Hardware Knowledge is Becoming Less Important for Enterprise IT Buyers

One of the bigger changes in enterprise computing, with the advent of cloud computing, is that customers increasingly can de-emphasize hardware and not worry so much about the platforms software runs upon.

Conversely, Google infrastructure czar Urs Hölzle also argues that one of the key advantages of the cloud is that customers can get the benefits of new hardware without having to completely rework their software.

That, in turn, might lead to an easier hardware upgrade cycle than has generally been the case in the past. That advantage should apply both to Google and its cloud operations, as well as enterprise customer platforms. Google, for example, could safely experiment with a variety of hardware platforms without disrupting customer experience.

Hölzle sees a future where the overwhelming majority of customers won't even worry about what type of compute instance their workloads are running on. Instead, platforms will be responsible for intelligently suggesting what sort of compute resources customers should use and keep pace with what they need.

"So I hope, five years from now, one percent of cloud customers know the word 'machine type,' and 99 percent say 'I've never thought about it,"Hölzle said.

In a real sense, such changes also illustrate how enterprise applications are changing. Decades ago, enterprise computing was much more a case of buying the right hardware, installing and maintaining it.

With the shift to cloud, “computing” increasingly becomes a matter of what software enterprises and other businesses want to use, as provisioning from the cloud is a rather simple matter of ensuring that adequate quality bandwidth is available.

In a market where both computing and applications are managed services, even the process of buying potentially can change. To a growing extent, buying and using software and computing becomes a matter of buying a managed service.

At least in principle, that should mean suppliers of computing apps and platforms can expand from system integrators, value-added resellers and distributors to include new services specialists who no longer need to be as knowledgeable about computing platforms. In other words, where “knowing about routers and how to set them up and keep them running” once was a foundational skill set, that will be less true in the future, where knowledge about how particular software works in particular industry verticals will be more important.
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