A faithful reader of this blog, Tom, sent me a link to Orson Scott Card's article titled[PROGRAMMERS AS BEES (or, how to kill a software company)
]. "Is there any truth in this?" Tom asked?Having worked both sides of this fence as I approach my 22 year anniversary at IBM, I guess I can venturesome opinions on this piece. Let's start with this excerpt:
"The environment that nurtures creative programmers kills management and marketing types - and vice versa."
By this, he means "kills" in the UNIX sense, I imagine, and not the "Grand Theft Auto IV" sense.Different people solve problems differently. Some programmers have the luxury that theycan often focus on a single platform, single chipset, single OS, and so on, but Marketing types are tryingto come up with messaging that appeals to a broad audience, from people with business backgrounds to others with moretechnical backgrounds, and that can be more challenging. For programmers, "creative" is an adjective; formarketers, it's a noun.
"Programming is the Great Game. It consumes you, body and soul. When you're caught up in it, nothing else matters."
True. As a storage consultant, I find myself writing code a lot, from small programs, scripts, and even HTML codefor this blog. When you are in your zone, working on something, one can easily lose track of time.
"Here's the secret that every successful software company is based on: You can domesticate programmers the way beekeepers tame bees. You can't exactly communicate with them, but you can get them to swarm in one place and when they're not looking, you can carry off the honey. You keep these bees from stinging by paying them money. More money than they know what to do with. But that's less than you might think."
I have never tamed bees, but many of my friends who are still programmers are motivated by factors other thanmaximizing their income, such as: friendly co-workers, job security, casual attire, and interesting challenges. A few make more than they know what to do with, the rest have
girlfriends "significant others" who solve that problem for them.
"One way or another, marketers get control. But...control of what? Instead of finding assembly lines of productive workers, they quickly discover that their product is produced by utterly unpredictable, uncooperative, disobedient, and worst of all, unattractive people who resist all attempts at management."
False. Either marketing had control in the first place (ala Apple, Inc.) or they never had. "Control of what?" is the key phrase here.
"The shock is greater for the coder, though. He suddenly finds that alien creatures control his life. Meetings, Schedules, Reports. And now someone demands that he PLAN all his programming and then stick to the plan, never improving, never tweaking, and never, never touching some other team's code."
True. But if you don't like surprises, perhaps software engineering is not the right career path for you.
"The hive has been ruined. The best coders leave. And the marketers, comfortable now because they're surrounded by power neckties and they have things under control, are baffled that each new iteration of their software loses market share as the code bloats and the bugs proliferate. Got to get some better packaging. Yeah, that's it."
This one depends. I've seen teams survive and manage, with junior programmers stepping up to backfill leadership roles, and other times, projects are scrapped, or started anew elsewhere. As for marketers, it doesn't take much to get one baffled, does it?
Thanks for the link, Tom!
technorati tags: coders, programmers, bees, marketers, management, hive, UNIX
Last year, in my post [Inaugural Brand Impact 2007 Awards
], I mentioned how IBM beat out other major storage vendors for the best brand "IBM System Storage". I am proud of this, and highlighted it as one of my team's key accomplishments during my brief20-month career in marketing, which I recapped in my post[Switching Over from What and Why
] when I switched over to consulting.
This year, IBM did it again. For a second consecutive year, IBM System Storage was recognized by [Liquid Agency]as the leading brand for enterprise storage. Here is an excerpt from the [IBM Press Release]:
"IBM System Storage is the most trusted storage portfolio in the world, providing our clients leading disk, tape and storage software solutions and services. This award reflects IBM's priority in delivering information infrastructure solutions to solve our client's most critical storage challenges," said Barry Rudolph, Vice President, IBM System Storage. "We are helping clients -- from large corporations to small businesses -- intelligently manage information as a strategic business asset. We are proud to be recognized as the clear market leader in delivering solutions that help our clients manage and extract value from their information."
Liquid Agency reviewed over 250 technology brands to make this assessment.
IBM also swept a variety of other awards. Here are a few excerpts from[Datamation Announces 2008 Product of the Year Winners]:
- IBM Business Process Simulator: Innov8
The Business/IT Alignment category is critical for many companies; getting these two key divisions in sync provides a huge competitive advantage. This year’s winner – by a landslide – is IBM's [Innov8].
This Big Blue product has a touch of the sci-fi to it: it’s an interactive, 3-D business simulator intended to close the divide between IT staff and business executives. In other words, it’s…a video game. I guarantee you that in all the decades that Datamation has done its Product of the Year awards, never has a video game won. The times they are a-changin’.
- IBM System p 570 enterprise server
Whether a server is the “best” server is, in truth, based on your company’s individual needs and budgets. In the server world, with its myriad options and add-ons, one size definitely does not fit all. That said, IBM p 570 Server must fit plenty of needs; the box easily won the Enterprise Server category. IBM claims this workhorse doubles the speed of its predecessor without requiring a larger energy footprint.
- IBM Lotus Symphony
When it comes to total numbers of users, there’s no question that Microsoft Office is the 800-pound gorilla of this category. The deeply entrenched Office makes the corporate world go ‘round. Given Office’s status, it’s a major eyebrow raiser that this category was won by relative newcomer IBM Lotus Symphony. Perhaps it’s because Big Blue’s product is free (that always helps), or because IBM is itself such an established vendor. Whatever the case, consider this vote as a huge upset.
(Note: IBM Lotus Symphony is available for [free download] for Windows and Linux.When my friend purchased a new laptop that came pre-installed with Windows Vista, he was surprised to see that Microsoft Office was not included. I pointed him to Lotus Symphony, and he is running great with his existing Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents! I use Lotus Symphony on both Windows and Linux, and IBM plans to make a version available for Mac OS X-- when that happens, I have my Mac Mini G4 waiting to try it out.)
- IBM Wireless Software for Business Intelligence (BI) on the go
For most of 2007, IBM Cognos 8 Go! Mobile software supported only Blackberry units. At the end of last year, Cognos upgraded its wireless business intelligence software – which delivers business reports to on-the-go staffers – to support handhelds that run Windows Mobile OS. Naturally, this expanded the company’s user base, and likely helped Cognos 8 Go! Mobile win the Wireless Software category.
(If you have a RIM Blackberry handheld device, you can try out this[actual demo].)
Wow! That's a lot of awards. Congratulations to all my IBM colleagues who made this happen!
technorati tags: IBM, System Storage, Liquid Agency, Barry Rudolph, Datamation, awards, Innov8, System p, p570, Lotus Symphony, Microsoft Office, IBM Cognos, RIM, Blackberry
Guy Kawasaki is hosting a Web Conference next week on The Art of Evangelism
.By this he is referring to promoting products and services, rather than the traditionaldefinition: the preaching or promulgation of the gospel.
A few years ago, I myself had the official title of "Technical Evangelist" for the IBM System Storageproduct line. I never liked the title, and asked to use something else, but since I was part of ateam of "Technical Evangelists," I had to keep it. A lot of companies were using this as a title,I was told, and everyone knew that it was not a religious reference, but a marketing one.
Sometimes, words do not translate well into other countries or cultures. Four years ago, on theweek of September 11, 2003, I traveled to Kuwait, Qatar and UAE for a business trip to present thelatest on our storage products. On arrival in Kuwait, I had to fill out my "visa application" to enterthe country, and it asked for my "occupation/title" but there were not enough spaces to write "Technical Evangelist" so I just entered "Evangelist".
The two Kuwaitis behind the desk looked it up in their Arabic/English dictionary, discussed it, andweren't sure if they should shoot me, or take me to the back room to video tape my proper be-heading. Our official hostcame over to ask what was the delay, and they showed her the dictionary translation. She asked me,"Why would you put Evangelist as your title?" So, I gave her my business card, and told herthat my full title of Technical Evangelist did not fit in the space provided.
She explained to the two behind the desk that I had misunderstood the question, and misspelled theactual word intended was "Engineer". She showed them the agenda of the IBM Technical Conference I wasspeaking at, and the list of Oil and Construction companies that were attending. They looked upthe new title "Engineer", and agreed the translation was suitable for entry, and that these two words,Evangelist and Engineer, used enough similar letters they could understand how one might misspell one for the other.
Our limo took a small detour to the middle of the desert so that we could burn and bury the ashes of the remainder of my business cards, before arriving to the hotel. All of my powerpoint slides that listed my title were changed to "Technical Engineer". The events themselves went very well,as IT people are the same all over the world, and had no problem setting aside religious or politicaldifferences in an effort to learn more about technology.
