CloudBrokerBadgeThe first Cloud Expo event I attended 2 years ago was striking for the myriad of traditional hosting companies who were cloud-washing their offerings (usually quite blatantly and badly I felt).  Last year what struck me was the myriad of new small vendors selling niche cloud-related product offerings – data transfer optimisation, security products, management products, etc. I wonder what the theme will be this year? It’ll be interesting to see how many vendors are wearing the “I’m a cloud brokerage” badge at this week’s Cloud Expo.

Whilst I was at AWS’s Re:invent conference last November, one of the guest speakers at the partner day was Tiffani Bova, Distinguished Analyst from Gartner. Part of her presentation covered the topic of cloud brokerage, something Gartner have been talking about for quite a while, and something Tiffani and I had some debate about afterwards.

I must admit, it took me a while to wrap my head around the concept of cloud brokerage, partially as the pushing of the term was coming more from the analyst community than the rest of the cloud industry. Williams Fellows from 451 Research refers to this as “…a ‘cloudemic’ of firms now stamping ‘cloud broker’ across their service portfolios”. Tiffani’s view was that 90%+ of the AWS partners in the room (including Smart421) were brokers. It’s such a broad definition, e.g. Gartner’s definition is

Cloud services brokerage (CSB) is an IT role and business model in which a company or other entity adds value to one or more (public or private) cloud services on behalf of one or more consumers of that service via three primary roles including aggregation, integration and customization brokerage.

The great thing about definitions is that you can never have enough :). Way back in mid 2011 NIST published the following definition of a Cloud Broker…

NIST CloudBrokerageDefinition

The default view taken in society in that anyone with the title “agent” (aka broker) is looked down upon – e.g. estate agent, recruitment agent etc :). But by this definition I guess we’re all brokers in one way or another, even if it’s just combining toast and scrambled eggs to make the kid’s breakfast in the morning (aggregation).

Looking at what Smart421 delivers for our customers – we integrate different cloud and non-cloud services, we design and implement complex cloud environments and we add a 24×7 ITIL-based service management capability on top including ongoing capacity and cost optimisation. We also add value by handling access management, enhanced security, managing billing complexities and bringing new market innovations to our customers (as cloud service providers like AWS are still innovating and releasing functionality at an amazing rate, too fast for customers to keep up generally).  I guess that means I get to wear the badge too!

In a blog post tomorrow I’ll talk some more about one of the oft-touted cloud brokerage promises – that of dynamically migrating IT workloads across cloud providers (closely related to the dreaded phrase “bursting into the cloud”), and of making deployment-time decisions about which cloud service provider to use…and why I don’t believe in it.

PS If you happen to be attending Cloud Expo Europe this week, catch me on the Smart421 stand or let me know you are there via @SmartCTO

View from the Millbank Tower, London

As part of my focus on developing Smart421’s API strategy, last week I attended Mashery’s one day Business of APIs (BAPI) conference Altitude London,  29th floor of the Millbank Tower on the banks of The Thames.

I’ve been to a fair few events in the last couple of years, from the London AWS enterprise event Robin mentioned in his post this morning to the Gartner AADI conference in May.

The BAPI event had a very different flavour. Although it was a Mashery event, their presence was mainly facilitatory. There was no heavy sales pitch, and no compulsory product demo. The other thing missing was sponsor stands, which was interesting… No need to run the gauntlet with marketing folks to secure your lunch.

What was available in spades was great quality discussion, both from the presenters, and one on one with attendees. The conference was really focussed on the business of building and consuming APIs.

I particularly enjoyed Creating Success / APIs Changing Business from Kevin Flowers, CTO, Coca-Cola Enterprises. Kevin talked about the challenges of launching APIs in a large business. CCE have built a series of internal APIs for managing everything from procurement and finance to sales and service.

This fits well with our internal discussions within Smart421. We think that for many of our customers, the future of integration lies in building and consuming APIs internally first, and then selectively exposing these (or APIs derived from these) to the outside world. Test, learn, do, with the test and learn occurring mainly internally.

TomTom’s Peter Moeykens talked about their experience of building a public API around TomTom’s core map, navigation and point-of-interest assets. He talked about the journey TomTom went on, the (inevitable) missteps made, and the ‘lightbulb moment’ that was the realisation that APIs need to be thought about as products. Again, this is a view I share strongly, even for internal APIs – without taking that outside in view of the world, your APIs will be lifeless. Peter talked about how they sold APIs internally (Answer: demos), and how they sold them externally, and perhaps more to the point, how they got their sales guys to sell them externally (Answer: showing them the kinds of applications the APIs would allow other people to build). Really great, practical advice.

