Business Continuity Awareness Week

The western coast of India is experiencing terrible cyclonic storm named Tauktae, this week. I am sure we are all watching the disruption, destruction this cyclone is causing. Fortunately, Mumbai-the business capital of India, was narrowly spared. But it is easy to imagine what would have happened if it were to have landfall on Mumbai. What an apt timing for annual event of The Business Continuity Institute(BCI)’s BCAW, which is Business Continuity Awareness Week(May 17-21, 2021), to spread the awareness about need to plan face such and other business disrupting events. There is a old proverb which says meet success like a gentleman, and disaster like a man. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery(BC/DR) is the need of hour.

Despite the fact that we all experience the losses incurred during such events, the businesses are still underprepared and are not investing their time and energy enough to face the such unavoidable circumstances. I am in IT professional for many years and I am working in BC/DR domain close to 8 years now. With the advent of computers few decades back and proliferation of Internet, and data all over, in recent years, the need for businesses to have effective BC/DR strategy is more than relevant now. The natural disasters such as Tauktae cyclone, earthquakes, are not the only reason for business disruption, even man-made events such as wars, riots and more prominently, ever looming danger of cyber-attacks, also can cause serious business disruption. That can result into revenue loss, customer attrition, reputation damage, as we all have are quite aware.

Let’s look at business continuity(BC) and disaster recovery(DR) mean here. The term business continuity is essential plan to continue to function during distressful event, And disaster recovery is really concerned about how do plan to normalcy from disasters. DR is really part of BC. Many a times, DR is concerned with data, which might get destroyed, lost.

So how does one go about it? The key here is planning. For that you one need to understand and outline objectives. One may want to think about kind of strategy you want to have to when certain type of disasters strike. For that you want to carry out business impact analysis.

Disasters don’t take place everyday, but when they do they are very bad. So it is not really any good only having the plan, but not periodically testing it to see if it really works. The word periodically is very important here. The reason is that you business environment is changing all the time. You plan needs to be updated to reflect new business environment and also needs to be tested to ensure that your BC/DR objectives can be met in case of disasters. Many of you must have experienced mock-drills in your offices or in your buildings in the past. They are nothing but to test if the plan works.

Here are the some of the concepts and terminologies in the BC/DR domain and their general in meaning in lay language. This blog is just for awareness and make you realize the need here. This blog is not (and cannot be) a complete reference on the topic.

BCP: Business Continuity Planning is process in which organization identifies who and what of response to a disaster striking the business.

Business Impact Analysis(BIA): It is a systematic and structured process in which each business function is looked at and impact is assess, if disaster were to strike it. It is sort of risk analysis.

Crisis Management(CM): It is consists of set of activities and coordination of response to disaster or crisis.

RTO/RPO: RTO-recovery time objective, is the time within which IT systems/applications must be recovered after a disaster. While RPO-recovery point objective, is the point in time to which IT systems/applications must be recovered after a disaster.

BC/DR Site: It can be defined as an alternate work-area(office) site and also as a site where your IT workload and/or data is recovered.

Business continuity and disaster recovery is huge and serious endeavor any organization can take up to safe guard their interests. Every year we hear the losses incurred, and disruption experienced by businesses, customers, and people all over the world due to various events. It is important to educate all stakeholders, including employees about BC/DR. Many countries have laws in place for businesses to adhere to in this regard, as well as there are industry specific standards have been developed, which are required for compliance, for example BFSI industry, or health-care industry.

So, make most of this awareness week and look at your BC/DR needs, review your plans and if possible carry out mock tests for checking your preparedness.

Building Innovation Culture

I am big fan of innovation, at workplace and in general. I have always challenged people on that front. Earlier this year, I also conducted Hackathon in my organization to promote innovation culture. I have been involved in running and arranging meetups(CloudStack, VMUG) which spark the ideas, exposes problems yet to be solved. I thought of sharing my learning in this blog. I have written on this topic earlier also(see here: Innovation: Visible and Invisible). You may check my earlier blogs as well.

One can innovate and bring changes very easily. It is not that you need team locked in a room for days together for creating innovations. Most importantly, innovation need not be a game of chance. If you keep your eyes, and ears wide open, usually, you would find opportunities to innovate. Innovations, of course, can be internal or external. Internal ones are usually towards processes, collaboration, automation, or any idea which can streamline experiences internally and help teams do more, and effectively. External ones are usually related to your customers, value you are bringing, problems which you are solving for them, and more importantly how.

Innovation Culture: Image Courtesy-Internet

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has proven yet again that necessity is mother of innovation, invention, progress. As one can, in last 5-6 months, world has seen paradigm shifts in almost every domain, new innovative ways of tacking old problems in some cases, and in others, solving new problems.

There is not much option to innovate in this ever changing world. So, it is important to pay attention to what is changing in your problem domain, your customers. Once you understand, then you are in better position to solve by innovating your solutions for them. Approaches such as design thinking can help here. It is everyone’s responsibility to consciously take efforts to ask questions and find out what is changing. They can be around assumptions made, dependencies which are there or need not be there, what pain points are seen on the way,

As design thinking approaches suggests, to supplement and validate your observations of customers/users, surveys can be helpful, or even interviews in formal or even in informal setting can be useful. These, are, of course, methodical or formal ways.

Another innovation strategy is to look out for leaders in your problem domain, understand what they have done and find out what other alternatives, better ways it can be done. This principle can be applied in organizations also, to learn from innovations and improvements from other teams/departments.

Ideation is fundamental to innovation progress. Many factors such as need vs want, value, feasibility, usefulness, prototyping, proof of concepts etc. Innovation attempts many times can be disasters, can ultimately result in failure in this fast moving market. Failure needs to be celebrated, as it is stepping stone towards success. Embracing failures is essential ingredient of building innovation culture.

What has been your experience with innovation? Feel free to share.

