Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nucleus Research Drops by for a Visit

Ian Campbell (president) and Rebecca Wettemann (VP of research) kindly graced our offices today to share pizza and their insights on the marketplace. I fear they got to eat precious little pizza as we peppered them with questions about how they work and what sets them apart from other analyst firms.

“We’re known for our investigative approach,” Ian explained. “Other firms out there are big on vision or strategy, but we’ve built our reputation on our case studies with a spreadsheet in the back.”

Rebecca added, “We’ve literally written thousands of case studies.”

Nucleus is known for case studies with nitty gritty ROI data on actual deployments. The firm reports it is the only technology research firm that is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to provide ROI training to Certified Public Accountants. Ian notes, “CFOs find our case studies to be fully credible. The process is really rigorous.”

We know these guys because they’re frequently quoted in the business press. They’ve developed a reputation for independence and integrity so business reporters count on them as reliable sources. And Nucleus isn’t afraid to kick up some dust. You may recall that the firm lit up the blogosphere earlier this year when they took issue with some data in an SAP ad. From the press release:

Nucleus Research, a global provider of IT research and advisory services, today announced a review of publicly-held companies listed by SAP on its Web site. Nucleus found that, contrary to SAP’s advertising claim that its customers are 32 percent more profitable than their peers, SAP customers were in fact 20 percent less profitable than their peers. SAP customers had an average ROE of 12.6 percent versus an industry average of 15.7 percent.

More recently, Nucleus was behind the amusing study that found one in three employees writes down passwords. Nucleus analyst David O’Connell commented in the firm’s press release: “It’s like leaving the key under the mat or in the flower box. Companies looking to ensure security should look beyond passwords to other authentication strategies.”

The firm’s experience is broad, spanning CRM, ERP, supply chain, business intelligence and SOA. Rebecca notes that predictive analytics is a hot area right now, and implementations are getting cheaper and easier for the average user to understand.

Nucleus has run the ROI Awards for the past four years. If you’re working for a company or with a customer who has implemented a successful IT project and can detail software, hardware, personnel and training costs, this looks like a win that would give you great bragging rights.

We always appreciate it when folks take the time to stop by. We learn something new every time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What's Food Labeling Got to Do with Software Licensing?

To find out, check out Palamida CEO Mark Tolliver's recent Perspectives piece on CNET. Mark makes the case that, just as we've come to expect full disclosure of ingredients on the side of a cereal box, we can foresee software vendors offering a roster of components. His point is that as the use of open source software and third-party code becomes more common, companies need to understand precisely which components make up an application. In Mark's words:

First, what would the labeling look like? Pretty straightforward. As part of the product labeling, software vendors would list the third-party component, including the version used, a simple description of what the component does, and the license that governs its use. The list should ideally cover all third-party code--commercial and open-source--and include a link to Web sites with more information regarding each component.

With Sun's recent announcement that it will license all of its Java platform implementations under GPL v2, the importance of IP issues and the need for diligence under expanded licensing obligations is under the spotlight. Palamida announced product updates that will help customers identify the Java language files they are using from the Sun JDK and their associated license requirements.

The company has been on a roll lately, with Mark on stage at the recent Microsoft/Novell announcement with Ballmer and Ron Hovsepian, the Novell CEO and just five other execs. Microsoft is a customer and partner and Mark talked a bit about that relationship here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Java Goes GPL

The rumors were spinning last week, but today Sun made it official. The steward of Java is open sourcing Java SE, Java ME and Java EE under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2), the same license as GNU/Linux.

You can read a clear explanation here of some of the details from James Gosling himself. He explains precisely which elements fall under GPLv2 and why/where the Classpath exception applies.

Today's eWeek coverage gives you a feeling for what went on behind the scenes:

The transition was tedious and legalistic, said Sun General Counsel Mike Dillon. "Java Standard Edition contains about 6 million lines of code," Dillon said. "Our legal team [of 190 lawyers] had to go over it, line by line, and look for all copyright marks and third-party involvements. Where Sun didn't have the correct licenses, we had to contact the owners, one by one, and determine the rights." In some cases, Sun had to settle with copyright owners.

Dillon said the company considered some of the 200-plus open-source licenses but settled on the GPL because "it has the largest development community at this time driving innovation, and that is what Sun is striving for."

