ODBMS Industry Watch » On Innovation http://www.odbms.org/blog Trends and Information on Big Data, New Data Management Technologies, Data Science and Innovation. Fri, 09 Feb 2018 21:04:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.19 On Artificial Intelligence and Analytics. Interview with Narendra Mulani http://www.odbms.org/blog/2017/12/on-artificial-intelligence-and-analytics-interview-with-narendra-mulani/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2017/12/on-artificial-intelligence-and-analytics-interview-with-narendra-mulani/#comments Fri, 08 Dec 2017 08:50:46 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/blog/?p=4523

“You can’t get good insights from bad data, and AI is playing an instrumental role in the data preparation renaissance.”–Narendra Mulani

I have interviewed Narendra Mulani, chief analytics officer, Accenture Analytics.


Q1. What is the role of Artificial Intelligence in analytics?

Narendra Mulani: Artificial Intelligence will be the single greatest change driver of our age. Combined with analytics, it’s redefining what’s possible by unlocking new value from data, changing the way we interact with each other and technology, and improving the way we make decisions. It’s giving us wider control and extending our capabilities as businesses and as people.

AI is also the connector and culmination of many elements of our analytics strategy including data, analytics techniques, platforms and differentiated industry skills.

You can’t get good insights from bad data, and AI is playing an instrumental role in the data preparation renaissance.
AI-powered analytics essentially frees talent to focus on insights rather than data preparation which is more daunting with the sheer volume of data available. It helps organizations tap into new unstructured, contextual data sources like social, video and chat, giving clients a more complete view of their customer. Very recently we acquired Search Technologies who possess a unique set of technologies that give ‘context to content’ – whatever its format – and make it quickly accessible to our clients.
As a result, we gain more precise insights on the “why” behind transactions for our clients and can deliver better customer experiences that drive better business outcomes.

Overall, AI-powered analytics will go a long way in allowing the enterprise to find the trapped value that exists in data, discover new opportunities and operate with new agility.

Q2. How can enterprises become ‘data native’ and digital at the core to help them grow and succeed?

Narendra Mulani: It starts with embracing a new culture which we call ‘data native’. You can’t be digital to the core if you don’t embed data at the core. Getting there is no mean feat. The rate of change in technology and data science is exponential, while the rate at which humans can adapt to this change is finite. In order to close the gap, businesses need to democratize data and get new intelligence to the point where it is easily understood and adopted across the organization.
With the help of design-led analytics and app-based delivery, analytics becomes a universal language in the organization, helping employees make data-driven decisions, collaborate across teams and collectively focus efforts on driving improved outomes for the business.

Enterprises today are only using a small fraction of the data available to them as we have moved from the era of big data to the era of all data. The comprehensive, real-time view businesses can gain of their operations from connected devices is staggering.

But businesses have to get a few things right to ensure they go on this journey.

Understanding and embracing convergence of analytics and artificial intelligence is one of them. You can hardly overstate the impact AI will have on mobilizing and augmenting the value in data, in 2018 and beyond. AI will be the single greatest change driver and will have a lasting effect on how business is conducted.

Enterprises also need to be ready to seize new opportunities – and that means using new data science to help shape hypotheses, test and optimize proofs-of-concept and scale quickly. This will help you reimagine your core business and uncover additional revenue streams and expansion opportunities.

All this requires a new level of agility. To help our clients act and respond fast, we support them with our platforms, our people and our partners. Backed by deep analytics expertise, new cloud-based systems and a curated and powerful alliance and delivery network, our priority is architecting the best solution to meet the needs of each client. We offer an as-a-service engagement model and a suite of intelligent industry solutions that enable even greater agility and speed to market.

Q3. Why is machine learning (ML) such a big deal, where is it driving changes today, and what are the big opportunities for it that have not yet been tapped?

Narendra Mulani: Machine learning allows computers to discover hidden or complex patterns in data without explicit programming. The impact this has on the business is tremendous—it accelerates and augments insights discovery, eliminates tedious repetitive tasks, and essentially enables better outcomes. It can be used to do a lot of good for people, from reading a car’s license plate and forcing the driver to slow down, to allowing people to communicate with others regardless of the language they speak, and helping doctors find very early evidence of cancer.

While the potential we’re seeing for ML and AI in general is vast, businesses are still in the infancy of tapping it. Organizations looking to put AI and ML to use today need to be pragmatic. While it can amplify the quality of insights in many areas, it also increases complexity for organizations, in terms of procuring specialized infrastructure or in identifying and preparing the data to train and use AI, and with validating the results. Identifying the real potential and the challenges involved are areas where most companies today lack the necessary experience and skills and need a trusted advisor or partner.

Whenever we look at the potential AI and ML have, we should also be looking at the responsibility that comes with it. Explainable AI and AI transparency are top of mind for many computer scientists, mathematicians and legal scholars.
These are critical subjects for an ethical application of AI – particularly critical in areas such as financial services, healthcare and life sciences – to ensure that data use is appropriate, and to assess the fairness of derived algorithms.
We need recognize that, while AI is science, and science is limitless, there are always risks in how that science is used by humans, and proactively identify and address issues this might cause for people and society.



Narendra Mulani is Chief Analytics Officer of Accenture Analytics, a practice that his passion and foresight have helped shape since 2012.

A connector at the core, Narendra brings machine learning, data science, data engineers and the business closer together across industries and geographies to embed analytics and create new intelligence, democratize data and foster a data native culture.

He leads a global team of industry and function-specific analytics professionals, data scientists, data engineers, analytics strategy, design and visualization experts across 56 markets to help clients unlock trapped value and define new ways to disrupt in their markets. As a leader, he believes in creating an environment that is inspiring, exciting and innovative.

Narendra takes a thoughtful approach to developing unique analytics strategies and uncovering impactful outcomes. His insight has been shared with business and trade media including Bloomberg, Harvard Business Review, Information Management, CIO magazine, and CIO Insight. Under Narendra’s leadership, Accenture’s commitment and strong momentum in delivering innovative analytics services to clients was recognized in Everest Group’s Analytics Business Process Services PEAK Matrix™ Assessment in 2016.

Narendra joined Accenture in 1997. Prior to assuming his role as Chief Analytics Officer, he was the Managing Director – Products North America, responsible for delivering innovative solutions to clients across industries including consumer goods and services, pharmaceuticals, and automotive. He was also managing director of supply chain for Accenture Management Consulting where he led a global practice responsible for defining and implementing supply chain capabilities at a diverse set of Fortune 500 clients.

Narendra graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Bombay University, where he was introduced to statistics and discovered he understood probability at a fundamental level that propelled him on his destined career path. He went on to receive an MBA in Finance in 1982 as well as a PhD in 1985 focused on Multivariate Statistics, both from the University of Massachusetts. Education remains fundamentally important to him.

As one who logs too many frequent flier miles, Narendra is an active proponent of taking time for oneself to recharge and stay at the top of your game. He practices what he preaches through early rising and active mindfulness and meditation to keep his focus and balance at work and at home. Narendra is involved with various activities that support education and the arts, and is a music enthusiast. He lives in Connecticut with his wife Nita and two children, Ravi and Nikhil.


Accenture Invests in and Forms Strategic Alliance with Leading Quantum Computing Firm 1QBit

-Accenture Forms Alliance with Paxata to Help Clients Build an Intelligent Enterprise by Putting Business Users in Control of Data

Apple & Accenture Partner to Create iOS Business Solutions

Accenture Completes Cloud-Based IT Transformation for Towergate, Helping Insurance Broker Improve Its Operations and Reduce Annual IT Costs by 30 Percent

Accenture Acquires Search Technologies to Expand Its Content Analytics and Enterprise Search Capabilities

Related Posts

How Algorithms can untangle Human Questions. Interview with Brian Christian. ODBMS Industry Watch, March 31, 2017

Big Data and The Great A.I. Awakening. Interview with Steve Lohr. ODBMS Industry Watch, December 19, 2016

Machines of Loving Grace. Interview with John Markoff. ODBMS Indutry Watch, August 11, 2016

On Artificial Intelligence and Society. Interview with Oren Etzioni. ODBMS Industry Watch, January 15, 2016

Follow us on Twitter: @odbmsorg


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Big Data Management at American Express. Interview with Sastry Durvasula and Kevin Murray. http://www.odbms.org/blog/2014/10/big-data-management-american-express-interview-sastry-durvasula-kevin-murray/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2014/10/big-data-management-american-express-interview-sastry-durvasula-kevin-murray/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 17:13:12 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/blog/?p=3496

“The Hadoop platform indeed provides the ability to efficiently process large-scale data at a price point we haven’t been able to justify with traditional technology. That said, not every technology process requires Hadoop; therefore, we have to be smart about which processes we deploy on Hadoop and which are a better fit for traditional technology (for example, RDBMS).”–Kevin Murray.

