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Remember When Hand Carts Were State of the Art? Me Either

Handcarts are still used for serious purposes in parts of the world

HandCart Funny thing about the advancement of technology, in most of the modern world we enshrine it, spend massive amounts of money to find “the next big thing”, and act as if change is not only inevitable, but rapid. The truth is that change is inevitable, but not necessarily rapid, and sometimes, it’s about necessity. Sometimes it is about productivity. Sometimes, it just plain isn’t about either.

Handcarts are still used for serious purposes in parts of the world, by people who are happy to have them, and think a motorized vehicle would be a waste of resources. Think on that for a moment. What high-tech tool that was around 20 years ago are you still using? Let alone 200 years ago. The replacement of handcarts as a medium for transport not only wasn’t instant, it’s still going on 100 years after cars were mass produced.

Handcart in use – Mumbai Daily

We in high-tech are constantly in a state of flux from this technology to that solution to the other architecture. The question you have to ask yourself – and this is getting more important for enterprise IT in my opinion – is “does this do something good for the company?” It used to be that IT folks could try out all sorts of new doo-dads just to play with them and justify the cost based on the future potential benefit to the company. I’d love to say that this had a powerful positive effect, but frankly, it only rarely paid off. Why? Because we’re geeks. We buy this stuff on our own dime if the company won’t foot for it, and our eclectic tastes don’t necessarily jive with the needs of the organization.

These days, the change is pretty intense, and focuses on infrastructure and application deployment architectures. Where can you run this application, and what form will the application take? Virtualized? Dedicated hardware? Cloud? the list goes on. And all of these questions spur thoughts about security, storage, the other bits of infrastructure required to support an application no matter where it is deployed.

These are things that you can model in your basement, but can’t really test out, simply because the architecture of an enterprise is far more complex than the architecture of even the geekiest home network. Lori and I have a pretty complex network in our basement, but it doesn’t hold a candle to our employers’ worldwide network supporting dev and sales offices on every continent, users in many languages, and a potpourri of access methods that must be protected and available.

Sometimes, change is simply a change of perspective. F5’s new iApps, for example, put the ADC infrastructure bits together for the application, instead of managing application security within the module that handles application security (ASM), it bundles security in with all of the other bits – like load balancing, SSL offload, etc – that an application requires. This is pretty powerful, it speeds deployment and troubleshooting because everything is in one place, and it speeds adding another machine because you simply apply the same iApp Template. That means you spin up another instance of the VM in question, tweak the settings, and apply the template already being used on existing instances, and you’re up.

Sometimes, change is more radical. Deploying to the cloud is a good example of this, and cloud deployments suffer for it. Indeed, private and hybrid clouds are growing rapidly precisely because of the radical change that public cloud can introduce. Cloud storage was so radical that very few were willing to use it even as most thought it was a good idea. Along came cloud storage gateways like our ARX Cloud Extender or a variety of others, and suddenly the weakness was ameliorated… Because the radical bit of cloud storage was simply that it didn’t talk like storage traditionally has. With a gateway it does. And with most gateways (check with your provider) you get compression and encryption, making the cloud storage more efficient and secure in the process.

But like the handcart, the idea that cloud, or virtualization, or consumerization must take hold overnight and you’re behind the times if you weren’t doing it yesterday are misplaced. Figure out what’s best for your organization, not just in terms of technology, but in terms of timelines also. Sure, some things, like support for the CEOs iPad will take on a life of their own, but in general, you’ve got time to figure out what you need, when you need it, and how best to implement it.

As I’ve mentioned before, at the cutting edge of technology, when the hype cycle is way overblown, that’s where you’ll find the largest number of vendors that won’t be around to support you in five years. If you can wait until the noise about a space quiets down, you’ll be better served, because the level of competition will have eliminated the weaker companies and you’ll be dealing with the technological equivalent of the Darwinian most fit. Sure, some of those companies will fail or get merged also, but the chances that your vendor of choice won’t, or their products will live on, are much better after the hype cycle.

AutoCarXVAfter all, even though engine powered conveyances have largely replaced hand carts, have you heard of White Motor Company, Autocar Company, or Diamond T Company? All three made automobiles. They lived through boom and were swallowed in bust. Though in automobiles the cycle is much longer than in high-tech (Autocar started in the late 1800s and was purchased by White in the 1950s for example, who was purchased later by Audi), the same process occurs, so count on it. And no, I haven’t developed a sudden interest in automobile history, all of these companies thrived making half-tracks in World War Two, that’s how I knew to look for them amongst the massive number of failed car companies.

Stay in touch with the new technologies out there, pay attention to how they can help you, but as I’ve said quite often, what's in the hype cycle isn’t necessarily what is best for your organization.

1908 Autocar XV (Wikipedia.org)

Of course I think things like our VE product line and our new V.11 with both iApps and app mobility are just the thing for most organizations, even with those I will say “depending upon your needs”. Because contrary to what most marketing and many analysts want to tell you, it really is about your organization and its needs.

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More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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