Welcome to this new digitalML spotlight series! Our team are a knowledgeable bunch, and we wanted to bring you their useful insights, best practices and general expertise in their fields. Each month we’ll be interviewing a different team member across the digitalML organization.
We’re kicking things off with Mark Whitehead, our Platform Director, who shares his views on:
On Multi-cloud, Blockchain and DevOps
Gemma: What are 1 or 2 industry trends or emerging technologies that are interesting to you right now and why?
Mark: There are a couple of trends I’m excited about right now. The first is multi-cloud or hybrid cloud strategies, which utilize private cloud, public cloud, or even services running in traditional data centers. Why’s that interesting? Because it means you don’t have to be tied to one vendor for a solution, it gives you resiliency/availability options, and also allows you get the best performance for your applications and services by using the right platform.
The second thing is Blockchain technology, and using it for decentralized and distributed applications on a massive scale. This is quite an early industry trend – most people think of cryptocurrencies when you mention Blockchain – but the underlying technology can be applied to lots of other applications for greater transparency, speed, security and reduced cost. I’m expecting we’ll see this trend grow over the next few years.
Gemma: What resources do you use to track these new trends and tech?
Mark: I attend various meetups and industry events, and also have a general interest in new tech, so spend time utilizing resources on the web when I want to learn more about a topic.
G: What’s your favorite type of meetup?
M: I like going to DevOps meetups to learn and share how increasing automation together with Development and Operations teams collaborating closely can deliver real business value.
That’s what we’re doing here at digitalML; we have highly skilled DevOps people in the Engineering team and we are using technology and processes to drive a different way of working. The focus on automation and continual improvement deliver consistent, reliable, repeatable and scalable benefits.
Legacy tech and technical debt are massive issues for large enterprises wanting digital transformation – proper prioritization and people with the right attitude is the solution
G: What do you think is the biggest challenge for large organizations who want to be better at digital or IT modernization?
M: I think dealing with legacy technology and technical debt is a massive issue for most businesses. They want to go through digital transformation and IT modernization but they’ve got existing products and services that they need to support.
So the question is always how do you free up time and resources for developing new systems etc., when you’ve got existing customers and systems you need to look after?
G: ….How can they solve that?
M: Prioritizing those projects from a business perspective is really important – so the things that are going to give you the most business value come first.
And, unless you have immediate security concerns about them, don’t tackle legacy technologies which are underpinning services that you’re later going to deprecate.
The other piece to trying to solve that problem and enable digital transformation is hiring the right people and having the right tools to support that transformation.
G: So, when you say the right people, is it that they need to have the right mindset?
M: Definitely, mindset is probably more important than anything. Technical skills can be learned; ways of working, and collaboration, are more difficult to learn but for the right people it comes naturally.
That’s one of the biggest challenges in recruitment for these teams e.g. DevOps teams — finding the people with the right attitude.
Best practices for API and service management include platform independence, extensible APIs, and consistency, versioning, validation and security.
G: Can you share with us a best practice for abstracted API and service management?
M: I have a few!
One of the best practices I have for API and service management is to ensure that it’s platform independent.
Also, that you’re considering the evolution of the service you’re providing the APIs for, so that you don’t end up going down any dead ends with your approach. You need to make the API extensible because the service it’s underpinning is going to change over time.
Another best practice is to think about consistency, versioning, validation and security of those APIs and services.
Finally, I recommend using a platform like ignite to catalog your APIs and understand them from a business perspective. ignite supports all of these best practices I’ve mentioned – and everything is baked-in to the product.
“API and service visualization and reporting are really powerful, especially from a non-technical perspective”
G: What’s your favorite ignite feature, and why?
M: I think, the best general aspect of the ignite platform, is being able to provide an abstracted design to bring Business and IT together.
More specifically, some of the reporting and visualization in the platform, for example being able to see APIs and services and how they are integrated and associated with each other. That’s really powerful, particularly from a non-technical perspective – sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words!
G: As Platform Director, can you give us a sneak peek into which road-mapped feature you’re most excited about?
M: We’ve got a lot of exciting road-mapped features coming into the product this year. One of those is enhanced reporting. We already use ElasticSearch in the product and will be deploying Kibana which sits on top – that will give our customers greater visibility into the actual platform and how it’s being used by them.
We’re also looking at a governance rules engine which I think will be a huge feature for ignite. It will give customers the ability to self-serve their own governance rules to suit their organization.
“ignite is an integral part of customers’ digital transformation strategy”
G: Sounds like there’s lots of cool stuff coming to ignite soon! What’s the best part about working at digitalML?
M: There’s a few things I really enjoy – one is that we’re very close to the customers business and what they’re trying to achieve. You can see how the ignite platform is an integral part of customers’ digital transformation strategy. That’s great because you can then see the immediate benefit of the work that you’re doing, as the product develops, and as new features are launched and used by customers.
The work itself presents some different technical and other challenges – which makes it always interesting.
Also, the fact that the whole digitalML team is really good to work with!
Clear direction and measurable business goals are the key to a successful digital transformation strategy
G: Finally, any other advice for our customers?
M: I would say generally speaking, as most of our customers are going through some form of digital transformation project – be really clear on what the strategy is and break down the work into measurable business goals.
If you’re at point 0 and the end goal is digital transformation of everything you do and all your services, trying to tackle that in one go becomes too much work. It’s too overwhelming.
However, if you break it down into chunks of work that deliver measurable business benefit, you can prove to the business that your strategy is correct. That then helps gain support for continuing the project and any more work you need to do.
If you need to ask for more resource etc, it’s helpful to have measured evidence of the benefits already delivered through that program.
Mark leads the ignite DevOps team responsible for Engineering, SaaS operations and Support of the ignite platform. He brings many years’ experience in this area which ensures we not only meet all of our SLA commitments, but we continue to exceed customer expectations. Prior to his joining digitalML, Mark held senior operations roles at UK Cloud, a public sector focused UK cloud supplier and before that at Elsevier where he was responsible for migrating several key applications to the cloud in AWS.
Thanks to Mark for sharing his insights this month. Next in the series are DevOps and Engineering team members, so come back for the next installment in June!
If you want to learn more about the ignite platform in under 3 minutes, watch our explainer video.