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Thursday, August 23, 2007


The content management system market seems to be on the course of a rebound.
- Amadeus Capital Partners and Northzone Ventures, together with Peter Larsson (founder of Protect Data, mobile security tech startup acquired by CheckPoint for $585M last year) have acquired a majortiy stake in EPiServer. It is a later stage deal for two VCs known for early stage.
- There are already about 1300 CMS firms in the market
- Service spend :The industry average ratio was 1 to 5 (for every one product dollar there's five dollars for services (This requires a discussion – high end system implementation may not possibly follow this pattern)
The matrix gives an idea about the features of EpiServer.
This is a space, where surprisingly hosted vendors have not made huge progress thus far. The reigning wisdom in the corporate world is to avoid building a Web content management system in-house. It will be costly and pose problems with maintenance, enhancements, connectivity and migration in the long term. In this era of digitization, content management systems are becoming a fixture in every enterprise. Homegrown systems come with a huge disadvantage. It may not be optional for every enterprise to maintain its own long-term road map for multiple and complex systems in a constantly evolving ecosystem.The dawning wisdom is for such costs to be better spread over a number of implementations by vendors whose survival depends on committing greater resources to the effort than any one enterprise can sustain.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Internet Traffic Dynamics

Comscore releases the top 50 websites visited for july. Key things that struck me therein:
- Interesting to see Burger King site getting 700% more traffic in a month!. That apart the findings have insightful information:
- Month- to –month, the internet unique visitor traffic has gone by 1%
- Job Search Sites Experience Growth
- Facebook grew 9 percent in unique visitors and gets into the top 20 websites league.
- The top 4 – Yahoo, Google, Time Warner and Microsoft all have unique visitor traffic that’s within a striking distance of each other.
- Google Ad Network, which includes Google Adwords and Google AdSense Programs, joined the ranking this month at number four, reaching 73 percent of the U.S. online population. Yahoo is seen to be giving a credible fight here.
- Mapquest and Kontera also entered the ranking in July at positions 32 and 38, respectively.

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You Can’t Have It Both Ways

The NYTimes writes about WikiScanner, a new Web site that traces the source of millions of changes to Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. The site, Wikiscanner, created by a computer science graduate student, cross-references an edited entry on Wikipedia with the owner of the computer network where the change originated, using the Internet protocol address of the editor’s network. Wired points out that the new data-mining service traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations . This is downright scary – so I looked at the protection policy of Wikipedia.
Administrators can protect pages to restrict editing.
- Full protection disables editing for everyone except other administrators. Fully protected images cannot be overwritten by new uploads.
- Semi-protection disables editing from anonymous users and registered accounts fewer than five days old.
- Move protection protects the page solely from moves. Fully protected pages are move protected as well, by default.
- Cascading protection fully protects any page transcluded onto the protected page.

Clearly for the volume of content that Wikipedia is hosting, this is far too impractical to implement. Wikipedia is a very useful site – I do refer it whenever needed, but slowly it’s edge seems to be fading. Its key strength of parading collective intelligence, come to think of it appears to have been arm twisted by people/entities related – so it clearly loses its reliability factor as one source to look for reliable content and data. It is an irony that its core strength of being able to invite lot more people to contribute is actually hurting it. Cardinal principles can never go away - As they say, “You can’t have things both ways”.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Race For Offshore Talent

Some time back offshore majors found that financial services company attract talent with better salaries and higher glamour quotient, much to its chagrin. The war for talent is intensifying in the indian markets.Businessweek writes about the war for talent in india. The article assesses the approach of western majors and indian headquartered majors in attracting talent.

When I heard IBM's presentation at a job fair, they talked a lot about their brand and innovation but not much about training," says Sanjay Joshi, 22, a graduate of MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bangalore. "That's why being at Infosys is the Indian middle-class dream."
Satisfying high career expectations can be tough. Just a few years ago, IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard , and Coca-Cola ) could lure all the top Indian grads they needed on the strength of their names. "Now multinationals are losing talent because they made false promises about careers," says Soumen Basu, who heads Manpower's India office..

