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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Web 2.0 and Generational Uptake

Are there generational differences in business that result in operational challenges? You bet! Let me explain.

I recently attended a wonderful seminar hosted by Kim Huggins, Owner and President of K HR Solutions
on the subject of Generations at Work. Since the event was sponsored and promoted by my friends at the Eastern Technology Council and Tracey Welson-Rossman of Chariot Solutions, I was eager to attend. What I saw on the reception table when I walked in was quite amusing.

Four large face pictures on display appropriately set the stage for our discussion. The first was of a gentleman in his 60s with a quote under his photo reading “Hello.” The second face shot was a woman in her late 40s saying, “Hi.” The third was a man in his 30s saying “Hey there.” And the last was a “young man” in his early 20s with orange spiked hair with a caption that read, “Wazzup.”

They are referred to as the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen XY-ers, and Millennials respectively. And, we had a lot of fun discussing topics like personality, expectations, and preferences of each group in the work force. Everyone smirked discussing the tone of emails across the generations and particularly the grammatical dumbing-down influence of instant messaging. LOL. (Sorry, had to throw that in. One woman reported that one of her employees often used the phrase, “IDK”.) Don’t know what that means? Ask a Millennial.

But, I began thinking about the inhibitors to more rapid uptake of Web 2.0 technologies in the workforce, particularly large companies, and it hit me that these generational “diversities” played a very large part. I immediately recalled a comment a gentleman from a very large financial services company on Wall Street said to me following a seminar
there in June hosted by myself and Don Tapscott. The financial services VP told me that they love Web 2.0 technologies because they allowed so many more people in their company to collaborate, but, those technologies weren’t being used that much – the primary users were only the new hires and more junior personnel.

Millennials grew up with technology. There was never a pre-Internet for them. Instant access to information anywhere is “normal” to these folks. Furthermore, they (along with their younger GenXY peers) have a much more “flat world” view of life, including organizational “hierarchies”. Their view of management is not hierarchical and their style and tone is not necessarily adjusted based on the level or title of others in the company.

One woman spoke about a CEO who toured one of his engineering labs to greet the “troops”. During his walk-through, the CEO stopped to say hello to one of the junior engineers. After casual “greetings” the junior engineer asked the CEO where he lived. After the CEO responded, the engineer genuinely responded with, “Hey, that’s the same town I live in. Maybe we can car pool to work some days.”

The way the different generations “expect” to collaborate is diverse. Is that good or bad? Depends on who you ask. But, if you are a company that employs (or engages with) multiple generations and you’d like to collaborate more with them, you need to think through how best to make that happen.

I know many companies who think, “OK, we’ve got this blog or wiki set up. Now we can start engaging more with our suppliers and employees.” Or, “If we install this SharePoint environment, we’ll really be able to start collaborating much more effectively.” But, it doesn’t work that way.

The technology that is out there around Web 2.0 is spectacular. There are so many great tools for collaborating including SharePoint as well as many open source solutions like SuiteTwo and Jive to name just a couple. But the tools alone aren’t enough. It’s the culture that makes the biggest difference. And, since culture can’t be mandated but must rather be lived, this challenge is one that takes some time, cultivation, and visible support from all levels.

Certainly the generational gaps are not the only factor influencing the uptake of Web 2.0 and more “globalized” collaboration in companies. But, I’m convinced it does play a large part. And, the most successful companies are those that can tap into the collective wisdom of all their employees, partners, suppliers, and other constituencies.

Sun is a very open blogging company, including their CEO Jonathan Schwartz who publishes his own blog and freely accepts public comments (sometimes harsh and quite critical). That may seem like an amazingly open position for such a “high-ranking” person to take, but if I’m not mistaken, Jonathan is 42 years old – which puts him at the tail end of Gen XY range and not quite a Baby Boomer. So, perhaps it isn’t so surprising that he is on the front line of CEOs who blog.

The companies who can create such a culture will have a huge advantage over those who can’t. So, to close this blog entry with another set of face shot comments from Kim Huggins’ seminar:

Traditionalist – “Thank you very much.”
Baby Boomer – “Thank you.”
Gen XY-er – “Thanx.”
Millennial – “Cool.”

Amusing footnote: Generational differences were not the only diversity component that was discussed during that seminar. Besides seeing the four “generational” face pictures when I walked in the room, it became quite apparent that I was the only male in a room of about 50 or so women. Yep, the event was also part of the Women’s Leadership Networking Group. Hmm, guess I should have paid more attention to that little detail.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Ultimate in Customer Service

How can you not be impressed with the way Apple packages their products? It’s obvious they put a lot of effort into the “user experience” all the way through to the opening of the boxes and the packaging of the components. But now I’ve personally experienced an even more remarkable touch.

Today Apple offered a one-day holiday shopping sale, both online and in the stores. If you’ve ever been to an Apple Store, you know that you don’t want to be there around holiday time. They are packed with people on “off days” … imagine what it’s like around the holidays.

As an iPhone customer, I had my $100 store credit to use and decided to buy iWork ’08 to build some newsletters I’ve been roughing out. So, while shopping online, sure enough it was on sale “today” (great marketing tactic), but I couldn’t easily figure out how to use my iPhone credit pay for it. They obviously wanted my credit card information.

At the top of the screen was an “Apple Store Chat” link. I thought I’d click the link and just see what happened, this being Black Friday at 5:30 pm (prime shopping time). Within one second of hitting that link, I get a message that reads, “Hi, my name is David G. Welcome to Apple! How can I help you?” This has got to be a standard form reply, right?

So, I fire off “How can I use my $100 iPhone credit for this purchase I want to make online?” Immediate on my “chat window” I see that “David G is typing a message”. Now I know I will be met with a barrage of questions like what am I trying to do, what page was I on, and so forth. What I see 20 seconds later takes me completely by surprise.

From David G: “To use the credit, on your screen you should see a button Change Payment Method. Click on that. It will bring you to a page where you can enter your iPhone credit info.”

