Solution Providers Place Their Bets On The Top Disruptions In IT

Who are the big IT industry disrupters?

This is a question on the minds of solution providers looking to make sure they place their bets on the right horses in the race to build modern data center infrastructures or adopt new technologies to help take them through the changes they will have to make to grow their business.

But is it the right question?

Before asking who will be disrupting data center infrastructures, maybe one should ask what will disrupt IT. A disrupting force could just as easily be a new technology as it is a particular company. Or there might be a new trend external to IT -- think of the move to adopt "green" technology or conserve water -- that is disruptive.

Sponsored post

[Related: The Most Disruptive Technology? 6 Solution Providers, 6 Different Answers]

With all the buzz around the word "disrupt," it can be hard to remember that IT organizations have been going through changes, sometimes massive changes, on a regular basis since Colossus, the first programmable vacuum tube computer, was turned on in 1943.

While "disruption" rolls a bit quickly off people's lips, there is no doubt that the IT industry faces disruptive pressures to change.

There are disruptive technologies, such as LCDs that replaced CRTs, or SSDs that are replacing hard drives, that upset existing product development or manufacturing.

There are disruptive companies that come along with a better way to do something that threatens the status quo. In storage, for instance, companies such as Pure Storage and SolidFire came along with high-performance flash storage arrays and ended up forcing all the large legacy storage vendors to add all-flash arrays to their lines.

There are disruptive processes, or new ways of doing IT in such a way that businesses must adopt them or reasonable facsimiles in order to survive. Such technologies include cloud computing, something-as-a-service, and software-defined whatever.

These are all real disruptions the IT industry has either experienced or is in the midst of experiencing.

But ask five solution providers what they think is the biggest disruption in the IT industry today, and they will reply with five different answers.

It's true. Five solution providers were asked by CRN to name what they think of as the top disruptions facing their customers and named five different technologies and trends.

Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider with a focus on Dell and Nutanix, said without hesitation that he had an easy answer.

"I'm a true believer that disruptive technology is not disruptive from a technology point of view," Tanenhaus told CRN. "It's from a thinking point of view. It's something with the ability to disrupt markets."

As a Dell partner, Tanenhaus said he hated to admit it, but Cisco's successful UCS server line is the best example of a disruptive technology.

"Cisco was a total upstart in the server market," he said. "But Cisco came up with a story, a way to talk to customers. Not about speeds and feeds. But about addressing customer needs. It took time to succeed."

The move by customers to adopt solutions that integrate multiple functions across multiple users is the biggest disruption, said Hope Hayes, president of Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider.

Hayes cited the example of hospitals, where individual departments traditionally had their own IT infrastructures that essentially were silos, with no communication between them. Those departments now are more likely to be served by a hospital-wide solution such as from Epic Systems, a Verona, Wis.-based health-care software provider.

"Everything is consolidated to a common database," she told CRN. "No more, 'You have orthopedics, I have pediatrics.' It's all in one. Maybe a partner was once the pediatric vendor of choice. No more. It's all Epic."

Software-defined networking, or SDN, is the primary disruptive technology today, said Gary Hutchins, director of solutions architecture at VeriStor Systems, an Atlanta-based solution provider.

"SDN absolutely flies in the face of standard networking methodology today," Hutchins told CRN. "Companies have been doing networking the same way for years. SDN is forcing people to re-look at how they connect things together."

SDN is a good kind of disruption, except for perhaps the networking vendors, Hutchins said. "For us and our customers, it's positive," he said. "We can increase port utilization. There's no need to overprovision networks. You can argue that SDN is just the next logical step in networking. But a lot of people don't what it to change on the vendor side. But it has to change."

Converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure are the top disruptions, said Mike Spindler, data protection and storage practice director at Datalink, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based solution provider.

Solutions such as VCE Vblocks and NetApp/Cisco FlexPods are consolidating server, storage and networking to make them more efficient and provide an easy platform for building cloud infrastructures, Spindler told CRN.

"So now solution providers are seeing an erosion in traditional tier-one storage, and seeing new unified file and block and object storage," he said. "In the customer's space, this new simplicity with the ease of moving to cloud infrastructures means we're starting to see stakeholders moving beyond the traditional IT staff to the cloud."

PaaS, or Platform-as-a-Service, is the most disruptive threat facing IT, because it has the potential to be the primary platform for development in the future, said Mike Piltoff, senior vice president for strategic marketing at Champion Solutions Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based solution provider.

Piltoff told CRN he has seen PaaS lead to 300 percent to 400 percent increases in productivity, 25 percent drops in time to deliver applications, and cuts in the cost of infrastructures of 50 percent.

"I think of disruptive technologies as threats to both markets and technologies," he said. "Either they cut prices dramatically or change the rules so incumbent players can't play the same way they did."

This article originally appeared as an exclusive on the CRN Tech News App for iOS and Windows 8.