Monday, December 30, 2013

Rebuilding the Oracle VM manager repository

When you are using the Oracle VM Manager you will need a database to be used as a repository. You have the option to use an Oracle database or a MySQL database. However, one way or another you will need this to be a part of your overall deployment architecture. As normal when working with databases you do have the tendency to be very careful with this database as it holds all your information. However, what is shown in the below video is that you do not have to be that stressed when your database is lost for some reason.

As you can see from the below image the Oracle VM Manager database is a central connection point where a lot of the information is stored that helps the Oracle VM Manager to operate.

If you have a look at the video below, created by Poor Frodo, you will see that having an accident which results in loosing your Oracle VM Manager database it might not be such a devastating disaster as you might think at first hand. It is still very inconvenient however it will not cripple your operation and you will still be able to manage your VM's. You are even able to restore a lot of the lost information during the reinitialisation process when you install a new repository database. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Internet of things moving to interoperability

When we look at the internet and then primarily at the world wide web part of the internet where webpages are offered to users we see there is a good level of interoperability and standards. Webpages are offered primarily on HTML and HTML and HTTP, originally invented by Tim Berners-Lee, are adopted by the majority of services offered online. The protocols lower in the stack like TCP/IP are well defined and clear to everyone and are the foundation that enables communication. when the first steps where taken to create those protocols the number of people involved where not that big and making sure new ideas where adopted where somewhat less troublesome. At this moment more and more people do have access to the internet and do have (some) level of understanding about how to develop new solutions.

When we look at the internet of things we see that a lot of people, organisations and companies are developing solutions that are added to the concept of the internet of things. Most of those solutions do make use of some of the existing standards. for example, most make use of TCP/IP and a large part of them makes use of the HTTP protocol to communicate data. What is missing however is a set of documented standards on what will be communicated and how we can enable interoperability  between devices from different vendors.

Qualcomm is trying to make an attempt to start such a standard. Qualcomm developed the alljoyn solution and has now joined the allseen alliance. By doing so they have given over the alljoyn code to the Linux foundation in the hope that this will help fuel the adoption of a unified protocol for the internet of things.

The allseen alliance is currently rapidly growing and is certifying devices that are compliant to the standards of the alliance. members include:LG, Sharp, Haier, Panasonic, Sears Brand Management Corporation, Silicon Image, Cisco, TP-LINK, Canary, doubleTwist, Fon, Harman, HTC, Lifx, Liteon, Sproutling and Wilocit

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Success key to ERP adoption is embracing consumerization of IT

For years the selection process of ERP systems has primarily been based upon the functionality the ERP system provides. Also the primary party in selecting the ERP system has been the IT department followed by the other departments. However we do see a changing trend. As rightly stated by the Wall Street Journal: "“Functionality is no longer the definition of success. Usability is key". In a recent Forbes article discussing the decision from Avon to stop the implementation of SAP in favor of Oracle JD Edwards it shows that ERP systems selection and implementation is getting more and more influenced by the Apple effect.

The apple effect is the consumerization of IT. Users do expect to have the same experience in the corporate applications as they experience in the consumer applications. This makes that users do expect to have the same kind of ease in using an application and the same user centered approach build into the core of an application and even in the complete portfolio of an IT department. This means that things like user interface design, gamification, agility and self-service solutions become more and more a central part of the corporate solutions and can no longer be seen as an addition or nice-to-have. At the same time users, now digital natives, do expect to be able to work everywhere, always and on every device. Something that is new to corporate IT however something that has to be adopted by IT departments.

Where IT departments where calling the shots previously and where banking on the fact that the user community was not aware about the possibilities this is now changing. With generations coming into the workplace who are used to work with computers and who are digital natives the non-IT departments are getting a stronger voice in the boardroom and are influencing the IT departments. This makes that IT is becoming, as it should, a service organisation to support day to day operations rather then a department that dictates how the business should work.

Combining the consumerization of IT and a business driven IT management strategy is providing IT organisations a stable solution for the future and this should be on the agenda of every CIO. However, as this is a fundamental change in the way IT departments think and operate this is a, clearly necessary however, slow and complex process.

Oracle Infrastructure as a service announcement

Oracle is already securing its place in the cloud era for some time by providing a number of cloud based solutions as well as software and hardware which enables companies to build private (or hybrid) clouds within their own datacenters. One area however which has not been touched that much by Oracle is the Infrastructure as a Service area.

If you take a close look at the Oracle cloud strategy which has been forming in past couple of years and if you have been looking closely at the products in both hardware and software this should not come as a surprise to many. What you could seen is that Oracle has been working on a lot of solutions that are all part of a cloud / IaaS foundation. In recent years it has become clear that Oracle is using the public market as some sort of testing ground and have the product they put out in the market, end up up in the Oracle cloud solutions. Another giveaway could have been the fact that Oracle has started to embrace OpenStack which was a clear giveaway that IaaS was the way to go in the minds of the Oracle executives.

