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Snappy Ubuntu for Business People

December 9, 2014 1 comment

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…

Tax-avoiding Dotcoms playing Russian Roulette with their Stock Price

November 30, 2014 Leave a comment

I am watching “We’re not broke”, the documentary around US Unset and tax-avoidance by large corporations. Now the story behind all this is not new. Through history corporations have tried multiple times to put the chief financial officer in charge of generating better corporate results. A business executive would focus on understanding their customers better, giving them what they ask and selling them more. A technical executive on creating a blue ocean strategy through some technical innovation that puts the company in the centre of a new universe and makes competitors irrelevant. A financial executive however has only numbers to play with. Last time the CFOs cooked the books with aggressive revenue recognition. This time they are focusing on artificially lowering the tax bill via the creation of offshore shell companies that get all the profit even if they don’t have any employees.

A Russian Roulette Game with Stock Prices
A large corporation like GE or Bank of America is relatively safe from large groups of customers not being happy with the company’s corporate social irresponsibility [CSI]. What are people going to do? Change banks? Buy a fridge elsewhere? It is just not going to happen in big enough numbers to be of any impact on their profits.

Dotcoms however have a weakness that can put their stock price at risk if they want to be the king of CSI: people might actually do what they want them to do. Most of the big dotcoms get most money from advertisement. They put ads everywhere and teach people how to click them. Advertisers then pay per clicked ad lots of money to these dotcoms. However what if people in protest would massively start clicking advertisement banners but not buying the actual things behind them. The dotcoms would initially see their profits go through the roof but all its customers would see that they pay lots more money and get no value at all. Pretty soon stock prices would go in free fall. The irony would be that these protectors could use social networks and online videos to teach others how to join in the protest. So one advise to large dotcoms, please pay a responsible amount of taxes and focus your effort on out-innovating the rest of the industries and not on copying their bad habits…

Why VCs should no longer invest in mobile apps or social networks…

July 22, 2014 1 comment

The “Yo” app is a clear sign that there is a mobile bubble. If an app that is created in an afternoon and only says Yo gets $1M in funding then you know VCs are running out of good investment options. Also social networks are loosing steam because there are only so many you can be active on.

What should VCs focus on instead?
The answer: enterprise.
If all the UX, mobile, social, engagement, etc. experts of this world would focus their energy on making exciting, beautiful, easy to use enterprise applications and solutions then lots of new billionaires will be around in 3 years.
However enterprise software is hard. It needs to be rock steady, always available, easy to integrate, etc.
So what is the trick?
Easy: use a plugin mechanism and focus on a platform that handles 80% of the use cases with 20% of the features. All other 80% of the features can be added as plugins from external companies. The Accenture’s of this world will come up with plugins that will beat your wildest dreams. Especially if they have an easy way to sell them. Talking about price. Your platform should be open source. It is the only way to avoid the RFP hell. If you want to be compared to SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, etc. solutions then charge at least $1. If you make it open source then procurement has no say. Business managers and solution architects will try your software. They will show their managers solutions based on your software. The director will get involved. As will the CTO. They will all love it. When finally things go to production somebody will say “we need support!” and you can sell them a support contract. This is also the moment to sell them some plugins.
Now make your software super easy to integrate, e.g. via Juju, and make sure the software is scale out. This means that you can just install it on more virtual or commodity machines instead of needing bigger more expensive servers.
Finally in addition you need to add something innovative that other solutions in the same space don’t have and would have a hard time copying.
Use lean methodology to make sure you are building a solution for a real problem. Offer an on-premise version and a SaaS version.
Now you are set to become the next billionaire. At least your chances will be so much bigger than creating yet another mobile app or social network…

The Ryanairs Of Telecom are Here…

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

After years of virtually no innovation from telecom operators, 2014 will be different. Not because telecom dinosaurs have all of a sudden become lean mean innovation machines. Quite the contrary. Most operators are still focusing on rolling out THIS YEAR’s (instead of today’s) “innovative” service which will be just a copycat of some famous dotcom.

So why the excitement?
2014 will be the pivot year. The year that will be marked in history books as the year old school lost and innovators won.

The first Ryanair-like disruptive telecoms will leave their borders and start bankrupting “traditional telecoms”. Cross-platform voice/video 4G apps will reach the tipping point. Cloud Telco PaaS will be reality. Individual communication solutions or iCommunication will be a reality. Web 3.0 will include voice & video communication. NFV will be driven by non-telecom players. WAN SDN will be deployed by more than only Google, Amazon, etc. Cloud Media Streaming will reach the tipping point. Internet of things will meet Cloud will meet Big Data will meet Mobile will meet disruptive communication solutions. Early adopters paradise…

2014 will be an exciting year for those that love telecom innovation!!! Bit pipe nightmares becoming reality for others.

What comes after SaaSification?

