Automated Governance: Cloud Computing's Lynchpin for Success or Failure

Updated: September 28, 2010

Here to help us explain why baked-in visibility across services creation and deployment is essential please join Jeff Papows, President and CEO of WebLayers and the author of Glitch: The Hidden Impact of Faulty Software, and John McDonald, CEO of CloudOne Corp. The discussion is moderated by BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

McDonald: Cloud, from a technology perspective, is more about some very sophisticated tools that are used to virtualize the workloads and the data and move them live from one bank of servers to another, and from one whole data center to another, without the user really being aware of it. But, fundamentally, cloud computing is about getting access to a data center that's my data center on-demand.

Fundamentally, the easiest way to remember it is that cloud is to hardware as software as a service (SaaS) is to software. Basically, for CloudOne, we're providing IBM Rational Development tools both through cloud computing and SaaS.

... There's a myth that development is something that we ought to be tooling up for, like providing power to a building or water service. In reality, that's not how it works at all.

The money that you save by doing that is the reason you can open any trade magazine and the first seven pages are all going to be about cloud.

There are people who come and go with different roles throughout the development process. The front-end business analysts play a big role in gathering requirements. Then, quite often, architects take over and design the application software or whatever we are building from those requirements. Then, the people doing the coding, developers, take over. That rolls into testing and that rolls into deployment. And, as this lifecycle moves through, these roles wax and wane.

But the traditional model of getting development tools doesn't really work that way at all. You usually buy all of the tools that you will ever need up front, usually with a large purchase, put them on servers, and let them sit there, until the people who are going to use them and log in and use them. But, while they are sitting there, taking up space and your capital expense budget, and not being used, that's waste.

The cloud model allows you to spin up and spin down the appropriate amount of software and hardware to support the realities of the software development lifecycle. The money that you save by doing that is the reason you can open any trade magazine and the first seven pages are all going to be about cloud.

It's allowing customers of CloudOne and IBM Rational to use that money in new, creative, interesting ways to provide tools they couldn't afford before, to start pilots of different, more sophisticated technologies that they wouldn't have been able to gather the resources to do before. So, it's not only a cost-savings statement, it's also ease of use, ease of start-up, and an ability to get more for your dollar from the development process. That's a pretty cool thing all the way around.

Papows: A lot of about what's going on in cloud computing it's not a particularly new thing. What we used to think of was hosting or outsourcing. What's happening now is the world is becoming more mobile, as 20 percent of our IT capacity is focused on new application development.

We have to get more creative and more distributed about the talent that contributes to those critical application development and projects. ... Design time governance is the next logical thing in that continuum, so that all of the inherent risk mitigation associated with governance and then IT contacts can be applied to application development in a hybrid model that's both geographically and organizationally distributed.

When you try to add some linear structure and predictability to those hybrid models, the constant that can provide some order and some efficiency is not purely technology-based. It's not just the virtualization, the added virtual machine capacity, or even the middleware to include companies like WebLayers or tools like Rational. It's the process that goes along with it. One of the really important things about design-time governance is the review process.

Governance is a big part of the technology toolset that institutionalizes that review process and adds that order to what otherwise can quickly become a bit chaotic.

McDonald: The challenge of tools in the old days was that they were largely created during a time where all the people and the development project were sitting on the same floor with each other in a bunch of cubes in offices.

The cloud allows us to create a dedicated new data center that sits on the Internet and is accessible to all, wherever they are, and in whatever time zone they are working, and whatever relationship they have to my company.

As the challenges of development have caused companies to look at outsourcing and off-shoring, but even more simplistically the merger of my bank and your bank. Then we have groups of developers in two different cities, or we bought a packaged application, and the best skill to help us integrate it is actually from a third-party partner which is in a completely different city or country. Those tools have shown their weaknesses, even in just getting your hands on them.

How do I punch a hole through the firewall to give you a way to check in your code problems? The cloud allows us to create a dedicated new data center that sits on the Internet and is accessible to all, wherever they are, and in whatever time zone they are working, and whatever relationship they have to my company.

That frees things up to be collaborative across company boundaries. But with that freedom comes a great challenge in unifying a process across all of those different people, and getting a collaborative engine to work across all those people.

It's almost a requirement to keep the wheels on the bus and to have some degree of ability to manage the process in the compliance with regulations and the information about how decisions were made in such distributed ways that they are traceable and reviewable. It's really not possible to achieve such a distributed development environment without that governance guidance.

