Today we begin a new beat here at CMSWire: software-defined systems.  I know. Your marketing buzzword alarm has just sounded, and you may be wondering just how quickly you can reach for the Back button. 

But follow me a moment.  If you’re one of the many dozens of readers I’ve collected over the years, you know that I’ve never been one to swallow the bait — or more importantly, to pass it on to you so you’ll swallow it.

Up to now, technology publications have treated hardware and software as separate fields from one another, as different as geology from astronomy.  So the applications that businesses ran, such as content management systems, were believed to be of interest to a person unique from the one who buys the processors or rigs the network.

But something very important happened in the past five years:  The systems on which services such as the content management systems (CMS) ran moved from a hardware platform to a software platform.  Rather than processors running the CMS — or the enterprise resource planning (ERP), business process management (BPM), digital asset management (DAM) or customer relationship management (CRM) — new classes of processors sustain the software that runs the CMS.  That layer of software, made feasible by virtualization, is fluid, flexible and mobile. 

Changing Times

Through a technology for which the English language has yet to devise a better phrase than “the cloud,” the software platform that runs applications can relocate them to whichever processors can facilitate them best for any one period of time. And the network that links those processors together can be the Internet itself.

Then something equally as important happened in the last two years: The software that runs the CMS and other three-letter abbreviations began to be completely redesigned to run on these intermediate platforms. The change in philosophy here is as different as saying, “The human body is made up of bones and muscles,” from saying, “The human body is made up of cells.” Both are equally correct, but the focus has moved at least one order of magnitude deeper.

Now, the monoliths upon which major job functions such as CMS were supported (I’d use the term “oracle,” but someone already took it) are dissolving. In their place, there is an emerging ecosystem of services which more directly involves the IT departments and development shops of organizations. Once again, everyone is in the business of writing software. 

What’s more, networks themselves are becoming supported by software platforms instead of hardware, meaning that job functions such as CMS are no longer housed within Internet domains. Rather, the domains adjust themselves to service the job at hand. It’s a concept called network functions virtualization, and unlike other things that are called revolutionary, this technology actually is.

Understanding the New Landscape

So why does all this matter to you? Well, first of all, “application” no longer means what it used to. The market that had formerly been centered on applications, is adjusting to become focused on systems.

Whereas businesses used to purchase a service in the form of software that would be housed in an Internet domain behind a load balancer within their own geography or someone else’s, now they subscribe to both the service and the platform that supports it. And that software can literally be anywhere.

Since these services are now provided on a subscription basis, and their provisioning is mainly a self-service process, the parties responsible for procuring those services for organizations are now different people. 

Systems are not capital expenditures any longer, because they’re not made up of steel and silicon. They are operating expenses, which means the people ultimately responsible for deciding which systems to subscribe to and how to manage them, are now seated on the opposite end of the org chart.

Where these changes are happening within organizations, they’re sudden and often unanticipated. For those organizations where these changes are not happening, the alterations in their competitors’ business models are rendering them obsolete and outmoded. Radio Shack did not fail because of a sudden drop-off in the world’s demand for batteries.

The “C” in “CMSWire” stands for “content.” This publication has always been about how businesses produce and manage informational content that directly impacts the experiences of their customers. 

That’s still our principal purpose, but now we're also discussing the methodologies that guide and govern this job in a very different way than we have before — and we invite you to come along.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by Watson Lake.