Category Archives: Family

Lift Off

Leaving Perth
Leaving Perth (cudos to rhaynna for the photos

After last minute packing it was an emotional departure at Perth airport on Friday the 14th, Josh, Callum, Kelly and Rhyanna. Coming up to the departure I didn’t think it would be that difficult to say goodbye to them all, but I surprised myself. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

It wasn’t long afterward until Mum and I were picked up and brought back to Oma and Opa Thodis’s house and welcomed with some hot soup and a bed. The next day it was wake up, breakfast and straight to the Stroot’s fam bam where I was made jealous with all the awesome stories of Stroot

get togethers I’d missed out on by being in Perth, but I caught up with some good old Omanopoly, I was the proud owner of the Jonkman residences. It was good to know us cousins were still close after so long.

Stroots Rueunion
Stroot’s Reunion

After the many farewells, and gifting of an awesome Aussie Akubra from my uncle, it was off to the Thodis Party.

Mmm, tea
Mmm, tea

Seeing how much my little cousins, Lily and Katie, had grown was great, as was getting the chance to play hide and seek. I hid a bit too well in their playhouse,making them forfeit after 5 minutes. Then a mini tea-party with the bigger Thodis’ after dinner, many snaps were sent around.

Home again for my last good sleep of the next two weeks.

Waking up, quick breakfast and straight to Warrandyte to meet up with some old mates, we went trekking into the bush and took a detour in a cave, freaking each other out with the darkness. It was good catching up with them but lot has changed between us in the past 5 & 1/2 years.

A quick play in the park with the little ones, then home again for a Thodis dinner and final goodbyes after I packed.

Lily & Katie
Lily & Katie

When it came to leaving Dad and Oma behind at Melbourne airport, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but there was still much to come.

Mum and I arrived at Sydney airport at about 8:30 pm, and got to our crappy little airport hotel soon after, the bathroom was the size of a shower and my mattress didn’t fit to the end of the bed, but knowing I would spend the next two days on an airplane trying to sleep I cherished every last squeaky moment of that mattress getting some crash courses from the internet on American history.

Getting up the next morning at 4:30 am Western Australia time and 6:30 Sydney, Mum and I went for breakfast and found a strange machine in the hotel kitchen, Looking at it for a while I found that it made pancakes, 3 at a time. So after some mushy flapjacks and a cup of medicine tasting yogurt it was off to the airport yet again. Where the final goodbye to Mum took place as I walked into the enormous line leading into customs..

Leaving Sydney airport for LAX
Leaving Sydney airport for LAX

Being the closest to the airport and having gotten there the night before, the others expected me to be the first one on the plane. But the shuttle bus from the hotel left after they were all already there, then as I was going through the scanner, my water bottle popped up on the x-ray. It was the only thing in my bag that needed to be checked out so I assumed it would be a minute or two like normal. But it happens to be that the man in front of me, dressed in a weed leaf hoodie, refused to take off his beanie that sat bolt up at least 20 cm off his head. Then after inspecting his bag they found his personal metal herbal paraphernalia looking teacup in his carry on. Along with a screwdriver, spray on deodorant, nail clippers and a few other random things.

After a 20minute wait, I skulled the entire water bottle and hurried to the plane where Cobie was waiting for me and the 6 other scholars had already boarded.

  Walking throughout the gates without my parents it started to hit me that this was the beginning of my journey, and that a lot of things were going to be different when I got back.

Advertisements

Allow Me To Introduce Myself

I’m Dion; let’s get through the formalities before anything. The main reason I’ve begun blogging is to keep my friends and family up to date on my American scholarship experience, but also to keep as an artifact.

10 months without family, in an unknown country, with a new culture to adapt to. Sounds like an adventure!

I’m still yet to find out where I’m heading (and at which school I’ll start my temporary life) but I should find out some time in May this year. Then in August I’ll be leaving for the Australian orientation where I’ll meet the other 5 of the 7 Australian scholars, then finally to the international orientation in Boston. Coincidentally Cobie, another scholar from my school, was also accepted.

The Application

To get to this point I had to go through a selection process. The first stage of selection was the application; based on three criteria: Academic achievement and community involvement, while sporting also affecting your chances. Slotting into these well because of surf life saving and effort I’ve put into my schooling over the past years.