While currency commotion is hurting offshore majors, going by Businessweek, their inherenet strength in attracting and retaining talent seems to be helping the offshore majors. Three of the top five offshore headquartered players find a place in the S&P Promising Growth Portfolio. I have written in the past that the Indian headquartered companies have been extremely innovative and ruthlessly efficient in scaling up their operations. Building showpiece campuses the size of many U.S. colleges is just one way big Indian employers are battling to hold on to budding engineers, designers, and finance specialists. Not long ago, India's skilled labor supply seemed limitless. Today, companies face high turnover, escalating salaries, and shortages of qualified workers and managers. Less than a quarter of companies surveyed in 2006 in India by McKinsey & Co. said they were meeting recruiting needs. By 2010, McKinsey predicts, India will face a shortfall of 500,000 staff capable of doing work for multinationals.
Gautam Ghosh does not seem to agree with the conclusions drawn by Businessweek.
As I wrote earlier, after all winning the people war is a crucial determinant of success for any organization. In most of the knowledge business, the future value of enterprises are centered on building seemingly intangible assets vs the conventional measures of capital assets. Thats where good, capable people, well aligned team, well conceived strategy and top quality leadership matters.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Facebook Source Code Leaked

Techcrunch breaks the news that some parts of facebook code appears to have been leaked. Facebook is the new darling of the web 2.0/ social network movement and is clearly a high profile player in the segment. Naturally, it has become a magnet for attacks against its systems. This is shocking to say the least. Nik Cubrilovicpoints to number of clear ramifications here. The first is that the code can be used by outsiders to better understand how the Facebook application works, for the purposes of finding further security holes or bugs that could be exploited. Since Facebook is a closed source application, without access to the code security holes are usually found through a process of black-box testing, whereby an external party will probe the application in an attempt to work out how the application behaves and to try and find potential race conditions. In closed source applications it is common that developers rely on the closed nature of the application to obfuscate poor design elements and the structure of the application. An attacker getting access to the source code more often than not leads to further security holes being discovered. The second implication with this leak is that the source code reveals a lot about the structure of the application, and the practices that Facebook developers follow. From just this single page of source code a lot can be said and extrapolated about the rest of the Facebook application and platform.
Brandee Barker of Facebook responds that some of Facebook’s source code was exposed to a small number of users due to a bug on a single server that was misconfigured and then fixed immediately. It was not a security breach and did not compromise user data in any way. The reprinting of this code violates several laws and we ask that people not distribute it further.
In the past giants like Microsoft , Cisco have suffered from source code leaks. Both of them rallied back quite well. I agree with Nik that this leak is not good news for Facebook, as it raises the question of how secure a Facebook users private data really is. If the main source code for a site can be leaked, then it can be said that almost anything is possible. Most large scale applications suffer a breach at some point or another, since the odds are always stacked in favor of attackers, but companies can respond in a number of ways and the hope here is that Facebook will handle this situation gracefully.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Enterprise Software : Complexity & Effectiveness

Just came across this interesting article on the state of the enterprise software industry. The article raises the question, Is enterprise software just too complex to deliver on its promises? After all, enterprise systems were supposed to streamline and simplify business processes. Instead, they have brought high risks, uncertainty and a deeply worrying level of complexity. Rather than agility they have produced rigidity and unexpected barriers to change, a veritable glut of information containing myriad hidden errors, and a cloud of questions regarding their overall benefits
Cynthia Rettig, the author adds, “The way most large organizations actually process information belies that glorious vision and reveals a looking-glass world, where everything is in fact the opposite of what one might expect. Back office systems — including both software applications and the data they process — are a variegated patchwork of systems, containing 50 or more databases and hundreds of separate software programs installed over decades and interconnected by idiosyncratic, Byzantine and poorly documented customized processes. To manage this growing complexity, IT departments have grown substantially: Impressive statistics to support the point: As a percentage of total investment, IT rose from 2.6% to 3.5% between 1970 and 1980. By 1990 IT consumed 9%, and by 1999 a whopping 22% of total investment went to IT. Growth in IT spending has fallen off, but it is nonetheless surprising to hear that today’s IT departments spend 70% to 80% of their budgets just trying to keep existing systems running.
Software’s supposed flexibility and unending ability to manage complexity contributed to the discrepancies between the great expectations and mediocre reality that plagued the first round of implementations of enterprise resource planning systems. The upcoming promise of SOA does not give any substantial relief. SOAs become additional layers of code superimposed on the existing layers. That means it is possible that a process will fail at some point due to some fault in the layers below, and in order to understand and fix that problem, software engineers will need to deal with the layers of enterprise applications below the modular business processes. The advice to CIOs is to get more deeply involved in the business issues and educate executives on what IT is and what it actually does. Corporations see in software’s seductive invisibility and seemingly open-ended flexibility a never-ending frontier of promise, where hope triumphs over reality and the search for the next new thing trumps addressing difficult existing problems”.
All these are not going to stop the increase in IT spending. The advice to business is :
- What do business do now to stay protected for now and to be prepared for the future?
- While context can provide more meaning to answers to such questions, a few guidelines may be in order for the user business.