Papows: We're dealing with some challenges for the first time that require out-of-the-box thinking. I talk about this in "Glitch." We have reached a point where there a trillion connected devices on the Internet as the February of this year. There are a billion embedded transistors for every human being on the planet.

We have reached a point where there a trillion connected devices on the Internet as the February of this year. There are a billion embedded transistors for every human being on the planet.

You've read about or heard about or experienced first hand the disasters that can happen in production environments, where you have some market-facing application, where service is lost, where there is even brand damage or economic consequences.

... Everybody intellectually buys into governance, but nobody individually wants to be governed. Unless you automate it, unless you provide the right stack of tools and codify the best practices and libraries that can be reusable, it simply won't happen. People are people, and without the automation to make it natural, unnatural things get applied some percentage of the time, and governance can't work that way.

McDonald: Developers view themselves quite often as artists. They may not articulate it that way, but they often see themselves as artists and their palette is code.

As such, they immediately rankle at any notion that, as artists, they should be governed. Yet, as we've already established, that guidance for them around the processes, methods, regulations, and so on is absolutely critical for success, really in any size organization, but beyond the pale in a distributed development environment. So, how do you deal with that issue?

Well, you embed it into their entire environment from the very first stage. In most companies, this is trying to decide what projects we should undertake, which in lot of companies is a mainly over-glorified email argument.

Governance must be process-friendly

Governance has to be embedded at every step of that way, gently nudging, and sometimes shuttling all these players back into the right line, when it comes to ensuring that the result of their effort is compliant with whatever it is that I needed to be compliant to.

In short, you've got to make it be a part of and embedded into every stage of the development process, so that it largely disappears, and becomes something that becomes such a natural extension of the tool so that you don't have anyone along the way realizing that they are being governed

WebLayers was the very first partner that we reached out to say, "Can you go down this journey with us together, as we begin developing these workbenches, these integrated toolsets, and delivering them through the cloud on-demand?" We already know and see that embedding governance in every layer is something we have to be able to do out of the gate.

The team at WebLayers was phenomenal in responding to that request and we were able to take several based instances of various Rational tools, embed into them WebLayers technology, and based on how the cloud works, archive those, put them up in our library to be able to be pulled down off-the-shelf, cloned, and made an instance of for the various customers that we have coming to our pipeline who want to experience this technology in what we are doing.

Better safe than sorry

... The avoidance of things going badly is unfortunately very difficult to measure. That is something that everyone who attempts to do a cloud-delivered development environment and does the right thing by embedding in it the right governance guidance should know coming out of the gate. The best thing that's going to happen is you are not going to have a catastrophe.

That said, one of the neat things about having a common workbench, and having the kinds of reporting in metrics that it can measure, meaning the IBM Jazz, along with the WebLayers technology, is that I can get a very detailed view of what's going on in my software factory at every turn of the crank and where things are coming off the rails a little bit.

Papows: There's an age-old expression that you're so close to the forest you can't see the trees. Well, I think in the IT business we're sometime so deeply embedded in the bark we can't see anything.

We've been developing, expanding, deploying, and reinventing on a massive scale so rapidly for the last 30 years that we've reached a breaking point where, as I said earlier, between the complexity curves, between the lack of elasticity and human capital, between the explosion and the amount of mobile computing devices and their propensity for accessing all of this back-end infrastructure and applications, where something fundamentally has to change. It's a problem on a scale that can't be overwhelmed by simply throwing more bodies at it.

Creative solutions

Secondly, in the current economy, very few CIOs have elastic budgets. We have to do as an industry what we've done from the very beginning, which is to automate, innovate, and find creative solutions to combat the convergence of all of those digital elements to what would otherwise be a perfect storm.

There there is simply no barrier for anyone to give this a try.

So SaaS, cloud computing, automated governance, forms of artificial intelligence, Rational tooling, consistent workbench methodologies, all of these things are the instruments of getting ourselves out of the corner that we have otherwise painted ourselves in.

I don't want to seem like an alarmist or try to paint too big a storm cloud on the horizon, but this is simply not something that's going to happen or be resolved in a business-as-usual usual fashion.

That, in fact, is where companies like CloudOne are able to expand and leap productivity equations for companies in certain segments of the market. That's where automation, whether it's Rational, WebLayers, or another piece of technology, has got to be part of the recipe of getting off this limb before we saw it off behind us.
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