It’s about customers and CIOs, not vendors and campaigns.

Lately there has been a whole lot of breast-beating and article writing attributing this trend to that vendor and this other trend to this other vendor. You may have noticed that we at F5 benefit from some of this noise. It is pretty well accepted that we are the ADC leader and most pundits include us as one of the few “cloud enabling” vendors.

But all of this misses the point. The point is that you, and your contemporaries around the world decide what The Next Big Thing will be, not some marketing person writing a campaign plan. The needs of the average IT department determine what is going to be successful and what is not. When a vendor enables something that you couldn’t do in the past, then marketing certainly makes you aware that it’s out there, but no vendor is responsible for any trend in high-tech. Smart technology companies acknowledge this in a couple of ways. First by offering products that solve your problems – be they problems we’ve known about since the 80s or something new that other technology changes have brought about. Second by telling you how their products/solutions solve your problems. Note that SaaS as presented in the 90s never really materialized, but Salesforce certainly did. Salesforce offered a product that solved a problem many – nearly all - of us had at the time, and used the SaaS model to make paying for it less painful than the big-systems alternatives. That worked well for Salesforce, but other names, some of them big names, had mediocre success or downright failure at doing the same thing.

Every once in a while I think it is critical that someone who writes in the space regularly reminds you of something the hype-cycle typically fails at: That it is about you, not a vendor or a vision or an architecture. That you need to make the architectural decisions that best suit your organization’s needs and not worry about what the flavor of the week is. There are a growing number of success stories with cloud in international businesses that want to have uniform global access to data, that doesn’t guarantee that your organization is best served by this model, it only means that early results show this model has promise for some organizations. Of course we’ll sell you gear if you go this route. We’ll also sell you gear if you don’t, call up your local sales rep and they’ll tell you all about it.

The point is that there is no race. Do what makes sense to you at the rate it makes sense to you in the interests of best serving your employer. The days of the “cool new doodad” in IT are gone, but increasingly the business people are muttering about the “cool new doodad” – tablets and cloud both spring to mind – make it your job to help them understand where these things can help, and where they’re a threat or unnecessary overhead. The head of IT is increasingly under pressure to speak in plain language about strengths and weaknesses.

And if you’re not conversant with talking in your native tongue about high-tech, make it a point to get that way. Business users want to understand why something is a good or bad idea, they don’t generally want to understand the gory details. You may need them to back up your stance, but certainly sitting in a meeting with a group of business owners is not the time to start using throughput numbers and latencies. Simply a “we improved performance by X percent” is more in line with the needs of the business – unless you want the accounting and legal teams to start diving down into the details whenever you meet with them. Didn’t think so.

So go out there and solve your company’s IT problems. Have some fun doing it. Pay attention to the latest fad so you know when it is ripe with potential… But don’t obsess about it, because until you and your peers decide it is time to act, the latest fad is just so much ink and venture capital. And like I’ve said before, smart companies like F5 will be there to serve you when the time is right.

Published Jan 13, 2011
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