Heard, and overheard


September 17, 2010  1:02 AM

Internet Explorer 9: One more Vista?

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

There are times when I wonder what Microsoft guys smoke. The launch of Internet Explorer 9 happens to be one of those times!

Before I go further, let me make the disclosure. I love Windows 7, so do most organizations that I know of. But just the admiration is not enough of a business case for organizations to migrate to Windows 7 one fine day.

Now, if MS decides to have a step motherly approach to Windows XP with its IE 9 launch, it certainly doesn’t say much about its appreciation for the enterprise. How lame is it from an enterprise standpoint, when declarations are made on the lines of, “No, IE 9 will not support Windows XP!”.

Now, one argument that can be made is that IE 9 targets end users who are already mass users of Windows 7. But then, enterprises are also users of Internet Explorer as a browser. Many business applications are by and large dependant on the browser now, and this decision of Microsoft just doesn’t make the grade for the enterprise.

Most businesses are still slow in terms of large scale adoption of Windows 7—largely because PC/laptop purchases are dependent on client refresh cycles. Yet another reason was the non-event that Windows Vista proved to be from a corporate usage standpoint. So in a country (and even a world) where Windows XP still remains the OS of choice for organizations, the lack of Windows XP support in IE 9 reeks of a mercenary threat than of fair business practice.

Firefox is finding large scale adoption among corporate end-users who will find no problems in convincing IT teams to migrate en-masse to the free browser. Not exactly a desirable effect on IE 9 adoption, is it?

Coffee, guys? And a bit of backward compatibility?

August 4, 2010  5:37 AM

Scalability of a techie career: Yours

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

The other day, I had the good fortune of catching up with a true techie after many years. Although we’ve been in touch with each other over the years, the conversation was usually superficial in nature. This time, it proved to be much beyond that when he exchanged the lessons that he had learned over time—as a result of growing along with the startup that he works with.

Now, we need to know a bit more about our man. Earlier a hands-on geek, this professional has successfully made the transition to an IT leader after dealing with the associated learning curve. His employer also made the evolution from a six member startup to a multinational with hundreds of employees across multiple locations during the same timeframe. While the growth steadily happened in leaps and bounds, our friend had it much tougher. “I was happy that I knew every bit and piece of my IT setup. But slowly I found that I had to let these separate aspects be handled by others—people who were not as capable as I am,” he said. This is a scenario that any perfectionist will identify with (not just those in IT). This meant that our man ended up micro-managing every little aspect—day in and day out.

This went on till the day that he realized that even as his designation changed, his work role didn’t. As the company grew, there was a definite need for our friend to shoulder the expanding responsibility portfolio. Needless to say, he was too busy running around handling much trivial tasks. “So I woke up one day and decided that I have to learn to let go. I was the man standing between my company and its need to leverage IT for strategic purposes,” he recollected.

While his journey involved many hard lessons, the story did progress in a good way from there on. He observes that the evolution happened only after he started trusting his team (as well as recruiting people better than him).

This is a scenario that many CIOs and senior IT leaders with pure technical backgrounds will identify with. Now the question is, how did YOU tackle the “let go” process? What were the trials and tribulations that accompanied this metamorphosis?

I’d definitely like to know about this part of your career journey. So please do write in at the usual place, apatrick at techtarget dot com.


July 16, 2010  1:00 AM

More than just the land of mechanics?

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

Being skeptical is part of my job, and few things raise more of the feeling than hearing the term “India: The IT superpower”. Okay, if we are such an IT superpower, why don’t we have more Finacles or Flexcubes (Indian no more)? Why are even the biggest Indian IT players still dependent on software maintenance contracts for their bread and butter?

Now, the truth is that we are largely a bunch of glorified mechanics; people who are better at fixing someone else’s software that creating innovative products that can make a difference. Even if we don’t craft solutions that change the world, we should be able to make products which do make a difference. This is missing to a great extent, because being entrepreneurial in India is considered to be a tougher job than just tweaking someone else’s top-heavy software. So, reliance on some foreign company’s maintenance jobs just don’t cut it if we want to label ourselves with ego boosts like “IT superpower”.

