Google Apps is on Right Track !

Google Apps makes huge sense for Google as business productivity and collaboration suites are one of the most preferable way for enterprises to move into the cloud. Though Google Apps has its sets of shortcomings due to which it is not ready for big ticket enterprise adoption,its more than sufficient for small to medium businesses for which rudimentary colloboration and document management is sufficient for the most part.

Flexible Collaborative work spaces with advanced level of document lifecyle management on the lines of sharepoint online is not available in a single Google Apps component. Google Sites, Google Drive and Google Docs in combination can achieve this to some extent. The tight integration of Google Drive with Gmail raises several question marks from enterprise IT - what happens when an employee leaves ? Does he create new Gmail account for office use? Google Drive is more of a personal storage system.

The TCO for Google Apps can shoot up if the requirement is for advanced level of management,security and compliance. For these third party support has to be purchased . The customer services too does not stack up as well with office 365 as of now.

Offering is evolving rapidly - Google is rolling out new features and discontinuing few existing ones at a rapid pace. Recently it stopped free signup for google apps and is preparing to provide paid customers enhanced levels of support.

As more and more functionlities are baked into Google Apps,need to rely on third party tools and addon solutions for regular usage scenarios such as workflows etc will go down - This will not only make for more integrated enterprise user experience, but also more cost effective as purchasing third party solutions for regular enterprise usage scenarios is already in built.

Offline support for Google Docs in Non Chrome can be the real game changer for Google Apps, should that happen! Concurrent versioning management is another feature on enterprise user wishlist. Google is already working on complaince solution in Google Vault. Encrytion support is another WIP feature. Along with Google App Engine there are possibilities galore to build customized solutions such as Knowledge Management,Reporting, Asset Management. All in all, Google Apps is well on its way to achieve a significant presence in enterpise segment.


Five minds of the future

Five minds of the future provides a useful frame of reference to understand my professional activities .These five minds are - the disciplined, synthesizing, creative, respectful and ethical mind.First three minds mainly cater to the intellectual pursuits and last two relate to our social attitudes.

Disciplined mind is what we use to master a body of knowledge and we are used to this activity right from the beginning of our academic life. Within the IT industry,functions such as delivery, strategy, presales and consulting value different kind of skills set and knowlege base.The challenge as one shifts between them, lies in reinventing yourself - keeping at the cycle of unlearning and learning.

 Synthesizing mind is engaged in cherry picking the right insights from different streams of information and weaving in into a  cohesive story which is more than its parts. I feel that synthesizing mind is also useful in building up knowledge because the more we relate what we know, the more we retain. So when I am scouring through analyst reports garnering the Market and Strategy Insights,I am here. Delivering a crisp session, putting together a winning proposal,researching a topic,writing an article,designing and building software are all in this domain.

Creative mind is engaged in solving the jigsaws of the known unknowns and unknown unknowns. The basics of discipline and synthesizing are prerequisites - as the author aptly quips that to think outside the box we need to know what is in the box first ! So reverse enginnering a framework and using it build another platform would be an example of using creativity in technical domain.

The last two minds are all about values that build personal worth.. the respectful mind - having respect for others and understanding that we cannot individually have all the answers ..the ethical mind - walking the talk  and living up to our values. This is an ongoing quest of personal development and professionalism. 


Is Serendipity your value add?

Make Serendipity work for you  is yet another thought provoking article from HBR. Turns out quite surprisingly that Serendipity is a trade-able "skill", which can be "cultivated".  Serendipity as a skill flourishes in a climate of diversity,non conformism, scarcity, sloppiness and tenacity, however, It takes a life of its own. A close brethren of creativity, serendipity is not really an equivalent of  Luck and also not very conducive to control..This reminded me of Tom Friedman's wise words in "World is Flat" -  "Everyone has to focus on what exactly is their value-add". Serendipity can be a interesting one !



With virtualization fuelling the growth of cloud ,the new slogan is that no one gets fired for buying VMWare (the leading virtualization vendor) makes a lot of sense.  Though In reality virtualization brings its own set of challenges such as VM sprawl, added complexity, security issues etc.

We can think of Virtualization as the bedrock of cloud computing .Essentially it enables the massive pooling of commodity IT resources in data centers of the large cloud service providers -  a case of economies of scale in technology environment. The efficiency gain thus obtained is then passed on to consumers who then avail of these computing resources at much lower per unit costs. Also users only consume and pay for the resources they ask for and as they release them, it is returned to the common pool - reusability is another layer of efficiency as compared to traditional IT setups.

                       Scalability Vs Elasticity in cloud context

Elasticity in cloud computing context is on-demand availablity of virtualized computing, storage and network resources as required where as Scalability allows for capacity to scale as resources supplied to it is increased , so as more resources are supplied the workload the system can process goes up..


A quick Introduction to Cloud Computing

Today, IT usage by business is all pervasive. Whether it is in the form of Utilities that keep the wheels of business running or niche computing where in, IT is embedded in the business processes, optimized to bring value and competitive differentiation - most shades of IT usage by business is here to stay.

Even then, self integrating, owning and maintaining IT internally has been a tough call for firms. In retrospect, The journey so far of IT organizations appears to be more of a labyrinth which branches onwards in complex and confusing ways. If we take the case of IT assets purchases such as hardware, software and licenses, buyers are increasingly preferring standardisation over customization in a bid to cut costs. The automation of internal business processes, connectivity with suppliers, partners and customers usually spawns a whole range of specialized enterprise wide applications, infrastructure and services, which may be sourced from one or more vendors. Unfortunately, the business environment changes too fast for the monolithic IT organization to keep pace with.

