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Synergistic thinking
This blog contains posts at the intersection of technologies - people - process. I have lived and worked through many transformational changes in technology that have shaped our lives and societies. I look forward to sharing interesting insights and musings. 
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Technologies’ Greatest Red Herrings!!

Updated: Jun 12, 2018

My list of the greatest and best myth's and miss-directions the technology industry has to offer.

Image via Pixabay

Technology is everywhere. It’s 24x7. Our glorious analog world is being digitized bit by bit. Software is everywhere and is automating more and more of our lives every day.

Given the ever-increasing role technology is playing in our lives – it is not surprising that perceptions of technology are rife with myths and Red Herrings! What is a Red Herring?

Formal definitions describe a Red Herring as something “that distracts attention from the real issue” or “something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand”.

In this post, I’m using Red Herring to refer to:

myths of convenience regarding technologies where perceptions have built up over time that conveniently misrepresent reality
when realities are ignored and forgotten because they no longer contribute to the latest technology hype narrative

Red Herrings come in two forms.

First, are Red Herrings that are the opposite of bright new shiny objects that the tech industry is sooo good at promoting and hyping. These smelly non-shiny objects tend to not get much attention. These first order Herrings can be thought of as awkward truths - things we know to be out there – but prefer to not to talk about much.

Second, there are Red Herring that emerge as the tech industry continues its unabashed excellence at over hyping the latest and greatest techno advances. These Herrings are numerous and ever evolving…

So without further ado – here is my list of some of the best Red Herring the tech industry has to offer – a Red Herring greatest hits list!

“Old” enterprise IT technologies are replaced by newer technologies. Nope. Nada. The poster child here is mainframe computing – long declared dead – mainframes are capable of processing billions of transaction per day and are still in service powering many industries. Sales of new mainframe hardware in 2017 was cited as a significant positive for IBM’s financial results in late 2017. Net-net, IT technologies rarely ever disappear completely.

It is possible to secure the perimeter of your IT environment - Perimeter security is enough. Not only is this a Red Herring – it’s downright dangerous. Effective security architectures now assume bad actors will find a way past firewalls and access controls and gain access to IT systems. Multi-layered counter measures, application layer security, and increasing fine grained network segmentation (microsegmentation) are examples of the tools used today inside the firewall to counter the bad guys.

Organizations buy technology based on its compelling features. Nope – not a chance. Before any technology is purchased – an economic trigger is a prerequisite. Businesses decide to proceed with technology purchases ONLY when there is an economic imperative for the business. Until there is a compelling business economic trigger there will be no buying of much of anything > inform your sales teams to find these economic triggers if they want to sell stuff.

Cybersecurity is an IT thing. It is often assumed that cybersecurity is a technical thing… something that the techie’s handle. This Red Herring is changing. Perceptions related cybersecurity and security overall are morphing to more holistic approaches that align security priorities to business risk, and that seek to make security postures ubiquitous across technology, people, and processes.

The best technology always wins. Oh - heck NO! This is a classic Herring! Have you heard of the VHS vs. Betamax video tape technology debate from the 1980’s > never heard of this? Click here to learn more. Think about this one in the context of autonomous vehicles….

Public cloud is inherently insecure – and/or public cloud vendors handle all aspects of security. This Red Herring developed because public cloud introduced new “as-a-service” operating protocols and shared security considerations. In this “as-a-service” world it is easy to assume all aspects of security are just taken care of by the cloud vendor – WRONG! What is key here is that security has now become a shared responsibility between cloud vendors and cloud customers – this is a radicle new paradigm – many organizations are struggling to figure this out and make the requisite changes to how they approach security.

Cloud vendors provide a toolkit of security capabilities. This doesn’t absolve the customer of risk. It’s the customer’s data and applications. Cloud customer’s need to ensure they execute systems to protect their data and applications using all the tools available, no matter where applications are operated or where data is stored – in corporate owned data centers or in the public cloud.

Vast “fleets” of autonomous vehicles will be roaming our streets in 3-5 years. This is an emerging Red Herring and the latest example of the tech industry driving past its headlights… <pun intended>.

Autonomous vehicles will arrive on our streets and will support selected use cases in selected geographical locations. Recent fatalities in 2018 involving vehicles operating in autonomous mode have dulled this shiny object a little bit.


Before adoption of self-driving vehicles becomes wide spread, there are technical standards to be created and adopted to intra-vehicle orchestration (collision avoidance) and MORE importantly and much MORE complex - there needs to be the creation and adoption of social norms, legal regulations, and operating protocols for when/where/how/who is authorized to operate autonomous vehicles. Social changes of this magnitude take decades – not a few years.

There you have my current take on some of the interesting Red Herrings in out tech world today. There are more out there.

What Red Herrings to you see now or coming soon?

Send in your comments…

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