Web Services — Who’s Next?

I was speaking with Jeff Bezos here at ETech earlier today about the Amazon Web Services business, and we got around to the topic of competitors-to-be. He asked me who I thought might go into that business. (Not that Jeff needs advice from me.) I said that it would be limited to companies with a strong reputation for datacenter infrastructure: Google, Microsoft and IBM came to mind quickly, although I discounted Microsoft because when it comes to compute services, I felt it would be politically difficult for them to offer LAMP-based servers. Jeff added HP to my list, which makes good sense.

But we agreed that it’s one thing to venture into the storage/servers-on-demand business and it’s another to do so successfully. As Jeff pointed out, it’s a high-volume low-margin business, in which Amazon has been notably successful. What about these other players? How might they succeed under those circumstances? HP’s heritage is quite the opposite — high margin — although with the Compaq acquisition and subsequent upheavals, they have had some success in the lower-margin PC business. Microsoft doesn’t have much of a track record in this commodity-type market. Google probably does. IBM certainly doesn’t — Global Services is a high-margin business — but if they started an entirely separate business unit with an all-new economic model, they might be able to do it. IBM certainly has the infrastructure experience. So my guess is that Google is the #1 potential competitor to AWS, with IBM and HP as less-likely players.

Whom am I leaving out here?

The Secret Lives of MP3 Files

Paul Figgiani just posted the audio from my presentation at last years Podcast and Portable Media Expo in which I talk about much of the misunderstood facts surrounding MP3 file formats, encoding parameters, etc. I recommend it for all podcasters, since I know from experience that there’s a lot of bad info out there.

A Face for Radio

Maybe 1,000 people in the audience for my seven-minute presentation here at ETech. I was on stage as part of Amazon.com CTO’s Werner Vogel’s keynote session. Staring into the bright lights and seeing the usual sea of laptops, I found myself wondering what was on the back channel. Here’s the log from the chat room during those few minutes.

[gregbiggers] speaking of it conversations, ...
[reilly] this feels very enterprisey
[jgoldman] i hear $950!
[RemyDWD] Can we snap together something with AWS quickly to do it?
[jgoldman] do i hear $900?
[davidcrow] The Levelator?
[seanbonner] Hawaiian Shirt!
[davidcrow] seanbonner++
[gregbiggers] dont knock the levelator
[BigD] oh cool!
[BigD] i love this guy's voice
[gregbiggers] its kinda cool
[cspurgeon] Aah, it was Doug Kaye that was on that podcast, along with one of the AWS execs.
[gregbiggers] he has a total radio voice
[davidcrow] does the levelator get stuck between floors?
[mediaserf] ya like he smoked for 20 years
[cspurgeon] levelator++
[davidcrow] he's got a face for radio
[albertoescarlate] no red boxes?
[cybaea] like an elevator?
[davidcrow] it doesn't work on the Internet
[tengi] davidcrow++
[jgoldman] red lines though
[seanbonner] albertoescarlate: this isn't about the internet aparently
[ikisai] damn my bottom enclosure just hit 37C...
[mediaserf] ?google doug kaye radio
-- ryanmcminn (n=ryanmcmi@host194.diegoman59.hyatthsiagx.com) has joined #etech
[jibot] Search for doug kaye radio: 0.125 seconds. Showing first 3 of 1230000 sites
[jibot] IT Conversations: Doug Kaye - http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail229.html
[jibot] Blogarithms - https://blogarithms.com/
[jibot] Blogarithms ยป The Future of Public Radio -
http://www.blogarithms.com/index.php/archives/2007/02/22/the-future-of-public-radio-2/

Skoll World on The Conversations Network

I’m thrilled to announce that we will be podcasting the 2007 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship on the Social Innovation Conversations channel of The Conversations Network. Through the hard work of Bernadette Clavier at our partner, the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, we expect to publish all of the audio from this great event being held at the end of March at Oxford University. The list of speakers reads like the “Oscars” of the social-entrepreneuring world including Muhammad Yunus, Larry Brilliant and Bill Drayton.

