Monthly Archives: June 2011

Overview of Wikipedia Campus Ambassador Program in Pune

The Wikimedia Foundation has recently launched the India Education Program. The goal is to encourage professors in India to join a growing global community of educators who use Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their classes. Both teachers and students will receive guidance and support from Wikipedia experts as well as free educational materials developed by the Foundation and tested at first class universities in the United States like Harvard, Berkeley, and others.

This is the first time that they have tried the initiative outside the US. As a first step they have decided to run the program at select universities in Pune. This would give students the opportunity to participate in the world’s largest online encyclopedia and to improve their media literacy skills. Hisham Mundol the coordinator of the program in India shared with us that ‘Information about India and contributions from India is not adequately represented on Wikipedia, and we want to change that.’

As part of the plan they will have a number of Campus Ambassadors – volunteers chosen by the Wikimedia team, who would train students on how to write and edit articles on Wikipedia. These Campus Ambassadors will support both students and teachers during the course of the semester. This program generated an overwhelming response. ‘We got more than 700 applications and enquiries from all over the country. It’s been heartening and inspiring!’ says Hisham. They have selected 22 people who will work with educators in Pune.

At the core of the program, they propose to replace some coursework that students do (projects/reports/homework) with working on Wikipedia articles. The Campus Ambassadors would work with professors and teachers to identify potential articles on Wikipedia that can be created or improved through coursework for that particular semester.

Hisham and his team have been working closely with teachers and administrators in various institutions in Pune to evince interest in the program. ‘We also conducted detailed faculty workshops for 6 institutions in Pune where nearly 30 teachers and administrators attended. This was for the institutions that we have selected for the very first roll-outs. I’ve also visited Pune to support the training for the first lot of Campus Ambassadors that we have.’

They saw Pune as the ideal location for this program for a number of reasons. The large number of colleges and universities with over than 2,00,000 students attending was one of the main attractions. ‘Pune’s student community comes from all over the country, making it an ideal place to engage a diverse group of participants. In addition, the largest part of the success of any Wikimedia program is the community of volunteers, of which there is a vibrant and active community in Pune.’ Says Hisham.

“Building Tech Companies out of India” – with VC Naren Gupta co-founder of Nexus – 12 July

Dr. Naren Gupta, co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners, is visiting India and will be in Pune on July 12th. An event for Pune’s entrepreneurs has been arranged where Naren will chat with Abinash Tripathy about “Building Tech Companies out of India”, and this will be followed by networking. The event will be from 2pm to 4:30pm, at the Sumant Moolgaonkar Auditorium, ICC Trade Center, SB Road, on 12th July.

About Naren Gupta

Naren is co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners.

Naren has been an entrepreneur. He co-founded Integrated Systems Inc (ISI), a leading embedded software company, where he served as the President/CEO for fifteen years. He took ISI public and subsequently merged it with Wind River Systems. Naren continued to serve on the board of Wind River till its recent acquisition by Intel. Currently, he serves on the boards of Red Hat and Tibco. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the California institute of Technology and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Naren has over 20 years of early and early-growth stage investment experience in US and India. Several of his earlier investments have had successful public exits, including Digital Link (IPO), E-Tek Dynamics (IPO), RightNow (IPO), Numerical Technologies (IPO, acquired by Synopsis) and Speedera Networks (acquired by Akamai).

Naren holds a B. Tech. degree and is a recipient of President’s Gold Medal from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi; an MS from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. Naren has received distinguished alumni awards from Caltech and IIT and was elected a Fellow of the IEEE. He is an active advisor to entrepreneurs worldwide.

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Please register by sending an email to

TiE Pune Event – My Story session with Namrata Sharma of Krayon Pictures

First, look at this movie trailer:

If you don’t see a video above, click here to see it on YouTube.


Does not seem like something done in India, right?

And yet, it was created here in Pune.

The preview above is for a movie Delhi Safari, directed by famous Bollywood director Nikhil Advani (yes, the same guy who directed Kal Ho Na Ho). And the animation was done by Krayon Pictures, a Pune-based software animation company.

