June 7, 2013

Note: This post, ,”#gluecon 2013 Day 2 Recap” originally ran on the ProfitBricks blog.

Day 2 of Gluecon 2013 got deeper and wider than Day 1, with the number of topics multiplying across all the different sessions.  Google’s Tim Brayspoke about the evils of passwords and how the combination of OAuth2 and OpenID can alleviate user pain and security issues by solving this problem once and for all.  My friend Blake Yeager from HP discussed OpenStack, the benefits it brings and their specific implementation of it.  In a breakout session, database start up MemSQL inserted 430 million rows in a SQL database, which for me, as someone who is no stranger to the pitfalls of live demos, was extremely impressive.  Couchbase gave a similar demo that added multiple nodes to an existing database cluster on the fly.

O’Grady: The New Kingmakers

The highlight of the morning keynotes, though, was Stephen O’Grady’s talk entitled “The New Kingmakers”.  During the session, the Redmonk analyst walked through the history of software development to show how we got to our current state where developers have an unprecedented influence and autonomy.  As Stephen explained, even when the earliest software communities in the 1950′s were incubated by the likes of IBM, it was in the name of justifying the sale of hardware through better functioning software.  I have first hand experience with this, as I saw the last days of the HP 3000 mainframe and its free Image relational database when I started my tech career at HP in the early 1990′s.

When software did become sellable separately, it was primarily to enterprise customers and their CIOs.  ”Software was not built to be used, it was built to be bought by someone at the top,” Stephen said.  Developers had very little control over the components that made up their solutions back then, in the era roughly between 1975 and 1998.  Corporate executives and IT managers decided what was in a coders tool box based on cost, compliance, cost, manageability, cost, and a host of attributes that often had little to do with improved functionality, ease of use, or the ability to build anything cool (emphasis based on my personal experience added).

Bill Gates and George Lucas

But something changed, first in ’75 and again in ’98, that gave us the landscape of developer choice and empowerment we enjoy today: Someone noticed opportunity.  The first person to notice opportunity was Bill Gates, who had the foresight to put non-exclusivity in the IBM contract for DOS, enabling Microsoft to sell it to other companies.  Stephen very slyly compared this to George Lucas securing merchandising rights for his new movie in 1977 when 20th Century Fox wasn’t so sure that anything with “War” in its title would be a hit at the box office.  In both cases, a very smart person took advantage of status quo thinking to open a market not previously fathomed.

Welcome to the 90s

The 1990′s saw similar opportunity discovery as the open source movement and web development took root.  Stephen presented a timeline of milestones:

  • 1991: Linux
  • 1994: Netscape Navigator
  • 1995: Apache
  • 1995: MySQL
  • 1995: PHP
  • 1998: Google

That last one is significant Stephen said, because Google made money with software rather than from software.  With choices that had zero cost and the ability to alter them if they wished, developers suddenly could break away from CIO mandates and build the cool stuff they wanted.  Google lit the way for a massive wave of start ups to follow in their footsteps, exploding the choices even further.

Today’s Landscape + More in the Book

All of that culminates into the present day developer culture.  Stephen effectively argues that developers have never been more empowered than they are today, wit a wider distribution of programming languages, and a slew of educational options for more people to join the party.  He goes deeper into this phenomena in his book, The New Kingmakers, which any developer under 30 years old should definitely read.  History repeats itself and Stephen has done a great job capturing how we arrived at where we are.

#gluecon 2013 Day 1 Recap

May 31, 2013

Note: This post, ,”#gluecon 2013 Day 1 Recap” originally ran on the ProfitBricks blog.

Pretty much every developer you know was either in Broomfield, CO today for Gluecon 2013 or watching the #gluecon hashtag on Twitter.  A magnet for coders, Day 1 of Gluecon 2013 certainly didn’t disappoint with the depth of technical discussion on a wide variety of topics.  Reuse of both APIs and data was a running theme, as was the idea that cloud apps require different approaches as detailed by conference favorite, Netflix Cloud Architect Adrian Cockroft.

Enterprise as a Platform

AT&T VP of Ecosystems and Solutions Laura Merling started off the morning keynote sessions by discussing the path her company is on to exposing an ecosystem of APIs.  Reminiscent of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) debates from the early 2000s, Laura discussed the internal governance involved in exposing programmatic functionality first to internal teams, then in a protected way to partners, and finally to anybody through public interfaces.  Aspects of readiness through quality control and discovery of what is available within a growing library of APIs are key to AT&T’s growing success in creating a platform out of their enterprise ecosystem.  Unlike the struggles that SOA was bound by, her organization has buy in from those who control the purse strings as to why this is important as an enabler for new businesses.

Better User Modeling and Sharing

Peter Biddle, GM of Intel’s Cloud Services Platform, continued this theme when discussing the work his organization is doing on user profiles.  In an attempt to tackle the problem of different vendors having the same basic information about their users while simultaneously being unable to share key attributes in specific situations to make a better user experience, Peter’s team is building an interesting model.  Basic information (name, address, phone number) is stored by one provider where additional, app-specific data gets tagged and stored wherever.  On a case by case basis, users and apps can choose to share data with other apps, like when a travel planning app could share future location data with a restaurant guide instantly giving the user food recommendations for a location they aren’t physically present at yet.

