Is There a Future in Cloud Computing?



Over the last year, the concept of cloud computing has continued to build momentum, as it has rapidly moved into the mainstream.  In fact it is now fair to say that cloud as a distinct topic has started to fade into the background; organizations are now simply leveraging all kinds of cloud services as a necessary component of their digital strategies.

This increase in cloud usage means that the boundaries of the enterprise are starting to blur, in particular enterprise IT is no longer defined by ownership or the location of the technology but rather by the value it can bring. But what does this mean for the future of cloud? What will continue to drive this change?

Companies can now create reliable and scalable systems in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years, using cloud platforms to create components that instantly have global scale and reach.  The speed of application development in the cloud – as a result of both higher productivity and the ability to build on the work of others through integration – is therefore a key trend and a real game changer in terms of both the value of IT and the way in which companies leverage it for advantage in an increasingly digital era.

A factor that will continue to have prominence in everybody’s minds in the coming years is security. While security is a critical topic it is also one which is frequently driven by perception and emotion rather than a comprehensive assessment of the risks and benefits involved.  When thinking about it logically, in-house systems often use their position inside the firewall as the single most important factor in ensuring security – but this attitude often simply justifies a lack of development in the kinds of comprehensive security capabilities required to truly secure data and protect it against access from different groups.  Cloud services on the other hand have usually been built from the ground up to be both secure and to keep the information and activities of different tenants separate; perhaps counter-intuitively this means that they are often more deeply built for security than many traditional on premise systems.

These issues may seem obscure at first glance, but with more and more corporate data needing to be made accessible to people and systems outside the bounds of the firewall – e.g. for mobile access, API exploitation or digital supply chain creation – it becomes critical.  The firewall as a security mechanism ceases to make sense when the majority of actors are outside its boundaries – the key is rather to have a much more granular security model focused on securing the actual assets and resources rather than simply creating an isolated community. As a result, many consider the security of cloud services to be higher for emerging use cases, since security is a multi-faceted problem and not simply a factor of ‘where’ data physically resides.

It appears clear from many observations and experiences that the implementation of cloud within businesses will only continue to increase and accelerate. As every business is different, however, so will each business’s journey be unique. The general opportunity they all share, however, is to use the cloud and its integration potential to simplify their business models and to diminish the risks of change by adopting the new behaviors of moving quickly, testing ideas at low cost and rapidly scaling successful outcomes.  In the future, such speed and adaptability will simply be accepted as the only viable route to sustainable and meaningful business execution.

Microsoft Follows Google in European Union’s “Right to Be Forgotten”


Microsoft has decided to also comply with European Union regulations over the ‘right to be forgotten’ by introducing request forms for users who want removal of obsolete or personal information from Bing’s search results.

The law requires national and international companies operating in the European Union to entertain removal requests of links that are either obsolete, outdated, or compromise an individual’s privacy.

As of now, Microsoft requires separate forms to be submitted in order to process a request. It plans to replicate Google by introducing online forms soon, so that it can speed up the process. The form will specifically ask users to identify the link and provide reasons as to why they want it removed, and also requires submitting photo identification.

Google has pioneered developing the online form for users through which they can process link removal requests. The company immediately responded to European Court of Justice’s ruling on May 13, requiring companies to entertain data removal requests. Google received around 12,000 requests on the first day it started accepting forms. Till now, more than 70,000 data removal requests have been filed with the search giant.

Currently, Microsoft’s Bing controls 3% of Europe’s search traffic, significantly lower than the 11% it controls in the US. However, other search engines in Europe, like Seznam in Czech Republic, have adopted different means to process removal requests. They ask users to file removal requests to original publishers first, and then the search engine will alter results once the content has been removed by the original publishers.

The News Beyond the Scandal



Today is one of those days when Google makes it into the headlines with a story which will get more than a brief mention on the tech feature.  This time there’s beauty, drugs, sex and death….this may even get a minute between the cat stories on Good Morning America. I’m not going to dig into the sad and disturbing dirt here because it’s none of my business and no doubt TMZ will do a better job. Even as the crowd gawp at the salacious detail there are a couple of much more important Google stories which will get drowned out by the scandal.

