The Google Juggernaut is On Course

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Four years ago, journalist Tim Weber of the BBC asked whether the growing Google juggernaut had firm idea on where it wanted to go. After finding phenomenal success in an advertising-supported business model in search, many had began to wonder how Google could possibly sustain its growth specially in light of the softening online advertising market.

For a while, it seemed that Google was everwhere and nowhere. Google had developed or acquired a collection of products in everything from search, to webmail services, internet telephony and communications, online content aggregation and distribution, analytics, Maps, satellite images, automated alerts, online translations, specialised searches, online video and many others. While many of these services were useful and interesting, they lacked coherence and more importantly lacked a business model.

Recent announcements from the company have made its strategy for growth moving forward very clear. Just recently they have launched their own browser (Chrome), their owen mobile platform (Android), a new distributed communication and collaboration platform and protocol (Wave), online hosted apps (Google Apps), and now–even its own OS.

The company is going beyond search and online advertising company to becoming a platform company.

Where IBM was the dominant platform company at the time when centralized, monolithic computing was the norm, or where Microsoft dominated when computing shifted to the PC and the Client-Server paradigm, so now Google is positioning itself to be at the forefront as the industry again experiences a sea change in the move towards massively distributed, connected and open systems in the “Internet cloud.”

It would be interesting to see if Google becomes successful and displaces Microsoft as the alpha dog of the industry. It certainly is well positioned to do so, and would be interesting to see how the entire industry will change if  this happens.

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The Yankee Group Business Collaboration Tournament

revers1.
Image via Wikipedia

Here is another showdown–this time between collaboration software vendors. Interesting in that it has a tournament style presentation format (ala Streetfighter or K1) and pits large on-premise software vendors such as IBM and Microsoft, with small, up and coming vendors such as pure-SaaS provider Zoho.

This was developed by Yankee Group. Read more below:

The Yankee Group Business Collaboration Tournament

Although the buzzer-beaters and Cinderella surprises of the NCAA college basketball tournament have been put to rest for 2008, Yankee Group revisited March Madness in the business collaboration vendor landscape.This season marks the inaugural Yankee Group Business Collaboration Tournament. Based on the framework we’ve developed, the tournament will crown the technology vendor with the most comprehensive business collaboration solution the champion of 2008.

In addition, in this Report we also announce the Yankee Group All-Tournament Team and Collaboration Coach of the Year. These awards are given to the vendors that are most successful within the categories we evaluated:

* Community-centric collaboration solutions
* Real-time and messaging collaboration solutions
* Mobile collaboration solutions

We also evaluate the 16 selected vendors (see Exhibit 1) on IT friendliness (e.g., their ability to integrate with existing solutions); the level of service and support they provide; and, at a strategic level, their product road map, their commitment to business collaboration relative to their entire portfolio and their long-term viability.

However, the purpose of the tournament is not to predict the ultimate market champion, but to evaluate vendors on functionality and alignment with Yankee Group’s vision of the Anywhere EnterpriseTM, which essentially is a business that—technologically speaking—allows corporate users to work anywhere using any device. The goal of the Report is to help businesses make the right purchasing and licensing decisions for their collaboration infrastructure and strategy.

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Microsoft Open Source Intitaives for Web Designers and Developers

Check out MIX Online, which is a “community for web designers and developers who build and believe in the innovative web.” It is a project that is in many ways a part of Microsoft’s embrace of online communities and even (gasp!) open source. Some of the interesting projects from MIX are the Oxite project, an open source blogging/content management system built on top of the recently released .NET MVC framework, and their Descry Project.

Project Descry aims to “demonstrates the power of data and information visualization as a communication tool.”  As a part of Descry, they released a set of open source, web-based visualizations (based on Microsoft Silverlight technologies) and articles on really cool Infographics. One particularly interesting visualization is that of the web development process which shows it in a really interesting format what goes on behind the scenes from conception to launch. Check it out here:

Red Hat and Microsoft Work Together to Have Interoperable Virtualization Platforms–Battlefield in Enterprise Computing is Shifting

Red Hat announced a few days back that they have signed an interoperability agreement with Microsoft. Under the agreement both companies will allow operating systems from one to run on the hypervisors of the other.

redhat.com | The World’s Open Source Leader

“The world of IT today is a mixture of virtualized and non-virtualized environments. Red Hat is looking to help our customers extend more rapidly into virtualized environments, including mixed Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows Server environments,” said Mike Evans, vice president, Corporate Development at Red Hat. “Red Hat listened when our customers asked us to provide interoperability between our respective guest and host virtualization solutions. We are excited to announce these agreements today as the result of our collaboration with Microsoft.”

Now from a technical standpoint–this news isn’t much, but it is significant for the enterprise end user and partner channels as this would put the resources of both companies in testing, validation and support for each other’s operating systems when
running on each other’s server virtualization hypervisors. As part of the deal, Microsoft is now a partner in Red Hat’s
virtualization certification program, and Red Hat has joined
Microsoft’s server virtualization validation program.

