Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do We Know What Net Neutrality is?

There has been so much misunderstanding about net neutrality in the press — you can sense it even in the transcript below — that I felt it appropriate to transcribe excerpts from an Eric Schmidt interview at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco recently. The logic provided by Eric Schmidt appeals to anyone's sense of what net neutrality should be.

In particular, the ability of a service provider to charge differently for different grades of service must be maintained. (Similar to First Class and Economy class on air flights).

[Aside. It is interesting to note that many of the noteworthy cloud-based services — e.g., AWS, Cisco Webex/Umi, Google Apps, — work just fine, even though they are all delivered through "economy" class Internet access in the last mile. End of Aside].

The interview is conducted by John Battelle and Tim O'Reilly. The link for the net neutrality discussion portion, using 'start' and 'end' parameters, of the video is provided below:

Monday, September 27, 2010

What Makes a Good Teacher?

Today, President Obama announced his initiative to recruit 10,000 more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers in the next two years.

That'll set you thinking: What makes a good teacher? Of course, teachers are necessary to guide the students to a particular learning goal, be it learning an algebra, a calculus, a quantum mechanics, how to program a computer, etc. However, in reaching these various goals, a student will need to successfully negotiate suitable, intermediate, learning milestones. Thus, an effective teacher will be able to define, and guide students through, these intermediate milestones too.

Therefore, once a learning goal is established, a teacher will have to define suitable, intermediate, learning milestones in reaching that goal, so that students can be helped. At a macro level, this is seen clearly in university curricula where a certain course cannot be taken by a student without his/her getting a passing grade in a prerequisite course.

If you now consider that the purpose of life is self-realization — See, for example, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs —, an immediate next step for self-realization teachers is to determine the intermediate learning milestones towards that goal. (Commentary on what those intermediate learning milestones can be is for another blog post).

A corollary: If we want self-realization as a goal to be applicable to all of humanity, it seems to me that a society or a community that incorporates such intermediate milestones into its everyday life is better poised to lead its members towards that goal.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the article "Are There Jobs That Can't Be Outsourced?"

If you read the articles in "Are There Jobs That Can't Be Outsourced?", and the accompanying comments, you begin to wonder whether the US Government has appropriate policies that encourage job creation within the US.

In the opening speech today at the Cisco Financial Analyst Conference, CEO John Chambers hoped that the tax treatment of corporate cash outside the US would become conducive to repatriating those funds back into the US, thus encouraging the funds' expenditure within the US border.

Last month, at the Aspen Forum, Intel CEO Paul Otellini warned the audience, as reported by CNET:
Unless government policies are altered, he predicted, "the next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here."
And, he further observed on how the Government's efforts have worked so far:
"Every business in America has a list of more variables than I've ever seen in my career." If variables like capital gains taxes and the R&D tax credit are resolved correctly, jobs will stay here, but if politicians make decisions "the wrong way, people will not invest in the United States. They'll invest elsewhere."
Is the US Government listening? The policymakers need to work this problem at a global level: Every government has an obligation to provide a decent living opportunity to its citizens.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tidbits from the opening session of the Cisco Financial Analyst Conference September 2010

If you watch John Chambers' presentation on the opening session of the Cisco Financial Analyst Conference of today, it is difficult not to make a couple of these observations:
  1. The demonstration of a highly collaborative educational environment is very eye-opening, and it amplifies the distinction between an Apple iPad and a Cisco Cius. The power of collaborative information exchange seems to have the so-called network effect built into it. Once students around the world start making use of this device, it is easy to imagine Tom Friedman's recent observation: In a flat world where everyone has access to everything, values matter more than ever.
  2. John presents excellent arguments as to why commoditization of Cisco's market segment is a distant one: Architectural play, that involves numerous products and processes integrating them. A single product solution cannot even come close. The slide presented on this topic, shown here, is very self-explanatory.

  3. Finally, it looks like there will be dividend on Cisco stock, with 1-2% yield, starting from FY 2011, and we are already in the new fiscal year. With the stock closing at $21.45 (+$0.19) today, you can expect to get dividend income anywhere from $0.21 to $0.42 per share of stock; or, even if the stock doubled by July 2011, you may be able expect $0.42, or 1%.
Disclaimer: I am an individual investor in Cisco stock.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On a Cloud Services SIG Meeting of the SDForum.

Yesterday, I attended a Cloud Services SIG meeting of the SDForum on Migrating Enterprise Apps to the Cloud. Two companies -- Makara and Appirio -- presented their approaches. Makara provides a platform through which you can create private clouds, irrespective of the underlying IaaS cloud, and has an interesting method of defining cloud computing by negation. Appirio described the issues in migrating enterprise apps to a specific PaaS cloud, namely

Dave Nielsen, one of the co-chairs of the SIG, threw open a challenge at the conclusion of the session. Can we work together to provide a concise 5- or 6-word/phrase characterization of cloud computing? In the more than two years of his organizing cloud camps, he has encountered various different definitions. He is preparing one himself and would find others' views valuable.

Here's my attempt at providing a succinct definition, listing what I consider are orthogonal characteristics:
Cloud computing refers to secure compute and/or storage and/or networking resources that can be obtained on-demand, through self-service, and that are elastic.
The individual characteristics can be elaborated as follows:
  1. secure. If the subscriber of the service cannot be assured that his environment is kept private to his project team members, then the usability of the service is simply not there.
  2. on-demand. If a service cannot be obtained as and when required, it is not a sufficient enough improvement over traditional enterprise IT practices.
  3. self-service. An individual must be able to obtain the service at the time of his choosing, rather than be at the mercy of an another, an IT administrator. This kind of instantaneous self-service has substantial implications for project execution.
  4. elastic. Once obtained, the subscriber must be able to scale the service up or down, depending on the needs of the problem being solved in the cloud. [measurable. If the service being obtained cannot be measured by the subscriber, the subscriber cannot, at his convenience, alter the parameters of the service.  One can argue that elasticity implies measurability. To quote Lord Kelvin: "If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it." ]
  5. compute-network-storage configuration. There are problems that can be solved by a single CPU with some storage, but there are increasingly many more problems that can exploit a cluster of CPUs, a bunch of storage devices and effective networking among the former two. This characteristic, with greater control of intrinsic parameters of the service, is more relevant to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), whereas all the other three characteristics listed here applicable to all the NIST-defined deployment models: IaaS, or PaaS or SaaS.
Note that multi-tenancy is implied; if any individual can obtain a service, another one can obtain too and , thus, multi-tenancy is implied. However, security cannot be left unmentioned in any definition.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

NIST's Cloud Computing Definition and Deployment Models

Of the various definitions of cloud computing floating around, I perceive that the NIST definition is the one most referenced. NIST prescribes 5 essential characteristics of cloud computing, 3 service models and 4 deployment models.

The essential characteristics and the service models are well understood and well accepted. The deployment models deserve some additional discussion.

From an accessibility point of view, the private, community, public and hybrid deployment models share the following structural properties [All cloud deployments are multi-subscriber; multiple users provide the strength of cloud computing economics]:
  1. Private clouds are dedicated [to one enterprise], but multi-subscriber [to enterprise's employees and/or partners].
  2. Some cloud deployments are multi-tenant and multi-subscriber; most of the public clouds fall into this category. And, one can imagine private clouds hosted on public IaaS clouds.
Now, the four deployment models that NIST prescribes really are specialized instantiations on top of the dedicated & multi-subscriber or multi-tenant & multi-subscriber properties. For example, as NIST definition itself notes, a community cloud can be economically hosted on a public cloud. And, the hybrid clouds include traditional IT implementations in addition to [multi-tenant and] multi-subscriber clouds.

What is the upshot? While multi-subscriber quality is essential for cloud computing, multi-tenancy improves that economics in an orthogonal dimension, and the resulting economics is multiplicative! We need a characterization of cloud platforms based on such orthogonal considerations. Of course, the key for increasing adoption of multi-tenant solutions is security assurance [See a related blog post by Ted Schadler of Forrester].

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Honorable Janardhana Swamy with Indian Institute of Science alumni in Silicon Valley.

It is heartwarming and uplifting to listen to the Honorable Janardhana Swamy, Member of Parliament of the Government of India, who spent a few hours this morning amongst his fellow Indian Institute of Science alumni.

The value of this meet was not only that he is one among us Silicon Valley engineers, but one who has taken an extraordinary sequence of decisions culminating in his being elected to the Lower House or Lok Sabha — लोक सभा — of the Government of India. In the nearly two hours in which he chronicled his journey from Silicon Valley through High-tech jobs in India to, finally, the Indian Parliament, he pointed how media can be exceptionally powerful in today's world in influencing voters' education.

He has, since taking office, been engaged in the creation of an ecosystem of institutions — Indian Institute of Science, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Defence Research & Development Organization,  Indian Space Research Organization, et al. — in his native Chitradurga district of the Karnataka state.