Yes, we need some coffee from Coorg.

This same coffee felt better than usual, when I read about the Epic Browser. Yes, it’s based on Mozilla, but it does have some USPs. First of it is that it’s made in Bangalore (or Bengaluru, whatever). Second thing that struck me is that it’s got built-in antivirus and antispyware (in the browser). And maybe, it’s got many more features worth a mention.

Hmm, it’s an interesting twist of events, even though I’m yet to test drive the product. It may be heavy and the antivirus may not be up to the mark, says the skeptical journalist in me. But yes, the fact remains that some Indians have made an effort worth a mention.

And maybe, we’ll see more Indian applications in our data centers over the years to come. A lot of maybes, maybe!


June 24, 2010  4:41 AM

Are we prepared for the rainy day?

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

The world knows us by the (dubious) title of IT superpower, but how much does IT contribute to India’s economy? Not much, since we still remain an economy largely based on agriculture. So let’s put aside those pretences, and start praying for good rains this year, shall we?

Before you fire off those requisitions to the almighty, it might be a good idea to take a moment and evaluate how prepared your organization is when it comes to the acronyms DR and BCP. The standard reply for most organizations is, “Yes, our house is mostly in order”.

Now, ‘mostly’ is a very subjective term. Many organizations who take the ‘mostly’ line typically face data center issues or IT infrastructure downtime when the Indian monsoons strike. Many a time, these are also the organizations where you’ll find the IT team wading through flooded lanes right outside the data center. Or worse still, stuck inside the server rooms!

Yes, things do go wrong irrespective of what you do. But life becomes more manageable when your organization is braced for it. Having a proper crisis communication plan, along with effective disaster recovery processes, and practical business continuity strategies is the only way out in such a context. So, do get past the ‘mostly’ syndrome this year atleast.


June 16, 2010  11:04 PM

Midsized business compliance revisited: Password123

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

We started off the midsized Indian business’s compliance level debate many an eon back in terms of blog years. Over the weeks, many responses have trickled in, and the views have not been too favorable on the preparedness of Indian midsized businesses when it comes to compliance and security levels. This post collates some of them (as well as my views), so that you can take the call yourself.

  • Software licenses: We in India don’t buy software, period. But now it might be a good idea to start buying those licenses, at least for the OS. If not, it’s time to take the free OS route, since options like Linux have matured in light years (especially on the GUI front) when it comes to usability for end users. Apps like OpenOffice are quite feature packed, and it’s easier for your users to master the slight learning curve than for the entire organization to sink in an anti-piracy raid.
  • Lack of defined IT and information security policies: This issue by itself presents mindset and enforcement challenges associated with regulatory compliance for an SMB. It’s a herculean task to harness the habits of users running loose for so many years on work computers. Even if you manage it, think of the travails when the issue moves up the ladder and you have to convince the top management not to run their laptops using admin level access (or not share passwords with their teenage kids).
  • Insufficient or non-existent IT controls: Antivirus solutions that haven’t been updated in weeks, unfettered USB drive use, cracked software, unpatched servers, you get the picture.  Wifi security is yet another question mark.
  • Malware ridden networks: Many SMBs ‘breed’ botnets and rootkits which are waiting to be misused by their perpetrators. Club these with fast Internet connections, and your LAN is probably being used to send spam or break into someone’s networks, even as we speak. Do your admins even know how to detect a rootkit? Or rather for that matter, how many admins bother?
  • Inhouse admins going rogue: It’s quite common to find your own admins misusing their network privileges to download and run cracked software in SMBs due to lack of control over their activities (and this is based on personal experience).

I can ramble all day about what’s wrong with SMB networks and systems, but that’s beside the point. Compliance may not make you the most liked person in the organization, but well, someone has to do the dirty job!


