Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Requirements management - further thoughts

(based on various discussions)
The focus is on requirements capture and working with business people that can lead as quickly as possible through to contract acceptance. The requirements will be capture in essentially the same way irrespective of how the solution is engineered (e.g. bought, customised, built/developed, assembled from an amalgam of bought/customised/built components). It is expect the requirements and the design (solution) will progressively elaborated (and related).

The model/reposiotory will:
  • act as a hub or aggregator for many sources of data
  • produce documents (word, PDF etc.) for different audiences often document unique to a time, purpose and stakeholder
  • allow access to authorised users, any time/any where, via a broswer
  • allow visual modelling and analysis
  • allow requirements to be elaborated in design oriented modelling techniques as and where needed e.g. UML, ER, BPEL etc.
  • allow requirements to be elaborated into acceptance and testing documents
  • assign requirements to owners
  • support requirements lifecycle
  • support programme and project (e.g. allocate requirements to programmes, prohects, phases, SCRUM-sprints etc.)
Our approach to requirements management will record how Requirements relate to:
  • Business drivers: goals, measures/KPIs, products/services etc.
  • Business operations: interactions, functions, information, rules etc. (and will link to IRMs)
  • Acceptance - criteria, plans, scripts, steps (repeatable, atomic, objective)
  • Solution elements - as this allows us to understand impact and is the connection to work
  • Programmes and projects - management and delivery work.
Our focus will be on Web portal interfaces, reporting (e.g. dashboards, PDFs, Word docs etc.), model analysis templates for requirements capture reporting now and the initial focus will be on 4 areas:
  • Context - which will look at relationships in the context of business drivers and perspectives on business operation (communicate, do/function/process, decide/rules, know/information, technology feature)
  • Acceptance - which will look at relationships elaborated through to Acceptance tests (more or less as per our Acceptance Management approach)
  • Solution - which will look at relationships to solution elements (existing elements, OTS elements, developed elements, configuration etc.)
  • Project - which will look at grouping e.g. into SCRUM lists; relationships to: Risks, Issues, Assumptions, Constraints, Changes
To start with I will focus on the top two areas and in short term I won't look at connection to an IRM, estimation etc. or data collectors, data extractor, or linking to other sources e.g. bug tracking (JIRA), document repositories (e.g. Team Rooms etc.) as this should be simple enough to add in due course.

Some properties that we will record about requirements are their: State/Lifecycle, Owner, Priority etc.

The expected use of the different elements of the solution:
  • Web portal interfaces - are expected to be the main source of capture and review by most of the people on a project. [using Troux Explorer, Workflow]
  • Reporting (e.g. dashboards, PDFs, Word docs etc.) - will be typically how information is presented (i.e. reports generated from the model/repository) [using Troux Intelligence]
  • Collectors - will collect bulk information from existing electronic information e.g. XLS (Visio etc.), Idiom, Lattix etc. [using Troux Collectors]
  • Extractors - will provide information for other systems [using Troux API]
  • Model analysis templates - will mainly be used by power users for analysis, or for presenting diagramatic views for selected audiences and purposes [using Troux Architect]

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Requirements management - some thoughts

(work on requirements management solutions)
I am focused on requirements for ICT systems in general.

There are a number of constituencies that need to be considered - i.e. people with different orientations. Their views need to be considered as they will provides insights into how requirements should captured, though the orientations are in technology domain not in the requirements domain e.g. :
- Functionally oriented - much development done in the 1970/80s was oriented around functional definitions of requirements
- Data oriented - who are focused on data models and databases
- Object oriented - as many modern general purpose development languages are OO
- GUI/Web oriented - as the systems is often defined by the UI, and RAD approaches are used for this
- Business process oriented - where workflows to define systems
- Business rule oriented - where business rules are key to defining systems
- Service oriented - where the systems are defined by their SI (systems interfaces) and orchestration.
- MDA oriented - where the goal is code generation via platform indendent models
- Microsoft oriented people - where the goal is code generation to a proprietary platform (i.e. with no platform indendence)
- Mobile oriented
etc i.e. there are lots of religious sacred cows in this area.

An approach to requirements management should demonstrate how Requirements relate to:
1 - How the business operates (interactions, functions/processes, information/data, rules, roles/parties) which will be the real world test of fit. This also allows industry reference models to be linked in.
2 - How the requirements are elaborated into definitive acceptance tests/scripts (repeatable, atomic, objective). As these are an expression of requirements.
3 - The solution and its solution elements (screens and/or UI elements, interfaces, reports, queries/searches etc.). As this allows us to understand which elements of a solution are affected by a change in requirements, and which elements are required i.e. expected to meet a requirement.
4 - Project management and delivery work.

What I am interested in is pure requirements capture that will work with business people - and can lead through to contract acceptance (irrespective of how the solution is engineered e.g. bought, customised, built/developed, assembled from an amalgam of bought/customised/built components).

Clearly the various ways of specialised modelling e.g. data modelling, object oriented modelling (e.g. UML), BP modelling, RAD/UI prototyping, etc. are useful. But they are design and designer oriented.