Spending time here and there after school to plan and draft my application essay during exam week and using my spare time to study the weeks leading up to it left me one week to dedicate to writing, reviewing, rewriting, editing, reviewing again, start another idea while I let it sit on my mind, and finalise the 1200 word tender selling myself. After getting through the first application process, I then had an interview with the Australian representative Alan Hutchison and and John Eidam mid November lasting 40 minutes. During the interview, which I was understandably nervous for, they asked questions about my application and many general ones to find what type of person I am. While still knowing there was only a small chance I’d be selected, it was cemented in my mind that I’d be living in America that time next year.

Somewhere close to Christmas I received the email I’d checked everyday for saying I’d been accepted into the program. Over the moon I hugged my parents and reassured my mum that I wouldn’t refuse to come back to stay with the American girl of my dreams.

Ideas for a Sales “Game Changer”

The pendulum always swings.

The marketplace creates chaotic attractors; whether it is through constant tension between consumer and vendor, between commodity and complexity, centralisation or decentralisation or just plain human indecision.

image
Chaotic Double Pendulum

“Mastering The Complex Sale” is not a book for anyone supplying an item as a commodity, it talks of the chasm between the value driven complex sale and the simpler process of self service. Whether the “swing” attracts us to the commodity in the cloud, or a complex enterprise architecture it is “value” that drives us. The attractor of Cloud/SaaS serves to provide simplicity as it’s commodity.

Contemplating these thoughts while on a break in Bali (where a dress comes in “one size fits all”) invokes one to examine the bridge from commodity to true value. In Bali making it all work comes by way of jewelry: “Accessory Partnership Innovations” or API’s… not much different really.

But I digress. Building a “Diagnostic Business Development” framework is critical, making one that remains impervious to the foibles of the market pendulum is essential, and beyond the scope of “Mastering the Complex Sale”.

The book convincingly advises on avoiding the danger of promoting customer-self-diagnosis through an “Era 2” sales process suggesting that commoditisation reduces everything to price. This is in stark contrast to “Era 3” value creation (which benefits both customer and vendor).

Star Fort

Looking at what we do  I can see alignment with the philosophy, and an intuitive alignment to attaining a mastery of the complex sale. Reading the epilogue of the book I get to “Choose a Side”. But that’s where I hesitate and consider bastions against market tides.

What if a product was able to reach both those seeking a commodity as well as those seeking further complex value propositions? How would this work? Choosing a side is not as simple as segmenting a company, this creates silos (itself against the grain of the book). What is needed is a way to “have our cake and eat it too”.

The Game Changer

In part the “commodity” problem is fueled by:

  • Complex procurement processes that pay lip service to the philosophy of “value for money”;
  • Commodity products that fuel this procurement process;
    and
  • Business silos that try to work around the system through tendering with specifications that have been fed to them by commodity vendors.

Sales and Procurement has become a game. Once you accept this then it is simply a question of how to stay ahead of the game?

Game Changer

So, this series of blogs has the sole purpose of exploring the next move after the “Mastering of the Complex Sale”. It is also about the practical implementation of Diagnostic Business Development within the sales and peripheral support structures. While calling it an “Era 4 Holistic Sales” process may be pretentious and premature (as it may only be relevant to certain industries), it is certainly relevant to the strategy being played out at Amristar, and the delivery of market relevant geospatial software solutions.

The next move?

The next move is really quite simple, but it has some fundamental requirements that must be true before the move can be played:

Chess moves
  • The organisation must have some appreciation of the complex sale
  • The organisation must have a product which can be projected as a commodity (with value)
  • The organisation must be able to articulate the bridge from a commodity product to creating further value (which is complex).

In other words to attain “Era 4”

Sales

Must aspire:

  1. To transcended Era 3 mastery of the complex sale
  2.  To have understood Era 1
  3. … and Era 2

    Spiral dynamics image
    Transcending through Spiral dynamics

A fabulous read on this topic across human development is spiral dynamics and integral theory.

