When three tribes go to war…

When three tribes go to war…

Maren Bennette

It was nine months ago when I gave up my day job and took up (amongst other things) hacking. Journalism, that is, not the nefarious attempt to seek out sensitive information – though some say the two activities are one and the same. I do a bit of consultancy, too.

Since then I’ve met many new people and worked with companies that wouldn’t let me through their doors a year ago, when I worked for the ‘dark side’ (their words, not mine). This has given me an insight that I wouldn’t otherwise have gained. Coming from the data networking business I had a very one-sided view of the world. Networking was good, voice was old-hat and computers were there to fill the IP packets! This is an example of the ‘tribal effect’, epitomised by the recent World Cup, where each tribe had its songs and symbols, its heroes and villains (think Rooney, think Sven) and its aspirations – Trinidad and Tobago probably achieved theirs. England didn’t.

In the ICT world, we have the Data tribe, the Voice tribe and the Computer tribe. Each has its own culture, language, and laws. The tribes consist of three main clans – the channel clan, the vendor clan, and of course, the user clan. Each clan is made up of a number of families – think channel partners, manufacturers and the myriad of customers. For many years the three tribes lived at peace in their own territories. The customer clan had interactions with all three but the channel and vendor clans kept themselves to themselves.

Then one day some intrepid explorers from the Data tribes’ vendor clan sallied forth into the Voice tribe’s territory and brought back tales of riches beyond belief, just there for the taking. The stories made certain families in the vendor clans (always the most covetous) dream of empire and so they began to make their plans. Two in particular, called Cisco and 3Com, saw the opportunities in the Voice tribe territory and said “we want some of that”. So they assembled their fleets and set sail for the Promised Land they called Convergence. In Cisco’s case the invasion was successful and colonisation began.

The Borg had landed.

But here’s the rub. No colonising attempt has ever been truly successful unless the indigenous tribes were beaten into total submission – think North American Indians here. That hasn’t happened in Convergence. Of course, there would be no point in wiping out the user clan, as they are the ones with all the money. But the Voice tribe vendor clan has fought back and regained lost territory. The ‘body count’ (also known as market share statistics) shows that there is no clear winner yet, though it is true to say that the Data tribe’s religion, known as IP, has been adopted by the majority.

Even if there were a clear winner, they might not be secure in their tenure. The Computer tribe has seen what is happening in Convergence and their main vendor families are girding their loins for battle. Microsoft, Oracle and Computer Associates to name just three, are massing on the border offering diplomacy and collaboration on the one hand but with awesome Weapons of Mass Disruption in the other. Microsoft’s recent Unified Communications revelations show just how powerful these WMDs will be. Will anyone be able to resist the Cybermen from Redmond?

And just beyond the horizon lies another land ripe for inclusion in Convergence. This is the land of the TV tribe. Already the Data and Computer vendor clans, together with the most powerful of the channel families (known as ‘Service Providers’) are looking at the TV territory with longing eyes. Already they have sent the IP missionaries out to spread the word. It won’t be long before the process of assimilation begins. But before that happens, the Borg and the Cybermen will be battling it out for domination.

Of course, in a perfect world the differing tribes would come together not in battle but in friendship, to form a confederation of (mostly) friendly states for the betterment of the common people. To make this possible all the various family members of all the various clans from each of the tribes would have to not only learn the language of their neighbours, but speak it too. The differing tribal cultures would have to not only be appreciated, but also adopted. Most important of all, the laws each tribe has developed would have to be learned but also be obeyed. Maybe another, small but influential, pair of clans can play a role here. The humble hacks that see it all and report on what is happening can help in understanding tomorrow’s world. The consultant clan can help make it all happen. We can but dream.