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5 Reference Architecture “Resolutions” for 2015

Barton KaplanBy Bart Kaplan

Corporate IT departments find themselves in a paradoxical position entering 2015. On one hand, the outlook for IT budgets hasn’t been brighter in a long time. According to advisory firm CEB, IT spend is expected to rise 3.3 percent this year, the most since before The Great Recession.[1]

On the other hand, the expectations of IT organizations have never been greater. Some three-quarters of company initiatives depend on technology to one degree or another. If central IT can’t meet demands for greater speed, agility, and cost-effectiveness, business partners will procure their own solutions, spurred on in part by the falling prices and increasing maturity of cloud and Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) offerings from third-party vendors. According to Gartner, 35 percent of technology spending is expected to occur outside the central IT organization this year,[2] led by Finance, Human Resources and Marketing departments.

The challenge faced by IT is that in addition to myriad new business projects, they must also attend to legacy technology systems and environments. These uninteresting yet critical “keep the lights on” activities suck up close to 60 percent of IT budgets.[3] That number is coming down, but not fast enough to accommodate for all the technology requests from various parts of the business.

One way IT can square this circle is by making better use of reference architectures (RAs), some of the most scalable and cost-effective tools in the IT toolbox. Among developers, however, RAs don’t have the most stellar reputation. Commonly heard complaints are that they are difficult to understand, hard to adopt, and often out of date.

What exactly are reference architectures? They are much more than pretty pictures. It’s easier to think of RAs as a kind of ecosystem of resources rather than any one thing (see figure below). Their ultimate purpose is to help solution delivery teams make better design and technology choices. At a time of exploding “shadow IT” and changing IT paradigms, the need for effective RAs is more important than ever.

Figure: Reference Architecture Toolkit

reference architecture toolkit
Source: CEB – Enterprise Architecture Leadership Council

If done right, RAs can deliver substantial benefits to both IT and the business. One large financial services organization I worked with saw infrastructure standardization increase from 30 percent to 70 percent, and delivery times decrease by 75 percent, over a two-year period. By some estimates, RAs can reduce IT budgets anywhere from two percent to upwards of 15 percent.

The most mature practitioners take the following five steps to ensure their RAs are successful.

  1. Manage reference architectures across their entire lifecycle. Most of the focus typically falls on the build phase. But the ongoing maintenance of RAs, and eventual decommissioning, are critical to their usefulness, especially in fast-changing areas like mobility and cloud.
  2. Evaluate reference architectures as a portfolio. Many RAs are developed in a reactive, one-off fashion. In order to make the best use of limited resources and maximize benefits, reference architectures should be viewed holistically, using formal criteria to evaluate and prioritize them. Those criteria should be revisited over time, as capabilities grow and business needs evolve.
  3. View reference architectures as brands. To achieve greater RA adoption, it’s essential to consider reference architectures from the customer’s perspective. They should be easy to find, understand, and use―which in most cases they are not. By putting a consumer lens on RAs and viewing them more as individual brands, some of the most common adoption barriers can be avoided.
  4. Include implementation advice. RAs are most frequently owned by enterprise architecture (EA) groups, whose focus tends to be on higher order elements such as principles, standards and patterns. But without decision guides, prototypes and reusable source code―all of which make these higher order resources easier to implement―the chance that RAs get instantiated in actual solutions is low.
  5. Federate RA ownership. One of the reasons why EA groups fail to develop prototypes and provide source code is that their resources are limited. But responsibility for RAs need not―nor should not―reside in EA groups alone. Rather, ownership should be distributed out to subject matter experts across the organization. This will increase buy in, and substantially expand the capacity of the organization to build and maintain a full RA ecosystem.

[2] Gartner, Inc. “Predicts 2014: Application Development.” Brian Prentice, David Mitchell Smith, Andy Kyte, Nathan Wilson, Gordon Van Huizen, and Van L. Baker, November 19, 2013.

[3] Ibid, Footnote #1

Bart Kaplan is a business solution strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in Maryland.

