Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cloud Computing Parallelism

Computing Heads for the Clouds

Today, more transistors are being produced annually than grains of rice -- and at a lower cost!

The challenge for IT is figuring out what to do with all that computing power. That means harnessing parallelism.

Supercomputers exploited parallelism by using the power of mathematics to breakdown matrix-oriented problems into multiple subproblems that could be worked on simultaneously. Taking advantage of its underlying mathematical foundation, Relational DBMS vendors have long been able to decompose queries into sets of operations that could be performed in parallel running on independent processors.

It was Google, however, who most successfully has figured out how to employ high-performance parallel programming techniques to power its search engine by connecting together a million, cheap PC-like servers into what's effectively the world's largest supercomputer. The Google cloud helps ferret out answers to billions of queries in a fraction of a second.

Traditionally, supercomputers have been used mainly by research labs owned by the military, government intelligence agencies, universities and very large companies. The problems they've historically tackled have generally involved enormously complex calculations for such tasks as simulating nuclear explosions, predicting climate change, or designing airplanes.

Cloud computing aims to apply supercomputer power -- measured in the tens of trillions of computations per second -- in a way that users can tap through the Web by spreading data-processing chores across large groups of networked servers.

"Google and the Wisdom of Clouds" describes how Google, teamed with IBM, is introducing students, researchers, and entrepreneurs with the immense power of Google-style computing.

Unlike traditional supercomputers, Google's system never ages. When its individual pieces die, usually after about three years, engineers pluck them out and replace them with new, faster boxes. This means the cloud regenerates as it grows, almost like a living thing.

A move towards clouds signals a fundamental shift in how we handle information. At the most basic level, it's the computing equivalent of the evolution in electricity a century ago when farms and businesses shut down their own generators and bought power instead from efficient industrial utilities.

The software at the heart of Google computing is called "MapReduce." MapReduce delivers Google's speed and industrial heft. It divides each task into hundreds, or even thousands, of tasks, and distributes them to legions of computers. In a fraction of a second, as each one comes back with its nugget of information, MapReduce quickly assembles the responses into an answer.

There's an open-source version of the MapReduce architecture of cloud computing called "Hadoop." The team that developed Hadoop belonged to a company, Nutch, that got acquired. Oddly, they are now working within the walls of Yahoo, which was counting on the MapReduce offspring to give its own computers a touch of Google magic. Hadoop, though, remains open source.

What will computing clouds look like? They'll function as huge virtual laboratories "curating" troves of data. All sorts of business models are sure to evolve. Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, likes to compare the cloud-based supercomputer data centers to the prohibitively expensive particle accelerators known as cyclotrons. "There are only a few cyclotrons in physics," he says. "And every one if them is important, because if you're a top-flight physicist you need to be at the lab where that cyclotron is being run. That's where history's going to be made; that's where the inventions are going to come." As Mark Dean, head of IBM's research operation in Almaden, Calif., says, in the future using these new cloud computing labs, "you may win the Nobel prize by analyzing data assembled by someone else."

As Google, IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Amazon lead the world in building massive cloud computing data centers with massively parallel processing capabilities, the only constraints may be finding enough electricity to power their truly amazing infrastructures.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

President Bush And The National Debt

On the day President Bush took office, the National Debt stood at $5.7 trillion dollars. Six and a half years later, the National Debt is $8.8 trillion –- an increase of $3.1 trillion dollars since January 20, 2001. That amounts to a jump of 54% during Mr. Bush's watch. The National Debt has gone up more on his watch than under any other president.

The National Debt costs taxpayers $247.3 billion in interest payments. If you wanted to pay it off, dividing it equally among the U.S. population (estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be 302,103,675), it would come to $29,245.82 for every man, woman and child

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Racking Brains To Ease Iraqi Pains

With 2006 drawing to a close, America's Iraq disaster has turned into a war that even President George W. Bush has finally admitted we're not winning. Looking ahead to the future, historians will ponder and debate over who are the people responsible for this debacle.
  • Clearly, Vice President Dick Cheney is going to be remembered as being both the most powerful and the most destructive vice president in U.S. history. His obsession with executive power, his secretive style, his manipulation of intelligence, his fear mongering, his advocacy of torture, his questioning of the patriotism of political foes, all pale by comparison to the role Cheney played that led America into a preemptive war against Iraq.

  • Condolezza Rice was an abject failure as national security adviser. She has not performed much better as Secretary of State.

  • Rice's hapless predecessor, Colin Powell, allowed himself to be used to support a war he never truly believed in. He understood from the get go that the Iraq war was going to be a huge mistake describing it, as he did, using the Pottery Barn analogy that says "if you break you own it."

  • Beyond his enigmatic, obstructionist, and devious personality, Rumsfeld's decision to under-man the Iraqi invasion force essentially cost the U.S. any hope of winning a war against insurgents.

  • Finally, there's President Bush, himself, who leaves behind a double-edged legacy. On one side there's a terrible failure of leadership, while on the other there's near total lack of accountability.

It's extremely unlikely that the problems in Iraq are going to be solved militarily. Rather, what's needed are new ideas on how to find political solutions. Obviously, something considerably more is needed beyond what was put forth as recommendations by the Baker-Hamilton commission.

David Apgar, author of "Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don't Know." published a fascinating Boston Globe editorial entitled "A two-state solution for Iraq?" He proposes a two-way partition. Below is an edited excerpt describing his proposal:

The new border would run from southwest to northeast roughly through Baghdad's airport.

The state to the northwest would include all 5 million Kurds and nearly all 5 million Sunni. It would include all of Baghdad and all the 2 million to 3 million urban and suburban Shi'a in its vicinity. It would also include all of the northern oil fields.

In contrast, the state to the southeast would be a purely Shi'ite state, including all the Shi'a of the rural south and Basra and all of the major Shi'ite holy sites. Naturally, it would also include the southern oil fields. But it would include no part of metropolitan Baghdad with the exception of access to the airport.

This southeastern state draws together the most-traditional elements of Iraq's Shi'ite community and none of Iraq's least-traditional, Baghdad-based Shi'a, to observe a mild version of sharia law. It would maintain cordial if not intimate relations with Iran, would become very rich from oil, and would function as a sort of Saudi-style guardian of the world's most important Shi'ite holy sites.

On the other hand, a polyglot state such as proposed for the northwest, centered in the major metropolitan area of Baghdad, would probably focus on industrializing its agricultural and refining sectors and becoming a trade center for the Middle East.

Living in today's Iraq are four major communities -- the southern Shi'a, the Sunni community, the Kurdish community and the metropolitan Shi'a most closely associated with al-Sadr.

The most traditional people in Iraq are probably the Shi'a who live south and east of Baghdad, perhaps reflecting their proximity to the Shi'ite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. These are the people who arguably suffered the greatest hardship under Saddam. A homogeneous state of their own would seem to provide them the widest scope to adjust their government's jurisdiction over religious as well as civil life. It would also seem to provide them the greatest protection from any hostile coalition of less-traditional groups from the north.

For Iraq's Sunni community, the establishment of a northwestern state immediately solves two problems. Instead of being a 20 percent minority dominated by a Shi'ite population simmering with understandable resentment toward Sunni rule under Saddam, Iraq's Sunni would find themselves a 40 percent plurality. And instead of questionable access to oil in Shi'ite and Kurdish states under one possible three-way partition, the Sunni community would enjoy shared but uncompromised access to all the reserves of northwestern Iraq.

For Iraq's Kurdish community, a northwestern state would solve two big problems. Like the Sunni, Kurds would enjoy shared but uncompromised access to all the oil reserves near Kirkuk in the north. More important, however, is the fact that their state would be largely free from unreasonable threats from Turkey. It is true that Kurds would represent a 40 percent plurality of the new state. Sixty percent of that state, however, would be Arab, which simultaneously eliminates the danger of a purely Kurdish border state from the Turkish perspective -- and ensures political support from other Arab states.

