The software world is a strange beast. It is the only industry that has one million solutions and no paying customer problems. The other industries are the other way around. There is a tendency to open source and commoditise more and more solutions. The reason is that companies always migrate upwards in the value chain, meaning that the hardware, the operating system, etc. are now commodity because the value is in the platform or the application. To get more customers to your platform, you need to make it as easy for them to get there. Open sourcing is a trialled and tested approach for this. It also means that every x years somebody will comoditise your current cashcow.
By far the strangest thing about the IT industry is its obsession with the Next Big Thing. There is a very small number of companies that have mastered the art of Cloud, Big Data, Continuous Deployment, Docker, SDNs, etc. Yet whatever their problem is they are currently working on seems to be on the mind of everybody. The belief is that if you convince the Cool Company to embrace your product then everybody will embrace it over time.
I beg to differ. Being on the bleeding edge of technology means you have to open source everything and keep on outrunning everybody else. Lots of really smart people are playing the risk-it-all lottery in the hope their new invention will change billions of people’s habits. Most of the time the money made with those new solutions is trivial versus the old money and you need so much VC money that at the end the pay-out to the winners is not that big.
What if in 2015 instead on focusing on the next big thing, all the smart people in the IT industry would focus on the dumb solutions that are used in many other industries on a daily basis. Dumb and dumber really describes the IT architecture of many non-IT based industries. Helping them to accelerate via lean start-up methodology, minimum valuable product, disruptive solutions, etc. will more likely create a new list of billionaires then to try to impress Google with a better Kubernetes or Facebook with a better Wedge. Smart people should forget about the next big thing in IT and focus on the dumb and dumber solutions from other industries…
Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu. Ubuntu powers up to 70% of the public cloud and 64% of OpenStack private clouds run on top of Ubuntu. Today, Canonical launched Snappy Ubuntu Core! Snappy Ubuntu is a revolution in how software gets packaged, deployed, upgraded and rolled-back. So what is it and why should you and your business care?
What is Snappy Ubuntu?
Snappy is allowing developers to build Snappy Apps – called Snapps – like mobile apps and deploy them to the cloud. In the past developers would make a software solution, afterwards a maintainer would take often weeks or months to create a packaged version. This would mean that fast moving projects like Docker would never be up to date inside any of the big Linux distributions. Snappy changes this by allowing the developer to package their solution on their own and publish it through the Snappy Store to all users in minutes. Since all Snapps run in a secure and confined environment, they can not harm other Snapps or the operating system itself. Quality, speed and security can now all be combined.
Snappy upgrades are transactional. This means that you install a new version in one go but also easily roll back to the previous version if required. Snappy manages a super small version of Ubuntu called Ubuntu Core. This means you can run it very cost efficiently and fast in the cloud.
Why is Snappy important for Businesses?
Snappy allows solutions to be packaged and published by the software vendors in minutes instead of months. Users can deploy and roll back very easily. Trying new innovations becomes cheap and fast.
Snapps can use any license. Snappy Ubuntu was born as a spin-off of the Ubuntu Phone operating system. You might want to make a guess of what is likely to come.
With Snappy, the vendor packages the complete application, including its dependencies. Less moving parts mean less chances of something going wrong and cheaper to support customers. Updates are incremental so only what changes gets pushed, saving bandwidth costs and time. Urgent security patches can be easily distributed, with high confidence.
Existing Docker or other container apps can be Snappy deployed. Building your Docker containers on top of Snappy Ubuntu makes good business sense. In the future you can get optional commercial support from a company that has been supporting Linux for 10 years and is trusted by Amazon AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure with the big majority of their Linux workloads.
Snappy Ubuntu is open source and has some great example Snapps, so make sure your teams don’t get “Snappsassinated” by a competitor…
I just saw Eric Dishman’s TED session on “Health care should be a team sport“. I love the idea of providing people with chronicle illness the means to be diagnosed and treated remotely and use big data to learn of a large group of patients with similar issues. Personally this would mean that when my sons have breathing problems we would not have to drag them in the middle of the night to a hospital where they are exposed to many viruses. Instead by measuring their oxygen level and listening to their longs a personalized remote diagnose could be made and some nebulizers or other things administered. At scale all equipment would probably cost less than £200 because Maplin already sells the nebulizer and oxygen level meter for a combined £110. Add another £90 at worst for a stethoscope that can be connected via bluetooth to a smartphone. Now via Hangout a doctor could remotely diagnose the results and even in the future a computer programme. All results of millions of patients would be collected in order to improve treatment. So no need for an expensive hospital in London with a receptionist, nurse and doctor dedicating 2 hours. By just avoiding one hospital night, the whole system would be enormously profitable. Additionally Ubuntu’s Juju can be used to set up all the big data and diagnostic software in minutes in any cloud or server on any place in the world. If other open source solutions are used then the total solution would be in reach for any developing country. There are probably more than one developer whose kids are asthmatic, and would happily contribute time. It sounds like an ideal Gates Foundation or Kickstarter project. If you think you can help please reach out to me because this is not work for me, this is personal engagement.
Have you ever counted the number of Linux devices at home or work that haven’t been updated since they came out of the factory? Your cable/fibre/ADSL modem, your WiFi point, television sets, NAS storage, routers/bridges, media centres, etc. Typically this class of devices hosts a proprietary hardware platform, an embedded proprietary Linux and a proprietary application. If you are lucky you are able to log into a web GUI often using the admin/admin credentials and upload a new firmware blob. This firmware blob is frequently hard to locate on hardware supplier’s websites. No wonder the NSA and others love to look into potential firmware bugs. They are the ideal source of undetected wiretapping.
