Saturday, April 16, 2011

8th International Cloud Expo: It is going to be simply Cloudtastic!

Okay, things have been happening just so fast and furiously just recently that many people have asked me to just take a deep breath and help them play catch-up. Here goes...

Basically all you need to know is that I am back from having "lost" two months of my life.

In those two months I somehow managed to 1. discover that for some reason or other I was not myself, 2. ascribe the blame (wrongly) to a recurrence of the shingles that I had contracted 27 years ago, 3. achieve a diagnosis (correctly) of a massively distended gall-bladder, and 4. pursue that line of inquiry to its logical end...which was alas that the entrance to not just my gall-bladder but three other internal organs - a sort of 4-way traffic junction if you will - was being obstructed by a two-centimeter tumor lodged at the head of my pancreas.

Stranger still, in the same two months I also managed to 5. have the tumor resected (sliced out) successfully, 6. have my entire digestive system rearranged in a so-called "Whipple procedure" (feel free to Wikipedia it, but make sure you are sitting down first), 7. recover from the radical surgery and 8. begin the first cycle of a nine-cycle, six-month course of "preventative" chemotherapy aimed at minimizing the possibility of any return of pancreatic or any other kind of cancer to anywhere in my body.|

It wasn't quite the 2011 that I had scheduled back in November and December of 2010.

To claim that my work didn't get majorly disrupted would be ludicrous, delusional. On the other hand, Cloud Expo New York, the 8th International Cloud Computing Conference & Expo - thanks to the amazing team effort that has characterized this event since its inception seven successful shows ago - is trending to be the biggest Cloud event ever. We have over one hundred exhibitors from every level of the cloud computing ecosystem and a non-stop, 4-day technical program, with expert speakers from every top Cloud player, including Abiquo, Amazon, AppZero, AT&T, CA Technologies,, Dell, Dell Boomi, Eucalyptus Systems, Fusion-io, Google, HP, IBM, Layered Technologies, Layer7, LogLogic, McAfee, Microsoft, OpSource, Oracle, OutSystems, OxygenCloud, PayPal, PerspecSys, Quest Software, Rackspace, RightScale, Spoon, Stoneware, Terremark, Virtela, VMware, Xiotech and Zetta.

Altogether, not too shabby. But then, this is the tech conference world's top team. Cloud Expo New York may be only the eighth successive Cloud Expo, but it is actually my fiftieth consecutive event as Conference we are building on a fairly decent track record of eleven busy years of producing conferences for the Internet technology community.

But before you worry that maybe, among my newfound plans, there might lurk some wheeze to write the book Pancreatic Cancer is Good for You, let me assure you that on the contrary never in all my life have I felt so humble and privileged and plain dumb lucky.

I am fully aware that the odds I have beaten - or, rather that I have been helped to beat by a brilliant piece of highly invasive surgery carried out both fast and well - were very very long. Lots of different stars had to line up for me to be declared, essentially, cancer-free just seven weeks after being diagnosed with what turned out to be a malignant tumor straight out of Pancreatic Cancer 101 - as in, not only able to kill, but usually successful in killing, if not within a year or two, then almost always within five.

"The silent killer" is what they call pancreatic cancer. Its survival rate is, in the words of one of the earlier websites that (alas!) I chanced upon very early while trying to get a sense of what I was up against, "dismal." And even the less dramatic and more scholarly sites that I found a little later were still very forthright: only 20% of pancreatic cancers are even operable...and of the 20% that are operated on, only a certain percentage seem to end up cured. Most still seem to end up dead. (The mystery of that one still defies me, but perhaps other patients are typically older, or less fit, than I was when diagnosed, so that their tumors, although removed, left traces of cancer behind...)

But then again, what actual use are statistics? What matters, when you are up against a major medical challenge, is you...not some sample of other patients. What matters is to feel strong, to feel loved, and to feel optimistic - and I was blessed with all three. So actually it isn't really surprising at all that I beat the odds. With all that strength (partly from fitness, mostly from stubbornness!), all that love (from my family, my friends, and colleagues who have simply blown me away with their compassion and concern and positive karma, and not least all that optimism (supplied to me at birth in almost infinite quantities) could I ever have failed?

I promise you that this is last time that any of you will have to endure hearing about one man's brush with "PanCan" as this scary killer is called. From here on all have to say about it will be said through actions rather than words, specifically my participation in the 2011 San Francisco Marathon on July 31, when I hope you will consider helping raise $10,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (> which is trying to double the survival rate for pancreatic cancer by 2020. The money will go directly to much needed R&D, much neded because for whatever reason very little real progress has been made in fighting this particular cancer in the recent past.

Either way, whether you decide to allocate a few dollars to fighting PanCan or not, know that I will be there on the podium as ever at Cloud Expo New York, and that you will truly not be able to discern any difference: I will still be my same old self...for better or for worse! So look out for me as conference emcee, Power Panel moderator, host, and as a general all-purpose go-to guy if you have a bone to pick with Cloud Expo or (even better) a constructive suggestion as to how we can go on making the event more and more valuable to those who participate, whether as delegates, speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, or attending press & analysts. I should be pretty easy to find! :)

So.....see you in New York City at the Jacob Javits, 6 - 9 June. It is going to be simply Cloudtastic!

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Small Bites All Day Long – Whatever Tastes Good."

Occasionally in the life of every commentator, even those of us who look at the future of the future day and night, you experience what amounts - yes, there is no other word for it - to an epiphany.

