Friday, October 29, 2010

Oracle Battling the Data Storage War

Tuesday, October 26, 2010: Conference at Oracle in Kista Science City, Stockholm, Sweden. Latest happenings at Oracle indicate that they are very much into producing solutions and services which hold great potential for companies that deal with lots and lots of data on an everyday basis. The service under promotion was subtitled “Business Ready Storage Solution – Software, Hardware Complete”. The product is fundamentally a B2B product which customers can leverage and cope with extreme quantities of data.

Guys at Oracle stressed that IT challenges are increasing which has a substantial impact on the demand for storage capacity. The era where customers were able to put all the data they had onto disk is over. We are residing in a new world where the rules of the game have changed. Data quantities have not only increased but it is apparent of diverse manners. Interestingly, 80% of the data we handle today is unstructured which signifies that reuse of existing data is shrinking. An incredible 80% of the data that is being handled is not usable. To support this fact, the data being used today becomes obsolete after 90 days. There is a strong need to archive data. A shortcoming emerges when we look at the costs that are involved in storage management. A colossal 30% of the entire costs that encompass IT infrastructure is employed for this purpose. Additionally, storage of this data consumes 40% of a data-center’s power.

"Data Storage Becoming a Big Concern", Oracle CEO

Though the evolutionary practices that have revolved around multi-tiered disk storage have attempted to address this shortcoming it did not seem enough to counter the turmoil. Oracle emphasized that it is critical that new storage models ought to be designed and the one that can cause a major breakthrough is the incremental usage of Flash Storage. Oracle’s vision is to provide business-ready solutions with a high degree of performance that function optimally, are efficient and scalable at a low cost. They have designed a product that secures data access on an on-demand basis, offers unlimited capacity and unparallel storage performance. Directed at B2B customers, as depicted earlier, it is a unique and simple management tool that integrates applications, systems and storage on a large scale. The philosophy behind this is simple. In designing such a product, they started off with a general purpose. Here, they develop a product and analyze where it falls short to address the needs of the customer. Supplementary innovation is carried out to achieve the desired product which is followed up by integrating previous works.

Going into a little bit more detail about the product, named “Oracle ZFS Storage” allows operations with 10 different protocols within a single box. The product offers diverse advance services which are already built-in. these services include clustering, replication, cloning, de-duplication, provisioning analytics, virus scanning and plenty more. ZFS Storage also offers choice of interconnect among Ethernet, fiber optics and Infiniband on a simultaneous basis. A feature that separates this product from the rest of data management tools is that it supports multiple simultaneous apps and workload analysis n production. The product provides a throughput of 8 GB/s as well. All in all, the product provides an extensive back-up system. Towards the finale, it was highlighted that the design of the product was aimed at supporting the buzzed architecture – Cloud Computing as well.

Oracle ZFS Storage Dilemma

A few days ago, I was posed a query whether or not the cloud is the new way of outsourcing. Clearly, the cloud offers a variety of advantages. It allows the centralization of data with merely no infrastructure at all. It cuts down costs massively and makes operations smoother. I insist it further takes care of the dilemma Oracle executives addressed during this conference - appearance of exponential data amounts. If the “Cloud” is not yet a new way of outsourcing, it is very much on its way to accomplish it!

Monday, October 4, 2010

KTH Goes the Microsoft Way

It is turning out to be a very tense period of my life at the moment. Wrapped up in meetings, research, events, projects, my Masters thesis and seminars  from diverse high-profile personalities all contribute to this intense phase. Yet, I feel energetic, proud, honored and confident, all at the cost of being arrogant to be experiencing all of this. Over the past week, I have attended several seminars and exhibitions where I have had the opportunity to meet executives from different companies and have a peek at the upcoming revolution that is taking place in the digital world. Great insights, exceptional speeches, awesome sources of inspiration and huge motivations for people who formed part of these events from the people who have had their hands and mouths full of actions, demonstrations and words that are truly reviving and encouraging. Great foundations for even greater prospects! Today hasn’t been any exception.

