The Nastiest Performance Bottleneck Is Often The Database

Mike Gualtieri

Some of the most joyful technical challenges I experienced as a developer were solving application performance problems. Isn't it fun. You are Sherlock Holmes - examining the architecture, diving into the code for clues, and scouring through logs files to find the bottlenecks that are responsible for snail's pace. However, this job is a lot harder than Sherlock Holmes or CSI. It is more like Dr. Gregory House, because you are racing against the clock. For every minute of sluggish performance, you could be losing eyeballs and therefore revenue. Worst case: the patient, i.e., your website, dies.

Performance Problems Are Usually Elevated Because Of A Crisis

Your business just launched a Super Bowl commercial that confidently directed people to your website - #fail. More likely, a new release of software performs like a dog (with apologies to Greyhounds) because of lame coding and nonexistent performance testing.

 You Need A Clever Solution, Fast

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The Seven Qualities Of Wildly Desirable Software

Mike Gualtieri

Cosmopolitan magazine certainly doesn't publish articles such as "Seven Hairstyles That Will Make Your Man Yawn." Wildly desirable is more like it. And so too, is it with great software. If you want your applications to be successful, you better make them wildly desirable.

My latest published research has identified seven key qualities that all applications must exhibit to be wildly desirable, with our choices based on research and inquiries on software design and architecture; assessment advisories with clients; and interviews with leading experts, including both practitioners and academics.

Forrester defines the seven qualities of software as:

The common requirements that all software applications must satisfy to be successful: user experience, availability, performance, scalability, adaptability, security, and economy.

Seven Qualities Of Wildly Desirable Apps

All seven qualities are important, but if you get the user experience (UX) wrong, nothing else matters.

The UX is the part of your application that your employees and/or customers see and use daily. You can do an exceptional job on project management, requirements gathering, data management, testing, and coding, but if the user experience is poor, your results still be mediocre — or even a complete failure.

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Windows Phone 7 Is Invited To The Mobile Dance By Nokia

Ted Schadler

Make no mistake about Nokia's global power. They are still the dominant handset maker globally. But Nokia somehow missed the shift to the handheld computers we call smartphones and tablets.

Make no mistake about Microsoft's tenacity. They will drop a cool billion to enter a market. But they have tried and tried and tried again to build an operating system that can work on the handheld computes we call smartphones and tablets.

Well, Windows Phone 7 (now where did the "7" come from?) is a good mobile OS, at least on smartphones. No idea whether it will work on tablets. (We know Windows 7 itself won't.)

And Nokia's smartphone platforms like the E7 are a decent piece of hardware.

Now that these two megaliths are partnering up, Microsoft's mobile OS has a chance for relevance. I and my colleagues have predicted and urged you, our enterprise customers, to focus on three mobile platforms: Apple's iOS, Google's Android, and RIM's QNX. Well, it's time to take a flier on Microsoft as well.

It's way too early to tell if this partnership will be successful or if anybody, particularly your US and European employees, will care about Nokia smartphones or tablets running Windows Phone 7. But if they nail the product experience. If they sign up the carriers. If they quickly roll out a good, competitively-priced tablet running the same Windows Phone OS. If they port Word and PowerPoint and OneNote and Excel and SharePoint Workspace to that tablet and phones. If they attract ISVs. If they attract independent developers. If they build a decent app store. If they sign up the mobile device management vendors. If they execute brilliantly. Then they could be relevant.

