Dan's Take

Is Your Technology the Walking Dead?

How to keep from falling for the "X technology is dead" marketing hype.

A message recently came in from a well known vendor of performance management products, declaring that log-based analysis is dead. This is an example of the "X is dead" type of hyperbole that some vendors use to get decision-makers' attention in the hopes of swaying them to purchase the product or service. Of course, it is hyperbole, and offers a purposely distorted view of what's happening.

The message went on to point out that its product goes beyond log-based analysis to examine the current use of system, network and storage resources to offer a better, clearer picture of what's happening now.

What's the Buzz? It's a common marketing ploy to announce to the market that a popular catchphrase, approach or tool is dead -- even though it's in use in nearly every enterprise datacenter -- and then go on to suggest that a better choice would be the catchphrase, approach or tool the vendor is selling.

Often, upon analysis, the different catchphrase is a vendor-specific way of referring to an approach that technically is a minor variation on the same theme as the first catchphrase. In fact, there may be no technical difference at all; only a new buzz word. I wrote about this recently and came to the conclusion that even though buzzword marketing is a bit stupid, it appears to work.

It's clear that by attempting to declare a useful type of technology dead and suggest the only reasonable approach is to adopt its technology, the vendor is hoping to increase its sales and market penetration regardless of whether the approach is really new or all that different from that offered by the vendor's competition.

The Golden Rules of IT A long time ago, after the analysis of a large survey on how enterprises make their IT decisions, an IDC colleague and I came up with a rather whimsical set of golden rules that decision makers appeared to use. Although the survey is ancient, a simple observation of the industry would show that the golden rules still are relevant. I present them here as the "Golden Rules of IT."

  1. If it's not broken, don't fix it. Most organizations simply don't have the time, resources or funds to re-implement things that are currently working.
  2. Don't touch it, you'll break it. Most organizations of any size are using a complex mix of systems that were developed over several decades. Changing working systems based upon older technologies, older architectures and older methodologies has to be done very carefully if the intended results -- and only the intended results -- are to be achieved.
  3. If you touched it and it broke, it will take longer to fix and, in all likelihood, cost more than you think. Most of today's systems are a complex mix of technology. If your organization is going to be updating part of that tower of software, be prepared for unexpected consequences. Also, see Rule 2.
  4. Good enough is good enough. Although it would be nice to have the luxury of unlimited amounts of time, resources and funding and be able to develop every conceivable feature, most IT executives know that they're only going to be allowed the time, the resources and the funding to satisfy roughly 80 percent of requests for new capabilities.
  5. Don't make major changes unless people are screaming! If they're not screaming, see Rule 4. If they're merely asking for changes, see Rule 2 and Rule 3. If they begin screaming, you'll have to do something to respond; just touch things as lightly as possible.
  6. Embrace your "jerkdom." We all know that we have to move forward and help our organization be as efficient and successful as possible. In short, we must do the best we can with the resources, time and funding available. We must also accept the fact that years from now someone will look at what was done and come to the conclusion (based upon what they know then) that what was done was insufficient in some way or didn't properly forecast future events and requirements.

Dan's Take: Don't Fall for the Hype Using the "X is dead, long live X" as a marketing ploy clearly violates rules 1 and 2 of the Golden Rules list. Enterprises seldom throw out a technology to adopt something new. All a person would have to do is walk through most enterprise datacenters to validate that concept. Once a technology or approach is adopted, it usually stays around the datacenter for decades supporting the work of the enterprise.

In this case, log-based analysis continues to be a very useful tool in learning what is happening, what caused a slowdown or failure or even if a security breach is underway. Add predictive analysis and machine learning to the analysis and it can be amazing what can be learned in a short time.

I'd suggest that enterprise decision makers take the time to examine what the vendor is saying, and then speak to current suppliers about what they're doing. It's quite likely that the decision makers will learn that they are already deploying technology that will address most, if not all of what the first vendor is saying.

Change for its own sake is seldom the best use of time of enterprise resources.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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