Monday, November 23, 2009

Cloud Computing: my thoughts

I love the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. The 2009 version lists cloud computing at the 'Peak of Inflated Expectations.' Which means that, we are up for disappointment. But are we?

While several aspects of cloud computing are completely new, I would argue that it has been around for a while. When I first joined in 2002, it was an Application Service Provider (ASP), providing technology for companies to manage their transportation needs online, without a need for installing any software. It was soon acquired by Manhattan Associates which provided installed software. We worked for an year to enable our software to be packaged, and installed at the client's site. In 2007, we were back to where we starting, positioning our Software as a Service (SaaS) capabilities to target medium sized customers, who did not want to install software on-premises. Of course, this is very similar to Cloud Computing, as far as Business Software is concerned. I am sure MANH would be repositioning the software as a Cloud Computing Solution.

But back to the original question: are we in for a disappointment? I would argue that there are several factors working for and against cloud computing:


Sales people - yes you heard that right. Salespeople. Like I was. Why? Very simple - most companies haven't figured out a model for paying salespeople for selling Cloud Computing technology, especially as payments come a recurring installments rather than lumpsum payments. Ask any sales guy what he would want - a $100K payment in lumpsum, or four payments of $30K per year for the next four years? The 100K would be much preferred

IT Departments - IT Departments have much less work to do if the application is delivered over the cloud; in effect, you are outsourcing most of the IT maintainence work to the provider.In addition, IT Departments hate to lost control.

Economics - For major applications, like ERP, supply chain systems, I would argue that the economics do not vary much between buying and maintain the software vs. using it SaaS, especially for larger companies. Think of it; fundamentally what changes? The software is still being hosted on a server and database server. The server and DB server are still very efficiently used in the installed environment, because of the high needs of the company. So in one way or the other, things need to be paid for


Flexibility & Scalability - This is the single biggest driver for cloud computing. Several scenarios work very well for this, but perhaps no better than if you launch a new startup, you can just pay for usage. If things go well, your application is used more, your bills (and hopefully revenue) increase. If things do not go well, just end your service, pay your final bill, and you are done.

Cost - If the application usage is limited, and a lot of different clients can work off the same server/group of servers and use the computing resources more efficiently, the cost automatically goes down. Include the cost of installation, and cloud computing suddenly sounds like a much better option

Try before you buy - doesn't need much explanation

What applications are then prime for Cloud usage?

  • File Storage - example, Rackspace's Cloud Drive service
  • Platform as a Service - Microsoft's Azure and Joynet cloud service, amongst the multiple services in this arena
  • Operating Systems/Browsers for Netbooks, like Google Chrome and Jolicloud
  • Collaboration and Document sharing - Google Docs

So on and so forth.....

BTW I just realized, the Wiki overview of Cloud Computing Covers this and a lot more. So read it.

Another great resource explaining SaaS and PaaS is the Keynote address of salesforce CEO at Oracle Open World

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Problem: Solution ideas welcome

I love to blog my opinions, but here I am posting this entry to ask for suggestions for a problem. A group of us want to be able to share interesting articles from RSS Feeds with each other. Do you know if there is a way to do this? To explain the scenario in more detail:

1. I want to form a group with my friends on some site forum
2. Each of us is going to read some technology related RSS feeds, probably using Google Reader and FeedDemon
3. We want to 'clip' the interesting, relevant articles we find and post it to another RSS feed for the whole group (rather than emailing this article to everyone)
4. Each group member should also be able to subscribe to this RSS Feed, and mark articles read/unread etc, as we would do with a normal RSS Feed.

I haven't been able to find any tool so far that lets us do this easily. If you know any such tool, please leave a comment. Your help appreciated!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Business School Ranks

What could have been

Business School Ranks are so important. At Kellogg, that's all we talk about. Everyday we celebrate how Kellogg is equal to Wharton in the US News Ranking. We dream of the day that K will surpass W, and maybe one day, start rivalries with H and S. Oh the day....

Now back to reality

I am sure that the above is how many B school applicants, include me at one point, thought how things might be. I mean, how can Business Schools just be 'different' from each other. They need to have a number, that measures exactly what the net worth of the school is as compared to other schools.