The earliest techno-epiphany I experienced was not, in reverse chronological order, the realization that mobile was the new normal, nor that computing was going unswervingly social, nor even that the Web was going to forever alter the economics of insight capture and distribution. Nope. It dates much further back, to the advent of the Internet itself.

Of course, as a Brit, when I talk of "the advent of the Internet" I am doing what Americans do when saying that the Second World War started in 1941...I am speaking about it from a wholly insular perspective. But this was back in the day, and that was how the world was. We are talking about the world pre-"globalization" - a world where each nation, roughly speaking, paddled its own canoe.

My employer in those days was the British Broadcasting Corporation, and it is indeed through the BBC that my epiphany came. At the time I worked for both BBC-tv and BBC Radio in separate but simultaneous capacities, so it was natural that I also ate my own dog food and both viewed and listened to the BBC more or less 24x7.

That is why it is easy for me to remember the day in the early 1990s that, on BBC Radio's most popular and influential morning show, the then Chair of the British Computer Society was called up by the presenter of the show and asked, bluntly: "So how would you go about explaining this 'Internet' thing."

The BCS Chair didn't miss a beat. Of course he'd probably been asked the question a dozen times before in the past little while, but never by a presenter from mainstream media. He could have alluded to the Internet's origins, attempted to bedazzle the huge morning audience with his erudition and knowledge. Instead he did what so few people, in such circumstances anyway, do. He nailed it.

"The best way to comprehend the unique quality of the Internet," he answered, "is first to understand that it is made up many small parts, loosely connected."

Many. Small. Parts. Loosely. Connected.

That was it. That was, unmistakeably, the very essence and core of the Internet. But it was the first time that I had ever heard it boiled down so magnificently...into just five words.

That was all a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago, and since then we have seen the creation of the Web, the dot-com crash, the fallow years, and now the New Boom/Bubble. But the five words still resonate with me. And what is more, they were the first thing I thought of when someone recently sent me seven rather similar words, and caused an entirely new epiphany...this time in a more personal context.

Let us not get too bogged down worrying why anyone would be giving me nutritional advice. Suffice it to say that I have been obliged recently to review my eating habits, mainly because of having lost 10% of my body weight to a radical surgical procedure aimed at curing me of pancreatic cancer. And, in this context, a fellow cancer survivor just wrote me - full knowing that I was struggling to maintain the 90% that was left, let along get my weight back to status quo ante, that's to say, before my Whipple surgery - a brief note of advice.

Here was her wise counsel: "Small bites all day long - whatever tastes good."

So what was the epiphany? Well it was this: the advice was proffered in the context of nutrition, but those seven words leapt out at me in another context completely - forgive me, dear reader, for at this point you will realize that one of the things about cancer survivors, particularly those who have been operated on successfully and are now undergoing six months' of preventative chemotherapy, is that they constantly wax philosophiocal.

I mean, surely those seven words - sent by a dear, dear friend - are a recipe not just for recovery after radical surgery...surely they're a recipe for life itself? For in the banquet of life what better advice could one possibly give a favorite nephew or a beloved son or daughter than this? "Take small bites all day long - whatever tastes good." :-)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Are We Tweeting Ourselves To Poverty?

So James Franco has declared that 'Social Media Is Over' and done the unthinkable...he has shut down his Twitter account.

Will the world stop spinning? Is this the end of western civilization? What next, will people stop asking questions on Quora, will they cease to publish photos on Facebook, will we see the end of Skype-messaging? Worst of all, might the long-awaited Godot known as "Enterprise 2.0" now never turn up?

Well I have news for us all: Franco may be righter than he knows.

It is not that Social Media Is Dead, however. It is that "Social Media" itself is too fanciful a term, right up there with "Social Shopping."

Personally I am not convinced that Twitter is primarily a social medium, I see it more as a collaboration tool that has been momentarily sidelined and become stereotyped in its usage despite its infinite applicability.

But then that is the curse of "Social" - the word has a track record of bogging down all that it engulfs.

One example. I am so ancient that when I first studied "Social" and Political Science at Cambridge, there wasn't even a Social Science faculty, my degree course was affiliated to the Committee of Social & Political Science. Adding the word "Social" to science, back in the day, was akin to adding the word "Fair" to trade. People smelled a rat!

Now it gets added to anything and everything, so that we have the Social Graph, we have Social Data, and we even have Social Authority. But the mother and father of all the "Social" colloquies remains "Social Media."

Let's see whether James Franco's move this week triggers a debate as to whether we are not about to see a correction in the international marketplace of ideas, a retrenchment from the strangely misguided notion that the hand the writes the most Tweets rules the world.

No wonder China is out-pacing the U.S. on so many metrics of productivity and economic progress: according to Nielsen, social networking now accounts for 22% of all time spent online in the U.S.

Friday, April 1, 2011

We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants...

What more could anyone want from one's dearest colleagues than unstinting support and love when adversity strikes and you need good karma by the bucketload?

Major props to the Cloud Expo New York support team in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey - three of the dedicated team of masterminds behind 2011 Show Registration, East & West coast, the Conference website and the logistics of all the Exhibitors & Sponsors to 8th International Cloud Expo.

Thanks, guys! July 31's SF Marathon will be my chance to thank you all for your amazing positive energy...without which I surely wouldn't have been able to bounce back so fast and so strong in time for the June 6-9 show - currently trending to be our best event ever, with more expert speakers on a greater variety Cloud topics and from a wider range of players in the Cloud Computing ecosystem than ever before.

The beneficiary of all funds raised through my July 31 run will of course be the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network - hence the proudly purple T-shirts here!