Thirty-Four Years in IT - Why not Thirty-Five?

After I was sidelined (Part 10) we had another leadership turnover. This time the turnover was welcome. I ended up in a leadership position under a new CIO. This allowed me to take advantage of some topics that I studied while I was sidelined. My new team took on a couple of challenges. (1) Introducing cloud computing to the organization, and (2) attempting to add a bit of architectural discipline to the development and infrastructure teams and processes. The first was somewhat successful, the later was not.


I had been slowly working to get a master agreement with Amazon - a long, slow process when you are a public sector agency. When our new CIO mentioned 'cloud' I did a bit of digging and found out that Microsoft had added the phrase 'and Azure' to our master licensing agreement. Microsoft's foresight saved me months of contract negotiations. They made it trivial to set up an enterprise Azure account. So Azure became our default 'cloud'.

I had been running the typical nerdville home servers. Moving them from in-house Mac's to Linux in Azure was trivial - a weekend of messing around. I affirmed to our CIO that we had a fair number of apps that could be hosted in IaaS, and picked a couple of crash-test dummy apps for early migration. 

Myself and one of my staff spent a few months creating and destroying various assets in Azure, and came to the conclusion that the barriers to cloud adoption would be found mostly in our own staff, and not the technology stack. Infrastructure staff would have to re-think their jobs and their roles in the organization, and development staff would have to re-think application design. Both would challenge the organization. 

I also did a few quick-and-dirty demonstrations to get some ideas on how we might architect an enterprise framework for moving to Azure - such as hiding an Azure instance behind a firewall in our test  lab to show that we could create virtual data centers that appeared to be in our RFC-1918 address space, but were actually in Azure IaaS. We also presented quite a bit of what we learned to our campus IT staff at various events and get-togethers, hoping to build a bit of momentum at the campuses. 

On the down side, I ran into significant barriers within our own managers and their staff. A quorum of managers and staff were cloud-adverse and/or firmly committed to technologies and vendors that had no cloud play. We had to fight FuD from within.


The Architecture activity was not successful. We had been running 'seat-of-the-pants' for years, resulting in many ad-hoc and orphaned tools, technologies and languages, and we were thinly staffed. So the idea that by adding rigor and overhead up front we'd end up with better technology that was less work to maintain was not well accepted. The entire concept of design first, then build was a tough sell, as the norm had been to start building first and figure out the design on the fly (if at all). Modern architectures such as presenting and API to our campuses were rejected outright. And of course the idea that two development teams or two infrastructure workgroups would agree on a tool, language, library - much less an architecture, was an even tougher sell.

The team (and any semblance of a formal architecture) was disbanded through attrition, and the body of standards, guidelines, processes, and practices are no doubt still in a SharePoint site, unmaintained and unloved. 

Why did I leave when I did?

As time went on, I found myself in fundamental disagreement with how the organization treated its people. Leadership was making personnel decisions that I could not support, that caused the loss of several of our best people, and that placed other staff in places where they could not succeed or by happy.

That leadership would move staff into positions in which they had no interest, and do it without the concurrance of their manager (me) was unacceptable. To pile on work that was outside the core skillset of an employee, and then try to destroy their career when they were failing, is unacceptable. I don't want to work for an organization like that, and because of financial decisions I made years ago I do not have to work for an organization like that. 

I did the math, got my ducks in a row, and retired. 

My only regret is that I was unable to influence the disposition of the staff that I left behind. 

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