May 6, 2010  1:50 PM

The future is here, says Microsoft CIO, and it is ‘Avatar’

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Microsoft CIO Tony Scott was the keynote speaker at a modest but interesting gathering of CIOs in Boston yesterday, and he more or less stole the show, arriving in a rumpled suit and displaying the sort of brash, jargon-free intelligence that is still a novelty at IT shows. He’s predicting that CIOs are going to be hit with a tsunami of pent-up demand for IT very soon. (He wishes, right?) Actually, his metaphor was water pushing against a dam. In between the obligatory Microsoft plugs, he paid lip service to some of the changes in store for the CIO role, appropriately enough because the title of the meeting, put on by the Mass Technology Leadership Council, was “A New Paradigm for CIOs.”

But it was in the Q&A session after his remarks where he gave us Beantowners a feel for what it means to be CIO of the world’s largest software company. (Or is that Oracle? No matter.) Asked what would happen to traditional IT departments — and the CIO — as more aspects of computing really do become like electricity, a utility distributed on a grid, Scott sensibly said there will be lots of jobs for IT people who can do a good job of creating utility computing.

“That’s going to be a great business,” Scott said. But even in the face of utility computing, the “application business is going to flower waaay beyond even where it is today,” he added. For sure, he’s never met a developer who complains about having too much compute power. Imagination still outstrips computing reality. To wit:

“We’ve become good friends with James Cameron, who did Avatar. He built Avatar on Microsoft technology, and he’ll tell you that he had to wait to make the movie until there was enough processing power to do what he wanted to do. And when we talk to him, he tells us that he may have to wait again to make his next movie, because what he wants to do, he can’t do today. There is not enough processing power. So, one example, but I think that’s where we are headed.”

Yup, just one example. I’ll be writing about the lively panel debate on security, privacy and social media that followed his talk for our IT Compliance Advisor blog site later this week, with more Scott insights. Meantime, here’s the Microsoft CIO’s blue-tinted vision of what’s in store for IT in the next five years:

“James Cameron showed us the way — 3-D is going to get real, it’s going to get cheap and it’s going be pervasive. Second, natural user interface. We’re shipping something in Xbox, I think this year. Playing Xbox games, you won’t need a controller anymore. It can read your body motions, and you can interact with the Xbox. That will make its way into the computer world. So, there are a lot of things you’ll be able to do with the compute devices in your world that won’t require a keyboard and a mouse. And the last one, combined with 3-D, is multitouch interfaces … and the things that you can do, manipulating information, data, graphics and so on with your hands, is nothing short of art. And coupled with science, I think it is going to lead us into some really fun things.”

May 3, 2010  4:33 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: The future of Flash, Sarah Palin hacker convicted

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I’m having a slightly cranky Monday morning. The Greater Boston area is on a “boil water” order due to a catastrophic water main break — which is most immediately affecting me in that there is no coffee at work! So please forgive any typos I might make today as I peruse the latest tech headlines.

Is Flash dying? Steve Jobs would sure have you think so. Fortune investigates the future of Flash.

I blogged way back when about the hack of Sarah Palin’s Yahoo e-mail account. Authorities caught up to the Sarah Palin hacker, and the young man accused of the crime was convicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice and misdemeanor computer intrusion.

And, as always, here’s the latest news from

Gartner rates the Big Four business intelligence vendors — Gartner Inc. rates IBM’s, Microsoft’s, Oracle’s and SAP’s capabilities as business intelligence vendors, from BI platform functions to strategy.

IT business continuity and disaster recovery planning: Test your IQ — IT business continuity and disaster recovery planning are topping enterprise agendas in 2010. Read about the strategies and technologies here, and take our quiz to test your smarts.

Cloud computing identity management standards could push cloud use — Cloud computing identity management standards are in the works to ensure the open and secure exchange of identities in the cloud.

Veteran CIO Tom Pyke shares advice on dealing with IT security threats — Read what veteran CIO Tom Pyke has to say about combating the next generation of IT security threats, and why it’s important for CIOs to get with the program — program management, that is.