Internet in India: 25 years

Today(Aug 15) it is India’s Independence Day. And Internet in India is 25 years old now! Can anyone believe it? We tend to assume that it has been there all the time. It was launched by Government of India via organization called VSNL(Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited) 25 years back on the eve of Independence Day, Aug 15, 1995. And nobody noticed it that time. It was not a big news at all. Now I wonder why it was not! I was in the USA that time, and did not know about it until I came back in 1998. The first thing I did was to visit VSNL office in Pune(at a remote village called Dighi) and get VSNL connection. I got my email ID too. It was so intuitive- prashant@giaspn01.vsnl.net.in! (Warning: Don’t send email to this email address, as it is now defunct!). VSNL is, of course, now called Tata Communications Ltd.

india1

The service was called GIAS(Gateway Internet Access Service). I also was provided a manual providing information on how to dial-in(yes, I am sure many of us remember that screeching noise of dialing through that 33kbps modem!), how to setup modem, how to login. I cannot seem to locate in my library, but I found online version still available here. The service essentially log in you to their Unix box. Mail client in Unix called Pine was used to check emails. Text based browser Lynx was used for browsing. And don’t even bring the topic of speed. It was in bytes and kilobytes. It is fun to go down the memory lane now.

I wonder how many know that Internet services in a different form was available in India even before this was launched. Many software companies such as CMC, Wipro, TCS, Patni Computer Systems, Mastek, Infosys etc were already operating for quite some time in India. Many universities and other research and scientific institutions were using connections to Internet in some form. The ERNET(Education Research Network), the universities network over TCP/IP was operating as many might know. Let me tell you what I know and what I had used whatever I remember.

I was working for startup back then. Silicon Valley startup wanted to start Pune operations in 1994. Myself and couple of other engineers started. Back then, before era of BSNL and VSNL, there was DoT (Department of Telecommunication) who would provide telephone connections. DoT also had a data service called INET over landline modem for businesses. This was X.25 service(packet switched data network) connecting to MCI then. I still remembering making trips to DoT office in Pune in camp area meeting staff there to troubleshoot connectivity problems.

Our requirement was to transfer code, binaries we were working on that time regularly to out teams in Silicon Valley. We used INET for that. We would dial-in into DoT number to get access to X.25 Packet Assembler-Disassembler (PAD) which would actually transfer files. The speed obviously quite low, and many times we would be in office all night to send our release to team on the other side. The connections also would drop many times. It was required to monitor, and send the remaining files in parts. The resultant files would be assembled back using uuencode/uudecode tools. For emails, we would use MCIMail service. I also remember connecting to Compuserve too that time, was one of the pioneering Internet Service Provider(ISP) in the USA. It was quite popular back then, with many BBS(Board Bulletin Service) kind features.

Wow! Those were days, early days of some of us experiencing the Internet revolution in front of eyes, which has occupied every part of life these days. It is amazing to see where we are in 2020, twenty five years later, and also where we are going! Today, India dedicated high speed optical fiber link to mainland India for islands Andman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep which takes Internet even further in India.

Anyways, here is a first part of blog series, I had started to talk about computers then and now. You may find it relevant and interesting.

इंडस्ट्री ४.० आणि आपण

सध्या कोरोनाव्हायरसच्या(COVID-19) फैलावामुळे लॉकडाऊन असल्यामुळे सगळ्यांना सक्तीने घरीच राहावे लागते आहे. दुरचित्रवाणीवर रामायण महाभारत या सारख्या जुन्या मालिका परत येत आहेत. मी सुद्धा तारक मेहता का उल्टा चष्मा या सारख्या मालिकेचे जुने भाग पाहतोय. सब ह्या दूरचित्रवाणी वाहिनीवर जवळ जवळ दहा वर्षांपासून ही मालिका सुरु आहे. ती हलकी फुलकी, रोजच्या जीवनातील घडामोडींवर उपहास, तसेच विविध स्वभावांची लोकं एका हाउसिंग सोसायटीत राहणारे, त्यातून निर्माण होणाऱ्या गमती जमती  त्यात असतात. ती  मी आवडीने पाहत असतो. परवा एक जुना भाग पुनःप्रक्षेपित केलेला पहिला. त्या मालिकेत सात आठ वर्षांपूर्वीच्या एका भागात, त्यात असलेली भिडे नामक मराठी व्यक्ती आपल्या मित्राकडून स्कूटर उसनी आणते. मित्रासाठी ती स्कूटर जीव की प्राण असते. तिच्याशी तो बोलत असे. त्याचे नाव बंड्या असे त्याने ठेवले असते. स्कूटर सुरु करण्यासाठी बंड्या, चल आता असे म्हटले कि सुरु होईल; बंड्या, थांब आता, असे म्हटले कि थांबेल असे तो भिडेला म्हणतो.  त्या वेळी ते सर्व हास्यास्पद वाटत होते. अर्थात त्याचे स्कूटरवरील अतिप्रेम दाखवण्यासाठी हे असे केले होते(त्या अतिशयोक्ती मुळे परवा देखील हसू आले होते). लहानपणी मी आजोळी जात असे. आणि बैलगाडीमधून प्रवास होत असे. त्यावेळी गाडीवान दादा बैलांशी बोलत बैलगाडी चालवत असे, थांबवत असे, अर्थात लगाम देखील होता असे हे आठवले. असो. आठ-दहा वर्षांपूर्वी असे नुसत्या बोलण्याने स्कूटर चालू बंद होणे नक्कीच शक्य नव्हते. पण आज ते नक्कीच शक्य आहे, नाही तर ते प्रत्यक्षात पाहू शकतो!

कसे काय? अहो तेच तर सांगणार आहे, हे सर्व शक्य आहे ते इंडस्ट्री ४.० मुळे. मानवी आवाजाद्वारे यंत्रांशी, उपकरणांशी संवाद साधणे आज सहज शक्य आहे ह्या नवीन तंत्रज्ञानामुळे. इंडस्ट्री ४.० मध्ये शिरण्याआधी इंडस्ट्री १.०, इंडस्ट्री २.० आणि इंडस्ट्री ३.० काय आहे हे थोडक्यात समजावून घेणे अगत्याचे आहे. हे चार शब्द निगडीत आहेत ते  औद्योगीकरणाचे ढोबळ मानाने पडलेले टप्पे म्हणता येईल, त्याच्याशी.

