Bespoke IT vs. Fit for Purpose

I’ve been focused on blogging over at EMC’s InFocus blog for the last year, but I want to get back to Mr. Infrastructure and start blogging more frequently about a wider variety of topics. First up is some thoughts on a topic I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about these days: Bespoke IT versus Fit for Purpose. We’ve spent a lot of time on bespoke IT in the industry, building new applications, silos, architectures, etc. to meet a specific need based on the skills and tools we are familiar with. We often don’t have the luxury to go out and investigate what the right tools would be and learn them in order to best apply them. If I think of this in sartorial terms, we make some outstanding, finely fit suits, but it might be in last decade’s style or colors. The suit might be of the highest quality and yet might not meet the needs of the wearer, or might stand out for all the wrong reasons in a crowd. Just because it’s bespoke doesn’t mean it’s the best way to approach the problem.

This is a long lead in to what I really want to talk about, the idea of Fit for Purpose. EMC acquired Adaptivity and I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with that great team, and learn a lot about how they think about IT, Applications and Infrastructure. They have a lot of talent on that team and I’ve learned a lot in conversations and brainstorming with them. Their Chief Scientist is Sheppard Narkier and he’s started to share many of his ideas, thoughts, and experiences on InFocus, see his post on Lessons Learned: The Quality of Design is not Fuzzy. On the surface , “Fit for Purpose” is nearly self explanatory, the idea of designing IT and Business systems based upon what they’ll be used for and how they’ll consume infrastructure. But to those not used to thinking in that paradigm, this explanation could be considered too coarse grained as a definition, let me explain a bit further. Continue reading Bespoke IT vs. Fit for Purpose


Analytics and Big Data for Infrastructure

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago and was asked where am I placing my big bets for the future of IT.  I’ve been very interested in Big Data and Analytics for awhile now and this question made me think about how I needed to evolve to reflect that.  I think the next big thing for me in IT is going to be applying the concepts of Big Data and Analytics to cloud services and cloud infrastructure.  This is going to be especially important for service providers, and I’ve been recommending to my customers that they become service providers and service brokers before their customers find some others in the marketplace, so it’ll be applicable to nearly ever sizable IT organization. Continue reading Analytics and Big Data for Infrastructure


Analytics and Creativity

These are some thoughts on learning styles, education, predictive analytics and creativity, but to get there I need to share some background.  One of the things I appreciated most about my high school education was the fact that the curriculum was developed with the express goal of teaching us how to think rather than teaching us by rote.  There was no “new math” or studying to the test or things like that, thankfully, as that is definitely not one of my learning styles.  Unfortunately that did me a bit of a disservice when I went to college, because engineering school it seemed to me was all about rote or “plug ‘n chug” as my instructors referred to it.  This was especially true of the hard sciences.  I loved Physics and really wanted to continue to explore that further, but Physics in college is about applying the right equation and nothing could be more boring to me.  Gone was the mystery of the universe, instead it was insert tab A into slot B.  Now, I could’ve slogged through it until a Master’s or Doctoral program when things get interesting again, but why on earth wait?  So I changed my major to Computer Science where you solved problems creatively, if you were so inclined, by writing awesome software.

There is a point after this preamble, I promise.  I’ve been very excited about the possibilities that exist in the realm of Big Data, or as I prefer to think of it Big Information trending toward Big Knowledge.  EMC has been doing great stuff in this space and our consulting organization is helping customers with some incredible solutions.  Analytics is becoming a core value creator to many companies and it is a new channel for IT to contribute to shareholder value and business agility.   Continue reading Analytics and Creativity


The innovation engine and censoring

Perhaps it’s apophenia or selection bias but reading Stephen’s latest post over at Pack Rat on Tim Cook and Steve Ballmer struck a chord with some other stuff I’ve been reading and thinking about and my goal of kickstarting my innovation engine. As I wrote previously I’ve been concerned with self-censoring and fostering creativity lately, both for my organization and my personal benefit.  I started reading Tina Seelig’s “inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity” and was very interested to see that she calls out some research by Charles Limb at Johns Hopkins University that notes that it looks like the brain turns off some self-monitoring functions during acts of creativity.  Interesting, I’m sure many people would posit that Steve Jobs often had his self-monitoring, or self-censoring, functions turned off, perhaps that’s why he was so creative.  Another interesting observation that Prof. Seelig makes is that as people and organizations mature they often focus on execution to the detriment of creativity, and this mirrors some of the observations, or concerns, that Stephen raises in his post.  But there’s good news according to Prof. Seelig, you can learn to be creative and to put your own innovation engine to work.  I recommend you read “inGenius” for more, I will say she does a very good job of laying this all out and giving you some tactical ways to amp up your creativity.