Wow. So, I thank “David G.”. He responds with, “You’re welcome. I will keep the chat window open in case you have further questions about your order.” Turns out I do have a further question. On the final confirmation page, I can’t see where it indicates that my payment method is via the store credit and not my credit card. So, I reply a minute or so later that I do have another question. David must surely be busy with another customer now. Nope, within 1 second, he responds with “Sure, what’s up?”

I ask my question, he tells me exactly where I missed it, and I go on to complete my order. I thank him again, and he concludes with “Thank you for visiting the Apple Store. We appreciate your business.” Truly impressive. Well done Apple.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hybrid environments – the realm of Open Source

It is very rare that I come across a datacenter environment that is purely one technology. By that, I mean that most infrastructures are composed of some hybrid mix of legacy (old proprietary), commercial, and open source components. Why is that?

Well, for one, most of the companies I deal with are very large companies (Fortune 500), so chances are they have been around for a while, have probably gone through at least one M&A event, and have evolved over time. I know that many new, small startup companies rely heavily on open source components, but even they have some elements of “commercial” software … even if it is only the BIOS supporting the chipsets in their workstations/servers.

But perhaps even more significantly is that businesses have unique requirements that must be met in totality, which can rarely be done by any one software vendor or “class” of software products. People want to leverage the “best-fit” products to solve their business challenges and are increasingly evaluating the plethora of opportunities prior to making their enterprise selections. As such, the (software/solution) world is becoming more of a hybrid environment.

At every layer of the computing stack, organizations have a choice of very good components to choose from. Whether it is an Oracle, SQL, or MySQL/PostgreSQL database, Alfresco, Documentum, or FileNet content management system, Windows or Linux operating system, and so forth, are all choices that companies are considering. And, there is no one solution that fits all. Furthermore, much of the old legacy stuff in place in large organizations actually works well and doesn’t make a lot of sense to “rip out”. [NB: No doubt some of that old legacy stuff is limiting from a new-feature or support perspective and does need to be “modernized”.]

The beauty of open source is that it offers so many opportunities to complement existing environments with a solution that can help reduce cost or add flexibility, usually with little to no restructuring costs. So, it comes as no surprise that Novell is choosing to “bundle” IBM’s Websphere with its SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) product. This certainly represents one package that can work in certain environments. Of course, so is JBoss on top of Linux, a play obviously more “logical” to Red Hat than Novell. Although, it is ironic that IBM took an equity position in Red Hat as far back as 1999 to promote its open source software model.

Bottom line: the world is becoming more “intermixed”. That is true of population distributions, project teams, and yes, software environments. As much as any software vendor (particularly the giant ones) would love to “own” your entire environment, those days are waning. The new world is a hybrid one. Hybrid cars, hybrid species, and hybrid software. So, as you choose which components are right for your environment, look at the entire ecosystem of software solutions (commercial and open source) to meet your most demanding needs.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

GTC East 2007 – Business & Technology for Government

It’s been awhile since I traveled to Albany. And, this time of the year, seeing the leaves changing colors along the Hudson was absolutely spectacular. This is the 19th year for the event, obviously highlighting New York’s leading-edge efforts at studying emerging technology and its implication for government.

I had the honor of presenting a seminar session entitled “Open Source – Ready for Prime Time?” I co-presented with Ross Brunson, one of the solutions experts at Novell. My pitch focused on how big open source has grown in government, how we got here, and what hurdles remain impeding even faster growth ... including discussing how the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) is working to drive interoperability standards across open solutions. If you’d like a copy of my presentation, just comment here and I’ll send it to you.

As I walked the show floor, it seemed like all the big players in government were at this show, but one company that surprised me was Apple. They were there not to showcase the iPhone (nor were they particularly interested in my complaint of receiving only a $100 store credit when they dropped the price of the iPhone by $200). Apple was there showing off a server … what looked like a bunch of 2U-3U blades in a small rack. The rep indicated that this had been somewhat of a stealth product for Apple. So, an Apple server, presumably tuned and configured with government-related applications. It will be interested to see what sort of traction they get.

Another honor for me was receiving (along with RedHat) an award at the show for “Best Solution” for our New York State Courts’ Family Case Management System. Shown in the photo is (L to R) Mary Sharp, Unisys GOIS; Dr. Melody Mayberry-Stewart, NYS CIO, Joseph Lynch, Unisys Account Executive and also Advisory Board member for GTC; Naren Paten, Unisys Sales Executive Head for NY, and Garry Russell, Unisys sales executive. [Click on the photo to see a much clearer version.] As the state migrated to RedHat’s JBoss application server, some issues remained with web service enablement. According to Project Manager Carol Champitto and Technical Services Manager Jason Hill, the system is the court system’s most mission-critical application, processing close to 700,000 cases per year. Once we completed our efforts, the new JBoss cluster was comparable to the previous proprietary solution in terms of performance and scalability, but with much faster build and deployment cycles. Furthermore, by migrating to open source software, New York State Courts saved tax payers over $75,000 annually in maintenance fees and $500,000 in licensing fees over time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Enterprise Open Source Magazine article

Enterprise Open Source magazine just published an article I wrote on business adoption of open source solutions for mission-critical applications. The article analyzes the results of a study that Unisys commissioned from Forrester Consulting. Based on interviews with nearly 500 IT decision-makers worldwide, the research shows that adoption of open source isn't driven primarily by cost, as many might suppose, but by freedom -- freedom to use this powerful technology to solve their most pressing business problems the way they need to, without arbitrary restrictions imposed by any one vendor or self-appointed regulatory body. What are your experiences? I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Model of Mass-Collaboration

Many of my blog posts have focused on the business benefits of open source. But perhaps even more significant is how the open source model of “mass collaboration” is changing the way the world works. Some of you know that I’m working on a book on this topic. I’ll reveal the title as soon as the publisher is locked down. In the meantime, I’d like to share some of my thoughts around this topic in various blog entries. I welcome your feedback and continued discussion.

