it was in an episode of Star Trek.

To some this may not seem like much, but you have to appreciate how much is going on between the time you stop speaking and it starts rendering your message in another language. There is virtually no delay. It can listen to me and any person with whom I am trying to communicate and it understands the words we speak. It supports many languages including the ones you would expect such as Italian, French, Spanish, German and Russian. But it also does Latin, Hebrew, Urdu and a host of others I found a little surprising. It translates seamlessly and instantly among any of these. The title escusa-me onde esta o bano is Galician for where is the bathroom.

Moreover, it has a conversational mode where you speak and it immediately speaks your message in the language you chose. You can then allow the other person to speak and it translates that into English (or whatever your native tongue may be.) This is near real time inter-language exchange.

With this application on an Android smart phone one can now easily communicate in almost any foreign land or locally with people who don't understand or speak your native language.  See my brief demo here.

But beyond the obvious use of tourism, imagine how beneficial a tool like this would be in emergency situations, business meetings, education classes, military engagements and other places where language can be an inhibitor or even threaten disaster through lack of communication.

Google translate is one utility that will definitely remain on my phone. I have a lot to say about this tool and the fun part is now I can say it in so many different languages.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Weakest Link Is A High Stakes Game Show

A Chief Information Officer should have responsibilities at three levels. You enable and support  the business operationally. As a true partner, you work with the business day to day. But as a C level executive you must also help drive the business through innovation, new offerings and go to market strategies.

Of course you can't focus on tactical or strategic issues unless you have a sound, smooth and reliable operation in place. The recent outages with Blackberry service reminded me of how important it is to have a properly designed physical infrastructure. You can't build a skyscraper on sand.

When high reliability is required, as in the case of critical systems, extra steps must be taken to ensure they are always available. You can use this simple principle as your guide. Any system will only be as reliable as the weakest component in the path from the keyboard to the application. In other words, you must consider the probability of failure in each and every element in the both the physical and logical path data takes from end to end.

A quick examination of your infrastructure should reveal single points of failure. These must be addressed first. Having two switches, two routers, two firewalls and one high speed link to the internet will only guarantee minimal probability of failure inside your shop. If the one line goes down all the other redundancy is worthless. This is obvious, but you would be surprised how often the single point of failure is overlooked or tolerated for budget reasons.

Once the single points of failure have been mitigated or at least noted, the balance of the infrastructure has to be tested component by component. Ideally, you should be able to virtually pull the power or network cable from one box at a time and have no one notice. This is true real time fail over.

Not many companies can truly justify or afford total redundancy. However, today it is possible to purchase backup services and spare capacity on demand through cloud service providers. Where high reliability is desired, multiple components with complex fail-over logic will have to be put in place and regularly tested.

Testing is crucial, and, ironically, another often overlooked or deferred task. While RIM had a backup unit in place the fail-over did not happen and ultimately this caused the outage. I bet today someone will be reviewing their design, test procedures and logs.

You should take a moment to ask when was the last time someone pulled a power cord or network cable in you shop (on purpose) and what was the result. Are you prepared or will that single point of failure or logical design flaw suddenly decide to make itself known at a potentially embarrassing or even career limiting moment?

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Flaw

One of the current technology trends, mobile computing, continues to be a source of excitement for me with new innovations appearing almost every day. I've been sent a text message to tell me my table is ready, captured and broadcast live video and paid for my coffee with my phone just since I started blogging.

Long before that I was thrilled when my phone (then a blackberry) became my electronic boarding pass. Being a frequent flyer makes you appreciate anything that takes the sting out of that trip to airport, or more specifically, the journey from the parking lot to the airplane seat. What could be better than flashing the screen of my smart phone at the security check point and slipping on through. I usually print my boarding pass before leaving home. It's not much of a chore and having the hard copy in my back pocket always gave me a sense of comfort, a fall back plan in case something went wrong with the phone.

But the return leg was always the issue. There, quite often, there was no time or means of printing the boarding pass in advance and so it was over to the ticket counter or kiosks you go to get the little slip of paper needed to get to the gate. Even on the way out, the pre-printed boarding pass might have bad information and so checking the monitors and stopping to get a new printed boarding pass was not unusual.

