Tag Archives: community

Cloud Foundry has gone Pivotal – so what’s new?

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be at the launch of Pivotal – a new organisation formed by VMware, EMC, and with investment from GE. You can read all about our new company at GoPivotal.com.

I am Pivotal

I am Pivotal

What does that mean for me, and for my role on the Cloud Foundry team? What is happening with Cloud Foundry right now? What about the Cloud Foundry community?

Well, as my über-boss James Watters recently wrote – we are a central part of the Pivotal business.

Our mission is to become the most popular platform for new applications and the services used to build them across public and private clouds.

That’s a pretty compelling mission statement, and I’d personally even add that we want to be the “best” platform, as much as “most popular”. One of the main reasons I wanted to spend a couple of weeks at the Pivotal office in San Francisco was really to immerse myself in the team and in the culture of Pivotal Labs, as well as to be at the launch event, and to get a strong handle on what is happening with Cloud Foundry, version 2…

Wait, what? Version 2?

In the middle of last year, the Cloud Foundry team started some major work to improve many of the features offered by the platform. Back then, it was written about on the Cloud Foundry blog. We initially started to refer to “ng” components like the Cloud Controller (“cc-ng”), and that’s what we now mean when we refer to “v2”. At the start of the year we published a roadmap which laid out a lot more detail in terms of what is coming. There’s some really great stuff in there – many bugs squashed; a new, high performance router; support for developers to collaborate on apps, via concepts of organisations and spaces; new containerisation via Warden; custom domains (yes, finally!); and most importantly, support for buildpacks. Buildpacks will bring a major change to our platform, replacing the former concepts of runtimes and frameworks (say, Java with Spring) with the ability to drop in whatever runtime or container you may choose, instantly making the platform more customisable. We’re pleased that the folks over at Heroku have allowed us to inherit the buildpack concept and having played with the new platform, I believe this gives us a really cool and solid way to support apps.

Deploying #cloudfoundry v2 on Amazon

Deploying Cloud Foundry v2 on Amazon

While I was in San Francisco, I used BOSH to deploy my own new Cloud Foundry v2 instance to Amazon EC2 (and also attended the AWS Summit, which was a bonus!). Right now the team is working on migrating our  hosted cloudfoundry.com platform to EC2, and when we officially boot up v2 for the public, it will be running right there. This is not new news – both James, and our CEO Paul Maritz, have repeatedly spoken about AWS.  The point of Cloud Foundry has always been that it is a platform that is Infrastructure-as-a-Service agnostic, even when it was started by VMware, and I’m seeing increasing interest from folks want to run it on OpenStack, AWS, and other infrastructures as well as vSphere (by the way, did you read about how Comic Relief 2013 ran on Cloud Foundry on vSphere and AWS? so cool!). There is no lock-in here – write once, deploy to cloudfoundry.com, to a partner running a compatible Cloud Foundry-based instance, or to your own private cloud on your on infrastructure, as you wish. The Open Source nature of the project is exactly why I jumped on board with the team a little over a year ago.

Talking of the update to cloudfoundry.com: it is also worth mentioning that when the beta period comes to a close we will have pricing plans, a nice web console for user, organisation and application management, and the start of a marketplace for partners to plug-in their own services for developers. I can’t give more details in this post, watch the official channels for news!

I felt very strongly that I wanted to write about version 2. It is a very big step in evolving the Cloud Foundry architecture, and I believe that it is important for the broader  community to understand that it is a significant change. If you are running an app on cloudfoundry.com today, we’ll shortly contact you with information about migration to the new platform, as some changes will be needed to adapt to the fact that runtimes and frameworks are now buildpacks, there will be some changes to the way services work, and you will need our new ‘cf’ gem to deploy to the new service. We have already “paused” new signups on the current platform. If you look at the new documentation, you will find that it now focuses on version 2 – we apologise for any confusion during the transition process.

We’ve been talking with ecosystem partners about version 2 as well. For instance, our friends at Tier 3 recently blogged about Iron Foundry plans, and I had the pleasure of meeting with Stackato folks in person in San Francisco recently. If you are working with your own Cloud Foundry instance privately (we know that many organisations are!) I strongly urge you to talk to us via the vcap-dev mailing list to learn how you can start to take advantage of what the new platform brings.

What else does Pivotal mean for Cloud Foundry? Well – we are more open than ever, and keen to work with the community on pull requests to add features via Github. I’ve just written a  post for the Cloud Foundry blog about how to participate in the Open Source project. In fact, I’ll be talking more about this at the Cloud East conference in Cambridge next Friday May 24. We’re always happy to talk more about how to collaborate.

These are exciting times!

