As the IT world turns

The more time I spend working in the Information Technology field, the more I see opportunities. Usually, it’s simply a an old technology being consumed by a newer one – like traditional telephones being taken over by VoIP phones on the corporate desktop. I’ve championed that notion for nearly a decade, and only now is that really happening at an increasing pace. Cool stuff if you get a chance to use it too.

However, that’s not what I see happening right now. It’s much simpler and much more fundamental than another Microsoft Windows server taking on another role from another team or technology. The changes that are afoot are at the root, the foundation of enterprise computing and it has a social media tie-in. I have a message for my peers in the Information Technologies field. Your world is already changing, and if you don’t see what’s happening, you’ll be left behind.

The change that’s taking place renders the corporate desktop as we know it, obsolete. The disparate servers, inefficient. This is something that I’ve been watching for some time, but only recently have seen some indications that convince me that the world has turned the corner.

What are these things that change the entire game? Why, virtualization, thin clients and “web 2.0” software of course. You already are talking about these things. You are probably working with a couple of them if not a combination of all in some way. What’s convinced me that IT ten years from now will be a wildly different landscape than it is today is the fact that virtualization works, thin clients are actually viable now, and “web 2.0” software is past the “wow” stage and into solving business needs. Add the idea that many software solutions don’t care if they run on Windows/Unix/Linux and you now have a broad base of reliable, sustainable open source systems to choose from.

There is also the introduction of Gen Y into the workforce, who bring a different expectation to work. By being more mobile, working remotely via the web, and having social media & networking as second nature, this workforce alone will bring an impressive amount of change.

So what is the bottom line I’m saying for corporate IT? I’m saying that the desktop as we know it is dead. Windows “7” may be the last “legacy” operating system to be deployed. Desktops will disappear completely as well as individual servers. Servers in general will all be virtual machines run from high availability clusters (OS does not matter) in remote data centers. If you don’t have room for one, it’ll probably be cost-effective to simply lease them from companies like Amazon and such.

While Microsoft Office will still be the “gold standard” that we compare things to, it will become irrelevant in the coming years as open source and online versions of this type of software bring more options faster, and simply chip away at the venerable office suite.

Windows itself will still remain – remaining a popular option for the consumer computing device, all of which will end up being the laptop format. Windows, along with OS X and a couple popular Linux distributions will continue to drive these machines, merging more business and entertainment functions together.

The coming change is huge, and with it the opportunities as well. Like the change that started 20 years ago where mainframe and minicomputers were starting to be replaced with microcomputers, our current definitions of enterprise computing will change radically in the next few years. Are you ready? Will you be a part of it? What else do you see?

10 Minute Review:

image Just a quick weekend look at Adobe’s new "online office" product –  At least, that’s how I found it referred to in some of the news bits today.  Overall I was impressed with the first release of Adobe’s efforts.  With a slick, Flash based interface, it has good performance and is visually appealing.

They seem to be starting out with some good features, but are missing many.  Zoho is closest to providing an online office suite that compares anywhere near Microsoft Office.  Adobe is starting out with a word processor, document sharing ability with a generous 5GB of space, a document to PDF conversion tool, and a really nifty web conferencing application.

Adobe Buzzword beta The word processor, called BuzzWord, is what you’d expect.  It has the basics and is similar feature wise to Google Docs.  PDF conversion is straight forward, you can upload a doc to convert and it saves the resulting file in the My Files applet.  File sharing is accomplished from the drop-down context menu and provides the ability to embed the doc into a site.

Adobe ConnectNow beta The most impressive app included here is the web conferencing, called ConnectNow, which has features similar to WebEx.  Adobe provides each user their own room, assigns a conference phone number to it, allows for desktop sharing, meeting notes, group & individual IM, and WebCasting with an optional web cam.  Good stuff.

Just a couple bullet points:

  • Look & Feel: Wow – the Flash based interface is impressive
  • Consistency: Needs some work, changing applications launches too many windows
  • Integration: Very little between "applications"
  • Functionality: Depends on feature – some are quite rich, others very basic
  • Features: Document sharing, Word Processor, PDF Conversion, Web Conferencing

Overall it’s a good start.  There is a long way to go to compete evenly with Google Docs & Spreadsheets, but then Google doesn’t have a web conference tool.  It’s not going to compete with MS Office, or any of the others for some time.  With that said, however, if you want to convert some documents to PDF, host documents that you can link to in email or from a website, or a decent free web conferencing tool, it might be a good adjunct to your current solutions.

This Thing Called Twitter – Recap

This past Saturday (May 10th) I had a chance to facilitate an unconference session with Peter Fleck (@pfhyper on Twitter) at MinneBar on the University of Minnesota campus.  While Peter and I hadn’t planned it out long in advance, and we had technical difficulties at the beginning, namely to overhead equipment, it went pretty well.

The part I really enjoyed was the interaction.  Peter and I both wanted to start a group discussion, and that’s exactly what happened.  There were a lot of great questions from both experienced and new Twitter users, and many people shared their perspectives and ideas on using Twitter.  It reinforced the idea that Twitter is just at it’s earliest stages of uptake.

What I really want to do from Saturday is to thank everyone that stopped by and joined the conversation.  It was great to meet so many people here in the Minneapolis Web2 scene, and I look forward to talking more with you on Twitter and elsewhere.  Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have questions or ideas to talk about – you can find me on Twitter as @RickMahn.

Also, since I didn’t grab the names off the board in the room, I’d like to invite anyone who was there to share their Twitter name.  Just leave them in the comments and others from the session can find them and connect with you.  Any other questions or interest in social web tools that you’d be interested in talking about?  It might be worth putting something together if enough people are interested.

Is technology a crutch?

"crutch" by Kate Tomlinson It’s something that I’ve been thinking about recently. For how much all these nifty tools have helped us become more productive, I think there is a percentage of creativity or inspiration that we give up. All productivity tools are things that can do harm to our work habits as much as they simplify a task.

Maybe it’s that most of these tools are single-task automation or simplification utilities and from that perspective are inefficient solutions. Take a close look at all your “social media” or “Web 2.0” tools and services – I bet most really only solve one real task with a few frivolous extras sprinkled on top.

I’m not sure what to do about this, but I look at my productivity today and compare it to a year ago. Back then I was chewing through thousands more feeds, had more ideas and, it seems, more time to write posts for my blog.

Today, I have client software installed that automatically checks my Twitter and FriendFeed accounts for updates. It notifies me with a pleasant tone that triggers me to quickly switch windows and check out the latest possible news like a rabbit hitting the feeder bar for a food pellet.

How is this productive? How is this helping me? I have Twhirl updating the main Twitter feed every 2 minutes – how many times am I interrupted in an hour? Right. 30! Think about that. Now add FriendFeed into the mix on its own (similar) updates schedule. How many times can you be interrupted in a day without losing focus?

Now I don’t mean to beat up on Twitter and FriendFeed – heck, I can come up with dozens of reasons why they help more than hinder my daily life. Email used to be the same. I used to use Microsoft Outlook. If the computer was on, so was Outlook – and what was that nice feature introduced in Outlook 2003? Pop-up notification… great. So that is where that bad habit was developed for me. Since changing to web-based email about three months ago, I find myself checking email much less often. I’m no less effective or timely in my communication either.

So it’s really how we use the tools – their convenience allows us to lean on them for help. Sometimes a little too much. As we’re creatures of habit it’s up to us to develop, groom, and manage those habits. If we start developing bad habits, it’s ourselves that needs to correct them.

So that’s what I personally need to do.  Simply change how I use Twitter and FriendFeed. There are others, but those are the two that I really need to manage my time with the most.

How about you? What are your tricks & tips in managing these productivity tools?

Photo credit: Kate Tomlinson

Moving into the cloud – an update

It’s contract renewal season for me, and I’m kind of “heads down” working on what comes next. So I’ve been kinda distracted from sharing ideas and discussions with everyone.

I’m continuing my evolution into cloud computing, shedding local software as I figure out my approach. I’m lucky enough to have access to excellent coverage by T-Mobile, albeit EDGE only, plentiful free WiFi and T-Mobile HotSpots available to me as I go through each day. So I’m always able to be connected, most all the time.

The first step has been dropping Microsoft Outlook. This was a the biggest step of all, as it’s been my email client for over a decade, and a damn good one at that. Just a quick note on usability – much nicer to not have to wait for all the IMAP folders to sync! GMail is… well GMail, and has it’s own peculiarities to adapt to.

Now that I’ve got that one figured out, and completed, it’s on to the next steps. I’ve got hundreds of Microsoft Office documents that I need to review and move into the cloud. Reviewing them will not be the problem, and getting them into whatever service won’t either.

But… which service to move these to? Google Docs & Spreadsheets because it’s tied to all my Google account stuff? Or should I go for Zoho Office? I’ve used both for almost the same amount of time (~2 years) and find pros/cons to both. There’s also ThinkFree, which may be most like the native Microsoft Office environment.

That’s going to take some thinking… in the meantime I’m going to sort through several hundred megabytes of documents, some quite dated to be quite honest. It’ll be nice to trim down to what’s actually valuable and relevant.

Probably the biggest Microsoft Office app besides Outlook that’ll be hard for me to replace is OneNote. Since the release of Office 2003, this application has been a staple of my note taking. For all sorts of things, like projects, seminars, meetings, online research, etc… It’s become indispensable and its really hard to find a replacement, but I think I may have it. Zoho Notebook is the closest I’ve seen of anything, so I’ll be working with that for the next few weeks to see how viable it is as a replacement.

So there you have it, an update on where I’m at. I still have more questions than answers, but I’m finding many more online solutions than a year or so ago when I last really considered doing this. It’s now actually feasible to migrate online. With the critical components of connectivity and software services, I’m well on my way to reducing my dependence on legacy software.

Have you bit the bullet? What’s worked for you? Heck, what headaches have you had that may have pointed you back to locally installed software?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Pin It on Pinterest