पहिला टप्पा अठराव्या शतकात सुरु झाला, वाफेवरील इंजिन सुरु झाल्यामुळे, रेल्वे सुरु झाली. औद्योगिक क्रांती झाली. यांत्रीकीकरण सुरु झाले. अर्थात याच्या आधी तसे काही नव्हते का? होते की, विशेषतः भारतात आणि इतर अतिप्राचीन संस्कृतींमध्ये विविध प्रकारचे उद्योग होतेच. चाकाचा शोध लागला तेव्हापासूनच उद्योग सुरु झाला. पण आपण विचार करोत तो आधुनिक जगताचा. असो. या नंतरचा टप्पा विजेच्या शोधाचा आणि त्याच्या वापराचा. विजेचा यांत्रिकीकरण मोठ्या प्रमाणावर करण्यासाठी केला जाऊ लागला. त्या मुळे मोठ्या संख्येने वस्तू निर्माण करण्यासाठी कारखाने उभारले गेले तो काळ, म्हणजे साधारण एकोणिसावे शतक. विसाव्या शतकात तिसरा टप्पा जो संगणकयुग अवतरले तेव्हाचा. संगणक वापरून उत्पादन अनेक पटीने वाढवण्यात यश आले. प्रामुख्याने Programmable Logic Controller(PLC) किंवा micro-controllers वापरून कारखाने, उत्पादन क्षमता आपोआप नियंत्रित करण्यात येऊ लागली. उत्पादन, काम आणखीन वेगाने आणि अचूक होऊ लागले. मी ह्या टप्प्याचा साक्षीदार आहे. वीस एक वर्षांपूर्वी अशी कामे करणाऱ्या एका ठिकाणी(B&R Industrial Automation) मी नोकरी करत असे. हे सर्व मी जवळून पहिले आहे. त्याच काळात यंत्रमानव(robot) सुद्धा सर्रास वापरला जाऊन लागला.

आताचा, सध्याचा जो टप्पा आहे त्यात संगणक तर, या ना त्या स्वरूपात आहेतच. पण आंतरजालाचा, क्लाऊड तंत्रज्ञान, सेन्सर्स(IoT-Internet of Things), कृत्रिम बुद्धिमत्ता, भाषा तंत्रज्ञान इत्यादी वापरून औद्योगीकरणाच्या नवनवीन शक्यता ज्यात मानव आणि तंत्रज्ञान यांच्या भूमिका बदलत जाणाऱ्या, येत आहेत. ह्या सर्वांमुळे नुसती औद्योगिक क्षेत्रात उलथापालथ होणार नाही, तर जीवनातल्या विविध क्षेत्रात उलथापालथ होणार आहे. रोबो आता औद्योगिक क्षेत्रातून बाहेर येऊन माणसांसारखी उमेदवारांच्या मुलाखती घेत आहेत, बातम्या देत आहेत, विविध सेवा क्षेत्रात ग्राहकांच्या समस्या सोडवण्यासाठी chatbot आहेत, ज्यात आपण यंत्राशी संवाद साधत आहोत हे समजत देखील नाही. मोबाईल मधील नकाशा तंत्रज्ञान आणि भाषा तंत्रज्ञान यामुळे लोकांना अनोळख्या ठिकाणी प्रवास करणे सोपे होत आहे. यंत्र आणि उपकरणे आता पाहू शकतात आणि त्यावरून काय करायचे ते ओळखू शकतात(image processing, analysis, video processing, vision control). आता यामुळे काय होत आहे आणि काय काय होऊ शकेल याचा अंदाज तुम्ही बांधा. उदाहरणार्थ, हे सर्व वापरून घराची सुरक्षा आपोआप होऊ शकते. कोणी अनोळखी व्यक्ती घरात घुसली कि पोलिसांना आपोआप दूरध्वनी जाऊ शकतो. कारखान्यात उत्पादनाची गुणवत्ता हि अशी यंत्रे ठरवू शकतात, तेही अतिशय वेगाने आणि अचूक. आभासी-वास्तव तंत्रज्ञान(अर्थात महाभारतातील मयसभा! virtual, mixed, augmented reality) आणि वरील इतर गोष्टींमुळे देखील अनेक क्षेत्रात अनेक प्रकारे बदल होत आहेत.

अर्थात हि सर्व यंत्रणा कोरोनाव्हायरस सारख्या एखाद्या संगणक व्हायरस मुळे अथवा cyber attacks मुळे ठप्प होऊ शकते. त्यासाठी यंत्रणेमध्ये तितिक्षा(resiliency) हवी. या सर्वांमुळे cyber security हा परवलीचा शब्द आहे.

ह्या सर्व डिजिटल तंत्रज्ञानामुळे सगळी मानवजात नव्या युगात प्रवेश करते आहे, नव्हे केले आहे. खरे तर या सर्वांचा ह्या लॉकडाऊन दिवसात आपण अनुभव घेतो आहोतच. कित्येक गोष्टी आपण आज घर बसल्या करतो आहोत. त्या मागे इंडस्ट्री ४.० मध्ये असलेली अनेक गोष्टी आहेत. ह्या ब्रह्मांडातील पंचमहाभूतांबरोबर, सहावे महाभूत(अर्थात संगणक आणि त्याचासोबतचे इतर तंत्रज्ञान) जळी स्थळी आहे म्हणून लॉकडाऊन थोडेसे सुसह्य होत आहे. नशिबाने मी ह्याच क्षेत्रात असल्यामुळे हे सर्व होणारे बदल मी पाहतो आहे, त्यात माझा थोडाफार वाटा देखील आहे.

