• More Gilding the Lily? On SaaS and the Green Revolution


    I’m a bit of a curmudgeon – recently I was critical over lily-gilding in the cloud computing space – in that instance it was a case of someone holding out a cloud deployment as something way more than it…

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  • The Cloud Computing Continuum – Sometimes Simple Explanations Are Best


    I live in something of an enigmatic world. I sit down at my laptop and immerse myself in the world of EC2, S3, AVPC, Azure, PaaS, IaaS, SaaS, API, AJAX and a million and one other acronyms and then I go home and converse with real people doing real things.

    Sometimes it depresses me that in the tech industry we are so focused on the minutiae of what are, essentially quite ephemeral concepts, that we lose site of both the fact that these things are meant to be tools for the real world, and that we need to find a language to explain this stuff in terms that others can understand.

    Case in point – Cloud Computing. Taking a step back from the details one can easily see that there are a bunch of concepts that are quite complex, disjointed and difficult to either explain or understand.

    With that said, I was pleased the other day to read a post from James Valentine from Fronde. Fronde is a company that works in a number of areas – mobile, agile development, cloud implementation etc. Anyway, in a bid to clarify the term “Cloud Computing” to his non-technical or at least non-cloudy clients, James came up with a diagram to explain the cloud continuum as he sees it;


    I like what James is trying to do here – it’s way simpler than the complex stack diagrams that we seem to see dragged out from time to time. James states that his rationale for creating the continuum was to;

    avoid us getting hung up on specific definitions or labels for each area. It also reflects the fact that in the world of cloud computing providers can quickly add new features that expand their presence across the continuum.

    Congratulations to James for thinking in a grass roots way, and I’d be keen (as I’m sure would he) to hear any feedback around this – let’s jointly find a way to articulate this crazy cloud thing we do.

    I had a coffee the other day with Smina Vanlerberghe, Director and Principal Consultant of Memia, a cloud vendor doing a bunch of cool stuff: architecture, implementation, collaboration tools and the like. We were having a bit of a brainstorm about furthering “The Cloud” in our neck of the woods. The difficulties around that term are huge – putting aside the adoption issue just the definitional issues are problematic. Some people equate Cloud Computing with, for example cloud storage. To others it’s all about simple development platforms while to others it’s all about SaaS. Another bunch of people (and arguably the majority) consider Cloud Computing to be online collaboration tools and little more.

    Of course the problem here is that they’re all right. Cloud Computing is a broad term covering many different things, trying to reduce it to any one aspect is doomed to failure.

    Next months I’m presenting at the New Zealand Cloud Computing Summit, an event that may well see me drag out my dusty suit from the closet. I’m currently creating my presentation and rapidly realizing that really I’m talking about (at least) three things at once.

    Perhaps the time has come to accept that Cloud Computing has finally “grown up” to the point where it’s constituent parts can stand on their own and no longer need an over arching title. What do you, the readers, think?

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  • Sarah Lacy Pans a Nation, Self-Importance Anyone?


    TechCrunch reporter and ultimate Valley insider Sarah Lacy posted today, bemoaning the fact that her “research trip” to Brazil may not happen as planned due to a delayed entry visa. The post is an uber-emotive piece with a Brazilian flag with the text “Epic-est [sic] fail ever” written on it. It seems Lacy booked her travel and then applied for a visa which, apparently due to some technology changes by the Brazilian government at its embassies and consulates, did not turn up in time.

    Bear in mind that this is the same Lacy who was nearly heckled off-stage for an arguably sycophantic “interview” of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg a couple of years ago – an interview that left watchers with the impression that she’d spent the previous few years as number one confidante and adviser to Zuckerberg.

    Lacy had the good grace to not shoot the messenger in this case (she didn’t refrain however from shouting at them);

    I paid an expediting service hundreds of dollars to ensure I’d be getting this visa, and clearly they’ve been getting an earful from me over the last week. If not for a phone call from the owner this morning finally agreeing to waive the fees I paid them, this post would largely be skewering them.

    Oh Sarah, how gracious of you…

    It seems Lacy is growing accustomed to being a superstar wherever she travels (and invariably it seems she travels to locations that aim to become the new Silicon Valley) and having red carpet treatment to facilitate her journeys. Lacy has caused something of a storm if the comments to her post are anything to go by – she’s been labeled self-centered, vapid, and stupid.

    It’s also a poor piece of journalism. The new Brazilian policy has apparently been implemented as a response to the US’s huge tightening of immigration for non US citizens entering the country. It seems when it comes to international relations, Ms Lacy is a proponent of the US imperialist attitude that seems to advocate a double standard for all the “dirty foreigners” (who, one assumes, Lacy thinks are either terrorists or peasants). As an obviously irate commenter wrote;

    This shows the arrogance of some American citizens, thinking that they can walk into any country without a hitch. You don’t see the problem with your system because you are a citizen but for the rest of us who legally enter the country it is always a pain in the butt. I am in the US trying to help your society by bringing my knowledge and experience as a contribution. Despite that, it is not always easy to make it through customs. Yes, your rules are as bureaucratic as the third world; try walking a mile on an US immigrant shoes before you judge.

    Lacy closes of the post in yet another show of egoism, saying;

    The country should be embarrassed, and its businesses should be furious. I’m going to aim to try this whole Brazil thing again in December or January. It’s not the entrepreneurs’ or our readers’ fault this happened, and I still believe there are great stories in Brazil that I want to report. But when you’re harder to get into than China, it doesn’t bode well for foreign investment, Brazil.

