georges' blog

April 26, 2007

Gartner Symposium: Last Day

Filed under: Gartner Symposium 2007,Technology — kendall @ 5:01 pm

I’ve sat in on four sessions today so far and there haven’t been too many take aways. I don’t know if I just haven’t chosen well, or if they saved all the dull and uninspiring content for the last day. As the day progresses, it seems more and more people are playing hookie or just flying home. However, with a $3700 price tag, I figure I better try to get all I can out of this conference. Since there isn’t much to say about the sessions I’ve sat in on, let me just take this opportunity to make some general observations:

  • The prizes have been very nice. They had a drawing for a Segway and gave out four $100 AMEX gift cards to runner ups. They had a drawing to participate in a trivia game and each participant got a free ticket to the 2008 Symposium–that’s a $3700 value. One vendor was giving away iPod shuffles to every vistor to their booth. I’m looking forward to getting that in the mail.
  • The wireless access hasn’t been ubiquitous, but it is adequate, and by the end of the first day I knew where to sit in the main auditorium and which seminar rooms I’d have to work offline in.
  • I geneally get four hours of battery life out of my 12″ PowerBook. Others were probalby suffering for battery, like this guys with a giant Dell XPS desktop replacement, because charging your laptop not terribly convenient. There was counter with powerstrips, but you had to work standing up. If you were one of Gartner’s premier customers, they had VIP lounges–I can only imagine what pleasures were within those partitions, but easy access to power was probably among them. Some participants popped open wall panels in the corridor to jack in. These poor vagabonds could be seen sitting on the floor in pairs near every outlet. My favorite place to charge and work was the Blounge (the blogging lounge). It had easy access to power and the most confortable general access chairs. The rules of the lounge allowed only for blogging. I pretty much honored this, but others were obviously shamelessly flouting the stated purpose of the area by checking email. I was surprised how few people were taking advantage of the Blounge, since there was no enforcement of the rules. i could generally get a seat in a comfy chair and no one asked for the URL of my blog to confirm my credentials.
  • The food has been great. They’ve had breakfast and lunch every day and a couple of dinners. On Monday they served Haagn Dazs ice cream bars for dessert. Yesterday they had a hot chocolate fondue fountain with a variety of fresh fruit on skewers. Decent.
  • Generally, they give out lame tote bags at conferences. However, the Gartner tote was a full-sized computer backpack. I probably won’t use it again after the conference because of the power blue and branding, but it has been useful for the conference, to hold my laptop, conference materials, and my jacket–the weather has been great, but a bit windy and chilly especially in the morning and evening coming and going from the conference center.
  • The pen was good too.
  • The chairs have been comfortable, especially compared to those horrid chairs at the Austin Omni Hotel, for the Educause Southwest Regional Conference. I’m telling you, I will never forget how uncomfortable those chairs were.
  • The A/V equipment has been invisible. It works and I’ve only noticed a single minor and brief technical glitch so far.
  • For the most part the pace of the conference has been good. The first two days had a vendor track at 3 PM, which wasn’t of interest to me. It would have been good if that track were at the end of the day, so that those of us how were not interested could have bailed out early instead of having to kill time until the 4:30 session. Other than that, the sessions have been pretty much scheduled every hour and a half. This allowed for an hour session and a half hour intermission allowing plenty of time for refreshing one’s coffee, restroom break, checking email, making a phone call, or whatever. It has pretty much allowed me to take in six or so sessions. That may sound like a lot of information and a lot of sitting, and it is. But, I’m a machine.
  • The coffee and beverage service runs continuously all day long. You can basically nurse your caffeine habit all day long for free. And if you are not a coffee or soft drink junkie, they have fruit juices and sparkling water all gratis.

Bottomline: The conference has been pulled off very professionally, with generally top-notch content, and with generous amenities.

April 25, 2007

Gartner Symposium: Enterprise Applications in a Web-Centric World

Filed under: Gartner Symposium 2007,Technology — kendall @ 4:49 pm

Either this session was way over my head or these guys weren’t really saying anything. They threw around a lot of terminology and buzz-words. Here’s a list of the top buzz-words that seemed to be central to the point they were making:

  • Web 2.0: Community, Mash-ups
  • SOA (Service Oriented Architecture, spelling it out for anyonenot familiar with the acronym)
  • WOA
  • Rich Internet Applications (RIA) & AJAX (a subset of RIA)
  • Extreme Self-Service
  • Data-driven proces

About all I could really hang my hat on was the section on “Disciplines of Market Leaders.” Essentially there are four disciplines and successful businesses must focus attention on one or more of these four areas and refine their process and distinguish themselves to succeed in their sector.