There were a bunch of other great talks too, the slides for which are available on the BAPI website, with videos on the way for the most part. A few of these were only tangentially related to APIs, but were none the less well worth an hour of my time: David McCandless of Information is Beautiful fame talked about data visualisation in a highly amusing talk – well worth a watch when the videos arrive. While Paull Young of charity:water made me laugh – and then damned near cry – with his talk about the work that C:W has been doing on its digital strategy (a topic I’m hoping to talk more about here over the coming months).

So, in summary, a really great event. I’ll definitely be going again next year given a chance, and would encourage anyone interested in this space to go along as well. If you do, hang around a while afterwards – plenty of high quality discussion happened after the main event was over.

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Positively Noctilucent:  not all clouds were created equal

With just 3 weeks to go until its Enterprise Summit in London (17 Sept), Amazon Web Services (AWS) is on a bit of a roll. ( hashtag #AWSsummit )

Research reports by analysts at Forrester and at Gartner have shown again AWS’ leadership position in a significant way.  For those still looking for evidence that Cloud Computing is a robust alternative to on-premise compute and storage, these reports are as close as you are likely to get to an objective viewpoint.

In June, Forrester Research published its ‘Wave’ report on Enterprise Public Cloud platforms, Q2 ( get the reprint here or via short URL http://bit.ly/1dUsPC3 ). In it, the authors Rymer and Staten took all the mainstream IaaS / PaaS / SaaS vendors (except absences e.g. Savvis) and analysed from a number of viewpoints: rapid developers, coders, DevOps pros, and application development & delivery (AD&D).

Incidently, they also registered a blurring of the lines between the widely accepted stratified offerings software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS),  But I digress. You should read the report.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) came out the strongest of all vendors across three of our four developer segments.

In August, Forrester’s arch rivals Gartner published its Magic Quadrant report on Cloud IaaS  ( get the reprint here or via short URL http://gtnr.it/17Lu848 ). Analyst team Leong, Toombs, Gill, Petri and Haynes put AWS way out in front.  Other mainstream vendors (including Savvis) looked like a tightly bunched peloton on their now-famous 2 x 2 matrix.

Research clients of Forrester and Gartner place a lot of currency in these types of reports; substantial IT deals are decided on the strength of vendors’ positioning and analyst opinions.  Of course, analysts don’t always get it right, but when it comes to Cloud they have for the most part been prescient.

Regular readers of the Smart421 blog will know only too well that we have been uncharacteristically vocal of our support for the AWS Cloud technology stack.  This is only because a number of UK enterprises have already engaged Smart421 to architect, deliver and support solutions on the AWS Cloud.

If you’ve registered to attend on 17 September, you’re in for a treat with a great agenda.  If you’d like to have a more pointed conversation with our Cloud Architects or Senior Management team, please fee free to visit our special microsite to book an on-site meeting.

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I have just got round to catching up with some blog posts after holiday season and this one from my KCom colleague Rob Wells caught my eye. I particularly liked the word “phablet” to cover phones and tablets but I’m not sure it will catch on.

Rob makes a compelling case against a proliferation of Apps and for building ‘mobile optimised HTML’ which relies on an initial web server detection mechanism that checks the user agent (Rob says Operating System but I don’t think that’s what he really meant) and then directs the request to the right pages. This is absolutely the right approach given that more and more users are now finding your company websites on mobile than on full-scale laptop screens so immediately directing from “www.acme.co” to “m.acme.co” that is optimised for mobile should be a no-brainer.

I like the KCom portal approach of assuming controls are ‘touch-first’ as well. I overheard a conversation the other day where someone was wondering how long it would be until putting something on a web page like “CLICK” (PC or mouse-oriented) would die out in favour of “TOUCH” here. Perhaps somebody needs to invent a new word that covers both options. I tried out an online thesaurus for touch which offered “tap” or “hit” (and a few other slightly dodgy ones) but synonyms for click were even less helpful.

Anyway, I digress. Rob has made a very good argument for HTML(5) on browser being the target of choice but I would argue it is not always the best option.

