• The Cloud and Security, Cutting Through the Hype


    A few months ago I spent half a day at IBM New Zealand’s Auckland offices running various interviews of IBM staffers. The project was part of my work as curator (disclaimer – that’s a self-awarded title) of IBM’s Business Insight web property.

    I was really interested to spend some time talking to IBM security expert John Martin and to specifically discuss the security issues that cloud computing brings.

    Excuse the poor quality sound – the joys of a (very) cheap digital camera in video mode. As an aside, any digital video camera manufacturers who want some equipment trialed, just drop me a line.

    I’d be interested to hear other security practitioner’s perspectives on all of this. I’d also be keen to run some interviews that provide a counterpoint to the assertions that John makes.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • Summer Fun – Rant Redux #3


    Public relations, you gotta love it… I get releases and general communications from PR people on a daily basis. Some good, some not so good and some just plain bizarre. I thought I’d review my thoughts over the year about PR…

    In April I posted about the some bad experiences:

    A PR person (who is a lovely lady and with whom I have no beef) asked for times when I would be free to meet a couple of her companies. I studiously left a session early in order to make up midday appointment on the expo floor. – only to arrive and wait for ten minutes while the show staff tried to find the guy. I ended up just walking away – my time is limited here and I really didn’t want to wait in the hope he’d show up.

    In October I attempted to avoid the same PR fiascos that had plagued me at other events and posted the four easy ways to ensure your brand gets attention (or at least my attention);

    1. Please make it relevant. I’m a Cloud computing and SaaS guy with an interest in business process software and the culture shift needed to ease adoption of “Enterprise 2.0”. Sorry but there’s a bunch of things that simply aren’t in my sphere of interest. Please do some research and read my stuff to get a feel for what will interest and be relevant to me
    2. I live in New Zealand, that’s a long way from SF and is in an entirely different timezone – if you want to engage me in a pre event briefing (something I’m not at all against), please take the time to work out when might be a suitable time for me. While I’m a very early riser who partly works in Pacific time, 3am is not a good time to be showing me the latest micro-blogging service for enterprise
    3. Find out ways to engage me when you’ll get good attention. I’m a fitness fan and jog most mornings, especially when attending high-stress events like Enterprise 2.0. If someone comes to me and suggests a chat over a leisurely 5 mile run they’re likely to capture my undivided attention – it’s a good opportunity!
    4. Work out what pushes my buttons – we all get jaded from lots and lots of calls and a million and one “me too” offerings. Find some way to reach out to me (and Cocktails are definitely NOT my thing) and your chances go up exponentially. I’ve written fairly extensively about a couple of companies lately precisely because their PR people connected with me in all the right ways – this is in no way a “pay for play” situation, merely a way to ensure you’re heard above the hubbub

    And the result? I posted a shout out to five great people who ticked all the boxes. So here, at the start of 2010, is some more exposure for them:

    • Kate Hobbie – MediaBrew consulting and Aria Systems. Kate is kind of a token offering here. We were already friends from previous connections when she’d spent time talking to me about SaaS billing in her communication role with Aria so there was some context there. However Kate went out of her way, even picking me up from the airport and playing taxi service for me.
    • Rachel Peterson – Nectar communications. Rachel I’d also met previously when talking to Zuora and Sliderocket, two companies she works with. Despite not actually meeting up with Rachel this trip, she went out of her way to facilitate things for me, even arranging for me to meet Sliderocket CEO, Chuck Dietrich for a great run on the Presidio
    • Alison Mickey – Schwartz communications. Alison saw my post and REALLY went out of her way to understand what I’m about. She sent me an email that referenced my area of interest in blogging, and even showed that she’d done some research about my outside interests and hobbies. The briefings she arranged were well resourced and I had enough information before them to make the briefing time valuable.
    • Julia Mak – Community manager at LeapFILE. Julia also reached out to talk with me. Her company were originally going to demo at Enterprise 2.0 but for various reasons did not. We still met up and had a good chat about where her company is going, and the chat was tailored to my particular areas of interest.
    • Christie Denniston at Catapult PR. Christie works with ThoughtWorks studios who were demo-ing their GoogleWave integration at Enterprise 2.0. Despite being remote from the conference, Christie went out of her way to ensure I had everything I needed, as an aside it was pretty disappointing that despite her staunch efforts, the team from ThoughtWorks never delivered the resource they had promised for my post – you can’t pick your clients huh?
    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • Summer Fun – Rant Redux #1


    It seems only fair that while I’m off enjoying a (Southern Hemisphere) summer road trip, I should continue to provide my readers with some thoughts.

