jump to navigation

Technology Trends June 2009 June 26, 2009

Posted by stewsutton in Information Technology.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

There are some technology trends that are happening so quickly that it is becoming increasingly difficult to map an organizational strategy to capitalize on continuous variation without sacrificing some performance toward  organizational targets.

Consider the following arenas where technology is accelerating quickly:

  1. The cell phone has become a handheld computer that just happens to make phone calls as one of its core functions
  2. This is giving rise to rapid growth in mobile computing – but not the sort of computing you might imagine on a PC with a tiny screen – an integration of services fro the “cloud” is stitched together under the innovative interface of the mobile platform
  3. Cloud computing and social software services are going hand-in-hand to establish and refine the next-generation information channels.  Will we be using Twitter in a couple of years?  Time will tell.  The ability to follow many individuals and broadcast “social status updates” to hundreds and thousands of “followers” with a simple email message is an example of the “new-gen info tech meeting with the legacy information technology.
  4. Hardware device innovation and design-to-market cycles are shrinking to under one year for sophisticated information technology systems – especially consumer-based information technology products.
  5. Another parallel innovation and rapid product cycle innovation is the service focus of the current advanced mobile platform offerings.  Smartphones are not currently selected by consumers based entirely on the technical specifications of the phone, but rather the quality of service integration.  Specifically for today that emphasis is directed toward the social software stack integraiton.

Data Integrity Priority One June 26, 2009

Posted by stewsutton in Information Technology, Knowledge Management.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Sometimes we have the opportunity to bear witness to a collection of failures that all arrive at the same time.  It is during those rare and unfortunate times that we can rank, value, and prioritize where we wish to put our mitigation efforts to minimize risk in the future.  I had the opportunity to do a bit of risk ranking this past week when our corporate wiki decided to take a holiday.

Corporate wiki’s of the “COMPANYpedia” format can quickly become a useful tool that many people come to depend on.  Some use the service as a sort of bookmarking index to content items that are distributed across the network.  Others plan projects and current state of activity for coordination between team members, while others take the Wikipedia approach and author articles (pages) that take an encyclopedia-style format to defining the knowledge of the organization.  We have a mix of that in our CORPpedia service.  It has been growing in popularity for more than three years now.  And then we had our “Black Monday” event of this past week.

After updating the Wiki’s operating system configuration, the administrative console was acting a bit strange so the decision was made to reboot the system.  Now here is where an additional piece of complexity comes into the equation. The wiki is running on our virtual infrastructure.  It lives on a virtual server that is part of a larger server collection.  So rebooting the platform amounts to sending a signal from the virtual server system console to the machine identity.  After the system reboot command was issued, the virtual server disappeared.

Not to worry, we just need to exercise the administrative tool set and locate that image.  It’s out there somewhere.  The staff looks and they can’t find anything.  It’s as if the image of that machine (all virtual servers are actually a software image that runs as if it were an actual machine) was never there.  Not only had Elvis left the building but there was no record that he ever made an appearance in our data center.  Well this is getting a bit weird so while the staff continues to look for the missing image, another part of the support group begins to hunt down the most recent backup.  Here is where you get to imagine some folks getting pretty concerned.  While one team is looking for and not finding the virtual image that was running there just a few minutes ago, another team is beginning a quest to find a backup from the daily backup store to start the process of recovery.  And things get worse.  The logs of the system that should contain the virtual image are shipped over the Internet to the vendor support staff for analysis.  While that is happening, the staff in charge of locating the backup has determined that no successful backup of this system has been executed since it moved to the virtual infrastructure.  A question begins to form in peoples minds.  How far back will we have to go in time to reconstruct the corporate wiki?  The answer turns out to be two months.  That’s two months of time where hundreds of users were updating, using, and cross-linking material within this collaborative service.

Now comes a time to evaluate the two failures.  There was a process and technology failure associated with the disappearance of the virtual server.  And there was a major procedural failure in the backup process for that service.  While there was a confidence hiccup surrounding the virtual server technology, the bigger confidence gap emerged in relationship to the 2-month data loss.  That was truly unacceptable for an enterprise IT group and it will take time to re-build confidence in the service.  We have already seen that slow return to confidence this week.  What used to be hundreds to thousands of edits per day in the wiki has now trickled to tens of edits.  There is an element of “where do I begin” and “that didn’t just happen did it?” that still is floating around the service.  We have established tech support blogs, mail lists, and direct contact numbers to address staff concern.  And we have had initiated both enterprise-wide communications and targeted communications for specific known users of the service.  All of this is there to address confidence.

The winning failure in the largest gap of confidence contest is the data loss due to procedural and technology failure.  This failure beats the virtual server technology failure by a landslide.  This confirms that data integrity is priority one.  That probably does not come as a surprise, but in this case, we have a parallel failure to measure against.

So we now begin the reconstruction of an interconnected, multi-author, segment of corporate memory.  It’s like trying to restore memory with just a light fuzzy image (if any image) of what once occupied that space. In a year this will be just an unpleasant historical event, but now its quite a bit more than that.

The Pre vs Android vs the iPhone June 8, 2009

Posted by stewsutton in Information Technology, Knowledge Management.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Well the competition is really starting to heat up in the smart phone wars.  The Google phone provided a nice point of competition that offered a “completely open” approach toward the mobile platform.  In being the version-1.0 competitor to the iPhone’s “computer in my pocket / purse“, it has some rough edges.

The design engineering of the Google Android is not at the same standards as the iPhone.  It just does not feel as “solid” and “well built”.  The phone quality is not bad, but it seems closer to the design and manufacturing quality of the consumer phones costing 50% less.   One of the design “features” of the Android is also one of the user experience faults.  Because of the true multi-tasking features of the baseline operating system, the user of the Android is inclined to keep apps open and conviently switch between them.

The big downside there is the rapid consumption of the precious battery that has the Google phone users wondering how come they have to recharge during the day or radically de-tune their use of this muti-tasking feature.  So the Apple folks on the iPhone just have to go through the exit and launch sequence as they move between applications.  The iPhone battery lasts a whole day (or more) with pretty heavy use.  So it goes…

The Palm Pre offers a very different experience here.  For starters, it has a similar level of design engineering put into the physical device that it feels to be in the same quality league as the Apple iPhone.  The Pre’s keyboard is not as large as the fold-open Android keyboard, but unlike the Apple iPhone keyboard, it is NOT virtual (you get to feel the keys, their location, and a tactile feedback with each keypress).  The slide feature on the Pre that exposes the keyboard also exposes (on the backside of the Pre) a mirror.  Yes a personal mirror.  You could use this to adjust your physical appearance, but it also doubles as as a low-tech communications device for line-of-sight communications when both parties are in direct sunlight.  The real feature differentiator with the Palm Pre is the “data from the cloud” integration into a smart interface and the application switching through the metaphor of  “activity cards.”