Technology Convergence and Overlap

A few weeks ago MongoDB 4.0 was released.  This is a major milestone as it marks the long desired introduction of transactions.   Meanwhile a few months prior Oracle launched MySQL 8.0.   One of the main features of MySQL 8.0 being a new  document store and NoSQL like api access.  In other words MySQL took a step towards MongoDB, and MongoDB took a step towards MySQL.   It’s interesting to see how databases and technology in general start designed for specific use cases and always add more and more features that  make them more appealing to a broader audience.     Technology cycles are cyclical, and the tech industry as a whole tends to waffle between purpose built technology and swiss army knifes.   It seems we are in the swiss army knife cycle again.

Why does this switch happen?  In my opinion 3 reasons.

  1. Market share:  Specific purpose built tools have some market they play in, this market maybe big or small but it has edges.  Adding in new features or moving into others areas moves those edges further out.  If another vendor created or owns a market in a nearby space, adding overlapping features and technology helps you move into that space.   Another angle to the market share argument is to protect existing market share.  Early in the life-cycle of a technology, the early adopters often overlook missing features or deficiencies. The buzz drives certain companies to over-deploy some cool technologies ( I have a lot of stories about companies who decided to consolidate on a tech when it did not make sense ).   Early adopters will engineer processes and work arounds for missing features to make these technologies work.  The issue is often these processes are over complicated for the masses to support and manage.   Eventually ( probably after the early adopters have moved onto another company ) companies look to simplify and reduce the complexity of their code.  This means not having those features risks churn and loss of market share.
  2. Ease of use/mangagement:  The older a technology, the more mature it is on the life-cycle scale.  The early adopters were looking for fast, shiny, and optimal ROI, and they would often trade some simplicity and ease of use for it.  As technologies mature, the customer base changes.  This means your focus is on more the user experience and the ease of operations.  Users tend to look to consolidate, so if they can manage 1 technology that can do 10 things instead of 3 different ones for the same 10 items they will.  Those more mature customers are willing to trade off fast, shiny and optimal ROI for easier to manage, less cost, and good enough ROI.
  3.  Larger companies tend to be slower to react to market fluctuations:  Sometimes it takes bigger more established players in the market years to develop and add features to capitalize on changing market trends.   This opens the door for smaller more purpose driven tools and technology to emerge and establish themselves.

I am interested to see the next wave of purpose built technology and what it is trying to solve.

Categories: Open Source

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