The dawn of Social Software as a Service
We are in the midst of a Social Networking revolution as we progress to the next decade. As technology becomes more complex in a flatter world, cooperating and collaborating will not only be necessary but also essentially imperative. McKinsey in its recent report “Wiring the Open Source Enterprise” talks of the future of a “networked enterprise” which will require the enterprise to integrate Web 2.0 technologies into its enterprise computing fabric.
Another McKinsey report “The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday” states “that Web 2.0 payday could be arriving faster than expected”. It goes on to add that “a new class of company is emerging—one that uses collaborative Web 2.0 technologies intensively to connect the internal efforts of employees and to extend the organization’s reach to customers, partners, and suppliers”
Social Software utilizing Web 2.0 technologies will soon become the new reality if organizations want to stay agile. Social Software includes those technologies that enable the enterprise to collaborate through blogs, wikis, podcasts, and communities. A collaborative environment will unleash greater fusion of ideas and can trigger enormous creative processes in the organization.
According to Prof. Clay Shirky of New York University the underused human potential at companies represents an immense “cognitive surplus” which can be tapped by participatory tools such as Social Software.
A fully operational social network in the organization will enable quicker decision making, trigger creative collaboration and bring together a faster ROI for the enterprise. A shared knowledge pool enables easier access to key information from across the enterprise and facilitates faster decision making.
Enterprise Social Software enables to access a shared knowledge pool across the organization. Employees can share ideas, seek out expert opinion and arrive at solutions much faster. Social collaboration tools can truly unleash a profusion of creative ideas and thought across the organization and enable better problem solving abilities.
Clearly the social network paradigm is new concept which needs to be adopted by any organization which wants a greater marker share and a faster time to market. In today’s knowledge intensive world the need for an enterprise strategy that is focused on enabling collaboration through the use of Web 2.0 becomes obvious.
However enterprises which would like to embrace Social Technologies would face the twin challenges of i) developing the application and ii) secondly deploying it on their own data center.
Enterprises would be faced with the typical “build-vs.-buy” quandary. Organizations that want to benefit quickly from Web 2.0 technologies would prefer a buy rather than a build option.
Besides, the deployment of a Social Computing platform would require the commissioning of large data centers to allow for simultaneous access by the platform users. But the attendant problems of maintaining a large data center can be very intimidating. The top 3 challenges of large data centers typically center around the
a) The problems of data growth
b) The challenges of performance and scalability
c) And the sticky issue of network congestion and connectivity
It is against this backdrop of relevance of Social Software vis-à-vis the enterprises’ need for collaboration tools that Social Software as a Service (SSaaS) makes eminent sense.
If SSaaS could be provided as a service to enterprises with the option of either deploying it on a public or a private cloud it would make the service very attractive.
Enterprises would not have to go through the software development lifecycle of developing the social collaboration tools besides also saving them the upfront capital expenditures of creating the associated data centers. In addition the enterprise would also not have to face the technical challenges of maintaining the data centers.
Enterprises could either license the SSaaS tools only for the organization’s internal use among its employees or it could open it to its employees, suppliers and partners enabling a greater collaboration of ideas and thoughts.
The SSaaS & cloud service provider would charge the enterprise on a pay-per-use policy based on the number of users of its compute, storage and its network.
An SSaaS service would be a win-win for both the service provider and also the enterprise which can tap the creative potential of its employees.
Social Software as a Service (SSaaS) will be extremely attractive as we move to a flatter and a more knowledge intensive world.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Dreamcap: Vish could feel the cool spray as he water skied in the Mediterranean. He leant back against the cable as the boat arced across the water sending a shimmering spray in its wake. It was a bright, sunny day and it was exhilarating to feel the cool warmth of the sea.
