Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The business of grid

  his blog tends to cover more of the technical-side of grid computing than the business side, and nearly every webcast I've given has been technical.

For those of you who are interested in the business side of grid computing, here's a webcast for you:

Grid Computing in Financial Services--Toward True IT Agility will be an executive level webcast on grid computing in financial services. The speakers include Eric Kristoff (Director of IT from UBS), Stevan Vidich (Industry Architect from Microsoft), and Digipede's own John Powers.

Date: Thursday, November 30th, 1-3pm EST (10am-12pm PST).

You can listen for free or participate for a fee. Either way, register here.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Super! Thanks for asking!

  upercomputing 2005 was my least favorite conference of that year--nothing wrong with the content, which was superlative, but the Seattle Convention Center just wasn't ready for a conference as big as this one was.

The content was great. Amazing numbers of incredible computers crowded the show floor. Bill Gates gave the keynote. I got to see a Blue Gene.

I'm hoping that SC06 in Tampa will be even better.

Even though more of our customers are doing what I consider to be enterprise computing (the storm simulations run by the Army Corps of Engineers are a notable exception), John Powers and I will be at the conference. We'll spend most of our time in the HP booth, where John will be doing some speaking and where I'll be demonstrating our software.

I'm looking forward to meeting more of the folks from Microsoft (I'm sure they'll have a big presence again), and possibly running into some of my fellow HPC bloggers.

Call me (510-816-7551) if you're in Tampa and want to meet up and talk grid! Or, stop by the HP Booth and catch a demo of our stuff in action.

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S-S-S-Something from the comments!

ast Friday's item about Amazon's web services being more important than YouTube generated some interesting comments.

First, of course, was Bill Boebel's comment that his company is now using all 3 of Amazon's web services (see my follow-up post).

Later, Jeff Richards (of Verisign, now blogging at Demand Insights) asked if I lump Salesforce.com's AppExchange in with Amazon's web services. The answer is, by and large, yes. They're creating a platform on which people can build their own online apps. They've got a different angle, though. First of all, the applications built on AppExchange are "pre-integrated with Salesforce." What does that mean? Well, it seems to mean that they're encouraging companies to help Salesforce increase their footprint in the market. You don't write just any app with AppExchange--you write apps that use the principles and entities in Salesforce.

That's not a critique of the system, by the way. In a way, it's genius. They are encouraging other ISV's to increase the value of the Salesforce platform by adding functionality to it.

On the other hand, it doesn't seem like a general development platform--it's geared toward a certain set of applications (and toward people who are using Salesforce already).

Amazon, on the other hand, has developed a completely neutral set of services. Using them doesn't make you more likely to buy a book from Amazon. And, if you build a great app on top of AWS, there's no chance that Amazon will subsequently release software with the same features as yours--the developers running on AppExchange have no such assurances. If you write the next great add-on for Salesforce--you may find that Salesforce decided they need to compete with you!

Next comment: the always entertaining Muli Koppel notes that I missed the most interesting Amazon service of all: Mechanical Turk.
Personally, though, I consider S3, EC2, and SQS as examples for Innovative Execution - amazing, fantastic, chapeau etc. - and yet somewhat inferior to Amazon's Mechanical Turk, which is a sensational breakthrough not only on the practical packaging and delivering level (the other three), but also on the social, economical, existential, anthropological, philosophical and whatever else *-ical level that is relevant to our future life.
As usual, he hit the nail on the head. While S3, EC2, and SQS break barriers, MT breaks an entire paradigm: the idea that computers can't do what a person can do.

I have yet to hear how people are using MT, but I'd love to hear some stories.

By the way, I have to relate one secret about the concept of humans powering computers (a la Mechanical Turk): I invented it. Well, kind of.

As a kid, I loved to pretend I was an inventor. One thing I "invented" was a "computer" you could put any math problem in--you simply wrote the problem on a piece of paper and slipped it through a slot. After a while, the piece of paper would slide back out--with the answer written on it. Of course, the "computer" was a decorated shoebox, the "brains" behind the computer were my own, and it was limited to the math problems that my 2nd grade mind could handle.

It also, of course, lacked a web service interface.

Still, in my own way, I think it was prescient of things to come...

[Image borrowed from here. There's a good shoebox computer story there, too]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Putting your money where my mouth is...

ill Boebel, CTO of Webmail.us commented on my post Friday about Amazon and YouTube. Apparently, he liked it a lot.

This morning he posted that he has sold half of his GOOG and is putting the money into AMZN--simply because he believes that the innovation going on at Amazon is the platform of the future.

Bill's betting a lot more than his personal account. As he indicated in his comment on my post, Webmail.us just released a new data backups system built on all 3 Amazon web services. (There's a great writeup here.) Bill isn't just guessing that Amazon's platform will succeed--he's experienced it, and he's bet his company on it.