Perhaps the most important reason to consider a two-state partition, however, derives from the needs of the urban Shi'a of Baghdad -- and perhaps even the ambitions of al-Sadr himself. A two-state partition arguably offers the best possible development solution for the inhabitants of places such as Sadr City. These Shi'a would comprise 20 percent of the population of the northern state. They would inevitably be the kingmakers of the northwestern state supporting Kurdish and Sunni political parties depending on the attention those parties paid to the development needs of Baghdad's urban poor. More immediately, they would no longer represent the vanguard -- and an easily attacked one, at that -- of a community of 15 million Shi'a threatening the livelihood of Iraq's Sunnis. As a minority of 2 million to 3 million Shi'a in the northwestern state, they would instead be a potential political ally for both Kurds and Sunnis, and might well play a role similar to the minority Shi'ite population of Syria. The reasons insurgents attack them today would be gone.

[click here to read entire editorial]

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Top Three Trends for 2007

This time of year pundits like me love to make prognostications predicting the forthcoming trends for the upcoming year. Below are my top three picks:

#1. AJAX
AJAX is that part of Web 2.0 that will absolutely, positively have a significant impact on computing in 2007.

Even Microsoft has jumped onto the AJAX bandwagon. For instance, check out how they have drastically redesigned their company's home page by using AJAX to load content dynamically when the user clicks on items in the floating menu to the right of the page. Dynamically loaded content gets displayed in a floating panel that appears over the top of the rest of the page, which gets dimmed and cannot be clicked while the panel is visible.

To the user the interface is the system!!!

AJAX provides the rich client behavior that was so predominant before Web browsers became popular. With AJAX, gone is the notion of constantly having to refresh an entire web page for each transaction. With dynamic reloading of portions of web pages, transmitting only a small amount of data to the client, the resulting user experience is faster, richer, and arguably better functionality.

Google has long been an ardent AJAX supporter. For example, see Google Maps which enables users to drag a map to move it in various directions, or Google Suggest which provides suggestions from the server as users type, showing in a drop-down a list of search terms that may be of interest.

Invest in AJAX in 2007. Rich clients are worth it. Display terminals like IBM 3270s displaced keypunch machines. Character-based terminals like DEC VT100s displaced 3270s. Character-based PCs with memory-mapped I/O like MS-DOS displaced VT100s. Graphical user interfaces (GUIs) like Windows displaced MS-DOS. GUI browsers like IE displaced PC-based GUI apps (because web servers were so awesome). The next major user interface revolution is happening now. It's called AJAX!

# 2: Service-Oriented Architecture
Microsoft, IBM, HP, Oracle, SAP, BEA, and just about every other software vendor are all now singing the same exact tune -- that SOA represents their next-generation IT development and deployment strategy. Of course, the $64,000 question still remains "What's a service?"

The software industry has been promising reusable components ever since the invention of subroutines. The problem invariably boils down to the age old dilemma of how does a developer "find" a software module to be reused. If the process of discovery takes as long as creating entirely new software, the developer always opts for the latter, especially if the reusable software is perceived as being unlikely to handle 100% of the requirements for the new task at hand.

Software reuse -- whether we're talking a service, a component, an object, a module, a subroutine, a macro, or whatever, -- is always, in fact, a two-part issue: 1) finding the software to be reused; and 2) being able to modify the software to handle non-generic special cases. The first challenge is one of figuring out how to organize, classify, and categorize the software to be reused so that it can be readily found. The second question involves supporting techniques for either adding new functionality to software to be reused, or overriding existing functionality.

Fundamentally, SOA's success will largely depend on evolutionary advancements that can extend software components beyond SOA's predecessor technology, object-oriented programming. The big breakthrough that SOA delivers is in the way that it uses the Internet's underlying Web infrastructure in place of OO's CORBA and DCOM object request brokers. XML is the key enabling technology that makes all this possible.

One of the keys to building successful SOA-based systems is to exploit the abstract semantic relationship that reflects the continuum between generic and specific. In other words, SOA needs to allow developers to create general-purpose building blocks that can easily be extended to handle special cases. This is accomplished by supporting mechanisms for developers to add new functionality or override existing functionality.

Another critical aspect of SOA pertains to business process modeling. Whereas services represent the core components of SOA, developers still need to be able to find those services in order to reuse them. It just so happens that the most reusable facets of any information system are its business events. A specific business event triggers a business process which itself is a set of distinct steps, some of which must be performed in sequence, others of which may be able to be performed in parallel. Furthermore, some process steps are conditionally performed based on the results of prior activities. One key to SOA's success depends on its ability to organize, classify, and categorize services based around business events (so that those services can be easily discovered).

#3. Cloud Computing
Servers reside in an Internet cloud somewhere and it doesn't matter how you access the cloud whether you have a PC or a Mac or a Blackberry or a cell telephone or whatever. Nowadays this notion of cloud computing is often being referred to as SaaS which stands for Software as a Service.

The pendulum in computing relentlessly swings back and forth between personal and shared machines. The very first computers, such as ENIAC, were single user systems. Those computation workhorses were soon followed by sharable mainframe computers like IBM's System/360. Next came minicomputers from companies like DEC which were, once again, primarily single-user systems. Soon, however, minicomputers became much more powerful enabling them to be shared by multiple different users simultaneously, where each user had his or her own virtual machine, and the shared resources were controlled by a sophisticated operating system such as UNIX or VAX/VMS (or various other derivatives of MIT's Project Multics). Minicomputers, though, soon were obsoleted by personal computers which gave each virtual machine user their own physical machine to control. But, PC users still wanted to share data and resources just as they had previously been able to do on their shared systems. That demand led to the advent of client/server computing. The ultimate winner in the client/server war was the World Wide Web which itself is evolving into cloud computing especially as behemoths such as Google and Microsoft build massive data centers with massive parallel processing capabilities constrained only by their ability to find enough electricity to power their truly amazing infrastructures (see The Information Factories).
That's my list of predictions for 2007. Check back next year to see if I got it right. If you're a gambler, then wager that those who will win big in the upcoming year are IT organizations that bet the ranch on AJAX, SOA, and SaaS.

Happy New Year from the ITscout!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What We Have Here Is a Failure To Communicate

"What we have here is a failure to communicate."
— Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke"
Paul Newman might as well have been the spokesperson for Enterprise Architects everywhere!!! At its very core the age old problem plaguing Enterprise Architecture currently is, and always has been, the frustration caused by the inability of business people and IT people to communicate effectively.

Click anywhere on the excerpt below to read Flashmap Systems' just published whitepaper entitled "A Failure to Communicate."

"...ITatlas takes a different approach to EA by recognizing that the presentation of the architectural information to be communicated is as critical to the success of an EA program as its collection and capture. In other words, not only does architectural information need to be available in an appropriate format, but also the delivery of that information needs to be so intuitive that someone with little or no training will feel comfortable accessing it. Getting the right information to the correct person at the proper time often means targeting audiences where individuals have neither the time nor the inclination to attend a training class or read a user manual...."

Read full whitepaper:

Monday, December 11, 2006


In 1979, futurist Alvin Toffler coined the term "prosumer" to describe the open source-like phenomenon of people producing what they consume. The term applies to individuals who prefer to be involved in designing the things they purchase. In other words, new products and/or services are created by combining together the roles of producer and consumer.

Prosuming has rapidly grown right along with the explosion of emerging technologies for digitally making and editing music, videos, and photo images. Especially important is the ability to easily share finished products over the Internet.

The hottest new way to prosume comes from a Web 2.0 development called mashups which enable people to seamlessly combine content from more than one source into an integrated experience. And, of course, the granddaddy of prosuming is open source software which allows programmers to read and modify source code for a piece of software thereby improving it, adapting it, as well as fixing bugs.

