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IT Must Invest in Architecture and Engineering: Adaptivity CEO

Exclusive Q&A with Adaptivity Founder & CEO, Tony Bishop

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In this exclusive Q&A for SYS-CON's Cloud Computing Journal with Cloud Expo Conference Chair, Jeremy Geelan, Tony Bishop - Founder & CEO of Adaptivity - discusses Adaptivity's "IT Transformation Factory" and their Cloud Computing strategy.

Bishop gave a General Session at the 5th Cloud Expo in New York in April entitled "Understanding the Relationship Between Workloads and the Cloud."

About Tony Bishop: As Chairman and CEO, he leads the team and provides hands-on coaching, thought leadership and executive strategy support for Adaptivity's key clients and partners. He is an innovative IT executive, with an excellent track record in strategy, design, and the implementation of business-aligned enterprise technology platforms across large organizations. He most recently served as SVP and Chief Architect of Wachovia’s Corporate Investment Banking Technology Group, where his team designed, built, and implemented a leading-edge service-oriented architecture and utility computing infrastructure.

About Adaptivity Corporation: Adaptivity provides integrated solutions that automate IT Delivery optimization across enterprise computing environments. Our integrated solutions include a unified knowledge base and an expert workbench that allows customers to design and optimize the delivery model of their infrastructure computing environments. These solutions help customers and partners change how they organize, architect, engineer and manage their IT supply chain.

Cloud Computing Journal: What's the idea behind the term ‘IT Transformation Factory' as an umbrella term for Adaptivity's activities in the Cloud Computing space?

Tony Bishop: The industry is intensely focused on a narrow definition of Cloud Computing (remotely managed IaaS resources). Adaptivity sees the opportunity from a much broader perspective. IaaS type resources managed externally from the enterprise do provide value; however, the larger opportunity is enabling enterprises to change how they deliver and consume IT resources.

The IT Transformation Factory is a combination of tools, knowledge base, and advisory services, which together form turnkey programs that accelerate systematic enterprise IT delivery transformation.

Cloud Computing Journal: How would you characterize a "next-generation" data center?

Bishop: There's a lot that goes into the design of a next-generation data center, so much that I wrote a book on the subject: Next Generation Datacenters in Financial Services: Driving Extreme Efficiency and Effective Cost Savings. The primary characteristic of a next-generation data center is that it empowers IT in its efforts to maximize business effectiveness. As infrastructure is tailored to workloads, its organization is reflective of business realities (not technology limitations), and it's able to respond to business events as they happen, which makes for a much more agile organization.

There are a number of fundamental changes to how design characteristics should be considered:

  • Respect IT Physics: An application/service's computer infrastructure should be located with other application/services that it is mostly likely to communicate with, reducing contention.
  • Tailored Infrastructure: The computing resources are no longer generic and are now tuned to the types of workloads running within an application.
  • Demise of the Silo: IT changes its focus from the delivery of isolated silos of technology resources to high-level services aligned with business operations.
  • Enhanced Recovery: Grouping of services via their organization in the data center helps mitigate technology risk by providing a clear view of what's required to restore business capabilities in disaster recovery scenarios.

Cloud Computing Journal: Have advancements in Virtualization and Cloud Computing made managing an organization's IT resource inventory easier or harder?

Bishop: Much harder. The traditional tools and processes for managing inventory were caught off guard by the rapid proliferation of these technologies and are only now beginning to catch up to virtualization, never mind cloud computing. There's even some debate about what should count as a resource and its boundaries, especially in the cloud space. This lack of clarity regarding where resource boundaries begin and end further blurs the matter.

That said, there's opportunity for changing the notion of what a resource is and keeping an inventory of high-level constructs, such as business services. As resources are delivered via the cloud, attention will move away from managing asset inventory and toward capacity management.

A Full General Session Room at Cloud Expo 2010 East in New York for Adaptivity's CEO

Cloud Computing Journal: Why is Cloud Computing recession-relevant?

