I attended EMC World last week. It was my first time at the conference, and I must say, to call the event grandiose would be a gross understatement. The overall theme was “transform.” Transform your business, transform IT, transform yourself. The tagline struck me as somewhat vague as it wasn’t clear to me who was transforming what, but the show got me thinking about the massive sea change the tech industry as a whole has undergone over the past few decades and made me yearn that much more for the next big thing.
Has the Enterprise Fallen Behind?
It used to be that innovation would happen in the enterprise and eventually trickle down to consumers. The reverse is true now—this is the reason why you keep hearing about BYOD (bring your own device) and BYOS (bring your own software). If the consumer stuff is better (e.g., iPhone, Evernote), workers will demand it because, after all, if the goal is getting things done, why not use the best tool for the job?
Speaking of User Experience
Previously, users had nothing to compare. I was happy with any technology I could get my hands on at the office. Whatever it was, it would be better than manual work. Now, I suspect entering the workforce involves taking a step backwards into prehistoric times for some grads (“What is this Windows XP you speak of?”).
The end user expectations in functionality and ease of use have been raised dramatically by companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook. You can start a small company and collaborate easily with a few laptops, Gmail, Google docs, and Dropbox. The onus is now on the enterprise to provide an equal or better user experience.
The Next Big Thing
When I think about transformation, the innovation that sticks out in my mind as the last big thing to transform the enterprise is virtualization. I can’t imagine trying to do my job without it. Any IT pro worth his/her weight in salt has figured out a way to use virtualization to make their lives better. One could argue for cloud computing (last year’s EMC World theme) but the cloud hasn’t become a standard part of the enterprise yet.
Try this: ask your CTO whether she’d rather give up the cloud or VMWare.
So what is next? I’m not one for predictions, but I would be hard pressed to bet against big data. It’s still very early but we’re starting to see some really amazing applications emerge (Varonis being one of them).
The challenge for enterprises is to avoid being crushed by the weight of the data and the complexity of the problems they’re hoping to solve. I fear that too many will opt to home-grow big data analytics platforms. Contrary to popular belief, when you pipe data into Hadoop it doesn’t spit out gold coins. There are many highly nuanced and difficult decisions to make; one false move and you’re in deep trouble.
I believe we will see a multitude of full-stack, purpose-built big data analytics products come to market and dominate. Instead of employing an army of developers, DBAs, and data scientists, businesses will leave the heavy-lifting to the experts. In other words, the magic will not happen during the first iteration of big data (i.e., the Hadoop era). When big data becomes widely productized, that is when the real transformation will happen.