The requirements and the design (solution) is progressively elaborated and we need to avoid a gestalt problem e.g. where the "requirement" is defined using a "technology oriented language" e.g. referencing "objects" - when in fact the solution the implementation technology/strategy may not yet have been fixed. To use a non-IT example - if the technology was "masonry" - and mason may say an "arch" needs to be built, or a "lintel" installed - where are what is required is egress or access (perhaps a doorway).

The requirements management solution must:
- act as a hub for many sources of data (e.g. from many specialised modellers)
- produce documents (word, PDF etc.) for different audiences often document unique to a time, purpose and stakeholder
- allow access to details by any authorised user, at any time, from any where, via a broswer
- allows visual modelling of requirements
- allows requirements to be elaborated in design oriented modelling techniques as and where needed e.g. UML, ER, BPEL etc.
- allows requirements to be elaborated into acceptance and testing documents
- assignment of requirements to owners
- supports analysis of change over time, impact assessments
- requirements to project management (e.g. scrum concepts - to Product Backlogs, Sprints etc.)

RHE has invest a lot of time and energy in exploring most of the methods related to the various delivery technologies list above. RHE has also invested a lot of time and money in looking core enabling technology platforms that would enable a requirements management

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nov 2007 - Misc Technical observations

(prompted by many things)

Social networks ~ MySpace/Google: join forces to launch a new social platform which has a set of APIs for developers to build social applications. The OpenSocial standards are designed to evolve through contributions from the open-source community and from partners like Friendster, LinkedIn, Ning, Six Apart, Plaxo and

IM ~ Meebo service: allows JavaScript or Flash applications to be registered so they can call on Meebo's APIs to send IMs to various IM systems.

Office ~ Document Standards: The South African government is to adopt ODF (i.e. not MS's OOXML). Many countries (Russia, Malaysia, Japan, France, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Norway, South Africa, Netherlands, Korea, Vietnam, Finland/Justice, British/Education, Australia/National Archives) have announced laws or rules that favor the use ODF (over proprietart formats such as MS's "Open XML"). Some are switching to OpenOffice (e.g. France is switching half a million government employees) others are using plug-ins to their existing MS Office suite.

Browser ~ Mozilla's Prism (was called WebRunner): lets Web applications to be stripped from the browser and work on the application if it were a traditional desktop program. It is in prototype, but can separate a Web application from its browser, drop it onto the desktop in its own window, and manage its icon and placement on the desktop like any locally installed program. It is stand-alone application, but they are working on a Firefox plug-in.

Industry consolidation ~ Iron Mountain buys Stratify: who make document discovery software. Iron Mountain sees benefits in combining Stratify's document discovery technology with its storage offerings/services (Cf. EMC and Documentum).

BI ~ IBM buys Cognos: for around $5b. IBM had partnered with Hyperion, BO, and Cognos for BI. Now the 3 major database vendors all have a BI offerings. IBM said they still intend to stay out of the applications space. Though boundary between applications and infrastructures is blurred (e.g. collaboration, communication etc.) They are sticking to SW infrastructures that link to services offerings. (Cf. SAP buys Business Objects, Oracle buys Hyperion, MS buys ProClarity)

Location ~ GeoXG: influenced by OGC/, publish "W3C Geospatial Vocabulary" and "W3C Geospatial Ontologies." The Vocabulary Report defines a basic ontology and OWL vocabulary for representation of geospatial properties for Web resources. The Ontologies Report supplies an overview and description of geospatial foundation ontologies to represent geospatial concepts and properties for use on the Web. Just as there are physical (IP address) and conceptual (domain) locators on
the Web, there are physical (coordinates, sreet addresses) and conceptual (placenames and political divisions).

Identity ~ Oracle Adaptive Access Manager: has 2 components: Adaptive Strong Authenticator and Adaptive Risk Manager. The Adaptive Access Manager adds turnkey Knowledge-Based Authentication and system monitoring dashboard features.

Open ~ Open Systems adoption in Gov: 55% of Gov agencies in the US have been involved in an open-source implementation. 29% who haven't adopted open-source software plan to do so in the next 6-12 months (leaving only 16% not using or planning to use Open source). 90% of those who have implemented open-source software said they believe their agency benefits.
Security is often a top reason for implementing open source and 88% of those in intelligence agencies said that their agencies can benefit from open source (NSA has been supporting a secure Linux project, called Security Enhanced Linux, since 2001). The bugs and backdoors are more quickly identified (and addressed) when everyone can see the source (Cf. MS's SW as the virus vector of choice).

Closed ~ MS's Oslo: (market badge Cf. .Net) will deliver a unified platform integrating services and modelling. It will include changes to: Visual Studio (model-driven design of distributed apps), System Center (direct deployment from aligned metadata repositories across server and tools productswith intermediate steps), BizTalk, .Net Framework (model-driven dev for WCF, WWF), ), etc. due next year. What MS means by Model driven is different from what others mean by MDA - and is more akin to 4GLs offered decades ago on closed prorietary stacks. Oslo has a modeling environment, a BP server and a new deployment models.

