Thursday, December 11, 2014

Musing on Uber incient in Delhi : When digital sharing economy meets real world

Airbnb and Uber stand out as pioneers in discussions of cyber sharing economy (aka peer-to-peer economy - wikipedia). New businesses models go through growing pains that include regulatory hurdles and acceptance by society at large. Airbnb that created a market for individuals to share spare rooms/property/living space has continually faced regulatory hurdles. For a while, it was even ruled Illegal in New York City (Huffington post). Uber is a cyber sharing economy darling, that is shaking up taxi cab and personal transportation business

This week, it is Uber's turn to be under the gun. There is a lot of chatter in media - traditional and digital - following the reported rape of a female passenger by driver of a cab requested from her Uber app (Indian Express).

Indian digirati has learnt to take on an activist stance using social media by highlighting incidents of rapes and sexual violence on women, especially after the brutal incident in December of 2012. Twitter flooded with angry messages against Uber (link). Interestingly, some of the very same digirati in India are also consumers and proponents of peer-to-peer services. They are waking up to its limitations, especially to fast paced commercialization of digital services that can negatively impact lives in real world.

One is left wondering if services like Uber designed for sharing economy in the west can (or should) be transplanted to other geographies like India. Uber in the US targets non-commercial drivers -  the average Joe or Jane -  to partake in sharing economy by running his/her car like a "virtual" taxi. The peer-to-peer model relies on a strong foundation of credit, background and criminal checks, and an educated consumer aware of peer-rating system. In India, on the other hand, Uber seems to be merely extending a broken taxi service without fixing the fundamental flaw: non-existent system of credit and background checks. Even criminal checks on Taxi Drivers are spotty as the Delhi incident has glaringly highlighted. (link)

The case brings to fore questions that corporate leaders will also have to address, especially around liability, legal and regulatory policies on use of peer-to-peer services for businesses travel. Interestingly, just last week, a friend was excitedly describing his experience with Uber during a recent trip to Phoenix. We began discussing the lack of corporate policies of managing "liability" when employees use such service for a business trip. A case like the one in Delhi is bound to give corporate executives and lawyers around the globe pause for thought.

It will be interesting to see how Uber rides through this incident. (link:NPR's Marketplace). But it is not a question of whether Uber survives: Taking on risks of creating a new market comes with its rewards [Just recently, Uber was valued at an astounding $40 billion!  (CNN Money).

Cross post on linkedin Pulse

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Amazon's re:invent - A cloud roadmap for the Enterprise

I was at the AWS re:invent this week in sunny Las Vegas. It was an opportunity to observe and learn from experiences of other large enterprises starting on their cloud journey. A few observations that I plan to share with fellow Enterprise Architects and IS executives.

Putting together a show for a large gathering of nearly 13500+ participants is by itself a testament to the seriousness of the cloud strategy. As expected, the Amazon team put together an A-game to demonstrate their cloud roadmaps, but what was more impressive was the large contingent of product vendors and System Integrator partners joining to showcase their capabilities.

The keynote sessions were designed to drive home the point that "The cloud is the new normal," and that AWS is a significant player here. Large customers РCoke America, MLB Advanced Media, Cond̩ Nast were out there to highlight their seriousness in the cloud journey.
Some of the deep-dive sessions highlighted the following
  • Amazon’s AWS is a large, serious public cloud platform that can enable Virtual private clouds (VPC) for enterprises looking to minimize/eliminate their hosted data center footprint.
  • Vendor ecosystem is maturing and working hard to keep up with updates on AWS offerings.
    • For instance many SI partners have ‘cloud service management’ portals and frameworks to address configuration and license key management and service catalogs – services that AWS also announced at re:invent.
  • Prepare adequately while planning a larger scale migration of a portfolio of applications.
    • Lift-and-shift may be a misnomer – legacy applications will have to be lifted-considerably-refactored before ‘shifted’ to the cloud.
  • Virtual private cloud (VPC) holds promise for enterprises looking to “shut” or minimize IS application footprint in their data centers.
    • Configuration, setup and ongoing maintenance of VPC from one’s data center is a complex and highly technical endeavor.
  • Large enterprises may not have the luxury of learning on the job.
    • Design and integrating a VPC with one’s hosted data center is not a walk in the park.
    • Rather than DIY panning to the cloud, selecting the right SI partner is a key to enable the cloud journey.
Also unsaid in the sessions
  • AWS is not the only game in town: the other software giant from Seattle has a serious proposition too.
    • As of 2014, Most large enterprises are ‘wetting their toes in the cloud’ and few are willing or able to bet the farm on a single vendor’s cloud
  • CIO’s Organizations aspire to “shut their datacenters” and move to the cloud
    • Many case studies highlighted the aspiration but only the new-startup’s highlighted operations without traditional data centers. Perhaps the reality of legacy weighs too heavily?
  • Large enterprises may opt for hybrid model
    • The future for large enterprises may well be an ecosystem of VPC’s on AWS and other cloud providers, in addition to their on-premise data centers for critical workloads
  • Architects and engineers at large enterprises need to prepare for the alphabet soup.
    • In addition to existing products, AWS announced a slew of new technologies at the conference - EC2 container, AWS Lambda, Aurora DB, Code deploy, Key management, Config etc. Other cloud vendors have other acronyms for their technologies.
    • Other vendors have other naming, branding and versioning. And it is not just keeping up with branding but versioning and capabilities
  • Cloud is yet another component, albeit a significant component, in the IS technology management mix.
    • For instance, moving 100 ‘legacy’ corporate applications to a VPC on AWS will not minimize the inherent design complexity.
    • The move may reduce cost of infrastructure hosting but not necessarily the cost and complexity of ongoing maintenance and support.
Although these notes are from the AWS re:invent this week, I am sure the other cloud guys down the road in Seattle throw an equally exiting conference to showcase their partner ecosystem, replete with vendor presentations and parties.

