You Want Money for a Data Center Buildout?

Yield to Cloud A couple years ago I attended several “fast pitch” competitions and events for entrepreneurs in Southern California, all designed to give startups a chance to “pitch” their ideas in about 60 seconds to a panel of representatives from the local investment community.  Similar to television’s “Shark Tank,” most of the ideas pitches were harshly critiqued, with the real intent of assisting participating entrepreneurs in developing a better story for approaching investors and markets.

While very few of the pitches received a strong, positive response, I recall one young guy who really set the panel back a step in awe.  The product was related to biotech, and the panel provided a very strong, positive response to the pitch.

Wishing to dig a bit deeper, one of the panel members asked the guy how much money he was looking for in an investment, and how he’d use the money.

“$5 million he responded,” with a resounding wave of nods from the panel.  “I’d use around $3 million for staffing, getting the office started, and product development.”  Another round of positive expressions.  “And then we’d spend around $2 million setting up in a data center with servers, telecoms, and storage systems.”

This time the panel looked as if they’d just taken a crisp slap to the face.  After a moment of collection, the panel spokesman launched into a dress down of the entrepreneur stating “I really like the product, and think you vision is solid.  However, with a greater then 95% chance of your company going bust within the first year, I have no desire to be stuck with $2 million worth of obsolete computer hardware, and potentially contract liabilities once you shut down your data center.  You’ve got to use your head and look at going to Amazon for your data center capacity and forget this data center idea.”

Now it was the entire audience’s turn to take a pause.

In the past IT managers really placed buying and controlling their own hardware, in their own facility, as a high priority – with no room for compromise.  For perceptions of security, a desire for personal control, or simply a concern that outsourcing would limit their own career potential, sever closets and small data centers were a common characteristic of most small offices.

At some point a need to have proximity to Internet or communication exchange points, or simple limitations on local facility capacity started forcing a migration of enterprise data centers into commercial colocation.  For the most part, IT managers still owned and controlled any hardware outsourced into the colocation facility, and most agreed that in general colocation facilities offered higher uptime, fewer service disruptions, and good performance, in particular for eCommerce sites.

Now we are at a new IT architecture crossroads.  Is there really any good reason for a startup, medium, or even large enterprise to continue operating their own data center, or even their own hardware within a colocation facility?  Certainly if the average CFO or business unit manager had their choice, the local data center would be decommissioned and shut down as quickly as possible.  The CAPEX investment, carrying hardware on the books for years of depreciation, lack of business agility, and dangers of business continuity and disaster recovery costs force the question of “why don’t we just rent IT capacity from a cloud service provider?”

Many still question the security of public clouds, many still question the compliance issues related to outsourcing, and many still simply do not want to give up their “soon-to-be-redundant” data center jobs.

Of course it is clear most large cloud computing companies have much better resources available to manage security than a small company, and have made great advances in compliance certifications (mostly due to the US government acknowledging the role of cloud computing and changing regulations to accommodate those changes).  If we look at the US Government’s FedRAMP certification program as an example, security, compliance, and management controls are now a standard – open for all organizations to study and adopt as appropriate.

So we get back to the original question, what would justify a company in continuing to develop data centers, when a virtual data center (as the first small step in adopting a cloud computing architecture) will provide better flexibility, agility, security, performance, and lower cost than operating a local of colocated IT physical infrastructure?  Sure, exceptions exist, including some specialized interfaces on hardware to support mining, health care, or other very specialized activities.  However if you re not in the computer or switch manufacturing business – can you really continue justifying CAPEX expenditures on IT?

IT is quickly becoming a utility.  As a business we do not plan to build roads, build water distribution, or build our own power generation plants.  Compute, telecom, and storage resources are becoming a utility, and IT managers (and data center / colocation companies) need to do a comprehensive review of their business and strategy, and find a way to exploit this technology reality, rather than allow it to pass us by.

Burbank’s Bexel Brings Media and Event Production Services to the World

NOTE:  This story was originally published at myBurbank.com by the author.

Bexel Equipment Preparation RoomBexel is a very unique company.  From an unimposing facility near the Burbank Airport, Bexel sends broadcast video and audio equipment all over the United States, and around the world, covering events ranging from the Super Bowl to the inauguration.

Started in 1981 by a local entrepreneur, David Trudeau, Bexel now has operations in Burbank, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Secaucus, and Sao Paolo.  Bexel was acquired by Vitec, a British company in 1991, but continues to call Burbank home.

My Burbank’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs had an opportunity to visit with Greg Bragg, Associate Director of Network Rentals and Tom Dikinson, Chief Technology Officer to learn a bit of Bexel’s vision, operations, and leadership in media production systems.

A stroll through Bexel’s facility is like attending a technology seminar in media innovation.  You enter a room is for staging audio and video equipment for an event deployment someplace around the world, the next room is receiving equipment from a previous deployment, another room is busy maintaining and calibrating equipment for either return to the warehouse, or preparation for a specific customer requirement.

“Our mission statement is to elevate the quality of the media production experience” advised Dikinson. “Customer service is one of our core values, and we look for people who are customer-focused, with high integrity to ensure we meet the expectation of our customers.”

A glance through Bexel’s client list and recent accomplishments certainly shows the market has great confidence in Bexel’s ability to deliver.  Whether it is supporting the US Open Golf Tourney, ESPN, the Olympics, or E! Entertainment, Bexel has a presence in just about every event, sporting or other, that ends up on television.  And indeed, all points throughout the world.

Greg Bragg from BexelBragg notes that “Bexel is definitely a services-based organization.  Our emphasis is on customer service, integrity, and delivery.”

Dikinson added “We do consulting for some of our customers, like ESPN and Fox, where we work with them to understand their needs, and how to best achieve what they want to do.  Then we package products together and build kits that are easy for us to deploy to them, as well as easy for the customer to deploy at the venue within their own schedule to meet their requirements.”

Bexel is committed to Burbank, and Dikinson continues “Burbank is a very business-friendly city.”  Not only for the approach to licensing and taxes, but “the fact we are central to the entertainment industry.”  Bragg agrees, adding “other areas like Hollywood are just too congested.  We’re also close to the Burbank Airport making it a really good location.”

Another benefit for Bexel is the dominance of operations and production decision makers in the area.  According to Bragg while New York may have a lot of corporate business function, the Los Angeles area runs the production side of the entertainment industry.  Bragg emphasizes “the people you need to meet regarding a show or production are here.”

Bexel, and the parent company Vitec, are committed to both corporate responsibility, as well as community and social responsibility.

For example, Bexel University is an internal program, providing training to employees on new technology, or to bring employees up to skill levels required to function in their jobs.  Bexel strive to promote from within, with Bragg being a good example.

“I started out with Bexel at 20 years old, working a driver delivering equipment around the area” recalled Bragg.  From there he worked his way up through the company as an office assistant, quality control supervisor, audio technician, and finally into sales with a great position as Associate Director of Equipment Rentals – the bread and butter of Bexel.

In addition to developing and promoting from within, Bexel also heavily recruits from local film institutes and academies, further supporting the community, ordering talented young people great opportu8nities in this dynamic company.

Bragg reflected “we do appreciate being able to provide opportunities for our employees.  Most of the employees have gained experience through working in several different areas within the company, and the senior leadership has a much broader experience than other companies.”

Bexel’s also shows their commitment to the Burbank community through programs supporting the Burbank Police and Fire Service Day with monitors so they can display slide shows, or assisting Jordan Middle School, and just about every elementary school, as well as PTAs with equipment loaners for their carnivals, as well as programs such as BEST, which provides local students an opportunity to be exposed to different parts of the industry, from technical jobs to administrative.

Bragg emphasized “I took the BEST program very seriously, holding kids accountable for their work, while providing them a very healthy learning experience!”

While Bexel has a traditional community service culture, their approach to social responsibility is fully backed by Vitec, which provides a lot of support for local programs.  Bragg explained “we can’t always give money to local programs, but we can certainly provide knowledge and experience to the local community.”

