Showing posts with label Microprocessor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Microprocessor. Show all posts

January 3, 2009

Embedded Systems and Enterprise Architecture

Information technology is not just about data centers, desktops, and handheld devices anymore. These days, technology is everywhere—embedded in all sorts of devices from cars and toaster ovens to traffic lights and nuclear power plants. Technology is pervasive in every industry from telecommunications to finance and from healthcare to consumer electronics.

Generally, embedded systems are dedicated to specific tasks, while general-purpose computers can be used for a variety of functions. In either case, the systems are vital for our everyday functioning.

Government Computer News, 15 December 2008 reports that “thanks to the plummeting cost of microprocessors, computing…now happens in automobiles, Global Positioning Systems, identification cards and even outer space.

The challenge with embedded systems are that they “must operate on limited resources—small processors, tiny memory and low power.”

Rob Oshana, director of engineering at Freescale Semiconductor says that “With embedded it’s about doing as much as you can with as little as you can.”

What’s new—haven’t we had systems embedded in automobiles for years?

Although originally designed for interacting with the real world, such systems are increasingly feeding information into larger information systems,” according to Wayne Wolf, chair of embedded computing systems at Georgia Institute of Technology.

According to Wolf, “What we are starting to see now is [the emergence] of what the National Science Foundation is called cyber-physical systems.”

In other words, embedded systems are used for command and control or information capture in the physical domain (like in a car or medical imaging machine), but then they can also share information over a network with others (think OnStar or remote medical services).

When the information is shared from the car to the Onstar service center, information about an accident can be turned into dispatch of life-saving responders. Similarly, when scans from a battlefield MRI is shared with medical service providers back in the States, quality medical services can be provided, when necessary, from thousands of miles away.

As we should hopefully have all come to learn after 9-11, information hoarding is faux power. But when information is shared, the power is real because it can be received and used by others and others, so that its influence is exponential.

Think for example, of the Mars Rover, which has embedded systems for capturing environmental samples. Left alone, the information is contained to a physical device millions of miles away, but sharing the information back to remote tracking stations here on Earth, the information can be analyzed, shared, studied, and so forth with almost endless possibilities for ongoing learning and growth.

The world has changed from embedded systems to a universe of connected systems.

Think distributed computing and the internet. With distributed computing, we are silos or separate domains of information, but by connecting the islands of information using the internet for example, we can all harness the vast amounts of information out there and in turn process it within our own lives and contribute back information to others.

The connection and sharing is our strength.

In the intelligence world, information is often referred to as dots, and it is the connection of the dots that make for viable and actionable intelligence.

As people, we are also proverbially just little dots in this big world of ours.

But as we have learnt with social media, we are able to grow as individuals and become more potent and more fulfilled human beings by being connected with others—we’ve gone from doing this in our limited physical geographies to a much larger population in cyberspace.

In the end, information resides in people or can be embedded in machines, but connecting the information to with other humans and machines is the true power of the information technology.


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September 27, 2008

Intel is King of Change and Enterprise Architecture

Intel is one of the most amazing companies. They are the world’s largest semiconductor company, and the inventor of the popular x86 microprocessor series found in most PCs. Intel has around $40 billion in annual revenue, and ranked 62 in the Fortune 500 last year.

The Wall Street Journal 27-28 September 2008 has an interview with CEO of Intel, Paul Ostellini, that offers some useful lessons for enterprise architects:

  • Plan for change—“A CEO’s main job, because you have access to all of the information, is to see the need to change before anyone else does.” It’s great when the CEO has access to the information for seeing ahead and around the curves, but many do not. Information is critical and leaders need plenty of it to keep from steering the enterprise off a cliff. An important role of enterprise architects is provide business and technical information to the CEO and other executives to give them clear vision to the changes needed to grow and safeguard the business. (Perhaps better information would have prevented or reduced the damage to so many companies in dot-com bubble a few years ago and the financial crisis afflicting Wall Street today!)
  • Question repeatedly—a prior CEO of Intel, Andrew Grove, taught him “Ask why, and ask it again five more times, until all of the artifice is stripped away and you end up with the intellectually honest answer.” It easy to accept things on face value or to make snap judgments, but to really understand an issue, you need to get below the surface, and the way you do this is to question and dig deeper. I think this is critical for enterprise architects who are evaluating business and technology and providing recommendations to the business that can potentially make or break change efficacy. Architects should not just capture information to plunk into the architecture repository, but should question what they are seeing and hearing about the business, validate it, categorize it, and analyze it, to add value to it before serving that information up to decision makers.
  • Measure Performance—“we systematically measured the performance of every part of the company to determine what was world class and what wasn’t. Then as analytically as possible, --we made the cuts…and saved $3 billion in overall spending.” Measuring performance is the only way to effectively manage performance. If decisions are to be anything more than gut and intuition, they need to be based on quantifiable measures and not just subjective management whim. Enterprise architects need to be proponents for enterprise-wide performance measurement. And not just at the top level either. Performance measures need to be implemented throughout the enterprise (vertically and horizontally) and dashboard views need to be provided to executives to make the measures visible and actionable.
  • Communicate, communicate—“I made it my job to communicate, communicate, communicate the positive message. I did open forums, I did Webcasts, I told the employees to send me questions via email and I’d answer them...you have to convince them through reasoning and logic, the accuracy of your claims.” Good communication is one of those areas that are often overlooked and underappreciated. Leadership often just assumes that people will follow because they are “the leaders”. NOPE! People are not sheep. They will not follow just because. People are intelligent and want to be respected and explained to why….communication early and often is the key. The approach to architecture that I espouse, User-centric EA, focuses on the users and effectively communicating with them—each the way they need to absorb the information and at the level that is actionable to them. Making architecture information easy to understand and readily available is essential to help make it valuable and actionable to the users. User-centric EA uses principles of communication and design to do this.
Intel, in its 40 year history, has repeatedly planned for change, measured it, and managed it successfully. Intel’s CEO, Gordon Moore, is the epitome of driving change. Moore, the founder of Moore’s Law, captured the exponential change/improvement in silicon chip performance—identifying that the number of transistors packed on silicon chip would double every two years. Intel’s subsequent obsession with Moore’s Law has kept them as the dominant player in computer processors and may lead them to dominance in cell phones and other mobile devices as well.
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