Prosumers are passionate about the technology they use for their creative pursuits. Money isn't usually the central goal for prosumers. Rather, it's the satisfaction that comes from people learning something from other people.

Bush's Three Strikes and You're Out Legacy

Perhaps because George W. Bush was once part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, it's fitting that his presidential administration's legacy will most likely be remembered by the baseball metaphor Three Strikes and You're Out.

Incompetency will be the overriding theme most historians will use to describe George Bush #43.
  1. Strike One was the incompetency exhibited during Hurricane Katrina.

  2. Strike Two was the incompetency demonstrated by his prosecution of the war in Iraq.

  3. Strike Three will be felt most profoundly in the future due to the incompetency manifested by the reckless budget deficits and trade deficits racked up under Bush's watch.
Over time, Strike Two will be seen as far worse than Strike One, and Strike Three will be, by far, the worst of all. The American government simply cannot continue to spend more money than it collects in taxes and the American economy cannot continue to indefinitely import more than it exports.

Under the law, three strikes has come to mean mandatory imprisonment for someone convicted of a serious criminal offense on three or more separate occasions. From the purview of history, three strikes means Bush will be remembered as one of the most awful presidents America has ever had. It's hard to imagine that any of his predecessors have either been more incompetent or done more lasting damage.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We Should Have Just "Shocked and Awed"

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group delivered, in stark terms, a broad indictment that U.S. policy in Iraq is not working. The panel, headed by former secretary of state Jim Baker and former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, describes our situation there as "grave and deteriorating."

As Homer Simpson might say, "Doh!"

Tell us something we don't already know!

Most people now agree we should never have gotten into this war in the first place. But once our troops did invade Iraq, we should have just stuck with our initial shock and awe warfare strategy. During those early days of the conflict, the ways in which this war was waged were indeed remarkable. American troops reached Baghdad in record-breaking time.

Bush's mistake was not bringing the troops home immediately after he raised the now infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. We should have left Iraq then and there leaving behind the simple message that America can really kick some ass when it wants to.

How in the world did George W. Bush get himself into the business of nation building? I suppose Haliburton might have gotten itself rich, but America has gotten herself into another Vietnam-like quagmire. The main difference is there's no draft this time around.

The problem with asymmetric warfare is that military power doesn't work against an enemy who uses civilians as a shield. How do you prevail against an enemy whose primary objective is anarchy?

During World War II, America was determined to achieve victory at any cost. Military leaders were willing to kill civilians, if necessary. Consider Dresden or Hiroshima. During the Cold War, the U.S. "MAD" strategy of "mutually assured destruction" was premised on countless civilian casualties.

The biggest lesson the military was supposed to have learned from Vietnam was never again to go to war unless we intended to win at any cost. That would mean the American people were fully supportive, willing to make any sacrifice. That would mean rooting out and destroying an enemy even if it meant killing civilians. In other words, never again get into a frivolous military venture.

The United States spends more money on its defense budget than all other nations combined. This has resulted in an impressive array of shock and awe weaponry. What good is all that power if we can't intimidate our enemies with it?

Iran and North Korea, America's biggest current foes, would be behaving very differently today if our troops had come home after Saddam's government was originally toppled. Had that happened, what would Iraq look like today? Who knows? But, I doubt the circumstances could be much worse than what's happening there now. With private Saudi citizens reportedly giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq, Iranians training and arming Shi'ite militias, and who knows what is being done by Syria, the only thing for certain is American soldiers in Iraq are targets to be killed by suicide bombers, improvised explosive device (IED) roadside bombs, and even shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

Imagine that the U.S. withdraws all its troops. What's the worst that could happen? If need be we can always invade Iraq again, can't we?

Meanwhile, what would happen if American shock and awe air and sea power were used to take out Iran's fledgling nuclear weapon-making facilities? I imagine the price of oil might skyrocket to well over $100 per barrel. Tom Friedman of the New York Times thinks that could be good news since it would finally break our addiction to foreign oil. As he says, "the sooner oil reaches $100 per barrel, the sooner it will get back to $20 per barrel."

If American victory means imposing a democratic government onto the people in Iraq, then we need to send the 500,000 soldiers that would be required to oversee a conquered people. On the other hand, if U.S. troops aren't an easy target for Iran, then there's a military option to take out Iranian nuclear weaponry plants if indeed they are a legitimate threat to America.

President Bush should heed the advice of his fellow Republican presidential predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt, who said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." With America's current military relatively small in number and bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush has been guilty of the opposite. His many loud threats are virtually ignored by enemies who perceive America as soft and weak and unwilling to fight.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Technology Laws: Abundance vs Scarcity

Renowned author and high technology futurist George Gilder has developed what he describes as Ten Rules for Tech Investors. Two of these, the Law of Abundance and the Law of Scarcity, are irrefutably correct. Basically, wise entrepreneurs waste what is abundant in order to save what is scarce.

Gilder is sometimes positively brilliant such as when he explains how dumb networks will always prevail over smart networks. With dumb networks, intelligence shifts to the edges of the network.

Other times Gilder's right-wing extremist views sound like the musings of a fanatic, such as his resolute support for "intelligent design" over Darwin's theory of natural selection, his quirky belief that government-run education is to blame for declining American literacy, or that broadcast TV is a failing model because it wastes the consumer's time. In 1974, the National Organization for Women even named Gilder its Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year for his book "Men and Marriage."

Politics aside, even though George Gilder has never managed a business and he's never written a line of computer code, he's obviously done an incredible amount of technical research. He's definitely neck deep in his understanding of science.

Back in 1981, George Gilder wrote a book about supply-side economics called "Wealth & Poverty" which made it to #4 on The New York Times Best Sellers list. Considered "the bible of the Reagan revolution," his book explained how cutting taxes would stimulate entrepreneurship, increasing the taxable base of the economy, thereby raising revenues by cutting taxes.

The classical definition of economics is the study of choice under scarcity. But in Gilder's world, scarcity is only a temporary problem. Through engineering ingenuity things considered to be scarce, such as transitors or bandwidth, unfailingly get "supplied" and become plentiful.

Wired Magazine recently published a fascinating article written by George Gilder called The Information Factories which suggests that the desktop is dead. Long live the Internet cloud! In the brave new world of 21st century computing, we approach a billionth of a cent per byte of storage, and pennies per gigabit per second of bandwidth.

Last century the PC was king. The mainframe was deposed and deceased. The desktop was the data center. Today Google rules a total database of hundreds of petabytes which gets swelled every 24 hours by additional terabytes of new data. As Gilder writes:
In the PC era, the winners were companies that dominated the microcosm of the silicon chip. The new age of petacomputing will be ruled by the masters of the remote data center –- those who optimally manage processing power, electricity, bandwidth, storage, and location. They will leverage the Net to provide not only search, but also the panoply of applications formerly housed on the desktop.
As George Gilder explains, "In every era, the winning companies are those that waste what is abundant -– as signalled by precipitously declining prices -– in order to save what is scarce. Google has been profligate with the surfeits of data storage and backbone bandwidth. Conversely, it has been parsimonious with that most precious of resources, users' patience." Wasting what is abundant to conserve what is scarce, Google has become the supreme entrepreneur of the new millennium.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Support a 21st-Century Draft

Apart from many other arguments, the biggest problem I have with Bush's war in Iraq is that most Americans have never been asked to sacrifice anything. The burden of national defense should be been borne by everyone -- not just a very small few.

New York Democrat Charles Rangel, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has called for reinstatement of the draft. Virtually all politicians -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- will quickly reject any such proposal for bringing back conscription, a practice officially ended in 1973.

Unlike during World War II, the U.S. today does not require a huge military comprised of every able-bodied man and woman of draft age. But there is a serious malaise in American society that can best be solved by finding a way for young people to make a deep and significant commitment to their country. Congress should support a 21st-century draft for national service (not just military service). Almost certainly, it won't.

