Optimize Your Infrastructure; From Hand-Built To Mass-Production

Optimize Your Infrastructure; From Hand-Built To Mass-Production

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I write a lot about cloud and cloud technologies, specifically around optimizing IT infrastructures and transitioning them from traditional management methodologies and ideals toward dynamic, cloud-based methodologies.  Recently, in conversations with customers as well as my colleagues and peers within the industry, it is becoming increasingly clear that the public, at least the subset I deal with, are simply fed up with the massive amount of hype surrounding cloud.  Everyone is using that as a selling point and have attached so many different meanings that it has become meaningless…white noise that just hums in the background and adds no value to the conversation.  In order to try to cut through that background noise I’m going to cast the conversation in a way that is a lot less buzzy and a little more specific to what people know and are familiar with.  Let’s talk about cars (haa ha, again)…and how Henry Ford revolutionized the automobile industry.

First, let’s be clear that Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, he invented a way to make automobiles affordable to the common man or as he put it, the “great multitude.”  After the Model A, he realized he’d need a more efficient way to mass produce cars in order to lower the price while keeping them at the same level of quality they were known for. He looked at other industries and found four principles that would further his goal:interchangeable parts, continuous flow, division of labor, and reducing wasted effort. Ford put these principles into play gradually over five years, fine-tuning and testing as he went along. In 1913, they came together in the first moving assembly line ever used for large-scale manufacturing. Ford produced cars at a record-breaking rate…and each one that rolled off the production line was virtually identical to the one before and after.

Now let’s see how the same principles (of mass production) can revolutionize the IT Infrastructure as they did the automobile industry…and also let’s be clear that I am not calling this cloud, or dynamic datacenter or whatever the buzz-du-jour is, I am simply calling it an Optimized Infrastructure because that is what it is…an IT infrastructure that produces the highest quality IT products and services in the most efficient manner and at the lowest cost.

Interchangeable Parts

Henry Ford discovered significant efficiency by using interchangeable parts which meant making the individual pieces of the car the same every time. That way any valve would fit any engine, any steering wheel would fit any chassis. The efficiencies to be gained were proven in the assembly of standardized photography equipment pioneered by George Eastman in 1892. This meant improving the machinery and cutting tools used to make the parts. But once the machines were adjusted, a low-skilled laborer could operate them, replacing the skilled craftsperson that formerly made the parts by hand.

In a traditional “Hand-Built” IT infrastructure, skilled engineers are basically building servers—physical and virtual—and other IT assets from scratch and are typically reusing very little with each build.  They may have a “golden image” for the OS, but they then build multiple images based on the purpose of the server, its language or the geographic location of the division or department it is meant to serve.  They might layer on different software stacks with particularly configured applications or install each application one after another.  These assets are then configured by hand using run books, build lists etc. Then tested by hand, etc. which means that it takes time and skilled effort and there are still unacceptable amounts of errors, failures and expensive rework.

By significantly updating and improving the tools used (i.e. virtualization, configuration and change management, software distribution, etc.), the final state of IT assets can be standardized, the way they are built can be standardized, and the processes used to build them can be standardized…such that building any asset becomes a clear and repeatable process of connecting different parts together; these interchangeable parts can be used over and over and over again to produce virtually identical copies of the assets at much lower costs.

Division of Labor

Once Ford standardized his parts and tools, he needed to divide up how things were done in order to be more efficient. He needed to figure out which process should be done first so he divided the labor by breaking the assembly of the Model T into 84 distinct steps. Each worker was trained to do just one of these steps but always in the exact same order.

The Optimized Infrastructure relies on the same principle of dividing up the effort (of defining, creating, managing and ultimately retiring each IT asset) so that only the most relevant technology, tool or sometimes, yes, human, does the work. As can be seen in later sections, these “tools” (people, process or technology components) are then aligned in the most efficient manner such that it dramatically lowers the cost of running the system as well as guarantees that each specific work effort can be optimized individually, irrespective of the system as a whole.

Continuous Flow

To improve efficiency even more, and lower the cost even further, Ford needed the assembly line to be arranged so that as one task was finished, another began, with minimum time spent in set-up (set-up is always a negative production value). Ford was inspired by the meat-packing houses of Chicago and a grain mill conveyor belt he had seen. If he brought the work to the workers, they spent less time moving about. He adopted the Chicago meat-packers overhead trolley to auto production by installing the first automatic conveyer belt.

In an Optimized Infrastructure, this conveyor belt (assembly line) consists of individual process steps (automation) that are “brought to the worker” (each specific technological component responsible for that process step….see; division of labor) in a well-defined pattern (workflow) and then each workflow arranged in a well-controlled manner (orchestration) because it is no longer human workers doing those commodity IT activities (well, in 99.99% of the cases) but the system itself, leveraging virtualization, fungible resource pools and high levels of standardization among other things. This is the infrastructure assembly line and is how IT assets are mass produced…each identical and of the same high quality at the same low cost.

Reducing Wasted Effort

As a final principle, Ford called in Frederick Winslow Taylor, the creator of “scientific management,” to do time and motion studies to determine the exact speed at which the work should proceed and the exact motions workers should use to accomplish their tasks, thereby reducing wasted effort. In an Optimized Infrastructure, this is done through understanding and using continuous process improvement (CPI), but CPI cannot be done correctly unless you are monitoring the performance details of all the processes and the performance of the system as a whole and then documenting the results on a constant basis. This requires an infrastructure-wide management and monitoring strategy which, as you’ve probably guessed, was what Fredrick Taylor was doing in the Ford plant in the early 1900s.