In a world using phrases like “Think Global – Act Local,” it is refreshing to see a company such as Bexel which can actually deliver on their vision, offering a truly global service to the entertainment and video production community.

You can learn more about Bexel at their website www.bexel.com

Protecting Evidence and Property with Robert Giles

“Without evidence, we don’t have a judicial system.”

Law enforcement may be defined as any system by which designated members of society act in an organized manner to promote and enforce adherence to the law by discovering and punishing persons who violate the laws governing that society.

In order to punish violators and offenders, law enforcement needs to collect and maintain facts and evidence.  Failure to do so correctly may result in the release of a guilty person, or possibly worse the arrest and incarceration of an innocent person.

Robert Giles, past President and a current Boardmember of the International Association for Property and Evidence, Inc. (IAPE), is on a mission.  That mission is to ensure law enforcement offices and citizens have the knowledge, procedures, and recommendations to ensure evidence and property is correctly managed, ensuring that evidence is available to all within the judicial system.

“How can we tell some people they are not doing something right if we are not also telling them what is the right thing to do?”

Ultimately the objective is to manage and protect the evidence available to convict the criminal, and release the innocent, if warranted, as quickly as possible.

Burbank N Beyond’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs caught up with Giles on Thursday, following a Property and Evidence Management course IAPE held in Burbank.

Burbank N Beyond: Tell us a bit of your background, how did you get into the training and standards business?

Robert Giles from IAPERobert Giles: Well. I am a retired 32 year Lieutenant with the Burbank Police.  My colleague (in IAPE) Joe Latta, who was instrumental in starting this venture, was also a police lieutenant who retired a few years senior to me.

In 1997 it was a very small operation.  The woman who started it (IAPE), Robin Trench, very tragically contracted cancer and passed away.  She had been in contact with Joe Latta and me.  We had been teaching property and evidence classes through the state Police Officer Standard and Training (POST).

In that vein Joe had the vision, wisdom, and forethought that this could propel property and evidence into a visible endeavor.

We formed a new board and set up our own bylaws and how we wanted to operate.  And as a small incorporated business we had to have board officers.  We wanted to do everything right, so we tapped other knowledgeable persons who we knew to be qualified to be on the board.

We had a lot of roots here in Burbank, however our organization has now grown nationwide, and to Canada.

IAPE is a non-profit research and education organization, dedicated and committed to provide education and training pertaining to all aspects of the handling, storage, maintenance and disposal of law enforcement held property and evidence. The knowledge is provided free of charge on our website, but we charge for the management training and other related materials to cover our costs.

We have trained persons form the US, Canada, Trinidad, China, and we are expanding to other locations.

Burbank N Beyond:  Why Burbank?  What role can Burbank play in the global property and evidence management field?

Robert Giles: Burbank is among the larger agencies nationwide, however when you compare us to the major cities we are kind of a flyspeck.  Thus we know there are more than one way to do it (the job of managing and maintaining property and evidence).  In Burbank we knew there was one way to do it, and it worked real well for our size agency, and we tried to pass that along (to other agencies).

You know there are lots of different ways to do things, and some ways work even better than what we do.  And we have grown along with our exposure to the way others may do the same function. So historically that’s how we got to where we are.

The IAPE Board of Directors is charged with the duties of advancing the scope of knowledge and enhancing professionalism within the field of property and evidence management. To help achieve this goal, the IAPE has adopted professional standards in a number of important property and evidence handling procedures.

Adhering to these standards should assure any agency that reasonable steps have been taken to obtain a secure and efficient property and evidence management system. Not adhering to these recommended standards will increase the likelihood of problems associated with the operation of the unit. (IAPE.Org)

Giles went on to discuss some of the IAPE activities, as well as recent cases involving mismanagement of evidence, as well as even mentioning recent cases where law enforcement officers and custodians had tampered with, stolen, or rendered evidence unusable.  In these cases the guilty may go free, or even worse, the innocent may be held for a crime they did not commit.

Robert Giles: When events like this happen it makes all law enforcement officers look bad.   We want to make sure we are doing our bit to make sure the law enforcement agencies have in place internal controls that prevent that sort of thing from happening, or would at least detect that it has happened.

“Even within the United States there is a great disparity between law enforcement agencies, and how they store, manage, and process evidence.”

Robert Giles:  We’re in a situation right now here we might go around the country and find a small room that is just overflowing with old evidence.  The people (law enforcement agencies) are scared to get rid of anything because new laws are being passed left and right saying you have to keep certain categories of evidence for “X” number of years, or keep evidence collected in homicides forever.

Some states might say as long as you have a prisoner in custody you must maintain the evidence, or as long as the person is alive who has been accused you need to keep the evidence (that was used to convict them).

There are a lot of well-meaning legislators who have passed terrible laws.  We’d like to see some common sense brought into some of those laws.

Burbank N Beyond:  What made you decide to stay active, rather than simply enjoy retirement?

Robert Giles:  I wanted to stay involved and apply all the officer knowledge and experience I had (to this cause), and stay productive in the law enforcement field.  You know I really enjoyed my job over the years.

Ten years later I am still involved, periodically going to different locations across the nation to put on a class (IAPE certifications and general knowledge).  We are able to conduct training across the country and serve other law enforcement agencies throughout the country and help them out so they can get their act together (in reference to evidence handling and management).

There are very few resources out there in the field of property and evidence management.  There are maybe 3 or 4 instructors nationwide, and none of them have the resources available that we have, such as access to our standards, and the strength of the organization we have behind us.

They may only have resources such as a book to refer to, and do not have access to a 4500 member organization like IAPE behind them (for support).  They have not taught 400 classes over the past 15 years, or access to about the 10,000 people we’ve taught.

IAPE has become the “gold standard” for how to manage property and evidence.

Burbank N Beyond:  It is 2012, approaching 2013, why is it today after so many years, why it is law enforcement still has trouble with evidence management?

Robert Giles:  Does the medical field have issues with doctors that are not the highest caliber or have the most integrity?  Do prosecutors often go out and compromise the integrity of the prosecution so they can win a case and go on to bigger and better things (career ambitions)?

Law enforcement is just like any other profession.  We’ve brought people in from the human race, and there are different levels of education, different levels of morality, and those are the exceptions, not the rule.  And you have different parts of the country where entering law enforcement (is a compromise) to low level employment.

So to answer your question of why it has taken law enforcement so long to come up to a higher standard, it is because of too few resources, lack of education, too little attention being given to it (property and evidence management) given to it by the media which often does not do its “watchdog” function.

Many times we find out about corruption from sources other than the media, which surprises me because to me, what you (Burbank N Beyond) are doing right now is wonderful because you are telling people there is a need for law enforcement to watch out for the way they handle their evidence.   If you do not manage your evidence, then your agency is not up to task.

The media should be publicizing this for others to read.

Burbank N Beyond:  Why Burbank?  It is a big country, lots of opportunities to set up shop in any location.  Why Burbank?

Robert Giles:  We did start out in Burbank, but we also spread ourselves out and have members, board members, and contributors from Chico, Minneapolis, Long Island – we are spreading ourselves around the country.

Burbank N Beyond:  You are part of a strong organization today, but when you started with IAPE it was small, and presented you a level of risk.  How do you feel about entrepreneurship in general, or striking out on your own if you are midway through a career, or just starting a career?

Robert Giles:  People coming out of the military have a lot of skills, and are the best and the brightest.  I love it when a well-qualified vet comes in and wants to get trained or certified in property evidence.  The military guys have a lot of experience they can bring to not only law enforcement, but other fields.

You have to be able and willing to move around to find the jobs and opportunities.  You need to stay current in your field, getting professional certifications, learn the standards, and get qualified.

Or if the job market doesn’t meet your needs you have to be willing to strike out on your own.  It is a lot tougher to start your own business than it is to work for somebody else, but that is the answer for a lot of people.

Sometimes you freelance, and sometimes you have to volunteer to get known, and then apply for a job.

