Welcome to the “Era of Choice” in IT
Today’s technology world has been invaded by the (insert massively overused term here) “consumerization” we are all driving as end users. No longer does technology tell us what we can do. We now dictate to technology what we demand, and it either keeps up or dies. Pretty simple formula. What drives technology adoption and decisions within personal space and professional space are remarkably intertwined, to the point of little separation.
Pretty safe to call this current phase of IT the most rapidly changing period most of us (possibly all of us) have ever seen, and not all change is positive. John Chambers, former Cisco CEO, recently dropped the following bombshell on 25,000 listeners at Cisco Live in June of 2015: “Forty percent of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years.” But why? Reality folks- you could ask 50 people and get 50 answers. Chambers chalks it up to “disruption.” That’s a very manufacturer-centric way to phrase it. For client’s, that “disruption” is really about choice. Welcome to the “Era of Choice” in IT.
For a world traditionally governed by high availability, systems stability, hardened and time tested platforms and long term strategy, IT is among the last sector giants to succumb to the diversity that’s richly entrenched in so many aspects of life. When your job is on the line, downtime is an eight letter word often spoken like something your grandmother would smack you for speaking at a dinner table. It’s not that IT was just stubborn. Its resistance to unproven technology and bleeding edge adoption is often the difference between frustrated end users that suck the life out of productivity and a successful business enabled by technology.
It’s an often times intimidating world – IT. Recent surveys suggest that over 70% of IT administrators consider their job stressful. 41% are literally losing sleep. 84% are working overtime. Security risk and intrusion is up. Application adoption is explosive and evolutionary. Mobile workforce isn’t a trend, it’s a requirement. Big Data. Small Data. Data everywhere. All while engineers are in demand in far excess of the qualified candidates available. Stressed, losing sleep and working overtime on your mind yet?
The desire for choice has always been present. The market just wasn’t prepared to support choice in a reliable manner IT professionals could support. Trust me, that risk awareness and aversion is not disappearing. Nobody wants to take on more risk.
But, nothing in life pushes us forward like fear. Remember – ‘keep up or die.’ The only way technology and the professionals that support it can survive is to evolve, and the evolution is here. The marriage of demand and technology improvements have matched up like never before and make this “disruptive” phase more than just a trend. It’s the new way. Astronomically high compute density seemingly dropped from space, low cost RAM and storage, system based throughput beyond the limits of most core and edge networks… These things are now dominating hardware manufacturing and all are commoditized. Commodity based hardware platforms are merely completing a task as it takes a back seat to the strategy of software. Silos of infrastructure are falling at a rapid pace, and it’s not enough for your systems to be “fast,” or “powerful” with their in-line influence. Systems now must be feature rich – driven by analytics, able to combine multiple workloads, support task overlap (network, storage, virtualization, etc.), elementary grade manageable. That’s the new race– non-hardware based differentiation. This hardware commoditization is laying waste to normality in purchase decisions. The ability for new players in the market to spin up and go from startup to mainstay in a few short years has flooded the market with a gluttonous amount of options.
Most manufacturers are running on the same hardware. Most all follow similar principles of architecture. But, that’s not to completely dismiss hardware differentiation. It absolutely still matters and does exist at a foundational level. But, sit in a room with IT leaders today and most aren’t asking questions about hardware. They assume it all to be on a reasonably similar level. Their demands travel a different path. They want to know how a system can bend the balance of business expectations and the management required to get it there. Their leaders aren’t asking them how fast their storage is or how much they can squeeze through an internet connection. They want to know how the technology enables spinning up new business units and locations at light speed. What agility their technology presents to the business as a whole/can they turn on a dime? How can technology align to the overall goals of the business. Far from “speeds and feeds.”
Manufacturers and IT partners find themselves in a new world with unbeaten paths. Most are still trying to get their worlds back in focus. They are in the the most uncomfortable position imaginable and losing sleep deciding how they remain relevant. With massive choice comes the demand to compete and quench the thirst for differentiation. Buckle up, my friends this ride is moving fast. This new era leaves IT professionals with two simple choices: embrace change or die fighting for the resistance.
Here’s to hoping you choose to embrace change. Good luck should your choose to take up arms with the resistance!
Thomas Swann, Director