They All Became Wikitrivia
They All Became 'Wikitrivia'
All three of those companies are now fading away in IT history. "You miss the jump on one of these platforms, and you become 'Wikitrivia,'" Gens joked.
Companies that did judge the important IT trends correctly in 1986, Gens said, were PC's Limited, EMC and SAP.
"PC's Limited was born on the second platform, like Amazon and Google today," Gens said. "By the way, in 1988, they changed their name to Dell Computer. They were doing something kind of weird at the time: selling PCs over the telephone. In 1986, they announced two things: money-back guarantees and next-day onsite service, so people could feel comfortable. And you know what? It worked."
In 1986, EMC-now the world's largest storage hardware maker-was a small company just about to hire the team that would design and build its Symmetrix enterprise product line.
"What was radical about that was, everyone else was building storage with these big, honking mainframe disks that cost a lot of money. But EMC said: 'Hey, look at all these small disks that are in PCs. They seem to be pretty cheap and work well; let's build a large-scale system by putting a bunch of these small disks together, and build some smarts around it so it works like a large-scale system.'"
That built EMC's wealth for the next two decades, Gens said. Symmetrix, though it has been through several transformations since the late 1980s, is still a mainstay of EMC's business.
On the software side, SAP was doing the same thing, Gens said.
"They were about to just redo the next generation of their ERP [enterprise resource platform] for mainframes, but they said, 'Hey, we should do it for the second platform. We'll do it client-server, we'll use PCs.' That became R/3, which led their growth for the next 20 years."
Another Jump to Make in 2011
OK, so companies made good or bad decisions 25 years ago, for better or for worse. What does this have to do with today's IT?
"It has a lot to do with us," Gens said. "In 2011, we are in exactly the same place. We are staring at a new group of disruptive technologies that is the new platform for the next 20 years.
"Like they did in 1986, we spent the last few years debating whether this cloud is secure enough, is it mobile, is it scalable enough, and how do you manage this stuff? How about social networks? It's good for teenagers, but it's not for enterprises-is it?
"I think there's now a critical mass of folks that are saying, 'It's time to stop arguing. This is the platform for the next several decades of growth. Let's start doing some pretty important things to bring this into the center of what we're doing.'"