Sales must also understand that the commodity offering is a tributary to the complex sale and Diagnostic Business Development process. It doesn’t make the job easier. just different

The organisation

Has likely self diagnosed a need to reduce the barrier to entry (technically, politically and commercially). It must be truly invested in it.

Attaining this practically?

Is the organisation shipshape? Is Value integrated into the company?

There are still many aspects of the organisation that need to be carefully and strategically aligned in avoiding “Value Leakage”. For successful Diagnostic Business Development this leakage must be minimised in the chain of supply (through to Sales and beyond).

Thull mentions these as:

  • Research and Development
  • Marketing
  • Pre-Sale Technical Support
  • Post Sale support
  • Human  Resources
  • Procurement

Obviously this needs comprehensive buy-in and spans across more than simply the Sales business unit.

There are systems such as the Hoshin Kanri management model, that through a hierarchy of Kanban boards can maintain focus on “the customer as the focal point of all activity”.

Alignment attained at the management levels need to percolate down through to execution:

This needs sales feedback on what the customers perceive of as value, and then monitoring its delivery across the whole chain. But a entrepreneurial  business needs more than that; it needs to try, fail fast, learn and move on.

Thull’s Complex sale is aspirational. If the product is complex from inception to realisation Thull’s mastery of the complex sale must be applied, primarily through education: Self education as to the customers problem; and then customer education as to the delivery of a valuable solution.

Commoditisation – it’s not such a dirty word

So what if you could commoditise the educational process into the product. It isn’t only conceivable in the software environment through SaaS but it is already being done!

This allows potential customers to realise the value for themselves. Done properly it allows the Business Development Manager to assist the customer in engaging at the level they need. This will be somewhere between simple pedagogy and the deep-end. The BDM becomes a teacher. The steps: Discover, Diagnose, Design & Deliver don’t change materially, only in substance.

The notion that “there is no such thing as a solution without a quantifiable problem that clarifies customer value” merely needs the organisation to work towards the bricks and mortar of solutions.

Commoditisation is thus reinvented as “sophistication  made readily and easily available”

And then comes the detail…

Other business units are likely to have different requirements and therefore different tools. A CRM is a typical example of where Sales will need a different tool and other areas such as Marketing, HR, Procurement, and even pre-post sale support may require a different suite for their function to be successful.

In all of this there are two facets of the business that will be key to the sustained delivery of Diagnostic Business Development: Training and Operations, the latter an overarching business unit not mentioned in Thull.

The “Dark” Side

Even with the best intentions the conclusion is inevitable.

It came from two of my core beliefs… they ambushed me:
  • Strive to challenge your assumptions
  • To shine a light in the dark, you must first find the dark
Light
Shine a light in the dark

My father may have seen it in me. The seed doesn’t fall far from the tree and I was the seed of a Salesman. He fostered his thoughts but I saw the allure of logic, it seemed to offer a greater truth.

I struggled, I fought, I challenged his assumption

…eventually I challenged mine.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. But to be of any use this story must start in the middle. It must leave behind where I’ve been, start from where I am, and evolve to where I will go.

So where am I?

I am in “Sales”. There I’ve said it.

Mephistopheles
Mephistopheles

Whether you call it “business development”, “sales consultant”, “sales executive”, “business consultant” or “pre-sales” the Faustian brush of “sales” brands you as a servant of Mephistopheles. So here I am on the dark side. Now I hope to shine a light.

I know I’ve honed my skills of logic and problem diagnostics, I’ve been in technical sales, I’ve seen and fought commoditisation, I’ve met and worked with good and bad sales professionals. Now how does one create a real spark? Fortunately others have tread that path and they align with the parable my father used to tell (whether it is true or not no longer matters).

He was in a bar. He’d just got some award for his sales target. After some probing his associate leaned over and challenged him:
“If you’r such a good salesman sell me this!”. With that he slammed a box of matches on the bar.
“Sure,” he said, and with this simply pocketed the matches.
The other salesman must have looked a little self satisfied at first and then frustrated because his game wasn’t being played with his rules. “Well, when are you going to start selling me those matches?”
“When you need a cigarette”
I imagine he then simply took another sip of his beer, and that the other salesman may have hesitated before saying “OK, you’ve made your point. Now give me my matches back”.

