Archive for October 2010
Last weekend I went to an old book store. They had three floors full of used books in almost every imaginable topic.
I was browsing for few out-of-print books and the store owner was able to help me find few of them. All those books had no price tag in them, so I was worried ‘what if this guy charges me a bomb?’
The store owner sensed my anxiety and told me ‘Don’t worry sir, We only charge reasonable cost for these books!’
‘But how do you know how much is reasonable?’
This was very surprising for me. Agreed, I am in Bengalooru, one of the most IT-enabled cities in India. But internet in an old book store? He must be joking!
But he was not. It seems he decides the price of every rare book in his store by browsing internet for antique book stores / clubs / user groups. He looks for information about similar books and how they are priced in different countries. He even checks if the book is available for free download in some illegal websites. Based on these analyses, he comes to the final price tag.
As a result, I had to pay 400 rupees for a very small book. I was upset about this pinch, but he justified the price by proving to me how rare the book was and pocketed his cool profit. Another store owner with no knowledge about that book would have let me take that book for just 50 or 100 rupees.
Information is wealth – even in an old book store!
N. Chokkan …
29 10 2010
Yesterday I attended a cloud computing event run by Amazon Web Services (AWS in short) – It was an amazing session, much more than the typical sales blah-blah and gave a good insight in terms of what to expect when it comes to cloud computing and how AWS can help small to medium to large companies.
(Image Courtesy: http://aws.amazon.com/)
According to me, the most important learnings from this program were the following:
- Moving your app to cloud is good, But moving the entire IT infrastructure to cloud (“On Demand Infrastructure”) is now possible and removes lot of load from your back and helps you focus on value-added things, instead of worrying about server / database performance and downtimes
- Many companies have benefited from cloud infrastructure and the savings range between 20 to 50% in terms of infrastructure cost
- This gives the power to newbies – All you need is a good idea and an unique solution based on that – there are many new and successful web 2.0 companies which wouldn’t have existed if cloud computing is not in place
- Contrary to popular thinking, Cloud is not just about saving cost – it is reliable, secure and flexible in terms of how you want to use it
All the sessions in this program were good, especially the first (Keynote address by Dr. Werner Vogels) and the last (An amazing fast-track tutorial on how to go cloud with a simple app and improve from there, by Simone Brunozzi). Dr. Werner Vogels gave 10 principles that they considered when designing AWS solutions. They may be useful to us in any design process:
- Principle #1 Design for Flexibility
- Principle #2 Design for on-demand
- Principle #3 Design for Automation
- Principe #4 Decompose into the simplest form
- Principle #5 Break Transparency
- Principle #6 Design with Security in mind
- Principle #7 Don’t do it alone
- Principle #8 Continuously innovate
- Principle #9 Focus on what doesn’t change
- Principle #10 Let your customers benefit
For more details on these principles and other interesting sessions (For instance, do you know how redBus.in and TataSky use Cloud Infrastructure?) refer to the notes below – as usual, this was typed during the session, so kindly ignore spelling / grammar errors
N. Chokkan …
27 10 2010
* Session 01: Welcome & Intro: Shane Owenby, MD, APAC, AWS
* Session 02: Dr. Werner Vogels, CTO, Amazon – Keynote: Successful Strategies in the Cloud
- Amazon’s three biz: Retail (Website), Seller Business (Use amazon technology for your own retail website, leveratge amazon’s fulfillment network), Amazin Web Services
- We observed when working with our clients in these businesses that most of the time they spend time in undifferentiated, non-value-adding work
- 70/30 Switch: 30% of time, energy and dollars on differentiated value creation, 70% on undifferentiated heavy lifting
- Infrastructure Web Services
- Billions of objects in Amazon S3 – Q12010: 140+Billion objects, peak requests at 150000+ per second
- Dev & Testing, Web site hosting, App Hosting, Media Distribution, Batch Data Processing, Content Delivery, Backup, Software Distribution, Load Testing, Collaborations, Marketing Campgaigns, Disaster Recovery, HPC, Large Scale Analysis
- Top Myths of cloud computing: Cloud is Not Reliable, Cost is all that matters, Cloud is all or nothing, The cloud locks you in, The cloud is not secure
- Few Customer case studies to break these myths: Nasdaq (Low capex), razorfish (Scalable), bild.de (Fast time to market), Lawson (Ultra-reliable), Netflix (Reliability), Facebook games such as Farm Ville, Pet Society, Happy Aquarium, Pet Party etc., (Highly Scalable, No Capital Investment, No Heavy Lifting Required), President of the US of A & Many other federal companies including NASA (Security)
- Few Indian clients of AWS: redbus.in, Tata Sky, tubaah, indiagames.com, hungama, simplified, 8k Miles
- New sort of web app development – launch something quick and simple and let your users decide what else they need in this and build based on this
- Private Cloud? To understand look at the definition of Cloud Computing
Gartner 2008: Style of computing where massively scalable IT related capabilities are provided as a service across the internet to multiple external customers
– On Demand
– Pay as you go
By this definition, Private cloud is actually a false cloud – makes you buy more hardware instead of the other way – all the problems cloud solves are still existing
- Key benefits to running in the AWS Cloud
1. Lowers cost (Eliminates Capex, Reduces operational costs)
2. Increases Agility (Reduces time to market, removes constraints)
3. Removes the "Heavy Lifting" (Leverages Scalability, Reliability and Security)
4. Foundation for 21st Century Architecture
- Principles we used when designing AWS solution:
Principle #1 Design for Flexibility
– Build Tools not fameworks
– Choice of OS / Database / Technology / Mix & Match
Principle #2 Design for on-demand
Principle #3 Design for Automation
– Drives Reliability, Security and Efficiency
– Amazon EC2 – Elastic Compute Cloud
Principe #4 Decompose into the simplest form
– Sample: One size fits all – ordering pipeline – Cart -> Order -> Process -> Store -> Archive
– AWS Database & Storage Solutions: Amazon S3 (Key Value Pair), Amazon SimpleDB, Amazon EC2 + EBS (Hard disk on the sky), Amazon RDS (Native access to database engine, Easy Migration, Key features of RDBMS, Managed Experience)
Principle #5 Break Transparency
– World-wide App Deployment: Performance, Security, Certification, Compliance, Cost Efficiency, Uniform Deployment, Availability
Principle #6 Design with Security in mind
– Finegrained access control
– Amazon Virtual Private Cloud
Principle #7 Don’t do it alone
– Partners are very important: Cloud Foundary, Stax, Heroku etc.,
– Oracle supported all their products to run in AWS Cloud
– Indian partners: Wipro, 3i Infotech, Patni, More ..
Principle #8 Continuously innovate
– In addition to technical innovation, Innovation on cloud pricing models: On-Demand instances, Reserved instances, Spot instances, Continuous price reductions
– Economies of scale in utilization
– Big Elephant: Server Utilization
Principle #9 Focus on what doesn’t change
– What will not change in next 10 years? … Security, Reliability, Scalability, Cost etc.,? Focus all your energies on this
Principle #10 Let your customers benefit
Key in chosing a cloud
- Operational Performance
- Options / Flexibility
- Speed of Innovation and Execution
Session 03: Customer Presentation: redBus.in – Charan Padmaraju, CTO, redbus
- 3 Business Veritcals
Largest bust ticketing company in india
Online, Offline, On phone, On Mobile
Manages 10000+ Schedules in 15 states everyday
– Bus Operator Software Services (BOSS)
Market leader in SaaS solution to Bus Industry
Now expanding to Argentina, Malaysia and Urugua
– SeatSeller (GDS)
Power bus ticketing on major OTAs
30K+ Agents use GDS
Ranked #1 in India 25, Clocked a growth rate of 4823%
- Problems with traditional data centers
– Physical limitationof existing server – Max RAM slots etc.,
– Long procurement time – Replacement of RAM took more than a fortnight
– New Product BOSS – Experimental product with minimal upfront investment, low maintenance and high scale potential
- Solutions Explored
– Google App Engine (Migration of existing system was not possible)
– Experiemented a small app with AWS and found that it was satisfactory, decided to go for it
- AWS Solution:
– Varied instance types
– Instant availability – Do it yourself
– Low cost, low maintenance
- Experience with AWS
– Have been using AWS for 1 year – Deployment of 50 servers on AWS APAC Center
– 100% of our apps rendered out of AWS
– Highlights: RDS very powerful, takes away lot of DBA efforts, Rapid implementation, Saved cost, Fixing production problems on the go
– Lowlights: Lost instances; Can overcome by using EBS as opposed to instance store
- Key benefits being on AWS platform
– Time to market, saved cost (40%), Rapid deployment, true staging replicas for fixing issues, Great latency benefits
- Future Plans
– Automate the process of deployment to a server cluster
– Use SQS for communication with external applications, SNS for sending alerts
Session 04: Customer Presentation: Tata Sky on Cloud – Rajiv Jain, VP – IT Strategy & Solutions, Tata Sky
– Leading DTH Service provider in India
– Joint Venture between Star TV and Tata
– Launched in August 2006
– Revolutionizing TV Viewing
– New age interactive services
– 24 * 7 Customer service in 11 Languages (Some of them hosted on the cloud)
- Business Challenges (Issues faced with in house Data Center technology)
– Huge Capital expenditure
– Scalability issues
– Technology Obsolescence / Commoditization
– Optimizing IT cost – per $ revenue / per business transaction
– Time to market
- Why AWS?
– Leading Cloud Service Provider
– Proven track record
– Proactive Account Management
– Focus on Customer Success
– Roadmap and Vision
- What do we use in AWS?
– EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing)
– EBS (Eleastic Block Storage)
– S3 (Simple Storage Solutions)
– Cloud Watch
- Business Benefits
– Quantifiable metrics: Cost savings, Man hours saved, Reduced time to market, # of instances running
- Lessons learnt:
Being first is great, but challenging
- Future Roadmap
– AWS Elastic Load Balancer
– Simple Notification Service
– Virtual Private Cloud
– DR / BCV
Session 05: AWS – SAP Strategic Partnership – Nararyan Sundareswaran – Head of Diz Development for outsourcing and On Demand, SAP AG
- Differentiation between Dedicated Outsourcing and Cloud Models
- Harnessing the cloud, for the benefit of our customers
- Why Cloud Computng?
– Reduce costs
– Improve Agility
– Delivery Globally
- Cloud computing strategy @ SAP
- Amazon web services & SAP
- Value Added Service Models
– Business Strategy
– App Selection & Implementation Strategy
– Application Implementation
– Application Management
– Infrastructure Management
– Application / Middleware as a service
- SAP Experience with Cloud
SAP Business Objects – On Premise Vs Cloud
– 24 to 46% savings in year one over On-Premise solutions. Cost drop 36 to 52% in year 2 based on typical scenario
– Recovery.gov uses SAP Business Objects on AWS
- New SAP Program for Cloud Services: SAP-Certified for Cloud Services
Session 06 – Cloud Computing Practice: Your Transformation Partner: Akhilesh Laddha – Solution Architect, Wipro
- Company Overview
– Dedicated practice for Cloud enablement
- Services from Wipro
– Cloud Advisor and Assessment Services
– Cloud Implementation and Migration Services
– Cloud Management Services
- Implementation Process
– Assessment – Application Enablement – Infra Enablement – Robust Service Delivery – Managed Service
- Case Studies
Session 07 – A Practical Approach To Cloud Computing – Simone Brunozzi, Technology Evangelist, APAC, Amazon Web Services
– gosachin.com … Build a simple website to host pictures of Sachin Tendulkar
– And then, add more features
Step 1: Launch a website
– Sign In
– Amazon EC2 Console
– Launch Instance
– Choose OS
– Setup preferences (Example: Region)
– Check status
– Install services (Example: HTTP Service)
– Go to the directory
– Upload content of the website
– Add "Elastic IP" (Public IP you can use to map your site URL)
Sachin wins "Cricketer of the year" award
Everybody comes to your website looking for pictures
Users are coming from many countries
How can we provide content to them worldwide?
CDN: Content Delivery Network
– Cache or Copy your content to multiple locations worldwide
– AWS takes care of serving it from the closest location
Amazon Cloud Front
Step 2: Configuring CDN
– Upload your content to Amazon S3
– Enable CloudFront
– Create Distribution (Under "CloudFront Distributions")
– Change CloudFront URL in your HTML Code
This website is not "Just a hobby" anymore – How to make it more robust?
GoSachin.com – Version 2.0
Our IT Architecture needs an upgrade
Old way: Add Servers
New way: Elastic Load Balancer … Auto-Scaling Servers
Step 3: Scaling GoSachin.com
– If the network load is too much, AWS can automatically decide to create a new machine (based on the parameters we choose)
– Go to "Load Balancer" page and activate "Elastic Load Balancer"
Automation – APIs for every AWS Service
– Automate as much as you can
We want to improve this architecture by:
– Moving Databases backend
– Take care of Failover, Automatic Backups etc.,
Amazon RDS: Relational Database Services
Step 4: Architectural Improvements
– Move to RDS area
– Use "DB Security Groups"
– Launch DB Instance
– Chose DB, Size, User particulars etc.,
– Connect similar to on-premise database
– You are in full control of your database on the web console
– Change Connection string in your code to use this database
Step 1 – 2000 Visitors per month – $15 for server $3 for bandwidth
Step 2 – 4000 visitors per month – $15 + $5 + CloudFront $50
Step 3 – 100000 visitors per month – $180 + $65 + $350 + $15 S3 Storage + $21 Elastic Load Balancer
Step 4 – 1.5 Million Visitors per month – $300 + $125 + $1600 + $67 + $45 + $160 (RDS)
Twitter Handle: @simon
I got my first Bible when I was 12 years old. I didn’t buy it, there was a contest in my friend’s school in which we both participated as a team. Now I don’t remember what contest it was, But I still have the first prize we both got – A hardbound bible with a colorful bookmark.
To be frank, I didn’t feel like reading bible at that time, main reason was the language. My vocabulary was not good enough to read or understand Bible.
After few years, a teacher in college introduced me to the tamil translation of bible. This made things a bit more clear – Eventho’ I still struggled to get meaning for certain words, the unique language / style they used to describe objects / actions was amazing.
Last week I started reading a special kind of bible. Its called ‘International Children’s Bible’. The main attraction is, the original Bible text is translated / retold in such a way that children can easily understand. To add more delight to the reading experience, this book has more than 30 beautiful graphics / 3D pictures. A very good gift for children.
The only negative thing about this amazing book is, papers used inside are too thin. As the people who are going to handle this book are very young children, it would have been better if the publishers used a different paper, which will lost longer even in their curious hands
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
David Ogilvy, founder of the famous Advt firm O & M, had to discontinue his college education for various reasons. He then joined Majestic Hotel, Paris as an apprentice chef.
When young David worked in this hotel, the head chef was Monsieur Pitard. He was well known for his perfect cooking style, and a short temper to go with it. He got upset with even the tiniest mistakes and never hesitated to fire someone on-the-spot for lack of perfection.
Rookie David was very afraid to work with Monsieur Pitard. He was looking for an opportunity to run away from there and try for a different / better career. Till that happens, he decided to stay away from the head chef.
One day David was cooking a difficult dish and decorating it before it is served to the guest(s). Monsieur Pitard noticed this and came near him. He didn’t say anything, silently watching David’s every movement.
By then, David was literally shaking and shivering. Somehow he knew this is going to be his last day at work.
But the famous head chef surprised David by praising him for his decorating skills. In fact he called all other chefs and told them to observe David and learn.
Later David Ogilvy mentioned this as one of the proudest moments in his life. That unexpected praise was one of the prime reasons for his continued success and professional growth.
(David Ogilvy – Picture Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_ogilvy.jpg)
Do we praise our co-workers, sub-ordinates, family members, friends and others enough? How much is ‘enough’?
N. Chokkan …
22 10 2010
Like many, I am a big fan of “To Do” Lists. Most of the times, they control my life, not the other way.
Usually I maintain more than one “To Do” List – One in my phone with beautiful alert tones, another in my desk which uses the good old pen and paper technology, a third one in my Email inbox, another in my computer desktop (to do.txt), In addition, I write a special “To Do” list for every weekend, which will contain tasks I need to complete within the Saturday, Sunday boundary!
But above all these there is a BIG “To Do” list running in our brain (mind?) constantly. Most of these physical or electronic “To Do” lists get their data from this master list. (a lot like a water tank – water taps model!)
The problem is, this big (water tank) “To Do” list gets filled in many ways:
- Sometimes we get tasks when we speak to people (Can you complete this by Friday? Yes! Can you get bread on your way back home? Yes!)
- Sometimes deadlines come in letters / Emails (Marriage invitations, Book Release Events, Seminars, Bus / Train / Flight tickets, Bills etc.,)
- There may be repeating / recurring tasks which need to be added to the master “To Do” List automatically in fixed frequencies (Birthdays, Weekly Update Meetings, Loan / Credit card payments etc.,)
- Rarely, we have ‘self-service’ tasks. No one asks / monitors if we do them, but deep inside, we want to spend time on these as well (Diet, Learning a new language, Calling friends / relatives etc.,)
Our brain is intelligent enough to understand and categorize these things as virtual “To Do” lists. But unfortunately, we are not capable of doing them without the help of few physical lists.
Many times we fail to complete a task just because we forgot about it. Later when we remember it again, most probably its too late. Errr!
Can a smart phone solve this problem? I am visualizing a solution like below (As this is just an imagination, Let me be VERY greedy – Don’t laugh please )
- A smart phone comes with a small cap-like device which I can fix in my head. It should be light so that I can wear it for at least 12 to 16 hours a day
- This cap should talk to my smart phone using Bluetooth or some similar wireless technology
- Whenever I hear / see / read / think about a possible task, the magic cap should sense it and send the text to my smart phone – It will add it to my To Do List (Remember, This should work Even if the “task” comes in a very unusual way. For example – Let us say I see a movie poster and think ‘Will that be a nice movie to watch?’ – Immediately a “To Do” task needs to be created which says “Explore more about movie xyz”!)
- This way all my “To Do” lists are synchronized in one place, and they contain every task I ever think of doing – I don’t have to miss a deadline again!
Recently I read about an innovation where a robot does what we ‘think’ about. If such technologies exist, I am sure this ‘smart to do list’ requirement will become a reality soon!
Note: This post was written for IndiBlogger’s “Share Life” Blogger contest sponsored by Tata DOCOMO OneTouch Net Phone. If you like this post please click here to vote / promote it. Thank you –> http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=36686
Today I read a very interesting article by Subroto Bagchi, co-founder, director & gardener (ever heard of this title before?) of MindTree and a best selling author. This article / blog post is titled “About Writing”.
(Image Courtesy: http://www.mindtree.com/about-us/board-directors/subroto-bagchi)
In this wonderful summary of his personal thoughts on writing, Subroto Bagchi makes a very valid point: “Most people can write. They do not write because they think writing requires inspiration and such inspiration must flow out of some unseen source. That may be true of writing fiction or poetry that needs a “creative” capability of a high order. But we all know that the world needs a lot of “functional writing” as well. Increasingly, the professional space is expanding, we all have to write a report, a proposal or communicate with our teams as part of our normal working.”
With this background, Subroto Bagchi gives 10 simple rules which can help everyone to write:
- Rule #1 – Write as if you are speaking
- Rule #2 – Choose a theme to write on
- Rule #3 – Structure your thoughts around an idea before you start writing
- Rule #4 – Write without worrying whether people would love to read the piece
- Rule #5 – Read what you have written and check for simple things like grammar
- Rule #6 – Read what you have written for comprehension
- Rule #7 – Get someone unconnected to read the piece
- Rule #8 – Store your writing securely some place
- Rule #9 – Read what other people write
- Rule #10 – Publish! (As you begin, start with your college magazine, a trade journal or the company’s intranet portal. Over time, we all progress to bigger things.)
N. Chokkan …
15 10 2010
Like many, I always thought a coach and a mentor are nothing but same, in different packages. Because of this (mis)understanding, I used to use these two words interchangeably. Today I read a very interesting article which clearly explains the difference between these two – Strongly Recommended:
N. Chokkan …
11 10 2010
You are in an empty room. All four sides, there are corkboard walls. Your mission is to fix a candle in one of those walls, so that its melt wax won’t drip on the floor.*
To complete this challenge, you are given one candle, a few matchsticks and a box of tacks. The room has no tables or paper or other objects (Its empty, remember?) What will you do?
Most people attempt this problem with a direct approach. Some try to melt the candle a bit, and use this wax to stick the candle on the wall. Few try using two or three tacks or match sticks to make the candle ‘stand’ on the wall. Unfortunately none of these methods work. Due to Mr. Gravity, sooner or later the melt wax will hit the floor with a 100% probability.
So, what’s the solution?
Simple. Stop fixing any functions to the objects you are given. Now you will get the solution immediately.
For example, instead of giving you a box full of tacks, Let us say they give you an empty box and then a bunch of tacks separately. Now you will immediately think of fixing the candle inside the box, and then tacking the box in the wall. Problem solved!
(Image Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Genimage.jpg)
What’s going on here? Why didn’t we think of this solution in the first place?
When the box is given with its tacks, we simply assume the box as a container. So we don’t even think it can be used as part of the solution. This is called Functional Fixedness or Bias, and it seriously affects our creativity / problem solving capability.
How can we cure this blindness?
There are many scientific ways for avoiding functional fixedness. But the most popular solution is, having fun!
Yes. Many researches have proved that people who watch a funny movie or cartoon clip before attempting this challenge solve it easily than others. They don’t attach any conventional functions to the objects they see and literally think ‘inside the box’!
* This test was created by Psychologist Karl Duncker
08 10 2010
How do you define the term ‘Happiness’? What about ‘Well being’?
These words are highly subjective. Some may feel earning lots of money is ‘Well being’, while others may insist ‘health is wealth’. For some, the power to control things around them gives happiness. Few may consider an honest work and good night’s sleep as the signs of happiness.
In 2008, UK Government’s “Foresight” Project asked a group called nef (New Economics Foundation) to find out what well-being really means. They conducted a detailed survey / study to recommend how someone can improve their well-being. Their final report suggests five factors as the “Ways to wellbeing”. They are:
- Being Connected (With people around you – family members / colleagues / neighbors / even strangers. Building such connections will support / enrich our days!)
- Being Active (Physical Activity, Mobility, Fitness, Healthy lifestyle etc.,)
- Taking Notice (Being aware of the world around us, Being Curious, Appreciating, Savoring each moment, Thinking about our experiences)
- Continuous Learning (Trying something new, Setting Challenges / achieving them, Raising the bar on a continuous basis) &
- Giving (Social Responsibility, Community Services, Supporting those in need)
By this formula, what is your ‘Well Being Score’? If you read this full report in this URL, you can create your own plans to improve this score –> http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/five-ways-well-being-evidence
N. Chokkan …
01 10 2010