Google Europe has had over 250,000 requests “to be forgotten” following the EU’s puzzling ruling a few weeks back.  Now the British parliament is getting in on the act with government ministers claiming that …no …there is no right to be forgotten and this is all just dreadful. Unfortunately the EU trumps sovereign government so the forgetting will go on.

Yelp has added it’s name to the guys complaining about Google’s monopoly power, again in Europe.  Nobody can do anything about Google in the US as it’s pretty clear they can do no legal wrong. This Yelp pilling on may delay the settlement Google is trying to put together with the EU regulators where they will pay a couple of Billion and get off with a slap on the wrist for favoring their products and partners over the market.

The third Google story which won’t be heard above the tabloid hoopla is the fact that Google owned Waze is starting to share and exchange detailed user behavior with local governments around the world. Given that Waze can exactly tell how fast and where you have been walking running or driving the prospect of them sharing that data even on a anonymous basis is pretty scary.  Our government has enough information about our driving habits and in most cases they have done a horrible job in managing the roads we pay for. What do we suppose they will do with more and more accurate data?  Will they use it to improve the roads or set more speed traps?

Charge That Phone Before Heading to the US


Don’t bring dead phones or laptops to those overseas airports for flights heading to the USA.

Department of Homeland Security officials warned last week that security would tighten at airports where flights head directly to the USA but without providing much detail about how the scrutiny would change. Security officials said Sunday that the attention is focused on explosives that could be disguised as electronic devices.

The Transportation Security Administration issued a statement Sunday saying that as part of its routine screening at the overseas airports with direct flights, checkpoint officers may ask owners to turn on devices including cellphones. Devices that can’t be turned on won’t be permitted on flights, TSA said. Travelers also may undergo additional screening such as pat-downs.

After earlier threats involving explosives in shoes and liquids, most travelers were asked to remove their shoes for X-ray at checkpoints and larger containers of liquids were prohibited on flights. The latest change is an attempt to anticipate the next attack rather than simply react to the last one.

The changes announced last Wednesday met little public criticism. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the threat from al-Qaeda and other groups is constantly evolving and targets aviation.

Cool and Cubical


Google comes out with all kinds of stuff…most of it interesting but occasionally they come up with something which even my jaded eye finds compelling. Their latest addition is cool in exactly the same way Google Glass isn’t. What they have created is a multimedia ‘platform’ which allows the artist to embed video and music on to each side of a virtual cube, each side can be as unique and different as you wish. In the Chrome browser or on an Android device you can rotate the cube in 3D. As each face comes round to your point of view so the sound and images playing on that face at that time become the focus….but each face which you can see something of contributes a little. You can try it here just paste that URL into a Chrome browser. This is a techno/trance number from an Oz band and it’s predictably clubby but I think this could go way beyond just something else to project at a rave. This concept allows parallel narrative from six simultaneous perspectives.

Apparently this started as an experiment inspired by Rubik’s cube and as a challenge to see just what could be done with a browser…turns out quite a lot. It’s not a completely new concept..multiple parallel video has been used in things as diverse as the documentary about Woodstock and the TV series 24. What’s different is that the viewer can manipulate and investigate the cube which makes each individual’s perspective unique. Imagine taking a single incident then telling it from six different perhaps opposing perspectives. Now add in maybe virtual reality and it gets even more interesting. Perhaps we could walk through and around a set of multiple cubes each of which is virtually controlled by the viewer. It sounds arty and maybe a bit trippy…and maybe it is…but it might also be a rather cool new way to experiment with how we express our perspectives through art and Google deserves credit for making that available to anyone with enough imagination and code skills to make it happen

The Facebook Guinea Pig Problem



The recent excitement caused by the release of data on what amounted to a societal lab project conducted on a huge random population of facebook users without consent…let alone informed consent a couple of years ago will no doubt be gone from the headlines in a news cycle or two. The fact that Facebook manipulated the news feeds of millions of their users with the intent of finding out how users responded to deliberately positive or negative content, when compared to the other dozens of negative stories surrounding their handling of private data really isn’t that big of a deal.

