As the holiday season has progressed I’ve spent a bunch of time in the car, traveling three hours at a crack to see friends and family in various parts of Midwestern USA. Much of that travel has been alone, my family having decided to ensconce themselves with my in-laws for the full duration of the week. That has left me ample time to sing aloud in the car, take unplanned detours to collect growlers of beer from esteemed breweries, and to think.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I’m not against them, per se, but I just think they’re too conveniently abandoned. I like the noun form of “resolve” better — a firm determination to do something. I aspire to have resolve, whether I am deciding firmly on a course of action, or settling or finding a solution to a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.
So to what issue should I bring my resolve to bear? What is it that I want to work on in 2017?
As I thought about this, I always crept back to the idea that IT just isn’t the game I signed up for a few decades ago. It seems a lot less technical, at least at the infrastructure level. A lot of the new infrastructure, whether it’s on site or in the cloud, is just simpler. Storage is getting simpler because SSDs are now cheaper than rotational media. Hyperconverged infrastructure has removed a number of pain points as well, including things like discrete SANs. Compute is getting ridiculously dense. What was possible in a 4U server is now possible in essentially a half rack unit (something like a Dell FX2).
With all that, a lot of the crap we’ve dealt with over the years just evaporates.
So what do I work on? What’s the biggest, most fundamental problem around, lying at the core of everything?
That’s it. Standards. Without standards you cannot automate, and cannot remove many of the remaining problems at the infrastructure level. Without standards there are bad assumptions, and the inevitable human error and downtime that follow. The foundation of a modern IT operation is standards.
As it turns out, standards aren’t a technical problem, either. The way I see it, they’re usually a financial problem, insofar as someone didn’t budget enough money to do something the way everybody else does, and now it needs to work. Or perhaps it’s a difference of opinion, or a technical requirement that is incompatible with things. Maybe a time constraint. Or a workflow problem, where the workflow should have included IT but didn’t until it was too late. Regardless, though, I see standards as the foundation of IT moving forward, transcending clouds, containers, applications, networking, everything.
So that’s what I’m going to work on –finding a way to enable deep automation and staff time savings with standardization, without unduly limiting projects or adding financial burdens. I urge you to do the same with the copious free time you now have because of flash disk and hyperconvergence.