Thursday, 12 December 2013

IT's Day of Reckoning Draws Near

Bob Colwell, Intel's former chief architect, recently delivered a keynote speech proclaiming that Moore’s law will be dead within a decade.  Of course, there has to come an end to every technological revolution - and we've certainly noted the stablization of processor clock speeds over recent years, in conjunction with an increasing density of cores per chip.

Moore's Law has been so dominant over the years, it has influenced every major hardware investment and every strategic data center decision.  Over the last 40 years, we have seen a consistent increase in processing capacity - reflected in both the increase in processor speeds and the increased density of transistors per chip.  In recent years, whilst processor clock speed has reached a plateau - the density of cores per chip has increased capacity (though not performance) markedly.

The ramifications of Moore's Law were felt acutely by IT operations, in two ways.

  1. It was often better for CIOs to defer a sizable procurement by six or twelve months, to get more processing power for your money.  
  2. Conversely, the argument had a second edge - that it was not worthwhile carrying out any Capacity Management, because the price of hardware was cheap - and getting cheaper all the time.

So, let us speculate what happens to IT operations when Moore's Law no longer holds:

  1. IT Hardware does not get cheaper over time.  Indeed, we can speculate that costs may increase due to costs of energy, logistics etc.  Advancements will continue to be made to capability and performance, though not at the same marked rate charted above.
  2. The rate of hardware refresh slows due to the energy and space savings available in the next generation kit.  Hardware will stay in support longer, and the costs of support will increase.
  3. Converged architectures will gain more traction as the flexibility and increased intra-unit communication rates drive performance and efficiency.
  4. You can't buy your way out of poor Capacity Management in the future.  Therefore the function of sizing, managing and forecasting capacity becomes more strategic.

Since capacity management equates very closely to cost management, we can also speculate that these two functions will continue to evolve closely.  This ties in neatly, though perhaps coincidentally, with the maturing of the cloud model into a truly dichotomous entity - being that a supplier and a provider will have two differing views of the same infrastructure.  As the cloud models mature in this way, it becomes easier to compare the market for alternative providers on the basis of cost and quality.

Those organisations with a well-established Capacity Management function are well placed to navigate effectively as these twin forces play out over the next few years, provided they:

  1. Understand that their primary function is to manage the risk margin in business services, ensuring sufficient headroom is aligned to current and future demands
  2. Provide true insight into the marketplace in terms of the alternative cost / quality options (whether hardware or cloudsourced)
  3. Develop effective interfaces within the enterprise to allow them to proactively address the impacts of forthcoming IT projects and business initiatives.

So - the day of reckoning draws near - and IT operations will adapt, as it always does.  Life will go on - but perhaps with a little bit more careful capacity planning....

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