Cloud insanity – the Shills come out of the woodwork

oWhen people read my posts and comments on other great blogs regarding my opinions about rating and certifying cloud hosts, SAAS, PAAS, they sometimes think that I am 100% against cloud based soltuions. This is patently incorrect, as I routinely recommend hosted SAAS for project management, small business, budget constrained start ups, etc. What I do not recommend is that mid market businesses that have CLOB (capital line of business) applications, hosted on their own racks, or managed by a conventional, stable vendor, change to a cloud solution until the PAAS and SAAS providers get industry rating and certifications. The SNA shops knew this, and went through the in house/ hosted rating travail. The result? An industry in which any business owner can get insurance for business continuity disruption that is caused by IT systems failures. If you are a mid sized business with an internal server rack, distributed multisite architecture, or a hosted AS400 or new IBM architecture, you can insure your operations. You can insure any Redhat, Microsoft, BEA, Websphere, whatever installation, managed and rated SAS70, or hosted in your unairconditooned broom closet, but it will cost a little more. A nice underwriter will come to your place or your managed host’s place, and write a policy.

Can’t do this with the current cloud offerings. Doesn’t mean that cloud computing ain’t here to stay, but some folks take issue with me saying anything regarding the unrated and uninsured nature of the especially thinly capitalized PAAS solutions. Oy! But now, a shout out to a hero I have never met, Jane Mcarty,  – yeah! yeah! You go girl!

Jane actually puts her hands on web hosted apps, asks and applies proof of feature performance criteria in much the same way that any good CIO or upper level staffer would do with a licensed server application. Jane uncovers such simple and basic things that one says, “the PAAS vendor didn’t know that?, huh?”. Good on you, Jane.

It was on Jane’s stellar bog that I spotted a comment thread a few days old, where a shill for the cloud industry says, in so many words, that the time to question the cloud hosted apps is over, they are established and able to deliver, and that self styled analysts, like me, have NO BID-NESS asking what if the service goes down, whaaaaaa! Self hosted solutions go down. And then commenter Russell says one of the most amazingly naive things I have ever seen in print, maybe in my entire life”: See the actual thread here.

Commenter Russell on Jane Mcarty’s blog thread”

“Many of the PaaS providers are in business with deep pockets (Force and Quickbase), well funded by professional investors (Bungee Labs), running with established management teams (Quickbase), or conservatively managed with established customer bases (WorkXpress).”

Ok, where do I begin to refuse this insanity? How about the TechCrunch.com deadpool? No? Lets start with a quote from Tref Laplante,, a principal at Workxpress.com, who says:

WorkXpress is committed to its customers and the quality of its product.  To this end it is a privately held, revenue generating company that to date has not received venture capital funding, and therefore is not under pressure to behave in ways that run counter to its mission of customers and product.” (emphasis mine).

You can see my context on this piece of Mr. LaPlante’s unassailable logic here. But, I digress. And I wish nothing but good for workxpress.com.

On the one hand, we have Russell the unknown commenter saying that VC funded PAAS platforms are an assurance and a bulwark against the vicissitudes of having a mission critical platform beyond one’s ultimate control; Partnership disputes, forced sales by the limited partners,   and raids of the venture’s bank account by coked out CEO? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Ok, got it. VC funded PAAS, though unaudited and closed to inspection, and with unknown capital reserves, is safe because is overseen by, (wait for it now) professional investors. Gawd.

On the other hand, we have a principal of a popular, (and in my opinion one of the better) PAAS shops saying that because they are NOT VC funded, they are more trustworthy, due to the fact that they are, so to speak, master baiters of their own hosted hooks and fly rods

In either case we have no idea how much runway the venture has as far as operating capital is concerned. In the case of the giants (Amazon, Intuit, Google, Gogrid, Rackspace ), when they go down, it doesn’t matter because then it is bad and you will merely get an apology and a small refund.

If your business lines are damaged, taking crucial cash flow out of your pocket, and goads the potential for civil liability (in cases of service critical business), then you are truly screwed doubly, as there are no lines of underwriting that will insure a PAAS solution for anything but the actual costs of the outage.

You people are wearing me out.

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The Strategist: Underwriting Business Continuity in the Cloud. Part II.

This the second article which rounds out the issues covered in the previous post.

If you want to know why these issues of ratings and insuring continuity are important, I direct the reader to this article about on-line file hosting site Carbonite.