Of course, everyone is familiar with Wikipedia – the “open source encyclopedia”. And, many people have heard about the famous MIT experiment where obscenities were randomly inserted into various Wikipedia entries to see how long it would take the Wikipedia community to “self-police” itself. On average: 1.7 minutes. That's it! Under two minutes to remove randomly inserted obscenities. It’s the model of mass collaboration where people self-select based on their passions and skills. OK, some may argue that skills don’t play enough of a role, but you’ve got to admit that on average, the “wisdom of crowds” prevails such that the cream rises to the top and the crap gets filtered out. At my last count, there was something close to 6 million articles in Wikipedia. I remember reading a story in Nature
a couple years ago that carried out an “expert led” investigation to compare scientific entries in Wikipedia to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Their findings? Factual errors existed in both sources, but “the difference in accuracy was not particularly great.”

Speaking of science, InnoCentive
has emerged as an innovative solution to solve scientific conundrums faced by organizations. Established in 2001 (same time as Wikipedia), InnoCentive bills itself as “the first online, incentive-based initiative created specifically for the global R&D community”. It is built on a unique ‘Seeker’ and ‘Solver’ model that brings together scientists from over 175 countries to solve scientific problems. ‘Seekers’ such as Procter & Gamble, Boeing, Pittsburgh Plate & Glass and the Rockefeller Foundation pay annual fees to access InnoCentive's network of scientists. Scientists (or ‘Solvers’), offer solutions … and the winning solvers are rewarded. A current InnoCentive seeker is Prize4Life, a non-profit group focused on research for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), offering $1 million for a biomarker measuring progression of the disease. The InnoCentive advantage is that it opens problem-solving to a global scientific workforce and fuels collaborative problem solving. The power is in numbers – thousands of scientists can participate in the problem solving process, a scale that any one organization can hardly reach with its in-house R&D environment.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The CIO Conundrum

I call it the “CIO Conundrum”, and it goes something like this: you are the CIO of a large company and each year, your budget is, on average, decreasing by about 4%. And, most of the money you’re allocated (perhaps 70% of more) is used to maintain your existing environment, with probably a lot of legacy stuff in there. Of course, your users are demanding more and more features with greater accessibility to key data. And, if you are like most Fortune 500 companies, you probably have over 40 different financial systems and three ERP systems*. These systems are obviously each performing similar functions, but perhaps not exactly the same way (think 48 different versions of tax calculation).

To make matters worse, your company’s end-user customers want seamless, consistent access to their information. For example, if you are a brokerage house, your customers want access to their accounts and trading platform from anywhere including their cell phones. And, if the customers have multiple accounts (ie savings, corporate stock plan, 401K, capital growth, etc.), they absolutely want a common interface and “look and feel” into each of their accounts. The customers don’t care what applications are running in your environment, nor do they particularly care which databases, operating systems, and hardware are there. They expect it all to work and to give them what they want, when they want it. And, no doubt that if you don’t meet these user’s needs, your competitors will.

And, if that weren’t challenging enough for our hypothetical CIO, you are also being held more and more accountable for business results. You are no longer just a cost center. You are actually being asked to contribute to the business at the top line as well, and you may even have a seat at the executive committee table.

Hmm. That sounds like a pretty daunting task, and it is. That is the “CIO Conundrum”, and it is what makes the modern-day CIO job a very difficult role. But, the good news is that there is a way to solve this conundrum. And, that was the thrust of my keynote talk at the InterOpen Forum yesterday in Minneapolis. The forum was designed to help senior business executives leverage open solutions and interoperability toward improved business performance.

My talk was titled Harnessing Mass Collaboration for Business Results – How Open Source and Web 2.0 Are Solving the “CIO Conundrum”. We had a full house in the beautiful Wheelock Whitney Hall at the Minneapolis Community & Technical College. We had a great discussion in the hall, and also heard a wonderful presentation from Dominic Sartorio, President of the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) who presented “A Case for Customer Centricity” and the activities within the OSA. Michael Grove, OpenITWorks CEO, also spoke about collaborative projects to drive business results. My special thanks to Ron Fresquez, CEO TOSTA, for setting up a great event (and also for the great dinner at Brit’s Pub
... although we never got around to lawn bowling).

If you are interested in seeing any of the presentations, send me an email and I’ll be happy to forward them to you.

*2006 Bloor Research report

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Red Hat SI Breakfast outside Washington DC

Served on a panel discussion at today’s Red Hat breakfast seminar entitled: The Next Big Open Source Migration – SOA: Simple, Open, Affordable. I was joined by very knowledgeable panel members including Robert Ames, BU Executive at IBM; Drew Cohen, Senior Principal at Booze Allen, and Joe Dickman, Program Director for AEM (Applied Engineering Management). The keynote was delivered by Shaun Connolly, who I believe the last time he and I were together was in Vegas at JBoss World right after they were purchased by Red Hat. Lynne Corddry (RedHat VP Business Development, Public Sector), an old friend from her days running Federal Systems & Technology for Unisys, chaired the event.

The attendees were mainly folks from Government, but they all had an interest in SOA and the future of the JBoss stack. It was a packed house and a lot of great questions were asked, including how best to go about choosing the right components (open source and commercial) in datacenter environments. The folks at RedHat did a very nice job organizing the breakfast and hosting the event (check out the photo of 2941 Restaurant). It was also very nice to finally meet Paul Smith face-to-face. Paul is the RedHat VP for Government Sales Operations. He and I have chatted many times on the phone, but somehow found a way to keep missing each other over the past year.