I wanted to learn how American Express is taking advantage of analysing big data.
I have interviewed Sastry Durvasula, Vice President – Technology, American Express, and Kevin Murray, Vice President – Technology, American Express.


Q1. With the increasing demand for mobile and digital capabilities, how are American Express’ customer expectations changing?

SASTRY DURVASULA: American Express customers expect us to know them, to understand and anticipate their preferences and personalize our offerings to meet their specific needs. As the world becomes increasingly mobile, our Card Members expect to be able to engage with us whenever, wherever and using whatever device or channel they prefer.
In addition, merchants, small businesses and corporations also want increased value, insights and relevance from our global network.

Q2. Could you explain what is American Express’ big data strategy?

SD: American Express seeks to leverage big data to deliver innovative products in the payments and commerce space that provide value to our customers. This is underpinned by best-in-class engineering and decision science.

From a technical perspective, we are advancing an enterprise-wide big data platform that leverages open source technologies like Hadoop, integrating it with our analytical and operational capabilities across the various business lines. This platform also powers strategic partnerships and real-time experiences through emerging digital channels. Examples include Amex Offers, which connects our Card Members and merchants through relevant and personalized digital offers; an innovative partnership with Trip Advisor to unlock exclusive benefits; insights and tools for our B2B partners and small businesses; and advanced credit and fraud risk management.

Additionally, as always, we seek to leverage data responsibly and in a privacy-controlled environment. Trust and security are hallmarks of our brand. As we leverage big data to create new products and services, these two values remain at the forefront.

Q3. What is the “value” you derive by analysing big data for American Express?

SD: Within American Express, our Technology and Risk & Information Management organizations partner with our lines of business to create new opportunities to drive commerce and serve customers across geographies with the help of big data. Big data is one of our most important tools in being the company we want to be – one that identifies solutions to customers’ needs and helps us deliver what customers want today and what they may want in the future.

Q4. What metrics do you use to monitor big data analytics at American Express?

SD: Big data investments are no different than any other investments in terms of the requirement for quantitative and qualitative ROI metrics with pre- and post-measurements that assess the projects’ value for revenue generation, cost avoidance and customer satisfaction. There is also the recognition that some of the investments, especially in the big data arena, are strategic and longer term in nature, and the value generated should be looked at from that perspective.

Additionally, we are constantly focused on benchmarking the performance of our platform with industry standards, like minute-sort and tera-sort, as well as our proprietary demand management metrics.

Q5. Could you explain how did you implement your big data infrastructure platform at Amex?

KEVIN MURRAY: We started small and expanded as our use cases grew over time, about once or twice a year.
We make it a practice to reassess the hardware and software state within the industry before each major expansion to determine whether any external changes should alter the deployment path we have chosen.

Q6. How did you select the components for your big data infrastructure platform, choosing among the various competing compute and storage solutions available today?

KM: Our research told us low-cost commodity servers with local storage was the common deployment stack across the industry. We made an assessment of industry offerings and evaluated against our objectives to determine a good balance of cost, capabilities and time to market.

Q7. How did you unleash big data across your enterprise and put it to work in a sustainable and agile environment?

SD: We engineered our enterprise-wide big data platform to foster R&D and rapid development of use cases, while delivering highly available production applications. This allows us to be adaptable and agile, scaling up or redeploying, as needed, to meet market and business demands. With the Risk and Information Management team, we established Big Data Labs comprising top-notch decision scientists and engineers to help democratize big data, leveraging self-service tools, APIs and common libraries of algorithms.

Q8. What are the most significant challenges you have encountered so far?

SD: An ongoing challenge is balancing our big data investment between immediate needs and research or innovations that will drive the next generation of capabilities. You can’t focus solely on one or the other but has to find a balance.

Another key challenge is ensuring we are focused on driving outcomes that are meaningful to customers – that are responsive to their current and anticipated needs.

Q9. What did you learn along the way?

KM: The Hadoop platform indeed provides the ability to efficiently process large-scale data at a price point we haven’t been able to justify with traditional technology. That said, not every technology process requires Hadoop; therefore, we have to be smart about which processes we deploy on Hadoop and which are a better fit for traditional technology (for example, RDBMS). Some components of the ecosystem are mature and work well, and others require some engineering to get to an enterprise-ready state. In the end, it’s an exciting journey to offer new innovation to our business.

Q10. Anything else you wish to add?

KM: The big data industry is evolving at lightning speed with new products and services coming to market every day. I think this is being driven by the enterprise’s appetite for something new and innovative that leverages the power of compute, network and storage advancements in the marketplace, combined with a groundswell of talent in the data science domain, pushing academic ideas into practical business use cases. The result is a wealth of new offerings in the marketplace – from ideas and early startups to large-scale mission-critical solutions. This is providing choice to enterprises like we’ve never seen before, and we are focused on maximizing this advantage to bring groundbreaking products and opportunities to life.

Sastry Durvasula, Vice President – Technology, American Express
Sastry Durvasula is Vice President and Global Technology Head of Information Management and Digital Capabilities within the Technology organization at American Express. In this role, Sastry leads IT strategy and transformational development to power the company’s data-driven capabilities and digital products globally. His team also delivers enterprise-wide analytics and business intelligence platforms, and supports critical risk, fraud and regulatory demands. Most recently, Sastry and his team led the launch of the company’s big data platform and transformation of its enterprise data warehouse, which are powering the next generation of information, analytics and digital capabilities. His team also led the development of the company’s API strategy, as well as the Sync platform to deliver innovative products, drive social commerce and launch external partnerships.

Kevin Murray, Vice President – Technology, American Express
Kevin Murray is Vice President of Information Management Infrastructure & Integration within the Technology organization at American Express. Throughout his 25+ year career, he has brought emerging technologies into large enterprises, and most recently launched the big data infrastructure platform at American Express. His team architects and implements a wide range of information management capabilities to leverage the power of increasing compute and storage solutions available today.

Related Posts

Hadoop at Yahoo. Interview with Mithun Radhakrishnan. ODBMS Industry Watch, 2014-09-21

On Big Data benchmarks. Interview with Francois Raab and Yanpei Chen. ODBMS Industry Watch,2014-08-14


Presenting at Strata/Hadoop World NY
Big Data: A Journey of Innovation
Thursday, October 16, 2014, at 1:45-2:25 p.m. Eastern
Room: 1 CO3/1 CO4

The power of big data has become the catalyst for American Express to accelerate transformation for the digital age, drive innovative products, and create new commerce opportunities in a meaningful and responsible way. With the increasing demand for mobile and digital capabilities, the customer expectation for real-time information and differentiated experiences is rapidly changing. Big data offers a solution that enables this organization to use their proprietary closed-loop network to bring together consumers and merchants around the world, adding value to each in a way that is individualized and unique.

During their presentation, Sastry Durvasula and Kevin Murray will discuss American Express’ ongoing big data journey of transformation and innovation. How did the company unleash big data across its global network and put it to work in a sustainable and agile environment? How is it delivering offers using digital channels relevant to their Card Members and partners? What have they learned along the way? Sastry and Kevin will address these questions and share their experiences and insights on the company’s big data strategy in the digital ecosystem.

