Bimodal IT or Exile on Main St. ?










In the spring of 1971 the Rolling Stones decamped to a basement in Nellcote, France [] The villa was rented by Keith Richards and became a makeshift recording studio, where the classic Rolling Stones album “Exile on Main St.” was recorded. 

There are major theme as I see it –money, frustration and disruption – lead to this classic album being recorded in this way. And has a huge parallel for with the current state of IT.

Gartner term where we are now ‘Bimodal IT’ – Mode 1 being traditional ways of doing IT and mode 2 being newer, more agile methods of delivery (including OpenStack / Containers).  “Or Heritage IT and The new hotness – but don’t tell the board we say that”, as a customer described their OpenStack & devops strategy.

What I see is Exile.

I see customers in exile from their traditional “Main Street” vendors and infrastructure solutions for the same reasons the lead to the recording of Exile in France. Money, frustration and disruption. I see vendors Exiled from the double-digit growth patterns of mid 2000s and I recall the heady years of this growth I witnessed while at NetApp and the huge growth strides by EMC.

For the Stones, money drove them in their Exile in France. With UK taxman about to come after them explained how they ended up in France recording an album. Coupled with the frustrations of having been together for years, mixed with booze and drugs the album was recorded in pieces as people came and went.

In IT departments, the booze & drugs are less of an issue. They are challenged continuously to deliver more with static or shrinking budgets, against a background of supporting application delivery at a new velocity unseen before. Traditional IT infrastructure solutions working to the three to five year cycles of buy – operate – refresh become untenable with such a rate of change. 

By ending their deal with Allan Klein, due to lack of trust and frustration, which resulted in Klein owning the rights to a lot of their work, the Stones developed a new model. This business model developed with Prince Rupert Loewenstein – and no longer relying a Svengali manager started the journey from band to brand and touring powerhouse.

The disruption in IT departments I see in it has its roots in the growth of Cloud-based services (Amazon particularly) offering simple and quick ways to get new applications developed. Open Source offerings for storage, hypervisors and cloud management are now viable alternatives to the commercial incumbents. Right now it does seem to be the larger companies that can afford the developers make this happen. However the experiences should flow out and as Open Source projects will become available to all. OpenStack, Mesos, Kubernetes are great examples of this. 

Tumbling Dice

The Stones went forward after “Exile in Main St.” to turn into a huge brand with global tours that continued to net huge income, while maintaining their image :”The Beatles got the white hat. What’s left? The black hat.” [Keith Richards] Some members changed, some things went back to normal, but something different emerged. The same will be true in the IT department.

For the big IT vendors can acquire their way out of the growth malaise they are in now with the deep pockets they have, but it does need a real understanding of customer directions and motivations to make it work. I count none of these firms out or call them “dead.” Traditional IT is not dead, but anything that puts a bullet in the back of ITIL delivery models gets my vote : one Devil I have no Sympathy for.

To take storage, new vendors do come along and challenge the incumbents with higher-growth models : Pure Storage in All-Flash for example and good luck on their IPO today. However I see think there is more to this than just “Jumping Jack All-Flash” (Forgive me – I had to) to help change someone’s application delivery and business growth. 

At SolidFire We spend a lot of time working with customers figuring how our product can go hand-in-hand with delivering new applications and infrastructure at pace. We also launched our developer community yesterday: We also offer models consumption of SolidFire through Cloud providers, as storage appliances, integrated stacks of server/storage/network and as software only, ElementX.

For me it’s fascinating time in IT for vendors and customers. The myriad of solutions and speed of change confounds, amuses and fascinates all in one go. 

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