Here’s just two reasons why:

1. You’re NOT always online. The Apps I use the most are the ones where I can use them offline (and occasionally synchronise data when the Interweb is available) for example EverNote, Strava or good old faithful email clients. I actually hate Apps that rely on Internet connection to function and avoid them wherever possible.

2. There isn’t very consistent or reliable support for HTML5 in many browsers yet and it’s just as hard to ensure your application works on web browsers as it is with native or “hybrid” Apps with lots of browser-specific catches that you need to work with. For the foreseeable future I can’t see pure web applications having enough functionality to compete with Apps which run natively on the popular handsets.

The nice thing about Hybrid platforms like IBM Worklight or Appcelerator is that you can still use a lot of the common HTML, CSS and JavaScript skills but write them to use APIs into the native features such as encrypted cache through JSONStore for offline storage and benefit from a little bit the best of both worlds. Worklight, which is now a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant of Mobile Application development Platforms has the option to generate a mobile web version as well as version for iOS, Android, Windows 8 and BlackBerry so you can have your cake and eat it. It also addresses the problems highlighted in Rob’s blog of fragmentation of the different mobile platforms plus controlling versions and ensuring security.

There are advocates of both approaches and neither is really right or wrong – as always you need to take a decision based on your requirements, strategy and budget.

sexton_blakeSome things take a bit of unravelling. But to solve mysteries, you don’t have to be Sexton Blake (doubt you remember him?).

With the help of search engines, a few analysts’ reports and a bit of time, the fog quickly clears to reveal (another?) new wave coming in the IT industry.

Only this time, we’re talking databases.

Databases?  Ok – not the sexiest of subjects – I grant you – but we would do well to note the emerging trend in NoSQL and in open source distributed datastores generally.

Fear not. SQL hasn’t suddenly abdicated its crown, or become the object of sordid revelations about its private life. Far from it. SQL has deservedly won its place in the history of computing, especially for transactional databases.

But apparently not all databases were created the same (all the vendors will tell you that… and show you their glossy marketing brochures to back up their assertions – right?).

Mystery solved -  NoSQL means “Not Only” SQL

NoSQL doesn’t mean literally “No” SQL. And it is this “not only” aspect that is causing a bit of a stir. NoSQL databases are created in an entirely different way compared to traditional SQL databases.

In fact there are four main kinds:

NoSQL

Technology Landscape: No SQL

In the blog by our CTO on 28 May, Robin made mention of one such technology, a graph database called Neo4j which was one of the things that caught his eye at Big Data London.

I first heard Neo4j explained by Ian Robinson back in February this year at SyncConf. I was somewhat riveted by the capability of a graph database, which is regarded by many as a superset of all the others.

here at Smart421, we have already been working with others on customer engagements, for example with Cassandra one of the leading column data stores and  MongoDB, which is arguably the leading document database, overtaking CouchDB.

If you’re a Solution Architect and Technical Architect, you will almost certainly be tracking these and several others.

If you’re a developer, programmer or involved in some capacity in DevOps, you will almost certainly had a play or done something more serious with NoSQL (if not, why not?)

For what it’s worth, I’ve been quite impressed by some I’ve seen. Take Riak, a key-value pair distributed datastore by Basho which, although a comparatively young business, has an impressive management team exported out of Akamai and has already built a strong user base in the United States. Riak looks like it deserves more prominence over here; I’ll stick my neck out and predict it will rise to become major name before too long.  Basho will be sponsoring MobDevCon this July where two “Smarties” will be speaking.

Basho will also be organising RICON Europe, a tech led event for those interested in all-things NoSQL which will be coming to London in October (remember – you heard it here first).

NoSQL is on the up – it’s official

As a collective, NoSQL database management systems are on the move and picking up pace. Market analysts are tracking their progress carefully.

Gartner for example has predicted that NoSQL could account for 20 per cent of market penetration as early as 2014, which seems rather astonishing until you see how Gartner arrives at its assumptions. Merv Adrian, ex-Forrester and now Research VP at Gartner (@merv), appears to have done his homework on this and he is seeing NoSQL rise from basically a standing start.

As recently as 2012, Adrian quantified NoSQL Database Management Systems as having a market penetration of 1 per cent to 5 per cent of target audience (Adrian in Lapkin, 2012, pp. 36-38), upgrading his assessment in 2011 of NoSQL having a market penetration of less than 1 per cent of target audience (Adrian in Edjlali and Thoo, 2011, pp. 31-33).

