The January issue of The McKinsey Quarterly has an article titled What’s on CIO Agendas in 2007. Guess what the top two trends are from an information management perspective:
- A migration to service-oriented architecture
- The introduction of lean manufacturing principles to data center operations
The first is a little above my head, but here’s a brief explanation:
Under this design, common IT tasks, called services, can work smoothly together, regardless of an organization’s underlying technology platform. The concept has been around for years, but as more organizations adopt Web services standards, interest in these architectures has grown. That interest persists even though many executives have been unclear about the precise meaning of the term—a confusion made worse by some vendors’ propensity to label every product as “service oriented.”
Ok… I guess I can figure that out. But I’m rather amused that the top new trend is something that "many executives have been unclear about the precise meaning of the term." I guess that’s very similar to what many of us face in the lean manufacturing world… the executives are "unclear about the precise meaning of the term." I hope that’s not why applying lean to data centers operations is the second major trend for 2007.
The second trend poised to strengthen in 2007 is the application of lean-manufacturing principles to data centers. In our recent survey, 28 percent of the respondents said that they had already applied or decided to apply lean principles to improve their data center operations. Lean, of course, isn’t a technology but rather a methodology applied to processes—originally in manufacturing operations but increasingly within services, including IT.
Data centers have grown tremendously over the past 10 to 15 years as IT spending has increased and cost-conscious CIOs have consolidated smaller centers into fewer and larger ones. A data center for a typical large enterprise has hundreds of millions of dollars in capital equipment (server farms, mainframes, networking gear, and storage devices), consumes large amounts of electricity, and requires hundreds of highly skilled engineers and technicians to operate. In particular, the labor costs have grown significantly with the commitment of resources to processes such as incident response, problem management, and change management. Applying lean principles can help reduce waste and improve labor productivity by as much as 40 percent in some processes. Nearly one-third of our survey respondents aim to apply lean principles in these centers—a significant share, suggesting that the initial positive results from early adopters are encouraging a wider field of IT organizations to explore this methodology. We will continue to track these trends—and their implications for business and IT leaders—during 2007.
Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of detail on what lean in a data center means. Allan Alter at the eWeek blog is similarly frustrated.
[The authors] also do not define what they mean by applying lean manufacturing principles to data centers. They only list the reasons those consolidated data centers are so expensive to operate (labor, electricity and waste). Are "lean data centers" an emerging trend or just another label for the decades old pursuit of efficiency?
Good question. I guess I could see how lean methods could be used to balance server load, perhaps improve response to issues, and improve maintenance. The article has some thoughts, but no implementation meat.
I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise… it came from a consulting company.