 

M2M Community at EclipseCon

Day 2 of EclipseCon 2013 and we’ve already been seeing some strong interest in the M2M community and the kinds of projects we have been working on!

The story so far

There were two  M2M events on day one. The first was the M2M tutorial featuring some real hardware (Raspberry Pi and Arduino), using the Koneki Lua Development Tooling to deploy scripts to the embedded Mihini runtime on the Pi to drive and take input from sensors over Modbus. I cheated a little and mixed in a bit of MQTT using the Paho Lua client, to have my kit publishing temperature and light data to a broker instead 🙂 It is early days for Eclipse Mihini, but it was a really slick demo and tutorial, and I’m looking forward to playing with this a lot more.

The evening Birds of a Feather session gave a group of us a couple of open hours to hack around with our Pi and Arduino kits. My own efforts were slightly thwarted by a European soldering iron and a 110V power supply, so I wasn’t able to assemble the add-on board I wanted for my Raspberry Pi, but I’ll get back to that in the future. For those looking to explore their new Raspberry Pis and hardware / GPIO interaction from Java, take a look at the pi4j project.

Building a community

One useful “war story” that was told today was in Benjamin Cabé’s Building the M2M Community talk. The slides will follow, but it was good to hear about the progress of the community and projects involved (yes, ok, I’m a Committer on one of them…) and also to hear about his “Community Manager Toolbox” for tracking and responding to community discussions. I use a very similar set of tools when I engage with the Cloud Foundry and MQTT communities (and others that I’m involved with).

Here’s a summary:

  • Slideshare – monitor who favourites and downloads slides related to your project
  • Twitter – monitor hashtags, engage complainers
  • YouTube – screencasts, demos, build channel to aggregate content
  • StackOverflow – answer questionss (even old ones), find answers that need to be complemented)
  • Github – monitor forks, stars, look for people using your tech (include Gists)
  • Google Alerts
  • IFTTT – e.g. if Eclipse wiki changes get Gtalk notification recipe
  • Google Analytics for your site
  • LinkedIn – monitor groups, post news and relay blog posts

In short: Engage the community. Be very public about what you are working on and where the roadmap is going. Get management buy-in for your projects to persuade them of the value of opening them to the community (use metrics to demonstrate take-up).

Working on standards

The other thing that has been going on today “behind the scenes” at EclipseCon has been the first meeting of the OASIS MQTT Technical Committee. It is exciting to see that Richard Coppen and Raphael Cohn have been elected as co chairs of the group, with seven sponsoring organisations from across the technology and messaging market and 35 publically-visible members – lots of interest in MQTT!

 

Community, telephony, and prototypes: Make-a-thon

Warning: long post! the first in a series covering some of the events I’ve attended or been involved with lately.

Background

At January’s London Internet of Things meetup, I had the privilege to hear Haiyan Zhang speak with passion about various topics, including how she had collaborated with hackspaces in Japan in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster.

It was only the first time I’d come across Haiyan, so I was surprised but delighted that she invited me to the OpenIDEO Make-a-thon this past weekend, after tweeting about events like the London Green Hackathon.

I had only a vague idea what to expect of the Make-a-thon. When I saw some of the project briefs being published ahead of the day, I knew that it would be a little different to hackathons and other tech events I’d been to in the past. The briefs spanned issues such as improving local communities, bike safety, and several supporting campaigns by Amnesty International to use technology to support human rights activities.

My initial impression that it would not be a “run of the mill” tech event was reinforced when I arrived at the IDEO offices in Clerkenwell on Friday afternoon – it was a very different crowd to the ones I typically encounter – full of product designers, makers, human factors specialists, as well as web coders and developers. I rocked up with a bunch of Nanodes and other electronics with a vague thought of doing something hardware-related, but in the event I didn’t get that far!

IDEO’s typical approach to design revolves around prototyping and directed brainstorming, and in the event we divided into 8 teams of around 6 each, with diverse skills but with common interests around the briefs on offer. Friday afternoon was spent first understanding and exploring the brief, and then rapidly prototyping a rough idea before presenting it to the rest of the group. Saturday was spent refining the idea and producing an “experience prototype” which was intended to have been tried out “in the real world” if possible.

Evolution of the “Karma Phone”

Several of the briefs interested me, but I joined the team focused on the concept of Postcode Gangs – how could we build something to develop and improve community facilities within a postcode – essentially an arbitrarily-delineated area – in London? We spent some time brainstorming ideas around what “makes” a community before needing to rapidly decide on something to build for our rough prototype.

IDEO Makeathon

“What if” – there was a ringing phone in the middle of the street – and on the end of that phone, someone who knew something, had something to offer, or who was needed something? “What if” – we could create a new local hub with current and historical information about an area, enabling people to explore and meet their neighbours?

