We spoke first about the intangible inputs and benefits of data management, which I could talk about all day. But the second topic, about three minutes into our chat on the fate of IT, is where Dave not so much uncovered as crystallized a series of converging trends many of us are thinking about today.
Dave talks about a perfect storm (coincidentally well before events in Japan) arriving for IT that will be so overwhelming that "IT shops as we know them today will be nearly extinct five years from now."
That conclusion will come as a shock to some and probably not to others, but coming from Dave Wells, a person as well grounded as anyone in the fundamentals of our industry, it should carry added weight.
The "perfect storm" Dave is marshaling into an upcoming keynote at Enterprise Data World has four components (just like the basic elements, I noted), in this case, economic, technological, political and sociological.
The economic component comes from the downturn and partial recovery where companies cut IT and then rebounded to find they could live without parts of IT going forward. What they couldn't live without, Dave says, they found better ways to do.
The technology component arrives with the cloud and realization over time that companies will no longer need to run their own data centers. The utility model of consumption, as we know, is pay as you go, meaning companies don't need to own capacity for peak consumption periods.
The political influence that comes from reduced IT spend is financial but also a power shift of political influence in that IT has stopped being a competitive advantage creator (to the extent that it was or was perceived to have been, I would add).
Finally, the sociological influence arrives with a new generation of business managers who are not intimidated by technology, who grew up with technology, who are tech savvy, who can't be baffled by buzzwords.
Again, I don't think Dave has tread new ground as much as he has summarized it very succinctly. You'll hear related themes from a bunch of other experts I spoke with at the conference. And Dave's stance is neither doom nor gloom about the prospects for businesses.
"Companies will be in better position for disaster recovery and business resumption, he adds. "On top of the cloud comes virtualization. That means I can save an entire computer operation, an entire data center in an executing state as if it was a document, pipe it across fiber cable halfway around the world and resume processing."
Dave's belief is that the decline of IT shops as we know them today will leave the folks manning them with two significant responsibilities. One is in the managing of enterprise data, and another is the brokering of services. Someone has to make the agreements with those cloud service providers for the SaaS and DaaS and so on, as he says.
Though he's wary of predictions, including his own, besides observing that these effects will vary over time by industry and culture, I can't find much to disagree with. Propriety, risk and regulation will influence proceedings, and immature industries, like health care, are likely to need to develop and own systems over time until the time they can start to be offloaded.
So, yes, not tomorrow or next week or next year maybe, but we've seen enough about perfect storms in the last week to believe in things we've never seen before take place in pretty short order that turn things upside down.