Showing posts with label standards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label standards. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Open Group Marks 25 Years of Working Together to Make Successful Standards

Transcript of a discussion on the 25th anniversary of remarkable achievements in the global technology standards arena by The Open Group.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: The Open Group.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.

Way back in 1996, when web browsing was novel and central processing still ruled the roost of enterprise IT, The Open Group was formed from the merger of the Open Software Foundation and X/Open.

This October marks the 25th anniversary of remarkable achievements in the technology standards arena by The Open Group. Beginning with a focus as the publisher of the single UNIX specification technical standard and steward of the UNIX trademark, the organization has grown to more than 850 members in over 50 countries -- and it leads the field and technology standard services, certifications, research, and training.

Stay with us now as we explore how standards like UNIX and TOGAF evolved to transform business and society by impacting the world as a digital adoption wave swept over human affairs during the past quarter century.

Here to commemorate The Open Group’s achievements and reminisce about the game-changing, earth-shattering, and culture-evolving advances of standards-enabled IT, please welcome our guests. We’re here with Steve Nunn, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at The Open Group. Welcome, Steve.

Steve Nunn: Thank you, Dana. I’m glad to be here.

Gardner: We’re also here with David Lounsbury, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) at The Open Group. Welcome, David.

David Lounsbury:
Thank you, Dana. I’m happy to be here, too.

Gardner: And we’re also here with Jim Hietala, Vice President Business Development and Security at The Open Group. Welcome, Jim.

Jim Hietala: Hi, Dana. I’m glad to be here.

Gardner: Great to have you all. Steve, even after 25 years of clearly breathtaking changes across the IT landscape, why is The Open Group’s original mission as salient as ever?

Nunn: In a nutshell, it’s because the world needs open standards. That has been our heritage -- open systems, open standards. We added conformance to open standards, importantly, along the way. And it’s never been more needed than it is now.


When we began, there was a crying need for more choice among customers and more interoperability among different software applications. The main proprietary vendors just weren’t necessarily delivering that choice. So, it’s really because customers need standards.

You know, they help suppliers, too. They help all of us in our day-to-day lives. That’s why we’re still needed at 25 years on -- and we’re looking forward to a bright next 25 years.

Gardner: David, sometimes you have to pull people kicking and screaming into standards. It’s like what your mom told you about eating spinach. It’s for your own good, right?

Lounsbury: Right.

Gardner: But we couldn’t get to the current levels and breadth of technology use without them.

Meeting the need for standards

Lounsbury: That’s right. And, you know, Steve mentioned the need for standards -- and the technology does drive the standards. At the time when we were founded, there were relatively few CPU manufacturers, and now there has been an explosion in compute power and a radical fall in the cost of networking, and that’s led to lots of new ways of doing business. People are looking for guidance on how to do that, how to restructure their organizations, and on which technology platforms they need to use. That need is fueling a swing back to seeking new standards.

Gardner: Jim Hietala, with your focus on security, 25 years ago we couldn’t have imagined the things we’re facing around security today. But without people pulling together, we wouldn’t be able to buttress our supply chains. How has security in particular been enabled by standards?

Hietala: It’s interesting to look back at the past because in the world of security today you hear about two predominant themes. One is zero trust, and if you look back at some of the work the Jericho Forum was doing inside of The Open Group 10 to 12 years ago, those were the origins of what we’re calling zero trust in the security industry today.


The whole notion of perimeter security was failing. We needed to move security controls closer to the data and to secure people’s access within what were previously considered secure networks. The Jericho Forum seeded that discussion a number of years ago.

The other big issue out there today is supply chain security, with some of the supply chain security attacks in the last 18 months. And here again an initiative inside of The Open Group that was formed some 10 years ago, the Open Trusted Technology Forum (OTTF), that was brought to us by the US government, was focused on addressing the security of the hardware and software for the components that go into the IT systems being procured.

And again, we’ve had some groundbreaking work inside of The Open Group on the topic of security that’s highly relevant today, even though the environment has changed tremendously in the last 25 years.

Gardner: Yes, as Steve mentioned, this is a long game. Sometimes it takes decades for the value of these efforts to become fully evident to all the players.

I’m old enough to remember there used to be quite a few UNIX® standards or variants. The process behind pulling them together for the benefit of everyone -- both the users and ultimately the vendors as well -- became a cookie cutter model for creating standards generally.

Steve, how did the evolution of UNIX standards in particular become opportunity to do much more?

Nunn: We converted what it meant to be a UNIX system, from being derived from a certain code base, to being based on a standard. The key is it wasn’t just one standard. It was a lot of standards. There were 1170 different specs that changed what it meant to be a UNIX system. It was then all about conformance with the standard and how the system operates in connection with the standard -- rather than derived from a particular code base.

It was gathering a set of standards together. Our history since then -- this idea of a standard of standards -- has evolved and developed to make standards approachable and useful for solving business problems.

Fundamentally, at The Open Group, all our work on standards starts with trying to solve a business problem. A set of standards makes solutions more applicable, more approachable, for implementation. And increasingly nowadays we add things like developing some code alongside it. That’s the essence of it. We were transforming the first kind of UNIX standard, the Spec-1170, set of standards.