I was a little disappointed that upon reading the recently published Red Hat 2007 Annual Report, on page 7 under the category: Support by leading independent software and hardware vendors to the large enterprise, there was no mention of Unisys. Somewhat unfortunate given that we were the first vendor in the world to scale Red Hat Linux beyond four processors, the first to scale it to 32 processors, and that we run one of the largest commercial database environments on Red Hat Linux. And, I believe we were the first vendor to achieve EAL 3/4 certification with Red Hat. Hopefully Matthew will take notice and address in their next 10K report :-).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Open Source in Washington, DC

I had the wonderful opportunity to present at the Breakthrough Technology Innovations: Creating Secure and Agile Infrastructures conference. It was held last week at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC and was attended by well over one hundred government executives. The opening keynote was delivered by John Garing, DISA CIO. John spoke about the rate at which change is occurring and showed the now extremely popular Shift Happens Youtube video. John seems to be doing some great things in DISA and it was a great honor to meet him and a few of his staff members.

The panel session on Modernization was hosted by my friend and colleague, John Carrow. John’s extensive experience in both government and commercial industry coupled with his engaging speaking style make him a “must see” speaker. John also authored a guest-spot on my blog a few months ago ... definitely worth reading. My talk last week focused on how the open source development model of mass collaboration is changing the world. It was an engaging day with much audience interaction.

One of the interesting topics that came up from a few of the Government folks was security of open source. They really wanted to understand how open source compared to commercial software from a security perspective and felt that there wasn’t enough information in the general public on this topic, particularly at the executive business level. Although there are lots of discussions and opinions on this topic (“with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”), I agreed to put together a high-level white paper on open source security for government usage. So, stay tuned as I put that together.

Lastly, another really useful blog on open source in government is my colleague Christian Wernberg’s blog
. His focus is more European, but the topics are applicable all over the world. Christian also authored the chapter in the Open Source for Knowledge and Learning Management book (which I has the honor of editing) on how governments evaluate open source.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

At the NYSE with Don Tapscott

If you’ve never heard Don Tapscott speak, try to do so. Not only is he the author of the world’s number one bestselling business book (Wikinomics), but he is also a fantastic speaker. I had the opportunity to speak with him at a CIO Breakfast meeting in the Club Room at the New York Stock Exchange.

Don presented the Web 2.0 phenomenon and its impact on business. I followed his pitch with specific challenges going on in the world of financial services and how modernization and open source are creating opportunities for dramatic enhancements to business. It was great speaking with some of the executives of the largest financial institutions in the world, discussing their challenges and opportunities for future growth.

After the presentation, the NYSE folks gave us a tour of the stock exchange floor. It was the first time I had ever been on the floor. I walked up to the Unisys market maker and jokingly asked him if I could buy a share of stock. Although the place was packed and scraps of paper were littered all over the floor, they told us that traffic has greatly reduced over the past few years due to electronic trading. Although security to get into the NYSE building was incredibly tight (took me over 15 minutes to get through the security checks), it was worth the wait. Thanks much to Laura Prescuitti and the folks at Ziff-Davis for a great event in NY.

Following this, I hopped a train to Washington DC to present to the General Services Administration (GSA) and Small Business Administration (SBA) folks on the current and future states of mass collaboration and how it can help them. It was a great event setup by my friend and colleague Andy Gordon. And, although the public sector space is a lot different than financial services, many of their underlying challenges are the same: most of their IT dollars spent supporting existing (lot of legacy) stuff, business functions duplicated all over the place in monolithic applications, declining budgets, a need to add new features or enhancements to existing applications, a need to provide better services to end users, and so forth.

In each presentation, I spoke about the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) and its role in helping drive the interoperability standards and reference architectures required to drive the impact and consumption of open source and open solutions on addressing the business challenges noted above. In the public sector space, you have additional groups such as The Open Group and the OTD. The OTD roadmap is used by the Department of Defense for its future technology strategy. And, check out this quote, lifted straight from the OTD roadmap: “This report recommends shifts in the process of technology acquisition from closed, locked-in black box systems to open and modular approaches. These open approaches are based on open standards, services based architecture, open source collaboration, and reference open source implementations. These shifts, in turn, enable a business process migration from proprietary products that can only be changed by one vendor, towards a marketplace for professional services to extend and adapt capabilities on demand.”

Monday, May 28, 2007

The State of Open Source Business

Sean Michael Kerner wrote a nice article on the state of open source business, summarizing findings by 451 and other research firms. Having just attended and presented at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), not to mention spending the last twelve months meeting with CIOs and CFOs of Fortune 500 companies discussing open source, much of what Michael discusses rings true.

However, one comment jumped out at me that I felt warranted further discussion. I’m not sure if this quote is Kerner’s or is attributed to Andrew Aiken at Olliance, but in any case, the quote reads, “CIOs apparently feel that proprietary solutions still have an edge over open source solutions when it comes to on [sic] integration and interoperability.”

Certainly if the reference was to proprietary solutions that are built by one vendor as a true end-to-end solution, I would agree. However, I’m sure we’ve all battled with proprietary solutions across the stack from multiple vendors … the data doesn’t integrate, the same service is performed in multiple applications, user interfaces are different, and so forth. The real challenge: how do you leverage the benefits of open solutions (no vendor lock-in, reduced cost, etc. … all the points mentioned by Michael in his article) without suffering from the multi-vendor integration issues that plague our industry?

Enter the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA), and the primary reason that Unisys joined OSA. The OSA is all about helping address those interoperability issues, building reference architectures and customer proof points, driving greater developer involvement in open solutions, and creating increased consumption of open solutions in the business community. The first proof point: a demo at LinuxWorld (August 6th-9th) in San Francisco showing the interoperability of a legacy point-of-sale application tied into a CRM, ERP, and other open solution components. And, there are several other activities going on within OSA including a single sign-on working group. Everything in OSA is transparent to the entire world (members and non-members alike), with the goal of addressing the problem statement noted above.

