In my day-to-day, I deal pretty specifically with the Service Provider group, and as such it's possible that I may not be up on what the "Next Big Thing" is on the Enterprise side, so bear with me here, I may have this completely wrong….

Mike Riley with NetApp put up a post on his blog today, which I saw via a Twitter link from Nick Howell (thanks for the link, Nick!):

Nicktweet 

Now, I've never read Mike's blog before, so I wasn't sure what the "angle" was, but the title alone (as, I suppose, a good title should) had me hooked.  Not because I think it's a profound concept, but because I'm shocked that someone would, in March of 2011, just now be thinking that the next big thing is going to be operational efficiency.  As someone who spent 3 years building an SP practice where we made it part of every decision that we made, it certainly doesn't seem like something that is coming with the "next wave"!

So I flipped over and read the post, and it just left me more confused (with the exception of the standard EMC-bashing; that part was pretty expected).  One of the quotes that summed it up best for me was "Much of the infrastructure (servers, storage and network) will be virtualized -  a completely new layer of misdirection to plumb through."  Much of it will be?  Man, if the customers that I talk to every day are any indication, that boat has sailed.  The battle over whether to virtualize is over.  The needs for multi-layer technology awareness and consolidated stacks of infrastructure management tools are real, and they've been there for some time.  Operational efficiency isn't the next big thing; it was the last big thing, and customers are working to increase it every day.

So back to my first statement: maybe this is a new concept to the Enterprise and I just missed it.  On the Service Provider side of things, Operational Efficiency has long been the Holy Grail of measurables when it comes to all phases of service management.  Acquisition, implementation, management, provisioning, operation, troubleshooting, decommissioning, upgrading/replacing are all phases of the service life-cycle that need a core layer of efficiency in order to drive the business.  The more efficient your operations processes are, the more of your revenue falls to the bottom line and the higher your margins (and valuation).  In my post here (September, 2010) I talked about how that concept was core to everything the Service Provider I worked for did.  In my post that announced my move to VCE here (October, 2010) I pointed out how the Vblock helped us drive the concept through the entire infrastructure stack. 

I would argue that there have been a large number of product decisions made by VCE and her parent companies in the last year specifically around this topic:

  1. The concept of the Vblock itself!  The ultimate in operational efficiency on behalf of the customer: procurement, implementation, management, troubleshooting and support all streamlined
  2. The introduction of the Unisphere management framework
  3. The continued development of vCenter plugins to provide better operational transparency to the administrator
  4. The integration of line-of-business specific applications into the Vblock (not just a reference architecture, although we offer those in places as well, but an actual productization of applications onto a Vblock)
  5. The continued streamlining and unification of storage platforms that serve all business cases, not just the generalized ones
  6. The flexibility of stateless computing using the UCS platform and how it streamlines the physical support of the infrastructure
  7. Having a single point of support for the entire infrastructure, reducing the need to manage multiple tickets to resolve issues

I'm sure there are more, but you get the picture.  No company is perfect, and there's always room to improve, but especially in my discussions with the Service Providers, the customers have noticed the shift and appreciate the efforts.  Looking at the road map, both for VCE and her parent companies you can safely expect this trend to continue through 2011, at the infrastructure layer, the management and support layer at with the solutions that are being released.

What will the next big thing be?  I have no idea, just a bunch of educated guesses.  Maybe the SPs are out in front on the concept of Operational Efficiency, and Mike was specifically talking to the Enterprise space.  Heck, maybe I'm misreading the article. :-)  In any case, not only is Operational Efficiency NOT the next big thing, it's something that has been squarely in the sights of VCE and her parent companies for some time. 

Courteous comments (with employer disclosure, please) are always welcome below.  Am I missing the mark here?  Is there another definition of Operational Efficiency that I'm missing?  What do you think?

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3 Responses to The Current Big Thing

  1. Chuck Hollis says:

    After you posted, I went and read Mike’s post, and — yeah — it seems like he’s sort of new to the whole SP space.
    Sure, operational efficiency for any SP is table stakes — but now the conversation has shifted to business strategies, go-to-market, differentiation, etc. And, like you, I get tired of the bashing.
    Oh well.
    — Chuck

  2. I agree, service creation is the phrase I’m hearing everywhere. Now that I can have a Vblock on the floor and running in four weeks, the next challenge is “what do we want to sell” and “who do we want to sell it to.”. Operational Efficiency was something established early on in the process…

  3. Operational efficiency should NOT be a profound topic in this day and age. Isn’t operational efficiency the most basic reason for IT in the first place? It’s a shame that people have lost sight of that and have to be reminded. Good post!