So, as I stated in the first post of this series, I was booked by what looked like a large, well financed client; well, as my client’s went (with the exception of France Telecom) they were large-ish. These folks were a 100+ year old regional insurance company that specialized in professional lines. What’s that, you ask? Professional and specialty underwriters serve, well, professions, verticals, and businesses. They usually are not auto, home, or life insurers, but they are often resold by multiline carriers. Why should you know this? Huh!

Professional lines insure business operations risks with certain carriers targeting coverage by profession; their expertise and actuarial models require specialization in order to correctly price the risk of business interruption, and to price the premiums and payouts that indemnify the customers of professional and industrial services operations. One simple example: field service coverage, in which the technical organization are covered against customer claims of damages, losses, and liabilities that occur in the course of repairing equipment. The other side is, of course, simple coverage for interruption of operations.  Some engineering disciplines (Civil, structural, design, architectural, aviation, you get the idea) can buy coverage for E&O (errors and omissions).

Ya Ya, what does this have to with hosted services and SAAS PAAS Cloud? Answer: Insuring business continuity was a game of physical premises insurance, which evolved into records and facilities, and now, today, optionally covers servers, workstations. software, and systems. It is a mishmash of offerings, and many industries have varying degrees of dependencies on internal IT infrastructure. The insurance products for Small and Medium businesses are semi-flexible, while mega enterprises have core needs that exceed what professional lines can provide, and instead rely on customized underwriting for the Fortune 1000. Continue reading

I call out CNBC on the bailout

Fast Money (CNBC)

Image via Wikipedia

The initial overheated tone of this post has been edited to better reflect my points and remove the bad words and unreasoned insults that were placed there in the heat of the moment. I’m glad that the commenter, posing as the real Macke, called me out. AW

10/05/2008 I am removing any references to Mr. Jeff Macke. I am retracting my indictment of him in any way. Instead, I refer people to the CNBC Program Fast Money – to the episode archive where Mr. Macke comments on Senator Shelby’s review of the the first ‘no’ vote on the rescue plan. I will endeavor to get that clip posted. It really set me off. There was no need, however, to put Jeff Macke in the greater mix of my emotions on the dirty deal. I will let the comments stand.

Many financial commentators on CNBC seem to be very free with your money. Some recent comments on Fast Money, tend to say that the Fed and the Treasury should give your money to the banks that screwed us. Despite the fact that professional traders have generally profited and watched while the entire market was leveraged up, that the professional equities trading and management business is taking a beating, (unless the cake is handed out), it is an insult that professional commentators are taking a pro-position on the legislation just passed. Mr. Taxpayer, they got it done. Lambasting Senator Shelby for putting the brakes on this benighted plan to take money out of your pocket and placing it at the disposal of the Fed has me very angry.

The CNBC commentators, it seems to me, dispense superficial commentary. They talk fast and say nothing, covering the same talking points and revealing no insight whatsoever. The only things we hear out of their mouth seems to be positions that bolster what is good for Wall Street.

I usually expect more reasoned argument from Karen Finerman; in the last analysis, however, Ms. Finerman is a trader, and she needs to keep her cake in the oven. Dylan Ratigan seems to be the most level headed of the group, expressing and exposing the counter position sometimes, but overall, he takes the pro position and explains the best he can that this was a necessary deal.

There are other CNBC anchors that take a reasoned approach and who seem to be opposed, if not to the deal itself, to the “hurry up” nature of the deal.

People, we have been taken  down this bad road by the people and pols that actually engineered the seeds of the disaster. These are the selfsame people who could have regulated the processes. Instead, they actually watched as it unfolded over a period of years. This is legacy of the Bush administration, their friends the wealthy, and professional traders. They berate those who dare pour cold water on this abominable deal. This was an insult…and more injurious to you the taxpayer, than doing nothing and letting the market take its toll. Let the private equity market make good what it made bad.

Numerous financial commentators have been so wrong on this subject; This should have been a market driven solution that limited the taxpayer’s participation. Many economists have advocated an open, transparent electronic exchange for the distressed assets. That would be a start. Most of the taking heads on networks like CNBC want the cake to be pumped into the selfsame corrupt investment banks that engineered the crisis, and also want interest rates to be essentially  cut to approach zero. These are all bad ideas.

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Microsoft Buys Yahoo Search biz – Why is this a good idea?

