Friday, April 01, 2016

Azure Strategic Offering

During Build 2016 Conference, Microsoft show cased several Azure service offerings that are very unique and innovative.

I see the strategic offering of Azure now relies on:

Engaging the Developer Community

Microsoft has a big developer community and bringing Azure closer to the developer rather than the DevOps guys will increase the popularity of Azure among the technology space. 
Open sourcing .net xamarin run time and several other projects is even going to engage more developers who are not practically used to be fans of Microsoft development tools.

Leveraging the Enterprise Mass 

Large number of enterprises have traditionally relied on Microsoft for their proven on-premise technologies such Office, Exchange, SQL and SharePoint. 
Microsoft has a great advantage in leveraging this enterprise trust and shift the enterprise to adopt Azure.

I think these two elements will give a very good push to Azure on the medium to longer run.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Future of Mobile Applications for the Enterprise

You all know that everything is moving toward mobile, rapidly. More people use smartphones for internet searches than ever before, and showrooming is the new shopping technique. With these changes, businesses also adapt and add mobile applications that revolutionize enterprise-level operations. Mobile business intelligence is here now, not a future trend. Businesses that do not start offering access-on-the-go will struggle against their more nimble competitors.

How Going Mobile Improves Productivity

Business intelligence allows employees to focus on the most crucial tasks for maximum success. Imagine for a moment that your sales team could look at a map that shows all existing customers within a 5 mile radius. Then, they can overlay a calendar showing the last point of contact for those customers. In just moments, out on the road, your team can take care of the days assignments and fit in some customer retention activities that will build long-term success. All of this is made possible because of the availability of mobile business intelligence.

Where is the Downside?

There is no true downside to developing mobile applications for the enterprise, but there are challenges. In recent years, many companies have moved toward a BYOD (Bring your own device) policy. This saves a bit of money on operating costs, but it’s going to add dollars to the development side. The variety of devices in use leaves companies struggling to duplicate development activities across iOS, Android and Windows platforms.

Wearable computing is also on the horizon with the addition of products from the Galaxy Wear line, Google Glass and rumors of the iWatch. Creating integrated enterprise applications that work on all platforms becomes more and more challenging. It may ultimately push businesses back into the decision to provide devices to employees, to reduce development and device management costs.

Platforms to Watch

Although iOS has an established market share and Android currently owns a significant part of the industry, for enterprise-level applications, Windows is the platform to watch. Linking between existing Microsoft Enterprise platforms like Sharepoint and the ability to use platform-independent development software makes Windows Phone 8 an ideal option for creating mobile access points to existing corporate hubs. Windows already develops with security issues at the forefront, so businesses can take advantage of already developed protocols that minimize their exposure. Android and iOS are new to the enterprise market, so their existing dominance of the mobile market does not come into play when considering where and how to approach the task of enterprise application mobile development.

Resources:

Friday, January 03, 2014

Enterprise Search Features

Data is the primary commodity online. For most businesses especially those reliant on online systems, the importance of data is even more underscored. Companies and businesses handle a wealth of data, from organizational files and records to sensitive data such as customer profiles and contact information. In this modern digital age where data accessibility is an important functionality for both customers or clients and company employees, a system for data mining should be part of a company’s or a business’ digital infrastructure.

The power of enterprise search capability

A popular system for data indexing and mining is enterprise search, a tool that allows a search to be made within an enterprise and indexes and aggregates data from a wide-range of sources, including files, emails, the business’ own database, intranets, and other information systems used by the enterprise or business. Unlike the more common web search, the search function for this one is predominantly focused on indexing and mining information from the enterprise’s own information sources rather than documents and mentions in the Internet.

What can this mean for businesses?

A major value attached to enterprise search technology is the reach and coverage it provides to a business or company online. Indexing and mining data from the enterprises’ own information sources like its intranet and databases can mean higher results and ranking in online searches on the company or business. A client doing an online desk research of insurance companies, for example, may easily have access to a company’s annual reports, investment portfolios and other similar documents.

