Have your cake and eat it too: The value of patterns

I like food, I admit it.  Combine that and a habit for thinking in analogies and you get a far-flung theory of how IBM PureApplication System patterns are just like a chocolate cake.  Bear with me, this will all make sense.

In my grandmother’s day, if you wanted a chocolate cake, you went to the store and purchased ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, chocolate and more, depending on the recipe.  Grandma went home and lovingly followed a favorite recipe and in time we had our family tradition, Black Magic Cake.  The great thing about making a cake from scratch is that you can optimize the cake to meet your own preferences.  Have a dairy allergy?  Skip the milk.  Love peanut butter? Add peanut flavored frosting.  The problem with this approach is that it takes a lot of time and can be error prone.  Who hasn’t been in the midst of a high-pressured cooking frenzy and suddenly realized you are out of vanilla or accidentally used baking soda when baking powder was called for?  Sadly, you may have just ruined the birthday cake.

In my mother’s generation, life became much easier.  Packaged cake mixes were the norm.  Baking meant going to the supermarket to select your favorite brand of boxed cake mix.  There aren’t as many choices, but with a small amount of predictable effort you can have a decent white, yellow or chocolate cake—just add water, eggs and oil.

CakeMy peers and I all have conveniences.  There’s an excellent bakery within three miles of my home where I can buy the most wonderful, beautiful, delicious cakes.

They don’t offer an infinite number of choices, but frankly, these professionals are substantially better cooks than I am.  Plus, given my busy lifestyle, this might be the only way a cake is going to enter our household.  I’m willing to pay for the ease of use, excellent results and huge time savings.

We have similar options when we choose between IBM PureApplication System patterns and traditional infrastructure implementations.

Building an application from scratch is what most IT professionals know and understand.  If you are a master baker, this seems like the logical route.  But not every IT worker is Julia Child.  In fact, the Julia Childs of IT are hard to find.  In most cases, you have four bakers: one that knows how to work the oven, one that knows how to use the mixer, one who can crack the eggs and one who is responsible for the shopping.  With that many people involved, you need a project manager to ensure the mixer is not on vacation the same day the eggs are being cracked.

IBM PureApplication System virtual application patterns are like my local bakery.  They are easy, quick and really hard to screw up.  Somebody else defines the pattern and as long as the virtual application pattern meets organizational and business needs, you can have an application-ready infrastructure in minutes instead of weeks or months.  If my organization has standards that are in conflict with that virtual application pattern, I may not be able to use the pattern—just as I can’t order the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake when my peanut allergy-suffering friend is coming for dinner.

Virtual system patterns represent the middle ground.  With some minimal effort, you can have a working virtual system pattern, producing consistent, repeatable results quickly and with few errors.  If you want to be creative or have special requirements, it’s possible to modify an out-of-the-box pattern with scripts to include your own special sauce.  For many, this is a comfortable entry point for patterns, providing a balance between control and ease of use.

Virtual Systems PatternRegardless of where your organization lands on the continuum, patterns can be a benefit.  You can have your pattern ready to deploy by whoever has access and authority and eat it too with repeated deployment into hybrid cloud environments.

For more information, I suggest the following developerWorks articles:

Stay tuned for my next post.  I will explain how to use a DevOps solution to turn your basic yellow cake into a culinary delight!

If you would like to continue this conversation, comment below or connect with me on Twitter @mtpmary.

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Mary Mt Pleasant

About Mary Mt Pleasant

Mary Mt. Pleasant's recent projects have focused on architecting complete, multi-platform cloud solutions for large financial services institutions. Her latest role as a Certified Architect is backed by 22 years of experience at IBM serving the Financial Services, Insurance, Retail and Utility Sectors.