dimanche 19 juillet 2015

Third industrial revolution?

Well yes, a big shift in economy is happening in our digital era. Economy is moving from a centralized production system to a more distributed one with the help of internet and information technology. It means that people exchange directly goods and services without the direct need of traditional intermediate corporations. I will illustrate this shift through examples from different sectors:
  • Transportation: Uber is destabilizing the taxi industry by its model where non professional drivers serve directly passengers with a sexy and real time mobile application. Before Uber, car pooling was growing for inter cities transportation and thus competing lightly with trains & buses.
  • Hospitality: With the same spirit, AirBnb is threatening the established business of hotel chains, especially on the low-end tourism market. Couchsurfing also took a part of this market somehow.
  • Energy: Consumers are called to be micro producers through solar energy for example. Energy production would be managed intelligently with smart grids and moreover with connected objects.
  • Consumer Goods:  We are witnessing the emergence of websites praising the reuse of consumer goods such as: toys, tools, high tech products... and more generally products that are not used frequently so people rather prefer to rent it. Some even say that this pushing the notion of private property to disappear!
  • IT: Instead of centralized datacenters, a new buzz word is here: fog computing. A more distributed architecture than cloud computing, where end devices stores and process information. I was especially impressed by the French Startup Qarnot Computing who proposes computing capacity through its distributed servers in households. Their brilliant idea is heating households using installed servers!
  • Finance: Who of us didn't participate through crowdfunding to help the project of an association? the launch of music album? the new idea of a startup? Banks/business angels/love money will not stay the exclusive ways of funding ventures.
Some, like Jeremy Rifkin, call this shift a revolution, the revolution of "commons", a "croudsourced" economy that seems more just and equal. Well, I do not share this point of view. I think that distributed model disrupt the structure of the players in our market based economy, but it does not change the capitalist nature of this economy: private property, seek for profit, class differences... indeed, the established corporations (see above for examples) will loose power to new players who control information. If we take the example of hospitality industry, well yes some big hotel chains will hardly survive in front of Airbnb, but this online platform would behave just as its old competitors: hire employees, look for profitability, compete to have a monopole...

Nevertheless, this shift might provide a good basis for a real conscious revolution on how we manage economy today.  When individuals are more involved in the production system, not as work-providers but as contributors, they will want to contribute also to decision making. What is really missing is a distributed decision making, a real democracy! Digital revolution is a wonderful opportunity for achieving this. I like very much the example of an Argentinian political party (Partido de la red) who's representatives only vote in parliament what people has decided online (Democracy OS).

vendredi 3 juillet 2015

Revealing networks

After a couple of years dealing with networks of mid-sized and large companies, I noticed that networks reveal many aspects of companies culture, organization and history. In the following, I will just give some seen examples from my own experience.

  • Often when you find a network with isolated subnetworks, using for example multiple VRF mechanism in MPLS, it reveals a history of successive acquisitions of external companies, who managed to keep their IT independence. That can be also the case of a multinationals who's regional IT gained enough independence.
  • Networks also give an idea about the kind of skills available in the IT department, and sometimes its size: Big IT departments with network gurus are more likely to prefer do-it-your-own solutions such IPSEC based networking with focus on non-standard technical needs. Smaller IT departments, or those who are more business aligned, go for managed services with focus on SLAs and end user features.
  • Speaking of SLAs, I noticed that some IT buyers prefer to focus only on SLAs without taking into consideration the underlying technical design. That is typically the profile of buyers who is actually not looking for reducing the risk, but only to transfer it to the provider. It can reflect a culture of protectionism.
  • More generally many cultural aspects are reflected by the network design. For example the design of external connections to the private network gives an idea of  how much a company trusts its employees, accepts new generations paradigms (BYOD, ATAWAD..), is obsessed with security... We can also know more about how much the IT decision makers are conservatives. That can be detected for example by how they embrace new technologies and solutions: cloud, hybrid networks... Finally, I noted some correlation between how much the company is politicized and what differentiated services are provided to VIPs by the IT department!