Archive for the 'Analysts' Category

The app hell of the future

Just over 5-years ago, in April 2011, I wrote this post after having a fairly interesting exchange with my then boss, Michael Dell, and George Conoly, co-founder and CEO of Forrester Research. I’m guessing in the long term, the disagreement, and semi-public dissension shut some doors in front of me.

Fast forward 5-years, and we are getting the equivalent of a do-over as the Internet of Things and “bots” become the next big thing. This arrived in my email the other day:

This year, MobileBeat is diving deep into the new paradigm that’s rocking the mobile world. It’s the big shift away from our love affair with apps to AI, messaging, and bots – and is poised to transform the mobile ecosystem.

Yes, it’s the emperor’s new clothes of software over again. Marketing lead software always does this, over imagines what’s possible, under estimates the issues with building in and then the fast fail product methodology kicks-in. So, bots will be the next bloatware, becoming a security attack front. Too much code, forced-fit into micro-controllers. The ecosystem driven solely by the need to make money. Instead of tiny pieces of firmware that have a single job, wax-on, wax-off, they will become dumping ground for lots of short-term fixes, that never go away.

Screenshot_20160524-113359Meanwhile, the app hell of today continues. My phone apps update all the time, mostly with no noticeable new function; I’m required to register with loads of different “app stores” each one a walled garden with few published rules, no oversight, and little transparency. The only real source of trusted apps is github and the like where you can at least scan the source code.IMG_20160504_074211

IMG_20160504_081201When these apps update, it doesn’t always go well. See this picture of my Garmin Fenix 3, a classic walled garden, my phone starts to update at 8:10 a.m., and when it’s done, my watch says it’s now 7:11 a.m.

IMG_20160111_074518Over on my Samsung Smart TV, I switch it from monitor to Smart TV mode and get this… it never ends. Nothing resolves it accept disconnecting the power supply. It recovered OK but this is hardly a good user experience.

Yeah, I have a lot of smart home stuff,  but little or none of it is immune to the app upgrade death spiral; each app upgrade taking the device nearer to obsolescence because there isn’t enough memory, storage or the processor isn’t fast enough to include the bloated functions marketing thinks it needs.

If the IoT and message bots are really the future, then software engineers need to stand up and be counted. Design small, tight reentrant code. Document the interfaces, publish the source and instead of continuously being pushed to deliver more and more function, push back, software has got to become engineering and not a form of story telling.

YesToUninstallAnUpdate[1]

Dell and EMC together

I’ve been asked a few times about the Dell/EMC merger/acquisition, I can say nothing, not because of financial or security regulations, but because I know nothing at all. Although it was clear some changes were afoot at Dell, the announcement came as a surprise to me.

A couple of things are amusing though in the industry analysis. The most amusing is the quotes coming out of other industry based organizations and their CEO’s. This is a classic of it’s kind, on the Register about Meg Whitman at HP, and then this one from Dietzen the CEO at Pure.

This moves comes out of ‘weakness, not strength’, claims CE Dietzen

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of this entirely predictable FUD a confident CEO would say something to the effect of

The acquisition will be challenging, but we welcome the increased competition and are sure customers and businesses will recognize and continue to benefit from the great products we already have, and those on our roadmap.

Of course no one would ever actually say that, one it doesn’t make headlines, and two because well…

The other thing that’s been disappointing is that other Dell trope, you can’t use Apple products. See as an example The Register:

I have one thing to say to MacBook users at EMC: Whoops

I have to say, I’m always surprised when I hear this kind of thing. Seriously, while I’m sure Michael Dell would prefer everyone use a dell tablet or laptop, I’m sure he’d rather have the most talented, productive people and being acquired and having to use new apps is enough of a productivity hit. Why on earth would he want to want to make it worse by enforcing a move of hardware, software and app paradigms. FYI there are a number of people in Dell Software Group, especially from the Quest acquisition, that have been using Apple products since the Quest acquisition.

Dell Software Analyst and Strategy Update

I know from conversations while cycling and running with friends and industry contacts here in Austin people want to know what is going on here at Dell, and especially in Dell Software Group. Last week a few key executives and senior colleagues held the 2013 Dell Annual Industry Analyst Conference. I didn’t attend, put there are a great set of short videos and pictures here, on Flickr, which reflect much of the detail covered.

HTML5 and App stores, more…

This week we’ve seen Amazon launch their HTML5 Kindle “online” book reader, aka the Kindle cloud reader. Simon Phipps summed it up nicely on Computer Weekly here. David Gerwitz over on ZDNet also has a good perspective.

