How difficult it is to make technology simple!
“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”
Today we tell you the story of which has been the biggest challenge faced by E4 in the last two years.
How to make the most complex technologies simple, through agile and flexible infrastructures, which follow the changes required by the IT departments of our customers. This is the English written version of a podcast we registered with RADIO IT, that you can find here!
HAVE A GOOD READING!
Radio IT: In the first episode of Innovatori Digitali, the E4 podcast created with the support of Radio IT, we retraced the story of the company. We were helped by Cosimo Gianfreda, who is one of the founders of E4 and who has always pursued innovation like a surfer, chasing the wave since the company’s birth. And following that wave – elusive and at the same time overwhelming, which seems to arrive suddenly, but that only professionals know how to intercept – we landed on the Israeli beaches, in Tel Aviv, to speak with one of E4’s most strategic partners, Excelero. We wanted to understand if surfing the innovation is so different there, but we realize that no, it is not.
Then the story stopped. It took a break, but with a pending question: what happened in the last 2 years? What has E4 become in this time frame? I try to answer this question, of course not alone, along the next four episodes, which will close the Digital Innovators series. I will do it starting from the changes and innovative thrusts that in recent times have involved the world of Information Technology, sometimes overwhelming it like a wave, provided that a capable and courageous surfer does not know how to ride it, by letting himself be led on the sand, exhausted but happy.
Simone Zanotti: Technology evolves at a frenetic pace, we notice it in everything around us, in the ease and immediacy of carrying out operations that were once much more complex, requiring physical movements or numerous steps. Today, our real world is amalgamated with the digital one and it is now impossible to split them. Being able to do everything by resting your thumb on the screen of a smartphone now seems so natural to us, that it is difficult to remember how it was before. This apparent simplicity to which everyone is used to in their personal sphere represents one of the greatest opportunities for those involved in IT and innovation within a company.
Radio IT: The voice you just heard is Simone Zanotti, Sales & Marketing Director at E4, who, in the previous episode, helped us to get to know Excelero. Simone talked about simplicity. Now, I don’t know if it is the most difficult of the virtues to practice, but it is certainly one of the hardest. With the dry prose of the great songwriters, forced to tell a world in a handful of verses and stanzas, Pete Seeger said: “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple”.
Do not worry. I don’t want to let you enter the very complicated sphere of genius: I want to keep you concrete, practical. And I want to tell you about Raymond Loewy. Maybe you are passionate about design, but if this name doesn’t mean anything to you, I’ll tell you about it with three other names: Coca Cola, Shell, Exxon.
Loewy was one of the most important designers of the twentieth century, to which he gave shape in his own way. He redesigned the bottle of the drink, placing on it a white writing; he is the one who designed the Exxon logo; he came up with the orange shell for Shell petrol. An idea that seems almost banal. Instead it is simply natural and responds to a series of principles that Loewy theorized by compacting them into an acronym: MAYA, that is Most Advanced Yet Accetable. As advanced as possible, yet acceptable.
Loewy created shapes for objects, but, maybe unknowingly, he traced the way forward also in the innovation of digital technologies.
Simone Zanotti: Users, whether internal or external to the company, have a clear idea of what MAYA means, an ease of use of the most advanced technology that leads them to wonder “But if I can do so many things with my € 69 smartphone, how does corporate IT have to evolve to have the same effectiveness in satisfying my request? “. A question that is anything but trivial. As IT professionals we know the answer, and we know how to use technology to create a solution that works and improves people’s lives or work.
Availability of information in any place, access control to ensure the user’s identity, data protection, privacy, performance, are just some of the aspects that must be considered in the implementation of a new solution.
The skill and professionalism required of a modern IT by its users is all in canceling or not allowing the complexity of the solution to be perceived, a complexity that continues to increase in relation to the simplicity desired by those who will use it.
E4’s innovation process started from these principles.
Radio IT: All right, and then I have two questions for you. Or rather, the first is a request: tell me, as far as possible, how IT infrastructures have evolved in recent years. The other is instead a question: how did you manage, at E4, to obey the principles of MAYA, and to make this world as simple as possible?
Simone Zanotti: Now we are going to talk about many issues, ranging from the evolution of the infrastructure to how we at E4 have used this technological wave of innovation in our context and in order to bring a benefit to customers.
As for the evolution of the infrastructure, it is curious to observe how it moves in sinusoidal waves: there are trends driving for a certain period, which are then considered obsolete and which then return, but in a renewed shape.
In the mid-70s / mid-80s, the trend was certainly an infrastructure with monolithic services. A big server for all data. This type of design turned out to be unsuitable in terms of flexibility and growth. When this infrastructure is about to reach saturation, the IT manager of a company is forced to scale on an infrastructure of the same type, having very high costs and little flexibility.
After this era, a greater granularity was aimed at, with the arrival of virtualization, which allows faster infrastructure expansions and medium-distributed architectures. In this way, many problems related to high reliability and management are solved, making different processes much more streamlined, thanks also to the delegation of certain functionalities to users.
Virtualization has become one of the main elements of the latest architectural trends, where the principles are a further fragmentation of the application layer. The applications are broken down into their granular functions, giving life to the whole topic of microservices that we will discuss in the following podcasts, keeping a centralized infrastructure, in which all to add is more power.
Everything is managed with the elastic logic of the cloud, in an as-a-service model that requires that everything is monitored and measured in terms of service level and performance.
Each resource linked to an infrastructure of this type has an associated economic value and is therefore easy to track.
In addition, it is possible to do much more delegation to end users.
Users can access the infrastructure and easily self-provision the resources they need with the perception of having the maximum possible freedom. On the other hand, however, IT maintains governance, users can move freely within parameters and well-defined permits, without having a negative impact on the entire infrastructure.
Radio IT: In short, if I correctly understand: the private world perceives a general simplicity in the use of technology. The same simplicity is required when it comes to corporate IT solutions. So, I ask you to give me a concrete example.
Simone Zanotti: A concrete example is what concerns Fluctus, one of our solutions, a platform that allows the customer to do private or hybrid computing based on an opensource framework: OpenStack. Our work has focused on making technologies of this type easy to adopt. Helping the customer’s IT in overcoming the gap arising from user expectations and what IT must do behind the scenes. With our solution we have automated the deployment of the entire farm, we have simplified its management, we have defined default configurations, which can help the customer’s IT to be fast in implementation. This model brings together the simplicity required by end users, who can enter with their credentials and, based on their business function, have those features that IT makes available to them. Conversely, it is also a big help for IT because they do not have to do all the scouting and configuration part of these technologies.
Radio IT: Well, I would say that for this third episode of Digital Innovators we have said enough, and there is no need to add more. Also because Simone led us to the beginning of the next episode, when we will try to understand a crucial question: why are simple solutions not so in terms of costs? Is there a remedy? We see it in the fourth episode, to which I give you an appointment. Thanks for being here, and thanks to Simone Zanotti for the interview.
If you want to listen to the Italian Podcast, go here!