Counterintuity – Creative Internet Marketing in Burbank

Pacific-Tier Communications and Burbank N Beyond’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs had an opportunity to visit with Amy Kramer, President and Marketing Whiz, and Lee Wochner, CEO and Counterintuity Offices in Burbank CaliforniaCreative Strategist, at Counterintuity LLC, a Burbank-based agency focusing on Internet marketing.  Amy and Lee discussed a variety of topics ranging from taking the risk with a start up company, to their visions and ideas on Internet marketing and social media, as well as why Burbank is a great place to run a business.

Counterintuity is a full-service marketing agency that has designed, launched and maintained hundreds of custom-built websites, digital marketing strategies, public relations, search engine optimization, social media campaigns, as well as identity and print pieces.

PT-BNB:  It is kind of scary doing a start up when you have worked in a corporate environment your entire life – how did you get started?

Amy:  Back in the late 90s I was working in direct response, in infomercials.  And I was helping a very large product break into the web.  So we were launching eCommerce sites doing email marketing when it was only text, and Lyrist was the only provider.  And so right there at the very cusp of Internet marketing I was there with a budget.

It was a tremendous opportunity.  So after launching that product, then we’re into 2000 and it was really starting to grow, and the opportunities were really awesome.

So I left the cushy direct response gig and decided to break out and do it myself.

The there was an opportunity for Lee and I together to bring this Internet marketing product and series of products to small businesses and organizations.  Because previously it was only available because the cost was so prohibitive.  So we were able to bring it to a wider range of businesses and organizations.

Lee:  Amy and I already had a working relationship and I already knew she was a really smart digital marketer, we work well together, and I think it is a great time to be in business, it is an important time for entrepreneurship, and I think a lot of the problem in the country and in the world will increasingly be solved by entrepreneurial solutions.

And so what we were looking to do was find a way to leverage those sorts of opportunities for smaller businesses rather than lock them out because they don’t have big budget.

PT-BNB:  Are smaller business a focus of the Counterintuity, does it make any difference what size a business is?

Lee:  It really depends on how you define small business.  I think small business as defined by the federal government is 500 employees or fewer.   So people, even in the Small Business Administration think they need to redefine that.

We have clients who do a million dollars a year in revenue, sometimes a little bit less.  And we have clients who do 200 million dollars a year in revenue or more.  About a third of our clients are non-profit or public sector.  So I don’t know if they really fit that profile.

But the commonality among all of our clients is that they are looking to succeed in entrepreneurial ways in response to all of the changes in consumer patterns driven by the Internet.

PT-BNB:  On your website you show three majors areas which include social media, website design, and digital marketing.  You wouldn’t have seen that 10 years ago, with social media being a focal point.  What is the impact of social media?  Why is that important for us to understand?

Lee and Amy at Counterintuity Burbank CaliforniaLee:  So next week we’re doing a presentation for the city as part of “Team Business.”  We’re going to be doing our “Get Connected Social Media Seminar.”

Let me give you the shortest, best answer I can.  Social media is word of mouth marketing done big.  Amy and I both have a background in the theater.  That’s how we met in 1999.  What you find out in the theater is that it doesn’t matter what your ads are, what your reviews are, the primary way to drive business is through “word of mouth.”

Social media presents a suite of tools that allows you to capture word of mouth from all of the people you are connected to and spread it.

Obviously there’s a potential upside and a potential downside to that.  The potential upside is “hey this is really great we really like this,” and the potential downside is “we were really disappointed, we don’t really like this, and forget them.”

There has always been a conversation about you, your product, and your service.  Now you have more opportunity than ever to manage that, and to spread the word, and to turn other people into advocates for you online.

PT-BNB:  What does social media mean for the generation that is just graduating from high school and college, and what role do you play in being able to fulfill their need for having access to social media?

Lee:  What need does the typewriter fill? Or the quill pen?

It’s not a marketing tool, it is a tool.  A basic tool.  It is a communications platform.  It’s a way to connect everybody up, with all of their content.  Some of the content might be “here is a picture of my kid.” And “here is the dinner we had.”  I took a picture of my dinner in San Francisco the other night because it was so interesting, and I built a blog post around it.

And then all these people on Facebook “liked” the picture of my dinner, and said they wished they’d had it.  If that had been my client in San Francisco I would have linked to it.

But see it was my life, and then I could turn it into marketing, but really it’s about the tool.

When people talk about social media marketing, then I say we’re talking about communications.  When you think about it, when you are born the very first thing you do is communicate.  You cry, and then you start to breath.  You are crying to communicate.

Communication is at the heart of who we are.  There is (traditional) scientific research that says we developed more than other primates because we have language, and because we have bigger brains.

The new thinking is we have bigger brains because we developed language, developed synaptic connections, and grew our brain muscles.

So language and communication are at the core of who we are.

I try to talk to people and say “don’t focus on the tool.”  If I give you the three basic ways to think about all the social media tools then you can do anything you want with them.  Don’t get hung up on how seemingly complex there are, and how to use them.

It’s like your car.  I have no idea how the cylinders work.  I just drive it.  That’s how social media should work for you.

Amy:  And when you talk about the next generation, they are just using it (social media) in different ways.  They don’t like talking on the phone as much.  They like texting more.  It’s a small, quick conversation.

Turns out a lot of the kids are not into Facebook.  Some prefer Twitter.  Others right now are really into Instagram.  It is a great way for them to share what they are doing, and what they are involved in.  Visual storytelling.

Again it is sharing information, it all comes down to what’s sharing what is going on in your life and telling that story.  Whether it is for you personally, or whether it is for a brand.

Kids today – email.  Not as big with kids.  They are doing Facebook messaging. They are doing DMs on Twitter.  Just a text.  It is a different way to communicate.  But as Lee was saying, it is just a communication tool, it is just how new social media and new Internet platforms are helping them (young people) communicate.

PT-BNB:  What is the role of blogging?

Amy:  Blogging at its core is journaling.

As marketers, we recommend it for our clients.  And the reason we recommend blogging for clients is it is a way to build credibility and to expand your authority in your industry.

When journalists are looking for folks to interview, where do you go?  You go to LinkedIn to look them up, and generally the next place is their website.  Then if you get to their website and want to look at what they have to say you go to their blog.

Because that gives you a bit of insight into their voice and into their POV (point of view).

The you go “oh, they might be good for this entrepreneurial article that I’m writing.”

So blogging is an entrée into PR.  It is an entrée into getting more coverage, as well as if a client is looking for someone like you it can actually help your search engine optimization, significantly.  Because it can give you opportunities to talk about what you do.

So blogging is good for authority, it is good for search rankings, because the more content, and the more regularly you update your content on your website and your blog, the more highly Google thinks of you.

PT-BNB:  How about video?

Lee:  Massive, huge.  We’ve been doing more and more video for clients and for ourselves, and have been winning awards for it. It (video) has got to be brief, it has got to be interesting, it has got to make a point, and you need to share it.

Put it on Youtube, Tweet out a link, put it on your Facebook, put it on your website, stick it in your blog, repurpose your content, because then people will see it more often.

Amy:  And it has got to be short.  Attention spans are now teeny.  It must play quickly.

Lee:  So if you go to our Youtube page you will see some of the videos we have done.  We’ve been doing client videos and internal videos, and the great thing is you no longer need a massive budget.

Now there are projects we’ve done for very large clients who have a budget, and we can go do what would be called a corporate-looking video.

Then there are ways to do more guerrilla type video.  We did a video recently for Center Theater Group, the Taper, Ahmanson, Kirk Douglass Theater.  I and our video editor went down there and we did 13 setups and shot the whole video in about 4 hours.  Because now the technology is such that you can go do that, be really mobile, really fast.  We wrote the script in advance, went down and shot it, and then it took about a half a day to do the first cut on a laptop.

We sent it to the client, the client asked for a few tweaks, and in just two days we had a complete corporate video for them.

PT-BNB:  Why did you decide to setup shop in Burbank?

Lee:  Burbank is a great place to do business.  Burbank is a tight knit community, it is easy to do business here, and it is easy to become part of the community.