Whatever You Call It…

From the start, the Model T was less expensive than most other hand-built cars because of expert engineering practices, but it was still not attainable for the “great multitude” as Ford had promised the world. He realized he’d need a more efficient way to produce the car in order to lower the price, and by using the four principles ofinterchangeable parts, continuous flow, division of labor, and reducing wasted effort, in 1915 he was able to drop the price of the Model T from $850 to $290 and, in that year, he sold 1 million cars.

Whether you prefer to call it cloud, or dynamic datacenter, or the Great Spedini’s Presto-Chango Cave of Magic Data doesn’t really matter…the fact is that those four principles listed above can be used along with the tools, technologies and operational methodologies that exist today—which are not rocket science or bleeding edge—to revolutionize your IT Infrastructure and stop hand-building your IT assets (employing your smartest and best workers to do so) and start mass producing those assets to lower your cost, increase your quality and, ultimately, significantly increase the value of your infrastructure.

With an Optimized Infrastructure of automated tools and processes where standardized/interchangeable parts are constantly reused based on a well-designed and efficiently orchestrated workflow that is monitored end-to-end, you too can make IT affordable for the “great multitude” in your organization.

By Trevor Williamson

About CloudTweaks

Established in 2009, CloudTweaks is recognized as one of the leading authorities in connected technology information and services.

We embrace and instill thought leadership insights, relevant and timely news related stories, unbiased benchmark reporting as well as offer green/cleantech learning and consultive services around the world.

Our vision is to create awareness and to help find innovative ways to connect our planet in a positive eco-friendly manner.

In the meantime, you may connect with CloudTweaks by following and sharing our resources.

View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Comics
The Five Rules of Security and Compliance in the Public Cloud Era

The Five Rules of Security and Compliance in the Public Cloud Era

Security and Compliance  With technology at the heart of businesses today, IT systems and data are being targeted by criminals, competitors and even foreign governments. Every day, we hear about how another retailer, bank or Internet company has been hacked and private information of customers or employees stolen. Governments and oversight organizations are responding to…

Are Cloud Solutions Secure Enough Out-of-the-box?

Are Cloud Solutions Secure Enough Out-of-the-box?

Out-of-the-box Cloud Solutions Although people may argue that data is not safe in the Cloud because using cloud infrastructure requires trusting another party to look after mission critical data, cloud services actually are more secure than legacy systems. In fact, a recent study on the state of cloud security in the enterprise market revealed that…

Ending The Great Enterprise Disconnect

Ending The Great Enterprise Disconnect

Five Requirements for Supporting a Connected Workforce It used to be that enterprises dictated how workers spent their day: stuck in a cubicle, tied to an enterprise-mandated computer, an enterprise-mandated desk phone with mysterious buttons, and perhaps an enterprise-mandated mobile phone if they traveled. All that is history. Today, a modern workforce is dictating how…

The Future Of Cloud Storage And Sharing…

The Future Of Cloud Storage And Sharing…

Box.net, Amazon Cloud Drive The online (or cloud) storage business has always been a really interesting industry. When we started Box in 2005, it was a somewhat untouchable category of technology, perceived to be a commodity service with low margins and little consumer willingness to pay. All three of these factors remain today, but with…

3 Keys To Keeping Your Online Data Accessible

3 Keys To Keeping Your Online Data Accessible

Online Data Data storage is often a real headache for businesses. Additionally, the shift to the cloud in response to storage challenges has caused security teams to struggle to reorient, leaving 49 percent of organizations doubting their experts’ ability to adapt. Even so, decision makers should not put off moving from old legacy systems to…

Cyber Criminals Are Business People Too

Cyber Criminals Are Business People Too

Cyber Crime Business You’re on the morning train on the way to work and take a look at the guy next to you. He’s clean-cut, wearing a crisp suit and holding a leather briefcase just like dozens of others. Just another worker headed to the office, right?. Yes, but not in the way you think…

Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

Cloud Beacons Flying High When Apple debuted cloud beacons in 2013, analysts predicted 250 million devices capable of serving as iBeacons would be found in the wild within weeks. A few months later, estimates put the figure at just 64,000, with 15 percent confined to Apple stores. Beacons didn’t proliferate as expected, but a few…

How To Overcome Data Insecurity In The Cloud

How To Overcome Data Insecurity In The Cloud

Data Insecurity In The Cloud Today’s escalating attacks, vulnerabilities, breaches, and losses have cut deeply across organizations and captured the attention of, regulators, investors and most importantly customers. In many cases such incidents have completely eroded customer trust in a company, its services and its employees. The challenge of ensuring data security is far more…

Digital Identity Trends 2017 – Previewing The Year Ahead

Digital Identity Trends 2017 – Previewing The Year Ahead

Digital Identity Trends 2017 The lack of security of the Internet of Things captured public attention this year as massive distributed denial of service attacks took down much of the internet. The culprits? Unsecured connected devices that were easily accessed and manipulated to do the bidding of shadowy hackers. When you can’t access Netflix anymore,…