January 2013 Archives

The 7 pillars of social enterprise

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Executive collaboration evangelist at IBM Stuart McRae has used his speaking opportunities at IBM Connect 2013 Lotusphere to clarify the factors that companies will need to address if they are to become socially-empowered businesses.

The fact is that contemporary social media computing trends are being amplified by the proliferating use of mobile devices, cloud computing, analytics on big data and every other form of unstructured data besides.

McRae argues that organisations today need to engage with their consumers in a personalised way and so this means doing so on the consumer's preferred choice of device to create a loyal relationship.

This is instead of the "old way" i.e. where firms were content to commoditise their products and allow an anonymous price comparison site to mediate between them and their customers.

From small acorns

"In many organisations, successful use of social tools is happening today when small groups of employees with a common pain point figure out how to address them by finding a suitable social platform and focusing on their problem, not the tool. While the choice of a poor tool will prevent success, you will not hear about those projects - just the ones that succeed -- and there the selected tool only needs to be 'good enough' for the specific problem in hand," said McRae.

For McRae there are seven pivotal stages, factors and facets of making social enterprise a success and these points may indeed form a checklist that CIOs should now be aiming to target.

The 7 pillars of social enterprise wisdom

#1 - Social enterprise is not a pilot. This is not a rehearsal and firms should realise that the progression to adopt these new tools is an imperative.

#2 - Senior stakeholders (and of course by that we generally mean employees) within the organisation need to buy in to the social enterprise mindset and lead by example. It is not an "option" to use social enterprise tools; it is part of the job.

#3 - Closely linked to point #2 is the stipulation that social enterprise tools must be embedded at the heart of work for every user i.e. social is not something you do AS WELL AS work, social is something you do as part of the WAY YOU WORK at the core.

#4 - We need social enterprise to flourish in an environment where there are no silos of excluded individuals so it must be open to all. The only caveat here is that grouped control of certain discussions where a need for confidentiality arises can still be managed. Everyone from the receptionist (or this may be the CEO's personal executive assistant) to the sales director has to get involved.

#5 - There must be integration with the way people work today i.e. plug ins for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word to allow users to blog or integrate with social channels right from the application that they are already used to using. McRae notes that this is core to IBM's product portfolio in this space.

#6 - The firm must continually monitor and look for obstacles that might impede or slow down social enterprise adoption and eradicate and remove these hindrances when they are identified.

#7 - A social firm will need to create and build communities of champions that record their success and barriers as they journey carry out their own idea generation. Ideas need to pass through a process of (i) suggestion (ii) discussion (iii) voting and (iv) graduation.

NOTE: It's important to remember that outgoing and gregarious sales directors are often excellent EXTERNAL communicators, but very poor when it comes to their INTERNAL messaging. For this reason, the receptionist may win over the sales director in terms of social enterprise champion.

IBM's McRae points out that interestingly, none of the above trends are (necessarily) about technology innovation - they are all about how the business adopts social tools (which, he says, is the meta-trend here).

Closing thoughts and predictions...

"During the 90s we went from >20 different email tools, primarily built for departmental use, often from niche players, and each focussing on differentiating features, to two dominant generic email platforms, which were differentiated by their enterprise-wide scalability, their standards support and the functionality to addressed the core user needs," said McRae.

"I don't think that sort of social platform consolidation will be obvious in the 2013 timescale, but it definitely will be the key trend of the next 5 years, and standards support & integration capabilities will be what differentiates the winning solutions."

CIO image by Adrian Bridgwater.PNG

IBM's three ages of data... leading to social

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The birth of social media and (in particular) enterprise social technologies means that we are now in the "third age" of data, software and computing devices at a wider level.

This is the view of IBM's Mike Rhodin, the firm's senior VP of software solutions. Speaking at the Connect 2013 Lotusphere conference this January, Rhodin explained that we have so far existed with three identifiable ages of technology.

# 1 - Machines that basically counted things -- and these typified all the first wave of electronically enabled computing devices i.e. a computer was a data workhorse or some embedded system that could digitise upon demand and perform its basic function.

# 2 - Machines that could compute and analyse -- i.e. the laptops, tablets and smartphones (and of course the desktops too) that we know today.

# 3 -Machines built for social and mobile futures -- this a new era of machines is enabled for social platforms that future workers will not demand but, instead, "assume" exist. Here, systems are "taught not programmed" as they also evolve a degree of cognitive learning abilities.

Rhodin made these comments to preface the announcement of IBM's new cloud based services intended to accelerate the adoption of social business.

IBM contends that it is doing nothing less than "revolutionizing" (Z left in deliberately) what we might perhaps call front-office processes with the application of cognitive computing and advanced analytics.

From emerging idea to fundamental platform

The firm says that social business has now transitioned from being an emerging idea to a fundamental platform that clients everywhere are using to change the way they engage with their customers.

