CEO Blog

The inspiration for WANdisco Fusion

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Roughly two years ago, we sat down to start work on a project that finally came to fruition this week.

At that meeting, we had set ourselves the challenge of redefining the storage landscape. We wanted to map out a world where there was complete shared storage, but where the landscape remained entirely heterogeneous.

Why? Because we’d witnessed the beginnings of a trend that has only grown more pronounced with the passage of time.

From the moment we started engaging with customers, we were struck by the extreme diversity of their storage environments. Regardless of whether we were dealing with a bank, a hospital or utility provider, different types of storage had been introduced across every organization for a variety of use cases.

In time, however, these same companies wanted to start integrating their different silos of data, whether to run real-time analytics or to gain a full 360 perspective of performance. Yet preserving diversity across data center was critical, given that each storage type has its own strengths.

They didn’t care about uniformity. They cared about performance and this meant being able to have the best of both worlds. Being able to deliver this became the Holy Grail – at least in the world of data centers.

This isn’t quite The Gordian Knot but it’s certainly a very difficult, complex problem and possibly one that could only be solved with our core, patented IP DConE.

Then we had a breakthrough.

Months later and I’m proud to formally release WANdisco Fusion (WD Fusion), the only product that enables WAN-scope active-active synchronization of different storage systems into one place.

What does this mean in practice? Well it means that you can use Hadoop distributions like Hortonworks, Cloudera or Pivotal for compute, Oracle BDA for fast compute, EMC Isilon for dense storage. You could even use a complete variety of Hadoop distros and versions. Whatever your set-up, with WD Fusion you can leverage new and existing storage assets immediately.

With it, Hadoop is transformed from being something that runs within a data center into an elastic platform that runs across multiple data centers throughout the world. WD Fusion allows you to update your storage infrastructure one data center at a time, without impacting your application ability or by having to copy vast swathes of data once the update is done.

When we were developing WD Fusion we agreed upon two things. First, we couldn’t produce anything that made changes to the underlying storage system – this had to behave like a client application. Second, anything we created had to enable a complete single global name-space across an entire storage infrastructure.

With WD Fusion, we allow businesses to bring together different storage systems by leveraging our existing intellectual property – the same Paxos-powered algorithm behind Non-Stop Hadoop, Subversion Multisite and Git Multisite – without making any changes to the platform you’re using.

Another way of putting it is we’ve managed to spread our secret sauce even further.

We have some of the best computer scientists in the world working at WANdisco, but I’m confident that this is the most revolutionary project any of us have ever worked on.

I’m delighted to be unveiling WD Fusion. It’s a testament to the talent and character of our firm, the result of looking at an impossible scenario and saying: “Challenge accepted.”

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About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

A View From Strata NY: Big Data is Getting Bigger

In general a trade show is a dangerous place to gauge sentiment.  Full of marketing & sales, backslapping & handshakes and marketecture rather than architecture the world is indeed viewed through rose-tinted-spectacles. Strata, the Hadoop Big Data conference in New York last week was very interesting albeit through my rose-tinted-spectacles.

Firstly, the sheer volume of people, over 3,500 is telling.  This show used to be a few hundred, primarily techies inventing the future.  The show is now bigger, much bigger.  A cursory glance at the exhibit hall revealed a mix of the biggest tech companies and hot start-ups.  The keynotes, to the disappointment of those original techies, were primarily press-driven product releases lacking real technical substance.  This is not such a bad thing though. It’s a sign that Hadoop is coming of age. It’s what happens when technology moves into the main stream.

Second, the agenda has changed quite dramatically.  Companies looking to deploy Hadoop are no longer trying to figure out how it might fit into their data centers. They are trying to figure out how to deploy it.  2014 will indeed be the end of trials and the beginning of full-scale enterprise roll-out.  The use-cases are all over the place.  Analysts yearn for clues and clusters to explain this “Are you seeing mainly telco’s or financial services?”  Analysts of course must try to enumerate in order to explain but the wave and shift is seismic and the only explanation is a fundamental shift in the very nature of enterprise applications.