Merv Adrian, and other market watchers, will be well worth listening to both this year and next if you get the chance at a Gartner Event, or if you have a Gartner research subscription perhaps you should request an inquiry call sooner rather than later.

References:

araven07 (2011) Introduction to Graph Databases. Recording of presentation by E. Eifrem, 14 July 2011]. Available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UodTzseLh04> [accessed 23 May 2013].

Amazon Web Services (2013 ) AWS Marketplace: Riak. [Online]. Available at <https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/pp/B00AMRXCQA/> [accessed 29 May 2013].

Adrian, M. (2012) Who’s Who is NoSQL DBMS. Gartner. 07 Jun. G00228114.

Aslett, M. (2013) ‘Navigating 451 Research’s revised database landscape map’. 451 Research. 10 January. [Online]. Available <https://451research.com/report-short?entityId=75461> [accessed 25 May 2013].

Aslett, M. (2013) ‘451 Research survey highlights growing adoption of NoSQL databases’. 451 Research. 16 May. [Online]. Available <https://451research.com/report-short?entityId=77136> [accessed 25 May 2013].

De Castro, R. (2012) ‘Why I think Riak is a great NoSQL’ DZone. 30 July. [Online]. Available at <http://architects.dzone.com/articles/why-i-think-riak-great-nosql> [accessed 26 May 2013].

Eagle, L., Brooks, C. and Sadowski, A. (2013) ‘New wave databases in the cloud, part 3: SoftLayer and Basho’. 451 Research. 01 May. [Online]. Available <https://451research.com/report-short?entityId=76917> [accessed 27 May 2013].

Edjlali, R. and Thoo, E. (2011) Hype Cycle for Data Management, 2011. Gartner. 26 Jul. G00213386.

Eifrem, E. (2011) Overview of NoSQL. [Recording of presentation by E.Eifrem ]. Available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh1YACOK_bo> [accessed 23 May 2013].

Kovacs, K. (2013) Cassandra vs MongoDB vs CouchDB vs Redis vs Riak vs HBase vs Couchbase vs Neo4j vs Hypertable vs ElasticSearch vs Accumulo vs VoltDB vs Scalaris. [Online]. Available at <http://kkovacs.eu/cassandra-vs-mongodb-vs-couchdb-vs-redis&gt; [accessed 08 June 2013].

Lapkin, A. (2012) Hype Cycle for Big Data, 2012. Gartner. 31 Jul. G00235042.

Novet, J. (2013) ‘Basho Technologies takes aim at more enterprises with upgrades’ GigaOM. 21 February. [Online]. Available at <http://gigaom.com/2013/02/21/basho-technologies-takes-aim-at-more-enterprises-with-upgrades/> [accessed 26 May 2013].

Ricon (2013) RICON 2013. Available at <http://ricon.io/>  [accessed 25 May 2013].

Villanovauniversity (2011) A Tour of the NoSQL World. [Recording of lecture by David Cassel, Senior Consultant of MarkLogic at Department of Computer Science at Villanova University, United States of America on 07 Nov 2011]. Available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXQsykDfGBk> [accessed 27 May 2013].

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Custom Cocktails at Gartner AADI, London

Smart421 Custom Cocktails
Photo by Templeton-Cross.com

By popular demand we’ve decided to publish today the receipes from the customised cocktails we served last week at the Gartner AADI Summit in London.

Our guests absolutely loved the choice of 4 alcoholic and 2 non-alcoholic custom cocktails.

These were created specially for us by leading mixologist and bartender David Hurst and expert flair bartender David Oliveira at UK’s leading mobile bar company, Cocktailmaker ( @CocktailmakerUK ).

Handle with care… I mean flair.
Ok, both maybe!

Tip: depending on which you try, all these recipes will come out either red or purple (our company colours).

Any other colours you might obtain will be a total fluke and you should probably try again (in case you needed a good excuse…)

Cloud DR Breeze: Vodka, Grapefruit Juice, Cranberry Juice

Put plenty of ice in a highball glass, add a large shot of vodka and fill with equal measures of cranberry and grapefruit juice.

