Yahoo: Goodbye Bartz Hello Baidu or Apple

In yet another mystifying move, Yahoo’s board fired Carol Bartz and ended her three year tenure as CEO.  Over the last three years, Bartz has had to clean up after the less than stellar leadership of both Jerry Yang and Terry Semel led to revenue slowdowns, management bloat, product missteps, and who knows what else.

While I’m saddened to see Bartz go, I’m more aggravated by the ridiculous articles and blogs regarding Yahoo’s past, present, and future.  Note to the mainstream press…Yahoo IS NOT Google.  Yahoo is NOT Facebook.

Yahoo IS an Internet icon, a portal destination, an information and communications hub, and is chalk full of popular services and offerings.  Often seen as less innovative than Google, Yahoo has made meaningful contributions to Hadoop and has recently open sourced Traffic Server which was acquired as part of the Inktomi acquisition.

I see two paths for Yahoo; Baidu and Apple.

Baidu has grown into a formidable challenger to Google.  For Baidu to take the next step they must enter the Western marketplace and Yahoo would be the perfect vehicle to make this a reality.  A cash and talent infusion by Baidu would reinvigorate Yahoo giving it new life to innovate and disrupt its way to revenue growth.  It would also mean an end to Yahoo’s partnership with Microsoft (or would it) as well as new competitive efforts across traditional and mobile solutions.

Apple is a dominant force within the mobile/tablet community and Yahoo would make the perfect destination for their users.  With one brush of the pen, Yahoo would be folded under the Apple brand and would change the perception of Yahoo from old/dying to new/exciting.  Apple could use Yahoo as a platform for iCloud services and revamp Yahoo’s offerings to work seamlessly within iOS and OSX.  Additionally, Apple could use Yahoo to offer new and innovative Cloud services and accelerate the adoption of HTML5.

In the end, Bartz will come-up a winner in this mess as her honesty and toughness is refreshing.  However, the future for Yahoo may be bright as long as the Board realizes it’s time to turn the reigns over and sell the company.  Let’s hope they don’t turn down an offer like they had from Microsoft again and Yahoo finds a new home!

Is Social Networking Really Social?

This last week I attended the GigaOM Structure conference in San Francisco, California.  I was fortunate to be invited to a VIP reception where I had the opportunity to meet and discuss Cloud computing challenges with people who are both technically gifted and passionate about Cloud computing.

However, while attending the Opening Day 1 Keynotes, I realized that “one of these things is not like the other” and I was a dinosaur in the room.  Flanked by iPads, Android Tablets, iPhones, and Laptops, I was sitting in the auditorium with an ordinary pen and notepad.

In fact, I felt like I was one of the few people who were actually listening to the presenters.  Most people had TweetDeck open with 10 or more Twitter feeds or were furiously posting away in Facebook.  Sure some were taking notes within Evernote, OneNote, or Google Documents, but a large number of people were simply preoccupied within their own social networks.

Does anyone listen anymore?  Are we all simply consumers of information rather than content providers?  Do you really have to Tweet every word or idea that is presented to you?

My goal was to learn from the presenters and disseminate information within the context of professional life.  My attention and focus was on understanding what the presenters were trying to convey to the audience while looking for deeper meaning or context.  Rather than feverishly try to capture every word the presenters were saying, a simple abstract recorded within my notepad was all I needed to find meaning while enjoying their presentations.

In fact, half of the fun was watching the interactions between the presenters and the audience.  The subtle jabs at the competitors or industry leaders with a simple grin or non-verbal action.  Did my fellow Tweeters notice these subtleties as well?

In the end, I worry that social networking is not social at all and is taking away the very essence of what makes us human.  Tweeting, SMS messaging, Facebooking, etc. has its place, but nothing replaces a real conversation, handshake, hug, or smile.

Competitors Beware: Cisco’s Dawn is Hot and Bright

Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems that it is in vogue to root against large and powerful companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and more.  Looking back through the years, I haven’t always been complimentary of these companies but I’ve tried to remain objective yet present my opinion on their visions, strategies, and execution.