Rrrrring…Rrrrring. He woke up with the start and involuntarily wiped his face expecting it to be wet. He then realized that he had been asleep and had been dreaming. He took off the ‘dreamcap’ from his head. He had recently bought the latest version of the dreamcap from Illusions Unlimited, Inc. which boasted of near life dream experiences. The dreamcap allowed one to visit and experience places in one’s dream based on personalized choices. “I must download the mountain climbing dream experience” he thought to himself.
The Message: He took a look at his cellphone. There was a brief message “Urgent: Threat of a dangerous net freeze within the next 24 hours. Please check your Wallbook for details. Vish snapped his fingers as he sat in his bed. A screen in the wall across him slid smoothly to the top revealing a LCD screen which came to life on his Wallbook. He closed his fist and opened the index finger and pointed it upward. His email utility opened and displayed a list of messages. Vish pointed his index finger on the screen and followed the cursor as it moved across the messages in his Inbox. There were several messages marked Urgent: Need immediate attention. He pointed his finger at the earliest message of the day, dated 14 Jun 2028, 12:18 am and unpinched his thumb and index finger. The message opened. It was sent by his boss at the Intelligence Bureau (IB). “We have received several anonymous tips about a possible net blackout targeting the entire World Wide Web. We have been informed that a start will be made in the city of New Delhi tomorrow at 2.00 pm and will continue to lockout the entire web within the subsequent 24 hours. I need not tell how serious this threat is and the damage it can cause” Sd. Ravi. He pinched his fingers and re-scanned the other messages. Finally he snapped his fingers and the screen slid back across the wall.
Several thoughts raced through Vish’s mind all at once. A net blackout was the worst possible terrorist threat. The damage, loss of money and the mental agony would be immeasurable. He remembered reading a report in the media which claimed that the number of connected devices on the internet had exceeded 542 billion. The world was so connected that the internet was the umbilical cord for the world. To sever the umbilical cord was almost tantamount to murder. The terrorists might as well “press a reset button and send everybody back to the Stone Age” thought Vish.
GNS: Vish belonged to a unit which held the most important position in his bureau. He was the head of the “Special force for Global Net Security (GNS)”. His team specialized in all forms of counter measures to hacking, information stealing and net spying and denial-of-service attacks
Vish quickly gave orders to his deputies to start a search for suspicious activity in the internet and in the mobile network in the last week or so. “Start search agents across the net” he ordered his team. Search agents were specialized and automated software code which could scour the net – SMTP servers, messages, and web pages for key words that give away information. The software agents would crunch terabytes of data and detect key patterns to determine the level of threat.
Vish meanwhile contacted Interpol to see if he could get any more information from. The Interpol also mentioned to him that software search agents were underway and they had not as yet turned up any further information.
A few hours later the only information they were able to get was a re-confirmation that the initial attack would be at New Delhi. The latest information found out that the net black out in New Delhi would happen around 8.00 am instead of 2.00 pm. Vish knew that he was really racing against time and he had to crack this as soon as possible.
Messages and calls later only contributed to further frustration. Around 6.30 pm, his chief Ravi called him and said that he had received orders from Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), on advice from the Prime Minister’s Office, to take the services of “The Council”.
The Council: Vish had heard of “The Council” on a couple of occasions during his career. He knew it was more powerful than the highest Intelligence Unit in the country and its word was final and binding on all matters. However there were many said that “The Council” never really existed. He got the address of the office of The Council from his boss and made the way to his car.
Vish got into his car and punched the address of The Council in his GPS unit– No: 8, 5th Cross, Mahatma Gandhi Road, GreenPark, New Delhi-2. He also set the car on “auto” and pressed the ignition button. The speaker in his car came to life and said “We will arrive at the destination in approximately 45 minutes and 25 secs through the fastest route. Kindly confirm route” and the display showed the route”. Vish said “OK” and the car smoothly eased itself out of the parking lot and made its way to the highway. Meanwhile Vish checked with his team to see whether any progress was made. He asked his team to ensure that anti-virus and and net sniffers in New Delhi were upgraded to latest version. While he was in the midst of a discussion with his subordinate the speaker of his car came alive again and said “There is an accident at the crossing of 25th Cross and 2nd Street. Need to take a diversion. We will arrive 12 minutes and 22 seconds later. Kindly confirm”. Vish cursed and muttered ‘OK.”.