Following its acquisition of Kenexa in December 2012, the firm has this week announced a new web-based social networking environment in the form of the IBM Employee Experience Suite. This product is targeted at HR managers to "attract, empower and motivate talent" as the firm puts it. It features social networking, e-meeting and instant messaging capabilities.

NOTE: While this doesn't sound like anything new on the face of it, IBM spent $1.3 billion on Kenexa so deeper inspection here will indeed reveal an intelligent applicant tracking system along with a selection of other sophisticated tools.

"The combination of Kenexa and IBM shows great promise to change how HR attracts, retains and trains talent," said Ross Grossman, vice president, human resources, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. "In biotechnology, competition for top talent is fierce. We're excited about the potential to better attract talented people who fit our company culture and can really impact our business performance."

Connecting to social big data

Also coming from the news bag this week are details of the next version of the IBM Connections social networking platform. The new software is intended to enable users to analyse big data from inside and outside an organisation, including Facebook, Twitter, audio and video.

"Available in March 2013, IBM Connections 4.5 will include embedded document management capabilities so that members of a network can access, analyse and act on wide ranges of data types in the context of their work to improve decision-making and business results. IBM Connections' Content Manager feature will allow teams and communities to harness an organisation's collective intelligence to solve business problems and drive profit," said the company, in a press statement.

IBM Connections will now also include enhanced integration of social capabilities in the Microsoft Outlook client. This should allow users to access their social data (such as profiles, files and communities) directly in Microsoft Outlook.

In December, IBM expanded its social business platform to include social document editing on-premises and in the cloud. The company recently released IBM Docs, available on-premises and as part of the IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. This is intended to allow browser users to simultaneously collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents -- provided they themselves have the multi-tasking brainpower to spare of course.

IBM also announced that it expects to ship IBM Notes and Domino Social Edition 9 in March 2013.

IBM Notes and Domino 9 will be what IBM is keen to label as the industry's "first truly social email client" as it delivers a social experience to users.

Interestingly, this is the first 'major' release of this product in the last five years. Also interestingly, readers will notice that the product is no longer called Lotus Notes as it is now simply known as IBM Notes. Whether these facts (and the newly cloud powered connectivity and collaboration elements) will be enough to counters its critics who dislike its presentation and usability is another question.

What is certain here is that IBM has gathered together a strategically developed (and strategically purchased too of course) set of social technologies to the envy of many others.

With a comfortable position on the Magic Quadrant and the key influencer index of every analyst firm worth its salt, IBM's social technology proposition is gaining an increasing share of voice.

Could a twenty year legacy in collaboration software be enough for IBM to cross the chasm and shoot up inside the tornado?

What social enterprise did next

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General manager of IBM social business Alistair Rennie kicked off the Connect 2013 Lotusphere symposium this week in what is the event's twentieth year.

After an 8am opening live music set by 'quirky popsters' They Might Be Giants, Rennie and his team spent time analysing the trends currently driving social business before bringing out IBM's latest product announcements in this zone.

IBM (as we shall detail below) is pushing forward in the social enterprise space as hard as it can which may appear unusual to some, given the firm's arguably more high profile heritage in servers, desktops and global consulting services.

That being said, Notes has been around for a while now connecting people - love it or hate it as you may.

The touch enabled boardroom

A cautionary word is needed here... as impressive as these tools are, one can't help wondering how we managed to get all the way to 2013 without touch-enabled boardroom table displays that integrate with tablet devices for group collaborative real time data analysis.

Whatever happened to meetings, pencils and paper notepads, cups of tea and plates of biscuits?

More business relationships forged online

Well tea and biscuits do all still exist of course, but the rise of social enterprise is something we can't deny. Another truth we can not now deny is the fact the more and more business relationships are being formed online in the first instance.

IBM is demo-ing the latest capabilities of its Connections suite, platform and toolsets (it is all of those), but before we look deeper, let's step back and ask what social business tools actually look like.

Existing both inside and outside of an organisation's firewall, social enterprise tools take a variety of forms: some being customer-facing, some not.

The kind of social enterprise tools IBM is championing include:

* Blogs and microblogging services
* Wikis and databases
* Workflow activity streams and "ideation"
* Community discussion forums
* Tagging and bookmarking tools
* Content recommendation engines
* People recommendation engines

NOTE: Yes, we did just say ideation, many apologies to the Oxford English Dictionary.

If you think plain old meetings and cups of tea will still suffice; consider IDC's estimation of worldwide revenue for the enterprise social software market: it was £488 million in 2011 and it is growing by more than a 33.3% every year just now.

Who's the social daddy?

As of 2011, a total of 30% of the social enterprise market was owned by IBM, Jive Software and Communispace, together accounting for 30% of the market total.

