Over on O’Reilly radar, Nat Torkington, does a neat riff on the enterprise SOA movement. He likens enterprise IT to a stern father:

. . . with strict rules, transgressors to be punished;. . .

while the Web is:

. . . the nurturing parent (the API provider) who encourages experimentation, self-development, and happiness.

It is an amusing read, but like lots of developers and engineers, Nat misunderstands enterprise IT’s motivation. They aren’t into control for the sake of control. (Well, some of them are, because some people are like that. But that isn’t the key reason.)

Control is a means to an end. The goal is production. Enterprise IT is a factory. The Web is a playground.

Expecting the two to be similar is a fundamental confusion. If you were put in charge of Goldman’s IT, you’d turn into a control freak too.

Statistical process control
Factories produce more and higher quality goods by reducing variability. Variability creates problems that cost money, either warranty costs or greater downtime/setup costs.

Enterprise IT is a factory
I first learned this truth when I was selling to engineers for development and to manufacturing for MRP. The engineers were all about the money and the freedom to tinker.

The manufacturing guys just wanted it to work. Save a few bucks on a 3rd party expansion rack? Why? Any glitch would wipe out the savings. So they wouldn’t go there.

The Web is a playground
Sure, there are people, like me, for whom the Web is instrumental in their work. I have backups for everything. The big destination sites do the same.

But for most of us the Web is something more casual: entertainment; shopping; news; communication. As long as it usually works we’re fine. The local cable loop goes down for a couple of hours and we’ll survive.

The StorageMojo take
The engineering and manufacturing cultures are very different, even though both groups are technical. This is why the gap between Silicon Valley and enterprise IT is so wide: the SV engineers think they get IT. And they don’t.

If you can show IT how your product reduces variability in their environment, giving them more certainty about production, you will have their attention. NUMA architectures, for example, add variability, despite higher average performance on tuned workloads.

So you could predict they wouldn’t be successful in the enterprise.

Words like “flexibility,” “experimentation” and “mashup” just don’t compute in the enterprise infrastructure. I’ve been as frustrated by the IT mindset as anyone, but complaining won’t change it. They are doing the best they can with the tools they have.

Want to do something great? Give IT better tools for managing variability.

Comments welcome, of course.