Finally Vish arrived at 8, 5th Cross onMahatma Gandhi Road. It was house in a rather dilapidated condition. He opened the door and entered into what seemed like a small hall. On the opposite end was a slot which said “Insert identity card”. Vish inserted his plastic identity card and the screen flashed “Vish Aadvik, Special Agent, Intelligence Bureau” followed by a command “You may now enter”. The door ahead of him swung open and Vish entered into a large room which seemed to be empty. As soon as he stepped inside the room he heard announcement “Please say your name and purpose”. Vish said ‘Agent Vish Aadvik. To meet the chief of The Council” he said to no one in particular. “Thank You” the voice said. “They must be using voice recognition” Vish thought to himself.
As Vish walked across the room he was unaware of several horizontal beams scanning him. The beams scanned his iris pattern besides scanning and analyzing his gait as he walked across as the room. Behind the scenes powerful algorithms were analyzing his bio-metric signatures and analyzing the unique pattern of his walk as he shifted his weight from one foot to other. When he reached the other end of the room a door opened accompanied by the announcement ‘Verification successful. Welcome, Agent Vish Aadvik! The chief will meet you shortly”. When Vish stepped to the other side he was surprised to see that he had entered into what seemed to be a small open settlement with several huts spread across among garden that was well maintained.
Every now and then he noticed a few people walk across with golden ochre robes. “This looks like an ashram” Vish thought. Presently, a short but cheerful man, in golden ochre robes, walked over to Vish with a watering can and said “Vish, I will be with you shortly” and proceeded to water some flowers. The man later announced “I am Sadhu Arthatma and I am the chief of the Indian wing of “The Council” he said.
The Ashram: After some time, the Sadhu invited Vish to his hut. They sat cross legged on a mat in the floor inside his hut. Vish said “I expected to see a lot more gadgetry and electronic wizardry here. This appears to be just an ashram”. The sadhu smiled.
Vish fought down the surging skepticism he felt inside but proceeded to relate the facts “Swamiji we are faced disaster. We have received an alert of a possible complete internet blackout within the next 24 hours. We need any help you can provide, though I am not sure how you can help” he added.
The Way: The sadhu then proceeded to explain The Council was a psychical connection between the sadhus of India, Taoists, Zen monks, the abbots and nuns spread across the globe. He said that the ancient concept of attainment of Nirvana or the ability to experience the Infinite had been perfected by the psychics of the world. They could through intense meditation attain the Brahman also referred to as the Tao by the ancient Chinese or Satori in Zen Buddhism. The Brahman was the collective conscious of all mankind.
Sadhu Arthatma said “The Brahman is an infinite database that contains all the past and present human experiences, ideas and thoughts. It is far more comprehensive than all the information in the World Wide Web. The trick is to be able to tap the right intelligence from this infinite and changeless phenomenon.” He further added “the difficulty of plumbing this Brahman or Tao is that a lot of the information in it is non-verbal. It is extremely difficult to decipher the thought process behind these non-verbal insights. In fact we undergo specialized training in cracking this non-verbal code in the Brahman”
“Oh, is this what is also referred as the collective unconscious by Carl Jung, the 19th century Swiss psychiatrist” asked Vish.
“Yes, that’s right. We go through an entire life of training and practice to be able to scratch the surface of this infinite collective conscious. It requires extreme levels of mental and physical discipline” the sadhu said. “There are only a handful of us who have really made any inroads into this discipline”.
“What is the Tao like?” asked Vish.
The Swamiji replied “The Brahman cannot be expressed in words. The Brahman or the Tao can only be experienced.”
