Too hot to go out? – Check this!

16 07 2015

Summer can be cruel. At first it seems to be cold and rainy all days and as soon as it gets nice, temperatures ramp up for new records. Nature has become completely digital – on or off and much too little in-between.

Well, do not yield yourself to despair and see what my friends form Pluralsight have prepared for You.
They know how to cope with digital problems!

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Camp Pluralsight is a 6 week campaign with weekly challenges and prizes. Get access to 36 free IT, dev and creative courses. It is open to everyone including current subscribers.

Weekly challenges and prizes:

  • Week 1: complete 2 PS courses for a chance to win an Apple Watch
  • Week 2: watch at least 200 minutes for a chance to win a $500 ThinkGeek gift certificate
  • Week 3: share Camp Pluralsight on Twitter get a chance to win a Surface Pro 3
  • Week 4: complete a pop culture assessment get a chance to win a Xbox One + Kinect
  • Week 5: complete a Code School course get a chance to win a Sharp 55” Smart TV
  • Week 6: watch a Pluralsight webinar get a chance to win an Alienware X51 gaming desktop

Weekly second and third prizes are annual Pluralsight and Code School subscriptions.

Complete at least 2 of the challenges above and you are entered into the grand prize drawing for:

1. Trip to Silicon Valley Comic Con

2. 2 year Pluralsight subscription

3. Han Solo mini-fridge

 Lighthouse. Westkapelle, Netherlands

Summer Camp – nearly as nice as being on the beach!

😉

Alexander

 

Btw.:
Did I recommend watching my Pluralsight State Machine, Mobile Security and Windows Embedded Standard courses?
Have a look at them and have great fun!

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Buzzword Bingo: The Cloud

19 11 2013

The next term in my Buzzword Bingo series is “The Cloud”. Cloud is often used in combination with a problem. Problems nowadays are solved by putting them into “The Cloud”, right?
This is mentioned especially by people who have only a vague understanding of both, the problem and Cloud, but want to get rid of the first one.
As you may already have guessed, this simplistic approach is going to work only in a few cases.

But let us take a step back and have a look behind the curtain, what “The Cloud” really is:
Technically I tend call it “good old application service providing (ASP) on steroids”, because clouds are run mainly not by the small ASP company around the corner, but by multinational giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Deutsche Telekom.
There are three main areas of service:

  • Software as a service (e.g. mail server hosting, shop systems, accounting systems, CRM) targeting end customers
  • Platform as a service – computing power and storage for developers
  • Infrastructure as a service (hosting of virtual machines, directory services, networking and connectivity) for enterprise IT departments.

Technically “The Cloud” is a no-brainer. Get a good Internet connection and all you need to develop a solution, build an infrastructure or using a service is at your fingertips.
All assets much easier to handle and quite often at much lower rates as your company could do it by themselves! This is due to the fact that large data centers are really run to fulfill the highest efficiency, scalability and availability standards, which is a goal hard to achieve for smaller to mid-size companies.
From a development perspective there is not a real big difference working in “The Cloud”, if you are used to create scalable solutions on-premise (btw. that’s the new buzzword for running at home :-)). Your software is deployed / runs just somewhere else, or you are using infrastructure or other services provided externally via an Internet connection.
So far, so good, but here is the point where the issues start. Even, living in “The Cloud”, you should understand the problem you want to solve and tackle it with skills and experience.
In addition to this, there are quite a few non-functional aspects you should be aware of while creating business-critical solutions:

  • Your data is stored externally and therefore is at a higher risk to be compromised. This requires you to plan for advanced security standards to avoid industrial espionage. At least, you should give the spooks a hard time getting it.
    It also helps to work with and store only raw data in a cloud system, e.g. to do any heavy computations/aggregations and to bring results back on-premise for final analyzing and decision making.
    Then, store your conclusions, plans, roadmaps and any business sensitive data on-premise!
  • The pricing models of all Cloud providers differ and work in a way which is quite different to the classical on-premise approach (one solution – very often run on two servers (to have failover) in the data center :-)).
    “The Cloud” is measuring computing cycles, instances, transactions and storage space.
    Therefore, it is absolutely recommended to compare provider offerings having these data for your solution ready at hand! Which means, you should have a rough understanding what the new solution requires.
    To get this data, do a load test with your new service! Load tests are a great tool even for saving money, if you use the results to re-factor the solution to use less of the costly resources. This can be done by changing aggregation algorithms, doing batch transactions and compressing data at the right time and places.
  • Legal issues. If anything goes wrong, you should be able to get your right!
    This is, of course, more difficult, if you have to cope with foreign legislation. Therefore always try to get a local contract binding both sides to local jurisdiction. This is not an easy task, negotiating with a multinational, but I have a feeling that they are slowly getting it.
  • Even “The Cloud” may fail (power outages, hurricanes, meteors, you name it) and experience outages. Or, more trivial, a construction company decides to dig a whole where the Internet connection enters your building, which is even more likely.
    Although the normal operation mode for cloud systems is always on, always online, it is more than wise to choose a hybrid approach being able to provide essential functionality on-premise. Ideally on-premise functionality should be able to handle emergency operations for the solution, which means that speed, comfort, usability might be compromised, but the system still is able to do the most important things.
    This is something one needs to keep in mind while architecting the solution, but it absolutely pays off and even could save lives, in case things go wrong.
    And of course – emergency mode needs to be tested! 🙂
  • Put only applications or services into “The Cloud” that are able to use the benefits of this technology. The Access database wit 5 Users or other small footprint applications / services can stay where they are.
    Everything else is economical nonsense.
  • Bandwidth. We tend tend to believe that bandwidth is not an issue anymore, but if one puts more and more services into “The Cloud” there will be a tough awakening, as soon as the Internet pipe dries up. So, plan for it!

