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‘Thanks for Using Containers!’ … Said No CEO Ever

28 Oct 2016 11:40am, by

“We think we’re going to get magical powers when we use other people’s servers,” said Casey West, Principal Technologist for Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry platform, during his OSCON Europe talk, in which he provided a humorous, and insightful look  at how the CEO sees, or doesn’t see — or honestly doesn’t care about — the vast majority of the work that IT professional do in cloud.

“This talk is about high expectations,” West stated in his slideshow. “Yes, I know what I did there. High, cloud, clouds are up high, lol.”

Casey West

IT pros work across pretty much every industry these days. But the expectations are largely the same across all of them, no matter if the projects they work on are “greenfield projects” designed to break into new areas of business, or “brownfield projects,” which is a nice way of saying you are updating legacy systems.

With greenfield systems, “all you have to do is create something from thin air and compete with billion dollar companies. No big deal.” The requirements are basically twofold: All you have to do is…

  • Deliver faster than everyone else.
  • Never make a mistake.

With brownfield systems, “All you have to do is modernize an existing application that makes all our revenue in order to compete with companies theoretically valued at a billion dollars.” No big deal. Oh and…

  • Deliver faster than everyone else.
  • Never make a mistake.

Sure, all of those little tasks required to launch an application take time, usually more time than you think. The CEO really doesn’t care about most of them. Here are a few things you should never expect to hear from your CEO, according to West:

  • “I appreciate the progress you made despite not delivering anything.”
  • “Good job picking a Linux distro.”
  • “Good job patching the kernel.”
  • “Excellent DNS entries. Your TTLs are the best.”
  • “Outstanding ‘high availability’ strategy.”
  • “Well done manually generating and sharing secrets.”
  • “Good job automating the automation so our automating is automated.”
  • “✋ ? Thanks for using containers!”
  • “Nice work deploying software.”
  • “Nicely done logging infrastructure.”
  • “I’m glad you built a monitoring system.”

We spend too much time focused on undifferentiated heavy lifting, those “tools, systems, and processes which do not improve the unique value your organization provides,” West said.

The corollary is that “We don’t spend enough time on things delivering unique business value, the tools, systems, and processes which do improve the unique value your organization provides,” he advised. “This does matter.”

In other words, according to West:

  • “What is Unique Business Value? — Your actual code.”
  • “What is Undifferentiated Heavy Lifting? — Everything else.”

West likens software to an iceberg. Most of the stuff we do is below the surface. The little bit above the water is what matters to the customers and CEOs. The stuff below the surface is important, but CEOs shouldn’t be focused on it.

West’s advice? “Focus on what you are supposed to be the best in the world at doing.”

During the Q&A, industry observer Simon Wardley asked a question about where CEOs get their information, and West responded with one of the most quotable moments of his talk, “Harvard Business Review is the Hacker News of business.”

Cloud Foundry is a sponsor of The New Stack.

Feature image via Pixabay.


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