  • Customer Intimacy
  • Product Leadership
  • Operational Excellence
  • Brand Excellence

It organizations need to leverage web technologies to help the chosen strategy succeed.

The recommendations also brought the presentation down from the stratosphere to something I could get a hold of:

  • Revisit the idea of self-service as a way of doing less to create more value.
  • Ensure that all new applications introduced into the portfolio are Web 2.0-centric.
  • Review vendor plans to make existing applications Web 2.0-centric.
  • Take a balanced view across technology, business model and delivery model when determining the effects of Web 2.0 on your applications.

I still need to apply some brain clock-cycles to apply these recommendations to my environement and organization.

Gartner Symposium: Keynote Panel: A Look Into the Labs with IBM, Intel, and Microsoft

Filed under: Gartner Symposium 2007,Technology — kendall @ 3:28 pm

I have seen the future. There has been a lot of talk about theories and processes and ways of doing business in the future in the sessions at Symposium. But this session showed videos of real stuff that Microsoft, IBM, and Intel are working on right now and we will see on the store shelves in the not too distant future. It was very, very cool and mind boggling. The pace at which science fiction is turning into science is startling.

Microsoft showed some killer user interface and environment awareness applications. Remember how the computer worked in the film “Minority Report?” Tom Cruise’s character put on these gloves and was able to manipulate these videos–resize, play, rewind, pan, zoom, rotate… using his hands on a large glass display. Imagine this exact thing, but without the gloves! They showcased, placing a document on a pane of glass. The image was scanned and then displayed instantly on the glass. Then the user could move, rotate, and enlarge the document with their hands. They showed the same kind of thing but with two users manipulating the same workspace but from different locations. It was cool. They showed two people each with a piece of paper and a pen and each drawing and even moving their paper, but the software was seamlessly integrating the two physical documents.

Intel showed off their roadmap for multi-core processors. They have already developed an 80 core processor running at 62 watts. One of the applications showed was software that analyzed a soccer video. It was able to track the ball and the players and analyze the audio tract all simultaneously and in real time. They also showed 3D graphics rendering that used real physical laws for gravity and how light interacts with physical objects. They showed light interacting with moving reflective objects and transparent glass. They showed a ball dropped in water and a glass filled with water all acting exactly like they would in the real world. Light, shadows, reflections, refraction through glass, water effects, gravity, physical interactions… it was a scary move toward being able to exactly duplicate the physical world virtually–in real time–a move toward the Matrix. To ratchet up the fear factor here, the Intel VP for research mentioned in passing another real world application: artificial intelligence. These new chips will move us one step closer to where computers can learn and think like a human being. So it is nearly assured that the robot revolution of 2025 will be running on Intel processors (probability 0.8).

What IBM revealed was technologies that are CRM oriented. It started off rather boring but then turned very scary. IBM was basically looking at technologies that try to predict the future behavior of customers or users based on their historic behavior. Essentially the application tracks variables of the user’s behavior and detects patterns in order to predict their future behavior. The admin defines zones and users and relationships and automates the collection of data and routes communications. The application that was showcased was a doctor moving in and around a hospital and updating his availability based on his location. For instance, if the doctor was with a patient, calls would be routed to voice mail. If he was in his office, phone calls would be routed to the phone at his desk, for instance. If he was in the cafeteria, calls would be routed to his mobile. Certain relationships would never be able to directly reach the user, they’d be routed to a secretary or voice mail. Other relationships would have elevated priority. IBM’s presentation, like other technologies showcased, fed right into a surveillance society. Personally, I don’t like the idea of a computer tracking my movements and behaviors and trying to predict my behaviors or evaluating my future behavior. People get a bit bent out of shape about racial profiling at airports, this technology could be used for profiling ALL behavior–not just terrorists, but any sort of crime, for insurance companies, employers, etc. For instance, if an employer used this to calculate my value to the company, compared me to other employees, predicted my productivity… Imagine if an employer did this to applicants, before they even started working. A prospective employer could select employees based on a profile of a person’s entire life up to that point before. The government could determine your likelihood of committing a crime and single you out for additional scrutiny. The whole idea is frightening. In the movies, they’d try and convict you of a crime you hadn’t even committed, but were merely likely to commit based on your pattern of behavior (probability 0.6).