Closed vs Open ~ Linux vs Windows in Nigeria: Mandriva (Linux) will provide a customized Linux OS and support for 17,000 PCs for Nigerian schools. The IT Department (Technology Support Center - TSC), plans to wipe the computers' disks and install Windows XP. The agency funding the PCs wants to keep Mandriva Linux on the Classmate PCs. This highlights the battle being waged against business users/funders when their desire is for non-Windows solutions (e.g. by appealing to IT departments, who realise that if stable IT appliances are implemented their arcane knowledge of MS's support resource intensive solutions - will be of little value).

Phone ~ Google phone: wireless handhelds running Google applications and OS are expected 1st half of 2008. Google phones would be open i.e. interoperable with different carriers (not locked to a carrier), portable (run on HW form many vendors e.g. HTC). What is unclear is if it will be Linux based.

Phones ~ Phone to dominate web access: 75% of consumers worldwide will have a mobile phone by 2011. 1.5 billion new mobile consumers are expected to emerge over the next four years (60% from Asia Pac). Smartphone shipments could reach 300m next year (after doubling this year to 200m). Apple aims to sell 10 million iPhones next year.

Phones ~ LG KS20: has a 70mm QVGA touchscreen that dominates the front of the phone so looks a bit like an iPhone, but is cursed with a MS' OS (which is not as slick as a Apple Phone OS). It has tri-band GSM/3G/HSDPA (3.6Mbits ps), browser, Wi-Fi, handwriting recognition, 128MB memory, Micro SD card slot, Bluetooth 2.0, 2-megapixel camera, FM radio.

Phones ~ Google Android: is mobile phone platform (OS - Linux, APIs, customizable UI, mobile browser, IM protocol support, etc.). It supports a custom-built virtual machine called Dalvik designed to maximize application performance and security. Third parties will provide other drivers (e.g. Synaptics will provide Touch-screen driver). It is free, open and expected to results in phones by the second half of 2008 (from many vendors, including perhaps Google). The SDK (includes tutorials, sample code, plug-in for integrating with Eclipse) is available from the OHA Web site. A six-minute video shows two prototype phones that are running Android applications - one device shows a small-screen phone that integrates a contact list with calling capability and a Google Maps, a second prototype uses a larger touch screen (similar to an iPhone) offering a glimpse of 3-D and 2-D graphics capabilities that run over a 3G network. OHA members supporting the initiative include: China Mobile (world largest wireless carrier with 340m subscribers), Deutsche Telekom, HTC Corp, Qualcomm, Motorola, Sprint.

PCs ~ low cost: Everex introduces a $200 Linux desktop Wednesday and will introduce a $300 Linux Laptop. The Desktop (TC2502) has 1.5-GHz Via C7-D CPU, 512MB of RAM, 80GB drive, a DVD player and an Ethernet port (no monitor).

PCs ~ instant on: HyperSpace would offer instant-on functions including multimedia playback, e-mail, IM, browsing or remote system maintenance, all without the ridiculous time need to boot an OS such as Windows. HyperSpace is built on a VM (hypervisor) that is called the HyperCore that allows applications (of OSes) to run independently and concurrently on a single processor, in a way that prevents them from interfering with one another. Phoenix developed the BIOS that PCs run after they power on and before loading a full OS (e.g. Windows) and provides a standard interface to the HW components in a PC. HyperCore will run between the BIOS and the OS and HyperSpace will offer a quick-starting alternative to a full OS. It is very slowing starting to be recognised that MS's propensity for continually adding of new features to Windows (or Office for that matter), or just changing the ways existing features operate (or their UI), is going down a failed path. This is a reason it so hard to actually demonstrate business benefits for upgrading to their technologies that exceed the costs of those upgrades.

Devices ~ Phones a better basis for device that the PC: ARM provides 95% of the CPUs in Smartphones (Symbian, iPhone etc.) and their view is that emerging markets are better served by something evolving from the mobile phone end than something evolving from PC. ARM/Smartphone based devices may be more secure (i.e. ARM's architecture was originally for the Arcon PC which had fixed ROM so the OS was inviolate - so no viruses), cheaper to operated (and phones follow an appliance model - which is far cheaper than the PC model with its common operating environments and associated teams of LAN support people keeping up with continual changes to the OS), greener (they have lower power usage), are more reliable, and a communications oriented (which is increasingly the predominent use of PCs).

PC ~ Hasta la Vista, baby: Exhaustive testing confirms that Vista (SP1) is at least twice as slow as XP (on the same hardware). It is hard to see the business case (e.g. benefits) for implementing Vista in business except of technologist who will: have new technologies to play with, have more work to do - and the IT industry who will be able sell more HW, SW and services.

Storage ~ Flash disk: Samsung is producing sample 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch drives that have a sequential write speed of 100MBps and sequential read speed of 120MBps and use SSD (flash memory rather than magnetic storage). They consume about half the power of current SATA I interface drives and one-tenth the power of enterprise 15,000 rpm drives.

Storage ~ SATA 320Gb: Western Digital ships Scorpio 2.5-in (9.5mm form-factor) SATA (3Gbit/sec) hard drive that can store 320GB.

Storage ~ Volumes up, prices down: 134m hard drives shipped in Q3 (up 21%). Most laptop drives are around 100GB and $50 (320GB laptop drives are $65). Solid-state drive pricing are dropping but they are still an order of magniture (or more) more expensive than disks. Desktop drive prices are not dropping but capacity is increasing (approach 1TB).

