Enhancement and Innovation

Image credit: Jay Cuthrell

Enhancement and Innovation

We’re in the stone age right now — but we can’t stop trying to reach the bronze age while dreaming of the iron age.

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As I type up this blog entry I’m in Montana and it feels like home away from home. Next up is a visit to VCE HQ in Dallas for customer meetings. If all goes as planned, I’ll get home to North Carolina just in time for Thanksgiving.

Before Montana it was Las Vegas for CA World. Before Las Vegas it was Silicon Valley and the Bay Area for customer meetings and Cloud Expo. Before that it was Philadelphia for customer meetings and really really good bacon.

Thirty days ago I was typing up my My First Year at VCE where I highlighted all my travels before heading to Philadelphia. Do you sense a theme?

Round Round Get Around

Something occurred to me in those moments while I was on flights that don’t (yet) have WiFi on them. I’d like to share that but not in the sense of it being a grand epiphany but more in the way writing something down can free up space and time for more thoughts.

It is easy to confuse enhancement with innovation.

Let me explain…

For months, I had planned on being in Raleigh for Internet Summit. Once again, I found myself traveling in the other direction. Duty calls. Still, I couldn’t help but notice folks on Twitter putting together connections even as I was heading the other way.

When I reflected on this connectivity I felt the pang of missing something. If only I could have gone – then I would have found something… But wait. Why did I need to be at an event to find something?

Only then at 37k feet was it clearer to me: It’s not about the technology, the demos, the networking functions – it’s about the people you run across and the conversations. Your assumptions are challenged from time to time. You are forced outside your comfort zones on subject matter, depth, details, and most importantly…

Direction

Direction? Yes. It’s become more apparent over my time in this land of all things cloud that the direction of the wind is only interesting if you are fashioning a sail. Put another way, if you are in any place where networks, compute, and storage are where you hang your hat – it’s going to be harder and harder to explain why your particular brand of wind is better wind than another brand. Also, the cold wind is drastically different than what passes today in the hot air category.

In the past few weeks I’ve read tech website articles and blog entries that make me wonder if the people that wrote them, frankly, get it. I’ve known for years that general writing on the Internet is subject to all the things that make literature fans cringe – and I don’t consider myself immune to those critiques – but that ultimately translate to eyeballs, views, etc… yes, linkbait. But this isn’t about linkbait but a fundamental lack of understanding what is happening or the subject matter being discussed.

I mention this because there is a function in play where coverage of enhancement for the sake of ‘me too’ or to simply weigh in on the minutiae. You can call it reporting. You can also call it a repurposing of mostly formed content for the sake of attaining a cadence or quota in article creation. FEED THE MACHINE.

Setting aside the notion that the articles have to be written under a deadline, what else might explain this lack of truly meaty content?

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TL;DR

Simple. Such a small word. We crave simple. We want simple. This post started with a desire to update folks on what I have been up to in VCE. If you made it this far then I can assure you that the time I spend in VCE is in seeking to make everything simple.

Making something truly simple is innovation. Making something simpler is enhancement.

This is why I love to talk with developers that have never built their own physical server (Hint: they are on the rise) because they are often shocked at the notion of anyone caring about infrastructure. BORING. But it is important to be clear that these developers are overwhelmingly found at consumer web oriented events and represent a sample set. One might argue the developers are creating things that are never seen publicly or that exist in areas far away from that of the consumer web.

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If you read Hacker News and Techmeme then ask yourself how often you see articles about SSD, Ethernet, FCoE, virtualization, CPU speed, etc… etc… if you haven’t been reading those sites – maybe you should start.

Parents tell me about how their children will instinctively touch screens on TVs like they do with iPads. Wasn’t the iPhone just training wheels for the iPad which was training wheels for the whatever comes next? Now, ask yourself the last time you considered what was below the covers on an application you used. Remember those breathing/scrubbing machines in the Matrix – nobody remembered why or how it worked – it just worked.

So, in terms of where things are going – the direction – it is much more about what sits on top of the stack and what is afforded than the elements that make up the stack. As such, there is going to be a struggle for where the tools, techniques, and namespace of what is old hat or passe in the consumer web world being placed on a collision course for demand for innovation.

It was much better than Cats.

There are plenty of companies we use today that we are not aware of or cognizant of in any way. If you sat back and searched for the term it might come to you but I’ll go ahead and spell it out: Service Providers.  Moreover, we’re only aware of them when they expose themselves when what they provide isn’t there or disrupts an experience.

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Dropped call/SMS/MMS?

Upload failed?

Browser timeout?

Fail Whale?

Stalled UI?

The only way that the Internet can have more cat photos more of the time is to ensure that everything is in working order all of the time. To accomplish this it will require everything to be simple.

My Other Datacenter is a Vblock

Right now there are teams of people within companies large and small that are toiling and stressing over how to stack up servers, what goes into servers, where the storage is connected, and how the network will wrap it all together. Why? They want to do something.

All of the infrastructure has to be there BEFORE you are able to do something. It has to be in the position where it fades away and leaves the possibilities. For developers at consumer web startup companies, this is why they both love and hate what passes today for public cloud services. They love getting up and running almost immediately. They hate the caveats and limitations that currently exist. It’s yes, but

Now imagine that companies of all shapes and sizes will want to have startup like speed for the things they care to move beyond a culture of defaults. They want to find service providers that can provide the private cloud experience. They want to know they get premium service and that their service provider understands what matters to the company and the developers within the company. It’s yes, and

Each time I see a Vblock go into service I am profoundly aware that this is where unleashing innovation begins and makes it a more yes, and… world.