Different kinds of Clouds

Some slides I liked on cloud computing infrastructure as offered by Amazon, IBM, Google , Windows and Oracle



Towards better quantitative marketing

Cycle of Research and Development, from "...
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The term quantitative refers to a type of information based in quantities or else quantifiable data (objective properties) —as opposed to qualitative information which deals with apparent qualities (subjective properties)


Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) is a tactic of rhetoric and fallacy used in sales, marketing, public relations,[1][2] politics and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence public perception by disseminating negative and dubious/false information designed to undermine the credibility of their beliefs.



Top 5 FUD Tactics in Software and what you can say to end user to retain credibility

1) That software lacks reliable support- our support team has won top prizes in Customer Appreciation for past several years.

  • Our software release history-
  • graph of bugs filed-
  • turn around time box plot for customer service issues
  • quantitatively define reliability

2) We give the best value to customers. Customer Big A got huge huge % savings thanks to our software.

  • Pricing- Transparent – and fixed. For volume discounts mention slabs.
  • Cost to Customer- Include time and cost estimates for training and installation
  • Graphs of average ROIC (return on capital invested) on TCO (total cost of ownership)  not half a dozen outlier case studies. Mention Expected % return

3) We have invested a lot of money in our Research and Development. We continue to spend a lotto of money on R &D

  • Average Salary of R and D employee versus Average Tenure (Linkedin gives the second metric quite easily)
  • Mention Tax benefits and Accounting treatment of R&D expenses
  • Give a breakdown- how much went to research and how much went to legacy application support
  • Mention open source projects openly
  • Mention community source projects separately

4) Software B got sued. Intellectual property rights (sniff)

  • Mention pending cases with your legal team
  • Mention anti trust concerns for potential acquisitions
  • Mention links to your patent portfolio (or even to US PTO with query ?=your corporate name )

5) We have a 99.8% renewal rate.

  • Mention vendor lock in concerns and flexibility
  • Mention What-If scenarios if there are delays in software implementation
  • Mention methodology in calculating return on investment.






Which software do we buy? -It depends

Software (novel)
Image via Wikipedia

Often I am asked by clients, friends and industry colleagues on the suitability or unsuitability of particular software for analytical needs.  My answer is mostly-

It depends on-

1) Cost of Type 1 error in purchase decision versus Type 2 error in Purchase Decision. (forgive me if I mix up Type 1 with Type 2 error- I do have some weird childhood learning disabilities which crop up now and then)

Here I define Type 1 error as paying more for a software when there were equivalent functionalities available at lower price, or buying components you do need , like SPSS Trends (when only SPSS Base is required) or SAS ETS, when only SAS/Stat would do.

The first kind is of course due to the presence of free tools with GUI like R, R Commander and Deducer (Rattle does have a 500$ commercial version).

The emergence of software vendors like WPS (for SAS language aficionados) which offer similar functionality as Base SAS, as well as the increasing convergence of business analytics (read predictive analytics), business intelligence (read reporting) has led to somewhat brand clutter in which all softwares promise to do everything at all different prices- though they all have specific strengths and weakness. To add to this, there are comparatively fewer business analytics independent analysts than say independent business intelligence analysts.

2) Type 2 Error- In this case the opportunity cost of delayed projects, business models , or lower accuracy – consequences of buying a lower priced software which had lesser functionality than you required.

To compound the magnitude of error 2, you are probably in some kind of vendor lock-in, your software budget is over because of buying too much or inappropriate software and hardware, and still you could do with some added help in business analytics. The fear of making a business critical error is a substantial reason why open source software have to work harder at proving them competent. This is because writing great software is not enough, we need great marketing to sell it, and great customer support to sustain it.

As Business Decisions are decisions made in the constraints of time, information and money- I will try to create a software purchase matrix based on my knowledge of known softwares (and unknown strengths and weakness), pricing (versus budgets), and ranges of data handling. I will add in basically an optimum approach based on known constraints, and add in flexibility for unknown operational constraints.

I will restrain this matrix to analytics software, though you could certainly extend it to other classes of enterprise software including big data databases, infrastructure and computing.

Noted Assumptions- 1) I am vendor neutral and do not suffer from subjective bias or affection for particular software (based on conferences, books, relationships,consulting etc)

2) All software have bugs so all need customer support.

3) All software have particular advantages , strengths and weakness in terms of functionality.

4) Cost includes total cost of ownership and opportunity cost of business analytics enabled decision.

5) All software marketing people will praise their own software- sometimes over-selling and mis-selling product bundles.