This Friday, you’ll get a chance to hear the founder of Krayon Pictures, Namrata Sharma, talk about their story, thanks to TiE Pune. The event, “TiE Pune’s My Story – with Namrata Sharma” is on Friday, 1st July, from 6pm to 8pm, at the Sumant Moolgaokar Auditorium at MCCIA Trade Towers, ICC, SB Road. This event is free for all to attend. Register here

(Note: one of the investors at Krayon Pictures is Pune-based angel investor Maneesh Bhandari, whom we covered recently in More.Punetech)

More details follow…

Namita Shibad writes:

AFTER EONS that it has spent on humans, bollywood is now expending some time and resources on animals and the environment via the animated feature film Delhi Safari. Directed by Bollywood director Nikhil Advani, the film owes its creation to pune-based Krayon Pictures.The company,therefore,seems to have taken India’s prowess in animation to a new high through the rich colours they have bestowed upon the film, thorough textures and realistic characters being the cherry on top.

Namrata Sharma, Co-founder and CEO of Krayon Pictures has over 14 years of experience in the Animation and Software Industry. Having traveled across Asia, she has worked with companies like Advedi Creations – Hong Kong, Disney – Hong Kong, Weta Digital – New Zealand, Maya Entertainment – Mumbai etc. She has worked in various roles right from hands on animation to assisting the management of full length animated feature films.

It was in 2006 that Sharma started Antariksh, a studio that developed video games. A year later, she got an opportunity to produce a full-fledged Bollywood animation film. And that’s how Krayon Pictures was born on 1st of April 2007 with a vision of creating a first of its kind 3D animation studio in India- based on the IP model. The studio’s first film, Delhi Safari, is due to release later this year.

Krayon was recently in news when the high profile investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala bought 30% stake in the company.

About TiE Pune My Story Sessions!

“My Story – Inspiring Journey of an Entrepreneur”

This program is created to celebrate entrepreneurship and bring stories from successful entrepreneurs in their own words. The invited speakers will share their entrepreneurial journeys and talk about lessons learned, mistakes they wish they avoided, and key decisions that helped make their venture successful.

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Please register here

ACM Pune Event: Finding ‘wishes’ from natural language text – 2 July

The Pune Chapter of ACM India invites you for a Tech Talk on “Wishful thinking – Finding ‘wishes’ from natural language text”, by Ramanand J, a researcher at Cognizant, on 2 July, Saturday, at 10am. The talk will be in CSI Pune Office, Prabhat House, Damle Path, Behind INDSEARCH, Law College Road. This is a free event, anybody can attend, and no registration is required.

Abstract – Finding ‘wishes’ from natural language text

Embedded in the chatty bazaars of online social media are not just likes, raves, rants, and status updates, but also intentions: desires to buy, choices of consumption, and “would-like-to-have”-s. Finding these ‘wishes’ may be of use to both producers and consumers. The emerging area of sentiment analysis has been dissecting text to automatically detect opinions about a variety of entities. But what about these kinds of intentions?

In this talk, we look at some nascent research work on the novel problem of automatically discovering such ‘wishes’ from (English) documents such as reviews or customer surveys. These wishes are sentences in which authors make suggestions (especially for improvements) about a product or service or show intentions to purchase them. Such ‘wishes’ are of great use to product managers and sales personnel, and supplement the area of sentiment analysis by providing insights into the minds of consumers.

This will also provide an example of how text processing is being applied to interesting possibilities arising out of social media usage.

Speaker Profile – Ramanand J

Ramanand J is a researcher with Cognizant Technology Solutions, Pune. He studied at COEP and IIT Bombay, and specialized in areas related to natural language processing. At Cognizant, he works on problems related to sentiment analysis, social media, and data visualization. He’s a keen quizzer, does some writing when not being lazy, and has a list-fixation. His personal wish-list includes making a trip to Iceland one day and being born left-handed the next time around.

His homepage is at

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. No registration required

Event Report: Product Management Challenges Unique to India

(This is a live-blog of the Indian Product Management Association (IPMA), Pune Chapter’s event on Product Management Challenges Unique to India by Vivek Tuljapurkar.)

What is Product Management

Different people define it differently. At the very least, a product manager is a person who is the “guardian angel” of the product. He gathers requirements from the market, and defines what the features of the product will be. But in some cases, a product manager might have responsibility of the product engineering. In other cases, a product manager might also have sales and support responsibilities. And sometimes a product manager might have full responsibility for a product – including worrying about the business profit & loss (P&L responsibility).