The city has been terrific.  We have personal relationships with all the city council members, the mayor, the city staff…  Whenever we have had an issue or an opportunity they have resolved it very fast.  They have worked with us, and we have nothing but positive things to say about the city.

With regard to the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber has been a key driver in our business.  They have been so terrific at connecting us up, offering valuable services, and anything we can do with or for the Chamber we will do it.

It is a great place to be, Burbank.

You can learn more about Counterintuity at their website www.counterintuity.com

Burbank Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Burbank is the home of the global entertainment industry, prominent in aviation, and a burgeoning Internet development community.  Burbank Innovators and Entrepreneurs will look at companies and persons based in Burbank making an impact in their industry, with an emphasis on entrepreneurs, and those on the cutting edge of technology, services, and thought leadership.

Innovators and Entrepreneurs will bring personal interviews digging into the motivations, challenges, successes, personalities, with visions of companies and people driving our business community into the future.

If you have a Burbank-based company or recommendation of a company, that is at the cutting edge of your industry, are an innovator, or an entrepreneur, and would like either Pacific-Tier Communications or BurbankNBeyond to highlight the activity, send a note to jsavageau@burbanknbeyond.com.

Evaluating Public Cloud Computing Performance with CloudHarmony

With dozens of public cloud service providers on the market, offering a wide variety of services, standards, SLAs, and options, how does an IT manager make an informed decision on which provider to use?  Is it time in business? Location? Cost? Performance?

Pacific-Tier Communications met up with Jason Read, owner of CloudHarmony, a company specializing in benchmarking the cloud, at Studio City, California, on 25 October.  Read understands how confusing and difficult it is to evaluate different service providers without an industry-standard benchmark.  In fact, Read started CloudHarmony based on his own frustrations as a consultant helping a client choose a public cloud service provider, while attempting to sort through vague cloud resource and service terms used by industry vendors.

“Cloud is so different. Vendors describe resources using vague terminology like 1 virtual CPU, 50 GB storage. I think cloud makes it much easier for providers to mislead. Not all virtual CPUs and 50 GB storage volumes are equal, not by a long shot, but providers often talk and compare as if they are. It was this frustration that led me to create CloudHarmony” explained Read.

So, Read went to work creating a platform for not only his client, but also other consultants and IT managers that would give a single point of testing public cloud services not only within the US, but around the world.    Input to the testing platform came from aggregating more than 100 testing benchmarks and methodologies available to the public.  However CloudHarmony standardized on CentOS/RHEL Linux as an operating system  which all cloud vendors support, “to provide as close to an apples to apples comparison as possible” said Read.

Customizing a CloudHarmony Benchmark Test

Cloud harmony Configuration

Setting up a test is simple.  You go to the CloudHarmony Benchmarks page, select the benchmarks you would like to run, the service providers you would like to test, configurations of virtual options within those service providers, geographic location, and the format of your report.

Figure 1.  Benchmark Configuration shows a sample report setup.

“CloudHarmony is a starting point for narrowing the search for a public cloud provider” advised Read.  “We provide data that can facilitate and narrow the selection process. We don’t have all of the data necessary to make a decision related to vendor selection, but I think it is a really good starting point.

Read continued “for example, if a company is considering cloud for a very CPU intensive application, using the CPU performance metrics we provide, they’d quickly be able to eliminate vendors that utilize homogenous infrastructure with very little CPU scaling capabilities from small to larger sized instance.”

Cloud vendors listed in the benchmark directory are surprisingly open to CoudHarmony testing.  “We don’t require or accept payment from vendors to be listed on the site and included in the performance analysis” mentioned Read.  “We do, however, ask that vendors provide resources to allow us to conduct periodic compute benchmarking, continual uptime monitoring, and network testing.”

When asked if cloud service providers contest or object to CloudHarmony’s methodology or reports, Read replied “not frequently. We try to be open and fair about the performance analysis. We don’t recommend one vendor over another. I’d like CloudHarmony to simply be a source of reliable, objective data. The CloudHarmony performance analysis is just a piece of the puzzle, users should also consider other factors such as pricing, support, scalability, etc.”

Cloud Harmony Benchmark Report

During an independent trial of CloudHarmony’s testing tool, Pacific-Tier Communications selected the following parameters to complete a sample CPU benchmark:

  • CPU Benchmark (Single Threaded CPU)
  • GMPbench math library
  • Cloud Vendor – AirVM (MO/USA)
  • Cloud Vendor – Amazon EC2 (CA/USA)
  • Cloud Vendor – Bit Refinery Cloud Hosting (CO/USA)
  • 1/2/4 CPUs
  • Small/Medium/Large configs
  • Bar Chart and Sortable Table report

The result, shown above in Figure 2., shows a test result including performance measured against each of the above parameters.  Individual tests for each parameter are available, allowing a deeper look into the resources used and test results based on those resources.

In addition, as shown in Figure 3., CloudHarmony provides a view providing uptime statistics of dozens of cloud service providers over a period of one year.  Uptime statistics showed a range (at the time of this article) between 98.678% availability to 100% availability, with 100% current uptime (27 October).

Cloud Service Provider Status

Who Uses CloudHarmony Benchmark Testing?

While the average user today may be in the cloud computing industry, likely vendors eager to see how their product compares against competitors, Read targets CloudHarmony’s product to “persons responsible for making decisions related to cloud adoption.”  Although he admits that today most users of the site lean towards the technical side of the cloud service provider industry.

Running test reports on cloud harmony is based on a system of purchasing credits.  Read explained “we have a system in place now where the data we provide is accessible via the website or web services – both of which rely on web service credits to provide the data. Currently, the system is set up to allow 5 free requests daily. For additional requests, we sell web service credits where we provide a token that authorizes you to access the data in addition to the 5 free daily requests.”

The Bottom Line

“Cloud is in many ways a black box” noted Read.  “Vendors describe the resources they sell using sometimes similar and sometimes very different terminology. It is very difficult to compare providers and to determine performance expectations. Virtualization and multi-tenancy further complicates this issue by introducing performance variability. I decided to build CloudHarmony to provide greater transparency to the cloud.”

And to both vendors and potential cloud service customers, provide an objective, honest, transparent analysis of commercially available public cloud services.

Check out CloudHarmony and their directory of services at cloudharmony.com.

—————-

Hunter Newby on Communications in America – Net Neutrality

This is Part 3 in a series of interviews with Hunter Newby, Founder and CEO of Allied Fiber

Hunter Newby, Founder and CEO of Allied Fiber believes most people do not fully understand the meaning of “Net Neutrality.”  There is a perception that “Net Neutrality is about the Internet,” says Newby.  “It is not, it is about physical access to the Internet.”

HunterNewbyAnd this is a combination of controlling the end points (users, computers, and applications), controlling what data or content the end points can access, and what other distant end point destinations are available.  Internet gatekeepers, including Internet Service Providers, telecom carriers, and governments, control “who can connect, what they can connect to, and how they connect” claims Newby.

“They are (the gatekeepers) going to have the ability to determine what we can or cannot see” Newby adds, “and that is what scares me the most.”

Newby is quick to point out the government states they will protect the rights of people to connect to “legal” content.  But who makes the decision what legal content is?  He uses the example of WikiLeaks.  While some may find the information scary, embarrassing, inappropriate, or unethical, the question is whether or not the data contained within a WikiLeaks website should be blocked from end points (users), and who is in a position to make that content-access decision?

If the gatekeeper is given that authority, and there no other access options available to end points, then the concept of Net Neutrality becomes a tool for the gatekeepers to control access to global Internet-enabled information resources.

For Newby, that presents a challenge and opportunity

The Neutral Connectivity Buss

Newby is an American, a patriot, and wants to ensure America’s economy and society remains strong, and stays in a global leadership role.  However he still acknowledges America has shortfalls in delivering broadband to all end points within the country.  His own company, Allied Fiber, “is created to address America’s need for more broadband access, wireless backhaul, data center distribution and lower latency communications services.”