Cloud Transformation and Its Impact on IT Service Delivery

By Franck Besnard

I believe that 2013 was the inflection point for private cloud adoption within large enterprises embarking on their journey to cloud computing. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure estimates that approximately two thirds of x86 workloads are on virtualized infrastructure.[1] We’ve now entered the post-x86 virtualization era, with large enterprises such as SAP—with 80 percent of its global infrastructure virtualized—touting the benefits of virtualizing business critical applications.[2]

Last October, I participated in VMware’s CIO Event Europe in Barcelona, and many of the senior IT leaders attending acknowledged that now is the time to embrace private cloud and reap the associated benefits.  In addition to taking advantage of lower costs, improved operational efficiency, and increased business agility that cloud computing brings, IT now has the opportunity to provide real business value through innovation that can drive growth and directly impact the bottom line.

Yet these same IT leaders also understand that it’s not simply a technology or architecture play, but a true transformation that will occur over multiple years, impacting people and processes within their IT organization. One participant asked me how he could reduce TCO by an additional 50 percent if his data centers were already 80 percent virtualized, and my answer was straightforward: “By changing your IT operating model.

A private cloud infrastructure solution allows IT to achieve cloud service provider economics in the data center by leveraging a software-defined data center architecture. This architectural approach delivers virtualized infrastructure services (compute, network, security, and availability) with built-in intelligence that provides benefits allowing IT to:

  • Automate through software-defined environments, especially networking
  • Streamline complex business critical application deployments
  • Orchestrate IT service management processes
  • Standardize IT systems deployed on the infrastructure
  • Deliver true self-service and chargeback to lines of business
  • Provide predictive analytics on business usage

The dynamic environment of a private cloud presents challenges to IT operations that have been established for static data center architectures, but it also represents a major opportunity. Changing the operating model for the way in which IT delivers services will provide significant savings, and it will also require an investment in people and processes—for example, the training costs of developing new skills, or the change management involved as a result of moving to a model of automation.

To achieve the benefits of operational efficiencies gained from cloud computing, existing IT processes must be streamlined and new ones implemented while your IT organization is transitioning to become much more proactive. In my experience, most large enterprises will take at least three to five years to realize the full transformative benefits of cloud computing.

Keep in mind that the IT evolution is a journey. The way that successful CIOs leverage virtualization to transform the IT organization to become more service-oriented will be a combination of innovative technology and adapting to a new way of operating that’s focused on delivering business value.


Franck Besnard is a business solutions architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services based in France. Follow him on Twitter @besn0847

[1] Source: Gartner “Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure” by Thomas J. Bittman, George J. Weiss, Mark A. Margevicius, Philip Dawson, June 27,  2013

[2] Solution brief: “Virtualize Your SAP® Environment, A Joint Solution Offering from SAP and VMware to Increase IT Agility and Minimize  Virtualization Risk


Learn from VMware’s Lessons on Transforming the Business with Private Cloud

At VMware, the process of testing and optimizing products often starts by implementing them in our own IT organization. Join us tomorrow at 10am (PST) for a free webcast and get the inside scoop on lessons learned from moving VMware’s Dev/Test provisioning to private cloud.

Kurt Milne, VMware Director of Cloud Operations Marketing, will lead the conversation with executives from the VMware Dev/Ops team, who will share their personal experience with a private cloud environment that supports rapid prototyping and innovation that wasn’t possible before.

For the Ops team, blueprints, policies, and cloud automation and management have provided agility and improved performance. For the Dev team, requests for instances are completed in a day, their work is no longer interrupted while they wait for dev/test instances that hoard scarce infrastructure resources.

So, how does it add up? Learn the keys to how VMware’s IT organization reduced provisioning from four weeks to 24 hours, and improved the productivity of 600 developers by 20 percent.

Register here for “Increased Agility and Lower Cost Automated Provisioning in VMware’s Private Cloud.

