14
May

Amtrak Derailment in Philadelphia surfaces important points likely to be on any technical product development roadmap

2 Color Design Hi-Res The chronicle of a tragedy that befell an AMTRAK commuter train on May 13, 2015 includes points worth consideration by any product marketer working on solutions for process control, and even the Internet of Things (IoT). These points should also be of interest to anyone with a role in an operational risk management (ORM) effort for mechanized mass transport.

Comments on the most prominent of these points, namely AMTRAK’s inability to implement the Positive Train Control service:

Just because a customer has either purchased a solution, or committed resources to a solution, does not mean the customer has taken the steps required to move forward on it. As Jad Mouwad wrote on May 13, 2015 in the New York Times in an article titled Technology That Could Have Prevented Amtrak Derailment Was Absent (http://www NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2015/05/14/us/technology-that-could-have-prevented-amtrak-derailment-was-absent NULL.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT NULL.nav=top-news), Positive Train Control (a complex solution leveraging real time data from sensors to manage the performance of locomotives on rails) ” . . . might have prevented the derailment of a Metro-North commuter train in the Bronx in December 2013 that killed four people and injured dozens . . . ” and the Philadelphia tragedy, as well.

But Mouwad writes ” . . . the absence of the technology has come up repeatedly.” Bottom line: Positive Train Control looked great on paper, but the task of applying it, Mouwad writes, ” . . . involves fitting 36,000 wayside units and equipping 26,000 locomotives according to industry figures.”

The takeaway for product marketers? Putting together a “complexity assessment”, complete with an estimate of likely impact on customer ROI, should be a mandatory feature of a product roadmap.

In turn, and from the customer side of a purchase decision, an internal operational risk management (ORM) effort should also discount the usefulness of a purchase like Positive Train Control based on likely internal obstacles to implementation. Of course the discount should be applied against the ROI expected from the investment. A governance plan should include the steps required to overcome these obstacles to ROI.

If your business is developing solutions like Positive Train Control, but you lack an internal product marketing management effort to craft a promising roadmap for your rollout, please do not hesitate to contact us. We bring to the table over 30 years experience promoting and selling technology solutions (hardware, software, services) to the kind of complex enterprise customer fitting the presentation of AMTRAK (unfortunately), in this example.

We can also help customer organizations looking to improve the performance of ORM functions in order to better prepare for tragedies like this one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

5
Nov

The Azure cloud wants to power the Internet of Things

Before turning over the Keynote podium at Microsoft’s Tech Ed Europe 2014 event to another Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Joe Bellfiore, Jason Zander brought two recent success stories to his audience’s attention:

  1. the London Underground, “a user of Azure with IoT”
  2. Coca Cola “working with self service kiosks”, and vending machines

This segue might have resulted from a rebranding of Windows Embedded as the best option for consumers to [c]reate the Internet of Your Things (http://www NULL.microsoft NULL.com/windowsembedded/en-us/internet-of-things NULL.aspx). Or, on the other hand, the segue into a mention of two very large organizations consuming Azure to support enormous populations of smart devices deployed for mission-critical requirements can also be read as a method of branding not only Azure cloud, but also a bunch of new big data SaaS offers designed to run on top of Azure PaaS.

If for no other reason than merely to demonstrate the extensive latitude Microsoft can opt to exercise as it chooses to build out its IoT messaging, readers, in this writer’s opinion, should appreciate the depth of its product offers applicable to this already enormous market segment.

It is worth repeating some earlier comments this writer articulated about the notion of an Internet of Things, namely the concept is neither new, nor especially formidable as one considers the capabilities consumers will likely have to safeguard computing processes running over an enormous number of smart devices all communicating over the same data protocols.

But Microsoft’s now obvious interest in branding itself as a leader in this data communications trend should, to no small extent, provide some reassurances. First, Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE, and the development methods it supports (Visual Basic, C, C++, Visual C++, etc) have long been used by ISVs supporting the ancestor of this new IoT — namely HMIs, and the families of devices communicating over one of the bus data communications protocols (Modbus, Profibus, Fieldbus, etc), so they already have very important hooks into this market. Second, Microsoft’s experience developing a secure data communications environment to assure enterprise business consumers of the security of cloud computing may apply to the products and solutions they bring to market for IoT consumers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

3
Nov

Microsoft publishes an enormous amount of content from TechEd Europe 2014

In yet another gesture towards app developers and their stakeholders, Microsoft is rapidly publishing a very large amount of video content from its recently concluded TechEd Europe 2014 event. All of the content can be found on the Tech Ed Europe 2014 (http://channel9 NULL.msdn NULL.com/Events/TechEd/Europe/2014) web site. As of the date of this post, Saturday, November 1, 2014, just a few of the webcasts available for public viewing included:

  1. Keynote Presentation by Joseph Belfiore, and Jason Zander
  2. Empowering Enterprise Mobility, led by Andrew Conway who plays a senior product marketing role for Microsoft’s Windows Server / System Center Business
  3. Microsoft Azure for Enterprises: What and Why, led by David Chappell a Principal at Chappell & Associates
  4. Azure Pack Roadmap and Ecosystem, led by Maurizio Portolani, and Robert Reynolds
  5. Microsoft IoT Platform: Architecture Overview, led by Uli Homann

Each of the above 5 webcasts are worth some commentary over the next few posts to this blog. The second, “Empowering Enterprise Mobility” is of interest for information it may add as to how Microsoft has designed its entry into the market for Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) aka Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions. In this writer’s opinion enterprise business consumers are demonstrating a voracious appetite for EMM and/or MDM. The intensity of need makes sense; after all, with a majority of larger organizations supporting formal BYOD, BYOA and other policy structures to support personnel as they bring new devices, and systems into the internal computing realm. EMM and MDM, on paper, can provide central IT support organizations with the methods they need to permit this use while preserving control and making a best effort to safeguard company confidential information.