So the first prototype of what came to be called Karma Phone involved a lamppost (named, erm, Dan!) with a phone on it, which would randomly ring as people passed by – people could call it with a need and that others could then try to address. On the other side of the lamppost (also known as, Dan’s back) we imagined a large touch display with information about current events, realtime information, historical maps, and so on.

Karma Phone – The Outcome…

The team changed overnight, as Hayley and James were not able to stay for Saturday, Lydia joined us, and Victoria could only be involved for a short time on Saturday. We weren’t all convinced that a ringing phone would be answered, that the system wouldn’t be abused, that there wasn’t a social barrier around providing home address and asking for help, etc. How could we get an actual phone into the street and ringing, too? So, Saturday morning involved some rapid rethinking of what we wanted to build!

We settled on what turned out to be a subtle evolution of the original idea – a public phone which could act as a hyperlocal information service and skills exchange.

While we were brainstorming how to hack a physical phone, run a long cable into the street, use a mobile chained to a metal box, etc etc I remembered Twilio, which I’d been following for a long time, but never had the chance to hack on in anger. Within about 30 minutes I’d demonstrated the ability to initiate calls between two users from a web page, to the rest of the team.

Karma

Steve and Dan set about implementing the web UI; Tim started working on a physical enclosure; Victoria and Lydia managed to source a real “traditional” phone handset; and I remained hard at work writing PHP to talk to Twilio.

A couple of minor wrinkles along the way:

  • network issues meant that I had to use Tim’s phone to tunnel through to my webserver’s console, since it was apparently impossible via the event wifi. Evidently IDEO had just had a network provider change, so it was just an awkward time, but I lost some time fiddling with hosting in the early part of Saturday.
  • at a certain point on Saturday afternoon, I realised that attempting to call from the Twilio web client on the iPad was never going to work… since it requires Flash. I thought of a number of workarounds, but the one that finally stuck was that we were able to use Skype on the iPad, and use the skype:// URI scheme to launch the app from the web client. It wasn’t seamless as we needed Skype credit, and also had to tap an extra “call” button in order to start the call, but it was good enough for a prototype.
  • I’d wanted to make the web app, a standalone launchable web app on iOS. Weirdly, adding the usual meta tags to the page header to instruct iOS to treat the app as standalone launchable, meant that it was no longer possible to invoke Skype from within the web UI… so I backed off from that idea. The only cosmetic issue that presented was an inability to hide Safari “furniture” like the header, but that wasn’t a big problem for a prototype.

Here’s how the final system hangs together:

KarmaPhone-overview.png

Impressive Outcomes…

I spent so long coding and tweaking on Saturday (the commented and documented code is here – ignore how short it might seem – it was an intense few of hours!) that I missed most of the physical assembly. Tim and Dan did an amazing job of creating an enclosure for the iPad and handset. It might have been made from foam board, a box folder, and vinyl, but the final result was beautiful. And most importantly – it was fully functional!

IMG_5753

We would have loved to get the prototype out on the street for public testing (I suspect none of us more than Steve and Lydia!), but time worked against us. The final experience prototype was presented as a live demo with willing audience volunteers – one example call going to an answering service, and the other redirected to the local expert on Scotch Eggs (Tim!).

I’m happy to say that Karma Phone won Best Digital Prototype at the event, and I was (apparently!) Best Tweeter. Nice accolades 🙂

So – conclusions? I really enjoyed the way we worked together as a team of very unique and different talents; and seeing the Karma Phone prototype realised so brilliantly. However, I also think the experience of the Make-a-thon was humbling… listening to the experiences of people illegally detained abroad, and seeing some truly brilliant ideas from all 7 of the other teams, was wonderful.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in the first IDEO Make-a-thon – a really unique hackday. The IDEO team in particular looked after us brilliantly, with superb facilities, a great welcome, and more-than-adequate quantities of the hacker staples (coffee, sweets, pizza and beer).

Read a full recap including information on all of the project briefs on the OpenIDEO site. There’s a gigantic set of photos from the IDEO team, and a much smaller one from me shot on an iPhone at lower quality.

Tim, Dan, Hayley, Victoria, Steve, James, Lydia – Thank You. It was a pleasure!

All of the other teams – you rocked. You did great things. I salute you!

Being social at work – for six years and more

GP 6I just posted to IBM’s internal blogging network, a short post to record my six-year anniversary as a user of the platform. I won’t share the exact content as it mostly had a load of internal links that would break outside of the corporate firewall, but I do want to stop and reflect.

