Circle of Innovation

I was recently talking with a colleague about new technologies and noticed a pattern: Many of last year’s innovations in hardware are very similar to next year’s new software features. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this IT trend is nothing new.

Ten years ago, for example, server sprawl was a very real concern. As end users demanded more servers for a particular application or task, hardware vendors turned to small-appliance form factors and blade configurations. These new server technologies helped promote denser server environments.

At first, the need for a large number of small servers was met in the physical world. Not far behind this hardware innovation came server virtualization, a software answer to the need for higher server counts. While this need was initially easier to meet with hardware, software vendors soon arose with a more efficient solution.

Fast-forward to today and there are similar IT trends. Many networking devices — from load balancers to firewalls — are now available as virtual appliances. What once required purpose-built hardware can now be run on virtual hardware and deployed almost anywhere. In fact, virtual appliances are actually becoming the preferred format for networking equipment in many data centers.

When you think about, this leap frogging of technology is really just following Moore’s Law, which states that computing power doubles every two years. Initially, when a difficult problem emerges, purpose-built hardware is coupled with custom application code to create a device that fills a very specific need. Over time, computing power and scaling matures to a point where more flexible and dynamic software can replace the hardware solution.

You can read more on this topic in my article on TechTarget’s Search Server Virtualization site at: As always, please come back here and leave any comments that you may have.

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