The Royal Institute of Technology or KTH, as it is more commonly known, entertained the presence of Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer and certain other Microsoft executives in addition to Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of Spotify AB based in Sweden. The demand to partake in this event was by far huge. KTH premises fell of short of accommodating all students, researchers and personnel. People who had pre-registered enjoyed the chance to visualize and experience the event live at KTH in Hall F-1. As demand for the event had approached intense levels, people at KTH had decided to stream the event live on different campuses KTH has in Stockholm. The core of the session was based on cloud computing, though the Microsoft people had captioned it “New Digital Lifestyle” referring to the buzzed vision of “The Cloud”.

It started with a dancing demonstration of a guy whose actions were simulated by a computer through sensors that were attached to him that mimicked his moves to perfection. Shortly after, it also replicated the facial features of the guy which were reproduced on a giant projector right in the very hall where the seminar was held. It was described as the “True Natural Interface Gaming Showcase”. It exhibited features that made the person connected to the sensors the controller of the situation. Multi-cameras also formed part of the experience that captured full body movement and the entire showcase was integrated with a facial recognition system. It was quite fascinating, eye-catching and mind-blowing. People were awed, me included! The Microsoft aim behind this demonstration of exceptional Human-System Interaction was to make it compatible with the XBOX360 and providing a full gaming experience. It was depicted that Microsoft are going to launch 15 different games by November 2010 and bring the best consumer experience in gaming, all based on the principle of kinetic movements of the human body.

The Head of Consumer Division of Microsoft (HCDMS), Sweden stepped up and initiated his speech with hard facts about the company. He stated Microsoft is research-driven company by tradition. He supported his statements by stating that Microsoft spends $10 billion per annum on R&D. This was complemented by the fact that Microsoft has tons and tons of data on consumer behavior and the way they consume media online. A formidable shift has occurred in the way people consume media nowadays. He stated that 25% of the world’s population has access to mobile networks whilst 95% of the Swedish population has access to high speed internet and these were the driving factors behind the huge transition in media consumption. Contemporary practices in innovation, connectivity and consumer electronics are likely to lead the world towards convergence. However, it was identified that the development was actually working in the opposite direction. Nowadays, people use the same content and same media on multiple devices and on different screens. The HCDMS stated that people in Sweden spend 20% of their time online which is a huge part of times, out of which 80% is spent on personal issues such as Facebook and communicating with friends. The HCDMS described this unique transition has to be owed to the emergence of new portable devices and excellent infrastructure. Having said this, the HCDMS stated the vision of Microsoft is to understand needs of the consumers and deliver an all-in-one solution, something we know as “Windows Live”. Since needs are growing and storage always remains a concern for both the consumer and the content provider, the essence of the “cloud” was brought into perspective. The HCDMS affirmed that Microsoft has reached a point where it is possible to store all this information in the cloud and be least worried about storage space. This propelled Joakim Karlem, Product Marketing Manager, Windows Live to step up to the scene and display some of the marvels that are usually unexploited by the consumer within the Windows Live framework. One of the demos was pretty cool. Joakim demonstrated how he could take a photo and place it into the cloud and edit them in merely no time to achieve eye-pleasing results. Whilst he accomplished that, he emphasized on other areas Microsoft was addressing. The core of these areas is innovation and focused on unleashing the subsequent version of the Internet Explorer, IE 9.0 which has underlying technologies such as HTML 5 and CSS 3. As the demonstration continued, the remarks made by Joakim and his colleague, HCDMS became apparent as the audience was subjected to real-time visuals of how content is integrated and combined in the Windows Live framework. The audience gave a big round of applause. Joakim asserted that Microsoft is an engineering company and a platform company. At this moment, the company is directing their efforts towards creating a social hub, primarily due to the outburst of social media. He stated that they have been successful somewhat, backing up his statement by stating certain facts about MSN Messenger used for communication. His time to deliver the speech was up and this is where the show really begun!


