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Latest insights and trends in Personal Analytics, Operational Intelligence, and Workplace Productivity.

Mar 19
The End of Cloud Computing Delayed

Many things of the past are getting their well-deserved rehabilitation these days.

Having your own car and even driving it alone is suddenly not a high crime anymore, and even healthier than the crowded public transportation. That it is also less expensive, goes without saying.

Ample square meters of living space – sufficient heating very important – are not environmental waste now, they are good for enabling social distance and working from home.

Smartphones are again manufactured in the middle of Germany – more than ten years after the closure of the last Nokia plant, and this time with a profit.

Volkswagen hires thousands of engineers to develop 60 % of all software in house, including even an own operation system.

So, what about the brick-and-mortar basic computing, such as storage, databases, email, et cetera? Why is all that still perceived as having its ideal place in the public cloud? We already know that cloud is more expensive, and we know that it makes you run your business the way cloud providers see as right. Peter Levine was predicting the end of cloud computing to come in 2020, which is now. Why does that seem to be delayed?

There is probably only one remaining reason – decision-making safety. Same as it used to be with IBM in the past, apparently nobody has got fired – so far – for buying Amazon or other hyperscale cloud. With IBM back then, the change came through distributed client-server systems. Many small and large vendors emerged, and even IBM became one of them selling personal computers and Lotus software, but none was a safe bet anymore.

In that now famous presentation from 2017, Peter Levine cites the large volumes of sensor data and the need for local action as the main factors for computing to move away from public cloud. We should add to this list extremely inexpensive in-house hardware resources and new technologies to create and monitor bespoke applications for business. In my 2018 post I compared the storage costs, with the cloud to local difference going up from 3,5 times to 12 times in ten years. Today, the price of Amazon S3 storage is still the same it was in 2018, and the average prices for own storage went another 15 % down. APIs are becoming increasingly standardized, and low-code removes the entry barriers for businesses to create their own applications.

Maybe 2020 is still not the end of cloud computing, but there are certainly less and less reasons to not own your computing resources and applications.

At Hypersoft, we have several products to support this process. Omnicontext for technology operations monitors quality and usage of all services, cloud and in-house. It can also be used to integrate transaction data from multiple sources over long periods of time and to serve these data to other applications. Personal Files is a reliable blockchain-supported distributed storage engine for those who decide to own their data. We shall have more coming in the next months.

Feb 23
New and Expanded Office 365 Analytics

​We have been making many improvements to Omnicontext standard reports over the past few months. Combined, they are substantial enough to be worth a summary that outlines all new and improved capabilities. They follow our long-term objective of delivering full adoption and productivity insight, plus comprehensive service monitoring and usage reports.

With its most recent updates, Omnicontext is now fully capable of answering the key questions asked by organizations that deploy Office 365:

  • Are users leveraging functions and capabilities of the new cloud-based workplace?
  • Which apps or features remain unused even if fully licensed and activated?
  • How do work habits change with Office 365 compared to what they were before?
  • Can we prove that Office 365 made us more productive, and how can we quantify this change?
  • Do the cloud applications perform well for our users, seen directly from our organization?

To obtain meaningful answers to these questions, we re-organized our standard reports and added new data sources. The reports integrate activity and usage data to create a holistic view of how working time is used and how more value can be produced in less time. There are dedicate analytics on time lost because of unavailable services, and also on losses caused by too much time and effort consumed by new technology itself.

The pre-defined analytics are divided into three areas: Personal, Productivity, and Operations. All of them use every available data source, as it has always been in Omnicontext. The Office 365 data as of now cover these apps: Exchange Online, OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint Online, Planner, PowerBI. For all these apps we collect assigned and used licenses, detailed usage patterns, real-time services status at the user location, and service quality trends over long periods of time. This information is combined with on-premise data on email, telephony, instant messaging, databases, web sites, networks and platform infrastructure. So, not only cloud-based workplace is analyzed, but also the side-by-side view of Office 365 and in-house services.

