Just one note before we get started with this entry – If you are reading this on Thursday, October 6th, yesterday was the day that Steve Jobs lost his battle with cancer.
I think we’re all going to miss Steve.
It’s not just how he, almost single mindedly, brought Apple back from the brink of extinction when he returned to the company in the 90’s, or how he re-invented the way we relate to and use our personal technology. It’s a bit more personal for those of us who started in technology before the PC era. (There are still quite a few of us around)
Jobs and Wozniak ushered in the PC era with their first Apple PCs. Those machines weren’t much by today’s standards, but at the time they were revolutionary. Sure, there had been other options before the Apple’s PC arrived, but none that were both affordable and accessible to people with only a moderate technical background. This pioneering work by Jobs (and Wozniak) generated the kind of enthusiasm only matched by one thing – the launch of a new Apple product today. He was one of the dominant driving forces that challenged the industry to innovate and eventually led the industry to where it is today – And all along we all knew it.
And then he did it again with his vision of how people should relate to their personal technology, a fanatical focus on quality as well as “look and feel”, and his market savvy to build a complete eco-system to deliver the services people were going to want. He brought us one hit after another – iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, Apps and more. He ushered in a completely new way of relating to and using our personal technology. The result of this change – the consumerization of IT – is what the following article is about.
Who knows what he would have brought us the next time he re-invented Apple?
He will be missed.
What “The Consumerization of IT” means and how to think about it
In a word – “The Consumerization of IT” equals “opportunity”.
If you haven’t already started running across the phrase “The Consumerization of IT” you will soon. If you are a Service Provider – or run your IT department like one – successfully navigating your organization through the changes driven by this trend is going to be critical.
This is the first in a series of posts on the topic, and will focus on understanding the trend and on market changes driving it. Later posts will focus on components of the trend and what you should be doing about them.
The first thing you need to know is that the “Consumerization of IT” will drive major changes:
- Delivery of major sections of IT will fundamentally change
- New services will be created
Service providers or enterprises that runs IT like MSP’s that are able to effectively manage and apply the new technologies will have greater opportunities to create services to offer customers, make operations more efficient, and enable customers to rapidly take advantage of new opportunities in their core businesses.
At Nimsoft, we’re thinking about this topic in a couple of ways:
- The Consumer Device Tsunami – The move to personal devices as IT service endpoints
- The Consumerization of Data Center IT – The move to delivery of fundamental IT infrastructure and services as replace-able, easily consumable resources
The Consumer Device Tsunami – The move to personal devices as IT service delivery points
We’ve all seen and watched Steve Jobs lead Apple Computer to become a consumer device power house – the products Apple introduced beginning with the iPod, iPhone and moving to the iPad – and (just as important) their related ecosystems, have changed the way whole generations of users expect to interact with each other, and with technology. Rivals like the Google Android OS and its eco-system are broadening the market tsunami that Apple set in motion.
Here’s a data point that shows how fundamentally peoples relationship to technology has changed as a result – a majority of young adults would rather make less money, than be limited in their personal device use. In a recent survey run by Cisco 66% of young adults would rather work for less money at an organization that allowed them to use their personal devices, than to make more money for one that did not.
And this has to be just the “tip of the iceberg” – when I’m at a tradeshow or conference I always take a good look around to see what devices people are using. A while back, this meant lots of laptops and Blackberrys. More recently, netbooks and smartphones showed up in big numbers. But at the recent VMworld conference (where the audience leans hard in the direction of the heavily technical), the majority of devices were now Smartphones and Pads of all types (iPads, and Android based pads predominated), with people occasionally checking in on Smartphones. Pads outnumbered Netbooks and Laptops by a wide margin in the sessions – The ones using laptops seemed to be parked in the hall at the nearest power plug.
Now the audience at these types of conference love technology, and the technology has to be functional, not just trendy. The fact that the techies (like you and me most likely) are picking up this technology means that the trend isn’t just for the twenty-somethings you are now hiring – It’s the CIOs, CTOs and IT people running your back end, the managers in your offices, and the people running your day-to-day operations as well. Add to this to the rate at which iPads are selling out in China, and I think you’ll agree this isn’t just a passing fad.
Just as when PCs initially came to market, your choices are going to be to adjust, control and leverage this change, or be run over by it.
We’ll talk in a later post how to think about this, and how it will likely impact your delivery of IT services. At Nimsoft we’re factoring this change in – with an iPhone app for viewing and interacting with our monitoring and service management environment.
The Consumerization of Data Center IT – The move toward the delivery of fundamental IT infrastructure and services as replace-able and easily consumable resources
There are really two parts to this change:
- Delivery of “non-core” IT services to where it makes the most sense for your organization
- The delivery of the IT services that provide your “key differentiation” on top of flexible, extendable – and replaceable – environments
The first of these is really the SaaS (Software as a Service) story. The logic behind the change is inescapable – There are critical IT services that you must have, but that don’t provide differentiation for your business or organization. Good examples of this are email, CRM, collaboration environments, and so on. If using an outside service costs less, delivers higher service levels, and it meets all of your security, compliance, and other operational needs – why would you use internal IT resources to deliver it?
Let’s take a simple case like large file transfers. Traditionally you’d have had IT set up a file server, or if outside contractors needed access, an FTP site. Someone would then need to maintain it, administer it, control the content, etc. And they’d need to be fairly knowledgeable IT staff. You can easily extend this model to lots of other services traditionally supplied by IT departments; email, collaboration and so on.
For a Service Provider, this will result in a lot of opportunities to deliver multi-tenant capable core services that can be offered to enterprise customers in a “private” delivery model and to manage, monitor, and deliver SaaS environments for customers.
The second piece has to do with how you deliver those mission critical IT services that are, or can be, your “key differentiation” enabling higher returns from your core business.
With the abstraction provided by virtualization, single servers and whole multi-server workloads can be captured, described and made independent of hardware environments (OVF is a great format for this). This gives you better choices. For instance – Vblocks, FlexPods, and other converged infrastructure stacks running VMware make for whole environments that can be considered as “replaceable” building blocks (with some limitations). Private Cloud, Virtual Private Cloud, and Public Cloud environments can also be leveraged for scalability.
This trend results in IT having a “consumer” level of choices for deployment infrastructure and the capability to select delivery infrastructure in a way that makes the most sense for the organization. Proper implementation will even allow you to deliver service levels and scalability that fixed data center resources cannot match.
- Place applications where privacy and compliance are critical (medical, insurance, financial) in your local virtual environment or private cloud. With the capability to flex your underlying infrastructure easily to make the best use of these internal resources.
- Put development environments, demo settings, product web properties and other suitable applications in a virtual private cloud or public cloud environment for better cost control (only pay for what you use), flexibility, and scalability
For the first time ever, you aren’t limited to only a fixed long term resource commitment – IT consumes resources when and where it needs to in support of business objectives and goals.
The next segment coming up we will look deeper at The Consumer Device Tsunami – how to think about it, what it will mean, and where the opportunities are. Stay tuned.