What I Learnt When I Tested The 4 Tenets Of Modularity Against Wiwynn’S Current Roadmap

A rainy day perks me up immensely just like my kids. My kid’s smile is the brightest when they learn in the morning that the school will be closed due to a forecast of heavy rains for the day.

One of the favorite activities of us during such days is to make paper boats and test them out in the newly formed streams of water. The attributes that we test for the batch of boats are the number of times the boat’s ability to survive the path, how fast each completes and their ability to maneuver blocks on their path. We also make boats made from different thickness of papers to test which one of them passes the criteria the best, and turns out to be the winner.

Now applying that same thought of testing the key tenets, The 4 tenets that we wanted to achieve in implementing a modular common platform were:

  1. Agility
  2. Innovation
  3. Lower TCO
  4. Choice
  • Agility: While by having a modular design, it allows us to test a proof of concept of a new idea faster, it remains to be seen whether that same extends to productization and mass manufacturing of the concept in a particular configuration. So while modularity clearly gives an advantage to test out new concepts and understand the tradeoffs, whether that extends to the delivery and deployment as well depends on the consistency that can be maintained between the concept that is being tested, validated and the eventual configuration that is deployed.
  • Innovation: Modular architecture allows for providing a development environment that is plug and play like which is ripe for innovation to be harnessed. So clearly in this aspect, and by providing an environment that is a test bed and a sand box for quickly assessing the benefits a new architecture can provide, modular architecture is a clear winner.
  • Lower TCO: Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) depends on both a onetime capital expense and a continuing Operational expense. Depending on the extent of the adoption for the core modules and the extent of customization that is possible within those modules, there is a case to be made that scale can be achieved for the core modular blocks. This scale could positively affect the unit cost and thus the solution that uses these core modular building blocks. If the cost for stitching the building blocks together to achieve the final configuration is kept within reason, then there could be a reduction in capital cost. A portion of the operational expense is the cost incurred due to quality issues that necessitate hardware replacements. A case can be made that quality will be higher if core building blocks are shared and tested to go into different configurations. This higher quality could lead to reduced returns and this lowered warranty reserves and lowered downtime.

Before reviewing the 4th core tenet of Choice, let us look at how Wiwynn has internalized the concepts of modular platform and built its roadmap and strategy around sharing and reusing to optimize workload performance and Total cost of Ownership to drive customer value.

Some examples of different configurations in varying infrastructures that are built out of the base common modular building blocks are given below:

This review will only be a very high level overview and if readers need the details please refer to the slides presented by Steven Lu, Wiwynn VP Product Management, at 2019 OCP Summit.

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While testing the tenets against the portfolio of products that we built using modular common building blocks, we realized there was significant improvement in our agility to respond to customer requests, ability to innovate, and our capability to provide choices quickly to our customers. The cost of the product itself was improved more from the knack to provide an efficient solution that was optimized for the particular customer workload.

One of the key learnings for me as I tested the modularity concept is that while we needed to standardize the modules and more importantly the interface, it was also essential to provide the knobs that allows for customization to meet unique requirements. While standardizing the interface is the key, standardizing needs to be done in a way that does not impede innovation. Striking this balance at all the key areas of hardware, mechanical, and firmware is elemental to reach our objectives.

Now attending to the 4th tenet of Choice, we learnt that there is still work that needs to be done around management to enable vendor interoperability and a potential rethink to the architecture of the motherboard itself.

In summary while the current portfolio meets the 3 core tenets of modularity – Agility, Innovation, and Lower TCO, in order to meet the 4th core tenet of Choice, there is still work that needs to be done.

As always, it would be great if you can share some of your thoughts, your own experience, and insights on this topic. We are keen to know whether the tenets that we are considering for a modular platform are relevant to you and if so, in what ways? We would love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.

In the next blog we will see our design philosophy towards how to achieve the 4th core tenet of Choice and how that could potentially impact and transform our product roadmap in the future.