Actifio is now part of Google Cloud. Read the full announcement.

If It Blinks, It Stinks: Why IT Infrastructure Is Dead

We spend a lot of our time speaking to customers about data virtualization, application development and copy data. We spend so much time with the topic that we take it for granted that everyone realizes just how much things have changed. That everyone recognizes the massive changes taking place throughout the marketplace.

Actifio set out to help clients manage, access, and protect their application data. We want to help them save time and money while reducing complexity. As blinking lights infrastructure becomes a commodity, applications have never been more strategic. We’re watching full stack virtualization re-make enterprise technology. We’re watching the enterprise landscape substantially remake itself. We’re watching the end of blinking infrastructure.

Some changes, like the purchase of EMC by Dell, are obvious and dramatic. And it’s ironic that the company that pioneered high-cost high-value systems will be acquired by a company that pioneered high-volume low-cost commodity systems. It’ll be very interesting to watch how those two cultures blend. Or not.

graveyard_imgHowever, this is not an isolated example. Traditional and well established companies have compelling reasons to remake themselves and it’s been going on for several years. Think about GE’s narrowing focus, selling NBC as well as its metering and financial services businesses. They’ve announced a new “GE Digital” division near Silicon Valley and they’re moving their headquarters to Boston’s innovation district with the intent to remake themselves as “a top 10 software company.” This is an industrial conglomerate that’s been part of the Dow Jones Industrials since 1907! They won’t stop making locomotives and jet engines but they’ll load them up with software controlled sensors. GE will still compete with Siemens and Caterpillar, but now they’ll also be competing with SAP and IBM. That’s different.

EMC had their own go at a similar shift when it invested in and promoted VMware virtualization – delivering compute services through software. They were credited with vision. They saw it before others did. But they were still building boxes too, and if you’re building a box you have a problem.

It’s clear now that the future is about applications, not the box. Customers get it. They understand how Actifio has decoupled data from both the application and the data center.

What they really care about is the data. They can buy any storage they want. It’s data that’s most important.

Even people with long experience in IT, especially in the storage business, have come to realize that the future is software. Established storage businesses were built to sell storage boxes. In the process, vendors created the long tail of infrastructure that inhibits flexible movement to the cloud. But if the data stays with the application and not the box, it doesn’t matter where information lives.

Actifio has changed how data is managed accessed and stored. We’ve moved past the need for applications and infrastructure to be tightly coupled. Now we have infrastructure on demand with cloud and virtualized services. Physical systems no longer hold us down.

We’re also helping our clients add business value through apps. We don’t care if you have EMC storage or HP servers. The software just runs, and you can put the data anywhere you like.

Think about the everyday capabilities we all use, Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, each an industry leader. But, no theaters, no cars, not a single room. It’s what’s happening to every successful enterprise – complete commoditization of brick and mortar. Every company is a software company. So, it’s a phenomenal time to be on a software team, but not so much for the infrastructure guys.

These new companies have become so valuable because there’s a shift in how people view value. The cost and value of infrastructure is enormously lower. Programmers are way more productive. They’re using drag and drop tools that push development faster. A few talented developers deliver value to their businesses that once required years of work and legions of developers. And the market gets bigger every day.

The software shift also means new entrants can create valuable businesses faster. New entrants – unburdened by legacy infrastructure, processes, and culture – have an advantage in their ability to establish a continuous deployment model, and iterate toward a business model that works.

While established business may be burdened, they are not without options. They can still call on reserves of brand trust, transaction volume, and relevant data. They can make the shift to create new strategies to serve loyal clients. Still, they need to do it quickly. If fast is the new big, any large established enterprise will find the required pace of change a big challenge (Google, Facebook or Apple may be exceptions).

Actifio customers, especially new business entrants, have an enormous advantage. We help them to cost effectively access, manage and store their data, and do it dramatically faster. We’ve helped many to revolutionize the way they do application development, to advance rapidly, to make their businesses truly digital.

Software really is eating the world, as our friends at Andreessen Horowitz said a good while ago. A public market analyst we were talking with more recently put it even more bluntly: “If it blinks, it stinks.”

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