Hype Cycle and Virtualization

In 1995, Gartner invented the concept of the Hype Cycle chart. It depicts the life of a new technology and how people perceive it over time. Below is the first chart displayed by Gartner in 1995.

Hype cycle from Gartner

The lessons to learn from such a diagram is that new technologies always go through a phase of intense expectations. There are five stages that have been identified. They are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Peak expectations
  3. Complete disillusionment
  4. Renewed interest
  5. Common use

You might have noticed that I changed the names from the original model. Why use fancy titles when they can be simple?

Most technologies (if not all) follow this curve. Initially a new idea is introduced. This idea generates much interest and products are made. Companies and people buy the products and the frenzy begins. Expectations of what the technology will achieve are greatly increased. That is, until, some day, someone starts revealing that the technology is not as good as first thought. Doubts enter the minds that once were excited about the technology. The swing goes down. Depending how severe the feedback is, the technology can dip pretty low.

Then something amazing happens. People start dusting off the technology and realize that it really was good for something. They start using it again, but without the hype factor. Slowly but surely the technology is adopted again and this time for good. Eventually the technology enters the mainstream and gets lost amongst all the other accepted technologies. It becomes second nature.

Of course some technologies really are obsoleted and die. It all depends on the strength of the newcomer.

Let’s bring this hype cycle to bear on the virtualization space. It is clear that virtualization is in a very favorable light. In fact, for modern computers, it looks to be ramping up the hype cycle rather nicely. It is fairly safe to assume that there will be a turning point but it is unclear how long that will take. It would probably be safe to assume that it will happen in the next three to five years.

The problem really isn’t with virtualization, but rather the fact that it is being oversold and applied to situations that might not always be better. The analogy for this is that when you have a hammer, the whole world is a nail. Virtualization is actually just one of many different technologies needed to move computer architectures ahead. It is a given that it is important but it certainly is not the only important player.

At some point there is going to be a lot of push back on virtualization. Perhaps it come when the over-hyped solutions get people so angry that there is a big backlash. It is always hard to say when those kind of things are going to happen.

The industry will get hit and something new will take its place. Eventually it will hit bottom and people will once again realize that it is good for something. Virtualization will be recover and be stronger from the journey. Eventually it will become commonplace and transparent. People won’t even know its there but yet it will be incorporated into almost all of the computer systems around them. In a way, it will become like a boring commodity.

People love drama. People love to get rushed into the excitement of hype. Many a good tale has been told about the wonders of the new. It’s part of this path to understand that emotions drive change. The only downfall of too much anticipation is that the demands will never be met. As any consumer in our society and typically they will say that they still want more.

That’s the core of it right there. Hype exists to satisfy our desire for more. Hype shows us the golden way where we will want no more. The problem obviously that hype can never fill our hunger. Promises never match delivered goods. The hunger grows stronger as the technology fails to satisfy.

We start looking for something else. The cycle continues.

It is only when the emotion is gone that the technology really has a chance to survive. The rush is gone but the true benefits remain. The idea was given birth by emotion but survives on its true merit.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the early excitement. It’s hard to ask the hard questions when everyone else just wants it to go forward. Realistically it is the most difficult to buck the trends and realize the value independent of the hype.

I just realized that this is the nature of “Good to Great” companies related to using technology. Perhaps everyone would be better off if the hype didn’t get so out of control.


Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

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