Sybase TechWave draws Geoffrey Moore Inside the Tornado

It’s 6.15 am and the sun is rising over the Mojave Desert.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor

It’s 6.15 am and the sun is rising over the Mojave Desert. The battalion of hotel workers that will fuel us with NutriGrain bars and diet Cokes are already pounding the corridors of this monolithic hotel (the Mandalay Bay) – and the spokespeople are polishing their shoes getting ready for keynotes, plenary sessions and goodness knows what else.

How on earth we cut through the amount of info about to be fired out today is a hard one. Best to take the five-second-glance approach and just get a quick feel for everything perhaps. Let’s see.

Sybase’s TechWave event is now in full swing and CEO John Chen has taken the stage to try and whip up a frenzy with the same theme he’s used for the last half decade: the ‘unwired enterprise strategy’.

Wireless = unwired. Geddit? Did you see what he did there?

Creative it may not be, but the company is making more and more money every year said Chen pointing to, “record results” – so perhaps he’s adopting the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it model’?

Sybase’s focus on mobile is driven by figures (delivered by Chen) that say there is a 14% overall global growth in mobile devices and a 40% increase in smartphones. With 3.5bn global mobile subscribers the new catchline is: “The message is the mobile application platform.” If that’s too cheesy for you, then the fact that there is a 35% worldwide growth in worldwide broadband adoption may validate some of that idea. Data volume growth of around 60% per year is driving column-oriented database architectures says Chen.

Standard forms based interfaces will need to be replaced for many applications in the future according to Sybase. The focus of effort now must be on enabling messaged-based applications. The company says that this movement to a new set of architectural paradigms has several caveats - there must be support for a variety of application types including transactional, mobile, analytical and web 2.0 apps.

If we thought we were going to get the Sybase corporate line all morning today – and to be honest, we did think that was all we were going to get – there came a pleasant surprise. Author of ‘Inside the Tornado’ and ‘Crossing the Chasm’ Geoffrey Moore took the stage. Here are as many notes as I could get down from his presentation:

“What has become clear to us in the West is that the winds of technological change are not blowing towards us any more, they are blowing away from us – and by that I mean the economies of the Far East. We have to become RADICALLY more productive if we are going to be able to compete with these economies that are staffed with people who are willing to work for a lot less than we are.”

“So productivity applications will become key. But what are these apps? We’re moving towards a world where these three application characteristics will exist and I have three cornerstones I’d like to make you aware of and think about…”

“1 – we’re going from a compute centric paradigm to a communication centric paradigm – the communications session is the centre of the application.”

“2 – It’s not about transactional processing capabilities now, it’s about interaction. We’re no longer worried about OLTP benchmarks, because now, reporting and search come to the fore in terms of importance.”

“3 – We’ve moving from the wired desktop to the unwired device. But IT can not dictate the type of device to be used any more. The problem is that that is not the way we have been building our architectures, so we need to consider another layer of abstraction.”

Moore went on to host a panel discussion to back up his earlier points. All good stuff and his books formed a seminal part of my IT learning, so it’s always nice to see people like this come out and talk to the industry in person.

Much of the rest of today is going to be about product updates and enhancements. One of the (I hope) interesting things about the way Sybase interacts with its users is that it uses its user groups (both its in house one and the independent one) to consider product updates based upon what it calls its “Enhancements Process” – so I hope to talk to some users about how effective they feel that process is.

NB Closing note: Anecdote of the day:

Upon entering my room last night I put the TV on (as you do) and opened a Coke (as you do) only to find that the room’s previous resident had availed of the hotel’s facility for pay-per-view movies of the “artistic Danish” variety – and this ‘highly charged’ plot was still being played out when I fired up the telly. Shocked as I naturally was, I phoned reception and was immediately awarded a US$50 meal credit for my inconvenience. After turning off the ‘offensive’ material I repaired to study the room service menu – (as you do). True story.

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