I believe we’re at the precipice of a burst of innovation that will change the tech industry for years to come. This transition time can feel very chaotic, but we can keep our bearings by learning from the lessons of tech history.

When blogging is prophetic

The world is changing right in front of our eyes. I wrote that blog post 12 years ago (in 2009). I was frustrated at the social media pundits and gurus. They wanted to make sure the emerging field was buttoned up like old marketing and PR. I could see the opportunity to connect all, and of course I disagreed. Looking back, I was right about social media. But it has changed the world in ways I never imagined, and many of them are not good. It’s hard to read that post now and see my optimism about the technology.

I revisited the post in 2016, this time because I could no longer tolerate some of the clouderati’s ridiculous ramblings about the cloud. I forgot that one reason I started blogging was my frustration at the leaders at my employer wouldn’t let me work on virtualization, let alone cloud. Of course, I was at a big storage company who couldn’t see past losing revenue to the cloud.

Verifying predictions with tech history

This was my cloud prediction six years ago:

If people have already gone full cloud, they don’t know how to talk to traditional IT people who are trying to make sense of this seismic shift that has happened. Traditional IT people don’t have the words yet to ask for what they need to get to cloud without disrupting the business.

So how are we doing with the communication between traditional and cloud-native folks? While things are better, there is still a divide. For instance, I still hear the same very judgmental things from influencers. “Cloud people are modern. Young. They wear hoodies and jeans. Datacenter people are old, set in their ways, don’t want to learn. They wear suits.” Communication shouldn’t be influenced by how we look or what age we are. And it has nothing to do with why one should choose cloud over anything else.

Perhaps we simply haven’t accepted that cloud is an operating model that can be implemented on-premises. Surely what people from all generations just want to work on meaningful projects. And since we’re all working from home these days, does it matter what we wear?

Learn from the cycles of history

In tech, you’ll hear leaders say, “fail fast”. Instead of learning from failures, it seems as if some of them would rather forget the past altogether. However, since we’re in a transitional time in technology, can we learn from patterns tech history shows us?

I put these charts together to show patterns in the years of innovative change in tech, going back to the mainframe days. In chart 1 below, you see the innovations around the mainframe. That happened in the 1940s and 50s. That’s not even 100 years ago!

In the 70s we saw a handful of innovations (Unix, Linux, Microsoft) and then the burst of innovation around virtualization and containers in the 1990s and 2000s.

I wonder if during the lull in the 80s there were experts who claimed to know what was going to happen, but just repainted the mainframe way to do things? And were there people like me who got annoyed at the “experts” ?


Chart 1

Chart 2 shows some of the innovations that were born from the burst of the virtualization and container innovation in the 2000s and in the 2010s. First we saw the appearance of public cloud platforms, followed by container management tools for the enterprise.

Chart 2


Ignore those with no vision

A few caveats about my charts. In both charts above, ignore the month/days, I couldn’t figure out how to only display a year. I didn’t include hardware, although I may go back and add that. The thing that really stood out to me is there is a lot of innovation, a gap as the innovation is adopted through the hype cycle. Then you see a couple of pretty big innovations (and my guess is that those probably map to hardware innovation), another gap as that innovation is absorbed, and then another burst of innovation. I bet you could overlay a hype cycle on these charts as well.

I believe we’re in another one of those lulls, right before we are hit with a ton of innovation. What a time to be in IT!

If you look at chart 2, we’re clearly in a downtime. That means our next innovation burst is imminent, people are working on it right now! It also means there are pundits out there telling us what these new innovations mean, when most of them really have no idea what’s going to happen.

What’s next?

Cloud doesn’t have to be what experts are insisting that it is. Here’s my bet: every application will be designed to live on the architecture that gives the best performance for the person (or thing) that will consume it.  We’ll need all the innovations of the past 50 years to accomplish this. We’ll also need the burst of innovation that should be hitting us very soon.

Do your best to ignore the influencers. Their schtick is designed to get attention, most of the time they don’t give the best advice. There is so much to do and learn, and we need everyone who wants to be in tech involved, contributing their unique ides. You don’t need to dress or act like anyone to share in the abundance.

Real Talk

It is normal to be anxious in this lull between big innovations. Add in a pandemic and it’s easy to let that anxiety get the best of you. Learn all you can, and if something really fascinates you, become the expert. There’s so much going on right now that I guarantee you there is plenty of room to make your mark. Blog about it – learn out loud! Writing about what you are learning will help others, and will connect you to the others who are thinking about the future.

Let go of how we have been doing datacenters, before but don’t forget all that you have learned. Things are evolving, but that doesn’t mean we are starting from zero. You’re part of an industry at time in history where you can be one of the first to do really innovative things. This is no time to try to be an influencer, there is tech history to be made!

Stay on target with tech history and become the pundit you want to see in the world!