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Commoditization of Basic IT Infrastructure is a Bad Thing?

Posted by javaben on February 10, 2004 at 8:36 PM PST

I feel like I'm swimming upstream against a tide of derision from my peers, but unlike so many who disagreed with Jonathan Schwartz's recent article/editorial/advertisement on JDJ, I think what Jonathan said makes a lot of sense.

What company in the world wants to invest time and money in creating custom, one-off IT systems which are completely orthogonal to its core business efforts? The status quo of middleware is a hellish reality of integration tears and custom development nightmares.

I believe that Sun's vision of providing turnkey solutions to solve the basic business IT needs in a single, aggresively-priced solution is right on target with what today's IT organizations want.

I'd like to rebut some of the opinions expressed in opposition to Sun's strategy that I've read today:

  1. Sun is marginalizing J2EE. This misses the point entirely. Of course these standard services would be built on J2EE. Of course businesses will continue to use J2EE for those things that actually generate revenue. Will some programmers be out of work if standard IT infrastructure components gradually become commoditized and (gasp!) easy to configure and use? Probably. Will new jobs open up as more capital is freed to invest in revenue-generating projects? Yep. That's how the economy works, folks. Wouldn't you rather work on the sexier projects anyway?

  2. Jonathan Schwartz (and Sun) should get out in the real world and find out what companies really want. Ignoring that Sun execs spend a shocking amount of time flying around the world doing just that, is the average developer so out of touch with reality that they think their company actually wants to spend a ton of money developing and upgrading custom IT plumbing? Integrating product A with product B? Hiring high priced consultants to figure out how to wire application C and application D? CIOs (and their bosses) the world over want to spend less on IT plumbing, and more on product development.

  3. Another fadish attempt by Sun to save themselves from irrelevancy. Maybe, but give the company a chance to dust itself off and execute a new strategy after a hard post-bubble fall. Their strategy (make IT simple) is pretty consistent across hardware/software product lines, and sounds pretty compelling to the corporate world.

As a Director of Technology responsible for both the software development efforts that are the company's lifeblood as well as supporting our IT infrastructure, I can tell you where I'd rather spend my budget and manpower -- and its not on IT plumbing.

Some may think that Sun is on some kind of quixotic crusade and won't be able to execute on this vision. I don't know; wasn't too long ago Sun was on most folks' A-list. It's become fashionable to bash Sun. I know they've muddled through some misguided strategies in the past, but I say, give them a chance on this one.

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