"The traditional way we looked at and built storage for decades is a hands-off thing: this is my pen and this is my hand but they don't really know about each other—the pen's not even shaped for my hand. If you look at a traditional SAN and say, 'How is that relating to an intensive data thing?', well, the answer is it's not. That whole interface is being refactored," he said.
"Disk drives themselves—they're mechanical devices, and they're really old, and they fail a lot, and you look at them and think, wow, this is like the tube and the transistor. That's gonna be a tidal wave in what we do."
Asked if that means Hewlett-Packard's idea of converged infrastructure, Fowler sketched out a future where the various pieces in the IT puzzle become much easier to fit together—and in turn, render a much more-complete and intriguing final picture.
"I do think there is a refactoring in technology going on, where a bunch of technology grew up separately—storage and servers are a great example—partly because storage companies like EMC and NetApp developed some really excellent products that worked quite well and evolved their industry that way—but, there's no other reason for that. And there's a lot of technical reasons for why you could build things differently and better to achieve better performance or manageability," Fowler said.
"Today, you can build things where the storage unit actually has logic and actually is intelligent about things and you can do a much better job—so I think you're gonna see a lot of changes, and these will follow the classic scenario of early adopters and lots of excitement and it takes a while to mature.
"Engineered systems are going to go through exactly that life cycle: we're in the early part of it—right now, people are probably puzzled, and then it's gonna be exciting and then it'll mature and become part of the real IT life cycle."
And Fowler insists that we are still in the early stages of that overall life cycle, and that for all of the pumped-up capabilities of today's high-end systems, the systems of the not-too-distant future will make them seem by comparison like 286-based PCs.
"The stage we're at right now, we're just rubbing two sticks together!" Fowler shouts as he tosses his hands up and laughs. "You know how people used to make fire? That's where we're at right now: we're rubbing two sticks together to make fire!
"I'm telling you, I look at this stuff we're building today and in some ways I think, 'My God, this is so primitive—and on multiple axes!' There's no way that companies should have these multimillion-dollar IT staffs just to get the freekin' thing up and running! Would you buy an automobile if you then would have to employ a mechanic just to start it the first time? It's some of the things all of us in IT should be embarrassed about, which kinda translates as 'How hard can we make it for people?' "
Yeah, it's been hard—way too hard in many cases. But maybe with all the advanced-technology work going on at IBM and SAP and HP and Oracle and Intel and other places, CIOs will soon be able to replace those two sticks with some lasers.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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