April 30, 2010  2:13 PM

CIO challenge: A generation of social media addicts

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

CIOs had better start paying attention to the fact that the I in IT is beginning to represent the personal pronoun more than the word “information.” That’s what I found myself thinking after reading a study about the consumption of social media by students.

The study, which was conducted by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland, concluded that American college students are social media addicts  — (tethered to BlackBerrys, laptops, television, iPods — especially iPods). When they were cut off from using social media for just 24 hours, students described having symptoms associated with drug and alcohol addiction: In withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, extremely antsy, miserable, jittery, crazy. They reported feeling unconnected, even to those close by, according to the study. They were most discomfited by their lack of access to text messaging, phone calling, instant messaging, emailing and Facebook — their primary means of connecting to friends and family.

“We were surprised by how many students admitted they were ‘incredibly addicted’ to media,” noted project director Susan D. Moeller, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland and the ICMPA’s director. “But we noticed that what they wrote at length about was how they hated losing their personal connections. Going without media meant, in their world, going without their friends and family.”

The students also felt extreme anxiety about being cut off from information. Specifically, they worried about having less information than their friends, on everything from sports scores and TV shows to news about their classes and world events. In fact, it seems that the way students learn about news events is almost entirely through the prism of social media. Very few reported they ever watched TV news or listened to radio news, or read a local or national newspaper. “Yet student after student demonstrated knowledge of specific news stories,” the study’s authors wrote, adding, “The young adults in this study appeared to be oblivious to branded news and information. For most of the students reporting in this study, information of all kinds comes in an undifferentiated wave to them via social media. If a bit of information rises to a level of interest, the student will pursue it — but often by following the story via unconventional outlets, such as through text messages, their email accounts, Facebook and Twitter.” The idea that news is not something impersonal but comes to you through your base of friends (filtered and biased by their views) makes information much more personal and related to the I.

The finding has implications for CIOs, I am certain, but how to sort them out? For starters, we know that the upcoming generation of employees will enter the workforce with two attributes: a “media skin,” as one student in the study put it, that is not easily shed; and an intense desire to stay in touch with people. These workers also will have an insatiable appetite for up-to-the-minute information, but that information will come filtered through their personal networks. Information will be personal. For them, IT will really be I-T. At the very least, CIOs will definitely need a Facebook page.

April 29, 2010  6:55 PM

IT hiring: The drama behind the statistics

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Well, this sounds like a positive sign of economy — and IT — recovery. We’ve written recently about what CEOs look for in the CIO role, and now The Boston Globe is reporting that IT hiring is on the rise again, both nationally and in the Boston area, according to recruiters and the IT companies themselves. These include technology giants like Google Inc. and EMC Corp., and even Parametric Technology Corp. in Boston’s Needham suburb (right across the street from TechTarget’s previous office).

The Globe article cites job postings on, a barometer that tracks, as well as an estimate from Forrester Research Inc. analyst Andrew Bartels (to whom we’ve spoken quite a bit about IT hiring) that the U.S. technology market will increase 8.4% this year after shrinking 7.9% last year. There’s a handy graphic too, which illustrates the bloodcurdling drop in IT hiring through 2008 and part of 2009 before it began to ramp back up.

All very interesting news, but even as I reached the end of the article, I knew I wasn’t done reading yet. Although I take them with a grain of salt, I almost always read the comments under these stories. Yes, some people are probably trolls, but it sometimes takes the comments to communicate the real “drama” of the IT hiring story.

And there are some doozies here: One help desk/network technician complains that he or she can’t even get a job in the $45,000 to $55,000 range, whereas he or she used to make $85,000. Another commenter shoots back, “A helpdesk/network tech making $85k is why the economy tanked to begin with.” Then one commenter notes that a lot of Pegasystems Inc. job postings are actually located in Hyderabad, India, so “Hope y’all love curry.”

