Saturday, 31 January 2009

To Prospero or not

I was listening to some classical work entitled “A Midsummer night’s Dream” by Steve Hackett and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on my iPod this Saturday which provided a beautiful audio and visual minds eye rendition of my favourite Shakespeare play.  At the time I was conducting the early Saturday morning taxi ritual of taking my son to his swimming class and sitting there watching the mingling around and flows of up and down  swimming class lessons in their ritual lanes. It all left one frankly feeling a bit of a Puck as to whether this was an effective use of my time but of course it was.    Like a noble play to music the progression of students passing personal hurdles to reach their goals as they moved up the pre, bronze, silver, gold and merit standards, it was all quite life affirming. Acquiring a useful skill to be able to swim without fear and to save someone’s life was a good investment of time and energy even if some of the parents on looking probably wished it could go faster.   

Never one to sit idle I was working on the obligatory laptop (no public internet access again, when will this change rather than another telco billing opportunity)  Seeking to analyse the latest papers from recent research on billing and pricing models for IT, it was quite a contrast but a divertingly interesting mental challenge.  The research went on and a brief synthesis concluded that a new business model was upon us and that many observers where  saying this was good as it was “counter cyclical”. That’s code for the product and service is stable and recession proof and works in times of high and low demand acting as a great lifesaver for business in times of economic downturn.  This was all in referral to “software as a service” and the on demand evolution of IT services and how the business operating model could be improved through offering a subscription based opex pricing and payment model.  Its core benefit was the ability to change quickly and rapidly towards a much shorter payment profile and to remove the costs of updates and changes into a managed service rather than additional ownership headache.   It was all very compelling in the available opportunity for an organization to change its ways and to establish a new portfolios of business processes that were supported by a fundamentally different idea of IT as services on demand. But there were some barriers that where evident in the old world order  of longer term licences and asset ownership that had been the main stay of IT business revenues sources for many years. They would have to learn to let go and to take on a new operating model way of working.  It was as if the old world had to cast off its old ways and to realize that a new approach had arrived. This was more than just an internal change in working practices as precept in so many other new standards and technologies but a potential step change in the whole operating model and marketplace as the shift in costs and revenues altered ground from buyer and supplier.

I recalled another play “The Tempest” which I see as allegorical for the witness of the end of the Renaissance and the birth of the modern era. Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan and sorcerer finds himself cast off from his kingdom where he is no longer needed. Cast away on an island with his earthly daughter Miranda and captured spirit Ariel (subtext read today’s IT) whom he enslaves and promises freedom for cooperation but deferred to some future date.    Prospero manipulates the situation to get revenge and to protect his invested daughter in what might be seen as an attempt to preserve the past.  Ultimately after some final acts of old magic he realizes the merits of the new order for the benefit of the next generation and casts away the old magic forever.  It’s a path of hopefulness and expectation of the future being better than the past and that all is not in vain.  I think this is clearly a challenge in the adoption of new technology and business to manage change to underpin their very liquidity and lifeline.   
I guess it’s up to us to restore amends.

(Picture: Prospero, Ariel and sleeping Miranda from a painting by William Hamilton   Wikipedia)

What is Cloud Computing?

A description of the cloud

 Cloud computing is an emerging new trend in computing and information management services.  The development of the  cloud has really moved into full throttle in 2009 as the consolidating of virtualization of IT hardware and software moves into a new paradigm for on-demand business.

The concept for on-demand is not new and had been used by major companies such as IBM and to drive home a new service delivery model with agile and responsive service. 

But what is less obvious is the definition of what exactly is Cloud computing?  Its used liberally to describe a number of features and capabilities but there appears to be an implied assumption that "it’s cloud computing".

Cloud computing is a emerging term that can be described in the following key breakdown of features.

·         Cloud is a new business model for IT services  provisioning

o   It is more than the service consumer producer model of SOA and builds on the components and exchange protocols of the internet and integration of systems with common standards such as XML IP, URL, WS, REST and MAC addresses and formats.

o   It’s an extension of the IT architecture to become a complete environment  that can be offered at as a service.  Cloud computing is the emergence of a Platform as a Service combining the resources and assets of a platform architecture of offering this through a defining provisioning process as a service.  While the definitions of “as a Service” vary widely, the core principle is that any aspect of the people, , skills, process, technology or the operation and service can be “as a service” potentially.

·         Cloud is an “elastic” deployment framework  as well as a solution architecture

o   A “cloud solution” has additional components that enable the architecture to be deployed in a highly scalable and consumable way.

o   These additional components are a set of tools and standards that support massive parallel and scaleable foundations for the service. These included encapsulated tiers of the architecture that allow elastic scaling (what is sometimes also terms non-linear independence growth potential such that the number of users or load on the system is independent of the physical architecture. You just keep on scaling the “grid” to support expanding or contracting capacity demand.)

o   A core new feature of this encapsulation is the creation of a meta level description  of the architecture itself as part of the solution definition.  This concept while part of the semantic web ideas it potentially changes the static models of EAB, CMDB and WS*/REST/XML etc components into a integrated whole.  You provision at the architecture level of service.