My third theme is the discussion around why Hadoop is driving this move to rewrite enterprise applications.  As someone at the show told me, “the average age of enterprise application is 19 years”.  Hence,this is part of a classic business cycle.  Hadoop is a major technological shift that takes advantage of dramatic changes in the capabilities and economics of hardware.  Expensive spinning hard-disk, processing speeds, bandwidth, networks, etc. were limitations and hence assumptions that the last generation of enterprise applications had to deal with.  Commodity hardware and massive in-memory processing are the new assumptions that Hadoop takes advantage of.  In a few years we will not be talking about ‘Big Data’ we will simply use the term ‘Data’ because it will no longer be unusual for it to be so large in relative terms.

My fourth observation was that Hadoop 2 has changed the agenda for the type of use case.  In very rough terms Hadoop 1 was primarily about wall ststorage and batch processing.  Hadoop 2 is about yarn and run-time applications. In other words processing can now take place on top of Hadoop rather than storing in Hadoop but processing somewhere else.  This change is highly disruptive because it means that software vendors cannot rely on customers to use their products in conjunction with Hadoop.  Rather, they are talking about building on top of Hadoop.  To them Hadoop is a new type of operating system.  This disruption is very good news for the new brand of companies that are building pure applications built from the ground up and really bad news for those who believe that they can mildly integrate or even store data in 2 places. That’s not going to happen. Some of the traditional companies had a token presence at Strata that suggests they are still unsure of exactly what they are going to do – they are neither fully embracing or ignoring this new trend.

My final observation is about confusion.  There’s a lot of money at stake here so naturally everyone wants a piece of the action.  There’s a lot of flashing lights and noise from vendors, lavish claims and a lack of substance.  Forking core open source is nearly always a disaster. As open-source guru Karl Fogel says ‘forks happen due to irreconcilable disagreements, technical disagreements or interpersonal conflicts and is something developers should be afraid of and try to avoid it in any way’.  It creates natural barriers to use tertiary products and with an open source project moving as quickly as this, one has to stay super-close to the de facto open source project.

A forked version of core Hadoop is not Hadoop, it’s something else.  If customers go down a forked path it’s difficult to get back and they will lose competitive edge because they will be unable to use the community of products being built as part of the wider community.  Customers should think of Hadoop like an operating system or database.  If it’s merely embedded and heavily modified then this is not Hadoop.

So 2014 it is then.  As the Wall St Journal put it the Elephant in the Room to Weigh on Growth for Oracle, Teradata

Here’s a great video demo of the new @WANdisco continuous availability technology running on Hortonworks Hadoop 2.2 Distro

 

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About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

We Just Acquired Big Data / Hadoop Company AltoStor.

I believe that the combination of AltoStor’s expertise and WANdisco’s patented active-active replication technology is the proverbial ‘marriage-made-in-heaven’.  The AltoStor acquisition will enable us to launch products into the highly lucrative Big Data / Hadoop market early next year.

So how lucrative is this market?  Well, I recently read an interesting article in Wikibon “Big Data: Hadoop, Business Analytics and Beyond” that Big data / hadoop market sizereiterated what we already knew.  Big Data isn’t a might happen next year thing.  No, it’s here today, to steal a quote from the excellent article: “Make no mistake: Big Data is the new definitive source of competitive advantage across all industries. Enterprises and technology vendors that dismiss Big Data as a passing fad do so at their peril and, in our opinion, will soon find themselves struggling to keep up with more forward-thinking rivals…. For those organizations that understand and embrace the new reality of Big Data, the possibilities for new innovation, improved agility, and increased profitability are nearly endless.”

So why did we acquire AltoStor?

First off, the founders (Dr. Konstantin Shvachko and Jagane Sundar) are really good guys.  This was an ‘old-school’ acquisition.  An initial deal was struck very quickly with a handshake.  Both sides could see very clear value – so doing the deal was incredibly simple.  I love the fact that they wanted stock as consideration – that’s real proof that they see significant long term-value creation rather than short-term gain.

