header image

IT lemmings

Posted by: | February 12, 2011 | No Comment |

IT seems to be in a continuous cycle of hype. We keep getting “new” technologies or ways of supplying IT that will solve all of your organisations problems at a stroke. Some examples of this phenomenon include:

  • outsourcing – IT isn’t a core activity for you business so hand over the running of your IT systems to a specialist company who have the experts to deliver what you need and the economy of scale to do it cheaper
  • virtualisation – You don’t need lots of physical servers. Virtualise so that you are running a number of big servers really hard and they host a bunch of virtual servers that are doing the work
  • web services – everything will be available as a web service. Don’t write your own code just string together a set of pre-supplied services and nirvana is reached
  • cloud computing – move everything to Internet access. Let the supplier host the application and you just use it (How is this different from the failed Application Service Provider idea of the late 1990’s?)

Now before you start jumping up and down calling me a luddite let me point out that I am currently working in a environment that utilises three out of these four concepts. I am actively designing new services that employ two of them.

My concern is the misinformation and hype that surrounds “new” technologies. I keep calling it “new” because a number of these are recycled. I’ve already mentioned ASP/Cloud computing. I was working with “virtualisation” technologies on mainframes back in the 1980’s. What goes around comes around.

Each wave of “new” technologies brings a bubble of hype that is totally out of proportion to the benefits to be gained. The IT analyst companies start the ball rolling and the IT press (who usually don’t understand what they are talking about) jump on the bandwagon. Suddenly, the only way your organisation can survive is to throw away everything that has gone before and embrace this new way of doing things.

Reality Check

How many organisations have completely virtualised their environment. I have applications that can’t be virtualised because the vendor won’t support it in a virtual environment?

How many external web services does you company really use?

Can you run your organisation in the cloud? Many can’t because of regulatory or commercial restrictions that prevent it. This is often due to access to the data.


All of the ideas that are bandied about need consideration. Just because its new doesn’t mean that it suits your organisation.

This is where the good architect earns their money. Separate out what will benefit your organisation and utilise it. Ignore the rest. ignore the analysts and IT press telling you what you should be doing when they don’t have a clue what your organisation really needs.

There are organisations that will benefit from cloud computing. There are others that it will harm. Virtualisation is delivering benefits to the organisation I work with – but don’t forget the overheads that come with it.

One of my favourite phrases when discussing technology is “so what”.  Meaning what does it actually do for us? Does the benefit of implementing out weigh the cost?

This continual jumping towards the next shiny toy is why many businesses hold their IT departments in such low regard? The planning should always be from business process to applications to infrastructure to support them. Leading with technology doesn’t work and will continue to cost businesses money they possibly can’t afford.

under: Architecture