When I got back to the United States, I shared my experience with my fellow team-mates, most of whom never leavethe country, and would never have thought this might happen. Management agreed to let us change our titles.That was good for me, as I had to order a new box of business cards anyways.
Last year, I became "Manager of Brand Marketing Strategy" of the IBM System Storage product line.Now on business trips I just write "Manager" on the Occupation/Title line. It fits in every form I have ever had to fill, and translates properly into every language.
technorati tags: Guy Kawasaki, web conference, IBM, technical, evangelist, engineer, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, manager, brand, marketing, strategy
My theme this week was to focus on "Do-it-Yourself" solutions, such as the "open storage" concept presentedby Sun Microsystems, but it has morphed into a discussion on vendor lock-in. Both deserve a bit of furtherexploration.
There were several reasons offered on why someone might pursue a "Do-it-Yourself" course of action.
- Building up skills
In my post [Simply Dinners and Open Storage], I suggested that building a server-as-storage solution based on Sun's OpenSolaris operating system could serve to learn more about [OpenSolaris], and by extension, the Solaris operating system.Like Linux, OpenSolaris is open source and has distributions that run on a variety of chipsets, from Sun's ownSPARC, to commodity x86 and x86-64 hardware. And as I mentioned in my post [Getting off the island], a version of OpenSolaris was even shown to run successfully on the IBM System z mainframe.
"Learning by Doing" is a strong part of the [Constructivism] movement in education. TheOne Laptop Per Child [OLPC] uses this approach. IBM volunteers in Tucson and 40other sites [help young students build robots]constructed from [Lego Mindstorms]building blocks.Edward De Bono uses the term [operacy] to refer to the"skills of doing", preferred over just "knowing" facts and figures.
However, I feel OpenSolaris is late to the game. Linux, Windows and MacOS are all well-established x86-based operating systems that most home office/small office users would be familiar with, and OpenSolaris is positioning itself as "the fourth choice".
In my post[WashingtonGets e-Discovery Wakeup Call], I suggested that the primary motivation for the White House to switch from Lotus Notes over to Microsoft Outlookwas familiarity with Microsoft's offerings. Unfortunately, that also meant abandoning a fully-operational automated email archive system, fora manual do-it-yourself approach copying PST files from journal folders.
Familiarity also explains why other government employees might print out their emails and archive them on paperin filing cabinets. They are familiar with this process, it allows them to treat email in the same manner as they have treated paper documents in the past.
- Cost, Control and Unique Requirements
The last category of reasons can often result if what you want is smaller or bigger than what is availablecommercially. There are minimum entry-points for many vendors. If you want something so small that it is notprofitable, you may end up doing it yourself. On the other end of the scale, both Yahoo and Google ended up building their data centers with a do-it-yourself approach, because no commercial solutions were available atthe time. (IBM now offers [iDataPlex], so that has changed!)
While you could hire a vendor to build a customized solution to meet your unique requirements, it might turn outto be less costly to do-it-yourself. This might also provide some added control over the technologies and components employed. However, as EMC blogger Chuck Hollis correctly pointed out for[Do-it-yourself storage],your solution may not be less costly than existingoff-the-shelf solutions from existing storage vendors, when you factor in scalability and support costs.
Of course, this all assumes that storage admins building the do-it-yourself storage have enough spare time to do so. When was the last time your storage admins had spare time of any kind?Will your storage admins provide the 24x7 support you could get from established storage vendors? Will theybe able to fix the problem fast enough to keep your business running?
From this, I would gather that if you have storage admins more familiar with Solaris than Linux, Windows or MacOS,and select commodity x86 servers from IBM, Sun, HP, or Dell, they could build a solution that has less vendor lock-in than something off-the-shelf from Sun. Let's explore the fears of vendor lock-in further.
- The storage vendor goes out of business
Sun has not been doing so well, so perhaps "open storage" was a way to warn existing Sun storage customers thatbuilding your own may be the next alternative.The New York Times title of their article says it all:["Sun Microsystems Posts Loss and Plans to Reduce Jobs"]. Sun is a big company, so I don't expect them to close their doors entirely this year,but certainly fear of being locked-in to any storage vendor's solution gets worse if you fear the vendor might go out of business.