Clearly this piece of news shows that virtualization technology is now mainstream, and shows customers are putting enough pressure on the big vendors to set aside market place rivalry and philosophical differences to meet their needs. Customers are now running heterogenous or mixed operating system environments. Long term this also shows that the importance of the operating system is becoming less and less, and the battle will move on to the next level up the stack–in Middleware. In Red Hat’s case its Jboss and for Microsoft its .NET (Microsoft supports Novell’s efforts to support .NET in non-Windows environments). Also the battle is now being moved to another front–this time away from the enterprise data center and standardized, big iron machines and into the Internet cloud of commodity, virtualized heterogenous systems.

Welcome to the new world of computing!

Top 5 Microsoft Small Business Server Alternatives

With today’s tough economic climate, certain to be on the agenda for many managers today is how to cut costs and save money on capital spending–specially in IT. Certainly a good starting point for many would be to look at possible ways to save on software licenses.

For the next series of blog postings–I decided I will try to enumerate some good alternatives to some popular enterprise software packages–starting with Microsoft’s Small Business Server (or MS SBS) 2003, an all-in-one server solution for small business or remote office/branch office deployments.

Microsoft SBS 2003 is an all-one suite of products specifically tailored for the needs of small organizations. It incorporates Windows Server technologies, group email and collaboration with a bundled Exchange Server and Microsoft Sharepoint services, network-wide patch and update management, and shared fax services. It brings them all together in a tidy, unified administration screen. Accounts for users are set up once, and are simultaneously configured with other related services with the platform. It is available in Standard and Premium edition, with the premium edition adding on database capabilities with SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition and network perimeter defense with Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004. Overall it is a nice package–if it weren’t for its confusing and costly per-user/device CAL:

The SBS 2003 R2 license gives you the right to install and use the server software. The SBS 2003 R2 CAL gives you the right for a device or user to access the server software. You need both types of licenses in order to be in compliance.

Add to that its artificial limit of only allowing up to 75 users to use the server, after which you have to upgrade to Microsoft Windows Server Standard Edition (or the upcoming Windows Server Essentials).

Its a good thing that in the Linux and open source side of things, there are a host of alternatives that companies can choose from to get the same or equivalent functionality and set of services that Microsoft Small Business Server offers:

  1. SME Server. We start off with the open source, and community-supported SME Server from Contribs.org.SME Server v7.4 is the latest version of the award-winning e-smith Server and Gateway. The SME Server is available as a downloadable ISO that can be installed and configured in less than 15 minutes. It is a Linux-based server (based on CentOS) that can provide a full range of services – including e-mail, firewall, file and print-sharing, web hosting, remote access and more. SME Server can integrate with Windows, Macintosh, and Unix/Linux clients, and within a Windows network environment. It’s as simple to use as a server appliance, but unlike a “sealed-box” appliance the entire system is modular and extensible, and an ecosystem of package contributors (called contribs) are available so it can be tailored to the needs of individual businesses. SME is released as GPL and is completely free but is community supported.
  2. Point Clark Networks’ ClarkConnect. ClarkConnect is a powerful server/gateway software solution designed for the small/medium-sized organization. Though ClarkConnect comes with an extensive list of features and integrated services, the solution is easy to configure thanks to the intuitive web-based interface. The platform is also based on CentOS, and what differentiates it from other solutions, including Microsoft’s is its hybrid-hosted approach to managing network services. These services include externally hosted and managed DNS services, Content Filter Updates, Intrusion Detection Updates, Software Updates, Port Monitoring, Resource Monitoring, and ASP Mail Services (antispam and antivirus). Pricing is an annual subscription with no limit on number of users (except in the free Community Edition). It is a complete, robust and low cost solution for small businesses where network security and connectivity is important.
  3. Collax Business Server. Collax provides a comprehensive, all-in-one server for basic network services such as File-/Mail-/Fax-Server, Firewall, DHCP-Server, Proxy, Web-Server and much more. This is the right choice when you want to consolidate all services on one server software and you want something that is simple to set up and administer. It comes in three editions: a standard, multi-functional edition, and an edition optimized for messaging and collaboration which is bundled with Open Xchange (a Microsoft Exchange alernative), and an edition optimized for routing and network security. Pricing is on a subscription basis and is based on a per user or unlimited user basis.
  4. Lotus Foundations Server. Lotus Foundations server used to be called Nitix before the company that developed it–Net Integration Technologies, was acquired by IBM recently. Nitix from the start had been playing up to IBM, touting its autonomic or self-healing features (a term coined by IBM scientists) and its integration with Lotus Notes. It installs easily and quickly, with the system deciding common office network and security settings–which is a boon to non-tech savvy users but is annoying to experienced admins. Like Collax, Clark Connect and SME Server, it too is an all-in-one server solution based on Linux but follows Microsoft’s example when it comes to pricing. Pricing is based on per user CAL’s and an annual maintenance.
  5. edgeBox. edgeBOX is a server appliance (software and hardware solution) which differentiates itself from the others by providing a full business phone system (IP-PBX), plus email, web, fax, security, calendar, contact directory, and much more out of a single appliance that can be managed remotely through an easy-to-use interface. Pricing and is based on company size which it bases on number of connected users. Edgepacks are available to extend the systems functionality for an added price.

