Forecast: Cloudy

November 7, 2010

Cloud Computing is considered a disruptive technology destined for accelerated adoption over the next few years.  Gartner Executive Programs’ 2010 CIO Survey identified that Cloud Computing is the number 2 technology priority for worldwide CIOs.  IDC estimates that spending on Public Cloud Services was 4% ($16.5 billion) of overall IT spending in 2009 and will grow to 12% ($55.5 billion) in 2014.  The following chart from Google Trends shows how searches for Cloud Computing has risen rapidly and has surpassed searches for Virtualization.

Google Trends - Cloud Computing vs. Virtualization

This week I attended the Cloud Expo in Santa Clara.  The conference was well represented by Cloud Computing providers (75 exhibitors) showing a diversity of approaches and opinions on what constitutes Cloud Computing.  There are 3 common types of Cloud Computing services and they are typically used as follows:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – consume it
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – build on it
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – migrate to it

The most valuable conference sessions of Cloud Expo that I attended were ‘How to Monetize SaaS Beyond Subscriptions’ presented by Scott Swartz (MetraTech CEO), ‘The Move is On: Cloud Strategies for Business’ by Tim O’Brien (Microsoft Senior Director of Platform Strategy Group), and ‘Which “aaS” is Right for You?” by Max Coburn (Hubspan Software Architect) and Margaret Dawson (Hubspan Marketing Vice President).

Last week I attended the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Redmond.  PDC is described as the definitive Microsoft event focused on the technical strategy of the Microsoft developer platform.  What made this PDC unique was that it held at Microsoft Corporation and provided an opportunity to see the campus where many products are developed.  Having attended the previous 3 PDCs, this year’s conference was short on new product announcements, but strong on message.  The focus was firmly on Windows Azure, Windows Mobile and Developer Tools.

The keynote was presented by Steve Ballmer (Chief Executive Officer) and Bob Muglia (President of the Server and Tools Business).  Steve presented an overview of Microsoft’s ecosystem of devices (Windows 7, Windows Phone 7, XBOX 360) connected (Internet Explorer, HTML5) to the Cloud (Windows Azure, SQL Azure, Bing, Office 365, XBOX Live, Windows Live).  This is the realization of the vision presented by Ray Ozzie at last year’s PDC of 3 screens (PCs, phones, and TVs) connected by cloud services.  The real surprise was the emphasis of HTML5 over Silverlight, raising the question of which technology to develop new applications with.  I spoke to several Microsoft employees about this and they answered consistently that it a similar question circulating within Microsoft as many projects are currently under development in Silverlight.

PDC10 Keynote - Steve Ballmer

Bob presented on Cloud Computing, focusing specifically on the benefits of developing Apps on a Platform as a Service (PaaS) as opposed to a traditional platform.  Bob said “Only Windows Azure delivers general-purpose PaaS, which gives developers the breadth of services needed to allow them to focus on their applications and not the underlying infrastructure or virtualizing machines”.  Bob announced the Virtual Machine Role for Windows Azure allowing the Windows Azure platform to easily host existing applications that run on Windows Server 2008 R2, and announced the Windows Azure Marketplace and DataMarket (formerly known as Project Dallas).

I was invited to attend a PDC10 workshop for Windows Azure on the weekend.  The workshop provided 1:1 product team consulting, hands-on labs, and small group interactive sessions.  The Microsoft product team were great to interact with and the day was extremely valuable.  I can confidently say that Windows Azure has matured rapidly since its release at the start of this year and is now the best PaaS to develop new applications against.

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Driving Innovation

October 25, 2010

At QSR International we have core company values of Innovation, Collaboration, and Celebration.   Five years ago we developed an Innovation Strategy that can be summarized as follows: 

Innovation

  • is about collaboration and exploration
  • requires an understanding of technology
  • requires an understanding of business domain
  • must produce deliverables
  • and is not a replacement for customer feedback

to achieve this we must

  • monitor emerging technology and industry trends
  • attend technology and industry conferences
  • undertake surveys and interviews with customers
  • undertake exploratory workshops
  • produce prototypes and whitepapers
  • support innovative ideas during development
  • establish links with universities

We understand that software development teams are led, not managed.  That great new products, outstanding enhancements to existing products, and creative new business initiatives are driven by passion and inspiration.  And foremost that innovation is very much dependent on the quality of the team and therefore it is important to create an environment that will attract the right people and skills.

