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ANN: Agile Infrastructure

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  • James McGovern
    The industry speaks positively about agile methods for software development (http://www.agilealliance.org) but hasn t yet applied those principles to the folks
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 2003

      The industry speaks positively about agile methods for software development (http://www.agilealliance.org) but hasn't yet applied those principles to the folks who do networking and infrastructure. It is overdue and I will take the first shot at some things that can make them more agile:

      1. Keep network and infrastructure architecture to a minimum yet sufficient 
        Develop organization-wide standards using an agile Enterprise Architecture approach for each area of the infrastructure including the network, data center, desktops, etc. Develop the future state of your enterprise architecture by making sure that you have only one of a particular type. For example, today you may have Windows NT and a 100Base T network, where tomorrow you may be running PDAs on 802.11b.
      2. Maintain centralized control with decentralized operations
        Centralized control allows one to control costs, architecture and deployment standards. Decentralized operations simply mean that it does not matter where your IT people are located. This works in remote locations and outsourcing arrangements as well. Support personnel should always be placed as close as possible to the end customer.
      3. Keep the mainframe holy and worship it daily
        In the age of distributed computing, disciplines are more important than ever. Some non-agile organizations have tried to migrate the mainframe discipline to client/server and browser based paradigms and have failed miserably. The disciplines found on the mainframe need to be customized and streamlined. The vast majority of mainframers grew up with useful methods for capacity planning, disaster recovery and had extensive change management. Today we need these time proven practices more than ever without of course the bureacracy.
      4. Measure everything as you cannot manage what you do not measure
        In the days of the mainframe, they could measure everything related to their infrastructure and could tell you their system availability and other system qualities. Today, we do not collect these metrics under the guise that we are too busy. If an organization, calculates their uptime and holds people accountable the staff will figure out a way to run the systems more efficiently.
      5. All production systems are equal in the eyes of architects
        The vast majority of enterprises today have mainframes, pc's, servers, pda's and so on and have taken non-agile approaches by organizing support groups around them. An agile organization will refer to these groups as simply "technical support" and make sure its staff is cross-trained on as many platforms as each can handle. Separating support along technologies results in inefficiencies, political problems, poor communications and piss poor morale. Reorganize based on maximizing efficiency and utilization not technology.
      6. Worship users and give them praise
        The number one problem with failed projects is the lack of communication. Being agile requires one to prefer human interaction over processes. If your IT folks would rather string cable or play with VI then failure itself is wired. In many shops the communications issue is even more systemic in that they cannot adequately communication with their own peers. In the days of the mainframe, it was obvious who did what to whom. In distributed architectures, everything is spread across disparate tiers, technologies and even locations. The team should use agile methods and process that instill communication between IT and customers as well as amongst the various IT silos. This should be incorporated as part of the job description for all IT personnel.
      7. Spread joy to people in foreign lands
        Many wise dinosaurs from the days when mainframes were king, sat in their lofty ivory towers meditating on how the world should be. The only time they would interact with common business folk is when the help desk would summon them with an usual problem. In other words, being reactionary was status quo.Todays economy requires IT to walk with the great unwashed and communicate with their users. Simply, IT needs to shmooze, sell and stand on their soapbox selling their wares. This is the first step in real reengineering.

        With this thought in mind, I have created a new Yahoo Group to discuss agile methods in the networking and infrastructure discipline. Check out

      James McGovern
      Co-author of the book: Java Web Services Architecture

      and co-author of the upcoming book: The Practical Guide to Enterprise Architecture

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