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How Autodesk Tackles The Next Frontier Of IT-For-Green

Chris Mines
How Autodesk Tackles the Next Frontier of IT-for-Green
My travels last month took me back to the Bay Area for client meetings and a chance to spend some time at the Autodesk Gallery, a very cool space near the ferry building in San Francisco. Autodesk uses it to show off its customers' design innovations, not coincidentally created using the company's design software. The event in January showcased how customers are using Autodesk visualization software to improve the sustainability of their product designs and implementations. This is tackling sustainability right at its core: making products that are more energy- and resource-efficient, easier to manufacture, easier to reuse and recycle, right from the start. The products we saw at the event included:
  • A new research facility at NASA Ames down the peninsula. This super-green building is aimed at "beyond" LEED Platinum standards, incorporating a variety of innovative design and engineering elements all captured in building information modeling (BIM) software. The Feds will use it as a laboratory for energy efficient buildings, spreading its best practices and learnings across the broad portfolio of US government buildings and research facilities. NASA is also working to make the design blueprint a working model for efficient ongoing operation of the building.
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Spring Training For Microsoft Negotiators

Duncan Jones

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in England, the first snowdrops have appeared in my garden and at least one of my pet hens has restarted laying – yes, Spring is on the way. Meanwhile, in the US the main harbinger of the changing season is the migration of baseball teams to Florida and Arizona for their annual pre-season ritual known as ‘Spring Training’. In the software sourcing world, the rites of Spring often include major negotiations with Oracle and Microsoft ahead of their fiscal year ends of May and June respectively. That’s why this is a perfect time of year to get some spring training of your own, at one of our ever-popular Microsoft Negotiation workshops.1 Anyone considering a major purchase or renewal with the Redmond Sluggers between now and the World Series should come along to Amsterdam on February 16 or Dallas on March 2 to hear why they may have extra leverage this year, and how to use it to get the best possible deal.

Microsoft had very high sales revenue for its December quarter, particularly the business division, but that didn’t come from the multi-year Enterprise Agreement (EA) and Software Assurance (SA) deals that the direct sales teams need. Microsoft’s revenue boost came from one-off purchases of its just-released Office 2010 product through its retail and small business programs. EA/ SA deals would initially appear in the accounts as unearned revenue in the balance sheet, and that was at the same level as two years earlier.2 So these results are consistent with our research that predicts that Microsoft’s direct sales teams will struggle to meet their tough EA bookings targets this year, and that will strengthen prospective buyers’ negotiating position.

We can’t promise warm weather or adoring fans, but our spring training session will help you with:

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HP Synergy, Not WebOS, Is What Will Differentiate HP

Frank Gillett

 Today, I attended the HP webOS event at the Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps is writing about the TouchPad, but I’m more interested in where HP takes webOS and how it relates to the Personal Cloud idea I first published more than a year ago.

 I'm interested in where HP will take webOS — HP won't stick to just consumer markets, and it won't just build smartphones and tablets. Todd Bradley, HP’s EVP for Personal Systems Group, announced that HP will put webOS on PCs and printers before the end of the year.

 Two strategic things that I think HP will do: 

  • Put webOS on business PCs, not just consumer PCs. HP has long wanted more control and differentiation than they can get just putting a UI layer on Windows. HP will create conventional PCs with webOS, to stretch the webOS into the core personal devices market. That creates a much larger market for developers, which is vital to succeeding with a new OS. At the event, HP’s Steven McArthur, SVP Applications and Services, said HP plans to "build the largest installed base of connected devices in the world." 
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Nasdaq Hack Brings Security Issues Into The Boardroom

Chris McClean

 Have you been having trouble getting your board of directors to care about information security? This weekend’s news that Nasdaq’s Directors Desk web application was compromised by hackers may help to improve your situation.

Details have been elusive thus far, but reports indicate that multiple breaches occurred, resulting in “suspicious files” on the company’s servers. A statement released by Nasdaq assures us that its trading systems and customer data were not compromised, and those in the know tend to agree that infiltrating the trading systems would be substantially more difficult than breaking into the web environment and leaving a few files behind. As the investigation continues, hopefully we'll learn more, but what can we take away from this story so far?

