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Achieving Scalability Means No More Silos

Achieving Scalability Means No More Silos
by Mike Gianfagna on 07-01-2021 at 6:00 am

Achieving Scalability Means No More Silos

This is a story of contrasts and counter-intuitive results. Perforce recently published a white paper discussing enterprise scalability – what it takes, why it’s important and what can get in the way. The discussion will shake up some long-held notions regarding effective project management. The results can be significant, so it’s worth a look. Beyond the white paper, there is also a blog where you can learn more. Links are coming, but first let’s look at why achieving scalability means no more silos.

We Always Did It This Way

Managing tasks with a project-centric view is a natural way to keep track of things. Often, a new project starts by loading information into a requirements management tool. Bug tracking and design management tool are typically deployed in the early stages of a project as well. The whole process seems natural if you consider yourself working on one project at a time. Items like cost, resources, and timelines are also typically tracked in most enterprises on a project basis.

Projects are typically isolated from one another with this approach and that’s where the problems start.

What’s the Problem?

Because projects are isolated from one another, project “silos”, or local data repositories develop. These silos are typically not integrated with other project silos, so enterprise scalability becomes difficult. So does collaboration. The lack of integration also erodes the ability to perform traceability. Let’s examine a few of these challenges in more detail.

Most projects consist of a lot of IP reuse, so there is typically a need to access IPs and blocks from other projects. Lacking a central IP management system, this access is typically accomplished by linking to IPs and blocks using mechanisms like Git “submodules” or Subversion “externals”. Most project-centric data management tools support these functions, and the approach often works.

Or does it?

While this approach seems effective at first glance, challenges for the project and IT support teams can develop. Ad-hoc, peer-to-peer, untracked dependencies have many negative consequences. With each new project, a new design management server gets instantiated. These servers typically persist for a long time since no one wants to remove or delete the server, even after the project is finished. Fear of unknown consequences kicks in.

To make matters worse, many projects spawn other projects and can linger on for years, even decades. After a while, enterprises can have hundreds to thousands of servers running. It’s quite difficult for IT to characterize the impact and importance of any given server. More fear of unknown consequences.

Let’s stay with the IT challenges for a moment. Upgrading servers, performing security patches, and managing the hardware can all take days to weeks. Downtime creates a lot of stress. In the white paper, Perforce reported that one medium-sized customer commented that they had simply given up on updating their servers when the number hit 300 and eventually decided to scrap the system altogether.

You should start to see the problem with what seems like a perfectly reasonable approach to project management. The white paper goes on to discuss many more shortcomings with the typical approach. I encourage you to get your copy and read the discussion first-hand. A link is coming. To whet your appetite, here are some of the topics that are discussed:

  • Tracking complex project dependencies is difficult when there is no big picture
  • Collaboration becomes challenging – lots of interdependent permissions to manage
  • Licensing is hard to keep track of, potentially buying IPs the organization already owns or using IPs in applications that are not allowed
  • Issue tracking has limited impact – what other projects will see that bug?
  • Export control – no one wants to be on the wrong side of these rule

You should start to see the pitfalls of a perfectly reasonable approach to project management.

What Should You Do?

In a nutshell, break down your project silos. Adopting an IP-centric management approach addresses the headaches cited above and results in superior enterprise scalability. If your company will ever work on more than one project, you need to consider these strategies. The white paper outlines the benefits and suggests a way forward. You can even connect with an expert to discuss your options. You can get your copy of the white paper here. You can also learn more from a recent blog posted by Perforce here.  Perforce has studied this problem for quite some time, and they bring a lot to the table. You can learn more about what they’re up to in SemiWiki’s coverage here. Now you know why achieving scalability means no more silos.

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