Archive

Archive for July, 2010

How to handle the press (or your boss)!

I get to meet some great people in my line of work and there are none more interesting and fun than the GreyBeards!

GreyBeards is comprised of Martin Banks and David Tebbutt, both seasoned journalists and technology writers who offer a range of strategic consulting and training courses focused in part dealing with the media. I’ve had the good fortune to be on the receiving end of their wisdom, both in the class room but more often outside through our engagements at events and meetings. David, sent over a really useful graphic they use as an aid-memoire for those that engage readily with the press. However, as he pointed out, it’s really applicable to almost any circumstance where you have a message to convey which immediately made me think of the challenges we face as IT professionals in gaining the support and commitment from our peers.

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Copyright GreyBeards Ltd. 2010
(Click here or on image to see a fully annotated version)

If you click on the picture it will send you to David’s version that is full annotated, just hover over any part of the diagram to get relevant information.

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The “egg-timer” (triangles) demonstrates the need for preparation and in constructing, simplifying, refining, and I think, symbolised by the image, consolidating your key messages. This then flows into the bottom half which represents the expansion into the interview itself.

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The “bridge” to me is central and key to your interview technique in my opinion as it is a reminder that where ever your conversation may start, you need to seek to get back to your key messages, the areas you are experienced and knowledgeable to talk about.

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The “rat hole” is the place that needs to be avoided and the reason you need to use the “bridge” to link back to saver ground.

 

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The“safety zone” is where you want to be to deliver your message and is amplified on the right hand side of the diagram. The circular nature of this reminds you that you can roam any where within the safety zone, but remember the closer you get to the boarders, the nearer you get to the rate holes so use the bridge to move to safer ground.

Getting across the river!

Another useful analogy I was shown sometime ago was to imagine that you need to cross a river.

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You have a pile of rocks in your pocket that you can throw out into the river that will help you get across. These represent your key messages you wish to relay.

However, as with all stones in water, be aware that they become slipper when wet! Many are uneven and wobbly too.

You must avoid the water at all costs so you must try to balance on your stones. If not then the shark is sure to get you!

(Picture drawn using Expression Blend 4!)

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Pivot: interacting with massive amounts of data

So I’ve seen all the flashy demo’s DeepZoom like the infamous Hard Rock Memorabilia site, but I must confess that I’ve often got stuck in the “nice technology, now where’s the problem” camp. Pivot from Microsoft Live Labs has fundamentally changed all that and it’s potential for business intelligence I think is fantastic.

Microsoft Live Labs Pivot

The video below is a little twee but it makes the point.

 


Get Microsoft Silverlight

What’s more is that Pivot is free and available Now!

Azure Architectural Guidance Part 1 Review: Migration

I once had the chance to move over to Redmond to deliver architectural guidance for Azure with the patterns & practices group so you can imagine my interest in seeing what they managed to produce in my absence, despite it taking quite a while to get this out there.

Where to get it

Documentation:
Ff728592.pandp-logo-txt-2009(en-us,PandP.10).png

Source code:

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The Review

As a piece of “Achitectural” guidance I am to be convinced that this delivers on its promise. In what states to be the first in a series it, rather oddly, decides to focus on “Migration” as the first topic. Personally, I was expecting more of a architectural review of the platform itself taking into account architectural considerations of reliability, scalability, redundancy and security and the like. These, instead, are confined to a rather light-weight platform overview, that raises more questions than it answers, including several inaccuracies, that reads more like marketing literature than offering technical insight. This may be because it is assumed that the “what is Azure?” discussion has already been done to death, but I don’t agree. No one has really addressed the architectural considerations of the platform, providing a thorough explanation of how features have been implemented and on what their limitations are. Certainly, nothing exists, to the level required by architects facing real business and technical opposition to cloud adoption. This, in my opinion is a missed opportunity and something that is still required.

That said, this is couched as being “guidance” and therefore the fact that it seeks to investigate the process of “migration” should not make it any the less useful. However, in this regard too, it fails to really deliver what, in my opinion the architect requires. Rather than considering a wider range of ‘adoption’ scenarios, it chooses instead, a simple, straight forward migration scenario in the context of an enterprise that has no concerns over use of cloud services. The real issues architects face in convincing others of the value of cloud, and even in convincing themselves in order to champion the opportunity is therefore avoided. A broader look at migration approaches and patterns and how these apply in the context of Azure I think would have provided more value to the architect.

