Cloud Computing and vague recollections of the Anarchical Society.

IMG_5152

 

elicited this magnificent response.

Hedley Bull was a famous international political scientist,  he wrote several books. They weren’t easy reading is putting it mildly.  I only read Anarchical Society. At the time I read it, in 1990,  everyone was talking about Francis Fukuyama’s End of History, which, at the risk of over-simplifying it,  predicted that liberal western democracy was the end game of politics, and the totalitarians and the communists were history.  Bull’s view of international politics saw things rather more messily.

Cloud computing architectures today have optimized for and thrived under a Pax Americana construct.  The model being, American cloud providers are the benevolent but hegemonial super power, and they run the world’s data for the rest of us, in a  suzerain system. Sort of like the British East India Company and the empire did with trade in the 19th Century. It is good for us all they tell us, but Amazon, Facebook and others are very much America First.  There has been a relentless centralisation of processing, driven largely economies of scale, technical efficiencies and a lack of regulatory constraint. Where processing takes place in the data colonies, it is has been usually for latency factors,  rather than compliance, but there are of course exceptions.

This model is under threat, from two very different political forces.

In Europe, the data colonised have, after years of inaction, passed a law with some teeth that challenges the US corporate position that data is a commodity that can be appropriated for beads and shells and consent forms that no-one understands. The GDPR will  require the data colonisers to change their behaviour, while Facebook is most egregious example, it would be foolhardy to assume they are the only data pillagers.  This  law is likely to force the colonisers to be a bit more careful with the data from the colonies, and it will embolden other colonials to be a bit more demanding too.  It is not quite the winds of change moment, but it is blowing in that direction.

International political stability  in the analogue world is in its most fragile and unpredictable state, probably since the fall of the Berlin wall.  Any remaining thoughts of America’s benevolent if clumsy peacekeeper role have vanished over the last year. American international politics is now capricious and erratic. Russia has become more belligerent.  Just this week Russian did software equivalent of blocking the Suez Canal, they simply blocked several of the major US cloud providers. Many solutions running on AWS, for instance, were no longer accessible.  Who needs a naval blockade when you can block the cloud port?   The post WWII geo-political landscape is sadly filled with war by proxy, witness Vietnam, Angola, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and so on. Now we have IP proxy wars too.  There is a long history of election manipulation, but it required brute force and sometimes backing coup d’ etat etc, today, that manipulation is through Facebook and Google etc.  Zittrain’s powerful  prediction of ‘digital gerrymandering’ has been vindicated by the Guardian’s revelations.

Software architecture decisions for the last 20 years have been made to optimise for application performance. Going forward things are going to get a lot more awkward. A while ago the Legal Scholar, Christopher Millard, wrote about the question of data sovereignty. Wise stuff.

Architectures of the future need to be designed to cope with an uncertain political and regulatory landscape. The next trade war will not just be about the price of steel, data will be constrained and choked too. Cloud vendors that want to operate effectively globally, are going to have challenge the assumptions that drove the centralisation of the last two decades.  To borrow from Taleb, today’s architectures are not anti-fragile.  We have moved a long way away from the initial decentralised premise of the internet. What started out as the epitome of anti-fragile, has become inherently fragile. The economic forces, aided by  regulatory indifference and incompetence have led to a centralisation and proprietarisation (horrible word, I know) of computing power.

Some will argue that answer is blockchain. I suspect that it, or more likely, the next generation of distributed ledger technologies will be part of the solution, but it not the complete answer. Indeed it was a blockchain application, telegram,  that drove the Russian data blockade decision.

The questions of international order and justice that occupied the minds of Hobbes, Mill, Marx, Hedley Bull and many others deserve closer revisiting in the digital world. I do wonder what Max Weber and JS Mill would have made of Facebook.

 

 

Advertisements

Cycling, Crisp Research, Dimension Data, and a touch of Neuromorphic computing.

Stefan Reid of Crisp Research invited me up to Frankfurt today, to attend their conference.  I’ve known Stefan for a while,  while he was at Forrester and I was at Gartner, we frequented the same taxi queues and analyst dinners at vendor conferences.

I learnt a good deal about the practical state of ML, IoT, cloud etc in Germany.  Strong presentations from the analysts,  customer panels, and case studies. Osram’s massive transformation into an IoT platform player. Continental’s data lake and mobility services strategy, including live demo. neat.  Continental is a lot more than tyres.

I also learnt a new word during Carlo Velten’s keynote, Neuromorphic computing. Apparently  lots going on at Heidelberg University on this, funding in part by the Klaus Tshira Stiftung.

Beate Spiegel, Managing Director of the Klaus Tschira Foundation
“Klaus Tschira was very interested in the investigation and development of new computer architectures that are modelled on the human brain. Beyond his personal interest, he was keen to support the ongoing development of information science for the benefit of humankind. That is why he agreed as early as three years ago to become a sponsor of the European Institute for Neuromorphic Computing through his foundation. We are very happy that with construction of the new facility now under way, the University is taking the first visible step toward new and exciting research findings.”