IaaS Cooler: Crème de Cassis, Crème de Fraise, Cranberry Juice, Lime Juice

Put one measure of each of the cassis, strawberry liqueur and cranberry juice into a shaker tin full of ice, add a squeeze of lime, shake well and strain in to a martini glass.

API Factory Collins: Vodka, Lemon Juice, Gomme, Strawberry, Soda Water

Put a large shot of vodka, a single shot of fresh lemon and half a shot of sugar syrup into an ice-filled shaker tin, shake well and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda water, garnish with a lemon wedge and serve.

Integration Martini: Coconut Rum, Cranberry Juice, Grapefruit Juice

Put a good scoop of ice in a highball glass, add a large shot of coconut rum and fill with equal measures of cranberry and grapefruit juice.

Service Factory Fizz: Strawberry, Orange Juice, Lime, Lemonade

Add a measure of strawberry puree to a shaker with 150ml of orange juice, squeeze and drop in a wedge of lime, fill with ice, shake well and strain into a highball glass half full of fresh ice. Top with lemonade.
(Non-alcoholic)

SOA Water: Passion Fruit Juice, Orange Juice, Grenadine, Soda Water

Equal measures of passion fruit juice and orange juice are shaken in a tin with ice, the mix is poured into a highball glass and topped with soda. Pour grenadine carefully down the side of the glass.
(Non-alcoholic)

Enjoy. Responsibly.

PS   did you see our more recent blog on The Smartini ?

Please Rate and Like this blog. Leave a Comment to tell us about your favourite. Come back later and Comment about the fun you had mixing these cocktails.

Last week Smart421 once again was a sponsor at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development and Integration (AADI) Summit - this is the primary event in the UK Gartner calendar that covers integration/SOA, cloud computing, mobile, big data etc. Our marketing manager kept me rather busy with customer meetings throughout the event (!), but I still managed to catch some of the Gartner analyst sessions.

In the keynote, Andy Kyte made an interesting point about the barriers to SaaS adoption, in that organisations traditionally organise themselves along application lines (i.e. the System A team, the System B team…) rather than along domain lines (the “customer domain” team, the “product domain” team…). This relates nicely to our view of how organisations should develop their integration strategy over time. Anyway, although Andy didn’t use this term, this seemed to me to be yet another realisation of Conway’s Law, where individual team structures and the typical budget scraps over limited resources that they take part in put significant barriers in the way of the adoption of SaaS to replace existing legacy systems.

Ray Valdes presented on user experience design and gave a useful checklist of things to consider and the top 10 common mistakes to avoid. He made the distinction between design approaches led by intuition (“I know I’m right, trust me”) and evidence (“I’ve tried this and measured the outcome so I know it improves things”). I felt that the remedy to many of the top 10 mistakes lay in the application of the principles of the Lean Startup, e.g. test and learn, iterate quickly, validate your assumptions, collect metrics and feedback etc – although interestingly the intuition-based approach is more likely to lead to a innovation leap, whereas the evidence-based approach is more likely to lead to refinement and tuning of existing approaches but not such a large likelihood of a game-changing innovation.

On the Thursday there was the usual evening reception which was a lot of fun – this year we had some flair bartending on our stand from CocktailMaker – here’s an action shot… (Photo by Jim Templeton-Cross )

Gartner AADI 2013 stand

The cocktail guy did drop the bottle on the floor a few times following particularly ambitious throws but fortunately we didn’t burn the place down with any flammable liquids :). As you can see from the photo below, our team (Neil Miles, the MD, and two colleagues from Business Services) are very smiley after knocking back a few cocktails…and Red Hat’s marketing approach at the event clearly worked!

Gartner AADI 2013 smiles all round

Ant Allan speaking at 2013 Gartner IAM

Ant Allan speaking at 2013 Gartner IAM Summit, London.
Photo by David Taylor

In the life of an IT professional you end up learning a good deal of information relevant to your profession, at seminars and conferences. When those conferences deal with security, as the Gartner Identity & Access Management Summit 2013 in London near Westminster last week did, then you will often take away lessons for your personal life too.

So when Jeffrey Robinson (@WritingFactory) told us in the closing keynote that 100% of us would be subject to an electronic fraud attack over the course of the next year – multiple times… he was underlining a theme that had been running through the sessions over the two fully-packed days.

Hacking and cyber attacks are no longer (and have not been for a while) a form of entertainment for script kiddies to boast about pwn’ing your server, or workstation… they are big business with plenty of resources.

