The word “revolution” has two interesting yet somewhat contradictory definitions. One the one hand, it means “a sudden, complete or marked change in something.” On the other hand, it means “a procedure or course that goes back to a starting point.”
The first definition implies something groundbreaking and new. The American revolution, which is being celebrated this week, clearly falls into this category as it gave birth to a new country with a markedly new form of government.
The second definition implies repetition, like the revolution of the earth or a spinning top around an axis.
In IT, we as vendors are often quick to declare our technologies as revolutionary so as to invoke the feeling of a major paradigm shift (definition #1). The cynic in me, though, wonders how often new technologies are just a rotation of old ideas (more like definition #2).
Lets take “cloud” as an example. The concept of hosting facilities is nothing new. There have been managed service providers for years, which makes Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) somewhat old-hat in my opinion. Or put another way, it is a new spin on an old concept. But the idea of removing software from individual machines and moving that into the cloud, as is the case with Software as a Service (SaaS), was pretty groundbreaking. In that respect, I feel that SaaS deserves to be called a revolutionary technology in the purest sense of the word.
Similarly, lets look at “big data.” The notion of storing and moving larger volumes of information is nothing new. Nor is the concept of mining that data for analytical purposes. In that respect, big data is another turn in the normal cycle of IT. But the concept of sharing computational power across resources is somewhat new, as are new technologies that enable distributed analysis, like Hadoop. Is it a fundamental shift in how we view the world? I am not so sure about that, but it is certainly exciting.
Finally, let’s looks at “virtualization.” The concept of a virtual server was pretty groundbreaking when first introduced. It changed the economics in both the data center and the branch, and gave rise to a whole new industry with unique challenges, products and requirements.
Virtualization, for example, is having an especially profound impact on wide area network (WAN) optimization. First, it changed the dynamics for WANop deployment, making it easier and more cost-effective to deploy anywhere it makes business sense. WANop can now be downloaded in minutes and embedded on any router, server, switch, or storage device. Going forward, virtualization is also improving the efficiency and performance of WANop by enabling the technology to follow workloads as they move about an enterprise. In other words, thanks to virtualization, WANop is moving from a static technology to a dynamic service.
While virtual WANop is still in early phases of adoption, it is gaining rapid momentum. And the impact it is having on IT is truly ground breaking. For that, I say: “Viva la virtual revolucion!”