And here is the problem.  Long haul fiber optic cables represent the physical means of not only connecting cities and regions to the global Internet (as one network among many levels of communications and connectivity), but also provide a means for end points to connect with other end points around the world.  In the United States nearly all telecom carriers operating long haul or long distance fiber also directly support end points.

This means that each long haul fiber operator has a direct interest in containing as many end points within their network as possible.  This includes moving up the OSI Stack to provide end points with additional value-added services to end points, in addition to physical access.  The carrier then may include everything from applications to content distribution within their own suite of services, either limiting access to competitive sources of similar services – or Newby points out in a worst case outright blocking those services making end points “hostages behind the gatekeeper.”  telecom-tower-at-sunrise

Newby promotes the concept of building neutral connectivity busses on the long haul networks, connecting competitive regional, metro, and local networks to the buss without concern of needing a traditional long haul carrier to provide that service – a carrier which may wish to restrict the local companies to those services or content available through the carrier’s own content or value-added services.

The closer a neutral long haul connectivity buss can get to local access providers, the easier it will become for new access providers to emerge, as they will have more options for global interconnection, free from the legacy of a single long haul provider with a monopoly on access and transit connectivity.

Newby’s idea of a neutral connectivity buss is not limited to copper or fiber to the end point.  In rural areas it is clear wireless technologies may provide better and faster connectivity options than physical cable.  Thus, in Allied’s case, Newby promotes the idea of building neutral towers at each in-line amplifier or signal regeneration site.

“We can promote this due to our multi-duct design by using the short haul duct/cable for splicing in towers, etc. It is not limited to just the amp sites” continues Newby.

This would further allow multiple wireless providers to emerge, serve, and compete in areas where only large carriers had the means to operate in the past.

Interconnection, Bypass, and Competition

Carrying a pedigree which includes the legacy of building one of the world’s largest carrier interconnection facilities (60 Hudson’s Telx Meet-Me-Room), Newby is one of the few people around the industry with a core understanding of carrier bypass and interconnections.  The “carrier hotel” industry was born to address the need of competitive communications companies to bypass traditional incumbent, or monopoly carriers to directly interconnect without the burden of buying transit connections.

In the United States, this may have been a requirement (in the old days) for Sprint to connect with MCI, without requiring a transit connection through AT&T to make the link.  As we added international carriers, such as British Telecom or France Telecom, and they were given the opportunity to own end-to-end circuit capacity on submarine fiber cables or satellites, they were also given the ability to directly connect with Sprint, MCI, or other emerging carriers at a neutral carrier hotel without the need for transit connections.

The concept of neutral Internet Exchange Points, Carrier Ethernet Exchanges, and neutral tandem telephony switches are all a continuation of the need for bypassing individual or monopoly carriers.

Newby now wants to take that several steps further.  “At Allied Fiber we want to be able to provide (any service provider or carrier) multiple paths of connectivity.  If they (the service provider) can connect to us, then they are free to do (or connect to) what they wish.”

A strong advocate of distributed interconnect and peering, Newby also sees Allied Fiber’s infrastructure as a giant, neutral carrier interconnection point.  As each in line amplifier or regeneration site requires a physical support facility, and as noted will also support antenna towers, it is also reasonable to extend the site to include neutral carrier colocation and neutral interconnection both within the site, as well as along the Allied Fiber route to other similar interconnection points.

As Allied Fiber also intends to extend their fiber to existing major and second tier carrier hotels (such as 60 Hudson, etc), this will give connecting service providers the ability to interconnect with other service providers throughout the United States and international locations through a neutral connectivity system – further relieving themselves of monopoly pricing and service restriction potentially imposed by incumbent or transit carriers.

And the product of this exercise is greater competition.  Newby is in the business of providing the “connectivity buss,”  and openly states Allied Fiber’s policy is “come one, come all.”  Regional and local networks/service providers can then take the transit carrier factor out of their list of business risk, with an outcome of better broadband and Internet access to end points throughout America.  A more competitive America.

Read other posts in this series, including:

Hunter Newby on Communications in America – Are We Competitive?

This is Part 1 in a series highlighting Hunter Newby’s thoughts and visions of communications in America.  Part 1 will highlight Newby’s impressions of America’s competitiveness in the global telecom-enabled community.  Additional articles will touch on net neutrality, the “ying and yang” of the telecom industry, as well as  the dilemma of supporting telecom “end points.”

HunterNewbyMembers and guests of the Internet Society gathered at Sentry Center in New York on 14 June for the regional INET Conference.  The topic, “It’s your call, What kind of Internet do you want?” attracted Internet legends including Vint Cerf and Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee, as well as a number of distinguished speakers and panelists representing a wide range of industry sectors.

Hunter Newby, Founder and CEO of Allied Fiber, joined the panel “Pushing Technology Boundaries” to discuss the future of Internet-enabled innovation.  The panel had robust discussions on many topics including net neutrality, infrastructure, telecom law, regulation, and the role of service providers.

Pacific-Tier Communications caught up with Newby on 22 June to learn more about his views on communications in America.

Are We Competitive?

Newby believes America lags behind other nations in developing the infrastructure needed to compete in a rapidly developing global community.  Much of the shortfall is related to physical telecommunications infrastructure needed to connect networks, people, content, and machines at the same level as other countries in Asia and Europe.

“The US lacks an appreciation for the need to understand physical (telecom) infrastructure” said Newby.  He went on to describe the lack of standard terms in the US, such as “Broadband Communications.” Newby continued “In some locations, such as North Carolina, broadband communications are considered anything over 128Kbps (Kilobits per second).”

Newby note there is considerable disinformation in the media related to the US communications infrastructure.  Although the US does have a national broadband plan, in reality the infrastructure is being built by companies with a priority to meet the needs of shareholders. Those priorities do not necessarily reflect the overall needs the American people.

While some companies have made great progress bringing high performance telecom and Internet access to individual cities and towns, Newby is quick to remind us that “we cannot solve telecom problems in a single  city or location, and (use that success) to declare victory as a country.”  Without having a national high performance broadband and network infrastructure, the US will find it difficult to continue attracting the best talent to our research labs and companies, eroding our competitiveness not only in communications, but also as a country and economy.

Newby returns to a recurring theme in his discussions on communications.  There are no connectivity “clouds” as commonly shown in presentations and documents related to the space between end points in the Internet (an end point being users, servers, applications, etc.).  The connectivity between end points happens on physical “patch panels,” telecom switches, and routers.  This happens in the street, at the data center, carrier hotel, central office, or exchange point.

Bringing it All Down to Layer 1 – Optical Fiber

Newby believes the basis of all discussions related to communications infrastructure starts at the right of way.  When access to a ground or aerial right of way (or easement) is secured, then install fiber optic cable.  Lots of fiber optic cable.  Long haul fiber, metro fiber, and transoceanic submarine fiber.  Fiber optic cable allows tremendous amounts of information to travel from end points to other end points, whether in a local area, or across wide geographies.

Long distance and submarine fiber optic cable are essential in providing the infrastructure needed to move massive amounts of information and data throughout the US and the world.  While there is still a large amount of communications provided via satellite and microwave, only fiber optic cable has the resources and capacity needed to move data supporting communications within the network or Internet-enabled community.

Newby makes a point that in the US, very few companies operate long haul fiber networks, and those companies control access to their communications infrastructure with tariffs based on location, distance, traffic volumes (bandwidth/ports), and types of traffic.  Much of the existing fiber optic infrastructure crossing the US is old, and cannot support emerging communication transmission rates and technologies, limiting choices and competitiveness to a handful of companies – none of which provide fiber as a utility or as a neutral tariffed product.

As the cost of long distance or long haul fiber is extremely high, most carriers do not want to carry the expense of building their own new fiber optic infrastructure, and prefer to lease capacity from other carriers.  However, the carriers owning long haul fiber do not want to lease or sell their capacity to potentially competitive communications carriers.

Most US communications carriers operating their own long haul fiber optic networks also provide additional value-added services to their markets.  This might include voice services, cable or IP television, virtual private networks, and Internet access.  Thus the carrier is reluctant to lease their capacity to other competitive or virtual carriers who may compete with them in individual or global  markets.