    Sarah, Sarah, Sarah – you may now the biggest names is Silicon Valley but you’re just another hack on the world scale, no more deserving of special treatment than any of the rest of us. If you really want to write a piece about the reality for web start-ups, then walk in the shoes of those same start-ups, not in those of your superstar friends… believe me, your writing would be better for some humility.

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  • CloudCamp – Thoughts from the Unpanel


    Reporting from CloudCamp Auckland – “CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas. With the rapid change occurring in the industry, we need a place where we can meet to share our experiences, challenges and solutions. At CloudCamp, you are encouraged to share your thoughts in several open discussions, as we strive for the advancement of Cloud Computing. End users, IT professionals and vendors are all encouraged to participate.”

    Questions from the floor about Cloud Computing…

    What is the Value? – CloudBreak was involved in the New Zealand Post Google apps implementation. For them it’s about value – NZ Post discovered hard savings of $500k per annum by moving to a Google email infrastructure.

    Why develop in the clouds? – Gen-i talked about the development benefits of a cloud dev environment – allows for rapid A/B testing and means that a business is used to thinking in terms of integration – the use of APIs and the like. To make the decision though metrics are needed for current costs – to make an informed decision based purely on ROI is difficult.

    What shortages does New Zealand need to overcome? We suffer from latency, the speed of light cannot be sped up. Need local cloud hosting offerings in order to remove this problem. Local companies need to develop with a global perspective and ambition.

    Tools and techniques for highly variable load? James Valentine from Fronde has recently been using EC2 for a client. He contends that PaaS is cheap but tends to be inflexible, force.com will shut off service once API limits have been breached – ensure you chose the correct platform based on where the bulk will be – page impressions? processing cycles? storage?

    There were murmurings of discontent from the audience about the lack of focus on value proposition around cloud computing – hopefully later sessions will address those concerns.

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  • Aggregation May Be Dead, But No One Has Told the Advertisers


    Just getting my own 2 cents in on the theme du jour – Zoli’s had his, and Marshall has come back with a blistering post. But anyway…

    Over on ZDNet, Sam Diaz posted what can only be described as a silly post 9actually one of my blogging heroes Bob Warfield called it just that) in which he declared, in a sermon-from-the-mount type way that RSS is dead.

    His post was a result of a Google reader team blog entry that looked at what items an elite group of users where reading. Google came up with a “recommended list” for some industry “elites”.

    So far, so good. But then Sam went on to pronounce that he no longer logs into a feed reader but rather gets his information from other sources. In his words (highlighting mine);

    I catch headlines on Yahoo News and Google News. I have a pretty extensive lineup of browser bookmarks to take me to sites that I scan throughout the day. Techmeme is always in one of my browser tabs so I can keep a pulse on what others in my industry are talking about. And then there are Twitter and Facebook. I actually pick up a lot of interesting reading material from people I’m following on Twitter and some friends on Facebook, with some of it becoming fodder for blog posts here…my sources of for reading material are scattered across the Web, not in one aggregated spot.

    In a somewhat cutting comment, that only someone of his stature can get away with, Bob commented saying;

    If you’re getting your news every which way but blogs, why blog here? Your readers evidently would do as you do, no?

    Sure there are plenty of new channels to aggregate, what with Facebook, Twitter et al, but to proclaim the end of RSS and, by association, aggregation is ludicrous. Techmeme is, after all an aggregative channel, what is Twitter if not a large aggregation point? And if aggregation is truly dead, then why is ZDNet seemingly able to attract advertisers with what is, essentially, an aggregative model?

    Sam’s knee jerk analysis that “RSS readers are a Web 1.0 tool” is also simplistic (sorry Sam). True a pure aggregative play with no viewer input would seem to fall into the general “1.0” pool. While a fully engaged medium feels more like 2.0 – but the fact of the matter is that RSS is an excellent tool to cross the divide between those two forms of consumption – especially so since Google have introduced more engagement-centric ways of users too communicate in reader.

    So no, RSS is far from dead, aggregation is alive and kicking and Sam’s, Zoli’s Marshall’s and my pay packet depends, at least in part, upon that. SO… if Sam’s not using a feed reader, what are others doing?

    Marshall has gone all hyper-tech on us, his explanation was kind of 2001 A Space Odyssey;

    Our team scans over thousands of company RSS feeds each morning for updates (what news writer wouldn’t do that?) and we use an open source customizable meme-tracker to make sure we haven’t missed anything important. We use open source RSS parsing software to set up a dashboard tracking all our competitors’ feeds, we use an RSS to IM alert system to get some feeds sent to us right away and at least some of us use Gmail Webclips for another layer of ambient feed tracking.

    We use Postrank to track breakout hits in niche blogs and we use tools like Snackr or the just-launched LazyFeed to keep an eye on specific feeds or general topics.

    My head hurt just reading that! Here at CloudAve we’re a little less analytical than Marshall – but we’re all still using a bunch of tools. Personally I use Google reader, a bunch of Google searches RSS’d to my reader. A few Twitter scans and the ever present TechMeme. That and a watching brief over most of our direct competitors keeps me pretty much in the loop.

    So it seems the jury is back and, while not quite unanimous, the RSS brigade would seem to have the numbers at this point – and if revenue is any indication, they’ll continue to do so for awhile yet.


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