The next IT revolution: micro-servers
The next IT revolution is about to happen however. Those proprietary hardware platforms will soon give room for commodity multi-core processors from ARM, Intel, etc. General purpose operating systems will replace legacy proprietary and embedded predecessors. Proprietary and static single purpose apps will be replaced by marketplaces and multiple apps running on one device. Security updates will be sent regularly. Devices and apps will be easy to manage remotely. The next revolution will be around managing millions of micro-servers and the apps on top of them. These micro-servers will behave like a mix of phone apps, Docker containers, and cloud servers. Managing them will be like managing a “local cloud” sometimes also called fog computing.
Micro-servers and IoT?
Are micro-servers some form of Internet of Things. Yes they can be but not all the time. If you have a smarthub that controls your home or office then it is pure IoT. However if you have a router, firewall, fibre modem, micro-antenna station, etc. then the micro-server will just be an improved version of its predecessor.
Why should you care about micro-servers?
If you are a mobile app developer then the micro-servers revolution will be your next battlefield. Local clouds need “Angry Bird”-like successes.
If you are a telecom or network developer then the next-generation of micro-servers will give you unseen potentials to combine traffic shaping with parental control with QoS with security with …
If you are a VC then micro-server solution providers is the type of startups you want to invest in.
If you are a hardware vendor then this is the type of devices or SoCs you want to build.
If you are a Big Data expert then imagine the new data tsunami these devices will generate.
If you are a machine learning expert then you might want to look at algorithms and models that are easy to execute on constraint devices once they have been trained on potentially thousands of cloud servers and petabytes of data.
If you are a Devop then your next challenge will be managing and operating millions of constraint servers.
If you are a cloud innovator then you are likely to want to look into SaaS and PaaS management solutions for micro-servers.
If you are a service provider then this is the type of solutions you want to have the capabilities to manage at scale and easily integrate with.
If you are a security expert then you should start to think about micro-firewalls, anti-micro-viruses, etc.
If you are a business manager then you should think about how new “mega micro-revenue” streams can be obtained or how disruptive “micro- innovations” can give you a competitive advantage.
If you are an analyst or consultant then you can start predicting the next IT revolution and the billions the market will be worth in 2020.
The next steps…
It is still early days but expect some major announcements around micro-servers in the next months…
At TADHack some months ago it was clear that SMS and phone calls are out and WebRTC is the new hot technology for developers. Via your browser you can talk to your salesman, doctor and coach. Your browser can be mobile. This means that video calls will be universal as soon as 4G is everywhere. Bad news for operators that will see data on their networks balloon without new revenues. Good news for users that will have a whole new world of communication opening up with voice, video, screen sharing, web apps, etc. all seamlessly integrated.
How can business be generated with WebRTC?
Per minute call billing is out. Unless of course you are talking to a highly paid consultant that charges you by the second or minute. One time payment like mobile apps are only viable if you can embed WebRTC technology in a mobile app, not if you need to support an ongoing business. This means that we need a new subscription model for WebRTC. We need a micro subscription model. Especially for services that will be used on a long term basis, e.g. conference facilities, next generation voice mails, etc. As always operators will be hesitant to cannibalise a juicy per minute business for a low margin 1-99 cents per months subscription service. So are there others that could bill micro-subscriptions? The obvious choice would be cloud providers. They can already do hourly micro billing on monthly cycles hence adding some recurring element would be straightforward. So my prediction is that WebRTC will see operator’s problems accelerate whereby cloud will no longer deliver you only IT solutions but also your communication services.
We all have “enjoyed” working with some software that was purchased because “You can’t get fired because you bought…”. This software is known for being the industry leader. Not because it is easy to use, easy to integrate, easy to scale, easy to do anything with,… It often is quite the opposite.
So why do people buy it? First of all it is easy to find experts. There are people out there that have been “enjoying” working with this solution for the last 10 years. It is relatively stable and reliable. There is a complete solution for it with hundreds or thousands of partner solutions. People have just given up on trying to convince their bosses on trying something different.
5 steps to disrupt the Dinosaur
Step 1: the basic use cases
The Pareto rule. What are the 80% of the use cases that only reflect 20% of the functionality.
Step 2: the easy & beautiful & horizontally scalable & multi-tenant clone
Make a solution that reflects 80% of these use cases but make it beautiful and incredibly easy to use. Use the latest horizontally scalable backends, e.g. Cassandra. Build multi-tenancy into the software from day 1.
Step 3: make it open source
Release the “improved clone” as an open source product.
Step 4: the plugin economy
Add a plugin mechanism that allows others to create plugins to fill in the 20% use case gap. Create a marketplace hence others can make money with their plugins. Make money by being the broker. Think App Store but ideally improve the model.
Step 5: the SaaS version
Create a SaaS version and attack the bottom part of the market. Focus on the enterprises that could never afford the original product. Slowly move upwards towards the top segment.
The expected result
You will make have a startup or a new business unit that will make money pretty quickly and will soon be the target of a big purchase offer from the Dinosaur or one of its competitors. You will spend a lot less sleepless nights trying to make money this way then via the creation of the next Angry Bird, Uber 0r Facebook clone.