Software compared are SPSS, KXEN, R,SAS, WPS, Revolution R, SQL Server,  and various flavors and sub components within this. Optimized approach will include parallel programming, cloud computing, hardware costs, and dependent software costs.

To be continued-





Libre Office

Some ambiguity about Libre Office and why it needed to change from Open Office- just when Open Office seemed so threatening on the desktop

FROM- http://www.documentfoundation.org/faq/

Q: So is this a breakaway project?

A: Not at all. The Document Foundation will continue to be focused on developing, supporting, and promoting the same software, and it’s very much business as usual. We are simply moving to a new and more appropriate organisational model for the next decade – a logical development from Sun’s inspirational launch a decade ago.

Q: Why are you calling yourselves “The Document Foundation”?

A: For ten years we have used the same name – “OpenOffice.org” – for both the Community and the software. We’ve decided it removes ambiguity to have a different name for the two, so the Community is now “The Document Foundation”, and the software “LibreOffice”. Note: there are other examples of this usage in the free software community – e.g. the Mozilla Foundation with the Firefox browser.

Q: Does this mean you intend to develop other pieces of software?

A: We would like to have that possibility open to us in the future…

Q: And why are you calling the software “LibreOffice” instead of “OpenOffice.org”?

A: The OpenOffice.org trademark is owned by Oracle Corporation. Our hope is that Oracle will donate this to the Foundation, along with the other assets it holds in trust for the Community, in due course, once legal etc issues are resolved. However, we need to continue work in the meantime – hence “LibreOffice” (“free office”).

Q: Why are you building a new web infrastructure?

A: Since Oracle’s takeover of Sun Microsystems, the Community has been under “notice to quit” from our previous Collabnet infrastructure. With today’s announcement of a Foundation, we now have an entity which can own our emerging new infrastructure.

Q: What does this announcement mean to other derivatives of OpenOffice.org?

A: We want The Document Foundation to be open to code contributions from as many people as possible. We are delighted to announce that the enhancements produced by the Go-OOo team will be merged into LibreOffice, effective immediately. We hope that others will follow suit.

Q: What difference will this make to the commercial products produced by Oracle Corporation, IBM, Novell, Red Flag, etc?

A: The Document Foundation cannot answer for other bodies. However, there is nothing in the licence arrangements to stop companies continuing to release commercial derivatives of LibreOffice. The new Foundation will also mean companies can contribute funds or resources without worries that they may be helping a commercial competitor.

Q: What difference will The Document Foundation make to developers?

A: The Document Foundation sets out deliberately to be as developer friendly as possible. We do not demand that contributors share their copyright with us. People will gain status in our community based on peer evaluation of their contributions – not by who their employer is.

Q: What difference will The Document Foundation make to users of LibreOffice?

A: LibreOffice is The Document Foundation’s reason for existence. We do not have and will not have a commercial product which receives preferential treatment. We only have one focus – delivering the best free office suite for our users – LibreOffice.


Non Microsoft and Non Oracle vendors are indeed going to find it useful the possiblities of bundling a free Libre Office that reduces the total cost of ownership for analytics software. Right now, some of the best free advertising for Microsoft OS and Office is done by enterprise software vendors who create Windows Only Products and enable MS Office integration better than  Open Office integration. This is done citing user demand- but it is a chicken egg dilemma- as functionality leads to enhanced demand. Microsoft on the other hand is aware of this dependence and has made SQL Server and SQL Analytics (besides investing in analytics startups like Revolution Analytics) along with it’s own infrastructure -Azure Cloud Platform/EC2 instances.

Interview Tasso Argyros CTO Aster Data Systems

Here is an interview with Tasso Argyros,the CTO and co-founder of Aster Data Systems (www.asterdata.com ) .Aster Data Systems is one of the first DBMS to tightly integrate SQL with MapReduce.


Ajay- Maths and Science students the world over are facing a major decline. What would you recommend to young students to get careers in science.

[TA]My father is a professor of Mathematics and I spent a lot of my college time studying advanced math. What I would say to new students is that Math is not a way to get  a job, it’s a way to learn how to think. As such, a Math education can lead to success in any discipline that requires intellectual abilities. As long as they take the time to specialize at some point – via  postgraduate education or a job where they can learn a new discipline from smart people – they won’t regret the investment.

Ajay- Describe your career in Science particularly your time at Stanford. What made you think of starting up Asterdata. How important is it for a team rather than an individual to begin startups. Could you describe the startup moment when your team came together.

