Recently, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a solicitation for the kick-off of the 100 Year Starship (100YSS) project. The announcement describes the project as:
The 100 Year Starship™ (100YSS™) is a project seeded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with NASA Ames Research Center as executing agent, to develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable.
The solicitation is a (very small) down payment on a project that is to be terminated on 11/11/2111. At its core, the project is imagineering on a grand scale. The website goes on to say:
The 100-Year Starship is about more than building a spacecraft or any one specific technology. Through this effort, DARPA seeks to inspire several generations to commit to the research and development of breakthrough technologies and cross-cutting innovations across myriad disciplines such as physics, mathematics, engineering, biology, economics, and psychological, social, political and cultural sciences. The goal is to pursue long-distance space travel while delivering ancillary results along the way that will benefit mankind.
Putting aside the question as to whether or not as a society this something we should be doing, the technical challenges are of course both daunting and exciting. To put it in perspective, Richard Obousy, associated with a similar British effort called Project Icarus, is quoted as stating that using chemical rockets to travel interstellar distances like those that took us to the moon would require “more fuel than exists mass in the universe!” Clearly then, we can’t use traditional propulsion methods to get there.
Okay, interesting stuff Cameron and you’ve let on that you’re probably a Star Trek fan – what’s the connection to IT management? I don’t think that we obviously need a one hundred year project, but the IT management market is in some serious need of imagineering. Each week I sit through a number of technology provider presentations that all largely seem to be a variation on a theme. Having managed vendor development teams in the past I can appreciate much of the engineering, not to mention go to market efforts, but almost none of these vendor pitches are challenging us to re-think about how to do IT management “different.”
With respect to cloud management, there’s pretty much a required checklist: self-service portal, service catalog, service models, workflow engine, provisioning system, monitoring and metering agents, etc. There may be a service governor or two with some automated placement capabilities. A few of these manage to even enforce future reservations. But you don’t have to look too hard to see that a lot of this technology also existed when the world was still largely physical. The IT management market is taking the Apollo path to the moon, I mean clouds. Mainframe management ala IBM NetView was our Mercury Project. Our Gemini equivalent occurred with the emergence of HP OpenView and SunNet Manager in support of client/server environments. And Apollo is by and large where we are with cloud management technology today. I’m not trying to demean either effort, but as with Apollo, with respect to today’s cloud management tools we’re largely solving a known engineering problem. Important stuff, but we’re not really re-writing the IT management manual.
That is why I have been focused on DevOps and my own research on what I call the Cloud Operating Model. These approaches have largely derived from the real-world needs of large, public cloud service providers who saw the existing IT operations process and management landscape largely wanting and thus developed their own approaches. And while the increasing scale and support capabilities of these Web 2.0-style management architectures are impressive, we still find ourselves traveling at sub-light speed. To get to “warp” drive, we need to have a longer term vision that will require us to increasingly think out of the box. This will include improved IT management capabilities in areas such as:
- Visualization – how do we represent potentially hundreds of thousands of objects and their data points in a meaningful manner? Maybe we could take some pointers from the security industry as a start.
- Discovery – discovering the physical infrastructure was challenging, the virtual environment difficult and clouds, especially public clouds, is almost impossible (today). How then do we identify available services (not to mention our IT assets) when we may not know a priori where they are? Perhaps the solution is buried somewhere in here or maybe the answer is to go tribal.
- Automation – most automation systems are primitive – they don’t prevent us from implementing poor workflow design, etc. Anyone remember this show? They probably could have used this.
- Analytics – the IT world is getting more, not less complex, giving rise to emergent behaviors. In response, there is increasing interest in statistical machine learning methods such as Bayesian probabilities, genetic algorithms, neural networks, etc. But will these allow us to solve increasingly “wicked” problems?
- Instrumentation – how do we get “agents” or other information collection mechanisms where we need them, when we need them whether on- or off-premise and with little to no demands on end users? Here’s a stealthy proposal for virtual environments.
- Data management – with the need to collect more data on perhaps faster cycles, how will we deal with “big management data?” This group tried some new approaches given access to some of the systems at Google.
I’m probably missing some areas (such as data models, etc.) but the above is I think a good start. Anyone have an idea for what to call this project? 5YITM? 10YITM? Note: I was never good at naming so I’ll leave this to someone with better branding skills than I. In the meantime as an industry, let’s get busy on moving beyond the clouds and reaching for the stars!
Category: Uncategorized Tags: