Exploring “IT management in a changing IT world”

The tagline for this blog is “IT management in a changing IT world”. Of course nobody but their authors care about blog taglines. Still, in the unlikely event that I am asked to expand on the “changing IT world” part I would do it as follows.

The changes currently at work in the IT world can be organized along three axis:

  • IT infrastructure and management
  • Application development and delivery
  • Business and regulation

Each of these categories is ridiculously large. It’s only through the prism of the relationships between them that they provide any value. Think about three balls linked by coil springs.

If you give one of these balls a shake, you will start a hard-to-predict dance between them. This is similar to how the three domains above relate to one another. Changes in one (say a new focus on regulatory compliance in the “business” area, the emergence of virtualization technology in the “infrastructure” area or the appearance of Web 2.0 applications in the “application” area) start a complex movement involving all three. It takes a while to achieve a new equilibrium (and in practice it is never achieved since changes occur too often, adding stimulus to an already excited system). For a visual illustration, see this little YouTube video (but imagine that the three balls are arranged in a triangle rather than linearly and that every so often one of them gets pulled in a random direction).

This is not new of course. There have been changes in these three areas for as long as IT has existed (starting before it was called IT) and they have always driven changes in how IT is managed. To some extent they also have always influenced one another. The “new” part is that the connections are a lot tighter now, that the springs have a much higher force constant (the “k” in “F=-kx”). So here is my attempt at mapping today’s hot buzzwords on a map organized along these areas.

Before you ask: yes of course I have a very rigorous methodology, based on very precise quantitative data, to establish with certainty the exact x, y and z coordinates of each label. Buzzword topology is a precise science.

You may notice that the buzziest buzzword (at least currently), “Cloud”, does not appear on the map. It’s because it buzzes so much that it would be all over it, engulfing what currently appears as “virtualization”, “datacenter automation”, “Iaas”, “PaaS”, “SaaS” and “opex/capex”. There are two main parts in the “Cloud” buzzword: the “Technical Cloud” and the “Business Cloud”. The “Technical Cloud” is where we take virtualization and standardization (of machines, networks and application infrastructure) and turn that mind-boggling complexity into a manageable system that can be programmed to deliver applications (Cisco recently called it “Unified Computing”; HP, IBM and others have been trying to describe and brand it for a long time). Building on these technical capabilities comes the second part of “Cloud”, the “Business Cloud”. It is the ability to use infrastructure owned by a third party (presumably one able to leverage economies of scale) and all the possibilities this opens in the business realm. That’s what “Cloud” started as, back when it was known as “Utility Computing” and before it was applied to everything under the sun. A recent illustration of the relationship between the “Technical Cloud” and the “Business Cloud” is the introduction of vCloud by VMWare (their vision includes using VMotion technology, a piece of the “Technical Cloud”, not just to move machines between neighboring hypervisors but between organizations, enabling the “Business Cloud”). Anyway, that’s why “Cloud” it’s not on the map. It is actually all over it.

The system displayed on the map is vibrating very intensely right now, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Just for fun, here are candidates for future boxes on the map:

  • In the “IT infrastructure and management” category, maybe one day we’ll get to real metadata-driven management integration across the stack (as opposed to the more limited “application modeling” area listed above), whether through RDF or not.
  • In the “application development and delivery” category, maybe Doug Purdy’s vision “to make everyone a programmer (even if they don’t know it)” will be realized, whether through Oslo or not.
  • In the “business and regulation” category, maybe one day corporations will actually start caring about the customer data they are entrusted to (but only if mishandling it finally costs them more than “sorry about that, here is a one year credit monitoring subscription now go away”).

In summary, the evolution of IT management is driven not only by changes in IT technology but also by changes in two other fields (“application development and delivery” and “business and regulation”) with which it is tightly connected. Both of these fields are also in a very dynamic state. And they also influence one another, resulting in a complex three-way dance. You can’t understand the trajectory and moves of one dancer without seeing the others.

That’s what I mean by “IT management in a changing IT world”. Thanks for asking.

[UPDATED 2009/6/25: For more on the "technical cloud" versus "business cloud", go read Neil Ward-Dutton's nice explanation. He actually breaks down the "business cloud" in two (separating the economic aspect from the strategic aspect).]

1 Comment

Filed under Application Mgmt, Automation, Big picture, BPM, BSM, Business, Cloud Computing, Everything, IT Systems Mgmt, ITIL, Mgmt integration, Open source, Utility computing, Virtualization

One Response to Exploring “IT management in a changing IT world”

  1. Thanks very much for the pointer, William! This is a great post, and it’s a different way of looking at what is in effect the core proposition that we’re constantly exploring at MWD (we use the woolly shorthand “IT-business alignment”).

    In our world there are IT competencies which are invariant (things like software delivery; ITSM; security; business process management; collaboration; information management; IT governance; architecture; etc) and “disruptions” which are overlays on those competencies. Some disruptions are technical (cloud; SaaS; SOA; virtualisation; etc) and some are more business-related (green; regulation; supply chain integration; etc). At a high level, though, I think we’re talking about the same complex equation…