However, it is important to note that the guidance is not completely devoid of any architectural value and the “How much will it cost?” section is a pretty useful evaluation approach to considering the cost impact of design decisions. It also does a reasonable job at introducing the subject of lifecycle management, although this is rather over simplified, it is still useful in highlighting the requirement. But it is on the developer side where the guidance starts excel, providing hundreds of developer gems hidden through out the document, such as the effect of partition keys on table query performance and in identifying the differences between development and windows azure table storage, referencing a useful MSDN article on the subject. In valuable stuff, but hidden from view.

In fact, it is pretty clear why the scenario was chosen, this is not really about providing architectural guidance, but in providing a context for explaining how to implement claims-based identity on Azure. As a technical resource for providing practical developer guidance on implementing a Claims-Based Identity and Access Control using Active Directory with an Azure application, this guidance actually scores pretty high. This type of guidance is simply not available else where. The problem and shame is that all this architectural veneer, hides the fact that this delivers genuine and much needed technical value and further, that no one who needs it will actually find it.

All in all, this is a valuable and well written resource, but my concern is it’s misdirected and that it’s value wont be fully recognised unless the right audience find it and in its current format, this audience would find it hard to get past the first pages to find all the goodness inside. The need here is to liberate the value and consider re-delivery as a straightforward, honest, simple to follow, developer how to guide. In the mean time, if you want to try and implement claims-based identity on Azure than I’d recommend skipping straight to Phase 1: Getting to the Cloud or even straight to the source on codeplex.

The Verdict

Rating (as Architectural Guidance): 5 out of 10. There are gems, but they’re hidden.

Rating (as Developer “How to”): 7 out of 10. If reformatted as a developer guide I’d put it nearer a 9!

Visual Studio Architect Guidance

I got chance to organise an analyst briefing last week at Microsoft to cover the architecture capabilities of Visual Studio 2010. It was a great session as there’s such a strong and exciting story growing for Microsoft in their support not just for architects but right across the Application lifecycle that also reaches out to support development not just of .NET but other languages too which is a great example of Microsoft taking interoperability seriously.

There’s plenty I could talk about, such as UML support and more significant, that you can reverse engineer the likes of sequence diagram directly from your code. Or the architectural explorer and the support for creating layer diagrams with rules that you can then validate your code against plus the support for dependency matrices, and so the list goes on.

However, this raised a slight concern for me that with the growth in tools like these could eventually lead to a significant overhead in learning how to use them. Obviously they are built to be intuitive and easy to use but all the same, the shear volume could become overwhelming.

But as luck would have it the meeting coincided with the release of a codeplex project that provides guidance on how to get the best out of Microsoft’s Architect Tooling in Visual Studio. This has been produced by a set of Microsoft Rangers who have the job it provide out of band solutions for missing features or guidance on the product so you know it’s always going to be useful and based on real-world experiences.

Finally, as this guidance had input from Alan Wills, who has long been synonymous with the world of software modelling, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s worth downloading an evaluation copy of VS2010 Ultimate and having a trail if you haven’t already upgraded!

Architect Tooling:
vsarchitectureguide.codeplex.com/

Visual Studio Ultimate:
www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/products/2010-editions/ultimate

The Pig, The Banker and the Cloud

A story of cloud awareness

This is the story of the Banker and the Pig. It is not based on any specific single reality but on the collection of many factors. It’s based on the presentation I prepared called Unbundling the bank.

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”Oh no!”, says the (fictional) Banker (not related to any actual banker I have met!) on seeing the initial slides from the Unbundling the Bank presentation.

“We live in a multi-sourced, software+service (Hybrid Cloud) world!”

”We just didn’t know it!”

”But hold on” 

”Isn’t SOA dead?”

”Didn’t SOA fail to deliver a return on investment (ROI)?”

“And anyway, we’re too silo’d and project and opportunity driven to consider adding cloud to the mix too!” the Banker concludes, almost looking a little relieved.