Let us sum it up, “The Cloud” is technically absolutely the next quantum leap for the IT industry, but it is not the sole asset to make you happy! 

From my perspective on business-critical solutions, it should be best practice to choose a differentiated, hybrid cloud / on-premise approach that leverages the benefits of “The Cloud” without sacrificing data security and emergency availability.
Just use your common sense and you will be on the right track with it!

 

Alexander





Buzzword Bingo: BYOD

12 11 2013

Bring Your Own Device! That idea is simply out of any CFO’s dream. Employees bring their own devices to work . Yes, they may get some subsidizing, but at the end this is much cheaper and efficient for the company than buying devices.
In addition, all employees are also unbelievably happy, because they can choose the device they want and love, therefore this is a win-win situation for everybody.

Is it? I am not sure.

And what makes it worse, I have not seen any reasonably-sized company where BYOD is working. If one does the reality check, BYOD projects in companies quite often focus on mobile devices and tablets – but do people do their real work with these devices? Well, not really.
Most work is still done on a PC or laptop due to the much better input experience provided and most business relevant software is running there. Due to this, you need to convince your employees to buy a laptop and a mobile device/tablet to work with, which does not seem reasonable, either.
Yes, I hear you shouting that this is because the lack of business apps for mobile devices and as soon as these will come everything will be great.
If you ever have taken a deeper look at what the app frameworks of any vendor are able to provide with respect to functionality, you will be disillusioned.
It is currently (and in the foreseeable future) not possible to write sophisticated business apps or tools, where you need to cope with complex business processes and heavy data input. In addition to this, the deployment of any custom app (the one that should only be available to your company)  is ridiculously complex and expensive.
This is true, even if you are staying in one vendor’s device group.
The next thing is security. Companies do not want to mix their data with your personal data and vice versa. This point is not easy to solve and may require companies to buy additional software solutions (e.g. security containers) to protect their data.
Unfortunately, many container solutions are only secure as long as the documents are stored in the container. If opened by a viewer app the document lands unencrypted in the app’s cache or even can be stored somewhere else, e.g. on a Cloud storage location, which of course are built-in into a lot of today’s platforms.
And from there? Well, say hello, to secret services or anybody else looking for interesting information.
Due to all of these issues BYOD, in many cases is a CTO’s nightmare and I have not even really touched on system management (patching and maintaining the systems) or legal stuff.
Let us play through some scenarios. 
If your CEO’s phone is broken, will he go into the next electronics store and buy a new one? Will he be automatically able to connect to all important services he needs. I would like to see that – it might already end at the configuration of his email account.
Or, what about the accountant with the broken laptop. She has only time to renew it over the weekend. Shall all other employees wait to get their wages until she has replaced the device and installed everything?
OK, both scenarios are somehow extreme, but only if you live BYOD to the max, you will get the maximum benefit, or?
What always bugs me too, is that BYOD has been invented by information workers looking at their limited segment of the economy, where people are rich and can afford to run around with state of the art devices. 
In reality, this is by far not standard and therefore it should not be just imposed as the new way to do things onto the rest of the companies.
But, even looking at information workers, I have a feeling that “Gimme access to my PIM information on my personal mobile device”, is all they really wanted/needed. This enables you to keep in touch with what is going on and then you are able to turn to an appropriated device to do work as needed and be as efficient as possible! 
Those work devices, however, should be owned, handled and secured by the best  people from your IT-department, if you want to get enterprise grade availability, robustness and security. 
I really believe, if you are doing something else, you are giving away control over the value creation process in your company!
And this should be any CEO’s nightmare. 🙂

 

Alexander





Buzzword Bingo: Consumerization of IT

5 11 2013

One of the most prominent buzzwords in the last years is "Consumerization of IT". I think it was invented, after more and more execs brought their IPhone or IPad to work and told the IT people: "I want to have my email and stuff on it, because it looks so cool." They were also rightfully amazed by the ease of installation of apps and thought: Everything should work like this!
Due to the fact that the Apple devices are consumer devices some smart analyst jumped on it and named it "Consumerization of IT" ( my take on it :-)).
While I agree with anybody who wants to make life easier for business users, the term consumerization is the worst choice. This is because it implicates, that any business IT device can be replaced by a cheap consumer device accessing some omnipresent available standard service that solves all problems. This saves cost – and hurray – we have a great efficiency win!