Follow ODBMS.org and ODBMS Industry Watch on Twitter: @odbmsorg

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On Innovation– Interview with Nathan Marz. http://www.odbms.org/blog/2013/04/on-innovation-interview-with-nathan-marz/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2013/04/on-innovation-interview-with-nathan-marz/#comments Thu, 04 Apr 2013 10:50:09 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/blog/?p=2187

” I think that it’s incredibly important for all programmers to have a public presence by being involved in open source or having side projects that are publicly available. The industry is quickly changing and more and more people are realizing how ineffective the standard techniques of programmer evaluation are. This includes things like resumes and coding questions “ –Nathan Marz.

Nathan Marz open-sourced Cascalog, ElephantDB, and Storm.
I caught him while he just left Twitter to do his own startup. I asked him a few questions.


Q1. You just left Twitter to start your own company. How much were you influenced by Jeff Bezos concept of “Regret Minimization Framework”? (watch YouTube video) What if he had failed?

Nathan Marz: You only live once, so it’s important to make the most of the time you have. I find Bezos’s “regret minimization framework” a great way to make decisions with a long term perspective. Too often people make decisions only thinking about marginal, short-term gains, and this can lead you down a path you never intended to go. And failure, if it happens, is not as bad as it seems. Worst comes to worse I’ll have learned an enormous amount, had a unique and interesting experience, and will just try something else.

Q2. Do you want to disclose in general terms what you’ll be working on?

Nathan Marz: Sorry, not at the moment. [ edit: as of now he did not disclose it]

Q3. You open-sourced Cascalog, ElephantDB, and Storm. Which of the three is in your opinion the most rewarding?

Nathan Marz: Storm has been very rewarding because of the sheer number of people using it and the diversity of industries it has penetrated, from healthcare to analytics to social networking to financial services and more.

Q4. What are in your opinion the current main challenges for Big Data analytics?

Nathan Marz: I think the biggest challenge is an educational one. There’s an overwhelming number of tools in the Big Data ecosystem, all very much different than the relational databases people are used to, and none is a one-sized-fits-all solution. This is why I’m writing my book “Big Data” – to show people a structured, principled approach to architecting data systems and how to use those principles to choose the right tool for you particular use case.

Q5. In January 2013, version 0.8.2 of Storm was released? What is new?

Nathan Marz: There was a lot of work done in 0.8.2 on making it easier to use a shared cluster for both production and in-development applications. This included improved monitoring support, which helps with detecting when you’ll need to scale with more resources, and a brand new scheduler that isolates production and development topologies from each other. And of course, the usual bug fixes and small improvements.

Q6. How do you expect Storm evolving?

Nathan Marz: There’s a lot of work happening right now on making Storm enterprise-ready. These include security features such as authentication and authorization, enhanced monitoring capabilities, and high availability for the Storm master. Long term, we want to continue with the theme of having Storm seamlessly integrate with your other realtime backend systems, such as databases, queues, and other services.

Q7. Daniel Abadi of Hadapt, said in a recent interview: “the prevalent architecture that people use to analyze structured and unstructured data is a two-system configuration, where Hadoop is used for processing the unstructured data and a relational database system is used for the structured data. However, this is a highly undesirable architecture, since now you have two systems to maintain, two systems where data may be stored, and if you want to do analysis involving data in both systems, you end up having to send data over the network which can be a major bottleneck.”
What is your opinion on this?

Nathan Marz: I think that “structured” vs. “unstructured” is a false dichotomy. It’s easy to store both unstructured and structured data in a distributed filesystem: just use a tool like Thrift to make your structured schema and serialize those records into files. A common objection to this is: “What if I need to delete or modify one of those records? You can’t cheaply do that when the data is stored in files on a DFS.” The answer is to move beyond the era of CRUD and embrace immutable data models where you only ever create or read data. In the architecture I’ve developed, which I call the Lambda Architecture, you then build views off of that data using tools like Hadoop and Storm, and it’s the views that are indexed and go on to feed the low latency requests in your system.

Q8. What are the main lessons learned in the last three years of your professional career?

Nathan Marz: I think that it’s incredibly important for all programmers to have a public presence by being involved in open source or having side projects that are publicly available. The industry is quickly changing and more and more people are realizing how ineffective the standard techniques of programmer evaluation are. This includes things like resumes and coding questions. These techniques frequently label strong people as weak or weak people as strong. Having good work out in the open makes it much easier to evaluate you as a strong programmer. This gives you many more job options and will likely drive up your salary as well because of the increased competition for your services.

For this reason, programmers should strongly prefer to work at companies that are very permissive about contributing to open source or releasing internal projects as open source. Ironically, a company having this policy is assisting in driving up the value (and price) of the employee, but as time goes on I think this policy will be necessary to even have access to the strongest programmers in the first place.

Nathan Marz. was the Lead Engineer at BackType before BackType was acquired by Twitter in July of 2011. At Twitter he started the streaming compute team which provides infrastructure that supports many critical applications throughout the company. He left Twitter in March of 2013 to start his own company (currently in stealth).

Related Posts

On Big Data, Analytics and Hadoop. Interview with Daniel Abadi. December 5, 2012


Video: Jeff Bezos – Regret Minimization Framework

github Storm

github Cascalog

github ElephantDB

Big Data: Principles and best practices of scalable realtime data systems.
Nathan Marz (Twitter) and James Warren
MEAP Began: January 2012
Softbound print: Fall 2013 | 425 pages
Manning Publications
ISBN: 9781617290343
Download Chapter 1: A new paradigm for Big Data (.PDF)

follow ODBMS.org on Twitter: @odbmsorg

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Marten G. Mickos on Innovation. http://www.odbms.org/blog/2010/07/marten-g-mickos-on-innovation/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2010/07/marten-g-mickos-on-innovation/#comments Thu, 29 Jul 2010 16:21:44 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/blog/?p=314 It has been a while since my last interviews on Innovation….

I asked a few questions to Marten G Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus, former CEO of MySQL.

1. What is “Innovation” for you?
Marten: Peter Drucker said it best: Innovation is change that creates a new dimension of performance. Whereas invention typically is something technical, an innovation can relate to anything a business does, as long as it creates a new dimension of performance. Google’s business model is an innovation, as is the usability of Apple’s products.

2. What does it take to become a successful innovator?
Marten: Innovators many times start by solving problems they have experienced themselves. In that way they know the problem well and they have a genuine desire to solve it. But sometimes it’s not enough. You also need to look around you and verify that the problem you experienced is sufficiently generic, common and real so that the solving of it truly creates a new dimension of performance.

3. Is there a price to pay to be an innovator? Which one?
Marten: There is a price to pay for everything we do in life, but there is a higher price for not doing things. It’s time consuming to be an innovator, and it takes a lot of passion and determination to keep going until the innovation succeeds (or until you know it didn’t).
Innovation is risky business. We all know about the successes, but we may not always realize how many failures there are for each success. If you want to be an innovator, you must be prepared both for the huge success you are dreaming of and the possible failure that is statistically perhaps even more likely than success.

4. What are the rewards to be an innovator?
Marten: The main reward is the feeling of accomplishment – the knowledge of having contributed to something that makes the world a better place.
Many innovations also provide ample financial reward. But not all do.
For instance, the Finnish telecom executive who came up with the idea for text messaging didn’t make money on it.

5. What are in your opinion the top 3 criteria for successful innovation?
Marten:A new dimension of performance says it all. Examples: Open source software has enabled the world to produce applications and web services in a way never before possible. Google has enabled people to find information in a way never before possible, and they have enabled small and large vendors to reach the most interested customers in an efficient way. Amazon is enabling us to consume books faster and easier than before (with Kindle) and through their cloud offering they enable entrepreneurs to start a company without buying a single computer server. Those are great innovations.

6. Given your previous experience as CEO at MySQL , do you think becoming an innovator can be taught? If yes, how?
Marten: I certainly believe that you can get trained for being an innovator.
But more than it can be taught, it can be learned. What I mean is that it isn’t necessarily in a classroom that you learn about innovation. It is by doing it in practice, and by learning from those who have done it before. Mark Twain said it so well: Don’t let education get in the way of learning.

