Upon departure from this year's Symantec Vision, it is well worth taking a backward glance at the key takeaways from conversations with Symantec executives and customers this week. Those takeaways provide interesting insights into the spectrum of possibilities that are driving next generation data center evolution. The possibilities for Symantec are clearly differentiated from some of the key vendors in the landscape, and provide, for many administrators, a wholly more likable picture of the next generation data center than what we see coming from other key vendors.
In the past year, nearly every major IT vendor has massively extended their reach into other IT domains, with either significant new or acquired infrastructure and application technologies. The net results are vendor portfolios that look more stack-like, with many more closely integrated parts within large packaged together solutions (although in fairness, we're betting on the come here, because frankly I've seen very little of the level of integration that should be there). The problem is, IT systems are sundry, largely because of how that sundry collection extends business capabilities, and no customer can or wants to limit their capabilities for the favor of consolidation under a single vendor's banner. Moreover, such a move would have tremendous additional areas of compromise; risks in lack of "fit and finish", vendor pricing lock-in, limited visibility into evolving competitive IT solutions, lowered rates of strategic adaptation, and many more.
With those compromises in mind, what is driving this pursuit of the "stack"? Largely the idea of repeatability and elasticity behind the buzz of the cloud, aka utility (in the private incarnation of cloud). Not just scaling up, but scaling up and out within and across layers - infrastructure as well as applications - and then turning down infrastructure when it becomes unused. Within closely integrated, vendor proprietary stacks, vendors see elasticism as more easily delivered, and quite possibly more capable - after all, look where attempts to standardize for heterogeneous management have taken us today, into territories of watered down interfaces and protocols that offer little deep integration into the key system capabilities that are hotly contested differentiators between vendors.
In contrast to such compromises, as cloud infrastructures and stacks march forward, we will find vendors without full stacks doing battle with broader horizontal integrations, by innovating around how different products are tied together, to give the heterogeneous IT infrastructure a breadth and depth of management capabilities that may well vie with stack vendors. This is not far fetched, in fact there is a rich background of key lessons that have been learned across multiple generations of products - from vast all encompassing management frameworks, to more focused frameworks like the many valiant but fallen innovators intent upon building solutions just for the virtual infrastructure. In the midst of those lessons, the infrastructure has changed - through virtualization, more atomic and distributable application components, and evolving capabilities within each infrastructure domain.
There are a few vendors that are more interesting to watch in this "horizontal management" space than others. Vendors who have great IP to do battle with, and are less encumbered by certain types of investments or legacies within different IT domains; hardware, or hard to adapt legacy frameworks for example.
This is what makes companies like Symantec interesting to watch. Few legacies to drag along - after all, the core platforms within their business have long been products at the center of their market and forced to evolve under competitive pressure. Meanwhile, they are surrounded by interesting and complementary technologies. The potential is tremendous, and it is easy to imagine all manner of possibilities. Storage system management that is overlaid with file systems able to scale and manipulate stored data, for the betterment of associated data protection, archiving, and even provisioning practices, across all tiers of an infrastructure, including the cloud. Management and provisioning frameworks that integrate with stored data, to enable workload intelligent provisioning and change, inclusive of system images and application data. Security systems that protect but also leverage their deep introspection to inform every other management domain of the enterprise. The Symantec vision can easily be set upon a solution set that bridges the divide between information and data in the enterprise, and no longer manages information on top of the data, but leverages information for the management of every piece of the infrastructure. Within that vision, there isn't just "horizontal-ness", but also tremendous depth in how the individual capabilities of any given infrastructure or application domain might be extended by a cross domain span of integrated management solutions that reach deeper into certain domains that need it.
Our attention remains riveted on how Symantec shows progress in the face of this integration potential. For Symantec, this potential is and has been tremendous. Kudos to the Vision team for drawing it out further this year.
posted by: Jeff Boles