असो. आपण तारक मेहता का उल्टा चष्मा मालिकेतील स्कूटरचे उदाहरण परत पाहूयात. स्कूटर मधील असलेल्या माईकमुळे माणसाने(त्यातही स्कूटर मालकानेच बरं का!) दिलेली आज्ञा तो ऐकू शकतो, आंतरजालावरील भाषा तंत्रज्ञानामुळे ती काय आहे हे कळते, आणि तेथून परत स्कूटरकडे इंजिन चालू किंवा बंद करण्यासाठीची यंत्रणा कार्यान्वित केली जाते.  आता कळले ना कसे शक्य आहे ते स्कूटर चालू आणि बंद करणे, ते देखील नुसत्या बोलण्याने! पुढे असेही होऊ शकते की मानवी भावभावना यंत्राला कळतीलही. म्हणजे असे होईल कि प्रेमाने हळू आवाजात बोलले तरच स्कूटर चालू किंवा बंद होईल, रागावून बोलले, मारले तर, स्कूटर आपले ऐकणार नाही, हे लक्षात घ्या! आहोत का आपण तयार?

तुम्हाला जर इंडस्ट्री ४.० बद्दल आणखीन जाऊन घ्यायचे असेल तर एक संधी आहे. Centre for Industry 4.0(c4i4 Lab) ने आयोजित केलेल्या एका इंडस्ट्री ४.० वेबिनार मध्ये घर बसल्या तुम्हाला सहभागी होता येईल. हा वेबिनार पुढील आठवड्यात २३ एप्रिलला सुरु होत आहे.

 

General Magic

I happened to visit Seattle this summer. This was my second visit, that too with gap of more 2 decades. Last visit was very brief one, I recently went down the memory lane of that visit when I watched Top Gun. This visit was gave me ample time to explore the city. I am going to cover my experiences with the city on this blog with few articles. Today I am going to talk about my unique experience in Seattle which involved General Magic.

You must be wondering what is General Magic? For those who have been in the IT industry for a while would know that it was a name of the company in Bay Area in the USA, which was way ahead of its time. It had pioneered what we call today as smartphones. I distinctly remember my days in 1994 when I had just arrived in Bay Area, Silicon Valley. I remember coming across General Magic and also another company working on futuristic technology which interested me was DirecTV. This is still around, while General Magic got shut down.

The Grand Illusion Cinema

The Grand Illusion Cinema. Seattle

During my stay at Seattle last month, I was put in beautiful University of Washington area, also called as University District. One day as I was loitering on University Avenue, the small structure on the corner caught my attention. It had a name on it which said The Grand Illusion. I got curious. I went near to it. I saw another board, seeming like a show listing in old style, which said General Magic. The name struct in my head. I said what is it doing here after so many years? I went inside the building. It turned out to be a movie theater. In fact, century old movie theater. I was thrilled with my discovery. I asked about General Magic. The ticket master said it is a movie, is about that company. I was even more thrilled. I bought the 10 dollar ticket right away for a show an hour later that evening. I had completely forgotten about that company, as it was a failed venture. I was told by that young lady, that General Magic’s CEO Marc Porat was also present for the show on the earlier day!

The Grand Illusion Cinema

Movie General Magic at The Grand Illusion in Seattle

The theater The Grand Illusion was itself unique. Small box office with young high school girl sitting there. A book shelf consisting of books about art of making films, film appreciation. I saw some familiar titles there as I had gotten familiar to that field due to my course last year on film appreciation back in India. I was the only one that evening for the show, except another person turned in little later. I opened dialog with that young girl. while we waited for projectionist to arrive for the show. She was to go to Brazil for her further studies. She turned out to be interested in films, as I had guessed. I asked her about their association with University Of Washington, especially in the area of spreading art of film making, film appreciation. But to my disappointment, they were not unfortunately.

Anyways, coming back to the movie and General Magic itself. This movie is about this company which was founded in 1990. Many of the founders were from Apple. They wanted to work on revolutionary idea that was way ahead of its time, in the arena of personal communications. They devised earliest personal digital assistants(PDAs) as they were called that time, and now known as smartphones. The movie goes back in time to find out what happened, why it failed.

As the movie began with background voice saying powerful words “Failure isn’t the end, actually it is the beginning”, the documentary traces its roots in Apple Computers, where it started as a project, which later was spun off into a separate company General Magic. Many of Apple’s employees joined it including Marc Porat as his founder CEO. The passion, energy, the belief of the small team early on, including Bill Atkins, Andy Rubin(who created Android later), was quite amazing to watch in this documentary. But the idea was ahead of its time, the market probably was not ready. Making many partners including Sony, AT&T, Motorola, technologies work together was challenging. Despite the fact that announcements of plans generated lot of interests, it saw dismal sales. The film includes lot of original archival footage of drawings, photos, videos, interviews, which makes it fun to watch and relive the moments of that era, as you try to relate it. It even went IPO on this interest and hope, but never made it big.

But as it said in the documentary, the company never failed, as most of the ideas later materialized eventually in many products, smartphones we use these days. I recently read that Apple’s long time Chief Design Officer of Phone, Jony Ive has left Apple. He was instrumental in designing of earliest PDAs from Apple called Newton, which brought competition to General Magic’s products and that eventually made it die. This is, of course, was before iPhone. One more thing. Before Salesforce and Amazon made cloud computing popular and commercial, General Magic was first one in 1994 to use the term cloud to describe one of its service. As per Wiki, the use of the cloud metaphor for virtualized services dates at least to General Magic in 1994, where it was used to describe the universe of “places” that mobile agents in the Telescript environment could go.

Anyways, not sure if this movie will make it to India. But if you find it anywhere, grab it!

VMUG Pune Events

I have written in the past on VMware conferences(such as vFORUM) I have attended. I have been hearing about community event called VMware User Group (VMUG), organized by VMware users across the world in different cities. In the city of Pune, where I work and live, it started last year. An idea of hosting VMUG event occurred to me and my colleagues at Sungard Availability Services, to extend our support to such a community initiative. I am, in particular, a strong advocate of community events in field of technology, for sheer reason, that, it is the best way to learn and spread the knowledge. I have ran and hosted in the past community events for CloudStack in Pune. I have written about it here in the past.

VMUG is young community, just turned one. I was got associated with their last two events. Th first one was the one I helped host it. The event happened on April 13 this year at Pune’s EON IT Park where Sungard Availability Services(Sungard AS) is located. It was warm morning of Saturday. The event had an agenda of half-day on the weekend. It was great turnout and was amazing to see excitement and willingness of community to share and participate. Incidentally, this event was hosted outside VMware office for the very first time. All the three events earlier happened at VMware’s Pune office.

