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Innovation in IT and… Cloud


Guest Post: Alex Factor, Master Cloud Strategist, HP Helion


The history of Technology (IT, in particular) is the history of innovation. 75 years young, having started as a Turing machine in the 1940s in the UK, IT technology moved from the mainframes to client-server, to the minis and PCs; from a glasshouse to distributed; from ‘feeble’ telephone modems to the Internet, and finally culminated in the current phase of express utility computing, euphemistically called “Cloud.”


But how does the IT technology evolve? What moves it? Who drives it? In this size-constrained blog I would like to posit three basic principles of IT evolution[1]:


Principle 1: IT opportunity is Unlimited

As IT assets and knowledge grow, ROI improves, new IT uses and applications are invented and realized. Subsequently, over time, IT has shown no diminishing returns to investment. Really? Yes, due to continuous innovation! Extensive econometric research consistently supports this point.


Principle 2: IT is a General Purpose Technology

IT only offers a means for achieving economic benefits. It only shifts the ‘Innovation possibility frontier’ while the ‘Production frontier’ is shifted by the uses of IT and its applications, thus adding economic value to individual IT-using firms and society at large.


Principle 3: IT success feeds on success of applications

Inventions of IT uses and applications increase the size of markets for IT, improving the total economic return on IT inventions. There is a dynamic positive feedback loop to IT from its uses and applications, albeit with a time lag.


While these principles name IT as a main player, we already stated that Cloud is one of its incarnations. Thus, just substitute the word Cloud for IT and… the principles will still apply, be correct and very compelling. So, for our situation here, these principles should help envision the areas of savings and benefit improvements from the use of the Cloud (or IT, in general) by our (HP) customers – the benefits that accompany technology innovations. That points to both the original inventions and co-inventions by end users as well as the methodologies of applying these technologies to foster end users’ business goals.


Now, let’s analyze these new concepts of Invention and Co-Invention a bit deeper.


Technology Invention & Co-Invention

Invention and Co-Invention are essential to the practice of IT. Indeed, technology vendors develop the original technologies thus producing an Invention. Users adopt these Inventions to address their business needs thus effectively engaging in Co-Invention. Invention and Co-Inventions are common terms in the economic and econometric literature that claim that co-invention is responsible for about 80+% of all innovation. Yes, really!


Co-Invention, however, is broader and more diverse than Invention. It is the only engine behind technology progress, which justifies the use of the technologies and hence their entire existence. Co-Invention is a complex cycle of activities, including a recognition of business needs, search for solutions, selection of technologies, implementing them, operating them, and so on and so forth. Without Co-Invention, users will have no compulsion to use any technology. So, understanding Co-Invention is key to a vendor’s success in today’s competitive markets, big and small, be that an HP of the world or a two-man team in a proverbial garage.


Vendors’ marketers and strategists understand Co-Invention and benefit from it when they put it to use, in order to:

  • Design tools and methods to speed up, for example, the Cloud-native application development, software-defined architectures and deployments, services and portfolios, management and orchestration (mind the fact that technical co-invention costs are inevitably carried by users.)
  • Create methods, techniques and methodologies and frameworks to capture and optimize the best practices such as, for example, DevOps.
  • Offer education and training on their technology (a category of business co-invention costs borne by users.)
  • Collaborate with other companies in product design so as to optimize technical & business integration, etc.

This blog can lead to many questions like ‘So what?’ ‘What must we do?’ ‘How will this impact my sales or delivery?’ ‘How will it change a customer’s perception of my services?’ etc. etc. etc. The answer may be simple and commonsensical: just think about Invention/Co-Invention, talk among yourselves whether we can read customers’ co-invention. What can we learn from them? And how can it help us?


Finally, this blog is just the first in the series I intend to publish here. My next blog will be on the Total Cost of Technology (and specifically, Cloud) to business (let’s call it TCB) – which goes beyond traditional TCO – and how it is connected to invention and co-invention. Stay tuned.


[1] These principles have been derived from academic research from Stanford and Northwestern Universities

Senior Manager, Cloud Online Marketing
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About the Author


I manage the HPE Helion social media and website teams promoting the enterprise cloud solutions at HPE for hybrid, public, and private clouds. I was previously at Dell promoting their Cloud solutions and was the open source community manager for OpenStack and at Rackspace and Citrix Systems. While at Citrix Systems, I founded the Citrix Developer Network, developed global alliance and licensing programs, and even once added audio to the DOS ICA client with assembler. Follow me at @SpectorID

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