How Long is Eventually?

As a younger man, I once read a quote that has stuck with me throughout the years: “Potential is a French word that means you aren’t worth s**t yet”. While not as poetic as Shakespeare, or as inspiring as Churchill, there is no denying the veracity of the assertion. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, found ourselves positively giddy, with visions of future Super Bowls dancing in our heads, when our team drafts that big armed quarterback from Humungous State, only to find that he has a higher completion percentage on throws to opposing defensive backs than his own receivers? Or that gal that we loved on that show who we’d only remember now if she showed up in a “Whatever Happened To…?” issue of People magazine. Or closer to home, the guy you hired who spent the next three years underperforming his resume. In the data center business, Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC) appears to be in danger of having its own “Potential-card” pulled.

I recently read an article that was discussing the state of SDDC adoption and implementation that I would describe as decidedly “mixed”. It appears that the writer was trying to be optimistic when he stated that SDDC is “…an idea whose time will eventually come”- a line reminiscent of the old saw about the country boy attending his first dance armed with the advice to say something nice to everybody. And when he was in the midst of a dance with a rather corpulent partner, tells her that “you sweat less than any farm girl I’ve ever known”. Damning with faint praise indeed.

Achieving one’s potential often requires a confluence of events that fosters the foundation for success, and the article proceeds to explain that things aren’t exactly “confluencing” for SDDC. The author refers to a study by Gartner that points to two primary obstacles to SDDC proliferation. The first bump in the road they identified is that you, “can’t just buy a ready-made SDDC from a vendor”. As one, and I’m sure I’m not alone here, who feels that the most fear inducing phrase in the English language is: “Some assembly required”, this lack of an out-of-the-box solution is an obvious impediment to mass market acceptance. Gartner’s second barrier to an industry wide love affair with SDDC is that, “most organizations are not ready to begin adoption and should proceed with caution”. In other words, even if an out of the box solution was available for a mass market, the current market is apparently mass-less. We might refer to this as the “all dressed up with no place to go” barrier to market entry.

Continuing in its “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” mode, the author than asserts that, “The fact is, as of the summer of 2016, SDDC has rarely been fully and satisfactorily implemented at any sizeable organization in either the public or private sector”. This may not be as bad as it sounds, however. The phrase, “sizeable organization” seems to indicate that there has been some success with “un-sizeable” organizations. Maybe SDDC is more of a boutique kind of offering. A product for the more discerning buyer, kind of like buying a Rolls-Royce instead of a Kia.

As we all know every industry, including ours, is littered with the corpses of products or ideas that, despite their best efforts, and those of their enthusiastic supporters just never quite made the cut. Certainly, SDDC is still an intriguing concept, but it appears to be moving ever closer from the heights of “potential” to the abyss of “never was”. If you are in the business of creating tools for efficiency, like SDDC, the payback had better be a bit more compelling than invest XX dollars for making everyone’s job easier. That’s a surefire way to end up on the cutting room floor of the C-suite budget discussion.  If a slowly burning ember in the fire pit of data center tooling is SDDC’s ultimate fate, it would be a shame since, as many have found out, potential is a terrible thing to waste.