[TA] – While at Stanford I became very familiar with the world of startups through my advisor, David Cheriton (who was an angel investor in VMWare, Google and founder of two successful companies). My research was about processing large amounts of data on large, low-cost computer farms. A year into my research it became obvious that this approach had huge processingpower advantages and it was superior to anything else I could see in the marketplace. I then happened to meet my other two co-founders, Mayank Bawa & George Candea who were looking at a similar technical problem from the database and reliability perspective, respectively.

I distinctly remember George walking into my office one day (I barely knew him back then) and saying “I want talk to you about startups and the future” – the rest has become history.

Ajay- How would you describe your product Aster nCluster Cloud Edition to omebody who does not anything beyond the Traditional Server/ Datawarehouse technologies. Could you rate it against some known vendors and give a price point specific to what level of usage does the Total Cost of Ownership in Asterdata becomes cheaper than a say Oracle or a SAP or a Microsoft Datawarehosuing solution.

[TA]- Aster allows businesses  to reduce the data analytics TCO in two interesting ways. First, it has a much lower hardware cost than any traditional DW technology because of its use of commodity servers or cloud infrastructure like Amazon EC2. Secondly, Aster has implemented a lot of  innovations that simplify the (previously tedious and expensive) management of the system, which includes scaling the system elastically up/down as needed – so they are not paying for capacity they don’t need at a given point in time.

But cutting costs is one side of the equation; what makes me even more excited is the ability to make a business more profitable, competitive and efficient through analyzing more data at greaterdepth. We have customers that have cut their costs and increased their customers and revenue by using Aster to analyze their valuable (and usually underutilized) data. If you have data – and you think you’re not taking full advantage of it – Aster can help.

Ajay- I have always have this one favourite question.When can I analyze 100 giga bytes of data using just a browser and some statistical software like R or advanced forecasting softwares that are available.Describe some of Asterdata ‘s work in enhancing the analytical capabilities of big data.

Can I run R ( free -open source) on an on demand basis for an Asterdata solution. How much would it cost me to crunch 100 gb of data and make segmentations and models with say 50 hours of processing time per month

[TA]- One of the big innovations that Aster does it to allow analytical applications like R to be embedded in the database via our SQL/MapReduce framework. We actually have customers right now that are using R to do advanced analytics over terabytes of data.  100GB is actually on the lower end of what our software can enable and as such the cost would not be significant.

Ajay- What do people at Asterdata do when not making complex software.

[TA]- A lot of Asterites love to travel around the world – we are, after all, a very diverse company. We also love coffee, Indian food as well as international and US sports like soccer, cricket, cycling,and football!

Ajay- Name some competing products to Asterdata and where Asterdata products are more suitable for a TCO viewpoint. Name specific areas where you would not recommend your own products.

[TA]- We go against products like Orace database, Teradata and IBM DB2. If you need to do analytics over 100s of GBs or terabytes of data, our price/performance ratio would be orders of magnitude better.

Ajay- How do you convince named and experienced VC’s Sequia Capital to invest in a start-up ( eg I could do with some server costs coming financing)

[TA]- You need to convince Sequoia of three things. (a) that the market you’re going after is very large (in the billions of dollars, if you’re successful). (b) that your team is the best set of people that could ever come together to solve the particular problem you’re trying to solve. And (c) that the technology you’ve developed gives you an “unfair advantage” over incumbents or new market entrants.  Most importantly, you have to smile a lot! J


About Tasso:

Tasso (Tassos) Argyros is the CTO and co-founder of Aster Data Systems, where he is responsible for all product and engineering operations of the company. Tasso was recently recognized as one ofBusinessWeek’s Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs for 2009 and was an SAP fellow at the Stanford Computer Science department. Prior to Aster, Tasso was pursuing a Ph.D. in the Stanford Distributed Systems Group with a focus on designing cluster architectures for fast, parallel data processing using large farms of commodity servers. He holds an MsC in Computer Science from Stanford University and a Diploma in Computer and Electrical Engineering from Technical University of Athens.

About Aster:

Aster Data Systems is a proven leader in high-performance database systems for data warehousing and analytics – the first DBMS to tightly integrate SQL with MapReduce – providing deep insights on data analyzed on clusters of low-cost commodity hardware.

The Aster nCluster database cost-effectively powers frontline analytic applications for companies such as MySpace, aCerno (an Akamai company), and ShareThis. Running on low-cost off-the-shelf hardware, and providing ‘hands-free’ administration, Aster enables enterprises to meet their data warehousing needs within their budget.

Aster is headquartered in San Carlos, California and is backed by Sequoia Capital, JAFCO Ventures, IVP, Cambrian Ventures, and First-Round Capital, as well as industry visionaries including David Cheriton, Rajeev Motwani and Ron Conway.