Lean Enterprise

Chelsea Farnam

IBM Design Lab

Unhindered by typical IT restraints like configuring servers, storage and virtual machines, developers at born-on-the-cloud start-up companies can move from concept to development to market in a matter of weeks, taking home Internet-sized returns on byte-sized investments.

Sure, it works for start-ups. But is it possible to create a “lean” enterprise?

After years in the business, this is exciting.

Constrained by the traditional IT development cycle, experienced enterprise developers are often held back by existing governance, compliance and security requirements, limiting innovation from reaching the market quickly enough to be competitive.

That’s where David Barnes comes in.

Barnes is a program director in the IBM Emerging Technologies Group—a small team in Austin that uses the latest innovations to create proofs of concept that often are adopted into large IBM solutions further down the road.

“We look out 12, 18, 24 months on the horizon to see what’s happening in the industry—especially what’s happening on the web—how it might affect us and our customers. And then we work on the technology,” said Barnes.

For example, Barnes’s team worked with USC Annenberg to create a sentiment tool that analysed data from the social web to determine which Academy Award-nominated films were most popular with fans. That technology—which began as an educational project—became an integral part of IBM InfoSphere Big Insights, a powerful big data software product.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about something,” Barnes said. “This kind of analytics combined with cloud computing is really new and exciting.”

Today, Barnes’ team is working on a new cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS) tuned specifically for the enterprise. Temporarily named “IBM Bluemix,” the solution’s objective is to equip enterprise developers with the same ease and efficiency they would find in a small start-up. In other words—to equip the lean enterprise.

Freedom of choice
for the developer is
essential to making
them happy
and productive
and innovative.

“The way that things move now on the web, the speed at which applications are created, is more important than ever,” said Barnes. “For someone to be competitive they have to move more quickly than ever before, and I mean way more quickly… It is essential that IT be able to create applications at that speed. And what we are building is a solution for them to do that.”

IBM Bluemix is a composable services environment on the cloud where enterprise developers can bind together “freemium” application elements such as databases and analytics services that use open APIs to quickly create line-of-business applications. This environment allows developers to build applications for little or no cost and potentially scale up those applications to support enterprise-size needs.

“So we are building essentially a marketplace-style application development environment,” said Barnes.

Like a typical online marketplace, developers can also view and submit reviews to help determine which services to incorporate into their application.

“Freedom of choice for the developer is essential to making them happy and productive and innovative,” said Barnes. “We want to give them the freedom of what they are doing elsewhere, but we still want governance and compliance and all the things necessary for our business.”

On any given day, Barnes is traveling to conferences and client meetings doing demos of the environment. He has already used it in his own work with social sentiment analysis, and he’s even starting to use it with customers.

“That's what we're working on in the IBM Emerging Technology Group,” said Barnes. “Quick creation of applications by small teams of developers. They develop on the cloud and execute on the cloud, and honestly, it's going to change the way that all of our enterprise customers build their applications.”

Some call it “lean” development. Others call it “agile.”

Buzzwords aside, every skyrocketing tech start-up represents the success of collaborative, purely cloud-based development and delivery of applications.

Are you an enterprise developer? What's keeping you from lean development?
Tell us on Twitter at #LeanDev.