I most enjoyed Jonathan Eunice, from Illuminata, tweets. I hope Jonathan won’t mind me quoting them here:

OSGI and simplicty

from my conversation with James Governor after my flying visit to London for Dell Tech Camp, I’d known James was interested in OSGI from our conversations when it was an emerging technology and I was still at IBM; I hadn’t realized how much though until our recent discussion, and his blog entry for today, James quotes Kevin Cochrane, VP of marketing, CEM at Adobe. Kevin says of OSGI:

“There are 3 OSGi use cases relevant to customers:

1. updates. ie bug fixes to customer production systems. there is no need to bring them down.

2. extending new services. you might have 12 services, and a huge user community – you can still roll out extensions with no downtime.

3. discovery of new services. find a pre-packaged piece of code. browse, integrate and deploy.”

And yes, those are the key benefits that I can see us exploiting and delivering direct customer value through what they enable, rather than simply what they are. OSGI has many other “technical” benefits in the architecture and development space, but these three deliver the most value to the customer.

OSGI features, functions

Image from @kkirk.com

Dell Tech Camp London wrap

Dell Tech Camp London

Talking, Talking, Listening

I’ve been meaning to just say “hi” and thanks to everyone who stopped by Dell Tech Camp last week.

The picture shows the Design center team which included a complete cross section of our design team across Enterprise and Consumer groups. Tom, Scott and myself were there from Enterprise. I must admit, Tom and Scott outclassed me as they were from the h/w design side of the team and bought “things” along for touch and feel. If I’m going to do this again next year, I need to think through how we show off some of our software. Having a play penof inanimate objects and mock-ups works great for hardware.

The event itself was actually 3x separate events. A Customer event, a Press/Analyst event, and on the last evening, a Team Dell event. The good news about being the software guy, no parts or demo’s to break down when it was all over. Over in the Virtualization zone, they had our delivered stuff covered, they had a pre-release version of vStart, our all in one rack based virtualization solution; Running on it was a virtualization stack from our partners, and DELL Advanced Infrastructure Manager(AIM), plus a number of other simulated software demos.

Each of the “events” were very different. For the customer events I got to talk to some great folks about what they are doing, where they are with virtualization, perhaps the most interesting was with the folks from a UK Government agency who didn’t use virtualization at all. We had a great discussion about how they could gain greater flexibility and optimization while not compromising on their important data analysis mission.

Now I remember how I dislike standing up all day

The Press/Analyst briefing was more formal, the Dell AR had grouped the attendees into interest groups, and they were cycled through every 45-mins. I had some great discussions with the guys from the451 Group and IDC as well as a number of others on our use of agile, some of the technology selection and challenges in working towards being more visible(as opposed to embedded) software company. We also talked about how we were approaching some of the complicated issues in the automation and orchestration of work to deploy and manage multiple hypervisors and physical servers and storage.

I had a frantic last day, up early and run in Regents Park, shower, pack, check-out and hoped on the London Underground over to Liverpool St station to meet and have coffee with James Governor of Redmonk aka Monkchips. James had been at Dell Tech Camp, we acknowledged each other across a briefing and left the catch-up for today. As always our discussions ricochet’d all over the place, but as always around our common interests, data center efficiency and complexity vs simplicity. Then it was back on the Underground, pick-up my case from the the hotel, Underground, Paddington Express and then the familiarity and comfort of the AA Flagship lounge and AA service back to Austin.

It was great meeting folks again, either to argue the pro’s and con’s of what we were doing, or to hear what they were doing. I’d forgotten though how hard work being a “booth babe” was, and how my lower back hates me for it.

Dell Tech Camp Europe 2011

I’m looking forward to heading to London, specifically to the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm for next weeks Dell Tech Camp. The event is invite only for customers, Press and Analysts, but at least according to the briefing I got yesterday is jammed and for the opening session the Dell employees will have to watch from an adjacent room.

Tom Garvens a Director from the Dell Server hardware design group and I will be in be in the design lab section of Tech Camp to talk about innovation, our approach to design for both software and hardware. We’ll have some examples of what we’ve been working on, both past, present and future.

If you are coming please come find us and say hello. I can’t promise it will be as exciting as the last time I was at the Roundhouse, and I certainly won’t be getting wet to entertain…


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.

Subscribe to updates via rss:

Feed Icon

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 887 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 83,829 hits