June 11, 2010  5:05 AM

Attrition woes: Real or imagined?

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

People leave, good people all the more so. Period.

Having made that remark, it becomes important to make another aspect clear. This is about how you handled last year.

If you scrimped and saved by sacrificing their accounts last year, it’s all the more likely that they’ll leave your organization high and dry this year. On the contrary, if you managed to keep them challenged (without giving them a raw deal) during last year’s economic holocaust, it’s more likely that your team will celebrate the good times that this year augurs for India.

Now, why this diatribe? I happened to run into a couple of skilled admins (of all hues and colors) the other day. The common tirade was about how their salaries haven’t recovered to the slashes that occurred last year. These personnel were all the more worried about whether their salaries will be restored to the ‘pre-cut era’ after the appraisals. Not a very rosy scenario.

Ironically, I had happened to speak to some of their IT leaders around the same timeframe. They are worried about attrition in their teams, now that times are better. Very ironic, to say the least!

Two sides of the same coin, but I’m not sure about the veracity of both these claims. If the former party is right, maybe the latter’s attrition concerns are just living truth for the adage, “Reap what you sow”. What do you feel?

Welcoming feedback and brickbats at the regular place, apatrick at techtarget dot com.


May 31, 2010  12:40 AM

Privacy on Facebook : Are your users selling you out?

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

Okay, this is something I had decided never to write about, but recent occurences leave me no choice. It’s about privacy on Facebook, and more importantly about the Quit Facebook movement!

Big deal, right? Yes, almost every second media person has been ranting about privacy on Facebook now, and this post is kind of late to the party.

Before we dwell on the negatives of Facebook, let me clarify the fact that I did stay off it for quite a while. The reason? Well, it was largely about the way anyone’s applications can run on it, to start with.

The worries of some random application going berserk and emailing my entire address book kind of kept me off Facebook. So the excommunication threats of immediate family, friends and colleagues didn’t cut much ice either. Possible privacy issues on Facebook kind of served as the right excuse to offer for the most persistent questioner!

It was around early April that your’s truly finally bit the pill (aka carrot), and succumbed to the magic potions offered by Facebook. The reasoning that set aside issues about privacy on Facebook?

The excuse used was, “If this soul’s been sold to Google (Gmail), why not Facebook as well?” Yes, it’s been a wonderful free lunch so far, even without the produce from Farmville. So we had a wonderful honeymoon, Facebook and me—till chinks started appearing when I started to configure privacy settings on Facebook. 

Reasons?

  • Facebook’s brilliant for digging out old contacts, people you haven’t even thought of, in years. Powers of data mining, anyone? So much for privacy on Facebook.
  • Very intuitive interface for the beginner. It’s only later that you figure out that it needs more tweaking to protect your privacy on Facebook than it does to tune a Yamaha RD 350′s carburettors!
  • Brilliant addictive online games (No, I don’t intend to send any cows or henchmen over to your farm!).

Yes, there’s no free lunch, and your privacy is the price you pay for getting fortune cookies and mafia warfare on Facebook. Your organization is not spared either.

With a majority of India’s organizational IT users being on Facebook, it’s inevitable that your organizational affairs also go out through the site. It might be the way your last Tequila shot drowning offsite sessions went, or the manner in which office gupshup gets posted in the “old boy’s clubs”.

Now, it’s inevitable that people talk. The difference in this case is that besides the inner circles where the nth drink sets tongues loose, this information might become available for anyone who wants to pay for it—with much greater damage—you certainly don’t want your next merger’s details pouring money into the Facebook coffers.

Time to rein in those users with a social networking policy irrespective of whether they quit Facebook today or not, isn’t it?


May 13, 2010  3:39 AM

Vendor sponsored IT research, and matters of assorted skepticism

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

Technology evaluators and IT journalists ideally share a trait when it comes to the solutions or technology sales spiel that they are presented with—skepticism. Or rather, they should!

