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Several telecom operators to run into financial problems in the next three years…

November 21, 2014 Leave a comment

In 2017 several telecom operators will run into financial problems, with Vodafone being the most known, unless they start changing today. Why?

The telecom business is a very capital intensive business. Buying spectrum, rolling out the next-generation mobile networks and bringing fiber connections to each home and business is extremely capital intensive. Traditionally operators were the main users of their networks and got large margins on the services that ran on top of them. The truth today is that telecom operators have been completely sidetracked. They no longer have any control of the mobile devices that are used on their networks and neither the services. Data is growing exponentially and is already clogging their networks. A data tsunami is on the horizon. Operators see costs ballooning and ARPU shrinking. There is no way they can start asking substantially more for broadband access. Obama just killed any hope of adding a speed tax on the Internet. The EU wants to kill juicy roaming charges. However the future will be even worse.

New disruptive competitors have entered the market in recent years. Google Fiber is offering gigabit speeds both for uploading and downloading. Youtube and Netflix are generating the majority of Internet traffic in most countries.  Most streaming videos are broadcasted in SD quality. However Netflix is already broadcasting in 4K or ultra high-definition quality on Google Fiber. This means traffic volumes of between 7 to 19GB per hour depending on the codec that is used. Take into account that often different family members can be looking at two or more programmes at the same time. The end result is that today’s networks and spectrum are completely insufficient. Now add the nascent IoT revolution. Every machine on earth will get an IP address and be able to “share its feelings with the world”. Every vital sign of each person in the richer parts of the world will be collected by smart watches and tweeted about on social networks. 90% of the communication that is running inside Facebook’s data centre is machine to machine communication, not user-related communication. Facebook hasn’t even introduced IoT or wearables yet. You can easily imagine them helping even the biggest geek with suggestions on which girl to talk to and what to talk about via augmented reality goggles and with the help of smart watches. Yes it is a crazy example but which telecom marketing department would have given even $1 to Zuckerberg if he would have pitched Facebook to them when it was still known as TheFacebook. It is the perfect example of how “crazy entrepreneurs” make telecom executives look like dinosaurs.

This brings us to the internals on how telecom operators are ran. Marketing departments decide what customers MUST like. Often based on more than doubtful market studies and business plans. In contrast the mobile app stores of this world just let customers decide. Angry Bird might not be the most intelligent app but it sure is a money maker. Procurement departments decide which network and IT infrastructure is best for the company. Ask them what NFV or SDN means and the only thing they can sensibly response is an RFP identifier. Do you really think any procurement department can make a sensible decision on what network technology will be able to compete with Google? More importantly make sure these solutions are deployed at Google speed, integrated at Google speed and scale out at Google speed? If they pick a “Telecom-Grade Feature Monster” that takes years to integrate, then they have killed any chance of that operator being innovative. With all the telecom-grade solutions operators have, why is it that Google’s solutions are more responsive, offer better quality of service and are always available? Vittorio Colao, the Vodafone CEO, was quoted in a financial newspaper yesterday saying Vodafone is going to have to participate in the crazy price war around digital content because BT has moved into mobile. So one of the biggest telecom operators in the world has executive strategies like launching new tariff plans [think RED in 2013], pay crazy money to broadcast football matches, bundle mobile with fixed to be able to discount overall monthly tariffs and erode ARPU even more, etc. If you can get paid millions to just look at what competitors are doing and just badly copy them and dotcoms [the list is long: hosted email, portals, mobile portals, social networks, virtual desktops, IaaS, streaming video, etc.] then please allow me to put your long term viability into question.

So can it actually be done differently. YES, for sure. What if operators would enable customers to customise communication solutions towards their needs. Communication needs have not gone away, if any they augmented. Whatsapp, Google Hangout, etc. are clear examples of how SMS and phone calls can be improved. However they are just the tip of the iceberg of what is possible and what should be done. Network integrated apps via Telco App Stores would give innovators a chance to launch services that customers really like. Hands up who would pay to get rid of their current voicemail? Hands up who really loves their operator’s conference bridge and thinks it is state of the art? Hands up who is of the opinion a bakery is absolute not interested in knowing what its customers think about its products after they have left the shop?