Bishop: The traditional IT delivery model isn't tied to business performance. When the recession really started kicking in, it became apparent how many problems in the data center have been solved by throwing money at them. In fact, as many businesses have seen a reduction in revenue and gross numbers of transactions to process, they have not had the ability to curtail the corresponding IT costs, and costs continued to rise in many cases. Organizations that could not "turn off" an entire application were often faced with leaving the often "over-provisioned" infrastructure as is. The elastic nature of the cloud helps close the gap between what the business needs for operations for any given market environment. The recession has made organizations take stock of their current expense models for IT and therefore they are more open to the consideration of alternatives.

Cloud Computing Journal: How about the trend towards real-time in IT; what are the main business drivers for that?

Bishop: The primary driver is the competitive advantage provided by the ability to meet the demands of the business environment moment by moment in a more agile manner. This trend toward real-time is not just about the time-to-market benefits, but also about providing real-time capabilities that enable the business to build a sustainable competitive advantage by tailoring its IT services toward specific demands. The more tailored to the specific nature of HOW the business operates, the more difficult it is for the competition to duplicate. A business that is more agile becomes more effective. A business that is able to operate more effectively than the competition has a major strategic advantage.

Cloud Computing Journal: So what's the secret to making Cloud Computing work at the enterprise level?

Bishop: Economics is the driving force to create the disciplines needed to properly move applications into the cloud. When software development first began moving to India, there were poor controls in place and results were mixed. Over time, disciplines were created that improved the success rate, such that it's now unusual for large projects to have no part of the development being outsourced. The situation is similar with cloud computing. The disciplines needed to manage the business in this way are still in their infancy. In particular, the challenges of security and reliability are major concerns, followed closely by FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

To combat these obstacles, enterprises are applying cloud principles to how they deliver IT internally in order to begin the process of developing the needed new disciplines. Beware, those who see cloud as only a way to more rapidly deploy traditional resources (compute, storage, network) will be trounced by those who use cloud to transform how the whole organization operates. The reason they will fall behind is that they are missing a critical opportunity to transform IT delivery, which requires holistic process changes. This is not a "throw it over the wall" solution. The same mistakes were made in the initial outsourcing craze.

Cloud Computing Journal: Is Cloud Computing, as some have claimed, "pure SOA" - and if so is that good or bad?

Bishop: The answer to this question is likely filed somewhere near "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" The answer depends on the definitions you're working with and your world view. Clearly SOA service can be delivered via Cloud Computing resources and Cloud Computing resources can ‘be discovered.' The bigger issue is that neither Cloud Computing nor SOA really have proper systematic mechanisms to ensure resources are properly applied based on workload characteristics and the interconnectedness of their interactions. In this case, this abstraction sets us back and not forward. "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." - Einstein

Cloud Computing Journal: You've been known to quote Tim Berners-Lee, who once said "I think IT projects are about supporting social systems - about communications between people and machines. They tend to fail due to cultural issues." Is that still true today, do you find?

Bishop: Yes. If we humans ever go to war with our machine counterparts, mark my words, it'll be because of a lack of communication about workload characteristics and the intensity of collaboration required!

The issue here is that IT is taking short cuts with its current application profiling techniques. Generally, profiling is an afterthought in the design process, if it takes place at all. Even when done, it's a process much similar to throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. Instead demand, as characterized by workload and collaboration, should have a direct influence on our designs from the beginning, such that the infrastructure is tailored to the job at hand. This perspective facilitates implementations that work under all conditions, which is increasingly important in a world where the digital supply chain is the new organizational face.

This leads to the final part of the quote on cultural issues. Effective use of the cloud means that IT organizations are going to have to change. Silos must be broken down so that resource sharing is possible. Discussions between IT and the business about Service Level Agreements (SLA) must occur in a meaningful way so that they can lead to Operational and Execution Level Agreements (OLA, ELA). Disciplines must be created and invested to promote and sustain the transformation of IT. It all comes down to greater rigor and responsibility among groups, and many organizations are not ready for that kind of interaction or transparency. Too many people in IT and business will perceive that they can be on the losing end of such a transformation. Therefore the organization has to grapple with what is valuable and change that value system (culture) in order to achieve the behavioral changes required.

