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IT Managers: Good Ideas Need Guidance

There’s a big technological change on the horizon and the rules have all changed

It is Memorial Day here in the US, where we remember those who served our country in the military – particularly those who gave their lives in military service. So I thought I’d tell you a cautionary tale of a good idea gone horribly wrong…


A TALE OF TANK DESTROYERS

Leading up to America’s entry into World War II, the leading thinkers of military strategy in the U.S. theorized that a mobile anti-tank unit, with the correct equipment, could M3 GMCassault and defeat enemy armor. This was  an off-shoot of a theory they had already put into doctrine, which was that tanks did not exist to engage enemy tanks, but rather to break through the front lines and rapidly move through the rear of the enemy army. Ignoring advice of the likes of General George S. Patton, the belief in a mobile anti-tank force was tested in wargames (which, for all of the obvious reasons, are not a very accurate depiction of reality), and the tank-destroyers won the wargames. Truth be told, infantry with massive tank destroyer attachments won against armor with some infantry attached. Tank Destroyer Doctrine was developed that put tank destroyers out in the field independent of armor and infantry, to seek and destroy enemy armor. Since they needed to be highly mobile, tank destroyers went light on armor (most had an open top to keep weight down, some, like the M3 GMC were nothing more than a half-track with a high-velocity armor piercing gun sitting in their back.  For those who don’t know, the effective armor of an M3 Half-track versus anything but small arms is nill. They were to use cover and their speed to get them into a position to take out enemy armor.

While everyone was looking for ways to maximize the ability to take out the enemy’s tanks, the doctrines used by different armies made the tank destroyer approach more or less successful. For the US, the wargames and those making the decisions were all wrong. The reasons are many, and are often debated amongst military historians and lay-historians like myself, just for fun. In short, it turns out, the thing to hunt tanks with is not a thin-skinned tank hunter with a big old gun, it is a tank with more armor and a big gun. By the end of World War II, tank hunting in separate units was done in the US. Support vehicles are still equipped with tank-killing weapons, but as a defense measure, should a tank turn up where it is least successful, not as a tank hunter. Sadly, an estimated 5,000 U.S. servicemen died serving in tank hunters to prove this fact. This being memorial day, I thank them for their sacrifice that others could be free.


BUT THAT SOUNDS SOMETHING LIKE CLOUD…

Let’s step outside of military history for a moment, and look at the problem. There was a big war coming soon, the rules had all changed, and there were deficiencies in the old way of doing things. Something different was needed, and needed quickly.

Sound like cloud? There’s a big technological change on the horizon, the rules have all changed, and there are deficiencies in the old way of doing things. Some view this as “something different is needed and needed quickly”.Td_logo

There are going to be business people who see moving applications to “the cloud”* as a way to “get around IT”. That’s largely what happened with those wargames in Louisiana that “proved” the usefulness of tank  destroyers outside the normal doctrine of the existing military units. There was political pressure to declare the “tank destroyers” the winners, and the result was, while not a disaster (tank destroyers did destroy over 2500 AFVs during the war), certainly sub-optimal and required rework to fit these units and their gear into the overall command structure more appropriately, and costing soldiers their lives, perhaps needlessly, perhaps not.

But there is a problem if you are IT or InfoSec management. In the end, the availability, reliability, and security of your organization’s applications rests upon your shoulders. Not on the cloud provider, not on that business unit, on yours.

 


I THINK GENERAL PATTON WAS GREAT. DON’T BE HIM.

General Patton was not known for his political astuteness, and while his performance at those Louisiana wargames is what got him noticed and put in command of combat troops, his thoughts on the deployment of separate tank destroyer units were ignored. Don’t be General Patton. Approach this like it is going to happen, and you need to account for your pieces. List the concerns for your organization from an implementation and security perspective and get behind the effort, guaranteeing that your data is protected, and that these applications are prepared to move in house should it become necessary for any reason. Make sure that the same diligence your staff applies to applications today is applied to applications “in the cloud”. In that sense, treat the cloud provider like a hosting provider or outsourcer, depending upon which type you have. Get availability assurances, don’t assume that because it’s “in the cloud” it will be 100% available. A product like our EDGE Gateway, if also available at your cloud provider, can help mitigate the risk of external apps that might one day need access to your databases. Make certain that you have answers to all that concerns you, and that there is a plan to graciously move to the cloud.

Cloud_logoYour intervention with clear direction and clearly communicated reasoning could save your organization a lot of headache, money, and even customers. Your failure to do so could be construed as obstruction to “protect your fief” (actually what the objections of the armored forces were viewed as with tank destroyers), and could make you and your IT department irrelevant. As Lori has so aptly pointed out, cloud is a tool to stuff in your toolbox for the correct use. Kind of like the US Army uses tank destroying capability today.

As I’ve said before, I see no reason to rush to the cloud just because pundits say it will save you anything, and some capability just isn’t there yet, but if your organization is ready, and for whatever reason is going there, be the steward, not the roadblock. Patton was great at taking out the enemy, not so hot at dealing with allies.

Oh yes, and a somber Memorial Day to you. If you are a US Veteran, thank you for your service.

*Definitions vary, consult your business staff for details

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More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.