How the IT world wised up to the need for tech that ‘just works’

Believe it or not, but once upon a time, we expected the computer industry to sell us products that were complicated to set up and required specialist expertise at every turn. Early personal computer software involved spending lots of time reading manuals and scratching heads before we got to grips with character-based operating systems and their applications’ cryptic syntax and commands. If you’re in your middle age, you might recall WordPerfect’s scary empty screen or WordStar where you had to type ‘.ls2’ at the top of the screen to get a double line-spaced document and CTRL-K/S to save a file. We even used a phrase ‘user-friendly’ to describe the rare tech that worked ‘out of the box’.

Today, we expect our technology to ‘just work’ and the systems that don’t fulfil that criterion tend to end up on the junk heap of history. And, increasingly, that applies to the business technology sector too.

Understanding intent and delighting customers

When marketing people talk about technology as a source of customer ‘delight’, to me they’re really talking about how they understand our intent. By that I mean that spooky-but-wonderful feeling that you got the first time you used an iPhone, the way the touch, pinch and zoom worked so perfectly that the machine seemed to know what you wanted from it and bent itself to help you get that quickly.

It’s the same with social media: you probably aren’t going to spend a lot of time ‘learning’ Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram. And as we have become accustomed to these easy-to-use devices and services, we have gained an appetite for more of the same in the B2B world. Today, we live in a world where ERP companies have in-house divisions dedicated to UX and where IT services giants are buying agencies.

Even networking and application delivery is getting friendly

In our world of delivering application services and load balancing, we talk a lot about intent. We want to make this world as easy and intuitive as the consumer sector, so that appliances just ‘know’ how to adapt when they’re handling the complex blend of cloud and non-cloud workloads, VMs, containers, bare metal, unpredictable traffic patterns and changing requirements based on trigger events. But for them to do so, involves a lot of injecting intelligence and knowledge of how enterprises use network services and infrastructure, along with security threat intelligence, an awareness of the causes of performance bottlenecks, constant monitoring and analytics, and powerful automation capabilities.

With traditional load balancers you would set a security policy, create a configuration, customise it for the infrastructure it was running on and need to perform other chores that ate up admin time.

But for the new world, it’s all automated. To return to the iPhone comparison, it’s the equivalent of taking the old process of finding a shop or restaurant by looking up a number, punching it in, finding a map on the internet and sourcing a picture so you can recognise it. With today’s integrated experience, everything just pops up in context on one device. It’s a plainly better experience that gives you back time and helps you to get to what you need – fast.

And, just as the iPhone experience will deliver extras you didn’t know would be useful, such as user reviews and YouTube video guides, in the Age of Intent the new load balancers provide intelligence to identify anomalies and inefficiencies. We’re shining a light on the 80 per cent of what’s going on in the network stack that’s usually invisible. Essentially, you’re seeing the underside of the iceberg and can improve application delivery performance in a proactive manner. There’s less probing and more time given back to the IT team so they are freed up to do more rewarding work.

And what it all adds up to, is a system that understands intent and can parse that knowledge to create an environment so that, to use Apple’s old favourite marketing phrase, ‘it just works’. In today’s world, where the network is very often the most critical part of the network stack, that’s a hugely valuable result.

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