Accidental IT infrastructure tsars

In the past decade, some of the most successful IT infrastructure innovations have been stumbled upon, after the originators found themselves in unanticipated conundrum! In some instances, this kind of anarchic R&D is reaping rewards of several orders of magnitude higher than walled-in research efforts.

Think about it for a moment, we are enjoying an amazing array of technology that were created after some dudes’ fiddles and ramblings forced them to rethink their infrastructure. In their travails, clever & bohemian as they are, they’ve come up with solutions that many of us can enjoy. Witnessing such success, deep pocketed vendors joined in the fun, and the field is being redefined in the process.

Once frowned upon, FaceBook is now a leading contributor to prominent open source infrastructure projects. Google’s track record is longer and deeper, their data centre innovations are being copied around the world, their latest announcement in the U.S. is just illustrating how far reaching their ambitions are. The whole No SQL movement has spawned a category of data manipulation techniques forcing a rethink of the way we manage information. Google, Yahoo! and FaceBook are all strong leaders in this space. The best example is probably the open source Unix/Linux ecosystem (counting in the OpenBSD and FreeBSD variants, which are not Linuxes). What is happening with the uptake of Cloud computing is simply amazing, would make many a veteran chuckle (isn’t this what was supposed to be uncool?). Now that heavyweights such as Oracle and Microsoft are trumpeting the Cloud, we are probably entering a new era where mix-and-match will become a norm.

These infrastructure innovations are making it easier and faster for us to do more with our computing resources. Incidentally, this is also making us more vulnerable and fragile from a security point of view. Security breaches can do much more damage much faster than ever before. This could mean that our security infrastructure is simply being thrown out, forcing us to rethink the very notion of security.

Marketing mantra aside, here looking at you Google, these infrastructure innovations have had a profound impact on the way we perform computing these days. A substantial amount of these innovations were actually not planned, they seem to have been following a kind of Darwinian evolution theory, the good ones quickly gain traction and everyone adjust their positions.

Is this the beginning of a bigger and truly world changing movement? Is this a vindication of the open source phenomenon? Is this the edge of what an Agile (Californian?) culture could nurture?

Time will tell.