From a Technology Standpoint:
-There are no more standalone initiatives – look at all initiatives as part of a larger program and assess readiness and commit resources
- Make it a mantra to adopt stronger emerging technologies faster: the likes of mobility solutions, Enterprise 2.0 solutions, BPM etc.
- Business case if non negotiable even for technology assessments
- Security management - at all levels becomes very important
- Technology governance and standards adoption are changing fast – enterprises need to ensure that they follow the progress in adoption.
From a Management Standpoint:
- Rigorous assessment of all investments with strong business case as the anchor.
- Investing in developing and using in industry wide IT value approach is a good practice for enterprises to follow.
- Focus on metrics in value measurement: count the tangibles and intangibles vigorously
- Assess risks for all programs with more rigor – risk mitigation plans, cost benefit analyses all need to be instilled as a discipline for IT investment committees to carefully assess while clearing investments
- An integrated view of costs, risks and benefits need to be made and constantly reviewed – this include, setup and ongoing costs

In reality, misaligned investments and uneven absorption of technology are contributing to the rise of inefficient business and technology architectures. Enterprises need to be focused on service orientation to meet the future needs and ought to focus on innovation around processes in order to stretch IT capabilities to its limits.
Global growth & innovation shall fuel IT spending. As I wrote here, the consumerization of enterprise technology has the potential to open up new powerful combinations. The possibilities of such fusion of different worlds may open up good chances for disruptive innovation - this provides a platform for such an ideal fertile ground that can lead up to a potential business model innovation – so enterprises need to be well prepared to capitalize on such possibilities. What should the CXO’s do in such contexts: Embrace such technologies faster and in innovative ways align them to their business growth plans. Consumer technologies are not a taboo to be shunned - these need to be constantly assessed for their potential for innovative leverage in growing business.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Intel : Cadence & The Tick-Tock Model

Intel is coming back - quite impressively. Paul Otellini talks about the tick-tock model, the analogy being a clock, you know, a pendulum, so that every year, there’s something new. The cadence between microarchitecture and the silicon cycle is referred to as the "tick-tock" model . The term "tick-tock" comes from the steady recurrent ticking sound made by a clock. Each "tick" represents the silicon process beat rate, which has a corresponding "tock" representing the design of a new microarchitecture delivered in a cycle approximately every two years. This model minimizes the risk associated with the introduction of new silicon processes and microarchitectures by alternating the focus from silicon to microarchitecture. So every year, something substantial gets better. And it gets better in a big way. And either it gets faster, it gets cheaper, it gets smaller, it gets cooler, it gets more power-efficient. And that really brings the might of Intel to bear on delivering a very predictable cadence into the marketplace. Paul talks about a wide range of issues in the FT interview, with amazing insights. Some excerpts with edits:
On the need to change and the creativity comes from the outside : Intel has multiple teams, not so much in competition with each other, but parallel to each other, being able to implement new ideas. And this model of leapfrogging now, where we use one site to develop a product, and then the next site, you know, jumps on the next product, and the next site. And then they leapfrog each other. They’re building on each other’s cumulative experience. Internal competition is very healthy and as Paul sees it, things get better by competing internally than externall, and have these good ideas come from within.
- Communications as an integral feature to a computer, particularly around platform architectures, is absolutely essential to what we’re doing. And so I tend to look at things from sort of the machine or the user backwards, as opposed to the products outwards.
- Every television in every living room in the world is going to be connected to the internet at some point in time and it’ll happen first in mature countries, and then –and then spread to others. But the internet as a source of content, particularly user-driven content, is emerging.
- Healthcare is ripe for productivity, but it’s also slow to change for a whole bunch of reasons having to do with privacy and infrastructure. So this one is going to be a long – a longer hike than some of the others.
- The products that Intel builds need to consume less and less energy per desk. But we also need to drive the performance up to be able to do more things with computers. And so that’s been the focus of our energy efficiency, particularly – and it’s obvious in handhelds and notebooks
- The new generation of products that intel is designing are carbon negative!!
Read this the Spectrum of Risk Management in a Technology Company
Paul summarizes this : Our business is such that in the digital – particularly in the microprocessor side of the house, you must constantly reinvent yourself. And you know, we have a – if we do the math, almost – you know, 90 percent of the revenue that we get in December of any year is from products that we weren’t shipping in January of the same year. So if you don’t have this constant upgrade cycle, replacement cycle, built into your mindset, not planned obsolescence, but improvement to the point of driving a need for or a desire for someone to upgrade their computer, then there’s no future. And people could just – you know, it’s kind of like if we stopped building at the Pentium or something, and that was the last product we ever built, computers would not have gone any farther, and people wouldn’t be buying new computers, because they wouldn’t do anything new. So this desire to make things better, to improve, is really built into the DNA of the company. And I think has allowed us to embrace change in a very aggressive fashion, which I think is why we’re – we’ve been able to thrive.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Enterprise Software Industry: Directions

