Sunday, March 02, 2008
Anchored in time and tech, need new flows
Information Technology is fluid. IT is a capability whos ultimate goal stays the same, i.e. that of managing information. Unfortunately its operating environment, rules and players constantly change. Essentially what is being dealt with is a 'sliding window' of services constantly being built, tweaked and evolved on a platform of aging non-modular equipment and code.
Sliding windows suffer from extreme lag when they are consistently anchored by non-modular, non-extensible technology *and* people. We find ourselves constrained generally by the long tail of the process, thus consuming inordinate amounts of time and resources which could be better allocated and more productive elsewhere.
One of the foremost problems facing our society today from a technological perspective is not power consumption, general acceptance, awareness or learning, it's actually that of being trapped in the past, the near past. We are not so much trapped per se, but beholden to the constraints imposed upon us by the previous architects, engineers, management and chosen technologies. One must ask oneself, why be so short sighted? Did they really have a choice? Did they not factor the costs to maintain and deal with change? How does one manage change in an environment where the priorities seem to change daily and technology evolves almost independently while we wait for the darwinian champion of the 'most adaptable' to succeed.
Once more we should look to nature to see what the criteria for success are in an ever changing environment. Perhaps with this technological challenge we will be more aware of the interconnectedness and influence we exert in the evolution of cyberspace. What is it that we can manage? What is it that we can measure? Either the code needs to start taking care of itself or we need to embrace more fully an old engineering paradigm of loosely coupled replaceable sub-components. I would enjoy seeing both more! Don't get me wrong we will always need specialists and specialist systems, just built more-so from re-deployable units or resources. I am not advocating a monoculture, but a viewpoint or perspective on how we build considering the future caretakers of our digital creations from the outset.
At this point let me ask you a direct question dear reader; how many projects or times has legacy code, legacy infrastructure or tightly coupled systems thrown a virtual spanner in the works?
Virtualisation itself has started to offer some of the desired benefits alluded to above in relation to extensiblity and modularity, but many in management or leadership roles cannot tell you why or how virtualisation will and can benefit us, just that everyone else is doing it and it saves on the power bill.
Until we have our grey goo, a version of true utility computing whereupon perhaps we can 'pour' more computing in or on, or have any node re-purpose itself on the fly as another role, we will continue to build ourselves in to cul-de-sac's of wasteful practices. How much time and resources are spent trying to manage, measure or repair (while excessively consuming energy) the wrongs of the near past in our IT footprints.
We waste fossil fuels needlessly all the time within IT, but we also waste human capital trying to clean up after an unconscious breed of Information Technology 'professionals' who haven't seen the obvious staring them right in the face... survival of the most adaptable! Corporate memory just like public memory is short lived, however techs just like civil servants see the politics at play and the players only trying to further themselves. There is a new breed coming, an undercurrent of massively distributed techs with instant communication and new paradigms slowing trying to strip away the ineffectual practices of old. If you are the equivalent of a paper(email) shuffler in the office, adding no value, watch out I tells ya'... the language and sands are shifting and buzzwords just don't cut it any more!
Posted by Donal at 4:08 PM