VMUG Pune April 13, 2019

VMUG Pune Hosted by Sungard AS

The morning began with a video message of Sanjay Poonen, who is VMware COO. It got us going. The VMUG leadership shared highlights of VMUG summit which had taken place in Las Vegas earlier this year. Then followed a keynote by head of VMware India Education, which generated lot of excitement in the audience as it covered various aspects of certifications. It was followed by two VMUG Tech Talks. One of them was Ritesh Shenoy, from Sungard AS, on SRM setup with Storage Policy Protection Group(SPPG) feature of VMware, and the other was by Udayendu Kar on Ansible in VMware. The event also happened to spread awareness about bringing back those women to work who had taken break for various reasons. Specifically, what VMware is doing about helping such women, training them on VMware technologies free of cost. This initiative is called Project Taara.

They sponsor session, by Sungard AS, was also interesting, generating interesting in the audience on disaster recovery practices after hearing few real life cases. I was also happy to part of that session on the stage, sharing and answering questions on disaster recovery. The event also saw online quiz too with rewards to winners, and the topic was vSAN, which is critical component of VMware infrastructure.

The audience left the event looking forward for next event which was to be first anniversary meet. This event was sponsored by one of the earliest Pune based product companies called Veritas and an IoT startup SmartEdge.

I happened to attend incidentally that too yesterday(July 13) at Pune’s J W Marriott hotel. The location was apt, and it saw record breaking crowd, exceeding 100 associates. I happened to reach the venue bit late, about the time when keynote was going on by VMware’s Amol Diwanji on upcoming trends on VMware technology stack such as Kubernetes among others. At the end, he also reminded everyone about initiative by VMware called Project Taara as well.

VMUG Pune, July 13, 2019

VMUG Pune First Anniversary EVent

Then followed a VMUG tech talk by VMware’s Vikas Shitole, on vSphere automation, which was primarily focused on APIs. I particularly liked this session as it seemed he was passionate about what he was talking about. Automation and APIs are going to be defining in infrastructure space soon, if not already. Everyone needs to latch on them to reap benefits of automation. You can follow him on his interesting technical blog titled vThinkBeyondVM on VMware technologies.

Then there were two sponsor sessions, which I was looking forward to. The first one was from Veritas’ product manager, Bahar Shah, on NetBackup which captured the history and current trends, especially, in this world of data explosion. The other one was by Shekhar Joshi of SmartEdge on software defined data center(SDDC), aspects of service catalog based delivery, and also aspects of IoT using VMware. His session was quite engaging and entertaining to say the least.

Both these events turned out to be time well spent, in terms of hearing on the trends, meeting people, seeing the passion community has.

Mobile Wallets in India

This was article I wrote during my Product Management course I am taking with UpGrad. It is available as a post on Medium.com portal.

Introduction

India is among the top countries where number of smart phone owners, users is very high. With such penetration in the market, various innovative applications of smart phone to solve day to day problems faced by citizens have sprung up off late. One of them is payment for your purchases through mobile wallets. Companies such as Paytm has been pioneer into this space. Indian government also has been working steadily in the background to build ecosystem for banks to provide cashless options(such as Unified Payment Interface-UPI) to customers, which I had discussed in another article on something called India Stack in the past on my blog. In this article, let’s try to understand where does this space stand in terms of adoption.

What is the state today?

In case of mobile wallets in India, it is very interesting case study, if you look at it. When services such as Paytm and others were launched, they, of course, had their own challenges in spreading this to masses. Towards end of 2017 when Indian government decided to implement demonetization, there was a period when cash available in the market was scarce. This forced vendors, customers switch to other methods of paying for daily needs and purchases. This saw a big impetus and push for mobile wallets products in those months. The adoption sky-rocketed and zoomed beyond expectations. One started seeing sign boards, even at small, street side petty vendors such as tea shops, snacks shops, fruit vendor, saying ‘Paytm Accepted’ . This was unprecedented and there was revolution in making. Paytm went through the life-cycle of adoption very rapidly. Before we go further, let’s understand what is product adoption life cycle.

What is product adoption life cycle?

Acceptance of any new product, service or innovation(let’s call it collectively as product for simplicity) in the market, goes through various phases. This depends on demographic, social/cultural aspects, psychological and even political aspects of the user/customer base. This is illustrated by Roger’s bell curve as shown below.

Roger’s bell curve, courtesy: Wikipedia

For any given product, you will typically find very few adopters at the beginning. Those who are the first ones are called innovators as they see ahead of others the need of the product and benefits it can bring. The next ones are early which is slightly larger chunk of the society who are willing to try out the product-they are early adopters. The laggards are the last ones which also constitute similar percentage of the society who typically are averse to change, apprehensive about technology etc. The middle part of the bell curve where majority of the adoption happens. And this can take time, and one needs to devise strategies to reach there. Now Let’s dig down further to understand what happened actually.

Mobile wallets adoption phases

Money matters, and especially, when one does not see it. We, in India, feel most comfortable dealing in cash, as we can touch and feel it. With advent of credit cards and debit cards few decades back in India, this habit of cash started slowly reducing. In the last decade, the wide spread of mobile technologies and customers feeling comfortable using smart phones, this created opportunities for companies such as Paytm to come out with payment products such as mobile wallets. It obviously faced challenge at the beginning, finally it is money. The security was major concern. Technically savvy and young population who are comfortable with smart phones were the ones who quickly got into it(innovators). Later, with promotional offers such as rewards, cash backs, discounts etc, users started getting little open with it and started experiencing the convenience of using it(early adopters). And finally, the adoption reached mass scale(majority adopters) very fast, due to government regulation. There are still some who sailed through note ban, demonetization and population who is still not comfortable with smart phones, who are still yet to adopt. This population is generally elderly citizens(for example, my mother) and not savvy with English enough yet. These constitute laggards in terms of adopters for this product.