For this talk, we will be using the broader definition of product management.

These are the different types of product management that happen in India:

  • Product Mgmt for an Indian Software Company
  • Product Mgmt for an MNC
    • Only Product Mgmt for the Indian market is done from here
    • Product Mgmt for the global market is done from here
  • Product mgmt for an off-shore customer of an Indian product software services company. (e.g. a customer of Persistent asks Persistent to also do Product Mgmt. for their product.)

The greater the responsibility, the greater the challenges of doing the role out of India.

Product Manager and Geographic Location

The product manager’s location is important in two different ways. You can have easy access to the market (i.e. the customers), or not. And you can have easy access to the development team. If you have easy access to both, it’s ideal. If you have easy access only to the market, you can do outbound product management (creating the marketing requirements document from the market research document produced by the strategic marketing team). If you have easy access only to the development team, you can do inbound product management (creating the product requirements document from the marketing requirements document). If you do not have easy access to both, then you are in trouble.

In India-based product companies, a product manager could possibly do handle all responsibilities: requirements + engineering + sales and marketing + P&L responsibility. However, product managers in MNCs and Indian services companies, only requirements gathering and engineering can be owned out of India. Support to product sales and marketing can happen within the next 5 years, but full sales and marketing responsibility, and P&L responsibility is unlikely even 5 years from now.

Requirements for being a good Product Manager

  • Basic Understanding of finance, technology, development process, sales and marketing
  • Domain Knowledge – otherwise you will not be able to use your judgement to take strategic decisions and add value
  • Basic managerial capabilities – planning and execution
  • Organizational skills – ability to get things done
  • Social skills – building internal and external relationships. Because you need to get work done by a lot of people who don’t work for you
  • Communication skills and listening skills
  • Political astuteness. Many product managers, especially those who come from a technical background, ignore this aspect. Know who is friends with whom, which way the wind is blowing, who is trying to kill your product, and a whole bunch of other behind the scenes work that is happening, so that you can keep the future of your product, and yourself secure.
  • Negotiation skills.
  • Coping with uncertainty, pressure and changing priorities
  • Strategic thinking and foresight
  • Ability to influence, motivate and inspire

You don’t have to be an expert in all these areas, but whatever is missing will hurt you. Figure out which areas you’re weak in and work on improving those.

Engineers as Product Managers

Some of the difficulties that engineers face when they transition into product management roles (and this describes most Indian product managers):

  • Were used to “hard science”: algorithms, formulas, tools, methodologies, structure
  • Too methodical and structured, and have a tough time dealing with uncertainty and amorphous nature of things
  • Enamoured with technology, and want to do technology for the sake of technology
  • Too introverted, and don’t communicate (well) enough to succeed
  • Have a hard time letting go of technology focus and focusing on broader product management issues. (This is basically fear of the unknown)
  • We are too straightforward, and don’t have the political astuteness required

As a result, many engineers (i.e. many Indian product managers) fail at this role and end up doing only inbound product management.

So, focus on fixing these issues if you want to succeed.

Problems with a product management career in India

Typically, for product management being done in India, the role is in a very early stage, and is experimental. The responsibilities are ill-defined and evolving. The person given the job is likely to be from a development background, and is likely to have no exposure to other aspects of product management: like sales, marketing, market research, customer management etc. Further he has no access to customers or to market research.

The biggest problem: Lack of opportunity to learn and practice what you have learnt

In addition, the specific career path for a product manager is not really well defined in India.

Overall, the role is quite risky.

And if product management role does not work out, what happens to you? It is usually not clear whether you’ll be able to go back to your previous role and career path.

As a company, HR should have policies to clarify these issues, so that people feel safe about going into product management.

Getting people to do product management in a software company in India is difficult. IIM graduates don’t want to join as a product manager, but they’re happy to go to a HLL as a brand manager. Which is practically the same thing! So what is needed is that the product manager position in software companies needs to be branded appropriately, ensure that the candidate’s perception of the role is correct, and as before, the career paths are defined appropriately.

