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26
Jun

Microsoft Acquiring Yammer Is Good News for All

Today’s announcement that Microsoft has acquired Yammer has the feel of something very exciting – and I would like to share my initial thoughts on what this might mean.

Yammer provide an enterprise collaboration platform based upon publisher-subscriber principles, but constrained to within a domain context. If you don’t have a matching email address you don’t get to participate. From the Yammer website:

Yammer brings the power of social networking to the enterprise in a private and secure environment. Yammer is as easy to use as great consumer software like Facebook and Twitter, but is designed for company collaboration, file sharing, knowledge exchange and team efficiency.

That Microsoft has decided to acquire Yammer shows great insight by Microsoft, and a willingness to think creatively about tackling the new world of social media. Microsoft will be able to leverage Yammer’s platform in many areas of the business, so it is somewhat of a surprise to learn that they have positioned it as part of the Office family. Sure, Yammer could make various Office products much more powerful, particularly when paired with the Office 365 offerings, but I see it could also benefit many other areas of the business. In other words, I am concerned that Microsoft may be looking to productise this alongside other tools in the Office suite. But Yammer has potential to make a big impact throughout much of the Microsoft product line.

So here’s a quick overview of how I initially think Microsoft products could benefit from Yammer:

  • Excel, Word and Powerpoint could all gain major collaboration benefits:
    • commentary from various people,
    • tracking changes with comments in Office 365,
    • suggestions for further amendments, with applying them,
    • branched versions,
    • seeking approval,
    • requesting clarification on a paragraph, slide, or formula,
    • requesting artwork for insertion
  • Microsoft Project could gain some qualitative aspects – look at Assembla or Pivotal Tracker for some of the interesting developments in the application of social media principles to project management.
  • Outlook could integrate streams from multiple sources including Email and Yammer, but then also from other social media streams, perhaps Twitter, Facebook and Chatter for example, to the extent corporate policies allow
  • Dynamics would benefit – Discussions around non-payment of invoices and doubtful debtors, stock levels, product return rates, supplier feedback would be a good starting point. Beyond that there are many areas where subscription  to objects would provide a great deal of control. Beyond that, there is plenty of scope of linking Yammer to the actual business objects and enabling people to subscribe to invoices, customers, picking slips etc. For example, send a notification to a subscriber when an invoice over a certain amount is paid, or its payment deadline passes.
  • Sharepoint would also benefit. The full extent to which these two tools can synergise requires some deeper thought, but at the surface, the collaborative nature of each appears complementary.
  • Even SQL Server and Visual Studio could provide hooks that enable the database or an application to feed easily into a Yammer stream, or respond to a Yammer feed.
  • Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype will fit nicely into this view as well, with a tightly integrated communication platform that runs from a synchronous emails and notifications, to live discussions through to video.

I am also encouraged by this because it will raise the profile of Social Media to the mainstream. Instead of being seen as something for the Salesforce evangelists and their like, Social Media will become more of a tool as a result of this acquisition.

And that can only be a good thing.

Here’s hoping Microsoft are thinking strategically about this rather than just a new feature set to add to the Office product line.

Here are a couple of other bloggers’ comments on the deal:

18
Jun

Theoretical Disaster Recovery doesn’t cut it.

I have mixed feelings about Amazon’s latest outage, which was caused by a cut in power. The outage was reported quickly and transparently. The information provided after the fault showed a beautifully designed system that would deal with any power loss inevitability.

In theory.

After reviewing the information provided I am left a little bewildered, wondering how such a beautifully designed system wasn’t put to the ultimate test? I mean, how hard can it be to rig a real production test that cuts the main power supply?

If you believe in your systems, and you must believe in your systems when you are providing Infrastructure As A Service, you should be prepared to run a real live test that tests every aspect of the stack. In the case of a power failure test, anything short of actually cutting the power in multiple stages that tests each line of defense is not a real test.

The lesson applies to all IT, indeed to all aspects of business really – that’s what market research is for. But back to IT. If a business isn’t doing real failover and disaster recovery testing that goes beyond ticking the boxes to actually carrying out conceivable scenarios, who are they trying to kid?

Many years ago I had set up a Novell network for a small business client and implemented a backup regime. One drive, let’s say E: had programs and the other, F:,  carried data. The system took a back up of F: drive every day and ignored the E drive. After all, there was no need to back up the programs and disk space was expensive at the time.

After a year I arranged to go to the site and do a back up audit and discovered that the person in charge of IT had swapped the drive letter around because he thought it made more sense. We had a year of backups of the program directories, and no data backups at all.

Here is the text from Amazon’s outage report:

At approximately 8:44PM PDT, there was a cable fault in the high voltage Utility power distribution system. Two Utility substations that feed the impacted Availability Zone went offline, causing the entire Availability Zone to fail over to generator power. All EC2 instances and EBS volumes successfully transferred to back-up generator power. At 8:53PM PDT, one of the generators overheated and powered off because of a defective cooling fan. At this point, the EC2 instances and EBS volumes supported by this generator failed over to their secondary back-up power (which is provided by a completely separate power distribution circuit complete with additional generator capacity). Unfortunately, one of the breakers on this particular back-up power distribution circuit was incorrectly configured to open at too low a power threshold and opened when the load transferred to this circuit. After this circuit breaker opened at 8:57PM PDT, the affected instances and volumes were left without primary, back-up, or secondary back-up power. Those customers with affected instances or volumes that were running in multi-Availability Zone configurations avoided meaningful disruption to their applications; however, those affected who were only running in this Availability Zone, had to wait until the power was restored to be fully functional.

Nice system in theory. I love what Amazon is doing, and I am impressed with how they handle these situations.

They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – here’s hoping we all learn something from this.

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