The One Car

Imagine, for a moment, that you could only have one car. To do everything. No, I don’t mean, “I have access to a moving van through a mover, so I only need a minivan,” I mean one car. Folks who run grocery stores would need to use the same car to stock the shelves as their employees use to shuffle kids to school and back. The only thing about this car is this—it has the ability to add knobs pretty easily. If you need a new feature to meet your needs, you can go to the vendor and ask them to add it—there is an entire process, and it’s likely that the feature will be added at some point.

How does this change the world in which we live? Would it improve efficiency, or decrease it? Would it decrease operational costs (opex) or increase it? And, perhaps, another interesting question: what would this one car look like?

I’m guessing it would look a lot like routers and switches today. A handful of models, with lots of knobs, a complex CLI, and an in depth set of troubleshooting tools to match.

Of course, we actually have many different routers in the world, but compared to the “real car” world? Not really. And it’s not that this is a “bad thing” at some point in the history of a field or industry. The networking industry is, after all, just barely entering middle age in the real world, so maybe it’s okay if we have “one car” right now. And maybe we’re just starting to sort out how to go from “one car” to the specialized variety we see in the automotive world today (don’t just drive by your car dealership to see the variety, drive through your local commercial vehicle lot, too, and then the camper store, and then the off road place, and then the racing shop, and then…).

So—how do we make this transition?

First, we need to stop asking for the “one car.” Rather, we need to recognize that it’s actually okay to have one kind of equipment in one area of our network, and another in another. Second, we need to learn to simplify. We really just don’t need all those nerd knobs in every piece of equipment everywhere. Maybe we can live with fewer features and more specialized “stuff” to do specific things…

And, looking to the cloud, we can see a way forward there, too. If you live in a large city with lots of public transport, and mostly walkable shopping, you’re already “all in” with the cloud… You count on the trucks and cars of others to bring stuff close enough to you that you don’t need a car. If you live in the suburbs, you’re already in “hybrid cloud” mode, relying on the transportation resources of others for some things, and your own lighter weight transportation resources for other things. And if you live out in the country, then you probably have heavier equipment yourself, and just rent the even heavier stuff occasionally…

It’s okay to diversify. We’re an old enough field, now, with enough varying requirements, to let go of our “one car” expectations, and start realizing that maybe a range of solutions more finely tuned, and less finely tunable, is okay.

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