7. What specific programs do you think foster innovation?
Marten: The ecosystem of startup companies, angel investors and VCs.
Conferences and camps (such as Maker Faire and TED) that focus on wild ideas and big bold plans.

8. What would you recommend to young people who wish to pursue innovation?
Marten: To start immediately, and keep innovating until they hit gold. It may take ten attempts or it may take a thousand attempts. I would also recommend young people to keenly observe some of the greatest innovators in the world, and innovators they have access to.

9. In your opinion how can we create a culture that supports and sustains innovation?
Marten: By allowing people to fail. Michael Jordan said it well: I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.

10. What do you think stops/slows down innovation?
Marten: Complacency and rigidity. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Not thinking big enough. Not allowing naïve dreams.

11. What is in your opinion the influence that a “location” (country/region) plays with respect to the possibility to be a successful innovator?
Marten: We are all influenced by our daily interaction with the world around us. If the interaction is conducive to innovation, we will have more of it. Silicon Valley is such a place. It’s on average probably the most innovative place on the planet, especially in tech. But that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t create bigger innovations elsewhere (Skype comes to mind). In today’s world you can have your daily interaction electronically over long distances and over many time zones, so locations that previously were unfavorable are now OK. Innovators are inherently unconventional. Many times they succeed not thanks to the location, but in spite of it.

12. What would you recommend to make a “location” attractive for innovation?
Marten: Build on what you have. Take whatever innovators there are at the location in question, and help them help others to innovate. Keep feeding this system with whatever it needs, and watch how the level of innovation slowly but surely improves.

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Interview to Vinton G. Cerf. http://www.odbms.org/blog/2009/07/interview-to-vinton-g-cerf/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2009/07/interview-to-vinton-g-cerf/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2009 09:27:00 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/odbmsblog/2009/07/27/interview-to-vinton-g-cerf/ Together with Marco Dettweiler, I had the pleasure to interview Vinton G. Cerf. You can read the interview below. Hope you find it interesting.

Vinton G. Cerf is vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google. Widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. In December 1997, President Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Cerf and his partner, Robert E. Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet. In November 2005, Vinton Cerf and Kahn were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush for their contributions to the creation of the Internet. Cerf was a leading contender to be designated the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer by President Barack Obama.

Questions (Marco Dettweiler- FAZ.NET, Roberto V. Zicari- ODBMS.ORG)

Q1. The Future of the Internet.
Mr. Cerf, the Internet was created in the 70s, and it now serves as the infrastructure for the World Wide Web, which was created later in the early 90s. The introduction of the Web has changed the way Internet was used dramatically and at the same time opened up the Internet to all kinds of commercial/social possibilities, which were not possible before.

– Why did it take so long before the Web was invented?

Vinton G. Cerf: It should be remembered that Douglas Engelbart led the invention of the oNLine System (NLS) at SRI International in the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s. This system, while running only on one computer, was accessible through the ARPANET and later the Internet. It had hypertext notions and pointing and clicking of a mouse (also invented by Engelbart). This was a popular system used by the ARPANET community. There were other experiments such as Gopher at University of Minnesota, the Wide Area Information System (WAIS), ARCHIE and VERONICA, to name a few. Most of these were text based. Tim Berners-Lee developed his WWW idea around 1989 while at CERN but the big explosion came when Marc Andreesen implemented a version of WWW called Mosaic (a graphical interface browser for the WWW). He went on to develop Netscape Navigator as a founder of Netscape Communications. In some ways, these inventions had to wait until powerful desk and laptops became available and the bandwidths of access to the Internet exceeded the slower world of dial-up Internet. Moreover, the general public did not see much of this until the 1994 debut of Netscape Communications. Sometimes things can only happen when conditions are ripe for them to happen.

– What are the weak and strong points of the Web?

Vinton G. Cerf: Perhaps the strongest point has been its flexibility and highly distributed nature.
Anyone can create content, in virtually any language, and share it with the world. It has opened up an avenue for voices that might never otherwise have been heard. It has evolved in dramatic ways to include software that can move from server to client, re-purposing the client’s functions (e.g. through Java and JavaScript). Of course, it has permitted all forms of media (text, sound, imagery, video) to be intermingled in a rich tapestry. On the other side, it can be vulnerable to viruses, worms, trojan horses. It can be used to harm others through fraud, misinformation, stalking, libel, cyber-bullying and so on. It contains an enormous amount of information that would be impossible to navigate, but for search engines and hyperlinks that help to find paths to information of interest. We need to make much more secure the web browsers and web servers to protect against harmful software (“badware” or “malware”) that steals computer cycles and turns machines into “zombies” that form “botnet” armies. Some malware can infect machines in such a way that private information such as account numbers, passwords and other personal data can be revealed and abused.

– What is in your opinion, the next evolution/revolution for the Web/Internet?

Vinton G. Cerf: It is already happening. Mobiles have become an increasingly integral part of the Web/Internet.
They will become sensor devices that help us detect hazards or capture our daily travels and then warn us if we have been anywhere that might have been hazardous to our health. More appliances will become Internet-enabled, allowing them to be controlled through the Internet. We will use this capability to manage our entertainment systems, to control our use of energy, to increase the efficiency and security of homes and office buildings. We will instrument our cars and capture data to help us maintain their operation. We will make more and more use of the Web to collaborate in real time using all forms of media. We will enhance our ability to communicate even when we speak different languages and need to work together in groups. Of course, I am also very excited by the prospect of extending the Internet to operate across the solar system by augmenting its protocols with a new suite and overcome the inherent delays and disruption of inter-planetary communication. These innovations will help to support extended exploration of our solar system through robotic and manned missions.

– What are the most important challenges we will face in the future in your opinion?

Vinton G. Cerf: Security, privacy, and authentication of the users and systems of the Internet. Preservation of digital information and the software that is needed to interpret it. Operation of the Internet at increasingly large scale with more users, termination points and devices. Operation of the Internet with an increasing number of mobile components.

Q2. The resources on the Internet are not unlimited.
In next years there will be likely problems with IP-Adresses. By 2011 you predicted that all IP-Addresses will be taken. With no new IP-addresses available, no new users can be added to the Web. There is a consensus that we need to change to ipv6 with 128 Bit.

– Do you agree?

Vinton G. Cerf: Yes, absolutely.

– And if yes, how fast should the industry do this?

Vinton G. Cerf: They need to begin to implement IPv6 in parallel with IPv4. Companies like Google need to implement services with both protocols (and Google has done so), so that users who have only IPv6 addresses will be able to reach services as easily as those with the older IPv4 addresses. ISPs should begin implementing and offering IPv6 service and should
work to interconnect themselves using IPv6 as richly and densely as they have interconnected with IPv4.

– Is there any consequences for the users and companies using the Web?

Vinton G. Cerf: Yes, if we do not have widespread implementation of IPv6, then the Internet may become fragmented into IPv4 and IPv6 islands that are not linked.

– And if yes, which ones?
– Do you foresee any further problems in the future?

Vinton G. Cerf: I think the major problems are increasing the security and resilience of the Internet, coping with mobility, implementation of IPv6, implementation of non-Latin character sets in the Domain Name System, and just coping with the operation of a vastly larger Internet than in the past.

Q3. How much rules and regulation needs the Web/Internet?
– Should the creation of content on the Web/Internet be regulated?

Vinton G. Cerf: I think this is an extremely delicate question. None of us likes spam. We don’t like viruses and worms and trojan horses. Child pornography is universally condemned. On the other hand, censorship can be abused as a political weapon. It can be used to undermine democratic principles and freedom of expression. Perhaps the best analogy is the abuse of the road system by drinking and driving. In most modern societies, this is considered socially unacceptable and if drunken dri
vers are caught there are consequences. We don’t stop building vehicles to use the roads and we don’t stop building roads, but we do warn drivers about the consequences of violating the “rules of the road.” Perhaps the Internet needs to be treated in a similar fashion. We may not be able to stop all abuses a priori, but we can agree to enforce rules if violators are caught.

