Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Software is a Legacy Term

What will you be selling in a few years? It won't be software.

Software won't exist. At least not like today.

We hired a new tech recently and he asked where we keep CDs and DVDs of Microsoft software. Mike and I looked at each other puzzled. "We keep them at Microsoft.com." Why should I be in the business of downloading and storing images of software that is easily available anytime AND changes constantly?

As a Certified Partner (or whatever we're called this week), I have access to MSDN and every Microsoft product back to DOS 6.2. We have a 20 Mb connection at work. I have 70 Mb consistently at home. We have unlimited bandwidth on our servers in the colo. So we can download whatever we need anytime.

. . . But disappearing software is more than that.

Do you buy products online? I do. Adobe Photoshop. UltraEdit. QuickBooks. Anti-Virus. Spam filtering. CRM services. DNSStuff. Exchange Experts. Webcasting tools. Podcasting tools. Voice recording tools.

Wait. Some of that's software and some is services . . . today. Soon it will all be services.

Let's assume that Microsoft keeps heading in the direction we're going. Services. SaaS will soon be Service as a Service.

Remember the old saw "No one wants a half inch drill bit." You want a half inch hole, so you buy the tool that gets the job done. Well, no one wants to own Microsoft Office. They want a tool that allows them to create, edit, and share documents in a universally recognized format. That used to be Microsoft Office.

Now it's MS Office, WordPerfect, Open Office, and Google Apps. The tool is irrlevant.

No one wants to buy SQL. They want an extremely powerful and flexible database programming platform that just works. Microsoft SQL is one option. MySQL is another.

Let me be the first to put it in these terms:

Microsoft is getting out of the Software business.

If you're not selling Exchange mailboxes as a service, you soon will be.
If you're not selling hosted storage as a service, you soon will be.
If you're not selling hosted backup as a service, you soon will be.
If you're not selling SQL Servers as a service, you soon will be.
If you're not selling CRM as a service, you soon will be.
If you're not selling SharePoint as a service, you soon will be.

If you're not selling EVERYTHING as a service, you soon will be.

Once Microsoft releases Exchange and SQL as simply "on demand" services, it will be a matter of time before they stop selling installable software. Why would you install software when you can just turn on an instance and use it?

(Think about this: When was the last time you bought a new answering machine? I bought my last one six years ago just to create an outgoing message system on a phone number I could use in advertising. I gave it to GoodWill a year later. Now I use voicemail, Skype services, and all kinds of cool things . . . which I buy as services.)

And what's driven by SQL? Uh . . . Everything! CRM, Dynamics, SharePoint, custom applications, the Cloud Services Roundtable member datase . . . everything.

Don't be afraid of this change. Dentists and lawyers will still need people to advise them on what to do, how to use their resources, effectively, and set up all this cool stuff. But it means you need to really focus on being an advisor and not just a technician. See the previous blog post and the Cloud Services Roundtable post it refers to.

Technicians are available everywhere for cheap.

Advisors will always be in demand.

In fact, as this economy takes off, new businesses will be springing up. And they won't want to own legacy solutions . . . like hardware and software.

It's all about the services.

Be a Cloud Services Professional or a Cloud Services Aggregator. Be IN the business that is going to connect your clients to their technical needs. Be in the cloud services business!

Hosting is Not Cloud Computing

Too many people casually say that cloud computing is just hosting. Not true. Not close to true.

Think about this:

- If I create a virtual machine, whether locally or in a hosted environment, I have to maintain that machine.

- If I create a computing "instance" and run software on it, I don't have to maintain anything.

Hosting and VMs are great in their place. But they are just moving from the physical world to a virtual world. Someone still has to monitor the server, patch the server, update the server, virus-scan the server, defrag the virtual hard drives, etc.

Hosted machines and virtual machines don't know that they're not real computers. So they need maintentance.

Cloud computing takes advantage of computing power without regard for the machines underneath. Someone, somewhere has to make it work. But it's not you, the person paying the bill.

The future of so-called software is that applications will simply exist in cloud-based, inifinitely redundant computing space.



  1. I'm with you in spirit. Back before everything was available from MS I would simply rip everything and keep it archived. However I still keep a local archive because if I need to make a Win7 thumbdrive, I don't want to wait.

    But when you talk about the future and download this and download that, how can you not take into consideration bandwidth caps? 5gb and less are the wireless data caps these days. Who cares? The millions of offices in rural areas who, because of these caps, will still be on the traditional software model.

    And then we can look at the 25gb caps that Canada almost died under this last month. Sure they weren't for the business lines ... yet. There is no way I'm going to convince an office eat 1/5th of their cap every time they need office.

    Quite frankly, until the issues of bandwidth caps and net neutrality is addressed, I don't know how anyone can honestly recommend jumping both feet into cloud services like so many still are.

    I prefer the SBS Diva's level headed approach. Oh, there is another one who can't just download whatever, whenever from MSDN.

  2. Seanpt: Even with bandwidth caps, I don't see everyone reverting to distributing physical media again. Apple stores are dropping software entirely and vendors are fine with it - no-one likes having to produce, distribute, manage and eventually destroy physical media.

    Business caps will likely be much higher, it's a good differentiator to sell "business" lines. You can still buy a T-1 or T-3 that costs far more than an equivalent DSL or cable connection but businesses are willing to pay it.

    Karl is spot on that the future of our industry is going to be a switch to an advisory/service role.

    I made the switch from computer tech to web development a few years back as I saw computer hardware turning into disposable black boxes like VCRs or TVs. In the web industry, everything is already virtualized and downloadable. All the software to build a world-class website can be downloaded for free, your value is entirely in your knowledge and ability to implement successfully.


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