Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Everchanging IT - Pervasive Technology

I have been working in the ever changing and evolving Information Technology (IT) industry for over 20 years and seen the rapid advancement and adoption of technology become so pervasive and mainstream that it is no longer the domain of information technology people.  IT was once restricted to the domains of research and development projects such as the oil exploration system written in C++ or the back office payroll and accounting systems written in Cobol/DB2/CICS that I started my career in were in the hands of professionally trained staff and educated users, this is no longer the case.

I started to write this on a flight from Wellington to New Zealand in Oct 2011 after watching the documentary "Front Page: A year inside the New York Times" directed by Andrew Rossi, that explores the perilous situation that the print media finds itself in as internet surpasses print media as the source of information and the impact it has on the traditional revenue source of cover price and advertising.  It got me thinking about how to capture the experiences that I have gained as well as the experiences of many of the friends and colleagues that I have worked with over the years to help shape where we are going...

Industry Trends Past and Present

The Information Technology industry is only 40 years old and is relative immature when you compare it to other fields such as mathematics, engineering, manufacturing and finance.  This is particularly evident when looking at the adoption of standards, approaches and governance and the race for technological superiority.

However there have been many so called inflection points that were hyped by as the solution and revolution of the industry.  It is important to spend some time and explore many of the solutions and technologies that have come and gone as it is the lessons learnt from these have driven the innovation to address the shortcomings and built on the previous capability for example:
  • Computers: Mainframe to Mini to Midrange to PC to tablet
  • Programming: 2GL, 3GL - procedural, 4GL - declarative, Object Orientation
  • Word Processing: electronic typewriter to word star to Microsoft word
  • Search Engine: Alta Vista to Yahoo to Google
  • Information Exchange: EDI, batch processing, XML
  • Integration: batch processing, service orientation
  • Collaboration: inter office memo, facsimile, email, chat, Facebook, twitter ...
  • Communication: telex, telegram, telephone, VoIP, SMS, Skype, facetime
Which brings us to today...  What are the top items and priorities for today's Chief Information Officer.
  1. Information Technology Optimisation
  2. Data Centre Optimisation
  3. Cloud Computing
However what are the hottest consumer trends
  1. Social Media and Collaboration
  2. Online commerce and Analytics (big data)
  3. Content Consumption : news, music, movies, television
This represents a significant mismatch between the agendas of many professional IT managers and the demands that consumers of information are looking for, not only in the context of the creation of products and services, but also in attracting and developing the next generation of knowledge worker.

So given that the past has been such a valid indicator of the future, what are the current shortcomings in the approaches and capabilities in today systems that we need to review to plan for the solutions that we need to provide in the future?

Keen to get your thoughts...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Database Consolidation - Oracle as a Service (OaaS)

Over the last few years my team has helped a number of key and strategic customers with how organisations with widely deploy stand-alone Oracle database environments find a more cost effective and efficient solution for the delivery of database services. 

More and more we see each corporate initiative or project acquires its own hardware & software and establishes separate hosting & support arrangements. Consequently, there has been (and will continue to be) a proliferation of servers and software that all fundamentally do the same thing - provide Oracle database services for applications to consume.

A more effective and cheaper way of providing Database Services is to "pool" several independent database servers together and produce an Oracle as a Service (OaaS) grid.  In this architecture, applications would connect to a single shareable instance of Oracle as they would any other Oracle instance. The business applications would be isolated from each other and explicit portions of Oracle processing power allocated to each one - a high-use application would be granted a large portion of processing power, a low-use application would be granted less. This provides Oracle customers with a number of realisable benefits:

  • Higher availability; as all participating applications immediately benefit from automatic failover infrastructure.
  • Cost savings; significant capacity for savings on hardware through better hardware utilisation and the use of cheaper commodity servers.
  • Better service through centralised management; organisations can benefit from higher quality by leveraging a central team of database administrators.
  • Reduced risk; the entire environment is managed, support is centralised and process, procedure and skills are standardised.

