Buzzword Importance

Why is it important to pay attention to industry buzzwords?  Often, they appear to simply describe existing concepts: “The Cloud” versus 1970’s TSO”, “Thin Client versus Web Application”, “Thick Client” versus Client Server Architecture”, or “Monitoring” versus “Observability”

After a superficial examination, a buzzword has the feel of “marketing spin” being applied to recapture drifted attention.  A simple application of the “New and Improved” marketing strategy.

Buzzwords do have an importance.  They are often signaling new approaches to implementing that technology.   Buzzwords can represent inflection points in a technology or industry.

A cloud system isn’t simply “someone else’s hardware, not on your premises”.  It is that, but it is implemented in a way where a lot of the responsibility and maintenance tasks have shifted from you to a third-party.

Observability isn’t monitoring.   A new buzzword in system operations architecture is “observability”.  Generally speaking, observability systems execute analytics in memory on incoming data streams that are stored for further analysis later.  Observability products are organized around the use cases of enabling data exploration, visualization and prediction.

Monitoring contrasted to observability, is oriented to alerting engineers that there is a current problem to be investigated.  Clearly, monitoring has aspects in common with observability. However, monitoring is not necessarily about the deep dive analysis of individual components.

Buzzwords are not to be initially written off.  Even though quoted out of context, you don’t want to be remembered like DEC’s Ken Olsen pronouncement of personal computers.  He is infamous as having said “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” in 1977.   Buzzwords need to be examined in depth to make sure that you’re not missing an important evolutionary shift in a critical component to your industry.