Monday, November 30, 2009

Consumerization of IT

A new generation is entering the workforce and they are just not going to take it any more. Brian Gentile, CEO of Jaspersoft, did not say these exact words, but it conveys the intent of the introduction to his talk on "Consumerization of IT" at the November meeting of the SDForum Business Intelligence SIG.

Brian was talking about Generation Y, the first generation to have grown up with computers and instant communication to the extent that they take them for granted. More that that they have expectations about these tools and what they can do with them. Unfortunately, enterprise software has often created systems that are slow, ugly and so difficult to use that it can requires weeks of training. While previous generations have put up with difficult software because they know no better, Gen Y does know that it can be better and is not going to put up with software that does not match up.

Brian identified 4 characteristics that Business Intelligence, or any enterprise software must provide to meet the next generations expectations. They are:
  • Elegant presentation.
  • Easy access to data.
  • Extensive Customization.
  • Built In Collaboration.
To do collaboration properly, software applications must fit into a collaboration platform rather than have each application provide its own silo'ed collaboration mechanism.

While I have heard people argue that current Business Intelligence software does not provide a good user experience, Brian put a positive light on this trend, as if the change is for the good and the right thing to do. He is certainly positioning JasperSoft to provide these features and meet the requirements of the next generation.

Brian ended with another optimistic note. The cost of Information Technology is coming down with cheaper hardware and Open Source software. CIO's can direct the money they save to new innovative projects. A good example of this movement is Ingres talking about "The New Economics of IT" as they have been doing for some time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fight Instutional Corruption

Many people think of Lawrence Lessig as a radical with an anti-IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) agenda. In practice he is no radical, in fact his mission is to find a defensible middle ground between the Intellectual Property right and the Free Culture left. One of my first blog posts discussed his talk: "The Comedy of the Commons".

Recently, I have been following his podcasts which discuss his work on copyright as well as his newer work on institutional corruption. Note, while I find these podcasts interesting, they are not for everybody. They are mostly records of lectures given to various groups. While they are accessible, they are about serious policy matters and as many of the talks are on similar subjects, there tends to be some repetition.

Recently Lessig has been working on a new project on institutional corruption called Change Congress. The issue is that large sums of money fed through lobbyists seems to have an undue influence on the lawmakers in Congress and the Senate. The money appears to have such a large influence that lawmakers are voting against the clear wishes of their constituents.

Change Congress works to highlight these cases of apparent institutional corruption. It is fighting for citizen funded elections so that the lawmakers are not under pressure to raise the money they need to get re-elected. Thus they will be less likely to be swayed by the lobbyists. Go to the site, see what they have to say, and help them with their mission.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Vote for Net Neutrality Now

There is a lot of talk about Net Neutrality now, and the issues are not completely clear cut as I will discuss later. However, there is also a big threat that needs to be addressed right now.

Bills are being proposed in Washington with friendly names like "The Internet Freedom Act" whose effect would be to give more control of the internet to the big ISPs and take away power from the people who are giving us innovative services like Google, Skype and Amazon. While there is also a friendly bill, and the FCC is on the side of Net Neutrality, everyone needs to act to let their congressman know whose side they are on. Visit "Save the Internet" and take action now!

Now that you have done your bit to save the internet, we can talk about the problem. When a node on the internet gets too much traffic, the traffic control algorithm will pick connections at random and kill them. While this is good for keeping the traffic flowing in the aggregate, it tends to favor one class of user over another. The disadvantage user is the one who is using a single connection to browse the web, download a song or make a voice call. The advantaged user is using Bit-torrent which opens a large number of connections to do a massive download. It does not matter if Bit-torrent loses a connection, it has many others to make up for it, but it does matter when a web browser, or Skype conversation loses a connection.

One solution is to answer greedy software with greedy software. That is every internet application would emulate Bit-torrent and greedily create hundreds of connections in case any one of them gets stomped. While this solution puts all applications on an equal footing, it may strain resources leading to a "Tragedy of the Commons", something that should not be in our bright digital future.

Another solution would be to limit the number of simultaneous sessions a user can have. I personally feel that this would be better than having Comcast or AT&T doing deep packet inspection of my packets. However a hard limit on the number of sessions may cause all sorts of problems with software that is not expecting it, leading to deadlock and other bad behavior. Does anyone have any other ideas?