Business operations: Oracle buy Interlace Systems: Interlace has software called Integrated Business Planning that integrates data from planning and operational systems to uncover gaps between financial and operational plans. It allows business planners to change operational assumptions and assess the business impact on operations. It uses a "change-based data modeling server" that pulls together data from disparate operational plans into an integrated model to allow multiple users to run what-if scenarios by changing operational assumptions and then see the outcome of the changes on business plans.

MS's comments: MS says "Anytime you're looking at a model, you're only looking at a piece of the application because each of those models is separate," "Today, modeling is really only something that a select group of users and a select group of companies can do,". MS's approach is not about UML (MS is not a a big supporter). A modeling language is part of Oslo (MS's will build its own) and MS say it will unify existing modeling languages ("similar to MS's CLR for application development"). CLR did nothing to "unify" development languages it just locked the execution to MS's proprietary OS. We can expect similiar from their modelling language i.e. it will lock models to their proprietary SW stack.

Infrastructure modeling: Wachovia is generating 3D models of its infrastructures using Tideway (Foundation is a tool for mapping dependencies among applications and hardware) and Intepoint (which focuses on visualization and event simulation for IT systems). The modelling goes down to servers in buildings at present and aims to provide a better visualization of IT assets, power consumption, etc.

Industry consolidation ~ EMC buy Voyence: to assist in the administration of changes in their network and security devices. VoyenceControl manages NW changes and configurations on multiple vendors' equipment.

Industry consolidation ~ Cisco buys Securent (its 125th acquistion) for $100 million. Securent's distributed policy platform lets companies administer, enforce and audit access to data, communications and applications in heterogeneous IT application environments.

Industry consolidation ~ Symantec is interested in buying companies that do: data loss prevention, transaction-based security, server management, and then complementary services across those three software domains

Management: Consolidation Discovery and Analysis Tool allows IBM resellers to evaluate smaller environments of 50 servers or fewer and suggest what IBM products/services should be bought. IBM suggests that server consolidation using virtualization technology can save up to 60% of IT costs while quadrupling utilisation.

Privacy ~ IBM PCI offerings: IBM has some new product/services to help customers tackle major elements of IT security and compliance project work in a more integrated fashion. Driven by privacy associated with PCI (payment card industry) standards. Basically it looks some existing tools bolted together with some services (Proventia Network Enterprise Scanner product with vulnerability checks tailored to address regulation requirements, Tivoli Compliance Insight Manager report templates customized to handle the different aspects of the PCI guidelines, etc.).

Service management ~ Europe ahead: Europe is ahead of North American counterparts in the adoption and execution of IT service management guidelines. Aberdeen say 55% of European businesses are managing their IT as a service according to ITIL best practice framework guidelines, compared to 33% in North America.

Service management ~ HP BSM: is an updated version of Business Service Management (BSM) that allows IT to gauge both technical performance of a service and its importance to employee productivity and customer service.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oct 2007 - Misc Technical observations

(prompted by many things)

Payment: Starhub (mobile operator in Singapore), will offer the payment service in conjunction with EZ-Link (government-owned company that operates a contactless payment service based on cards with near-field communication) technology. EZ-Link cards (or phones with embedded NFC chips, and a Java applet) can be used to pay for public transport in Singapore as well as purchases in some stores by waving them over a reader. A similar initiative was announced in September by SingTel and NETS (Network for Electronic Transfers) which operates a card-based payment system set up by local banks.

Social networks: MySpace will open its platform broadly to outside developers. Since opening its platform to external developers in May, Facebook has built up a catalog of about 6,000 applications, which it credits with increasing its members' engagement on the site and their enjoyment of it (Facebook's has grown to 47m active users today from 12 million in December). Last month MySpace had 114m unique visitors worldwide (up 72%), Facebook had 52m unique visitors (up 270%).

VoIP: Hutchison is offering free calls between Skype users through 3G mobile phones (2-megapixel camera, MPEG3 player, Bluetooth, 16MB expandable to 1GB with a Micro SD memory card). in UK, Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Macau, and Sweden. Their new phone has a large button with Skype's logo that's used to launch calls and IMs. In the UK the handset is free with a a contract (starting at $25 a month).

Capgemini (France) has introduced Customer Care and Intelligence service (CC&I), that focuses on aligning clients' customer care operations with their overall business objectives, rather than merely improving the efficiency of customer care. It will become a stand-alone offering within the company’s BPO portfolio. The service will initially be offered to clients in the energy, utilities, and telecommunications services sectors. CC&I typically starts with specialty customer queues, and then extends the business and process insights to the volume, commodity part of an organization’s customer care.

Mobile UI: Mozilla's mobile Firefox should run on Symbian, Windows Mobile and Linux.

Mobile UI: Adobe wants to see 1 billion phones shipped with Flash Lite (a cut-down version of Flash Player that runs small apps). Flash Lite has been shipped on 300m
devices, and this year Adobe expects 250m Flash Lite phones to ship, giving it 27% of the global phone market. The most popular mobile application platform JME will come preinstalled on about 500 m devices this year. There are 3 billion mobile phones in use today far more than the 1 billion PCs currently in operation.

