When I moved from the engineering ladder to take up management and subsequently enrolled to do my Executive MBA from Jones School of Business, one fundamental question was always in my mind – Who is a good business leader?
While there are so many different leadership personality traits that are important, what I realized after 2 years at school and several more years of pondering and harsh life lessons, the answer lies not in the traits themselves but in a few fundamental attributes that are impregnated into all these traits. I distilled the answer down to – Self-Aware, Self-Control, Selfless, Far-Sightedness being top of the list.
What I learnt in answering this question was it all boiled down to attributes. We could define personalities by a combination of their attributes and understand their actions and motives.
Coming back to our discussion connecting the above thought, it is clearly evident that it is important to establish the attributes of commonality that are crucial to our positive business outcomes.
I have listed them below:
- Quality – Cloud computing is scaling at hitherto unprecedented rates. With scale comes the need to be super focused on product quality. If commonality is truly applied at both the hardware and firmware layers then the same modules are applied across multiple product instantiations that allow for hardening of those modules during development in different use case scenarios. This level of testing in integration allows for the modules to be of higher quality. Additionally, engineering focus and resource is spent on doing a module correct once, and not having to spread them thin in developing multiple instances of the same entity in different use case scenarios.
- Agility – Some of the customers that I have interacted with represent the entire spectrum of all the workloads that are currently covered in the industry. With this diverse application usage on a base generic platform and with the constant stream of new inputs at any given time based on either competition or customer needs, the velocity of changes in features, zero tolerance for virtual machine down time upon deployment, and continuous development-integration-deployment means that Agility is top on the list of important attributes. In this hyper agile environment, the ability to take existing building blocks to create a new product instantiation that allows to test the usability of that configuration with a new application use case and thus gauging its benefits is critical to shorten the development to deployment turnaround time.
- Predictability – Commitment to deliver on time takes a completely new meaning and significance as again determined by the scale of operation. The new end solution will have to get tested and benchmarked in datacenters multiple months before going live. These near live datacenter environments are booked and busy all the time and if you are not able to get into that environment on a given date, we will have to let another configuration take our turn which resets us back to the beginning of the queue. Such resets not only destroy our credibility but also delays the realization of business value. By using common modules that have been tested and hardened, we increase our probability to being more predictable in execution and set the right level of expectation and manage them appropriately during execution.
- Economical – Developing modules that are interchangeable and allow for creation of multiple product instantiations allow for increase in the volume of those modules as they cater to a diverse set of business usage models, which then will get the cost of the individual modules to go down for everyone who adopts them.
- Vendor interoperability – For the sake of business continuity and supply assurance, it is critical to have multiple qualified suppliers who can integrate, test, and deliver the solution. Developing common modules that are based on a transparent standard specification allows for multiple vendors to converge and build the same module. In addition to specification on the module itself, it is also important to focus on the interfacing of these modules and having clear specification around those interfaces in order to achieve true vendor interoperability.
- Architecture Flexibility – Compute is now being offered by several vendors and no longer just restricted to x86. Likewise, there are several variations of GPU that are specifically suited to certain workloads. All this variety means that having a modular approach that disconnects compute cleanly and effectively from the rest of the system would be an advantage to be able to quickly assess and choose the right architecture for the right application and workload
In addition to the 6 core attributes, technology refresh cycle is another important criterion that needs to be taken into account. Each technology that is part of a system has a different refresh cycle and does not happen at the same time. Today’s monolithic architecture forces refresh of all components at the same time whenever there is a compute life cycle change. However, by effectively disaggregating and modularizing we can provide the ability to adopt a new technology only when it provides optimal value for their application use case as opposed to forcing adoption with every compute refresh cycle. The practical deployment and upgrade challenges involved in a production environment in such a modular architecture is certainly worth to be revisited and viewed in a may be different set of filters.
So there it is the 6 core attributes Quality, Agility, Predictability, Cost, Vendor Interoperability, and Architecture Flexibility. When design elements are developed as modules that can be applied and reused in different product configurations, imbibing the six core attributes of commonality, then we believe that it allows us to achieve the right balance of innovation and commonality.
Thus in many ways Modularity and Commonality are tightly interlinked and they are even interchangeably used although, at Wiwynn, we are more cautious. The reason for our cautiousness lies in the reality that while we achieve commonality, we also need to preserve customizability based on unique customer needs. As designers and manufacturers we are constantly striving to strike this delicate balance.
As always, it would be great if you can share some of your thoughts, your own experience, and insights on core attributes of commonality and the strong linkage between modularity and commonality. We are keen to know whether the tenets that we are considering for a modular platform are relevant to you and if so, in what ways? We would love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.