I think the future of business solutions, whether they are open or proprietary, depends heavily on how well they interoperate across the business … hence the major thrust around Services Oriented Architecture. And, the key to making that work is interoperability standards that allow it all to play together.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Open Source Business Conference (OSBC)

What a great show put on by Matt Asay and the rest of the crew. Kicked off by a compelling presentation from Matthew Szulik, the buzz during the first day was wonderful. Just about anyone who is “anyone” in Open Source was there, with a few notable exceptions (I didn’t see any folks from Sun or IBM). During Matt Asay’s welcoming remarks, he commented on the value of the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) and what we are trying to do there.

I served on one panel session discussing the traction of open source in the channel. My fellow panel members included Ranga Rangachari (CEO, Groundwork), Lars Nordwall (Sales VP, SugarCRM), and Anthony Roby from Accenture. Some great points were raised about the role of the channel and how important it is to optimize heterogeneous environments in order to leverage open source within existing environments.

I also delivered one of the breakout keynotes on Open Source in High-Performance Information Systems. The group asked some good questions around how business executives determine which open source projects are right for their particular strategy and how to go about integrating within legacy environments. I also presented some case studies around Reuters, SHK (largest non-bank financial services company in Hong Kong), and Redmayne-Bentley (largest independent stockbroker in the UK) and how each of those companies is using open source in mission-critical environments to modernize their business.

It was also very nice speaking to many companies about the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) and the work that organization is doing to drive the development and consumption of open solutions. Plus, with a nice plug from Matt Asay during his kickoff presentation, I received a lot of questions about how to go about joining OSA.

One of the surprising elements was the amount of Microsoft bashing that went on in public presentations. Certainly MSFT has its share of detractors, but they are also doing a lot of work in the open source space (Bill Hilf’s team are top notch with a great vision). I suppose people have a need to identify villains and victimizers (helps make us feel better perhaps). But, in a few cases, the villainous statements directed toward MSFT were flat out wrong. The curse of being big.

Another surprising element (at least to me) was the lack of business users at the conference … you would think with the title of “open source business conference” that there would have been many more customers and potential customers. However, the show seemed to be comprised of vendors, their partners, some VCs, and a lot of lawyers. Interesting, even with so many lawyers there, I did not hear a lot of debate around GPL 3.0 (nor a lot of lawyer jokes).

It was also very nice seeing some old friends there like Tom Costello, CEO UpStreme in Pennsylvania; Derek Rodner, marketing executive for Enterprise DB; and Peter Gallagher, CEO Devis. And, since I’ve gotten in the habit of commenting on the hotels I’ve been living out of over the past year, the Palace Hotel on New Montgomery Street in San Francisco was superb. The rooms were decent and the ambiance was great. My only complaint: they have this air-conditioning system where you can set the temperature to anything you want (down to 65 degrees), but it is controlled by a motion sensor. So, once you stop moving around in the room (ie sitting at the desk working or sleeping in bed), the A/C turns off and the room gets very warm.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Open Source for Knowledge & Learning Management

A new textbook aimed at universities and researchers deals with how private and public sector institutions evaluate open source software alongside traditional software. The book, Open Source for Knowledge and Learning Management, includes a chapter by Christian Wernberg-Tougaard (Unisys director of Marketing and Communications, Global Public Sector, Continental Europe) entitled, "Evaluating Open Source in Government: Methodological Considerations in Strategizing the Use of Open Source in the Public Sector." I had the honor of reviewing and editing this chapter, which places particular emphasis on our detailed experiences integrating open source solutions for many clients.

The many benefits of FOSS have made it attractive to public sector institutions, but a successful implementation of FOSS in government, Wernberg counsels, should be based on a solid evaluation of the impact open source will have on an organization. Wernberg presents a well-thought-out and comprehensive methodology (based on the 3D-VE modeling approach) addressing how governments can go about making the best and cheapest choices when facing the challenge of how to gain maximum business value from open source solutions.

Christian and his fellow editors (including Patrice Emmanuel Schmitz, director EU Consultancy Practice) included much of the Unisys knowledge expertise in this area. The result is a wonderful chapter that sheds light on the decision-making factors to be considered when integrating FOSS in government. Check it out today; the book is available at Amazon, as well as other major retailers.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Forrester Consulting Study: A Key Role for SI’s in Open Source

Today Unisys issued the results of a study commissioned from Forrester Consulting. It surveyed European, UK and North American companies that had evaluated or are using open source software. The interviews with nearly 500 senior IT decision makers indicate a growing acceptance of open source in business-critical applications. They also indicate a major need for integrated solutions wrapped around services, including consulting, integration and continued support, to unlock the full potential of open source for mission-critical applications.

Those results indicate a strong and growing role in open source for systems integrators. With proficiency in delivering enterprise solutions and broad – often global – solution delivery capabilities that small software and even service providers lack, SI’s can provide the key to unlocking the full value of open source software, transforming low cost into full business value.

I encourage all of you to check it the results, and I’m hoping we can have some good discussion around this topic. Furthermore, along the lines of open source integration, take a look at the OSA interoperability roadmap and the Common Customer View prototype. There is some really cool work going on there. I look forward to your comments. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Linux on Wall Street

On Monday I attended the Linux on Wall Street conference. The overall theme of the conference was leveraging open source (and Linux) to power mission-critical business applications, particularly financial services applications. Many of the big boys from all spheres were there (customers, vendors, press, and analysts). I had the opportunity to present a keynote session entitled “Open Source in High-Performance Trading Systems”.

My talk began with a discussion of how popular Linux and open source have become over a relatively short period of time, where the market is today and is projected to go, and what lessons there were for all of us in this era of mass collaboration and the “architecture of participation”. Who of us a few years ago would have imagined that the terms Linux and Wall Street would be in the same sentence, let alone a conference title?

I also drew the comparison between the early rise of the internet and the current trends going on in open source development. Does anyone remember folks who said, “What would our company ever use the internet for?” I recalled the “Sustained Inattentional Blindness for Dynamic Events” study, or what I called the “Gorilla Experiment”. For those of you who don’t know about this, it’s an experiment that was put together by researchers from the University of Illinois and Harvard.

