by Sue Dunnell
Cryptographer David Chaum wrote the first blockchain-like protocol in his dissertation titled, “Computer Systems Established, Maintained, and Trusted by Mutually Suspicious Groups.” The title seems well suited to describe how business units and IT teams feel about working together to manage highly complex projects like data center migrations.
Although most people think of blockchain as a technology for crypto currencies, it is fundamentally a way of recording and distributing digital information. The same features that make it so well suited for managing crypto transactions – efficiency, transparency, smart contracts, and immutability – are important for all types of asset management beyond just financial transactions.
For example, Walmart uses blockchain for food traceability. Provenance tracks products through the supply chain. And, hopefully someday, we can all look forward to blockchain enabling the Department of Motor Vehicles to track all license, insurance, inspection and car ownership details.
The key features that make blockchain so useful are exactly the features that IT teams need to manage and de-risk complex migrations while ensuring they maintain resilience across hybrid environments.
That’s because migrations are unlike most other IT projects that are done within a cohesive team using a specific set of familiar tools. Migrations and other complex transformation projects span across multiple business units and IT teams. And while these teams may not be suspicious of each other, they’re often protective of their data and processes.
People have a tendency to not want to change how things are done, or expose “our data” to another team. This can make migrations difficult.
These highly complex events require access to data across all phases of a migration, and different teams will use data to make decisions for planning and execution. And at any phase, teams may need to leverage data and use it in a new context, often evaluating and assessing existing data with new business, technical and other criteria.
Let’s take a closer look each of these key blockchain features that your IT team should incorporate into your approach to data center migrations.
1. Improve your efficiency
IT teams need a system that removes human error from the process of aggregating and normalizing data to build a single, consolidated source of data that is actionable: accurate, current and relevant. It needs to provide sufficient insight to rely upon when making critical decisions. Blockchain improves data accuracy by removing human involvement, reducing the time needed to record and reconcile data, and increasing its security.
Highly efficient systems have a visual component that allows teams to see relationships across apps, servers, infrastructure and other devices. Visualizing how systems work enables teams to validate data, identify conflicts, and create affinity groups faster and more accurately.
2. Increase transparency
A word that is heavily over-used when promoting an organization or process, transparency is a fundamental aspect of blockchain; it allows anyone to view the history of all transactions on a network. Superior to regulation, transparency drives optimization in price and quality of goods and services because its activities are monitored by the public – not hidden from them!
And the same is true when planning a migration; every stakeholder should have a consistent view of data so that all relevant factors are identified and considered.
For example, it’s not enough to know simply that a server is running 4 apps and a database – that leaves too many unknowns!
Many project teams restrict data access to specific teams or team members for security, convenience, or to avoid costly software systems with user based license models. But when all team members have access to a consistent view of data, they can collaborate to identify all relevant requirements and restrictions for each asset, and make better planning decisions for when, how and where assets can be moved.
3. Build smarter workstreams
Smart contracts are computer programs that automatically execute when specific conditions are met. The code for smart contracts is replicated across many nodes of a blockchain to benefit from security, immutability and permanence.
Migrations need their own type of smart contracts – workstreams that will be executed with precision, sequencing tasks in a specific order. Like a smart contract, no task should be able to start until specific conditions have been met, i.e., all predecessor tasks are complete.
There’s no doubt that even with an established workstream, flexibility is critical up until the point of execution. That’s because IT operates in a highly dynamic environment that must be able to respond to any kind of change.
For example, teams must be able to easily accommodate migration schedule changes in response to business compliance requirements, unexpected outages or vacation schedules without impact to the overall budget and time frame. And as the world experienced this past year, an unplanned event like a pandemic can result in a plethora of changes across people, process, and technology.
But once a team is ready to execute, each step must be executed in a precise sequence based on the relationships between assets. If an asset is moved or a system is shut down out of order, it could take your business down too. IT teams need a system that ensures that both manual and automated tasks cannot be performed out of order.
4. Establish immutability
If you ask CIOs what they need to move their mission critical processes to the cloud then you will hear terms like accountability, reliability, compliance, security, verifiability, auditability, acceptance of liability etc. — in other words, they demand that there is a secure supply chain and that every step in that supply chain can be verified in real-time and when things go wrong it is possible to figure out what went wrong and that there is someone who can be held accountable.
As a ledger, blockchain immutability is its biggest advantage over a traditional database where data can be easily modified and deleted.
IT needs a system that provides immutability so that teams have an audit trail that shows how assets with compliance and security requirements were handled. It should also identify the resources who performed the tasks, the start and end time, and track any exceptions or problems.
Tracking this information also helps IT teams become more efficient with migrations by reviewing tasks and their duration, and evaluating ways to improve upon execution times, reduce the number of resources allocated, and better schedule future migration events.
5. Overcome mutual suspicion
Now here’s a thought – imagine if the features of blockchain were put to use in your organization. It might transform your decision making process to one that is built on facts and collaboration, rather than on siloed, sometimes suspicious teams and operations. Think how much you could get accomplished!
Check out how TransitionManager helps IT manage complex, high risk migrations end-to-end, leveraging key features that drive blockchain technology.
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