Amazon Zocalo – hands on

ZocaloAmazon has given me the privilege to test their new service Zocalo, which is like a nice dropbox alike frontend for S3.  My first initial feeling is that the whole thing is really, really fast! The upload or download seems to be faster than dropbox or box. The user experience is pretty straightforward and simple, as it should be.

Currently there are only a small set of features; to share and review documents (and having that as Word comments), but I’m expecting in the near future more dropbox options to share folders with other people or more granular actions to documents. Maybe a google docs live collaboration system ?  The 200GB per user really do the difference in corporate or even personal environments. Also, they already have their sync tools available for desktop users.

Amazon Zocalo 01 Amazon Zocalo 02Amazon Zocalo Client

If we look at it, Dropbox is a nice interface for S3 and Box.com started as an interface to S3 as well, so there’s enough space for Amazon to move around and create something better.

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the strange case of Foocall

FooCall is one of those strange cases of an application with lots of potential, yet unleashed.

For those who never used it, Foocall is an application that allows you to make really cheap international phone calls. It basically calls a local number when you do an international call, at a very cheap rate. Since most of the current plans have inclusive minutes for local numbers and not international, calling abroad can be really expensive, so Foocall uses your inclusive minutes as a ‘gateway’ for international dialling plus their own – very low – rate.

They recently upgraded their iphone app 3 months ago and yesterday the android version. It looks really good and ‘stable’. They really needed to push the android version fast, since their last version really sucked and most of the times was a cpu hog.

zackphoneWhy is it then a strange case, for such an app that only does international phone calls ? Well, first because it works, it’s cheap, it already has your phone address book, but strangely it didn’t released any chat features, as lets say, Whatsapp is. Usually most apps start with text and messaging as a feature, because it’s easy to do and scale, then expanding to voice. Now Foocall does voice perfectly well, but never started doing messaging and if it did, I’m guessing that it could easily take Whatsapp or Telegram on this. Setting up and entire voice infrastructure is way more complicated than scaling a message queueing system.

The other thing that really surprises me is that even their website is so 90′s. Now imagine it on a hipster version, doing messaging and media sharing.

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captains log; mostly doing this

windows

Lately I’ve been using Windows. No, this isn’t a OS war again, but just a personal thing. Windows 7 was really good. Now with 2012 and the 8 thingie, is really, really awful. I always defended the right tool for the job, and sometimes it was Windows, I’m that pragmatic, but these latest versions are completely wrong, complicated, bloated on the UI. Even the Windows 2012, for a server version, looks like Vista, but worse. Thank god there’s PowerShell.

 

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first world cloud problems; your code

Rackspace launched a new service, the “bare metal cloud” (more info here), because neighbours can be loud and you need some privacy and performance. Basically it’s Openstack on bare metal service and even Ubuntu joined the bandwagon with their MAAS (Metal as a Service).

Cloud Computing premise is to take full advantage of a massive distributed computing platform, automatically using and sharing resources, by lowering costs and operational effort. Metal as a Cloud is quite interesting, but saying that it solves your problems of performance and multi tenancy is like saying that you should stop using the tube and start using your own car, because you don’t like people around you and you get there faster – which is not necessarily true.

We deploy software on those cloud servers, we build services on top of software and we use the cloud to scale them or manage in an easy way. In the 90′s and 2000′s, when we had a problem with software (bad performance normally), we just bought more hardware and throw at the problem – more disk space, more memory, more cpu. 9 out of 10, bad performance was not because of the hardware, but because of our faulty or badly written software. We didn’t had time to optimize it properly, so we just get more and faster hardware.

Bare metal cloud is pretty much the same, masquerading our bad written software, with faster hardware. So, if you need more performance, maybe you should get a new look at your code and optimize it first, build it with cloud in mind and not blaming it on the cloud.

simpsons cloud

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Fire – Amazon new shopping device

Everyone’s talking about the new phone from Amazon and its new 3D features. Which are rather cool, such as the device itself. But for me the most important thing that Amazon launched, is their new shopping device. Yeap, this phone.

Firefly combines Amazon’s deep catalog of physical and digital content with multiple image, text and audio recognition technologies to quickly identify web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, plus over 100 million items, including movies, TV episodes, songs, and products. Simply press and hold the dedicated Firefly button to discover helpful information and take action in seconds.