For WANdisco Big Data is a Big Market.  We can see clear synergy between our unique / patented active-active replication technology and the hadoop logocreation of Hadoop high availability (HA) solutions.  This is one of the reasons why AltoStor was so attractive to us.  They have unique knowledge in the space:

•            The AltoStor founders have been working on Hadoop since its inception in 2006 at Yahoo.  Konstantin was part of Doug Cuttings team that created and implemented Hadoop.  His focus was massive scale, performance and availability of Hadoop – developing the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS).  He then went on to eBay where he implemented Hadoop.

•            The Founders are intimately aware of the problem WANdisco is planning to solve around Hadoop HA and hence understand the value of the solution in large scale Big Data replication over a Wide Area Network.

•            Finally, AltoStor are developing a product that is slated for release in Q1 2013, that will significantly simplify deployment of Hadoop / Big Data for enterprises.

Following the acquisition we now expect to have products available in the first quarter of 2013.  That’s very good news.

There’s going to be a lot of noise in this space over the coming months and years.  Many will jump on the ‘bandwagon’, making all sorts of lavish claims to be ‘the big data this’ and ‘the big data that’.  It always happens in hype-cycles like this.  In reality most are just companies repurposing existing legacy products and slapping a new label on it.  This is NOT one of those.  We are building from the ground-up with unique knowledge and information that only a few in the world have (the amount of brain-power in the room during some of the early design meeting was frightening!)

In 2005 when we founded WANdisco my peers would tell me that active-active replication over a Wide Area Network was impossible.  Well we’ve got hundreds-of-thousands of users using the technology for core development every day.  Applying this technology to Hadoop is groundbreaking and I think it will change the way the industry views network storage.  We like making the impossible possible at WANdisco.

avatar

About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

1 night, 2 awards ceremonies, 2 awards

In a strange twist of fate we were nominated for two separate awards and two separate awards ceremonies and won them both!

The first award was at the techMark 2012 awards dinner in London in the Emerging Star category.  Panmure Gordon’s tech analyst George O’Conner picked up the award on behalf of us.  Thank you George, Panmure, LSE and event sponsors PWC.

The second award was at the Shares Awards 2012 also in London in the Best IPO category.  Thanks to Steve Frazer and the Shares Magazine team.

Awards are always nice for the ego, but as a company we are more focused on execution.  We didn’t attend these awards, not because we didn’t want to, we are simply too busy at the moment.

The only “W” quote I like is his comments on honors and awards…“To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.”

avatar

About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

Why Master-Slave Can’t Save Software Driven Companies from Disaster


There was a time when the name “Sandy” probably brought to mind Olivia Newton John’s character in Grease.  Before that, it might have made you think of Sandy Duncan, the spritely actress who was famous for playing Peter Pan on stage. It’s a name that conjures images of a beach vacation somewhere.

So it’s clear the World Meteorological Organization could have applied a more fitting name to the cataclysmic superstorm that hit America’s East Coast this past week.

And that’s just how it is with disasters. The volume and strength of the alarm rarely matches the magnitude of the strike. The warning goes unheeded or it’s underestimated.  Most often, there is no alarm. The threat creeps in unannounced and takes down the unprepared and unprotected.

The news this past week offers a grim reminder of just how vulnerable even a modern nation can be: images of blacked out cities, flooded neighborhoods and burning buildings are paired with stories of numerous fatalities and countless, displaced citizens.

Of course, businesses pay a price during disasters too. In fact, this one should raise concerns among software driven companies who are vulnerable to downtime, disruption and data loss should they get hit. According to Discovery News, the storm caused “power cuts and heavy flooding in a zone where some 150 data centers are situated, in the states of Virginia, New Jersey and New York.”

Consider the potential consequences of such an event: of companies experiencing catastrophic data loss, 43 percent never reopen, and 51 percent go out of business within two years, according to research from the University of Texas.

Executive leaders need to be confident about their data backups and disaster recovery plans. Their companies could be devastated by prolonged disruptions or major data loss. Software-driven companies take this risk when they fail to ensure access to their source code.