April 24, 2007

Movie Review: Deja Vu

Filed under: Movies — kendall @ 8:50 pm

It looks like this flick is out on DVD now, but I saw it on a plane. It was originaly rated PG-13 by the MPAA mainly for violence, terror, and distubing images, but also for sensuality. I don’t recall anything terribly objectionable in the sensuality department, though there are some voyeuristic elements (central to the story) and you see the main female character in her underwear a bit because of that, but those are still relatively non-sexual… Anyhow, the regular not edited for the airlines version may be more objectionable–I can’t vouch for that.

Anyhow, my review: This film is killer! This is one of the most entertaining action films I’ve seen in a while. This and other films that have come out recently are renewing my hope for Hollywood. It seems like there was a serious derth of good films there for a while, but with this and “The Prestige” man we’ve got at least a couple of good-as-any films this past year. Anyhow, I won’t spoil the story–see it for yourself. I’ll just say that this film has got the fast pace you’d expect from any Jerry Bruckheimer flick. It gets right into the action and keeps you involved to the very end. It is a smart film with sci-fi twist and a fresh plotline (or at least a fresh twist on a rarely used plotline). When you leave you are still thinking about it. Seriously, I was still getting my mind around it hours after it finished.

Bottomline: highly recommended.

Movie Review: DVD: Lords of Dogtown

Filed under: Movies — kendall @ 8:37 pm

Wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting a bit of a feel good film on the order of “Gleeming the Cube” only not cheesy and with some killer skating. However, what I got was a tough watch–a story about some young guys growing up in a tough environment escaping poverty by rising to fame in the newly born sport of skateboarding.

Now the skating was cool. It was especially cool to watch the development of the sport. The film chronicles the lives of three pioneers of the sport from the early 70′s through like the early eighties. The film pretty well shows the evolution of skating from something like figure skating to the hard core serious arial and vertical stuff we are acustom to today. The tough part of the film was seeing that although these young guys were dedicated to their sport and good at it, their personal lives were a total mess–mixed up in sex, alcohol, drugs, and crime. Their rise to fame only enlarged the scope of their potential debachery. Stacy Peralta stayed pretty well above all the garbage, but he was still surrounded by it and directly affected by his friends cruelty and poor lifestyle choices. Competition eventually drives a wedge between the three main characters. However, the film ends on a positive note as the love for a friend brings the three back together. That theme is repeated in the extra features of the film where you see Jay Adams, Tony Alva, and Stacy Peralta working together behind the camera fleshing out details of the story and coaching their on screne counter parts.

The film was terribly well made. The camera work was awesome. Unlike most skateboarding flicks which are shot with video cameras, this film was shot on film. Skateboarding legend, Lance Mountain, did the camera work for the skatboarding scenes. The first board I bought myself was a Lance Mountain board.

The acting was superb. Emile Hirsch did a very compelling job portraying Jay Adams. I was seriously awed as I watched Jay Adams in the extra features. Emile Hirsh had perfectly protrayed his real life counterpart’s attitude and mannerisms on camera. He had also done a fantastic job of protraying Jay Adams descent from relative innocence into oblivion. Jay seems to have gotten his act back together somewhat in his 40′s though he is clearly still affected.

It is difficult to predict how much of the success of this effort was a result of director, Catherine Hardwicke, or of Stacy Peralta writng, and his so many other’s behind the scenes support of the production. They dragged up a couple of dozen legendary skaters and others connected to the sport to provide input on the fill–in addition to who I’ve already mentioned, Christian Hosoi, Ling Bei, Tony Hawk, Bob Biniack, and others–most of whom make breif cameos in the flim.

The DVD contains a good selection of extra features that are nearly as interesting as the film itself. Though the extra features possess the sme major defect as the film itself. Here comes my warning label: The film contains more profanity and vulgarity than I’d like. The original film was rated PG-13, but I’m sure the unrated director’s cut of the film would have been rated R for language. There was no nudity though there were sexually suggestive scenes that would have made me uncomfortable watching it with my mom.

Bottomline: a terrific and well made film for those interested at all in skateboarding, though I’d recommend the PG-13 incarnation if you are at all sensitive to foul language.

Gartner Symposium: Keynote with IBM VP for Innovation, Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger

Filed under: Gartner Symposium 2007,Technology — kendall @ 6:39 pm

There wasn’t much to take away here. A lot of what was said was similar to what has been said before only not as fast or with as much inflection. Here’s one of the godd take aways:

How do we design applications and systems that support our business processes? How do you design systems that support abstract business processes? You cannot design what you do not understand. Designers do not understand the business and the business process. Application developers and systems designers must understand the business. This is the heart of SOA. SOA–or Service Oriented Architecture–is clearly in the lead for buzzword of the conference.