Gardner: David, what a success UNIX has become since back when we thought this was going to be just a way for workstations to interoperate better on a network. It became the foundation for Linux, BSD, and for the MacOS. It went from workstations to servers and then dominated servers. It seems that there’s no better validation for the success and power of standards and what we’ve seen with UNIX over the past 25 years.


Lounsbury: Yes, no question about it. I come from the minicomputer revolution, where I started in my career, and basically that whole industry got run out of business by UNIX systems. And now we have it, as you said, on our laptops. I’m running it on my laptop right now. It’s on all our smaller systems. Embedded processes all tend to run a variant of things that look like the UNIX standard.

If you have to create something quickly, and you want to create something that’s robust and will run predictably, you pick something that follows the UNIX standard.

Gardner: And how did you get people to rally to such standards? There’s more to this than technology. This is also about a culture of cooperation. There is a human behavioral aspect to it.

How has The Open Group been able to pull so many different threads together and repeat this? You’ve been doing this as well for TOGAF, with enterprise architecture, with Open Agile, ArchiMate, FACE, and reference architectures like IT4IT, among many others.

What is behind this ability to govern so many factions into a common goal?

Staying power of neutrality

Lounsbury: There are a couple of dimensions to it, and Steve’s already mentioned one of them. He talked about the end-customers. We recognized the value of neutrality -- not only neutrality of technology, but also the other dimension of neutrality, which is the balance between the buy-side and the supply-side.

There are many things called standards activities that are really altered to one side or the other. We found the balanced viewpoint: balanced across the technologies, balanced across the demand, which is the essential key to having stable buy-in. Now, of course, that must be built on rock-solid processes that respect all the parties, all the way through. And that’s how our formal governance comes in.

Nunn: That’s right, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The magic happens when the customers drive this. They have things that need to be achieved through standards.

The process has been essentially stable -- evolved slightly over the years -- but it's a tried-and-tested process; a consensus process of one company, one vote. It's allowed us to create trust.

The second point David made is key, too. The process has been essentially stable -- evolved slightly over the years -- but it’s a tried-and-tested process; a consensus process of one company, one vote. It’s allowed us to create trust.

That’s the word I want to want to bring out here: trust in the process, trust in the equity of the process; that all parties get to have their say. That has essentially stood us in good stead. We’ve been able to apply that process, and that same approach in governance, across many different industries and business programs.

Gardner: I suppose another key word here, Jim, is cooperation. Because while The Open Group is a steward and has been involved with governance, there’s a tremendous army of people who contribute the things that they have learned and know and then bring to all this.

How important has it been to encourage that level of cooperation? It’s astonishing how many people are involved with these standards.

Hietala: It’s critical to have that cooperation, and the work, frankly, from the members. The Open Group brings the staff who help initiate standards initiatives and run them per our processes and our governance in a fair, open, and transparent way.

But it’s the members who bring the subject matter expertise in whatever area we’re talking about. In the case of The Open Group FACE Consortium, it’s the defense contractors and government folks administering some of the programs who bring subject matter expertise that helps us produce business guides, procurement guides, and the standards themselves, as well as the reference software.

We have a saying that joining a standards effort such as The Open Group is like joining a gym. You have to not just get the membership -- you have to show up and do the work, too.

Lounsbury: Both of Steve and Jim mentioned confidence. I think that the confidence we project in the process, both the formal governance and the ability to bring people together, is the real differentiator of why The Open Group has stood the test of time.

We see many examples of groups that get together and say, “Well, why don’t we just get together and solve this problem?” And what we often find is that they don’t because they lack stability. They can’t project stability. They don’t have the endurance. The government is a good example of where they then come back to The Open Group and say, “Hey, can you help us make this a sustainable activity that will have the impact over time that we need?”

Gardner: Another key word here then is journey, because you never get to the destination, which is actually a good thing. You must be self-sustaining. It has to be ongoing, the peeling back of the onion, the solving of one problem that perhaps creates others: and then again and again.

Is that never-ending part of the standards process also a strength, Steve?

Nunn: Yes, because around the world the various industries we work with don’t stand still. There’s a new problem coming up every day, as you alluded to, Dana, that needs solving.

When a group gets together to solve an initial problem through a standard, there's much more. ...The problems don't stand still, and technology evolves the world. Disruptive events happen, and we need to adjust and update the standards accordingly.

When a group gets together to solve an initial problem through a standard, they realize there’s much more there. I can think some recent examples, such as the Open Subsurface Data Universe (OSDU) Forum, which is in the oil and gas industry. They originally got together to focus on subsurface issues. And now they’re realizing that that a standards approach can help them in many other areas of their business as well.

The problems don’t stand still, and technology evolves the world. Disruptive events happen, and we need to adjust and update the standards accordingly.

Gardner: Is there a pattern to the standards you’ve chosen to foster? You obviously have been very successful with enterprise architecture and TOGAF. You’ve gone to modeling, security, and reference architectures for how IT organizations operate.

What’s the common denominator? Why these particular standards? Is there an order to it? Is there a logic to it?

One success leads to another

Nunn: The common denominator is something mentioned earlier, which is a business need. Is there a business problem to be solved, whatever industry that might be?

