Security in India urgently needs transformation


Over the last week, I have spent my time traveling across India with my team visiting MongoDB partners . It is amazing to see how much SI industry has changed , and also how much has not changed . More on that in another blog post at another time .

The one thing that consistently was a pain in the neck for me was the security process at companies , hotels and airports . It is the most cumbersome , inefficient and ineffective process one could design .

Let’s start with hotels . Hotels in India take security seriously from the looks of it – and after the terrorist attack on Taj in Mumbai , it is understandable that they stepped up the effort . However the mechanics of the exercise is where it is borderline stupid . When a car carrying a passenger arrives at the gate , they search in the trunk of the car and under the car – but not inside the car . What happens if a bad guy is holding a weapon in his hand while sitting inside the car ? Nothing – he will make his way to the hotel .

In some hotels they have sniffer dogs checking for explosives . It is clear to me at least that these dogs are over worked and most probably have no drive to find anything half way through a long shift . I do appreciate the opportunity to pet those dogs on my way in whenever I can .

Then there is a metal detector when you get into the hotel lobby itself . I watched multiple people walk through it with their wallets and phones in their pockets and the thing never beeped once . What exactly is the point here ?

Moving on to large enterprises – many of them huge multinational companies . They have armies of security personnel and access to technology . Yet the process to admit a visitor is nearly 100% manual and ineffective . They write visitor info in thick ledgers – often multiple ones which clearly can’t be fully reconciled easily or at real time if there is a breach . These companies one way or other are at the forefront of “digital transformation” , “big data” and “internet of things” movement today – and hence they should have no problems fixing it . I suspect there are legal issues that are beyond their control that is stopping them . I really hope that this issue is taken care of swiftly – it will not only improve security , it will also tangibly improve customer satisfaction . What is more – if they can design an elegant solution, they might even be able to sell it to others for a profit .

And finally there are airports . Honestly Indian airports seem to have the best security of all places I have been to . The only sore sight here is the sheer number of people needed for a single task . Just to board a small regional jet in Bangalore , I counted more than twenty young people at the gate with walkie talkies and multiple printed documents . That is roughly the job of three people elsewhere . It is not an IT problem – it’s a management problem . Fix it please

That apart , everything else has been fine and dandy in India so far .

MongoDB global consulting services – lets get started


Yesterday , I took on the responsibility of leading the charge for MongoDB’s consulting services , in addition to my role as the leader of global channels and BD . As I broke the news to my friends and family, the most common response was “we knew you would be back in consulting sooner than later” 🙂

I grew up in consulting – from TCS in late 90s till IBM GBS a few years ago . I have seen the good and bad of consulting and I left it for a technology job mostly because I thought there wasn’t a lot more value I could add as a consulting guy after all those years . The travel schedule for consultants is kind of brutal too – and that played a role in my decision too .

So what changed my mind to jump back into consulting with both feet in ?

Services business for me has exactly one KPI – outrageous success for our clients . Services is not a transactional business for me . We aim to be trusted advisors and partners for our clients . And that is essentially what I mean when I say “we don’t have customers – we have clients”.

Here is the short answer – MongoDB in 2014 gives me the same energy to jump on a plane at 4AM every week , that I used to have as an SAP consultant in late 90s. It checks every box for me of what an interesting and challenging leadership job should be .

And here is the much longer answer 🙂

1. My Gang

Our consulting team has some of the the smartest people one can work with . My daughter has a favorite short that says “I got mad ninja skills and stuff” . As I learned more about my new team – and as I spent time talking to Richard K, my consulting director – the visual I had in mind was standing in between a lot of people wearing a similar Tshirt 🙂 .

I would love to work with them and see them grow to great heights as we make our clients transform their apps to a modern paradigm .

Yes I am hiring – if you are an expert in building apps on MongoDB and/or operating database clusters in complex landscapes , and love to work closely with clients – we should talk . Leave a comment below with your linkedin profile and I will be in touch if there is a match .

2. The Client

Vast majority of apps that enterprises use today run on legacy RDBMS technologies . It is not because those legacy technologies are the best suited for those apps – mostly it is because there was limited choice at the time these apps were built . Policies and procedures that exist in IT shops were formulated to suit the needs and cover the deficiencies of these old technologies .

Many clients pay a lot for that choice today . They pay a hefty maintenance bill every year . They are stuck with apps that can’t change fast enough because of rigid relational schemas .

I believe we can show customers a better path to success . At least 70% of apps can work better on a newer database like MongoDB – with way more agility and much less cost . My team can do that assessment quickly and we can partner with customers to do the redesign of those old applications and creation of those new modern applications that will grow with your changing business needs .

If you are a company with such applications – and would like us to take a look at modernizing your applications – we should talk . Shoot me a note to vijay at mongoDB dot com .

I should make myself very clear here – I don’t hate SQL at all . I am as big a fan as the next person and have spent a lot of time developing on relational databases . If you want to run SAP ERP – by all means use a relational DB. It is optimized for that workload .

I won’t ever tell a customer to rip and replace a legacy technology unless there is a tangible outcome . I would also be the first to tell them if SQL is the better way to go for their given use case . Old relational technologies also have more tooling built for their stuff – and I expect customers to have some inertia in moving away from what is familiar to them .

3. The product

MongoDB is no doubt a hugely popular technology – a database that gets downloaded tens of thousands of times a day . I don’t need to convince clients to use it – they already love it . I believe that most of what my Gang needs to do is to show them the “art of the possible” on development , operations etc .

It is also a technology that is rapidly advancing . Who better to help our customers and partners with these innovations than our services experts ?

4. Our partners

We have more than 700 partners today – and my channels Gang and I are committed to their success in helping our customers successfully transform . Every partner I have spoken to so far have assured me of their full support in working closely with our services team on customer engagements . They are seeing the customer pain daily of working with legacy database technologies . Together we can partner with customers to build applications that suit the needs of today and tomorrow .

MongoDB also has a great ISV program . We want to be a great database for building modern applications . Anything that is not core to our database – we partner heavily . We work with a spectrum of enterprise vendors like IBM and SAP to tiny startups who have great products that interoperate with MongoDB .

We codevelop solutions and we go to market together . For example – our hadoop connector is certified on Cloudera , Hortonworks and MapR . If there is a heavy analytics workload that needs to be triggered – we offload it to hadoop (or a Datawarehouse like teradata ) rather than try to do it inside our database .

Another example is Adobe Experience Manager which uses MongoDB as a database option . We work with Adobe and our SI partners to help mutual customers succeed . This commitment to interoperability is crucial to customer success and something that our consultants hold dear to their hearts .

That is it – can you tell I am excited ? 🙂

Happy birthday Keralam – there is no place like home


November 1 is the birthday of my home state of Keralam – a place we lovingly call God’s own country.

I was born and raised in Trivandrum , the capital of Keralam . And to me – there isn’t a place more beautiful than Kerala on this planet . I am generally quite happy with my life with very few regrets , but the one thing that I hold myself as an abject failure is my (perceived) inability to make a decent livelihood while staying in Kerala . For record – It’s where I want to spend most of my retired life .

In school – Malayalam was my favorite subject . Its a language spoken only by Keralites , which in the grand scheme of things is not that big a population . Yet the quality of literature is astonishing . I don’t have the literary abilities of Changampuzha – but I have the same romantic notions of the language that he did . I am fairly sure the poet was rather high on alchohol and/or drugs as he penned these lines and most of his work in general 🙂

I have a pretty good collection of Malayalam books with me . Every year, I pick a few and read them again – it’s fascinating how much more enjoyment I get reading them again as my own life experiences become more varied with time .

I have often wondered why something that has failed the world over like communism found roots in Kerala . The novels and dramas of the time give me a good idea of how the movement gained prominence and became deep rooted in our psyche .

