As an industry, technology can at times be very fad/fashion based. Not many industries try to entirely reinvent themselves every 10 years, the IT Industry though? It’s exceptional in this area. Walk into a meeting with senior IT leaders and talk about deploying Physical Servers, it won’t be long before you’re escorted away in a straight jacket. The irony; most of the time context and the end use case is ignored over the shiny new technology. In many cases, companies recommend using something new for the sake of getting experience in a new technology, not because it’s the right thing to do for the customer.
Larry Ellison – We’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. …I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion.
My view of this is you have a scale which starts at luddite and goes all the way through to bleeding edge geek. At the luddite end of the scale, people are typically attached to the technology that worked well in a particular job or use case, so using anything other than the familiar technology is madness to them. At the other side of the coin is the bleeding edge guy or girl. Nothing other than the latest untried, untested who’s sure if it’s even got a future technology will be in the mix of technologies.
All these styles are fine to a degree. It is accepted that if a system must be stable, using an understood technology that doesn’t need to be changed every week and can be readily supported is a good thing. On the flip side, if your aim is to do something disruptive and you want to get an edge, making a brave move into something that’s relatively new can pay dividends if the execution is supported well enough. This of course isn’t a new concept. Gartner and a wide range of consultants have been banding this around as the concept of Bi-Modal IT. The main problem here of course is that people immediately attach technology to the concept. Bi-Modal? Type 1 Stable? That’ll be physical servers and VMs? Type 2 Edging Forwards? Micro-Services/PaaS/Containers then?
We’ve already wedded a technology to a concept before we’ve even looked at what the use-case of a particular service or application is. As an industry, we need to try harder.
Physical Servers, Virtual Servers, Containers, Micro-Services and other things are ultimately just different ways to package applications for consumption by users. Depending on the use case, each technology will have significant strengths and weaknesses, irrespective of where we’re going as an industry. It’s entirely pointless to move PLC controllers into the Cloud and have welding robots go nuts every time a connectivity issue occurs, but it’s not to say you cannot use physical servers and use cloud technologies to automate the application stack above it. Likewise, an informational website that has a global audience would be daft to host in one location when you could use the public cloud and CDNs to deliver a much better experience for a fraction of the cost.
Just like the Camera, which spawned an entire industry based on film. Parts of that industry struggled with the transition to digital. If instead, they’d embraced the use, the purpose, which of course is taking photos, you’d bring a community of people forward with an evolution of technology. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the best technology that wins out, but the one people prefer that has a good enough technology. Most phones have a fairly basic lens and produce fairly average photos, but it’s used more than any other camera. Why? Because it’s always on people, it’s portable and it’s stupidly simple to share the photo you’ve just taken across a wide variety of communication (MMS, WhatsApp, Facebook to name a few).
It is my view that we should vest our interest in the end purpose of applications rather than the technology used to deliver them. That purpose might be to deliver food quicker or to make transportation more efficient. This isn’t to say that technology isn’t important, it is vastly important, but ultimately technology will continue to change and evolve. What wasn’t possible will become possible because of advances in technology, however we must lose sight of the reason we’re using technology in the first place.
Rob Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org