·         Cloud is a “pay as you” go mentality

o   The economic paradigm of cloud is a move from Capex to Opex commercial arrangements

o   This fundamentally shifts the location of competitive advantage from asset ownership to also include asset usage.  What this means is that the transition to a on-demand service operating model will redefine the way support and licensing models will work and be measured.

·         Cloud is a marketplace commercial model

o   “Cloud solutions” are characterised by membership of a catalogue , configuration and connection with a expanding community of contributors and users.

o   Cloud solutions are typically designed for large scale use across multiple environments and users.  The conditions of use and technology often create current limitations of the range of machine images, proprietary versus open code base languages supported.

o   In the marketplace operating model the location of the service can be on-premise and off-premise and include a combination of both.

o   Cloud can include the  platform for BPO and industry as a Service.

o   The marketplace model is extended to knowledge management and collaboration in a virtual marketplace sense. The new business models of cloud include the role of service aggregator and service broker as well as service infrastructure provider.

o   A consequence of this provisioning model is the implications of the security and reliability of the service become paramount. The federated identify management and security management of company assets has to be able to withstand remote access and contiguous user access across multiple services.   The reliability of backup, recovery and consistency of service has to build into an environment that can be multi-tenant shared between multiple users with variable service level requirements. This places additional stresses and complexity of operation to preserve the compliance and performance requirements.

·         Cloud is an  industrialization of IT framework

o   The definition of a cloud service by its very existence needs to have an integrated specification of the design and run time environment in order to support a defined and clear “on-demand” capability.     For example when I select a catalogue service and request a new cloud environment it should just automatically or semi-automatically go and provision this service.  In order to do this the operating specification of the cloud service has to be stable, robust and known. 

o   The provision of cloud solutions means a definition of the architecture that is parametric and within a managed service environment.  This is to get the benefits of optimal load balancing versus the pay for what you use and need supporting rather than what you own mentality of Cloud.

o   The industrialization is more than a standardization of tools and solutions service delivery life cycle  but also extends to the productization lifecycle of exiting and new IT products and service into and out of the cloud ecosystem.

·         Cloud is a resource management framework

o   The project management and software development lifecycles are extended to include resource management lifecycle as an implicit set of inputs and outputs of the total service delivery framework.

o   The generation of reusable assets and capacity become a derived activity of the cloud based services.  

o   Construction and destruction of solutions and capacity are a feature of this world and cloud supports the notion of destructible or disposable software and hardware as a design pattern.  Reuse is not just from repeatable use of common solutions where appropriate but also in the ability to construct rapid environments and solutions leveraged utility style components and tools

·         Cloud is a collaboration orchestration framework

o   Really a feature of marketplace and industrialization beyond the four walls of a business operation. The cloud is a next generation forum of what supply chain and consumer and producer experience is rapidly becoming. An on-line interaction place where our daily lives , transactions, provisioning, acquisition of knowledge and wealth is increasingly the norm.

o   The cloud provides points of aggregation and brokering that is more than the individual participants. It is a development of the standards and services to include multiple (cloud) resourcing, alternatives, substitutions and communities in domestic  and commercial markets.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Thunderbirds and flight of Hermes

I was recently flying to India from Europe and passed over the expanse of Saudi Arabian desert sands.  The first evidence of this was the change in light and then the gradual build up of a yellow hue  in the upper atmosphere as the ground changed from green to golden brown contours.  I looked across the vast expanse of sands and in the landscape you could just make out sparse small villages that appeared to be literally in the middle of no where with just one or two winding roads leading to the habitation. It was clear from the air I had passed over some kind of transition from the west to the east and this very visible geographical boundary was an impressive reminder.     But it reminded me of the other things going on in my thoughts on how such extremes of environment and the human responses to these challenges could be realized.   In what appeared impossible odds and locations how could solutions be achieved to build and manage these worlds when compared to the minuscule physical size of the tools, transport vehicles and resources to master these vast expanses.  It reminded me of a phrase I had pick up in a previous trip to America  that included a visit to Amazon at their headquarters in Seattle a few weeks previous when I had heard the term "Planet Scale Systems" for the first time that made the hairs on the back of my neck rise with the realization of the ambition and scope of the statement.   It spoke of the ability of what its takes to make a stage that enabled a new capability that was at such a scale that it would be big enough to redefine the environment and experience.

This was never more made apparent with the simply mind boggling investment in Dubai in the stop off on the way to India . In the space of 20 years Dubai had built new "landmasses in the sea" to fulfil a dream of a new capability in architecture, commerce, and national statement of pride.  What was originally just an expanse had been terraformed and engineered to shape new buildings, locations and services that hitherto would not have been conceivable a mere generation earlier.

I see this as an emergence of a new kind of thinking, a new methodology in which the parameters of the problem are not just within the four walls of a the existing room or the inventory of current resources with their inbuilt constraints and solutions.  It is evidence that our engineering has grown and continues to grow to match the challenges and dreams.   They look at the expanse of possibilities and describe the upper limits of what needs to be designed and to go forward and build a machine or a device that could match these huge performance metrics. What could hold us back in the thinking and ambitious was nothing more than the ability to think these ideas.

