Clip-Clip

So recently I started cutting my own hair. 


Uh, yes!


Not sure what made me actually do this…


But it just seemed like I was wasting money at the Hair Cuttery on something that I could do myself. 


Also, I remember fondly how my dad used to cut his own hair for decades.


So I gave it a try–that’s not me in the picture!


I purchased a simple Wahl clipper and went at it.  


First a little tentatively and then more boldly as I got the hang of it. 


The best part of the clipper is the color-coded guide combs so I don’t completely screw this up. 


What I also like is that ability to give myself a little trim whenever I want. 


Don’t have to wait to get to the barber or to wait on line there. 


So far so good, thank G-d–no big hair disasters.  


And frankly, I look a lot happier than the guy in this photo. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazon + Teva = A Marriage Made In Heaven

Amazon+Teva.jpeg

Amazon has upended so many industries–and you can basically buy almost anything there.


And yes, what you can’t buy today, you will be able to buy tomorrow. 


What started as books and DVDs is now virtually synonymous with e-Commerce itself!

Next up for Amazon is pharmaceuticals!


Some people may think that Whole Foods gives Amazon the footprint it needs to sell these and dominate.


But what people aren’t considering is that Amazon can sell the pharmaceuticals online.


Amazon can do what other online drug distributors can’t.


Why?


Because Amazon has the most unbelievable distribution network in the world. 


Currently, people can order drugs through the mail, but these tend to be for regular reoccurring prescriptions that have lead time. 


However, Amazon can outdo these mail order pharma companies, because they can get you the drugs you need when and where you need it. 


– You don’t feel well and can’t make it to CVS, Amazon will deliver to your door. 


– Need same-day delivery, no problem. 


– Plus do all your shopping together in one fell timesaving swoop. 


My prediction: 

Amazon the low cost, efficient online seller of everything to everywhere is going to partner with Teva Pharmaceuticals, the #1 world leader in low cost generic drugs.


Teva already produces 120 billion tablets and capsules every year, operates in 80 countries, and currently fills 1 in 6 generic prescriptions in the U.S. 

Together, Amazon and Teva can make beautiful music, that is medicine + money!


Who needs CVS when pharmaceuticals perhaps soon can be gotten at Whole Foods or at your Trusty Amazon.com.  


One more time, I see some radical disruption–and this time it will bring you cheaper and more convenient drugs–make a l’chaim to your health. 😉


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)


(Endnote: I am a big fan + investor in Teva, and of course, all opinions here are my own.)

Camera Of Life

Watchful Eye.jpeg

So this open-door market has no workers there.

Someone comes in to stock the shelves periodically, and that’s it!

It’s completely automated of workers, and only has this automated kiosk for check-out. 

As you shop, there are cameras watching you, so you don’t steal anything. 

Then you go to the checkout and like in other stores, you scan you items and pay with your credit card, but the difference is that it’s without anyone else around at all.

Can you imagine someone would leave there business and there is no one watching you, except the cameras.

You’re on your honor system. 

Just think how much money the owner saves by not having to stand there or hire someone to stand there all day. 

He can have 10 or 100 or 1,000 of these stores and no daily labor to pay for. 

Talk about people losing their jobs to automation and robotics!

So even if someone does steal 1 or 2 things, it’s a minor loss to the owner compared to paying someone to stand there and check people out all day (salary, benefits, payroll taxes, workers comp insurance, and more). 

What if the camera isn’t even real and it’s just a dark cone, so you are just left to think that you’re being surveilled…another savings for the owner. 

Now imagine if we all internalized this thought in life that we were under the watchful eye of our Maker, and everyone would do the right thing even when no one else was there watching. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Cloud Pleasing

Cloud Pleasing

Technology vendors have wised-up and are rushing to the cloud to give customers what they want. 


You want cloud?  


You got cloud!


Cloud Computing with the virtually infinite promise for flexible, cost-effective, on-demand computing–all centrally managed by the vendor–you can sleep easy at night, oh baby. 


CIOs love it. 


The only problem as everyone moves to the cloud is the promise of the cloud continues to fall short


Now how unpopular a thing to say is that? 


Take out the guillotine…


Seriously though, it was supposed to be flexible, but it isn’t so much as vendors contract with customers for multi-year deals and customers find switching vendors not quite so easy…anyone hear of vendor lock-in?