As far as improving a company’s MIS (management information system), enterprise search solutions can provide a central repository of data by indexing and integrating files saved in various databases, deleting duplicate files, and updating files saved in several formats. This makes it easier for company employees to search for and access files and documents, both active and archived. In a lot of ways, it also facilitates knowledge sharing within and outside the company or business.

Enterprise search technology has many applications in various industries and sectors – from businesses and corporations to the academe, government institutions, and nonprofit organizations.

The key features of an enterprise search solution

The choice of an enterprise search solution is not a simple task. It is as much an investment as it is a critical component of a company’s digital infrastructure. A report from Google identifies seven important features that a good enterprise search solution should offer.
 

1.     Relevance. This pertains to how a search solution can easily turn up the exact information that users are looking for.  Measured in terms of precision, the enterprise search solution should yield the information within the top 3 – 10 results. However, more than precision, relevance is also evident in the way that the search solution can yield updated content across all queries.  

2.     End-user experience. The solution should make the search as easy as possible, in turn, delivering a satisfying experience to the user, whether it’s the company employee or the external public. Results should be in within seconds or less. Relevant results should be easily displayed at the top of the page so the user won’t have to scroll down for more search results. It should also help the user make sure that they made the right search through features like auto spell check, suggested queries, stemming and synonyms.

3.     Reach. Search results should be as extensive as possible, covering all sources of information available. An enterprise search solution should turn in unstructured content found on other sources like documents, PDFs, slideshare presentations and other shared files aside from those in typical databases. Furthermore, the solution should be able to support the format in which the said information was created (i.e., open PDF files or play certain audio/video formats).

4.     Fresh. A smart enterprise search solution should be able to efficiently crawl information, yielding relevant and fresh information.

5.     Access Control and Persona. By making searchable certain company and business documents, databases and internal management information systems, businesses and companies also expose themselves to higher risk of infiltration and data theft. The search solution should ensure that it yields only the documents and information that are allowed for the user identity accessing or performing search, making sure that these information are the only ones that turn up in the search results. That requires the search engine awareness of the person accessing the search, his role and authority within the enterprise. This is called the Persona, and the awareness of the search engine about the persona enables securing the results according to roles and authorities within the enterprise. Also, persona attributes can affect the relevance feature of the enterprise search mentioned above, so the role of the individual within the enterprise is taken into consideration while ranking search results.

6.     Scalability. As a company grows and expands, so does the data. A good enterprise search solution should consider future expansion, both in terms of the data it handles and the human resource needed in light of this expansion. In most cases, businesses plan for a period of 3-5 years.

7.     Total cost of ownership. It is bound to cost something. Companies should figure in the budget items such as yearly software license cost, implementation cost, hardware maintenance cost, and user training cost among others.


Besides these basic features, it’s also good to check other key functionalities that an enterprise search solution can offer. According to a Forrester’s report in 2011, other functionalities that a search solution may offer include mobile support, support for social tags, and support for other operating systems.  

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Innovation calls for Disruption

As opposed to disruptive innovation described in many publications and being a well-known term, and being part of the corporate scene I tend to see this in a flipped manner; that is innovation calls for (and actually mandates) disruption. As a corporate, being willing and prepared to invest and research possible ways of innovation within the company requires - as well - readiness for accepting disruption and adapting to the mess caused and influenced by the result of creating new ways to conduct business.

The IT organization is to play a proactive role in finding new and better ways to do business. This calls for a company culture that appreciates innovation and is ready to accept the disruption that might be caused by innovation.

When deploying a new technology, or introducing a new system, change and deployment preparations should take place to make sure that day-to-day work does not get disrupted. However, overanalyzing and over engineering of the change management process makes change more difficult to achieve, and sometimes not possible at all.

So, innovative and agile companies need to find the right balance between their ability to embrace and accept disrupting change and their day-to-day commitment to delivering normal uninterrupted service.