Mike Rhodin, senior VP of software solutions told the Lotusphere 2013 audience how he sees the social enterprise market breaking down.

"If you look at many of the other firms in the social enterprise space they are smaller web-based entities operating with 'fremium' models. In terms of real business and solid market share, IBM has been number #1 in this market for the last three years and this is a position we do not plan to relinquish."

The question then surely is... what factors will now shape is this marketplace?

"Social, information, mobile and cloud shouldn't be considered in isolation as market forces," said Linda Cohen, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The convergence of these forces, which Gartner calls the Nexus of Forces, is what drives real business value. The Nexus of Forces converge in several ways: cloud, mobile and social solutions enable the distribution of information, social media usage and behaviour drive mobile and information solutions, and cloud can be a foundation for information, social and mobile solutions."

IBM's product announcements this week centre around updates to its IBM Connections platform, IBM Docs, IBM SmartCloud for Business and IBM Notes and Domino Social edition, you can read further analysis of these announcements on the Computer Weekly Developer Network.

Big data's big daddy is industrial turbine powered

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Everybody's favourite jet engine, turbine and medical scanner specialist company GE has been on the road recently to explain how its individual approach to big data analytics is applied to the heavy industrial zone to predict maintenance needs.

Computer Weekly recently reported on GE's use of operational data from sensors on its machinery and engines for pattern analysis. GE is using the analysis to provide services tied to its products, designed to minimise downtime caused by parts failures. Real-time analytics also enables machines to adapt continually and improve efficiency.

As much as we now read about the increasing use of sensors (from those in electronically enabled fridges, to CCTV cameras and right through to industrial turbines) GE Research's vice-president for software Bill Ruh also reminds us that sensors themselves are getting smarter and there is a point of interest here for software application developers.

Sensors are becoming smarter in some part due to the fact that the software controllers embedded and/or installed alongside the sensors are getting smarter. These are the software drivers capable of making decisions based upon data collected from, say, a group of sensors installed on a turbine.

NOTE: These turbine sensors would typically (and this is a layman's definition) be in place to monitor heat, rotation speed, vibration, system health etc. For a more detailed explanation, go to your favourite industrial turbine reference manual. Essentially, GE Research's Ruh explains that they are looking for data patterns to identify changes in the performance of the machinery itself.

Ruh says that these sensors could give pilots more information about the turbines driving a plane engine, which ultimately could make the plane safer to fly. But - importantly, we still need humans in place to interpret these signals, so the automated pilot is some way off yet.

"You still a human to set the cruise control on a car," said Ruh. So when it comes to machine-to-machine computing, there will still be much need for the human-to-machine element.

Ruh qualifies these points by further explaining that the machine itself needs to become more aware of the human; so if engineer "Bob" tries to tinker with a turbine sensor controller and he is not an approved level of service technician, then the system doesn't allow him access.

As these Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) now bring us a new empowered form of robotics, a new breed of developers will equally need to skill up for these field of engineering and big data at the industrial turbine powered level is born.

There's no UC in cloud, no wait, there is actually

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Recent analysis in the perpetual quest for "what's the next killer app for developers to focus on" zone has combined two of our most ubiquitously discussed topics...

... cloud computing and unified communications (UC).

But more specifically, the opportunity to now bring these two streams of technology into unison and develop applications for this arena. This is a discussion point that could fuel extended debate.

NOTE: A definition attributed to International Engineering Consortium has specified that Unified Communications can be denoted as all forms of call and multimedia/cross-media message-management functions controlled by an individual user for both business and social purposes.

Cloud computing models have largely proven themselves to be adaptable and flexible enough to support any traditional terrestrial IT scenario or use case model. So will UC fit in the cloud and should we be ready for a "next wave paradigm shift" movement in this space?

The Computer Weekly Developer Network asked three vendors for their opinions:

"Whilst 2011 was the year that the hype around cloud began to dissipate and companies tentatively dipped their toes in the water, 2012 did see many more companies taking the plunge with cloud, putting more of their systems and applications in the cloud as we enter 2013. As the market matures so user experiences and expectations are set to also now develop further," said Ian Foddering, CTO & technical director, Cisco UK & Ireland.

The finance sector is leading the way...

"Cisco's CloudWatch 2012 report shows where the most activity and enthusiasm for cloud computing resides. Last year's front runners, web conferencing (13%), video conferencing (12%) and unified communications (12%) have all drawn investment from between a quarter and a third of companies and look set for further growth over the next 12 months. The finance sector is leading the way in adoption of unified communications with 32% having already invested in cloud solutions and 36% of companies in the finance sector have invested in web conferencing (36%), only email hosting and back up more likely to already be in the cloud. Healthy growth is forecast in these collaboration services over the next 12 months" added Cisco's Foddering.

