All the adult males reading this, be honest -- is it true that at one time in your life you seriously considered building a kit car?
I know I did. I looked at the sleek shapes, the ability to pick and choose components -- even the potential of converting a somewhat boring ride into a potential thrill machine.
And then reality started to encroach on my fantasy.
I rode in a few, and noticed that there were always a few "details" the owner hadn't quite sorted out yet -- like brakes that worked reliably. Or a ride that wouldn't jar your fillings loose if you hit a pot hole. Or starting reliably, for that matter.
Not only that, as I looked at some of the plans, all them assumed hundreds of hours (or more!) of assembly time. Not only that, a place to do the assembly and a bunch of tools and equipment I didn't own.
I also had serious doubts as to my own mechanical abilities and commitment. My initial investment could end up being a half-finished project sitting in my garage for years at a time. My wife saw that future scenario clearly, and made her perspectives very clear to me in that unambiguous way that she does :-)
Finally, I realized that the whole kit car thing was more of a hobby than an alternative method to procure reliable and stylish transportation.
I passed -- as many people do.
Why Am I Talking About Kit Cars?
Because the current pre-integrated infrastructure vs. do-it-yourself infrastructure debate is splitting along similar lines.
On one side, we have the traditionalists. If they're in an IT role, they truly believe that they can build something better than rolls off a modern assembly line, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars of R+D. Better -- and cheaper as well.
The traditionalists are joined by those who are seriously threatened by this new evolutions in the IT infrastructure business.
Or, more likely, they're one of the component vendors who can only offer up a sketchy blueprint of what a car might look like -- of course, built with their components.
"Avoid lock in!" they'll threaten. "Stay with best of breed" they'll proclaim. "Preserve your legacy investment" they'll entice. Or perhaps go to other marketing words like "open" or "elastic" or something similar.
None of these claims really stands up under serious intellectual scrutiny, but it's all they seem to have -- sound bites.
Driving A Car Vs. Building A Car
Now, make no mistake about it -- the inner geek in me still longs for a scenario where I get to pick the automotive components of my choosing, and have the time and skills to create the car of my dreams. I get that. But I now see that as a hobby, rather than a great way to get a car that meets my more pragmatic needs.
But times have moved on in the automotive business, haven't they?
Now, imagine for moment that you were in charge of running a large-ish fleet of automobiles, and you were currently using a kit-car approach to provide the cars for others to use as part of the service you deliver.
You'd be spending a lot of time and effort with your car assembly people. Maybe lots of debates as to who has the best engine, transmission, seats, etc. I can easily imagine a flock of vendors descending on you with glossy powerpoints and blueprints trying to convince you that their components are better choice for your next kit car.
Meanwhile, your users of your car service are starting to complain -- and loudly. The cars you provide them aren't as good -- comfortable, reliable, safe, cost-effective, etc. -- as the ones that other car services are providing.
You might try to argue back with "well, we're different" or perhaps "we build better cars, here's how" or even the more desperate "we've always done it that way". Over time, none of those arguments will likely stand up. Your car service customers will figure out that there's a better deal to be had, and that will be that.
Capitalism at work.
At some point, you -- as the senior executive of the car service -- will turn to your people and tell them that times have changed. The blueprint + bill-of-materials + lots of effort approach to building cars has passed, and it's time to move on.
And -- technology aside -- that's the exact scenario I see played out many times each week, as EMC and VCE put a Vblock in front of a decent-sized IT infrastructure organization, and softly suggest that times may have changed.