- The storage vendor will get acquired by a vendor you don't like
We've seen this before. You don't like vendor A, so you buy kit from vendor B, only to have vendor A acquire vendorB after your purchase. Surprise!
- The storage vendor will not support new applications, operating systems, or other new equipment
Here the fear is that the decisions you make today might prevent you from choices you want to make in the future.You might want to upgrade to the latest level of your operating system, but your storage vendor doesn't supportit yet. Or maybe you want to upgrade your SAN to a faster bandwidth speed, like 8 Gbps, but your storage vendordoesn't support it yet. Or perhaps that change would require re-writing lots of scripts using the existingcommand line interfaces (CLI). Or perhaps your admins would require new training for the new configuration.
- The storage vendor will raise prices or charge you more than you expect on follow-on upgrades
For most monolithic storage arrays, adding additional disk capacity means buying it from the same vendor as the controller. I heard of one company recently who tried to order entry-level disk expansion drawer, at a lower price, solely to move the individual disk drives into a higher-end disk system. Guess what? It didn't work. Most storage vendors would not support such mixed configurations.
If you are going to purchase additional storage capacity to an existing disk system, it should cost no more thanthe capacity price rate of your original purchase. IBM offers upgrades at the going market rate, but not all competitors are this nice. Some take advantage of the vendor lock-in, charging more for upgrades and pocketing the difference as profit.
Vendor lock-in represents the obstacles in switching vendors in the event the vendor goes out of business, failsto support new software or hardware in the data center, or charges more than you are comfortable with. These obstacles can make it difficult to switch storage vendors, upgrade your applications, or meet otherbusiness obligations. IBM SANVolume Controller and TotalStorage Productivity Center can help reduce or eliminate many of these concerns. IBMGlobal Services can help you, as much or as little, as you want in this transformation. Here are the four levelsof the do-it-yourself continuum:
|Let me figure it out myself||Tell me what to do||Help me do it||Do it for me|
|This is the self-service approach. Go to our website, download an [IBM Redbook], figure out whatyou need, and order the parts to do-it-yourself.||IBM Global Business Services can help understand your business requirementsand tell you what you need to meet them.||IBM Global Technology Services can help design, assemble and deploy asolution, working with your staff to ensure skill and knowledge transfer.||IBM Managed Storage Services can manage your storage, on-site at your location, or at an IBM facility. IBM provides a varietyof cloud computing and managed hosting services.|
So, if you are currently a Sun server or storage customer concerned about these latest Sun announcements, give IBM a call, we'll help you switch over!
technorati tags: do-it-yourself, OpenSolaris, Solaris, Sun, Linux, SPARC, Yahoo, Google, iDataPlex, x86, x86-64, x64, mainframe, EMC, Chuck Hollis, HP, Dell, SAN, monolithic, disk, storage, system, arrays, open storage, NYT, New York Times, vendor lock-in, IBM, Global Services, GBS, GTS, SVC, TotalStorage, Productivity Center, Managed Storage Services, cloud computing
Well, today is April 1, and I just love [April Fools' Day
].This day has a rich history of practical jokes. Those not familiar can review this list of [Top 100 pranks and hoaxes
Tim Ferris started the festivities with [The Grand Illusion: The Real Tim Ferriss speaks]. He claimed that for the past year, he outsourced the writing of his blog to a writer from India, and an editor from the Philippines. Given that his post was dated March 31, and he writes frequently about the benefits of outsourcing, it appeared like a legitimate post. However, Tim fessed up the following day, claiming that it was April 1 in Japan where he wrote it.
Guy Kawasaki wrote[April Fools' Stories You Shouldn't Believe]including my favorite #12 "Ruby on Rails cited Twitter as the centerpiece of its new 'Rails Can Scale' marketing program." Speaking of Twitter, Fellow IBM blogger Alan Lepofsky from our Lotus Notes team wrote[Great, now there is Twitter Spam]. It looked like a real post, but then I realized, ... everything on Twitter is spam!