Mobile wallets and other payment methods

In the market segment of payments, especially, cashless payments, mobile wallets is the not the only option. Let’s look at other options are there, and how they impact the adoption and penetration in the market. Apart from traditional cash less options such as credit card, debit card, we have these days UPI enabled BHIM app provided by Government of India, which works with any bank which smart phone user may have account with. The banks also have their own apps for cash less payments as well. The other ones which has come up is Near Field Communication(NFC) method. Mobile wallets market itself is now crowded with multiple mobile wallet providers(direct competitors), which is anyway another topic. One of the factors impacting growth of mobile wallet products is also government regulations well to protect consumer’s interests. Right now, there is a limit on how much you can load in wallets. Other regulations include stricter Know Your Customer(KYC) norms. Despite these hurdles, mobile wallets has a huge potential to grow. As per one industry report, mobile wallets transactions are set to cross 1 trillion INR in 2018. Let’s look at some of the user acquisition and growth strategies followed by mobile wallet companies.

Growth hacks

In the consumer and retail space, especially with mobile, and online presence, due to social media connection, one can really get viral growth. And the growth typically means here user acquisition. One the biggest user acquisition tactics used here is cash backs. Other one which used often is first user service is free of charges to consumers. For example, if you pay first recharge for the mobile, using mobile wallet such as Paytm, first recharge is free. It entices the young generation and pulls them in using the product. Other is tie ups with various other service providers such as cab aggregators such as Uber or Ola. Consumers end up enjoying discounts and benefits on both sides. References and likes on social media adds viral angle for quick growth, if done correctly. Connecting with consumers emotions is also very common tactic used. In case of Paytm, their tag line “Handcrafted in India” is very catchy.

Summary

Mobile wallets is a big business in India, due to sheer demographic considerations and mobile penetration. The last year’s demonetization has given a big push towards adoption to it already. The most innovative vendors are already over the hump. There is definitely lot of direct and indirect competition in the market. Those vendors with safe, secure, ease of use features, multiple options for other service providers, frequent discounts for loyal consumers, will make vendors to retain their consumer base. After which, to monetize the user base further, this also will enable mobile wallet providers to venture into various other value added services such mobile bank and others. Nonetheless, this market segment round digital payments will see huge growth in coming years for sure, despite the fact that cash will continue to rule.

यंत्रमानव आणि मन

संगणकाच्या सुरुवातीच्या काळापासूनच कृत्रिम बुद्धिमत्ता(artificial intelligence, AI) या विषयावर सातत्याने संशोधन चालू आहे. Alan Turing हे त्यातील महत्वाचे नाव, आणि त्याची नुकतीच जन्मशताब्दी साजरी झाली. एकविसाव्या शतकात संगणकाने जीवन व्यापून टाकणाऱ्या सार्वत्रिक अस्तित्वामुळे कृत्रिम बुद्धिमत्ता(AI, analytics, big data, fuzzy logic etc) वापरून अनेक ठिकाणी आपले जीवन सुकर करण्याचे, व्यवसाय वृद्धी क्षेत्रात आणि इतर ठिकाणी फायदा होत आहे. यंत्रमानवाचे देखील तेच. कारखान्यापासून, अंतराळक्षेत्रात, शस्त्रक्रिया करणे इत्यादी आणि इतर अनेक क्षेत्रात त्यांचा वापर कित्येक वर्षांपासून होतो आहे. यामुळे मानवाला फायदाच झाला आहे. कृत्रिम बुद्धिमत्ता या विषयाच्या अनुषंगाने यंत्रमानव हा विषय देखील तितकाच प्रसिद्ध आहे. दोन्ही विषयांचे अनेक कंगोरे आहेत, बरेच तात्विक, नैतिक प्रश्न देखील चर्चिले गेले आहेत आणि जात आहेत. तत्त्वज्ञान क्षेत्रासाठी हा अतिशय जटील प्रश्न आहे. या यंत्रमानवाला मानवासारखे मन लाभले तर?

कालच यंत्रमानव आणि मन, भावना यांची चर्चा करणारा एक इंग्रजी सिनेमा पाहिला. त्याचे नाव Ex Machina. त्यात एव्हा नावाची महिला यंत्रमानव(humanoid) असते.  या आधीही robots, humanoids या विषयावर अनेक पुस्तके, सिनेमे(एक यादी येथे पाहता येईल) येऊन गेले आहेत(science fiction या स्वरूपात). पण यंत्रमानव आणि मन, भावना(consciousness या अर्थी) यांची प्रदीर्घ तात्विक, नैतिक चर्चा करणारा हा मी पाहिलेला पहिला सिनेमा असेल. ह्या एव्हाच्या मनात(की एव्हा ह्या यंत्रात असे म्हण्याचे?) संशय, मत्सर, प्रेम, आपुलकी, विरुद्धलिंगी आकर्षण ह्या भावना निर्माण होतात, आणि त्यातून ज्या समस्या निर्माण होतात त्याचे चित्रण हा सिनेमा करतो. चित्रपटात शेवटच्या दृश्यात Issac Asimov ने सांगितलेल्या robotics च्या तीन नियामांपैकी एकाचे हा उल्लंघन करतो.

काही महिन्यांपूर्वीच वर्तमानपत्रातून बातमी वाचली होती की सौदी अरेबिया देशाने एका यंत्रमानवाला नागरिकत्व बहाल केले आहे. या यंत्रमानवाचे नाव आहे सोफिया, म्हणजे महिला यंत्रमानव आहे असे समजायला हरकत नाही. आता प्रश्न असा आहे, की ज्या देशात महिलांना अजून कितीतरी अधिकार दिले गेले नाहीत, जसे की मोटार गाडी चालवणे(जो इतक्यातच दिला गेला आहे), बुरखा वगैरे, तेथे, अशा महिला यंत्रमानवाची काय परिस्थिती असणार आहे? मजेशीर प्रश्न आहे, नाही? मानवाने यंत्रमानव निर्माण केला म्हणजे त्याच्यावर मानवाचे नियंत्रण पाहिजे, आणि तसे नसेल तर काय होऊ शकते हे अनेक पुस्तकातून, चित्रपटांमधून पाहता येते. आणि दुसरे जास्ती महत्वाचे म्हणजे त्या सोफियाच्या नागरिकत्वाचे जे अनेक पैलू आहेत, ज्याचा मानवी मन, भावना यांच्याशी देखील काही अर्थाने संबंध येतो, त्याचे काय करायचे? सोफियाने असे संगितले आहे असे वाचले की तीला आता तिचे कुटुंब हवे आहे, म्हणजे पती, मुले वगैरे असाच अर्थ घ्यायचा. सोफिया जर स्वतंत्र नागरिक असेल तर तिच्यावर मानवाचे नियंत्रण नसायला हवे. तसे नसेल तर काय होईल? Ex Machina हा सिनेमा पाहून, सोफियाच्या बातम्या वाचून मन सुन्न झाले. हे सगळे प्रश्न कसे सुटणार?