Six years ago, of course, everything was different. We didn’t have an internal social network of the kind we have now (IBM Connections). We had rich user profiles within our corporate directory, we had an Intranet ID to login, and we had… well, we had a small pilot that someone had setup on our internal Technology Adoption Program (aka TAP), to see what would happen if individual IBMers were able to share their thoughts via blogs. That became known as BlogCentral, and progressed through four different versions over the next couple of years.

In the early days the community was small. There were no Blogging or Social Computing Guidelines, those were about to be developed, mostly by the small community that was in the process of forming; this was a little experiment. The experiment of posting what I was working on (a consultant in IBM Software Services for WebSphere at the time), the technical issues I was having, and any news or interesting links I’d found before the days of instant sharing via Twitter, led me to encounter and meet a huge variety of people. Good friendships formed – I got to know the amazing Roo Reynolds, Ian Hughes, Rob Smart, Kelly then-Drahzal-now-Smith, James Taylor, Martin Packer, Luis Suarez, Michael Martine, and so many others. I was invited to get involved in events, opportunities and projects that I would never have had the chance to even have known about before.

I found my voice in a crowd. I joined a tribe. I grew. I learned how powerful a network can be.

Today, IBM’s early experiments have borne fruit in a great variety of tools that we use day-to-day, and that we know can scale to support an organisation as diverse and large as IBM itself. We really do “walk the talk”. I’ve spoken about this journey often, of course, and I’m always happy to share my experiences and my story. And also – wow. That was just 6 years ago. The technology landscape has completely changed today, with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, and so many other places to share and collaborate. It’s mind-boggling that things have moved so quickly.

I’ll be honest: I’m not posting to my blog 3 or 4 times a day as I might have done in my youthful enthusiasm, in those days when all I had was an internal blog and Sametime to keep me going… these days I share my knowledge and connect with my network far more widely, and more often, outside of the firewall (because, honestly, there’s rarely much to hide). That doesn’t mean I don’t still respect the medium of blogs. They are the “rocks in the real-time stream”, as my friend Stowe Boyd once styled them.

I’m glad I’m still a blogger, both at work and outside of it.

Image credit: holeymoon on Flickr, via a Creative Commons license

A very social week in London

Last week[1] was Social Media Week, a global event with presentations, seminars, open days and other sessions run in cities around the world. I got back from LinuxConf Australia just in time to take part in a couple of the sessions that were running in London.

Social Tools for Internal Communications

Social Media for Internal Comms The first event I took part in was the result of a last-minute invitation from Ande and Kate at Media140 to speak in their seminar on the use of social technologies / socal media for internal communications. I ended up as the first speaker to a crowded room at the IAB near Holborn. I spoke about my own experience of how IBM has transformed itself through the use of blogs, profiles, microblogs, video, and other tools. If you’ve heard me speak before then some of the elements would have been familiar – in particular, the “personal journey” of how I came to be a communicator both internally and externally. I did want to tie it in with the current celebration of IBM’s 100 year history, too… few companies have such long histories, and of course with the “near-death experience” of the mid-90s many thought that IBM’s story would end in breakup or failure. I’ve recently read Lou Gerstner’s memoir of his time at IBM, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, and I was struck by the way in which he changed the internal communications at the organisation (his predecessor evidently did not own a PC or use the then-internal email system, PROFS) – so that seemed like a nice example of how some executive sponsorship or spotlight is needed to make a grassroots movement towards “social” successful.

The event overall was a lot of fun – my fellow speakers were all very engaging, and it was my first opportunity to meet one of my network, Abi Signorelli, in person… we’ve followed one another for some time now so it was great to be able to both meet her, and to hear her speak with passion and intelligence on the tools that can enable stronger social communications (and thanks to Abi for recommending me to Media140 as a speaker!).

Some great coverage of the event came in the form of photos, audio, and liveblogged write-ups.

The Future of Communities

The longer-standing commitment I’d had as part of SMW London was a panel discussion hosted by giffgaff, the community-driven mobile network that I started using late last year. Vincent and Heather had kindly invited me to participate on their panel, alongside some amazing folks like Kerry Bridge, Guy Stephens, Ian epredator Hughes, Jem Stone (someone else I’ve followed and admired online but have only just met in person), and some brilliant guys from Mozilla. Heather Taylor (moderating) kicked us off by asking us to imagine how we’d like communities to be in 100 years’ time… and that produced a wide-ranging discussion covering online and offline interactions, privacy, behaviours, business, social networks, and education. To me, it felt a little “rambly” in the sense that we did roam all over the map, and it was a large panel… but at the same time it was incredibly inspiring. I was glad to read Proactive Paul’s account of how the event helped to change some of his thinking about online identity and connectedness, in particular.

The lovely people from Techfluff TV were there, and made a short video report which they’ve now posted online:

[1] depending on when you read this, and when I post it… probably a couple of weeks ago when it finally sees the light of day!