This is the most interesting thing; an integrated way to do shopping, seamlessly with your Amazon account. Utterly this isn’t about Amazon taking a slice of iOS or even Android, but rather giving their customers a new device to deal with content and shopping. For me, Amazon is like the angry panda, disrupting the way people buy stuff.

Angry Panda

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opensource; the latest PR stunt from Tesla

Disclaimer: I love Tesla cars!

The Good: Tesla Motors yesterday did something that no one would ever expected. They opensourced their patent portfolio and give it to the world to use it in a good faith.

The Bad: We still don’t know what good faith is. It seems like those internet providers pr stunts of saying “unlimited downloads within fair usage”, and we know what that means.

The Evil: No, It’s not because they had 3 cars that got fire – and I’m looking at you GM. But, the electric car is quite a few billion cars away of being something mature and even considered an option (no, the world isn’t just California), so giving up on patents might even accelerate some development in this market by other manufacturers. But Tesla is more “evil” than it seems. Let me give you two examples: Tesla Station and Testa Batteries. Both the fuel for electric cars. That’s where the money is and will be; something that electric cars will need and consume on a daily basis.

We all know how the consumer printer market works. First the device (printer) is considered cheap and accessible to anyone, then the consumables (printer and paper) are quite expensive. I still remember when 3 ink cartridges costed more than the whole printer.

Printers and Cartridges

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why I ONLY share content on Linkedin

Linkedin has for some time now articles from known sources and famous people, but recently (last few months) has opened that to everyone on the network, to post longer articles as in a blog-thing-feature. Obviously that the herd started to use it to show off their skills and to “enhance network” visibility and whatnot. Minions, I say.

So a couple of months ago I got the option to promote my content as an influencer (me, right?!?) and write some interesting stuff. Which got me thinking again about a blog and since people keep asking me to return to a more writing format than rather just 140 chars, I was tempted to give it a shot.

Then I somehow stumble up the fine print and realized that I would be working for Linkedin if I did that.

Additionally, you grant LinkedIn a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any information you provide, directly or indirectly to LinkedIn, including, but not limited to, any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques and/or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties.

This paragraph by itself is quite amazing. Everything I would write there would be Linkedin property to do whatever they wanted to, right up into the infinity and beyond. It’s just like going to a bar with some friends and there’s a sign saying, “everything you say here is ours to do whatever we decide to”. Now, I know that Twitter and Facebook have a similar policy, but you’re not going to use them to blog stuff, are you ?

Linkedin for Old People

I still like Linkedin a lot, it’s perfect as a professional network, but that’s it. Content is everyone intellectual property and should be treated like that. So mine goes to my own blog, to do whatever I want to and decide. I use Linkedin only to share content and not as a content platform.

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when Wired goes bananas

So, Wired came up with an article regarding the new iOS 8 notifications, which in their own words are going to be awe-what for it-some! The full article is here, but when you do a full comparison with the features announced with the ones that Android already has, it’s truly amazing to see how fanboy the author is.  The best part for me is this one:

Interactive notifications will spur all sorts of new behaviors. (And yes, Android already has interactive notifications, but the ones in iOS 8 look to go beyond what KitKat can do.) Some of these will be simple, like the ability to reply to an email or text message. But they’re powerful in that you can do this without quitting whatever you’re already doing. And this interactivity is not just limited to system apps. Third-party developers can take advantage of this new capability as well, so you could comment on something on Facebook, respond to a tweet, or even check in on Foursquare. But others are going to be radical, stuff we haven’t imagined yet.

stuff we haven’t imagined yet“, because with all the others is stuff we’ve yet imagined….  To sum these new iOS 8 features;

new iOS 8 features

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the evolution of cloud competition on the magic quadrant

A couple of weeks ago I’ve wrote about how Amazon is leaving its competition behind when it comes to cloud computing – “mirrors and snails in the cloud”. So now Gartner just released its magic quadrant for 2014.

gartner mq 2014

There’s quite a notable difference from 2013, where Microsoft was a Visionary and now a Leader, while Google’s now a Visionary. Check my article about containers to find out why.

gartner mq 2013

Even if we look back at both 2012 and 2011, Amazon never left the Leader board.

gartner mq 2012gartner mq 2011

It’s incredible how things change and we can see that for future companies IT doesn’t matter (by Nicholas Carr) any more, but rather what you do with it.