I glanced at the agenda yesterday, and I was thrilled to see Rob Webster, who runs the sports practice at Dimension Data, on the agenda.

I’ve been very impressed how the South African/global tech company, Dimension Data, has developed its brand recognition through its sponsorship with  Tour de France / ASO, and its pro-cycling team.

The philanthropic dimension of their engagement is particularly compelling, enabling kids in Africa to receive bicycles of their own. Check out Qhubeka. While for some of us cycling is the new golf,  and we argue about SRAM v Shimano, at a more existential  level, owning a bicycle might be the difference between getting to school or not.

Often the link between sport sponsorship and the core business is a tenuous one, but in the case of Dimension Data, there is a technology play with both the TdF and the DD team.  Anyone who rides a bit will know that the last decade has seen an explosion in measurement and data in cycling, even for back of the field weekend riders like myself.  With powermeters, GPS, Heart rate monitors, go pros,  Strava, Zwift, cycling is a rather interesting coalescence of IoT, Social, Big Data, and even Virtual Reality.  Fertile ground then.

IoT, Social media, predictive analytics, machine learning all got a mention,  each with a cycling proof point.  He discussed the impact (pun intended) that the real time data about a major crash had on the TDF’s social engagement levels, and being able to actually prove how fast the pros actually descend. Apparently Cavendish isn’t especially speedy up the hills, but he is pretty nifty on the way down.

“The purpose of IoT  in cycling is not for technology’s sake, but it is to deepen our and the fans’ understanding of the sport.”  Rob, you nailed it.

Thanks to the folks at Crisp Research for having me along.

Disclosure:  We are Dimension Data fans IMG_4062

 

 

 

Employee Central Momentum

I had been meaning to write about EC momentum for a little while, and the press releases this week makes this week as good as any to do. Here is the juicy bit from today’s earnings announcement.

Human Capital Management Shows Strong Momentum

Customers are increasingly turning to SAP to manage their global workforce, both permanent and flexible. The customer count for SuccessFactorsEmployee Central, which is the core of our Human Capital Management offerings, surpassed 1,000 for the first time in the fourth quarter. SAP is winning against its key HCM competitors, especially in markets outside of the United States. For example, Lufthansa selected SAP SuccessFactors. SAP’s innovations in HCM will further increase SAP’s differentiation and drive market share gains.

Over a year ago, I wrote about the trajectory EC is on (Thank goodness for spellcheck, as trajectory remains a very awkward word to spell). 1000 customers. Sweet.

I’m writing this on way back from the sales kick off in Barcelona. It was fun meeting up with a bunch of happy and fired up sales folks and partners. I heard about successes in UK, Russia, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland, and the UAE is totally rocking. Belgium too. It was especially nice to see the SAP South Africa gang. I’m expecting a gangbusters year from them.

The feedback on roadmap was gratifying, and it helped vindicate a couple of decisions we made last month. After a couple of days of tapas and sunshine, it is time to head back to Germany and focus back on the build plan for 1605 and 1608.

This morning on the plane, I thought about some of the EC customers that impacted my day in some way.

The coffee/s I drank, the toothpaste I used, my shaving stuff, the shower and sink manufacturer, my socks, my shoes, my jacket, the weather app I checked on, the phone network, the lenses in my glasses, the fridge in the hotel room, my briefcase, the elevator I took to the lobby, the tyres on the taxi that took me to the airport, the fizzy water I drank, the football boots worn by the dude that scored the goal in the Spanish league last night, the bolt holding up the roof in airport terminal, the yoghurt I had for breakfast, the shop I bought it in, airline that is flying me home, the satellite guiding it, the seat I’m sitting on, the publisher of the book I’ve just finished reading, and the maker of the guitar that David Bowie* played on the single I’m listening to as I write this. All of these companies run EC.

While it is great that the SAP press department has called out EC’s success in the press release and EC has featured prominently in the last couple of earnings calls, I’d like the mention the successes we are having with the other SuccessFactors products.

Onboarding is the fastest growing product in the portfolio, and has smashed every expectation. The feedback from the early adopters of intelligent services and the integration center is very encouraging. The multiposting acquisition is already gelling. I’m fired up to work with Simon and his team. More than ever, I’m convinced that we have the right approach and mix of organic and acquired innovation.

In the hotel in Barcelona last night I caught up with a start up partner, Enterprise Jungle. The CEO took a very early big bet on SuccessFactors extensibility with MDF and the HANA Cloud Platform, it was lovely to hear how that is now paying off. He explained how they are building a specialized offline and mobile performance management application with HCP for airline pilots to use, it enables them to rate the crew and other colleagues, then automatically syncs up with EC, Talent and even CRM. I also heard from Benefitfocus, Workforce Software and Docusign about the strong progress we are making together.

A few years ago, the early adopter customers helped us get this product off the ground. To all my colleagues, whether at SAP Successfactors or in the partner community, thanks for your dedication. You should be proud of what you have accomplished. More than anything, it is by listening to and learning from customers that we have achieved this milestone. There is still lots to do, but the trajectory remains on track.

