Leadership

Eight truths of enterprise IT

What are the truths of enterprise IT? In this blog, Jake Sorofman discusses eight truths as he sees them.

Truth is a funny word. It smacks of empirical fact and righteousness.

But truth is not that. It's subjective -- a cocktail of knowledge, experience, context, and bias. I admit that an attempt to generalize "truths" about a topic as broad and complex as IT has the potential to come across as presumptuous ... or worse!

But, if you look closely, complexity often betrays patterns. For me, these patterns tell a story that gets -- if not to the ultimate kernel -- in close proximity to the truth.

So, what are these truths of enterprise IT?

From my perspective, I see eight:

1. Drift happens -- Complex software systems are rarely consistent or what they ought to be. They drift and morph in definition over time as patches are applied, updates are made, and IT personnel tunes, tweaks, and fiddles. These changes are typically untracked, and IT rarely knows precisely what is running. When they're initially deployed, systems are opaque. Over time, they're complete mysteries. 2. Change hurts -- IT fears and avoids change because of a Law of Unintended Consequences that hangs over the data center. At the heart of this law is the reality that deployed systems and their dependencies are poorly described and documented. When change happens, stuff breaks. This is why, on the topic of change, IT tends to channel Ross Perot: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." 3. IT abhors a vacuum -- As the cost of computing drops, workload demand increases. This is the force behind VM sprawl and the attendant growth in management costs. Like nature, IT abhors a vacuum. When space is made available, it's quickly filled in. (Perot may call this "a giant sucking sound.") 4. Demand follows the path of least resistance -- Like it or not, enterprise IT competes with a marketplace of alternatives. When alternatives offer comparatively better options in price, performance, and availability, workloads will follow the path of least resistance. Public cloud is a perfect example of this phenomenon at work: IT organizations that fail to transform will surely watch in vain as workloads, following the path of least resistance, escape to the cloud. 5. Dependencies grow geometrically -- Software is more diverse than ever, comprising an unthinkable array of custom, commercial, and open source options. This means that developers have more resources to ply their craft, and IT is utterly mired by complex, interdependent, and constantly changing systems. It's made worse by the ongoing abstraction of IT, from managing discrete single-use piece parts to the composition of reusable services. The network of interdependency is massive and -- much of the time -- poorly understood. 6. So does scale -- Each subsequent architectural advancement leads to an increase in scale. Scale exploded as mainframe gave way to client-server and client-server gave way to Web. Today, we're seeing x86 architectures, virtualization, and cloud are all driving growth in the volume of systems that need to be managed. 7. Proportionally, budgets will always contract -- Operating budgets cannot keep pace with growth in IT scale, so even when the top-line budget is growing, the budget-per-managed system is always contracting. IT will always be forced to do more with less -- forced to find new ways to change the economics of scale. 8. Complexity is the mother of reinvention -- When IT complexity reaches the frontier of existing tools and processes, IT must reinvent. Containing complexity is like holding back a tide. The only way forward is through reinvention, new tools, and approaches for dealing with IT complexity at scale.

So that's it -- eight IT truths as I see them. What truths do you see?

Jake Sorofman is chief marketing officer for rPath, an innovator in automating system deployment and maintenance across physical, virtual, and cloud environments.

6 comments
boxfiddler
boxfiddler

with [i] empirical fact and righteousness?[/i] etu

santeewelding
santeewelding

You are entitled, as far as I am concerned, to dispense with your, "etu". Maxwell does it all the time without notice. Used to bother me, in my constrained olden days. But, not anymore. Just means I have to stay on top of him. 'Cause, I do it, too. Just means you have to stay on top of me. Staying on top of you is instructive.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

that I'm instructive until I'm not.

Graynett
Graynett

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing or that's the way we did it before.

santeewelding
santeewelding

My first impression was of how our man went from Enterprise IT, to IT -- with attendant, founding preoccupation about "truth" -- and then back to narrower Enterprise IT. Slipped the General Solution in with nary a sign but with sleight of a writer's hand.

pfarrjam
pfarrjam

Another truth worth considering is that history will repeat itself. We've seen the pendulum swing from centralized computing in the original monolithic computing machines to decentralized with the advent of personal PCs, back to centralized with hosted services and cloud computing. Development paradigms rise, shift, fall, and are reborn in a new framework. It would benefit all IT professionals to read up on the history of computing because we're definitley going to be seeing the same concepts repackaged under new names and models again in the future.