But with this new capability my boarding pass was always available, current and accurate, and I could call it up at any time to review flight details, pass security or actually board the plane. Holding the smart phone under the scanner allowed the airline system to make that happy little chirping sound which means proceed on through.

I almost always use electronic boarding passes including my recent business trip to upstate New York and perhaps because the flights were between major cities, or by sheer luck I had never run afoul of the known flaw.

My flight out was significantly delayed due to a traffic delay with the inbound equipment. That's fancy airline speak for the plane taking you to your destination hasn't arrived here yet. After a small eternity waiting at the gate we were asked to line up and present our credentials to board. Out came my smart phone and in just a few swipes and taps I was provided a screen of information about the status of my reservation - but no boarding pass. Jumping back to the original email from the airline I clicked on the link and get the same status page.

At this point I am now that passenger we all hate who is holding up the boarding process. Fortunately, I had printed a boarding pass from the latest email that morning. But it turned out that was the boarding pass from my return flight. As my arrangements had all been made by my client I could produce absolutely no documentation. Preparing to plead my case and sweating profusely, I was relieved when the gate agent casually mentioned the known flaw. Here you go, he said, you are in seat 3C. Have a nice flight.

It turns out the airlines are fully aware that shortly after your originally scheduled departure time passes you can no longer retrieve a boarding pass regardless of long you are delayed and the actual departure time. Why this flaw has not been addressed is beyond me. Leave it to these geniuses to find a way to turn efficiency and a customer benefit into a black eye.

Given the track record for on-time departures I better continue to obtain a hard copy before heading for the gate.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Roving Reporter In A Box

Every once in a while I stumble upon another really cool technology that is fun and free and quite clever. Whether it has any practical use for me is not important. I will try to find some way to put it to use, even if only to gain a full understanding of it.

My latest discovery is Bambuser, a highly optimized video channel permitting you to broadcast in real time from your smart phone. Acquiring Bambuser from the Android market and loading it to my HTC EVO (smart phone) enabled me to immediately begin steaming live video and audio to my personal channel on their web site. I merely had to create an account and press the record button. t was literally that simple.

My first attempt labeled Training Film was broadcast and recorded while I was in a Google Hangout with a friend from the UK, Mike Downes. Mike turned me on to Bambuser and can be seen in this video coaching me and verifying that it is working. Mike has done a number of recordings and has tried to get various news agencies such as the BBC to adopt it.

The potential is enormous. As with Google Hangouts, you can capture and stream pictures and sound from you phone virtually anywhere you have signal. There is no need for a camera crew, heavy equipment or the van full of satellite uplink equipment. It can work using WiFi or regular cellular service. My first attempt was done using only the 3G cell service available to me at home.

However, with Bambuser, the performance is better and the number of viewers is unlimited. Coupled with a Hangout, you might play the part of a roving reporter beaming back a story in real time to your colleagues in the studio who will relay it to television viewers through conventional broadcast. But you don't need a Hangout or a studio. You can begin a broadcast at any time. Use Twitter, for example, to alert followers who can tune in and watch your report in real time. A player can be added to your own web page, as I have now done here, providing your regular visitors with access to your entire library of video stories.

This tool can also be used for educational purposes. Lectures can be sent live or recorded for replay to a class from any location. Imagine lecturing students on architecture while visiting parts of New York City, London or Rome. Deliver a course on botany from the Botanical Gardens. Discuss criminal justice from inside the court room. Students, too, could benefit by delivering projects to the class and instructor from remote locations.

Bambuser has become one more arrow in my quiver along with the Flip camera, YouTube, Skype, Hangouts, Livestream and several other video enabling technologies. Since I always have my phone with me, I am confident an opportunity to use it will come along soon enough so watch this space.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, October 10, 2011

A True Meeting of the Minds

As an IT professional, it is important to keep up with current trends and techniques. Technology advances at the speed of light, making it difficult to be aware of all the latest in equipment, software and services. To stay on top, we read a lot of books and magazines, attend seminars in person or on-line, meet with business partners and may even participate in a formal education program. One method we all embrace is networking. Talking to your peers who have or will face many of the sane challenges is one of the most important ways of keeping up.