The On-Demand Services Effect

Author: Michael Francis

 A business model describes the rationale of how an organisation creates, delivers, and captures value.1

When I consider the way on-demand services has changed business models, I think of the traditional retail model, which was a bricks-and-mortar store with trained staff to sell the goods. The value proposition—what was really being sold—would be the variety of goods combined with the knowledge of the sales team. For example, a video store of the ’90s provided me with the value of a physical location plus a relatively large assortment of videos that I could either purchase or rent. The value was the physical repository of videos and the selection.

Now consider online retailers and what they are selling—and you might think it’s the goods. But what I think online retailers are selling is the ease of access to goods that are relevant to the consumer, delivered in a consistent and predictable timeframe, at a known cost. The important aspect to this value proposition is that the value is not in the goods themselves. The online retailer has created a marketplace for consumers ready to consume through its procurement and delivery channel.

This business model allows the online retailer to place any product or service  into its consumption process and deliver value. Which gives the online retailer the agility to seek out different suppliers to capture more consumers without changing its core value proposition or redeveloping its consumption process.

The value proposition changed between the bricks-and-mortar and the online businesses. And, on-demand services was the enabler of this business model—the ability to easily consume a product or service that is relevant to me with consistent delivery and known costs. And, it has changed the value proposition of the retailer from the goods and trained staff.

The Effect on the IT Department

Similarly the internal IT organization has a B2C relationship with the business side of the organization. The value proposition offered to the consumer (the business) by the IT organization has historically been the skillset as an integrator/developer of required technologies and the foundational compute services provided. With a largely captive market in the past, IT has operated like a traditional B2C retailer.

As we know, the captive market is no longer captive—IT’s consumer can now access a broad range of services, including many that previously have only been available through their internal IT organization. However, just as the retail consumer doesn’t necessarily want a relationship with hundreds of suppliers, the business consumer also doesn’t want to manage hundreds of suppliers to get the IT services they need. Business consumers want the ability to easily access services that are relevant to them in a timely manner and at a known cost —ideally from a single point. These requirements now provide more value to the business consumer than highly customized, perfectly-fitting IT solutions that involve extensive integration and development and have varying delivery times and costs.

The business consumer has changed what’s important to them. As a result, the internal IT department is being challenged to align with this change in their consumers’ requirements and value proposition and provide known outcomes, known delivery times, and known costs. Failure to do so will likely increase the use of “shadow IT” and potentially relegate IT to a diminished tactical role.

IT needs to operate a business model similar to an online retailer. The value is not in the compute good or service itself—the value is ease of access to many suppliers through a single store front, with known delivery time and known cost. This requires a significant change inside the IT department to a mindset of understanding the consumer to ensure that relevant goods are offered, and in doing so, leverage external suppliers and defer the risk to them when introducing those goods. This is especially important while the demand for an offering is being evaluated.

If used effectively, the pay-as-you-go finance models and automation offered by established public cloud providers can provide improved delivery times and greater agility to the business, while also deferring up-front costs to provide the goods until the actual demand is fully understood.

My point is that it’s important to understand the rationale behind consuming public services—in this case, to provide capability while evaluating actual demand. Public cloud solutions are not necessarily the most effective means of reducing costs of IT services in every situation. And, to make the most effective use of public cloud requires that an organization understand the services it provides and cost of those services.

In my next blog in this series, I’ll discuss the implementation of an on-demand services business model—an implementation that transforms the IT department from a traditional B2C retailer to the equivalent of the online B2C retailer. To deliver on this requires a transformation within the IT department from organizational structure, technology, and operational perspectives. I’ll also cover the ideal organizational structure, product offerings, associated service definitions and how to leverage public cloud to defer risk and understand your consumers’ demand.


Michael Francis is a principal systems engineer at VMware, based in Brisbane.