Volunteers were asked to watch a video and count the number of times that two teams of people passed a basketball back and forth to one another. So, in the video, you had these two teams throwing the ball back and forth, and the volunteers were asked to count the number of passes that were made. The video runs for about 45 seconds and at about 30 seconds into the video, a person dressed in a gorilla outfit comes into the video, right into the middle of the action, stays there for about 9 seconds, and then leaves.

Here’s the amazing part. 50% of the volunteers never saw the gorilla. They were so intent on counting passes that they missed the gorilla walking in. To me, it’s this whole idea of conscious unconsciousness. Applied to the open source development model, on some level, people are aware of it, but on another level, they are choosing to do nothing about it. Details of the “gorilla experiment” can be found here.

We then dove into the details of the financial services market, the challenges that companies face with their legacy infrastructures, and the need they all have to offer more “portalized” experiences for their clients. As customers, we all want to access our account information from wherever we are: brick, web, mobile, etc. And, we don’t care what applications, databases, or operating systems are running the systems. These portals need to serve as windows into services on the network and back-office functions. Of course, with their legacy heritage and various M&A’s, most financial institutions are struggling with modernizing their environment and achieving this sort of services oriented architecture (SOA).

But, these problems are solvable with the proper phased approach. And, this is one of the areas that the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) is working to address. In their common customer view prototype (which will be demoed at the upcoming LinuxWorld in San Fran), a point-of-sale legacy application will be integrated with an open source ERP system, an open source CRM system, and a bunch of other open source components. The customer information will be captured once (at POS) and automatically propagated into every system and every database. The reference architecture will be published for anyone to use, and the entire project is completely transparent … anyone can come to the OSA site and contribute.

Back to Linux on Wall Street, I also flew in a client of ours from the UK to speak about their success. Redmayne-Bentley is one of the UK’s largest independent stockbrokers. And, Michael Wheeler, their CIO/CFO equivalent, is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Redmayne-Bentley was running a legacy Cobol application on SCO Unix and essentially was running out of horsepower, and of course, had very little opportunity to innovate. And, this was their main trading system! So, they were looking to modernize the application environment. They have had a very good relationship with Unisys (kudos to our sales lead there Richard West), and we guided Redmayne-Bentley to an open source modernization solution leveraging three ES7000 systems.

To make a long story short, the migration to the new system was completed with zero down-time, they now see a 10x improvement in overall performance, their overnight processing is now down from 13 hours to just 1.5 hours; and they’ve had 100% reliability and availability since the migration (zero seconds of downtime, other than the normal software maintenance updates).

Yes, Linux and open source have made it to Wall Street, and yes, they belong there. Mass collaboration is changing the world, and Linux and the open source development model have helped usher in this phenomenon. Here’s to the road ahead.

Finally, to my faithful readers, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a comment about the Roosevelt Hotel, the venue hosting the event. Those of you who follow my blog already know my perspective on the Roosevelt. Beautiful hotel, lousy rooms.

So, not only was my room as cramped and suffocating as the last time I stayed there, but I must have also gathered some negative karma that resulted in my leaving my cell phone charger in the room. When I phoned the next day to check on whether anyone had “found” it, they told me that the current occupant indicated that nothing was plugged into the wall. I don’t suppose they ever considered asking the housekeeping staff.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

SOA article written for Enterprise Systems Journal

SOA: You’ll Need More than Technology

To transform a company’s architecture to an SOA model, a systematic long-term roadmap is critical.


by Anthony Gold

Every few years the IT industry embraces the "next big thing." Occasionally, it is a technology in search of a solution or a technology ahead of its time. However, many times it is a technology that solves a real problem just as the requirement emerges. A recent "next big thing"—open source (e.g., Linux)—addressed the IT needs of lower cost, increased flexibility, and freedom of choice. It took years and the commitment of both large IT providers and customers of all sizes to take open source from an interesting idea to today’s mainstream successful development and product model.

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is the current "next big thing." After years of discussion and definition, SOA is being actively deployed just as businesses are focused on more effectively integrating business processes and IT services for greater flexibility and managed cost. Built on supporting technologies such as object orientation and open standards, SOA helps make IT more responsive by addressing the very real business issues of code and functional reuse, the cost of development and maintenance, and improving business agility and responsiveness.

Read the rest of my article here at ESJ.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Speaking engagements

As people become aware of the possible applications of open source in segments of society beyond the technical field, I find that I'm presented with more and more opportunities to extol the virtues of open source. (Of course, I still love presenting to the techies as well.)

Last week, I had the chance to speak at the Emerging Technology conference in Philadelphia. Presenting to a mostly technical audience on open source licensing gave me a chance to touch on the finer points of the topic, emphasizing some of the pitfalls to watch out for when using Open Source in production environments. I had a sharp audience before me, and they asked some excellent questions regarding potential litigation and the status of GPL 3.

The next day, I cruised down to Washington, D.C. to talk about application modernization with a group of politicos—including Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and former Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker. This was a great opportunity to address concerns about open source in the public sector, where the applications used are often twenty-plus years old. Most of the original programmers are no longer around, making it difficult to add new features. In my talk, I emphasized the ways in which open source can greatly help with modernizing legacy applications. It was truly an honor to share modernization possibilities with such a distinguished crowd.

Incidentally, while in D.C., I stayed at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, one of the nicest I've ever had the pleasure to visit.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Philadelphia Future Salon event

As open source emerges from its nascent stages and transforms the IT industry, the possibilities of its applications seem endless—a sure attraction for the next generation of engineers and software developers. Recently, I had the opportunity to address a group of up-and-comers at a Philadelphia Future Salon event and was heartened by the enthusiasm the college-aged audience showed for open source and its myriad possibilities.

