Nov 7, 2008

Shai Agassi Speaks at Web 2.0 Summit

Shai Agassi left SAP earlier this year to start Better Place.

"How do you take a country off oil?" is the business problem he's trying to solve. In his model, you are charged for the miles driven and not the battery. The price of a battery and electricity is $0.06/mile for an automobile. In his startup's model, the battery is not part of the purchase price of the car. He will build the network and will purchase electricity to charge batteries. Israel and Denmark are introducing significant taxes (60% - 180%) of the purchase price of gasoline-powered cars as an incentive to drive the adoption of electric cars.

Renault-Nissan will manufacture the initial eletric cars that will be used on Shai's electric network. The cars will arrive between 2010 and 2014.

Digg's Kevin Rose - "How to Be Scrappy"

Digg's founder Kevin Rose talks about "how to be scrappy" based on his experiences at Digg:
  • When Digg launched, Kevin kept his day job and worked on Digg in the nights and weekends.
  • He hired his initial developers on elance-- one in India and one in Nova Scotia. This worked initially, but he hired local developers as the site grew to deal with scalability issues.
  • As the founder and CEO, he was the face of the company. He recommended Gary van der Chuck - "Personal Brand."
  • Start a podcast. It's a very cheap way to get publicity.
  • Use the blog to get PR.
  • Even now, Digg is launching new products with rented servers and Amazon S3 for storage.
He sees funding going away for consumer internet companies in the short term, but thinks this is a still a good time to start new companies.

Thoughts on Platform Strategy from Google, MySpace, Facebook, and Microsoft

Max Levchin (Slide) hosted a panel on the platform with Vic Gundotra (Google), Amit Kapur (COO MySpace), David Treadwell (Microsoft), and Elliot Schrage (Facebook).

It's funny seeing these guys on stage. On Wednesday, I asked the Microsoft guy to "keep it down" during one of the sessions.

  • They developed their platform on open web technologies.
  • There are different levels of platform, some that are application-specific and others that are more general.
  • They are interested in advancing the capabilities in the underlying platform, such as the web browser.
  • In the battle of Windows vs the Web, the Web has won.
  • The platform: (1) drives activity in the ecosystem by enabling users to contribute, drives the creation of new ecosystems, such as virtual goods, and (3) is a great marketing vehicle.
  • The platform allows developers to create new engaging experiences and monetize those experiences.
  • The Travel Channel developed a Facebook application that generates more traffic than their dedicated web property.
  • Feedback from developers is critical.
  • 400,000 developers signed up for the Facebook platform, which far exceeded the goals from the original business plan.
  • Facebook announced a collaboration with Salesforce at the Dreamforce conference.
  • Building a platform with 3 goals: (1) comprehensive platform, (2) choice, so you can take what you like, and (3) take advantage of computing power available on the client.
  • As you introduce new versions of the platform, compatibility with previous versions is important.

A Chat with Elon Musk from Tesla Motors

Elon Musk from Tesla Motors spoke on stage with John Battelle. The $109k Tesla roaster is faster than all Ferrari's except the Enzo, and Tesla is currently manufacturing 800-1500 / year. The current waiting list is 1200 people.

Elon is also starting two other start-ups:
  • Solar City: solar systems available on a lease basis for residential and small business. Recently completed a large financing round, 3x the previous round.
  • SpaceX: a 6-year-old start-up dedicated to space exploration technologies. His fourth launch successfully entered orbit.
When Elon went to college, he set three goals for himself:
  1. The Internet
  2. Renewable energy
  3. Space exploration and taking life to other planets
His three start-ups are the fulfillment of his second and third goals. As the co-founder of PayPal, he did okay with checking off the first goal. Check out his bio on Wikipedia.

The Web and Politics

John Heilemann hosted a panel on politics and the web with Arianna Huffington, Gavin Newsome, and Joe Trippi.

Highlights and take-aways:
  • "The Internet has killed Karl Rove politics." - Ariana
  • "The truth keeps intruding into people's rooms." - Ariana (in reference to the power of the Internet in politics)
  • The Internet medium demands authenticity from politicians.
  • Joe talked about a "" as a portal used by the President to reach out to citizens to develop policy and legislation.
  • There is no such thing as "off the record" anymore.

Demand Media

Richard Rosenblatt of Demand Media. They generate content for the web. They are the largest producer of video for YouTube.

They've raised $355M

Demand Studios
  • Has a catalog of content that must be generated, along with the price (e.g. $15).
  • Writers who are part of their network can checkout a title, write the content, and are paid for that piece.
  • They have a similar model for generating video content for online advertisers.
Pluck on Demand: is a tool that allows website owners to have content generated for their website. They have a series of widgets (e.g., Related Content) that can be embedded in your website. The content for these is generated by Demand Media, and the widgets contain advertising.

The Twitter of India?

An entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, Beerud Sheth is the founder of Webaroo. Their core offering is SMS GupShup (chitchat in Hindi). Using SMS GupShup, you can set up groups of mobile users and broadcast messages to your group. Groups can be created and managed entirely from the mobile handset without requiring any web access.

Webaroo currently has 12M users of SMS GupShup. These users send 500M messages/month, which represents 7% of all SMS messaging in India. Use cases for this product: micro-blogging, news, social networking.

Some interesting data from his presentation.
  • Globally, there are 1.4B users of http, and there are 3.5B mobile subscribers
  • The majority of growth in mobile subscribers is in rural areas, with most handsets costing less than $50 (unsubsidized).

Nov 6, 2008

Launch Pad at the Web 2.0 Summit

During the afternoon keynote, several start-ups were given 5 minutes each to pitch to a panel of VC's from NEA, Sequoia, Omidyar Network, Mohr Davidov Ventures, and Panorama.

Carbonetworks - Michael Meehan
  • Provides companies a platform for managing their carbon footprint and strategy.
  • Incorporated in 2005. 300 corporate subscribers to date, growing at 2-3 per day.
EveryScape - Mok Oh
  • 3D views of real places online. You can walk around outside, walk in to shops, zoom around.
  • Source of product information to find healthy, safe products.
  • Are there carcinogens in products?
  • Web-based and also launched an iPhone client. Also available by SMS message.
  • VC concerns: start-up or public service? content-generation cost? velocity of new products developed is quite high.
  • Platform for online predictions by users.
  • Revenue model: sponsored questions by marketers. $1/question.
  • 1M predictions with 200K questions since its launch one year ago.
Qik - Bhaskar Roy
  • Streaming live video from cell phone to the web.
  • Use cases: sharing video with friends, bloggers, Ashton Kutcher, travel diaries, media companies for live news.
  • Works with any J2ME phone.
  • Platform that supports multiple back-ends: facebook, twitter, itunes, blogger, tumblr, youtube.
  • Will be embedded in Nokia 5800.
  • VC concerns: monetizing video,
  • VC's liked: IP, differentiation,
Sungevity - Danny Kennedy
  • Sells solar panels on-line.
  • Online quote for solar panel installation.
  • Web site has a video-based
  • On target to meet $2.5M first-year revenue goal.
My take-aways
  • For each presentations, there were very widely varied reactions/feedback by the different VC's.
  • The passion of the entrepreneur during the presentation does have an impact.

