Value of open source

September 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Darrell Schrag and I had the opportunity to present the “Open by Design” topic at today’s North America Cloud Sales workshop. We were given the stock starting point slides and then made it into our own. It got me thinking about what is it with open source? When I was first introduced to open source ~15 years ago, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. That is, my thinking was based on having done lots of software development in-house and I questioned how I could get value out of “freeware” with generally no support. That may not have been an accurate frame of reference back then, but it’s certainly not accurate today.

One of the key advantages of open source today is the volume of developers making valued contributions. Examples of this scale include 3300+ developers contributing to OpenStack and 2200+ developers contributing to Cloud Foundry. There’s no way any 1 company can expose this scale of developers to an asset. It’s also interesting to note that these contributors are generally very passionate and knowledgeable about what they’re contributing so they’re generally more engaged than a typical in-house application developer and this combination of scale and passion can’t be beat.

Another advantage is the speed and quality enabled by open source. Rather than requiring developers to create from scratch, they’re able to reuse or at least begin from a solid starting point to get their efforts rolling. The open source software has a community of developers fixing and enhancing it so the developer also has the added bonus of quality that’s pre-built into the open source software.

It’s worth noting that not all open source software is the same. I’ve found these advantages with the open source software IBM is using, with this software being enterprise-ready and having a large community of active contributors. Because not all open source is the same, developers need to explore what’s out there but there are may examples of this enterprise-ready software.

Back in the day I would have said “you get what you pay for” and would have thought negatively about open source because it was “free” and didn’t provide support. But in today’s world, the “free” cost comes with a community of developers continually extending, improving, and innovating so it’s a very positive view today.

Ramp up on Bluemix

August 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

I recently attended a Bluemix developer training session at Galvanize in San Francisco. I started my career 28 years ago as a software developer but I haven’t written code in more than 20 years and the languages I used were COBOL, Pascal, and then C and Smalltalk so I had a ways to go. When explaining the coding I was going to do with my golf buddy, he equated it to his travels to South America where he understands enough Spanish to get by but not enough to carry on an intelligent conversation, and that about sums up my current coding experience – understanding enough to see what’s happening when looking at code but not enough to develop code on my own.

The intent of the Galvanize training was to give a sense of what developers would experience today and it definitely hit the mark. During the class we learned and used Agile concepts including pair programming. Prior to the training I was aware of pair programming but hadn’t seen it work to its fullest; the activities we undertook in the training helped to highlight the advantages. I had dug into Bluemix some but not to the level covered during the training and it gave me a much more complete appreciation for what we’re providing to developers. I understood the benefits such as integrated DevOps before the training, but the activities gave a much clearer view of the ease and speed to compose applications leveraging existing services and fairly minor configuration updates. I got to see firsthand a number of Bluemix services, including a few from Watson, and saw how easy it is to create interesting applications.

I had a great experience at the training (and San Francisco is a fun city), but the best aspect for me was the great networking opportunity by being face-to-face with other Cloud Advisors and Bluemix Garage developers. The intent wasn’t to turn us into hard-core developers in a week (and I’m certainly not at that level), but it met its target of providing a much deeper view of Bluemix and a developer’s view of it. The Galvanize training is part of the Cloud Advisor curriculum but even if you’re not a Cloud Advisor I think it’s a great opportunity to learn more about Bluemix and its impact on developers.

Focus on the outcome

July 15, 2015 § 1 Comment

I’m participating in updates and delivery of Cloud PoV training for sellers and one of the key messages we’re conveying is “focus on the outcomes and the offerings will follow”. The premise is that if we focus on what the client is trying to solve/achieve, we’ll better understand their context and can better recommend appropriate actions, whether in the form of solutions, services, or suggestions.

A recent example of this for me comes from a manufacturing client we’ve been engaged. The client is a current SAP customer and is in discussions with SAP about what to do next. SAP is pushing for a move to HANA and has looped us in with the client for pricing of HANA on the cloud. This is a very broad ask so we sat down with the client to understand what they’re trying to do and it became very clear there’s a disconnect with what the client wants and expects and what SAP is selling. The client is facing extreme cost pressures, changes coming from new leadership, and risks associated with old and unsupported hardware and software. The client needs to consolidate currently disparate regions and drive the company’s stock price up. The desired outcome is not about new functionality or a new platform but rather it’s about finding cost savings to the bottom line while lowering risk of outdated systems. With this as the backdrop for their outcome, HANA on the cloud doesn’t appear to be the right path forward.

It’s easy to get pulled into the specific request and take it as gospel, but we need to focus on the outcome to ensure what’s being asked is really what’s needed and that what’s needed is being addressed by the solution, service, or suggestion. Focusing on the outcome also helps so that we don’t fall into the trap of as the client noted “being a hammer and everything looks like a nail”.

Real IoT examples

July 6, 2015 § 2 Comments

If you’re like me you’ve heard lots about Internet of Things (IoT) but maybe you haven’t seen it in action. I’ve had 2 recent clients implementing IoT and to me they’re just starting to scratch the surface. One is a garage door opener company that has introduced IoT into their door openers to allow users to check that their door is closed through a mobile device. They’re using this same technology to allow gated communities to leverage mobile devices to open the gates and keep them secure at the same time. And they’re looking to do even more.

A second client is focused on telemetrics, that is capturing data from remote devices and sending it for central processing. They’ve been using this to track locations of assets such as trucks or containers, and they’re looking to extend even further. The technology and process are widely applicable, which is why they’re currently focused on scale and security of the architecture to ensure it can support 1M devices.

With how things are interconnected today and getting more so everyday, I’m sure we’ll start seeing many more examples of IoT in action regularly.