Personally, I'd bet with him.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Believe it or not: it's even more important than YouTube

  hile the blogosphere has spent the last few weeks frothing at the keyboard about YouTube, BusinessWeek magazine has put out a thoughtful piece on Amazon's "WebOS" strategy. Check it out, and check out Read/Write Web's analysis.

For a month or so now, the web community has been holding up YouTube as the pinnacle of Web 2.0 successes; I may agree, but only in the everything-is-overvalued-during-a-bubble sense of Web 2.0. YouTube is not groundbreaking technology. It's not groundbreaking social networking. They did a great job of combining the two, however, and got immensely popular extremely quickly. However, like every other social networking site, they will lose that popularity soon enough. YouTube won't be cool forever. And their technology won't make them the defacto medium for video distribution--it's too easy to imitate.

Meanwhile, and with about 1/100th of the fanfare, Amazon has been putting forth some absolutely groundbreaking products: Simple Queuing Service, Simple Storage Service (S3), and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). While the names are completely unimaginative, the products themselves define an entirely new platform for developing online software (I'll refrain from calling it Web 2.0).

By utilizing Amazon's platform, small companies gain tremendous advantages: they use a development platform specifically designed for online delivery, they get access to a scalable and robust hardware infrastructure, and (perhaps most important for startups) they get pay-as-you-go, only-pay-for-what-you-use access to that infrastructure.

And the innovation doesn't end there: Amazon is revolutionizing this industry by leveraging their own infrastructure in a way that enhances their business model. Over the last decade, Jeff Bezos and company have built one of earth's largest sets of datacenters to support earth's largest online retailer: now they are renting out time on that infrastructure. It's gone from being a cost center to a revenue generator. Their expertise in hosting, which was previously dedicated to keeping their uptime numbers up, is now helping to sell product (computer time, storage space, etc) directly.

And, of course, they've invented what is in effect a WebOS and development platform.

Sun is dabbling in this market too, but in a much less revolutionary way. Microsoft and Google have both built ginormous data centers, but neither has made such revolutionary steps toward selling time on them. And neither, as a matter of fact, has gone as far in creating a platform for other companies to use in creating their Web 2.0 software.

So the blogosphere can keep writing about YouTube, right up until YouTube ceases to matter because no one goes there anymore. In the meantime, Amazon is quietly changing the way we'll do business in Web 3.0.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What Does This Mean for .NET? (updated)

ed Herring is reporting that Microsoft and Novell are in talks, and that Microsoft is considering a plan to offer sales support for SuSE Linux. Also: Microsoft and Novell "plan to simplify running the Windows operating system and Suse Linux on computers."

Since both Windows and SuSE already run on computers, I can only assume they mean "on the same computer."

I think this is very interesting, and probably good news. The questions I have are all .NET related:

What does this mean for .NET on Linux? Mono? Something else?

I would love to see Microsoft promoting .NET on another operating system: it would be a tremendous boon to the .NET platform. This seems like the perfect opportunity to me.

Update 2006-10-31 3:25: Savas wonders if the references to "providing patent coverage" means that they are "letting Mono free." I hope he's right. I fear that Scoble is closer to correct: Microsoft is doing some CYA with respect to some of Novell's patents.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Unexpected Nuggets: Vogels and Norton

t's been about two weeks since I last blogged, which I think is a record since I started blogging. That just means that things have been very busy at work (oh, and I had an amazing trip to Vegas with my rock star friends).

And now I have time for just a quickie.

In the last two days I learned something unexpected from two feeds that I read: Ken Norton's Hey Norton and Werner Vogels's All Things Distributed.

First: I learned where Ken works. I read his feed because he's one of the few people around who write a meaningful product management blog. While I've found his content (both about product management and about more personal things) interesting, I've never delved deeply enough to even find out where he does his product management. Well, this week he announced that his company, JotSpot, had been acquired by Google. It's funny that I never knew where he worked--we may have crossed paths at some point: JotSpot and Digipede were both featured at Demo@15. Anyway, congratulations to Ken and the JotSpotters newest Googlers.

Second: I read Werner's feed primarily for his insights into distributed computing. Today's post, however, gave me a new insight into product management. Werner discusses Amazon's process for product definition (whether that product is something that faces the public or even an internal web service): they work backwards. First they write the press release, then they write a FAQ, next they define the customer experience, and finally they write the user manual. Only then do they begin development.

The result?
Once we have gone through the process of creating the press release, faq, mockups, and user manuals, it is amazing how much clearer it is what you are planning to build. We'll have a suite of documents that we can use to explain the new product to other teams within Amazon. We know at that point that the whole team has a shared vision on what product we are going the build.
It's a great perspective on how to ensure that you are building the right product for the right reasons. I can't wait to try it out.

To sum up: two great writers, two great blogs. If your oapmeal doesn't include some Norton and some Vogels, subscribe!

(oh, the picture of the Lamborghini Murcielago. Part of my amazing weekend was having my buddy Sam take me for a ride in one of those. Umm--wow).

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