More than the “serious” stuff – it is the sattire and humor that has stayed with me . “Sanjayan” is on my all time favorite list when it comes to stuff that makes me laugh out loud and think deeply at the same time . Those essays are a league apart – and have definitely influenced how I view society.

That said , the king of sharp wit , humor and sattire was Kunjan Nambiar . He used fairly simple language and the context of stories in Hindu holy books – and generations of Malayalam readers have been his fans . I am sure that will continue for many more generations – his brand is timeless . I use his parts of his poems – usually translated to English – in many a situation where a little humor could help calm down someone at work .

Like these words that Hanuman used to calm down a pretty worked up Bheeman http://youtu.be/_OU04lw1dpM

Not that it helped – Bheeman was not convinced and explained what I think of as “the original definition of Catch 22 ” . In Bheeman’s view , Hanuman ought to be killed for being such a nuisance . But killing such an old defenseless guy will give a bad name in society for someone like Bheema . On other hand if he is not killed – Hanuman will continue to irritate Bheeman with his wise cracks . Quite the dilemma 🙂 http://youtu.be/Vm2KxptrmDI

There were some serious philosophers too that impressed me . The one that comes rushing to mind is Ramanujan Exhuthachan who penned the Malayalam version of Ramayanam , in a very creative way . It is as if it was narrated by a beautiful little bird . Here is a snippet on the folly of chasing material benefits as explained by Raman to Lakshmanan . http://youtu.be/iDAM3vIe-kM

Enough with the language itself – what else comes to mind ? Of course the food ! Whatever the research says about carbs being bad – I hold “Sadya” as the ultimate balanced feast a man could eat . How many dishes can hold its own against a classic biriyani ? And is there a dessert more delicious than palpayasam ?

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Kerala was the original spice capital of the planet . Vasco de Gama found his way there to trade spices . It did not end well for Kerala , but the western culinary world got a real good blessing in the process . Many of my friends love Indian food already – but they base that opinion on the chicken tikka masala served in Indian restaurants. For the record – that is not authentic Indian food , and we don’t cook that stuff at home. How I wish there were a lot more Kerala restaurants in US and Europe . It’s my dream – a dream shared almost by every non resident Mallu – to start a chain of restaurants in US that serve Kerala cuisine exclusively some day.

Kerala has a lot of good things going – almost 100% literacy , highest ratio of women to men in the country , great universities ( my grand dad , dad and me went to the same university ) , lowest corruption in India and so on . It also has some deep rooted problems – like the extreme activism by unions that has completely killed off most industry . Irony is that while mallus love to join any random strike in Kerala – I used to pray for strikes while in college – they are completely happy to work hard once outside Kerala . So while Kerala has no industry to claim fame , it can boast of a lot of inflow of money from ex-pats .

There are plenty of missed opportunities too . It is naturally beautiful – plenty of greenery , beaches , great architecture etc . However , while it has improved a little , Tourism as an industry is still largely an amateur game . Kerala doesn’t value private sector all that much . People mostly sit back and expect government to solve all problems .

Another harsh reality is that public hygiene is constantly coming down . The state badly needs infrastructure for things like garbage disposal – and the citizens need a culture of not littering . Again – it’s a problem that can be solved if public and private sector comes together . But that is against the grain for our culture – we do expect government to solve it .

Despite occasional problems – religious harmony is pretty good in Kerala compared to many other places I know of . Hindus , Muslims and Christians live peacefully there . Right in palayam – roughly the downtown area of Trivandrum – there is a big mosque , a big church and a temple all next to each other . The Hindu temple practically is next door to a fish and meat market . I went to a Hindu primary school , a catholic high school , a Muslim engineering college and a government run business school . I have never had a problem with another religion in Kerala – and I hope it stays that way for ever .

I think I have rambled way too much on this – totally got carried away with all the nostalgia . Hopefully I will be there in Trivandrum in couple of weeks for a short visit