Monday, 5 April 2010

Scalable Computing Programme Organization

Scalable Computing Programme is one of the three programmes of Digital Systems Knowledge Transfer Network. I run this program. Here is a detailed overview of the programme.

Scalable Computing Programme builds on the extensive work done by GridComputingNow! KTN. We have changed our focus to address variety of stakeholders that DSKTN might interact with.

As shown in the picture below, we have five focus areas within the scalable computing programme.

A focus area is further divided into multiple ‘tracks’.

This approach helps us to focus and channelize our energy. We understand that there would be synergies across tracks and overarching themes. Hence, the focus areas and tracks will be kept loosely couple so that we do not end up in silos.

Motivation Behind Chosen Focus Areas:

We chose focus areas carefully to represent different types of stakeholders of the KTN.

Vast majority of members of our KTN are typical businesses who need support to derive value from IT. To enable them, we deal with IT industry – which we have visualised to be made of technology service providers, academia and bodies that establish standards. We created a separate ‘Technology’ focus area and combined academia and bodies that establish standards under ‘Industry’ focus area. We are aware that the name ‘Industry’ is quite generic and can accommodate multiple stakeholders. Please suggest an alternate name for our consideration.

Developers are critical for creating truly scalable, reliable products and services that are consumed by the enterprises. Developers of hardware and software are under the control of commercial organizations and are influenced by organization’s engineering practices, standards, methods and tools. In the rush to derive commercial benefit of new paradigms such as ‘cloud computing’, it is likely that many organizations design and develop applications with limited understanding of computer science principles behind scalable systems. Also, emergence of new high performance hardware such as multi-core processors, new products based on concepts such as virtualization and reality of distributed data have pushed developers back to the classroom. We believe developers need to know about importance of key concepts such as distributed transaction processing, emerging standards related to cloud computing and new research in programming languages and algorithms. This motivated us to create ‘Developer’ focus area.

Scalable Computing Programme cannot operate in isolation. It has to collaborate with many overlapping and overarching themes under the administration control of other KTNs and programmes. This is the reason behind ‘Collaboration’ focus area.

Breaking down Focus Areas into Tracks:

A focus area is just that. It establishes a broad playing field. We needed something that further sharpens our focus area. Hence, we broke down each focus area into ‘tracks’.

While we have frozen the Focus Areas, we have retained the freedom to modify tracks based on member feedback, developments in the industry and interests of other influencing bodies. Due to the dynamics of the industry, it is possible that the activity level within a track varies with respect to other tracks. It is also possible that a track is not active at all.

Nature of the focus area helped us to identify tracks. For example: We thought that once a business acquired ‘fundamental’ knowledge of the IT paradigm, it ‘procures’ it, ‘adopts’ and ‘manages’ it within the enterprise and ultimately ‘innovates’ using the given paradigm. This thought, though a highly generalized view of a business enterprise, lead us to create five tracks under ‘Enterprise’ focus area called ‘Fundamentals’, ‘Procure’, ‘Adopt’, ‘Manage’ and ‘Innovate’. Breaking down a focus area this way helps scoping our activities.

For example: Consider ‘Cloud Computing’ IT service delivery paradigm. Let us see how this paradigm can be handled using the above mentioned breakup.

Fundamentals: Businesses either lack fundamental knowledge of it or have conflicting understanding of it across different units within the enterprise. So KTN has to spread the fundamental knowledge of cloud computing.

Procure: Once understood, it is not easy for the business to procure cloud computing services as there are multiple manifestations such as private cloud, public cloud etc. and no uniform service level agreements. Hence, the KTN has to collect and disseminate best practices in this area.

Adopt: Having procured the cloud computing service, the enterprise has to change to adopt the technology. There are numerous human, technical and business issues to be dealt with. The KTN helps through case studies.

Manage: Daily management of cloud computing services isn’t easy as the enterprise doesn’t have end to end control on the service. They have to manage multiple service providers, manage scalability and manage change of services. Here, the KTN can pitch in by sharing best practices and case studies.

Innovate: Capitalizing on cloud computing benefits, the enterprise innovates in a variety of methods – be it in the way it has managed cloud service or by creating new products and/or services. The KTN could plough back this success of the enterprise to all stakeholders.

Thus, the breakup enables better visualization of the paradigm and easier identification of KTN activities under each track. Also, it makes the administrative activity of status reporting a bit easier.

Following picture shows current tracks under each focus area.

Is this programme practical? And relevant? Do let me know.

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