Month: July 2009

iPod of the car industry

Few years ago, when I saw iPod for the first time, like many, I was stunned for its design, simplicity and quality. I had at least 5-6 different cell phones in my life and each of the cell phone manual was around 150 pages and when I got the iPod few years ago, the manual for that iPod was 2 pages. When I brought up this to my close friends during my Sunday chat sessions, some of them argued with me that iPod  and cell phone functionalities are different and hence the significance in the manual size. Those friends were speech less when Apple came up with iPhone.

I was wondering, why Sony did not come up with something similar like iPod. They dominate this market for so long and why they were not the first one to come up with something similar to iPod.

After some study, as I understand, most of the Japanese companies use the Japanese management style in all strategic and operational management. The key approach, as I understand, Japanese management style is more on consensus building. If there are 5 members in a team, all of them HAS to agree on the direction, approach, next steps before an action is taken. It makes a fundamental assumptions that all the 5 members are subject matter expert and kind of have an idea of the future prediction through approximation.

Obviously this management style is to limit the agility, innovation and time consuming. Statistically, this style proven to produce better quality products. In other hand, quick to market approach management style is proven to be more innovative but lack quality.

In Walter Chrysler biography, Chrysler stated one of main reason for his success and innovation was: make quick decision ,observe the results and adapt instead of taking long time to make a decision and realize it was not the right decision. Historically Chrysler company proven to produce most innovative car product in the car industry. Walter Chrysler management style is other spectrum of Japanese management style.

It appears, based on the recent JD power survey and consumer reports, American cars quality have been improving a lot but long way to go. They are on the right track. Particularly, Ford has been producing high quality product with best fuel mileage in last year. Like Ford, if the other American car companies figure out a way to drastically improve the quality of their product AND keep the innovation which has been in their roots they are going to produce the iPod of the car industry.

I wonder, the Japanese car companies are making any adjustment to their management style to be more innovative to achieve what Sony failed to do so.

Captive Financial Business cloud

Let us say a company FinCo is to provide captive financial business services (BPO – Business Process Outsourcing) to smaller banks or credit unions, the implementation of the service delivery can be hosted in the cloud and can be sold as a business cloud or implemented in the cloud depends on the FinCo’s business model.

The various captive financial business services that can be provided as the business cloud:

  • Captive financial business process management – Develop a standard business life cycle and design & implement the business processes in the cloud. The standard captive financial business processes can be extended for the customized business processes for each bank or credit union customers or even a captive financial
  • Score card development – The major pieces are FICO score (almost 350+ attributes) and internal credit model
  • Base Residual Risk model for the collateral (car)
  • Base Pricing Model – Based on the company’s score card , residual risk of the collateral (car) and marketing strategy
  • Loan origination – (From customer inquiry to discounting/booking the loan in the portfolio system)
  • Floor planning – (whole sale inventory management, insurance, consignment, electronic fund transfer and etc)
  • Remarketing (after market life cycle)
  • Asset based securitization

Note: This page is used for google’s page rank emprical analysis. The links will be created based on the random graph created.  This is node #6 which has the key word:  xysivabodzinyx , xysivabodzinxy . As per the graph, it links to page 5

Cloud Computing Architect

Due to the information over load and power full search engines like google.com, bing.com, the authentic information is freely available for almost any topic ranging from quantum mechanics to cloud computing. An average person can have a decent conversation about any topic with a minimum effort. It is real challenge to determine a real expert in any field in the current information over load.

Experts are not born but they are made. Before an expert becomes an expert they are beginners searching information to get familiar with the topic. In the information over load, a beginner can easily be represented as an expert.

Cloud computing has lots of attention in the current business environment, and IT executives really struggle to differentiate the cloud computing architect with a person JUST knows the right buzz words. A guidelines to differentiate an cloud computing architect and a person JUST knows the right buzz words with basic knowledge about cloud computing.

Cloud computing Architect:

1. In depth understanding of cloud computing tool box –

  • Understands the existence and usage of various technical and business cloud environment
  • Understands the technical and business stack type in each cloud and usage of those stack for cloning
  • Understands each logical and physical unit of the stack (like storage, database, BPMS, OWL, UML, business services like loan origination, consultative service, collection and etc)
  • Understands behind the scene technology (like cloud operating system, virtualization, storage area network, data transfer rate, raid type, data redundancy, disaster recovery plan and etc). Some argue, understanding behind the scene technology is not required for an architect. In my strong opinion, that is the differentiator between an architect (expert or evangelist ) and novice (quick concept exposed person). It helps the expert to pick right solution for the right problem.

