Prefabricated IT Stack

Lately I have been reflecting on how consumption of technology is shifting from products to services, enabled by a utility business model. I referred to it as consumption shifts right, enabled by cloud. Let’s look at how that shift is starting to affect traditional IT stacks.

I grew up seeing buildings built brick-by-brick. Each brick patiently cemented in its place by the mason, checking frequently for alignment and straight level. Then I started seeing pre-built concrete blocks used to build walls in their entirety. Now we have prefabricated buildings (modular homes) which are built elsewhere and assembled on-site. In contrast, the Information technology systems evolved from primitive, monolithic hardware and software to layers of hardware and software comprised of building blocks. Then we saw vertical integration of these layers with vendors providing some assembled layers, much like pre-constructed walls that are then used to build homes.

We are in the early stages of another evolution of the IT stack where certain layers are getting aggregated further. In addition, the aggregated layers are getting a services wrapper put around them. Look at this graphic to see how this is taking shape.

Prefabricated IT Stack
Prefabricated IT Stack: Products to Services

IT Stack and XaaS

Our favourite Everything-as-a-service jargon can be used to show the morphing IT stack. The bricks are becoming pre-built walls. The walls are becoming pre-built parts of a home. We see technology providers who built bricks and vertically integrated them turning in to service providers, who wrap their vertically integrated stacks in services. Is this the arrival of Prefabricated IT? What does onsite and offsite assembly look like in this prefabricated IT world?

For enterprises, IT is a service, an enabler for the business. As IT transitions to being ultimately consumed as a service, like most mature technologies like water supply and electricity (see the brilliant book, the Big Switch by Nicolas Carr to see how), what does it portend for the future of IT as an enterprise asset? Will it be core or context for the enterprise? What does this mean for the traditional IT professional — the technology bricklayer of the last decades?

The morphing of the IT stack offers endless possibilities and numerous speculations. One of the most interesting questions for me is how the technology bricklayers navigate Prefab IT, in their daily jobs as well as in their career plans.

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