Not so crazy after all: 4 Silicon Valley notions IT really likes

It takes a few years for the tech industry's cool ideas to get traction in mainstream IT, although many still don't

Not so crazy after all: 4 Silicon Valley notions IT really likes

When I go to practitioner conferences outside Silicon Valley, I'm reminded of the separation between the tech industry's notions and what IT organizations deal with every day. It's like they're living in separate worlds.

But I've noticed a few recent Silicon Valley concepts now taking root in the mainstream of IT, after years of being the next big thing within the Valley itself. Both their migration into the real world and the fact that mainstream IT doesn't jump onto the latest technology bandwagons are good because mainstream IT does need to evolve, but it also needs to be careful about what Silicon Valley notions it adopts.

What cool concepts are making their way into mainstream IT from the current fads in Silicon Valley?

One is devops, the more flexible approach to development testing and deployment that breaks down barriers between developers and IT operations staff. In my admittedly unscientific sample of practitioner conferences, I'm seeing the on-the-ground IT pros begin to try the concept, dealing with the political issues that arise when you break down ownership boundaries while trying to get the pace advantages that devops promises -- a pace they need to get to in the modern world where IT projects simply can't take years any longer.

Devops is an unnatural notion for many IT organizations, precisely because it reduces organizational barriers designed for safety, cost management, and control. But it's also a natural followup to agile development and Lean-based product development, which have been a big focus in mainstream IT in the last five years -- again, entering the mainstream years after they were the cool thing in Silicon Valley.

The use of the public cloud is also becoming mainstream, as fears around security and control have given way to the reality that IT needs to focus on getting things done fast and efficiently, and the cloud can safely and effectively provide the platform for doing so.

Responsive design, to accommodate the broad variety of desktop and mobile screens users and customers have, is also beginning to gain traction in the mainstream. It's old news in Silicon Valley, but finally becoming part of application design thinking elsewhere.

Machine learning is the newest darling of Silicon Valley, and it has already gotten the interest of mainstream IT, even if only in the early phases of understanding and perhaps some testing. Still, it's gained rapid interest outside Silicon Valley, suggesting this notion may fast-track its way into mainstream IT.

What's not mainstream yet?

PaaS seems to have gone nowhere. Developers still work and test locally, and devops encourages that local work. It's hard to see PaaS ever taking off.

Mobile devices are now mainstream, but mobile management and mobile applications still seem very siloed from what IT delivers to the desktop. I suspect it'll take years before the notions of omnidevice development, deployment, and management become mainstream, though in Silicon Valley it seems to be such an obvious move. Microsoft certainly thinks so, and that may be the critical support IT needs to make the leap.

Container technologies like Docker are one of the current tech industry darlings; they're an easier, lighter, more flexible way to deliver applications across systems than the virtual machines that became mainstream nearly a decade ago. But so far, these seem to be science fiction notions in mainstream IT -- something to read and think about but not yet commit to. Maybe containers will gain traction, but maybe not.

Likewise, earlier container-style notions like MBaaS and the newer notion of microservices architecture seem to have gained little mainstream IT traction, though microservices is new enough where, like containers, it still stands a chance.

It's an old saying that the future is already here, albeit unevenly distributed. It's also a true saying. Silicon Valley is constantly inventing futures, but only some of them leave the Valley.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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