I often thought when looking at the fantasy TV program of "International Rescue" where was the Thunderbird1 and Thunderbird2  in real life to come to the rescue in extreme events?  Why could we not have machines that were capable of meeting the speed , lifting , distance and performance when ordinary flight and transport was wanting and undersized.    How do we develop a craft that would be able to move effortlessly and pick out the small island in the expanse, to be able to capture vast resources and to control and leverage these to built capabilities.
Clearly there are limitations in the maturity of the technology and funds but that does not mean that the possibilities of meeting the challenge is unreachable, its a matter of invention and scale.  The parallels were obvious when the scope of possible solutions become far reaching and the possibility to change the way we measure our selves from mastering the physical constraints to the new metrics of delivered capability and use anywhere.  

This is never more pressing in times of extreme parameters in the global climate and our economic fortunes when the ability to think big and bring new solutions is essential to redefine the outcomes of our future. 

Monday, 26 January 2009

The clouds of Supply and Demand

Much has been written about the development of new business models with the post technological world of the internet.  We only have to look back just 10 years to see a world that was running head long into an interconnected evolution where companies seeing the light of web screens becoming a new communications channel for business sought to figure out how to establish a platform and a presence in the new digital world.  I often smile when watching some late night cop show from the early 1990’s as one of the actors pulls out the high tech “cell phone” that resembles more the size of a shoe box much less a portable communications device. How things have changed.

What  has changed above many other aspects apart from the physical devices is the variety of choice that we see today in the consumer and business marketplace.  You only have to look at the abundance of content and features in business products in all fields of industry to see that making a choice of how to build or  deliver a new product or service is open to many possibilities.

Yet these choices are also difficult to see the underlying trends as each new event of business and technology arrives. Just look at the evolution of such examples as cable and broadband services or the development of healthcare  services or the regional impact of workforce skills and costs in how the underlying dynamics of the marketplace is constantly shifting from the past, today and future.

How do companies position themselves to leverage the dynamics of the market and the evolution or sometime revolutionary imperatives of new or existing challenges.

Cloudy Capabilities

What we see is the boundaries of supply and demand are blurring into a new way of executing business. Where once the supply chain of products and services may have been a singular or group of defined value added connections between customers and suppliers and intermediates, this is now less obvious, less clear.

Some of the characteristics emerging include:

·         Bi directional  nature of products and services

o   Products and services are nolonger just defined, designed and built in a “left to right fashion” of new product development. The collaboration of intermediates, stakeholders and the end customer themselves is part of the process.

·         Redefining what are assets

o   The definition of what it means to own and manage “assets” will evolve into something that is more than the tangible physical materials, features and knowledge. It will include the relationships and location of the assets in a virtual sense and legal property sense.   

·         Scope centricity shifts

o   The location and market place is shifting from the regional and global early adopter model into something that is more marketplace-chain like which described to total value of the business relationships in terms of the interrelatedness of the market participants rather than the individual stakeholders and participant players.

·         Modularity of causality

o   The choice of products and services will be seen more in the light of their modularity and connectedness to other related services and products and the business operating context than as stand alone entities. What will be essential is to understand the split between what is business capabilities and how those capabilities are federated and delivered.

You only have to look at the open source market in how this field has lead many new innovative business models that are challenging some of the early conceived ideas of ownership and exchange. Some radical models have emerged which have pushed the boundary of developing solutions and provisioning which has created blended hybrid and secular services from traditional business legal boundaries.

I was never more reminded of this recently In a meeting with a customer who half way through asked if the infrastructure we had could be used for “their” products and services to their end customers and intermediates. The supplier capability becomes the product and service and the customer demand.  How this has changed the earlier views of Vendor managed Inventory (VMI), Just in time (JIT) and Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR)  Clearly a new order of value management is emerging and at hand.  

Cloudy Metrics

What this means is that the metrics of competitiveness in this new order are changing and companies need to adapt to measure and stimulate these through end to end innovation; proactive governance leadership and effective well chosen partnerships and vendors.

·         Knowledge management

o   will be key  as this boundary is blurring between participants and associates inside and outside of company operating models and industry markets

·         Speed to market

o   will be a key measure as the transactional cost to execute the capex to opex transition of the product and service will be measured in terms of its effectivess and efficiency of the end business process, not just its inception and “to the customer door” only.   

·         Asset Intelligence leverage and sprawl management

o   As assets become redefined in terms of the higher value addition of the intelligence defined and derived capabilities and services associated with the utilitarian part of the exchange; how the efficiency of these “ mobile” assets will be measured in terms of how effective they can be access and leveraged and minimalized to prevent excessive redundance of capacity versus sustainable service performance. The cost of supply and cost of quality of service will have new extended metrics of service.  

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Welcome to Fuzzy Logic

Hi there, here we go with the blog or is it spelt blogg ?  either way its a great time inspite the challenges of the world.  As Socrates said in 400bc "the only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorace" so I'll endeavour to make good account of my ideas and discussions.  I will talk about my interests in Information Technology and anything else that comes along but will keep an impartial view.
Best wishes