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Beep, beep – it's our 2016 buzzword detector. We see you, 'complexity'

Get ready to soak legacy vendors

Sysadmin blog A new marketing push by legacy tech vendors that I expect will be particularly beloved by old school storage vendors is afoot: prepare for the "complexity" onslaught. The answer to lower total cost of ownership (TCO) claims made by the likes of public cloud or hyperconvergence vendors is going to be money funneled into endless blog posts and presentations about how complex these solutions are.

There's a certain vagueness about the use of the term complexity required for this marketing to work. For example, marketers are going to need to avoid distinctions between operational and technical complexity.

Something can be technically complex, but if you don't need to fix it, does it matter? Any car made after fuel injection became a thing is way too complex for me to build or maintain, but that doesn't affect my ability to use them. The mechanic does regular maintenance and an inconsequential amount of money to the motor association every year means that even when I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken car, someone will turn up to solve the problem for me.

In the '80s, television repair shops existed. I could tell you where a dozen or so existed within a 10-minute drive of my house. Today, there are less than a dozen places in the whole of the metro area that are willing to give fixing your TV a try, and most of them are really struggling.

Similarly, most people don't care about the complexity of their smartphone's hardware. If it dies they get a new one. Rarely, they might bring it to a niche smartphone repair shop. The cost of these (admittedly consumer) goods has just gotten so low that we can simply chuck them out and buy new ones.

We are nearly at this tipping point with a lot of IT infrastructure. Instead of fixing individual components or mucking about with configurations, we can just chuck the whole thing (or reset to defaults) and continue on with actually using our infrastructure instead of wasting effort fixing it.

For vertically integrated infrastructure elements like hyperconverged appliances, the yearly support contract with the vendor covers problem resolution. Like paying your fee to the motor club every year, it's someone else's problem if the thing breaks down. You might need a loaner to get through the crunch but, as with cars, that's not really a big deal in the world of hyperconverged appliances.

If zero downtime was a huge deal for you, then you had a disaster recovery plan in place and tested it regularly. If not, then a few hours of downtime probably isn't going to end your business. The same sort of arguments apply to the public cloud.

Yes, the public cloud does stop working occasionally. Like any other collection of computers it can and will go phut without warning, usually because a human did something silly. Oh well.

If it is a 24/7 critical service (such as a website) then you should be running that across multiple zones, or better yet multiple providers. You still need to do backups and worry about disaster recovery in the cloud. The difference is that such things are usually a lot easier to accomplish in the public cloud, though you do tend to pay for the privilege.

What we're seeing, then, is the move away from the importance of specialists and specialist vendors towards generalists and integrated vendors. You pay more up front to your vendor for the integrated widgets, and more in support costs than you would for a collection of specialist gear. On the other hand, you don't have to assemble it and you don't have to keep a collection of specialists on staff.

This makes the "complexity" marketing a great move by legacy vendors. 2016 is already seeing everyone and their dog banging the DevOps drum, almost all of which is about hardware, software and services whose unstated (but obvious) goal is to reduce the headcount of operations teams.

With operations teams already paranoid about developers coming for their salaries, sowing seeds that a move to an appliance mentality will create jobs pressure from the other end is sure to find fertile ground.

The size of the business will have a big impact on how successful this marketing push is going to be. Small business sysadmins run around all day long with their hair constantly on fire and anything that promises to reduce the number of fires they have to fight is quickly embraced. The midmarket figured this out ages ago and has been obsessed with infrastructure appliances for almost a decade.

The battleground for this marketing then is the enterprise. The big bucks. So prepare for a year of inaccurate marketing about how complexity negates claimed TCO considerations. Get your battle cards ready and draft reasons why appliances will result in long-term cost efficiency.

The desperation of the legacy vendors is tangible, and those who go into sales calls with legacy vendors prepared are going to get absolutely unreal deals this year. ®

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