The problems are even worse for smaller companies. They cannot afford to pay higher salaries, provide the facilities and amenities. They don’t have a brand recognition, which is important to current and future employees. And smaller companies are also afraid that if they try to improve their branding and visibility, the larger companies will quickly come and poach employees, leading to attrition and major problems before they can hire new guys. Solution: don’t know! This is a tough problem, and it is unclear whether there is a good answer to this at this time.

Advice to new product managers in India

  • Understand and seek clarifications on your role, responsibilities, org structure, and processes. Don’t let unstated expectations hurt you!
  • Be prepared to deal with uncertainties and changing demands regarding your role
  • Seek a sympathetic executive sponsor. A CXO/VP who will help you with tactical challenges, or at least present your case to the decision makers
  • Stay one step ahead of the game. Never stop preparing yourself for a bigger role. Learn new things. Build new relationships with the long term in the mind.
  • Keep thinking about strategic matters. Immerse yourself, but don’t drown yourself in day-to-day stuff.
  • Find ways to exploit your best capabilities to your best advantage
  • Find a way to make a name for yourself. You don’t make a name for yourself by doing your day-to-day job well. Find something else, somewhere else which is dramatic and drastic. Keep watching for those, and if you see an opportunity and grab it. It should cause people to forget all your day-to-day issues, and focus on your big win

Specific skills and techniques

  • Keep a stakeholder mapping spreadsheet. Keep track of all the stakeholders in your project, and which of them is interested in what outcome, and what is the level of friendliness of these people towards you/your product, and when was the last time you had contact with them.
  • Never go public with strong stand, or a new strategic direction, unless you’re sure that it will be received well. Before the important meeting, or the presentation, go and meet some of the key people individually, make your point to them, and ensure that they’re in agreement with you
  • On a regular basis, check whether you’ve been doing anything specific to improve your weak areas. And if you’ve not, scold yourself.

International Python Conference coming to Pune – Speakers Needed

The third edition of PyCon India, an international conference for all those interested in the Python programming language, is coming to Pune on 16th-18th September 2011. The organizers are looking for speakers for presentations, and trainers for the tutorial tracks of this conference.

If you’ve used python in an interesting domain, if you’ve developed an interesting module, if you’ve used an interesting combination of packages, if you’ve interfaced python to some software package / web service and learned something new, you should submit a proposal.

To get ideas for proposals, you can check out the talks accepted in 2010 and in 2009

Actually, you can also look at the submissions so far for this conference to get ideas.

Tutorials are intended to help python beginners pick up new skills. So if you’ve been using python for a few years, and think there is some particular aspect of python that beginners should pick up, please consider offering a tutorial.

Maybe you can teach how to do scientific computing with python. Or you’re able to teach people how to use NumPy for numerical computing. Or you have some expertise in data analysis. Or use of Pyramid. Or website screen scraping. Or doing search engines using python. Whatever it is, please offer a tutorial. The world needs more python programmers, don’t you think?

Please submit your talk and tutorial proposals here.

And if you know somebody else who works in python, or a company that works in the area of python, please let them know. (And if you would like to sponsor the conference, definitely get in touch.)

Talk Format

The typical length of a talk should be no more than 45 minutes. The presentation style should be concise, to the point with sufficient examples to clarify the discussion to the audience, if needed. After every talk there will be time reserved for questions from the audience (10 minutes). We will be providing a buffer of 5-10 minutes between talks so that the presenters get sufficient time to set-up their talk and attendees can move between the halls.

Tutorial Format

The typical length of the tutorial should be no more than 3 hours. All the classes run in PyCon India are volunteered. If you like to propose a tutorial, The submission of the tutorials also follow the same time lines as the talks.

Important Dates

Proposal submission deadline: July 10, 2011
Proposal acceptance: July 18, 2011
First presentation upload: Aug 15, 2011
Final presentation upload (with changes if any): Aug 31, 2011


Once again. Please submit your talk and tutorial proposals here.

IPMA Event: Product Management Challenges Unique to the Indian Environment

IPMA Pune, the Pune Chapter of the Indian Product Manager’s Association, presents a talk by Vivek Tuljapurkar, this Friday, from 5pm to 7pm, at BMC Software, Tower A, ICC Tech Park, SB Road.

More details.

