It has been a great month for speculation about major technology vendors acquiring each other, or buying still more minor players, though there is a notable silence from the vendors themselves. Why so many rumours, blog posts and trade press comments? Well, my view is that the ‘structure’ of the technology being deployed to build solutions is changing with the advent of a new generation of technology. Look with fresh eyes at the full virtualised cloud computing resources and services-oriented software on top, and it begs the question about the products needed in a major vendor’s line up.
What started me thinking this way was General Dynamics winning a contract for a UK Regional School Authority for a complete desktop refresh using their own technology. I couldn’t see how, or why, a top US defence contractor would be looking to win a desktop-refresh contract in northern England. The solution is built using General Dynamics’ own devices, meaning desktop, mobile, or even smart phone units that connect by 3G anywhere or locally through WiFi, or WiMax both using public and privately provided hot spots. There is not much in the box as these are real thin clients running on streaming data from the centralised resources.
There is a list of virtues in this on cost, security, operational simplicity etc., but when I got to meet with General Dynamics I learned the really great story was how in the first week some thirty machines were stolen. Thereafter not one has been stolen, after all there’s not much point to stealing them is there? They won’t do anything without being logged in, and stolen units are just empty boxes with the risk that when you turn them on under 3G, your location might be pinpointed by the police!
The core technology for all of this is based on Sun SunRay! General Dynamics licensed the source code some years back and developed their solution for the secure military market, but now they feel the timing is right with the new environment of wireless and remote resources, plus software as a service, in the everyday market. They are now out there to compete for standard desktop/device contracts using cost as much as service, as well as a number of other features to take on even the most effective PC-based desktop operator. In short, it’s a classic example of a new market entrant behaving in a disruptive manner to change the rules and the game over existing leaders.
The disruptive elements are perfectly recognisable; i.e., Thin Client, Wireless, etc., but the format of the solution is very different, and has two powerful key elements: the way a ‘Network’ is redefined in the manner of use and physical medium (wireless); plus the use of ‘Services’ in a highly managed manner. There are some other aspects too – the introduction of a new range of device types, the ability for centralised resources, and maybe even the shift in behaviour and expectations of the kids as users themselves. It’s perfectly recognisable as a classic ‘everything as a service’ deployment with some equally recognisable elements of ‘clouds’.
Looking at this in a more analytical way, it also shows that the old certainties of the technology building blocks and focuses that we see as part of a desktop deployment and support don’t need to be there. Hence the link back to my starting point as to what is required as a product or a capability line up, for a major technology vendor? There are two possible answers: one you extend the current technology model and ‘add on’ some products and capabilities, or two you see a new, completely fresh approach with new entrants into the market as General Dynamics have just done. In support of this latter point, it is worth remembering that SAP, and Cisco for sure, and some would say Microsoft too, all burst out into massive growth in 1990, which combined the technology revolution to PC Networks/Client Server with a sharp recession.
So the question is what would the delivery elements, both products and services, be if the disruptive approach was taken? And how are we all going to come up with sensible, tactical, money-saving, business-enabling ways to combine the elements? As a tease I leave you with the diagram below, on which I will add more next week!