blindfolded man reaching out with false hand

Beware the Many Dangers of Blind Technology Adoption

8 minute read
Ranga Rajagopalan avatar

Just because a piece of technology is new, doesn’t mean it will be a good fit for your business. Yet year after year, businesses keep chasing after cutting-edge solutions simply because they’re shiny and new.

When companies commit to technology purely based on hype and vague promises of future results, that’s called blind technology adoption. And the problem with blind technology adoption is that it’s a dangerous mindset that can cause companies to hemorrhage capital with little or no return on investment.

Avoiding Blind Technology Adoption

To avoid blind technology adoption, the most important question that IT leaders must ask themselves is “how will this technology affect our customers?” That’s because even if the technology being evaluated is the newest, biggest, fastest or cheapest, you’ll fall prey to blind technology adoption if it doesn’t translate into improvements to the customer experience.

But beware: blind technology adoption can be such a pervasive and subtle thought process that it can even creep into purchase decisions about tools and services that you’ve been researching and window shopping for a while.

Anticipating Unforeseen Complications

For example, consider the public cloud. Though it’s an established technology at this point, many companies still invest in cloud-based infrastructure without fully considering its impact on their businesses. They may initially be attracted by the cost savings the cloud offers, but once established, many unforeseen complications such as challenges migrating existing applications and integrating with existing business systems are likely to arise.

So the problem ends up not being the cloud technology itself, but the failure to consider the consequences of the decision in advance. 

Heed the Cautionary Tales of Borders and Target

Unfortunately, blind adoption of public cloud solutions has become a cautionary tale for all too many companies over the years. Back in 2001, when many retail stores were looking for someone to provide hosting and fulfillment services for their businesses, Amazon — then still primarily a bookseller — was just introducing its cloud service known today as Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Target and Borders were early Amazon cloud adopters. At the time, Amazon was still considered too small to be a real threat to these big box retailers, but boy, did things change. In the case of Borders, whether you bought books from Borders or Amazon, Amazon got a slice of the pie. Borders finally severed its ties to Amazon in 2008 but it was too late. Borders declared bankruptcy in 2011.

Target has a similar story. At the start of their relationship, Amazon was just an online bookstore beginning to dabble in ecommerce. Today, Amazon is the world’s largest retailer and Target is looking to get off of Amazon’s cloud service and stop financing its chief rival. 

Most enterprises aren’t likely to find themselves competing with major cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft or Google, but these stories serve as stark examples of how crucial it is to consider the short-term and long-term implications of technology investments.

Infrastructure is a particularly important concern. That’s because moving applications and operations from one environment to another is no small task, especially for large businesses. For them, placing all their eggs in one basket (or data center or cloud) is a dangerous way to adopt technology. Just ask Borders and Target.

Read Up Before Buying These Technologies

Of course, not adopting new technology can be a problem as well. Falling behind the technological curve can put businesses at a disadvantage. The key is to fully investigate the technology and its impacts before creating a plan for integrating it into your business.

Some common technologies that businesses should consider — instead of blindly adopting — include:

Containers and microservices

Containers are a means of application deployment where the containers share the OS kernel yet have no dependencies on a hypervisor or hardware. Unlike VMs — virtual machines — containers give companies a granular, highly-portable deployment mechanism that can spin up and tear down in seconds. 

Microservices refer to a modern application architecture where each component of the application runs as an independent service. This means that you can update, add or remove services without disrupting the rest of the application. Microservices are deployed on containers. 

The potential of containers and microservices is immense, but they can become a money pit for any organization that adopts them blindly. For example, containers introduce new security concerns.

Learning Opportunities

Instead of securing dozens of VMs, you’d need to focus on hundreds or thousands of containers. That means the number of attack surfaces exposed to the outside world has just grown exponentially. What’s more, containers can also be a threat to each other. One container might hog resources and starve the containers of other mission-critical applications. In short, the security, orchestration and governance of containers needs significant exploration before the technology can be considered production-ready. 

Open source software (OSS)

Open source software is exceptionally popular in the developer community because it is both extremely accessible and free. It’s great for tinkering and testing, but it can be quite difficult and expensive to make an OSS solution enterprise-grade.

In that respect, OSS is like a free puppy. Or as Apcera CIO and CSO Mark Thiele explains in a New Stack blog post, open source software is a lot like building a swimming pool. Ownership of this technology, much like ownership of a puppy or pool, can quickly add up.

Containers, as mentioned earlier, and many of the orchestrators such as Kubernetes, Apache Mesos and Docker Swarm are open source. Containers have been around for a while, but the orchestrators are new. It’s expensive and risky for enterprises to commit to technologies that are still being shaped by the open source community and its major contributors.

Designing an open source solution for your specific needs and processes can require significant investment. For example, I recently spoke with a Forbes Global 2000 company that had decided to build its own container platform around Kubernetes. After nine months and $14 million in payroll alone, the company still has no timeline for actually using the platform that’s still in production.

Existing Technology Refreshes

Over the course of your career, you’ve likely developed great relationships with technology providers, many of which you’ve probably been using for decades. However, as the needs of your business evolve, so must the offerings of your technology partners.

During refresh periods, you must evaluate vendors against your IT initiatives. Will they assist you or limit you as you modernize your infrastructure and applications? Does the vendor’s product roadmap align with yours?

As your organization undergoes a digital transformation, you must surround yourself with partners who can support you on that journey. Blindly extending the contract during renewal season can delay your ability to innovate and cost you significantly more in the long run.

Some Words of Advice About Integrating New Technologies

So, what’s an organization looking to adopt a new technology to do? Here’s some advice:

  • Don't get distracted by the cutting edge: Seeking out new technology just because it’s new is a recipe for disaster, not success. Remember that if a new tech or strategy isn’t a good match for your business, it could get in the way rather than help.
  • Think your tech adoption all the way through: Thoroughly consider not just the technology, but the ownership of the technology before adopting it. What will the total cost of ownership be over the life of the solution? Buying a new tech solution is like buying a new car — there are numerous hidden costs beyond the sticker price. Fuel, maintenance, insurance and registration are just a few of the costs that make a car far more expensive than its advertised price. New technology solutions are the same.
  • Ask yourself if the solution will be futureproof: Will this solution still be viable for your business a couple years into the future? Borders and Target serve as perfect examples of why this consideration matters. Adding insult to the injury of helping fund a competitor’s growth, both companies locked themselves into platforms they couldn’t easily move away from.
  • Focus on creating value for your customers: One of the biggest issues of blindly integrating a new solution is that the solution’s impact on customers isn’t fully considered. Any addition to the business should be analyzed for its impact on the customer. Bottom line, if it doesn’t generate value for your customers, then has it really earned a place in your business?

Technology Is a Double-Edged Sword 

The ultimate goal of adopting new technology solutions should be to improve your business in a meaningful way. Technology, like a double-edged sword, can realize this goal if used thoughtfully. But without careful evaluation and planning, that same technology can also do serious damage to your business and bottom line.

About the author

Ranga Rajagopalan

Over the last 15 years prior to co-founding Avi Networks, Ranga has been an architect and developer of several high-performance distributed operating systems as well as networking and storage data center products. Before his…current role as CTO, he was the Senior Director at Cisco’s Data Center business unit, responsible for platform software on the Nexus 7000 product line.