Let Me Tell You A Story

This is a story from my childhood that was popular in India . For some reason , this week that passed us by reminded me of this story after many years .

Once up on a time , in a land far far away….

There was this guy in a remote village – a big name street wrestler . His whole game is in terrorizing the common folk of the village farmers market . He would charge a premium for whatever his family was selling , and if anyone challenges his price – he will bully them . Every day, he would walk around the market shouting “is anyone feeling strong enough today to wrestle with me ?”. And of course no one would raise their hand .

This went on for years and years . His wares were not bad , and there was enough demand – so he prospered . But the guy he employed as his “muscle” started getting the idea that maybe he can do the same too – but he did not have much money to start on his own. So he took a personal loan from his boss and a few others and started selling at a corner of the market. He was careful not to compete with his former boss .

Since he was taught well by his former master , he employed more or less the same techniques of playing down his fellow vendors . Over a period of time – he also became pretty strong and big and rich . And pretty soon he started telling his friends that he doesn’t care much for his old boss and that he is way more rich and strong than the old man.

And then one day when the old wrestler walked around shouting the usual “is anyone feeling strong enough today to wrestle with me ?” , the younger man stood tall and said “Yes, I can take you on “. The older man was taken aback for a little bit – and then he walked menacingly towards the young guy, sizing him up with each step.

As he reached him – he turned around and put his arms around the younger man with a big smile on his face and said “Ok, so who feels strong enough today to wrestle the two of us? ”

That is the story – I have heard an extension of this too where before he hugged the young man, he whispered into his ears “I will marry my daughter to you , and you should take over my shop too when I am done “.



Mind Your Own Business , Please

Growing up in India , I had no concept of what “mind your own business” meant – none at all. That was not our thing . My mom always knew the grades of every kid in the neighborhood , the family next door knew exactly how much is my dad’s salary and all of that . If you really wanted to be a social outcast in my hometown , all you needed to say was “mind your own business ” in response to some deeply personal question . I should also add that if someone had a problem – there was usually no shortage of help , be it free food, unsecured personal loans etc. It is a mixed bag – you have to see it and live it to believe it.

With an entire society knowing your life like an open book – you can imagine the number of people who will mess with your every decision . Single parents – unless their spouse passed away or something – were frowned on and often could not even rent a house. The first time I knew about LGBT was when I read an article in college – and the first time I saw a movie in Malayalam about a gay hero was 2 weeks ago .

And then I moved to USA and started living here – and you can imagine the culture shock , especially on the “mind your own business ” dimension 🙂

Here is something I recently read on Facebook that might explain my situation when I moved here . A kid was riding a taxi and munching one chocolate after another . The driver asked him “Don’t you know this is bad for you?”. Kid said “My grandpa lived to be 130 years old”. Driver curiously asked “by eating a lot of chocolate ?” And the kid replied “no, by keeping his mouth shut and minding his own business”.

In short , I had a lot of adjustment to do when I started living here . And many years later – I have kind of a hybrid view on where to draw the line , which satisfies neither my American friends nor my Indian friends 🙂

Yesterday night, I was fascinated by what was happening in Austin,TX in their senate meeting . I simply could not believe my eyes – and now I am a HUGE fan of Senator Wendy Davis .

I firmly believe that Individuals should decide what works for them and what does not , and as long as it doesn’t harm others – society and government should stay away from dictating to individuals .

At the core of the issue for me is the concept of equality . It is 2013 now – the world should stop treating people differently . I have neither a left nor a right leaning politically , but I do expect everyone to be able to choose what they want to do with their life without worrying about the belief system of others . Most of us should have learned in school about separation of church and state – it is time to put it in action .

I am not pro or anti abortion – I am not a woman and consequently cannot claim to know what makes a woman choose one way or another . All I am saying is that just like a man can choose to do what he wants with his body – a woman should too . A woman should have exactly the same freedom to do what she wants with her body like any man – another man (or woman) shouldn’t dictate what she can or cannot do. Not all women think or act alike – so allow them to choose what they want as individuals rather than creating a one size fits all framework .

