Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Enterprise Architecture, Business Continuity and Integrating the Cloud

(Update: Throughout the original version of this post, I had misspelled Mr. Vambenepe's name. This is now corrected.)

William Vambenepe, a product architect at Oracle focusing on enterprise management of applications and middleware, pointed me to a blog by David Linthicum on IntelligentEnterprise that makes the case for why enterprise architects must plan for SaaS. In a very high level, but well reasoned post, Linthicum highlights why SaaS systems should be considered a part of enterprise architectures, not tangential to them.

As Vambenepe points out, perhaps the most interesting observation from Linthicum is the following:

Third, get in the mindset of SaaS-delivered systems being enterprise applications, knowing they have to be managed as such. In many instances, enterprise architects are in a state of denial when it comes to SaaS, despite the fact that these SaaS-delivered systems are becoming mission-critical. If you don't believe that, just see what happens if Salesforce.com has an outage.

I don't want to simply repeat Vambenepe's excellent analysis, and I absolutely agree with him. So let me just add something about SLAuto.

Take a look at Vambenepe's immediate response:
I very much agree with this view and the resulting requirements for us vendors of IT management tools.
Now add the comments from Microsoft's Gabriel Morgan that I discussed a couple of weeks ago.
Take for example Microsoft Word. Product Features such as Import/Export, Mail Merge, Rich Editing, HTML support, Charts and Graphs and Templates are the types of features that Customer 1.0 values most in a product. SaaS Products are much different because Customer 2.0 demands it. Not only must a product include traditional product features, it must also include operational features such as Configure Service, Manage Service SLA, Manage Add-On Features, Monitor Service Usage Statistics, Self-Service Incident Resolution as well.
Gabriel's point boiled down to the following equation:
Service Offering = (Product Features) + (Operational Features)
which I find to be entirely in agreement with Linthicum and Vambenepe.

As I am wont to do, let me push "Operational Features" as far as I think they can go.

In the end, what customers want from any service--software, infrastructure or otherwise--is control over the balance of quality, cost and time-to-market. Quality is measured through specific metrics, typically called service level metrics. Service level agreements (SLAs) are commitments to maintain service level metrics within commonly agreed boundaries and rules. In the end, all of these "operational features" are about allowing the end user to either

  1. define the service level metrics and/or their boundaries (e.g. define the SLA), or
  2. define how the system should respond if a metric fails to meet the SLA.

Item "2" is SLAuto.

I would argue that what you don't want is a closed loop SLAuto offering from any of your vendors. In fact, I propose right here, right now, that a standard (and, I am sure Simon Wardley would argue, open source) protocol or set of protocols for the following:
  1. Defining service level metrics (probably already exists?)
  2. Defining SLA bounds and rules (may also exist?)
  3. Defining alerts or complex events that indicate that an SLA was violated

Vendors could then use these protocols to build Operational Features that support a distributed SLAuto fabric, where the ultimate control over what to do in severe SLA violations can be controlled and managed outside of any individual provider's infrastructure, preferably at a site of the customer's choosing. This "customer advocate" SLAuto system would then coordinate with all of the customer's other business systems' individual SLAuto to become the automated enforcer of business continuity. In the end, that is the most fundamental role of IT, whether it is distributed or centralized, in any modern, information driven business.

"Nice, James," you say. "Very pretty 'pie-in-the-sky' stuff, but none of it exists today. So what are we supposed to do now?"

Implement SLAuto internally in your own data centers with your existing systems, that's what. Integrate SLAuto for SaaS as you understand the Operational Feature APIs from your vendors, and those vendors, your SLAuto vendor and/or your systems talent can develop interfaces into your own SLAuto infrastructure.

Evolve towards nirvana, don't try to reach it by taking tabs of vendor acid.

If you want more advice on how to do all of this, drop me a line (james dot urquhart at cassatt dot com) or comment below.

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