Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Agile practise for the cost/effective cloud

Can you tolerate failure?

Some situations cannot tolerate failure: The highly political government project, the business-enabling SAP deployment or the market-leading e-business application all share a common characteristic - getting it wrong hurts.  And the most common symptom of getting it wrong?  Poor performance, poor availability, poor service - and disgruntled customers.

What happens then is where heros make their reputation.  Firefighting, troubleshooting, late-night candle-burning, bonus-generating heroics.  Don't get me wrong, it's great to be a hero - saving the day from evil, just before the clock ticks to zero.  But surely it's better not to get into that position in the first place?

Lessons from other industries

The use of simulation is common in industries where getting performance design right first time is critical to the bottom line.  Imagine building an aeroplane with control systems that didn't respond in times, semiconductors which performed worse than their predecessors, or civil engineering projects which couldn't handle the projected loads.  Scenario planning is also a favourite of agile business.  Just as a chess grand-master is thinking several moves ahead, the business planner looks beyond immediate trends and plans the impact of their next business strategy.

But, IT is sooo complex

For IT professionals, getting it wrong hurts equally as much; but here we are at a significant disadvantage.  The complexity of enterprise-class systems, the interconnected and often opaque nature of cloud services, the lack of insight into business initiatives leave us in the dark.    Whilst we're under constant pressure to reduce cost and risk, the ever-increasing complexity forces us to over-provision, to reduce the risk of getting it wrong. 
But is that right?  Is it true to say that IT is more complex than embedded avionic systems?  Probably it is not true to say that, although the rate of change is certainly higher.  Can we still afford to justify time in planning, even though the sands are constantly shifting under our feet?  In the past, we've focused just on a limited number of critical systems, or performed some pretty rudimentary analysis that makes us comfortable - and trusted in the heros.  But there must be a better way - a way that enables IT to be a part of the planning process, not just driven before the wind like a rudderless ship.  There must, mustn't there?

Converged scenario planning 

Times are changing.  Scenario planning tools have long been available in the marketplace, in the capacity planning sector, and now they are catching up with the needs of the business of cloud management.  Remember, that the agility of cloud computing provokes the need for better management of headroom - to maintain the capacity to support elastic demand, and cost - to do so at a profit.  Cloud Capacity Management solutions must incorporate and translate the needs of the business into capacity requirements, and also translate capacity requirements into business constraints.  And the universal language of business?  Currency.
The new world of the cloud demands alignment between the needs of the business and the capacity provided to it.  The cloud-enabled enterprise IT spend is proportionate to the needs of the business.  The cloud-provider has the challenge of ensuring that its revenue covers its costs and provides a profit margin to its stakeholders.  Efficient decision makers are seizing control of their supply chains, and ensuring that risks and costs are managed effectively throughout.  The convergence of cloud and consumer planning ensures transparency in that decision making process.

The new synergy

Successful business and IT leaders are getting their act together, and learning to co-operate in new fruitful ways.  Planning for IT and business initiatives through capacity management, with focus on both customer experience and the bottom line, is enabling enlightened decision makers to understand the ramifications of their alternative strategies, and understand the budget and risk parameters for their chosen plans.  

It turns out the old adage "a stitch in time saves nine" still has relevance today..

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