  • The list of attractive hacker targets continues to grow. Whoever perpetrated this breach chose not to go after traditionally lucrative targets like customer/employee data or a more difficult and devastating attempt to dismantle one of the world’s biggest exchanges. Instead the target was a more accessible set of extremely sensitive corporate data – details about mergers, acquisitions, dividends, and earnings. Without much sophistication, criminals could use this information to execute rather impressive “insider trading” transactions or simply find an outlet like WikiLeaks for some of the more embarrassing tidbits.
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The Passing Of A Giant – Digital Equipment Founder Ken Olsen Dead At 84

Richard Fichera

One evening in 1972 I was hanging out in the computer science department at UC Berkeley with a couple of equally socially backward friends waiting for our batch programs to run, and to kill some time we dropped in on a nearby physics lab that was analyzing photographs of particle tracks from one of the various accelerators that littered the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. Analyzing these tracks was real scut work – the overworked grad student had to measure angles between tracks, length of tracks, and apply a number of calculations to them to determine if they were of interest. To our surprise, this lab had something we had never seen before – a computer-assisted screening device that scanned the photos and in a matter of seconds determined it had any formations that were of interest. It had a big light table, a fancy scanner, whirring arms and levers and gears, and off in the corner, the computer, “a PDP from Digital Equipment.” It was a 19” rack mount box with an impressive array of lights and switches on the front. As a programmer of the immense 1 MFLOP CDC 6400 in the Rad Lab computer center, I was properly dismissive…

This was a snapshot of the dawn of the personal computer era, almost a decade before IBM Introduced the PC and blew it wide open. The PDP (Programmable Data Processor) systems from MIT Professor Ken Olsen were the beginning of the fundamental change in the relationship between man and computer, putting a person in the computing loop instead of keeping them standing outside the temple.

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Release Management And The "First Rule Of Holes"

Jeffrey Hammond

 

Ever hear about the "First Rule of Holes"? It's pretty simple — if you find yourself in a hole with a shovel, the first thing to do is.... stop digging!

That's kind of what it's like in app dev when it comes to release management: We've dug ourselves a pretty deep hole, and it's impacting our overall ability to ship software on time. We recently ran a survey of app dev professionals that confirms what we hear in our client inquiries: Most development leaders are frustrated with slow software delivery and their release management process (see Figure). While Agile speeds software design and development, it doesn't do much to speed up release and deployment — creating a flash point where frequent releases collide with slower release practices.

But some organizations have stopped digging themselves in deeper. They are working with their peers in operations to streamline release management and cutting steps into the side wall of their hole so that they can climb out, step by step. Here are five steps that they are taking:

  1. Investing in improving their pre-build processes. Many problems that occur during a release cycle have their root cause in inadequate pre-build tasks and activities.
  2. Expanding release management throughput. Projects that have large code bases or extensive testing cycles are using parallelism and intelligent testing processes to speed up the early stages of the release cycle.
  3. Optimizing their release pipeline. After taking care of the early stages of the release pipeline, advanced teams are implementing virtualization, parallel testing, and developer self service to further compress their release cycles.
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How Do You Support Splinternet Security On Mobile Devices?

Andras Cser

Mobile authentication is nothing new.  SiteMinder, a prominent web access management tool, has been able to handle mobile browsers and sessions for at least 7-8 years. Some users complained of WAP and its limitations, but most could access information and log in to websites with minimal issues.

WAP is gone and it is now replaced by a multitude of devices: tablets, PDAs, smartphones, etc. With the proliferation of Splinternet, we are witnessing not only a boom of content, but also the need to limit access to sensitive applications and data not only from the device but also on the device. Authentication, authorization, and data protection challenges multiply as companies embrace the post-PC tablets, etc.

 What do we see people asking about? From the enterprise security perspective, the biggest challenges seems to be protecting the data on the device, performing a remote wipe on a lost or stolen piece of equipment, and making sure corporate information is separated clearly from any private data. Writing mobile applications or designing mobile-capable and still rich, interactive web pages is no easy task either. Companies also wonder about how to deliver and (de)provision applications quickly and securely.

 What do we see companies do? Sandboxing corporate data and mandating the use of remotely wipeable devices is the first step. Storing certificates and using transaction signature mobile authenticators to defend against stolen or compromised text messages with one-time passwords is a logical follow-on.

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