Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The 451 Group Enterprise Computing Strategy Summit, New York, December 11th and 12th 2006

Just back from a hectic trip to New York to join the 451 Group and a myriad of advanced customers and industry leaders debating the merits of Grid, Virtualisation and issues surrounding in several industries. Bottom line from the event is that Grid is real (virtualisation notwithstanding), its in widespread use in Financial Services; Engineering; Pharmaceutical and of great interest to the Telecoms industry looking to capitalise on pervasive IP networks to becaome service providers.

There were many highlights in the event which featured an eclectic mix of, analyst scene setting; advanced user case studies; lively panel discussion of issues du jour. For me, I found the ideas of market making for grid service provision emanating from the Financial Services industry to be quite compelling, I had something similar from a different source in that industry earlier in the year. The basic idea is to offer capacity "on demand" at a price which reflects market forces. On reflection though, this idea may provide the basis for a real utility offer.

On that subject Utility computing was discussed thoroughly over the two days. Am I wrong in thinking that perhaps the only real way of defining this is in the manner of the ability of a user to reserve capacity ahead of time and release unneeded capacity dynamically? This would be analagous to common metaphors in the power grid. There was a general consensus that outsourcing and the like (e.g. Software as a Service), was much more along the lines of business process outsourcing or functional integration of capability , i.e. bringing CRM or ERP capabilities into the organisation. This may become a very persuasive offer to organisations of all sizes in the future, assuming that they haven't outsourced the entire IT department and lost the ability to think through the IT contribution to their businesses.

Obstacles to this brave new world are the usual suspects: Security (although there is a strong line of argument that your biggest risks are currently within the firewall already!); Change Management, how would you introduce someone else's solution with noone in house to champion and train the staff?, and service level management!

On the grid level there was debate about the G-word, but none about the value. It seems that everyone is doing it and there was discussion about the contribution of open-source middleware for workflow management and hypervisor which tended to fly in the face of current industry assumptions that everyone will buy proprietary solutions. The prediction from the assembled experts was that open source will become de facto standards for key capabilities in managing an heterogeneous network of computers, and that this will be drive the standards process.

On the topic of Standards, Paul Strong, e-Bay, made a powerful plea for leading industrialists to engage with the standards bodies, Open Grid Forum, OASIS, etc., in order to bring some focus and priority to bear in these bodies. Paul is a vice-president of OGF and is keen to raise the debate from the industry side. Note, Grid Computing Now! is planning an Industry track for the OGF 20 meeting in Manchester in May (8th and 9th, 2007) for those interested in learning more!

From the 451 Group, William Fellows and Steve Wallage led the way with the Grid Adoption Research Service (GARS) reports, they introduced a nice 5 layer model explaining the phases of adoptive behavour that they have seen to date. Rachel Chalmers nearly stole the show with a compelling and energetic preview of her investigations into Virtualisation, major changes are taking place on the supply side with Intel and AMD incorporating key VM features into their designs looking forwards. VMWARE and XEN look well positioned for a healthy licensing income!

Jim Davis gave an overview of some grid activity in the media sector, of interest to all; and we held discussions on Licensing, yours truly made his pitch for gathering user requirements, watch this space, security and open source software.