“Cloud computing” seems to be the latest buzz word in the technology world. As promised in my earlier post about Amazon’s April Fools prank, I’m going to write about the cloud. Actually, it’s good timing because Sybase just announced that it’s working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer their products on Amazon Machine Images (AMI). I knew about this earlier because I did some work for this initiative during my last work term, and I’ve been anticipating this announcement ever since I finished the term =). Now that it’s released to the public, I can blog about it!

What is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)? Well, basically it’s a huge virtual image server hosted by Amazon. They use these things called AMIs which are virtual computers that you can run and customize to suit your needs. The amount that you pay is based upon the computer’s hardware specs and how long you use it for. This recent announcement by Sybase offers pre-built AMIs with Sybase products installed on them.

I’m excited for Sybase because this could be a huge step for SQL Anywhere’s web initiative. The partnership with Amazon makes the SQL Anywhere product much more accessible, especially in the online database market dominated by MySQL. It seems like every web hosting service offers MySQL as a back-end database, it has basically become the default database for online applications. This makes it very hard for any other database to penetrate that niche. However with these AMIs, customers will be able to get their own virtual server with SQL Anywhere pre-installed and ready to go. This definitely makes it much easier to use as a web server. Also, with SQL Anywhere’s built-in web server feature, you may not even need a dedicated web server. I really hope that people won’t overlook SQL Anywhere and give it a shot. I’m sure they won’t be disappointed =D.

Look who’s the latest player in the game!

sybaseami

As I sit here and ponder about my next work term, I realize that my view of Product Management (also referred to as Program Management or PM) has broadened throughout the course of my last work term. After my experience at Sybase, I can say that my glimpse into the PM world has stirred in me a desire to pursue a similar position.

I saw that PM is a very unique role in the technology industry. Although it is not compulsory to have a PM team, like it is to have a development team, I think that all software companies should adopt a team of product managers. Why? Because it is the PM’s responsibility to link the market needs with the code in the software. That is not to say that they write the code themselves, but rather they communicate effectively with the developers so that features can be implemented that satisfy the customers.

It is just as important to have people who develop the vision, write out the specs and work with the customers, as it is to have people who write the software. The PM’s and the developers are not rivals, but co-exist mutually in harmony [sort of]. Although the two parties may not see eye-to-eye on some decisions, the best features usually come out from constructive disputes during a brainstorming session.

This term proved to be a great learning experience and one of my busiest terms. I had the opportunity to work on a number of interesting projects:

– A proof-of-concept port of phpBB with offline synchronization
– Usability testing on the customer install/upgrade experience for the latest minor release
– Online PHP Developer Centre
– Features that would increase SQL Anywhere’s web server compatibility
– Customer demos and code samples-
– Whitepaper to get more out of the SQL Anywhere Monitor
– Edited a developer viewpoint
– Developed a prototype of a tool that addresses inquiries by potential customers and solves 30%-40% of the problems in the online forums
– Utility for Sybase’s latest announcement with Amazon Web Services

Many times, I worked closely with software developers to ensure that the functional specifications were met. That is, the feature will work the way a customer expects.

I learned that the build or install team plays a crucial part in a software company because their work is the first aspect of the product a potential customer encounters. If the install fails or it is unintuitive, what does that say about the product itself? First impressions are crucial. That’s why our installation process had to be put through careful usability testing.

I also met with members of the documentation team to make sure that they understood how my whitepapers would be presented (consistent form, terminology, and tone).

I finished off the term by doing some work for Sybase’s first venture into Cloud computing. I think it’s a huge step for Sybase as they announced earlier today that they’re working with Amazon Web Services to offer Sybase software in Amazon Elastic Compute (EC2) environments. It’s really awesome to be able to work on things that count and reflect the direction of the company.

The greatest part was seeing how my contributions were affecting the final product. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – a better product. My manager once told me, “As PM’s, our job is to make the product better for future customers.” So that takes foresight, creativity and some risk-taking. It may not always work as you planned, but when it does, it is extremely rewarding.

April Fools!

April 2, 2009

megatechblimpYes, I know that I’m one day late, but I just didn’t have time to write a post yesterday. It’s better late than never, right?

So as you know already, yesterday was April Fools’ day. Maybe you were made aware of this fact by being the gullible recipient of a prank or joke. One thing that I do look forward to each year is seeing what kind of “innovative ideas” big companies come up with. With so many companies and different April fools’ pranks out there, it’s almost like a competition. This year, I have to admit, it was pretty dull. Though, I found Amazon‘s new “cloud computing” solution to be quite funny. Maybe that’s stirred by the fact that my work is closely related to this innovative concept… That is to offer software as a service (SaaS). Maybe I’ll write about that at another time.

In any case, Amazon’s new solution is a “cloud that can come to you.” Essentially, it’s a blimp “with a capacity of 65,536 small EC2 instances, or a proportionate number of larger instances.” It has two methods of communicating with the ground, WiMAX or laser. Naturally, the laser option doubles as a self-defense mechanism. Cloud wars, anyone?