Recently, I read the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.  As the CTO at QSR International, I was challenged that we could step-up innovation further by nurturing a culture that provided staff greater autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  The RSA Animate adoption below provides a good overview these aspects of the book.

To drive this innovative culture, we are launching a program in 2011 that gives our technical staff 20 Development Days per year.  These Development Days can be used for training, research projects, and charitable work.  The program is similar in nature to those in use at Google (20% time), Atlassian (20% time), 3M (15% time), Twitter (Hack Week) and Readify (20 days).

I like this related quote on innovation from David Whelan, CTO, Boeing Space and Communications

The CTO nurtures and cultivates new ideas and innovation in both the technologies and the business processes.

Running a Successful Beta Test Program

September 17, 2010

Recently at QSR International we ran an extensive beta test program for our new version of NVivo being released in October 2010.  Beta test programs are a great way to validate whether your software release objectives are being met in terms of feature value and quality.  Additionally, beta test programs provide for improved product outcomes through customer collaboration and innovation.  This customer collaboration is an important aspect of user-centered design (UCD) which tries to optimize the product around how users  use the product, rather than forcing users to change their behavior to accommodate the product.

Yesterday, I presented with 2 colleagues to the Victoria.NET Dev SIG on Running a Successful Beta Test Program.  The presentation gave an overview and tips for running a beta test program and included an in-depth demonstration of using PreEmptive Solutions Runtime Intelligence Services which allows the capture of feature usage and user behavior. Microsoft collects similar application analytics through their Customer Experience Improvement Program.  The presentation can be viewed below:

Reflections on Microsoft TechEd 2010 & Business Intelligence Conference

June 11, 2010

This past week I attended the co-located Microsoft TechEd 2010 and 2010 Business Intelligence conferences in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The co-location of the conferences was a great initiative as it allowed the 10,000 attendees to mix sessions from both conferences.

TechEd 2010 Keynote

The day 1 keynote (TechEd) was presented by Bob Muglia (Microsoft President of the Server and Tools Business).  Bob discussed the continued evolution of Windows Azure with support for .Net 4.0, IntelliTrace debugging, and new tools within Visual Studio 2010.  SQL Azure has continued to evolve with increased storage limits, geospatial data, and data synchronization.  Bing Maps SDK was released to enable the visualization of data in maps.  Service Pack 1 was announced for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 for release in July 2010.

The day 2 keynote (Business Intelligence) was presented by Ted Kummert (Microsoft Senior Vice President of the Business Platform Division).  Ted talked about managed self-service analytics and how PowerPivot provides users an Excel-like look and feel on the desktop that enables a variety of data sources to be related easily with high performance across high volume.  A demonstration of PowerPivot was given showing instant sorting and filtering of 2 billion rows of data.  Most of the keynote focused on the Microsoft BI technologies and their integration, these being Excel, SQL Server, SharePoint, and PowerPivot.

The most valuable sessions of TechEd 2010 that I attended were ‘Agile Planning’ presented by Peter Provost (Microsoft Senior Program Manager) and ‘Tough Lessons Learned as a Software Project Manager’ presented by Gregg Boer (Microsoft Principal Program Manager).  Both of these speakers shared their experiences managing projects and what they had learnt.  Gregg presented on 7 key project management learnings, those being:   

  • prioritize ruthlessly, cut judiciously
  • it’s not enough to understand what, you must understand why
  • aggressive schedules do not motivate
  • politics are dumb, ignoring politics is dumber
  • your project is at risk – are you handling it?
  • it’s not a popularity contest
  • you work with people – not resources

Other extremely interesting sessions of TechEd 2010 that I attended were ‘Business Intelligence Overview: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions’ presented by Donald Farmer (Microsoft SQL Server BI Management Program Manager) and ‘So Many BI Tools, So Little Time’ presented by Dan Buloss (Symmetry Corp President).  Both Donald and Dan presented some interesting conceptual models about business intelligence; two of which I have reproduced below:   

Business Intelligence and Analysis (Donald Farmer)

Reporting Spectrum (Dan Buloss)

The hidden gem in the rough of TechEd 2010 was ‘Build Your Own Cool Visualizations Using DGML’ presented by Suhail Dutta (Microsoft Program Manager).  Suhail showed how to use Directed Graph Markup Language (DGML) to visualize architectural dependencies using Visual Studio, as well as visualizing your own specific data.  The problem with this feature is that it can only be used within Visual Studio; it would make a great control for user applications to visualize and explore data. 