OaaS Design Pattern

The OaaS design pattern has been applied at a number of strategic customers that have delivered significant business benefit and is typically deployed as follows:

  1. Construction of one, or more, clusters consisting of standardised commodity hardware components that hosts these shareable Oracle instance
  2. Establishment of procedures for project & application support teams to engage with the Oracle shared services team and have their database applications hosted in this environment
  3. Definition of a cost, funding & operational model for the shared Oracle environment and the organisations IT operations team.

Reasons to consider Consolidation

In the current economic climate, keeping recurring operational costs down is imperative. Consolidation will assist the reduction of total cost of ownership (TCO) in several ways, including envisaged savings in hardware, software and hosting, as follows:
  • Reduced administration. By standardising and reducing the number of servers, businesses reduce the complexity of the infrastructure they must administer. Fewer support staff can therefore manage the same service demands. This standardisation also facilitates the provision of 24/7 support using worldwide support resources.
  • Reduced operational costs. Increase in service capacity and growth are achieved with better utilisation of resources. Typically, fewer servers are required, resulting in hardware and power savings.
  • Reduced data center costs. Site space formerly used for IT services can be returned to the business, and existing facilities can be used more efficiently.
  • Reduced data center hosting costs. Typically, hosting contracts are based on infrastructure under management - the less the infrastructure under management, the less the cost.
  • Reduced revenue loss through higher uptime/availability. Consolidation reduces the cost of implementing high-availability solutions, which reduces revenue losses due to downtime.
  • Improved service management. By standardising and reducing the complexity of service infrastructure, organisations facilitate more effective service management processes, tools, and automated system administration.
  • Simplified contingency planning solutions. A simpler service infrastructure means that more services can be restored when a site failure occurs.
  • Improved quality of service (QoS). Consolidation will facilitate improvement in application up-time and will deliver higher systems performance.
  • Increased reliability and availability. Server consolidation makes it more economic to provide high-availability configurations and dedicated support staff. Organisations also benefit from implementing better storage management and service continuity solutions.
  • Improved performance. Standardised systems deliver more predictable performance, and proprietary technologies such as data compression can improve query response times.
  • Improved infrastructure agility. In uncertain times, flexibility and the ability to respond quickly to changing needs of the business can help to maintain the competitive edge. Consolidation results in a more standardised, centralised and dynamic infrastructure, which makes it possible for systems to be more responsive to change and to quickly adapt to business needs.
  • Improved consistency. Consolidation improves interoperability, and makes systems more productive and easier to manage:
  • Better integration. A consolidated platform provides for easier, and cheaper, systems integration, which improves data consistency and reduces the complexity of tasks such as extract, transform, and load (ETL) operations.
  • Centralised management. Because consolidation facilitates centralised management, it becomes easier to implement standard policies across your systems.
  • Reduced carbon footprint. With greater emphasis on sustainability, many organisations are striving to reduce the environmental impact that their activities have. Consolidation enables organisations to reduce their energy consumption by using less hardware as well as by using that hardware more efficiently.
  • Improved resource utilisation. Most applications that utilise Oracle elect to provision a server/s with capacity that will exceed their maximum peak load. It is a global phenomenon that many database servers run at low utilisation rates. In a consolidated deployment model, idle capacity across this infrastructure can be reclaimed by reducing the total number of required servers while not affecting application performance or availability (although the extent of the envisaged savings need confirmation within each particular organisations environment).

OaaS – The way forward

Traditionally the type of application workload for the database was a key consideration in designing and configuring the environment as allocations for, and use of, resources can be very different depending on whether the workload type is Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) or Decision Support System (DSS). 

