Time to invest in new tech stocks or time to buy lottery scratch cards?

A colleague pointed out this excellent article in the Financial Times recently by Richard Waters on the subject of the internet bubble.

There are lots of very good examples in the article of how tech companies are valuing themselves in order to look attractive to potential buyers. However the key word in that sentence is ‘themselves’ as there is a great example of self valuation around Groupon :

Applying Groupon’s preferred measure turned last year’s $420m loss under US accounting conventions into a $61m profit.

Does this lead one to believe that the laws of P&L accounting as we know it are being superseded in favour of something that looks favourable to the prospective buyer?

Where will it all end I wonder… time to invest in new tech stocks or time to buy scratch cards … are they both a lottery?

Cloud Computing World Forum 2011 – Insights Part 2

More insights from Cloud Computing World Forum following on from my earlier post

So two sessions down and two more to go. Next up I attended a panel session “Advantages and trends in cloud technology”

This was chaired by Rupert Goodwins @rupertg the Editor ZDNet UK. In Rupert’s opening pitch he made the statement that “negatives make better news stories….” how true is that? Brought a smile to my face as I’m normally on the receiving end of such stories so I’m liking him already.

So this session was a decent discussion involving reps from SymetriQ, Barclays Bank and Onyx Group covering topics such as cloud concerns around security, interoperability and vendor confidence.

There was some good discussion around compliance and penetration testing, e.g. how often and how do you govern when someone else owns some of the moving parts? I’m not sure I heard a good answer in the end. However, there was also a classic one liner (from the Barclays chap) in :

“I for one wouldn’t put my crown jewels out there” ~ the mind boggles!

Towards the end the session got bogged down a little in the age old ‘what is and what isn’t a cloud’ debate (more on that later)… Many people including myself are now well versed in what the cloud is and continuing to debate this is of little importance anymore.

It also turns out Rupert and myself have something in common from way back in the 90’s… Networking products called Mainlan and Mainlan/386. Turns out that Rupert wrote a multitasking kernel in 386 back then… happy days indeed as he indicated in a later twitter conversation.

My last session of the day saw me head off in the direction of “Cloud computing – more than just virtualisation” by Wes Nolte of Tquila

Wes started by introducing himself as an international award winner, author, and prolific blogger, tweeter and talk giver … my expectations were high indeed!

Wes talked about Crowdsourcing, The internet of Things, and the pending extinction of the IT department. He shared some very interesting statistics. For example, the IT industry uses as much power as the Airline Industry, and did you know that Google  surreptitiously digitises 1billion words per year by crowdsourcing? Makes you wonder how many words there are in the world!

Then I’m not sure how it happened exactly but we got into defining the cloud again… and just when I thought I’d heard them all Wes came out with an absolute cracker…

“Cloud is the virtualisation of computer hardware with the added benefit of geographical decentralisation.”

I have to tell you that this got my attention for all the wrong reasons… sorry Wes but if this was supposed to impress the audience or make things clearer, then it missed the mark by a considerable distance.

We then heard how the IT department was dying and it was all due to excess utilisation. I have to say I was expecting a much stronger argument, and I think this one is borrowed from a presentation I heard from Marc Benioff a while back. I’m sure Wes understands that IT departments are about much more than storage and utilisation, nevertheless I was left disappointed by this session and my expectations weren’t met…. sorry Wes!

If I could offer Wes two pieces of advice they would be… please visit some CIO’s and understand what business problems they really need to solve, and maybe let others decide on the prolific talk giver bit!

So, my detour to Cloud Computing World Forum is almost done but before I leave I manage to grab a few minutes with David Terrar @DT . David is a really nice chap who I follow on Twitter and met up with at the same event last year. We had a short but very good chat around cloud accounting providers, market dynamics, scaling small cloud businesses into big ones and company cultures. Hopefully we’ll get more time to carry on our discussion next time we meet.

And finally my conclusion from the day was summed up by this tweet from Gary Burt @gburt  

“The best sessions were from end users and those actually doing it!”

Very wise words indeed… Isn’t that always the case?

Cloud Computing World Forum 2011 – Insights Part 1

In between meetings on a business trip to London this week I thought I’d drop by the 3rd Cloud Computing World Forum at Olympia to see what was going on. I attended the same event last year and it would be a good opportunity to see what had changed and also to catch up with some old acquaintances.

My first impression was a good one, the event was noticeably larger and better attended than last year with most of the major cloud vendors in attendance. The event looked to be very well organised and comprised a sizeable exhibition and three seminar steams (four if you included the one dedicated to Microsoft) billed as:

  • Cloud Approach – How you might do cloud.
  • Cloud Build – The mechanics of making a switch to the cloud
  • Cloud Connect – Interaction with the social cloud and Enterprise 2.0

I had time to have a quick look around the exhibition and attend four seminars, across each stream, which was more by chance than good planning. The exhibition was comprised predominantly of Cloud vendors and Service Management companies with a few telcos. On offer was at least 50 different cloud (managed hosting) solutions. However, the seminars were of more interest and I’ll focus on these.

The first session I attended was “Cloud as a game changing business strategy” was presented by Adrian Gardiner who is the CIO of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

This sounded like an interesting topic and my expectations were high. Adrian’s presentation was very pragmatic and was based on real life examples of where NASA had used Cloud technology (and also where they wouldn’t consider it)… some excellent takeaways from this session:

NASA probably has the most computing power on the planet available at their disposal. A huge consumer of Super Computers and it probably wasn’t such a big surprise to hear that they run their own cloud… a claim backed up by pictures of a POD on a concrete slab in the middle of nowhere.

This in itself was impressive, but this next bit was the real gem for me… “It’s not uncommon for NASA to run a development project for 10 years before it comes to fruition as a live service. If you were to provision hardware at the start of the project it would be obsolete by the time the project delivered. Instead NASA was using the cloud as a development environment, provisioning the most modern hardware (their choice is still to run critical systems in house) just in time for project launch.”

The most disappointing element of this session was environmental, the seminar rooms and the exhibition were all under the same roof and the background noise was terrible. The year before there was a separate seminar room which worked much better *** note to organisers ***

The next session I attended was “Cloud computing in large enterprises” presented by Andrew Weir, Director of Enterprise Architecture at British Petroleum. Once again here are the highlights:

Andrew opened with an interesting first question, i.e. “show of hands how many people here are buying vs. selling cloud solutions?” Most were selling!!!

I found Andrew’s presentation very informative and doused with pragmatism. He shared some insights into the sheer scale of BP’s IT operation around the world. With the exception of one or two of the largest cloud vendors in attendance BP’s server farms would dwarf the offerings of most cloud vendors.

On the back of this Andrew explained when you run a business on such a scale it is actually more cost effective for BP to host and run as opposed to paying a cloud vendor for managed services. In addition Andrew shared some insights into BP’s IT strategy:

BP envisages a private cloud environment hosted on BP infrastructure (plus some hybrid cloud) as the way forward with data confidentiality and security as key drivers on the basis that BP is very governance oriented business, especially around financial compliance and risk management.

Hybrid cloud technology is of interest but they feel it is not yet ready for enterprise scale ~ still 2-3 years away (governance and management issues rather than availability).

And the final word from Andrew… todays clouds are mostly targeted at the consumer not enterprise business and you need to look beyond the hype to find value.

More to come in part 2… here now.

Why the public sector should get better pensions than the private sector?

Okay so I misled you with the title, they absolutely shouldn’t… especially when the private sector is footing the bill in the first place…

I wrote this post a few weeks back on the escalating costs of the NHS and in light of the recent threat of industrial action of teachers and public sector workers I thought I’d share my findings again on how much it costs to run the public sector:

In 2010 the Public sector employed 6.2 million people and the total wage bill was £182 billion. This is an increase of £8 billion (5%) from the 2008 wage bill of £174 billion.

Salaries represent around 30% of the total running cost of the public sector which puts public sector spending around £600 billion, up £26 billion from the 2008 cost of £574 billion.

During the deepest point of the recession in 2009, whilst around 700,000 jobs were lost from the Private Sector, around 100,000 jobs were added to the public sector. What’s more during the same period the average public sector salary of £23,660 overtook the average private sector salary of £21,528. So how much does it cost each private sector taxpayer to fund the Public Sector?

  • As a proportion of the total UK population of 62 million, £600 billion equates to £9687 per person
  • As a proportion of the total UK working population of 38 million, £92 billion equates to £15,805 per person
  • As a proportion of the total UK private sector working population of 31.8 million £92 billion equates to £18,886 per person

What does all of this mean?

Basically it means the UK economy, which is fuelled by the private sector, simply can’t afford to fund the public sector. The UK government is borrowing (increasing the budget deficit by) something like £140 billion each year to balance the books…. and I havent taken pensions into account which is the current bone of contention.

Where’s this all going to end and how can we keep paying for services that we simply can’t afford?

I’d urge those arguing against public sector reform to go and check out the economics. There is no magical pot of cash and the government can only raise more money from the taxpayer… and this particular taxpayer isn’t convinced he’s getting anything like value for money from the public sector today.

Just saying… again!!

You need to hire for Innovation

Innovation is a topic very close to my heart and a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending an excellent workshop delivered by Dr Anne Stevens the VP of Design at Kone elevators.

The session was hugely insightful and very educational… and whilst I’m not going to share the details verbatim, I thought I would share some of the very thought provoking statements like:

“The same old thinking gets the same old results … you need new thinking to get new results”

“Creativity must be present at every level of every technical part of the organisation”

“Even a mature innovative team need a coach otherwise it’s easy to innovate badly”

“A common mistake is to just let people loose with innovation”

“No great website is conceived by more than three people”

“Passionate creatures do not follow scripts”

Towards the end of the session Anne went on to share what she looks for when recruiting innovative people for Kone and how these qualities differ from the traditional qualities that many businesses still seek today:

Traditional Qualities Innovative Qualities
Knowledgeable Imaginative
Pragmatic Enthusiastic
Risk adverse (No, can’t do that because) Let’s have a go
Process Champion Visionaries
Comfort Zone Trailblazer
Conformist Explorer
Specialists Creative Minds
Leadership Stereotype Passionate Creatives

This really was an excellent session that struck a chord with me, which qualities do you look for?