Instead of futile political bickering , I wish we spent the time, energy and money in educating people so that they can take better decisions and lead better lives . This country spends a lot of resources on wars , and put a lot of soldiers’ life at risk – cant we stop some wars and spend the resources instead on healthcare and education that will help many generations to come ?

While I seriously doubt any country can legislate its way to glory, I am not anti legislation either – it can actually be a useful tool . As many of you know, India had (probably still have) a problem with female feticide . They had to pass a legislation that doctors cannot disclose gender of the foetus before delivery to anyone including parents. And it worked – at least in my home state Kerala, there are now more women than men in the population . And that makes me proud , along with the fact that the state has 100% literacy which also happened in a large part (not fully though) because of effective government legislative action .

Growing up in India , I am well aware of the evil of discrimination – I have seen parts of this movie before.

A couple of generations ago ( and some of it still prevails) , based on caste, color of skin, social and economical status – a vast number of people never got a fair shot at leading a decent life in India. The country as a whole suffered as a result – and continues to carry the weight of that even today. It is no doubt a lot better now than in my grandfather’s generation – and India is now growing to be a global power . Knowing that history – it worries me all the more that US will make similar mistakes that India did instead of learning from it.

Can’t we all get along better and mind our own business more , and stop trying to mess with the life of fellow human beings ? Or is that too much to wish for ?

Couple of Thoughts on Oracle announcements on Microsoft and Salesforce Partnerships

Right upfront – this post is just a personal view and has nothing to do with my employer’s opinion . I am just typing this up on my phone while watching my daughter hitting tennis balls with her friends .

Oracle CEO said he was going to reshape cloud computing last week during their earnings call . That was a pretty big claim , and naturally I was interested in what he had to say this week . I have great respect for the guy – despite missing a few very critical turns (cloud, in-memory computing etc) recently, he has done admirably well for himself and the companies he founded and invested in . Plus it is always fun to speculate if there will be any attempt to revise history 🙂

Larry never loses an opportunity to snipe at his competitors – often in what looks like pretty silly ways to me. In recent years , he has made fun of the leaders of SFDC, SAP, IBM etc . And almost in all cases , it is interpreted by external world as an endorsement of what the competition is doing. Enterprise Software is a funny world to be in 🙂

So the first positive I saw in this week’s announcement is that with this partnership – there is a decent chance that Larry will reduce sniping at SFDC and MS a little .

Oracle is a big fan of engineered systems – controlling all (or most) layers of the “stack”. The partnership with MS to put Oracle DB on Azure and get MS to license java looks like a change in strategy (or is it philosophy?) to me . Looks like Oracle is slowly recognizing the importance of working with an ecosystem . My feeling is that MS gained more than Oracle in this deal – with java giving additional flexibility to developers who so far could only play with .Net . On the flip side, MS might be indirectly be admitting that SQL server can’t quite match Oracle in DB . Or maybe MS is taking a view that it is a good thing to give more DB choices to customers .

What also caught my eye was that Oracle is exposing not just DB but also the old BEA app server via Azure. I had a smile on my face when I read this – since unlike SAP Hana which has an inbuilt App server ( XS Engine) , Oracle needs a separate app server to make use of its DB server in an application . This is not innovation – just repackaging. At least customers have the consolation of license mobility .

What about the SFDC partnership ? From what I heard so far – the deal is a good tactical sales opportunity for Oracle After their horrible quarter end. 9 years of recurring revenue is awesome for any company. Plus if SFDC – as rumored – was planning to ditch Oracle as their DB, this is a good “PR save” as well by getting their long term commitment . I can’t imagine SFDC changing their application level multi tenancy to a database level multi tenancy on an unproven 12C platform. Too much risk and disruption – but would be great to see if they do. Maybe new extensions on force.com or something might use 12C – and I will be keeping an eye out for that for technology curiosity sake.

Also interesting is the question whether this means Oracle treats SFDC CRM solutions as superior to products in their own catalog. Same is true for SFDC – would they stop working on HCM and take a view that Oracle is better at it ?