Mark Zuckerberg's Keynote at the Web 2.0 Summit

After a scrumptuous lunch of cheese-filled tortellini, cesar salad, and dessert pastries, Martin and I are back in the grand ballroom for the afternoon keynotes. (Martin had the chicken, I believe, and I know he enjoyed the dessert.) Surprisingly, most of the panel's sessions, panels, and "conversations" are held in the grand ballroom. There were a few sessions in smaller conference rooms, but most of the sessions are in the grand ballroom.

Growth is their primary driver, and they're busy opening offices around the world: Dublin, France, London. Facebook revenue is in the 100's of millions, but Mark wasn't specific about the revenue generated by the brand vs the channel.

Facebook currently employees more than 700 employees, and they are still hiring. They are aggressively expanding their Sales effort, especially internationally. In France, 7% of the population uses Facebook. Facebook Connect: a new platform for developers that is currently in beta.

An Interesting Way to Look at Your Energy Consumption

Dr. Saul Griffith showed a beta version of, an energy start-up that lets you calculate your energy consumption. Instead of focusing on carbon footprint, Saul advocates computing your energy consumption.

Some highlights
  • His 2007 energy consumption was 17000W, but the global average is only 2200 W.
  • The US government uses a significant amount of energy on our behalf.
  • Current worldwide energy demand: 16 terraWatts (TW)
  • These figures can be used to determine how much alternative energy must be generated to reduce dependence on energy generation from fossil fuels.

The Future of Media , According to Twitter and Current TV

At the Web 2.0 Summit, Ken Auletta (the New Yorker) led a discussion with Joel Hyatt (CEO of Current TV) and Evan Williams (CEO of Twitter).

When asked "How will Twitter make money?" Evan first drew a blank and then steered the conversation to how people are using Twitter in new and cool ways. I guess Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook) set the precedent for this question. Where did all the capitalists go?

Joel has an old-fashioned revenue model (his words, not mine) where Current TV licenses content to cable companies, for distribution to households. Joel also appears to have 20 years on Evan, so I guess things like money and revenue are more top of mind for him. :-)

Current TV has user-generated content as well as user-generated ads. Viewers in fact prefer viewer-generated ads. Despite this being a panel session about media, there were several technical glitches in pulling up the video segments during the panel. (Kinda ironic) Toyota sponsors Viewer Created Ad Messages (VCAM's). The one that was shown for the Prius was quite good and better than most of the Prius commercials I've seen. Several other large companies, including Loreal, have sponsored VCAM's.

Attenhut! The Army is Now Web 2.0 Ready!

General Jeffrey Sorenson, the CIO of the US Army, dressed in battle fatigues, addressed the audience. The "Army of the Future" is preparing for an era of persistent conflict. Geez.

General Sorenson showed an interesting chart that shows commercial technology and army usage of that technology on the same graph. There's basically an 8-10 year lag between the development of a technology, such as the Internet, and the deployment of that technology in the Army.

Battle Command Knowledge System (BCKS). The Army is using software similar to WebEx or Go-To-Meeting for their training and battle planning.

Command Post of the Future: a Web 2.0 app that integrates satellite, video, VOIP, 3D topography, DB access, and collaboration tools for real-time battle management. This tool was developed by DARPA.

In their overall architecture, the Army is using Keyhole Markup Language (KML) to access data from Google Earth and other mapping databases. Field units are using RSS to stay informed with battle commands and information.


Health 2.0 at the Web 2.0 Summit

Here I am at Day 2 of the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Summit. I arrived at the tail end of a conversation with Ralph de la Vega from AT&T, and now I'm listening to a panel of geneticists and physicians talk about "Health 2.0."

For $400, 23andme will map out your genome and provides a report that provides insight into your traits and diseases. Pretty scary stuff! Reminds me of the movie, Gattaca. But, intriguing as well. I lost a lot of money in biotech stocks in the late 90's when the results of the human genome project were given out to the public domain. Maybe I should try the kit and reap some rewards from my early losses, I mean investments. ;-)

Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer in the USA. There are new start-ups that are working on developing blood tests that will indicate a disposition to heart disease.

Nov 5, 2008

Day 1 of the Web 2.0 Summit

After a long day of sessions and chatting with attendees, day 1 of the Web 2.0 Summit has drawn to a close. I did run out of battery after 6 hours, but here are my highlights from today's sessions:

Now, I'm going to call it a night and get caught up on my day job. ;-)

Keynotes from the Web 2.0 Summit

Well, I've read my fair share of O'Reilly books (mostly about the LAMP stack), but this is the first Tim O'Reilly keynote that I've attended. Mercifully, the keynotes for this conference are after lunch and not the usual breakfast keynote. (I guess these guys like to sleep in as well.) So here I am sitting next to Martin in the Palace Hotel's grand ballroom, listening to the keynotes. During this afternoon's keynotes, Tim and John Battelle are interviewing several guests in a format similar to a late-night talkshow. Here are some highlights from the keynotes:

Larry Brilliant - 1% of the equity of google, 1% of the profits, and 1% of employee time will be used for non-profit purposes. The 1% model was "borrowed" from Marc Benioff at Salesforce. They use a VC-like model to decide which causes to fund. They go after "big problems" that need solving where Google can make a unique difference.

Mary Meeker - Morgan Stanley
  • Lots of financial data on the economy. (slides)
  • Facebook: 161M visitors
  • Youtube: 329M visitors
  • Skype: 370M visitors
  • Paypal: 65M visitors - $15B total payment volume (TPV). Non-eBay payment volume up +49% Y/Y.
  • Ad supply > demand, so CPM's are dropping.
  • China added 73M Internet users in 2007. USA added 9.8M.
  • China added 86M mobine subscribers in 2007, India added 68M.
Rajesh Jain - MD Netcore Solutions
  • Novatium: $100 network computer for Indian market. 50M middle-class households in India, but only 8M have computers. Their market: the 30M households who visit cybercafes.
  • NetCore: using SMS for news channels & search on cell phones. SMS is also being used for advertising on phones in India. 4x the traffic of twitter.
John Doerr - Kleiner Perkins
His priorities
  • Increase US government spend in green energy to $1B/yr. (E.g., healthcare: $32B/yr)
  • Double the number of engineering and science graduates in the USA (from 30K/yr to 60K/yr)
  • Restore DARPA to its former self as a research driver, but focused on energy.
  • 2000: $100B VC money invested (50% in Internet ventures)
  • 2007: $37B VC money
  • 2008: $15B VC money
  • 2009: $8B VC money
  • Doesn't think there will be a market for exits for a couple of years. Prepare and "hunker down"
  • Kleiner: spending 30% in digital, 30% in green, life sciences a little smaller.
  1. Act now. Get a loan or secure more financing.
  2. Protect the vital core of the business. Cut once, cut deep enough.
  3. Make sure you have 18 months of cash on conservative revenue forecast. Talk to current investors and ask for additional funding now.
  4. Defer facilities expansion, capital, and software.
  5. Re-evaluate R&D priorities.
  6. Renegotiate any and all current contracts & leases.
  7. Everyone in the company should be selling the company's value prop.
  8. Offer equity instead of cash.
  9. Secure cash in government-backed securities instead of money-market funds. Still thinks a major bank will fail.
  10. Know your revenue plan. Understand the leading indicators. React quickly.
  11. Over-communicate. Do not sugarcoat.