Improved Tools for Cloud Thinking

Runscope Co-Founder John Sheehan announced their toolset, which enables developers to better interact with APIs, is open for business.  He pointed out that in a different era, a developer had control over the code written, the server it ran on, and the network it communicated to the outside world with.  In the cloudy world we now live in, though, a database, a server, or the network is provided by someone else and controlled via an API that you can’t always see inside of when troubleshooting.  Runscope’s tools assist in this different world, enabling troubleshooting these modern distributed environments.

Cloud Thinking on Steriods

Speaking of distributed environments, none is more elaborate than what Adrian Crockroft runs at Netflix.  In an extremely transparent talk where he addressed the question that everyone asks him (Why run on AWS when you compete directly with Amazon Instant Streaming?) head on while epitomizing the notion of different thinking when utilizing cloud.  The most interesting segment of Adrian’s talk, though was where Netflix ISN’T using AWS with the idea that you use the cloud for some things but not necessarily for everything.

The Netflix custom caching gets the most attention, but their DNS and global load balancing needs are unique as well.  Instead of relying on one source, they use a multi-vendor approach that gives them a better performing and more available solution.

The World is Changing Here

Breakout sessions throughout the day continued these themes of different cloud thinking and exposing data or APIs in new ways.  As you may have read in Wired this month, this is the wave of the future where APIs and thinking about the world differently will significantly change how we interact with it and each other.  And it’s being planned at Gluecon 2013.  I can’t wait for Day 2!

Why I left HP after 19 years to join ProfitBricks

February 12, 2013

Profit Bricks - The Iaas Company

It’s a big day for me today: I left HP after 19 years to join a cool startup called ProfitBricks.

Needless to say, I didn’t take this decision lightly.  I had a great career at HP and learned valuable lessons from a set of mentors I can never repay over the years.  I left with a smile on my face and still have great respect for the place.

But the technology that ProfitBricks offers is just awesome and I genuinely believe it is the first true Cloud Computing 2.0 offering.

The biggest enabler that allows me to say that is InfiniBand, the network technology born in the supercomputing community that provides 80 Gbit/sec speeds.  Not only is that great for your cloud networking, but it is so fast it allows ProfitBricks to move VMs to different physical machines without the VMs ever knowing.  That means ProfitBricks can reshuffle the currently active VMs to take best advantage of the physical hardware underneath, but it also means that customers can create custom VMs (no more cookie cutter sizes the cloud provider chooses for you) and, amazingly, the ability to add CPU and RAM to a running VM without having to reboot it.

I’m very excited to be the new Platform Evangelist at ProfitBricks and look forward to being very active in social media (including a relaunch of this blog), presenting at trade shows, and visiting developer meet ups all in the name of spreading the word about this incredible technology.

You can find out more at my first official blog post for ProfitBricks.

Perspective, presentations, the movie business and Up 3D

June 5, 2009
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Image by ZakVTA via Flickr

I never thought I’d spend $40 for admission on my family of 3 for a movie and feel like I got a good deal, but that’s exactly what happened this past weekend when we saw Disney/Pixar’s latest, Up, at my local theater in 3D.   It wasn’t because of the 3D effects, although were impressive and vividly clear in the digital theater my familiy went to, but because of the very moving story.

If you just look at the trailer, this looks like it’ll be a movie about a cranky old man who ties balloons to his house.  Once you understand his perspective and realize why he became so cranky, the story takes on a surprising depth and validates why you should take the time to understand why someone is behaving the way they are in any of your relationships whether they be business or personal.  Experiencing this movie also slammed home the point about how important it is to get your audience interested at the beginning of any presentation and made me ponder on the business model movies seem to be inching towards.
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Quote of the Month: Lloyd Dobler

June 1, 2009
Cover of "Say Anything"
Cover of Say Anything

It’s June, which here in the US means “Dads and Grads” is the most repeated (and my least favorite) phrase in advertising for the next month. For those of you graduating from something in the face of a difficult job market I repeat for you the best movie answer ever to being questioned about your job future:

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

—Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything

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3 Key steps to CYA

May 27, 2009

When I make a mistake, I own up to it. One time, I had the brilliant idea to wash my wife’s new car with a coarse scrub brush, which of course scratched the finish nicely. I messed up and got it fixed.

What I hate more than anything, though, is being blamed for a mistake that isn’t my fault. Often, this happens when someone else made a mistake and either remembers a series of agreements you made with them differently than you do or they are outright lying about a set of previously acknowledged facts. Either way, now they are saying it was all your idea to use the scrub brush and they had nothing to do with it.