Gartner Symposium: Keynote with Second Life founder and CEO Phillip Rosedale

Filed under: Gartner Symposium 2007,Technology — kendall @ 6:36 pm

Illustrating just how powerful the Second Life reality distortion field is, Second Life’s CEO and founder, Phillip Rosedale, garnered the top keynote slot at Gartner’s April Symposium.  I am in the pessimistic camp when it come to Second Life.  My first post about Second Life will give you some idea as to why.  However, that being said, I was impressed with Phillip Rosedale’s presentation.  He freely admitted that Second Life as it represents the 3D web is in its infancy.  “We’re where the web was in 1994.”   What impressed me about his presentation is that although they don’t have all the answers to the questions about the 3D web in general or the eveolution of Second Life in particular, he and his staff at Linden Labs seem to have the critical issues on their radar.  In particular, I was thinking, if Second Life is our best hope for the 3D web, it needs to be liek the 2D web–it needs to be open.  See, right now, anyone can get a webserver and drop it on the Internet and bam you have a presence on the web.  It is not proprietary and it has virtually unlimited potential for growth.  However, as Second Life stands right now, though the client is open source, the servers are proprietary.  However, Rosedale indicated that their plan was to open it up to third party providers/hosts.  This should drive down the prices of getting on the 3D web.  Right now costs over $1,500 US to get in on your own island plus $295 per month maintenance.  That is pretty steep for a casual user and even for a business that is a considerable investment on an unproven technology.  I have to get back into Second Life and see what it would cost to get in on some pr0perty on the main island.  The average sale price of property in SL at the time of this writing was $10 USD per square meter.  Anyhow, opening up Second Life is a major step in the right direction for moving Second Life from a niche application to something with mass appeal and wide adoption.

The second major bit of good news was their plan not just to add voice chat to SL, but ther vision of how to implement it.  Instead of dialing as you do with Skype or MSM and other voice and video chat services, their plan is to try to simulate the way voice works in the real world.  Distant conversations cannot be heard but as you pass by people who are talking their conversations would come into range.  It sounded pretty cool to me.  As I was talking to my wife about it, she was asking why this would be any better than a conference call in Skype or anywhere else.  I’m not sure it is, but I think the visual cues of seeing everyone in the conference room is kinda cool.  Rather than spending a bunch of time with “hey, is so and so on yet…” you would just quickly scan the room and when you have enough people to start, you just start.  Depending how the voice implementation works out, the prospects for collaboration are intriguing.  Rosedale kinda indicated that they were already trying out the voice in some kinda beta version and it sounds promising.

I’m not a convert yet, but Second Life is something to keep an eye on.

PC Magazine Takes a Jab at Second Life

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 4:33 pm

Having just witnessed an interview with Second Life’s CEO and founder, Phillip Rosedale, it is incumbent upon me to finally get to my post about PC Magazine’s recent series of less-than-flattering articles about Second Life. As I recall the word “hype” was mentioned multiple times. The bottom line of PC Magazine’s critique was that the figures that Linden Labs uses for Socond Life usage are deceptive. Currently, the number of Seocnd Life residents is over 5 million. That figure reflects the total number of times that a new avatar has been created. It includes all the people who logged in once and tried it out for an hour and have never been back. It also includes avatars who have the same real person behind them. Essentially, this figure is meaningless. It doesn’t really give any idea about how many people are really using Second Life. Even the figures for who has logged in in the last 7, 30, or 60 days aren’t that helpful, since a single real person may have multiple avatars for any number of reasons. Anyhow, PC Magazine estimated that there are around 135,000 real people using Second Life. This represents a terribly small number of people relative to the PLANET EARTH. Meaning that, by comparison with, say, television, advertizing in Second Life isn’t gonna reach too many people. A business considering opening shop in Second Life needs to consider this. There are only so many people in Second Life. More importantly are these the kind of people we are trying to reach? My guess is that this probably isn’t that great a place for a company like Cisco to try to sell routers, switches, and enterprise VOIP solutions. [Point of clarification: Cisco agrees. See the comment below. Cisco and IBM, for that matter, mainly use SL as a means of adding value for customers though meetings, trainging, tech-talks, and soliciting user feedback on new products.] I mean, is your average 13 year old or your average unemployed, living-with-their-mom, socially debilitated 35 year-old really making decisions about enterprise information architectures? I mean, I’m trying get my mind around what kind of person hangs out in a virtual disco or strip club drinking virtual beers? Are these the kind of people who are likely customers for IBM, Cisco, Xerox, and Dell? Ok, so if you elliminate these guys, oh, and also the guy who owns the Star Wars shrine island how many real prospective customers are there? One PC Magazine contributer observed that every virtual store front he visted–Sears, Circuit City, Dell–had no customers when he visited.