नुकतेच असे वाचले की रशियात उमेदवारांची मुलाखत घेणारे व्हेरा नावाचे एक यंत्रमानव आहे. तेही परत एक महिला यंत्रमानवच! एखाद्या विषयावरील प्रश्न मुलाखतीत विचारून उत्तर तपासून व्यक्ती बाद की नाही हे ठरवणे एक गोष्ट आहे, पण मुलाखतीत इतर अनेक गोष्टी मानवी मुलाखतकार करत असतो, त्याचे काय? वर वर पाहता सोफिया जरी एक रोबो आहे असे दिसते, पण ते म्हणे लोकांशी संवाद साधणारे एक smart chatbot आहे असे The Verge मधील या लेखात म्हटले आहे. सोफियाची निर्मिती करणाऱ्या संस्थेच्या प्रमुख तंत्रज्ञान अधिकाऱ्याची मुलाखत देखील हेच सांगते. तीला नागरीकत्व देणे हा एक स्टंट आहे असे वाटले तरी त्यातून अनेक प्रश्न निर्माण होत आहेत, तसेच या विषयाच्या तंत्रज्ञानाची प्रगती पाहता हे सर्व लवकरच प्रत्यक्षात येऊ शकते. तेव्हा काय करायचे? मानव आणि यंत्रमानव याच्यातील सीमारेषा पुसट होत चालल्या आहेत. एव्हा, सोफिया, व्हेरा काय या सगळ्या महिला यंत्रमानव याचेच उदाहरण आहे. मानव याचा अर्थ मन असणारा अशीही एक व्याख्या आहे. यंत्रमानवाची व्याख्यादेखील तशीच होणार असेल तर? खूप वर्षांपूर्वीच(१९९१ मध्ये) Machinery of Mind हे George Johnson कृत पुस्तक मी वाचले होते. त्यात artificial intelligence ह्या क्षेत्राचा विस्तृत आढावा घेण्यात आला होता, तसेच पुढे काय होऊ शकेल, संभाव्य धोके काय याची चर्चा केली गेली होती.

VMware vFORUM 2017, Part#2

This blog is second and last part of my time at VMware’s vFORUM conference which took place in Mumbai this month(Oct 2017). You can refer this blog for first part. The second and the last of the conference was all out parallel breakout sessions. I learnt today that there was partner evening for VMware’s partners, evening prior to day#1 of the conference. I would have loved to be part of that to get special insights meant for partners. Anyways, that is different story now. As I entered the venue(J W Marriott in Mumbai, near Sahar Airport), I noticed crowd was significantly smaller. Second day’s agenda was divided into four parallel tracks. One of them was Hands On Lab(HOL) which has become very popular among VMware administrators and technicians. The other was titled as Educational Services, which is targeted towards VMware certification aspirants. This is also very popular. The other two were technical tracks, to which I stuck with mostly.

I was very excited about an opening session by none other than distinguished professor and veteran from Computer Science department at Indian Institute of Bombay(IIT), Dr D B Pathak who was to talk of his experience of setting up VMware private cloud. He has associated with research in DBMS field for long time, which has been my early life interest. I have attended COMAD and VLDB conferences in the past, also in which he has been actively involved. He talked of how IIT Bombay went about working with VMware on setting up private cloud to host internal applications meant for students mostly. He also later touched upon experiences of sharing tutorial videos on the cloud and what kind of challenges on bandwidth he faced etc. On the other track, the first session was on the latest of vSphere which was about 6.5 Update 1 where the presenter talked of some features such as ESXi upgrade without rebooting, VIC(VMware Integrated Container) etc. The product walk-through website of VMware covers these in more details.

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The second session on the first track was on vSAN’s latest features. This technology has been around from VMware for sometime now, providing software defined storage off commodity hardware. It has been integral part of VMware hyper converged infrastructure(HCI). After this, I stayed in the same track, for third session which was VxRail from DellEMC. I was interested in this too, as I was aware of VCE Vblock, a earlier avatar of VxRail. VCE was acquired by DellEMC sometime back. I was curious to understand what they were up to. It was obvious that VxRail was a HCI solution, as VCE Vblock was CI solution in the market that time.

Post tea-break sessions on both track were interesting. One was on micro-segmentation using NSX and other was on IoT. Micro-segmentation is an approach these days followed with theme of “trust no one”, to get deepest level granular security based on policies. But I had not heard of IoT initiatives from VMware, though it was unlikely that they would not jump on the bandwagon. So I decided to lend my ears there. With IoT, we talk of security and also diverse devices(called things and edge). The presenter talked about offering such as VMware Pulse IoT Center and Little IoT Agent(Liota). Liota is an open source IoT SDK, which help developers to develop agents which ultimately sit on IoT gateways/things/edge systems collecting data and sending back to data center/cloud. I recently learnt that the famous dairy Chitale Dairy is adopting VMware IoT at their farms and facilities. In fact, they also have been one of the early adopters of VMware platform, it is well-known case study famous by name Cows to Cloud

Out of next two parallel session, one was about vRealize Network Insights(VNI) which I skipped as I am kind of up-to-date on that. This is very power tool, as part of VMware Cloud Foundation and vRealize suit. The second parallel session going on was on containers which is what I was curious about, as I had thought that containers were actually threat to virtualization in a way., when I had heard of containers for the first time. It discussed VMware Photon OS Platform, VMware Integrated Container and lastly Pivotal Container Service(PKS) in which VMware is also involved. I actually came out very confused with different offering from VMware and left me clueless. It will take some to understand the real difference between all these.