Last week the TAD Summit in Turkey had a very special presentation from Truphone, one of the few disruptive mobile operators in the world. No wonder it won the best presentation award. Truphone, with the help of partners, deployed a telecom solution in minutes that included key components like IMS, SDP, HLR integration, one hundred numbers, dashboards, interactive voice responses, etc. Once deployed, the audience could immediately start calling and participate. All numbers of the people in the audience, their home operator, the operator that sold them their SIM initially, their age and responses to interactive questions were registered and results shown on a real-time dashboard. If the audience would have been in different locations, they could have been put on an interactive map as well. The whole solution took only a few weeks to build with a team of people that all had day jobs. The surprising thing is that it was all build with open source software. It is technically possible to innovate big time in telecom and bring to market new services daily. All at a fraction of today’s cost. The technology is no longer a limiting factor. Old-school thinking, bureaucracy and incompetence are the only things that hold back operators from changing their destiny. Whatever they do, they shouldn’t act like former-Nokia executives in some years and tell the world that Android and the iPhone took them by surprise. Dear mister operator, you have been warned. You have been giving good advise and examples of how to do it better. Now it is time to act upon them…

LXD and Docker

November 11, 2014 1 comment

This blog post is not about the technical details around LXC, LXD, Docker, Kubernetes, etc. It focuses on the different use cases LXD and Docker are solving and should help non-experts understand them.
Canonical demoed a prototype of LXD last week at ODS. Several journalists incorrectly understood that LXD is a competitor of Docker. The truth is that LXD is trying to solve a completely different use case than Docker. Ubuntu 14.04 was the first operating system to provide commercial support for Docker. Six times more Docker images are powered by Ubuntu than all other operating systems combined. Ubuntu loves Docker.

Different Use Cases?

Docker is focused on being the universal container for applications. Developers love Docker because it allows them to prototype quickly solutions and share them with others. Docker is best compared to an onion. All internal layers are read-only and only the last layer is writeable. This means that people can quickly reuse Docker containers that were made by others and add their own layers on top if desired. Afterwards you upload your “personalised onion” to the Docker hub hence others can benefit from your work. Docker is ideal for augmenting developer productivity and showing of innovations.
Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu and Ubuntu powers 64% of all OpenStack’s in production, the fastest growing open source project in the world. In OpenStack, like in VMWare or on AWS, you run a hypervisor on a host operating system and then install a guest operating system on top. Because you have two layers of operating systems you can host on one server many applications on multiple operating systems at the same time. This is greatly optimising resource usage over non-virtualization. However because you need to duplicate operating systems you are wasting a lot of resources. Now ideally you could put Docker directly inside OpenStack and run all applications from inside containers. The problem with this is that Docker does not give an administrator the possibility to remotely log into the container and just add some monitoring, backup, etc. and other normal activities administrators do to guarantee SLAs. In comes LXD. LXD is building on top of a container technology called LXC which was used by Docker before. However LXD allows you to have access to a virtual server, just like you would have in case of a hypervisor. The big difference is that LXD does not require operating systems to be duplicated. Instead it partitions the host operating system and assures fair and secure usage between different applications that run inside different containers. The result is that the same server can pack many more applications and startup as well as migrations of applications between different servers becomes extremely fast. This idea is not new. Mainframes already had containers. Solaris had containers. LXD just makes sure that your favourite private cloud has containers that are easy to manage.

Can a hypervisor, Docker and LXD coexist?

Yes. The hypervisor could make sure Windows runs on top of an Ubuntu host [linux containers can not support Windows on top]. Docker containers can host some next generation scale out solution that is either purpose build for Docker or has made changes to support some of the new paradigms Docker introduces. LXD will be best for all your standard Linux workloads that you just want to move as is. No need to update the applications or the tools that get integrated into them.
Since LXD has an Apache licence and is available on Github, it is very likely that the future will actually evolve into a world where LXD and Docker advantages get combined in some shape or form. Hopefully with new innovations being added as well. That is the power of open source innovation and exactly the reason why Canonical has shared LXD with the world…

How the Cloud makes Windows irrelevant

June 5, 2014 2 comments

Windows has been running on the majority of PCs for many years now. Microsoft successfully translated its client monopoly into a stronghold server position. However times are changing and it is no surprise that the new CEO of Microsoft is a Cloud expert. Cloud can make Windows irrelevant.