Fujitsu just presented SaaSification on Cebit. Existing applications can be easily brought to the Cloud and sold via App Stores and SaaS marketplaces. IBM is also working on SaaSification and even adds multi-tenancy.

What is next?

Everybody wants to have a full App Store or SaaS Marketplace, so SaaSification is the next step after launching your store. However converting a client/server application to the Cloud is only step 1. Step 2 is creating new services that are specifically built for the Cloud.

What does Built-for-the-Cloud means?

Application design is changing. Traditional Web applications are built on a LAMP architecture. New Cloud-Ready applications should be Big Data ready and should be looking at SMAQ architectures.

Cloud-Ready applications should also accept the new reality of APIs. Both for exposure as well as consumption. This means that applications need to be redesigned according to application slices.

So if SaaSification wants to be successful then it needs to add quick enablers for multi-tenancy, big data, integration with external APIs as well as API exposure, etc. This integration concept can be called iPaaS or integration platform-as-a-Service. iPaaS should not only focus on exposing or integrating APIs but on providing complex services by integration multiple SaaS solutions together.

Other enablers should be added as well. Basically 80% of a SaaS solution consists out of the same elements or tries to solve the same problems. These could all be provided via a SaaSification PaaS:

  • Blog – to describe the newest ideas.
  • Forum – for people to get answers from the community.
  • IT PaaS – where you run the actual business logic and UI. Data storage is assumed to be provided by the Big Data elements.
  • Portal and Mobile Portal – allows to quickly define the “static” content for the web and mobile site.
  • Deployment management – ideally continuous deployment or integration tools that allow fast feature by feature deployment.
  • A/B testing – allow new features to be deployed to subsets of users and check which version of a feature has the highest impact on the bottom-line. A/B testing was made popular by Amazon.
  • Automated testing – lots of testing can be automated but especially end-to-end and performance testing are the harder tests that should be focused on.
  • Configuration management – manage the version control of the code.
  • Metering and billing – be able to meter the resource usage by users, companies or any other element you want to meter and be able to bill users both for subscriptions as well as for usage, ideally with advanced set-up with overage, etc.
  • Marketplace listing and provisioning – automate the listing of products on the marketplace as well as the provisioning of new services.
  • Single sign-on & identity management – allow companies to use their own user credentials (e.g. SAML), authorization for third-parties (e.g. oAuth), etc.
  • Reporting and data warehousing – this can be part of the big data stack but especially being able to create ad-hoc reports for instance for A/B testing . Of course regular business reporting needs to be included as well.
  • ERP – accounting, resource management, etc.
  • CRM – sales and lead management
  • Operations & Maintenance – automation of back-ups, monitoring both for the performance and fault management but as well business monitoring.
  • Support – helpdesk, ticketing system, SLA management, etc.
  • Social integration – tools to add social aspects like Facebook apps, Twitter feeds, etc.
  • etc.

The idea is not that a SaaSification PaaS offers all these solutions by custom development. Instead the SaaSification PaaS should allow startups to assemble an ideal architecture by combining different solutions from different providers. For example you would be able to select the support solution you prefer, e.g. desk.com, zendesk.com, etc. and this solution would be completely integrated into the overall stack, e.g. CRM integration with help desk and fault management together with sign sign-on.

SaaSification 2.0 should focus on making sure that 2-5 people can start a new dotcom solution and focus on creating a killer service and not on building up yet another stack of solutions for configuration management, support, billing, etc. If a SaaSification PaaS can shorten the time to launch with months and reduce the needs to operate the solution with several people then startups will see the value. Instead of SaaSification PaaS a good term could be Incubation PaaS, to incubate SaaS solutions. Once the business model and solution is proven, there will be money to move to a custom-build stack but during incubation and crossing-the-chasm enterpreneurs should be able to focus on delivering value to their customers and not on re-inventing the startup wheel.

Social Niche Marketplaces and SaaSification

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Google App Marketplace was the first marketplace for SaaS. However there has lately been an explosion of SaaS marketplaces. Unfortunately most of them are eCommerce sites that support subscriptions and resell Microsoft 365, some cloud backup and 3 to 5 things more.

Operators that are considering such a me-too marketplace should try harder

There is nothing like an average enterprise customer. Each customer is looking for a unique mix of services. You have innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards. You have self-employed, micro, small, medium and large companies. You have industries. Users are working on different functions within a company (finance, operations, sales, etc.).

However never has it been easier to personalize product portfolios according to market segments, industries, adoption likelihood, usage, etc. Operators should not set-up one marketplace but instead set-up intelligent personalized niche marketplaces. Users can tell you which industry they belong to, what their company size is, what their function is and if they are more eager to use the latest and greatest or if they want a full eco-system with a market leading product. This means that a highly personalized portfolio can be shown instead of a bunch of generalist products.