 

*So long Ziggy Stardust, you made the world a better place. For Bowie fans, have a listen to this.

Buy this book. I did.

Got an email today, as one does.

 I’ll just cut and paste it here.
If you work in software and you haven’t donated to Bletchley Park then you really ought to.
I bought the signed hardback, but then I think Sue is cool.  She knows:  Computer Science, WWII coding,  and Stephen Fry.

Hello there!

(Firstly thank you so much if you have already supported my book, you are wonderful :))

If you know me, you probably know that I’ve been involved with Bletchley Park for some years now. In 2003 I went there for a BCS meeting and fell in love with the place. In 2008 I started a campaign to help raise awareness of the amazing contribution of the site and the more than ten thousand young people that worked there during WW2.

In 2008 Bletchley Park was in financial difficulty. I wanted to raise awareness and gain support for the people that worked there and make sure that Bletchley Park would be there for my children and their children to visit, to help them appreciate the tremendous war effort and the contribution that it has made to us enjoying the peace we live in today. The work carried out there has been said to have shortened the war by approximately 2 years, saving millions of lives.

Fast forward four years and things are looking much rosier for Bletchley Park thank goodness, they have received funding from various sources including the Foreign Office just last week.

Lots of people have suggested over the last couple of years that I write up what happened as a book, and I’m delighted to announce that I have found a fabulous publisher called Unbound to help me do that.

I’ll be telling the story of the campaign that I started and also the amazing campaigns previous to that, during one of which the only way to save the Park was to get the trees listed. Crazy!

So, please sign up to buy my book, I get to see the names of everyone who buys, so don’t think you can get away with pretending you have bought it ;))

..and please do encourage your networks to buy the book too, someone said to me just the other day that they thought that raising awareness of Bletchley Park has also raised the profile of women and computer science in the UK, how cool is that?

Thanks for your support, the campaign that I started would not have worked if it weren’t for the thousands of people that got involved and played their part.

Here’s the link, please have a look and pledge your support, remember, I’ll be checking the names of supporters….

My book is currently funded to 76% (in just 4 days) but we still need another 24% to make it happen…

10% of all profits from the book will go to Bletchley Park.

Take care and see you soon,

Sue

 

The tech industry mourns. W.H Auden said it best.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

What the M3 can teach Facebook

Very similar to the post from yesterday on my Gartner blog.

Those of you that read my last post will know that I spent the first day of my vacation at the Hockenheimring, doing an advanced driving course and track day.  I got to drive a very fancy chariot, an M3 E92. It has 420 horsepower.  It was an experience, but I have no plans to give up my day job and take on Sebastian Vettel.

Back to the M3.

It has a very fancy double clutch gearbox with Drivelogic.  It is an automatic and a manual.  It changes gear in milliseconds, depending on the aggression setting on the Drivelogic.

It has electronic damper suspension. (EDC)

It has Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)

It has variable servotronic steering support

And lots of other clever stuff

In the hands of a total amateur, these three letter acronyms stop you from fishtailing into the wall.  The default mode for all these settings is on. In order to override them, you need to know to hold down button A for 10 seconds and then press button B.  It then warns you that you have switched off the clever computer and it emails your friends and family your last will and testament.

Now Facebook is in trouble with another German Organization, the Hamburg Datenschutzbeauftrager, according to the Deutsche Welle. English Article here.  The Data Protection Commissioner,  Johanes Casper, had this to say.

A legal assessment by our office came to the conclusion that [Facebook’s] face recognition violates European and German law because Facebook is providing its users with contradictory and misleading information,” he added.

“A normal user doesn’t know how to delete the biometric data. And besides, we have demanded that biometric data be stored with the subject’s express consent. At first [any company] has to ask if the user wants their data stored or not. Facebook just gives them the possibly to opt-out. If you don’t opt-out, you’re not consenting.”

Facebook has a long history of confounding us all with their privacy settings, and it looks like the folks in Hamburg have had enough. Face recognition is the privacy equivalent of 420 horsepower without traction control. Facebook is about as far away from Privacy by Design as one can imagine.

I think I will do a what the M3 can teach ERP vendors post, but that will need to wait till I’m back at work.

iPads, Poems and ERP

(cross posted from my Gartner blog)

April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

While I’m somewhat uneasy about the impact of  the iPad and Kindle on books and literature generally  because of the intellectual property control that it gives the device maker, I’m rather impressed with the implications that it has for poetry (thanks Lia for the link).

Watch this video from the Guardian about Elliot’s Wasteland. It is simply delightful.  Congratulations to Faber for doing this.  It is doing things with poems that weren’t possible before.

For the enterprise software vendors reading this, doing the stuff you do on the desktop or the laptop on the iPad doesn’t really impress anyone, it merely illuminates the gap between yesterday and tomorrow. Do something that you couldn’t do before.  Surprise and delight. Innovate rather than replicate.

update: credit due to touchpress.com as well as Faber.