For those of us of a certain vintage who were schooled in the arts of computing in the 1980s and earlier we've seen empires grow and prosper as well as decline and disappear. Technological change breathes life into the markets as much as it also types the epitaphs and the obituaries of technology organisations and platforms. Obsolescence, you could argue, is part of the foodchain or technology lifecycle of everything thats ever been compiled or released.
This is never more so true than in the proprietary marketplaces where companies allowing you to rent time or to buy licences to use their technologies essentially "made hay while the sun shone".
If you look up obsolescence in Wikipedia you get the definition:
"Obsolescence is the state of being which occurs when an object, service or practice is no longer wanted even though it may still be in good working order. Obsolescence frequently occurs because a replacement has become available that is superior in one or more aspects."
Could you then argue that obsolescence is part of traditional IT procurement ? Part of the rich tapestry of acquiring technology and writing the purchase cost off over a fixed period and therefore IT becomes a balance sheet object as much as it does an avenue to go to work within an organisation ?
One things for sure obsolescence sure takes the fun out of computing. For years I've profited from it, I built my first major global software project SmoothWall and the company that was born from that GPL goodness. We built it one hundred percent on IT hardware made obsolete through Windows upgrades and inability to keep up with change and acquired through recycling companies. After all just because a box didn't run Windows XP didn't mean we couldn't run Red Hat Linux on it or turn an old Compaq Proliant NT server running at a snails pace into a lightning quick LAMP stack box giving it extended life.
So maybe I'm missing something here we've defined obsolete. We know what it means.
So maybe if you accept that anything you buy will have a limited life on the balance sheet and you have a fiduciary responsibility to your company, your shareholders, investors or your own bottom line then maybe you need to understand what fiduciary means.
Fiduciary, if we return to Wikipedia once more gives us the description - A fiduciary duty (from Latin fiduciarius, meaning "(holding) in trust"; from fides, meaning "faith", and fiducia, meaning "trust") is a legal or ethical relationship of confidence or trust between two or more parties.
Interesting, so if you're spending money from your IT budget on stuff you know is going to be obsolete, have a limited return and in the final quarter end up scrapped and out of date beyond the help of IT support and updates you have to then make a fiduciary relationship with a proprietary technology partner to buy that right to use that closed technology. The definition of fiduciary meaning trust and faith. So you're trusting and putting your faith in that acquisition knowing the clock is ticking the moment you sign that purchase order as you can't get under the hood. You're buying something you can't see that a EULA or a licence agreement only allow you to use rather than own or engineer to your needs as an organisation. To use the vernacular and IT speak thats a very real one way trust.
Let's relate this to Cloud.
If you go down the route of using proprietary weaker technologies or locked in technology platforms you are part of the problem not part of the solution. Cloud should be an opportunity to correct the sins of the past. The ability to have virtual server images that can be provisioned, managed, utilised and torn down at speed and to fit the performance and scalability characteristics of your companies needs should have just as much a reflection on your balance sheet as they should your IT budget and your technical requirements. So if you can get to Cloud in a manner that is financially and ethically responsible, that amplifies and promotes the skillsets and capabilities of your staff and those that you source in the marketplace you're automatically better off.
If you choose an Open Cloud and build your strategies using open standards, you're also reducing obsolescence by being able to have a granular and strategic control over your stack, your adopted protocols and your business growth like never before.
So before you go to Cloud ask your vendor of choice if their cloud is truly open, allowing you the benefits of Cloud across every aspect of your IT resources not just a fraction of the technologies or legacy platforms you may run. Being open is allowing you to avoid essentially building a new silo and just labelling it Cloud. Being Open allows you to control your destiny and every aspect of your ecosystem without waiting for a vendor to get there first and to enforce obsolescence into your design or architecture. And being Open allows you to own your migration path rather than force you into project driven cost centric and licence hungry technology acquisition.
Being open matters, Open Source is the only way forward for the savvy Cloud adoptee. Going into an agreement or technology refresh with a closed or proprietary platform could be compared to the sentence that completes the Wikipedia definition for obsolescence:
Obsolete refers to something that is already disused or discarded, or antiquated. Typically, obsolescence is preceded by a gradual decline in popularity.
Wikipedia finished my sentence.