Also, cloud was supposed to be more cost-effective, but vendors still need to make their margins, so longer commitments, service bundling, minimum fixed costs, and variable month-to-month pricing–sure helps things add BIG DOLLARS for the cloud vendor. 


Then you have vendors that simply call everything cloud…ah, “cloud washing” that is.  If you think you are getting cloud (even if it ain’t so much so), yippee are you happy…you have drunk the cool-aid and it is sweet.


Technology leaders swooping into a new job want to come in with a bang…”Hey, look what I did to modernize, transform, reinvent, revolutionize…and save money too–thank G-d, they hired me.”


So cloud, cloud, cloud…it sounds so CLOUD PLEASING, I mean crowd-pleasing. 


Whether in the specific situation it’s better or not, that’s not the point, stupid. 


At least, it’s out of our hair–let the vendor worry about it!


One, two, three…everyone say “CLOUD!” 😉

Green Data Center Cooling

Green Data Center Cooling

I read with great interest this week in BBC about 2 mysterious barges off the East and West coasts of the U.S.

One barge is by San Francisco and the other by Maine.

The 4-story barges belong to Google.

There is speculation about these being, maybe, floating data centers.

I think that is more likely than showrooms for Google Glass.

These barges would potentially avail themselves of the ocean water for cooling the IT equipment.

I would imagine that there could be some backup and recovery strategy here as well associated with their terrestrial data centers.

But how you protect these floating data behemoths is another story.

A white paper by Emerson has data center energy consumption in the 25% range for cooling systems and another 12% for air movement, totaling 37%.

Other interesting new ideas for reducing energy consumption for data center cooling include submersion cooling.

For example, Green Revolution (GR) Cooling is one of the pioneers in this area.

They turn the server rack on its back and the servers are inserted vertically into a dielectric (an electrical insulator–yes, I had to look that up) cooling mineral oil.

In this video, the founder of GR identifies the potential cost-savings including eliminating chillers and raised floors as well as a overall 45% reduction in energy consumption, (although I am not clear how that jives with the 37% energy consumption of cooling to begin with).

Intuitively, one of the trickiest aspect to this would be the maintenance of the equipment, but there is a GR video that shows how to do this as well–and the instructions even states in good jest that the “gloves are optional.”

One of my favorite aspects of submersion cooling aside from the environmental aspects and cost-savings is the very cool green tint in the server racks that looks so alien and futuristic.

Turn down the lights and imagine you are on a ship traveling the universe, or maybe just on the Google ship not that far away. 😉

(Source Photo: Green Revolution)

Cloud $ Confusion

Grab_a_cookie

It seems like never before has a technology platform brought so much confusion as the Cloud.No, I am not talking about the definition of cloud (which dogged many for quite some time), but the cost-savings or the elusiveness of them related to cloud computing.

On one hand, we have the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, which estimated that 25% of the Federal IT Budget of $80 billion could move to the cloud and NextGov (Sept 2012) reported that the Federal CIO told a senate panel in May 2011 that with Cloud, the government would save a minimum of $5 billion annually.

Next we have bombastic estimates of cost savings from the likes of the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Exchange that estimates about $5.5 billion in savings so far annually (7% of the Federal IT budget) and that this could grow to $12 billion (or 15% of the IT budget) within 3 years, as quoted in an article in Forbes (April 2012) or as much as $16.6 billion annually as quoted in the NextGov article–more than triple the estimated savings that even OMB put out.

On the other hand, we have a raft of recent articles questioning the ability to get to these savings, federal managers and the private sector’s belief in them, and even the ability to accurately calculate and report on them.

Federal Computer Week (1 Feb 2012)–“Federal managers doubt cloud computing’s cost-savings claims” and that “most respondents were also not sold on the promises of cloud computing as a long-term money saver.”

Federal Times (8 October 2012)–“Is the cloud overhyped? predicted savings hard to verify” and a table included show projected cloud-saving goals of only about $16 million per year across 9 Federal agencies.

CIO Magazine (15 March 2012)–“Despite Predictions to the Contrary, Exchange Holds Off Gmail in D.C.” cites how with a pilot of 300 users, they found Gmail didn’t even pass the “as good or better” test.

ComputerWorld (7 September 2012)–“GM to hire 10,000 IT pros as it ‘insources’ work” so majority of work is done by GM employees and enables the business.

Aside from the cost-savings and mission satisfaction with cloud services, there is still the issue of security, where according to the article in Forbes from this year, still “A majority of IT managers, 85%, say they are worried about the security implications of moving to their operations to the cloud,” with most applications being moved being things like collaboration and conferencing tools, email, and administrative applications–this is not primarily the high value mission-driven systems of the organization.

