Monday, February 23, 2009

Netbooks accelerate The Cloud?

The move to "netbooks" and other always connected devices seems to finally be here to stay - it's been talked for a while, but the convergence of technology and economics to make it a reality is now with us.
There is a very interesting article in Wired (if I remember well) that chronicles the "strange" history of the new generation of "netbooks": how something that was created to address the needs of those who cannot afford the current laptops ended up filling a real need even amongst those who are the target of these current laptops. Essentially, we have reached the point in which these tools are becoming appliances, judged more by the function they actually fulfil than by the performances they can exhibit regardless of our need for them.

Combined with the emergence of The Cloud, this shift promises a change in the way all of us, consumers and enterprises, will interact with applications. It seems obvious, but the trend is accelerating. Applications will be at least partially on The Cloud, they will be multi-device, multi-access, asynchronous.

That will bring a series of challenges to us, software architects. We will need to make The Cloud ensure the viability of the model for complex, long lived, IP rich, confidential, secure flows. We will need to make the asynchronous models work well. We will need to make the user interfaces multi-device and secure, etc...
One proof this is moving forward, and fast, is that companies such as Microsoft, which do not create trends but make them mainstream, are getting there. The Azure effort ( is well known, but they are thinking across the board on user interfaces, on new browser (the window to The Cloud) architecture approaches (

It will also bring challenges to the business models for software products, of course. The current models are not adapted, and it will take time before a norm gets established.
It will also bring new security needs: big cloud centers will need to be protected against all sorts of attacks, cyber and physical, etc.

Interesting disruption.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How to castrate a bull (not what you think)

It's not in my nature to spend a lot of time reading management books. I do, however, have a real interest in books that deal with the decision making (or frequently decision avoidance) process in organizations. Issues in decision making are at the confluence of many disciplines, which fascinates me. Furthermore, my professional career has been devoted to software tools supporting decision management, an incredibly valuable domain that is still in its infancy.

In one of my recent Amazon shopping sprees, I ended up putting in my basket "How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business", a great book written by Dave Hitz, who is one of the Silicon Valley's recent legends, one of the co-founders of NetApp.

If you are an entrepreneur, creating a venture or scaling up a company, you will find this book inspiring, and you will draw many lessons from Dave Hitz's experiences.
A few that resonated very strongly with me:
- the value of dissent in a growing organization, how it needs to be cultivated and not managed-out
- multiple takes on what how to make effective decisions in a perpetual risk-all start-up, how managing the consequences of hard and early choices is as important as making the choices
- what makes the culture of a company, the pressures that make it evolve, and how to manage its transitions without losing identity and the momentum it creates

And it is a fun read. Which for me has been a break after a few weeks reading Spartan technical books.