And it’s not just the risk of storms, floods or fires that should get your attention. There are numerous  reasons to make business continuity and disaster recovery a key priority:

  • IT systems fail. Servers and storage systems may be more durable and dependable than they were in the past, but they are not foolproof.  Servers go down all the time. Hard disks crash. Power outages occur. Internet connections are lost.
  • Human error leads to system failures.  Humans make mistakes that lead to data loss or system crashes. While processes may be in place to discourage missteps, it’s inevitable that some personnel will accidentally veer from the process.
  • Hackers and attackers will undermine you. Given the growing number of online security breaches that have made the news and undermined corporate reputations, it’s a fact that threats can also come from individuals who willfully harm your business. Companies such as Sony, TJ Maxx and Citigroup have suffered some of the most visible, and extensive security breaches when customer data assets were compromised.

These are just a few of the many factors that lead to downtime and disruption. And if you haven’t proactively planned for them, your business may be unable to operate. It’s much like having an insurance policy on your house in case of fire.

However, research suggests that economic uncertainty has pushed BC/DR efforts down the priority list for many firms. “Even in the best of economic times, it’s difficult to build the business case for an initiative like BC/DR that’s primarily about cost avoidance rather than return on investment. In tough economic times, it’s almost impossible,” according to Forrester Research.

Of course, cost avoidance should be enough incentive when the potential cost of failure is colossal. Just consider the cost of extended downtime if your business simply can’t operate. That’s what happened to major websites like Netflix, Pinterest and Instragram when Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud in North Virginia went down due to severe thunderstorms. As a result, Netflix was sending out apology emails in the midst of Friday night movie night.

The point is that the productivity and performance of software-driven companies revolve around being able to constantly produce code and some of them have software development operations that follow the sun. And it’s not just conventional technology companies that are vulnerable to disruption. Chase Bank, for example, has more than a 100,000 software engineers generating code. It, and many other companies, are software-driven enterprises, too.

When software-driven firms don’t prepare for disruptions and disastrous events, they put their businesses in jeopardy.  They have much to lose in terms of costs and missed production windows if their developers are sitting idle for long stretches of time. So the question for software-driven companies to consider is this: How secure and available is your source code in the case of a disrupting event?

At WANdisco, we’ve seen how effectively companies can respond in a moment of crisis.

One client, EMS Satcom, experienced record flooding near its software development site in the UK. And yet, the company experienced zero downtime or data loss despite the fact that widespread flooding killed a number of people, affected thousands of other businesses, and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.

This was possible because EMS Satcom had a network architecture that does not rely on any centralized servers, so there was no single point of failure. If a server went down because of flooding, developers could automatically fail over to other servers on the network, which may even be on another continent.

Another client, O2Micro, a maker of power management and security systems for multiple markets, has a globally distributed software department. O2 Micro has been able to enhance network performance, accelerate development cycles and protect itself from disastrous events while enhancing network performance by investing in software configuration management (SCM) solutions.

When an earthquake hit China a few years back, the built-in hot backup and automated recovery features in O2 Micro’s SCM solution eliminated extended downtime and data loss after network and server failures, even after the earthquake cut communication between the US and China. In fact, O2Micro now operates 24-by-7 because its backup and recovery capabilities avoid over two hours of downtime each day for maintenance — demonstrating that protective measures also can boost daily performance.

For both EMS Satcom and O2Micro, WANdisco’s patented active-active replication technology was critical in ensuring disruptions were avoided and key source code assets remained accessible.  WANdisco’s Distributed Coordination Engine (DConE) technology, embedded in our Enterprise Multisite product, allows multiple instances of the same application or source code to operate on independent hardware without sharing any resources. All of the application servers are kept in synchronization by DConE regardless of whether the servers are on the same LAN or globally separated and accessible only over a WAN. This is achieved by replicating changes made against one server to the others in real-time.

So what are the takeaways?