In October 2008, Oracle unveiled the Oracle Exadata family of products which simplifies the deployment of an OaaS platform.  The Exadata family of appliances are geared towards providing high-performance, ready to scale database processing capabilities specifically mixed applications workload (DSS or OLTP) and simplifies the first step in the Design Pattern, by providing a pre-configured standardised platform.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Australian Architecture Forum - Enterprise Architecture and Cloud Computing

There has been alot of traffic and discussion regarding cloud computing over the recent months, and at the Australian Architecture Forum (AAF) event in August - Tim Rubin facilitated an Open Space Workshop that aimed to cover some of the main discussion areas:
  • Impact of the Cloud on EA Agenda
  • What is Cloud Computing?
  • Why should Enterprise Architecture care?
Cloud Computing is often characterized by: Virtualized computing resources, Multi-tenancy, limitless capacity/scalability, Self-service, Dynamic provisioning, Pay-for-use pricing.

Much of the discussion generated by the attendees during the open space session
was around some of the following points:
  1. When Cloud Computing may be a fit - particularly around the profiles of applications, security and data, the sorts of commercial models that need to be considered and discussion around Infrastructure vs Application as a service models
  2. How Cloud Computing differs from “old” approaches - eg ASP and Outsourcing etc
  3. Does IT Matter - the diminishing role of the datacentre support team and impact on ongoing operation
The more that I delve into the topic of cloud computing, the more that I ask is

does cloud computing = outsourcing 2.0?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Australian Architecture Forum - Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture

In August, Tim Rubin and I ran a couple of the open space breakout sessions as Part of the Australian Architecture Forum in both Melbourne and Sydney. The first being around Pragmatic Enterprise Architect, the second regarding Cloud Computing. Not surprising the interest and the inter-relationship between the 2 topics gathered alot of interest and open discussion.

In Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture, I positioned a quote that I like from Gartner, where they suggest that
Just Enough models should be created Just In Time to address the specific (Business Driven Requirements) - Gartner 2005

exploring this further, a lot of time can be spent building artifacts that have little or no impact on business outcome and as such we need to think carefully about how much is built out. I suggested the following 6 steps
  1. Identify the Business Strategy and Objective
  2. Establish an EA program/requirement
  3. Define the "Future State" Architecture (Don't spend too much time dwelling and documenting the past)
  4. Define the EA Roadmap (Linked to business benefits)
  5. Establish EA Governance (ensuring measurement and attainment of business priorities)
The key to Enterprise Architecture is not the volume or the number of artifacts that you create, but the pragmatism and ability to action them!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Light Bulb Interview - David Preiss - Part 3

Welcome to the part 3/3 of the Light Bulb Effect interview with David Preiss - Head of IT Strategy & Architecture for Superpartners . In this series I will be interviewing a number of influential Enterprise Architect's and IT strategists focused around 3 key areas:

  1. Major Trends in EA Posted 29-April-2009
  2. Working in the New Business Climate Posted 11- May-2009
  3. Hot Topics for EA
Part 3- Hot Topics in EA

MC: There has been a lot of discussion around common 'Hot Topics'. What should organisations consider when thinking about "Green Computing"?

DP: Auto power off at night, Solid state hard disks, LCD screens, recycle, recycle, recycle, stop printing so much, there's many more- but I'm no green expert.

MC: How about the directions of "SOA"?

DP: There is still a lot of confusion in the industry about SOA. Most mid-large enterprises now have numerous elements of SOA in place; obviously some organizations are more mature than others. SOA Governance and SOA run-time monitoring will be high on the agenda of most CIOs as they chase control of their environments/consumption of services and the ability to calculate the unit-cost of their key transactions, both internal and B2B.

MC: What is your view of "Open Source"?

DP: Like most things it's about fit for purpose. Some of the religious fanaticism that comes around open source can lead to compromising situations, and remember very rarely is anything really "free".

MC: What are you thoughts regarding "SaaS/Utilty/Cloud and outsourcing/off shoring"?

