By The Open Group
The third wave of platform technologies is poised to revolutionize how companies do business not only for the next few years but for years to come. At The Open Group London event in October, Open Group CTO Dave Lounsbury will be hosting a panel discussion on how The Open Group Open Platform 3.0™ will affect Enterprise Architectures. Panel speakers include IBM Vice President and CTO of U.S. Federal IMT Andras Szakal and Capgemini Senior Vice President and CTO for Application Services Ron Tolido.
We spoke with Tolido in advance of the event about the progress companies are making in implementing third platform technologies, the challenges facing the industry as Open Platform 3.0 evolves and the call to action he envisions for The Open Group as these technologies take hold in the marketplace.
Below is a transcript of that conversation.
From my perspective, we have to realize: What is the call to action that we should have for ourselves? If we look at the mission of Boundaryless Information Flow™ and the need for open standards to accommodate that, what exactly can The Open Group and any general open standards do to facilitate this next wave in IT? I think it’s nothing less than a revolution. The first platform was the mainframe, the second platform was the PC and now the third platform is anything beyond the PC, so all sorts of different devices, sensors and ways to access information, to deploy solutions and to connect. What does it mean in terms of Boundaryless Information Flow and what is the role of open standards to make that platform succeed and help companies to thrive in such a new world?
That’s the type of call to action I’m envisioning. And I believe there are very few Forums or Work Groups within The Open Group that are not affected by this notion of the third platform. Firstly, I believe an important part of the Open Platform 3.0 Forum’s mission will be to analyze, to understand, the impacts of the third platform, of all those different areas that we’re evolving currently in The Open Group, and, if you like, orchestrate them a bit or be a catalyst in all the working groups and forums.
In a blog you wrote this summer for Capgemini’s CTO Blog you cited third platform technologies as being responsible for a renewed interest in IT as an enabler of business growth. What is it about the Third Platform is driving that interest?
It’s the same type of revolution as we’ve seen with the PC, which was the second platform. A lot of people in business units—through the PC and client/server technologies and Windows and all of these different things—realized that they could create solutions of a whole new order. The second platform meant many more applications, many more uses, much more business value to be achieved and less direct dependence on the central IT department. I think we’re seeing a very similar evolution right now, but the essence of the move is not that it moves us even further away from central IT but it puts the power of technology right in the business. It’s much easier to create solutions. Nowadays, there are many more channels that are so close in business that it takes business people to understand them. This explains also why business people like the third platform so much—it’s the Cloud, it’s mobile, social, it’s big data, all of these are waves that bring technology closer to the business, and are easy to use with very apparent business value that haven’t seen before, certainly not in the PC era. So we’re seeing a next wave, almost a revolution in terms of how easy it is to create solutions and how widely spread these solutions can be. Because again, as with the PC, it’s many more applications yet again and many more potential uses that can be connected through these applications, so that’s the very nature of the revolution and that also explains why business people like the third platform so much. So what people say to me these days on the business side is ‘We love IT, it’s just these bloody IT people that are the problem.’
Due to the complexities of building the next wave of platform computing, do you think that we may hit a point of fatigue as companies begin to tackle everything that is involved in creating that platform and making it work together?
The way I see it, that’s still the work of the IT community and the Enterprise Architect and the platform designer. It’s the very nature of the platform is that it’s attractive to use it, not to build it. The very nature of the platform is to connect to it and launch from it, but building the platform is an entirely different story. I think it requires platform designers and Enterprise Architects, if you like, and people to do the plumbing and do the architecting and the design underneath. But the real nature of the platform is to use it and to build upon it rather than to create it. So the happy view is that the “business people” don’t have to construct this.
I do believe, by the way, that many of the people in The Open Group will be on the side of the builders. They’re supposed to like complexity and like reducing it, so if we do it right the users of the platform will not notice this effort. It’s the same with the Cloud—the problem with the Cloud nowadays is that many people are tempted to run their own clouds, their own technologies, and before they know it, they only have additional complexity on their agenda, rather than reduced, because of the Cloud. It’s the same with the third platform—it’s a foundation which is almost a no-brainer to do business upon, for the next generation of business models. But if we do it wrong, we only have additional complexity on our hands, and we give IT a bad name yet again. We don’t want to do that.
What are Capgemini customers struggling with the most in terms of adopting these new technologies and putting together an Open Platform 3.0?
What you currently see—and it’s not always good to look at history—but if you look at the emergence of the second platform, the PC, of course there were years in which central IT said ‘nobody needs a PC, we can do it all on the mainframe,’ and they just didn’t believe it and business people just started to do it themselves. And for years, we created a mess as a result of it, and we’re still picking up some of the pieces of that situation. The question for IT people, in particular, is to understand how to find this new rhythm, how to adopt the dynamics of this third platform while dealing with all the complexity of the legacy platform that’s already there. I think if we are able to accelerate creating such a platform—and I think The Open Group will be very critical there—what exactly should be in the third platform, what type of services should you be developing, how would these services interact, could we create some set of open standards that the industry could align to so that we don’t have to do too much work in integrating all that stuff. If we, as The Open Group, can create that industry momentum, that, at least, would narrow the gap between business and IT that we currently see. Right now IT’s very clearly not able to deliver on the promise because they have their hands full with surviving the existing IT landscape, so unless they do something about simplifying it on the one hand and bridging that old world with the new one, they might still be very unpopular in the forthcoming years. That’s not what you want as an IT person—you want to enable business and new business. But I don’t think we’ve been very effective with that for the past ten years as an industry in general, so that’s a big thing that we have to deal with, bridging the old world with the new world. But anything we can do to accelerate and simplify that job from The Open Group would be great, and I think that’s the very essence of where our actions would be.
