For many years computing devices were built with two tiers. Consumer grade and Enterprise grade. Enterprise grade delivered high availability, quality components, redundant part and circuits and as a result came with a price tag that reflected this. This applies to routers, switches, machinery, servers and many facets of infrastructure. Consumer grade on the other hand was made for a function to a price point. This in turn resulted in a set out come with a fixed price that determined the quality of materials, the expected life time and mean time before failure and more.

It can be summarised as the following:

Consumer – best effort, low quality, minimal testing
Enterprise – guarantees, high quality, extensive testing

This was expected and if anything what was mandated for decades. Enterprise were the cutting edge and required the absolute best to do business.

Reverse polarity?

Yet there seems to be a slight paradigm shift this decade. The north pole and south pole have swapped.

Enterprises no longer look for a handful of strong, resilient systems of yesteryear that are the pinnacles of engineering. They seek to provide resiliency in their applications away from the hardware. The look to tear-up and tear-down consumption models that allow service to be delivered with the ebb and flow of demand. With smarter ways of delivered distributed systems there is a trend towards consumer grade ideals in the enterprise. Whitebox switching and servers coupled with resilient applications allow for a fail fast, fail cheap mentality. A loss of a whitebox switch doesn’t reduce function and if it does break it is at a fraction of the cost of traditional enterprise devices. This can be seen with snowflake applications that used to take weeks of man hours that had an impact if delivered incorrectly. Now with automation and application delivery the ability to deliver on demand allows for cheaper continuous integration – fail or pass.

Conversely, consumer demand (or expectation) for quality devices, user experience has led to devices such as the Macbook Pro, iPhone, Surface and more. Each waterfall step this expectation and desire for better has increased. More battery, better screens, seamless software integration across platforms. The list goes on. The intersection between design, user experience, hardware quality comes without regard for price these days. We see the enterprise notions of exceptional uptime to be there along with all the features. The user is demanding a higher quality as our lives are operated from these devices. The experience has an effect on our lives be it positive or negative.

My thoughts?

No longer are enterprises creating snowflakes out of their software applications and hardware infrastructure. Automating software, application level failover and cheap hardware allow for increase agility, flexibility and scale. The tables are turning and we are seeing the consumers demand traditional enterprise values whilst enterprises looking to fail fast and cheap. I think as an enterprise you should have a think about how you build your networks, applications and wonder if you’re building a snowflake or a modern architecture.

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