With the release of John Chamber’s memo to Cisco’s employees, Cisco is clearly under the microscope.  People are actually calling Cisco “Too Big To Succeed” and pointing towards an impending investor upheaval.  Could you imagine these statements made toward GE, Boeing, IBM, Facebook, or Google?

As Jack Welch famously said, “Willingness to change is a strength, even it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.”

Given that the entire world of IT is within a major inflection point, Chamber’s email must be seen as strength not weakness.  To respond to this rapid change, Cisco needed to reprioritize and refocus the company ala Google’s reorganization.  Furthermore, I’d like to see Chambers firmly take the reigns at Cisco to forcibly guide them through this next phase of technology.

Always remember that Cisco isn’t a “one-hit-wonder” as they have diversified products and services that address consumers, service providers, and enterprise customers.  The reality is Cisco plays a vital role within the IT industry and they are re-inventing the company to solve new and complex challenges manifested by this new IT inflection point.  Great ideas and execution are not limited to young companies and these companies have much to learn from Cisco.

Finally, rather than focus on Cisco’s reorganization and stagnant stock price, let’s look towards their new products within storage (MDS), switching (Nexus), compute (UCS), and datacenter fabric (FabricPath), as they are revolutionary, disruptive, and competitive.  My only suggestion to Cisco is that they need to fill additional product gaps (hardware/software/services) via strategic acquisitions of healthy, growing, and visionary companies.

Competitors beware, as the old proverb goes, “It’s always darkest before the dawn” and Cisco’s got a blazing hot and bright light.

Security: Protecting Ourselves, Our Businesses, Our Customers and Our Future

While Operation Aurora, Zeus, and Conficker have garnered some national attention (fading), the mainstream user population remains relatively unphased by these security risks and the dangers they pose to both their workplace and home. High profile breaches from the likes of Blue Cross and HSBC have done little to raise awareness and anger over security mishaps. Heck, even attacks against the beloved site Facebook are nothing more then annoyances that are becoming commonplace for their millions of loyal users.

I find it humorous when people refer to Operation Aurora attacks as primitive or unsophisticated. The question is not how sophisticated or elegant an attack is, but rather how effective is the attack itself? Early denial-of-service attacks were not sophisticated but they were deadly. Remember the old SYN Flood or Ping of Death attacks?

Like all industries, cyber criminals come in varying levels of expertise and knowledge. Let’s face it, some are down right brilliant across multiple areas; finding exploits, writing virus or malware programs, finding a delivery mechanism, and avoiding detection. Others aren’t as gifted, but they do have the ability to cook up schemes and piggy back on the work of others (Zeus) to create havoc and personal gain. Remember, the good guys have to be right all the time while the bad guys only have to be right once.

IT security is a waltz between classic security elements such as firewalls and virus scanners, applications, servers, clients, networking, storage, virtualization, and people. While it is always exciting to deploy the latest security gadget, one cannot discount the role people play in IT security. Communication, understanding, flexibility, and a willingness to work together are just a few of the keys to creating and maintaining a positive environment for meaningful IT security.

Finally, IT security must transcend silos to view the big picture and think strategically. If we view each discipline as a puzzle piece, then only by putting all the pieces together does the true picture reveal itself. Like any piece of art, the picture must be shared across the disciplines and various levels within an organization to garner perspective and insight. This can only be accomplished via automation, correlation, reporting, and more; a must-have not a nice-to-have in any enterprise. Why is this principle accepted for financial data displayed within multi-million dollar business intelligence portals yet not understood for security?

In the end, we are all human and no piece of hardware or software is perfect. However, through communication, visibility, and vigilance we can protect ourselves, our companies, our customers, and our future.

The bamboozle is over: Google’s Mantra is BS

Google is scary on many fronts; from the information they collect about their users to how they use their size/power to bully their way into markets.  While Platen has written about the evils of advertising based services and the power that Google (and Facebook) hold over their users, the mainstream media and “Wall Street” are in love with GOOG.  Why?  They are a money making machine with a cult-like following.  Search has become synonymous with Google.

What has Google really done?