A lot has already been written about the fourth and the fifth webcasts. Azure Pack looks like the right set of components to transform Microsoft’s cloud, IaaS into something portable, the kind of solution Dell has brought to market in its recently announced “Cloud in a box” hardware device.

IoT is a subject of interest to this blog, so a presentation on Microsoft’s data communications architecture to support the billions of devices interacting under the IoT umbrella is a “must attend” event.

Readers should stay tuned.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

14
Oct

General Electric Steps Into Big Data and Analytics

October 8, and 9, 2014 were a very busy two days for the Public Relations team at General Electric (http://www NULL.genewsroom NULL.com/). No less than 4 press releases were published about the first steps this very mature — not to mention very large — business has stepped into big data and analytics.

Consider, for example, how the big data and analytics business at General Electric ramped up to over $1Bil in sales: October 9, 2014, Bloomberg publishes an article written by Richard Clough, titled GE Sees Fourfold Rise in Sales From Industrial Internet (http://www NULL.bloomberg NULL.com/news/2014-10-09/ge-sees-1-billion-in-sales-from-industrial-internet NULL.html). Clough reports “[r]evenue [attributed to analytics and data collection] is headed to about $1.1 billion this year from the analytics operations as the backlog has swelled to $1.3 billion”.

Early stage ISVs looking with envy at this lightning-fast entry should consider how scale, along with a decision to acquire IP via partnerships and acquisitions (rather than opting to build it in-house), and picking the right market made this emerging success story a reality. Let’s start by considering these three points in reverse order:

  1. Picking the right market: GE opted to apply its new tech to a set of markets loosely collected into something they call the “Industrial Internet”. These markets include Energy (exploration, production, distribution), Transportation, Healthcare, Manufacturing and Machinery. Choosing these markets makes complete sense. GE is a leader in each of these already. Why not apply new tech to old familiar stomping grounds?
  2. Leverage partnerships and acquisitions to come to market in lieu of rolling your own: Leading players in each of the markets GE opted to enter expressed burning needs for better security and better insight. Other players in each of the markets (Cisco, Symantec, Stanford University and UC Berkeley) all stand to benefit from the core tech GE brings to the table, so persuading them to partner was likely to have been a comparatively easy task. The most prominent segment of the tech (very promising security tech for industrial, high speed data communications over TCP/IP, Ethernet networks) understandably, came into the package from wurldtech, a business GE opted to acquire
  3. Scale: With GE’s production run rate of turbines, locomotive engines, jet engines, and other complex, massive industrial machinery, the task of finding a home for the millions of industrial sensors required to feed the analytics piece of the tech with the big data it desperately needs, does not look to have been a difficult task. Product management, appropriately, looked into its own backyard to find the consumers required to ramp up to scale in very fast time.

In sum, GE’s entry into this market, if the “rubber hits the road” and metrics bear out claims, looks to be a case study early ISVs should memorize as they plan their tech marketing strategy.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

14
Mar

Building a Data Security Model for the Internet of Things

Two executives from Cisco jointly presented a Keynote at this year’s RSA Conference in San Francisco. The Keynote was titled The New Model of Security (http://media NULL.rsaconference NULL.com/rsaconference/2014/us/keynotes/html/cisco NULL.html) Christopher Young, Senior Vice President, Security Business Group, and Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer spoke for 26 mins on the topic of the Internet of Things and its impact on data security best practices.

Online security is, and, for the foreseeable future will remain, one of the most important components of any mature ISV’s product platform. Cisco is no exception. But this presentation at the RSA Conference did not provide me with a lot of new information about how Cisco is meeting the challenge.

Cisco has, on a few occasions, created brands for purported industry trends, which somehow never got off the ground. Examples include the Home Technology Integration (HTI) effort, which didn’t deliver on its promise. Is the Internet of Things just another example of one of them?

Regardless of how one answers the question, the important point about the notion of an Internet of Things for this Keynote, is simply the geometric, explosive proliferation of connected devices over the last thirty years. Warrior presented some statistics including a universe, in 1980, of approximately 1K devices, which, today, she claims is approaching (or even exceeding 10 Billion).

Christopher Young depicted the problem all these devices represent to ISVs with security solutions: when the connected device is a highly complex machine like an automobile, then anyone analyzing the points where the connected device is vulnerable to malicious attack, needs to think about sub systems, component manufacturers, etc. In other words, the real conundrum is ensuring all of the OEMs contributing to the production of the final complex connected device are all sharing the same security priorities, architectures, etc.

Young did not offer any examples of how anyone is successfully coordinating OEMs to provision a truly effective security solution for connecting complex devices like automobiles to the Internet, but, one can argue, at least Cisco is aware of the challenge, which is an important starting point.

There is ample precedent for such as policy, of course, within the production of the functional architecture of automobiles and, on an even bigger scale, airplanes. Boeing, Airbus, etc. are quite effective at managing subsystems, and the OEMs responsible for them, to ensure conformance with functional standards. Why not do the same for Internet connectivity?

Warrior also noted a need for device-to-device authentication, which I think makes a lot of sense. Ethernet, unfortunately, does not support the data communications hand shaking required to provide this level of authentication, but Warrior’s comment may actually signal efforts on Cisco’s part to build new data communications protocols on top of, our beneath, Ethernet over TCP/IP communications capable of simulating the type of error checking and authentication required to really control data communications between connected devices.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved