The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

The need for automated environmental validation in IT

action 002.jpgI was recently reading the post When disaster strikes: How IT process automation helps you recover fast and it got me thinking about the need for automated environmental validation. Recovering fast may not be good enough if the recovery destination environment has changed.

 

In the software space, you can use jUnit or nUnit to codify the limits of the code and make sure it works, and breaks as defined. It can be a very useful component of a test first unit testing approach.

 

I was wondering if infrastructure automation efforts should include a similar capability that we can automatically test an environment to ensure its characteristics are up-to-snuff, before and after we make a change. These tests could either be run periodically, or as part of a promotion to production process.

 

Automating this validation would remove the human element from this tedious step. It seems like this would be a useful and possibly necessary step for cloud deployments, since those environments are dynamic and beyond the scope (and understanding) of the person who wrote the original programs. Maybe this is commonly done, but I've not talked to many who attack this issue proactively.

Will there be a new dimension to UI design based on cognitive computing?

things.jpgI recently read a report on How Humans Respond to Robots that focused on the social side of robotics. Near the end of the article it started to talk about autonomous cars, autopilots and other devices that are really robots but we don’t normally think of them that way (e.g., smart thermostats) because of their minimal user interface.

 

In a world where we’ll soon have wearable technologies all around us, likely building to a $50 billion market by 2017, pumping out data to feed the autonomous response of cognitive computing, it does make me wonder how enterprise architectures and application portfolios will drive us into the uncanny valley for business automation.

 

As we automate things and find patterns, the automated response could be a bit eerie and unsettling. Likely a new dimension for User Interface Designers of the future will look beyond just the traditional capabilities and more deeply into user intent and the sense of user interactions – so we can accept the assistance as intended.

IoT model update from the one I used 4 years back...

Back about four years ago, I used a model to think about machine-to-machine (M2) from a holistic perspective. Today, this would be viewed more through an Internet of Things (IoT) lens. In talking with some others last week, it seemed that the simple progressing from sensors all the way through action is still valid but may need to be expanded a bit.

Internet of things model.png

 

In really starts with the ‘thing’ that has been tagged (and its sensors and controllers). There is also a supporting device management layer that adds security, power management and other fleet management features. I didn't really show that the first time.

 

Data collection continues to have integration capabilities but the analytics layer needs to add more context and pattern recognition than just traditional analytics. There is an automation layer that rides on top that performs a number of the action oriented features.

 

I didn’t really think about the management layer that is inherent in the approach, even though some functions may only be useful for a subset of the environment. A pluggable set of standards is needed to minimize the complexity.

 

The Internet of Things will require a significant degree of autonomous control. It can’t be as needy as the tools we’re using today – crying out for our attention all the time.

 

Is it time for a Chief Automation Officer?

Automation officer.pngOver the last few years, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the race against the machines (or the race with the machines), based on the abundance of computing available. When I think about the IoT and its implications on business, it may be that information is just a side effect of an entirely different corporate strategic effort.

 

Maybe there is a need for a Chief Automation Officer more than a Chief Information Officer going forward?!? Someone who looks at the business implications and opportunities for cognitive computing, sensing, robotics and other automation techniques.

 

Or is automation just assumed to be part of all future strategic planning activities. As I began thinking about it, it’s clear that others have thought about this CAO role as well, although mostly from an IT perspective instead of one based on business need. It could be viewed that this is a role for the CTO or even the enterprise architect.

The shifting world of business continuity

disaster2.pngI was in an exchange this week with an individual talking about business continuity. The view that business continuity needs to focus on:

An organizations business continuity approach need to be reassessed in a world of high levels of automation, contracting for services and reduced latency. The very definition of foundational terms like ‘work location’, ‘services’ and ‘support’ are changing. Diversity of perspective is likely to be a critical component of any kind of timely, situation response.

 

“The management of business continuity falls largely within the sphere of risk management, with some cross-over into related fields such as governance, information security and compliance. Risk is a core consideration since business continuity is primarily concerned with those business functions, operations, supplies, systems, relationships etc. that are critically important to achieve the organization's operational objectives. Business Impact Analysis is the generally accepted risk management term for the process of determining the relative importance or criticality of those elements, and in turn drives the priorities, planning, preparations and other business continuity management activities.”

 

In today’s environment, business impact analysis is becoming ever more technical and the interconnection between environmental factors more complex. We have seen situations recently with program trading that an entire financial institution has been placed at risk when their automated trading responds in an unforeseen fashion or their governance breaks down. We’ll be seeing similar techniques applied throughout organizational processes.

 

The response to almost any situation can be enabled by techniques like VOIP and other approaches that allow additional levels of abstraction. Simulations can be used to understand the implications of various scenarios as part of business continuity planning.

 

As I mentioned back in March:

Having an effective, robust approach to business continuity is part of management, security and many other roles within an organization.  It is important to remember that there is a cost for being unable to respond to an incident.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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