    I figured seeing I’ll be a million miles from anywhere, and unable to access decent connectivity, that a series of my ranty-est posts, with some new rants thrown in for good measure would be appropriate.

    So here goes – in an effort to annoy many, provoke thought in more, and just give a rest from the tedium for everyone else, here goes the Summer Rant Redux Series….

    This one isn’t a repost – but is fresh. I was watching the coverage from the 2009 Le Web conference when I saw an interview that Mike Arrington did with YouTube founder Chad Hurley. It got me thinking lots about the Silicon Valley echo chamber, putting people on pedestals and rich kids and their games.

    You see, after selling YouTube to Google for $1.65B, Chad decided to take the money and really make a difference to the world by… investing, among other things, in a Formula One team. Le Web organizer Loic Le Meur interviewed Hurley and asked what made him want to invest in a F1 team. In what has to be seen as the epitome of vacuousness, Hurley responded that:

    I’d been wanting to do something related to sports, I just couldn’t decided (sic) which one

    How’s that for passion huh? Even better – watch the video (at about 2:00) when Hurley demonstrates his total and utter ignorance of anything about F1 other than the money – rich boys toys huh?

    All this got me thinking about a post that Tara Hunt wrote. In a “biting the hand that feeds” move, she questioned what she was seeing at Le Web and explained her reasons for leaving Silicon Valley saying that she was:

    surrounded by a group made up of people who weren’t incredibly positive, who threw their power positions around to feed their own egos (and keep their power) and were more focused on being famous/recognized/etc than they were on making the web a better place

    Whatever happened to Tim O’Reillys impassioned plea to “make stuff that matters”? Whatever happened to humility, to passion, to making a difference?

    Now I’ve been lucky enough to spend a reasonable amount of time in the Valley and know that there’s beautiful people doing fantastic work on stuff that really makes a difference. problem is there’s the usual suspects of limelight dwellers who get the bulk of the attention.

    So here’s to a 2010 that sees more balance, more utility and more equity. (Oh and sees Chad put his money into something really worthwhile).

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • WebFinger – Paradigm Changing?


    I wrote a post recently about what billFLO is doing for small, Mom and Pop owner of Do it Best stores. This, along with some pretty exciting discussions I’d had both as part of The Small Business Web and privately with some other people, got me thinking about the reality on the ground for SMBs.

    The discussion soon got on to federation and OAuth as a great example of what openness can do. Further discussions got on to looking at WebFinger as a continuation of that openness and as a tool that is immensely empowering for SMBs. You see WebFinger is a way to attach meta data to an email address such that authentication, provisioning, billing, integration and a whole host of high value, and high drag, operations can be automated.

    From the WebFinger project page:

    WebFinger is about making email addresses more valuable, by letting people attach public metadata to them. That metadata might include:

    • public profile data
    • pointer to identity provider (e.g. OpenID server)
    • a public key
    • other services used by that email address (e.g. Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug, Twitter, Facebook, and usernames for each)
    • a URL to an avatar
    • profile data (nickname, full name, etc)
    • whether the email address is also a JID, or explicitly declare that it’s NOT an email, and ONLY a JID, or any combination to disambiguate all the addresses that look like something@somewhere.com
    • or even a public declaration that the email address doesn’t have public metadata, but has a pointer to an endpoint that, provided authentication, will tell you some protected metadata, depending on who you authenticate as.

    WebFinger could, and should be the holy grail that industry groups like The Small Business Web leverage in order to finally provide a simple, accessible, low drag software platform for small businesses. SaaS vendors in all functional areas should be looking at the WebFinger initiative, thinking about what billFLO is enabling for invoicing, and parsing the two in light of the space they’re in.

    Believe me, the software world will be a magic place when this stuff finally happens.


    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • It’s About Focus – SMBs, SaaS, Knitting and Dogfood


    Awhile ago I posted a bit of a rant about an experience one of my businesses was having with a particular ISP who didn’t seem to understand the concept of customer service. Briefly I told the sorry tale of woe that we experienced with our site hosted on a traditional ISPs VPS offering.

    I got a bunch of comments on that post, but one really got me thinking. Ben Reid, Founder of Memia a cloud development company, left a remark asking:

    ?Why aren’t you eating your own dogfood?

    Meaning why aren’t I, as a cloud evangelist, using a true cloud hosting service. I’ll not dwell on the definitional issues here – a number of people commented that a VPS is cloud hosting – that’s one debate I’ll leave aside for now.

    What I did want to talk about was Ben’s contention that our business should be using cloud as a philosophical decision.