– Why?
– In Germany, the Government is trying to forbid the use of specific Web sites with illegal contents, such as child pornography. What is your position on this? And what would be a solution to this problem in your opinion?

Vinton G. Cerf: The essential issue here has to do with enforcement as well as the preservation of “speech” that should be protected and permitted. In the United States this right is built into our Constitution in the form of the First Amendment. On the other hand, not all speech is protected. Theft, fraud, child pornography and the propagation of malware is illegal and violators are prosecuted. For the most part, the Internet Service Providers and Application Service Providers are
not expected to be enforcers, although the Digital Millennium Copyright Act does require that online servers take down (remove) content that has been identified as illegal. Because the Internet is so distributed and accessible, operators of its services are often dependent on its users to signal the discovery of inappropriate information. Many application service providers and Internet service providers have provisions in their terms of service that allow them to remove abusive content or to terminate service contracts for abuse of these terms. The focus of law enforcement should be on the violators
who abuse the Internet’s services, not on the providers of its infrastructure, in my estimation.

Q4. Web and copyright.
– What is your position with respect to the problem of copyright infringements on the Web?

Vinton G. Cerf: The problem in part is that the Web works by copying. The browser copies a file from a web server and then interprets it for presentation. Copyright has historically worked by controlling the distribution of fixations of works in physical form (books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, video cassettes, LP records and so on). In some countries, “fair use” permits copying of small amounts of information for academic, pedagogical or journalistic purposes. Personal copies
may be made for backup in many cases. Digital information is easily copied and distributed and that poses a problem for traditional copyright. It is also worth noting that while creators of information are implicitly its owners under the Berne Convention, many creators want to share this information in more flexible ways than traditional copyright allows.
The Creative Commons and “copyleft” ideas are examples of attempts to broaden the options for intellectual property
creators and owners. I believe that we will need to construct new intellectual property regimes to take into account the properties of the Internet. It will take some creative thinking among technologists and legislators to discover alternatives to the present and rather antiquated copyright concepts that are not working well in the Internet universe.

– For example, Google is currently scanning millions of books for a digital Online-Full-Text-Search. Classical publishing companies do not like this, as they say this is a copyright infringement. What is your position on this?

Vinton G. Cerf: I believe that there is benefit to the publishers to have their works indexed so that they can be discovered by users of the World Wide Web.
I don’t think there is any debate about works that have entered the public domain. Nor is there debate about books still in print and covered by copyright (Google has agreements with such publishers as to indexing of these works and display of small snippets of them). The debate revolves around books that are no longer in print but possibly still under copyright. It is sometimes very hard to determine the rights holders of these works. Google and others are looking for some way to make these works known to the users of the World Wide Web.
This is not the same as releasing the full content of such works. Indexing helps people find works of interest after which they may need to purchase the works from bookstores, find them in their own libraries or public libraries, borrow from friends, and so on. If there were an agreeable regime for making such works more accessible, it would benefit everyone interested in their contents. It is the fashioning of an acceptable regime that is at the center of most debate, as I understand it.

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Interview with Jimmy Wales http://www.odbms.org/blog/2009/02/interview-with-jimmy-wales/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2009/02/interview-with-jimmy-wales/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2009 02:26:00 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/odbmsblog/2009/02/21/interview-with-jimmy-wales/ “I don’t think of my work as technological innovation, I think of it as being social innovation.” (Jimmy Wales)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009. Marco Dettweiler and Roberto V. Zicari have interviewed Jimmy Wales.

Jimmy Donal “Jimbo” Wales (born August 7, 1966), President of Wikia, Inc.; Board member and Chair Emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation.
His work developing Wikipedia, which has become the world’s largest encyclopedia, prompted Time magazine to name him in its 2006 list of the world’s most influential people.

Q. Mr. Wales, one of your new project is called Wikia? What is it?

We are building the rest of the Library. We are taking the Wiki model beyond just non profit educational and research community into things like humor, political activism, all kinds of different things.

Q. How does it compare Wikia with Wikipedia?

I would say, it`s the rest of the Library, it is everything that does not belong to an Encyclopedia. For example, Uncyclopedia is a humor site, it is a parody of Wikipedia, it is not a serious site, it is all a joke.
Another example, we have a site about Wikia Green , which is all about sustainable living, it is not a neutral site, it is specifically advocating for specific prospective in the world.
Another example we have, is Wikianswers , where people post questions and get quick short answers to various questions as rather than Encyclopedia Oracle that has a question answer format. There are many things that are different from an Encyclopedia.

Q. Another service offered by Wikia is Wikia Search. What is the difference with respect to other existing search engines (e.g. Google)?

The primary difference what I am trying to do is to put the editorial control into the hands of the community. Every search engine has an editorial component to it, where you type in a search term, and they tell you the things that you should be looking for related to that search term, and all of that is controlled very secretively in most search engines. My view is let`s try and open it up to public dialog and discussion and debate, so that the community can determine it.

Q. Does Wikia Search relate to Wikipedia?

Well, it is a completely independent search project. It is searching the entire Web and not anyone particular site, and so really it does not have anything to do with Wikipedia.

Q. Wikianswers: What is the difference with other services such as Yahoo! Answers?

I see two main differences. First it is a Wiki, meaning everyone works together to edit the same entries, rather then each person giving a separate different answer. So you work to improve answers that have been given by the community.
The other major difference is that all of the things we are doing are under Free License (open source license), as opposed to all the other answer sites where all of the work is kept under proprietary license; so the community doesn’t really have the ability to take that work and reuse it and move it to another site if they want to.

Q. How do you ensure you get some quality answers?

Well, then you see that on a lot of answer site you see a lot of very questionable answers, and people giving contradictory answers. The idea here is to have the community that oversight of what is going on. If somebody gives a bad answer, the community can delete it.

Q. Would you consider the work you do similar to what the Open Source movement does in the software industry?

Yes, it is a very strong parallel. Everything I am doing is based on the idea of free licensing and free licensing is really what it powers open source software, free software. All of the work we do is put under GNU free documentation license. The reason for this is that this overcomes certain very complicated problems that people face regarding whether or not they are going to spend a lot of time working on something, and so it is very, very similar. For all of the free software you have the right to copy, to modify, to redistribute and to redistribute modified versions, commercially and non-commercially and we follow the same philosophy. We want people to be able to take their work, any work that they have done using one of our services and reuse it as they see fit.

Q. Is Copyright of information a problem?

Not really, we don’t really see a huge problem with that. Of course sometimes you have people who have inadvertently or not understanding copyright law copied things inappropriately. But that is a pretty minor part of the overall situation. It is really not much different from software.

Q. Does your work relate to the Semantic Web?

Very little to do with that. I am a bit of a skeptical about the notion of semantic web, although we are finally beginning to see things move a little bit in the direction of semantic web. But I think, it is still a long way to go before a lot of the dreams that people have about a semantic web begin to become true.

Q. Wikia is a profit company, how do you generate revenues out of free information?

We are advertising support edit, so we have some Google-ads on the site, we have some display ads on the site – that is basically it. It is a very simple, very standard kind of model for a website.

Q. When do people use Wikia and when Wikipedia?

It is completely different, so the two reasons you might use something would be very, very different from each other. They are really not comparable in that sense. It is very similar to a library and I like to go back again and again to that metaphor. If you go to a library sometimes you are looking for an encyclopedia, sometimes you are looking for political activism, sometimes you are looking for humor, the next time you are using an almanac.
The reasons why people come across it are very different.

For example, if you go to Uncyclopedia, you will find something very different from Wikipedia. Your are going to laugh and have fun reading it. But if you need basic information you obviously want to go to Wikipedia.

Q. What kind of reaction did you have from the Community to the services of Wikia?

So the response has been very good. A lot of people find that Wikia is a fun place for them to spend some time building something and some people find that they are still more interested in Wikipedia. It just depends on the person and what they are interested in.

