Ralf HallerRalf Haller April 15, 2014

Big Data Event War in Switzerland

In case you have been bombarded by Big Data event invitations recently you might be interested to hear what is going on behind the scenes here in Switzerland.

The Big Data topic has often been looked at in the past from scientific (University-driven) and technology perspectives, and events have been organised by this community. Our own first Big Data event 2 1/2 years ago went down that route but the attendees persuaded us to change direction. Since then we have focused entirely on success stories and use cases. As with all our other events, we have also continued not to allow product or service pitches.

PwC Switzerland has now launched the Big Data week Switzerland trying to capture that market segment, as their traditional cash cow consulting business (legal policies for financial services) is coming to an end and they have to desperately look for new income sources. Up to now they have been attending our events and claimed (until March!) that they still intended to come to our event in May. In parallel, however, they were contacting our sponsors and speakers for their own events week while still claiming in meetings with us to be supporting our event.

You could call this approach guerrilla tactics but, as PwC is hardly a small organisation, we think that is far too nice a name for it (the guys must read books like the Art of War).

At the end the people (you) will decide if Big Data needs a big week-long event series with a dozen PwC consultants and whisky tastings, talking about projects that they did not even run but only read about, or if a compact – neutral – afternoon session will do for you as well. From our perspective, we are  looking and waiting to see what happens, quite relaxed, since one thing that Big Data definitely does not need is expensive consulting companies making lots of money in such projects. Informed end users will be able to run such projects entirely by themselves using technologies and services from Big Data expert firms (not accountants) and that is what our events will enable them to do!

Ralf HallerRalf Haller

Will California copy Switzerland ?

Tim Draper is a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist in the third generation who made himself a name with not only successful investments into startups but also as an actor in his sisters comedy show on the Nikelodeon TV channel. For marketing geeks he is well known for inventing the term viral marketing that two of his successful investments (Hotmail and Yahoo) applied and that has been copied since then by many others.

Now a proposal makes the headlines in Silicon Valley and California. He wants to split the state of California into six states with Silicon Valley one of them. The idea is to recover the state that is – despite all the success in Silicon Valley – economically in bad shape and many communities are even under bankruptcy protection.

In an email to Techcrunch he mentions the reasons for this proposal that he will also hand in as a state ballot initiative.

Maybe he has been getting this idea from Switzerland, where the local cantons and communities have their own decision making power and do quite well for a long time?

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Ralf HallerRalf Haller November 19, 2013

Cloud Computing – a new chance for European ICT companies?

Ever since E. Snowden’s disclosures, at some of our ICT events (Cyber Intelligence, Data Center Management, Future IT Workplace and Big Data Success Stories) the discussions were also about the opportunities that this might give to European ICT service providers for offering cloud services.

This due to the fact that non-US based companies do not underlie the US Patriot Act rules that might enable the US government to access stored data.

I asked companies like Microsoft if the business got hurt, but they did not give me answers. I suppose they were told to simply ignore such questions – understandably.

I for myself anyway annoyed by the in-transparency dealing with e.g. Google (all moves are being analysed and then moneytized, in addition the company is extremely in-accessible) decided to stop using their stuff. So I just downloaded the Torch web browser and started using DuckDuckGo powered by Yandex as search engine. I also downloaded Maxthon, another web browser and will use the two in addition with Firefox the next couple weeks to see what I like the most. Overall the browser war – in case you have not noticed it – seems to be over. I.E. won again. (at least for desktops, in mobile I.E. is hopelessly behind which is the game of the future though)

Why do I bring this up here? Well, in Cloud Computing the client of the future is the browser, and maybe the OS as well…

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Ralf HallerRalf Haller October 18, 2013

Silicon Valley looking for talent

I had the chance to visit the Silicon Valley two weeks ago with some Swiss economic development officers and Swiss entrepreneurs. We saw some of the hottest startups and also some who are – possibly – becoming very hot and set to expand soon – also to EMEA.

Every time I am in the Valley I get this excitement and energy burst that is so special. The folks that came along also felt like that, so it is not unique to me.

Silicon Valley is hot again. Big Data, Software-defined networking, security, cloud infrastructure are some of the current waves that are attracting hundreds of millions USD of venture funding. Companies are hiring and talent is limited and a precious resource. One VC told us that he is very interested in looking at Swiss startup business plans. Of course what they have in mind is moving the people over and profiting from that talent pool. At the same time startups in Switzerland do not understand some of the basics that made the Valley such a success. Stock options and being part owner of a startup is the base of it all, something that is still not understood here as only the founders are owners. As long as that is still back-to-front there is no chance to get even a little slice of the success. Startup culture and Europe seem as far apart in this way as the European and US continents.

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Ralf HallerRalf Haller June 12, 2013

Marketing Services and Technology M&A

All working in ICT are well familiar with the constant M&A activities that happen in this industry.

What has been happening in the Marketing Services and Technology area though since 2011 seems to be breaking all records.

As Scott Brinker in his Marketing Technology blog summarized in January already:

The sector with the largest number of deals and the highest total value — by a large margin — was Marketing Services & Technology. There were 485 deals in that category with a total value of $20.5 billion, up 67% and 36%, respectively, over 2011. This sector accounted for 9 of the 30 largest deals of the year.

Now things are continuing and the end does not seem to be reached yet.

Latest M&As:

  • salesforce.com acquires ExactTarget, who acquired Pardot just recently
  • SAP acquires hybris, an e-commerce vendor
Nice to see that some are going it on their own like Marketo who did a successful IPO.
More M&As are to be expected though by Oracle, IBM, salesforce.com, SAP, and Microsoft.
Among these rumors are that salesforce.com might be up – for sale – as well…

Ralf HallerRalf Haller May 30, 2013

When Switzerland copies like the …

At Extendance we organize a range of ICT events that target the key decision makers of the largest Swiss companies and organizations.

