Subba’s Serendipitous moments

September 20, 2009

U.S. Federal government to use the cloud and the App Store

Vivek Kundra — the Federal CIO and who is actively promoting the innovation agenda announced Apps.Gov. It includes a variety of business applications, hosting and social applications all housed in a cloud.

All the federal agencies will be able to buy the cloud computing applications and services and this will surely bring the cost of IT services in the federal budget. It is also a very innovative way of standardizing applications.

What Apps.Gov also ensures is that the government enjoys the same benefits that technology changes and pricing models have to offer to the consumer. The government also can reduce the cost of IT infrastructure like building data centers a, servers, storage. Some applications may even be free.

I do not know how he is going to handle the privacy and security issues, but I guess given the size of the federal IT budget, many vendors will come forward to build the standards needed for the Government to be their customer. Google has already responded by announcing that it would dedicate a part of its computing infrastructure to serve the federal government.

Sure, other vendors will follow.

All in all, this is a great initiative and something that other Governments should also consider.

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May 27, 2009

Will Singapore usher in Government 2.0?

President Obama will surely go down in history for a number of things. Amongst many things, he was the first one to use the power of social networking so effectively which led him to win the Presidential elections decisively. He appointed Vivek Kundra as CIO in his administration and Aneesh Chopra as a CTO. Surprisingly they are not marquee names as one would have expected, but people who have blazed a new trail defying conventional practices. Some prefer to call them the iconoclasts.

Vivek Kundra, the CIO for the Obama Administration launched a new website called Data.gov which for all its radical breakthroughs was announced quietly. I hope it gets the publicity it so rightfully deserves. The intent of the website is to release vast amounts of raw data so that tax payers can see what’s happening in the government and buraucracy.

The new site has 50 feeds and is intended to grow to about 240,000 feeds next month itself. It will be a one-stop shop for free access to data that will be generated across all federal government agencies.

This is a paradigm shift and in some sense unparalleled in the history of Government IT. First, it establishes beyond doubt the credentials of President Obama to be as transparent as possible. Second, ingenious entreprenuers can quickly develop Web applications more easily (with mash-ups becoming so common) using government data and take it to market. Finally, interested citizens can provide ideas to the government’s problems, now that they have access to better, reliable and immediate data. Finally, it also goes to show that the government is prepared to accept that it may not have all the answers to its problems and that crowdsourcing must be encouraged.

The Singapore government has been not just an early but a staunch user of IT. It has in the past, pioneered effective applications and can rightfully claim credit for the high level of IT penetration in Singapore. Yet, in recent years it seems to have lost both the momentum and direction. The Government IT directions are managed in a hybrid model with the Government CIO being part of the IDA. One look at the Government CIO mandate here shows it is inwardly focused, tactically driven and continues to o continues to operate from a traditional mindset.

At this stage of IT maturity merely notching up some incremental percentage points on the efficiency scale is not going to help either the Government or the citizens. It needs a more forward looking radical approach if it has to remain relevant and regain the respect that it once had. It needs a President Obama philosophy and a Kundra’s impetus for action.

If what is stopping this leap is imagination, it needs new blood; a set of iconoclasts. If however they believe that the government knows best and that there is no wisdom in the crowd, then sadly, only a serious failure will force a rethink. If the Government does not want to be more transparent, it is only inhibiting the natural empowerment and evolution of the citizens. If the government needs a role model, President Obama has accepted to be one.

Let’s not forget that one constant dimension of the various developments in the IT world is empowerment. This has happened not just within the firewall but as part of the extended enterprise. Choosing to ignore the philosophical underpinnings of empowerment is choosing to ignore the true potential of IT and in a way also choosing to ignore true progress.



I will have the opportunity to speak on Government 2.0 at a National IT conference very soon and this gives me a lot to conceptualize things better.

May 20, 2009

Show me the money YouTube!

YouTube        200905202253.jpg          

Most of us love both Facebook and YouTube. It has become part of our daily consumption. Some are addicted to Facebook, some are to YouTube and some to both. Both of them have been category leaders with little competition. Yet, both seems to have the same problem — How to convert their traffic, the loyal visitors and their brand into actual revenues for their shareholders.

The Facebook success and the challenges have been discussed here at length. YouTube has changed the face of entertainment. It has created a complete new dimension in shared experience, made everyone a rich media content producer and consumer with just a few clicks. Yet a business model eludes YouTube.

A good 2.5 years have elapsed since Google acquired YouTube for a cool $1.65 billion. Google hasn’t taken any specific steps to monetize YouTube. It probably doesn’t need to, because its revenues (estimated at anything between $100-200 million) are insignificant . According to comscore, 100 million viewers watched over 5.9 billion videos in the U.S. alone in March 2009. It has 10 times the number of visitors as the next biggest site. Despite that, it has no advertising nor any model to charge for premium content. Yet to cater for the surging content library it has to make continuous investments in infrastructure in storage and bandwidth mainly estimated at $400 million. Well, Facebook is lucky because it has a rich daddy in Google who.

YouTube also faces new competition from Hulu — a joint venture of NBC and News Corporation which features NBC and Fox TV shows and others. Currently YouTube is also trying to get premium content and signed up deals with Sony, MGM and others. It also proposes to charge payment for premium content. Will it be successful?

The conditions at Facebook and YouTube begets an important question — They have successfully challenged tradition and created new categories. They have also been terrific success.

But when will they show us the money?

September 10, 2008

Cloud is confusing!

Filed under: Business,Model — Subbaraman Iyer @ 2:40 pm
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“Cloud computing” has been a buzzword and it means different things to different people. What started as the ASP in the early part of the decade, morphed to Utility computing and now everything is “Cloud computing”.

Generically speaking, the tern “cloud computing” is just an alternate¬† solution that doesn’t use the in-house data centre or any vendor specific hosting resource. It is a virtual huge infrastructure where both computing and storage resource is available on a pay-as-you-go on-demand basis. The compelling benefit is in its scalability¬† and the ability to access an application anywhere. There are clearly 2 distinct layers in the cloud:

Infrastructure: Amazon Web services is the poster child offering both computing and storage resources with a simple API interface. It has been a tremendous success gauged by the fact that Amazon’s EC2 and S3 in Q4 2007 exceeded all of Amazon’s web properties during its own peak time. See the impressive evidence here.

Platform: Google’s AppEngine and a few other platforms offer a development environment where the developer adheres to certain guidelines and the scaling is performed by the platform.

However Forrester in their latest report have expanded the definition of the “cloud computing” and in the process have even made the definition even foggier.

Clearly Software as a service and Web services cannot be considered as part of a cloud since the former is a specific end user software with a specific functionality focus. They outgrew from the traditional world of the application service provider hosted and are the least flexible. The Web services world again is a specific application for an organization.

If one takes the factors flexibility, scalability, ubiquity as the cornerstones of cloud computing, I fail to understand how SaaS or Web services or even App components-as-a-service become part of the cloud.

In my view it is only the bottom 3 layers that constitute the cloud. I would like to view the Cloud as just another way the IT infrastructure is being delivered and consumed.

I am just waiting to see how the other analysts define the cloud.

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