|By Douglas Allen||
|September 29, 2012 10:00 AM EDT||
Recently some colleagues and I were discussing applications of the Theory of Constraints to various process and financial management scenarios. In our current economic environment in which organizations are constantly being pushed to new expectations of efficiency, the effective use of all available resources is absolutely critical to the success of an organization. As we were considering some of the themes from Eli Goldratt’s classic business novel “The Goal” (right around the first anniversary of the author’s passing, coincidentally), I began to see the applicability of Goldratt’s work to the management of enterprise information technology much more clearly. Although the focus of Goldratt’s seminal novel is primarily targeted at manufacturing, the discussion got me thinking about how well IT professionals embrace similar concepts to focus on eliminating bottlenecks in heterogenous systems and monitoring the various functional components of an application, solution, or environment.
For those unfamiliar with the book, it is the tale of a manufacturing manager who is assigned the dubious honor of fixing persistent production problems at his factory. In a style that was very unique at the time of publication (1984), Goldratt provides instruction on the Theory of Constraints and methods for dealing with process problems by telling a story rather than rote or more traditional step by step instruction. One of the core lessons of “The Goal” is provided via a boy in the protagonist’s scout troop named Herbie. While out on a wilderness hike with the troop, our hero is constantly frustrated by the fact that the scouts seem to have a total and complete inability to stay together. As the chaperone in charge of ensuring that these young men all come out of the woods safe and sound, he is understandably annoyed. He eventually notices that Herbie, whose physical condition is less than optimal compared to his peers, is the bottleneck. Herbie is always bringing up the rear and slowing down the entire troop. Our hero attempts various methods such as lightening Herbie’s pack, but ultimately discovers that the optimal way to keep the troop together is to let Herbie be the leader leader of the hike. This ensures that no one will ever hike faster than Herbie and that the group will stay together. And therein lies one of the core tenets - the slowest activity in any process is the biggest determinant of the overall process cycle time. Or, the total length of time required to execute any multi step process is most impacted by the length of time required to execute the longest-running task. This observation is the spark that inspires our hero to analyze the activities in his manufacturing process flows, identify the bottlenecks, and work to optimize and eliminate them with the help of those who actually perform the work. As the operations at his factory improve, he also fixes his marriage and becomes a better father, but such are the elements of drama (hence the “business novel”) and the side benefits of enjoying one’s vocation.
So what do out of shape scouts and manufacturing process flows have to do with the implementation of enterprise class information technology solutions? I recall back in the 90s as the middleware market was being developed that there was a great deal of focus on speeds and feeds when comparing message oriented middleware (MOM) software solutions. The competitive focus was on which solution provider could move message payloads from point A to point B (across networks and operating system platforms) the fastest. As this technology was the foundation for many business process automation solutions upon which hybrid applications could be built by serializing cross platform components of executable business logic, the point seemed to be that the technology that delivered message payloads fastest would also enable the overall process to execute the fastest. By extension, this speed of execution would provide a competitive advantage for one’s business. Those implementing these sorts of solutions quickly realized that if the applications that were processing the messages were inefficiently written or being hosted on inadequate computing platforms, the speed at which the information was delivered to the participant applications made no difference. This is because the overall process execution time was always determined by the business software applications that were providing actual business function at the endpoints rather than the speed at which the information could be delivered to those endpoint applications. This is true with humans as well of course, because one cannot process information faster by simply DVRing their favorite news channel and watching it at 2x the speed.
Fast forward to the 21st century and we still see similar issues and impressions that have to be addressed. According to Jake Gibson, VP of Customer Operations at LightEdge Solutions, “We often see situations in which there are requests for networking speeds that far surpass the performance of the business applications. This enables us to have additional conversations about true performance requirements in the context of customers’ businesses and provide more appropriate solutions.”
Like any business process or heterogenous system, IT solutions have their share of potential bottlenecks and optimization opportunities. When we take into account the complexity of our networks, storage systems, and computing hardware and combine it with the configuration and tuning options available in the operating systems, database management systems, application servers, and integration middleware, we can truly develop an appreciation for the depth of infrastructure skills required of the modern IT professional. Add to that the specialized processors, business applications (both custom written and those supported by vendors), and other specialized capabilities such as business process management and analytics that are hosted by the computing infrastructure and the many challenges that can arise with performance issues start to become apparent. And don’t forget the need to securely deliver a great deal of functionality to customers and employees via mobile devices that are not located within the corporation’s facilities...
IT professionals will find bottlenecks and performance issues such as these easier to address as the burgeoning market for workload optimized and expert integrated systems develops. Pre-configured hardware and software solutions that have been tuned and optimized for specific business requirements, applications, and workload characteristics will eliminate much of the guesswork and troubleshooting required to squeeze additional performance out of solutions. Some of these solutions are available today from leading enterprise-class solution providers and many more will be released in the near future. Additionally, as more solution providers expand the capabilities that can be provided to enterprise customers via cloud computing technologies, some of the burden will be shifted to the providers themselves.
The vast majority of the time all of the components in today’s complex information systems function quite well together and the business gets value out of its investment in information technology. But full optimization of the modern IT environment, or the “hunting of the Herbies” when performance issues do arise, requires coordinated and proactive monitoring of the environment and an in-depth understanding of the overall systems architecture. And that requires investment in the IT professionals who bring it all together for the business.
Wow, if you ever wanted to learn about Rugged DevOps (some call it DevSecOps), sit down for a spell with Shannon Lietz, Ian Allison and Scott Kennedy from Intuit. We discussed a number of important topics including internal war games, culture hacking, gamification of Rugged DevOps and starting as a small team. There are 100 gold nuggets in this conversation for novices and experts alike.