These are my thoughts after attending TechEd 2010 over the past 4 days and I look forward to sharing and implementing what I learnt.

My Home Office Desk Setup

April 23, 2010

Whilst at home, a large part of my non-sleeping time is spent at my desk.  I generally work one day a week from home and find this my most productive day of the week, having a block of uninterrupted time, it gives me the necessary head space to effectively strategize, analyze, and prioritize.  This blog post is about my desk at home, the technology devices that it hosts, and how they are used.

My Home Office Desk Setup

  
1. Apple IIe Platinum computer, 1MHz 65C02 Motorola processor, 128KB RAM, dual 5.25″ floppy drives, MicroDrive IDE card with 128MB compact flash, color composite video monitor                   

2. Dell Adamo 13 laptop, 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD SATA hard drive; contained in a 13.3″ Toffee leather brief                     

3. Amiga 1200 AGA computer, 14MHz Motorola 68EC020 processor, 2MB RAM, 3.5″ floppy drive, Blizzard 1230-IV expansion card with 50MHz Motorola 68030 processor + 50MHz 68882 co-processor + 64MB RAM,  internal IDE adaptor with 4GB compact flash, PCMCIA compact flash reader                      

4. Apple iPhone 3G, 412MHz Samsung RISC processor, 128MB RAM, 16GB flash storage; contained in a Sena Ultraslim leather pouch                 

5. Dual Dell 24″ LCD monitors, UltraSharp 1920×1200 wide-screen with soundbar speakers, connectors for HDMI, DVI, VGA, S-video, component video, composite video                   

6. Belkin N1 Vision wireless router, ADSL2 broadband modem, 802.11n wireless, wired gigabit ports, and interactive network display

7. Nintendo Wii console, 729MHz IBM PowerPC processor, 88MB RAM, 512MB flash storage

8. Dell Precision T5400 workstation, 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor, 8GB RAM, 2x 750GB SATA hard disk drives, DVD drive, 512MB nVidia Quadro FX1700 graphics card, media card reader, WinFast Digital TV tuner               

9. Dell PowerEdge 1800 server, dual 2.8GHz Intel Xeon processors, 4GB RAM, 6x 146GB SCSI hard disk drives in RAID 5 configuration, 2x DVD drives

10. Lexmark X215 multi-function laser printer

My Home Office Desk Setup in Work Mode

  
The picture above shows my desk setup in work mode.  The Dell Precision workstation is running Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) and the most frequently used software is MS Office Ultimate 2007, MS Visual Studio Professional 2008, Internet Explorer 8, and NVivo 8.   I also keep a secondary boot partition on the workstation for installing beta software and undertaking software evaluations.              

The Dell PowerEdge server is running Windows Server 2008 R2 and MS SQL Server 2008 Standard.  Both of the 24″ LCD monitors are connected to the workstation via DVI connectors, whilst the server is connected via a VGA connector, allowing quick switching of displays via a button press.                   

My Home Office Desk Setup in Entertainment Mode

  
The picture above shows my desk setup in entertainment mode.  The Dell Precision workstation is utilized to watch and record digital TV, surf the internet, dual-box MMORPG game Everquest 2,  and most recently play the RPG game Dragon Age Origins.              

The Apple IIe is running DOS 3.3 and ProDOS 8.  It is used to play 8-bit games that can be downloaded from sites like ftp.apple.asimov.net and transferred via compact flash using CiderPress.  The Apple IIe is a favorite of my children, who particularly enjoy playing the original Mario Bros.  The applefritter forums is a useful forum for discussing everything about older Apple computers.                

The Amiga 1200 is running AmigaOS 3.9 with WHDLoad which makes it possible to run programs originally designed for floppy disks.  It is used to play 16-bit games that can be downloaded from sites like Lemon Amiga and transferred via compact flash.  The Amiga 1200 is used to play games like Barbarian II, Bubble Bobble, Pinball Fantasies, and Rainbow Islands.  The English Amiga Board is a great forum to discuss everything Amiga.                

The Nintendo Wii is used to play games, with the current favorites being Guitar Hero, The Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess, and Wii Sports.             

To finish, I quote Bill Gates in his 1995 book The Road Ahead       

There will be a day, not far distant, when you will be able to conduct business, study, explore the world and its cultures, call up any great entertainment, make friends, attend neighborhood markets, and show pictures to distant relatives — without leaving your desk or armchair.       