  • First, to ensure your software development operations are secure, you need to know that your data and source code are backed up somewhere other than in the same metro region. As the East Coast superstorm demonstrated, it’s not enough to merely have a backup of your data assets. The backup has to be out of harm’s way.
  • Second, disaster recovery isn’t just about backing up your assets. It’s also about how much time it takes you to recover. Every minute that goes by with operations at a halt, your company is burning money. You can quantify this loss by multiplying your number of developers by their compensation and the time it takes to get them back online with accessible source code — though other costs may be exacted regarding your reputation and/or time to market.
  • Finally, you need a proactive disaster recovery and business continuity strategy. You don’t want to be uncertain about where you stand when disaster hits one of the regions in which your developers operate. In fact, you’ll want to consider how to rigorously manage your software development liabilities in association with your larger DR/BC plans.

As more companies become software-driven, more companies become vulnerable to the issues raised by this past week’s devastating storm — issues concerning disaster recovery in general and source code protection and availability in particular. Heed the storm’s warning and take action. Don’t let your business float away in an unanticipated flood of disastrous news.

Learn how WANdisco’s patented replication technology can keep your software development teams up and running in the face of the worst disasters.

Or reach out to our knowledgeable solutions team at sales@wandisco.com.

avatar

About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

Three Unconventional Ways to Manage IT Costs

David Richards, CEO WANdiscoYou have to run leaner and meaner and so you’re intent on driving IT costs down. But where will those much sought-after cost reductions come from? One area that may not have received the scrutiny it deserves is software development.

The evidence is mounting. When Forrester Research examined the total economic impact of new software development infrastructure, it discovered considerable savings associated with the near real-time replication of source code on servers globally.

In the case of one Fortune 500 electronics company it studied, $776,509 in specific benefits was identified over a three-year period — leading to a risk-adjusted ROI of 150%. By enabling developers in Asia to perform builds locally, the new approach eliminated up to two man-days of idle time each day and increased the number of builds 100%.

Phoenix Technologies, a leader in core systems software products, discovered it could significantly reduce costs associated with production delays and lost man-hours by adopting a similar solution. By enabling continuous builds at six different locations across East Asia and North America, it reduced overall build cycle times by more than 60% and increased productivity by 30%. Previously, over two hours of development time had been lost each day due to poor network performance and outages.

So why have the costs of software development become excessive?

One clear factor is developer inefficiency. This is often a concern when developers are spread out geographically, particularly when many of them are located in regions (such as India and Greater China) with limited network capabilities. You experience clear and irretrievable costs when developers can’t promptly check in their source code to a central repository. Cycle times lengthen and projects are delayed. If time is money, then this is money that’s burning.

Another issue is network performance. After all, network failures happen all the time.. What’s the cost of developer downtime or the inability to access your source code at all? Network performance and downtime issues represent an ongoing tax on software development — imposed in endless delays and lost man-hours.

Yet another factor is the absence of Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD). Companies that implement this best practice test their software builds perpetually to identify bugs, errors and other signs of corrupted code. Through this approach to quality control, they streamline software development.

But companies that don’t engage in this practice run the risk of discovering software problems late in a project, which can lead to considerable rework and long delays. Worst case: they release corrupted code into production. As I’ve written elsewhere, such mistakes can have a devastating impact on corporate finances and reputations. Knight Capital Group saw its stock price collapse and the company took a pre-tax loss of $440m as a result of bad code.

Finally, there is the opportunity cost associated with geographic barriers and boundaries. Many companies bear added and unnecessary software development costs because they cannot source the right talent in the right place at the right price. Because of network limitations, an inability to synchronize development efforts and other factors that hinder productivity, they are simply unable to get the full benefits of offshore development.

Which leads us to the question of how to confront your costs.

How can you intelligently reduce software development costs and, thus, drive down overall IT costs? Here are three proven steps you can take:

  1. Embrace Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery. It’s been written elsewhere that “quality is free.” Ultimately, it costs nothing to implement practices enabling you to continuously test and enhance the quality of source code. You prevent defects on the front-end to ensure they don’t emerge later in the development or, worse, production process. It will save you considerable costs associated with rework and delayed projects.
  2. Commit to Highly Available Source Code. In order to enhance collaboration, avoid developer inefficiencies, and make CI/CD possible, you need high availability. Developers need the ability to rapidly check in their source code to central repositories. Companies need the ability to rapidly replicate changes to source code between servers on a global basis. And you need the confidence of knowing that network performance and downtime issues will not undermine this availability.
  3. Aspire to Software Development without Geographic Constraints. Today’s technologies increasingly make possible what British economist Frances Cairncross called “the death of distance” just over a decade ago. You can now seek the right talent in the right place for the right price. You can realize economies of scale and skill that previously would not have been available to you.