Fortunately, there was a lunch break, I was feeling hungry, and that confusion on containers added to my spinning head! Lunch calmed me down a bit, and I deferred containers for later time. There were four sessions lined up on both the technical tracks. My mind was already planning for return journey from Mumbai to Pune, which can be nightmarish experience if it is too late in Mumbai in the evening. I decided to give a skip to last two sessions in track#1 which were about VMware SRM and multi-cloud assessment. I was not quite interested on track#2 post-lunch sessions(very different/diverse topics-VMware troubleshooting, Workspace ONE Analytics, AppDefense security, VMware Integrated OpenStack).

The two sessions which I attended post-lunch were on vRealize Automation(vRA) 7.3 features, intelligent operations in SDDC world. Both were seemingly related and provided continuity, which I liked. Plus they were very relevant and related to what I am going through. vRA has been having blueprints and design canvas for designing workflows. Now it can support parameter based blueprints which reduces sprawl and enhances reusablity. The presenter talked of tighter integration with NSX for vRA as well in this release such as security tag support, ServiceNow integration, container management. vRA is very powerful tool of vRealize suit. The next session, as said earlier was on intelligent operations management with vRealize tools. The presenter started listing down challenges faced by operations these days such alert storms, lack of cost insight, public cloud support, over provisioning, IT silos, overload of monitoring data, also lack on knowing about something until user calls etc.  This is where vRealize suit of tools come handy and I kind of vouch for that. vRealize tool set has Automation which was talked about earlier, Network Insight, Log Insight, Business, Operations which help to get around aforementioned challenges. Some of the features discussed included-persona based dashboard(ie type of user based), custom view of data center, log analytics capabilities, ability to send alarms to chat rooms/ticketing etc, performance management capabilities including show-back and charge-back features.

After this, there was a break for tea, and followed by couple of more sessions till evening. I took that opportunity, and headed towards Pune to beat the traffic to reach home reasonable time. Conferences such as these can be overwhelming at times, with information overload. I used the time in the car for analysis and prioritization for myself, and no wonder, it left me tired and drained as I reached home.

VMware vFORUM Mumbai

VMware vFORUM 2017, Part#1

Sometime back I had read a LinkedIn article by State Bank Of India(SBI) CTO on some of the modernization initiatives, which are largely based out technological foundations. I don’t remember how I landed on that blog, but it did talk about how they are transforming by adopting virtualization and private cloud technologies. It was amusing to learn that SBI had aptly christened their private cloud as Meghdoot, an obvious reference to Indian classic drama text of the same name. Since decade and half or bit more than that, virtualization technologies like the ones from VMware have transformed businesses in the western world. The similar wave is now taking place in India’s businesses as well with Digital India initiatives. So when I learnt about VMware’s conference in Mumbai, I was too excited to join and witness the latest from VMware.

It has been long time since I had attended VMware conference. The vFORUM conference has been around since last 4-5 years, and is typically followed by VMware World conference in the USA. This one was in Mumbai, and ran over two days. The first day had opening keynote address from Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, which ran 90 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by that, he doing that long a keynote. He covered many topics right from the fact that how technologies are changing around us, to all the way up to talking of some of the newer products from VMware. He was involved in a chat with CIOs of two of his biggest customers in India-SBI and Airtel which was very interesting to hear their stories of transformation.

VMware vFORUM Mumbai

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger in conversation with SBI CIO Mrutyunjay Mahapatra

The next was a technology keynote was from VMware’s CTO for Asia, Pacific and Japan Bruce Davie. His was a technology keynote mainly focusing on a theme called infrastructure as a code, which is the genesis of software defined data center(SDDC). He also touched upon container services initiatives by VMware. He also touched upon NSX and security technologies, who it is helping organizations to manage consistent network and security across various clouds. Then followed a showcase keynote which included a session by VMware COO Raghu Raghuram. His theme was around multi-cloud strategy and what VMware is doing for it, with addition of hybrid cloud support from VMware. He also observed that public clouds are new silos, by giving analogy of Unix world when there many flavors of Unix operating systems, and some of the technologies from VMware which addresses these things for consistent infrastructure and consistent operations across.

Post lunch sessions were three parallel breakout sessions, with themes such as Modernize Data Center, Transform Security and Empower Digital Workspace. The last one I skipped completely, as it was more towards IT landscape. I was more interested in earlier two themes, being a technologists. I began with a first session of track#1 which was for Modernize Data Center. The presenter began talking of traits of innovative business which include agility, differentiation, innovation, speed, pragmatism. To support these traits, he spoke of what VMware is doing via VMware Realize suite of products supporting automation, service catalog, intelligent operations via metrics analytics etc.

After this for next three sessions till end of the day, I stuck to track#2 which was about supposed to be on security. Not sure how, NetApp Hyper Converged Infrastructure(HCI) related session was schedule here though. I anyways listened to it with amusement. Technology trends are funny sometimes and they go full circle at times. Similar things have happened for non-converged and converged ecosystems, having advocates for both parties. I wondered why NetApp, which is mainly a storage vendor, forayed into HCI market. And I could not find satisfying answer than anything else but Me Too! Anyways, next one this track was one from Palo Alto Networks, which was on NSX integration. I went with little bit of skepticism, as to why would anyone want anything on top of NSX which is so advanced and takes care of almost everything in the terms of modern software defined networking aspects, including security, which is what Palo Alto Networks is about. As things unfolded in the session, the speaker spoke of VM-Series for NSX, which is basically managing advanced security for multiple NSX in the IT landscape, came as a striking point. The last session I attended in the same track was on NSX again, covering some of repeated topics earlier, as to who NSX helps in hybrid and multi-cloud strategy, with a bit of deep-dive.

All in all, the day#1 was OK, more was expected from day#2. This is supposed to technology roadshow by VMware. The crowds were huge, but I did not find more than 3-4 partners showcasing their offerings, wonder why. I will share a note on day#2 as well soon right here, come back and have a check.