Product Management Challenges Unique to the Indian Environment

Indian software industry is experiencing explosive growth beyond its core offering in software services. MNCs are giving their India operations greater responsibility towards product management, Indian software companies are being asked to take additional responsibilities towards requirements management and product management, and the legendary Indian entrepreneurial spirit is in full bloom with many startups looking to launch new products.

The Indian environment, like any other, presents certain unique challenges towards product management. There is much commonality to the challenges that are faced by various types of businesses, whether you are an MNC, Indian services company, or a product startup. This seminar aims to discuss various current and upcoming challenges and also possible solutions and is a must for those practicing or aspiring to practice product management.

About the Speaker – Vivek Tuljapurkar

Vivek Tuljapurkar is a management consultant based in Pune. He has held various positions in the past such as Managing Director of Avaya, CEO of Ruksun Software Technologies, Global Product Portfolio Manager at IBM, and Product Portfolio and Line of Business Manager at Eaton Corp. Vivek has twelve technological “firsts” to his credit, has been an advisor or consultant to numerous governments and Fortune 500 companies, and has taught at various prestigious universities in the USA and India. Vivek mentors startups via IIM-A MentorEdge program and Power of Ideas initiative.

Detailed Agenda

  • 4.45 pm – Registrations and Networking
  • 5.00 pm – Opening Remarks
  • 5:15 pm – Talk by Vivek
  • 6:30 pm – Q&A
  • 6.45 pm – Demo of some cool tools for Product Managers (Knowledge Sharing)
  • 7.00 pm – Closing Remarks

About IPMA

India Product Management Association (IPMA) is a not-for-profit, voluntary, grassroots organization. IPMA Mission is to Foster Product Design and Innovation and Catalyze Product Management/Marketing Talent in India across software, mobile, hardware, telecommunications sectors in the IT industry. IPMA organizes knowledge sharing and networking forums such as Monthly Speaker Series, Workshops, P-Camps etc for professionals interested in product management and marketing. IPMA operate chapters in major product hubs across India and for more information about upcoming events, visit

  • Twitter: @indiapma
  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr: Search for “India Product Management Association”
  • IPMA Membership Registration:
  • Event Registration:

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Please register here

Free web-development courses by Ozran Academy, Pune

Ozran is a small web development company in Kondhwa, Pune. This European company founded by Andor Admiraal and Rajesh Shet has some very unique policies and a different outlook from most other IT firms. One of their unique initiatives is that they offer completely free web courses to IT, Arts and Maths freshers. They even have a couple of free women-centric courses on offer.

We chatted with Andor one of the founders of the company to find out more about this unique firm and the rationale behind the way they are.

Though they are small they are an end-to-end company. They come up with web concepts, design, development, marketing, they maintain and work with copy as well. Not everyone can handle this, so recruitment becomes something of a challenge for them. ‘I can teach someone ColdFusion, jQuery or CSS. But I cannot teach someone to think critically, be curious, defend their own ideas, take responsibility or to find pride even in the mistakes they make. But in our company, we consider these key skills.’ says Andor.

So while hiring they look for the right personality, one who will fit into their organization rather than just for a list of technical qualifications. And they find that the best way to do this is during a short course. Andor also believes that this method of hiring fits well into the learning culture at Ozran. All the employees are required to study for an hour every day. A number of books, videos, online courses are made available to employees. They want their people to grow continually. ‘Our cleaning girl studies English on the computer once she is done with her work – it’s just who we are as a company. And why go through hours of tedious job interviews, when we can do something infinitely more fun and useful?’ Says Andor.

Coming from Europe Andor found many cultural differences in India. The differences between the sexes made up a large part of this. ‘Many women in India do not work after getting married or having children. This means the end of their careers even before they are 30.’ Andor felt that this was a pure waste of talent. So through women-only courses they hope to tap into this group of dedicated professionals that would otherwise remain on the outside. ‘We are looking at offering part time jobs to women who have family responsibilities. The women-only HTML5/CSS3 course is therefore a prelude to this flexible hours coding team.’ Says Andor.