One silver bullet

"UC adoption was once hampered by a lack of real integration and in many cases, prohibitive cost models - the onset of cloud mitigates these to some extent - both the upfront budget required and the time and complexity of implementing one silver bullet solution is reduced," said Caryn Johnston, UC specialist, at Logicalis UK.

"Cloud means it doesn't have to be all or nothing for UC, and we've found that for organisations starting off, or for those that have been burnt in the past, implementing solutions via the cloud is an easy and effective way to test the waters and get a path to full UC and Collaboration underway," she added.

A defining view of the future?

"The service providers of the future will need to have all data, hosting and voice capabilities in-house, under their own control, on their own network. 80% of IT managers are convinced of the benefits, yet the adoption of cloud-based UC is tiny. This tells me that there's a clear gap in the market," said Campbell Williams, group strategy & marketing director of Six Degrees Group.

"The biggest problem is that there aren't many providers that can offer the full package. One with the right in-house IP telephony and UC skills who have a cloud platform and their own datacentre racks, who can also provide SIP trunking through their own IP soft switching infrastructure, and finally can deliver resiliently over a next generation network. The appetite is clearly there; unfortunately, too many of the resellers and service providers out there are silo-based and lack the end-to-end expertise to deliver a fully converged, cloud-based solution," he added.

Female developers in Guyana lead the way

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Intel developer blog blogger Wendy Boswell has been busy bemoaning the lack of female developers in Western nations and pointing to some (arguably) insightful (if a little dated) figures.

Women are (as we know) unfairly underrepresented in the STEM category i.e (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Boswell points out that although teenage girls are now using computers and the Internet at rates similar to their male peers, they are still five times less likely to consider a technology-related career or plan on taking post-secondary technology classes.

Signs were promising back in the mid 1980s, Boswell points out that (in the US at least) computer science education undergraduates peaked somewhere around the middle of the decade but -- the figure has declined ever since.

Poor ratings for female coders in the UK and the US appear to sit alongside countries such as Germany and the Netherlands -- but Norway and Sweden show a little more promise.

Citing figures over a decade old (but probably still worth making reference to) Boswell highlights that...

  • 41% of Iranian CS graduates were female in 1999
  • India's percentage of female IT undergraduates doubled (from 12% to 24%) from 1997 to 2000;
  • South Africa had an impressive 32.1% graduates in 1998; Mexico's 1999 number was a whopping 39.2% and...
  • Guyana had an astounding 54.5% of female CS graduates in 2001
Arthur Andersen runs a project labelled GROW (Growth and Retention of Women) Project and many firms appear to be addressing the perennial challenge and problem thrown up by a lack of diversification in the technology workforce.

This subject demand repeated analysis and discussion, so more power to Intel's Boswell for flagging the issue in 2013.

intel gir.png

From data-mart to database to data analytics, SAP HANA's three ages of man

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SAP held a co-located press conference in Frankfurt, New York and Silicon Valley this month to announce recent amplifications to the HANA in-memory computing platform, suite, programming platform and ecosystem.

SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA is a new option for SAP Business Suite customers.

The means that the company is now claiming to be the "only provider" of a family of business applications that can capture and analyse transactional data in real time on a single in-memory platform.

IDC's Henry Morris has suggested that by combining both transaction processing and analytics on this "single platform", SAP HANA now supports a "blended" system of record... and of decisions too.

"The integration of transaction management with real-time decision management eliminates the delays and inefficiencies inherent in parallel operational and business intelligence systems. This enables employees to make better tactical, operational and strategic decisions based on relevant, granular, up-to-the-moment data," said Morris.

Quoted on Computer Weekly, Adrian Simpson, chief innovation officer at SAP UK and Ireland has said that it is important to realise that this news "offers an opportunity" for CIOs to simplify their applications landscape, putting transactional and analytical processes on a single platform.

While the news announcement itself made good eating in its own right, the fact that HANA can (arguably) now be referred to as all of the above entities (i.e. in-memory computing platform, suite, programming platform and ecosystem) is (in itself) a curious proposition.

So how has HANA changed over its three ages?

SAP for its part does not provide an easily referenced 'potted history of HANA'.

Technology companies don't like doing this i.e. they don't like looking back, as they prefer to "sell" heavy on current features and capabilities as they typically exist on the future roadmap.

HANA recipe list: ingredients as follows...

If we try and look back over the years we can see that HANA grew out of an amalgamation of three distinct individual software products i.e. TREX, P*Time and MaxDB.

TREX (Text Retrieval and Extraction) technology essentially started life as a search engine somewhere back in the mid nineties (1996 in fact). A TREX pattern is capable of specifying a pattern for the structure and content of an XML document and the technology itself eventually migrated into the SAP NetWeaver service-oriented application and integration platform.

