A Hammer is to Nails as Cloud computing is to…?

Question: A Hammer is to Nails as Cloud computing is to…?

a) Cost reduction

b) Fast time to market

c) Problems of scale

Full disclosure – I cheated. I could have given you option (d) all of the above. Read on to see why that is not the best answer.

If you’ve been listening to all of the buzz about cloud computing, you might think the correct answer is (a). The question you have to ask when considering whether the cloud will reduce your costs is “compared to what?” Human resources and process are more fundamental to the cost of IT operations than are the infrastructure itself. Mark EisenbergAnd even if the analysis yields a result that indicates that moving to a hosted solution makes sense, it may still be the case that traditional outsourcing solutions are more cost effective.

Similarly, while there is much talk about how quickly infrastructure can be provisioned in the cloud, that part of the application development and deployment process is, in reality, minor. The real challenge most organizations face is the sheer burden of their own processes. And as with the cost discussion, there are many traditional outsourcing providers that allow infrastructure to be provisioned rapidly.

Cloud computing does not uniquely solve problems of cost or agility. And if a technology is not bringing something new to the table, why discuss it? Let’s talk about the unique value cloud computing brings to the conversation. Mainly answer (c), as cloud computing is to problems of scale.

What is meant by “problems of scale”? Until the rise of the World Wide Web, enterprise applications defined large scale. It’s almost quaint to think of how those were ever considered big problems by today’s standards. Customers were measured in thousands and transactions in millions. Compare that to the task Google set for itself of examining and indexing every word in every page on the internet. This introduced the concept of “web scale”. Netflix is another example of a web scale application. But scaled in a different direction. Rather than Google’s massive number of small data points that are collected and searched in seconds, Netflix stores a relatively modest number of video files, but those files are very large and need to be streamed on demand to a large number of users over a large geography. Google’s scale is about storage and compute.  Netflix is about storage and geography with tight latency requirements.

In addition to the scale of the resources themselves, the cloud also helps address another variable: time. Time as in the application requires different amounts of resource at different points in time. And how predictable is that need? Most large enterprises struggle with what is referred to as “capacity and characterization”. In other words, how much do we need and when do we need it? Imagine the complexity of that problem at web scale. There are cases where the resource requirement is understood, but it is periodic. We need it for five hours five days a week. We need it for two hundred hours once a quarter. Traditionally, this meant having a tremendous amount of idle infrastructure to support these workloads. The cloud enables the sharing of resources.

Other applications suffer from a lack of predictability by their very nature. Ecommerce companies know that at certain times of year there will be a significant increase in demand. While experience tells them something about the when, it tells them very little about the how much. Other applications like the delivery of weather forecast data or news information suffer from both a lack of predictability in time and scope. This leads to an even higher level of inefficient utilization or a failure to properly deliver the expected user experience. All of these outward facing scenarios represent significant economic risk to an organization as disappointed consumers are poor candidates for return engagements.

Cloud computing provides the first economically viable solution to these large scale problems. Just as the PC enabled many workloads that were simply impractical when computing horsepower was being doled out in units labeled ‘mainframe’ and ‘mini-computer’ with price tags measured in millions and tens of thousands, we now have the opportunity for organizations of all sizes to practically tackle these problems. It is no coincidence that two of the most significant internet age companies, Google and Amazon, are also leading cloud computing providers. Those companies would not exist without the technology that is cloud computing.

Mark Eisenberg is a Cloud Visionary and Former Member of Windows Azure Sales Team

How Can Contractors Benefit Your Company?

Posted originally on The “Working with Workbridge” Blog

Article written by Kyle Sluzar, Practice Manager of Workbridge Associates San Francisco

Kyle Sluzar - Workbridge SFIf you have been involved in technical hiring recently, you’ve probably noticed how hard and competitive it is to find the right candidate. You spend endless hours gathering and screening resumes, reaching out to people, scheduling interviews, conducting interviews, and trying to close candidates. Sometimes you think you’ve found the right candidate and then suddenly that person gets another offer, or gets a counter-offer, and it’s back to the drawing boards. This is rather time consuming as well as very frustrating. So, how does one avoid this? The answer is simple: Hire a contractor.

There used to be a fear that if you hire a contractor, he or she will be susceptible to leaving for a better opportunity, which in turn, won’t help build your desired workplace culture. This is false. Most of today’s companies are hiring contractors as a tool to build their business as well as their team. One might ask, “How do they do this?”