Software development may not have been the first place you considered when seeking ways to drive down costs. But, as a growing number of companies have discovered, it’s often loaded with excessive costs — both direct costs and opportunity costs.

As the evidence suggests, software development represents an important, if under-appreciated, area for achieving new efficiencies. By rethinking software development infrastructure, you can both reduce costs and accelerate your time to market.

And as software is increasingly suffused throughout the overall economy and demands escalate for new releases, you’ll find that that today’s investments in cost reduction and superior infrastructure set the stage for tomorrow’s gains in revenue growth.

 

Cheers,

David

P.S. If you haven’t signed up yourself or your team members, I highly recommend registering for Subversion Live  2012 this October. Use code DAVID45 for 45% off registration. Visit www.wandisco.com/svn-live-2012 to get more information.

avatar

About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

Another Bank Playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with Software

In my Blog the other week (“Software is Everywhere – Let’s Make Sure it Works“) I discussed the dangers that delivering bad software can bring.  Unbelievably another Bank is at it.  This time it’s Knight Frank, the US-based global financial services firm.  With its high-frequency trading algorithms Knight was the largest trader in U.S. equities on NYSE and NASDAQ.

So you’d think they would take a lot of care and attention to deliver software correctly. Apparantly not.

On August 1, 2012 Knight Capital put into production some “bad code”.  This caused a major disruption in the prices of 148 companies listed at the New York Stock Exchange, for example, shares of Wizzard Software Corporation went from $3.50 to $14.76. Knight Capital’s stock price to collapse and the company took a pre-tax loss of $440m sending shares lower by over 70% from before the announcement.

4 Days later the company managed  to raise around $400 million from half a dozen investors just to stay in business.

The cause? Well according to Bloomberg it “stemmed from old computer software that was inadvertently reactivated when a new program was installed”   Essentially they rushed through code and it was buggy.  Modern (agile) development practices does not mean cutting corners – that’s like playing Russian Roulette with your company.  Just ask the Board at Knight Frank – they lost 2 years of revenue in less than an hour…

 

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About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

Software is Everywhere – Let’s Make Sure it Works

I’ve just returned from a pretty interesting week in London mainly catching up with financial analysts, fund managers and the press (I’ve embedded the interview I did with BloombergTV a couple of hours after getting off the flight from SFO-LON).

At this stage (only a couple of months into our IPO on the London Stock Exchange) I find that I have to spend a lot of my time explaining what we do.  I suppose that shouldn’t be a big surprise.  Outside of ‘techie’ circles WANdisco is still a relative unknown, but I’m pleased to say that’s changing.

Most of the context for the “what we do” is explaining how software is developed in organizations and just how important it is.  In the techie bubble that we sometimes live we all take for granted.  Marc Andresson famously wrote about “software eating the world where he argues that “we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.”

Of course I think he’s right.  There are plenty of examples where software has replaced the incumbent.  My favorite example is the automobile industry where diagnostics used to be a guy under the hood and is now plugging the car into a computer and looking for trouble codes (there are 10 million lines of source code in a Chevy Volt).  Or, under the covers, how banks a really software companies employing thousands of software engineers.

It’s even easier to explain how important software is when it goes wrong.  The most recent example was at RBS / Nat West.

A software update was applied on 19 June 2012 to the software that controls the payment processing system. It then turned out that the update was corrupted.  Customer wages, payments and other transactions could not happen.  Millions of customers were unable to withdraw cash using ATMs or see bank account details. Others faced fines for late payment of bills because the system could not process direct debits. It wasn’t until mid July that the problem was finally rectified.

As one customer put it:

“I was due to have my wages paid in today – but they haven’t appeared in my account. This means I simply can’t afford to pay my weekly bills.