We have surrendered so many of what we might once have thought of as rights to privacy in recent years.  Our govornment electronically strips us naked every time we fly, the NSA listens to our phone calls and reads our mail, our police routinely abuse the powers given to them and will shoot you dead without much provocation and with no recourse and we really don’t seem to care anymore. So what if Google also reads our mail and Facebook conducts psychological experiments on us? In a climate where our government can act with impunity and has essentially already been bought and by the interest groups with the largest cheque books should we expect better of companies like Facebook. Should we hold them to a level of business behavior which goes above mere compliance with the legal minimum on non criminal activity. The answer appears to be “no.”  The sad fact is that we simply no longer expect our politicians let alone our business leaders to do the right thing.

Facebooks behavior doesn’t appear to be any more criminal than Google or the NSA reading our mail. A few years back our entire economy came perilously close to complete implosion yet essentially almost nobody responsible for that has been held to account.  If you can destroy trillions of dollars of regular peoples savings simply to enhance your quarterly bonus why would anyone expect a company like Facebook to have any kind of conscience. In the tech world this is problem is compounded by the Silicon Valley superiority complex.  There are a great many very smart people in our industry but the culture of intellectual superiority sudden wealth and in some cases fame has engendered means that ethical issues go largely unaddressed. If it’s not strictly illegal then it’s fine. Nobody will be held accountable, nothing will change, we will continue to enjoy the tech toys given to us by our digital masters in the happy knowledge that people who are much smarter than us are looking out for us.

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead


I’m a huge fan of science…I have a degree in it. Way back when I was working for a tech company installing and training an editorial system at a news paper deep in the heart of Lakeland Florida I heard a night editor muttering to herself about “them making us run false stories.” Out of interest I asked what she had a problem with, it turns out the article at hand was about the discovery of a new dinosaur which moved the age that this particular species to a much earlier period. Not a very interesting story…certainly not more than a couple of column inches. Her problem was that she honestly believed the world was only 6,000 years old as did the vast majority of the other twenty to thirty somethings working in the news room. She thought the story was a plant put there by the scientific community to mislead the people. It was such a cognitively dissonant experience. Here was a room full of what appeared to be nice educated folk who drove cars packed with micro processors to work where they worked all day with complex design and assembly systems who had no problems with the laws of physics and electronics the product of which surrounded them had a problem with my part of science….biology.

It boggled my mind then and continues to boggle it that a nation which such a strong love affair with all things tech can think it’s just fine to pick and choose which parts of science they choose to “believe” in. The poster child for this anti scientific ‘just coz I say so” nonsense is Jenny Mccarthy. The ex nude model turned D list celebrity has managed to parlay her looks and marriage to Jim Carrey into enough juice to campaign against vaccination for children. I understand the pain and frustration of having a child “on the spectrum” (there are several in my immediate family) but that’s doesn’t give you the excuse to make science up. The mere fact that the single study linking autism to inoculation was subsequently proved to be a hoax which led to the Dr. involved losing his licence hasn’t stopped her and her fellow ignoramuses from campaigning against this important part of keeping our kids safe. The body count of preventable deaths sparked by her tomfoolery varies according to who you believe but it’s well on the way to 1,500…all kids whose deaths can at least indirectly be linked to her efforts.

So I was delighted to read today that she has been fired from The View. I have never seen the program but giving her any kind of platform is ridiculous and I’m delighted her short lived tenure has ground to a halt. Apparently everyone on the show hated her. I doubt we will be so lucky that she will now just fade into well deserved obscurity but we can hope. I actually have a theory about her demise. Her network is part of Disney. The attributable body count is about 1,500 and rising and at some point some smart attorney was maybe going to start a class action suit against Disney for allowing her a platform to hurt children. It’s a stretch for sure but I have been sued on more spurious grounds…anything is possible. Would the case prevail…probably not but it would be a PR nightmare for Disney so just maybe the lawyers are the good guys in this case and had her removed as a preemptive strike.

A Blast From the Past


Back in the late middle ages when I was running a good part of one of the big search engines (before it was acquired by Yahoo) we had an interesting relationship with EBay. Back in these far off days they would send over vast lists of keywords which they routinely bid 5c on. These weren’t just obvious product lists there were exhaustive lists of terms which in many cased didn’t seem even remotely commercial. We used to joke that we’d always have one ad match for left handed Aardvark Taxidermists….as EBay would have it in their big pile of words.