I'm beginning to get excited about the upcoming annual CIO Executive Leadership Summit produced by HMG Strategy and hosted by the Fairfield Westchester Chapter of the Society for Information Managers (FW SIM).

SIM is an international organization devoted to the community of senior IT professionals. I am currently the President of the Fairfield Westchester Chapter, one of the largest and most active chapters. With almost 200 members from large and small companies in the area, FW SIM delivers real value to its members.

We hold monthly dinner meetings with speakers and agenda to rival the best seminars and one day conferences. These events take place after work and afford our members a relaxed atmosphere where they can mingle and chat before sitting down to a great meal. During dinner we will have a speaker or panel and present on topics of interest to the senior IT manager. This always sparks lively discussion, but we manage to get people on their way home before they turn into a pumpkin.

The chapter fosters other activities such as mentoring circles and assistance to members in transition. We have a summer outing, which usually involves some yummy lobster, and a holiday party for our members and their guests.

But our crowning event each year is the CIO Executive Leadership Summit. This is the one day conference that rivals the best of them bar none. The event this year is being held at the Greenwich Hyatt on October 24th and if you are a senior IT professional and you have not registered yet you need to do so now. We will draw attendees from Washington DC to Boston and everyplace in between. There is no cost for the event but you must qualify by being a CIO, CTO or a direct report in a large organization.

The speakers are terrific, the food is great and the content would be worth the trip. Our sponsors will be in an exhibit hall all day, available to discuss or demonstrate their products and services. But the hidden value is the opportunity to meet and interact with hundreds of your peers all day long.

While the thought leadership of our presenters is truly unparalleled, our members consistently rate  networking as the number one benefit of our programs. It is the best way to ensure that you are keeping pace, to learn and to share. At this event you will have the chance to meet and interact with some of the finest business and technology leaders in the world.

If you make it to the event, come and say hello. I'll be that guy on stage welcoming everyone and introducing each of the speakers.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bill Collectors and Repo Men Rejoice

I often get into debates about my addiction to checking in with Foursquare. Foursquare is yet another social network designed to let you explore an area, wherever you happen to be. Using your smart phone, you select the specific business, location or event you are attending. You can see what's in the area, take advantage of what others have said about it, find nearby deals or add your own comments. Foursquare lists local places based on the GPS in your phone. You connect with your friends and can see where they are.

I have checked in over 1,000 times. You will almost always know where I am if  you either 1) friend me on Foursquare, 2) friend me on Facebook or 3) follow me on my personal Twitter account. My account is configured so every check in is "tweeted" and "posted" to my "wall" automatically.

So, the question is whether you would find it a pleasant experience or just creepy if someone you know observes your location on a social network, happens to be nearby and decides to drop in and visit with you. This has happened to me in the past and never caused me any concern. Frankly, if I don't want anyone to know where I am I simply do not check in. But more than once, I have been pleasantly surprised by the unexpected opportunity to spend time with a friend or family member.

SONAR is another tool you can load on your smart phone. It is designed to collect information from a variety of sources and, again based on GPS, determine who among your "virtual" friends is physically nearby. Like Foursquare, two SONAR subscribers in the same location will automatically be visible to each other. But SONAR goes beyond this, aggregating location data from other sources to show you who else you might know that it nearby.

In my view, this is where it might cross the line. It's less fun and convenient and little more like Skynet. Scanning around various social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it assembles a kind of who knows who. So any two SONAR users, even if they don't know each other, will be alerted and have an opportunity to meet if they come into the same location.

I suppose if you are a wall flower and wind up at a social gathering with Mary who happens to be "friends" with  Mike who follows you on Twitter, and Mary is a hot prospect, SONAR alerting you would be a good thing. On the other hand, Mary might not thing when she "checked in" that anyone outside of her circles would be made aware of her presence.

At the end of the day, no one can know more than you yourself reveal. But be aware that information you volunteer through any of these social networks may just find its way far beyond the borders you think exist and may be put to other uses that  you did not anticipate. The best way to keep something a secret is to not tell anyone. If you don't advertise your location, you can hide in plain sight and no one will even know you are there.

