The eternal battle for OpenStack’s soul will conclude in three years. Again – My May Register column

“What types of clouds are running OpenStack?” OpenStack Survey, 2017.

My column at The Register this month looks at the state of OpenStack. As Matt Asay better headlined it “CIOs may not want to build private clouds, but they are, anyway.”

Check out the piece!

Big pay-offs in innovation take time and have confounding finances

A nice way of explaining Amazon’s success in charts, e.g., as compare to Wal-Mart:


Just thinking aloud without any analysis, it seems liken Amazon is an example of how difficult, long, and confounding  doing continual innovation as your business is. Many companies claim to be innovation-driven, but most can just eek out those “incremental innovations” and basic Porterian strategy: they improve costs, enter adjacent marketers, and grow their share of existing TAMs, all the while fending off competitors.

Amazon, on the other hand, has had decades of trying new business models mostly in existing businesses (retail), but also plenty of new business models (most notably public cloud, smart phones and tablets, streaming video and music, and whatever voice + machine learning is).

All that said, to avoid the Halo Effect, it’s important to admit that many companies tried and died here…not to mention many of the retailers who Amazon is troubcibg – Wal-Mart has had several goes at “digital” and is in the midst of another transformation-by-acquisitions. Amazon, no doubt, has had many lucky-breaks.

This isn’t to dismisss any lessons learned from Amazon. There’s one main conclusion, thought: any large organization that hopes to live a long time needs to first continually figure out if they’re in a innovation/disrupting market and, if they are, buckle up and get ready for a few decades of running in an innovation mode instead of a steady-state/profit reaping mode. 

Another lesson is that the finances of innovation make little sense and will always be weird: you have to just hustle away those nattering whatnots who want to apply steady-state financial analysis to your efforts. 

You can throw out the cashflow-model chaff, but really, you just have to get the financial analysis to put down their pivot tables and have faith that you’ll figure it out. You’re going to be loosing lots of money and likely fail. You’ll be doing those anti-Buffet moves that confound normals.
In this second mode you’re guided by an innovation mindset: you have to be parnoid, you have to learn everyday what your customers and competitors are doing, and do new things that bring in new cash. You have to try.

HPE/Micro Focus numbers: HP(E) software revenue down $870m since 2012

In a brief write-up of HPE/Micro Focus from Paul Kunert:

Shareholders will also be asked to approve a $500m return of value, approximately $2.09 per share,” the statement to the City added.

Well, who doesn’t like money?

That said, performance is declining:

The [HPE Software?] business has shrunk in recent years, with turnover dropping from $4.06bn in fiscal 2012 ended 31 October to $3.19bn in fiscal 2016. Profit before tax during that period slipped too. In HPE’s Q1 ended January, sales in the software arm fell 8 per cent year-on-year to $721m.

All that M&A didn’t work out too well:

The software division at HPE is made up of a collection of separate units including Autonomy, Mercury Interactive, ArcSight, three businesses that alone cost HPE more than $16bn to acquire. Other elements include Vertica (buy price undisclosed) and relatively smaller IT management ops outfits.

For more context, see my notebook on the HPE/Micro Focus merger back in September, 2016.

Source: HPE dumps Grandpa Software in Micro Focus care home, hightails it

60m Americans have used voice devices, 35.6m devices estimated to be sold in 2017

According to a recent research report from eMarketer, 60.5 million Americans will talk at least once a month to their virtual personal assistants named Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and other as-yet unknowns this year. “That equates to 27.5% of smartphone users, or nearly one-fifth of the population,” eMarketer said. Link

screen-shot-2017-05-08-at-12-09-31-pm

More details on the study:

  • “The e-commerce giant’s Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices will claim a 70.6 percent share of the U.S. market this year, the study found.”
  • That 60.5m figure is more like “penetration,” people who have tried voice stuff but aren’t active users. By device ownership (I don’t know if this includes or excludes phones with Siri and such): “The number of active U.S. users will more than double for the devices this year, to 35.6 million, eMarketer said.”

See more details over from TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez.

Personally, I still find all this obnoxious. But (a.) I’m more of a podcast and text person, and, (b.) hey, the Echo is a really nice Bluetooth/Spotify speaker.

Print media doesn’t translate well to online, still – a travel magazine case study

After all these years, print media still struggles versus the Internet. This long piece on how the travel magazine industry has been suffering covers many great topics. I suspect much of the analysis is the same for all of print media.

One of the problems is the new set of demands on writers in that field:

There is the pain point of figuring out an internal work flow that functions across platforms. Journalists, writers, and content creators often have specialized skillsets, so asking one to write a story, create a listicle, take photos, and film compelling videos about a trip is a major challenge.

“We just started working more efficiently that way and it really, it’s painful to integrate digital and print,” said Guzmán. “The plays are different, the workloads are different, the story ideation is different. In doing this, there’s this huge cultural shift that is exciting and difficult.”

And, then, even after suffering through all that “cultural shift,” the results are often disappointing:

“The iPad was just going to be this Jesus of magazines and I never really quite believed that because I knew how challenging it was was to rejigger the content to fit that format,” said Frank, who oversaw Travel + Leisure’s digital strategy in the early 2010s. “Having just gone through the process of signing up and downloading a magazine, it took forever and was buggy and it just wasn’t necessarily a great solution. I was never really bought the gospel that the tablet was going to be our savior. But we did it. I mean, we created a great app and it was beautiful. It won awards, but that was knowing what the usership was is a little disheartening.”

And, as ever, there’s the tense line between blaming “most reader are dumb” and “rivals are evil” when it comes to what’s to blame:

“I could have written the greatest travel story ever known, and it would not have gotten on the cover of the traffic oriented site because a Swedish bikini teen saved a kitten from a tree; which is going to be more popular?”