I wrote a brief note in sandhill.com after attendingthe Enterprise 2007 event. Here’s my reflection of the state of the enterprise software industry, as shared by me with the other participants. The note can be read here.

Observers of the enterprise software industry can't avoid the glaringly noticeable trend therein. This is an industry - seen as ever-maturing by some and "never maturing" by others - and an ecosystem that is demonstrating growth indicators which are now becoming visible to all observers. A range of data clearly supports the notion of growth: starting from value added by the industry over the last few years - take the number of people that the industry employs, the projected growth rates, the capital outlay for the industry, and so on.

The consumerization of the enterprise is moving ahead at full speed and may become irreversible. While some enterprises are experimenting with this –wherever adoption has happened the surge in interest appears high promising to make the adoption of such technologies faster and deeper within enterprises. The interesting part of the equation is that a number of newcomers are coming with a variety of solutions but enterprises see before them humongous opportunities for differentiation and for fostering competitive advantage in adopting such technologies.

The role of IT inside business may get more and more strong and the actual disappearance of border between IT & Business may be happening – it’s definitely begun as of now. From IT being a LOB, IT shall be a dominant force in every LOB. While all this is happening, there is a discernible movement that is being felt all across the ecosystem: the customers are beginning to slowly assert themselves in taking control of their IT destiny. Read more here.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Myths About Impending Bubble

John Dvorak writes about Bubble 2.0. To me his perspective looks shallow. Growth won’t be linear everytime and it is sees growth and adoption takes a journey similar to the S –Curve. In such a scenario amidst, failed realization, comes out a few shining success stories.
As I see it, the industry is stabilizing and maturing and resource allocation is getting done with more sound reasoning. Technology continues to evolve and angel and VC investments may not be fully rational(that’s the way these have got to be). There would be some failures but not enough to paint the doomsday for the the industry with a broad brush. Look at this carefully : The previous dot com bubble has very little to do with disappearing markets or businesses going bankrupt. The bubble was all about people that would blindly invest in internet stocks and businesses. After awhile when the overvalued internet companies started to fail, and all that stock was worthless, it caused a huge impact on the economy. Today people are more judicious in their choice of investments and seldom chase unproven web businesses.
We still have that WWW rush as we see more and more services move to the web and the first adopters start to mature - see Wikipedia and Google Maps as second generation web services versus movie rentals like Netflicks, which are a relatively new experiment. The money, on the other hand, is there but everyone is considerably more controlled about their investments. Today investors definitely seek a solid business model or more likely a working implementation first, before large swathe of funds get allocated. All the net majors today are following this – starting from Google, MySpace to Facebook.

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The Bag Of Tricks

To add to the challenge(s) of IT department in managing enterprise systems, the WSJ has come out with a well thought out list of useful hints for employees on getting around the corporate network.
These are the top the top 10 secrets our IT departments don't want us to know. How to surf to blocked sites without leaving any traces, for instance, or carry on instant-message chats without having to download software. Ten Things Your IT Department Won't Tell You is full of advice for the office worker who wants to outwit thecontrols that enterprise managers impose on fellow workers.
Among the tips:
• How to send giant files (Answer: Through any number of free online services)
• How to visit the web sites your company blocks (Answer: Use a proxy site or Google's translation service)
• How to store work files online (Answer: an online storage service!)
How to look like you are working( Answer : Hit Alt-Tab to quickly minimize one window (say, the one where you're browsing ESPN.com) and maximize another (like that presentation that's due today).
It may well be time now for reiterating corporate network usage policies. I did not expect WSJ of all in the media to come out with an article like this – may be a precursor of what’s bound to come with change in ownership?

Note : A lot of friends have written to me asking if am not going to blog, as there are no updates for the past several days. The answer is you will see regular updates moving forward. A combination of circumstances created so much pressure on time coming in the way of blogging last couple of weeks.

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