An MIT student recently created a new type of massively distributed database, one that runs on graphical processors instead of CPUs. Mapd, as it has been called, makes use of the immense computational power available in off-the-shelf graphics cards that can be found in any laptop or PC. Mapd is especially suitable for real-time quering, data analysis, machine learning and data visualization. Mapd is probably only one of many databases that will try new hardware configurations to cater for specific application use cases.
Alternative approaches could focus on large sets of cheap mobile processors, Parallella processors, Raspberry PIs, etc. all stitched together. The idea would be to create massive processing clouds based on cheap specialized hardware that could beat traditional CPU Clouds both in price and performance at least for some specific use cases…
Software defined radio is like software defined networking but for radio networking, you can build whatever by updating the software. Recently a new project got funded on Kickstarter that allows radio amateurs to build anything they want related to radio. BladeRF is an open source USB 3.0 software defined radio for $400.
So the usual suspects will be existing 4G, GPS, Zigbee, Wifi, etc. standards but what if some innovators start thinking outside of the box? White spaces would be one option. But what if 5G or 6G no longer is defined in standard bodies but by a community of open source amateurs that jointly work together? Probably it is going a step too far but M2M (machine to machine) / IoT (Internet of things) can still use more efficient standards. Also federated ad-hoc networks that circumvent local censorship or solve outages could become options. Let’s just hope Chinese suppliers can bring down the price of the BladeRF…
AWS is used by more and more enterprises today but Amazon should work on several awkward “features” that make daily usage by enterprises difficult.
AWS console consistency
The console is not very consistent and could be made a lot easier for users. Why do elastic load balancers do not have tags? Why VPC, subnets, route tables, etc. do not have names and do you need to work with their IDs? Why are network ACLs stateless and security groups state full? Why are VPC security groups administration pages in VPC and EC2 different? Why can I not see the name of a security group when I use it in an inbound or outbound rule? Why can I give a temporary role to an API but not give a user or group a temporary role similar to sudo or delegated administration? Why RDS tags do not filter out Cloudformation tags when editing and EC2 tags do?
IAM and the console
End-users that are limited to a small subset of services and resources are up for a surprise. They will be able to see the same options as an administrator but after clicking will get a no permission option. It would be so much easier if services, buttons, menus, etc. you don’t have permission to are not visible.
Java AWS API and Eclipse plugin
Probably the worst Java API of the last 10 years. You have to go to restricted instances to see your on-demand instances. You have list, after list, after list to go through to get somewhere. Some times you do getTags, some times you do request and response. You have to use the RDS ARN to get to tags but you only get the ID from the RDS instance. Etc. etc. etc. Amazon should do a 100K competition on who can create a better API. Whoever gets more than 1 million users for their API wins.
Installing the Eclipse plugin
If you don’t use Eclipse JEE, you will need to fight with several plugins but nobody told you that the plugin is only compatible with JEE. If you do not have the Android SDK installed you can not accept the Eclipse license.
It seems like few are using it because there are no support posts when you Google for it. Then again you can understand why people do not use it. Several limitations in the parameters page. Try creating a secure password for your RDS master user and you can only use letters and numbers. Only have three valid values for a parameter? Why not put them in a drop down? Wait there is no drop down. You go to the end of the wizard before it complains about a problem in the first page. Start a stack name with a number and it will complain at the end as well. Inside Cloudformation scripts you will find several inconsistencies as well, e.g. no tags for security groups, you can not use underscores in name, try using the instance ID in the tag for the name and you get a circular error, etc.
Missing enterprise functionality
Try encrypting your EBS, good luck. Having finally managed to setup a VPN in your VPC and your IT department is ready to start opening it to multiple departments. Wait how are we going to charge them? Linked accounts is no option because we are not going to setup a VPN for each each department. Adding tags to each instance to include them in your usage report? Good luck with automating tags with referential errors, etc. in Cloudformation or rebuilding a custom portal based on the API. What about limiting department X to instance A, B and C? Inconsistently implemented if at all available for the service you want to use. Migrating instances between VPC subnets? Stop, create AMI, start new instance. Forgot to add a security group to an instance? Stop, create AMI, new instance. Why?
Is AWS a bad service or product? Not at all. Is it ready for global enterprise deployment? It will be in the next 24 months. Should I wait till then? If you are not using the Cloud today, then you are already a year late. Elastic scaling, instant provisioning, pay per use, etc. they beat any awkward “features”. But some API design competitions, customer usability studies and a community roadmap driven by votes would go a long way…
- Open Compute
Open Compute is focusing on creating a new type of server, an open source server based on open source storage, motherboards, racks, data center designs, etc. Instead of proprietary designs, Open Compute makes the design open source. Expect prices for these “commoditized” servers to be substantially lower and ready to enable unseen web-scale data centers. The big driver behind the initiative is Facebook.
