Archive for May, 2011

el Reg Disco

There was a piece over on the Register by Timothy Prickett Morgan on options for Cisco and Dell merging, it was the suggestion that the merged company be called Disco that actually caught my attention! As I said in the online comments, “My commenting on this article doesn’t reflect any personal or business support or endorsement of the views expressed[by Timothy Prickett Morgan or The Register]”.

I made a typical mistake when speed reading an article just before leaving for the day, in my comments I made a few minor typing mistakes. So, here is the corrected version of what I should have sent.

“It’s a shame that so many of you feel Dell doesn’t do research, or even build it’s own servers, I understand why, but it’s simply not the case(excuse the pun) anymore. I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I jumped ship from IBM to come to Dell, but what I found was a dedicated and skilled hardware team who design the motherboards, the interconnects, how the components interact, drive standards adoption, and design hardware packaging, placement, cooling and some innovative features into the servers in both hardware and management.

Yes, the servers are assembled with a lot of industry standard parts, but the way they are designed is pure Dell; the layout is Dell and we drive the component manufacturers to innovate to meet our specifications. And yes, many are assembled outside of a Dell owned facility. This isn’t your fathers Dell though

I’m sure all those commenting have prior experience, but we are a different company today, working hard to deliver on some key technology innovations. Our DCS, PowerEdge-C servers are 2nd to none in the cloud server space, we’ve also got some great servers optimized for the enterprise and virtualization space including the PowerEdge R910 and the PowerEdge AMD based R815, being two of my favorites. We are doing the same thing in some key industry verticals and software segments, in order to help drive down industry prices and keep competition open.

Less you think this was really an anonymous post by some bland marketing or PR person, it wasn’t. I’m Mark Cathcart, one of Dells Distinguished Engineers and Director of Systems Engineering; and no, I didn’t get this comment approved or proof read before I posted it.

You can find my blog with an email address at with an email address if you have specific problems or concerns about anything I’ve written.

My commenting on this article doesn’t reflect any personal or business support or endorsement of the views expressed, I was just attracted by the concept of working at a Disco again, its been 36-years since the last time ;-)”

Of NFC, QR Code, Payments, PayPal and Reuters and vendor influence

I thought this one worth a quick blog entry for, especially as it’s one of the industries dirty little, but well known secrets. I’ve been a unwilling shill a few times. After a while it gets much easier to spot them.

As part of the app store/walled garden debate that kicked off after my Q&A with George Conoly, co-counder and CEO of Forrester Research, I’ve been staying late working on some HTML5 related topics and technologies. Especially as they relate to mobile devices. One topic that has been really interesting is QR codes and how perhaps we might use them in servers. There was, much to my surprise already a project running to use them. I’ve been looking at dynamically generating them, possibly for use in error codes, and maintenance, service calls, etc.

One of the follow-ons from this was the use of Near Field Communication (NFC). Ostentatiously, NFC is being punted by the industry for mobile payments. It’s much more interesting to me though to use for the initiation of mobile, wireless connectivity, via say, Bluetooth. Anyway, just as I was scanning my tweetstream for today before I left, I spotted an @techmeme tweet “PayPal is top brand for mobile payments: survey (@georginius / Reuters) ”

This immediately struck me as nonsense. Linking PayPal to NFC, how so? Surely, the whole point of NFC is that you have a device, the device or an app on the device(possibly HTML5 based) is used to charge for something, a micro-purchase, coffee, sandwhich, MP3, or similar bypassing the typical website switch and charge service provided by PayPal.

Thus, rather than PayPal benefiting from NFC, they actually have the most to lose and need to be as proactive as they can to ensure they are infact not dis-intermediated in the upcoming NFC payments boom. What happens is that the NFC device micro-/payment is charged to the account associated to the device, or a credit card registered to the device owner. There are some obvious and some legal issues with this. Some countries are bound to have laws that restrict telco’s and wireless carriers business, ie. not allowing them to become banks. So rather than the carrier consuming the charge from the NFC device aka smart/cellphone, the charge is passed on to a credit card registered to the device owner. And, this is where, from reading after seeing the tweet, PayPal want in on the act.

Now, theres the obvious issue of the device falling into the hands of an unauthorized 3rd party, but thats a whole different post. The point of this post was there was nowhere in this process where we needed PayPal, unless I’ve misunderstood. PayPal need to be an early wave adopter, or they risk being cut-out completely.

I went and chased down the survey qouted by Reuters. Low and behold, survey by market research firm GfK suggests that PayPal, the eBay-owned online payment system, “could be set for a major boost as mobile payment systems start to take off over the next year”. The GfK survey was of course funded by, err, PayPal. The Reuters piece then goes on to discuss NFC.

If in fact NFC is used as I posit above, this is typical bait and switch type press release, where you create confusion by associating yourself in a positive light with something that is in fact a weakness. It’s done all the time, you make sure you ask the questions that get the answers you want, especially when you are paying the people asking the questions.

Now, it could be I’m completely wrong on this. Maybe someone from PayPal or GfK would like to send me a copy of the survey? It looks though like Reuters fell for the press release, hook, line and sub-editor. Their carrying the release has meant it’s gone “viral” and as George Bush might have said, “job done!”.

About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.

I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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