    I responded to Ben saying that:

    Oh but we are totally eating our own dog food. The dog food that says “A business should stick to it’s core”. You see Cactus is in the business of making the best outdoor equipment in the world – NOT of being a great sysadmin.

    Yeah I’m a cloud evangelist, but first and foremost I believe that a businesses should focus on what is valuable to them. SaaS is valuable precisely because it avoids the need to have in house IT – moving hosting from (supposedly) supported hosting to completely unsupported and self administered cloud infrastructure makes little sense unless the organization in question is specifically in the business of systems administration. We’re not.

    This got me thinking about a conversation I had with Ian Sweeney, CEO of billFLO (more on them here). We were discussing the strategy that SaaS vendors selling to SMB customers should use when messaging their products. As Ian said:

    As vendors, I think we all agree that Saas works really well for us (easy upgrades, no OS compatibility issues, etc) but we haven’t thought much about what traditional SMBs want. Speaking to traditional SMBs (builders, carpenters, retailers, etc.) they don’t care either way about always on, available anywhere SaaS offerings.  They only care about software that gets their tasks done quicker.

    If the Saas offerings (working together) can outperform desktop software in that dimension, then it will hit the mainstream. And I think we can, with our unfair advantage of connectedness and open data.

    So… dogfood huh? I’ll see Ben’s original dogfood and raise him a knitting – businesses should stick to their knitting and not try and do stuff that isn’t core to their point of difference.

    Oh and SaaS vendors, if you can’t articulate that value in terms SMBs can understand, you’ve got a big problem.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • CloudCamp Australia/New Zealand – Taking it to the Next level


    logo_cloudcampI’m pretty excited to tell that I’ve been appointed as Australia/New Zealand organizer for CloudCamp.

    For those of you who don’t know, CloudCamps are events that allow:

    early adapters of Cloud Computing technologies [to] exchange ideas. With the rapid change occurring in the industry, we need a place we can meet to share our experiences, challenges and solutions. At CloudCamp, you are encouraged you 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.

    CloudCamp was founded by an impressive line up of cloud computing aficionados and I’m stoked to be part of the next stage of CloudCamp development. See the video below that Dell Cloud Computing Evangelist, Barton George, made of CloudCamp founder Dave Nielsen:

    I attended the Auckland CloudCamp earlier this year and helped organize the Christchurch event. 2010 however should see CloudCamp broaden its base.

    I’m planning on there being 10 or so CloudCamps in my patch in 2010, and am keen to hear from people on the ground in different cities who would like to arrange an event. It’s a pretty easy thing to do – all you need is a venue, some refreshments, the odd sponsor keen to chip in to make it happen and, most importantly, some people who are interested and excited about what Cloud Computing means.

    Anyone with some ideas on potential locations, a willingness to pitch in, a desire to attend or any other interest in CloudCamp Australasia 2010, just flick me a line. Oh and any vendors who want to have a chat about sponsoring an individual event or, perhaps, the regional initiative – also feel free to get in touch! Already we have a tentative CloudCamp Canberra for the end of January, anyone who wants to be involved in that, or has any other suggestions, just flick me a line ben AT diversity DOT net DOT nz

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • Sliderocket – It’s Not just About Slides

    Image representing SlideRocket as depicted in ...

    Image via CrunchBase

    I wrote a post earlier this year questioning the validity of the seemingly multitudinous numbers of applications offering a PowerPoint alternative – it just seems to be an exercise destined for futility. At the time, and after a brief glimpse of the Sliderocket offering I lumped them in with this class of service.

    When I was in the bay area a month or so ago I spent some time with CEO Chuck Dietrich and really got to take a deep look at where they are heading – the discussion we had culminated in Chuck writing a guest post for us recently. It also culminated in me changing my view as to the viability of Sliderocket as a business and in fact my impression of what they’re all about.

    Yesterday saw the release of the next chapter in that story, Sliderocket released Slide Audio, a new feature enabling users to easily record audio to slides quickly. In one fell swoop Sliderocket goes from a traditional presentation tool to a complete, integrated and automatable presentation offering. Of course users could always drop an audio file into an existing presentation, but this allows on the fly audio recording with a presentation. As I said (admittedly somewhat effusively) to Chuck this morning:

    in one fell swoop you’ve taken on Camtasia and Webex (kind of). It’s a really compelling change… you’re not a visual presentation product anymore so much an end to end virtual presenter platform… if that makes sense

    I asked Chuck for a soundbite that encapsulated where they’re going with this – his response:

    People want to consume information when they want it – our TV is on-demand, our movies are on-demand. Now, companies can easily create sales pitches and other content to be viewed on-demand by prospects, customers, employees, when they want it. With SlideRocket‘s new Audio feature, we’re giving sales & marketing teams, educators, trainers and more the ability to easily add an informative and personalized audio track to their beautiful and engaging presentations and we’re making it possible for viewers to absorb this information on their own time.   Best of all it’s as easy to make as click of button. 

