1. Are We Sure Netflix is Just an Edge Case?

    © 2013 Jeff Sussna, Ingineering.IT

    In an otherwise excellent post, Ben Kepes calls Netflix an outlier whose approach to cloud doesn’t map well to most enterprises’ needs. This view seems to be prevalent among cloud observers. I feel the need to take mild exception to it, as I believe it overstates the current state of affairs. It assumes that current enterprise legacy application architectures are static, and that IT organizations prefer to forklift them onto so-called “enterprise clouds”. In my experience, by contrast, many enterprises are questioning the wisdom and viability of the forklift approach.

    IT organizations are facing accelerating pressure to support companies’ growing need for business agility, innovation, customer responsiveness, and adaptability. This pressure doesn’t stop with so-called systems of engagement. It goes all the way back to systems of record. In fact, the distinction between the two is starting to erode. Enterprises are responding to this pressure by upgrading application architectures within and around the system-of-record tier. They are starting to view the “stability” of their legacy applications as a liability rather than as an asset.

    The need for business agility translates to technical needs for improved scalability, resilience, and composability. At least some enterprises are recognizing that forklifting applications to the cloud does little to remove architectural limitations that impede these technical requirements. The cost of forklifting, however, is significant, in terms of time, resources, and risk. Enterprises are therefore considering infrastructure transformations to accompany application transformations. These organizations view Netflix and its ilk, not as something alien or distasteful, but as the poster children for successful 21st-century IT.

    It’s certainly true that, a hundred years from now, some application will be running on a mainframe in the basement of a corporate office somewhere. I think, though, that it’s dangerous to underestimate the accelerating rate of change, or enterprise IT’s growing openness to new ways of doing things, at all levels of the technology stack. It’s also dangerous to assume that the duality between legacy and cutting-edge IT, or between systems of engagement and systems of record duality is standing still.


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