Why sell different products via different channels?

If you have customers segmented, then ideally all relevant products are presented in one personalized marketplace. Ranging from phones, tablets, mobile apps, SaaS, on-site equipment, advanced consultancy services, support, etc.

Bringing in intelligence and social commerce

The next step is to increase the likelihood of selling a product and cross-selling products. Users like product reviews and ratings. However users love product reviews and ratings from people they trust. What if each product in addition to a general section on product reviews and ratings also has a social review section. The social review section would be like:

  • these contacts from my linkedin network have bought this service
  • these contacts have bought these alternative services
  • their ratings are
  • in addition they also bought these services

How to go from 0 to 1.000.000 products?

Many operators offer services for “the average customer”. The product catalog is relatively small. Few have more than a couple of niche products per industry. Setting up a social niche marketplace is no good if you do not have a large catalog of personalized services to sell.

SaaSification to the rescue. Every industry has a lot of small companies that have build niche products. Most of these products require on-site installations. This means a lot of CAPEX. Often more is spend on buying the hardware, base software, services to maintain the data center, support services, etc. than on the actual software. By offering these small companies a SaaSification solution whereby they can migrate their on-site solution to an operator-hosted SaaS solution, the product catalog can be quickly extended with thousands of niche products. Offering tools to make single-tenant solutions multi-tenant and to make web solutions mobile-enabled, will substantially improve your chances to attrack ISVs.

New SaaS will move from the innovators towards the early adopters, early majority, etc. Early majority products will be niche market leaders, have strict SLAs, a support eco-system, etc. Leading products can be identified by the market. Operators can spot those niche market leading products and offer special deals, even co-branding. This strategy will allow a personalized long tail strategy without the long tail costs…

Thinking differently about monetizing telecom services

January 12, 2012 2 comments

Free, the disruptive French telecom operator and ISV, is changing the rules. Via Femtocell and via controlling the WiFi access points of its customers, Free is planning to offload a lot of mobile traffic via its fiber network. This is translated into very sharply priced mobile calling and data plans. Free’s Founder is telling the telecom industry they should no longer try to make money with communication but focus on identity and payment services.

Free is right to change the rules of the game instead of waiting for non-telecom disruptive players to do so. However what else could Free do to generate extra revenues?

Social Mobile Graph

Facebook is talking about social commerce in which friends, family and colleagues are taking an active role in your buying behaviour. At the moment social networks are either for business reasons, e.g. LinkedIn, or for pleasure, e.g. Facebook. However both need a lot of maintenance effort in which you need to send or accept invites from people who you might have known 20 years ago.

What if your calling and messaging behaviour could take away a lot of this burden? If you call somebody mostly during business hours then this person is likely to be a business contact, especially if other business contacts of yours have the same behaviour. Your addressbook and linkedin could be automatically updated. However you could go a lot further and see which restaurants your direct business contacts call more often. Anonymizing this information and creating public APIs and a marketplace for app developers could lead to a lot of innovative services that can be monetized.

Numbering Plan Apps

The numbering plan is probably one of the most under-used operator assets. However everybody knows how to dial a number. Why not let other people make new numbers, e.g. based on non-existing country codes or using the # or * combinations? People would be able to make premium services for everything from voting, surveys, competitions, money transfers, etc. Putting *120* in front of your number could mean that the caller is paying you 1,20 euros per minute to call you. It is up to you to redirect your number to an application that makes people want to call you. You might have a large numbering app market to choose from. Add a # and a number at the end and you could have thousands of applications behind one number. The operator would get a revenue share.

Call Center as a Service

Call centers are mainly used by large corporations. However small groups of ad-hoc people could benefit from them as well. Ad-hoc software support hot lines in which experts can be freelancers could be of interest to some. But it could even be as simple as housewives that can help you with recipes. As long as rating the participant’s value, dynamic joining and leaving of participants, paying participants a revenue share, configurable participant selection rules, etc. are provided, the applications are limitless.

A lot more

These are just ideas but there are a lot more possibilities that you can implemented. Especially if you can control both the mobile device as well as people’s access point. However the past has shown that trying to get a few people pay a lot of money for a service and operator’s trying to do it all by themselves, have not been successful. Innovation is not only needed in the product domain but also in the business domain. Models that should be explored are:

  • Freemium, whereby most do not pay but get the traffic to your service and only a minority pay for advanced usage. Many examples in the web 2.0, e.g. LinkedIn, Zynga, etc.
  • Long Tail, whereby not only a couple of high paying  groups are targeted but instead thousands of niches are targeted via the use of a general platform or third-party eco-system, e.g. Google Adwords, Facebook Apps, etc.
  • Revenue Share, whereby others get the bulk of the revenue because they take the risk and the operator gets a small share but gets it from a large group of revenue sharers, e.g. Apple’s App Store
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