Sadly, both these classes falter at times, especially when it comes to the googlies presented by vendor sponsored research reports. So, are all vendor sponsored research reports biased?

Not exactly all, but many are, since the research findings tend to be grossly aligned to the vendor’s (or vendor driven consortium’s) interests. After all, why should a vendor sponsor research which doesn’t benefit their business objectives?

So let me start with house matters first—that of the technology journalist. Yes, this laundry session involves a lot of dirty linen!

It’s a well-known fact in PR circles that one of the best ways to drive media coverage of an otherwise insignificant vendor is to get a sponsored research study that highlights the company’s core specialties (and their superiority!). These “findings” are then floated around to the gullible media person. The rest is history—online and print.

Now the more disturbing trend is the new generation technology evaluators’ dependence on these research figures (in the form painted by media reports), akin to words from the Gospel. Without casting an aspersion on the capabilities of new entrants to IT, I must point out that many of the not so experienced IT team members are likely to fall into this drop. So such figures and “trends” need to be approached with a pinch of salt.

This is where IT leaders need to emphasize the need for credibility of information sources when it comes to vendor evaluations. Their years of experience should provide the required skepticism when dealing with spurious surveys and claims.

It has to be made clear that there’s no substitute for absolute ground work. Shortcuts are not possible when it comes to evaluation. No vendor reputation fancy charts or “survey trends” can replace pilot projects. So your message to the cadres should clearly be to get out there and deal with the evaluation face to face.

As for the journalist community and its ready acceptance of vendor sponsored survey results, on my community’s behalf—mea culpa, mea culpa.


May 7, 2010  3:31 AM

More of the Huawei controversy

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

As an addition to the last post on Chinese telecom equipment, more entertaining reading has come up on that front. Here’s what the latest R&AW statements have to say about Chinese hardware manufacturers. It still remains to be seen as to the extent of truth that these statements posess, but the concerns are very much valid—albeit a bit late in the realization.


May 3, 2010  11:44 PM

Huawei and national security concerns: Lock the barn door after horse has bolted?

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

At times, babus provide us with tremendously amusing reading material early in the morning. The latest in this sequence is the Huawei telecom deal issue. Now, I do agree that the national security threat argument does hold water. But shouldn’t this have been thought of while granting them permission to trade in India?

Now, that would have been in 2001 (or earlier)? Or, shouldn’t the company’s permission have been revoked in the wake of the controversial reverse engineering allegations against Huawei in 2003?

No, we were asleep all those years.

Atleast, till this “jaago re” moment arrived (with due courtesy to the original FMCG campaign)—after almost 10 years of Chinese telecom and last mile connectivity hardware taking over the Indian market. So much so, that almost every second CDMA/GSM/whatever wireless internet access hardware which organizations provide their mobile users with, has the Huawei or ZTE or *insert another Chinese telecom hardware brand here* logo on them. Just look around in your company, and you’ll discover a fair share of Chinese hardware. And, I won’t even get into what the service providers are running.

Now the question is, are we sitting on a spyware/botnet/backdoor network of national proportions? Can the dictat issuers find out the existing security implications, if there are any? More importantly, do they even have people capable enough?

I don’t know, and frankly, it’s kind of late. The Chinese telecom hardware spread in India is much wider than it seems. In fact, I’m not sure if there are any options when it comes to wireless Internet access. Shouldn’t we be working on that aspect as well while issuing bans?

Devices of Chinese origin rule the Indian market at the moment—whether it’s hardware provided from the ISPs or bought directly by the users. In fact, if you do know of non-Chinese options for your wireless modems, do let me know. There are some Chinese modems/broadband routers that we might need to replace around here due to “security concerns”.

As far as the present controversy is concerned, in our country, sab chalta hai! And sab chalta hai includes even your Chinese made modems—so just wait for all the noise to subside. In the interim, hide your modems and routers!


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