Is there a competitive angle to either announcement ? It can be argued in theory that Amazon, Workday, SAP etc need to take notice . In reality, I don’t see any short to medium term impact to any of these competitors .

Between the big $$ from SFDC and the chance to push exadata boxes to SFDC and maybe MS too – the deal probably makes good financial sense for Oracle . But from a tech perspective, I don’t think the world has changed much this week . But hey – if this means we see less public fights between Ellison and Benioff , that is still a good thing

Happy Second Birthday SAP Hana

Time just flew , didn’t it ? Wasn’t it like yesterday that I wished SAP Hana happy first birthday ?

I know Vishal continues to call Hana as his little girl .


Hana is certainly no longer a little girl – she is quite a capable young lady now with a bright future. Yes I am of course biased – but 1500 customers who have bought Hana will back me up on that 🙂

My friends tease me all the time for referring to my Golden Retriever as a puppy . What can I say – I still remember the day I picked him up as an 8 week old pup


Well, he is 9 now – and old enough in “dog years” to be my dad’s age. But in my mind he will always be that little puppy that my wife sung to sleep on her lap every day !


So yes , I can relate to Vishal talking about Hana as his little girl.


Yesterday night, we added a new furkid to our family – a Golden Retriever male puppy that we call “Ollie” .


He is full of energy and keeps the two older dogs on their toes . He has no fear whatsoever Picking on dogs 10X his size. He has taken over their toys and is not letting them relax for a bit .

Here he is gnawing at the tail of Hobo, my 100 lbs Labrador 🙂


And he is running circles around poor old “Boss” 🙂


With Ollie around , I will be retiring the older dogs from more “active” activities slowly and Ollie will be taking on some heavy duty competitive dog show stuff. My oldies will be treasured as pets and will hang out with us at home.

A version of this is happening in the enterprise software world too. Those 1500 customers all had their favorite old software , and now they have Hana too. And I mean this in the nicest way – Hana is chewing at the old and tired ones and running circles around them happily showing off new and amazing capabilities 🙂

Several of our friends who have seen Ollie now want one like him . Just like the many CXOs who have seen their peers and competitors use Hana for amazing applications – from running old apps 10000X faster to computing reverse BOM in real time to eliminating batch processing .

As I am typing this, I am seeing my Labrador having a new spring in his step . That is the beauty of competition – everyone ups their game and the customer wins . Ollie has changed the dynamics in our “fur kids” hierarchy – and Hana continues to do so exceptionally well in the software world . It is a new world- new rules apply !

Happy Second Birthday SAP Hana ! Go solve the big problems and change the world for the better !

Now if only our little Ollie can have the type of success in the dog show rings as Hana is having in the market consistently ….:)

Online Reputation – It Is All Rather Weird And Funny !

My last employer, IBM, had a term for online reputation – it was referred to as “Digital Eminence” at big blue. Many colleagues there struggled to figure out what it meant and how they can improve their digital eminence. My way of explaining this to my mentees was “How well does google know you?” .

I did not gain any online reputation by following a plan. Google knows me well enough now – so if you search for my name, I think you can find what I write.  I started blogging several years ago on SCN, then started tweeting and 3 years ago I started this blog. I am grateful that I have a little more readership than friends and immediate family 🙂

People tell me all the time – including twice today – that they don’t have the time to be on twitter, or post a blog. Some of them ask me if there is a plan or schedule that I follow.  Some others ask me how I do SEO. Yet others ask me if I get paid for my blogs.

While I am genuinely flattered by these questions – the truth is kind of boring. Or as Bjoern Goerke says – #NOFUNWHATSOEVER .

I have no schedule to blog. If something picks my interest – I blog, usually from my iPhone.I am usually too lazy to open up my ipad or laptop 🙂 . Unlike with documents I deal with at work – I do not proof read or spell check or do any kind of QA. I tried keeping draft blogs to see if I can finish a thought later. More often than not – I just delete the drafts. So for me – writing something spontaneous is what works best.