Friday, November 17, 2006

America Needs Bold New Political Ideas

With the election now over and the Democrats getting ready to take control of both the House and Senate in the next Congress, let's hope they don't overreach. That would be the natural tendency for a party that's long been out of power. Congress shouldn't try to control America's foreign policy no matter how much they may want to. That's the job of the President. Congress must not engage in impeachment hearings or assigning partisan blame for past mistakes. That would be a total waste of time and energy.

Over the past two years, the Democrats have demonstrated remarkable discipline. Soon-to-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean all deserve tremendous credit for the job they've done. Let's hope John Kerry quickly announces that he is not running for President again in 2008. He's such a loser he almost lost an election he wasn't even running in.

Looking ahead to 2008, I personally hope that neither Hillary Clinton nor Oback Barama win their party's nomination. Given the South's solid red Republican block, it's going to be hard enough for the Democrats to win the presidency without trying to elect the first woman president or first minority president. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton is such a political lightning rod, she'd probably lose a national election if she ran unopposed, and Oback Barama is simply too inexperienced and unproven to seriously consider running in 2008.

So, what can Democrats do?
America faces incredible challenges both at home and abroad: budget deficits; healthcare funding; energy independence; nuclear weapons proliferation; government ethics; Islamic terrorists; racial inequality; illegal immigration, Baby Boomer social security obligations -- to name just a few.

America desperately needs bold new thinking and leadership. Perhaps the Dems could sponsor some of the following ideas:
  • Let's make mass transportation free! To cover the cost, we should add lots more toll booths along Interstate highways, especially around our cities where traffic jams have become unbearable. Our nation's goal has to be to encourage reductions in overall energy consumption.

  • Let's pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting political advertising on the public air waves. In other words, no more television or radio ads by politicians, political parties, lobbyists or special interest groups. This would drastically reduce the need for political campaign contributions.

  • Let's institute a mandatory two-year national service obligation. Young people who elect to serve in the armed forces can receive greater compensation than those who choose to perform other jobs. Qualified college graduates can contribute in jobs related to their field of expertise by working in education or healthcare.

  • Let's recognize that America's war on drugs has been an abysmal failure. Instead, we ought to decriminalize illegal drugs and levy substantial taxes on them like we do with alcohol and cigarettes.
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with these particular ideas, the main point is that this past election was a rejection of the status quo. America needs to recapture her imagination and inspiration.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Why Are We at War in Iraq?

We didn't go to war in Iraq because of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). There weren't any.

We didn't go to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein was culpable for the 9/11 al-Qaeda terror attacks against America. He wasn't. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were never friends or allies.

We didn't go to war in Iraq to spread democracy. That's a rationalization invented after we failed to find WMDs. Elections are not the same as democracy. Democracy cannot be forced onto a people. America has always spread democracy by example, not by force. Ironically, nothing has harmed America's own democracy more than Bush's war or terrorism.

Why, then, are we fighting a war in Iraq?

Because Bush and Cheney believed that Arabs had to be punished for 9/11. Fighting a war in Afghanistan was not sufficient. Afghans weren't the people aboard the planes on 9/11. Arabs were. America had to prove to Arabs they couldn't get away with terror.

So, if America had to attack Arabs, who could they go after? Saudi Arabia? Never! Eygpt? No way! Syria? Too small! Iraq was the only logical choice, especially with all its oil.

Once the decision was made to attack Iraq, the Bush White House focused on justifying an invasion. Donald Rumsfeld believed that Iraq's army would lay down its arms and immediately surrender in response to "shock and awe." Unfortunately, he was dead wrong. Instead, Iraqi fighters morphed into an insurgency against Americans.

President Bush in a recent stump speech in Indiana said, "We will defeat the enemy in Iraq. We have a plan for victory." The obvious question is, "Mr. President, what is victory in Iraq and how will we know when we've achieved it?"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Starting an EA Program According to Dr. Kenneth Russell

"The biggest issue for any company starting an EA program is Governance and Communication . . . and you guys [Flashmap Systems] offer a great solution for getting that off of the ground."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Business Benefits of Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture provides a holistic view that enables business managers to see how and where their own individual needs fit into larger overall organizational objectives.

Without Enterprise Architecture, business managers are forced to work within a very limited context that often leads to stovepiped, or siloed, technology solutions.

Reducing redundancy by leveraging existing capabilities allows business managers to make better informed decisions. This inevitably leads to improved performance through cost-cutting and accelerated delivery of new solutions.

Friday, August 04, 2006

How Flashmap Systems Helps Architects

Most enterprises possess lots of non-integrated information, located in different silos, and collected in various formats such as Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and multiple different databases. My company, Flashmap Systems, sells products that help IT organizations establish, communicate, and enforce IT standards, architectures and strategies.

Architecture That's Not Communicated Does Not Add Value

Flashmap's flagship product, ITatlas, provides a focus for transforming and integrating existing content so that architects can explain what they are trying to do and how are they going to do it. Success, in terms of architecture, begins with communicating the right information to the right people at the right time. This requires simple and easy access to architectural information.

Enterprise architecture's chief purpose is to create a unified, standardized environment of hardware and software systems with tight links to business strategies and goals. IT assets encompass logical resources, such as applications and databases, as well as physical resources, such as processors, storage, and networks. A firm optimizes these assets by developing a map of its IT assets and business processes, and a set of governing principles that support the business strategy and how it can be expressed through IT.

The enterprise architecture blueprint specifies hardware, software, protocol, and interface standards. It also includes a development/deployment plan that describes the projects needed to achieve the architecture's desired target state.

There are many models for developing an enterprise architecture, including the Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), the Zachman Architecture Framework, and the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF). Most frameworks contain four basic domains:
  1. Business and/or Process Architecture
  2. Information and/or Data Architecture
  3. Application and/or System Architecture
  4. Infrastructure and/or Technology Architecture
Enterprise Architecture standards and conformance criteria must be clearly communicated. Make sure architecture artifacts aren't so esoteric that no one understands them. The key to successful EA is to keep it simple.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Is This Armageddon?

Any commentary regarding the Middle East is radioactive. Nonetheless, the fundamental question seems to me to boil down to a single question:

Does Israel have the right to exist?

Doesn't the core of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute stem from the desire throughout the Muslim world to eliminate Israel?  Are Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists or are they liberators?

There will never be peace so long as the Middle East crisis is perceived as a "long war" in which victory will be the culmination of a series of unavoidable catastrophes, such as the 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982 wars, plus two intifadahs.

Conventional armies, such as those led by Egypt's Nassar, failed to get rid of Israel. Guerrilla movements, such as Arafat's PLO who invented skyjackings and suicide bombers, failed to get rid of Israel. It's unlikely that terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas -- inspired by the rhetorical threats of Iran's incendiary president Ahmadinejad -- will get rid of Israel by raining rockets down onto Israeli civilians.

As Thomas Friedman says, "There will never be peace until Palestinians start loving their own children more than they hate the Israelis."

So far, Israeli withdrawals and concessions have brought about the opposite of Palestinian moderation. As soon as Israel withdrew from Gaza, making it the first independent Palestinian territory ever, militants began firing rockets from Gaza into Israeli towns.

Why didn't Palestinians make any effort to turn Gaza into a thriving state? Why didn't they create villages out of the settlements the Israeli government forced its settlers to abandon? Why did they fail to begin building schools, roads, and hospitals? Instead, Palestinians elected a radical Islamic Hamas government who chose to interpret Israel's voluntary evacuation not as a gesture of peace but as a victory for their armed struggle. Since then terrorism in Gaza has flourished, weapons imported, militants trained, rockets fired.

It's clear Israel will never negotiate the right of return for some 4 million Palestinian refugees, the descendants of the 700,000 Arabs who fled during the 1948 war. To do so would make Jews a minority in Israel -- the very situation that the United Nations ruled out in deciding the original partition of Palestine.