The iPhone Market Opportunity

It's standing room only in this session. I guess there are a lot of iPhone afficianados out there. The panel includes: Raven Zachary (, Bill Dudney (Gala Factory Software LLC), Matt Murphy (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers), Tom Conrad (Pandora Media).

Raven Zachary - ( product management consultant for iPhone. Helped with the Obama iPhone app.The iPhone is unique for three reasons
  1. It's persistent: mobile broadband, always-on, in your pocket.
  2. Mobile web: 13M iPhone units (source: Apple), 3-6M iPod touch (estimated by Zachary)iPhone OS generates 74% of all mobile web traffic. Beats Windows mobile, Symbian, sidekick. Blackberry is great at e-mail but generates the least mobile web traffic. The Sony PSP generates twice as much web traffic.
  3. Application distribution. Over 6,000 apps in US. 1/3 are games and entertainment. Revenue share: Apple keeps 30% of revenue.
Matt Murphy (Kleiner Perkins)
  • June 2008 - 6M iPhones (sold 1M 3G iPhones in 3 days, 7M 3g iPhones in 90 days)
  • Sept 2008 - 13M iPhones
  • Dec 2009 - expecting 50M iPhones
  • 500 apps at launch, 7200 apps now.
  • 90% of people download apps. Other phones: 20%
  • 5 iFunded companies: whrrl, pelago, iControl (control appliances in home), BooYah! (from world of warcraft guys), ngmoco
  • >3000 proposals received so far, met with >200 companies, >5 actively engaged, 5 funded. This is 20x other platforms/spaces. Looking for companies that can scale, rather than lifesytle apps.
  • Plans: business vertical, consumer vertical are the largest, healthcare (12%),
  • Would like to see more enterprise apps for the iPhone. 40% of all Fortune 500 have iPhone app in trial.
  • 12M iPhones (250M phones total in US). iPhone app downloads: 14M/week, rest of US: 3M/week
  • iPhone is changing behavior: browsing news, playing games.
  • iPhone developers in short supply.
Kleiner Perkins iFund success criteria:
  1. Inherently mobile use cases
  2. Context over content
  3. Real-time, immediate utility (apps that need 3-5 mins of training, the usage drops off)
  4. Simplicity
  5. Frequent usage
  6. Inherently viral
  7. Massive scale possible (address a large audience)
  8. Natural business model
  9. Cross platform with mobile integral (attract web users and mobile users)
  10. Take advantage of iPhone platform.

Tom Conrad (CTO, Pandora Media)
  • Largest Internet radio broadcaster. ClearChannel has 20% of all radio.
  • Apple reviews all app-store apps. Takes 24 hours to 7 days. Brew takes 1-6 months to review, at a cost of $2500, and uses NTSL for testing.

Tech Hunch Thrifty: Web 2.0 Companies Started on a Hunch and a Prayer

Just finished my first session at the Web 2.0 Summit-- a panel session hosted by Guy Kawasaki. Nine different start-ups, each given 6 minutes to demo their product. Most of the panel members appeared to be twenty-somethings. Eight of the 9 presenters were using Macs. The central theme: the days of $2M in funding with only a business plan and no product to demo are over.

WuFoo – Kevin Hale

  • Online HTML forms builder
  • Can embed form directly into website, including CSS.
  • Can process online payments: through PayPal, Google Checkout,
  • Business model: hosted, monthly subscription fee: free - $199/month.
  • Y-Combinator seed funded: $18k + angel money $100k. Profitable. Based in Tampa, FL

Yoics - Instant networking

  • Built into various devices to network-enable them. For example, surveillance cameras.
  • Can load the yoics client onto other PC’s
  • Business model: license the technology to manufacturers.
  • Bootstrapped by 2 founders. Raise money from there.

DropBox – founder Drew

  • Share files across computers. Synchs files across computers. Files show up in a folder, using standard file management. Files are synched across network.
  • Can easily “export” files by dropping them into the dropbox folder.
  • Files also available over web. Files are automatically versioned. Can restore to previous versions of files or undeleting.
  • 9 person start-up: Windows, Linux, Mac.
  • 2 gigabytes free. 50 gig: $20/month or $100/year.
  • Developed prototype in 4 months (while working at another start-up). $15k in Y Combinator + $5k loan for 9 months total.

Disqus – Jason

  • Management system for blog comments.
  • Central place to track all my comments on web sites. Can also follow comments from other disqus users.
  • As a publisher, can manage/moderate/view comments from all websites.
  • Supports blog platforms, but needs a plug-in that you drop into
  • Biz model: subscription model. Also looking at going to bigger publishers.
  • Financing: Y Combinator funded 1 year ago: $15k in summer 2007.

Mighty Quiz - Kelly Bennet

  • Trivia site – you can make your own quizzes.
  • Can plug into blogs or social networks.
  • People can create questions. Other people can rate questions (thumbs up/down)
  • Authors can write questions. Can add questions to categories. Automatically pulls in images from Yahoo images.
  • Portable, available as a widget.
  • Cyworld (social network) imports Mighty Quiz widget.
  • Y-Combinator funded: $10k. Raised few hundred $100’s K. Based in San Francisco.

SlideShare – Rashmi Sinha (CEO)

  • Share power point presentations online.
  • Space on the web to upload and share presentations.
  • Presentations converted to YouTube-like video format. Users can comment on presentations.
  • Typical use case: people upload a presentation, then link to their website/blog.
  • “Meet Henry” presentation: a preso format for advertisements. Has created a category
  • Can also synch presos with audio. (mp3 file or podcast) to create a slidecast.
  • Traffic: 9M unique visitors last month. SlideShare avail on LinkedIn. Some traffic from organic search.
  • 2000 presos uploaded / day (not counting LinkedIn)
  • Funding: $0 funding. Built prototype while working at other companies. Launched, written by TechCrunch. Revenue from other funding. 2 years into company, secured angel funding then Series A.

Posterous – Garry Tan (co-founder)

  • Blogging by e-mail. No sign-up required.
  • Blog directly from e-mail account.
  • Automatically expands links into pictures/video widget.
  • Zip files automatically expanded into a JavaScript picture viewer.
  • Use it as a way to share pictures and videos with family.
  • Raised $50k from Y-Combinator from Boston session. Launched in the summer.
  • Biz model: premium services.

