At the end of the recent Christmas break (and after years of procrastination), I finally guilted myself into sorting out my movie collection. When all was said and done, 178 discs of varying formats (DVD, HD DVD and Blu-Ray) had been thrown to the musicmagpie scrap heap with another 37 being boxed, labelled and put in the loft. Why? In a word: Netflix.

Let me explain.

As the techie in the family, I carry the burden of being the beta tester, the early adopter that buys into new technologies as they emerge and then offer guidance and advice to family and friends on whether they should jump on board or not. In other words, I just like shiny new things. In addition to that, I also have my own Finance Director to report to at home and support a pretty demanding user-base (with the only SLA being NOW).

Let’s back up a bit–rewind, if you will–to give you the full story.

This really starts nearly 20 years ago when I rewarded myself for gaining employment (GO ME!) by buying myself a top-of-the-line JVC VHS Player from my first month’s salary. For the next couple of years, I steadily invested in buying or renting videos of pretty much any old junk that Hollywood put out there.

Then came the DVD. They were digital quality and brought the promise of a better life–just think of all of the time I was going to save by not having to rewind everything before I returned videos to the store … as an early adopter, well … I just couldn’t resist.

There was a problem however, DVD players were not backward-compatible with my existing VHS tapes. I had three options: not upgrade at all, upgrade everything or manage two systems: VHS and DVD. My Finance Director suggested no upgrade; we comprimised on managing two systems.

Fast forward a few years later and High Definition brought the format wars of HD DVD and Blu-ray. With Microsoft’s backing, surely HD DVD couldn’t lose. Could it? Well, it did. I had egg on my face and another awkward conversation with the Finance Director. We needed a new investment, and we needed it fast. Blu-ray was the way forward, but now we also needed to invest in a new TV to get the benefit … 720p should do it. Hmmm.

And then came movies as a service. My choice here is Netflix (other services are available). Netflix helped me decouple movies from their physical media and now I can access the movies that I want to watch from any device, from anywhere. This released the shackles of platform and broke the reliance on physical hardware, ensuring that I can consume new technologies and devices as they come available (and as soon as they are available, to the chagrin of the Finance Director).

Now, when we take a look at the challenge that I actually faced over all of these years, it was never the procurement model that was the problem. It was the intrinsic link between the movie media, the playing device and my TV. Changes to any part caused another part of the solution to fail and require further investment. Decoupling broke the dependencies and gave me greater flexibility and a better service.

And it’s just like that in IT.

When we take a look at enterprise IT, we see the same challenges. The intrinsic link between data (the movie), applications (the playing device) and the endpoint (the TV) have led to a long cycles of making tough decisions around innovation vs. compatibility and often neither is successfully achieved.

Decoupling data from applications and applications from end points means that organisations can shift their methodology to a service delivery approach, where the tools that people need to do their jobs can be made available to anybody, anywhere, regardless of device type or of compatibility. Obviously, security and user experience is mandatory, but once this is achieved the organisation can break free of the physical constraints that have held innovation back for so long.

Just think, no more waiting for the end-point refresh life-cycle just to roll out that new operating system that supports that new business changing application. It’s a beautiful thing.