Let them watch cats.

Still, as the article opens up with, it’s the old Curse of Web 2.0 – former readers, now just travelers – writing the useful content in the form of reviews on TripAdvisor and such:

“In general, people don’t read a review and make a decision,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer of TripAdvisor. “Consumers will read six to eight reviews. They might dig in a certain characteristic that they are interested in, maybe they really are interested in what the quality of the beach is, or maybe they are really interested in whether it’s kid friendly or not kid friendly. In general, people will hone in on the characteristics of something that’s most important to them, find that answer on TripAdvisor, get that most recent insights, check out the photos, check the forums, and really be able to make an informed decision of whether something is right for them. I think that the notion that people could rely on the wisdom of the crowd and the wisdom of individuals to their detriment, I just think that’s false, and I don’t think the reality is that is going to happen.”

There’s also some M&A history of trading various assets like Lonely Planet, Zagat, and Frommer’s back and forth as different management figures out what to do with them.

As ever, I’m no expert on the media industry. It seems like the core issue is that “the Internet” is so much more efficient at the Job to be Done for travel (as outlined by the TripAdvisor exec above) that the cost structure and business process from print magazines is not only inefficient, but unneeded. Those magazines are now over-serving (and thus, over-spending) with a worse product. 

While the quality of TripAdvisor (and Yelp, for example) reviews is infinitely worse than glossy magazines, since there’s an infinite amount of more crappy reviews, with the occasional helpful ones…it sort of more than evens out in favor of Sweedish bikini cat rescuers. Plus, digital advertising has so much more spend (and overall, industry profit, if only by sheer volume if not margin) – it must be because it’s better at making the advertisers money and because it creates a larger market:

Link

HSBC’s Google Cloud use

A brief note, from William Fellows at 451, on HSBC’s use of Google Cloud’s big data/analytical services:

They have lot of data, that’s only growing:

6PB in 2014, 77PB in 2015 and 93PB in 2016

What they use it for:

In addition to anti-money-laundering workloads (identification and reducing false positives), it is also migrating other machine-learning workloads to GCP, including finance liquidity reporting (six hours to six minutes), risk analytics (raise compute utilization from 10% to actual units consumed), risk reporting and valuation services (rapid provisioning of compute power instead of on-premises grid).

As I highlighted over the weekend, it seems like incumbent banks are doing pretty well wtih all this digital disruption stuff.

Source: HSBC taps Google Compute Platform for Hadoop, is ‘cloud first’ for ML and big data

The fight for money between states and cities

The miniature culture wars fought between cities and states—such as North Carolina’s tussle with Charlotte over its anti-discrimination rules—are well known. The financial tensions between them are quieter but as important. “Money is usually the main problem,” says Larry Jones of the United States Conference of Mayors, and especially divisive in lean times.

Link

Twitter’s video deals mean it’s giving up on business model innovation

So says Ben Thompson in his newsletter today:

This is why Twitter’s increased focus on securing these video deals feels like such an admission of failure: the company is basically admitting that, despite the fact it contains some of the best content — given to it for free — in the world, it simply can’t figure out how to make that into a business, so instead it is (presumably) paying to create content that it can monetize more easily. The Bloomberg deal, which was first reported on Sunday, is particularly poignant on this point: Twitter is (again, presumably) paying for content about business and financial markets even as the most valuable business and financial market information is being posted for free on Twitter. That the company cannot build a business on that fact is certainly a disappointment.

You’ll have to subscribe to read the rest. For $100 a year, it’s worth it.

Meanwhile, some stats from Sara Fischer at Axios:

In total, Twitter has closed over 40 live stream partnerships around the world with sports leagues, media companies, etc. The company increased live programming by 60% last quarter and aired roughly 800 hours of live content reaching 45 million viewers. Of those hours, 51% were sports, 35% were news and politics, and 14% were entertainment. Above all, Twitter says 55% of its unique viewers are under the age of 25, a stat that directly competes with Snapchat’s coveted millennial demographic.

There’s also an extensive list of the video partnerships and shows to be broadcast in Twitter.

Why Pivotal Serves Free Breakfast to All Employees

Free food, during a limited, half-hour window, both saves people some hassle and gets them to show up at the same time to kick off the workday.

To understand why this is so important, picture Pivotal without free breakfast. Let’s start with the obvious. Most developers would sleep late if it were up to them. They’d roll into the office around 10 or 11 AM. Which means they’d grab a coffee, maybe respond to a few emails, and then sync up with the team.

Before you know it, the morning is over and it’s time for lunch. But hey, that’s okay, we live in a digital world, and you can show up whenever, so long as you get your work done, right? Wrong. Pair programming only works when you have people to pair with. And that means you need to sync their schedules.

We ring a cowbell at 9:05 AM. (The Toronto office smacks a golden gong with a mallet.) It signals that breakfast is over and the office-wide meeting is about to start. After the five-minute standup, the teams have their own standup meetings, and then pairs break off to get rolling at their workstations.

While posed as a pair programming enabler, take out pairing from the above and it also gets the point of having people show-up on-time, not dick around, and do actual work.

If you’ve seen me talk you know the joke of “how a developer spends their day” which usually includes 1-2 hours of actual coding because of all the meetings, you know, those 30 minute sitdown-standup meetings, architectrual reviews, deciding where to go to lunch, the post-lunch-buffet comma, “researching on the Internet, etc…. it’s all just unsynchronized schedules and little not attention spent on actually managing your staff’s time.

Source: Why My Company Serves Free Breakfast to All Employees