I was talking with my colleague, Rob Davis, recently and he commented that “RoCE has leaped the canyon.” Now Rob is from Minnesota and they talk kind of funny there, but despite the rewording, I realized instantly what he meant. RoCE, of course refers to RDMA over Converged Ethernet technology and has “leaped the canyon” was a more emphatic way of saying has “crossed the chasm.”
This is, of course, the now proverbial CHASM: the gap between early adopters and mainstream users made famous by the book, “Crossing the Chasm” by @GeoffreyAMoore. If you are serious about high-tech marketing and haven’t read this book, then you should cancel your afternoon meetings, download it onto your Kindle, and dive in! Moore’s Chasm along with Clayton Christianson’s Innovator’s Dilemma, and Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy comprise the sacred trilogy for technology marketers.
The discussion about RoCE arose in the context of an article about a different technology that had failed to cross the chasm. The technology cited as having failed to gain traction is Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) as detailed in this great El Reg article.
The article highlights Gartner’s update on the networking hype-cycle and shows Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) trapped in the horrible “Trough of Disillusionment” and tagged as “obsolete.”
Certainly I would agree with the assessment that FCoE (along with Fibre Channel itself) is dead, as I previously wrote about in my Fibre Channel is Dead blog.
Gartner versus Moore
The article in The Register showed Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle diagram, but Rob immediately intuited that there was a Chasm involved. During the discussion, I realized it is worth looking at Moore’s Chasm diagram (above) and comparing with the Gartner Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies diagram:
These two graphs are really different ways of looking at the same thing. Moore’s diagram addresses the Technology Adoption Life Cycle with the dreaded “Chasm” being the make or break time for a technology. As he explains, innovators and early adopters will leap on the bandwagon of some new technology precisely because it is new and willing to take risks that it will solve their problems. By contrast, those in the early majority will not adopt a new technology unless it is proven to solve a painful problem and can demonstrate true benefits, business value, and staying power. Proving this value is difficult, and in fact more new technologies fail to cross the chasm than actually are able to make the leap.
Gartner’s diagram addresses the ‘visibility’ (in a marketing sense) of a new technology over time. Gartner’s technology hype curve is really just the dual of Moore’s diagram, with the dreaded Trough of Reality replacing the Chasm. Once a technology has been around for a while, the innovators and early adopters no longer see it as new and exciting and suddenly stop talking about the shiny new thing in such glowing terms. Instead reality sets in and more pragmatic technologist start evaluating the technology, and naturally find it immature and lacking in features and robustness and most importantly in true business value. In order to succeed, it is incumbent on the proponents of the new technology to resolve these issues and demonstrate business value.
A Weakness in Gartner’s Curve
Crossing the Chasm and pulling out of the Trough of Disillusionment are really one and the same thing. However I have one problem with the Gartner curve: it seems to present the illusion that all technologies will make it out of the Trough and begin to climb the Slope of Enlightenment ultimately to reach the Plateau of Productivity. This is an example of survivorship-bias, as the graph shows only those technologies that are still around. In reality the majority of new technologies arrive with great fanfare, only to crash and burn into the Trough of Disillusionment never to be seen again. Now I love the Gartner curve, and use it to explain to young, up-and-coming marketers that their unbridled enthusiasm for a new technology may be valid, but is certainly being driven by the Peak of Inflated Expectations of the hype cycle. And further I explain the inevitable decline into the Trough of Disillusionment and ask these three vital questions:
The Hellish Descent Following the Trough of Disillusionment
One of the things I really like about Moore’s diagram is that the implicit threat of never recovering from disillusionment is made central and explicit. The danger of The Chasm is manifest. To make the likelihood of failing to cross the chasm explicit – I usually add the un-shown part of the Gartner diagram too. This is shown in the dotted line below as what I call the “Hellish Descent into Time-to-Look-for-a-New-Job.”
As a marketer this is abject failure, and you obviously don’t want to go there. So you don’t want to jump on a new technology that has just reached the height of overstated expectations – unless you are sure it has the underlying business and technical merits to be able to cross the chasm and make its way out of the trough. Unfortunately for the proponents of FCoE I’m afraid that they are in for a “Hellish Descent.”
Fortunately there are happy endings too, and some technologies do cross the chasm. As I’ll discuss in my next post, RoCE sure does appear to have crossed the chasm.