I dont get it, maybe Im not the smartest guy, but some questions arise:

1) how will Microsoft retain the brand image of Yahoo search – I mean it is almost a sure thing that no matter what they buy will devolve into another MS Live-Blah misbranded product? no?

2) what will Yahoo do with the missing search revenue? Just replace it with Google. I thought that Yahoo has sunk almost a billion into its search platform R&D, – isnt this an admission that they have failed? If so, why would MS want it?

I have a good friend who was invited to “jury” for Yahoo’s senior search team. That is the only way he could describe it – A Ph D. style juried dissertation taking place over 4 days. This man is a senior computational scientist with credentials in the pharma, life sciences, and trading tech market, and he is one sharp blade; I worked with him at FT R&D. He did not, ultimately get the job at Yahoo, but he had this to say (and I will wrap up why I think this is relevant to MS-Yahoo): read post  jump for his impressions Continue reading

Newscorp Yahoo Deal makes Perfect Sense

Newscorp Yahoo Deal makes Perfect Sense

And, just breaking, a breathless call from a friend of mine that works at an investment bank’s office in the Pacific Northwest, Panting Randy: “…They’re out!”.

I was tired of all of his unattributed news and rumors, but I had a sneaking suspicion that he was on to something, so I wanted attribution. I said, “I’m putting your name on this, brother Randy”. He was intransigent, “oh no you don’t, I’ll get canned.”

Bastard. Stupid Randy, the third tier gopher for investment bank X (who, by the way,  is not retained by the principal parties), says that Microsoft is going to cool the deal, ostensibly due to the (un)anticipated exodus of key management from the Yahoo corporate body. Further, the brain drain encompasses noteworthy personnel that are, and he quotes, the twerp, “key to Yahoo’s long term re-engineering plans to better integrate the visible internet properties.”

Figure that one out. Who knew that Horowitz going to Google would be such a monkey wrench? It’s almost as if Microsoft wanted to just pull their chain and catalyze these layoffs with some added heat.

Now then, Newscorp:

It is a great idea for Newscorp to  bring in a little  money (well, a lot, actually), and combine the Myspace property in the deal. Who better to rework the ugly, fugly MySpace, than Yahoo?

Indeed, Yahoo has the technical expertise to extend and optimize every aspect of MySpace, from cosmetics to performance, and integration with a phantasmagoria of Zimbra email goodness. I’m all for it. The Newscorp deal fits a comfortable valuation, brings in a property with true synergy, and brings that Juggernaut of MySpace to a partner (Yahoo), that can actually do something with it.

They have my blessing.


A Fairy Tale of Mountain View

It was a silent 4:00PM in Mountain View, CA, the artificial city of the Silicon Peninsula. I ended my funding pitch with a quote from Jonathan Swift. I had no idea it would be so poorly received:
“When a true genius enters the world, you may know him by this sign: the Dunces are all aligned in confederacy against him.”

So I quoted with a smile at the VC meeting where my baby, ThruDispatch, was pitched.

One of the Senior Partners hurled a stentorian barb in my direction.”You are calling yourself a genius and we are the Dunces? ”

“Not at all. I am merely saying that many valley equity investors seem to be throwing capital at just so many duplicate social media and video sharing plans”, I said, almost ready to mace these suits if it wasn’t for the consequences. Don’t they see the mess in cloned business models ruining this wonderful valley?

One of the Juniors looked at me with withering scorn and vomited his invective in my general direction, “Everyone in this room makes seven figures, we are placing the next sub-round in Facebook Apps…good day Mr. Wilensky and, good luck with your….plan”.

As I left, I passed a famous ‘Silicon Valley undertaker’, a reaper of VC capital, walking confidently into the conference room. He had a track record of raising capital and burning down (so to speak) any number of here and gone startups, few of which ever became profitable. Indeed, he seemed more notorious for NOT making equity pay. What was his secret?

“How do you do it?”. I hissed, “how, how?” He barely glanced backwards at me as his Patek Philipe Minute Repeating watch chimed a quarter past the hour.

“I hire friends, I am hired by friends, I make sure that the first order of business when receiving a placement of equity is to find a way to compensate the VC partners”, he said, his suit was impeccable.

Hmm, leather sandals with a suit in such Bay Area cold.

Clammy and faint, I staggered towards the elevator – Ping….Bing…bong..softer as the conference room door clicked closed….fainter voices from behind…”hey guys…good to see you again….(Ping!)

It was 4:30PM in Mountainview.

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