Category Archives: CIOTips

It is Not All About Changing Your World.

A funny thing has happened in the technology world, the hype cycle has become far more than a cycle that you watch and smile at. It has become a sales frenzy, while people try to make a name and/or sell you stuff before the idea or product category has even solidified. You can see it all around you, and as has been going on for years, the trend seems to be worsening.

I call it a funny thing because the truly revolutionary technologies – like server virtualization – really didn’t need a full-on hype cycle at all. Virtualization just kept growing year after year. People would declare “the year of virtualization!” and the year would pass, with more servers virtualized but no mass shift from one paradigm to the other.

I think it may just be time to consider that as long as the hype cycle is revving for a product or technology, it is not ready for prime time. My reasoning is pretty simple… As long as the hype cycle is in full swing, you will hear a lot of talk and not much implementation. Or a lot of talk that ignores the weaknesses that all technologies have.

The problem that drove me to this conclusion is that nothing is “A great solution for X” any more. They are all going to change your world! And I can’t speak for all of you, but for me that is problematic and counter-productive.

If you tell a CIO that DevOps really isn’t automation and standardization, but rather a redefinition of his role, his organization, and his employee’s roles, he sees risk. The same is true with the old “public cloud will change everything”. The problem is that “everything” is a big word, and it helps no one to hear it. I still recall laughing at the pundit that claimed there was no need for datacenters anymore because public cloud was here… But in all honesty, laughter was the wrong response. He scared a lot of people off, for fear that options would be taken away from IT. It took a couple of years for some to come back around to “right tool for the job” thinking.

To get an idea of the difference I’m talking about from the open source perspective, look at git versus OpenStack. People say “We use git.” on one side and “OpenStack will change the face of computing forever!” on the other. In fairness, OpenStack has made steady progress and is actually having average enterprises saying “we use OpenStack” these days, but from its earliest days, the hacks have been out there selling it as The Next Big Thing, whether it was ready or not. Git, on the other hand, has achieved astounding uptake precisely because it does one thing – manage code and similar files – and does it very well.

Truth be told, I suggest clients use VMware as much as OpenStack. Why? For a variety of reasons. Some because they have licenses, some because they have the skills, some because they do not have the skills for OpenStack. But when it comes down to it, both are just a way to better serve the business, and changing the world is not on most business users’ list of priorities.

Historically, corporate IT has been pretty good about sorting out the hype from the usable information, but this seems increasingly problematic. More orgs hopped on the “cloud everything” bandwagon than I expected (most only until they saw the TCO growth curve), and more seem to be biting on the “SDN changes everything” current hype.

Keep a cool head, look at what you can use and how it benefits, not what pundits claim the cool kids are doing. There is a ton of cool stuff going on, no need to grab the “this will change the world” thing unless (a) your world needs changing, and (b) you’re willing to invest a lot to change it.

High tech, though pundits hate it when people like me point it out, is like any other market. There will not be a world-changing shift of the seas, the world changing will happen slowly and visibly, as good products/solutions are recognized and implemented, word spreading about their utility and knowledge spreading about how to overcome their inevitable weaknesses.

And finally, remember that there is rarely One Ring To Rule Them All in real life. That’s why it’s a line from a fantasy book. Choose the right tool for your environment, your employees, and the direction you want to move your company, not the One Ring that some pundit is selling.

After all, if you’re like me, you’re using half a dozen technologies on pretty much a daily basis that were at one time going to change everything. And now they’re more reasonably positioned as tools to achieve results.

Product Roadmaps – from vendor to CIO tool

Thought I’d take a moment to drop a bit of an idea out there for making the most of vendor relationships.

You see, product roadmaps in the tech space are simply a sales and marketing tool. They are designed so that whomever you are talking to can point at them and say “those fifteen must have items? Look! They are coming!”


How most of us really view roadmaps… 

But there is wealth in products roadmaps. We all view them with skepticism because we all know plenty of cases where the roadmap and reality didn’t mesh.

So the other day when I was telling a friend how to get more out of them than the vendor, I decided I’d share this tidbit with you all also. It’s really pretty simple.

When a vendor shows you the roadmap, ask for a copy. If this is the first time you’ve gotten a copy, ask for a road map from 12-18 months ago also (though they’ll claim they don’t have one, ask anyway). Create a location somewhere in your org – intranet, NAS, cloud storage, where ever – to store roadmaps, and drop what you have into a directory bearing the vendors’ name.

Then, you have an actual example to judge a vendors’ ability to deliver what’s presented in the roadmap. It won’t be perfect, there are a lot of things that impact product/feature development, but it’s far more than what you have now, which is skepticism. Comparing last years’ (or any old) roadmap to the product literature should give you an idea of how well they delivered. If it’s not in the feature list on the website, it’s worth asking if they have the feature.

Now you have turned the tables of the roadmap. Instead of a potential smoke-and-mirrors list of promises, you are using it to evaluate vendors’ willingness/ability to deliver. It gives you the edge in choosing solutions that are best for your organization, by comparing past performance.

Whenever a vendor meeting is scheduled, go out and look briefly at the roadmap, compare it to the literature on the website, go in forearmed with knowledge of what they said was going to happen and what did happen in the past.

I did this in the storage space while writing for Network Computing, and you find relatively quickly that size does not matter so much on delivery as other factors. And having the roadmap helps you understand which vendors – be they huge multi-nationals with decades of experience or tiny startups with just a couple of people – are more likely to deliver what they promise.

Of course, many vendors will be resistant to this intelligent use of their roadmaps. In fact, I didn’t tell them I was doing it when I was, because I worried they’d stop providing me this valuable tool. It is of course up to you how your org wants to handle getting and keeping copies of roadmaps, but it I heartily recommend doing so. Use the tools available, and avoid “we can’t do that yet” failures in your IT endeavors.