You get a different sense from reading these comments and actually talking to IT workers than you do from reading the optimistic stories. I’m sure the Globe piece is correct in the IT hiring statistics it cites. But it’s always helpful to have those real voices in there, murmuring that everything is not as rosy as studies and IT hiring reports might make it seem.

April 27, 2010  8:07 PM

Business continuity strategies not shaping up in cloud

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

I’ve been talking to business continuity and cloud experts over the past few days to find out if large companies are revamping their business continuity strategies as a result of the cloud.

For the most part, the answer was no. Enterprises are not rushing to get rid of hot, cold or primary sites, despite how much it costs to maintain them, to replace them with a site in the cloud.

The undertaking is potentially enormous, just in the planning stages, to make sure your architecture can even be replicated in a cloud environment, they said.

It is not inconceivable that large companies’ business continuity strategies will shift to the cloud, even as a means of housing their primary data center. The cost benefits could be equally, well, enormous, in terms of closing the physical building housing the data center. The cost of maintaining the data center’s power and cooling systems also goes away, along with hardware upgrades and the IT staff that maintains the data center.

Dave Linthicum, an independent consultant, said his clients’ future plans could involve a reverse data center model in which their primary data center would live in the cloud and the secondary site would be maintained on their own premises, or even on yet another cloud provider’s premises.

Still, we’re talking distant future here. Backing up applications in the cloud is a no-brainer, experts said, but backing up an entire infrastructure is not. It’s just too hard to replicate such an environment down to specific configurations within a cloud environment.

Does your business continuity strategy involve the cloud, or are there too many unknowns? Email me at

April 26, 2010  5:31 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Sony floppy disks going the way of the dinosaur?

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

It’s the end of an era — or is it? Sony has announced that it will stop manufacturing floppy disks in Japan. Point: USB drives. However, the company did sell more than 12 million Sony floppy disks in 2009, so maybe we shouldn’t be tossing them in our time capsules just yet.

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the Apple engineer who misplaced the prototype of the next version of the iPhone, which landed in Gizmodo’s lap. On our sister blog, CIO symmetry, read about how the lost iPhone is a lesson in chain of custody and data loss prevention.

While you’re reading these, also be sure to check out the latest stories:

Getting users to buy into a business intelligence strategy — Marketing savvy is but one skill CIOs need to sell a business intelligence strategy to the business. What else do you need to know?

Gartner’s take on emerging business intelligence technology – Who doesn’t love a good list? This one points to tools that could finally bring BI usage into the mainstream.

CIOs weigh use of social media against security concerns — CIOs are trying to balance the business use of social media with their concerns about security, as policies and security tools fail to keep pace with the adoption of social media.

April 23, 2010  2:11 PM

Antivirus software update goes rogue, corporate email security scares

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Wednesday was a busy — read: frustrating — day for many organizations using McAfee Inc.’s antivirus software or Google Inc.’s Gmail. Problems with the two popular services raised concerns about the potential downsides of automatic antivirus software updates, and could cause some CIOs to reassess their corporate email security policies.

I learned about these problems through my network. On Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., a friend in New Hampshire returned my email from that morning, apologized for the delay and explained, “Apparently there was an update for McAfee that went out and was thought to be a virus. It caused all of the computers here to shut down. We couldn’t do anything from about 11 a.m. until just now. The IT people who came around to fix it said it was a McAfee issue and that it affected all users globally.”

That turned out to be a pretty accurate explanation, as CNN reported that a buggy McAfee antivirus update “turned the software’s formidable defenses against malicious software inward, prompting it to attack a vital component of Microsoft Windows.” In addition to my friend’s business, the University of Michigan’s medical school and the Lexington, Ky., police were affected, some jails canceled visitations, and Rhode Island hospitals turned away non-trauma patients at emergency rooms and delayed some elective surgeries.

The Wednesday damage wasn’t done, however. That evening, an editor friend of mine tweeted,”#gmail is being hacked. anyone else receiving e-mails from friends with links and weird subject lines?” Sure enough, later on that night, I received a spammy-looking email from a friend’s Gmail address, which I quickly deleted.