So even if you friend or follow me, perhaps you won't always know where I am, after all.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Evolving Role of the CIO

My undergraduate degrees and MBA were earned at the NYU Stern School of Business. At freshman orientation, more years ago than I care to remember, I met a few people who turned out to be lifelong friends. One of them, Steve, and I have been involved with the school. and each other,  in one way or another since graduation. We've been active in the alumni association for years and were instrumental in the formation of the Cohorts Program several years ago. Working with Dean Sally Blount-Lyon, the original program was created to connect several "cohorts" of students each with business leaders who would be available to them throughout their four years of study. Steve and I were the Battery Park Cohort and had the first group of 30 or so students which we met periodically through their college career.

Steve and I continue to support the program and this week we had the privilege of having dinner with another batch of extremely bright, articulate, curious and interesting students who fired questions at us relentlessly throughout the evening.

Knowing my career has been centered around technology, one student asked how all of the current trends have impacted the role of the CIO in business. It was a wonderful question and afforded me an opportunity to think about how best to describe the fundamental shift I see in what this senior leadership role now involves.

At one time, being the CIO meant you had reached the pinnacle of your career in technology management. You were now responsible for information technology throughout the company. You designed and operated the hardware and software systems that were used by employees in the rest of the company, and perhaps even customer systems. Your focus was on people, process and equipment. You were measured by how well you controlled your spend, service level metrics like response time, "up" time or turnaround time, and how well you could deliver projects.

Current trends like the consumerization of IT, the cloud and mobile computing have liberated the CIO from these "engine room" tasks and allowed much more focus on the business. Today, employees are very tech literate and bring their own favorite devices for use in the workplace. While this introduces some concerns, particularly around security and support, it has boosted productivity and, in many ways, reduces the support burden. With fully managed infrastructure, the CIO can shift attention from being the architect of systems to being the architect of  the enterprise, streamlining business process across functional lines. The CIO is now a true member of the C suite, helping to drive the business forward by improving products and services and increasing customer satisfaction.

Our discussion went on through dessert and we sent the students on their way. They will graduate soon and embark on their individual career journeys. I wish them much success and hope they gained some insight or had at least one takeaway from our conversation that will benefit them in the future.

I look forward to our next event and another opportunity for more stimulating interaction.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

iPhone 4s - My New Assistant

A few weeks back I wrote a column on voice input. The ability to speak a command and have an intelligent device carry it out has been around for a while. Cars, for example, have been outfitted with voice activated functions such as placing a call or requesting navigation.

Smart phones themselves have had voice activated search and dial abilities. Some blue-tooth earpieces included voice command capabilities. Google search can be done with voice input and there was even an experimental program on Android called Edwin that was able to research and answer simple spoken questions. Edwin could understand natural language speech, search data sources on the internet and, in a limited cases, speak the answer.

A lot has been written about the new iPhone 4S in the last day or two. It has a faster processor, better camera and several new applications. Some have praised its new features while others expected much more. But one thing is for sure. With its integrated voice activated Assistant, based on the SIRI technology acquired by Apple earlier this year, the iPhone 4s sets a new standard for verbal device interaction. Beyond understanding natural language, Assistant understands you. It just may be the next best thing to having an actual human assistant.

The big difference is that Assistant handles your requests in context. The first time you ask for a restaurant or plane tickets, there will be some interaction. Do you prefer Chinese or Italian? What frequent flyer programs do you belong to or which airport is most convenient? Window or aisle seat? Assistant will gather the additional information it needed to complete the task at hand.

Once these preferences have been obtained they will be factored into every subsequent request. Your Assistant learns about you and will make choices or recommendations based on what is known or can be determined in other ways. With GPS, for instance, your Assistant always knows where you are so location can play a role in any decision.

But wait, there's more. Assistant will be able to interact with popular services to execute transactions on your behalf. Of course, it can post an appointment to your calendar and remind you about that important dinner meeting Tuesday. But Assistant will also be able to interact with OpenTable to book the reservation at your favorite restaurant.

At this point, I can only comment based on what I have read about iPhone4S and Assistant. But as soon as I can get my hands on one I will review it based on first hand experience.

If  this technology evolves much further, administrative assistants everywhere better fear for their jobs.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Will Streamouts Replace Webcasts

People have been using web site services such as Livestream and UStream to broadcast live video on the web for some time. YouTube has a similar capability in test with a very limited number of people. You may have seen some live web-casts by Michael Mozart who is one of the chosen few able to use it today.

