Unstoppable March of Convergence

Image credit: Josh Atwell

Unstoppable March of Convergence

It’s that time again. Since 2008, South by Southwest (SxSW) has been one of my annual professional pilgrimages. SxSW is where anyone in the infrastructure business should be to expand their understanding of what application developers and creative thinkers can do when infrastructure shifts one of four ways:

As I have done since 2010, I am once again looking forward to SxSW 2013 and what I will bring back to discuss with the team here at VCE. I’ve previously spoken at SxSW on topics ranging from changing attitudes to email to collaboration stacks to realtime network intercept concepts.

While I’m not speaking at SxSW this year, I will be soaking up sessions topics near and dear to my role here at VCE. My findings in prior years have been interesting when I look back on how things have turned out so far.

South by What?

Granted, if you are reading this blog post struggling to understand the role of SxSW or perhaps what SxSW is exactly, I’ll do my best to convey that. The way in which SxSW fits into the concerns of converged infrastructure might seem like a stretch, so please indulge me for just a moment…

Every March, tens of thousands of geeks, nerds, and creative people descend upon the Austin to soak in the latest trends and emerging technology for what is arguably the biggest event in technology on the planet. SxSW is broken up into three specific tracks: Interactive, Film, and Music. It is the SxSW Interactive sessions which are the most relevant to the ongoing transformation taking place in IT today. SxSW Interactive is also, by far, the largest and most dominant element of SxSW each year since I’ve been in attendance.

Over the years, I’ve noted that SxSW Film and Music also have sessions that focus on the technology side of those mediums. I always run into the application owners and stakeholders at various Enterprise companies, service providers, media and entertainment companies. Increasingly, these are the same people that are part of the unstoppable march of convergence.

SxSW Interactive has been the indexing arbiter of all the things that have become common elements of modern consumer web and increasingly Enterprise IT challenges and trends. In the past, SxSW revealed trends and directions relating to consumer web to geolocation to what has most recently been coined as big data.

SxSW Interactive is where the most bleeding edge attempts at viable (and not so viable!) business models emerge. This year at SxSW I’m expecting lots of big data, machine to machine, Internet of Things, and an increasingly Enterprise and devops oriented themes to emerge. As the saying goes – it’s not if but when.

Increasingly, there are references to a purely Enterprise and devops audience at SxSW Interactive. Agile and innovation spring up now as assumptions instead of a purposeful tagging for a given session or topic. Granted, this did not happen overnight but SxSW Interactive will be where I draw inspiration and cement an awareness of what is coming in the next few years.

In a nutshell, SxSW is where infrastructure professionals can get a rough idea of where the next great IT challenge is going originate. For example, past years proved the proliferation of personal mobile devices could not be ignored and the demand for whim based infrastructure was not fad.

Focus

SxSW Interactive 2013 will be the first time I will not be constantly updating my beloved geolococation, sharing, teaming, and collaboration apps of the moment. Those were fun. Having digested several failed and now successful brand names, their APIs, and expectations for use in a service provider and telecommunications context – it is time to shift focus.

This year at SxSW Interactive, I plan to draw new inspiration and focus on Enterprise and what has been adopted today and what is bring proposed in the near future. As always, there is an implicit impact to service providers for any hybridization in IT delivery and IT consumption patterns. This will ultimately translate into a disruptive technology buffet for Enterprise. It’s going to be a very exciting future indeed.

I expect a relentless assumption of infrastructure that is boring. I expect an even more relentless assumption that everything relating to getting developers productive on infrastructure is because it just works.

Why? It’s time.

First, the pace at which VCE has evolved is nothing short of amazing for the industry. Just consider how Vblock has helped transform the way in which VCE customers deliver IT.

Second, changing how companies can consume IT and what service providers will use to assist in that transformation is fundamental. VCE has been recognized as the market leader for this reason.

Delivering a new unit of IT was the first step. Allowing companies to realize ubiquitous workload substrate was the second step. Now it is time for the next step.

Directions

At SxSW in 2008, one of my favorite breakout sessions was a cloud computing meetup. While the topic was cloud computing the real discussion was how fast, repeatable, and viable it was to attempt consumption models behind the corporate firewall.

That’s right. The talk was taking place primarily because of developments and trends that made it permissible to stand up these new IT consumption and delivery architectures in an inherently controlled environment.

Some dubbed this private cloud. Others just kicked around the idea that mixing and matching private and public cloud resources were inevitable i.e. more blurring would occur. It was very apparent that virtual appliances with ready to use applications would be the norm regardless of being placed on premise converged infrastructure, hosted at a trusted service provider on converged infrastructure with an SLA, or in the public cloud with no SLA whatsoever.

Just a few months that same year later I noticed that almost all of the companies I tracked in the space of software, stacks, and other systems administration intensive apps offered Open Virtualization Format (OVF). By the end of 2008 OVF was the way all of the companies offering through their distribution mechanisms.

Now it is 2013. It’s time to see where IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, ITaaS, and other XaaS are heading. It’s time to see what ideas companies are kicking around and on what solutions they are doubling down in the coming years.

Trends

Most of the IT trends presented in prior SxSW Interactive years center on time to market, speed, and overall agility for companies. This year at SxSW a sampling of the Enterprise and IT specific topics range from apps ecosystems to gamification to identity to rapid deployment scenarios. In each topic the central themes often has a mix of opinions. On one hand, an implicit assumption is that only the future matters since legacy IT and legacy thinking is incapable of delivering next generation applications in a self service model. On the other hand, the slightly more pragmatic assumption is that all of the IT teams will demand greater speed and standardization to make that possible whether it is legacy or next generation.

The discussions at SxSW almost always center on the app developer point of view and the user point of view. When the role of operations and management comes up the assumption is that the IT team has to get on board now or at the very least satisfy these demands even if it means going outside their IT walls to do it.

End user computing and end user demand, it seems, waits for no one. As one colorful app developer put it in an equally colorful way:

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way! (heavily abridged)

The velocity of VCE and our drive to unleash simplicity is in response to the convergence taking place at an ever quickening pace. These trends can best be summarized in the following YouTube videos.

The CIO and CTO of the future demand simplicity.

Executives want solutions.

The future of IT requires a break through.

DevOps demands intelligence, awareness, and integration.