The Big Trend: One Size Does Not Fit All

S. Schuchart

Summary Bullets:

• The technology industry has a habit of making absolutist statements around big trends.

• The assumption that all use cases are knowable is the root of tech industry absolutism.

The technology industry has a strong tendency to make absolutist declarations, particularly regarding the big trends. For instance, the battle cry of “everything will be in the cloud” has been reverberating in the industry for years. There are tons of workloads in the cloud and more every day. But not all, like the cloud fanatics have been screaming for years.

Other examples would be the move to “white box” for networking and the much older move to “white box” for compute. Neither of those things dominate their respective industries the way they were supposed to. White box networking took off in hyperscale providers that were not only looking for total down-to-the-code control, but control of the hardware as well. In hyperscale environments a 1% change in any number of factors can mean big dollars due to their scale. But the enterprise never signed up for it, they didn’t want the responsibility for the code or the hardware, and preferred to rely on vendors for their networking needs. Similarly, white box servers do fine for a lot of uses, but never really took off in a way that threatened the market shares of the main server vendors.

So why are there all of these sweeping, absolutist statements? There is a myriad of reasons. For some, it’s the direction their company is going, so they go all out to sell the absolutist vision. For pundits, it may be a feeling that they need to put a stake in the ground with a definitive opinion and then defend it. For the vast majority pushing absolutist statements, it’s not about money or ego, it’s about the use case.

The use cases an individual knows best, either by experience or by anecdote are the ones that get the most emphasis when considering the impact of any given technology in the marketplace. This can and does lead to absolutist opinions when a particular technology thoroughly satisfies the technological requirements for the best known use cases. It’s a “eureka!” moment and suddenly the technology looks like the answer to every problem and use case.

The truth is there are as many use cases as there are customers. Knowing them all is improbable at best. There are broad use cases that can be applied to verticals or sub-verticals. A great example of this would be the retail market. There is capital RETAIL as it applies to industry giants like Wal-Mart and Target, and then there is retail as it applies to convenience stores. There is some overlap in those use cases and we can make some assumptions based on those commonalities. There are other examples of broad vertical overlap as well.

The way to combat bias towards personal best known use cases is to simply be aware of it and always be on the lookout for new use cases, even if they are corner cases. When looking at big, shiny new concepts and technologies, keep in mind that there are use cases where that new shiny doesn’t work or isn’t worth the effort to adopt.

That doesn’t mean big trends and industry-changing technologies shouldn’t be pointed out, strongly opined on, or promoted. There just needs to be a dollop of nuance present to acknowledge that for any given big trend, there are use cases that can’t or shouldn’t adopt and those customers shouldn’t panic, feel left behind, or forced into it by headline reading executives who don’t want to be “lagging.”

 

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