I usually blog during plane rides. Or over the weekends, on a reclining sofa with a cold beverage in hand with TV playing an Indian movie, following a cricket match on my iPad and with my two retrievers at my feet. Recently a friend told me that Tuesday and Thursday mornings work best for getting maximum readership. I can never publish something more than a minute after I finished typing – so mine usually go out over the weekend or late nights.

I really don’t know how to do SEO – I have seen long articles on it, and thought it was too complex to deal with it. Same with adwords – someone pointed me to info on how to make money off a blog using adwords. Again, too lazy to do something of that kind. In fact till few months ago, my blog had a black background and white font – and it took a lot of friends and readers to convince me to get another scheme. And lazy me – I just found the first theme I could read without glasses and adopted it. So now you know how serious a blogger I am 🙂

As many of you know – I grew up in the consulting business. My reputation in that world was strictly on my tech abilities, and operational abilities – like managing big projects, selling multi million dollar deals, high customer satisfaction and so on. I have some linkedin recommendations from past managers and clients that can attest to this. People who knew me closely also knew me for not holding back my opinion on some topics. And that is a reputation built over many years of blood sweat and tears. I treasure that .

However, in the last few years – more people know me as a blogger than for my real skills and experience. In fact in my job at SAP ( and six months have passed already in this job) – I think I get introduced to colleagues as a blogger more often than as a guy who is trying to drive Hana adoption. And this leads to weird, often funny reactions .

A small percentage of people just tune out immediately . They probably have no reason to discuss their pressing issues with a blogger – I guess if roles were reversed, I could occasionally be easily accused of this behavior  too. Some others are fascinated – and will engage in a good conversation about social media, current affairs, latest consumer tech and so on – anything except the topic at hand. And the rest ignore the blogger part and discuss normal work stuff and other pressing issues. These days – I almost bet with myself on which of these categories will my next interaction fall into 🙂 . I have also had a few colleagues ask me to blog about stuff they are working on – mostly because they don’t think they can blog themselves. If I get my way – SAP will have a lot more bloggers very soon.

Not everything is funny – there are some real personal and professional advantages too being a blogger. The last international trip I took – I was recognized by someone as “aren’t you the guy who wrote that …..” at every airport I flew in and out of – every single time. I was ten feet tall 🙂 . That was an incredible experience. And roughly every second customer meeting – someone would have read something I posted, and will break the ice broaching that topic. So yes – it definitely has its blessings.

In short – don’t try to blog like I do. Just do what feels right to you – don’t ever let it become a chore. If you don’t enjoy blogging and tweeting – don’t do it. If you like something – you will find time for it. If you like working out – you will hit the gym no matter what. If you like to eat – you won’t mind driving an hour to your favorite restaurant.

Now if you indeed want a role model – there are plenty of peeps who do it well like Den Howlett, Jon Reed, Matthias Steiner, Frank Scavo, Bjoern Goerke , Vinnie Mirchandani and so on. Read several of them and see if something inspires you. And then just start typing – few posts later, you will be a blogger. Google will know you well at some point – and important people will tune you out the moment you are referred to as a blogger. That is the moment of truth – you have arrived !

The Good(?) And Evil Of PRISM

The whole news about PRISM is pretty depressing – but after thinking through the weekend, I am not as depressed as I was when I first heard it. Sure it is still very evil, but has a few positives as well . The evil part is pretty obvious , so I am just calling out the not so evil things that partly balances it out . Who knows, my opinion could still change as I think more .

The most obvious positive is that there is a chance this does help government keep us safer to some degree .Bad guys are bad – but sadly they are not stupid . They already should know that law enforcement is checking emails and phones . A part of me wants to believe that PRISM is just a leak to further deter the bad guys 🙂

Irrespective of political leaning , Government will over reach . Neither Bush nor Obama has any moral superiority that their administration can claim when it comes to privacy invasion. And this is as good a reason as any to stop following either party blindly the next time people vote them to power .

We compromise privacy all the time – by disclosing personal data in social networks , by using loyalty cards , by online commerce and so on . Experts have warned us a million times to be careful – yet not much has changed . If private companies can hold our data and target us – what is the big deal if government does the same ? Or do we trust capitalist companies to do less evil than an elected government ?

