SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Archive for December 30th, 2008

Developers: Be Passionate About What You Build

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 30, 2008

I’m parsing carefully Seth Godin’s latest post on expertise and passion.  He’s asking questions like:

Should the person who runs the customer service operations at a ski school also be required to love skiing?

Can the CFO of a large church be an atheist?

Does the head of marketing at Kodak have to have a passion for chemicals?

He winds up preferring passion for what you do to passion for the product its associated with, although he freely admits he’d like both.  Isn’t it ironic he talks about Kodak as involving passion for chemicals rather than photography, BTW?

I’m left a little uncomfortable with the whole post.  It seems very un-Godin-like.  He’s usually unequivocal in his views, and yet he seems to allow for the possibility of someone who likes being a CFO but could care less about what the organization does. 

Where startups are concerned, and especially when it comes to software development, I can’t be so unequivocal.  Looking at my own personal experience running development organizations, it would be impossible for me to do that well if I wasn’t passionate about the products we were building.  Perhaps you don’t have to love skiing to make sure customer service operations at a ski school are making customers happy.  But I don’t see how you can build insanely great software if you have no rapport with the software or its users.  Software Engineering is one of those disciplines where it’s all too easy to lose the plot and become infaturated with tools, platforms, languages, patterns, and any other thing that the customers often can’t see at all.  It leads to all the wrong things, and ultimately, to poor software.

So when you’re building your development team, when you’re hiring its members, find a way to tell whether they’re passionate about what they’re building and who they’re building it for.  It’s important.  The oft-repeated mantra to hire people who are “smart and get things done” just isn’t good enough.  In fact, I would take “passionate, and gets things done” first if I couldn’t add smart into the bargain.  For a startup, you need to insist on all three.

Posted in software development, strategy | 1 Comment »

Cloud Computing Servers are Like Southwest Airlines’ 737’s

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 30, 2008

What features does a server absolutely positively have to have to be a candidate for a big cloud data center?  What features would put it ahead of other servers in the eyes of the manager writing the checks for that cloud computing data center?

There’s an interesting article out about how Rackable Systems (and presumably others) are building machines inpsired by Google that answer those questions better than ever before.  We’re talking about features like heat-resistant processors, motherboards that contain 2 servers, and that only need one power supply voltage instead of 2 or 3.

One thing the cloud does, is it will force standardization and penny shaving at the hardware (and software) end.  When Amazon, Google, or one of the others is building a big cloud data center, they want utility-grade computing.  It has to be dense on MIPS value, meaning it is really compact and cheap for the amount of cpu power delivered.  Designs that add 25% to the cost to deliver an extra 10% in power won’t cut it.  The Cloud will be too concerned about simply delivering more cores and enough memory, disk, and network speed to keep them happy.  Closing a deal to build standard hardware for a big cloud vendor will be hugely valuable, and in fact, Rackable started out life building systems for Google. 

It’s going to be interesting to watch the Cloud Server market evolve.   Reading these articles reminds me of Southwest Airlines, which dramatically improved its cost savings by standardizing on just one kind of airplane, the 737.  Not only did that one-size-fit-all for Southwest, but it made their maintenance costs dramatically lower becaues they can standardize on spare parts for one aircraft, mechanics trained on one, and so on.

Cool beans!

Related Articles

James Urquhart, one of the top cloud bloggers, has given us mention in his related post.  There’s some further great analysis from James as well, so check him out!

Posted in cloud, data center | 1 Comment »