 

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API’s are the new karma

Today, Simon Wardley on twitter while in a talk regarding Amazon AWS innovation and competitors, said that there’s not that much innovation from Amazon competitors, just pointless differentiation, e.g. APIs’. Which I entirely agree. Competition for me happens when; you can lower your price against your market – lowering your profit, you can have the same price but with more features, or less features and cheaper price. That’s pretty much how to do disruptive innovation, and Amazon is alone in that field when we’re talking about cloud computing.API all the things

But, what does that have to do with API’s ?? Well, API’s are “pointless differentiation” – and I’m citing Simon out of context here. (Web)API’s are the new EAI, publicly open but it’s just like karma. Someday it bites you in the ass!

See the Twitter example and this post from Nova Spivack. Don’t get me wrong, API’s can be and are a good thing. It brings openness to the web, new ways to interact and connect, but also usually can give startups/programmers an option to develop new services on top of someone’s else infrastructure, and that’s where the problem resides. Other people infrastructure. You can’t control it and it’s not a business. Someday you can be shutdown without any notice or even worse, the work you developed by extending that product using their API can be easily replaced by the them.

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the IT world will be a container shipping industry

If we look at the current IT world we can see that people want to move their infrastructure, services and business into a more cloud environment, because running yourself those datacenters can be such a headache, expensive and honestly, IT is now fully commoditized. But “the cloud” is nothing new, it’s just the evolution of virtualization and distributed computing made right. Which is a still a big step for a lot of companies that use monolith systems.

Running infrastructure is not easy. We need to deal with hardware, network, a/c, operations, disaster recovery, sysadmins and a lot more underneath that people don’t realize. So when there’s a chance to outsource it to someone who can do it better than us, we’ll do it. That’s when hosting and managed datacenters appeared. Yet we want to move faster, simultaneously, concurrent and we needed help to creating one huge managed cluster. So, cloud was born.

Still, one of the problems that we didn’t sorted was how to move infrastructure in a fast, easy way and completely agnostic of the provider. If we top that with the need to merge developers with sysadmins (devops), then we need new tools and services to create this new infrastructure. So we call that containerization.

I already talked about docker here and here, but recently Google announced the quantum leap for it. They are using 2 billion containers per week, everything is running in a container and they call it “Let me contain that for you“.  More details can be found here “Containers at Scale” from Joe Beda. This is pretty much chroot with steroids and done right. The last time I worked with it was running a large operation of Solaris, back in 2004 and we used zones. It’s interesting to see how 10 years after we’re getting back to it again.

Google Containers

So, a container is a weathering steel box with standardized dimensions, which can be loaded and unloaded, stacked, transported efficiently and transferred from one mode of transport to another without the need to be open. This is going to be pretty much the picture for the next IT world. We’re not going to care about who’s going to transport it, load or transfer as long as we do it in a standard mode, keeping our stuff safe inside and sealed. 

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cloud is new the new opensource

A few years ago, when people pitched opensource to government, it was all about the price, lower operational and infrastructural costs and to improve technology. Then the professional consultant woke up and the market shouted for the lack of support, integration and resources with knowledge to operate that new technology. That was the picture when I worked for the Portuguese Ministry of Justice.

Fast forward 7 years, we’re facing the same issue, but with the “cloud”. The same main reason that people pitch is around price, to lower operational and infrastructural costs, and improve current technology stack. Then the other side keeps shouting about support, about the legacy that they’ve sold years ago and how hybrid cloud is probably the best thing.

It is obvious to understand that the “other” side is the big consultancy firms, big software companies and those legacy systems integrators and suppliers. The same “old”.

bla bla cloud

For me and for Methods Digital (were I run the Infrastructure and Platforms practice), moving to the cloud is not about technology or even price – that’s too obvious – but rather a new way and opportunity to change current processes and workflows, in an agile, secure and affordable methodology. It’s about design and architecture, on how to give a new hope to the current legacy infrastructures, applications and businesses.

This FUD used on cloud now was previously used on opensource – exactly the same. History repeats itself.

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