But the truth of the matter is, Rankings have never once been mentioned since I joined Kellogg. They are just not relevant enough. The general rank tier is important - what you get from lets say a top 5 or 6 School, is much different from what you get from a top 30 school. But if you are a B School applicant, don't waste your time discussing on Businessweek exactly which school is best. I wasted a lot of my time when I applied, despite being told not to. It's just not worth it. Not just time, you end up adding anxiety to your already very stressful life.

Instead, explore the school. Understand the culture. Talk to current students a lot, and find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about the schools. Typically, students and alumni are pretty honest; they will not try to recruit you. Don't try to necessarily impress them; but do try to come across as someone who has a good idea of what he/she wants.

And oh, be nice. Be humble. If someone reviews your essays for you, email back and say thank you.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Resisting the Herd in Recruiting

This week I attended one of the most interesting panels I have have come across at Kellogg. The panel, organized by the Career Management Center(CMC) featured three second year students who had resisted the herd (eventually). By resisting the herd, I mean sticking to one's passions and aspirations despite the various other opportunities available at Kellogg which a lot your peers might be pursing i.e. Consulting.

Note - I am calling all panelists as Panelist 1,2 and 3. If you are one of them, and want me to include your real name instead, just email me!


Panelist 1 worked in finance before school, in stock research. She has been focussed on Entrepreneurship from the get go. This summer, she worked with a startup through the Kellogg Entrepreneurship Internship Program (KEIP). Despite a strong focus, she felt sometimes that she should take advantage of all these companies coming to Kellogg and apply. She had to go back to why she wanted to do what she was doing, to resist the temptation.

Panelist 2 loves travel and hotels. She had an internship with a hotel this summer, and is passionate about the industry outside of work. She felt that it would be awesome if she could combine her interests with her work, and so is determined to find a full time position with a hotel, despite the fact that the hotel industry is doing pretty badly today. She did follow the herd in some sense, and started preparing for consulting. During the winter, she was sitting in a hotel room in Miami, and working on her cover letter for one consulting firm. She could not get herself to write why that firm was important to her. Then she realized that to her, all firms were the same, and she wasn't really interested in any of them. She dropped the consulting idea right there and then.

Panelist 3 is interested in healthcare marketing. She was also applying for consulting, and in fact, got interview close list calls to the top 3 firms. She did the whole consulting interview case preparation, an long and very involved process. However one week before the interviews, she withdrew. She knew it that she didn't want to do it.

Advice for 1st year students

1. The internship summer is the only chance you get to try something new and different, completely risk free, for a year. Don't waste it!

2. Think of both Industry and Function that you want to be in. One might be more important than the other, but ultimately both are needed for you to be focused

3. Often jobs that might look very different in title, are really similar to what you are looking for. Do research on the day to day activities, and think of what transferable skills you bring from your past experience and activities at Kellogg.

4. Think of why you want a role - are your reasons externally motivated (e.g. money, proving something to yourself or others) or internally motivated (e.g. Skills you learn, passion for industry/function, location preference). Always decide based on internal motivation.

5. Be really calculated on what you spend time on in Business School. Developing your positioning statement, and stories for interviews takes a lot of time. Spend time on developing these for functions and industries you really want to go into, for the right reasons

6. Do a lot of informational interviews with people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish. Tell them what you like to do.

7. Smaller companies might not have any positions for you. If you tell them what you can do for them, and what you like to do, they might be able to design a position for you

8. Take Careerleader results seriously. There is often a tendency for you to interpret the information selectively. Try to look at it as objectively as possible. Don't anchor yourself

9. Think through projects that you have loved in the past. Tell people about these projects and ask them to listen for themes.

10. The biggest success you will achieve is by strengthening your strengths, not by trying to mitigate your weaknesses.

11. Marketing is much more analytical than people make out to be.

12. Prepare a mission statement before winter break

13. You need a buddy/group that tells you to stick to your guns

14. In the winter quarter, try to avoid Jacobs Hall as much as possible. You will hear of people getting offers, and feel bad.

15. Traingulate your facts. If you hear that consulting is good for getting a jump start in your career, ask people in your industry. Often deep industry knowledge is critical, especially in specialties like healthcare. Try to find someone to talk to for whom it worked, and others for whom it didn't

16. To get a true perspective on the culture of an organization, ask someone who has left there. Ask as specific questions as possible e.g. What happens there on Thursday evening? Do people hang out together, or leave as soon as possible.

14. Make a list of what you enjoy, what magazines you read etc. Use this list to influence your carrer choices