Evidently, there continues to be a huge disconnect being the hype and the reality of cloud computing.

One thing is for sure–it’s time to stop making up cost-saving numbers to score points inside one’s agency or outside.

One way to promote more accurate reporting is to require documentation substantiating the cost-savings by showing the before and after costs, and oh yeah including the migration costs too and all the planning that goes into it.

Another more drastic way is to take the claimed savings back to the Treasury and the taxpayer.Only with accurate reporting and transparency can we make good business decisions about what the real cost-benefits are of moving to the cloud and therefore, what actually should be moved there.While there is an intuitiveness that we will reduce costs and achieve efficiencies by using shared services, leveraging service providers with core IT expertise, and by paying for only what we use, we still need to know the accurate numbers and risks to gauge the true net benefits of cloud.It’s either know what you are actually getting or just go with what sounds good and try to pull out a cookie–how would you proceed?(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

			

Let’s Come Clean About The Cloud

Cost-savings

An article in Federal Times (16 April 2011) states that “Experts See Little Return For Agencies’ Cloud Investments.”

The question is were the savings really achievable to begin and how do you know whether we are getting to the target if we don’t have an accurate baseline to being with.

From an enterprise architecture perspective, we need to have a common criteria for where we are and where we are going.

The notion that cloud was going to save $5 billion a year as the former federal CIO stated seems to now be in doubt as the article states that “last year agencies reported their projected saving would be far less…”

Again in yet another article in the same issue of Federal Times, it states that the Army’s “original estimate of $100 million per year [savings in moving email to the DISA private cloud] was [also] ‘overstated.'”

If we don’t know where we are really trying to go, then as they say any road will get us there.

So are we moving to cloud computing today only to be moving back tomorrow because of potentially soft assumptions and the desire to believe so badly.

For example, what are our assumptions in determining our current in-house costs for email–are these costs distinctly broken out from other enterprise IT costs to begin? Is it too easy to claim savings when we are coming up with your own cost figures for the as-is?

If we do not mandate that proclaimed cost-savings are to be returned to the Treasury, how can we  ensure that we are not just caught up in the prevailing groupthink and rush to action.

This situation is reminiscent of the pendulum swinging between outsourcing and in-sourcing and the savings that each is claimed to yield depending on the policy at the time.

I think it is great that there is momentum for improved technology and cost-savings. However, if we don’t match that enthusiasm with the transparency and accuracy in reporting numbers, then we have exactly what happens with what the papers are reporting now and we undermine our own credibility.

While cloud computing or other such initiatives may indeed be the way go, we’ve got to keep sight of the process by which we make decisions and not get caught up in hype or speculation.

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Opensourceway)

Platforms – Open or Closed

Closed_open

Ever since the battles of Windows versus Linux, there have been two strong competing philosophies on systems architecture.

Many have touted the benefits of open architecture–where system specifications are open to the public to view and to update.

Open sourced systems provide for the power of crowdsourcing to innovate, add-on, and make the systems better as well as provides less vendor lock-in and lower costs.

Open Source —–> Innovation, Choice, and Cost-Savings

While Microsoft–with it’s Windows and Office products–was long the poster child for closed or proprietary systems and has a history of success with these, they have also come to be viewed, as TechRepublic(July 2011) points out as having an “evil, monopolistic nature.”

However, with Apple’s rise to the position of the World’s most valuable company, closed solutions have made a strong philosophical comeback.

Apple has a closed architecture, where they develop and strictly control the entire ecosystem of their products.

Closed systems provides for a planned, predictable, and quality-controlled architecture, where the the whole ecosystem–hardware, software and customer experience can be taken into account and controlled in a structured way.

Closed Systems —–> Planning, Integration, and Quality Control

However, even though has a closed solutions architecture for it’s products, Apple does open up development of the Apps to other developers (for use on the iPhone and iPad). This enables Apple to partner with others and win mind share, but still they can retain control of what ends-up getting approved for sale at the App Store.

I think what Apple has done particularly well then is to balance the use of open and closed systems–by controlling their products and making them great, but also opening up to others to build Apps–now numbering over 500,000–that can leverage their high-performance products.

Additionally, the variety and number of free and 99 cent apps for example, show that even closed systems, by opening up parts of their vertical model to partners, can achieve cost-savings to their customers.

