Saturday, July 30, 2011

The "21st Century Bits Factory"

Growing up in Detroit, I was always fascinated by the auto factories. Beyond the fact that I had tons of friends and relatives that worked there, I used to love to go on the tours to watch the massive machinery turn out these incredible pieces of automative art. But over time, the atmosphere in the factories changed as competition from European and Asian carmakers increased. Things become more automated, resources were brought in "just in time", parts were sourced from all over the world and in some cases actually came from competitors. Terms like "lean manufacturing" and "six sigma" began to flood into the vocabulary of anyone involved in manufacturing in the 70s, 80s or 90s.

For people working in IT, a similar transition is rapidly taking place. For some people, they may view the burst of new Data Center building announcements (here, here, here, here, here, and many more) as just a new phase in IT evolution. But I actually believe it's something bigger than simply the natural trends of Moore's Law.

I've been using the phrase "21st Century Bits Factory" for about six months now because I believe this new trend toward hyper-efficient Data Center facilities and operations is a similar tipping point to what we saw in the manufacturing industry decades ago. But instead of making cars or widgets, these giants factories are creating products, commerce and business value through 1s and 0s. The businesses they support are almost entirely driven by the value of this data, so the businesses are beginning to invest in their data centers with laser focus.
On a side note, I had the opportunity to visit a number of factories in China a couple of years ago. There were two elements that seemed to be very consistent in many of the factories: 

  • The factory had been given the goal of trying to reduce their physical footprint by 30-50% every 12-18 months. Not only did this mean they needed to reduce the number of steps to create the unit, but potentially find new ways to do it in a small space. This might means new tools, different ways to store inventory, etc. The new space would be used to take on new production lines for the business. [Image if IT organizations had that mandate. What new doors could it open for the business?]

  • The factory managers were constantly pointing out unique "best practices" that the factory workers had created themselves, in response to motivating factors (usually $$ bonuses) to improve the productivity of the factory. Sometimes these resulted in better products and sometimes it reduced costs or time to completion. [Image if IT organizations were measured by those metrics, instead of primarily on uptime? Could their experience drive better products? Could their experience enable new business opportunities or business models?}

  • So what does all of this mean to the IT industry?

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    "The Cloud Concierge" - The New CIO - Creating IT as a Platform

    [Acknowledgement: The name "Cloud Concierge" came from Christian Reilly (@reillyusa), Chief Cloud Architect at Bechtel.]

    I submitted the following session abstract to a few Cloud Computing events in the fall. Since it's uncertain if a session will even get accepted by a particular show, I thought it would be a useful exercise to just go ahead and elaborate on the concept via the blog, as I believe the concept is an important next-step for any CIO looking to align their business needs with the portfolio of IT options available to them today and in the future. 
    Abstract: Faced with many cloud computing options (public, private, hybrid) and the threat of “shadow IT”, tomorrow’s CIO will need to evolve corporate IT into an operational model that is less about saying “no” and more about enabling the cross-cloud capabilities required for 21st century business. This session will discuss the technology and operational transitions needed by CIOs in every industry to accommodate the trade-offs between device proliferation at the edges and operational efficiencies for their 21st century bit factories. Attendees will have a blueprint to evolve IT from an organization into a platform for delivering better IT.

    Before I get into some of the specifics, I believe that it's valuable to identify some high-level concepts and trends that are driving technology today:
    • Public Cloud Computing
    • Mobile Computing - Computing “in your pocket”
    • Consumerization of Devices (prices, app-stores, usability)
    • Connected Applications (Web 2.0)
    • Big Data Analytics and Analysis
    • Move Applications to the Network (NAPs for Connectivity)
    • Move Data to the Computer (Big Data)
    [NOTE] So people don't need to read details on those concepts prior the explanation of the abstract, I moved them to the end.