“Ah yes, but the problem isn’t with SOA it’s with the SOA Junkies!” says the Pig.

“The SOA Junkies?” shrieks the Banker!

“Yes” says the Pig calmly.

“They think too much like Adam Smith with his division of labour and Henry Ford with his assembly line! They’re too Task oriented!”

“They think in terms of the Separation of Concerns, abstractions, and ah … yes Re-Use, the magical holy grail of Re-use!” continues the Pig.

“How many times have we tried to deliver the ‘Single view of the Customer?’” asks the Pig rhetorically!

“These approaches just breed more complexity and like the forth bridge, never end, adding little if any business value as a consequence. All they do is pile on the technical debt from which IT slowly suffocates” remarks the Pig.

“The problem is that the approach is based on technology principles instead of the principles of business!”

“We need to look above the ‘HOW’; above the layers of people, process and especially the technology.”

“We need to focus on instead, on the ‘WHAT’ instead! We need to map the enterprise that describe its Business Capabilities. These encapsulate the people, process and technology, and unlike these things, capabilities are stable, unchanging, self-contained, measurable and above all value-oriented in relation to the business.”

“Oh!”, says the Banker!

What is an Enterprise?

“So let’s step back for a moment” says the Pig “and ask ourselves, what is the Enterprise?”

“Obviously, there are customers, one hopes! And then there are the Business partners, but what is actually inside that box we call the enterprise?”

The Banker is puzzled.

“Well I’ll tell you”, says the Pig, “It’s interesting, but from a capability perspective enterprises look remarkably similar to each other!”

“Ugh?” snorts the Banker.

“Looking at an enterprise’s capabilities at the top most level and we can see a regular pattern of capabilities that occur in all enterprises.”

“Firstly, there is a capability to plan new products and services.”

“Next, there is the capability to develop these new products or services”

“Third, there is create demand for these new products and services”

“And finally there is the need to Fulfil the delivery of these products and services. Simple, but amazing in the same way.” says the Pig with an air of triumph.

“All there is to an enterprise is simply Plan, Develop, Demand and Fulfil! Oh and add to this Collaborate too and that’s it; the 5 core capabilities that every enterprise or business has!”

“But hold on this can’t be all there is to it, surely!” questions a rather bemused looking Banker.

“Well of course not!” chuckles the Pig, “Each of these capabilities contains 1 to many sub-capabilities and these then contain more capabilities within them! So far we’ve taken capabilities down 5 levels and it still amazes me that this model holds true across the vast majority of enterprises we’ve seen!”

“Of course, there is variance, but there is about a 70% recurrence of these capabilities, even down to level 5, across enterprises, and across verticals!”

Silence.

“Ah how I love patterns” sighs the Pig looking upward as if to look for some hidden force.

The New Model Enterprise

“Ok, ok, so this is all very good” says the Banker, a little impatiently. “I can see that this is all very nice and pretty, but there’s devil in the details of those little capabilities!”

“There’s still the problem with the HOW!”

“Ah yes”, says the pig, nodding his head knowingly.

“Because these capabilities are stable, well defined and measurable, you can ask questions of them, value-oriented questions like, ‘what’s your value to the business?’ and ‘How healthy are you?’”.

“From the answers you get back you can produce a heat map of the enterprise that will give you a view of the health of your enterprise and more over where to focus your efforts in drilling down into the capabilities below, to find out what really is at fault and where to prioritise your efforts!”

“You can do this as a light-touch mapping across the enterprise and only drill down on the areas that flag up through the heat maps. Making it and efficient process”

“Ahhh” says the Banker, relaxing his facial expression slightly for the first time.

“But here’s the thing …” whispers the pig, leaning forward as if to ensure that this is for the Bankers ears only.

“Capabilities allow you to decompose the enterprise into discrete self contained units of specialisation, in so doing you can differentiate between the ones you care about; that creat value, and the ones you don’t.”

“You can then think about unbundling yourself from the cost of managing and maintaining these yourself.”

You can plan to move these away from a ‘bespoke’ internalised model to that of a more ‘standardised’ model.”

“Think of these capabilities as being like mini-enterprises all neat and self-governing and that the HOW might not need to be your problem at all” the Pig Winked.

