Monday, December 19, 2011

Steve Jobs in 1980... and Cloud + Big Data Today

In 1980, Steve Jobs gave a talk (YouTube) about the early days of Apple.

It's fascinating because it describes events that lead up to the first commercially-available Apple computer, and presaged the movement toward "canned" programs (commercial software) rather than everyone writing programs themselves.

However, around the 12:00 mark, Steve made a really incredible observation regarding the true goal of Apple (at the time) and about how to use the new level of computing power available to Apple computer users:
"As we move into the '80's, the amount of computational power - the amount of raw horsepower - we can get into a small box for a reasonable price is staggering....   One of the things people always ask me [is] 'what we've got right now is just fine; VisiCalc runs fast enough. Some of the database stuff runs fast enough. What are we going to do with this extra awesome power?'

"The answer to that is that we're going to put it [computational power] into applying/solving that problem again: In other words, we're going to start chewing up power specifically to help that 1:1 interaction go smoother. And specifically not to actually do the number-crunching and database management and word processing. We're actually going to apply that power specifically into removing that barrier.... 

This statement struck me because, in essence, Steve was saying "it's not about faster, it's about easier". He was pointing to all that could be possible if the clunky interaction with the technology was relegated to the background and made invisible.

In today's enterprise context, my interpretation of this is "What could be possible if all of that data center technology could be relegated to the background and made invisible?" In essence I thought, what if we could mask the granular time-consuming operational efforts of managing servers, I/O, applications, networking, storage, security etc. and get back to why the data center is there in the first place?  Today, IT operations for 'keeping the lights on" consumes ~ 75% of IT's budget today, and only ~ 25% is left over for innovation and serving the business.

The goal of IT Transformation should be to "solve the problem again" and put the computational horsepower on autopilot. Let's get to the point where our interaction with the data center is the ability to ask for the resources we need, and in response, we instantly get fast, scalable, secure services.

If we can get to the point where 25% of the cost is to keep things running, and 75% of the cost is used for innovation about the data, what would be possible for business?

In my opinion, IT is still largely in the Dark Ages. We are obsessed with speeds and feeds, tuning and tiering. The purpose of the Data Center is the Data - manipulating and analyzing it for the business. If we found a way to direct 75% of our computational horsepower to THAT, what would be possible?

That needs to be the goal of IT Transformation. That is why Cloud is such a critical enabler.

Thanks once again, Steve.

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