Sunday, February 19

"Doughnut effect" in Enterprise IT

For decades enterprise IT was the queen bee around which all cutting edge technologies were developed. But just like many cities in the United States were subjected to the “doughnut effect”: the city centre becomes “hollow” as population moves from inner suburbs to the outer suburbs in search of newer, larger or more affordable houses, enterprise IT is going through a similar hollowing out effect.

Consumers & Clients drive technology choices

Today consumers external to enterprise boundaries have access to more choices, more powerful, richer technologies than enterprises. Earlier era was dominated by “processing industries”, where enterprise IT was characterized by “islands of automation” and that was ok as long as the islands supported the critical internal processes. Today with the growth of knowledge based economy, organizations cannot afford to lag behind in terms of being able to connect with stakeholders using latest technologies, where transactions, processes & relationships with all stakeholders, especially those external, need to be rich, dynamic, and adaptable, subject to constant reinvention. Ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive computing throws open unbounded opportunities for innovation across the enterprise. Consumers can now migrate from passive recipient to active co-creator of value.
Yet there is a rapidly widening technological schism between technologies within the enterprises and technologies consumers have access to. Rapid adoption rates of new technologies mobile phones, web based services, communities, blogging etc. is in sharp contrast to the way enterprise IT is stuck in legacy traps and is generally resistant to and suspicious of all new technologies even in the face of obvious end user adoption. In a competitive marketplace IT departments will have lead the way and move fast to close this gap to provide information and interact with consumers on their chosen technology platforms.

Software as Service

SaaS represent another dimension of this technology doughnut effect, where huge monolithic applications are being replaced by external web service providers. SOA & SaaS (Software as a Service) is gathering huge momentum; the buzz on the web is overwhelming. has now morphed into Appexchange with all kinds of services available. . MS has released Office live beta. Google is providing “customized” hosted email service. Rather than look SOA from internal Enterprise IT perspective, the disruption is applications being replaced by “outside-in” services. While conservatives would point to security, data ownership, customization challenges, I believe there are enough instances of Global 2000 going for “Outside-in” services solve the legacy trap issue in single sweep. While the trends are not new or unknown, the tipping point is approaching faster than earlier thought.


While nothing new, earlier outsourcing contracts were designed as a “all or nothing” total outsourcing deals, that essential transferred employees, sold assets to the outsourcer, changing little else. Infosys was among the earliest to promote Modular Global Sourcing where executives have to work hard to “modularize” IT into strategic and logical components that can then be distributed geo-locationally, to perform them where it creates the maximum value. Since then subsequent large outsourcing deals have confirmed this trend where companies have started thinking very strategically about how exactly outsourcing can/should add value.

Innovation Networks

Innovation and continous innovation is critial and this can only be supported by a market ecosystem i.e. Innovation Networks — that matches an enterprise demand for innovation with worldwide supply. "Innovation Networks will let firms fluidly weave internally and externally available invention and innovation services to optimize the profitability of their products, services, and business models. Innovation Networks will deconstruct vertically integrated invention-to-innovation cycles in software, finance, and CPG industries" ( Enterprise will have to facilitate complex webs of relationships among firms, universities, and other organizations for generating and sharing knowledge relevant to innovation.

While intimidating I believe these trends offer a unique unboundless opportunities to “Enterprise IT” leaders to go beyond “business-IT alignment-subservience" to leading businesses to horizons they could never see.

Thursday, February 16

Digital Identity, Reputation meets real world

Check out Is this identity theft or freedom of speech? How far behind is a mashup with Google Maps ;-)

21 million subscribers of, facebook, and other public social networking group don't care about privacy. Reputation is treasured more than privacy and security is taken for granted (government's job)

Sometimes with issues like privacy, security, trust we get confused between "ends" and "means". And the technology possibilities overshoot real world requirements

Internet Freedom and Tech companies

The recent controversy around Yahoo’s role in arrest of Chinese writer, Google’s self censorship, and in the context of “Prophet Muhammed’s cartoon” controversy raises the question of role of industry in furthering values of democracy and freedom of speech. Should industry and companies go beyond mere passive compliance to local laws to a more activist stance?

In the 80s Sullivan Foundation & Sullivan principles represented a voluntary industry effort to oppose apartheid. Religious, gender based discrimination, repressive Islamic regimes, environment, etc. etc. are all equally worthy issues that companies should not shy away from. Passive compliance seems like the easy way out, I believe firms should proactively aim to be a force for “good” while striking a fine balance with respect for diversity and differing value systems. It is difficult, yet responsible leaders will have to struggle with and find the right balance.