Continue reading The innovation engine and censoring


Cloud Conflation

Good for what ails ya! We are a few years into this whole Cloud thing now and I’m surprised by how people still talk about it as a Cure All, some sort of silver bullet, conflating Cloud as a Service Delivery model with all sorts of things like collaboration, increased productivity, analytics – analytics?!, and a new model for application development.  Wow, where can I get some of that?  How much would you pay for such a wonder drug?  You need only open an industry rag, scholarly journal, or turn on the TV to get blasted with some of this hype.  At least I haven’t seen a “To the Cloud!” commercial in awhile.

I think we need to be much more precise in how we talk about Cloud because all of this squishiness is not only misleading, but it distracts from how we should be designing and adopting solutions that use this service delivery model.  And let me once again beg for a new moniker for this service delivery model, I’m so over Cloud.
Continue reading Cloud Conflation


Converged Infrastructure Buzz

There’s been a lot of interest in converged infrastructure platforms by IT organizations, and these can be a great foundation for a cloud infrastructure across the enterprise. However, our experience working with clients on realizing their converged infrastructure suggests that you need to think about this not just as a technology deployment, but also a catalyst to transform to a cloud operating model.

If you’re going to meet business expectations for improved IT agility, you’d better make your processes as agile as the technology can support. What does all this mean? And how can you leverage converged infrastructure to achieve such an operating model?

I recently did a 20 minute slidecast with Rich Brueckner of Inside-Cloud, and we discussed best practices for realizing converged infrastructure and the drivers for it.

Take a look/listen and let me know what you think:


Go big or go home!

Go Big or Go Home, seems trite, but it is applicable to IT transformation.  Companies that are successfully adopting cloud technologies are taking a transformation approach, not a technical project approach.  The larger the scale of the program the more traction they are getting across the enterprise, business and IT.  For too long virtualization has been conflated with consolidation and that’s been one of the sticking points when it comes to trying to get the business and application owners to buy in to change. Continue reading Go big or go home!


What’s in the case?

Steve Herrod’s super session was one of the things I enjoyed most about this year’s VMworld.  Not only were the technologies and ideas that were introduced inspiring and where I was hoping to see VMware head but there was real passion for making content accessible evident throughout the entire presentation.  VMworld coming so soon after the great one day class from Edward Tufte really increased the impact of the message.  I had been thinking of content in terms of Big Information, of how do we present information to people, how do we share and collaborate etc.  Steve’s presentation pushed that point even further, it’s all about the content really, the receptacle that it’s delivered in is irrelevant, it could be a briefcase, or a Ming vase, all the end user cares about is what’s in it.  Just take a gander at Vincent Vega there staring at Marsellus Wallace’s soul, the briefcase isn’t what was cool in Pulp Fiction, it’s what was in it. Continue reading What’s in the case?


Solved Problems

I took time out a few weeks back to attend Edward Tufte’s One-Day Course on “Presenting Data and Information” and learned several new things and had several ideas reinforced by the methods and examples that Edward used. One of my favorite things that Edward brought up was encapsulated in this quote: “These are largely solved problems (displaying information); don’t get an original, get it right”. This of course immediately brought to mind the dreaded “Not Invented Here” syndrome and led me to think about how often I’ve encountered this in the IT world. On the other hand, innovation is terribly important and we take it very seriously at EMC - so how do you find the right balance of “solved problems” and innovation? Continue reading Solved Problems


What is Virtualization?

It's all about mobilityI’ve been interviewing several people to lead up the Virtualization group of my organization lately and one of the candidates asked me an excellent question, “Well, what do you mean by Virtualization?”. Very good question, am I talking about VMware, the hypervisor, virtualized infrastructure, what? Apparently I’m in a heretical mood these days because my answer was, “No, I don’t mean any of that, I don’t want to limit it to that. When I talk about Virtualization and what I want this team to focus on is bigger than that. Virtualization to me is technology enablement allowing IT to run the workloads you need to where you want to.” Continue reading What is Virtualization?