Archive for May, 2011

Bye, Dropbox

Dear Dropbox,

It’s not you, it’s me.  You see, I care about my privacy and what I share with friends and the Internet at large.  I also care about what I share with you and other companies.

I was hesitant to use your service, but I read your terms, and got the strong impression that you cared about my privacy and security.

Alas, that just wasn’t true.

So, I’ve deactivated all three of my Macs and my Droid, and deleted my Dropbox account.  Fortunately, I didn’t use that password anywhere else, so I’m done.

Your service was convenient, so I’ll check our your competitors to see if they have a better security posture and more transparency.  If so, I’ll likely end up paying for their service.  Thanks for showing me how useful a sharing service like yours could be, but too bad I couldn’t stay with you.

,

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Gartner: By 2012 20 percent of businesses will have no IT assets

This prediction was from January 2010, and of course predates the recent troubles at Amazon and other cloud providers.  Also, 2011 saw some re-evaluation of “the cloud” as a panacea for all IT ills.  And yes, some companies have made transitions to nearly 100% cloud operations.

Let’s take a closer look at this statement and dive a little deeper into some of the trends behind this prediction.  The key trends are virtualization, “X as a Service” and employee desktop management.

Virtualization is the easy one.  Everyone either has or is in the process of virtualizing wherever possible.  Whether that is virtualizing legacy services, or taking advantage of virtualization features for reliability or redundancy, it is a well-established strategy that has definable benefits.  One key idea from Gartner’s Datacenter and Cloud conference last year was internal virtualization as a required stepping stone to public or private cloud. Now that server, storage and networking virtualization are all solved problems, we’re seeing more interest in virtualizing the desktop and that will dovetail nicely with desktop management.

The next trend is “X as a Service”.  Whether you’re talking Infrastructure, Platform or Software, all of these are making good progress.  Let’s start with Software as a Service.  If you are a startup or smaller business, you could arguably perform most of your back office functions using hosted solutions.  Sales support, HR, payroll, ERP, email and other services are all available from “the cloud”.  More mature and larger organizations are also making more use of these, although perhaps at a slower pace.  Platform as a Service is now mainstream, with an ever-increasing list of offerings and companies making use if them.  Infrastructure as a Service is clearly here to stay, and many companies like NetFlix and Foursquare have “bet the ranch” on its viability.

All of the above trends were initially focused in servers and services.  Virtual desktops have been around, and coupled with a new trend will further decrease the ownership of IT assets.  The new trend is “employee owned desktops”.  In this model, employees are given a stipend, coupons or other ways to buy their own laptops and/or home computers, which are then used as the employee’s primary interface to corporate resources.  In some models IT still manages the entire machine, more commonly a standard “virtual desktop machine” is deployed and all company computing runs in the virtual machine.  In all cases, the hardware is owned by the employee, who is responsible for loss, damage and hardware failure.

So what might this all this mean for IT organizations in companies that do proceed down this path?

I believe that those business will  have about the same amount of IT staff, but (fewer or) no datacenters, networks or servers of their own.  Their IT staff will be managing virtual assets from Amazon, Rackspace, IBM, HP and other IaaS, Paas and SaaS vendors.  Their staff members will spend more time creating architectures, devising new solutions and creating new services, using services instead of hardware.  They will spend less (or zero) time racking and repairing hardware and more time creating solutions in their own private clouds, built from other peoples’ hardware infrastructures

There will always be local datacenters, especially for high-performance storage and internal-facing apps, and to host our most high-performance applications where control and provisioning of the network is critical.  Security will remain an important reason to not put everything in the claoud, but this will be an increasingly less important driver for non-cloud systems.  But we will all be increasingly integrating hosted solutions from vendors, designing our solutions to run on other peoples’ hardware in other peoples’ datacenters, and managing IT assets that we do not own or physically install.

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boredom, creativity and…. iPads and search engines

Peter Bregman has an interesting hypothesis:  we are too connected to information, and we need “boredom time” to be creative and productive.

He makes the case that carrying an always connected device (in his case an iPad) allowed him to be too productive, that is, productive at any time of the day or night.  He allowed work and activity to fill all the time in his life because he had a device that made that easy.  In other words he discovered an aspect of  Parkinson’s Law.

I think he is on to something, but I’d like to suggest that it is really the over-ease of access to information that is the problem.  With Google (or any other search engine) on every device we carry with us, there is never a need to ask “I wonder if…”.  We never have to think about that question, we can always get the answer immediately.

When was the last time that any dinner time (or work time) question remained contested?  In other words when was the last time you had a discussion, an argument (in the classic sense) about a question of fact?  It is too easy to immediately answer those questions, and therefore we are losing the ability to question authority and make creative arguments to support our positions.

I believe that the reverie of a chain of “I wonder if…” questions can lead down some very creative pathways, and too many of us are short-circuiting that process.  Science fiction is some of the most creative literature around, in terms of “ideas per page”, and it requires the creation of “what if…” chains for which you choose muliple non-obvious answers.  Easy access to information, too soon, short-circuits the creative process that can lead you into those great “out of the box” ideas that make all the difference.

So, it’s not always about getting those hours of uninterrupted time, it’s about making some of that time unconnected and unstructured time.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the sysadmin community about turning off your email client to get those uninterrupted hours to make progress on projects.  I believe that we also need to turn off search engines to get unconnected and unstructured thinking time.

So don’t always focus on time management throughout your entire life, and give yourself permission to explore “what if…” on your own.

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