Q. You are thinking of introducing “Flagged Revisions” in Wikipedia. To what extent it will change Wikepedia?

Right now Flagged revision is being used extensively in German language Wikipedia and very successfully. We are watching very carefully the statistics around U search and how long it takes to approve things and all of this. We are in a learning process.
It seems to me a useful tool, I think we will be introducing some formal Flagged revisions into English Wikipedia within the next month or two. We are just discussing right now about how we should be doing it and what should be the right approach.

Q. Recently Wikipedia had problems with some individuals (for example in Germany), who sued Wikipedia because of supposedly “wrong facts” about them. W
hat is your opinion on that? Will this be a typical issue Wikipedia will have to face in the future?

I don’t think we will see a lot of that. In this particular case the politician was very embarrassed by his actions and ended up to apologize. It seems unlikely to be a really major factor for Wikipedia going forward.

Q. Wikipedia is currently being used by students (both at High Schools and Universities), but quotes from Wikipedia are not accepted by most of the Professors. Do you think this will change in the future? And if yes, how?

I think that it is important to think about what is the proper role of an encyclopedia in the research process over all. In general we don’t think of any encyclopedia as being something that you would cite as a source in an academic paper.
That is not what it has been designed to be about. You want it to be a very high quality, but even if it is a very high quality, it is always an introduction to material. It is always to provide you with the background context. It isn’t original research, it isn’t an academic journal.
When we are thinking about how should university students be using Wikipedia, I think we have to be realistic: They are using it all the time, all of them. So what we need to think about is a couple of questions: First: How do we make sure that they are educated on the right way on how to use an encyclopedia, and second how do we make Wikipedia as good as it possibly can be, because it is important for a lot of people.

Q. Some countries, such as China for example, impose a strict censorship on the Internet. Does a free of expression content repository such as Wikipedia has any chance there?

Wikipedia was completely banned in China for about three years. We are currently available in China. We have a policy that accurate information is a fundamental human right, and we won’t compromise with censors. What I see overall if I look at the overall trend, I see a trend for more openness on the Internet in China, but also in many other places around the world. I think that censoring the Internet is essentially impossible. You can have some impact and scare people. Really stopping the flow of information is becoming more and more difficult. I think that many countries around the world are realizing that it is not a very useful tool for a public policy to try to control the flow of information in the way it used to be controlled. So, I am reasonably optimistic, but there are so many problems around the world and I don’t think we are going to see very quickly the end of censorship, but I think we are generally moving in the right direction.

Q. What kind of innovation do you use?

Clearly, we are in an era where many new things are being created. I don’t think of my work as technological innovation, I think of it as being social innovation. The technology involved in almost everything that I am doing is pretty much off-the-shelf existing technology. We are not really trying to innovate on that level, although we are in some ways. Primarily what we are doing is social innovation, finding ways for people to work together in social communities online and figuring out what social rules and norms are helpful for people to create healthy and productive communities.

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Carl Olofson on Innovation http://www.odbms.org/blog/2008/11/carl-olofson-on-innovation/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2008/11/carl-olofson-on-innovation/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2008 06:07:00 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/odbmsblog/2008/11/24/carl-olofson-on-innovation/ Here is another interview on Innovation. This time with Carl Olofson, IDC.

Carl Olofson performs research and analysis for IDC’s Information Management and Data Integration Software service within the Application Development and Deployment research group. Mr. Olofson’s research involves following sales and technical developments in the information and data management (IDM) markets, database management systems (DBMS) markets, data movement and replication software, data management software, metadata management software, and the vendors of related tools and software systems. Mr. Olofson also contributes overview and data integration research content to Integration and Deployment Software, which covers developments in software technologies that manage the overall integrated deployment of applications developed and maintained using application development and deployment software. Mr. Olofson also advises clients on market and technology directions as well as performing supply and demand-side primary research to size, forecast, and segment the database market.

Mr. Olofson has 30 years of experience in IT, including two years of application development consulting, 10 years of database and tools software development, four years of product consulting, and three years as a senior product manager.
In 2000, Mr. Olofson received IDC’s highest award, the James Peacock Memorial Award for professional excellence in market research. Prior to joining IDC, Mr. Olofson worked at Cayenne and Cadre, where he was involved with directing the management for ObjectTeam products, including an object-oriented CASE tool and a component construction and assembly tool. He was also responsible for product packaging, pricing, requirements analysis, sales force preparation, and product roll-out. Prior to that, Mr. Olofson managed customer relations and performed sales support for MSP in promoting its mainframe repository, METHODMANAGER. He also worked at LBMS, where he led a team of eight engineers working on a repository technology research program; and at Cullinet where he was responsible for the Cullinet CASE strategy. In addition, Mr. Olofson worked for eight years in project teams developing the IDMS, IDD, ADS/Online, and Online Mapping products.

1. What is “Innovation” for you?
Innovation is the development of new approaches to solving problems. These can include actual inventions, but also new processes, new ways of thinking, and improvements on existing machines, processes, and ways of thinking that result in their being used in new ways.

2. Who are your favorite innovators?
It’s tempting to list inventors, since they are obviously high profile innovators, but I find that most inventors don’t really know how their inventions are going to be used. Thomas Edison, for instance, expected the phonograph to be used mainly for taking and playing back dictation (the Dictaphone was a spin-off), and that motion pictures would mainly be used for industrial training. He was a very serious, work-oriented person who could not imagine spending hard-earned money on a machine that had, as its sole purpose, entertainment.

My favorite innovators are people who read a need, and come up with a new way to meet that need. Sam Walton, for instance, rethought the concept of discount retailing, and realized that the key differentiator was efficiency. Using IT strategically, he created the Wal-Mart empire. Sir Richard Branson understood that a key to success, whether in retail (audio, specifically) or services (such as air transportation) was an excellent customer experience, and from that built the Virgin companies. Along similar lines, in terms of IT strictly, Steve Jobs drove his engineers at Apple to concentrate on creating not only a pleasing, but distinctively signature user experience in all their products, which has enabled the Macintosh to survive the Windows onslaught and also ensured the success of the iPod, iPhone, et al.

3. What do you consider are the most promising innovations of the last 3 years?
Most innovations that reach public awareness are things that have existed, or at least been under development, for at least 10 years. Thus, a major technical innovation of the past three years is the latest demonstration of miniaturized technical integration that I call the integrated mobile information device, but which is more commonly called, for legacy reasons, the “cell phone”. It is a telephone, of course, but it’s also a text messaging device, e-mail client, Internet browser and, in some cases, a music player, a camera, a networked PDA, and a push-to-talk audio transformer (a.k.a., “walky-talky”). In the near future, I expect it to also be a GPS navigator and mobile television set (with DVR capability). Lots of people also use it as a pocket watch. It has replaced the land line telephone for a whole generation of users (who don’t live where I do, which is to say, they must live where they get fairly reliable signal service). It replaces the older “brick” style cell phone, as well as the pager, the PDA, pocket camera, watch, and even the MP3 player. The key innovation was daring to see a single device as capable of filling a wide variety of purposes, many of which were regarded previously as unrelated.

4. What does it help to become a successful innovator?
A successful innovation is not just a new idea, it is a practical one that solves real problems. Successful innovators are usually commercially successful because they meet a market need. That doesn’t always include the original inventor of the underlying technology, unfortunately, and engineers are often poor promoters of their technology, or attempt to introduce their technology at the wrong time, before the market is ready. A successful innovator has the right idea at the right time, and knows how to sell it.

5. Is there a price to pay to be an innovator? Which one?
The big mistake that most innovators make is that they fall in love with their innovation, and expect that it will always prevail in its market. Such individuals typically fail to adjust when competitors arise who offer “almost as good” for less, or otherwise exploit the general idea, diluting the business opportunity, and leaving original innovator as a relic. The IT industry is full of innovators each of whom successfully exploited one great idea, then tried to milk it beyond its expiration date and came up with nothing original again. Any innovator should, as soon as the innovation proves successful, move on to the next new idea, and not look back. Repeat innovators always do that.

6. What are the rewards to be an innovator?
There are both financial rewards and the ability to point to something that is his/her own idea.

7. What are in your opinion the top 3 criteria for successful innovation?
1) It must address a practical need.
2) It must represent a new idea, or a new take on a classic idea.
3) It must actually work, and be embraced and adopted by a significant constituency.