    It really is the start of a time where users can consume their information at will and on-demand. It’s doing to presentations what Wikipedia did to limited library hours and inaccessible Encyclopaedia sets. It changes expectations and changes the paradigm.

    Of course it’s not as easy as that and the biggest issue facing Sliderocket is that they’re seen as simply a PowerPoint replacement. Sliderocket waxes poetic about the opportunities for this on their post saying:

    Using presentations as a vehicle for sales pitches? Win deals. Sell More.

    Using slide audio, you can create presentations with personalized sales pitches that your prospects can view and then forward around to their colleagues. With audio on each slide you can have different spokespeople for different slides to help your message come alive. Your sales team will be selling and closing deals in their sleep, thanks to SlideRocket’s on-demand presentations.

    Using presentations to train your employees? Keep them engaged.

    Build reusable training presentations in minutes that have all the details needed to successfully train your employees or customers. Forget about boring bullet points – thanks to your audio, you can use less text on your slides with engaging images to help keep the audience attentive.

    Using presentations as a communication tool for your customers? Keep them in the loop.

    By simply sending your customers a link to your presentation, your audio will walk them through the details of your message, slide by slide. Now, your entire organization can be on point, with consistent messaging.

    Check out a sample presentation here – it’s a little cheesy but gives you an idea of what audio + presentations can mean.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • Carry The One – E-Commerce Integration FTW


    I’ve spoken many times before about the power of integration and what it can bring to businesses. I’ve also whined about the inefficiencies caused by separate, integrated services – one of my own businesses is a good example of this pain – having to receive e-commerce orders, manually enter them into and accounting package, manually process the payment and manually update the e-commerce engine is annoying, inefficient and just plain dumb.

    Hoping to help some of that angst is Carry The One, a UK startup formed only a couple of months ago that already has built connectors for a number of shopping carts including osCommerce, Zen Cart, Magento, CRE Loaded & Shopify. Carry The One links online store with accounting and bookkeeping software – so all orders are automatically imported in real time. The supported carts are integrated with a bunch of accounting/invoicing applications including Xero, KashFlow and FreshBooks with e-conomic soon to come.

    Carry The One is priced at $20USD/GBP12 per month – a not insignificant sum but justified by Carry The One director Ed Saper for two reasons:

    • Until now this shopping cart integration has been cost-prohibitive for many, as using developers to build a bespoke integration costs anywhere between £10,000 and £100,000
    • The time savings alone to be found from an integrated solution greatly outweigh the cost of the product

    A Carry The One beta customer, Pai Skincare, comments that:

    Internet sales delivered strong growth for our business in 2009. This rapid increase in direct sales necessitated the hiring of new staff which was costly in itself. As orders grew, invoicing errors started to creep in which were an expensive aggravation. CTO has transformed our internet retail offering and enabled us to redeploy staff where they can really add value and drive growth.

    The Carry The One setup looks pretty easy as the screencast below shows:

    Carry The One are bullish about their offering, especially given that it’s the holiday season when some statistics show 60% of total annual turnover being generated – the ability to smooth and speed the back office process is of real benefit to businesses.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • Cloud Central – Answering the Geo Issue


    Cloud computing is the theme de jour – but one of the most common stumbling blocks to its adoption are the concerns around where data is located. In the US and Europe this isn’t too much of an issue but for those of us living in slightly more *isolated* regions, it’s an ongoing theme.

    Just the other day I heard of a Government contract for SMB software specifically stating that only vendors who located their data in New Zealand could tender for the contract. Regardless of the validiy of the concerns – it’s an area that is going to keep cropping up as cloud computing becomes more prevalent.

    I was interested then to talk recently with Kristoffer Sheather, Founder of Cloud Central a new company in Australia making efforts to offer a complete cloud environment to serve the needs of local companies and government agencies.

    Cloud Central have spent nine months developing an infrastructure to deliver a scalable, secure, and high performing cloud environment specifically for the Australian market. Their primary facility is located in Canberra and is co-located within the TransACT data centre offering the usual security features.

    They’re in private beta now and looking to launch a public beta early in January. They’re targeting small business and specifically IT related businesses – graphic designers, web developers, software shops etc. They have an out-of-the-box template which comes prepackaged with:

    • Windows Server 2008 R2 x64
    • CentOS 5.4 x64
    • Ubuntu Server 9.1 x64
    • Debian 5.0.3 x64

    At this stage they’re very much an IaaS play only, but in discussions with Sheather it was obvious they’re keen to move further up the stack and maintain a competitive advantage by selling higher value, differentiated services.