- Printing everything
Imprint Energy is a start-up that is putting research of the University of California into practice. By printing batteries they become bendable and can have very thin shapes. A new series of applications are possible that were previously unimagible. 3D printing is probably becoming mainstream in 2013-2014 via manufacturing-as-a-service with consumers buying their first printer in 2014-2015. But also bio printing can allow us to create innovation.
- Wearable Tech or Fashion Electronics
Google Glass, Smart Cloths, Nike’s Fuelband, etc. are all examples of wearable tech. However expect printable batteries to make the tech really flat (cloths) or really small (glasses). This means that we haven’t seen anything yet. Also expect the data explosion of sensor data to also include a lot of “human performance data”.
- Miniature Arduino
RFDuino is a good example of how Arduino’s are shrinking. Open source intelligent miniature hardware will revolutionize many industries, e.g. Jardin & pool computers, bike computers, etc.
- FPGAs and other open source hardware
Mojo is a good example of how not only micro-controllers can be made open source but also FPGAs and other hardware controllers. Due to its parallel processing and multimedia processing capabilities, expect revolutionary products in this domain.
Intel announced this week it’s Big Data strategy with its crown jewel their own Hadoop distribution. Many people will be surprised that a chip maker wants to be your Hadoop supplier as well. Mcafee is Intel’s most visible enterprise software offering and it was an acquisition not an offering based on organic growth.
Intel’s Hadoop distribution on the other hand was a Chinese project some years ago that turned into a product.
So how is Intel going to compete with Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR, IBM, EMC/Greenplum, etc.?
Intel Hadoop Distribution is having real-time queries just like Cloudera’s Impala. But instead of being a separate product, they will be embedded in Hive. Intel also looked at Cloudera Manager for inspiration around how to make Hadoop management easy. This part will however only be available for enterprise customers.
One of the main selling point will be performance. intel’s Hadoop will be fully optimized for Intel’s processors and SSD. Another selling point is security. Intel is launching project Rhino that will include more fine grained security and faster encryption. Further more Intel’s Hadoop is based on Yarn, the latest Hadoop branch, that comes with extra features like support for other than map-reduce frameworks and advanced resource management.
Finally unlike Cloudera, MapR and Hortonworks, Cloudera is a blue chip company with a global footprint and big name partnerships like Cisco, SAP, Terradata, Wipro, SAS, Dell, Redhat, etc.
Will it be enough to stop people from running Hadoop on large volumes of low-cost ARM chips? Only time can tell…
Everybody is hearing Cloud Computing on the television now. Operators will store your contacts in the Cloud. Hosting companies will host your website in the Cloud. Others will store your photos in the Cloud.
However how do you make money with the Cloud?
The first thing is to forget about infrastructure and virtualization. If you are thinking that in 2013, the world needs more IaaS providers then you haven’t seen what is currently on offer (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Rackspace, Joyent, Verizon/Terramark, IBM, HP, etc.).
So what are alternative strategies:
1) Rocket Internet SaaS Cloning
Your best hope is SaaS and PaaS. The best markets are non-English speaking markets. We have seen an explosion of SaaS in the USA but most have not made it to the rest of the world yet. Only some bigger SaaS solutions (Webex, GoToMeeting, Office 365, etc.) and PaaS platforms (Salesforce, Workday, etc.) are available outside of the US and the UK. However most SaaS and PaaS solutions are currently still English-only. So the quickest solution to make some money is to just copy, translate and paste some successful English-only SaaS product. If you do not know how to copy dotcoms, take a look at how the Rocket Internet team is doing it. Of course you should always be open for those annoying problems everybody has that could use a new innovative solution and as such create your own SaaS.
During the gold rush, be the restaurant, hotel or tool shop. While everybody is looking for the SaaS gold, offer solutions that will save gold diggers time and money. SaaSification allows others to focus on building their SaaS business, not on reinventing for the millionth time a web page, web store, email server, search, CRM, monthly subscription billing, reporting, BI, etc. Instead of a “Use Shopify to create your online store”, it should be “Use <YOUR PRODUCT> to create a SaaS Business”.
3) Mobile & Cloud
Everybody is having, or at least thinking about buying, a Smartphone. However there are very few really good mobile services that fully exploit the Cloud. Yet I can get a shopping list app but most are just glorified to-do lists. None is recommending me where to go and buy based on current promotions and comparison with other buyers. None is helping me find products inside a large supermarket. None is learning from my shopping habits and suggesting items on the list. None is allowing me to take a number at the seafood queue. These are just examples for one mobile + cloud app. Think about any other field and you are sure to find great ideas.