Knowing my Dad he might have said “As much as I’d love to I also need money to buy the final round of beer.”

He was a self professed devils advocate, and in no small part from his influence I moved from science to IT, through pre-sales and eventually set my flag firmly in sales. From the outset I eschewed one end of the sales spectrum at funeral insurance and used cars (probably much maligned). I also had to acknowledge that even in academia there is salesmanship where the commodity is ideas, and the currency a successful grant application. But I struggled at the other end of the spectrum where the melange of “sales” seem to fly under the radar.

Mastering the Complex Sale

Looking into your glazed eyes I know I need to stop talking, or say something you can identify with.

The sales canvas that I have to work with in my current role is not pristine. It has been painted upon and re-used several times. We are replete with fabulous innovations and ideas and have had some marked successes, but we must learn to play in the major league or dwindle and fade. The products we offer have real vision, benefit and value, the technical details of which will make the eyes glaze over for even the most stalwart coffee laden listener. We debate constantly about messaging and differentiation. We can see it, why can’t others?

Are we deceiving ourselves? I think not. Our customers are some of the most loyal and best advocates for us. We see them as evangelists that seem to be struggling with the same messages and differentiation that we do. We have used our products to solve some of the most challenging issues in the largest of enterprises. We have solved complex issues, we’ve done so with a complex solution. We do not want to cheapen the value but we are reducing the barrier to entry and complexity of access. All good stuff!

I recently noticed “Mastering the Complex Sale” by Jeff Thull in an airport. I got it from Amazon, I’ve read it front-to-back, and now I want to implement it back-to-front.

Why arse about face?

Map Upside down
Perspective

It really is about perspective.

The book details, in a structured way, the challenges faced by the complex sale from “Discovery” through to “Delivery”. Throughout these early chapters it provides strategies to change the way you think. By the end of this process you are “sold” on the idea. Maybe not the whole thing all at once but enough to be convinced that you need to start thinking in terms of an “Era 3” sales approach and evolve with it

The closing chapters then tell you how to “Build a Value Driven Sales Organisation” and “Prevent Value Leakage”. In a strong sense it practices what it preaches. It has worked with me to develop a natural transition to adoption and then arms me with the means to become a part of the process.

So from the back cover forwards what then is value leakage? and why is preventing it so important?

Let’s get back to our reused canvas. We’re not attached to what’s there, I will have to start to reshape the strategy for sales and marketing. Fortunately the “technology” canvas we’ve adopted is flexible enough to adapt, but to what?  I have the opportunity to reuse what I can and throw out what I don’t

The bigger picture

In order to implement an Era 3 sales system needs to have the fertile soil of the other facets of the business to grow upon.

Preventing Value Leakage opens with:

“Value is the lifeblood of the business world. Value – in the form of improved efficiency effectiveness and ultimately , profit – is the only thing that business to business customers are interested in buying”

Value leakage diminishes the business and since the point of egress for a company’s product is sales it is often sales that bears the brunt of its effects. No matter what value is native at the ideal company it leaks through R&D, Marketing, Pre-sales, Post Sales, HR and Procurement. The company needs “alignment” with minimising value leakage before value can be sold. It needs buy in.

The next installment will be how we get the buy in going. It will be a process of defining our value from the opposing shores of our R&D and Customer ends, identifying roughly where the supports of marketing and branding fit and then building the bridge towards the middle.

Don’t demonise RCD’s

When we moved to WA we were told quite early about regulations regarding RCD’s (or Residual Current Device’s). While this seemed an imposition we found that both the house we rented and the one we purchased had been fitted.  (a striking difference to the regulations we were familiar with over east.

I should state upfront that I am not an electrician. I have some related qualifications so I know that (unlike plumbing) electricity miraculously flows uphill and downhill. I also have the sneaking suspicion that our house has had an amateur let loose on it in the past and I need to know if the house is OK.

So… the story goes like this.

My mother came to visit, she waxed lyrical on slow cookers and was compelled to buy us one. Three delicious meals later, and after the cooker had a prolonged rest (during summer) I dusted it off and switched it on preparing a Mexican dish. Music blaring loud I popped the meat and sauce into the cooker and grooved around the kitchen to get the “special herbs and spices”.