Outsourcing has stepped in to address this pain point, but with continued pressure on margins, fixed rates and stringent Service Level Agreements ,which are contractual risk-reward related penalty clauses tied to performance of service delivery, outsourcers' agility has reached a tipping point. These vendors are stepping up all the guns,trying out more radical engagement models, innovative solutions and global delivery.

Beyond these dire moves, vendor strategists have to take a long range view to ensure continued success of the firm. In this backdrop, on the radars of vendors and rightly so, are the small specs of clouds appearing on the technology horizon. Cloud computing simply refers to broad range of technologies that help business information to reside on the internet and that are accessible from anywhere and at any time. Unfortunately, cloud confusion is also central issue because there are multiple definitions and vendors hype floating around preventing building up of common view.

Cloud computing is gaining adoption from bellwether clients. Most adoptions seem to have tested the waters with movement of emails and other less critical data. Still it is a positive sign. What remains to be seen is the how fast the security and multitenancy issues are addressed in a credible manner to assuage the concerns of sectors such as financial services, Insurance etc. Another barrier seems to be the issue of environment sustainability of cloud computing.

The benefits to the businesses are many. It helps free up resources and allows focus on strategic initiatives. It helps businesses to rapidly provision services in response to rising demand and scale down in leaner periods. Ideally, Cloud computing helps them to avail of IT as a variable cost. To provide maximum business value,Vendors need to tap into global innovation networks to rapidly package emerging technologies as standardized process bundles for a sector and offer it on pay as you go model. As noted above,the drive to reduce IT assets costs has led to the trend wherein Hardware and software purchases are increasingly standardized. Now,this trend of standardization is purported to extend to business processes for industries and widespread adoption of cloud computing is expected to further accelerate this trend


Green IT opportunities abound

Its a quiet Sunday afternoon.It has been pouring in Delhi since morning dashing all my plans of a vigorous morning walk in the greeneries.Had to be content with indoor workout and pleased with myself for not letting rains not get the better of my newly developed fitness bug !

Considering that not only traffic virtually comes to a standstill in Delhi on a rainy day but also, snarls and throws angry fumes like a giant dragon of pollution,Rain did get the better of any plans I could have had in the day to step outside & get some odd jobs done.

Well so be it but,Whats all this rain and flooding of a barely claiming its existence river ( Yamuna), I have been seeing for past 5 years all about? Has the river risen in retaliation to silence all the taunts ? May be root cause is somewhere up the stream..Himalayas and the melting glaciers? Or going one step further , it is global warming due to pollution. Finally it really comes down to accepting our collective responsibility towards environment by adopting sustainable growth practices in our personal and professional lives.

As IT professional what's my bit for keeping the environment green? How can IT be more sustainable and green?

Infrastructure layer is the basic layer of IT systems comprising of servers, storage, network, routers and of course datacenters. Infrastructure services have a track record of incurring large capex investments and comes with a shelf life.Eventually it has to be refreshed or replaced.Usually this layer also consumes large amount of energy and hence current research effort in Green IT is focusing maximum attention on this layer.

The thrust of the activities is around cooling datacenter with as low a carbon foot print as possible and also around using excess heat generated from them for greener purposes.The leading companies are showing the way by cooling their data centers in innovative ways. One way is to cool them by using large supply of fresh air obtained from using fans via high-efficiency filters. The building housing the datacenter are being designed with recycled materials and built to use harvested rainwater.Rationalizing the packaging of servers and equipment is also on the green list.

Virtualisation is good in the green world. Growth in hardware performance has been outpacing demands of applications and software and hence dedicated application servers are often under-utilized. Virtualisation provides a layer of abstraction between the server(physical) and application's server name (logical).Hence,the application to server name mapping is no longer hardcoded at physical/IP Level.The application connects to a logical server while physical server is determined at the run time by the virtualisation. The Management layer distributes the workload among servers as per their utilization levels .

Now with virtualisation and increased computing power,we see that processor, storage, networking and memory resources are becoming commodities that can be used as and when needed.

We have seen this before in programming world through object oriented programming in C++, Java and C#. In C#, the object type can be declared as generic object, then runtime turns it into appropriate object type and invokes properties and behaviors. In this scenario runtime manages the abstraction between memory address (physical) and variable name ( logical).

According to Matt Brudzynski, senior research analysts at Info-Tech Research Group, companies in Info-Tech’s recent study, “Achieving The Business Case In Virtualization,” accrued 40 to 75% savings in hardware purchases when deploying a virtualized server farm vs. traditional single-instance servers.Virtualization has been touted as panacea but is not without its problems. The VM Sprawl has spread and systems management of VM environment has its nightmares.

Moving on to middleware, Service oriented architecture is definitely green in as much as it allows reusability of software components. In application layers, usage of automation tools, solution accelerators and framework that reduce development time would in my view reduce energy usage and time of development. A best practices approach involving design for people and build for change is sign of green development. "Build for change" means developing applications that identify areas in which applications would change in future such as business rules for credit lending and designing the application in such a way that its easy to change those rules without changing code. In this regard XML Configuration files such as in .NET applications surely deserved to be flagged as green.

In my humble opinion,Green IT opportunities abound at all layers ( Infrastructure, middleware and Applications) through usage of proper hardware,software,packaging,recycling and sharing of best practices freely. Continuous Industrialisation of IT services delivery and automation can reduce energy consumption and promote a virtuous cycle of green kaizen.