To make this even more compelling employees should bring their own devices to work to make CFOs even happier. The buzzword for this is called "Bring Your Own Device"  (BYOD) and I will dedicate the next blog post to it.

However, if not in the cozy environment of your living or a board meeting room, this approach has some nasty implications.
Consumer devices are not really designed for productive or heavy duty every day use. You normally do not even use them at the office for writing papers etc. because they do not have a great data input experience. They are mainly designed to consume content, right?
This criticism is not even taking into consideration different unfriendly environments that today’s professional IT devices endure in factory or field without complaint.
If you want to use consumer devices there, you will loose productivity, need to protect them and you should be prepared to replace them more frequently. This makes their use more expensive and I will leave it to you to calculate the breakeven point against a professional device in one of your own scenarios. 
We also need take into account that existing services might need to be adapted for the new devices, apps need to be written and certified by the device vendor or custom deployment strategies need to be implemented. This all has to be done, because the “One-Service-Solves-All” backend, of course, does not exist and never will.

As you can see, if you dig into it, the easy consumer stuff story is getting more and more complex! Why?
Because business processes are more demanding than a device game or a content app showing web pages. Wow, who would have thought this?
And it is exactly this, which will lead any consumerization attempt of business scenarios into a big dilemma – oversimplification.
Oversimplification leads to solutions offering processes that do not really fit the requirement scenarios and therefore these are going to fail.
I am really afraid, that a lot of customers jumping the consumerization train will realize this in a quite advanced state of their project and then it is going to cost them significant money.

This said, it must correctly be stated, that in certain end customer facing scenarios apps on consumer devices can be an interesting asset to a business solution, but I would leave them there, as one part of a professional solution.

To me “Consumerization of IT” is a dangerous, very misleading term.

Alexander





Buzzword Bingo

4 11 2013

Analysts like to paint the future in vivid colors and come up with a new “trend” every minute. These trends have turned into a long line of odd buzzwords you find on a lot of company sales, marketing and even strategy presentations.

But wait a minute – are analysts really able to foresee the future? 
I hope you are not too shocked, if I tell you -  they are not.
And, even worse, they do fail from time to time!

I have always wondered that none of them keeps a record which of their analytic reports turned into reality and which not. Somehow strange, or?!?

In addition, I remember times, when I was told to write software factories, because everybody will be doing this, starting then. A few years have passed, and nobody is doing software factories, or? 
In parallel, no analyst foresaw the game changing effect of the IPhone, they even were surprised. So, how could that happen?

While the fact to deduct trends from current data is an important instrument when making business decisions, I do quite often miss a sub-note that these findings are projected and may not come true. They also may not be the only influence factors for whatever you are planning.
Instead, analyst reports are used as sole proof to underpin presented plans or product strategies.

This is the moment when my personal alarm bell rings!
It is good to have analyst data, but it is even more important to use your common sense to determine, if that data is correct and which other things might happen while you are doing, what you are planning to do.
This is not easy, this is hard and needs to be done by skillful people with good insight and deep knowledge of the market you want to play in. In addition, it shows excellence, if they have their own ideas and are opinionated how to create better products or find better ways to handle processes.

Especially, if I find the later during a company/vendor presentation, there is a good chance that they are able to convince me.
If not, and they are just spamming my mind with analyst data, I cannot avoid the impression that they do not have a clue, what they are talking about.

Tune–in for my next blog post, where I am going to put the first buzz-word on the stage. It will be “Consumerization of IT”.
I would be delighted to get Your feedback and comments regarding my view so keep them rolling.

And rest assured, I am not always right, either. 🙂

Alexander





Merry Christmas and a Happy 2012!

24 12 2011

to all readers of my blog.
May the new year bring more stability, peace and friendship to the world.
Keep cool and innovative and change the world into a better one!

Alexander

Star





Carl rocks using Silverlight

24 10 2007
People always think that software technology is somewhat dry and boring.
But to prove the opposite, it can be quite exciting, when used in a skillful and innovative way. See this very impressive showcase by Carl Franklin, a fellow RD from Conneticut. He has recorded a Steely Dan tune using the newest Silverlight technology. The video is amazing and Carl truly a fantastic musician.
 
Have fun watching it! Cooles Smiley
Alexander