Peter Armstrong, Identity Assurance Tech Director at CESG, had underlined this on Monday (11 March, 4.15pm), in his session “How to Attack an Online Service, when he explained that part of the Ice IX attack (fuller explanation by John Leyden in The Register, 02 Feb 2012) involves setting up a call centre and diverting your house phone there, so that when the bank calls to verify the suspicious transactions that start appearing. The call centre has enough people to find someone of the same sex, age and regional accent to pretend to be you; and then using a screen with all the harvested details from your hard-disk previously to be able to answer questions about your favourite football team, pet dog, music and film tastes, mother’s maiden name…   et voila !

Criminals no longer bother to rob banks directly, as consumers are much softer targets, and the risks are much lower. Cyber criminals are very unlikely to even see the inside of a courtroom, let alone the inside of a prison; and the rewards are high. Cyber crime is just not going to go away. It is an arms race.

And on the mobile front it is pretty one-sided. Apparently 30% of mobiles have malware on them, with Android being a favourite, Symbian, and even (surprisingly) BlackBerry.

Search the net for ZitMo for one of the big examples.

There are even trojans turning up in the curated app stores. The numbers in the un-curated stores for hacked and rooted hardware must be frightening. The one major defence against having all your passwords (good or bad, weak or strong) harvested by key-loggers on your desk-top/lap-top is good hygiene. There are even viruses which download to your android’s storage, and then infect your PC when you next sync, or mount it as a mass storage device.

All this raises big questions about the suitability of the Bring You Own Device (BYOD) model.

Various exhibitors showcased Mobile Device Management (MDM) products, and walled gardens… and there are various strategies for securing applications in themselves, but most mechanisms that do not classify the device as “totally untrusted” rely on the underlying OS not being compromised. Would a firm be expected to support a rooted device in addition to a stock device? Is it easy to keep corporate data safe, even in “totally untrusted” mode?

So as well as the professional angle of what I do, the IAM conference got me thinking about my own digital safety, in addition to the business application of digital safety.

Many thanks to our partners, ForgeRock, for inviting me along. It was good to get to know more of their excellent team there too.

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The subcategory called Big Data is emerging out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Matt Wood with Robin Meehan

From left: Matt Wood, Chief Data Scientist at Amazon Web Services (AWS) with Robin Meehan, CTO at Smart421
Photo by Jim Templeton-Cross

What it is.

Definitions abound (who would have thought it? – quite usual in the technology market). For Big Data, we quite like the definition that originated with Doug Laney (@doug_laney), formerly META Group, now a Gartner analyst. It goes something like this:

 ” … increasing volume (amount of data), velocity (speed of data in and out), and variety (range of data types and sources)”

Gartner continue to use this “3Vs” model for describing Big Data.

Unsurprisingly, others are claiming Gartner’s construct for Big Data (see Doug’s blog post, 14 Jan 2012).

Still confused?

Put another way, Big Data is commonly understood to be:

“… a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools. The challenges include capture, curation, storage,search, sharing, analysis,and visualization. The trend to larger data sets is due to the additional information derivable from analysis of a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, allowing correlations to be found to “spot business trends, determine quality of research, prevent diseases, link legal citations, combat crime, and determine real-time roadway traffic conditions.” read more on Wikipedia.

Big Data could be executed on-premise if you have sufficient compute and storage in your corporate data centre. And some do, especially some large banks, and with good success. Several solutions are already out there on the market;  Oracle’s Big Data Appliance is just one example.  But it does also beg the question “why would you” ?

If you don’t want the CapEx of purchasing more tin, or don’t want to gobble up capacity in your own data centre, then there are alternatives. For example, a cost model now exists with cloud-based compute and cloud-based storage (for example, think of Amazon’s announcement of 25 percent reductions in the price of Amazon S3, it’s storage solution) that puts Big Data in the Cloud well within the reach of all UK enterprises. A cost model like that islikely to win friends in procurement and in corporate governance as well as in IT.

Hinging on technologies including Apache Hadoop clusters, Amazon Elastic Map Reduce (Amazon EMR) and others, Big Data is delivering a degree of analytics and visualisation not previously possible at affordable levels.

Don’t just take our word for it, ask around. We could point you to other experts in Big Data, such Matt Wood ( @mza ), Chief Data Scientist at AWS.

What it isn’t.