Rescue Time – Tony

  • Time management software
  • Measures which software and websites you’re using. Provides aggregated stats to manager. Lets people know how they compare to their average team member.
  • Tracks apps (Word, Excel) and individual web sites (active use).
  • Can also block different websites
  • Lets managers get data by dept, group, etc.

Poll Everywhere - Jeff Dunap

  • Text participation during presentations.
  • Realtime participation by people sending SMS messages.
  • $0.30/participant/month for size of 100’s of people
  • For 250 person audience, costs $65/month. Monthly charge =
  • Financing: $9k (self-funded), $20k (Y-Comb), cash flow positive, based in Chicago & Boston.

Live from San Francisco... It's the Web 2.0 Summit

Now that the election's over, it's time to return to real life. Okay, sort-of. I'm at the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Over the next few days, I'll be blogging live from the conference. So watch this space!

Sep 26, 2008

PayCycle: In the News Again

Forbes just published an article about my company, PayCycle. In these turbulent times, the small business sector is weathering the storm much better than Wall Street. And having a SaaS sales model is definitely the way to go. For all the details, check out the article.

Sep 11, 2008

The Luster Wears off Google Chrome

After a week of browsing with Chrome, I've switched back to Firefox 3. I did used to Chrome's rather unusual UI layout, but it wasn't the missing menu bar that did in Chrome. For me, there were two missing features that caused me to switch back to Firefox:
  • Chrome doesn't support the TinyMCE editor, which is used by Atlassian Wiki. As a big Wiki user at work, the lack of support for the rich text editor was a big deal.
  • Chrome doesn't support plug-ins ala Firefox. Although I didn't miss my Alexa plug-in, I did miss the Selenium IDE.
Oh well, I'm sure Google will continue to evolve Chrome at a frantic pace. In the meantime, Chrome remains installed on my laptop. It's just not my default browser.

Sep 3, 2008

All of a Sudden, Browsers are Hot Again

Tuesday afternoon, I downloaded and installed Google's Chrome browser on my laptop. Although I had just upgraded to Firefox 3 last week, I figured I'd see for myself what's up with all the buzz around Chrome. My first reaction was "Where's the menu bar?" A few of us at work downloaded Chrome, and we did have some "water cooler" talk about the new browser.

Chrome claims to have a faster JavaScript engine ("V8") and a faster rendering engine, based on WebKit. Each tab also runs in its own process, for better security and reliability. I turned to the video from the Google developers to learn about Chrome, but Paul checked out the cartoon. See for yourself to get the inside scoop.

I've switched my default browser from Firefox 3 to Chrome. I guess an extended test drive is in order. Check back in a week to see how Chrome holds up...

Aug 30, 2008

A Stroll along Pebble Beach

In the spirit of celebrating Labor Day, I will not blog about anything work-related this weekend. Earlier today, we met several friends at Carmel-by-the-Sea for a day at the beach. This was a cozy little beach, tucked away behind the cypress trees and quaint shops along Ocean Ave. And the beach offered magnificent views of Pebble Beach Golf Links. As it turns out, there was a Champions Tour event at Pebble Beach, and we did see the cameras on the course.

After mid-day, the fog cleared, the sun came out, and the weather warmed considerably. It was a fun day of catching up with friends, throwing the football around, playing catch, and of course eating. Throughout the day, we munched on assortment of Indian dishes, pasta salad, sandwiches, and snacks. And after we watched the sun set over Monterrey Bay, we headed home for Silicon Valley.

Aug 24, 2008

Sent from my iPhone

Well, not really, but keep reading. On Saturday, my son and I decided to check out a movie at Shoreline. We both decided to pass on "Star Wars: Clone Wars" and check out "Longshots" instead. Somehow, an animated remake of the Star Wars trilogy didn't appeal to me and my son-- two hard-core Star Wars fans, btw. Turns out "Longshots" was a good call.

After lunch in downtown Palo Alto, we did a little window shopping at Magnolia Video and then headed over to the Apple store. Fifteen minutes later I was all set with my new 16GB iPhone 3g. Although the guy at the Apple store denied any reception issues or 3g performance issues, later that day I did install the iPhone software update to correct the 3g performance issues. And thanks to some help from Jeff Brewer, I've got my Exchange e-mail configured on my iPhone.

Now I've just got to figure out how to blog from my iPhone. I'm not sure the little touchscreen keypad's gonna do it, however.

Aug 23, 2008

My Alma Mater's Movin' on Up

It's been two decades since I graduated from Rice University. When I was an undergrad, Rice always hovered around #20 in the college rankings. In this year's list of America's Best Colleges from US News and World Report, Rice has moved up to #17. Some notables:
#1: Harvard
#4: Stanford
#6: Caltech
#14: Cornell
#17: Rice
#21: UC Berkeley

Check out the entire list for yourself.

Aug 21, 2008

Would You Like Red or White with Your Series A?

It was another warm summer evening in Menlo Park, and the air was filled with the buzz of business plans, revenue models, and talk of summer travels. Oh yeah, and various vintages of merlots, cabernets, and pinots from a VC-backed vintner. This is Silicon Valley, and a few hundred execs descended on the grounds of Sierra Ventures on Sand Hill Road.

One of my former colleagues, Gamiel Gran, is now an associate at Sierra. Over a nice pinot noir, Gamiel and I reminisced about some of our adventures at Cassatt, including a very memorable trip to SAP headquarters in Walldorf. During the course of the evening, I bumped into quite a few Cassatt alumni: Steve Levine, Polly Sumner, and Karl Perron, a former Cassatt customer.

During the past few weeks, I've run across PayCycle customers at several social events. Today was no exception. I spoke with one individual who use PayCycle for his small business and another who uses our household payroll product. And both were happy customers!

As the sun set, I sipped a nice cotes du Rhone and a full-bodied cabernet. I also sampled some cheeses, including a tasty blue and a gruyere. Finally as the patio lights turned on, I called it a night and took the familiar drive up Sand Hill Road, cut across the Stanford campus, back to familiar mid-town Palo Alto. Just in time for the men's 400m!

Aug 14, 2008

Bagels and PayCycle for Breakfast

Earlier this morning, my CEO, Jim Heeger, was interviewed by Fox Business News in New York City. (Search for the "PayCycle" video). The segment aired on Fox earlier this morning, but I missed it. I did catch the video replay, however. It's a 3-minute video-- only a minute longer than Michael Phelps in the 200m IM. And I don't think Jim eats 12,000 calories each day. Check it out for yourself.

Jul 27, 2008

Ever Heard of a Social Network for Shopping?

Me neither, until I talked with Kaboodle at TechCrunch (also see my last blog post). Kaboodle is a Web 2.0 site that targets teen shoppers. As a parent of a teenage daughter, I fully understand the power (monetary and influence) of this demographic! If all those teenagers stopped spending, I think W's economy would take an even faster nosedive.

Now Kaboodle is different in that it doesn't sell anything. It's not an e-tailer, and it's not a web presence for a bricks-and-mortar site. I think of Kaboodle as digg for shopping, even though thefolks at Kaboodle didn't like my analogy.