Along the way, HANA has also assimilated P*Time - a row based data store with an in-memory OnLine Transaction Processing (OLTP) pedigree. The MaxDB relational database (developed by Software AG) has also played a part, as now has Sybase ASE and Sybase IQ.

The three 'ages' of HANA

So we come to the three 'ages' of HANA as we can now regard them.

Age #1: HANA essentially came from the analytics side and was marketed as a "data mart" and a solution store.

Age #3: Then as we moved through OnLine Analytical Processing (OLAP), HANA became positioned as a database for BW i.e. Business Warehousing.

Age #3: HANA's third blossoming phase has seen the technology ultimately running as a transactional system. SAP suggests that if you had asked a techie developer/DBA three years if you could run a column store as a transactional system, the answer would have been no.

Why was this so?

The reason, explains SAP senior VP of HANA's technology engineering practice (TIP) Franz Faerber, is because a traditional column store wouldn't be able to perform speedy transactional processes. Single operations to update every element of the column store would be too expensive (in terms of memory processing cost), but this challenge is now overcome with in-memory speed efficiencies.

Now (in the third age) we see HANA has an OLAP and OLTP analytical and transactional system working together.

SAP reminds us that "other" database management systems on the market are typically either good at transactional workloads, or analytical workloads, but not both.

According to SAP, "When transactional DBMS products are used for analytical workloads, they require you to separate your workloads into different databases (OLAP and OLTP). You have to extract data from your transactional system (ERP), transform that data for reporting, and load it into a reporting database (BW). The reporting database still requires significant effort in creating and maintaining tuning structures such as aggregates and indexes to provide even moderate performance."

SAP further explains, "Due to its hybrid structure for processing transactional workloads and analytical workloads fully in-memory, SAP HANA combines the best of both worlds. You don't need to take the time to load data from your transactional database into your reporting database, or even build traditional tuning structures to enable that reporting. As transactions are happening, you can report against them live."

The firm says that by consolidating two landscapes (OLAP and OLTP) into a single database, SAP HANA provides lower TCO with much faster speeds.

Will there be a fourth age of HANA? Possibly so, but the mechanics of this engineering are in place for some years to come.

Programming for Mac, a first taste of Cocoa

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The Computer Weekly Developer Network speaks to David Bass, enterprise VP for engineering at (unstructured and semi-structured) data governance software company Varonis. Bass shares his thoughts on software application development for the Mac and how it compares to Windows and .NET.

Bass and his team recently developed a Mac client for the company's DatAnywhere product - a secure, private cloud file sync alternative to Dropbox.

CWDN: What was your overall experience like in developing on the Mac platform?

David Bass: Since Mac OS X is based on the NeXTStep operating system which is a UNIX-like operating system based on the Mach Kernel and BSD, you might expect that the development environment would be very barebones. The opposite is true - we have been extremely pleased with the maturity and robustness of OS X, Xcode, Objective C and Cocoa. The developer community is really active and passionate, too. We have everything we need to build the kind of applications our customers have come to expect from us.
CWDN: What should someone coming from .NET development expect from Cocoa?

David Bass: Cocoa is at least as powerful as .NET, if not more powerful in some aspects. As in .NET, support for common things like UI, file management, localisation and multi-threading are built into the framework and are very easy to make use of. However, with Objective-C, should you wish, you have greater control on the underlying framework - you can manage your own memory and easily change existing interfaces' (Objective-C terminology for C++/.NET classes) functionality using categories.

Additionally, the dynamic nature of Objective-C--everything you do is essentially sending a message between objects--makes it a very powerful language and certain programming tasks are easier than with .NET.

CWDN: How would you rate the API documentation?

David Bass: The docs were very good for the most part (CoreData could use a little more documentation, though).

CWDN: How would you rate Xcode as an IDE?

David Bass: Xcode is very good. I'd consider it to be on par with Microsoft Visual Studio. It's very full-featured and has everything a developer needs.

CWDN: Apple has a reputation for not wanting to let software developers compromise or change the Apple experience (e.g., no flash on the iPhone). Did you run into any roadblocks or annoyances because of this?

David Bass: Since DatAnywhere does drag-and-drop file synchronisation between your Mac and your organisation's file servers, we had to integrate with the Finder app. Our goal was to provide the user everything they need without having to leave the Finder/file-system and not requiring to open an external App, For that we needed to add icon badging (similar to MS shell icon overlay functionality of Explorer) and context menu options which required a few workarounds.

'Live' Earth video camera on International Space Station

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UrtheCast (pronounced "Earth-Cast") is launching and installing two cameras on the Russian module of the International Space Station.

The UrtheCast team now says it will subsequently open up its API (application programming interface) so that software application developers can use its data to create applications for mobile devices like iPhone, iPad and Android.

One of the cameras generates a large amount of image data of the Earth, while the other is a high-resolution video camera providing video footage of Earth from space at high resolution.