The Palestinian people must decide if they are willing to settle for an independent state living along side Israel. If they elect, instead, to continue to repudiate negotiated peace, then the question becomes Are we rushing toward Armageddon -- the decisive catastrophic conflict described in the Bible as the scene of a final battle between the forces of good and evil, prophesied to occur at the end of the world?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Orange You Glad It's Election Time Again?

Don't you miss those Orange Alerts?  They only happen just before elections. You know it's election season when the Republicans start hauling out their proposal for an Anti-Gay Marriage constitutional amendment, or when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (whose name rhymes with "loyal uber alles") starts arresting Islamic terrorists who are plotting a jihad to "kill all the devils," including blowing up Chicago's Sears Tower. There's nothing quite like conspirators pledging an oath to Al Qaeda to get the fear juices flowing.

The leaders in the Bush Administration are masters of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). That's how they got America into an unjust, unwinnable, and hugely costly war in Iraq -- high in human costs; high in political costs; high in diplomatic costs; and high in financial costs.

After watching the FRONTLINE program entitled "The Dark Side," is it any wonder that the Republicans want to cut PBS's budget?  Once upon a time the major broadcasting networks (i.e., NBC, CBS, ABC) would do investigative reporting. Unfortunately, that's no longer true. Perhaps it's because nowadays they are all no longer independently owned.

The PBS FRONTLINE program portrays a vivid exposé explaining how all roads on the War on Terror ran straight through the Office of the Vice President. It had a political arm and a policy side. But, most frighteningly, it had a powerful legal team too.

Cheney believed in expanding the President's executive power. He was convinced that presidential power had been whittled away by Congress and the courts ever since Watergate. Richard Cheney viewed the searing moments of the Nixon Administration, in which he had a front row seat, as a dimunition of what the President ought to be. Within days of 9/11, Cheney's legal insiders saw a chance to rebuild the President's power, almost as if 9/11 was a moment of preparation meeting opportunity.

Vice President Cheney's legal counsel, David Addington, headed a group of lawyers who said the President could authorize whatever means were necessary to fight the War on Terror. They said that, as Commander-in-Chief, George Bush could disregard any other law during time of war. When 9/11 came, it was a state of emergency that gave the people at the top of the Administration a chance to try some things they'd been thinking about for a long time.

Within six months of 9/11, it was clear that the Vice President was going to get the U.S. to go to war against Iraq -- even though CIA Director George Tenet believed he had proved that Al Qaeda and Iraq were not connected. Cheney's strategy was to raise fears about the imminent danger of weapons of mass destruction, saying on NBC's Meet the Press, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." His partisan chum Condoleezza Rice chimed in, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." The intelligence community was merely used as a public relations operation to validate the war against Saddam Hussein.

How much longer will the war in Iraq continue?  That depends on what happens in the next couple of elections. Considering, though, that the incumbency rate in Congress is 98%, members pretty much have to be indicted before they lose their seat. I guess in the end America always gets the government it deserves and the government it elects because: a) the masses are asses; b) the partisanship is poisonous; and c) the country is run by extremists because the moderates have turned their back on our political systems.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frontline's "The Dark Side"

Only historians will be able to judge whether or not George W. Bush (aka Bush 43) is the worst American President ever. Only time will tell if the legacy of his Administration is as awful as it appears -- what with the Iraq War, the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and wipe out Al Qaida, Abu Graib, Guantanamo Bay, astronomical budget deficits, unjust tax policies, Hurricane Katrina, skyrocketing gasoline prices, global warming, rising interest rates, rising inflation, stem cell research, illegal immigrants, social security reform, Medicare prescription drugs, yadda, yadda, yadda...

No one needs to wait, however, to judge Dick Cheney as the WORST Vice President in the history of the United States. Ditto for Donald Rumsfeld as this nation's WORST Secretary of Defense ever.

I urge people to take the time to watch the PBS FRONTLINE program entitled "The Dark Side." You can watch the full program online.

In "The Dark Side," FRONTLINE tells the story of the vice president's role as the chief architect of the war on terror, and his battle with Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet for control of the "dark side."

This country has never had a Vice President as powerful as Dick Cheney and never had a Secretary of Defense who probably is feared as much as Donald Rumsfeld.

Cheney and Rumsfeld have worked side-by-side together for over three decades. Starting back in the Nixon Administration, many years ago, Dick Cheney, then a young intern on the Hill, began his political career working as a staff aide for Rumsfeld. Politically, their views of the world and their view of government are very similar.

Later, as Gerald Ford took office, Don Rumsfeld was chosen as White House Chief of Staff. He selected Dick Cheney as his deputy. Together they took over running the White House. Both were formidable bureaucratic infighters. One day they proved it, literally remaking the Ford Administration in a legendary maneuver performed entirely behind-the-scenes in what was referred to as the "Halloween Massacre." They managed to cut Henry Kissinger's job in half; Vice President Rockefeller was swiftly marginalized; William Colby, then running the CIA, was replaced by George H. W. Bush; Rumsfeld moved to be Secretary of Defense; and Cheney moved up to Rumsfeld's old job as Chief of Staff. It was an extraordinary tactical flourish.

After the Ford Administration, Rumsfeld made his fortune in private industry. Cheney spent a decade as the Congressman from Wyoming where he was immersed in intelligence matters.

Then, Richard Cheney became Secretary of Defense for the first President Bush. In the shadow of Colin Powell, he had quietly managed the military in the first Gulf War.

After 9/11, Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted the military to come up with a plan for attacking Al Qaida in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon was caught flat-footed. The military was totally unprepared in the wake of 9/11 for anything needed to be done in Afghanistan. They had no plans on the shelf. They had no idea what was required.

Rumsfeld was angry. He wanted quick action from a small force. The Generals from Central Command, led by four star Tommy Franks, had operational plans for different parts of the world, but nothing for Afghanistan. Meanwhile, George Tenet and his anti-terror CIA teams were ready to go. It was a bitter pill for the Pentagon.

In the initial stages of the war on terror, Tenet's CIA was rising to prominence as the lead agency in the Afghanistan war. Tensions between Cheney and Rumsfeld on the one side and Tenet on the other were really high. But when Tenet insisted that there was no connection between Al Qaida and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld initiated a secret program to re-examine the evidence and marginalize the agency and Tenet.

Early in the Bush administration, Cheney placed a group of allies throughout the government who advocated a robust and pre-emptive foreign policy, especially regarding Iraq. After the attacks on 9/11, Cheney seized the initiative and pushed for expanding presidential power, transforming America's intelligence agencies, and bringing the war on terror to Iraq. Questionable intelligence was "stovepiped" to the Vice President and presented to the public.

Dick Cheney deeply distrusted the CIA. He remembered how wrong the CIA had been in failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Iranian Revolution, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, and more. In the end, many believe the battle between the Vice President and the CIA has destroyed the Agency.

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are the main protagonists that got us into a pre-emptive war in Iraq -- a war America is now going to lose because there's no way for America to win. That's how the Iraq War and the Vietnam War are alike. What constitutes "winning" anyway? Slogans such as "Americans will stand down as Iraqis stand up" are just empty rhetoric. Congressman Murtha is correct. American soldiers are an occupying force. The troops should come home sooner rather than later.

In the final analysis, the ultimate evaluation of George W. Bush's presidency will be judged based on the failure of the Iraq War and how he followed the advice of the worst Vice President and the worst Secretary of Defense in the history of the United States. That will be his eternal epitaph.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Unholy Trinities

At the beginning of America's journey, there was an unholy trinity -- Molasses to Rum to Slaves -- immortalized by the Sherman Edwards song written for the 1969 Broadway musical "1776".

for an Oil Free Congress

Today, in 2006, yet another unholy trinity has emerged -- Chinese Loans to Persian Gulf Oil to Global Warming.