The much awaited personality for whom students at KTH had formed long queues, Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft took charge in a very energetic manner. He came out saluting and smiling at everyone. It was a pleasing spectacle. He started by giving a background of himself, stating he had graduated from Harvard University in the 1970s where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. However, the most intriguing aspect made waves when he stated that he had shared the very same dorm with the high-profile Bill Gates. As he had the audience engaged with his prolific comments, he sensed he had the audience captivated somewhat. Instead of delivering what would have been his conventional speech for the event, he changed the direction of the speech and addressed the students and the researchers by giving them inspiration and high hopes. Steve said the generation of today is the future of tomorrow and it was pretty much up to us to keep innovating and make the world a better place. Intentional or unintentional, this comment set the foundation for what he was to speak subsequently. This is where he started talking about the “cloud”. He stated people had often asked him what is the “cloud”? He clarified that the “cloud” is the foundation for technological advances. The “cloud”, being a buzzword in itself, is a fundamental transformation in the computing world which is aimed at combining the best of devices, datacenter computing and smart devices. The real impediment was how to combines all these. The answer lies the technology called “Cloud Computing” which bypasses the notion of lack of storage capacity. The cloud is perceived to be quite advantageous primarily because no servers are needed and applications can be written and collaborated thereafter on the same datasets. However, Steve stated that this is where the social aspect comes into play. He said as the cloud creates greater opportunities, it also creates greater responsibility that deals with specific issues such as security and privacy. It was also explained by Steve that the pre-requisites for combating privacy and security issues lie in the consumers’ positive experience and confidence towards the utilization of these services. Steve’s emphasis on system integration was quite extensive. He envisioned that systems learning is critical and is getting smarter. The buzzed “cloud” assisted in exploring, navigating and taking necessary actions.

About 2 years ago, the bubble that encompassed the entire cloud paradigm was emerging big. It had enhanced interaction at a personal level and at a professional level. Steve underpinned that he is witness to this entire phenomenon which dates back a couple of generations. He stated to reach where the technological industry is today, lots and lots of endeavors have been carried out. The importances of data in everyday life lead to the conception of datacenters which were not very effective at the beginning. These data centers consume about 3% of the world’s power and are allocated an annual budget of approximately $700 million. Steve highlighted that the real problem was that the data gets outdated extremely quickly. As a consequence, efforts are directed at the construction of New Generation Datacenters in order to make them more effective. However, as effectiveness is achieved through successfully manipulating hardware and software platforms, serious repercussion are likely to arise in the form of job turnovers. However, Steve continued speaking wonders of the cloud. He articulated that the cloud wants smarter devices and the present generation has to conceptualize them to be able to sync them effectively. With this portion of the speech approaching to its end, Steve stated his company had recently started working closely with the Spotify AB. He called upon Daniel Ek, the CEO and founder of Spotify to come to the scene and share some of his thoughts. Daniel’s actions interpreted a sense of restlessness. He was kind of rushing through his speech. However, the significant parts of his thoughts were expressed in relation to what Spotify has done and how it will head into the future. He said that the advent of the internet has substantially altered the way music is consumed worldwide. People discover music through friends and share it in a matter of seconds and this is the big theory behind the dawn of Spotify. As Spotify is trying to make an impact in the US as well towards the end of this year, it is going through a venture with Microsoft to make music sharing easier. In the upcoming days, Spotify is coming up with its mobile app that will operate on the Windows Phone 6. Daniel quickly concluded by thanking the audience and handed over the microphone to Steve once again. Steve took the opportunity to conclude and thank the audience who were listening to him in different parts of Stockholm and was ready to address any queries the audience might have had.

The most interesting question that was posed to Steve was that which his types of games were his favorite. He answered that by stating that the ones where not much action is involved where the mind actually has the opportunity to relax. He took the chance to carry out exceptional word-of-mouth marketing by saying “AVAILABLE IN STORES NEAR YOU!” which made the entire audience laugh.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spotify’s Magic Spell: Sustainable or Fragile?

