The Trajectory of Technology is All About Reducing Friction

by Kiran Bhageshpur – September 22, 2015

Just as a fish probably rarely thinks about water, we who work in technology rarely question the actual purpose of all this technology.

Is it to enable businesses to work faster? Sure, but that is really just a means to the ultimate end. The same can be said for improved quality of work, increased scale, better reliability and so on.

I contend that the true purpose of technology is none of these things. Instead, technology helps to remove friction from our everyday lives (both our business and personal lives).

HOW DO YOU COUNT TO 63 MILLION?

An early example of technology removing friction comes from the U.S. Census in 1890. The 1880 census (performed entirely by hand) took nearly eight years to complete, and the government was concerned the 1890 census would take longer than 10 years to complete. They were facing the very real threat of having to start the 1900 census before having completed the 1890 census.

So, the U.S. Census Bureau contracted with Herman Hollerith to use technology to improve the process (i.e. reduce friction). Hollerith used punch cards and special machines to tabulate the 1890 census (of 63 million Americans) in under one year. How? By using the forerunner to computer punch cards and an automated tallying machine, Hollerith removed friction from the process.

This is not an isolated example. From day one tech firms have removed friction. Uber reduces the friction involved in hailing a cab while AirBNB removes the friction associated with renting vacation accommodations. Today you can press one button on your iPhone and ask Siri what the weather will be tomorrow.

When you think of each of these examples, what is the main thing that comes to your mind? Speed? Quality? Or is it, as I contend, simply easier (less friction) than what came before?

HOW THIS AFFECTS YOU

If you agree with my premise – that reducing friction is the ultimate goal of technology – then how does that influence how you do your job as a manager of technology?

First of all, you can see this model being played out all around you. Virtualized servers remove the friction of spinning up new resources and workloads. Software defined networks do the same for building networks. AWS does the same for building distributed cloud apps.

But then there is storage. Building and maintaining storage infrastructure is still fraught with friction. It starts with how difficult it is to buy. But it continues after the purchase, especially in terms of labor-intensive jobs such as archiving data, recovering from disk failure and even routine back-ups.

In fact, that is the main allure of cloud storage: It is someone else’s headache. Unfortunately, not all data makes sense in the cloud. Where is the technology that will remove the friction of enterprise data center storage?

At Igneous, this is precisely what we’ve been noodling on for the past year. We have a revolutionary approach that removes nearly all the friction associated with enterprise storage. It brings the frictionless experience of cloud storage to your data center. I promise to share more on that in future posts.

In any case, that’s how I see it. What about you? How much friction do you see in your storage infrastructure? What are you doing to address that?