Topics like energy consumption and global warming were fodder for posts and pranks.The post[Was Earth Hour a joke again?], argued thatthe preparation of "Earth Hour" last week in effect used up more energy than the hour of this annual "lights-off event" actually saved. This reminded me of John Tierney's piece in the New York Times ["How virtuous is Ed Begley, Jr.?"] where a scientist explains that it is more "green" for the environment to drive a car short distances than to walk:
If you walk 1.5 miles, Mr. Goodall calculates, and replace those calories by drinking about a cup of milk, the greenhouse emissions connected with that milk (like methane from the dairy farm and carbon dioxide from the delivery truck) are just about equal to the emissions from a typical car making the same trip. And if there were two of you making the trip, then the car would definitely be the more planet-friendly way to go.
Wayan Vota, my buddy over at OLPCnews, writes in his post[Windows XO Child Centric Development] that the "Sugar" operating environment on the innovative Linux-based XO laptops will soon be re-named the"Windows XO Operating System", with their new motto "Windows XO: A Child-Centric Operating Platform for Learning, Expression and Exploration." The mocked up photo of an XO laptop with the Windows XO logo was excellent!
Gretchen Rubin reminds us that this is a great day to play tricks on your kids in[How April Fool’s day can be a source of happiness], and last week, Kai Ryssdal on NPR Radio investigated if [Mind Habits] was [a video game that's good for you?]This claims that just playing five minutes per day can reduce stress. I haven't been able to stop playing after five minutes, Mind Habits is like the proverbial potato chip, you can't just eat one!
The economists from Freakonomics explain in [And While You're at it, Toss the Nickel] that it costs the US Government 1.7 cents to produce each penny. The US government loses $50 million dollars each year making pennies. Each nickel costs 10 cents to produce. This one was dated March 31, so it could actually be true. Sad, but true.
My favorite, however, was EMC blogger Barry Burke's post["5773 > c"] explaining howtheir scientists were able to reduce latency on the EMC SRDF disk replication capability:
What the de-dupe team found is that there is a hidden feature within recent generations of this chip that allow a single bit, under certain circumstances, to represent TWO bits of information.
Still, almost 34% of the total bits transferred were in fact aligned double-zeros, far more than all other bit combinations - and most importantly, these were quite frequently byte-aligned, as required by this new-found capability. Makes sense, if you think about it - most of those 32- and 64-bit integers are used to store numbers that are relatively small (years, months, days, credit charges, account balances, etc.). So that's why the team decided to use this new two-fer bit to represent "00".
Mathematically, if you can transmit 34% of the data using half as many bits, you reduce the number of bits you have to transfer in total by 17%. Which, while not necessarily earth-shattering, is nothing to be ashamed of. On top of the SRDF performance enhancements delivered in 5772 (30% reduction in latency or 2x the distance), this new enhancement adds another 17% latency improvement (or ~1.4x more distance at the same latency). Combined with 5772, SRDF/S customers could see a 50% reduction in latency. And 5773 allows SRDF/A cycle times to be set below 5 seconds (with RPQ) - this new feature adds a little headroom to maximize bandwidth efficiency for the shortest possible RPO.
Again, this looked real, until I did the math. Start with the speed of light in a vacuum of space ("c" in BarryB's title) which is roughly 300,000 kilometers per second, or put into more understandable units, 300 kilometers per millisecond. However, light travels slower through all other materials, and for fiber optic glass it is only 200 kilometers per millisecond. Sending a block of data across 100km, and then getting a response back that it arrived safely, is a total round-trip distance of 200km, so roughly 1 millisecond. However, EMC SRDF often takes two or three round-trips per write, versus IBM Metro Mirror on the IBM System Storage DS8000 which has got this down to a single round-trip. The number of round-trips has a much bigger effect on latency than EMC's double-bit data compression technique. With IBM, you only experience about 1 millisecond latency per write for every 100km distance between locations, the shortest latency in the industry.
It is good that once a year, you should be skeptical of what you read in the blogosphere, and sometimes check the facts!
technorati tags: April Fools Day, Tim Ferris, 4HWW, outsourcing, Guy Kawasaki, Ruby on Rails, Twitter, Alan Lepofsky, Lotus, Notes, Earth Hour, spam, John Tierney, Ed Begley Jr., milk, carbon dioxide, Wayan Vota, OLPCnews, Windows XO, Gretchen Rubin, Kai Ryssdal, Freakonomics, NPR, Mind Habits, penny, nickel, EMC, BarryB, SRDF, IBM, DS8000, Metro Mirror, latency, fiber optic, speed of light