I'm a technology junky; my friends consider me an earlier adopter and routinely use me as their personal IT support service. In consumer electronics, this is fine. I often pay a premium to have the latest and greatest, but also realize that early adoption comes with certain bugs and gotchas.
In the enterprise, things are different. If a new technology goes awry in a corporate production environment, it can affect business, lose money, and costs jobs -- particularly the position of the person who recommended the technology. For these reasons, many IT departments are not early adopters, especially when it comes to making changes to technology that's not considered "broken."
But what's an IT professional to do when vendors are constantly touting their new must-have technology wares? It seems as if every six months there's a new set of buzzwords aimed at redefining and disrupting the data center. In truth, the goal may be to increase vendor sales or set the stage for a calculated future announcement or strategic roadmap. Most IT pros I talk to are simply trying to keep the lights on. They are just getting around to implementing technologies that were deemed "hot" years ago, but only now have evolved to a point where they are truly suitable for real-world use.
New technologies are exciting and interesting. How do you pay attention to what's coming out but evaluate it in practical terms? While lofty concepts and a sense of urgency can make vendor marketing sing, that may not resonate with what's happening today in your enterprise.
My advice is to keep current but don't get too bogged down in the hype. You have a job to do, and that's most likely making sure your data center serves the needs of your business. New technologies will eventually work their way in, but first they'll need to gain some justifiable, field-proven credibility. And that usually comes a few years after all the pundits have told you what you'll be doing next year.
Watch, listen and get involved in your industry to learn about new technology and trends. Just because you're not ready to move ahead with the latest perceived development, or don't buy into the hype, doesn't mean you shouldn't know about it. Attend tech conferences whenever your boss will let you, read blogs (even from vendors), and become active in the tech community. You might not be ready to implement the latest technology now, but concepts are distilled over time. If you're aware of what is happening today, you'll be ready when it's time to make a move tomorrow.
For example, virtualization has been the most disruptive technology in the past 20 years or so. It has seen its share of false promises, but it did arrive and has dramatically transformed the IT landscape. Now as most companies have embraced virtualization, it's time to consider what the next move is. Will it be cloud? Will it be software-defined infrastructure? Will you have an all-flash data center?
It's definitely an interesting time to be in IT, and we should be fully aware of new developments, although we may not immediately act on them. It is, after all, critical to keep the bleeding edge of technology from draining your company.
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.