Data collected by the cameras will be downlinked to ground stations around the planet and then displayed in near real-time on the UrtheCast web platform and also distributed directly to partners and customers.

A recent partnership agreement with the United Nations will see the team offer real-time information on dynamic situations such as floods and mass movements of people.

The UrtheCast web platform promises to provide a 'YouTube' like experience that shows videos tagged to geographic locations -- it will have a Google Earth-like interface and the image data will be fresh and constantly being updated.

A real-time social layer is also being included to integrate with popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Vorsprung durch Technik in the land of gold & blue

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Everybody knows that Germany is the land of Vorsprung durch Technik and that you have to get up pretty early if you want to get your towels around the pool before the Shmidts, the Müller and the Rhinehousens - right?

But did you also know that Deutschland is the land of gold and blue?

There's a good lesson here for anyone working in website design and development, or working in technology generally i.e. gold and blue livery colours are used extensively throughout Germany to embody positive messages of...

* competence
* trust
* authority
* efficiency and,
* functionality

So it is that big German brands including SAP and Lufthansa both use the gold and blue colour scheme to create their (arguably remarkably plain but) incredibly distinctive logos.

NOTE: It is important to note that we focus on a gold or dull yellow-orange colour here and NOT yellow itself, which is not only extremely bad for web page design - it also embodies a fairly insipid feeling wherever it is employed, unless you are trying to sell bananas, lemons or custard.

If you happen to find yourself trapped (albeit very pleasantly) inside the modern traveler's metropolis that is Frankfurt Main airport for 36 hours on a business meeting (as your reporter was in this case), then you will see plenty more German gold and blue.

The cleaning staff teams all sport a gold and blue uniform, with snappy blue trousers and a goldy-yellow styled day-glo tabard (for safety purposes of course).

The "blue-spot" on the Blaupunkt sound equipment in the Duty Free area has a blue spot on it, plus of course gold detailing.

Even the cheese appears to be sporting gold and blue, with the Laughing Cow asking us to trust its taste and quality.

Geoffrey "Inside the Tornado" Moore has apparently written a paper on the use of this type of colour scheme.

Web designers and developers can take some of these messages on board and think about the way their designs will be perceived by different kinds of users in different cultures around the world...

... and, if you happen to be targeting the German market - you can't go far wrong with gold and blue.

As for the UK, do we like red, white and blue best? We might possibly drop the blue and just go for the red and the white, after all...

... if it's good enough for the cross of St George and Computer Weekly then it's good enough for anyone right?

NOTE: If you want more proof, just look at the logos of Germany's top 30 companies on the DAX stock exchange (below) and linked here too!


What is cloud management software anyway?

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The cloud needs managing. This we know to be true.

If we accept this truth then we must ask ourselves how we address the minutiae of detail needed to integrate (or perhaps re-integrate) core business processes into new virtualised hosted spaces.

Even so, the term "cloud management software" is almost too scarily generic to even contemplate entering into Google. Plus, what do we mean by cloud management anyway?

Is cloud management about...?

• Core dataset manipulation and connection points to corporate datacentres?
• Cloud application lifecycle management, app deployment and updates
• Cloud "state" and the need to juggle between public, private and hybrid cloud instances
• Configuration and DevOps related operational maintenance
• Giving cloud managers a nice job title and a corporate bonus

The Computer Weekly Developer Network speaks to Craig Sullivan, VP and international general manager for NetSuite to set the record straight.

CWDN: The crowd marketplace is becoming increasingly crowded, how does NetSuite differentiate itself in this still-nascent IT space?
Craig Sullivan: With 14 years of cloud heritage NetSuite is among the true innovators in this space. We also offer the most comprehensive solution - integrating ERP, CRM, PSA and eCommerce functions - into a full business management suite delivered from the cloud. We have taken the step to ensure the entire application is configurable to enable businesses to build and deliver their own custom applications as SuiteApps on our SuiteCloud Platform.

CWDN: Addressing our initial question in the bullets above, how would you say cloud management software's role should be viewed?

Craig Sullivan: Cloud Management software is put in place to try and juggle hybrid cloud deployments. It's never going to be more than a stop-gap solution as businesses struggle to integrate between two separate cloud environments, failing to fully realise the benefits of a true cloud. More often than not the private cloud is a myth, nothing more than the traditional client/server architecture dressed up to look new and innovative. The 'famous' (and well-proven at this point) cost savings and improved efficiencies that cloud offers are really only available from a true public cloud.

CWDN: Without deliberately "baiting" you, your firm's press release list is a string of financial results mixed with customer and partner announcements without much info related to tools and software, help us out here with some detail please.