Leading Disruptive Innovation article published on iveybusinessjournal.com mentions: "In today’s turbulent environment, leading disruptive innovation is likely more about best principles than best practices, and requires a disruptive approach to management itself."

 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Three Unavoidable Technology Trends

I would like to summarize three unavoidable technology trends that have been around since 2-3 years that are maturing and reaching a level where any CTO cannot avoid. These trends will not only affect the IT environment that we see in corporates today or affect where the IT money will be spent in upcoming years 2014 and 2015 budgets, but most importantly will change the CIO role.

These trends are:
  1. BYOD
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. Big Data

BYOD

BYOD (Bring You Own Device) promises many benefits such as greater innovation, better work-life balance and improved productivity, but it also increases pressure on IT to manage and secure devices and data. How to do BYOD successfully is a challenge. cio.com provides here a very useful guide and insights on BYOD.

Cloud Computing

This article published on Forbes.com addresses the cloud by describing it as the second wave of IT Consumerization, the first being BYOD. It mentions "The CIO’s role now changes from keeping the lights on—delivering apps, managing devices, maintaining the datacenter—to becoming a strategic partner to the business units. IT can extend the value they brought to the business by enabling mobility in the enterprise, by now saying “yes” to cloud services, and by embracing new ways of getting things done."

Big Data

The Times of India article suggests that big data can help companies grow their revenue by 25%. Rapid development in big data analytics has been seen in the past year or two.

Big data has moved on from the initial stage – where the challenge was about storing the data – and has moved onto the next, which is all about the insights companies can obtain from the data.

"We believe the analytics market is entering a new era, where technology is capable of supporting data-driven business, in real-time."  – suggests this article at theguardian.com.
 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cloud Adoption in Enterprise

Organizations are increasingly looking to cloud computing seeking various solutions, and big companies won’t be left behind. Why? A tipping point has been activated, says Infoworld; and as security, usability, and accessibility increases, the reluctance experienced by large companies so far will no doubt be trumped and transformed by the influence of an overwhelming number of organizations adopting cloud services recently.

As of June 2013, it was reported by Business Wire that 75% of Future of Cloud Computing Survey participants use “some sort of cloud platform-up from 67% last year. The total worldwide addressable market for cloud computing” is expected to increase 126.5% from 2011-2014.

Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Services

Microsoft now offers their customers the opportunity to build a hybrid cloud, using familiar tools, with their Azure Cloud services. Big companies “that have been reluctant to get the cloud journey underway on their own – not enough IT staff, no budget for off-premises public cloud use – can now turn to the familiar Windows Server and System Center, the Windows Server systems management console, and find an embedded roadmap to the cloud,” Information Week reports.

Microsoft strives to speed cloud adoption by big companies by allowing them to “embrace the cloud on their own terms,” Market Watch reports. Microsoft recently partnered with AT&T, striving to provide “enterprise-grade security, speed and reliability.”

Recently, Microsoft have beefed up their cloud offering with cloud Hadoop implementation (currently version 1.3) under a service named HDInsight. Nevertheless, Microsoft considers its Hadoop-based solution HDInsight “a building block.” The company has a lot more planned in the pipeline to build various end-to-end solutions that will help business customers get value from the utilizing the cloud.

Amazon Web Services

Here’s what Infoworld has to say about how Amazon Web Services is leading the market as #1 cloud provider: “AWS didn’t get to where it is through clever marketing. It simply has a public cloud that works, scales, and lives up to expectations. Sometimes, that’s all you need.” However, they maintain that large enterprises, a term contextually used here as a synonym for big companies, are slow to adopt the tech for three reasons:

1) Enterprises demand a deal, but AWS “typically does not budge on pricing.”

2) AWS is also rigid with the terms of their contracts; they don’t allow enterprises to rewrite agreements and they won’t negotiate terms with their lawyers.

3) The public cloud model is a concept that contrasts the utility based computing mindset that most enterprises are cozy with. Yesterday’s paradigm based on static business processes and an idea of “clear, tangible expenses in a budget” will need to be challenged here.