4) Specialized IaaS
I mentioned it before, IaaS is already overcrowded but there is one exception: specialized IaaS. You can focus on specialized hardware, e.g. virtualized GPU, DSP, mobile ARM processors. On network virtualization like SDN and Openflow. Mobile and tablet virtualization. Embedded device virtualization. Machine Learning IaaS. Car Software virtualization.
5) Disruptive Innovations + Cloud
Selling disruptive innovations and offering them as Cloud services. Examples could be 3D printing services, wireless sensor networks / M2M, Big Data, Wearable Tech, Open Source Hardware, etc. The Cloud will lower your costs and give you a global elastically scalable solution.
None of the incumbant telecom providers has put into place any Blue Ocean Strategies. Blue Ocean Strategies have made the Circus, Wine, Gaming, Airline, etc. industries exciting again, so why not apply it to the telecom market. The only telecom players, I know of, that implemented some blue ocean strategies are Free in France, GiffGaff in the UK and Freedompop in the USA. So why not do a Blue Ocean Strategy exercise in this blog post.
Here is my strategy canvas:
Traditional operators focus on charging heavily for calls and SMS although lately more and more packages with free minutes are available. International calls however are still charged extremely expensive. Mobile phones are subsidized up to 24 months and as such you need to stay with them for at least this period. Operators spend a lot of their money investing in the roll out and maintenance of their networks. They also have very complex pricing plans and as such need heavy investments in BSS.
MVNOs try to compete on price and most often do not subsidize mobiles. They do not have their own network as such they do not need to invest in it. They offer less tariff plan options. You are often free to change whenever you want. To make up for not subsidizing mobiles, you can get mobile loans which means you have some sort of permanence.
So how would Blue Ocean Mobile do it differently?
In line with Free’s example, call costs should be eliminated, including international costs. Mobiles should not be subsidized but cheap mobile loans should be offered for those that do not bring their own device [BYOD]. Blue Ocean Mobile should focus on LTE and try to win LTE licenses. However instead of doing heavy investments in installing antennas everywhere, Blue Ocean Mobile should only install antenna’s in those areas where few people live but connectivity is required, e.g. major highways. This is in line with Free’s strategy. However unlike Free, the operator’s network should not be built with unreliable WiFi hotspots. Instead specially designed “Personal Antennas” should be sold to everybody who wants one. What is a personal antenna? A personal antenna is a nanocell LTE antenna. A personal LTE antenna in your home that not only gives service to you but also to neighbours and people close to your home. The idea is that you become a sort of mini-LTE ISP to which others can connect. For every KB that gets transferred through your personal LTE antenna, you will get a revenue share. So it is in people’s interest to put the personal antenna in a place where it can service a lot of people and to have a good backbone Internet connection. People should be able to win back their investment in the Personal Antenna in a few months and make money afterwards. This should allow Blue Ocean Mobile to seriously lower their investment in rolling out an LTE network and to get free mouth-to-mouth advertising. Via a software-defined network [SDN] management system all nanocell LTE antennas are controlled by Blue Ocean Mobile.
Since Blue Ocean Mobile is focusing only on data traffic, it should work together with “over-the-top players” to offer a compelling list of services. Ideally Android Phones and the iPhone will use the data network for calling others instead of a circuit network. Customers should have a full range of BYOD management options so small and medium-sized businesses can easily manage the phones of their employees as well as push enterprise applications towards them.
Blue Ocean Mobile should also try to avoid investment in BSS. Tariff plans should be easy with the customer defining how many free megabytes they want to purchase for a fixed monthly fee and a simple extra charge for overage. So instead of operator defined tariff plans, everybody has a personalized tariff plan that they can adjust every day. Calls and SMS are charged based on data traffic not on per minute charges. VoIP solutions is the standard. Blue Ocean Mobile does not have a circuit network or SS7.
Blue Ocean Mobile is also copying the long tail support from Giff Gaff in which customers give support to other customers and are responsible for marketing. Unlike Giff Gaff not only prepaid but also subscriptions are supported. Like Giff Gaff customers get a revenue share when they participate in support or marketing.
Blue Ocean Mobile’s strategy is just very high-level and still needs in-depth analysis but it is an open invitation for innovative people to start applying Blue Ocean strategies to anything they feel in need of disruption.
Maarten Ectors is a senior executive who is an expert in applying cutting edge technologies (like Cloud, Big Data, M2M, Open Hardware, SDN, etc.) and business innovations to generate new revenues. He is currently looking for new challenges. You can contact him at maarten at telruptive dot com.