In the recent second quarter financials call from Oracle given by Larry Ellison the statement made was: "his company intends to be price competitive with established cloud infrastructure-as-a-service players like Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace". Also stated by Larry was: "We intend to compete aggressively in the commodity infrastructure as a service marketplace". According to Oracle this should start unfolding in the first half year of 2014

This news, even though one could have expected it, will ensure that other IaaS competitors will have to start watching and battling Oracle in this field in which previously Oracle was not a player.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Passive and active virtual assistants for human like interaction

Already for some time virtual assistants are claiming a place in the market. According to Gartner a Virtual assistant is; “a conversational, computer-generated character that simulates a conversation to deliver voice- or text-based information to a user via a Web, kiosk or mobile interface. A VA incorporates natural-language processing, dialogue control, domain knowledge and a visual appearance (such as photos or animation) that changes according to the content and context of the dialogue. The primary interaction methods are text-to-text, text-to-speech, speech-to-text and speech-to-speech

Digital assistance are playing more and more a role in the way humans interact with systems and the way, for example, customer care processes are shaped. They way people do think about how services should be provide is more and more on an always and everywhere presumption. People do have the need to be able to interact with a company at any moment in time and do expect to be helped directly. Companies who do offer poor quality of service for their customer care and customer support desks will find themselves moving down in the user satisfaction which will result directly to loss in revenue and harm to their brand. A number of options to implement are available; among them is a better way of interacting with the customer via a digital assistant who is present on your website.

Digital assistants have come a long way and due to the maturing of artificial intelligence the usability of digital assistance has grown over the years. By having a digital assistant on your website present you can lower the load on your human Servicedesk and provide customers with a faster way of finding services and answers to their questions online without the need for human interaction. A research paper from Nuance shows that 71% of the consumers prefer a web virtual assistant over a static web experience.

Virtual assistance can play a number of roles on your website all with the goal to enhance the customer experience and at the same time lower the load on your human Servicedesk engineers while at the same time also try to boost business by attracting new customers. This can be done in a number of ways.  Traditionally the way of interacting primary with a human representative, more commonly nowadays is that a consumer first is looking at the information presented on the website and if they are unable to locate the correct information or are unable to find answers to their problems they will interact with the Servicedesk, via email or via phone. Depending on the content of your website and depending on the quality of this content and ease of finding you will lower the number of interactions between the Servicedesk and the consumer.

The inability of your customers to locate the information they need is having two negative effects, firs the customer is frustrated because he is not getting the online experience he would like to have, secondly the load to your Servicedesk is increasing due to the fact more customers have a need to interact with you human Servicedesk. Shown in the below diagram you can see the flow (1) customer searching for information on your website, (2) the customer was unable to locate the required information and contacts the Servicedesk and finally (3) the customer is directed by the Servicedesk to the website where the customer can find the correct information.

When you deploy a virtual assistant the changes that there was a need to interact with a human service desk would be much more limited. The digital assistant could take over the role from the human Servicedesk and first try to help the customer by applying artificial intelligence. This would result in the following; the customer visits the website and interacts with the virtual assistant, (2) the virtual assistant directs the customer to the correct location on the website where the information can be found. In case the customer is still not finding the answers he is looking for the digital assistant can establish a connection for the customer with a human Servicedesk representative.

Even though we still keep the option open for customers to interact directly or via the digital assistant with a human Servicedesk the number of requests that need to be handled by the human Servicedesk is, in general, dropping significantly.

Even thought the above method is adding a lot of benefit to the experience of the customer and is limiting the number of calls to the human service center it is considered a passive digital assistant. The reason it is passive is that the customer needs to take the first step to start interacting with the digital assistant. A new and more recent implementation for digital assistants is a more active digital assistant. In this deployment model the digital assistant is trying to start the interaction with the customer even before the customer has opened the website.

A general way of implementing this is related to the analysis of publicly available data which can for example reside on social networks. By analyzing social networks you can identify existing customers who state they have a question, remark, complaint or thought about one of the products or services you provide. Traditionally you would be unaware of this up until the moment the customer initiates the contact with your Servicedesk or with the passive virtual assistant.  The same can be applicable for potential new customers, if a person who is not identified as a customer provides on a social network signals that he might be a potential new customer you can identify this and start interacting with this person.

Interaction commonly comes down to replying on the original message from the person on social media and directing this person to the digital assistant. Information that has been collected is already given to the digital assistant to ensure the conversation can be directly on topic. The below video is showing a good example of such an implementation.