Groupthink to forget me not- or a cloudy future for us all?



Monday July 28th marked the centenary of the start of the Great War. "Lest we forget" is emblazoned on our hearts, minds and souls every Armistice Day.  However, as I read the headlines this week and engage in social media commentary, I am left with a sense of hopelessness as I hear of the continued wars and struggles that many nations suffer today.  How prone are we to forget, particularly when forgetting fits our purposes?

Well documented research in business theory, spearheaded by the Yale research psychologist Irving Janis, is "Groupthink".  A key attribute of Groupthink is for a collective to filter out unwanted data that doesn't fit the popular or convenient truth.

In this regard I wonder whether we in the ICT community are subject to Groupthink when it comes to cloud computing? Particularly embracing the notion that bandwidth is "cheap and pervasive.” The relationship between Telecoms and IT is symbiotic. The host, Telecoms, providing resource to the parasite, IT, by which both host and parasite propagate each other’s survival.  Perhaps an unflattering metaphor for our colleagues in IT whose solutions, in turn provide significant value to the end-users who they serve.  But as more resource, bandwidth, is provided, more is consumed, pointing us to that other well documented phenomenon, Jevons paradox, whereby the more a resource is made available, the more it is consumed, the less efficient the resource becomes.

Students of recent ICT history will also recall the Application Service Provider (“ASP”) model of the 1990s - Telecom’s foray in to hosted applications. Sounds familiar? And a lot like "cloud" today.  Of course in the 1990s it was the local loop that prohibited adoption (amongst other things).

So let us consider the resource demands of "big data", "internet of everything" on our already disrupted telecoms infrastructure; and as we architect for distributed computing, and running applications over the WAN, let us keep a watchful eye on network availability.  As this superhighway gets busy let’s hope it doesn’t lead to traffic jams that impede performance. Not only application performance but the resulting business performance which relies on the applications and infrastructure. Access to that resource is strategic and could be the difference between winning and losing versus the competition.  Cisco’s VNI survey outlines how 68% of bandwidth will be consumed by video on demand and today we are seeing this tension rise between Verizon and Netflix for the quality of end-user delivery of service based on an increasingly consumed resource.

So, lest we forget, let us, students of history, not succumb to Groupthink but rather bear in mind that bandwidth is a finite and valuable resource, and thereby not live in the myopia of our own mortality when architecting our IT solutions which underpin our business performance of the future.