(stating the obvious: while thankful to my employer for the trip, and to an SI partner for a ‘free’ event pass, these views are mine alone and not an endorsement of my employer’s cloud strategy) repost from linkedin

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Book review: Rogue Elephant: Harnessing the Power of India’s Unruly Democracy by Simon Denyer

Book Review

My Book review of "Rogue Elephant: Harnessing the Power of India’s Unruly Democracy" by Simon Denyer. Cross posted from

Rogue Elephant is an interesting analysis of some aspects of India's democracy. The author, who has spent the past decade or so reporting on India draws from his notes while highlighting observations.

The book begins and concludes with an analysis of the infamous gang-rape in Delhi that shocked the conscience of the nation. The author devotes several chapters to money and corruption with a brief review of the political players including Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. Simon was rightly betting on one of them ascending to the role of India's Prime Minister. This ensures the book continues to be relevant in 2014 when published.

As with any political narrative, the views of the author and his biases are bound to creep in. This book is no exception. The author focuses on politics in the book while skimming economic reality of life and society. In reality both are intertwined and an analysis of one should include the other. Information Technology and Business Process outsourcing and globalization of Indian manufacturing get only a passing mention. Even the Telecommunication revolution that helped India leapfrog from obsolete land-lines to the information age gets only a passing mention. Instead, Simon focuses on corruption of telcom spectrum handouts. The fact that politicians skimmed billions from the deals is not debatable. However, the benefits of wireless revolution, getting rural Indians access to basic communication and on to information age is downplayed in the narrative.

Understanding the intricacies of India's democracy is hard, even for Indians living through the changes and more so for Non Resident Indians like self, who keep abreast of happenings digitally. Simon's readable book is sure to add to the knowledge base, and will be especially useful for those looking for a “political history” of India in the past decade.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Musing on globalization - Apple CEO Tim Cook is gay : and other sides to the story

Apple's Tim Cook made headlines today by announcing to the world that he was Gay (Tim Cook Speaks Up - surprising announcement in an opinion piece on Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

This announcement coming from a tech executive and CEO of a Fortune 500 giant made huge ripples in the business and tech media.  It is interesting to see western society not only embracing rights of LGBT but applauding outright while another leader comes "out."  Nothing surprising here, especially given how leaders in other sphere - political leader, Hollywood stars and sports stars - have been regularly making such "announcements."

The same "rights" seem to be non existent in other parts of the world. The reasons are obvious: even a decade after Tom Friedman famously proclaimed the "world is flat" in his book, historic cultural, linguistic and social variances continue to persist and thrive around the world. For instance, on the same topic of LGBT rights, there was a  news item just yesterday, from another "westernizing" country that is benefiting from offshoring and flattening world. A techie working for the offshoring giant Infosys, in Bangalore, was "slapped with Sec 377" by the Indian police after his wife caught his gay acts on spycam. Per Wikipedia "Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1860,[1] introduced during the British rule of India, criminalizes sexual activities "against the order of nature", arguably including homosexual acts."

One can argue whether westernization only goes so far. Countries and societies continue to selectively globalize, and only for aspects that suits them - especially when there are economic gains.

Bottomline: Societies may embrace western 'values' that are required for economic integration with global markets but will zealously continue to guard their cultural, linguistic, political and social identities. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Is corporate #mobile App development too expensive?

The other day, a fellow Enterprise Architect was lamenting on how the sticker price of “mobile enabling” applications was giving pause to business stakeholders. The business partners who were queuing up with proposals for mobile enabling applications in the portfolio were assuming this capability would automatically move forward along with regular upgrade and maintenance cycle.

