Why Technology Proof of Concepts matter

Tracey Flanders Published Aug 5, 2014 at 5:43 PM MST by Tracey Flanders Tags POC, Technology  Leave comment

Imagine investing large amounts of money and effort implementing a new technology, only to find out it didn't solve a particular issue. Not only that, it requires a substantial amount of care and feeding for your already busy team.



The Culprits

Maybe you are rushed to complete projects, to meet deadlines. Perhaps you've always vetted technologies in production. Sound familiar? Most companies I've worked for have given little merit to building dedicated labs for technology evaluations. There is plenty of value in building such an environment, not only to test, but also to train others. How many time does the person who ends up supporting a new technology get the opportunity to build it up from the ground up. Sadly, not enough. Another technology that went into production that no one can support.



Labs are essential

If you’re a small shop, it's not likely you have duplicate environments. Larger enterprises should. Buying dedicated hardware or software can become expensive. Most technology vendors allow loaner equipment or heavily discount lab deals.


To keep your sanity, it makes sense to have a base lab infrastructure that never needs to be change. Don't rebuild your lab for every POC. You should at least have the following core hardware components, network, compute and storage. You probably won’t want to maintain the lab like you would production. My advice is never connect it to your production systems or datacenters. That way you can relax on your security, and if something happens, blow it all away and start over. Another good opportunity for someone to learn.


My team and I run through POC's on a pretty steady basis. It only takes a few days of dedicated time to work through a few scenarios in order to prove it out. Benchmarking-wise they almost always do, functionality and maintenance, not so much. That's the real value of a conducting a POC, find out what they are not telling you.



Conducting a Proof of Concept

Some teams have stringent checklists they follow for Proof of Concepts. I'm not one of them. I have confidence in my team that they will test what's required. The criteria differs from one POC to the next. If you are comparing vendors, be sure to run each POC against the same baseline and tests. If nothing else, be absolutely sure you document your results.


Below is the criteria I've often used when evaluating technologies, whether its hardware, software or a  cloud service. Figure 1.0 depicts the flow.


  1. 1. IDENTIFY
    1. Define the use cases and stakeholders.
    2. Where can this technology be used, what does it proclaim to solve?
    3. Who does this impact?
  2. 2. BASELINE
    1. Define your baseline and the test criteria.
    2. If you're lucky, you have a baseline or some idea of how to compare your results. If not, you'll need to run multiple tests to establish one.
  3. 3. RUN
    1. Run your tests and record the results.
  4. 4. REPORT
    1. For successful or failed POC's, report the results to stakeholders.
    2. Close out any failed use cases or the entire POC.
  1. 5. REVIEW
    1. Assuming a successful POC, you'll need to discuss the next steps around procurement, training and support.
  2. 6. DOCUMENT
    1. Create documentation and create architectural artifacts as logical and/or physical diagrams. Run books are typically done by support teams as part of the ingestion process.
  1. 7. ADOPTION
    1. Implement the new technology with confidence. Hopefully those who support it were able to build it themselves. "Teach a man to fish" method.



Figure 1.0  POC workflow




Saving tens of thousands of dollars will pale in comparison to the lost revenue and wages to keep a poor technology afloat. Years ago, labs were cost prohibitive. With virtualization, simulators and plenty of technology vendors knocking at your door, there's no excuse. Dedicate some time to do POC's, you'll be ahead of the game.

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