For this to make sense, think of yourself as a young shopper-- a teen or twenty-something. As you surf around the internet, you can basically tag items (shoes, blouses, skirts, pants, pursues, you get the picture) and these to the collective catalog on kaboodle. From Kaboodle, you can put together different outfits, and you can also rate different items. Kaboodle shows you where you can buy these outfits, and off you go to these other sites to purchase your items!

Kaboodle's revenue model is advertising (just like every other Web 2.0 site). I thought it was a creative way to apply a Web 2.0 model to shopping. From a technology perspective, Kaboodle is implemented with JSP, Servlets, and Apache Spring, and it runs on Tomcat.

I don't know if I'm going to shop there, and I'm not sure I'll pass on their url to my daughter. But, who knows? Maybe she's already been kaboodling!

Jul 26, 2008

The TechCrunch Party at August Capital

It could almost pass for a college party. A bunch of twenty-somethings milling about with drink in hand. But wait, some thing's amiss. There's a new Tesla parked outside, with the owner proudly chatting up the passersby. A limo pulls up and a somewhat awkward-looking techie emerges with a model on his arm. He's a VC who's flown from LA for the event. Although we're walking distance from Stanford, this ain't no college keg party. This is Sand Hill road, and we're at the TechCrunch party hosted by August Capital. The host, David Hornik from August Capital, is also one of our Board members. Jane and I met our gracious host in the lobby, and chatted with him about some of the things we're cooking up for the next board meeting.

The event was attended by over 1000 entrepreneurs, techies, and VC's. And there was a healthy distribution of established tech companies, mid-sized start-ups, and brand new start-ups. Web 2.0 was definitely in the air.

I attended with Jane Willis from PayCycle, and we ran across several colleagues from our pasts. I ran across Milton Howard, a former colleague from Cassatt, who was attending with Michelle Fisher, CEO of Blaze Mobile. Michelle's 18-person start-up has developed a platform that allows folks to pay for services using their mobile phone. Milton and Michelle (who are flanking Jane in the picture) were attending to chat up VC's who might become Series A investors. Good luck, Michelle! As it turns out, Milton has been a loyal PayCycle customer for many years. He uses PayCycle's household payroll product to pay for his nanny.

After another hour of navigating through the crowd, Jane and I decided to find a quieter area on the patio, someplace away from the music and crowd. While we were chatting, two gentlemen greeted us and let us know how happy they were with the PayCycle product. Ike Eze and Tuyen Vo are serial entrepreneurs, and they've just started their third start-up, Centrro. They must have done okay from the sales of their previous start-ups, because they're self-financed and not actively seeking VC money. With their latest start-up, Ike and Tuyen have developed a platform for brokering credit card applications and loan applications on behalf of financial institutions. They have just a few employees and many contractors, and they're very pleased with the PayCycle product. They did have some suggestions and product ideas for me and Jane, which we'll talk over with our teams when we return to the office.

I did run into a few other folks during the event, including a potential business partner we had met with earlier that week. It was a perfect summer evening in Menlo Park, and I had a health sampling of samosa, spring rolls, and weissbier. I decided to call it a night around 8:30pm so I could head home and start the weekend with the family. It was my first TechCrunch party, and it was definitely a great event. I look forward to the next one.

Jul 13, 2008

The Next Chapter Has Begun

I just completed my second week at PayCycle, where I joined as the VP of Product Development. In my new role, I've now moved to the other side of the table. In my prior roles at Cassatt and Sun, I was a producer of enterprise technology. Now, I'm a consumer of enterprise technology and a producer of a consumer web property. My new responsibilities include development, QA, and IT.

PayCycle provides an online payroll service for small business, and they have 75,000 customers. In fact, three of my former colleagues are customers. PayCycle is a SaaS implementation that's implemented as a J2EE application, sans EJB.

My new workplace is located in Palo Alto, just a few doors down from Fry's. I've been good so far, with regards to purchases from Fry's. I have "window shopped" for Sharp's new 65" LCD hi-def TV. "How much is that TV in the window?" you may ask. Well, at a current stick price of $4500, I'll wait another year and pick it up for 3 grand. For now, all I've purchased during business hours is a Hershey's bar and some gum. The wife is really proud of me, and I'm a little surprised myself, to be quite honest.

I'll still continue to blog about enterprise software, but now with the end-user's perspective. Over the next several posts, I'll talk about our development environment, how we're using virtualization, and talk about some new initiatives. So keep reading, and if you're ever at Fry's, stop by for a visit.

Jun 20, 2008

One Chapter Ends

Three and a half years ago, I had joined a new start-up called Cassatt. At the time, I was working in the Java Web Services group at Sun when I got the call from Cassatt's recruiter. I wasn't closely following Cassatt back then, but it was on my radar. In late 2003, I remember reading about Bill Coleman's departure from BEA to form a new enterprise software start-up. And then in April 2004, Rich Green left Sun to join Cassatt. When I joined Cassatt, I didn't fully understand what Cassatt was trying to do, but I knew it was developing some cool, transformational technology. Bill has this saying "Go big or stay home." Well, I don't ever remember staying home during my time at Cassatt.

When I joined in October 2004, we had just started developing the Collage 3.0 product release, with the codename "Armstrong." The longer codename was "Armstrong, the moon guy, not the bike guy." That was one of the years Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France, but the release was named after Neil Armstrong. After shipping Collage 3.0 in February 2005, we took that one small step and firmly planted our flag in the sea of utility computing. (Remember, it's a moon metaphor.)

Over the next 15 months, we released three more versions of Collage. In January 2006, Collage 3.2 "Apollo" introduced support for Solaris. In April 2006, we shipped Collage 3.3 "Spyglass" which introduced support for managing virtual machines. Along the way, we ended our era of space-flight codenames and started a new era of famous golf courses. Okay, you can aim for the stars, but as far as I know only Alan Shepard has teed it up on the moon.

After the Collage 3.4 "Starbuck" release in February 2007, we transitioned to a new development process. Large releases were replaced by small projects that could integrate to Head of Tree asynchronously. There were two invariants: Head of Tree was always shippable, and projects integrated when they were complete and bug-free. At anytime, there were about a dozen projects "in flight." (Okay, we didn't get away from all the aerospace metaphors. We have too many pilots in Cassatt for that to ever happen.)

This was a pretty significant change in how PD operated, but the results were great for the company and the customers. In 2007, there were over 80 integrations to Head of Tree, and the time to deliver new features to customers was dramatically reduced. There was a renaissance of product functionality. We added support along many dimensions: new hardware from Sun, 64-bit support, Xen VM's, new VMware versions, additional networking support, performance enhancements, stability and robustness.

And then in November 2007, we launched the new Cassatt Active Response 5.0 product line. While supporting our utility computing mission, we added support for power management of engineering labs and dev/test environments. Since then, we've continued to add features incrementally. Just recently, Cassatt Active Response 5.1 introduced demand-based policy that should prove very helpful in power-management and utility-computing environments.

