Monday
May082006

Mind the gap

Phil Windley's Technometria 'blog is one of my favorites. For the same reasons I visit a number of blogs, I experience vicariously whatever he happens to be investigating. For years I've had an "avocational" interest in identity, a vocational interest in SOA and Web services standards, etc. I also receive his e-mail'ed Enterprise Computing Newsletter.

This morning, I read his "Clueless in SimLand" comment, and went into full empathy mode. As he points out about himself, I pride myself with my grasp of new technologies in my chosen areas, listening to (and thinking about) new music, finding the best news analysis on the 'net, and so forth in order to avoid being "stuck in the last decade." But, like Phil, I've often found myself thinking that I'm ignoring major aspects of present-day technology and it's impact on people's lives.

The virtual worlds that, for example, my wife frequents in order to maintain close contact with nephews living across the country, are a cipher to me. I know about them, and have known from the outset (thanks, in no small part, to Esther Dyson and the Rel 1.0 / PC Forum participation). I know how they work, can understand the technical issues they face in scaling their operations, creating a business, and even the more recent issues of the managing private currencies that bleed over into and are exchanged IRL ("in the real world") for "real dollars."

But, like Phil, I find myself ignoring too many of the social, cultural and business aspects because I can't personally seem to find it in myself to dive in and experience it.


I don't get the feeling that I'm alone. I think there's a large group of folks

who don't play online games and so they are mostly ignoring what's happening in

that space. What do you think? Is this a hole in my education that I ought to

rectify?

I think that, for me, it is a hole. I'm not positive that, in full measure, I'm able to grasp it the way I have things like e-mail, IM, HTML/web, etc. However, it IS becoming increasingly important as a social and economic phenomenon, not just as a technology of interest. It is time to take the time and reign in the preconceived notions.


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Monday
May082006

Mind the gap

Phil Windley's Technometria 'blog is one of my favorites. For the same reasons I visit a number of blogs, I experience vicariously whatever he happens to be investigating. For years I've had an "avocational" interest in identity, a vocational interest in SOA and Web services standards, etc. I also receive his e-mail'ed Enterprise Computing Newsletter.

This morning, I read his "Clueless in SimLand" comment, and went into full empathy mode. As he points out about himself, I pride myself with my grasp of new technologies in my chosen areas, listening to (and thinking about) new music, finding the best news analysis on the 'net, and so forth in order to avoid being "stuck in the last decade." But, like Phil, I've often found myself thinking that I'm ignoring major aspects of present-day technology and it's impact on people's lives.

The virtual worlds that, for example, my wife frequents in order to maintain close contact with nephews living across the country, are a cipher to me. I know about them, and have known from the outset (thanks, in no small part, to Esther Dyson and the Rel 1.0 / PC Forum participation). I know how they work, can understand the technical issues they face in scaling their operations, creating a business, and even the more recent issues of the managing private currencies that bleed over into and are exchanged IRL ("in the real world") for "real dollars."

But, like Phil, I find myself ignoring too many of the social, cultural and business aspects because I can't personally seem to find it in myself to dive in and experience it.


I don't get the feeling that I'm alone. I think there's a large group of folks

who don't play online games and so they are mostly ignoring what's happening in

that space. What do you think? Is this a hole in my education that I ought to

rectify?


I think that, for me, it is a hole. I'm not positive that, in full measure, I'm able to grasp it the way I have things like e-mail, IM, HTML/web, etc. However, it IS becoming increasingly important as a social and economic phenomenon, not just as a technology of interest. It is time to take the time and reign in the preconceived notions. Now to figure out which one.


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Monday
Apr172006

Airlines, Cell Phones and the Cone of Silence

John Hagel comments on a post by Jagdish Bhagwati, to which I must utter a hearty AMEN.


Edge Perspectives with John Hagel: Airlines and Cell Phones



... We are already seeing assaults on this sanctuary in terms of wireless data connections that allow us to access the Internet and e-mail while flying 30,000 feet above the ground. I am proud that I have generally managed to resist the temptation to connect while flying.



But this extension of the connected world is far less upsetting to me. At least I have the choice whether or not to connect. If my seatmate chooses to connect, it makes no difference to me.



Cell phones are another thing entirely. Even if I choose not to connect via cell phone while flying, I am still at the mercy of anyone within a three to four seat radius of me who chooses to connect. The sanctuary walls will be irretrievably breached. ...

John also provides a well-deserved testimonial for the Bose QuietComfort 2 Noise Cancelling Headphones. Interestingly enough, after trying them at the Apple Store last week, I immediately bought two pair (one for my wife) for use on our frequent flights between the Bay Area and Chicago. The problem is that while they're wonderful at reducing plane noise, you can (unfortunately) still hear voices pretty clearly. The thought of last Saturday's fully packed plane, passengers armed with "loaded" cell phones in the confined space of a Boeing 737 is blood-curdling.