Craig Sullivan: We prefer to focus on the business benefits and proven results that our product offerings bring to our customers rather than provide a laundry list of features and functions. But if you dig deeper into the announcement we've made this year you will see details of the launch of our SuiteCommerce offering, a major new 'Commerce as a Service' platform that allows businesses to manage every element of their interactions with other businesses and consumers via a cloud platform.

SuiteCommerce changes the game for businesses of all sizes to innovate in how they manage their businesses and in the ways they interact with their customers and suppliers through any device that is connected to the Internet. Over and above that we have also continued to evolve our core product offering, with two major updates this year alone.

CWDN: What are your key messages for software application developers approaching the cloud in 2013? Is it line of business apps on mobile touch based devices as the key driver, or is it something else?

Craig Sullivan: Application development businesses must look for platforms with growth potential and realistic margin opportunities. The opportunity for VARs to build once and sell multiple times means that the cloud has placed them in a better position than ever before. Our SuiteCloud Platform provides a means to accelerate development by allowing developers to leverage not just our tried-and-tested, highly scalable, high performance cloud infrastructure but also our native ERP and business management application capabilities - there's truly no better place to build applications that help businesses with automation and efficiency across their operations.

Mobility will undoubtedly play a key factor in driving software development as more and more businesses look to ensure they keep up with modern working practice - even more justification for choosing to build on a proven cloud platform.

CWDN: What solution would you offer to businesses who are unwilling to give up their on-premise legacy systems?

Craig Sullivan: One of the biggest barriers to cloud adoption is the amount of money already invested in legacy systems. For some businesses these bills run into the millions and as a result CIOs are understandably cautious when it comes to scrapping a clunky but vital system. However, as they are increasingly unwilling to pour further investment into a near-obsolete technology that, importantly, doesn't provide them with the flexibility to innovate their business model or how they engage with their customers, many organisations are caught at an impasse.

This doesn't need to be the case - using two-tier ERP can allow enterprises to invest in cloud technology for subsidiary offices which can be tightly coupled with the core legacy system. Businesses can take a Two-Tier approach to materially cut down cost and time demands of their existing systems as well as take the first steps into the cloud.

CWDN: What, for your money, is likely to influence the cloud market most over the next 18 months (or five years if you prefer a longer view), or don't you for "forward looking statements" as such?

Craig Sullivan: There will be further continuation of cloud's march into the mainstream as yet more businesses give up on their stone-age on-premise legacy systems. Cloud technology will become more tailored as VARs begin to better target vertical markets, allowing organisations to run their entire business within a cloud environment. Every business will be a cloud-business to some degree - it's increasingly the primary and preferred channel of engagement for customers and suppliers alike (not to mention the channel for lead generation and prospecting) - and so businesses will need to understand how the cloud impacts how they go to market and manage their business in order to succeed and thrive in the future.

New 'seeing' apps now developing vision & gaze detection

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New software libraries are being constructed for programmers to start employing so-called Vision Intelligence technologies into applications that can "see" what is going on in the environment around them.

In this regard, a new computer vision (CV) software library has been launched for the development of "vision-enabled" applications targeting the mobile, home, PC, and automotive markets.

Built by CEVA Inc, the new library is optimized for the firm's own CEVA-MM3101 imaging and vision platform.

This is positioned as a tool for application developers to add vision capabilities to System-on-Chip (SoC) systems.

These "vision enabled" applications can be found in areas such as wireless (or wired) sensor networks, mobile computing scanning apps, PCs, smart TVs, natural user interface (NUI) devices and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

... face recognition and "gaze" detection

Target applications for the CEVA-MM3101 include advanced image enhancement applications (super resolution, HDR and video stabilizer), NUI applications (gesture recognition, face recognition and gaze detection), ADAS applications (forward collision warning - FCW, lane departure warning - LDW, and pedestrian detection - PD), computational photography, and video analytics.


Progress' programming proselytisations

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It's January 7 in the year of whichever lord you care to worship.

This date means that we are mercifully past the "predictions for application development in 2013" phase where companies mark the end of the 12-month with sagacious musings attempting to predict trends, tendencies, propensities and "proselytisations" of all kinds.

The Computer Weekly Developer Network (CWDN) has bashfully shied away from covering too many of these marketing-enriched missives lest we be drawn too deeply into the dragon's lair to discuss "intuitive ground breaking developments" or such like.

But Progress Software 's senior VP of product development John Goodson piqued a modicum of interest with his "app economy" comments this week. Saying (as he did) that the long development cycles of the past will disappear and will be replaced by approaches that build, test, integrate and deploy - continuously.

Goodson predicts that 2013 will bring a rise in simple and intuitive personal cloud services, at the expense of more full-featured and complex applications.

As a company, Progress has made an open and deliberate (and unapologetic) move to align itself to new SaaS models over the last 18 months.

But it's a confusing time for programmers so Progress' technical marketing manager Gary Calcott says that it is now imperative that developers look for a proven, integrated platform with a strong database at its core - an integrated platform will pay off in increased productivity downstream.