What are some of the things that The Open Group, in particular, can do to help affect these changes?
To me it’s still in the evangelization phase. Sooner or later people have to buy it and say ‘We get it, we want it, give me access to the third platform.’ Then the question will be how to accelerate building such an actual platform. So the big question is: What does such a platform look like? What types of services would you find on such a platform? For example, mobility services, data services, integration services, management services, development services, all of that. What would that look like in a typical Platform 3.0? Maybe even define a catalog of services that you would find in the platform. Then, of course, if you could use such a catalog or shopping list, if you like, to reach out to the technology suppliers of this world and convince them to pick that up and gear around these definitions—that would facilitate such a platform. Also maybe the architectural roadmap—so what would an architecture look like and what would be the typical five ways of getting there? We have to start with your local situation, so probably also several design cases would be helpful, so there’s an architectural dimension here.
Also, in terms of competencies, what type of competencies will we need in the near future to be able to supply these types of services to the business? That’s, again, very new—in this case, IT Specialist Certification and Architect Certification. These groups also need to think about what are the new competencies inherent in the third platform and how does it affect things like certification criteria and competency profiles?
In other areas, if you look at TOGAF®, and Open Group standard, is it really still suitable in fast paced world of the third platform or do we need a third platform version of TOGAF? With Security, for example, there are so many users, so many connections, and the activities of the former Jericho Forum seem like child’s play compared to what you will see around the third platform, so there’s no Forum or Work Group that’s not affected by this Open Platform 3.0 emerging.
With Open Platform 3.0 touching pretty much every aspect of technology and The Open Group, how do you tackle that? Do you have just an umbrella group for everything or look at it through the lens of TOGAF or security or the IT Specialist? How do you attack something so large?
It’s exactly what you just said. It’s fundamentally my belief that we need to do both of these two things. First, we need a catalyst forum, which I would argue is the Open Platform 3.0 Forum, which would be the catalyst platform, the orchestration platform if you like, that would do the overall definitions, the call to action. They’ve already been doing the business scenarios—they set the scene. Then it would be up to this Forum to reach out to all the other Forums and Work Groups to discuss impact and make sure it stays aligned, so here we have an orchestration function of the Open Platform 3.0 Forum. Then, very obviously, all the other Work Groups and Forums need to pick it up and do their own stuff because you cannot aspire to do all of this with one and the same forum because it’s so wide, it’s so diverse. You need to do both.
The Open Platform 3.0 Forum has been working for a year and a half now. What are some of the things the Forum has accomplished thus far?
They’ve been particularly working on some of the key definitions and some of the business scenarios. I would say in order to create an awareness of Open Platform 3.0 in terms of the business value and the definitions, they’ve done a very good job. Next, there needs to be a call to action to get everybody mobilized and setting tangible steps toward the Platform 3.0. I think that’s currently where we are, so that’s good timing, I believe, in terms of what the forum has achieved so far.
Returning to the mission of The Open Group, given all of the awareness we have created, what does it all mean in terms of Boundaryless Information Flow and how does it affect the Forums and Work Groups in The Open Group? That’s what we need to do now.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you see facing adoption of Open Platform 3.0 and standards for that platform?
They are relatively immature technologies. For example, with the Cloud you see a lot of players, a lot of technology providers being quite reluctant to standardize. Some of them are very open about it and are like ‘Right now we are in a niche, and we’re having a lot of fun ourselves, so why open it up right now?’ The movement would be more pressure from the business side saying ‘We want to use your technology but only if you align with some of these emerging standards.’ That would do it or certainly help. This, of course, is what makes The Open Group as powerful as not only technology providers, but also businesses, the enterprises involved and end users of technology. If they work together and created something to mobilize technology providers, that would certainly be a breakthrough, but these are immature technologies and, as I said, with some of these technology providers, it seems more important to them to be a niche player for now and create their own market rather than standardizing on something that their competitors could be on as well.
So this is a sign of a relatively immature industry because every industry that starts to mature around certain topics begins to work around open standards. The more mature we grow in mastering the understanding of the Open Platform 3.0, the more you will see the need for standards arise. It’s all a matter of timing so it’s not so strange that in the past year and a half it’s been very difficult to even discuss standards in this area. But I think we’re entering that era really soon, so it seems to be good timing to discuss it. That’s one important limiting area; I think the providers are not necessarily waiting for it or committed to it.