It doesn't matter whether examining slavery or global warming -- in both cases the reality is Business Power always trumps People Power -- until there's a DISASTER.

Global Warming is real. It's the result of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, especially greenhouse gas emissions produced by fossil fuels (i.e., coal and oil).

Al Gore is speaking out everywhere on "Global Warming and the Environment" -- on television, in the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," in lectures, in newspager editorials, etc. He presents a pretty compelling argument on how CO2 is killing our planet. The process is starting with the oceans because massive quantities of CO2 are being absorbed which is causing acidity to increase, thereby destroying calcium carbonate (which is what shells and coral reefs are made of). Warming ocean waters are causing storm intensities to increase (e.g., Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last fall). Do we have to wait for global warming to cause sea levels to dramatically rise before we start to take this threat seriously?

The Bush Administration has actually appointed the principal lobbyists and lawyers for the biggest polluters to be in charge of administering the laws that their clients are charged with violating. Vice President Cheney’s infamous "Energy Task Force" sought out lobbyists for polluters, asking them for help in designing a totally meaningless “voluntary” program.

As the late, charismatic astronomer and writer Carl Sagan said, referring to the picture of the Earth presented to the right:
"Look at that dot. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know. everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever WAS lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar', every 'supreme leader', every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds, our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light…

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand…

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known."

-- Carl Sagan

Monday, June 19, 2006

Needed: Real Campaign Finance Reform

Stephen Colbert, on The Colbert Report, recently interviewed David Sirota, author of Hostile Takeover, the story about "How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government."

We used to live in a country where government was supposed to protect people from the excesses of the free market. Today, however, both our government and our elected officials are For Sale!

More and more decisions are made based on who is contributing campaign money to lawmakers. Money that goes into the political process has expectations. That's how energy bills get written by energy companies and Medicare bills get written by pharmaceutical companies.

Real reform needs to start with publicly-financed elections. The problem, today, is that the people who are directly paying for our elections are getting a government that they own. Think about all of the money that goes into the political process that gets returned to contributors in the form of tens of billions of dollars of no-bid government contracts.

If we had publicly-financed elections, we'd actually save money. Of course, another option might be an outright ban on all TV political advertising. That would eliminate the need for huge campaign contributions. It would also get rid of those awful 30-second attack ads on television.

The bottom line is that the masses are asses electorate prefers a government for sale over publicly-financed elections.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wilshire Enterprise Architecture Conference Presentation Proposals

Wilshire Conferences
has scheduled an Enterprise Architecture event for Chicago, November 7-9, 2006. I submitted three presentation proposals included below.

How To Build and Communicate an EA Taxonomy
By Jeff Tash, ITscout

Workshop (2 hours)
Audience: Introductory

The best way of communicating EA taxonomy information is to think in terms of a 3-dimensional cube:

  1. Along one dimension you have models.  EA models describe Business Architecture (i.e., processes), Data Architecture, Application Architecture, and Technology Architecture.  When describing the last component, you’ll want 4 models that can visually depict a technology portfolio as 3 layers:

    • The bottom layer (Layer 1) specifies Infrastructure (Model 1)

    • The middle layer (Layer 2), on top of Infrastructure, corresponds to Applications which can either be built (Model 2) or bought (Model 3)

    • The top layer (Layer 3), above Applications, refers to the application-generated data that yearns to be mined for its Business Intelligence (Model 4)

  2. The second dimension for communicating taxonomy information refers to views.  Different views target different audiences.  Some views can be targeted to architects, others to developers, and still others aimed at business-oriented end-users.

  3. The third dimension involves time.  Think of it in terms of current state and future state(s).
This workshop will engage participants by challenging them to look at what kinds of information Enterprise Architects ought to capture and communicate using a taxonomy.  Attendees will receive complimentary Roadmap wall posters that describe ITscout’s 3-layer/4-model graphical taxonomy which visually depicts the typical universe of IT products that comprise an enterprise’s technology portfolio.

Consolidation & Standardization
By Jeff Tash, ITscout

Conference Session (1 hour)
Audience: Intermediate

The biggest lesson for effective consolidation is to "standardize wherever possible."  Consolidation should yield decreases in TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).  Analyzing the global spend and identifying consolidation opportunities not only leads to economies of scale and reduced headcount, but also improves security and increases systems management capability.

When building a business case for consolidation you want to show how facility costs, headcount, annual maintenance fees, etc., will be reduced.  You should also explain intangible benefits such as simplifying the organization's overall Enterprise Architecture, or providing the opportunity to establish strategic relationships with key vendors.  Before embarking on a consolidation project, it's vital to understand the financial implications related to matters such as scale-based license pricing or asset depreciation policies.

The bottom line is that consolidation is one of the most critical aspects of any IT organization's Enterprise Architecture blueprint.  For each IT asset, the question periodically should be asked, "If we didn't already own this, would we now go ahead and purchase it or develop it?"  And, if the answer is "no," the next question should be: "How do we get rid of it and how fast?"

This session will explore the rules for consolidation:
  • Why Consolidate?
  • Business Justification
  • Technology Architecture Issues and Drivers
  • Architecting, Planning, Documenting, and Implementing

What’s the Value of IT Architecture?
By Jeff Tash, ITscout

Roundtable Session (45-minutes)
Audience: Advanced

Architects are responsible for bridging the chasm between the cultures of business and technology.  Their job is to communicate complexity by simplifying and synthesizing.

The best way to conceptualize the architectural bridge is to envision a twisted rope made up of three intertwined strands.  One strand corresponds to models.  The second relates to populating those models.  The third involves communicating the documented information organized around the models.  What’s the value of EA if its contents are not communicated effectively?  How much can EA be worth if the only ones who ever read what the architects have written are the authors themselves?

The overriding goal of architecture is to allow an organization to think about and manage technology in precisely the same way that it currently knows how to think about and manage money, people and property.  IT Architecture generates ROI by aiding managers in making better, more informed technology decisions.

In this roundtable session, participants will discuss how IT Architecture creates value through:

  • Consolidation and standardization

    • Enterprise Architecture
    • Technology Architecture

  • Governance and compliance

    • ITIL
    • IT Service Management

  • Innovation and effectiveness

    • Software Architecture
    • Architectural Styles


Jeff Tash is CEO of Flashmap Systems, Inc. (  He also maintains two free web sites: ITscout ( which organizes information about IT products and vendors; plus the "Architecture ‘Resources’ Repository" (  Previously, for over twelve years, he was President of Hewitt Technologies, a Division of Hewitt Associates. Prior to that, he was employed by Digital Equipment Corp, IBM Corp., Control Data Corp., and Arthur Young & Company.  Mr. Tash has lectured internationally to tens of thousands of IT professionals. Also, more than a million copies of his ITscout Roadmap wall posters have been distributed worldwide. He is currently a Microsoft MVP Architect and an IASA Fellow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More on Consolidation

Sun Microsystems is promoting Expansion by Consolidation as a way of "simplifying IT environments to reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)."