Cloud Computing Journal: What's the best way, do you think, to go beyond the basic virtualization strategy and consider, say, grids that can be shared by multiple projects across business lines?

Bishop: You're describing a utility computing model, where shared grids have been successfully implemented by many firms, especially financial services firms. We're focusing on the step beyond that, which is moving workloads seamlessly across the whole footprint of the data center, such that the right resources are applied to whichever problems the organization needs without code changes. This is being accomplished via a holistic virtualization approach that maps business demands to resource supply, augmented by a trend toward predictive and self-healing infrastructures.

Cloud Computing Journal: How big an issue is security for enterprises that wish to migrate toward Cloud-based infrastructure wholly or in part?

Bishop: Enormous; security can't be understated. The problem of security is compounded by all the different layers of security that must be addressed. Everything from application security services all the way down to physical security is a concern, including everything in between such as transmission and data storage (transient and long term). Organizations have already been dealing with all the different challenges security presents; the particular challenge with public Cloud-based infrastructure is that a third party has to be entrusted with some portion of these responsibilities, which becomes a trust issue. This is another area where FUD (Fear, Uncertainly, and Doubt) will need to be overcome. It stands to reason that the issues around security will be used as the weapon of choice by those who want to slow down progress to the public cloud. So again culture plays a role here.

Cloud Computing Journal: And what about management, how's that being taken care of? Can the deployment and management of computing clouds really be automated, or is that in the far-off future still?

Bishop: Yes, management can be automated based on business policies, security policies, and cultural changes to operations - though there is no holistic solution for workload management - so these services need to be pulled together through a combination of technologies. Many organizations have been focused on virtual machines, but that virtualization construct really doesn't provide the granularity or the dynamic capabilities needed to properly manage workloads.

Furthermore, the language for setting business expectations needs to be recast. For example, SLAs are needed, for those that do exist are insufficient. An SLA speaks to what service needs to be provided, but not how to adjust the underlying resources should different execution conditions be encountered. For instance, doubling the number of compute resources won't help if a service is storage bound. We've introduced the concept of Execution Level Agreements (ELAs) with our clients to help them define the behavior of their dynamic infrastructures to make sure that SLAs are met.

Cloud Computing Journal: How big a part are standards going to play in the success of the Cloud?

Bishop: Ideally, standards are important to facilitate inter-operation and integration, but standards usually lag severely behind innovation by several years. Those who innovate now have a better chance to lead their segment by making deliberate technology choices and thoughtful designs. Don't be surprised to see early standards used to shut out competition by large vendors that have a strong influence on standards boards. Our message is keep an eye out for industry standards that make sense to adopt, but in the interim develop your disciplines now or be left behind.

Two key disciplines that IT must invest in are Architecture and Engineering. Architecture will help IT make the tradeoff assessments for non-standard technology more rigorous, while developing designs that have a better chance of adapting as standards become finalized. Engineering helps IT test and configure new technologies so that risk can be properly understood. These are investments that will make an organization much more competitive.

Cloud Computing Journal: 2009 has been a year of obvious challenges, from both a CapEx and an OpEx perspective, for anyone involved with Enterprise IT. Finally, what's your top tip, as a seasoned software executive, to those other CEOs out there right now - especially CEOs of embattled start-ups who may be looking for some magic bullet to ensure they're alive (and well) as a company in 2010?

Bishop: To my mind, a magic bullet implies an easy fix. The simple sales formulas of the past, where IT allowed itself to play the subservient role of being order takers, are no longer appropriate. The key strategic move for IT is to move its focus up the organizational hierarchy and provide holistic solutions that meet business challenges. You must have a story that is interesting to CxOs. This critical decision making process can no longer be relegated to system managers or technicians as the stakes have become too high.

In a time of limited funding, only initiatives that are considered business imperatives are going to get funded. Solutions must be clearly articulated and tailored to the challenges at hand and must be able to show significant results within a quarter.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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