Dec 09

Amazon’s planned entry into virtual desktop computing signals a massive trigger for industry acceptance of desktop virtualisation. Arguably, this technology (Terminal Services, XenApp, RDS) has been in production for a very long time, with the ‘light’ use case of application virtualisation taking the lion-share of market to-date. And today’s average enterprise customer still won’t quite kick the Windows tech-refresh habit due to poorly understood costs of virtual desktop compute and continued poor implementations by the wider systems integration community. But USD$35/desktop/month for a basic desktop is what you get with scale and an aggressive business poised to lead the cloud compute market for years to come.

Over the last 4 years, the VMware and Citrix psuedo-competition has played out to a underwhelming result: VMware giving away View licenses to secure marketshare, and now signalling a white-flag licensing strategy with the acquisition of DaaS provider Desktone. Meanwhile Citrix revenues for the ‘heavy’ use case of full virtual hosted desktop is languishing, while the old standby XenApp (hosted shared desktop) continues to pay the bills. And the now dominant NetScaler gateway technology provides the growth engine for Citrix (more or less providing the interface to the majority of cloud data traffic).

Another important undercurrent is the shifting position of Microsoft on VDI, with a competitive market stance of the RDS use-case for VDI (hosted shared desktop). Will the love-in between Microsoft and Citrix endure an increasingly competitive marketplace? While promising advances (Server 2012 Hyper-V Deduplication, clustered file systems), the manageability of this platform on scale is arguably years behind. Here is a snapshot of the primary vendor landscape as it stands:

Amazon’s entry will ultimately help the VDI market, but it’s important to remember best technology doesn’t always win (take a good look who is biggest and most profitable). For one, Amazon’s entry is a massive validation of the hosted shared desktop compute model, delivered with the currently most price competitive infrastructure compute stack.  This will hopefully drive private cloud customers towards true reference architecture design using high density technologies versus the ‘roll your own’ mentality which continues to hamper large scale VDI implementations.  Secondly, while Amazon Workspaces may not fully address the complexity of the large enterprise, it may very well fuel a massive marketplace for small to medium business and remote office virtual desktop computing requirements.

May 15

Taxi rides make up a small percentage of my adult life. Over the years I’ve developed an appreciation for the humanity of taxi drivers, particularly in big cities. First and foremost, taxi drivers provide a public service in a small space. I can’t think of anything close, other than elevator operators in New York. Second, drivers are arguably the most accurate leading indicator for a regional economy.  When cash gets tight, drivers are some of the first to feel it. Plus, drivers often work half a shift to cover running costs, even in a decent market. So every dollar counts.

But in spite of being a reasonably generous person, one pet-peeve of mine is getting scammed in a taxi. Maybe it’s the fact that you are captive in a moving vehicle, or the fact you don’t have much choice but to pay the fare. It’s just a matter of principle. In most cases I’m palpably irritated and sometime entirely amused at the variety of scams running.
Most notable examples:
“Sorry, I don’t speak English.”
For some reason this was a popular tactic in Boston airport pickups. The scam is to pretend to not know the city streets, get lost a few times, and ultimately jack the fare 20-50%. Totally obnoxious when the dispatcher is hollering in a very plain Boston accent! Defensive tactic: Where are you from, how do you like Boston?
“Which way would you like to go?”
A professional courtesy, or a tactic to see if the visitor has any idea where you are about to start driving. Defensive tactic: “The cheapest and quickest way”, or of you know provide directions.
The completely insane driver.
Only once, but a Boston cabbie was a stark raving lunatic and ignored all directions, resulting in a 2x fare. Note: Boston hackney carriage licenses can be revoked for this kind of nonsense. Defensive tactic:Either demand to get out of the car, or start calling the taxi company while moving. Take some pictures of the driver license while you’re at it.
Stop after pickup, rig the meter, drive fast, make a lot of money.
In Beijing, a driver stopped the taxi in traffic, opened the hood and monkeyed around with something, then started driving fast. The meter was progressing at 10x the previous rate and finally we got out. In this case, we paid a small amount of the total and shared a variety of colorful metaphors from America. Awesome nerve and execution though, reserved especially for tourists. Defensive tactic: None other than a sense of humor and short change.
Sorry, no change.
Unless you have 100 baht notes in Bangkok, you are rarely going to get change for a quick ride which will range from 30-100 baht in taxis, tuktuks, etc. So if you’re fresh off the ATM, you’re packing 1000 baht notes and are a prime target. Bangkok should really elimatinate small notes for tourists – 100 baht minimums. Defensive tactic: get small change, or just refuse to overpay and route to a hotel concierge for change.
Got the meter running.
Lately happens in Sydney where your fare will magically be 7-8 dollars as soon as the car is moving. Defensive tactic: Pay attention, ask, what the f*ck is the immediate charge for?
Meter taxi, no meter.
Meter taxis are good practice. But once in a while the meter is broken or disappears from full view. Defensive tactic: Agree on a fixed fare before moving, otherwise the fare tends to be on the high side.
Private driver.
These guys are ubiquitous, and sometimes very sketchy. Good airports and cities ban them from airports. Defensive tactic: Avoid. If no other choice, get a business card and a pre-negotiated fare. Still, avoid as these can turn into the scary rides.
Jan 07

In direct comparison to US domestic travel, the typical business trip in Australia goes like this:

Get to the airport 45′ early, and within 10′ your bag is checked and you are through security. Rare identification checks, no security intimidation (replaced by profiling), and generally a smooth process. Flights are almost always on time, never overbooked, and generally the planes are clean and operated by happy staff. En route travelers are quiet, with minimal use of mobile phones, and no carry on baggage dramas. You land. Within 45′ you have your luggage and are in the central business district of whatever city. The majority of domestic planes are clean and usually have leather seats. No first class, all one service, like JetBlue but no cookie. This is a domestic travel utopia.

