Stop calling it disruptive

disruptive dictionaryI can’t read a product paper, marketing presentation or blog anymore without seeing ‘disruptive’ being used every other paragraph. It’s possibly the most hyped word of 2015, and I really can’t wait for it to go away. No matter how many times I read it: it has a negative connotation. Initially I thought it was some weird sort of language gap between English and Dutch, where it somehow has a positive vibe to it in English. But a quick Google query shows that even the English dictionaries agree: first and foremost it’s negative, but “them business folks” want to attach a special meaning to it…

Disruptive. Merriam-Webster explains it as follows:
Full Definition of disrupt
Transitive verb
1a :  to break apart :  rupture
b :  to throw into disorder <agitators trying to disrupt the meeting>
2:  to interrupt the normal course or unity of

Thesaurus explains it as upsetting and destabilizing, causing trouble and/or confusion, with synonyms as riotous and to interrupt.

Here’s another one:

disruptive dictionary

Okay, so it’s not just my Dutch roots. Lets look for some examples of disruptive events, preferably in visual form:

disruptive power outage
A disruptive way to save on your energy bill!
Disruptive way to lower airplane weight!
A disruptive lowering of airplane landing weight!

Right… Tell me again why I would want your disruptive technology in my datacenter?

Lets assume the power company sends me a letter saying they have a disruptive solution for my more power hungry devices that, at the same time, saves on transportation costs and is environmentally friendly: they’re upping the voltage from 240V to 480V. The current required to power the device are now halved, allowing me to double the power consumption (P=V*I) with the same wiring while simultaneously lowering transport losses for existing power budgets. But it also means I need to buy new appliances because the old ones will blow up as soon as I plug them in. Disruptive: it breaks my existing kitchen (and budget)…

On a snowboard, a disruptive descent from a fresh hill will probably mean I’ll collide with someone else. Or the whole snow pack starts to shift downhill and I wake up under 6 feet of snow…

If you start mentioning disruptive IT technology, I expect forklift upgrades. I expect outages are required to migrate from old to new. It will probably break completely with previous experiences and technology. As a result, my staff will probably have to go out and retrain, with ‘old’ knowledge, procedures and experiences no longer being applicable on the new disruptive technology.

Maybe it’s also disruptive how to purchase the new storage: so someone will have to go to procurement or (upper) management to explain why the storage refresh is completely different than last year and can’t be done in a yearly CAPEX/monthly OPEX manner. Does it have disruptive protocols? Out with the old SAN switches, lets get some new ones: we need some extra budget to adjust the rest of the environment to this disruptive newcomer.

And is it all really that disruptive?

Sure, the all flash arrays are a LOT faster than the old spinning disk arrays. But disruptive? I’m still creating LUNs. And while I don’t have to specify a RAID level anymore, there’s still a (now predefined) protection level on a lower layer that I just can’t modify anymore.

Disruptively hyper converged maybe? Isn’t that a compute host with some extra internal storage and a fancy, easier to use GUI? Sure, it beats buying 2 components separately (compute & storage) and managing it with 2+ tools. But is that disruptive instead of just making a really user friendly package deal?

Don’t get me wrong here. There’s a lot of really cool innovation going on the last couple of years. Especially in the storage world. With some seriously big benefits for applications, IT budgets, engineers, etc. Some might even cause you to rethink long term plans and architectures.

But can we just use a different marketing word instead of disruptive? Something positive? Here’s my two cents:

  • Trendsetting: if you want to show your company is leading the way for others. Yes, you can use your Gartner chart.
  • Innovative: you’re not reselling your old tech, it’s actually an improved version.
  • Ingenious: it’s not just better, it’s SO much better that no-one else has thought about it!
  • Inventive: nobody has thought about this clever little improvement: doesn’t break the bank, makes life a lot easier!

Feel free to add your preferred marketing words for 2016 and 2017 in the comment section below!

  • Rob Koper

    VERY good point! The first time I heard it, I was in a state of shock. I mean, WTF? You don’t want any disruptions, right? But the strange thing is that nobody really said anything about it. Your blog’s the first that actually mentions this weird English word.

  • If you want marketing buzzwords….well…. 😉

    “We’re constantly disrupting the stodgy world of orthogonal algorithms via a serious infusion of next gen buzzwords.”