 “I also had to pay the deposit for my daughter’s headstone today – she was stillborn seven weeks ago. No wages therefore no headstone.

 “I am so angry about the technical glitch, as they call it, because this now means I’ve got to wait another week before having a day off work so I can go and pay for the headstone.”

The cost to RBS is unknown – but it could be billions.

At the heart of the problem was version control and release management of software.

According to current and former employees controls were not in place and it was difficult to know exactly what software was even running in the production system.  Release Management is supposed to be the ‘gatekeeper’ between the test & QA system and the production environment and clearly this was missing here.  In mission critical environments such as this there should be very strict controls in place.

Bugs exist in software, of course they do, human beings create software.  Companies employ systems such as software version control, source code reviews, QA, release management, staging, and integration testing to avoid this happening.  Modern software in today’s market should employ continuous integration testing.  This should ensure that every new line of software is changed it is tested across thousands and thousands of different test cases to see if anything is broken.  This reduces time to fix and also reduces even the chance an error will make it to QA.

Software is everywhere – it’s in your car, refrigerator and phone.  It’s not a nice to have – it’s a must have. Banks and other finance companies have been transformed by software over the last 30 years. Virtually all financial transactions, from someone buying a sandwich to a multi-billion pounds trading, is done in software.  That’s great but it presents risks – mission critical applications such as this can’t have bugs – full stop and process and modern tooling is not an option it’s a must.  Missile defense systems can’t have bugs; neither can medical devices such as heart pacemakers.  So you see it is possible to deliver software without bugs you just need good tools and processes.

 

avatar

About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

Let’s Create Our Own Unique Silicon Britain

Article published in my column for the Huffington Post

Recently, the Chancellor George Osborne vowed that the UK would become the “technology centre of Europe” at the opening of the new Google Campus in the Silicon Roundabout area in London.

The Chancellor suggested that the new Google Campus, which offers desk space and mentoring for technology companies, will help to the “create the next generation of British technologies”. In doing so he rekindled the debate about the UK’s ability to create a global tech start-up hub to rival Silicon Valley.

Any move to foster a greater number of tech start-ups in the UK should be applauded. What we should be discouraging, however, is our continuing obsession with recreating Silicon Valley in London.

It’s my belief that the comparison between their Valley and our Roundabout is unproductive. The Valley’s unique combination of world-class universities, highly sophisticated investment infrastructure, established technology giants and start-up ecosystem is exactly that: unique.

Instead of creating a pale imitation, Britain should instead build on its own strengths – of which there are many.

The UK has a proven track record in creating brilliant technology businesses. ARM is powering the smartphone revolution and forcing Intel to play catch up, and Autonomy, that was recently sold to HP for £7bn, is another world leader to emerge from the Cambridge region.

And let’s not forget that it was a Brit who invented the World Wide Web in the early 1990s – the London-born Tim Berners-Lee.

So while we may not have produced consumer facing internet firms on the scale of Google and Facebook, we excel in building hi-tech firms that are the driving force behind many of the technologies that billions use every day.

Instead of gazing wistfully towards California, we should instead build on our distinctive assets.

I believe that we have a very hard-working and talented workforce, evidenced by the fact that the majority of my staff are based here. But we can train yet more local talent in the technical skills that are in demand by today’s technology companies, and provide them with a stimulating working environment that will reduce brain drain and migration to elsewhere in the world.

We should also start thinking bigger – I believe that the whole of the UK is small enough to transform into one huge technology cluster. As an example, WANdisco, the software firm that I co-founded, runs from dual headquarters in Silicon Valley and Sheffield. However, we are expanding out our development work from the ‘steel city’ to Belfast, and in US terms, the distance between these two cities is tiny.

With the announcement in this year’s budget of improved broadband infrastructure, connectivity in Britain will be better than ever.

There are lessons we can learn from Silicon Valley without trying to become a carbon copy of it, and still succeed in boosting innovation in this country.

This approach means we can produce more of the technology firms that rival those from all over the world, and lead the way with our own Silicon Britain.

avatar

About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies.

Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth.

With over 15 years’ executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards.

David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Specialties:IPO’s, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A