Over the years, The Open Group can trace one activity where a group of companies got together to solve a business problem and then it led to several other forums. The example we usually use is The Open Group Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Consortium in federal avionics. They recently celebrated their 10th anniversary.

That effort led directly to work in the sensor architecture space, and strangely led to our Open Process Automation Forum. Members saw the great work that was being done in the FACE Consortium, in terms of a modular method that creates an architected approach. The past saw a situation where one aircraft, for example, is funded completely separately, with no reuse of technology or parts, and where everything was done from scratch with one prime contractor and subs.

And we had some other members fortunately who saw from the oil industry how a set of industry standards had emerged. They said, “We have the same issues in our industries. We want a standardized approach, too.”

As a result, the Open Process Automation Forum is doing great work, transforming the way that systems are procured.

These successes form a traceable connection between an industry that has a problem to solve and the established best ways of doing it. They come together and work on it as an industry, and through tried-and-trusted processes, rather than trying to beat each other in the marketplace to the first magic solution.

Gardner: Jim, it sounds like the need for a standard almost presents itself to you. Is that fair?

Hietala: As an outsider, you might say, “What in the world do control systems users have in common with the military avionics industry?” But the takeaway is with each iteration of this new standards initiative our staff learned better how to support the formation and operation of a set of best practices around an operating standards initiative. The members learn as well. So, you had folks from Exxon Mobil at a conference speaking about how they transformed their industry, and the light bulb went off. Others brought the idea back from the oil and gas industry.

Then we at The Open Group helped them identify similar uses in some other industries: metals and mining, pulp and paper, utilities, water utilities, and pharmaceuticals – they all use the same set of control system equipment. They all had similar problems until we were able to bring it into a standards initiative. And once you have that sort of support behind an initiative, the suppliers don’t have a choice but to pay attention, get involved, and help drive the initiative themselves.

Gardner: David, it’s clear that just presenting a standard isn’t the only factor for success. You must support it with certifications, additional research, events, and forums that continuously bring people together in an atmosphere for collaboration and ongoing training. You’ve not only broadened the scope of what The Open Group does in terms of the standards, but also a wider set of functions that augment and support those standards.

Lounsbury: That’s right. Both Jim and Steve mentioned the process of discovery by the members, or by potential members, and the value of standards. That’s a critical component because the natural instinct is for people to go off and try to solve things on their own, or to get a magic bullet competitively.

The art of what we do is help members understand that only through collective action, only through wide agreement, is there going to be a sufficient response to solve the business problem.

But part of the art of what we do is help members understand that only through collective action, only through a wide agreement, is there going to be a sufficient response to solve the business problem and provide a center of gravity for the vendors to invest in building the systems that embrace and employ the standards.

And so, a part of building that continuing confidence is knowing that there will be trained people who know how to use the standard effectively. There will be systems that conform to the standard, and you can get together with peers in your industry to find out about what’s going on at the cutting edge of technology.

And, frankly, even the social networking, just meeting people face to face builds confidence that everybody is working toward the common objective. All of these things are critical supporting pieces that give people confidence to invest in solutions and the confidence to specify that when they purchase.

Gardner: It seems like a big part of the secret sauce here is mutual assured success for as many of the people in the ecosystem -- on all sides of the equation -- as possible. It sounds simple, but it’s really hard to do.

Nunn: It is, Dana. And you need champions, the people who are passionate about it in their own organizations.  

For me, the single biggest differentiator and reason for The Open Group’s success so far is that we have a very respected set of certification programs and processes. The importance of certification is that it gives standards some teeth. It gives them meaning. We’re not just publishing standards for the sake of it, and nobody uses them. They’re being used by trained people. There might also be certified products out there, too.

Certification helps turn it into an ecosystem, and that in turn gets people more engaged and seeking to evolve it and be part of the movement. Certification is key because of the teeth that it gives the standards.

Gardner: Well, the custom is when we have an anniversary to do toasts. Usually, toasts are anecdotal or remembrances. Are there any such moments in hindsight that ended up being formative and important over the past 25 years?

Cheers to 25 years of highlights

Nunn: For years, we had heard that UNIX was going away, that it’s not relevant anymore. I think the work we’ve done has proven that’s not the case.

Another highlight or breakthrough moment was when we got our TOGAF practitioner certification program up and running. That spread around the world to a large number of individuals who are certified and who are promoting the value of the standard itself.

We’ve created a community over the years, even though that community is harder to bring together right now in the pandemic days. But certainly, for the vast majority of our history, we have brought people together; these people are familiar with each other, and new people come in.

The face-to-face element is special. Somebody recently made a great point about the effect of the pandemic. And the point was that you need the personal interactions in developing standards. Standards are about contributing intellectual property, but also about compromise. It’s about discussing what’s best for the relevant industry. And that’s hard to achieve in a virtual world.

You need the dinners, the beers, whatever it might be to build the social networking and up the trust for the individuals in these situations who are often from competing companies. The way that we have encouraged the community and built up what we’ve often called “The Open Group family” over the years is a key factor for us.

Gardner: David, what are some anecdotes that come to mind that highlight the first 25 years?