So as I leave Cassatt, I leave with mixed feelings. I've enjoyed my time at Cassatt and look back at fondly at our accomplishments. I will miss all the talented folks I had the chance to work with. But I know "it's a small valley" and our paths will cross again.

Jun 11, 2008

Desktop Virtualization

Check out my new column at Virtual Strategy Magazine. I will contribute to their new "Insights" section, which features contributions from several other authors. This month, I talk about why desktop virtualization is a bad idea (and why it's not new either). (Read all about it)

Let me know you what you think.

May 21, 2008

Forrester's Views on Web 2.0 Security

Dr. Chenxi Wang, a Principal Analyst at Forrester, presented a session on Web 2.0 Security Strategies. Here are some highlights from her session:

Web 2.0 is moving into Enterprises, whether you like it or not. She calls this the “consumerization” of enterprises. This is one of the most significant trends in enterprise computing today. All of the existing business software vendors are eyeing this market.

Web 2.0 applications bypass traditional controls that enterprise IT has in place for business data and processes, which introduces an additional need to mitigate external threats. However, Wang advises against blocking 100% of Web 2.0 content in organizations in order to avoid employee backlash.

If you’re developing your own Web 2.0 applications or services, security must still be considered. Web 2.0 apps are more difficult to secure than traditional apps.

Information security considerations

  • Content governance: much Web 2.0 content is unstructured. Content moves freely between the web, email, IM, P2P, FTP, RSS. This moves outside normal security tools.
  • Data security and control
  • Identity management
  • Archiving and retention
  • Compliance
  • Privacy and Intellectual Property: IP is owned by the web 2.0 site. Businesses should understand IP ramifications of using Web 2.0 sites. For example, content posted to Facebook is owned by Facebook and not the author.

Procter & Gamble's IT Organization

I just wrapped up this morning's last keynote at Forrester's IT Forum. Marta Foster discussed the transformation of Procter & Gamble's IT organization at her keynote entitled "Bringing IT from the Back Office to the Boardroom."

Procter & Gamble was founded in 1837 with headquarters in Cincinnati and $76.5 Billion annual sales. P&G has 23 billion-dollar brands. Between 1985 and 1999, P&G expanded from a US-focused company to and international company, entering 55 new markets and increasing operations to 86 countries.

During these 15 years, P&G expanded IT capabilities around the world, resulting in duplication and inefficiency. In 1999, P&G underwent a major re-organization to address some of the inefficiencies from the period of growth. P&G created global business units (e.g., Laundry) with global P&L, market development organizations, and Global Business Services.

At the time, most of the business leaders considered IT to be a cost, but the IT group wanted to become an innovation agent for the company. At a company level, P&G commits to 4%-6% annual growth to its shareholders. IT wanted to find ways to contribute to this top-line growth.

P&G’s Approach

  • Unite IT and core Business Services. Current Global Business Services consists of 8500 employees, of which 4000 are IT.
  • Drive shared services across Business services.
  • Shift thinking from “technologies” to “solutions.”
  • Change the back office to become a business driver.

P&G organization: Global Business Units, Market Development Organization, Global Business Services, Corporate Functions. IT was renamed to Information & Decision Solutions (IDS) to reinforce the change in mission and vision.

Three structural drivers: global organization (3 data centers), think holistically across business processes, orgs, and technologies), grow the partnerships. (HP, IBM, Jones Land LaSalle for facilities). Narrowed down from dozens of partners to 11 global partners.

Three core strategies for how they work

  • Run as a business: changed approach from being a cost center (focused only on cost reduction) to (cost, service levels, value creation, service management, “total user experience”) aligned to P&G approach (P/L, market share, sales volume, brand management, consumer benefits).
  • New IT strategy aligned to business needs: virtualization (replace physical product mock-ups with virtual reality applications), personalization, and real-time decision-making. (decision cockpits that can be personalized by employees – 20,000 cockpits now, growing to 35,000. Goal is for employee not in manufacturing to have their own cockpit – about 70,000 in total.). Virtual Solutions are now used on 79% of all P&G initiatives. Personalization: began as support for one site. 49 countries, 26 million visitors/year.
  • Measure for success. For every service, measure client satisfaction, service levels, user sensing, employee survey, scorecards, top-to-top connections with a 10-point scale for each category. Over past 3-4 years, $600M cost savings to date, 16% increase in user satisfaction, client sat at 8.7 (highest ever).

The IDS (IT) team has adopted a “Flow to Work” Design that attempts to breakdown traditional organizational "silos." People are encouraged to work across the organization and take a top-level business view on projects instead of focusing on their functional area or place on the org chart.

The acquisition of Gillette demonstrated some of the recent changes. P&G integrated Gillette and achieved all synergies in 15 months, whereas previous acquisitions of that size have taken 3 years. Marta’s org has 2000 people. Normally, people are on 2-year assignments. With 1/3 of organization, she’s trying to change so that folks have 6-month assignments.

Lessons learned

  • Maintain top-to-bottom focus on mission
  • Top management support is essential.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Commercialization is critical. All new technologies must find a home/purpose in delivering a product to market.
  • New models need new skills and capabilities.

P&G's green initiatives

  • Reduction of daily paper printing, focus on reducing consumption in facilities.
  • P&G has started measuring and reporting on carbon footprint for the company.
  • P&G is also involved in green initiatives with key customers (Walmart, Target) with a focus on the reduction of product packaging.
  • Reduction in travel: P&G is Cisco’s largest installation of tele-presence rooms. Global travel budgets reduced by 15%, IDS reduced travel by 40%, used a portion of the travel savings to fund video conferencing.
Now, I'm off to lunch. Late this afternoon, I'll be back on-line to blog about the afternoon sessions.

Forrester IT Forum - Day 2

Welcome back to the Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas. I started my day at 7am on a conference call with folks back in the office to discuss one of our key customers. After getting caught up on my e-mail, I was back at the Venetian for the day's sessions and analyst meetings-- the first one with Evelyn Hubbert, Senior Analyst at Forrester. Jay Fry, Evelyn, and I had a very productive chat about data center automation, ITIL, process automation, and the current state of tools. I'm now finishing up a keynote session by Marta Foster from Proctor & Gamble. (Stay tuned for that post.)

On a side note, today was a more balmy day in Las Vegas. Yesterday, the high was a blistering 104 degrees (yes, but it was a dry heat!). Today, I was greeted by cool breezes and 76-degree weather, with an expected high of 86.

May 20, 2008

Simon Yates Talks about IT Infrastructure and Operations at the Forrester IT Forum

The clock has almost struck 12 (literally) on the first day of the Forrester IT Forum, but Vegas is still hoppin'. After a long day of sessions and 1-1's with Galen Schreck and Simon Yates, Jay and I decided to have some nice Venetian cuisine at one of the cafe-style restaurants in the faux Piazzo St. Marco at the Venetian Hotel. (I've been to the real Piazzo in Venice, and let's just say the replica is "close, but no cigar." Okay, maybe not even close, but there was one pigeon in the Venetian's replica.)

