|By Hollis Tibbetts||
|May 10, 2012 09:30 AM EDT||
I talk to a lot of CIOs. I met with one in early May who oversees the IT operation of a $6 billion yearly entertainment-related company with about 7,000 employees. This top-notch exec was all about transforming a huge investment in existing IT infrastructure into a new dynamic, extensible and agile platform that would propel the business forward - not hold it back. This guy is busy figuring out how to keep a Boeing 777 up in the air while simultaneously re-fitting aircraft to make it best-in-class.
That's what IT should be all about.
But in some organizations, it's not. Either the message from the top gets lost as it percolates down through the IT organization, or the message from the top isn't the right one to begin with. Either way, for those unfortunate IT organizations, IT is a ball-and-chain that holds the enterprise back, rather than gives it the capability to move forward.
Great Software Comes from True Understanding
About 9 months ago, I wrote an article entitled "Great Software from Great Requirements: A Software Best Practice" on my personal blog. The gist of this article was that great software comes from a true understanding of the needs of the business.
Mr. David Chassels, CEO of UK-based software firm Procession, posted a rather lengthy comment (and series of questions) on this posting. My response to his comments and questions ended up being longer than the original article - at which point I decided "this might as well be a new article." Turns out, my response ended up morphing into TWO articles (I'll publish part 2 tomorrow).
I'd encourage you to read Mr. Chassels' comments - but as I started responding to him in train-of-thought style, and as the number of paragraphs kept growing, it occurred to me that David and I agreed on one key principle.
Why Does IT Exist, Anyways?
When you boil down what I said in my Requirements article and what Mr. Chassels said in his commentary, it comes down to a couple of very simple and common-sense things:
- The very reason IT exists is to support the people who do "business things"
- Anything else that IT does (apart from what is necessary to accomplish #1 above) represents deviation from the "golden path", and is bad.
Focus on the Business
During my discussion earlier this week with the aforementioned CIO, he discussed his major IT challenges. Every single IT priority he brought up was business-related. Things like being able to leverage every bit of new technology to capture new customers, integrating new corporate (i.e., company) acquisitions far faster than before. These are business problems he's solving. His "customer" is the business. He "gets it".
Not even once did he mention ANYTHING along the lines of "I want to drive SOA adoption throughout IT" - or anything that would indicate that he views IT as the customer.
It's not that I dislike SOA. Not at all! I rather like the concept. No hate mail please from the SOA contingent.
I simply wanted to make the point that this particular executive made it clear that his job was to solve business problems - in the best possible way for his particular organization. Other (as in "not this one") executives that I've met with have fallen down that slippery technology slope where they confuse technology goals and initiatives (like SOA adoption) with business needs.
IT Culture Dysfunction
When execs fall down this slippery technology slope, something bad happens: the customer for IT becomes IT - not the "business".
In many such IT organizations, the message percolates down in a powerful fashion from the top through to the directors, managers, architects and developers.
You see an distinct disdain arise in the IT group for "stupid business people." Architects and developers become king. Users are fearful of IT. Lots of application design meetings contain discussions along the lines of "that's a stupid thing to do, we know better." IT ends up doing what IT wants to do - not what the business needs IT to do.
As much as I'm impressed by the intelligence and capabilities of RedMonk (a technology analyst firm), I'm in violent disagreement with one of their key tenets: "We believe that developers are the most important constituency in technology." I believe that the business users are the most important constituency. In pretty much every case, I always come down on the side of the customer.
Getting Back to Chassels' Comments
Mr. Chassels' elegantly wrote about the need to change the way that business software is developed - so that the business person is "in the driving seat", as he put it.
As of about a month ago, I started working for Dell as a Software Strategy Director, so I no longer work for my own company doing paid advisory services. However, when I used to do such things, most of the time my recommendations would resemble the following:
- Figure out the business needs (from the business people)
- Focus on "Assembly" rather than "Development" whenever possible. Acquire components, turn existing software investments into components. Connect them together, re-use them. Turn them into a flexible asset.
- Find SaaS software that you can subscribe to that does what you need. If you can't find SaaS Software, find a "software appliance" that does what you need. If you can't find an Appliance, find off-the-shelf On-Premises software to license.
- Connect your existing applications and your new ones (SaaS, Appliance, On-Prem) with "Next-Gen" off-the-shelf Integration solutions that are Cloud-managed like Boomi, InformaticaCloud, Snaplogic, MuleSoft Mule iON, etc., so you can automate your business processes across the multiple application systems.
- Find creative ways to "fill in the gaps" between what you bought/subscribed to and what you need. Create Mashups, extend the SaaS/On-Prem applications, leverage the Integration platform you licensed.
- Do custom development as a last resort. Such custom development will always be necessary, but don't ever go there first. That applies not only for applications, but also (and even more so) for integration.
Procedural vs. Declarative
Mr. Chassels tosses in some quotes from Bill Gates on Procedural vs. Declarative application development. I'm not about to get into a debate with Bill Gates on this topic.
I'm simply going to put "declarative" application development methods in the same bucket that I put off-the-shelf applications as well as off-the-shelf integration stacks.
What I mean by that is that all of the tools I just mentioned serve to minimize the chasm that has traditionally existed between the business user and the IT solution to the business users' problems.
So think Chassels' got it right when he stated that innovative companies "tackle the 'interpretation gap' between IT and business...and business people are becoming the decision makers on IT spend with informed knowledge."
One Area of Strong Disagreement
Chassels' mentioned that "software remains a bit of a mess". I respectfully disagree.
Software remains a LOT of a mess. A really great big giant mess.
The Legacy Application Problem
Sure, the state of NEWLY deployed software is better than ever. But the vast majority of deployed software out there isn't new.