Why?
On the cloud you no longer use a client-server architecture. HTML5 has come a long way and is close to feature parity with most Windows GUI applications. HTML5 means that you can do mobile, tablet and PC without installation or client-side version management. This means that Salesforce, Google Apps, Workday and other SaaS solutions have become enterprise successes overnight. Mobile first means Android and iOS first.

However the cloud is also bringing deeper changes. Innovation has never been cheaper. You don’t need to invest in anything. Hardware is almost for free. Software solutions are just an API away. Storage is infinite. Distribution is global.

Mobile game companies were the first to experience overnight successes whereby on Monday they launched 2 servers and by Sunday they managed 5000.

The next frontier will be business software. Small and nimble SaaS players will become overnight successes. Their software stacks will be different however. SQL Server and even worse Oracle and DB2 database clusters are no longer enough. They technically don’t scale. They financially don’t make sense. They are extremely hard to manage compared to nimble alternatives.

Windows on the server is in no better shape. Docker and CoreOS are promising lightweight fast scale out. Ubuntu’s Juju is showing instant integration everywhere. The operating system is fast becoming a liability instead of an asset. Restarts of minutes to upgrade are not in line with 24×7 100% SLAs. In a time where each container tries to be as small and efficient as possible and upgrades need to be transactional and expressed in micro seconds, Windows is no longer the platform of choice. The cloud gave Ubuntu, an open source Linux operating system, up to 70% market share and growing. Remember what happened with Netscape and Real Player the moment Windows reached 80-90% penetration.

So what should Microsoft do?
The first thing is acknowledge the new reality and embrace & extend Linux. Many companies would love to migrate their .Net solutions to efficient Linux containers. Office on Linux Desktops is overdue. Why not give governments open source desktop solutions? They will gladly pay millions to boost their national pride. China did. Why would India, Russia, France, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the UK be different. Active Directory, Sharepoint and Exchange will loose market dominance if they do not embrace Linux. Windows phones with a Linux core could actually run Android apps and would level the playing field. Linux developers have been secretly jealous of the easiness to build great looking GUI apps. A Visual Studio for .Net on Linux and let’s be disruptive Go lang, Rails and Python would win developers mind share.
IoT and embedded solutions that hold a Microsoft Linux kernel would make Android swet.
Microsoft Open Source solutions in which you get the platform for free but developers can resell apps and extensions will deliver Microsoft  revenue shares, support and customisation revenues. Pivotal is showing how to do just this. Instant SaaS/PaaS enablement and integration solutions are hot but CloudFoundry is not a Windows play.

But all of this is unlikely to thrive if Microsoft would keep its current internal structures. Just plainly buying some Linux thought leaders is unlikely to be enough. Microsoft could inspire itself in EMC where most people don’t know that RSA, VMWare and Pivotal all float into the same pockets. Consulting services & sales from one company are rewarded for selling products owned by the group. Office, Cloud, Phone, IoT and Business Software as independent units that can each determine how they interact with the Windows and Linux business units would accelerate innovation.

Let’s see if Redmond is up for change. The new CEO at least seems to have vastly improved chances of change…

Solving the pressing need for Linux talent…

September 17, 2013 Leave a comment

The Linux Foundation shared the below infographics recently.  Click on it and you get the associated report. The short message is, if you are an expert in Linux you are in high demand because companies don’t find enough experts due to the Cloud and Big Data boom.

Unless cloning machines are discovered later this year, quickly expanding the number of Linux experts is unlikely to happen. This means total cost of ownership for enterprises is likely to rise. This is ironic since Linux is all about open source and providing some of the most amazing solutions for free.

The obvious alternative is to focus on Microsoft products. They are relatively cheap in total cost of ownership since licenses are “payable” and average Windows skills can be easier found.

However Microsoft is loosing the server war, especially in the web application space. So this is not a winning strategy if you are going to do Cloud.

How to solve the pressing need for Linux talent?

The only possible strategy is to lower the number of experts needed per company. Larger companies always will need some but they should be focused on the “interesting high-value tasks”. This concept of interesting and high-value is key. With the number of cloud servers exploding, we can not expect the number of experts to explode.

