Massive inflection point

A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.
Andrew S. Grove
, Only the Paranoid Survive.

Let me start today by asking you this question – How is it that the search engine giants can identify results from the entire Internet (and even predict your text as you type in your search) in less time than it takes most OSS to query a single table of say 100,000 objects?

Now consider the following mega-trends that will massively increase the data in your OSS database compared with what’s in it today:

  1. Network virtualisation and service abstraction
  2. Internet of Things and M2M (ie many more networked devices)
  3. More diversified, unstructured data sets
  4. Meshed wireless technologies using un-licensed spectrum (ie many more networked devices)
  5. An increased ability to measure (and a subsequent business dependence on) non-traditional real-time information (eg location / spatial, individual preferences, etc)

Will the traditional OSS, one that is based on relational databases, cope with the volume and variability of the next generation of data being hurled at it, not to mention the more complex integration required?

In my opinion, the mega-trends above and the merits of alternative technologies point to the likelihood of us currently approaching a massive inflection point for OSS.

Now, another question – if you had the choice of investing more than $1B in one of the following options, which would you take:

  1. Purchasing a traditional OSS with a wide-spread customer base and with millions of development hours invested in its products or
  2. Forming a skunk works to build an all-new OSS to meet the industry’s needs beyond that inflection point and lead your competition through first-mover advantage

I know there are many more factors at play with point 1 including proven revenues/profits, an existing customer base, a significant intellectual property base, etc but I’d still lean towards a significant investment in the skunk works ahead of the existing solution.

The traditional asset, including the vested development effort, is significantly depreciated in the new world because most of the intellectual property is not easily transferrable to the next generation platform (see this earlier post for more details).

The traditional asset is not as risk-less as it first may seem. The risk of disruptive innovation is significant in this case.

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One thought on “Massive inflection point

  1. Hi Ryan,
    You’ve highlighted this area quite well – I know of one significant OSS vendor that based an architectural refresh for their product around a major change in persistence strategy. The approach had both positive and negative aspects, so I’ve wondered since then whether they really just moved from being locked into one architectural direction to being locked into another. As you’re suggesting an OSS information model/access layer that can overlay existing and future RDBMS/graph/search technologies seems like a very good thing to aim for!

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