June 28, 2016

The End of Cattle vs. Pets

Metaphors and models have finite lifespans. 

This usually happens for one of two reasons.

The first is that metaphors and models simplify and abstract a messy real world down to especially relevant or important points. Over time, these simplifications can come to be seen as too simple or not adequately capturing essential aspects of reality. (This seems to be what’s going on with the increasing pushback on “bimodal IT.” But that’s a topic for another day.)

The other reason is that the world changes in such a way that it drifts away from the one that was modeled.

Or it can be a bit of both. That’s the case with the pets and cattle analogy as it’s been applied to virtualized enterprise infrastructure and private clouds. 

The “pets vs. cattle” metaphor is usually attributed to Bill Baker, then of Microsoft. The idea is that traditional workloads are pets. If a pet gets sick, you take it to the vet and try to make it better. New-style, cloud-native workloads, on the other hand are cattle. If the cow gets sick, well, you get a new cow.

 

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