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1Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation, Wiley; 1 edition (July 13, 2010)


On-Demand Services –Thoughts from Down Under

AUTHOR: Michael Francis

I’m a principal systems engineer with VMware and have been involved in the development of our cloud operations services. I’m sharing my experiences through a series of blogs pertaining to on-demand services. In this first blog, I reflect on what got us to this point and will follow this up with a discussion on how on-demand services transform both business models as well as the engagement model between enterprise IT and the associated business. In the final entry I’ll recommend how on-demand services can be delivered effectively—where the rubber hits the road!—and I’ll get into some specifics.

On-Demand Services, Part 1 – Remind me of how we get here again…

I have been with VMware for nearly seven years and in the IT industry for 20+ years—and over that time, like others, I have seen many changes. I think the biggest game changers in the past two decades are the smartphone and tablet form factor computers. Both devices have brought a mobility and price point revolution to computing that has enabled access to information to a very broad population from anywhere, at any time. This combination of form factor and ease of access to information through self-service mechanisms almost overnight changed the relationship between enterprise IT and the end user.

Let’s look back—I had a O2 Windows-based mobile that I used for business in the early 2000s, and it was great. I had access to email in a rich interface and integration with my contacts and global address lists anytime I needed them. And, I could communicate with corporate messaging in a small form factor. However, what it didn’t give me was the flexibility to access information like I could with my home PC—I couldn’t easily extend it to run other applications. And unlike my home PC with its mouse-driven interface, this phone forced me to use the keyboard—which was like trying to navigate in Windows for workgroups using only a keyboard.

Then came the next generation of smartphone and the advent of the touchscreen, which was analogous to the introduction of a mouse to our personal computer. The interface was easier to use and navigate and could be so much richer from a features standpoint. But the real power was that I could access a new universe of applications through a single self-service portal. And, the applications were cost-relevant, which meant they were easy to consume and demo in order to select an appropriate set of applications that worked best for my specific needs. It changed the phone from being a fixed-purpose device with keyboard control to a touchscreen-driven, openly flexible device ready to provide me with access to the world at my fingertips, from wherever I was.

For the consumer, it was the simplicity to access a marketplace of application services and then self provision a service that was the point where so many rapidly engaged in this transformation. This ability to self service combined with the size of the marketplace fueled the prolific use of the successful smartphone and tablet platforms. Consumers had a single storefront with access to thousands of application service suppliers.

The on-demand services built into these consumer devices created a broad ecosystem of suppliers eager to be able to showcase their wares. The single application store provided a single location for consumers to shop for services. Do you see the similarities? In the past, the enterprise IT organization was “everything IT” to everyone in the organization—from manufacturer, to distributor to reseller—and the consumer had little choice. Stepping up to meet demand, software as a service (SaaS) providers are the smartphone application builders for enterprise services, and like smartphone applications, more and more consumers seek their services.

So what’s missing from this equation? What’s missing is an equivalent enterprise-class, consumer-relevant application store with access to all IT services. An on-demand services capability within the enterprise to be the storefront to a varied selection of IT services—some sourced internally, some externally.

There’s another aspect to this transformation—and that’s the ease of creation, delivery and price point of these smartphone applications. All of which created a need for an agile application platform offering a low-cost of entry to feed the demand of so many new suppliers entering the market. Further, the swings in consumption of suppliers’ offerings has perpetuated the need from application suppliers to pay for flexible-scaling, consumption-based models for underlying compute capacity.

To sum things up, the on-demand services in our smartphone and tablet devices opened up access to services and information beyond what was previously available, using a single application store interface that made things simple to consume. It moved the power base of information access from enterprise IT into the hands of the consumer. The velocity of uptake of these consumer devices spawned cloud computing, cloud computing service providers and the concept of service consumption-based computing. On-demand services have transformed consumer information access.

I’ll follow up soon on how the introduction of on-demand services into the enterprise can transform business models and the engagement model between enterprise IT and the business.


Michael Francis is a principal systems engineer at VMware, based in Brisbane.

Would you like to continue this conversation with your C-level executive peers? Join our exclusive CxO Corner Facebook page for access to hundreds of verified CxOs sharing ideas around IT Transformation right now by going to CxO Corner and clicking “ask to join group.”