As opposed to a voluntary effort the proposed “Global Online Freedom Act 2006 ”, does look like overly intrusive in scope that takes a rather simplistic view of the nuances of issues involved. Check out Rebecca Mackinnon’s (former CNN China correspondent) website for a better understanding of the context and issues involved.

Wednesday, February 15

Universal Identity Metasystem

Recently announced Infocard project from Microsoft aims to provide “a uniform way for people to log on to Web sites, conduct transactions and prove their identities online” and will be incorporated into Vista. According to Kim/MS, Infocard shows the way to a Universal Identity Metasystem.

Kim Cameron’s website, gives a good insight into the thinking that went behind the project. It begins with laws of identity that defines the architecture:

Law 1. User Information should be revealed only with consent & user has control of how and when this information is released
Law 2: Minimize the information revealed
aw 3: Information should be released to only participating entities in the relationships
aw 4: The universal identity metasystem should support “omnidirectional” identifiers (for public entities) and “unidirectional” identifiers for use by private entities
aw 5: The Universal Identity Metasystem should channel and enable interworking of multipleidentity technologies run by multiple identity providers
aw 6: The system should extend to and integrate the human user in a manner that is meaningful to him/her
aw 7: The system should provide a consistent experience across contexts,

The components that implement the above architecture are

1. A way to represent identities using claims
2. A means for identity providers, relying parties, and subjects to negotiate
3. An encapsulating protocol to obtain claims and requirements
4. A means to bridge technology and organizational boundaries using claims transformation
5. A consistent user experience across multiple contexts, technologies, and operators

The Identity Metasystem is built on interoperable Web Services (WS-*) protocols, i.e WS-Trust, WS-Metadataexchange, WS-Security Policy and secured using WS-Security

The first law concerning user consent and control has generated some controversy. What extent of control should user expect over the records of transactions he/she conducts with service providers? What about reputation information like credit score, ebay ratings etc.? What happens when regulations demand users reveal their identification? Does users control over their identity information conflict with someone else’ freedom of speech? Check out for in depth exploration of these issues.

Within large enterprises too identity management aims to go beyond access control, SSO, directory integration and provides scalability and business agility in a way the was not possible with earlier technologies. Whether strong centralized IT departments see the need to re-engineer their legacy identity management systems yet is still unclear. But as SOA paradigm gains momentum federated digital identity cannot be far behind.

Security, trust, authentication, privacy, identity management are all interlinked and among the biggest challenges facing Internet based applications/services, yet the solution has to be “simple, and open” and Infocard from MS looks like a great start.

Other candidates include

Tuesday, February 14

Bill Gates sees end to passwords in sight

"Bill Gates sees end to passwords in sight:

Bill made it clear that he really cares about privacy and security, just as he is committed to helping build an identity metasystem that moves the industry to the next stage of collaboration and reach. ...Now, with Windows Vista, Gates feels he finally has the right weapons to supplant the password as a means of verifying who is who on computers and over the Internet. The new operating system, due later this year, introduces a concept called InfoCards"

For detailed background, whitepapers on Infocard, design principles check out Kim Cameron's blog at

Monday, February 13

Technology Futures and Forecasting

For the zillions of techgurus, futurists etc. out there, here is a publicly transperant way to prove your technology forecasting skills:

My guess is there are some holes in the system: Volumes are low, keyword selection could be controversial, multiple accounts can skew results

This is definitely something that can prove useful, at the minimum some fun.

Thursday, February 9

Blogging issues (Crisis & Ethics)

Companies & their PR agencies are getting savvy (Jim Allchin meets bloggers) in the way they handle influential bloggers, which raises full disclosure & ethical issues for bloggers. A well written article by Rebecca Buckman in WSJ highlights the these issues. (here's the other side of the story)

Anonymity is a desirable feature in blogging. I do not think "credible" and "anonymous" blogger/blogging is an oxymoron. That said clearly people (anonymous or otherwise) should be able profit from their "influence", why should it be restricted to movie stars, athletes, models...

As long as one is not crossing legal boundaries (insider trading, contractual confidentiality etc.) I do not think the ethical issues are as simple as straitjacketed "full disclosure".

