Production Possibility Frontier

November 8th, 2013

By: Woody Evans

“The most powerful thing that organization can do is to enable  development and testing to get environments when they need them”

- Gene Kim, author of the Phoenix Project

App Features vs. Data Work

The power of a technology change, especially a disruptive technology shift, is that it creates opportunities to increase efficiencies. The downside is that companies take a long time to realize that someone has moved their cheese. Data virtualization, ie automated thin cloning of databases, VM images, App Stacks etc alters the production possibility frontier dramatically, providing customers can get past the belief that their IT is already optimized.

An Ideal Frontier

An idealized Production Possibility Frontier describing the tradeoff between Application Features and Data Related Work might look like the following where an engineering team of developers and IT personel could  shift their focus from producing feature work or towards data related work smoothly.

PPF1

Companies on the blue line are able to efficiently shift between working on the data related work and the application feature related work in their IT projects. That self-proclaimed confidence, however, can become a barrier to adoption when a technology shift occurs – especially if you believe that certain tradeoffs are already optimized.

Suppose a developer needs to execute a refresh as part of a testing cycle. In this idealized world, it may be able to refresh my database in 2 hours or I may be able to refresh by spending 2 hours writing a piece of throwaway rollback code. Either way, that developer would have to trade off 2 hours that they would spend writing new application features in order to accomplish the refresh.

The Thin Cloning Technology Shift

Using a broad brush, we can classify much of the time and effort of application projects as Data Related:
• Waiting for data to arrive at a certain place
• Performing extra work because of a lack of the right data
• Trying to keep data in sync for all of the various purposes and work streams that an application endeavors to complete.

The research we have shows that 85% of the work in application delivery is really data related. The technology shift brought about by thin cloning, and in particular Delphix technology, pushes the Production Possibility Frontier and dramatically reshapes IT’s understanding of efficiency.

Because application feature work is dependent on data related work such setting up development environments, creating builds, building QA environments, the application feature work will be constrained by the efficiency of the data and IT work. If we make the data and IT work much more efficient then we accomplish more data work and thus more feature work.

PPF2

This new production possibility frontier dwarfs the initial one. In fact, the massive size of the shift contributes greatly to the resistance that IT has because to unlock this value IT has to change what they believe to be their already optimized processes.

But, the proof is out there. And, at Delphix, we’re gathering powerful proof points every day demonstrating how customers are creating powerful efficiencies.

Waiting for data to arrive is affecting customers today. One customer of Delphix was spending 96% of their testing cycle time waiting for data to refresh. That meant only 4% of their testing time frame was used to actually test the product, shifting error detection to the right where it is more expensive. Using Delphix to refresh, they now spend less than 1% of their time waiting for refresh. That is a 99:4 ROI. That’s Better than 20:1!

We started this post with the example of an ideal situation where a developer could chose to refresh a database in 2 hours or spend 2 hours writing a piece of throwaway rollback code. But, the reality is that more often it’s a 10 hour wait to get your copy of the 3 TB database (if you can get the DBAs attention). There’s a lot of code being written out there because we’ve accepted the “optimized” way of doing things – where we accept that we can’t get fresh data so we write our own workaround. This kind of wasted effort just evaporates with Delphix.

And if you’re thinking that this is a small scale problem, think about all of the ETL and Master Data Management applications out there where developers spend endless hours writing code and business users do the same configuring apps so that the data can be properly synchronized. If you had immediate access to data that was already being synchronized in near real time, all of that work just goes away.

What IT isn’t considering and CIOs should

Disruptive technology is exactly that. It uncovers an opportunity for efficiency that you don’t see already. So, whatever was optimal before simple isn’t now. In fact, if you don’t challenge the current optimization, you’ll likely never reap the benefits of the disruptive technology. All the same, overcoming the resistance to the idea that a new optimization is possible, as well as overcoming the resistance to the idea that change can be revolutionary not just evolutionary just isn’t in the DNA of war weary, battle hardened DBAs and developers. CIOs need to consider and understand the powerful imagery of the Production Possibility Frontier for application development using thin cloning.

Thin cloning is such a powerful shift, that IT shops will often shake their heads in disbelief. CIOs need to see through that and understand that Data virtualization with thin cloning is a seismic shift. 10 years ago no one knew what VMWare was. Now, you can’t walk into any data center without it. 10 years from now the idea of having physical data instead of thin clones will be laughable. Careers are about to be made on Data Virtualization, and Delphix is the tool to which you should attach you star.


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