Earlier in the afternoon, I attended a session by Simon Yates, a Forrester VP analyst. The session was entitled "IT Infrastructure and Operations: The Road Ahead."

Yates covered many different topics during his session.

Success imperatives for IT that he is seeing from Forrester's clients (mostly large enterprises):

  • Stay ahead of next-generation data center technologies.
  • Consolidate IT for cost, efficiency, and simplification. Yates seeing a lot of interest in consolidation from their clients—very high demand over a short period of time (6 months).
  • Deliver always-on, always-available infrastructure within an ever-tightening budgetary envelope. One interesting quote: “Every year is a recession in IT operations.”
  • Enable user productivity through mobility.
  • Automated and simplify IT processes. ITIL, Forrester is developing research around IT management and automation.
  • Maintain and optimize core IT systems.

Technology change

  • Virtualization everywhere: servers, storage, networks, and clients. Improving server manageability and server flexibility is the number one reason for virtualization (41% consider very important and 46% consider important). Reducing hardware costs is the next reason (43% very important, 39% important) CIO's are “talking about virtualization at cocktail parties like it’s their favorite martini.”
  • Next-generation data center technologies could fundamentally. Change the economics of IT. Cloud computing has burst onto the scene. This could have a profound impact on how people build data centers.
  • Mobility requirements are driving investments in infrastructure to support a changing workplace.

Gaps in the virtualization portfolio

  • Management tools: need management that is common across silos. Most management tools from the “Big Four” are designed for physical things.
  • Sercurity tools can’t see into or protect virtual instances.
  • Licensing: still a black art that gets even more complicated. MSFT licensing is even more complicated in a virtualized environment.
  • Organization challenges: ownership and responsibility as virtualization bridges traditional functional domains (e.g., storage management).

Cloud computing is on the horizon. Yates urged attendees to get ready for the onslaught of cloud-computing products and initiatives from systems vendors. Most enterprises are not ready, and most cloud-computing providers are not ready yet either.

Organizational change

  • 87% of CIO’s plan to restructure IT operations, and 60% have already started. Basically looking at traditional silos, such as storage, and looking at realigning to business imperatives and changing technologies.
  • Consolidation of everything- data centers, storage, applications, and IT staff. Automation will drive the consolidation of IT staff.
  • New requirements drive IT ops professions to develop new business and technology skills. CEO’s and CIO’s want to invest in the personnel they have.

Changes that will happen in IT:

  • Distributed authority will give way to centralized oversight. Instead of many mini-CIO’s, control will be centralized under the CIO.
  • Bottom-up projects will be replaced by top-down initiatives from the CIO.
  • Tech silos will be broken down and replaced by tech interdependency. There’s a push for IT service management instead of functional silos. There will be ITIL projects in the coming 6 months.
  • Technology specialists will transform into personnel with cross-technology skills. These individuals will be required to “see beyond their silos” and understand how IT affects (and can improve) the business.
  • Traditional tech metrics will give way to business-centered metrics. IT performance will be measured at a business level.

IT skills requirements are changing: technical versatility, business knowledge, interpersonal skills.

Process change

  • IT departments are shifting from the management of things to the automation of process and services.
  • Increasing interest in ITIL and increasing adoption in tools for automation. After consolidating hardware, companies are turning to ITIL (to consolidate process after they’ve consolidated everything physical.
Well, that wraps up day 1 at the Forrester IT Forum. And if you're still wondering, there were no cookies during the afternoon break between sessions. There was a selection of fresh fruit and granola bars. So, no cookie for me, but I did have gelato after dinner. So good things do come to those who wait! Check back on Wednesday for updates on day 2. Ciao.

Cloud Computing at the Forrester IT Forum

I'm posting this blog entry during the afternoon break at the Forrester IT Forum. Okay, so I'm probably missing out on some chocolate chip cookies, but I really don't need them anyway. The third keynote I attended this morning was from Rick Lechner, VP Enterprise Systems at IBM. His talk was entitled "The New Enterprise Data Center: Enabling Business Innovation." As with any vendor talk, it was part annecdotal and part product pitch.

Here are some highlights from his keynote.
IBM sees three business drivers that are impacting IT today:
  1. The changing face of globalization (transformation from exporting to multi-nationals to truly distributed global enterprise).
  2. The rising tide of information (more devices, need for real-time analytics).
  3. New business models that are evolving as new technology arrives (B2B, B2C, new uses of the Internet, rise of social networking).
IBM has developed and deployed a cloud that is used internally by Researchers. From an internal portal, Researchers request a set of compute resources, they’re provisioned in minutes, and then provided to the Researchers. When done, the resources are returned to the cloud. (As an aside, one of our Cassatt customers is developing such an internal cloud using Cassatt Active Response and our programmatic interfaces.)

Lechner spoke about several cloud-computing efforts in industry, academia, and government:
  • Google, Univ of Washington, and 6 other universities are working on how to design apps for the cloud.
  • Vietnam has deployed some clouds to foster collaboration between the government and university.
  • China has deployed some clouds to provide compute resources to software start-ups.
Well, I'm done posting for now. I'm off to find that chocolate chip cookie now...

Bobby Cameron's Keynote at the Forrester IT Forum

This morning, Bobby Cameron, a VP analyst at Forrester, delivered a keynoted entitled “Don’t Wait to Innovate." During the keynote, I found myself sitting next to 3 guys who should have been at a pub instead of at the keynote. Despite a gentle warning, they continued to e-mail pictures to each other and play with some of the show give-aways.

Well, here are some highlights from Bobby's talk:
  • Business model innovation is a top priority, but most companies invest in new product/service invention.
  • IT leaders miss innovation by focusing on cost & quality.
  • On-going investments vs game-changing ideas: there is an “innovation continuum” in between the 2 extremes. Companies find it more difficult to fund projects in the middle.
  • P&G sources new products from “innovation networks.” Half of inventions are sourced from outside of the firm. They have identified individuals who play different roles in the process: Financiers (fund the projects), Transformers, Brokers (coordination of the network), Inventors.
  • P &G has a website for their partners and customers. With 53 people, they generated $3Billion in new revenue from products invented outside of P&G.O
  • Cameron suggests that companies should have dedicated funds for innovative projects that are separate from “business as usual” projects. Verizon has a separate fund of $2-3 Million/year for innovation.
  • Cameron discussed some companies that have created innovation pipelines. Idea generation is everywhere, running on its own funding, governed by innovation team. Iterative/agile delivery to develop an early prototype before commercialization. This pipeline for innovative projects runs parallel to the regular process.
  • Take tactical steps now: People – build an innovation culture. (IT: senior managers spend 2 weeks / year out in the Field / business) Process: have a portfolio management process in place. Review the portfolio to show funded/unfunded. Technology – use tools to capture ideas from employees & outside, make the portfolio visible.
  • Technologists must know the cost to the business. At Fidelity, IT knows about the cost of each trade. IT asks “how do I knock $0.25 off the cost of a trade?”