Meanwhile, for a deep dive on what this means for developers, visit RedMonk analyst/blogger (Should we coin blanalyst? analogger?) Michael Coté's post. Coté explains why the GPL will give Java a leg up in the Linux world better than I ever could:

While Sun has tried in the past to crack this nut, I'm not sure it's been as successful as it could now be with Java under the GPL. Getting into Linux as a "normal" piece of software is important for achieving tipping points of ubiquity. At the moment, Java can't be depended on to exist on any old Linux. With Linux Java [thanks to Barb Heffner for pointing the typo out] under the GPL, there's a hugely higher chance that it will be available on more Linux platforms if only more easily in apt-get and other package management systems.

(Michael - 'twas nothing.)

Duke Gets Open Sourced!

They saved the best for last. Duke -- the marshmallow-like Java mascot featured above -- has also been open sourced here. (Note that JAG - James Gosling - owns this project.)

What does "Open Source Duke" mean? It means all you Duke fans have the original mascot for Java technology to play with. With your creative designs, you can give Duke a personal touch. See how Duke fares trying new pastimes such as hiking, base-jumping, skiing, Sudoku, or scuba-diving - or get Duke nationalized by adding your favorite flag.

All we ask is that you treat Duke with the same respect that Sun has.

Could anyone treat Duke with anything less?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

The book of this title is my personal book of the year. Since other contestants this year included The Kite Runner, A Fine Balance, The Time Traveler's Wife and The Tipping Point (finally!), that's really saying something.

But for sheer, real-life impact, I've got to give my vote to John Wood's moving, informative book. Wood marries business lessons based on Microsoft's driven, results-oriented culture with his experience in building a nonprofit from a kernel of an idea to a $10 million organization in seven years.

Read this book to renew your spirit, warm your heart and sharpen your thinking. Then give it to all your friends this holiday season.

The back story. During the booming 90s, Wood was on the fast track at Microsoft, earning high-profile assignments in Australia and China. In 1998, when he’d just relocated to China to serve as director of business development, he took a fateful trekking trip in the Himalayas of Nepal. By chance, he met a director for the regional school system who took him on a three-hour hike to a local school. After touring the over-crowded classrooms, Wood asked to visit the library, where he found a handful of books under lock and key, lest the students damage them through use.

The seed was planted. The next year, Wood resigned from Microsoft to found a nonprofit initially called Books for Nepal, with the mission of building libraries. ("Microsoft didn't need me; the children of Nepal did.") Two years later, when starting work in Vietnam, the organization’s name was changed to Room to Read. (Business lesson #1 – pick a name that scales.)

Since its formation, Wood has brought a high-tech sensibility to his nonprofit. Another business lesson: “What gets measured, gets done.” No surprise that Room to Read has delivered quantifiable results, building more than 220 schools throughout the developing world, establishing nearly 3,400 school libraries and donating 1.2 million books. (These stats reside in the email signatures of all Room to Read staffers, driving home the point that donors know where their funds go.) The nonprofit has expanded from its initial work in Nepal and Vietnam to Cambodia, Laos, India and Sri Lanka. Next up: Africa.

I had the pleasure of hearing Wood speak in Boston last week, and he does not disappoint. Great content, lots of self-deprecating humor. Catch him on book tour if you can.

Finally, for a more complete picture of Wood and the book, read Tom Peters' (In Search of Excellence) wonderful Q&A with Wood.

A word of warning. Tom Peters doesn't strike me as a pushover, but he tells Wood:

I think you do a really great job. In fact, I haven't cried so much reading a book in a long time.

I'll second that. I cried buckets.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Holiday Gifts for Geeks

Fall arrives and the holiday catalogs wedge their way into my mailbox. And my thoughts turn to ....Bob Zurek's annual Gifts for Geeks list!

OK - Bob actually calls it "My Top 10 Hot Holiday Toys for 2006," but the list always has a distinctive geek appeal. Bob somehow manages to keep his finger on the pulse of what's hip. An item or two always intersects with my teen son's wish list. (This year, it's the Slingbox Pro. Sure -- I really want my teen to have always-on access to HDTV and other media sources...)

But demonstrating the broadening appeal of his list, Bob's also featured "Amazing Allysen" from Playmates Toys (an animated robotic doll for the 7-11 year-old set) as well as the SpongeBob version of the popular build-your-own-robot Mindstorm Lego line.

And then there's an official sport called sport stacking! Bob recommends the Speed Stacks® brand. According to the company website:

Sport stacking is now the fastest growing sport in the country. Its fun to learn and highly addictive! But remember: sport stacking is not just about stacking cups. It’s about stacking against the clock to get your best time.

This sport has real potential for your next team building session or brainstorming meeting.