Posted by: Greg Ness | January 7, 2011

Look to Social Media and MMOGs for IT Innovation

As the cycles of IT vendor innovations and land grabs play themselves out in the software and networking industry, this almost predictable silicon opera may soon turn out to be a kind of sideshow to an even bigger drama. IT isn’t about rack space and/ or new breakthrough bezels and applications or features anymore, but about rising costs and slowing innovation pitted against increasing strategic operations and financial accountability pressures.  I think the data center is about to become more strategic to the future of IT and these emerging hot companies will be seen as best practice leaders.

A new vision will come yet again from yet another unconventional space. 

While you may be amazed by the rapid growth and valuations of some of the social media and online gaming companies, I think you would be equally impressed with what they are doing in terms of user experience, networks, automation and operating efficiency.  After all, they have the budgets and the momentum to experiment and learn and they have less legacy burden then their established enterprise peers.  They also don’t have the albatross of years of legacy purchases and complexity holding them back.

The multibillion dollar social media and MMOG empires are doing more than just changing the media landscape and the delivery of advertising, they are creating new expectations for how applications are delivered and how IT organizations will operate. I’m not talking about yet another Google investment in a new business venture/model, but rather a deep cultural change driven by expectations from… yes: consumer gaming and social media companies.

Before You Think I’ve played Too Much World of Warcraft or Evony

We saw this before when the consumer website rush drove demands for the enterprise web (the “webification” of enterprise apps).  While we laughed at the dotcom hype and the proliferation of no margin ecommerce and the rise of the late 90s URL-driven sock puppet and gerbils advertising blitzes, enterprise software vendors started modifying their apps to be more web-like.  That drove the 2004+ (and now multibillion) WAN acceleration space and the rise of the branch office.

Remember the Telework Initiatives of the late 90s?

Today Google and Amazon have leveraged consumers and SMB web savvy to drive public clouds and new thin client app models. We’re also witnessing the meteoric rise of netbooks and tablet computers; essentially a consumer-driven innovation.  Indeed, looking back over the last 5-10 years it seems like consumers and SMB have conspired with bold new companies to drive IT innovation (versus the once leading enterprise).  This also explains the rise of CES versus other tech industry shows.

As we watch yet another wave of strange new names and (initially ”silly ideas” rise into the billion dollar club in a matter of a few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in what will happen to enterprise IT as it is squeezed between the rapid rise of consumer tools and games (and their impact on user IT service expectation and fulfillment) and the cultural threat of cloudsourcing (to the IT processes and procedures behind the firewall).

As more signaling threads are being driven back to servers (mainframe flashback model) from smaller and more specialized endpoint motherboards with increasing varieties of thin apps, data centers become more strategic to the equation (along with solutions that enhance management and automation).  And I’ve become increasingly convinced that these social media and online gaming companies are on the vanguard of where strategic, operationally proactive IT is going, setting milestones for data center power, density, scalability and efficiency.

This all takes place while enterprise CIOs are often challenged with trying to consolidate or longlife data centers  built at power densities and capacities designed for obsolete 90s-era demands.

I’ve had the opportunity to think about this (and my career direction) this fall and in November I joined Vantage Data Centers, one of a handful of companies which I think will be part of the coming revolution in IT.  Backed by Silver lake Partners, they have the potential to radically transform the data center industry at a critical time in the evolution of enterprise IT.

My view of IT from years in networking, application delivery and virtualization/cloud is now being supplemented by working with a team of data center pros who want to drive the industry to faster rates of innovation, to support these new demands (endpoints, virtualization/cloud, business and environmental efficiency demands, etc).  Please stay tuned.

Disclosure: I’m VP of Marketing at Vantage Data Centers.  You can follow my rants in real time at


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