2. Enterprise view of the cloud –

  • Various possible integration of cloud solutions
  • Latency between each cloud solutions

3. Solution design –

  • Various possible instantiation of the enterprise view of cloud

4. Solution delivery

  • This is the most important aspect of a cloud computing architect. First 3 area focuses on the various solution design and its components. The solution delivery focuses on solving a business problem using the packaged cloud solution. It is business problem and solution matching exercise. To illustrate the role of an cloud computing architect let me take a very practical simple example. Let us say, a company wants to sell loan (retail or lease)organization as a service to a smaller banks or credit unions.  For this business problem, the solution provider (let us say the company name is FinCo) has to understand the common business process involved in loan organization and customized loan organization for each customer (bank or credit unit) and both common and customized loan organization needs to be implemented using the technology stack like LAMP, Messaging, persistence database and etc. The common loan organization also be imaged for deployment. Common loan organization can be an cloud solution and it is ready to use. When a Finco, get a new customer, it can deploy the common solution in the cloud and made necessary modification to customize the customer needs.Deploying a solution using the loan organization cloud can be done by a sales or presale technical team. The architecture of the loan organization stack in the cloud will be done by the cloud computing architect.

Amazon cloud – A practical experience..

Being a strategist, enterprise architect, chief architect and a leader, I do not believe in setting direction without knowing or approximating the n th step. In one way, it is very mathematical in the approach as similar to dynamic programming. As dynamic programming used computer programs like computer chess programs, estimating the n th step is based on probable choices using intuition and facts. The facts has the highest probability for success than intuition and I prefer to use the fact when fact can be searched and found. Use intuition only when the facts can not be found.

Cloud computing is in every practical enterprise architect’s or IT strategist’s technology road map and the implementation of the cloud computing for any IT organization is the question of when. Cloud computing has enough cloud in the sky and in some area it is already drizzling and in some area it is more than drizzling. It is going to rain and as people say, when it rains, it pours. Same thing is applicable to cloud computing. It is going to rain all over and when it rains, it is going to pour.

To be proactive for any future requirement for the organization (like I did with google apps on gmail), as an enterprise architect leader, I subscribed to the amazon cloud to set up an infrastructure for web hosting.

I would like to summarize my findings in an executive level.

  1. Set up an elastic amazon cloud for a web site is very easy and designed for a non technical person. (Obviously, it is very very easy to set up for a technical person)
  2. Select the stack you would like to have in the cloud. There are numerous infrastructure stack already available and ready to use (like wordpress, LAMP, Identity management and etc). It is also easy to create a custom stack for your use or promote it your stack for a public use.
  3. Create an elastic IP address for the stack created.
  4. Login to the clone (or instance) using ssh and do the necessary configuration
  5. Load the application
  6. Map the domain address to the elastic IP address
  7. If the traffic to the site increases, increases the number of clones (or instances) associated to the dynamic IP address
  8. It cost me $2.18 and my 30 minutes time (cost for my 30 minute is priceless!)

All the above steps were done in less than 30 minutes with out any prior training. The site was launched in 30 minutes. The above steps make me think, why an organization has to have an army of people to set up and support an infrastructure? CXO, if you are reading this blog, do not spend any more of your significant G&A budget on the infrastructure, ask your enterprise architect to look into cloud computing and save significant cost and divert your G&A into innovation, investment management and enterprise architecture!

Cloud Computing Architecture and its future..

Cloud computing concept continue to receive acceptance and its adaption increases exponentially.

I heard today from one of vendor representative that he grew up in the farm and growing up in the farm means he had to learn whatever required in no time to do farming. He confirmed my thoughts on how farm boys grow up in the farm. Cloud computing basically took the farm boy approach. Do whatever is required to do the job!

Fifteen years ago, the PC support team use to install the operating system (windows 3.11,MS-DOS ) in each and every PCs and PC support cost use to be a significant cost in the IT shop. As repetitive mundane tasks mandates  innovation, solution like Norton Ghost solution were emerged and hence deployment made easy and drove the PC support cost down.

