So, I'm hoping you've seen the Social Network by now. Aside from the elegant, Oscar-winning soundtrack and the superb, Aspergers-like performance from Jesse Eisenberg, it should be valuable watching for any technologist - especially those who are thinking about going maverick and launching their own startup.
One thing that came out of the movie is that building relationships, rather than database tables or system architectures, is often the hardest part for anyone trying to get ahead in technology. This is particularly true for technologists trying to turn their ideas into commercial ventures, because they need others to help them spread the word. Relationships are everything in that situation. How can you network and ask people for an 'in' if you don't already know them?
There are a few ways to help build a community around your startup concept. Here are five tips to help get your idea from inside your head into the business world.
Use social networking
Some social networks are now emerging that can help like-minded technology entrepreneurs to leverage each other. It is possible to create or join groups on LinkedIn that serve as sub-networks of like-minded people.
Other networks are emerging dedicated to the startup community. Fowndr is a relatively new, invitation-only network designed to connect entrepreneurs together, enabling them to share ideas and resources with each other.
Still others include StartupSpace. And then, of course, you'll find real-world entrepreneurial events via meetup.com. You can never have too many of these networks - as long as you monitor and maintain the profiles that you register, and use them effectively.
Twitter is an obvious channel, providing you keep your startup's Twitter profile focused and on-topic. Use it to point to blog posts for your startup (you have a blog, right?) and make a point of following useful and relevant Twitter users, to get yourself noticed and build up a following of your own.
Build a demo
Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything.
Have registration conversations
In west-coast self-help language, these are conversations that not only inspire your target, but which compel them to jump on board and do something to help you. It is all-to-easy to end up grovelling for someone to help you with your idea. Don't. Instead, establish a commonality between the both of you. Find out what it is about them that interests them in your project. Explain why you're committed to your idea, and what makes you passionate about it, because without that, you won't be able to get them involved.
Ask them for exactly what you want, even if it sounds unreasonable. You'll often be surprised at the result.
Take up shared space
I'm a freelancer. I love working in coffee shops, people watching, and soaking up the atmosphere over a latte and a laptop. However, the thing about working on your own is that it makes relationship building rather difficult.
Look for shared working spaces - telecottages, startup hubs, call them what you will. One that I'm considering taking space at here in Vancouver is The Network Hub, but similar spaces are cropping up in various cities. The advantage of these places is that they give you a healthy collection of like-minded individuals, with skills in areas that you'll need help with. Want a designer for your logo? A copywriter for your web site, or a coder to help you get your tech startup off the ground? These places have a habit of harbouring all these folks in one spot. It's like a social network in its original, physical form, that often ends up with a night at the pub.
Give your project away
This is perhaps the hardest thing for entrepreneurs to do. After all, your project is your baby, right? Sharing ownership with others feels like giving away your secrets, and letting others benefit from your hard labour. But there is such a thing as entrepreneurial karma; give something away, and it will come back to you seven-fold. By sharing your project with others and giving them ownership, you'll receive investment in time, money, and active participation. They will be more inclined to contribute their skills, and to bring other contacts in who will help to grow your community.
Follow these basic steps and you'll find yourself further along the road to success. As an entrepreneur currently building up a community for my own project, I can attest to their value.
We live in a world of rapidly moving technology trends, and fast-paced consolidation. What will the data centre look like in the coming years, as we begin to deploy these new concepts? The signs are that there is plenty of room for improvement in the way that we manage our equipment and vendors are inventing ways to help us.
We have spent the past few years consolidating servers to virtualise our computing capacity. Some of us have also virtualised storage through the use of storage area networks (SANs). A few people are also starting to address data centre networking, using high-speed, lossless ethernet to run everything from fibre channel through to iSCSI, and virtualised server traffic over the same backbone.
But the real magic will happen when we begin to put all these things together. For example, storage management tools have focused largely on the management of physical units and their support of various logical unit numbers (LUNs) in the past. They haven't particularly addressed virtualised servers. Similarly, the hypervisor management software used to shunt virtual machines around hasn't been developed with storage management in mind. More often than not, administrators will buy separate tools to accomplish these tasks well.
And then, there are the links that tie them together. Network management software focuses more on maintaining link quality, rather than acknowledging the other two pillars of the data centre environment.
Atop all this sits the application portfolio, which is what the computing infrastructure is there to support in the first place. And yet, for the most part, the datacentre infrastructure isn't intimately aware of application performance. Just ask the datacentre manager for a service level agreement on email delivery or screen response time, and see what he says.
The consolidated data centre will change this. The idea is that all these pillars become highly aware of the others. Storage resource management software will begin to understand the data that particular computer servers need to maintain performance. Management of the virtualised servers will be tied intimately to application performance. And it will be done, ideally, in an environment where everything has been consolidated, and where inefficiencies and over-provisioning problems have been driven out of the system.
It's a nice idea. Cisco has been working on it extensively as part of its UCS initiative (and annoying server vendors in the process, by muscling into their markets). Conversely, server experts such as HP (with its acquisition of 3Com and 3PAR) and Dell (with its $1 billion acquisition of Compellent, and other purchases such as Equalogic) are muscling into the networking and storage markets. And IBM? Well, IBM has pretty much two of everything.
The reason that these vendors are growing through acquisition and fleshing out their portfolios is because they want to be able to offer all parts of the data centre portfolio to their customers, and they want to be able to integrate them effectively to add value.
Some vendors have gaps in their portfolios. Cisco's home-grown storage presence is non-existent, for example. But in such cases, they are serving the market through partnerships. Cisco and EMC have been in bed together for some time. This gives Cisco access to EMC's storage and virtualisation expertise, while EMC gets to embrace Cisco's networking prowess.
This idea of a consolidated, high-performance data centre, in which storage, servers, virtualised operating systems and applications all talk to each other over a single, standardised high-speed transport layer is utopian, but deals and partnerships such as these show that the vendors are committed to making it happen. It will take a while to emerge, especially as cash-constrained companies still reeling from the financial crisis are unwilling to rip and replace legacy equipment.
IT professionals working in these environments would do well to watch for this coming trend. It will change the required skill sets necessary to tackle administrative tasks in tomorrow's data centre. Will your CV reflect what is needed?
As public awareness and government agenda put pressure on companies to adopt more environmentally sound policies, opportunities for those who fancy “saving the world” are on the rise. Green technologies such as videoconferencing, virtualisation and power management are all hot topics at the moment and as adoption rates increase, demand for IT staff to maintain, run and manage these systems has risen accordingly.
Green IT has come to prominence over recent years as businesses look to cut energy costs and the need for business travel. Many organisations have already begun to implement green initiatives; with a number of larger companies even having dedicated CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) teams to oversee the companies green goals. For the business the benefits are clear, allowing them to reduce overheads, cut carbon emissions and communicate their green status to their customers and stakeholders.
For IT professionals, the benefits are also there for the taking. As companies invest in a greener future, they need staff with the right skills and attributes to handle and oversee the smooth running of new technologies and new systems.What is also encouraging, is that the green IT market is constantly expanding, meaning a steady stream of jobs should be available in the years to come. If you are thinking of taking a fresh direction in your career, getting up-to-speed on green IT could set you on the right path to better, greener things.