May. 5, 2016 05:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,010
In a crowded world of popular computer languages, platforms and ecosystems, Node.js is one of the hottest. According to w3techs.com, Node.js usage has gone up 241 percent in the last year alone. Retailers have taken notice and are implementing it on many levels. I am going to share the basics of Node.js, and discuss why retailers are using it to reduce page load times and improve server efficiency. I’ll talk about similar developments such as Docker and microservices, and look at several compani...
May. 5, 2016 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 787
The notion of customer journeys, of course, are central to the digital marketer’s playbook. Clearly, enterprises should focus their digital efforts on such journeys, as they represent customer interactions over time. But making customer journeys the centerpiece of the enterprise architecture, however, leaves more questions than answers. The challenge arises when EAs consider the context of the customer journey in the overall architecture as well as the architectural elements that make up each...
May. 5, 2016 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,069
Much of the discussion around cloud DevOps focuses on the speed with which companies need to get new code into production. This focus is important – because in an increasingly digital marketplace, new code enables new value propositions. New code is also often essential for maintaining competitive parity with market innovators. But new code doesn’t just have to deliver the functionality the business requires. It also has to behave well because the behavior of code in the cloud affects performan...
May. 5, 2016 03:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,500
Admittedly, two years ago I was a bulk contributor to the DevOps noise with conversations rooted in the movement around culture, principles, and goals. And while all of these elements of DevOps environments are important, I’ve found that the biggest challenge now is a lack of understanding as to why DevOps is beneficial. It’s getting the wheels going, or just taking the next step. The best way to start on the road to change is to take a look at the companies that have already made great headway ...
May. 5, 2016 01:30 AM EDT Reads: 461
In 2006, Martin Fowler posted his now famous essay on Continuous Integration. Looking back, what seemed revolutionary, radical or just plain crazy is now common, pedestrian and "just what you do." I love it. Back then, building and releasing software was a real pain. Integration was something you did at the end, after code complete, and we didn't know how long it would take. Some people may recall how we, as an industry, spent a massive amount of time integrating code from one team with another...
May. 5, 2016 01:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,139
Many private cloud projects were built to deliver self-service access to development and test resources. While those clouds delivered faster access to resources, they lacked visibility, control and security needed for production deployments. In their session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steve Anderson, Product Manager at BMC Software, and Rick Lefort, Principal Technical Marketing Consultant at BMC Software, will discuss how a cloud designed for production operations not only helps accelerate developer...
May. 5, 2016 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,329
I have an article in the recently released “DZone Guide to Building and Deploying Applications on the Cloud” entitled “Fullstack Engineering in the Age of Hybrid Cloud”. In this article I discuss the need and skills of a Fullstack Engineer with relation to troubleshooting and repairing complex, distributed hybrid cloud applications. My recent experiences with troubleshooting issues with my Docker WordPress container only reinforce the details I wrote about in this piece. Without my comprehensive...
May. 4, 2016 11:45 PM EDT Reads: 995
From the conception of Docker containers to the unfolding microservices revolution we see today, here is a brief history of what I like to call 'containerology'. In 2013, we were solidly in the monolithic application era. I had noticed that a growing amount of effort was going into deploying and configuring applications. As applications had grown in complexity and interdependency over the years, the effort to install and configure them was becoming significant. But the road did not end with a ...
May. 4, 2016 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 694
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
May. 4, 2016 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,249
As the software delivery industry continues to evolve and mature, the challenge of managing the growing list of the tools and processes becomes more daunting every day. Today, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platforms are proving most valuable by providing the governance, management and coordination for every stage of development, deployment and release. Recently, I spoke with Madison Moore at SD Times about the changing market and where ALM is headed.
May. 4, 2016 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,626
The goal of any tech business worth its salt is to provide the best product or service to its clients in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. This is just as true in the development of software products as it is in other product design services. Microservices, an app architecture style that leans mostly on independent, self-contained programs, are quickly becoming the new norm, so to speak. With this change comes a declining reliance on older SOAs like COBRA, a push toward more s...
May. 4, 2016 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,695
Small teams are more effective. The general agreement is that anything from 5 to 12 is the 'right' small. But of course small teams will also have 'small' throughput - relatively speaking. So if your demand is X and the throughput of a small team is X/10, you probably need 10 teams to meet that demand. But more teams also mean more effort to coordinate and align their efforts in the same direction. So, the challenge is how to harness the power of small teams and yet orchestrate multiples of them...
May. 4, 2016 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 527
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
May. 4, 2016 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,458
Much of the value of DevOps comes from a (renewed) focus on measurement, sharing, and continuous feedback loops. In increasingly complex DevOps workflows and environments, and especially in larger, regulated, or more crystallized organizations, these core concepts become even more critical. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, will show how, by focusing on 'metrics that matter,' you can provide objective, transparent, and meaningfu...
May. 4, 2016 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,136
In the world of DevOps there are ‘known good practices’ – aka ‘patterns’ – and ‘known bad practices’ – aka ‘anti-patterns.' Many of these patterns and anti-patterns have been developed from real world experience, especially by the early adopters of DevOps theory; but many are more feasible in theory than in practice, especially for more recent entrants to the DevOps scene. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Chair Andi Mann, panelists will dis...
May. 4, 2016 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,086
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
May. 3, 2016 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,949
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise. While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into...
May. 3, 2016 04:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,161
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
May. 3, 2016 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,634
With DevOps becoming more well-known and established practice in nearly every industry that delivers software, it is important to continually reassess its efficacy. This week’s top 10 includes a discussion on how the quick uptake of DevOps adoption in the enterprise has posed some serious challenges. Additionally, organizations who have taken the DevOps plunge must find ways to find, hire and keep their DevOps talent in order to keep the machine running smoothly.
May. 3, 2016 06:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,523