AKA: A long rambling post of disparate ideas that are loosely coupled together but really kind of maybe not so much.
The Police were one of the very first bands I fell in love with. If I go back to 3rd/4th grade, where I started to get into music, I had 3 cassette tapes that factored heavily into my personal rotation: Blondie: Parallel Lines, The Police: Ghosts in the Machine, and The Cars self titled album. All 3 of those albums hold up pretty damn well in my opinion, but the Police have always been my first real musical crush, and Ghosts in the Machine is probably my favorite album still to this day. One track that always sticks out to me is Too Much Information
Over my dead body
Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane
This is pretty much how I feel some days when I look at the current state of data center computing and the future of what we used to call “computing” is becoming. My day job brings me into contact with a fairly interesting customer space, and its well and beyond where I initially got my start in technology, ie the Windows 3.X era.
Today, what most of us consider the “Enterprise” is facing a weird form of technological mid-life crisis when it comes to the “How” of the data center, as well as the direction in which to take their development , delivery, and daily work flows. The “Great Migration” off of ITIL to DevOps has begun, but as with all migrations, the pace is slow, and the mass extinction event has yet to happen. That event is coming, and I when I look at the legacy Enterprise focused vendors aka the “Dinosaurs”, I’m not sure if they have the ability to evolve fast enough to the evolutionary pace in which we are facing today. You get the feeling that many decision makers in the Enterprise space desire a move toward service based IT delivery, but they have had it fail to work because of a plethora of roadblocks they have faced. The technology wasn’t there, the team wasn’t capable of delivering, the organization as a whole couldn’t adjust to the rapidity of change. It could be all or none of those things. The one thing that does ring true though is that there is a need to move and do something, what that is, I think is still being realized.
Those in the traditional hardware space are going to be hit the hardest as these changes start to build and move from the Web Giants, Service Providers, and Content Delivery companies down into the Global/Fortune 2000 Enterprise space, and eventually further. For the sake of argument as well, lets put Public Cloud out of the picture for this discussion, that in and of itself could take up a few dozen pages of speculation and its not where I want to spend my time today.
There was a truly awesome article in The New Stack that was kind of the genesis of today’s ramblings: How the Enterprise Adopts the New Stack, or “I said no dammit” (stop now, and read the entire thing) The timeline in the chart below is in my view fairly accurate for many Enterprise customers.
- Year 1: The way we do things is great; all that crap that startups are doing is basically just the same as what we do, but obviously we’re better.
- Year 2: That stuff that startups are doing works for them, but it wouldn’t work for us because we have different requirements.
- Year 3: If we were starting from scratch, we’d do it the way the startups do, but we aren’t, and we have different requirements.
- Year 4: Yeah, OK, we should probably do a pilot project to see if we can do that new thing that the startups are doing.
- Year 5: Ok, yeah, actually, it is pretty good. We’re going to do it everywhere and be awesome again. We are embarking on a two-year plan to apply that startup stuff everywhere. It will be expensive, but it’s the right thing, and then we’ll really be set.
- Year 8: OK, so it took us three and a half years instead of two, but we’re finally done!
- Go to step one.
I’m fairly certain that that there are a lot of people who see whats coming out of start-up land and the first reaction is “I Said No Dammit”, honestly I’ve been there so I understand where they are coming from and it takes a significant amount of exposure to the startup space to get into that new line of thinking. I visited an ex co-worker this week whose company is going through a massive consolidation effort. Roughly 12 formerly independently run organizations are having their IT departments collapsed into a single entity (something that should have happened a decade ago). Its an opportunity like that one that opens the door to do a lot of pretty significant adjustments and changes for the better, but after chatting with my friend, I got the feeling that based on a lot of the options that they have available today that would greatly benefit the organization as a whole will be seeing Ignore, Ignore, No, No and I said No Dammit, with that last part being elongated from a year to maybe three.
But why is this? Why is there such push back on the new things? I used to think it was simply risk aversion, and “we’ve always done it that way” thinking, and both of those hold true for many organizations that can seem to move at a glacial pace when it comes to innovation and adoption of new technologies, but I do think there is another factor, by damn if there is just too much shit out there to take in and absorb in a rational manner.
Lets just take one of todays hype cycle darlings, Containers and OpenStack. Now, I’ve probably seen two dozen articles in the last week that mention Docker, CoreOs, Kubernettes, and Mesos. The last 24 months have seen a massive push into the Container space, with barrels of ink spilled on how they are the death of VMware and will change how virtualization in the data center is approached etc. Then of course there is OpenStack and its adoption curve and the growth of the private cloud ecosystem. Follow this with the rapid assimilation of most of the managed OpenStack players by major companies like Cisco, HP, IBM. All of this activity points to a “sea change” in data center virtualization and workload delivery. The push towards the amazonification of the private cloud for the Enterprise customer. But how much of this is rooted in reality? How many Enterprise customers are actually leveraging Containers as the key foundation for their production environments, how many have their mission critical functions utilizing this technology? If I had to hazard a guess that number sits at less than 100 when we look at Global 2000. Of course, a lot of this brings to the forefront the death of Pets vs Cattle as a concept, but honestly, that time is a long ways away.
Two great data points to point too: BT complaining about the lack of maturity of OpenStack and its support for NFV (honestly a poor nitpick) couched against Bank of America and their challenges around having to craft proprietary systems to bring OpenStack to maturity for use in production in their environment. Both pieces have some very good points to make and bolster the case that OpenStack is still a maturing technology that requires heavy lifting to implement to its full potential. The same can be said for the promise of container technologies. Steep learning curves, significant complexity, and a lack of a strong talent pool are roadblocks to adoption in the Enterprise space. All of this said, the space is maturing and it will be interesting to watch it continue to do so.
As you can tell, there is simply too much going on in my brain and this was a very ppor attempt to dump some if out. Honestly, this is what happens when you keep waking up at 2:47 AM all week and are running on 3-5 hours a sleep a night. Fun facts, I’ll be at Dell World next week spittin hot solidfire knowledge. Following week finds me in the land of Robots, Tokyo Japan for OpenStack Summit. Impending American Godzilla photo album to be posted afterwards. If you are attending either of these events and feel froggy, jump over to see me.