Thus a dilemma – how do we build the American fiber backbone infrastructure to a level needed to provide a competitive, high capacity national infrastructure without aggressive investment in new fiber routes?

Newby has responded to the dilemma and challenge with his company Allied Fiber, and advises “the only way to properly build the physical infrastructure required to support all of this (infrastructure need) is to have a unique model at the fiber layer similar to what Allied (Allied Fiber) has, but not solely look at fiber as the only source of revenue.”

For example, Newby advises revenue can be supplemented by offering interconnecting carriers and other network or content providers space in facilities adjacent to the backbone fiber traditionally used for only in-line-amplifiers (ILAs) and fiber optic signal regeneration.  The ILA facility itself “could be an additional source of recurring revenue,” while allowing the fiber provider to remain a neutral utility.

Or in short, Newby explains “we need to put a 60 Hudson or One Wilshire every 60 miles” to allow unrestricted interconnection between carriers, networks, and content providers at a location closest to the infrastructure supporting end points.

The Backbone

America can compete, and break the long distance dilemma.  Newby is certain this is possible, and has a plan to bring the US infrastructure up to his highest standards.  The idea is really pretty simple.

  1. Build a high capacity fiber optic backbone passing through all major markets within the US.
  2. Connect the backbone to local metro fiber networks (reference the Dark Fiber Community)
  3. Connect the backbone to wireless networks and towers (and provide the access location)
  4. Connect the backbone to all major physical interconnection points, carrier hotels, and Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)
  5. Make access to the backbone available to all as a neutral, infrastructure utility

Newby strongly advises “If you do not understand the root of the issue, you are not solving the real problems.”

And the root of the issue is to ensure everybody in America has unrestricted access to unrestricted communications resources.


Hunter Newby, a 15-year veteran of the telecom networking industry, is the Founder and CEO of Allied Fiber.

Read other articles in this series, including:

A Look Into Moldova’s ICT Spirit with Grigore Raileanu

Moldova has a lot of entrepreneurs.  As you walk along the streets in Chisinau, the capital city, you constantly pass signs advertising software development companies, data centers, and computer sales.  As citizens of a “developing” country, young people know they need to work smarter, harder, and more creatively to compete with not only each other, but also others countries in Europe and the world.

Grigore Raileanu is one of those aggressive young people.  And an entrepreneur with a successful company named Remsys.  In fact, you may not even know Remsys is a Moldovan company, possibly believing it is based in the US!

Grigore met with us on 4 Feb 2011 to talk about ICT, innovation, and Moldova.  You can listen to the audio file HERE

John Savageau: Today with have with us, Mr. Gigore Raileanu, who does business development with a Moldovan company called Remsys.  Good afternoon Grigore!

RaileanuGrigore Raileanu: Good afternoon John and everyone!

John Savageau: So, please start us off and give us a little background on yourself, and give us a little background on Remsys.

RaileanuGrigore Raileanu: I’m actually doing business development for my first company Remsys.  This company has successfully grown to thousands of systems, managed systems, and heterogeneous infrastructure.  We are positioning ourselves as a managed solutions provider for small and medium businesses.

We are also doing 24 hours (a day) custom technical solutions for our clients, and we are designing and managing complex infrastructures, networks, fighting SPAM, and building clouds.

John Savageau: That’s exciting.  I believe that Remsys has roots based in web hosting and managed services, are you expanding on the initial concept of the company?

Grigore Raileanu: At first our customers were mainly hosting companies, but as I said we have repositioned as a managed solutions provider for small and medium business.  So it’s not only hosting and the like, but our customers quite big, and we even have video-on-demand providers and medical companies.  So it’s not only hosting.

John Savageau: And you are not just limited to Moldovan companies, you also go outside of Moldova?

Grigore Raileanu: Well our companies (clients) are mostly out of Moldova.  A lot of the Moldovan companies we are working for, are actually subsidiaries of foreign companies.

John Savageau: So let’s move on and talk a little about Moldovan ICT.  We’re curious, (you) being an entrepreneur and running your companies.  How do you feel about the ability of Moldovan companies, not only to compete in Moldova against foreign companies, but also within global markets?

Grigore Raileanu: In my opinion Moldovan companies are highly competitive.  Firstly because of costs.  Our teams are delivering full project lifecycle from development and testing, to technical support, and hosting.

ICT companies in Moldova are mostly oriented to business process outsourcing, like software development, testing, or eCommerce.

Many private companies are opening and operating their offices here in Moldova.  This way our companies can be considered as competing on the global market.

John Savageau: Do you have any significant strategies, or ideas you use to make your company – or other Moldovan companies competitive in a global market?

Grigore Raileanu: Actually we are working to improve our technical team skills, our procedures, training, participate in different expositions in order to get more skilled people.

John Savageau: Do you believe the academic community, or education system,… are they preparing workers well enough to compete in the workforce, or to meet your needs with technical or management-level talent?

Grigore Raileanu: I think that our academic community can do it better.  Actually, the universities are not able to satisfy the demand.  Most importantly the quality of studies has to be improved a lot.

Companies spend a lot of resources and money in order to educate and graduate students, as the university’s programs are outdated and need to be revised.

John Savageau: And how about the teachers and instructors,… are they prepared to teach students what they need, or do the instructors also need to increase their capacity?

Grigore Raileanu: Yes, as far as I know, our teachers are also working in ICT companies, so mostly they are involved in the continual process of education.

John Savageau: As far as the students, do the students also have an opportunity to have internships or participation with priovate companies while they are in university?

Grigore Raileanu: Yes, even the ICT Association has such programs, and are running internships, and Moldovan students are participating and gaining knowledge – they are even getting to know the companies they may work with in the future.

John Savageau: Outside of Chisinau, Chisinau being the largest city, with obviously the most resources available – how about the countryside – what is the future of children in the countryside for participating in ICT?

Grigore Raileanu: I think we need to consider that people should not orient towards Chisinau only.  We have a lot of great place like Balti, Cahul, Tiraspol, and we must build our IT development centers there as well.

John Savageau: Is there a  partnership opportunity between private companies and the academic community, or private companies and the government for that matter?

Grigore Raileanu: Actually, yes.  Our association of private IT companies is doing that.  They are doing a lot to improve the situation, and also to change the educational programs and curriculum for our universities.  Also, work with the government to get better conditions for taxes.

Up until this year there was no tax for programmer’s or software engineer’s income.

John Savageau: Let me move on to a different topic, that is cloud computing.  This is a big buzzword.  Everybody around the world talks about cloud computing.  Is cloud computing important to your company, or to Moldova?

Grigore Raileanu: I think yes.  Actually, like you said, cloud is a buzzword, every speaks about cloud, but people understand different things about this.

In my opinion, the cloud is infrastructure able to scale on demand, it is highly secure, and able to decrease IT costs.  Cloud computing will have a significant impact on Moldova, but there is still no market for this in my opinion.

We have to create, and stimulate this market somehow.

I’ve also heard that our government is going to launch, or already launched, a Moldavian cloud project.  It is looking to improve the government, and its subsidiary state corporations by owning the highest available and scalable IT infrastructure.

John Savageau: How about Software as a Service (SaaS).  There are a lot of software companies, specifically in Chisinau.  Do Moldovan companies have an opportunity to develop SaaS applications on a global scale?

Grigore Raileanu: Well, yes, and we are already doing it.  But it is not for internal use, I mean it is not for the Moldavian market.

John Savageau: Is that still an opportunity to learn those skills and be prepared once cloud computing is a factor in Moldova?

Grigore Raileanu: I thin kwe have many things to learn, and improve, in order to create and launch this market.  But yes, there is a place for this market here in Moldova.

John Savageau: How do you believe that Moldovan companies should approach the global market?  Again, we know there is business inside Moldova, but there is also a very large world outside of Moldova – how do you approach that global market?

Grigore Raileanu: Moldova has a lot of companies that are subsidiaries and offices of global companies.  Moldova has to deliver something better in order to compete with countries like India, the Philippines, and so on.  So I think that we will lead by our cultural approach, we are more closed to the occident compared to the Indians or Philippines.