8. What would you recommend to young people who wish to pursue innovation?
Firstly, have a good understanding of what you know and do well, then find ways that your knowledge, insights, and abilities can address an unmet need of a large number of people. Then, figure out how your solution can be explained to, adopted, and used by those people, and finally, be prepared to work long and hard to make your solution a reality.

9. In your opinion how can we create a culture that supports and sustains innovation?
We need to encourage inquisitiveness, curiosity, imagination, and independent thinking. Our society has a depressingly large degree of “herd mentality” thinking, and I fear the highly programmed nature of many kids’ upbringing these days tends to depress independence in thought and action. Promoting science and technology, including technical competition
, is important as well.

10. What do you think stops/slows down innovation?
Excessive caution, conformity, lack of imagination and initiative. Also, the current climate of popular culture, which seems to denigrate science in particular and intellectual excellence in general.

10+1 .Do you think becoming an innovator can be taught? If yes, how?
No, but the qualities I outlined above can be encouraged in the way courses are taught and kids are raised, and those qualities in turn lead to innovation.

10+2. What is in your opinion the influence that a “location” (country/region) plays with respect to the possibility to be a
successful innovator?

10+3. What would you recommend to make a “location” attractive for innovation?
If by “location” you mean physical location, then I guess the presence of educational institutions, a highly competitive environment, and venture capital would be pretty key. Innovation can happen anywhere, though.

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Ted Selker On Innovation http://www.odbms.org/blog/2008/10/ted-selker-on-innovation/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2008/10/ted-selker-on-innovation/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2008 00:06:00 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/odbmsblog/2008/10/27/ted-selker-on-innovation/ This time I had the pleasure to interview Ted Selker.

Dr. Ted Selker develops and tests new user experiences. He spent ten years as an associate professor at the MIT Media Laboratory where he ran the Context Aware Computing group, co-directed the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, and directed the Counter Design Intelligence: product design of the future project. His work is noted for creating demonstrations of a world in which human intentions are recognized and respected in complex domains, such as kitchens, cars, on phones, and in email. Ted’s work takes the form of prototyping concept products supported by cognitive science research.

Prior to joining the MIT faculty in November 1999, his work at IBM gained him the title of IBM Fellow where Ted directed the User Systems Ergonomics Research Lab. He has served as a consulting professor at Stanford University, worked at Xerox PARC and Atari Research Labs, and taught at Hampshire College, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Brown University.

Ted’s research has contributed to products ranging from notebook computers to operating systems. For example, his design of the TrackPoint in-keyboard pointing device and many of his other inventions are used in notebook computers, his visualizations have been responsible for performance and usability improvements in products, and his adaptive help system has been part of many IT products as well. Ted’s work has resulted in numerous awards, patents, and papers and has often been featured in the press. He was co-recipient of the Computer Science Policy Leader Award for Scientific American 50 in 2004, the American Association for People with Disabilities Thomas Paine Award for his work on voting technology in 2006 and the Telluride Tech fest award in 2008.

1. What is “Innovation” for you?
Innovation is presenting and solving problems in a novel way to changing the way things are done.

2. Who are your favorite innovators?
There are so many innovators and many in my life that I enjoy: Marvin Minsky who invented the confocal microscope, etc., John Mccarthy who invented time sharing and many elements of modern programming, Victor Scheinman who made some of the most successful industrial robots, Toshiuki Ikeda who made the Thinkpad happen, Larry Page and Sergay Brin who created the modern best company, Rob Barrett who invented the way that Atomic Force Microscop`s know where they are, etc., Will Wright who shows with every new game he makes such as Spore shows how vast exploring environments can be at least as compelling as the typical brutality video games of the past.

3. What do you consider are the most promising innovations of the last 3 years?
The theories that show that quantum dots could greatly reduce the bandgap problem in photovoltaics potentially bringing their efficiency over 80%. The new breed of Lithium phosphate batteries that can be recharged thousands of times. The LEDs that are among the most efficient lights ever made. The Flash memories that are large and cheep enough to replace disks and be faster and more efficient. Ubiquitous mobile devices with useful applications and capabilities. The WII game.

4. What does it help to become a successful innovator?
If you Fill your mind with problems, fill your mind with parts to solve problems, appreciate solutions, appreciate contributions from wherever they come, and need to make solutions happen you can become an innovator.

5. Is there a price to pay to be an innovator? Which one?
An innovator is often uncomfortable and making others uncomfortable.

6. What are the rewards to be an innovator?
Helping the world around you.

7. What are in your opinion the top 3 criteria for successful innovation?
A problem worth solving. A problem that can be solved. A problem that will have enough resources and authorization to allow itself to be solved by the people trying to innovate.

8. What would you recommend to young people who wish to pursue innovation?
Enjoy improving your ideas of how to solve problems with others. Enjoy getting people to allow you to solve problems.
Practice really following through solving problems.

9. In your opinion how can we create a culture that supports and sustains innovation?
I have a dream I call Excubate which supports early stage technology business development. I plan to support innovation while delaying commitment to specific parts of the solutions.

10. What do you think stops/slows down innovation?
Confusing your self esteem and ego with peoples acceptance of any specific innovative proposal.

10+1 .Do you think becoming an innovator can be taught? If yes, how?
Absolutely. I love to teach workshops on invention and innovation. Get people to have a habit of defining questions as part of problems they see. Get them to have habits of appreciating others ideas and improve on them. Get people to try out more than one idea, in their head, and in every other way the can: design on paper, build moch ups, build prototypes, get authorization to disementate.

10+2. What is in your opinion the influence that a “location” (country/region) plays with respect to the possibility to be a
successful innovator?

We are surrounded by the problems of where we are: the physical (my water is more expensive than my electric bill in California) the people (the people I know talk about other things than a leak in their plumbing) the tools (I have a milling machine in my shop, I have an osciliscope on my desk, I have a programming environment in my computer), the encouragement of others (my partner asks me to go down and sit at my desk)

10+3. What would you recommend to make a “location” attractive for innovation?
To make a location attractive, make it easy to come to, full of tools and people and other things that can make the ideas turn into working and used solutions.


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10+ Questions On Innovation to Dennis Tsichritzis http://www.odbms.org/blog/2008/09/10-questions-on-innovation-to-dennis/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2008/09/10-questions-on-innovation-to-dennis/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2008 02:57:00 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/odbmsblog/2008/09/23/10-questions-on-innovation-to-dennis-tsichritzis/ I am interested to learn how innovaton can be supported and if possible created. Large research centers do (sometimes) innovate and/or facilitate individual innovation. Read what Dennis Tsichritzis has to say on this. Dennis was previously President of GMD and later senior vice president at Fraunhofer, after Fraunhofer and GMD merged to form one of the largest research center in Germany.

Dennis Tsichritzis got his PhD from Princeton 1968 in Computer Engineering and he spent 40 years in different positions in North America (US and Canada) and Europe (Switzerland, Germany and Greece) doing Research and Research Management. His main Research work was in Data Bases at the University of Toronto and in Object Oriented Systems at the University of Geneva. His main Research Management positions were in Germany first at GMD (as a President) and then at Fraunhofer (as senior vice president). He published extensively and was a University Professor and a business consultant throughout his career.

1. What is “Innovation” for you?

Dennis Tsichritzis: It is the process of creating value by combining ideas, old and new, to improve products, processes and overall environments in economic activities. The emphasis should not be in the novelty of the ideas but at their application to
solve real problems. In Research it is the new idea that is important. In innovation it is the new application.

2. Who are your favorite innovators?

Dennis Tsichritzis: I prefer to talk about favorite innovations rather than favorite innovators. It is sometimes hard to pin point the advancement to one person and only Historians can attribute the credit appropriately.
Just to name a few.
1) The combination of the keel (used for boat stabilization) and the sail (used for boat propulsion) to invent the sailing boat capable of sailing against the wind. Attributed to the unknown sailors who first noticed and then perfected the sailing ship transporting people and goods around the World.
2) Harnessing energy to produce motion. All sorts of engines from the steam (Watt) to the modern combustion engines powering autos, planes, etc. which leverage human muscular strength and allowed widespread transportation.
3) Bringing together Computers and Communications which produced Internet, the Web and made information readily available throughout the World. Only half a century ago the study of Computers and Communications were separate with even a different mathematical basis, Computers used Discrete Mathematics and Communications used Continuous Mathematics.

