Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CIOs - Would you like to get 100 Mpg?

Last year, I traveled home from my favorite vacation spot in my 2008 Saturn Vue and achieved about 30 miles per gallon. This means I got a little more mileage than Henry Ford's Model T - it got about 25 mpg. We put a man on the moon, landed a spacecraft on Titan, drove two toaster-cars on Mars, and can even get suckers like me to shell out $14.00 for a 3D movie about blue aliens in loincloths linking their tails with domesticated pterodactyls; and yet squeezing 100 miles out of a gallon of gas seems to be too hard.

Well - everything is a trade off. In 1935 Charles Nelson Pogue (no relation to Rielly) of Winnipeg, Canada purportedly developed a carburetor that could get 200 mpg. Turns out that even if you could get extreme miles per gallon it would come at a cost of having a car will no power, or bumpers, or anything else. Even today's high mileage cars come at a cost of being small, lightweight, and being slightly larger than Hot Wheels.

I'm looking over the architecture of the newest incarnation of our internal Web Hosting environment. Stay with me, this is relevant. The design is based on servers with multiple cores, employing VMWare with multiple instances of an Operating System, on which we'd load a Web Application Server system (like WebSphere), in which we'd run multiple applications for a single line of business.

OK, so maybe I lost you, but the point was that the configuration is complicated and is based on a series of decisions to isolate resources in some cases and share resources in others.

So we asked - what drove the designers to this particular configuration? Why not give each application its own server (a blade?), its own operating system, its own application server, and its own memory stack? Well, they said, the selected configuration was a negotiated balance between cost, performance, and scalability.

Excellent answer. Excellent answer except there is no communication that says our business model over the life of this investment will be to sacrifice scalability in order to minimize costs and performance. Nor do the architects have any direction that scalability of the platform should be diminished for 3-5 years in order to save on one-time capital investment costs.

You can't get 100 mpg with power to pull your boat from a four cylinder Escalade - it's not that they don't make it - it's that it's not possible. So what do you want from your car over the life of the loan? Luxury? Towing Capacity? Fuel Efficiency? If you don't tell your architect, you are going to get a Ford Taurus. Not too fast, not too efficient, not too much power.  Not a bad car - if it's what will meet your aspirations.

Given that we'll depreciate the cost of the Web Hosting platform over time, we ought to be sure that the architecturally-based quality attributes are aligned with the business aspirations over the same period.

CIOs, you have a strategy for a few years out. Make sure your architects fully understand the business aspirations and goals so they can ensure you have the capabilities to meet them.

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