Growing and Scaling your Business

March 25, 2010

Asia-Pacific region winners of the Dell Small Business Excellence Award were privileged to spend two days with Dell in New Delhi, India.  The theme of the two days was on ways to grow and scale your business from small to large. The award winners in attendance were:

   

Shown Left to Right: A. Long (QSR International), J. Owen (QSR International), M. Dell (Dell), K. Thomas (QSR International)

Michael Dell (founder, chairman and CEO of Dell) met with the winners and fielded questions from the winners.  Michael covered many topics, including environmental accountability, forming partnerships, taking risks, future of technology, and utilizing social media.

Michael was asked if he had this time over again, and was to start-up and grow Dell again, what would he do differently.  Michael said he would focus more on developing talent; that it is important to recognize the capabilities of your people and develop them accordingly, as well as hire people with the right capabilities.  If there was one single piece of advice for a small business – it was talent management.

On risk taking, Michael stated that “failure is an opportunity to learn”.  He would rather start 10 projects and have 7 of them be successful, than to start 5 projects and have 5 of them be successful.

On the future of technology, Michael believes that television viewing will fundamentally shift, that people will watch what they want, when they want.  That people are looking for data convergence, not device convergence.  That the future will be about different devices (personal computers, mobiles, televisions, etc.) that have their data synced in the cloud.  Furthermore, there will be new innovations and new business models, which usually come from new players.

Amit Midha (President and Corporate VP – APJ SMB, Dell), Satya Narayanan (Founder, Career Launcher), and Rajan Anandan (Managing Director, Microsoft India) talked about managing growth and the challenges of scaling up.  Rajan Anandan who is also an angel investor stated that he gets worried when companies tell him they have more than 10% of the market.  He believes that companies in this position need to redefine their market by thinking about how to adapt their product or service to new markets.  In a similar fashion, Satya Narayanan stated that a business needs to reinvent itself every three to five years to sustain growth.

Michael Buck (Director Global SMB Online, Dell), Sridhar Seshadri (Country Head – Online Sales and Operations, Google India), and Neeraj Roy (CEO, Hungama Mobile) talked about best practices for websites and social media.  Michael Buck spoke about the importance of experimenting with changes to your website and measuring the outcomes, as well as the effectiveness of various forms of online advertising.

Other sessions over the two days covered financing, branding, and technology.  In summary, I found that I gained fresh insights and inspiration to grow and scale my business.  The next 2-3 years will be very interesting for QSR International, and likewise I imagine for the other companies that attended.

Afterwards, Nicole Gemmell (Senior Corporate Communications Manager, Dell) visited our Melbourne office and produced the following video.

Convergence of Analytics

February 9, 2010

Analytics is defined as the “science of analysis”.  Analytics is used to obtain an improved understanding of a complex topic or problem from collected data.  Through better understanding, better decisions can be made, and future outcomes can be predicted more accurately.

Presented below is a model I developed for categorizing today’s Analytics software based on two continuums – data type (structured versus unstructured) and analysis approach (user driven versus system driven).  These two continuums create four quadrants that I have labeled as Statistical Analysis, Qualitative Analysis, Business Intelligence, and Text Analytics.  Of course, in practice these quadrants overlap by varying degrees, but this model assists in describing the different methods employed for data collection and analysis techniques.

Analysis Software by Data Type and Analysis Approach

Statistical Analysis is basically described as the collection, analysis and interpretation of numerical data undertaken by a statistician.  Statistical Analysis is generally considered to be a mathematical science and is related to Predictive Analytics.  Microsoft Excel is the most commonly used software application for statistical analysis, however software applications such as SAS STAT and SPSS Statistics are popular and have more advanced features.                                    

Qualitative Analysis (or commonly referred as Qualitative Data Analysis) is basically described as the collection, analysis and interpretation of non-numerical data undertaken by a qualitative researcher.  Qualitative Analysis is generally considered to be a social science and is related to Content Analysis.  QSR NVivo is the most commonly used software application for qualitative analysis, however software applications such as SSD Atlas.ti and VERBI MAXQDA are also popular.                                       

Business Intelligence is basically described as the collection, analysis and dissemination of structured data performed predominately by a system.  Business Intelligence is used in a narrower context here and is related to Data Mining, Decision Support Systems, and Online Analytical Processing.  IBM Cognos, Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services, and SAP Business Objects are examples of commonly used systems for business intelligence.                           