Look, it’s not quite perfect. I’ve been profiled/questioned prior to an international flight. And one time in 3 years I got stuck on a tarmac for 1 hour. And another time my flight was cancelled, due to computer system failures in the airline. And one week I got bilked on hotel rates due to a city-wide overbooking in Melbourne. Still, these are minor taxes to pay for a functional travel environment.

Back in America, every time I land in LAX, you reenter the third world travel purgatory, otherwise known as domestic US travel. For efficiency, you have the most complex web of connecting flights, designed to conserve fuel, maximize payload, and pump the margins for the greater good of lamenting shareholders. Granted, there are 15x the number of cities and people in comparison to Australia/New Zealand, and 5x the number of airlines competing for the same result.

The first half of the US travel problem is the traveler. There are too many travelers carrying 50 lbs of crap on the plane in shopping bags. Everyone pushes as if impatience results in activity. Road warriors operate with robotic precision and zero sensitivity. Truly miserable airline staff (particularly evident on United, American, US Air) should find a happier future as prison wardens.

The bigger problem is the airline industry concept of selling a mediocre product in a vain attempt to endlessly trim for margin improvement. How about clean the planes? Increase direct flights. Fix the baggage problem, making it worthwhile to check your bags. Throw obnoxious travelers off the plane (like the conductors on the Acela express train line). Hire people who love travel. Take some pride in the business. Staff your airports with decision-makers. Make airlines a luxury item (which it is), instead of a cattle-wagon on wings.

Tagged with:
Jun 20

Long before business, I played music. A lot, and if for no reason other than loving it. And it was in good company, with great friends. We started practicing in the basement of public buildings, which evolved to playing semi-legally in semi-public buildings, which led to dive bars, clubs, houses, outdoor venues, you name it. Eventually we started clocking regional touring miles to meccas and non-meccas of indie rock of the time.

Then I took a couple turns and entered the business world in my early 20’s. This was not a graceful transition- but it works. For the last 2 years I’ve been immersed in living an expat life in Sydney and running a regional start-up business.

Running a startup consultancy embodies everything of consulting and nothing of consulting at the same time. On one hand, you have constant complexity and change, and on the other you have an ever steady flow of grunt work that rewards itself in multiples as you succeed.  It’s a high touch business, and everything you do counts. With your clients, your people, your suppliers. There’s no such thing as dumb luck, yet you must have some luck to survive – particularly in the early stages.

But do business and music world follow entirely separate paths?

Bad Shows and Good Shows

I remember dozens of average shows, some remarkably bad, and a handful of epic shows. The epic would be least anticipated and least planned. In business you have a constant run of meetings, deliverables, interviews, and communications. It’s tempting to let ‘normal’ define all, but you well and truly do have sessions that define the business and your own experience within. In this business, you must perform well constantly, but you’re most meaningful and fulfilling performances often happen with least predictability.

Practice and Performance

In music you spend disproportionate time practicing and improving and a relatively minute slice of time producing or performing live. Business couldn’t be more opposite, whereby you spend most time producing or attempting to perform, and little to no time actually practicing the form. It’s pathetic really – the value of ‘busy’ versus the value of quality performance.  But in both cases, you do make mistakes and improve from them.

The Beauty of Imperfections

The business world maintains a false sense of security in the idea of perfection. We diminish the value of failure and promote value on perfect. Until, at least you have a humbling mistake and are forced through the motions of post-mortems. But in music (at least the kind I enjoy) you thrive on imperfections, possibly evolving from them and drawing from them new ideas. It’s the whole point.

Mundane Work

In music, it was driving and then moving your kit in and out of places. Hours, days, weeks of time driving city to city. When you do arrive, then the manual work begins. In business it’s the endless volume of administration. No matter what you do, there is an endless stream of administration. I’d take driving over paperwork a thousand times over. Even in Iowa.

Improvisation

This only can happen with a lot of practice, yet an abandonment of your fundamental study. It’s arguably the most free form of art. So in business, are we best suited to practice the known truths, or seek variants and different forms of expression to make it work? The people who seem to enjoy their businesses the most are constantly seeking ways to improve it and grow it. The least prolific and miserable appear to be stuck in a pattern of repetitive motion, constantly seeking a better outcome via the same techniques with less and less spirit – the antithesis of art.

Feb 17

My latest consumer experience in Australia provides a great summary of the retail experience:

  • Walked into a small privately run ink/toner shop in the local area
  • Asked for a quote on toner for my little A4 work printer
  • AUD$400.00 excluding GST, but we’ll have to order it in for you
  • Went to the regional ebay site, bought and had the same kit delivered for AUD$60.00 in 3 days

Granted, the shop is located in an area renowned for predatory pricing, and paying 2-4x the global fair-market norm for products is fairly routine. But when the cost of toner exceeds that of your printer, do you really have to wonder why is retail in Australia tanking? Maybe the dim-bulbs will start to flicker that international online purchasing will bury retail where there isn’t already a monopoly (such as food, fuel) or unregulated markets dominated by tax/levy schemes (housing, automobiles).

Tagged with:
preload preload preload