Monthly Archives: September 2008

SageCircle on Gartner blogs

SageCircle has a Q&A with Gartner regarding our new analyst blogging policies.

In case it’s not clear, the new policy is basically, “Gartner analysts get to act like the rest of the world, when it comes to social media”. Most of you probably have corporate policies that say that you can do whatever in your private life as long as you don’t break corporate confidentiality and aren’t doing anything unethical. This isn’t really any different.

The main difference is that we’re being asked to put our IT-related content on our Gartner blogs (in addition to, or instead of, on our personal blogs), so folks who want to follow us in a purely professional context can do so.

Yahoo! Music and Rock Band

Last year, Ian Rogers, who was at the time the VP of Yahoo! Music, gave an interesting presentation to some music-industry friends of his, which he shared in his blog: Convenience Wins, Hubris Loses, and Content vs. Context. His point, to quote: “Let’s get beyond talking about how you get the music and into building context: reasons and ways to experience the music.”

I just picked up a copy of the Rock Band 2 videogame this past weekend, for my Xbox 360. (I am a giant plastic-guitar nerd.) Here’s a perfect example of context, and the cheerful willingness of consumers to pay for the ability to experience music in a different way. The game experience changes depending on what music you’ve bought from the Rock Band online store — it can, for instance, create “Challenges” based around music from a particular band. The new game has also substantially improved in-game display of songs, including cover art and the like. Given the online capabilities of consoles, one expects that future versions of such games are going to begin offering more and more additional in-game context around the music featured. That context, in the form of band interviews and so on, is already available on the game’s website.

This stuff is huge, by the way, in terms of revenue. The Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises had each surpassed 15 milion paid song downloads by the end of Q2 2008. Music video games account for a giant part of software industry growth. In fact, they bring in more total revenue than digital music downloads. And the games drive digital purchases of the songs.

In the meantime, Yahoo! Music is turning back into a portal. What it notably does not seem to be doing: building new reasons and ways to experience music. (In the meantime, Ian Rogers went off to join Topspin.)

The Cloud skills shift

Something that I’ve been thinking about: The shift to global-class computing, and massively scalable infrastructure, represents a fundamental shift in the skill sets that will be valued in IT Operations.

Those of you who, like myself, have worked at service providers in hyper-growth mode, are already familiar with what occurs when you need to grow at red-shift speeds: You automate everything humanly possible, and you try to standardize the heck out of things. Usually you end up trying to make sure that your infrastructure is horizontally scalable, and that your hardware is as interchangeable as possible, alllowing any single server to fail and the system as a whole to go chugging along, while you eventually go yank that server out and replace it with another just-as-generic box that you’ve auto-provisioned.

The shift to the cloud model, whether public or private, basically pushes the idea that every IT organization does that, either in-house or through the services of a provider. It puts the premium on software development / scripting skills — these are the guys who automate things and who write the glue for integrating your toolsets. You’ll have a handful of guys who are your serious architects — the guys who tune and optimize your hardware and storage, design your configurations, and so on. (That might be a single guru, or you might go to consultants for that, alternatively.) You’ll have a few folks who know the operational ins-and-outs of troubleshooting your applications. Everyone else becomes a hardware monkey, entry-level folks who don’t need much more of a skillset than it takes to assemble a PC from parts.

This is writ large in the Google model of Operations, but it’s been true for the last decade in every dot-com of significant size, too. Your hardware operations guys are rack-and-stack types. Everyone else blends systems administration with scripting abilities, and because your toolsets have to scale and be highly maintainable, this is scripting that has the air of serious development, not a one-time thing that can be banged out unreadably.

The routine drudgery of IT Operations is going to get automated away, bit by bit. Right now, many enterprises still operate at a scale and lack of standardization that means that it’s not necessarily more efficient to automate a task than simply do it manually. In the cloud model, the balance tips to the automation side, and the basic value of “I can wrangle boxes” declines precipitously.

My advice to sysadmins: If you are not fluent in a scripting language, and/or not capable of writing structured, readable, maintainable, non-hackish code, now is the time to learn.

Who hosts the ’08 election sites?

The upcoming election in the United States is clearly the election of YouTube and social media. The websites of the presidential candidates are drawing substantial traffic — Nielsen Online estimates the week ending August 31st as 3.4 million unique visitors for Obama, and 1.8 million unique visitors for McCain (up from 524,000 the week before, a massive jump, the apparent result of naming Sarah Palin as his running mate). This is a huge boost for both campaigns over the unique visitors for the month of May, a quarter ago — 2.3 million for Obama, and 563,000 for McCain.

By dot-com and general media measures, these are respectable but not huge numbers. At the top of the popularity game, Facebook and Myspace boast about 115 million unique visitors world-wide, with MySpace tops in the US with around 75 million. Better comparisons might be the launch of the Age of Conan MMORPG (2.2 million unique visitors in 10 days), or the visitors to the website of Weight Watchers (around 2 million).

Websites have been mission-critical in this campaign. So who hosts all of this infrastructure? The traffic’s tremendously variable, the leadership of the free world is at stake… so who gets entrusted with it all?

We can figure that out.

Read the rest of this entry


CloudPundit is my new blog. Although I’ve kept a friends-and-family personal blog for the last seven years, I’ve previously avoided posting on technology topics because I work for an IT market research company (Gartner). Recently, though, Gartner has decided to allow its analysts to participate openly in the blogosphere, so I’ve launched this blog for my thoughts on technology topics.

Strictly on-topic posts will be cross-posted to the Gartner Blog Network. Like the other analysts blogging on GBN and on our own sites, though, I’m writing this as a personal venture, for off-the-cuff musings. It’s possible that some of what I write here will eventually become real research, but what you’re going to get here is the random contents of my head.

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