Well let’s start with the interview process. In the current market, when a company finds a candidate that interests them, they must show urgency to hire. Sometimes this causes less time spent between the candidate and the team. Thus, the candidate ends up not being a positive culture fit. If this ever becomes the case, the candidate should be hired as a contractor in order to see how well he or she works with the team. This makes it a low risk but high reward situation. I’ve worked with many managers who question doing this because they don’t want to close the requisite and lose out on the “perfect” candidate. Just because the contractor was hired, it doesn’t mean that one has to stop collecting resumes.

Now let’s discuss technical skill set. If a candidate falls short technically, they shouldn’t be completely ruled out! A lot of managers have recently become more open to hiring the candidate on as a contractor and putting them on a 2-week project. This is done so the manager can see what creative ideas the candidate can come up with. If the candidate ends up picking up the technology quickly, this should be a sign to bring them on full-time. I recently suggested this to a client that was questioning a candidate on their design style. Instead of ruling that person out completely, the client had them work with the team for a week. You can guess what happened next. It ended up being a perfect fit!

Hire junior! If you are ever questioning a candidate because they are too junior, but have the bandwidth to have someone mentor and train them, hire them as a contractor. The candidate will be extra motivated to work hard and learn the product and technology. Once that candidate gets up to speed, they should be hired full-time so they can naturally become committed to the mission.

Talking Tact, Stacks, and Antifragility at Tech in Motion

Posted originally on Gilt’s Tech Blog

Underneath the glowing purple lights of NYU’s Rosenthal Pavilion, a crowd of more than 400 people gathered last night for “Made in NY: Tech Panel,” a discussion of the state of Silicon Alley affairs. The panel featured seven prominent, NYC-based tech leaders: Gilt CTO and Co-founder Michael Bryzek, ZocDoc CTO & Co-founder Nick Ganju, Etsy CTO Kellan Elliott-McCrea, Knewton COO David Liu, Charity: Water Tech Director Brian Honohan, LearnVest CTO Hrishi Dixit, and moderator Alex Cavoulacos, COO of The Muse. For more than an hour, the panelists shared their thoughts, wisdom, and experiences on topics ranging from culture, technology, scaling, retention and the growing tech scenes both here in New York and in Dublin.

Among the many highlights:

Bryzek’s brief yet thought-provoking discussion of antifragility, a concept discussed by scholar, NYU professor and author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. Just as the “right” amount of stress, strain and uncertainty can all strengthen a person’s muscles or character, so too can they strengthen a company. At Gilt, we face “a constant stream of errors,” Bryzek told the audience, “but they’re so small, and people are always fixing them.” With systems in place to account for and manage mistakes, Gilt gets stronger every single day.

The panelists’ candor in discussing hiring and firing. “Hire as fast as you can. Fire faster,” Liu from Knewton told the audience. Being lackadaisical about offboarding a hire who isn’t working out can endanger your team’s motivation and morale. “You’re not only avoiding the issue, you’re condoning it,” he asserted. As for picking the right people, Liu suggests hiring “as though it’s your last hire.” Ganju of ZocDoc added to Liu’s points by describing his personal “litmus test” for retaining an employee. If he were to create another company, would he take that employee with him? If not, then why keep them at his current company?

Bryzek joked that “of course at Gilt, we’ve never made any mistakes in hiring.” He then touched upon one of the more poignant issues Gilt has occasionally faced over the years: Sometimes the right people have shown up at the wrong time in the company’s life cycle. When it’s necessary to part ways, he said, Gilt’s goal is to come up with a way for both parties to split on “incredibly good” terms. “It’s work, but it’s doable,” he said. He also noted that some people have left Gilt voluntarily, only to return and forge successful careers.

The crowd at Tech in Motion's tech panel

Retention tips. With a tech market as competitive as New York City’s, keeping your best employees can be just as difficult as hiring the right ones. If your star engineers aren’t being barraged with phone calls from persistent tech recruiters, then they’re probably

spending their off-hours creating their own companies. What’s an employer to do? One by one, the panelists formulated a solid working answer: encourage personal growth, create a culture of learning, give your employees opportunities to work on their own projects, and strive for a culture of transparency.

“Made in NY” was just as informal as it was informational, with lots of subtle tech humor and witticisms to keep the discussion lively and spontaneous. After Cavoulacos asked the panel about technologies one should consider when building a company, Bryzek pitched the audience on the Typesafe framework of Scala, Play and Akka—the platform that we love and use here at Gilt. “There’s no other way to do it,” he said wryly.

Rahier Rahman, Founder of Pangea, Chats with Tech in Motion

Rahier

The team from Tech in Motion: Chicago sat down earlier this year to speak with Rahier Rahman, founder of Pangea Payments. He was gracious enough to sit down prior to one of our events and answer a few of our questions about running a start-up and how he came up with the idea for Pangea. Here’s our interview:

 

 

T.I.M: What was the inspiration behind your start-up?

