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Posted By David Marble, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

This Friday we are holding our annual Member Forum.  As is practice, we were looking at themes for the event and I suggested the word “disruption”.  Certainly not a novel concept and one that is used often in our industry.  However, the more I have been thinking about the word and its use, the more intrigued I am by the nature of its meaning.  A blog like this might normally default to looking up the definition and picking it apart.  I resisted that temptation because I believe there are so many connotations that it borders on being one of those words that means different things to different people in different contexts.  Many people have a direct line from disruption to stress.  The stress meter redlines as soon as the envisioned plan experiences deviation.  Planning becomes the antithesis of disruption.  If we were all perfect planners and all seers, disruption would disappear.


Is disruption good or bad?  Do you view the word from a negative, positive or neutral perspective?  An alarm clock is certainly disruptive, especially in the middle of a wonderful dream.  We have all experienced the disappointment and even anger when it goes off.  But doesn’t it depend on why it is set to go off in the first place?  If it is waking you up so you can arrive at your wedding on time, the disruption is welcome.  I maintain that reactions to disruption are all about ones outlook and overall perspective on dealing with things unforeseen.  I am enamored by the analogy to the rumble strip on the side of the highway that jolts a driver who nods off.  Certainly disruptive but potentially in a life-saving way.  In a business context, I have certainly witnessed disruptive events that act like the rumble strip, jolting a company from complacency and making them better for it.  At the conference, you will hear about both sides of the coin.  Disruptions that truly led off course in a negative way and those that had profound positive impact.  I enjoyed the Atrion “Always On” symposium this year which had the theme “Resilience” with wonderful talks from people who had life changing “disruptions” and their stories of perseverance.


We in IT deal with the concept of disruption constantly.  Much of our objectives center around the minimization of disruption.  Disaster Recovery is now termed Business Continuity as we make technical progress toward the ability make applications always available.  Planning for disruption is interesting; just try to get a maintenance window for a network like OSHEAN’s and you will see how much tolerance there is for disruption.  We continue to raise expectations and expectation rarely deals with the unforeseen.  That translates into requirements to spend more and more time in planning and practice.  One of the great features in our Cloud DR service is the ability to test failover while in production.  The technology affords us with an unprecedented level of planning and practice to set an expectation of result in the event of an actual disruptive event.  We in IT live the opposite of “no expectations therefore never disappointed”.  Cybersecurity is a classic case study in planning for disruptive agents and events that cannot be characterized entirely.  Frameworks are the key elements used in cybersecurity planning as many times exacting detail is elusive.


I am looking forward to the event this week and hope to see you there!

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Work Never Done

Posted By David Marble, Friday, April 21, 2017

Next week we will be releasing our spring issue of the eCurrent.  We decided to highlight some of the research going on in our community, as it is my observation that research embodies some of the most wonderfully positive activity happening in our backyard yet goes widely unreported.  Even when it hits a headline, it does not bubble up to the level of importance given to Kim Kardashian.  Also, even when noticed, many do not spend time thinking about the topic nor do any further learning on the subject matter.  I question even how many will truly spend the time to read the issue we have constructed.  Understanding the research of an astrophysicist who just observed a gravitational wave can be challenging and translating the deep science into tangible meaning and conversational language is difficult.  We do however miss an opportunity to be uplifted if we don’t try.


As I state in my President’s letter opening the issue, the “R” in R&E Networks stands for research.  Our companies and networks were founded to support the massively critical research going on in our membership.  What that affords us at OSHEAN is visibility to the unbounded wonders of research; its people and its process.  Our membership is currently doing research in almost every conceivable field from the deep physical sciences to healthcare to sociology and economics.  One of the fascinating aspects of research is that many individuals on research journeys are very comfortable with the idea that they will never finish.  Invariably, the journey will make discoveries that lead to more questions.  Physicists for millennia have been searching for a unified theory of the universe.  Deeper and deeper they go toward understanding only to find more unknowns.  The sports analogy I use is for young tennis players that need to learn how to lose.  The better they get, the better players they face forcing a lifetime of losing to some degree.  In this issue of the eCurrent, we profile the particle physicists at Brown and their search for the “God Particle” (aka. The Higgs Boson) which was first observed in 2012.  Observation of this mysterious particle answered and confirmed many theories in unified theory and while it was a monumental discovery, it opened new questions and led to an increase in research of “Dark Matter” to provide answers to the questions raised form the observation.  In my humble opinion, Dark Matter was named for the fact that we know almost nothing about it yet it makes up about 85% of the mass of the known universe.  I postulate that as soon as we learn more of dark matter and observe its behaviors, we will begin to name its components, probably after the physicists who have the most impact in the research.