“Swamiji isn’t the ability to experience the Brahman equivalent to obtaining enlightenment or in other words complete freedom from the tyranny of existence” Vish asked.
The sadhu grinned and said “Haven’t you heard the saying – Clean and wash vessels before nirvana. After nirvana, clean and wash the vessels.”
“Life continues as before he added. Anyway let me communicate in psychical medium with my brothers and find out what they know” sadhu Arthatma said and closed his eyes and started to meditate.
After a couple of minutes the Swamiji opened his eyes and said “I am sensing deep pain in several parts of the globe. This appears to be a remnant of the recent flood in Afghanistanand the enormous loss of lives. We need to probe deeper and identify the areas where the deception is strong. We need to all collectively zone in that area and scour the psychical medium to get more details.”
“I will be probing deeper into the collective unconscious. I just need to muster all my energy as this probe is bound to mentally and physically exhausting” the sadhu said.
At this point Vish got a message in his smart phone that the New Delhi WAN network had been completely paralyzed. The message also mentioned that next target in 3 hours would be New York, Beijing, Tokyo, London and Paris.
Vish urged the Swamiji “Could you please get me the information in the next hour Swamiji. The New Delhi network has already experienced a blackout. The next possible attack is on 5 of world’s major cities”.
The Swamiji calmly replied “The descent into the Unconscious is beyond Space and Time. In this medium there is no real measure of time as we know it. It could take me 5 secs to more than a day depending on my physical ability” he said.
“But Swamiji, this is really urgent” Vish pleaded. “Let’s see” the Swamiji said and closed his eyes to meditate again.
The minutes seemed like hours to Vish. He was extremely restless and watched with growing impatience at the immobile Swamiji who was lost in a trance.
After about 42 minutes the Swamiji finally opened his eyes and said “Vish with help of my brothers we have located that threat is originating from Sicily. We do not fully understand the technicalities of the threat resulting in the net blackout. However we found that the threat was based on certain patterns of ideas around the following words namely “clock, idle pattern, anomaly, skew. I am afraid to get further information may take us more than a couple of days”.
Vish pondered over the words “clock, idle pattern, skew and anomaly” and wondered how it could be used to bring down the network. Vish said “Thank you” and left the ashram.
Back at his office Vish discussed the transactions with the Swamiji. The IB worked feverishly and threw a lot of ideas around the Swamji’s information
The Anomaly: After about an hour they discovered that the threat was based on a truly ingenious scheme to infiltrate virus code into servers. The modus operandi was to infiltrate virus code into servers by skewing the clocks of the servers.
The chief technologist of the IB explained to team “The data links between servers normally send an idle pattern consisting of the following bit pattern “0111 1110” from both ends to indicate that the link between the servers is healthy. However to detect the pattern the clock frequency on the servers on either end of the link should be perfectly synchronized. The clock’s frequency should allow the servers to check whether a bit is ’0′ or ’1′. For this to happen the the clock should allow the bit to be sampled or checked at exactly the middle of the bit to be able to correctly determine whether the bit is “1” or “0”. The synchronization is based on a centralized view of the time which is based on a protocol called Network Time Protocol (NTP). By skewing the clock frequency of the servers the hackers were able to infiltrate malicious code” the chief technologist continued.
Vish understood that the net hackers were able to cleverly corrupt the NTP protocol and trick the clocks on the servers to run at slightly slower frequency. In between the slower clock cycles the net hackers infiltrated malicious virus code. So while the server assumed it was detecting the idle pattern it was also downloading harmful virus that brought the server down.
No sooner than they cracked the problem, Vish sent urgent messages to Interpol on the scheme and to ensure that a clock was prevented. Simultaneously a crack team tracked the evil perpetrators inSicily.
A serious catastrophe had been averted and Vish felt extremely pleased with himself.
The next day, Vish decided to visit the Swamiji and convey his gratitude. He drove to No: 8, 5th Cross Street,Mahatma Gandhi Road. He entered the house and went through the same process. He quickly walked across the large hall. As before, the door swung open.
