I’d Rather have a Jeep and a Tent than an RV


If you are like me (hopefully you’re not), you just shoved a 5-state travel-a-palooza into three days of your short holiday. If you did, you might have seen me driving my breadbox on four wheels.  When I say breadbox, I mean my square; right angled 4-door Jeep Wrangler with manual 6-speed and limited slip differential.  I expect your response to this new insight is… “Why is this successful IT leader hauling around like a college wannabe in a Jeep and not in some token of European engineered refinement?” I offer in response, because my mountain bike and kayak fit great on it whether the top is up or down…  When I said “breadbox”, you might have thought I was talking about the other breadbox on the road, the recreational vehicle or “RV” as we’ve come to call this elephant of the road.  I saw a few while driving, but I wasn’t that poor soul.

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Thinking about these two ambulatory machines does however provide me with a great metaphor for the change we see in the IT industry. Let me explain further… On the East coast USA, we tend all plan, for our families, the proverbial trip through the Western United States (aka #TripOutWest). When one plans such a trip, you end up considering taking an RV along for the ride. I have considered this trip myself. Each time I have I always end up back in the same position; I would rather have a Jeep and a tent, than an RV.

First off RV’s are super expensive and don’t hold their value.  They not only cost a lot, they cost even more to run them.  They are bulky and lumbering to drive. Then when its time to park, you pull into a questionable camp ground, where you and a hundred guys named “Bubba” park diagonally 10 feet apart, all loosely connected to an aromatic septic system, which you had to hook up, right after you balanced the RV with stands. For this pleasure you spend $59.99 a night. We’re not done. Because your transportation became your immobile home, you have additionally been hauling a trailer with a golf cart on the back, or…. Yep you guessed it… a Jeep.

Alternately, you can optimize your story. A Jeep is cheaper, more agile, and flatly more fun than an RV. I can get there faster, drive further, and climb trails if I like. From within the ample trunk space, I can grab the tent, walk a couple miles into the woods and experience real camping; finding the wilderness I so long to commune with (not Bubba’s cigar smoke).  Additionally, there are many adequate Motor Lodges where I can rent a room for $59.99 a night providing me better comforts of home than my RV’s shower/toilet combo.  Better yet, since I am sleeping under the stars for some of the trip, I can spend even more on my rooms.  Bottom-line I have a cheaper, more profound experience, and I am not burdened by excessive weight and complexity.

This brings me to IT and the changes we are experiencing as we evolve to what IDC has coined the “Third Platform”. Social is big, the global-mobile user has become the new user. We have the consumerization of the application as platforms burst into a seeming-less infinite number of business services functionality. Cloud computing collapses traditional data center strategies; and big data provides new opportunities for revenue and customer service for those who can master it. If the third platform is your “Trip out West”, how do you choose your tools?  Do you want an RV?  All in one does everything and yet nothing well approach?  Probably not.

The economics for re-platforming are now available. Companies are looking at redefining their landscape to best stage for opportunity. Through this process, workloads like OLTP and OLAP aren’t going away they are just becoming less value-able and less optimal to be the top of the food chain any longer; if compared to new business services like “real-time remote decision support” as an example.  However, new and faster doesn’t mean you can now apply a one-size-fits-all approach.  Every company has to reassess the workloads of the future and build out IT to support that. Or within the metaphor, build IT like a “Jeep and a tent”. The jeep is your core IT competencies, the hotel is your off-prem compute when you need it, the tent is your efficient provisioning and orchestration that increases your ability to respond and exploit opportunities that present themselves.

I can continue to apply the metaphor to the software industry. I think software vendors have to additionally re-think the concept of “platform”. I question the staying power and momentum of the traditional platform play as an effort to stem the tides of change that rage against this model. Platform providers need to free themselves from the concept of being a stand-alone platform and become collection of compute engines and value based processes that are part of an interconnected network of compute and connectivity where data and activities flow across. Otherwise the “platform” will be just another node on an endless network of nodes becoming irrelevant. Everyone else, who is competing on this floating field of play, will have decoupled from the burden of “platform” and become 100% focused on creating inter-operable, purpose-built computing at lightening speeds.

IMG_0761Though an iconic platform of the past, the Jeep still envelopes the principles of what we want in the future: agility, toughness, stability, and performance at a fair value. My recommendation…buy a Jeep, lift kit is optional.

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