Comments on TUCON 2008 Podcast

Dana Gardner moderated a panel discussion at Tibco’s User Conference (TUCON) on Service Performance Management and SOA. There were some great nuggets in this session, I encourage you to listen to the podcast or read the transcript. The panelists were Sandy Rogers of IDC, Joe McKendrick, Anthony Abbattista of Allstate, and Rourke McNamara of TIBCO.

First, Sandy Rogers of IDC commented that what she finds interesting “is that even if you have one service that you have deployed, you need to have as much information as possible around how it is being used and how the trending is happening regarding the up-tick in the consumption of the service across different applications, across different processes.” I couldn’t agree more on this item. I have seen first hand the value in collecting this information and making it available. Unfortunately, all too often, the need for this is missed when people are looking for funding. Funding is focused on building the service and getting it out the door on-time and on-budget, and operation concerns are left to classic up/down monitoring that never leaves the walls of IT operations. We need to adjust the culture so that monitoring of the usage is a key part of the project success. How can we make any statements on the value of a service, or any IT solution for that matter, if we aren’t monitoring how that service is being used? For example, I frequently see projects that are proposed to make some manual process more efficient. If that’s the value play, are we currently measuring the cost of the manual activity, and how are we quantifying the cost of doing it the new way? Looking at the end database probably isn’t good enough, because that only shows the end results of processing, not the pace of processing. Automated a process enables you to process more, but if demand is stable, the end result will still look the same. The difference lies in the fact that people (and systems) have more time available for other activities.

Sandy went on to state:

They (organizations) need a lot more visibility and an understanding of the strains that are happening on the system, and they need to really build up a level of trust. Once they can add on to the amount of individuals that have that visibility, that trust starts to develop, more reuse starts to happen, and it starts to take off.

Joe picked on this stating “that the foundation of SOA is trust.” No arguments here. If the culture of the organization is one of distrust, I see them of having very slim chances of having any success with SOA. Joe correctly called out that a lot of this hinges on governance. I personally believe that governance is how an organization changes behavior and culture. Lack of trust is a behavior and trust issue. Only by clearly stating what the desired behavior is and establishing policies that create that behavior can culture change happen.

Anthony provided a great anecdote from the roll-out of their ESB stating that they spent 18 months justifying its use and dealing with every outage starting with someone saying, “TIBCO is down.” In reality, it was usually some back end service or component being down, but since the TIBCO ESB was the new thing, everyone blamed it. By having great measurements and monitoring, they were able to get to root cause. I had the exact same situation at a prior company, and it was fun watching the shift as people blamed the new infrastructure, and I would say, “No, it’s up, and the metrics it has collected makes me think the problem is here.”

A bit later in the podcast, Joe mentioned a conversation with Rourke earlier in the day, commenting that “predictive analytics, which is a subset of business intelligence (BI), is now moving into the systems management space.” This sounds very familiar…

Rourke also made a great comment when referring to a customer who said “their biggest fear is that their SOA initiative will be a victim of its own success.” He went on to say:

That could make SOA a victim of its own success. They will have successfully sold the service, had it reused over and over and over and over again. But, then, because of that reuse, because they were successful in achieving the SOA dream, they now are going to suffer. All that business users will see from that is that “SOA is bad,” it makes my applications more fragile, it makes my applications slow down because so many people are using the same stuff.

That was a great point. SOA, if it is successful, should result in an increase in the number of dependencies associated with an IT solution. Many people shudder at that statement, but the important thing is that there should be those dependencies. What’s bad is when those dependencies aren’t effectively managed and monitored. The lack of effective management results in complicated, ad hoc processes that give the perceive that the technology landscape is overly complex.

This was one of the better panel discussion I’ve heard in a while. I encourage you to give it a listen.

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