Open source products like Puppet and Chef have helped to alleviate the pain for the more “skilled” companies. One DevOp was able to manage more than ten times as many machines as before. Unfortunately these server provisioning tools are not for the faint of heart. They  require experts that know both administration and coding.

It is time for the next generation of tools. Ubuntu, the number #1 Cloud operating system, is leading the way with Juju. If Linux wants to continue to be successful then the common problems, the boring problems, the repetitive problems, etc. should be solved. Solved by Linux gurus in such a way that we, the less IT gifted, can get instant solutions for these common problems.

We need a Linux democracy in which the lesser skilled, but unfortunately the majority, can instantly reuse best-in-class blueprint solutions. Juju is a new class of tools that gives you instant solutions. For all those common problems: scaling a web application, monitoring your infrastructure, sharding MongoDB, replicating a database, installing a Hadoop cluster, setting up continuous integration, etc. Juju can offer solutions. The individual software components have been “charmed”. A Charm allows the software to be instantly deployed, integrated and scaled. However the real revolution is just starting. Juju will have bundles pretty soon. Technically speaking, a bundle is a collection of pre-configured and integrated Charms. In lays speak, a bundle is an instant solution for a common problem. You instantly deploy a bundle [one command or drag-and-drop] and you get a blue-print solution. Since Juju is open source, the community can create as many instant solutions as there are common problems.

So if you want to scale your IT solutions without stretching neither your budget or cloning your employees and without the lock-in of any proprietary and expensive commercial software, then you should try Juju today. Play with the GUI or install Juju today.

Startups: Want to launch new features hourly?

If you read sites like highscalability.com you will have certainly read about those big name dotcoms that deploy new features to production up to tens of times a day. For most startups bringing features to production is still a manual, at best semi-manual process. You have the odd start-up that has it all automated, but unfortunately this is often a signal that they have too much time on their hands which points towards more critical problems.

What if startups would not have to worry about how to set-up hourly feature deployment? What if they could get an open source solution that delivers them flexible and highly scalable continuous deployment in minutes?

What if Startups could launch new features faster than the top DotComs and scale almost as good?

If this sounds attractive to you or you know a start-up to whom it would be, then you should visit this blog post. Ubuntu has launched a beta program and if enough startups sign up, then they will build an instant and scalable open source continuous deployment solution for them.

Ubuntu Edge – The largest Crowd-funding experiment in history

Traditionally manufacturers would build a product, stock their warehouses and hope they sell it. “Build it and they will come”, was the norm. A very expensive strategy. Crowd-funding websites have changed this. Start-ups are now able to create a prototype, shoot a video and see if people will love the product without investing any massive amounts of money.

Today is a special day because crowd-funding can change forever. Today Canonical announced the largest crown-funding experiment ever. Where Pebble asked for $100K, got oversubscribed 100 times and ended up getting around $10M, Canonical is aiming for $32M from the start.

So who is Canonical and how will they pull this off? Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu, the most popular open source Linux distribution that runs over 50% of the Operating Systems in public clouds like Amazon AWS.

Canonical will be presenting the Ubuntu Edge, an awesome phone that will push the limits of mobile communication as we know it. It is the first phone that is “your PC in your pocket”. A phone that you hook up to a screen and a keyboard and you can use as a laptop. With 4GB of memory it has similar specs as a laptop. The Ubuntu Edge also has an Edge in usability. Everybody that was able to use the Ubuntu phone operating system will tell you that it is one of the easiest phones out there. Swipe from the left and you have all your most used apps, not only 4. Swipe from the top and you have full control of your Wifi, network, etc. Gone are the days that you had to push: Settings, Wi-Fi, etc. Without lifting a finger you pick your wifi. Right-slide switches between your apps. Bottom-slide gives you an in-app menu that changes based on the current app.

So what about mobile apps. That is exactly the reason why crowd-funding is used. All Ubuntu enthusiasts will be able to get their hands on an Ubuntu Edge. These are the top computer experts in this world. The top Geeks. The people that recompile an operating system kernel for fun. So expect them to come up with apps that push boundaries because the Ubuntu Edge is the only phone that is completely Open: Open Source, Open Hardware and Open Funding. Find more here: igg.me/at/ubuntuedge

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