If PRISM has to live up to its great expectations – government probably does not have all the tech it needs in house . This means a lot of companies – big and small will make good business creating that tech . And then those technologies will be repurposed for enterprises and consumers – in good and bad ways . Irrespective – this in general should help an advancement of technology and economy in general .

Same with hardware – a lot more disks, flash, DRAM etc need to be produced to keep up with the big data that the government needs . That is good for the semiconductor industry in general , and should further increase affordability and quality of HW for the rest of us .

Even with all of these , the evil is not nearly balanced by positives. and it could get a lot worse . Aggregation of data is generally considered a good thing in enterprise world – for things like 360 degree view of the customer , end to end supply chain visibility etc . The limiting factor in achieving that goal is that enterprises do not have much access outside their intranets . But if governments can gain access to enterprise servers and get business information – now they can indeed have nearly 360 degree information on everyone . Or god forbid – government could have an API for companies to get some parts of the data from government repositories . It can get even more real evil real soon .

Privacy matters in more ways than most people realize . I don’t know if anything much would change – but the least we can all do is raise awareness so that we keep the damages to a minimum .

Weekend rant on Innovation , Industrialization & Watching Your Back

I missed watching Seth Godin’s keynote in person couple of weeks ago in Orlando, and ended up watching the recording later. http://www.asugonline.com/asug-annual-conference/videos/keynote-persentation/?catid=asug-annual-conference-keynotes&slg=2013-asug-annual-conference-keynote

I don’t read his blog regularly, but every time someone I follow on twitter tweets out one of his posts – I tend to check it out hoping that it is something I can relate to and learn from. Unfortunately, the keynote replay did not exactly excite me – I tuned out along the way, around the time he explained what a Fermata is to his audience. I am not an expert in western music theory, but I had a very different idea of what a Fermata is compared to what Godin said..But I digress…

There is a part of the keynote that made sense to me – the need to be very good at what you do, to market effectively and so on. But the rest of it generally didn’t sound relevant to me in the context of my work in enterprise software.

I am as big a fan of innovation as the next guy – but I firmly believe that we have enough examples around us to indicate that not everyone can or should innovate. Enterprise Software business is largely made up of fast followers and a minority of innovators ( or inventors) . However, industry wide we spend a lot of time trying to democratize innovation – although with limited success. Shouldn’t we know better by now?

Innovation is a high risk and high reward game most of the time – with characteristics like failure, chaos, disruption etc to go with it. And for a company (especially a big company) to afford innovation, they need to be masters of industrialization . Although not an exact statement – a company that can afford to put 20% of time and effort on innovation, needs the other 80% to be an efficiency machine to innovate on a sustaining basis.

Startup companies are usually in an “all in” mode – since there is no cushion from a portfolio of offerings when you are in a new business. On the plus side, everyone is motivated and will do their best. On the flip side, vast majority of start ups fold without making a tangible impact. However, VCs etc who take a portfolio approach and invest in many startups (usually with opposing risk characteristics) generally have better chance of surviving and thriving.

Big companies typically follow some version of the 80-20 rule. 80 percent runs at high efficiency and pays the bills for the 20% of innovation experiments. And depending on cushion available – as soon as innovations look viable, they try to industrialize partly or fully. And if it is not panning out as planned, they can move out and focus on next big idea without going bust.

I think this model is what we will continue to see for a while – enterprise customers love innovation, but they can’t usually stand an over dose of disruption and chaos. So in my opinion , the vendor part of the ecosystem will need to constantly up their games and compete harder to remain relevant. And that won’t happen by everyone innovating – it will only happen by a minority innovating, and a majority industrializing in a fast follower model. Otherwise the amount of chaos, the cost of innovation etc will make sure the so called innovation will die without adoption.

This also means the leaders in the industry have to constantly watch their backs – when fast followers get their act right, the leader will find it harder and harder to keep their lead. Enterprise software only needs to look at consumer electronics companies to know what that means.

It is time that our industry recognized its unsung heroes who make sure that their counterparts have the cushion/opportunity to innovate. Stop looking down on them – appreciate them – A LOT.