Last Tuesday, September 28, 2010, Stockholm School of Economics received the visit of Anders Svensson, Sales Director (Sweden), Spotify AB, to deliver a seminar to inspire students. Students at Handels were psyched and looked up to the prospect. And why wouldn’t students behave in such a way or everyone else, for that matter? Spotify's uprising reputation and the way they have made an impact in the music industry in totally in line with the position they have earned themselves today. The guys down there have not only made a substantial impact in the way they have produced a service that has combated illegal music sharing but its image is still very much buzzed. The latter impression is likely to maintain the status-quo. It seems Spotify’s emergence to the limelight and its sharp rise to stardom is only going to rise. Just recently, they launched operations in the Netherlands which bears witness to the Spotify upsurge. Though Anders only shared information in bits and pieces regarding how they undertook the entire situation from conception, it was still very insightful. So, let’s talk the talk!

Inception of the Spotify idea dates back to 2005. Anders and Co. realized that music could be a prospective source of revenues. At that moment, music distribution was in chaos. Lots and lots of sites gave the consumer the probability to download music for free. This really concerned artists and different record labels. On the other hand, the consumers enjoyed the prospect of listening to free music. The guys at Spotify understood that unless they keep on providing music for free, no one would really care about their idea. At the beginning, Spotify comprised of good schools of thought that had a far-reaching vision. The way they went ahead with the venture was to promote their brand by building a product that is appreciated by the consumer. It was a huge challenge! Ander said they were lucky to have people who were really enthusiastic about the idea and decided to go ahead with the idea at all costs. It was hard work at the beginning. Anders depicted that it took half a year to construct the heart of Spotify which was one of the many obstacles they had to face. It was also important to convince record labels. It took Spotify 18 months to fabricate a business model that worked profitable on a mutual basis. And what a business model! Today, Spotify works with 80,000 record companies with a song catalogue that approaches 10 million hits.

As it is widely known that initially Spotify offered both the premium version and the free version of the service, there was reluctance to engage music consumers who were ready to pay. By looking at the number of subscribers Spotify has today, a mere 500,000, many would describe it as very small. This perception is contradicted by the fact that despite the small number of subscriptions, it is by far the biggest music subscription service in Europe. Anders asserted that one of the big grounds behind the success of Spotify is the surfacing of mobile devices. With these portable devices, people carry their music with them everywhere. As the buzz grew, Spotify executives forecasted that it would be extremely inconsiderate if they were to limit themselves to a product that provides the consumer with a streaming service only. The decided that they will correlate the service with something that is easy to manage and is user friendly, an excellent mode of attracting more consumers. Anders went on to discuss the role of social media in building the Spotify brand. Facebook emerged with roars and it was pivotal in building the Spotify brand. It allowed people to share content with their friends and disseminate it further. While the service reached the masses and gained appeal, it became a symbol of fashion within the young generation. Anders et al. understood the importance of sharing content over social networks. It was significant that the service should not hold technical facets but instead it should be easy to use which was also very advantageous for advertisers. Producing a combo that encloses music and ads was awesome. As Anders advocated, it was “FANTASTIC” for an advertiser. Music activates the sense of hearing which is very, very important in attracting consent and thus in building a brand in the online arena. Anders acquainted us with the concept that brands are not just about products anymore. A transition has taken place in the way brands are perceived, interpreted and positioned. Consequently, brands are more of an experience as we promote them online. To reach a point of critical mass, it is important that the brand experience canvasses around three other features as well namely emotions, exclusivity of the service provided to the consumer and the consequential engagement of the consent of the consumer. Once these four features are culminated together and are intertwined at each layer, it will ascertain the conquest of the consumer’s assent.