An important thought one comes away with after listening to him is that only high goals, coupled with the ability to assess and solve the intermediate problems that will inevitably be presented on the way to the goal, can achieve the seemingly impossible.

Monday, May 17, 2010

On the Pricing of Web Applications.

The blog post titled Account Sharing lands Goldman Sachs in Court, is not only a wake up call to enterprises, but also one for the content providers.

One of the reasons why the account sharing mentioned in the blog post happens is because of the pricing of the service. Yearly pricing models tend to produce the account sharing behavior whereas monthly, or pay-as-you-go, pricing tends to avoid account sharing.'s is an example of monthly pricing.

So, the moral of the story is that content providers can facilitate proper subscriptions from enterprises by offering proper pricing models.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Do CEOs of Collaborating Companies Talk to Each Other?

I guess there is room for all kinds of corporate behavior. In EMC: Enterprise data centers won't all flock to the cloud, where we learn about new storage solutions — called VPlex — from EMC, we also learn the following:
Tucci also criticized the data center verticalization strategy that companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Cisco are taking, saying it will lead to a new kind of lock-in that will ultimately lend itself to inefficiency. He said EMC’s private cloud strategy swaps out verticalization with virtualization and allows all of your data center solution providers — even EMC competitors — to plug in.
Now, you will recall that the Virtual Computing Environment collaboration was setup with good amount of fanfare: Power of 3 - VMware, Cisco, EMC and so on. You would think that there is a better way for EMC to promote the launch of VPlex than to deride a collaboration partner, in this case Cisco, right? Wrong. EMC finds it necessary to talk down Cisco.

The power of a coalition such as the VCE lies in the integration and the attendant advantages: data centers can deploy well integrated pieces rather than waste precious time in stringing together components: servers, networking, storage.

I guess it takes corporations of all kinds to make up the world.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

[Why] Is JavaScript Popular?

When one has to extend the experience of web browsing beyond what comes out of browser-makers, a key programming language that everyone seeks refuge in is JavaScript.

In my previous post, I wrote about Google Apps Script that enables customization and integration of Google Documents and Products through JavaScript that is executed on the server, in the cloud.

Now, with this additional flexibility at the server, you can expect more adaptation of product and computational functionality by Internet application users themselves by using JavaScript.

The use that JavaScript can be put both in providing Rich Internet Applications — e.g., Google's Gmail — on the client side and in customizing server side logic in the form, for example, of Google Apps Script will only increase the popularity of JavaScript. Even if other languages -- Java, C++, Ruby on Rails, etc. -- are used for implementing server-side functionality, there is a certain homogeneity that is brought about by the use of JavaScript on both sides.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Google Acquires BumpTop.

Google acquisition today of BumpTop is an exciting prospect for making a non-browser based OS irrelevant as the future unfolds. You can even see a multi-touch interface version in this YouTube video.

The future desktop, and TVs, will definitely deserve this; maybe some laptops and netbooks will get this as well.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On a Blogger's Meetup.

Blogging is an activity that has gotten well fostered, thanks to the web. I had an opportunity to participate in a meetup conducted by Bill Belew, for bloggers. In addition of course to Bill, I met bloggers who focused in a wide variety of interests:
  1. Different kinds of chocolates
  2. Writing about Writing
  3. What you sow, so you reap, a healthy approach to living
  4. IT Tutoring
  5. Individual Approach to Financial Management
  6. Promotion of English among Chinese
  7. Boomer Grandparents
  8. Raw Foods
  9. Fierce Planet, on Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters
  10. A new blogger who is focused on art
It is quite refreshing to see that blogging as an activity is not only very mainstream, but can be harnessed to generate some side income as well.

An interesting factoid: Nearly everyone else in the meetup used Wordpress; I was the only Blogger user.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Scripting for the Google Web

Not too long ago, Google announced the availability of scripting for the web for Google Apps Standard Edition customers too. If you play with a little bit, you will begin to see the power of JavaScript in its ability to provide meaningful automating capability to web documents, particularly as it is being promoted by Google.

A very interesting application in automating — screenscraping as it is called by the author, Tony Hirst — can be studied here:
Screenscraping With Google Spreadsheets App Script and the =importHTML() Formula.
The author illustrates how council elections results of the town of Lichfield, UK, can be analyzed using Google App Script.