As I think about it, perhaps this represents an opportunity for technology union involving Bose's noise cancellation technology and the Babble voice scrambling technology developed by Danny Hillis and Applied Minds. As the short video on the Sonare Technologies site explains, Babble gives you confidentiality by adding phonemes to your speech resulting in your conversation being heard as a "gentle hum". Now, being hit by a dozen "gently humming" seatmates on a plane doesn't appeal to me, which is where the Bose headphones come in... they are built precisely to identify consistent, uniform noise (aka "gentle humming") and cancel it out.

So, if you fine folks at Sonare and Herman Miller haven't already started working on this, get started now. And John... we may not be able to go long on Bose, but Herman Miller, Inc. (NASDAQ:MLHR) may be in for a nice bump.


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Wednesday
Apr122006

Supply Chain Management and the Pandemic

In an interesting 'blog entry at InfoWorld's Tech Watch, Paul Roberts describes a session at MIT. When/If H5N1 "jumps the fence" and becomes communicable directly between humans, one of the less considered and potentially most disruptive results of the pandemic is the disruption in commerce and particularly the traffic in staple goods.

We're so dependent on lean supply chains, and playing in the international/global markets, that minor disruptions take on the trappings of a commercial disaster. I'm concerned that when human travel or the transport of goods is curtailed, the "work-arounds" have not been considered and certainly the contingency planning is very scanty. It's important that the CTL exercise gets publicity, if for no other reason than to raise visibility and get some of the right folks focused on addressing these contingencies.


Supply Chain Management and the end of the world



For most of the last decade, "virus" has meant one thing to those of us who cover the IT sector: computer viruses -- malicious programs that propagate between machines connected on a LAN or, more recently, on the Internet. You know what I'm talking about -- all the dudes with the funky names: W32.Blaster, W32.Slammer, W32.Sobig. But the folks over at MIT's Center for Transportation and Logistics have some new letters to wrap your brain around: H5N1. H5N1, as you know, is the specific strain of the influence virus that responsible for the recent Avian Influenza outbreaks that have killed untold numbers of our feathered friends in Asia, Africa and Europe, as well as some humans -- mostly among farmers and those who work with poultry in countries like Vietnam, China, and Turkey.



Why are a bunch of academics who study logistics interested in influenza, you ask? Well, if you think H5N1 is tough on chickens, you should see what it will do to your supply chain! At least, that was the message from the CTL's event today in Cambridge, MA, entitled "At the Crossroads of Supply Chain and Strategy: Simulating Disruption to Business Recovery.



In a fascinating session moderated by Mary Pimm, who runs Intel Corp.'s Corporate Emergency Operations Center, executives from Intel, EMC and Arnold Communications war gamed a simulated H5N1 and its impact on an imaginary mobile phone company, Vaxxon Corp., which gets sucked into an media-epidemiological (explitive) storm after workers at a Vaxxon supplier in mainland China begin dying from H5N1.



...

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Sunday
Mar262006

The flawed analogy: The Electricity Grid & the Grid Computing Utility

Jon Udell is dead-on in his discussion of Amazon's S3 (simple storage service) and metered web services. And this raises an important point that many in the utility computing / grid utility sectors have yet to fathom: namely, that what's missing from the successful recipe is a rich metering, billing, accounting, and settlement infrastructure. What's interesting is that so few of the commercial providers of "grid computing" utilities or technology destined for such utilities, have given this any attention. It's a mystery to me, but unless something changes pretty quickly -- because these technologies are a lot harder to build and deploy than one would think -- we will all be living with re-worked versions of the metering & accounting systems from venerable systems management companies (think CA, Symantec/Veritas and BMC), telco billing suppliers (like Amdocs and Convergys), or the likes of EDS. How does that make you feel?

The other point that caught my attention in Jon's article is his clear thinking about the flawed analogy between the electricity grid and the provision of grid computing as a utility. He makes the point that, unlike the electric grid, what's delivered by a grid computing utility is hardly fungible to the point that we can go without itemization and "flavors" of service. The metrics aren't that simple because grid computing is not a single value-proposition.

I have some other issues with the analogy -- and believe me, I have to live with it WAY too much given what I do in my day job. (It's hard being co-founder of a grid infrastructure company, created with the three people most responsible for the "grid" terminology and many of the most crucial contributions to grid computing.) But, I'll let that list simmer for a while. Perhaps a post in a week or two that addresses why the analogy takes us all down the wrong path. In the meantime, I applaud Jon for raising this issue and specifically in the context of metering and metrics.


Metered Web services



More generally, I’d like to find out whether metering infrastructure services in this way will prove technically and economically viable. When we talk about a grid of Web services, we like to compare it to the power grid, but the analogy is deeply flawed in at least one way. My electric bill isn’t itemized. I don’t know what it costs me to run each of my appliances, or how long it will take to amortize the cost of replacements. Lacking this feedback, we make poor individual decisions that, collectively, add up to a tragic misallocation of resources.



Creating what’s called the “energy web” -- a marketplace where smart producers and consumers of power exchange price signals in real time -- will require a massive overhaul of our legacy power grid. There’s just no way for us to start from scratch. But in the realm of Web services, we’re just now building the grid. Given a clean slate, perhaps we can figure out how to aggregate demand, meter usage, and value services for what they do rather than just for the eyeballs they attract.

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