As bloggers wade through these issues corporates have to prepare for the consequences. Link to an interesting article on the Economist.

$100 laptop

Nicholas Negroponte's vision for $100 laptop for every child in poor countries has stirred quiet a debate with Bill Gates/Microsoft, Craig Barrett/Intel expressing apprehensions and suggesting alternatives. Others too have chimed in with articulate arguments against the project, yet we do not see equally well articulated arguments in favour addressing the above concerns.

A look at the principals involved in the project gives some inkling why this may be so. Each one is a tech guru/star and for them collectively, an $100 laptop is an interesting technical problem to be solved whose success will not be measured in through effective market adoption and successful usage, but in just having achieved what they set out to do: make a laptop for which governments will pay atleast $100. Maybe the innovative approaches & technologies is something to look forward for, hopefully could even push industry in the right direction: simpler & cheaper.

Wednesday, February 8

Jealousy & Envy

Sometimes I think jealously & envy more than greed (which is mostly good) is a behind seemingly inexplicable actions and decisions of people who should know better.

Two examples

1. The proposal by broadband operators to charge websites money for providing "better" service. "We have to make sure that they [application providers] don't sit on our network and chew up bandwidth," says Whitacre (AT&T), who believes companies like Google and Microsoft should "share the cost" of operating broadband networks.

2. Opposition to Google's Library project. Imagine having all books from the biggest and best libraries, searchable at your fingertips. If there is one thing that should be done to bridge the digital divide it is this: Access to knowledge. Yet it is the authors themselves who oppose! Why?? Here's a better articulated argument for the project

Google Vs Yahoo Vs Amazon Vs ebay

In a interview with FT ebay CEO Meg Whitman claimed "The four dominant internet groups - Google, Yahoo, eBay and Amazon - will increasingly focus on their core activities rather than compete with each other head-on...I think we will end up specialising,...We have specialised in e-commerce, payment and voice communication. Google stands for search, Yahoo largely stands for content - so I think we may on the fringe compete, but I suspect that over time the businesses will become more specialised."

That sounds reasonable, or is it!?!

The more obvious differences are in the revenue models, broadly: Advertising for Google, Ads & paid content/services for Yahoo, commissions for ebay and sales minus costs for Amazon. All these require more than a few geeks working on Ajax, it means different competencies, capabilities, supply chains, distribution, business relationships, alliances and so specializing and focus will definitely help in ensuring efficiency in operations.

Inspite of all efficiencies, effectiveness & strategy will only be driven by two things 1. User Experience 2. Communities, and that is where the differences begin to collapse and all four do begin to look like competition.

Another way to look at it would be that a user reads about the newest, coolest widget on Yahoo, researches about it on Google, while clicking on a few ads there, buys the product on Amazon, and then auctions it off on ebay. I guess it would be easiest for ebay to move upstream, scale up and/or out spanning the entire chain and even into all aspects of e-commerce in manner that significantly impacts even mainstream retailers/manufacturers forcing them to set-up shop on ebay-ville(ebay-halli in Bangalore). I also do feel ebay has the maximum stickiness, durability & network externalities among its community compared to the other three.

It truely is a drama of epic proportions being played on the most exciting theatre: Internet

Tuesday, February 7

Challenges ahead for Web Services Management

Business logic, embedded in services fabric implemented through SOA, is not a monolithic determinstic entity. Rather sevaral externalities like regulation, changing business dynamics, partners have to be addressed in order to minimize continous changes to the core services.

Recent outages experienced by service providers had a cascading impact on downstream mashed-up website raising issues of reliability & availability. Use of external services leads to rise in risks levels that might not be within the consumers (of web services) control. How do you build redundancy in such cases i.e. multiple providers of equivalent services??

There might even be cases where for building in differentiation in QoS parameters to different consumers. This article published by SETLabs researchers gives a good overview of the challenges ahead, also proposes a practical architecture to address QoS issues in Web Services management.
Computing History tidbits

Picture of the first mouse invented by Douglas Engelbart

Intel, founded by Noyce, Grove, Moore was short for INTegrated ELectronics

The first computer hackers emerged at
MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). They borrowed their name from a term to describe members of a model train group at the school who "hack" the electric trains, tracks and switches to make them perform faster and differently.

Original home of Yahoo

Larry Page and Sergey Brin begin collaboration on a search engine called BackRub which later becomes Google.