W. C. Fields said, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” I can’t think of a single sentiment that better captures the state of the IT industry today.
As each new technological development adds unique terms and definitions to the IT lexicon, both techies and business-types have struggled to divine their meaning for the enterprise. Just consider the importance of terms like server, Ethernet, storage area network, or flash memory. We need terms and definitions to understand the nature and capabilities of available IT products. But as the pace of technological development accelerates, there is also a growing confusion and uncertainty behind today’s IT vernacular.
I blame vendors.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re all vendors somewhere in the business chain, but it seems like the very IT vendors that we depend upon most to help navigate the future of our capital-intensive data centers–in fact, our very businesses–are going out of their way to obscure capabilities and seize upon new terms as PR tools. You just can’t be 100% sure what you’re buying.
Consider converged infrastructure; the idea of purchasing, deploying, and servicing pre-packaged and pre-integrated servers, storage, and networking from a single vendor. HP calls this “converged infrastructure.” Cisco calls this a “unified computing system” or UCS. Other vendors use other terms, but to this day, I still have no idea what I should call this type of technology other than just splitting the difference and calling it “integrated infrastructure,” which seems to be just vendor-neutral enough for us to discuss it without unduly favoring one vendor over another.
There are many other examples of great technological ideas that are simply lost in the marketing noise, but the bottom line is simply this: embrace new terms carefully and with trepidation. Chances are that the product you’re considering won’t do everything that those fancy new terms imply (but the vendor will never tell you that). More than ever, it’s critical to budget the time for comprehensive due diligence and proof-of-principle projects BEFORE you budget the capital to make the purchase.