Saturday, January 8, 2011

Is your IT Department serving too many meals?

One of my favorite ways to get insight into sports analysis is via ESPN's "The B.S. Report" podcast. This week's episode (around the 8:00 minute mark) featured a great analogy by Mike Lombardi where he talks about how great restaurants only serve a few meals (or types of food), while average ones attempt to serve a little bit of everything.

It got me thinking about the evolution that we're seeing within Data Centers. Not only are some of the forward-looking companies trying to consolidate the number of systems they have to manage, but their people are starting to consider if they need to evolve their skills. It's an interesting dilemma in that a reduction in the number or complexity of the systems should reduce costs. But will the expanded skill sets of people drive greater efficiency (less silos to make decisions or coordinate actions) or more mediocre implementations? Will the system consolidation happen faster than the skill-set expansion, or cross-pollination?

It also brings up the question around reducing application environments. We're already seeing trends in the consumer world where people are rapidly consolidating services around broad platforms (Google, Facebook, iTunes, etc.), with apps being written within those frameworks. Does this consumer trend find it's way into corporate IT, or do we see more usage of external services such as these by business users?

The economics of IT silos and sprawling applications doesn't seem to make sense anymore, especially given the tipping point of alternative services and alternative architectures readily available in the market. Too many groups trying to do too many things, leading to a mediocrity in levels of service. It will be interesting to see if we keep getting the buffet or if it evolves to a more differentiated a la carte.

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