Microsoft Launches Bizspark Program in the Philippines, Tries to Stake out Place in the Future of Computing


Join BizSpark
Microsoft launched locally last Thursday its global Bizspark program. BizSpark is a program for technology startups to get access at little full-featured Microsoft tools and
technologies, plus production licensing for hosted solutions for three years.
Only a nominal fee of USD$100 will be payable upon successful completion of the three-year program.

They launched
in partnership with the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), where the CICT and government will help them identify companies who fit the criteria of operating less than three years and with less than a million dollars in revenues.

It seems particular emphasis will be be given to companies developing hosted solutions or cloud software services in the cloud:

For startups building hosted software, BizSpark includes production
licenses for the application and management servers including Windows
Server, SQL Server, SharePoint Portal Server, Biztalk Server and
Systems Center. Startups will also have the opportunity to be profiled
and promoted on the BizsparkDB, an online startup directory, where
promising startups from around the world can gain market visibility.

This seems to be Microsoft’s response to the growing threat of open source taking over the cloud. In the cloud computing model, customers put their technology infrastructure in the hands of vendors who deliver computing services remotely and virtually through the Internet. This infrastructure is paid for and managed completely by the vendor–requiring them to invest massive amounts of money in hardware and software–such as operating systems, virtualization platforms, databases, network management tools and others. The ability to quickly scape up and integrate with other systems is paramount. Existing vendors, including the big ones such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon have been enthusiastic in their embrace of open source as it dramatically reduces their costs in licensing.

With programs such as BizSpark, I think Microsoft is trying to recapture mindshare it has lost gradually to developers and service providers, who have been embracing open source because of its low barrier to entry and wide support in terms of infrastructure. Case in point is the LAMP (or Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl), Ruby on Rails, or J2EE and PostgreSQL stack. With virtually zero upfront cost and hosting to be had for as little as US$5 a month,and add to that the ability to innovate faster by leveraging communities of like-minded users without limits to what can be done with code, startups have become dedicated consumers of open source as they build their product and their business.  Erstwhile startups and now successful Internet services such as Facebook, Youtube, Digg and Friendster have launched on these platforms. And if by just looking at the the sites in websites such as PinoyWebStartup, or the skills being posted in sites like JobsDB, Jobstreet and in sites like Pinoylancer, or VC-backed local initiatives like Mor.ph Labs and others, it seems local startups have as well.

Personally I doubt if this move will earn them new converts. This could be a boon for companies who are already committed to the Microsoft platform anyway, and will at least dissuade them from using pirated or cracked versions of Microsoft’s products to bootstrap their venture. I think as time goes by, at least in the low end of the market, it is inevitable that they will lose ground to open source. Just as IBM retreated upmarket to large enterprises as they lost ground to PCs from startups using open industry platforms and commodity pricing in hardware several years ago, Microsoft simply can’t compete with the economic and technical value proposition of open source. Why trade in vendor lock-in and a selective,  pay-to-join program for something that is open to all and free?

Microsoft Web Platform Installer 1.0

Microsoft has released since October an all-in-one installer for their web platform in an effort that copies what the open source world has had for several years which is to offer a turn-key software stack for popular platforms such as PHP, MySQL, Java, Postgres, Perl, Python and others provided by companies such as Apachefriends with XAMPP, Bitrock, and many others.

Anyway find out more from their website below:

Microsoft Web Platform

Microsoft Web Platform Installer 1.0

Overview

The Web Platform Installer (Web PI) is a simple tool that installs Microsoft’s entire Web Platform, including IIS, Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition, SQL Server 2008 Express Edition and the .NET Framework. Using the Web Platform Installer’s user interface, you can choose to install either specific products or the entire Microsoft Web Platform onto your computer. The Web PI also helps keep your products up to date by always offering the latest additions to the Web Platform.

New Updates! Now supporting Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, Web PI makes it easy to install and stay up-to-date with the Microsoft Web Platform. This updated release lets you install ASP.NET MVC, Visual Studio Tools for Silverlight, and much more!
System requirements

  • Supported Operating Systems are: Windows Vista RTM, Windows Vista SP1, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008.
  • You must have a live Internet connection.
  • You must have administrator privileges on your computer to run Web Platform Installer.
  • .NET 2.0 Framework
  • Supported Architectures: x86 and 64-bit