Why are we here? That is not an existential question, but rather a questioning of your business goals -- especially when it comes to new IT trends.
It is very important to understand just why you implement technology. Even if you are in the business of providing IT services, you still have IT services that you consume. Are you consuming the right services? Are you providing the right services? These questions, and how you answer them, speak to the core of your IT strategies.
The temptation of new IT trends
EMC's Fred "Monk" Nix recently touched on this subject in a blog post, "Nobody buys 1/4 inch drill bits." He wrote:
One 1978 Saturday morning my grandfather took me to the local hardware store. The store owner greeted him and said, "Good morning Theron, what do you need?" He answered, "I need 1/4" holes." The shop owner directed us to the wall of drill bits and we found what we needed.
With your IT strategy, do you look for 1/4-inch holes, or are you looking for drill bits? With the wide range of applications and technology solutions available, it is all too easy to get caught up in the pursuit of new IT trends and technologies. This danger is especially real when it comes to the server virtualization market, where vendors regularly add new features to their hypervisors, and new trends such as private cloud computing and virtual appliances dominate the conversation.
But what value does new and emerging technology provide? Are you spending the time necessary to understand the business needs and develop a list of requirements before you begin designing a solution around new IT trends?
In many cases, that process gets turned around. You attend a product demonstration or read some documentation on a new and emerging technology, and your wheels begin turning as you think of all the ways you could use it. Being creative is a good quality, but remember that technology is a drill bit -- a tool to be placed in your toolbox and deployed only when needed.
The need for new and emerging technology
For a prime example of a tempting technology, let's look slightly beyond server virtualization and examine virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI is a transformative technology (and one that proves the need for a sound understanding of opportunity cost).
The value of VDI will differ depending on the deployment scenario. How much do you pay for traditional PCs? What are your operational costs to maintain those PCs? Once you know these answers, you can determine your organization's cost and potential return on investment (ROI). But you still need to compare your cost and ROI against those of other opportunities. Sure, VDI is cool, but sticking with your traditional PC refresh cycle may be more beneficial.
For IT administrators, that can be a difficult decision to make, but it's a necessary one for aligning IT with business.
You don't buy a drill bit and then go looking for places to drill. That practice will lead to a weak IT strategy that is, well, full of holes. Develop a solid list of requirements and understand your organization's real needs before diving into new IT trends. And always make sure that you evaluate the true cost of every new and emerging technology you pursue.
About the expert
Mark Vaughn (MBA, VCP, BEA-CA) serves as an enterprise architect for a multinational corporation. Vaughn has more than 14 years of experience in IT as a Unix administrator, developer, Web hosting administrator, IT manager and enterprise architect. For several years, he has focused on using the benefits of virtualization to consolidate data centers, reduce total cost of ownership, and implement policies for high availability and disaster recovery. Vaughn is a recipient of the 2010 vExpert award and has delivered several presentations at VMworld and BEAWorld conferences in the U.S. and Europe. Read his blog at http://blog.mvaughn.us/.