When he stepped through the door he was completely taken by surprise.
For on the other side of the door was a large park with neatly manicured gardens. There was no sign of the ashram he had seen just a day before. “Could my experience of the ashram have to do with Augmented Reality (AR)? Possibly a projection of an ashram was superimposed on the garden” he thought.
He then realized that it was imperative that the coordinates of “The Council” must be protected at all costs and hence the illusion of his having visited The Council.
He shook his head and walked back to his car.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Published in Telecom Asia, Jan 11,2012 - Technological hurdles - 2012 and beyond
You must have heard it all by now – the technological trends for 2012 and the future. The predictions range over BigData, cloud computing, internet of things, semantic web, social commerce and so on.
You must have heard it all by now – the technological trends for 2012 and the future. The predictions range over BigData, cloud computing, internet of things, semantic web, social commerce and so on.
In this post, I thought I should focus on what seems to be significant hurdles as we advance to the future. So for a change, I wanted to play the doomsayer rather than a soothsayer. The positive trends are bound to continue and in our exuberance we may lose sight of the hurdles before us. Besides, “problems are usually opportunities in disguise”. So here is my list of the top issues that is facing the industry now.
Bandwidth shortage: A key issue of the computing infrastructure of today is data affinity, which is the result of the dual issues of data latency and the economics of data transfer. Jim Gray (Turing award in 1998) whose paper on “Distributed Computing Economics” states that that programs need to be migrated to the data on which they operate rather than transferring large amounts of data to the programs. In this paper Jim Gray tells us that the economics of today’s computing depends on four factors namely computation, networking, database storage and database access. He then equates $1 as follows
One dollar equates to
= 1 $
≈ 1 GB sent over the WAN
≈ 10 Tops (tera cpu operations)
≈ 8 hours of cpu time
≈ 1 GB disk space
≈ 10 M database accesses
≈ 10 TB of disk bandwidth
≈ 10 TB of LAN bandwidth
As can be seen from above breakup, there is a disproportionate contribution by the WAN bandwidth in comparison to the others. In others words while the processing power of CPUs and the storage capacities have multiplied accompanied by dropping prices, the cost of bandwidth has been high. Moreover the available bandwidth is insufficient to handle the explosion of data traffic.
In fact it has been found that the “cheapest and fastest way to move a Terabyte cross country is sneakernet (i.e. the transfer of electronic information, especially computer files, by physically carrying removable media such as magnetic tape, compact discs, DVDs, USB flash drives, or external drives from one computer to another).
With the burgeoning of bandwidth hungry applications it is obvious that we are going to face a bandwidth shortage. The industry will have to come with innovative solutions to provide what I would like to refer as “bandwidth-on-demand”.
The Spectrum Crunch: Powerful smartphones, extremely fast networks, content-rich applications, and increasing user awareness, have together resulted in a virtual explosion of mobile broadband data usage. There are 2 key drivers behind this phenomenal growth in mobile data. One is the explosion of devices-smartphones, tablet PCs, e-readers, laptops with wireless access. The second is video. Over 30% of overall mobile data traffic is video streaming, which is extremely bandwidth hungry. All these devices deliver high-speed content and web browsing on the move. The second is video. Over 30% of overall mobile data traffic is video streaming, which is extremely bandwidth hungry. The rest of the traffic is web browsing, file downloads, and email
The growth in mobile data traffic has been exponential. According to a report by Ericsson, mobile data is expected to double annually till 2015. Mobile broadband will see a billion subscribers this year (2011), and possibly touch 5 billion by 2015.
In an IDATE (a consulting firm) report, the total mobile data will exceed 127 exabytes (an exabyte is 1018 bytes, or 1 mn terabytes) by 2020, an increase of over 33% from 2010).