John Savageau: For people who are adults, or have not grown up in the Internet age from childhood accessing Facebook, Skype, and things like that where it is normal, how does the 25~40 age group – how do you think they are going to globalization of communications, and societies and things – are they ready for it?

Grigore Raileanu: Yeah, I am sure they are, it’s not really hard.  From my experience I have talked with people who have never seen a computer.  And if that person is young, has elementary skills, they can work it out and improve their skills.

John Savageau: What so you see as a future for Moldova?  I mean if you have a white board, and you have any idea that you want to put on the white board, what should Moldova do to make itself more competitive, and become a factor in the global economy or in the global marketplace?

Grigore Raileanu: I think Moldova has to orient on mobile services, startups, and even why not build centers for startups to meet investors, governments, and work together to launch some new companies with new ideas.

Maybe the next Facebook will be launched right here in Moldova!

John Savageau: If the Moldova cloud, the government cloud, actually moves forward as aggressively as it does (is planned), that might be one of the first successful cloud projects in the world (government clouds), which means that Moldovan companies that participate would be able to replicate that process in other developing countries in Africa, eastern Europe, Asia,..

How do you feel about that?  Are you ready to go there?

Grigore Raileanu: Of course, being a patriot, I would be very happy because my country is one of the first countries able to launch this project and to give a good example for different countries.

John Savageau: Any other ideas you would like to pass on to the global ICT community, about Moldova, your company, yourself?

Grigore Raileanu: Well my company, we are starting some nation-wide programs, and we are very present on the Moldavian market, and maybe we will have some meetings this year, and bring our services into the (global) market, and if there is no demand for some kinds services we will try to create it, so everyone can benefit.

John Savageau: Thank you very much for taking the time this afternoon.  I wish you and Remsys, and Moldova the best of luck.

How Moldova’s Academic Community Prepares Students for the Internet Age – An Interview with Dr. Victor Besliu

On 2 Feb 2011 we met with Dr. Victor Besliu, Chairman of the of Automation and Information Technology faculty at Moldova Technical University.  Dr. Besliu is a graduate of the Moscow Technical University, and has many strong ideas and recommendations for how Moldova can make students and graduates more competitive not only in the Moldova ICT community, but also the global community.

The interview was conducted mainly in Romanian language, with translation done by Ion Stanciu.  You can listen to the entire audio recording of the interview in Romanian HERE.

Main topics discussed during the interview included;

1.  His opinions on Moldova’s eReadiness

  • He conducted extensive research on the topic during 2005 and 2009
  • Moldova still has only a couple of universities with curriculum focusing on ICT (information and communications technologies)
  • Moldova Technical University (MTU) does offer a major in computer science
  • MTU has around 500 graduates from the program each year
  • Moldova currently has approximately 1500 professional, qualified ICTR specialists working in government and private industry
  • He considers the quality of Moldovan graduates quite high, as most are actually being recruited to work in foreign countries following university

2.  His opinions on how well Moldova is meeting the needs of children, preparing them to function and succeed in an Internet and computer-enabled world.

  • Children at a young age need access to ICT tools, and are able to quickly absorb the technology
  • If children are given access to computers and Internet too early, they could run a risk of slipping into a virtual world, and not being able to function correctly in social environments

3.  On distance education and eLearning

  • Moldova currently has no legal framework for eLearning, meaning formal credits towards degree programs are not available through online education
  • The academic community has begun discussion and planning to consider the question of incorporating eLearning into the curriculum, however that is still an open topic
  • There has not historically been a culture of lifelong learning in Moldova
  • Historically paper (degrees and diplomas) has been given higher status and more respect than experience or knowledge
  • Some face-to-face interaction in the education process is important

4.  On adult education

  • In the old days of the Soviet Union, there were age restrictions on persons entering degree programs (35)
  • Today, in Moldova, there are no age restrictions, allowing any person with prerequisite qualifications to apply for formal university programs
  • Many students from foreign countries apply to, and are accepted, into Moldova’s university system

5.  On how to make the Moldova education system more capable in meeting the needs of all students

  • Politicians must understand the role of communications, computers, and ICT education in the future of Moldova
  • Increase educator salaries and benefits to the level being a teacher in Moldova is an attractive profession
  • Many instructors are already working in private companies part time, allowing them to not only increase their income to the point of survival, but also to keep on top of new and emerging technologies
  • They are changing the university curriculum every 2~3 years based on technology and emerging ICT trends
  • Provide more opportunities for student internships in local companies to give them more practical knowledge of the concepts and theory learned in classrooms
  • Continue tracks within the ICT faculty that allow students to take courses to the degree level taught entirely in a foreign language, including French and English
  • Continue to emphasize beginning Internet and computer exposure into education system from the beginning – young students need to develop tacit knowledge of this technology and become computer/Internet literate not only to function in the workplace, but also in normal society

On a positive note, Dr. Besliu acknowledged many of MTU’s graduates are now well-positioned in Moldova companies, and that trend is expected to continue.  In addition, Many Moldovan expatriates are now returning home, further reinforcing Moldova’s ability to support development of a knowledge economy.



Please check Moldova technical University’s website for more information on their programs and activities.

Audio file for entire interview (in Romanian language) HERE

A Look into Moldova’s ICT Community with Ana Chirita

We first met Ana Chirita while surveying ICT companies in Moldova for a national cloud computing project.  As Executive Director of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies, Ana provided introductions to local companies, industry background, and aggressive follow-on support to our project.  As an advocate and evangelist for her community, Ana plays an important role in developing Moldova’s ICT industry.  You can listen to the entire interview on audio here.

John Savageau: This morning we have Ms. Ana Chirita who is the Executive Director of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT (information and communications technology) Companies. Good morning Ana!

What I’d like to do is just have you start out and describe the purpose and the role of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies. What is it?

Ana Chirita: It is an association formed of 29 companies, and we are comfortably growing. The main reason to have this group of companies come together is in a way, to have a common vision of how the ICT sector should be developed. And, in a way achieve the main goal up front, which is growing the ICT sector and having it be the main driver for the whole economy of the country.

So basically what we do is represent our company’s interests through constructive dialog. With government we also do promotion of our companies. We try to reach certain levels of education and HR development that can help our companies grow. Because, one of the key issues they have put in their strategy is to help out the industry through investments in education and having good specialists that can work for them (the member companies).

We also focus on opening markets, market development – both locally and internationally. So we do a whole range of activities that help our companies get more visible, grow their revenues, and become viable partners.

John Savageau: And how did you find your way into the association?

Ana Chirita: it was very interesting in a way… I received an email from the current deputy minister (Dona Scola, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information, Technology, and Communications). By then, Dona was working at Chemonics on a project. That was about a year and a half ago.

I just received an email, “would you like to apply for a job?” “Please send me your CV.”

I did not know Dona by then, so I did not know what the job was for, what it was about, what should be done, what I was supposed to do, … So I just send my CV in and said “OK.” The I called for an interview, not even know for what kind of a job! That was quite fun.

I entered the room and there were six men, the current board of directors of the association, and Dona helping out the board.

Then they started asking a lot of questions. I was like, “what?…” The interview took about one hour, I’d say, or an hour and a half. In three, four languages or so. Everybody talking their own language – Romanian, French, English… Then I got out of there and said “oh my gosh… what was that? I didn’t know what I was coming for… I didn’t know what I was supposed to do – just so many questions. ”

In two hours I received a call, “we want to hire you.” So basically that’s how it started. I had my first meeting, we signed a contract, and that was my way into the ICT Association.

John Savageau: It seems like you’ve done pretty good getting 29 companies into the association. Do you have any examples of specific benefits the ICT community members have gained from participating in the association?

Ana Chirita: Yes, I’d say the first thing is they get exposure with, and get dialog with the government. Which means they will know everything that is going around that is in the ICT sector, and what the government wants to do. That is strategy, it means different laws, it means different aspects of that kind of which they can benefit from.

