Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Clarification on James McGovern's recent comments

Man, its been a while since I posted. Sorry to my loyal fans, but my last post should explain where my head has been at the past few weeks.

I wanted to take a moment to clear up some misunderstandings in James McGovern's comment on my recent third-hand coverage of the Forrester Research 2007 IT Forum conference (via Ken Oestreich who actually attended). I have huge respect for James' pragmatic, get to the point style, and he is definitely a leading edge player in both the Enterprise Architecture and Security spaces. However, James mistakenly credits the comment, "There are no IT projects anymore, only business projects", to "Ken Oestreich of Forrester". Ken is not an employee of Forrester Research (he is employed by Cassatt as Director of Product Marketing), and he was just reporting what he heard. I am not aware of the name of the Forrester Analyst who made that statement.

Having said that, clearly this quote can be interpreted in a variety of ways. James seems to have read the quote as "IT is dead" or some such thing, where I think the quote is intended to show that IT projects are now founded initially on business need, not on the whims of IT professionals eager to introduce new technologies. As I read James' blog, this seems right up his alley. However, I would agree that the statement is more hype than substance--thus the lack of a specific interpretation.

One other thing James says bugs me a bit. Perhaps I misinterpreted, but the following statement seems way off:

"Maybe he should acknowledge that the vast majority of CIOs aren't even focusing on data centers as this has been commotitized (sic) and therefore pushed several layers down in the organization. Likewise, infrastructure stuff simply doesn't allow an enterprise to either innovate nor sustain competitive advantage where as software development still has the potential for both."

Really? I think if James were to ask his CIO what his number one expense line item was, it wouldn't be research and development. Wonder why utility computing is a key initiative for CIOs in the coming years? Why is "Green Data Center" all over the press these days? I can tell you: operations (labor, facilities, infrastructure and utilities) accounts for the vast majority of enterprise IT budgets. Even those that "outsource" (domestically or otherwise) to Managed Hosting Providers are paying a princely sum for the service.

Add to that the "siloed" nature of most application deployments in data centers, and the incredible barrier to market agility that causes. A giant "bank of our continent" recently filled an RFP for utility computing (in the "turn our IT into a utility" sense), but cost savings wasn't even the most important factor. The bank can only grow through (international) acquisition, and each acquisition has been burdensome largely due to the service level losses caused by integrating each IT organization and its infrastructure. Agility with guaranteed service levels is the bank's number one operations priority.

That's not to say that software isn't also a priority. It is for all the reasons that James alludes to. It certainly is the quickest (only?) route to new revenue streams, and it can also lead to significant cost savings if done right. Hell, if we can get the cost of operations down, it will free up more funds for this important endeavor! But to say infrastructure has been pushed way down the list just doesn't jibe with the pain we are finding in corporate IT today.

Let me make it clear that I have great respect for James McGovern, and I read his blog every day. I hope that we can continue a conversation about both the role of infrastructure innovation in the future of IT, and the relationship between application architectures and their deployment architectures in the data center.