The training programs are a week long and this gives them plenty of time to find out who’s asking the smart questions, who struggles but is trying really hard, and who is completely lost or cannot really communicate. They feel that this sort of information is valuable when making decisions on whom to hire or offer a traineeship to. Some of the free courses they offer are web page coding, web design, coldfusion and web analytics. ‘But the participants benefit alot as well; six nights is just enough time to learn one aspect of a technology really well. The exams are tough, so an Ozran Academy-certificate on the CV really means something.’ Says Andor. They hope to build a reputation this way especially if participants spread the word around after attending the course. ‘Slowly but surely, Pune will get to know that we’re here and that we’re a pretty cool company to work for. That should help us attract the best people, which in turn makes us grow as a company.’

Other ways in which Ozran tries to differ from regular companies:

  • All employees are expected to study for an hour every day.
  • Unlike other small companies, they don’t work in any technology that they happen to get work in, but limit themselves to very few technologies and believe in becoming experts in those areas.
  • They believe in giving a lot more responsibility even to their junior most staff. ‘Making mistakes means you are not afraid to try new things. A company that does not allow its people to make mistakes does not allow them to grow.’ remarks Andor candidly.

‘Pune is such a dynamic place, with so many young people bursting with ideas and ambitions. We as Ozran hope to contribute to people discovering some of these things for themselves. That starts with our free courses in web development, and of course I hope a lot of your readers will sign up!’ says Andor

This year’s free courses are in:

  • Webpage Coding (HTML5/CSS3 – this is a women only course)
  • ColdFusion
  • Web Design
  • Web Analytics

For more information about Ozran’s free web courses, see the Ozran Academy website

Code + Beer + Enthusiasm = Pune Hackfest

(Last weekend, the Pune Rails Meetup community organized a weekend-long Hackfest to build a Citizen Empowerment App. Gautam Rege, one of the organizers of this hackfest wrote this event report about the hackfest, which first appeared on the Josh Software blog, and is being re-published here with permission.)

Damn! Hackfests really work.

At the latest event of the Pune Rails Meetup – we organized a hackfest for the ‘second’ time (ahem – the first one ended before it started). This time however, we had a plan:

“Citizen Empowerment for Better Governance” – the aim was to complete the MVP for this in 2 days! We had a record attendance of 25-30 people on both days. I was skeptical of how much we could do, how much we can organize and if we can manage to keep everyone satisfied – it was make or break! — WE DID IT! This portal is almost complete (a few technical glitches but over all I would say it was success in more ways than one. The source code is hosted on github: The hitch was that MongoHQ use v1.6 which does not support $nearSphere conditions for geo-spatial indexing — this causes our geo-location to go for a toss.

These are the lessons we learnt:

Pair Programming

This was not mandated but recommended (LoL — “mandatory pair-programing” — an oxymoron?). This photo says it all. Everyone paired with someone automagically — and it worked like a charm.

There were plenty of more modules build, tracked and tweaked. However, everyone was open to change, talking to everyone AND most importantly committed to “GETTING IT DONE”.

What we did

Initially,we had some mocks that we got confirmed – narrowed down the scope of work to 2 days, discussed with Peter at length what he wanted and then planned this hackfest. The first morning – we discussed the plan and with 1 hour we got down to business. This was our rails stack:

– Rails 3.0.7

– MongoDb (via Mongoid)

– Devise & omniauth for authentication

– mongoid-paperclip (with S3 as storage).

– Heroku and MongoHQ

– jQuery search result filtering

The Party continued into the night

Peter sponsored not just the lunches and dinners – but also ensured there was a steady flow of juices, snacks, fruits and beer! Shardul did not miss the chance to ‘showcase drink-fest’ 😉

Peter even bought a ‘Hackfest’ cake – what more could we ask for?

We worked on the first day till 11.30pm and then crashed to be ready for Day2. Day2 was very very productive and we were coding till 1.30am in the night to reach the finish.

Lots of beer, fun, ‘resolving conflicts’, ‘git blame’ games — and even doing something right like this one of Sergey! 😉

Coding, Designing and Testing

We were able to churn out a LOT of code indeed. But it did not start there. We had to design the web-portal with our designers, we had pivotal tracker to track stories and rspec to test the models. No we did not do ALL this. We used Pivotal tracker to check and evaluate stories and unfortunately we did not do Test Driven Development. Some of the things that we need to improve.