What are IBM, Cisco, and other banking on? Well I think that what everyone is longing for is the next great break through. Afterall, the Internet is now mainstream–websurfing, chatting, P2P filesharing–the 2D web. What everyone is waiting for is the 3D web–the web a la “Lawnmover Man,” “The Thirteenth Floor,” “The Matrix,” or even William Gibson’s pre-Interne, early 80’s, novel Neuormancer. I suppose that everyone is banking on Second Life as the world’s best hope for the 3D web. If enough people get behind this and Linden Labs makes the right strategic decisons, they will get credit for the next great break through for infromation revolution. However, if adoption is not there, then Second Life will just be a ghetto on the Internet, a niche for freaky 13 and 35 year-olds.

I personally am not sure that the 3D wed is really all that better than the 2D web. I mean, I can buy a song or album on iTunes with one click. I don’t think that walking into a 3D music store is easier or more compelling than iTunes. The same can be said for Amazon and Froogle. Also since interaction in Second Life takes place through text, how is this so much better than AIM, MS Messenger, or Yahoo Chat?

The bottom line is that it looks like there are major players trying to propel Second Life forward but for me it is not clear that it will replace much of the 2D web. Its a gamble. Early adopters are staking their claims. But, time will tell if Second Life has real staying power. I’m sure similare things were said about podcasting, wiki’s and blogging and those things are pretty-well mainstream now. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Gartner Symposium: The Future of Infrastructure and Operations

Filed under: Gartner Symposium 2007,Technology — kendall @ 11:09 am

I just left a very hard-hitting seminar by Gartner analyst, Thomas Bittman–very deep and thought provoking. Basically he and Gartner are predicting that the future of IT infrastructure and operations is shifitng from a physical paradigm to a virtual one. The orientation is basically taking into consideration that businesses and organizations are shifitng to a business and service focus. Essentially business has an “I don’t care as long as it works” attitude toward IT. IT should be invisible.

Now businesses, our organization included, are making a shift toward server and application virtualization. Toward that end we are delivering most of our end user appliacations via Citrix and migrating as many servers as possible to virtual machines. We now have about as many virtual machines as we have physical boxes. In any case, virtualization will continue in the future. Many applications vendors are now also virtualizing thier applications. Java VM is an early example of this, but many vendors are now lookig to run their apps on a virtual OS–a layer of abstraction between the OS and the application–making the application OS independent. VM Appliaces are manefestation of this. More and more vendors will produce their software apps as single function VMs. Here are some bullet take aways from the seminar:

  • Business policies driven
  • Service oriented
  • Reduce costs, increase quality of service
  • Provisioning: workload, resources, and identity management–users get/lose access automatically as they come and go
  • Availability
  • Unified communications
  • By 2010 the majority of businesses will have integrated communications into thiet busines strategies
  • In the future unplanned downtime will be caused by application failure rather than operations failures and errors
  • CMDB (Configuration Management Database) and RBA (Run Book Automation)
  • Virtualization
    • Abstraction between applications and OS: SUN containers, MS Softricity, Virtuozzo
    • Abstraction between OS and harware: VMWare, Xen Server, Virtualiron, HP integrity VM, IBM, MS Veridian
    • Appliances–single function, thin/hidden OS, segregating applications onto VMs

  • Remote access, software streaming
  • Thin OS: JEOS
  • Agility and costs: pay for services based on usage. As the business grows the costs grow incrementally. You only pay for waht you need.
  • Economics was the only thing driving IT, now there is a shift to agilty, and quality of service.
  • Need to have a maturity model, what is your plan for managing this evolution.

April 23, 2007

Gartner Symposium: Collaboration Trends and Technologies

Filed under: Gartner Symposium 2007,Technology — kendall @ 4:32 pm

Surprising little information here. Basically they said that the way we use IT to communicate personally is the way we will collaborate professionally. There was not a lot of very specific stuff to “hang your hat on.” Here are some bullet take aways:

  • Convergence. A user can see who is online and have a palette of collaboration tools available from one interface and select the tool that makes the most sense for the required interaction.
  • 3D worlds.
    • These guys seem to have bought into the Second Life hype. I should write about this separately.
    • They made an observation that I’ve heard before, that “digital natives” can navigate the world quickly and intuitive. Others may find it difficult to get around.
  • How can IT managers support evolving collaboration reqwuirements? Know how your users work.
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