The biggest lesson for effective consolidation is to "standardize wherever possible."
If a company is supporting 5 different Web servers with 10 different plug-ins and 15 different configurations, it limits flexibility, increases costs, and heightens security risks.
Sun has developed a series of 10 Rules for Consolidation. Below is an edited excerpt:
1. Get executive-level support
A consolidation project may involve multiple applications with many owners who come from various divisions in an organization. Early executive-level support can help head off turf wars among business units.
2. Agree on the business goals
Consolidation may involve asking people to give up control of a server or application for which they bear responsibility. Unless they understand that there is a clear business goal, such as reducing overhead for their department, they are unlikely to willingly go along with the consolidation plan.
3. Proactively address company politics
Individual business units have different priorities. For example, an investment bank might have a few applications that calculate derivatives, and each application might have a single user. It might seem like a slam dunk to recommend consolidating those applications, until the investment bank balks that each application is handling billions of dollars in business and that it would rather not fix something that isn't broken.
4. Establish service level agreements
A company needs to have a clear understanding of the service levels that can be expected in a consolidated environment before any consolidation takes place. As with the previous three rules, people will be wary -- or worse, blame the consolidated environment for their problems -- unless they know up front the resources and service levels that will be at their disposal post-consolidation.
5. Standardize wherever possible
The most important aspect for consolidation is to develop a standardized set of applications. Standardized configuration not only leads to economies of scale, but also goes a long way toward improving security.
6. Perform extensive planning and documentation
Consolidation comes with risk. Planning and documenting can help make sure everything is put together correctly to mitigate risks, and it can help an organization put everything back together if something does go seriously wrong.
7. Allocate appropriate time, skills and resources to the effort
Many consolidation efforts can get compromised or sub-optimized if customers do not allocate enough time or the correct people to the effort for proper planning, analysis, architecting, testing, implementation, or socialization with business units, stakeholders, and constituents. Failure to do so can lead to implementation problems, operational challenges, production issues, and/or architectures that still demonstrate some level of under-utilization of assets.
8. Train the IT staff on managing the consolidated environment
Consolidation may introduce new technologies, such as virtualization.
9. Develop new applications for the consolidated environment
If standardization is the number one lesson for consolidation, then forward consolidation is number two. Forward consolidation dictates that it is far easier and less expensive to design new applications for the consolidated environment than it is to roll out standalone applications into the environment after they have been built.
10. Get help from an experienced vendor
Look for an experienced vendor who has tools to assist with consolidation efforts and who has been involved with other successful consolidation projects.

Sun uses four basic steps for all of the consolidations that it performs:

Whereas Sun wants to sell its customers new hardware servers and professional consulting services, my company, Flashmap Systems, offers architecture products that assist IT organizations who want to standardize through consolidation. It's been our experience that the key to a successful consolidation implementation depends, first and foremost, on effective communication -- getting everyone on the same page -- demystifying the complexity of technology architecture.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Why Consolidate?

Existing IT investments ought to be rationalized. As quoted in the previous posting, Peter Drucker on Managerial Courage, "Every product, every operation, and every activity of a business should be put on trial for its life every two or three years."

Consolidation of existing systems and technologies should be expected to yield some decrease in headcount or operating costs. Reduction in TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) is often cited as the primary driver for consolidation. By analyzing the global spend and identifying vendor consolidation opportunities, substantial savings should be possible. Of course, other benefits, too, should accrue, such as increasing systems management capability or improving service level management.

IT asset inventories in most large enterprises are, most likely, highly incomplete. An inventory, ideally, will show both asset age as well as information about interdependencies, such as what hardware a particular piece of software runs on, or what other software components it requires in order to execute properly. Hardware assets need to include current and historical utilization statistics. For example, you can't consolidate additional services onto hardware that is already running close to its maximum capacity.

Before embarking on a consolidation project, it's vital to understand the financial implications related to matters such as scale-based license pricing or asset depreciation policies. For instance, consolidating assets that have not yet been fully depreciated could incur a cost instead of a savings.

When building a business case for consolidation you will typically want to show how facility costs, headcount, annual maintenance fees, etc., will be reduced. You should also explain such intangible benefits as simplifying the organization's overall enterprise architecture, or providing the opportunity to establish strategic relationships with key vendors.

The bottom line is that consolidation is one of the most critical aspects of any IT organization's enterprise architecture blueprint. For each IT asset, the question periodically should be asked, "If we didn't already own this, would we now go ahead and purchase it or develop it?" And, if the answer is "no," the next question should be: "How do we get rid of it and how fast?"

Peter Drucker on Managerial Courage

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Newsletter

Back in 1963, renowned management guru Peter F. Drucker wrote a Harvard Business Review classic on How To Manage for Effectiveness. His comments are as pertinent today as they were then.

Druker asks, "What is the manager's job?"

His answer: "To direct the resources and efforts of the business toward opportunities for economically significant results."

But, as Druker points out, "The bulk of time, work, attention, and money first goes to 'problems' rather than to 'opportunities,' and, secondly, to areas where even extraordinarily successful performance will have minimum impact on results."

The fundamental problem is how frequently managers confuse the difference between "effectiveness" and "efficiency." They struggle to distinguish between "doing the right things and doing things right." Quoting Peter Drucker, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." Yet, how often do real world managers pursue "efficiency" with little, if any, regard for "effectiveness?"

In business enterprises "a very small number of events -- 10 percent to 20 percent at most -- account for 90 percent of all results, whereas the great majority of events account for 10 percent or less of the results." A handful of customers produce the bulk of all orders. A handful of products produce the bulk of all sales. A few top sales people generate most new business. A handful of production runs account for most of a plant's output. A few researchers in the laboratory produce nearly all the important innovations. And so on and so forth.

The most crucial requirement for effectiveness is "managerial courage." The manager's toughest job is to accept one basic truth: Every product and every activity of business begins to obsolesce as soon as it is started. Every product, every operation, and every activity of a business should, therefore, be put on trial for its life every two or three years. Each should be considered the way we consider a proposal to go into a new product, a new operation or a new activity. One question should be asked of each: "If we were not in this already, would we now go into it?" And if the answer is "no," the next question should be: "How do we get out and how fast?"

Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005) was perhaps the most influential management thinker ever. It's beneficial to reflect back on his profound wisdom.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Innovation & Architecture

BusinessWeek suggests that "making innovation work is the single most important business challenge in our era." What does that mean in terms of IT? In my opinion, business executives had better figure out how they're going to tap into innovative architectural creative thinking. That means using resources to pull together IT architectures which will have an impact that is broad and deep.

Businesses and industries will be affected by the fact that already today more transistors are being produced annually than grains of rice -- and at a lower cost. There already exists in the world over 2 billion mobile phones and almost 1 billion PCs. Designing robust, adaptive IT architectures is the core competence needed by organizations that intend on using information and communication technology to connect to the global grid. If your organization doesn't yet grasp the importance of architecture as a way to open people's mind to the wide world that lies ahead, then you're toast.

Designing innovative IT architecture requires visionary talent. Architects are the people responsible for bridging the chasm between the cultures of business and technology. Companies must transform themselves from IT cultures driven by cost and quality control to enterprises that profit from creative IT thinking.

Innovation was the original cornerstone underlying information technology. But ever since Y2K and then the dot com boom and bust, followed by 9/11, enterprise IT innovation has pretty much stagnated. Nevertheless, technology has continued its inexorable march forward with ever more transistors on a single chip and ever more bandwidth -- both wired and wireless -- and ever more storewidth.

It's time for businesses to once again begin using information and communication technology to innovate. Success will depend on turning architecture into a core methodology of innovation. Forward-thinking leaders must educate, inspire, cajole, hire, bribe, punish, build -- all to transform their companies' cultures. Their job is to tear down silos, mix people up, bring in outside change agents, stimulate people's minds, and generate a diversified portfolio of promising ideas.

One critical core concept to understand is that good ideas about IT architecture can come from everywhere and anywhere. What's essential is that every important idea -- every project, every deadline -- all be accessible on the intranet to everyone who has a need to know -- all easily accessible in a way that requires minimal, if any, formal training.

Innovative architecture does not mean instant perfection. Architecture naturally evolves over time. What's most important, however, is understanding that people naturally need a vision along with a plan on how to get to that vision, as well as real and reasonable deadlines. As Google's vice president for search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, says: "Worry about usage and users, not money. Provide something simple to use and easy to love. The money will follow." Mayer has been a Champion of Innovation longer than most. She's a big reason why Google functions as a single, open network where Googlers can look for those working on similar technologies, find relevant expertise, or join projects.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Below are just some of what transpired during a typical 24-hour news cycle in the life of a federal government totally controlled by the Republican Party.