Google Search and AdWords puts Inktomi out of business…YES
Google Mail ends Yahoo Mail’s dominance…NO
Google Docs ends Microsoft’s Office dominance…NO
Google Talk ends Skype’s dominance…NO
Google Chat ends Yahoo/AOL IM’s dominance…NO
Google Chrome ends IE/Firefox’s browser dominance…NO
Google Android ends iPhone’s dominance…NO
Google YouTube ends Hulu’s dominance…NO
Google Books ends Amazon’s dominance….NO
Google Nexus One ends iPhone’s dominance…Any bets?…NO
Google Orkut ends (take your pick)’s dominance…NO
Google Chrome OS ends Linux/Microsoft’s dominance…Any bets?…NO
And the list continues…

Has Google made a strategic mistake?

While Microsoft continues to fight Google on many levels, they are too polarizing of a company to be a fanatical threat to Google.  However, the same cannot be said about Apple.  Apple users are incredibly loyal, fanatical, and growing.  Additionally, Apple already has what Google wants and needs; OSX, iPhone, iPad, and i(whatever they want to build).   Google sees the future; it’s in mobile devices and owning the mobile OS and/or advertising platforms.  Apple has the devices, the store, and the platform to dominate.

After Steve jobs said, “…This don’t be evil mantra: It’s bullshit.” Google’s world is very different.  With a single OS upgrade, Google search becomes a memory on the iPhone.  Or, with a single purchase, iSearch is born.  Or, …

As Carl Sagan said, “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.  The bamboozle has captured us.  Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

Google isn’t a non-for-profit, they aren’t the Gates Foundation; instead they are like any other corporation that seeks to maximize profits and shareholder value.  However, while IBM sells services, Cisco sells hardware, and Wal-Mart sells goods, Google needs YOUR personal information, YOUR habits, YOUR mood, YOUR clicks, and more to make money via advertising.

The bamboozle is over.

For the Datacenter, Forget E=MC^2, Sav= (MC^4+AV) Sec

Why do we need Cisco UCS, HP Adaptive Infrastructure, IBM Stratus, Liquid Computing, and more? 

Savings
equals…

Management
Management is a critical component of any datacenter.  A datacenter may be defined as a symphony of hardware and software spanning multiple disciplines that is expected to be “always-on” and never to fail.  If you couple this with advances in virtualization, the “green movement”, and the need to understand a complete Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of datacenter operations, then management is the only answer.  Management is not intended to replace the human element, rather to augment it through automation that allows human beings to tame an ever complex environment.

Examples of this renewed interest in management are plentiful; HP buys Opsware and Mercury Interactive, BMC buys BladeLogic, Cisco partners with BMC, Cisco UCS Manager, EMC buys Configuresoft, Voyence, SMARTS, and Infra, and more.

Current
Current, also known as power, usage within the datacenter continues to increase at a staggering rate.  In fact, the price for said current may actually outpace both the IT equipment and the facility itself.  It’s not simply servers, but routers, switches, wan acceleration devices, security devices, sans, nas, lights, laptops, monitors, and more that cause the bills to continually increase.  Couple this with the additional demands of cooling and redundancy and you have a real crisis on your hands.

An example of changes in the industry may be seen in ActivePower’s efforts in the areas of power and environmentally friendly “green” solutions.  Additionally, we might have been given a glimpse to one answer to this problem, as Google has made a $10 million investment in eSolar; inventors of Utility-Scale Solar Power.

Cabling
Cabling is an essential ingredient to any datacenter design and one that has the potential to provide significant cost savings in the next generation datacenter.  It started with the blade server revolution including embedded switches, and may very well end with Cisco’s UCS, HP’s Adaptive Infrastructure, or IBM’s Stratus datacenter initiatives. 

Illustrating this point, Cisco has published a case study with Saint Joseph Health System (SJHS) in which the hospital claimed an 85% savings in cabling costs by using the Cisco Nexus equipment.

Cooling
Current generates heat, heat requires cooling, cooling requires current, and around-and-around we go.  In the old days, you simply purchased the appropriate amount of cooling to keep your datacenter at a cool and constant temperature.  Today, upwards of 40% of your datacenter energy bill is from cooling.  Additionally, we have “green” concerns and use PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) and DCE (Data Center Efficiencies) metrics to calculate how well we are doing and compare datacenters against others.  Incidentally, chillers, humidifiers, and CRAC’s (Computer Room Air Conditioning) contribute handsomely to these calculations.

