I had a good catchup with an old boss today. Chewing the fat about the state of the industry, how roles are changing (and how they aren’t). Last year he moved from a very traditional IT vendor to a hyperscale cloud provider and we ended up in a discussion around how recruitment is changing
Today he isn’t reading CV’s when trying to recruit. Predominantly because job titles no longer reflect the jobs we do (and the associated experience we can offer an employer). AI is scouring LinkedIn on his behalf looking for relevant skills he needs.
On reflection after our catchup, I think that’s related to the changing nature of our world. In the 80’s you could go to college to learn a skill and be relatively confident that’s the job you would have until you retire. Today AT&T is investing a billion dollars in it’s Lifelong Learning Program in recognition that unless it continues to evolve it’s products and services to meet the rapidly changing needs of the world, it will get left behind. And it can only do that if it has a workforce capable of continually developing and learning.
Which on the one hand is mentally challenging and somewhat unsettling because nothing you learn is fixed. Conversely it means that we’re always learning new things and developing. Dislike your job today? Don’t worry, you’ll be doing something completely different in a few years
I recently had the opportunity to speak at a CxO peer to peer networking event, run by Gartner. I was on stage with a leading Finance Sector CTO, who described how he is deploying new systems into Azure and he’s enjoying the flexibility that brings. However he has legacy (auto corrected himself to “traditional”) workloads that due to the nature of the application will always reside within the data centre. He also said without prompting that if you think the cloud is cheaper then you’re in for a surprise.
That story resonated with anecdotes from other customers. The appeal of the hyperscale public cloud is it’s flexibility and speed to market. However with most things in life, anything you rent is always going to end up being more expensive than anything you buy. In addition, at the inception of the public cloud paradigm there were some assumptions around only running applications when you need them and therefore not paying for unused resources. Which is fine in a research paper, a lab or a startup with only 1,000 customers. But start adding real people (especially non-IT folk) to that mix, and overlay existing business processes into that mix – most decent sized enterprises experience is that switching things on and off isn’t realistic for a good proportion of the applications they use.
In context, I think the landscape is maturing somewhat. There used to be a narrative that everything is agile and due to a variety of factors (security, latency, etc.) you want the public cloud agility but those factors constrain you. So why not use OpenStack / Docker / Stackato / Vmware to have a private cloud for the best of both worlds??? Let your applications magically float between clouds. That has been the common hybrid cloud story for the past few years.
Right now I’m hearing more people talk about not everything needing to be Netflix. Some new workloads are public cloud native and need the agility and flexibility it provides (along with associating it to a specific P&L). But some things just don’t need that flexibility (and specifically those things are commonly running the majority of the business’ revenue driving workloads). In addition newer workloads such as AI where the maths is so compute intensive that dedicated on-prem GPU accelerated infrastructure is the preferred platform once things get past R&D.
Today’s story is becoming less Hybrid Cloud where apps move between different environments, and more Hybrid IT where different platforms have different benefits and those are the decision points around where to host them
Where do Solution Architects fit in a new cloud native world?
At a recent tech conference I was chatting with a colleague about his new role. Sean is a solution architect at a large tech company. But a traditional tech company, not a born in the cloud organisation. We shared some interesting viewpoints on the need for different roles in IT delivery. What exactly is a Solution Architect?
If you need some work doing on your property, you may go straight to a builder. You’re highly likely to get an architect in. Different architects will have differing skill levels and experience. But broadly they’ll have the same topics they’ve been trained on and the same certification.
In IT it’s so different. A solution architect can be an ex-developer whose role it to pull the various strands of application design together. A solution architect can be an ex-infrastructure specialist whose role it is to create a high level infrastructure design covering network, security, storage, compute, etc. Or a solution architect can be the glue logic acting almost as a technical project manager – without P&L or man management responsibility but pulling the various strands of a project together to make it a success. You can’t quite define what she does. But success wouldn’t happen without her.
Our new cloud native world has brought us lots of new toys to play with. And our fascination has gone back to twiddling knobs and playing with new technologies. Commonly if you look at a solution architect involved in AWS or Azure – a solution architect will be that technical person. Skilled in their individual platforms but much more of a tech person than a solution person. So what’s happened to our glue logic guy? Is she irrelevant today?
Back to the conversation with Sean, we discussed an engagement with one of his customers where they are developing a big data platform using SMACK to build a data munging platform. His peer is working right at the bleeding edge and is up to his neck in configuring streams, building platforms and making the platform sing. Sean took a moment to point out to the customer that their security policy means that BYOD isn’t allowed for the platform they need access to. His customer needs to get on with ordering 4 new laptops so that when the data scientists land in about 4 weeks they’ll be able to crack on.
His team mate was baffled. “Why did you bother with that? That’s their problem?”
“because if I didn’t then we’d be stuck for 4 weeks and the project would fail”
Your standard project manager wouldn’t have the integration and dependency mindset or technical experience to recognise this upcoming issue. He’d to be able to manage the issue when highlighted. But would likely be oblivious until that point. It struck us that even in the cloud native devops world where we’ve got so much new technology and new processes like Agile, the traditional solution architect role that’s non-descript but critical to pulling the solution together is still so important. Everyone likes a posh job title but it looks like we’ve promoted what we would traditionally call technical or application architects into solution architect. When really they aren’t looking at the overall solution but just really good at their smaller bit. Long live the solution architect. Best described as “useful guy to have around”
Google+ has been much maligned recently for it’s failure to duplicate Facebook and following the departure of Vic Gundotra it’s been on a long and slow decline. Google+ is no longer integrated as a single sign on for Google products including YouTube. Some of the interesting functionality in Google+ such as photo management from mobile phones has now been moved to separate products.
As a social network I liked Google+. As much as facebook offers different groups, it’s a pain to manage. The app always posts to the last selected group instead of to the default. On Google+ I had a friends group, nerds group, UNIX group, etc. etc. and posted different stories to each group. On Facebook family members aren’t interested in lost of Star Wars posts, but a small group of friends are very interested. Google+ allowed that tidy split between different social groups in a way that’s totally broken on Facebook.
Now that most people have abandoned Google+ as a social media platform, what is left. For me I think it’s become a great platform for groups and informal forums. Taking a look at the overview of Google Groups:
Speed matters is kind of irrelevant. Mobile friendly is a given in 2015. The first three points though are exactly how I use Google+ these days. A good working example is Watchmaker for Android Wear. This app lets people develop animated watch faces for Android Wear smartwatches. The app itself purports to having “Featured Watches” – a new watchface every day. The selection is a bit rubbish. However if you follow the Google+ pages on Watchmaker there are new and cool faces posted daily. There are developer conversations announcing new features. Good and helpful discussions on how to implement functionality in the app.
It’s a lively and well used community. Social media you might describe it as. Google+ describes them as communities. It will be interesting to see how long it is before either Groups or Google+ merges into the other. Whilst Google+ has failed to replace Facebook as the defacto place to share the days events with people you kind of / sort of know, it has developed into something more interesting and in certain definitions more of a social platform. In addition, one of the major benefits is a lack of minion jpegs every 3 posts – and that has to be a good thing