March 28, 2007

Shai Agassi – a contrarian view

Shai Agassi is leaving SAP because, in essence, the old guard didn’t want to turn over the reins to him as fast as he would have liked.* Often, this kind of departure is a bad thing (e.g., Ray Lane at Oracle). But I suspect that SAP may actually be improved by Shai’s leaving.

*His other stated reasons include two very good and highly admirable ones – working on energy technologies and improving matters in Israel.

SAP’s technical strategy has three core elements:

  1. Automate business processes.
  2. Provide the technical infrastructure for automating business processes.
  3. Encapsulate process and data at the object/process level.

This strategy has been heavily developed and refined on Shai’s watch, with major contributions from lots of other folks. The issue isn’t vision any more. What SAP needs to do better is execute on the vision.

Read more

March 23, 2007

Great news for Openwave

Dave Peterschmidt is out as CEO of Openwave, and this is a very good thing. Even better, the company is being shopped. Best news: Jerry Held is on the committee doing the shopping. Not that I agree with Jerry on everything, but on the whole he’s pretty astute.

Openwave will probably find a buyer at a decent price. Dave’s bad, but he doesn’t completely destroy companies; there should still be some value there.

March 19, 2007

Three ways to market analytics-related technology

“Decision support”, “information centers”, “business intelligence”, “analytic technology”, and “information services” have been around, in one form or other, for 35+ years. For most of that time, there have been two fundamental ways to sell, market, and position them:

More recently – especially the past five years – there’s been a third way:

as early-generation implementations get replaced by newer ones.

At the 50,000 foot level, here’s some of what I see going on:

Related links

March 16, 2007

Have analytics vendors rediscovered ease-of-deployment?

Business intelligence (BI) used to be characterized by speed and cost-effectiveness — short sales cycles, low-cost departmental purchases and deployments, evasion of IT departments’ strangleholds of data, and so on and so forth. That focus has blurred, as BI vendors have increasingly focused on analytic applications or enterprise-wide standardization sales. But increasingly I’m seeing signs that the pendulum has swung at least partway back. For example:

It’s about time.

March 1, 2007

Check Point caves in

Not long ago, I wrote of Check Point Software’s unusual appliance strategy. While a lot of their sales were on partners’ Type 1 appliances – custom boxes with standard parts — the only appliances they sold themselves were Type 2 – software-only.

However, that turns out to be wrong in two interesting ways. First, it was slightly incorrect all along; Check Point’s “Edge” product line has been Type 1 for almost five years. Second and more important, a few weeks ago Check Point announced that it was finally entering the Type 1 appliance mainstream market itself. Read more

January 29, 2007

Appliances — my conclusions! (For now, at least)

Network World today posted my column predicting a rosy future for computing appliances. A lot of the supporting research has been posted in this blog recently; here’s what was a preliminary summary and survey of appliance vendor strategies.

Subsequent to submitting the column, I developed a simpler taxonomy of computing appliance types, namely:

Type 0: Custom hardware including proprietary ASICs or FPGAs.

Type 1: Custom assembly from off-the-shelf parts. In this model, the only unusual (but still off-the-shelf) parts are usually in the area of network acceleration (or occasionally encryption). Also, the box may be balanced differently than standard systems, in terms of compute power and/or reliability.

Type 2 (Virtual): We don’t need no stinkin’ custom hardware. In this model, the only “appliancy” features are in the areas of easy deployment, custom operating systems, and/or preconfigured hardware.

Here’s what I predict for each of them.

Read more

January 23, 2007

NoFollow does matter — a lot

Matthew Mullenweg, of WordPress fame, has posted the wistful thought that adding NoFollow tag support to WordPress didn’t really help with the problem of web spam. I emphatically disagree. Yes, it’s true that comment spam and the like is still a huge problem.* But while crude spam isn’t visibly affected, the NoFollow tag probably does a great deal to discourage something that would be even worse.

*Uh, Matt, can you do anything about increasing the 150 capacity limit of the Akismet spam quarantine? I run over it all the time, often in less than 24 hours.

Suppose it were still the case that spammers could get search engine ranking boosts from blog comment spam. Don’t you think they would be motivated to craft subject-specific comments that are very hard to distinguish from the real things? Search engine ranking algorithms are taking ever more accounting of the topics of pages that link to sites, the topics of the pages that link to THOSE pages, the topic of the text around the link, and so on. Few forms of search engine optimization are more valuable than “good” links. A comment that stayed up on a popular and topic-relevant blog would be of high SEO value — think $25-$250 in perceived value as a super-rough estimate — and great efforts would be devoted to getting them. The whole blogosphere might be corrupted in the process.

Blog software’s adoption of the NoFollow tag is a VERY good thing.

January 22, 2007

Harbinger Capital Partners vs. Openwave Systems

There’s a lovely proxy battle going on between Openwave Systems and investor group Harbinger Capital Partners. Openwave management , as the incumbents, are pursuing the boring route, with damage control, double-talk, legalese, and so on. Harbinger’s take on things is livelier.

I don’t know much about the details, but I’ll say this — anybody who wants to oust Dave Peterschmidt from a CEO job is probably on the right track. He’s the guy who ran Sybase into the ground, he didn’t have much of a resume before he got the opportunity to do that, and he hasn’t had very good results subsequently either.

If they can find a way to dump Peterschmidt while keeping Jerry Held, who’s the other management-slate board member up for reelection, so much the better. The Harbinger link above suggests that they’ve already had the same idea.

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January 22, 2007

Nick Carr pushes the back of the envelope

Nick Carr, who seems not to like computers very much, did a back-of-the-envelope calculation to show that the server load for a Second Life avatar consumes more electric power than the average Brazilian human. But I think he made one little error in his calculation. He used, for the total population of Second Life, the average number of avatars concurrently online.

Now, maybe Second Life has a very small number of active members, almost all of whom average many hours online per day. In that case, Carr’s comparison may have some validity, especially when we also consider the power expended by client PCs.

Then again, maybe he’s off by, say, an order of magnitude. Given that he cited 10-15,000 concurrent users half a year after Linden Labs was reported to have 250,000 or so registered users, I’d make that more than a “maybe.” What’s more, while his point is cute, even if accurate it wouldn’t prove much, since Second Life is a notorious processing power hog anyway.

January 22, 2007

IBM and Microsoft seeing a (virtual) appliance future?

Microsoft recently hired an IBM Fellow named Don Ferguson to be an office-of-the-CTO type. In his last blog post at IBM, he outlined the top ten issues he saw in his area over the next five years. #1?

Software appliances and SW configurations integrated with virtual middleware

You can see the whole list here. Here’s more about Ferguson and his role.

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