There are seven words every IT professional dreads hearing during the summer: "Sorry to bother you on vacation...
The idea of creating a pre-vacation checklist to help IT professionals make sure the service-oriented architecture (SOA) system they are responsible for is in good shape, is the brain child of Craig Marble, systems engineer at Micro Focus Ltd. He sees a parallel between the kind of checklist vacationers have traditionally made to be sure their car is ready for the road and the home they are leaving behind will be looked after.
"I'm thinking if you go on vacation, for instance if you're driving somewhere, you have a little checklist of things to do," he said. "Is your car tuned up? Is the oil okay? Who is going to take care of the house if something goes wrong? Maybe you have a relative or neighbor who is the go-to person in case of an emergency."
Carrying the vacation checklist over to IT is necessary because of SOA, in Marble's view. In the mainframe era, there was a lot less for the vacationing IT manager to worry about, he suggested.
"The way IT used to be it wasn't nearly as complex," he said. "Maybe you had a couple CICS applications running on a mainframe. And as long as CICS was running and the mainframes were fairly healthy, you could be fairly confident that you wouldn't have a meltdown while you were on vacation."
The complexity of SOA management
A checklist is needed with SOA applications composed of services from multiple sources located both inside and outside the firewall, he said, because vacation backup isn't so easy to plan for any more.
"Now, with an SOA infrastructure, you've got the whole idea of SOA bringing multiple sources to create a composite environment for people to do their work," Marble said. "You don't just have one environment, you have multiple environments. Some may be coming from partners through the Internet. Some may be packaged applications. Some may be homegrown distributed applications. And, of course, there are still mainframe applications."
He suggests the departing vacationer start with the people processes and then look at the services and applications.
"Some of the things you need to do are process oriented," Marble said. "One would be to make sure that people know who to go to if something goes wrong. If there's a system failure or an application failure, you need to communicate to everybody who is the person that will be your backup while you're out."
Paying attention to every detail means including mundane people processes, he said. Make sure someone is taking care of administrative daily tasks such as the day-to-day mundane things that come by your desk that still need to be dealt with in a timely fashion, he suggests.
"That's kind of like having somebody pick up your mail while you're on vacation," Marble said.
IT never sleeps
Once you've got the people processes covered, then focus on the technical environment.
"The best way to do that these days with so many different environments that are coming together in one arena supported by your SOA infrastructure is that you really need a good application management tool," Marble said. A management tool that automates the process is necessary because SOA is far more complicated to the point you could lose your whole vacation trying to figure out what is running where.
Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC., suggests that before SOA managers go off to camp, they need to follow the Boy Scout motto and be prepared. In his view the best way to have peace of mind on vacation is to follow best practices throughout the SOA lifecycle.
Here's the ZapThink checklist that the vacationer needs to have followed from the beginning to be a happy camper this summer. They need to:
- Make sure that their architecture efforts are leading their vendor product selection, and not vice versa
- Make sure that their SOA pilots are piloting architecture, and not just creating services
- Make sure that they are really doing SOA and not just Web services integration
- Check their governance, quality, and management (GQM) efforts and make sure that they are in place before they build their services
- Make sure their people are fully trained and educated on the latest SOA practices (things have really changed)
- Make sure that they have put in place a proper environment for sharing of SOA artifacts and lessons learned
After you have done all that, David Linthicum, CEO of Strikeiron Inc., offers a one last bit of advice: "When you leave for vacation make sure your SOA is stable, no new services are placed into production, and no changes to core business processes. However, take your laptop and cell phone!"
In that vein, Miko Matsumura, deputy CTO at Software AG, adds this advice: "Check to make sure your approvals, alerts and business value metrics are flowing to your iPhone. You do have an iPhone of course?"