10 minutes later… Silence…

No music, no fridge, no anything! Certainly no little red or green light on the slow cooker. Hmm, obviously a glitch, I’ll just go reset the Circuit Breaker. Nope not the Circuit Breaker, hmmm the RCD switch should be up shouldn’t it?

Six trips back to the RCD later I finally resorted to the old cast iron pot and had relegated the Slow Cooker to the cupboard. And now the story gets strange.

First suspicion, the cooker. Tried it again later and found it just as bad. Plan B was to ask our friendly neighbours if i could try it in their house. They cooperated and 4 hours later we had a great Mexican dish, shredded beef burrito’s with melted cheese and iceberg lettuce with honey lemon and sesame seed dressing (but this is not an episode of MKR). Now that I know it works in another house with an RCD the problem is still not solved. Buoyed by the Burritos I resolved to try it again.

Second suspicion was the RCD. OK So I have a pool that runs on a separate circuit and its own RCD. Six trips back to the pool filter later it was looking like the cooker again; cast iron pot.

OK so a year later I drag it out on a slow weekend for a post mortem. The problem does NOT occur when I first turn it on, so I began to think it must be device capacitance (for a great article on how this can be the bugbear of appliances and RCD’s see this page: http://www.marcspages.co.uk/pq/3342.htm). I needed 100 Ohms connected from earth to chassis to get it working; nope not good enough –  resistance has to be less than 1 Ohm.

Image of element connection points
Before and after, showing arc point of short circuit. The structural band (with holes for power entry) is held together by a bent over aluminium band (visible at top and bottom) both are directly connected to the chassis. The wire entering into the bakelite sandwich is live, small wonder it arced where it did, and not at the wire entry

Dig deeper. It turns out that the “element” is a band of aluminium, bakelite and an “insulated” filament. The pictures now speak for themselves. I pinched back the aluminium band, rotated the bakelite and filament section to line up with the holes and tested again. No more trips to the switch box. The appliance is definitely faulty and validates the use of the RCD. This could have made the chassis go live and only didn’t because the arc required a higher voltage which it did during the inductive load during switch off/on.Now I need to tell the neighbour to test his RCD.

2
The other side of the element. Again the wire exit is perilously close to the chassis earth point

I just hope this gets out to all those people out there that seem to blame the RCD for their woes. There seems to be a general push to retrograde to an old fuse or worse. Keep the RCD.

One Year Later

One year later, and the “honeymoon” feeling is not yet gone.

The sheer magnitude of picking up lock stock and barrel is poignantly reminded to us when we get to Kings Park in Perth and encounter Gija Jumulu, the Boab tree that was moved 3200km  from the Kimberley. Our journey was only 2738km and only a nudge over 6 degrees latitude, although it was across 2 state borders and not simply from the north of one state to the south.

The decision

Boab in Kings Park
journeyed over 3200 kilometres, from Warmun in WA's Kimberley region, to Kings Park

The decision to do a reconnaissance trip to Perth in December 2009 was a bit of a surprise. I never thought Jo would leave but she’d had a taste of travelling with Intimo when she went to Vietnam, and had the inkling of adventure. In the first few days of that trip we couldn’t see a way to make it work, but then suddenly “green lights” started appearing and we were off. We picked the place in Port Kennedy on the last day, and then flew back to Melbourne (it was not a restful trip).

The move

Then the rollercoaster began: break the news, arrange a tenant, refinance, pay deposit, organise removals, CHRISTMAS!, ship one car, pack, renovate and live wherever we could, sell the other car, tidy up, pack for trip, last goodbyes, WHOOSH! pick up car, buy a bed and some mattresses, and move in wait for the container, unpack and settle, start work, get internet and electronics working.

Changes

I bought myself a hybrid car since I knew I’d be driving distances; a Prius, a Blue one.

Prius
What a feeling

I had some travelling down to Busselton for installations and up to Port Hedland to visit another Bush School, not to forget Broome and Darwin, but otherwise we’ve had an eye opening experience just having the beach nearby and exploring Perth. It’s not unusual for us to go out of an evening and stroll down to Warnbro Sound with the dog. In the summer months it stays warm well after dark, and the beach is protected by a reef. The reef connects Point Peron to the north with the Port Kennedy point to the south. During the daytime you can see dolphins frolicking out in the bay. The weather would cycle strong SW winds to warm balmy quiet days that left the bay like glass. A little further to the south we have Secret Harbour where the surf has been a real attraction. With the temperatures well above the Melbourne averages it is very much an outdoor lifestyle.

