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David Linthicum started a debate when he posted a blog with the attention grabbing headline of “Cloud computing will kill these 3 technologies.” One of the technologies listed was “design-time service governance.” This led to a response from K. Scott Morrison, CTO and Chief Architect at Layer 7, as well as a forum debate over at eBizQ. I added my own comments both to Scott’s post, as well the eBizQ forum, and thought I’d post my thoughts here.
First, there’s no doubt that the run-time governance space is important to cloud computing. Clearly, a service provider needs to have some form of gateway (logical or physical) that requests are channeled through to provide centralized capabilities like security, billing, metering, traffic shaping, etc. I’d also advocate that it makes sense for a service consumer to have an outgoing gateway, as well. If you are leveraging multiple external service providers, centralizing functions such as digital signatures, identity management, transformations, etc. makes a lot of sense. On top of that, there is no standard way of metering and billing usage yet, so having your own gateway where you can record your own view of service utilization and make sure that it’s line with the what the provider is seeing is a good thing.
The real problem with Dave’s statement is the notion that design-time governance is only concerned with service design and development. That’s simply not true. In my book, I deliberately avoided this term, and instead opted for three timeframes of governance: pre-project, project, and run-time. There’s a lot more that goes on before run-time than design, and these activities still need to be governed. It is true that if you’re leveraging an external provider, you don’t have any need to govern the development practices. You do, however, still need to govern:
- The processes that led to the decision of what provider to use.
- The processes that define the service contract between you and the provider, both the functional interface and the non-functional aspects.
- The processes executed when you add additional consumers at your organization of externally provided services.
For example, how is the company deciding what service provider to use? How is the company making sure decisions by multiple groups for similar capabilities are in line with company principles? How is the company making sure that interoperability and security needs are properly addressed, rather than being left at the whim of what the provider dictates? What happens when a second consumer starts using the service, yet the bills were being sent to the first consumer? Does the providers service model align with the company’s desired service model? Does the provider’s functional interface create undue transformation and integration work for the company? These are all governance issues that do not go away when you switch to IaaS, SaaS, or PaaS. You will need to ensure that your teams are aware of the contracts in place, and don’t start sending service requests without being properly onboarded into the contractual relationship. Your internal allocation of charges takes multiple consumers into account, if necessary. All of these must happen before the first requests are sent in production, so the notion that run-time governance is the only governance concern in a cloud computing scenario is simply not true.
A final point I’m adding on after some conversation with Lori MacVittie of F5 on Twitter. Let’s not forget that someone still needs to build and provide these services. If you’re a service provider, clearly, you still have technical, design-time governance needs in addition to everything else discussed earlier.