So it was with some delight that I read a report today that not only had EBay continued their campaign of bidding on pretty much every word known to man and they were now using that research to attempt to discredit paid search as an advertising medium. Their conclusions were that paid search really doesn’t work because ads for left handed Aardvark Taxidermists aren’t very effective. Back in the day the E-Bayers claimed that their main reason for their strategy was acquiring new users.  That makes sense as how often have you found that the only place online you can find that special thing is Ebay.  Of course as the population of people who don’t buy on Ebay continues to fall recruitment can’t be as large a factor.

I offer you this story not because I necessarily agree with their findings but as an illustration of lengths that the behemoths of our new order will go to throw mud at each other and their respective business models. Of course Ebay would rather have you shopping direct in their ecology rather than clicking on Google or Bing or buying at Amazon. Collecting data from a decade of bidding on absolutely everything is fascinating…but it doesn’t account for the kind of real shopping searches targeted by advertisers and doesn’t take into account factors like ad copy or landing pages. So it’s probably all a bit silly…but still fascinating to watch.

Score One for Big Cable

Atlanta-AereoIn the same way any strategy which relies on your soccer team figuring out how to get past Germany to continue in the World Cup so any new media strategy which relies on the Supreme Court letting you loosely interpret laws is likely to run into difficulties. So is was with a real sense of sadness that I watched the Supreme Court finish of the Aereo business model with a crushing 6-3 defeat today…if that were soccer half the crowd would be gleefully chanting “slaughter” at the top of their drunken voices.

What is it and why do you care? Here’s why….this week my Verizon contract is up. I have Fios Internet and TV a DVR and three set top boxes and that costs a shade under $200 a month. I also pay for Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime to the tune of another $20 per month. I can get pretty much all the TV I watch minus the live broadcast of the big 5  for just the $20 I pay to Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon.  With the smart antenna offered by Aereo i could plug that into a laptop get the big five over the air broadcast on the rare occasions I watch them and cut the cable bill down to  only $25 a month. All in I’d get pretty much all I watch for $50 total.

The supreme court ruled that Aereo was essentially turning an over the air free signal into a public performance which meant they would have to pay royalties. That shut the entire venture down. It’s a pity but given the lobbying power of the cable industry not much of a surprise. A time is coming when the ad soaked garbage put out by the big five will reach a point where many perhaps most of us will simply cut the cable and we will make do with the great independent programming and content we can get through places other than the big cable companies.  This decision has perhaps pushed that a little further into the future…but it’s coming.

Google Taking Its Aim at Domain Registration Services


Google apparently has its eye on larger piece of the Internet. The search giant announced Monday it is testing a custom domain registration service called Google Domains. Google said it decided to launch the service, which still in an invite-only beta mode, after learning that 55 percent of small businesses did not have a website.

While the service will give people the ability to buy customized URLs, Google won’t provide the actual site hosting. Partners such as Wix, Weebly, Shopify, and Squarespace will provide hosting and website building services to registrants. A key factor for Google I imagine is the opportunity for them to bundle in packages which allow the business with the new domain the ability to rapidly integrate it with Google + and promote it with Google AdWords. These kinds of services have been offered by domain suppliers in the past but the relative costs have proved problematic. If a domain provider is only charging $20 per month for site design and hosting tacking on a marketing cost which might be 10 or 10 times that price which nets almost mothing to the folks promoting the service hasn’t historically sat well. If Google is in charge I feel confident they will make that case more compellingly.

Google Domains will offer services such as domain forwarding, customizable sub-domains, and no-cost private registration. In addition to offering access to hundreds new domains such as .guru and .photography, the service will create up to 100 email aliases based on the domain of choice

Google’s presence in the sector could prove disruptive, especially for leading domain registrar GoDaddy, which filed papers two weeks for an initial public offering that could be worth more than $100 million. While GoDaddy has 57 million domains under its management, controlling roughly 30 percent of the domain registrar market, the company revealed earlier this month that it had net losses of nearly $200 million on $1.13 billion in revenue in 2013.