DP: Saas will continue to be adopted quickly in non-business critical (Tier 2, 3, 4) applications, with slower adoption in Tier-1 applications. Cloud will be adopted more slowly again with many companies adopting a fast follower approach but waiting on other organizations to try it out first. Privacy issues will continue to remain as a blocker for some organizations entering the cloud.

Governance and management of off shoring arrangements will receive a larger focus in the years ahead and few companies will be really ready to have the skills, and infrastructure in place to do this well.

MC: What are other "Hot Topics" that you are thinking about?

DP: With the prevalence of off-shoring, there will be fewer application development jobs available in Australia in the short-medium term. These jobs serve as the training ground for many other roles; Architect, PM, Management, BA etc. What will be the feeder for these roles without this training ground, Uni places dropping and immigration levels dropping? Won't be understood until 2012-2017.

MC: What has been your 'light bulb' moment in EA Methodology/Governance?
DP: EA Methodology and Governance needs to be relevant and pragmatic but you must also have the support of your executive and company board for it to get traction within the enterprise

David thanks for your open candor and contribution to the blog...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Light Bulb Interview - David Preiss - Part 2

Welcome to the latest Light Bulb Effect interview with David Preiss - Head of IT Strategy & Architecture for Superpartners . In this series I will be interviewing a number of influential Enterprise Architect's and IT strategists focused around 3 key areas:

  1. Major Trends in EA Posted 29-April-2009
  2. Working in the New Business Climate
  3. Hot Topics for EA
Part 2 - Working in the New Business Climate

MC: A lot has been discussed regarding the new business climate how do you think today's Enterprise Architect needs to adapt?
DP: Enterprise Architects will need to be pragmatic, and look for innovative ways to lower cost, without a lot of upfront investment necessarily. Enterprise Architecture can sometimes be seen as theoretical and too far abstracted from the details of projects and real business processes. Enterprise Architecture can provide massive value when applied well but a lot of it is dependant on the skills/knowledge competence of the EA and what they bring to the organization. Both domain and technology excellence is required.

MC: So in the new economy how do organisations need to adapt?
DP: It's no different to what organizations should always be doing in the management of their IT. Employing tight fiscal management, and placing robust processes around the approval of investment into new IT assets. What many people forget is that the old saying was "Re-use before buy before build", not just "Buy before build".

MC: What considerations need to be made between CAPEX vs. OPEX when designing solutions?
DP: It's simple – make sure you've got enough OPEX to operate and run, whatever you bought with CAPEX – otherwise don't buy it!

MC: What advice would you give to a new IT graduate entering the industry in 2009?
DP: Go back to Uni and study law. No seriously make sure you are the best you can be. Opportunities will be limited and work ethic, a willingness to listen and learn will sort out who gets the good opportunities when the economy picks up.

MC: What skill sets should a new IT Graduate focus on?
DP: Make sure you get a solid technical grounding in mainstream application development environments; .NET and/or JEE and mainstream databases; Oracle, SQL Server or DB2 but don't only focus on that.

SOA/BPM/EAI tool-sets will be in high demand for some time to come and this work is likely to stay predominantly Australian based, more-so than bespoke application development which has less barriers to being developed offshore. There is still not critical mass in these technologies in Australia so there will be opportunities for high performers.

Focus on analysis and design skills, and develop your verbal and written communication skills as these stay with you as technologies/trends/use of off shoring changes the nature of projects and opportunities in the workforce.

There is a real shortage of good highly technical people managers in Australia, and the opportunity is there for those who want to forge a management career.

Good customer service in whatever you do!