While the Internet is well known to be a great equalizer, it is also true that it also a great personalizer, thanks to scripting everywhere -- at the [browser] client and in the [server in the] cloud.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Benefit of a Cloud-based Service: Immense Scalability.

Recent hack-ins into Google infrastructure are definitely disturbing. While we can imagine all kinds of preventive measures — intrusion detection systems, intrusion prevention systems, borderless security, etc. — Google's introduction today of a method of detecting suspicious account activity is a highly useful one. It enables every account holder to detect any suspicious activity in his/her Gmail account.

Thanks to the fact that Gmail is cloud-based, every Gmail user gets this feature instantaneously. With apologies to my fellow Frenchmen: Vive la Scalability.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Microsoft has done some good things for the web browser industry too.

For all the flak that Microsoft has had to take in recent weeks on IE6, it was heartening to learn when Crockford, Yahoo!'s JavaScript Architect, mentioned yesterday that it was Microsoft's contribution to the Document Object Model, that all HTML elements were made script-able, that has provided lasting value so far, for the browser platform.

A couple of other noteworthy points:
  1. "With Ajax, the source of innovation shifted from the browser makers to the web developers. Ajax libraries."
  2. "Ultimately, we should seek to replace the DOM with an Ajax-influenced API."
Crockford is an engaging speaker who sprinkles his talk with very effective humor. This particular talk was how the Ajax technology came about. You can review all of his talk, including video & transcripts, on the Yahoo! User Interface Blog site.

As I have listened to Crockford on the 4 out of the 5 sessions so far, I cannot but come away with the feeling that many of the mistakes of the past would not have been committed in the latest specification.

The future of web-based applications is definitely brighter.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On CrisisCamp Haiti Silicon Valley

It is amazing to realize how remote technical experts can help in disaster relief efforts even as they start far from the point of disaster. Clearly, it is the power of the Internet. A case in point is my experience yesterday afternoon with the CrisisCamp Haiti Silicon Valley in Microsoft Campus, 1065 La Avenida Street, Mountain View, CA.

The sheer energy in the cafeteria was unbelievable!

Additional information:
CrisisCamp Silicon Valley on Facebook
Crisis Commons

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Nexus One versus iPhone 3GS

After Google announced Nexus One this morning, there have been several comparisons available on the Internet, e.g., Nexus One vs Motorola Milestone vs iPhone 3GS. This blog post is an attempt to compare the iPhone and Nexus One in tabular form.

iPhone 3GS
Nexus One
$199 (2-yr)
$79 (upgrade), $179 (2-yr), $529(none)
Nexus One is slightly cheaper.
Both are equal.
3.5", 480x320
3.7", 800x480
Pictures will appear crisper with the Nexus One: Larger resolution in almost the same real estate.
3MP, autofocus, no flash
5MP, autofocus, flash
Better resolution camera and flash!
VGA(640x480) up to 30 fps
720x480 pixels at 20 fps
Nexus One is inferior for motion (fps)?
600MHz CPU, 256MB
Qualcomm QSD 8250 1 GHz, 512MB
Faster CPU for Nexus One.
T-Mobile; Any, but no support for high speed packet access (HSPA)
Since the Nexus One comes unlocked, you can use any carrier. If data speed is important, stick with T-Mobile.
Accelerometer, digital compass, Assisted GPS
Accelerometer, digital compass, Assisted GPS
Both have similar characteristics.
Non-volatile storage
Built-in 16GB hard disk
Removable 4GB Micro SD (expandable to 32GB)
Expandability may be an advantage for Nexus One.
Built-in, 1219 mAH, Talk up to 5 hrs, Standby 300 hrs, Internet 5 hrs on 3G
Removable, 1400 mAH, Talk up to 7 hrs, Standby 250 hrs, Internet 5 hrs on 3G
Nexus One has slightly better capacity, is slightly better for voice, and slightly inferior for Standby.
Multitouch experience
Quite uniform
Not many apps exploit it (in Jan 2010).
Nexus One is inferior.
Peripheral interfaces
iPod connector, Bluetooth
mini USB, Bluetooth
Nexus One has no proprietary interfaces.
Software Features
Google Voice is still being evaluated.
All text fields can be spoken to.
All of Google software.
Nexus One may have an edge.

What is the bottom line? It is difficult to say without experiencing both the devices but, on "paper", Nexus One appears to have an edge, particularly if you ignore non-availability of multi touch experience uniformly in the Nexus One.

Mashable's Ben Parr provides a non-committal assessment at the CES.

Newer is better, isn't it?