X86 Migration, Cloud Computing provide a blank piece of paper to optimize.

How many times in life do you get to really start over?  Where we are you able to take away the bad decisions, let go of the things we’ve outgrown, or throw out the spoiled milk?  In the world of big business the answer is never.  Well, now it’s almost never.

We in the IT industry are at the cusp of a significant, multi-year transformation that will happen to what we today call Information Technology. Starting now and expanding quickly will be volumes of customers migrating to more cost effective, more agile platforms. Or, in specific terms there will be more X86, OS/DB, and Private Cloud migrations in 2012 than we’ve seen before. The dam is cracked and leaking badly. The impending deluge of activity is not far away.  I would reference Noah, but that would be a cliché and this is not a story of impending doom, this is more of a super gnarly zip-line ride through a rainforest canopy. I believe this is going to be a great experience for most. Freeing, inspirational and refocused to move funds back to innovation and away from IT maintenance, a renaissance of sorts.

For the remaining segment of the blog, I’m going to focus on some of the initial thinking everyone should be considering to ensure their transformation is positive and planned.

  • Business Process Change – I could spend some length of time on business process change, frankly I am currently focused on IT transformation and I believe there are fresher opinions available to you.  With that said, I can impart a nugget… that IT Transformation is not completely trapped in the realm of IT.  The changes will provide faster, more performant, more agile systems, with more predictable service levels, that deliver faster time to value. And, they should reduce the “cost to value” ratio. These improvements can be a catalyst for business process improvements. 
  • Technical Change – Here are some related considerations as you begin to look at how the technology will be reworked in your new world order. 
    • First remember, “Don’t pack a bag, you want new clothes”.   Don’t stay too committed to old components of your traditional architecture without validating how those components support your truly innovative agile IT environment of the future. 
    • “Where do you make the Cut?” If you’re carving up your architecture stack, where do you place the scalpel?
      •  Many look to what I call the “hardware/software divide”.  This divide is really a separation between the OS and DB.  Keep the app and database, but change out the OS and support hardware? This is where the majority are drawing the line. But it’s never been more rewarding to “part ways” with the status quo and look at real options for the database.
      • Thus, many are looking to swap out the DB layer as part of the change process. I was on a call with Wipro yesterday about a customer moving from their traditional DB to MS SQL. SQL 2012, formally Denali, is a real player going forward for mission critical application support. Additionally we know that many SAP customers are considering Sybase ASE as way to improve alignment within their SAP landscapes.
    • “Blank Pages” – these changes are disruptive. “Disruptive” translates to lots of white paper to write a new version on.  However, it does require some planning and there are folks who’ve started that effort already for you, the Systems Integrators.  EMC and their technology partners deliver convergent private clouds which is the “plumbing” and the “lumber” for the architecture.   Additionally, there’s been a continued joint effort to develop helpful solutions that span across the technologies. Finally, EMC and these technology partners have joined at the technical hip with the premiere SI’s to help support their mapping of the uncharted territories over the last year. From these efforts customers get advantages to speed and reduce the risks of change. You still want to put some thought to the effort., here are few things to consider when your staring at the blank page.
      • Technical Run Books – You changed your OS, you changed your DB? The commands don’t look the same any more. There will need to be consideration for ITIL and/or other processes in these changes.
      • Configurations – Similar to a fancy performance engine that can turn on and off cylinders to save gas,  the converged infrastructure will have new capabilities in access and compute power. Being able to reduce latency for the most important work loads and reduce cost for the least important.  What’s really great is the configurations are normally faster and cheaper than traditional methods. One example is EMC’s FASTVP, which transfers data content from silicon based flash drives to voluminous SATA drives, based on need.
      • Abstraction– Remember when you used to have to go to the bank and deposit checks, and now you use direct deposit. I went in a bank a couple weeks ago and I felt like I was visiting my childhood…Direct deposit is a form of abstraction. Cloud computing is another.  The abstraction from the physical to a private cloud where service levels and software perform in an independent, logical relationship on top of an converged infrastructure. In this environment, one is not limited to hard metal walls. What does that mean?
        • Always up – You can run active, active and all but remove the need to ever be down.
        • Disaster Recovery – DR can be expressed in minutes and not hours or days.
        • Test Dev in Drivers Seat – Test and development teams can launch parallel paths in minutes removing the need to wait on others to stage.
        • Portability – Need to test a server at a vendor’s lab, or want to put a bolt-on app into the public cloud, or want to allocate dedicated resources to a server for a couple of weeks?  This can all be done in a the private cloud computing environment
      • Understand Control Points.  Remember the first time you ice skated and you used newly found muscles?  With private clouds/cloud computing there are a few technologies racing for the leadership position in cloud management.  I’m not going to promote a specific technology, only to mention this is a consideration that you should include up front.
      • Cloud Security – I don’t believe clouds are inherently less protected than traditional methods, matter of fact I believe the opposite. However, “clouds are connected”.  Connectivity is the both the benefit and bane of clouds.  This is why most are taking mission critical to private clouds first. Why?  You get most of the benefits, you’re staged to leverage public clouds, and you have more control over security
      • Getting it Right with the Partners – Ultimately the heroes of transformative IT, Cloud computing will be the System Integrators (SI’s).  In most instances, they will guide companies through the process, through the transformation.  I recently had the opportunity to review Accenture’s Agile IT program. On top of their world-class experience in IT process optimization, they have specifically spent months industrializing the solution and process assets to allow their thousands upon thousands of customer engaged resources to have prescriptive roadmaps, reference architectures, use cases, and step by step guidance on the journey to transform IT.  Based on my discussions, much of the focus for them will be on helping customer migrate to x86 platforms and on to private clouds. These are rich fields for optimization, and no doubt Accenture will be a big player in this arena

I’ll leave you with the advice to approach private cloud transformation with the right mindset. If you’re reading this it’s fair to assume you are a very accomplished IT professional, possibly an executive and you don’t need a 101 lesson from me on how to execute your job.  However, in a friendly way, I want to challenge you as you approach your IT transformation project:

  • Be disruptive at the top.  If you want change and a strong plan, set the example at the top.
  • Open minded-ness is free. Consider your options; don’t be too quick to dismiss what is emerging. It could be the competitive edge you’ve been looking for.
  • Be immersive, don’t make split decisions. “Opportunity attracts the aggressive.” Make sure you’re investing in partners who are investing, innovative, and customer focused.
  • Look for the “Merger of Many”. Who’s backing whom?  Where have groups come together to make cloud a reality. Where are the early adopters placing their bets. 

Good luck on the journey.