The Inexorable Rise Of Nginx And Why CIOs Should Care: It's About Mobile Engagement

Ted Schadler

The techologist in me loves getting the monthly Web server report from Netcraft.com. Astounding statistics like the number of registered public Web sites (673 million in June, up from 23,000 in 1995) and active Web sites (188 million) put into the context of history shows simply and directly just how penetrating the Internet has become in our lives over the last 18 years.

But I've also been noticing the steady rise of a relatively new open source Web server called nginx (pronounced engine-x) (see the figure below, complements of Netcraft). Nginx is now the number two Web server of active Web sites at 24.3 million sites. For reference, the open source Apache Web server has 101.9 million active sites and Microsoft has 20.9 million. (The numbers always wiggle around a little month to month, so track the trend rather than the monthly changes.)

Figure 1 Netcraft's June 2013 Web Server Report Shows The Steady Rise Of Nginx

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Symcat Fights "Cyberchondria" With Health Data

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

How many of you suffer from at least mild “cyberchondria"? Do you run to the computer to Google your latest ailments? Are you often convinced that the headache you have is the first sign of some terminal illness you’ve been reading about?

Well, Symcat takes a new approach to Internet-assisted self-diagnosis. It provides not only the symptoms but the probability of getting the disease, using CDC data to rank results by the likelihood of the different conditions. It then allows users to further filter results by typing in information such as their gender, the duration of their symptoms and medical history. No, that headache you’ve had all week is likely not spinal stenosis or even viral pharyngitis.  But if you’ve had a fall or a blow to the head you might want to consider a concussion. 

As Symcat puts it, they “use data to help you feel better.” Never underestimate the palliative effects of peace of mind.

I had the chance to ask Craig Monsen, MD, co-founder and CEO of Symcat, a few questions about how they got their start with the business and their innovation with open data. 

What was the genesis of Symcat?  Can you describe the "ah-ha" moment of determining the need for Symcat?

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Surprise! CIOs Have A Radical Vision Of Their World In 2020

John McCarthy

At Forrester’s North America CIO Forum two weeks ago, Frank Gillett, Chris Mines, and I presented a point--counterpoint debate on “The CIO’s World in 2020.” We debated and analyzed four key dynamics regarding IT and the CIO’s role in the future, and asked the 325 attendees to vote on the outcome they think is most likely to occur. The audience members’ votes were extremely telling:

  • 80% believed that technology would still be differentiating. To set the stage for the audience vote, Frank argued that technology would be so commonplace and readily available via the cloud that a company’s ability to set itself apart via technology would be fleeting at best.  I took the opposite side, saying that while much of today’s transaction-based systems will be nothing more than table stakes, systems of engagement-based systems and technologies around analytics and smart products would be central to a firm’s ability to set itself apart in the eyes of customers. The audience overwhelmingly agreed with our call that systems of engagement and other technologies would be differentiating.
  • 85% agreed that most technology would be delivered via the public cloud. I kicked off this point by arguing that technology was too important not to be centrally designed, deployed, and managed by IT. Frank came at it stating that the velocity and variability of change required the use of public cloud-based services. The Forrester call was that companies will architect and deploy business solutions from a growing pool of external as-a-service resources, with IT playing the role of orchestrator.
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Embrace Workplace And Workspace Diversity Now

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

As I sit at my kitchen table enjoying the quiet of my house before my kids come home, I know that I will move to my office and shut the door once that tranquility is shattered by their arrival. Then later this evening, once the house is again quiet with the monsters nestled in their beds, I might just take a few calls propped up on pillows in my bed. Yes, I do that regularly. Heck, they call it a laptop, right?  This is the "home" scenario. On the road, workplaces and spaces vary even more. I really work best from a hotel room, or the hotel bar if I have a good headset on.  None of this is new for me; I have played the role of an itinerant worker for years. But for a long time my employers continued to put my name on a door or cubicle. For me, that has now changed. No more nameplate for me. Employers are increasingly waking up to the fact that many employees (or "information workers," ugh... hate the term) just don't need or even want a fixed office or space. And, likely more importantly, the employers don't want that either. An empty office is an under-optimized asset. Both demand-side and supply-side forces converge to drive workplace and space diversity.

We hear a lot about empowered employees these days, and the changing nature of work and the workforce. Forrester's Workforce Employee Surveys investigate trends among information workers such as device usage, collaboration practices, workplace preferences, and attitudes about their employers. And, the signs are clearly indicating that the demand for workplace diversity and choice is on the rise:

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Make no mistake - IBM’s Watson (and others) provide the *illusion* of cognitive computing

IBM has just announced that one of Australia’s “big four” banks, the ANZ, will adopt the IBM Watson technology in their wealth management division for customer service and engagement. Australia has always been an early adopter of new technologies but I’d also like to think that we’re a little smarter and savvier than your average geek back in high school in 1982.

IBM’s Watson announcement is significant, not necessarily because of the sophistication of the Watson technology, but because of IBM's ability to successfully market the Watson concept.   