Big Data isn’t business intelligence (BI). What I mean is that Big Data isn’t BI in any traditional sense of the term. It is altogether another level on from that. Granted that some tooling enterprises may own may be recycled for use in Big Data analytics. But it isn’t another species, it’s another race.

Big Data isn’t a lame attempt at reviving a management information system (MIS); those should be left to rest in peace.

What it means for you.

By now, if you’ve read this far, something should be niggling away at you that you could be missing a trick. I trust it won’t be those voices in your head again. But it might be your instincts telling you how Big Data could answer those tough business questions – y’know, those “I can’t be asked” questions that existing systems just cannot deliver.

Now, you would not necessarily get our CTO to come right out and say that Big Data is the next big thing. But evidence we are assembling so far does seem to point to a new capability to deliver. For those with an appetite to understand their business in new ways, Big Data is delivering tangible intelligence that lets them see new dimensions, new possibilities and new revenue streams.

I did get a full radar lock on something our CTO said in the summer. It was a throw away line at the time but it stuck with me and with others. So, when the time came to consider an appropriate go-to-market message for our quarter three (Q3) focus, we decided to wheel out his one-liner as part of our messaging.

“It’s not about survival of the fittest -
it’s about survival of the best informed”
Robin Meehan, CTO, Smart421 Ltd.

Making no apologies to Charles Darwin or evolutionists, the statement is resonating with decision makers in the enterprise space, not least those in the Insurance sector. Why?  Well, we think it is because a lot of the big insurers operate under many names in their brand portfolios.

The capability to see and understand impacts of brand activities, such as Insurance Quotes, delivered using Big Data analytics in the AWS Cloud, is illuminating new gains that would otherwise have remained out of reach.

Don’t forget – brand analysis is only one use case for Big Data in the Cloud.

If the world is going Big Data crazy then you need to know what it is, what it isn’t and what it means to your enterprise.

Agree?  Disagree?

UPDATE 05 Dec 2012 – Our economist friend Tim Harford  (@TimHarford) sent this hilarious tweet: The data do not lie. OR DO THEY? Muah huah huah! http://dlvr.it/2b2NS1

UPDATE 06 Dec 2012 – Robin and colleague Ben Baumguertel (@bbaumguertel) are attending the Big Data Analytics event in London today (organised by @WhitehallMedia ).

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I have been asked many times to help our customers select a product to act as their ESB and have constantly found myself resorting to type and looking at the usual suspects IBM, Oracle, Red Hat, MuleSoft etc. However, recently I have been looking in greater detail at the ESB offering from WSO2 especially since the coverage and ratings from Gartner and Forrester, so when I was  asked by Smart421 to attend the WSO2 ESB and Enterprise Integration last Tuesday (6th September) I jumped at the chance.

Arriving at the IET in Savoy Place, London I was greeted by that fantastic smell of fresh coffee first thing in the morning, that gave me opportunity to speak to some of the others attending, representatives from SpecSavers, Aspen Re, SportingBet there to find out more about WSO2 and the products they offer, to other systems integrators like Asteria. Paul Freemantle (CTO of WSO2) was leading the workshop and I enjoyed the openness of him and the easiness of his style of presenting which I am sure is driven from the passion he has for WSO2 and the products they are building.

What struck me most about the WSO2 ESB during the workshop and demonstrations was the simplicity of  it WSO2 ESB is a lean, lightweight mediation platform based on and enhances the Apache Synapse ESB and has been designed for the demands of high-volume SOA implementations. Built on the OSGi specification, WSO2 ESB can be easily customised to specific IT project needs by adding other WSO2 components , providing greater flexibility and agility to meet changing and challenging enterprise demands. WSO2 ESB is also available as an ESB-as-a-Service as part of the WSO2 Stratos cloud middleware platform and WSO2 StratosLive platform-as-a-service (PaaS) hosted by WSO2 again making an even stronger case for adopting this.

Paul also talked through some of the examples of clients using their products such as British Airways, US NavyMicrosoft and eBay – with their ESB processing over a billion transactions per day! Couple this with with what had been demonstrated during the day and the other products that WSO2 offer such as they Governance Registry, Application Server and Business Process Server you can see the capability that you have available to you immediately. You can see why this has helped Gartner and Forrester rating this product so highly, and why I think that this is a serious option when considering an ESB and one I will be pushing more…

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