For example, let’s say the fiscal policy. The government was changing the fiscal policy last year, and they got an intervention. Like author rights. The government was changing the law on author rights – we got an intervention.

So basically it is exposure, information, and being able to contribute, to a certain extent, for the benefit of the companies.

Other things that I would like to mention are they (members) get various possibilities to work in a consolidated model. For example if we have campaigns with the universities, or training, or seminars, they get to work as a group, which means lowering their internal resources (costs), because when you do something alone it is one amount, when you do things in a group it is a completely different amount. Basically it is lowering the expenses.

The other thing is that all the training and certifications they get, they get with discounts through the association, which is up to 50% discount. For example, CMMI, for certifications and training in project management, human resource development – whatever it is they always get it for a discount.

All the initiatives on expert promotions. Many companies participate either for free or at reduced costs. (including) various events and business missions, which is considerable for those who are considering export.

Other things, what we are launching now and what we are trying to kind of change within the association is to create new services as a cluster approach that the companies can benefit from, the companies that are in the association can participate, and at the same time benefit.

There are several projects in the concept phase, which in mid-March may be launched or find partners, and be able to get on the market.

So even if we are not able to act as a service provider, we will try to foster that, anyway. So besides lobby, discount – we started the discount program again now. Like 29 companies, that’s about 2000 employees, maybe more. And they can get better prices, lowering their budgets (OPEX/CAPEX) and internal costs by participating in a group.

That makes it reasonable why to pay membership fees (to the association), if they pay, because in a way (paying the fees) it helps in reducing your budget, and makes it less expensive (to operate).

But the main thing of course, lobby and dialog with the government, which can enable the business environment for them to make business or do business easier.

John Savageau: Do you have any major success stories from association members?

Ana Chirita: Depends on which side…

If we talk about the certification side we have six companies certified in IT Mark, basic IT Mark, going for CMMI Level 2.

If we talk about exports we have companies that through the activities we do have gained contracts. If we talk about lobbying we are present in at least five or six working groups in various ministries and agencies and we have been able to get into the position where our opinion is being taken into consideration.

For example with the fiscal policy, or with the author rights. So, we’re working on that now as well. And we hope that within 2011 we’ll achieve those results that we’ve worked for and made studies for.

So basically there are achievements that can be taken into consideration. If you like I can send the report of 2010.

John Savageau: Another question,… With Moldovan ICT companies is how competitive they are within Moldova. What is going to make Moldovan ICT companies more competitive in the global marketplace?

Ana Chirita: Better exposure. (Using) International standards, and because competitiveness is about the human resources, it is about the processes you have inside, it is about the things you follow, and how you follow, maybe a country positioning paper to understand where we’re heading to will help them do better.

But now I think that through those processes they are improving inside, like for some of the companies pursuing certain standards, they are already able to compete. Because many of them do export and compete in international markets.

John Savageau: Is there a role the Moldova government should play in making companies more competitive or to give them greater exposure to the international marketplace?

Ana Chirita: Definitely. I think the government should, first of all the government should identify its priorities in this area, and it will be able to enable. Because without the support of the government it’s like a “one man show.”

Many of the companies have developed themselves (independently) in a way without having certain benefits up to let’s say 2005, 2006 from the government.

The government should play a big role, such as to enable better education , better access to the markets, better positioning, better exposure.

The government is very important to have as a partner.

John Savageau: On import tariffs for things like ICT equipment, is the government supporting the ICT community with tax holidays or anything like that on (equipment) imports?

Ana Chirita: We are trying to work on that now., That’s one of the results we want to achieve, like we want to get a preferential rate on the import of equipment, on ICT goods.

And there is one thing we have in Moldova that we have never promoted in a way, is we have a fiscal facility for software development companies, from 2005. Which is an exemption from income tax. And it depends, up to 18% on physical persons – programmers mainly. And we want to keep that. It gives them a competitive advantage on the regional market for Moldova.

Otherwise we get to the same level as Romania, Bulgaria, and other countries in the region.

So for us it is important to keep these kinds of things (tax breaks), like a preferential regime for ICT, would be able to enable and help out (our competitiveness).

John Savageau: How about the education community in Moldova? Is the academic community adequately preparing graduates to enter the workforce or participate in ICT?

Ana Chirita: According to our studies, and the studies that certain USAID projects have delivered, for example the “Competitiveness Project,” the quantity (of graduates) that Moldova delivers is quite good – by numbers is enough. But the quality (of graduates) is still lagging behind in a way.

So there is a big need for investing in, and promoting, certain technical and soft skills. Because the company has to invest up to 3, 4 times more than the universities or the government gives to the students.

So in a way certain initiatives have taken place contributing vendor-based curricula, or in schools and universities they are trying to update the curricula, or there are private companies that actually hold classes within the universities. Like software engineering classes or quality assurance or something like that as optional or mandatory courses.

But that is a big effort, and that is not enough. There is a need to do more.

John Savageau: That’s an interesting statement you made, do you believe there is a space for private companies and the academic community to work as partners in developing a better ICT capacity?

Ana Chirita: We, as the ICT association are trying to do that in a way, but yes I think there is enough space to have more companies, with educational companies or other types of companies – or even ICT companies trying to work back-to-back with academia in order to reach the (required) level.

Because it’s not only the university level, it’s about the (primary) school level. Because a career in IT is not pursued as a nice thing. The people are not aware that a career in IT has a future. So actually you do not have to go out of the country, or emigrate. You can stay in the country, and have a decent salary.

John Savageau: I agree. And when you compare, perhaps people who are living in the countryside in Moldova, with students who are in Chisinau, or even comparing them to London or Los Angeles,… The ability of children who are growing up in the Internet age possibly could be different based on how much exposure they have to ICT tools that are available at a very young age.

Do you believe there is a risk in Moldova of not being able to compete in the digital community if children today are not rapidly given exposure to that type of environment?

Ana Chirita: it depends. Maybe yes, maybe no. it depends on what is our strategy.

I think we need to invest, and need to encourage getting children more and more involved in technical things and Internet. And being able to know how to use it wisely, and being to have various programs and different types of teaching – not only the traditional one (teaching method) to acquire the skills which are already not (just) a luxury, but a “must have” in the future.

So it’s knowing the basic things, like working with a computer is not a luxury like it would have been 10 years ago.

John Savageau: It’s part of life now.

Any last words you would like to give us on either the association, ICT in Moldova, or any other topics that are of interest to the community?

Ana Chirita: Let me think! You’ve been asking a lot of questions!

Basically I think that we, and I, am very thankful for what is happening now in Moldova. I think with common efforts we can reach better exposure, a more competitive country, and more competitive industry.

As an association we will work and hope the government will be more supportive. We’ll see that steps are undertaken in that sense.

So, that’s it!

John Savageau: That’s a very positive outlook, and we all certainly look forward to seeing how it is going to develop in the future. Thank you very much for taking the time this morning.


MICTMission, Vision, Goals

Mission:  Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies promotes the development of the ICT sector in the Republic of Moldova through viable partnerships between the private companies, similar organizations, state institutions, international organizations in order to enhance the competitiveness and development of the sector and company capacities, enlarge the market, attract investments in the country and participate in the decision making and regulatory process on the national and international level.

Vision: The ICT sector will become an enabler of the Moldovan economy, and Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies( further ATIC) will contribute to this process through its consultancy means in creating a better life and a better environment in terms of business and social needs. ATIC will get involved into the spheres of education, export, capacity building, competitiveness enhancement to have ICT lead the industry and become a part of any system and process to ensure its development.

Objectives:

  1. To raise the Moldovan ICT industry’s profile and image within the country and on International markets.
  2. To raise the level of co-operation and collaboration amongst members of the Moldovan ICT business community.
  3. To work with Government to improve the business context, legal framework and overall prospects for the sector.
  4. To collaborate with Moldovan Educational institutions to improve over time the quality and quantity of ICT trained graduates.
  5. To help improved levels of professional & management skills within ICT companies.
  6. To improve all aspects of investment opportunities for ICT enterprises in Moldova.

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