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Enterprise IT's Rise from the Muck

By April 16, 2012Article

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has often said that 70 percent of IT cost and effort is attributed to the “muck,” the heavy lifting that is so critical, but undifferentiated in delivering value. Of course, he’s making his case for public cloud — let Amazon don the hip waders so you don’t have to.

So it’s no surprise to hear Amazon CTO Werner Vogels beating the same drum.

Dan Wood’s post “$10 Million is the New $100 Million” examines what Vogels calls the “undifferentiated heavy lifting” that once burdened startups and is now obviated by the rise of cloud computing as an alternative to the costly and complex muck of IT infrastructure.

Woods rightly extends this “anti-muck” argument to the less trodden territory of application complexity. His excellent post “Virtualization’s Limits” calls application and other software complexity the next barrier to clear in this rise from the muck.

But I would take his story one important step further: These economies aren’t just about new innovations and making startups more capital efficient; they’re also the catalyst for the fundamental transformation of enterprise IT that’s happening today.

Woods isn’t alone in his campaign to shine light on complexity. The DevOps movement is gaining momentum. And IT automation is all the rage. Why? Because the world has changed in profound and fundamental ways:

  • System scale is compounding by orders of magnitude
  • IT is under pressure to become rapidly responsive
  • Op ex budgets are adjusting down to the “new normal”

As such, IT is looking for ways to use automation to manage the complexity of software — to abstract away from the muck of enabling infrastructure and focus on applications and business services that deliver real and measurable value.

This is leading to what James Urquhart describes as “an operations disruption,” a new look at the requirements for managing software systems in modern IT. As a vendor at the center of this ops disruption, I’ve seen it first hand: Demand from enterprises has surged as they look for ways to adapt to the new normal.

In general, the broader vendor community is responding to this demand with new offerings of their own. CA and VMware, in particular, are diving in headlong. Others sit more passively on the sidelines, trying to determine the right moves to protect their legacy franchises (if you’ve read Clayton Christensen now-classic text, you’ll recognize shades of The Innovators Dilemma).

Of course, disruption is uncertainty in the face of fundamental and permanent change.

But one thing is for certain: IT is being forced to change — to rise from the muck, once and for all.

Jake Sorofman is founding partner of Marketlever, a boutique strategy and communications consultancy. Prior to founding Marketlever, Jake was CMO of rPath, a leader in cloud automation tools.

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