In short, Apple has found that “sweet spot”–of a hybrid closed-open architecture–where they can design and build quality and highly desirable products, but at the same time, be partners with the larger development community.

Apple builds a solid and magnificent foundation with their “iProducts,” but then they let customers customize them with everything from the “skins” or cases on the outside to the Apps that run on them on the inside.

Closed-Open Systems —–> Planned, Integrated, and Quality PLUS Innovation, Choice, and Cost-Savings

Closed-Open Systems represent a powerful third model for companies to choose from in developing products, and which benefits include those from both open and closed systems.

Wheelchairs Get A Boost

I am very excited by this new assistive technology for personal mobility coming out of Japan that can be used to help the aged or handicapped.Rather than have to buy a separate electric scooter for longer distances that is heavy and can be challenging for people with certain disabilities to use, the WHILLis a simple add-on that can be attached to and removed from a regular wheelchair and can be steered, like a Segway, simply by leaning in the direction you want to go.The WHILL is high-tech looking–like a futurist headphone that you place over the wheels of the chair and according to Gizmodo,it turns the wheels with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers the chair up to 12 mph for 19 miles and then recharges in under 2 hours.While pricing information is not yet available, my assumption is that this add-on will be significantly cheaper than a full-out electronic scooter.

One concern that I have about the WHILL is how someone who is wheelchair-bound will be able to attach/remove the drive-train device without the help of an aide or nurse.  Perhaps an even more futuristic version will have the U-shaped WHILL built with push-button retractable arms, so that the attachment can simply “open up” rather than have to be removed.

Another question that I have is what safety features will be built in for example for automatic cut-off should someone using it get ill and keel over unto the device causing it to drive/spin out of control.  I am thinking a weight-sensor on the WHILL that detects if too much of a person’s body weight is leaning on it and then cause a safety shutdown.

Overall, I am encouraged by what WHILL will soon be bringing to help people in need to get around more easily in the future.

Running IT as an Ecosystem

Ecosystem

The New York Times (27 November 2011) has an interesting article under “bright ideas” called Turn on the Server. It’s Cold Outside.

The idea in the age of cloud and distributed computing, where physical location of infrastructure is besides the point, is to place (racks of) servers in people’s homes to warm them from the cold.
The idea is really pretty cool and quite intuitive: Rather than use expensive HVAC systems to cool the environment where servers heat up and are housed, instead we can use the heat-generating servers to warm cold houses and save money and resources on buying and running furnaces to heat them.
While some may criticize this idea on security implications–since the servers need to be secured–I think you can easily counter that such a strategy under the right security conditions (some of which are identified in the article–encrypting the data, alarming the racks, and so on) could actually add a level of security by distributing your infrastructure thereby making it less prone to physical disruption by natural disaster or physical attack.
In fact, the whole movement towards consolidation of data centers, should be reevaluated based on such security implications.  Would you rather have a primary and backup data center that can be taken out by a targeted missile or other attack for example, or more distributed data centers that can more easily recover. In fact, the move to cloud computing with data housed sort of everywhere and anywhere globally offers the possibility of just such protection and is in a sense the polar opposite of data center consolidation–two opposing tracks, currently being pursued simultaneously.
One major drawback to the idea of distributing servers and using them to heat homes–while offering cost-saings in term of HVAC, it would be very expensive in terms of maintaining those servers at all the homes they reside in.
In general, while it’s not practical to house government data servers in people’s homes, we can learn to run our data centers more environmentally friendly way. For example, the article mentions that Europe is using centralized “district heating” whereby more centralized data center heat is distributed by insulated pipes to neighboring homes and businesses, rather than actually locating the servers in the homes.
Of course, if you can’t heat your homes with data servers, there is another option that gets you away from having to cool down all those hot servers, and that is to locate them in places with cooler year-round temperatures and using the areas natural air temperature for climate control. So if you can’t bring the servers to heat the homes, you can at least house them in cold climates to be cooled naturally.  Either way, there is the potential to increase our green footprint and cost-savings.
Running information technology operations with a greater view toward environmental impact and seeing IT in terms of the larger ecosystem that it operates in, necessitates a careful balancing of the mission needs for IT, security, manageability, and recovery as well as potential benefits for greater energy independence, environmental sustainability, and cost savings, and is the type of innovative bigger picture thinking that we can benefit from to break the cycle of inertia and inefficiency that too often confronts us.
(Source Photo: here)