New technologies tend to get their start as business tools, because if you can show them the numbers businesses will buy cranky, expensive and barely workable solutions. Such as today’s enterprise data and storage systems.

What is the “Consumerization of IT?”
There are three major aspects to consumerization. The first is the application of high-volume technologies – high-volume because consumers are buying them – to data center equipment. Two examples are the PCI I/O busses and PATA/SATA drives.

The second is the distribution of industry revenue: consumer spending for IT exceeds that of business spending. We can expect faster consumer spending growth than business spending for the next decade at least. If it hasn’t already happened, the storage industry is about to see consumer spending for external storage exceed business spending.

The third is the provisioning of IT services designed for consumers. The world’s largest data centers now service consumers, not enterprises. Also, many of these internet data centers use little equipment from traditional IT vendors because their scale required solutions superior to what the vendors had on offer.

There are many other implications of consumerization with some surprising results, some of which I will explore in the future.

Wide Tech vs Deep Tech
Consumerization implies “wide” technology that is applied horizontally throughout the IT infrastructure, business and consumer. However, there will also be “deep” tech: products for the massive scale-out architectures required to provide pervasive consumer services.

Scale out systems management, statistical intelligence apps, programming tools and more are all areas that will see major growth (see Mission Impossible: Managing Amazon’s Datacenter for a recent example). These technologies will remain as invisible to consumers as, for example, power industry SCADA systems. Until they break.

Deep tech will be the place that people who want nice steady careers will go. The cowboys – yes, this means you, Dave Hitz – will be moving into the consumer side. Fortunes will be made in deep tech – think of the companies and individuals who drove containerization into world shipping – but if you want to be a high-tech rockstar, consumer wide tech is the place to go.

Let’s get this on paper: computer printers
A good example of what consumerization means may be found in the printer business. 25 years ago computer printers were almost exclusively for business. Digital Equipment had made a small fortune selling the LA-series impact printers that were rugged and reliable, but nothing you’d want around the house. IBM sold big, boxy lineprinters that could chunk out listings and reports all day.

In the mid-80’s the laser printer and later inkjets started to make inroads. Digital decided to get out of building printers, HP decided to get in, and who is selling billions of dollars of highly profitable printer cartridges today?

Big, high-volume printers still exist and always will, but consumerization of printers has moved the serious competition – and the serious money – to the home and SOHO markets.

The StorageMojo take
Consumerization is a process, not a destination. The growth of a consumer storage market will have a massive impact on enterprise storage. The non-IT people will have access to more modern and cheaper technology than the data center does. Applications such as Apple’s Time Machine will change how people expect to interact with data recovery operations. Data center folks will be trying to meet new expectations with clumsy and costly tools designed for very different needs.

The process is that average industrial-society folks will be grappling with storage problems – just as we now grapple with computer problems – and smart people will be working to make it easier with a mass market to justify innovative and cost-effective products. That relationship will evolve much faster than storage technology has up to now. If you are a storage hot-shot, get ready to ride!

Comments welcome, as always. I’m traveling AND having network problem, so moderation will be slower than usual, but keep the faith, I shall moderate.