Urban sprawl – New York city is the quintessential example of this phenomena. Why do I bring it up? One, because I’m currently writing this from a not-so-cushy chair in the bloggers lounge of Interop, hosted in New York. Two, because it’s the image that for a couple reasons comes to mind while processing all of the information that have been dumped into my overly saturated brain this week.
Reason one this comes mind: network sprawl. Networks just keep growing and growing, constantly bombarded with changes that risk the comforting hierarchal design allowing us OCD geeks to sleep at night. Every time we wake someone else is demanding we modify our rock solid architecture to incorporate some new fangled something or other. We grudgingly graft these new devices/endpoints/services into our designs but at a cost. In not too long, our once pristine work of art starts to strongly resemble the monster in Shelley’s Frankenstein – and frankly, we as geeks resent it.
Reason two this comes to mind: networking company sprawl. Sounds odd, I know, but it’s an apt description when pondering the large, big name, been-around-forever, companies that we’re all familiar with in the networking community. These large companies are all faced with an exigent need to be innovative and encumbered by the weight of supporting past business decisions. The sheer extent of the empire often results in a series of disjointed business units, complex product lines, incomprehensible licensing models, isolated pools of talent, and a customer base sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting anxiously to see how it all falls out. For the record, we geeks intensely resent this as well.
So when companies like HP Networking announce they are simplifying their product names, I perk up. It’s an immediate sign that someone, somewhere realized that sprawl has gone unchecked for too long and monster creation needs to be mitigated. Hints of such recognition have also been made by other big players, including Cisco, and every time I hear it I get giddy. I dream of a world with simplified licensing models, BOMs that don’t take a PhD to comprehend, and companies with clearly articulated, streamlined direction. In a word, focus.
I’ve only seen hints though. I want to see more. Simplifying product names represents an awesome step in the right direction. Now how about eliminating confusing redundant products? Cisco’s stance on getting back to core competencies sets my heart a flutter, now how about eliminating cripplingly complexities in the licensing models?
I love that HP Networks invited myself and other front line engineers to their briefings and honest feedback was both requested and given. I’m sure they are not the only company doing so and for good reason. Listening to the folks doing the implementations can only help in the attempts to narrow focus and reclaim simplicity in the business.
Letting geeks in on company direction is a total win as well. As geeks we know that change is constant, technology is always in flux, and everyone is just guessing at the next big thing. We can handle that. What we can’t abide is a lack of direction, goals, a sense of purpose in all the chaos. In the words of Douglas Adams “we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.” So bring us in, spill the beans, and we’ll be more than happy to help you sort through it all. It’s what we do every day, it’s in our nature, and the results are a windfall for those who seek us out. Leave us in the dark, make us guess, send mixed messages and we’ll drop you like a bad habit. It’s what we do.
For some more great coverage of HP and Interop, check out these bloggers whom I had the great honor of meeting this week as well. I can confirm they are all fabulously awesome in meatspace too:
Aaron Paxson http://teneo.wordpress.com
Andrew VonNagy http://revolutionwifi.blogspot.com/
Brad Casemore http://nerdtwilight.wordpress.com/
Matthew Norwood http://insearchoftech.com
Stu Miniman http://blogstu.wordpress.com
*A special thanks to @hp_networking who took excellent care of us bloggers, always keeping us fed and in constant supply of caffeine.