In some areas we are even after 3 years still newcomers. Such as the Cyber Intelligence event.

Our internal policy as well as ethical business culture is that we always try to come up with new, interesting speakers and topics for these events. This does not seem the case though for other event organizers.

I have noticed that one IT security distributor has copied half of our speakers from our events for a future event, which is no coincidence of course. They also copied the former name of the event. In another case one of our recent keynote speakers was then also approached and is a speaker at a security services company who does 2 events as well per year.

Lastly, the exact timings and framework of our events was fully copied by an event that is now organized by the security intelligence department of the Swiss government (paid by taxpayers). :-)

I and our event co-organizer were quite puzzled to see all that.

For the people attending our events in the future we can still guarantee though that we will use our heads and creativity, as well as apply highest ethical business attitudes. That also means not simply copying what others do. I think we have the professional expertise and don’t need to do copy others. We are also quite sure that most attendees would rather go to the original and not some copycat events.

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Ralf HallerRalf Haller February 3, 2013

Change in Enterprise Software Marketing ?

I came across the last 12 months or so increasingly online marketing ads from enterprise software vendors at consumer portals such as e.g. Sport1.de. A sidebar ad on Sport1.de costs about 50 EURO per thousand impressions.

The media data of that sport portal is impressive and the people looking at it are 80% male and aged far below 45.

So they intend to market to people who have – very likely – no budget decision-making power in large enterprises.

Unless I am missing here something, I have a hard time believing that placing an enterprise software ad at a sports web portal that is alternating with ads from Heads & Shoulders, travel agencies, airlines, car manufacturers, consumer sports equipment vendors and others has any marketing effect at all.

I very much believe in online marketing at proper places to put this straight, but in case I should be wrong here let me know please and I will be glad to write about it here.

Until then these ads look to me as either desperate, a lack of communication between sales and marketing or/and maybe marketing communications done by consumer marketing people with no understanding of B2B marketing. This seems a waste of resources and maybe even negative marketing in case people like me start wondering who is behind their company.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller December 20, 2012

Gartner Trends 2013 – and my 2 cents

Analysts have an easy job. They extrapolate from what they have seen in 10 years or so, then people start reading what they say and some even believe it. But no-one seems to look back to see how many times they have been wrong, in particular when sudden changes have happened. It is like the famous ROI metric that project managers need to demonstrate in full detail to get budget approval, but once the project is done no-one seems to be interested anymore to check that the ROI has been actually achieved.

Am I being a bit harsh? Well, perhaps, but I have seen so many examples of analysts getting it wrong (by 5-10 years or often entirely) and still many people seem to religiously believe them. Well, humans are not always rational and it is easier and less risky to walk with the crowd. Of course it is excellent marketing and since at year-end there is not much else to write about, the IT magazines also pull these reports up and write about them. Win-win it seems. After all, I’m doing it myself, though with a slightly different spin. :-)

So here my take on the Gartner 2013 trends and what I think of them:

Mobile takes over desktop PCs and smartphones and tablets dominate
Now this one is easy to predict. What I don’t like though is that they put it all together as if you could compare all of these devices 1:1. While a laptop replaces a desktop PC 100% a mobile does not entirely replace a laptop PC. If they think that is the case then they should show me how they work a full day on a smartphone and write their reports. I guess once they try that they will agree. :-)

Personal Cloud
Gartner says that the personal cloud will replace the PC as the center of digital life. I think that is already the case for many. In fact the applications I am using are mostly SaaS, ahem, Cloud sorry. What was started more than 10 years ago by salesforce.com is now called the Cloud; even if there are now new technologies available and using the idea, it remains exactly the same. So this is not a prediction but what we have already at least in SMEs and even many bigger companies.

Enterprise App Stores
This one I doubt will come. The reason is that most vendors will try to come up with their own version of it and then of course try to keep out the competition.

Internet of things
As with SaaS/Cloud this has been around for quite some time already, and the names have also been changed. There are topics like IPv6, wireless sensors, wearable computing, mesh networks to name just a few and that seem to come together. I doubt though that my generation will get sensor-crazy and hook everything up to the Internet so it can be managed from mobile apps on the road. Sorry guys but this one is not happening even if you think so. Not a hot trend. Maybe in 2025 you can pull it out again but then with a new name please. :-)

Hybrid IT und Cloud Computing
To me this is the same as the Cloud. Why would any user care whether the service is coming from an internal or an external cloud if they see no difference in the service itself? It is more a question of company policies and maybe performance issues and how IT does it. This buzzword you can delete.

Big Data as a strategy
This one is coming and will provide creative and ambitious IT managers and business unit people with an opportunity to shine. Of course it will take years to be adopted, and not just happen in the year 2013. However, Big Data remains a challenge for companies and vendors who offer only hardware and have a difficult time finding an angle other than Big storage and Big processing performance. Consultancy is key here. The 80 billion USD Big Data business that analysts foresaw remains a mystery. Maybe the analysts have it locked in their company safe?

Analytics in real-time and everywhere
This is a matter of what you intend to analyze and if it is even relevant to have it in real-time. I think this simply goes hand in hand with the Cloud and is just another cloud service. Seems natural, like riding a bike once you have learned it.

In-Memory-Computing
Well, another buzzword. To shift data into the memory and process there for performance reasons is a natural since in RAM it can be moved and processed much faster than constantly shifting it between slower hard drives and memory. Still one has to load it from permanent storage places and also write it back there – at least the results. To say that databases disappear is like saying cars disappear and we will be able to beam ourselves to work this morning like in space ship Enterprise. Nice idea – but let’s see what happens first.