Lounsbury: I’m going to pick up on Steve’s theme of face-to-face meetings. One that stands out in my mind was the first face-to-face FACE Consortium meeting, which was at a vendor building on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

And, I’ll be honest, there was a ton of skepticism, both from the government agencies and from some of the larger vendors, that this could ever possibly come together. And because we got the people together and we had a few enthusiastic champions -- not necessarily the people who started things out -- but the people who saw the value of cooperative industry engagement -- we got it together. And 60 companies walked out of that room saying, “Yeah, this might actually work.” And from then on -- that was over 10 years ago -- it changed the way avionics are produced. And now it has inspired changes in other industry verticals as well.

Because we got people together and we had a few enthusiastic champions we got it together. What we sometimes call The Open Group Way differentiates how we create standards. It has inspired changes in other industries as well.

So, what we sometimes call The Open Group Way differentiates how we create standards from what had gone on in other standards activities that they had been engaged in.

Gardner: Jim, what’s your toast to the past quarter-century?

Hietala: At little bit higher level, I point to the fact that The Open Group has grown to more than 850 member organizations from dozens of countries. The specific things that resonate with me and made an impact over the years are engaging with all those members from the many different countries and nationalities at events we’ve held.

That and to getting to over 120,000 TOGAF-certified people, which is a huge milestone and was definitely not an overnight success. TOGAF was tens of years in the making, so those to me are indicative of where we’ve come in 25 years.

Gardner: It seems that the Tower of Babel isn’t particularly high when it comes to information technology (IT). The technology is a common denominator that cuts across cultures and boundaries. There really is a common world stage for IT.

IT – The universal language

Hietala: I think that’s true. There’s probably work that goes on inside of standards organizations like The Open Group, that isn’t necessarily seen, that enables that. There’s a fair amount of work translating the products of The Open Group into various native languages, such as Brazilian Portuguese, French, or Spanish, or Chinese. Those often happen at the ground level by volunteers, typically from the countries that want to enable adoption of what they see as a highly valuable standard.

Lounsbury: The profusion of technology you mentioned has driven a fundamental change in the way people run their businesses. And The Open Group is very much at the forefront of thinking about how that’s best going to happen.

What does it mean to architect your business going forward when you have all of these new management techniques, all of this new technology that’s available at very low cost causing these fundamental shifts in how you interact with your customers and in your ecosystem? That’s currently on the forefront of the minds of many of the groups working inside The Open Group.

We all know there’s a new management book a day nowadays. That’s why there’s a growing demand for stability of guidance in this world. How to do these new digital ways of working? We look to standards bodies to come out with that guidance. Our members are working on it.

Gardner: I suppose the past is prologue. And back when I first got involved with enterprise IT in the late 1980s, this type of technology transformation was still fringe in business. But it’s become more than mainstream, it’s become dominant.

We talk about digital transformation. We could probably just drop digital, now it’s transformation, period. Given the depth, breadth, and importance of IT to business and society -- where do we go from here?

How do you take the success you’ve had for the past 25 years and extend that to an even grander stage?

Standards provide frame for future transformation

Nunn: As Dave said, organizations have to transform. They’re looking for structure. They’re looking for tools that help go through this transformation. It can’t happen soon enough. The pandemic has been an accelerator.

But they need a framework, and standards provide that framework. That doesn’t mean exactly the same approach for all standards. But I don’t think we need to fundamentally change the way standards are built.

We’ve talked about our legacy of trust and the tried-and-tested. We need to evolve how things are done as we go forward, to fit with the speed with which transformation needs to occur and the demands that individual organizations in their industries have.

But we definitely now have a very solid bedrock for evolving, and the transformation aspect of it is key because people see standards as helping them transform. Standards give them something to work with when so much all around is changing.

Gardner: Jim, how do you take the success you’ve had with digital standards and expand the use of the methodologies?

Hietala: We’ve seen that the practices, business model, and the approach to taking a big industry problem and solving it through the development of standards has been proven to work. Companies in need of those standards efforts are comfortable looking at The Open Group and saying, “You’re an honest broker to be in the middle of this and make something happen.”

For example, a member from our OSDU Forum looked at what was happening there and saw a similar need inside of his company. It happened to be in the energy industry, but he saw a problem around how to measure and manage their carbon footprint. They examined the approach used in the OSDU and said, “That’s what we need over here to determine what our carbon footprint is.”

Taking a big industry problem and solving it through the development of standards has been proven to work. Companies in need of those standards efforts are comfortable looking to The Open Group.

And what they found quickly in looking at that customer need was that that’s a universal need. It’s certainly not just an energy industry issue. Cement companies, large auto manufacturers, and many others all have that same need. They would all be well served by having a standard effort that produces not just standards but a reference software platform that they could build from that helps them measure and manage any carbon footprint. The approach has evolved a bit. We’re able to support now open-source initiatives alongside of standards initiatives. But fundamentally our consensus-oriented standard process has not changed.

And that’s the way we build these initiatives, rally industry support, and take them from looking at the customer business problem to producing standards and business guides. The way we address the issues hasn’t changed.

Gardner: David, if you can apply the lessons learned at The Open Group to even more challenging and impactful problems, that sounds worth doing. Is that part of your next 25 years?