When this happens, prevention is the key. How do you cover your ass (CYA) so you don’t own someone else’s mistakes?
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Total Picture Radio with Peter Clayton

May 18, 2009

Peter Clayton runs an excellent career podcast over at Total Picture Radio and was kind enough to have me as a guest.  We talked about the premise for nerdguru.net and my recent adventure with “What’s your best career advice using EXACTLY 6 words?”

Take a listen to the 16 minute podcast over at Peter’s site when you get a chance.

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Marketing for Nerds: Brand Social Strategy

May 14, 2009

Which exchange would you rather have:

Marketing person: “Can you set up a company blog for us?”

You, software person: “Sure.”


Marketing person: “Can you set up a company blog for us?”

You, software person “I’ll do whatever you guys want, but are you sure you really want that?  There’s a Forrester report out there that says blogs are the least trusted form of communication between a company and its customers unless it’s written a certain way.”

The second one, if delivered in a deferential way so as to not setp on the toes of the marketing person, will show that you’ve been keeping up on trends and get you extra respect when the time comes to have your performance evaluation.  With that in mind, I’m going to try a new category of posts geared towards marketing trends you should be aware of.

This first one examines a post over at Groundswell on brand social strategy.
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Book Report: Outliers

May 12, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell has called his latest book, Outliers: The Story of Success, an apology for his own success.  While that’s accurate, it also sells the ideas in Outliers short.  Really, it is about how big a role chance opportunity plays in being successful.  It’s actually a little scary when you think about it, but ultimately it makes some pretty compelling arguments that often minor changes in approach can have huge impacts on outcome.

My favorite stories from the book, which is just as good if not better than The Tipping Point:
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Classic Nerd Guru: The Mid-Year Accomplishments List

May 7, 2009

For reasons outlined below, Q2 ended for me April 30 and I just finished my habitual mid-year accomplisments list.  Even if you have a more traditional calendar and your mid-year doesn’t hit until June, it’s a good idea to start thinking about this.

The article below ran last year in July (several months late for me), but served as a good reminder for me this year of the different places to look when recalling the variety of things I’ve been up to.


Many years ago, Dave Packard noticed that his accounting staff had to put in overtime at the end of December in order to process all the necessary paperwork to close out the financials for the year and he didn’t think that was fair for them to have to give up family time in that way. So, he moved the start of the fiscal year to November 1 (moving it back to December 1 complicated Thanksgiving plans) and thus HP’s unusual financial quarter boundaries were born.

That’s a really long-winded way of saying I’m late when it comes to completing my mid-year accomplishments list, which I should have done in May but am only getting to now.

Why make a mid-year accomplishments list? Well, what did I do last November? Uh, off the top of my head I can’t remember. If I can’t remember that now I have no hope of remembering it in October just before my performance evaluation. Hence the need for a mid-year accomplishments list.

First, I looked at my last end of year accomplishments list. Mainly, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t accidentally taking credit for something that happened in that October/November timeframe twice, as it would not only be unprofessional to do so but I would also feel pretty stupid for getting nailed stretching the truth later when I could have prevented it.

Next, I went through month by month to see if I could remember what it was I was spending my time with. I find it’s helpful to think of what was going on in my personal life as those things stay with me a bit more. Case in point, I know where I had Thanksgiving dinner (on the Disney Wonder cruise ship) but I have no idea who I met with right before that extended U.S. weekend. Using that technique, here’s what I came up with (as with the actual performance evaluation, each line item is written with a leading verb in the same way you would do for a resume):

  • Handed off program management responsibility for a major presales marketing site to a development manager teammate
  • Worked with third party vendors for an external data center exit
  • Created and presented an architectural overview of all projects to our new Vice President


  • Suggested and oversaw implementation of an extension of the external data center hosing provider when the negotiations that took place in November fell through
  • Prepared version comparison spreadsheet for more than 40 web site programs so that, in anticipation of the FY09 planning processes coming in January, software stack version upgrades (OS, database, middleware, etc.) required to keep up with HP data center standards could be identified and enumerated properly
  • Generated a potential project list for IT streamlining during FY09


  • Provided coarse level estimates (small/medium/large across 3/6/9 month durations) for 30+ projects for the preliminary FY09 planning process.
  • In conjunction with 3 Solution Architects, generated fine level estimates (specific man days per week) for 10+ projects
  • Crafted a process with business teams for evaluating 3rd party vendors that could be engaged with HP IT oversight
  • Conducted a technical evaluation of two 3rd party vendors as part of the emerging process

and so it goes for 3 another months worth of material.

Next, I looked through my email archive.  Specifically, I sorted through my “Sent Items” folder looking for items that had attachments to them (because that meant I was delivering some work product to somebody) or that went to recipients I don’t normally work with (meaning I was expanding my influence).  That was good for at least 2 more bullet items per month.

Finally, I looked through my file system (which, like a lot of people, I have organized by project) to see if there was something else I might have missed.  The results, after about 90 minutes spread across 3 days, was a list of about 3 dozen items spanning 6 months worth of work and should provide a good foundation for my performance evaluation in the Fall.

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