4 Reasons Naysayers Win IT Battles, Not Wars
How This Plays Out In The Data Center
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3. Another common issue is that small and midsize business and enterprise users will see something as OK for use by consumers--and/or maybe their "propeller-head" departments--but not for "real" computing. Unfortunately for the naysayers, however, the real value demonstrated by these rogue users shows what's actually possible; the proverbial cat is out of the bag. It's why, for instance, developers are using their corporate credit cards to access cloud systems, and in doing so they're applying pressure on traditional IT departments to adopt similarly flexible and economic solutions.
To give another example, many years ago, when Yahoo's instant messaging (IM) first launched, it was so much an amateur solution that system maintenance was scheduled between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., since it was assumed no one would be using it then. Yet IM is now a mission-critical app for some operations (including some trading floors). The consumer versions of things get proven and drive change in IT. How often, for example, do you have real problems with your personal email system--Hotmail or Gmail perhaps--compared to the corporate Exchange system?
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4. Very often the prima facie attraction of something is not what makes it successful in the long term. Thus, for example, deduplication achieved success once it was understood that you could get backups done in time if you used it, not simply because of the superficial "tape sucks" messaging that was semantically attractive.
Also, very often there's a driving need to improve the economic model to meet massive, growing needs. For instance, VMware was pretty much a localized departmental solution for engineers and scientists until its value in overall consolidation was seen, which equated to better utilization and a powerful economic motivation. Solid-state adoption and the various cloud topologies are essentially similar--their underlying value, despite everything, is economic.
Let's now bring the discussion squarely back to modern data centers and data storage. The idea of using things that are now seen as standard and perfectly normal, such as SATA drives or iSCSI, in data centers (for real processing) was greeted just a few years ago with close to unanimous doubt. Equally, servers were seen as fine for departmental use and the loony fringes, but were not to be taken too seriously: "OMG, next you'll be suggesting that we run data centers on Windows!" That was unthinkable only a few years ago.
When the latest era of NAND-flash based solid-state implementations arrived on the scene a little over four years ago, it was greeted by a universal round of "why it won't work" from all the vendors that didn't then have an offering. Since then everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. Now things that were attacked with flash--such as reliability--are beginning to actually be seen as advantages for the technology. Whether that's a matter of product progress, user experience, or perhaps the lack of continued attacks, doesn't much matter. Today the "no" in the flash world is more centered on the suitability of multi-level cell (MLC) media for enterprise use. Guess what, it's cheaper, and so we'll find a way to make it work.
So, overall, if you want to get an idea of where we might be heading in data centers, take a good look at what seems logical but is getting the negative shrug, as it's perfectly likely to be embraced eventually. Indeed, it can be a long time; look at ILM. Its promise is only now beginning to be properly realized, but is also usually still discussed in hushed tones because the promise was made so long ago.
Other things happen faster. The rush to the cloud is a perfect example, although, even there, it's been the adventurous blazing the trails--those who blend the challenges of consumerization and conservatism to cross an IT chasm. (Of course, many uses of the cloud are also easy to do pretty quickly, as they are not trapped in the budget and lease cycles of regular IT.)
As is typical, the silent "no" majority will likely follow the vociferous "yes" minority, claiming the idea was both theirs and entirely sensible all along. They were, of course, just waiting for the kinks to be ironed out first.
Mark Peters is a Senior Analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, a leading independent authority on enterprise storage, analytics, and a range of other business technology interests.
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