Lounsbury: Yes, it certainly is. There’s a couple of dimensions to it. There’s the scale in number of people who are engaged. And we’ve given plenty of examples of how we went from a core standard like UNIX or IT4IT or TOGAF and applied those same proven techniques to things such as how you do avionics, which led to how to do process control systems, which led to how to do subsurface data. That has all led to a tremendous expansion in the number of organizations and people who are engaged with The Open Group.

The other dimension of scale is speed. And that is something where we need to keep our standards up to date, and that has evolved. For example, we’ve restructured our architecture portfolio to have more modular content. That’s something we’re going to be looking at across all of our core standards, including how we link them together and how we make them more cohesive.

We’re looking at reducing the friction in keeping standards up to date and improving the pace so they’re competitive with those one-off, two-people-writing-a-book kinds of guidance that characterizes our industry right now.

Gardner: For those who have been listening and are now interested in taking an active role in open standards, where can they go? Also, what’s coming next, Steve?

Nunn: Yes, we’ll have some anniversary celebrations. We have a great event in October. We’re doing a moving global event over a 24-hour period. So, a few hours hosted in each of several locations around the world where we have offices and staff and significant membership.

We also have an ever-growing number of active meetings in our groups. Most of them, because of the pandemic, have been virtual recently. But we’re starting to see, as I mentioned earlier, the eagerness for people to get together face-to-face again when, of course, it’s safe to do so and people feel comfortable to do so.

And we’ll be looking at not just what we’ve achieved but also looking at how we make the next steps. A big part of that relates to the work we’ve done with governments around the world. A good example is the government of India, which recently published a standard called IndEA, based on our TOGAF Enterprise Architecture standard.

It’s being used to fundamentally transform government services, not just in the national government of India, but in various states there. And then other countries are looking at that work. We also have work going on with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in healthcare and digital services for citizens.

We’re doing a lot of work with governments to make a real difference to people’s lives as citizens, in countries that may need to catch up with some of the more developed countries. They’re using our standards and the work groups we’ve put together to get up to speed.

For me, that’s an exciting part of our future: The difference we can make in people’s daily lives.

Gardner: And, of course, a lot of this information is on your website, Any other resources that people should be aware of?

Lounsbury: Yes, all our standards are free to download from our library on our website. You can obviously find how to register for events on the website, too. At the Forum level, there’s good information about each Forum that we’ve been working on. There’s always a contact form associated with each of the Forum webpages so you can leave your details and someone from our team will get in touch and tell you how to get involved.

I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You’ve been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on 25 years of remarkable achievements in the technology standards arena by The Open Group.

And we’ve learned how standards like UNIX and TOGAF evolved to transform business and society, impacting us all over the world as a digital adoption wave swept across human affairs. So, a big thank you to our panel. We’ve been here with Steve Nunn, Chief Executive officer at The Open Group. Thank you so much, Steve.

Nunn: Thank you very much, Dana. It’s been a great discussion.

Gardner:  And we’ve been joined by David Lounsbury, Chief Digital Officer at the Open Group. Thank you, sir.

Lounsbury: You’re welcome, Dana.

Gardner: And lastly, Jim Hietala has been with us. He’s vice President Business Development and Security at The Open Group. Thank you, Jim.

Hietala: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this BriefingsDirect commemoration of technology standards successes discussion.

I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Your host throughout the series of BriefingsDirect discussions sponsored by The Open Group.

Thanks again for listening, please pass this along with your business community, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: The Open Group.

Transcript of a discussion on the 25th anniversary of remarkable achievements in the global technology standards arena by The Open Group. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC and The Open Group, 2005-2021. All rights reserved.

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Friday, January 03, 2020

As Hybrid IT Complexity Ramps Up, Operators Look to Data-Driven Automation Tools

A discussion on the advancing role and impact from IT automation and how complex IT deployments are forcing managers to seek new productivity tools.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the BriefingsDirect Voice of the Innovator podcast series. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing discussion on the latest insights into IT management strategies.

Growing complexity from the many moving parts in today’s IT deployments are forcing managers to seek new productivity tools. Moving away from manual processes to bring higher levels of automation to data center infrastructure has long been a priority for IT operators, but now new tools and methods are making composability and automation better options than ever.

Here to help us learn more about the advancing role and impact from IT automation is Frances Guida, Manager of HPE OneView Automation and Ecosystem Product Management at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Welcome, Frances.

Frances Guida: It’s great to be here, Dana.

Gardner: What are the top drivers, Frances, for businesses seeking higher levels of automation and simplicity in their IT infrastructure?

Guida: It relates to what’s happening at a business level. It’s a truism that business today is moving faster than it ever has before. That puts pressure on all parts of a business environment -- and that includes IT. And so IT needs to deliver things more quickly than they used to. They can’t just use the old techniques; they need to move to much more automated approaches. And that means they need to take work out of their operational environments.

Gardner: What’s driving the complexity that makes such automation beneficial?

IT means business 

Guida: It again starts from the business. IT used to be a support function, to support business processes. So, it could go along on its own time scale. There wasn’t much that the business could or would do about it.

In 2020, technology is now part of the fabric of most of the products, services, and experiences that businesses offer. So when technology is part of an offering, all of a sudden technology is how a business is differentiated. As part of how a business is differentiated, business leaders are not going to take, “Oh, we will get to it in 18 months,” as an answer. If that’s the answer they get from the IT department, they are going to go look for other ways of getting things done.