Cloud computing took the Norton Ghost solution to the server environment.  Like me, I can imagine most of the IT members spent significant time in  building the development, testing, staging and production environment for each application and spent  time to ensure that all the environment were build alike and still had environment behaved differently for unknown reasons. Cloud computing solves all theses problems.

Key components of cloud computing:

Utilizing the external storage in the server environment has been in use for quite a while. In some cases, like manufacturing production databases, selecting the apt external storage platform including hardware, storage operating system, connectivity and raid types plays a vital role in the system architecture.  Likewise, in the cloud computing, the storage and processing unit are physically separated and logically connected as and when required. It includes the boot volume too.  To manage both processing units and storage units, an external operating system called cloud computing operating system is used. There are vendors like vmware sells cloud computing operating system like vmware vSphere and there are open source cloud computing operating system like eyeOS

  • Processing Units
  • Storage units
  • Cloud computing OS
  • Network units

Architecture of cloud computing:

For external users

Have a OC3 or OC12 or OC48 internet link based on your requirement to connect to the internet for your data center. Have a cisco 7200 series and cisco ACE series for your first and second layers of your network. Have netcahce or ssl accelerator or intrusion prevention devices based on your requirements. Connect the internal vlan with blade server (HP) and storage units like EMC. Slice the EMC luns to have a preload images like Redhat, Windows with preloaded system software like application server, web server, domain name server, database server, director server and etc. Install the cloud computing operating system in the external boxes and link both processing and storage units. The cloud computing operating system manages both processing and storage units.

If there are requirements to connect stand alone servers, it can be connected in the internal vlan.

The architecture is straight forward and purposefully I’m not drawing it.

For internal users:

The same architecture expect OC3 internet link.

Cloud Computing Future:

The concept is very cost effective and efficient. Instead of building images for production servers with application server, web server, database server and etc.. the image will be elevated to more business unit image. Loan processing image, collection and customer service image, delinquency image, skip tracing image,  bankruptcy, treasury, securitization, point of sale and etc.  The technology cloud is in the phase of reaching maturity and business cloud is emerging. There is a huge potential for the players who get quickly into the business cloud.

Think about for a minute, if you are bank, why do you want to spend time on building IT infrastructure to process loan. Banks JUST want to focus on getting good papers, good customers and not worry about how the assets are stored, retrieved and processed. Whoever get into business cloud will lead that market segment for a while!!


IT Waste Management..

hmm.. Do you know what is being wasted in your IT organization?

Nirvana (the highest level of maturity) is not reality in IT organization. It is a stretch goal. There are always room for improvement in any IT organization.

Some time back, a set of projects were perceived as a high business value projects and in last few months the business climate or economical climate might have changed and the project could be in the brink of extinction.

Some time back, a set of skills was perceived as a core competency for the future organization and due to the recent merger or acquisition or economical situation, the business strategy changed and hence the IT strategy. The core competency developed few years ago is not core any more in the current environment.

Some time back, a set of tools bought to enable efficiency with in the organization is not really working out due to various reasons..

What ever the situations may be, the past investment made in technology, people, process may not be currently required with in the organization.

IT Waste Management must be part of IT finance management group and IT finance manager/director is responsible for IT waste management function.

IT Waste Management Process:

Trigger:
Change in business strategy, IT strategy,executive leadership (end up by changing the IT strategy) or  merger, acquisition

  1. Clearly understand the current direction of company
  2. Clearly understand the change in direction due to the trigger
  3. Identify the gaps
  4. Assess the impact of directional change in terms of
    • Vendor Contract  – Hardware/software/Purchase service/Professional service
    • Intellectual  capital loss (work with HR and IT senior management )
    • System landscape  (work with Architecture team)
  5. Identify the retirement plan or reusable plan for all IT assets. Multiple teams like architecture, HR, procurement all need to work together to develop the above plans.
  6. Execute the plan. Realize and monitor the benefits
  7. Report the sun downed systems to IT controlling as IT impairment assessment. The IT intangible assets which are in the books can be adjusted and would bring tax benefits to the company.

The systems which are sun downed or retired in the process must be reported to IT controlling as a IT asset impairment assessment to reflect the new IT intangible asset value in the books. It would bring tax saving to the company.

The above steps are part of IT waste management process and must be performed every 3-6 months in every IT organization.  It will bring operational and cost efficiency to any IT organization.