Mobile UI: Symbian is adding a new graphics architecture (ScreenPlay) as well as enhanced networking capabilities (Freeway) to its mobile OS. ScreenPlay allows for a layered effect (where different applications can deliver information and graphics on one screen) and is designed for the delivery of high-definition video, gaming, and animated interface (implemented in SW on low-end devices, and in HW on high end devices). Freeway is an IP networking architecture that will allow for seamless switching between high-speed networks such as 3G and WiMax.

Web UI: WebEx Connect desktop technology will host Oracle's Siebel CRM On Demand.
This will also give users the ability to integrate WebEx meetings with CRM prospecting activity reports.

Web UI: Google Web Tookit (GWT) is a popular way to develop Ajax applications (Java developers can create Ajax without needing to know JavaScript). This four-part seriesdemonstrates how to use the GWT and XForms to create a dynamic Web applications -

Web UI: XForms seven presentations on XForms (design experience, end-to-end solution development, case studies and driving business value through integration) are scheduled for 03 December at the XML 2007 Conference (Boston). Sessions include:
"Seeing is Believing: Intuitive Visual XForms Design" -
demonstrating that XForms can offer an order of magnitude simplification to the design and development of business applications.
"The Pure Declarative Approach: XForms in Real Estate Forms Case Study" - using almost no Java/JavaScript, mostly XML Schemas (to capture requirements), XML transforms (to create XForms), native XML databases (to store data),
Schematron (to store business rule checks), XQuery (to manipulate and report on XML datasets)
"Creating a Custom Editor for Everything" - how to use XForms to create a custom editor for an XML vocabulary
"XForms and the eXist XML database: a Perfect Couple" - how the XForms 1.1
submission module (which supports REST) can be used to perform CRUD
operations in eXist and how XForms can directly submit
XML database queries using XQuery 1.0 language implemented by eXist.
"XForms, XHTML, and RDFa for Internet-Facing Applications" - The applications include desktop widgets and gadgets, pure Ajax browser applications, web applications that use browser plug-ins such as formsPlayer, and complete standalone desktop applications, running independently of a browser.
"Composition and Choreography of Web Components in XForms" - a programming model for composing and controlling Web 2.0 documents based on the Model-View-Controller design of XForms.


BP/BR - SAP AG is buying Yasu small Indian software company that makes business rules management software to help beef up the BPM capabilities in its NetWeaver applications platform.

F#: MS plans to integrate F# into its Visual Studio. F# is based on the concepts of functional programming. Functional languages treat computation as the evaluation of mathematical functions.

SOA: SCA (Service Component Architecture) stands a good chance of being adopted. MS won't adopt it willingly as enable portability, but open systems vendors will. It is likely that it can avoid the probably CORBA had (partially the demand now for inter-operability is so much greater). Languages that will be supported in SCA cover most popular (non-Microsoft languages) e.g. COBOL, Ruby, Java, C, C++, BPEL, PHP etc.


Laptop: Asustek's Eee PC a low-cost ($340) laptop designed for children and emerging markets sells well. It is less than 1 kg, 7-inch LCD screen, Xandros/Linux, 900MHz Celeron M, 512MB of DDR2 DRAM, 4GB flash drive, built-in camera, speakers and a mic, and has 40 applications (Skype, Firefox, etc.).

Laptop: Intel's new Diamondville chips (extremely low voltage, Core 2 Duo processor, 10 watts) are aimed at low cost laptops ($150-200).

Tablet: Nokia N810 ($479) is a Linux-based WiFi tablet with, Mozilla browse, a camera, Skype, music player, GPS, touch screen and a slide-out full keyboard. It can be connected to cellular data networks via a Bluetooth connection to a mobile phone.

PC: Last quarter there were 67m PCs shipped worldwide (up 16% increase, attributed to a strong demand for laptops). Market shares: HP has 20%, Dell 17%, Lenovo, Acer, and Toshiba (the next 3 biggest)

Phones driving SaaS: MS's software-plus-services (i.e. attempting to extending its hegemony on PC, to the on-lines services market). CEO says: "There's no better way then the cell networks of the world to make this model happen," "The PC is the most powerful device, but the phone is the most popular,"

Phones: Microsoft built a custom Windows Mobile UI for a T-Mobile USA phone built by HTC. The Shadow has a home screen very different from other Windows Mobile phones with a slide a wheel to navigate through icons that take people directly to e-mail, music player and photos. This really seems to be a way to recognise that people want to distance themselves from the MS's usual offerings - awful UIs (not mention unreliable, slow, resource hungry and insecure) Cf. Apple's offerings.

Displays: Sharp LCD measures 55mm across the diagonal and is just 0.68 mm thick (currently the thinnest cell phone screen). AUO's screen is 47mm and 0.69mm thick. Most phones today have screens 1.5-2.5mm thick.

e-Paper: NTT are working on a keypad that changes icons depending on which application is being use. More work must be done to improve the technology e.g. response time, and a move to active matrix


Drives: Hitachi will provide 4Tb desktop and 1Tb laptop drives by around 2010

Solid-state: Alienware introduce a 64GB solid-state storage option for its desktop computers.