MC: What changes have you noticed in the IT Eco-system over the last 5 years?
DP: The legitimization of Microsoft as an Enterprise technology would be the biggest that comes to mind.
  • The consolidation of vendors and products in all areas.
  • The prominence and buy-in to SOA.
  • The proliferation of IT role-types and roles to provide focus on Business/IT alignment which has become by far the most important guiding principle over the past five years.
  • Prominence of offshore delivery models.
MC: What changes do you envisage over the next 5 years?
DP: More vendor/product consolidation is inevitable. Google will diversify into other Microsoft controlled territories more and more and possibly surpass Microsoft's market capitalization. Key to this will be control of the "Office" applications on the desktop and pay for use revenue models on services which are free today but have become part of everyday life.
  • More off-shoring of bespoke application development and especially system testing (but not UAT).
  • More tools to support SOA environments and to support business operations and control of SOA.
  • Likely to be more fixed-term IT permanent roles, rather than open-ended permanent roles or contracts as companies look to protect themselves against changing skill requirements as well as get better value for money than hourly contractors. A weakened IT labour market will drive this.
  • Cloud computing will start to penetrate more as privacy issues are controlled. VoIP likely to get much more traction as reliability improves.
  • IT departments must see themselves and act like they are part of the business, not abstracted from it in a client-service relationship.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Light Bulb Interview - David Preiss - Part 1

Welcome to the latest Light Bulb Effect interview. In this series I will be interviewing a number of influential Enterprise Architect's and IT strategists focused around 3 key areas:

  1. Major Trends in EA
  2. Working in the New Business Climate
  3. Hot Topics for EA
This interview is with David Preiss - Head of IT Strategy & Architecture for Superpartners. David is a well respected member of the Architecture and IT Strategy community having worked in a number of industries including Financial Services, Defence and Telecommunications. The interview will be posted over 3 parts and I thank David for agreeing to take part and insightful responses which are his personal opinions and not necessarily the views of Superpartners.

Part 1 - Trends in EA and IT

MC: What do you see as the role of Enterprise Architecture as related to Business Strategy?

DP: Enterprise Architecture should provide the alignment and common language between business strategy and the planning of introducing, maintaining and retiring of enterprise IT assets.

MC: What is the role of Architecture Governance?

DP: Architecture Governance has three main functions:

  1. Ensure that IT projects (and any other initiatives) are implemented in line with Enterprise IT standards and policies
  2. Ensure that IT projects implement the architecture that they planned to implement during planning/business case
  3. Monitor and report the success (or otherwise) of the architecture to meet the benefits qualified and quantified in the business case
MC: What are the Trends in Enterprise Systems?
DP: Consolidation is always on the agenda and will continue to be. I think there may well be a swing back towards having fewer, large applications in the enterprise and standardizing on one or two platforms rather than buying the “best of breed” in every category and ending up with umpteen different solutions from different vendors. The last ten years of the “best of breed” approach has not necessarily served all enterprises well with cost creep evident in application maintenance, hardware/software maintenance, vendor management, etc. Speed to market has been compromised as application architectures have become increasingly more complex over time.

Still a heavy focus on package solutions but organizations will look to put in “vanilla” solutions, with no customization – simplifying implementation and protecting the ever-important upgrade path. Vendor packages which are not truly configurable (parameterized)/extendable and require custom coding changes to the core will not be widely adopted.

MC: Trends in Infrastructure?
DP: Nothing that new here.
  • Virtualization is a key trend. Managed Services vendors will need to be more flexible in their pricing arrangements as today cost savings of virtualization are diminished by a fee/logical VM model. Virtual Networks next.
  • Green IT. Much more pressure will be put on organizations to reduce power consumption/carbon footprint, recycle etc.
  • Cloud infrastructure will continue to develop but many companies are taking a watch and see approach – especially financial services where privacy and security of personal data is paramount.
  • Telepresence – 3D virtual meeting rooms are of such a high quality now that they will replace the need for much interstate/international business travel.
  • Mobility – The bandwidth/coverage we have in Australia now from Telstra on their network is the best in the world. This is going to mean that applications can always be “online”. Applications which go offline when laptops are removed from the physical LAN (and the synchronization issues that later occur with offline transactions) will become less and less common which will be a major advance for business processes across all industries.
MC: How about trends in Software/Hardware?
DP: As above.

MC: Networking and Telecommunications?
DP: As above.

End of Part 1