From the nearby lookout
From the nearby lookout

Since the move Jo’s parents Harry and Anne have visited us and we had a great time exploring the surrounding areas including Fremantle where Harry was deposited for the first time onto Australian soil. Mum (Anneke) travelled across as well and we again saw many of the sights. Then Connie and Anne, then Harry and Anne, and then Anneke again. Each time has had its own features and reminiscences, such as Kings Park, London Court, Hillarys, The Rockingham Musselfest and promenade, as well as the Fremantle Markets and Mandurah.

Rhyanna has been strolling through year 11, has made lots of friends, and has also met Jerome. Jerome has similar circumstances in moving from Melbourne at about the same time and starting Year 11 over here, though in different schools. The two are inseparable and are a mutual source of support. Rhyanna has also recently decided she wants to wear the blue uniform of the constabulary, and Jerome the black one of the Fire brigade. We wait to see if it comes true but there seems to be some drive behind it.

Off to school
Off to school

Talen has sauntered through year 10, and has made many best friends. He cavorts around and makes people laugh a lot, and has just enough mischief in him – hopefully not too much. He has also had his braces removed (the reason behind many trips back to Melbourne for he and Jo), and now has a devilish grin that has made him the centre of attention for several girls. His flame is Courtney, she is probably as tall as he is, and he now towers over Joanne (nearly up to me)

Dion has attacked primary school, and has been involved in rugby, and recently in the Surf Life Saving Club at Secret Harbour. He launches himself at the beach events with vigour, and goes jogging with me as many mornings as we can muster. Dion always has friends knocking on the door to come around to play. He rides his bike to school every day. Dion has taken an interest in caring for his two aquariums of fish along with his PH testers, and Ick and Whitespot cures. He also asks difficult questions, and is growing at an incredible pace.

Dion and board
Lets go Surfing

Jo has been a great source of support in my challenges of getting the business growing over here and has also been involved in the primary school where she organised three discos, six if you consider that each disco was split into junior and seniors. I come along to help out and look intimidating, though if I hear one more Justin Bieber song I will scream. We also took on managing two rugby teams. Jo has relaunched her Intimo business over here, and is operating at about 50% with a lot of support from loyal Victorian customers while her downlines continue to build the Melbourne base.

I have been flying at Mount Bakewell and Serpentine and once at dunes along the local Warnbro beach. Being so close to the beach sailing is a big part of the lifestyle and while having the chance to cruise around on a friend’s 21’ raised keel we are also about to embark on owning our own 16’ Hobie cat.

Although we miss our friends in Melbourne we have made many new and interesting friends. Most are migrants just like us but from areas such as South Africa, UK, the US, and New Zealand.

The Experience

The whole scary process has really become a validation of the strength of the family unit, and the adaptability and resilience of the individuals as well. If there was anyone with feelings of trepidation they have risen to the challenge and thrived. In a subtle twist the things you may hope  to leave behind also try to follow you, and this also has become a learning process. It is also true that we have become aware of how fortunate we are in having both the opportunity and each other. There are many less fortunate, and in some strange way we have become a sort of gravitational centre for some. This also forces a balancing act between our values and openness. You can’t be a part of the world from behind closed doors.

As we draw close to the 2010 year’s end we hope everyone has a great festive transition and a 2011 that brings a thriving future and a zest for life.

Greg Jo and Clan

Clouding the Market

As more and more applications are provided as a “software as a service” and Web 2.0 starts to yield its riches one must wonder whether there is a possibility of overshoot. Is there a chance that increasing the cloud may simply leave us fogbound.

Paradigms

Cloud1
ISP - Caching of inbound traffic

As I sit here tapping away on a web based word processing application portaled into a Blog site I cannot in earnest say that applications in the Cloud is a bad idea. It’s just one that must have the light of scrutiny applied. The world is full of competing paradigms. The question is not whether one is good or bad but simply better for a given situation. This blog is about how the cloud is constructed and starts with a seperation of the client, the ISP, and then the rest… the internet.

