I went to my first Gartner Symposium last week for a big picture view of the intersection between business and IT. Symposium is billed as “the one show to go to if you only go to one show a year.” As such, my expectations were high. It did not disappoint.
Keynote speakers, most notably Peter Sondergaard, in full prophet mode, discussed the disruptive nature of new cloud architectures, the Internet of Things, and 3D printing. These trends, combined with other socioeconomic factors, would bring about the “Digital Industrial Economy.”
He then offered this choice to today’s IT executive: either enable your enterprise to thrive in the Digital Industrial Economy, or be relegated to caretaker of legacy systems while other roles lead the transformation.
The unease in the audience was palpable. Squirming continued as he discussed a simple graphic on-screen: 90% of CIOs believe they are doing a good job, while 50% of CEOs say they need more from IT. The keynotes set the tone for the rest of the conference. Clearly, Gartner is advising clients to do more, and think bigger.
Our first analyst meeting the next day reinforced this. The Gartner research team focused on “Web-Scale IT” mentioned that many clients are asking how Google, Facebook, and Amazon “do what they do” with respect to globally distributed systems and rapid updates.
The big cloud companies, however, are not going to reveal their secret sauce for public consumption. Gartner has set out to provide practical guidance on the topic, under the moniker: “Web-Scale IT.”
At CenturyLink Cloud, we harbor no such secrecy; our model is different. With an ecosystem of go-to-market partners, disclosing “how we do what we do” is a _selling point of our company _and instrumental in why we have grown as fast as we have.
Under the backdrop of new pressures for IT, we thought it would be helpful to share a quick case study on how our engineering team has been able to accomplish so much in the last year.
More Standalone Services in 2013 Than Anyone Else
Our positioning in Gartner’s IaaS Magic Quadrant – and recently published deep-dive research – speaks to what we have been able to achieve relative to our competitors and their comparatively large engineering teams.
As our product manager Richard Seroter says:
Standing still is not an option in cloud. Customers expect constant improvement. The bar continues to be raised. We prefer to be the ones raising it, not chasing it. We’ve launched more new standalone services in 2013 than any other cloud provider. This isn’t just a matter of us playing “catch up” to other global clouds, but of innovating in areas of search, reseller enablement, usability, and Autoscale.
Keep in the mind the degree of difficulty here as well. CenturyLink Cloud has expanded to _nine data centers _from just two less than 24 months ago. And we never segment our releases – new software updates “go live” across all our locations in the US, Canada, UK, and Europe.
These releases used to take five hours to push live. Now? 15 minutes, even as our global footprint has quadrupled!
How do we do what we do?
Richard points to five key areas:
1. Cultural commitment to transformation. About a year ago, we decided to re-tool our processes to accelerate our release cadence. We knew this would require commitment, and we have stuck with it. It sounds easy, but I suspect this is where many traditional IT departments fall down.
2. The right tools for the job. We’ve introduced tools and processes that automate key activities, provide unprecedented visibility into data center operations, and give us insight into performance hiccups often before our customers notice. A few of these tools include:
Octopus Deploy - to increase deployment efficiency
New Relic - “inside-out” monitoring
Pingdom - “outside-in” monitoring
Yesterday’s products from legacy vendors are unlikely to help you on your journey. Make a clean break.
3. DevOps Plus. Engineering established an even closer collaboration with Operations to make sure that support tickets, deployments, and data center upgrades are coordinated as part of a single, virtual team.
4. Deep agile expertise. All of this is possible because of an Engineering team that truly understands how Agile should work. Led by Agile Alliance board member Jim Newkirk, the team is made up of an extremely experienced, talented team of developers who work together to incubate new technologies, upgrade existing platform features, and add entirely new capabilities.
5. Organizational alignment. This model wouldn’t work if the whole organization wasn’t equipped to handle it. To that end, we’ve seen how marketing, sales, professional services, and operations have adjusted to an aggressive release cadence and used it as a competitive advantage.