There is a sense among most I talk to that the news of the day and the media in general focus on negative stories.  The core of research however, is built on a strong foundation of hope.  We at OSHEAN hope this next issue of our magazine instills a bit of that magic in you!


“To boldly go where no one has gone before”.

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Studio Rhode and Library Futures

Posted By David Marble, Friday, February 24, 2017

The evolution of libraries is an intriguing subject to me.  In an era where we hear the words digital divide almost daily, I am dismayed by the fact that more attention is not paid to libraries as a potential key part of a solution.  To me, libraries have always played a role in the “divide” whether analog or digital.  Libraries were created as natural community centers, repositories of both the essential and uncommon tools of learning, creation and entertainment.  At its base, a library has always been a community buying collaborative, a place to gain access to tools that would be impractical to buy for occasional use or unaffordable in general.  Of course, the first tool was the book but that has evolved over time to include all sorts of things including music and video resources.  Now, an essential component of the library ecosystem includes digital information access, hence the emergence over time of on-site personal computers. 


Through it all, the unsung essential element has been the library staff.  Ever at your service to teach you how to use the Dewey Decimal system or locate that rare physics book that explains Schrodinger’s cat, the librarian is the orchestrator and facilitator of the library universe.  Much in the way that teachers were initially thrown into the technology vortex without any guidance, library staff is going through a similar transition.  As we are now learning to help teachers and as next-generation libraries emerge, I advocate strongly for programs that help library staff gain digital skills so they can continue to serve their patrons with the same passion and expertise as before.


RI’s Office of Innovation has kicked off a program, Studio Rhode, sponsored by Apple, to generate ideas for programs designed to showcase the art of the possible for next-generation libraries here in RI.  The Studio Rhode challenge is currently evaluating submissions from area libraries that will utilize the latest tools from Apple for a wide range of digital projects such as digital literacy, storytelling and art to name a few.


From the official program statements from the Office of Innovation:


The following are three essential elements of the Studio Rhode framework:


1.           Community Concierge: The Community Concierge imagines a library that is shaped around the needs of all community members, regardless of ability, socioeconomic status, or age.  Libraries need to use the experience they hope to provide to each user as the key driver of the design of both the physical and virtual space of the library. We believe this will create an open, inclusive, engaging, and interactive place for collaboration, driven by a clear understanding of user requirements, tools, and learning activities tailored to those needs.


2.                  Digital Creation Studio: Studio Rhode envisions the library as a place for members of the community to design, create, and share knowledge with next generation digital tools. Studio Rhode seeks to transform libraries into places to engage in crucial community building cornerstones in a 21st century way—by creating digital stories, new media, or using digital tools to develop new ideas in service of community or self.


3.                  New Tools: Studio Rhode libraries will leverage technology to support the creation of the Community Concierge and Digital Creation Studio. For example, Studio Rhode will provide community members with access to Apple hardware and a rich content ecosystem -- through the App Store, iBooks Store, iTunes U and iTunes -- and the tools to become content creators through Apple’s creativity and productivity apps. These tools are designed to be accessible to users of all ages and abilities. Using these tools, Studio Rhode will provide new learning experiences designed to engage users in developing the digital skills needed to lead as next generation innovators.


I am excited to see these projects emerge and will be reporting my findings as we move along.  Libraries should be supported as the digital divide is never as simple as gaining access to Google search.  OSHEAN is a supporter of the work at the Office of Innovation and I encourage this audience to learn more about their efforts.  You can follow this program and all the projects of the office at

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Blockchain Impact

Posted By David Marble, Wednesday, October 12, 2016

As I write this blog, I already wonder how it will be received.  Will it will be taken as intended?  Will the reader say “Hmm, that’s interesting and I should look more into this…” or will it be “Duh, when did Marble wake up from his nap?”  The subject that has captured my interest lately is “blockchain” and its potential impact on the very fabric of our economy and beyond.  Much is being written about the technology these days and it has fascinated me enough to write about it here.  One of the reasons I follow developments in nuclear fusion is the potential it brings to completely revolutionize the energy industry and in turn, our lives.  I am beginning to believe blockchain technologies may have that same potential for impact.


As a matter of background, blockchain is the underlying technology used to develop Bitcoin, the digital currency used in many internet based financial trust applications.  Much like the internet itself, there is no real central authority in a blockchain.  Think of it as a series of trusted transactions with each link having a piece or “hash” of the previous link which binds the chain.  Running algorithms keep the history of the chain up to date at all times and also have the interesting characteristic of becoming more and more bulletproof as they get bigger.  Encryption is inherent so security is central to the architecture.  This is a completely decentralized model.  Think of a distributed ledger with no central or master database.  What sounds chaotic is massively elegant and revolutionary and its potential impact is staggering.  Consider just the idea of eliminating central banks for a moment, replaced by a completely distributed software-based digital trust model.  The trust model in many applications cuts out the middle man.  For instance, the blockchain between the consumer and say, a musician can be direct with no need for distribution labels or even on-line music stores.  Makes one wonder about the long term play for Amazon or the iTunes store.


The technology is one thing and there are tons of hurdles in an open and completely distributed software world.  I am fascinated though by the social impact and its implications.  One article used the analogy that very few people knew what TCP/IP is nor cared as the internet was evolving.  Blockchain may develop the very same way.  The cool thing to think about is the potential ability to deal with ideas of trust and identity in a very new way, something that is on the front burner for many of us.  As with any new technology, there are many naysayers and hype masters.  For me personally at this stage, I just think it is a tremendously interesting topic to explore from both the technical and social perspective.

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The Future….Really?

Posted By David Marble, Thursday, June 23, 2016


When we broached the topic of a theme for the upcoming annual Member Forum, I wanted to have it be forward looking.  The future of technology….hmmm….what in the world does that mean?  Given the breadth of the technology we all deal with and the pace of change, it’s a daunting subject.  Overlay the vast differences of our membership’s vertical markets (i.e. healthcare, higher-ed, K-12, govt., etc…) and the disparity of implementations within a given segment, it becomes presumptuous on our part to even try and present the future.  However, aren’t we all charged with painting that picture at some level?  I find strategic planning to be far more nebulous than it used to be but still fundamentally required.  In my humble opinion, anyone with a five-year plan in IT these days is fooling themselves, given the pace of change and the volatility of budgets alone.  Equipment depreciation schedules, once 10-15 years, now are 3-5!  That being said, if we don’t understand macro industry trends and develop some methodology for assessment we will quickly be devoured by either the market itself or the financial death knell of inefficiency.  Make a technology mistake and it can be like missing on the third pick in the NBA draft which we pray the Celtics do not do this week.  It just as important to grasp an important trend as it is to ignore or skip over the shiny new object.  The evolution of optical transport is a classic example.  OSHEAN is skipping entire generations of optical technology.  We will not implement 40G and may even skip 100G if the 200G price points hit what we need this coming year.  In keeping with this example, what is incumbent on OSHEAN engineering is not to be definitive about the 3-5 year milestones, price points and even the technology itself but to continuously evaluate the market and its associated technology evolution.  That continuous evaluation and judicious timing can save large sums of money.  The challenge that comes with continuous evaluation is the resource drain, discipline and time required, especially with the many technologies we deal with.

I am part of a CEO advisory group called Vistage.  We had been discussing the challenge of building strategic discipline into our work weeks as we often felt we were “working in the business instead of on the business”.  The solution many of us have found useful is the concept of building a Pain vs. Gain profile into one’s schedule.  The idea, popularized by author and entrepreneur Steve McClatchey, recognizes that we technically default to reactionary “have to” Pain tasks which maintain us but don’t necessarily help us move forward.  I now have a 2-hour block in my calendar every week for “Gain” time dedicated to strategic activities for OSHEAN.  This simple practice can set the stage for building the underlying methodology for assessment that is right for you.

So, this week we will have our annual Member Forum and publish our latest eCurrent, both dedicated to the concept of “future tech”, but my real observation is that we can’t presume to know the answer.  We can presume however, that we need to be dedicated to continuous learning.

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