The intended focus of the March 8th panel discussion was open source licensing—it’s various models, and how to navigate through them. But, with the audience being fairly new to open source, the attendees steered the conversation toward more general topics, asking insightful questions and gaining a solid understanding of the open source model. This orienting dialogue opened the way for us to talk about the huge opportunities for enterprises large and small to reap the benefits of open source software and its model of collaborative development.

Today's tech-savvy peer group has embraced social networking sites that open up channels of communication, turning this generation into one of enthusiastic collaborators. Who better than these young individuals to help shape the future of open source?

I greatly enjoyed presenting to this group and look forward to further opportunities to present as part of the Philadelphia Future Salon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Guest Blog spot - Open for Business

One of the great aspects of running the Open Source business at Unisys is the opportunity to meet so many noteworthy people in the open source world. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to create a “guest blog” spot where some of those people could contribute an article for the benefit of all of us.

So, for the first of such contributions, I’ve asked a friend of mine, John Carrow, who is currently the Senior VP for Strategic Client Development at Unisys, if he would like to submit such an article. John joined Unisys as the CIO and VP of Worldwide IT in 1996 and led the global IT activities of Unisys for ten years. Before joining Unisys, John served as the first CIO for the City of Philadelphia. For his work in that role, he was selected as Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine. Needless to say, John knows a lot about technology, particularly how it can be leveraged to create business benefits for large organizations. I was very pleased when, within 30 minutes after sending him an email request late on a Friday evening, John responded with his enthusiastic support to write such a posting.

Open for Business
by John C. Carrow

Open Source Déjà Vu


It was 1998 and the tech industry was flourishing in the irrational exuberance of the dot com era. Off in the Northwest of the U.S., a gathering of engineers from Microsoft and Unisys were designing the Windows Data Center Edition operating system to be run on open servers. Microsoft engineers brought their Windows desktop experience, and Unisys engineers and others brought their experience to building mainframe operating systems. The goal of this partnership was to build a first-class operating system that could run high transaction volumes within a highly reliable environment.

While in the late 1990s IT budgets were strong across all industries in preparation for the Y2K event, this was also a time when there was a great deal of skepticism among the CIO community as to whether it was practical to think that Microsoft, known for its desktop OS and tool set, could produce an operating system that would be industrial strength enough to run mission-critical applications inside the data center. After all, there were the strong mainframe environments, although proprietary and costly, yet so reliable. There was the UNIX environment that had matured to be the platform of choice for the many applications and, of course, Solaris.

Today, when we look at the IT data center environment, some nine years later, we see that roughly 50 percent of the data center operating system environment runs Windows Data Center Edition. In fact, it has displaced much of the previous installed base of proprietary operating systems. It has shown that it is reliable, scalable and capable of running the large mission-critical applications. It has also shown the power of supportability cost savings achieved through standardization from the desktop through the mid-tier servers and into the data center. Skeptics are now believers!

So what does this have to do with Open Source?

Here we are in 2007 with a new concept, Open Source, for the creation of applications from operating systems to data base management systems, ERPs and beyond. Limited only by the imagination, virtual gatherings of talented engineers, each with their own area of specialty, embark on software development projects sponsored by a variety of sources, built around shared IP and unrestricted use. Their goals are to provide unique applications which benefit the IT industry and the companies that the industry serves. Strong leader projects have emerged to provide viable products, such as MySQL, JBoss, Apache, and the Linux operating system to name a few. Predictably, the CIO skeptics have also emerged.

Open Source brings with it the unknown. And unknowns create risk and doubt that causes slow acceptance in the marketplace – and that’s not all bad. It’s part of the vetting of new ideas. These unknowns show themselves in IP liability issues, supportability questions, interoperability and scalability concerns. At the same time the open source community is coming to grips with these issues. Policies and standards are being set, and service companies are being created to address the maintenance, distribution and general support concerns. Companies like Sourcefire and SugarCRM have paved the way on licensing and pricing models. A whole new set of service providers geared toward the Open Source issues has emerged. Unisys has announced a set of service offerings, Unisys Open and Secure Integrated Solutions (OASIS), which will address the installation, interoperability and configuration of a defined Open Source technology stack. Oracle, Microsoft, and Sun have also joined the party with their own Open Source offerings.

At the same time, as this segment of the IT industry is forming, the skeptical CIO community sees that it cannot be avoided. Most IT shops have taken on the Open Source standards just as a function of acquiring normal commercial product, which has embedded Open Source functionality. The government and some industry segments in media, entertainment, utilities and communications have become very aggressive in their adoption and use of Open Source for even critical business applications, as the claims of lower total cost of ownership and lower acquisition costs are realized.

Here’s to the winners

Much like the early days of the Microsoft venture into the data center operating system market, which took a decade for large-scale penetration and acceptance, the Open Source marketplace is forming -- and its viability is being proven. We will look back in a decade’s time, and maybe quicker, to see an industry that has been radically transformed by virtual engineers, working collaboratively with great innovation, supported by a new model of service companies. The winners will be 1) engineers who will apply their endless creativity, 2) entrepreneurial companies who see the voids and fill the spaces, 3) consumers who see the future and the benefits to their environment and 4) the global IT industry as it strives for greater agility, speed and business focus.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Open Solutions Alliance (OSA)

I’ve spoken (and written) often on the need to drive open source not only from the bottoms-up, but also from the top down to help clearly articulate the value proposition of what open source can do for business, from a CxO perspective. There is noticeably much focus on enhancing open source components with new features, improved reliability, and the like. But, where is the push to ensure the business needs are being clearly captured and driven throughout the community? It sure would be nice if there was an unbiased initiative setup with the right level people and the right culture to drive such a focus. And now there is.

The Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) is a 501c organization (nonprofit) with a vendor-neutral membership focused on driving the development and acceptance of open source business solutions. The organization will work with open source software developers, system integrators, and the broader open source community to improve interoperability among software products. The goal: create more integrated and rapidly deployable solutions for business users. This is a very good thing for everyone involved.