Given the current usage trends, coupled with the theoretical limits of available spectrum, the world will run out of available spectrum for the growing army of mobile users. The current spectrum availability cannot support the surge in mobile data traffic indefinitely, and demand for wireless capacity will outstrip spectrum availability by the middle of this decade or by 2014.
This is a really serious problem. In fact, it is a serious enough issue to have the White House raise a memo titled “Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution”. Now the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has taken the step to meet the demand by letting wireless users access content via unused airwaves on the broadcast spectrum known as “White Spaces”. Google and Microsoft are already working on this technology which will allow laptops, smartphones and other wireless devices to transfer in GB instead of MB thro Wi-Fi.
But spectrum shortage is an immediate problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
IPv4 exhaustion: IPv4 address space exhaustion has been around for quite some time and warrants serious attention in the not too distant future. This problem may be even more serious than the Y2K problem. The issue is that IPv4 can address only 2^32 or 4.3 billion devices. Already the pool has been exhausted because of new technologies like IMS which uses an all IP Core and the Internet of things with more devices, sensors connected to the internet – each identified by an IP address. The solution to this problem has been addressed long back and requires that the Internet adopt IPv6 addressing scheme. IPv6 uses 128-bit long address and allows 3.4 x 1038 or 340 trillion, trillion, trillion unique addresses. However the conversion to IPv6 is not happening at the required pace and pretty soon will have to be adopted on war footing. It is clear that while the transition takes place, both IPv4 and IPv6 will co-exist so there will be an additional requirement of devices on the internet to be able to convert from one to another.
We are bound to run into a wall if organizations and enterprises do not upgrade their devices to be able to handle IPv6.
Conclusion: These are some of the technological obstacles that confront the computing industry. Given mankind’s ability to come up with innovative solutions we may find new industries being spawned in solving these bottlenecks.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Just as he was about to leave a small, shiny black piece of stone caught his attention. It glinted in the early morning rays. He bent down to pick it. When he touched the stone, he felt a sharp stinging electric shock. For a moment he was confused whether it was just the sensation of pins and needles which occurs when we move from a stationary position. He looked curiously at the rock. To his amazement, the color had now changed and it was a dull brown color. He put the stone in his pocket and took it home without any further thought.
In his hurry to get to school, he absent mindedly left the stone on his window sill and rushed off to school. Late at night the stone on the window sill again caught his eye. It was now a deeper shade of shiny black. He picked it thoughtlessly only to drop it yelling as it again sent a shock through his hand. His father, who happened to be close by, was alarmed and asked him what happened. Ritvik recounted the incident and showed the stone to his father which had again turned dull brown. The curiosity of his father, who was a material science Professor at Madras IIT, was deeply aroused. His father took the stone to the institute the next day. It did not take Mr. Mukundan long to realize that the stone had the property of storing solar energy which could be tapped at will later. His father quietly performed the research on the stone and published the results in “The Journal of Science” and “Nature”.
This discovery was a major landmark in our world which could not get itself out of the stranglehold of the “fuels of hell” namely coal, petroleum and the like. Pretty soon
and other governments of the world got together and decided to run expeditions to mine for this miracle material appropriately named “solarium” India
A few months later it was found that
Bay of Bengal had abundant deposits of solarium. It was discovered that 1 kg of solarium could store 100 KW of power enough to power a single house for a month.
The find of solarium marked a new era in technological progress for mankind. Further advances were made in increasing the storage potential of solarium by performing certain chemical processes of refining it coupled with placing it in a strong electro-magnetic field.
Automobiles, domestic power, industrial power were all replaced using solarium.
Fast forward to 2026. The first space vehicle powered entirely by solarium designed by a joint venture of NASA, ISRO and ESA were created. The first unmanned flight “Quark” to star Sirius was proposed based on a trajectory that combined accumulated solar energy from solarium and the gravity of heavenly bodies.
Do read my other short story (science fiction) - Singularity.
Do read my other short story (science fiction) - Singularity.