Interesting technology

Vaguely Live Train Tracker

I do like this type of technology – without backing from the train operators some very ingenious programmers have come up with a way of showing where trains are on the network in real(ish) time. I don't suppose it's hugely accurate, but it's good to see what innovation can create without the need for competition. Each train operating company is in vague competition, but there is still no incentive to excel. This is where private individuals come along. I wonder when the government of the day will realise that our 'profit' and 'greed' based public service models just don't work.

Can traditional IT service providers survive Cloud Computing?

The use of cloud computing could ultimately and fundamentally change the delivery model for traditional IT service delivery companies. With the assumption that services can be chosen from a catalogue of on-demand technologies and that storage of information and the desktop will be virtualised (see Googles model) the traditional delivery and support organisations like CSC and Fujitsu will have a problem – their current role will no longer exist.

Will they survive the change?

The likes of these smaller outsource providers are based upon revenue from outsourcing/hosting, applications and development. If we assume that cloud computing will take the vast majority of outsourcing/hosting from them, it doesn't leave them with a lot and put's them fighting directly with the tier 1 providers like IBM (and a battle they are in a less suitable position to win).

If you take a look at the application space, even with fundamental changes to their business model to support virtual or cloud application, desktop and office suite deliverables, they will be put in direct competition with their traditional suppliers like Microsoft, SAP, IBM and Google who are and will be offering their application suite and services as SaaS and cloud based services. So if we assume this is also a low profit/commodity battle, even if they do win these bits, there will be nothing in it for them and their business will collapse.

Lastly development. I'm using this term loosely as clearly this needs to cover aspects of design and architecture – someone will still need to pull together all these bits of the cloud. But why would you go with a tier 2 provider, when the real architecture, the designs and the plans are being handled by the largest companies, the Microsofts, IBM's, SAP's and Oracles? and if this was their only real revenue stream, would it be enough for them to survive?

Certainly, if cloud takes off and if it is the way forward (and logic dictates that this is highly probable) then companies can look forward to shopping for virtual services at commodity prices (if market forces take place).

Change for the tier 2 providers is likely to be too much. I would imagine that they will merge, be bought, or have to make massive redundancies to stay afloat.

Change for the largest IT providers and potentially the cloud services providers is also going to be a shock. Why do you need fleets of sales people to sell what is essentially a cots service? Why do you need a fleet of business partners selling your hardware and software if businesses can purchase something that works straight from the cloud? The quickest and cleanest business model must be to change to giving software away free, but charging for support or use of the software on a commercial basis each month. IBM of course have long term experience with this model for their Mainframe product line.

The cuts in work force for the largest IT providers could be massive and often would involve many layers of management rather than the people on the ground (if the produce sells itself via a service provider, then electronic license controls can mostly replace many of the sales and sales process managers). Marketing, R&D, Architecture and Application Design would be the key points of revenue for the organisation. It is likely that none of the largest organisations are nimble enough to flex to this way of working though and they will experience many years of pain and many years of senior managers justifying their job roles. At least though the largest providers are in a position to survive it – if only through their case reserves and longer term customer contracts.

So what about real business, what changes are needed there?

In part 2 of this blog I will discuss the changes that businesses will need to consider and implement to be ready for the benefits of cloud whilst shielding themselves from any dangers that may be present.

Sixth sense and Web 3.0

I've been fascinated by the social technologies out there for some time. Wondering which direction they are going in and watching as community forming sites such as facebook and twitter are on the rise. Whilst these are generally known as Web 2.0, it's Web 3.0 and beyond that is interesting. It's difficult to explain to people what convergence of technology could do (good and bad), but here is an example of a futuristic view of Web 3.0.

Of course as information (formally a strong hold of power bases such as the USA) become more widely available, how will the governments around the world seek to control, manage and censor what we see and know. There already loads of examples of the US, China and Australia blocking access to materials that their governments do not like – I wonder when this will extend to the personal, community and social technology world.

New Photo Gallery

I've added an online photo gallery for those interested in Finnish Lapphund dogs. You can find my gallery in Photobox here. This includes some pictures of our show dog Rauhan and the West Berkshire downland countryside.

Greening Government ICT doesn’t go far enough

The Greening Government ICT Strategy, posted in July 2009 claims to have made significant steps to improve the environmental impact of ICT in government. I'm not completely convinced though.

A good summary can be found from KableDIRECT "The chief information officers and chief technology officers have responded well to the first set of targets but they must now be increased," the reports says. "The strategy itself acknowledges there is a need to work with departments and industry to explore and invest in radical green ICT solutions for the ICT problem, but also consider issues relating to the life cycle impact and disposal of old IT hardware."

There are some nice things in there – such as extending the procurement cycle to 4 years and reducing duplication; but there seems limited commitment to renewable energies, re-use of technology, and the adoption or recognition that software has a great impact on hardware choice. If they were really thinking about this they would make each supplier's carbon targets as important as their service levels.

I would like to see West Berkshire Council take the lead here and help define policy that the whole of government seek to follow. Let's make IT value for money and value for the environment. They could easily start with: 5 year procurement cycles; re-use of hardware; procurement of software on environmental grounds; and local employment of staff and contractors.

Is Social Networking viable for the UK Government?

'Five Million People Around the Water Cooler' by Adrian Hollister and Dan Bailey is one of my new papers, it discusses how the UK public sector could benefit from social networking and bottom up knowledge management. You can read it here.

"Social networking has the potential to be the most important emerging enabler of government over the next five years."

"The potential of social networking for the public sector transformation agenda is exciting. The effective delivery of any major transformation relies on the strength of communication throughout that organisation. With the right attention to data security, government could harness this new technology to break down communication barriers between departments and locations."

The Vista Upgrade

Took the plunge into the great unknown today and upgraded to Vista. I've seen a whole bunch of mixed reviews out there, but as someone interested in technology and an owner of Linux and Mac machines, I though the old Windows PC could do with a refresh. XP is fine, just about, but it does crash, it's slow after six months of use and needs to be rebooted every day to be sure of a good service. Vista claims to do away with all of these annoyances and be more Mac like for availability and eye candy.

Well no surprises with the Vista install. All went well with my fresh new install of Vista, but so many programs and drivers don't work that it's driving me insane. The damn 'local only' networking feature that seems to be designed to pop into 'unidentified network' mode every few hours is utter madness. The only way around it seems to be to turn off all the power saving features. I don't want to trawl support forums for days finding solutions, I just want it to work.

I'm still using Vista, but I hate it, and I think I've been conned into buying it. My mac just works, why won't vista work on a machine with 10 times the power, disk space and memory?