Text Analytics is basically described as the collection, analysis and dissemination of textual data performed predominately by a system.  Text Analytics is similar to Text Mining and related to Video Analytics and Sentiment Analysis.   IBM LanguageWare and Inxight LinguistX are examples of commonly used systems for text analytics.  Whilst, Microsoft Semantic Engine is currently planned for integration into a future version of Microsoft SQL Server.           

Statistical Analysis and Qualitative Analysis software (top half of model) are characterized by having flexible in-depth analysis capabilities with a relatively low cost of implementation, whereas Business Intelligence and Text Analytics software (bottom half of model) are characteristed by having fast scalable analysis capabilities with a high cost of implementation.  However, analysts want the best of both solutions, that is, flexible in-depth analysis capabilities coupled with fast scalable analysis capabilities, whilst still having a low price of implementation.  In respect to differences in data types, Mixed Methods Research is a popular means of combining the collection and analysis of structured data (left half of model) and unstructured data (right half of model) to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a topic or problem.       

Interestingly, the traditionally divergent data types and analysis approaches of Analytics software has started to converge.  For instance, Business Objects acquired Inxight in 2007 and was subsequently acquired by SAP in 2007.  IBM acquired Cognos in 2008 and SPSS in 2009.  These companies and others are looking at ways of handling the different data types and analysis approaches, either through the integration of technologies or the integration of an application portfolio.  In line with this trend in Analytics, QSR International last month announced that the next version of NVivo will be delivering new automated analysis capabilities and will provide support for structured data.

Favorite Technology of the Noughties (2000-2009)

December 22, 2009

With the noughties (2000-2009) rapidly coming to an end, I looked back at my favorite software and hardware for each year of the noughties.  Each of the technologies listed below I used and could positively reflect on the experience, whether for work or for entertainment.

2000

Software, Bioware Baldur’s Gate 2, fantasy-based single-player role-playing game.

Hardware, Trek Technology ThumbDrive, portable USB flash drive.

2001

Software, Microsoft Windows XP Professional, operating system with an improved user interface.

Hardware, Apple iPod, portable media player for music collections.

2002

Software, Microsoft .Net Framework, software framework for developing applications on Windows.

Hardware, Microsoft Xbox, gaming console.

2003

Software, Skype, free voice calls over the Internet.

Hardware, Dell Axim, Windows Mobile personal digital assistant.

2004

Software, SOE Everquest 2, fantasy-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

Hardware, Nintendo DS, handheld game console with a touch screen.

2005

Software, Microsoft SQL Server 2005, relational database server.

Hardware, i-mate JASJAR, Windows Mobile phone.

2006

Software, QSR International NVivo 7, qualitative data analysis application.

Hardware, Nintendo Wii, gaming console with wireless controller.

2007

Software, Microsoft Office 2007 Professional, productivity suite with improved user interface.

Hardware, Apple iPhone, multi-touch phone which syncs with iTunes.

2008

Software, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, relational database server.

Hardware, HP Touchsmart 2, multi-touch integrated desktop.

2009

Software, Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate, operating system with an improved user experience and performance.

Hardware, Dell Adamo, slim ultraportable laptop with solid-state hard disk.

On this topic, I recommend viewing these 2 episodes of Byteside – Byteside Tech #6 and Byteside Games #6 for an Australian flavored discussion of technology in the noughties.

The noughties saw many great technologies and we can expect further advances in the next decade, most of which we cannot anticipate today.

Winning The Age/D&B Business Awards

December 1, 2009

On the 8 November 2009, QSR International was announced in The Age as the winner of The Age/D&B Business Award for Information Technology and Business Services.  The award recognizes excellence in business performance and financial management.  The award is unique in that it operates on an invitation only basis, with invitations based on the strength of the companies financial profile within the D&B database.

On the 27 November 2009, category winners (from Manufacturing, Country & Rural, Building & Allied Industries, Retail, IT & Business Services, Exporter & Wholesaler, New Company) of The Age/D&B Business Awards were recognized at a ceremony held at Champions within Federation Square.  The exciting news was QSR International was awarded The Age/D&B Victorian Business of the Year Award.  The following day the details were published in The Age.