Anders concluded by saying that if you want to convince, Spotify is the way to go! I agreed on many aspects of his speech which contained humor, hard facts, entrepreneurship, branding and marketing. I would presume these traits should be enough to keep on growing and remain competitively advantageous as they plan to launch operations in the US. Will Spotify enter the US market with an alternating business model? Will it be able to cast its magic spell and reach the mainstream audience in the US the way it has done in Europe? Only time will tell!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The “Taxi 020” Social Media Urge …… Remains Urged!

The follow-up meeting in the Taxi 020 premises promised progress and undiluted enthusiasm. Company executives were already excited and recognized the potential of social media marketing if executed in a flawless manner. Though there are a number of decisions that yet remain to be undertaken, all entities involved are eager to get some sort of a campaign underway. Whatever decisions are made in the future in regards to online marketing for “Taxi 020”, they have to be built on the previous sessions we have had. Some of the actors who were present in the previous gathering remained absent. However, it did not distress the passion to carry out teamwork. Every person was really up to the task and tried to contribute in a positive way. A significant feature of the gathering was the way in which we utilized time. I felt the notion of time management was handled with effective measures. It can primarily be owed to the fact that, under the circumstances, everyone knew their roles pretty well. People knew they had to deliver and they had to make things happen. Commenting on each other’s insights was prominent, useful and fruitful. It allowed us to be more efficient and clarified our actions even more as we are only a few weeks away from executing what we have in mind.

Anne, an executive from an advertising agency based in central Stockholm and also a member of the team I partake in for this project, had performed her role pretty well. I noticed she was more focused on the subsequent steps the team should undertake. However, the element of uncertainty was a hindrance that eluded her vision a little. That was where analysis of insights coupled with appreciation and some critique on each other’s views made way to the forefront. This deepened our visions and illuminated thoughts and perceptions and registered them to a new level. Very accommodating!

Building on the first team meeting, I had to play my role and put together the very basis of social media, identification of best practices associated with it that can be implemented within the highly networked internet that we know today. I managed to convey certain valuable insights which I thought hindered us from the very first meeting. As I delivered the talk to the executives of Taxi 020 and Anne, the nod of the heads from them motivated me further. I engaged elements of humor in my presentation which eventually made the audience giggle. However, the most important aspect was that we had made precious inroads into the project. We had discussed how to boost the brand and what courses of action were central while we use social media strategies. I am sure everyone learned that to be able to utilize social media effectively, it has to be done in close connection with the audience we try to target. An interesting aspect that was unleashed was that using social media strategies in the online world had to be based on interaction with the consumer, gaining feedback from their experiences, their suggestions regarding a particular service and communication with them in real-time or nearly real-time are crucial to success in the online arena. This is merely a start. Once in possession of concrete social media strategies, one has to be extremely speedy and has to encompass symptoms that have to be derived from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Online marketing nowadays requires one to be dynamic, efficient, deliver quality content and interact with the consumers. A company that is a newbie and is about to fall within this sphere may be prone to undesired outcomes. However, this does not signify at any instance that success is a milestone that remains in a lone corner. Even if failure results as the first step in our journey, I believe success is eventually enjoyed and efforts are rewarded. It also forms the very roots of entrepreneurship. One has to consider the possibility of disdain while high hopes are to remain paramount in a new venture. I believe this is the way to go and I am certain whatever efforts, decisions and tasks we carry out, we will end up seeing green and healthy fields that bear resemblance to the gardens of Eden.

I may not have unearthed every single aspect as to what strategy we are moving forward with. I consider it would be harsh for the project and entities involved. I assume it would be implausible and unethical to give too much away. At the same time, as I reflect of this claim, I feel my act is full of injustice and betrayal towards social media. The essence of social media is to share. Unfortunately, I am unable to do that at the moment. This leads me to reflect on another very famous statement which says “Everything is fair in love and war”. Using this statement as a lame excuse, I feel obliged to extend this statement to something along the lines of Everything is fair in love, war and ONLINE MARKETING! I draw heart from the fact that at least a few people would agree with me at this point …