ETech 2007

I’ll be at O’Reilly Media’s Emerging Technology Conference (ETech) next week in San Diego. I wasn’t going to make it there this year — too much work to do here — but in addition to the always-great sessions, two things helped change my mind.

Phil Windley, Executive Producer of IT Conversations, has organized a meetup Tuesday night. If you’ll be at ETech or just hanging around San Diego, please join us. You can get the details and sign up on Eventful.

Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, is the keynote speaker (Tuesday morning) and he’s asked me to give a short presentation on how we’ve used Amazon’s Web Services as the infrastructure for GigaVox Audio Lite.

See you in San Diego.

Which Mambo?

According to Wikipedia, Mambo was created by Peter Lamont in 2000. So what was the CMS/asset manager I used in 1997? It certainly wasn’t the same as either Mambo or Joomla! today, since it pre-dated PHP on which these packages are based. I need to do some Googling to figure out what I’m talking about.

Update: Okay, got it figured out. It looks like there are (or were) two different Mambos. The package I used in 1997 was MAMBO, the Media Asset Management By Objects from a company named WebWare. The URL for their website, webware.com, is now operated by CNet, so it appears WebWare (the company) is gone and with it the asset-management packaged I used ten years ago.

Joomla!

I’m trying to select a platform for a new project for The Conversations Network. What we need isn’t a content-management system, but more of a “community portal” with many of the usual components such as forums, wikis, newsletters, surveys, rich personal profiles and the ability to support 100,000 registered users/contributors.

To our internal team, I was bemoaning the fact that such a solution didn’t exist. WordPress was suggested, but it’s just a very good blogging tool, not even a full-fledged CMS, let alone a community portal.

Drupal was an obvious suggestion, but I’ve delved fairly deeply into Drupal, and I just don’t like its architecture and peculiar style of abstraction. And it’s *really* hard to integrate outside applications into a Drupal site. Some people tried to convince me that with third-party modules, Drupal could do it all, but those modules fall way short of best-of-breed tools. The Drupal forums, for example, are very primitive.

Then team members Les Booth and Charles Lawrence recommended Joomla!, a spin-out (or more accurately a break-away) from Mambo. I used Mambo for a large-scale project way back in 1997, and ended up quite unhappy with the results, so I resisted Les and Charles recommendations. But Mambo today and now Joomla! are a far cry from the package I knew ten years ago. So finally, in a moment of weakness, I went to the Joomla! site and started dabbling. While the basic package seemed rather light on features, I discovered the add-on modules were quite good and plentiful.

I downloaded and installed Joomla!, and was very impressed. The installation and configuration processes are among the best I’ve seen for a complex open-source package.

Over the past two days I’ve been reading a lot of the Joomla! source code, and now I’m even more impressed. Most of the code is well-structured object-oriented PHP. phpDocumentor is used almost everywhere, although in many files, the commenting is somewhat skimpier than I’d like to see. Drupal also uses phpDocumentor, but as I mentioned above, I find its abstractions hard to follow. You’ve got to buy into the Drupal “religion” as it were. It lives in its own little universe.

WordPress is a much smaller application and doesn’t use phpDocumentor. Internally, WordPress is quite clean, straightforward and easy to read and hack. But it’s still just a grownup blogging system — not what we need this time around.

Bottom line: I’m rapidly coming around to agree with Les and Charles. While WordPress is a good single-user app that’s been extended nicely into a multi-author tool, and Drupal is a multi-user but quirky and limited package, Joomla! looks so far to be true industrial-strength code in the same way that Apache, PHP, MySQL and other LAMP tools have evolved to be.

(Yes, I looked at Plone/Zope about 18 months ago, but I found it to be like Drupal in that its design is just a bit too far out of the mainstream.)

More comments as I learn more, but so far, so good for Joomla!