The Senate voted 57-41, three votes short of advancing the bill, to reject a Republican effort to slash taxes on inherited estates. This vote preserves the estate tax, for now. The estate tax is currently paid only by those who inherit more than $2 million. According to the most recent statistics available from the Internal Revenue Service, 1.17 percent of people who died in 2002 left a taxable estate. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn, says the "death tax is unfair."

House Republicans slashed $115 million from the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which distributes money to PBS and NPR. That's a 23 percent reduction next year for TV shows like "Sesame Street" and radio shows like "All Things Considered."

Republican pundit Ann Coutler, author of the book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," described a group of 9/11 widows who backed the Democratic Party as "millionaire 'witches' reveling in their status as celebrities enjoying their husbands' deaths" referring to four women who headed a campaign that resulted in the creation of the September 11 Commission which investigated the hijacked plane attacks.

GOP leaders vow to keep pressing for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage after being soundly defeated in the Senate after proponents failed to persuade even a majority of senators to support the measure.

Click Here To View
Jon Stewart vs. Bill Bennett

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Are You Ready for Enterprise Architecture?

Enterprise Architecture is often sold as a remedy for better aligning IT goals with business goals.  Promises are made that EA can serve as a strategic vehicle for:
  • reducing IT costs
  • enabling business change
  • simplifying technology portfolios
  • supporting greater flexibility
  • improving process effectiveness
  • delivering IT projects quicker and cheaper
  • implementing IT governance, especially regulatory compliance such as Sarbanes-Oxley
  • rationalizing application portfolios
  • plus a thousand more pie-in-the-sky IT objectives
Can your IT organization really do Enterprise Architecture?  It depends.  Is your IT group, itself, ready to embrace EA?  Can it establish the discipline that's needed for a successful EA implementation?  And, perhaps most importantly, does your IT organization start off with sufficient credibility with your own enterprise's business executives?

When it comes to enterprise IT, there's a continuum that ranges between strategic and support. The telltale indicator is to look at where the CIO reports. Does he or she report directly to the CEO, or does the CIO report to the CFO?

If it's the latter, then IT's role is perceived as one of providing support. In this case, when business leaders think IT, they invariably think cost center. With a support IT organization, the most important objective is reducing IT operational and maintenance costs. Beware that EA groups are themselves frequently considered cost-overhead and as such are subject to cost-cutting purges. Generally, the best strategy for cutting costs is to focus initial EA initiatives on consolidation.

Even if your CIO reports to the CEO, or COO, and is therefore considered strategic, there's still the question of how important your executives deem the value of information technology in terms of your business. Much may depend on what others in your industry are doing. Also, does your overall IT organization command credibility across the other parts of the business?  What about the rest of IT?  Have they bought into EA?  Finally, what happens if your architecture efforts are successful?  Are you ready for an explosion of demand?

EA can help an organization improve its ability to deliver IT services. EA can help provide more effective IT governance. EA can even help better align IT capabilities with the needs of the business.  Start slowly. Establish success one step at a time. Be prepared to respond. Build credibility. And, most importantly -- communicate -- continually, effectively, and to all levels of people both inside and outside of IT and across all business areas.

In the final analysis, EA is a critical ingredient for operating a successful 21st-century IT organization, especially when combined with its related disciplines: IT portfolio management, IT governance, IT service management, and IT project management.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Titling at Windmills: A 50-50-50 Energy Proposal

America is addicted to oil and that addiction is killing us -- fiscally, environmentally, and spiritually.

We are not fighting the war in Iraq because of WMDs or to spread democracy. That's all poppycock. We're there because Iraq has lots of oil.

At $70+ per barrel, gasoline is averaging 3 bucks a gallon. Even worse, more and more wealth is amassing in oil producing countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. We're literally funding both sides of the Iraqi war.

America desperately needs an energy policy. Hell, we've needed one ever since the original Arab oil embargo happened way back during Nixon's second administration. We needed one during Carter's and Reagan's administrations. Bill Clinton was just lucky that when he was president, the price of oil was ridiculously low -- sometimes selling for under $1.00 per gallon. How did America react? We bought Hummers and Explorers and various other gas-guzzling SUVs.

But now, with a Texas oil man in the White House, we need an energy policy worse than ever. It could be Bush's equivalent of Nixon's trip to China. Unfortunately, I doubt George Bush is half the statesman Nixon was. Nixon may have been a crook. Nixon may have been a scoundrel. But, historically, he at least tried to do great things (besides opening up relations with Red China, Nixon created EPA -- the Environmental Protection Agency).

Blogging is a lot like self-publishing your own letters to the editor. It takes a lot of chutzpah to believe that putting forth an energy proposal in a blog can have any impact on anyone. Then again, that's okay. I write my blog mainly for myself -- as a personal journal -- a web log. I don't assume anyone else reads what I write.

So, what's my 50-50-50 energy proposal for America?

The first 50 refers to a 50% tariff on all non-North American oil. At $70 per barrel, that would be an added tax of $35 for each and every barrel of oil imported from anywhere except Canada or Mexico. To minimize the impact on the economy, the tax should be staged over a five year period -- 10% the first year; 20% the second year; 30% the third year; 40% the fourth year; and finally 50% in years five and beyond.

What should we do with the windfall from this tax revenue? That's where the second and third "50s" in 50-50-50 apply. I recommend that 50% of the monies collected be used to fund academic research into new, alternative energy resources. The other 50% should be used to help families who earn under $100K per year to heat their homes, and to assist small farmers earning under $100K per year who need fuel for their tractors and assistance paying for higher costing petroleum-based fertilizers.

With oil imported from outside North America costing over $100 per barrel, other forms of energy will hopefully become competitive in the marketplace. Perhaps it will be oil shale from Montana or tar pits in Alberta or corn grown in Nebraska for ethanol. Maybe it will be new roofing materials that include built-in solar panels or almost invisible wind farms off our coastline. What's important is that we need to break our addiction to oil -- especially Middle East oil -- and we need to do it now.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Goggles for Google

Are you, like me, getting a little long in the tooth?  Now that I'm fat and bald, my wife says she misses me; she still loves me; but she misses me!

Do you remember back in 1967 when the Beatles' hit song "When I'm sixty-four" seemed so far off in the future?  No longer.
When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a valentine,
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?
I'm a baby-boomer who's balding, bulging, and bespectacled. I need help nowadays viewing what's displayed on my browser's screen.

Well, here comes Microsoft to the rescue with a PowerToy called the ClearType Tuner.

ClearType delivers improved font display quality, resolution, and readability over traditional forms of font smoothing or anti-aliasing, especially on color LCD displays.

ClearType is a form of sub-pixel font rendering that draws text using a pixel's red-green-blue (RGB) components separately instead of using the entire pixel. When the pixel is used in this way, horizontal resolution theoretically increases 300 percent.

Picture elements on an LCD screen are actually comprised of individual horizontally-oriented red, green and blue sub-pixels. For instance, an LCD screen that has a display resolution of 800x600 pixels actually has 2400x600 individual sub-pixels. The human eye is not capable of differentiating colors on such a small scale, so a combination of these three primary colors can emulate any intermediate color. Sub-pixel font rendering takes advantage of this by antialiasing at the sub-pixel level instead of at the pixel level.

ClearType magnified

[click here for more info]

You can turn on ClearType using either:As a once-upon-a-time cognitive psychologist, I loved reading an article that Microsoft published entitled "The Science of Word Recognition". It delves into an explanation about how people use the letters within a word to recognize a word. This article, written by a cognitive psychologist working for Microsoft, explores neural network modeling which has has been particularly successful in advancing our understanding of reading processes. As one who in graduate school studied psycholingustics, specifically speech perception, I was fascinated to learn how the benefits of ClearType were based on a psychological, scientific understanding of on-screen reading experiences.