Solid-state: FlashMate combines HW, firmware and SW in a system application subsystem that manages a notebook computer's hard drive and enables notebook users to access content on the hard disk drive, without having to power on the notebook e.g. MP3 files, digital pictures, access email (avoiding Windows lengthy boot process).


DSL: Borland is adding domain-specific language capabilities to Together package for application modeling. The DSL Toolkit in Together 2007 is intended to overcome the complexity of UML models by enabling project teams to build model notations aligned with a business domain.


Mobile: MS System Center Mobile Device Manager IT administrators manage and secure Windows Mobile phones (focusing on its closed stack approach). Nokia supports the OMA DM (Open Mobile Alliance Device Management) standard in its devices so that any standards-compliant management console can communicate with the devices. Windows Mobile does not. Intellisync (Nokia) had to build a separate client to install on Windows Mobile devices in order to support Windows Mobile phones in the management software.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


(promoted by new UI frameworks being released)

It is far from clear what the architecture is for creating user interfaces. At present it does not seem a foregone conclusion that closed architecture advocated by Microsoft (i.e. built on proprietary client products and standards) will prevail. Some of the technologies include:

  • Adobe - Adobe's Pacifica is a service that will allow developers to integrate voice, messaging and presence information into applications built using Adobe Flex, AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) or Flash technologies. Flex is Adobe's environment for building RIAs (Rich Internet Apps) and AIR allows those applications to be moved to the desktop. CoCoMo is associated with the next version of Adobe's Connect Web conferencing service and enables parts of Connect's functionality to be integrated into other applications. With Adobe's Web technologies and hosted services, it is not necessary to install new client or server software to collaborate. Business Objects Xcelsius Connector to Adobe LiveCycle Data Services (for data-remoting, messaging, data-management) will allow Xcelius to be used for the visual transformation of analytic data from back-end systems and the graphics to be integrated on RIAs. Adobe and BO also aim to integrate the Flex development environment and Xcelsius to make it easier to create more visually interesting business-intelligence applications
  • AJAX - A common AJAX platfom is anticipated over mobile and desktop access providing a universal content and application platform. Critical areas to address include: JavaScript access to device APIs (a bridge to J2ME is possible), offline and disconnected operation, widgets, mashups, and security. Steps in the right will be: Apple, Nokia and Motorolla shipping WebKit/Mozilla browsers on their mobile phones.
  • XFORMS -
  • Lotus Forms - Web Form Server is an RIA platform that provides the capabilities of Lotus Forms directly to browsers (without the need to install rich client software). On demand page loading improves performance (e.g. it avoids loading data structures for pages not visited by the end-user) and page-level validity checking on page-change operations ensure users can't progress through a wizard experience unless the validity criteria for a page are met. Several new Xforms 1.1. features now supported.
  • Microsoft - MS would like MS Office/Outlook to key elements the UI framework. Unfortunately this locks users into a proprietary client architecture.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Common operating environment - why it doesn't make sense

A common operating environment is proposed as an intelligent strategy by many IT organisations. And it is an intelligent strategy for IT organisation (internal and external to propose) it keeps many people in work fiddling with technology that is best left alone. Unfortunately is not is not in fact a sound strategy for most businesses who would be better served by an appliance model. This model operates successfully in every other domain where their are hardware systems and operating systems. It has issues - but the issues are far less significant than the absurd costs, risks and complexity introduce the common operating environment (and what follows from it).

While most vendors talk about virtual clients, blades and phones and laptops are becoming increasing attractive to consumers and SMEs, many of the devices bought by large enterprises still of course are still desktop PCs.

Historically an enterprise clients were focus predominantly on an enterprise applications. Several trends are changing this:
  • SaaS is meaning that in many cases the applications (services if you prefer) being accessed by someone via enterprise device are not in fact delivered by the enterprise.
  • Externally facing systems mean that increasingly the applications provided by an enterprise are oriented at external parties where they will be access by devices that are not controlled by the enterprise delivering the service (this includes the case of a working accessing their enterprise systems from the home PC).
  • Phones are increasingly being allowed to access corporate systems. Few people are seriously suggest that everyone in an organistion must of should use the same phone (because most people would accept that different people have different needs).
So once it is accepted that the devices will access external applications, and the applications will be accessed by external devices - it is clear that one can't practically technically mandate a standard operating environment for users.

Any good application architecture being constructed (or revised) today - will recognise that heterogeneous client side environment e.g. they will be targeted at browsers (augmented by open technologies e.g. AJAX, Adobe, Flash etc.) and support dynamic (usually on-demand) deployment of client side code. The one exception are those applications built to try and lock people into Microsoft (e.g. via the use of their Office suite as a client side application GUI framework).