The excellent part of was that we had some rock-star programmers – who churned out a LOT of awesome code and we had some excellent designers who helped with designing.

“427 commits from 17 developers” and here is the impact:

We missed out on Test Driven Development!!

This is one thing that we need to do differently at the next hackfest. Its very important to see this work beautifully and always be ‘code green’.

All in all I think we are ready to be a part of RailsRumble later this year and I do intend to get Pune.rb on the RailsRumble map!


Apple iCloud – Hype Cycle or Tipping Point for Cloud Computing?

(This article by Amit Naik, an architect at BMC Software, tries to separate out the facts from the hype regarding Apple’s recently announced iCloud offering for the benefit of readers)

Any Apple announcement from new products/services to the Worldwide Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) is often hotly anticipated by the media and the Apple faithful alike. The WWDC 2011 held on June 6th this year was no exception. Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) took the stage to make a whole slew of announcements; most notable among them was iCloud, Apple’s vision of consumer centric cloud services.

Before the ink was even dry on the announcement, iCloud began to be touted as a Windows Killer , as a copy of Android Services, as the next big thing, attacked as not even having to do anything with cloud computing and even got Apple sued. By time all is said and done, gallons more ink will have flowed (or hundreds more blog posts will have been created) regarding iCloud. This post is an effort to separate the Facts from the Hype and provide some overall context on the implications of iCloud in different areas.

What is iCloud?

iCloud is Apple’s vision of a omnipresent cloud connection in all Apple devices that will seamlessly act as a sort of a “super synch” for different Apple applications. However it has a lot more features than just a remote storage mechanism such as DropBox. Let us look at this in a bit more detail:

(Note that as of today, iCloud is in private beta. The full public release has rather amorphously been defined as “in the Fall”. So everything that is known about iCloud is in the form of press releases from Apple/Developers given early access to it.)

Apple iCloud expected usage

There are 9 default services or (Apps) in the free version of iCloud:

Contacts – Your contacts will be synced to the cloud and shared between all of your devices.

Calendars – Calendars in the cloud supports calendars in the cloud, shared calendars and calendars pushed to all of your devices.

Mail – The new Mail service will include an account.

iBooks – your book purchases and places are stored across your devices.

Backup – Daily backups of your apps, music, camera roll, app data and more over WiFi.

Documents in the Cloud – You can download your documents, and edit it on multiple devices.

App Store – Your apps can be downloaded right to your new devices.

Photo Steam – A new built in feature will move your photos to the cloud so that you can easily share them with others on any Apple Device.

iTunes in the Cloud – Shows you all your songs, albums and artists you have purchased and download to your device. These are limited to only items purchased from iTunes to begin with.

Each iCloud consumer will be given a free 5GB of storage capacity for their mail, documents, and back-ups. A really interesting feature of the service is that for music, apps and books purchased from Apple, and the storage required by Photo Stream doesn’t count towards this 5GB total.

For the PhotoStream service, Apple will store the latest 1000 photos long-term while every new photo taken from any device will be stored for 30 days.

Apple really seems to be shooting for two things with iCloud:

  1. Ubiquity: All iPods, iPhones, iPads that can be upgraded to iOS 5 and all Macs (MacBooks, and Desktops) with OS X Lion will be able to avail of iCloud. This will be at least tens of millions of users if not more. There will also be a Windows client (Windows 7 and up no XP support) that will support iCloud on non Apple desktops.
  2. Simplicity: As presented, the iCloud service looks like it falls into the “Just works” category with minimal user meddling. If Apple can really pull-off this vision the simplicity would be the real killer feature of the service.

Is it cloud computing?

In a rather grumpy post Carl Brooks wrote: “Apple iCloud is not cloud computing.” He went to deride as “Nothing but Streaming Media”. (He has since updated his post to clarify that it has more capabilities).

Let us address this issue “Is Apple iCloud cloud computing?”

YES it most certainly is cloud computing.
Take a look at the figure that I created recently that shows a simplified cloud computing stack.

Cloud Computing Stack

iCloud clearly fits in the top two layers – SaaS and the Client layer.