And with the advances of public cloud technology, there are other ways of getting things done that don’t come from an internal IT department. So IT organizations need to be able to keep up with the pace of business change, because businesses aren’t going to accept their historical time scale.

Gardner: Does accelerating IT via automation require an ecosystem of partners, or is there one tool that rules them all?

Guida: This is not a one-size-fits-all world. I talk to customers in our HPE Executive Briefing Centers regularly. The first thing I ask them is, “Tell me about the toolsets you have in your environment.” I often ask them about what kinds of automation toolsets they have. Do you have Terraform or Ansible or Chef or Puppet or vRealize Orchestrator or something else? It’s not uncommon for the answer to be, “Yes.” They have all of them.

So even within a customer’s environment, they don’t have a single tool. We need to work with all the toolsets that the customers have in their IT environments.

Gardner: It almost sounds like you are trying to automate the automation. Is that fair?

Guida: We definitely are trying to take some of the hard work that has historically gone into automation and make it much simpler.
Complexity is Growing in the Data Center
What's the Solution?
Gardner: IT operations complexity is probably only going to increase, because we are now talking about pushing compute operations -- and even micro data centers -- out to the edge in places like factories, vehicles, and medical environments, for example. Should we brace ourselves now for a continuing ramp-up of complexity and diversity when it comes to IT operations?

Guida: Oh, absolutely. You can’t have a single technology that’s going to answer everything. Is the end user going to interface through a short message service (SMS) or are they going to use a smartphone? Are they going to be on a browser? Is it an endpoint that interacts with a system that’s completely independent of any user base technology? All of this means that IT has to be multifaceted.

Even if we look at data center technologies, for the last 15 years virtualization has been pretty much the standard way that IT deploys new systems. Now, increasingly, organizations are looking at a set of applications that don’t run in virtual machines (VMs), but rather are container-based. That brings a whole other set of complexity they have to think about in their environments.
Complexity is like entropy; it just keeps growing. When we started thinking about bringing a lot more flexibility to on-premises data center environments, we looked holistically at the problem ... at a deeper level.

Complexity is like entropy; it just keeps growing. When we started thinking about bringing a lot more flexibility to on-premises data center environments, we looked holistically at the problem. I don’t think the problem can only be addressed through better automation; in fact, it has to be addressed at a deeper level.

And so with our composable infrastructure strategies, we thought architecturally about how we could bring the same kind of flexibility you have in a public cloud environment to on-premises data centers. We realized we needed a way to liberate IT beyond the boundaries of physical infrastructure by being able to group that physical infrastructure into pools of resources that could be much more fluid and where the physical aspects could be changed.

Now, there is some hardware infrastructure technology in that, but a lot of that magic is done through software, using software to configure things that used to be done in a physical manner.
So we defined a layer of software-defined intelligence that captures all of the things you need to know about configuring physical hardware -- whether it’s firmware levels or biased headings or connections. We define and calculate all of that in software.

And automation is the icing on that cake. Once you have your infrastructure that can be defined in software, you can program it. That’s where the automation comes in, being able to use everyday automation tools that organizations are already using to automate other parts of their IT environment and apply that to the physical infrastructure without a whole bunch of unnatural acts that were previously required if you wanted to automate physical infrastructure.

Gardner: Are we talking about a fundamental shift in how infrastructure should be conceived or thought of here?

Consolidate complexity via automation 

Guida: There has been a saying in the IT industry for a while about moving from pets to cattle. Now we even talk about thinking about herds. You can brute-force that transition by trying to automate to all of the low-level application programing interfaces (APIs) in physical infrastructure today. Most infrastructure today is programmable, with rare exceptions.

But then you as the organization are doing the automation, and you must internalize that and make your automation account for all of the logic. For example, if you then make a change in the storage configuration, what does that mean for the way the network needs to be configured? What does that mean for firmware settings? You would have to maintain all of that in your own automation logic.
How to Simplify and Automate
Your Data Center
There are some organizations in the world that have the scale of automation engineering to be able to do that. But the vast majority of enterprises don’t have that capability. And so what we do with composable infrastructure, HPE OneView, and our partner ecosystem is we actually encapsulate all of that in our software to find intelligence. So all you have to do is take that configuration file and apply it to a set of physical hardware. It brings things that used to be extremely complex down to what a standard IT organization has the capabilities of doing today.

Gardner: And not only is that automation going to appeal to the enterprise IT organizations, it’s also going to appeal to the ecosystem of partners. They now have the means to use the composable infrastructure to create new value-added services.

How does HPE’s composability benefit both the end-user organizations and the development of the partner ecosystem?

Guida: When I began the composable ecosystem program, we actually had two or three partners. This was about four years ago. We have now grown to more than 30 different integrations in place today, with many more partners that we are talking to. And those range from the big, everyday names like VMware and Microsoft to smaller companies that may be present in only a particular geography.
But what gets them excited is that, all of a sudden, they are able to bring better value to their customers. They are able to deliver, for example, an integrated monitoring system. Or maybe they are already doing application monitoring, and all of a sudden they can add infrastructure monitoring. Or they may already be doing facilities management, managing the power and cooling, and all of a sudden they get a whole bunch of data that used to be hard to put in one place. Now they can get a whole bunch of data on the thermals, of what’s really going on at the infrastructure level. It’s definitely very exciting for them.

