Monday, September 19, 2011

Realizing an Instant-On Enterprise!

Why an Instant-On Enterprise?

Instant-On Enterprise concept by HP is brilliant and started in the right time and is heading toward the right direction. Traditional enterprise are seen as slow behemoth monsters that are,

  1. Slow to respond to customer needs
  2. Slow to respond to current market needs
  3. Slow to respond to changing business requirements
  4. Have to go through layers of bureaucracy for doing trivial things

… and I bet you can fill a lengthy and exhaustive list with a short amount of time. Things that everyone come to know and taken to be facts of life during their 10 – 15 year tenure. Often these are credited to necessary operational overhead for doing something. Selling a product, a step in the manufacturing process etc…

With the wide spread of Internet, the younger generation with very low attention span- Gen Xers if you will, have grown in numbers. It has become so large that traditional enterprise cannot ignore it. The amount of sales/money/customers they loose every time due to operational overhead is simply not acceptable anymore.

What is an Instant-On Enterprise?

So how can enterprises leverage advancements of technology to make their business processes, IT infrastructure, operational costs for optimal levels? As I see it, this is where HP has defined an elaborate vision with the Instant-On Enterprise. Let me quote the five critical success factors that the Instant-On Enterprise defines,

Flexibility The Instant-On Enterprise runs on applications and services that are always available and can easily adapt to new opportunities.
Automation The Instant-On Enterprise must rapidly and reliably scale technology resources up and down to meet changing needs. It neither over- nor under-provisions.
Security In the Instant-On Enterprise, assets, resources and information are closely guarded to manage risk and protect innovation. They are protected against failure.
Insight The Instant-On Enterprise harnesses the power of information to help executives make better decisions. It protects information and delivers it in accordance with enterprise needs.
Speed The Instant-On Enterprise selects the best delivery model for the solution—the delivery model that provides the right outcome, in the right time frame, at the right price.

Jumping the curve

There are a number of barriers that you have to consider in depth when trying to choose a path for making your business processes efficient. The key decision is to choose the right technology. Choosing the right technology is not an easy task. Consider the following points before you make an enterprise wide technology decision,

  1. Based on open source and open standards. Open source is not hobbyists for anymore. A large number of critical business functions runs on top of open source software. When making a choice you have to make sure the stability and adoption of a particular piece of software. There are many open source alternatives for any given problem. Choosing open source alternatives is not simple anymore.
  2. Business friendly license. Make sure to choose software components that have business friendly open source license. Where if necessary you could build upon and sell your solutions without having to reveal the source. If you don’t have such requirements, great!
  3. Flexibility and performance. The solution that you choose should be able to configure to your business requirements without having to write copious amounts of custom code. Having to make changes to the core of the software in order to support your simple requirements is cumbersome, hard and time consuming. Time you can use to improve your business. As your business grows, software components that you choose should be able to handle demanding business needs. Shouldn’t disrupt your day to day operations while handling demand spikes and general increase of traffic.
  4. Ability to use only those features that you need. No more. No less. Even though you have infinite resources (thanks to Amazon for example) at your disposal doesn’t mean that it’s ok to run bloated software with several hundred features that you’ll never need. You should be able to run with only the features that are absolutely needed for your scenario and discard/turn off all other features.

How to implement an Instant-On Enterprise?

Did the last section sound as if it’s a pipe dream? Couple of years ago it would have been, yes. Let me show you how you would go about implementing an Instant-On Enterprise. Infrastructure as a Service providers like Amazon EC2 are too low level when it comes to having an Instant-On Enterprise. Yes, it’s a critical part of this solution but you need a high level platform which operate on top of this elastic infrastructure.

WSO2 Stratos is built to answer exactly that. Hosted version of WSO2 Stratos is called StratosLive. Most of the corporates doesn’t like their private information lying around in public servers. If it’s the case, you can download Stratos and host it inside your corporate data centers.

Now let me revisit HP’s critical success factors again and show you how Stratos helps to achieve those.

Flexibility Each service in Stratos (Application Server, Enterprise Service Bus etc…) can be configured to work in a cluster of nodes. Each cluster can be configured through a load balancer. Load balancer itself can be configured with a fail over setup so there are no single point of failures. In StratosLive (the hosted version of Stratos) WSO2 ESB is configured to act as a software load balancer. This allows your services to be always available.

With a straightforward programming model, supported by Eclipse based Carbon Studio, your applications deployed in Stratos can be modify/deploy/debug with ease allowing you to incorporate new requirements.

Automation Stratos have auto scaling logic built in. This will seamlessly spin up new nodes when the load increases to your services and will terminate and decrease the number of nodes when the load gradually decreases.
Security You can take advantage of number of different security mechanisms to safeguard your data as well as the communication that happens between your services deployed in Stratos. Identity Server supports single sign-on, OpenID, SAML2 and XACML for fine grained authorization policies. Stratos have a built in XACML editor for novices who are not well versed in XACML to define XACML policies. Also, you can take advantage of WS-Security when talking between your applications
Insight The Business Activity Monitor collects and show information relating to your applications and services. Using the extensible framework, you can define your own user interface to include KPIs that interests you
Speed The installation takes minutes. Deployment of services takes seconds. If you don’t like to install at all, that’s all fine too, the entire platform can be accessed through StratosLive!

Tools needed for building an Instant-On Enterprise is right there. StratosLive has a free plan for you to play around and make yourself comfortable. Also has paid plans with differing SLAs for serious business usages. You don’t have to spend your time and money to buy some fairy tale big vendors usually preach about. You can play around with the entire platform and start building the bits and pieces you need for your enterprise. For free!

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