This is not an argument for unnecessary diversity of clients (or appliances) i.e. clearly if their a pool of people in an enterprise doing more or less the same thing the simplest things is for them all to have the same appliance. It does however suggest a different economic model, lifecycle and management paradigm. One that is far more economical and efficient than the one advocated my traditional IT advisors.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Collaboration and productivity

Some promising signs re open solutions for inter-interoperability amongst productivity suites and some moves in the communications space (i.e. email and unified communications)

  • Suites: OpenOffice's new releases will offer better charting/graphics, display improvements within Writer, better compatibility between Calc and Excel.
  • Suites: Lotus Symphony is IBM's version of the OpenOffice (StarOffice is SUN's version, and offered also via Google) offering the potential for document portability across tools.
  • Suites: Google - Capgemini is supporting (consulting, integration, helpdesk, and support services) Google Office into enterprise accounts. A lot of Capgemini people are using Google Apps.
  • Presentation: Google presentations completes Googles suite of productivity tools (Word processor, Spreadsheet etc.) that complement its communications tools (mail, IM, blog, content sharing - and soon hopefully a wiki etc.) and link to its calendaring solution. These applications allow authoring, review and viewing by multiple distributed teams in real time. They are not as powerful as the desktop suites - but the provide most of the features most people need, most of the time. For distributed teams they more than make up for any lack of sophistication with their: simplicity and their support for distributed teams.
  • Presentation: TransMedias' Glide Presenter is designed to work both on the Web and on a wide array of mobile phones (e.g. iPhone) and while it can't produce visuals as pretty as Google's it can annoy people by playing video and music during a presentation.
Knowledge management
  • Tacit's Illumio suppports collaboration and analyzes information (e-mail contacts, documents, browse history) to identify people best-qualified to answer questions that are posted. It lets keyword topics of interest be specified by users to they automatically receive alerts when RSS feeds include the topic. It integrates with t Outlook, blogs and wikis.
  • MS sells hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Office Communications Server.
    (they will also make available a SaaS version of Forefront to address the security issues - that their technologies encourage, a shame they don't just produce secure SW in the 1st place). Only customers buying licenses for 5,000 seats or more will be eligible to purchase the new SaaS offerings. MS will offer rebates of between 25%-100% of subscription fees if SLAs are not met.
  • Thunderbird's new organisation will focus on improving the user experience for a range of Internet communications and explore how e-mail should work with other technologies such as RSS, IM, VoIP, and SMS.
  • Yahoo will acquire Zimbra a Web-based e-mail and collaboration provider (for $350m).
  • FaceTime's Unified Security Gateway devices (starting at $5k) is aimed at the full range of unified communications services. USG will include security, management and compliance for IM, VoIP, P2P and secure/manage Office Communications Server and Lotus Sametime.
See also:
Spreadsheets as service

Virus vectors
Open XML a farce
Collaboration race still alive

Current conclusions
  • IM - still no ideal solution
  • Email - any open (that is portable) client and server is fine
  • VoIP - hard to determine what the best solution is investments should be tactical
  • Video conferencing - as for VoIP
  • Presence awareness - as for VoIP - and likely to be affected by location awareness
  • Integration capabilities i.e. into applications (in-house and hosted)
  • Document production - the focus should be on ODF (and certainly avoid moving to MS's extended document formats e.g. .pptx)
  • Document sharing - not a good time to move away from Lotus if you are using it.
  • Content sharing - as for VoIP

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Microsofts virus vectors

Microsoft is using the approach that made IE (and Outlook) such good virus vectors its Windows Live services i.e. tying them directly to the operating system. Fortunately the Live unified installer is still an option, so the services may not be as tightly linked to Windows as IE was.

Data management

There is more to data management than relational databases. What most enterprises lack are high level views that describe the data and how it relates to other aspects of the enterprise.

These conceptual views are implementation independent i.e. independent of the style of technology. These views should relate to logical views (which have an element of implementation specificity to them) and to other conceptual perspectives e.g. rules, functions, services etc. The logical would relate into turn to physical models and implementations. It the combination of this information allows useful business questions to answered.

Styles of implementation technology
RDBMses "long in the tooth" (to quote Stonebraker) and he suggests columnar databases the way of the future.

The focus on row based storage reflects a transactional orientation - rather than a knowledge or collaboration based orientation.

Apart from the issue of where to store data in rows or columns there is also data that is not suited to either: XML and other documents, images, locations, objects etc.

Productivity - Spreadsheeting

The various SaaS offerings may start making a dent e.g. Google sheets, Zoho, eXpresso - as they are allow collaboration and SOA oriented integation

Storage Q3

Storage keeps getting cheaper - Consumers pay $0.86 per gByte (compared to $1.28) a year ago and already 6% of mobile PCs have a capacity of 160GB+. Seagate's 65mm disk for laptops has 250GB (Momentus 5400.4, Serial ATA 3.0 Gbit/sec).

Storage as a service - starts to get more attention see: Amazon S3, Nirvanix (a fully fledged file system the Internet Media File System - IMFS). Facebook has open Data Store API beta program that may indicate plans to offer a data storage service to developers. MS announces Office Live Workspace a free (initially) online storage, file-sharing and collaboration service for users of MS Office (via a "Save as command). A click on a workspace document previews it in the browser (IE/Firefox) and a double click downloads it.

SANs - Dell MD3000i, uses iSCSI, $10k to support up to 16 host servers, room for expansion, and backup and recovery SW - it uses SAS/SATA drives to store up to 18TB on 45 drives

Solid state disk
- In Q1 next year BitMicro Networks will ship E-Disk Altima 416GB ship solid-state disk (throughput of up to 100-133MB/sec).
- Solid-state drives (64GB NAND flash memory) in be a $1k option in all professional series laptop HP PCs (faster, use less power, more durable/shock resistent than disk drives) allowing the PCs to be 25% lighter. Samsung already offer SSDs (32GB/64GB)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Open XML standards process is a farce

How many Office document standards does the world really need. Surely the answer is one.