A concept called adaptive cooling is a promising technology to solve the cooling challenge.  The premise is today’s equipment manufactures build systems that are more reliable and are designed to “handle the heat.”  Sensors are used to form baselines and models that are used to optimize modern cooling techniques.  Yahoo improved cooling and energy savings of 31% by partnering with SynapSense.

Capacity
Once thought to be endless, datacenters are rapidly running out of capacity.  By capacity, I am referring to everything from floor space to power and cooling to facilities themselves.  This has lead to the innovation of a “datacenter in a box” which is offered by the likes of Sun, Rackable, HP, IBM, and more.  These containers allow datacenters to expand rapidly while offering innovative power and cooling options.  However, space alone won’t solve the capacity issue.  Therefore, the efforts by Cisco, IBM, HP, and others to create a new datacenter fabric that combines massively dense servers, storage, networking, security, and virtualization are so important.

Look no further than Facebook who has started construction on a custom datacenter with over 140,000 square foot capacity at a cost of $188 million.  Note that they are touting the efficiency of this new datacenter including the potential of power and cooling cost savings.

Agility
As Ronald Reagan famously said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” so too can we proclaim the tearing down of the walls between the silos within the datacenter.  We no longer can allow storage, networking, servers, security, applications, facilities, and more to operate independently of each other.  By operating as a unified team, the datacenter becomes more agile, proactive, efficient, and better equipped to handle all challenges. 

Examples of this movement is detected within software vendors (BMC, HP) unifying the management of these disciplines and hardware (Cisco, Juniper, Brocade) vendors integrating the functions into a single chassis.

Virtualization
No equation of savings within the datacenter would be complete without discussing virtualization.  While the ideas of virtualization have been around for years, it’s the application of this technology that has changed the industry forever.  Advances in network, server, application, and storage virtualization impact cost savings across the equation.

Examples include VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer, Sun xVM, Cisco UCS (Nexus 1000v), Arcadia (Cisco/EMC JV)

Security
Security has and will continue to be a major concern within the datacenter.  The number of attacks and sophistication of these attacks continues to rise.  With the advent of Cloud Computing or shared services running on a common platform, the potential risks of a security breach are enormous.  Additionally, security must span all the disciplines within the data center while taking into account user access/privileges, data (in-motion and at-rest), and more.  Finally, security must continue to evolve while adhering to compliance and regulatory pressures.

Recent activities in this area include Cisco acquiring Rohati, SAIC purchasing CloudShield, the growth of Tufin and AlgoSec, and next generation firewall providers such as Palo Alto Networks.

2009: We Fooled You

As 2009 comes to a close, below is my very incomplete list of top “we fooled you” moments of 2009.

  • Cloud Computing trumps everything
  • Virtualization renders the OS irrelevant
  • Google “does no evil”
  • Cisco can’t grow or compete
  • Outsourcing isn’t forever
  • Chrome is better than Firefox or IE
  • Storm / Android beats the iPhone
  • Bobby (Foundry) would never sell
  • Huawei will falter
  • HP can’t catch IBM
  • IBM wouldn’t get back into networking equipment
  • Sun is dead
  • Open Source Software kills ISVs
  • Open Source Hardware dominates storage
  • Free Software – LOL
  • PBT vs. MPLS
  • Nortel would be saved
  • Web vs. traditional advertising
  • Juniper would never enter switching
  • Oracle is just a database company
  • Apple vs. Microsoft
  • Dell doesn’t care about services
  • IPOs are dead
  • Facebook is a fad
  • LTE is years away
  • Cisco UCS crushes HP, IBM, Dell, and more.
  • Business Intelligence wars would end
  • IPv6 – enough said
  • All start-ups need traditional VCs
  • Internet / IP Security is solid
  • Google Apps ends the need for Microsoft Office
  • Yahoo is dead
  • Linux Desktop vs. Apple and Microsoft

2009 was both an exciting and frustrating year for technology.  The battle lines are drawn for 2010 and I’m looking forward to a great and surprising year.

Happy New Year!

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