Does Anyone Really Care?

Martin Slofstra at has been asking if IT is losing its lustre as a profession. Does anyone care about IT as a profession anymore? This is all part of a discussion of the declining numbers of women in IT, declining enrollment in IT education, etc.

I think we are at a point where we must decide what is the future of IT in Canada.
Will it be like the auto industry where government, business and labour got together, promoted it and created a vibrant business.
Or will it be like consumer electronics, which was allowed to wither away with no one really doing anything about it. Does anyone remember when Electrohome was a major player, making TVs in Kitchener? Seems like another world now.

If we do nothing, today’s youth will make the decision for us. They aren’t going to believe anyone telling them about how great a career IT is, not even Bill Gates. They see jobs being shipped overseas and they decide to look elsewhere for a career. They aren’t going believe some marketing spin, they are way too used to seeing through it. To attract them we have to prove our commitment to the future of IT on the street with sustained real investments.

Otherwise, at some point outsourcing becomes self-fulfilling. If you scare off enough workers, there aren’t enough left to support a viable IT industry and then outsourcing is the only option. Fifteen years from now will Canadian business be complaining that it is beholden to its Indian IT providers? Bet that is what India has in mind.

So do we support the IT industry in the way that brought Toyota to Cambidge or saved the plants in Oakville and Oshawa? Or do we toss it in the dumpster along with that old Electrohome TV?


3 Responses to Does Anyone Really Care?

  1. Came across your blog by mistake, but stayed for the content 🙂 BTW, have you realized that there is no longer such thing as a single IT market. There is Enterprise IT and there is Internet IT. They have been moving on different trajectories for close to 10 years, and now they are completely separate. They buy from different vendors, they need different skills, people there speak different professional languages.

    Here are a few examples: enterprises buy Sun, HP, IBM, Dell. Internet buys Dell, Rackable, Verari. Enterprises use Solaris & Windows. Internet uses Linux and NetBSD. When the enterprises uses Linux at all, it is SuSE or RedHat. Internet IT uses Centos and Debian. Enterprise uses Oracle. Internet uses MySQL. Enterprise uses J2EE. Internet uses Ruby on Rails. Enterprise is driven by fear (no one ever gets fired for…). Internet is driven by greed (0.5% of $1B exit is still $5M (engineer’s stock option).

    Enterprise is stagnating. Internet is growing at 25%-30% per year. Every hosting provider I know is hiring IT. Google is hiring IT like crazy. Yahoo is hiring IT like there is no tomorrow. But they need a different skill set. They don’t have a “mission critical” database – they have thousands of small databases. Oracle thinks 32 servers is an “enterprise grid”. MySpaces runs on 4,000 servers, and YouTube generates 25% of all Internet traffic. They need people to scale all this.

  2. Sorry, hit “submit” prematurely. If you want to know why things are so different, think business models.

    In the enterprise, IT is a cost center. Yes, it is important, but it is not the primary plant that produces the cars you sell (except on Wall Street). For an Internet company, IT is primary plant, so the costs of IT operations are “cost of goods” – they affect gross margins directly. Enterprises spend $12,000 to $15,000 per server per year and try to consolidate servers. At these cost levels, MySpaces would need an IT budget of $48M to $60M. That does not work. Google spends $5,640 per server per year.

    So Google and MySpaces cannot use Oracle: (a) it’s too expensive, and (b) it does not scale enough anyway. Same in every category above. For example, one reason Rackable was doing so well was that they were the first to realize that when you are deploying a truckload of servers per WEEK, you can’t be racking them and wiring them in house. So they started selling servers by the rack – double density, 88 servers per rack, wired, with the software installed as per your spec – you just uncrate it, roll it in, connect power and network and boot… you are ready to go.

    If you lived in Detroit, you’d probably think people do not care to buy cars anymore. Gues what – they buy more cars than ever… but not from Detroit.

  3. dbametrix says:

    Hi Gord,

    Really excellent BLOG. Thanks for same.


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