3. What do you consider are the most promising innovations of the last 3 years?

Dennis Tsichritzis:
1) The smart phone combining Telephone, Media device and Computer to bring mobility, power, versatility and ease of use in a small affordable package.
2) Sensors of all kinds which identify objects and communicate their properties. This allows an unprecedented and open ended host of applications connecting real world objects between themselves and with Human beings.
3) Revisiting the whole energy scene with new ways of producing, storing and transmitting energy. Most of the alternatives may prove unrealistic but the whole activity will modify the patterns of energy production and consumption.

4. What does it help to become a successful innovator?

Dennis Tsichritzis: To understand the world and its real problems and have a wide palette of interesting technologies which may be applicable is a necessary precondition. You also need focus and persistence over a long time frame and appropriate economic conditions to light the fire.

5. Is there a price to pay to be an innovator? Which one?

Dennis Tsichritzis: Once you are obsessed with an idea you neglect everybody and everything including your own private life. You have to live through many dissapointments without giving up.

6. What are the rewards to be an innovator?

Dennis Tsichritzis: Nothing material, few innovators become rich. They seldom have the right entrepreneurial characteristics. Fame, if it ever comes, is late and is a small consolation. Most innovators do it for the pleasure and self satisfaction. Other people around them reap the real benefits and sometimes the fame too.

7. What are in your opinion the top 3 criteria for successful innovation?

Dennis Tsichritzis:
1) To be economically relevant.
2) To be widely applicable.
3) To provide a better quality of life.

8. What would you recommend to young people who wish to pursue innovation?

Dennis Tsichritzis: Observe the World and listen to other people. Most of the ideas are around if only you take the time to discover them. Do not get easily get sidetracked or discouraged. Do not follow any fads and directions where everybody is going.

9. In your opinion how can we create a culture that supports and sustains innovation?

Dennis Tsichritzis: By admiring the new and the chances that it brings as opposed to thinking of the risks and the shortcomings. By rewarding lavishly everybody who tries to innovate as opposed to the successful ones. By encouraging young persons to think differently as opposed to learn what is widely accepted.

10. What do you think stops/slows down innovation?

Dennis Tsichritzis: Backward mentality, vested interests and fear of the unknown.

10+1 .Do you think becoming an innovator can be taught? If yes, how?

Dennis Tsichritzis: No I do not think that becoming inovator can be widely taught, the same way as painting or poetry writing. What can be taught is the appreciation and the support for innovation.

10+2. What is in your opinion the influence that a “location” (country/region) plays with respect to the possibility to be a
successful innovator?

Dennis Tsichritzis:
1) The right general culture
2) The acceptance of the need for innovation (otherwise we will not make it)
3) The right economic conditions so an innovation can be promoted at a global scale

10+3. What would you recommend to make a “location” attractive for innovation?

Dennis Tsichritzis:
1) Attract top talent around the World by giving them the best working conditions and living environment.
2) Revamp the education system to promote free thinking instead of recipes
3) Support financially innovations and promote them world wide

Thank you!

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Interview with Marten Mickos http://www.odbms.org/blog/2008/06/interview-with-marten-mickos/ http://www.odbms.org/blog/2008/06/interview-with-marten-mickos/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2008 08:21:00 +0000 http://www.odbms.org/odbmsblog/2008/06/11/interview-with-marten-mickos/ Marten Mickos is now the head of the Database Group at Sun Microsystems
I have asked Marten a few questions related to the new strategy of MySQL, now part of Sun Microsystems.
See his reply below.


Q1. It appears as if the positioning of MySQL has been refocused more predominately on the Web applications / SaaS / ASP market in the last year or so. Would you agree with this, and if so, what does that mean regarding the potential of MySQL to penetrate further into the enterprise?

Marten Mickos:
Great question. We believe that enterprises will move to web-based architectures, and with that wave, MySQL is penetrating the enterprise market.

Goldman Sachs stated in 2006 that “the shift to more web-based applications in the enterprise is unstoppable”. The percentage is still relatively low (10-20% I think) but it is growing.

Q2. Lack of enterprise-grade support and vendor services are frequently cited in surveys as the #1 barrier to the adoption of
FOSS RDBMSs by the enterprise. In this sense, can you give some specific examples of how the Sun acquisition is playing with enterprise clients?

Marten Mickos:
Very true. Before we got acquired we didn’t really believe this (we had so many customers anyhow), but we see a clear change now. Thanks to Sun, we are in active dialogue with CIOs and others of very large corporations.

Q3. One could make the argument that the Big 3 (Oracle, IBM and Microsoft) did not have an appropriately tailored offering (particularly on price) for the build-out of the Web, and that this largely left the field clear for MySQL (as part of the LAMP stack). What do you expect their strategy to be over the long-term?

Marten Mickos:
Yep, I think that’s a valid assertion.

But they are not stupid, and they all have great strategies for the future. Microsoft SQL Server is marching into the web world with the entire Microsoft stack. They are perhaps not overly successful, but within the domain of web apps that run on Windows, SQL Server has a reasonable share. Oracle seems to be attempting to cover the SaaS companies, and they have a reasonably good start there. IBM is focusing on their on-demand story with DB2 on a variety of IBM platforms.

These are just my observations and I may be wrong, of course. Overall I think that the big 3 will continue to have good business for themselves, but I also think that in the most rapidly growing market segments they may have no special advantage.

Q4. What consequences do you think Sun’s acquisition will have for MySQL as an open source product? Can you maintain the user involvement and open source brand? How will you manage the innovation process in the future?

Marten Mickos:
A key reason for us accepting the acquisition offer was that we saw and liked the new open source strategy of Sun. They are fully committed to open source and to the architecture of participation. If anything, this should have a positive effect for us.

Q5: Where Sun wants to brings persistence with respect to objects?

Marten Mickos:
I believe that this is a question for the application designer. As a vendor of software and hardware infrastructure, we at Sun need to accommodate all needs. You get persistence through MySQL or JavaDB (in native Java) or you can use memory-based tools such as Memcached. And with various object-relational mapping technologies you can go from non-persistence to persistence according to your own desires.

Q6: LINQ is leading in database API innovation, providing native language data access. Why is there no LINQ for Java?

Marten Mickos:
I don’t know.

Q7. Sun and Java go together synonymously, ala the change in Sun’s ticker symbol to Java. However, it’s been written that Java users represent a smaller subset of the MySQL community which is largely composed of PHP, Python, Perl, C, C++ developers. How do you plan to increase your appeal to the Java user community?

Marten Mickos:
The P languages are likely to continue to be the most important for MySQL, and Ruby on Rails is growing in popularity. But we always had an initiative to grow the installed base in the Java world. The most important thing we can do is have a great JDBC driver, which I think we have. It is highly performant and it supports the most important functions and constructs. Now as we are part of Sun we will be able to further remove barriers to adoption. We will probably create more how-to documents, tutorials, and sample applications, plus benchmarks etc. – all of which are intended to make it more appealing to use MySQL from a Java app.

Q8. As a company, you need to derive revenue to survive. You’ve done that successfully using an open source model that focuses on services and value added upgrade licenses. Those tools, while establishing a vast user community including 100’s of millions of installations, have driven relatively modest revenues. Going forward, which revenue generating tool do you see providing the most return to Sun’s investment in MySQL, services or licenses and why?

Marten Mickos:
We have always had a business model of providing commercially licensed stuff to customers. This will continue. From a technical standpoint we know that open source is a more efficient way to produce software, but from a business standpoint we have chosen to produce certain smaill add-ons for paying customers only. In this way we can combine the best of open source with a great revenue model. This is probably why we are the fastest growing database business in the world.


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