Tracy Kidder's 1982 Pulitzer-Prize-winning work of book-length reportage, "The Soul of a New Machine," is perhaps the best narrative of a technology-development project ever written. It's up there with "The Mythical Man Month" and "Showstopper." And the hero of that book was Tom West. The pages open with Tom at the helm of a sailboat in a storm. "In the glow of the running lights, most of the crew looked like refugees, huddled, wearing blank faces. Among them, Tom West appeared as a thin figure under a watch cap, in nearly … Read more
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--One of the reasons I like to attend events like the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium is that they're opportunities for a reality check. Vendor confabs can sometimes feel like a bit of an echo chamber that is a bit disconnected from what IT departments are really doing or, at least, the pace at which they're doing it.
To be sure, the companies attending and speaking at events like this symposium tend to be more leading edge and forward-thinking than average. Even so, I was still a bit surprised at how strongly most of the end-user panelists … Read more
The main thrust of early cloud computing discussions--even before that particular term became popular--was fundamentally about economies of scale. For example, in his book "The Big Switch," author Nick Carr writes that: "Once it becomes possible to provide the technology centrally, large-scale utility suppliers arise to displace the private providers."
This was an imagined future of computing that reprised a journey taken by power generation technology in which expensive and customized local water turbines or steam engines driving gears and belts largely gave way to motors connected to the electric grid. This early-on discussion wasn't … Read more
Talk of "cloudbursting" makes Chris Hoff angry.
"It's used by people to describe a use case in which workloads that run first and foremost within the walled gardens of an enterprise, magically burst forth into public cloud based upon a lack of capacity internally and a plethora of available capacity externally," he wrote recently on his personal blog. Hoff is director of cloud and virtualization solutions of the security technology business unit at Cisco Systems.
More colorful language follows. But the gist is that, if an application passes the hurdles of being able to run … Read more
Awhile back a former colleague noted that certain online word processors didn't do a good job with styles. Some commenters noted that this was a moot point as few people use styles anyway. That's true. But I'm going to blame the vendors at least a bit. I'll pick on Microsoft Word but, in truth, it's no worse in this regard than most other products.
Do people tend to follow the path of least resistance with their tools? Sure. I'm as guilty as anyone of having wasted way too much time over the years for … Read more
Historically, users viewed IT departments as the people who ran the basic infrastructure "plumbing," were inflexible when it came to doing anything new, and generally far more of an inhibitor to the business than an enabler. That take was at least middling unfair in most cases, but it was grounded in certain realities.
For most organizations, IT was primarily focused on a fairly common--if hardly standardized--set of tasks. Functions like enterprise resource planning, financials, human resources, and e-mail all had to work. But they weren't something that especially advantaged the organization most of the time. Yes, an … Read more
The idea of convergence, of one device replacing several, has long been a popular theme in forecasting high-tech gadgetry. It's also something that doesn't happen as often as predicted.
Some of the reasons relate to design and technology. It's hard to make a multitool as elegant for each individual function as specialist devices are. A form factor that's optimized around, say, being a phone demands serious technical compromises when it comes to a totally different function, such as taking a picture. And rapidly evolving technology means some functions in a device are inevitably behind the technology … Read more
Computers that reliably understand human communications have been a staple of fiction going back decades or more. The Enterprise's computer in the 1960s vintage "Star Trek" series is as good an example as any. And truth is, that particular science-fictional ability probably would not have seemed all that remarkable to the typical person of the time.
Access billions of pages of text, pictures, and video from a gadget I can fit in my pocket? Play a game with immersive graphics on a huge, high-resolution screen that hangs on the wall? For a computer engineer, the fact that … Read more
Cloud computing needs governance. Which is to say that cloud computing needs processes, policies, and procedures. In a way, this is no different from IT more broadly. But virtualization, dynamically moving workloads, and an increased reliance on third parties for many types of IT functions mean that well thought-out and documented processes, policies, and procedures tend to be more important in cloud computing than with a more static and manual environment.
This has been driven home to me in the course of speaking at lots of cloud-related events over the past few months and appearing on panels such as the one at HMG Strategy's CIO Summit of America … Read more
There's a lot to like about how digital photography is evolving. But that doesn't mean every trend is positive. At a minimum, some technologies are taking longer to mature than some of us might wish.
Interchangeable Lens Compacts (ILCs) are a case in point. Significantly smaller than today's dSLRs, they're also referred to as micro-4/3 (after the mirrorless interchangeable lens standard used by many of these cameras) or the somewhat tongue in cheek EVIL which alludes to the Electronic Viewfinder that's an option for most models in this class.