The DO factor

"Follow a bias towards high-productivity (e.g. via strong tooling rather that arcane systems), which may offer high-control but bog you down in complexity. Ensure that you have multiple deployment options i.e. no lock-in on platforms or infrastructure. Above all, look for a platform which will support rapid development of state-of-the-art hybrid mobile apps ideally by leveraging a cloud-based service (better collaboration, faster rollout of refreshed functionality)," said Calcott.

The DON'T factor

Calcott spells out the areas for programmers to consciously avoid:

• Avoid platforms locked to a particular infrastructure platform.
• Avoid "patchwork systems" i.e. a tacked-on datastore or other componentry. You will pay the price of the integration!
• Don't get hung-up on programming languages - look for the platform that will get you the highest level of productivity and build reusable services on it.

We are in a time of flux and a time of new and emerging standards. Yes that is almost always constantly the case anyway, but it's the New Year after all, so it's not a bad time to look back and cast a critical eye over the road ahead.

Windows 8: inside out, 3rd party in

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In advance of a number of pieces attempting to pinpoint exactly how far Microsoft has managed to get its Windows 8 interoperability and wider programmer-centric messages out, the Computer Weekly Developer Network CWDN) is spending some time in the reference book library.

One of the major concerns for many is... just exactly how compatibility demands will now be met between Windows 8 and the massively-complex beautiful-beast that is Adobe Creative Suite 6.

Stage one of this analysis involves downloaded and running Creative Suite 6 on Windows 8 which appears to be quite straightforward, all the apps turn up right on the Metro interface as you can see in the below screenshot (centre bottom area for Adobe apps) quite clearly.


Applications appear to boot up with no major problems, although incompatibilities arising when using InDesign have been discussed on various web forums -- so we will aim to address these challenges with a) some use case experiences and b) some facts from Adobe should the problems turn out to be real and persistent.

To the bookshelf

In the meantime, CWDN is nose-deep in a couple of new titles from O'Reilly courtesy of Microsoft Press

Introducing Windows 8: An Overview for IT Professionals
By Jerry Honeycutt is a network administrator and developer-centric guide to new features and capabilities, with what are called "scenario-based insights" demonstrating how to plan for, deploy and maintain Windows 8 in an enterprise environment.

Topics include: Performance, reliability, and security features, Deployment options, Managing the new UI using Group Policy and Windows PowerShell, Internet Explorer 10 and the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack plus Recovery features.

For the user (rather than the techie per se) there is a sister volume here released under the title Windows 8 Inside Out
 By Tony Northrup.
Windows 8 book.gif
This second volume features timesaving solutions, troubleshooting tips and workarounds. "It's all muscle and no fluff," says its publishers.

Topics include: Installing and personalising Windows 8, Mastering the new UI, using pen, touch, and voice input, implementing security essentials, managing files, disks and drives, sharing and synching digital media and setting up and troubleshooting a home or mobile network.

CWDN hopes to set up a home network with connectivity to Mac OS X machines and various mobile devices across various platforms, wish us luck!

NOTE: A third book also exists in this series -- Training Guide: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012
 By Mitch Tulloch.

Developing for wearable brain-powered Artificial Intelligence apps

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) software company Expertmaker is trying to pin down the AI trends that developers will need to be aware of for the next round of apps that emerge in this space.

Expertmaker founder Lars Hard says that AI-powered search is next on the horizon as are "smart and adaptive" user interfaces enabled by AI.

"Mobile technology has come a long way in the past few years," says Hard.

"Mobile devices now have extensive capabilities. In addition to analysing digital content, mobile devices can harness ambient data such as temperature, location, user movements, schedule, user habits and engagement. Developers need to be able to leverage these new capabilities and sources of data to create more advanced apps."

While there is a lot of attention being paid to getting apps onto bigger screens like tablets and televisions, there is another movement to get apps involved on smaller screens, designed to be worn rather than carried.

The first crop of "real-world" wearable tech such as Google Glasses hints at a future of more obscured technology. The future of wearable tech will be very simple headband-like devices that will be powered by the brain.

Today many apps require access to certain data or functions on your mobile device, such as a user's "current location" to access the app. However, with many issues of privacy circulating around the tech and mobile industry, users want to be able to connect to these apps without infringing on their privacy or security.

Apps will need to be "intelligent" enough to override the need to utilise sensitive data.

"To stand out from the crowd in the app-universe, developers need to create smarter apps. These apps need to have increased precision and relevance, become more personal, enable the use of many more information sources and to link to other devices or apps, and allow more adaptive user experience. All of these more complicated features require the use of one or many AI technologies," says Hard.

Expertmaker's developer program offers developers and small start-ups free access to the its platform to build AI powered solutions.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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