IT’s the way that you say it: The pitfalls of parlance

Have we allowed an obsession around priority setting to allow marketers to influence our judgement?

It may be an early tangent, but think of how a traditional Western meal is described. It comprises a main element, usually a significant protein source, and then in another breath, the accompaniments. Has this approach of descending significance, when applied to an IT service, inadvertently degraded some technologies and solutions to be second class? Arguably, the larger proportion of healthy nutrition in a meal comes from the variety of complementary additions, as seen here from the Harvard School of Public Health. Is it possible that when considering an IT service we could be over-signifying the importance of components?

When you talk about a physical server, more often than not you describe the components in a consistent order: namely Processor, then Memory, Network and Storage. In terms of sustaining a service. this is arguably the reverse order of importance when it comes keeping your business operations stable and safe. When you ask the question, “where is the ‘personality’ of my business held?,” the answer is persistently in the Storage layer. The Network, Memory and CPU have transient roles and are replaceable with the next commodity.

The reason for the apparent disarray cannot be attributed to the expense of the component that establishes the order. Under a variety of architectures, the Storage (SAN/NAS) can be costlier than the other components, and Networks (LAN/WAN) are invested in more than Memory and CPU (perhaps with the exception of some computational clusters).

In my opinion it comes down to familiarity, which in turn comes down to marketing. People are sufficiently comfortable with the idea of CPU and Memory, and the semiconductor industry has done a great job of keeping it that way.

In the world of smartphones and tablets, conversely, where the personality of device is almost completely detached from the physical handheld device and is now very close to being its own virtual shadow in the Cloud, the focus is on the inbuilt persistent storage. That’s why we hear about “a 32 gig iPhone” yet it’s the advances in the CPU, Memory and Screen technology that deliver the biggest changes in user behaviour. Did you even know the amount of actual RAM that an iPhone has? Probably not, as you are not meant to care. It’s about “the experience.”

In general, marketing and product management have conditioned us to be attracted to components of products which have the most opportunity for increased margin with the least deviation from a standard build. The cost to manufacture the entry-level product of the same family of server or phone covers the core technology in each. When we select a faster processor in a server or more storage in a smartphone, our desires should be tempered by a need-versus-want comparison and more consideration should be applied to the associated services that complete our experience. This wider view reduces the need for an expensive showpiece, mitigates unnecessary duplication and facilitates investment in complementary services that may keep your business running on that inevitable rainy day.

In the IT market, there are many products and services from vendors that, by nature, want to maximise their share of your available budget. But through the use of trusted advisors, it is possible to become an informed decision-maker and make the right IT investments that deliver value for your business today and tomorrow.

Feedback is always welcome, so feel free to get in touch @glennaugustus.

Glenn Augustus

As a Technologist in CSC’s Global Infrastructure Services, Glenn Augustus helps clients use technology to realise effective IT through the development of CSC’s infrastructure services portfolio. He has held a variety of senior architecture and engineering positions within CSC before becoming Global Offering Manager for CSC’s Storage as a Service and most recently Chief Technologist for Compute. Glenn lives with his family in the United Kingdom.


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