Mike Gilpin and Eric Brown's Keynote on Business Innovation

Mike Gilpin and Eric Brown, both Forrester VP analysts, delivered the first keynote entitled: “Setting the Stage: Your Role in Business Innovation." A few interesting highlights:
  • Increasing innovation remains one of top 3 goals for most CEO’s. today. (survey of 1400 CEO’s by Forrester)
  • Singapore has created a Biopolis (technology park) that houses 2000 scientists in 2 million square feet of R&D space.
  • Kimberley Clark has created a 3-D usability lab for shopping and understanding buyer behavior. This virtual “lab” is located in Wisconsin and consists of three walls with projected displays. As shoppers walk with a shopping cart, the displays change. Kimberly Clark tracks the subject's retina to see where people are focusing. The goal is to try out new packaging, products, marketing, etc. in a virtual environment and see how people respond to new products before they appear physically on shelves.

Greetings from Forrester's IT Forum 2008

This morning, I hopped a short flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas to attend Forrester's IT Forum 2008. Jay Fry and I are here to talk with analysts about the new Active Response 5.1 product launch (read more about it). During the day, I'll post my notes from the various keynotes. So check back over the next few days for more details.

May 13, 2008

M & A's Back, and in a Big (HP) Way

Today, HP announced that it will purchase EDS for $13.9 billion, and in the process HP will have a professional services arm that can go head-to-head with IBM Global Services. With HP's recent purchases of Opsware, HP's returned to the software business. With the upcoming purchase of EDS, HP will have complete portfolio of hardware, software, and services to compete with Big Blue.

A long, long time ago, in a state far, far away, I was an EDS employee in Plano, Texas. I was a Research Systems Engineer back then, developing an in-house CASE tool that was used to generate form-driven DB applications. That was 1991, shortly after Ross Perot had departed, and Dick Brown was CEO. EDS had "relaxed" its dress code back then: double-breasted suits were allowed, and striped shirts were also acceptable. The employee manual did stipulate that the stripes could be no wider than 1/4", and shoes with metal buckles were still verboten. Employees had to wear their suit jacket whenever they travelled to another floor, another building on campus, or the cafeteria. And you had to wear a tie 24x7, even at midnight in the office. (But you could loosen our ties then.)

I'd imagine that EDS has relaxed its dress code since the 90's, but it's corporate culture is vastly different from the "HP Way." It will be interesting to see how this merger pans out.

Apr 15, 2008

Dev/Test Environments in the Garden State

Last week, I spent a couple of days in New Jersey talking with some customers about their dev/test environments. One customer has a very large dev/test environment (1000's of servers) covering every UNIX platform that has been shipped this decade. You name, they got it. They even have some of those high-end, fault-tolerant systems that you only associate with the trading floor of a stock exchange.

Even though this customer was located in rural New Jersey (and I mean rural), they're experiencing some of the same things our West Coast customers are seeing:
  • They have a large dev/test environment with servers that are used for QA, performance testing, build systems, and replicating typical customer environments.
  • On average, their systems can be idle 30%-50% during non-business hours, but their utilization is much higher during business hours.
  • They have negotiated a pretty good discount with their local utility, but electricity is still $0.12/kWh. In another month, their rate is increasing to $0.14/kWh.
  • During the summer, the price will increase due to increased seasonal demand from all those air conditioners.
During our meeting, I spoke with the CIO, their facilities guy, and management from IT infrastructure and IT applications. This customer was interested in using Cassatt Active Response product to manage their operating costs by power-manging their dev/test environment. Our policy-based solutions for power management resonated with the CIO and her management. The applications folks were happy that we provide different levels of user access so that each team can manage the policies for their hardware resources. The facilities guy was quite pleased with our reports that show the cost savings and power usage in their environment. At the end of the meeting, he said "This is a beautiful thing for us." (And I kid you not, those were his exact words.)

Mar 29, 2008

"Earth Hour" in Your Data Center?

On March 29, nearly 60 million people worldwide switched off their lights for one hour in order to show their concern for global warming. (Complete story) From Sydney to San Francisco, people manually turned off lights in office buildings, street signs, and homes. This symbolic gesture was intended to focus attention on rising carbon emissions from human sources, such as office buildings.

I'm sure there were plenty of idle servers on Saturday that could have participated in "Earth Hour." There are probably some idle servers right now in your data center (or engineering lab) that could be powered down. Most data centers are sized for peak traffic/workload that is generally 5-10 times the average traffic/workload. And once you get outside the production environment, there are even more servers in dev/test environments and engineering labs. And you know that those servers aren't being used 24x7.

What if you could power off those idle servers when they're not needed? Better yet, what if your data center or engineering lab could power down idle servers and then power on additional servers as they're needed? The solution is here today and easy to implement. (Read more)

Mar 12, 2008

Building a New Data Center Ain't Easy (or Cheap)

Recently, InformationWeek published photos from Google's newest data center that is being constructed in Iowa. (Yes, Iowa.) The two-year project started last year and will cost $600 million. Now that's a lot of click-throughs to cover the construction cost!

I've been involved in some discussions with a customer who's also maxed out their data-center capacity. They still have floor space in the data center, but they've run out of power. And they're in one of those states where electricity is cheap and plentiful. However, the cost of pulling power into the data center will still cost into the high 6-figures (and that's dollars not Yen).

So they're exploring ways to use their data center resources more efficiently. As they deploy new applications, they deploy more servers. (Sound familiar?) However, not all those apps are needed at the same time. Some apps are provisioned to support the maximum traffic. Other apps are cyclical ones that are only during certain time periods.

So this customer has realized that they can still deploy more applications (and servers) by powering off servers that are not needed. This is an easy step that can be done without changing any of their infrastructure or changing the way they deploy their applications. So, they're able to get more headroom out of their existing data center without having to build a new one. Remember, not everyone has a $400 stock!

Jan 9, 2008

Introducing a New Social Networking Site

Social networks are all the rage these days. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are great ways to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. And you can turn to your network for answers to questions or referrals.

Yesterday, some friends of mine just went live with MyPetStreet, a new social network for pet owners. MyPetStreet provides some unique features for pet owners:
  • Aggregated content and news feeds related to pet health, news, and product information.
  • An repository of pet service providers and resources from the local community.
  • A forum where users can find expert opinions, share pet owner insights, and ask questions to other pet owners.
  • A unique lost-pet service that uses a combination of Web 2.0 technologies and old-fashioned plastic tags.
From a technology perspective, MyPetStreet is implemented with some pretty cool technologies. (Sorry, the inner geek takes over.)
  • Searching for service providers is implemented using AJAX and Google maps. You simply put in your zip code, search criteria, and voila! The service providers pop up on a map. (Check it out)
  • Content management is provided using Drupal, an open-source content-management framework.
  • The site is implemented using LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.
As an owner of four parakeets, I've already checked out MyPetStreet. The directory of service providers in the BayArea is pretty comprehensive, and there's already a pretty sizeable base of content. And, the site is pretty nice implementation as well. Very cool. You should check it out for yourself.