When a perfectly good standard already exists (ODF) and it is can be supported by all the tools - why does the world need another standard. It is just irresponsible.

Politicking within countries (e.g. paying organisations within countries to vote) and to getting countries with little in the issues of outcome to vote (Cf. the recent entry to JTC-1 of those technology power houses: Malta, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Ecuador, Jamaica, Lebanon, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay, and Venezuela) is ridiculous.

ODF allows the exchange and retrieval of information in office documents.

It reusing existing standards - (instead of reinventing the wheel or using proprietary technologies) like HTML, Dublin Core, SVG, MathML, XForms, XLS:FO, XLink and SMIL. The next version supports RDF-based meta-data - so developers familiar with any of these standards can apply their knowledge to ODF. It also internally reuses concepts (e.g. the definition of a table in a spreadsheet, is almost identical to the definition of a table in a text document - so code written for processing a spreadsheet table can be reused for a text table). The reuse of standards and concepts makes ODF manageable and easy to learn.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Collaboration race still alive

Full collaboration solutions would ideally allow a number of services, from a range of devices (phones, PCs, Web devices) and be fully integrated. The various services include:
  • Instant text messaging (i.e. IM, SMS)
  • Non-instant text messaging (i.e. Email)
  • Voice communications (e.g. VoIP)
  • Video conferencing
  • Presence awareness
  • Document production (e.g. Office suites)
  • Document sharing
  • Content sharing
  • Integration capabilities i.e. into applications (in-house and hosted)
The key enablers to open solutions are standards i.e. for IM/presence, document production and video conferencing. The other are already defined by standards. If standards in remaining areas are adopted the landscape could change quickly.

Instant Messaging and Conferencing
The battle over collaboration technologies remains alive. The different types of players are in and of themselves interesting e.g. SW vendors, NW vendors, eCommerce vendors, Search engines/Portals - as it is the convergence of modes i.e. voice, messaging, video and desktop sharing e.g.
  • Microsoft's latest IM acquisition (Parlano/MindAlign) provides them with persistent IM. Of course they also have MSN and integration into their office/email/document suites.
  • IBM's - Sametime offers most of what WebEx/Skype/IM vendors offer.
  • Cisco's - Webex remains a strong offering from a powerful vendor, but it is hard to see it not getting marginalised as the other suites start to offer most of the conferencing and sharing capabilities.
  • eBay - Sykpe while mainly used for voice offers a IM capability
  • AOL/Yahoo - holds a significant portion of the IM market
  • Google's - Gtalk, seems to not taken off (despite its support for standards).
Document production
There is not common agreement on the use of Microsoft's proprietary formats, but nor has OpenDoc yet established itself as an open defacto standard for document interchange.

On-line office suites: Zoho, Google etc. are starting to offer the off-line capabilities that are necessary to them truely viable for most users.

PC based suites: Microsoft's suites continue to get more bloated and now seem intent on consuming screen real-estate in the same way they have historically consumed CPU and memory capacity - with little if any benefit it terms of productivity or ease of use. OpenOffice provides a perfectly viable i.e. functional, fast, efficient, open alternative for Windows /Linux users. Apple users already have good alternatives.

If the on-line suites become viable, and along with all other suites all adopt an open document interchange standard - then the market could quickly change and people would become agnostic regarding the tool set.


The email market remains open as while Microsoft dominates the PC based suites - it does not hold the same dominance in on-line email, nor does it hold the same position on the mobile/phone based market (and increasingly this is where email is being read).

Document sharing

This is a large and complex area with a range of technologies e.g. blogging, wikis etc. IBM probably has the best solution (on-line, off-line, synchronisation etc.) now based on open-source Eclipse Rich Client Platform, but Microsoft has a popular solution.

Content sharing

This area is evolving so quickly it seems that the traditional vendors will struggle to establish dominance except through acquisition e.g. Youtube, Facebook, Flicker etc. Though if anyone can get dominance it is probably be someone like Google.

Search - excluded for no good reason from this.

Some conclusions

  • IM - there is no ideal solution for IM at present - and most people continue to need to use a range of products/services.
  • Email - any client except Outlook (which is closely couple to the OS) should be fine.
  • VoIP - hard to determine what the best solution is investments should be tactical
  • Video conferencing - as for VoIP
  • Presence awareness - as for VoIP - and likely to be affected by location awareness
  • Integration capabilities i.e. into applications (in-house and hosted)
  • Document production - people should not allow the use internally of the extended document formats e.g. .pptx. It probably matter too much what Office suite most people use.
  • Document sharing - It would not be a good time for organisations using Lotus to move away from it. Sharepoint doesn't offer the same synchronisation capabilities - and is fairly closed (Cf. IBM's standards oriented offerings).
  • Content sharing - as for VoIP

Friday, August 24, 2007

ICT Industry and technology

This is just a place to share some views on ICT industry and technology.