Virtualisation is a solution for the consolidation of hardware to provide many applications. Grid computing is the distribution of hardware to provide support for a single application. One is not better than the other, they are simply used to solve different problems

As I come to terms with the mental gymnastics of Virtual computer systems and its abstractions, or its antithesis Grid computing and its abstractions I’m often astounded how the internet itself is becoming abstracted as an application. Is the whole shooting match moving to Layer 7?

Beginnings

A browser is a typical desktop application, a web proxy is a typical Cloud application. Do you need a Cloud application for it all to work? No! Why have it? to save money speed or introduce controls. OK, so far it’s a good idea. So we have the diagram as shown with our new web proxy in place.

The agenda for the ISP is to maximise the benefit of their newly acquired cache to as many people as possible. This will maximise the cache hits and therefore optimise their connection to the net so that they pay less and can pass on the savings to their customers making their service cheaper and more appealing.

Cloud 2
Cache to many people

So having engaged more customers their net starts to resemble  the next diagram. The problem now becomes one of load. The capacity for one system to accommodate this load becomes unsustainable and the performance of the network degrades and the unhappy customers depart.

The cache engine of the internet (Squid) then provides for cache farm capabilities. Each of the systems communicate with each other to help retrieve previously fetched objects and the “peer” nature of these systems makes it all look like one big system. This then looks like the next diagram with the cache peered proxy farm.

Function

Cloud 3
Cache peer structures to accommodate load

The next requirement is to add function. The cache peered system works fine if all users have the same requirements. If the same filtering policy applies for instance there is no problem. Many sites however like a policy that is unique to them, having a “farm” of systems identify a unique customer source is doable but will depend upon a source IP range or (better still) some form of authentication, which then requires a degree of knowledge about the users that exist at a site and propagation of user state across systems.

This user awareness (the identity) may be through LDAP synchronisation or manually crafted files that populate the database. This may requires a trusted connection from the ISP back into the site, or the traversal of specially encrypted or (eek) cleartext username/password files. But there is something else missing here… reporting to the customer. Extraction of information from many systems is best done through log consolidation. This is not as trivial as it sounds but, if it is a requirement, it can be met.

Tiers of management

Some Agency, education for instance, may require this of the environment. It is possible for the agency to maintain the logging repository and issue canned reports back into the clients. This topology is represented in the “Cache peer and reporting” diagram. All this is created to avoid end users themselves needing to maintain such systems for themselves. The complexity of the central solution is high in order to keep the complexity to the end users low.

Cloud 3b
Cache peer and reporting

There is another thought. Moore’s Law  states that computing power doubles every two years. Given a static sized fleet and a static capacity broadband and no increase in the filtering requirements it means that the filtering engine can track the requirements of the fleet. More realistically though… If the Broadband capacity doubles (or quadruples usually), the number in the fleet doubles (1:1 ratio policies and taxpayers $ at work), the filtering requirement increases to demand a higher load on the filtering system (assumed double). This all translates to a demand that is cubic, not linear. If you had 10 systems in the cloud you will need 1000 in two years. Now given that there are factors that will mitigate the demand (code efficiency, better standards etc).

OK So where is all this heading? It seems logical to me that a distributed computing model is more appropriate to the problem of internet “management”  for two reasons:

  • It disseminates the control processes to different regions/demographics
  • It spreads the computing load.

So this model advocates the deployment of control systems at the client network. What happens at the centralised process where accountability is the key. And this is where a hybrid cloud model appears. Placing devices at the client with their own logging and reporting capability and yet further logging and reporting back in the cloud for monitoring the behaviour of the whole.

I really like a simple analogy:

When we discovered the internet neighbourhood wasn’t safe we put big gates at the end of the street and gave everyone a key. This was a complete pain in the arse, people left the gate open, the gap was sometimes too narrow, and sometimes it was simpler to simply leave it open. Better for everyone to have their own garage door

Cloud 4
Redistribution of the enforcement and application to the site
Cloud 5
enforcement at the site with some reporting to a parent