Recently, I was watching a morning news program that did a story on the rise of specialized fitness centers, the ones that focus on a single activity, whether it's spinning classes, yoga, or boxing. The distinguishing feature of these centers is the specialization and personalization you don't get at a "mega gym." This got me to thinking about other areas where we're seeing specialization over generalization. That, of course, led me to thinking about enterprise IT and consumer electronics in general.
For years it seemed that the "single pane of glass" was the holy grail of IT. One console to do it all, and one application to open and use throughout the day. Who wouldn't want just one application to configure, learn, and accomplish all IT tasks?
It's a great concept. But the problem with this approach is generalization.
It's easy for an application to do a bunch of things, but next to impossible for it to do all of them very well. As software applications grow and evolve, they do more and more -- but they also get more and more complex. From a development standpoint, it also becomes very difficult for vendors to continually update their software to support the latest platforms, while maintaining backward-compatibility with all previous functionality.
It seems that as soon as we finally get things working just right in the data center, along comes a new technology that changes everything…like virtualization. Virtualization has posed the biggest disruption to the data center in the past 20 years, and has led to a massive surge of specialized vendors with hardware and software to help manage and protect it. This has also caused many of the previously established data center technologies to retrofit their solutions to support virtualization.
So, with the rise of specialty vendors, and waiting for legacy vendors to "catch up," data center managers started deploying specialized applications. This, in turn, prompted legacy vendors to start screaming about the "single pane of glass" concept for managing and protecting data centers.
But seriously, should you really rely on a "single pane of glass?" Do you do all of your shopping at one mega store? Do you consume all digital content on a single device? Chances are you don't, because after all, you want personalized service or you'd rather have "the right tool for the job."
If the consumerization of IT has taught us anything, it's that people want choice and they prefer ease-of-use over the corporate standard. We also realize that bigger doesn't always mean better. In fact, I believe that when it comes to those mega-software "single pane of glass" solutions, data centers are probably using only a fraction of their functionality.
Ideas and technology might seem appealing and palatable on PowerPoint, but often the actual implementation can tie your stomach in knots. How could an area undergoing such dramatic change as the data center -- fueled by an entire IT ecosystem of vendors -- be managed effectively under a single pane of glass without constantly requiring patches or shattering altogether? A "one size fits all" approach might seem like the answer, but "super-sized" often means more of the stuff you don't need and a lack of the ingredients you really do.
Specialization is not a bad thing when it means doing a job well.
Doug Hazelman is vice president of product strategy for Veeam Software, a provider of backup, replication and virtualization management solutions for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V.