Shown Left to Right: W. Fitzsimmons, S. Soubra, A. Long, J. Owen, D. Gage, J. Chang, M. Sketchley, H. Horak, K. Thomas, N. Choi

It is great to be recognized as an outstanding Information Technology business, and even more so as a standout business amongst diverse categories of businesses.  QSR International’s success can be attributed to its dedicated staff, business partners, resellers, and trainers who work diligently to better serve our customers.

To finish I quote Mario Andretti (1940-), American automobile racing driver  

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.

Reflections on Microsoft PDC09

November 20, 2009

This past week I attended the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles.  PDC is described as the definitive Microsoft event focused on the technical strategy of the Microsoft developer platform.  Having attended PDC in 2005 and 2008, this year’s conference seemed to be more about fulfillment and refinement of existing directions and strategies, rather than any shift in direction or strategy.

The day 1 keynote was presented by Ray Ozzie (Chief Software Architect) and Bob Muglia (President of the Server and Tools Business).  Ray highlighted Microsoft’s broad vision to support 3 screens – PCs, phones, and TVs – all connected by cloud services.  Last year, the broad vision was to support 3 screens – PC, web, and phone; where Windows 7 was announced to support the PC, Windows Azure was announced to support the web, and no announcements were made regarding the phone.  This year there was little new information about the PC and no new information about the Phone and TV – though we were told that details about Windows Mobile 7 will be announced at the MIX10 conference in March 2010.  Windows Azure was announced to go live on 1 January 2010 and a cloud computing project ‘Dallas’ was announced.  Dallas is a data repository for content brokerage and discovery, in competition to IBM’s Smart Analytics Cloud.

The day 2 keynote was presented by Steven Sinofsky (President of Windows and Windows Live), Scott Guthrie (Corporate Vice President of .Net Developer Platform) and Kurt DelBene (Senior Vice President of Office Business Productivity).  Scott announced the beta of Silverlight 4.  Kurt announced the public beta of Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Visio 2010, Microsoft Project 2010, and Microsoft Office Mobile 2010.  Steven highlighted advancements in performance and interoperable standards being developed for Internet Explorer 9.  It was interesting to see the demonstration of delivering video to an iPhone using Silverlight Streaming given Steve Ballmer’s dislike of the iPhone.

The best advancement of the developer platform at PDC09 was the continued developments in Silverlight.  Silverlight 4 introduces support for drag/drop, right-click, print, media handling, clipboard, and rich text.  There is now support for the Google Chrome browser and extended out-of-browser capabilities.  I assume that Silverlight will become the common user interface technology in the future to support all 3 screens (PC, phone, TV).

The frustration of PDC09 was Windows Azure.  Azure has improved significantly (particularly with  SQL Azure) since it was first announced at last year’s PDC, but disappoints due to the lack of support for Virtual Machines and the business model for international organizations.

Given that most organizations have existing web applications that could benefit by moving them into the cloud, but the cost of redevelopment is not justifiable, then Virtual Machines are today’s low hanging fruit for cloud computing.  Microsoft said they will support Virtual Machines in Azure at a future date; however this is something already available from competitor cloud offerings.

The Azure business model for companies outside of the United States is not as competitive as it should be.  For instance, my organization resides in Australia and we currently use Amazon Web Services S3 for customer downloads.  The cost of storage today using S3 is AUD$0.161 (USD$0.15 * 1.07) per GB whereas the Azure cost of storage will be AUD$0.188 (USD$0.15 * 1.25) per GB, being 17% more expensive.  The cost of data transfer out today using S3 is AUD$0.182 (USD$0.17 * 1.07) per GB whereas the Azure cost of data transfer out will be AUD$0.188 (USD$0.15 * 1.25) per GB, being 3% more expensive.  Furthermore, Australian organizations are excluded from the initial go-live date of January 2010 and must wait until April 2010.  Microsoft got poor publicity in the media on their pricing of Windows 7 in Australia, and really has no excuse using a segmented regional based business model when the cloud is a borderless global based business model.

The hidden gem of PDC09 was the overview and demonstration of the Microsoft Semantic Engine.  The Semantic Engine unifies search, structured querying, and analytics over structured and unstructured data.  This will componentize this fragmented technology space, enabling developers to provide business insights into data to support better decision-making.  It goes beyond existing components like Lucene by supporting both text and non-text, such as audio, video, and images.

These are my thoughts after attending PDC09 over the past 4 days and I look forward to trialling the new betas.