Why “Disruptive Technology” makes CIO’s run the other way.

Since when has it become cool to be disruptive?  We’ve all heard it lately: “We are a disruptive technology” “Our scale-up scale-out, cloud based, big data driven, PaaS fired, all flash, wearable, HTML7 (satire)  platform disrupts everything you do Mrs. Customer”.  It feels a bit like that annoying coffee shop order, hold the disruption.

The history of it all

Thank VMware for coining the notion of disruptive technology in recent years when their server virtualization made inroads into the datacenter.  I think we all agree, virtualization changed the datacenter for the better, however, it wasn’t easy along the way.  Disruption happened and in many cases it wasn’t pretty.  Countless tier 1 business applications were hastily pushed into virtualized environments, only to perform poorly and cause adoption crawl.  The only thing that got disrupted were customer businesses..  Too Much, Too Soon – More on this in another post.

The challenge today

Since the virtualization and cloud revolution began, nearly every technology company seemed to promise CIO’s everywhere “disruptive technology coming to a datacenter near you”.  We, as an industry, have failed, promising our customers disruption when we should be promising them a better way.  Discussing this with a few savvy CIO’s, they pointed out that the only place disruption happens is with competing vendors; business as usual vs. the innovator. If businesses suffer a service disruption through redesign, architecture and deployment, then the new technology gets stalled in POCs, conceptual design meetings, etc.  CIO’s that enjoy gainful employment are slow to disrupt anything as stability reigns supreme. Interesting thought.

Evolving the statement

Perhaps a better way to highlight the new value to customers is to highlight “Non-Disruption”.  Most customers are only able to digest incremental change vs. datacenter renovating forklift moves to dot.next.  The technology that provides the most value, in the quickest time, with the least amount of disruption, perceived or otherwise, wins.  Sounds easy right?

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

Now this one quote takes all of what I just wrote and turns it upside down!  True innovators should never be happy with incremental change; that flies in the face of what innovators live for.  However, adoption requires a path that is sometimes entirely different from innovation.  Historically, it took over 20 years for automobile usage to go from 8,000 to 8 Million cars. Farmers, horse owners and others pushed back because the cars scared horses, they had hay to sell, etc..  Protests ensued to keep business as usual.  The funny thing is: the car did not change drastically in that time-frame either, meaning the innovation was ahead of the curve.  However, as automobiles became less of a disruption to daily life and horse ownership continued to become more of a burden, the tipping point happened.  It wasn’t a disruption, it was a non-disruption at that point.

In closing, technology and innovation is an amazing thing in most cases, but we are all responsible for stewarding the way forward in the least disruptive, most impactful way.  CIO’s want innovation that is incrementally easy to implement and operate, else it’s just a “noisy car” in a sea of horses!

Full disclosure: I work for a company, PernixData, that is innovating a major paradigm shift in the storage market, but in a non-disruptive way (Learn more here to see how we are showing customers a better way forward http://www.pernixdata.com).  It’s fun to see the change and impact to customers when they realize just how simply storage performance can be improved.

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