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The Biggest Cults in Tech

by Administrator on May 11, 2009

ITWorld is running today a piece on the biggest cults in tech.  You can read it here.  I did, and I think that they have missed a few.

I don’t need to go back to the early days of Palm, LISP, Commodore, IBM midrange computing or Newton to find cults.  That only Ruby was mentioned as a contemporary cult left me flabbergasted.

What about FC SANs?  What about VMware?  What about Clouds — the cult of ASPs resurrected and recast in new marketspeak?  The cult phenom is alive and kicking, supported by cult enablers like Twitter, Facebook, and, well, blogging.

Within the cult of networked storage (a cult because no storage is really networked these days), there are sub-cults emerging:  the on-array de-duplicators, the in-box tier-ers, the thin provisioners.  I call these collectively the Church of the Holy Embedded Functionality Controllers.  Like most cults, they tend to have a leadership that is getting rich fleecing their “sheeples” (the word that conspiracy theorists apply to consumers rhetoric).  SNIA’s Board of Directors, before their organization started losing its luster, would have been the See of Peter for this cult.

VMware strikes me as very cult-like.  Hearing their evangelists refer to their product as a “strategy” or even as a “movement” is strikingly similar to what we hear from one well-known cult headquartered in my back yard of Clearwater Florida about their “tech.”  

VMware is just a tool, like many other tools, for accomplishing certain goals.  You might choose to use the technology in connection with something strategic, like server consolidation, but it is only one of many tools that might serve the purpose.  By no means is it always the right tool for the job. 

This past week in London, however, I met one fellow who told me that he was doing a “VMware Strategy.”  As I asked him what he was setting out to do and described several alternative and more affordable ways to do it, he seemed genuinely puzzled by the introduction of any alternatives to his clear-headed pursuit of a single path laid out for him in his last consultation with the VMware folks.  For each question I asked, he grew more uncertain about his choices, but in the end stated that he had chosen to go with VMware and that was that. 

Cultist’s are into belief, not facts.  Ask any anti-vaxer or the tin foil hat crowd.

Look, I’m down with the whole do more with less thing.  But virtualizing servers is by no means the only, or even the most efficient, way to get there.  It is a distraction from the real work before us:  purpose-building infrastructure, making sure that infrastructure is completely transparent for proactive management, and managing data across infrastructure throughout its useful life.  If the first two are attended to, IT will be able to focus its attention full time to what really matters:  the data that it stewards.

My lengthy (12 page) rebuttal to server virtualization is shortly to be published in three installments under the Data Center tab on ESJ.com.  I believe part one will drop tomorrow.  There, it will stand in stark contrast to articles published (mostly by vendors) under the Virtualization tab.  If you want to understand the bases for my views of server virtualization, you can read them there.

Here, I will continue to argue my points, while trying to recover from a bug (no, not H1N1) that I got from my little petri dishes after I got back from London on Thursday.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

jasondbaker May 11, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I remember the old ASP days and today’s clouds are different.

The ASPs were purpose-built to host a specific set of applications. For example it was common to find ASPs that hosted email, business-line or even desktop applications.

The infrastructure (IaaS) and platform (PaaS) clouds today are really designed to host a generic and infinite set of applications.

The ASP and cloud models are similar in that they both leverage utility-based pricing and multi-tenant infrastructures.

I don’t disagree that there is a lot of cloud marketechture out there. Cloud computing is an evolution, not a revolution. And a number of technologies and business forces are combining to push this evolution along.

Administrator May 12, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Jason. I am not saying that the parallel is total, only that there is a lot of overlap.

Clouds are deficit in standards, with virtually no support for Web Services, which would logically be a candidate standards foundation. Also, a lot of clouds are simply repackaging other wares that we already have around today. A new term doesn’t make a new technology.

Fundamentally, the cloud guys still haven’t fixed the primary deficits of ASPs: security, security, and security.

jasondbaker May 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Cloud computing isn’t a technology. It’s a combination of technologies (virtualization, computing, storage, APIs) and business processes. It’s more of a business methodology than a technology.

I don’t see why we need cloud standards right now. All we really need is a way to translate or convert containers from one cloud to another. Companies like RightScale are working to bridge cloud providers.

Some of the cloud guys have addressed security issues. If by cloud guys you are talking Amazon and Google then you are right — but you are casting a very small net. Those are mass-market, no frills, cheaper-is-better cloud providers. Companies like Terremark have focused on building security into their cloud infrastructure. In fact several government agencies are leveraging their cloud.

ggathagan August 1, 2009 at 2:25 am

Little later to the conversation, but the very reason standards are needed is so that yet another niche market is not created.
There shouldn’t be a need to bring in yet another layer to bridge cloud providers. That defeats one of the purposes many companies might look at cloud computing.

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