I was recently introduced to live streaming technology by people I have met through my exploration of some of the  popular social networks. In a Google Hangout just the other day, for example, Bruce Garber a colleague from Boston started to capture the discussion and, through some digital wizardry, streamed the entire Hangout conversation to the web where anyone could listen and watch.

Of course, it has been possible to record and post video for replay on a variety of internet services, including the most popular of them all, YouTube. The statistics are staggering. According to a recent post, 48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute and over 3 billion views are delivered every day.

But here we were delivering interaction to the web in real time. Combining Livestream with a Google Hangout produced a webcast of a conversation among this group of people located in cities around the world, including Boston, New York, Ft. Collins (CO), Kenilworth (UK), Brazil and Austria. No need for expensive video equipment, a broadcast studio, an army of technicians or special internet facilities. Each of us had an ordinary desktop computer with a web cam and broadband access to the internet. In fact, one person participated briefly using a 4G smart phone.

The possibilities are absolutely mind boggling. Producing the U_News show using Hangouts was impressive, but this allows virtually anyone to be the host of a live broadcast show. Most of the use of Hangouts has been as an adjunct to the live stream. For example, there have been a few "back stage" hangouts or hangouts giving viewers a behind the scenes look at production. This puts a limited number of "guests" in the same virtual room where they can interact with each other while the larger audience watches.

A few pioneers have introduced talent contests, game shows and other forms of entertainment in Hangouts while streaming it to the masses. But we are only at the very beginning of what is possible based on this combination of technologies. It's like television in the 1950's. No one could have imagined how far that has progressed, or where this new ability is likely to take us.

Live streaming Hangouts, or what I like to call Streamouts, will put a whole new spin on live broadcasting over the internet. Two way interaction is no longer confined to phone, text or chat windows. Now you can virtually walk in and fully participate in the event.

I envision this being used in politics, education and business. Imagine the virtual town hall meeting where groups of constituents can interact with the politician and each other. Talk shows can have a virtual couch full of guests from anywhere in the globe. Panel discussions can be orchestrated with thought leaders who never have to leave their homes. Corporations can conduct stockholder meetings and educators can hold tutoring sessions, all highly interactive in ways simply not possible before.

I'm sure I have only scratched the surface of this topic. Let's schedule a Google Hangout and brainstorm how this might work for you and your business.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, October 3, 2011

Clearing Away The Cloud

Unless you have been living under a rock (like those guys in the GEICO TV commercial) you know one of hottest topics in IT circles these days is the cloud. Cloud computing is the ability to rent computing resources including raw processor, memory or storage on demand. Need a dozen servers for 30 minutes? No problem. Just order them up on-line and presto, you are in business. You can also rent business applications using SaaS or "software as a service" providers. Everything from simple e-mail systems to office automation suites and complete customer management systems are available by the drink.

While this ability has been around for many years in various other forms (time-sharing, remote batch processing, ASP, etc.) the current cloud movement is picking up steam. It is building a large following among major corporations delivering a whole new set of benefits and introducing a new set of problems and issues.

You can hardly read a newspaper, trade journal or magazine without encountering articles discussing cloud computing. All of this activity and interest has spawned new organizations devoted to the study of cloud computing. The industry must assemble a body of knowledge about the cloud and find ways to disseminate this information  It must further propose standards to make it possible for business to extract the full potential value the cloud computing paradigm holds.

One such organization is the Cloud Computing Consortium (C3) at Stevens Institute of Technology. This organization, formed last year by a handful of volunteers, has grown rapidly and now includes five active working committees debating and documenting various aspects of cloud computing from a management perspective. As one of the founding members, I serve on the Executive Council and participated in the work of the value proposition committee.

C3 is planning to hold its first conference November 7 in Northern New Jersey. C3 is currently seeking additional volunteers for a second round of committees to tackle additional topics, while the findings of the first group will form the basis for the presentations at the conference.

C3 is also seeking additional members and vendor sponsors to support its efforts. For details you can write me or Ken Saloway, or visit the C3 web site.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC