Monday, December 26, 2016

The Curious Case of the Marbles

I haven't penned a blog post in a few years but the coming wave of change in the way software is developed, run and managed warranted a few thoughts.  The article linked below cover's some of the impact of open source software on traditional software vendors in this case Oracle but limiting the scope to Oracle would not be prudent.  The article is a year old but still applies and I would argue the acceleration which appears on the surface to be fast is actually faster in reality.

Article on Oracle's eroding sales - Oracle Sales

I like this quote I found on Simon Wardley's Bits or pieces? (A great article on Inertia by the way) using an analogy to explain the impact of exponential growth and the illusion of the time it takes to reach critical mass.

"To explain this, I’ll use an analogy from a good friend of mine, Tony Fish.  Consider a big hall that can contain a million marbles. If we start with one marble and double the number of marbles each second, then the entire hall will be filled in 20 seconds. At 19 seconds, the hall will be half full. At 15 seconds only 3% of the hall, a small corner will be full.
Despite 15 seconds having passed, only a small corner of the hall is full and we could be forgiven for thinking we have plenty more time to go, certainly vastly more than the fifteen seconds it has taken to fill the small corner. We haven’t. We’ve got five seconds."

We don't really know all the variables to the equation we are playing with here so the exact time frame is a guess but the outcome is not. It's reasonable to say that the erosion is going to continue for legacy vendors and we may be just around the corner from critical mass.   It makes it quite challenging for corporate IT departments to select the right partners/vendors/providers along the way while at the same time constructing applications in a way that does not inhibit the ability to stay nimble.

It may sound a bit gloomy for the traditional players and it is.  It gets worse.  The public cloud combined with open source, containers and new architectural patterns, things like Microservices, have given rise to a whole new set of tools, platforms, vendors and partners.  A natural evolutionary pattern albeit at a brisk pace.  But there's a problem with this evolution, it's not going to last even a fraction of the time the traditional vendors enjoyed, remember the marbles?   The next new wave? It's Serverless.

A good treatment of Serverless can be found here by Mike Roberts - Serverless.  An interesting item about this article is the date is was published - 04 August 2016.  It article points out several issues with the current state of Serverless with the current major player, AWS.  Within two and half months AWS released new features for it's Lambda service that addressed several of the major drawbacks mentioned in the article.  Does that mean Serverless is ready to take over all of your workloads? No not yet, but it's getting really close.  Remember the marbles.

So what does it all mean? What are some take aways for corporate IT?

First forget about all the cloud acronyms like IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and more recent FaaS.  They are meaningless now in this new journey.  The public cloud provided by AWS, Azure and GCP are the platforms and those platforms are rapidly evolving to Serverless.

Second, there is still plenty of room and growth potential for third parties to play in that space with value added enhancements and capabilities.  But for corporate IT the selection of those must be done with some care.  Are they open? If not how are they licensed? What kind of eco-system/community is around them?  How often do they release and can they reasonably match pace with the big three?  Do their releases introduce lots of breaking changes?  Are their releases major or minor surgery to implement?  Is there a shared vision?

Third, corporate IT is not going to shrink because of the public cloud but it's going to have to go through some retooling in people.  Corporate demands on capability are increasing and the pace is picking up so having the right skill sets in place will be critical to success.

Fourth, be pragmatic.  Data centers and legacy vendors are not going away entirely.  There will be data centers and legacy vendors in some shape and form for the foreseeable future.  That's going to create some strain on corporate IT as it has to live in two different worlds for a good while. A strategy for dealing with that will be absolutely critical for success.  There is no one size fits all solution for corporate IT so be a bit wary on that one.

An exciting time to be in corporate IT where delivering business capability is just a limit of imagination but also realizing change is afoot in both skills and organization as the way software is developed, run and managed.


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