Driving interoperability standards for open source components should lead to greater enterprise-class functionality and increased breadth of applications. Not only will standards help the incumbent players better develop their applications, but this should draw more ISVs into the fray leading to more competition and better products for the end user. But, in order to incorporate mission critical business requirements, you need someone who really understands systems integration, high-end enterprises, and vertical markets. Enter Unisys.
As the first SI player in OSA, we will work closely with the members to help position these requirements. Additionally, with our product development capabilities, we are going to help implement some of the glue code to help make that integration work. There are several other top notch organizations that are part of OSA, and I’m sure others will soon join. The end result: more rapid creation and better applicability of open source solutions to address compelling business challenges. I am very excited to help drive this initiative.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

SOA, OSA, and the Philly Emerging Technology Conference

To those who follow my postings, I apologize for the short-term absence. Between completing 2007 strategic planning, meeting with clients, attending the Eastern Technology Council's CIO Rountable on Web 2.0, Web Services / SOA on Wall Street conference, Linux World in NYC, and developing a press-release around the open solutions alliance (OSA), it’s been a busy time. New York is such a great city to visit, especially when I have an opportunity to chat with so many open source leaders. The only negatives (besides the snow storm that stranded so many would-be attendees) were the accommodations at the Roosevelt Hotel. The rooms are very tiny, with zero sound-deadening, and the closets are no more than 10 inches deep … forget about trying to hang any shirts or jackets in there, unless you cram them in sideways. The in-house restaurant service is very slow, and, like everything else in NYC, prices are very expensive. A single bottle of spring water at the Roosevelt costs $16. But, putting all that aside, it was wonderful to see so much buzz around open source, both from a vendor perspective as well as from major Wall Street firms. And, that buzz is just starting to heat up for 2007.

Some great events coming in March include the Open Source Think Tank, the OTD conference, and the Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise event.

The Think Tank is sponsored by the Olliance Group
and will be bringing many leading open source companies together to discuss the future of commercial open source. Myself and Ali Shadman from Unisys are planning to attend.

The ODT conference is a two-day event addressing the Department of Defense’s Open Technology Development (OTD) to leverage open source software, standards, and architecture into the DoD. One of the foremost leaders in this space, John Scott, will be attending this event, not to mention other top executives from the government.

The Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise event had a huge turnout in 2006 and looks to be even bigger this year. It is the largest event in the Philadelphia region around open source technologies for the enterprise. The conference is sponsored by Chariot Solutions
, which, by the way, is a great open source consulting firm with some very impressive talent. A senior Unisys executive and CIO, John Carrow, will be speaking at the event as well as the founder of Spring Framework, Rod Johnson. Also, I will be part of a panel session discussing the various legal aspects of open source, including how to select the best tools, applications, and licensing models to best meet various business needs.

I know these events (and many others this year) will help further the open source movement and draw more businesses closer to realizing the huge potential from leveraging open source. I can only hope the accommodations for these events will not resemble the Roosevelt.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Open Source investment takes off

For any who doubt the rise and acceptance of Open Source, take a look at ComputerWire’s report on how much venture capital is being invested in this space. Not only did those investments more than double from last year, not only is it nearing a total of $1 billion invested since 2000, but this growth is “vastly outpacing” investments in the rest of the IT market. The market demand for open source solutions is driving proliferation of new products and the financial backing for those companies focused on developing them and bringing them to market. And, most of the VCs I know want to see a 10x return on their investment over 5 years, making the 2011 valuation look pretty sizable. The article is a highly worthwhile read.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The SI’s role in Open Source

System Integrators (SI)’s, by definition, must be “Jacks of all trades,” and preferably master of some (though oftentimes better than master of one). But, the biggest challenge in today’s service economy is how best to bridge the gap between business and technology. Within an Open Source environment, the gap is the empty space between the business vision & strategy and the technology required to realize that strategy on an ongoing basis.

In recent discussions I’ve had with the CIO of a very large Wall Street brokerage house, their challenge is all the legacy systems and multiple databases, each serving different types of investment accounts with little to no automated data sharing. How does a major business process like “Open Account” map through all the hardware and software elements of the datacenter? How does it all tie together, and how easy is it to make a change, or even understand the implications of a potential change? These are major hindrances toward a more seamless, flexible environment in which the vision, strategy, and technology are all coordinated.

In order for an SI to move beyond being one person or company that integrates disparate systems into a datacenter environment, they need to be able to bridge the connections between the systems and business. And the only way to successfully do this is to understand the business. Good SI’s hold the advantage in this approach as they understand business top to bottom, comprising skills of part business executive, part industry consultant, part technologist, and part innovator.

Here are a few more FAQ’s as to an SI’s role in Open Source

Why are SIs in great demand?
Because companies want to focus on their core attributes … what they do best … the true differentiating value they have to offer. That means that for the rest of the stuff, they want someone else to worry about that.

But the SIs also have the role of driving the best technologies into business. Why?
Many of the best technologies are built from startups, particularly in the open source space. And these startups, with their great technological innovations, don’t have an easy entrée into the mass corporations. The SIs have this penetration capability with their skills, proven solutions, and their relationships.

Do SI’s need to remain unbiased?
They sure do. It is not good if an SI is also a maker and seller of these technologies. If an SI has a vested interest in pushing their own technologies, a company may not have the opportunity to explore more effective components (cheaper, better fit, etc.) from the “outside”.

This is an approach we take at Unisys, and believe in. The priority, of course, is to ensure our customers have the best offerings for their mission critical open source environments. As an SI with no vested interest in the solutions our customers are using, we simply will not succeed unless they do. Hence a strategic partnership is formed.

Lastly, regarding an SI’s role in Open Source, if you haven’t already seen it, Matt Asay recently published Open Sources Reflections on 2006, which you may find of interest. In his post, Matt recognized Unisys as “the biggest services gun” around open source, a bestowal for which I am most proud.