|By Brent Smithurst||
|November 29, 2012 08:45 AM EST||
The defining moment came when I was in Grade 8. My social studies teacher, Mr.Thiele, told us how and why Japan became a manufacturing leader after World War II. He had a theory. As the Japanese were forced to rebuild factories and infrastructure from scratch, they used cutting-edge technology to leapfrog other nations like Canada and the United States. My classmates were not convinced. How could it be an advantage to start all over again? Mr. Thiele contended that by building anew, Japan had access to newer and more efficient technologies that were beyond the reach of other countries. Combining modern management techniques and new infrastructure, Japan surpassed nations burdened by antiquated infrastructure and no money or compelling motivation to invest in new technologies.
I'm not sure Mr. Thiele got all his facts right, and I don’t mean to trivialize the challenges faced (and overcome) in post-war Japan. But starting from scratch with newer and better technologies can allow a company to gain a competitive edge. In this context, the Thiele Principle has guided me throughout my IT career.
Japan to Greece: A Thoughtful Approach for Improving IT Processes
When I investigate how an IT process works and why it came into being, I like to use the Socratic method to stimulate critical thinking and to generate new ideas. One of my favorite questions to ask IT staff is, how would you approach this if you were starting from scratch today? Usually the question gets the creative juices flowing, and people brainstorm new solutions. Which leads me to ask the next question: Why don't we go ahead and make the change then? In my opinion, this is a more effective way to solicit input rather than asking people to think of change simply in terms of cost-benefit analysis. It often turns out that IT staff see sunk costs as the biggest hurdle. That’s not good enough. I believe that sunk costs are irrelevant to the debate and lead to paralysis. Let me demonstrate the method with a real-life example.
The Road to the Cloud: From On-site to Co-located Servers
An employer had all its servers located in-house, with the exception of the web and incoming mail servers. This practice led to all kinds of problems. Water was often turned off in our aging office tower to allow for plumbing repairs. With water unavailable, the air conditioning did not work, and we had to turn power off in the server room to avoid over-heating.
In-house servers also required our staff to maintain them and transport backups to an off-site location on a daily basis. Capital costs were running too high. Most importantly, with no 24-7 on-site staff to troubleshoot server crashes, our European employees and partners had no access to the system during their working hours.
"How would you approach this if you were starting from scratch today?"
"Well, I'd have our servers moved to a co-location facility with guaranteed power, 24x7 staff, and have them do the backups."
"Why don't we go ahead and make the change then?"
Nobody could think of a good reason not to make the change, so we went ahead. The switch to co-located servers solved some of our problems, but not all of them. And new issues arose. Scaling on demand was unavailable due to hardware constraints and custom software design. It still took months to requisition, configure, and put new servers into production.
Once again I asked, "How would you approach this if you were starting from scratch today?"
"Well, I'd go with virtual servers instead of our own co-located ones."
"Why don't we go ahead and make the change then?"
This time, staff came up with legitimate reasons why we couldn't just toss our existing servers and move to a virtual infrastructure. It was simply too costly to terminate co-location contracts with external vendors. It also meant we would have to rewrite all our applications to make them work in a virtual environment. Still, we decided to use the then fledging virtual private server technology for our new projects. We achieved mixed results. While we could spin up a physical server in an instant, it would be unprovisioned with our environment, and required middleware and heavy-duty IT involvement to make it work. Development, staging, and production environments were not identical, which resulted in many errors.
"How would you approach this if you were starting from scratch today?"
In reality, there was no good solution to the problem at the time. At least until the private Platform as a Service (PasS) came along.
Private Platform as a Service: Opening the Path for Innovation
In the last six to eighteen months, the advent of viable enterprise private PaaS products has significantly changed the IT landscape. PaaS guarantees an identical environment throughout the development and deployment cycles, can handle any language, and is automatically configured and scaled on demand without IT intervention. PaaS effectively removes all the barriers that delay project rollouts, and allows staff to focus on real business problems rather than waste time fixing the IT infrastructure. With PaaS, innovation becomes possible.
Technology changes so rapidly that a business will be left behind if it does not constantly consider newer and better ways of doing things. Innovation starts with asking the right questions. When reviewing legacy systems and practices, ask your team, “How would you approach this if you were starting from scratch today?” The Japanese taught us that a frog in a well does not know the great sea. Chances are that if you are not thinking out of the box, looking ahead, and making continuous advancements, your competitors will. And it may take you years to catch up if you miss the boat.
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Sep. 4, 2015 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 529
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
Sep. 4, 2015 04:00 PM EDT
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, will discuss how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the data to create additional revenue streams, such as improved warranties or premium features. Or slash...
Sep. 4, 2015 04:00 PM EDT
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
Sep. 4, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 143
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sep. 4, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 979
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Sep. 4, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 227
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be.
Sep. 4, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 232
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Sep. 4, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 271
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
Sep. 4, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 121
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 110
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 503
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Sep. 4, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 297
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Sep. 4, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 401
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on demos and comprehensive walkthroughs.
Sep. 4, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 433
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
Sep. 4, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,618
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Sep. 4, 2015 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 666
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Sep. 4, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 337
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small, but are focused on specific tasks. The ability for developers to deploy multiple containers – thous...
Sep. 4, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 217
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
Sep. 4, 2015 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,048
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Sep. 4, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 305