However there are those that define cloud computing more narrowly as “On-demand Infrastructure (IaaS) or Platform as a Service” in which case, No, iCloud is not strictly cloud computing from this angle. Keep in mind that by now the term “Cloud Computing” or “Cloud” has become so diluted as to be essentially meaningless, so the question raised is in-fact a very relevant one.

What are the challenges Apple faces?

The first and biggest challenge that Apple faces to iCloud is history. This is the fourth time Apple has tried its hand at internet services after failing in its three previous attempts. It first launched iTools way back in 2000 followed by .Mac and its most recent attempt was MobileMe. All the previous attempts were duds and Steve Jobs Apple CEO even admitted it on stage when he was announcing iCloud, calling MobileMe “not our finest hour”. The problem is rather simple – if used correctly the service should fade into the background and be seamless – but Apple is a master at splashy well-designed hardware and “just works”, well thought-thru software, neither of which directly align with iCloud. So the trick of getting it right will all be in the execution.

The second and somewhat lesser problem might be that Apple has underestimated the actual amount of data that its consumers will want to push thru iCloud. Steve Jobs took some pains to address this issue by showing slides with pictures of huge data centers at WWDC (Screen grabs):

Apple iCloud Data Center

And sleek next-gen hardware:

Apple iCloud Datacenter Hardware

Apple is also aggressively investing in building datacenters, so, time alone will tell on this front.

Who is the competition?

Apple is essentially in a three horse race at this point with Consumer Cloud Services. The first and most obvious competitor is Google.

Google’s Android OS has provided much of the functionality of iCloud, namely

GMail and the related contact manager; Google Calendar, Google Docs, where you can view, edit and collaborate on Office-style documents, Picasa for images, Google Books and Google Music, and the Android AppStore.

In a way, iCloud is complete validation of Google’s strategy of Cloud hosted data and consumers with multiple endpoints such as Android based cell phones and Chrome Books. The one difference is that Apple touts “Apps” as the consumption medium of choice Google focuses on the browser as the ultimate medium of consumption. Google and Apple are now locked in bitter fight for consumer’s data and both are using the Cloud as the weapon of choice.

The Second challenger is the dark horse Amazon. Amazon has become the de-facto leader in the “traditional” Cloud computing space. It’s EC2 and other Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings are the leaders in the IaaS space. What is not as well known is that it is also quietly ramping up its consumer cloud services strategy. The recently announced Cloud drive is just the start with rumored plans for Amazon branded Tablets, Amazon will be in a position to challenge Apple all across the cloud stack for dominance.

The biggest consumer name missing from the list? Microsoft. It was late to the Tablet space after Apple revitalized it with the launch of the iPad. It was unsuccessful in the mobile phone space until its recent moves towards Windows 7 based phones. This is the challenge it must now confront to be relevant again in the Consumer cloud services space.

What are the likely implications?

At the launch of the iPad 2, Steve Jobs had famously declared that we are in the Post-PC era, implying that consumers had moved on from PCs and were ready to embrace more portable devices as their main computers. The iCloud vision would seem to make that a reality.

Earlier, whenever you purchased an iPhone/iPad, the very first thing the device would prompt you to do was sync with iTunes on your PC/Mac. With iCloud this will no longer happen, just type-in your credentials and you are synched with all your data and apps – truly a Post-PC experience.

Another obvious result of this announcement is a phenomenon I like to term “Consumerization of the Cloud”. This announcement is likely to associate the words “cloud computing” with Apple in a very sticky way in the minds of regular (non-tech) consumers. The next time one of us says we work in cloud computing, one sure question is “Is that like the Apple iCloud thing?” As if the cloud hype was not high enough already, this announcement has undoubtedly pushed it to stratospheric (cloudy) levels. However the positive side of this is that Cloud Computing will now become much more main stream than ever before.

About the Author – Amit Naik

Amit Naik works as an Architect with BMC Software. He builds performant cloud solutions with a focus on heterogeneity and monitoring across different virtualization and provisioning vendors in the cloud computing space. His main focus is the Architecture and Design of BMC solutions with emphasis on building highly-scalable systems with REST and other SOA interfaces.

Amit has a Bachelor’s degree from College of Engineering Pune and a Master’s degree from Purdue Univ., West Lafayette. He has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, much of it in the USA, across a variety of Technical and Techno-Managerial roles.