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An Open Seat on the Bandwagon, Pt. 1

An Open Seat on the Bandwagon, Pt. 1Isn’t it great when the momentum behind something just begins to grow, and more and more folks offer their fervent support and everyone is just so, excited? Behavioral scientists use the term the “Bandwagon Effect” to describe this mode of groupthink. In our own lives, we see this term used all the time, most commonly in politics and sports. Who among us hasn’t seen our interest in a sports team, for example, rocket from benign neglect to zealous enthusiasm as they march toward a championship? Somehow these types of things help galvanize us into a fraternal brotherhood. No matter who we are, or different we might seem, through this common bond we all are sharing in something special. In other words, being on the bandwagon makes us feel good. My marketing guy, who is a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, dreams of the day he can jump on that bandwagon. In our industry we’ve seen plenty of bandwagons come around the bend, and I’ll admit that I’ve jumped on a few, but when it comes to the concept of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), let me say that you can have my seat.

I’m sure for many of you, this confession is tantamount to sacrilege. “But Chris”, you may be saying, “Everyone knows that SDDC is the future of our industry. How can we unbenign your neglect to turn you into a rabid true believer?” While I appreciate the sentiment, I tend to cast a wary eye on predictions of future direction that are concentrated in a single industry—in this case software guys who never met a piece of code that didn’t have the potential to deliver world peace—and industry analysts who subscribe to the theory that “if I predict the same thing long enough it’s bound to happen”. While I believe in the law of averages as much as the next guy, I just can’t get my engines all revved up over this one, if for no other reason than it’s got more moving parts than participants in a twerking contest.

Perhaps the biggest drawback I see is that no one is exactly sure what SDDC is. Wikipedia defines it as:

Software-defined data center (SDDC) is an architectural approach to IT infrastructure that extends virtualization concepts such as abstraction, pooling, and automation to all of the data center’s resources and services to achieve IT as a service. In a software-defined data center, “compute, storage, networking, security, and availability services are pooled, aggregated, and delivered as software, and managed by intelligent, policy-driven software.”

Everybody got that? Maybe it’s just me, but anything that can’t be clearly understood in the time it takes for the average elevator ride is probably going to have some issues with user acceptance. Simple concepts may be terribly complex underneath the surface but everyone can understand something like “I want to watch TV on my iPhone”, but complex concepts that are really complex underneath, like  “I’d like to make quantum physics simple” usually face a little steeper adoption curve.

I think the second big issue with SDDC is that it’s an abstraction. One man’s ability to use software to automatically control his storage usage down to the power outlet connotes SDDC to him, while, to another, this is merely a single specialized application and does not come close to clearing the SDDC bar. Doesn’t this set us up for the same “I’m more modular than you” product pitches that we see today? While this certainly guarantees that we’ll be seeing plenty of ink spilled, and I don’t even want to think about the trade show presentations, extolling the nirvana that SDDC will deliver, I think all of this eventually winds as a check box on an RFP spreadsheet that everyone can justify filling in with a “yes”. Don’t misunderstand my ambivalence. I’m not saying that the concept of the SDDC is not a good thing, it’s just not a big thing.

I’m sure that my spot on the SDDC bandwagon won’t remain unfilled for long. That’s the nice thing about bandwagons, there is always room for one more. So, while I’ll read your articles, peruse your predictions and endure your PowerPoints, I think I’ll take a pass on this bandwagon and wait for one that has some real significance, “Lions in 2014” would fill the bill nicely.