When presented with the cost of enabling applications for smartphones and tablets – ability to download from app store, running natively on multiple devices, form factors, securely connecting and integrating data with the corporate back end – most users were stumped. The argument from business stakeholders is understandable: if Apple store can boast of 1.2 million apps, and there are similar number in the android, Amazon and Microsoft ecosystems why can’t my corporate IS push a few hundred of our applications to myCorp-App store?

Explaining the rational for the high cost of mobile enablement cannot be easily condensed to an elevator pitch. Many of the “older” applications used by corporate users, especially the ones that came before iPhone and iPads – circa 2007+ – had not been designed for the new user experience. There is growing awareness that mobile enabling such applications will come at a cost that is not “cheap” in the corporate IS context. Part of the cost is the user interface redevelopment/refactoring. The other real, but hidden cost is the ‘technology debt’ – the need to upgrade legacy systems before they can be mobile enabled. (Those of us with a few gray hairs from our years in IT will remember preparing similar business cases a decade ago when there was a push to web-enable corporate applications.)

The good news is that we are already at a “trough of disillusionment” (apologies Gartner) when it comes to mobile enabling corporate applications. In a sense, corporate IT is already climbing the “slope of enlightenment,” especially since most new products are already being designed with mobile usability right out of the door. And for new application development, mobile enabling is not an icing on top but an integral part of the design.
Pockets of business stakeholders are also coming to grips with this slope of enlightenment and are willing to pony up the costs, especially when it comes to enabling applications required by mobile workforce – for consultants on the road, sales reps and also applications that enable field workers like UPS drivers, gate agents walking around busy airport checkin areas among others.

In many cases, where cost is a constraint, business users are accepting simpler options, say redesigning websites to be html5 compliant, that would work on “most” devices and form-factors, not necessarily with “all” the bells and whistles of an app from an apple store.

It is a matter of time before corporate IT climbs up the “Plateau of Productivity” when it comes to mobile enablement. But I am sure by then business would already be aspiring to the next cool trigger of the “Peak of Inflated Expectations,” not necessarily in the usability space

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Musing on Big Data example. Not an easy recipe to follow

If a picture is worth a thousand words, as the beaten adage goes, the use of big data, creative analytics and graphics is certainly worth much more. Here is a great example of using Big Bata to explain migration from The Economist.

As with most pictures, what is depicted here is only a small slice of the big frame, the angle the author/analyst wanted to highlight. 
I like this picture for the story that it is trying to tell different audiences in a visually appealing way. A picture like this is sure to resonate with policy makers, corporate executives and even hiring managers and recruiters. If not anything else, it raises questions and follow-up actions from the information depicted.
The recipe for big data analytics might look like this:
  • Define your analysis goals and audience upfront
  • Take a lot of data from different sources
  • Filter the data and replicate, but remove redundancies
  • Add relevant metadata, tags etc
  • Use relevant indexing to navigate the data environment
  • Run a lot of filters and queries on it
  • Present actionable information
  • Turn the information into insights
As is obvious, the recipe or its variances for data analytics are not easy to follow. For one, there is a challenge of defining a problem statement. And then there is the science of gathering data, developing the engine to run the analytics. Then comes the art of visualization while presenting the information.

As one might argue, there is a secret sauce missing in the recipe above!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Nobel Peace prize for 2014 and musing on David and Goliath

It is heartening to see the Nobel Peace prize for 2014 go to two South Asians, Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban after campaigning for girls’ education.

I’ll admit, like most others living in the west would do, that Malala Yousafzai is a well known name but Kailash Satyarthi, who? I am sure this is about to  change with the announcement since most of us will not only become aware of Mr Satyarthi but also about the cause for which he stands.
Having just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller (my #amzaonreview), I was reflecting on Malala Yousafzai and her branding as the unlikely role of David she has been thrust upon to go against the Goliaths (Taliban) in Middle East and South Asia.

If I build on Gladwell’s argument in defense of “underdogs” who become unlikely heroes, Malala would certainly be on top of the list. Ever since Malala was shot by Taliban while on her way to school, her recovery has been watched, analyzed and projected larger-than life by western media. As per a recent Chicago tribune article, (link
"Yousafzai was only 11 when she began anonymously blogging for the BBC about her struggles. She was 14 when Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and shot her in the head and neck. The girl survived and was flown to the U.K. for treatment."   And the rest, as they say, is history in the making
One can argue that in the fight against the bad guys, the Goliaths and Taliban, one has to win over the hearts of the public. A teenage girl, part of the underdog strata in the society that still oppresses women, who goes against the bad bully, Taliban is just the kind of hero one needs to win the hearts and minds of junta (public).  And by awarding a Nobel Peace prize to the teenage hero, we are doing just that: reinforce the will of Davids’ to stand up to the Goliaths!

(my #amzaonreview of David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants)