Another View from the Cloud

I just published a white paper on the cloud on the community network over at where I work, software giant SAP. Written together with colleagues Michael Klimentiev and Frank Stienhans, it provides a broad overview of current cloud-enablement topics in the enterprise.

Among all the hype about cloud computing, why should you read this paper above all the others? Because it’s readable and interesting — if I may say so myself!

In this paper we take you through a broad market overview, discuss challenges and market drivers, and examine some of the technical and educational barriers to overcome when tackling cloud enablement in the enterprise.

Doesn’t sound readable to you?

For bonus points, we cite external sources from current thought leaders including a few of my personal favorites Jonathan Zittrain, Tim O’Reilly, and, of course, SAP’s own visionary Vishal Sikka.

If that still doesn’t grab you, cloud-related grammar connoisseurs among you will no doubt notice my stubborn insistence on the term “on-premises” in the paper instead of the apparent standard “on-premise,” based on the actual grammatical differences between the words “premise” and “premises.”

Check it out and then let me know if you don’t agree that probing cloud concerns in the enterprise can be readable and fun!  Thanks!

Cloud-Enabling the Enterprise

Ode to Marilyn Pratt: Honoring the Advocate on Ada Lovelace Day

At the top of the city with @moyalynne and @marilynpratt on TwitpicOf course I’ve known Marilyn Pratt, self-described in her Twitter bio as “SAP Community Advocate working to be a sustainable citizen of the world,” for many years, and yet we only just met this week. I’d never even so much as exchanged email with her until this year, but we’ve had a hearty online relationship. She’s been a big advocate for me – for my blog content (both personal and on the SAP Community Network) and on Twitter. If you’ve been active on the SAP Community Network she’s probably been an advocate for you too. She has been omnipresent and synonymous with online community at SAP, and so it was both stunning and unsurprising when I met her in person to find just how much more she is. Did you know, for example, her first computer language was Assembler, or that she directed IT for a kibbutz? Have you heard about her husband and five children, who are obviously as dedicated to her as she is to them? Did you know she came to SAP, in a roundabout way, as an escape from a truly (literally) toxic situation?

The second I found out Marilyn was visiting Palo Alto from her hometown New Jersey during Ada Lovelace Day, my schedule turned upside-down. She arranged for me to participate in an awesome interview with Marge Breya. She set aside precious time to meet me — out of so many on her schedule — and, most profoundly, she let me show her my home.

I was honored to be able to drive down the road with her, introduce my family to her, take her to the top of my city San Francisco, dine with her, get a chance to sit and share with her, and follow her in her (tireless, and often sleepless) work dedicated to advocating for others — indeed, to “amplifying the voice of the disenfranchised.” She would find spotlighting herself the least worthy cause of all, and it was only under great collective pressure that she finally cracked and allowed me to allow her to — although she would not say so herself — let her tell it the best.

Ergo — in honor of Ada Lovelace Day 2010, I dedicate this to Marilyn Pratt, a true technology heroine who honors us all and makes advocating for the community her (dare I say our) core business. Without further ado: Marilyn Pratt

BONUS VIDEO! Marilyn at work on Ada Lovelace Day in Palo Alto:

“Amplifying the voice of the disenfranchised doesn’t mean a protest voice — it just means making sure that people who might demur have more focused ability to be visible and make themselves heard.”

— Marilyn Pratt, SAP Community Advocate

Whiskey and a Hammer

I’m on vacation next week (first of two in short order this summer), and I’ve been fond of thinking “it’s not a minute too soon.” The past couple of weeks have been very intense, but the work is fun and energizing. Above all, the best part about working is the collaboration, and without a doubt, the various social tools internally at SAP have opened up the world to me at work. This last week was so busy I usually didn’t know whether I was IM’ing or emailing – or twittering?

Among the highlights:

  • My instant-message working collaboration with Michael Biermann. Together with Craig Cmehil, we want to find a whole new way to surface trends and ideas. Michael and Craig are two-men machines of great ideas and skills (and right now may be the most dangerous guys in town); Michael nearly took down the internal wiki in the process – that’s a blast! Thanks Michael for the whiskey and the hammer: and it really does take a village.
  • Moderating the response to an internal newsletter relating to our wiki space, which has been phenomenal – nearly inexplicably so. Again, whole new communities open up to me and I count myself fortunate.
  • Watching and working on the wiki space redesign process between Phil, Will, and Dirk. I’ve concluded that email is not a great way to run design reviews, but I think in the end you guys can gain consensus. Sometimes, it’s good to take a step back and really get a good look around.
  • Working with Jerome across timezones toward an understanding on knowledge architecture. Should be interesting to stay tuned.
  • Wrapping up Pride in San Francisco. It’s typically ironic to me that we get a month to be proud – and then after that? After Sunday we all go back to shame! But seriously – there was much energy inside and out this year. Another kind of importance of community.
  • Our daughter saying goodbye to her favorite teacher so far, Sarah. She drew her a heart and gave it to her. Not even three and she gives us a knot in our throats. Her community.
  • New fire-colored hair. Well, it’s actually apparently a very very bright red, but it looks pink. Is it fuego? Well… you’ll just have to see me after Bandon to find out…

First stop: Bandon, OR. Next stop: Palo Alto. Next stop: Alaska. See you somewhere there!

On sharp minds and the regreening of the globe

When I get to thinking of the global warming and energy crisis, I can’t help but feel that it’s nothing short of irresponsible for energy innovation not to be on the agenda of every large corporation in the world.

O’Reilly, trend-setters in the realm of innovative conferences (O’Reilly Emerging Technology, O’Reilly Emergying Telephony, Web 2.0 Summit and Expo, and more), would seem to agree. They are at it again, this time – for the first time – with the O’Reilly Energy Innovation Conference, coming to San Francisco in August this year.

Some highlights of the planned event, which “grows at the intersection of technology and energy,” are, and I quote:

  • High profile keynote presentations with big players and up-and-coming innovators
  • Concrete, qualitative discussions helping to focus on what is viable now and in the coming, critical decade
  • Launch Pad, an introduction to cool startups, applications, and products
  • Energy Innovation Fair, an evening event that brings together projects, tools, apps, and other innovative technology being created in garages, workshops, and university labs that offer insight into what the future of power and energy will hold
  • Emerging technologies, ranging from smart buildings and plug-in hybrid vehicles to superconductors and enormous wind turbines, are shaping a transformation in our economy and our lives
  • Radical new tools for increasing supplies and mitigating environmental impacts

Sayeth O’Reilly himself of the event:

“Power is going to be a major focus of thought and investment, and it’s going to touch everything. So pulling together people from all these overlapping fields, who would normally hang with their own birds but not those of a similar feather, suddenly make sense.”

Co-chairs include an engineering manager and engineering director from Google:

  • Alec Proudfoot seems to be an alternate-fuel vehicle visionary of sorts. He created the prototype for what became “the first modern high power AC induction electric vehicle,” and does stuff with Google Book Search and Google Maps – as well as advises on energy and transportation issues “in his 20% time.”
  • Chris Uhlik’s career has covered robotics, electronics, software, power systems, and automotive controls – as well as Gmail and Google Book Search.

So why would my company, SAP, take notice?

  1. If O’Reilly’s got it on its radar, I take notice.
  2. Google’s got it on its radar, anyway…
  3. Doesn’t SAP have an interest in the global supply chain?
  4. A different kind of regreening: energy issues will change the world’s economy
  5. Not to mention – energy issues will change the world
  6. Innovation comes from everywhere …
  7. Couldn’t the sharpest minds at SAP help engage in “increasing supplies and mitigating environmental impacts”?

And on that last point, I got to thinking about knives.

While on my couch attempting to beat a cold yesterday, I read an article in the March/April 2007 edition of Cook’s Illustrated on the latest innovations in knives. It caught my eye for two reasons:

1) In thinking about innovation for work, I seem to notice that innovation is key now in every industry (even – maybe especially – in the fast food arena – witness Taco Bell: “Think outside the bun”) – and knife making is no exception. Think about the size of blade – who knew that a blade that is more narrow on the top (non-sharp) part has therefore a more narrow profile overall, and instead of “wedging” the food apart and perhaps tearing it, simply slices cleanly through? And what about the shape and material of the handle, and where your thumb is going to sit? Think about how you rock your wrist during cutting – ergonomics, and whether the handle will slip out of your hands when your hands are wet or greasy. And how often have you been irked by the carrots or potatoes sticking to the blade as you chop – and did you know that this can be mitigated with coating or indents on the blades?

Tons of innovation there – who knew? And – how did they know?

2) Who’s one of the current knife innovators? Porsche. While its knife is not ranked very high by the staff at Cook’s, it is interesting to note instances of a company innovating outside its best-known product. Perhaps they had a lot of leftover chrome.

But – sharp minds and puns aside – I do get to thinking – what in fact DOES the regreening of the globe have to do with SAP, and – more relevantly – what will SAP have to do with it?

Postscripts 2012:

Scandinavian Drinking Songs

Marten Mickos at SAP

Marten Mickos at SAP

Marten Mickos, the CEO of MySQL, finished his very interesting talk on “Keys to Simplicity” with a story about how he helps to connect distributed teams from around the world. Every month, he opens up the airways of “Radio Sakila” (named after the company’s mascot, the dolphin) by running an IRC chat while he “broadcasts” on a conference call, which he described as like a radio broadcast.  Everyone in the company attends, and he describes his broadcast as very open – talking about things that other CEOs might not share. As a bonus, at the end of each broadcast, he sings a scandinavian drinking song! I thought to myself:  Wouldn’t we love to hear more drinking songs where I work, at SAP?

Keys to Simplicity
  1. Thorough design combined with the ability to question prevailing norms.
  2. Frugality — or the ability to say no (leads to great solutions)
  3. Openness
  4. Modularity (decomposition of structure)
  5. Release early; release often (decomposition of process) “If you’re not ashamed of the product you’ve released, you’ve waited too long.” You learn the real challenges ahead when you release early.
  6. Connectedness (APIs, reuse)
  7. Peer reviews
  8. Simplicity a core value
Selected Interesting Quotes
  • “Small things together will create big big things — things never before created” – and everyone can participate.
  • “In the business world, the big revolution is the business model.”
  • “When we build something new, we are always misinformed of what the problems are.”
  • “A physical office is an artifact of the industrial revolution.” — Farmers didn’t have work/play time.
  • Innovator’s dilemma: “Customers lie: They say they want features, but they really want simplicity.”
  • A Web 2.0 quote (attributable to?): “The uncreative mind spots the wrong answers. The creative mind spots the wrong questions.”
  • Leonardo Da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Perfection is achieved not when there is noting left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”