Yet AWS continues to innovate swiftly to meet the needs of large enterprises as they encourage enterprise cloud implementation at a rate equal to the success seen with startups thus far, according to Cloud Computing Journal.

The Allure of the Cloud

Verizon’s 2013 State of the Enterprise Cloud Report, Contegix discloses, finds that enterprise cloud adoption is on the rise. As big companies “struggle to keep up with the IT resources needed to manage and analyze big data properly,” adopting a cloud services solution becomes even more alluring.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Data Management and Quality, Why and How?

Most of us are very familiar with the poor data quality that exists in large organization computer systems. How often do you find your name misspelled on bills and letters sent to you? How often do you receive a duplicate mailing due to duplicate record in the mailer database? How often are you required to provide your home or business address for receiving your updated credit card every time your card expires?

Once data is entered or captured in computer systems issues start to appear about it. It rapidly becomes obsolete and needs updating.

Data mastering is another big issue that faces most organizations. You can easily find six different versions of customer records data that all are considered to be ‘master customer data’. In fact you will find 10s of sources for certain data sets such as the list of products or the list of company offices. Applications such as ERP, CRM, production systems, supply chain and corporate intranets all have hundreds of data sets that are all vulnerable to quality issues, duplicated, out of date or out of sync with other similar sets within the organization.

Therefore, data management is a very strategic topic for every CIO of a big organization. The quality of data is as well strategic, because it has been proven that quality management of data is the only way to mastering data. This is referred to as corporate data quality management CDQM.

Several systems, practices, architectures and tools that are used to manage data, ensure its quality can be categorized as:
  1. Master Data Management (MDM): Several frameworks and tools are available in the software market to ensure proper master data management and provide the "single version of truth" of key data entities like customer, employee, product, partner or supplier. These frameworks provide the ability to manage master data and will probably offer various means for making this data available to various systems within or outside the enterprise.
  2. ETL: Tools used to extract, transform and load data across various systems.
  3. Big Data: Tools utilizing big data technologies such as using Hadoop map/reduce methods to analyze large and unstructured volumes and sets of data to come out with findings and reports.
  4. Migration Tools: Corporates often change systems, upgrade from one version of a system to another or introduce new systems to manage business. Effective data migration tools help organizations populate newly introduced system or system revisions with correct and clean data.
  5. Synchronization Tools: Systems come from different vendors and sometimes utilize different technology platforms, even within the same system, similar data sets such as customer data need to be present across different databases. So, out there in the software market, there exist tools that ensure data is synchronized across various systems while applying the transformations required to fit any given schema.
  6. Data Governance: It is a combination of people, processes and technology that ensures accuracy and value of entered data into various organizational systems.
  7. Service Oriented Architecture (SOA): SOA ensures that systems are built in a loosely coupled manner which implies proper embedding of various business processes into their own service logic while providing the necessary channels (service interfaces) between various business processes and modules to interact in order to deliver the end to end business value. This  practice in building systems, by design delivers systems with better data quality and less of data duplication and redundancy.
"In 2011 alone, 1.8 zettabytes (or 1.8 trillion gigabytes) of data will be created, the equivalent to every U.S. citizen writing 3 tweets per minute for 26,976 years. And over the next decade, the number of servers managing the world's data stores will grow by ten times." IDC Study referenced by Computer World Magazine. "The IDC study predicts that overall data will grow by 50 times by 2020, driven in large part by more embedded systems such as sensors in clothing, medical devices and structures like buildings and bridges".


Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Five Most Interesting Facts about Cloud

The five most interesting facts that dazzle me about the cloud are:
  1. You can create 12 machines on the cloud, assign them a task to execute, take the output, then turn them off and destroy them EXACTY like what you did with threads in programming. So, machines can be analogous to threads! Imagine the compute power of the cloud.
  2. You can create a web site with 5 nodes and a load balancer, deploy the pages from your system or from source control such as TFS or GIT and get up and running with few lines of script. In the real world, that effort takes a minimum of a week of work and communication between OPS and DEV.
  3. On the cloud, you can create a database server, populate it with 1 GB of data, then run and produce 300,0000 customer reports, then push them over email, then shutdown the machine after all is done. This will cost you 2.37 USD!
  4. On the cloud, you can build a lab that consists of one Microsoft Active Directory server, DHCP, DNS, one SQL 2008, one SQL 2012 and 3 IIS web servers, an Ubuntu 12.04 machine, an Ubuntu 10.04 machine, CentOS 6.4 machine. You can connect all these machines on the same network segment and make them communicate privately between each other. All this can be done in 23 lines of code and will take 4 minutes to complete.
  5. You can create a 4 nodes web site, one hosted in USA, one in Europe, one in UAE and one in Australia. And you can geographically load balance customer traffic to nearest and fastest location. This setup was impossible to even be thinking of for a startup company! 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Virtualization Inside Organization is the Definitive Path to Cloud

Moving to cloud is certainly a big step for organizations with considerable IT infrastructures. Too many servers and systems, security concerns, connectivity issues, learning curve and change management. All these are so prominent concerns.

Virtualization comes so handy and I believe is the best start. It is a process that can happen on a very controllable pace.

The initial target would be virtualizing every system residing on a physical server. While doing so, you can take advantage of the ability to create as many virtual machines as you need and this number can be much bigger than what you currently have as physical machines.

This would allow you to achieve better governance by designating a virtual box for every server role within the organization where this was too costly when living in the physical world.

The next step would be signing up with a cloud provider, then bridging your internal network with the cloud.

Finally you can start moving 'migrating' machines to the cloud.

Cloud offers virtual machines as one of the many other services. So, later on you would consider eliminating certain virtual machines and utilize specific optimized cloud services such as web servers or cloud database engines, eliminating the use of virtual machines to run those roles as cloud services are already always optimized, patched, load balanced, etc.


The New Web Stack = HTML5 + CSS3 + JS + Cloud

Web technologies have been changing a lot since the very first web was brought to life; Client and server side technologies were both changing, although server side technology saw far more changes and technology divergence than client side use of technology for the very obvious reason of sharing a fairly small set of client browsers and the requirement of clients to be compatible.

HTML5 and CSS3 

HTML5 and CSS3 provide amazing capabilities to describe and present all types of content.

Various frameworks have been built over these technologies that enable content presentation and description in a very flexible manner.

The continuum of end user devices that is being introduced in the market today, ranging from smart phones all the way to desktops and big TV screens is best handled by content written utilizing these couple of inventions.

The 'fairly' recent introduction of the HTML5 and CSS3 and the vast adoption of browser products to these wonderful technologies gave life to them.

JavaScript

The end user computing device has now the computing power of a server. Dual, and dual quad core processors, powerful graphic processors and SSD storage have all made these devices capable of doing much larger computations and graphical operations than before.

JavaScript  being a very powerful and flexible language and supported by every browser on this planet comes so handy. 

"What can be implemented in JavaScript will most probably be implemented in JavaScript"; that is what most web experts are seeing happening.

'Business Rules' and UI responsiveness presented in JavaScript gives unprecedented end user experience with no (or back seen server side call) server side trips. The page stays, and nothing else is matters.

Cloud

Amazon, Azure, RackSpace, and every other cloud provider in the market today are basically working hard to make sure that server technology becomes irrelevant. Whatever OS is run at the server, and whatever web server technology is used to serve content are all becoming irrelevant. The server role is becoming more like a file server that is required to stream html, css and javascripts besides providing web service endpoints to take calls from the browser, performing security validations, agnostic server side logic and persisting the data. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

SaaS, IaaS, PaaS.. Whatever

Regardless on how fast cloud computing is moving and regardless on the names given to cloud computing, it is happening anyway and have been actually happening since a long time.
 
The primary concern on cloud computing revolves around the privacy of information. And I believe that latest information leaks to US government by big technology companies have proved this to be a serious concern.
 
The secondary concern on cloud computing is the price; while it  appears to be an effective model for small companies, it proves to be quiet costly for enterprises.
 
 

Sunday, October 06, 2013

As soon as possible and before we miss the opportunity ... again

As soon as possible and before we miss the opportunity again, technology gurus in Jordan need to sit and identify our current stand from technology as a country. Where are on the international map?
During my IT career in the past 17 years I have had the opportunity to see (and live actually) all different kinds of activities, opportunities, up and down, good times and bad times in the IT life of Jordan.
We need to have an identity, no matter how small or ineffective or big and influential. But we need to know where we do stand.
This has to be done with a down to earth approach without the usual exaggeration or magnification of achievements. This has to be done with complete transparency.
Are we India? Are we Israel? Are we China? Are we Dubai?
Well, anyone can certainly confirm we are not anywhere near any west European country or USA.
India? Mmm, mass production of software predesigned somewhere else in the west, mass offshored development, companies which sustained economy tough times and grew actually. Well, we are certainly not like that. However, several successful models do exist here in Jordan which mimic India IT offshore development companies. There is better opportunity there. But in reality, can you imagine a software developer living in Amman having a more competitive wage that a software developer living in Bangalore suburbs. Certainly not. So, it is so obvious that a software development company following this model may only exist in Ajloun or Tafila (small rural cities in Jordan). But, hey, do we have enough competent labor residing “and willing to continue” in those areas? May be. But that might sound a good option. However, what I can certainly be sure of, is that we would never compete price wise while hiring developers from Amman. Quality can be a differentiator. But hey, we are talking about pure code writing here, in which quality is a process that can be achieved systematically by obtaining CMMI3,4 or 5 and guess how many companies in India have CMMI levels, thousands, in Jordan we have a number that is certainly less than 10.
China? Mass production of hardware, I have little know how in this but I know that brands such as Huawei came out of china. Huawei were originally hardware implementers of CISCO designs. China is at its best if you want to copy something and make it so affordable. Low wage people and masses of them. We are so not like this. However, I can comfortably say that if something similar to this model that could evolve, it can never be even near the major cities where living cost is so high.
Israel? Mmm, research, in microprocessor architecture, graphics, security, computer algorithms and calculations such as cryptography. That is a tough game. However, considerable amounts of money need to be put there in research centers and results can happen. Our pharma industry, namely Hikma is an example of how this can happen. And you know in this type of industry you need more mathematicians than software engineers. IDF employee 90K developers BTW!
Dubai? Well from my numerous visits to Dubai I could barely see a technology guy who is not sales, presales, aftersales “during sales” position, or, and this is a big or, consulting. There is a huge IT community in Dubai living a fairly good life, well paid and growing. The whole gulf area actually is like this. Dubai or the gulf are on the consuming side. No IP, no serious software development is there. Big gulf brands such emirates do have actually very impressive local IT departments and they have developed to a great extent their own local patents.
In the gulf, you see very impressive implementations of big systems, and reference cases actually for Oracle, Microsoft, SAP CISCO and all the others. But again, I see this a positive development on the consumption side rather on the production side.

Security concerns? Do this before you start buying products

Before buying any security product, you should configure the OS properly and by doing this, most of the security concerns are handled.

Configuring the OS would include the following:
  1. Complex passwords
  2. Disabling default accounts
  3. Closing inbound ports
  4. Sacrificing management for the sake of security. use agents instead of poll. That will allow you to close the
  5. Consider outbound firewall
  6. Making users run their day-to-day programs using user privilege and limiting admin privilege use to minimum
  7. Disabling unused services
  8. Limiting the installed software
  9. Control on browser capabilities and tightening its policy
  10. Good audit policy
  11. Encrypting media and drives 

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Welcome

Welcome to The CIO Blog.

I will try to update this blog as much as I can.

It should contain content about:
1) Technology
2) IT Stratgey
3) Leadership
4) Tech Startups