November 18, 2013
Let me start by saying that I love our industry. If I didn’t, why would I still be in it after 10 years, or have started my own data center company? With that being said, let me make a small confession, I don’t find a lot of the “exciting” new innovations in our business all that exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I do think things like helium hard drives, cold storage and silicon photonics are interesting, but I’m not about to start foaming at the mouth over them. My non-plussed attitude toward these industry advancements is not for a lack of trying. Believe me, I have been very diligent in my efforts to become more “plussed”. For example, the other evening I tried to engage Mrs. Crosby in a discussion about the potential of Big Data, unfortunately, just then The Mentalist came on and we both found it easier to be engrossed by the question of who is “Red John”—I think it’s that Sheriff guy—than about the inner workings of Hadoop. Despite my excitement deficit, I am proud to say that I have become very enthused by the strides that have been made in the development of the “internet of things”.
At its core, the Internet of Things (IOT) is an umbrella term that describes the prospect of being able to locate a veritable plethora of items—okay, things—via the web. Naturally, this will require an entire mélange of technologies, active RFID for example, but the end result is that you would be able to keep track of, and locate anything from your browser. Businesses are naturally very excited about all this. Among the benefits they foresee is the ability to maintain lower and more accurate inventories, enhance manufacturing processes through more rigorous parts control and to even be able to tell that the guy who said he had an important off site meeting is really on the back nine at the local municipal course. Each of these examples has some very interesting ramifications—except maybe for the guy busted for playing golf—but on their own they don’t even register on my personal enthusiasm thermometer. However, what does get my motor running is that the IOT has a WIIFM (What’s in it for me) factor that is off the charts.
Sure, it’s selfish. But if there is nothing in it for you, how excited can you really be about helium hard drives? I see the personal applications of the IOT as virtually limitless, but I’ll start small. I’m sure I’m not alone in my desire for a quick and easy way to locate the clicker for my TV—what my kids do with that thing I can’t imagine. How about the wife’s car keys? Just how many hours have we all spent looking for those babies only to have them show up in the purse that she assured you she’d already looked in. And if we can develop the technology to find these common household items, how long could it be before they could make it work for articles of clothing? I, for one, have a whole drawer full of single socks just dying for companionship, and don’t we all want that lonely tennis shoe by the side of the road to find its way home?
Even things like our own personal health can be enhanced by the capabilities of the IOT. For example, I lost my golf glove last weekend, and I don’t even want to tell you about the blisters I got. Sure, I soldiered on and finished the round, but to think that all the pain could have been avoided with a few keystrokes has yours truly brimming with enthusiasm. Even the way we eat could be impacted. Certainly, the tracking of containers would be easy enough—and a good way to make sure your brother in law doesn’t take that last beer—but if you could actually program things to automatically order pizza when the Wonder bread is moved from the pantry to the counter so you don’t have to have sandwiches for dinner—then you’re talking about a concept we can all get behind.
Obviously, you can color me excited, and I think many of you are too. Innovations like Software Defined data centers may get top billing on Data Center Knowledge, but does it offer the potential to automatically order pizza? I think not. Isn’t this really the “elephant in the room” that we are all afraid to discuss? Sure silicon photonics may speed things up a bit in the server, but until someone can prove to me that it can find a missing sock, I say, “big deal”.