Amazon is taking another step at disrupting an existing market. This time they have their sight set on the Datawarehouse market. Amazon is currently running a limited preview of a new service called Redshift. Redshift promised a Datawarehouse starting from $1000/Terrabyte/Year. To get to this price point you have to go for the XL reserved instance which comes with a minimum of 2TB, so you actually pay $2000. If you want to pay per use then you pay $0.85/hour which comes to $7500 for 2TB per year. You can also scale up to a hundred of 8XL instances which will give you 1.6 petabyte of compressed data. Amazon will do the management (software patching, scaling, restarting failed instances, etc.) as well as backups for you. The initial partners are Jaspersoft and Microstrategy but more solution providers are being promised. You can connect to your datawarehouse via PostgreSQL JDBC or ODBC. The limited service is only available in the US EAST region but looking at the historic performance of Amazon this should change quickly.
As always Amazon is one step ahead of the competition and is able to offer Datawarehouse (DW) solutions to companies that were traditionally too small to pay the total cost of ownership associated with an on-site datawarehouse deployment. However as with any disruptive innovation, if Amazon is able to extend their offering to also include all the tools business analysts and data scientists need, then over time Redshift could be disrupting even the high-end DW market. For sure, to be continued…
In this post I want to show a technique that is an alternative for creating a business case: “Lean Canvas”. Lean Canvas has been proposed by the book: “Running Lean“, that itself is based on “Lean Startup“.
The idea of Lean Canvas is to put what would go into the executive summary of a business case on one page and to forget about writing the rest of the business case. The justification is that writing a business case takes 2 to 3 months and CxOs normally only read the executive summary. So instead of spending 2 to 3 months, you spend hours or days and get it in front of customers to get feedback. With the feedback you can then refine your idea and create a Minimum Valuable Product in the same 2 to 3 months. So instead of having a nice paper report nobody reads, you can start earning money.
The Lean Canvas contains the major customer problems you want to solve. These customer problems need to be important [A painkiller, not a vitamin], shared by many and not have an easy workaround. Customers need to validate them before you start thinking about solutions. Customers are the ideal party to tell you about their problems but not necessarily the best to give you ideas about a solution. Think about Henry Ford’s words: “If I had asked what people wanted they would have said faster horses…”. Most startups focus excessively on the solution and forget that they need to validate a lot more things. After the problem, the second most important part of the Lean Canvas is the customer segment and channel. Who do you want to offer a product to and how to do reach them. Also the unique value proposition is key. The other elements of the Lean Canvas are the unfair advantage [how can I avoid others to just copy my business?], key metrics [how can I measure success?] and last but not least the cost structure [what does it cost to acquire a customer, build a minimum valuable product, etc.?] and revenue streams [how much am I going to charge and what other revenue sources are there]. You can create a Lean Canvas on paper or use a SaaS-version.
So far the theory, now let’s review an example…
The customer problems:
Door keys are a nuisance. You can lose them. You have to give copies to family and friends if you want them to go to your house if you are not there. Do you really want to give the cleaning lady or man a copy? Is my lock safe from burglars?
The mailman or delivery guy comes to my home but often packages do not fit my mailbox.
When people ring my bell, they know when I am not home. That is unsafe.
So what is the solution?
My proposed solution is the iDoor. The iDoor is an intelligent door which you control remotely to decide who accesses, who delivers and who is shut-out. Via a camara and full-duplex audio system, you are able to see who is standing in front of your door and communicate with them. Your smartphone will be your remote door manager. Advanced models could have face recognition and share data with other intelligent doors in the neighbourhood, hence if you are sleeping a siesta and those annoying door to door vendors approach your door they will automatically hear a message to go away and your bell will not function. If a burglar is detected, then the police can be warned. If the postman has a big package then remotely you can open a compartment so they can store the package. If your family comes they can go into the house without problems. Your cleaning lady can as well, as long as it is her normal working hours and she comes alone.
Unique value proposition?
As if you were home 24×7. Busy people will never miss an Amazon package again. Burglars will not know if you are in the garden or not home at all.
Mid-high class house owners.
An existing door manufacturer that targets upper markets should be partnered with. An example could be Hörnmann.
Door sales and door usage.
A complete costing has to be done. TBD.
Door sales and door installation/maintenance services are the primary revenue stream. However door apps and selling anonymous aggregated data could be additional sources.
You can find a quick summary in the following slides as well as some details about the technology components. This example needs customer validation and several areas need quite some more work [e.g. cost, revenue, unfair advantage, etc.]. However I hope the idea is clear.
Maarten Ectors is a senior executive specialised in value innovation: creating new products and generating new revenues based on cutting-edge technologies like Big Data, Cloud, etc. He is currently looking for new challenges. You can contact him at: maarten at telruptive dot com.