Secondly, of course, this is a whole next generation of technologies. With all new generations of technologies there are always generation gaps and people in denial or who just don’t feel up to picking it up again or maybe they lack the energy to pick up a new wave of technology and they’re like ‘Why can’t I stay in what I’ve mastered?’ All very understandable. I would call that a very typical IT generation gap that occurs when we see the next generation of IT emerge—sooner or later you get a generation gap, as well. Which has nothing to do with physical age, by the way.
With all these technologies converging so quickly, that gap is going to have to close quickly this time around isn’t it?
Well, there are still mainframes around, so you could argue that there will be two or even three speeds of IT sooner or later. A very stable, robust and predictable legacy environment could even be the first platform that’s more mainframe-oriented, like you see today. A second wave would be that PC workstation, client/server, Internet-based IT landscape, and it has a certain base and certain dynamics. Then you have this third phase, which is the new platform, that is more dynamic and volatile and much more diverse. You could argue that there might be within an organization multiple speeds of IT, multiple speeds of architectures, multi-speed solutioning, and why not choose your own speed?
It probably takes a decade or more to really move forward for many enterprises.
It’s not going as quickly as the Gartners of this world typically thinks it is—in practice we all know it takes longer. So I don’t see any reason why certain people wouldn’t certainly choose deliberately to stay in second gear and don’t go to third gear simply because they think it’s challenging to be there, which is perfectly sound to me and it would bring a lot of work in many years to companies.
That’s an interesting concept because start-ups can easily begin on a new platform but if you’re a company that has been around for a long time and you have existing legacy systems from the mainframe or PC era, those are things that you have to maintain. How do you tackle that as well?
That’s a given in big enterprises. Not everybody can be a disruptive start up. Maybe we all think that we should be like that but it’s not the case in real life. In real life, we have to deal with enterprise systems and enterprise processes and all of them might be very vulnerable to this new wave of challenges. Certainly enterprises can be disruptive themselves if they do it right, but there are always different dynamics, and, as I said, we still have mainframes, as well, even though we declared their ending quite some time ago. The same will happen, of course, to PC-based IT landscapes. It will take a very long time and will take very skilled hands and minds to keep it going and to simplify.
Having said that, you could argue that some new players in the market obviously have the advantage of not having to deal with that and could possibly benefit from a first-mover advantage where existing enterprises have to juggle several balls at the same time. Maybe that’s more difficult, but of course enterprises are enterprises for a good reason—they are big and holistic and mighty, and they might be able to do things that start-ups simply can’t do. But it’s a very unpredictable world, as we all realize, and the third platform brings a lot of disruptiveness.
What’s your perspective on how the Internet of Things will affect all of this?
It’s part of the third platform of course, and it’s something Andras Szakal will be addressing as well. There’s much more coming, both at the input sites, everything is becoming a sensor essentially to where even your wallpaper or paint is a sensor, but on the other hand, in terms of devices that we use to communicate or get information—smart things that whisper in your ears or whatever we’ll have in the coming years—is clearly part of this Platform 3.0 wave that we’ll have as we move away from the PC and the workstation, and there’s a whole bunch of new technologies around to replace it. The Internet of Things is clearly part of it, and we’ll need open standards as well because there are so many different things and devices, and if you don’t create the right standards and platform services to deal with it, it will be a mess. It’s an integral part of the Platform 3.0 wave that we’re seeing.
What is the Open Platform 3.0 Forum going to be working on over the next few months?
Understanding what this Open Platform 3.0 actually means—I think the work we’ve seen so far in the Forum really sets the way in terms of what is it and definitions are growing. Andras will be adding his notion of the Internet of Things and looking at definitions of what is it exactly. Many people already intuitively have an image of it.
The second will be how we deliver value to the business—so the business scenarios are a crucial thing to consider to see how applicable they are, how relevant they are to enterprises. The next thing to do will pertain to work that still needs to be done in The Open Group, as well. What would a new Open Platform 3.0 architecture look like? What are the platform services? What are the ones we can start working on right now? What are the most important business scenarios and what are the platform services that they will require? So architectural impacts, skills impacts, security impacts—as I said, there are very few areas in IT that are not touched by it. Even the new IT4IT Forum that will be launched in October, which is all about methodologies and lifecycle, will need to consider Agile, DevOps-related methodologies because that’s the rhythm and the pace that we’ve got to expect in this third platform. So the rhythm of the working group—definitions, business scenarios and then you start to thinking about what does the platform consist of, what type of services do I need to create to support it and hopefully by then we’ll have some open standards to help accelerate that thinking to help enterprises set a course for themselves. That’s our mission as The Open Group to help facilitate that.
Ron Tolido is Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Application Services Continental Europe, Capgemini. He is also a Director on the board of The Open Group and blogger for Capgemini’s multiple award-winning CTO blog, as well as the lead author of Capgemini’s TechnoVision and the global Application Landscape Reports. As a noted Digital Transformation ambassador, Tolido speaks and writes about IT strategy, innovation, applications and architecture. Based in the Netherlands, Mr. Tolido currently takes interest in apps rationalization, Cloud, enterprise mobility, the power of open, Slow Tech, process technologies, the Internet of Things, Design Thinking and – above all – radical simplification.