To take us all back a little, the term ‘cognitive computing’ emerged in response to the failings of what was once termed ‘artificial intelligence’. Though the underlying concepts have been around for 50 years or more, AI remains a niche and specialist market with limited applications and a significant trail of failed or aborted projects. That’s not to say that we haven’t seen some sophisticated algorithmic based systems evolve. There’s already a good portfolio of large scale, deep analytic systems developed in the areas of fraud, risk, forensics, medicine, physics and more.

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Open Data Is An Asset! New US Federal Guidance For Reaching Its Full Potential.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

 

The recent Executive Order — Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum Open Data Policy — Managing Data as an Asset have brought much attention to efforts to promote the use of data by the US federal government. In fact, highlights of the US Federal Open Data Project are already impressive.  Many agencies already provide their data in machine-readable formats through APIs, or at least downloadable data sets. However, I personally measure “highlights” in terms of the use of the data (not by the number of data sets accessible).  And, many organizations already put this data to good uses in health, energy, education, safety, and finance. My recent blog, Open Data Isn’t Just For Governments Anymore, highlighted several examples of companies built on open data.  Think Symcat, Healthgrades, oPower, or even Zillow which has been using public data for a while now. How many of you have “zillowed” your house, your neighbor’s house, or even a colleague’s house? Be honest.  I have.

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The CIO’s Role In Business Transformation

Marc Cecere

At our recent CIO Forum in D.C., I had a number of conversations with clients who either had gone through or were going through a business transformation. From our talks, one theme jumped out at me — most CIOs will either lead some part of this transformation or get run over by it. From their perspective, there was no middle ground. To paraphrase one CIO, “There’s no way you can just go along for the ride and not get hurt.”

 A little data first. In a survey Forrester performed for Tata Consultancy Services, approximately 30% of those surveyed responded that the CIO was the most important senior leader in driving or supporting a business transformation; CIOs were rated highest — even above CEOs! With about a third of the sample coming from IT, the numbers were slightly skewed, but follow-up interviews with both business and IT people confirmed the results. To paraphrase the leader of IT strategy from one meeting, “Once past the vision phase, 80% of the work falls to the CIO.”

So why is the CIO asked to do so much in what is essentially a business initiative?

Let’s use KPMG’s Value Delivery Framework to illustrate. In it are five stages of a business transformation — discovery, strategy, road map, implementation, and monitoring — and a number of activities such as program management that span the stages. Of the five stages, implementation requires the greatest effort. From talking with those who have been through it, the greatest implementation challenges are in data, enterprise process redesign, project management, and organizational change management. And for at least the first three areas, IT is the group that is required to commit the most resources to these areas because IT has the greatest depth of experience.

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Amy’s Baking Company Social Media Meltdown: The ABCs Of Social Media

Nigel Fenwick

Of the many questions I get from clients, many center on the use of social media for customer engagement purposes — because sometimes IT staff are asked to block employees from using social media. But what should you do when the owners of the business take to social media?

Today, a small restaurant in Arizona is the hottest thing on social media. Their Facebook page has gone from 2,854 likes on May 14 to 74,687 on May 16. Was this incredible growth in “likes” the result of some incredibly successful social media campaign? Well not exactly.

The restaurant was recently featured on the season finale of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares — a show my wife and I really enjoy as it happens. It seems the main reason why the owners, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, invited the show to their restaurant was because business had gone downhill because of an Internet firestorm they themselves seemed to have not only started but also steadily fuelled.

Well one of the many, many lessons from the meltdown of Amy’s Baking Company (ABC) in Scottsdale, AZ is that owners should never try to use social media before understanding a few basic guidelines:

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Winning The Customer Experience Game (Part 2)

Nigel Fenwick

It may come as a surprise to some to hear that technology teams play an important role in the implementation of an effective customer experience strategy, but that's the conclusion from our latest research.

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Should Companies Allow Employees To Use Cloud-Hosted File Sync/Share Solutions? Yes, With Precautions.

Ted Schadler

 

The Wall Street Journal published a point-counterpoint article on cloud-hosted file sync/share solutions like Dropbox, Google Docs, and myriad others. They chose a title I wouldn't have used myself, but there you have it.
 
I took the pro side. You can read the whole article here.
 
My side of the argument is here:
 
Yes: Employees Are Doing What's Best for the Company
By Ted Schadler
 
Why do employees use cloud-based solutions like Dropbox, Box and SugarSync to sync and share files? As well over 100 million Dropbox customers have learned, it's because these services make it a cinch to move files from a computer to a tablet to a smartphone to another computer and back again. And it's a much better solution than email for sharing a bucket of files with others.
 
These services began life with a focus on home scenarios. But it didn't take savvy employees long to realize that these services also solve three big productivity problems at work: 1) getting all your work files on every device you use for work; 2) sharing files with colleagues; and 3) sharing files with trusted partners and customers.
 
So, should IT organizations allow employees to use these cloud-based services? That question is patently absurd. Why should an IT organization dictate what employees do to get their work done? Who made IT responsible for policing employee behavior and tools?
 
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