“Oooh” says the Banker, his eyes widening, but this time less in shock and more in anticipation.

“Exactly”, says the Pig. “Now you’re looking at your enterprise differently aren’t you.”

“A suite of mini-enterprises doing stuff themselves, but collaborating to deliver a bigger result than they can do themselves. Some may even deliver their capability to another enterprise in time. This happens already if you consider the SaaS applications you are using today!”

“Furthermore, you can create new dynamic specialised capabilities and build them in the model of being a mini enterprise, able to persist on their own, without the layers of management that the models of the industrial era would and do enforce.”

“One day, like others before them, these once innovations, now commodity capabilities could be set free to find other consumers or markets and maintain their own innovation edge.”

“Now you have unlocked a new kind of strategy strategy; that of the New Model Enterprise (NME) based on Business Service Centric Principles!”

“And you can start to take advantage of the multi-sourced Software + Service (Hybrid Cloud) that you know we already live in.”

“Oh my!” gasps the Banker!

“Don’t believe me?” asks the Pig?

“Hmmm?” questions the Banker.

“Just go and ask the other banks …” said the Pig.

And with a nonchalant flick his tail, the Pig hoped off the Bankers head and returned to his glorious mud bath.

After all it really was the most splendid weather for the time of year!

The End.

 

Supporting Information

It’s interesting to note from Joe Mckendrick’s, SOA’s Dead, long Live Services blog that Gartner suggest SaaS doesn’t equal as much as 1% of enterprise IT Budget spend. But as Joe comments, the market seems healthy enough and it’s worth looking at some of Ray Wang’s numbers who reports that “SaaS vendors kept steady growth in the double digits”.

Unbundling the Bank @ CloudCamp

The other night I tried my hand at a 5 minute cloudcamp presentation which was mad and to be honest didn’t go according to plan! But hey I’ve put all that down to life-long-learning now and in probably talking to the wrong audience!

Below is the deck I presented and for some most baffling reason, that I can’t explain, the deck centres on a conversation between a very scared banker and a pig on his head!

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I came across it while hunting for images of banks and it made me really laugh at the time, but unfortunately I think it bombed a little on the day – no one (especially the OSS crowd) likes a guy from Microsoft trying to be funny – I had that feeling of the stand-up comedian confronted with silence once he’s delivered his best line! Urgh, the memory makes my skin crawl!

That said, I like the story and while the slides are great (of course;)!) I’ve had a go re-telling the story in a little more detail which I hope you’ll find fun and maybe even useful! You never know! This will follow as a separate post but in preparation here’s some background followed by the deck itself.

Some background

The title for the session came to me as you’ll know if you’re a regular to my blog, from the post I did the previous week that referenced an original post I did back in 2007 after seeing a session at QCon from Chris Swan and Craig Heimark. It came back to me a week or so ago when I got to talk to a group of around 30 Enterprise Architects for a large UK Bank. For too many the thought of using cloud was almost abhorrent and you could almost feel them each mouthing the words that “our bank will never use the cloud!”.

However, I had an ace up my sleeve being able to show, even back in 2008 through the work I did with Freeform Dynamics called IT on the front foot that Financial Services were among the leading adopters of Software as a Service (SaaS) at the time (remember the phrase cloud had not come to the fore at this time).

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But what was perhaps more interesting was that contrary to popular belief, SaaS adoption is far more significant where IT is seen as a strategic advantage to the business. Most, especially many of the SaaS vendors wrongly argue that it’s an opportunity for business to bypass IT and focus their efforts on that of converting the business executives, avoiding what in reality could be a quicker route through IT itself. It is clear that with the early adopters, success has very much depended on IT being involved and potentially driving the agenda. To support this, it is increasingly the case as you listen to early Cloud adopters from IT who talk of the need to convince the business of the benefits of cloud versus the risks.

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The final graph from the report I used shows that in the majority of cases SaaS adoption only takes place where there is a commitment to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)! This makes sense given the obvious concerns over storing data external to the organisation. An Enterprise that has a strategic position on Integration is clearly able to take advantage of the resultant hybrid model that must naturally follow.

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The Slide Deck

View more presentations from Matt Deacon.

 

Next post will tell the story of The Pig, the Banker and the Cloud.