The Enabling Layer; rapid change above and cost savings below

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I have already commented in Blog posts on the likely strategy in many enterprises in 2009 being built around ‘Sweating the Assets, and leveraging the People’, and indeed I have had many conversations on this topic when out meeting our clients, with industry analysts, and major technology vendors. I have also stated the opinion, to […]

I have already commented in Blog posts on the likely strategy in many enterprises in 2009 being built around ‘Sweating the Assets, and leveraging the People’, and indeed I have had many conversations on this topic when out meeting our clients, with industry analysts, and major technology vendors. I have also stated the opinion, to general agreement from those old enough to remember the 1990 recession, that I suspect we will again see the use of new technologies not adopted officially by the enterprise accelerate in the hands of users as they seek their own answers to the pressures. Last time it was the PC at the expense of the Mini and Mainframe of the computing services manager, this time it will be ‘services’ covering everything from Web 2.0, to SaaS, to Clouds, as they seek to get the ‘leverage’ from their people to respond to the market threats and opportunities.
The huge risk in all of this is that it could cause a repeat of the early to mid nineties when the explosion of new solutions built around networked PCs on the edge of the business caused enterprise level problems in re creating a coherent picture of exactly what was happening and what data to base actions upon. The solution then was a lot of work to standardise the basic approach to the use of PCs, Operating Systems, Applications, etc and to deploy ERP. Put simply this cant happen again, its not just the cost, time and embarrassment to sort it out, but simply the compliance and auditors wont stand for it, and red notes on the corporate accounts in a tough market will not be acceptable.

So the question is what exactly do you do, to both allow the freedom of market / user based ‘innovation’ with new technology and to ‘lock down’ the existing IT systems for cost management purposes? Now in a Blog post I can only highlight the generic approach to this issue, (there will be a mass of individual elements in different enterprises for cost management in addition), but I think it will get the basic point across. It’s all about focussing on building an ‘enabling layer’ and funding it from the savings made in making the necessary changes in the areas it impacts. The enabling layer must address four key elements; SOA based operations, Network based services, Content/Data/Storage management and Security of elements. I will describe each in turn in an order that I think helps the comprehension of the overall approach.
Content/Data/Storage – the cost of storage and archiving is much higher than most enterprises realise, though they do realise that they seem to be continually buying more storage, and that demand will continual to rise. So its time to look at the cost of provisioning, virtualisation, XAS, etc, but also as part of this on the management of what is stored, where and by whom. The ability to identify and strictly manage the use of key structured data, may be to some degree as MDM though the key is to restrict the ambitions of MDM to realisable value, is a survival trait. Users increasingly want to create, use and store, huge amounts of semi structured data, and this is best controlled in terms of how much and where it is stored more than by managing the actual taxonomies, and other traditional tools.
Network based Services – we tend to think of the term networks in terms of the provision of connectivity, but over the years this has grown from the original analogue based network, to adding LANs, embracing digital point to points and then WANs, finally into Internet pipes. Most networks could do with a rationalisation around what is needed to support business today, and that also means the massively expanded use of ‘standards’ that support ‘web’ based services and are part of the network but at much higher levels than basic connectivity. The increase in SaaS, shift to cloud computing, Telepresence, etc are all relying on this.
SOA based operations – there has been a big focus recently on virtualisation, and sure enough for the big applications it pays off, but the challenges are two fold; one to provide a safe ‘buffer’ zone between these crucial enterprise applications, and the other to provision and operate cost effectively the increasing shift towards small ‘appliance like’ solutions. SOA is both the way to connect what needs to be connected in a controlled manner between the ‘innovations’ above, and the way to enable a coherent series of processes through orchestration in this new world. At the same time this shift towards supporting a rapidly increasing number of services based solutions that change continually doesn’t support basic virtualisation techniques, so advanced management of the high number of small specialised systems by using the techniques developed for supporting SOA is both a cost reducing move and an enabling move.
Security – the increasing opening up and externalisation of business around the web, SaaS, even just simple email has already created many new risks and challenges. Many CIOs are rightfully wary of the allowing users too much of a free hand due to these risks, but the business wants, or even needs, this freedom to operate in the open market, so consolidation of security management around different elements has to happen, and that introduces the risk management of the elements in the manner of Jericho style security. The innovation around the edge ceases to be a risk to the rest of the enterprise!
I only had space to outline these key factors here, but we have done some pretty heavy work in each area and can offer move detailed information to anyone interested in the form of white papers etc that can be downloaded from the thought leadership area of the Capgemini web site. Hope at least this brief overview provided some value!

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