Gardner: What jumps out at you as a good example of taking advantage of what composable infrastructure can do?

Guida: The most frequent conversations I have with customers today begin with basic automation. They have many tools in their environment; I mentioned many of them earlier: Ansible, Terraform, Chef, Puppet, or even just PowerShell or Python; or in the VMware environment, vRealize Orchestrator.

They have these tools and really appreciate what we have been able to do with publishing these integrations on GitHub, for example, of having a community, and having direct support back to our engineers who are doing this work. They are able to pretty straightforwardly add that into their tools environment.
How a Software-Defined Data Center
Lets the Smartest People Work for You
And we at HPE have also done some of the work ourselves in the open source tools projects. Pretty much every automation tool that’s out there in mainstream use by IT -- we can handle it. That’s where a lot of the conversations we have with customers begin.

If they don’t begin there, they start back in basic IT operations. One of the ways people take advantage of the automation in HPE OneView -- but they don’t realize they are taking advantage of automation -- is in how OneView helps them integrate their physical infrastructure into a VMware vCenter or a Microsoft System Center environment.

Visualize everything, automatically 

For example, in a VMware vCenter environment, an administrator can use our plug-in and it automatically sucks in all of the data from their physical infrastructure that’s relevant to their VMware environment. They can see things in their vCenter environment that they otherwise couldn’t see.

They can see everything from a VM that’s sitting on the VM host that’s connected through the host bus adapters (HBAs) out to the storage array. There is the logical volume. And they can very easily visualize the entire logical as well as physical environment. That’s automation, but you are not necessarily perceiving it as automation. You are perceiving it as simply making an IT operations environment a lot easier to use.
The automation benefits -- instead of just going down into the IT operations -- can also go up to allow more cloud management. It affects infrastructure and applications.

For that level of IT operations integration, VMware and Microsoft environments are the poster children. But for other tools, like Micro Focus and some of the capacity planning tools, and event management tools like ServiceNow – those are another big use case category.

The automation benefits – instead of just going down into the IT operations – can also go up to allow more cloud management. Another way IT organizations take advantage of the HPE automation ecosystem means, “Okay, it’s great that you can automate a piece of physical infrastructure, but what I really need to do -- and what I really care about -- is automating a service. I want to be able to provision my SQL database server that’s in the cloud.”

That not only affects infrastructure pieces, it touches a bunch of application pieces, too. Organizations want it all done through a self-service portal. So we have a number of partners who enable that.

Morpheus comes to mind. We have quite a lot of engagements today with customers who are looking at Morpheus as a cloud management platform and taking advantage of how they can not only provision the logical aspects of their cloud, but also the physical ones through all of the integrations that we have done.
How to Simplify, Automate, and
Develop Faster
Gardner: How does HPE and the partner ecosystem automate the automation, given the complexity that comes with the newer hybrid deployment models? Is that what HPE OneView is designed to help do these days?

Automatic, systematic, cost-saving habit 

Guida: I want to talk about a customer who is an online retailer. If you think about the retail world -- obviously a highly dynamic world and technology is at the very forefront of the product that they deliver; technology is the product that they deliver.

They have a very creative marketing department that is always looking for new ways to connect to their customers. That marketing department has access to a set of application developers who are developing new widgets, new ways of connecting with customers. Some of those developers like to develop in VMs, which is more old school; some of the developers are more new school and they prefer container-based environments.

The challenge the IT department has is that from one week to the next they don’t fully know how much of their capacity needs to be dedicated to a VM versus a container environment. It all depends on which promotions or programs the business decides it wants to run at any time.

So the IT organization needed a way to quickly switch an individual VM host server to be reconfigured as a bare-metal container host. They didn’t want to pay a VM tax on their container host. They identified that if they were going to do that manually, there were dozens and dozens -- I think they had 36 or 37 -- steps that they needed to do. And they could not figure out a way to automate individually each one of those 37 steps.
When we brought them an HPE Synergy infrastructure -- managed by OneView, automated by Ansible -- they instantly saw how that was going to help solve their problems. They were able to change their environemnt from one personality to another in a completely automated fashion.

When we brought them an HPE Synergy infrastructure -- managed by OneView, automated with Ansible -- they instantly saw how that was going to help solve their problems. They were going to be able to change their environment from one personality to another personality in a completely automated fashion. And now they are able to do that changeover in just 30 minutes, and instead of needing dozens of manual steps. They have zero manual steps; everything is fully automated.

And that enables them to respond to the business requirements. The business needs to be able to run whatever programs and promotions it is that they want to run -- and they can’t be constrained by IT. Maybe that gives a picture of how valuable this is to our customers.

Gardner: Yes, it speaks to the business outcomes, which are agility and speed, and at the same time the IT economics are impacted there as well.

Speaking of IT economics and IT automation, we have been talking in terms of process and technology. But businesses are also seeking to simplify and automate the economics of how they acquire and spend on IT, perhaps more on a pay-per-use basis.