Omnicontext web application has now a new contemporary look and feel with a choice between light and dark mode, and with an ability to create custom themes using your own fonts and colors.

Get Omnicontext right now to take advantage of all these new functions and improvements.

Jun 20
Intellectual Property

Information technology is saturating world around us, so what are we going to do with it?

To be precise I should rather say: we are saturating our world with information technology. Lots of people have tendency to personalize things and ideas, like they got little hands and legs and are doing things for themselves. No, that's us! 
We are buying radio-regulated electronic clocks, plain cell-phones or smartphones, smart-TVs, laptops, talking fridges, car navigations, or even smart-home systems. The later one is the scariest – you come and say “Alexa, I'm home" and the jam jar sized box checks the list (that you personally had created or agreed on) and turns up the heating, turns on lights here and there, switches on your TV and beeps your daughter to come down and show you that her homework is downlo…, sorry, done. Our companies are buying mail and instant messages software, surveillance cameras, card access security systems and on-line help bot-software with nice but serious girl voice that unfortunately don't understand “meet for a drink" phrase. Our municipal governments are installing post-office automatic queues, cameras to monitor every street, voting machines, parking meters, talking city buses and very intelligent street lights that do nothing no matter how impatiently you push the button. Why? Because we want them, because we like them, because they make our life easier or funnier, because they make amazing things, like telepathy, a dream like fantasy of talking through space, now available to everybody everywhere with easily accessible device (and a small fee).
 Scandinavian countries' authorities (among many others) have intentionally invested quite a lot into covering empty mountains and far-north wilderness, where nobody lives except wolves and reindeers, with cellular network antennas grid. To make the world more electronic? No, more caring, because they really, really like to be sure that every unfortunate or reckless hiker in case of troubles can call 112 for help, share his phone GPS reading and be rescued immediately, not when he's stiff and ice cold.
 And what's inside of this IT flood? Half of IT devices' purpose is communication (yes, voting machines too). I do not know who invented the idea that people staring at their screens are alone, but the only lonely teenager these days is the one with overprotective parents forcing IT access time limits on him, cutting him off his social life.

That is just the beginning thou, as Artificial Intelligence is lurking by the corner, spreading panic among crowds. Really? What happened to good old fear of natural intelligence! Let's just take it straight to the extreme – how dreadful was Albert Einstein? It's not intelligence that sometimes becomes evil, these are intentions – and AI has no intentions of its own, why would it?
Let's take a real life example. Small injustices happen to everybody from time to time: incorrect parking ticket, small frauds, being mistreated here and there. We all should have recourse to the law, but we have not – there's not enough judges for that and in half of such cases we give them up as it would need too much time, money and infinite patience to get what's fair. That is why AI court systems are being designed, which can take care of verdicts at first instance of well-defined cases, fairly and fast, like hundreds decisions per hour. One of them was immediately scrutinized by some human rights organization and accused (who would do that to a real judge) of discriminating testimonies of black, poor and female witnesses. The system was checked and it was found and proven, that being trained on a large set of current real-life cases, the AI behaviour reflected nothing else, but common attitude of human judges. I am sure, that it doesn't require much work to set the AI straight and then upload the upgrade to all involved courts to get much better results. In case of humans however, it takes years, if not ages, to set their attitudes straight and their natural resistance make impossible to update their minds.

 
So all that for what? For us or for these IT companies, not just five of them, but thousands, that we deservedly suspect of spreading this IT just for their profit, lately even accused of observing, noting and seizing our intellectual property in deceptive polls, quizzes, even innocently looking captcha tests to train their AI systems.
 It's Thomas Alva Edison that always comes to my mind then. Not quite a nice man, relentlessly pursuing others for his patents infringements. He has invented a lightbulb, among many other things and he did it entirely for his own profit. Now, when I buy such a bulb for one euro, I feel like I am the one to profit the most, looking forward to endless evenings with good books under his invention.

All information in this technology and all intellectual property there comes from us, people, and in the end it is coming back to us: to our homes, to our streets, even to far away wilderness – for us.  Yes, we are going to make more of it!