An astonishing amount of pre-Y2K software remains. Great big expanses of old Client/Server code written PowerBuilder and other tools now considered ancient. First generation Web applications on platforms like ColdFusion.
Ancient ERP systems so heavily customized that nobody knows how they work anymore. Mountains of Mainframe and AS/400 application in COBOL, RPG, Natural, etc.
These applications are monolithic, gigantic, brittle, expensive to maintain, nearly impossible to change. They are the anti-thesis of "agile". They represent an enormous ball-and-chain to the enterprise.
They soak up huge amounts of IT budget, leaving little left over for supporting new business initiatives. Almost all large organizations have this problem to one degree or another. These legacy applications are in dire need of "modernization" - broken up into re-usable "rationalized" re-usable components that can be linked together, integrated with other systems via a modern Integration stack.
Organizations will never be able to maximize their ability to address the needs of the business users until they figure out a way to deal with this issue. For some larger organizations, this will take hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) and 3,4,5 or even 10 years.
The issue of legacy applications in need of modernization is the single largest barrier in most large companies to IT truly being able to become an agile, competitive asset to the business.
Legacy Application Modernization - Huge Step Forward
Legacy Application Modernization brings IT and Business Users closer together. Legacy Application Modernization is a huge step forward for large IT shops, and truly helps companies tackle that "interpretation gap", and puts business users in the drivers seat.
Everyone wants to use containers, but monitoring containers is hard. New ephemeral architecture introduces new challenges in how monitoring tools need to monitor and visualize containers, so your team can make sense of everything. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, David Gildeh, co-founder and CEO of Outlyer, will go through the challenges and show there is light at the end of the tunnel if you use the right tools and understand what you need to be monitoring to successfully use containers in your...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,698
What if you could build a web application that could support true web-scale traffic without having to ever provision or manage a single server? Sounds magical, and it is! In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Munns, Senior Developer Advocate for Serverless Applications at Amazon Web Services, will show how to build a serverless website that scales automatically using services like AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon S3. We will review several frameworks that can help you build serverle...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,044
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin, ...
Mar. 27, 2017 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 6,710
By now, every company in the world is on the lookout for the digital disruption that will threaten their existence. In study after study, executives believe that technology has either already disrupted their industry, is in the process of disrupting it or will disrupt it in the near future. As a result, every organization is taking steps to prepare for or mitigate unforeseen disruptions. Yet in almost every industry, the disruption trend continues unabated.
Mar. 27, 2017 11:23 AM EDT Reads: 263
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
Mar. 27, 2017 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,995
Building custom add-ons does not need to be limited to the ideas you see on a marketplace. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sukhbir Dhillon, CEO and founder of Addteq, will go over some adventures they faced in developing integrations using Atlassian SDK and other technologies/platforms and how it has enabled development teams to experiment with newer paradigms like Serverless and newer features of Atlassian SDKs. In this presentation, you will be taken on a journey of Add-On and Integration ...
Mar. 27, 2017 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,164
The essence of cloud computing is that all consumable IT resources are delivered as services. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Yung Chou, Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, demonstrated the concepts and implementations of two important cloud computing deliveries: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). He discussed from business and technical viewpoints what exactly they are, why we care, how they are different and in what ways, and the strategies for IT to transi...
Mar. 27, 2017 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 6,265
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership abi...
Mar. 27, 2017 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 11,134
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service.
Mar. 27, 2017 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 3,066
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
Mar. 27, 2017 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,093
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
Mar. 27, 2017 12:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,248
As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and micro services. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your contain...
Mar. 26, 2017 09:45 PM EDT Reads: 7,747
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
Mar. 26, 2017 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 9,691
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
Mar. 26, 2017 03:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,934
DevOps has often been described in terms of CAMS: Culture, Automation, Measuring, Sharing. While we’ve seen a lot of focus on the “A” and even on the “M”, there are very few examples of why the “C" is equally important in the DevOps equation. In her session at @DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, of F5 Networks, explored HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 along with Microservices to illustrate why a collaborative culture between Dev, Ops, and the Network is critical to ensuring success.
Mar. 26, 2017 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 10,675
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Mar. 26, 2017 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 8,672
The IT industry is undergoing a significant evolution to keep up with cloud application demand. We see this happening as a mindset shift, from traditional IT teams to more well-rounded, cloud-focused job roles. The IT industry has become so cloud-minded that Gartner predicts that by 2020, this cloud shift will impact more than $1 trillion of global IT spending. This shift, however, has left some IT professionals feeling a little anxious about what lies ahead. The good news is that cloud computin...
Mar. 26, 2017 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,338
An overall theme of Cloud computing and the specific practices within it is fundamentally one of automation. The core value of technology is to continually automate low level procedures to free up people to work on more value add activities, ultimately leading to the utopian goal of full Autonomic Computing. For example a great way to define your plan for DevOps tool chain adoption is through this lens. In this TechTarget article they outline a simple maturity model for planning this.
Mar. 26, 2017 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,302
While DevOps most critically and famously fosters collaboration, communication, and integration through cultural change, culture is more of an output than an input. In order to actively drive cultural evolution, organizations must make substantial organizational and process changes, and adopt new technologies, to encourage a DevOps culture. Moderated by Andi Mann, panelists discussed how to balance these three pillars of DevOps, where to focus attention (and resources), where organizations might...
Mar. 26, 2017 05:15 AM EDT Reads: 6,200
The rise of containers and microservices has skyrocketed the rate at which new applications are moved into production environments today. While developers have been deploying containers to speed up the development processes for some time, there still remain challenges with running microservices efficiently. Most existing IT monitoring tools don’t actually maintain visibility into the containers that make up microservices. As those container applications move into production, some IT operations t...
Mar. 26, 2017 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,001