Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Werner Vogels on Amazon.com, AWS and SOA

I am way out of date here, but I've just stumbled across an interview between Information Week and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. The interview is from way back in 2008, but many of the things discussed are just as valid (and in some senses revolutionary) now as they were then.

Touching on a number of interesting bits of information about Amazon's architecture, the interview talks about how Amazon came to become the cloud computing 'thought leader' they are today.

Amazon have been doing SOA highly successfully for nearly a decade, and as demonstrated by their dominant position in internet retail (2009 revenues topping $24 billion and a market cap of over $70 billion at time of writing).

What particularly caught my eye about this article is how it aligns with my own views about what makes good SOA tick:

"It's not just an architectural model, it's also organizational. Each service has a team associated with it that takes the reliability of that service and is responsible for the innovation of that service. So if you're the team that's responsible for that Listmania widget, then it's your task to innovate and make that one better."
To me, making SOA work is more about people and organisation structures than it is about technology. Build the right teams and the technology will come. Focus on the technology and your organisation will just hold you back.

From there, Werner goes on to talk about how they evolved the AWS cloud computing platform out of their own need for highly resilient distributed infrastructure, and of course how they exposed this too as services. To put this in perspective, this 'spin off' is projected to earn Amazon over half a billion dollars in 2010. Not bad for a by-product.

Read the article. Even 2 years late, it's well worth 15 minutes of your time.

Friday, 11 June 2010

IBM UK Impact 2010

On Tuesday I dropped in on IBM's UK Impact 2010 conference in London. UK Impact is effectively a pocket-sized version of the 5-day, 6000 attendee Las Vegas Impact event held last month.

The Conference was well organised, held in the (rather swanky) Grange Hotel St Paul's.

This was a one-day event, with the morning being single track, and the afternoon multi-track.

As you'd expect given IBM's recent 'Smart' branding (imitation is the highest form of flattery), the Keynote was a startlingly on-message presentation entitled "How your Organization Can Work Smarter".

There were some interesting gems in there: Did you know for example that certain electrical companies in the states give customers a circa $300 annual rebate in return for handing over the keys to their air conditioning to the electrical company? In times of peak demand (but not when it's health-threateningly hot), rather than power up another turbine, they'll start a rolling programme of AC shut-downs to reduce demand. That is smart.

A fun set of statistics for you: Among the businesses run by the top 500 CIOs, compared to other businesses there is:

  • double the usage of process modelling and automation technology.
  • 3.75 times greater usage of collaborative workspaces.
  • 9 times greater usage of SOA.

... of course, how you define 'top' CIOs or 'greater usage of SOA' is potentially subject to interpretation!

A key message, which I really buy into is that 'excellence is a moving target'. It's easy to be complacent when you're at the top of your game. What (arguably) separates the likes of Google and Apple from Microsoft is their ability to know what the customer wants, before the customer knows it themselves. Doing this, obviously, requires an ability to innovate at speed and change on a dime.

To me, the only way to achieve this is to keep everything as simple as possible at all times. If your IT is so complicated that your business can't wrap their heads around it, is it any wonder you struggle to keep up with their demands? Sometimes the best investment you can make is one that leaves you with less than you started with, particularly if it makes your IT look more like the business it serves.