(Aren’t I lucky to have such a Web-savvy group of friends to pass this information along quickly?)

The cause hasn’t been determined, but Google is wondering whether hackers are accessing user accounts via a bug in Gmail’s mobile interface. And this comes on the heels of reports that the attackers who breached Google’s system last year gained access to computer code for the software that authenticates users of Gmail, Google Calendar and other online programs.

If this is April Fools’ Day coming three weeks late, it’s not too funny. These are two very different cases, but they both funnel down to the sorts of issues CIOs contend with daily: antivirus software updates and corporate email security. It’s especially disconcerting for enterprises that have moved their email into the cloud with Gmail, where hacks like this one could border on disastrous.

Was your organization affected by either the McAfee antivirus software update problems or the Gmail hack? Is it corporate email security scares like this one that prevent you from pursuing cloud email in the first place?

April 22, 2010  9:33 PM

IT exec gets muzzled on use of social media, security

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

For my story today on how CIOs are balancing the use of social media at their companies and security concerns (with great difficulty, BTW), I discovered something that all of you probably know. The business is touuuchy about talking about its use of social media, especially when coupled with the word security.

As I mention in the article, a number of CIOs I contacted for the story declined to be interviewed. A couple said their organizations were not into social media, or they were too new to the whole phenomenon to speak knowledgably about useful security tools. Fair enough. More startling was what happened to an IT executive I contacted whose HR and marketing departments are using social media. He used gateway security software from Websense as one line of defense and could talk about why he liked it.

Not so fast.

In the space of a few hours, my five innocuous questions got vetted up and down the executive ranks, from the head of communications to the head of marketing and over to the CIO. The communications department sounded the alarm, arguing that really “very few of our employees have access to social media sites.” That fiction fact, “coupled with the fact that our own practices and policies are still in the early stages of development,” made the interview request problematic, according to the marketing executive. “I think these would be very difficult questions to navigate.

“And I certainly would avoid Q.5 ….” he said. Moreover he was “not really sure how much information on this topic we want to share externally at this point in time.” Even an industry trade story could get read by “consumer reporters and bloggers,” and thus out to “other media.” An hour later, yet another higher-up sent out the official kibosh: “We do not wish to participate in this interview.”

To be fair, this organization was not the only business to nix the request. (Motorola was not interested, either.) And I understand that CIOs and CISOs may have to avoid publicity when it comes to security measures. But social media? For business purposes? Who knew.

Here, by the way, is the notorious Q5. (OK, it is a little out there.)

5. Even with education programs, there will always be employees who, through maliciousness or laziness, pose a security threat to the business. Whose job is it to police these people? And are CIOs/CISOs and other technically trained people equipped (or should be expected) to deal with the human dimension in security?

April 20, 2010  7:07 PM

Gartner’s take on emerging business intelligence technology

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

The most tangible success measure of business intelligence technology is usage — and mainstream BI just isn’t there, and won’t be for some time, according to Gartner analyst Kurt Schlegel. The pronouncement came during a presentation at the 2010 Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in Las Vegas last week.

He’s predicting that this will change, however, given a boost by nine technologies that he believes will put BI usage on the same mainstream usage trajectory as that of the Internet.

Before 1993, few people used the Web, but technologies such as broadband, Web browsers and search engines changed all that. These technologies gave people ubiquitous access to information. Then Web 2.0 technologies came along, turning Web surfers into content creators, he said.

Schlegel believes emerging business intelligence technologies such as columnar databases, interactive visualization and scenario modeling, among others, will allow users to follow a similar adoption path for BI.

Here’s a rundown of the nine technologies Schlegel predicts will kick-start mainstream BI usage:

In-memory analytics: DakotaCare, a small managed health care network provider in Sioux Falls, S.D., was able to compress 140 million records with hundreds of columns of data on every claim paid since 2001 into a QlikView server. The server was on an x64 dual-core Xeon processor with 12 GB RAM.

“That is not a huge amount of memory,” he said. In-memory analytics are offered by niche players such as QlikTech International AB, as well as big BI vendors such as SAP.