Is there alignment between what you are doing in automation and what HPE is doing with HPE GreenLake? Do the economics and automation reinforce one another?
How to Drive Innovation and
Automation in Your Data Center
Guida: Oh, absolutely. We bring physical infrastructure flexibility, and HPE GreenLake brings financial flexibility. Those go hand in hand. In fact, the example that I was just speaking about, the online retailer, they are very, very busy during the Christmas shopping season. They are also busy for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and back-to-school shopping. But they also have times where they are much less busy.

They have HPE GreenLake integrated into their environment so in addition to having the physical flexibility in their environment, they are financially aligning through a flexible capacity program and paying for technology -- in the way that their business model works. So, these things go hand-in-hand.

As I said earlier, I talk to a lot of HPE customers because I am based in the San Francisco Bay Area where we have our corporate headquarters. I am frequently in our Executive Briefing Center two to three times a week. There are almost no conversations I am part of that don’t lead eventually to the financial aspects, as well as the technical aspect, of how all the technology works.

Gardner: Because we have opened IT automation up to the programmatic level, a new breed of innovation can be further brought to bear. Once people get their hands on these tools and start to automate, what have you seen on the innovation side? What have people started doing with this that you maybe didn’t even think they would do when you designed the products?

Single infrastructure signals innovation 

Guida: Well, I don’t know that we didn’t think about this, but one of the things we have been able to do is make something that the IT industry has been talking about for a while in an on-premises IT environment.

There are lots of organizations that have IT capacity that is only used some of the time. A classic example is an engineering organization that provides a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) capability for engineers. These engineers need a bunch of analytics applications -- maybe it’s genomic engineering, seismic engineering, or fluid dynamics in the automotive industry. They have multiple needs. Typically they have been running those on different sets of physical infrastructures.

With our automation, we can enable them to collapse that all into one set of infrastructure, which means they can be much more financially efficient. Because they are more financially efficient on the IT side, they are able to then devote more of their dollars to driving innovation -- finding new ways of discovering oil and gas under the ground, new ways of making automobiles much more efficient, or uncovering new secrets within our DNA. By spending less on their IT infrastructure, they are able to spend more on what their core business innovation should be.

Gardner: Frances, I have seen other vendors approach automation with a tradeoff. They say, “Well, if you only use our cloud, it’s automated. If you only use our hypervisor, it’s automated. If you only use our database, it’s automated.”

But HPE has taken a different tack. You have looked at heterogeneity as the norm and the complexity as a result of heterogeneity as what automation needs to focus on. How far ahead is HPE on composability and automation? How differentiated are you from others who have put a tradeoff in place when it comes to solving automation?
We have had composable infrastructure on the market for three-plus years. Our HPE Synergy platform now has a $1 billion run rate. We have 3,600 customers around the world. It's been a tremendously successful business for us.

Guida: We have had composable infrastructure on the market for three-plus years now. Our HPE Synergy platform, for example, now has a more than $1 billion run rate for HPE. We have 3,600 customers and counting around the world. It’s been a tremendously successful business for us.

I find it interesting that we don’t see a lot of activity out there, of people trying to mimic or imitate what we have done. So I expect composability and automation will remain fundamentally differentiating for us from many of our traditional on-premises infrastructure competitors.

It positions us very well to provide an alternative for organizations who like the flexibility of cloud services but prefer to have them in their on-premises environments. It’s been tremendously differentiating for us. I am not seeing anyone else who has anything coming on hot in any way.

Gardner: Let’s take a look to the future. Increasingly, not only are companies looking to become data-driven, but IT organizations are also seeking to become data-driven. As we gather more data and inference, we start to be predictive in optimizing IT operations.

I am, of course, speaking of AIOps. What does that bring to the equation around automation and composability? How will AIOps change this in the coming couple of years?

Automation innovation in sight with AIOps 

Guida: That’s a real opportunity for further innovation in the industry. We are at the very early stages about how we take advantage in a symptomatic way of all of the insights that we can derive from knowing what is actually happening within our IT environments and mining those insights. Once we have mined those insights, it creates the possibility for us to take automation to another level.

We have been throwing around terms like self-healing for a couple of decades, but a lot of organizations are not yet ready for something like self-healing infrastructure. There is a lot of complexity within our environments. And when you put that into a broader heterogeneous data center environment, there is even more complexity. So there is some trepidation.
How to Accelerate to
A Self-Driving Data Center
Over time, for sure, the industry will get there. We will be forced to get there because we are going to be able to do that in other execution venues like the public cloud. So the industry will get there. The whole notion of what we have done with automation of composable infrastructure is absolutely a great foundation for us as we take our customers toward these next journeys around automation.

Gardner: I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. We have been exploring how growing complexity from the many moving parts in IT deployments have forced managers to seek new levels of productivity. And we have also learned about the advancing role and impact of IT composability and automation to better manage today’s dynamic and extensive data center deployments.

So please join me in thanking our guest, Frances Guida, Manager of HPE OneView Automation and Ecosystem Product Management at HPE. Thank you so much, Frances.

Guida: I enjoyed our conversation.

Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining us for this sponsored BriefingsDirect Voice of the Innovator IT management strategies interview. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of HPE-sponsored discussions.

Thanks again for listening. Please pass this on to your community, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

A discussion on the advancing role and impact from IT automation and how complex IT deployments are forcing managers to seek new productivity tools. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2020. All rights reserved.

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