Aren’t we human beings curious things? We hold on to the past with one hand while grasping at the future with the other, completely oblivious to the present that is happening before us.
This post is my insight into how things are changing now in the present IT industry and how Protocol Passionistas are both risky to hire, own or loan for any organization; and if you see the characteristics of a Protocol Passionista in yourself, then it’s time for you to change.
In the IT world you meet professionals (small p) who have grasped hold of technologies and defend them like their (professional) life depended on it. You don’t have to look far for this in virtualization with VDI desktop protocols (ICA vs. RDP vs. PCoIP etc) or storage protocols (NFS vs. iSCSI vs. FC). Just walk around any data center with one of these professionals and ask them “Why did you choose <insert technology>” and it’s like you are asking why they chose their wife, like there’s some kind of inferred criticism, like questions and inquisitiveness are bad. Why is this? When the defensive attitude is related to protocols, I negatively refer to these professionals as Protocol Passionistas.
Don’t mistake a protocol vendor for a Protocol Passionista – they are a special case when selling that protocol. I’m talking about independent consultants, contractors and permanent staff.
If you want an example of the opposite of a Protocol Passionista, take a look at Scott Lowe:
- He’s an independent consultant (ok, he works for a reseller, but he’s not tied to one vendor or tech).
- He can have a balanced discussion with you about any virtualization technology.
- He can have a balanced discussion with you about any protocol (just read his book Mastering vSphere 4 to see this in evidence).
More than anything, Scott is a fully signed up member of the Inclusive Community: he rightly advocates the “And not Or Approach”, choosing the best-fit protocol (not based on any tech-religious beliefs, but scientific data) but also running more than one to suit multiple use cases. Scott constantly works out of his comfort zone and is these days familiar with Cisco’s data center virtualization strategy and products, like the Nexus family of converged switches (LAN and SAN in one) and the converged compute environment, UCS. In fact, Scott is a blueprint for the new multi-skilled Data Center Architect.
Where are you and the other folks you know on the Protocol Passionista scale?
- I believe in picking the right tool for the job based on latest tools and data.
- I am a firm believe in specific protocols for specific jobs based on past experience.
- I only ever use <pick protocol>.
- I follow the crowd.
The lower down that list you are, the more worried you (and your employer) should be. Don’t just answer this subjectively, look at the last project you did. Now answer the question again. Where are you really?
Look at storage protocols: Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) on Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). People new to UCS immediately equate UCS = FCoE, and assume it’s “FCoE or NFS or iSCSI or FC”, when in fact it’s all of those – AND not OR. And it’s changing each quarter (getting better)!
UCS makes a nonsense of storage protocol passionistas because you can use anything and for many workloads – FOR THE MAJORITY OF USE CASES ANY PROTOCOL WILL DO. There, I said it. Stop over engineering and JFDI people! The most important goal of any project is to deliver something fit for purpose on time and within budget. If you can reuse existing stuff to reduce costs and do things faster, you are a hero to business. Over engineered, late and expensive is a career limiting move (although vendors might love you for it).
Look at remote desktop protocols: VMware just released View 4 with software PCoIP to compete with ICA, and surely that’s a great arms race for customers, driving down costs and increasing innovation: perfect! But I often meet technical folks with arms crossed, defending ICA as the most perfect protocol that “why would one consider anything else?”
That kind of closed mind is like nails down a chalk board for me, and I’m sure it is for the organization leaders who hire people like that. If you’ve done recent, relevant and scientific comparison with an open mind – ie. actually done an evaluation, and not one based on a vendor’s advice - that’s great, and I would shake your hand and recommend you to my contacts as the epitome of professionalism. If your defence includes phrases like “I’ve been using ICA since 2000″ then close the door on your way out.
There are even rare cases of vendors who are shining examples of anti-Protocol Passionistas like Chad Sakac of EMC. He even plays nice with NetApp, how’s that for a shining light? I would love to see a Protocol Passionista argue the case for a particular storage protocol with someone like Chad. He should charge for ring-side seats. Another rule of thumb: if you couldn’t defend your protocol faith to someone like Chad, perhaps you’re wrong. Chad isn’t going to flame you if you have a proven method and data to show your choice.
I know you can’t see me right now, but I look something like the picture below (without flat cap) and my message is intended for all you Protocol Passionistas out there: technologies like Nexus and UCS and people like Scott Lowe and Chad Sakac are bringing an end to your world.