Columnar databases: This lets you store data by columns, rather than rows. A columnar-based approach for data storage is better for data analysis, and, in turn BI, because it’s well-suited for complex queries of large amounts of data. Vertica Systems, Sybase Inc. and ParAccel Inc. are a few vendors in this space.

Cloud services: As BI evolves, companies will start to tap data from outside sources. He predicts that a group of SaaS providers will aggregate and offer data analytic services to fill this need in the cloud.

Interactive visualization tools: Many vendors such as Tableau Software, Tibco Software Inc. (with Spotfire) and Advizor Solutions Inc. display multidimensional data on a 2-D screen. Today, users don’t have to just look at static pie charts, but interact with them by drilling down into individual pie wedges. On top of that, users can interact with a variety of reports or heat maps and geographic maps. “These are tools that require no training — you don’t have to be brainiac number crunchers to use them,” he said.

BI integrated search: The concept: putting a search engine interface on a BI platform and being able to do ad hoc queries seems simple enough. This would really bring BI to the masses, but there aren’t many companies using this technology in production yet. Schlegel likes the idea of using the Internet as an index that spits back query results, but … “I don’t have any warm fuzzies about this technology yet. I just don’t have the [customer] references for this technology.”

Mobile BI applications: “The ubiquity of [mobile devices] makes me believe that this has got to happen.” He thinks there will be a huge explosion of analytic applications to the iPhone. For now, the most users can expect are static reports.

Data mashups: Let’s just say this is coming if Microsoft has anything to say about it. Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel comes out next month and will give users a free tool to download up to 100 million rows of data from different sources. Microsoft aside, users are going to grab hold of the ability to mash up data sources to create their own content. The best bet is to create sandboxes, or isolated areas, in which users can play and not prohibit the use of such tools, he said.

Scenario modeling: Is great for what-if scenarios: What if we moved sales to another region? What if there is an economic recession? Companies have to rely heavily on IT to go in and create alternate scenarios, but with scenario modeling, more business users can create their own what-if scenarios. Toyota is a classic example of why what-if scenario analysis is needed, he said, given its recent product quality issues.

Analytical master data management: IT typically tells the business what dimensions are being measured across a company and how they are being measured. In the future, Schlegel believes, users will be able to create their own data modeling environments and measures, submit those measures to an approval process and not have to rely on IT to make changes. Some tools that are starting to enable this capability include Oracle Hyperion Data Relationship Management and IBM Cognos Business Viewpoint.

This is a lot to take in, when many companies already have several BI tools in place and are looking to consolidate. Many are also grappling with how to get BI in the hands of everyday workers, although several of these technologies seek to address this dilemma.

Email me at to let me know what technologies are on your radar.

April 19, 2010  5:26 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Cloud computing strategy, Gartner on BI and more

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I’m watching the Boston Marathon with one eye this afternoon, and catching up on the latest tech news with the other:

A keyboard on your hand sounds like sci-fi, but a former Microsoft Research intern has developed a working prototype called Skinput that does just that.

Next up in microblogging: Adding Twitter annotations. Will this change the way you Tweet?

Also check out the most recent stories from, dealing with identity management in cloud computing, the newest BI strategy approaches, cloud computing strategy and social media risks and benefits:

Identity management in cloud computing courts enterprise trust — Identity management in the cloud is a hot button: Enterprises are concerned about its security, but are attracted by the cost savings and management efficiencies it presents.

Gartner Business Intelligence Summit: New tech vs. old-school strategy — Gartner Business Intelligence Summit attendees are focused on establishing a BI strategy, recouping investments in existing BI tools and looking into emerging technologies.

Crafting a cloud computing strategy that covers cost and compliance — Our CIO columnist consults his peers about a cloud computing strategy that addresses cost, compliance and security concerns. Does cloud computing fit into his business needs?

Monitoring the benefits of social media, and the risks — Are there benefits to using social media in business? Of course, but it’s up to CIOs to understand the risks and help their company rethink its social media policies.

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