Mar 06
Three Reasons to Do It Yourself at Home and in Business

There is an apparent renaissance of do-it-yourself both in private life and in the industry. In private, people build their own furniture and cook at home instead of dining out. In industry, companies increasingly insource IT operations, manufacturing, and everything else. The reasons to do this are largely the same.

First and very obvious, doing it yourself is less expensive. Not just in money terms, but in the overall resources including time. It probably used to be different some years ago, but has changed with the today's equipment and technology. Taking the very typical case of cloud computing, Michael Dell has correctly pointed out that automation of operations makes on-premise solutions now less expensive in almost 90 % of all workloads.

Second, it actually improves agility. This may sound counterintuitive, the usual narrative used to be that you are more flexible using external services, right? The reality is different. With the external service, you acquire its procedures and regulations, and those are designed to be the same for all the customers like you. Just think of GDPR as one example, where substantial volumes of highly standardized documentation work reach well into the substance of your core business. Yes, you would still have to do this in your own data center, but you would have the choice of doing it your own way.

Third, cloud providers are not obliged to continue serving us forever. Same as your favorite restaurant can just shut down overnight because of a multitude of possible legitimate reasons. You may be able to get back your data, but the effort of setting up a new solution will probably largely surpass all direct costs of the required hardware or another service (if you still prefer to not do it yourself). Even your own device that you bought outright can become unusable if it depends on a discontinued cloud service (see Microsoft Band, which cannot be factory reset after the end of May).

We at Hypersoft have now a new product that is part of this big do-it-yourself trend. With Personal Files, you create and own your private cloud storage. Simpler than it would be with any cloud provider, less expensive, and nobody will be able to discontinue the service because of whatever reason. Works for business and at home, the only thing you need is your own Internet domain and a Hypersoft license.

Oct 28
Why Cloud Does Not Save Money

Since enterprise cloud first emerged about ten years ago, it has been viewed by businesses as a way to cut costs. This expectation has very rarely materialized. Now, we start hearing more and more that even if cloud costs you more money, it still makes sense because of the various other higher reasons. Those can be the focus on core business, the flexibility to ramp up or down, and many more.

However, isn’t this logic fundamentally flawed? Do the higher reasons still hold if they do not lead to a commercial benefit?

Here is an interesting comparison. Let us look at some public utilities, which are heavily promoted with very similar justifications. You do not need your own car, use public transit, free yourself from maintenance costs, plan your costs in a predictable way, and only pay for the service that you actually use. Sounds quite familiar, right?

The numbers show a very impressive cost aspect of it. In Germany (being one of the most progressive places for public transit, other countries following suit and not much different) the cost of public transportation​ grew by 80 % between 2000 and 2018. During the same time, the cost of using a personal car has only increased by 36 %.

Would you like another one? The cost of centralized heating increased by 33 % between 2005 and 2018. It has been just 5 % for those who run their own little residential oil boilers. Those who replaced their boilers by newer ones are now paying less for their heating than they did back in 2005.

Coming back to the topic of cloud costs, the price per gigabyte of Amazon S3 storage is today 20 % of what it was in 2006. The gigabyte you buy on a disk costs now just 4 % of the 2006 price. Back in 2006, the annual cloud storage fee was 3,5 times the cost of outright purchase for the same gigabyte. Now in 2018, this annual fee is 12 times the purchase price. Just let these numbers sink: for the annual cloud storage fee one cay buy – permanently – twelve times as much storage to own. Power consumption does not change this calculation, it is well below 0,01 kWh per gigabyte per month.

All these examples tell us that owning your resources does actually pay off. And the “higher reasons” to give it up do not apply today in the same way they applied in the past.

The flexibility to ramp up becomes very relative if you remember that buying ten times more storage is less than one year of cloud fees for the original resource you had before ramping up.

As for redundancy and access from anywhere, with today’s new computers and software one does not have to be a “storage scientist” to have that. And this is where our new product adds a unique capability to simplify and streamline operations. Deploy Personal Files​, regain true ownership of your data, and save costs.

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