Narrow It Down!

S. Schuchart

Summary Bullets:

• Enterprises and vendors need to resist the urge to spend too much time defining broad marketing terms when it doesn’t really matter.

• Get your vendors to narrow their pitch to your industry/use cases.

IT in its early days was driven by technical terms. Magazines and advertisements were overflowing with megabytes per second and POSIX compliance and IEEE specifications. But things changed and it soon became clear that IT was a driver of business and that non-IT managers would need to become an integral part of the decision-making process. The marketing changed to something less technical and more approachable. But sometimes the pendulum swings too far, with must-have marketing terms that get spread out so far that they become meaningless. Common terms become umbrellas for what need to be more focused discussions, whether it is from a technical or non-technical standpoint.

The most current egregious example of terminology bloat is the term ‘cloud’. Everyone has tried to define ‘cloud’ for years, most notably vendors who wanted to it to mean something that aligned with their products and services. At this point, the term has almost no real definable meaning. When a vendor pitches you a Cloud SuperGigaWidget most people at this point simply ignore the word cloud because it’s expected and fundamentally doesn’t mean anything, until you get into specific use cases. The real downside is the non-stop bandwagoning by vendors, or worse, having non-technical management tell you that you need to be looking into the latest bloat-term.

The industry’s latest umbrella term is edge computing. What is edge computing? There is no point in trying to offer a definition here – it would be wrong in a hundred cases. That statement will cause a hundred vendors to sharply draw in breath and hold up a finger while saying “Well, actually…”. it’s important not to get dragged down by definitions. As IT professionals, we want hard, solid definitions and can go down a rathole on trying to define a terminology that has been marketed into uselessness.

What you need to do when a vendor or article in the press tries to tell you how much you need edge computing is to narrow it down. Narrow it down to the use case for your business/industry. It is regrettable that cloud and edge computing are essentially meaningless marketing terms, but it doesn’t mean that the solutions behind them wouldn’t serve your business well. The technical and practical ideas behind things like edge computing are sound, but vary a great deal depending on use case.

Make vendors narrow technology down to what they are offering in your industry. Vendors that can’t give use cases with benefits and only want to talk in the broad term should be shown the door. Keep the conversation to your industry at worst and at best get them to dive into your specific use case. Keep them on target with helping to fix your problems and let the marketing terms sail into the clouds.


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