RR:  The purpose of Pangea is to have societal impact and disrupt the world of money transferring. Basically we want to empower people to be able to send money. The only means that people can transfer money nowadays is if they have credit cards or bank accounts and can use services such as Western Union. But this ignores the “under banked” sector who tends to deal in cash only. There are over 200 million people that deal strictly in cash who send over 500 billion dollars annually. Our aim is to assist this group of people and make money transfers accessible to all people.

After growing up in several developing countries and traveling quite a bit as a child and young adult, I realized there was a piece of the market that was not being fulfilled. So we launched Pangea in September 2012 to make it possible for people everywhere to safely transfer money to friends and family throughout the world for a flat fee with no hidden charges. Eventually this will be able to be done through the web, on mobile devices and at various retail locations.

T.I.M: Do you think Chicago is a place with lots of opportunities for startups to flourish? What do you think of the Chicago tech scene? 

RR: Absolutely. There are so many companies headquartered here including giants like McDonald’s which draws great tech talent to the area. We’ve also seen the success of many start-ups that began right here in Chicago such as Braintree, Groupon and 37signals. It’s great to see the tech sector booming in Chicago.

T.I.M:  Tell me about some of the challenges of being involved in a start-up?

RR:  At the beginning you have a vision of what your start-up is going to look like and accomplish. But success isn’t determined by the vision – success is determined by the execution of this idea.

Thanks to the team at Pangea for presenting at our event and thanks also to Rahier for taking the time to give us some additional insight into his start-up!

Tech in Motion Speaker Series with Pete Miron from Bitly

event_200317092On February 28th, 2013, New York’s Tech in Motion held their Inaugural Speaker Series, featuring Pete Miron, the Senior Vice President from Bitly.

The event was a huge success; it consisted of a 45 minute interview where Pete described his background, a general direction on how he became a SVP, behind the scenes of being a SVP at Bitly, and advice to aspiring CTOs and VPs.

Check out a few of the questions Pete addressed:

Where did you get your start, and what specifically got you interested in computers?

I actually got my start with old Commodore computers when I was just a kid tinkering around at home. I was fascinated at what I could create on the computer, even simple and rudimentary programs. When I got to college, I realized I just wanted to get out of college as quickly as possible and get into the tech and internet industry, so I majored in Art History. I learned a lot about art and philosophy, which actually helped me a bit over the course of my career because it gave me different perspective.

Talk us through your first career challenge and how you solved it.

Well, the first problem I solved wasn’t very interesting. However, I do have a funny story about when I was over at Datek. I was TRYING to solve a problem, but I actually ended up CAUSING a larger problem in the process. It was a simple enough idea of allowing people who were using the system to save their stock portfolios on our server. Back at this time, every morning when our clients logged in, they would have to manually enter all of their stock symbols each and every day. It was laborious and time consuming, but the technology to save it on the server was new. Bottom line is that I deployed my code the night before and the next morning all of Datek’s servers seized up for several hours while angry stock brokers called our service line threatening to cancel their service. It was a stressful experience, but my CTO at the time was incredibly understanding and helped me through it. That taught me about responsibility and leadership.

What are some of the necessary skills that you needed to get to this point in your career?

I think the most important skill is to know when to get involved and when to step back and let your developers just do their work. Managing developers requires a lot of finesse, and that has taken years to develop. I tried to pull lessons from each and every experience of my life and learn from them and then put those lessons learned into practice.

Pete’s Background:

Pete Miron, SVP of Engineering at Bitly since May, 2012 where he’s expanding the team to move from an essential piece of internet infrastructure to building great social media sharing, saving, analysis and discovery products customers love. Pete builds teams focused on quickly delivering products and features to large numbers of adoring fans.

Prior to Bitly, Pete joined Knewton as CTO in 2008, where he built a team that delivered a continuously adaptive education system for test prep, math readiness and now integrated with major education publishers. The Knewton team delivered products that helped students get into the schools of their dreams, and vastly improve the likelihood that other college students will graduate. In 2011, Knewton was named: a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, one of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Tech Companies by FastCompany and in 2010, one of Crain’s 50 Best Places to Work in NYC.

Pete also led teams to deliver innovative products in Telecom (Vonage) and Brokerage (Datek).

Pete holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art History from Syracuse University.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/petemiron

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/petermiron

Interested in attending a Tech in Motion meetup? Watch this short video to get an idea of what our events are like! http://vimeo.com/61030811

Related: Tech in Motion, Events, Inspiration