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Innovate on the Cheap

Innovation is inextricably linked with the old adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try, and try again!”  Great entrepreneurs concur that in order to drive real innovation, corporations must cultivate originality by giving employees the freedom and resources to introduce new ideas, methods and processes.

So I began to wonder, what are some great ways that an enterprise can balance the hard costs and the opportunity costs of fostering innovation with the more practical demands of the balance sheet?

A few weeks ago, I heard James Urquhart talking to a customer about their cloud strategy and he said some things that I thought were very powerful.  He was talking about the flexibility of Cisco UCS and how it allowed for inexpensive do-overs.  You can buy the hardware and try something on it at small scale.  If it shows promise, you can scale it up to meet the full market need.  If it doesn’t work, the hardware can quickly be recaptured and repurposed for the next innovation.  Repeat, redo, retry, redesign—cost effectively “try, and try again.”

As the conversation went on with the customer, we came to recognize the same benefit of a well-engineered orchestrator as the common point of interaction of all the pieces of IT.

New services in the cloud are more than just building a new VM template or vApp and then cloning it on demand.  The move toward ITaaS means bringing in new purpose-built technologies (such as IT chargeback, application configuration management, network flow management, industry-specific compliance reporting, etc.), and integrating them with existing OSS/BSS products you already have (ticketing systems, network monitoring, email, etc.).

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The Automation Imperative

So what’s with the increased interest in automation lately?  No doubt you’ve noticed there have been more than a few blogs already written on this site and others espousing the importance and value of automation.  (“Meet the Newest Member of Your Data Center Operations Team,” Tere’ Bracco, November 8, 2010 and “Mad Scientist Alert,” Christopher Kennessey, October 27, 2010) What trends lie behind this demand?  Three come to mind:

1)     Disappearing cost-benefit of offshoring

2)     Increasing skills shortage

3)     Growing adoption of virtualization/cloud technologies

And each of these deserves a bit more exploration. Today, I will focus on offshoring and leave the other two for future blogs.

Moving IT operations to low-cost parts of the world has been a very lucrative exercise for the past two decades.  However, the financial benefits that were obvious 10 years ago are mostly gone thanks to increasing salaries in India, China, and other emerging countries combined with rising hassle costs (compliance, regulations, security, communications, language, and management) associated with off-shoring.  Here is a quote from Sramana Mitra who wrote a very well publicized and much debated article in 2008 titled “The death of Indian outsourcing” (http://www.sramanamitra.com/2008/01/22/death-of-indian-outsourcing/).  She writes “Rising wages in the most popular offshore centers (especially Bangalore), are eroding the cost advantage that drove this business to India in the first place. When the practice began, there was a 1:10 cost advantage. Today, this has dropped to 1:3. Over the next 5 years, perhaps, it won’t make sense to send work to India anymore.”  Further complicating the offshoring play is the 20-40% attrition rates seen in many of these low-cost countries.

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New Solutions + New Math: Exponential Benefits of Adding an Enterprise Scheduler to Virtual Machine Management

Oh, how data processing has evolved, growing in complexity and sophistication, it now spans across multiple software stacks and disparate systems. With the introduction of virtualization platforms, processes can now be run on virtualized environments as well as a physical one.  As we know, virtualization allows you to use physical hardware more efficiently. That’s because often times an application is sitting “idle” and doesn’t really need all the allocated computing resources, and virtualization lets idle computing resources be re-assigned to other tasks.  Virtualization technology and the advancements of Cloud Computing afford businesses significant benefits in terms of cost reduction and efficiencies resulting from consolidation and standardization.

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Mad Scientist Alert

Looking back, the market was probably caught off guard a bit by an acquisition of an automation software company by the worldwide leader in networking. Looking around, the market may still be wondering:  why was the acquisition made?    Did all that cash the financial analysts keep talking about finally burn a hole in Cisco’s proverbial head as well as pockets?

Infrastructure Alchemy

Neither conjecture is true, of course. As usual, Cisco mined the market for the next catalyst (pun fully intended) to transform its infrastructure, starting with the data center. The result was a formula for data center transformation that solves some of the most pressing problems in data center management both today and well into the future. Here’s the formula: take one compute platform highly tuned for on-demand cloud environments, add third-party application deliver, then perform a little fusion with support solutions that support the Day 2 operations requirements for automating manual tasks. The result is an automation of the many repetitive tasks that are now being done manually, allowing data center administrators to invest the majority of their resources in aligning IT operations with business goals and creating new ways to generate revenue rather than in just maintaining the infrastructure. Read More »

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Understanding the Truth Behind Batch Processing in the Modern World

There is a myth that all data processing occurs in real time.  But the reality is that batch and event based processing are still very much alive and the majority of data processing is still done through batch processing.  Our average customer uses Cisco Tidal Enterprise Scheduler to execute ~50K jobs on a daily basis, but we also have large financial services companies automating the execution of over 100K jobs daily, not bad right?

So, with over 50 percent of all business processes leveraging batch operations, it is essential to keep your batch production running smoothly in order to keep your business running smoothly.  You cannot afford to have failed jobs.  Failure is not acceptable as it directly impacts the business and can impact revenue – such as the inability to process orders or to generate invoices.  What are we getting at here?

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