    At the moment they’re exploring go-to-market strategies and are looking at partnering with PaaS companies to provide users a vertically integrated offering. I’m on the private beta program and their UI is simple and user friendly – at the moment their billing is entirely based on hourly use – but we discussed the potential of a more flexible offering in the future – perhaps a monthly fee with cloud burst services as an added charge. Current pricing depends on memory and storage and is detailed below:

    • Nano – 256MB RAM, 16 GB SAN storage, 1/8 CCU, 1 CPU core, $0.03 per hour
    • Tiny – 512MB RAM, 32 GB SAN storage, 1/4 CCU, 1 CPU core, $0.06 per hour
    • Small – 1GB RAM, 64 GB SAN storage, 1/2 CCU, 1 CPU core, $0.12 per hour
    • Medium – 2GB RAM, 128 GB SAN storage, 1 CCU, 1 CPU core, $0.24 per hour
    • Regular – 4GB RAM, 256 GB SAN storage, 2 CCU, 1 CPU core, $0.48 per hour
    • Large – 8GB RAM, 512 GB SAN storage, 4 CCU, 2 CPU cores, $0.96 per hour
    • Huge – 15.5GB RAM, 1024 GB SAN storage, 8 CCU, 4 CPU cores, $1.92 per hour

    Key to Cloud Central’s success will be their ability to continue offering a differentiated service and also creating a “one stop shop” where even later adopting SMBs will be inclined to acquire services from them. The location specificity of the offering itself should be enough for them to garner a reasonable customer base.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • Defrag… And That’s a Wrap


    After the recent defrag conference, I traded emails with event organizer Eric Norlin. Defrag was the second Norlin Inc event I’d been to after attending Glue conference in May this year. After defrag I tweeted saying that Defrag and Glue, along with Antipodean event Webstock, are the three best conferences I’ve attended (and I’ve done a few). Eric was flattered, if a little inquisitive, and asked me to explain my reasoning.

    I’ll preface my thoughts by saying that Eric has asked me to be on the advisory board for Glue conference 2010 – eagle eyed readers will know however that I was singing the praises of Eric’s events well before the offer was made – if anything my place on the board will (I hope) drive it to even greater heights. I’m genuinely honored that Eric asked me – and it’s a position I’ll take seriously.

    So what makes a great event?

    Well let me first answer that question by philosophizing a little bit. Most of us genuinely feel a deeper reason to be involved in tech than the money it pays – I’ve had ongoing conversations with people at events who all express the desire to be involved with something that actually “makes a difference”. For me it’s about enabling small businesses to have access to tools formerly the domain of large enterprises. For others it’s beautiful case studies like SETI or the human genome project. Still others feel passion for unlocking collaboration with enterprise. Whatever the reason, these are all “higher callings” as I like to term them.

    If you accept my contention then, it’s not a major leap to thinking that the events we attend should also explore these areas. While I’m happy enough to spend a day discussing enterprise microblogging technologies, or the benefits of OAuth (we’re geeks after all), I’m even more excited to be part of conversations like happened on the first day of Defrag.

    As Matt said in his recent post when opining on Webstock;

    Past events have touched on print media and journalism, television, film, distribution, logistics, central and local government, hardware, retail, libraries and information management, politics and law, games and game theory, organisational psychology, economics, product design, visual design, management theory, occupational therapy, architecture and even horticulture.  Horticulture?  Yes. In this modern-day web of things, even a pot plant can have a Twitter account…. The glue that brings these disparate disciplines together is the web and the wider internet, the potentiality of devices and communication protocols and networks that can be combined and recombined to create new businesses; and to decimate old ones.

    Most of you will have seen the neo-industrial rantings of Andy Kessler (that I later dubbed feudalism 2.0) and the almost poetic counterpoint of Stowe Boyd who bought my requested perspective of social and environmental equity to Kessler’s harsh position. It’s these conversations that really excite me.

    So what for Glue then? After all, “Glue is the only conference devoted solely to solving the web application integration problem-set” as Eric points out. Well I believe that as well as glue between applications and users, we, as technologists, have an obligation to explore the glue that binds our solutions to the outside world, to explore ways that what we do can make things better for people, and to take a long hard look at where we are as a society, and technologies place in that.

    I’d love to have readers perspective on the broader glue, and any thoughts they have for how we can look at and ponder how what we do can drive change for good… over to you all.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more